My laptop is broken for the fourth time this year, and along with my ability to effectively HUSTLE! for writing work, I’ve lost access to my Steam account and thus my only two video games. So far I have Stardew Valley and Life Is Strange, two very different games — in SDV, you play a city girl sick of her corporate job who moves out to her late uncle’s farm to try a new way of life; in Life Is Strange, you play a girl who attends boarding school (in maybe Maine or someplace), who learns she can turn back time just in time to discover a deadly hurricane coming toward the town, and also she’s possibly queer and that’s why I’m playing.
I’m somewhat of a noob in everything in my life right now. Like… I’m 23, what the heck am I even doing most of the time?! It feels overwhelming and underwhelming all at once. (Is this it, then?) A noob to life, just floating around, basically. Definitely I’m a noob to (for? about?) video games — these are the first two I’ve played semi-seriously since I was a kid, and then barely. Suddenly it feels like so many people in my life play games — at school this wasn’t the case, but also being at school was… a lot. Also I have never used the word noob this much in my life, okay.
But y’all, how wild is it that video games and media are all kind of about mental health now? In Stardew Valley, you move out to nature because living in the city feels depressing and pointless (hello, hi) and almost every character at some point exhibits symptoms of depression or anxiety. Life Is Strange is about a girl who discovers a superpower — but it’s also about the effects of toxic male violence on women. I’m into it. I like for the stories I consume — and video games, at least a lot of them, are really just liveable stories — to reflect in some way my reality. And games these days are really nailing that. I’m watching my girlfriend play Night In The Woods now, which is about this aggro, depressed, totally loveable character named Mae who drops out of college to return to her dying town and all the people who she left behind, who are stuck there with no sense of forward motion. Like. Okay. How did I not know games could be about this?
I didn’t play many video games growing up. Looking back I think there was a degree of intellectual elitism that played into that — my parents fed me “good” books, aka books from the literary canon, books that were met with critical acclaim from those who Know. Actually my little sister was allowed to read “junkier” books than me — she’s dyslexic and her reading level was lower than mine — but the fact remained that they were junk. Fantasy was junk. Science Fiction was junk. “Catch 22” (a book that I have picked up and thrown down, bored to death, at least five times now) was Good. Jane Austen was Good. Dickens, High Literature. I read chunks of the Animorphs series in secret shame; I snuck into our basement to watch W.I.T.C.H. at night when I was meant to be asleep, and only read the manga when I was away from home and my family. I was really discouraged from playing games (not true for my brothers, but definitely my sisters and I were not allowed to play, really) and encouraged to do more “intellectual” or artistic things.
For sure my parents thought they were doing right — filling my brain with high, well-regarded writings. But like… well-regarded, critically acclaimed writing has always just meant the writing of white men, with a sprinkling of mostly-wealthy white women thrown in. And really truly not because they were the only ones writing — but because those are the voices who have been empowered and given value. Happily we’re getting away from that, and the voices of authors of color, queer authors, have finally been receiving mainstream (white) notice. And overall I feel like the idea of The Book as this Great Thing, the idea that nothing new can hold a candle to the old, is just steeped in elitism and classism and racism. And that’s not even beginning to touch on how little guidance most of us were offered while reading books from the canon, many of which are extremely racist and sexist, leaving us to navigate toxic ideas and lessons by ourselves (and muddle ourselves in these toxic ideas that we have to spend years unlearning later! sigh).
Anyways. I am typing this now on a keyboard I bought today for my tablet — it’s baby-sized, truly, and I’m not sure how long I can make this work. New laptop is first on my list of priorities when I finally get some secondary income coming in!
Happy Tuesday, everyone :^)