What’s Next? – Short Blog

The day I started writing for Destructoid as staff was a dream come true. The culmination of years of studying, writing and honing my skill, finally publishing a review for potential millions to see was enough to bring me to tears. I had achieved the goal I set out for myself all those years ago.

Then a few months later, reality crashed into me. I had been working as a per diem employee at a homeless shelter when a very unfortunate incident happened. I ended up losing my job due to management’s decision right before December. While becoming unemployed at any point is unfortunate, doing so right at the peak of the holiday season is disastrous.

I wasn’t completely up shit creek, money wise, so I decided to start fresh at the beginning of the New Year. I would have the best possible chance to get my resume seen if I applied while employers were actively looking for new recruits. Sadly, as of the time of this writing, I am still unemployed. The magnitude of my situation at the homeless shelter has finally sunk in and I realize that I’m going nowhere and fast.

You’d think achieving two dream positions (working directly to help people and being a video game “journalist”) would see me elated, but that isn’t the case. I’ve slowly been running out of money and nothing seems to help. I’ve tried being an Uber driver, but apparently there aren’t a lot of people in Connecticut in need of chauffeuring. I’ve been constantly putting out applications, only to get rejections from basically everyone (including an unpaid internship!).

A few years back, I found myself in a somewhat similar situation. I left a job with my friend’s dad to obtain a personal training certification, which I successfully did. After that, I started on the job hunt only to get nowhere. Employers wanted me to have previous client bases while individual people wanted me to have experience in training. It was a ridiculous catch 22 that I couldn’t find an answer for.

Still, to this day, I cannot obtain work at any commercial gym. It makes me wonder what the value of education is. I took a big risk and it failed, but why did I even do that? I wanted a change of careers to something I enjoyed, but I guess that is too much to ask of the world. It feels like all of my choices are wrong.

Really, what is next for me? I’m 29 years old, sitting at home wasting away and getting nowhere in life. I don’t have money to return to school, I’m slowing depleting my funds on medicine and cellphone bills and I have little to show for it. It’s great that I’m able to engage with the gaming community on a larger level, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Why does everything have to come down to the almighty dollar?

How do people cope with the realization that their lives are nothing? When all you do is wake up, go to work, come home, eat and sleep, what is the point of life? Is there no possible career option that allows me to simultaneously enjoy what I do and earn a living? While I am always going to be grateful to Destructoid for giving me the chance to finally live out my aspirations, it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll never be able to turn this hobby into a job.

It hurts so much to write that, but it is the truth. I’m lost in a state of arrested development and I’m not sure how else to proceed. I just want to become something important to the world, but that doesn’t seem likely. For me, toiling away in obscurity until I inevitably die might be the only path.

Really and truly, I am just looking for possible options. Where is the flaw in my logic? What is preventing me from becoming successful? How do I accept reality and become a mindless drone? How do other people manage to find consistent work that lets them be independent?

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I Did My Best

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Working at a homeless shelter is fairly taxing. When you constantly strive to believe in the good inside of everyone, it becomes disheartening when you learn they are lying. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes.

To have someone look you in the eye and tell a complete fabrication is quite maddening. It feels like the soul is being ripped straight from your heart and getting crushed on the pavement before you. You start to distrust your own instincts and the words of your compatriots.

It makes me feel as if my intentions are wrong. I really just want to help people find a better place in their lives; to have others game the system is enough to bring my blood to a boil. When I see such reckless disregard for the wellbeing of others, I want to haul off and punch someone in their face.

I personally feel like a monster. I shifted the blame towards my co-workers for failing to inform; what really happened was that residents exploited my naivety. A moment like this is something that builds character, but not in a way I like. To become colder to the concerns of my fellow man feels detrimental to me.

I’ve always had a problem like this. At a previous job, I had trouble telling my co-workers no. If they needed a shift covered, I was there. I wanted to help as much as I could, despite what it was doing to my mood. I longed for some freedom, but was constantly shackled to the cash register. It lit a fire in my mind that was itching to lash out at anyone.

I ended up fighting myself. I would go home and call myself a spineless coward. I would lament how I’d wasted my free time at a job that wasn’t accomplishing anything. I became spiteful of the people who were taking advantage of my kindness; I was their whipping boy.

Now, it seems the cycle is repeating. I thought I had found the perfect job for me. This was something where I could truly make an impact on society. People would come in off the streets and get a second chance to change their fate. They would no longer need to live in squalor.

Just when I thought I had found the perfect job, I now feel like I made a mistake. I know I’ve screwed up, but I’m not still so sure I can handle the situations presented to me. I’ve been witness to a drunken woman calling me an asshole and claiming the shelter is worthless. I’ve had a person construct an elaborate story just to get out of losing their bed.

To then see those people on their discharge date claiming as if they were wronged is tortuous. How can someone be in such denial? In what reality is nothing ever your fault? How can you throw away the safety your children now have simply because you’re a fuck up?

It’s strenuous to bear witness to habitual liars, compulsive addicts and slothful youths who waste their opportunity for betterment. It’s reassuring when you do have residents who are strongly motivated and eager to leave. They are the exception.

When I started working this job, I felt bad for passing over all the homeless people I’d see on streets. I used to believe they were simply lazy. Now I know that my initial thought was correct. If you’re willing to waste your day on a street corner holding a sign, you clearly don’t give a shit about actually helping yourself.

I took a lot of strides to make sure I wasn’t sitting in self-pity for the rest of my life. I may not have everything that my heart desires, but I at least know that I’m trying. No one can take that away from me. To have to deal with people who want to casually throw their lives away makes me angry.

I don’t want to put everyone’s words into doubt, but I suppose that is the best way to deal with these people. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Luckily, I won’t be fooled again. I’m not going to lie down and let my chance at personal gain be ruined by someone who wants a handout.

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.

It’s a Fashion Statement!

For all the progress gaming has made in becoming more open to different demographics, the industry still has a silly trend of objectifying female characters. Be it from skimpy outfits, games made purely to sell off sex appeal or women being treated as literal rewards, it’s safe to say we have a long way to go before being accepting of the opposite gender.

While I understand that, in real life, some women enjoy the attention that their bodies grant them, a lot of women don’t derive that same feeling. For some, they wish that their thoughts and personalities would be the attention grabbers instead of their “assets.”

When it was recently revealed that Nintendo had “censored” costumes in the recently released Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water and the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles X,, people were upset. How could Nintendo of America be so ignorant of artistic intent? Why don’t they just let us Westerners have the same content?

While I get that choice is a big part of freedom and freedom is important in fostering creativity, I just don’t see the purpose of the original “uncensored” costumes. For starters, why would you ever wear skimpy clothes into battle? Second, why do the women look like whores when the men look like they are doing a load of laundry?

There isn’t the same kind of representation going on between the two genders. This may come down to me being heterosexual, but I don’t see any of the male costumes inXenoblade Chronicles X as being particularly sexual. The female ones, on the other hand, make the characters look like high class hookers.

The changes in Fatal Frame make more sense as the replacement costumes actually represent some of Nintendo’s franchises. The original costumes are wildly out of place in a horror game, but being able to play a game on a Nintendo console as a Nintendo character fits pretty well. Samus even explores areas similar in tone to Fatal Frame, so that is a double win.

It just plain makes more sense.

The biggest thing we need to look at is whether or not this constitutes censoring. If the developers of the original content have no problem with the change, then no one else should be complaining. I’m fairly certain that Nintendo of America is checking with the respective developers before giving the okay to dramatic changes, but I could be wrong.

There is also the discussion of what is being changed. Having a 13 year old parading around in a thong and bra is a bit strange, regardless of what culture you exist in. Even in Japan, which everyone mistakenly believes is pro-sex, that kind of imagery is looked down on.

There exists a sub-culture of people in Japan called otakus. I don’t believe I need to explain what that is to anyone on this site, but regular citizens don’t accept otakus. They are seen as socially awkward, gross and repulsive. A lot of “artists” manufacture content to manipulate these otakus.

It’s similar to the English term, “trainspotting.” It also blends with “hikikomori,” which is a Japanese term for a social recluse. These people retreat from society for an extended period of time, often living with their parents and taking an extreme obsession with a hobby. That hobby usually ends up being anime and gaming.

Why go outside when my life is all in this room?

The types of costumes that are being “censored” are targeted at these people. It’s preying on the weak to make a quick buck. It’s pretty despicable, if you ask me. It also doesn’t have anything to do with creative freedom or expression.

Another reason for such sexualized costumes deals with Japan’s birth rate. For years now, Japanese citizens have been shunning marriage and dating. Their lifestyles place perfection and job performance above all else. Not being affluent and not attaining the best possible life earn you disappointment and condemnation from your elders.

Japanese citizens don’t have time for silly concepts like marriage and children. As such, the birth rate has been falling. Just last year, the mortality rate in Japan surpassed the birth rate. If the trend continues, the Japanese will become a nation of only adults.

Anime artists and game developers include hypersexualized content to spur arousal in their consumers. While it may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes of body image, it’s being done in the hope of boosting birth rates. I’m pretty sure most nations don’t look forward to the day of their extinction.

That’s what we’ll call it!

So the debate about this censorship isn’t black and white. I feel strongly that such costumes should be removed from games like Xenoblade Chronicles X as they serve no narrative intent. If it were Xenoblade Swimsuit Chronicles X(XX), then we’d have a different story.

The same goes for Fatal Frame; those costumes have no purpose being in a horror game. When you go to investigate a scary mansion in the cold wilderness, you tend to dress in layers. I would imagine donning a bikini and frilly skirt wouldn’t retain heat.

Is there ever going to be a correct answer to this question? Not really. Many people hold different values on what constitutes negative or damaging imagery versus playful extras, but we need to get our facts straight. Japan isn’t a sex loving, orgy induced frenzy of a nation.

There is also some reason behind a lot of the content in anime and gaming. Along with that, the hobbies that a lot of us love aren’t necessarily seen in a positive light by a majority of the Japanese.

Whether or not you agree with me in my thought that the removal of these costumes is good, you shouldn’t walk into a discussion without knowing all the details. It’s time to stop spreading false information and getting down to the real core of this topic.

Someone For Everyone?

This past week, I had taken a long deserved vacation. I went to Anaheim, California and spent some time at Disneyland, as well as venturing further south and visiting Sea World and Lego Land. It was definitely an eventful trip, if a bit predictable.

The most troubling part was the plane ride to the West Coast. Not only do connecting flights truly suck, but I was separated from my family for the second flight. While I don’t mind alone time, I felt a tinge of sadness strike me.

Unable to block out the world around me, I started to eavesdrop on the conversation this older woman and younger lady were having. They spoke about life, love, trips, drugs, sex and romance. To put it bluntly, things I have no relation to.

I felt an intense jealousy as both women spoke of the “loves” of their lives and the adventures they had. Snorkeling in France, moonlit dinners in Italy, flings in Spain; it was basically an amalgamation of every Nicholas Sparks novel.

While I typically don’t care how people spend their time, I couldn’t shake the idea that I had been wasting my life. Very little excites me anymore and I tend to draw a blank on what to do with my day. I like being active, but my idea of a fun day isn’t about meeting people or sharing anything.

I don’t mind taking hikes through the forest alone. I love rock climbing and rappelling. I am enamored with playing video games and working out. These types of things don’t require anyone else to be fun and often are less fun with less experienced participants.

My mind is perfectly capable of rationalizing why I shouldn’t worry, but my heart wants something more. I want to be alone while being surrounded with friends. It’s a strange dichotomy that causes me a lot of hurt.

And makes me stare into scenic backgrounds…

As I sit and ponder why a relationship would even be beneficial, my heart is telling me to get out there and find someone. I don’t even know what I would do with a significant other, but my heart keeps nagging me to get on with it.

I’m not sure if my thoughts are infused with societal pressure or if my body truly wants something. I’ve never been able to express to any woman how I feel about her without some kind of sexual connection. It seems that I truly value sex more then anything else, which troubles me.

Even so, I hear stories of people moving from partner to partner and finding love in peculiar spots and I begin to feel hollow. I have never dated anyone one or gone on a date. Sex only happened because I still live at home, negating the need for me to truly save money. An escort is good enough when you can’t form a solid connection with people.

It makes me sick when I visit most ladies of the night. They are just so disconnected from their current situation. I have only found one escort that makes the most of each moment and I find myself falling for her.

Even then, I still look at other women. I still fantasize about whining and dining other girls and living a life of decadence. I want to be out in the world and getting my fill of adventure and lust.

Then on the flip side, I don’t want to hurt anyone. Sex is a tricky proposition for a lot of people. To the general public, monogamy is the only option. To even question infidelity or dabble with taboo is to be branded a pariah.

I long ago gave up on faith and it seems that I’m now on the cusp of releasing myself from the shackles of normalcy. Obviously I’m not meant to have a regular “American Dream” style life. To be with wife and child in suburbia turns my stomach inside out.

Yet, my heart still wants that. My body keeps telling me to love and be loved. That is nigh on impossible when you have so many social dysfunctions. As I learned last year, I’m autistic; I have asperger’s syndrome, a fairly big social disorder.

While a test concluded that I more then likely have an extreme case of social anxiety, diagnosing an adult with autism is tremendously difficult to do. There are a lot of habitual occurrences that age will help change. One of the therapists at the psyche ward I was sent to even said that the results are no where near 100% accurate.

Why can’t life just make fucking sense?!

Getting that label explains so much about my life. The fact that I can’t make friends, that I am intensely interested in a few things and that I struggle to even speak to people. That autism also covers daily routines and an unwillingness to change furthers frightens me. I’m living a life that I have little power to rectify.

This doesn’t bode well for romance. Most people don’t like someone who is so rote in their execution of life. Spontaneity wins hearts, not comfort. Risk taking and confidence are huge turn-ons, not calculated strikes and logical reasoning.

I am lacking in a lot of ways and don’t quite know how to change. To ask me to instantly mix-up a routine is basically asking me to breakdown. Even when my friend calls unexpectedly to hang out, I tend to seize up a bit and get nervous. I don’t work well with unknown variables.

An ex of one of my friends once said to me, “You haven’t dated anyone because no girl has challenged you.” While I kind of nodded in the moment, those words have never left my mind.

The current apple of my eye is definitely challenging, in more ways then one. She’s an energetic ball of zest that grabs life by the horns and then proceeds to make love to it. She has a past in pornography, a love of the Beatles, an intellect far greater then the average human and looks that could be weaponized. She is far from typical.

On the idea of any kind of future together, she has said this; “Remember how we met.” While this wasn’t directly to me, she is basically stating it for all of her potential clients. If I wasn’t some horny, deep pocketed nerd with a lust going unchecked, would I have ever met her?

If I wasn’t willing to basically bend the law, would I have met her? How does one describe our initial meeting to any potential family and friends? “Yeah, I met my wife a few years ago. I went to her apartment, we introduced ourselves and then had sex.”

Basically like this, but with less clothing and more moaning.

Should any of that matter? As I said, my life is far from normal and I doubt any more therapy or extracurricular activities are going to bring me back to normality. I’m a man who is very damaged mentally and broken emotionally.

I just want to figure out if my heart is making sense. Should I even bother with finding love? What will that do for me? Will I be able to shut off my carnal desires long enough to maintain a relationship? How come everyone else seems to do this so easily?

Whatever the answer, this past vacation just brought up a whole bunch of questions that trouble me. I needed to write this to simply stop the thoughts from swimming in my head. I don’t want to keep things bottled up anymore. That led to my past breakdowns and I’m not going to repeat that routine.

Meaningful Content

In the last generation, we saw games getting bigger and bigger and budgets ballooning out of control. As publishers were looking to get as much return as possible, games became bloated with side-quests that had little to no relevance to the main story mode.

Just this year, we have been given three games that do away with such fluff. Bloodborne, The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V. In each game, every bit of content feels just. You never waste your time in areas that plaster up invisible walls or grant absolutely no benefit; if you undertake a side-quest, the reward is readily apparent.

Take MGS V for example. At the very beginning of the game, you are unable to understand the soldiers in Afghanistan. This pretty much makes getting information a pointless endeavor. After finishing the first mission, you are informed of translators in the area that can be rescued. Doing so grants you the ability to understand the language in that area.

It’s an immediate payoff that gives the player a sense of accomplishment. Instead of including an activity because it’s cool, the developers thought to award some palpable sense of achievement within the game itself.

The Witcher basically has stronger plot points in the side missions then the main quest itself. One very early side quest has you tackling the mystery of a man’s wife who has gone disappearing. You get to be a detective and figure out what occurred and the impact this has had on the man’s life.

Did you take her?

It is supremely rewarding to dig into such a rich story. Most side quests can be boiled down to a few simple points; the game needs to be longer and the player can skip these. Since developers don’t want the player to “miss” any important content, one can reasonably skip the side stuff and still get the entire story.

Even before Wild Hunt, The Witcher 2 had an entirely different second act based on some decisions you made at the end of the first. It was a radical departure from what mainstream, triple A gaming was doing. That is getting a bit side tracked from my point, though.

With Bloodborne, while the world may not be entirely open as in Witcher and MGS, you can tackle most of the boss creatures in an order of your choosing. There are even a great few that you can entirely skip. A lot of the work in getting to them is shrouded in obscurity and requires one to think outside the box.

This leads to optional areas that are just as thrilling, frightening and meticulously detailed as the main game. More so, with the narrative being ambiguous and vague, the game encourages you to seek out as much information as possible. Without being told to, you are actively pushed to see the full picture.

This subtlety to approaching story in a game makes Bloodborne utterly captivating. Coupled with the brutal combat mechanics and steep difficulty and Bloodborne becomes a game that can consume your life for a good month or two.

Ah, yes, a good month or two….where is my cranberry juice?

I do remember games being like this in my heyday. Games on the NES, SNES and even PS1 were more about creating experiences that rewarded player skill and investment. Not every game was supremely long, but every bit of content was worthwhile.

I can’t think of a Mario game where I would want to skip levels (other then 8-3 in the original being a bitch). Shooters like Quake were so morbid, dark and terrifying that I was compelled to press on to see the corridors that lie ahead.

Then you look back at the last few years of gaming and you see pointless padding. Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider; newer entries in these series had so much pointless content that gamers gave up caring. Why do I want to climb towers in every city just to spot “important” locations? What benefit does collecting feathers or journals or hidden packages have for me?

I was amazed when playing Sleeping Dogs and found out that a lot of the side quests have a tangible benefit to the player. Finding the hidden shrines would increase your maximum health. Getting all of the statues in the story missions unlocked extra finishing moves for your combos. It was wild to think that side content could actually mean something in the modern era.

Then you look at inFamous: Second Son and all of the side stuff does basically nothing. Sure, you can level up your skills, but the game is so easy that nothing else over your starting arsenal is really required.

It seems that for as big as we can make game worlds, there is some nagging need to include as much stuff as possible. It’s as if the game isn’t engaging enough, so developers have a desire to distract you from how mediocre it is.

“You’re right! I don’t even care!”

There are some complaints that MGS V is devoid of life (something lobbied at Ocarina of Time as well), but that doesn’t even hold water. When I actively want to explore the game world, I don’t care if hundreds of things are crawling around. I like exploring landscapes and seeing nature in a natural state.

Taking a hike through a forest doesn’t bring you to a lost tribe or hidden tomb (unless you happen to be lucky); one takes a walk through nature to escape the fast paced nature of their lives. It’s a form of escapism that brings you back to reality and the purity of nature.

It’s also not a waste of time. Even though you aren’t technically accomplishing anything, you are freeing your mind of the bullshit from your daily life. Your problems disappear for a few hours in a safe, fun and refreshing manner.

Where are all the damn side quests?

When a video game so perfectly encapsulates that (such as MGS V), why am I going to complain about a lack of visible life? I don’t want more stuff in my games, I want my games to feel more complete.

I just wonder why it took so long for developers to finally get around to making completely worthwhile experiences. I think that, in the years coming up, we’ll see more and more games that cut out all of the trappings and stick to gameplay and extra missions that actually matter.

That, or we can just look at Super Mario Maker and make our own stuff. I wish Project Spark were as open-ended as Mario Maker, because I would love to get in on manipulating my childhood memories.