Relationships, part 15

Family

So earlier today, myself and someone close to me were having a heart to heart about family and what that meant to both of us.  If you go to Google and ask it for a definition, you will of course get the traditional definition of ‘parents and children’ and ‘things that are appropriate for both parents and children’ but neither of us were speaking in these narrow terms.

At one point in the conversation, he says to me “I’m at the point where some of these new gay friends I’ve been making feel more like family than my actual family, know what I mean?”  I certainly knew exactly what he meant.  I was overcome with emotion at some of the thoughts I was having after I read his text and was also reminded what mom said to me one day during lunch.  She said that more often than not in her own experience, family wasn’t always someone that was blood.  Family was whoever was there when the chips were down and still had your back.  I agreed with her wholeheartedly.

To me, family is a lot more than a mom, a dad and children.  Family is who’s got your back.  Family is who helps you when you need it no matter what the cost is.  Family is who still loves you at the end of the day no matter what you’ve done or who you are.

After reading his text, I was reminded of one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 5, where Roxxxy Andrews has her breakdown on stage.  Ru is wearing that weird green dress with one sleeve when she says to Roxxxy “We as gay people, we get to choose our family.”  I can’t even type that sentence without getting choked up.  I didn’t realize it until that moment, but that’s exactly what I’d done.  I had chosen my family since my own family didn’t really want anything to do with me anymore after my parents died.  Ru really hit the nail on the head and hit me right in the emotional breadbasket.  When I watch the show, it makes me feel better to know there are people out there that have gone through the same emotional stuff I have.  It makes me feel closer to the people on the show, hearing about their lives before they got on and what it’s been like for them.  I don’t just watch the show for the fashion and the cat fights, that stuff is just a bonus.  I choose who I let in my family.

We also spoke of having support when coming out.  That was another point at which I was awash with emotion.  I didn’t really have much in the way of support when I came out, at least it didn’t feel like support to me.  Some teasing and definitely some changes in attitude from everyone I knew.  In all the years I’ve talked to other gay men about their life experiences, it’s usually one of three scenarios: your biological family just straight up turns its collective back on you; your biological family already knows and they’re just waiting for you to tell them or your biological family doesn’t care and loves you anyway.  I try to be supportive when I hear that someone is coming out or is on the verge of making the announcement because I remember how alone I felt afterward, how I needed someone to just tell me things were going to be ok.  Support can make all the difference in the world.

Gay people, gay families, are more than just a label.  We’re people with hopes, dreams, fears, needs and wants just like everyone else.  We fear persecution and hatred, we need love and a place of peace to live in, we dream and hope for a better tomorrow and want our voices heard.  We tend to look out for each other more than our hetero counterparts do.  We know the struggle, the hardships we face, and we don’t want anyone else to fall victim to that.  I’d like to think that my chosen family can count on me, that I’m definitely the type that has your back when the chips are down. When it seems like the world is against you, I’ll be your sword and shield.  I’m not afraid to make more enemies, even if that means making an enemy out of a blood relation.

After all, there’s a reason we refer to each other as ‘family’

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What I’m Playing, part 15

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A bit of a departure from my usual PS4 gaming, I decided (with a bit of coaxing from a friend) to give Breath of the Wild a try.  I figured it was time to give my poor Wii U some love anyway since it’s been a while.  Beware of SPOILERS ahead if you want to go into the game with as little knowledge as possible.

Right off the bat, it is glaringly obvious that this is NOT a typical Zelda game.  The usual trappings are here (Link, Zelda, Ganon, Hyrule, etc) but its been packaged in a very different way.  This time instead of a linear, dungeon to dungeon, Metroidvania-esque adventure, we are treated to a very westernized Zelda, and since I’m still early in the game I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

Instead of the typical item and weapon gathering methods from the past (i.e. getting a new weapon or item from a dungeon and then doing a lot of backtracking to make use of it) this time around, we are given some of your traditional Zelda items (bombs and creating ice blocks) immediately in the starting zone of the game.  These are mitigated with an at times agonizingly long cool down, but they are useful tools none the less.  These are accessed through an in game item called a Sheikah Slate which looks suspiciously like a primitive smart phone or tablet.

Weapons this time around are far from the usual heroic type, instead we are able to steal them from enemies and can use them until they break.  Considering the ridiculous number of weapons I’ve gone through at this point, I can only hope that somewhere in the vast open world the Master Sword is waiting for me to find it as having to scrounge for weapons constantly is getting rather old.

Armor / clothing has been few and far between.  I’ve been in the same clothing since the start of the game until about an hour ago when I (finally) reached Zora’s Realm and got some really snazzy blue armor that lets me swim up waterfalls (without having to expend and stamina, thankfully).

Another departure from traditional Zelda games is the inclusion of aforementioned stamina.  You are given the ability from the beginning to climb ANY surface you like – rock faces, walls, trees – provided you don’t run out of stamina in the process.  If you do, you fall down to the nearest flat surface and must wait for the meter to refill before attempting to climb again, provided you live through the fall in the first place.  You can also vault in the direction that you are currently climbing, even side to side but at the cost of a sizable chunk of your stamina meter.  The side to side vaulting works surprisingly well and is something that I think other game developers should look at (*cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*)  The inclusion of stamina has been to my detriment frequently throughout the game and one that I find highly irritating but I’m learning to cope.

Another departure is the method with which you gain more hearts.  Dotted across the land are Shrines.  Shrines are typically one room puzzles that must be solved in order to receive a Spirit Orb from the Shrine’s guardian.  After you collect 4 Spirit Orbs, you have the option to trade them in for either another Heart Container or a bit more Stamina.  So far in my playthrough I’m trying to keep it balanced, one heart, more stamina, one heart, and so on.  You can only trade the orbs in at statues of the goddess Hylia but so far, finding the statues hasn’t really been a problem.  The Shrines seem to litter the landscape and can be seen from quite some distance away as they stick out like a red/orange glowing sore thumb.  At the time of writing, I’ve found 13.

Something that’s been added to the game and that has been used ad nauseam in games as of late are towers that you must climb in order to uncover the map.  I don’t hate this feature, but it is becoming rather dull at this point since several other games have used it (Assassin’s Creed, Infamous: Second Son, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and I think Dying Light did it too.)

As far as traditional Zelda dungeons go, I’m not sure whether this game has any or not.  I know there are 4 “ancient beasts” that you must bring back to the side of good if you are to have any hope of defeating Ganon, and at the time of this writing I’m at the first one (I had to take a break from the game due to frustration so I decided to start writing about the game.  I guess you could say the first dungeon was the catalyst for this entry.)  I love how their idea of a map is actually a 3D wireframe of the beast with red spots indicating where the terminals you need to access are located in order to bring the beast back to the side of good.  I’ll write more on dungeons as things develop.

Another inclusion in this game that I really don’t like is the hot/cold meter next to your mini map.  It is possible for Link to freeze to death as I discovered several times in the starting area trying to get to a couple of the Shrines there.  I’m hoping this can be combated with gear later on in the game as I have yet to figure out how to cook food.  I’m not terribly happy that was included either; at this point with the number of games that have crafting in them I’m really glad that Google is a thing.  I do find it a little funny that I’m running around with shit tons of crafting supplies on my person but I constantly run out of room for weapons and constantly have pangs of guilt when I have to leave stuff behind.

Next to the mini map is also an indicator showing how much noise you’re making.  I do think that this was a good idea as I’m sure I’ll have need of it later on down the line.

Combat this time around has also been changed and I’m not sure that I like it.  It’s not your typical beat the shit out of enemies until they die fair, this time it does require a bit of skill / improvisation.  I’ve been killed by my own bombs more times than I care to admit while trying to use them to kill enemies that are chasing me.  You can lock on to your enemy and focus on them like in other games, using them as a sort of anchor while trying to dodge out of the way of their attacks.  You can also parry attacks with your shield and if you’re quick enough you can hit them with a power attack while they are stunned.  If not for trying to do this with the Wii U game pad I’m sure I’d be better at combat than I am.  For now I’m sticking with the beat the shit out of them until they die method and see how far I can get.

This game is BEAUTIFUL.  The art style of cell shading is always pleasing to me and I’m in awe when I look around at the world that they have created.  That being said, I do feel like the draw distance is limited by the Wii U’s hardware and I’m not sure that the Switch has this limitation.  I might eventually buy a Switch and this game and see for myself what the difference is.  The weather effects are also amazing as is the inclusion of a day/night cycle.  The only time I find weather to be an issue/nuisance is when trying to climb in the rain.  It’s neat that they added the detail that surfaces become slippery when it’s raining making climbing a bit more difficult, but it’s also another annoyance about the game to add to the growing list.  Another weather related detail is being struck by lightning.  If you are equipped with anything metal (and most of the weapons in the game are) and you’re outside during a thunderstorm you start to spark with electricity.  After a few seconds the sparks become a lot more frequent until you are finally killed instantly by a lightning bolt unless you can make it to cover.  Thus far I’ve been killed every time a storm happens, so when I see rain, instead of enjoying it like I would in any other game I try to find a campfire and wait until morning and hope the storm is gone by then so I can continue my quest.

Speaking of the environment and distance, you can use your in-game tablet as a sort of view finder to see what’s around you and mark it with a pin for you to investigate later.  The distance between where you’re standing and where the thing you want to get to is, is often quite deceiving.  More than once I’ve pinned something that I wanted to go investigate (usually a Shrine) only to find when I looked at the map that it’s actually a million miles away or in an adjacent zone.  I like that it’s a big open world for me to explore, but having to walk everywhere and especially over great distances gets tiresome.  There is travel by horse which I’ve not yet tried and there’s my favorite – gliding through the air on a rickety looking hang glider.  The only negative there is that you are constantly using stamina while gliding which I think is total bullshit since I’m not doing anything but holding on to the glider.  Grip meter from Shadow of the Colossus I guess?  That shit is why I never went back to that game and just might end up preventing me from finishing this one or making any significant progress.

So far my experience with Breath of the Wild has been quite a bit negative and a little positive, but since It’s been a long time since I’ve played a Zelda game I’m trying to enjoy myself as best I can.  I’ll write more on my journey as it unfolds, stay tuned.

What I’m Playing, part 14

What Remains of Edith Finch

This is by far one of the shortest and most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had this year.  I think it took me a little under 3 hours to complete and it was worth it.

You play as a young woman, Edith Finch, who is returning to her family home after the death of her mother to learn the history of her family.

Along the way you’ll learn the tragic fate of each family member in turn in a house that’s as much a character in the story as the family itself.  The controls are very simple, utilizing only the R1 button and the thumb sticks to traverse a house that’s equal parts eerie and has that homey, lived in feeling.

I kept expecting it to turn into a survival horror game at any moment but was thankfully proven wrong when that never happened.

All in all, I feel like the price point versus the amount of time I got out of the game was just right and if you enjoy a purely story driven experience then this game is right up your alley.  I have a lot to say about the game but after my last couple of spoiler filled posts, I feel like keeping this gem a secret that you should discover for yourself.

  • Is 100% attainable?  Definitely if you don’t mind replaying some bits of the story to farm for the trophies
  • % of trophies at the time of writing according to PSN: 50%