Date archives for March, 2006

March 29th, 2006
Blog Entry

Chest

There’s a fluttering just beneath my sternum, as though someone is kicking ripples in there. It’s like a gale ripping along a piece of taut fabric.

I push my fingers against it to hold it in, and I feel it push back. It feels like a rodent’s head burrowing out from my lungs.

It’s a very peculiar feeling.


March 26th, 2006
Blog Entry

Wow

I actually have some time to write something. Unheard-of recently.

This is very much a work-in-progress.

Spencer woke early that morning, his limbs disobedient after a night of heavy stillness. He rolled over and patted the other half of the bed; the realisation that it was empty flushed the grogginess from his mind.

Of course it was empty. It had been empty for six weeks and two days (he crossed off the days in a cheap pocket diary), but he still could not adjust. There was something in his life he couldn’t rely on any more, and the absence still stunned him.

He wrote in his diary of his life “spiralling out of control,” of “emptiness, numbness” and so on. He didn’t really believe these things at all; his brain told him that he should, so he substituted them in. As always in these situations, his heart dutifully succumbed.

He squeezed his fists and thumped the bedside table.


March 19th, 2006
Blog Entry

The Sex and Cash theory

By some strange twist I found myself reading an article about exactly what I’ve been thinking about recently – quitting the day job and devoting myself entirely to the creative life. Not having enough time to do both really gets to me, because I usually have loads of time to do enjoyable creative things (this is going to be dealt with in another post, “Hard Lessons to Learn”), but not recently.

The gist of the article is that you have to have the balance between job and hobbies. I want to disagree and say that it’s possible to turn a hobby into a job, and that a great many people have done it, continue to do it and be successful with it. Sure, it might not be the solution for everyone, but there are people that manage it, so why not me?

I think this article’s real “meaning” (inasmuch as it is) is that there is a need for balance in life; you can’t have all sex and no cash, more’s the pity. The thing is, and this is probably my naivete coming through, I’d much rather have a life with the balance on the sex, and not the cash. Working’s important, I know that, but happiness, achieving personal goals and being satisfied with yourself is infinitely more important to me.

Clearly I still retain idealist tendencies, and my optimism is still here despite everything, which is very encouraging. As much as it seems a teenage dream to design and create video games for a living, for example, a great many people do it and will continue to do so for years to come. Maybe I will be one of them.


March 13th, 2006
Blog Entry

Surviving vs succeeding

Despite my recent claims to the contrary, I am still a perfectionist; I want to do the brilliant things I know I’m capable of, and I want to do them all the time or I feel like I’m just wasting time. Unfortunately this just isn’t possible, but how much is acceptable?

That all depends on how you calibrate your feelings, I suppose. My standards have always been set high because I expect great things and I don’t want to let myself down. Lowering those expectations resulted in substandard work which actually made me feel worse – my attempts to increase happiness through decreasing the time spent working clearly didn’t go well. Now I’m not sure the simplistic Play > Work = Happiness equation is even close to being true.

Now onto the topic of this post, “surviving vs. succeeding”. Currently I feel I am definitely in the former category – I struggle through each day, barely in one piece by the end of it, and then pick myself up again the next day to repeat the cycle. I’m not doing well and that makes me feel worse than anything, really; I do genuinely want to succeed at everything I do, even teaching which (at the moment) I absolutely detest. “Just surviving” isn’t an option for me – if I can’t do brilliant things I’d rather not do it at all. I know this is unhealthy, but I tend to flip from one extreme to the other and I think that’s why I’m struggling to find the midpoint between churning out rubbish and creating wonderful things.

The next question is this: How do I move from surviving to succeeding? I’m considering using Steve Pavlina’s “From a 7 to a 10” technique to help me visualise what a 10/10 lesson would look like, and how I can best achieve it. Time management is another issue I really need to get on top of – currently I have no time for hobbies because I’m working so long, but partly that is due to working inefficiently. How can I work more efficiently? We’ll see; I need to try out some systems and see what works for me.

Planning my future is something else that I should do in order to increase my happiness and productivity; knowing where you are is easy, knowing where you want to go is a challenge but plotting a path between the two takes a lot of hard work, sweat and tears.

Surviving goes against the grain with me, but it’s better than not surviving, at least. Making the upwards journey will take a long time, and who knows what’s at the top?


March 12th, 2006
Blog Entry

The Price of Addiction

I remembered this article while applying for a TV documentary; some of these numbers were far, far too low.

When Simon Adcock told me about Harvest Moon on the GameBoy Colour years ago, I remember laughing at him and telling him a farming game sounded boring.

Clearly I was a very, very foolish youth, but I believe I’ve made up for lost time. However, exactly how much time has been lost to one of the largest timesinks ever? Let’s see.

Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life

This is the first Gamecube version of Harvest Moon – HM: Magical Melody is due in March 2006, which is brilliant – and happens to be phenomenally addictive. It’s so addictive, in fact, that I’m on my second copy as my first one decided to get itself a new owner. Anyway, let’s take a look at the figures…

Each day in HM:AWL takes about half an hour or so, and there are 40 days in a year. Therefore, each year is about 20 hours of gameplay time; quite a considerable amount. I am currently about to finish my fifth full year on the farm (I’ve done a whole year in the past week or so), which means I’ve put about 100 hours into it. That is officially “a lot.”

Now let’s take a look at the handheld version, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. Again, I’m on my second copy of this as my US version (brought across from America – best. Birthday present. Ever.) wouldn’t connect with my European HM:AWL. The days are much shorter in FoMT – about ten minutes, if that – but there are 120 of them in a year. So that’s about 20 hours a year again (funny how that works out!). I seem to think I was on my fifth year in my first version, and now I’m in the Summer of my third year, so that’s about two and a half years. Seven-and-a-half times twenty is about one hundred and fifty hours – that’s a lot of bus and train journeys, not to mention entire days laid waste to its inescapably addictive charms.

So, as a very rough estimate, about 250 hours of my life have been sacrificed to the deities of Harvest Moon. In that time, I could have:

Finished one novel and started a sequel;
Tested the limits of human endurance by going without sleep for over ten consecutive days;
Earned over £1,000 working a crappy minimum-wage job;
Probably cracked PSO Ultimate mode;
Improved as a musician by an inconceivable amount;
Thought at great length about how to improve the world, and come up with several clever ideas for implementation;
Actually done something.

The third point is quite a pertinent one, really. I’m not one for jobs, as you know, but to think that I could have actually earnt some real money instead of in-game gold is quite funny, really. Doing any of these things, however, wouldn’t have earnt me any genuine insight into the world of farming, which I value above (most of) these.

If that’s what I could have done in the time I spent playing just TWO games – about FARMING, for fuck’s sakes! – how much more could I have got done if I hadn’t played ANY games? Well, to calculate that I’d need to work out how many hours I’ve spent playing games in total, which isn’t really possible. Here are some fairly general figures, though:

About 250 – 300 hours on Phantasy Star Online;
About 300 – 400 hours on the Shining Force III trilogy (I think – this one is hard to work out, really);
About 50 – 100 hours on Transport Tycoon Deluxe and Locomotion (just a guess, really; probably much higher);
Somewhere in the region of 100 hours on various Sonic games (probably much more, but about 50+ on Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2) this is a joke. 100 hours on Sonic games? That needs doubling at least. We’ll go for 250.
70 or so hours on Paper Mario and Skies of Arcadia Legends (combined).
Pokémon Ruby, FireRed and Colosseum have sapped about 200 hours or so.
SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighter’s Clash! (Best. Game. EVER.) – 52 hours.

I can’t imagine the amount spent on all the other games combined – NiGHTS, Burning Rangers, Mario Party, Fire ProWrestling, WarioWare Inc., Shining Soul, SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium, Neo TurfMasters (LOTS of hours in those two) have all sucked a lot too.

By now I think I should be beginning to realise exactly what my gaming addiction has cost me in terms of money, friends, skills and tangible achievements, but in truth, I can’t help think about how truly awesome these games are, and how happy I am to have spent so much time with them. I know, it’s super-geeky, but it’s the truth. Pretty much all the games I’ve mentioned here are masterpieces or very close to them, and are all brilliant experiences I’m more than happy to have enjoyed. For the purposes of closure, however, let’s try and put a figure on it.

Total hours spent gaming (taking a median value where I’ve made vague guesses):

About 2,500 or so.

I originally said about 2,000, but that’s pathetic. It’s probably even above 3,000, but I’ll go for 2,750. Edit – every time I look at this number it seems far too small. I think that’s partly because I want to feel my time has been worth more than £15,000, but I think I’ve also been quite inaccurate. I don’t get much time to game any more, so it’s strange that this number should keep rising so significantly, but it’s mostly a reflection of my attempts to pin down a final, definitive answer.

3,500 hours x £5.50 = £19,250

That’s still shit. I’m glad I stuck with my games.


March 11th, 2006
Blog Entry

The greatest adverts ever

I can’t tell if this advert for Super Mario Sunshine is serious or not.

This advert for Sonic 2 and a Mega Drive smacks of Sega’s 90’s advertising ethos.

This German advert for Zelda: A Link to the Past defies description.

These Sonic Adventure adverts are amazing.

One of my genuinely favourite adverts for one of my genuine favourite games.

Have YOU played Atari today?

There are so, so many more I could post, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interests if I just encourage you to visit http://gameads.gamepressure.com/tv_games_commercials.asp


March 7th, 2006
Blog Entry

Tales of Eville will be returning

Except it won’t be. Confused?

Animal Crossing: Wild World arrived today. This makes me very happy indeed.

I loved writing my Animal Crossing diaries for the Gamecube version, and I would hope to get the same enjoyment from writing them on the DS version when I get the chance – time is very tight at the moment, but I think I can take notes and write them up when I get some spare time. Of course, putting aside time to play a game like Animal Crossing and write a diary about it is quite ambitious, especially considering my workload, but I’m sure I can succeed.

I just need a name for my town and subsequent weblog now. I don’t want to go with Eville because I think it’s actually a pretty poor name for a town, but I’m stuck for ideas. Only eight letters rules out Sonictown, Tailsville and Knucklesopia; Nightopia is too long, none of the NiGHTS or Sonic levels would fit and I don’t really like the sound of Mobius. Some stupid ideas to jot down:

Pippin
Granvill (shame about the missing E!)
York (obviously)
Doninton (slightly bastardised version of my home town)
Joyville (happier version of Eville!)
Happyton
Jolly
Aspinia
Saraband
Balsamo
Remotest
Vagabond
Enrich
Mineral (I wanted Mineral Town!)

I know that most of them are plagiarised but I don’t really care. I am devoid of good ideas, but I think I’ll go with one of the SFIII ideas as I like them a lot.


March 5th, 2006
Blog Entry

Something I want to share with you

One excellent website for personal development is www.stevepavlina.com. I can’t claim to know all that much about Mr Pavlina, and I haven’t read a great deal of the site, but there was one article on there which was very interesting to me.

Deciding What to Do With Your Life

Obviously this is something we all think about. At my age, and particularly in my situation at the moment, it’s something I’m spending a great deal of time thinking about. We all want to make the right decisions for the right reasons, and to see those decisions through and make sure they’re successful. I’ve not got the insight or abililty to muse on this subject as Mr Pavlina does, but I will say that it is genuinely nice to read something that makes you feel in control, encouraged and energised to do what you think is best. I don’t want to be someone who plays it safe in life; there are things I want to do, things I think I would love to do, and the only thing stopping me doing them is myself. Reading that article, and others on the site, have made me see that I can do it, and even that I should do it.

When I have a more in-depth plan over what I want to do I’ll post it here. I think I could really get into this self-improvement malarkey.


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