In Defense of Sports to the Internet Intellectual or The Tale of Two Cities as seen through Matthew Dellavedova

There are two things that are almost definitely true. 1. You’re on the internet too much. 2. So is that friend whose eyes you can feel rolling through the chasm of the internet when you post about sports. They’ll subtweet or post a meme some 30 seconds later with stuff like “Go sportsball!” or “Sports is a tool used by the elite to pacify the masses!” Look, I can’t help you with number 1 because I’m somehow on the internet more than you, but I can help with number 2. Go ahead and invite your number 2 over for some wine and that stuffed pepper recipe you got from Pinterest and then say: Hey, roll those eyes back, Jack and let me take you on a ride.

Start the conversation with one big ole I’m sorry.  Just apologize straight up for the population of sports enthusiasts who tend to says things like “I don’t get why women are marching, they already have plenty of rights.” Now it may seem like there’s a lot of them, but it seems that way everywhere they go. They’re just somehow louder than everyone else. Even at the zoo. You’ll find them tapping on the glass way harder than has to be allowed, while somehow yelling over a gaggle of 4th graders, to whom, I’m not quite sure:

“Look! That one’s the Alpha!”

All of this just moments before “The Alpha” goes and humps a giant golf ball. Then, you’re going to let them in on a little secret. I might die for this, but I’m doing this for you. I took up writing as a means to share my experiences and I’ll be damned if they miss some of the best storytelling in human history, because of some social boundaries manufactured by pride. Here it goes. Sports fans are nerds. In fact, we’re the biggest group of nerds in American history. We dress up as our favorite Wizards and Warriors and pay to watch live battles with rules that are no less complicated than Quidditch. Some of us sit in dark basements crunching complex numbers to prove whatever unbearable opinion we might have, and on the weekends we go and LARP on our respective battlefields yelling out famous wizard’s names like “Kobe!”, whose resemblance to the crier is only uncanny in his mind’s eye.

 

download “But Kobe’s was a Laker!”

What sports fans like about sports is the same thing other fellow nerds like about fantasy stories. There’s a Ring. A rare and enviable Ring that brings you and your family fame and riches. People from all walks and lands yearn for this Ring. Some were destined for the chase. crowned kings before their journey even began. Others pretended, like us, partaking in their games to pass the time, only to realize that maybe this isn’t pretending, maybe this is real. Some chase The Ring as an excuse to run from their past, while others to make amends for it.

Legends from less learned men will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen, you can never win The Ring alone. You must create a team, a fellowship if you will, to transcend each other’s weaknesses in pursuit of a greater goal. And the best part is, we can reach out and touch these would-be champions, because they’re real people, people who’ve grown and developed and strive for their goals. The consequences, though trivial out of context, are high to these men and women, because they’ve devoted their entire lives to The Ring’s quest. Even if the stakes are manufactured by our society’s reward systems the drama of interacting personalities in this pursuit of The Ring is real. They’re creating a fantasy adventure novel before our very eyes with Shyamalanesqe twists that we can never truly see coming. Self contained in their vacuum of The Ring’s Quest, they’re the pinnacle of what humans can do when we push ourselves in the face of crippling pressure and what else are stories supposed to do but bring our human nature to bare?

If they’re still not convinced, give them an example. That’s part of the beauty of sports, there’s no shortage of parables if you just stop and breath and listen — they just sort of bloom before you like a flower, and when you’re from Milwaukee, you know nothing blooms in our winters, except for maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo and the young Bucks.

This story starts in Cleveland, Ohio; a similarly struggling province to Milwaukee in most of America’s eyes, but there’s one stark difference. Cleveland is the domain of King James; destroyer of rims, chaser of ghosts. I would even argue, vehemently, that LeBron James is the protagonist of the NBA. You don’t have to like him, you just have to understand that the pinnacle of every story-line runs through his land. It’s either about you beating LeBron or LeBron beating you.

The first chapter picks up right after the last book, where we found King James conquering The Warriors, who’d foiled his prodigal son-like homecoming the year before. King James wasn’t alone is his conquest, as I said before no one does it alone, he had a team of Cavaliers who played sometimes small, but never unimportant roles. In this cast of characters we’ll find the catalyst of our tale, the gruff and scrappy rogue from down undah, Matthew Dellavedova. We’ll call him Delly for short, doesn’t sound as cool, but this is a long story. So, The King brings The Ring to the city of Cleveland, restoring color to their hope famished faces. There’s a parade and some hugs and high fives and one of James’s Cavaliers doesn’t put his shirt on for like a month, but afterwards Delly finds there are battles to be had a few cities away, most importantly, battles offering a bountiful bounty that he couldn’t refuse.

Delly bids welfare and rides off to the Northwest and when he arrives at his new city he begins to recognize most of the same; Milwaukeeans meandering around, shoulders slumped with the weight of melancholy, the herald of champions only muttered in history lessons from the mouths of their father’s fathers. The upside is, boy do they love to drink. A lot. In fact, legend has it, it’s impossible to out-drink either lad or lass from Milwaukee, no matter the circumstance. Delly tried, of course, where he’s from they say they same thing. Besides, Legends also said you couldn’t come back from 3-1 lead. Legends are often wrong. So as he drinks, he learns through the murmurs in the taverns that not all of Milwaukee is hopeless. There’s the mead half full crowd that tell rumors of a Greek Freak. A long, impossibly athletic young man, from a land stricken with war and poverty, who’s gangly arms have started to fill into our imposed imagination of an Olympian, who can take one dribble from the equator and throw down lightning like Zeus. Delly finished his beer, and said to himself. “Legends are often wrong, but rumors are rarely true.” The next day he suits up with his new company of Young Bucks to find out just what they’re capable of, and as they march on, slogging through the harsh and frigid war season, he begins to witness something he never had before a rumor becoming a legend.

It’s through this perspective of Matthew Dellavedova you start to see the greatness budding in the young Antetokounmpo by contrasting Giannis’ growth with King James’ dominance. Delly is a mirror of sorts, vital to the narrative, as he forecasts a coming storm. While Milwaukee shakes with anxiety to see if The Bucks can conquer their youthful inconsistency, and in turn, the Raptors for the throne in the north, there’s a much greater battle going on inside of Giannis. You can see it in his muscles and scars, hear it in his voice, and read it in his posture. The boy that came to Wisconsin as yet another Hail Mary for the State, is learning what it takes to hoist The Ring for his realm of Milwaukee. The boy from Greece is starting to learn how to control his destiny and ultimately usurp a titan and rule from his throne at the summit of Olympus. These are the stories that make us want to go out and play pretend, to search on YouTube for hours trying to find how they do it, and ultimately, they bleed their values of discipline and dedication into the rest of our lives, where we make decisions outside of their vacuum. Just as Harry or Aragorn or Roland have done. Sports brings humanity to bare, like Delly does for Giannis, so, what don’t you like seeing in the mirror?

Thank you guys for reading and mostly follow me on Twitter if you wanna read more. Bucks in 6. 

Flashback Friday: Together

It’s impossible to live in the present. I can sit here and I can tell you that I meditate, that I try and listen past my ego, that I never look back, that I never cast wishes with teary eyes into the future but truth is, I’m obsessed with time. When is it coming, when I make the world a better place, when I make a better me? And while I look ahead I often miss the change, a minute metamorphosis that’s a catalyst to greater and greater things. So let’s look back, Together, to my first ever short story pertaining to my obsession with an obsession beyond time. A forever love.

Together

Her face, so flawless, elegant, I reach out and touch her. Her eyes, they pierce me. It doesn’t hurt at first, I can feel them run through, like a hot knife through butter. The sanguine sheets wrap us together, she won’t let me go, she can’t let me go. I grab my chest, the red drips from my hands. Her hand slowly caresses the back of my head; the warm, soft skin of her arms pressing against my cheek. It’s so cold. So much more empty than this winter breeze.

I stand here sunrise to sunset, the world around me changes and yet it feels so much the same. The looks of angst, the hustle, the stress. Each step, everything to lose. The days of prohibition still remain, gone are flasks and jugs, replaced with bags and orange bottles. It’s so easy to get lost 

Her face, so flawless, so elegany, I reach out and touch her. Her eyes, they pierce me, the sanguine sheets wrap us together, she won’t let me go. She inches her lips ever so close; enticing, provocative, irresistible. I can taste them. Her hand slowly caresses the back of my head; the warm, soft skin of her arms pressing against my cheek. My breathing slows in anticipation; like the hushed silence before a ravaging storm.

My body jolts, and my eyes widen. A thunder echoes and rolls off the interior hull. Paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights, my foot backs off the gas. I grab my chest, the red dripping from my hands.

She strikes like lightening, gripping my hair, wrenching closed the gap. Her lips, meet mine. A  tingle, a spark, rolls down my spine into my fingertips. She flips her leg over me, putting her on top. My hand slipping down her bare back, the other grabbing her waist. Her arms cradled my neck. Our kiss never to break.

She screams. On cue our Ford became a flimsy tin can, target practice for a bunch of farm boys.  It doesn’t hurt at first, I can feel them run through, like a hot knife through butter. My head lifelessly rolls to the passenger seat. Her fading eyes, they pierce me. She clenches my hand, she can’t let me go. I hear the drop of the final hammer.

I sit on the edge of the bed, naked and vulnerable. The only thing in my hand: a velvet box. Our future inside. I face away from her, my body hiding our final binding tie. We could go legit, we can step away, have a family. She reminds me what it means to be us, what we stand for. But, I’ve made her into me. Hope faded away. All we had was each other now. I drop the box into the heap of my cloths on the floor, and climb into bed. Her face, so flawless…

Together is meant to be from the eyes of a ghost, specifically Clyde yearning for Bonnie, conscious both in the now and the defining moments of his obsession. The present is simply a reference to his torture; the fulcrum that this wheel of past rotates around. I try to use vivid imagery to show a stark close up of moments that are seared into Clyde’s memory, sort of like a David Fincher film, and then pull back from those moments to give you a clearer grasp of the scene. Each time you pull back from the repeated phrases you get a different perspective of these blurred memoriew of memories. Together was extremely early in my career and was the first thing I wrote when I had originally decided I was going to take the steps to become a full time writer (7 years later, still finding my way). Honestly I’ve gotten better at using the focus and pull back in Truth Is, specifically nailing it during my Aria chapters, where she’s drunk and analyzing a dangerous suitor. 

She spied with her dirty emerald eyes, the glimmer in his, that one too-many shine.

-Truth Is, Robert E Bishop

And from there it would pull back to his face and how the club lights bounced off his too-white teeth that looked like a cage, and back again as he develops the visage of a prowling cat. She thought she saw a puddy tat. She did, she did. Aria has some problems. 

I’m fond of this literary dolly-shot when you want to open a scene with some cinematic flair in order to focus on the weight of a specific object. I was always told to trust the intelligence of my readers but I think you can only trust them when you manipulate them to look at you want them too, through subversive techniques. I think this came to me early in my career because of my background a cinephile, setting up images on a screen that can mean one thing but the lighting, music, and framing can tell you something completely different.

Together is fun and stylistic, if simple. I think I can pull off something more robust in the future by using more unique and impactful imagining and setting up a coherent “now” as contrast for the fulcrum, so the reader can watch the world spin more clearly. I love using my old work as reference and inspiration because sometimes you lose a little of what made you, you as you hammer out those imperfections along the way.

Hope you guys enjoyed reminiscing with me, and again thank you for all the support. If you haven’t yet please give my blog and Twitter a follow for updates on projects. And if you’re interested into looking into looking up Aria, one of the shining gems of my last book Truth Is, you can but it here! Thanks again!

Game Design: The Anatomy of Conflict

The flutter in your chest mimics the butterflies in your gut, your eyes dilate and the world is clear and for the first time, every time, you feel alive. Your palms get sweaty, but you don’t lose grip as you walk the tightrope between bellowing a war cry and quiet obsession. This is the epitome of thrill. This is eldest of human interactions. This is fight or flight. This is conflict.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder why more advanced civilizations have tried to recreate it through a coliseum filled rush of empathy conceived by ancient Romans. But more recently, through the aid of technology, we’ve eliminated the need for empathy, pitting us directly into the Flavian Amphitheater while pacifying the consequences. We do this by hacking our emotional responses through interactive visual and auditory stimuli, otherwise known as video games. So how do game developers hack our brains in modern times to give us this rush of conflict? There’s a short and long answer. There’s a whole ‘nother boring blog about what makes a person want to fight another person, because we all know in secret what those reasons are, but the simple short answer is you give them a single objective to fight for.

So let’s build on that. There’s a finish line drawn in the dirt a few meters away and you have to get there before “the other”. What’s your first instinct? You race towards it in a straight line and you just happen to have your bare foot past the finish line before your opponent. I throw you a strawberry. Strawberries are dope; they’re juicy and it quenches the thirst you’ve built up from actually moving around for once. You smile. Now I say it again. Get to the finish line before the other person.You look at the person next to you, and they’re gritting their teeth. They stop when they catch you staring and they turn their head forward, focused on the goal. They want that strawberry. Strawberries are dope.

s-601918aab8c83c8ac8d710db5efa3691863a8539Just look at ‘um.

3,2,1, GO! You take your first step, same as before, because it worked last time and the next step you take doesn’t actually happen. You’re laying flat on your face. The jerk tripped you. To you, this is called bullshit. To them, it’s called Strawberries are dope. To me, I call it funny, and the game has just changed. It’s now a game of physicality, not just speed. Next time I say go. You’re forced to leap over their outstretched leg and you leave them in the dust or not win the strawberry. You do it. Nomnomnom. One more time. Go. They deck you in the head. Game over. This is called a “meta” or the game within the game. The finding and exploiting of the most effective route to victory given the game’s current set of parameters.

Sounds a lot like the rest of life, doesn’t it? I think we’ve all learned something today.

Anyway, eventually that whole beating each other’s asses until you cross the finish line thing gets a little stale. The same person keeps winning every time and they’re eating all the strawberries and only people who emulate that same person ever end up getting close. So all the strawberries we were donating to watch these races just go in our own mouths because it isn’t fun anymore. So, like these people, I’m going to abandon this barbaric strawberry metaphor because I value your intelligence and I think you got it. Good games evolve over time to keep that thrill of the clash alive, to keep you constantly engaged and thrilled. Bad games stay stale.

So obviously we have to add variations like a ball or a basket or a virtual rifle, maybe some rules like don’t deck people, don’t pass the ball backwards or you can’t use Akuma. If you do these correctly, it won’t hurt “the integrity” or the original intention of how the player was supposed to achieve their established goal. These rules and variations are obviously tricky. If you make too many changes, the game won’t develop a meta naturally and players won’t establish a hierarchy of dominance, which is one of those dope strawberries that’s built into the human psyche, and if you change too little, you’ll get the repetitious example above.

League of Legends is the most coherent illustration on how this is done. You’ve heard of LoL, and if you haven’t, just ask one of your friends and they’ll beg you for an intervention. It’s an IV drip of combat. You’re racing your opponent to gather currency by kicking their ass and slaying waves of your their  minions. Your character gains experience from those feats unlocking abilities, and the more currency you earn buys items, together making your murder loop more effective. The end goal of that loop-race is to blow up your opponent’s starting point and to do that you have to destroy defenses towers on the way. Those defense towers are also only vulnerable while their powerful magic cannon slays your own waves of minions, instead of you. There’s also a jungle where powerful creatures give your heroes specific boosts and more mulah upon being slain. It’s basically conflict wrapped in conflict like those bacon wrapped beef tips. Did I mention there’s a pool of 134 different selectable characters with varying roles and abilities? Because there’s 134 different characters with varying roles and abilities. It sounds complicated. Because it is.

 

maxresdefault (1)While the players may insult your intelligence, the game never will.

The good news is after a handful of games and usually a dealer, I mean enabler, I mean friend, you actually learn it fairly quickly. The softer-than-it-probably-should-be learning curve is due to the beauty of the game’s design. It gives you a slow and steady chance to learn organically on your own. This is due to the map design being straightforward and the built-in flow of the currency system means each game evolves familiarly, giving the most novice players an elemental understanding of a complex game.  The developers understand the parity of having such a wealth of dynamic variables, so they are constantly riding the lightning, sometimes dipping their toes into that “too-many-changes” water, but they have a strong sense of their game’s integrity and at least one ear to the voices of their players and fans. The proof is in the pudding. League is in the top three of eSports peak viewership, player base, and the amount of strawberries they give out when you win. I can’t quit you strawberries.

The second example is a cautionary tale. They say once a good girl goes bad, she’s gone forever. This young dime was once the prototype to eSports in North America. Her name was Halo. You might know of it from your older brother or because Microsoft spends a crap load of money marketing the game, but that’s neither here nor there. Halo was the founding title of the now iconic Major League Gaming and had a show on cable television; a legit one too, it wasn’t even sandwiched between Cheaters reruns. MLG and Halo also pioneered streaming tournaments live on the internet in the early 2000s about 6-7 years before Twitch was popular enough to talk your moderately open-minded wife into making it your day-job. So, what happened to you, dearly beloved? Poor game design influenced by a brittle console gaming infrastructure that crumbles under the whims of pop culture.

In the mad dash of the post-Call of Duty 4 phenomenon, designers rushed to incorporate as many of CoD’s core elements as possible. This dash was meant to meet the sales demands of publishers who believed that in order to sell as much as Call of Duty every game must have sprint, a level up system, weapon load outs, or to be able to aim down the sights. CoD’s fun and at the time unique mechanics spread through the industry like wildfire, torching other game’s “outdated” intricacies in its wake. I’ll get flogged by “real gamers” for writing this, but CoD is a good game. It’s an arcade military simulator, like EA’s Burnout or NFL Blitz with guns, It’s like playing in an 80’s action flick version of war. The mechanics are thumb blisteringly fast and fluid and those quick adrenaline inducing twitch kills are its main emotional conflict. This was intentional. Words and sounds pop on the screen when you get kills, giving you a “casino rush.” Bing. Bing. Bing. The meta revolves around those twitch kills, finding ways to keep your opponent in front of you so you have a higher percentage chance of being a winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Space-the-sky-the-galaxy-stars-Favim.com-481975Actual picture of Call of Duty’s sphere of influence.

So, like a bad movie prologue, it was only a matter of time before CoD’s popularity scourged its way over to Halo. Halo was exposed due its distinct disadvantage of being a AAA title on consoles. “AAA” is just the short way of publishers saying “we’re going to spend a ton of money on this project, so we’re going to tell you what to do even though we don’t really know what we’re talking about.” Publishers depend on games like Halo to make their end-of-year fiscal goals, so they’re extra ornery about its success. To them, Halo is a “just” a shooter, like CoD, so it makes sense, right? Wrong. Halo’s conflicts have always been structured differently. Halo is what they call an arena shooter, meaning there are weapon pickups on the map, and ideally, the harder they are to obtain, the more efficient they are at getting kills. In order for this to work, players have to start off with a serviceable starting skill-weapon. So if a player makes a mistake with a weapon they’ve picked up, they’re punished for it. If you haven’t noticed the trend, good game design is always walking a line. If the starting weapon takes too little skill, the fights are bland and unrewarding, if it isn’t strong enough, the game will snowball out of control, and if it’s too strong, pick ups become less useful. The original Halo balanced this beautifully and thrived in an internetless desert because it understood these basic concepts. The starting weapon was strong and killed fast if aimed skillfully, and the weapon pick ups weren’t just guns that killed faster, but better situationally. This is called utility. For instance, while Plasma Rifles didn’t have a quicker time to kill, they had a stun. So if you get blindsided you’ll have a harder time turning around and out-shooting your opponent. Imagine having a shotgun, which is the universal close range utility weapon; can’t kill a canary at more than 50 yards, but it’ll blow you away if you can see the orange of their visor. You’re prowling around looking for a kill and you notice the Plasma Rifle is missing from its normal spot. Egads! Your adrenaline spikes. It builds suspense. You know, if someone gets the drop on you, your hard earned shotgun is now useless.

So now that we know Halo’s weapon pick ups are efficient, but specialized killing machines, there’s obviously more of an emphasis on obtaining these weapons, so conflicts will naturally happen around them when they appear on the map, especially if they’re on a static timer. This creates a fun game within the game. No longer are you just trying to control what’s in front of you, but now you have to secure a harder position on the map in order to obtain this newly spawned machine of killing. This creates a dynamic opportunity for opposing players to turn the tides. Add Halo’s shield system and there’s another layer, because it takes a couple shots (or a few depending on the Halo…) to deplete a player’s shields before you can finish them. This design decision promotes team shooting. So now optimal map positioning has evolved into overlapping lines of sight hawking over weapons your team has to control, creating a natural conflict centered around multiple rotating positions established by the intermittent spawns of murder machines. Sound complicated for a game about space soldiers pew pewing lasers? That’s because it is, and if you played older Halos you never noticed you did it because the game’s maps and weapons were designed to induce this meta.

1141272-h2_mp_lockout_rocket_gi You just smiled.

Look, have you ever tried to clean your room when you’re a kid and it’s so filthy you don’t know where to start? That’s how I feel about Halo 5. Halo’s fifth installment feels good at first. They’ve changed the movement mechanics so there’s a lot of different and interesting ways to attack those overlapping sight lines, but the problem is they’ve incorporated a motion tracker into its final competitive settings. Radars are never good in any competitive game, ever. It adds a crutch to one of one of the most important parts of a rewarding a competitive title, awareness. Having awareness and predicting movements is a vital mental skill that’s now been eliminated completely. This also takes away from the stress on the clear and efficient relaying of information to teammates, because they already know where they are. Imagine if Basketball players had glasses that showed when an opposing player got close to the basket. Fans would have to wear helmets for all the balls flying into the stands. To make matters worse, players start with a secondary weapon that takes less skill than the primary with a very similar kill time while adding zero utility; the assault rifle. The AR’s only job is to have a player of less skill be able to kill a player with a pistol, the starting weapon, by being in the right position at the right time, which is made even easier by the fact there’s a radar that tells you exactly where they are. The weapons on the map also add no utility. They’re basically stronger versions of your starting weapons, and there’s a lot of them. So all the problems that you’re having at the base of it all are exacerbated by this wealth of bullet-hoses on the map, which are on 20-second timers, meaning they’re almost always there.

Can you tell I’m out of breath? I’m out of breath. I can’t do this anymore. I’m just going to skip to this part. At the very, very basic of it all, the emotional core of Halo is gone. The meta has evolved so it’s now more about rotating and hoarding 20-second low skill power weapons, hiding and ambushing with automatic rifles, and predicting the spawns of enemy players to collapse with your consistent and clear snowball advantage. There is very little chance for the controlling team to make a mistake or for the opposing team to make a comeback play because the pickups are just easier-to-use versions of an already unskilled starting weapon. The best situations that can be forced from these encounters are frantic coin flips before a truly powerful weapon spawns; spray and pray you come out on top, because even if you’re positioning to help your teammate, well, they are too. Now, this can be exhilarating, and it does create a lot of close series, among players who understand the meta. However, it’s not conducive to the integrity of the game’s design, and worse, it doesn’t feel rewarding.

Unlike League, or many other eSports like it, there is no ear listening to the voice of the players asking for change. One of the reason bullet-hose autos are so prevalent on the maps is because there are abilities built into the characters that can kill players instantly. It sounds preposterous, but it can work if there were more utility weapons on the map. Guns that halt sprint in their tracks or ground players who can hover in the air and flatten the enemy with a ground pound. Radar was supposedly the balance for these abilities, but seeing as that experiment didn’t work, 343 Industries, Halo’s current developer, can break this vicious web of codependency by increasing audio cues and/or increasing the amount of time needed to build up these Spartan abilities’ instant-kill effect. There are ways to bring the game back into prominence, but it’s almost as if there’s vested interest within the company to keep the game as easy as possible for new players, but, players don’t like easy. The proof is in the pudding or I guess in this case, the balloons.

fts

Publisher’s don’t see these intricacies. They see the sales numbers, not understanding what makes CoD or any other popular game so enticing to people. They use phrases like “the casual market.” Whoa, I’m sorry. Did you feel that? That same shiver through your shoulders and down your spine? That same shiver when cheap toilet paper rips and you get doodoo on your fingers? That’s the shiver I get when people use the term casuals. Casual and hardcore gamers want to have the same thing. They want an emotional experience that provokes the word “fun.” It’s not about being easy, it’s about being rewarding. Gamers want to feel the rush, so give them something that’s just hard enough to tickle their dopamine receptors. That’s it. Humans want to earn their feelings. Players can tell when their accomplishments are fake, even if they’re not emotionally intelligent enough to say it, they’ll feel it and move on from your titles. Imagine your player is like a dog you used to give Beggin’ Strips after going outside and now you give him dollar store Puppy Treetz. Yeah, it’ll still go outside, but can you blame him when there’s a dark spot on your rug?  People know Beggin Strips when they see it and I think modern designers are so worried about meeting these wild sales demands, so they can keep their job, they stop making competitive games, even when they specifically use the word “competitive” when selling it. Good games have integrity and to maintain that integrity developers need to be active. We don’t want Puppy Treetz. We want BACON. Or Strawberries. I’m hungry.

Thank you to everyone for reading the longest blog post ever, and if you want me to break down any more games or argue with me over the internet, please comment below! Also HUGE thanks to all of my subscribers and followers, and if you want to start now, follow my blog and check me out on Twitter.

Blue and Yellow, Purple Prose

   Rules are dumb. I don’t like ‘em. They get in the way and they’re misinterpreted. So when I started writing a weird fiction novel and the first thing I read was “Beware Ye of the Purple Prose.” Don’t do it when you’re writing a mundane scene to spruce it up, don’t do it to add flourish to unremarkable objects, and whatever you do, don’t feed it after midnight. I tried to listen, I really did. I obeyed their rules all the way through the entire first draft but so much of what makes Lovecraft’s writing still relevant today is the Tyrian tone supplemented by a tinctured meter whose palette illustrates a rancid landscape with brilliant morbid expectancy. For those of you who don’t know what Purple Prose is, I just did it right there, right in that sentence, the part that you probably had to read twice and I didn’t bother editing.

   I’ve been avoiding writing with this tool for some time since that’s how I started in high school. Considering I wasn’t very read at the time, it’s what has always felt most comfortable for me. I was throwing words on paper and hoping to imitate the scenes of my favorite games and movies. They always came off absolutely hammy like: “The rain poured in sheets, heaven breaking its promise, flooding the battlefield” but sprinkled with some really solid stuff that probably had something to do with soldiers footprints as puddles with kids splashing around in ‘em or something like that because I was edgy in High School. I read some books, learned I was cornball, and have been trying to learn a more beige approach ever since. Thank Vonnegut, I won’t ever bore you to death explaining the battle scars of an airplane while there’s a dogfight that decides that fate of a revolution.

   Anyway, now that I’ve bored you with a history lesson instead of a literary device, the reason I’m talking about Purple Prose is because I’m rewriting my first few chapters of Loveland and subsequently anything else that includes the main character Otto, because Lovecraft’s style is so uniquely capable of maintaining melancholy without becoming too Tim Burton-y. I think the decision also makes perfect sense considering (spoilers that are on the back of the book.) he ends up being the guy who basically brain-births Loveland anyway.  Example!:

Everyone hates their job. We’re all overworked and underappreciated. And if there was a word for under-under that’s what we’re paid. For young men like Otto Leimerdinger your entire day was defined by this anxiety.

– Loveland, Chapter 3, First Draft

The density of a saltwater truth was massive in the cenote of Otto: We are overworked, underappreciated, and if there’s a way to describe any further emaciation, that’s what we’re paid. And as it storms in April, anxiety pelted that hidden river, filling him to sanity’s limit.

-Loveland, Chapter 3, 3/18/17 rewrite

   It still needs work, but honestly, I think even with a higher word count the imagery is more succinct. It penetrates Otto’s psyche with more stylistic precision, using what I think are some obscure trappings that Lovecraft likes to throw in. I laughed at how basic that sounds, but it’s kinda true. Who else uses such specific terms from architecture besides Lovecraft? So, I decided to put a little spin with some sweet geological formations. Write what you know.

   So, that’s where the book is heading. Going forward I think I’m going to give each person they’re own little twist on tone and tie them together with this bedrock of poor choices instead of prose. The goal is to possibly seem more like a theme park with each character arc all being their own distinct ride, which for those who are new to my rambling, Loveland is the murderous theme park my book is set around. Or maybe it’s all too gimmicky. I dunno, I haven’t gotten that far yet. Writing a novel the long way and all that. But Hey! Lemme know what you think in the comments! I won’t listen to you but I like the attention! Thanks for reading this week! Exclamations!
   P.S. Shout out to all my first draft alpha-readers! Thanks for looking at what’s basically an ultrasound of my ugly baby and telling me nice stuff like “Aw he’s got your eyes but he doesn’t make any damn sense.”

A dog in the fight: The problem with eSports marketing.

You’re looking at a man who’s just qualified for his chance become a World Champion.

I don’t even have to tell you what he’s been through because you can see it. You can feel it. And I believe that’s the biggest problem in the current marketing sphere of eSports, because they’d rather show you this:

league-of-legends3

See the difference?

The first is a hero’s journey in less than a thousand words, the second is: Hey, look. People like this. Trust me. We’re just like real sports!

But eSports isn’t, not yet and that picture is why.

When you look at the first picture of Brett “Naded” Leonard you want to find out why, you want to find out how, you want to hear the crowd full of people who once cheered him beg him for him to “choke”; screaming at him that he’ll find a way to lose like they’ve been saying he had for his entire career. You want to see him and his misfit team rise above and prove everyone wrong. 

It’s the American sports drama. Rocky with thumbsticks, Hoosiers with a keyboard and mouse.

eSports has a narrative problem. Every eSport. They’re so desperate to show they’re legitimate; holding up big checks, MVPs driving off in fancy cars, news coverage around the clock, and stages that make Wrestlemania look bland in comparison.Those spectacles work for standard sports because there are decades of prestige and history layering those events; there’s legacy, there’s a built-in story that this matters, that people have worked their entire life and only a handful have experienced this. eSports glazes over that last part. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to see the sweat and tears that go into being a professional gamer. It’s as if they’re embarrassed their big moment is played out on a computer screen instead of a field or a court.

And there lies the beauty of an eSports story. Even the people who organize the events think that what you do, is not as special as men throwing a ball around for 11 total minutes on a large patch of grass. They don’t believe in you, and you know what, if you look at the lives of the majority of players, no one else believes in them either. We’ve all heard it before: “Get a real job.” “You’re a loser.” “There’s no future in this.” “You’re always on that damn game.”

And that’s why we show those pictures of the checks. Look Mom, Dad, Fiancé, Fiancé’s Mom and Dad, Employer who won’t give me off for work,  Look, bestie who’s sick of me bailing on parties so I can lose at some tournament, look at what I can win! But that only changes their mind for a little while doesn’t it? That only changes their mind until things get really tough. The bills start to pile up and you’re missing time with your kids. The only thing that changes their mind is winning, and what do they know about winning? Nothing. They know even less than you, because they haven’t even taken the leap to fail. They don’t know the pressure that it takes, so how would they ever know what it feels like to be you?

So, how do we fix this? Better marketing. NFL doesn’t go out and say that dedicating your life to their craft is tough. Because again they don’t have to, because Nike does. Brands create stories, brands craft the narratives because they want the demographic to identify with the struggle. Currently eSports brands only sell keyboards and controllers on the merit of “Hey, SoandSo is a winner! You’ll be a winner too if you buy this SuchandSuch!” What Nike did to revolutionized sports marketing was identifying that people who actually compete want to strive, they want to identify with SoandSo on a human level, they want to see SoandSo grinding — their eyes flicking back and forth, tracking the ticking clock, position of their teammates and the bullets flying over their head. Their face is lit by the screen in a cascade of kaleidoscopic colors and then a white pillar comes up from their desk. An incoming call they have to ignore from Mom or Jessie or work. Players want to see the coach flights and the kids sleeping in the tubs of cramped hotel rooms. They want to hear the crowd cheer or maybe jeer about how you suck just because you’re a girl. Gamers want to see the come-up because they’re coming up. And all of a sudden their loved ones will see what the players have to go through, they’ll see that players need their support. They’ll see that hey, this is actually kinda cool. This vocation is beyond difficult; It’s murderous and these pro players who’ve conquered it all are just like their loved ones, so why not? Why not them?

That’s what eSports needs. The why not, the story of the players. The success stories, the not-so success stories, the any given Sundays, the David vs Goliaths, the perfect storms, and the man and woman vs the worlds. eSports needs to see the pain in contrast to the glamour, because the real beauty in victory comes from the failure it took to get there.

 

Honest Tea

I honestly don’t know why I wrote the title like I did. I guess I just think it sounds cool and there’s probably some illustrious quote that goes with it or it’s just the brand of organic tea the sell at the cafeteria. If you can’t tell this little blog post is about being open with yourself and how much it really helps your creative process. Now I know what you’re thinking, I’m already pretty open with how much I suck at blankity blank, but that’s not really what I mean. Sure it’s important to understand that there’s room to grow, but I think as artists and in general as people we do a pretty good job of letting ourselves know we suck daily. What I’m talking about is being truthful to why we feel that way. I guess you’ll have to read the rest of my blog to figure out where I’m going with the rest of this ramble. Lazy-Not-So-Good-Attention-Getter! Boom!

Being honest with yourself means slowing down and thinking about why. Why do you have this crippling impostor syndrome, that you keep telling yourself you don’t have. Why do you keep telling yourself that you’re not a writer, or a musician, or a taco truck driver, or a painter and when you finally admit that you are one, you’re not a good one. Why? Well. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours:

First. I’m really stubborn. Second. I’m really scared. I’m lucky I’m so primarily bullheaded or I would have quit this whole thing a long time ago, because I’m so utterly terrified to fail. My brain asks daily  “So, Is everyone right?” But that’s not okay to ask, so you push it away but it’s still there, just going unanswered in the back of your head with these dueling inner voices that do this little song and dance going something likes this:

I’m afraid to fail, afraid to take a chance and put it all on the line just to come up short again. You know, there’s a quote out there that explains we’re not afraid to fail, but to succeed and bloom and become different and whole and that’s the most fluffy bullshit half truth that you can write, because what I’m really afraid of is taking steps; creating a kind of active cocoon in order to do my best Heimlich impression and before becoming a beaaaauuuutiful butterfly, my clumsy ass falls off a branch or is eaten by one of those Assassin bugs with the long snouts that want to puncture my fluffy abs and slurp out all my insides. I’m afraid of mediocrity, the story of my entire life: unrealized talent. “What if.” I’m afraid that what I am is not what people want and the warm, loving, huggy types will tell you it’s not about being popular it’s about being fulfilled but in order to be fulfilled I don’t want personal happiness. I can accomplish personal happiness with 3 sticks and some mud. I’m not hard to entertain. I’m afraid I’ll never be good enough to help the other people in my city that deserve to have more help than I’ve ever gotten. I’m afraid to listen to advice because I don’t want to lose sight of what I want.

See all that? I already knew all of it. I already knew I was desperately afraid, and you do too. What you need to be honest about is why you never do anything about it. Why do you keep making excuses? You can google probably about a hundred names with your problems that have found a way. Why not you? What is that lie you keep telling yourself that gives you the you the false echo of “I can’t” or  “What are the chances?” Make your chance. Make your opportunity. Get creative with your creativity. Find a way. We are surrounded with an overabundance of information; a cacophony of advice but you know how to sacrifice. Just find your hill to die on, and fall in love with it. The Truth Is (ahem) you’ll never let all that other bullshit go, but you’re worth more than you’re telling yourself.

That fear and lack of honesty is why it took me 3 weeks to write a chapter and why it takes me until Friday every two weeks to finish a blog. I don’t want to fail. Yesterday I stopped being stubborn about failing and started doing more listening to myself. I’m afraid I can’t change the spots on a leopard, but I’m confident I’m not a leopard. I’m a lion.

FlashBack Friday #1 (Pulse)

While I struggle desperately with editing the same damn chapter for 3 weeks that ended up changing some of the core story lines of my book, for the better, (more on that later) I figured I’d give all 2 of you who read this a little sum-sum. 😉

Pulse

Pulse was my first foray into a blogging/writing a series. The premise was actually really fun (I think I would really love to hook up with a visually talented young director one day and maybe pound out some of these ideas into a web series) since the internet never really dies unless all parts of it die, like Ultron, when it outlasts its usefulness to communicate it’ll still be around, even if it’s a shell of itself. Our narrator is an uppity son of a bitch who’s bored at work, and why wouldn’t he be, he’s there literally there 24/7, changing out bodies as his consciousness continues to keep on eye on the world to make sure it keep’s working.

So, This is how you started a blog. Neat. Do I introduce myself? Or do I just dive right in. Well, they call me Max, and yes, a hundred some odd years into the future parents are still calling their kids lame names like Max. Do I start with a synopsis here? I dunno, I’ve watched old stuff, movies, I heard people like Star Trek? With the big yellow scrolling font? I don’t know. Anyway. Here we Go.

    People can traverse bodies. They can switch bodies any which way they want. They don’t have to be touching, or even on the same continent. At any moment, theoretically, I could be you, you could be Alberto; from San Jose, California, and Alberto could be Janine from France. Yes, you can do cross gender, and No, unfortunately California hasn’t fallen into the ocean yet. I’m sure your asking yourself, how is this magic regulated? It isn’t. In fact, nothing is.

 

Our pal Max is the switchboard operator to the entire world and in turn, he witnesses all of these beautiful interactions between “souls” not just people, turning bodies into true vessels for communication and interaction. Human’s are social animals and if you’re seeing all these things but you work literally forever where is the best place to tell those stories? Well, the internet of course, so Max digs into this mausoleum of connected tubes, like blowing the dust off an old book, and he starts telling his anthology of stories. He has my obnoxious sense of humor where he makes historical pop reference jokes because he’s a nerd.

As a person, you can always try and hide who you are, but the little things, will always eek through. Wrinkles and tears in your canvas, where no matter how eloquently you present them, they’ll always show. Simple things, like tapping your foot when you’re nervous, or checking the ceiling corners for spiders when you walk into a room. You don’t know why they’re there, what purpose they serve, or that you even do them. But rest assured they’re there.

The creative challenge in telling these stories is that since their physical appearance is only garnishing, like that green shit that’s always on your plate at a fancy restaurant. You have to focus on people’s ticks, their mannerisms, and motivations and that’s a real challenge for a young writer, which I was and still am. I was also a less intelligent person, I knew there were stories, complicated ones that pertain to consciousness, biology, ideology and to tell that were on the tip of my fingers but I couldn’t grasp them. The mechanical challenge was updating such complex stories on a timeline which would be hard to do with the deft touch required. That coupled with the generally small return both financially and culturally; blogs had already been on the decline because social media as we know it was taking off giving people what they want in short explosive bursts. There wasn’t a lot of room for this to take off, so I abandoned it to focus solely on Truth Is. I really want to resurrect this project, maybe when my internet presence is a little larger, or my networking is better so I could make it a type of ARG, or as I said maybe use an easier more visual medium to convey the stories properly.

and like he entered, he exited the same, out of nowhere and obnoxiously loud. It wasn’t his most elaborate heist, nor his greatest. But, he did no more than he had to, and left with no more than he wanted. Honor in a thief.

 

 

 

 

The ending isn’t the end.

Just because you know how your narrative ends doesn’t mean you know where your work does.

Sometimes I feel like writing a book is like getting on a treadmill. You have your runners high, tearing through imagined real estate, with this misplaced but euphoric feeling of invincibility. It begins to fade and you push whatever’s left of this invincibility to the fingertips of your mind and you claw deeper, maybe to find it again, maybe to find something else, something that’ll last longer, something fundamentally true about who you are in order to keep you going; the AHA! moment. And, a lot of the time, that AHA! moment never comes and you’re tasked with either turning down the dial or stumbling on in fear that you’ll get caught up — swept off your feet in all the wrong ways.

I turn down the dial a lot.

I think I’m trying to find out what I’m missing. It’s a little bit of fear and a little of bit of knowing I can do better. How’s my gate? How’s my breathing? Sometimes the answer isn’t within the problem itself but what with how you approach it. “Trying harder” to push the rock up the mountain hoping that this time, this time is the time, is the mindset that has the boulder rolling back down and squashing you, only for you to say, this time, is the time once again.

I want to make sure I’m building a foundation to a career, not just finishing a book. I want to explore what works and what doesn’t. I once read that writing was easy, that: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” I think there’s been plenty of canvas painted with blood. It’s a little more complicated than that for me, because If I tell you the stories I want to, they’ll last long after the paint has stained to brown and only a healthy dose of Clorox would wash it out.

It feels like all the bleeding I’m doing is just making a mess. Otto is flat;  a sad scientist instead of a mad one. Chuck is what we think we want bad guys to be; society’s accident. And Larry’s greatness that I keep saying in words never measures up to his actions. I guess that goes for everyone, huh? The problem is bigger than I want to to be. Maybe that’s the real problem. Maybe that’s why I keep dialing it down? Maybe I just wish I was better instead of being better?

Forgive me, I’m at a loss today and I’ve sat here wondering what I could possibly do. I guess, there’s only one thing left to do.  So here I go. Maybe this time is the time.

Everything has a place.

Now that the ugly baby first draft of Loveland, my Lovecraft amusement park Horror novel, has been birthed into the world, it’s time to start feeding it so it can hit puberty and be the Neville Longbottom I know it can be.

 

“Otto had a moment; a strangely introspective thought. What if man has to give grotesque shapes to monsters, so the face of their deeds look pretty in comparison? What a vain race we’d must be.”

From Loveland 1/2/17 (WIP)

 

This is one of those chapters that’s painful to write because you’re pretty sure it’s going to be cannibalized and spread among other chapters for the character development Otto and Chuck deserve. But foresight can be frustrating thing.

“Why even write this at all if you’re going to blow it up?”Asks my brain, with every word I type.

“Well, it’s easier to experience if things fit when they’re out there in action, rather than just having the hypothetical floating around in your head at work all day, idiot brain.”

This bound to be doomed chapter is sorta wedged-in towards the middle of the “fun stuff” and has  Otto starting to experience some of that introverted intuition that he’d been neglecting since starting to build the park. With his lack of time to brood and trying to fit into the still-lonely role of creator and king, he starts to see maybe this is an abomination of his original intentions, that maybe giving form to the formless has perverted his Lovecraftian homage. The weight of responsibility hasn’t really hit him yet for the swelling misdeeds in the park, I think partly because he’s unaware they’re happening and partly because he doesn’t want to take the responsibility and that’s part of the downfall of his character. It’s why Chuck is even there at all; as much as Otto liked finally having someone that at least pretends they like having him around, Chuck is probably the most detestable human in the entire book. He’s a little too clearly a one dimensional character right now, and to be honest, probably the most one dimensional character I’ve written. Chuck is the most one dimensional part of me. He’s grown up on movies and TV like I have, but instead of watching what society would deem redeemable characters win the day, his face was lit up by the pink pastels and hyper-violence of movies like Scarface. At best he’d probably dig something like Revenge of the Nerds where a bunch of outcasts take what they want from the established goons, even if they kind of become what they were fighting in the first place. Chuck is ambition. Chuck is impatience. Chuck is boring.

“You’re awfully quiet today.”

I’m quiet everyday.

Otto often wondered if people actually listened to the nothing he had to say or if they simply couldn’t hear it over the extraneous buzzing inside their own head.

“I’m just tired.”

“I hear you there, buddy. I BINGED Narcos last night.”

A couple more seconds of quiet.

“I FEEL LIKE PABLO!”

Chuck belted out a truly a bad Kanye impersonation as he slugged Otto in the shoulder. Otto made a joke are you sure that’s sugar in your coffee? but thankfully for us all decided to keep it in his head and go back to running his finger through the stone grooves.

Maybe he was quiet today. What ifs bring the quiet out in everyone.

A knock echoed through the chamber.
“It’s about got damn time.”

From Loveland 1/2/17 (WIP)

Enter our old friend Lawrence Young, well before that terrible Larry Y Private Eye newspaper add that would lead him to Thomas in my first book, Truth Is. After the disservice I did to the “Michael Jordan” of private eyes I figured I’d give him more of back story, maybe some motivation beyond aged stubbornness, and a way to display how powerful he really is. The great thing about Larry is he’s a great narrative tool. I use his keen eye to pick apart the body language of the people he interacts with, recognizing the petulance of Chuck and the always anxiety of Otto. He’s not all knowing, but he’s intuitive, like Otto, but he’s honed and battle hardened. He’ll bore through your layers and find the center in you, if that’s what it takes to get the job done. His lone objective this time, is to close the park after the parks first death. Normally a park wouldn’t shut down after something like this, but I’m going to try and keep a few details under wraps just in case you have any real intentions of reading. I guess that’s it, or I’ll spoil you all too much.

Thanks for reading my first blog post, even though it ended as abruptly as it did. I guess throw away chapters are part of blogging too.