‘Gamer’ Has Never Been Enough

I’ve never liked the term ‘gamer’. It’s reductive and bland, all too obvious. A ‘gamer’- one who games, or plays games. Such a strange banner to throw up over our heads. I play most types – video, tabletop, mind, board, social, classic, etc, etc. etc. — but I’ve never been able to bend a proper term into shape for that identity. ‘Player’ sounds weird – and a little 90’s BET. ‘Gamester’ is lame and acronyms make the world yawn. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t that important of a question. Everyone plays games – all humans, everywhere, forever. There’s no need to draw a circle, no tribal totem to shake. 

But now this #gamergate nonsense.

These sweaty children smearing their foreheads with war paint and screaming across the digital savannah. Hatred and fear disguised as a righteous fury. They wrap their fingers around that empty little word ‘gamer’ and wield it like a cudgel.

You are using a meaningless word, which is appropriate for your drivel. Let me tell you a thing, let me whisper you one of the secrets of the clan you claim to represent.

‘Gamer’ is not enough. It is not enough name for who and what we are. We need more – more names. Mario. The Grey Warden. Dragonborn. Malrock the Magnificent. Lara Croft. Dogfish. Nathan Drake. Commander Shepherd. More names are needed, more ways to see the world. Terra. Samus Aran. Luigi. Wander. Sommerset the Stray-Dog,  Pac-Man. More names, groups, armies, comrades, unions. The Alliance. The Horde. Blue Team. The Lodestar Crew. The Turks. The Jedi Academy.

We are the dreamers, the walkers in strange lands. We are the people of Many Names, of Many Eyes, of Endless Lives. We are the point in the dark, the moving hand, the twist of the brain that learns and remembers. We learn, we grow, we return again and again.

This is who we are, this is who all humans are. And we who are so fortunate to play in strange worlds unnumbered are always eager for anyone who needs a new name. That’s all ‘gaming’ is really – another chance, another way to see the world, another chance to Get It Right.

So those of you hiding behind the word ‘gamer’ as an excuse for misogyny and intolerance – it’s time for a new name. It’s time to Try Again. You know how. It’s as close as the Reset button. If you are human, you play games. If you play games, you can learn. So learn. Do better. 

There is no banner. There is no tribe. Only you and your warped cadre bleeding and gibbering on the people who love what you love.

Lunch with a Villain

We met on the patio of Agua Linda – well, it’s not much of a patio, just some plastic fencing, plastic chairs, plastic tables with plastic umbrellas. But it’s outside and it’s nice, so let’s deem it a patio. I got there early and ordered a beer and munched on chips until he got there. I half expected him to fly down from the sky on his golden roc or just freaking teleport in, gleaming yellow and green. But no, he  walked up off the street, turned the corner of the building and sauntered right up. He was smiling, of course. Villains always smile – true, proper villains anyway.

He tucked his brown cloak over the chair back and helped himself to some chips. He started to speak, but instead leaned over towards the glass doors that lead inside and signaled for his own beer. His smile was 1000 watts of teeth.

“You look older,” I said.

“Well, that’s hardly surprising. You’re older too,” the villain crunched on a chip dripping with red salsa. “Just as much gray hair on your head as on mine.”

It was true. His hair was thick and wild, the kind of white-boy afro you rarely encounter in the wild — but silver winked from many places in the brush.

“This already isn’t going like I thought it would,” I said and took a sip of my beer.

“Hey, I just work here,” the villain spread his hand expansively, then folded them behind his head.

“Look, I wanted to talk to someone and for some reason you were that person. I don’t even know why. We haven’t worked together in a while and you’re sort of dead?”

“I was defeated. Not killed, just sort of removed from the scene. It was all pretty vague. What is it with you and these metaphysical—?”

A large frosted glass of brown beer clunked onto the plastic table. The villain winked at our waitress and proceeded to snag the grass-green lime from the rim and toss it into the parking lot.

“I don’t even know why they give the lime. It doesn’t do a damn thing for the taste, in my opinion,” the brown-cloaked man took a long, slow pull at glass.

“It’s nice. I like it.” I waved the waitress away with an apologetic smile. “No food today, we’re drinking our lunch.”

The villain clinked his glass against mine. “As I was saying, I wasn’t really killed so much as expunged. Two ways to look at it, creator mine. From one angle, I was never a real person – just a personality construct created by the sudden influx of infernal might and superior intelligence on a pre-existing mental framework. The boy made his choice and became me. Then at the end of the tale that girl unmade his choice for him and he became him again. I’m like an alternate personality – or a mask the boy wore for a while. So you’re just talking to an old mask, I’m afraid.”

“You said two ways to look at it.”

The villain snickered and took another long draw of his beer, then leaned back out into the aisle to signal for another. He held up one finger, then after giving me an appraising glance raised a second.

“I think you know the other way. All just actors, aren’t we? Playing this role then that role, then we hang out in your head until it’s time for auditions. I had my time on the stage and now I’m back in the wings – is that what this is about? You need a proper menace?”

He leaned forward almost hungrily. I felt a little guilty.

“No, that’s not what this is about.”

“Whatever,” the villain finished off his first beer, then smiled at me through the glass bottom. “Or do you want to wear the mask? Do you want to be the villain for a while?”

“Uh-“

“I’m not really the seductive type –“

“God, shut up,” I sighed. “This was a bad idea.”

The waitress brought our beers and departed in the silence that crouched on our plastic table.

“Do you want to get drunk?” the villain asked.

“Yeah, okay.”

State of Ruin

How does one begin a story?

With thunder and lightning and rain? With the song my mother sang that last night, that last night before I ran away? Should I begin with the ravagers, their black cries and crude crush and stomp through the white-knacker arbor? The blood in my teeth, the blood on my hands, the frantic knot of my scarf around the gate? The trees and the night and the thunder, the lightning, the rain?

Did the story really start there? Did I start there? Or was it when I first laid my hand on the sword?

– – scrap of a journal, found in the Idolobha Mirror

Why are all my heroes runaways? Will this whole post be a series of questions?

I’m in a mood, so strap on your cummerbund and cravat, I need to lay in a bower of lilies and emote with an absinthe-soaked hanky over my face for a bit.

I am creative wormwood at the moment. I’m chugging along in my various storytelling

Artist - Phil Noto
Artist – Phil Noto

projects [tabletop games, mostly], but the big weight on my brain isn’t moving anywhere. By this I mean The Riddle Box – slowly moldering in Edit Hell. I’ve been chipping away at it in fits and starts, even got some seriously potent advice on the first couple of chapters from my supremely advanced colleagues Rachel and Michael — but still it lays there in the hopper, just getting more and more razor-edged by the moment.

I have some legitimate excuses – we just moved, bought a house in the bargain, day job trips, etc. – but I know the real problem is my heart isn’t in it. I kind of despise this type of writer fluff – writing is a craft, you should do it when it’s time to do it, but I’ve just felt gutted and hollow lately and I want to weep on my tortoise-shell mirror, okay?

I know the answer is just to keep moving forward and not beat myself up about it, but when does being understanding and supportive of your own depressive tendencies just morph into bullshit laziness?

 

The Audience

Who do we write for? Who do you imagine when you type the words in the glowing white box of your choice?

Maybe it’s a side-effect of my own checkered past in the theatre, but I spend a lot of time wondering about them, out there in the darkness.  In all my art 2014-02-27 23.36.04[ARTZ tm] there’s a need for the receiver, a tacit covenant with the other end of the line. I cannot transmit into a vacuum, I have to know that someone, somewhere is tuning in – and like many monkey-brains I need immediate verification of that fact. The few times I’ve tried some mediums without that component I’ve felt like my feet are nailed to the floor.

I worked for a radio station for a brief stint, back in college.  Even got a few shifts here and there on the microphone – but it made my flesh crawl. I knew intellectually that people were listening, but me – alone – in a booth, cracking jokes to the empty air is my idea of purgatory. Something about that strange Limbo where I knew there was an audience, but I could neither see nor verify them drove me batty.  Once again, a mutation derived from the stage – if you land a joke and nobody laughs – -did you really land it? Without that feedback loop, I feel myself diminish, crawling ever inward to my own navel as THE FIRES OF UTTER DISDAIN CONSUME MY FRAIL PSYCHE.

Ahem.

Which brings me to Twitter. I’ve been on there since January, in fits and spurts. I keep jumping out there on the dance floor, but then become immediately self-conscious – the death of rhythm.  I keep asking Who am I talking to? What is the purpose of this space? Who is the audience? How does speaking hear differ from other spaces? What do I gain by speaking here?

So, sure, I’m over-analyzing, but that’s what you get, son. It’s clear that most people use it for riffing – humor noodles tossed against the uncaring internet wall. And some people use it as a pressure valve, an easy space to vent their frustrations. And for some it’s a stream-of-consciousness companion, recording the banal and profound events of their lives as a record of validity. Or some strange combination of all three. Or the people that just PIMP THAT SHIT.

When I want to say funny thing, I pull up Twitter. But where do I go when I have some serious feels? Here? Eh, I know I’ve emoted plenty here, but it feels unguarded. I could ramble on my Twitter – but then, even more  of a ‘no audience’ vibe. But should I really need an audience when I’m talking about private matters, or just want to spill out into text?

When I want to ‘unpack my heart with words’, why don’t I just jam it out onto Twitter or WordPress or Tumbler or shudder Facebook?

Because I need to feel the audience out there, shifting in their seats – but I don’t trust them.

Here’s where I would make a joke about Google+…but why mock the lumbering undead as they unquietly writhe in the shadows?

 

 

Egads!

2014-03-05 17.08.32Aye, forsooth! This bloggery has been a trifle thin of late. I come not to praise the lapse, but bury the hatchet. Your gentle author’s head is o’er crammed with projects both mundane and fantastical and time to devote to this shining square is easily counted on the head of an ant. [ITS REAL SMALL SON.] Worry not for things of great import and moment lurch forward to the flimsy present. A special discount on the Spell/Sword ebook next week. Editing on The Riddle Box continues apace, a rare life appearance in the misty future.

Hold me in your hearts if we be friends, or at the very least in your gentle kidneys if we be casual acquaintances.

 

Inevitable

We’re all telling the same story.

I’ve been thinking about the State of the Fantasy Genre intermittently, and I just had a thought-burst. We’re all telling the same story, the story of 1011841_189098384582884_536161209_nInevitability. Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Abercrombie’s First Law, Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.

And me.

The feeling of fate, of the dark steps at the end of the road pervades the genre — even me, who is supposedly some sort of bubble-squeak rebel scribbling graffiti on the overpass of Epic — I’m telling the same story.

To paraphrase Kvothe: ‘You know how it ends. It ends right here, with me telling you this story.” [Unless of course, Rothfuss has been misleading us all, and Doors of Stone culminates with some version of Kote yelling ‘It’s Clobberin’ Time.”]

I don’t necessarily think this is a new convention in fantasy, Tolkien and Howard laid that ground for us long before — but it feels kind of strange to feel the same cobalt melancholy hanging over so much of the field. Is it because we’re all too cognizant of the gears and automata of storytelling? Or are we all just too jaded to tell a story with a half-way decent happy ending? From whence this kamikaze-love song with the grip of Fate?

Maybe just a function of maturity, of most head-and-shoulders artists hitting the success point when they’re old enough to feel the turn of the earth in its gyre, the dusty cobwebs of age long since gathering.

Or am I seeing a correlation that isn’t there? I know the story I’m telling, the strange and dark end of my Heroes. It sits on my shoulders like a black iron mantel. So tempting to change it, to have it come out better — or cheat the very fabric of the tale.

 

 

 

 

Various

I’ve got the itch to post and write, but nothing dominating my brain pan. I’m going to list some thoughts until I hit something I want to expound upon.

Various thoughts:

  • I was in Vegas last week for a work conference. It was my first time. I gambled a dollar, drank daiquiris in a bathtub, ate piles of exotic food next to a 30 foot stone statue of Buddha while dubstep played. I believe that  Vegas is the most American city  I’ve ever been in — not the greatest American city, but the most American.
  • I’m on Twitter now — it’s fun. There’s a surprising feeling of immediacy to the interactions there, and it’s neat to be able to directly annoy people I
    Majesty.
    Majesty.

    respect. Also to roll my eyes at some writers up the foodchain as they reveal their foibles and strange predilections. Follow me there and allow me to regale you with glib witticisms and reports on my cat’s mood.

  • Why is their a paucity of Southern genre writers – fantasy and sci-fi? I’ve been directed to several interesting ones that I hadn’t heard of before, but there just don’t seem to be any genre legends within a 50 mile radius of a Waffle House. Southern fiction has a strong tradition, are they all just writing other genres? How come anyone that wants to write about swords and dragons seems to gravitate to the North and West?
  • This weird-ass journey of writing and promoting myself is …well...weird-ass. I have to constantly pump myself up and feed myself endless packets of cocksurety just to keep myself going [You are awesome. Genre-CHANGING. Undiscovered genius.] all while walking face first into the most humbling series of experiences I’ve ever encountered.