Spinal Troubles Again & Friday the 13th KickStarter

fridaythe13ththegameA new KickStarter is available for none other than Friday the 13th, an officially licensed multi-player game with 1 vs 7 asymmetrical slasher action!

The game is due out for the XBox One, Playstation 4 and PC. Funding is already nearing 50% after only two days. Horror fans unite!

As usual, once one starts getting ahead, life knocks them down again.

For two nights in a row, I stayed up late trying to get a handle around Spring programming, a framework used primarily with Java to develop web servers. I had to explain to the misses that the reason for burning the midnight oil was due to a condition called “nerd raging.” That is, persistent study and trial-and-error to achieve deserved results, sometimes beyond what’s healthy.

Well, between reduced sleep and generally avoiding the gym, I have managed to again pinch a nerve. My guess is T9, which differs from the previous incident near my neck.

dancing skeletonThe first night I spent primarily in bed, reading for a few hours before going to sleep around 10 p.m. But sleep was difficult due to pain. Remaining on my back or belly is fine, but I usually shift to my side at night, and the pain flares. I woke up and took a very hot bath to reduce the agony.

The worst part about herniated discs has to be trying to block out the pain during the day to day. Sometimes you’re fine and feel nothing. Other times, the slightest motion is all it takes to set off the scratching of unseen hooks throughout one’s entire back. The resulting grouchiness* and anti-social tendencies are just an attempt to preserve relationships lest others think the frustration of enduring is meant towards them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 9 out of 10 herniated discs usually heal on their own with conservative treatment. However, a caveat is that while bed rest is ideal for the first day or so, those inflicted should actually try to increase their exercise and movements to return to normal.

I used this as an excuse to try something I believe would be ideal to my condition. Tai Chi.

I’d been wanting to get back into martial arts for a while. I took some forms of Karate in college and then some classes of Tae Kwon Do during the summers. Tai Chi is remarkably different. The interesting thing about the style is that the health and exercise components seem to have outpaced the self-defense traits. To most people, the application of Tai Chi as a martial art is secondary aspect. Furthermore, Tai Chi’s slow movements make it accessible even to the infirm.

There are actually a few videos available on Youtube with beginner lessons worth exploring. During the introduction of the lesson I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if many of the movements the instructor used were designed more towards helping him combat his arthritis, which he explained he developed not long after medical school. Because of Tai Chi’s modern application towards health, I couldn’t help but ponder about instructors who researched techniques and movements to help combat spinal stress.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if there might not be some kind of Tai Chi service or database that could help people custom tailor their workouts to help alleviate particular health issues. To be effective however, I’d suppose that research would need to be performed to determine which forms, movements and motions are proven to have an impact against certain conditions. Getting my head around how to measure such metrics is a considerable task.

I keep wanting to add more about this but also constantly shove my foot in my mouth. Maybe I’ll check Netflix for a series on Tai Chi tomorrow…

*–This applies to regular folks. I however, am always grouchy.

Why Dead Space 3 is an Important Question

I write horror. So do hundreds to thousands of other people out there. And serializing horror is not something that has ever been done particularly well. For that reason, Dead Space 3 is something anyone who takes their craft seriously should keep an eye on.

It’s certainly been tried so, so many times. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Resident Evil, Silent Hill. Each of these movies and game series have their hey day and begin to fade, their sequels becoming derivative. A recent interview over on IGN certainly suggests that the artists and designers at EA and Visceral Games are doing their best not to let the horror element get away from them.

Now, I certainly don’t feel any need to defend EA or the game. I am looking forward to it, but that’s not to say I cannot be disappointed. It might be, as many other gamers worry, too much action and not enough scares. But I think that overall, based on a few things I’ve seen and heard, there are three things worth discussing and thinking about when it comes this trilogy’s ending.

So how do you keep horror fresh?

Extreme Venue Change

In the past two Dead Space Games, outdoors meant trying to find oxygen tanks and avoiding floating bodies, because you were in zero gravity space. While I certainly hope that there will be some actual moments spent in the void again, the frozen tundras of Tau Volantis have all kinds of possibilities too.

The open spaces make for an unusual set of circumstances. Before, we always had reason to fear the vents and the tight, claustrophobic tunnels and shafts. Which means that if the necromorphs (or whatever monster you are writing about) want their prey, they have to develop new, interesting ways to get close. Hunters always adapt or die, as is the law of the jungle. Camouflage? Tunneling beneath the snow? Masquerading as a snow mound? All possible. Even probable.

But here’s an idea. What if you had to trudge through a snow storm and you see a human looking figure ahead of you. (I know of at least one monster type that is already doing this.) Crazy thing is, your mission is to rescue survivors. And let’s say you can hurt or even fail your mission if you shot them just to be sure.

Which means you have to get close to confirm. Kind of like The Thing. A real moral dilemma.

Admit it. It would freak you out as you have to guess. The question alone causes hesitation.

Someone Else’s Madness

"There is no John Carver, fleshling! It is I, Megatron!"

“There is no John Carver, fleshling! It is I, Megatron!”

John Carver. We don’t know crap about him. Except that one, he’s a soldier. Two, he’s starting to hallucinate. Badly. And three… you’re stuck with him. Now if these ingredients aren’t a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

That first point is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the second point. What if the game designers decided to really play with your mind, and player one looks like a necromorph on the screen from a hallucination? And friendly fire hurts?

Yeah. I’d be furious myself. You got necromorphs, the environment and unitologists trying to kill me. And now I got to deal with a rampaging player who is freaking out? No wonder they didn’t want split screen co-op. And I couldn’t really blame the other player. When I see a necromorph, my first instinct is to blast away too.

Oh yeah, nothing adds scare like desperation. Survival horror, not just horror. How are you two going to divvy up the ammo and credits? The last thing I need is to find out my partner is an ammo hog and a really bad shot…

The Still Unknown

One large and very disturbing fact is that no one knows what or where the marker actually comes from. There are theories and ideas, but the only thing that seems to stick is that it’s alien. But obviously, there must be a marker on Tau Volantis for there to be necromorphs. Possibly even the original, the black marker. The Dead Space 3 trailer suggests as much, but it could be something else.

It would be strange at this point not to use the marker to open up a larger possibility. Maybe humans and necromorphs won’t be the only foes Carver and Clarke face. Maybe there’s one more thing somewhere down there. One more faction to the already expanded list, that wants its property back. As Dead Space has proven over the last two games, what you don’t know can and will kill you.

Imagine something comes after you. Something that is not remotely human, its skin is smooth. Its features more animal like terror. There is no rot, no gore, the blood it spills is different in color. It might even sound like it’s saying something. You manage to kill it. And Clarke examines the body.

And admits it does not even look like a necromorph.

… guess we’ll find out on February 5th.