Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

I’ve always been a fan of comics, both reading them and writing them. In fact, I’m still writing them into my adulthood. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud delves into the history of comics, explaining their origins and influences while also putting them forward as an artform as deserving of respect as any other. He does all this through a comic.

I found it all a very interesting read. Shamefully, I’d never truly thought about the origins of comics before, but I really enjoyed learning about them. Nicely, McCloud takes a very international approach to his comic, using examples from around the world and factoring in how they have all influenced the overall development of comics. It was nice to see specific examples that I recognised referenced throughout it.

Another aspect of it that I particularly enjoyed was the way in which it went into the actual mechanics of comics. He explained why certain things were done within comics and then went on to detail their impact on people and how different stylistic choices have been used to evoke different kinds of emotional responses. It was pretty fascinating stuff.

What was most impressive about Understanding Comics, though, was that it really made the most of the fact that it is a comic itself. A purely prose-based book on the same subject wouldn’t have been able to convey the information anywhere near as well. As a certain artistic technique is explained to you, it also happens before your eyes. As different art styles are explained, the style shifts to reflect each one. It’s very clever.

Plus, throughout it all, you have Scott McCloud himself as a character, taking you on a tour through the expansive world of comics, which gives it a very loose narrative and also provides opportunities for humour every now and then. It’s a wonderfully unique approach to non-fiction writing.

It’s a very charming read and I think that any fan of comics would get a lot out of it. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, it will help you to appreciate the medium more. Overall it’s educational and entertaining, which is about the most you can hope for from any piece of non-fiction.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here.

Posted in Book Reviews, comics | Leave a comment

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

At first glance, this is a fairly traditional fantasy novel, one with an evil overlord who needs to be overthrown for the good of the people. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that there’s a lot of nuance to it which helps make the world of Mistborn feel much more three dimensional.

The novel has quite a large cast of characters, but I’d say that the two central characters were a teenage girl named Vin and a charismatic man named Kelsier, who leads a gang of thieves who are planning to overthrow the Tyrannical Lord Ruler. Vin has lead a horrible life and isn’t very trusting of anyone as a result. It’s through her that we are introduced to the world and all the things in it, so she’s a nice sort of gateway character, even though her life will be so different to most readers.

Conversely, Kelsier is a man who likes to put his trust in everyone and seems to be a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, although he certainly has a darker side. What was interesting was that he was so personable that, as a reader, I found myself liking him and being able to look past the bad things that he did. He was a morally grey character (they all were, really) but Kelsier wins you over. Almost like a cult leader, I suppose. It was great to see the evolving relationship between Kelsier and Vin and there were several particularly enjoyable and memorable interactions between the two.

An important aspect of the novel is that the ‘magic’ of this world (called Allomancy) is a very structured system which is almost closer to a science. In this book, when people consume different types of metals, they gain different powers. For example, iron lets a person pull nearby metals towards them, brass soothes peoples emotions and makes them more amiable, and pewter gives people a huge boost in endurance. People consume the metal in vials, then it lasts until their body has burned all of it. There are eight different metals which grant powers, but most people can only use one, or none of them. Only a few people can use all eight and those who can are called Mistborn. It’s a very nice system and the fact that you know exactly how it works helps make the setting feel more real. I appreciate the amount of thought which had been put into it.

Another character I was particularly fond of was Sazed, a eunuch who assists Vin throughout a lot of the novel. He was such a kind and gentle man who created such a contrast with the cold, hard world around him. He dedicates his life to trying to save the world’s many religions (vanquished under the Lord Ruler) using a power called Feruchemy, which allows him to store knowledge and information within metals, for him to access whenever he needs. Feruchemy is just as expertly laid out as Allomancy. Many things (e.g. energy, eye sight, strength etc.) can be stored within metals and accessed when needed, meaning someone could choose to have poor eye sight for a period of time and then later have particularly strong eyesight because they’d saved the ability for later.

Equally, I was quite pleased with the Lord Ruler himself. His an immortal man who has been leading the empire for thousands of years, hence why they call it ‘The Final Empire’ – nobody believes that he could be overthrown. You may think he sounds like a typical evil overlord, but you actually get a good look at his backstory and how he came to be who he is. There’s a very interesting twist with him too. He is still an absolute monster, but, again, there was that nuance which I appreciated.

Overall, it’s a wonderful fantasy novel with plenty of believable and charming characters, interesting twists and turns in the story and a lot of genuine emotion. I definitely recommend it for fans of fantasy novels and to people who just like reading generally!

Rating: 8.8/10

Buy it here.

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I really enjoy novels which tell stories on a grand scale, things which span a character’s entire life and give you a chance to see them, the people in their life and the world around them change over time. Memoirs of a Geisha does exactly that, detailing the life of a fictional geisha, focusing especially on her life in Kyoto during the 1930s and the 1940s.

Life for a geisha is hard and far from the luxurious life that their clients may have believed them to lead. You see the things that they have to endure, from difficult clients to the toxic atmosphere created by geishas working competitively in the same area. At times, it was a difficult book to read because there are a lot of hardships contained within the story, but it’s also deeply compelling. The main character is sold at a young age, before she could even really comprehend that someone would sell a child, then she finds it very hard to adapt to life with the new family she lives with afterwards.

She’s not a geisha at first and instead simply works to keep their house clean as a servant. I felt very sorry for her most of the time – especially as she is continuously manipulated by Hatsumomo, a geisha and “sister” living in the same house. Hatsumomo was an especially unlikable character – devilishly intelligent and using that intelligence to bend everybody to her will. But, ultimately, she’s a tragic figure and someone created by the unpleasant environment in which geisha had to exist. Her ultimate fate, I thought, really highlighted that and I do always enjoy a story which makes me feel sorry for someone I initially disliked.

There were a lot of strong characters in this book. Another good one was Nobu, a business man who enjoys the company of geisha, but who can be quite a difficult and bitter man to deal with. There’s also Mameha, an older geisha who does a lot to help the protagonist in her career as a geisha. They both left a big impression on me, although, unfortunately, I did feel that Chiyo (a.k.a. Sayuri), the main character, seemed very much a kind of blank canvas. I’ve heard it said that this was done to reflect the way that geisha were expected to be almost living dolls, having no personality of their own and existing only for the pleasure of others… but I’d still have preferred her to feel a little more well rounded. Funnily enough, she, as the narrator of the story, feels more fleshed out than she as the main character, actually does, if that makes sense?

I felt the story picked up a lot at the advent of the Second World War – naturally, everybody’s lives are changed drastically and it’s very sad to see the toll that it takes on all of the characters (and the city they know). Something I particularly enjoyed was the fact that it showed the war through the eyes of regular people living in Japan, a perspective which I’ve not encountered very often in the fiction that I’ve consumed, so it was a refreshing change from the usual – and an educational one.

So, overall, it’s a book I recommend quite strongly. It gives a fascinating insight into Japan during the early twentieth century and of the life and culture surrounding geishas. The world is wonderfully fleshed out and filled with endearing characters whose fates you’ll be keen to discover. Just be sure to prepare yourself emotionally, it can be pretty intense – there was one scene in particular, containing sexual assault, which I found particularly upsetting. Not that that’s a bad thing – people need to aware of these things and it’s good that Arthur Golden didn’t hold back, but it is difficult to read sometimes. Still, the novel took me on quite a journey and one which I’m glad I got to go on.

Rating: 9/10

Buy it here.

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Infectious Selfishness

Today the Conservative government voted against a policy to ensure that children had access to free meals during the ongoing pandemic. I’m not going to get into the specific details of why I think this was wrong (in case it’s not obvious), but considering the money which has been spent on other policies in recent times, it’s very disappointing. What I find sad is that a lot of people online are very quick to defend the government’s decision, going so far as to demonise the children who are going hungry – or at least, the parents. A perspective born, no doubt, out of the misguided belief that people only become poor as a consequence of bad decisions.

I think about this and I think about the fact that a lot of people seem unwilling to do even the slightest thing in order to stop the spread of a life-threatening virus and I think, how did people become so selfish? But then when you think about it, a growing lack of empathy among the general populace isn’t particularly surprising. For a decade now, we’ve had the same government. A government which has seen the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. A government which has consistently voted against investing in public services which would benefit thousands of people and have cut back on many once great public institutions. They have, in essence, been openly selfish and they don’t even really hide it anymore. The things they say reflect the attitudes of people who believe they have an inherent right to be in power, while also taking no responsibility for the wellbeing of the average person.

This is a government that believes in trickle down economics, or the idea that ensuring that the richest get more and more money means that it will eventually trickle down to those at the bottom. Unsurprisingly, this is not a model respected by most economists. But you know what I think has trickled down? Their selfishness. They’ve taught people to think that poor people and minorities are the reason that there are problems in the country, so the average person then starts to think that other people in situations just like themselves are in that situation because of their own mistakes. They believe they’re better than the rest and that then breeds selfishness.

As much as I do have faith in humanity, people in general are very impressionable. The government has been like a disease, slowly making people more and more selfish… I’m just looking forward to the time when they reach their breaking point and realise what’s been happening, I can only hope this happens sooner rather than later and compassion and empathy become the norm once again.

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Donkey Kong Country (Game Boy Advance)

I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely adore all of the Donkey Kong Country games and the original is no exception. Rare did later make a Game Boy Color version of it, but, sadly, it wasn’t that good. In fact, it’s by far my least favourite way to play the game. Thankfully, a few years later, they also made a version for the Game Boy Advance and this version was very good and even improved on the original in some ways. Here’s a bullet point list of all the changes and what I think of them:

  • It is noticeable that there is a slight graphical downgrade after moving from the SNES to the GBA (although it looks leagues better than the GBC version). Colours are less vibrant and the world looks a little “washed out”. To me, this isn’t a huge problem, especially if you haven’t played the original in a while, but there are some people who consider this to be a really huge and unforgivable problem. I don’t think that’s fair.
  • Similarly, the sound capabilities of the GBA are not as good as those on a SNES. As such, the soundtrack has been partially reworked. Rather than trying to making them sound exactly the same, and noticeably worse, they’ve been redone. They’re the same songs, but they just sound a bit different. Most of the time, I think they sound like perfectly appropriate alternatives, though one or two felt a bit weaker.
  • All of the game’s sound effects are different too. I’m kind of indifferent on these changes. I think they sound just as good as the originals. A lot of sound effects from Donkey Kong 64 were reused, bringing the games closer together.
  • You can now save the game at any time, rather than just at certain points, which I see as a huge improvement.
  • There’s a nice little opening cutscene to give the game more of a story and the ending has been expanded. I was pleased with these additions.
  • Funky’s Fishing returns from the GBC version, but it’s been fleshed out and refined, making it much better. This is a really fun mini-game. You also now have Candy’s Dance Studio which is a fun, if somewhat bizarre, mini-game based around dancing by pressing buttons in tune to unique pieces of music.
  • There are lots of little details (like frogs and spiders) added to the levels, which make them feel more like living, breathing locations.
  • There’s an optional side quest based around collecting photographs throughout the levels. These are collected by defeating certain enemies and by collecting hidden cameras. Each one earns you a piece of artwork and I enjoyed collecting these.
  • They added a totals screen which you can use to keep track of all the bonus areas, KONG Letters and cameras you’ve collected. It makes getting 100% a lot easier.
  • This one is a semi-spoiler, so stop reading if you’re worried, but after getting beating the final boss and collecting enough of the collectibles, you unlock “Hero Mode” which is a harder mode where Diddy goes through the game without Donkey, wearing a new yellow outfit. This can make the game a fair bit harder at times and is a fun new mode.
  • The most disappointing thing is probably just that it didn’t take the few nice extra features from the GBC version and polish them all up. Other than Funky’s Fishing, they’ve all been forgotten, including the new level Necky’s Nutmare.

Overall, though it was held back partially by system limitations, the game has a lot of charm and adds lots of nice smaller details (I can’t get into all of them, but there are so many and I appreciated each and every one) in addition to several additions which significantly improve the overall game. Although the original version has since been released on handheld consoles, it did feel really wonderful to have Donkey Kong Country portable when it first came out. So my final thought is just that it is at least as good as the original, possibly even better.

Rating: 9.4/10

Buy it here.

Posted in Video Games | Leave a comment

Toxic Loneliness

There’s a certain type of content that I see shared on social media which reflects what I consider to be a very unhealthy attitude: it’s what I call toxic loneliness. So what do I mean by this? Well, I’m sure most people will have seen things like it. Posts along the lines of “I spend all my time thinking of my old friends, but they never stop to think about me” or “I’m one of those people who gets forgotten as time goes by and my friends just move on” they’re surprisingly popular sorts of things.

I dislike this content for so many reasons. First of all, it suggests a strong victim complex from the poster. They don’t know that nobody ever thinks about them, they’re just convinced that nobody ever does, because they think lowly of themselves. Then there’s the sense of entitlement: they seem to think that just because they spend all their time thinking about old friends, they deserve to have those old friends constantly reaching out to them. But… are they making the effort to reach out themselves? No. These attitudes usually go hand in hand with people being unwilling to reach out to old friends because they’re so afraid of rejection. All this kind of content does, in my eyes, is come across as passive aggressive – as if the people posting it hope that their old friends will see it and reach out to them out of guilt… but that’s manipulative. That’s shouldn’t be a factor in any relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that loneliness can be very distressing. I remember feeling similarly around the time that I left university. Lots of friends moved around them and I didn’t really have anyone local to spend time with socially. But the thing is, if you convince yourself that your old friends have wronged you by not keeping in touch better, you’ll grow to resent them and then the friendship will never properly recover. It’s important to recognise that there are many reasons that people don’t stay in touch, most of which don’t mean anything bad and, if treated maturely, also don’t mean the end of a friendship. People also often make the false assumption that a friendship is over because they haven’t spoken to someone in a year or two… what they fail to consider is that forever is a long time. You never know when your paths may cross again and wouldn’t it be nicer for two old friends to meet again, without one of them resenting the other for not always making the effort and keeping in touch as much as they do?

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Doctor Who: Love and War by Paul Cornell

In order to stop the Doctor Who series of novels from stagnating, the writers decided that it was time to mix up the cast of characters a little, just as would happen every few years or so in the TV series itself. The result was that in Love and War, the ninth novel in the New Adventures line, the character of Bernice Summerfield was introduced.

Bernice, or Benny as they call her, is a really huge part of the Doctor Who expanded universe and even has her own range of novels and audio adventures. Despite consuming a lot of Doctor Who EU media, I’d only come across the character on very rare occasions and never in particularly significant roles. As such, this was really my first proper introduction to her, which is good, because it meant that I was able to enjoy the novel as it would have been read by people back when it was originally released back in 1992.

Benny is a down to Earth person with a sense of humour. She feels very real and it’s nice to have someone like her to contrast against the very aloof Seventh Doctor. I quite liked seeing her interact with Ace as well, particularly as Benny is an archaeologist from the 26th century who specialises in the 20th century (Ace’s home time). She brings an interesting new dynamic to everything and is a very good addition. Of all the characters who have been introduced in the New Adventures range so far, she definitely stands out as the best one.

Ace is portrayed very interestingly this time as well. The novel really begins to explore the kind of toll that it would take on somebody if they were to travel with someone like the Seventh Doctor, who was constantly manipulating them and withholding information from them. We also get to learn more about her past and an old friend she used to have named Julian. I’m a big fan of stories detailing Ace’s life before she met the Doctor.

The Doctor is pushed to his limits this time and his manipulative behaviour goes really far. Too far, I’d say. He also comes across as severely unhappy – the various Doctors have gone through various low periods in their lives, but this definitely seems to be one of the bleakest portrayals of the Doctor. He’s painted as a very tragic figure, one who knows that he’s wrong to manipulate so many people to his own ends, but also one who doesn’t see any other way of defeating even greater evils.

I realise I’m quite far into the review without even really getting into what actually happens in it. I guess it’s just because the personalities and relationships were just so strong. To give a brief summary, the Doctor and Ace arrive on the planet Heaven because the Doctor wants to find an old book. Benny is also on the planet doing some research and behind the scenes, an ancient evil is lurking… one which ties into the history of the Time Lords. It’s a really interesting story and there are a lot of little references which tie it into various classic Doctor Who episodes in nice ways.

There are only two things I could fault about this book: the first was that the dramatic ending of the previous novel, Nightshade, is not addressed. This was quite disappointing, particularly as it would have had a huge impact on the relationship between the Doctor and Ace. The second problem was that there is a romance in it which, though well written for the most part, felt a bit rushed towards the end. Thinking about it afterwards, I could think of a way for it not to be too unrealistic, but it did feel slightly jarring as I read it.

Overall, I’d happily describe this as one of the best books in the New Adventures range that I’ve read so far. There’s a strong, interesting story with excellent, three-dimensional characters and plenty of little bits of fan service throughout. If you like slightly darker and more adult Doctor Who, then this is one that you’re going to love.

Rating: 9.1/10

Buy it here.

Posted in Book Reviews, Doctor Who | Leave a comment

Health Emergency

This time last week, I was starting to feel not quite right. I’d barely been able to pee at all, which is strange, because I love drinking delicious water and so I’m normally able to go fairly regularly and easily. Feeling somewhat concerned, I called the 111, the non-emergency NHS line. I spoke to a doctor and he assured me that the situation was not serious – he said if it goes on for a few days, then maybe I should call my GP, but he said I shouldn’t worry and specifically mentioned that I shouldn’t go to the emergency room at the hospital. Trusting in his judgement, I thought nothing of it and went to bed a couple of hours later.

The next morning I woke up and, generally felt the same as the night before. Other than being unable to start the day with my morning pee, I didn’t feel too bad. I saw my housefriend Sophie off to work and started thinking about the relaxing ways in which I could spend another easy-going day at home. Unfortunately, after I’d been awake for an hour or so I started to feel quite a high level of discomfort and before long it had grown into the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my life so far. I was writhing in bed and could barely stand up. I called the GP and asked to speak to a duty doctor – I was told somebody would call me before the end of the morning.

I writhed around in bed for the next few hours, trying to find a position that was comfortable. I even forced myself to make some breakfast, so I came downstairs and made a bowl of porridge (which was really hard to do!) Sadly, I was in too much pain to be able to eat it. I was also in too much pain to be able to read or to watch anything on my laptop. I waited for the doctor to call and it seemed to be taking ages.

At 11:55am I decided that the pain had grown to such an extent that it was now appropriate for me to call an ambulance for myself. I described what had been happening and the person on the phone said she didn’t think it sounded like a situation which warranted an ambulance. She said a doctor would call me to discuss what to do within three hours. Upon ending the call, I realised I had a voicemail from the duty doctor who sounded quite annoyed that I’d not answered when he called. He said to ring back as soon as possible. I did and the receptionist said he’d speak to me “sometime this afternoon.”

So, I was lying in bed feeling somewhat defeated and still in agony. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do, other than wait for a call. Thankfully, I was telling my friend Tulin about the situation as it unfolded and she told me that I needed to ask one of my friends to drive me to hospital. Weirdly, it had never occurred to me to ask anybody. Anyway, I decided to ask my friend Sarah and thankfully she arrived to take me about twenty minutes later. It was very kind and generous of her to do this for me and I appreciate it enormously.

I was a bit worried I’d be unable to come down to get in her car when I was in so much agony, because it was too painful even to get dressed. I just put a jacket on over my pyjamas and a pair of shoes. Strangely, Sarah somehow prompted a brief respite from the pain. It felt much less bad during the whole journey and I was actually able to chat with her along the way in only moderate discomfort. I guess my brain knew that I needed to get to the hospital and so it helped me to persevere for the journey. Either that, or it was just the healing effect of seeing a good friend.

Anyway, when I got into the hospital, the respite from pain was over and I was almost immediately barely able to even talk or stand. They identified it as an emergency and saw my pretty much immediately. I shan’t go into the details of the five or six hours I spent there and all the painful procedures I had to have done to me, but I was diagnosed with acute bladder retention. They said at the time that if I had waited much longer before getting treatment, I could have had serious liver damage. Looking online to read more about it, it’s even described as “life threatening” if not treated quickly – it’s crazy to me that I was told by two people that it wasn’t urgent and that one of them, a doctor, told me to wait a few days before calling my GP. It would have been so bad if I did this.

For the time being, I have to use a catheter, which can be very uncomfortable and my mobility was very diminished, though it’s been a week now and I am just about starting to get used to it. All going well, I’ll have it removed on Friday. It’s been quite an experience and I am very thankful to have good friends like Tulin and Sarah. My housefriend Sophie has also been very supportive and made it clear to me that it’s okay to ask for any amount of help, even if it were to mean helping me out of the shower or getting dressed. Thankfully, I have maintained enough independence to do those things by myself, but it is very heartwarming to know that I can count on her entirely.

I will probably write more about that day in future, but the biggest takeaway from this, for me, was that you can’t always trust what the doctors say. If they tell you that it’s not an emergency, but you know it is, you have to make sure that you are seen as soon as possible!

Posted in Anecdotes | Leave a comment

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

This is the sixth Mario vs. Donkey Kong game and the fifth to focus its gameplay around the Mini characters. I feel that when this game came out, a lot of people were getting tired of the series and weren’t really that interested anymore. This is a real shame, because in my opinion, this just might be the best one.

The story this time? Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and Mario chases after them, with a few Minis in tow. This might sound a bit basic, but it has a really good ending, it made me laugh out loud, so I can’t really fault it on this front. But it’s the game’s other features which I enjoyed the most.

First of all, there’s the presentation. Look at that title screen – has Donkey Kong ever looked so beautiful before or afterwards? I don’t think so and I look at a lot of pictures of Donkey Kong. The whole game simply looks a lot smoother and more polished than any of those which came before. Of course, graphics are only a small factor in the grand scheme of things, but I also loved the game’s soundtrack. I’ve always thought that Donkey Kong games tend to have some really amazing, calming, ambient music – unfortunately, this was not the case for the rest of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, which had fairly mediocre music, but in this game, its phenomenal. The game’s “Golden Palace Theme” is one of the best pieces of game music I know.

In terms of gameplay, it’s fairly similar to what went before, but this was already a winning formula – creating paths for the Minis to take so that they could get to the level’s exit and pick up as many collectables as possible while avoiding enemies on the way. Each level is a fun little puzzle and towards the end, they can start to get quite complicated. Finishing a level while collecting everything in it is very satisfactory.

One new addition to the game are Cursed Mini-Marios. These are Mini-Marios who have an evil little monkey Mini sitting on their head and making them behave as if they were enemies. They move around the level just like other Minis, but they’ll destroy any Mini they come into contact with (thus losing you the level). What you need to do is get another Mini to hit them with a hammer to destroy the little monkey, but it can often be hard to do this. You can’t win a level without liberating the Cursed Mini-Marios and making sure that you free them from their ‘curse’ adds an interesting new dynamic to levels.

What really makes Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars interesting, though, is the fact that it’s a sort of prototype Super Mario Maker. Other games in the series had given you the opportunity to create your own levels, but this one does something really interesting with it. From the beginning, you have the capacity to make some fairly basic levels. Playing through the game’s single player mode then gives you stars which you can use to unlock more items for level customisation. You could then share your levels online and if people enjoyed them they could leave you a tip – and the tip would be in stars (hence the title) allowing you to make more creations. It was a really lovely community and there were some lovely levels… unfortunately, with the ending of the Miiverse, this online level sharing service was discontinued and it’s a real shame. I loved it and played right up to the moment of its discontinuation.

The only real negative I have about this game is that there are no Donkey Kong boss battles. I always enjoyed these and it’s a shame that Donkey Kong’s role in the game has been somewhat diminished. Besides this, I think this game is great… or at least, it was. With the loss of its online features, I’d say it could no longer be described as the best Mario vs. Donkey Kong game, but for a while, it sat proudly on that throne.

Rating: 9.1/10

Posted in Video Games | Leave a comment

A Beautiful Moment

Last week Sony held a video showcase for games people could look forward to playing on the PlayStation 5. To be honest, it wasn’t really on my radar because I’ve always leaned more towards Nintendo and Xbox consoles – not that there aren’t good and exciting games on PlayStations. Anyway, as my housemate Sophie is rather more invested in the PlayStation than I am, we ended up watching the showcase together on our television.

As it happens, I’m very glad we did watch the showcase together because it lead to what I would describe as one of the most beautiful moments of my life. That may sound a little strange, and indeed, if I had told myself that the PlayStation showcase would lead to one of the most beautiful moments of my life, I’d have been sceptical. How could it? Why would it? It’s not like it’s a Christmas meal at Nando’s or a trip to go and visit an old friend.

Well, during the presentation, the game Final Fantasy XVI was announced. Nobody really saw this coming and it was a nice surprise (although to quietly toot my own horn for a second, I did say earlier in the day “Maybe they’ll announce Final Fantasy XVI.”) As someone who rather likes Final Fantasy, I thought that was pretty cool. I hope I get the chance to play it sooner or later as I’m sure I’ll enjoy myself. Sophie, on the other hand, had a different, stronger reaction.

Let me first give you some context: Sophie loves Final Fantasy. She has done all her life. She’s had fun playing the games during the nostalgic years of her childhood and as an adult, continues to enjoy the series and even draws from it to help inspire her creative writing. It helped mould her interest in literature and other media and has prompted her to go on to try lots of other things which she’s also loved a lot. It’s no exaggeration to say that Final Fantasy is one of the core pillars which makes up who Sophie is – she loves it and it is part of her identity.

So when Sophie saw the Final Fantasy XVI trailer, she was screaming with joy as tears poured down her face and she ran around the room with such overflowing excitement that she could not keep herself still. She even spilled her tea. I can honestly say that I have never seen anybody so happy and excited in my entire life. This is pretty significant, because I’ve seen close friends getting married before. I’ve had friends introduce me to new babies.

You might say to yourself, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a video game.” But to me, her reaction is very understandable. How many hours of her life have been spent playing each of the previous games in the series? How many times has a Final Fantasy game been there when she’s had a bad day? How many new things has she been introduced to thanks to Final Fantasy? How many interesting new writing ideas has it given her? Now, consider, Final Fantasy XVI will do all of this for her again. It’s wonderful news and she has a lot to look forward to. Anyone in that position would be so happy.

Sophie and I have known one another for almost seven years and lived together for over a year. We’re very close and to see somebody that I care about so much overcome with such a large dose of pure happiness was overwhelmingly heart-warming. That’s why I’d describe it as one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I can only hope that I get to see my other close friends experience such levels of happiness as Sophie did that night and that Sophie herself has many more moments of undiluted joy in her life going forward.

Posted in Anecdotes, Best Entries, Lovely Things | Leave a comment