Why Cataclysm Can Be Considered A Dismal Failure

Since day one in hearing what was going to happen with Cataclysm, I had an inkling that the expansion would be a miserable failure. The numbers don’t lie folks and the massive drop in subscriptions can be attributed to the fact that the game did a lot to alienate people. Now, some say that because it took a while to release in China, the subscription loss was due to that. However, part of that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I feel that people wouldn’t just put the game down temporarily and wait until it resumed.

But it’s not just that the numbers demonstrate a clear indication that the game has been on the decline. It’s the community at large that has slowly been leaving. Most veterans that I’ve known have practically abandoned the game and moved on to other things. Analysts claim that the age of the game engine has started to show. Yet there’s quite a bit of nostalgic moments for veteran players and a huge desire for the return of vanilla.

With these sentiments in mind, I argue that Cataclysm as an expansion is a horrible failure. From my own point of view, here’s a list of elements where I thought Blizzard absolutely messed up in the design of the game:

Focus on the Social Element

With Facebook, Twitter and companies like Zynga pushing the social envelope, it’s no surprise that Blizzard wanted to partake in that type of market. However, I doubt that the vast majority of employees at Blizzard have any idea what “social” means. Blizzard employees are your prototypical Star Trek types; that is, the idealistic nerd who believes that technology and logic will dictate the improvement of society. Yet these people don’t have lives. Don’t let the little snippets of blogs on their community site fool you. These people are working night and day. Hey, it’s the gaming industry and the CEO of Activision is an imperialistic asshole who only cares about profit margins for his shareholders. Given these parameters, the people at Blizzard severely underestimates what their community is composed of.

The real player in WoW on average are no life little punks who should be smacked upside the head so hard that their retardation is fixed. Okay, I’m being pretty severe here but honestly the average WoW player is the lowest common denominator of a person. In other words, some fucking idiot who wants to mindlessly get things done. They don’t care about other people for the most part because there is no consequence to their lives if they insult, grief or do something to aggravate others. That’s how anonymity on the internet works and why trolls do what they do.

With Cataclysm, it seems that Blizzard made the assumption that their average gamer is the old AD&D Friday night, hang out with their buddies over a pizza and (root)beer type. Bzzzzzzzt!!! WRONG!!!! (Insert Kevin Spacy voice). The old school AD&D Fright night gamer is the Star Trek, idealistic, intelligent person who does what he can to support his friends. But in a game like WoW which has mass appeal, this type, imo, is just the minority.

As a result, Blizzard’s clear misinterpretation of their community and influence by hard core raiders moved them into the wrong direction. Here, Blizzard up until patch 4.3 decided to take a few steps back and listen to the hard core types on the forums in revisiting the nostalgic moments of Sunwell from Burning Crusade in attempting to make a more “challenging” environment. The result was introducing more raid-like mechanics in Heroic instances that made them mostly unpuggable. In essence, they were counteracting the developments that were key in making Wrath of the Lich King a success by cross pollinating bad ideas with the wrong people.

But Blizzard’s philosophy here centered around the new guild system, which would emphasize the social aspects. You could easily see how the guild system was emphasized with a huge part being defined from Raids and Instances (of course). The idea was that people would band together with their guildies to run instances together and learn things, thus improving the bond inside of the guild, and possibly returning to the all-so-good feeling of community that supposedly existed in the Vanilla days.

Here’s the reality though about guilds. The only reason to join a guild is for the perks, so most people will only attempt to find 1-2 types of guilds. One is the casual guild that is level 25 where someone can hide temporarily, gain honorable reputation with them and enjoy the benefits. The second purpose is finding dedicated raiding guilds, which are clearing content. Thus, when you look at guilds on servers, you usually just find a few really large ones or maybe a couple of new ones that are active. If you try to start your own guild, good luck.  Anything outside of using it as a spare bag space is a waste of time and effort. You’ll be lucky to progress beyond level three.

But going back to the PUG thing with instances, there’s a lot of conflict between hard core types of baddies/casuals. The issue is that you’ll never avoid baddies. NEVER. That’s a guarantee. The game is designed to allow anyone to pick it up. However, the real issue is that in truth they must co-exist somehow. Until Blizzard implements a system that segregates difficulty level on a per-server basis, hard cores and baddies/casuals must learn to put up with each other.

That said, the instances up until patch 4.3 can be thought of as horrible failures. I don’t think that the mechanics by themselves are that bad. That’s not the issue. The issue is that players must learn to cooperate with each other. That’s where the difficulty comes into play. If you’re lucky and get to play with a group of friends or a decent guild with reasonable people, these should not be a huge problem. However, the point of ultimate contention is PUGging. Since PUGs are pretty much random people, you’ll have a wide variety of people in a group. The variables in this are 1) skill; 2) gear; 3) experience with a certain instance. 1) and 3) are the problems and RFD is something that introduces more issues than solutions with regards to Heroics up until the Hour of Twilight instances.

Anytime random people group up and must cooperate to solve a problem you have to make it dirt dumb. People ridicule WOTLK’s content for being far too easy, but even when I was doing randoms back then, you still had idiots who barely knew what to do. So why introduce even harder mechanics if your lowest common denominator could not handle it back them?

Revamping Vanilla Content

I was actually pretty mad at how Blizzard killed all the legacy content because I missed a lot. I know part of the thing Blizzard wanted to do was make questing easier, especially in creating two new races that would start from the bottom. Veteran players who probably were sick of repeating the same old quest lines now could essentially play a whole new game with the improved questing in the old zones.

However, in my experience, most people who leveled from scratch only did enough up until the point where they could instance grind. The people I see questing usually are just new players, while my veteran friends stick themselves into dungeon queues once they hit the right level. And as I level my last under-60 level toon, I’m at the point where even the “smoother” questing system is just plain boring.

But I think the revamping of the world was just a horrendous error. For one, although the questing improved in terms of organization, flow and story lines, I felt at times the quests were far TOO linear. Although I started in WOTLK, I enjoyed the old zones because you could pick and choose which quest lines to do. Yes, you can do some of that in Cataclysm, but I found the experience more restrictive. Worse yet, there were some quest chains that prevented you from finishing a zone and those quest chains might’ve contained some real shitty quests (any of the Black Ops wannabe quests are prime examples).

The other major issue in revamping all the old zones was that I think it took away from developing more 80+ level content. Right now, I’m on my 7th toon in working up to 85 (she’s 80 now). I’ve got two choices for levels 80-82. And I’m not really excited about either anymore, but I’m utterly sick of doing Mount Hyjal. Then once I’m done there, I’m pretty much stuck in Deepholme, then Uldum and finally Twilight Highlands. 4 fucking zones for leveling? It wasn’t bad the first time through and I thought it was fun. By the 4th time, I wanted to jump outside of a window from the new Tokyo Sky Tree building.

So if the old content that veterans supposedly would find appealing in being revamped really isn’t being used and that not enough development time was given to the new zones, then isn’t that whole situation just a gigantic waste of time? I think the old questing zones were fine because they were simple and probably allowed more flexibility and discovery compared with what we’ve been given. Sure, there was an occasional area that stood out (Silverpine Forest, Mulgore, Southern Barrens) but I think it was just a colossal waste of effort that could’ve been better spent on developing higher level content).

Cute Game Mechanics That Really Isn’t Cute

It seems that expansion after expansion, Blizzard has tried to re-invent the basic game engine by providing more and more cute game mechanics.

Stop. Seriously. Stop.

I play WoW because I want to play WoW. I don’t play WoW because I want to play Call of Duty or Joust. I want to mindlessly grind and do simple quests so that I can level up, get some gold, gear and achievements then go to bed to deal with my job the next day. I want to play WoW because I want to experience more storyline, not watch some cheap knock off from Indiana Jones that a fanboy over at Blizzard decided to make into an epic storyline. I got into WoW because the basic game was fun.

I don’t think the squirrel quest was great, nor the run around like a buffoon as some stupid oversized worm is trying to spray the area with fire. I want a simple game that I can turn my mind off to, maybe play with some friends and not have to fight with people because there’s some prerequisite of watching lengthy videos and doing all types of pre-work just to enjoy a game.

That’s what this game has become. You don’t allow things like buying in game items that improve my character. You keep nerfing areas that allow me to make a little money in the few spare hours that I have. You keep screwing around with the game so that it’s an unrecognizable strategy game as opposed to an RPG.

I don’t give a fuck about hard cores. Those people can find a volcano and jump in naked. If they want a hard game, they can go play something like LoL or a shooter. Leave WoW alone. Give it back to the RPGers not the action game buffs. I don’t give a fuck about doing combos a la Street Fighter. If you want to go play Street Fighter, GO FUCKING PLAY STREET FIGHTER.

Screwing Up the Talent Tree

Why oh why did you fuck the talent tree up? It honestly was fine as is. Two arguments came into play in the revamping of the talent tree. One was to force players to pick more “obvious” choices when it came to talents, which was actually (and supposedly) a hint to bad players in trying to get them to make the “right” choices. In this case, I seriously doubt that shrinking the talent tree would prevent a bad player from making a bad choice. A bad player by definition is one who does little to improve their game play and so the issue isn’t the game design, but the mental state of that player.

Second, the idea was to streamline the talent trees and remove “useless” abilities like increased damage, etc. Instead, the “useless” abilities would be moved into mastery where the lazy developers could easily tweak the numbers from one place once they noticed an imbalance supposedly occurring.

To make the tree  more streamline, they shrunk the overall size and provided a very small amount of remaining points once the main points were used up on one side. The result, imo, was far less choices and more cookie cutter specs. Honestly, unless you’re blind as a bat, most talents for a given situation should be pretty obvious.

For me the problem overall was that I felt in eliminating points at every level and forcing a player to go down one whole tree, you really created a limited environment lacking choice. Truthfully, I think they should’ve just added another level or provide an extra 5 points that a player could’ve used to go down a secondary talent tree spec. Instead, all they did was just make it easier for them to manage.

Blizzard Admitted It At the End

You know a game is pretty fucked up when the game producers themselves pretty much do a reset. That’s what happened with Patch 4.3 and what will happen in Mists of Panderia. Blizzard themselves admitted what a clusterfuck of a decision it was for them to listen to the complaining 1% hard core raiders/gamers as opposed to vast majority who don’t really go to forums because they don’t give a shit. The way Blizzard admitted of their horrendous decisions is that the difficulty is pretty much being shot down with the Hour of Twilight instances, the Raid Finder difficulty setting and how the heroic instances of Mists of Panderia was described as being, “equivalent of WOTLK heroics.”

You can’t deny that Blizzard themselves realize how big of a hole in their foot they shot when they have to backtrack in their decision making process.

So what happened?

The problem is that Blizzard only listened to people on the forums complain. Those people more than likely are the semi-hard core to uber hard core types that give a  big enough shit to bitch and complain (hey, I make my voice heard there too on occasion but I won’t classify myself in that area; I’m just attempting to help teach Blizzard how to develop a good game because god knows that a stupid fucker like Greg “Asscrawler” Street can do anything right). But numbers speak louder than anything and obviously the stats being reported with the dollar figures at the top of the list indicate that some poor decisions were made.

The thing is that the few that make their voices heard such as elitists raiders, forum participants and video makers over on youtube are NOT the vast majority. The average person, imo, is just some guy at their home who gets 3-4 hours at most a week to play the game. They barely know how to play the game because no one has volunteered to teach them. They don’t know where to look and have been shunned on trade chat or other areas because a lot of people in the game have no etiquette nor social skills. These people simply want to have fun and try different things. It would be great if everyone could see every piece of content and beat it. However, if only the elitists assholes are the ones attempting to convince Blizzard that they’ll be paying their bills, you got another thing coming.

Let’s be honest here. How many elite raiders do you think really exist? I can give you that number which is around 1%. That’s the number that got to see Sunwell in BC and I’m pretty certain those are the top raiders in the world. Yet when you read on forums, etc. about which was the best time in the game, generally you’d hear about BC and Vanilla. So I imagine there’s a connection between those two which had a profound influence in the design of Cataclysm.

But if only 1% got to see something and are the ones appealing to Blizzard, doesn’t that mean that Blizzard is spending a ton of resources just for 1% of their audience, which probably is connected to their revenue loss? In other words, you’re spending tons of resources for development just so that 1% of your population can go around bragging about it on the servers to demonstrate that they’re cool. I’m going to guarantee that the 99% out there don’t give a fuck or even know how to give a fuck about the 1% that think they’re cool (kinda like how the 99% Occupying Wallstreet could give a fuck less about these bankers’ homes).

I can tell you right now as a developer myself that I’d prefer having a LOT of people use my stuff rather than a tiny minority. If I spend hours upon sleepless hours of building something, I would like to know that many people can appreciate it and saying that it’s useful, gives them pleasure or somehow makes their day as opposed to it not ever seeing the light of day. Trust me. Anyone who cares about how beautiful a piece of code is as opposed to it being useful or making money is so full of shit that they are the ones that should not be hired. It’s completely flawed thinking.

There are those that do admire challenges. For them, I think hey good for you. Guys like TotalBiscuit who think that losing is part of the game can be losers (like I think he is). Most people don’t have 3-4 hours wiping on a single boss. Heck, the goblins themselves summarize this situation: Time is Money, Friend. You take my time, I take your money back. If you’re a professional gamer, good for you. I’m glad there are people in this world who can afford the luxury of sitting at home just playing games all day and get money. Most of us can’t. Those that don’t understand or sympathize simply are out of touch with reality. Yes, it’s not our special needs but the vast majority of our needs.

The thing is that I knew a lot of people personally who quit because they ended up realizing what a time sink WoW is. I don’t think they minded as much during WOTLK because they didn’t have to put as much effort in. But when you have to give up a portion of your real life just to play a stupid game, then it’s time to call it a day.

And that’s why Cataclysm has been a total failure. Sorry Blizz, but try again with Mist of Panderia.

Gearing Up A Level 80 in Cataclysm

Since Cataclysm has been out for a while and that most people probably don’t do Lich King raids any longer (except for past achievements), there is a basic issue of gearing up a new toon after finishing Northrend. I found that for my first toon or two, it was difficult for the first few quests without having reasonable gear. My toons had ilvl 178 or below gear from Northrend, I had under 20k health and my damage sucked. As a result, I came very close to death easily in the first half until I  managed via questing and the occasional green drop to overcome these obstacles.

That said, my first two 85s were a paladin tank and blood death knight. So in those cases, I had better survivability compared to my other toons. But with my feral (cat) druid for instance, she survived at the skin of her teeth. Afterwards, I decided to evaluate my situation a little more, especially as I worked on my shaman and warlock (I imported my hunter from a different server, but he had quite a bit of 264 gear). Eventually, I figured a few ways one could deal with this situation.

First, check your auction house. There’s some decent gear for levels 78-80. If you don’t have an 85 and find yourself struggling a bit, that might be your best bet. Second, see if someone can help craft some gear. For my warlock, shaman and warrior, I put quite a bit of effort into taking a ton of mats and making a few pieces of gear for them. Recently, my warrior hit level 80 and I had managed to save up quite a few pieces of gear and did some crafting via my paladin to make things like shields and a near complete hardened plate set, which is usable by an 80.

If you don’t have professions and lack gold (or don’t want to spend anything) but have an 85 hanging around, one suggestion is to farm 78-80 gear. In Mount Hyjal, there’s a small zone near the Firelands raid where a particular mob called the Twilight Subjugator resides. This mob occasionally drops gold and greens, making it a reasonable farming spot with a decent respawn rate. Heck, even before leaving Northrend, you can use this spot (or other gear you may encounter as you quests in the Cataclysm 80-82 leveling zones) to give your new toon a slight edge.

Similarly, other people will be wanting the same thing. So if you find gear that’s not relevant to the toon you want to twink out, you can probably sell it for a decent price on the auction house yourself.

Religion Is A Disease of the Mind

I believe that religion and the concept of God are a disease of the mind. There’s very few other ways to describe how people, which presumably are intelligent, can be afflicted by something completely illogical. Or perhaps it is logical if you examine the notion through the microscope of Social Darwinism/survival.

I think the concept of God has evolved to explain to unexplainable and provide people with a false sense of hope to carry on in their darkest moments. While some situation provides no outcome except a dreary end, the presence of God exist to console people in those last moments.

By this lens, it would seem that God is actually a beneficial construct of the human mind rather than a disease, which by definition is contradictory. However, I am one that believes that people should strive for truth by which the notion of a God construct defies. God interferes in people obtaining truth by creating a crutch whenever a situation beyond their control presents itself. Similarly, when an event that has us evade some horrible fate occurs, people are quick to credit God or some celestial being as opposed to chance.

Personally, I think the concept of God is for all intents and purposes harmless by itself. In other words, people are entitled to give credence to things as they see fit. However, the real disease aspect comes from organized religion; in other words, where a select few share their value system of what God is with others in a massively distributed system. This part resembles a plague.

My belief is that those weak of mind typically are the most vulnerable. The idea of coalescing and unifying rather than fending off the tide of peer pressure is far more appealing when confronted with such choices. I mean, organized religion does have its role in society. From a spiritual sense, people need religion to engage in society when otherwise isolated. Even if the guy next to you has absolutely no relationship whether by interest or biology, sharing the same religion will provide a social bond.

The most obvious danger though is when we return to the idea of how people manipulate the concept of God for their own ends, but this time in mass. This is the point of contention that I think is the most pernicious in religion. To sway the weak willed to a few’s bidding to me stinks of politics as usual. However, the masses being unable to desire for truth any longer now assault those who want to obtain truth. But it’s not a point of negotiation in this; they will impinge on others to suck them in and here the analogy of the disease is complete.

Some people may argue, “Well, how do you know God exists?” Naturally, any atheist might reply, “Well, how do you know God does not exists?” Here, we have a Mexican stand off. But for myself, I believe that if a “true” God exists, he/she would not exists as this idealistic, omnipotent entity they many may see as perpetually benevolent. How many times has one asked for something, done everything he/she could do to be a good person but received nothing for something that was so important to them? Shouldn’t the world be better if a benevolent deity exists?

The usual responses would be things like, “God works in mysterious ways” or “God helps those who help themselves.” These are evasive pieces of rhetoric that prove nothing on either side. All it proves to me at least is that the God presented from organized religion’s view cannot exist as is.

That is not to say that a true God does not exist. God might have been one interpretation of what the Sun was, as described by some historians and ancient religions. God also could be a highly advanced species that occasionally visit the earth for one reason or another.

Sometimes, I muse over the idea that God (or the Gods) are just an alien race who either created or discovered the earth and it’s inhabitants and decided to fuck with people. I feel as though we are nothing more than some social science experiment. Or at least we’re under scrutiny. If anything and that these beings were an advance species who came to Earth as observers, the first thing that they must realize about us is that we’re fucking stupid. People never take the most logical path and rely far too much on emotions and some obscure/abstract way of thinking that defies sense.

If we were an experiment and one decided to come down and ask me, “So what do you think?” I would tell them, hey, we’re a huge failure. We’re more like a disease than a lofty species. We take things for granted, are willingly blind to truth, have no desire to care for one another nor the things around us, and just frankly don’t deserve to exist anymore.

Maybe these creatures don’t have the answer to resolving our problems either and are just trying to figure things out for themselves. But you cannot hope to hold humanity as the great savior of the universe the way things are. We need to have real change. But I think no one wants it for better or worse and that’s why we are doomed.

 

Airplane Part of My New Fantasy Story

As mentioned previously, I wrote up a quick chapter that will lead into the fantasy component of my story. I would like to share this part with the world:

That night Keith was absolutely crushed. He had hoped that the little charms he bought and his prayers would be answered. Instead, deafness seemed to strike his supplication. Or perhaps it wasn’t deafness but just the fact that nothing out there existed. He sat in the hotel pondering his life. It was almost as if he were already dead. The emotions second by second dripped from him as his realization transitioned to simple acceptance.

 

But that acceptance was the muteness of an empty body.

 

Physically, he existed but his mind and soul drained away like a clogged toilet. In some ways, he already knew what the answer would be, but no matter how much he mentally prepared the answer was something he never wanted to hear.

 

He didn’t care nor need sleep. Well, maybe he needed sleep since the following day would be an intense bureaucratic orchestra of airport theater. But his life was meaningless so all that was just an inconvenience.

 

Eventually, he forced himself to sleep through the catharsis of tears and the gradual blanking of him mind. In the morning, he hobbled out of his tiny weekly apartment and took a taxi to the ANA Hotel in Akasaka. From there he waited patiently for a few hours for the Airport Shuttle to arrive. After boarding, he peered out the window at possibly his last glance at Tokyo and Japan. The images of the road and all the familiar sites of Tokyo like the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, Fuji Television studio, the Midtown Project, Roppongi Hills, etc. flew by and faded away. He never gave a second glance to any site, letting the memories disappear permanently.

 

When he arrived at the airport, he listlessly went through customs, immigration and security. Each point felt like a lifetime being lifted away from him as he neared his plane. Eventually, he came to his gateway and sat at a seat, staring at nothing in particular. At this point, life was just a countdown to the next meaningless destination.

 

Towards the evening as the sky darkened around Japan, the plane was ready for boarding. He received a window seat near the emergency exit. He took to his seat gently but silently. Still suffering from a cold, he removed a Japanese mask to respect his neighbors’ health but beyond that he was just a shell waiting to return to his quiet, lonely room in Los Angeles.

 

Outside, the winds were quite heavy, blowing up respectable gusts. Inside, various passengers complained or worried about the plane’s safety. About ten minutes into the boarding, heavy drops of rain started to pelt the windows and gradually picked up. The captain told the passengers that they weren’t going to be deterred and soon thereafter began moving the plane after the final passengers were confirmed to be seated.

 

The plane had some competition that night in terms of the use of the runway as a few other flights had been delayed as a result of the storm. Since theirs was an international one, they could ignore some weather conditions. Eventually, it was their turn and the plane took without a hitch. Some passengers mumbled relief but Keith’s face remained impassive throughout.

 

Weary from the general lack of sleep and his cold, Keith started to nod off against the window. He peered outside at the dimming lights of the end of his days in Japan before even those diminished completely. Sometimes though he thought he saw other lights in the distance twinkling, at first believing that the wing’s blinkers or another plane or ship could be the source. However, the dense rain clouds opposed that idea for him. Then again his eyes had become poor over time and his mind often played tricks on him. For instance, there were times while walking he would swear that he was being attacked by a small dog or bug when the object in question was merely a large twig that fell next to him. After dismissing that idea, he tried to fall asleep again.

 

As the plane leveled out above the clouds, the turbulence eased slightly. Keith was able to see the night sky almost clearly minus the occasional flashing derived from the plane’s wings. He peered at a particular bright star, possibly Venus, Jupiter or Sirius. He admired the twinkling, the poignant spokes that emitted more brightly now that he was far above the city and atmosphere. His mind relaxed a bit but somehow he felt connected to the star as if it was able to speak with him. Then again his mind was always overactive, even after his latest emotional trauma. So he humored himself in conversing back with the star.

 

“All that I ask is to somehow one day be happy and find true love in my life.”

 

The star for a minute seemed to wink at him. But it could’ve just been something obscuring the object transiently. He looked around the cabin for the first time and wondered if there was anyone else paying attention. Everyone inside were either fast asleep, watching the tiny LCD screen or doing some other self-indulging activity.  He looked back outside to see the star gazing brightly back at him, this time barely flickering.

 

A few minutes later, the plane started to experience some heavy turbulence. He watched as the wings viciously shook while the seat belt sign flashed back on. The captain speaking in Japanese gave warning of the turbulence and started to dip the plane slightly to stabilize it. However, they were back in the clouds and Keith’s only companion of the night faded away.

 

With only dark clouds to stare at, Keith sank back in his seat, deciding to join the rest of the cabin in some time wasting activity. He tried the various movies but none interested him. Each one was a generic Hollywood plot that only updated the dialogue to match the current cultural fads. His stomach felt similar in terms of the idea of regurgitation so he scanned for something different. The Japanese programming reminded him too harshly of the realities he just left, so he avoided those vehemently. Instead, he turned his attention to the flight progress meter. The 8 additional hours gave him some bile in his stomach as he anticipated more bureaucracy upon landing.

 

So he simply changed it a last time to watch the boring point of view from the landing gear side. It had a bizarre calming affect upon him where his mind could relax as the emptiness of the dark skies complimented the black hole-like visage embedded inside of him. The camera was partly obscured by the rain particles but the high velocity in turn would cleanse it shortly thereafter. In the distance, he thought he could see the periodic flickering of lights from the occasional deep fishing boats. However, they were a fair distance away from land by now and the altitude and clouds would not permit such detail. It could’ve been another plane too, but strangely the lights had a celerity that defied the typical smooth glide of any normal plane.

 

Soon those lights all but vanished into the night and for Keith it could’ve been another trick by his overactive imagination or wishful thinking. A minute later, the plane started to ascend again above the clouds so that he could perceive the horizon.  Once more his tiny distant companion rose up loyally and Keith felt a small bit of serenity entering his body. Despite the easing of turbulence, the seat belt light remained on. Perhaps the captain or an attendant forgot to turn it off, he pondered.

 

Just then a thunderous blast shook the plane causing the plane to dramatically heave. Many passengers gripped their seats and moaned at the sharp descent. The captain managed to stabilize the craft even though it still felt slightly rocky. Curiously, Keith peered out his window, attempting to spot any particular cause.  For the most part, everything outside seemed normal. His companion continued to wink at him feverishly. It seemed to get brighter by the second; at first perhaps millimeters, then centimeters and eventually it became the only light in view. Or perhaps something was blocking the rest of the horizon.

 

From there, things occurred in blurred milliseconds. It was like a photo gallery with only the snapshots in between the most critical events being emphasized. Keith simply remembered an entity outside like a smooth perfectly sculpted metallic orb. The light that might’ve been the companion probably was the reflection of some other lights back at the craft. However, the orb seemed to possess a mechanism of illumination of its own, not generated by an external device that Keith could perceive. From the limited area of the window, Keith was for a single second bathed in the illumination. Then things grew completely fuzzy as the world reacted faster than he could imagine. Passengers with agape mouths being thrown about in chaos. The top of the plane ripped off with several unbuckled passengers being launched into the air. Keith’s ears nearly splitting as the plane descended into the sea. His sole reaction was lurching under the chair and quickly grabbing hold of his backpack, containing his most important possession: his giraffe. As the plane dropped, the last few seconds he could remember at that point was once again seeing the illumination bathe his body and a general calmness bestowed over him before he was knocked senseless.

Ever Wonder When and How You Will Die?

I used to worry quite a bit about when and how I would die. Would it be from a disease? A stroke? Car accident? Plane crash by terrorism? Or when. When I was too young? At my peak? Too old to care anymore?

I stopped wondering and started asking can it come sooner. The method won’t really matter but I anticipate that it will be a very lonely death. I believe I am destined to that. I think I have accumulated too much bad karma in my life. My biggest fear wasn’t stairs, nor a certain movie, nor the popping of a balloon or bugs. All this time it’s been dying in solitude.

If there was a single person in this world that I truly wronged it was my father. When he needed me the most, I did nothing to care for him. I didn’t do enough and let him die alone in a feeble, stroke induced state. Although I managed to see him one last time before he left the world, I feel that the damage I had done was enough. I could see in his eyes when my mom and I stood near his bed at the nursing home that we weren’t anything anymore because we left him by himself for too long. Now, I feel his retribution and the karma returning to me.

I suppose I deserve it. I was too selfish when I found out that he first got his stroke to provide him with the proper help. Now, I am paying for it.

Some people who read my Facebook may realize that I was severely hurt tonight. I think it’s the last time I will let myself get hurt like that. But I think it’s either my father’s curse (if you want to call it that), karma, or something that I’ve done returning to me. But I think it’s okay because I can move on.

I can move on in terms of accepting the fate of dying alone. I guess it’s the only righteous thing that I deserve. My ending will not be that of a fairy tale type. Instead, I will die quietly, alone, without mourning. I don’t mind. I don’t want people to mourn me. My life for the most part has been insignificant and I lacked something whether it was destiny, courage, size, looks, luck, etc. to go beyond my capabilities. My problem has been that I always aspired beyond the attributes given to me. I was not humble enough to accept the things granted to me and thus I took life for granted.

Tomorrow I fly out of Tokyo. In my recent fantasy novel, I had forgone writing a beginning that leads to my character entering into a fantasy world (similar to Thomas Covenant in Stephen R Donaldson’s White Gold series). The reason why is because I already knew the beginning but did not want to say it directly. Whenever I write something, it becomes true. So, I had waited until tonight to declare the beginning.

Near the beginning of my story, my character is about to leave Japan when the airplane receives some engine trouble. So it plummets to the earth and supposedly all the passengers die. However, I wake up in a strange world and am captured by orcs and tortured.

Originally, I did not want to write that part because I was worried that something good would’ve happened while I was in Japan (i.e. finding a girlfriend). But since that did not happen, I feel free to declare that as how my character entered the fantasy world. The thing was that my character left Japan as a result of being extremely sad and cursed the world for causing him grief. In turn, he enters a world that is able to accept him and where his existence has the potential to make a true difference and have meaning.

Some may call my writing a sob story that stinks of self pity. I call it therapy because I prefer writing something that helps me attempt to deal with my life. This story isn’t for other people, just myself.

That said, if tomorrow by sheer coincidence a UFO shoots my plane from the air and I depart this earth into a different realm or dimension, I won’t be scared nor regretful. I think I lived enough here on this world and am ready to accept whatever fate that may bring me.

Norwegian Wood the Movie

I finally managed to see the movie version of Norwegian Wood. Definitely, I was disappointed by the director’s interpretation in how he ended up cutting numerous parts and emphasizing the sex aspects over some of the more critical dialog or introspective parts. But I have to say that the general look and feeling of the money were quite nice and gave me somewhat of a feeling of the 60’s Japan,  something I had a difficult time imagining just from reading the book.

I suppose unlike many of Murakami’s novels, Norwegian Wood probably is the closest that I felt very personal. Obviously, the main character’s name is Watanabe, just like myself. However, there are so many aspects of his character that I strongly feel resemble my own life. For instance, Watanabe studies literature much like myself. Also, he’s very concise and straight forward, maybe to a fault. He presents himself more of an introspective observer and at times hesitates in making the correct move at the proper time.

While I do not have the tragic best male friend who commits suicide, I feel as though I had my Naoko in the past. My Naoko was someone I prefer to call “Crazy” because she used to drive me insane and broke my heart on numerous occasions. I think this book was somewhat therapeutic for me as it made me realize that holding on to someone who was hopelessly lost only would continue to hurt me. Eventually, I had to let go.

Right now, I am seeking my Reiko and Midori.  For Watanabe-kun, Reiko represented a cathartic point in their sexual intercourse. Each orgasm with her symbolized the various relationship failures Watanabe-kun had in the novel. However, his release might’ve helped clear his mind in helping him to recognize Midori as the one true positive element in his life.

For myself, Midori seems like she’s everywhere. There are many women I would like to call my Midori, but pinpointing the exact person is something I’m having trouble dealing with. The character of Midori is described as energetic, positive and aggressive. Her character represents progress for both Watanabe-kun and Murakami in suggesting to Japan to “move forward.” In my case, I know two people in particular that resemble Midori’s attitude. Hopefully, when I approach either of them, they’ll reciprocate my sentiments.

Beyond that, I think the clear message for myself that Murakami’s novel attempted to state was “Take the world!” There’s too much baggage from my past that I must slowly let go. Or maybe let go faster because there’s too many opportunities right in front of my eyes that I’m missing. I’m certain other people have their own interpretations, but I feel that this is what he was attempting to convey.