Make the Jump & Write: Grappling Life

My hobbies of writing and music became my way of grappling the world. Using symbolic representations of real fears and situations is an effective way to think because it takes place within an environment entirely of your own creation. . . It is a controlled experiment.

— IphisAria

Nearly everyone has a hobby or some form of personal expression that they turn to on a regular basis. Some are physical, such as sports, while others are more brain-oriented, such as poetry and chess. Whatever it may be, all of these activities are forms of self-reflection. Sure, a person’s hobbies naturally complement their personality and interests. But to an extent, hobbies are a way of thinking through things. Thinking through life. Knitting provides a repetitive motion to maintain trains-of-thought and, blogs offer space to write these ponderings down.

Writing in particular reveals the beauty and struggles that an author is attempting to grasp. Try looking at the writings of your favorite and see what themes continually show up. Even if he/she has never dealt with something first-hand, there is something about their topics that intrigue them, inspiring them to revisit those curiosities over and over. I have found this to be true in my own writings.

The boy petting Trico in ‘The Last Guardian’

In my blog I have been dissecting the storytelling of Japanese game-designer, Fumito Ueda. His titles Shadow of the Colossus, ICO, and The Last Guardian have all fascinated me more than any author’s storytelling. And at least for me, it makes it even more fascinating that these gorgeous stories are not books, poetry or films but, are video-games. How did he do that? I marvel. I began using every bit of spare time to solve my many questions. What is it about Otani’s score that makes it so beautiful, so different? Why is Dormin so careful to use certain words but not others? Eventually I began to publish some of these writings. For a while I had been going with the purpose of setting fan theories straight and, to give justice to overlooked designs. Then I paused. I knew what Ueda was trying to wrestle with—loss, challenge, consequences, fate, powerlessness—but it dawned on me that I had not looked to see what I was wrestling with. I looked back over my posts and made a list:

  1. What do you desire? What has this done for you?
  2. Entering forbidden territory. The bill always comes due.
  3. Separation from those things and people who you care about.
  4. Being something others don’t understand; you have horns.
  5. What does a real friend look like?
  6. Bad things occur despite good intentions.
  7. Emotions will blind you. Memories. Mental demons.
  8. You influence your life but, someone greater also has an influence. Deity.
  9. Free will …and Fate. “Slaves to our Destiny“.
  10. Loss of control and vulnerability.

For some of these it is obvious where they fit in to everyday experiences. Lots of people understand the desire to find real friendships. And, I’m sure many of you can think of a time when you tried to do something with good intention, only for it to cause more harm. Having to change homes and separate yourself from those you loved is not comfortable. Neither is watching a friend you had from childhood turn into someone rough and foreign in personality, lacking that uniqueness that had made them so wonderful; it is like they became someone else, possessed and degraded by the pressures of this world. My fear in watching this was seeing the authenticity of that friendship fade into nothing, making it just as if the old friend never existed.

There is another fear I once had that did not make it onto the list, although I now realize that my writings never let it go. It is my childhood fear of thunderstorms. It was never just about the thunder, although the sound really did frighten me, so much that I hid under the blanket until the air ran out. It was just as much about what I perceived it to be. Such is the way of all fears. Because of my wildly active imagination, I would “see” things like giant Entities surging through the clouds and roaring through the crackling lights. The sky was so powerful, so huge. And I was so small, so weak. So human.

My writings have continued to point toward the things my mind had always pointed toward. The difference now is that my fears include more abstract concepts. When it was my inability to swing on the monkey bars, it is now that I seem to think on a different wavelength. There are little things that will add up which can make functioning an effort if I don’t fight them. Other variables such as my worldview and my tendency to overthink have given me a knack of garnering the ‘I think your horns are showing’ look. As a friend of mine once commented, “I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it’s kinda hard not to notice you. You stick out.” Since my experiences are what have shaped me since birth, it makes sense that they have become the lens through which I see the world. In ICO I saw the horned boy and found I could empathize with the way people saw him. Similarly, I could look at the giant, griffon-like creature in The Last Guardian and see that I was not alone in my search for that kind of companion.

The other girls would scream and talk loudly and laugh, but it was overwhelming for me to even be around. I much preferred focusing on one friend. When…my teammates would be riding up and down the elevators, splashing around in the swimming pool, and exploring the hallways of the hotel, I would watch movies and go out to eat with my dad. … He understood me, he wasn’t loud, and I could be silent around him without him asking what was wrong or thinking I was weird.

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Wander astride Agro in ‘Shadow of the Colossus’

Shadow of the Colossus, in particular, has checked off a lot of items for me. Having never read Harry Potter, graphic novels, Anime, or most media oriented at teens and young adults, I was frightened by but curious with ideas such as bargaining with a deity. You are a fallible mortal making compromises with a disembodied, supernatural Entity, and he may or may not be what you see him as. The possibility for things to go wrong is very high. What about that isn’t intriguing? Furthermore, as with stories like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, playing through to Shadow‘s ending checked off so many more boxes than I expected it too. It is a thought I was embarrassed of, but I had wanted to know what it might be like to be possessed by another’s will. Seeing how friends of mine went from being themselves to becoming ruled by external pressures, I think, was where this curiosity came from. That and my experience of always having deriding, controlling personas in my head.

I wasn’t interested in seeing Shadow’s protagonist collapse over and over for the sake of gut-wrenching feelings or, because I enjoyed seeing someone double over from pain. Not at all. There was something to it though—the injustice—that caught my attention. Here Ueda was having you play what could have been a happy ending, but he intentionally made it otherwise. He let Wander succumb to corruption, just as Tolkien did with Gollum and Frodo, or as with Ashitaka in Miyazaki’s Mononoke Hime.

Instead of ending the hero’s life, he decides to keep that hero alive. At a cost. Bringing him down to a mortal level. Preventing him from protecting a loved one. Twisting his selflessness back onto itself so that it becomes his undoing. Most of all, giving the protagonist everything that makes humanity undeniably vulnerable. Through sparing a character’s life, Ueda is able to make players feel just how weighty their decisions can become.

IphisAria

Every little (or big) thing about his stories was something that I wanted to know, to figure out, and wanted to experience. Similarly, my hobbies of writing and music became my way of grappling the world. Using symbolic representations of real fears and situations is an effective way to think because it takes place within an environment entirely of your own creation. You create the world. You make its people. You set things in motion. And if there’s something you need to see go down, you alter the variables and make it happen. It is a controlled experiment. Not every hobby can take it this far, but I encourage you to learn what shapes you, to learn what lies behind your choice in hobbies. What are you grappling with?


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3 thoughts on “Make the Jump & Write: Grappling Life

  1. I haven’t played any of these games yet your writing speaks to me. I just wanted you to know you have a knack for this. Loved reading some of your analytical posts about the story and music in games. Carry on! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by… I appreciate the encouragement! I enjoyed your writings about family memories; they are sweet and precious.

      Liked by 1 person

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