Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Slight 'Cross-over' in Topics
Today, I held a copy of my first published 'book'. It is an Official Strategy Guide for a game entitled 'Tree of Tranquility', a new game in the Harvest Moon series. I never thought that my first 'book' would be a game guide, but my respect and admiration for the creators of the world of Harvest Moon is so profound that I feel honoured to be connected to it in an 'official' capacity. Despite the fact that my game guides on the internet are fairly well-known, the permanent quality of the printed page makes a book far more 'real' somehow.
The sheer amount of labour that is involved in a project like this is incredible. I cannot imagine individuals being willing to submerge themselves in projects of this sort without any deep devotion to the subject itself... and yet, I know from my past experience in the book publishing world that there are many individuals in publishing who do precisely that. Even with my own personal dedication to Harvest Moon, the copy-editing aspects of it were not always strictly speaking a 'labour of love'. Nonetheless, there is something intensely satisfying about a real BOOK, especially when the book represents both a subject that I love and my own labour.
As a child, I saved my money to buy books. The thrill of going to my favourite bookshop to buy a coveted book is one of the most enduring memories of childhood. Sometimes the smell of the pages of a new book will take me back to one of those magical moments.
Often it was the artwork as well as the writing itself that drew me into another world. The Oz Books were early favourites partly because of the exquisite illustrations of John R. Neill. One of the first novels I wrote at the age of 7 or 8 was an Oz Book. (I probably need not add that it had no literary value whatsoever.)
'The Land of Oz' and 'Rinkitink in Oz' were my favourites, although I loved 'Ozma of Oz' because anything connected with Ozma was particularly magical. I think it was the cover of Ozma of Oz that made that book most memorable.
Dorothy could return to THIS world and yet, Ozma would make certain that she was not forgotten. All she had to do was make a secret sign at a specific time and Ozma would respond, whisking her back to Oz. As a child, by some skewed logic, I thought that if I made the same sign at the same time, Ozma might notice and bring ME to Oz... It made no sense, really. After all, according to the novels themselves, Dorothy had become a permanent resident, a Princess of Oz, with the rest of her family. There no longer would be any reason for Ozma to spend any time at all scrutinising THIS world.
I personally see many parallels between great children's literature and Harvest Moon. Harvest Moon is not strategy so much as total immersion in another world, with characters that one comes to know and love. There are the beautiful as well as the eccentric and many who fall somewhere between the two. Playing Harvest Moon is rather like leaping into a beloved folktale and becoming part of it. The fact that the games are realistic and require your participation in farming, eating, making friends, even starting a family, are where these games actually are more than mere fantasy. You must work for rewards in Harvest Moon and weave the threads of your own life into the story.
Some players complain that Harvest Moon is too time-consuming and that farming or ranching tasks can be tedious. To me, that is part of the genius of the series. If you do not water your crops daily, they may die. Animals if neglected may die as well. You cannot expect to skate over the fundamentals of real existence in Harvest Moon. You can engage in courtship and romance but not at the expense of daily life. As in reality, you still must eat to survive.
My family is not familiar with Harvest Moon and have no understanding of what it is that I wrote. I suppose if I never had played a video game in my life and a friend were to tell me that he/she had written a game guide, I would not know even what that signified either. If I were to think about it objectively, though, a novel of mine would not signify much more. My mother no doubt would be uninspired by the characters or plot and wonder why I had wasted my energy on 'people like that'.
One really must do things for oneself and not to impress others. Inevitably, people who truly understand you will take an interest in your accomplishments. As for the others, volumes have been written about individuals who scaled the highest peaks and yet never managed to impress a loved one.
I remember a tale about a famous composer that we were told often as children. It was either Handel or Haydn whose wife took his compositions and used them in lieu of rags to curl her hair.... At least that was the tale we were told, to illustrate how often even the greatest artists fail to attain the appreciation of those closest to them.
Well, a game guide even for Harvest Moon cannot be compared with the work of Haydn or Handel. Nonetheless, I am happy to be connected with this project and as strategies guides are useful, I know that the work will be appreciated by some at least.
I have many friends who are professional writers, whether of fiction or non-fiction. I always thought one of my novels would be published by now. A part of me comprehends, however, that my own exacting standards in fiction have crippled me somewhat. In writing a game guide, on the other hand, it is not MY work that must be worthy intrinsically, but the game itself. That is one reason I could not write a guide for a game that I considered a waste of time and energy.
There is a point though where I should take up the challenge once more to write fiction. Even if the results prove to be lacklustre, I always was happiest when I was engaged in writing a novel.