My (Summarized) Story To Where I Am Now

Very often I think of how I got to where I am today. I’m not anywhere particularly special, but I just mean the choices that I made to do what I do now, to be in this position. Its funny to think back, and realise how insignificant some of the choices seemed that actually changed my life, and sent me in a totally different direction.

For example, lets go back 8 years. I was 11, just started secondary school, and I only had a couple of friends. I decided to go round to my friend Adam’s (yes, I know) house after school, and he showed me Mindless Self Indulgence and Slipknot that day. This might seem like nothing, and at the time I didn’t think much of it either, but I’m sitting here, a massive metal fan now, and all because I found out about it all back then.

However, this isn’t where that ends. Liking that kind of music meant that I made more friends with other people that liked the same stuff, which meant that more people in my school knew who I was. After a while I was talking to people I never thought I’d have spoken too, simply because I listened to this music, so people got to know me, and as such a lot of people regarded me as pretty nice, and good to talk to. This still applies, a lot of people think this, and I feel like I’m still the same person I was then, its just now I have a lot more confidence to talk to people, and as such I can show them it now, rather than people finding out through others.

Another major turning point in my life was in 4th year, when I had to do a 1 week work placement for school, because why not apparently. Anyway, I had no idea what I wanted to do for it, so my dad got me into one of his old Engineering Firms for the week. It was there that I realised I wanted to become a Chemical Engineer, which resulted in me, well, doing Chemical Engineering at Strathclyde University. If not I could’ve been in Glasgow Uni right now doing a Law degree, scary.

Oh, something I can’t forget to add is that a good while back, 9 years ago I think now, I almost didn’t join the company section of the BB. I was going to leave, and decided to just stay on to give it a shot last minute, and its pretty much the reason I have about 30 Table Tennis medals and trophies, why I’m friends with the people I am, and that even influenced going to Adam’s that day with the music.

I just think its incredible to look back on this short segment of your life so far, and realise how a number of different things could have dramatically altered your life. There are many, many more I can think of honestly, but the three examples above are the biggest by far, and I just think it is incredible when I realise that, while I might not speak to Adam anymore, or go to BB, I know that my life is the way it is because of these different things. They shaped me into the person I am today, they made me want to play games, to listen to metal, which got me into YouTube, got me into PC gaming, in turn Twitch streaming. There’s just so much in my life that could change if one thing was done differently, and that scares me. But it also makes me wonder; what would my life be like had these things not happened? Its interesting to think isn’t it?

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You Are Not Alone (Please Read)

I’m not here to lecture anyone. I’m not here to pretend I have any fucking idea what its like to have mental issues, to have a disability, and I’m not going to pretend that I can fix it. I’ve been incredibly lucky, I’m reasonably smart, I tend to get on well with people, I have a stable home relationship.

However, there are so many people who can’t say this, people with battles going on everyday with peers, with family, or even with themselves. But because its on the inside, people don’t acknowledge it. If you’re depressed, people will tell you to cheer up, if you suffer from anxiety, people will tell you to just go out and make friends. They don’t understand what its like to have your own being fight you everyday, telling you you aren’t good enough, telling you nobody likes you, true or not. They don’t know what its like to just wake up and want to go back to sleep forever, for no other reason than your own mind telling you you’re worthless.¬†They don’t know what its like to not be able to think how everyone else thinks. They don’t know what its like to feel like you are at war every day just to keep yourself going.

And I don’t know either.

I have no fucking clue what that’s like, and frankly it scares me, that people can have no control over these things sometimes, that they can feel worthless no matter how much you tell them they aren’t. That they feel alone even when you’re all there.

But you aren’t alone. At least, you don’t need to be. As I said, I’m not here to tell you how you feel, I’m not going to promise I can fix you, I can’t even promise I’ll be able to understand what it could be like. But what I can do is be there for you. I can be there to listen if you need it. I can’t heal you, but I can show you that you don’t need to face it alone. No matter what time it is, what the problem is, contact me. Whether you tweet me, e-mail me, anything, you contact me, and you spill your heart out.

I stand by, I can’t promise you I’ll understand what its like for you. But I will no judge, I will not mock, and most of all, I will listen to you. And sometimes that’s all it takes.

Defining A Game

So, I’ve been doing some thinking about this, as it is something that has been very prominent in recent years with regards to PC gaming specifically, and I think its still a very subjective topic. The question is: how do you define what is and isn’t a game?

There are a few factors that I feel affect this, and it is something that I think can still be further discussed and refined. It is also a discussion that needs to be had, as there is still a negative connotation surrounding things that are regarded as not games, but as “interactive experiences(IE’s)”, and honestly, there’s nothing negative about this at all. An interactive experience can be a good medium for someone to tell a story in a more visual way, but the interactivity still has to enhance the experience in some way.

To give some examples, Dear Esther is one that people often refer to as an interactive experience, and in a very negative way. I personally found Dear Esther to be a really good looking IE, and I think a lot of people did actually, but the story was pretty lackluster, and often it was very easy to miss some parts of the story because you didn’t explore a certain path. This is a very good IE to have this discussion about, because it raises the point of giving an element of exploration to these. If the player just wants to go through looking at the pretty landscapes and listening to a story, should it be fair that they miss out on some explanations or story elements because of that? Honestly I’m not completely sure. The argument could be made that if the exploration is taken out of the IE, and the player is then forced down a single linear path listening to the story, is there any point in it not being a short film? However, the argument could also be made that in fact, having certain aspects missed can be a good thing, as you then go back into the world to figure out what else is going on.

However, in the example of Dear Esther, this was poorly implemented. The world was pretty yes, the Caves and the Moonlit Beach being two absolutely gorgeous looking areas, however it was not a world worth revisiting. This is partially due to the lackluster story, as well as the complete lack of, well, anything in the environment to interact with.

That’s not to say it can’t be done though, for example in the case of To The Moon. This is something that I think straddles the line, as there is explicit interaction in regards to collecting memories to time-hop, however there is no failure state, as the memories are very easy to locate, and there is no punishment for not getting them all, as you have infinite time to do so. To The Moon was very well received however, as it still felt like the player interactivity actually meant something. The story was excellent, and it was backed by a fantastic soundtrack, and this helped, but I’d still call it an Interactive Experience, and I don’t think many would argue otherwise. To The Moon was a fantastic showing of how a story can be told in such a format without making the player feel redundant. This is surprisingly difficult to achieve, as shown by the next game from Freebird Games, A Bird’s Story, which was criticised for having almost no interaction whatsoever, and while still having a great story, lacked what To The Moon had.

In this case, A Bird’s Story was only drawing a line between To The Moon and its true sequel, Finding Paradise, however, it still had the same standards imposed upon it, and it didn’t hold up. This shows how thin the line is, as there wasn’t much difference between To The Moon and A Bird’s Story besides the story, and yet the lack of interactivity was an issue for many.

I propose that we set out some sort of standard that we can all agree on, in order to try and truly define these interactive experiences, and show that they can be good in their own right, and maybe remove some of the stigma surrounding them. So here’s what I think the criteria something should need to meet in order to be classified as a game.

  • There must be a failure state, either explicit or implied. For example, an explicit failure state would be death in a shooter, while an implied failure state would be failing to “woo” a love interest in a dating simulator.
  • There must be a certain level of interactivity, such that replaying, whilst maybe having the same story, can have completely different game experiences. For example, doing a stealth run of Dishonored and then replaying by murdering everyone.

I think these two rules can definitely be expanded on, and there could be more additions to make the line clearer, but I feel this is the right step to showing that interactive experiences are not just failed games, but in fact are their own medium, and can be just as engaging as a game.