cw: i openly talk about my anxiety and depression
im writing this because as i stared at the word processor for this week’s essay, being a very obscure and esoteric writing merging interpretation of game criticism with a reflection and musing on game design, i felt an involuntary sickness. simon & garfunkel, of all things, has a song “i am a rock” which my thinking often privately returns to because it is a manifestation of my insecurities.
i have my books
and my poetry to protect me
i am shielded in my armor
hiding in my room
safe within my womb
i touch no one and no one touches me
i am a rock
i am an island
the song is literal sometimes but you know—videogames. this same week there were a few voices basically scoffing at my “livelihood” and agreed in the moment and i agree in retrospect but in different ways. we all understand the way videogames fail. there are many directions, up down sideways, sprinting and walking, to heal and clean this space. theres been small victories—to hard metrics of mainstream understanding and support we are a failure. but its insulting to boil down art movements (and call the movement what you want, not games, queer games, altgames, its a coalition) to their failures while they’re still in motion. we will fail over and over again; i may fail and languish in obscurity my whole life. but striving for compassion, safety, survival, and acceptance of the oppressed, poor, and downtrodden is worth being called a failure.
im not holding any illusions to why they’d insult marginalized work. its insulting because its meant as an insult. and they’re right as is anyone standing at the precipice of an abyss. hope is in limited quality. why do these things for hate and scrap? without community its pointless. and people are routinely failed by communities supposedly made for them. to answer with apathy, division, and insults is to rescind into absolute privilege though. its a statement aligned with values that caused brexit, that caused trump. that things are bad and are always going to be bad so who gives a fuck about small victories and scraps and the impossible fight. acknowledge that your failure was trying at all.
but in a way these people didnt intend, they were no holds barred right. trump won; what the fuck was i doing? what were we doing? a deep cultural failure occurred in america that rests somewhat outside the videogame bubble. can these small fights be weighed the same to material political action? fascism will not really be impacted by altgames. institutions founded on old and violent values are threatening a collapse. i sit here musing about cryptic art that will appeal to a dozen of people, in ill-defined ways. oh ive written how this implicitly defies fascism and capitalism and violence, but this is comfort food for the converted. it requires deep literacy of the form and an acceptance of the implicit values to go over. and its not because of any necessity, its because im a selfish arrogant bastard who prefers to experience things in this way. ive traded out accessibility and coherence for specificity and outliers. openly i know my writing is indulgent and fucking useless, this is why i dont run any criticism circuits. because im not invested with connecting to people anymore, not in my actions. i cant maintain a level of connection to how people live under capitalism to potentially convert them. and this is a deep failing on my own part.
this would be the part of the essay where i talk about a plan to organize politically but i cant. my insurance is limited and wont cover therapy and medication. i have no income; driving and public transport are massive anxiety triggers for me. sometimes i forget about my anxiety, somehow, until im hit with a panic attack for basic and unassuming things. im lucky that i am alive—privileged is the obvious synonym for luck—if it wasnt for my socioeconomic status im a person the state is systematically failing. my grandparents and great-grandparents stretch out a long history of mental illness and chronic disease. they died young. they were failed by the state. if theres any silver lining its that because of how regularly i experience depressive episodes i know im safe and can come back from this. im not strong in a factual sense, but im resilient.
if my family and even some friends knew that i broke down crying because of the trump victory, that right now i cant bring myself to work, that i feel a deep rot of my self-worth because of these events, their reactions would range from confused and amused. i know people, because of the hateful culture i come from, that would absolutely maintain their righteous smugness and condescension even as i broke down in front of them.
i feel alone and terrible. its not true that im absolutely alone. but in my day to day, especially in the physical, i feel mostly isolation. i dont have the capacity to make huge sweeping changes to this. all i see are my failures: my failure to be the pious mormon son my parents wanted, my failure to connect with others during school causing violent isolation and ruining my livelihood, my failure to control my depression and anxiety during times where i was on track for stability, my failure to be social out of fear and the omnipresent weight of these failings i weaponize against myself, my failure to be a responsible and employed citizen with resources that could be allocated to save lives, my failure at even my fantasy last resort of not applying my abilities as a gamedev or critic in any way that paves for my survival. maybe im doing my best, maybe im self-sabotaging. i dont know if i needed to be a better person or if i didnt get the support and nurturing i needed. its impossible to know.
this failure is what a trump victory means though. collectively americans—well white, christian americans—voted in a regime that will reach deep inside our victorious selves, even ones based just on small victories, and turn them inside out. they want to overturn decades of work in the name of fairness. i feel failure because even as a white male under white supremacy and patriarchy, mental illness means i am fucking useless to them. im powerless in my beliefs and putting any beliefs in action because of my circumstance. i do not have equal say and these are people who want to ensure rot spreads so the poor and downtrodden never have a say. my depressed brain takes ownership of factors literally outside of my control. id wish to swat these feelings down but the betrayal i knew deep down of friends and family has instantly manifested around me. i have to admit they think im a failure too.
i remember in some kind of documentary, kojima and other konami alums were failures in their respective fields and aspirations. because it was a burgeoning field its not like videogames would get the best talent at anything and the scrappiness of games at that time reflected the status of most devs being rejects. videogames are the art domain of failures. as a failure myself at least i can keep a proud tradition of being obtuse, ill-fitting, and unwanted by the mainstream. its really all i got.
obviously im not writing about a game this week but to stay within the aims of the sites missive id like to talk about two games. crypt worlds radicalized my politics and will you ever return let me overcome a lot of deep seated issues i had. i wont be explaining why, partly on theme to make this a piece a fucking failure of formal games criticism, but also to attest that altgames reach some people that need them without being explained. failures only exist in the constraint of an opposite definition of success. in the dark shadows of massive failures contain the beautiful and incredible resiliency of human life. i dont even know if i would be alive today if it wasnt for things videogames have introduced me to. understanding socialism gave me a framework to finally process and understand inequalities that have eaten at me since middle school. games themselves are an adaptive artform im comfortable experiencing and expressing very personal sentiments. videogames make me feel less alone and that keeps lethal despondency at bay. thanks for reading y’all. we are our best allies. build each other up. fight and win for even the smallest victories. i wont truly fail as long as i stay alive.