Video Games and a Dash of Weird

I’ve been playing a lot of Guacamelee lately. It’s a brilliantly designed game as far as game mechanics go. It’s really rare to get a game where the levels are a perfect balance between fun and challenging, so that you are required to develop a certain level of badass competency in order to continue on in it.

And because the game mechanics are so well-designed and intuitive, becoming a badass is inevitable. The fighting system is fast, responsive and enables creative combos. It’s a platformer that focuses on the really well-developed fighting system so that periodically throughout levels you’re stuck in a room with a series of onslaughts of enemies that you must defeat to move on. And they’re fucking hard progressions – VERY cleverly done in a lot of cases.

The levels themselves are like that too – forcing you to use ALL of your available arsenal to accomplish things that seem impossible. You have to use your chicken power, ability to shift between worlds and fight combos just to get across a room with no enemies in it. And forget about the infuriatingly simple treasure rooms where it’s you, a puzzle of obstacles and a treasure chest.

Not to mention the ridiculous storyline, the humor, the constant nods to the world of Metroid.

It is an absolute joy to play.

* * *

I am a total sucker for the Metroidvania style of games. My absolute favorite game from growing up was Super Metroid. It’s still one of my happy places. I downloaded a copy onto my borrowed Wii and got a shitty knock off SNES controller that plugs into the Wiimote so that if I wanted to spend an afternoon totally dominating at a video game, I could.

I love video games. I’ve got so many fond memories growing up that revolved around one of our game systems (we had a BUNCH). Getting up early one Saturday because my brother and I were determined to beat Bubble Bobble on two player. Figuring out glitches in the battle mode of the original Mario Kart so you could drive around once a match was completed wreaking mayhem. Memorizing the head-to-head maps in Goldeneye from too many hours playing it at friends’ houses. Learning to play the Mario 3 songs on the guitar because I was just laying in bed playing my guitar and my brother was sitting on the floor playing Mario. Beating Super Contra two player (with the Game Genie – but that counts because FUCK CONTRA – seriously with the severely limited lives??).

Despite all of that, I don’t play video games all that much. I have a short attention span and go through periods of feast and famine of interest. I’ll pick up games that I think I’ll like, or I’ll download things that sound promising, but I lose interest pretty quickly and any game that takes more than 10-15 hours of gameplay is gonna get dropped.

It’s also hard to find really good games that don’t integrate some element of first or third person shooting. Those games are really stressful for me because I’ve got fat fingers. I will almost ALWAYS fuck SOMETHING up when I’m trying to do something precise in a game. In a platformer, whatever. I’ve got infinite lives and continues. I will beat my head against a wall until I get my fingers to do the thing I know they should be doing. In a first person shooter, though, I panic, make more mistakes, then have to start the level over.

It makes me sad because it leaves games like BioShock, or Dead Space, or Fallout out of my reach.

But man, when I find a game that I click with… I had that with the two Portal games, Jak and Daxter, Arkham Asylum, the Stick of Truth, Shadow Complex, and now Guacamelee.

So I’m pretty happy right now.

* * *

I’ve been finally making some progress on a short story I’ve been putzing around with for a few months. I got the first scene done, which had been my sticking point. I couldn’t get past it until I had the right pieces in place, but I kept not being able to figure out what all those pieces were. Now I do and they’re (for the most part) there.

Now I can finally move on and write this as the kind of story I want to write it as.

* * *

That’s one thing about writing that has gotten really frustrating lately. I’ve always known what kind of emotional tone I want a story to have at the beginning and the end. That’s always the first step in building a story for me. The bitch of it when I was starting out was how the fuck story worked. Now I feel like I know enough about how stories work, how they do the things that they do, that I can actually SEE the nuanced emotional path that weaves through the story, and how that is reflected in the characters, plot, setting, and themes. But because I can see the nuance of it, I’m pushing myself outside of  the comfort zone of what skill I’ve acquired so far. And I’m trying to do it all at once.

What this has meant lately is that I am totally in love with a short story idea, but when I sit down to write it, I’ll get maybe 500-700 words in before realizing that I’m not hitting the notes I want to be hitting. So I scrap it, go back to chew on it for a while, have an epiphany, sit down, write, realize it’s not doing what I want it to do, wash, rinse, repeat.

I’ve maybe written 5000-7000 words on this story, but I just couldn’t get it to go.

But now it’s going. So yay.

If this is whatever my process is turning into, I think I’ll be okay with that.

Eventually.

* * *

Also: watch the movie Frank if you haven’t already. Jeebus what a deeply weird and despairingly hopeful movie. It is skillfully done and the tone it strikes is so novel and brilliant. And to top it off, they’ve done a rare thing and captures the entire feeling of the movie perfectly with this song from the end (no spoilers):

* * *

Also, maybe use today to go and find out just how talented all your friends are.

I love you all.

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