Music is a powerful stimulant. According to studies, music possesses intrinsic psychological benefits that help in supporting our own mental and emotional health. Boosting our mood, enhancing productivity and has also been claimed to encourage deeper, more restful sleep. Which could explain the therapeutic effect “Slipknot” has on my nocturnal rejuvenation. Serenading me to a wistful slumber. Music has such cathartic properties that are as unique and intimate as any family photo. Memories ingrained in the notes and compositions themselves, that elevate these sounds beyond the rudimentary perception of auditory gratification. To me there is nothing that possesses such emphatic nostalgia, as the “Donkey Kong Country” original soundtrack.
Having not heard any of the game’s melodious theme’s for almost a decade, I was immediately transported, almost violently so, to those care free days of adolescence where the most problematic issues were deciding what cereal to have for breakfast. Awash in the curative grasp of nostalgia, the comforting familiarity of the music, conjuring vivid images of my time traversing a tropical island as a barrel throwing gorilla, inexplicably sporting a bright red tie embroidered with the initials “D.K”. Hunting down the thieves that poached my vast banana supplies from the cavernous pantry under my hut. Incapacitating the litany of anthropomorphic crocodiles that hinder my progress, as well as crippling the passive wildlife that I encounter, by forcing them to be mounts for my rather dubious excuse to debilitate any indigenous life that has made the unfortunate decision to take a morning stroll. All with the complicit assistance of a cap wearing minor, in Diddy Kong. What this experience did, other than teach me just how violent the animal kingdom can be, is just how important music is to informing that experience. Especially at such an impressionable age.
Though almost every song sparks some kind of cognisant memory, whether it’s the rhythmic bongo’s in the opening level. The dynamic tension that was disseminated by the mine cart stage. Or even the jolly chirpiness of the final boss. It’s the transcendent beauty of the underwater stage that I find most potent. “Aquatic Ambience” has always been an evocative inspiration on my recollections. It’s soothing yet melancholic ambience, that belies the apprehension you experience navigating through this submerged labyrinth. There’s something hypnotic about this track. An ethereal longing that’s both comforting and isolating. As well as an extraordinary example of prestige gaming compositions. This song also has the unfortunate recognition of being a jarring parallel with my own parents separation. Though this would strike most people as a despondent association, it actually provides me with a lot of comfort too.
Hearing a song that sparks these kind of wistful memories makes you wonder if the games we play with our children, will inspire the same cognitive retentions. It does however remind you of your own mortality. Time seems to move differently as we get older. Perhaps it’s just are perception that does, but whatever the reason, these musical memories do abate the violent acceleration. If only for a short moment.
Now I’m not a grammar nazi. I’m not someone that demands vocabulary that is spoken with precise diction. You only have to read the cacophony of innate ramblings I scribe to see that. Understanding the appropriate use of there/their or the correct verbage for less/fewer. It’s also worth noting that during my first revision of this topic, I spelt “Grammar” with an “er” at the end, so. But as a father, I have my limits. Now as someone that works with a lot of semi literate, borish “adults”, with posturing masculinity and delivering sentences punctuated with expletives, I’m used to an environment where groups converse as if they are extras in a Guy Ritchie movie. To me that’s just an affectation. An amusing if juvenile congregation, in much the same way you’d observe animals at the zoo. Though I’m sure the Lions in their respective enclosures aren’t half as demeaning to their lionesses. But when it comes to my daughter I believe that she should strive for a more expansive vocabulary.
Now that’s not to say that she isn’t already flourishing with her command of the English language. She certainly exceeds her old man in matters of literature and comprehension of even the most basic writing. She has written 5 of her own original stories, that are almost all derivations of “Little Red Riding Hood”, that curiously result in the death of the protagonist. That’s a problem for the psychiatrists. She does however have her moments, I suspect deliberate on her part, where she doesn’t ennounciate words phonetically. For example while on her way to school, she began to brief me on the everyday activities of sea turtles. Like most children’s mutterings, this statement bared no relevance to the question I’d previously asked, with the query concerned with the location of her Wellington boots. Her unprovoked diatribe though informative, if relentless, did conclude with her saying the word “Turt-all” instead of “Turtle”.
Now as I’ve previously stated I’m not a stickler for accurate grammar, but this kind of lazy pronunciation is a malignant scourge of the English language. In much the same way that people say “Walt-A” instead of “Water”, I believe and this isn’t hyperbole, these people should be murdered to death! This may seem excessive, perhaps even morally reprehensible, but I can assure you it is a vicious assault on language I simply cannot abide. Especially considering the habitual potential my daughter has been blessed with. I have never met someone with such insatiable courage. With such an unceasing endeavour to pursue whatever the hell she wants. My job is to encourage and educate her. To guide and protect her into whatever vocations she chooses. If nothing else, at a bare minimum, at least she can enter the world knowing how to say “Turtle” accurately God damnit!
Money is always a pressing concern. Liquidity is the socio-economic construct that prevents most of us from enjoying life to its fullest. Mortgages, utilities, taxes and any number of unexpected bills that you are obligated to subsidize, all contribute to this burden. But with the added pressure of rising energy bills, as well as a nation wide rationing of cucumbers and tomatoes, purchasing anything as extravagant as PlayStation’s sophomore VR effort is a difficult justification to make. Admittedly when you’re interest is in a hobby as premium, as well as questionably regulated as gaming *cough* micro transactions *cough* live service *cough*, you shouldn’t be surprised by the exorbitant price of admission. So you’re forced to rely on your rather dubious instincts to inform your judgement. To be perceptive and decisive in your purchases, ensuring that you make the most educated decision possible. But of course there is no one less reliable to make smart decisions than yourself.
There’s a compelling dichotomy that provokes these determinations. The critical, sensible, pragmatic side of your brain is so responsive in evaluating all of the logistical variables of an expensive purchase, and determining the best course of action with methodical acuity. Then there’s the conflicting side that ignores all of that and just says “Why the hell not!”. This is the duality afflicting my decision making process in regards to the PS VR2. On the surface the decision is easy: it’s too expensive, lacking in software and frankly an unnecessary expenditure at this moment in time. When the cost and availability of a pack of tomatoes exceeds that of a unicorn horn, you have no business even contemplating the purchase of a lavish gaming accessory that costs more than the machine capable of running it! Then there’s the issue of explaining to your less than effusive partner why we have this device, instead of the new washing machine the money could conceivably have gone too.
But these capricious urges continue to deafen your prudence with its cacophonous seduction. You deliberate a compromise, like saving or selling a child. And it can be difficult to placate these impulses, without it crippling your thoughts. You start to conceive legitimate justifications for owning one. The streamline experience. The new haptic sensitive controller. Exclusive content. Yeah it’s hard to advocate the price as anything approximating reasonable, with many concessions and caveats that prohibit it’s acquisition. But in comparative to other high end VR headset’s on the market, it’s a fraction of the cost. But you just can’t disregard the price. Particularly as this is a peripheral with limited, novelty appeal. I think my desire for savings, trump’s my urge for the PS VR2. And ultimately a selfish, self serving purchase. But then….
I am about as personally invested in the Star Wars franchise, as Kate and Gerry McCann are about finding adequate baby-sitting. My ambivalence to this culturally fanatical firmament derives from my father’s much venerated adoration for these movies, that became an almost mandatory requirement in our household. And my refusal to engage in an all too ubiquitous franchise. It isn’t necessarily the content of these hyper operatic pantomimes, most of which I find fun if disposable nonsense. But the effusive fanaticism of its most ardent supporters, that parade these movies around as though they were proof of God’s existence. So a game like “Fallen Order” should fall way outside my preferential jurisdiction.
“Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order” is not a purchase I would have made for myself. But the dividends permitted by last month’s PlayStation Plus membership, affords me the unique opportunity to indulge in a game that otherwise would have alluded me. Despite the assenting qualities of being a science fiction, third person adventure, both attributes I’m in favour of, the Star Wars aesthetic was always a discouraging impediment. But admittedly this wasn’t the detriment I thought it would be. You get to travel to varied exotic locales, each distinctive in its environmental climate and harsh, engaging conditions. Challenging combat that encourages meticulous attention to enemy attacks. An aptitude that sadly eludes me. Accompanied by a delightful adopted droid in BD1. A robot with more depth and personality than the human protagonist. Which leads me to my main issue with the game; Jedi’s!
Perhaps I’m not the intended audience. Having already confessed my own apathy for this series and it’s oftentimes belligerent firmament, I’d imagine that my opinion is somewhat negligible. But as someone on the fringe of this universe and it’s cultural influence, you would think there would be expansive breadth of stories to share, that doesn’t concern Jedi’s and the Empire. Considering the supposed vastness of culture’s and race’s depicted, as well as the rich mythology associated with the Star Wars galaxy, you’d expect aberrations to the existing stories to be more comprehensive rather than repressing it’s already abbreviated galaxy. Perhaps stories that aren’t grandiose in scale. That forgoes the arbitrary construct of the “Force” or light sabres. But something ironically grounded.
Perhaps these kind of intimate stories exist in other media, but not in any eclectic capacity. Though we get to explore a number of interesting planets, it’s still under the duress of expanding the Jedi mythology. An aspect that has always bristled my interest. But what do I know?
It’s fair to say that my Nintendo switch has been somewhat neglected. Ostracized in part because of my Steam Deck acquisition, but in reality this innovative hybrid console has been a perfunctory curiosity way before that, accumulating dust rather than games. There are scattered moments of enthusiasm. Brief flirtations with Mario and Animal Crossing, that belies my overall apathy for a console in desperate need of reform. And if not for a fortuitous Christmas raffle, one I hadn’t realised I’d participated in, then the Switch might well have remained spurned. Another gilded artifact, preserved for posterity in my display cabinet of neglected trinkets.
The raffle prize was a £45 gift card to spend at the luxurious, and the absurdly extortionate super store Selfridge’s. The purveyors of pomposity and inflation. Though not a establishment that I would necessarily frequent, and judging by the inflated estimates of their listed products, most of which can be purchased at a more reasonable price at other general retailers, Selfridge’s isn’t the kind of outlet that would desire my patronage. And considering my burgeoning antipathy for such a pompous market that prevents me from parting with my own hard earned money, I decided to browse the site looking for anything remotely interesting, that wouldn’t require any surplus funding beyond the £45 limitations. And I was shocked to discover that Selfridge boasts an admittedly sparse technology category. An extensive search through their bloated price points, did eventually steer me in the direction of “Nintendo Sports”.
Despite the significant increase in comparison to other conventional retailers, at £44.99, including postage and packaging, the 1p excess won’t be a tremendous loss. As a result I get new content and my Switch gets a chance at redemption. And well, gosh and indeed golly has it ever redeemed itself, particularly in the perspective of my partner and daughter. Golf. Tennis. Football and most assuredly, bowling have become habitual hobbies in our household. Our living room is a battleground. An intense unspoken feud, ignited by my patriarchal competitiveness, to consolidate my hierarchical position within the family has become my motivation. Even if it means tickling my daughter as she’s attempting to secure her fourth strike in a row, to ensure my status as the proverbial “Kingpin” under my roof! So help me, I will.
But it’s a novel idea, playing games that are so inclusive. To share an experience like this rather than just being a passive observer. A vicarious passenger on somebody else’s fun. Often gaming can be a rather introverted hobby. Ornery and reclusive. To connect family with a diversion you’d otherwise be doing independently, is a mutually beneficial compromise. Even if my 6 year old is a better golfer!