Stress would appear to be one of the most important factors
to consider when helping a person who has LLI. For all of our time together,
this has been an obvious fact. But recent discussions have uncovered the fact
that consistency is the key to avoiding this stress. We have a set routine,
worked out over a long period of time and clearly beneficial for avoiding
stress and excess thought requirements – a good routine makes it unnecessary to
have to wonder what’s going to happen in the day. But over the last year my worsening
pain in my knee has led us to the fact that Blip also requires my mood to stay
constant. This sounds obvious, nobody likes it when someone is up and down all
the time. But in this case it isn’t the normal situation where a person gets in
a mood and then feels better again, leaving the other person walking on
eggshells. I don’t have to shout and scream or be overly perky to create a
problem. Because of the same need for routine, it is important that my mood
remains completely stable so that Blip knows what to expect from me, as well as
from the day. If I grow sad at my knee, even if for a moment, I create a sense
of instability and this is stressful for a person who has enough to think about
already. But the same is true if I’m having a bad time, and I attempt to be
happy for a short time, knowing that I’m going to just be miserable again. The
biggest factor here is not whether I’m sad or happy, but rather that I don’t
flicker between the two. In reality, this is a problem a large number of people
deal with. Like most problems relating to LLI, it’s simply something that Blip
is more aware of and more able to define than a lot of people would be.
So over the summer, I have taken this on as something of a challenge.
Consistency and calmness, no matter what the situation. Originally I was under
the impression that having ‘a temper’ was something that was inherent to a
person’s personality and completely unable to change. But the experiment has
been a success, and without the stress of having to worry about whether I’m
going to be able to deal with the pain in a day or not, Blip has a much better
time with his head. Simply the act of being consistent with my mood has led to
it being one less thing to be concerned about and merely one of the background
thoughts, rather than taking up space in the ‘inpile’ in his mind.
And this as an experiment has led to the most important of
my realisations about LLI. I think there was always part of me that saw it as a
problem, something that, rather selfishly, I had to deal with in my everyday
life. But simply considering it more from Blip’s point of view, and no longer viewing
it as a negative, and not only can I be more helpful but it can have a positive
effect on my own life. After years of being far too quick to being angry, and
wallowing in my own pain, I can finally call myself a calm person. And the pain
in my knee is something that I deal with rather than feeling sorry for myself
about. It’s all a matter of empathy. If the people who surround someone with
LLI aren’t dealing with their problems properly, at some point they need to
consider that those problems they can’t cope with are adding themselves wholesale
to the difficulty that a person with LLI already has with the world.
we all might be able to at some point tune out, stop thinking about our issues
and distract ourselves with something else, a moment away from thinking about
things is the one thing that a person with LLI simply can’t do.
In my last post (annoyingly, just over a month ago),
I discussed the artistic role of choice in computer games. The wealth of
experiences made possible by the actions of the player and the reactions of the
game-maker, through the context of the game, is both broad and expansive. Even
choices not directly created by the game-maker are made possible by the
software used to make the game and the software used to play the game; All of
it becoming part of the overall tapestry of the game. Naturally, the
distinction between what is intentional and what is accidental is another
element of gaming as art, which can be ignored, fixed or even deliberately
played around with, as we’ll see in a while.
I hope to continue this line of thought by
applying it to a specific example. While any example would do, I’m going to use
possible the best, or at least the clearest, example of a game that plays
around with choice and how these interactions can be foregrounded. The Stanley
The Stanley Parable has famously defied reviewing.
Just about every reviewer has started by saying the game is fundamentally
un-reviewable and I’m certainly not going to break the trend. The game is un-reviewable.
I won’t dispute that. I will say that the game is wonderfully thoughtful,
clever, insightful and generally worth playing, especially if you’re interested
in the artistic functions of games.
The premise of The Stanley Parable is that, as the
short intro will tell you: One day, Stanley (whose decidedly relevant job is to
mindlessly push buttons on a computer when prompted, what better way, after
all, is there to help the gamer/player associate with the protagonist?), upon
being left in silence by his computer, stands up, and walks around his office,
which has emptied of co-workers. He goes on a brief quest to determine the
truth and on the way is guided, counselled and chided by the not-quite
The narrator is the key that reveals the mind
working behind the scenes when you play a game like this. He openly discusses
and judges your choices in the game, which lead to a variety of different endings.
As I said before, games react to your choices and this would be true of The Stanley
Parable whether there were a narrator or not. But, as it happens, there is a
narrator who very successfully and skilfully exposes the thought processes
behind the game. Of course, it is done in a narratively consistent way; unlike
the game-maker, the narrator is subject to time and as such must present his
thoughts in a linear fashion and is capable of learning as the game progresses.
This isn’t true externally (or, you could say, meta-fictionally) because the
narrator’s responses and narrations are all programmed in the game from the
start but the character of the narrator appears to develop as you play.
The effect that this has is very clever. You and
the narrator go through the story together, allowing you to feel both led to a
determined conclusion and free to act how you will at the same time. In fact,
the game is challenging you to find possibilities it hasn’t thought of. When
told to answer a phone in a sealed room, you can run along behind it and unplug
it. Obviously this capacity had to have been programmed into the game and you
earn another response and ending by doing so. But initially, you’re treated
with the feeling of having outsmarted the game.
Another, more evil version of this is one of
map-breaking. At one point, the player can sneakily manoeuvre themselves onto a
desk in a way so indicative of map-breaking and shimmy along and out the window
into a black, white space. Sadly, upon doing this, the narrator merely points
out your ineptitude and you’re treated with more narrative wonder, including an
option for a very strange song. The game has foiled your desires again.
I notice that my observations are becoming more
and more general. They’re lacking. It would appear that even writing about The
Stanley Parable in a general sense is next to impossible. Every single play
through the game contains more fascinating content and material for dissection
and analysis than I could cover in a whole series of blogposts.
How about we try the modernist approach:
Office space, filled desks, button heaven, cups of
coffee, piled files, flat carpet, coloured walls, locked windows, secret disco,
doorbell, wooden door, screen, hidden camera, paths, maps, w, museums and
paint, death by numbers, start again, impossible codes, opening walls, narrator’s
jokes, narrator’s folly, huge desk, funny painting, empty buttons, failed
hopes, no response, Minecraft, open sets, burning babies, big white buttons,
who’s that?, jump the lift, start again, vault the fence, run away, blue door,
blue door, red door, supernova, Left or right, left then right, day-job,
salary, payday, fake wife, kitchen sink, w, filing cabinet, files and tapes,
freedom, w, escape, run away, stuck above, wait what?, 3 hours?!, trapped
again, start again, true ending, more Stanley, less Stanley, waiting room,
endless beauty, endless corridor, round, stairs, round, barrier, handrail,
vault, jump, run, open, close, car, round, death, start, end, control, window,
song, laughing at me, dead panda, Portal, not yet finished, find the cube, shut
the door, stop for now, start again, see your death, activate achievements, w,
crusher, a, piranha, s, countryside, d for diving, play your part, fulfil your
role, follow The Stanley Parable Adventure Line.