When I first started this blog, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it, but I quickly realized that I had no idea. There were so many things that I wanted to talk about, so many things that I thought needed to be said, and I really just assumed that the ideas would come of their own volition.
Sad to say, it was never quite so easy.
By the time I reached the second year of writing I’d begun to construct a road map for myself. I started by listing the topics I really wanted to work on, in order of priority, and setting aside those that were still just the seeds of ideas, for later exploration. Those all-important core posts I then slotted into my writing calendar, giving them an order that felt natural to me, and which I hoped would provide a refreshing variety to any regular readers I happened to pick up along the way.
Which brings us to year three, a year which has seen all my carefully constructed plans rendered into so much chaos. Oh the big list of core topics is still sitting there, but my writing calendar remains woefully blank, and week after week I find myself flying by the seat of my pants.
Maybe you’ve noticed.
And here we are, having arrived at the 3rd Anniversary Post of the Stone of Destiny.
In my 1st Anniversary post, I compared the process of blogging to an old computer game, a text-based adventure that some of you may remember, called Zork.
When it came time to write my 2nd Anniversary post, I already knew I’d be continuing the theme I’d set a year earlier, by writing about another computer game, a puzzle-solving adventure called Myst, where whole worlds are created by the power of the written word.
Heady stuff, indeed.
And now, with three years under my belt, I guess it’s time we talked about a certain Italian plumber and star of a whole series of games, a guy named Mario.
When we first met this guy, he was barely even recognizable a human. He was a brightly colored blob of pixels, whose girlfriend, Pauline, was being held hostage at the top of a large scaffold – by an ape.
This ape, presumably a distant relation of the more famous King Kong, defended his position from the ascending Mario, by rolling barrels down the scaffolding, which had the unfortunate consequence of crushing our hero, unless he either leapt over them, or pulverized them with a large hammer someone had left hanging around.
Mario, I should point out here and now, spends a lot of his time dying horribly.
But he’d re-spawn, and you’d take him up the scaffold once again. Run-jump-climb-jump-jump-run-hammer-hammer-jump-run-climb…,
And just when you thought you had memorized the pattern of the level, and navigated poor Mario to the rescue of his lady-love, the blasted gorilla would retreat, girl in hand, to another even more diabolical set of scaffolds.
This goes on, literally forever, until Mario runs out of lives and is destroyed.
The entire objective of the game is to get as far as you can through an increasingly complicated series of death-traps, and to rake up as many points as possible along the way, before inevitable doom.
Later games in the series, feature Mario fighting his way through a bizarre fantasy land, in his quest to save a new girl, Princess Peach – a young lady who seems fated to spend eternity as the captive of a large turtle-monster-thing.
Frankly, the surreal nature of the ‘Mario World’ games has, on occasion, forced me to wonder if Mario hadn’t actually died in his fight against Donkey Kong, and with his quest to save Pauline unfulfilled in life, he finds himself wandering a purgatorial landscape, forever seeking to “save the princess” who is always out of reach.
And frankly, that rather dark scenario, would go a long way toward explaining the utterly insane obstacles he finds in his path.
It is these utterly nonsensical implements of death, which I long ago dubbed “Mario Shit”.
And that’s not just limited to the games in that particular series.
Anytime, in any game, you find yourself facing obstacles that have no logical reason to be there, except to force you into dying again and again until you memorize the bloody pattern – that, my friends, is Mario Shit.
And I’ll be totally honest here, and tell you that I’d been using that term for years before I made the connection with Mario being a plumber.
I’ll also say, and I know many will disagree, that I find this kind of game design to be lazy, and aggravating, and not in the least fun.
And if you haven’t picked up on my theme yet, it is simply this: these last few months have seemed like ever so much Mario Shit. I feel like I’m constantly running up-hill, while all manner of unexpected obstructions seem to drop into my path without warning.
I’m all reaction and no plan, and I don’t like the way that feels.
So what to do?
Last year, when I began to feel a little overwhelmed, I took a month long break from the blog. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I re-spawned again, it felt like I was in a constant rush to regain the ground I’d lost along the way.
I feel like I’ve lost a pattern that I’d almost memorized, and I am still fighting to rediscover the right combination of moves that will get me where I want to be.
But where is that?
Is there an actual end-game or am I playing just to play?
These same questions came up in another post a few weeks back. Looking further back, I can now see where they have been peeking in, here and there, for most of the last year.
I’ve allowed myself to become distracted. It is all too easy to put off answering the hard questions, when you’re busy leaping barrels or smashing Goombas (I beg you, don’t even ask).
I may still take a few weeks off, to try and find my footing again, but the Stone of Destiny will return.
It’s time to play a new kind of game – I simply pray, to all the gods who will listen, that I do not find myself a year from now, writing a blog post about Pac-Man!