Tag Archives: Games

Summon unto ye the Unholy Spirit of My Little Pony

Summoning My Little Pony

The best thing about the internet is not its ability to connect us over vast distances or the sheer volume of information which it puts at our fingertips.  These things are all very fine and good, it is true, but the very VERY best thing about the internet is its ability to regurgitate silly “news” items again and again, sometimes years after they first surfaced.

As a case in point, I bring you this meme I spotted the other day, warning against the next satanic plot to destroy our innocent youth…,

Pink Ouija Meme

Yep, that’s a pink Ouija board, the likes of which I had never seen before, but which it appears Hasbro started cranking out back in 2010.  How did I miss this?!

And this was apparently a big deal at the time.  With just a little effort I discovered several news articles about Christian groups protesting against Toys R Us for selling these things, and Hasbro for making them.

And all because little girls will be seduced by the pink cardboard and begin to summon malign spirits.

That’s the part that always makes me laugh.

Just how easy do these people think it is to conjure something up from the bowls of hell?!  I mean, if a couple little girls can do it, while fiddling with a bit of cardboard and plastic, an adult ought to be able to step outside and summon all sorts of uglies with no more than a good shout.  The skies above us should be filled with demonic energy like that scene in Ghostbusters after the containment grid is shut down.  And those of us who have actually studied magic should be able to bring the gods themselves thundering down from the heavens in all their wrath and fury.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

I’ve watched this movie dozens of times and never noticed that the spirits released over NYC are all pink. Maybe Hasbro is on to something!

But it doesn’t work like that, as even a casual glance at the world around us should make clear.

I believe in an inspirited world, I have been witness to the raw magical power of youth, but I think its a safe bet that no line of demons is queued up and ready to leap into our children through the vehicle of a $12 toy.

And what self respecting hell-wright would be seen in the same room with this thing, anyway.

The cultist spread his hands out over them and cried, “Go now children, take up the bright pink letter-board of damnation, and summon unto ye the Unholy Spirit of My Little Pony.”

Yeah, I don’t think so.

Oh, and parents…, don’t buy your kids a pink Ouija board.  Not because they might use it to summon something nasty, but because they’ll play with it once, and then it’s just going to collect dust in the closet.

Besides, everyone knows that all the most sinister of infernal spirits have been trapped, through fiendish sorcery, inside these unbreakable spheres of darkness.

Magic 8-Ball

From here, they will reveal, at our command, the very secrets of the universe.

Only, not right now…, try again later.

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Filed under Magic, Modern Life, Religion

When all this Mario Sh*t gets old.

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.

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.

PrincessPeach

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!

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Modern Life, Philosophy

The ending has not yet been written.

We open our eyes to an endless void, interrupted only by the pinprick light of distant stars and galaxies. Before we can even wonder how we came to be floating, so literally, in the middle of nowhere, we notice yet another impossibility in the distance. Above us (or is it below?) there appears to be a tear in the fabric of the infinite. Through that unlikely gap, we can glimpse the softer hues of a nighttime sky, scudding clouds and the last sliver of a crescent moon.

For a moment, nothing seems to move except for the clouds which slide gently from one jagged edge of this bizarre window, to the other. And then there is a new shape, a silhouette thrust tumbling against this strange patch of gloaming sky. We see it, briefly, as the shape of a man, flailing, falling toward us. And then he is gone, and there is only the shadow of a rectangular object, a book, pages fluttering, left to plunge into that seemingly immeasurable cavity.

The Star Fissure

A year ago, I celebrated the 1st anniversary of this blog by taking you on a walking tour of the Great Underground Empire as presented in the classic computer game Zork. It seemed appropriate, at the time, to compare my experience of blogging with that of fighting my way, one typed command at a time, through a text-based adventure.

I truly think that there was something special about those games, ‘Zork’ and ‘Eamon’ and a dozen others like them. At a time in my life when I was starting to read voraciously, it was those games which taught me to interact with “the narrative” in ways I might never have considered otherwise. The story became more than a simple collection of words. Instead, there was this new concept, this idea of the universe being an expression of ‘The Word’.

Well, it was a new concept to the child I was, anyway.

Every ancient culture has understood that the world around us was made, not out of water and rock, or even protons and electrons, but out of ideas made solid through the magic of words.

(And before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, this is not me supporting ‘intelligent design’ over the ‘scientific method’. As if either of these things could exist without the words to express them. There are deeper truths than these, I think.)

Now, where were we? Childhood — Reading — Computer Games…,

Ah yes, the perfect expression of story AS reality: Myst.

Myst Island Dock

Let us return to the opening moments of the game and that mysterious book which fell from the heavens. We open the book and lay our hand upon the image which dances upon the first page, only to find ourselves transported suddenly, and without explanation, to someplace very different.

We find ourselves for the first time, but not the last, standing on the dock of Myst Island. To our right, the ocean waves lap against the masts of a sunken ship, and in the distance before us, a stairway climbs up to some strange stone gears which crown a pinnacle of rock.

Our journey begins.

As we explore, we learn that Myst Island inhabits its own ‘Age’, a place literally written into existence through an ancient art. Hidden, throughout the island are still more linking books like the one that brought us here, gateways to even stranger Ages which await exploration.

But there is danger here as well. The Ages of Myst are more than simple places, they are puzzles as well. Every place we go, every object which is set into our path is part of some greater riddle which must be solved lest we become trapped.

Why does this feel so familiar?

Perhaps it is because personal experience helps us to suspend disbelief in the fantastic.

After all, who among us has never dived headlong into a book, only to find themselves in a foreign place and time?

Certainly, we may search the ancient mythologies and easily find heroes who survive by finding the hidden clues and patterns within their environment. But why stray so far from our own lives?

Are Religion and Science anything more than the tools we use to unlock the riddle of our own existence? If we figure out the puzzle and decipher the mechanics of the world around us, will the universe not finally open its deepest secrets?

Well, maybe some of them. There are always more mysteries, and if a game is popular, you can bet it will have a sequel.

Stoneship Age

Huh, when I set out, my intention was to compare my experience of blogging over these last two years with that of playing Myst. I appear to have wandered far afield from my goal, something, I must confess, that happened to me often while playing the game.

Life imitates art, or is it the other way around. Is there even a difference between the two?

So then: Myst versus Blogging.

Well isn’t it obvious? Every post has challenged me with puzzles, mysteries, storytelling, and the sublime knowledge that I’m never sure exactly where I’m going to end up when the writing is done.

Plus, it takes ‘Ages’ for me to get anything done!

On some days the writing just will not come at all. On those days, I feel like I’m in the underground, far beneath Selenitic Age, traveling haltingly through the dark in some clunky rail car, listening for a discordant little ‘ding’, barely audible, that will let me know I’m headed in the right direction.

On other days, the writing comes as easily as walking along the winding paths of Channelwood. I get lost there sometimes, among the tall trees and rippling water, and must force myself to come back.

Channelwood Age

And in the back of my mind there are always those voices crying out so insistently for me to “bring the pages”.

Truth be told, I finished that game and its sequels long ago, but I think part of me lives on Myst Island still. Now that I’ve taken up writing, I see more clearly the links between this Age, and that of our ancestors, and perhaps those of generations to come.

The work is important, if to no one else, than to me, and I am deeply grateful to those who have indulged it thus far.

It is also exhausting.

I have posted once a week, without interruption, for two years. For some, that may be no great achievement, and I cannot fathom where they find the time. For me, with my weekly workload, neglected loved ones and other commitments, it has been a major undertaking.

And one which I must, for the moment, step away from.

I am taking the month of April off from writing, which should prove to be an interesting experiment in itself. I’m not done here, not by any stretch. I plan to return to this blog around Beltane, and in the meantime I’ll be following all the new friends I have made along the way.

There are so many linking books out there, and so many Ages. How will I ever find the time to explore them all?

Falling Into Myst

 

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Filed under About this Blog, Modern Life, Philosophy, Spiritual Journey

West of House

Back in ancient times, before Facebook and the smart phone, when the internet didn’t exist, when software came loaded on 5¼-inch floppy disks and the bones of recently deceased dinosaurs still littered the streets, there was a game called Zork.

Born during the infancy of home computer games, Zork was what we used to call a “text based adventure”.  The concept was simple, although the youngsters, spoiled as they are to cinema quality graphics, might have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea.  Basically, the game would give you a description of an area and you would respond with instructions on what to do through a command-line prompt.

Yeah, visually it had all the elegance of MS-DOS.

See what I mean:

WestofHouse

That little greater-than sign at the bottom is the prompt.

From there you could type something like, “open mailbox” or “walk north” and the game would respond with a brief description of what happens next.  Eventually, as you wandered about, you would get the idea that your goal was to collect certain treasures, which became progressively more difficult to acquire.

Playing Zork was a little like playing Dungeons & Dragons, but lacking the rule books and dice, and without a Dungeon Master there who might be convinced to let you walk boldly through an ancient Red Dragons fiery breath, if only he were drowsy enough from overindulgence in pizza and cheap beer.  The DM that is, not the dragon (the question of whether or not dragons are prone to or adversely affected by overindulgence in pizza and beer is one I shall leave for another day).

And what, you may ask, is the reason for all this nostalgic woolgathering?

This post marks the 1st Anniversary of this blog and for the past several days I’ve been looking for exactly the right metaphor to describe my experience of blogging.  It’s been a  bit frustrating, because every time I would put my mind to the task, the first thing that popped into my head was, “You are standing in an open field west of a white house.”

“Yes,” I would tell my brain (the apparently less than creative side of my brain that is), “those are the opening lines of Zork.  I know you want to do a post about computer games, and I’d be happy to do that later, but just this moment I need to come up with something about blogging.”

To which my brain would reply, “There is a small mailbox here.”

Damn!

Sometimes, when I’m working on a post, the ol’ brain doesn’t want to cooperate.  I tell it what to do and it just repeats my words back at me until I give up and do what it wants.

LoudRoom

Okay, so Zork as metaphor for blogging it is!  Having spent most of the last week in that same open field trying desperately to avoid looking in the direction of the boarded up house, I guess it’s time to give up and head around to the back.  I’m pretty sure there’s a window back there that I can force open.

Welcome to Shaun’s creative process folks!
Please keep your hands inside the car at all times, and enjoy the ride.

So where was I?  Ah yes, in a field, near a house, by a mailbox, all very safe and easy.

And that’s how I thought the writing would go.  After all, I’ve followed many excellent blogs for a number of years and I know that I am not that bad a writer myself when the mood takes me.  The plan was to simply write about the things that interested me, anything from religion and politics to comic books and pop culture, and then tie it all together with a nice little polytheistic bow.  I didn’t want to write a religion blog exactly, but I did want it to present a polytheistic perspective on the things I chose to write about.

That’s “a polytheistic perspective”, not “the polytheistic perspective”.  The beautiful thing about polytheism is that multiple and shifting points of view are not just accepted, they’re the rule of the day.

So there I was, standing firmly on familiar ground waiting for the adventure to begin.

What could go wrong, right?

Well…,
Once you enter that house, things get really weird.

There are internet trolls in the cellar, although thankfully, I’ve met very few of them.

There is a thief who appears at random moments to muck up my efforts.  In the game he appears as a scoundrel who makes off with your treasures.  In the real world, he appears in a million little things that pull my attention away from the task at hand, all the while stealing away that most valuable commodity of all: precious time.

And then there are these guys…,

EatenByAGrue

Sometimes, as I wander through the maze of rooms looking for that next great topic, my electric lantern will sputter and go out.  There I am, standing alone in the dark, without a single good idea, as the sinister, lurking presence of the deadly Grue close in all around me.

—shudder—

Blogging, like exploring the ruins of great underground empires, is not without it’s hazards.

There have also been great rewards.

I have learned a lot about myself in this past year.  I’ve looked at my beliefs and opinions in a mirror and sometimes found myself standing in a slightly different space than the one I had believed myself to occupy.  In my attempts to wheedle relevant posts from an ever shifting maze of ideas, I have pushed myself into different approaches to the craft of writing.

Sometimes, with enough luck and effort, I find myself holding the small treasure I was looking for.  When I’m very lucky, within that first topic of discussion, I find yet another, perfectly nested inside, like a clockwork canary hiding inside a jewel encrusted egg.

When I began this project, I seriously wondered how long I would carry on with it.  I assumed I would be able to stick it out for a few months, although there were moments, early on, when I really wondered if I had another post in me.

My goal was to make it a year.  That’s fifty-two posts, published each Monday morning.

I’ve seen other bloggers vanish from the web after just a handful of entries, victims of the grue perhaps, or the time thief.  Maybe some were frightened away by the trolls.

Most, I suspect, just lose interest.

At the beginning, fifty-two posts seemed like an awful lot.

Now, to my great surprise, this blog has become part of my weekly ritual.

Puzzling out how to approach each topic helps to put me into the proper head-space to meet the more mundane challenges of the week.  Ring the bell, light the candles, read the book; we all need rituals to ground us and shield us against the obstacles of our daily lives, even when it seems as if we are passing through the gates of Hades itself.

I hope that those who count themselves as my readers will forgive this whimsical bit of self-indulgence.  Next week, it’s back to business as usual.  Fifty-one posts to go, and always more puzzles to solve.

For anyone wanting to indulge further into the nostalgic chasm that is Zork, the game is available to play here.

And bonus points to anyone who catches all the Zork references I hid in the branches of the above post.

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Filed under About this Blog, Culture, Modern Life, Spiritual Journey