There is No Status Quo

Glow in the dark

There are going to be a fair bit of spoilers for these titles: 
Parks and Recreation, the TV show: major spoilers
Super Mario RPG: Major spoilers
Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga: Major spoilers
Final Fantasy VIII: First 13 hours spoilers

Although I spoil things, I am still purposely very vague.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t spoilery though, so be warned.

Long article time!

Character development works in the same way that people develop.  Whether you like it or not, that’s how some of the best character development works.  And a more turbulent thing that is also true is that it is almost always cheesy.  It’s the cheesy stuff that are the real lessons in life.  When writing character development, it’s important to recognize how and when paradigm shifts in perspective happen.  And we can also, again, skeletonize it to cheesy things, but we’re going to keep it at a complicated level for the sake of showing the individuality of developments.


First I’m going to establish the basic point that my title has made.  There is no status quo.  Characters are like glow sticks, they won’t really shine until you break them.  In Parks and Recreation the character Andy has one of the best developments because the events that happen to him actually change and cause him to grow.  It’s very simple and logical stuff.  Most people know that, but actually having that implemented is a different thing.  He actually does change as his love for April grows.  He really does learn from his time at community college.  He really does start finding footing for where he feels comfortable in his place in society.  These things are actually happening to him and the show acts like it.  This doesn’t mean he can’t be the same goofy character, but it means that he will not return to the original goofy character before.  You cannot return to the status quo, else it seems like nothing significant happened at all.

This happens in all sorts of TV shows where things return completely to normal.  I’m not saying that this is bad, because it fits some shows very well that things always return to normal.  Sometimes these kinds of series will do major shifts to show that something has changed.  This can be something that happens at the end of a season or in preparation for a change of casting.  Super Mario RPG’s Mallow has an identity crisis because he thinks he is a frog.  I’m…pretty sure we all can recognize that he is totally not.  Some character developments happen in drastic shifts like this.  This happens in real life as well, so it makes sense.  

What’s interesting about Mallow’s shift is that he doesn’t really change much, except for his self-confidence, which was an issue for a while.  He doesn’t really mind that he thought he was a frog this whole time.  The big shift wasn’t the fact that he was having an identity crisis, but rather that he needed to come to terms with how he feels about himself.  These aren’t huge lines in the story by the way.  Mallow doesn’t always talk about this, but it feels significant enough.  


Here’s one that I have thought a lot about from the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically Thor.  Thor’s development is mostly about who he believes he is and his worthiness.  He goes through a lot of this and it develops on itself multiple times.  In Thor: Ragnarok, he really comes to terms with himself after his father’s “passing”.  Now normally this is it.  But after his failure to kill Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, he actually returns to what he was previously where he didn’t believe in himself.  This is not a return to the status quo.  This is usually only obtainable through story writing that is extended over time.  I think this is a rare opportunity to recognize how some people struggle to change over time.  He had such a big revelation in Thor: Ragnarok and now he is back to where he was before because of yet another shift.  This new development is no longer about coming to terms with himself, it is about the failure of doing so in a difficult time.  I love the writing of this because sometimes we have big life events happen to us and when it gets hard we do fall back down and we do struggle.


Lastly, Final Fantasy VIII.  Just to be clear, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the different kinds of development.  Final Fantasy VIII just happens to be the final one on this list.  I love Final Fantasy to death, so maybe I’m a bit biased.  I haven’t finished VIII yet, so this is just what I know so far from the game.  I’ve played 13-ish hours.

Most of the game’s characters are teenagers, and I think it’s a very good opportunity to talk about the small world of the mind.  There are a lot of times where the main character, Squall, says some really angsty stuff.  Same with Rinoa.  There are tons of times where you could ask why the world they make the choices they make or how something they said was ridiculous or immature, but that’s just it.  They’re teenagers.  I think one of the more difficult parts of writing is not only understanding how much your character’s know, but also how much they can interpret.  When Squall is threatened by death he does the most teenager thing and runs away.  I’m not saying all teeangers do this, but it’s been established that he is an angsty teen, so what he is doing is in line with that.  He is so determined to not be something left in the past because someone he is close with may have died.

Having death hit you at such a young age affects you differently than if you were older.  This whole time Squall has set up a tough exterior, but it really breaks when he just runs.   His paradigm has shifted, and he has to come to terms with it.  This doesn’t fully absolve itself immediately though, which I like.  Rinoa also goes through a series of similar rash actions where she wants to try and suppress the evil Sorceress on her own.  This seems so foolish, but remember that her world consists of living in rebellion.  She has been fighting government oppression her whole life and her relationship with her father is not great.  This is what her world consists of: fighting back, no matter how small you feel.  When she fails to suppress the Sorceress, she nearly dies.  

Squall and Rinoa both argue over how serious these missions are taken.  This back and forth starts pretty early on.  Both Squall and Rinoa’s growth intertwine when Rinoa realizes just how dangerous all of this is and Squall feels what the fear of death is like in someone else as Rinoa literally clings to him.  This is further emphasized when he sees how scared Irvine is moments later.  Their small worlds grow larger with every shift.  He is changing how he feels about death, his mission, and what to do.  You see this in how he tells Irvine that it’s going to be okay, no matter the results.

Remember when I said Squall hated that idea of death?  Well, at this point some time later, he fights the Sorceress for the sake of the people and …dies.  Now hold on, this is where I’m at in the story.  So, very likely he’s not actually dead, but the action of this is significant, because now his paradigm has completely shifted.  He has voluntarily given his life for the sake of the people.  The world of his mind has grown.  He is no longer Squall as he was…however many hours ago in the game.  Unfortunately, for the sake of story he is likely still alive, so that status quo is probably still here.  I…I can’t say for sure.  I’m excited to see what happens next.

Not all teenagers and people will develop like this.  That’s fine.  But each has their own views and shifts.  Squall’s tough exterior has been well established by this point, but it is so fluid in his change over time.  His is not an immediate change, and that’s why I really like his development so far.  His “death” could also be just his desire to fulfill objectives for his organization, but he ran away last time.  He literally ran, and now he died.


Maybe I’m getting this all totally wrong.  I could totally, totally be getting all of this wrong.  But I’m still very happy with how they show the perspective of the small worlds Squall and Rinoa both live in.  It’s easiest to see these kinds of things in the main character who starts in humble beginnings, except it’s usually more literal in that the world they fight for gets bigger and bigger as you explore more places.  But for what I can see in Squall and Rinoa right now, is the change in the mind, and I really, really like that.  

Why is this so important to me?  I mean, other than good character development, this helps me recognize people’s perspectives and how they see the world.  To be less at conflict with others, I need to be more understanding of their perspectives and what their mind-world’s look like.  What I look like in their world.  

Things are not always black and white, and seeing character growth like this is a good way to better understand how some people might make bad decisions when they’re just trying to be good people.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time.
Elise

Loud Voices, Small Voices

Voices in the Crowd

I’ve been thinking a lot about yesterday’s post.  I don’t apologize for a lot of it.  Most of it had to be said.  Perhaps it was not as celebratory as it should’ve been.  This is Game Praisers, but I also need to state some crap going on.  And while it is all true, we should continue in a different iteration.

Let’s be honest, I’m a pretty…pessimistic person.  I don’t know if it’s my anxiety and me thinking about bad things over and over and over again.  Supposedly I have a dark sense of humour as well, but I can’t really tell.  So I admit I do tend to focus on the negative, which is partially why I started Game Praisers to help me be more positive.  While this has indeed helped me see the positives of video gaming, especially with the good community I’ve run into here, people are a whole different matter.

I’m trying to see and understand that there are so many good people in the game community.  I have had good experience in Genshin Impact, and I’m sorry if I made it seem like I didn’t appreciate it.  It is a really fun game and I absolutely love the world and its characters.  I let the loud voices of the ugly people get the best of me.  I have met people who wanted to learn more about Chinese culture, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Look in any place where the players are allowed to say anything, and there will be loud, supported, angry players whinging about the most unimportant or specific of things.  Once you’re allowed to be anonymous, people will say the worst of things, but I have to also remember that most of the crowd consists of the silent majority.  There are a lot of people that are good that support others and they just don’t say anything. 

All the kind Guild Wars 2 players that go out of the way to help me when I’m down are a good example.  Guild Wars 2 seems to have an abnormal amount of kind people in it.  On the Steam launch, which I believe happened yesterday, there were tons of people that were prepared to help new players.  It was so wonderful.  There are loud, irritating people in Guild Wars 2 still, but there are just so many nice people that they get drowned out.  I really wouldn’t mind that in the other game communities.

But that’s just it.  I bet they are there.  They’re just quiet.  They’re reading.  They’re ignoring the comments.   They just love their game and play it.  I’ve been thinking about this a ton since yesterday and I am so happy and joyful that there are cool people out there in the gaming community that I genuinely would like to meet.  Although, I will probably disappear afterward and never be heard from again because I will be overthinking everything, but there is hope in it all.

It is good to have hope in the gaming community, because, let’s be honest, it usually doesn’t look great for us.  I think I have to change my perspective a bit and have more hope.  I don’t want to become insensitive to the rude people I always see, but I also need to keep myself focused on the hope that there is still humanity left in the community of gaming.
Thanks for sticking around!  I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

Genshin Impact: 2 Years

Cultural Impact…for better or worse?

Warning: This is a bit rantish and raw.  

Wow.  It has already been two years since Genshin Impact was released.  Time flies, but life hasn’t been really fun.  Luckily, Genshin has been.

I’m just going to take this time to talk about a couple of things in my experiences of Genshin Impact.  

Point 1: The Mobile Game

Genshin Impact changed my view of the mobile game.  I think I became looser about how I feel about games that eat time and demand.  I’m still, like, super upset that things like dailies and stuff vie for my time, but underneath all that junk is a really good game.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize that a lot of mobile games are like that.  The okay junk, like dailies, show up in other games too.  I guess that doesn’t make it that much better.  And the advanced junk like gacha mechanics are still just that: junk.

But good mobile games are out there, and the artists and programmers really just want it to be good.  I can definitely say that with Genshin Impact.  The music is phenomenal.  The gameplay is great fun.  I love the lore!  This is just something that I feel like really…impacted my view.  

Point 2: Representation

I’m not talking about the representation of the people in the game and how each region in the world of Teyvat kind of represents a place on Earth.  I mean just the representation of Chinese video game development.  It has been up and down.  It’s been up because people can see that Chinese developers can make something original.  Down, because there is still a lot of ignorance in some of the ways they represent some peoples.  I don’t just mean stereotypes.  I mean like how in the new region coming out today, Sumeru, the people…really should have darker skin.  

Nontraditional story arcs or character developments are also something that you see.  A lot of Chinese stories end unfairly and things don’t have a happy ending.  A bit of a spoiler, but some arcs don’t end in a resolution.  They always say “to be continued”, so eventually I’m sure they’ll do something, but to have an entire series of quests just end, that’s normal.  Tragic endings that feel like they’re unnecessary are rooted in real life problems.  Sometimes people make bad choices when there are obviously good ones.  Sometimes time takes its toll on people and there won’t be a good ending.  Even the way certain jokes present themselves feels more familiar to me.  Several times these came up as negative points for my United States acquaintances.  (I’m not going to say friends.)  This kind of brings me to my last point.

Point 3: Racism

Uh oh.  Yeah, I bring this up a lot, for obvious reasons.  Perhaps I’m putting myself at risk for this, but…I have to say something. I really thought that having Chinese names in the game would help people be a little more understanding.  And while this has brought a lot of people more willing to be more respectful to things like names and stuff, it also has revealed how some of the people who are my…”acquaintances” just don’t really care about their approach to my, or maybe any, culture.  Ah, scratch that.   In this anime context, it’s mine specifically.

There is a subcategory of racism as a Chinese person that you realize growing up in a place that isn’t Chinese.  If you’re not one of the “popular” or even unfortunately, “fetishized” categories of Asian, then you’re not “as good”.   If you’re not Korean or Japanese.  I can’t tell you how awkward it is to have people be disappointed because they found out I wasn’t either of the two.  And yet, somehow we’re praised on very specific things about our culture: things like martial arts, being studious, and our cuisine.  It just makes us feel very exoticized.  The moment it encroaches on things like anime, suddenly we have to be separated.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to anime fans about Chinese anime, and they absolutely must point out that it’s not anime, it’s donghua.  Or how they just need to play Genshin or watch anime in Japanese because they can’t bear the Chinese.  According to them, they’re not racist or anything.  Sure.  Keep in mind these are not people that understand Japanese.  They just need Japanese over Chinese.  

I’ve experienced a lot of mispronunciation of names in my lifetime, and seeing it happen in Genshin is kind of a bummer.  I was with a group of Genshin players chatting around and they would use some nickname or joke name for the Liyue characters, but when someone pronounced one of the Inazuma character’s name wrong, they were corrected and taught how to say it correctly.  Why the double standard?  It always reminds me of that kids book, That’s Not My Name!, I see on Instagram by Anoosha Syed.  Now, maybe people think, well we don’t even say Chinese names often, that’s why!  Well, if you never try in the first place, how are you ever going to get to the point of often?  

Do you want to know what the saddest part is?  Even the Hoyoverse, the developers, know all this Chinese-Japanese stuff.  They always state the Japanese voice actors/actresses for the English audience.  They know that feeling like a Japanese game is part of its selling point.  You could say it’s “just marketing”, but that’s also saying “that’s the current reality and I don’t want to deal with it.”  That’s just the hard truth.  And unfortunately I don’t have the choice of not dealing with it.  



Sorry.  Well, I really shouldn’t have to say sorry at all actually.  After all these years of playing video games I was just hoping that for once something would go right for Chinese-based things without exoticisms, colonialism, or that kind of stuff.  Maybe I expected too much of the community, which is a really sad thing to say.  

But.  The few individuals that I meet that have changed because of this…  maybe it makes it all worth it?  I’ve left all the Genshin groups that I was a part of, and I have once again become a hermit after trying to join a community.  Burn all the bridges.  This happens all the time.  So I’m pretty certain to some extent, it’s just me.  A lot of the negative is probably just me, right?  But when I walk out of the virtual door and into the community I think, it can’t just be me.

Genshin Impact.  You’re a really great game.  But for this person who lives under a rock, I guess it is too much to wish for a community I didn’t feel like I have to walk away from for the most unfortunate of reasons.  Once again, I’ll be playing solo.


Sorry.  I had to say something.  These next two or three weeks will have work getting intense, so forgive me if I don’t pop in as I usually do.  And thanks for enduring all that.  Keep in mind that I do have severe anxiety and depression, so perhaps this is just a side effect of my mind against the community, but writing it off because of that doesn’t really seem like the healthy or right thing to do either.  

If I haven’t run you off, thanks for staying.  I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

Advanced Boredom

Forest of the Mind

I’ve been writing articles, and I will write the whole thing thinking it was great.  I do the proofreading and realize…this article is not great.  I’ve done that a couple times now, and I guess I’m just not feeling it.  All the articles I’ve written were not cutting it.

But I also want to post more, so I will probably be posting more personal, normal stuff like this.  And don’t worry, they’re still mostly related to video games.  And maybe some other media.  The more I think about it, the more I realize how much design works with all media.  The same choice and consequence in designing a film or video game works in other places as well.  So I may be writing a little more on that as well.


So, Advanced Boredom is a state I’m in where I’m so bored that I can’t even choose to do the thing I want to do for fun.  I will switch shows, games, or books that I’m consuming every ten minutes.  It’s the worst.  It may be related to guilt or it may be related to …guilt except from lack of productivity.  Actually, it’s probably related to guilt.  It is not ADD or ADHD, because that seems to have been ruled out by the psychiatrist.  I do have attention problems, but, curiously enough, it is neither of those.  

In the state of Advanced Boredom, I do not feel productive with my time, especially in the consumption of entertainment, and I seek this out by traveling through the different layers of games to try and fulfill that.  Not fulfilling that means continuing the cycle.  And I finally found one of the ways to break that.  It is not always successful, and that usually means that the current boredom or stillness I’m in is not from guilt.

Oh, which brings to mind a point: Advanced Boredom is more like stillness.  I do not mean peace.  I mean stillness.  Like…an empty indoor pool.  Maybe you can hear muffled cars honking outside, and also the dripping of some water from somewhere.  The dull lights humming just enough that you can notice it.  This isn’t a fancy pool.  There is cement everywhere and very little glass.  No jacuzzi.

What do I do to get myself out of advanced boredom?  I have to consume or study something that is new.  I have to play a game I haven’t played or read a book I haven’t read.  I can’t play that MMO that I have a thousand hours in.  I can’t play the game I want to play for the 24th time.  I need to play something new.  I think part of it is bringing myself to focus on something that isn’t myself.  Not that I am thinking about myself all the time, but because the guilt is associated with myself.  It is getting into that flow of something I don’t know.

And that’s difficult.  It is so easy to pop back into an old game.  It is so easy to let the guilt consume me as I play Hearthstone even though I know I don’t want to be doing that.  It is a dangerous spiral.  I think this is a remnant from the productivity thing.  I still feel guilt over things like that.  I still don’t feel like I’ve succeeded in life to demand any sort of relief.  I feel guilty for being allowed to do the things that I want.  

Ultimately, I feel that perhaps this isn’t as healthy as I think.  I am still satisfying that guilt.  And while I really do feel great for doing something new, I need myself to come to terms with the fact that I should not be consuming any media out of guilt.  I should not be doing things because of guilt.  Guilt can be used as a way to motivate myself, but I feel like it’s doing harm in the realm of how “productive” my fun time can be.  Maybe if I’m at work, but not here.  I don’t think it’s healthy if it’s here in my entertainment space.

The mind is a forest that is extremely difficult to understand.  We can map it out, but becoming a navigator is much more difficult.  I never thought that playing games would be so complicated and mentally exhausting, but this is reality.  I want to grow as a person, as a video gamer, and I will need to manage these things if I am to do so.  Although I long for the simpler times of just playing games because I love games, I also enjoy this exploration of the self that helps me be a healthier me. 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and I hope that you can find healthy ways to navigate the forest of the mind.   

If all goes as planned, I will see you again later this week!

Elise