Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a novel that details Sean Phillips’ journey before and after attempting suicide to deal with his own psychological problems. Writing my “Wolf in White Van: Loneliness, Trauma, and Coping” essay allowed me to explore, reflect, and rethink my understanding of Sean’s suicide attempt not as an attempted escape but a definite cure to the struggle Sean endured alone with his own destructive and disturbing thoughts.
John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van redefines trauma not as a symptom of psychological disorder but as a form of self-medication, a treatment to reign in disturbing thoughts and desires.
After playing Part II, I have concluded that Kentucky Route Zero is intentionally dismissing meaning. In Part II, the lines between what is actually happening in game and what is imagined blur into a mixture that further obscures the objective of the game. During the journey, Conway doesn’t exactly know where he is going or why he is going, simply that he feels some sense of urgency or need to travel. For example, Conway encounters those that are busy doing work whether it be in an office at an abandoned church or at a church in a storage facility. In both the case of the office and the congregation, it is not exactly clear what is being accomplished by working. The office has no logos or mission statements that are dead giveaway as to what people are doing sitting at desks looking busy. The janitor at the church in the storage facility plays recording of preachers and holds services when there is no one to partake in the ceremony. Kentucky Route Zero implies that work doesn’t have any meaning at all and at best work is done for the sake of progress toward….?
We were initially thrown off by the lack of clearly defined paths or option with which to start the game. However, we naturally started creating our own narrative in the starting vacuum. Our characters were drug dealers/manufacturers, or at least directly related to the business and we all worked at the Apple Valley Supermarket in Tales from Suburbia playset. Being involved with drug dealing, we knew that we would have to make it big at some point in our then incomplete narrative. The need to get rich by robbing our boss ultimately guided the narrative of story. After making a substantial amount of money, we decided that we no longer needed to work for our crappy boss for near minimum wage at the supermarket. As a result, we hatched a plan to survey the store, find out when it was least busy, and then rob the store as we quit. As we crafted and executed our story, I observed how naturally our action narrative followed the exposition-rising action-climax-denouement pattern of Freytag’s pyramid. Our narrative started with three people with no future, followed by a break out where they ran into money and subsequently planned to rob their employer and flee, followed by the climax of the robbery, which concluded with everyone getting shot or going to jail or both. Freytag’s pyramid is clearly demonstrated with the Tilt and Aftermath playing perfectly into the Freytag’s structure. Speaking of, the Aftermath resulted in everything that could go with the robbery went wrong. The Aftermath was a fast-paced shootout and attempted escape that resulted in the robbery being a total flop, which served as an explosive to end to our story, which we found to be quite fitting.
My initial thoughts were that I would not be creative or experienced enough to simply craft a story from scratch. After getting started, however, the process of laying out the narrative came easy as one action implied a limited set of future possibilities, and the narrative quickly began to guide itself on its own, which quickly made the game look significantly less daunting than I had initially perceived it to be. As the narrative created itself, Fiasco began to feel more like an open world video game like GTA V as both had clear and limited options. In the same way that GTA V is open world yet implies that the player do certain things and behave in certain ways, the creation of a narrative in Fiasco ultimately leads to the same result as the previous action in the narrative implies a related action in the next scene.
Having not participated in too many creative writing opportunities in the past, I learned that being creative and creative writing don’t have to be daunting tasks in which every detail has to be meticulously thought out. Rather, simply providing a starting point will allow the piece to write itself. I think the casual game format allowed me organically create a narrative like I had not yet experienced in writing. I do look forward to experimenting in writing with a more organic creative process rather than forcing structure and detail where I deem appropriate.
Wolf in the White Van was pretty confusing at first. Getting everything chronologically connected and ordered in my head was difficult. The initial obscurity of what had happened to Sean’s face led me to believe that he had been bullied or beaten or at least something along those lines. However, at the very end of the reading it was revealed that he had an exit wound that marked his face. The exit wound suggested that he had attempted suicide. Typically, if one is shot in the head and the bullet exits the face, the chances of survival are pretty slim. A bullet going up through the face from under the jaw isn’t necessarily always survivable, but it is typical of failed suicide attempts by means of a firearm. The suggestion of suicide while clear was confusing still as Sean never expressed any explicit desire to die. Even in the arguably worse situation he was in following his disfiguring, Sean tells the nurse, “‘I feel like my life is filled'” (12). One would think that having one’s face blown off would make his life worse than it was before, not left the same or even coming close to being better. But for Sean, this seems to be the case. Somehow, his disfiguration appears initially to have made him happier. The chronology and events in Wolf in the White Van are currently confusing, but I still have a fair portion of the novel left to read.
Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014. Print.
Space Invaders is a classic arcade game with many games copying it for decades to come. While Space Invaders is a classic and loved by many, I am not a huge fan the game. That’s not to say that it does not have value as a piece of video game history. Space Invaders was one of the driving games behind the golden age of the video game arcade, which is an era unto itself that goes unmatched for its nostalgia by any other era in gaming history.
Space Invaders was one of the first if not the first mainstream shooter that was and still is widely recognizable. Since the likes of 2D shooters like Space Invaders, the proliferation of 3D graphics have resulted entire new categories of shooters such open world shooters like Red Dead Redeption and the Grand Theft Auto series. Looking back, Space Invaders marked the beginning of the most prolific category of games and has established its place in history.
We split the work up so that I did the editing and we did the recording together. During the note taking process that would guide the discussion of the episode, we discovered that we had completely different interpretations of the games intent with respect to Christianity and religion in general as the result of the our different experiences during our individual playthroughs. I thought The Binding of Isaac criticized religious zeal as a separate entity from religion itself, while my partner believed that The Binding of Isaac criticized religion itself. Both beliefs about the game were based in our different experiences with the game and the different drop items picked up and the different bosses encountered.
While producing our episode, we knew the first component we wanted to improve on was our introduction of the episode. We made our own title that was separate from the title of the series and was unique to our episode that we introduced in our own intro following the series intro.
On the first day we recorded and as I was going through what we had recorded later that night, I noticed that there was noticeable echo due to the location we had recorded (Chandler Theology Building). We moved to Atwood the next day to find a quiet place that did not echo as badly as Chandler. Having a dedicated place to record would a have removed a number of issues that we had to go back and fix. More knowledge about actually recording the audio and making it sound good with and without editing would have greatly improved the quality of the audio and reduced the time it took to record and rerecord and edit the podcast episode. Despite our deficiencies in technological experience in recording and editing a podcast, I am proud of the quality of the end product.
Dys4ia did not come across as stressful or depressing. The game was extremely colorful and spontaneous. Random. The game felt disjointed, which would convey the creators feelings about their body. The game was so quick and unexpected that I had a hard time entirely grasping the plight being conveyed by the creator.
Depression Quest was much more thorough in its expression. The emptiness of depression was thoroughly conveyed through the narrative in which the character passed on social interactions and slugged through work. The description of the empty minimum wage job was relatable to an extent for me, having worked at a dry cleaners. Doing highly repetitive work makes it almost a skill to be able to check out from your own mind. I felt like I related most to the description of the character as he is stressed by the work he is obligated to do but unable to engage it. The creator described the dilemma of being drained by work and equally stressed by not working.
Overall, both games were interesting; however, Dys4ia came so far out of left field that it was hard to engage the material in the time span of the game. Although I do feel that this confusion is beneficial for understanding the message about transitioning from one sex to another. The experience of depression illustrated by Depression Quest was clear and understandable, leaving the player with a deeper understanding of depression than before.
Both Her Story and The Beginner’s Guide rely heavily on the presentation of evidence to convey meaning. Both narrators in Her Story and The Beginner’s Guide display the content of their respective games in their entirety. The narrative presented by both narrators is subject to criticism, doubt, and speculation by the players.
The difference between Her Story and The Beginner’s Guide comes in the form of the position of authority of the narrators. In The Beginner’s Guide, the narrator is in a position of authority over the player and functions as a literal guide through the works of a long lost colleague. The narrator in Her Story is a suspected criminal and accomplice (two characters) and is immediately found to be unreliable. In The Beginner’s Guide, the narrator, being in a position of authority, seems to be at least somewhat reliable, but then is found to be completely unreliable in the end of the game.
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