Monthly Archives: May 2011

Fanime 2011

Well…it’s past 3:30AM on Monday night and I’m finally starting my fanime blogging, which I was “supposed to” be doing throughout the con as to not save it all for the end when I’d just end up forgetting everything anyways.

…Scratch that, it’s 5:00AM now (had something else to do). I’m now back in my hotel room for the final night stay here (though I guess you can’t really call it terribly much of a “final” stay since I only actually stayed here a total of 2 nights, since I didn’t stay overnight friday night). I don’t know if I should expect to finish the blogging now, but I may as well at least start it while I’ve got the chance.

I’ve got a lot of catch-up to do when I get back onto campus. I had a brief chance to go on the internet to send an email reminder, and while I did that I saw I had 33 emails in my inbox, which isn’t…actually that bad, since the majority of them are probably meaningless spam list emails anyways. But still. I’ve got a lot of stuff to catch up on, and that’ll all happen once I’m properly situated back in my room at Stanford. I’ll have to first make sure my room is in a barely-workable state, dump all my luggage there, then go online and take care of everything there, then commence the cleanup of putting everything away, etc.

I’m going totally out of order here and just typing things as I remember them, but something that just hit me only a few minutes ago is that I didn’t get a single hug from anyone at the con. Which…is fine, since there were only two people there whom I would have even particularly wanted hugs from anyways and I didn’t end up seeing either of them. But it didn’t hit me until really just now, and it also wasn’t until now that I felt kind of sad because of it. Which isn’t really a surprise at all–I really do need a lot of human contact from the right people on a regular basis.

If I were to describe this year’s fanime experience very succinctly in relation to last year’s, it felt a lot busier (not in that I did a lot more things, but more that I was just too busy to do a lot of things), less organized, rushed, and definitely more “ordinary”. Which is only natural–even though last year wasn’t my first fanime, it was my first -real- fanime–the first time I stayed overnight, the first time I cosplayed, the first time I actually went with friends (though I didn’t even know most of them before the con)…

Even though I did prepare a huge text file of stuff before I went to fanime, I still felt unprepared for it. Definitely not prepared as I would have liked to have been. Not terrible, but not great either. I didn’t finalize my Makoto cosplay until Thursday night (after day 0!), and didn’t pack until then either. I had issues with me missing my wig caps last minute, and I wasn’t well-stocked on sleep either, since I had been staying up pretty late. I stayed up late on tuesday night so I could finish my music CD for dance class (hoping slightly that Richard Powers might play one of the songs from it at the last Jammix of the year…no dice on that one though), stayed up late on Thursday because even after coming back from day 0 I had to pack, finalize my costume, etc…Friday was Jammix and afterwards I was troubled so I stayed awake to deal with that…Saturday I had to wake up super-early…it all culminated and on Saturday night I ended up crashing majorly and sleeping from after dinner (8:30PMish?) until maybe like 10AM…probably more than 12 hours of sleep. Granted, I foolishly thought that maybe I’d only be taking a short nap, so I woke up several times over the course of those 12 hours, but not for long, so I don’t think my sleep cycles were disturbed all that much in the end.

I had two cosplay outfits this year–Makoto from Kanon and Lily White from Touhou Project (which I had already done last year). Lily White I have mixed feelings about since it was a costume made by someone else and I don’t enjoy wearing it quite so much, mainly because of the wings, etc. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world. Makoto on the other hand, I felt…mostly good about. In fact I felt pretty relatively proud of it! It’s sad that probably only a few people really recognized it, but I’m sure those who knew Kanon really recognized it…I mean, I not only had the basic outfit of yellow turtleneck and denim jacket and skirt and boots and blue-striped socks, but I had the orange hair with twintails, and a red string bracelet with two ringing bells on it, and yes–I had a Piroshiki sitting on my head.

Piroshiki pretty much -made- the costume, so I’m really happy 1) that I had the idea for it, and 2) that it actually ended up working. I was afraid at first, but on Thursday night when I tried it and it ended up working I was like “yes!” But without that, it would have been a pretty ordinary outfit…not even very costumey at all, except for the fact that it’s crossplay and the skirt. And that’s what everybody ended up looking at and commenting on–especially everyone who had no idea what character I was. So yeah, I was pretty happy with how it worked out. And I was mostly happy with the way it looked too! Crossplay is always really…well, difficult to be really satisfied with, unless you’re really good at it. I definitely noticed my legs working against me (as they tend to). I’m sure Sayuri has a lot more to say about that too.

So I went as just normal Nagato Sayuri on Thursday to pick up tickets, Sawatari Makoto on Friday, went to Jammix as both Sayuri and regular me, then Saturday I went mostly as Makoto again (until I just crashhheedd), and Sunday I was regular me, Lily White, then regular me again. I didn’t get to be Shuuichi Nitori, but that’s okay since to be honest that’s quite an embarrassing outfit to be in, even at an accepting atmosphere like a con, and I wasn’t quite feeling up to it, mostly in terms of time and energy, but also in terms of just wearing it. Plus not many people would have noticed it anyways.

I didn’t really get many photos of myself in cosplay, which I’m kind of bummed at actually–I would have liked to get more photos of me as Makoto. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll wear it again and take more photos? Dunno. I mean I guess I will wear it again–it’s kind of a shame to only use it once. But I don’t know when that’ happen. Hopefully other people will post photos that I can have. The thing about me is that since it’s so difficult for me to look the way I want (self-image issues, arggg), usually only a select few pictures end up looking any good. Blargh. It’s always a struggle. I’m feeling much more confident about my image (Sayuri’s idol of sorts even gave some favorable comments somewhat recently) but there’s definitely still a sense of imperfection and inferiority. And I don’t think that’ll ever go away, unfortunately. My standards are too high to reach them with the means that I have right now. Damn. Hell and a damn.

Okay, but enough about that. Uhm…the Key gathering was kind of fail and we only had a handful of people actually show up at all…I was the only person from Kanon, we had one girl from Air, one Little Busters, and a bunch of Angel Beats people (of course I haven’t seen Angel Beats, haven’t played Little Busters, and didn’t even remember the name of the person from Air, so uhm…yeah.). Not even a single person from Clannad! Apparently the organizer kind of bailed on us too, so that was kind of fail too. Blargh. But it’s okay–what did we expect anyhow? Our “group” of sorts was the only real showing we had expected, and a lot of those people didn’t end up contributing–either because they weren’t at Fanime to begin with, or were too busy to finish a Key cosplay, or whatever (again with the busyness theme here).

This year’s Touhou gathering was also much smaller than last year’s…I’m not really sure why (we didn’t even have a single Marisa show up!?). I mean our group of peoples was definitely not as much of a presence and I can understand that, but I’m not sure why it was just smaller in general. Still an okay size, but noticeably smaller from what I can remember. And somehow not quite as fun. I also felt more self-conscious in my photos because I have a better understanding of what the weaknesses of my image are…damn…

Dancing…(yeah, definitely jumping around topics without regard to timeline)…dancing was about what I expected it to be–no more, no less. I wasn’t expecting that much out of the dance classes and I only attended two since I figured it was really pointless to attend any classes for dances which I already knew since these were definitely going to be beginner classes (with teachers perhaps worse than Richard Powers!). So based on how the timing worked out I went to Argentine Tango and West Coast Swing. Argentine Tango didn’t really teach me anything at all, other than reteaching me a Tango move from Social 1 that I should remember but never do (argh!), and basically giving me the impression that Argentine Tango is like American Tango, only…without any count structure. Great.

The West Coast Swing class was better since I’ve seen WCS before but had no idea how to actually do it, and I’ve been wanting to learn it for awhile. But even that was really really boring after a while…I mean, I’m a social dancer who knows a whole bunch of crap already anyways, so if you just tell me “oh, it’s step step triple step triple step, and you either pass them to the side or push them backwards” then basically I’ve got the dance learned…so 1 hour is a bit much for that. But it wasn’t bad, and I met a girl who seemed pretty nice and I wish I remembered her name…we danced a small bit after the class too–she just seemed nice; it’s a shame we couldn’t talk more or anything. A real shame. That’s something I kind of missed this whole weekend–talking to girls at all (friends or not). Urk. Now that I think of it I’m surprised that I didn’t just go crazy because of that. Well, I guess I hung out with Tiphanie for a while today on Sunday, so that felt nice.

Black and White Ball itself was kind of fail. I expected it to be not quite that much fun, and -nothing- compared to a Jammix or FNW, but I didn’t expect it to be quite =that= bad. There was a line to get in, even a mere hour after it started…and turns out that even though they limited the number of people in there at one time, and even though a good like 50% of the people in there were just sitting off to the side at the tables or standing around the dancefloor or something (why!?), there was basically NO room at all for any of the dances. Travelling waltz? Yeah right…there’s not even room for a box-step. So there goes my favorite dance out the window…not that any of the girls would be able to follow a waltz properly anyways. I tried to ask some of the dance instructor people to dance, but one of them I asked for a waltz (so, inability to do -anything-, though I chatted with her and told her that I did social dance at Stanford/FNW), and the other one didn’t look very happy while I was dancing salsa with her. I tell you, no matter how good of a follow you are, your lead isn’t going to feel good if you don’t seem happy. On the contrary, there were like two or three girls I danced with who absolutely sucked as follows (hey, somewhat understandable–half the time they didn’t even know the -basics- of how to dance (then why are you here though!?!?)), but they smiled and were happy and thanked me graciously for trying to show them how to have fun dancing, so it felt good.

So yeah. For a long time I’ve felt that I haven’t really had -bad- follows–but I’ve certainly had lots of bad leads when playing follow–but I guess at con I had plenty of bad follows. In fact I didn’t have a -single- good follow. Whee. Me and Russell would have just danced together the whole time if we had gone there, I’m sure (both impressing people with our dancing, weirding them out because we’re both guys (though he might be in a dress as Reimu?), and also complaining about how there’s no room), but Russ was asleep at the time. Bleh. And of course pretty much the only people I saw dancing “real” ballroom social dancing were the instructor people, which there weren’t enough of to go around, it seems. At some point they cut the music off and they had to fix the panels on the floor, so I just took off at that point and abandoned ship.

It’s already hard for me to ask girls to dance at Jammix and FNW, and that’s even when I know we’re all social dancers and they’re friendly and decent follows and everything, so you can imagine how hard it was for me here, when I already know that most of them suck as follows, and a lot of them are standing around looking like this is some sort of high school prom or something, and some of them just look plain mean or unhappy. Urgh.

I didn’t end up making it to the dance/rave at all, which is fine…I really didn’t have the energy for that anyways. After the Tuhou panel (which I ditched to go play Tetris) me and Tiphanie went to grab food and when we came back Russ and co were in the gaming room and whatshisname was spinning some Touhou EDM rearrangements so I went and grabbed my glowsticks and just danced to that. Definitely not the same dark room, trance, can’t hear anything else, like you’re the only thing that exists experience, but still a lot of fun nonetheless–it was a good sticking session. Besides, by that time the rave/dance was probably already really crowded, and I really wasn’t, wasn’t feeling like going there when there were a ton of people there.

Hotel elevators were pretty fail. I heard some of them were broken? Not sure, but they were definitely fail–took wayyyy too long to wait for them.

I spent something like $15 on Tetris, since Alex brought TAP here for 50 cents a play. I switched it up between Master and Death, and even had some Master Item runs, as well as a couple of Doubles runs with Alex and one with Ray. Didn’t make it to Death 500 at all, which is kind of disappointing, but I blame it on the non-sanwa sticks that were kind of kludgy. I did have quite a few master mode completions though, and even managed to beat one of Alex’s section times, so that’s good. My best time was a 9:36:93, which is…half a minute longer than my record, so not quite that bad. It’s an S8 as well actually, so I guess that beats my previous S7 best. Which means…that I should really play some Master at home, since it’s not really right to have my best record be set under suboptimal conditions where I feel like I’m fighting the controls at times (okay okay, it wasn’t -that- bad). Me and Alex also got a mere few FRAMES away from clearing doubles mode, which was pretty tragic. Damn me and my not knowing how to clear lines…

I didn’t see any other cosplayers that really stood out to me, to be honest, other than two different (I think) Shias (from Pita Ten) which definitely had me running up to them and going “omg Shia! <3~” Maybe I would have seen more and taken more pictures if I hadn’t basically spent all of my con time Thursday and Friday shopping, and fell asleep for all of Saturday night, haha.

Speaking of which, shopping went very well this year, I think! I think I spent maybe like around $100 (okay, probably slightly more), which is not too much and not too little, but around kind of the amount I wanted to spend (think of it as being equivalent to like 2 trips to Sanrio…). Of course that’s not including hotel and registration so my wallet is hurting a little more than that, but that’s what my Summer job is for, right? Anyways, I was a little disappointed at Swap Meet at first because I wasn’t finding anything good…until I ran into someone who was selling a bunch of Little Twin Stars stuff and I was like OMGOMGOMGOMG and proceeded to just go and look over all of them. That was a real steal–she gave me a bunch of things for only $35, when the retail price would probably be WELL over $50 (probably closer to $100?). She also said she’d have another cute Little Twin Stars coffee mug/thermos thing for me the next day, so I came back for that and bought it. My good luck continued because down the aisle I found someone who was selling a bunch of Cinnamoroll stationery! So I basically lucked out…people selling merchandise for my 2 favorite Sanrio characters–I was so happy! Interestingly enough, I don’t actually think I bought any Hello Kitty stuff this con…But yeah, I picked up that, plus a bunch of Di Gi Charat stuff that people were selling, and probably some other random stuff that I’m not remembering right now…I got a Chobits pencil board for $2 (probably should have spent $1 instead but I felt bad because I didn’t have any change), and a Yuki Nagato poster (yay!)…

Shopping continued in the Dealer’s Hall, where I picked up a few things, but nothing really big and not too many things either. I can’t even remember buying anything aside from a Fate soft flat thingy that was probably like $12. There was one booth with some Nanoha stuff, Lucky Star stuff, Clannad, and even Kamichama Karin–all pins and keychains (same place where I bought fate), but I didn’t end up getting any of them. So I was pretty conservative at Dealer’s Hall from what I remember, which is good! Also I think Dealer’s Hall is where I saw the ONE single thing at the entire con that was for my favorite series: Nanatsuiro Drops. It wasn’t even a thing on sale either, I think…it was some wall scroll thing hanging up with a picture of Akihime Sumomo on it and I kind of did a doubletake when I saw it. I think it was promoting a con or event of some sort where the artist for Nanatsuiro Drops and Haruhi (yes, same artist!) would be there.

Picked up some stuff at Artist’s Alley too…a gift for a friend, some FF1 buttons, a set of tetris pixel-art-bead things (yay, finally I have tetris merchandise!), and such. I made my way through there really quickly since I was running out of time, but I don’t think I really missed anything. Friday was basically, shop through Dealer’s Hall, then quickly shop through Artist’s Alley, then run off to Swap Meet, then change and leave to go back to Stanford, then fix my hair (which looked pretty damn terrible after being in a wig/wig cap), then bike over to Jammix.

Speaking of which, Jammix was fun! Much more fun than Black and White Ball, anyways. *snicker* I don’t actually remember quite that much, other than we did two Kerry Sets, Mazurka Quadrille, BNP (the usual)…accelerating waltz was SCARY! My partner was a little tired so we weren’t feeling it like say, me and Danya usually do, but more than that, near the end we started spinning around holding hands and in an instant I saw another couple out of the side of my view and she was about to be smashed into a head-on collision…I was like NOOOOOooooooo!!!! But luckily we barely managed to escape her being smashed into a pulp. So I was plenty thankful for that. Other than that…uh…oh! Someone from history of social dance (i think? if I recall correctly) had a dance with me and complimented me on my style, saying that she always watched me on the dance floor and liked it, so that was actually a really big compliment that I felt happy about (I responded by commenting how my style is like 10 times better as a follow than as a lead since I don’t have to think about figures…). We had a Senior goodbye waltz which I sat out for during the first part since I wasn’t sure if I counted (I’m not graduating!). But then again, if I didn’t count this year, when -would- I count, anyways? So after telling my sister what was going on we danced together. -She’s- graduating, after all. My sister closed her eyes while waltzing again that night a few times (probably also partly because she was tired, haha)…one time I did something interesting and instead of leading her around like I usually do I actually gave as little pressure as possible so I was barely touching her–almost like a gypsy–only really holding her when I needed to steer away from something. That was really interesting–I really wonder how it must have felt, to dance while closing your eyes and yet not be securely in someone’s arms but instead to be almost just free and floating and just somehow magically weaving through the crowd subtly. I also admit there was a time (not at Jammix…too crowded!) when we waltzed and she closed her eyes and I decide I’d close my eyes for a bit at a time too (making sure we weren’t on a collision course with anyone first). So that was fun too, hehe.

I had a waltz with my angel too, which was one of the best dances I’ve ever done…it’s the first and last time I’ve ever danced with her and I think it’s because of that that it seemed like I put my heart and soul, everything into that dance. I -meant- it. I didn’t lead anything super-creative or neat or cool–there wasn’t much time to anyways over the span of a single dance with someone whom you’ve never danced with before and might not dance with again–but I lead well, and for some reason all of my figures worked better. And -felt- better. We looked straight into each other’s eyes too–it was quite magical, as a dance between Little Twin Stars should be anyways. I wasn’t overly boisterous, my frame wasn’t overly strong, and my gaze wasn’t penetrating. It was just soft, quiet purpose. Like the most quiet, yet most purposeful emotion possible.

I had a bit of trouble afterwards and Isabelle helped me with that, which I was glad for. =) I missed her this weekend–I want to see her again soon~

After that was my mom’s dad’s funeral–I’m pleased that my mother was able to remain so normal throughout that all. She got worked up a little, but only about as much as she does with =everything= else, so I’m glad she didn’t get overly anxious and hyper because I wouldn’t have liked that much at all. It was nice to see my brother and my cousins and cousin’s gf too–that was good times just hanging out for lunch. (hopefully they’ll start playing Dungeon Fighter Online with us, muahahaha)

Also, this is somewhat random, but I’ve known for a while that one of my big weaknesses in Tetris is “not knowing how to clear lines”, which basically means I’ll keep stacking higher and higher instead of downstacking and clearing through stuff, but I don’t think it’s until now that I’ve begun to really concretely realize what that means. What it means is that I don’t properly know how to create “good holes” (i.e. on either side) in order to do placements that are more stable than the “default” placements that don’t create any holes. So I need to learn how to recognize when making a hole is advantageous, and just go ahead and make it when it’s in a favorable location. That’s also why I play so pointy in general too (another one of my bad playstyle habits)–because I wait too long for the right pieces to come, instead of just working with what I have and making a small but neat mess in the process.

Food wasn’t bad…I printed out a map of possible places to go eat (I might have even used it if I had stayed Friday night and not been dead tired Saturday night), but ended up eating at Hydration Cafe (PMT place), that place in the lobby of the Mariott (very convenient), and once JBo since it was after midnight and everything else was closed. Oh, forgot to mention that the place in the lobby of the Mariott actually sold Nikuman and so I -had- to buy one, since of course my character Makoto loves Nikuman (just like Ayu from the same series loves Taiyaki).

There wasn’t quite as much plain hangout time as I might have liked. Maybe I’m just not the greatest at interacting with other people during cons. It’s weird. I also didn’t get to play Rayforce with Ray–I wonder how that would have turned out (I don’t even know how the enemy AI deals with having two players at once).

There were a bunch of cute asian girls at the con yeah, but the really cutesy ones were those “high school type” which always kind of bother me. I hate people who are so flarey, so outward, so…urgh. And some of the other ones just looked mean. But yes, there was definitely a lot of pretty hair.

I didn’t end up making it out to a single panel, really…I skipped Russ’s Touhou panel because I had already seen it and I was feeling kind of funky at that time so I decided to just go play tetris instead. I sat in on the end part of the fanfiction panel but that was just because I wanted to chat with Tiphanie for a little bit. The only panel that I probably really wanted to go to was Ray’s shmup panel, but I couldn’t make that one because of Jammix. So…no panels for me this year. Which…is kind of fine anyways–I feel like a lot of panels aren’t really quite that useful in the first place, as they’re very “show and tell”, so they don’t seem to have much of a point besides showing you something cool. Maybe it’s just because I’m so self-motivated to collect knowledge on my own that I’m really not keen on the idea of being fed information by someone else…

I didn’t get to see either Erica or Amy, which was kind of sad, though I did manage to run into Ramon at one point, and also even saw Hope on two separate occasions. I even saw someone from Friday Night Waltz in line on Day 0, though they didn’t see me at all. And there were maybe one or two other people who looked familiar but I wasn’t sure.

The Touhou people at artist’s alley forgot Lily White (and Lily Black) again! Despite the fact that I requested it at AoD…so that was kind of a bummer. Maybe next year.

I played some IIDX on the last day of the con, just because that was the only time when there wasn’t a line for the machine. Yay IIDX.

I really didn’t get much outside work or studying or letter-writing or anything done at all during the con. There wasn’t enough energy or time leftover to spend on things like that. I did some of this blog, and that’s about it (okay I also finished watching Saki, hahaha). I did some letter-writing during car rides too I guess.

Now that things are over, how would I rate this year’s fanime? Mmmm…well, not bad by any means, but not the best. Definitely not the best. It probably could have been a little better. If I had been more prepared, maybe more willing to meet one or two new people, less tired, etc. But I think as it was it was probably good enough. Yes…good enough.

Photos and such will be going up in the coming days, probably.

When you’re as quiet and observant as I am, you can hear and see a lot of things that other people don’t.  You can key in on things that other people wouldn’t, just because they’d be too busy going about with their own things.  Being passive gives you this kind of ability.

When I really care about people, I can observe them more keenly than they might even realize.  In crowded places, I keep tabs on where they are and how they seem to be feeling.  I can keep track of whether they’re online or not; when they sign on and off from facebook, when they go to bed, when their door is open and when their door is closed, who they’re talking to, whether they’re getting work done, how stressed they are.

Someday, someone will be observant of -me- in this way.  And I mean besides my mother, who can’t seem to just shut up instead of reminding me to “drink some water” as the last thing she says to me before parting, as if I can’t be trusted to take care of my own body like I have been for the past eleventy billion years.  Although my mother is rather observant too, she’s not passive at all, so it’s not the same kind of observation.  And she fails to observe the important things…everything in life is portrayed according to whatever lens she happens to be wearing at the time.

Not me.  Even when I am looking at the world through a lens, I know that the lens is there.  I know what shape the lens is, how it tints and distorts the light, and can even reconstruct the original image with high probability.

Such is the kind of insight that I get, as Lala.

Last night, wrote two letters, finished a dance essay, finished japanese homework, blogged about OHC.

This morning, folded laundry, wrote another dance essay, wrote most of japanese script, filled out course evals, requested summer taiji room reservation, …

If I can keep this up I might actually be set for fanime!

OHC136

http://compo.thasauce.net/rounds/view/OHC136

Tonights theme is “The New Sensation.”

My entry: http://compo.thasauce.net/files/DDRKirby_ISQ__-_Shifting_Sensations(OHC136).mp3

Took me a while to get around to this writeup–been busy with stuff!

Compo rolled around last week and I wasn’t -entirely- sure what I wanted to do but I had the idea of trying to have something with really heavy reverb that I could sidechain/gate for a neat effect.  That something ended up being a blippy sinewave synth and from there I decided I would do something ambient, among the lines of the Osmos soundtrack, which I had been listening to the day before (so, no coincidence there).

I’m not going to delve into the entire track since it’s all of 7 (!) minutes long…yep, since I did ambient stuff with lots of repeated patterns, I managed to break the 7-minute barrier, which is quite ridiculous for about one hour’s worth of work.  I probably would have had a little bit more too, if I didn’t have a VST issue and associated FL crashes to deal with.

The song is actually written in 7/4, but the first part seems to be “in 4 with interesting rhythmic delays”–that’s intentional, I wanted the beginning to seem like it was in 4, but then shift over to 7, which ended up being a really neat feel.  The last section does another timing shift when the dotted-eighth-based arp synth takes us into a different time signature.

Lots of reverb here, and lots of blippy sinewave synths make for a really neat ambience.  Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out, and this was a really refreshing direction to take things.

Japanese Homework again

Imagine that you are running for governor in California.  What kind of promises would you make?  Write three sentences…

“I will make kawaii things more abundant.  And, I will make students more skilled at Tetris.  Then, I will make manga cheaper.”

Try harder.

I’ve said many times before that video games have taught me some of my most important life lessons and skills.  One of the things that I find differentiates myself so much from other people is my persistence, and I always like to attribute that to the games I played when I was younger.

After all, games back then were HARD.  There wasn’t any of this bejeweled or angry birds, or what-have-you nonsense.  It was timing, reflexes, intuition, and knowledge, and if you didn’t have them, that was it–game over.  You compare Super Mario Galaxy to something like the original Mega Man and it’s just plain obvious…newer games want to give you the “feeling” of difficulty so that you feel accomplished when you complete something, but in reality they never, ever want you to fail.  But older games are simpler.  More crude.  They don’t pull their punches–if you messed up, then tough luck kiddo, you’re getting punished for it and you’ve gotta work for it again.

And it made sense, too.  Back then, games were still a new thing.  You could even compare them to arcade machines, really.  If you had a version of Super Mario Bros. where every time you get hit or jump into a pit you don’t restart at the beginning of the level, but instead just lose a single coin, then you’d just finish the game on your first try and that would be that.  The end.  That’s it.  Done.

Back then, there weren’t these games with epic interweaving storylines with multiple chapters, etc etc.  There just simply wasn’t the manpower or resources to do that.  But games last longer if they’re harder–you’ve gotta play them again and again to learn their tricks, intricacies, feels, and secrets.

And so people like me played these games (we still do, in fact).  And after every game over, we’d still come back for more.  When I first beat Mega Man 2, it was probably -years- after I first played the game.  I was too young, too inexperienced, too unskilled…but yes, I came back, and this time it wasn’t my 9-year-older-than-me brother finishing it–it was me.

Yes, for us, games were like sports–they taught us that you need to train hard and persevere in order to succeed.  But they were also other things to us too.

They were our storybooks.  Back then, games didn’t have complex storylines with detailed character interactions and facial expressions.  All you had was a bunch of 16 by 24 pixel sprites moving in a grid, with hardly any dialogue–and certainly never any -spoken- dialogue.  Leigh Alexander says in her series of letters about FFVII that part of the reason FFVII draws many people in as being so rich and deep is actually because of the -lack- of detail in the pictures that it paints.  The 3d graphics are crude, and much of the character interaction is left unfleshed out…yet, for us gamers, this just means we get to fill in the blanks ourselves.

And thinking back on things, it’s probably much the same with me.  FFVI could probably be considered “my version of FFVII”.  It’s the one I have most fond memories of, and the one that I’d replay first, in an instant (okay, maybe I’d really like to play FFI too).  And when I think back to that, it’s true–there’s not all that much characterization there when you compare it to the games of today.  All you have are, again, these 16 by 24 pixel sprites, some different animations, and themes of music.  Yet still, somehow, I thought Terra was the most awesome character ever (I mean she had to be–she’s the main character, she’s a -girl-, she’s got awesome green hair that flows in a ponytail, and when I gave her the genji glove she started owning everyone with two swords!)…I felt Mog was so cute, almost like I feel about Hello Kitty now…

and the relationships between the characters…yes, simply by spending time with these sprites, you begin to extrapolate things.  Some of the character relationships are made very explicit–Locke and Celes, for example, and Sabin and Edgar.  But what about the ones that aren’t fleshed out?  There are 14 characters after all, so there’s no way that all of them can be addressed.  But when I was splitting up my party members to face the phoenix dungeon, or whatever, there’s a good chance that I was splitting them into groups not based on their strengths and weaknesses, but on their characterizations.  I’d put Edgar and Sabin in a group together, and that would be kind of obvious, but I might also put Relm and Mog together–she’s a cute girl and Mog is a cute moogle, so they’d get along great, right?  And Shadow would go well with Cyan–they’re both kind of aloof and they’d probably enjoy fighting alongside each other.  Or maybe I’d put Terra and Celes together so that they could kick ass together as girls wielding swords.  Things like that.  It’s a wonder FFVI’s characters don’t receive more praise.  I mean come on, FFVII has what, 9 characters?  Okay, that’s not bad, but here’s 14.  FOURTEEN!  And I know I’m biased, but their characterization just seems more unique.  You’ve got 14 characters from every walk of life–from a little girl, to an old fogey, to a cute moogle, a thief, a king, a ninja, a gambler…they’re just all very distinct, and from the first few moments of meeting most of them, you can tell what their character is going to be like.  Yet at the same time, they all have such rich backstories!  From Locke, who’s ever-haunted by his memory and regret of Rachel, to Celes, whom you gain a special sort of sympathy for since she’s your lone party member in the beginning of the world of ruin, to Setzer’s relationship with Daryl, and Relm’s curious and odd relationship with Shadow through Interceptor.

…but I digress.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist the chance to fanboy over FFVI.  I really SHOULD play that game again someday (though, i need to go through the mother series too…grahhhhh).

The point is that games aren’t like that anymore.  At least, not the games that you know.  They aren’t hard, and they aren’t storybooks for you to put your imagination into.

But mostly, they’re not hard.  And without hard games, where are you supposed to learn determination from?

Is it some sort of sign that games are easier now?  Does that mean that people are less willing to try now?  Does it mean people just don’t want to persist through something of their own motivation?  Maybe…I’m tempted to say that yes, people just don’t give a shit anymore and they’re not willing to put in any effort into anything, which is why I even look down upon Kiki when she says she wants to take on something new.  But in reality, it’s always been this way.  Back in grade school when I was living in the so-called “golden age” of gaming, with my SNES games (Gradius III!  FFVI!  F-Zero!  Super Mario Kart!  Tetris Attack!  Illusion of Gaia!), you can bet your ass that no one else in my class was the same way as me.  You sit any one of my classmates down with these games and they just wouldn’t understand.  They wouldn’t get it.  And what’s more important is that they wouldn’t -try- to get it.  They wouldn’t care.  Even in those educational games that they had us play in school (Math Blaster!), no one would get those either.  They’d just mess around with it as if they were a child using a wiimote as a chew toy.

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People need to try harder.  It almost makes me sick when you don’t.  There’s a lot of reasons I look down on people whom I don’t know–they’re too mean, they’re too loud, they’re TOO LOUD, they’re too selfish, …but this is probably the main reason I look down on people even when they’re my friends.  Every time I realize that someone has given up on something and tossed it aside after one month, it makes me more and more and more jaded about the world.  Every person who comes to Taiji practice 3 times and then stops.  Every blog that’s left inactive after 10 posts.  Every time you say that you’re going to try and stick to a goal and you don’t.  Every time you dump an MMORPG because it wasn’t new and exciting anymore.  Every time a social media site gets abandoned because the herd moved somewhere else.  Every time I hear that you aren’t sticking with a hobby anymore because you’re “too busy”.  And yes, of course, friends too.  All the times they say they’re going to write a letter and they don’t.  The times they say they’re going to spend time with me and they don’t.  The times they say they’re going to call me back but they don’t.

Come on…try harder.  It’s not a plead…it’s not me being sarcastic…it’s not me whining.  I’m just telling you all.  Right now.  Try harder.

Arm’s length

It’s not that hard to be my friend…

…is what I’d like to say.  But to be honest, I would only be able to say that because my standards seem to be a little higher than everyone else’s.

I live in a world where friends are “dispensable”–where people honestly, honest-to-god care about them, yet somehow fail to reach out more than an arm’s length to show it.  I was talking to someone the other night about friendships…about how you know which people are your good friends, which ones are your not-so-good friends, and which ones you should spend more time and effort on.  I didn’t say it in these words, but there’s a kind of distance that I keep away from everyone.  You can see it in my everyday life very plainly if you look–I don’t eat lunch with any of the Kimball crowd, I don’t hang around Kiki when she’s with other people, …there’s a space that’s there because I prefer to be quiet and unspoken.  So I’m more than an arm’s reach away from everyone.

…Which is no problem for me.  I’ve learned to reach out far, far, far more than a simple arm’s length.  That’s my angelic power, after all–I can shoot stars of love across space–and even time–to reach those whom I care about.  The problem is that these people aren’t able to reach back across to me.

But maybe that’s not all true.  Maybe those are just the wrong people.  After all, when I sit down in the Wilbur dining hall among the Okada kids, I feel comfortable; at home.  Why is that, anyways?  Did I just get off to a bad start with the Kimball folk?  Is it just an artifact of being uncomfortable when I see Kiki tending to others?  Are the Okada people just -better-?  I’m not sure.

But I do know that it’s the same way, regardless.  If it’s more than an arm’s length, I have to put myself there in order to be reached.  But…even so, there’s a difference.  There’s a difference in that even when I put myself within arm’s reach, some people don’t reach.

Right now, the best friends are the ones whom are willing to reach for me when I go to them.  But someday, I’ll meet someone who will be able to look a little bit farther.  Someone who will come over to my quiet and hidden corner to be with me.

Maybe I’ve already found one.