Gaming Inspirations X: Character Profile: Zidane Tribal

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII
Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol
Gaming Inspirations VIII: Character Profile: Quina Quen
Gaming Inspirations IX: Character Profile: Freya Crescent

Absolutely incredible. Check out Midorisa’s other art at midorisa.deviantart.com!

Well, here we are.  The final Gaming Inspirations Character Profile. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far – I’m not known for finishing things I start. I guess that’s what happens when you really care about a project you’re undertaking, though; it’s a lot less work and a lot more fun when you actually give a hoot!

Naturally, I saved the best for last: my favorite character in media, the cheeky rogue, the monkey-tailed thief and protagonist of the greatest game of all time, Zidane Tribal.

The reason Zidane is the absolute goddamn best is simple: he’s the linchpin, without whom everything falls apart. This is common in terms of plot: having an event in the beginning of the story that unifies the main players isn’t exactly an innovation. Zidane unifies much more than that: the story, the party, the entire FFIX universe rides on the existence of this one character. He is the messiah of the game, the only piece of the puzzle that, if removed, utterly dooms the universe and, if included, ensures the triumph of existence over nothingness.

Continue reading “Gaming Inspirations X: Character Profile: Zidane Tribal”

Gaming Inspirations IX: Character Profile: Freya Crescent

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII
Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol
Gaming Inspirations VIII: Character Profile: Quina Quen

xnaxox-freya
xnaxox KILLED it with this piece.  Love it.  Check ’em out at xnaxox.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the SEVENTH (and penultimate!) Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.

Today we’re going to talk about the character with the most depressing damn story of them all: Freya Crescent.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Freya was a powerful Dragon Knight of the proud kingdom of Burmecia.  She and her lover, Sir Irontail Fratley, hefted their mighty javelins to protect their kingdom and its people from all comers.

… That is, until Fratley disappears, leaving Freya to go on years-long quest to find him, not knowing whether he’s alive or dead, whether her journey is completely in vain.

The FFIX crew meet up with her in Lindblum, where she’s drowning her sorrows in a tavern.  Soon after, she gets word that her kingdom has been attacked (which is what happens when your best soldiers disappear for years, who would’ve known), and she rushes back to find Burmecia in ruins and nearly everyone dead.

Fuck.

She and the rest of the party meet a group of Burmecians in the ruins, learning that the King of Burmecia and other refugees are escaping to the nearby kingdom of Cleyra, which is surrounded by a protective sandstorm.  The Burmecians beg Freya to join them.  Freya and the rest of the party say no, continue on, and get their asses kicked by Beatrix, presumably with Queen Brahne and Kuja laughing in the background.

Double fuck.

Okay, Freya’s story hasn’t been great so far.  After their drubbing, the party goes to Cleyra, and Freya participates in a ritual dance that keeps the sandstorm up and running.  Naturally, as soon as Freya joins in on the dance, the strings on the ritual harp snap and the sandstorm subsides, allowing the Black Mage army that decimated Burmecia to roll right on in.

Depressed yet?

Well, finally, we get some good news: during the attack, when the party is surrounded, a dragon knight comes to save the day!  GASP!  HOLY DICKTITS, IT’S FRATLEY!  Freya’s lover!  The one she’s been searching for all this time!  Hooray!  Freya is so excited!  She embraces her lover, gushing about everything she’s been through!…

… Aaaaaaand Fratley lost his memory.  No idea who Freya is.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Oh, right, the attack.  That’s still happening.  Yeah, there’s a little minigame where you try to randomly direct people to escape (and if you get it wrong, black mages promptly kill these innocents), and when the party escapes (with Freya in Jim-Carrey-in-Eternal-Sunshine-level despair), they look back and see Queen Brahne, who summons Odin and promptly blows up the entire kingdom.

… And that’s Disc 1, and a bit of Disc 2.  Out of 4.

Jesus.

Incredibly, it does get better – at the end of the game, it shows Freya and Fratley together again (though he still doesn’t remember the past), chillin’ in Burmecia and havin’ a grand old time.

CHARACTER QUALITIES

Perse-Fuckin’-Verance

There’s only one quality that truly defines Freya’s character, and it is her stubborn unwillingness to surrender when she puts her mind to something.  Everyone in the game runs into trouble; everyone has their existential crises and moments of self-doubt (and even despair).  Everyone has a rough go of it at some point, but I don’t think it’s hard to argue that Freya’s path to happiness was the longest and most riddled with opportunities to give up.

She never does.

Even when she’s getting the shit kicked out of her by Beatrix.  Even when she embraces her long-lost love and he responds with “…uhh… who the fuck are you?”.  Oh, and let’s not forget that she’s been looking for this dude for years before the events of the game take place.

Man, Freya is such a beast.

INCORPORATING THESE QUALITIES

As with most things, perseverance can be trained; the key is to start off small.  If you’ve never lifted weights before, you wouldn’t walk into the gym, fill a bar with 5 45-pound plates, and try to lift it – that’d be a bit silly.  There’s no way you’d succeed.  You’d use lighter weights, get the form down, and slowly work your way up to bigger weights as you got stronger.  The same concept applies to perseverance: set the task up in such a way that it’s easy for you to win, and encourages progression.

Take your time, and think to yourself: what is something I want to do that, if I worked at it for ten minutes every day, I could do in six months?  This could be anything: shredding guitar, writing a novel, and literally drinking enough Jim Beam to kill a horse are all valid things that you might be able to do (good luck with that third one).  It doesn’t necessarily have to be productive; just make it something that, six months from now, you would look back and say “yeah, I’m glad I did that”.  For example, my goal is to be able to do a full side split six months from now.  Why?  Cuz fuck it, I wanna be able to do a split, that’s why.  I’ve been spending ten minutes a day stretching, concentrating on the muscles required to do a split in particular (groinulars (very scientific, I know), hips, legs, blabla).  Even if I don’t get there in six months, I’ll be much more flexible than I am now.  That’s the beauty of perseverance: it sounds obvious, but every little bit that you do to get closer to your goal will… well, it’ll get you closer to your goal.  Even if you fail to get the results in the timeframe that you set for yourself, the incremental gains you make are not lost.  The only time you lose is when you give up, and we’re rigging the game so that our chances of giving up are minimal.

There will be forces that try to stop you: impatience, negativity (either from within or from others), uncontrollable events in life.  There will be days that, even when the bar is set this low, you will fail.

This is where perseverance is trained.  It’s not in the doing; it’s in the doing again, after you fuck up.  Don’t let the fear of failure stop you, because you will inevitably fail.  So fail with grace; when you get knocked down, pick yourself back up and keep on goin’.  One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Sharon Salzburg, has a saying: “The healing is in the return”.  Use your inevitable failure as a learning experience, another exercise that will help to hone your focus and lead you to a better life.

I’ll leave ya with one of my favorite Rocky clips, where he’s talking to his kid and… well, you’ll see the Freya-type philosophy in the speech pretty darn quick:

 

Love y’all!  I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHO THE NEXT CHARACTER PROFILE IS ABOUT

Gaming Inspirations VIII: Character Profile: Quina Quen

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII
Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol

Check out more awesome art by MisterStrum at misterstrum.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the sixth Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.

Today, I give some love to the character who I believe is the most underrated in the series: Quina Quen.

(Quick note: I use the “S/he” pronoun because that’s what they use in the game, and Quina doesn’t seem to mind.  Sorry if it offends anyone, I swear I didn’t mean to hurt ya <3)

Continue reading “Gaming Inspirations VIII: Character Profile: Quina Quen”

Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol

Bookmark this link to Support FinalFantasyIX.com by shopping on Amazon!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

Thanks to Kikane (kikane.deviantart.com) for letting me use this in this post! Check out more of their stuff!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fifth Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.

Today we’re going to talk about the sweetest little kid-summoner in the whole wide world (of Gaia), Eiko Carol!

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Eiko Carol is the lone survivor of a Summoner tribe in the village of Madain Sari (OR IS SHE?!?!?! Spoiler: she’s not).  She lives with a bunch of moogles (the cutest darn things on the planet) and apparently cooks horrendous food.

Her life gets turned on its head when she meets up with Zidane and the rest of the gang, joining them in their adventures and learning what it’s like to interact with others like her for the first time since she was very young.  At the end of the game, after suffering the crippling loneliness of being the last of her kind, she finally feels at home once again.  Yay!

CHARACTER QUALITIES

At first, writing up a Character Profile for Eiko seemed near-impossible: her demographic (6 years old, a lady, plays the flute, horn on her head, magical) seemed so distant from mine (25, dude, utter lack of horns, magic, and musical talent) that I thought there wouldn’t be much to talk about.

Boy, was I wrong.

Throughout Final Fantasy IX, Eiko brings up a major human conflict, one that all of us struggle with: loneliness.

I’m not talking about your average, garden-variety, “All-my-friends-are-gone-for-the-summer-what-am-I-to-do” loneliness, either: I’m talking about isolation.  Sure, she’s got a lot of moogles to talk to, and this is no slight on them, but… she’s different from the moogles.  No matter how nice or comforting they try to be, their core difference from Eiko prevent them from fully filling the void caused by lack of real empathy from someone who knows your struggle.

I’d be willing to bet pretty much everyone has felt this “but they don’t understand what I’m going through!  They haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced!  How could they possibly understand how I’m feeling?” loneliness before.  Hell, I know I have.  A lot.  My experience is different, unique from anyone else’s; it seems natural to assume that, since they haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced, it’d be impossible to understand the depth or intricacies of how I’m feeling.

The “They Don’t Understand” feeling is amplified when the situations or events are completely out of your control, and when is your life more out of your control than when you’re a kid?  Eiko didn’t choose to be born in Madain Sari.  She didn’t choose for her family to be slaughtered.  Hell, she couldn’t even choose who she wanted to hang out with!  When these sorts of things are chosen for you and you’re powerless to change them, it’s easier to slip into a lonely, fatalistic sort of despair.

Let me tell you why this idea is irrelevant and should be discarded.

HOW TO INCORPORATE (or, in this case, dis-incorporate (is that a word?  I don’t think that’s a word.  Whatever)) THESE QUALITIES

This “They Don’t Understand” delusion doesn’t do anyone any good: it’s isolating for the person feeling it, and it makes the people trying to help feel powerless.  But, in the moment when you’re feeling it, it’s very difficult to avoid: how could they possibly understand?  How are you supposed to trick yourself into thinking that they do?

There’s only one thing you can do.  There’s one phrase you have to integrate into your vocabulary, the only thing that will help when you’re feeling lonely and misunderstood:

Control what you can control.

There are going to be events in your life that make you feel like poop and are totally beyond your control.  It happens to everyone, and it sucks no small amount of ass.

Wait.  Did you read that?

“It happens to everyone”.

This is hard to remember when you’re in the throes of despair, but you need to realize that, when your friends are doing what they can to help you, it’s because they have felt pain, too.  No, it’s not the exact same pain.  No, it’s not the exact same situation.  But in the immortal words of Westley from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, princess.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something”.  Everyone knows pain, and friends are those who help (or try, at least) to take the pain away.

In these situations, when you’re at your worst, looking at what you can control and taking control of them is a must.  One major thing that you control (when you’re an adult, at least) is who you choose to spend your time with.  Spend time with people who make you happy, and trust that those people will empathize with you and help you in any way they can.  Whether they’ve felt exactly how you feel is irrelevant; what’s important is that they are willing to try and shoulder some of that burden with you.

When Eiko meets Zidane and the gang, she sees that she doesn’t need to be alone anymore.

You don’t, either.

All it takes is a little trust, concentrating on what you can control, and getting by with a little help from your friends.

Gaming Inspirations VIII: Quina Quen

Gaming Inspirations Recap: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

GAMING INSPIRATIONS BY THE NUMBERS

DAYS SINCE I STARTED GAMING INSPIRATIONS: 40

TOTAL POSTS IN THAT TIME: 12

WORDS WRITTEN: 11,399

POUNDS LOST: 10.0

Whew!  Just over a month in, and Gaming Inspirations has had some super-positive effects on my life.  Now that we’re at the halfway point, I’m going to do a quick recap of the characters we’ve covered, hey they’ve inspired me, and how successful I’ve been in incorporating their lessons into my day-to-day:

Steiner: Morning gym sessions, increasing my sense of accomplishment early in the day and improving my physical health

So far, this has been a MODERATE SUCCESS.  I haven’t kept up with my four-day-a-week 5:00-AM gym sessions, but I’m going at least 4 times a week still, which is good.  I’ve been floundering a bit; a lot of my friends are moving to my new city, so there’s been a lot of partying/staying out late/not going to the gym in the morning, but after being pretty consistent for about a month, I’m confident I can get back on the horse pretty easily, starting today.

If you want to join me, pick up some running shoes.  Really, that’s all you need to get started, along with some t-shirts and shorts/sweatpants.  Personally, I use Saucony Cohesion 7 running shoes.  They’re super-duper comfy, never had a problem, and relatively inexpensive.  If you think you had to drop three figures on running shoes, you don’t!  Pick up some shoes and get runnin’!

Vivi: Reading books, trying new things

I’m going to say that I’ve had SUCCESS with this, as well.  I still don’t ask as many questions as I’d like, mostly due to my fear of looking stupid.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and I think that the fear of asking questions/looking stupid will ease as I continue to try new things and have new experiences.

A few of the books I’ve read this month are As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride and You’re Never Weird on the Internet… Almost by Felicia Day.  If you love the Princess Bride as much as I do, or if you’re interested in reading about Felicia Day’s transformation from deep-south home-schooled geek into internet superstar, then I’d highly recommend those books.

Amarant: Self-confidence, skepticism

Again, my lack of confidence rears its ugly head.  I think I’m good at entertaining views without accepting them, and I’m good at hearing others out who have differing opinions on things, but I am still not confident enough to truly do and say what I feel is right most of the time.  I’ve had some level of success with this, but not much.  As I said in the Steiner recap, the more confident I get with the things I’m good at will have a positive effect on the things that are difficult for me.

Princess Garnet: Taking notes, having patience with myself and others

I’ve been killin’ it with the taking notes recently, which is a cornerstone of any sustained success.  For money-budgeting, I use You Need a Budget 4.  It may not seem to make much sense to spend money on budgeting software, but if you stick with it, I guarantee it’s worth the one-time $60 payment.  There’s also a 34-day demo and free classes to help you get started (it’s also available on steam for you gamers out there!)

For my diet, I use the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone.  I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do; but even simply making an educated guess at my calories consumed each day has helped me to lose 10 pounds in the past month and a half.  It’s a great piece of software that helped me a lot.

I’ve also used a free app that has started to help me with my patience.  It’s called Headspace, and it’s a guided-meditation app.  The first ten 10-minute sessions are free, and the technique I used has helped me to calm down in situations of high stress.  Check it out!

Out of all this, though, one of the most positive effects I’ve seen is the reaction from my readers.  I’ve got some great feedback, and I look forward to what you guys will have to say about my upcoming posts.  I know I haven’t strictly kept to the Thursday/Sunday schedule, but I’m gonna try my darnedest to get back on the horse; if it’s too much of a strain, it might become a Sunday-only thing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Thanks for reading!  Take care, and feel free to tell me how I’m doing/share your stories in the comments below!

(Also, side note: I just started playing Kingdom Hearts 2 HD on my PS3, and that shit looks incredible.  It’s only 20 bucks on Amazon right now.  Very worth it, imo.)

Gaming Inspirations VII: Eiko Carol

Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

Bookmark this link to Support FinalFantasyIX.com by shopping on Amazon!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja

A huge thanks to chitobein for letting me post this badass picture! You can check out more of their stuff at chitobein.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fourth Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.

Today we’re going to talk about the Princess of Alexandria herself, Garnet til Alexandros XVII.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Here’s the breakdown: Garnet is a classic “damsel in distress” character… for about the first ten minutes.  She’s beautiful, sad, and there are evil thieves trying to kidnap her.  But, when the thieves come to whisk her away… She asks to be kidnapped?

Wut?

Throughout her adventures and experiences in Final Fantasy IX, she grows from a nerdy member of the royalty who doesn’t know how to interact with common folk to a compassionate, fearless leader of her kingdom.

QUALITIES

Book-Smart

In the game, Garnet has a personal tutor who is known as one of the smartest people in the kingdom (correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he’s the only person to have the title of “Doctor” in the entire game).

He also has a top hat. And glasses. What a nerd.

Under his tutelage (combined with her love of learning), Garnet becomes… pretty damn smart.  At one point, she mentions how she’s read all of Lord Avon’s plays, which seems like a pretty impressive accomplishment for someone to do before they turn 16.

Street-Stupid

Sure, she was raised in a castle and is a super-smart beautiful princess-lady, but you learn pretty darn quick that her royal mannerisms and demeanor are… kind of hard to hide: for example… well, just watch literally any FFIX Let’s Play when the party is in Dali for the first time.  It’s an express train to Cringeville.

Being sheltered her entire life, she never learned how to interact with the common folk, much less blend in with them.  This is a huge challenge in the first disc, though she gets better with time.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the smartypants…es(?) in my life, it’s that their smartypants…iness didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen without a good amount of work.

There are two things in the smartypants toolbox, however, that I’ve found make the process a whole lot easier: notes and patience.

Out of everything I’ve learned throughout these posts, one of the biggest has been the importance of note-taking.  I’ve been budgeting my money (because damn, student loans are expensive and I need to plan for them) using an app, You Need A Budget, for about a year now, so I’ve had some experience with “note taking”, in a sense, but now I’m starting to apply it to another part of my life: my diet.  Before I started counting calories, I’d say to myself, “oh, well, you had that venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, so now you can’t eat breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dinner.  Or anything for the next week”.

Eventually, I’d get sick of this whole not-eating thing, eat an entire goddamn pizza to my face, and be right back where I was.  I used to think there was something magical about the 209-pound mark that I simply couldn’t pass; I’d struggle to get there, and as soon as I did, I’d slingshot myself back 10 or 15 pounds with a few “cheat nights”.  Now, I’m taking notes: I know what my “budget” of calories is for the day, and it helps me to better inform my decision-making and pace myself when eating throughout the day.  It’s working: when I started the Gaming Inspirations posts, I weighed 218.8 pounds.  This morning, I weighed myself, and I’m 208.1.  Not bad, man.  Even rudimentary calorie-counting has taken me from floundering in the darkness of “hurr durr I can’t lose weight” to slow, steady progress towards my goal weight.  Garnet didn’t just fall into Doctor Tot’s lap a damn book-learned genius: she had to take notes, study those notes, and adjust future actions based on what she learned.

The second thing that Garnet taught me, patience, is a lot harder.  Anyone can take two seconds to write shit down (not to shit-talk note-taking; it’s an integral part of the self-improvement process), but patience is much more of a practiced skill.  A skill that I’m pretty bad at.  But hey, I’m not gonna get better without practice, so practice I shall.

Garnet, when she had to go incognito as Dagger to avoid recognition, sucked at being a “normal Alexandrian”.  She didn’t speak the way they did.  She didn’t act the way they did.  But when Zidane said “hey, Dagger, you probably oughta stop acting so weird and naive and princess-y for a sec”, she listened.  It’s hard as hell to change behavior, no matter who you are, and she underwent a drastic change to achieve her goal of not getting caught.  Sometimes, changes can make you feel… strange.  Uncomfortable.  Not like yourself.  I feel this way a lot when I’m trying to implement the changes I write about in these posts.  Am I someone who counts calories?  Am I someone who stays positive, who speaks up in a group, who is unafraid to try new things?

I’m not yet.  But I’m trying to be.

This is how Dagger, raised in a castle removed from the society she was to rule, learned her compassion for the common folk.  She may have known about the life of the commoner before she ran away, but being forced to live as one, as awkward a transition as it was, gave her a perspective she never would have had as secluded royalty.

I used to let the fear of failure deter me, but now, I know that I’m going to fail, and I’m okay with it.  The only reason Garnet succeeded in escaping from Alexandria Castle is because she was patient and strove to understand those different from herself.  When she failed, she noted it, she learned from it, and it helped her be better in the future.  Change isn’t instant; it’s a slow grind to get from where you are to where you want to be, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re not willing to change, to get a little uncomfortable, to fail once in a while.  Princess Garnet helped show me that it’s worth it to work hard, be patient, and strive for what you really want.

Wow, we’re halfway through, guys!  Sunday’s post will be a recap of where we’ve been, and what’s coming down the pike 🙂

Gaming Inspirations V: Interview: Joe Zieja (Author, Voiceover Artist, Musician)

See the rest of the Gaming Inspirations posts here!

BONUS POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOST!

I had the great opportunity to interview one of my biggest inspirations, Joe Zieja, last week.  He’s a professional voiceover artist, a fantastic musician, and just sold his first novel, Mechanical Failure, coming out June 7th, 2016 from Saga Press, the new speculative fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster!  He also composed two remixes for the OverClocked ReMix FFIX album, Worlds Apart, coming out tomorrow, 9/9!

On to the interview:

Joe Zieja.  A self-described “Renaissance man without all the lace and tights”.  Ex-Military.  Author.  Composer.  Voiceover Virtuoso.  Is there anything you don’t do?

Absolutely.  I don’t dance, and I can’t even draw a straight line. My handwriting is atrocious, and I tend to screw up house projects that involve anything complicated. I’ve also played  Ticket to Ride exactly once and scored an 8.  Really.  An 8.

I’ll get to all these points, but let’s start with your military experience: you describe your new book, Mechanical Failure, as a “Space Opera Military Science Fiction” book.  Reading back on some of your blog posts, it seems like your time in the military has heavily influenced your writing.  Could you elaborate on how it’s done so?

I think it’s hard for anyone to say that the military doesn’t influence absolutely everything about your life experience. Not only has it altered my writing, it’s altered my worldview.  More specifically,  I guess you could say it’s enabled me to describe the military culture in a way that is accurate and relevant.

Could you explain what a “Space Opera” is, for those readers who may not know?  (Not me, though.  I definitely know what a “Space Opera” is.  Definitely…)

Sure. There are two broad sub genres that fall under neat science fiction. One of them is hard science fiction and the other is space opera. Hard science fiction relies on existing science and extrapolates upon it to come to a fantastical or speculative conclusion. In many cases hard science fiction focuses on a lot of technical detail that is interesting to people who are interested in science in general. Space opera, on the other hand, really is just about having fun in space. I don’t say that to say that space opera can’t be serious, but that it doesn’t overly focus on the science, and you can get away with a little bit more.  Star Wars, for example is a good example of space opera.  Nobody is sitting there explaining to you that lightsabers are a result of positively charged ions reacting in a vacuum.

You’ve remixed a number of songs over at OverClocked ReMix under the alias XPRTNovice, including tracks on the Final Fantasy VI remix album, Balance and Ruin, and on the upcoming Final Fantasy IX album, Worlds Apart.  Which tracks do you remix on Worlds Apart?  

I have two tracks that I did on that album. One of them is Cid’s theme from Lindblum Castle, and the other is Esto Gaza.

Do you have a specific style?  

Haha that’s funny.  the only thing I can really say that’s consistent about my style is that I generally stick pretty closely to the source.  Nostalgia is a big factor for me. Other than that, I’ve done everything from a Bon Jovi style thing to klezmer to bluegrass.

What can people expect when you’re remixing or composing?

Live instruments. I have a lot at my disposal, and I almost always make them the focus.

Before I say anything about your voice work, I gotta congratulate you – you’re the highest-ranked male voice on Voices.com over the past week, and 15th all-time.  

Thanks!

How long have you been doing voice work?

It kind of depends.  when I was a kid at the Air Force Academy I would be official Academy announcer for football games and parades and all sorts of other events, so I’ve been doing something like voice over for a while. If you really mean voice over work like I’m doing it today, I really only been doing it for the last two and a half years.

On your blog, you’ve mentioned that voice work is “the big moneymaker” for you, and that it’s basically your job at this point.  

yep. After I got out of the military in 2012, I worked for the government for a little while. But by time the end of 2014 rolled around, I was ready to quit everything and be a full time voice over artist, which I am now.

What are the biggest pros and cons of being self-employed?

While the military has its exciting moments, it really is basically a desk job for most of the time. It was the same thing with the government. I absolutely love not having a boss, not having set hours, being able to work from home, and being responsible for my own success without having to cater to some arbitrarily organized corporate or military promotion ladder.  I get to express myself creatively every day of my life, which is a privilege that not many people can say they enjoy. As far as the downsides, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep organized, and to keep boundaries on my work time versus my free time.  and now of course I have to pay for my own health insurance and worry about my own retirement if there is such a thing.

It’s clear that you do a ton of creating in many different ways – how do you manage the time between writing, composing, voice work, and… y’know, everything else you do on a day-to-day basis?  

I don’t have a very structured organization for how I split the time between all of that. Basically I know that being a voice over artist is what’s making most of my money at this point in time, so that’s what gets my priorities.  After that comes writing, because I have a book contract and I have deadlines to worry about now.  Lastly unfortunately comes music, because all the way to make money with it from time to time, sometimes I need to just put it aside and focus on the things that let me put food on the table.

What does a day in the life look like for Joe Zieja?

The timing changes every day, but I generally do about four to five hours of voice work. That can be anything from actual microphone time to managing my business to talking to agents and managers. I try to write for about an hour or two every day, but I don’t always get there. I hang out with my daughter and my wife and try to relax as well as get some physical activity in.  The blank spots I fill in with reading or playing video games or playing an instrument.

This interview is a part of my “Gaming Inspirations” series – do you play many video games?  I can’t see where you’d have the time!

I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a nerd if I didn’t play any video games!  I get a couple of hours a week in nowadays, but when I was younger I could binge with the best of them.

Do you find games inspiring?  If so, which ones, and how?

If there’s one common theme in my life, it’s that I love a good story. In order for a video game to inspire me, it has to be very story focused. I generally don’t like to play games that don’t have stories, or don’t focus on them, or don’t have an end like MMOs.  I really loved watching video games develop into a fantastic storytelling mechanism from its roots.  I just finished playing The Last of Us a few weeks ago, & I haven’t played a game in a long time like that that made me put down the controller and stare at the screen in disbelief at what I had just experienced.

What inspires you to create?

What inspires you to breathe? after a while, if I don’t create, I start to feel hypoxic.

What do you do when you don’t feel like creating?  You must feel uninspired, or just feel like being lazy and vegging out, at times – do you have any techniques to help you stay motivated?

My real trick to staying motivated and active is having so many things to cycle through. If I’m feeling particularly uninspired by the novel and writing, I go write some music for a couple of hours. Or I’ll go do some character work for voice acting. Or I’ll go employ creative movement as a parkour practitioner.

What’s one specific action that people could take, right now, to get closer to:

Selling their first book?

Write it. you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who have been writing chapter one of their novel for the past 10 years. Finish the damn thing.

Contributing to their first album?

This may sound redundant, but start writing music. If you don’t write music, you’re never going to get on an album. If you’ve never written music before, start getting educated. Do something ridiculously basic and celebrate because to you it’s something new. Then keep doing new things.

Becoming a kickass voice actor?

People think there’s some kind of magic that has to happen with the voice that God gave you, but I’m not so sure about that. I have well over 15,000 auditions behind me. Yes that’s 15,000.  In between that, I’ve managed my business so that clients come back to me so I don’t have to audition anymore. And when I’m not doing that, I’m taking classes and workshops from the most experienced people I can find. They always say that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Since this is FinalFantasyIX.com, after all, a few FFIX-specific questions:

Who’s your favorite character?

Freya, maybe.  Aside from Final Fantasy X-2, when girls got different powers by changing into different skimpy outfits, I always thought Final Fantasy had a great edge on the strong female character front. Freya has a great backstory and a great attitude. More importantly, she’s not Steiner, who I hate.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

I think I’d have to choose Vivi’s story. The whole idea of artificial beings and their humanity or lack thereof may be kind of an overused theme, but there’s a reason for it. We haven’t really figured it out yet, primarily because we haven’t gotten technology far enough to force us to do so.

Do you find FFIX inspiring?  If so, how?

If I’m being completely honest, Final Fantasy IX wasn’t my favorite FF by any stretch. While FF8 was a little teenage-angsty, FF9 was on the childish side in multiple ways for me. There are definitely gems in there, though – I love Vivi’s arc, particularly, like I just said.

Thanks so much to Joe for allowing me to interview him – it was a great experience to be able to talk with one of my biggest creative inspirations!  Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeZieja, his musical alias XPRTNovice @XPRTNovice, and give him a like on Facebook.  Keep an eye out for his new book, Mechanical Failure, published by Saga Press!

OH AND HERE’S A LINK TO THE NEXT CHARACTER PROFILE

Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

The badass is strong in this one. Many thanks to sarrus (http://sarrus.deviantart.com/) for allowing me to use his picture!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the third Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about everyone’s favorite ginger dreadhead, Amarant Coral.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Like Steiner, when I first met Amarant in-game, I thought he was quite dickish indeed: some brooding guy, arms always crossed, and a chin I thought was his nose for years (this doesn’t make anybody dickish per se, but it kind of looks phallic, so I guess it counts?).

Note: Looking back on it, it’s so clear that it’s his chin.  Like, “how could I possibly fuck that up” clear.  But, I did.  HD didn’t exist.  I was ten.  I’m over it.

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him, because my 10-year-old self soon found out that OH MY GOD HE FIGHTS WITH CLAWS.  FUCKING WOLVERINE IN FFIX FORM.  OH, AND HE CAN REPLENISH BOTH HP AND MP?  JESUS HOW DOES THIS GUY RULE SO HARD

BERZERKERBARAHAAAIII’MLIKEAMARANTAGFHADOIUHFAGH

I digress.  He does brood.  He does have a weird dick-nose-chin-beard.  And I love him.  Here’s why:

QUALITIES

Individualistic

Amarant: Hey, Zidane.  I work alone.  Always have, always will.

In case you hadn’t noticed (or if you haven’t played the game, in which case, why are you reading this?!  Buy it.  Now.), Amarant doesn’t tend to play well with others.  When he does decide to team up, he’s not afraid to let them know when he disagrees with their methods: the scene in Madain Sari when he calls Lani a “scumbag” for taking a hostage comes to mind.

Honorable

This is likely my favorite quality I’ve noticed in Amarant: even though he’s a loner and about as agreeable as a snapping turtle with a skin rash, he has an honor code, and he sticks with it.  When he is defeated by Zidane, he joins the party, even though it’s something he may not normally have done; he doesn’t expect mercy, but when he receives it, he’s willing to repay that kindness.

Skeptical

Amarant: The only dependable thing about the future is uncertainty.

Amarant joins the party not only to repay the kindness of mercy that Zidane granted him, but also because he’s puzzled: how did this person who is so reliant on others beat an experienced loner like himself?   Amarant’s whole worldview, one of self-reliance and of seeing dependence as weakness, is turned upside-down.  He realizes that he still has more to learn about individuality, teamwork, and strength, and he follows Zidane to help him find the answers he seeks.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

Ever since a singularly horrific experience giving a presentation in college, I’ve had intense stage fright.  Working in groups, speaking up during meetings at my job, etc. have proven to be a supreme challenge.  I always feel like if I speak up, I’m going to get laughed at, shut down, or otherwise silenced in a humiliating fashion.

Now, I’m trying to use Amarant’s inspiration to help me get over that fear.  I’ve got opinions; I’ve got values that I deem important and I try to adhere to; I’ve got unique thoughts and ideas that I think could be useful for others to know.  I need to follow Amarant’s example, realize that these opinions, questions, and ideas are valid, and voice them.

At the end of the day, I’m inspired by Amarant due to his confidence in himself, and his unwavering ability to voice his opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be, even at the risk of ridicule.  Honestly, most of the time, I think my ideas are pretty damn good, and it’d be helpful for myself and for those around me to voice them.  Everyone’s gotta put their foot in their mouth at some point during their lives; don’t do it to yourself just because you’re afraid to speak.

Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking like I am, you can use Amarant’s inspiration in any situation where you feel silenced for an idea you have or a way you feel.  Next time you’re afraid to voice an opinion, to let someone else know how you really feel… let them know.  The result probably won’t be as bad as you fear it will be.

This “being confident in yourself and sticking to your guns” stuff is all well and good, but the critical element separating the strong, independent human and the stubborn, ignorant douchebag is a healthy dose of skepticism.  Amarant was puzzled by his defeat at the hands of Zidane, and he joined the party to find out how this teamwork-oriented dude was able to defeat the power of his individualism.  This is how we know that Amarant is a part of the “strong, independent human” camp: when something crops up that challenges his beliefs, he questions and examines it instead of denying it outright.

I don’t even need to add a joke here.

People think that “values” are immutable and eternal; they’re not.  At the core of every healthy set of values is the ability to change them as circumstances change.  So, while you’re out there being super-awesome-and-confident-in-yourself thanks to Amarant’s inspiration, remember that the person who changed him most was the one who made him question his beliefs.

Thanks for reading, everybody!  The upcoming Thursday post is going to be a recap of what we’ve talked about so far, and how our internal FFIX party is shaping up!  Plus, I’ll have a SUPER SPECIAL BONUS GAMING INSPIRATIONS POST out before then, so be on the lookout!  🙂

Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

aegivj6

Hello, friends, and welcome to the second Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about the fan-favorite Black Mage, Vivi.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Vivi is a Black Mage: he harnesses the powers of the elements to lay waste to his enemies.  In the beginning of the game, this fact is taken at face value; as in, “okay, there are beings in this world that don’t have faces and have giant glowy eyes and wear funky hats.  Cool.”  Soon, though, the tone changes: a factory is found that is filled with Vivi-looking dolls on an assembly line.  A bunch of other fuckery goes down, and it’s eventually revealed that Vivi’s body is no more than a shell, filled with a manufactured “soul” made outta Mist, which is basically the broken-down dregs of souls of people who’ve died.  As you can imagine, this causes a bit of an existential-angsty stir in Vivi’s psyche.  But with the help of the friends that he gains throughout the game, he learns what it is to truly be.

Then, he dies.  But at least he learned some good shit along the way!  Let’s examine!

QUALITIES

Inquisitive

Vivi: I don’t think I really understand what it means to live or to die. Where do we come from…? Do we go back there when we die…? If that’s what it means to live… I wonder where I came from… Where will I end up when I die…? Why am I shaking? What is it I’m feeling…?

Vivi’s around 9 years old, and he grew up in a cave.  It shows: he doesn’t seem knowledgeable about… well, much of anything, really.  But he’s always willing to learn, and isn’t afraid to ask questions, especially to those he admires and respects, like Zidane.  This becomes less of an asset when he learns more about what he’s made of and where he comes from, and it gets REALLY intense when he hears about the other Black Mages “stopping,” which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly like dying.  When he learns about this, and learns that his kind don’t tend to live very long… yeah, he freaks out a bit.  But can ya blame him?  Imagine being 9 years old, and someone walking up to you and saying “You’re not a person like me; you’re a shell full of the fragments of other peoples’ souls.  Oh, and you’re gonna die soon.”  I’d say “freaking the fuck out” and “asking some pretty uncomfortable questions about mortality and what it means to be alive” would be a pretty natural reaction.  Regardless of what pushed Vivi to ask these questions, the point is that he asked them, and that’s the sort of existential inquisitiveness that makes Vivi such a dynamic character.

Sense of Wonder

Along with his inquisitive nature, growing up in a cave seems to have given Vivi a sense of awe and appreciation for the outside world.  In the very beginning of the game, he’s seen wandering around Alexandria, and appears to be amazed at the airship he notices flying overhead, while everyone else keeps bustlin’ down the street, paying no heed.  The fear of imminent death put a bit of a damper on this throughout much of the game, but it’s still evident throughout, and especially in his heartbreaking speech at the end of the game.

Trust

 Steiner: “Master Vivi, why would those mages be the same as you? And why would it matter if they were?”
   Zidane: “Rusty’s right! You’re an individual, no matter what happens, Vivi!”

Vivi’s certainly a reserved character, but he tends to trust others quickly, and take their words to heart.  This is a great quality when he’s listening to Zidane tell him that he’s not a mindless automaton, that he deserves life and lives as fully as a normal human; it’s, uh, less great when he listens to Kuja tell him… the opposite.  Once again, this propensity to trust to a fault probably has something to do with being raised by a Qu in a fucking cave (Does anyone else find that backstory, uh, a little strange?).

You might be a little odd if this crazy-lookin’ bastard raised you, too.

Questions.  Cool.  Wonder.  Got it.  Trust.  Sure.  But how do I incorporate those into my life with physical action?

BY READING THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS POST, OF COURSE!

Inquisitiveness: Read a book.  Yes, the ones made out of actual paper.  (An e-reader that isn’t connected to the internet is also acceptable.)

In case you forgot what they looked like. Easy to do in today’s world.

A wizard ain’t shit without their spellbook.  Before this past July, I hadn’t read a book, cover-to-cover, in ages.  I read a lot on the internet and stuff, but that’s mostly, y’know, sports articles and stuff (not saying that that isn’t fulfilling; it’s just a different kind of reading).  But, on a whim, I decided to pick up the first A Series of Unfortunate Events book.  I read them when I was a kid, and thought, “hey, what the hell.”

Those books are incredible.  I read all thirteen of ’em within a month, and have been reading and writing more ever since.  You never know where or when inspiration will strike, which is why being like Vivi and always exploring the world around you, or the worlds in books, is very important.

Works of fiction, unlike car manuals or Buzzfeed articles about puppies, tend to delve deeper into the meaning of existence; they’re not beholden to the truth, so they don’t have to worry about being accurate in that sense.  The world is whatever the writer wants it to be, which allows them (and their readers) to examine deeper truths.  Vivi examines these existential questions throughout the game, and this is the inquisitiveness that reading can bring into your life.

Sense of Wonder: Try something you’ve never tried before.

If Vivi had lived in Quan’s Dwelling his entire life, he would’ve never gone on an epic adventure, sharing incredible experiences with new friends.  Just this morning, I went to a Zumba class.  First time ever.  I don’t dance.  I was the only dude in there.  I looked like an idiot, I’m sure.  But guess what?  It was a great workout, and I actually had a lot of fun.  I’ll definitely go again next week.

There’s always a transition period.  If you try something new, you’ll probably suck at it.  But guess what?  Sucking at stuff is valuable, too.  Which is better: loving what you do even though you suck, or being really good at something you hate?  Your new passion that tremendously improves your life could be five minutes away, waiting for you to discover it.

Trust: Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to look stupid.

As I mentioned before, Vivi doesn’t seem to know much about the outside world – its social cues, its dynamics.  When he asks a question, it’s from a place of wanting to learn more, and that’s a noble place to be.

Personally, I’m terrified of asking questions – what if someone laughs at me for not knowing?  What if they think I’m stupid?

Vivi inspires me to answer these with another question:  Who cares?

Seriously, fuck it.  If you don’t know something, and you want to, ask!  If someone’s a dick about it, then fuck them!  It’s irrelevant!  Asking someone who knows is the quickest way to learn something new, and guess what?  When you ask, you learn.  Quest complete.  I had to do this when my new public-transport card didn’t work on the train in my new city (I’m from Vermont; public transport is barely a thing).  The person I asked on the train looked at me funny, but explained how the card worked, and guess what?  I’m not going to run into that mistake again.  I’m so glad I asked, and so glad I know.

One really, really cool thing about examining the qualities of these characters is realizing that they’re all connected: just like with the qualities detailed in my Steiner post, working on even one of these Vivi-like qualities will improve your chances of future success in all of them.  Maybe you’ll read a book and develop an interest in something you never would’ve expected, and you go to a meeting with like-minded people and meet the love of your life and BAM!  Your life changes in a completely unexpected way, and it’s all because you tried something new that one time.

Virtuous cycles are the shit.  Vivi’s the shit.  FFIX is the shit.  Hopefully I’ve been able to impart a bit of the inspiration that Vivi gives me to you.

Coming up on Thursday: another Character Profile!  I’m going to keep this one a surprise, though 😉

Stay classy, fair readers!

Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

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Another fantastic piece of fanart by Game-Art-HQ.com’s Fenrir the 2nd. Check out their Deviantart page at http://fenrir–the-2nd.deviantart.com/

Welcome to my first Character Profile, part of the Gaming Inspirations series, where I claw my way out of the deep, dark pit of crippling anxiety that leads to other fun stuff like “drinking too much” and “being generally unkind to my body and mind” by writing about the stuff I love and why it inspires me.  The format will consist of a summary of the character, their qualities (positive, negative, both), and how we can use these qualities to improve our lives in the physical world.  I’m going to start off by writing about the FFIX main character I feel most akin to: my homie, Adelbert Steiner.

 

CHARACTER SUMMARY

When I first played FFIX around 15 years ago, I was struck by how much of a dick Steiner was (the thought back then was probably more like “golly gee whiz, that old man’s a meanie!”.  Hell, I didn’t even know what a swear word was ’til I was a teenager).  For a disc and a half, he’s basically a mindless drone of the queen, doing anything he can to get Garnet back to Alexandria and to have Zidane’s head lopped off.  He redeems himself later, though, and over the years has become one of my favorite characters in the game, with whom I closely relate.

Continue reading “Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner”