[PART 2 of 2] ‘GOD DAMMIT MAYU’ Or, what makes Project Zero terrifying above all else

Okayeth folks. A post about the most awesome PAX Australia and my new Magic: The Gathering obsession coming right up after we finish this foray into horror. Are you excited? I am. I haven’t bee able to sleep properly since I started thinking about these games again unless I’ve been at my partner’s house.

Continuing where we left off, concerning why Project Zero II: Crimson Flutterby Butterfly (known to all you NTSCers as Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly – seriously, don’t you have abbreviation problems with that and Final Fantasy?) is, I think, so much scarier than most other horror games…

Oh and hey there. Have a listen to me whilst you’re reading this. You won’t regret it, we swears! 🙂

 

Tension

One of my favourite phrases to use when writing is ‘you could cut the tension with a knife’. It is such a powerful mental image. ‘This tension is so intense it is a solid thing that can be cut with sharp things’.

The manipulation of tension in Project Zero II is genius. I will not be told otherwise.

I don’t know if they had some killer programmers on their team making sure that even random encounters and triggers happened at just the right time, or if it was some sort of freak coincidence, but one of the games major pluses was its ability to lure you into a false sense of security, and shortly after, beat you over the head with it.

There is an art to how the rules of a game play out before you, how much the player is made aware of the rules, and how they rely on knowledge of them to complete the game. In most video games though, there aren’t just play-rules, but ‘rules of engagement’. If I’m playing Final Fantasy X, and I run out of potions, I know how the rules of the game work to how I acquire those. If I’m playing Age of Empires II, I know that when I hear the town-centre bell, it means I’m being attacked in some form and I need to assess what the attack is, where it’s happening, and whether I need to round up them villagers. In most game genres, these rules need to work, and work 100% of the time, for the game to be playable. There can be no wildcard. Imagine the confusion if every now and then, it was programmed into AoEII that some random drunk villager would ring the bell for shits and giggles. They just wouldn’t do it. There is no benefit to that, other than annoying and confusing players.

This is exactly what horror games have to do, though, to work. Break the rules of engagement. Because rules mean security, and you’re not allowed to feel secure in a world meant to scare you.

Well not break. Bend. The game still needs to be playable and the flow and understanding of it still needs rhyme and reason to be enjoyable. The player needs to understand their limits, their warning signs, their avenues.

A good horror game will go by its own rules of engagement for about %90-%95 of the time, and screw with you the rest of the time. Every now and then, it needs to let you know who’s in charge. Every now and then, it needs you to to know that you are not safe. Playing out this manipulation and bending of the rules is truly what keeps tensions running high.

My first example of this will be the save point system. In Project Zero II, you may save at the ‘spirit lanterns’, pictured bellow. Generally the music by these lanterns is gentler, and the room itself acts as a sort of ‘safe room’. Most horror games have a ‘saferoom’ type place as part of their mechanic, where you can have some downtime to rest your character, save, sometimes buy items. PZII’s spirit lanterns act as this… but only when they’re on.

The lantern has a dim glow. (you can save now).

I was about halfway through the game and clearly subconsciously comfortable that when I walked into a room with a lantern, I was freaking safe. I could put the controller down a moment, take a breath, then save. I had just done that, in fact, when suddenly I heard the telltale ‘heartbeat’ soundtrack used when a ghost was either attacking, or trying to communicate with me.

The lantern went out.

This artist sums up my initial reaction perfectly.

It was that same feeling of violation when you walk into your bedroom and can tell someone’s been in there when you weren’t around. It was the same feeling when you thought something was a sure thing, a safe thing, and suddenly someone turns around and tells you, “Nope.”

The first time this happened, I was shown ghostly images of the history of the place, but when the game was done showing me this the lantern came back on. I made the mistake of assuming that was the only time it would happen – or if it did again, it would be the same thing.

The next time I encountered the problem, the lantern was off to begin with, and I was jumped by a malevolent ghost.

“NO GAME, NO,” I remember screaming at the screen, “YOU DON’T GET TO DO THAT, YOU LIED TO ME.”

 

Going back to that false sense of security mechanic (and I’ll be brief with this because I’ll mention it in the ‘Music & Sound’ section too), this is my main gripe against Amnesia: The Dark Descent – they missed a massive opportunity to further freak out their audience, by not manipulating sound to their advantage to keep the player on edge.

Not that Amnesia didn’t have wonderful audio, because it did – but the creaks and bumps and little whispers layered within the background audio channels were never more than just that – sounds that played every now and then. For the first couple hours of play they did shock and concern me, until I realise one key thing – nothing was every going to happen when I heard those. They were just sounds, as part of the ambient track. After that point of realisation, walking around to the tune of those sounds became a bit well… boring.

To help keep the tension up, in Project Zero II, a lot of the background snippets of sound effects layered into the ambient audio were also tied to ghost appearances and cues. Most of the time you would simply hear it in the background. But every now and then, it had a chance to mean something. Usually just as you’d gotten used to a particular muffled scratching sound as just being part of the ambiance, abruptly it would mean some chick was climbing out of a box to get you. Again, I will go further into this later.

Woman In Box

My box, but only sometimes.

Speaking of boxes… another mechanic aiding with the tension, was the trolling of particular ghosts. Or the ‘let me think about whether I feel like jumping out at you right now’ mechanic.

The box pictured above is a kimono box. There is not much difference between it, and the other kimono boxes scattered throughout the game which are simple props or background decoration. Or maybe the ‘Woman in Box’ teleports between them, or uses some sort of sophisticated underground network of tunnels. We don’t know. All we know is that sometimes she’s lurking in there, waiting, and sometimes it’s just a box. It’s never just one or the other – there is always a chance, and it could be you’ve already turned away from it before she starts crawling out…

 

The bigger picture is – nothing in safe, not really. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. The game gives you enough of a rule-set that you are comfortable it’s not just trolling you, but plays bendy with that ruleset enough to keep the tensions high. Don’t trust it. don’t trust it ever.

 

Might Happen, Might Not

The first thing you may notice upon talking to multiple people about the game is their varied experiences. Some things that have happened to one person didn’t happen to others at all, and they might have their own unique thing that happened. I am not sure how this works in the game itself – whether you have to be doing specific things or be in a specific area at a given time to trigger particular little frights, quirks and/or jump-scares. I have played the game about three times, and each time some things I remembered happened, some didn’t, and one or two new things befell me. Let me give an example.

There is one ghost called the ‘Fallen Woman’. You might here people referring to her as the ‘Fucking Fallen Woman’. This is because she loves to drop in unexpectedly.

“I was in the area. Thought I might drop in.”

After she was first introduced, I thought I had it figured out pretty quickly. ‘Enter a large room with a staircase, an atrium or a big hallway. Stairwell room (especially one with a grandfather clock) is 90% more likely. Piercing scream, lady falls on me and crabwalks around the place like a freak. I guess I’ll just have to remember this’. There was also another so-far unspoken room about small storage-cupboard like rooms. Something creepy could happen in them, but generally they were for picking up items, some scary sounds, or in my case a place to hide in and go “NOPENOPENOPE” for a while and switch out my ability orbs (the game freezes when you go to your menu. I just liked going into a tiny safe room to do it). Encounters generally did not happen in cupboard-rooms. because you know, how the hell is is fair to fight a ghost with a camera in a 1 by 1.5 metre space?

This has only ever happened to me once, and my friends maintain it was likely a bug. I have heard of it happening to another though.

The fallen lady broke the rules, and fell on me inside a cupboard.

Inside. My fucking. Cupboard.

I think mid-way through hearing her desperate scream I was still in a state of shock. Then when she actually fell on me, I ran out into the hallway screaming (at first, I could not open the door). She then proceeded to fall into the hallway. At this point all other doors leading out were ‘held shut by a mysterious force’ until I killed her.

 

Sound & Music

The game sounds lovely. Apart from some quite disconcerting voice acting at times (mostly restricted to the first game), the sound plays a massive part in sucking you into the environment.

There isn’t so much music, per se, as there are a number of different ambient tracks – some restricted to location and what point of the game you’re at, with a few that you hear mixed in with others as you play, from start to finish. Mixed in with these, as mentioned previously in the section about Tension, are environmental sounds – files that are also sometimes used to signify something creepy happening. You never quite know when it will be one or the other. As for the ambient tracks themselves, they all blend quite seamlessly, and certain elements of them gradually wear on your calm, especially if you play for hours on end. I still suffer from walking through my house in the dead of night sometimes, when one of the easily remembered tracks floats back into my mind, and accompanies me up the stairs (seriously, this was a massive problem for me, hearing Project Zero music in my head when navigating places at night. I had to train myself to start replacing it with the Hercules theme). That music track I linked you to at the top of the article, ‘Sunken Fireplace?’ Okay, if it’s night time… turn it up, leave  it playing, then turn all the lights off and walk through your house. Do it. This composer knows exactly what sounds and tunes you don’t want to hear at night.

Every environmental sound effect also seems overly harsh against the quietly creepy backdrop as well, which was something that made me quite uncomfortable. I don’t know about you guys, but if I was in a haunted village, I would be opening my doors far more quietly than that.

Even worse though, really is when the music stops altogether, leaving you alone with your thoughts. This usually happens to prompt you to search for something out of the ordinary, or because an event is about to take place. For how the music adds to the creep of the game, though, you feel oddly worse when you walk through a door and it drops out altogether. ‘Oh shit, this room is so bad not even the music will follow me in here’. You realise that even the music had a form of security in it, at the very least from its ever-present familiarity. Double-whammy that with an off lantern, and you’re pretty screwed.

 

The F%*&ing Dolls

OH JOY.

Why are dolls creepy? Is it because they try their little non-existent hearts out to be as human-looking as they can, but just not close enough? If you’ve not heard of the term Uncanny Valley, that’s what it’s about. For those who don’t want to wiki, the basic meaning is ‘something that is very close to human looking, but just different or unnatural enough to our perception that it comes across as creepy, freaky, even disgusting’. There is something slightly off (sometimes more than slightly) that makes our brain go ‘nope, not human but trying to trick me that it is’,  and warns us to stay the hell away.

This is where the doll-creep comes in. They are too close to what we are. It is a trope, yes, to include the creepy-doll factor in a game, but you can use it as a cheap scare, or you can do it well, and Project Zero does – namely in the form of a child-sized doll you encounter mid-way through the game.

When I whisper Kiryu House, it is with the fear of someone who has seen things. Without revealing too much about the game, the Kiryu House, which you read about mid-way through, was home to two twins earlier in the village’s history, who’s father was a doll-maker. CERTAIN EVENTS lead to him making a life-size doll of one of his daughters, and then, well…the rest was creep factor 10. There are rooms with small geisha dolls in it around other parts of the village, but this house has it all, and it is relentless. From rooms with tiny dolls hanging from nooses (sometimes one of them will drop at random on you and scare the poor living daylights out of Mio), to others where a ball is mysteriously rolled around from corner to corner, to having to collect pieces of life-sized doll and put them together like a puzzle… This whole house is one long nightmare.

 

Camera Angles

This is something that I mourned with the switching of Project Zero over to Wii, and the camera became one that simply followed in a  typical 3rd person fashion. PZII did this in hallways, sure, but in rooms, they played with the camera angles a little. from a Dutch Tilt here, to a ‘I’m being watched from behind something’ there, to having the camera POV switch and make it look like that person-shaped thing covered in a cloth is watching you – well, it does something for the paranoia.

Then there was that little room with the hexagonal window that didn’t have it’s own camera and forced you to use the Obscura to look– no no, I won’t spoil it.

 

My Stupid Sister

There is nothing more terrifying than being stuck in a haunted village where everything is trying to kill you, whilst having to babysit your incredibly stupid, creepy, limping twin sister. And I’m not saying that as someone who dislikes Mayu – it actually works to the game’s advantage when she gets in the way, or runs off, or stares at me with those concerned, frightened eyes like she isn’t imagining my hands around her throat.

I never had a close relationship with my own sister, which maybe is why I never felt protective over Mayu, if you’re meant to, but God she felt like a liability. Running off. Touching things. “Sweetie, this village is trying to kill us and lure us into some screwed up incestful ritual, can you NOT?” She didn’t have any special AI that urged her to screw with things and open boxes and push red buttons, but just the feeling of being the only one with their head screwed on right, taking the situation seriously, whilst your sister and her weak constitution keeps running off drawing you further into the web (seriously, she limps, I don’t know how she kept getting so far) is a bit of a burden. There is no one there to help you.

 

I am sure there is a bit I’m missing. Or a lot. I could probably talk about this game for a long, long time, but then, where would be the fun in that? Really, you have to experience it yourself. Maybe your experience will be different from mine. Maybe you won’t lie away in bed staring at the ceiling and constantly flicking your bedside lamp on and off. Maybe the Fallen Woman will fall on you inside a pantry. Maybe the red lantern will always be on for you.

Don’t take my word for it if you don’t want – go out and play it! I strongly suggest the original PS2 version, or the Director’s Cut Xbox 360 version – the voice acting irks me in the Wiimake, and you lose the extra element of the camera angles working against you. It also seems a bit buggy.

Next time I’ll talk about PAX, or the other horror games I mentioned, and maybe some little comic strips in between. Until then, save your game whilst the lantern is glowing! If you’ve played PZII, as well, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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[PART 1 of 2] ‘Now, where’s my damn ghost-busting camera?’ Or, what makes Project Zero terrifying above all else.

I feel like having done film school is what really helped my burning appreciation for the Project Zero series (probably known to most of you as the ‘Fatal Frame’ series, but hey, I’m a PAL girl). Mainly because there were a lot of techniques used in those games that, whilst they would have most definitely still worked on me, I would have in no way been able to appreciate the way that I do. For the first three games at least (They are all I’ve played, because I don’t know Japanese beyond ‘desu desu’ and some asshole at Tecmo decided Project Zero IV and V didn’t need to be released outside Japan) , The creators take all the tropes and perfect them. It is a beautiful collection of horror genius, and Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly was the height of it.

Nope.

What? It’s wine stains. And idk, they all just fell over.

When I first played Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly back in 2009, I was in America staying with some friends, and we were playing the special edition version on the X-Box. I remember not sleeping well whilst we played, namely because the room I was sleeping in had sliding cupboard similar to those in old Japanese houses, and I kept swearing I could see them slowly opening in the dark, noises coming from within.

When I returned home a few weeks later, I could not go to bed without my floor lamp on, and I slept very badly for at least two weeks. In short, this game had terrified me into the realm of paranoid insomnia… but at the same time, I adored it, and I didn’t want to stop playing. It takes a special sort of carefully constructed horror to do that to someone. I was terrified, and every single time I picked up the game I knew I was going to go to bed that night staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, jumping at every noise and constantly turning the light on and off to scan the areas I’d previously seen the shadows warp in. That didn’t stop me though. It was as though a madness gripped at me. ‘Keep going, keep going, you can’t stop now’. Or, similar to the characters in the game, I felt that if I could only get to the end and figure everything out, then the ghosts of the Lost Village would be laid to rest and finally leave me be.

I haven’t played Crimson Butterfly for a few years, but anytime anyone is talking about horror I will reference it. If they claim the game that scared them shitless that year was Dead Space 2, or Gods forbid Slender, a certain brand of righteous fury overtakes me (I have also been verbally bitchslapped more than once for saying “F.E.A.R. was just dumb”).

Mainly because, since playing the Project Zero games, I became completely bored and desensitized to any other brand of horror other than a select few games. Gore? It was just gross. Jump Scares? Overdone and cheap. In fact the only horror games I have been vaguely impressed by since finishing Project Zero III: The Tormented were:

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s
  • The Trilby ‘Chzo Mythos’ Games
  • Other Japanese Horror Games (including those made in Wolf RPG)

Yes, I did not mention Amnesia: The Dark Descent there. Not that it wasn’t a fantastic game. it was lovely, atmospheric, and damn creepy at times. I do remember quivering in a corner waiting for Britney (laugh if you get the reference) to go on his merry way and not eat my face off…. but I use one thing and one thing only to rate how scary a horror game is.

‘If I don’t take it away from the computer with me, it is not scary’.

True fear is something that lasts. True fear stays with you. It encroaches on your senses, it impedes the way you go about your day. Those who suffer anxiety can understand this – true fear is debilitating, whether it of something we have seen, heard, or something we create in our heads.

When I played Amnesia, of course, I was thrilled and scared at times. But ones I put the game down, turned the computer off and walked away, I was fine. The game stayed in the hard-drive, and out of my head. I was almost disappointed.

A horror game being debilitating once you stop playing it is not necessarily always a good thing. I need to stress this. When you play a game on a device of some sort you don’t want it to have a negative impression on your life after you put it down. I’m not condoning it, or saying that ever single horror game that comes out need to be such an intense psychological trip that you don’t sleep or eat for weeks after. All that said, it could just be me having this response. I tend to take things to heart and I have a really overactive imagination – and all of our minds are brilliantly unique. Something which is a terrifying trigger for fear for me, another might just laugh at and go “Steph, oh Steph, you scaredypoo.”

It’s not just me, though. The Project Zero series has a very devoted cult following, and we’re all terrified of it to varying degrees. After the fourth game wasn’t released outside Japan, a group of fans from all around the western world got together to make their own English patch for the game. You need the original game and a hacked Wii to play it, but it’s still available here. I believe they are also working on an English voice-acting version, too. The point is, us fans of this series love the way it scares us, and we constantly want more.

So, what is it about Project Zero II that had such a profound effect on me, and dozens of other fans? What had they gotten right in their recipe at Tecmo, that wasn’t included in the mix with the other games? I replayed through the first three games, and briefly took a look at a few other horror games which originated in Japan, and took special note of what was going on, how the game played, acted, sounded, and how it unfolded before me.

Compared to my experiences with western horror games (which tend to be all about the gore, the psych wards and/or overzealous Hell symbolism), all I can deduce, really, is that the Japanese somehow intrinsically understand human emotion, regarding fear, on a different level than the rest of us.

Is that an unfair and possibly racist (yes, everything is racist all the time) deduction to make? Possibly. Hear me out, though.

So anyway, let me try to dissect this, because I’d like to get to the bottom of why my mind in particular finds Project Zero so much more horrifying than any other game.

 

Made You Look! – the Camera Obscura

Mio_reaches_for_Camera_Obscura

It’s dangerous to go un-armed! Here, take this.

The thing that first attracted me to the series was when I heard that the only ‘weapon’ at your disposal was an old camera. I already disliked games with guns, though mainly because I couldn’t shoot to save my life. Project Zero involved a completely different sort of shooting. ‘Huh. interesting mechanic’ I thought.

And, that’s all you get really. There are other items you pick up in the game, but the only thing you have to combat the ghosties inhabiting your general vicinity is a camera and some old film.

I’ve noticed a pattern of play for a lot of horror games, when I look online at LPs and the like. ‘Look at the scary thing as little as possible’ is usually the tactic. Look, flail the camera about, fire a few shots and get the bejeezus out of there ASAP. Not in this game, you don’t.

Smiiiiile.

OH PLEASE GOD WHY

‘Killing’ ghosts (or capturing, since most of them come back and there is a clear link to the ‘camera film steals your soul’ here) required you to level the Camera Obscura at them, look through the viewfinder and take your best snap. No, literally, your best snap. The mechanic of the camera is that it charges up as you follow the ghost with your focal ring. The damage you do depends on the charge of the ring. The position of the ghost, and it’s aggression towards you also helps the camera lock-on. So you want to try and take your photo at the best possible moment. This is usually when the ghost is all up in your faces, arms out, screaming at the top of it’s lungs.

It is a clever mechanic. You are forced to look upon the object of your terror and -wait- for it to come after you. Running will not do you any good, nor will moving about too much, or trying to move on. You need to pay close attention. You need to let it come for you. That is against our basic instinct, when something is coming for us. ‘Fight’ doesn’t work because it’s an incorporeal thing. Flight won’t solve the problem, and sometimes the doors are just locked. And as there is a wide range of ghosts and different locations and situations you encounter them in, having to look upon them constantly still doesn’t desensitize you.

Playing in a real-world setting

I have always found the ‘insane asylum’ a bore, in horror games. It is a vastly overused trope, and in the recent few years has hardly been reused in any original way. It is also a hard scene to relate to. Of course, everyone feels like they’re going nutters at least once in their life, and some of us have actually had to be inside a place like that, where the walls have you closed in and the horrors of your mind – and everyone else’s – all bounce around inside the same space. I have been inside an asylum before – both an abandoned and burnt-out one, and a still-functioning one to visit a sick friend. They are not pleasant places, closed-down or operational.

It is hard to find something to relate to in them though. By this I mean visually. We all recognise the padded walls and tiled flooring and that bloody wheelchair creaking back and forth on its own under the flickering fluorescent. Most of us haven’t been there though – most of us can’t empathize with the setting.

In Project Zero you are in a village, and constantly in and out of places that used to be perfectly functional, even happy homes. You learn the stories of those that used to live there – and you learn that the home, a place that is meant to represent safety and belonging, is no longer safe.

I’m not saying my house resembles anything like a traditional Japanese village, but when I turned the console off at the end of a play, I would go back to my room later that day or night, and find I didn’t feel as safe as I usually did. My cupboard was suspicious, I didn’t like the way the shadows played on the wall, the chest of drawers – surely I hadn’t left the third draw down open earlier? These everyday items, just like the abandoned everyday items you see in the game, suddenly had the ability to hold a terrible secret. The characters in the game, surely, had once thought their homes safe as well. What made mine so different? In the dark of the night, the stairwell in my house could most definitely resemble the one that the fallen woman tumbled down with a shrill scream. They are, at their core, similar locations.

Something can definitely be said for immersion here – as a friend of mine argues, a game like Outlast is creepy and terrifying even though you cannot relate to it, because you are dragged into the game’s world very expertly. That is not my point though. Project Zero succeeds at immersion, but also bears subtle similarities to the world we surround ourselves in that it can make our own surroundings seem suspicious and frightening. (Project Zero III: The Tormented does this particularly well, as it is the first in the series that has part of the game taking place in a regular modern apartment – ‘our world’, and shows the bleedover of the world of ghosts into our reality).

nopenopenope

nopenopenope

Gore? What Gore?

There is not much gore in the Project Zero series. Sure, you see ghosts who had their eyes ripped out, or long needles jutting out of their arms, but it is less about showing gore and blood and grossness and more about the suggestion of violence and pain, and what it has made.

Engraver

This? Just a fleshwound.

This is valuable because it plays on the concept of our imaginations being far worse than anything that can be shown to us, with the right suggestion. Gore shown in games can freak you out, and make you shudder, and in some cases make you sick. The Evil Within had a lot of examples of using gore as horror, which were quite well done.

For those of us with very vivid imaginations, Gore can be a bit of a tell-all. ‘Ew, that’s gross, that is going to stay with me’, but there is nothing to play on the nerves and wonders. Of course more often than not its still enough to freak people out. I could be desensitized to it because looking at a gory 3D model with it’s head bashed in and blood dribbling down the revealed skull and brain gets more of an ‘oooh, that is a really nice sculpt/normal map’ out of me than an ‘OH MY GOD THE BLOOD THAT FACE’.

Looking at the above example though – the picture of the Engraver, with her eyes gouged out and needles in her arms – it not only looks visually painful, but it shows just enough for the imagination to dwell on that – how did it happen? It must be – oh yes, she’s moaning, it must be painful – aaargh I don’t want to think about how painful it is. Oh, and her eyes are gouged out. Oh, and someone has threaded rope into her empty sockets – yeup, I’m going to puke. It is a horrific image, but leaves much to be wanted by the imagination, and therein is the beauty of it. Gore is spoon-fed horror. The suggestion of violence is more subtle, and has the ability to stay with you long after. All you might have to do, after beating that Engraver and putting the game down, is look down at your wrists and think about what it would feel like to have those needles driven through them.

This post is getting longer than I thought it would be already, So the rest will be continued in part 2, next Wednesday. After going through the rest of the points and observations, such as the use of tensions and creepy dolls, we’ll also take a look at some other games – the ones mentioned on the list above and what makes -them- scary, as well as what happened when a game released as a horror isn’t scary, and why.

Procrastination Fixation, and Sketchy about being an Artist

I’ll Do It Later

I first had the idea for this blog ages back. It seems like such a wonderful, simple, quaint thing, that could keep me motivated and occupied whilst I worked on my folio and searched for a job in the video-game (or film) industry. No pressure, no stress, just me, some words and some doodles. Nothing could go wrong.

So of course, naturally, I put it off for the longest time, eventually created the thing back in April, and have only just gotten around to my first post now, after months of crushing anxiety that I would never be able to to the blog justice considering the lovely way I pictured it in my head. Fuweeee~

There are a lot of things that can be said about procrastination. The most common you’ll hear from others, either due to a lack of understanding or simply because their brain works in a different way to the point where they don’t understand the trials of expectation, is that ‘it’s just laziness with a fancy name’. Because you know, that’s great! Imprinting a negative falsity on someone who is clearly already struggling with motivation will totally work. Go you, wise non-lazy person who gets things done, thumbs up. No but really, hold the phone. Take your ego and lay it gently aside, because this one takes empathy to deal with, and the ego often ignored empathy to proclaim its own successes.

I do believe a lack of mental discipline plays into it. It’s an observation of myself I will gladly own up to. It probably started out in high school as ‘ew, conformity’ and developed from there. Instant gratification is a thing too. ‘Why do X and reap the rewards later when I can totally just watch/play this thing and feel good right now?’ Then, there is the crushing, crushing, crushing fear and anxiety of not living up to my own expectations, or the expectations of others, the self-doubt, the worrying, that all ends up turning into ‘it is better if I don’t do it at all than to try and fail to epic proportions and add to my long list of failures’. Internet, Steph’s Brain. Steph’s Brain, Internet. A good friend of mine aptly refers to this mode of my savage self-sabotage and procrastination as my ‘Jerkbrain’, and she couldn’t be more right.

I could continue to go into Procrastination and how to fight it, but really, why sneak up onto the shoulders of giants when I can link directly to said giants? A friend, a while ago (naturally I only read them recently) linked me to a couple of write-ups on ‘Wait But Why?’ about procrastination. They are informative, entertaining, and actually really helpful. Fly, my pretties!

Part 1 – Procrastination

Part 2 – And How to beat It

I won’t make this first post too long, because I have a juicy talk about horror video games I’m saving for the next one, and it’s going to be all long and analytical but proabably also hilarious, because I am in love with the horror genre even though the games within it I play are very specific, and can also be terribly bad for my sleep.

Or maybe I’ll write about Star Wars. because Star Wars, and with Update 3 coming to The Old Republic soon, Star Wars Rebels and a load of concept art and info being released on Episode VII, there is a lot to talk about. So much exciting exciting Star Wars goodness.

Do it Artistinglingly

Before we part ways, I have a bit of a confession to make (and some form of introduction).

I am an artist. Well at least, I am trying to be. I think that means I am by default. I have been drawing ever since I can remember, fell in love with anime/manga, film and video games in highschool, western comics in Uni, and finally after a film degree got me nowhere (I wanted to do set design, and they told me in my third and final year that I had done the wrong course. Thanks guys.), I found my true calling when a friend introduced me to a course focusing on 2D and 3D art for video games.

This links in a little to the previous topic of procrastination, because well, as soon as drawing became ‘not just a thing I do with all my spare time because it RULES and I love creating things’.. when a massive amount of expectation, largely created in my head, suddenly fell upon me to succeed and to draw well and fast and learn to colour properly and etc etc, something happened. I’m still not so sure what, and part of finally turning to this blog is part of me on a journey to rediscover my zeal, because whilst my inspiration stuck around, I started to lose my ability to draw. Suddenly sitting down to draw or 3D model became incredibly hard. I didn’t want to do it. Or I longed to do it, but still didn’t. It started as a dull, persistent ache and not drawing as much, and over the course of three years turned into this excruciating inability to draw what I want to, when I want, even whilst knowing I likely have the talent to create all the beautiful things I see in my mind. Before this past week or so, I had stopped drawing altogether for about four or so months. What happened to cause that sudden drop off? Well. This fucker:

DAMN THIS PUREBLOOD AND HIS PERFECT SHADING.

DAMN THIS PUREBLOOD AND HIS PERFECT SHADING.

This was a commission for a friend of mine. It took me three days to do, start to finish, and is hands down the best piece of artwork I have ever rendered. I was damn proud of myself. I still am. It was a milestone for me. It was like I had just digivolved into my next state of being. I gave it to said friend as a birthday gift. He loved it, and a load of mutual friends we had came around asking for commissions of their SWTOR characters.

Naturally, I panicked, and stopped drawing completely.

Aside from a sketch here and there, I produced nothing, and after a month or so even the doodles stopped. I mean, because, that thing? It was a fluke. I put pen to Wacom and magic just happened. Either I was in the zone, on some serious drugs I do not remember taking, or the magical Creative Arts Faeries possessed me and knocked out that artwork. Likely though, just a fluke. Because me? I can’t draw like that all the time. Oh no. How am I supposed to top that? How am I supposed to top that? People are going to be wanting art from me, expecting that, and what if I can’t replicate it?

Yes friends, this is why it’s called the Jerkbrain.

At some point between seven and fourteen days ago, well into a massive, massive rut, that this picture only played a part in, I realised that something had to give. I want to create. I have so much to create. I have comic ideas, game ideas, movie ideas, and the more time I spend being stuck, the less time I have to bring them into the world. I don’t want that.

I have been told by well meaning (and likely completely right) people that this isn’t as uncommon as I may thing, and that I am being too hard on myself. It’s not unheard of for someone to finish Uni into a not-the-best job market with high expectations of themselves, and promptly fall into a deep, dark hole. Once I was convinced that I wasn’t entirely crazy and pathetic, things got a bit easier. And sometime last week, I quietly picked up my sketchbook, stared at it for a little while – took pacer up in shaky hand, and began to draw.

I am an artist, who is afraid of being an artist.

It’s pretty silly. I’ve decided I will change it.

Test Post

test Post, Test Post, tra-la-la la-la!

 

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