How Video Games Inspired My Work

Before I was even born, video games were set to be an important part of my life. My parents had an NES, and I came to life as the child of a Zelda-loving mom and first-shooter player dad. Let me just share a moment of silence for the NES that drowned in a basement flood just a few years later, before I go on.

Okay, I’m all good.

When I was a kid, I didn’t ‘play’ like most other kids did. When I was with a group of other kids, it would be different, but back then I didn’t really have many friends. The friends that I did have only belonged to my school life. Back home, my two little sisters were my only friends.

I loved playing with my Barbie dolls, but I didn’t spend my time brushing their hair and playing house. My Barbies were adventurers, spies, or epic princes going on an intense journey to save the princess from the evil dragon. That doesn’t differ that much from other kids, but with video games, it was a totally different story. If I played Mario 64, I eventually did collect the stars to save Princess Peach, but usually that was not how I played the game. First of all, I wasn’t playing as Mario at all. In my head, he was another character (the name of the guy depended on which period of my childhood we go back to), and he had his own personality. I would use the open world of Mario 64 to tell my own story, and yes, I did talk to myself as I did that.

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Often, the stories that I made up as I played ended up on paper, first as pictures when I was younger, and eventually into picture books that my mother would bind with yarn.

My sisters were fond of video games as well. When we played together, we would make up our own characters based on the video game characters, and make up our own stories that we would act out. Eventually, we even made up our own universes; I had the world of the sun, my middle sister had world of the moon, and the youngest had the world of the stars.

We only learned later that the sun is also a star, but shhh.

The reason we invented our own characters instead of just acting out as Mario or Princess Peach is that I, for one, was just never able to. I couldn’t bring myself to act out a character that was not mine, even as a kid. I felt restrained with what I could do. I wanted to explore, create, innovate.

That is also why I cannot write fan fiction. I have tried several times, but was only mildly successful a few times. In all cases, I was writing about video games.

That is because my imagination works from the inside. The characters I create have to come from inside only for me to be successful with them. (This is also the reason I have always had trouble working in groups at school, especially when we had to be creative; I always considered this one of my biggest flaws.) The thing with video games is that they take you inside of them. You experience the storyline much more tangibly than with a movie or a book.

Most people say that video games inhibit creativity and playtime. In my case, video games were what sparked creativity and playtime with my sisters and me. And in turn, playtime sparked my stories.

The first ‘novel’ I have ever written – I use novel very openly here, as I was only eleven and I would never actually consider this manuscript as useful for anything – was based on playtime with a friend at school. We made up characters for ourselves, and invented issues and played them out. When we finished the game several weeks later, I decided to write about it. This spawned about a hundred hand written pages of (terrible) fiction.

So what is my point here? It is that video games are not bad for kids – that is, if it is controlled. Up until I graduated high school, my parents limited the amount of video games my sisters and I were allowed to play per day. During week days, it was no more than half an hour, and one hour and a half on weekend days.

Our parents actually had more of a problem with us reading than playing video games. I can’t count the times we were yelled at because we wouldn’t put our books down to do our chores. We never had that problem with video games up until we were old enough to decide how many hours we wanted to play.

And finally, one video game in particular inspired the setting of the Rioux Fight Club in my book, Abiding Heart. The fight club is where half of the book takes place. The first room is a large, luxurious hall where people can wait until the next fight begins. The actual fighting arena is surrounded by a hallway, in which the fighters have their rooms.

If you’ve ever played Paper Mario: A Thousand Year Door, this might sound familiar.

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Yes, the Rioux Fight Club from my book is almost entirely based on the Glitz Pit from A Thousand Year Door.

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So I have to thank video games for where I am today. Without them, I don’t even know if I would be a writer.

The Four Seasons of Home

 

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I thought it would be nice to share a piece of home.

Because in Val-d’Or, we have four seasons.

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There is winter.

After that, we have another season called “After winter.”

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Our third season is “Waiting for Winter.” It’s nice, because during this season we have no snow at all. Usually. Hopefully.

And then comes “Before Winter,” and then the cycle begins all over again.

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All I know is that I usually don’t like snow. It means cold weather. It means slush if you live in Montréal.

But back home…

It meants beauty.

It means time for family.

It means getting comfortable in a blanket and drinking hot chocolate and playing Life with my siblings.

Basically, whereas snow means a bad time in the city, it means the best of time back home. And that makes it all the more precious.

Going Home

Not a lot of things beat the satisfaction of finally finishing a semester of university. Well, one thing does top it off for sure – actually going home for the holidays. I’ve always lived in countryside homes before college, and I love being surrounded by trees and nature, although I can’t deny the joys of the city. I like being in the center of a student metropolis, but when I finally go home, I realize how much I missed the quiet landscape of where I live…

The holidays are a great time to be carefree – at least more than usual, in my case. Because I go home for the holidays, I don’t have a job during this period, like I did in high school, so I know that my days are mine to do as I wish.

I’m not religious, although I do celebrate Christmas. It’s more out of habit and family tradition than anything else, and I think that’s the greatest thing about this time of the year. These days, people stress out so much about organizing parties and buying gifts and doing all sorts of things, but some people tend to forget that they are supposed to be having fun and spending quality time with their families.

These are my top things I enjoy doing during the holidays, and why I cherish it so much:

1. Go home – I’ve already written that one, and I say it again. Spending time with my parents and siblings is priceless, and sometimes we forget that when we’re up to our neck in our other life projects.

2. Write, write, write (and read, too) – I have so much time on my hands, so it is the best time to get a lot of writing done. Nothing beats the experience of cuddling up on the living room couch next to the window with my laptop, watching the snow fall softly outside as I brainstorm my next sentence. After I’m done, I’ll probably go play in the snow with my dog, too.

3. Play a lot! – This includes video games and board games, solo and with my family. With a whole month off this year, it’s the perfect time to dive into that Legend of Zelda game I’ve been meaning to start. Might as well kick my sister’s butt at Monopoly, too. I don’t know when I’ll get the chance again! (chances are, she’s the one who’s going to be doing the butt-kicking.)

4. Catch up with the family – aunts, cousins, grandparents, bring them all in! I’ll have a glass of wine with that, too.

5. Bake – There are countless Christmas dessert recipes that we make in my family. Because I’m home alone for the first week or so, I can get a lot of the baking done. I intend to bring a newbie to the bunch this year: http://therecipecritic.com/2013/09/chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-bars/

6. Catch up on a skill – this year, I want to learn about video game designing. I know that I won’t have time to learn such a bulky skill when my next semester starts, and I won’t have the heart to spend so much time in front of a computer when the summer comes along (plus, I’ll have work hours!). Some people would rather just stop learning for a month, but if it’s something you are interested in, there is never a wrong time to learn that skill.

7. And finally… just enjoy myself, whatever that means for this year. The holidays are an opportunity to hit the refresh button on your brains before another year starts. Relax, get your ideas clear, and do the things you enjoy doing with those you love.

So these are my thoughts on the holidays. What are you planning this year? How do you see the holidays from your point of view?

Midnight Prompt #4: Fitful Night

The idea for this short piece came to me when thinking of one particular night. It was fitful and filled with the strangest dreams. You know, when you’re nervous about things you have to do the next day, and your anxiety shows up in your dreams? Well, that was what happened in this case.

I usually make a story for midnight prompts, but this time I have added elements of poetry to it. It’s kind of an experimental piece, since this is the first time I mix prose with poetry in this specific way. Hope you enjoy!

Fitful Night

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

My eyes open wide and I
See nothing at all,
It’s so dark and somehow
I’ve lost the sense of space,
There is no solidity in the
Daze of the night.
The fog once again
Carries me into loss
And my spirit grows wings
To a place that no
Angels may lie,
A place made of nightmares
And dread that crawls
Up in my veins.
 
There was something I had to do, something so important that it forced me to fall back to sleep, and now that I’m back I must
Hurry, hurry
Hurry because I am truly alone
There is no one here to take my place.
 
They are chasing us, these things, their dilapidated souls inhabit any object that may happen to lie on their path. We must watch everything from the corner of our eyes less we be taken by surprise and God knows the consequences if we let them catch us,
Is it death,
Or will I just awaken
Again for the hundreth
Time just tonight,
Condemned to dread
What there could have been here.