The Adulthood Catalyst

When you’re in school, most of us will have a group of people who are our friends and a selection of people who we do not like at all. It all comes down to the fact that everyone is a bit meaner as a teenager and that, in turn, means that we’ll all end up having especially negative opinions of certain individuals.

What I find especially nice, as I grow older, is that I see these ill feelings just falling away. As people become more mature and enter the catalyst that is adulthood, they come out with more empathy and compassion. Even people who didn’t like each other will often be on friendly terms, just because the old rivalries that they had are now just memories of a shared childhood.

I always like to see people overcoming their issues and teenagers have a lot of issues. I think growing up with a person helps you to respect them more for this very reason and I often find myself feeling momentarily sad about the fact that I will not be able to grow up with the friends who I met later in life. When you get to see somebody evolve, you kind of get to meet different aspects of them.

Of course, some people will always remain trapped in a teenage perspective, which is a shame – in part, because they can be quite annoying. But, ultimately, you have to feel more pity than annoyance for these people, as their lack of development will prevent them from forming real bonds with others or, indeed, from appreciating life to the fullest extent.

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There’s a fair number of people whose wellbeing I consider to be my responsibility. I have been told by one or two people that this is an unhealthy attitude. We are each responsible for our own happiness and our own happiness alone, they’ll say, so taking responsibility for somebody else’s wellbeing is particularly unwise.

I do understand that point and, equally, I do think it’s unhealthy when people expect others to be responsible for their own happiness. You have to take responsibility for yourself and you can never, ever demand that of others. Nonetheless, there will still be a few people who do feel responsible for it.

But for me, once I consider a person a friend and I know that they will go out of their way to do things for me/to see me, I feel that I can return that by doing my best to be responsible for their wellbeing. I want all of my friends to have happy and healthy lives, so I do everything I can to ensure that they are. I think it’s healthy and normal to do so.

At the same time, I do appreciate that I have limits. We all have limits. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can’t do anything to help people. Sometimes we need to accept this. But I don’t think that it’s unhealthy to try our best. Too often people hear something concerning from somebody else, but feel that it is not their business to get involved and try to help, but I genuinely think that the world would be a better place if we all took a little more responsibility for each other’s wellbeing.

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Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

If you’ve heard of this game, I have a feeling I know what you’re thinking. Is it “Oh great, another Mario vs. Donkey Kong game based around Mini-Marios, I can’t wait” with a sarcastic mental intonation? If so, that’s understandable. After all, there had been not one, but two very similar Mario vs. Donkey Kong games on the DS already. What more could there be to experience in a third game following the same formula? Even I, a deranged fan of all Donkey Kong games, didn’t buy it until over five years after its release. But you know what? It’s actually a pretty good game. In fact, it’s the best Mario vs. Donkey Kong game on DS, so if you’re going to buy only one of them, make it this one.

Once again, the story goes that Mario and Pauline are opening a new theme park when Donkey Kong gets mad about something and kidnaps her. Mario then sends his Minis after him in order to rescue her. Very basic and, unlike the last two games, it doesn’t have a twist ending – which was disappointing for me. It also provides the most menacing portrayal of modern Donkey Kong that I’ve ever seen and that’s not quite how I like to see him… but these are nitpicks, really.

In terms of what specifically makes this one more interesting than the other two, it’s hard to say. Overall presentation has been polished up, backgrounds look nicer, animations are all much more fluid and so forth – these may just be small things, but it all adds up and it contributed to my enjoyment of the game.

Ultimately, I think what I liked about this game, was that this seemed to be the point that they really perfected the Mini-Mario gameplay. You set off your Mini-Marios and then you use the stylus to manipulate the environment to guide them safely to the exit. You place platforms, ladders, conveyor belts and other items in just the right places for them to avoid enemies. You’ll know this if you’ve played the others, but it can be very satisfying to get them all to the end. By this point, their level designs were better than ever and it’s all very fun – never too easy, never too hard and certainly never too boring. The fact that you get to use the Mini versions of Donkey Kong, Pauline, Peach and Toad helps to add a further layer of variety too.

This is genuinely a good game and one that I would recommend. It may not stand out due to the fact that it’s one of three very similar games on the same console, but I don’t think that does anything to subtract from its individual merits. With a nice number of levels in the main game (with plenty of extras too unlock) plus the capacity to make your own stages, there’s a lot to this game.

Rating: 8.8/10

Buy it here.

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Love is Not Ownership

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about romantic love and some worryingly negative attitudes that I’ve seen and heard a lot of recently. Namely, as you may have guessed from the title, I see a lot of people viewing love as a sort of ownership.

Now, if you meet and fall in love with someone, you likely want them to be a part of your life. This is reasonable and this is healthy – the problem is that I see people who want their partner to be a part of their life, but who don’t want to be a part of their partner’s life. It might sound like a contradiction, so let me explain…

People (or, perhaps that should be, some people) don’t like to think of their partner having an existence that is separate from them. It’s an ego thing, I suppose, where the idea that their partner wants or needs anything that they cannot provide them with is something that they don’t like or makes them feel insecure. It’s ridiculous, of course, because one person can never give another everything that they need – it’s just not how people work.

This kind of attitude is a little more understandable in the early days of a romantic relationship. People are overexcited and not thinking entirely clearly – they may say or think things which are not entirely healthy. This is just an early days infatuation and it’s not exactly “love” though a lot of people mistake it for that. Once the infatuation phase is over, some people just begin to lose interest in the other and that just goes to show just how worthless infatuation is. For sure, it’s the precursor to love, but they are definitely not the same thing – in some sad cases, people never move on from it. It mutates into horribly unhealthy romantic relationships.

People act like big gestures along the lines of “I want to spend every single day of my life with you” are signs of love, but I’d argue that that’s more a symptom of infatuation. The deepest, and most valuable love, comes from people accepting that their partner has an existence which is independent to them – and that’s okay.

This will be slightly different for everybody. Some couples will have 90% of their lives tied to each other and only 10% which is not, and that’s okay. Others will have more of a 50-50 balance. Everybody is different, but the main thing to understand is that people always need something that’s theirs and theirs alone.

You’ll notice that, most often, relationships where this unhealthy attitude is present, it’s only in one partner. One partner has a healthy balance in their life and wants the other to just be part of their life and to not have an independent life. That’s because this is an abusive trait. I think, other than in the early days, any serious couple is only ever going to have this be a one sided thing.

And here’s my personal perspective on it: this kind of thing is never love. It’s ownership. They’ll say that they love their partner so much that they want to provide for them in every aspect of life – and it’s easy to be roped in by those sweet words. But the reality is that they don’t truly love their partner, they only love the idea of them – a person who doesn’t need anything else in their life. An object to populate their life with. But loving the idea of someone is very different to actually loving someone and if you do genuinely love some one, the best thing you can do is be as much of a supportive person as you can, while accepting that they will always need to do some things independently from you.

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Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

I love the five Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels written by Douglas Adams. He has such a beautifully unique writing style which is both completely absurd and also somewhat profound. That this was the last one he could write before the tragedy of his early death really highlights that loss. The fact that this book is much more melancholy than the others makes it all feel a little sadder.

However, while Mostly Harmless is more sombre than its prequels, it is by no means less of a good read. After it was kind of touched upon on the previous book, the storyline this time has a large focus on parallel universes. It’s often quite thought provoking actually and even rather beautiful. There was a particular scene about a character with no filters as to what they could see that really blew me away.

The story starts with Trillian on Earth pursuing a career as a television reporter. While the fourth book had had a lot of Earth-based scene too, nothing had felt quite so grounded in reality as this opening – especially as this version of Trillian never left the planet. I really like this change as tone, because it helps to stop the plot feeling like random silliness and it gives us something which is quite new for the series.

We soon find that Ford and Arthur have also gone their separate ways (Arthur is now living as a sandwich maker on a primitive version of Earth and Ford is reporting back to the Guide headquarters.) There are a lot of unexpected developments for all of them and their paths end up crossing once again. I’d not like to talk too much about what happens, because part of the joy is how unexpected so much of this is, but you may be particularly shocked by the ending. I certainly was.

But I do have some criticisms. For example, Fenchurch does not appear in this book. She is acknowledged, but only in terms of giving a quick explanation for her absence. This was pretty disappointing, because I quite liked her and I kind of think, can’t Arthur ever have anything good in his life? It’s pretty obvious that Adams just didn’t know what to do with her. It was also a shame not to see Zaphod again, after he had been such a large (and hilarious) part of the earlier novels.

Despite those problems, this is actually my second favourite of the Hitchhiker’s novels. I prefer things to be a little more serious and a little more bleak. It just feels more compelling to me. I can strongly recommend this book. It’s a wonderful finale.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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90s Video Game Heroes and Me

Let’s take a look at the 1990s. During this time, Donkey Kong was at his peak. His new games were coming out at a faster rate than they were before or after and they were of the highest quality. There was an evolving storyline and a cast of colourful, loveable characters. Sadly, as the years went by, the Donkey Kong series diminished. Many of the characters disappeared and games became much rarer. Today, when they do come out, the games are still as good as ever – but most of DK’s appearances are cameos in other franchises and many of the old characters no longer appear at all. It doesn’t feel like an ongoing story, just odd appearances.

When I look back in my own life (not as far as the 90s) there was a time when there were many good friends that I saw regularly and it felt as if there were a set ‘path’ that I was on in life. Things were developing in certain direction. Sadly, as years went by, these things slowly faded away. Occasionally, I do still see those old friends and, when I do, it’s still just as good as ever, but there are some who I no longer see at all. A lot of the time, I feel as though what I do is within a context which has no real connection to the important experiences I had in the past. Much like Donkey Kong.

I don’t mean that to sound too negative. It was just a correlating pattern that I wanted to highlight – not that it means anything. It’s just a very specific pattern which is interesting to nobody but me.

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Lament for the Terrible Fictional Character, Percy What

Back in 2007, I created a character called Percy What, or as I called him “Doctor What.” He was made to be a parody of Doctor Who – the joke was that, of course, in Doctor Who people ask the question “Doctor who?” and in these stories, people would ask “Doctor…?” and he would say “What?” making them believe he was hard of hearing, since he was a very old man, but actually he was answering the question and could hear fine. That was just his surname. Also, his first name was Percy just because I thought it was a boring and generic name (which amuses me.)

When I first introduced the character, I had him as a huge, muscular, person of colour who was extremely capable – he gets killed in an intense battle against the Daleks, only to then regenerate into a feeble old white man. The idea of somebody coming out much worse after a regeneration was amusing to me. I also had a little bit where he was the successor to the real Doctor after he is finally defeated, because I always like to tie things together. He carried a Sonic Machine Gun, which he found much more useful than a Sonic Screwdriver.

I only wrote a small number of stories about him, including one about an evil alien brain called the Chavimus which made all the people around it behave in an unpleasant and aggressive ways (and it just happened to be hiding out in a certain part of Corsham.)

By all means, these stories were not well written. I was young at the time and I hadn’t really learned how to write well yet. I also hadn’t matured enough to come up with any real, substantial story ideas. There was no chance that this would ever have been published and I probably would never have revisited the original drafts to enhance them.

But the thing is, the other day, I realised that the files for these stories were missing from my writing archives. Though they were terrible, it’s sad that they’re gone. At the end of the day, they were still my creations and I think losing any piece of writing is always going to make me a little sad. So while Percy What was a terrible fictional character, he will be missed…

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Yoshi’s Story

Ever since he first appeared in Super Mario World, Yoshi had been a very popular character. Not only did he become a core part of the Super Mario games (appearing in most of the games in some capacity) but he became the star of his own sub-series of games too. The thing is though, Mario himself always seemed to be in these games as well (even if just as a baby) which I feel robbed the series of its own identity somewhat. Yoshi’s Story was Yoshi’s first adventure not to feature Mario, firmly cementing his franchise as something that could stand without Mario to draw people in (although Bowser is still in the game, as a baby.)

What makes this game quite unique, is that unlike most 2D platformers, it isn’t based around getting from point A to point B, but rather eating a certain number of fruits within a set area to proceed. This puts the emphasis on exploration, which I appreciate as there are actually some pretty nice secrets to be found in these levels.

In terms of what they actually are, you’l find an array of tropical locations, all presented in a sort of “home made” style – each level looks like it was made out of a combination of rubber, cloth and other material. It’s a nice aesthetic – although it does sometimes look a bit weird. Levels include ocean depths, spooky caves, castles, tropical island landscapes and even snowy fields. They’re a pleasure to navigate.

And it’s not just the levels that are nice, but the Yoshis themselves too. They’re adorable, more so than ever before in this game. They have very cute, baby-like voices and all of their little animations (for example, walking on the spot saying “dum dum dum”) make them so endearing. They’re so cute, in fact, that you’ll probably be very upset when you lose a life and you see a Yoshi in tears, being carried away by Bowser’s Toadies. Heartbreaking.

The main problem with Yoshi’s Story is that it is very short (and also quite easy.) You only have to win six levels to beat the “story” of the game. It makes up for it by letting you take different paths and do different levels through each play through (assuming you pick up enough collectable hearts on the way) and by giving you the extra challenge of winning by only eating melons (and none of the other fruits), which is quite tricky.

At times, I also felt like the designs of the enemies were really weird (looking like awkward mishmashes of rubbery blobs) and these bad designs honestly weakened the experience for me. The soundtrack was another thing: sometimes it was bizarre and incorporated human voices in an almost unsettling way – though I must admit that other tracks were quite good.

Overall, I suppose you could say that it was a mixed back. Yes, the game did have some very good features, but it was weaker in other ways too. Nonetheless, I think it’s something which just about anybody could enjoy. It might not be the best 2D platformer Nintendo has done, but it’s certainly not the worst either.

Rating: 8.1/10

Buy it here.

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I’ve been reading a book of haiku recently and I’ve really been quite moved by it. So I thought I’d try my hand at it. Here are a few that I wrote myself.

Cold winter evening,
Moon shines down upon dark lake.
Warmth flows from the heart.

Summer afternoon,
Blue sky, beetle, blade of grass,
Adventure for two.

Urban adventure,
Sweltering city summer,
Budding new friendship.

Rolling open field,
Magic in conversation,
Eternal in all.

City streets alone,
Lamposts only source of light,
Down memory lane.

These all reflect a significant experience I’ve had in my life and I hope that I have been able to capture the feelings of those experiences. If the mood captures me, perhaps I’ll write some more at some point. Or maybe it will be a one off experiment – who knows?

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Life Priorities

There are a lot of things which contribute to our overall happiness. Careers are definitely one of them. Having said that, I personally think that my career only contributes, maybe, 10% to my overall satisfaction with life and it surprises me that it seems to be much greater for everybody else.

I’m quite pleased at the moment, in that I work for a charity and it’s nice to know that my work is part of something which is genuinely good. In cases like that, it’s easier to understand, but if all you’re doing is helping to raise profits for a business, I struggle to understand the importance people place on their jobs.

I mean, I can totally understand the importance of having a comfortable income. There have been times where I’ve struggled financially and it is stressful. But other than that, money is just money.

I don’t mean to sound too cynical, because it’s nice that this kind of thing makes people happy, but for me, being able to spend time with friends and have time alone to relax, are two things that are so much more valuable. I’d happily choose a life where I have to live off minimum wage, but have a very busy social life over having a high paying salary and barely ever seeing anyone.

I just don’t feel that a career (no matter how good) can give me any meaningful sense of fulfillment. My job is what I do, not who I am – but I tend to find that when people describe themselves, it’s often who they are, which is a little bit concerning…

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