Sunday, January 5, 2014

Thinking about Drive and Flow

This Christmas my uncle was stuck for something to get me, but he remembered I loved anime so he visited a comic shop in the hope of finding something suitably japanified. But oh ho was he surprised to find all manga in the store gone. Sold. Every last Bleach, One Piece and Naruto, Death Note, Fist of the North Star, just evaporated into the stockings of thousands of manga lovers everywhere. He asks the till guy if there's anything left to salvage? Not even one manga left. A pause. He was handed this:

Bakuman - two lads follow their dreams to become mangaka (manga artists). No homo, surprisingly!

Meet Saiko and Shuujin, the middle school students determined to make it into Shonen Jack (a parody of the biggest name in manga magazines, Shonen Jump) as the greatest mangaka ever. Their goal is often intertwined with other emotional heart tugs (Saiko promises to marry his childhood sweetheart only when they both achieve their dreams) and the comedy is effectively sourced from these devices.

Okay, so he bought me the 15th in the series and I'd never even heard of it before. I had to laugh, especially because it's not the first time it's happened. (I've got precisely volumes 1-4, 37, 38 of Ranma 1/2, thanks Mam!) But what a lucky choice it turned out to be.

My creative mojo had been all but drained over the period before holidays, working solidly on Forgotten Futures and getting stressed about my financial situation. But here comes Bakuman delivering a jolt of inspiration in swift, touching, even frank instalments about the nature of mastering one's craft. I could expect nothing less from the guys who created Death Note. They could do this without me even having to read all 14 earlier tomes. Just a few black and white pages infused me with the same red-hearted drive of these newcomers going for the big time.

He's even got the chin!

Traipsing back through the memories of my teen years (to a similar age to Saiko and Shuujin - btw do I look like this Shuujin guy or what??) I was I'm aware of the breadcrumb trail of short-term goals, those that got lost between the floorboards once I'd either satisfied myself with the arrangement of things in general, or had given up. Granted some of these pieces aren't even worth inspecting, barely worth the time reflecting upon. But one I think should be examined was the huge energy I put into roleplaying forums during high school where I began constructing more than just fantasy worlds and intricate gaming mechanics.

The social interplay between other writers of magical sagas provided the perfect incubation for me to stretch my own writing and story construction in ways that went against the grain. I was learning how to be passionate, diligent, and punctual with my verse and prose. I had a target to become an Advanced Roleplayer, a title bestowed upon the committed roleplayers with a tonne of text under their belt and a community. Ultimately the medal of recognition was decided by a few inhabitants aloft in their ivory-tower. It didn't have value to anyone outside this tiny circle of keyboard jockeys. Still, when I got the title it was the most exciting thing to have happened to me in months! Off the back of the ARPer status came a few really good pieces of writing that I'm still proud of. Of course this crumb was

As the NFTS course fast approaches, can I hope to find that same feeling of flow and drive with games design? What Bakuman and RPing has taught me is that it's all about focus. Never see the things pushing you towards dream (and away from distractions) as sacrifices. Dealing with the turbulence when you can't avoid changing course in the wake of that force, that's pretty important too.
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