Steady On: Sometimes a Little is All You Need

Hey everybody. Life is full of surprises, yes? Many of them good, some of them bad, probably all of them poised to topple some longstanding belief we held for some antiquated reason or another.

This rambling preamble (preramble?) is all to say that I’ve been surprised by something recently. I’ve learned that I have a lot more time than I thought I did. It’s not that I’ve magically added hours to my day, or found a way to go back and squeeze the most out of every minute. No, I’ve just started to differentiate useful activities from useless ones.

That sounds a bit harsh, I think. Let me explain myself. For a long time, I was addicted to video games. I poured literally hundreds of hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for instance, and that’s just one example of all the time I’ve dedicated to scouring worlds not my own. During those times, and others like them, I grabbed a controller and ignored almost everything and everyone else. I didn’t have a job for most of those times, so I was “free” to explore pixelated wonderlands.

The problem with all that freedom is that I squandered it, mostly. I don’t want to be too hard on myself, because we all make mistakes and it’s important to forgive ourselves and learn from the past, but I could definitely have utilized all that free time for more useful purposes.

It’s taken me a long while to figure out that time is not malicious, and we must choose to respond to the time we have. I used to play a ton of video games and tell myself that I was researching storytelling and character development so I could write my own stories someday. This was partly true, and drawing inspiration from sources outside oneself is important, but a personal creative effort also requires time devoted to oneself. You can’t just feed off the work of others – you have to work, too.

I have to “work” forty hours a week to pay my bills. That means that anywhere between eight and nine hours are eaten by my job five days out of seven, every week. This kind of work is important in that it buys me the relative stability and comfort I need to sit back and do the real work I want to do.

This brings us back to responding, and how it’s key to making the most of our time. I could respond to my full-time job by saying “I’m so damn tired, I just want to sit back and relax.” This is not a terrible response, because downtime is necessary to a healthy lifestyle, but there is danger in too much downtime.

I would know. I used to spend hours a day in virtual worlds that I didn’t create. So, with more limited time available for downtime and creative time, a balance must be struck. I have to admit, I still spend a good amount of time enjoying the work of others. I call this the “consumption” phase of my life process. I consume the work of other people and digest it, to take lessons and good pieces from it, to inspire myself to create something of my own. I still play video games most days. I don’t play them for hours on end, but I pick up a controller and immerse myself in other worlds.

I also play board games, which is a whole other creative realm. I’m still not sure how to qualify this aspect of my life, but I don’t think I need to, necessarily – a lot of clever thinking and designing goes into board game creation, and I like to sit down and enjoy the unique results of board game creators’ thinking.

Then there’s Dungeons and Dragons. This is a mix of consumption and creation – the pieces of an adventure story are set up for me and my friends, but we get to create characters and act as them as the game/story progresses. We make decisions as these characters. We become them, so D&D becomes an awesome mix of acting, gaming, and story crafting. We create our bits of the world, and consume the results of our actions.

Finally, I’ve been watching a lot of tv lately. I jumped into Sword Art Online with a curious interest at first, and that curiosity bloomed into a ravenous hunger. My brother started watching The Boys last night, and we were both drawn into its gritty world of corporate exploitation of superheroes. Fuck, it’s well-written. It’s based on a comic book series, and it’s great.

As you can see from that long list of shit that I take in, I do a lot of consuming. Part of it is to sit back and relax when I’m not working, but another part of it is to take in creations and learn from them.

Where does time come in? And how have I discovered more of it? Well, that list is pretty big, and it involves a lot of time-consuming activities. So I work. I relax. I play games and watch tv. But I’m also setting aside time to write.

I’ve been okay about writing at least a page a day. Some days I skip writing in favor of watching something or playing a game, but when I do that, I write two or three pages to make up for it. In an ideal world, I think I’d have my basic needs covered without working a full-time job, and I could write more.

In my own little world, though, I have to make time work for me. I work forty hours a week, and I have fun when I can. Late at night, after work, I sit down to write. On my days off, such as today, I can write in the daytime. I wrote two-and-a-half pages of my book before I decided to write this rambling update. I’m probably going to write a few more pages later, because I have a good idea of what my next scene needs to be. When my brother gets home, we’ll probably watch The Boys. I think I’ll be able to fit some gaming into the day, and still make a bit of food. My journal is sitting on my desk – I can probably update that too.

There are so many things I like to do, so many things I want to do, and all I need to do is, well, do them. And most days, the time is there. I just have to meet it and work with it. I’m only writing a little bit at a time, but over time, consistent small efforts add up to something big.

I’ll finish my book. I take the time to make it happen.


Night Owl Shenanigans: Nocturne #2

I’ve been away from this site for almost a month, and there’s a good reason for that, I swear. I’ve dedicated myself to a new project, and it requires a lot of my free time. That, and, well, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night finally released.

I backed that game on Kickstarter about four years ago. I’ve been reading every development update with bated breath. And finally, the game is here, in my hands, er, on my shelf, I mean, the box is on my shelf and I put the game in my Nintendo Switch, but sometimes the controller is in my hands and I’m playing the game and … you get the idea.

I have the fucking game, is what I’m trying to say. And it’s everything I want in what I used to call “Metroidvania” games, though now the man himself has claimed the descriptor for himself and dubbed them “Igavanias.” A little pretentious, maybe? Still, I can’t deny that he (Koji Igarashi) has a particular way with putting together sprawling adventures in interesting and awesome locales. As I messed around with the game’s sound test last night, one song in particular threw me back about fifteen years to the 3D Castlevania games on the PS2.

I said to my brother “You know, if he decided to make another 3D game in the same vein, I would back it in a heartbeat.” That’s how magical his formula is: he can envision a new sort of story, set it in vaguely similar locations (typically a big-ass castle and its surrounding areas), get Michiru Yamane to compose a dope soundtrack, craft a wonderfully gnarly crafting system (yes, they have to craft the crafting system), and WHOA, there’s a new Igavania.

It’s taking all of my willpower not to write “Castlevania,” but I have to embrace the years-old separation of Koji Igarashi and Konami. Konami owns Castlevania, but damn, the unique spirit that Iga infused into his games lives on in his new stuff.

Is the game perfect? Far from it, but there’s something about the goofy voice-acting and wonky animations that’s charming. Maybe because it feels like a throwback to all the old consoles of yesteryear, and how tough it was to program perfectly smooth movements on them. Or maybe I’m too forgiving; it is 2019, after all, and maybe I should expect my games to live up to a certain level of professionalism.

I mean, the people who made the game are mostly professionals. Then again, this is a Kickstarter project; funds are not infinite, and neither is time, so some hiccups are bound to happen.

Maybe I should put it this way: I forgive the game’s unpolished portions, despite the anxiety they give me. This might be due to the fact that I changed my mind and ordered the Switch version of the game, but my game experiences long load times and, at least the first few nights I played, it crashed once or twice. Did this ruin my entire experience? No, but it did put me in a saving state of mind. As in, I’m saving my game every chance I get, and backtracking to the nearest save room just in case the game crashes again and I lose progress. It wasn’t the smoothest experience, but it still holds up pretty well.

So yeah, I finished the game last night. Weird but relevant aside about my dressing habits: I have to wear a specific t-shirt for work, but when I get home, I change into one of my own t-shirts. I own a ton of shirts, and I stack them all in one of my dresser drawers and work my way through the stack. When I wash my clothes and fold my shirts, I put the clean ones at the bottom of the stack, to ensure I wear every shirt at least once before I start my rotation again. Last night, when I got home from work, my Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night backer t-shirt was on top of my stack. I didn’t put it there on purpose, it was just the next shirt in the stack. So I put it on, booted up the game, and about three hours later, I had beaten the final boss. Fucking serendipitous, no?

I still have a long, long way to go before I’ve “completed” the game. Iga has a thing about percentages, and I can see how much of each collection I need to reach 100% in that respective category. I’m at about 90% with some collections, and only 50% with others. There are a ton of weapons to craft. I’m gonna be farming for crafting items for days.

Yet these are tasks that I enjoy, strangely enough. Sometimes it just feels good to sit back and mindlessly destroy the same monster over and over until it drops the item(s) you need. So I’ll be jumping into that soon, as I also work my way to the highest level and watch my familiars level up too.

I could go on and on about every little system and detail in the game, but I’ve rambled on enough, and I can save these little discussions for another post. For now, there’s one big thing I need to say.

I’m writing a book. The process is slow-going, given my full-time job and penchant for playing video games for hours after work, but I’m devoting myself to writing at least one page every day until the thing is finished. The way it works out, I think I can finish a decent book by the end of the year. So that’s my goal: by the end of 2019, I’ll have a full book complete and ready to edit.

Then the real hard stuff begins. Until then, I’ll try to keep you posted every once in a while, though probably not as often as I used to. I want to focus on myself and my goals, and writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was a younger lad. So I’m gonna make that dream a reality.

Keep on dreaming and scheming, folks.