Innards #14: The Vault


A new and big idea has decided to settle in my head. This intrusive idea arrived this morning, knocking politely in my hollowed skull, and what did I do? I let it in. I entertained it. I gave it a glass of water, fed it, and before I knew, I had accidentally nurtured it. 

Oh Cthulu… 

It’s something to be proud of and yet, something you shouldn’t. Oh wow, you got a fun new idea, neato! Yes, it is neat. But what’s not neat is me unable to finish a single manuscript.

This new idea is a reminder that I’m dragging behind while all the cool stuff is piling up. And quite frankly, the more I hold off those ideas the more they become stale. And I do not want stale bread and I certainly do not want my cheese all moldy. 

I forgot how many “Projects” I already have out there. “Ashes” and “Dark” are definitely going after Red Whale. Then there’s the matter of “Tunnel Crow Town” and Project Ghosts, which is going to be really big. There’s also Project Sherlock that needs to be written after “Ashes” and between “Dark” because the latter two are so damn depressing. Oh, there’s also Project Hunter, my planned YA books, and then well, there’s the new idea that happens to be YA. Oh, I’m not done yet. There are multiple horror anthologies being written and then Project Starkiller, which is as big as Ghosts. Oh, I forgot my 2010 baby, “The Conductor” and my 2005 sweetheart, Shards. 

There’s a few more, like projects Apples and Valentine, and my nose is itchy to write a classic High Fantasy with a bit of twist. Then ther are a bunch of novellas. So yeah. In short, I’m screwed. I need to catch up or else the world will roll all over me.

A friend of mine said I may have writing ADHD and from exhausting all my projects like that, I can see why. 

In the meantime, the Red Whale is cruising along, almost done but with a lot of holes that need more than a few patches to fix.

Now I stop this and onwards to writing!

The profound evolution of “Dad of War”


Evolution is such a subjective word these days.

In a prime example, bands Paramore and Linkin Park have stirred chaos with their latest albums, After Laughter and One More Light, respectively, which had nothing to do with rock or nu-metal sounds. The new sounds have divided fans like the Red Sea. One side are on denial of the change, and the other side of fandom, the ones who love the band as they are and not for their sound, have defended this as “mature” and an “evolution.” It’s funny how these things were considered “mature” but that’s a different matter. But, as an evolution, that’s a little tricky. When you say “evolution” it’s supposed to mean they have transformed into something better, picking up old set pieces that worked and amplifying it with something newer that would turn it to gold.

Evolution is, when Agumon turns into Greymon to MetalGreymon and then WarGreymon. It’s the same procedure for Charmander reaching its final stages as Charizard, with a Mega Form as an epic encore. 

Then again, the tyrannosaurus rex is believed to be the ancient form of a chicken, and has evolved into humans’ happy meals in order to accommodate its own shrinking food supplies. Evolution is an adaptation to the environment, and if we look at it this way, no one can deny the commercial success of pop music, and so does that mean both Paramore and Linkin Park are… sellouts?

In any regard, the newest God of War happens to be the videogame equivalent of Paramore and Linkin Park, because the change of style and gameplay has been so drastic, it’s cleaving people from head to groin. 

When God of War was first released in 2005, it was the height of fast-paced and aggressive hack-and-slash trend jettisoned by Devil May Cry in 2001. It was gritty and violent. It gave you a simple story, Kratos, the game’s anti-hero, is pissed at the god of war, Ares, and so sets out for revenge. Instead of wild exploration – and exploration, we mean backtracking ten billion times like in DMC – God of War gave you puzzles, which served as breathers between the carnage sessions. It gave you amazing sceneries and epic moments delivered through Quick Time Events. I will always remember in God of War II where you had to swing between a series crumbling pillars. Try swinging through that Nathan Drake! 

In short, it was a violent action game done right. But the times have changed. Devil May Cry is nothing more today than a distant echo of the past just like all the classics we yearn to return some day. And God of War: Ascension had been a valiant effort to keep on milking the franchise, but after six games of encountering the same exact gameplay with the same exact length with some whatever excuse to strip Kratos off his powers and equipment, things do get stale a little. The game has an 80% Metacritic score, the lowest ever in the franchise, despite having being a really cool game that basically did everything what the first five games did.

Developers needed to consider other options. Today that seems to be two things: Combat and exploration. The latest trend that many developers love copying is Dark Souls, first released in 2011. And every since that game blew way out of its head, tiny shreds of Dark Souls DNA has been scattered throughout various games: Nioh, Lords of the Fallen, Salt and Sanctuary, and even The Legend of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild are primary examples.

As seen in the trailers the new God of War has a different combat mechanic. Instead of an angled top-down view, we get a full 360-degree camera controlled view. We see Kratos having his axe ready in one arm and a raised shield in the other. This lets us know combat mechanics will cater some similarities to Dark Souls, in a more, thread carefully approach. And yet, we see in the same trailer how Kratos takes on multiple enemies, swinging his axe like a rabid mountain man and doing cool stuff with it. What does this mean? We’re playing the same aggressive hack-and-slash game, only with actually new weapons with new tricks that encourage a more tactical approach. It’s old school God of War with the addition of newer, cooler stuff to turn it gold. Or at least, hopes to turn it gold.

In 2005 God of War was deemed mature because of its high-level of violence, gore, and the mini-game that required you to knock a vase off the table. Today, the new game is being considered mature for its sophistication and dad elements, where Kratos now looks after a young boy. Kratos now stands among the “Sad Dads,” next to Joel, Booker, and Logan. And there’s usually one way how the dad makes it out in the end.

But it’s so much more than that. The possible tactical approach in combat is the developers telling everyone how the games have gone “mature” and how it has evolved in the times today after six games since all the way from 2005. Let’s also chuck in that scene in the trailer, where the World Serpent appears, and Kratos, instead of going full berserk mode, asks, “What is it saying?” Kratos has aged and has gained wisdom, learning to speak first before cracking skulls. Well, maybe not exactly, we’ll find out next year.

It has also confirmed that the controversial mini-games—you know, the ones where you need to topple a vase, make a peeing statue pee harder, and, well, bang a goddess of sex—will not return to the game. The developers are letting people know that this game is no longer a game for bros who are into bloody action and boobs, especially with the height of gender roles in games, films, and in the community, are being scrutinized and criticized. If you want to check out boobs, there’s Google for that, and if you want the same bloody action again, there are six other God of War games out there.

Wonder Woman


I’ll keep this brief: “Wonder Woman” is the most amazing superhero film I’ve seen yet.

It isn’t something built on hype. If anything, Warner and DC didn’t put as much marketing effort as it had with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and still “Woman Woman” was an explosive powerhouse of great action and great storytelling.

I say great storytelling because “Wonder Woman” tells more than one. It’s a coming-of-age tale where Diana comes to understand her purpose, it’s a heroes’ journey, it’s a story about World War I, it’s a love story, it’s a story about gods and mortals, and most of all, it’s a superhero story.

I look back in previous superhero films and not one of them came close to actually being a superhero. In 2008 with “Iron Man,” Tony Stark developed his suit first to escape captivity, and then again, to destroy the weapons manufactured by his own company on enemy hands. “Thor” was just a spoiled battle hungry god who got a time out from his dad and was just making penance. And good ole “Captain America” was a weapon of the United States to punch the hell out of HYDRA. 

I’m not bashing Marvel here. I love their films but you’ve got to admit, the first fight scene with Diana coming out as Woman Woman for the first time, where she went out of her way to help people in desperate need, that’s a superhero moment there. She was willing to abandon her mission and her own safety to save lives. Literally save lives – civilian lives – out of immediate danger between the trenches of World War I.

That moment where Diana rose up that ladder: It was glorious. Of course the music helped stirred my emotions but it was no less the most epic thing I’ve seen in a superhero film. I had to dig way back in the attic of my mind to find something similar, and what came out was Sam Raimi’s own “Spider-Man 2” where our friendly wall-crawler stopped an overspeeding train.

The heroics doesn’t stop there. At some point every supporting character had done something heroic and things continue to build up to the final closing scenes.

“Wonder Woman” is an excellent example that DC and Warner can produce excellent superhero films within their Extended Universe. It tells a clear and comprehensive story with just the right amount of humor and excellent action. That’s why “Woman Woman” succeeded. It’s going to be a tough act to follow up but here’s to the future of “Wonder Woman.” 

Now let’s see if “Justice League” is on par with “Wonder Woman.”

Techspot #1

Lots of cool stuff happened this week. Got to watch “Into the Woods” and “Fantastic Four” for the first time and saw how bullshit they really were. Among other things, I found some awesome things.

HP A3 printers

Printers are now part of the internet-of-things. That means you can connect your smartphones to printers via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or whatever. That means printers are also hackable and can be used to steal confidential information, especially hospitals and other major institutions.

Apple *yawn*

WWDC 2017 showed how cool Apple can be. Or, not. We didn’t get anything new out of them. A few hardware upgrades, which is expected. The super-powered iMac Pro that starts in 5,000 USD will give people pause, and maybe make them go, damn, but no one who doesn’t need it, or has a lot of money, will really pay attention to it for long.

Even the 10-inch iPad Pro doesn’t really sound so exciting, especially if you already own the bigger and older iPad Pro. 

Apple making partners for their Apple TV cotent sounds nice though. Curating some of the hit shows into a single service has its charms.

The iOS 11 and MacOS High Sierra, well, meh. And the HomePods, it’s something we’ve expected considering Google and Amazon are going aggressive with their own stuff.

Monument Valley 2

Had no idea this came out. It’s crazy. The first game was surprisingly fun and so bright and rich of colors that made the game a visual delight. The sequel is no different. Just started playing it and completed a couple of levels and I know more awesome things will unravel soon.

PlayStation 4 Gold

Oh, shiny. I can imagine a lot if people are going to dig this but no thanks, the regular black will do just fine for me.

Wonder Woman

Whoo! Still haven’t gone to see it yet. The other day when the wife and I went to the theater, it was packed! No slots left! Hopefully this weekend we’ll get a chance.

Blue is the strangest color

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This is an updated article originally published at GameGulp.ph as part of celebrating 20 years of Pokemon. This was written by a friend of mine, who prefers to be called “Dave Hoffman.”

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Blue is such a strange color. It’s a depressing shade of isolation. It’s the color when someone is feeling down or when you’re choking (with a mix of purple). It’s also the color of your corpse after you’ve drowned. Blue, like the ocean, stretches on, far across the world, much like the sky. Only it goes down, down, deep—deep down, where some really fucked up shit are found – frilled sharks, giant tube worms, seapigs, Bigfin squids (seriously Google that last one) and all other monstrosities that were meant to be found in distant planets, imagined to reality by movies.

And marine biologists say that we have only explored less than 5% of the entire ocean. That makes the knowledge of the surface ocean so depressing, so claustrophobic in this vast blue wasteland of water.

So when I found out I can catch water Pokemon with a fishing rod, I was both deeply interested and scared what to find. I figured I’d find Pokemons based on a gold fish, a starfish, a sea lion, a walrus (has there ever been a walrus Pokemon?), and the ever-should-be-famous, the hentai Pokemon (I’m looking at you, Tentacruel).

When I was five, my family took us on a vacation to some distant beach, where the sands were dark and almost mud-like. I threw on a life jacket and swam into the ocean, as far as I could go. I remember stepping into soft sand, exploding between my toes. The sense of it was oddly therapeutic.

I stepped into the water, walking on shells, some seaweed, and sand that dissolved on my every step. I trudged along as far as I could go until I was kicking in the water. I felt the lifejacket rising above me, holding me afloat. I had drifted afar, the waves still high and smashing against my face. I tasted salt and the water stung my eyes. I used the seawater to wash it off, such ridiculous notions. But for some psychologically insane reason, it worked. I thought I could see better, the grains of salt washed from my eyes. And from where I floated I saw the beach, all the adults looked so small, as they gathered and talked, the older ones children built sandcastles. I don’t think I have gone terribly that far, or else the adults would have panicked.

I spun around, facing the sun, a bright golden disc that burned the sky red and orange. It looked like a painting I saw in a museum once. There was a sense of ease while drifting there. Something I didn’t understand. It felt like home, away from all the madness that tried to rip me apart. I wanted to go underwater, understand its depths, and catch whatever fish I could find. My naiveté found no bounds. All I could think of then, was the blue under the water.

These are things I remember whenever I played “Pokemon Blue.” I skipped a few of the games, jumping back into Sapphire, White, and then Omega Ruby—all through my brother’s game saves. I have to be honest here, anything or mostly anything beyond Blue were shit. The sense of wonder and exploration was gone. The isolation of wandering alone, to discover animals in the tall grasses and the sea to be turned into slave-gladiators for children’s selfish amusements, were gone. Graphics meant so little to me. It was the experience itself, or the lack of thereof, that bothered me about the new games, feeling stupid to have thrown away money, which could had contributed instead on my college funds – maybe then, I wouldn’t had needed a part time job, mopping floors in Burger King.

That’s not to say the new Pokemon games are bad. They weren’t just fit for my taste. I never played Red, or Yellow, or Green—though I’ve had people tell me that all of them are practically the same. But no matter what people will say, Blue had held that magic ball and captured me with it.

Mind you, I didn’t start out with a Squirtle. I had a Bulbasaur, which I nicknamed Logan. With him, I was able to take out the first three gym leaders with the least amount of resistance. I guess you could say I’ve made a special bond with this guy, like a pet, or a friend that I could talk to while kicking asses of random, often creepy, digital kids. Alone in my room, I’d walk around the grass, letting Logan be the annex predator of town. I’d tell him my secret problems that I’m so afraid to share with other people.

In time in the game I obtained a Lapras, taught it how to Surf, and spent time circling around the waters, be it in the lake or along the sea, island hopping to reach my seventh gym badge, where a combination of bad luck and overconfidence had sent Logan to the nearest Pokemon Center after getting Fire Blasted. Got my revenge later, the Volcano Badge felt like a small reward for a supposed achievement. It wasn’t even a reward. It was a key I needed to progress through the game, a chore I needed to accomplish. The real reward, was taking out Lapras, surfing with it northward from Cinnabar Island, navigating through the water, fighting off perverts in the sea, and somehow, ended up back at Pallet Town.

A journey spent on a full circle.

I spent a lot of time Surfing in the game. Mostly because I liked the music and seeing my tiny trainer sprite turned into a monochrome pixilated Lapras. I spent time exploring the water even though there really wasn’t much to it. I never caught much of the water-based Pokemons – I never collected them, actually, which sounds like the anti-thesis of the game – but I did throw my ball for a Magicarp and joked about raising it to a competitive level. I had no idea then that hitting at level 20 would garner me a freaking water dragon.

Look, I never read guides, never bothered to watch the show, or talk to people about it. People in my peers then never expected I’d be playing a silly game like Pokemon. And truth be told, I was fucking embarrassed about it. I was the kind of guy that liked hanging out with kids trying to act cool, squatting in the corners, taking a drag of shared cigarettes. We’d talk about our hot biology teacher and how everyone had a serious hard on by just looking at her. Just kids being kids, we talked about girls, boobs, sex, exchanged basketball cards, more boobs and sex, nudie mags, smoked, constant hand solo-loving, and other vulgarities that made me a typical delinquent to the public eyes, all of this before hitting my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t do well in school, though my parents kept their frustrations quiet, talking to me, encouraging me and all that stuff. Neither of them raised their fist or yelled, just soothing conversations, sweet talks, and the barest hints of disappointments, which always stung the most.

By then I had sold my Game Boy that was a present to me by my late aunt, before she passed away from some illness. I sold a few other things too and used the money to buy cigarettes and condoms. The people I hang out with, we had no real spot, we drifted from one spot to the next, often in some abandoned home, chilling out, square dance fucking, sometimes if we were lucky someone would have snuck out some booze, get wasted and fuck around more.

This was the life I wanted to live forever. Or I thought I did. My own personal circular journey. I’d lie on the roof at night, sometimes with a girl, and we’d try things up there. Mostly we’d just talk and learned there are other ways to be intimate with someone other than sticking your tongue down their throat. She liked cars and taking pictures and she’d been saving money to buy her own camera.

I wanted to share about my secret love for Star Wars, Pokemon, and some other anime bullshit. Oh, my then-friends liked some of those stuff, but never gorged into it as much as I did on my own. None of them would stay up late, binge-watching the first 70 episodes of “One Piece” (which at that time, had only 90+ episodes, seriously, and I remember a forum pointing out that it will only have 150 episodes, now they’ve got more than 700, talk about wild).

I never had the nerve to tell the girl I was with about those. She talked about how her family is going through rough times. It felt superficial to bring up random blabbering. I figured she was just hanging out just to talk, mess around a little, and mostly to vent off. We’d fool around once in a while, sometimes in front of a friend just to weird them out, or, just mess with their head. The next few weeks she and her family moved out of town without a goodbye. And there was a sinking feeling in my chest, a regret that maybe, a few random blabbering could have eased off her burdens, could have made her feel she had a friend.

My usually delinquencies never went out of style, and until one of my friends became a young and unexpected father. He and the girl kept the kid and things changed for them. The parents wouldn’t support them, believing if they had made adult choices then they should be prepared for being an adult.

The young couple developed deep bags under their eyes, they yelled at each other even while in public, and they weren’t always around to hang out with. They got jobs. That was good, but they were vocal how they hated their lives. On the surface, they were the same people I shared a cigarette and square danced with but deep down, they’re different people. And they look terrible. I felt sorry for them. I felt sorry for myself, sorry for my ever patient parents. No freaking way I’d end up like this. I had to play it smart, look forward, and change.

And somehow I made it to college, trying to make it as a nurse; requirements were bat-shit crazy. I was glad to be far away from my old friends. None of them changed soon enough. And as much as that carved out a hole in my heart, that was cool because I was regaining my parents’ confidence and somehow that felt better, more fulfilling than getting solid bone crushing fucks.

I spent vacations away at home, on beaches with new friends. I learned how to surf. I knew how to skate so balancing was no issue at all. A female friend and I paddled around, going farther into the ocean, waiting for the tides to rise and fall, as if Poseidon himself was breathing through the waves.

We talked a lot about the ocean, how wonderful it was, how terrifying, full of mysteries yet to discovered or if they will ever be discovered. On land, we spent time chatting over AIM, talked about books, music, and just basically anything not about sex, drugs, and alcohol. She talked about building a future – though not necessarily with me, just she wanted to build something for herself. There was no romance between us. Did I try to sleep with her? Damn right I did. All efforts failed and she’d laughed about it, telling me it won’t happen.

This led me to aggressive solo beats each night, furious and ever hungry. After it was done, I’d lie down, ashamed and afraid of what I’ve just did, feeling disrespectful and dirty. Of course, the next night was the same story.

I talked to her about Pokemon too, a little. I remember her smile when she said she didn’t get video games. Her brother spent most days alone inside his room, playing non-stop.

“It’s like he’s not living his life anymore,” she said.

Of course we remained friends for a long time. Eventually, she got a boyfriend, moved in together, and they spent more time together. I phased out of her life. That was what I was to her, a phase, just she might have had been to me and to those who I once called friends. It hurts to think about that and I keep thinking if there was any point or lesson to learn from it.

That summer we went to the beach again. Swam, surf, a few drinks, good clean fun. Many years before that day, I’d be somewhere dark and dank, holding a bottle and wasted, and square dancing. I thought about it, how it all seemed “fun” and how it became so was strange.

Being on that beach, at that time, with those people, was what I’d happily call fun. The water still scared me a little, its expanse and the endless horizon.

“I think you’re just afraid to explore the world,” a friend told me, while reading some shit ass philosophy-or-psychology book. I didn’t retort, though I wanted to punch him in the face.

A few years later, my mother and I traveled to the Philippines for my cousin’s wedding. I met some relatives there. I got to make some new friends. On our last five days, we went to Boracay, a tourist spot that people all over the world seemed to gather. The white sand caked beneath my feet like powder. It was nothing like the sands in South Mission Beach in San Diego – or was it? I can’t remember. But all I know, it was an awesome place. The beach was bombarded with the usual shit though – McDonalds and Starbucks (of course).

I heard the days before in Boracay were quieter and had fewer tourists. These days, it’s like the cultural melting pot of every nation in the world, a grand gathering of sorts, though most of its foreigners are white folk from US and Europe, lots of Asians: Koreans and Chinese. I heard stories about people fucking in the shallow waters of the beach. With Filipino cousins and friends we went scuba diving. I got to see the rock edges, the corrals around the islands. I also wandered a bit too far underwater. I remembered thinking often, blue is such a strange color. But as the farther I got, I found myself staring into an abyss. Nothing was blue about it. It was darkness. It called out to me, demanding my attention, to become fish food. Fuck no, no, just no. I swam back up. And never went back.

That night after some drinks I walked into the room I shared with my brother, quietly as possible not to wake him, the smell of alcohol still fresh on my breath. Hours passed, sleep didn’t come, I thought about going out again and find someone I could fuck with. Instead, I rummaged through my brother’s pack, took out his 3DS and popped in his Omega Ruby game. Perhaps it was being tipsy and feeling stupid in a way, that I did on a random whim, decided to delete his save and start a new game. I hated his starter, a fire breathing chicken. Boring! I just had to choose Mudkip and named him Brad, cause it looked like a Brad. And it reminded me of that deep sea creature called axoltotl. The similarity is fucking uncanny!

I played most of the night until I fell asleep, the 3DS still powered on, emitting light radiation on my face. I remember my brother being upset at me, though held no grudge over something as petty as a save game. I still think anything beyond Blue is a shit game. But I had fun with Omega Ruby. Even as we traveled back home, my brother and I took turns with the 3DS. I’d let him kill the gym leaders, it was his game anyway. I was more than happy to grind for him – though for some reason, it wasn’t all that hard in this game, has the new Pokemon games turning little trainers too soft or was I just that good? Either way, there was a sense of a happy ending in getting back into Pokemon. Some may call it an addiction, but a healthy one, I suppose. He walked me through everything new about the world, opening up new discoveries that intrigued him so much. I’d gotten updates on some of the newer features: “Mega Evolutions.” It was one of my biggest what the fuck moments. Last time I checked this was Pokemon, not fucking Digimon. My brother wouldn’t stop yapping as if this were the first time we actually got to talk about something without getting on each other’s nerves.

I also got a chance to talk to my mom about the water. About how much of it scares me. And practically, anything blue makes me think of something weird. I thought she’d shun me, or feed me bullshit. Instead she said: “The sky and the ocean are two things that scares and amazes me both.”

I am afraid not of the exploration itself as my bitch ass friend said, but it is more because I fear the freedom of the sky and the pressure and the unknown in the sea. Both responsibility and freedom can be daunting, overwhelming, and soul-crushing. I had been relying on too many people for too long that being left alone scared me. I guess that’s the most accepted answer, if not a cheesy one.

Back home, whenever I couldn’t surf, I skated and gamed. I snowboarded when we took a vacation in the Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania, hated skiing. I broke an arm, nothing I haven’t been through. But it was all good. My life’s still a mess, just a little, my parents are just a phone call away, and they’ve been helping me rebuild. I’ve shared cigarettes with my father, him finding my new sudden interest in fixing cars an anomaly. And joked who the fuck am I. I didn’t like cars, I just wanted to get to know my father more since he was always away more than my mother.

I bought a new 3DS, bought some games with it, played with my brother through Wi-Fi, traded and battled Pokemon. We played Smash and Tri-Force. I wished I hadn’t bought a 3DS though, not yet. There’s a new version coming this week, one with the original Red and Blue Pokemon designs. Of course I’d get the Blue, I hate Blastoise design though. I wanted a Venusaur one. But it’ll do. My brother has never played the first gen Pokemon games and I’m looking forward for the original versions to become available in the Nintendo eShop. I don’t know if my brother will appreciate them as much as I did. Maybe he’ll hate it. I don’t blame him, I hate everything not gen one anyway.

I’ve given up on trying to become a nurse. I wanted someplace even where the pay isn’t too grand but at the same time allows me to continue what I love doing. I heard being a coastguard isn’t too bad. Or a lifeguard. I can just imagine myself running across the coastline with a six-packed abs. Maybe from there I’d be smart enough to study the ocean again.

Keep calm and use flamethrower

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This is an updated article, written by Karen Benitez, originally published at GameGulp.ph as part of celebrating Pokemon for over 20 years.

Flamethrower.

Oh lord, I hate that move. It’s so overpowered. I had blazed through most trainers with it. Even water and rock types can be knocked out with a solid, critical flamethrower. Sometimes I end up using Fire Blast, in the cases of Brock and Misty in Pokemon Silver. Yes, I used my Typlosion, a fire type against gym leaders that use rock and water type Pokemons, and it was glorious.

Every “Pokemon” game I’ve played I have chosen a fire type. It had nothing to do with fire types being cool, or red as my favorite color, often dyeing my hair red, it was just sheer coincidence that I liked the fire type starters. It almost seemed that Nintendo, Game Freak, the Pokemon Company, in general, give priority in designing the better fire type starters. Take a look at them, Charizard, Typlosion, Blaziken, Emboar, Infernape, Greninja — uh, yeah. I skipped the fire type in X/Y because it looked like shit. No offense to any users.

For the newer Sun and Moon, naturally I picked Rowlet. I’ve never been a cat person and the final evolution of the fire type.

Oh, flamethrower, right. So, my friend and I often experimented on different hairsprays, body sprays, whatever-sprays, and spray them on a lighted candle. The flamethrower effect that came was really cool. I remember my friend Jon toasting marshmallows with it — at least tried to — we never ate it though, at least, I know I didn’t.

Wait, we’re straying too far.

In my first ever playthrough in “Pokemon Red,” I hit the League with my team’s average level around mid-40s. My Charizard was in early 50s and had been the muscling through most of the battles. I’ve stocked up in shit loads of Hyper Potions, Full Restores, and Revives. Every fight against Lorelei, the next dude, Agatha, had been serious struggles, diminishing my supplies until I finally got to Lance. And he was the worst. I pushed through and when that failed, I switched tactics, I got a grass type and hoped to the Pokemon god, Arceus, would be merciful enough to let my Pokemon paralyze Dragonite with my Gloom’s Paralyzing Powder. Then I switched to my Vaporeon and used Blizzard — which wasn’t enough, and Lance OHKO’d my water Pokemon with Thunder.

It was a terrible run. But I did eventually knocked out Lance’s Dragonite using Charizard’s flamethrower. It was out of pure luck. I had run out of items and I’m almost out of money from constant defeat against the Elite Four. So, when I learned I still had to fight the Pokemon Champion, I flipped. I started a fresh playthrough. And this time, captured all legendaries (I killed all of them on my first run), and took my revenge against the Elite Four with wisely spent TMs and a better team all throughout. On an average mid-50 level range, the Elite Four didn’t stand a chance.

The next set of Elite Fours in other games were pushovers.

That was over twenty years ago. These days I still get to play with some of my old friends, across seas, sometimes even against their own kids. I don’t know if that’s sad playing against children over ten years younger than I am. But it’s still fun.

The meta game has changed a lot. At that time, I had no idea or even care things about IV stats and while children maxed out those hidden stats to breed the ultimate Pokemon, I have to procure a steady income to pay monthly rent and, you know, survive with decent living. I don’t get to game as much and I end up hanging out more with other people after work, having a drink or two with friends, take the bus home. In the morning it’s the same routine. If I’m feeling a little bit energized, I’d take my bike to work and back.

That’s my meta game. Though I never let that ruin my gaming lifestyle. And while looking after my friends’ kids once in a while, as the cool, carefree auntie, godmother, or big sis, they opened up to me.

One in particular, my godson, was bullied in school. He was taught to tell any grownups of any problems in school. He did before but the retaliation of the telling, to a child, was much worst. It was a death sentence. It seemed a simple thing to do. If someone’s bothering you, you tell someone else to tell that kid to back off. Maybe in a far simpler and ideal world that’s how it would have worked. My friend, Jon, had shared similar stories of his youth and if there was anything he learned then, telling on a bully, meant even more trouble.

I have faced bullies of my own as a kid. Both boys and girls. And if their parents were informed, often, they would point the blame on the kid being bullied — “Well, my son told me your kid started it,” or, “Impossible, at home my son is an angel.” The former is a way to justify their child’s actions, the second is either denial or ignorant bull crap — it means children are smart enough not to bare their teeth in front of adults.

“Punch him in the face.” I typed in the chat box.

“He’ll punch back, he’ll beat me, he’ll kill me.”

“Then kill him first,” I wrote back.

After a moment, realizing how I might have made things worse, I added. “Not literally! Don’t kill him literally! Delete this shit!”

“Delete this conversation please.”

“Please delete it.”

“Have you deleted it?”

“Can I see a screenshot?”

“Thank you! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo ;)”

I contemplated burning my passport to ensure I wouldn’t ever leave the country to visit them.

Anyway, flamethrower — in some parts of the world a bully has their psychological background, so they say. But in other parts of the world, in my case, a bully is a bully. They simply enjoy acting around as a boss. I remember people telling me to get to know the bully, understand who they are.

These are ancient methods. Maybe in some parts of the country there are bullies who undergo troubles of their own and vent out to other kids.

My experience was rather surreal. Talking never got anywhere and I had resorted to violence, ended up yanking another girl’s hair, clawing at each other that led to actual fist fights. Oh, how the guys cheered. We were 10-years-old then. So something like that was deemed exciting to watch.

When I grew up, that’s when things started to cool off, where talking really got us somewhere. It didn’t stop gossips and backstabbing though. To my godson, I showed him an episode of “The Simpsons” from the first season where Bart gathered an army to gang up on Nelson. I always thought that was the point of the episode. Stand up to bullying and if you can’t do it alone, get more people, and united you stand. A single bully, after all, has no match against an army. Unless of course the bully themselves has an army.

In attempts for peace talks, my godson established neutral grounds, right in the principal’s office where he had gathered other kids who had the same problem with the same bully. According to my godson: They and the bully with the principal had a long talk, and things settled down for a couple of months before the scene reverted back to “normal.” A second complaint occurred and this time the principal called in the parents.

Now, my godson was never physically bullied again. He got to keep his lunch, was never forced to take down notes for someone else, never had to worry every time he needed to take a piss. But the bullying switched to verbal. And that seemed worse. It destroyed his esteem. And kids being kids would pile on top of that. It was all just teasing, after all, they would say. It’s a miniscule scale of LAN connected cyber bullying, only isolated within the confines of the classroom. And if he had told on them, the verbal assault would get worse. No one likes a tattletale.

At this point it was time to play things smart. I don’t know the exact words I said to my godson. It’s probably the typical things adult say to children about bullies, ignore them, be confident, don’t let them bring you down. I like to think some part of that got through to him. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I tended to fight, and when things got worse for me, I made sure to make it worse for them too. It was never a pretty sight and that was something I didn’t want to pass on to him.

As much as I wanted to try to help him out of this situation. There really was no avoiding it. I felt I was beginning to speak out of terms. I was giving advice based on how I handled bullies. I fought. My hair got pulled. A boy punched me in the arm. The same boy years later had threatened to hit me if I broke up with him. More reason to dump him on the spot, and no, he didn’t punch me.

The sad thing is, but probably the best thing that had happened, my godson was moved to a different school. And quite frankly, I got mad, it was unreasonable anger. My friends only wanted to keep their son safe. I felt that the kid needed to fight back. It was a little heated conversation that my friend and his wife had thrown me in the miserable “seen zone” pit for months.

“Bitch, who does she think she is? She doesn’t even have kids.” Oh, the things I imagine they might have said to me at the time.

In about two years ago, they got in touch with me again, talked about the difference of a 3DS and the New 3DS, which had, given me the idea to write this. I guess it was just a reason for them to patch up the holes we left behind.

Of course I told them to get him the New Nintendo 3DS and recommended games that he could enjoy alone and with friends. We met up in a restaurant and caught up in what we had missed through those months and so on. Our catchup had been so fun that I was partially expecting it’d end up in a three-way and I wish it kind of had, cause that would have caused all sorts of awkwardness in the future, and a damn fine thing to laugh at when I grow up and tell my godson about it.

Oh, yeah, about my godson. It’s good to know that he made a lot of friends. We played Pokemon once in a while. Damn, the Internet is amazing. Our battles often end up with Mega Charizard X versus Mega Metagross or Mega Mewtwo or Mega Blastoise or Mega Charizard Y. I sometimes lost, I won once in a while, switching Pokemons, switching tactics, and all that shit. He messaged me just a few weeks ago, days before V-Day, asking me advice on what a girl typically likes.

“Ask your god damn mom,” I wrote back.

He said he did and is asking for second opinions.

From a lot of Pokemon, to bullying, and now he’s about to dive into the world of dating. The next thing he might ask is how to stick it in — oh hell, I hope not. Then he might ask advise what major to take in college, career, how to propose, and all that. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll figure it out by himself, like I did. I think that’s the way things often ended up. Maybe I’ll tell him that, but he’s always welcome to seek second opinions. It’s never out of the question.

I don’t have kids yet. But based on the things I’ve learned about them through my friends, is that they will always try to solve things on their own. It’s a damn respectable thing. If the worst comes, as an adult, you’d have to be there to guide them back around. Of course, this does not mean you could let them do anything they want. Of course you’d want to keep a close eye on them to avoid some mistakes some of us adults had made. It’s going to be cool and terrifying at the same time.

Flare Blitz. A powerful Pokemon fire type move that causes recoil damage to the Pokemon using it. Like how I handled my bully situation, I winged it, I took risks, and how I lived in my young adult years. Failure is always an option. The recoil can be bad but it can be as good. It’s all part of this fiery life, sending as much embers fluttering around the sky.

Honestly, that last part has nothing to do with the rest of the article. I just don’t know how to end this shit. So, I’ll leave it like this and F-Off now.

The Yellow Memoir

Pika

This is an updated article that was originally published in GameGulp.ph as part of celebrating Pokemon for 20 years.

The first memory I had about “Pokemon” was not the anime, or any of its merchandizes, or even the pocket monsters themselves. It was the move called “Mega Punch.”

In early 2000, on my sixth grade, two other boys were playing with their respective classic Nintendo Game Boys. It was a novel thing to have in our time and area.

Having one meant you’re a privileged fuck. And other students would revere at your presence, hoping to get a turn with what was the greatest handheld game console. Others would opt to steal it. But for the most part, everyone around our age who was too interested in a Game Boy like some holy relic that fell from the sky could only watch over the shoulder, drool, and hope and hope, until that hope withers away with mild envy and building, bulbous rage for the Game Boy’s stingy owner.

It was rare that anyone actually lent their Game Boys. Things got lost a lot around school, and no one was risking that for a damn second.

I had a Game Boy, mind you, which meant I was viewed as a privileged fuck, I also own an SNES and a Sega Genesis – both still working to this day – and this had placed my social status in the worst situation – a privileged fuck – and people around that school that weren’t privileged fucks didn’t like those kind of people. It’s a sad perception between the “privileged fucks” and the those who weren’t. We’re all just kids that wanted nice toys to play with. We were by no means, rich, but we did well, and family saved money and only spent when needed.

Despite the luxury of having multiple gaming platforms, I only had a few number of games: Spider-Man, Tetris, Contra, Sonic, Mario, and those things that we all can get tired off quite easily. I got to play more, only because other privileged fucks traded their own game cartridges with one another. I remember running across the street to meet up with our neighbor who also had a Game Boy and traded cartridges with him, which by the end of the week, ended up with someone else, until everything came to a full circle, where everyone has their original games back tucked in their pockets.

My biggest weakness was being a bit too nice, too eager to make friends, despite how everyone viewed me. So I lent my Game Boy, whored it around, letting everyone who touched it basked in its sacred monochrome light.

Gaming felt good, it was the grandest pleasure of all – until of course the glories of sex in later, later, way later years. I wanted to share it, let others enjoy a handheld gaming console that can fit in your pocket. And long story short, that previous Game Boy of mine ended up in someone else’s pocket and never seen again.

It was the most devastating thing I had to go through as a kid. I ended up being one of the kids who looked over the shoulder of the ones who played with their own Game Boys. They glorified themselves in their own spotlight, holding the device for all to see. As a kid who was never given a chance to play with someone else’s Game Boy, I believe it should be understandable to have a little grudge.

Two years later. About out of eight Game Boy owners, three were playing a game that caught my attention. I remember what that tiny screen said with frightening clarity: “TM 01 Mega Punch.”

I asked out loud what that was, like other kids who kept asking questions about the game. What did that attack do, was it strong, what game is that anyway?

Silence. Silence. More silence.

“Hmm? Uh, yeah,” the Privileged Fuck said.

Ah, okay. So, you can delete one of the four moves to learn that new move, why not

try it out?

“Mega Punch is weak.”

From my perspective, Mega Punch didn’t sound weak. That’s why it’s called “Mega

Punch,” right? Right? Right? Hello?

“Hello?”

Hmmm… hmmm?

“Can I try?”

“No.”

Stingy bastard.

One of the reasons why my old Game Boy was so dear to me was because my mother bought it, as a companion for my SNES. She wasn’t paid well during her early career days, switching jobs every now and then with salaries only slightly higher than the last, sometimes lower. Once, she quit her job just to get on a plane and fly half the world to see me. A gesture I never appreciated until my older years, when I had grown wiser, and learned the truths of being an adult: The impossible question between being with your child versus a decent job to feed said child.

The first option is the common noble route—the fairy tale that many people seem to prefer, as if to say, it’s alright to starve as long as we starve together.

The second option ensures well-being. And, as local soap operas and drama films love putting it, the child will grow up being ungrateful, believing their parent or parents, had abandoned them to live in foreign soil and bask in the luxuries there. Oh child, you’re still breathing, I’m sending you $200, get something nice, yeah?

Neither option is the right answer, because there is no answer to such things. There is only compromise. There is understanding. An electric spark that links the two or three of you into that single line of thought: “In life we need to make compromises and live the best we can.”

It’s a situation not everyone takes too well, and with good reason. Though, as a parent, would you rather be with your child and together starve? No, that is not an option. What about the other? Leave child to earn some money. This is something children also don’t take too lightly – and it is a complicated situation that is blown out of proportions by the media, specifically the local films that feature overseas workers. In such films, children were determined to starve and remain uneducated than lose their parents. The simplification of these scenarios begin to feel like an insult, and on hindsight, you might then think that maybe, just maybe, these films are produced as a means to educate the children in some visual medium that they can relate to. It’s better to place my mindset that way rather than believe the film industry is feeding off the in the emotions of these people who don’t get to spend their lives with those who they love most.

In my case, it was a simple thing of meeting my mother halfway through our seriously fucked up situation. The Game Boy and the SNES were both fruits of my mother’s long hard labor, depriving herself of nice things for herself. It was a testament and a tangible form of her sacrifice and love for me. I had accepted these gifts like holy relics. The SNES itself is stashed somewhere in safety, still kicking should I decide to summon it once more.

A year after finding out about Pokemon, along with all its craze, posters and cards sold here and there. I vowed to somehow get into that game and show those stingy, privileged fucks what I was made of. While staying with my mother in the US for a few weeks, I found myself standing in the videogame section of Toys ‘R Us, staring blankly at a yellow Game Boy Colored. Then there the games, the faces of Charizard, Blastoise, and Pikachu posed their best in those carton boxes, as if trying to make an impression impressive enough to be adopted into our home.

“Do you want it now?” My mother had asked.

I wanted to say yes. I needed this game to fulfill my childish wants. Even then I felt her reluctance. She didn’t have enough money, and yet, even without me saying yes, must have felt it through her bones. She got me the Game Boy Color, the bright yellow one, and to match it with colors was “Pokemon Yellow.” Pikachu stared at me, all charged up and ready for action. The excitement sent lightning bolts through my skin.

To say I was stoked was an understatement. The game was both simple and sophisticated, collecting monsters, trapping them in tiny red and white balls, turning them into gladiator slaves, to inflict harm against one another for the enjoyment of humans who should be in school. Privileged fucks.

I captured every Pokemon I spotted, spent countless hours raising them. Then I spent days, fighting my way through the game, earning badges, raising my monsters, and fishing a lot. As an only child who often dwelled within the confines of his own imagination and staring into blank walls for hours, “Pokemon Yellow” provided me a lot of comfort in my solitude. Witnessing firsthand my Caterpie’s evolution to Metapod, and then to Butterfree, is and will always be, everyone’s first love. The phase of the evolution itself feels like a coming-of-age story that unravels some secret truth to life. Osiris, Egyptian God of the Dead’s first riddle, the first riddle ever: What walks in three legs in the day, two in the afternoon, and three at night? Man.

And what is a man walking through the phases of life? It is a journey, a constant evolution that seeks fulfillment in life.

Let’s steer back to Pokemon, shall we.

The best part of having this spanking new Game Boy Color was I got to play games without bothering anyone who wanted to watch TV. And “Pokemon Yellow” was far from any game I had played. It gave me some story—well, sort of, a roster of a 150 monsters to collect, experiment, and raise, eight badges to earn, dozens upon dozens of NPCs to beat, fishing, and spending massive sums of money to purchase an endless stream of double-A batteries.

Beyond that, I had to make sure my partner following me all the time was in a good mood. I don’t remember if there are any significant changes about Pikachu’s mood, in how much it affected the game, besides netting me a Bulbasaur. But I always did my best to keep him happy, letting him fight first despite up against a rock monster. Believe it or not, on my first playthrough I beat Brock’s Onyx with Pikachu, by spamming Quick Attack and unleashing reserves of Potions. I also beat Lance’s Dragonite with Pikachu, using Mega Kick. I’m quite proud of winning against such odds.

Later that month, I got on a plane, and flew back home. I brought my new high-powered yellow Game Boy with a bright yellow cartridge and with a screen that has the faintest shades of colors in them. I was the only one in our small community that has “Pokemon Yellow.” Of course, some of the privileged fucks that played Pokemon actually started talking to me. We traded secrets and hints about the game, specifically the Safari Zone and searched for the mythical Missing No—an unfair privilege that I didn’t experience with my Yellow.

Now, here’s the funny thing. If anyone opens up their Pokedex, they’d notice there are a ton of missing Pokemons on that list. Despite our great efforts to locate those hidden Pokemon, we never found them in the game. No one understood why some games had ekans and the other a coffin, or one version has Magmar, and the other has Electabuzz.

After scouring the Internet, it turned out we all needed to trade – and who had a new Game Boy with a complete set of equipment? I did.

Pokemon trainers from school flocked my home, using my cable to trade Pokemon. More people caught wind of my mythical cable and more came running in, hoping to complete their Pokedex. I remember a Red player trading me her Haunter, and I my Kadabra, and we both screamed out our surprise at what happened. True story. Best fucking coincidence ever.

And then of course, we battled each other for the first time. This is only based on my memory, but if I remember it correctly, there were three options to do battle against each other, which required Pokemons at certain levels. This made it impossible for us to use some of our best team in battle. It was still fun by the end of the day, using other Pokemon we have stored in the box and neglected for so long.

I lost, they lost. On one very important match, where we had bet three weeks’ worth of lunch money, my Level 60+ Blastoise was knocked out by a Level 60+ Nidoking. This was after getting a lucky critical using Blizzard on his Zapdos. I really don’t know how I defeated his Nidoking with my Pikachu – all I remember was using Mega Kick. I don’t know how Pikachu did it, but that Nidoking would’ve needed to go the nearest Pokemon Center stat. The final round was an even greater stroke of luck. Pikachu faced off against Articuno. He moved first, using Blizzard, and for some lame-ass reason, missed. And my Thunder knocked him out in a single, super effective hit.

Of course things didn’t end there. Many more battles took place in the future. I was also the most patient of the trainers and I say with such great pride, I was one of the very best. I was the first to raise a Gyarados, Rhydon, and a Dragonite. No one believed me that all we needed was to level up a dragonair to 56. They believed, with aggressive vehemence, it would be level 60. And they couldn’t prove it themselves, for whatever reason, they could never find a dratini, which is crazy.

Things didn’t change when we jumped to Gold and Silver. I got Gold and raised a kickass Typlosion, and I’m sure that we all had eye-popping revelation that after finishing the Johto region, we can actually explore the Kanto region and collect eight more badges and fight another set of Elite Four, and the main character from the previous Pokemon version.

Sadly, those were the last glorious days of Pokemon.

I haven’t gotten around Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Especially not Sun and Moon. But in my experiences with the X and Y games, the whole connectivity has been taken for granted. It felt less genuine, and more like a chore. All I had to do was raise ten elekids and I basically got everything I needed through online trade. Of course, this changes the whole meta, the whole trading and battling, and the Pokemon community as a whole. These impersonal Pokemon trading were more about conquests, knock down the next foe after the next – the sense of discovery of the bigger world of Pokemon has evolved.

It is less about exploration. The meta-game is all that matters. People might complain that this devalues trading. It has. That’s no debate. But rather, it encourages to seek out battles with other players. No, I’m not talking about online battles. I’m talking about going to conventions, meet other players in school, get together and play.

On a flight to Guam, which took four hours, I popped up the game from my bag and discovered another player within the plane. He must have been surprised too and a challenge was immediately issued.

We never sought out each other though. But on my way down the plane, I saw a boy quite younger than myself, holding a blue 3DS. I nodded to him, seeing if he’d acknowledged. He didn’t, instead looked at me confused and probably awkward.

And that made me feel stupid all the same.

On a nerd-infested convention, my friend detected two players within the vicinity. We found them, a boy and a girl, couples it seemed, and challenged them to a two-on-two battle. They were younger than us and understood the meta more clearly than anyone. Our team never stood a chance. They were coordinated and knew each other’s Pokemons.

It was still fun. It just needed a new approach.

The journey in Pokemon is no longer confined in its screens. It has expanded its horizon, putting the exploration onto the real world, meeting new friends. That’s what the merchandise is telling people, anyway.

Looking back, I don’t think my mother knows how much getting that new Game Boy with “Pokemon Yellow” has made a difference in my life. And that’s not being cheesy. I actually got to socialize better with my classmates. And if you’re wondering, yes, I still lent my Game Boy Color around to people I’ve consider then as good friends. I allowed them to pick their own teams and challenge the Elite Four. It had been wild, he replaced all my core team members with Pokemons that I never used, never gave a chance, and actually defeated the Elite Four, and that was where I learned that there are far more powerful Pokemon out there than what were my favorites.

I still have the mythical cable somewhere in the old house. My grandparents have a knack in hoarding things that might have the slightest value. And while having that cable has bridged some people and myself, who up to this day are still good friends—actually, friend, there is only one left in the old community that still keeps in touch—I can say how much the Game Boy Color and “Pokemon Yellow” charged up my social life, even just a little, and in many ways, allowed me to connect with my mother, and understand her more.