Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Preoccupation With Death

I am the Warden!!

Apparently, I have a preoccupation with death. (What? The title didn't give that away?) I'm not going to get into where it came from or why that person brought it up, only to say that it came up in conversation nonetheless and with good reason. The comment - an observation, really - was a result of Killshot itself, a game centered primarily on assassins killing people as the primary objective. It didn't strike me as being overly provocative at first until that person clarified their remark.

"Considering the past year-and-a-half of your life has been confronting a near-death experience, doesn't it seem a bit ironic that you're writing about it on a near constant basis?"

The question's haunted me for the past couple of days, burrowed deep inside my consciousness to the point I haven't been able to concentrate on my work. This normally means there's a disturbing truth to it and the issue is not that I recognize it, but that I don't quite understand it. I consider myself a very insightful person, particularly when it comes to my own thoughts and emotions. Nothing slips by me and few and far between are the moments when someone else spots something I failed to catch. Not that I'm trying to brag, but all the observations brought up in recent therapy were not revealed by the therapist, but by me.

Am I only writing Killshot because of a deep seeded need to confront my issues with mortality or because my subconscious lingers on the topic so much that it leaks into my work?

Death Is Nothing New In Gaming
On the surface, committing murder for the sake of gaming is not exactly provocative because we do it all the time. To monsters and devious characters who deserve a fate of nonexistence mostly and every once in a while we face our own character's demise. Physical conflict is a significant part of the typical gaming experience and we never give it more than a glancing thought. It's violence, through and through. Most of it is PG-13 level violence - so long as it's happening to fictional creatures, it can get fairly gruesome and no one will bat an eye because goblins aren't real and can be brutalized.

Killshot has no care for goblins and directs its anger at humans. The poor, rich, guilty, and innocent alike. It doesn't care. Clearly a R rating.

So it wouldn't matter what style of game I could create, it would likely have issues with mortality to one degree or another. But I can't ignore that this one specifically deals with it as the central topic rather than a section at the tail end of a combat chapter.

Intention is 2/3rd the Fight
No sooner have I written this subheading do I notice the humor and irony. Killshot focuses a lot of attention on planning the crime and much of the game's mechanics revolve around the intention of the desired action. What appears to be the emphasis of the game - the murder itself - is only a fraction of the overall game. The game's true strength lie in the hours of development and procedure leading up to the crime itself as the players study and hatch a scheme to pull off the job without getting caught. This means the characters designate all their energy and attention to the act of dying from multiple angles and select which one works best for their buck.

Oops.

Write About What You Know
The old saying is very true about writing what you know and perhaps it's more true no matter how hard you try and avoid it. When the fingers begin to fly across the keyboard faster than your mind can conceive the words, it can be amazing what comes out on the page and the direction your story (or game) takes. Actually, that doesn't apply here because these particular words mean nothing to this point. It's not that I'm writing words invoking images and concepts of death and murder, it's my thoughts on the project as a whole.

I am surrounded by death, it seems. Not on the surface, but under the floorboards. Aside from my own near-death experience, I've found various drafts of chilled air seeping into my foundation. Like how the previous occupant of our house died here, a family just down the street from us lost both parents in the course of a year (with the father dying three days after I came home from the hospital), one of our cats passed away close to a year ago, our town has the nasty reputation of having the largest number of traffic fatalities in the entire province, and we live within eyesight of two funeral homes.

This is the first time I've compiled such a list and have just spent several minutes staring at it. There's more I could add, in fact, but perhaps what exists there already speaks volumes to its impact. Damn.

Perhaps now is a good time to add the thought of death does not preoccupy my mind to the point of valid concern. Death scares me, truly frightens me to the point I dread it like a child fears the monster in his closet or under the bed. I'm incredibly appreciative of what little I have and cling to it like an infant to his mother. People who know me and those professionals I have met since the accident tell me I'm a remarkably positive and upbeat person and I am. Despite being knocked down so much in my life, I always pick myself back up again and push on. Quiet and gentle as I may be, I've never done what I was told. Even as my car burst into flames and tried to claim my life, I refused to do what it wanted and got myself out in spite of its worst intentions and I intend to continue fighting.

This revelation does bring my work to a new light and forces me to look at Killshot with clearer eyes. Perhaps now I truly understand why Killshot has spoken so clearly to me since that moment months ago when the idea came to me and why I remain unwavering in my pursuit to get this project finished. It's more than just a gruesome game of murder; it's a giant middle finger to Death itself.

I'll go when I'm ready and not a minute sooner. I've got a game to write.