Never Give Up

The holiday season is a tiring time for many. Constant searching for the perfect gift while still keeping up with work can cause people to lose their minds. You never know if the deal you just got was a rip-off and your unintentional “neglect” of family tends to send rifts between your loved ones.

Sadly, I seem to have lost this holiday season. In an effort to get some extra cash to continue my job search, I went to Craigslist to sell a laptop. Long story short, the check I was given was fraudulent and my bank account is now overdrawn. I currently have -$1300; just in time for Christmas!

The whole situation has tarnished my perception of reality. Not only am I ashamed that I was taken advantage of, but I can’t believe that someone would scam another person over a laptop. Is that really worth it?

I’ve been recovering from depression for a few years now and this really set me back. I’m not suicidal, but I’ve lost a lot of trust for humanity that I had built up. I go out to the gym and my mind is filled with vicious thoughts of how self-righteous everyone is. No one cares that I even exist, let alone that I’m in a troubling predicament.

Where nobody knows your name…

With all of this negativity, it would make sense if you assumed I have given up. Short term answer, I have a little. Long term answer, not at all. In the face of hard times, the choices you make are what define your character. I’m choosing to focus more on helping myself above others for a short while.

My “dream” is to become a Personal Trainer. While the whole umbrella of the dream is to help people, Personal Trainer is the reality of the skills I have been given. I’m not a smart person, a good looking person or an extremely outgoing guy. I am very dedicated, willing to help and incredibly active.

From a young age I’ve had an abundance of energy. While that is currently low (due to the aforementioned situation), I usually perk up when something interests me. I can go from near comatose to flat out sprinting in seconds. To say that Personal Training is a field I don’t fit in is a complete lie.

I may have hit the biggest hurdle in my life up to this point, but I’m not backing down. I cannot; there is still too much left for me to accomplish in this lifetime. Much like the heroes of the Yakuza series, I have a passion burning in me that cannot be squashed out.

Yakuza 5 was recently released in the West and it’s biggest theme is “Dreams”. Each character is fighting to attain their ideal life. For series mainstay Kazuma Kiryu, his dream is to help his orphanage grow and protect abandoned children.

By any means necessary.

Kiryu’s adopted daughter, Haruka, has a similar dream. Her talents have led her into the path of stardom. She is competing in a fictionalized version of American Idol called the “Princess League.” She hopes to become the top J-Pop idol so that she can help her home (the orphanage).

The other playable characters are also fighting for their dreams. Each may not be typical for what we consider the “American Dream,” but this is the happiness they want. They are willing to lay their lives on the line to achieve the goals they set forth.

To see that kind of persistence and give up would be criminal. If nothing else, the Yakuza series has taught me that I have the power within me. My goals may not be lofty, but they are my goals. The path I want is all I need to be happy with life.

Sure, things are pretty bleak at the moment. I may even have to live on the streets for a few months, but I will pull through. I’ve been to hell and back and I’m not going to stay there.

I will never give up. That much I can guarantee you.

Children and War

There are some minor spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 5 contained in this blog. Not much regarding the plot is detailed, but if you wish to play that game with a fresh mind, do not continue past the picture.

Metal Gear Solid 5 may not have the most detailed plotline, but it does bring up a lot of interesting questions. Things that deal with nuclear warfare, genetic manipulation and honor are standard fare as far as Metal Gear is concerned, but child warfare is relatively new.

Aside from Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, we’ve never seen children on the battlefield or heard of their past. MGS 2 tried to describe how Raiden was robbed of his life because of Solid Snake, but what about kids who never had a chance to experience life in general?

The mission Blood Runs Deep in Phantom Pain tasks Snake with eliminating 6 targets. The client they have taken on requests this so that none of the rebels talk. It’s a dramatic increase from previous missions, but the biggest surprise is hardly the amount of targets.

When you approach the cell that contains the enemy, you find that they are children around 12 years old. It is truly shocking (despite pre-release footage showing them). Kaz gives you a short speech that details how there, “is no Heaven or Hell for these kids.” Snake mutters that there is another choice; Outer Heaven.

This begins a thrilling and nail biting escort mission out of the camp through a guarded river bed. Apart from being one of the best missions I’ve ever played, the game got me thinking about what war must do to these children.

Even when Snake gets them to safety, will their lives be changed? Being raised in a literal battlefield has to have some kind of scaring effect on the psyche of these kids. Is it possible that war is the only thing these kids will ever be capable of?

This is, sadly, a question that is raised often in real life. CNN has a report from former child soldier Ngor Mayol that explains how he is living after fighting at the age of 15. Without any form of rehabilitation, Ngor leads a normal life as a grocery store clerk.

In his own words, “My life experience in the military, I was so proud of it, to defend the territory of South Sudan.” For him, his time on the battlefield was noble. His cause made sense and he regrets nothing.

He has some nightmares of the friends he lost, but he seems to be friendly and calm. One cannot say if he is lucky or if PTSD doesn’t effect children as much, but all hope is not gone. Sometimes, fighting battles at a young age will do nothing to you.

The terrorist group, ISIS, has sent many children into battle as suicide soldiers. Girls are turned into prostitutes or sold as wives and other children are given AKs and told to shoot on sight. A lot of these kids don’t suffer from any mental trauma.

The biggest concern seems to be the never ending cycle of war. If soldiers are readily replaceable with children, then how many lives need to be spent to end a conflict? Can a man instinctively kill a child because the kid is pointing a gun at him? Is that a quandary that any person should be faced with?

Metal Gear never answers those questions. Instead, the game will automatically fail you if any of the children die. There are also later missions where you need to infiltrate a base camp that is entirely composed of kids. In that mission, as well, you cannot kill anyone.

It seems the stance of Mother Base, and Metal Gear as a whole, is that killing children is morally reprehensible. This is in stark contrast to the plotline that details the fall of Big Boss. If he is truly an enemy, why isn’t he getting his job done at any cost?

That isn’t what this blog is about. Much like how Hideo Kojima included children in the Phantom Pain to spark discussion, I’m writing this to ask questions. I want to know what other people feel on this situation.

While I’m fairly certain we all agree that putting children into armed conflict is deplorable, we may not all agree on how their futures will turn out. I don’t know that I would be able to escape the demons of my past if I had ever killed someone at a young age.

It also begs the question; is war natural? Is our species doomed to endlessly repeat a cycle of death and destruction? Animals in the wild will fight each other, but they don’t enlist thousands of comrades to fall under a specific cause. Humanity seems to be the only species which tries to justify it’s actions.

I guess when the going gets tough, throwing kids on the front lines is a quick and dirty solution. It’s similar to cigarette companies and their marketing campaigns; getting them hooked when they are young builds a trust that is hard to break.

Whatever the answer, I’m happy to at least be thinking about something that afflicts our world. Without Metal Gear coming along and placing me in ridiculous and outlandish situations, I’d probably never give a second thought to the war machine and it’s devastating impact on humanity.

My Summer – Bonus Day: SGC Memories and Blog Reflections

Summer is finally over, g1’s. A new school year has started and so my gaming blogs will be more weekly instead of intense, daily excursions of gaming glory. I’m going to take the time in this blog to discuss the other aspects of my summer and give some reflections on how I felt about my day-to-day overviews of games.

If you are a newer g1 (or somehow spent time under a rock for the past year), then you may not know that Screwattack held a convention this summer titled, “SGC.” As luck may have it, I was able to attend this glorious convention.

I have to say, having only been to one previous gaming convention before (Digital Overload, if you need to know), SGC blew my mind. I was not sure what to expect (I was thinking panels would be 4-5 hours apart with really just people talking for the rest of the time), I could not believe the awesome I had encountered.

All of this almost didn’t happen, though. When I arrived at the luxurious (i.e. crappy) Westin Hotel, I was met with a strange problem. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! “SHIT,” I began to think, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?” As it turns out, do not book your hotel room online and expect the hotel staff to receive payment without specifically asking them to.

After a few calls to my mother (who pretty much panicked), I was able to procure a room for 3 nights until she could pay the rest (which she was able to get and I am grateful for). Well, with this harrowing moment put behind me, I walked over to receive my staff badge for the weekend. While waiting, I happened to run into a few nice guys who I spent the evening with. We went over to Denny’s and have a great time.

Now, Denny’s has never agreed with me. I knew that going in, but I didn’t want to be a killjoy and say, “Screw that place and f*#@ you guys,” as I was really having fun with them. So the next morning, about 45 minutes before the convention started, my stomach hit the floor. What else could go wrong this weekend?

Thankfully, nothing did. Even though I reduced my food intake to a granola bar every 10 hours (and eventually I had a burger for lunch on Sunday), I was filled with enough energy to act crazy around people and have a great time kicking ass on Street Fighter 3.

My weekend was pretty much the Street Fighter 3 cabinet. I ended up playing at least 40 matches with one kid who was pretty proficient with Dudley. Being an old fan of SF3, but not playing in years, I had to stick with my man Ryu. We had some great matchups and even ended up getting a perfect on each other in one match.

As for meet ups with the crew, I pretty much talked to everyone but Bryan, Corey and Ben. I did help Corey on the first day by moving some stuff with 2 other fellows, but I never tried to bother her during the weekend (she was incredibly busy). Time for the requisite SGC photos with people, courtesy of my extremely awful camera.

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Nick never dropped character as Tommy, but I still felt I needed to get something out of him. As I approached him for the picture, I asked him, “Can I punch you in the beak?” Tommy shook his head and simply said, “I’d have to punch you in the beak, then.” Fair trade in my mind, but he took our picture and went on about our business.

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Brentalfloss was a great guy. He walked into the Console Gaming area and GPX felt like doing an interview with him. To my fortune, I happened to be the patsy behind the counter that was called to hold the camera. Before the interview, I got my picture and we chatted a little. I lamented not seeing his live performance, but he assured me that the good times were still coming.

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Craig was a great man to meet. I’ve looked up to him in the past few months for this ability to take nothing and create greatness. I looked up so much that for a school assignment in one of my journalism classes, I interviewed the man. I was sure he would forget, but he told me that he had the interview framed in his office. You wouldn’t imagine the pride I felt hearing that.

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Now the picture with Jose is probably my favorite. The day before, I had said a simple hello to Jose and began laughing my ass off. I straightened myself out and said it again. Jose simply started at me and said, “F$*# you.” We then shared a laugh and parted ways. I met up with him the next day and he simply had me get on the floor because of his lack of energy. Right before the photo, he told me, “Dude, your hand is right near my balls.” Classic Jose quote, right there.

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As for Chad and Destin, not many things were said. This was the last day and the final few minutes before everyone was leaving, so I had to make it quick. Chad and I talked a bit, but mostly about how great the weekend was. Destin simply got my picture and I shook his hand, but I kind of shook it twice and felt awkward. I hope Destin doesn’t think I’m some weirdo after that.

If you are wondering what I did as staff, I was helping in the console gaming room. I dolled out the games and controllers to people while making sure no one stole anything (we did almost misplace a few copies of Gears, though). The guys running the console room, GPX Gaming, were extremely nice and I’m thankfully that they were able to help me with questions (also, props to The God Damned Batman for being hilarious).

Regarding my week-long blogs about games, I feel pretty good. I started to lose some steam when I wrote about Blazblue (I drifted towards review more than opinion and impression) and I wasn’t too happy with infamous, but I think I did well overall.

The reaction to my blogs was pretty impressive at first, but it slowly died down as the week went on. While I wasn’t discouraged by this, I’m wondering exactly what I should do to generate a bigger reaction for my future blogs and series. If there is anything at all you g1’s would like to see, please let me know.

And now time for the serious part of the blog. Last week on Saturday, my grandmother passed away after 91 years of life. She was a big influence in the way I wanted to pursue religion in my life and she helped me define my character when I meet people. She will be missed dearly.

In the end, my summer was good, but much like life everything eventually comes to an end. Here’s hoping that we all learn from our experiences and that we never let small things in life bog us down. I will do my best in the future to improve my skills and hopefully bring joy to you g1’s.