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Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Armageddon-level spoiler bullet point thoughts

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I'm not joking, this is getting spoilered to high hell.

Right. I need to get what I saw of Star Wars: The Last Jedi down into something. I can't do Twitter because it's literally less than twelve hours since release so to say anything approaching spoiler territory, let alone actually spoiling a thing, would be suicidal. Same for Facebook. Needless to say, social media to discuss my thoughts, even brief outside something approaching 'OHMYGODINCREDIBLE' thoughts, is not gonna happen.

With that in mind, I'm gonna write down bullet point thoughts of what I seen last night and just process what I saw. This goes with the caveat that I mostly didn't go into it with a massive critical eye, that there is most likely a lot of recency bias here and excitement pre and post-viewing and a second viewing will happen next week to process what I seen and see things a bit more critically.

But I think I can say this before getting into the spoilered stuff that I fucking adored The Last Jedi, loved it. With that in mind, what you are about to read - in case this hasn't been made evident by now already - will be filled with spoilers. After quite a considerable chance to get out, everything, if not most things, will be spoiled for you. So get out if you want to be preserved before you see it. Or you've already seen it or just DGAF. Well, good for you. All the same, spoiler warning ends after the BB8 and Porg GIFs.

[SPOILER WARNING STARTS HERE]
















[FINAL SPOILER WARNING]






[SPOILER WARNING ENDS HERE - BUT HERE'S THE GIFS ONE MORE TIME FOR SAFETY AND ALSO BECAUSE BB8 <3]

  • Love they immediately jumped into the action. No waiting about, it went straight into it
  • In watching all eight Star Wars movies, I don't think I've seen self-sacrifice done as wonderfully as Rose's sister. It sets up her arc well and gives purpose and meaning to her character
  • This was a film which had actually a lot of comedic aspects to it, even down to Luke Skywalker nonchalantly throwing away his lightsaber. That shouldn't have been funny - but it just was. Even Chewie's bondfire dinner and eating a cooked Porg in front of live Porgs is actually a lot funnier than it was
  • Me pre-TLJ: I do not get this obsession over Porgs. Stop trying to make them happen, Fetch. Me post-TLJ: I LOVE THE PORGS AND I WILL DIE PROTECTING THEM IF I ABSOLUTELY MUST
  • "NO. FUCKING. WAY." I remember saying out loud to myself as I saw the outline of Yoda. Lo and behold, there he was. And I remember just smiling at the end of it after the subsequent conversation with Luke. It was pure fan service and I loved it
  • Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamil's chemistry together is just fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. It was evident even in promotional stuff for The Force Awakens, but coming together for The Last Jedi, it just completely clicked off the bat. It was wonderful.
  • The force connections at times between Rey and Kylo/Ben was odd to me at first, but as the movie wore on, it actually added more to the possibility of Ben turning - and maybe even the faintest possibility of Rey turning
  • I'm going to write this in bold to emphasise this: Kelly Marie Tran is the best thing about this movie. Or at least one of the two leading best things about this film. Rose is as pure a character as they come - grieving at the loss of her sister, but called into action near immediately to help Finn, it's clear she's loyal, caring, funny and . The Monaco-like planet where Rose and Finn head to to get the codebreaker, played incredibly well by Benicio Del Toro, shows Rose not easily impressed with what is going on around her, even disgusted, considering how the First Order ruined her family's livelihood and how those she's currently surrounding herself are those making massive paydays in the weapons trade thanks to the war. I can't stress this enough, but adding Tran was just a casting stroke of perfection and I can only hope whoever made the decision gets a bonus of sorts, if not a pay rise, for casting her. For Tran herself, her star will grow massively after this and it is well deserved considering she puts in a star-making performance. And for Rose, having not only a massive POC character in the Star Wars canon but the first major Asian representation in the films will do incredible wonders for not only little girls in the same way Leia and Rey have done, but for POC children. If nothing else, it's something Tran can truly, truly be proud of
  • Snoke getting killed off was actually a big surprise to me. I honestly didn't expect it to happen so soon. Likewise in turn, having it set up by Rey and Ben suggested maybe Ben is being turned
  • Holy fuck that lightsaber teamup between Rey and Ben on Snoke's personal unit was brilliant
  • In turn, the force fight between Rey and Ben (Kylo from here on out) was rather fun!
  • Kylo taking up the mantle of Supreme Leader from Snoke after Hux's objections was a hell of a Vader-like moment
  • Finn is underused a bit more than expected in the film, but still gets the job done when it shows with his partnership with Rose. And his battle with Phasma is brilliant
  • Saddened Phasma seems to be done now and killed off. It seems pretty conclusive anyway considering how she went out so I wouldn't put money on an appearance in Episode IX. It felt like there was a lot of potential in her character that didn't really get a chance to come out, I felt
  • As Finn is racing towards that big ass cannon that's firing up, I genuinely thought at one point they were actually going to kill him off. It actually felt like it was happening. Then Rose comes in with the save and crashes Finn off the path and I think, 'oh thank god' but then think 'DON'T YOU DARE KILL OFF ROSE ALREADY', especially after the moment had in the aftermath of the incident
  • Also: that sequence pretty much kills off any chance of Finn and Poe. Although the end sequence suggests the possibility of a love triangle between Finn, Rose and Rey. Hmm.
  • Luke's fight with Kylo, their final showdown, was fantastic, but kept thinking at first why isn't Luke going for Kylo in the same way Kylo was going for Luke. And then the reveal he actually isn't there but is rather a sort of force-like holographic representation (for lack of a better term) was rad. "I'll see you around, kid," was a hell of a way to sign off as Luke went the way of Yoda in a bit I really should have seen coming in hindsight considering what we seen earlier
  • Which brings me to the second best leading thing about this film and, like above, I'm going to bold this: I am going to miss Carrie Fisher so much. Her final appearance as Leia before Fisher's unfortunate and heartbreaking death last year is filled with conviction, joy and heartbreak in equal measure. I felt certain they'd kill off Leia especially at the start of the film. And it felt like they pulled the trigger on it when their ship was bombed our by the First Order and killing everyone onboard (salute to you, Admiral Ackbar *salute*). And yet, she somehow survives thanks to what appears to be the Force. As the end of the film approached, she comes back strongwilled and in need to do something drastic to escape the First Order's pursuit of the Resistance. Her face-to-face with Luke is an incredibly hard-hitting, emotional moment, especially when in light of the Resistance about to seemingly lose everything, and had me welling up hard as Luke kissed her forehead. And as the movie comes to a close, giving one final message of inspiration in that the smallest spark can inspire hope as we see a wide pan shot of the main cast before showing a small boy, seen earlier in the mission Finn and Rose were on, wearing the same ring Rose is wearing indicating she was resistance. And I near fell into tears knowing that not only the final word of the movie would also be the last time we'd hear Leia, but have be something so meaningful too. It hurts even more knowing Episode IX was meant to be Leia's film in the same way The Force Awakens was Han's movie and The Last Jedi was Luke's. There'll be no one quite like Princess/General Leia Organa again. And in turn, there'll be no one quite like Carrie Fisher again. Godspeed, our Princess, our General. May the force be with you
  • Rian Johnson proved his worth here and made a movie that was worth the build and more. Episode IX has an incredible lot to live up to, but Lucasfilm's decision to give Johnson a new Star Wars trilogy to be in charge of is looking like its already paid off in spades
  • JJ Abrams delivered greatly with The Force Awakens, but he now has an incredible load of pressure to get the landing right for this trilogy with Episode IX. I can only hope he sticks it
  • God, I've not even mentioned Laura Dern's turn as VA Holdo. Or Billie Lourd's low-key great performance as Lieutenant Connix

    TL;DR - This movie was fantastic and I realise there is an element of recency bias saying that along with blind excitement post-viewing, which is why I'll go have a second viewing next week to go into it with a bit more of a critical eye on things, but I feel absolutely, positively certain I loved this a lot, lot more than The Force Awakens. And I loved The Force Awakens too.

    See this film. Now.

 

Detroit: Become Human, The Last of Us: Part II and being desensitised to gratuitous abuse and violence

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[Content warning: This piece features talk of domestic abuse, child abuse and graphic talk of incredibly gratuitous violence. Discretion is advised]

Before I get into this, I should lay my cards out on the table here.

Detroit: Become Human and The Last of Us: Part II are games I am strongly looking forward to and therefore games I have a somewhat vested interest in. I've long been looking forward to Detroit since well before its official reveal at Paris Games Week two years ago, back when it was first shown in 2012 at GDC as a PlayStation 3 tech demo when a game didn't exist at the time. I felt that if Quantic Dream did a game based on that, they'd be onto a winner.

The Last of Us: Part II, well if you know me by now and seen the amount of things I've written on The Last of Us on this blog and elsewhere and listen to me speak of it, you'll know how much interest I have in seeing how this game pans out since its official reveal at PSX last year, even if I've long felt a sequel wasn't really needed and that The Last of Us 1 and subsequently Left Behind were a perfect one and done deal for me. Not to mention the fact that as well as The Last of Us being My Favourite Game™, Uncharted 2 lies in the lower end of my top ten games ever and that in three of the past four years, including this one currently, Naughty Dog's games have all been in my top ten games for the year (TLOU 1 at, well, one; Left Behind at four; Uncharted 4 at three and The Lost Legacy currently within my top five for the year as of writing this).

Needless to say, I am excited for Detroit, despite Quantic Dream's last game Beyond: Two Souls being a very bad game narratively and enjoying Quantic's other games in Heavy Rain (it's actually in my top ten games of the last generation) and Fahrenheit inspite of David Cage's writing and the final third going to shit in the latter. Needless to say, I am excited for The Last of Us: Part II despite the fact that maybe a sequel wasn't really needed in my eyes (even if it actually made business sense considering how much money it made and how many units it sold) or how, rather brazenly frankly, Naughty Dog casually threw off allegations of sexual assault recently.


[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtPmIBqRwQU&t=32s[/embed]

So lets cut to yesterday at Sony's massive European showcase event at Paris Games Week. Brand new trailers for both Detroit and The Last of Us: Part II, the latter the first sighting of the game since its reveal before Christmas last year at PlayStation Experience.

The Detroit trailer had our first real look at what Kara's story arc will be since the game's reveal over two years ago where she was front and centre of it after the Kara tech demo of 2012. In it, she is an android servant to a man named Todd and his daughter Alice. As the trailer progresses, after a brief setup, Todd becomes more unhinged and lashes out at both Kara and Alice in what is clearly domestic and child abuse respectively. Regardless of the fact that Kara is an android, it's the optics of it that still shows here: a man getting violent towards a woman.

The trailer shows many narrative branches this story beat could take, including escaping from Todd but leaving Alice behind, protecting Alice, taking Alice away from Todd and at the end of the trailer, showing Todd being shot by Alice as he's about to attack Kara.

At first viewing, I felt nothing but excitement seeing the trailer for it.


[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzdNECcio54&t=2s[/embed]

To close the show, Sony aired out a five minute cut-scene trailer for The Last of Us: Part II. In it, it showed a group of four main characters plus two henchmen for the antagonist of the trailer. At the start of the trailer, you see a female character dragged to where she seems like she's going to meet her death. She has her neck roped and seems like she's about to be hanged for whatever reason before the villain has a knife at her torso and seems about to cut at it when she, the villain, is alerted to another captured character being dragged by other cronies to their position.

When asked where another member of the group is, the second captured character spits in the villain's face. "Clip her wings," the villain says before the second captured character is held down and has left arm graphically broken for all to see and is about to have her right arm broken before the third member in the party volleys off several arrows at the henchmen and kills them before the main antagonist is murdered and eventually cuts to black when a group of clickers show up.

At first viewing, I felt nothing but excitement seeing the trailer for it.


It was after the fact and seeing the reaction to it on Twitter that it had dawned on me. Whilst most people was were rightly critical of the fact, I felt nothing. I was desensitised to these problematic things. Rather, I was just excited to see more from these games I'm excited to see more of and play. And that left me in a kind of spiral in a way.

It felt like double standards too considering, to quote what I said to two people last night on Facebook, if this was any other game, I would be slaughtering it. Instead, I felt like a bad person for having such a massive disconnect with what was shown and reading the room, so to speak, and as a result, feeling guilty for not feeling something else beyond nothing or excitement to what were rather shitty things to begin with with child/domestic abuse and gratuitous violence respectively.

I'm still going to be excited for the games I'm looking forward to playing. That can't nor won't change. I refuse to let that change. But in future, I will learn to temper my anticipation and excitement so I don't feel such a massive disconnect in future when I see such problematic content in games. The thing is it's okay for us to like entertainment which has problematic material.

A few years ago, I wrote how the Metal Gear series is my favourite franchise in games despite the fact that the series has problematic elements and how Kojima's writing of female characters, at least from MGS4 onwards, "is a massively serious problem." Of course, it's mostly moot now Kojima's left Konami and no longer involved with the Metal Gear series, though I will now go into how he handles female characters as an independent creator with a lot more critical eye than I did when I wrote that piece a few years ago, starting with Death Stranding.

We can all enjoy stuff which has problematic content. But on the flipside, we should be judgmental and critical of it. Nothing should be or is off limits to criticism. Whether it's the content or the creators who help make the content. At the very least, lets try and be aware of it, if nothing else, being there.


In the light of day, The Last of Us: Part II cut-scene trailer was brutal and uncomfortable. That, there is no question and was definitely aired out of context. I think that's what annoys me about it now in hindsight, even if the content in question was - again - brutal and uncomfortable. It makes sense in the actual world of The Last of Us considering how dark and grim it is and with more context to it, it shouldn't be as horrifying as it was yesterday, albeit I felt that may have even went a bit beyond what was expected from the series. But lets see how its used in the full game first within context at least.

But Detroit: Become Human's showing of domestic and child abuse towards Kara and Alice in the trailer was met with scepticism because David Cage is not exactly the best writer (again, I loved Heavy Rain and liked Fahrenheit inspite of Cage's writing, not because of it) and not exactly someone who's known to have a deft touch when it comes to most, if not all, serious human issues.

That skepticism has now amplified tenfold. From an interview, conducted at an event to celebrate Quantic Dream's 20th anniversary, by Martin Robinson published on Eurogamer earlier today on yesterday's trailer:

Domestic abuse and child abuse is quite extreme as these things go.

David Cage: Let me ask you this question. Would you ask this question to a film director, or to a writer? Would you?

Yes.

David Cage: You would ask the same question?

Yes. I'd ask the same question. Why is it interesting to you? Why did you want to explore domestic abuse and child abuse?

David Cage: Why did I want to do this? For me it's a very strong and moving scene, and I was interested to put the player in the position of this woman. I chose her point of view. If I'd have chosen the point of view of the man it could have been a totally different story and with totally different emotions, but in this case I chose her point of view. There's a context in the story, there's a reason for that - where she comes from and where she's going to go. What's important to me, and what's important in Detroit is to say that a game is as legitimate as a film or a book or a play to explore any topic such as domestic abuse.

I'm not disputing that at all. The concern I have is that it's using something like domestic abuse and child abuse - which is a very real issue for unfortunately far too many people - and using it as window dressing rather than exploring the ramifications of those issues.

David Cage: There will always be people thinking that we've used this... But I don't think that's what we do. If you look really into the game and if you play it you'll understand that the game is not about domestic abuse. It's a part of Kara's story - she's not a victim and she has a beautiful story. Hopefully you will be moved by what happens.

This just adds even more to the skepticism even more than it did yesterday. If anything, the Eurogamer interview not only actually significantly lessened my excitement for the game, but more importantly, it actually shows that Cage is putting in these issues of child and domestic abuse just for the sake of it, just for shock value in an attempt to further heighten his attempt on trying to tell a human story with androids when there are stuff out there that has done it better than what Detroit may do. Just look at Humans, Almost Human and Westworld. Even in games, there's Binary Domain and just this year alone, Nier Automata.

With The Last of Us: Part II footage, Naughty Dog and Sony deserve criticism for showing the video with no context, but at least context will be added when the game comes out. At least, that is the hope. But with the Detroit: Become Human trailer, and then today with the Eurogamer David Cage interview, it shows that that while games need to tackle these subjects, they need to be dealt with in a delicate and careful way. Right now, Quantic Dream and David Cage are not sending the best and promising of signals and messages in regards to Detroit.

(For victims of domestic and child abuse, if in need of help, please use these outlets. In the UK, call the 24 hour national domestic abuse hotline on 0808 2000 247 (for numbers elsewhere in the UK such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales plus numbers for LGBTQ victims of abuse, you can find those here). In the US, you can reach the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. For elsewhere in the world, domesticshelters.org has a massive list of resources for you to contact)

Life is Strange: Before the Storm: Episode One, Awake - We didn't start the fire... (Thoughts)

Erif klaw htiw em?

[With the return of Life is Strange with Before the Storm, I'm returning to my writing of the series as I did with the first main season of the franchise. Note that each entry, like before, will be spoiler-filled so only read if you've played it (or you DGAF, I don't care).

To read what I wrote about last time in 2015 in its entirety, hit this up.]

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Yeah, I noticed it immediately.

Not hearing Ashly Burch as Chloe was jarring at first and it was immediately noticeable. But after a while, I had gotten used to hearing Rhianna DeVries, Chloe's new voice actor, and it was pretty close to what Burch had delivered with her performance at times.

Burch, who'd reluctantly stepped away from the role because of the ongoing voice actors strike, is still involved in the game, remaining as a writer. But as replacements go, DeVries is a great replacement.

The new actors for other characters who were in the main first season two years ago were a lot more noticeable than DeVries' turn as Chloe, however. Joyce doesn't quite have the same twang in her voice nor does David's. Those were the things I found more jarring, actually, than Chloe's new voice actress.


We've dealt with grief in many different ways. We've dealt with it in emotional ways. Angry ways. Even in ways that are unspeakable. For me, when I dealt with that three years ago, it was more emotional to the point I had left myself incredibly vulnerable. It was needless to say hard, as I have written on here a few times.

How I coped with it was games. A lot of games. And Frasier. Because why not.

Chloe's coping mechanism in dealing with her dad William's death a few years earlier is a bit more different than mine: a lot more angsty with a no fucks attitude. As you go through the episode, you unravel more of how Chloe is dealing with that grief whilst simultaneously letting it manifest to the point of letting it boil over, as shown near the end of the episode.

It's an angst, no fucks attitude with a side of vulnerability that comes out when she smashes stuff in the junkyard. First lamenting what happened a minute or two earlier with Rachel Amber (we'll get to her), the leaving of her best friend Max to Seattle and the death of her father particularly.

Even after all these years, I can still relate to the frustration I felt when my mum died. It's still something that - and maybe this isn't something I should say publicly admittedly, but fuck it - eats at me in various ways. So seeing that side of grief from Chloe was something that stuck out for me in a scene that was just brilliant.


There's a good chance there are some people who read this have had a friend who they've skipped school with to do shit. I nearly did it once with someone who was then a friend of mine but we only went as far as around the corner from the school. I was too chicken shit, but he wasn't. So I tried to hide around in the school theatre for the remaining 45 minutes left of the school day. It failed.

(Tip: don't return to the scene of the crime)

Which is why seeing Chloe and Rachel skip school oddly bring back memories of me and said 'friend' trying to dob out from class ('dob' or 'dobbing' is a Northern Irish term for skipping class, but who knows what the kids use these days to express such plans) in an oddly refreshing way.

The chemstry between the two immediately clicks and just as refreshing as the relationship between Chloe and Max in the first season of Life is Strange. Equally, Rachel opens herself up to be more vulnerable than Chloe does.

The two truths and a lie game the two play on the train heading out of Arcadia Bay was a heavy test in whether you can trust what someone is saying or not. As the episode goes further and further in, Rachel and Chloe develop more and more where there is something immediately there between them. Whether that is a friendship or something more is something the game actually throws at you as a massive choice at the end of the episode.

You see that there's stuff about both of them that feels like they're fucked up that just makes them feel a perfect fit for one another, no matter what choice you make. The next two episodes will be key in how Deck Nine Games continue to flesh that out, but this lends itself to a promising start.


There was one word I could think of by the end of episode one - fire.

Fire as in the massive forest bush fire that Rachel seems to have started after kicking over a burning bin in a rage with a burning photo of her and her dad she had just set on fire.

Fire as in that weird, kinda supernatural dream Chloe has near the end of the episode where Rachel is somehow on fire.

Fire as in even before the game came out, for better or worse (or even jokingly), this was suggested as Life is Strange's version of Twin Peaks' Fire Walk with Me, only with Rachel Amber taking up the more prominent (and alive) role than the main series in the same way Laura Palmer did in FWWM than the main Twin Peaks.

Having played episode one through now to the end now, there are elements that do remind of that Peaks influence and there does - at least in my view - seem to be a trace or two from Fire Walk with Me. But to outright say Before the Storm is Life is Strange's version of Fire Walk With Me in a non-irony free context is doing it a injustice, albeit with one episode down and two episodes to go.

There's still enough here that it stands out on its own.  Here's hoping it stands out from that shadow even more in the next two episodes. That being said, it may not even be so much as it is less Twin Peaks and more a modern telling of Shakespeare's The Tempest (all three episodes are named after it and there are quite a few Tempest references in the episode).


Life is Strange: Before the Storm's lack of time-rewinding makes conversations and choices means the decisions you make have a bit more weight and permanence to them.

Its new talkback mechanic which sees you as Chloe have verbal one-on-ones with characters that also fits with her personality. For example, at the beginning of the episode, Chloe's comes up against a bouncer who won't let her in to see one of her favourite bands at what is otherwise a run down warehouse and filled with some of the shittiest people in Arcadia Bay, including a certain Frank Bowers from the first game.

Some of the responses you give are based on keywords mentioned by the person you're going up against. There are quite a few people in the episode you will have the talkback mechanic utilised, such as David and in a scene that involves Nathan Prescott after.

From this first episode, it feels easy to pick up on certain words and certain choices whereas with the two truths and a lie game played between Chloe and Rachel on the train, the game gave me reasonable enough doubt to pick a certain option. I'd love for the other two episodes to capitalise on that doubt and use it with talkback. But it's an interesting enough mechanic that it still works.


One of the big aspects of Life is Strange's first season was its soundtrack. It has for my money one of the best soundtracks ever in a game - licenced or unlicenced - and the way it used that soundtrack around certain scenes, from episode three's end with Mogwai's Kids Will Be Skeletons to the finale with Foals' Spanish Sahara (depending on what choice you made at the end) to Alt-J and Jose Gonzalez being played on Max's guitar, made it even more iconic.

Before the Storm's soundtrack this time is mostly original, with work entirely composed by band Daughter. That's not to say there won't be licenced works from elsewhere, but it is Daughter who provide the main crux of its soundtrack and score.

And from what the first episode contained in terms of music and samples, it works really, really well. I can't wait to listen to more throughout the series and to delve into the album when it comes out tomorrow (I think it's tomorrow?) but as first impressions go, it fits the tone of what Before the Storm is going for. Moody, dark, vulnerable. Just some wonderful standout stuff already.


It's one episode out of a three-part mini-series. But the first episode of Before the Storm was a home run for me. The story resonated with me big time, Daughter's soundtrack is just fantastic and Chloe's transition of Ashley Burch to Rhianna DeVries is surprisingly pulled off after a few minutes of getting used to it.

That's not to say it's perfect, it isn't. DeVries may have taken to her new role near immediately, but the newer cast for known characters didn't gel as well. And the controls in terms of the camera and character movement feel, for the lack of a better term, stiff.

Nevertheless, I'll admit that while I was excited for Before the Storm, I was still apprehensive about it considering Deck Nine Studios didn't have much narrative experience beforehand (in its past life as Idol Minds, it made PSN title PAIN and Cool Boarders). Not to mention the question that was a prequel entirely necessary?

The latter question is still up for debate, but the first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm near nails it. The season premiere sets up an interesting two episodes to come and I'll be going into episode two with a little less apprehension after this one.

Player statistics correct as of August 31, 2017

Talking about being bi/queer and all the other bits

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Pink. Purple. Blue.

[Hello. I'm a rubbish writer. I've not written on this blog in six months, thus ending my years-long streak of having at least one blog on here a month. Here's a big walloping one to follow up on my last blog posted here!]

A few months ago, I came out as bisexual. And I don't regret that. Except in one instance as part of the coming out period to a very small group of people. But I'll touch upon that further below. Basically put, with Pride Month starting to come to a head, I wanted to write about how I came out, why I ID as bi (and something else) and all the other things that came with it.

How I identify and the labels I use

I am a cis-gender white male who identifies as bisexual because it's an all-encompassing catch 22 term. It's better to refer myself as that rather than actual specific labels that suit me better that are under the bisexual umbrella. In fact, when I came out publicly, I remember asking a few fellow queer-identifying friends whether I was within my right to use the term queer despite coming out as bi.

In the end, I found bi was a better fitting label, but they all shared the sentiment that I could choose to identify as queer because it was within my right to choose it as part of my identity. At first, I identified primarily as bisexual and only lightly identified as queer, but now more and more, I'm starting to identify more and more as queer and bisexual - because hey, there's something empowering about identifying as queer (though I know some people still see it as a slur, which is fair game and an opinion that is absolutely and totally valid, but reclamation is a very important thing and for me, queer is part of that).

When I came out, the immediate family I came out to widely assumed that with bisexuality, it was a half-half interest into both male and female. Not quite. If anything, I still have a skewed preference for women. If I had to nail percentages, it's 70-30. While I do identify as bi, the specific label(s) I'd fit under as part of the bisexual umbrella is heteroflexible /heteroromantic. What do they mean? In a sense, it basically means that I am both romantically and sexually interested in women, but only sexually interested in men. That's not to say I won't ever rule out a relationship with a man, and it feels more likely than you may think. But for the most part, my biggest attraction is with women.

(this will also be the first time said immediate family finds out about specific preferences - hi!)

But because I have a preference in who I'd like to be with, romantically or sexually (or both), that doesn't make me any less bi or queer. If I like women more, that still doesn't make me any more straight. If I like men a bit less, that still doesn't make me any less gay.

Realising you finally had a label to fall under should usually be a relief. Obviously, I knew I wasn't straight beforehand - I've known since I think I was no earlier than 11 - and I knew bi would be a label I'd fit under, but I didn't know if I was deserving to have the bisexual label because of the fact I was merely only sexually interested in men, but both romantically and sexually interested in women.

I only discovered of the hetroflexible term and in turn the bisexual umbrella as part of Bisexual Awareness Week 2014 after seeing it posted on Twitter by two people I knew. And that's when everything finally clicked. I had found my label and felt I was more worthy of being a bisexual.

However, this revelation was not exactly something I was jumping for joy at. Not because of the thing itself, but rather outside events that were happening at the same time which affected my thinking at the time and was severely hampering one's mental health - primarily this (yeeeah, that was a fun time).

But the revelation I was worthy of being called a bisexual was a relief, as was the discovery of the specific label I fell under. But still, I was nowhere near ready to come out at that time. Especially with everything going on.

How I came out and the (massive) challenges they provided

It wouldn't be for another two years until I would actually come out to my first person, someone I've known for a long time, but had built a particular bond with over nearly the past year at that time. And I remember telling her and feeling a relief in telling someone. A kind of 'oh fuck' feeling even though I knew this person was going to be very accepting regardless. And she was when I told her on Halloween night last year.

The first two people I told were the two main people I wanted to tell, the others were on a kind of play it by ear basis. The second person I told, over the phone, was the kindest, understanding, accepting person I spoke to in coming out to someone. Out of anyone I came out to before doing it publicly, this person was the most important I had come out to. And I honestly couldn't have found a better person, a better friend to talk to about it.

Afterwards, I had sort of mixed results telling people. They were all kind and loving and accepting, but it was more the tone of what was said from most of them that kinda made me think twice. But there was one person in particular who I told in that group of people that would bite my ass big time when it came to privacy and trust.

To set the scene: from mid-November to mid-December last year, I had an incredible depression relapse. To say it was bad would be an understatement. It was incredibly awful that lots of stuff started swirling my head. I had a really bad depression episode one night. It was helped in part by my sister-in-law who I had an extensive talk to about things - including coming out to her (kinda out of necessity, but even then, I was still fine with coming out to her considering how brilliant she'd been with my mental health stuff) - but I was still kinda fragile that night.  After getting some food, I went into see my cousin, who also is also my neighbor, for no particular reason other than to get a hug.

She then came visited me soon after and, in private, I told her I was bi (note: don't reveal super incredible life revealing moments with your mouth near full of food). I felt I was okay in telling her that considering I was starting to rebuild trust with her again after a significant falling out years earlier that only started healing as my other fell ill.

Big mistake. But I'll rewind to that below.

About five weeks later in January this year, considering some situations stemming from the start of the year within the immediate family and something ominous said by my sister (who did not know about me being bi until after the fact) thanks to, lets say, 'outside family' and a really awful dream, it was clear I had to come out for two reasons.

1) - This was starting to have a damaging effect on my mental health greatly 2) - The ominous thing implied was that someone could use something against me thanks to outside family - like, say me being bi (this wasn't aimed at me, but the thought of having someone reveal me being bi was going to happen before I had a chance to do it). Either way, I was going to make sure this wasn't going to have this be taken out of my hands

I called in two people - the first person I had told I was bi last October and my sister-in-law who I told last December - to have a private meeting and discuss how it would happen. What originally was going to happen was I'd separately come out the same day to both my brother and his partner (they also happen to be neighbors) and then later in the evening go to my sister and come out to her (she lives on the other side of the city) and then publicly come out to all my friends and family who I hadn't told the next night on social media.

But somehow, they all managed to congregate in the same place at the same time without prior warning - my brother's - so a on the fly decision was made to do it then and there. After some nerves and a tiny bit of apprehension, I sat down on a sofa and, in front of my brother, sister, two sisters in law (plus respective children) and sister's boyfriend, just spat it out. And then came the gushy shite, through which my first thought was "please kill me". But in all seriousness, they were super supportive. Incredibly so.

The plan was to still come out the next evening still to everyone else on social media to any friends and family who didn't know - including my dad (one, I don't ever think I could have done that one face-to-face because of  sheer fucking nerves, but also two, he went off on a holiday to Spain without any warning a few days prior so *shrug*).

The day after I had come out to my immediate family, I found out my brother had actually been telling people beforehand when I said to him the previous day, 'don't say anything until I announce this proper'. He had told two of my uncles. That actually really annoyed me at the time, but whatever, it was a few hours difference (we're talking three or four hours when he told me). But what I had also found out was something more dramatic.

Remember when I said I came out to my cousin in December last year? Yeaaah. Turns out I really shouldn't have. Despite implicit warnings of disowning her if I found out she told anyone before I came out, considering the trust being built between me and her again, it turns out her dad - my uncle - actually knew of me being bi before anyone else in my family, telling my brother he already knew. And I certainly didn't tell him. Either she told him or she told her mum (we'll get to her) who then told him. And without knowing for sure admittedly, I wouldn't put it past her to have said it to other people as well before I came out.

Anyway, that evening, I came out publicly (the first link at the top of the post is the same text I used to come out to people on Facebook as well as using that blog post primarily for Twitter). And that was that. The reaction was incredible and positive. Me, I was in a massive anxiety spiral after posting with numerous panic attacks during the night, but it all cleared the next day.

The only negative response came six weeks later.

My aunt - the mum of that cousin I shouldn't have come out to - called me two homophobic slurs, gayboy and the f word (I ain't repeating it) after, long story short, verbally getting into it basically with said cousin's fiance.

To date, thankfully, it's been the only instance of homophobia I've had. But I realise there are others, particularly women and POC in the LGBTQ family, who've had it worse off than me. I'm trying - and going to keep continue trying - to support them. Not just out of solidarity, but because it's the most basic human thing to do - queer or not.

The aftermath and how being bi/queer makes me feel

In the six months since I've come out, what have I learned? I've learned that it does get easier with time as a few people pointed out. That coming out was one of the best things I've ever done and that I don't regret doing it at all, if albeit I would have done some things differently (like have tighter control on who I told). That seeing fellow friends and acquaintances talk of being queer on Twitter and Facebook genuinely makes me super happy and in a way kinda excited, knowing there is so much love in it. And that talking queer stuff with friends and other people makes me happy and excited in the same way games and other things I like do. It's wonderful.

If I can end this on one final note - it's this.

If you have a fifty-fifty split on liking both men and women or have a certain split ratio such as liking men more than women as a man and vice versa as a woman, whether you like the opposite sex more than same sex or whatever, you are valid enough. You are bi enough. You are queer enough. And how you choose to identify as such is yours to choose because, no matter your sexuality, you matter.

<3 xxx

Hi, I'm bi

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Yeah.

Note: The following below is the same thing I've just posted on Facebook. I'm too nervous to write two different things for social media and a blog, so here it is.

It's hard to adequately find the words to be able to say this right, so I'm just gonna go ahead and rip the bandaid off here and now.
 
I'm bisexual.
 
For a long time, since I was 12 or 13, I've suspected I've not been straight. But it was two-and-a-half years ago I've been able to put a label on it. And the fact this happened at a time too when my life was in the shiiter as it was was...well, not exactly the best. Having to deal with your sexuality whilst dealing with an ill parent who'd subsequently pass was not ideal timing. But there we go.
 
However, at that time, I found a label. And well, it's a very specific label under the bisexual umbrella (that's a thing - look it up). I'm not going to elaborate on it publicly, but if you want to message me about it, door's open. I'm happy to talk about it (mostly).
 
It's only recently I've started coming out to people about it. I had the pang to tell someone for a while, but it was only last Autumn - Halloween night, specifically - where I first told someone. I've since told friends that I trust implicitly as well as outside family, perhaps to mixed success.
 
But the truth is that while I've wanted to tell people for a while, I've now also had it kinda forced out of my hands thanks to a situation I won't elaborate on.
 
But needless to say, it's time anyway. I've had this on me for a long time and I'm getting weary from it. It's time. And I won’t have this taken out of my hands or be a detriment to my health – both mental and physical.
 
Yesterday, for the first time, I told some of my immediate family. And well, the reaction was essentially as I expected – stupid gushy shite. And, well, gushy after saying something incredibly important and revealing is not exactly something I deal well with considering I then end up red in the face and slightly embarrassed. But yeah, embarrassing gushy nonsense aside, I was delighted with how it went. They’re an alright supportive lot.
 
To the majority who will only be finding out for the first time reading this, I’m not sorry about that. I told only people who I felt I was comfortable with. It’s only now I’m finally going public after gathering enough courage to do it. Plus, I don't exactly trust a whole lot of people (it's only recently too I've had that trust recently burnt, but that's for another day).
 
A long time ago, I used to, naively, feel that maybe it was easy to come out in that now that we’re in accepting times, we wouldn’t have to go through it like as if we were pulling teeth. Now that I’ve gone through this, this is absolutely not true. While it’s definitely a lot easier to come out as a LGBTQ person and while progress for LGBTQ people to be accepted has come a long way even in the past decade, let alone since I was born, I still feel I was such a shitheel for thinking it was so easy for other people to come out. In truth, it isn’t. Hopefully, we’ll get to a point in the future where coming out isn’t this huge thing and that going out with someone of the same sex is seen equally as going out with someone of the opposite sex.
 
I’m not gonna name names, but there’ve been three people especially over the past few months who’ve been nothing short of incredible with me in terms of their advice, guidance and support.
They are amazing people and I will make it up to them in kind – promise. I hope they know who they are.
 
Sounds like a good place to leave it there, I think. Like I said, door’s open if you want to chat shit about this or anything.
 
Thanks for reading. x

Tick Tock

Tick Tock

The rush as you get dressed, just 90 seconds earlier getting the phone call at just before 6:30am on a Thursday telling you to come up, quickly put your jeans and shoes on, to rush to wake up your oldest brother and tell him it was time. The nerve-wracking ride up the hospital and trying to find a parking space before entering the hospital and eventually the room. The anxious wait as you sit there with your family, waiting for the moment to come. The silence killing you more and more as each passing moment goes, listening to the machines whirling away keeping someone alive despite being in a partial coma. Even the sound of tears and crying from other people in the room is the smallest comfort to you, knowing you don’t have to, at least for a few seconds, listen to the background noise of respirators and breathing equipment.

Tick Tock

The smell of toast and tea filling the room, the breath of smoke too. The former you love, the latter you hate. The sterile smell of hospital, however, is much worse, so you accept both of them at least this once. The rustling of paper as you flick through that day’s copies of the Daily Mirror, the Sun, even the Daily Star and one of the local papers in an effort to distract yourself from what was about to happen at some point. The mindless yonder of going through phones and reading Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for that same reason. The need to distract yourself by any means is strong and you take it, whether it be another dozen baby pictures on Facebook or reading right-wing newspapers, where Indyref was in the not too distant past and Brexit and ‘President Trump’ were still things in the far flung future.

Tick Tock

The need to escape the room for ten or fifteen minutes as you sit with your second oldest brother, who called you earlier to come up, in his jeep and sitting in near absolute silence, the only thing breaking it is the sound of the rain lashing down on the roof and windscreen. The thoughts going through your head as you sit there, thinking what you could have done differently. Could you prove to her you’d be alright if, God forbid, the worst happened? Could you have done more to show her how much you cared? Was she proud of me? Could you have been a better son?

Tick Tock

The influx of people outside immediate family starting to come into the room and - whether in minutes, hours or even days - sit and wait as the inevitable happened. The mood suddenly changing from sombre to a bit more jovial as people reminisce memories and stories, making things a lot more bearable than the silence of earlier in the morning. The smell of smoke is heavier than earlier, however. The worry is there, though, on whether the head nurse will kick people out for there being too many people in the room at once, even if these are people who have a case for being there anyway.

Tick Tock

The smell of mashed spuds, beans, sausages and other food in the hospital canteen as you and your sister-in-law go and gather lunches for most of the immediate family and those who hadn’t eaten at all and have that be a nice distraction, perhaps slightly jovial with a bit of banter. The mood dramatically dropping as you walk back in the room with said food and find the priest just start giving, for the second time in two months, Last Rites. The emotion on display is a lot more evident than this morning, though there’s more people in the room than this morning. The sound of tears and sobbing minutes earlier is filled after by eeery silence. The humming of medical equipment, the nurses and doctors talking and walking up and down the ward, the sound of televisions in other rooms are the only other noises in the background for approximately twenty minutes.

Tick Tock

The weariness, the exhaustion and the lack of energy are all starting to creep in. The waiting room down the hall is your only sanctuary right now to get some sleep. The jacket you wear is your only blanket, nothing else being around you. The best you can manage is one hour or two hours at a time. The Big Mac with just red sauce and chips from McDonalds you asked for dinner is the only sustenance you can manage, barely able to eat the food from earlier in the day, and even then, you can’t even finish that. The waiting room empty again, you try and get more shut eye, during which, a non-immediate family member Snapchats your sleeping carcass (you’re not told of it until after the fact). The sound of being woken up again by a family member asking if you want supper back from the chippy, to wit, you get curry, chicken nuggets and chips which you barely eat not in the waiting room, but in the actual patient room, which you go back up to now fully awake - to your disdain - and find there’s still a packed room of family members on both sides of the family passing around stories and just talking about the family business.

Tick Tock

The sound of silence reverberating around the ward as all the non-immediate family have all gone home for the evening whilst others patients get their sleep while the only people left in the room is a rotating cycle of immediate family while another sleeps down in the waiting room. The best you can manage in regards to sleep again is, at best, half an hour in an uncomfortable mattress on the floor in the room before heading out the room to go to the now-empty nurses desk, sitting next to the entrance of the ward. The only noise which emits during the night being the buzzer to let someone back in if they went out for fresh air. The tedium of reading the previous day’s papers is compounded even more by reading weeks or even months old gossip magazines. The desperation for time to pass if sleep isn’t to happen is strong when all your reading materials from weeks and months ago get you through three or four hours to at least 6 or 7am.

Tick Tock

The relief when you are told you can go home is palpable, albeit bittersweet and majorly guilt-ridden after feeling that brief bit of said relief. The awareness of you knowing you should still be there, but you’re so exhausted, so anxious and so sick of being in the hospital for 24 continuous hours by that point that you’ll take any time you can to get out of there, selfish as it is. The additional half-hour you sit waiting in the room and reading the day’s papers to pass time even further before you finally get to go home. The instruction you lay out before you leave - call if there’s any updates - is said with a lot more authority than anything you’ve ever said to anyone you’ve ever met in your entire life to that point. The kiss you leave on her forehead, not knowing if it’d be the last one she’d ever get from you alive rather than the two additional ones she got before the end came.

Tick Tock

The small relief you have in sitting at home, alone, is telling, the small bit of happiness you get in seeing your dog climb all over you having not seen another human for 24 hours - or at the very least, someone in his family - is knowing and the respite you get from being in that hospital - a building you never ever want to be in again for a sustained period of time - is of a tiny bit of comfort to you.

Because the next four days are going to be hard for you, so take all the time you can get.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Diagnosis: Depression and anxiety

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[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIzrcgbsi3s&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

(For the sake of disclosure, there's one part in the video I took out which I thought I was ready to reveal, but I'm not quite there yet to talk about. I will at some point, though. Sorry about the length by the way)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 4:00pm (the appointment)

All I could think of beforehand was the nerves. Why was I so nervous when this is something I had wanted and actively sought out for? Yet, sitting in the waiting room of the GP's office - for the record, I had my sister-in-law there too with me for support (actually my brother's partner's sister, but I usually go with in-laws because it's easier and because of the amount of time my brother and his partner have been together) - was perhaps one of the most anxious things I'd had ever felt and certainly one of the most dread-filled days of my life.

"Jonathan P Cullen - Room 3, Dr Doherty," the electronic sign then flashed up. Given final words of encouragement by said defacto in-law, I went to the door, took a second or two to take a few breaths, knocked and in I went.

After a few minutes back and forth on stuff and why I may have what I have, I got the diagnosis: depression and anxiety.


Since the start of the year, I've been in a rough spot. mentally. Next month (a month today actually as of this going up) will be two years since my mum died. As I wrote last year, I wasn't exactly in the best place then, but this year has severely taken its toll on me mentally.

I've not had the passion in me to write as much as I wanted to, whether personally or professionally, and I've had little to no need to do the things I love. Even playing games, the one thing I could usually hold up as the thing I could use whenever I needed them for both fun and as a thing to help me cheer me up, wasn't attracting me anymore. That was perhaps the first sign something was majorly wrong.

Not only that, I was not who I was as a person anymore. I've become more and more closed off to the world. I was shutting myself away from the world and becoming a massive reclusive shut-in. I'd only leave my house if and only if I absolutely had to. Now I've always been a reluctant person when it comes to trust. I don't trust a whole lot of people thanks to two people: a major family fallout with a cousin of mine a few years ago (we've since made up, but the relationship isn't as it was back in, say, 2010 or most of 2011) and someone within the games industry in 2012 - I trust my main family only by necessity and I could count on one hand the amount of people I trust outside my family - but more than ever, this year was especially hard for me to open up to people.

And also because of my closed off nature, I was becoming more anxious, depressed, lonely and certainly a lot more grumpier and angrier than I was ever in the old trope of 'Old man yells at clouds' thing. I am 25 years old turning 26 in January. Something had to give.


Monday, October 3, 2016 - 12:40pm (the first tablet)

I was prescribed anti-depressants by the GP the day I went to see her and was planning to start taking them the following morning. Except... I couldn't. As silly as this sounds, I wasn't ready then. This wasn't painkillers or a course of antibiotics over a two week period.

This honestly felt like a big deal to me. I was then asked by several members of my family that day who knew of my prescription if I had taken my first tablet. While I did answer in the negative, I was also annoyed with that question. Mainly because it's no one's business whether, when or if I take it nor should it be anyone else's business in regards to their meds (if you're open with yours, fantastic, but I'm not that sorta person who's open with the exception of this blog and subsequent video with this sort of thing). I remember saying something along the lines of 'I need space' so I can be ready.

After an otherwise decent if not okay remainder of my Thursday, I had planned on the Friday being a mental health day: seeing a movie in the cinema, buy a game, buy silly treats for myself that make me happy. Instead, I got a text from someone: it was my defacto sister-in-law who was there with me in the GP telling me to start taking my medication. That and then having my head screamed off by another family member really made me feel like shit that morning, followed by subsequent anger that near enough ruined my self-care day.

No-one should never - and I mean NEVER - tell you this in any way at all. I knew I'd have to start at some point and I knew once I started, I couldn't suddenly stop. But I had to will myself up to it and at that point in time, that text completely soured my mood to the point I had to delete it because every time I looked at it, I was just pissed off.

The following Monday was the day I decided to start taking my meds. I remember looking at the tablet for what felt like forever, thinking once I started, I couldn't just stop if I wanted to and go cold turkey (don't do this, it's massively dangerous - if you're looking to get off antidepressants, talk to your GP first). This felt large to me. After five or ten minutes looking at the damn thing willing myself up, I took it and down it went. Done.


Sometime in April, I remember having a kind of mental health breakdown on Twitter just spewing stuff about anxiety and knowing at that point I really should go and see someone, a professional. But I was so spent in a sense - not necessarily of energy, though it's still kind hard to explain what I mean by that in writing really - that I just didn't have it in me to go see someone.

I remember the same night I got a Twitter DM from someone. They had sent a message saying how they went through the same thing I did in trying to will up the strength and energy to see someone before they eventually ended up going. That message has been in and out of my head for a while whenever I think back upon the middle half of this year.

But it was only in July where things got to the point of hard times.


Thursday, October 6 - just before 9:00pm (the near panic attack)

I woke up from a nap drenched in sweat, near pins and needles on my arm and my chest slightly tightened. I could sense that a panic attack was coming. I couldn't really sit through it by myself nor did I want to. So I seeked out my brother's partner, who is also my neightbour, and asked if I could sit with her for half an hour to an hour, just in case anything did happen.

Perhaps watching an episode of The Fall didn't help in easing said fears, but otherwise, there was no panic attack. Unfortunately, it only delayed it approximately eight hours.


For most of July and August respectively, I was in a really, really bad place mentally. To be crystal clear here, I was not suicidal, but at the same time, such was my mood, my energy, my outlook on life in that period of my life that I felt like I wished people would leave me be and just let me wither away in peace. I had no positive outlook on my life at that point.

I had no desire to do things I love like write professionally (I've not written anything games related to date this year and I'm taking a break from games writing until I'm ready to go again) or personally on this blog (most of the blog posts you've seen on here since the start of the year has felt phoned in because I felt I had to hit a quota in my head of posting at least one blog on here a month), no further desire to make more episodes of My Favourite Game  (I'd planned to make a few additional episodes that weren't a full season for the end of the year, but those aren't happening anymore - instead Season 5 will drop next year as is), no further desire to do things I love like playing games, going for a looping walk around the town centre of Derry across the Peace Bridge, no further desire to do near anything beyond looking after my dog and feeding myself. That was it.

At that point, something had to change. I had another mental health breakdown on Facebook when someone came to me in PMs who has since become one of my biggest go to people if I ever need to vent about stuff. And considering my untrusting nature, that was a bit of a win for me. Even moreso when considering we've never been in the same place at the same time (though we will eventually - that's a promise). In one such message sent to me, I was asked if I had ever thought about seeing someone. It wasn't the first time someone asked. And it was of course something I had thought about a lot before. But it was the first time where I felt like I'd gotten to a stage where I felt it was time to seek help after being asked the question.

I was finally on the cusp of doing such a thing, finally at the point where I was starting to will myself on to get the help I wanted and needed. But then, something happened which dragged up feelings of two years ago that were still a bit raw for me.

Another round of the grieving process began: my mid-90s grandmother had passed due to illness. And while I managed to get through that a lot better than, y'know, perhaps the month-to-six week period after I lost my mother, it still made me think a lot of that time when I had to go through that unspeakable period.


Friday, October 7 - around 6:50am (the actual panic attack)

I woke up roughly around 6am with what still felt like pins and needles in my arm with my chest slightly tightened, but moreso than it was a few hours beforehand. I went outside to get some air and to take a small walk around my house and the 100 metres it took to get to my gate in my PJs (it was 6am and considering how shit I was feeling, I think I could get away with it).

But it didn't help. I tried breathing out as much as I could from my chest, but it was laboured. And every time I did it, my chest got tighter and tighter. Just as I got to the back of my house and outside our kitchen windows, I basically went dizzy in the eyes and just collapsed on my back and just remained there for a good five or ten minutes, giving way to my first major panic attack in well over a year. Whereas a year ago, I figured out why I got the panic attack then, I still don't know why now I got the attack I had this past Friday.

Needless to say, a fun experience.


Around the middle of last month, I had an unexpected talk with my sister, at that time set to head to Mexico on holiday. It was a lengthy chat, moreso than I expected. It was something in the ballpark of half an hour long. It was just the two of us standing outside her car talking family stuff and me and how I've been these past four or five months especially at that time.

It was a surprisingly encouraging and gratifying chat to the point that I decided to call someone who I trust immensely and have known for nearly the better part of a decade and talk to on the phone for an hour. Beforehand, I wouldn't have reached out to anyone if I hadn't had that chat.  I'm not very good at that, in fact, very bad. But if it weren't for that conversation earlier in the day, I wouldn't have had that cathartic phone conversation. And if I hadn't had that, I wouldn't have had enough in me to finally get an appointment sorted to see my GP.


Today is World Mental Health Day. I was not aware of this fact until earlier this morning. And while I knew that I definitely wanted to share my story sooner than later, I had planned on waiting a few more weeks considering the GP visit was only two weeks ago.

But if this story helps anyone at all and it encourages them to go see their doctor or GP about depression on World Mental Health Day, it'll be worth it.

Seeing the GP to get a diagnosis for depression and anxiety was one of the hardest things I've ever had to in my life. It is such a life-changing moment and somewhat bittersweet. But I don't regret it one bit now. I asked for help. And I'm glad I did.

Right now, I'm on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Citalopram specifically. I also asked if I could be put on the list for CBT and counselling, though I was told it'd be a few weeks before I'd hear anything back on that. As of writing this, I still haven't heard anything on that.

I'm also starting to take in more mental health resources online through websites (I have Buzzfeed's mental health section and a Twine-made self-care checklist sent by a friend already booked) or Twitter. Following Esquire's Sammy Nickalls has a god send to me about my MH. She's been open about mental health to the point it started making me feel good seeing other people be open about their struggles with mental health using #TalkingAboutIt. I'm still gathering resources and I feel like I'm barely just starting, so if you're reading this, please by all means, send some stuff my way on Twitter.

There will never be a time where I will feel cured of depression and anxiety. You just have to treat it as best you can. And lets be clear here, you will still have bad days. But if you manage it well and treat yourself well, the bad days will reduce significantly in number.

A few years ago, a friend of mine and someone who has been the biggest influence on my career, posted a video that perfectly represented depression and anxiety on Facebook. I see it now and then and is a perfect analogy for mental health. I've posted it below.

If you have the black dog of depression, don't let it control you. Manage it and become you again.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc[/embed]

Thanks to Korina Abbott, Kristin Knillmann and my sister Joanne for finally giving me the push and inspiration to finally go see my GP and get an official diagnosis.

If you feel you need to talk to someone, reach out to family or friends. Or in lieu of that, in the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (in Northern Ireland, the number is 0808 800 8000 or call 116 123 in the Republic) or Mind on 0300 123 3393. If you're in the US, call the US National Suicide Hotlines at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For mental health help services for the rest of the globe, please visit this guide here.

Toast

toast.jpg

Crispy, crispy toast.

You know what I haven't had in a long time? Toast. It probably doesn't help that since Ma died, we've not had a toaster in the house. I don't know what happened to it: whether it broke or whether it just disappeared off the face of the planet, the answer will always a remain a mystery.

I mean sure, I can always go to a cafe that does breakfast and ask for a few slices, but pay £3 or £4 for the privilege? Nah, I'm good.

Then again, it has been a while. I guess I should just have them. Even if they're going to cost me. Just thinking about it is making me slightly hungry now for toast.

Toasty toasty toast toast. TOAST. TOOOOOAST. T.O.A.S.T TOOOOOAST.

[I wrote this because I wanted to write something , anything, that meets my quota of having a post on here once a month at least, even if it's absolute banal horseshite coming out of my proverbial mouth. Like this. Blame Carli Velocci (@Velocciraptor) for the article idea. And this isn't the first time I've written something so stupid either.]

The Catalyst of Women's Wrestling: Bayley - Sasha Banks - one year on...

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The true revolution.

It's insane how much it can't be stressed how much Saturday, August 22, 2015 was a catalyst for women's wrestling in WWE. Actually, not so much a catalyst as it was THE catalyst.

Reading that sentence sounds like a lot of hyperbole and I wouldn't blame you if you thought that. Except that hyperbole feels justified in this instance. It's worth noting we've had excellent women's matches before Bayley and Sasha Banks' incredible barnbuster a year ago today at NXT Takeover Brooklyn, whether on NXT (WWE's developmental/"indie" brand) or the main roster long before the pair were in the WWE.

Even in the six months before that match, there were at least two women's match of the year candidates in the Fatal 4 Way between the Four Horsewomen (the group of women wrestlers who led the women's division at NXT for a two-year period - Bayley, Sasha, Becky Lynch and Charlotte) at NXT Takeover Rival and Sasha's incredible championship match against Becky Lynch at NXT Takeover Unstoppable. Such was the quality of the latter that it could have been argued as a contender for outright MOTY, let alone women's MOTY.

It's why the recent WWE 24 documentary on the women's division and the origins of the division, the rise of WWE women's wrestling pioneers Trish Stratus and Lita at a time where the division was anything but about the wrestling, the era of the divas and the birth of the Four Horsewomen within NXT and the WWE main roster is such a great watch and shows the massive night and day difference in the past fifteen years. It was refreshing to hear the likes of Trish and WWE co-owner Stephanie McMahon talk of the difficulties of being a female talent in a time where the division was about bikini contests, bra and panties matches and 'puppies' (ugh).

But the reason why Sasha Banks and Bayley stand out here is, besides their incredible match in Brooklyn, they merely know: what came before in the past and how they want to go about changing the business for the future. They know this - and can do this - because, their obvious talents aside, they're the biggest fans of all as two girls who said in the past they'd wanted to become wrestlers at 10/11 years old. They care because they grew up loving wrestling. It shows in their work and ethic, as well as chemistry for each other both in-and-outside the ring. Even look at Bayley during her title reign in helping to develop other wrestlers in NXT: Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, even Eva Marie (who, lets say, does not have the best reputation).

Said Sasha in the WWE 24 documentary: "When we were in NXT, we called ourselves 'Average Janes' because we were just average. Just loving and so excited for what we were doing."

In building to their match at Takeover last August, they had The Boss (heel/baddie) gain the NXT Championship in the Fatal 4 Way at Takeover Rival and start her build by having TV matches for the title with Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch and Charlotte (the latter numerous times).

The build for Bayley (face/goodie - and she is a true-blue goodie in every sense of the word), meanwhile, was a slower burn that goes way back, but one that paid off in chunks. Cageside Seats has a fantastic series ongoing which chronicles Bayley and does a better job of describing it than I ever could, but also shows why perhaps out of anyone in the Four Horsewomen, she could be the woman who could lead the women of WWE in the future (warning: I'm a massive Bayley mark, so take that at much face value as you like), so I highly advise you check that out.

But the shorter version is this, starting from Takeover Rival: loses the Fatal 4 Way despite being so close to winning it, ends up in a feud with fellow superstars Emma and Dana Brooke which stretched out a bit - including a Takeover Unstoppable tag match with Charlotte as her partner - takes time off from a broken hand before coming back in a series of matches to show she's worth champion material, including a feud-ending match with Emma plus separate matches with her fellow horsewomen Charlotte and Becky Lynch in a number one contender's match respectively. All of which she won.

It's worth noting too the incredible contract signing between the pair. It's a huge part to the build and absolutely can't be ignored. Bayley's nervousness and slight stuttering at times (something not there in her contract signing with current NXT Women's Champion Asuka for her recent match at Takeover Brooklyn II this past weekend thanks to her fantastic character development in the year since), Sasha's taunting of Bayley to the point she just snaps and we suddenly see that passionate side of Bayley, an edgier side not seen until that point that showed that she could end up doing this. One of the best contract signing segments in WWE, if not NXT.

And not to mention the video package before their match which is up there with even the best promo videos in the WWE, such as Rock-Austin at WM17.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygBswu7QSfA?rel=0&showinfo=0]

If you're someone who's been interested in getting into wrestling or want to know more about the Four Horsewomen, get watching it now on the WWE Network. When I see people who say they want to get into wrestling, either for the first time or after a long time way, I immediately point to this match because it's perfect for newcomers and ticks near enough everything to be an absolutely incredible match to the point it's the best women's match in WWE ever and quite simply one of the best ever matches full stop.

But the reason it's absolutely the best women's match in WWE history and one of the best matches of all time regardless of gender (it's my favourite wrestling match ever, in case that still hasn't been made clear by now), is because of the clash of ideologies, psychology, the chemistry, the spots and move-set, the rivalry between the two built up over a two-year period. The pair deserved - and still do deserve - most of the plaudits and applause for the match they gave, but part of the credit has to go to the NXT creative team (led by 14x WWE champion Triple H, now also a WWE exec leading the NXT brand) too for putting together a slow-burning feud that gave an absolutely incredible payoff and perhaps gave the brand its Daniel Bryan moment in having Bayley win the title.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkn8XgWxJdA?rel=0&showinfo=0]

The reason why it was such the catalyst for women's wrestling in the WWE from that match forward all comes to one simple thing: it showed at an event where there were more eyes on the product than ever before, both at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York and watching at home on the Network a year ago, that women can put together five-star matches and not just be relegated to mere eye candy. It showed women's wrestling can move on and has moved on from an era from purely sex appeal and barely any wrestling.

Women, not divas, are now on par with the men as superstars. The butterfly belt (what used to be referred to as the old women's title, the Divas Championship) is gone and resigned to history. And biggest of all, a marquee match at Wrestlemania where the competitors were front and centre of the main art at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. I certainly couldn't have imagined such a thing a year beforehand after Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara at Levi Stadium, especially moreso the night after it on Monday Night Raw Raw during a six-woman tag match (warning: the linked video has extremely offensive sexist crowd chants so be warned and don't watch at work).

The divas revolution/women's evolution has stalled at times and even given moments where you question where they're going to go next after something idiotic or stupid happens on a booking level (the Reid Flair spot in the Charlotte-Paige contract signing pre-Survivor Series, a fantastic feud in Charlotte-Becky Lynch for the title ruined by WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair's incredibly offensive "wheelin dealin' etc etc bull-nonsense at the Royal Rumble).

But when you have moments like the Takeover Brooklyn match and the subsequent curtain call between the Four Horsewomen - an iconic moment, not just in WWE but in all of wrestling - the Ironwoman match at Takeover Respect, the Sasha pop at the Royal Rumble, the Wrestlemania triple-threat, Sasha Banks-Charlotte's utterly incredible title match on the first new-era Raw, the Attitude Era-like pop and reception to Bayley's main roster debut in a one-night only appearance at a WWE pay-per-view last month in a tag match as Sasha Banks' partner, there's still hope yet and even reaffirmed when these moments happen.

It's truly amazing how much has happened in a year for these two since Brooklyn. For Sasha, being one/third of a Wrestlemania main event, her championship coronation and the response after on Raw and being one of the faces of the entire company (she's the last face you see on the Raw intro, a shift away from placing the men who are chosen by WWE chairman Vince McMahon as the faces of the company like John Cena and Roman Reigns).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EOhZQzB4Ko?rel=0&showinfo=0]

For Bayley, carrying the NXT women's division in her time as champion, being the face, the heart, the soul of the brand as well as her aforementioned main roster debut and her final farewell this past Saturday night after her Women's Championship rematch at Takeover Brooklyn against Asuka, a moment she truly deserved on the biggest stage of NXT's year. If she gets her full main roster debut tonight on Monday Night Raw like its suspected she might, she is going to get the pop of the year. That, I have no doubt. Just listen to the response she got when she made her first appearance on the main roster last month.

[embed]https://twitter.com/WWE/status/757367121848393728[/embed]

If you had told me at the start of the decade, my favourite wrestler would be a female wrestler, I would have laughed at you. Six years later, lo and behold, we've come a long way with women's wrestling in the WWE that such a thing isn't a pipedream anymore. The Four Horsewomen - but especially Bayley in particular - made me believe in women's wrestling again. That absolutely can't be ignored. It all started again for me with that Fatal 4 Way at NXT Takeover Rival with all four of the Horsewomen, made official by NXT Takeover Brooklyn and solidified by NXT Takeover Respect thanks to Bayley and Sasha.

Last year's NXT Takeover Brooklyn was the greenshoots out of something special in the works. There may have been some teething along the way and there surely will be more of it to come. But if it's anything like the slow-burning payoff to Bayley's coronation as NXT Women's Champion a year ago today, the payoff here will be nothing short of incredible.

Here's to it. And here's to what went down a year ago. Thanks, Bayley and Sasha.

The ironman challenge

This is going to happen.

So much for a hiatus.

Sometime soon, I'm going to be starting what I'm going to call the ironman challenge.

I'm doing this challenge to revisit my ten favourite games ever and remember why they are my favourite games. When I start, I'll be going ascending order from 10-1, ending with The Last of Us. Full list as follows in descending order:

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+ Grand Theft Auto IV + Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty + Persona 4: Golden + Life is Strange + Mass Effect 2 + Uncharted 2: Among Thieves + Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner + Journey + Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater + The Last of Us

A few days ago, I finally got round to finishing off the physical collection of my top ten by finally picking up a hard copy of Persona 4: Golden (bought it digitally originally) and Journey (originally a digital only game).

It'll be interesting to do this challenge with some games considering there'll be a few I've not played in a few years. I've not played Mass Effect 2 in at least two years, Zone of the Enders 2 in three years. Nor have I touched both TLOU and MGS3 in two years since the GamesAid 24-hour stream/the passing of my mum respectively. Chances are the latter will perhaps have the biggest emotional punch when I finish it again considering how it helped me through the hardest period of my life.

For the sake of convenience, I'll be playing each game in their modern incarnation instead of the original, so I'll be playing, say, Zone of the Enders 2, MGS2/3, TLOU and Uncharted 2 among others in their HD collections/versions on PlayStation 3/4 respectively.

But there's also a two-fold reason why I'm doing this. As well as just to check in with this list, at somepoint in the year, there's an intent to do my own episode of My Favourite Game. Just to get it out of the way. Because at somepoint, it will end up happening. So may as well get it out of the way now.  Don't worry, there will be someone else to sit in the presenting chair in lieu of me in it and I just want to have these games fresh in my memory as I talk of them again as my favourite games ever.

I don't know when specifically I'll be starting the challenge, but it's one I want to do. It's good to revisit this every now and then and just to make sure these are worthy games on my list.

I think I'm going to enjoy doing this.

Empty brain

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I've not had it in me this while to blog about something. I've had quite a few things I wanted to blog about. I wanted to blog about the new Radiohead album. I wanted to blog about E3. I wanted to blog about stuff.

I just have it in me to write anything that's long in length right now. Like, I can do smaller stuff like - and this is going to sound like the most banal thing ever - tweets and Facebook. When I do write lengthy stuff as of late, it's only to set up posts on the website for My Favourite Game.

Maybe this is my way of going on hiatus. Or maybe I'll be back next month to go again. But considering how I don't have it in me right now to write - hell, it look a lot of effort last month just to write a thing on Uncharted 4's ending - it may be skewing more towards the former than the latter.

So if you read this blog - and I don't know why you would, to be quite frankly honest, there are better writers out there - and don't see anything for quite sometime, you now know why.

See you soon.

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The bittersweet feelings of Uncharted 4's ending

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SPOILER CITY!

Note: Seriously, if that heading above didn't make it any clearer, this will be talking about Uncharted 4's ending, so to say this will be filled with spoilers is an understatement. So quit while your ahead or keep reading if you've finished the game or just DGAF.

I was certain someone was going to cop it at the end. I felt all but certain someone was going to die at the end of Uncharted 4.  First, it was Sully. But then Naughty Dog trolled on that one with Uncharted 3, so surely not. Then, considering the subtitle of the game - A Thief's End - it was Sam. Or surely Naughty Dog would break the 'Use in case of last internally made Uncharted game' glass and actually bump off Nathan Drake.

But as it got towards the end of the game, I felt considering their relationship towards the end of the game as a married couple, that the vibes were heavily drawn towards this conclusion and that surely this would kill Drake more than any literal death to him would, it'd be Elena would be the one going 'Peace, I'm out'.

I was so ready for someone to die out of that core group that I didn't stop believing it wouldn't happen until we saw Nathan, Sam, Elena and Sully back on the mainland of Madagascar. What if Elena got killed by a Shoreline sniper for real after lying in that muddy puddle towards the end of the game with Nate after that earlier fake out a minute or two earlier? What if Rafe came and shot Sully just as the group got to the plane to get off the island? What if Sam died after being crushed inside Avery's ship? What if Nate was going to sacrifice himself in order to save his brother, leaving Sam to break the news to Elena? These were all actual scenarios that ran through my head as I headed towards the final two or three chapters of the game.

The fact it didn't happen caught me off guard. But as I'm writing this, nearly 24 hours since I finished the game, I can only feel genuine relief neither of them bit it. You usually expect some big death in the final game of a series (Mass Effect 3 the biggest of the lot that springs to mind - well, depending on what ending you choose anyway) that the genuine relief I mention is down to the fact Uncharted 4 didn't play up to that trope.

We got caught up in the notion that because this is Naughty Dog's last Uncharted game - possibly the last Uncharted game full stop - that the meaning 'A Thief's End' was a literal meaning, one of death to its main character (or possibly one or multiple of the support cast) when it wasn't. A Thief's End is a proverbial full stop to Nathan Drake's career as a treasure thief.

It was only when I finally saw Nate and Elena together in that final scene that the emotion hit me. This is a series that I'd consider one of my favourites ever - Uncharted 2 is among my top five favourite games ever (something upon which I'm sure I'll touch upon in my eventual episode of My Favourite Game) - and of course my favourite developer. This almost being the last Uncharted and certainly the last Uncharted from Naughty Dog, seeing the happy ending was bittersweet. Wonderful but saddening. There were tears.

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Those tears soon turned into rapturous laughter when the game threw me back into Crash Bandicoot unexpectedly, having been absolutely rubbish at it from the first instance of playing it earlier in the game. Never have I felt such a simultaneous mix of emotion at the same time playing a game than I did playing the epilogue of Uncharted 4.  Feelings of sadness, laughter and irrelevant frustration as I miss the final jump on that Crash level on my last life.

It's then we see that we're a few years out from the end of what happens in the story - the Drakes, Nathan and Elena, have gone on to become successful and famous after the revival of the latter's old TV show, live on an island and have had a family since then, a dog and their only daughter, Cassie (who I copped on after the fact is named after the Drake brothers mother). It's only when after snooping around after trying to find her parents that Cassie finds out the past of what her parents and Sully did in the old days.

This was the true happy ending for Nathan Drake. Far more worth in its weight than any gold or treasure brought back in the past three games before and the one this ending was wrapping up. This was the final emotional hit in which a few more tears were shed. It was the best ending we could have hoped for. It was the one we got.

Making endings are hard. And if not done right, chances are the fanbase is going to throw it right back at you. You just have to look at what happened with Mass Effect 3. Yet, instead of going down perhaps a route predicted by most, Naughty Dog actually gave a happy ending that felt earned.

It was bittersweet but wonderful. I was certainly happy and content. Albeit with a mix of other emotions too in the fray.

Xbox 360's greatest games

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Goodnight, sweet prince

Last week, Microsoft announced, after ten years of service, Xbox 360 would discontinue production. It is without question, at least in software output, one of the best consoles ever.

To celebrate the blooming thing's legacy - and the need to post something here at least once a month so I don't go too insane - I made a list of what I think are the 20 best games for the system.

Now, there are some third-party games on this list that are available on other platforms, but for me are synonymous with the 360, hence their inclusion here.

gearsGears of War

It was the third-person cover shooter to aspire to last generation if you were making a similar shooter. Gears was about romp and pomp action and made no bones to make sure it was nothing but. Gears of War 2 was an excellent followup, though I kinda fell by the wayside of the series when Gears 3 came out and haven't bothered with Judgement. Not even touched the Gears 4 beta as of writing this. Still, you can't deny the game's influence after ten years.

crackdown Crackdown

Lets be honest: no-one thought the world of Crackdown. We all bought it for the Halo 3 beta. It seemed like it had fallen to MGS2/Zone of the Enders syndrome. And yet, Crackdown has now earned its right to be a series. The first game just showed what could be done with a vibrant open world. And I think a lot of people give Crackdown 2 a lot of undeserved stick, even with its flaws. And orb collecting.

pgr4 Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 3 was one of my first online gaming experiences. Unfortunately, not a pleasant one. But PGR3 was one of my very first games for the Xbox 360 when I got it at Christmas 2006 (I bought PGR3 a few days later along with three months Xbox Live Gold) and it was glorious. Then came riding in PGR4 less than a year later and oh my word did my little world change. PGR4 was - still is, actually - the best arcade racer on the Xbox 360 and still remains one of the best racers of all time today. You can find a copy for cheap in CEX today and I guarantee you that nearly ten years on since it came out, you'll still have a fucking ball playing it.

mass effect 2The Mass Effect Trilogy (Particularly Mass Effect 2)

Aye, Mass Effect 3's ending was shite, like. But besides that, and that Kai Lang fight before ME3's endgame, the entire Mass Effect trilogy to that point was nothing short of incredible. But it's Mass Effect 2 that deserves all the plaudits out of any other game in the series. I like to think of it as The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. And even for how woeful ME3's ending was, BioWare did make up for it with one of the best DLCs ever with Citadel. Can we have that HD Trilogy remaster now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before Andromeda now, EA?

halo 3Halo 3

Chapter VII. The Covenant. Enough said.

call of duty 4Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

If Gears of War was the cover shooter everyone aspired to be, Call of Duty 4 was THE shooter everyone wanted to be, full stop. To this day, nearly ten years since release, it still remains one of the most influential games of all time, if not the most influential. It's the game that exploded the series into new heights for better or worse. It was also at that point the peak of the series for Infinity Ward. Subsequent games in the series have been at best great (Modern Warfare 2) to at worst shit (Ghosts). Here's hoping that remaster rumour pans out.

bioshockBioShock

What needs to be said about BioShock? Incredible design, from a gameplay and art perspective, a tone which pulls you in and a story that is batshit crazy at times. Not to mention, Rapture as a locale is one of the most famous settings for a game for a reason.

bioshock infiniteBioShock Infinite

But for me, and this is why I have it standalone than bundle all the BioShock games together, BioShock Infinite is a game I love more. There's the world of Columbia which, as you come into for the first time at the start of the game, is vibrant with a dark mystery set to play out. Elizabeth is also one of the best companions in a game ever. She doesn't get in your way during a battle, only assisting you with tears and other trinkets when absolutely needed, and is one of the best female characters in a game I've played full stop. Sure, it can be a bit too shooty at times and even once or twice the story can go over your head. But even then, I still love Infinite so much. I really want that BioShock Collection to drop soon.

the orange boxThe Orange Box

This was the best thing to have come out of 2007. It's not even a contest. And were it not for The Last of Us, it would have been the best thing to have come out of the last-generation just for the amount of value it gives. One of the best first-person shooters ever in Half-Life 2 plus its episodes, the incredible Portal and one of the very few multiplayer shooters I have spent substantial time with in Team Fortress 2. I can't tell you how much I'd love to a similar Orange Box now. But even then, it'd be hard to beat Valve's effort.

fable iiFable II

It was one of the best RPGs on the Xbox 360. And were it not for the Mass Effect Trilogy, I'd go as far to say it'd be the best western-made RPG for it. Say what you will about Lionhead and Peter Molyneux, but Fable II was just the perfect game to play when you needed some calm time. Plus, you had a dog as a companion. That should've been enough to sell you on it there.

gta ivGrand Theft Auto IV

If the period between GTA III and GTA: San Andreas showed Rockstar at its most silly, Grand Theft Auto IV showed them as they started to become more mature with their output. GTA IV's more grounded story is what makes me love it, but Liberty City is still one of the best open-world playgrounds I've ever encountered. It doesn't hurt its soundtrack is just top notch stuff too.

gta v 4Grand Theft Auto V

But even with the game now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you'd still have to be hard pressed to not mention GTA V alongside IV merely for the fact it pushed so much out of the Xbox 360. And although it still represented that maturity Rockstar showed as of GTA IV onwards, GTA V was a little more loose if anyone had complaints of IV's very serious story. Plus, and I've said this before here, GTA Online is as close as we're going to get to a Grand Theft Auto MMO.

the beatles rock band 2The Beatles: Rock Band

Look. This isn't up for debate. The Beatles: Rock Band is straight up the best music game ever.  Like, the soundtrack is what obviously makes it special, but the way it delves into the band's history in great detail is great, if albeit 'sweetened' to avoid mention of how the band's final days went down. And plus, a vivid art design that is just Beatles-eque in inspiration. Like I said, it's not up for debate. Best music game of all time or your money back.

l4dLeft 4 Dead

I mention above how The Orange Box is one of the best packages in games ever, but Valve's second 360-sweetner turned out to be one of the best co-op focused games I've ever played too, if not the best. Left 4 Dead -and its sequel but primarily the original - is ridiculous fun.

alan wakeAlan Wake

How I managed to get through playing this game considering its tense horror setting, I'll never know. But Alan Wake is definitely worthy a place on this list. The Twin Peaks vibe the story gave mixed with a solid third-person action game is just brilliant. I'm hoping that now Quantum Break is now out of the way, they may have enough wiggle to room to finally do Alan Wake 2. Here's hoping

splinter cellSplinter Cell: Conviction

Look, it's a good game. It's certainly my favourite Splinter Cell anyways. I don't get the hate around it. It's good. Shut up.

bfbc2Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Some of the funnest online memories I have is within this game. The more I play of subsequent Battlefield games, the more I yearn for a proper Bad Company 3 so we can some of those fun times again in multiplayer. It is one of the best multiplayer suites I've ever played in a game.

bayoBayonetta

I didn't even have this in my top ten the year it came out. Instead, it was an honourable mention. And yet, as time has gone on, Bayonetta has not only aged like a fine wine, but also proves I can be an absolute idiot sometimes. The pure balls-to-the-walls action it gives, the setpieces it delivers is just full on bonkers fucking brilliant. At least I made up for it with Bayonetta 2 being my 2014 GOTY.

skyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim still remains to this day the most I've spent in a Bethesda RPG, moreso than Oblivion or the past two Bethesda Game Studios-made Fallout games. I'm actually not a huge fantasy guy, but Skyrim was the exception to the norm in this instance. I just wish, like Fallout 4 on console, Skyrim enabled mods on Xbox 360 mainly so I could get rid of the spiders. My arachnophobia would be grateful.

forza horizonForza Horizon

Xbox 360 had some of the best racers on the platform in its ten-year span, but there are two that I think are the best of the lot. You saw one of them near the top of this list. Here's the second. Forza Horizon just completely nails the feeling of a car/music festival with a great selection of car, fantastic driving mechanics and one of the best licenced soundtracks ever. Just insane.

Evolution Studios to close

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Future of DriveClub now in limbo.

Evolution Studios is to close, Sony Computer Entertainment has said.

The DriveClub and Motorstorm developer was founded in 1999 and bought by SCE in 2007.

"Regular reviews take place throughout SCE Worldwide Studios, ensuring that the resources that we have in such a competitive landscape can create and produce high quality, innovative and commercially viable projects," said Sony in an internal email sent out just before the announcement, also the statement sent out by the company after the news broke.

"As part of this process we have reviewed and assessed all current projects and plans for the short and medium term and have decided to make some changes to the European studios structure.

"As a result, It has been decided that Evolution Studio will close.

"It is regrettable that this decision will lead to compulsory redundancies . We accept that this decision will mean that we risk losing talented staff but by focusing on other Studios that already have exciting new projects in development we believe we will be in a stronger position going forward and able to offer the best possible content of the highest quality for our consumers

"Where possible we will try to reallocate people onto other projects. If appropriate opportunities are not possible within the company, we will assist staff in any way we can including speaking with local employers and with other Development companies.

"Evolution has been an important part of SCE Worldwide Studios for over 10 years - working on ground-breaking Racing titles like WRC, Motorstorm and DRIVECLUB, and this decision should not take anything away from the great work that Evolution has produced over this time."

Minutes before the news broke, a Sony source told me that "bits" that were in the works for the series was now "thrown in the air". My source added they weren't sure whether the franchise would continue or not. Whether that means new games or updates done elsewhere outside Evolution is anyone's guess, though DriveClub was built to be a service and not be as reliant on new installments, so it likely would have been focused on the latter than the former with the exception of DriveClub Bikes, released last year as DLC for the main game and as a standalone game. As it'd turn out, it'd be Evolution's last released game. The future of DriveClub VR for PlayStation VR, shown at recent events, is now very much in limbo too with this news. I've checked in with Sony to clarify the future of that project.

DriveClub director Paul Rustchynsky tweeted a statement after the news came out.

[embed]https://twitter.com/Rushy33/status/712301974847397888[/embed]

Personally speaking, it is a massive shame. Evolution Studios has been one of my favourite studios in the racing genre. Their very first game WRC was a fantastic rally game, whereas Motorstorm was just terrific. And as you may have seen several times on this blog, I rate DriveClub very highly despite its disastrous launch. Fifth in my 2014 GOTY and Bikes getting into my top ten last year. As a result of its continuing efforts to improve and improve following that launch, it's now in my top five games for the generation so far. And I wouldn't be surprised if it's still there after the end of the generation.

All the best to those affected at this time at Evolution Studios.

The BAFTA nods - my picks for who I want to win

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Blimey.

What an insanely good lineup of nominations this year.

The BAFTA nominations were announced earlier this morning with The Chinese Room's Everybody's Gone to the Rapture leading the charge with ten nominations. The Witcher III, Her Story and Life is Strange, among others, also lead the pack with seven and five nominations respectively.

Having had a look at the list and seen the nominations, here's who I want to walk away with gold on April 7 and why.

rapture

Artistic Achievement - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Should clarify first off why the scratchmark on Ori. If you see a game scratched out, that's because I've not played the game, therefore not in the postilion to give it an opinion. In this case, I've not played Ori.

Anyways, Rapture has to win this. It's a no brainer in this instance.

rapture

Audio Achievement - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Again, this is another no brainer for Rapture. How it does audio in the game is just stunning. And not's not factoring in the fantastic performances of the cast or Jessica Curry's incredible score, which we'll come to in due course.

rapture

British Game - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Her Story
  • Prison Architect
  • Tearaway Unfolded
  • Until Dawn

This really seems like I'm being really bias towards Rapture at this point - and I promise as it get further in, it'll die down - but in terms of the games I've played that made my GOTY list, Rapture is the one that stands strongest here. Don't get it twisted, Her Story is absolutely phenomenal and Batman: Arkham Knight and Tearaway Unfolded are good games as well. But Rapture, from that list, is the one that stands out for me.

her story

Debut Game - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • Mini Metro
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Prune

By default, Her Story wins. But even if I had played other games on the list, I feel pretty certain I would have given the nod to Her Story still.

rocket league

Family Game - Rocket League

Other nominations:

  • Disney Infinity 3.0
  • FIFA 16
  • Guitar Hero Live
  • LEGO Dimensions
  • Super Mario Maker

This is very much likely to be an instance of who I want to win will most likely be very much different from who should - and most likely, will - win the award. FIFA 16 or either of the toys-to-life games are the favourites here, but for me, I've not played the latter two and I've not played FIFA 16 beyond an hour or two.

Guitar Hero Live works really well as a family game, I'll admit, but as personal preference, it's towards the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of Guitar Hero games - and music games - while I can't give too much of an opinion on Mario Maker as I've not played a great deal of it and barely tried any of it online.

Therefore, if we're still talking personal preference, Rocket League gets my vote. And even then, how could it not work as a family game? One of the few rare breeds of local multi.

rocket league

Game Design - Rocket League

Other nominations:

  • Bloodborne
  • Grow Home
  • Her Story
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

If it wasn't for who I actually picked, I'd say Her Story would win this for me. But Rocket League has to win in this instance because it takes one of the most simple design concepts you can think of - cars and football - in a way that just works. It just... does.

her storyGame Innovation - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Life is Strange
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Splatoon
  • Until Dawn

This was a toughie to go for with such a great list of nominations, all justified in their selection. But in the end, Her Story edges it for me ahead of Life is Strange and Rapture.

her story

Mobile & Handheld - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Alphabear
  • Fallout Shelter
  • Lara Croft GO
  • Prune
  • The Room Three

Fallout Shelter is already chucked here because I've not played too much of it to give an opinion. For me, it's Her Story and Alphabear and even then, it's a no contest. Alphabear is an excellent game to lose time to, but Her Story is the easy winner here. Plus, mobile - iPad, specifically - is where I spent most of the time playing the game.

splatoon

Multiplayer - Splatoon

Other nominations:

  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • Rocket League
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • World of Warships

This is perhaps another one of those instances where who I want to win will most likely be different to who should and probably will win. In this instance, the who most likely will win will be The Taken King. And it'd be a deserved victory. It fixed most of Destiny's faults and made it into a game that is incredibly enjoyable, even if I had already found the vanilla games to be enjoyable as is, warts and all.

But Splatoon is on a whole new level for me. Not just in how it executes its design, but also the fact it's one of the very, very rare multiplayer games where not only I have actually put in an incredible amount of time into - the only games I've put more into MP wise is Metal Gear Online 1 & 2, Gears of War 1 and maybe GTA Online - but actually forgo a game's single-player in favour of the multi.

That surely has to mean something.

rapture

Music - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Other nominations:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Fallout 4
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Ori and the Blind Forest

Shut it down, this is not even a contest.

Out of any award here, I feel like this is at least the one award where the winner will absolutely be the same as my pick here. Because quite frankly, if Jessica Curry does not win any awards Rapture's soundtrack is nominated for but especially this, inquiries will be called. Because for me, this is the clear winner. And it's not even close.

The closest competition I feel is Fallout 4 and even then, it doesn't hold a candle to Curry's incredible score. With the exception of Ori, the other nominations are good soundtracks.

But like I said, this is not even a contest. It shouldn't be. If Everybody's Gone to the Rapture doesn't win this, it'll be a massive bombshell.

life is strange

Original Property - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Her Story
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Splatoon
  • Until Dawn

I'm a bit surprised it's only taken so long before I finally gave Life is Strange a nod. Still, out of any property here, it's perhaps the one with the longest legs. Her Story and Rapture, incredible as they both are, are one-offs, as is Ori. An Until Dawn VR game is in the works and there's been enough rampant support for a proper sequel, but nothing as yet. And considering Splatoon has now sold 4 million units worldwide, I'd be amazingly surprised if we didn't get a sequel - or a port of the first game for launch - for the NX.

But Life is Strange is the one that has potential to grow. Square Enix is not putting a lot of backing into the digital version and a boxed copy of the game earlier this year for a one-off. Plus, Dontnod has already effectively said a Season 2 is in the works, not to mention their previous comments Life is Strange would effectively be an anthology series.

Life is Strange has this. Surely.

lis chloePerformer - Ashly Burch (Chloe Price, Life is Strange)

Other nominations:

  • Doug Cockle (Geralt, The Witcher III)
  • Merele Dandrige (Kate, Everbody's Gone to the Rapture)
  • Oliver Dimsdale (Stephen, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture)
  • Mark Hamil (Joker, Batman: Arkham Knight)
  • Masasa Moyo (Vella, Broken Age: Act 2)

First off: where on earth is Viva Selfert in this? Seriously? Sam Barlow is a huge part of what makes Her Story so great, but Viva Selfert is another. She is why Her Story stands out. An incredibly disappointing oversight from BAFTA here considering the game's other nominations.

Anyways, with the exception of Masasa Moyo (because I've not played Broken Age yet) and Doug Cockle, this is the category I really struggled with most because holy shit, there are incredible performances here. Mark Hamil's Joker never fails to deliver and is a a shame that we may have heard him for the last time as the Joker.

In the end, it came down to Ashly Burch and Merele Dandridge for me. Great as Oliver Dimsdale was, it was between the former two. And I properly agonised on who I'd go for here.

In the end, it had to be Burch. There was no-one else better suited as Chloe and completely nailed her personality very well.

ffxivPersistent Game - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Other nominations:

  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Guitar Hero Live
  • Lego Dimensions
  • Prison Architect
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

This is a weird category. In regards to the rules for being eligible for the category, does it mean you have a game that changes over time as a service - in this instance, Destiny or FFXIV - or a game which'll get add-on content? I don't get it, it's all confusing here.

Anyways, from what I choose to take the award at from face value - a game that changes over time as a live service - I'm going for FFXIV over Destiny, which is another award where who I want to win will very much be different over who will win.

But the reason I picked FFXIV over The Taken King, good as The Taken King is, is because I was first introduced to the game last year after buying it on a whim. Were it not for the fact that had it already come out on PS4 in 2014 and I had managed to finish the vanilla content and reached the start of the Heavensward content at least, chances are I absolutely would have put it in my top ten of last year. It's also a rarity in that it's a sub-based MMO that just succeeds.

life is strangeStory - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Her Story
  • Undertale
  • Until Dawn
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Like with performance, this was down to Life is Strange and Rapture. Her Story's, well, story was fantastic and leaves you thinking for days once you've finished it. In regards to The Witcher III, as I've noted, it's only been a playthrough of a few hours, so no opinion.

But Rapture's themes of love, loss and life hit me very hard and the way The Chinese Room something haunting and beautiful as it tells you the final moments of a small countryside village. It was incredible, if not melancholic.

However, Life is Strange stands out not just because it also deals with those themes, but more which will add to the game's legacy as we head towards the end of the generation: bullying, suicide, sexuality, euthanasia and thensome. Not to mention the incredibly wonderful and genuine friendship between Max and Chloe.

Like I said, it was really difficult to pick a winner of the two as they mean a great deal personally. But Life is Strange has to take it here.

life is strangeBest Game - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Fallout 4
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Rocket League
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

The biggest award of the night is another one of those awards where it's very likely the winner will be different from what I pick, even if that is the strongest possible selection of six games. The games likely to win it will either be Fallout 4 or Rapture, the latter would be highly deserving if so.

But for me, it has to be Life is Strange - of course it has to be Life is Strange.

As I said above for story, the game is incredible for the themes it hits, the fantastic friendship between Max and Chloe. But also, the game's fantastic soundtrack - original and licensed, the latter playing a huge part in season highlights - art design and more. It almost nails perfectly the feeling of being a teenager. The whole rewinding time mechanic and stopping the tornado from wiping out Arcadia, which was meant to be the main crux of the game, actually feels secondary to everything else that's great of Life is Strange's first season.

All the same, it's the game I hope wins on April 7. Whether it actually does is another story.

Final tally:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - Four BAFTAs
  • Life is Strange - Four BAFTAs
  • Her Story - Three BAFTAs
  • Rocket League - Two BAFTAs
  • Splatoon - One BAFTA
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - One BAFTA

Daniel Bryan believed in us because we believed in Daniel Bryan

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This was first posted on Cageside Seats on February 8, a few hours after Daniel Bryan announced his retirement on Twitter and a few hours before his retirement speech on Monday Night Raw. I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it, regardless of whether you're a wrestling fan or not, because it's just beautiful. I've posted it below at the end of this post.

There's a quote that sticks out for me.

"All of these people with their signs and their hands up in the air. Chanting yes, yes, yes or no, no, no. They're doing it because they believe in you. They believe in you and you hear that. And when you hear that and when you know someone believes in you, it empowers you, it gives you emotion and all you want to do is come out to this ring every single night - sick, tired or hurt - and put your body on the line as a way to say I believe in you as much as you believe in me.

John Cena said that on the go-home show of Raw before SummerSlam 2013 ahead of his match against Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship the following weekend. It's something that has been sticking with me since I went back and watched that promo involving Bryan - and other various bits involving him (that incredible moment with the crowd chanting in perfect unison for him after attacking Bray Wyatt (won't lie, I shed tears watching it after the announcement), Cena announcing him as the number one contender for the title, the Yes movement holding up Rawand the subsequent Monster package before his match with Triple H at Wrestlemania) - in the aftermath of his announcement that he was to retire.

I'll admit upfront: I didn't see the man known as Bryan Danielson compete in Ring of Honor or elsewhere. But I did see the man known as Daniel Bryan compete in WWE over the past near six years since the start of NXT (and his later return at SummerSlam as part of Cena's feud against the Nexus) up until what would turn out to be his final match against Sheamus on Smackdown a year ago. And seeing the news on Twitter as I was standing outside doing a few messages and waiting for a taxi home, all I wanted to do was do scream no and do the no chant right then and there, even if people had no clue what it was about.

The reason we're all heartbroken - at least most of us all are (I'm sure we're all heartbroken, but I'm sure there's always one at least) - is because since the Yes Movement began at Wrestlemania XXVIII nearly four years ago in Miami, I don't think you'll find a more charismatic talent in that ring. It's seems perhaps silly to say that, but for me, he had that. Lets be clear, we're not talking Rock/Austin levels of charisma, but he still had something magical about him which had people going with him since that April night in 2012. He was for me, and it's weird to talk of this now in the past tense, the most charismatic talent since the both of them in their heyday.

But more than anything, besides the charisma and besides his incredible in-ring talent, is the fact he somehow made us believe in him. He was the true underdog. That much is already obvious, but it's worth stating anyways. That faithful night in New Orleans two years ago was itself two years in the making, a slowburner. But when it came, the payoff was magical. As it should have. As it was. Even if what happened earlier with The Undertaker's streak being broken by Brock Lesnar instilled a sense of doubt on proceedings.

Of course, out of anything else in his career perhaps, you have to think of those two matches at Wrestlemania XXX. Because for me, that night proved that dreams can come true. He instilled that belief into us after those matches with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista respectively. Anything is possible. If a guy like Daniel Bryan, who was perhaps destined to be - at best - the top of the mid-card (an actual B+ player), can go onto have not only such an incredible fanbase, but also defy the odds, the expectations given to him by the higher ups and actually headline and win the main event at Wrestlemania XXX, anything is doable if there's someone there to believe in you. And we found that in him.

Daniel Bryan believed in us because we believed in him. And, perhaps short of Sami Zayn once he's on the main roster for real, I don't think you will ever see the likes of such an inspiring talent - no, man - like Daniel Bryan in wrestling ever again, if not for a very, very long time. Needless to say, I don't think there'll be too many dry eyes in the house once Monday Night Raw goes off the air tonight.

#ThankYouDanielBryan

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATEMPKQaUNQ[/embed]

In limbo

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Oh joy, brain.

Last week, I had a big crash of confidence and self-esteem, of which I'm still feeling the effects of now. I'm writing about it and coming clean because I'm sick and tired now of keeping everything kept in to myself, but at the same time, I'm at a bit of a loss, really.

It started last Thursday after a depressing dream which involved thoughts of where I was going with my life, where I had gone with my life, both personally and professionally.

I've fucked up some stuff in my life, both personally and professionally, in the past ten years, but this dream featured the two biggest fuck ups in their respective categories and in particular, one person in the games industry who I feel has been hawking over me since 2012. I've not seen this person in a while - nearly two years - but no matter how hard I try to move on so they don't have an effect, it just keeps catching up. And it does have an effect. It's amazing how 'backstage gossip' can really affect someone's mental being.

That dream had me in a very foul mood for the rest of the day. It also made me think what I was doing with my life which just made it worse. Later in the day, doing errands, I felt I had the piss taken out of me by someone in my immediate family and then later in the evening, chastised a bit by another member of my family. That topped off the beginning of the descent. That kicked in the self-doubt and feelings in my head.

I had a small rant about it on Twitter and then on Facebook because I was just sick and tired of  that self-doubt telling me to just hold it in anymore, sick that if I dared vent publicly, I'd get chastised by it - whether publicly or privately - and that I should keep my feelings to myself.

The next day, I tried to do a get well day. Just stay in bed, watch Dave Chappelle and just do what I want. I'd try and stay off the computer at least for the day. That would only work for most of the day. I would come back but just for one or two things, including changing how this blog looks and then tweet about it when finished. Even when I was mainly off the computer, I was still not 'me'.

Then on Saturday, I had another dream. I won't go into detail even in the slightest as it was a very personal dream. But I couldn't tell if it was a good dream or a bad one considering it's nature. Still don't know even now. I wish I did. That dream was in my head for a good portion of the day to the point I took a long walk around a lengthy part of the Waterside area of Derry to clear my head, not just of the dream, but other things too. Despite being out for an hour-and-a-half, it did nothing.

Since these past few days, I've been thinking - whether by choice or not - about life stuff thanks to that stupid dream on Thursday. Where I am, what I should be doing, other elements it, etc. For a start, there's professional stuff: I've not felt any motivation to write about anything games related for a living since the year started. I have an idea or two squirled away, but the motivation has just not been there. Even with an open offer to try and write something for somewhere I love to kingdom come with an incredible editor, I just feel so useless and desperate in trying to come up with something that would be to this person's taste only for it to crash and burn because it was so rubbish in the first place, both in idea and pitch. The same is true for My Favourite Game. I already have the ten people I have in mind for Season 4 already down on the list and next week is when I had planned to start to approach people. Except the motivation for that isn't as there as it should be. Not quite gone, but on the fritz anyway.

But it's not just professionally, it's personally too. I don't quite want to get into it as, quite frankly, I'm embarrassed to detail it, but it involves a thing from nearly ten years ago that now stems as one of my biggest regrets - if not my biggest - when in school.

I just want to write again and this is a little cathartic in that. But even then, like I said, it all comes back to what I said earlier of being sick and tired of keeping things to myself. "But Johnny," I hear you shout, "instead of venting publicly like an idiot, keep it to yourself or at the very least, do so privately with someone." And that's a good point, at least the latter is anyway. And I do have people to go to. And I had people come to me last week asking if I was alright last Friday after my mini-mental breakdown on Thursday (I'm so sorry I didn't reply to you, relevant people, your messages didn't go unread. I just didn't want to talk to anyone that day. I'm sorry if I wasted your time messaging me).

But as I mentioned last November, while there will be people I can go to, I'm fussy over who I want to talk to. Not just being a fussy person, but mainly of a trust thing. So that's why.

This is perhaps the biggest crash of self-confidence I've had in a long time, perhaps ever. I feel that ashamed of this crash, I even took down from my wall photos of people I consider good friends of mine, some of whom I'd consider to be really close with. There's a video I've thought of these past few days that one such friend linked to a few years ago I think of on occasion: it's this one. In that scenario, my black dog right now feels like it's the size of one of the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus.

Honestly, I'm scared right now. I'm scared even writing this because I don't know what reaction if any I'll get to this. I shouldn't be feeling this way, I know that. And that's what's scaring me right now.

I'm hoping by posting this, I can take the first step - no matter how big or small - in regards to getting out of what has been an incredibly shitty four days.

(kind of tells you a lot the only thing that has made me near the semblance of happy these past few days is the Royal fucking Rumble)