a.k.a What Video Games Have Taught Me
(This little piece of writing isn't meant to be taken seriously, so just enjoy... And thanks for reading...)
~Got Shot? No Problem!
Sometimes I have a feeling that being inside a war-related video game would be much safer than real life itself. That's because the virtual word is packed full of medicine and people that want to heal you. And most of times you don't even need any help.
Mirror's Edge shows that the only consequences of jumping from one skyscraper to another are getting dizzy and blurry vision. The heroine even gets shot on several occasions, but keeps on running and heals on the spot. Convenient, no? Just imagine how incredible our lives would be if we had the chance to zoom by tall buildings and not care if we got shot. It seems almost God-like.
~Medkits, Health Potions, Bandages... Chocolate?
There's always a cure for everything in a video game, which kind of makes life seem a letdown. Got sick in Oblivion? Just pop over at the nearest church and receive your daily and free blessing. Any resident of Rapture (Bioshock) can always find a couple of dollars and buy a coffee or chocolate cake (!) to boost up their life instantly without gaining an extra pound. Tomb Raider 6 gives you the choice of eating chocolate bars to boost your health, even though they're unwrapped and on the floor... Healing by eating sweets would certainly be a medical breakthrough if you could apply it to our world without the fear of getting fat...
And to top it off, medipacks or healing aids can be found throughout the virtual world as long as you look carefully enough. Sometimes they're in boxes, barrels, cupboards or just lying on the street in front of you, almost whispering "Pick me! Pick me!"
~You're the Hero? You're Safe, Buddy
There's nobody luckier than a video game hero... He always gets to fight an evil genius and save the world, he always gets the girl, he's the man everybody trusts and are wiling to help no matter what. In the real world the hero would be a popular jock that everyone hates just because he always gets his way.
Have you even noticed that the hero is the only one that withstands everything and never dies? Sometimes I wonder if his mother was a bodybuilder and his dad was half a tank. Max Payne is one example that comes to mind. From start to end the hero gets shot, exploded, survives a flaming building, falls two stories on a piece of metal, tortured, beaten, and managed to just walk off the pain every time. Having such power of immortality would certainly come in handy in the real world, wouldn't it?
I think the most unfortunate characters are the people that hang around the hero, they always get kidnapped or die five minutes into the video game, which makes our main character most likely to survive. After all, who would kill off a hero?
~Be Optimistic In the Wasteland
One useful thing that video games thought me is that you can see the bright side of something even when you're looking 500 meters into a desolate wasteland.
Fallout 3 is probably the only game I've seen that throws you into a depressing atmosphere, but constantly encourages you to be optimistic. In the Wasteland you don't have time to sit and mope around because you have to help others, deliver messages, basically give a hand at rebuilding a fallen world. I wish I'd see something like this in the real world, to see the masses fighting together to improve the world and really see results.
The game somehow seems to say that even a nuclear explosion shouldn't bring you down. Moira Brown, the researcher of Megaton, is the only survivor of the town, and even though she's completely changed by the radiation she's still determined to finish writing her book. Now that's optimism.
~Rewards are in the Air
Well, not literally... Have you ever woken up, dragged yourself over at the office and dreamed of seeing a brightly colored sign that reads: "20 XP Points Awarded"? Video games always reward you for almost anything you do, whether it's collecting a scroll or simply reaching a destination. But, sadly, life doesn't offer such encouragement. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get little prizes every time we did a good deed such as driving nana to the airport?
The Devil May Cry games have one of the best ranking and reward system I've ever seen. At the end of each level you're given a "grade" (S being the best and D being the worst) in order to summarize how you played. And I won't lie - the system is harsh and feels like it's mocking you every time you get anything below S. But the good part is that this motivates you to go back on the field and try again and again in order to improve yourself and make that system award you an S. Unfortunately life isn't that supportive, if you get a bad grade odds are you'll get grounded which to me means saying goodbye to improvement.
Video games use this system in order to motivate us, give us a reason to keep doing what we're doing; we're often awarded with money or experience points, something that can somewhat be related to life. We do our job, we get paid; we read a book, we get "invisible" experience points. But I'd still rather use the video game reward system...
I've always considered that American comics lacked a certain dose of originality when it comes to creating twists in a story or an end that isn't predictable. But, sadly, Japanese comics also have their downsides because of the way manga is categorized. When you pick up a shonen manga you know that it will end with the once weak protagonist saving the world alongside his loyal friends. Many shojo mangakas always end their stories with the shy girl getting together with the boy of her dreams, and even though it's good that it follows a pattern, it can get pretty boring and predictable, no?
But luckily there are plenty Japanese comics out there that have avoided certain cliches... (a.k.a here are some examples that I think have managed to get further away from the stereotypes)
(The text can be slightly spoilerific, so beware!)
When Imagination is in Order:
Writing about the daily lives of two students sounds boring, doesn't it? But this is where Yankee-kun to Megane-chan brings a healthy dose of imagination that gives the manga a comical effect like no other. How would you feel about reading a scene where characters literally fall through their school desks when they're presented with shocking news? Or how about a marathon that literally goes through people's living rooms? The artist's style goes incredibly well with these ridiculous events that help create a unique and equally hilarious manga. I think the message that the mangaka would wish to send is to let out your crazy side once in a while because it can be incredibly fun.
Even though it's categorized as shonen, Ga-rei has many outrageous incidents that would better suit this manga as a comedy. Every so often the mangaka goes further way from the usual serious battles with the bad guys and puts the emphasis on the crazy world around them. When the protagonist finds himself without a sword one of his companions gives him... an electric iron (yup, one of those you use to iron clothes). Just imagine our hero trying to fight his way through monsters and ghosts with an iron... And the boy doesn't even seem to be the one in charge - when the tables turn and he's kidnapped by an evil woman what does our hero think to himself? "Oh no, I'm princess Peach!"
I'm tired of vampire stories where the characters are handsome males that seduce young women. But Hitsuji no Uta takes the idea of vampirism to a whole new level when the mangaka explains that it is a rare disease that is hereditary in an ancient Japanese family and still affects their children. The catch? The characters don't know when or if they will get it, so they're constantly horrified by the idea of turning into a beast without control. In this manga, the people that eventually turn into vampires first suffer seizures similar to heart attacks; and the mangaka puts an emphasis on the malevolent, "uncool" side of vampires - they're basically creatures that can't be controlled and can hurt others.
When Realism is in Order:
I Wish... takes a much needed step away from the known shojo cliche by making the girl protagonist a witty confident girl that doesn't aspire to fall in love. Instead, the mangaka puts the emphasis on other people's stories and the way magician K grants their often selfish wishes. Again, the artist doesn't resort to the "happy end" for ever story, but often ends them with the characters saddened by a loss and learning a life lesson. I have yet so see another shojo manga resort to such techniques and I think it's a breath of fresh air much needed in the genre.
Although the times are pretty rare, Katekyo Hitman Reborn serves a nice dose of realism that sometimes reminds you that physics and death also apply in a make-believe world. An example is the mangaka's way of showing that you don't always win every battle even though you have the protagonist on your side. You'd think that the battle for the rings would end with the good guys winning? Well, they actually lose, all of them get gravely injured and one of their members almost dies. I think it's a nice twist in a genre that has it's emphasis on the protagonist constantly winning.
Akuma de Sourou contains most of the cheesy shojo elements we see everywhere, but it's one of the few Japanese comics that takes the time to explain why the protagonists' crush is an aloof and overemotional guy. The mangaka explains in detail about his past and the fact that during his childhood he was constantly overshadowed by his younger brother and never got any attention from his parents. And the artist puts a lot of effort into these details thus eliminating the chance of it getting dull to read.
Categorized as a mystery manga, The Hour of the Mice wastes no time to make it a point that realism can creep in everywhere. In a facility created to secretly train genius children the artist shows the reader that even kids can be affected and suffer, sadly just like in real life. One of the characters is weak, feeble, and often gets in the way of others. When a group of children become aware of their surroundings and try to escape, the little girl foils their plan and proves that even a well-thought plan can fail just as easily as it can in reality. It's a sad manga, but it's the artist's determination to portray reality what makes this Japanese comic original.
I'm not saying that more 'stereotype' Japanese comics are bad, but it's nice to see when some prefer to try something original and surprising. Here's hoping that someone that has never heard of these titles will pick one up and read it. ^_^
(My entry for the January Fan Challenge@The Watercooler I just really wanted to let out the anger I've had for a certain character for a long time. Feel free to guess who you think it is. Also, sorry for flooding your Backroom updates with this silly little letter.)
I feel like my brain has been itching me forever to send you this letter so I've decided to stop listening to reason and just say what's on my mind. It's been almost 5 years since I've had to get used to you and your obnoxiously white hair and I have to say that I've had enough. But you're so proud and selfish that you probably don't even know I'm alive, don't you? Well, let me refresh your memory.
The day we first met everyone said that I had to get used to the boss' death and just move on, and you know what? I tried. That day you didn't even bother to get up and shake my hand. I thought nothing of it and tried to work as diligently as I could. But when you forced my friend to take that radical decision and died, it just got personal. Since that day I've hated you and the whole world probably hates you too.
You're not only weird, you're whiny, irresponsible, and don't care about anyone or anything but your stupid reputation. I wish I'd say this to your face, but my dignity would probably stop me. But here it is anyway: you don't scare me, lowlife. I'm tired of seeing you every day at 6AM in your baggy shirt staring at a bunch of screens and accomplishing nothing. I'm tired of getting pushed around. I'm even tired of hearing your voice every damn day! I put my life on the line for you on more than one occasion, and every fiber of my being is repulsed by that. For God's sake, it's been 5 years and you've never even thanked me once!
I wish you'd understand that you can't replace him, but you're too high up in your little wonderland to notice it. He fought until the end and he didn't look like a fool doing it either. So get this through your hard skull: my old boss made a difference, but you never will.
So, for these reasons I've decided to quit. That's right, I'm out of this mess. And find someone else to accompany you on a plane because you're too scared of flying, pansy.
Hope to never see you,
[My entry for the "Halloween Writer's Jam". Apologies if there are any mistakes, English isn't my native language. Here's hoping someone will find it remotely scary.]
Blood veins dyed the evening ground,
The sky seemed fastened to the floor,
She heard a simple, subtle sound,
A knocking at the door...
That's how it started; so she paused
To hide her fear, oh but alas,
She looked around, and there it was,
The face pressed by the glass...
She clutched her hands and backed away,
"What do you want to prove?"
But the man did not obey,
The silhouette now moved...
Slowly creeping through the wall
Now all was made so clear,
The girl knew her soul would fall,
She knew her end was near...
"There is nothing I must prove,
I'm just taking what you stole."
Now he took another move,
"I'll be tearing out your soul"...
She seemed baffled and depressed,
By the sudden sense of heat,
His hand now sank in her chest,
And the girl fell to his feet...
"You've a very painful debt
So, make haste and let us start"
Spoke the ghostly silhouette.
And her chest was torn apart...
"Silly girl, your life has ended"
He now uttered to himself,
In agony she comprehended:
"The soul is ripping from myself!"
"Oh yes, this soul is fine!"
Spoke the man with ghostly mask,
But the girl's eyes seemed to ask,
"Will you please return what's mine?..."
Robbed of her soul so dear,
Still feeling burned inside
She understood it all too clear
"This pain will not subside..."
Feeling choked, the girl was crying,
She felt severed, full of holes,
"What a painful way of dying."
Said the man collecting souls...
Now she felt so torn apart...
He left the girl behind still knowing
She would hold that sense of burning
Forever in her heart.
[I'm aware that this doesn't go with the theme of my World, but please save the torches and pitchforks until after the competition :)]