ftl

sketch

I’ve been playing tons of Mass Effect Andromeda. Tons! Because I am about to be separated from my desktop for two months. For a good (see: GREAT) cause, but still. One must do what one can in the time that one has.

This is with the Nvidia ALT+F2 screenshot tool. It’s great, and comparable to Horizon Zero Dawn’s amazing camera tool, except that I can’t change the pitch of my camera. I climbed all the way up here so that a straight-on shot of my character — which this tool defaults to — would include the canyon and some sky. All the earlier shots I attempted tried to do this via the usual way, by right-clicking and dragging the camera to an appropriately gorgeous location, but the Nvidia tool doesn’t allow for that, that I’ve yet discovered. (An aside: this guy seemed to make it work, so if I do figure it out before I’m parted from my computer, I’ll go back to all the places I’d naively hit Print Screen before and try it out.) This one has a color enhance and a sketch-like filter turned on.

Incidentally but accordingly, my life is changing at FTL speed, such that I will soon be able to watch all the MST and PST Twitch streams I frequent (see: all of them) at reasonable times, rather than the wee hours of the morning.* The only downside is that the family I’ve built post-college must be left behind, and that sucks.

Still. New job. Dream job. Shall persevere.

And return to Andromeda ASAP.

*Massive love to you if this phrase rings bells. I started using it as a nine-year-old playing Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis, which I adored more than I care to admit.

legit why we engage in fiction (no matter the medium)

From Remembrance of Things Past, pt.1:

“Next to this central belief which,while I was reading, would be constantly reaching out from my inner self to the outer world, towards the discovery of truth, came the emotions aroused in me by the action in which I was taking part, for these afternoons were crammed with more dramatic events than occur, often, in a whole lifetime. These were the events taking Place in the book I was reading. It is true that the people concerned in them were not what Francoise would have called “real people.” But none of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of a ‘real’ person awaken in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his understanding that, as the picture was the one essential element in the complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of ‘real’ people would be a decided improvement. A’real’ person, profoundly as we may sympathise with him, is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say, he remains opaque, offers a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. The novelist’s happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable by the human spirit, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which the spirit can assimilate to itself. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, as we feverishly turn over the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us of their development prevents us from perceiving them. It is the same in life; the heart changes, and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality its alternation, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.”

ah, so these are triggers

Degree to which I can deal with Patrick Stewart’s performance in Logan: NEGATIVE NINE THOUSAND.

ME: This is fine.

BRAIN: No it’s not that’s Mom up there 

ME: He’s just doing a great job is all.

BRAIN: YES OF PORTRAYING YOUR PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE

ME: The frail cruelty switching unexpectedly to tenderness and back is particularly true to–

BRAIN: THIS HOODIE IS NOT DEEP ENOUGH TO HIDE  ALL YOUR TEARS MAKE IT STAHHHHHHP

Seriously. I have zero stakes in the X-men — I know little about them; they’re not a fandom of mine. But criminy. I cannot deal. After the movie over drinks and dinner I did elaborate pirouettes around the subject of Patrick Stewart, desperate not to have to discuss it or return there emotionally because oh my god. No. I can’t. There are no hoodies deep enough to hide the tears. Most of the feels for that movie were supposed to be elsewhere but I spent every scene with Patrick Stewart on-screen sitting there poleaxed, one supportive shoulder squeeze away from complete meltdown.

emotionally manipulate me already!

removingevil

image via gonza resti

Months ago, in a discussion about Mass Effect characters the likes of which I typically try to avoid (the conversations, I mean: I invest far too much in these characters to converse rationally about them, especially with others with convictions as deep as my own), Thane came up. “Bleh, why would you romance him?” my friend snarked. “He’s dying. He’s pure emotional manipulation.” I typed half a response, reconsidered, and let it slide. To each his own, I thought, or tried to; and anyway there’s little chance of me winning converts to my cause in a discussion like that.

But now another friend is playing through the Mass Effect series, the second-to-last of my friends to do so, and while I carefully preserved her from spoilers, we talked about how the people we chose to romance in-game bore little to no resemblance to the relationships we’d pursue in real life. Drama is a red flag to both of us, yet both of us gravitated toward lyrium addicts, lying gods, and folks with drama-laden histories tomes long in our DA:I playthroughs. Yes, you could cop out and attribute it to simply wanting something different than the happily married lives we each lead, but if it were that simple then wouldn’t we have drawn no lines — wouldn’t all opposites attract? Yet I still can’t stand Fenris, the gloomy asshole (albeit with a voice like wet satin), or Vivienne, so convinced she knows the way the world works that she won’t consider an alternative for two seconds. Partnered in real life to a generally not-gloomy, open-minded individual, if the explanation for these in-game romances was simply “you want what you don’t have,” I ought to gravitate toward both of these characters. But I don’t.

Obviously all of this came up because Mass Effect: Andromeda is right around the corner, and I’m coveting my assiduously-preserved day off work in advance. I got to see some of the demo at PAX via Twitch, including the introduction of a certain character, and just…bah, I can’t wait. I see no point in pretending it’s for the combat or mechanics that I’m waiting, either: I am, obviously and without apology, here for the character interaction. Romantic and otherwise.

Is, though, a lurking, known death so much more manipulative than a sudden one without warning? The person making the argument to me at the time had lost his mother recently, so it didn’t seem wise to pursue that line of questioning. But really, I don’t know that a controlled loss built into a game is any more manipulative than a sudden explosion, or a last-minute heroic decision to take one for the team. In neither case am I going to protest what happens based on the measure of loss it incurs: as long as it makes sense, and doesn’t feel half-assed or forced, sure, bring it on, with all the accompanying feels. Perhaps that was a large part of why I loved Trespasser so much. Or even, to branch out a bit from BioWare here, Rogue One. You know what is going to happen. You know it’s going to hurt. You invite it in anyway.

There’s an argument for building such loss into games, I think. It lets you approach emotions within the controlled environment of fiction which, encountered suddenly out in the real world, can completely catch you off your guard. Not that romancing someone who dies in a video game in any way makes the loss of a loved one any less wretched! That’s not what I’m trying to say. But there is a recognition, a familiarity in the swelling of your nose as you cry; in the shuddering way you shut your eyes to old messages discovered buried in voicemail inboxes — as you click “replay” anyway. It doesn’t hurt any less. But, at the very least, your heart has had to hurt before, in whatever infinitesimal-by-comparison way. Especially when you are young, and when many of your peers haven’t yet had to feel this, and don’t know what to say: controlled loss experienced in fiction provides a blueprint for your body, if nothing else. You know you can essentialize, in moments of distress, down to immediate, palpable, solvable concerns: I need kleenexes, I have to wet some of them with cold water and press them to my eyes; it will take x minutes before the redness starts to go down and I can see people again. Having experienced it before, you can be that tiniest bit more convinced that it won’t physically tear you apart. When no one else can give you that assurance, you can provide it, in this small way, to yourself.

And if that’s emotional manipulation? Fuck. Sign me up.

is it selfish or is it brave

I know, I know, it’s not Random Music Friday. But I’d not yet heard the new Andrew Bird album until now. And this song. This song! Rarely do musicians ask the same questions I do — at least not accompanied by instrumentals I’ll listen to. But that bwah bwah bwah used so often in prog rock…and the refrain…dammit. This whole album, including even the duet (!!), but this song. Damn.