Category Archives: Whatever

Just Another Person

When I was little, I was taught that I was special. This was partially because of my parents, but also partially because of the stories I read, watched, and was told.

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“My, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one’s late. But I’ll bet that when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all.”

I was an awkward kid growing up. I didn’t know how to act around people. I was smarter than most, but I had a hard time paying attention. I felt out of place all the time. Part of me felt like I was out of place because I was stupid and worthless — this makes me wonder if I’d had major depressive disorder even in childhood. This manifested in very frequent crying until at least fourth grade.

But I kept telling myself that I was different because I was special, and because I was going to end up being the most beautiful, special, amazing person of all. I was different because I was going to grow up and do amazing things, and people would look at me in awe.

As I grew up, though, I realized how foolish the whole concept was. Mulan wasn’t about me specifically. Tons of kids probably watched Mulan and Hercules and other movies with similar themes and thought they were special snowflakes, too, and statistically speaking I most likely can’t be the most specialest snowflakiest of them all. As I grew into my teens, and especially late teens, I realized that this concept of being extra-special simply wasn’t true. I was just another guy, and thus I did not deserve any special recognition.

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“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

And incidentally, this was around the time I more seriously contemplated and eventually attempted suicide.

So whenever I told people I felt like I was just taking up space, people would tell me, “You’re not just another person, you’re Justin! You’re awesome, and smart, and kind, and creative, and wonderful! You deserve love and happiness, and I wish you’d see that about yourself.” Paraphrasing here. But I couldn’t buy any of that. I’m not special. I know it to be true. It has to be.

But in the past few years I’ve realized the truth, and I’ve had to keep reminding myself of it ever since I found the ability to put it into words. Both of these attitudes I’ve described are flawed, but they’re also both partially true. I’m not the most special snowflake of all. I am just another person. But the truth is that I haven’t been treating myself like another person — I’ve been treating myself like I’m less than a person. Like I’m trash.

I am just another person, and like other people, I have boundless potential for greatness, for innovation, and for self-actualization. My friends and family are people, and each one of them isn’t the most special snowflake of all, but they’ve all done good things, and they’ve all made themselves and others happy in their own ways. Those movie gods and rock stars are people. The guy who gave me my burger is also a person. We’re all people, and we can all do great things.

It’s time I start treating myself like a person, and I hope you’re doing the same. Let’s all appreciate ourselves and each other, and let’s all be good people.


Transphobia and Christianity

For those of you who missed it, recently Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl of 17 years, committed suicide. She left a suicide note on Tumblr explaining her bigoted parents’ actions that led to her decision. Here’s the post. Trigger warning, of course. It hits hard. But it absolutely should be read.

After reading it, I posted some emotional stuff on my Twitter:

This is such a miserable read. Fuck transphobia. Fuck Christianity. Fuck all those judgmental assholes. #RIPLeelah http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note …

Sorry to offend any Christians, but your religion perpetuates so much fucking bigotry. Your religion is THE REASON for her death. #RIPLeelah

I’m turning notifications off and stepping away. I said what I said, I’m not sorry, and I’m not fighting over it.

This naturally upset some of my followers. I’m still not sorry, but I felt I should make some clarifications, and I wanted to post them somewhere less impermanent than Twitter.

“The Gospel doesn’t ever actually condemn trans people! Transphobia isn’t Christian!”

There’s definitely a misunderstanding going on here. Guys, I grew up in Texas. I had to get used to being the only person in the classroom that wasn’t Christian. I had to hear everybody else talk about their beliefs as if they were fact, as if it’s understood common knowledge that Jesus is the savior, and that God is watching, and so on and so forth. Point is, I know that there are plenty of Christians who are good people. If I thought all Christians were assholes I’d have never made any friends.

But Christianity isn’t some incidental personal trait, or an oppressed subculture. Christianity is a dominant cultural force, particularly in the U.S. What this means is that when I talk about Christianity I’m not just talking about what is expressly stated in the Gospel — I’m talking about Christianity as a culture that influences how millions of people act.

I remember a time not long ago when people claimed Elliot Rodger wasn’t motivated by misogyny even though he was saying extremely misogynistic things as justifications for the murders he committed. And when you say that Christianity isn’t what’s perpetuating transphobia it feels pretty damn similar. If you read what Leelah’s parents said, they were explicitly using Christianity as their reasoning. Stuff like, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” They specifically sent her to Christian counselors, and these awful people told her more transphobic falsehoods in an effort to “convert” her instead of actually providing her with the mental health therapy she direly needed.

I don’t care if you think these aren’t “true Christians.” They identify as Christians, and they are identified publicly as Christians. And their behaviors and beliefs are extremely common, so if they aren’t “true Christians” then “true Christianity” is basically negligible for purposes of this conversation. I don’t give a shit about what the Gospel says. I give a shit about what Christians are saying and doing in the name of their religion.

If you’re Christian and you’re not transphobic, then fan-fucking-tastic. But if your first reaction to someone criticizing Christianity for perpetuating transphobia is to say “not all Christians” then you are not helping. Take some social responsibility for the culture you’re part of. Help us fight transphobia. Help educate your fellow Christians that it’s okay to feel like a woman in a man’s body, or vice versa, or to not identify with either binary gender.

Until you all do, more transfolk will die, whether or not you believe it’s your religion’s fault.


I’m Doing NaNoWriMo

I have a list of things I want to do on me and Jarenth’s gaming blog — I want to continue the video LP about Mark of the Ninja, I want to do a text-based LP, I want to keep writing Talk of the Ninja posts, and so on. But one plan I’ve had for months and months is to write a fanfiction, and that would involve coming up with my own plot events to convey.

Writing fiction really scares me because I haven’t tried it in… I want to say about a decade. It’s been a really long time. People keep telling me, “You can do it, you’re a great writer!” I swim in a lot of self-loathing, but I’ll admit I’m pretty good at writing opinion pieces. That’s very different from writing fiction, though.

The problem is that the best way to ensure I’ll never get good at writing fiction is to continue not writing fiction.

So I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to write a fifty thousand word novel throughout November. That’s right: As the title of this post, might have led you to understand, I’m doing NaNoWriMo. None of that “Yyyeah, I guess I’ll consider doing it” bullshit that I threw around for the past few years. No. This time I’m doing it, and if I don’t then I want one of you to come to my house and smack me on the back of my head.

I dunno if I’m going to use that NaNoWriMo website. It’s apparently helpful for many people taking the challenge, but I don’t really need anything more than a word processor to do this. I might make an account and see if I end up doing anything with it.

So far here’s what I’ve got for what the novel will be about: A career criminal in a cyberpunk dystopia where a fascist government is trying to take control under the guise of Defending The People From Terrorists. We’ll see where that goes, I guess.

Will I share the novel publicly once it’s done? I dunno. There is a significant chance that it will suck.

Anyway, just wanted to let people following me know what I’ll be busy with this month. Feel free to leave a comment if you’re doing NaNoWriMo too, or have any helpful or relevant thoughts, or to just say hi or whatever. Do what you want.


Masculinity and Elliot Rodger

So, Elliot Rodger shot a bunch of people because he thought he was entitled to have sex with women.

I’ve been watching the Internet talk about this, and everyone’s been quick to call him an “MRA” (men’s rights activist) and discuss how horribly toxic the MRA community is. That’s valid. That’s absolutely warranted. A hashtag has trended on Twitter called #YesAllWomen, and it mostly consists of women sharing stories about awful, violent misogyny. Again, valid and warranted. It’s very important that this discussion is happening. But I want to look at this from a slightly different angle.

PREFACE: It’s hard to follow up a conversation about women’s issues with commentary about men’s issues without coming off as a guy shouting, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?!” So let me reiterate that I’m not trying to derail the conversation here — all the feminist discussion that’s happening is great and important and I’m glad it’s thereI also want to clarify that I do not sympathize with Elliot Rodger or his actions. He demonstrably had some very fucked up views, and what he did was monstrous and far beyond forgiveness.

I watched Elliot Rodger’s “Retribution” video before it got removed. It was downright terrifying to listen to, but one line really stood out to me:

“I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl.”

And my initial response was, “Dude, I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin too. What’s the big deal?”

I mean, yeah, I do have a girlfriend. And while our relationship is strained by the fact that we live a thousand miles apart, it’s still done wonders for both of our lives. But if you’d talked to me a year ago, I was 21 and had never kissed a girl. And yet I wasn’t planning on killing anyone over it.

The fact that people bundle him with the “MRAs” bugs me, though they’re correct in making that association. I’m bugged by the fact that that’s what those proudly self-proclaimed Men’s Rights “activists” believe in. As I’ve said before, men do actually have cultural problems that are mostly specific to them. And I’m not talking about them being violent. I’m talking about the pressures of masculinity. I believe that there should be a movement devoted to overcoming the societal standards of masculinity — not necessarily a men’s “rights” movement, maybe a Men’s Mental and Emotional Well-Being Movement? I dunno. But the Men’s Rights Movement — at least that which we see from the likes of Reddit — goes about things in all the wrong ways.

Elliot Rodgers identified himself as a 22-year-old virgin. The Men’s Rights Movement should respond, “And there’s nothing wrong with that.” The response instead is, “So those bitches should pay.”

The problem is not that women should “put out” for men. The problem (or at least part of it) is that we as a global culture should put less pressure on men to be “manly.” Men shouldn’t have to have sex with lots of women, or be physically fit, or have high-paying jobs of authority, or any of the other bullshit we associate with “being a man” in order to feel a sense of personal accomplishment or success. I learned this a long time ago. Elliot Rodger apparently didn’t, and several innocent people paid an undeserved price for that.

Women deserve to feel safe, and it’s great that people are spreading talk of that around via Twitter and the like. But men also deserve to feel secure. We should remember that, but we don’t. Almost nobody talks about it. The Good Men Project is a great start, but there’s a reason its tagline is, “The conversation no one else is having.” We need more men telling other men that it’s okay to be a 22-year-old virgin, that you don’t need to have sex in order to be considered strong, and yes, that we’re not entitled to women’s bodies just because we’re men. I guess that’s why I wrote this.

To any other 22-year-old virgins out there: It’s cool, dude. Keep on truckin’. And don’t be a dick.


Insecurity is Not Exclusive to Women

I am a feminist, and I have a Tumblr account that I visit on a daily basis. This means that I’m exposed to a lot of posts promoting feminism and criticizing patriarchal ideals. Recently this post showed up in my feed. It’s a quote from a TED Talk, and I would transcribe it here, but it’s quite long and I can’t copy-paste because it’s delivered in .gif form instead of simple text because Tumblr has this unusual obsession with .gifs that I don’t fully understand. I will, however, post the video that it’s quoting:

It’s quite a good video. The excerpt in the post, if you’re too lazy to click the earlier link, is the part talking about habitual body-monitoring. It’s essentially the act of checking your physical appearance constantly out of learned insecurity, and studies have shown that women do it constantly, because they’ve been taught to.

I wouldn’t have been bothered by it if she hadn’t prefaced with, “For the men in this audience, this might be news to you.”

Speaking as a man, this is not news to me. And I don’t mean I know it because I’m a feminist and have heard about this stuff before. It’s because I can relate to a degree. I don’t generally care that much about my physical appearance, but I’m constantly stopping to think about what others think of me, if the people around me think I’m acting like an idiot, and how I’m presumably screwing everything up even if I haven’t really done anything wrong. I constantly feel like I’m coming off as a mental or emotional wreck, and this impedes my social skills as well as my ability to focus on and complete tasks.

This is not uncommon. In high school my best friend and I both struggled to focus during our classes and our parents thought we were just thinking of pointless diversions like video games, but we had shared our troubles with one another and we both often faced the problem of what we called focusing on focusing, rather than focusing on the lectures. We were so concerned about the disapproval of our parents and teachers that the thought of it overshadowed the actual work at hand.

This has lingered with me for as long as I can remember, and it once caused me to try to kill myself because I didn’t fit the ideal that I felt like the world wanted me to fit. You might be saying, “That’s just because you have depression!” Depression was mentioned in the linked excerpt, and I feel the need to point out that suicide rates are far more likely among boys than among girls, and that boys are also more likely to drop out of school by a non-negligible margin.

See, just as women are negatively impacted by society’s expectations of femininity, men are negatively impacted by society’s expectations of masculinity. You’re expected to appeal to a pretty specific concept of What A Man Should Be, and if you don’t, you are most certainly singled out and shamed for it.

Of course, this problem men face is very different from that problem women face, and so it’s reasonable to discuss one and not the other. I harbor no ill will toward Caroline Heldman for her TED Talk — like I said, I really liked the video in general. But I’m familiar with the Tumblr Social Justice Brigade; I know they like to throw around this idea that men don’t face nearly as many problems as women, and that men don’t deserve to be empathized with unless they’re also a racial or sexual minority. Here, take a look at this post that also showed up on my Tumblr feed, which I’ll just go ahead and transcribe even though it’s pointlessly delivered in .gif form:

“A man can lie, steal and even kill, but as long as he hangs onto his pride he’s still a man. All a woman has to do is slip once and she’s a tramp. It must be a great comfort to you to be a man.”

It’s in the context of a character talking to another character in a movie, but the implication seems to be that while women have to worry about how they appear, men are free to do whatever they wish without a care in the world, and they’ll still be respected by others. This is painfully untrue. I’m so upset thinking about it right now that I’m beginning to have trouble breathing. To dismiss the problems men face as a result of our culture’s idea of masculinity is to deny what once led me to try to end my life. I do not appreciate that.

It’s not a lesser problem or a greater problem. It’s a different problem. Do not dismiss it.


Why No Noise?

Alright, I haven’t posted on this blog or my other blog in months.

Why is that?

I’ve thought about it for awhile. (You know, using time I could have spent writing blog posts.) It’s probably no coincidence that the silence started around the time I got my newest job (January, since I’m not counting my obligatory NGD post about my friends and I making an LP show), but that’s no excuse — plenty of bloggers have full-time jobs, and that doesn’t stop them. It could be laziness, it could be my depression acting up, it could be that I want to spite the few people that might still consider themselves my readers.

But I think I’ve realized the true reason why I haven’t been writing blog posts…

I don’t want to.

Let’s back up and look at how this all started. In Fall 2010 I had just dropped out of college and was feeling severely depressed, borderline suicidal. I talked with my close family members a number of times and they said I need to find something to do that gives me a sense of accomplishment. I could write, I could run, I could draw, whatever, as long as it made me feel less utterly worthless.

I tried to think about what had really interested me lately, and one of my top answers was video game blogging – namely, Twenty Sided – and the idea came together instantly. I like writing, I like games, and I absolutely love analyzing and explaining things to people. After a few months of trying to come up with a clever name, I looked at a picture from Ninja Gaiden, a light bulb switched on in my head, and Ninja Game Den was born, and I posted the first post on January 1st, 2011. Eventually I decided I wanted another blog to devote to personal stuff unrelated to video games, and Ninja Lounge House was created.

I told myself from the beginning that I’d update every single week, and for a long time, I did – I posted every single Saturday. The only time that changed was when I decided to post twice a week instead of one. I kept this up throughout all of 2011, rarely wavering. Things started to go downhill at the beginning of 2012, and at the end of January that year I revealed why in a twoparter; I’d gone to college again, dropped out again, and actually attempted to kill myself. So through 2012 my update schedule sank to less than once a week, but I was still a bit consistent.

Blogging helped me connect with people, especially when its popularity skyrocketed in May of that year, and it also gave me a sense of accomplishment for two reasons; 1, because it meant people gave a shit about my opinions, and 2, because at the time I started I was seriously considering pursuing a career in video game criticism and journalism.

Well, I don’t know about you, but the past few years have made me really disillusioned about that career path. Game journalists and reviewers get paid very little, they’re constantly belittled, publishers often mistrust them, and gamers are alarmingly quick to accuse them of having no integrity or of being “paid off.” It’s a big mess, and I both admire and feel bad for the people who make a living out of it.

On another note, I’ve finally found a job that I don’t utterly hate – I’m still cashiering, but I’m making more than minimum wage, and my managers don’t treat me like a worker in Starcraft. I’ve also been spending much more time with my friends, and we’ve started up a Youtube show called Insert Game Here, which I already mentioned, but hey, look, it’s a thing.

I’ve also discussed with my family the prospect of me going to college again for a third try, and this time I’d actually be studying in a field I’m passionate about. The first time I went with math, because I didn’t know what to pick and one of my favorite teachers in high school taught Calculus. After that failed, I went with core classes and wrote myself as majoring in computer science, because I still didn’t know what to pick and a few of my friends are compsci nerds.

This time I’m looking into counseling. This is something that means a lot to me, personally – if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen me post a lot of links to things regarding depression and other mental illnesses. It’s a growing problem that’s significantly impacted my life, and it’s something I really care about. My mother is a counselor, so she’s able to give me career tips.

Back in 2011 and 2012, Ninja Game Den wasn’t just a place for me to write things – it was a lifeline. I went there to communicate when I needed it and to make me feel like I wasn’t a pointless waste of space. I don’t think I need that lifeline anymore, and I think that’s at least part of why I haven’t been posting there. That doesn’t mean depression isn’t a problem for me – it certainly is, and probably will be for the rest of my life. But I think I’m making what some people call progress.

There are currently several projects I do want to pursue right now. I want to become more physically active so I can learn parkour like I’ve always wanted. In my brain there’s a short story about depression, a cyberpunk novel about the world’s first sentient android, and an analytical Youtube series about games, and I’d love to make any one of those a reality. But I can never decide which to tackle first, and another part of my brain keeps shouting at me, “Dude, what about the blog? You used to post every week, now you’re not even posting once a month! You gotta post, man!”

And the question it’s taken me until now to ask is, “Or else what?” Because really, what will happen if I don’t post on my blog? I think the past few months have proven that nothing will happen if I don’t post on my blog. Nobody is going to shout at me; I won’t have committed any sort of crime. The only person who’s needed me to update is myself, and I don’t think I need it anymore.

By no means is this an end to Ninja Game Den or Ninja Lounge House. If I do decide to start posting again, I will, and that won’t necessarily mean depression has pulled me down under again. I’ve just been indulging in some introspection lately as to why I haven’t been updating, and I thought I’d share. I guess you could say I’m letting you know to continue to not expect me to update my blog in the near future.

Besides, if I did post here, I’d probably just gush about Felicia Day again.


The Guild – Is it over?

The Guild season 6 finale aired last Tuesday. That happened.

I was not expecting it to end this way. This doesn’t seem like an end for the season; it seems like an end for the show. Just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things I went back and re-watched the first scene of the first episode of the first season:

“So, it’s Friday night, and… Still jobless, yay…”

And in the last scene of the last episode of the last season:

“So, it’s Friday night. No longer jobless, yay!”

And for the first time we see Codex turn off her webcam, shut down the computer and walk away from the desk, and we listen to the original cut of the show’s theme as the camera lingers.

And after reflecting, yeah, I think this pretty much fits as an end for each of the characters. Vork, who started out alone and without any meaningful human contact, has formed a healthy, stable relationship with someone he cares about. Tink, who once manipulated boys and hid her true self from others, has opened herself up to her guildmates and found a boy she’s actually happy with. Clara, who was a neglectful and unproductive mother, just got a job as a vlogger giving relationship advice.

And Zaboo’s character arc has now come full circle; the first season took off with him seeking out a girl he met online with the mindset that she was his true love, and the final episode had him preparing to seek out a girl he “met online” with the mindset that she was his true love.

I suppose Bladezz is the one with the least conflict resolution, though it was at least implied that he got Bruiser to break up with his mom.

All I’ve seen regarding whether or not this is the end for the show is Felicia Day’s Twitter statement: “Thank you for all of the wonderful comments on the Guild s6 finale, all. We will see what the future holds. <3”

We will see what the future holds.

Honestly, I think I’d like it if this was the ending to the show. I wouldn’t mind it if spin-offs were made or the characters were expanded on in different stories, but I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like this story to end. And that doesn’t mean I don’t like the story. In fact, I want it to end because I love it.

Most people I know don’t care about The Guild, or don’t like it. I’ll admit that the show has its flaws. The acting isn’t always stellar, especially in the earlier seasons, and sometimes the writing comes off as a bit … trendy. (I cringed when Bladezz said “I got a real ell-oh-ell situation” in the first season.) Things become less believable later on; the finales of seasons 5 and 6 felt almost too ridiculous at times.

So I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I like it so much, and after re-watching the beginning I may have found an answer.

codex

“So, it’s Friday night, and… Still jobless, yay… I haven’t left the house in a week… My therapist, uh, broke up with me…”

The story began with Codex sitting in front of her webcam, clearly miserable, sharing to herself that she was jobless and had nobody and nowhere to go to. Her mannerisms felt genuine, and as Felicia Day has shared since the episode aired, they came from personal experience. When I watched this show for the first time, I saw a reflection of myself, staring back at me. I saw someone neurotic, afraid, desperate and depressed; someone who was immersing herself in a virtual world to escape the crushing emptiness of her life. And from that moment on, I wanted to know what would happen to her.

To me, the emotional heart of the show was enough to carry it. I cared about Codex and her life. I wanted her to be okay, and all the twists and turns kept me watching. Throughout season 6 I sometimes wanted all the segments with the other characters to hurry up and end so that I could see what would happen to Codex in her new job.

I wanted her to be okay. And now she’s okay. She realized that her guildmates are her friends, and she ended up with a job because of the game. She re-framed a negative as a positive and now lives a fulfilling life. The show ended not with a twist, or a cliffhanger, but with a smile. She was happy. Can we please leave it at that?

Thank you, Felicia Day, Sandeep Parikh, Jeff Lewis, Robin Thorsen, Vince Caso, Amy Okuda, Kim Evey, Sean Becker, and everyone else involved in the creation of The Guild. It was quite a journey to witness.