Welcome

to the Gilliad.

Arrr.

Hey Girl, you don’t have to go to the Cat Cafe to get…

My dyspraxic tendencies make me a bad gamer, in many respects.

If there is lava, I can — and will — fall into it. If there are weapons to fire and targets to hit, you can pretty much count on me accidentally destroying myself and everyone (friend and foe alike) within the improbable 30-meter blast radius I’ve somehow created by doing nothing more than attempting to check my inventory. And you’d better hope there’s no scope for combo moves, because I will break your device, console, PC, or arcade.

Which is why I find myself drawn to games where coordination and dexterity are not the focus: point-and-click adventures, puzzle-solvers, city-builders and resource management simulators (played at like 0.125x speed), interactive fiction and visual novels.

And so I was pleased to discover Hustle Cat, an adorable VN that (crucially, mercifully) requires nothing more than the occasional mouse click to navigate.

I woke up like this.

I woke up like this. #flawless

How it works: you play Avery Grey, a recent arrival in The City Unspecified. You’re a sweet, slightly awkward kid who forages on leftover takeout and can’t keep an apartment tidy. You’re of age and finished with school, but you definitely face something of a steep learning curve when it comes to Basic Principles of Adulting.

(So far, so accurate.)

Your first task is to customize your appearance and choose your preferred pronouns (and change them at any point in the game). After that, you take a walk. As a direct result of leaving your apartment, you get hired at A Cat’s Paw, the local cat cafe owned by the enigmatic Graves* and run by a cute, friendly, gender-fluid crew of baristas**

cafe-crew

But this is No Ordinary Cat Cafe.

As you soon discover, when weird occult $#!+ starts going down. Yes, there are light fantasy elements — like MAGIC! — of the sort you’ll recognize from even low-level exposure to manga. Also, I should note that as an otome game, there are many roads to ROMANCE.

This is an endorsement and also a warning: if you — like me — are bad at picking up on signals, you will be stunned when characters suddenly start hardcore making out with you.

By shoving you up against a wall,
against-the-wall

grabbing you by the throat,
throat

Or flat-out tackling you.

tackle

What did I say? What did I do?

*SIGH* In art as in life, being friendly has consequences.
So I’ve got a weird face BUT a nice smile — as I’ve discovered on the rare occasions when I do smile and suddenly people (mostly dudes, tho’ not always) think I’m flirting. Thus, a default brusqueness becomes my MO, for I have no desire to attract attention when the stakes are so high.
This might be why I prefer the company of animals and small children, because there’s no room for weird and embarrassing misunderstandings — I can grin or giggle and it is what it is, NO SUBTEXT.

Anyway, at first it was rather nerve-wracking, to get jumped for (as far as I could tell) saying things like, “Here’s your coffee!” and “What’s up?” Especially because there were times when I was flirting…with someone else.

Like most games of this genre, your love interest is determined by the points you accrue. It is not entirely clear HOW those points accrue, but don’t assume that the full-court press is going to get you where you want to go. In true geek fashion, this is the kind of game where casually asking someone about the book they’re reading or their favorite RPG is tantamount to a declaration of love, whereas your best “HEY GIRL” will land in the dirt with a thud.

However, with subsequent play-throughs, I started to get a sense of what to expect and was able to go with the flow a bit more. Ultimately, it was fun to choose different paths and see where they led. Within the same overarching frame story, there’s backstory that gets revealed through interactions; different routes yield more in-depth character development and flesh out the contours of the world (there are even some supporting characters that only appear in certain storylines).

Plus, no matter what path you take, there are usually a bunch of loose ends. Like, what is [SPOILER’s] deal? Why is this suddenly a thing? How exactly does [SPOILER] work? So it’s worth a few replays, for sure, just so you know what’s going on in the big picture.

Then came the bonus route. I am maybe slightly naive for thinking, “Huh. Now that I’ve hooked up with all these cafe cuties, maybe now I can find out more about magic.”

Ok, my actual thought process was: “HOT D@MN I’MA BE A WITCH! I’MA JOIN A COOOOVEN” (there was also maybe a wiggle-dance in there, just a little bit) because tbh that is all I really want in life.

Wait, is my boss hitting on me?

graves

I…I don’t know.

Interestingly (and without giving too much away) this route is a much, much slower burn — probably due to the age gap between the characters, the power dynamics at play, and other factors that could potentially turn something sweet and mildly sensual into something creepy and icky. I wasn’t entirely sure it would lead to anything romantic — initially, it seemed like our “relationship” was going in more of a mentor-student direction. Which, hey, LET THE WITCHERY ENSUE, I say!

But we’ve already discussed how bad I am at interpreting social cues. Especially when it’s like, ok, now we’re sitting on the couch together in your apartment and you’re showing me pictures of your cats and everybody’s blushing and stammering and there are gazes happening (GAZES, people!) but at the same time you’re not offering me ANY drunking wine despite being like 4 feet from your bedroom and also WTF we shake hands when we part ways at 1 in the morning? Like we’re some kinda businesspeople even tho’ we both work at a CAT CAFE. Dude, c’mon.

*SIGH* It’s humiliating when a fictional character makes you second-guess everything word that comes out of  and obsessively wonder BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN? If you don’t miss junior high, then the bonus route probably isn’t a must-see. On the other hand, if your inner teen longs to live awkwardly once more then GO 4 IT.

uniform

But I suppose that’s part of the game of love — tons of fun if you’re a player, confusing and stressful if you are used to sitting on the sidelines.

* This character makes me feel old, because I def. went to high school AND college with ppl like Graves: needlessly theatrical, goth-inflected geeks with pronounced LARPing tendencies.
**These characters were a far cry from anyone I’ve ever worked with in a minimum wage service job — i.e. no drinking problems or drug habits, always showing up on time for their scheduled shifts, and no exhausting relationship drama. These are probably the world’s most grounded 19-25yo’s EVER.

what are you doing these days they ask and i answer

This!

cyberwoman-persona

I had to create a set of personas as part of an assignment for my UX class; what emerged was a detailed consumer profile of memelebrity Cyber Woman with Corn.

I actually did okay on that assignment. I gather it wasn’t design-y enough — b/c hey guess what I am NOT a designer and thus a basic AF artboard full of rectangles represents the mesopause of my Illustrator skills — but, said the instructor, “the writing was strong.”

I’ll take it and I’ll run, thanks very much.

…Her?

My Fella invited me to his work-related social event this evening, so I’ll be wifing it for an hour or so. It takes more energy than it should, considering that I get to be a non-entity and blend into the woodwork — or, given that it’s Motorco, the exposed-brick-and-welding; I wonder if it’s because My Fella insists on introducing me* (which is kind of him, but stressful to me) and then I have to come up with a two-second explanation of what my deal is (two seconds is all I get before eyes glaze over and interruptions start).

Fortunately, I’ll have my phone with me in an area that provides truly excellent hunting grounds for Pokemon GO, so that will help. Also, I will require all the bribes — including, but not limited to, a coffeedrink from Cocoa Cinnamon, a food-truck Korean taco (which is a thing in the world now), sexual favors, and not having to put the chickens away when we get home.

In exchange, I will be polite** and not bite.

 

 

 

*again, to people I’ve met dozens of times, who nevertheless do not remember me because I am the Ann Veal of central NC’s librarian community
**with one notable exception, whose marzipan pig-face can melt in the fires of Robot Hell.

Self-Editing

I’m not as honest as I used to be, especially on this blog.

First of all, I am reminded that people do read what I write, which makes me self-conscious.

While I am hardly a well-socialized human being, I do worry about offending people I care about, or causing them distress, through my choice of words. Because I know full well that I have a vicious streak — call it ‘wit’ if you like, if it makes you feel better about laughing — I try to keep it leashed.

Secondly, I am conscious of the fact that anything I write can be used against me: for example, I could be fired for saying or doing, but also for being.

Among those I know well, I am fairly open about (for example) my mental health issues; however, I am by no means ‘out,’ even if (as I suspect) I’m probably not fooling anyone with my sad attempts at normalcy. But disclosure is tough: every time I start to think, yeah, maybe society’s making some progress, there’s a mass shooting or media portrayal that convinces the general public that they must do whatever is necessary to protect themselves from the “crazies.”

Third, while I stand defiantly by my opinions, I am ashamed of my feelings — particularly the softer ones, because I equate them with weakness; I have also absorbed certain cultural norms about never showing vulnerability, as doing so accomplishes nothing except providing one’s enemies with ammunition.

Fourth, I do not want to want. I have deep-seated conviction that by expressing a desire, I am setting myself up for disappointment. I also believe that I do not deserve anything good.

Like, my heart’s desire has always been to write (fiction!) while raising a pack of kids. Not everyone knows this, because it’s not something I usually admit — even to myself.
After all: what makes me so special, how self-indulgent, my family worked so hard and sacrificed so much so that I could have a good life, I can’t afford dreams, why would I ‘throw away’ my education like that, I have a good job, don’t I know how lucky I am, I am the sensible one whose job it is to look out for/clean up after others, I have neither the talent nor the temperament, what if I regret it, do I have any idea what I’d be getting myself into, you can’t do TWO things, etc., etc.

And so, I wake up every morning, exhausted and frustrated, and with the agonizing sensation of knives stabbing the inside of my gut because, deep down, I know am lying to myself and everyone else. And will continue to do so.

Which is why, you see, I don’t always want to update this blog. Because nobody wants to know any of this.

 

 

school’s back in session

it’s going to be a busy semester: two courses, plus my normal FTE.

one course is strategic communication, the other is usability; i have no real experience in either, so that should be interesting.

“it was pretty gloomy”

I’m actually in a pretty good mood, tho’ I’m told my last post implied otherwise. I believed my tone to be neutral, because apparently I attach zero valence to blanket statements regarding my worthlessness — which is certainly a problem, but perhaps not the one that had folks worried.*

Anyway, sorry about that. Really, I’m not drowning in despair; I’m having saltines and ginger ale while watching Border Security: Canada’s Front Line on the Netflix — a sentence, which, now that I’ve typed it, makes me sound like I’m depressed AF, but in fact, I’m having as nice of an evening as this wretched stomach bug will allow.

 

*What can I say? I’m getting as much therapy as I can afford, tho’ it might not be enough.

what is the point of her

‘Sigh,’ said (did?) My Fella, and I said, ‘What?’

‘What? Why are you sighing?!’

‘Because you’re being down on yourself again,’ he replied, punctuating his sentence with another sigh.

‘STOP THAT NOW. Stop doing those sighs!’

To which My Fella responded, ‘Stop being down on yourself and I’ll stop sighing’ and I took that in the spirit in which (I have decided) it was intended, which is as a challenge that, like most relationship-based psychological wars of attrition, I WILL WIN OR DIE TRYING.

So, yes, I’m in the middle of one of my ‘why do I exist no really what is the point of me?’ periods. And while I know there doesn’t have to be a point of me, that life has no intrinsic meaning nor purpose, I’d still like for there to be, because the processes that create someone like myself are pretty resource-intensive and I just think there ought to be some payoff, somewhere down the line, for ruining Earth.

Otherwise, that is a raw deal: oh hey, sorry about the polar ice caps, those are over now, but hey, instead you get Gillian, who is good for mostly nothing. See what I mean?