How Playing Destiny Helped Me Build Social Skills

Destiny is a futuristic first person shooter in its third year. It may have had a rough start and disappointing first year, but things are looking up with the addition of extra content in Year 2, Year 3 and promises from game developer Bungie for more.

So what is Destiny about anyway? I’m expecting the audience for this blog being a mix of gamer and non-gamer alike so I will stick with the non-Grimoire* version. What is that? As I expect people will scratch their heads at a number of terms used in this post I will be adding Destiny terminology at the end of it. For now here is the story so far:

In the future humans find a planetoid entity known as The Traveler, who then gives them knowledge which launches them into another Golden Age for technological advancement. But The Traveler has some enemies who have chased it across the galaxies all the way to Earth. The main enemy in this game is known as The Darkness*, made up of different alien races including The Fallen who invade Earth. The Traveler protects the Earth and is crippled in this process, but in its last act of defense it created the Ghosts who contain its Light* and they bring the dead back to life, and give them some of this Light which makes them powerful. They become The Guardians, and that is who you play as. There are three different classes with different abilities; Titan, Warlock and Hunter.

Before I played Destiny I was relatively new to what was known as next gen gaming platforms. I bought an Xbox One because I wanted to be able to play the next Mass Effect game, and I got Forza Horizon 2 free with it. Let’s go back a few years though. As a kid I hated playing against people. I always thought this was because I wasn’t interested in competitive play but I later found out while playing multiplayer in Forza Horizon 2 that I was actually socially anxious.

Social anxiety isn’t something new to me. When I was young I had a severe form of social anxiety called selective mutism, and I’m autistic so social awkwardness and phobias have always followed me around. When my then boyfriend’s brother wanted to play a few Mario games with me I lost badly to him and then on I thought well if I can’t win then why bother?

But after playing Forza Horizon 2 competitive play was something I longed for. When I first heard about Destiny it was advertised as a shared world; other players would literally be there as you played story missions. I felt this would be a good way to introduce me to an online world. In those early days I was still nervous to perform actions in front of people. There’s this part of the game where you have to scan a crashed ship and I waited until another player had done it to do it myself. I would then have people around me to help fight enemies in story missions until I got to The Darkness Zone which is a limited respawn level. Then, I started to miss having them around. Often when I was unaware about what to do I would watch other players and even sometimes I would watch them just to learn how they would strategize their own method of facing powerful enemy AI. I copied that and I learned it and it soon became natural part of my own strategy.

By around level 12 I found myself visiting Bungie’s online community seeking help to make me finish story missions. It was the Grimoire that made me find their site at all. The people in the community were willing to offer help to noobs like me and were patient when they joined me for a mission and helped out when they knew I was too underpowered. Destiny is the type of game where you have to level up your strength and that’s usually by collecting higher Light weapons and gear.

When playing with these people I would be very nervous to talk and I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice but overtime I began to relax and speak with more confidence. Then when I reached the endgame* I had to team up with people regularly. Now I was doing Nightfall Strikes, raids and harder story missions. I joined an Australian Destiny community and soon became friendly with all the regulars. To this day I still have over 100 people on my friendslist who I can invite to my Fireteam to help me with Nightfall strikes or a raid. Playing co-op in raids and Nightfall helped me learn about the different roles in a team and about how to listen, when to speak and to help others when they are literally (Guardian) down. It is valuable knowledge that I can take into the real world with me.

It’s not just playing Destiny helped me gain social skills and learn the importance of teamwork but I would find on days when I was so overcome with depression that I couldn’t move from my bed and my head was full of many unpleasant thoughts of self-doubt, self-hate and suicide all it took to make those feelings disappear was half an hour of playing Destiny. Perhaps it was because you can play with random people in match-made strikes and sometimes you would find a team that really worked well together, we were old friends. Or I might play co-op and just mess around with friends. And even on those days where just everything goes wrong and I’m extremely stressed and ready to blow – that’s when it’s a good time to run around The Plaguelands and practice shooting Fallen Dreg heads off and maybe pretend they were someone else.

Between year 1 and year 2 I would play Destiny for 9 hours a day. I’d start by collecting bounties* that went toward leveling up with a faction* that would give rewards like new weapons and armor, usually of higher Light. Then it was about completing Nightfall on all 3 classes and then getting raid specific weapons and armor by, yes, completing raids. Then I found my childhood friend was playing Destiny with her husband and I joined a clan that I could really communicate with and have an enjoyable time with.

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Warsat Warriors ready to raid…after we get the rest of the members to join our Fireteam.

Raiding was where my social skills were really put to the test. People had a problem with me being too quiet and not understanding directions, and I had problems with the self-made alpha of the group and just very cruel humor and people chit chatting so I couldn’t hear directions properly. But when I found a patient and understanding raid team we really clicked as a team. When somebody stumbled there would be a bit of giggling but we’d help each other out. Through raiding and the very intense and difficult Nightfall strikes I learned to listen to people and communicate more effectively, and even join in on the banter. And it was always so rewarding completing the raid. What did Bungie used to say about raiding? You’d go in as strangers, come out as brothers.

Unfortunately, after my friends quit Destiny for a while I gave up on raiding. It’s something I would like to try again, because 100%ing Destiny is like overcoming some of life’s hardest challenges for me, but for now it’s something that I avoid. Just trying to complete raids was really putting more stress on me and reminding me of how autistic I am. It put me into a low mood where I was constantly judging myself. On the bright side at least when I go back to raiding there will be something new for me to do in Destiny instead of waiting for Bungie to release more content.

When The Taken King expansion pack was released Bungie introduced a quest system that made all the repetitive play worth it. It’s these quests, especially the record books that keep me coming back to Destiny. At first I was a bit annoyed that in order to complete some quests I would have to spend a great deal in The Crucible, the PVP* multiplayer mode. But then my skills in The Crucible increased and I learned to adjust with the changing meta* by changing the types of weapons I used.

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I enjoy my time in Destiny’s in-game universe too. I love science fiction so when I first heard of this game I was all for it. It’s an online world and I really see that world as an alternate reality. My class is Titan and I take their role as protectors of humanity seriously. When I play or read up about Destiny I put myself into a state of mind where I see that The Fall really did happen and we are at war with four enemy alien races. I choose my factions just as seriously; when I found out New Monarchy attacked the City I changed to Dead Orbit. I like to experience every moment of Destiny as though it’s real. I run through The Tower* like it’s Hogwarts. I used to play the Harry Potter games where I’d just run around and explore the school. I can ride my sparrow* through Old Russia* or Venus or Mars just for the sake of it. I love my fellow Guardians. There’s a real camaraderie between clan mates and regular players I’ve co-op’d with who have become my friends. We can dance at each other for hours or communicate through gestures. They can make me laugh without saying a word. When I’m not playing Destiny I’m missing making those gestures in other games.

I find the Lore inspires my own need to write science fiction. The way Bungie takes ideas from mythology and turns them into canon in their own made up universe is something that I strive to emulate. People who aren’t bothered to look into the deep lore are missing out.

Destiny is more than just increasing my skills as a gamer and making friends in a gaming world, it’s about making friends in the real world, learning to understand human behaviour and that the good guys outweigh the bad. There are some in the autistic community who give up on making friends because of a few bad experiences. I’ve had some seriously bad experiences in Destiny but I’ve also had great moments to treasure forever. Knowing that is enough to make me want to keep playing Destiny with others, and not reject friendship in the real world too.

I’m taking a break for Destiny while I play other games. I’ll be back when another live update* happens or when I’m over the other games and make an attempt to finally get Thorn* or my exotic sparrow.* Or private SRL matches* or another attempt to raid. Or try my luck and finally get Icebreaker.*  There’s always plenty to do in Destiny and it’s the type of world that I will always be happy to return to. It’s inviting, fun, challenging and extremely rewarding.

I may not play Destiny forever. Indeed, it only has a 10-year lifespan. But I will always remember how much it has helped me.

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Destiny Year 3, Christmastime. I’ve played since Year 1 and I’ve got nothing but hope for what Year 4 will bring.

Destiny/ Videogame terminology

MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online. A game-type where you can play and interact with other players online. Usually you complete quests or raids and can trade items between each other and join guilds or clans.
People would argue that because of Destiny’s lack of verbal communication with all players (you can only talk to your Fireteam) that it rules out Destiny being a complete MMO. Destiny is basically built like an MMO; you level up, upgrade gear and play the game past story completion. It’s played online and has content added to it. However, its lack of trading between players takes some of that MMO feeling away from it.

Grimoire pron: grim-wahcards you can unlock by completing various achievements or collecting dead Ghosts in Destiny. Each card has a piece of Destiny Lore which gives vital insights to the story. Among the most committed players it’s imperative to read your Grimoire cards. The Grimoire is only accessible through Bungie.net or the Destiny app.

The Darkness – Through reading The Book of Sorrows Grimoire you will find out that The Darkness isn’t a being but rather a philosophy that encourages gaining power through destruction and killing. Kind of like capitalism.

Light – Is it magic? It’s a type of supernatural power the Traveler, The Ghosts and Guardians have to wield special abilities. As some types of light are Solar, Arc and Void you may have to look into Hinduism to find your answers. It’s a bit like The Force in Star Wars which is taken from Jungian theory of a life-force.

End Game – In MMOs the End Game are challenges to complete for upgraded weapons and armor or even added on story missions after you complete the main campaign (story missions with the original game).

Bounties – Quests you can complete to level up with your Faction. You collect these bounties from a Frame (AI with limited helping abilities) on Tower grounds.

Factions – The Factions are groups who have differing views of where humanity should go next. They used to be at war with each other but now Guardians can claim allegiance to them by fighting in their name and collecting rewards as they level up.

PVP – Player vs player. Competitive multiplayer.

Meta – Originally meta refers to a type of strategy that transcends the basic rules and uses external factors to affect the outcome of the game. In Destiny weapons are balanced regularly and as a result some weapons become more powerful than others in PVP, i.e “Matador 64 is so OP now.” Following the meta means you’re guaranteed to own modes like The Crucible, but it means to regularly change around your preference of weapon, or weapon loadout.

The Tower – The last safe haven on Earth. The rest of the world has either been destroyed or occupied by The Fallen and Hive.

Sparrow – A guardians only means of terrestrial transport. Literally The Speeder Bike from Star Wars.

Live Update – Free content added to the game that is smaller than DLC (downloaded content). Because of micro transactions (real money purchases made in-game) Bungie can add this free content. Live Updates do come with new quest steps and sometimes new weapons and armor. Most importantly, they come with new emotes; gestures and dancing.

Thorn –  an exotic (super powered) handgun. Can only be obtained through quests. It’s a favourite amongst  Guardians. It’s also hated by many for its poison perk (ability) which made it a killing machine in The Crucible.

Ice-breaker – the God of all sniper rifles. An exotic that used to have self-replenishing ammo every 6 seconds. Currently only able to be obtained through Nightfall strikes.

Exotic Sparrow – A quest only once obtainable through buying Redbull is the U.S. Now it’s added to a forever growing questline. The sparrow is supposed to be one of the best, particularly in SRL.

Old Russia – Currently the only place on Earth Guardians can go beside the Dead European Zone, that is under enemy control. Hundreds of years ago humans tried to flee The Fallen invasion and the results of that encounter can still be seen in burnt out rusted cars piled before The Wall and human skeletal remains.

SRL – Sparrow Racing League. A PVP sparrow race that is super fun and just offers something different than the usually shooting modes in Destiny.

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Why Adults Play Videogames

It’s not very common to come across people who don’t understand why adults play videogames but just in case there are I compiled a list of reasons why adults do and why it’s a good thing.

NOSTALGIA

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons adults game at all is that they grew up playing videogames. I’m certainly still very nostalgic about Sonic the Hedgehog, even if he has changed a lot since the days I used to play those games. I know quite a lot of people who are nostalgic about Super Mario and you can’t say a negative word about those games to them. Gamers are very protective over their favourite IPs, so when someone like Anita Sarkeesian comes around and says their favourite childhood game is sexist they’re not just going to take it. Nostalgia is longing for the days of old and when you can relive that experience it’s like trying to savor a really amazing meal. You don’t want it to end. You’re very passionate about that topic, and any criticism to it is taken as a personal insult.

Games Are More Mature

Gamers have grown up playing video games, even today’s videogame developers played games in childhood and still do, and for the last 10-15 years games have been directed at a mature audience, as in content and storytelling that can rival some of the best Hollywood screenplays. Gaming is not just for kids and teens anymore but is for everyone because the themes in these games are so varied that’s there is something for everyone. Developers even include social commentary and adding LGBTI characters. The characters have layers; they’re like real people and have their own personality, needs and flaws.

FOR COMMUNITY

Like all hobbies we have there is a community for gamers. It can just be a place to find like minds and talk about your favourite games, but when each individual game franchise builds its own community it’s where the bond gets strong. The Destiny community is my family. Like your average family we sometimes fight and I go lengths of time avoiding them, but we also have our good times and help each other out. The Destiny community I’m a part of on Facebook is very supportive, open to differences and the more experienced players are willing to give out a helping hand to those who are still behind.
Sure, there is toxicity in many videogame communities but that’s why I stay with Destiny; you only get to talk to other people in your Fireteam. There still a lot of abuse being sent through messages, but that happens any time you get online. It’s not a good thing but it exists and no one is quite sure about how to stamp it out.
Game developers and the media are also quite open and available to players. They listen to their concerns and do modify their games to suit the needs of the majority of players, so in a way adult gamers can shape the outcome of the very videogames they play. I’ve seen this happen in Destiny and developers have had attempts at changing Call of Duty and have even taken a break from releasing Assassin’s Creed annually.
Gamers have little tolerance of something called Pay to Win, which is where a game will have the option of small purchases (microtransactions) to buy gear or packages that would help someone level up quickly or be more powerful. In PVP (multiplayer) they would be an unstoppable force to players who level up through skill. Developers like to stress that their microtransactions are cosmetic, meaning it won’t put a player at an advantage over other players in PVP.
Children couldn’t influence the development of games in this way because they wouldn’t even think to question it. Adult gamers understand a lot more about how games are developed, what they are capable of, what’s fair and what’s not and they demand a certain level of quality. Perhaps, a bit too much – it’s why I like to experience a game like a child. It’s about the overall experience and having fun rather than nitpicking every little thing. But I’m still an adult so can feel something much deeper from playing a videogame than a child.

TO DE-STRESS

Let’s face it, life is stressful. You’re denying a very important truth to ignore that fact. There really isn’t anything like having a shit day and going home and busting an alien’s head open with a shotgun at close range. You can say that’s encouraging violent behaviour but it’s better that someone does it in a videogame world than in the real world. I’ve played videogames to help me get through periods of depression and anxiety. When the former was so serious I couldn’t do much more than dwell on my troubling thoughts in bed, it was dragging myself to the front of a TV screen and putting on my favourite game that made those thoughts completely disappear. When I’ve had breakdowns I’ve had videogames to get me through it.
As someone with autism, playing Destiny helped me build more social skills and work better with a team and that’s probably the biggest breakthrough I’ve had when it comes to gaining social skills. Videogames have been more therapeutic to me than any psychologist. Also, when I first started to see my nephews a lot I didn’t know what to say to them until I started playing the games they played. I would always be willing to listen to them when they talked about a videogame like Mario, Minecraft or Skylanders but when I started to play those games it really helped me bond with my eldest nephew, Owen.

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Gamers: future and present.

BUILDING CAREERS

I hope that one day Owen can make something productive out of his love of gaming. He loves math so I think he’s most likely to become a programmer. But for those who don’t think that’s a suitable career path there are many others areas to pursue than programming. You can be a concept artist or storywriter, a game tester, or audio engineer. Then you have to whole social networking side of it; journalism and even live streaming. If you’re really good at games you get into E-Sports and win some competitions and lots of money. There’s far more to gaming than just having fun these days. Children who grow up playing games can one day work in the very industry that makes the games they loved so much, or they can give back by contributing to the gaming press.

IT’S OK TO BE A KID

There’s nothing wrong with being child-like. An adult who doesn’t have an inner child is going to take life too seriously and not know how to relax. Childhood was a time of innocence and freedom. Everyday you got up with maximum energy and just wanted to play and pursue your hobbies. It was ok to be massively obsessed with something. As an adult that’s kind of frowned down on; they either call you a geek or a nerd.
In my childhood I was into film and I watched a lot of children’s films which today as a writer is why I like writing stories about children. Not so much about innocence – my young protagonists is always aware of what is going on – but more about freedom. As adults we have a lot of responsibilities and sometimes it’s just good for us to unwind and act childish.  Playing games with our friends is just another way to unwind and have fun. For many of us we don’t even think about it, it’s just what we do.

We Know Kids Aren’t Slaves to the Screen

My nephew Owen is a future hardcore gamer. I both long and worry for the day he joins the adult game community. We can either be cold hearted bastards or the most supportive and fun people to be around. So, when one of his uncles treats his love of gaming like an addiction so much he discourages it in his own children, I was hurt. He’s a gamer and you can’t take that away from him. He watches a junior version of Good Game, which is where I get the bulk of my gaming news in Australia. I treat the hosts like old friends and I usually trust their judgement to help me decide what games to buy.
Owen’s mum has put limits on his gaming and I support that. It’s her choice. He can only play on weekends and holidays and isn’t allowed to play first person shooters yet, and definitely no mature games. There will be a day where he joins us and I can’t wait. As an auntie, I’m going to have to protect him from all the bad stuff in the community and discourage him from turning into one of the most toxic people in our community.

Kids play on consoles or iPads or phones because it’s fun. It’s no different than me, my brother and sisters hooking up a SEGA and spending hours in front of it when we were little. It’s up to parents to decide how much time they should get. Kids like Owen have so much energy that once they put a game down they run around like a headless chicken. Not all children who play on screen will become gamers, but many will. Taking that away from them is taking away a piece of themselves.

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Introducing Cooper and Owen to Sonic CD.

It’s a Different Kind of Imagination

Some people with autism (like me) struggled to have an average childhood imagination. I know I was a very literal imaginator. Playing doctor or house to me, was, well it was just stupid. I’ve always been highly visual and would need props to play if I would play at all. Sometimes I’d offer myself as a prop to other children. But imaginative play without the use of props or toys just looked pretty weird to me. So, when I hear people talk about ‘what happened to imagination?’ I’m led back to those days long before the first mobile phone was ever released, when I barely had an imagination.
In a typical developing child there will always be imagination even when they have a lot of screen time and the graphics in video games become lifelike. It just produces a different kind of imagination. It creates story tellers and creative artists from children wanting to create their own mythological beings or aliens after playing or fighting one in a game. It turns pretending you’re in a Western with friends into Halo Wars or acting out scenes with Skylander figures. In fact, Activision like to share photos of children using Skylanders in every day life, from using them as chess pieces to create stories with them through imaginative play.
Since the introduction of social media people have gone more toward visual communication over verbal and you can’t escape pop culture references in everyday conversations. A child’s imagination is going to follow this path. Gone are the days of pretending couch cushions covered in a blanket is a terrible swamp creature, instead, children can design the terrible swamp creature and parents can send the drawing to someone online who can turn that into a plush toy. Technology has advanced so much that the way we imagine things is likely to change too. We’re no longer painting on caves anymore, we’re creating breathtaking art using a pen with no ink and an iPad. Of course, if you wanted to paint on a cave you could still do that. If you wanted your children to imagine something from scratch you can encourage that too. The majority of children just won’t though, and that’s perfectly fine.

In summary, next time you hear about adult gamers know that they are part of a wider community, many of whom might not have any community if they didn’t play videogames, and that it’s not just a simple hobby, but a way of life. And like it or not children are going to come into this world and parents should not discourage this. It’s a loving place of enthusiastic people who want to have fun gaming and talk to people just like them. Gaming has changed a lot in the last 20-30 years. It’s no longer just a for kids, or for adults. It’s for everyone.

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I think BT agrees with me.

Videogames and Regression

I’ve categorized regression in autism into 3 severity types. Type 1 happens when an autistic person is under a lot of stress from a significant change in their environment that causes them a lot of distress which makes them regress into an earlier child-like state and they may preoccupy themselves with an activity that makes them feel safe and comfortable, and returns them to a state of order in an otherwise chaotic situation.

Type 2 is what I have dubbed ‘The Second Regression’ in the past which is a more serious and long term form of regression. It’s usually referred to as cognitive regression or a shutdown. Shutdowns in autism have their own terminology and have their own spectrum of severity and it’s something I won’t get into now because it will just deviate from the original point of me writing this post. This Type 2 regression usually happens when an autistic person pushes themselves beyond their own limitations and can result in a loss of developed skills. Since doctors don’t know much about this condition and even go as far to say it’s psychological hysteria they can’t do a lot in terms of treatment. Instead, the autistic person must re-learn all these skills over again. When their family members notice they’re a bit slower in communicating their thoughts, social understanding and basic skills they may have no choice but provide some accommodations for their struggling child, sibling or spouse.

Type 3 usually happens when a baby is 18 to 20 months of age and begins to show symptoms of autism for the first time. They may have already developed speech and hit their milestones on time or early but for reasons not clear to scientists their skills begin to regress.

I’ve gone through Type 2 regression around four times so I’m hesitant to push myself when I begin to feel anxious. I don’t ever want to feel helpless and dependent on others while trying to re-learn lost social and life skills which I’m all always trying to build more of. Recently though I experienced Type 1 regression for maybe only the second time. They may have been more but I feel so socially developed for an autistic person that this little set back really made a huge impact on my self-confidence.

It all started when I found out that my house’s lease was being terminated and my sister whom I was living with at the time had previously been looking for somewhere else to move, which I protested. But then we had no choice. We had to move. It probably took a week for my sister and housemate to agree to move to Katoomba but I resisted. I tried to find someone else to live with on Flatmates.com but after a few weeks of not really finding anything suitable for me and my small cat Lyra (not many places allowed pets) I started to lose confidence that I could move in with strangers at all. Eventually, I came around to the Katoomba idea but I was still anxious about it.

I was working in Western Sydney and I knew I had to stop working there days before moving to Katoomba. I’m also a gamer and around this time Quantum Break, a game I had been waiting years to come out finally did and I become wholly absorbed into the world of Jack Joyce, the main protagonist. I searched through every nook and cranny of that game world to uncover more of the story. It had become my new reality. Yes, time was breaking down and I had these cool time powers and Dominic Monaghan was my brother. There were these moments in the game called stutters and I guess I played the game for so long I started to see them outside of the game. There were TV episodes in between the levels or acts and I felt like I lived through every character in the show and game. When I was half-way through the game I started to take days off work just to play it, even after my flu symptoms started to dissipate. Then it was choosing playing that game instead of seeing Craig Nicholl’s from The Vines play a solo show at Newtown Social Club. I’m a live band photographer and go to quite a lot of gigs and consider myself part of the Australian live music scene so not going was even a shock to me. Craig also has Asperger’s syndrome so he’s probably the only person in the music scene I can relate to. My friend wasn’t impressed that I didn’t go to that gig. In truth I didn’t want to go out and risk getting sick again. I had already missed so many days of work it was impossible to catch up without risking a collapse. I’ve had chronic fatigue since I was 13 and last time I pushed myself I became close to passing out. It happened after I went to shoot a gig, spent two days editing the photos and went straight back to another gig. When things like that happen to me I become anxious about it ever happening again.

Another reason I was hesitant to go to gigs might have had something to do with feeling anxious and even suicidal at previous gigs I went to alone. The feelings lasted as long as I was alone and didn’t talk to the band members if I didn’t know them. Fortunately, at those gigs I did know some band members. These feelings were new and unusual and they may have also had something to do with my stress over moving.

When I was close to finishing Quantum Break a free Destiny update came out so I gave the game another chance and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was one of those year 1 players who got sick of it and vowed never to play again, but the loot and upgrading points were very rewarding so I stayed. I entered into a new reality, a futuristic dystopian world in which I and other players were the last hope of humanity’s survival.  I became my Titan subclass throwing fiery hammers, ground pounding groups of enemies into oblivion or helping my team mates out by erecting a void shield. I dominated the Crucible (multiplayer) for a short while employing underhanded tactics to defeat my enemies. I played for full days to slowly upgrade my light level so I could play the final challenge. But it was all cut short when Starfox Zero came out and packed up my Xbox One and set up my Wii U. Three days later I wanted to throw that game and Wii U into the Sun. I also played a bit of Alan Wake: American Nightmare on my Xbox One in between Quantum Break and Destiny or whenever I couldn’t connect to Xbox Live.

Next was Ratchet and Clank I think so I set up my PS4 and packed up my Xbox One. Around this time I was beginning to suspect that I had grown some sort of a psychological dependence on playing videogames. I would never buy so many games in a matter of weeks. Usually, I would play a videogame to distract myself from depressed and suicidal thoughts. So, it was a form of therapy for me. I discovered this when I was anxious about going to a gig and I found playing Batman: Arkham City calmed me down. Since then, playing videogames works better than any psychiatrist’s advice ever has.

Not only did I have a psychological dependence to play videogames I also stopped hanging out with groups of people. People would come over to the house all the time and there was even a birthday party but I just didn’t care about socialising. It may have just been another way for me to cope with my stress. But in my head I came to the decision that I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I did want to go to Good Game Live though but I felt nervous about meeting fans of Good Game Pocket show, the ‘Pocketeers.’ I’m not really good at meeting people and becoming friends. I’ve been bullied and trolled by people who were meant to be my friends so I was hesitant to go. When I sort of told one of my friends she made it sound like I wasn’t making an effort. We had a big row, a big big one. She told me I was making excuses even for my PTSD and this is from someone who has a mental illness themselves. Emotionally I couldn’t deal with it and I didn’t know how to handle the situation so I did what I always do when I hit a social brick wall – I tried to get her out of my life but she kept trying. Through my sister I realized she missed me and it was something that never occurred to me. I don’t often miss people. I can spend 6 months without seeing people and as long as I’m preoccupied with an interest it’s enough for me. I did try to make an effort to hang out though. I was going to go to a gig in her town and asked to stay the night but I was never really given an answer. I deliberately didn’t go to two gigs I knew she’d be at. Although, I had no real motivation to go. This was You Am I and Davey Lane – they were usually unmissable gigs but I just kept playing Ratchet and Clank and Modern Combat 5.

It took about a week but things are good between me and my friend again. I think. I’m not very good at keeping friends.

Then Uncharted 4 was released and yep I bought it day one. Now I was Nathan Drake, a thief/ adventurer in search of pirate treasure. Once again I was completely absorbed into the story and became so accustomed to the combat it began to feel like muscle memory. I would shoot one bad guy, take his gun, grapple to a rope, swing on that rope to another ledge, shoot another bad guy while still swinging in the air, land on him and take his gun and continue the process until the area was cleared of enemies. I felt so athletic while playing it even though I had barely gotten up and gone for a walk. I never wanted to stop playing it. I wanted to stay in that world forever.

I might have spent between 6-10 hours playing it daily and completed it in four days. I’m not the best player but I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing as Nathan Drake. I enjoyed the cinematic driven story so much that when I played DOOM on my Xbox One it felt boring but I eventually got comfortable with it. It was hard to feel like I was in the DOOM world so I tried to read up as much of the lore as I could but the days til I moved were getting shorter and I had to stop playing DOOM and pack my Xbox One into a moving box. I also really wanted to see Dallas Crane and I felt I had to completely put away my game console so I could be sure I could go to that show. I put N.O.V.A 3 on my phone and played it before the show. The A.I that was supposed to help me was buggy AF though so I eventually gave up on it. But I am glad I went to the Dallas Crane gig. I got to hang out with the guys, talk mostly about videogames with the drummer Steve and take some good photos despite having no confidence of my skills after months off photographing bands. I even forgot the differences between fast and slow shutter speeds.

Then I was going to go see Olympia two or three days later, so I hastily edited the Dallas Crane photos, ignored the support act photos and was off to another gig. Then some more symptoms showed up. I completely lost my appetite yet still felt hungry; I just didn’t want to eat. The kitchen was a mess because of the move so that may have been one reason why I couldn’t eat.  I ended up surviving on Shapes and crackers. My sister was convinced that Olympia went to our church when we were kids. I didn’t really believe her.

The night of the Olympia gig I had some anxiety about getting in at all because my sister had my ticket but it passed and I met up with my sister (not the one I lived with) and we got together to excitedly talk about a house that we were approved to rent. I ate a meal for the first time in days and I was looking forward to seeing my friend Pat at the gig who plays bass in Olympia.

I was distracted and unfocused at the gig. Maybe it was because I kept talking to my sister when I’d usually be alone and hyperfocused on what was happening on stage. I yet again had zero confidence in my ability to take photos but I eventually remembered what a slow shutter speed does to photos taken in low light, so I corrected that. It was a good night. I got to talk to Pat and meet Olympia and my sister asked her if she was the same person that went to our church as kids, and she was and it was kind of strange but nice. I was an extremely quiet and weird child and I’m so different now that it felt good that someone knew me back then. It’s like that child actually did exist. I didn’t really have much to talk about because I had been playing videogames obsessively for the past month and being around a 35 to 40 something year old crowd I didn’t want to make myself seem any younger by mentioning that.

So, despite all the stress and weird regressive symptoms and anxiety about everything and near starvation I still had a good time and took some great photos and just got to do what I had been missing out on for months. It was enough for me to want to do it again. A couple of weeks ago I had feelings of giving up on my photography because I just couldn’t get out to the shows, and also those suicidal feelings. Every now and then I think about giving up on my band photography anyway.

I hastily edited my photos of Olympia too because I planned on seeing The Matches that night. The Matches were amazing and energetic as usual but I didn’t feel like I belonged in that scene anymore. And that was once my scene. There was a time when everyone knew about my photography and at least two people at that gig knew me. I met the guitarist of The Matches but it didn’t go as great as it did at Olympia.

I’m in my new house now and I haven’t played a video game for about two weeks, maybe more. I’ve been watching a whole lot of Good Game Pocket and following gaming news. I’m waiting for a gaming monitor to be delivered and DOOM is sitting on a desk of dresser drawers in the lounge room waiting to be finished. I don’t think I’ll become dependent on videogames again, not to the extent I was. I think it all had to do with the stress I was feeling over moving. Sure, I’m going to be picking up a controller when I feel deeply depressed or even anxious but I don’t think I’ll choose it over going to a gig. I’ve been trying to work on my social skills – AGAIN! Sorry, but this is like the fifth time. I pretty much know what to say to people but don’t say it. It’s going to take time and practice but it will happen. The nervous impulsive speaker will return.

I still enjoyed my time playing videogames. I felt like a gamer for the first time. I’m not saying they’re as broken as I was. No, they seem to be able to balance playing games with work and socialising in a way that I never could. I’ll still continue to play games but I won’t have much money to buy them day one or pre-order collector editions ever again. They’re still the best therapy I can ever get and the only way I can make friends, outside of the music scene of course.

Autism and the Videogame Community

April is Autism Awareness Month and if I’m lucky today is the 2nd of April: Autism Awareness Day. I’m taking this time to not just write one but a couple of posts dealing with issues faced by those with autism, instead of my usual spotlight on myself and talking about what autism is like for me. It’s my 8th Autism Awareness Month so talking about that stuff does get tiresome. The first post will be about autistic people in the videogame community and the second about the state of the autism community and its many divisions within that community.

Recently I made the decision to quit playing in multiplayer worlds such as MMOs and spending a long time in game forums. I felt like it wasn’t a very supportive environment and not an ideal place for someone still learning social skills and dealing with serious mental health problems. I was let down by the fact that the game community and most social online communities are not really about making friends and supporting each other. I’m not saying it should change. I would love it to change but I’m not pushing anything here. It’s just not for me and I don’t think it’s for people with similar issues.

That said, I’m still going to play the DOOM beta later and if I run into the same obstacles I will try my best to get through it. Obstacles, you say? Yes, these obstacles are often the mindset other gamers have when they are looking to team up with another person. They expect you to already know what to do and be just as good as they are. If not they will accuse you of not trying hard enough, even being lazy. They just don’t see that two people may not be alike. It’s actually very autistic. OK, I deserve the abuse I’ll get from saying that. But it’s very true. I had to learn all throughout my early adult life to remember to think of others and even had to pick up in other people how to empathise. So, it’s something I’m always trying to keep in mind, yet others seem to be losing this innate ability.

I don’t play as much as other people. I have many other interests, all of which will individually take my complete focus for weeks and months on end. I can’t really commit to two at a time. At the moment I seem to be trying to juggle writing with my band photography with playing video games with reading comic books so I’m not putting much time on any one thing at all, so I haven’t got that intense attention to detail autistic people are famous for. I expect some abuse thrown at me from playing DOOM because I haven’t played anything like DOOM for years. I’m off my game, as they say.

What I’m really trying to encourage here in my speedy jumpy-brain ADHD writing style is that I wish gamers would open their minds up to the fact that not everyone who is playing with or against them is exactly like them. You never know what kind of stress someone is under or what their challenges are. Most of you don’t care but I believe there’s a minority of people who will still give consideration to a minority of people once they’re made aware of it.

The reason I play video games at all has a lot to do with my poor performance playing platform games on SEGA, PC and Nintendo as a kid and proving to myself that I’ve gotten better since. I have. I use my brain much more now than when I was a kid. The second reason is because back when I wasn’t even playing games but was sorta interested in them thanks to the invention of mobile gaming that I started to research game development to help me write about VR technology in a science fiction novel I was writing. Funny thing was I didn’t actually know another company was creating the same type of technology under the label VR Roaming. Anyway, tangent. Point is my research turned into playing the games and living in the communities and then I got so absorbed into the playing side of the research, I became a gamer myself. Then when I was going through a lot of anxiety over going to see live bands cause of a PTSD issue I found that playing Batman: Arkham City calmed these nerves and maybe beating the hell out of bad guys felt kind of empowering. So, when I was struggling to deal with crippling depression and suicidal thoughts (oops, trigger warning) I would make myself play a game at the very beginning of my depression and the feelings would be alleviated and I wouldn’t go on online rants and lose all my friends in the process.

Now the fact that I was in these mental states while gaming meant any slight abuse hurled at me was deeply felt as my mind wasn’t even seeing the world properly – both depression and anxiety put thoughts in your mind that often do not reflect your current situation, but are both paranoid and delusional, in a mild non-psychosis sense. You’re self-critical, sometimes hating everything about you and losing hope about your future. You start to hate everyone and everything around you too. What were once little annoyances are now the most irritating things in the world. And you believe them, you always believe them. It doesn’t matter how many times you try and put positive thoughts in place of them, they will always sneak their way back in. At least for a little while. Dealing with toxic people in the gaming community just becomes more of a burden when in that state of mind.

Now back to autism. I believe it’s tough being an autistic gamer because our symptoms may lead to playing badly, though sometimes an autistic gamer that has gaming as a special interest can have the upper hand. The old term used by psychologists was ‘little professor’ – it was the fact that a child with Asperger’s or high functioning autism (they’re basically the same thing) could become interested in something and soak that knowledge, mostly facts, up like a sponge and when they talked about it they sounded like an expert in the field. People with autism can teach themselves to do anything this way. I used to read a lot about physics, especially astronomy and spit out facts I memorised here and there and people thought I was a genius. I understood what I was saying but I’m far from a genius. We have a high attention to detail so can pick up on things people may miss. Try to pick up an object with a lot of detail with it and try to pick off every little detail on it. This is what we do naturally. It’s actually a good coping mechanism. When we look at the whole picture (environment) we’re easily overwhelmed. Most of us have extremely sensitive senses (take note Bungie) and need to detach from the world and just focus on one thing. As a result we memorise all the details. I’m just saying, a player like that on your team could be an asset.

We’re also very good problem solvers. Despite thinking mostly linearly, like it says in the diagnostic criteria, some of us can think of unconventional ways to solve a problem. A big problem I have with video games is that there’s usually just one way to play the game. I was once doing a raid in Destiny playing the Dark Below DLC. You have to take down a Hive Prince called Crota. We all pretty much knew the drill. All six of us have to touch a stone, then you gotta fight the Hive minions and there’s just a very set way to go on from there. But there was this one time where Bungie servers were being little buttholes and glitching the whole raid up, so we were impatient to finish the game so we broke protocol. It was only a slight deviation from the plan but we defeated Crota a lot faster than we usually would. So, maybe having a less than conventional member on the team could not only make a boring rinse and repeat raid more interesting but may lead to quicker victories. And I just think if there were at least 3 or 4 possible ways to complete a level then it would make for much more exciting game play. I really like emergent game play where you take over some dialogue decisions and it affects the outcome of the game. Developers need to make the way players actually get around the environment and the decisions they make within be as varied as the many choices of dialogue in story driven game play.

Autistic people may be able to learn a lot of information quickly and rehash that knowledge as though they’ve been into that subject for ten years when really it’s been two days, they may see other things people miss and they may want to shake up the linear way in which you play games, but there are also some cons. One of the most noticeable shortcomings about someone with autism is their poorly developed social skills. I’m here to elaborate on that. When talking to someone with autism it’s best to talk in a fairly straight forward manner and leave the phrases and idioms at home. They also cannot process too much information at once so it needs to be done in step by step intervals. For me, I don’t like too much banter while in a raid. I need to be able to focus on the mission at hand and really focus on the team leader’s directions. I simply cannot hear two different types of dialogue at once. I always have to pause a TV show when someone comes into the room talking. I can no longer follow what’s going on TV. I feel so frustrated I feel like throwing the remote at the people talking, but I know they don’t understand why I can’t hear the TV. They can filter out unwanted noise and focus on one thing. I and most people with autism, can’t. And always remember, people with autism cannot deal with change. A very helpful and awesome person will help them slowly transition to change by revealing that something different is going to happen and a most unhelpful person will just drop that information 2 seconds before it happens. The difference is a calm and contended person eager to do some team death match or a very angry person who is going to rage quit anyway, and blame you for it. Might rant on Facebook about it. Maybe.

One thing to keep in mind is people with autism just want to be understood but still be treated like everyone else. We don’t want pity. We’ve been handled with kid gloves for most of our lives and to be treated that way in your teens or adulthood is degrading and patronising. There has to be a balance between not being an ableist coont and not treating us like we’re in damn kindergarten.

I think one of the big problems facing people with autism and is probably the reason why they remain unicorns to me (hard to find in the gaming community) is because of the fact that autism is used as an insult throughout the gaming community and social media as a whole. Now, I’m not going to tell those people to stop. I know how much gamers hate having to change something about themselves to seem less offensive. I just don’t think autism should be used as an insult. For one, there’s nothing in the diagnostic criteria that says people with autism have an intellectual disability. Anyone who would make fun of someone with an intellectual disability have voided their humanity and are not subject to the same rights as declared in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights in my book anyway. They’re monsters and not worthy of a second thought. Hmm. I may be compartmentalising here..eh. People with autism are not mentally handicapped; it just co-exists in those with severe autism. In the psychological world we call that co-morbid. Like my ADHD. The symptoms of autism are to me personally a set of behaviors developed within the brain as its own way to cope with the chaotic world that the differently connected neural circuits within the autistic brain cannot cope with. But go ahead and think of autistic people as all retarded. It just shows how little you really know about the condition. It’s probably one of the very few mental disorders that give special skills within the frustrating life experience limiting symptoms too.

There are other autistic gamers out there who face the same issues as I do in the online community. I can’t be the only one. I wish to find them and give us a safe place to exist in the game community. If you’re on Xbox One send REDMENACE85 a message. If you’re a troll you will be ignored, reported to Microsoft and name and shamed by the international autism community. If I ever get back into Destiny I’ll make a clan just for us.

Raiding in Destiny is Only For the Most Sociable

raidiconDestiny is a futuristic sci-fi FPS MMO on video game consoles that has taken over my life for almost a year now. It’s a good game to get into if you’re new to online multiplayer. It was an experiment for me to see if I could overcome my social anxiety over playing against another person online. At first it did help me because of matchmaking in strikes and PVP (player vs. player) and the fact that you couldn’t hear what verbal abuse the enemy was hurling at you. It felt like a safe place for this awkward very anxious autistic kid. I’ve always struggled with getting a team together for the non-matchmaking levels, such as Nightfall and raids.

I’m not one to complain about the usual things people complain about in Destiny and if my fellow Destiny players are anything to go by, there’s usually a lot to complain about. I willing to just put up with it, even the new Warlock super that has done quite a number on my epileptic and migraine prone brain. It sucks but if I want to keep playing Destiny and the 1-3 PVP matches a day, I’ve got to get around it. And I do and it’s great. OK. It sucks but I’ve made peace with the fact that I won’t be able to get 20+ kills in PVP again.

But when it comes to Nightfall and the raids you’re talking about some really good rewards, the best the game has to offer. OK. The Nightfall rewards aren’t as good but at least one has to be completed in order to get a really awesome and high attack weapon in one of the quest lines. The raids are also one of the best parts of Destiny and the rewards are literally the best weapons and armor you can get in the game.

Now you can play through the main story and get through it pretty easily and that’s all fine but if you want to keep playing the end game stuff you will find yourself slipping behind the rest if you don’t complete the raid at least once. Even at 297 light I feel way behind someone who is 300 light. This community is a bit elitist about light levels in this game. Light basically makes you stronger and in order to do Nightfall or the raid you need a minimum light level, but some players require a higher level than this.

But I am both Nightfall and raid ready. I was even invited into a Nightfall strike when I was only 278 light, but that was before the quest step came up. I’ve started the raid too but the game was glitchy so we quit it. Since then I haven’t been able to get back in. I’ve watched my small group of friends in my former clan talk about doing the raid twice while they were doing the raid. It’s really disheartening. I thought they’d help their awkward and socially anxious friend out. It’s actually made me really depressed and angry. I do have a mood disorder as well so I’ve got all that to deal with.

That’s the problem with trying to get into a raid. I’ve done bits of the previous raids, all of the second one a few times but only about half of the first raid. Turns out I’ve got a low threshold for jerks and the gaming community is full of them. I’ll forgive the 12 and 14 year olds. They are kind of arrogant and have no manners because, well, they’re still growing up and learning that stuff. It’s kind of the only place they can boss people around too. But I’ve been turned off by racist slurs and really rude jokes. What makes me really rage quit a game is when a person is singled out for causing the team to lose or if people are making too much fun of me. I know I can just mute but most of the time it’s the leader so I’ve either got to put up with it or leave.

Then there’s people who don’t give proper instruction and when they do you know they act like it’s obvious. So, it’s rare for me to find a good Fireteam that has open-minded and decent people who will give me clear instructions. A problem with me being autistic is that I actually require very clear and detailed instructions. I also can’t handle someone telling me to do too much at once, so it has to be broken up. I’m getting better but it’s hard to learn when people don’t give me the chance.

I know the developer Bungie wants people to really communicate and work together as a team but some of us haven’t got those skills and may not ever have them, so we miss out on the best level this game has to offer and those sweet rewards. We get left behind on 297 light and can’t see any way of progressing. If the next lot of expansions are going to be like this, then I’ll just give up on getting the maximum light, the highest attack power and the greatest rewards. I won’t have the best Destiny experience anymore and I’ll just get bored and move onto other games.

Imagining the Future of Gaming

As a fan of the book Ender’s Game and advances in technology, especially for our own entertainment, I was interested to see the film maker’s interpretation of the Simulator. According to the book it is like the most perfect video game ever and the user can change the angles to see the battle from any angle. The Simulator was mainly a space war strategy game where the user controlled the squadrons of fighter craft. Being an air force nut myself I completely loved this part of the book.

The film interpretation was incredible. The Simulator appeared as a window doming this large room where Ender and his fellow cadets would orchestrate the battle from. It basically looked like the battle was happening right outside of their room in deep underground caves on the asteroid Eros. I don’t think I could have ever imagined the Simulator in that way. And the way the angles or point of view of the game was changed was with one motion of Ender’s arm. It was fluid, it was flawless. I was amazed.

You might need to see a picture to get a better idea

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Now that is one awesome video game!

I just wish the film could have been more successful in the Box Office. It was visually stunning and stayed more or less true to the story. I don’t really need to bring up the controversy that surrounded it before it even hit the cinemas, and I think that really impacted on the film’s success. If it had been a major hit then I’m sure we would have seen some type of video game come out, even if it was just on iOS and Android devices.

I often spend a lot of time thinking what the game would look like, even if it was just a simple game in the Battle Room. The tilt controls on the iPad would have come in use and it could utilize the 360 degree controls too. I enjoyed playing Star Wars: Falcon Gunner with that type of control set up. A console version would have been ideal but I think like most game adaptations to films it would have failed to live up to the standards that hardcore gamers expect.

For many years I’ve been trying to come up with a revolutionary way of playing video games, for a story I’m working on. I did a lot of research on current games and kept my eye out for games that introduced novel forms of gameplay, like emergent gameplay where the outcome of the game is determined by the choices the player makes. I liked that game creators were making characters and stories more emotional and that players were looking for this too and not just wanting a game with high end graphics where the aim of the game was just to shoot as many enemies as they could. I read up on articles about the psychology of gamers; what makes them want to play games and keep coming back for more, what was happening in their brains when they played and whether socioeconomic issues introduced to games had any impact on them and if they could go onto changing their outward view of the world.

When it came to me deciding to buy a new console I had these things in mind and wanted to go for a brand that was going in that direction. Xbox seemed to be what I was looking for. I liked how in Project Spark they let users create their own worlds that they could play games in and when going online against another user the system that matched up gamers who were on the same level in terms of experience, was like an idea I devised for my own console.

I ended up buying a Wii U. The added gamepad function seemed innovative enough for me and it might give me more ideas. I didn’t just want to continue my research but play a variety of games. I grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario and Donkey Kong and I wanted to play their latest game installments, but I also wanted to get into some FPS and as a Marvel fan I couldn’t get away from close-combat games. It was also more affordable and had the convenience of backward compatibility that no other console offers. And I think the one thing that keeps me going back to Nintendo is the feeling of nostalgia I still get when playing the games starring my old favourite Sega and Nintendo characters. As superior as I think Xbox and PS games are to Nintendo’s I still think their game characters don’t stand out as much as Sonic or Mario or any character like that. They’re almost like character actors like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. They can appear in games other than their own ones and sometimes appear in the same game but they stay in character. And I think it’s good that kids today have a chance to grow up with that like my generation did.

The game I’m most looking forward to playing is Mass Effect 3. It’s futuristic science fiction with a huge background story I’ve been reading up on and I’ve been told it has an emergent gameplay style. I don’t play a lot of RPG shooters, though I’ve played all the originals like Escape from Castle Wolfenstien and Quake, and it looks like a good introduction game to me and has a pretty interesting story, which as a sci-fi writer could help me generate some ideas again. The problem with young gamers today is they think anything that has a few similarities to another game or film or anything really, is a rip off, when it’s really more of an inspiration and like it or not but this is how people create. You take one idea and change it in such a way that it becomes your own new creation. Of course people can fail to do this and just create a clone of something and neglect to make enough changes so it is glaringly obvious they stole the idea. In this case, yes, it was a rip off.

Another issue in the gaming community I’m trying my best to steer clear of is the brand wars. I’ve taken part in many brand wars in my youth and none was more extreme and obsessive as Canon vs Nikon. When it comes to brand wars over phones and tablets and gaming platform I’m becoming kind of fatigued. I’ve even admitted to myself that both Canon and Nikon are just as good as each other and there was a time where Nikon was in the lead. That takes a lot of strength for me to admit that. The whole brand wars thing is just immature in my mind. There are a lot of things about the gaming community that seem immature but I find that with any fan group I associate with, especially now that everyone is glued to social networks and online fan communities.

I do wonder though that what is it that makes people with an Xbox 360, PS 3 or 4 or PC that makes them feel superior than the others? This does happen among Nintendo gamers but it’s less so. I really can’t see how someone’s worth can be measured by the types of games they play. I know not everyone is like that which I’m grateful for. I admit my reputation for keeping my mind open to other brands has not gone completely unblemished; I have shown favour to Marvel over DC comics but I’m now more willing to give DC a chance.

I just think this taking sides of a single brand against another brand that makes more or less the same type of product is something young people (even those in their 30s – see: emotional intelligence) do and once they mature emotionally they no longer need to act such a way or hold such a view. Therefore the whole war is meaningless to me and a waste of my precious time. Those people can have at each other’s throats and I’ll look for other cross-platform gamers who are willing to put our console differences aside so we can get into an interesting discussion that is about the games and less about the consoles.

I’m still waiting for my Wii U to arrive. It’s coming with about five games including Super Mario Bros U and Batman: Arkham Origins. Then I plan to buy Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze, Sonic: Lost World, Sonic Boom and The Amazing Spiderman when they come out, Call of Duty: Ghosts and possibly Watchdogs. Oh yes, and who can forget all the Avenger’s games? So, maybe it’s not the console I wanted but it has a lot of games I can play and I get to have some fun while researching at the same time.

Speaking of which…My problem about coming up with a new way to play games is I can only really think a few years in the future and Xbox are pretty much coming up with the same ideas, so it’s becoming less original. So, I’ve settled on the idea that it should be virtual reality but using the knowledge I’ve picked up about how neuroscience thinks VR should work. I probably don’t need to build much more on my idea, and unfortunately I can’t reveal anything because I want it to stay original. I have told my friends when I was drunk and they probably didn’t even pay that much attention to what I was saying. Never again will I let my tongue slip about it.

If I give up on the novel/screenplay for good then maybe I will reveal my idea to people, but for now I’m going to keep working on it and the story to see if I can get anywhere on it. And I get an excuse to buy and play more games.

So, as my unemployment and uncertainty about being a band photographer continues, I still have a lot of free time to learn about video games in a lot of depth, from discovering the psychology behind gaming to finding out what happens on a neuronal level to people as they play, to innovative ideas for gaming that will eventually lead to more and more revolutionary ideas and perhaps even the introduction of virtual reality technologies. And I get to play games and immerse myself in the gaming community at the same time.

A Screenwriter’s Journey – Week 3, Post 1#

It’s been three weeks since I started to write my screenplay, a modern day science fiction set in Australia and well, Space. I wrote eight pages last night and have now drafted forty-seven pages in all. I think it’s a good pace for me even if on average I’m only committing two to three days a week to the script. But now that my blog writing career is about to take off again, especially the in depth review I plan to do for ‘Kids On Speed?’ part II, I think I deserve a break from now and then.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot on a page that is accessible to the entire web because I don’t want my idea taken. I’ve put four years into a novel and have gone from a story with a very brief outline to a world so sophisticated and full of detail and background that it seems more real to me than the real world. Really, there’s only one person to tell this story and if my idea was stolen not only would that frustrate me but it will also be put together quickly and completely miss the point I’m trying to make here.

What I can tell you is that it deals with an on and off hot topic in the media and gives it a real sci-fi interpretation. I want to put some autism self-advocacy in there but I’m aiming for the script to be no more than 120 pages. My first draft should be no more than 200. I’ve already cut chunks out of the novel and changed things around for the screenplay, so it can translate better onto film. Funny thing is to write the novel and include all the descriptions I saw in my head as a predominately visual thinker – what I see in my head I assume all can see so I don’t bother writing down the details – I had to learn to write like a verbal thinker, and now I have to cut down on my descriptions. Anyway, I was very successful in writing what I saw down into a few descriptive sentences people could make sense of. I have a bit of a cheat: I can mimic the writing styles of my favourite authors perfectly. I had to stop reading Asimov and Pullman for that reason and read a tonne of books in the Ender’s Game saga.

I think I was able to pick up on the structure of screen writing for the same reason, but after reading about 4-5 scripts one issue keeps coming up: I have no confidence about how to properly structure an action scene. I think after reading through Elysium I picked up more of the structure and seemed to know exactly how to put in the ‘cut to’ parts – pity novice screenwriter’s are discouraged from putting those in – but when you write really fast paced and exciting actions scenes you must capitalise words or a couple of words at a time to grab the attention of the reader. It seems common to capitalise nouns or just names and words that seem to jump off the page basically. It’s still very hard for me because I think the writer has to choose what to capitalise and not have to follow strict instructions down to a t – and it’s that last part that I need.

I plan on reading through The Matrix: Reloaded, maybe Revolutions and Man of Steel to hopefully get this structure stuck in my head. Right now I’m having difficulty reading over the last eight pages of my script. In fact I’m having difficulty focusing on doing anything but writing this post. This is all very normal for me. It was the reason why I was medicated. Now I just take fish oil. Yesterday I pushed the dosage to 6000mg and did eventually write as I have mentioned but then I didn’t sleep at all. They increase my focus and energy and sometimes the energy just doesn’t stop. I’ve only taken 1500mg today and all I can do, apart from impulsive spending, is write this post.

While it’s good for me to have a break from working on my script or even thinking about future scenes playing in my head like my own personal cinema, when I think I’ve had enough rest trying to get back into the flow of thinking up scenes, writing, structuring and even jotting down notes, can be incredibly difficult.

Sometimes I need to push everything else aside and that includes people. I hate to have to do it but I need 100% focus on this little story in my head that’s been entertaining me during sleepless nights, long car rides, and boring TV shows for four years.

I’ll probably not continue onto the next few scenes – though last night was a sleepless night that made me think up at three more scenes and I still couldn’t sleep – because I found that while writing last night the words were so spontaneous that the whole scene lost consistency. So, I need to structure the whole scene in point form notes. Note taking is something I haven’t done yet. I have hundreds of notes from the novel because of all the detail and scientific knowledge and other research involved. I even wrote the paragraphs like they were scenes and the chapters were long and rich in description of everything; character development, locations and even common everyday objects. And oh God how I hated to describe face expressions. I hardly can interpret them properly anyway so it was a real chore.

But I went out and bought myself a notebook just for this script and one more for this blog too. So, I’m becoming more organised the deeper I get into this script.

A problem I ran into with writing chapters of the novel was that when I didn’t have perfect structure I didn’t think I was of capable writing like that so I kept going back and editing, then I would change my mind about something and go back and change that and to keep the story canon I had to re-write several other chapters completely too.

So, I won’t do that this time. It’s hard though especially when I’m struggling with the action scenes. I think as long as I have the changes written in my notebook I’ll be ok. I wrote my Doctor Who fan fiction in the same way – the way you’re supposed to – and just went over and fixed it all up when I had finished the first draft and it worked out. You can read my fan fiction online by the way. I’m not really sure if you should though. My grammar was horrible back then.

I gave up on the novel because once I went off medication the task of writing a whole novel which I wanted to continue as a trilogy was just overwhelming. Even on the medication I would get a few hours in then become way too impulsive and go off and start ranting at people and committing to photo projects I could get done in a couple of hours. I’m better without it, sort of, and script writing seems to be just the right amount of work I can handle.

I wish I could tell you about some of the themes but again it might give too much away. What I can tell you is that I’ve done a lot of research into video game development. I was interested the psychology of gamers and how developer’s exploited this. You have to do it to sell a product. I’m interested in this type of marketing. I’ve not just played a lot of video games, especially those using augmented reality and have come up with new ways to experience gaming, but psychological articles and even paid attention to downright negative stuff. I’ve studied everything really short of learning my own code but I know what goes on in an average video game development company.

Then one day I came up with a revolutionary new console and way to play video games and during the more depressive phases of writing or not writing my novel I would get drunk and tell my friends all about it. They probably have forgotten about it but to me I was revealing a government secret to them. I’m proud of it even if the technology is maybe decades or centuries away. I just really had to make this a great piece of sci-fi technology. My problem is I’m a very literal person and I thought most of the technology was just five years away or even in development. In fact, I found many articles about technology that I was writing about. The good part was I got more of a scientific explanation; the bad part was it was no longer futuristic.

The console has evolved in the last couple of days too. I really like where it’s going. Originally it would take up a few paragraphs, then a chapter and now it’s become a greater part of the story.

Anyway, that’s enough spoilers for you. Now I have to go out and buy more FPS games to do some more research.

I’ve been in love with films since before I saw the inside of a school classroom and during a very lonely childhood my wanderings of the schoolyard at lunchtime turned into vivid fantasies of all those films I loved but I could change how things happened, how I think they should have gone. Over the years I would begin using a protagonist, a withdrawn boy – like in many of the children’s films I loved – and he would star in many films over many years; as I grew he grew and the stories he was in started to change and become more sophisticated the more I continued to watch a variety of films and began to get ideas from them.

After a brief break when I attempted to be a normal person I went back into my world of film and now had hundreds of real films memorised that I could build my stories from. I started to develop more characters and then gave more care to imagining the background scenery.Admittedly, I became more influenced by the screenwriter’s of Doctor Who like Russell T Davies and various Canadian sci-fi such as Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly and The 4400.

Now I’m back to studying film but still learning from TV shows too. One thing I‘ve really learned over the years from science fiction in particular is how to better pick up on people’s emotions and why they do the things they do, such as lying to people. And then I began to appreciate teamwork for the first time. It was the military sci-fi where they fight hoards of aliens when Earth or other worlds are in threat of extinction or being enslaved by this technologically advanced species who see us only as puny primitives. Although, I really like when we the human side of aliens in which the word ‘human’ used as a descriptive word in this case becomes redundant. We get to see their issues are just like ours and they care about the survival of their species as much as we care about the survival of ours, and they’re not just trying to obliterate us for no real reason. Most of the time, at least.

That was a long post. I promise you the next one will try to stay more on topic. I just thought some background history was necessary.