On Aspirations and Penis Envy

When I was five I wanted to be a policeman. Then I grew up to be incredibly pretty, and realised that the life of a grey-looking, slightly overweight middle-aged man (otherwise known as half the cast of The Bill, may it rest in peace) was not for me; not if I was to also spend half my time running about, at any rate. Soon after came an interest in writing, once I’d stopped pretending to my Dad, a Maths teacher, that Maths was my favourite subject. It’s because of that interest, specifically an interest in journalism, that I’m now doing English Literature at University, as well as writing an infrequent-but-regular column in Haywire Magazine, which you should totes check out.

Lately, my interest in this journalistic pursuit has begun to wane. I suppose in part that this could have something to do with it being a seemingly dying field – or at least one evolving far quicker than anyone involved with it can currently cope with – and I’d rather not pile my goals on a career path that’s got the potential to be, if you’ll excuse the phrasing, a financial shit hole. Not that I’d ever want to go into something, or refuse to go into something, because of the money involved, but… well, a man’s gotta dress.

More than that though, I’m pretty sure it has to do with my being surrounded with art students at my particularly arty University. When most of the people around you are paying £9000 a year to paint there does, oddly, begin to creep in a feeling of envy. Tearing other people’s work to shreds for at least three years might make me somewhat (emphasis on the ‘somewhat’) more broadly appealing to employers  than someone who’s been brushing up (ho ho ho) on their oil painting, but I can’t deny that the desire to create something that people feel is noteworthy enough to tear apart in the first place is more alluring. I guess I’m suffering from a kind of intellectual penis envy, if you will. Most of those Fine Art folks will never produce anything deemed culturally valuable, but the aim far outweighs the reality: the highs of a creator sail above those of all but the most noteworthy of critics and journalists; hell, even the idea of being a struggling artist is the more romantic and enticing option.

What am I saying then? Well, I still want to be a writer. But what I really want is to be a writer-writer: a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter. Something, and something that carries itself with some significance and weight. (Although I must say that poetry has never, and likely will never, appeal.) And whilst that’s not the most original nor interesting of aspirations, it bears a personal importance. Because for the first time, I actually have some form of higher aspiration that I feel particularly drawn to.

Perhaps I’m a glory-hunter, or even just a slightly more trumped-up product of a fame-obsessed generation, but I find myself staring down one unavoidable truth: a critic might command an adoring following, but I’d rather be one of the guys whose work they’ve spent their lives deconstructing and shitting on and praising to the high heavens; the esoteric, borderline-alcoholic creator-genius interviewee over the intelligent, chirpy interviewer. In short, I want to be a narcissist worthy of his own narcissism. Perhaps such a top-down, in-it-for-the-glory outlook means I’ll never get there, but at least I now I have a ‘there’ to hold on to as a distant focus.

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Change for Change’s Sake

The internet is full of idiots. Websites to do with gaming, doubly so. Normally I find myself ignoring the majority of commenters for their sheer stupidity, and even the topics which truly tend to rile me up have, in recent months, trended towards being less successful in doing so. (Evidently, being a member of the first generation to grow up with the internet has led to my growing weary of certain topics far sooner than ever thought possible.) But with the recent release of the (utterly shit) Hitman: Absolution, I find myself challenged by an old nemesis.

Trawling the internet for reviews of 47’s latest adventure to laugh at (if positive) or bathe in a puddle of mournfulness with (if negative), I came across Polygon’s review. The review itself was, of course, wrong but, as I’ve said, such a positive response to such a rubbish game didn’t quite enrage me in the way it used to. Instead, my irritation arose with this comment:

The suggestion seems to be that asking for an adherence to a series’ actual set-up and gameplay is counter to asking for innovation and evolution. The suggestion is also horse shit, because these are not two ideas that counter one another in the slightest, nor do they make the person asking for them a hypocrite.

Hitman: Blood Money is widely regarded as the best game of the series, and yet it was in many ways very different to its predecessors. Almost all of the game’s effort was now spent on imagining mini-sandboxes in which to experiment, whilst any sense of linearity had been almost entirely vanquished. No more trekking through blizzards in Japan, no more instant-insertions into dangerous territories. Mission areas became mostly inhabited by civilians, and players were, more than ever, encouraged to poke about their environment, to think and plan before striking. Blood Money was at once relaxed and yet puzzling. It was, fundamentally, the same as its forebears: introducing change in order to fully realise the concept that the series had begun with, yet evolved away from the crap that had kept it down.

Hitman: Absolution, however, is a game that does not do that. It is linear, heavily story-driven (don’t worry, the story’s also shit), and very rarely even features a target that you have to kill; let alone a fully-realised, open area in which to do so methodically. In fact, there’s only one mission in the whole game that anywhere near approaches what the four previous games have done their best to achieve. Sure, it’s changed, but only in that it has regressed: and change for the hell of changing is not worthy of automatic praise or an XX% score boost; but then neither would a carbon copy of the previous entry be particularly laudable either.

The fact of the matter is that we should always encourage evolution as much as we should encourage a sense of pride in a series’ uniqueness, mission-statement (a fairly horrible phrase for a creative effort, but the best I can think of right now), and spirit. Neither is a contradiction of the other, but what progress is built on: it’s what gave us Blood Money, and it’s what was ignored to make Absolution such a crushing disappointment.

Hello You

No sooner had I created my About page than did I realise that I should also probably write an introductory first post. I supposed I could probably copy/paste it, although that my look lazy and I’d hate to set that precedent so early with absolutely everything I do. But then I supposed I’d otherwise have to write a completely different intro possibly covering the exact same things – and that just looks silly.

Already it seemed that this blogging business has become fraught with trepidation.

But then the answer became clear. “Link to the About page,” I said to myself, “and then spend the rest of the post giving an insight into the inane trials and tribulations that confront your mind in every waking moment.” And so this is where we find ourselves: I’ve been broken already.

My name’s Ethan, by the way. You’d know that if you’d read the About page. I linked it, you know.