Today I ended up at my old friend' blog when I was looking for information on the format of the podcast she produces. I ended up looiking at her most recent blog post. When I saw that she was writing about the political events of trans rights in the US I shut down. I was having an alright day, just trying to get through it. But when I saw this post I could just feel the bad little brain worms wriggling in. There is nothing wrong with this blog post, in fact I think it's a very beautiful analysis involving her theorizing transness from her perspective and using the song "If I Had Words". However, it really sunk in how much she was doing the work that I wanted to do. Not that she is the only one doing the work that I want to do. Rather, seeing her work reminds me of the work I want to do, the work that I feel that I cannot do, the work that I gave up doing.
I spent 10 years working towards being a game writer. Over that time I developed critical thinking skills and moved from enthusiast writing about why I disliked or liked games, to critical game design analyst, to cultural critic. This was a development that I really enjoyed. Like I can't express the amount of enjoyment that thinking about how games connected critically to the world brought me. It was my everything. It gave my life meaning. It helped me find a community. It helped me understand my favorite medium. It helped me understand the workings of the world. I do not exaggerate when I say that it gave my life meaning.
However, over the last couple years everything fell apart and I don't really know why. When I went to the PhD program I lost all ability to write in a meaningful way for school. I only came up with blanks. When people cited theory for their projects, I drew blanks. I felt completely alien, and like I didn't belong. It felt like I didn't know what I wanted from that university space and the people studying within in. During that time, I was a part of the Mousey server where people like the writer I mentioned above were also a part of. To make an important note here, I started the Mousey server to make better friends with other games people that I thought were cool on twitter.
The Mousey server was the community where I found meaning in my work still. They pushed me to think about the world and games in meaningful ways. We engaged in critical conversation to a degree that really inspired me. It was, in fact, the last time I really felt inspired about the work I was doing, and maybe the most so. It was the moment over the ten years of writing where I finally felt like I had found people that I felt truly understood my experiences and the work I felt so passionate about. Despite this, I also felt like perhaps I never really fit into the Mousey group. That instead, I was projecting my emotoins onto the group despite still being outside of them.
I feel weird typing that the blog writer above was my friend, because I honestly never really felt like she liked me well enough to call me that. It feels like I am taking that consent from her, like it isn't my choice to use that word. This was a common feeling I felt throughout the time I was hanging out in the mousey discord server. I always felt like I was outside of everyone, like somehow I just wasn't doing anything right to feel accepted. And I think that's what kind of made me so obsessed with every action I took and every reaction they made. I just wanted to fit in, I wanted to be accepted and feel like they were my community. However, I only ended up trying too hard to impress peopple and obsessing with everyone's reactions to me to the point that I had to leave the group in order to not create a toxic relationship to them. It was perhaps, already too late for some.
I left the Mousey server, and lost any sense of community in games that I had. There were some folks I maintained contact with, only slightly. But esssentially, I felt completely alien to the space. I felt like I was a harmful person. Someone who shouldn't have a community to be a part of.
For about two more years I would continue writing about games and stay in the phd program. However, it only became more and more hollow as I went on. I would try to find anything to grasp my passions onto. I thought that games archeaology was super fucking cool. I had moments where I tried blogging and it felt really great, only to be unable to replicate the feeling a second time. Then eventually I just stopped. All my writing was on websites that didn't care about what I was saying, and I was working so hard to make rent with games writing that I didn't actually have any time to process that I had lost any ability to say anything critically meaningful. With each piece that was published I would have a fully day depressive breakdown about how badly I had done with the piece. Everything I wrote felt like it was a husk without any meaning, that I was grasping for some sort of "correct" answer and only outputting the most generic results possible. Eventually I would walk away from games writing, announcing that I would be going on hiatus because games writing wasn't healthy for me.
But that really wasn't it was it?
It wasn't that games writing was unhealthy for me. It was that I never let go of the pain of losing critical peers that I felt were important. When I went to my PhD program, I lost all the people in my MFA that inspired me to think about new ideas and see games in alternative ways. When I left the mousey server, I believed that I wasn't a good critical writer, but an abusive individual that didn't understand how to form healthy connections to others. After that, I lost my political hope as well. I stopped believing in anything good happening in the world. I stopped believing that anything I could do could make meaningful change in anyone's lives. I lost the ability to believe that I could do anything good or meaningful in this world.
This week, me, Damien, and Lyra completed our group playthrough of Final Fantasy X. It is, possibly one of the most beautiful corporate developed video games I have played with themes addressing abusive relationships, systems of fascist control, and how to imagine a new world when the systems in power don't want you to. I want to write about it so bad. I want to discover revelations within myself about Final Fantasy X so bad. However, whenver I spend time to do so, nothing comes out. And when people try to talk to me about the game, I don't have anything to say. It's not that I dont have a desire to say anything about the game. I can feel the passions I hold about that game within me. I can feel that I have things I want to say. But in my head there is almost nothing. And if I do have something to say, many times its just a mess that no one can agree with or comprehend.
The day after we finished Final Fantasy X Lyra spoke to me a little bit about what we thought about the game. I mentioned that I went back and looked at how the game handled the language of the people discriminated against in the game, the Al Bhed. I thought the way it handled the Al Bhed's language was really interesting because it was asking the player to confront their own stigmas of brown characters speaking a language they do not understand alongside the protagonist of the game. Lyra looked upset, almost frustrated, and rejected the notion. I felt defeated and ashamed. What I presented perhaps was not that revelatory at all, and based on Lyra's reaction, was naive and simply incorrect. My day was ruined.
I wish I could do what my ex blogging friend does. I wish I could write about the events surrounding trans people in the world. I wish I could write about games with beautiful critical analysis. But I can't. I am broken.
When I started writing this post I wanted to believe that digging into these feelings would somehow bring me insight into why I was struggling so much with games writing. I hoped that somehow by digging into these feelings that I could gleam something about my broken state that I could begin to look towards a better future for myself. But I can't.......Every day I try so hard to get back to some state of peace. I want writing to be a place I can return to and find joy in. I want to stream again without feeling overwhelmed by social interaction and expectation. Then it's 11pm, and I have to go to bed. And nothing happened today. I just struggled and writhed over the suffering of my existence. It has been a year of this happening at this point. When I walked away from games writing, I wanted to take a break so I could rest. So that I could figure out what I wanted in life, figure out how to best take care of myself. But all I have done is found that there is something broken in me that I am not sure will ever be repaired. I don't mean my ability to write, or my ability to find work I enjoy. I mean my ability to have hope is broken, and I am not sure it will be repaired. I'm not sure how to live knowing that. I know I have to, but I'm just not sure what to do with myself knowing that it is possible, maybe even likely, that I will never find passions that make me feel so alive ever again.