Pain and Disorder

Tragedy strikes without warning. Life can be sunny and carefree in one instance and suddenly become bleak and hopeless. While most people can accept the obstacles that life throws at them, others have an exceedingly difficult time dealing with loss.

Disorder deals with one such individual. A young boy loses his younger brother and vanishes into his mind. He removes himself from life and wishes to be gone. He just can’t accept that his brother is no longer with him. He suffers from some mental illness, be it depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia.

I’ve had a long battle with depression. It conquered me for years before I even admitted I needed help. As a child, you don’t even see the symptoms before you. Your mind is so devoid of routine that you grow content with the negative patterns. I believed that I was supposed to be a miserable individual.

What really reignited the fires of despair was the death of my aunt. I have gotten over her passing, but my world was torn asunder in that moment. I lost my faith, I began to question even the most basic tenets of happiness and I withdrew from my friends. I didn’t feel worthy enough.

Disorder represents this, albeit in short text blocks. Your character truly does not see redemption for himself, almost as if he caused the death of his brother. When you are wallowing in the depths of misery, even the slightest problem becomes your own.

What works exceptional in the game is how both misery and happiness are combined. Humans are not one dimensional beings; we often need sadness to cope with certain events. If we shrugged off death as some random occurrence, we may have never evolved as a society.

Often times, being somber is what helps us see a different solution. When you are perpetually happy, you tend to overlook the sadness that may exist in someone’s heart. It becomes difficult to understand why they aren’t feeling elated at every opportunity.

Not everyone suffers the same tragedy. For some people, their lives may be devoid of loss. While we all eventually die, one can be born into a young family. You may not lose a grand-parent until you are well into your 40’s.

If that is the first time you experience death, how do you cope? A game like Disorder shows that no matter the age, we all wish to have done something differently. Be it we sacrificed ourselves or took a different course, we all want a second chance.

Now, I do believe the game is a bit vague for it’s own good. To best empathize with someone, we need to know their full story. Disorder drip-feeds it’s narrative with vignettes. You will only learn more of the plot after getting through some platforming sections.

You never do quite see the full truth. Even the two endings give vastly contrasting ideas of what may have transpired. Without that deeper connection, Disorder comes off as not brave enough. It wraps itself up in mental illness, but makes no statement.

Every piece of media doesn’t need to have an opinion; sometimes getting the mind firing is enough for some people. Whose to say that Disorder won’t ignite a person’s passion for psychology? Having played both this and Depression Quest, I feel Disorder makes the subject matter more approachable for people not interested in reading text.

Mental illness is something that might be more prevalent in gamer culture then we realize. Instead of shying away from discussions, we as a collective whole should be thinking of creative ways to display the effects of such a disease.

If nothing else, gaming allows one to experience another point of view. Film can only showcase what one person does in a given situation. Gaming gives the player the ultimate control and asks them to interpret what they see.

Disorder isn’t a perfect game, but it certainly earns the right to exist. I can only hope that someone else sees what chaos depression can reap and looks to fix that within their life or their loved one’s.

Living in inFamy

When battling my depression, there was always a lingering thought on my mind; people must think I’m a freak. I felt like a pariah in most situations and always believed people were looking at me wrong. I was the enemy.

It seems that if you express a different view from the norm or like off-kilter things, you become labeled an outcast. You’re then destined to be rejected and abhorred simply for existing. Even if your actions are from a pure heart, no one will care.

The “inFamous” series always tried to tackle ideas like this. Cole McGrath was cast aside even after saving a handful of citizens. Everyone saw his electrical powers and feared the worst. Sadly, it was hard to become invested in his character as Cole was pretty much a blank slate.

His voice acting was drab and monotonous and his “moral” choices were so binary as to become a practical joke. Nothing felt like a tough decision as the “evil” side of the game was merely a worst case scenario made real. Even the developers consider the “evil” side non-canon, so why take it seriously?

Much to my surprise, “inFamous: Second Son” corrects the biggest problem of it’s predecessors; Delsin Rowe is a very likeable guy. His goal is more noble and his attitude changes over the course of the game. You don’t start off hating everyone and end up acting like a savior.

Delsin just wants the best for his family, a small, fictional, Native-American tribe by the name of “Akomish.” He also seeks to freely express himself. He is tired of the dictation that his brother and society place upon him.

In the seething depths of depression, this is exactly how your mind feels. You begin seeing regular citizens as the “enemy” and wish to become free. A life without restraint and with the power to impact immediate change becomes your dream.

While Delsin may not follow all legal precautions, he never once foams at the mouth for bloodshed. Even when playing the game through as “evil,” the narrative hardly deviates from Delsin being a nice person. This happens to be the worst part of the game, however.

Without any real transformation coming from your actions, why even place those alternate paths in the game? The excellent prequel game, “inFamous: First Light,” dropped morality entirely and presented a gripping backstory that made you feel like you inhabited protagonist Fetch’s body.

Since I played that first, I figured that maybe Sucker Punch had decided to get rid of the antiquated idea of moral choices. Instead, gamers are presented with two different paths that feel like real choices, but with very little motivation to select the “evil” side.

Even the game’s power-ups tend to favor “good” over “evil.” While playing with good karma, players can opt in to an upgrade that allows them to restore health upon subduing an enemy versus killing them. This action is insanely simple with a few choice powers (Neon and slow-mo; DONE DEAL).

When you’re “evil”, nothing like that exists. You can’t even slow down time like with good karma Neon powers. Not only are you handicapped on evil, but the game becomes more difficult to deal with.

Maybe that design was deliberate. Even the ending of the game is unsatisfactory on the “evil” side. I suppose to deter people from straying down the road less taken, Sucker Punch decided to nerf “evil” until it was unfavorable.

Say you wanted to go about that path anyway. Why does the story not reflect what you’re doing? You get small phone calls that will say things like, “Delsin, how could you?” Then in the cutscene after, your brother claims he is proud of you. I suppose murdering 20 people for fun is something to cherish.

So I’m a bit torn on “inFamous: Second Son.” While playing through as a hero, the game is very much a step-up from it’s predecessors. It has better thought out powers, a wonderful protagonist and some excellent mission structure.

When going through doing evil, the game just falls apart. The narrative reeks of lazy writing and the choices feel shoe-horned in purely for the sake of tradition. This is almost like checking off a box at the marketing department.

All this and the prequel upstages the main course. Obviously Sucker Punch listened to fan feedback on Second Son, because First Light is really special. It’s shorter, tighter, more action packed and features a much more detailed personality for Fetch. It also has a smart list of bonus trials to accomplish along with a horde mode.

She can horde my heart all night long…Wait a minute.

I just wish that Sucker Punch could 100% nail an inFamous game. After giving up on the series with 2 and being pleasantly surprised with First Light, I feel that the formula can work. Either dropping the morality or vastly changing the game for each side would be a great place to start.

The Convention That Changed It All

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; while the origin of this quote is unknown, the impact of those words can be profound. Removing yourself from your favorite place can be quite difficult. Sometimes the change is needed, other times the change is made from an irrational viewpoint.

About two years ago, I asked Andy Dixon to remove me from Destructoid. I noticed I was getting into fights in the comments section and writing crappier blogs in some vein attempt to get noticed. I just wanted to be liked, if not help people view games in a different light.

I still visited the site, but I refused to comment or make any blogs. I wanted to be done with the community and everyone around the site. I felt like I had failed them by being a petty child. I didn’t want to stain the good name of their community.

After returning to the community blogs over on Screwattack, I started to realize a lot about myself. I had changed over those few years. I was more level-headed and less angry. I was more willing to discuss instead of assert my opinion. Most importantly, I missed the communities that helped me fall back in love with gaming.

I just wasn’t ready to return to Destructoid. On Screwattack, I actually never lost respect. People accepted that I was on hiatus and the crew members looked forward to my appearance at their yearly cons. I ended up volunteering and feeling empowered and happy. I was glad to give back to a website that kindled a passion in my heart.

I never got that chance with Destructoid…that is until this past weekend. I never expected that PAX East would be the place that I would finally understand what I seek from my writing, but funny things happen to us humans. One minute can be a mundane cycle of repetition while the next is the catalyst for the fire in our minds.

After a hectic first day, my friend clued me in to a DToid meetup for Saturday night. While I skipped out on the photo in the afternoon, I made damn sure that I was able to get to the planned restaurant for that evening. I never expected to be the only person there, but life likes to throw funny curveballs our way.

When the crew ended up being late, I began to panic. I thought I had either wasted my time and money or just misread the location. I didn’t want to say no to the whole situation, so I decided to put myself on the waiting list and get food.

About 10 minutes later, Jed walked in with some friends. Seeing his Twitch shirt, I figured asking if he knew Jonathan Holmes would be a safe bet. Not only was it safe, but it was rightfully founded; Jed was with him for that evening.

This began a very surreal night for me. While I’m not afraid of meeting “celebrities” and talking to them, I never expect to get into a more personal conversation with them. I was also caught by surprise when we sat down for dinner.

This is how it looked like in my head!

Nothing felt out of the ordinary after the talking got started. It was almost as if I were a part of their crew. It seemed like old friends catching up with their non-stop lives. We talked about games we had seen that day, films that were interesting to us, how stupid Cliffy B is and awful interviews.

I also volunteered myself to hand out community awards on the show floor. For all you guys who voted back at home, know that your voices were heard. I went around with the motley crew of DToid members and we handed out those little foam cards with pride and joy.

While the award for the Witcher vanished mysteriously, everyone else was genuinely surprised and happy to be getting these plaques. Seeing their smiling faces and getting to speak with them made me feel accepted. For once in my life, no one looked at me like a psychopath; now I was the bearer of good news and a “golden” trinket.

After we managed to tear up the PAX show floor, we needed food (as most humans do). So, who could turn down a bit of lunch with Mr. Holmes? Not only did I end up meeting and dining with him the night before, but I got to do it two days straight.

Really, what more could a DToid member ask for? I finally got to put faces to the people I have been following for years. Their words and analyses have given me hours of entertainment and introspection that I am thankful for. I cannot imagine myself being alive without such a website.

So while I may have neglected DToid and been an angry little basted for a few years, I feel that I’ve finally matured into the person I wanted to be. Seeing the struggles and challenges that these people go through to give us the content we take for granted really put a lot into perspective for me.

LIKE A BOSS!

So thank you Holmes, Caitlin, Jed, Kyle and Rob. Shout outs to Jared and that partially Asian sounding guy (I’m very sorry! I forgot your name). While I may never become a full fledged friend, you guys certainly made me feel like I was important for a few days. For that, I wish you all the best of luck.

P.S. Remember to name your child Jim, Holmes!