I’m not a religious guy. I never have been, really, though I played the part in my younger days to make my parents feel better. That still holds true, as I make sure to diligently call my family on the holidays that are important to them, and try my best to not belittle their beliefs. For the most part, holidays are a good reason to talk with family and connect during those periods when it’s hard to spare the time. Easter was one of those days that I never missed, making sure to cheerfully wish my family a happy Easter even though it held no special meaning to me.
This year, I didn’t call anyone. I didn’t think much of it at first, as my day was packed full taking care of my daughter (she totally got the point of the Easter egg hunt right off the bet, because she’s a fucking genius), as well as chores around the house and errands out in the world. It wasn’t until earlier today that I really thought about it, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Easter was one of those holidays where I always called my brother first, chatting with him for a while before he made sure I called mom and dad. It always took convincing to get me to talk to dad, so his encouragement always helped. But this year, without him to talk to, I never got that push. I made one feeble attempt to contact my mom, but never followed up after she didn’t get to her phone. It was a small thing, but it made me acutely aware of the loss and sent me downhill fast today.
I ended up going in to work closer to 8 than my usual 7 as a result, and found out that the company that shares our office space gets there promptly at 8 every day. Usually, my entrance is pretty solitary. I have some silence to take stock and prepare for my day, and my office is usually completely empty, affording me some solitude to get my day going. As I had to force my way through a throng of strangers this morning, I realized how much of a jerk I must be coming across as. Not holding doors, not making eye contact, not even acknowledging their friendly nods, I was just trying to get inside and get a few breaths in. It made me realize how easy it is to assume the worst of someone, when really, they could be going through things you can’t possibly know about. It made me consider that on any given day, that random person that bumped you on the sidewalk might be going through the worst day of their life.
Have you ever thought about what your greatest weakness is? Really sat down, turned off the world, and thought about it? Not the canned response you tell to your interviewer, trying to slip a selling point into a feigned moment of introspection. I’m talking about that one habit, that personality quirk that stops you dead and smothers your aspirations. It’s the bedrock beneath the wall standing between you and who you want to be. It’s hard to criticize yourself like that, and even if you find the answer, you might be wrong. But I think you have to find it, embrace what it can give you and then rip away what’s left, to mature. I don’t know if I’ve found my problem, but I feel like I’ve got a decent bead on it:
I always give up.
You would think I’d have a lot of reason to hate. My brother was murdered by a man who could get only 20 years in jail, being released well before I even consider retirement. My brother was taken the week before he was going to meet his first niece, leaving an exciting new chapter in my life instead marred by trauma and grief. My family is a mess as a result, and we spend our lives alternately smothering each other and just wanting to be alone. Oddly enough, however, I’ve found some serenity here. The only way I can cope with such terrible events is through forgiveness. I cannot let the man who took my brother’s life take mine, too. I can’t look out on the political world, or worse yet the warzone that is social media, and condemn other humans based on their differing beliefs. I’ve tried opening my eyes, and seeing other people’s points of view. Even when I find myself in direct conflict, I try to understand why the other person opposes me. When I cannot figure it out, I try to talk to them and work it out together.
Unfortunately, every day I see others letting their lives be ruled by hatred of other people. I can’t talk to my family, check Twitter, or read the news without it starting to dominate my life as well. This is my attempt to catalogue the daily hatred that I see- not to find pity or dwell, but in the hopes that those who read this can consider the daily effects of their hatred on themselves and those around them. An open dialogue between two disagreeing humans will always be more fulfilling than a war between demonized enemies.
Final Fantasy XV has had a tumultuous history, but it’s held a whole lot of interest since it was first announced way back in 2006 under the name Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Intended to be part of a nebulous pseudo-series entitled Fabula Nova Crystallis, the game would draw on mythology from Final Fantasy XIII for its base setting. Since then it has undergone dev team changes, a platform change, and even a name change to become Final Fantasy XV proper. The game stands out in the series as well. While Final Fantasy has been pretty willing to play with new settings and systems, XV marks an even further departure from the series’ fantasy roots by taking place in a fairly modern world. The game follows four male protagonists in a kind of road trip story, with a tight focus on a small group.
With the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0, we got a fairly robust look at XV with the included multi-hour demo, Episode Duscae. While the game could still change quite a bit before launch, it’s an intriguing peek into what’s being cooked up.
Buckle up or abandon ship as your conscious dictates- we’re gonna talk about anime.
If you’ve seen a popular anime since the release of Dragon Ball Z in North America, chances are it was a Shonen anime. Among the most well known are Naruto, One Piece, Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach, and plenty more besides. It’s the most popular genre out there, and it tends to follow a well-worn path. Nine times out of ten, you know the general direction of the show before you watch it.
See, Shonen is usually aimed at young boys, under 14 years old. The demographic has risen over time, however, as more it becomes an avenue for nostalgia in those that grew up with the genre. Most people don’t even know that they’re watching or reading something aimed at a younger crowd. While the genre as a whole tends to lean on ideas like friendship and overcoming adversity through force of will, the story focus can vary wildly. The most popular tend to be battle manga- watching a group of characters grow over time, gain new powers, fight bigger and badder foes all the while believing in their friends. It’s usually cliched, always over the top, but most of the time- it’s just reliable, comfortable fun.
Sometimes, you have to balance pathos with something fun. It’d be easy to talk forever about the pain of loss, but sometimes it’s nice to just let go and do something fun. They might be the filler of the internet, but so help me I love top ten lists. It gives you a good view into the mind of the writer, and the context of a full list can introduce you to something you’ve never heard of. If I see a top ten list with nine of my favorite things on it alongside one I’ve never heard of, number ten is a pretty solid bet.
I started really enjoying games on the NES, with Dragon Quest being the standout on the system. I was baffled by this text representing gameplay, and intrigued by this game that could take several days to complete. I watched my mom beat it time and again before finally trying it myself. Though it didn’t have the action of Contra, or require the reflexes of Mario, I found the pace, the progression, and even the bare-bones story pull me in and never let me go. The grind for a copper sword at the beginning of any Dragon Quest game is still one of my favorite gaming experiences, and has solidified me as an RPG gamer first and foremost. As the PlayStation 2 has one of my favorite RPG libraries of all time, it seems as fine a place as any to stake my flag and shout my opinion from the mountains, certain that there is a legion below desperate to know my opinions. As an added bonus, today just so happens to be the 15th anniversary of the PS2’s launch- I had no idea when I started this list, but let’s pretend I have just stellar timing.
I’ve been a pretty big asshole. Now I try not to feel bad about that, everyone has their moments. Generally, those “moments” last for years and years. It often takes an epiphany to snap out of it, and more likely, it takes dozens of those over the course of your life. I’ve not been fully cured of my asshole-ness, and most people reading this are in the same boat. But when a significant, life-changing event happens, it can set off a whole lot of those realizations at once. If you have several of those events in succession, it can give you a weird, social whiplash as it upends every way you interact with those around you.
Being a parent is pretty awesome. Raising a child, getting to mold them and watch them grow can be immensely satisfying, if it’s your bag. My daughter is just over a year old, and while it hasn’t been easy, it has been incredibly rewarding.
But that’s boring, let’s get negative.
I love to really dissect a movie. Good or bad, whether I liked it or not, my favorite thing to do after a movie is to spend the next hour or two discussing it. My wife is my most common partner in this, as we tend to like about the same level of analysis and we see most new things together. And this goes beyond movies- games, TV shows, books, any media I consume is ripe for a nice, long discussion. But not everyone is in the same boat. Plenty of my friends pass simple judgement and carry on, with some even disliking voicing a negative opinion. Some see differing opinions as an opening to an argument, rather than a discussion. Countless internet arguments have spawned from reviews that fans disagree with. But sometimes, the discussion itself is the best entertainment possible.
I’ve spent a good portion of my teenage and adult years enamored with Namco Bandai’s Tales of Series. These games all follow the same naming convention, Tales of <Usually some made up word>, such as Tales of Symphonia or Tales of Xillia. These are pretty traditional Japanese RPGs in most respects. You control a group of teenagers and twenty somethings whose personal trials eventually give way to a quest to save the world. Swords are swung, monsters are bashed, and out-of-place side activities are completed. What really makes the games stand out from the crowd is the battle system. A real time system taking some cues from fighting games, the real joy is playing cooperatively with up to four players. In my younger days, I tackled these with friends, while nowadays my wife and I eagerly await each new release.
It’s a shame the series seems dead set on destroying itself.