Mental Illness My Hidden Adversary

It’s a quarter to five and I am exhausted…

However, seems the old thing of wanting to write about something so bad I can’t do anything else has returned. I don’t know what this post will be. I have a rough idea of what I want to talk about. Of what I want out of my head.

There are a few posts like this scattered around the site. Pretty much anything in the life category. It may add some context to what ends up in this one.

I have recently found something that is working. I have found an answer to a problem that I didn’t let myself see. I am a person suffering from mental illness. I am a person who has been suffering from mental illness for half my life or more. I knew I was sick I knew things were not normal I knew I was unhappy. What I did not let myself know is that it was all in my head. Not in a dismissive way, not in an imaginary way, but in an actual, quantifiable, so obvious why couldn’t I see it way.

I suppose it is a standard story. It was inconceivable for ME to be mentally ill. To be depressed to have anxiety. How could I, a white male from an upper middle class family, who had little to no responsibility or obvious stress be depressed. How could I, a person living in the USA, who was not a member of any oppressed minority group dare be depressed. What right did I have? I’m not living in some third world country struggling to survive. I’m not a person of color trying to deal with all of the systemic racism that exists in this country. I’m Jewish but I live in NYC, USA pretty much the furthest thing from a hotbed of anti-semitic activity.

Suck it up, I would tell myself, stop being a failure, stop being such a disappointment to your family. Other people have it worse, you can’t feel this way, It is all physical once you solve that you’ll feel better. I didn’t even think mental health was a thing. I didn’t believe in it for myself and for others. It wasn’t a real disease. How very very wrong I was.

I had tried antidepressants in the past but I didn’t see them the right way. For years I have been suffering from literal 24/7 nausea. That feeling you get right before your gag reflex triggers and you heave or start to vomit? That feeling is with me every waking moment. I went to every type of doctor under the sun to figure it out. Just about every specialist. No answers.

Maybe I wasn’t articulating the symptoms well enough, maybe nausea is such a general thing it can’t be figured out. The antidepressants didn’t fix my nausea problem so I threw them away. I also never went to a mental health professional. I was taking pills without any proper guidance or support.

I don’t know what causes the nausea. I don’t know if it is the cause of my mental illness or if my mental illness is the cause of it. I do know that they are linked. That each has stopped me from being able to treat the other. I was in a boxing match with an arm tied behind my back.

A couple of months ago I finally broke through the anxiety and told my doctor enough for him to suspect mental illness. He gave me a quiz and I scored the equivalent of an 8. Severe depression. I had been seeing him for years telling him about my nausea problem. He never suspected, he was floored, he felt like a failure for not recognizing it sooner. I was that good at hiding it.

He prescribed Paxil, stressing that I should seriously seek specialist intervention. I took the pills, they weren’t really working. I still did not seek the help I needed. He then prescribed Cymbalta. It has been a month and I think it is working. I am on my way out. I have an appointment next week to start the ball rolling at a clinic.

For years I kept screaming to the sky,”GIVE ME ANSWER, GIVE ME A DIAGNOSIS, GIVE ME SOMETHING TO FIGHT!” It’s sick to say, but I envied cancer patients. I envied people with the most horrible conditions imaginable. I envied them because at least they had an answer, they knew what they were fighting. Now I know what I am fighting, now I have allowed myself to see the hidden enemy. I am fighting mental illness. I am finally starting the war that has gone too long unnoticed. I am fighting the monster that has robbed me of so much of my life. I’ll be damned if I let it take any more.

The Mask I Wear

For you to understand I wear a mask
Is all that I ask

Everyday I give my all
Not to let the mask fall.

It is the battle eternal
The battle internal.

I am forever tested
At times I am bested.

Despite giving my all
The mask will fall.

I do not mean for you to know
What I am like brought low.

The stress of the fight
Leads me to bite.

The effort of the battle
May sometimes rattle.

I may lash out
Or thrash about.

If I may offend
It is not what I intend.

I am fighting the battle inside
So please with me abide.

Comic Books are Overwhelming…NOT! Vol. 2 #1

So you’ve been hearing some good things about comic books but you don’t know where to start?  This post is all about breaking down your fears and misconceptions and getting you reading without going bankrupt.

Misconception #1: I have to read 75+ years worth of comic books just to know what’s going on!

This is a pretty common misconception.  With both DC and Marvel having series approaching 600 issues and beyond, new readers think they need to read all 600 issues to “get” what’s going on.  You don’t.  In the case of DC they rebooted their entire universe multiple times and have recently reshuffled the deck once again after this year’s Convergence.

As far as Marvel, they generally don’t reboot the whole universe but they do have status quo changing events that set up the next year or two.  They also explain in the comic book itself about events and characters so you never feel totally lost.  Couple this with summaries of not just the current arc but the entire status quo of each character presented at the beginning of each issue.  The recap page will get you up to speed even if you are jumping on mid story.  As a last resort you can always get a coarse summary of the character’s history on wikipedia.

Now is a great time to be getting into comic books.  Marvel is in the midst of a major multiversal shakeup. The entirety of Marvel’s multiverse has been erased and replaced giving way to a world unlike any seen before. In most cases, the tie-ins to these massive events are very much the side show, but with Secret Wars, the depth, breadth, and quality of the tie-ins absolutely steal the show.  No matter what bit of popular culture you love, from Doctor Who to Walking Dead you will find nods and homages here.

DC just finished up their own multiversal shakeup and is now trying to put the pieces back together again. For example, Superman is a bit powerless and Jim Gordon is the Batman.

Misconception #2: Comic books are expensive!

If you want to keep it local, head to your local comic book store.  Odds are their are tons of people with similar interests working and shopping there that are all too eager to guide and advise.  Heck half the books out there deal with Heroes paying it forward by teaching the next generation.  It’s practically part of the DNA.  Make sure you ask them about any sales or regular in store events like 10% off Wednesdays etc..  Also ask about frequent buyer programs like spend a 100 get 20 back.

If the internet is more your thing, you can always subscribe directly to the company.  You will be able to get discounts pretty close to half off but know that not every title will be available for subscription, especially the limited series.  I also highly recommend https://www.dcbservice.com/.  They offer 40% off or more of the cover price on any comic book coming out.  However with them you are ordering two months in advance and are dependent on the short blurbs of the solicits to decide on your choices.

Trade Paperbacks are a great way to catch up or just dip your toes in a little.  Think of them as director’s cuts. They generally collect a limited series or a set of recent story arcs.  They also sometimes include some background information on the development process.  They are a great way to see if comic books are for you.

The best advice I have on how to get started is to just get started.  Pick a character and follow them, odds are they will lead you to other books due to constant cross overs and guest appearances.  If you have no interest in super heroes, IDW and Dynamite have other popular culture icons with current or recently finished series.  Transformers, Doctor Who, GI Joe, Buffy and the rest of the Whedonverse, The A-team, Robocop, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters all have comic books either currently ongoing, coming this summer, or came out in the last year.

So you really have no excuse, no matter what your favorite character or piece of pop culture is, you can find it in your local comic books shop written and drawn by people just as fanatic as you.  So get out there and happy reading!

Zombies Run At Mission 7 With Ingress

Zombies Run At Mission 7 With Ingress

Or how I learned to stop worrying, start walking, and love the Zoms.

Zombies run landing page

 

It’s no secret that I am not the healthiest puppy on the farm. I mean I’m trying to make a career out of sitting on my ass playing video games and tweeting for John Smith’s sake.

At ~250 lbs. and 6’2″ according to the bmi scale I am borderline morbidly obese. Sedentary lifestyle + eating wrong + mental health issues = mid 30’s heart attack. According to the bmi scale, I should be floating at around 170 lbs. that means I gotta cleave off 80 lbs. just to get to “normal.”

So how does an aspiring video game journalist get motivated to stop wandering the post apocalypse and start wandering the pre? Well you give them a game to play. A game that revolves around running in a post apocalypse. Running from zombies. Running from zombies and saving the world.

Zombies, Run! is a streamlined, unobtrusive, immersive experience. All it needs are headphones, location tracking, and a steady pace. Go for a walk, pop them phones in your head, hit shuffle all, and just go. The app does the rest.

There are settings that allow you to customize the experience to your comfort and fitness level with 25 and 40 minute missions. These are accompanied by absolutely fantastic, immersive radio plays that feel like The Walking Dead by way of Doctor Who. Intrigue and conspiracies abound as you meet fellow runners tasked with scavenging the wastes in the hopes of keeping the settlement alive.

zombies run map view

 

These radio plays serve as immersive world building that allows you to close your eyes for a minute and picture the devastation around you. The app knows how far you travel and peppers the audio plays at regular intervals providing the background and action for your current mission. Whether it is exploring an abandoned, zombie infested hospital or running circles around the camp with a fellow runner to distract the horde, Zombies, Run! provides just the right amount of distraction to keep your mind off the exercise. In between story logs you can use any media player to provide a soundtrack for your run. When you reach the next checkpoint, your media gets paused so you are always immersed in the world.

As you go walk about, the game randomly notifies you of pickups. These run the gamut of edibles, consumables, craftables and other assorted post apocalypse detritus. These can then be used to build the base in a built in Farmville like. There are no paywalls and no timers. The only way you get the supplies to improve the settlement is by walking with the app and collecting them during missions.

It is this system that brings a bit of score counting and gamification, short of just seeing how far you can walk or how much story you can hear. You get invested in providing your improvements and are motivated to scavenge for supplies. Of course without any risk, this may eventually prove too little of a justification to go that extra mile.

zombies run summary view

 

Another optional setting is the ability to add chasers to your run. These are randomly occurring zombie attacks that you literally have to run from in order to avoid having your supplies stolen. Imagine just walking calmly at your own pace, listening to the story or your music, when suddenly the operator screams, panicky, in your ear. “Oh no, they’re right on you!” He says, “You’re gonna have to run!” As the moans and groans and sounds of the horde suddenly get closer and closer in your headphones. Now, you literally have to run if you want to make it home with all of your supplies intact. The feelings of dread as the zombies approach, the thoughts of “Fuck I’m tired but I really don’t want to lose any of this good stuff, the people need these meds!” add a nice bit of activity and urgency to what is otherwise audio book walking simulator.

If there is one criticism I have is that the runs are a bit aimless. You can walk in circles and still receive the same experience as walking to the mall. There are no destinations in mind. The story says go north but the app doesn’t care. There’s no response if you go toward where the story says is a horde instead of the mission objective. These are just static radio plays.

It can break the immersion a bit knowing that you really aren’t walking north to a perceived objective. Keeping that immersion is key to keeping the motivation to continue the run. Getting invested in the story and scavenging pushes you to go those extra few yards. Without it, you might as well be at home playing Fallout.

zombies run base building view

zombies run base construction view

 

It is with an effort to alleviate this problem that I recommend downloading another similar app called Ingress. Ingress tells the story of a hidden war between two powers vying for control of a mysterious energy. You pick your side and are instantly shown a scan of your immediate area. You can see the energy around you and the portals and missions nearby that gamify the experience. Ingress is a worldwide phenomenon, recently featured on LifeHacker, where I first came across it. There are meetups all over the world where fellow players converge and compete for territory.

QuickMemo+_2015-06-17-04-08-20

 

The idea is that real world sculptures and tourist attractions were built because of the presence of these energy portals. A local park, a school, a bit of modern art all serve as real world battlegrounds between the Enlightened and the Resistance. In a major urban area you have a good chance of coming across players in meat space ready to become your new best friend and bond over the common experience.

It is for these reasons that I suggest using Ingress as a companion to Zombies, Run! Ingress can navigate you to any portal in the world giving you a destination to head towards. While there is no official compatibility between the two apps, it is not hard to do it yourself. Zombies, Run! tells you to go north, so you set Ingress to take you to Central Park. All the while collecting Ingress energy and audio logs, and completing your zombie run. Who knows you might even happen upon a massive battle once you get there.

QuickMemo+_2015-06-17-04-09-16

 

I hope I have adequately relayed how amazing these two apps are. The immersion and world building are comparable to the best hardcore experiences. There is no need to rig a treadmill to your Xbox to burn calories while you burn zombies. You can game while you work out and still scratch all of those same itches. All with the added benefit of actually going outside. There are even random encounters between the chaser events of Zombies, Run!, and the chance of meeting fellow Ingress players. Level up your own stats. Actually be the lone wanderer or the chosen one. Couple these with Habit RPG and add even more game to your game so you can game while you game game. The only limits are your stamina and imagination, and you can level them both up just by playing.

So get out there hero! The world ain’t gonna save itself.

 

Both Zombies, Run! and Ingress are available at the Google Play Store.

 

 

 

Let’s Play Fallout 3 Point Lookout Youtube Playlist

Recently uploaded all of the videos from the Let’s Play Fallout 3 Point Lookout onto YouTube. This playlist also contains an exclusive 2-8 which closes out that play session.  I’m thinking of continuing on with the series and would like any comments or criticisms in order to improve it in in the future. Thank you very much for watching and offering your opinions.

#nycc Day 0: #Skullgirls Preview

Are you a fan of competitive fighting games? Are you tired of comeback mechanics? Does the idea of anything less than 3 punch and 3 kick buttons sicken you? Do you look upon games like Darkstalkers, X-Men VS. Street Fighter, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with a tearful eye and a melancholy sigh? If yes is your answer to any or all of these questions then boy oh boy does the team at Reverge Labs have a game for you.

Skullgirls is a new wholly original six button fighting game that takes all of the titles above to their next logical evolution. This is accomplished by offering smart and innovative solutions to the problems that have been plaguing competitive fighting games for over a decade. Where other developers put limits on what a player can do with the likes of hit stun decay, Reverge Labs solves the problem with infinite protection. True creative combo freedom is in full effect allowing those with skills to really let loose. Long drawn out combos are there for those creative and skilled enough to pull them off as long as they are not repetitive. As soon as the engine detects that you are pulling off a repeat in your combo string, your opponent is able to combo break with the push of any button. As long as you are earning your hit count the game does not punish you. With other engines the challenge is coming up with combos that trick the hit stun deterioration with Skullgirls the challenge becomes being able to come up with the next step of the string to keep it all unique.

When Capcom decided to up their team size to three in Marvel VS. Capcom 2, they decided to abandon the traditional three punches, three kicks six button layout. The attack buttons were reduced to four with the last two being assists. Skullgirls also offers teams of three with assist calls but sticks to the traditional layout. Tagging in the second and third character on your team is handled by hitting both mediums and both hards respectively. Assists are handled by hitting diagonal combinations of buttons.

Most modern fighting games feature some kind of comeback mechanic. No matter how badly you are losing, there is a magic button or game mechanic that can be used to take out your opponent. You get rewarded for losing. The developers say that it allows people new to the game to be competitive against more experienced players. Call me old fashioned but if someone is better than you at a fighting game you should lose. The developers of Skullgirls agree and offer no comeback mechanics whatsoever. Instead they are promising a robust tutorial system and an AI that learns your playstyle and trains you to deal with real situations. They are so confident in their tutorial system they feel it can teach you to be a better fighter no matter the game.

Skullgirls is not just about offering solutions to these age old problems. The characters, stages, music, story and the world in general all come together to create a completely unique package that brings up feelings that I have’t felt since I saw Darkstalkers for the first time. Each character fits an archetype and no two are even remotely the same. There is a grappler, a keepaway, a rusher, a rekka/shadow, a trapper, an air dominant, and there are still two more characters to be revealed. The animations are all hand drawn and use a technique similar to that used by Disney before they embraced CG. The stages have dynamic lighting. The music is composed by Michiru Yamane, who is famous for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

All of this is information that can be found just about anywhere but I needed to put it in to try and relay how excited I am for this fighter and to hopefully get you excited as well. I knew the second I saw that this game was going to be playable at the New York Comic-Con that I would be spending a fair amount of time on the sticks. It took me a while to get my bearings and I found myself shifting to old habits because I had not played a 3 pucnh 3 kick fighter in years. I kept hitting the buttons like they were Marvel VS. Capcom 3 and wondering why I couldn’t string three moves together. There are no control compromises here. While all of the characters share the same button layout, they each have their own unique launcher button and no two characters are even remotely the same. I found myself picking teams of three (you can choose from a super powerful character, two medium strength or three weak to make up your team) just so I could experience what each one had to offer.

Skullgirls has so much to offer including things I haven’t covered (like high low protection and custom assists) that it is hard not to go off for pages and pages expounding on every little thing I loved. So I’ll wrap this preview up by offering some tidbits that I don’t think were covered anywhere else. The game was recently pushed back to early 2012. That could mean anything but according to one of the designers on hand at the booth, they mean EARLY early like January. It is well known that there will be eight characters but I found out from the same designer that there are going to be eight or nine stages as well. Also, the stages are not tied to any one character and the themes are tied to the stages only. Also, there are going to be some male characters (Skulldudes?) with the ratio being the inverse of Street Fighter.

skullgirls.com has all of the information and is updated very frequently with blog posts from the team on topics ranging from the art to the online play to the music. You can also follow them on twitter at @Skullgirls.

Pictures courtesy of skullgirls.com .

Let’s Play Fallout 3 Point Lookout Ep 1

Halloween is so close I’m beginning to feel the need for a little creepiness.  So I returned to the Capitol Wasteland with Point Lookout as my destination.  The creepiness is there, oh yes.  This episode covers getting to Point Lookout and getting my bearings a bit.  Comments? Criticisms? Feel free to leave them below.

 

Infamous 2 at 100%: Lightning Strikes Twice

In May 2009 Sucker Punch Productions released Infamous to widespread critical acclaim.  Offering a new spin on the classic everyman gifted with powers premise, players followed Cole MacGrath as he struggled to find the answer to the question of “why him?”  Taking place one month after the events of the original, Infamous 2 finds Cole on his way to the New Orleans inspired New Marais on the quest for new powers and the strength to fulfill his destiny.  Does the sequel fulfill its destiny by surpassing the original? Read More »