Gosh, it sure is hard to blog after so much time. It's not like miniscule updates on my life are particularly interesting. I do have some thoughts I've been kicking around about the nature of social games (and why they're generally terrible) but I'm hesitant to post them out of respect for my current employer. Maybe in a little while after I've polished them up. I also have a few long posts about mahjong partially prepared but lacking in polish. (Speaking of things lacking in polish, I should probably push a review of Angel Beats! sometime, too.) But for now, I'm going to talk about music games.
It's hard to say for sure how serious I am about DJ Max Technika, or when it became that way. I was playing the game sort of casually last summer, semi-regularly at the arcade in the fall, and I started seriously working on improving around when Platinum Crew finally released at the start of the year. I guess I've gotten fairly good at the game by now, but on the other hand, there are still a few charts holding out on me, and I'm certainly far off from top players like DJ NOTHING., DJ SERIKA, or even many of the others beneath them, judging by how my scores seem to be constantly sinking in the international rankings. I am finally good enough that until the most recent SP sets, I had beaten every chart in the game save Fermion (the "PP" one, not the newly-released SP). It's hard to believe, since the way the game is structured there are always more challenges, so it never feels like I'm actually really that good... but on the other hand, I look back and there are charts that just a few months ago gave me fits, so when I pass one like White Blue without breaking a sweat, it makes me wonder, how did this happen?
I guess the short version is to say that it's because I didn't give up. There were a few times when I got pretty discouraged at the game, failing the same thing over and over again while others overtook me. (Even now, people like DJ JOKER who started long after me are accomplishing things in far fewer tries than I've already gone without success.) I mean, in many ways it's apparent that I'm just not that good at video games, naturally. To be more specific, I've noticed a trend across pretty much all games and types (at least those that involve skill), where I'm one of the faster ones to pick up enough to reach an basic or intermediate skill level, but I have problems progressing beyond that, and the people I left behind early on will catch up and pass me. Oftentimes, rather than feeling like a steeper incline, the path to improvement feels like it's blocked by a solid wall. There were times when I thought, perhaps I would never be able to pass Technika charts like Son of Sun TP or (especially) SuperSonic SP. After all, they're just so far beyond what I was able to accomplish at the time.
And yet, somehow, I did pass those charts, even more than once. I look back and there's no particular pattern or trick to it that I can see. Sometimes off days morphed into good days for no particular reason; sometimes I just had to call it quits and return another time. Oftentimes the mechanics of the patterns just magically clicked and I recognized how to do something that had confounded me before, for which no amount of studying chart videos could compensate. Occasionally studying the chart videos and image training actually did help, or so it seems. By simply sticking with it, ending up at the arcade at least once per week (having the excuse of recording a score, any score, on the weekly course doesn't hurt), I continued to improve. Incidentally, while taking it far less seriously, I've also improved at Pop'n Music, finally passing the damnably underrated PIANOTEC (Normal). I suppose this is largely by virtue of it being at the same arcade, usually having a smaller line; and perhaps most importantly, because its mash-on-fat-buttons nature provides a certain satisfactory feedback that a touchscreen game can't.
It's strange, because although it would be a lie to say I don't really enjoy Technika, I also don't feel like Technika is so fundamentally appealing that I was able to stick to it over other things where I haven't overcome the wall. There was probably a time when I wanted much more strongly to be good at Melty Blood, for example... but I never did manage to get beyond scrub level, there. Maybe that's not the best example, because when I think about it now, I never could get quite as deeply invested in the gameplay of a 2D fighter. But even for similar cases, I at least wanted to finish every song in, say, Guitar Hero 3 until a certain Raining Blood disaster sapped my fun. I finished the story of Trauma Center: Under the Knife, which was frustrating enough to have me spewing profanity to an extent I normally try to avoid, but I gave up on the extra missions. I always seem to stop short of being really good at hard games. Maybe it's just that my dedication and desire to finish a game with top marks ends up losing when my investment-to-reward sense detects that it's really too much work. I suppose that my success with Technika owes a lot to there being so many friendly faces who make it fun to be there even when I'm not happy at the game.
It's not clear to me the extent to which this same personality trait applies to things outside of gaming, either. Perhaps it is or isn't tied to my frustrating track record of rarely accomplishing even somewhat modest life goals such as completing Project Gunhyper or ReVamped, to say nothing of scanlating all of Tabi to Michidzure. The one major project I finished, a fiction work in the Project Gunhyper universe, is still sitting un-edited at an awkward half-novel length, because I find myself at a loss when I think of how to revise it into the work I really wish it were. Meanwhile, I find myself with a strange, longing, envious respect for professional authors like nisiOisin -- who accomplished what I dream of doing at a younger age than I now am, and continues to publish novels that are not only very entertaining, but are complex both in emotion and plot, thought-provoking, and not particularly short, even though he writes them on shockingly thin timelines. (By the way, you can consider that a glowing recommendation for Zaregoto books 1 and 2, which are currently available from Del Rey.) So it's a strange mix of emotions I feel when I look at books like Zaregoto. On one hand, it's inspiring, but on the other hand, it's depressing because I can't help but feel my own inadequecies. It's hard to imagine myself being capable of weaving a story that is so complex yet satisfying.
Yet that's precisely what I want to do with my life. Perhaps the stories I write don't have to be nisiOisin's style of witty murder mysteries, but nonetheless, I need to somehow find my confidence and put it to work accomplishing that goal. I'm sure it beats desperately trying to help people build and not break terrible scheming excuses to beg people for money Facebook games.