The First Time I Wish I Was At E3

E3 has come and gone, and naturally I – like much of the world’s populace – was unable to attend. In fact, I confess little interest at the time; for so long have I been up to my neck in other things that I’ve rarely been able to indulge in actually keeping up with video game news, let alone actually play anything.

Though, much like the acorn, I am small largely inconsequential, but I dream of forests.

It would appear that the participants of the Electronic Entertainment Expo has had more than a few dealings with dreams this year.

Stepping back a bit, I want to say that I’ve hardly kept up with this stuff for the last few years. Much like my views on the Movie Industry have gotten increasingly jaded (directly proportionate, perhaps unsurprisingly, to my apparent acquisition of age), so too have my views of the Gaming Industry similarly degraded.

The cynic will say that it is not one’s perception that has degraded, though, but in fact has undergone augmentation. Whether this is from age, or a legit declination in quality of the media, is up for debate.

E3 of 2015 shattered that pretext for me. Like I said, granted I haven’t kept up with things lately, so perhaps it could be said that my insensitivity threshold has also lowered, so it’s easier to be Wow’d by the graphics and concepts and gameplay mechanics. I stand before you and say no, that is not the case. At least not to the best of my perceptions; games are less interesting these days because they’re more and more the same, and in a desperate attempt to make something different, a lot of developers have resorted to ‘ye olde schoole’ tried and true techniques; like Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze’s obvious throwback to the ancient 1994 release, Donkey Kong Country, which is a side-scrolling 2-D platformer.

That’s not necessarily a criticism, by the way. Very few games translate seamlessly from 2-D to 3-D environments, just look at Sonic the Hedgehog and Megaman. Some transitions are passable.

super-mario-bros-deluxe

mzaa

Others are not.

giphysonic

Still, developers will come out with a new title and I’ll look at it thinking, “Alright, so it’s Tomb Raider but with robot dinosaurs.” Again, don’t get me wrong, this looks pretty cool. In fact the concept is rather neat, but already I can see how its not exactly breaking new ground. For many of us, that’s enough, or else they wouldn’t keep making these Over The Shoulder shoot + roll games of which I’ve seen a hundred and one reincarnations.

Except for works of art such as The Last Guardian, the teaser for which I saw back in 2009. 2015’s E3 showed that yes, the project is in fact still alive, and looking better than ever.

Truly this is a game of masterwork visual storytelling; without a word of exposition or any kind of preamble, I find myself holding back tears from dropping down into my palak paneer as I watch the footage in my office chair. I never really had any interest in spending money on expensive consoles like the Playstation 4, but on seeing this the thought crossed my mind.

Yet even the raw emotions evoked by The Last Guardian, emotions the likes of which might be ascribed to pure adolescent wonder (and the sheer joy that I can only dream of experiencing, that moment we always see when a character realizes that Magic is Real), step aside for but a moment in silent awe at another thing that graced the light show of E3.

Advertisements

ASMR Brother

https://i0.wp.com/students.expression.edu/thatasmrfeeling/files/2013/02/ASMR_type.jpg

Those of you familiar with ASMR  – if you haven’t already – ought to really check it out. I wrote about it not so long ago, and if you have an affinity for audio, whether specific sounds or songs, you’re better off catching up before continuing to read this post.

~~~

So I had an interesting conversation with my older brother of six years. He and I share a common ancestry as most brothers tend to do, and while we lead vastly different lives and offer the world vastly different personas, there are a few things in common that persist through the years.

I recently discovered something new.

So as I mentioned, I wrote about my personal discovery as a person who feels the ASMR effect. It was a sort of liberating eureka-esque moment of self-discovery.

“So THAT’S what that is!”

“There’s a name for that?”

“I thought that everyone felt that.”

Since learning and writing about it, I’ve commenced in not-so-subtle questioning of most people in my circles, questing for others who share this. It’d be too easy to just join an online forum devoted to ASMR-folk, as I’ve read there’s quite the Reddit community devoted to this. I guess I first wanted to see if there was anyone I knew who knew what the hell I was talking about before I sought the company of strangers on the internet.

I had nearly given up hope; none of my friends share this. I have met people who share my love for music, people who take their music more seriously than I do – people who want to start an indie label and others who can dance the night away at a club. No one felt the sensation that I described, though some could relate, or at least pretend to understand.

“It’s like chills,” I usually say. “Goosebumps, but in a good way. Been described as an ear-gasm or a brain-gasm — though it’s nothing actually sexual.”

Often I have to hastily add the last part since some peeps have actually suppressed laughing at me, supposedly experienced listeners who frown on my apparent lack of fandom for bands like the Beatles or Nirvana.

The thing about ASMR that I’ve discovered is that it does not necessarily cater to a specific genre, much less a band. Heck, when I’m feeling nihilisitic I’ll listen to Nine Inch Nails, because I like ’em in those moods, but none of their music gives me the ASMR effect. For me, at the risk of repeating myself too often, the effect is generated from music or cognitive connections — usually the music paints a scene in my mind, or delivers me to a sort of zone, and often enough the music will lay the foundation for thoughts that lead to creative eureka-isms, which trigger ASMR as well. No one I’ve spoken to shared this experience.

Except my brother.

Let’s call him Forest so that you don’t know his real name is Forest. He’s six years older than me, has a family, a stable job, and was a huge influence on my gamer-upbringing as well as my musical tastes when I was a sprout. We have the kind of peculiar standoffish-yet-close relationship where we’re comfortable and share many things in common, but personal issues are usually something that are not brought up between us. I suppose that’s a long story in its own right.

And yet, I tentatively brought up the topic of ASMR one day, and lo and behold, he understood what I meant. It was a little different for him, but he knew. He described it precisely as others have, including myself, a sort of “chill” at the nape of the neck, sometimes running down the spine. Triggered by sound.

For him, it’s more specific sound effects, to which I can totally relate. You know that “sonic bomb” as used in Star Wars: Episode II, that Jango Fett uses in the asteroid field?

I could not find any audio clips of it. But it’s pretty nifty. Something not altogether different from the Inception Sound.

While the ASMR effect is something not terribly inclusive, it is a growing phenomena. There’s no knowing what percentage of the population has it, since most people who do didn’t, as my and my brother, have a name for the sensation.

What I do know is that this stuff has the makings of some excellent story elements. A nacent sense that only some people possess? Sounds like a mutation or a manifestation of magic in another setting, if you ask me.

Concept: Healing in Fantasy (pt.2)

Last time we discussed Natural Healing, which mostly boiled down to using one’s bodily recovery functions and usually enhancing them, usually via nature magic.

Today we’ll talk about what I like to call Divine Healing, which from what I’ve seen is the more well-known type in popular fantasy. Divine Healing is more of that flashy stuff you see, via Holy Priests, Monks, Clerics and White Mages. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-bip, your wound is gone. In video game contexts, it’s a convenient tool to allow a player to progress through the adventure.

Courtesy of Seonhee Lim ( http://www.limsh.com/ )

Courtesy of Seonhee Lim ( http://www.limsh.com/ )

But Divine Healing is more complicated. After all, by its very nature, it’s derived either from within (see, the inner spirit) or from without, that is, from a spirit or god. In our current mythologies, only the god or agents of said god are capable of performing healing of this manner, which tends to create matter – i.e., missing flesh. Or kill off disease. Or whatever. It’s pretty nifty stuff.

But biologically, Divine Magic is doing what the body cannot do. Different from rapid regeneration, I picture Divine Healing as, like I said, creating matter – perhaps even replacing severed limbs or removing permanent scarring. If that’s the case, then what determines the nature of healing? The source (spirit/god/ghost)? The caster, maybe? The DNA of the recipient – perhaps a genetic memory of what the body is supposed to possess (all four limbs and some organs where that hole is now)?

Chances are people in these fantasy realms don’t ask questions, they just pay the apothecary or beg the priest and go. You can bet I’d be standing around taking notes.

Lastly we’ll look at a type of healing that’s altogether quite different. Stay tuned!

Concept: Healing in Fantasy (pt.1)

So the time since my last post has been a crazy time, creatively and writ-vely speaking. The mad dash for creating, polishing, and submitting as story for the Writers of the Future contest had a number of obstacles, not least of which was settling a story idea. I recall at least three stories in which I gave the old college try, one of those was rewritten three times before I scrapped it.

And yet, there was success. In the final days before the deadline, I managed to soak up my resources like a Zerg Extractor and managed to pull something off that wasn’t half bad.

The story itself was about healing. You know, as a concept, as an act. There’re loads of humorous pictures and videos out there that depict “What [insert game] would be like in Real Life,” but what I don’t often see addressed is when characters are healed of their wounds. In a real-world sense, healing is not a blast of energy or in the form of an insta-heal potion, it’s either a slow process or a miraculous event.

So I tend to sit around, usually where they think I am working, and think about things like Healing In Fantasy. I’ve actually had these concepts stewing around for awhile, so before you today I will demonstrate my findings.

There’s gonna be a lot of World of Warcraft references here, so for the sake people who never tasted that particular flavor of cocaine, I’ll endeavor to alternate examples.

Let’s start the show.

I figure there are three primary-general categories of healing, divided by function and source. Starting off, we have:

  • Natural Healing

WoW example: Druidic HoTs (Healing Over Time) spells. Any spell in a fantasy setting that does not provide a blast of health, but rather what might be construed as heightened regenerative capabilities, falls under natural healing. Natural healing magic is derived from spirits, trees, nature, herbs, maybe a dance here and there – we’re talking about enhancing the body to do what it normally does, which is heal itself. Someone who is the recipient of Natural Healing would sooner see their wounds close in a dramatically small space, or perhaps in intense circumstances, would appear invulnerable on account of regenerating faster than damage is inflicted. Take the troll.

Wait…

No, more like this kind, from Dungeons and Dragons.

Trolls in popular fantasy are notoriously difficult to kill, and sport a very high threshold for pain and injury. They tend to regenerate quickly after damage is inflicted upon them. Except when fire is applied…

Anyway, HoT spells would essentially bestow troll-like regeneration upon an individual. This is badass, especially if consider how muscles are made ; i.e., that movie Unbreakable with Bruce Willis. Or Wolverine, for that matter.

I count Healing Potions (that includes Tonics, Hi-Potions, X-Potions, Elixirs, Megaelixirs, or any other elaborately named variety) as Natural Healing, since it’s more or less energy being consumed and delivered into the rest of the body via ingestion. Eating good food will help a body heal just the same, so I figure any potion in a fantasy setting that provides healing effects is simply speeding up what the body would normally be doing.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we look at little bit of the second category, Divine Healing. Until then dear readers, happy writing.

Concept: Healing in Fantasy

Just some thoughts about healing.

Ever notice that healing magic makes an appearance frequently as a gaming mechanic, but not so often in fantasy literature or film? One needn’t be a highly experienced gamer to understand the need for such a tool, but I find it interesting to contemplate how magical healing works.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that our lives would be vastly different if the population had access to healing potions or perhaps some shaman or priest who, with a gesture and a prayer, could mend wounds and re-knit broken bones in a flash of light. In such a world – that is to say, nearly every fantasy game (or at least every RPG) – we are often asked to suspend our disbelief and not ask the simple question: “How does anyone actually ever die with this stuff available?”

Let’s set that aside, as the answer to that question would be the same even if one were to ask the point of gaming. But I’ve gotten really into my games at times, usually in an attempt to truly immerse myself and feel a different world. Even the most immersive of games will require some degree of suspension, however, as that is in fact their very nature. Other factors aside, I find that the nature of healing is among the most universal of these items.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is a good example, as it’s fairly high quality (at the time of this writing) compared to most RPGs before it. Among the more realistic fantasy games, as far as realism can go with these things, there always exists the magical healing potion; not to mention the simple self-healing spell you can learn. But potions can supposedly be consumed by anyone.

Can you imagine being a chemist or apothecary in a fantasy realm? Forget blacksmithing or tailoring. If a man can mix together something that actually prevents death, then a man has found a monopoly.

But the healing itself, this is what I really want to talk about. In all my gaming and reading, it would appear to this humble scholar of fantasy that there are three primary kinds of healing.

Natural Magic: – this kind I imagine encompasses HoT (healing over time) spells, and can most easily be witnessed as rapid regeneration. In other words, a healing spell or effect of the Natural type enhances one’s ability to heal themselves… naturally. Consider herbs that boost the immune system vs. drugs that attack the disease or poison. Natural magic would probably be gained from a spirit of a tree, an herbal poultice, or maybe some alchemical potion made from plants.

Personally I imagine Natural magic to be preventative, rather than restorative, making a being appear much tougher than it actually is – by way of healing as fast as it takes damage.

Spiritual/Divine Magic: – the source of what I call Divine magic is either a diety worshipped by the healer or gained from one’s own “inner light.” Results from this sort of stuff might be what people call “miracles.” The warmth of some divine light that instantly restores a gaping wound or severed limb to its former state. Pretty nifty and likely the kind of spectacle that will make any skeptic a believer.

But how are we expectes to think it actually works? Would restorative magic spells like these return a man’s limb to what it was before it was cut off? If so, what are the guidelines? Is it based off the memory of the limb or the genetic memory of the body? Or is it simply the diety, through the magic, simply doing a “Whoops, you dropped this, lemme just – there you go, good as new.”

What if such a spell were cast on someone who was born without legs? Would they get legs they never had, or would they get no effect at all? What about neurological or psychological damage – do those Cure! Heal! Restore! spells do anything for the target’s mental health?

These are the kind of questions that keep me out of medical school.

Vampiric Magic: – for lack of a better word, the kind of healing “that occurs at the direct expense of another being.” Your classic example would be the vampire or any creature like, that lives off the blood or essence or life force or vim or vitae – whatever – to replenesh its own strength. One usually sees this spell under the name “Drain.” There is perhaps no more insidious a way of healing one’s self than by simply taking it from someone else, and likely the drained is tortured in pain or nightmarishly tormented until the drainer has had its fill. Or the victim dies.

This can arguably be considered a natural means (after all, aren’t mosquitos tiny, irritating vampires?), but I beg to differ. This is the method of bad guys and parasites – no wonder draining or vampiric spells are often in the emply of evil-doers.

What forms of of healing have you encountered, and liked the most? Thinking back, I think my own personal favorite means was as a druid or a shadow priest in World of Warcraft.