The Imagination of Nintendo

I bought a Switch. It was a little impulsive. E3 was last week and they announced they are doing a core Pokemon RPG for the Switch.

If you are unaware, I’m obsessed with Pokemon. Plushies and figurines litter my room to the point a friend visiting asked where the 12 year old was. I’m the 12 year old. The moment they announced some nebulous Pokemon RPG for the Switch, I was in. I went out, hit up three Targets, and bought one.

There are about six games for the Switch. I picked up Zelda. There is a beautiful world with lots of weird things to kill you, and some neat abilities. Zelda is an amazing life lesson. Run up to a goblin thing with a branch, hit it and do no damage, proceed to have it kill you in one shot. See a lake, try to swim across it, die immediately from cold. This is the game. “I want to do this thing!” Die. Still, it’s a beautiful world.

Then I picked up Mario Kart 8. There is no sense in Mario Kart 8. Truly, there never has been, but I haven’t played since college. The lanes wobble either due to psychedelic haunted houses or Bowser punching it.

The maps are gorgeous, imaginative, expansive. They tell entire stories, while only taking three minutes to do a few laps on.

Image result for mario kart 8 screenshots tough guy mountain

While the fact you hang glide is cool, you’re hang gliding after driving down a waterfall. To get to the top you drove up a water fall. You drive upside down, sideways, every which way. You’re really not sure where you are in relation to the ground. Every once and a while you want to throw up a little at how the world moves because it’s not supposed to move that way.

Image result for mario kart 8 screenshots tough guy mountain

That’s a space station. There are three Rainbow Roads and each is more ridiculous than the other. It’s incredible. One is over a city, this is in space, and the other I can’t quite remember but it’s an acid trip.

Why do I bring this up? Between Mario’s LCD and Zelda’s attempt at becoming Skyrim, my imagination is exploding. I didn’t realize how stagnant it was. I do think NieR: Automata helped a little, but it’s also been putting me into an existential depression.

Fantasy and science fiction more and more needs to fit into a neat box. I blame our zeal for science. Everything must make sense. It must have an explanation. Mario Kart doesn’t care about your science. It doesn’t care about gravity. It doesn’t care. It inspired me not to care, and to write a few more imaginative pieces.

The Trials of Writing

Writing is a multitasking sport and I’m failing hard on it. Why, you ask? Because here is my massively neglected blog. My other blog, tied implicitly to my novels, is just as neglected. This needs to change.

I’ve been doing a great job of waking up at 5:30am and writing. The issue is it gets locked into editing the novel instead of passing over here to get working on the project. In the evening I just don’t care. I play video games. I need to care more. It would be better for my pocket book as well as my progress and the creation of a fan base. It’s just really hard work.

Travel hurts this as well. I’m currently on my parent’s computer. Their keyboard feels clunky to type on, so it frustrates me, and I quit. It’s a horrible thing.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be updating the Volden site. I will be appearing more regularly on here, and I will have a really awesome map when I can figure out how to get links up on it. All wins.

Hope you’re all doing well, hope your writing/reading is going well, and have an awesome Father’s Day!

The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Review: The Glass Thief

The Lands of G'desh

The Glass Thief is a fun action fantasy story which goes from sword and board of a common thief trying to pay off a debt, to the high fantasy of a world altering artifact plagued by the attention of the undead. The story is set up in three acts, whether intentional or not, where the story fundamentally changes what it is. These alterations feel a bit like the life cycle of a Caterpillar, and by the end you have a butterfly. Soaked in tears.

The story focuses on a few characters, but at the heart is Del Kanadis, a thief. He has a debt band, a ring around his arm to remind him he must do the bidding of King Adius. Del is well thought out, witty, and has interesting quirks: he won’t kill, and he is afraid of heights. Del grows through his discovery of self and friends. It’s 

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Upside Down

I’m upside down
My feet in the air,
Head on the ground.
Wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Didn’t realize I was that attached.
Didn’t see she was my center.

Now I’m detached,
Free falling with no clue
What to do, to chase or wait?
But to give utterance is villainy
For I am the villain, I am a destroyer
And I am destroyed.

You were my glue. You kept me together. Then you dissolved, and you dissolved me with you, because I made you my world.

And it doesn’t make sense.
I screwed myself again.
And it’s empty.
Upside down.
Alone.

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A DEBT IS OWED. Del Kanadis–indentured thief to the King of Fires–desires freedom above all else. When given the opportunity to repay his debt with a single job, he begrudgingly accepts, believing it to be a fool’s errand. His task: infiltrate a secluded village rumoured to hold a relic capable of defeating the Fire King’s […]

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Villains or the Egg

I watched Captain America: Civil War again last night. There’s an interesting concept in any of the super hero movies. Do villains appear because the heroes amped up the power level?

For the history of comics, this is true. Superman existed uncontested. He stopped meteors, trains, exploding factories, and so on. I remember these when I was younger and I watched them on VHS. While VHS is ancient and dates me, not nearly as much as if I’d admit to watching Superman when it first aired.

The people making the heroes had a good heart. Let’s start with the best in people. Then they darkened it.

Villains started appearing to create a better conflict. They were stronger, more clever, had some ability to keep down the hero. The hero came first.

Now that we have our super hero origin stories, usually starting with them facing up against a major terrorist, the villains don’t appear until later. As they say in Civil War, like the challenge is there, and they have to live up to it.

There’s a problem with this. Escalation of power rarely starts with defense.

Cities were conquered. Walls were built. Battering rams were deployed. Hot tar was poured down on them. People used swords. The bow was created to keep them at a distance. The shield had no reason to exist until someone was trying to kill someone else.

The Great War was so bloody because offensive capabilities completely outstripped defensive capabilities on a scale rarely seen, possibly never seen. They used machine guns and gas. Trenches and gas masks were utilized. Mortars were used to force machine gunners to hide so charges could be mounted with some hope of success.

Historically, the defense, the protector, comes after the offense and destroyer. Joker should have gone on a rampage, and after seeing the destruction with no end in sight, Batman would rise up to defend his city. Now he may have already been defending it from street thugs, but when you’re trained as a master assassin, you really don’t need billions of dollars to defeat a guy who barely knows how to shoot a gun.

In your own stories, keep that in mind. There are heroes that are greater than life, but they rarely come out without a challenge. How do we know they’re incredible if they haven’t been forged in equally great strife?