A Peripatetic Journal About Video Games

I miss writing.

You’re probably thinking: “Well, then why don’t you just…do it, then!?”

Without going into detail, I’ll just politely tell you my life is the busiest it’s probably ever been. I don’t feel like I even have a chance to catch my breath, let alone sit at my computer and type out a few thousand words that may or may not only be important to me. It’s wholeheartedly a lazy excuse, and one that I’m ready to rectify, as is told by the fact that you’re reading this right now.

Video games are a passion of mine, so when I attempt to articulate that love across a few paragraphs…I tend to get carried away. I also consume (I’d say read, but consume seems a more apt term) a lot of games writing, which I think sways the way I’d like my writing to be.  As much as I’d like my posts to be these sweeping soliloquys about digital escapism, I think I’m better served journaling my exploits than attempting grandiose essays.

You can insert a tired epiphany that I don’t get paid to do this…here.

Beyond stating the obvious, I’ve come to realize that the strength of the blogging format is that you can write about things over a span of time, digging into the minutiae of what you’re doing rather than writing a tighter piece meant for a generalized audience. I’d rather write stories of my escapades, something more intimate. There’s more to games than arbitrary things most would touch on like graphical fidelity, prose or mechanics. It’s more interesting to expose how these experiences make you feel, for better and for worse, and expand upon that. It’s like using the internet for watercooler talk, only I’m blindly retelling my exploits in the hopes that someone’ll listen.

My hope is this’ll get me to write more often, assuming I find the time, and in smaller doses so I can really devote my exposition on things that I care about writing and, in turn, interest readers. Just because I’m not getting paid by the word doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like eyes on them! I’ve become more mindful of how I’ve been playing games and, once I’ve slowed down, it turns out to be a far more fulfilling experience. As I’ve only got one current gaming system and a couple of legacy ones, I’ve been able to force my way out of the cultural bubble that makes one think they have to pick up and dabble in games frequently and  instead stop and smell the proverbial roses. While I’m not afraid to call a lark what it is form time to time, for the most part my goal is to complete what I start for the sake of my sanity, for the developers who work tirelessly to make that which I enjoy and for the income of mine that is anything but disposable.

I often find myself thinking of things I could write about out of little kernels in my experiences but then trying to jot them down or remember them for a larger end piece, only to lose or discard it for the sake of being thorough. Screw that – if I find a bit about a game that intrigues me, I’m going to sit down and expound on it if it takes me 500 or 5,000 words. There will be time for more eloquent posts, but I can’t demand that kind of focus and energy all of the time. What that means is that for the time being this little blog of mine will be as my tagline states: a peripatetic journal about video games.

 

Of Zippers and Mouse Ears: A Book Report on Kingdom Hearts II by Alexa Ray Corriea

Reading Alexa Ray Corriea’s Kingdom Hearts II corroborated a sneaking suspicion I’ve had for a very long time – that this game, and the series by extension, is something of an unmitigated hot mess.

As curious of an idea as it is mixing the House of Mouse with Square’s spiky-haired troupe is, it’s quickly apparent that Tetsuya Nomura, and by extension the Kingdom Heart series, has this tendency to have his head so far up his own butt with the lore and mystique of it all that it becomes this paradoxical investment that only those willing to spelunk through a wiki or fan site will understand. So here’s this gal, writing an entire novella for Boss Fight Books, under the pretense that Kingdom Hearts II is an obtuse game that struggles to find itself because it opens with such an odd and despondent tutorial that only the most die-hard Disneyphile will be willing to decipher it.

And yet, in my moment of grandiose celebration that my opinion had been given validation in the form of an entire book being written about it…there’s this nagging sense that it doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Sure enough, a few more paragraphs in and Corriea gives voice to that uncertainty as well – she knows it’s a cobbled together tale that is difficult to understand. She loves Kingdom Hearts II despite that. Hell, a lot of people do. It wouldn’t be a hit series if others didn’t feel the same way.

Suddenly I went from being a disengaged snob about it and quickly became someone who wanted to understand what lies underneath the surface of this bizarre amalgamation of a game.

Even if I didn’t read into this deep dive concepts of the book, on the surface this is the type of Cliff Notes commentary that the Kingdom Hearts series direly needs for those of us too afraid to climb the sheer cliff that is the history and backstory of Sora, Goofy and Donald’s misadventures.

Like many books in the Boss Fight series, Corriea leads off with a little personal history. While that’s the crux for a lot of other titles in the series, she quickly shuttles that to the wayside to get to the heart of things – what the hell is going on, why the developers went where they did and an analyzation of the themes therein. Considering I pooh-poohed Kingdom Hearts II and barely made a dent in Roxas’s role (as it seems a lot of folk did) in the proceedings but then summarily ate this book up, it’s safe to assume she did a pretty damn good job.

There’s a lot to grok in Kingdom Hearts II from simple motifs like the value of friendship and stalwartness therein to heavier subjects like finding a sense of self and meaning when you are literally a soulless being. Whether intentionally implied or not by the developers, it’s inferred by the author and thus given merit. In a culture where people become argumentative over what is deemed “canon” and have this false sense of authority as they lord it over others, it’s nice to have something more personal and, in kind, more relatable to peruse. It’s the type of thing that begets thoughtful and meaningful discourse rather than comeuppance.  If more games literature were lie this, we’d be in a better place.

This, coming from a guy who may or may not have pumped his fist when he saw that even a super fan will admit to a games shortcoming. It was a misguided cheerfulness, and one that turned into abject officiousness. If it can make a believer out of me, Alexa Ray Corriea’s Kingdom Hearts II can make a believer out of anyone.

By Matt Mason Posted in Books