As a child of the 80's, I have been privileged to see the rise of personal gaming platforms. Coming from a family who loves games of all kinds, my brother Jon and I were primed for video games. We spent countless hours together, trying to beat Super Mario Bros on NES. When I entered high school, I didn't have time for video games, and the friends I spent the most time with didn't play, so Jon became much more of a gamer than I.
Since I am a writer and an artist, I love things that combine the two to great effect. There are games that have inspired me with their artwork and captured my imagination with their narrative.
Here are my favorites:
Space Quest: How many of you have played this game? It was suspenseful, funny, and full of Easter egg images for geeks. Here's a screenshot from SQ3: Pirates of Pestulon.
I remember Jon and I literally screaming when Arnie the Annihilator would inevitably track down our Roger Wilco character and kill him in some gruesome way.
Myst: This first person adventure puzzle game was cutting edge. Gorgeous graphics and an immersive experience that didn't explain anything, just dropped you in to figure it out. I could spend hours just exploring, trying to discover the secrets to the character's backstory.
Who here has made it to the end of Myst?
Typing of the Dead: Stewart introduced me to this game. This one isn't about writing or art, but I'm sticking it in here because it's rad. The story isn't particularly original, and neither are the graphics, but the gimmick is incredible! This game will require several screenshots.
It's a standard FPS zombie game, actually a mod of House of the Dead 2. The difference is that guns are replaced with keyboards. Literally.
In order to kill advancing enemies, you must type on your keyboard instead of shooting. Correctly typed letters act as bullets. Words and phrases increase in complexity as the game progresses.
Since I'm a fast typer, I really enjoyed this game. I had fun sharing it with others. Kenna and I sat together and played through, screaming at the encroaching zombie hordes.
Amnesia: First person horror/adventure. This game is terrifying and brilliant. Play it with earbuds in.
Super Meat Boy: Independent game designed by two guys. It's a 2D scroller platform game that follows, you guessed it, a boy made out of meat, as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend Bandage Girl from Dr. Fetus. The character designs are graphic stylized shapes. Super Meat Boy will have you giggling and pulling your hair out simultaneously
Braid: This indie platform puzzle game is fascinating. It was designed by Jonathan blow, with art by webcomic artist David Hellman. The main character is on a quest to rescue a princess, which is nothing new, but the narrative is complex and interesting, and the game's most alluring quality is this: you can manipulate time. It's also beautiful and weird.
The Binding of Isaac: This indie, top down, 2D roguelike game has been called the game for gamers. When Isaac's insane mother receives a message from God demanding she kill her son, he escapes into the basement. It just so happens the basement is a dungeon full of monsters. Isaac, nude and weeping (his attack is to toss TEARS) wanders through the basement fighting foes and gaining equipment, and hopefully more lives. You can't save this game. It's very difficult. I've never gotten past level one. But I've watched Tyler play through it to the end. It's stylized art is strangely mesmerizing. And the story is top-notch.
And my top two favorite games:
Limbo: This indie puzzle platform game is brilliant. The black and white presentation, ambient sounds, and lighting effects create an atmosphere so eerie, it's difficult to forget.
A nameless boy searches the edge of Hell for his sister. There's no dialogue. There are monsters and dripping water and faceless child enemies. What's not to love?
I had to turn it off a couple of times because it was too frightening. Too eerie. But it's so lovely with its dark atmosphere and gorgeous imagery.
And the completion of the game is totally open-ended, which some people hate, but I adore. Play it. Go on. I dare you.
Bastion: Stewart told me about this one too. This top down action RPG is profound. It's indie and it's beautiful, but it's also thoughtful, with haunting music and an involved narrative. And a unique narrator.
I don't really want to give anything away. It's a fantastic story, the art is excellent, and the ending made me cry.
If you're looking for a new game to play, choose Bastion. Remember, if you create something that touches people, that changes them inside, they will sell it for you!
So I finally decided to combine my illustration and my writing blog here at Treading Words. I will put up a portfolio and add links to other important things, like my university career blog and deviantART. So, SomethingLikeArt will go the way of all things that become to small for us. It's good. You grow out of things and move on. I'll dump everything here and you'll know where to find it. In the meantime, enjoy some twisted children's book covers by Bob Staake. And remember, great ideas like these get noticed.
(I propose a game. Actually, like a trivia contest. Read this blog post and think about it, cuz that's what I wrote it for. But after that, play this game with me. I have included five photos in this post of specific things that have had a profound effect on me. If you can be the first to identify the applicable information for each photo, you will win two signed 11x14 inch prints of artwork by me. Read the rules at the end of this post.*)
I've read three books this month that inspire me. I won't say why, because then I won't have anything to write for book reviews next month. But I will talk about how I am inspired. Or something to that effect. How many of you read (or if you're artists like me SEE) something that is so amazing that you just want to quit. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my peers in the art department at UVU say, "Oh, well I might as well just quit now, I'll never be that good." "You're so good; I'm so jealous!" My friend Kenna and I used to joke about becoming accountants, because the process of creating good art was so difficult sometimes. But it's been a long time, for me, since I've felt jealous of someone for their ability, or felt like something was so good, and since I would NEVER be able to get there, I might as well quit. It's been at least . . . ten years. Here's the deal:
I think it's ridiculous to be jealous of someone for being good at something. If you spent the amount of time that this person has spent developing their craft and then you weren't as good at it, I would concede that your feelings of jealousy aren't ridiculous. But I have never met someone who has spent as much time, effort, sweat, blood, and tears as the object of their jealousy in perfecting their craft. I have several friends, Ginny, Adam, Nate, Stewart, who are very, very skilled in their craft. They do things that I can't do. But how can I be jealous of someone's time spent working? Ginny has wept, slaved, painted, and prayed her book into existence. She spent countless hours working on it. I know, because a lot of those hours were spent at my house. Her book will be released next month. I can't be jealous, because this book wasn't just handed to her. She WORKED for it. And every ounce of love and dedication to her craft is evident in the gorgeous and darling illustrations on every single page. Adam recently sold his work at ComicCon in SLC, meeting hundreds of people, creating original sketches, getting his photo taken and signing autographs. Because he's awesome. Because he worked for it. Really, really hard. Adam is always painting. Always. The only time I remember seeing him without a stylus in his hand was because he had a sandwich in his hand. Or he was walking down the hall. Seriously. Stewart not only did ComicCon as well, but recently received a full scholarship to attend IlluxCon. He's gotten to rub shoulders with some very prestigious artists. Because he has put in the hours to be just. That. Good. And Nate's app has had thousands of downloads from the iTunes store. And this other app he made: SO GREAT. I can't be jealous of the success his apps have enjoyed, because he worked his fingers to the bone illustrating it. Are bones sticking out the ends of my fingers? No.
So instead of getting jealous, I get inspired. I get excited. I think, "Look at all these things my friends are doing! I KNOW these people!" and I think, "I can be this awesome. I can." I look at the possibilities (which are endless) and I look at my potential (equally infinite) and I know the only thing holding me back is me.
So I read three books this week that inspired me in different ways. One was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Good gravy, this book blew my mind. (In honor of Cline's creation, I had the idea to hold my one Halliday geek contest, hence the game in this blog post.) The second is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I want to punch David Mitchell in the face, he's so amazing. Not because of jealousy mind you. Those of you who know me know that sometimes I feel so strongly about something, I just want to punch it in the face. My nine year-old has finally realized that this doesn't mean that I will ACTUALLY punch him in the face, just that I love him sooooo much. And the third book was The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr. This book reminded me to focus on what I love. The things I love will guide me to joy, to completion, to success.
And guess what? I get to decide what success means to me. That's so cool.
So here's what I love, besides family, obviously:
Novels and Stories - I seriously love books. A lot. I'm in a serious romance with literature. (Make sure you don't read that as "romance literature.") And the kinds of books I love: well-written, with compelling characters, and truth. Real cosmic truth.
Music - I seriously love music. I am listening to Let Go by Frou Frou at the moment. And I love this song. It makes me feel something profound, like a lot of the songs I love. Music speaks to my soul.
Movies - I seriously love this art form. Those of you who know me know the tirades I'll go off on talking about movies. Some movies have changed my life.
Dance - I love dance. The art of dance. The beauty. My favorite show: So You Think You Can Dance. Here's why: every week, you get to see totally original pieces of performance art by masters of dance and choreography. And the good ones go straight to my heart.
Art - Art in all its forms. 2D art is especially wonderful, because of the convenience in communication, via the Internet, etc. I have lists and lists of my favorite artists, my favorite pieces.
Writing - I love writing. I love writing more than I love making art. Which is funny, considering art is my paid profession.
I will embrace these things I love, find a way to communicate my creative vision to the world, and feel fulfilled in doing so. And to those who draw better, write better, sing better, dance better than me: Cheers, you have worked hard for your success, and your accomplishments inspire me to work even harder to be as awesome as you. But even more than that, to be the most awesome version of me. Thank you.
What do you love?
(*Rules for the game: In the comments section for this post, be the first to post the following information in a comment and you will win two free prints: Photo 1: Name of person pictured Photo 2: Name of band pictured Photo 3: Title of movie pictured, name of author who wrote the book, name of actor pictured Photo 4: Nickname title of dance, names of dancers, name of choreographer Photo 5: Title of painting, name of artist Be sure to follow replies to your comment. Browse my Etsy shops Tangerine Octopus Illustration and DawgArt to select your artwork. Good luck!)
So I haven't done book reviews in a long time. A really long time. I never tallied my books from last year. (Not as many, I'm sure.) And I didn't really keep track of what I read. But here's to new beginnings!
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Now you know I'm a huge fan of Karen Russell. Mostly because her prose is delicious. I mean DELICIOUS. Find her short story St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and you'll see what I mean. St. Lucy's is the first short story of Russell's that I ran across in an anthology. I said, "Who IS this person?" and I was hooked.
Russell is fearless and masterful. And young. She was thirty when she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her debut novel, Swamplandia!. That's right. Thirty.
And her concepts are just rad.
Okay, go read it. And when you read it, if you're a writer, try not to be too jealous.
Warnings on: language? Maybe? I can't remember.
Girl Parts by John Cusick
This was actually a reread. It's a short book and since his new book was coming out, I thought I would refresh my memory as to Cusick's style. John Cusick is a very nice guy. I met him at WYFIR 2012, when he did a sit-down with me over my novel manuscript. He gave me some positive feedback and some very good advice and I came away from the meeting so grateful for his input and the time he spent, that I brought some artwork for him the next day.
Girl Parts is the story of three characters, two male, one female . . . ish. She's definitely female, but she's a robot, so she's kind of a female in training. The two boys in the narrative are dissociated, so as part of the treatment for their pathology, they are prescribed love-bots, here called Companions, that are supposed to help them learn how to make healthy connections. Only one boy accepts though, and he receives Rose. Rose goes through the expected growing pains of an A.I. coming to terms with her existence, and the pitfalls and pains of love, but the interesting thing about this robot is that she has a sexual awakening as well. Oh, and there is a definite moment at the end, where I was reminded of Jack's dissociated sensations in Fight Club. Remember when he said, "I wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I'd never see. I wanted to breathe smoke. I wanted to destroy something beautiful." Great moment.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
So I'm late to this party, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it any less. This book is epistolary (written in the form of letters) and carries with it the lovely and vulnerable voice of an intelligent and troubled adolescent boy. I cried a lot when I read this book. Some of you will know exactly why. But even without my personal experiences, this book captures something tender and terrifying. A strange dichotomy of emotion that accompanies the what the main character has gone through. I don't really want to give anything away, because it's a poignant journey to uncover for yourself.
I watched the movie after I finished the book, and I enjoyed it too. I thought it captured the spirit of the book quite well.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations, drug use.
Cherry Money Baby by John Cusick
This is Cusick's newest book. It came out yesterday and I read it yesterday. When I was thinking last night about how Cusick writes his female characters, a Jack Nicholson quote from that film As Good As It Gets came into my head: "When I write a woman, I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability." Thinking of this quote makes me laugh, and just so you know, this isn't Cusick's technique. Well, as far as I know. But the title character of Cherry Money Baby seems a little more complex than that. As I wrote in my Amazon review, Cherry is a small town girl living in a small town world. (And now I strangely have the Pet Shop Boys in my head.) Cherry loves her life and she loves her town. Maybe she doesn't exactly love her life, but she's content with it, and has no desire to change. This is unusual because she is poor. She works at Burrito Barn. She lives in a trailer park. Usually, as a reader, I want the protagonist to achieve a big dream, become something so much more. But with Cherry, I was swept up in her desire to just maintain. To be okay with being someone who is really of no consequence to anyone but herself and her man. That's refreshing. Cherry is refreshingly flawed, profane, and unpredictable, and since she has no desire to change, when she starts to, I found myself resistant to it. Well done on that score, Cusick.
Cherry Money Baby has a lot of plot twists, and I like being surprised. As a writer, I find myself knowing what will happen at the end quite often, but this book went in a direction I didn't expect. Maybe because I didn't read any of the synopses or try to find out anything ahead of time. It's the roller coaster ride of a girl who attempts to navigate a world that grows bigger all the time. After everything, I still hope that Cherry will go to college and do some traveling. And that's the best part, because in my opinion, getting you to care about a character is the most important thing an author can do.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations, drug use.
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Okay, Shar recommended this to me and it took me a long time to read it, which I am kicking myself for.
You want a new fairy tale? You want a strong heroine who takes action? You want vivid prose? You want humor as well as a look into the profound?
Read this book.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
As a woman who runs her own business in a creative industry, I really appreciated this book. It's all about the phenomenon of virality and how to manipulate the market to your advantage.