Depression, anger and the newness of the old.

So, here I am. It’s been some time since I updated here. But lately, I feel like I’ve been at a crossroads regarding gaming. I posted on my Twitter account not long ago (https://twitter.com/VirtualCaveman) about whether or not it might be time for me to give up gaming. I got a lot of good responses there, and a lot of food for thought.

But as it turns out, my issue didn’t have anything to do with gaming. It has more to do with my state of mental health than anything else.

As some of you may know, in September of 2020, I almost died. This had nothing to do with Covid-19, but rather, fatty liver disease, coupled with an internal bleed. The doctors weren’t sure I would pull out of it, and even advised my wife to prepare for the worst. I remember virtually none of that first weekend, as my brain was swimming in blood ammonia (which I still have to take medication for). When I finally regained consciousness, nearly three days had passed. I was out of the hospital by the end of that week, and back at work the next. This proved to be a problem, as I had not completely recovered. I still had to take time to go to doctor’s appointments, plus there were still days that I just felt sick and had to call in, as they’d usually be followed by vomiting. My employer’s idea of giving me recovery time was to drop my hours to part-time, and then, after a particularly grueling round of appointments, my FMLA time that I had to take in early 2021 was about to run out, and as I was in no real shape to return to work, they considered my request for an FMLA extension as a “voluntary resignation.” Real nice. Luckily, I was able to go on unemployment because of the severity of my illness, although it was a rough couple months until it kicked in.

Because of all of this, though, things changed. I had to change my diet completely, I found myself having trouble driving, and with Covid still running rampant, I was mainly self-isolating due to the liver disease compromising my immune system. There were a few other things that happened as well that I’m not going to talk about here, but the end result was my life-long depression rearing its ugly head for the first time in years. I felt (and still do, to a degree) like a burden to my wife, who not only still works full time, but has her own medical issues to deal with. I’d say the best thing to happen to me in the past year was the birth of my first granddaughter and second grandson (grandson number three is on the way, btw), and while there are times that I’m perfectly capable of helping out my granddaughter’s mother with her, there are times that I just can’t. This bothers me. I know my ex-wife thinks I was a horrible father (and husband), but I did learn a lot back then. I know the stress my step-daughter has to deal with, and I want to do what I can to alleviate that, but there are times I just can’t, and then she has to step in and help take care of me, which is an added burden she doesn’t need.

Believe me, this has not just been a long vacation. This has sucked hard.

This makes me equal parts depressed and angry. And since I’m not about to take that out on anyone, I focused on my games. To an extent, they became something that defines me. I call myself “the Splatterhouse guy,” after all. I brought back West Mansion not just because I knew it would make a lot of people happy, but as a way to re-establish my relevance in a world that’s changed so much from when I first started it. Do I want the “clout,” as the term means these days? When it comes to Splatterhouse, yes. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Back in the first decade of this century, whenever someone thought Splatterhouse, they thought of me and my work. I helped keep the franchise alive, to the point where Namco Bandai came to me when they were making the 2010 game, because I had the connection with the fanbase and I saved them a ton of time in research with the info had gathered on West Mansion.

That’s not the case anymore. Granted, I didn’t help matters any when I shut the site down in 2011 and kept it closed for a decade, but these days, whatever clout I have has dispersed. YouTubers, streamers, and so forth have made it easier to learn about the series than by wading through the multiple walls of text and images I have on the site. I’m still stubbornly hanging onto the old ways, even still hand-coding my own HTML. I’m a Web 1.0 guy in a soon-to-be Web 3.0 world, and I’m having the hardest time adapting.

Pictured: old.

“But why not stream or make videos about Splatterhouse yourself?” some may be asking. Believe me, I’m doing you a favor by not doing that. I’m an ugly fat guy with bad teeth (thanks, non-existent affordable healthcare!) and a weird voice: the very prototypical nerd stereotype, which would be complete if I were a single virgin and living in my parents’ basement. Luckily, I avoided all that.

See? See right there? That’s the depression kicking in. I could have gone back and edited that whole thing out, but no, this is me: warts and all.

Anyway, all that aside, what about quitting gaming for good? Was it something like this?

As it turns out, no, it wasn’t (although there are times when I feel absolutely lousy that it can be). And I just can’t quit, either. It’s been part of my life for far too long. After discussing things with a couple of good friends of mine, plus reading all of the responses on Twitter, I realized something. I’ve been so focused on discussion and writing about games that I haven’t really taken the time to properly play them recently. So it’s not that I want to give them up, but rather, I need to get back to basics and play. I fully intend to take a different approach this time, too, by playing games from genres that usually don’t appeal to me: RPGs, FPSes, sports and such. We’ll see if this works.

Still, they’re going to be games for consoles I already own. I don’t have the cash to afford a Switch or anything past the PS3/Xbox 360 era. So I figure I’ll start with a few of the classics from the time. I have an ongoing quest in Final Fantasy II (SNES) that I intend to get back to. I figure that’s a good starting point. And hey, for the most part it’s all new to me, hence the newness of the old.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Let’s talk Turbo.

I’ve had the damnedest time holding onto anything Turbografx-16 related, until just recently. I stupidly traded away my original TG16 setup back in the mid ’90s to a local game store (I had the original CDROM unit and a stack of games, too – only one I kept was Splatterhouse, for obvious reasons). Then I got a Duo and started rebuilding my collection, only to lose it during the event I came to call The Great Crash. If you’ve read Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, you know what that was all about.

Again, I managed to hold on to Splatterhouse, only by way of sending it to my friend Mike for safekeeping. He sent it back to me after things settled down. Then, around 2011, I got a PC Engine Duo-R and began rebuilding my collection yet again… only to sell it after the prices of Turbo and PC Engine games started to skyrocket around 2016, like an idiot. Even Splatterhouse went that time.

After that, I wrote off ever owning anything Turbo-related ever again. The prices were now simply too high for me to afford.

Then the Turbografx-16 Mini was announced. I debated on getting one after seeing that despite a lot of great games were being included, there were no Namco games, which meant no Splatterhouse. Of course, shortly before it was originally intended to be released, the bombshell dropped that some Namco games were going to be added, including Splatterhouse, which just sealed the deal for me. I immediately went to Amazon and slammed the pre-order button.

Then Covid happened, and the Mini was indefinitely delayed. ARGH. Luckily Amazon Japan eventually started selling them, so I cancelled my U.S. pre-order and just bought one outright from Amazon Japan. Finally I had a Turbografx-16 again, even if it was a mini console with no way to play actual HuCard or CDROM games on it, and several of my favorite games were missing. But still! So many great shooters, Supergrafx games, an Arcade Card game, Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, multiple Gradius games… and of course, Splatterhouse. I was happy.

However, as time went on, I found myself missing the games I liked that had been left off in favor of some rather questionable choices, like Moto Roader and Appare! Gateball. Where was The Legendary Axe? The Legendary Axe II? Gate of Thunder? Even Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the pack-in game when the Turbo was released in the U.S. back in 1989, was missing.

“O Keith, Keith, wherefore art thou, Keith Courage?”

But given the stupid prices that the original console and games command now, I ultimately decided to be content that I had some kind of Turbo console again.

Fast forward to a little over a week ago.

A friend of mine on Instagram was selling off an original Turbografx-16 console, with everything needed to connect it. The price was too high for me to afford, but I sent a half-joking message to him saying that if I had what he was asking for it, I’d be all over that deal. To my complete surprise, he countered with a price that was extraordinarily reasonable for what he was asking.

Needless to say, I jumped at the offer. He packed it up and sent it off shortly thereafter. At the same time, I saw that someone else I knew on Instagram was selling a couple of loose HuCards on Mercari, and after making a reasonable offer on them, he agreed and I was able to get a couple new games for my new Turbo. Both packages arrived this past Friday – I got them right after I slipped on some mud in the driveway and took a header that left me with a bruised left knee and aching legs. Ouch.

It’s been so long…

My new Turbo certainly helped ease the pain somewhat. I even found a couple of sports games packed in with the Turbo, so my library was already off to a good start. I had picked up a copy of Splatterhouse from a friend of mine on Facebook a couple years back, just to have it in my collection, so of course that immediately got pulled out.

A promising start.

I had to play through it. Would you expect any less from me?

BURN IT ALL DOWN.

So what next? Stone Age Gamer is selling Turbo Everdrives (and they’re about to start their Black Friday sales), so that’s on the list of things to pick up. One of those will give me access to the entire TG16/PCE HuCard library, so I won’t have to worry about paying insane prices just to get a decent collection again… although I would like to have physical copies of Ninja Spirit, The Legendary Axe II and Pac-Land (yes, Pac-Land) again, just because. And if I ever find them at a decent price, I will pick them up.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling the need to go kill stuff with an axe… a legendary axe, as it were.