Archive | November 2015

Taking Precautions And Adapting To Change With Our Wellbeing

So I recently got myself some glasses. I’d been needing them for a long time, but had been putting off the opticians since I’d had a bad experience with them as a kid. The other thing is that I suppose I feel a little self-concious about wearing them. It’s not about how they make me look – I think glasses can really suit people – but just because of how short sighted I actually am. I often pretend that I can see something at a distance when I can’t. I know it’s silly and that being short sighted isn’t unusual. I think the reason I feel this way is that there is a little bit of self-blame involved. Whenever I’m not well it’s often put down to not sleeping enough or spending too much time on the computer (yes, even with Flu.) I feel ashamed if something affects my well-being that could potentially be my fault for not taking better care of myself. I use computers a lot and read regularly, two activities that I’ve heard can aggravate short-sightedness – although I do take precautions such as using eye-saver mode on my monitor, taking regular breaks, using eye drops and making sure I blink frequently.

I’m not sure how using a computer affects your eyes exactly, but it’s a concern that I’ve heard from many people in regards to our increased use of technology. Many of us have no choice but to spend hours in the office, which can cause strain if we’re not careful. I’m not sure if this is anything particularly new though, it’s just that the nature of the strain has changed. My uncle has told me stories about when he worked in a factory, and how over long periods of time this could affect your joints. I also recall being told during archery that it’s possible to tell if somebody was an archer because their bodies have bent spines, caused by picking up arrows. Archery puts a lot of strain on the shoulders too. The fact is, the more we do something the more our bodies change and adapt and we risk picking up a few niggles along the way too. Most of us find ourselves having to specialise over our lifetimes as a part of our jobs or because we want to be really good at something. I frequently berate myself for not taking better care of myself, but the alternative would have been to cut back on the things I get fulfilment from.

Most of us hide behind a mask and so it can seem like you’re the only person struggling with a particular ailment, but I imagine that most of us have some niggles that we’ve had to find a way to cope with. The book series Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini describes my feelings towards the human body really well. One of the characters sustains an injury to his shoulder and contemplates how it can never be fixed. We’re given the one body and I guess it feels sort of precious to me to the point that the thought of damaging it permanently unsettles me. Although, I do also think that we’re probably far more adaptable than we realize. I continue to be inspired by people that have gone through hardship and have yet endured and continued to live happy lives. According to the article ‘The Impact Bias‘ by James Clear, we often miscalculate how happy we’d be after the impact of major change, and those that have been through it consider themselves to be just as happy as they were before. Our bodies might not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still live fulfilling lives.

Most of us know that prevention is probably better than dealing with the cure – if there even is one -, but we also struggle to always take our well-being into consideration. From moment to moment it’s easy to forget or to consider our decisions over long term, even though we are well aware of the warnings. Many of us also have emotional reasons behind why we behave a certain way; For example, food and games can become a go-to for stress, or we avoid things due to negative association (such as my case with the opticians.) The way our bodies change is also a normal part of getting older. While I’m not suggesting that we don’t take care with our physical well being, our niggles, wrinkles and scars tell a story about us and how we’ve lived. I think there is a certain beauty to that and through acceptance we can help to make it easier on ourselves to adapt.

Celebrate The Small Things: 27 November

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I got my new glasses this week, but I’ve gone from nothing to a fairly strong prescription so its been hard adjusting. I don’t think they were fitted right either as they haven’t been comfortable to wear. I went back to the opticians today to see if they could do something about it, and I’m feeling a lot better about it now. People have told me that glasses suit me, which is nice.

I head back to the butterfly house and it was great being able to see things more clearly there, so making the most of it. I enjoyed photographing butterflies before and wanted to have another go at it; This time I looked up some tips on how to do it. Of course this means I have even more photos I have to organise and work through now, but I definitely think I’ve got some good ones. Got to hang out with some Ring-tailed Lemurs too, and a couple of them sat on my shoulders.

Some DLC for Bloodborne finally came out this week, so I’m returning back to what has been one of my favourite games this year.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

 

Thoughts On Life Is Strange

Life Is Strange is an episodic graphic adventure in which your choices have consequences. It’s about a girl called Max, that develops the ability to time travel and uses it to help her friends and solve the mystery of disappearing students. As usual I waited for all of the episodes to be released before giving this one a go. I really enjoy interactive fiction as I find it relaxing and the choices gives me a strong feeling of agency. I usually develop attachments to the characters to the point that once it’s over I feel a sense of sadness for leaving them behind. Life Is Strange succeeded in this respect.

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Difficulties In Deciding What To Play

My partner does this thing that drives me crazy. On a regular basis he’ll reel off a long list of games and ask for advice on what to play, only I think he’s searching for a perfect answer that I cannot give. Through his indecision he’ll attempt to play several at once, but in doing so make very little progress on any of them. I on the other hand prefer to focus on one game at a time. Although sticking to one game is more of a personal preference because I find that trying to take in too much breaks my engagement, and I look forward to going back to what I was doing. I don’t often have trouble deciding what to play next as I’ll have ideas while getting through the current one. Moving on can then be quite exciting. The only time I feel a bit unsettled is if a game I’m really enjoying ends too quickly before I’m ready to move on.

I think a part of the problem is that once you become an adult you have less time and more responsibilities, and so picking exactly the right game feels important. As I’ve gotten older this has resulted in a slight change in my gaming tastes and I now prefer quality over quantity. I find it a bit daunting starting longer open world games for instance. Although I also find that I have more patience to complete games, but will spend less time working on optional content like earning trophies. Worrying too much about whether we are doing the right thing can cause us to put off starting. Over-thinking a decision can be a form of procrastination in and of itself, which is actually counter-intuitive in regards to how much gaming time we get. Perhaps it’d be better just to chuck a game on and if it doesn’t take within the first few minutes, try something else. More often than not I find that I can become engaged with almost anything after I’ve started.

I think another issue is that we have a lot more choice than we use to. As a kid I could only get a few new games a year, but I really appreciated them. When I got a new game I’d rush home and instantly start playing it. My enjoyment of that game could last for months and I’d return to it several times. Nowadays I have hundreds in my backlog, which you’d think would be a gamers delight, but more choice isn’t always a good thing. I seem to remember reading in a psychology book somewhere that we can only handle so many choices at a time. Getting a new game is no longer such a thrill and it takes a lot more to impress me. Unless it’s a game that I’m really excited about, I’m far more patient to wait for them to come down in price as I know I’ve got others to play. What the new game is offering might be similar to something I already have in my library anyway. It’s another reason for why I prefer to take on one game at a time, because to think about completing the entire growing collection is not only daunting but probably close to impossible.

My partner will say things like, ‘I should play this one, but I feel like this one,’ to which I respond to go with the one he fancies the most. I don’t think ‘should‘ is the right word to use; Games are enjoyable because we choose to play them, not because we feel like we have to. For example, I’m not keen on gimmicks like temporary EXP bonuses in online games because it starts to feel like a chore; I talk about the game as something I should be doing – rather than wanting to do – before the time runs out. It seems to me that by over thinking the decision on what to play we might have lost sight of what a game is for. Unlike work, play has some spontaneity to it.

Difficult decisions only exist when there is no clear right answer and all of the options are equally good/bad. We try to weigh things up to find the clear winner, but not everything is comparable (games from different genres for example.) What we finally decide to settle on is more to do with who we are than the options themselves. If we look deep down we might be able to figure out what we’re most in the mood for, but if not we could probably pick any option to see if it takes. I do sometimes consider release dates that might interfere with a lengthy game, although it doesn’t really matter if we never complete one or spend much time on it, so long as we get what we wanted from it – in my case fun and chill-out time. If we don’t seem to be taking to any game however, perhaps that’s just a sign that we need a short break from playing. It’s possible to feel fatigued from any activity no matter how much we enjoy it, but the urge will return eventually, and all the stronger for it.

Celebrate The Small Things: 20 November

I got a new monitor to hook my computer and consoles up to. I couldn’t reach the higher resolutions before, and it looks awesome. Went to a retro game fair as well. It was kind of small and not very exciting, but I bought a copy of the PS1 game Fade To Black, which we had sold when I was younger. It wasn’t a great game, but nostalgia.

The main thing that I got sorted this week was to go to the opticians and finally get myself some glasses. I’m short sighted and have been needing them for a long time, but one of the struggles I have with anxiety is that I end up putting off things to do with my health and well being. Besides, I had a pretty bad experience with them as a kid and so for me it can feel worse than going to the dentist even. They were actually very friendly and I’m relieved – as is usually the case – to have finally gone for it. I’m looking forward to getting my glasses and having clearer vision. Perhaps I’ll appreciate my new monitor more this way.

Had a catch up at the pub last night. That was fun, and another good test for my attempts to be more mindful. As much as I enjoy hanging out, I find that a lot of social stimulation is something that can put my mind into overdrive. I felt a lot calmer in myself though. Made more of an effort to listen to what people had to say rather than fighting to get heard and it did feel a lot better.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

Negativity Towards Negative Emotions

I come from a fairly hardy family that can always find a way to laugh and smile, even at the worst of times. I really admire that about them, but on the flip side I feel like we often deal with problems by keeping busy and distracting ourselves. I’ve gotten very good at putting a mask on my emotions and acting happy, even when deep down I’m not. There are days when everything I’ve been bottling up will suddenly spill out uncontrollably, old feelings that I didn’t deal with at the time. I think that many of us have learnt to deal with our negative emotions by concealing or running away from them. We can be pretty eager to give advice to others to help them to move past feeling bad too, as if happiness is the ultimate goal. I’ve started to wonder recently if this is really the most helpful way to handle things.

Whenever I feel upset I also have a mild panic about not wanting anybody else to notice. If I’ve been crying I’ll spend a long time attempting to conceal my red puffy eyes afterwards. If somebody does notice I’m instantly beset by guilt and shame. I criticise myself for not being a stronger person and for allowing myself to get carried away with my emotions. I do this even when it’d be perfectly reasonable for me to be upset, such as during the loss of a loved one. Quite obviously, behaving in this way only makes things worse, while a little self-compassion goes a long way. Life is full of ups and downs and it’s a normal part of the human experience to feel a whole range of emotions, good and bad. Most children don’t feel guilty for crying when they’re upset, but when we become adults we find it far more uncomfortable to deal with.

Negative emotions exist to inform us about things that might not be right, and only by accepting them can we start to find a way to make our lives a little easier. I read recently in the book ‘Why Can’t I Meditate?‘ by Nigel Wellings that a common misconception about mindfulness is that it’s going to get rid of your negative thoughts, when in actuality it’s about learning to comfortably sit with them; A lot of people consider themselves to be bad at meditation for this reason. It sounds a little odd that to overcome something you have to confront it, but in doing so we can better learn how to deal with our emotions rather than allowing ourselves to get swept away by them. It’s important to remember that we gain information on how to act from both our emotional and rational self, and they don’t always match up.

I try to lend a listening ear to others when they are down, but admittedly it’s not easy to be around people that are unhappy on a regular basis. There are some people that can totally change the vibe of a place the moment they enter. It’s particularly tough on very empathetic people, and it’s fair for us to put our well-being first and politely back away if we need to. If we can learn to acknowledge a person’s emotions without taking them on ourselves however, we can better support others while also keeping ourselves safe. Most people don’t realize when they’re being overly negative or how this affects the people around them; It’s possible that they’re  struggling with self-critical thoughts and a few kind words will make all the difference.

I heard some good advice the other day on how to connect with people that have depression if you don’t understand how it feels yourself. While not everybody experiences emotions to the same intensity, it’s still possible to try and relate to them by remembering the times when we’ve felt unhappy, because we’ve all been there at some point right? It’s a common complaint that being told to ‘pick yourself up’ is insensitive, and I wonder if there would be as much taboo if we had a greater acceptance of negative emotions being a part of our lives. Instead of beating ourselves up every time we fail to dispel them we could learn better ways to live with them instead.

I get the feeling that many of us never learn how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way because we’ve spent most of our lives trying to push them aside, but it’s ok to take a moment to pause every once in a while when things get on top of us. Sometimes we just have to let them run their course and they will pass with time.

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Voiceovers Can Make Or Break A Game

I stumbled across an interesting conversation through Twitter about voice overs in games. General consensus was that it could ruin a game. I feel that I’ve had both good and bad experiences with character voices and think it depends on the type of game, the quality of the voice acting and how we as the player prefer to engage.

I loved having a voice for my character in the games Mass Effect and The Old Republic, as it helped me to connect with the character and gave them personality. Although these titles do have good voice acting in them which helps. I really liked the voice of my Sith Inquisitor for instance, and I think it bought life and energy to the dialogue. On going back to games that use text they felt a little flat by comparison. Some games also use way too much text and it can make my eyes sore to read so much on a screen. On the other hand I can see how text would be preferable if you’re not a fan of the voice acting. I can also read faster than a line can be spoken and sometimes I’ll get impatient and skip it. Although my partner and I like to play story heavy games together (like Heavy Rain) and find it helps to have voice acting so that we don’t accidentally skip ahead before the other person has finished reading.

I find character design particularly interesting, and so when given the option to create one I usually base them on a personality that I have chosen. Sometimes I even talk about them like they’re real people. How I play them is partly based on how I feel, but also on how I believe my character would act. Being able to role-play allows us to explore ideas that we would otherwise feel uncomfortable doing ourselves, but for the most part they either end up being who I’d like to be or the type of character I find interesting. I feel like the best RPGs help you to fill out your character or at least leave enough space for you to use your imagination. Voice acting can either help me to connect with them more easily, or can put me off by being ill-suited. One line can be spoken in multiple different ways, and this does affect the feel of a character’s personality and mood.

We don’t always have a choice on the character we get to play however, but the silent protagonist may still be preferable. It can make it far easier for us to insert ourselves into the role of another character if they are left as a blank slate (This works fairly well in Half Life and Dark Souls.) Too much talking can also be distracting from the sense of atmosphere, something which SOMA was criticised for. On the other hand I feel that a voice over can actually help us to connect with the character and the narrative. Even if I can’t fully project myself onto a character, I can sympathise with them and care about their situation (it surprised me in Until Dawn that even though I disliked some of the characters I still felt bad if I couldn’t keep them alive.) Although in choice heavy games I’m not so keen on hearing too many of the character’s thoughts. I found that in Life Is Strange, Max’s feedback on the choices I made could influence my decisions. Maybe the point was to help me to understand potential consequences, but there were moments where I didn’t appreciate being made to feel bad no matter what I did.

Another way to give voice to a character is to use an incomprehensible noise to suggest they are talking, like Simlish or the way they talk in Okami. I guess this gives them a little more personality than the silent protagonist, but not as suggestive as a full voice over. One game that comes to mind is Don’t Starve, in which the character voices are represented by different instruments. The way they sound gives a sense of character and emotion to their speech without requiring voice acting.

I personally have no preference for whether a game uses a voice over or not because I don’t have any trouble engaging with different types of character, whether I am playing as myself, a person I’d like to be or somebody entirely different. So long as it fits the game and the voice acting is of a good quality then I probably won’t think more on it. Even if the voice acting is below par it can sometimes add to the character of a game by giving us something to laugh about. It can drastically affect the feel of a game however, and a voice over might not always be needed.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 13 November

autumn_twitterI might not be an outdoorsy person, but every so often I just feel the need to escape and get some fresh air. I went for a stroll with my camera hoping to find some mushrooms to photograph. I thought I was a bit too late and couldn’t see any at first, but after spotting the first one I kept coming across more. I got few interesting Autumn photos to work with out of this. I put some of them on my Red Bubble already, although I have loads more that I haven’t yet gotten around to sorting out.

My partner checked out my latest ideas for the game I’m working on and he seemed to agree, that my current solution has resolved a few issues. Yay, if he hadn’t have liked it I think I’d be out of ideas for this. With it moving in the right direction we could start to figure out a few other mechanics. I’ve implemented a few changes this week and I’m feeling mostly positive about it. I spent some time relaxing and drawing too, as I’ve still been feeling off with this allergy or whatever it is. I picked up some tablets though, so lets see if they make a difference.

Finally got to see Jurassic World 4D. I’m not sure if I’d watch a film for the first time in 4D as it could be a bit distracting (not even sure if it works so well with films that haven’t been built specifically for it), but I found it a lot of fun regardless. Besides, dinosaurs! 😛

f5f01-vik-smallthings2Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

Autumn Leaves

Over on Nerd In The Brain the latest Go Learn, Go Play challenge is to look at leaves.Sometimes I feel down at this time of the year as things start to die off, but there are still lots of interesting things to see just during the Autumn. With the leaves changing to all sorts of beautiful colours I decided to set out with my camera to see if I could capture them.

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Thoughts On You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) By Felicia Day

In all honesty, I wasn’t too aware of who Felicia Day was when I came across this memoir, but the description for You’re Never Weird on the Internetsounded really interesting. She’s an actress, comedian and writer as well as an avid gamer. One of her more well known pieces of work is a web-series called The Guild, about gamers meeting up through their love of an MMORPG. (It’s incredibly entertaining and funny, so if you haven’t seen it yet check it out on her channel Geek & Sundryhttp://geekandsundry.com/shows/the-guild/.) Within the book she writes about her unusual up-bringing and how this has influenced her life, including her love for video games. She also explores her battles with depression while working on The Guild.

It might seem strange that I’d read a book about somebody that I didn’t know that much about, but it sounded like something I could relate to and it allowed me to acquaint myself with her. I think it’s wonderful for people to share their thoughts, tribulations and jubilations about life, and in doing so you come to realize that we’re not all that different. That sounds a bit odd considering that Felicia Day is known for encouraging people to embrace their weird, but I also think that most of us are just trying the best we can and we’re not alone in some of the problems we face. One of the issues that Felicia seems to struggle with is this need to strive for perfection and an anxious mind that has her worrying over potential problems. One of her stories was about how a teacher tried to encourage her to be satisfied with her best, but instead she obsessively studied to get the high grade, even though afterwards she hasn’t used that knowledge since – it sort of reminds me of how I was at school. Although I do love her uplifting attitude about how our differences can help us to stand out. She was mostly home-schooled and one of her thoughts particularly stood out to me, that even though it was hard missing out on the social connections, there were paths that she could enjoy pursuing that she might have otherwise been discouraged from due to peer pressure – such as her enjoyment of maths. While others can have a very positive influence on us, we can also lose parts of ourselves trying to fit in.

I enjoyed this autobiography more than others I’ve tried because despite her success she still came across as a down to earth person that I could relate to. (I’m not so keen on the ones that name drop too many famous people for example.) She writes very openly about her World Of Warcraft compulsion and her issues with anxiety. Even after gaining success, she didn’t find it to be the key to happiness because of the pressure to continue delivering and in turn the fear of what would become of her after this major part of her life ended. In a final chapter she also shares her thoughts about Gamergate, and that while it was a scary experience she feels like it’s important to stand up for what you think is right.

While it might sound as if she explores some heavy issues, for the most part the book maintains a light and witty tone. She has a wonderful sense of humour that can make you laugh even about topics that carry a lot of stigma. Many of her words are also incredibly inspiring. I found it interesting to watch The Guild after reading this because I could see just how much her life had influenced the characters and plot. Overall it’s a very easy read about how she discovered a sense of community through gaming.