I started gaming in kindergarten, when the most advanced piece of hardware I could get my hands on was a black plastic handle and an orange button attached to a brick. I used it to blow up little squares on a black and white television screen. A couple years later, I was molested by the girl next door after beating her copy of The Legend of Zelda. I have mixed feelings about the experience.
Unfortunately, over the years, my ability to maintain a passion for games has waned (as in being able to play through them start-to-finish). This is due to various reasons and issues that would be too emo to get into at this juncture. But suffice to say, though my passion has waned, my interest in them has not, as evidenced by my being here.
Nihil (or Nils) is the pseudonym I currently use for writing and gaming on the internet. I came across the Destructoid website by searching for information on Way of the Samurai 3. Tubatic pretty much has the most comprehensive coverage on it I've seen anywhere. And for that, and the other thing, I thank him.
I've been known to get morbid at times. "Depressing" is the word I've heard most. It's a side of me I try to suppress in order to avoid explaining the skeletons in my closet (or the corpses in my basement). Whether it's an urge to be humorous, or pointing out a pessimistic fact that nobody else would rather think about, I've always been inclined to latch onto the bleak and macabre details. Nowadays when my brain goes there during a real-life conversation, I adhere to the old adage: "If you have nothing nice to say..." As much as I'd like to blame the internet for it, I know it began much earlier than that; back when one of my favorite things to do was watch horror movies on VHS till dawn. Back when I hung out in creepy, isolated areas of the neighborhood by myself.
I wasn't just unafraid of the dark. I had an affinity to it. Certain instances in my early life had already taught me that I had more to fear from actual humans than boogeymen and spooky noises in empty rooms. That facing the black unknown head-on was more gratifying than running away. And that sometimes, what doesn't kill us leaves a piece of itself behind. Little did I know that my affection for the darkness would turn into something more... complex.
I was diagnosed with a form of clinical depression called Dysthymia, if you wanna get textbook about it. Major Depression (the more well-known form of clinical depression) in most people usually lasts a few weeks to months, but the symptoms are immediately recognizable and hit the person's life pretty hard. Dysthymia lasts for years. However, the symptoms are less severe and aren't visible to the average person.
What this essentially means, and what makes it harder to diagnose, is that those with the disorder cope with depression by accepting it and letting it fester, rather than experiencing serious physical symptoms or acting out. You don't have anyone to talk to about what triggered the depression in the first place, so you just assume that this is a normal thing to feel and try going on with life while it hangs in your subconscious. It becomes a subtle tumor on your personality that you can't cut out, and grows till you're finally fed up and make a plan, or something pushes you, to act on the one fucking thing you've been waiting for years to have happen but just haven't had the motivation or opportunity to go through with.
Most people will wonder why you don't get excited when good things happen. Why nothing they say gets a rise out of you. Why you prefer staying in than going out. "Oh... they're probably just 'introverted'. That must be it." Well, that could be it. It could also be a lot of other things in addition to it. But you wouldn't know unless you knew the person for a very long time. Or they have, like me, learned how to "hide" that darker part of themselves, since it brings down the party mood that everyone else loves.
It came easy enough for me, since I've always had a smart-aleck sense of humor to fall back on. I was a class clown. Not for the attention, but because making people laugh with my words came naturally; I was good at it. Pretty sure I owe Tex Avery for that. But looking back, my childhood behaviors and mentality were classic introvert definition. I had friends that I trusted, but sometimes I just needed isolation. I don't remember what I thought about during those times, or even if I thought anything at all. I just knew the peace and quiet felt good.
Just listening to the ambiance of my surroundings; whether it was the gusting winds flowing through tress during the day, or the subtle echoes inside of a storm tunnel at night. Taking it in. It felt better than being the life of the party, even though that was fun. Sometimes they wondered if I was depressed then - when I would just splinter off from the crowd suddenly, and sit by myself. But I had nothing to be depressed about then. I was too young to realize exactly how shitty the world was. I just had a shitty home environment to go off of. I dunno. Perhaps that was enough.
My father was an alcoholic marine that turned to Christ after getting pulled over by MPs for DUI, with a 3yr old me in the car. Which would have been fine, if he didn't let the church run his life. I often heard that he was easier to get along with before he stopped drinking. All I've known is the headstrong deacon that constantly butts heads with his free-thinking wife; both of them occasionally taking their frustrations out on me. My two older sisters were always off doing their own thing to get away- leaving me in the midst of whatever shouting match that was going on. I couldn't have been more than 4 years old when I first tried to run away from home, in nothing but an over-sized shirt and whitey-tighties.
I was caught before I could even leave the complex, by my playmate from next door, who was no older than I was. When she asked where I was going, I essentially told her I was leaving because my folks sucked and that I probably won't be coming back. She asked if I was scared. I was so angry that I didn't care if I got hurt or lost, I just wanted to get away and fade into oblivion. She became sad. I can't remember exactly what she said that convinced me, but the notion was that even though our families were shitty, we would still have each other. For some reason, her friendship meant more to me than my own blood, than my own self-destruction. So I stayed.
My family moved to another base about six months later.
When you're a military brat moving from place to place, you begin to understand just how much of a luxury stability is. It takes longer to catch on though, when your family doesn't give a fuck about keeping ties. And that's where I'm sure it started.
Right after 6th grade, we had moved again for the third year in a row. I had invested so much into these new kids over the past year. They weren't perfect, but I accepted who they were, during the ups and downs. To have that taken away from me, again, and then to have a representative from the school where everyone I knew was going to, call my new residence the very first morning of 7th grade as we were walking out the door, asking my mother whether I was still going there... How they got the new phone number was beyond me, but that was the final straw. I don't think I've begged harder for anything in my life than I did then. To go where I felt I belonged.
The only other things I remember from that day are the first few moments of my first class. The room was filled with the usual first-day chatter; old friends gathering, new acquaintances hitting it off. I was sitting next to a cute girl who noticed I was being quiet and withdrawn. I'm pretty sure I had some perpetually dour facial expression that lasted the whole day. She thought I was shy, nervous.
"It's okay, I don't bite."
I feigned a little smile. If only she knew the shit I had to swallow earlier that morning. A truth that I had learned and became prevalent in my personality from then on - Everything can be taken from you, at any time, for no reason at all, no matter how hard you try to hang on to it.
So I swallowed it, and chose to stop caring. Or at least try to.
Things went back to normal. Or as normal being in a near-broken home could be. I made new friends. Got back into my class-clown shtick, though now with a much less goofy, lighthearted edge. I hadn't heard of the word "irreverence" yet, but that was definitely the place it was coming from. Sarcasm, cynicism, challenging authority... If you didn't know any better, you'd have thought I was going through that "rebellious adolescent phase" your mother talks about. And no doubt, I was. That only made it easier to mask the underlying reason I was so careless half the time: I didn't care, because these people wouldn't be in my life for very long anyway.
There were of course other people I met that were as jaded or angry as me. That bond that we shared made it harder for me to accept that I had to be alone. Some went their separate paths; others I intentionally pushed away to avoid getting too close. The longest, most important relationship I had in high school ended because I was afraid I'd lose her in the end, anyway. I felt it was the only measure of control I could exert over my life. It was also probably the dumbest mistake I've ever fucking made.
I tried to convince myself it wasn't a big deal. Life is shit. Suck it up, move on. The worst part of it all, though, is that all of this was literally absorbed by my subconscious. And when I dreamed, it never let me forget. The life I could've had, the love I could've shared - all of it taken away again the moment I awoke. That warm sunset glow of utopia, ripped from me and I'm thrust back into cold reality, where not only am I disallowed a healthy social life, but every plan or opportunity I have to get a career started is thwarted by trusting the wrong people and unfortunate happenstance. So, to numb that pain, I eventually became more and more self-destructive. Walking the city streets in the middle of the night. Drinking, cutting, pill overdoses. Getting thrown in psych wards by police and doctors who were perturbed by how remorselessly suicidal I was. My early twenties weren't my finest years, to understate it.
I went back to school in an attempt to put my life on any sort of track, which was a bad idea considering the state I was in. But again, with no confidants to speak of, how was I supposed to know? So when that failed like everything else, in late 2007 I pretty much became a recluse with nothing left to say to the world or anyone. Because fuck 'em. Over 20 years later, and I still felt like that little kid in that big yellow shirt, with no reason to be here. Just waiting for the bullshit to end. Throughout all of this however, video games, fiction writing, and the internet, have been the only constants that I've had, so far as positive forms of escapism. From when I was a toddler playing with a miniature Pac-Man cabinet, to my current 360, games have just been a thing in my life since the beginning, before any other medium captured my imagination.
I started reading and writing horror stories when I was 11, much to the disapproval of my father. He did his best to badger and convince me how bad it was. Well, it half-worked, because I stopped reading recreationally just to get him off my back about it. Didn't stop me from drawing inspiration from the macabre tales presented by the Midnight Society, the Cryptkeeper, and Rod Serling, among others. It's funny looking back at how my writing evolved with each phase of my life, from basic adventure scenarios to increasingly elaborate psychological narratives derived from artwork, music, anime, games... Any medium other than literature, really. I've tried getting back into books over the years, and even though they've served me well during the times I was committed, I'm still failing miserably. And due to my past failures trying to kick-start a career, I've all but given up writing professionally. Every so often though, my imagination becomes obsessed with a concept so much that I just have to get it out of my system. I still have a few ideas that I'm quite fond of. Hell if I know whether anything will become of them, like I used to entertain.
My life on the net mirrored my nomadic lifestyle; traveling from message board to message board, meeting people from all (mostly geeky) walks of life around the globe, shooting the shit and entertaining others with the inane shit that went through my head, or laying down truth bombs dictated by common sense learned from my own life and situations dealing with people. Sometimes it was to genuinely help out others going through similar shit. Sometimes I trolled a little too hard for the lulz. But there are a few people/groups that I wish I kept contact with, because of the hilarious and heartfelt chats, unique perspectives, and shared comradery... Enter Destructoid, a year and some change ago:
Lurking the forums for a little bit gave me the quick impression that this place was definitely different from other gaming message boards. Almost everyone cursed like an angry sailor and trolled ignoramuses left and right, without moderators getting on their case. Everyone shared the same fucked-up sense of humor. And best of all, most of them were "adults". Being the sick, savvy, son of a bitch that I am, my presence was welcomed by pretty much all accounts. I found a great new home on the net, even though my actual home life still felt desolate.
Given my track record though, I'd have sworn that my time here would be temporary. But after getting to know the people and faces behind the usernames - feeling how real they were for being open, calling bullshit on retardedness, and genuinely bonding with each other, on the site and off, both in the blogs and forums, and even the front page writers - there was really no good reason for me to ditch such an interesting community. Which, in turn, left me with questions: How open can I be with them? How much of my life, my actual thoughts, should I expose and potentially be lambasted for, akin to what my family and acquaintances have put me through in the past? Do I show them my darkness, or keep it hidden to stay accepted? Will any of it fucking matter in the end?
Well, here I am, exposing a bit of it. Something that I likely would be hardpressed to do in person, since my baggage has always been my own to carry. I'm well aware that it's not as deep or traumatizing as child rape or female castration in primitive cultures or some other horrible shit that you read about, which is why I've downplayed it for the most part. But it's a real thing, and downplaying it only makes it worse when nothing seems like it's getting better. Finding ways to cope with daily thoughts of suicide becomes a destructive chore in itself (drinking, sex, etc). For the last 8 months, I've been trying to reshape it into something useful, if you could call it that. Trying to replace the apathy with genuine concern.
However, what's been much harder is creating a positive sense of self-worth, so I can have the motivation to push myself and achieve the things I used to want...
In order to actually see a future in which I'm happy with people I care about, like I used to hate dreaming of....
So that I won't take the easy way out I've been longing for, the first fucking chance I get, like so many others. Including people I knew and cared for on some level.
I don't know if or how I'll be able to rid myself of the anger, to truly move on. More than likely, I never will. But I feel being a part of Destructoid - as well as accepting into my life, awesome people I've recently met (and re-met) elsewhere - may eventually help me cope with it better, if nothing else. Otherwise...
As a quick aside, I didn't choose my current online handle for my bleak outlook. Before this one, I usually went with "Rabid" placed before some random noun (sk8r, mongoose, etc), mainly because I loved the word "rabid", and also to reflect the sharp and wild sense of humor I used to love getting a rise out of people with. Yet this time I literally couldn't come up with anything new, creative or witty. To which I thought, since I could think of nothing, it might as well be "Nothing" (goddamn it I'm good). However, my Grin Reaper avatar of choice, when I first saw it, almost instantly connected with me on that deeper level.
Death isn't something I take as seriously as most other people, but it's become more than just an extension of my depression. More than just something I've wished for myself for over a decade now, and consequently, creating an inability to feel empathy for those who've lost loved ones to it. It may be a crushing blow to your well-being, but it's a fact of life that we all have our time coming. For all the ways people die every day - through war, murder, famine, cancer, unfortunate accidents - I like to think that it was supposed to happen. I've stopped asking "Why?" a long time ago, because it only drove me more insane that there weren't any answers. No good ones, anyway. I chose to say "Fuck it" instead, because Humanity really isn't as awesome as it likes to think it is sometimes. I know it's easier for me to feel this way because I've felt alone for most of my life, but it's the most effective and sensible perspective I've come to, in terms of dealing with and surviving tragedy.
It's not that you're in control of what happens ('cause you're not), it's that you're in control of how you deal with it. It comes down to how much willpower and patience you have. Your strength of character, I suppose. What I've been trying to learn and integrate lately, is that I no longer have to be alone when it strikes; that I don't have to keep those I've genuinely bonded with at arm's length, to shield myself from the "inevitable" disappointment. And that maybe... Just maybe... Saying "Fuck it" isn't always the best answer.
I don't know how posting this will be received, or if it'll even matter much. But it's something that I've been wanting to get off my conscience, since I've been with this community long enough. It took me a good while, but I wanted to make sure I wrote it articulately, accurately, and at a point where I felt it was necessary before becoming more involved (online and off) with the many unique and extraordinary individuals that make this place what it is. Thanks for reading. You sexy fucking beast.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled gaming and opinions and shenanigans.