Great, so now I’m scared of schoolgirls.

This entry is gonna have major spoilers for Doki Doki Literature Club. If you don’t know what that combination of words means, you probably won’t care. In short, DDLC is a free to play Steam game that presents as a dating sim, but morphs into a psychological horror. It’s all kinds of twisted. If you’re looking to play (or, like me, would be intrigued enough by that short sentence to give it a try), I might ruin some fun surprises.

Okay, so as I said above, DDLC is a psychological horror game masquerading as a cutesy dating sim. Realistically, you’re playing a story with a few options that can lead to alternate endings. A bunch of people online have figured out ways to maximise plot outcomes, etc. YMMV, but I tend to enjoy the experience more organically. I’m happy to make mistakes and see where it leads, even if I’m not on track for the optimal ending.

The game starts with your best friend Sayori meeting you before school. She’s manipulates you into joining her Literature Club at school. There you meet the three other members: Monika (the Club President), Natsuki (a childish first year obsessed with cute stuff) and Yuri (a demure bookish gal). The game progresses, with the only interactive options being making choices or poetry. The poetry mechanic is just choosing words on a page that correspond to the different girls you’re trying to woo. I accidentally kept getting Yuri options, though I was trying to gun for Monika (she seemed cooler). When you get closer to one of the girls you start getting distinct scenes with them. Yuri started sharing her book with me and we’d read side by side, getting physically closer with each session.

Sayori, my best friend, started getting a little distant, while strangely intense phrases would slip from Yuri’s lips every once in a while. She’d say something eerily haunting or perceptive. Maybe she’d identify a little too strongly with a murderous character or something. Still, my poems kept moving me towards her. I was wondering when the game would get creepy. Hints started flowing. After sharing our poetry with one another, Monika decided we’d do a live reading at our school festival. I was paired up with Yuri to work on decorations. Sayori became quiet and solitary. My character made plans for Yuri to come over and work on the decorations. Sayori freaked out and confessed her feelings for me. Her latest poetry had continued refrain of “get out of my head. Get out of my head” or something of the like. In the morning before Yuri was to come over, I went to her house to find her crying in her bedroom. She admitted that she’d been depressed her whole life and at this point couldn’t handle it. She was breaking down. My character told her he’d be there, he’d help her through it always. He asked if she wanted to come over and help with the decorations, but she declined.

So I made decorations with Yuri. She brought her supplies, involving a strangely ornate knife for cutting ribbon. My character touched the end of the knife to see how sharp it was and accidentally drew blood. Her eyes widened and involuntarily started sucking on the finger. My character was taken aback and a little weirded out. Nevertheless, we made all the decorations and she went home (though not without professing she had a large knife collection). When I went outside, I saw Sayori waiting there. She was having a breakdown and I had the option of confessing my love for her or doing nothing. I figured I might as well see where that would go. She said she felt nothing.

The next day she was late for school. I went back to her place to check on her and walked in on her having hung herself. “THE END” came up onscreen. It was a freaky tonal shift.

The screen glitched out and the game restarted. My saves were gone. The game played through as it had before, except without Sayori in it. Glitches started happening all over the place. Dark dialogue options began occasionally appearing in incongruous font. The music became detuned and unnerving. Monika started giving me warnings about Yuri. Yuri and Natsuki would argue and without Sayori to smooth out the conversations, they got aggressive and threatening. Yuri left to go make tea and after a while I went to check on her. I walked into the hallway to hear a gasp and see her with cuts all down her arm. The game glitched, then rewound. The dialogue reoccurred as if nothing had happened.

Every once in a while, characters would reference actions that’d taken place, but other characters would deny knowledge of them. Yuri became more and more unhinged. Natsuki grew concerned. During one scene the game glitched and Natsuki’s eyes popped straight out of her head with blood trailing behind. Then glitched back to normal. The closer my character got to Natsuki, the more she’d let loose about her knives and love of blood. She confessed her love to me and, after I refused, she stabbed herself right there in the classroom. Her dialogue became gibberish and kept repeating. I set the text to “skip” and it went on and on for minutes, just total nonsense and unreadable characters. The light changed, day turned to night, into day and back again a few times. Natsuki walked into the room and asked if I’d been there all weekend. She saw Yuri’s corpse and vomited. Monika walked in and sighed. She apologised and admitted to tweaking the character’s neuroses in order to make herself seem more appealing. A DOS style text box opened up and she ran code to delete the other characters.

The game restarted once more, but focused solely on Monika. She said she got rid of everybody else so we could be alone. She was staring straight at me and said she was in love with me. Not the character, but me, the player who was playing the game. We were in the club room, but outside the window was nothing but the emptiness of space. Her dialogue options were bizarre and rambling. She mentioned having gone into the local files of the game to alter the code. I checked the local files through Steam and deleted her character, then went back to the game. She screamed and glitched out, cursing me for dooming her to the void, but professing that she still loved me. She restored the other characters. The game reset again.

This time there was no mention of Monika. The other characters were back, but Sayori was class president. She said she knew everything that happened with Monika and intended to stay with me forever and ever.  Monika’s stepped in and said she was sorry for endangering me. The game reset again to a black screen. A young woman’s voice came over the speakers. She said she’d written a song for me and wanted to play it. The game’s theme began playing on piano and she sang along while the credits rolled. She thanked me for playing and professed her eternal love for me. It was weird and sorta sweet, nicely capping off a five or so hour playthrough.

The game was such a breath of fresh air. For one, the format made it feel like there was a lot more choice, but really it was all on rails. I played it until the early hours of the morning and for real, it was pretty goddamn creepy. It’s this kind of stuff that makes me so stoked to see how gaming has evolved from its early days. Indie games are pushing the format onwards to bizarre and wonderful terrain. Even if I have spoiled basically all of it, I’m sure it’d still be a blast to experience. If you have Steam, it’s free. What’s holding you back?

I mean, it is legit terrifying, so there’s that.

Advertisements

It had a Julia Roberts grin and everything.

I know I often joke that all I do here is talk about poop, but today I want to do just that. I mean, wanting to talk about dropping bum bombs is never far from my mind, but occasionally I write something about pop-culture or what I’m eating. Recent entries have focused on the ins and outs of keto. This one’s all about the outs, because today I dropped a game changer. Enough preamble, let’s get into this.

I’m mildly obsessed with what comes out my poop chute. Since childhood I’ve never ceased to find the hilarity in shitting. My first level up came when I discovered how to really poop. The raised ankles technique. Talk about a game changer. Where I’d previously strained and struggled to cleanse my intestines, I found a smooth sortie at my disposal (pun intended, obviously). I had my first metaphorical taste of slick bowel action and I wanted more. I looked into foods with high fibre content and folded them into my diet. Cabbage was a godsend. I oddly discovered it when a bunch of us went out for Korean. As an entree they put down a plate of chopped raw cabbage and QP mayonnaise. I loved it. I started steaming, roasting and sometimes downing it raw. I adapted chia seeds into my porridge. I started drinking coffee. The pieces came together and the faeces flowed easily. Bliss.

Keto has constricted my stream like a noose around my anus. It’s been hard to reckon with the loss of what had once been a point of pride. It’s not my first time mentioning this, so you know I mean it. This was one of the primary tools in my arse-nal. I’ve been recently reaching for something that just isn’t there. Sitting in my misery, waxing nostalgic for those days of long soft-serve strands. Better, more innocent times.

Today I had a breakthrough. Maybe the psyllium husk is kicking in. Or perhaps I drank the right quantity (read: lots) of coffee. In any case I felt a familiar burbling in my bowels and got excited. For some reason the lyrics “I’m gonna do a poo” popped into my head, to the tune of “We’re Going to the Zoo”. I, a nearly 31 year old man, giggled to myself. I was eager to unload. I sat down, raised my heels and grabbed my ankles. I didn’t strain, it all came naturally. I looked down and saw it. In the bowl there was a cute little mild curve, like the mouth of a smiley emoticon. I had a revelation. I felt the next package making its way down. I let a little come through, then pinched off a small nugget. It landed perpendicular to the smile, directly above it. Was I doing this? I tilted my buttocks to the right and moved an inch back in my seat. I pinched off another dot. It landed just to the top left of the first one. I took a breath, shifted my buttocks to the left and pinched out the last dot. I waited a second, heart racing, then looked down at what I’d done. Had I accomplished my grand design? My Mona Lisa Smile?

🙂

They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?

It’s their fault I can’t look at corn without imagining a typewriter.

I talk about rewatching movies all the time. No doubt because I endlessly scour the internet and live in a cosy bubble of nostalgia. I’m a colossal child (both in scale and mass. If I were actually a child in this body it’d be some André the Giant shit) and the notion of getting back in touch with the media that influenced and informed my adult persona holds a certain allure. The ratio, however, of talking about it and delivering on it is notoriously one-sided. So much of my viewing is mood dependent. Hell, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to engage with a narrative. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m watching, why watch it at all?

What I’m saying is, last night I watched Space Jam with a group of friends.

You know what? I’m willing to go on record and say it held up. Not as landmark cinematic genius. Everything it did, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did better a decade earlier. It wasn’t a phenomenal film or anything, but I wasn’t viewing it as I did as a kid. I was peering at it with adult eyes and looking for how it would’ve appealed to children. Shitting on a kids’ film as an adult is a certain amount of unnecessary roughness (says the guy who recorded a podcast series about the Airbud Cinematic Universe) that leaves us all as lesser. Space Jam didn’t have the most coherent plot (as evidenced in this accurate nine minute song). It was obviously a cynical attempt to capitalise on late game Michael Jordan’s popularity and to keep the Looney Tunes relevant for another generation. Jordan is absurdly lionised throughout. He’s not the best actor, but to his credit he looks like he’s having fun. There’s a spectacular montage of Charles Barkley et al dealing with their lost talent. The film has a buttload of jokes for kids and a bunch that’re pitched way over their heads. It has all those characters you love, more cameos than episode of Entourage (oh yeah), plus Bill Murray shows up to save the day at the end. A silly but entirely defensible way to spend 88 minutes.

My biggest takeaway from the whole endeavour was how great Looney Tunes have always been. I guess I just forgot. Do you realise just how many conventions were drilled into your head by the adventures of Bugs and co? When Lola Bunny was introduced in Space Jam, Bugs swoons and there’s this small musical sting of sexy jazz. It’s so familiar to us now as a sort of language, but those conventions needed to be created somewhere. Cast your mind back to the original Looney Tunes. How instrumental was it in the formation of these tropes? You can see how necessary they’d be, right? These zany (never thought I’d see the day I used that word unironically) cartoons had out there plots, and the more shorthand they could use to instantly convey meaning, the better. I rewatched The Rabbit of Seville and it’s astoundingly creative. Animation unhinged these creators from the need to obey formal logic, so they created their own sense of it. It’s a clever play on an opera that would go way over the heads of kids, but still relates to them on their own level.

Not only were the cartoons clever as fuck, well animated and spectacularly voiced (thanks Mel), but the characters were so diverse and interesting. Can you imagine Bugs being a protagonist these days? He’s a cruel, manipulative sociopath, but we all love him. Daffy Duck is a total narcissist. The Sylvester and Tweety dynamic is a one note joke that somehow spawned years worth of scenarios. Most everyone is at each other’s throat, just trying to get the best for themselves. Loose, unscrupulous morals all over the show. In other words, they’re a total blast to watch.

What’re you still doing here? Go and Tune in already.

Firing them off one after one.

I have evening plans, but I need to get this out of the way before I get there. So this is gonna be one of those entries where I basically plagiarise little scraps of writing I’ve been doing all day. You could say I’m… scraping the bottom of the barrel? So in that vein, I’ve been in a punny mood today.

It all began at the gym. For some reason lately I’ve gotten into a habit of having to poop when I arrive. I put my phone on airplane mode, chucked it in my jacket, threw my jacket in a locker and went to do my bizzniss. Then for some reason the word “incendiary” popped into my head. Then I realised that incendiary contained the word “diary”. I started thinking of what kind of fiery character would write their journals in an incendiary. My first thought went to a phoenix, but I realised the rebirth aspect was far more significant to their persona. I flopped back and forth over whether it fit, or if there was something in the idea of a phoenix’s New Years’ resolution every year being to get back into journaling. I decided there wasn’t. I thought of fire elementals, then settled on Johnny Storm. The resulting status being “Does Johnny Storm write down all of his feelings in an Incendiary?”

Then I had the word “diary” stuck in my brain. I thought about that show Secret Diary of a Call Girl with Billie Piper (who to me will always be of “Honey To The Bee” fame). I had a flash in my mind of some Japanese word or phrase to describe a certain kind of fashion style. Was it “kogahl” or “khogal” or “kougal” or something? I tried googling, but to no avail. So I thought about other words that sounded similar and landed on “kugel”, a type of Jewish pudding. I started out with that and felt sort of satisfied, but felt there was more to this. Over the next while I kept writing them as they came to me:

  • Why is there no Jewish cook book called Secret Diary of a Kugel?
  • Or a bird-watching guide called Secret Diary of a Caw Gull?
  • Or a Chimeras for Dummies style ‘how to’ called Secret Diary of a Paw Gill?
  • Or a Star Wars political thriller called Secret Diary of a Porg Earl?
  • Or a vegetarian BBQ book called Secret Diary of a Corn Grill?
  • Or a mortician’s memoir called Secret Diary of a Pall Girl?
  • Or Lena Dunham’s Behind the Scenes book called Secret Diary of Recall Girls?
  • Or a cis male dating guide called Secret Diary of Appal Girls?

Then a couple of hours later I realised the Japanese word I was looking for was “Kogal”, a type of Japanese fashion that sorta emulates the Valley Girl aesthetic. They often use fake tan and dress in short skirts mixed with schoolgirl chic as some kind of counterculture move. I assumed they’d have a fashion blog called Secret Diary of a Kogal somewhere.

Thinking back on my Johnny Storm pun, the Bruce Springsteen song “I’m on Fire” popped into my head. So I did one of those ‘laying the breadcrumbs’ jokes asking “What would Bruce Springsteen say if he got immolated?”

I wonder if he wrote that song in his Incendiary…

Game Theory-us Business.

So I wrote this yesterday and forgot to post it. Whoopsie.

I’m sure you’re all waiting at anticipation to hear. Did yesterday pan out? After my milquetoast and uninspiring Thursday, did Friday deliver the goods? Was my Secret Santa sufficiently Elephant and White? What if after all this preamble I skipped it all in lieu of discussing my least enjoyed Christmas tunes? I guess nothing of value would be lost…

…but White Elephant was a megatons of fun. The rules had been sent out in advance, but I was pretty sure most of my co-workers had never played. It’s a friendly and respectful work environment. I work with generally pretty kind folks. The question then was how I could get the game to move into cutthroat mode. As discussed previously, I’d tried to bring a gift that some people would hate and others would actually want. I bought three large Care Bear soft toys. Excessively sized for the purposes of the game. The package was bulky to carry and difficult to transport on my packed morning commute. Still, I imagined most people would bring something practical or edible. Mine would be a left field gift.

The first package opened was a nice throw blanket. It was soft and tasteful and the gal who opened it loved it. Perfect. A cheeseboard was unwrapped, then a bottle of red wine, some candy and a mug with hot chocolate. Our boss has one of the managers proxy play for him. He ended up with a Shakeweight, still in its packaging. His present was super interesting. It was a card that gave the card owner access to a game next week. They’d get a choice of three mystery gifts. One would be worth virtually nothing, another would be worth $15 and the last would be worth a lot. Intriguing.

People were fine with what they had, zero steals so far. My present got opened with classic comic timing. It’s opener tore a small hole and pulled one through. Everyone laughed. “Wait” she said, then plucked another one out. The laughs got louder. “Wait, what?” She reached in and grabbed the last one. Big laughs all around. She was stoked. Most people were, as I said they liked what they’d picked. It was my turn next and I immediately stole the throw blanket. It’s former owner was furious. She’d been so stoked. Good, good.

She couldn’t steal from anyone who’d stolen from her, so it was out of bounds to take back. In vengeance, she stole the cheeseboard. The cheeseboard owner tried to steal the bottle of wine he’d brought as a gift, announcing his intentions out loud. He didn’t realise you couldn’t take your own gift. He stole the mystery gift card instead. Someone opened a jar of Vegemite and a pack of Tim Tams. Awesome. I wanted them. Plus I knew nobody else would go near Vegemite. If anyone stole the throw (which I assumed someone would. There were a maximum of three steals per item) I’d gun for the Vegemite and it’d be a safe steal. Next round someone stole the throw, I stole the Vegemite and the Vegemite person stole the throw back. I’d earlier tried to conspire with the wine guy, but it fell through. In retaliation, he took my Vegemite and I took the flat-bottomed mug (which I quite wanted. Prevents spills) & hot chocolate combo. The popular gifts all shifted around a bunch, but nothing else super eventful happened as the game drew to a close. One person totally didn’t understand what we were doing and thought it was for a toy drive. She’d brought an unwrapped cop car toy or something. It was incredibly unpopular. Once the game was over, I traded my hot chocolate mix for the Vegemite, so I ended up with the Vegemite and a flat-bottomed mug. Many people were bitter. I was chuffed. The gal who’d opened my Care Bears was too. I can’t imagine a more successful outing.

Was that worth the wait? Well it was certainly better than another shitty Thursday.

Is this what a level up feels like?

This entry is going to be the epitome of vague-booking. I did something today that terrified me, but I pushed through anyway. There will be no specifics because there aren’t specifics yet. I don’t want to jinx a thing. However I’m nervous, excited, shaken and proud, which seems worth talking about.

It’s no secret that I’ve felt listless lately. Stagnant even. I’ve had no career movement in far too long and it’s caused me no end of anguish. My lack of direction has left me brick-walled and I’ve had nobody else to blame. Any progress would be impossible without putting in the work, which seems altogether too obvious when I put it in writing. In short, I needed to do something.

A few months back I was doing some voicing and a stranger point blank asked me what my dream job was. That’s a frank, bold question to lob at someone you’ve just met but for some reason without thinking I had an answer. It was thorough and direct, with more confidence and candour than it deserved, considering how hard my brain was scrambling after my mouth. I finished. She nodded and said “you should do that”. I stood there shocked and took in what I’d said. Where had it come from?

I thought about it for the next few days. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next month. Then I did something I rarely ever do: I asked for help.

I bypassed a few rungs on the corporate ladder and went to the highest ranked person I knew. I told him I had something I wanted to pitch, but felt way over my head and wanted some advice. He’d always been an honest, no nonsense person to deal with in the past. He never sugarcoated anything, but he knew what he was talking about. He said to look at his calendar and book an appointment. I booked something an hour later.

I laid out my idea in a vague sense. Told him where I saw it going, how it could be implemented. He tore holes in it, pointed out all the weak spots in my plan. He told me to come up with answers and schedule another meeting. I came back to him a week later with a more solid outline. He told me who I should pitch to and how to angle it towards them. Once again he poked holes, then told me to fix them and bring the answers in the form of a sales deck. I’d never made one, so he gave me concrete directions on how to structure it. Exactly how long it should be, which sections to focus on, how my content would fit. I came back a week later with my results. He critiqued it some more with mostly aesthetic advice and told me he’d let the party involved know that I had his blessing. He thought it was a great idea and I’d brought it up at an opportune time. I thanked him for all the help and went to set up a pitch meeting. I was told that they were too busy at present, but wanted to hear my ideas in 4-6 weeks.

I felt brushed off and rejected. Any momentum I had ground to a halt. 4-6 weeks passed. Months passed. Things at work got worse. I felt embarrassed that I had failed to deliver on the summation of my effort. That I’d wasted the time of someone important who’d put themselves out for me. Work continued to get worse and none of my job interviews paid off. It felt like I’d hit rock bottom. I felt ashamed. What a waste, letting this idea with so much potential flounder uselessly.

I realised that things couldn’t get worse, so what did I have to lose trying to do something about it? I got back in contact with the person I was originally gonna pitch to. They were busy, but booked a meeting a week later between me and two of their subordinates. I couldn’t tell if this was a meeting of obligation or genuine interest. It didn’t matter. I went back to my sales deck, tightened it up. I thought about how the landscape had changed and new ideas for implementation. As the meeting loomed I was shitting myself. I’d struggle to get to sleep, then wake up at 4am because I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. I was nervous, excited and shaken, but I was ready.

Today I had the meeting. The AV equipment in the meeting room I’d booked didn’t work. They said it was fine, that we could find another room. We walked the floor looking for an unused meeting room with the right equipment. We found one that worked and I took a deep breath. I explained that I was nervous, that I’d never even used PowerPoint before, but I had conviction in my ideas. They smiled and I started.

I went through my presentation and spoke off the top of my head. Magically, everything flowed. I’d go into immense detail on one topic, then move tangentially into another without thinking. Then I’d realise that I’d pivoted to the next point on my slide without thinking. It kept happening. I expanded upon ideas in depth, threw out examples on the fly that were in themselves solid ideas. They were nodding, asking questions. Without effort, I had a good answer every single time. I was open, honest and realistic about scale. My concepts were relevant to the company and gave valid insight into how it could fit into and augment current strategies.

I got to the end of my prepared presentation and they kept asking questions. They started coming up with ideas on how it could work too. They got excited and started looking at the impending schedule to see how they could implement my ideas. We started talking timelines and practical steps. We kept talking. They said they’d run it up the ladder, get feedback and see where we could go from there. I felt anything but placated. I felt vindicated. I thanked them for their time and they thanked me for mine. We went our separate ways and I had a brisk walk to take a breather.

So what now? I wait, then follow up. I keep momentum without being pushy. I cross my fingers and hope that their enthusiasm was genuine. Then whatever comes, I follow through and deliver. It could be big. It’s definitely exciting (and a little scary).

It’s also leagues better than doing nothing.