A nerd who was officially diagnosed autistic at the age of 3, and... didn't talk as a baby. He's in search of entertainment he'll find interesting. You know how, stereotypically, autistic people tend to have a small number of strongly-held interests? He's really not much different, except for the "strongly-held" part, as he's depressed and doesn't have as much interest in things (any kind of things) as he used to. Still, here are his interests in brief:
- Video games (not JRPGs or sports games, or excessively gritty/dark games, but rather, action, platforming, some shooters, and generally stuff that's more light in tone)
- Tech, especially devices like the iPod, the concept of 3D printing, ultra high resolution displays, and so on. He also follows news relating to Google and all their original ideas and innovations.
Examples include the iPod, Google Android devices and OS, improvements made to web browsers and new features in search engines and the like.
- Kids' novels, either adventure-themed or Slice of Life, and usually contemporary in setting
- Cult classics
- Stuff that's So Bad, It's Good
- Adventure-themed cartoons
- Movies that catch his interest (hard to say what exactly appeals to him, as he doesn't follow any particular genre)
- Eccentric people who don't fit society's mold, and sometimes stories about such characters
Examples include Ulillillia, various tropers and various DeviantArt members.
- Some independent works, such as indie video games and music
Examples include Iji, Platform Masters, and a number of chiptune songs.
- The surprisingly good Power Rangers RPM, which I watched every episode of.
- The book The Castle in the Attic and its sequel (which I prefer to the original).
- I also finally decided to check out Avatar: The Last Airbender and was really glad I did.
- The book Running Out of Time.
- The SynchTube Troper Coven, where tropers watch movies synced up on YouTube and riff on them in the chat.
The longer story of my past:
The autism/Aspergers checklist (courtesy of Midnight Rambler):
- No social skills: Badly, at first. I had a hard time understanding the "language" of other people and their own stylized way of talking and found it hard to really engage in conversation. Now I have a better idea of what not to do... but not necessarily what to do. At least on the internet, popping up to random strangers and starting a conversation is accepted and very commonplace. I have no idea how real-life friends become friends to begin with (even though I did have some as a kid).
- No desire for social interactions: Not so much in-person, and there are times when I don't want people in my IM programs to talk to me either. But I do desire to talk to people about stuff at times. At lunch I eat at my desk rather than the lunchroom. I just can't relate to the people in there and really don't want to take part anyway.
- Inability to talk to people normally, speaking instead only in long monologues about familiar subjects: Oh yeah, I used to do this a lot. To be honest, if you get me started on a subject I'm interested in and/or have knowledge of, I'll go for a long time, but at least I can detect much better if the other person is losing interest.
- Weird fascinations, varying over time: I don't think I have heavy fascinations now, but I would say my interests aren't common. Sure, video games are socially acceptable to be interested in. Kids' novels? That's considered more eccentric or strange.
- Poor motor skills: I always sucked at sports, and still do. It seems to be impossible to teach me how to play them well.
- Love of order, structure and patterns; rigidity of thought: I have to say, I definitely prefer knowing what's going to happen or what I need to do if it involves a task. And I hate major changes to a routine. On the other hand, I'm not totally rigid, and can be flexible in some respects.
- Learns to speak at a late age: I didn't speak until I was three.
- Learning how to read at an early age: I was reading when I was four. I'm not kidding. I have a vivid memory of reading the word "island" as "is land" in a book when I was in preschool, and asking what "is land" means.
Miscellaneous facts about me, and views I hold/held (essay section):All essays are now in folders due to being rather long. Click the folders to see them.
Humor in story-driven works
When I was a kid, I honestly thought that humor in story-driven cartoons was put there because it was "obligatory" and it was expected. I didn't realize until I was older that the humor was actually meant to be funny. Once I realized that, it was a slap in the face that all the shows I enjoyed for their story, were also trying to make me laugh, and failing miserably. They may as well not have even tried, and just focused on the damn story. Later on, I began to think that humor in a serious story wasn't such a bad thing, as long as it was done in such a way that it flowed naturally and didn't clash with the overall mood or detract from the story. Humor that indicates the story actually doesn't take itself seriously is the worst.
Common characteristics of works that I like - Video games
I am noticing that my favorite works in a given genre tend to have certain things in common. For example, in video games, I like the gameplay to be moderately simple at its core (e.g. kill enemies, collect items, reach end of level), but with depth to the mechanics. What I hate is complication, but what I like is depth. The two are not the same. Depth is, for the most part, making the most of what you have - this is how games like Zombies Ate My Neighbors and the Super Mario Bros. series manage to work; the play mechanics continue to be fun because of the many varied level designs that take advantage of them. Complication is throwing in a lot of additional mechanics, which can make a game have depth, or just slow things down and make the game intimidating to those who just want something they can jump into. I don't mind some degree of complication as long as it's not excessive. One example is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. There's a lot to do, but the basic mechanics are "attack, move, use item", and the control is always simple. Puzzles aren't too difficult and don't require you to figure out how to use 3 items in 3D space like the 3D games, whose puzzles got on my nerves and slowed down the gameplay too much for my tastes. The game also gives you a lot of freedom to explore, look for secrets, and fight groups of enemies, all with simple controls and a good pace. There's depth in the many items you can use, the many secrets, the puzzles, and so on, but the actual gameplay is never needlessly complicated even when your inventory consists of 20 unique items. This "simple to understand gameplay, but with depth" element is consistent across games like Kirby Super Star (the hidden items, and many different attacks with one ability), Iji (tons of secrets, ability to level up abilities of your choosing thus forcing you to take a different path through the game each time). Another thing I like in games is a feeling of progression. While I dislike outright RPGs due to their lack of direct action, I do like RPG Elements when used well in a genre I do like. Leveling up and gaining new abilities in Kingdom Hearts, and always having new items to search for is somehow strangely compelling. And returning to previously visited areas but with new abilities such as jumping higher or gliding, to try to find previously inaccessible secrets (especially notable in the first game, as well as 358/2 Days and Birth by Sleep), just makes the act of exploring a lot of fun. And the simple act of leveling up in Borderlands, and finding new weapons to replace old ones, really adds a lot to the game. Occasionally, though, I do get into games that are story-oriented. This is rare, as such games have to do story in a way that I can actually get into. Simply shoving cutscenes into an action game doesn't count. Silent Hill 3 is a favorite of mine in this regard. It creates not so much a story as an atmosphere, and it's real easy to see things from the heroine's perspective as she wanders around twisted versions of a shopping mall, subway, office building and more. One of the key features of that game's storytelling, along with Iji, to me, is the ability to read stuff. In Silent Hill 3 and some, but not most, of the other Silent Hill games, you can examine many things and read your protagonist's thoughts on them, in addition to reading material you may come across. Some of Heather's thoughts actually change relative to the order you viewed things in, showing surprising attention to detail. The game Iji, while an action game in many ways, takes those elements but goes a step further, by letting your actions influence the story, your character's and others' dialog, and what's written in some of the logbooks you find. But the main thing about the few "story-driven" games I like that makes them work for me is that the atmosphere connects to the story, and is consistent. The areas, the things I can read or examine, everything needs to feel like it's part of the world and add to the feel of what's supposed to be going on. A well-done atmosphere makes the story convincing. A poorly-done one makes it just in the background and easily ignorable. An example would be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I enjoy the game, and I like its world, the ability to explore and perform a large number of tasks, and the detail put into making the individual areas look and sound interesting, but the story is just "there". Poorly-written dialog, an implausibly small world (in terms of scale), a broken day/night system, and more make the well-done graphics and sound (the 3DS version looks really good) contribute little to atmosphere. I find it strange when people talk about the story, because I find its world so empty (in terms of believability, not in terms of things to do), that the story rolls off my back. So basically, I don't enjoy games for any one reason. But I do look for certain things in them. They have a simple enough to understand goal and gameplay and not be too complicated. They be fast-paced enough that I can just jump in and have fun. (Those two are things I like about the 2D Zeldas, but dislike about the 3D ones) That they have depth so that even if they're simple, the mechanics are enjoyable just to mess around with, and the world fun to play in. And, if they're intended to tell a story or create an atmosphere, that they actually do so successfully, which may occasionally mean sacrificing some elements of gameplay for this purpose.
Common characteristics of works that I like - Books
With books, they are an entirely different medium, being story-driven. So my preferences are different. First, let me quote Roger Ebert.
- Roger Ebert: "It's not what the story is, but how the story is told."
"Adventure" games suck
Now for an inflammatory opinion, though I realize most people don't care for the Adventure Game genre to begin with. But the title rankles me, as does the content. What do you think of when you hear the term "adventure" used outside of a video game context? Think of an adventure movie you saw or adventure book you read. You think of danger, suspense, exciting chases, sneaking around, and so on. Adventure is not the same as straight-up action. Action is more about combat and fighting, running and escaping possibly. Adventure can easily contain those elements, but there's greater emphasis on suspense, exploration, and a slower (though not slow) pace compared to action. The video game genre known as Adventure Game is pretty far removed from action games, certainly, often by containing nothing fun. Many of them are of the point-and-click genre. You walk around, examine objects, read lots of descriptive text (or your character's thoughts), collect objects and solve annoying puzzles, many of which are of the "use X on Y" variety. The games are unbelievably slow. None of the elements I associate with an adventure are there. There's no suspense because you're not in any danger. You're often not in direct control of your character so there's no chases, hiding, fighting, or anything that might happen in an adventure. There's usually little exploration either due to the puzzle-based nature of these games - any exploration tends to be in deference to the puzzles or story, the opposite of games like Skyrim. In other words, the term "Adventure Game" is a total misnomer, in regards to both words. Call them something else. To me, a real adventure game would try to, well, recreate the feeling of a real adventure. Allow players to explore and discover unrequired, out of the way areas if they want to. Have moments with no action, and moments with a lot of action. Give the player freedom - it doesn't have to be open-world, but at least give them something explorable but with excitement.
The elements of a story
When I stop and think about it, I'd realized that the stories that I liked, be they movie, book, etc., tended to have certain elements they did really well even when other elements are lacking. And I thought about it, and came to realize that storytelling consists of a handful of major elements, which combine to make the story what it is. And sometimes, just one of these elements being done really well can be enough to make a story very enjoyable. Plot: The gist of what happens in a story. Plot does not refer to individual scenes, but rather the underlying "main" story. In other words, what do the characters do, and why, pretty much. Plot tends to connect "events" together. It's essentially the reason why they happen. Events: This is the "how" of a story. What are the individual events in a story and how do they play out? Sometimes a story with no plot can be fun because it's just a lot of stuff that happens, and the "stuff" in question is entertaining. The quality of the events also affects pacing. Ever read a story where you're bored because not enough stuff was happening? "Events" are the "stuff" in question. Character: The personality of the characters and quality of the dialog. Great characters are ones that stick with you after the story is over, being memorable. If you always picture the character acting a certain way or talking a certain way, then that's the sign of a character that's well designed. A great character can also drive the story with their actions, or react to the story in interesting ways. Truly well-designed characters can be the ones that make "events" work and be entertaining. Arguably, virtually any story has all of these 3 elements, but to varying degrees of importance. I'll use the original My Teacher Is an Alien as an example of the difference between these 3 elements. In My Teacher Is an Alien, the plot is that Peter and Susan wish to prove that their teacher is really an alien out to take 5 students from the class to space with him. The plot has Susan making the discovery, then enlisting Peter's help, the two of them snooping in his house, discovering what his plan is, trying to get more proof, and dealing with the rumors in school when other kids find out what's going on and they start to believe that Mr. Smith is an alien. The events are the individual scenes that occur. For example, in one scene, Peter and Susan are in the attic and discovered their former teacher trapped in a force field when Mr. Smith (aka Broxholm, his alien name) comes home. As the two hide out and wait for him to be distracted, they finally hear him listening to his alien music and sneak their way out of the attic, close the door carefully (so it doesn't swing and make a loud noise that would get his attention), and slip out of the house unnoticed. Peter offers to walk Susan back to her house, before going off to his own. The character is the personality of the two. Susan has some degree of sarcasm in her first-person narration, though by no means a First Person Snarker. She expresses fear at times, sarcasm at times, and mocks Broxholm's taste in alien music. She feels sorry for Peter, who is a bully victim, but at the same time sometimes gets angry with him. She's humanly flawed, but humanly kind as well. Peter is not followed by the narration, so we only see him through Susan's eyes, but he is shown to be a sci-fi nerd, be good at figuring things out to a degree, but not perfect. Now, looking at the above, you can see that events, while important to keep reader interested, can often be excised from the main plot unless they're part of it. For example, Peter and Susan being stuck in Broxholm's attic and having to sneak out adds nothing to the plot, but is still an enjoyable scene. To me, events are the main part of a story, as without them, the story may as well just be narration. For example, a history book has a lot of plot, but nothing in the way of events or character. Anyway, there's many different types of stories that can be told by placing greater or lesser importance on these elements. Think of the books you've read, movies you've seen, etc. Are the characters distinct? Do you enjoy individual scenes in the story? Does the underlying plot interest you as well, or do you just see it as an excuse to connect entertaining scenes together?
The death of the video arcade game
When I was a kid, arcade video games had a certain unique status to them which gave them a lot of appeal. Basically, arcade games had a bunch of distinctive qualities - some positive, some negative:
- They were oftentimes only available in the arcade, so if you wanted to play them, you had to visit the arcade, and couldn't buy the game at home.
- Arcade machines used the most recent, most powerful technology, so arcade games had better graphics and sound than home console games.
- If the games were multiplayer, it was almost always drop-in multiplayer. Someone could insert a coin at any time and join in a game in progress.
- The games had a pick-up-and-play design to them. You could walk up to the machine and instantly understand the goal and the basic mechanics, even if you wouldn't understand all the depth until later.
- The games tended to be designed to gobble quarters out of players' pockets. As such, they tended to base their difficulty on how quickly you might get killed, which would require you to put a coin in and respawn on the spot to rejoin the action. Games which instead forced players to restart a level, race or battle, would instead just ramp up the difficulty later. Games with Respawn on the Spot tended to abuse their design to make players do that very often indeed.
What's wrong with indie games
Indie games have always rubbed me the wrong way. They tend to have certain things in common - cheap pixel art graphics and a sort of lolrandom type of theme. The second is really by far the bigger turnoff. Why do people like the Super Mario games? When I was a kid, why did so many of us watch The Super Mario Bros. Super Show? Because we liked the world and the characters. The games had personality. Why is Angry Birds so popular? Not just because of the gameplay (in fact, it's a ripoff of a prior game which had stick figure-ish graphics), but because of the theme as well. One of the things that makes video games unique among other media is that they get you actively involved in pretending to do something, in exploring someone else's world and taking part in it. People like Madden NFL not just because of the gameplay, but because it looks and sounds like real football. People like Skyrim because it has a massive, and internally consistent, world to explore and take part in. You can talk to people, read books, fight monsters, explore caves, pick flowers, cook food, and do all sorts of things. Even when a game is clearly fantasy-based, it still has characters and a theme. Super Mario World wasn't based on anything realistic, but it was an internally consistent cartoon fantasy world, and we liked going through the Forest of Illusion, Choco Mountain, and more. Indie games, however, often tend to be just silly and random and not really have a theme. Or sometimes, random silliness clashes with the theme. Gunpoint, a creative puzzler involving sneaking through buildings and avoiding guards, uses large pixels for its character portraits, has a Cluster F-Bomb randomly inserted into its dialog (the game itself is otherwise very clean), and it clashes with what is otherwise a great, consistent presentation. Other indie games just half-ass their theme. One shooter, for example, is simply about a stick figurish character who wishes to become the best hero in the world, and so decides to kill the other heroes. There's even a Space Opera themed game... whose plot is that the protagonist was insulted on Spacebook (get it?) and travels across the universe to get revenge. These silly themes completely destroy the feeling that when I'm playing the game, I'm immersed in another world. You can't get immersed in something that feels like it was randomly thrown together by a little kid acting silly. Indie doesn't have to mean crap. Iji, Cave Story, Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Gone Home are all examples of excellent indie games that not only have great gameplay, but a consistent and well-designed theme. Iji is about someone who gets knocked out by an explosion, and wakes up in the future to find herself having been turned into a powerful super soldier entirely against her will, to fight off an alien invasion. The game's graphics contain probably less than 256 colors, and they're not super detailed. Most of the game was designed entirely by a single person, so there's no real budget. And yet, it's one of the best experiences I've ever had. Cave Story is a well-known modern cult classic. Daisuke Amaya created the entire game - graphics, music, level design, programming, story and theme, entirely by himself. And yet it comes together brilliantly to create an experience that's agreed to be amazing. Its world is imaginative and inspiring, and its well-designed story memorable, as well as malleable at points based on player action. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is hilarious. Its simple, family-friendly theme involves an octopus wearing a suit and pretending to be a human father and husband, while struggling to perform basic tasks. It's a riot. The game feels like a playable Saturday morning cartoon, and its budget of $24,000 was well spent. Finally, Gone Home is an amazing experience in interactive storytelling. With zero cutscenes or scripted events, you wander through a house and learn about its inhabitants simply from reading things lying around. You have full freedom to go about as you wish. Everything comes together to create a believable portrait of a severely flawed family that's breaking apart, and the result is a well thought out experience. What do those games have in common? Not a budget: two of them literally have a budget of nothing, or close to it. Instead, they actually feel like something. There's a reason people love Mario, but wouldn't love the same game if it had stick figure graphics. Character, theme, the feeling that the game represents something: either an interactive fiction or an activity. Exploring the house of a broken family is a great idea for a game. It's something I'd love to pretend to do - and a game lets me do that. A jumping meatloaf that has to collect magic bananas to stop an alien sounds like something someone high on caffeine and short on sense would make. It's not imaginative, you can't really relate to it or "prented" it; it's just random and stupid. Sadly, indie games are filled with that. There's an audience for lolrandom crap, but it dominates the indie scene so heavily that it destroys any chance I'd have of trying their games. Yes, theme makes a difference. Indies need to consider what theme they want, what feeling they want people playing their game to experience, and then stick to it consistently. They have more of a chance of breaking into the mainstream that way, and I'd be more willing to try their games. Oh, and while they're at it, they really need to hire actual artists and stop it with this pixelated crap, if at all possible. Spend at least a little money, please.
Exceptions to the rule of genre hate
Recently (As of October 2015), I've been "playing" Life Is Strange. It's an "adventure" "game" (both words in quotes) about basically teen adult problems, with a possible murder or kidnapping, and some supernatural stuff. And you can rewind time to a certain degree after making a choice, and make a different choice. It also has fantastic atmosphere in its painted-looking locales, which you have only a small amount of freedom to explore, though you can move the camera in all directions to try to soak in the details better. Why would I try something like that? Because it was only 5 dollars to play the first episode? But I've avoided other games that cost similar prices. Because its theme intrigued me? Because I was looking for a unique experience and wanted to see what it would be like? Probably that last one, plus I saw a small amount of it on YouTube Gaming and it looked interesting. I've noticed that there are certain genres I absolutely hate, or have no interest in playing, but within those genres, there are things that I like. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, that when there's something I like in that genre, it tends to either be something that appeals to me personally, or breaks the rules of its genre. Turn-based RPGs. I've seen gamers argue that they don't count as "real games" (an argument now shifted to refer to smartphone games). They're typically slow, medieval fantasy-themed, loaded with grinding, and not much in the way of action. There are three games in that genre that I really like though: Super Mario RPG, Earthbound, and Chrono Trigger. Admittedly, that last one I only played through once, but I still liked it. Super Mario RPG and I have a funny history: I bought that game and played it for 6 days until I beat it, then immediately started over with a new savegame, since I'd had so much fun and wanted to keep playing. What rules do those games break? How do they appeal to me personally? All three of those games are faster paced than their genre normally is. Two of those games don't even take place in a medieval-themed world; one takes place in "modern" (as of the 1990s) times! Two of them are comedies. One of them has a really funky and eclectic soundtrack. All of them add some sort of action-based component to the combat. I'm not going to review those games here, but I will say that they were different from the others of their genre, and they appealed to me. Likewise with Super Spike V'Ball, a volleyball video game. I hate sports. I hate sports games. Super Spike V'Ball was a slightly cartoonish take on volleyball with the odd "super spike" and "super block" mechanics that added some cartoony action - I'm talking, hitting the ball into someone so hard that it knocks them back, and the ball flies out of the arena. The great music and detailed, varied locales helped as well. I wish more products broke their rules of their genre. I doubt it's a coincidence that among the most popular racing and fighting games are Mario Kart and Smash Bros. respectively. They know how to reach outside their genre and pull in an audience that otherwise wouldn't be interested. In their case, they do it with relatively easy to learn pick-up-and-play mechanics, cartoon aesthetics, and a playful party-like appeal. Why aren't more companies learning? Rocket League broke outside of the usual sports audience simply by having remote control cars play soccer instead of humans. Even I like that game. There are exceptions to so many rules, and this whole "I hate [genre]" is one of those rules, with a handful of exceptions. But what all those exceptions have in common is that they themselves break the rules of their genre, with original play mechanics or an original theme. So in other words, to create an exception to my rule about genre hate, they need to be exceptions to the rules of their own genre. Hmm...
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