Of Writing, Updates and Covid.

Hey, I’m back.

First, West Mansion has been updated: https://splatterhouse.kontek.net/new.html

Second, I’ve been writing a lot recently. My long-gestating book Eating Candy in Outer Space is finally nearing completion! It’s the first of three companion books to Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman. Candy focuses on the non-gaming portion of my life: growing up in the ’80s, coming of age in the ’90s, and everything that went with those, from early interests like toys, to the various early loves and losses I had, early work experiences and so much more.

Eating Candy in Outer Space will be followed at a later date by The Chicken at the End of the Street, which picks up where Candy left off, at the dawn of the 21st century. In it, I discuss becoming a father, my first failed marriage, and how I ultimately met and married Bette, as well as the trials and tribulations we’ve endured since, such as the time in 2020 when I nearly died, as well as becoming a grandfather, plus plenty more wacky work stories and other anecdotes.

The third planned book is Digital Archaeology: Retrogaming Recollections. This is a book that I’m only compiling and editing. If you read Memoirs, you’re most likely familiar with the second half of the book, where I invited quite a few friends and colleagues to share their gaming memories. I decided some time ago that those stories were too good to be relegated to a backseat in Memoirs, and they all deserved to be in their own book. This time around, I’ve also put out an open call for more submissions, and a lot of people have already signed up to contribute. The closer the book gets to release, I’ll be revealing just who’s going to be featured in the book. So keep an eye on Twitter and the Memoirs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/virtualcaveman

Which brings me to the burning question: what about Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman itself? I knew that splitting out the contributor stories into their own book would cause an issue with the book as it stands, but not to worry. I’m also working on it as well! The previous edition may have been called the “Definitive Edition,” but this new edition is going to be the Final Edition. This time, it’s all me. And I’ve already added plenty of new gaming stories from my past, cleaned up some of the errors in the previous edition, as well as making all sorts of other changes. And after this, that’s it. There will never be another “new, improved edition” of Memoirs published. Who knows, there may be an anniversary edition reprinting down the line somewhere, but as far as making any other changes to it, that’s it. After this, it’s done.

Of course, the artiste extraordinaire PrimeOp is handing the cover art duties. Of the four, Memoirs and Candy are done, but I can’t wait to see his takes on my ideas for Chicken and Digital Archaeology.

Okay, what about Covid? I finally caught the damn thing. Warded it off for over two years, only to have it come after me in my own home. It first really hit me one week ago, and I passed the worst of it on Tuesday, but there’s still that damned lingering cough. I’m just glad I was vaccinated, or it could have been a lot worse.

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?