The video game Horizon Zero Dawn (HZD) continues opening new avenues for me as an author. A couple of months ago I stumbled upon the opportunity to take part in developing a video game through an indie company, Dyscordion Entertainment Inc. Although excited by the idea I was nervous about participating. If I took part, I needed to contribute the resources and skills necessary to be an equal Dev (short for developer). The last thing I wanted to do was let down a team of people depending on me.
My decision to tackle this project is two-fold:
1) The initiative is being led by a friend and fellow author. We met through interacting on each other's HZD fanfictions.
2) I wanted to pursue more collaborative exercises which would assist in regaining my ability and confidence.
Thus far I've had zero regrets. The assembled team is professional, dedicated, and incredibly talented. Not to mention a lot of fun! The game's name is 'Second Star' and I encourage you to check out both the website and trailer! Follow one of the social media platforms to stay updated on progress!
Anyone who's followed me for a while will know I love how modern video games are delving deeper and more creatively into narrative. It's been a desire of mine to become involved in the creation of one of these games so I am enormously grateful for this opportunity!
It's not always clear what lessons we're meant to learn from experiences in life. I've neglected to post here in a long time and the reasons are many, yet the cause ultimately links to understanding. Or rather, my attempts to achieve it. I took a break from blog and newsletter-related activities after my father and grandmother passed away. Writing the HZD collab became increasingly difficult as it delved into darker subject matter. Then I parted ways with one of my dearest friends: leogrl19.
When you lose someone this way the question of Why takes precedence, circling like a voracious vulture. Why did it happen? The How is traceable, but was there overarching meaning to the event... or was it a callous deal of circumstance?
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Whether that reason is cosmic or finite in nature bears less importance than the necessity of looking on a circumstance and learning from it. Time and space assist with this endeavour, but it is never easy to accomplish. While I recognise and acknowledge what happened - even understand the why at a logical level - it is far harder to teach your emotions. To make them understand.
I strove for 'normal' after the deaths in my family. Now that word is shapeless. There is only one day to the next, a pattern of events which translates to most as monotony, yet within it are thousands of unique moments to exist within and forge connection.
Perhaps the most powerful message I've received this past year is that caring for others does not mean continually Giving. When you feel deeply for someone you want to do everything in your power to assist them, but doing so is not always in their best interests or yours. It's one of those things you know on a conscious level, yet having to enforce it... can be enormously painful. In looking for meaning among the pain of living, one can only bring along awareness. Of the larger world, and oneself.
A new chapter of my life is upon me, and within it I hope to build upon my failures and successes alike. Go forward with a clearer vision of who I am, and how I wish to shape my story. The next post will detail a segment of this new narrative; an opportunity that presented itself as I was seeking clarity and that has facilitated a fresh direction for my love of writing.
We often take for granted the concentration that's needed to form stories. Beyond that, crafting our best work can require a mind free of other influences. Such a thing may sound impossible. After all, aren't our minds always occupied with diverse matters: incidents at work, the next errand, what we're having for dinner, etc.? Yes, but those thoughts can be managed and relegated to a place outside one's creative head-space, so long as one has enough discipline and a stable emotional backdrop from which to work.
It's like any sort of exercise, you improve with practice. My regular writing sessions with leogrl19 honed this ability to focus and, even when interrupted for a time, I could generally get back into the 'zone' in a fairly prompt manner. Since my father's passing in January I've realised how precious that ability truly is.
I took for granted how fluidly I could come and go from the author side of my brain. I took a break from writing while getting my papa's affairs sorted. About two weeks later, I tried returning to my craft. While I could still string sentences together and construct reasonable paragraphs, details were scattered. I was inclined to skim over situations that required deeper engagement where once I would have embraced them. In short, my writing was lacking.
While a portion of this can certainly be attributed to my brain being riddled with more thoughts than before, the far greater contributor is my emotional state. Since losing my father I find myself lacking the emotional resilience I once possessed. I will be in a good mood and then a small, meaningless upset will send me into a fit of sadness or frustration.
Grief touches everyone differently. This is something I must come to terms with, and only time can assist with the process. I had no idea how fundamentally it would affect my creative process, yet I shouldn't be. My life has been irrevocably changed. I am not the same person now, so while I come to terms with the new reality so, too, is my writing in flux.
Thank you to those who have extended their condolences. Every one of them is sincerely appreciated.
May light and warmth illuminate all you do.
The episode begins with Wakaba having made lunch for Utena to show the depth of her friendship. Anthy one-ups her in the lunch department but the three girls manage to enjoy a pleasant break. At least until Utena sees Touga surrounded by fawning girls and becomes confused about her feelings.
When the members of the Student Council call Touga out on using Nanami as part of his plan to obtain the Rose Bride from Utena, he states that his sister was betrayed by her strong feelings. Such strong feelings can ensure victory when correctly placed, which he intends to make the most of. Touga then confronts Anthy in the greenhouse and reminds her that she is the Rose Bride - a beautiful bird that can never leave its cage.
Touga continues leading Utena on, his intention to make her believe that he's the prince from her past. He is overly friendly, cutting their moment short by stating that it's indiscreet of him to kiss her in front of Anthy. This action serves to make Utena further unsure of her feelings while also driving a wedge between her friendship with Anthy, although Utena doesn't yet realise it. Then Touga goes in for the kill: He challenges Utena to a duel beneath the floating castle.
Utena and Anthy return their dorm where Anthy admits that she would like to acquire more friends. The admittance comes off as genuine, and a way for Anthy to bolster Utena's confidence. The confession makes Utena so happy that she travels to the arena determined to protect her friend.
The Shadow girls pause the story for a moment to depict a man shooting apples off his son's head. A clear reminder to think for yourself... or else you could face terrible consequences.
I will take this opportunity to point out that Utena's rose for the duels is white as opposed to the other duelists who generally have roses that match their hair. White appears to indicate her purity, untainted by selfish motivations. During the duel, Utena is on the offensive but showing restraint since she doesn't want to hurt Touga. Touga waits to see the power of Dios in Utena before presenting himself in a stance that indicates he's waiting to be defeated.
Such a presentation throws Utena off her charge and he smoothly cuts the rose from her chest. In a truly heartbreaking final scene, Touga states that Anthy merely embodies the desires of her betrothed, implying that her desire for friends was simply a projection of what Utena thought would be best for her. Anthy cements this by agreeing with him and Utena is left weeping on the battlefield.
This was the episode that convinced me I had watch this series to the end. The calculated way it pulls its audience in and uses their emotions is amazing. I was hooked and am now re-hooked, eager to see where it goes from here. There are many more exciting twists to follow.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu
There's something to be said for living an interesting life. Nothing teaches you what's important quite like being put in an unusual situation. Such moments force you to develop as a person – building your problem-solving, interpersonal and creative skills. Life tends to foist these on us, but there are some people who purposely seek out the thrill of unknown circumstances.
My father left post-secondary to travel, initially through the Middle East then India. After a brief return to Canada he set off again, this time with my mother, and they visited Greece along with a smattering of European countries. The stories he brought back – some Terrifying, some Humorous, all with at least one gem of Wisdom – expanded the viewpoints of those who heard them. He always said that traveling provided the best education and I can certainly understand why.
One does not have to cross borders to grow. Being open to new experiences and people, even just in one's home community, can have similar results. The biggest hurtle is getting out there. As adults, we're often pursuing financial stability and working towards the next goal. This can lead us to sit in the comfort and safety of routine. Keeping yourself informed is critical. While the news is usually viewed as a way to do this, engaging in meaningful discussion – and not being afraid to look at something from all sides – is just as important. Such interactions, that reach beyond the superficial, open our eyes to the world.
My dear friend leogrl19's life has been very different from my own, yet that difference – respectfully shared – has provided me with a wider world view. I will never completely comprehend what it's like to be in someone else's position, even if I can empathise with their experience, but it's still affected me. The experience forces me to look at myself and my life differently. It's easy to become wrapped up in your own world – but far more rewarding to push beyond it.
I may not be as inclined to travel to unfamiliar places like my parents did, but I know that Experience is the greatest teacher. Do right by yourself by placing the same value on Personal Growth that you do on Economic Empowerment. The diversity and knowledge we uncover is what makes life Rich. Ultimately, our legacy lives in Stories. What does yours look like?
Saonji gives Touga his exchange diary when he leaves the school. After promising to keep it safe the Student Council president burns it, yet another illustration of Touga's nasty nature. Nanami accuses Utena of getting her brother hurt. Our heroine admits that she should have been more careful and not let the whole thing happen. The events have caused Utena to doubt her ability to be a prince (AKA, protect Anthy). To help her feel better ,Anthy suggests that they bring Touga flowers. It's also revealed that Anthy has brought home a stray kitten.
Touga tells the Student Council that another duelist will appear. Juri wants to know who it is, but he won't tell her, merely insisting that the stage is set. While being concerned for her brother, Nanami recalls giving him a kitten for his birthday many years ago. He'd said it was the best gift he'd ever gotten. It just so happens to be Touga's birthday party when Utena and Anthy bring him the roses. Touga encourages Nanami's hatred for Utena at the party, the knife driving deeper when Anthy presents Touga with the kitten she'd obtained.
This is when we learn that Nanami drowned the kitten she'd given Touga because she was jealous of it. Holy crow is this family messed up! :( Nanami is revealed as the new duelist.
Nanami continues fighting Utena in the arena even once her rose is cut off until Touga stops her. She feels guilty over killing the kitten, but her obsession with her brother is a powerful force. I can't help wondering how she'd be affected if she knew how he manipulated everyone around him. We get the impression that this is all set-up for Touga's duel with Utena in the next episode - his 'softening her up' if you will.
As someone who loves all animals I was appalled by Nanami's actions. Despite my disgust I was somewhat impressed by the show's determination not to shy away from the truly dark side of affection (or perhaps obsession is more accurate), even in children. As much as I'm not fond of Nanami, I am definitely far less fond of Touga who cares nothing for others as he pulls the strings in his web.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu
Life is a series of moments. Most are relegated to the vaults of our mind, gradually forgotten, yet still part of our collected experience.
My childhood is a series of feelings more than specific events. Papa was a warm, energetic and silly father. Being lifted into the air and spun around incorporated all of these elements – the laughter of a dad and daughter filling a big, echoing room.
There was never any doubt that Papa loved us. Every decision he made had us at its heart. Our family endured a period of strife that ultimately sundered my parent's relationship. Papa's focus remained on us, giving everything he could to ensure we were safe and cared for.
When we were in early high school, the legacy of laughter returned. Papa watched our favourite Japanese animation shows with us, helping to create humorous renditions of the characters and circumstances. His wacky hilarity was amplified by the utter joy I witnessed in those exchanges. It felt like a return to simpler times.
We grew into women and moved on to adult lives – gaining partners with whom we could share goals and love. Everyone talks about how nerve-wracking it is for boyfriends to meet their girlfriends' fathers. I can assure you that, at least in my case, it was just as anxiety-inducing for me.
Fortunately, Joe and Papa got on beautifully – sharing many in-depth conversations on a range of topics. Both thrived in these discussions and there are no words to describe how happy I was seeing them enjoying each others' company.
These and so many other moments will live inside me – keeping Papa's fierce intelligence, passionate nature, and well of love alive. He was a man who saw connection in all things and I know that his depth is integral to my own. His enthusiasm for reading inspired mine, a gift that can never be repaid – only passed forward.
We are born into a world that is much bigger than ourselves, one that is both enormously frightening and staggeringly beautiful. Although we walk the path of our individual lives alone, we are surrounded by the love of those who came before and those currently with us. We are part of a continually expanding web of consciousness in a reality where energy is neither created nor destroyed. Where the spirits of all living beings share our struggles and joys. We need only look beyond ourselves to Witness them.
Moving back into (quite literally) darker territory, this installment begins in the dimly lit kendo room where Touga and Saoinji are dueling to a chorus of girls cheering on their favourite man. The play back and forth between the cheering squads heightens the sense of competition. Saoinji loses and we learn that the two have known each other for many years (ten to be exact). We also learn that Saonji is determined to possess Anthy to obtain something eternal (he hopes to find in the castle with Anthy).
A flashback showing the boys kendo fighting when they were young reveals that Touga has always been the better fighter. On their way home, the boys come across a funeral where men inquire if they've seen a little girl. The funeral is for the girl's parents who died in an accident and she's disappeared.
Touga leads Saonji into the church and opens one of three coffins to find the girl (our suspicions as to her identity are confirmed when we see that the girl has long pink hair identical to Utena's, although her face is shrouded in shadows). The young Utena admits to seeing herself belonging in the coffin since there was a third, empty one near the ones holding her parents. She has lost faith in life since what's the point in living if all life must come to an end? Young Utena states that there is nothing eternal. The two boys leave her there, Saoinji asking Touga if they should tell someone about her. Touga replies that, unless they can show her something eternal, they cannot help her.
Present-day Saoinji believes that Touga did show her something eternal since he later heard that she'd decided to leave the coffin and he now desires to find that something (partly out of a desire to compete and partly because he is genuinely disturbed by a meaningless existence). In a brief monologue from Utena, we learn that she came to this school to find her prince (I suppose she saw the rose emblem's resemblance to her ring and made the connection). Juri tells the rest of the Student Council about Utena's prince story. Later, Utena asks Touga about the castle and he attempts to fluster her by speaking about her prince.
Saoinji receives a message from End of the World stating that the castle will descend that evening so he decides to kidnap Anthy so they can go to the castle despite the rules. The Shadow girls talk forebodingly about losing faith in fantasy and dreams. Touga anonymously tells Utena what has happened to Anthy and she runs to the arena. She discovers Saoinji lying face down in a pond outside the gates. Managing to rouse him, the man seems lost at first but eventually they both rush to the arena where Anthy is in a coffin. This appears to be an attempt to prey on Saoinji's concern that life is without meaning. When they approach, the coffin rises out of reach and Utena navigates pillars to reach Anthy before the castle above crushes them.
Embittered by the fact that Utena has saved Anthy yet again and ashamed of his apparent loss of mind (since the castle's collapse appears to have been a figment of his imagination), Saoinji attacks a defenseless Utena. Touga steps in front of the sword and saves Utena. The way it's structured indicates that he did this more to earn her trust than out of any true sense of chivalry. The next day we learn that Touga planted the note from End of the World and Saonki is being expelled. The red-haired man doesn't believe in friendship so he doesn't care that he set Saonji up to implement his own agenda. Apparently End of the World doesn't either since no consequences arrive for Touga.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu
Living in a country with seasons encourages contemplation of the ever-changing reality. As the New Year arrives, this line of thinking magnifies – bringing to light the accomplishments, failures and plans that occurred over the past 365 days. Every one of these involved decisions. Choices with consequences that may or may not have ended the way we intended.
When 2017 began I had no idea I would realign my career, thankfully finding something more suited to my values and built around good people. I never would have imagined choosing to write a fanfiction for game that struck me with its complexity and beauty would lead to a friend. Someone whose history is very different from my own, yet for whom I feel a shared affinity. Together, we've created a magnum opus of a story in the Horizon Zero Dawn universe with emotional depth that has forced me to grow as an author.
While those are the highlights, there have been plenty of small moments throughout as well. Getting to know new people, connecting with strangers in passing that convince you, 'yes, I'm not alone'. Setting the foundations for future resiliency in quality of life and praising each day I awake to see what comes next.
It's easy to get profound this time of year, and I'm a person inclined toward that disposition anyway. My optimistic nature prefers to see possibility rather than limitations, focusing on what went right instead of what went wrong. That state of mind does not come as easily to some and can make preparing for the new year a minefield of insecurity.
I would like to offer hope to anyone who feels this way. Mine is a small voice, but I hope that it speaks to those who read the words I give. Offering something in a world that can seem daunting. So I will extend my sincere desire that 2018 brings you fulfillment and growth without much strife. May you and those you love be safe and happy, recognising the blessings that abound even in periods of discord. Words are not always adequate conveyors of feeling, but I hope the following adds something to your life.
What says comfort to you?
The press of warm blankets
A treasured song
Loved one's kiss.
Peering out a window
Seeing stillness -
or routine activity.
Feeling air shift along skin
Soothing or refreshing
Light at the beginning or end of a day
Illuminating familiar shapes
Crossing time to unite.
Whispering to a trusted confidante
Sharing fears and hopes
The uncertainty of life made bearable
By like experience.
Have a safe and fulfilling New Year,
Here is where I post updates and thoughts about my writing (as well as sources of inspiration). Views expressed are strictly my own.