Teasing

At training tonight, Kancho was explaining about blood pressure, and how you don’t want to live a sedentary life where some small exertion causes you to have a stroke (all of which was solid advice). During this, he mimed holding a controller and, casting around for a game reference, locked eyes with me and asked “Xin, what games do you play?”

I started laughing and said “Kancho please…”
Because as it so happens, I’ve had an anxious day and spent most of it playing Overwatch, Breath of the Wild and Postknight. And I find it strangely delightful that Kancho and I have this enduring joke where he keeps teasing me about video games instead of spending more time enjoying the real world. We can’t really see eye-to-eye on it, but it’s all in good fun and I don’t mind being ribbed.

But it also kinda sucks being teased about something important to me, especially in a world where the average age for a gamer is in their 30’s. I guess it’s true that most people I encounter in person probably wouldn’t describe themselves as gamers, but it’s a super important part of who I am, and if I go for more than a few days without playing something I lose touch with my sense of self.

Video games have always been super important to me, not only because it’s who I am, but as survival mechanisms during challenging times in my life. I’ve made several attepmts at writing a blog post about it, but it’s taking much longer than I anticipated; every time I start to go down the rabbit hole of that dark place I used to be in, it takes me days to crawl back out. It gives me chills to think about – I hate dwelling in and on those times.

But I do want to write that post, because I want to create the counter message that video games aren’t just silly virtual experiences. I know they have the capacity to save people, and I want to write about it. It’s just a little hard.

Not really sure where this blogpost is going. Consider it a placeholder, I guess?

General life update

So it’s been a little while since my last blog post! Of late it seems many of my posts have been written in times of distress, anxiety or vulnerability. And that’s great! Those posts are really important to share. But equally important are the ones where I’m not at such a despairing point in my life. So here’s one about the sort of stuff I’ve been up to lately!

Training stopped about two weeks ago and doesn’t commence for another couple of days. I’ve been restless, but also relieved as it’s given my body a chance to heal the odd injury (strained wrist, blistered toes etc.). This, I believe, to be very important because I’ve chosen to take up a new gong (challenge). One of the Academy’s old associates, the Traditional Okinawan Gojuryu Karate Association, recently had an open day where they were giving us a chance to use their new training equipment and check out their dojo. I noticed they placed great emphasis on sliding the foot across the floor rather than stepping. I used to predominantly slide, but after training on rubber and wooden floors, and even soft training mats, I noticed I would get blisters and rip skin off my feet every couple of weeks. I asked Shihan (our chief instructor) about it one night and he said the trick is to glide just above the floor. When I spoke to Kancho (the head of our school) about the discrepancy, he said that we too slide across the floor rather than stepping. This perplexed me greatly, and when I emailed Shihan about it he told me simply that “sliding is relative. Do fukyugata 300 times in a row and you’ll understand.”

To give you some perspective, 80 renditions of fukyugata in an hour is quite an achievement. This is sort of a four hour kata marathon without breaks. My friends and gave it a quick run through a dozen times and I already noticed moments where I dragged my foot, moments where I lost balance, moments where I didn’t fully commit to a technique before moving onto the next one. I think fukyugata is rich in the foundations of good gong fu and I have much to learn from it. Now it’s only a question of when I’ll take up this challenge! Ideally a time where I can rest for the remainder of the day, and allow a few days recovery between my next training session – I anticipate my feet will be rubbed raw.

 

In the gaming world, I recently passed Mass Effect 3. As a completionist, I absolutely nailed Mass Effect 1 and 2, and it just so happened that the choices I’d made along the progression of the game allowed me to do some remarkable things. Foremost, due to my high charisma and reputation built through dozens of hours of heroic kindness as the kickass Commander Shepard, I forged peace between the Quarians and the Geth, saved all my teammates from suicidal missions, instated a powerful leader of the Krogan who rallied to help me and otherwise made Commander Shepard, the Normandy and his team totally overpowered. It was a fantastic game, and I absolutely loved the ending (though I read about the new ending they released, and I must admit it does seem a little better).

I’ve been working my way through The Last of Us. If you’ve got a PS3, I urge you to borrow it from a friend and play it yourself. To my amazement, I cried readily during the prologue, which was done with such maturity and transparency it still moves me now. The game starts off pretty hard with only one firearm and a handful of bullets, but as you progress you get a reasonably supply of ammunition and crafting material. Plus, as you upgrade your weapons you get better at killing people. I was getting pretty cocky at how good I was at winning open conflicts, and then I was abruptly stripped of all my powered-up weapons and was forced to rely on stealth and inferior firearms once more. It sent me straight back to the start of the game where I felt scared of every enemy, overwhelmed and totally vulnerable to a brutal death if I made a single mistake. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but I think I’m pretty close so I’m looking forward to a quiet patch of uninterrupted time to enjoy it’s conclusion.

 

My mental health has been much better lately. I recently came to the resolution that in spite of how I felt at the end of my placement after my supervisors gave me some pretty critical feedback, I’m actually a pretty awesome person with a lot to offer people, and I’ll make an excellent social worker in some form or another. Finding my place in the world is very groovy – there are lots of positions that I think I would really enjoy, and that would really enjoy having me, but I’m not going to invest too much in applying for jobs just yet. With Japan about a month away, I’m going to just focus on my few shifts at Petbarn and unwinding a little. But I am genuinely excited at the thought of my future career in social work.
I recently came across this website/app called Super Better. If you have twenty minutes, this is an amazing video which will add seven minutes to your life within the next hour, or three hours within the next day, or ten years by the end of your life. I think. The math escapes me, but it’s amazing.

I’ve only spent a few days with SuperBetter but it’s so much fun. It’s a real life video game and it comes with all the thrills of mastering skills with cool names, fighting bad guys, earning experience, leveling up etcetera. I really do urge you to give it a try for a just a single day and see if you like it! And if you sign up, perhaps we can be allies and fight our badguys together!

 

Just quickly now, in terms of Japlanning, Beth, Craig and I are having another session today! I spent most of last night seriously sitting down and looking at the plans for accommodation, travel insurance and places to go/things to see. It’s fine when it’s an abstract concept far off in the distance – “Oh, Japan is way over there, it would be nice to do this and see that”. But when I actually really thought about doing this and seeing that I got supremely excited. I’m getting more organised and I’ve started learning Japanese from Pimsleur’s audiobooks – a great way to do it, high recommendations from me. I can’t even follow let alone have a basic conversation yet, but I am learning handfuls of useful phrases more-or-less every day, so I’m hoping by the time February 5th rocks around I’ll be competent at basic conversation.

 

Anyway, I’m running a tad late now. Going to go buy my friend a 21st present, and then head to Beth’s for sweet brunchin’ times. Ja, mata!

The Lost Kingdoms

The game (on Gamecube), “Lost Kingdoms” is truly remarkable. It’s my third favourite to Zelda Ocarina of Time and Starfox Adventures. It’s like Yu-Gi-Oh, except rather than duelling in an arena, you’re on the battlefield, dodging monsters while using your card monsters to fight back, and hopefully come out the victor.
Though this may not seem like a whole lot to you, it’s been a source of concentration, and joy for the past few days, and I just thought that I’d devote an entire blog entry to my epic strugle with The Enchanter- creater of the Black Fog (and thus the monsters is brings) that shrowds my kingdom.
I’m in the last stage, as far as I can tell. I’ve defeated all the keepers of the Runestones (to which the cards draw their power from) and have used their collective power to defeat Princess Helena- “The Woman in Black” who tried to kill me from early on in the game. Her dying words were to take down the Enchanter, for that was her task, and she needed to gather the Runestones of my kingdom to have enough power to attempt it.
Anyways, having met the God of Balance, she sent me to take down The Enchanter. I searched his castle, fighting demon after demon to collect the Stone of Darkness and hence open the first gate. Yon, my search continued as I traversed throughout the maze of teleporters, stopping to heal as I did, and continuing on. To my left, a pair of vampires (a boss from a previous level, except now there were two of them). To my right, a pair of puppet masters (yet another boss, again, doubled). Having battled desperately for my stand against the combined forces, I proved victorious after many a You Have Failed.
Having gathered what small treasure I could from them, and in turn recovering my strength, I moved on to the throne room where The Enchanter sat, waiting patiently. After exchanging small talk, and declining a marriage proposal, the duel began.
His cards were superior in strength and numbers, and he needed not the magic stones which were required to use a card. His deck seemed neverending, always replenishing without casting any spells. However, he had one disadvantage. Roughly a third of my fighting force was based on recovering lost cards and health. He had no such opportunity. Fighting desperately, healing and running, every time I would use a card (say, a Will-o-Wisp), it would be crushed instantly by the monsters three that followed me.
It was then I discovered what I was doing wrong. I was drawing the same cards, over and over, and had no chance of overthrowing mine enemy, for every time I replenished my deck, it would not let me draw new cards. I discarded my Mind Flayer’s (which restore 5-10 cards, when your deck holds 30) and started my onslaught afresh. He stood no match one I managed to get my stronger cards out- a Fire Dragon, Chimera, Stone Head, Banshee, Sand Worm… One after the other, I decimated thine enemy until he was no more.
At last, the God of Destruction revealed himself. He had been using The Enchanter, former king of the neighbouring kingdom, as a vessel for his power. Having no more use for the defeated royalty, he faced me himself. “Fool. You cannot defeat a god!” And thus the battle continued.
I realised that if I were to fight the God of Destruction, I would need to pull of some pretty spectacular moves. I quickly flicked through my cards, discarding those I had no use for. Ah, my faithful Will-o-Wisp. It had slain more monsters than any other in my deck, and its experience points were in the ten thousands. It could take down a field of monsters no problem. The God of Destruction raised his terrible fist, and a square of light surrounded my faithful card, and in a millisecond, it was no more. It was then I realised I was in trouble.
I ran behind mine foe and used the Dragon Knight to deliver a blow to its back. It focused a number of lasers on me, and I ran for dear mercy. I tried a frontal approach, trusting I could dodge the attacks as I oftentimes did. I was proven wrong. Once more, the patch of light surrounded me, and I was knocked off my feet with the blow, my health gauge flashing at 1hp of 300. I had two immediate thoughts. The first was, “I’m alive? Then perhaps I can’t die. I’m not supposed to defeat a God. I later reasoned that perhaps the myths were true, and the God of Creation really did exist, and had intervened. The second thought was simpler. Heal!
I did so immediately, using both the cards in my hand to recover to 181hp. Safe for a moment, I reflected. I dashed to my feet, but before I could escape, the lasers of his body guards focused on me, encumbering me for but a second too long. The divine beast raised his fist, and I was aware of only one more thing.
“You Have Failed.”