The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones was my precursor to getting into YA fiction way before I actually got super into YA fiction. Sure, I read Twilight for the sake of slamming it, but ended up saying a few good things about it as you saw in my previous post, but reading The Lovely Bones was the first time I saw the true potential in YA.

The following video was the flipside to my original intent to doing BSBS. A couple years ago, I was hell bent on just ranting Angry Video Game Style about book to film adaptations and saying some outrageous things about…things I would rather be doing than reading horendous books and watching the crap load of junk movies they would later be turned into.

Instead of reviewing a story for the sake of slamming it to hell, The Lovely Bones provided me the opportunity to geek out and enjoy the material, and thus came the potential to also inform others out there that not all mainstream literature and film were garbage. Well I mean the book was good, and the movie was…a whole different story–but I’ll let you see the review for more details on that often stated cliche that the book is better than the movie.

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Gamer, Know Thy Self: Part 3

maxresdefaultGamer rage is such a common phenomenon that there’s a YouTube character dedicated to everyone who has lost their shit at a video game. The Angry Video Game Nerd (one of my influences for BSBS Reviews) embodies the vile, cathartic, and sometimes embarrassing expression of our inner most rage. His portrayal of an adult man playing the games of his childhood and getting angry at them has resonated with many gamers of today because they can relate to the frustration of losing control over something that was meant to be fun.

Whether playing alone or with others, playing games of your youth or current generation games, it can be debilitating to feel unskilled and helpless as you see your virtual avatar get pounded by the difficulty of the computer or human opponent. While not every expression of frustration with games is not as extreme as defecating on a game cartridge (or disc since who puts games on cartridges anymore?), cursing at your screen, or even cursing at someone over Xboxlive, PSN, or TeamSpeak–you do not have to let your emotions get the best of you, thus preventing you from enjoying what you’re supposed to find enjoyment in.

Respecting Emotions

mentorIn addition to gauging your opponent’s skill level, I think it’s important to gauge their emotional reaction to your superior skills, if you have much more familiarity and skill in a game. Some people prefer that you go hard at them so they are forced to pick up the game faster, while others prefer that you take it easy on them so that they have room to try out different moves and strategies.

I think gaming can have a huge effect on your capacity for empathy when you are significantly more skilled than someone else. If someone is playfully cursing your skill and laughing at their own losses, then you know that they are okay with losing, whereas if they are cursing your skill and getting angry at their losses, you can provide the option for you to ease up whether implicitly or explicitly. You can just as easily ease up a bit and play less aggressively, or just talk to them about what they would prefer–and of course, ask if they want any feedback on how to improve.

Recently, a friend of mine has noticed me playing Brawlhalla on Steam every time we were both online and took an interest in playing it as well. It was quite a different experience to be direct about what he would prefer, and since this approach to gaming with someone less experienced with me is new, I am constantly surprised by what people prefer. In either case, it is a pleasure to have the offering of feedback accepted because another value I found out of gaming is getting to mentor someone who is willing to learn.

Like me befriending people online who are galaxies better than me at the game, my friend was open to learning the nuances and techniques that can help him gain a better understanding at what the successful players know how to pull off in order to increase not only their skill level, but also the level of fun they experience. I don’t know about you, but personally for me, I feel a sense of badassery when I can execute complex and technical abilities in the good ol’ vidya.

Whenever you feel frustrated, I would suggest taking a moment to become fully aware of how you feel and what you’re thinking of at the moment. Was there something you can do better or is someone playing too aggressively? While not every superior player will be as friendly as me or the other guy I mentioned as to lend a helping hand for you to improve, I think it’s important to gauge right away what kind of player they are.

You do this by asking for feedback, and if they give it, AWESOME, but if they don’t, and instead add insult to injury FUCK ‘EM! Move on, do not engage in a troll war because getting into a heated exchange with another player is a giant waste of time. That time could be used for playing another match, getting advice, reading or watching strategy guides. These are much better alternatives to letting your blood boil and burn you up inside.

Video-Games-are-Good-for-you-e1426083812512Always respect your feelings when gaming and know that you need to stop, take a break, and do something else whenever you feel overwhelmed by any crushing losses you experience. Check in with yourself and see if your frustration has anything to do with something else in your day, harsh words from other players, or if you’re just really not in the mood. Ponder on your motives for playing because if you’re playing to win and expect nothing else, it can obviously be aggravating.

Another thing that helped me undo the personalizing of my losses was remembering a time in my childhood where my cousin destroyed me in Mortal Kombat 3 to the point where I couldn’t even do a single move. I was so excited to rent and play this game for the weekend and he just totally rekt me then when straight to dinner with my brother and the rest of the family.

Me? I stayed in my room, played two player alone, using the character he picked as a training dummy to just beat on. I was really upset back then and I recalled this memory somewhere deep in my psyche when I had a serious fit losing at Soul Calibur IV. Knowing that this instance may have been what created a trigger in me in an early age has made me more self aware about how I react to gaming.

While I can’t say I’m fully chill about getting rekt in a game, I have much better anger management having realized that a lot of my anger had to do with that childhood memory–and of course adapting the new approach of requesting feedback on improvement.

So if you’re no longer having fun and just mashing buttons away, expecting your blind rage to get you a win, and then of course end up getting destroyed even more, remember that you don’t have to keep playing if you don’t want to. Who says you have to? Put the controller down, take a break, relax, and maybe even journal about what’s going on for you.

Yeah it sounds weird at first, but I think gamer rage is so common that it’s time people address how destructive it is for your health and enjoyment of a game (or lack thereof). If more gamers, if not everyone of them, can start developing self-knowledge through video games and respecting the gaming tenants I’ve covered in this blog series, there could be less gamer rage and much more fun as video games were intended for.

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How I Conceived the Idea of It Starts at Home

bully-6“My life sucked when I was in high school, so how much worse would it have been if I was a girl?” That was the important question I asked myself after I finished reading Damned and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

When I was a teenager, I got into heaps of trouble due to talking back at teachers, retaliating against bullies, and on some occassions I became a bully myself. The kind of bullying that I experienced and carried out fell on the masculine side of bullying. This included, but was not limited to, physical violence and intimidation.

And so due to society’s propaganda against us males being thoughtless violent brutes, I used to think bullying was only a male thing, but no, our supposedly gentle birth giving and nurturing counterparts are not exempt from this behaviour. I am speaking in generalities of course, since typically it is boys who get into fist fights, but the form of bullying girls are capable of can be as equally destructive. It’s just more subtle and harder to spot.

To understand the female psyche, and more importantly that of the teenage female psyche, I took to reading more young adult novels with female lead characters, as well as talking to my female friends, cousins, and co-workers to ask about their experiences of having been teenagers.

50-race-attacks-schools-day-picturebullyingpreventionnow-comI learned about how feminine bullying consisted more of psychological tactics. They employ more verbal abuse through passive aggression, spreading gossip, and public humiliation, thus resulting in the destruction of their victim’s self esteem. By recognizing their victim’s personal vulnerabilities such as their body image and emotional issues, female bullies exploit those weaknesses in order to gain a sense of power.

Why would anyone want to command and demand power in such destructive ways, especially when there are healthier ways to feel and be empowered? The answer is quite simple, but also very difficult to accept. High school students are made to feel disempowered, not only by the prison like structure public high schools consist of, but also by the maltreatment they receive at home.

This is why it’s important for parents take the time to connect with their children as opposed to control them. To use their hands and their words to guide and comfort their children, not to strike or intimidate them. Otherwise, where do you think this behaviour comes from? Children are sponges. They only learn what they live, and devoid of any self awareness or intervention from peaceful people to point out the dysfunction, they will often bring their home life out into the world, particularly at school.

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If you are bullied at home, you are likely to become a victim and/or perpetrator of bullying. Either you will walk down the school hallways with slumped shoulders, head bowed in hiding, and sticking close to the walls as to avoid detection, or you will attempt to regain the power you are robbed from at home by mistreating the former.

It’s not set in stone, teenagers do have the choice and capacity to act virtuously, as well as develop the self confidence and healthy support groups in order to ward off bullying–but studies have shown that maltreatment of children sets them up to exude anti-social behaviours and aggressive tendancies later in life.

So why write through a female perspective for my book? Threats of meeting another boy at the flagpole to beat the shit out of him is already such an obvious and apparent form of bullying, but bullying takes on several other forms. Society and the media will usually only touch upon the effect, but not the cause, because fundamentally…

Bullying…starts at home.

How I Got Into Young Adult Novels Through Chuck Palahniuk

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I used to think that Young Adult novels were lame, because I assumed that you weren’t allowed to cuss or discuss dark and gritty topics. Of course, that’s what happens when you assume things; you make an ass out of u and me. Now that I’ve actually read a ton of YA novels, I am hooked!

And I actually owe it all to Chuck Palahniuk!

Although he writes mature adult novels–full of excessive vulgarity, disgusting details, and overtones darker than the night itself–I got into YA thanks to him. Most of his novels do feature adult characters getting into adult situations, most of which involve some awesome plot twists (Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Snuff), but there’s one book of his that features a fat 12-year-old dead girl in Hell.

Damned follows the story of Madison “Maddie” Spencer, the daughter of two Hollywood big shots who are constantly too stoned out of their minds to give her any genuine attention or affection. She apparently dies of a mairjuana overdose, and is sent to Hell where she meets a group of other damned souls who become her posse of misfists.

The book is often described as The Breakfast Club meets Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in Hell because each chapter begins with “Are You There, Satan? It’s Me, Madison,” and she shares the coming of age struggle Margaret faces in Judy Blume’s book.

Now, I’ve watched The Breakfast Club several times in my life and have always connected with the universal themes of the teenage struggle, but never once have I ever read a Judy Blume book. Why would I anyway? Aren’t her books written for little girls?

Apparently not!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Damned, but the sequel Doomed, felt a little overwritten compared to its predecessor. The narrative voice felt too intellectual and masculine to be that of a 12-year-old girl’s, but I read it anyway because I highly enjoyed the overall adventure of Maddie’s goal to confront Satan and find out why she had to die early and be damned to eternal torture.

(Chuck Palahniuk’s idea of eternal torture includes walking on hills of toenail clippings, passing by rivers of pimple puss and rejected human fluids, and my personal favourite; working at a telemarketing office to troll the people still alive on Earth)

So I got curious about Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret just so I can see how much of it actually inspired, or at least reflected the content in Damned. Aside from the chapter openings and having a 12-year-old protagonist, there was obviously a stark contrast that astounded me.

Gone were the supernatural elements, gross descriptions, vulgarity, drugs, and violence etc.

What I got instead was a story about a middle grader feeling left out because she’s the only girl in her class who hasn’t gotten her period yet. That made for a great a surface theme–since I’ve never considered what the female puberty experience was like, though it was a welcomed surprise–but what really captivated me about the book was Margaret’s struggle with her religious beliefs.

It surprised me immensely when I started noticing the bigger picture. Margaret was raised without religious affiliation; her father is Jewish and her mother is Christian–but pushed  neither religion on her–and so Margaret’s internal struggle, on top of her desire to get her first period, was trying to find religious singularity.

[spoiler]There was this epic scene where her grandmother and her parents argue about what religion she should conform to, but she gets so frustrated and cries out about how no one even is stopping to consider what she wants to believe in.[/spoiler]

Although I prefer to read more mature YA novels with older characters who do cuss and discuss dark topics, Judy Blume single handedly diminished my assumptions about YA. Now I have absolute respect for it because it’s now that I understand the appeal to it.

Being a teenager is an intense time in anyone’s life because it’s when we begin to truly begin to question our identities as individuals separate from culture. Our hormones and emotions are the most sensitive and although it’s such a small amount of time in our overall lives, they are the most intense, bringing with it the growing pains that shape us. The teenage experience is universal for anyone who has survived it.

Stay tuned for How I Conceived the Idea of It Starts at Home…