So here's some random post about stuff I've been doing lately (with a very broad definition of lately). With pics.
I had my birthday, even before that my brothers had their birthday, and even before that it was halloween, but I already posted pics of that so I'm not going to repeat them. For my birthday people got me a new mouse (left-handed, very nice) and a new vid card that I still have to get installed.
I also scrounged some moneys together and bought a new media-player (formerly known as MP3 players). My oldone was full. I don't know why they don't make them upgradeable, like computers (or an SD-card system like cameras). Or I do know, of course.
So then I took some cloth I still had lying around and made a new cover for it. Turns out that cloth wasn't so suitable and all the edges just tore, so I took some other cloth I still had lying around and tried again. It worked out very well. Used an old pendant for a button (I like using those: they're prettier than actual buttons and I don't have to buy anything new. The cover for my old MP3 player was also made by me in the same way). I keep it closed almost all of the time: I purposefully use cloth that I can feel the buttons of the player through so I can operate it through the cover. I only need to open it if I want to charge it or put new media on it (or take some off it).
Here's a picture:
[picture of my media-player in its cover against the mostly black background of my desk. The cover is made of black cotton cloth, rectangular in shape, about 9 by 5 cm. You can see the lanyard and earphone plug sticking out from the top. The spider-shaped pendant-turned-button is visible just about right in the middle.]
It's Easter soon, and we like to indulge in chocolate. We don't really celebrate these holidays, but we like some of the traditions surrounding them. For Easter we still visit my parents. They buy us a chocolate treat in an interesting shape, and my mom hides eggs which we look for. (Yes, I know I'm going on 30!) This year I decided to try my hand at making my own fancy decorated-and-filled chocolate easter egg. You need quite a bit of chocolate to make one half of a large easter egg and some filled chocolates (bon bons, don't know if they use that term elsewhere in the same way the Dutch do). It was bloody expensive so you're actually better off just buying something really fancy from a bakery (they do chocolate here) if it's only about price, and it takes all day. But it was a lot of fun (and my back hurts like hell).
[picture of the egg when it was finished. It's mounted by way of some melted chocolate on a pink white chocolate base that I made. I decorated the edge with a dark chocolate ganache that hardens out pretty well. I also decorated where it's stuck onto the base with that ganache]
For my brothers' birthdays I made a huge carrot cake and lugged it over to my parents' house. I also put number-shaped candles on it and of course got it wrong because me and numbers are just like that (The 27 was right but the 22 was not).
[picture of a round cake covered completely in white buttercream icing, and further decorated with green buttercream icing, edible silver stars, red edible pearls, and little mushrooms made of sugar. The candles on top are just being lit by my brother, whose hand is in the picture]
For my own birthday, I made a schwarzwalder kirschtorte, scones, cookies, and muffins. Later on I had so many ingredients left that I made another random chocolate cake with buttercream icing (which I put some tangerine flavour into.
I'm working on learning how to make my own clothes and operating the sewing machine (my mom is helping). I made some pants so far, and am working on a simple (but huge) wide layered ankle-length skirt, and a shirt. I made the pants from a pattern, am making the shirt from a pattern, and the skirt is a copy (more or less) of one I already own which is pretty much falling apart.
And that's pretty much it for now.
On to The Lost Crown
It's a good adventure, maybe even a great one. The graphics aren't awesome, but I like them. The game is almost entirely in black and white, with occasional (and sometimes it's meaningful) use of colours. It could have just looked like a trick, but I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere in this case.
A lot of the backgrounds seem to have been rendered from photographs / real locations. Mild spoilers: sometimes something is suddenly off: you're looking at what seems like a tear in a photograph, or a stain on the lens. Usually when there is some kind of danger, or things aren't going well.
I love the background-sounds and music they use. Strange, mysterious, creepy or even bright and reassuring in all the right locations.
On to the puzzles: I really like these too. They're appropriate, not overly difficult, and I can't remember any instances of too-random, so if there are any, they're few and far between. I'm a fan of the 'taking photographs of supernatural phenomena' kind of game, too. The audio recordings were very nice as well.
I can't recall being hit over the head with disablism in this game. There was one instance where the main characters wondered if he was going crazy out loud, but it wasn't a *thing* (I hope that's understandable). It wasn't part of the plot, just a one time aside.
The point-and-click way of operating the game was, though sometimes cluncky and tiresome, very doable and not at all stressful.
The character movement was pretty stiff and strange. Turning heads or midriffs before the legs, just a body turning 90 degrees and then walking on in another direction istead of the way it usually goes, just looks weird. A lot of it looked like characters were impersonating stereotypical robot-movement.
The game is short. Not as short as Barrow Hill, but still. These days I want more time from a game, even an adventure game that isn't big-budget. If it's not on Kongregate or similar, there are expectations.
I didn't like the intro screen music. It was wannabe-mysterious and rather irritating. It might have been better without the singing.
The interface is slow and unintuitive. Way too much clicking, badly done. With the number of games out there these days, they should know by now what not to do with menus and user-interface. The inventory system was also badly done: way too many objects and you need to scroll this way or that by clicking on an arrow far too much. It was something I was really dreading in any new scene by the time I was halfway through the game.
The voice acting. I've honestly never heard anything like it. From various texts found in the game I suspect that the same person who wrote these also wrote all the voiced lines and dialogue. The punctuation is in all the wrong places and apparently the voice-actors were unable, unwilling, or not allowed to correct for this. The result is dialogue that sounds something like:
"The Result! Is dialogue that, sounds, something...... like this?"
It was also horribly over-acted.
The main character is, unfortunately, the worst offender, so you're stuck listening to that constantly. It's a good thing the game was very enjoyable otherwise, because I considered quitting and never looking back, it was that aggravating.
Other characters also speak like this, though less infuriating than the main character. There were a few half-decent sounding characters, but that was as good as it got.
People, for some reason, often don't realise I'm disabled (specifically, autistic). I think it's glaringly bloody obvious, but what the fuck do I know, eh? So sometimes they talk to me about how they're (studying to be) a psychologist, and/or they work/volunteer at [random institution or center] with 'those people'. Or they're teaching a class and I'm in it and they'll talk about people with brain disorders and the stuff that can go different, like problems with language. This is pretty logical, but they'll be less than fully respectful while talking about them (�us� from my perspctive).
I like to let them talk just enough, let them really work their way in. And then I'll tell them I'm autistic; my brain does that stuff too; I receive help at home; why no I don't live independently; I have to take courses and visit centers sometimes; people like you have volunteered for me too; I participate in research like that as the object sometimes.
And I *really love* watching them squirm and get flustered and make excuses of all the faily, disablist types, as they realise we're sitting right here and are listening to them.
I could have clued them in before they really got started, but I don't. I find this more fun. I make sure to smile very obviously (have to work at that, my face is one of those blank ones) as I tell them. I make sure to grin as they putter about trying to talk it 'right' again.
A short post about commenting on my blog. I'll sticky it at the top of my blog.
1) It may or may not take me a very long time to sift through and approve comments. I'm talking anywhere from hours to MONTHS. This is a spoon-heavy thing for me.
2) One rule: MY BLOG; MY DECISIONS. I will simply delete/not publish offensive comments. I might do whatever I like to truly horrific comments (this includes posting them completely edited). Simple stuff applies, like: keep your disablism and any other bad -isms off my blog; no personal attacks (and I don't mean just personal attacks on me); don't take your fights with others onto my turf; if I discover you bully/stalk/harrass/etc other people, no comment of yours will ever make it to publication here.
I'll do a short review of 2 adventure games I've started playing recently. I've finished neither yet, but I'm far enough in to write. I'll make it 2 separate posts, otherwise it'll become a rather long read.
This may contain spoilers.
Also, I play on a PC.
First, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy for some of you).
The (mostly) Bad:
Someone told me it really was an adventure game and the action wasn't that intensive and very manageable, so I decided to play the game after all, after initially rejecting it, but it turns out that the game does hang more towards action than traditional adventure gaming. Actually it's all about action, pressing buttons and moving the mouse.
There are no real puzzles; although there is a lot of choice regarding which direction you want to take the story, the game is not hard in this respect. It's easy not to miss anything about the environment, easy to follow the story, and to decide what to do next. All the difficulty comes from the action. It is easy to miss an action sequence: the game is very real-time oriented, if you know what I mean, and an opportunity to mash a few buttons or move your mouse in the right direction can pass in the blink of an eye (in fact there were a few I really didn't even see because I was blinking or my head was turned for just a moment), the game needs constant concentrated attention, and that can be a problem.
Which gets me to the controls. They are incredibly clunky. Really not done well. I can't really say anything good about them. It's fairly obvious this game was developed for consoles. I don't know how much effort they put into the port, and it might be that this is the best possible outcome, but it's definitely making the game a lot less fun to play. The game includes all sorts of stuff that could actually be fun (moving the mouse in certain patterns, pressing keys in the right order), but even on the easy setting it is too hard. Maybe not too hard for most people, but much too hard for me, and I suspect many other people with motor difficulties (they don't have to be severe motor difficulties either). I've had to play the game co-op with my partner, with him taking over entirely sometimes (and with me being a terrible backseat driver when it comes to watching other people play games, I have to leave the room for that too). The worst of it is that every action is on a timer.
My fingers and wrists and arms ache from mashing buttons. If you miss or fail, it might become impossible to finish the game the way you want, since you have to get every sequence or the characters lose mental stability and get locked up or die (yeah, I'll be getting to that later). Now, some might consider this a feature, but I think that only works if it's really mostly under your control whether or not you let something slip by or take the opportunity.
On to the good:
The atmosphere is marvellous. The graphics, story, voice-acting all contribute to this. No puzzles or gathering objects to figure out where to use them, but that is not a failing at all. Deciding which questions you want to ask someone (because you won't get a chance to ask all of them, and you might learn different things which might each be important), making choices like "Do I break this window or try to open it some other way?". It's a very different way of playing, and it's great. Every choice you make has meaning and consequences, and may affect the development and ending of the story. For me, this makes trying to navigate the controls worth it. Already I'm wondering what I might do differently on my next playthrough, despite all the difficulties I'm having actually playing the game.
This game, despite the action-heavy gameplay, really is all about story and characters.
And some more bad stuff, unfortunately:
Insanity. The game is all about this. Here, have 3 guesses as to how well they handle it. I bet you didn't need more than one. That is right: badly. Clichés left and right. Including a prison-asylum for the criminally insane. I cringed and facepalmed all the way through (which was not good since I needed to pay attention to press the right buttons at the right times).
All playable characters have a stress/sanity meter. During the game stuff happens which will either reduce stress / improve stability, or increase stress / reduce stability. If the meter goes all the way down, you can die or get locked up. I did not like the linearity and simplicity of this, and I feel it also reinforces the misconception that this is all much more under someone's own control than it really is.
Also possession and/or psychic abilities <-> insanity. So cliché.
One of the characters has a fear of small (confined) spaces and the dark. Having to keep her from freaking out when she has to venture into basements and such by controlling her breathing was one of the less faily aspects of how this game handles this kind of stuff. I did like that a successful detective can be shown to have this kind of phobia.
All in all, I like this game a lot. I think it's worth playing, but others will have to decide for themselves whether they want to brave the controls and the way the game handles mental illness. If you have motor skills issues like mine, you might want to just leave it alone unless you have, and don't mind needing, someone there with you to help out with the controls.
Some pictures below of the pumpkin (lit and unlit, and one where our camera had some weird glitch and the image turned out entirely in tones of green which actually looked pretty neat) and the cake + cookies:
My initial fears about the 'worldwide' action Communication Shutdown have been firmly confirmed. It's supposed to simulate what it's like to be autistic and thus generate empathy.... no wait... sympathy.... wait... I think I can translate that for you: pity. And we all know what we should do with pity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_On_Pity).
Here is what my country's autism society has to say about it:
"De boodschap is als volgt: laten we allemaal één dag wegblijven achter de computer. Of op zijn minst een dag niet met online communicatie bezig zijn. Sociale netwerken via internet, zoals Facebook, Twitter en Hyves, zijn natuurlijk ideaal voor veel mensen met autisme (maar ook zonder autisme) en vaak een prima alternatief voor het echte live-contact waar mensen met autisme vaak zon moeite mee hebben. Als we met zn allen nu eens die ene dag stilstaan bij hoe het is om autisme te hebben en op het gebied van sociale vaardigheden beperkingen te hebben, dan kan het zo vinden de initiatiefnemers achter Communication Shutdown naar twee kanten toewerken. Mensen zónder autisme worden zo met de neus op de feiten gedrukt wat het is om autisme te hebben, en mensen mét autisme worden uitgedaagd om eens uit hun schulp te kruipen en die dag echte contacten op te zoeken."
They talk about thinking about what it's like to be autistic for one day. They, and not just our particular organisation but this action to begin with, reduce it to 'social difficulties'. Yeah. 'social difficulties' are not my biggest problem, not even close, thanks. They say the action will show non-autistic people "the facts" and will challenge autistic people to 'come out of their shell and pursue "real" contacts for a day'. I give you just one guess what I have to say about that. Made your guess? Ok: "WTF Goddamn it, FUCK YOU!" That's what I think about that. 1) People on the internet are not my imaginary friends. 2) Yay, more pressure to get us to do what neurotypical people think is 'best for us'. Screw you so much.
This is what the communication shutdown site says (they also have a video, not subtitled, but the text sort of flashes by, which says pretty much the same thing with slightly more words):
"Can you get by without Facebook or Twitter, just for one day?"
Yeah, because that is, like, SUCH A HARDSHIP! OMG how will they make it through! The suffering!!!!11!1
Here is a link to their site:
This action will not teach people anything except maybe the wrong things.
It's also not really global. You have to have widespread internet connections and social networking sites for this to (not) work in the first place.
As I've already said before (on my other blog): I'd like an action that might actually have a snowball's chance in hell to even affect me in a marginally positive way: Get people (and I mean more than a handful of people who happen to hear about this action and use the internet regularly) to shut up for a day in meatspace. It's not meant to teach them very special lessons about how much social communication sucks for us, since they're not going to get that anyway. It's meant to give people some actual relief. Better yet: get them to shut off that fucking music they have playing everywhere in stores and public spaces for a day... or forever. It would be a start. Then we'll work on the lighting next.
This will be the first time I participate in a Disability Blog Carnival. Septembers is hosted at Astrid's Journal and the theme is Identity.
I was thinking about how identity can be something influenced by others and how that interacts with being disabled. In my case, at least in part - how large that part is depends - invisibly disabled (inverted commas both because I dont think referring to sight to explain why people miss it is right, and because I dont think its invisible at all and I dont really know why people miss it). People will draw their own conclusions about you, even if they dont mean to (but I dont think most people put in much effort not to make assumptions).
There are a lot of things people ascribed to me which were actually something else, but Ill use one or two as examples.
For most of my life, many people considered me to be lazy and undisciplined (actually, Im fairly sure most people still do, no matter what you tell them). Here's what was really going on:
- me being physically slow because of poor motor skills and a few other factors, and thus always being last with dressing myself, doing crafts in school, etc.
- not being able to initiate tasks or not being able to switch between tasks.
- learning disabilities (or something): Shocker! Being really really good at some school stuff doesnt mean you cant be seriously bad at other school stuff and have genuine problems there. Well, try telling that to... anyone really; teachers, pupils, whoever.
- not being able to hear people and/or understand what they are saying, and/or not being able to answer them.
- more stuff that Im probably not thinking of right now.
Sometimes, when people tell you something often enough, you start believing it. And since its the only thing anyone ever came up with for me right from the start, I had even less to suggest they might be wrong. I had to discover that later. I doubt the feeling that Im just being lazy and just have to push harder will ever really go away by now though, no matter how much I know in my head what really happens. It was incredibly hard for me to figure out what was what, too; recognising when Im actually being lazy versus being unable to do something. Getting a diagnosis doesnt mean you magically have an explanation for everything and its all set right at once, at one fell swoop. After diagnosis I just thought I was autistic and lazy. Before too, really, as I have known about being autistic since I was about 11.
In the end, I could scrap lazy from the list of characteristics that describe me, while for most of my life Id been firmly convinced that it was a big part of my personality. Sure, I can be lazy sometimes, but it has to cross a certain line before its something youd use to describe yourself, a major characteristic. Undisciplined though, Im certainly that, though also not to the extent that I thought. In the sense of being a naturally chaotic person more than orderly.
Theres another term people used to describe me mostly from my mid-teens on: eccentric. Thats if they liked me. Otherwise it would be more like freak, or nerd, or a local term implying slow and simple. This, I actively cultivated because I figured it was something I could hide behind: being weird on the surface so people dont notice the weird beneath (no one can tell what your face looks like when youre wearing a mask. I still use a picture of a mask widely on the internet as an avatar on forums and the like). Shortly put, it was my method of trying to pass when I was still trying to pass. People can be remarkably superficial that way (in only noticing someone's surface characteristics), but I still didnt succeed, coming maybe halfway if you have to put something like that on a sliding scale. I guess people would have stopped called me slow and just called me freak if it had worked better.
Neither kind of different was acceptable, but I firmly felt that being different and unacceptable by choice was less dangerous than when you cant help it, so I tried to let people only see the by choice stuff. Thats easier when its really obvious and in-your-face and overblown.
Now Im trying to undo a lifetime (yes, yes, Im not even quite 30 yet. 20 years is still a long time) of ingrained habits and notions that are more of a hindrance to me than a help, though at some points I thought some of it was helping (like trying to pass). A few of those things may really have helped at some point, but are now only a burden.
There have also been instances where people told me I was something or had some characteristic that I just didnt see, where in the end they were right. Every now and then, Ill have less insight than an outsider. Thats a somewhat different subject though, and its also a lot less related to me being disabled (though some people argue that lack of self-insight is an autistic trait), so I might save it for another post.
**WARNING! This post contains spoilersfor Mass Effect 2, specifically the DLC Overlord**
It doesn't happen often anymore.
I mean, we're all pretty much used to seeing portrayals of autistic people in the media ranging from problematic to godawful.
But today I encountered one of them that was so bad that I was actually still shocked and angered by it.
Unfortunately, it is in one of my favourite games by one of my favourite developers (Bioware, who have a reasonable reputation when it comes to accessibility in games, but who pretty much screw up in various amounts every time when it comes to disability portrayal).
I had installed a newly released DLC: Overlord, and had gotten to the point of playing it.
At first I kinda liked it even if the story was a bit corny and reminded me of Lawnmower Man. I was actually thinking it was nice to have a Lawnmower Man story without the 'lawnmower guy' being disabled in some way.
Then I got to the part where the scientist guy named Archer (evil doctor) started talking more about his brother David, on whom they performed the tests (lawnmower character). Turns out the brother is autistic. At first the scientist just mentions it casually in a short recording. Immediately though, I got this sinking feeling in my stomach: "Oh no..."
And it turns out I was right. The autistic character is every stereotype you've ever heard of; every disablist and disgusting attitude towards us is brought forward as completely natural and reasonable. As you get further along and hear more recordings and see more flashbacks, you see the autistic man doing math in his head out loud (square roots or something) pretty much 24/7 while rocking back and forth, and when anyone so much as says a word he starts screaming that there is too much noise. That is about all we see of the character itself, ANYTHING else we know about the autistic brother is provided by the scientist brother or other secondary characters. He begins by saying how much he will never be able to understand David's brain. How until now he was only a problem to him, but now he might actually be useful! (as a testsubject). Then he reveals him as a maths savant. Goes on to say how well he can get along with the Geth (a machine race) because of being autistic. Then he likens him to an alien. Later on he says he's basically nothing more than a human computer, which is why he can effortlessly understand and speak the Geth language (and also because of maths) and give them orders and stuff. He states the brother will probably enjoy being hooked up to the Geth interface (like their hive mind).
Then he of course hooks him up, with no consent asked or given, because of course an autistic man is not actually an adult, or even really a human being. He has no opinions and is completely passive. Then of course the brother goes berserk and kills tonnes of people with his Geth. In the end you can free him, rescue him with pity and all and have him shipped off to some institution with a nice name. Or you can even leave him there to be tested on further, because you know, it's just one of 'those people.'
The biggest problem is that it's very clear that it's not a criticism where only his scientist brother regards him that way - who is clearly evil - and other characters view him differently. It's clear that other characters feel the same way and/or pity him. What's more, it's clear that this is the way the developers/writers feel too. It shines through everywhere.
I sent an e-mail through the EA customer service, which seems to be the only way to reach them, if you can reach them at all through there. The other option would be posting about it on the forums, where then hopefully maybe a moderator would see it AND pass it on to the devs (if they can even do that), and the forums are a cesspit of intolerance and every kind of -ism you can imagine, and I apologise, but I just can't carry the responses I know I'd get right now, so I'm not posting there.
I would like to ask people, especially people who have also played the DLC or at least Mass Effect 2, to also write to them or contact them about this issue by any means they can find and are willing to use. You might even be able to address Bioware's other issues with disabled and traumatised characters in the same go (I managed to mention them shortly, my letter was already very long).
Crossposted to my other blog.