I’m one of those strange and possibly terrible people who thinks that The Simpsons is still funny. In my defense, I don’t think it’s laugh-out-loud or roll-on-the-floor funny, but for me the show has never been that way. So while I’ll gladly watch some of the newer episodes (warts and all), I can still appreciate the nature of earlier seasons. Except the earlier versions of Lisa. Like, was she always so annoying and pretentious? Discuss.
At any rate, there’s a joke from one episode where Homer becomes the voice of Poochie, the latest and “greatest” addition to the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. Naturally, he tries to make a suggestion: whenever Poochie isn’t on-screen, everyone should be asking “Where’s Poochie?” As one would. I’ve been thinking about it, because -- not to indulge in megalomania -- I’d hope there’s at least one person here on Dtoid who’s willing to ask “Where’s Voltech?” And even though it’s not the first time I’ve gone long stretches without a single post, I figured that I should speak up. Things are different this time around, after all.
I guess I should start by saying that at the very end of July my dad went in to the hospital. He’d caught pneumonia on a business trip, itself the result of some dehydration. That wasn’t helped by the fact that he was no stranger to the taste of alcohol, and he’d been a smoker since well before I was born. So the pneumonia had him laid up in a bed for several weeks, which led to friends and family going in and out regularly to visit him. He had up days, and he had down days, but for the most part he acted fine.
But the problems went further than that. As it turned out, he had blood clots in his heart that needed tending to. More pressingly, the doctors found a mass on his liver -- which I hope I don’t need to go in detail about -- and he wasn’t a candidate for surgery because it had grown too large. But it wasn’t exactly a death sentence; he got some medicine to help him out on all fronts, and he was ultimately released from the hospital. Granted he had to be hooked up to oxygen for a good while, and using a wheelchair/walker was recommended (though not required, since he could still walk), but recovery was still plenty feasible. That’s what it seemed like, at least.
This is where I’d toss out the plot twist, but you guys probably know. I used way too much past tense.
So yeah. My dad passed away. His heart suddenly gave out one evening, and doctors couldn’t resuscitate him -- and even if they could, he had been out long enough to become a vegetable once he woke up. I’ve never seen a bigger instance of “NOPE” in my life, and I hope I never have to see it again. It’s been rough, to say the least -- on friends, on family, and on me. I made the mistake of speaking at his memorial service, only to burst into tears mid-speech. (In retrospect, maybe that was because I subconsciously realized that my on-the-fly speech was terrible and I was flagging out there.)
But I’ll be okay. I’m okay now -- or at least getting there. I’ve given thanks to my dad for everything he’s done for me, and no amount of tears is going to change the past, present, or future. Besides, I still consider myself a lucky person, and not just because I had such a cool dad. My last words to him were “Call me if you need anything”, and his last words to me were “Thank you”. Maybe not the best words, but more than good enough. Plus, even if I didn’t exactly say it in full -- because a mime with a sore throat is a better conversationalist -- I DID manage to give him a birthday present in the form of a post aptly titled “My Dad is the Best in the Universe”.
I’m gonna be okay, eventually. But that’s not why I’m here today.
I’m not writing this post to say “My dad died, so feel sympathy for me!” If anything, part of the reason I haven’t tossed anything up here is because I knew I couldn’t do anything before I put something like this up -- and seeing as how I jibba-jabba about video games in a section devoted to jibba-jabba about video games on a website devoted to jibba-jabba about video games, I’m not in the habit of going on and on about my personal life, least of all on a subject that makes people drop what they’re doing to try and make me feel better. I’ve kind of done that already, but let’s just overlook that for now.
The reason I’m writing this post is because I want to move forward. I’ve been thinking about my dad, but I’ve also been thinking about myself -- what I want to do, what I need to do, and who I am. It’s absolutely necessary if I’m going to honor his legacy and prove his prophetic words -- his noble command to “keep the faith” -- as something worth believing in. And to do that, I need to start again from step one. Right here, right now.
So here’s the question at hand: why do I keep bitching about video games?
It’s not like I mean to. Honestly, I prefer talking about video games I like than those that I hate. I’d rather point out what good games do right than what bad games do wrong -- in theory, at least. But I guess it’s a whole lot easier to point out problems because…well, there are a lot of them. I know it seems like nearly every time I come to Dtoid or fire up the ol’ Blogger dashboard, it’s to complain about what this game does wrong, or why this concept is terrible. And it’s like, “Can’t you enjoy things for once?” Or “Turn off your brain and go with the flow!” Or “You just don’t like anything!”
I take offense to that last one most of all. There are a lot of things I like beyond the stuff in my stereotyped comfort zone, but my guess -- with the proof to back it up -- is that people would rather read about something negative than something positive, especially if it’s a popular subject. If I did another post on Devil Survivor 2, which I love, then more people would spend their time wondering what that is instead of diving into discussions of its thematic heft. If I did another post on Final Fantasy Type-0, which completely falls apart before the halfway point, then people would read on with gusto because Final Fantasy, and any Final Fantasy after FF9 is terrible so let’s all grab our clubs and beat this dead horse.
And that’s how you play the strawman card.
It’s unfortunate that there’s this aura of negativity surrounding the internet, discussions, and even me. But it’s a necessary evil because, as much as people would like to shrug it off or pretend otherwise, modern-day fiction, across all sorts of mediums, has some serious problems. What others do, and what I try to do, is point out those problems so that maybe people will see that there is a problem. Maybe they’ll realize “hey, this isn’t right” and “hey, let’s do something different” and “hey, there are actually other options I never thought of before”. Maybe they won’t blindly buy into products that blatantly push those problems into our faces. Maybe we’ll get less of the bad, and more of the good. Maybe.
But we live in a world that’s far from the ideal. Yes, we get plenty of good games on a fairly regular basis -- several BioWare games, no shortage of Wii U games, Atlus games, Platinum games, Ratchet and Clank, BioShock, The Witcher 3, Bloodborne, and more. That’s not even counting the indie games that have shown how creative, high-quality, and outright amazing the medium can be. Yet those good games don’t always get the respect they deserve, or fade out soon enough. There are bad eggs out there that raise a bigger stink -- but paradoxically, earn as much money as they do a mindshare.
We live in a world where annualized sequels wring out their last bits of goodwill for a quick buck, all to fund even more sequels with diminishing returns. Homogenization has turned one game and one franchise after another into the same general game with the slightest tweaks. Buyouts and closures have forced good men and women out, or under the thumb of big businesses. Games, franchises, and even genres have been in dire straits for years. Decisions are made on a regular basis that even a preschooler would take issue with -- least of all those that make dedicated fans froth at the mouth.
Given all that, I’d hope there’s at least some justification for my whining about video games. I think there’s enough evidence at this point for anyone to either back away from the medium before diving in, or quit outright after years of service. There are problems out there that affect people, and even if it’s a cause that’s frivolous in the face of the world’s real problems, they’re potent enough to spark thoughts and opinions -- and ultimately, actions. Thanks to that, I want to take part. Even if it’s a tiny, pointless effort, I still want to make that effort. If it’s not for others, then at the very least it’s for me; people just happen to agree with me on occasion.
So the short version of all that is this: I’m super-butthurt by the success of others. And here’s why.
As you can guess, I’m one of the little guys. I don’t have a decades-old brand at my beck and call, and I don’t have a multimillion-dollar franchise to my name. But what I do have are ideas, passion, and dreams. Well, that, and a decent-sized manuscript…or six. Like I’ve said before, it’s my mission in life to become a writing hero -- someone who uses his words and stories to put smiles on people’s faces; that goal is more meaningful now than it’s ever been, for obvious reasons. It’s going to happen someday, even if the process is slow and the going is rough.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m not perfect. I make mistakes -- and in fact, some of the mistakes I’ve made are so blatantly obvious it’s a wonder I didn’t slap myself the moment I even thought of going through with them. Notably, some of the mistakes I’ve made -- those related to ideas, concepts, and stories at large -- are things I’ve chided others for. In fact, blogging and bitching have been an important part of the writing process for me; by seeing what others have done and pointing out what’s good or bad, I can apply that to some of my stuff. I know what to do, and what not to do.
I didn’t back then, though -- which would probably explain why I threw out some five hundred thousand words of manuscripts -- several years of work -- and started over.
I’m a better writer now than I was back then, precisely because of all the whining (and occasionally nerding-out) I’ve done online. I’m still not perfect, though; I have concerns about my subtlety and technique, and I’ve recently discovered how much I spam the word “just”. But compared to what I used to be, I’m way better. My characters are stronger, my setting is better-defined, my themes are sharper, my plots are denser, and all things considered, my technique is still several steps above what it was. So I’m sitting on another five hundred thousand words, have files and queries sent out to eager receivers, and I’m hoping to hear back from them. Good news, hopefully, instead of more rejections. Though at this stage, I’d prefer a rejection to weeks, if not months of waiting.
Let the records show, then, that I’m putting in effort to try and make the world (of fiction) a better place. No telling if what I’ve got is -- to quote Travis Touchdown -- the shit, or just plain shit, but this is something I have to do. My desire comes from a good place, ultimately, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a dark side to all of it. Trying to be a creative tour de force is ironclad proof of my conceit and arrogance, which last I checked are the key parts of a terrible person. It’s something that very nearly requires me to think that I’m the best, and anything that doesn’t suit me is beneath me.
In my defense -- and to reiterate -- there are problems with fiction overall, even beyond the realm of video games. Honestly, I think video games are running into those problems because fiction itself hasn’t sorted them out; with games as a young medium that’s only semi-recently been capable of putting together a solid narrative, it’s only natural that it struggles with stories. Granted it also struggles with gameplay from time to time, so it’s not without fault.
But think about it. Film has been around for…what, more than a hundred years? There’s been more than enough time to sort out what’s good and what’s bad, so that we can consistently get the good. Yet here we are with Michael Bay, whose name might as well be a racial slur at this point -- and here we are with another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie on the way, greenlit before the first spent a day in theaters, even though the 2014 outing was…very not great. And Twilight ended up becoming a cultural phenomenon, despite what looks like an abject hatred of women and men alike and everything related to the concept of “imprinting”.
There are terrible things out there that haven’t just succeeded, but have built empires on the backbone of pandering to base desires and training audiences to stop thinking. Given that, can you blame me for getting super-butthurt?
The world isn’t the way I want it to be, and I’m tired of it. I wrote half a million words for the sake of a dream, and then trashed it to write half a million more just to make sure my stuff was good enough and that whatever did get out there deserved to be out there. My effort will be rewarded someday, but it’s frustrating to know that I share a planet with games, books, movies, and more than act as if they barely have to try -- and then get rewarded anyway. They have the power when they shouldn’t. And the only way to fight against that is to gain power. I have to be more than what I am now, so that the ideal can become real -- for my sake, for my dad’s sake, and for everyone’s sake.
I want to be a writing hero. But it doesn’t stop with me. I know that right now, there are people struggling even more than me -- people who have worked harder, lost more, and given up huge parts of themselves for a shot at success. And I know, instinctively, that there are those who are better than me. I know there are those who dream harder than I ever could. So maybe if I succeed -- if I become a hero with the power to make a difference -- then others will see firsthand that they can do the same. I’ll be the first step, so that others can go even higher. Even farther. Someday, I’ll make that happen. Someday.
So the question now is simple. What can I do today?
I’m going to keep writing, to put it simply. This isn’t the last you’ve seen of me here on Dtoid -- and while I won’t commit to a fixed schedule, I will say that more content from me is coming at some point. I’ve got a backlog of posts I need to get uploaded, but first I need to spruce them up and make sure they’re 100% ready. Chances are high that they aren’t -- and even if they are, I need to plug in those words, images, and videos step-by-step. It can be a lengthy process.
With all that said, I have to take time out to make some announcements. Yes, I’ll be bringing stuff to Dtoid, but my main platform is going to be my personal blog, Cross-Up. It always has been, and it always will be -- least of all because its dashboard makes uploading stuff a fair bit easier on me. Plus, I feel more comfortable talking about non-video game stuff there, which happens kind of often (heads up: if you want to see me be positive, marvel when I talk about Gundam Build Fighters, the best anime). So I’m going to strongly recommend that if you aren’t reading my blog, start doing it now.
The reason for that is twofold. First off, I said that Cross-Up is going to be my platform, and I meant it. As you can guess, I’ve seen some setbacks over the past few months -- but I’m not in the mood to call it quits, and I need to work hard if I want to make a difference. To that end, I have plans to help myself, the blog, and others. My intent is to make it a platform for others over time, making changes that’ll allow not only for more feedback, but more content. You know what that means, right?
I’m not going to make any super in-depth promises right now, but yes. I’ve mulled over a Patreon account/page/system/whatchamajigger for half a year, and I ‘m seriously considering it now. (Or failing that, I’ll at least gauge interest here.) If it works as I intend -- barring some research I need to do -- then it’s going to facilitate the platform process that much more effectively. Those that buy in will presumably be rewarded in some form, and I’ll be rewarded as well. I won’t just put out more content, but better content. Maybe I’ll be able to make Oscar-quality videos, even if they’re about video games. And who knows? Maybe if it’s an unbridled success, I’ll have the impetus to make a game of my own. Then I’d really be putting my ass out there.
I have plans, but it might take a bit of time to execute them. In the meantime, I’ll go by exactly what I said: I’ll keep writing, and keep posting. I’ll have to start promoting my wares more thoroughly elsewhere on the internet (my first stop is DeviantArt, on account of the stock of files I built up), and let people know that, for starters, I exist. I’ll see if I can get anything going with Patreon, but at the very least I have a PayPal donation button grafted to the blog. In the worst-case scenario (?), maybe that’ll be all I need.
In the meantime, though, I guess I need to address you guys (to make up for the fact that I’m badgering for money, support, loyalty, and perhaps even love). The number one thing that I need is power, but I want that power to be from the fans. That, of course, means that I need fans -- in which case, what would really help me out is if you guys reading this tell others that I exist -- tell them about my blog, my posts, and (if you dare) me in general. I’m kind of crap at putting myself out there, but I’d like to think that if people approached me thanks to a job well done, then I could win them over with my thousands and thousands of words. Nothing would make me happier than being able to build bonds with others, so that together we can make something special happen. I’m not the only dreamer out there, after all. We all are.
…So basically, this is a spin on the “like, comment, and subscribe” dance.
Like I said, I want to move forward. Even if my dad’s gone, this is no time for fear or despair. I know what I want to do, as well as what I have to do. It’s going to take time to fulfill my number one dream, but there are things that I can do right now to make the world -- however small a section of it -- a better place. I want things to change, but I know now more than ever that I need to be an active participant instead of hiding in the shadows and waiting for the best. It’s time for me to go on the offensive.
And I hope you guys reading this will go along with me. I know that some of you have experienced losses before, and I’m sorry for them -- but I also know that they weren’t enough to stop you. They shouldn’t be enough to stop me, especially if I’m going to make good on my ambitions. My dad told me to “keep the faith”, and I will. But in turn, I want to instill that faith in others -- just as he instilled it in me. So for anyone who made it to the bottom of this page, any page I’ve ever written, or any page I will write?
Thank you. Now let’s go change the world.
Okay. So let’s see how many people get the reference in the title without a Google search -- and then I can call them huge nerds for it.