The widespread figure of the “Collector” in gaming and in life: progress, productivity, validation, fun?

I’ve recently downloaded Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for my phone. I downloaded it for soothing reasons, for curiosity reasons and for nostalgic reasons. I used to play the first instalment of Animal Crossing when I was a teen, on my Nintendo DS you see, and I was fond of it then.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s a game where you create a character, and then you’re plopped into a beautiful little world where you build your own campsite with furniture you craft and invite over animal guests to enjoy it.

You befriend various sweet and characterful, but repetitive, creatures and decide who you want to give the honour of hosting.

You do favours for these animals, which include collecting fish, bugs and fruit and in return, they give you more crafting materials and money to buy more furniture. It’s sweet, but when I write it like this, I realise, it’s circular.

You also get the option to create and express through the medium of clothes and hairstyles sported by your character, and through the choice of objects and the layout of these objects in your campsite. You also get to enjoy being engulfed in a soothing cartoony environment with pleasing music and art which turns your phone screen into the form of adorableness.

You know how the Victorians liked to collect and catalogue things, they liked encyclopedias and gathering stuff that actually belonged to other people, and storing knowledge and artefacts from the empire in museums.

That’s kinda what Animal Crossing is like, except there’s a lot of pastel colours and cutesy characters instead of the macabre, dusty, blacks, greys, browns and maroons of the Victorians of the common imagination. (In the first conception of the game on the DS, you actually do collect things for the town museum.)

My little character (she’s called Lavender) could easily be a Dickensian urchin picking countless gentleman’s pockets for silk handkerchiefs instead of the fishing, bug-hunting, fruit picking spritely round-faced favour-doer that she is. That is, she could be if she swapped her mint green hair and perpetual smile for a ragged cap and TB, and if we swapped the animals for Fagin.

It’s funny isn’t it – how a lot of games seem limited in the way their narratives and goals and quests function. In games, I do often find myself becoming a collector figure. It’s almost like it’s hard to portray progress without gathering different objects and earning improved relationships and items.

The quest to collect seems to make games enduring because there always seems to be more to collect, to the point where your character becomes a compulsive hoarder of things that they keep in their vast inventory that somehow is able to be carried anywhere despite containing things that would probably exceed the character’s body weight.

I’m also a fan of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and although on a totally different console/ device and seemingly of a completely different genre, the collecting still exists.

So much of gameplay consists of trading with, buying and selling from and to non playable characters and harvesting from the post-apocalyptic wastelands, archaic dungeons, mountains, forests, caves and beaches of the game maps.

The player takes on the role of the hero in both types of game, but the word hero could be interchanged with “helper”. How often in a game is one approached by a character only to be asked to do them a favour, whether that be to bring them three horse mackerels or apples or to defeat the trolls in Greyskull dungeon or whatever? The answer is – very often.

My little person is driven by caps, or bells, or gold coins, or weapon mods or more stimpaks if you sneak in here or kill this, or more missions or free mercenary work, but it still feels the same.

It just got me thinking about a number of things:

  • the limited ways of measuring progress I see in the games I play
  • the deep reach of materialism and consumerism in notions of success and purpose
  • the notion that games often have to be popular in order to be profitable in the mainstream so perhaps they rely on tried and tested ways of being such for business reasons
  • the need for progress/ success in video gamescould you have a game without rules or more widely without a real purpose? How playable would it be? How quickly would I get bored? Do I make my own rules in sandbox games? How free is my thinking?
  • Could people play a game just for the sake of it? Would they?
  • If people played just for the art or the narrative, is that also about collecting? Collecting views, visions, experiences?
  • Can we divorce productivity and list-checking from gaming- something that is supposedly a leisure activity predominantly?
  • Do I do this with other media? Do people collect TV shows, stories, films in their minds?

It also made me think about gamification and how that’s often used in workplaces to make “productivity more fun” with league tables in call centres and the like. It’s all interlocking and overlapping and I’m getting tired.

The objectification of living things in this game also struck me – I mean I know it’s what usually happens in our current world but, I couldn’t help but see how it both conforms to and feeds the cultural norm of viewing animals as things which can be bought, sold or traded with little moral consideration.

That was a 3am ramble and more messy and tangential than I would usually produce, but take this away- the figure of the collector in games – why is it so widespread? What is the alternative?

Byeee – may your posts collect lots of likes and you feel the strange buzz of recognition from numbers going up and from being thoroughly productive.

P.S. that was a joke 😉

P.S.S. I didn’t mug that frog for her shirt she gave it me once we reached a friendship of level 7 😎🐸 

Unfortunately, you don’t get a reward for reading to the end of this, although if you are here, you deserve one. X

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Match.com is inadequate for my bisexual needs

This is one of those posts I just do, and don’t think about too much. I’d just like to share a bit, and this is my sharing vessel. It’s pretty short haha, don’t worry.

So basically, match.com doesn’t allow you to pick more than one gender that you are or that you are interested in.

When you first sign up it says: “I am” and the options are “a man” or “a woman”.

Then, the second part says “looking for” and the options are the same and this is deeply inconvenient and limiting for me and it annoys me because I’ve started paying for it now on impulse and I’m paying for a limiting service.

I think I sort of felt that by paying for it, going through the action of going through my purse, I was being active and serious about finding someone yknow, because I am. I could just really do with someone to be with and get excited about seeing, and to cuddle and go out with, someone who can indulge me with all the sex I haven’t been having for so long haha.

I am annoyed by what I see as Match’s failing because it’s alienating. I’ve been on Okcupid for two years now and I’m getting a bit sick of it to be perfectly honest, I just wanted a fresh site and a bit of a fresh start, but at least Okcupid let me open up my preferences to more than one gender. I could actually select “Everyone interested in women” and that was much better for me.

Now, I’m just looking through a sea of men, and I already feel like maybe I should’ve picked women and it’s just made me make a choice I didn’t want to make about who I want to see based on something that feels inconsequential in terms of my attraction, and it’s frustrating.

It must be off-putting for gender non-conforming people in an even bigger way. :/

I just wanted to take advantage of the wider dating pool I assume match.com has because of it’s popularity and the number of stories I’ve heard about people meeting through it and I feel like I can’t join in in the way I want. Siiiiiiiiigh.

P.S. I appreciate that match.com gets plenty of business without changing this, I just needed to get it out of my system. And maybe if it was a bit more inclusive, it would get even more.

 

To unfriend or argue?

My news feed is not an echo chamber. Not only do I see things I wouldn’t share (which is fine of course), I see things that I find wildly disrespectful and problematic. I see things which make ire rise inside me, these things are so often bland parroting of oppressive notions that are still cemented in certain people’s minds.

For the most part, I feel that the people sharing these sorts of things are not very discerning, they haven’t really looked into the thing in the depth that I would before making a public post about it. They reactively respond to articles or videos with what they deem as a simple, rational argument but comes across to me as the most banal, un-thought-out conclusion.

I can see a lack of experience and research gilded with the bullshit of angry prejudice and misplaced arrogance. They have this seemingly unwavering belief in the trueness or correctness of their argument. They think they’re being wholly rational and original and I’ve heard their words a hundred times and it’s tiring.

It’s tiring because, sometimes, these words feel like they’re a direct attack on the worth or existence of other human beings and they’re tiring because I often feel a violent urge to respond and defend.

The thing is, a lot of the time, these people don’t think these issues really affect them, or that they don’t really affect anyone, they are framed as a thought exercise or a detached discussion topic.

However, in reality, the issues discussed affect people’s actual lives, and to flippantly post drivel such as this is misguided and irresponsible. If people who recognise that they are affected negatively by systemic problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia see people who aren’t affected in the same way posting about “the transgender ‘argument’ ” or “reverse racism” or “straight pride” or the “myth” of the wage gap or poverty being ‘self-inflicted’ because an individual hasn’t “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” they see that their plight for justice is not supported by the poster.

Not only is it not supported, it is trivialised and it is made more difficult, it is evidence of this being a common opinion in the populous, it is aggressive towards the very real struggle for equity for those who are oppressed.

Justified anger coming from someone who is directly affected by these widespread problems is framed as “irrationality” and as “getting too emotional”, and this leads the poster to dismiss their arguments – this is tone policing.

I posted this because I was angry, because I saw something on Facebook this morning that I knew to be blatantly untrue and the poster spouted it with a self-assured grandiosity that pissed me off. It’s not the first time he’s done it and I haven’t commented, although I did spend time finding a concise and informative video on the topic to which I was going to link in the comment thread.

I had to weigh up whether or not I was going to get involved, I had to make that decision based on whether I have the energy to educate someone on something I don’t think they really care about because they don’t think it affects them directly.

I had to see videos coming from the opposite side, perpetuating the same myths he was sharing, I had to see movements I hold dear called “cancer” by the same content creators.

I had to discuss with a close friend, whether I should reply, just to get it off my chest and feel a sense of support and validation coming from someone I respected.

I had to feel myself getting angry and consider the consequences of the argument, would his friends all rally around and insult me personally, would they send me harsh, threatening messages about my appearance, my sexuality, my gender? Would relationships with mutual friends be complicated?

Was it my duty to respond as a form of activism? Would I feel better or worse once I pressed the enter key? Would it be better to prioritise my own mental health? I don’t know, and as of yet I haven’t acted, but it puts the poster in a category in my brain: can’t be trusted, ignorant of important issues, impulsive with misplaced self-importance and limited restraint, despite vastly empty knowledge of the significance and complexity of the societal structures that contribute to human suffering.

I brushed my teeth for a particularly long time because I was thinking about this

At the moment, I’m unemployed and I have no partner. That’s not likely to change anytime particularly soon and in our cultural climate of competition and comparison and with the “what do you do?” atmosphere, it can be hard to deal with the expectations and judgements of other people.

I’m not as bothered as I once was that I’m not “succeeding” in the conventional way in my life as I once was. I graduated around two years ago now and I’ve been off sick ever since. This post isn’t about my PTSD though, so I’ll move on.

I guess, what I’m reflecting on here is how it’s made me rethink how I value myself and how I find meaning and engagement in general without occupation in a “work” sense.

I think I’m quite self-aware and that’s something I let myself take credit for. I know that I’ve had to actively try to build a sense of self-worth over the last few years partially due to my negative experiences. I do value myself pretty highly now and I look out of myself as much as I can.

I also think that I’ve gained a sense of perspective, and although I can have low mood swings and feel utterly shitty sometimes and pretty sensitive, I know that I can get through things, I often find myself saying to myself “I’ve been through worse, I can do this.”

Making a conscious effort to find good qualities in myself has helped me, I recognise my compassion and my ability to nurture and trust in strong friendships. I also think I’m quite thoughtful and imaginative 🙂 – it sounds odd to say such things about oneself sometimes, because I don’t think many people are raised to actively accept and acknowledge pleasing traits in themselves, but I think it’s a helpful thing to try and learn to do.

Physically, I’ve also had to make this effort. I remember being dissatisfied with my appearance at various points in my life, like a lot of people are, and how, now, I love myself whether I think I look good or not. I’ve come to realise I’m under no obligation to any one else to look good and I found that to be freeing.

I’ve said to myself in my own head, when I saw something I didn’t like or if I took an awful picture: “I still love you”, y’know. And I might’ve mentioned this before, but when I had CBT a while ago, one of the main things I took from it was the notion that I should treat myself as I would treat a close friend, because I deserve that and I’m glad I do that now. (In the past, when I’ve had something pretty difficult to do, like a really stressful phone call or something, I’ve written little lists to break it down and signed it with something like “love ya babe ❤ ” – and it actually helped, I got a little flicker in my heart once, almost as if someone else had said it, haha.)

Regarding the whole “other people” issue, because I support myself now (and let my close friends help) and I know that I’ve improved, I no longer give as much of a shit if other people are unimpressed or bewildered by my current no-job status.

I’m sure I’ll find a bit more of something soon, and even thinking about this – and listening to some Mariah Carey (Touch my Body if you’re interested 😉 ) has helped me feel a little more hopeful about the next few days and weeks, as things have felt a little heavy lately.

P.S. Love ya babe ❤

See, it’s nice isn’t it. 😛

It’s been nearly 6 months

It’s been almost 6 months since I started posting on here – and I just thought I’d do a little post to mark it.

I still love doing this – it’s one of the only things I genuinely enjoy, as bleak as that sounds, haha.

But, I’m still amazed about how different the writing experience can be day to day and post to post.

Sometimes I write so much in a day, that I feel awkward posting everything I’ve written and have to let them bleed out gently over the next few days or weeks, and other days the mine is empty and I either don’t touch this at all, or I edit something I’ve done previously.

I wrote a 100 and odd word poem in about 15 minutes this afternoon (it is a bit of a silly one mind, just something sort of playing with rhyme, with a nursery rhyme sort of rhythm), but this morning I was thinking today was gonna be one of those days where I just feel like the blankest blank as soon as I open my laptop. I also had an idea for a (very) short story, that I wrote the first part of whilst squeezed in the dusty crevice between my bed and the wall.

Part of me feels like I should go back and attend to previous work, I’ve started that I intended to follow up, but haven’t quite got round to. (e.g. https://headdome.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/experience-what-ive-learnt/)

I’m not entirely sure what’s stopping me. I feel like I’m always lured in by the freshness of starting something new and clicking on that “Write” button.

(NB – I’ve just followed that link and realised part of what might be stopping me – just the fact that I’m mildly embarrassed by what past me has written/ how I’ve worded certain things. I don’t think that’s helping, because I feel reluctant to go back to something that makes me cringe even the tiniest bit.)

Maybe it would help if I found the previous parts, printed them off and bashed down some ideas by hand, instead of relying so comfortably on my laptop and what I can pull out of my head. I definitely feel like editing and annotating comes more naturally when I can scribble all over the page in different colours and things.

The other post that I feel has slightly got away from me is “NPC” – which was supposed to be a short story, but, at the moment, is just in the form of one actual post and one sort of side post which is a poem of a few of my notes on it compiled. I also have a couple of locked essays in my Drafts folder: one’s an unfinished reading of one of my favourite musicals and the others have escaped my memory at the moment, haha – must be good then, eh?

I feel like I’m learning all the time and I love the pool of work I’m exposed to here, if you’re reading this, thanks for your time :). Again, as with most of my prose posts/ notes on my poems, I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of this, except for a bit of a record of my thinking I suppose. Not everything has to have a proper purpose, right? And this is my space to write, so I should probably stop second-guessing myself, as I come to the close of the final paragraph liiiike this. (full stop.)

I’m off to sleep now :). Night :).

H

Sentences stacked on top of each other, talking about why I do this.

It’s late, but I just thought I’d reflect on why I’m doing this – why I do this blog I mean. I really appreciate having a place to put my thoughts, and to have a reason to have a creative outlet, it feels really freeing to write here. I sometimes used to feel like it was a waste to write things just for them to sit around totally unread and untouched in messy notebooks. I find it really satisfying to have an idea and then write a poem, type it up here and then see it all neat and in black and white on my screen, all together with others.

I’m really happy I decided to start properly posting and sharing something, I’ve grown in confidence in the months I’ve been writing here and I feel a little buzz whenever that orange dot comes up on the bell in the corner and I know someone’s interacted with me or with what I’ve done in some way.

This feels like a really supportive place, where a new writer’s confidence has a chance to grow. I don’t have to feel too nervous about commenting on other people’s posts or about posting my own and that gladdens me. Other parts of the internet can often seem so callous and frightening for people, particularly for someone as sensitive and easily agitated as me, considering my current mental health position as someone with PTSD and the self-doubt and self-worth issues that surround that for me.

I think it’s hard to tell whether my writing has actually improved since I started, just because I write so much now, whereas before I started this blog I only wrote occasionally. I’m not really sure how to compare poems that I posted early on, that had been sitting around in folders on the computer for months/years and I threw out there worriedly, to the ones I write now, which, for the most part, are not dwelled on nearly as much, as I grow in confidence and shrug off my inhibitions.

I feel like I’ve become a lot more playful in tone, but maybe some of my more recent poems might lack the emotive nature of my earlier work. The earlier poems I wrote tended to be more confessional and autobiographical, some of my more vivid memories written down – but now, I practice escapism a little more and tend to enjoy experimenting with imagery and just seeing what comes into my head when I sit down to write.

Anyway, I think that’s quite long enough, and I’ll try and publish this with as little restraint and fear as I have when posting most of my poems now, although I find prose posts like these considerably more revealing, with fewer places to hide – and therefore I’m more hesitant to press “Publish”, but I’m doing it anyway.

H

 

 

Music I’ve been loving lately – Syd and Ray Blk

I just thought I’d share a post about some of the music I’ve been listening to lately, I tend to revolve in the same musical space for quite a while because I just get so happy existing there. Also, just a note, I write about two artists here, but I give them quite unequal word time, that’s for no real reason, other than the fact that I’m just quite unmeasured and if it flows for longer then I just let it 🙂 .

Listening to new artists, although exciting, is not always something I’m in the mood for. It’s a bit like starting a new TV series, having to get to know all new characters and story-lines etc. I like to find media I wash myself in to be of comfort, that’s why I like familiarity a lot of the time, or perhaps I’m a bit lazy in this department.

I have to be in a very particular mood to start listening to a new album for example.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Let’s go:

  • Syd’s most recent album – Fin

I love Syd’s vocals, attitude and stage presence – she oozes sex appeal for me and makes music that I want to move to. Her music could so easily be the soundtrack to eye-fucking someone on the dance-floor, letting the darkness and the drink make you liquid.

I particularly like Dollar Bills, Know, Body and All About Me.

It’s such a smooth album, that really wraps you up in it.

  • Ray Blk’s – Durt

I keep coming back to Ray Blk – I first heard her sing 5050 and it just made me look for more of her work. It just sounded like it might have been some old classic that I was failing to recognise and I was surprised to find it was an original song – I’m not sure what felt familiar about it, but the point is – I loved it.

I love her candour. And the emotion she conveys so gracefully in her voice, I find the content of a lot of her songs to be so touching and real.

My favourite songs from “Durt” are My Hood and Gone (which features Wretch 32) – Chill Out is also so listenable.

Talk To Me and 2am are also great tracks that I listen to on repeat.

Her voice is so expressive of pain and sometimes bleakness, but she combines it with touches of lightness and humour. Her references to pop-culture really make them real by setting the lyrics in time, the details paint such a vivid image for me.

The first verse of 2am shows that detail perfectly:

 ” […] no no, cartoons on the telly,

cold spaghetti in my belly.

I laugh loud, nobody can hear me,

Zoidberg, Carlsberg, I’m feeling merry”

I appreciate the rhymes and half-rhymes and the lonely picture she paints with humour. That clarity of bringing the scene to life, I think, is a real skill.

Also, I love it in Talk To Me when she says “Hope you hit it last, Kanye not Ray J” – I find it really beautiful and candid, by using this image – she expertly avoids cliche and to be honest, it kinda gets my heart a bit. On top of that, as in a lot of her songs, the pace of her deliverance propels things forward so pleasantly and with such great rhythm.

Candour, honesty and directness are things I admire and love to hear so much in music, the personas in her songs speak a kind of truth I find really emotive, she shows us so many things at once, her vulnerability, her sexuality and her drive, as well as her creativity in expressing those feelings.

I just love her story-telling basically and the effortlessly cool frame in which she places it, and now I’m gonna stop gushing, it’s feels a bit out of character, haha.

I just love hearing complex female voices in music and Ray Blk and Syd, I feel, give us just that.

H