I Love To Be Tied Up. I Don’t Think I Like Rope.

I love to be tied up. But I don’t think I love rope. Because “rope” implies a connection to a vast and vibrant rigging community that doesn’t feel like it has a space for what I want.

Because you know what I love about being tied up? The restraint. I love that sense of being bound tight, of being hugged so closely in fiber that I don’t get to make decisions any more. I love surrendering to the knots, my social anxiety draining away because this is the position I was put into, and if I do happen to look awkward that’s because someone else spent great effort to haul me into this pose and it’s not my fault.

Being tied up is like a vacation from my neuroses.

Plus, I love the body awareness that being tied up gives me – every twitch of my muscles resonating across the web of ropes across my body, so the tautness in my arms brings some slack to my bound legs, a continual interplay of physics that yanks out of my usual thoughtstream and anchors me to the sensation of me as a purely physical being.

That’s being tied up.

But you know what rope looks like, at least from this outsider’s perspective?

Rope looks like a lot of wheedling about with aesthetics that I don’t care much about. The rope discussions that permeate up to my circles are centered around the perfect knots, the symmetry of ropes, the pristine nature of having everything aligned along a beautiful body. The discussion of what ties feel good doesn’t seem to make the mainstream takes.

Rope looks like a lot of focus on bodies that aren’t mine – female bodies, slender bodies, flexible bodies. Rope looks like my body viewed from an outside perspective – as if these rope scenes were merely showcases for a performer’s art. And I’m not sure I want that, because I don’t know if I look good in rope to the audience that some of these riggers seem to be striving for, and more importantly putting weight on that concern would trigger my anxiety all over again as I’d wonder whether my surrender was visually aesthetic enough for a crowd.

Rope looks like a hierarchy. I know there are people who’d debate that, but there’s definitely riggers who’ve got followings and teach classes, and even though I know teaching rope classes is rarely the way to vast fortune – seriously, I teach classes and I usually get a free weekend getaway and a few meals – the way a lot of riggers speak in hushed tones about the “established” riggers makes me feel like maybe I’m not being ambitious enough in who I choose to be tied up by.

I mean, I love fireplay, but there’s not routine fireplay conventions I can go to. Rope, man… with all the conventions and classes and teaches and schools of philosophy, rope looks imposing.

Rope looks like a skill that I don’t much want. I can’t tie a knot to save my life, so I’m not going to be a top. But even as a very casual bottom, I see the discussions of rope bottoming as a skill, that sense that you’re forever working on flexibility and finding the right rigger and the suspensions, my God, the goal is the suspension, and maybe I should lose a little weight for that because I’ve seen one too many discussions of whether you can suspend a fat person and I know you can, clearly, but would someone want to?

And rope bottoming looks painful. How long can you stay in that photograph-perfect tie before your shoulders give out? How much can you tolerate all your weight resting on that one hip tie?

And you know what?

I don’t know if I want to buy into all that.

And of course, I understand that I’m a rope eavesdropper, really. I don’t get the deep discussions. I understand that every community, particularly one as large as the rigger community, has endless swirls and divisions, so I’m sure I could find the one that’s right for me if I went looking. But I don’t know if I wanna go looking when what’s presented for public discussion so often seems at odds with what I desire. Like I said, for me, rope is a vacation from my usual fears of social anxiety, so pushing deeper into a group of folks to see who maybe agrees with me is a little nerve-wracking, and so I don’t do it.

Last night, my sweetie tied me up tight. And when I was in their rainbow-colored rope, with them whispering how gorgeous I looked naked and bound, I thought: Maybe we should photograph this.

But I stiffened. If we did that, then I’d be entering that arena where I’d wonder if I looked good enough, if my sweetie’s ties were technical enough, how the lighting and backdrop for this would be received by the rope community. And I found all that wonderful surrender being replaced by the sense that I would be stepping into the realm of performance, and it felt less intimate, and it felt less us and more a question of that community that I so imperfectly understand.

We did not take photos. And I surrendered again, feeling that tension dissolve into skin touch and loving binds, and it was luscious.

Like I said. I love being tied up. But my perception of rope, at least when it comes to public scenes and public discussions, is not something that I think I love. And I don’t think I’m necessarily alone in that.

A New Voice, Rising

“Find a picture of yourself as a young child – one where you were happy. Somewhere around eight or nine, before you really understood the world. And I want you to focus on that child, to consider that child as something worthy of being protected, and then give him the advice you would have wanted you to know back then.”

I’d gone to a therapist to get new opinions.

This sure was fucking new.

“The problem is,” she continued, “At some point you started to hate yourself for not knowing what to do. And that cascaded through adolescence, where you felt like you should be able to have a handle on a really complicated world, and you blamed every screwup on yourself.”

“But I am culpable for those screwups,” I protested.

“Is that what you’d tell other young kids? That they’re responsible for controlling every mean person who hurts them? Or would you tell them that they were doing the best with the knowledge they had at the time, and now they know better?”

Every time I thought my therapist’s ideas were a little too woo-woo for me, she’d score a really good point on me.

So I found a favorite picture of me as a kid – me with my Aunt Peggy and her dog Goldie, me as innocent of the upcoming meatgrinder called “middle school” as I could be. And I focused on it, and I talked to myself in an embarrassed mutter, making smalltalk with an imaginary version of myself as a kid.

It didn’t go well. The kid didn’t have much to say back.

I told her that. “The goal,” she said, “Is to create an advocate within yourself. A countervoice that grants you the compassion you so freely give other people.”

Yet after a couple of months, the photo stayed on the shelf, thoroughly untalked-to. I walked by young me, occasionally giving myself a sideeye as if I expected young me to give me a judging look – shouldn’t we be talking? – but no, young me was eternally happy as ever in his frozen little frame.

I wondered what it would be like to have an advocate. All the voices in my head were hateful. I’d leave a party, and they’d barrage me with all the charmless things I’d said. I’d look in the mirror and the voices would remind me how ugly I was, how fat, how bug-eyed. I’d hold hands with my wife and the voices would tell me that she didn’t really want to hold hands with you, you were grasping and needlessly controlling and Gini hates PDAs why are you putting her through this at the movie, for Chrissake?

The only time the voices were silent was when I wrote.

I knew how to write. And if the voices spoke to me then, they were critics intended to make me into a better writer, so when I was overwhelmed I retreated into writing projects – brainstorming plots, pondering revisions.

Writing was as close to silence as I got.

Yet though the picture gathered dust, my therapist and I kept having productive sessions. She was relentless in maneuvering me into giving myself the benefit of the doubt – yes, you screwed up in that interaction, but did you mean to? No, intent isn’t a magic wand, but it doesn’t have to be a club to beat yourself with either. Can you learn to do a better job next time without flagellating yourself with self-hatred?

Can you screw up and still forgive yourself?

And with it all came those realizations that I was too powerless to blame the bullies in middle school, so I’d taken all the control upon myself, and internalized a potent self-hatred that whipped myself into improvement. I’d hauled myself out of my social pariah status and learned to be clever, learned to dress better, learned how to make friends, and every lesson was backed by that deep fear that if I screwed up I’d be friendless and in seventh grade again, not so much despised as forgotten.

That terror had gotten me a long way, but now it was the engine of my self-destruction.

And still my therapist kept forcing me to view my current fuckups in a more measured light – okay, you were stressed and said something thoughtless to your wife, but can you repair the damage without having to inflict a day’s worth of regret upon yourself? Can you not self-spiral?

I was in the bathroom, washing my hands, when I had two shocking revelations:

One, that I was muttering to myself when I was alone. Which was something I knew I did, but I kept self-erasing the memory of it because I knew it was a sign of my mental illness and I didn’t want to think about it that much. But when I was having a bad day my voices would be externalized and I’d actually tell myself, “Nobody likes you, everyone hates you, nobody likes you.”

I had, I realized, been literally talking to myself for years. Probably decades. I’d just forget that whenever I wasn’t alone, or in a decent mood.

But the reason I realized that is because another voice spoke up – also me.

“That’s not true, Ferrett,” I said to myself. “Your wife loves you, your girlfriend loves you, your parents and your kids love you – and you’re worthy of that, you know that, right?”

I stood, stunned, unsure of that voice. Because though it was contradicting me, it was also deeply concerned for me, not so much telling me off as it was asking me to ponder the evidence and decide because it knew I could do better.

I didn’t know what to say. To either voice.

But I went back out into the dining room and looked at the picture. It was not my eight-year-old self speaking to me so kindly, but instead another version of me to counterbalance the self-hatred, a version of me that I hoped to be one day.

I thought if I ever had a voice being kind to me it would be my therapist, or my Uncle Tommy, or maybe Gini, but no – this was actually my voice welling up from within, asking me to cut myself some slack.

I suppose in a movie, I would have had some triumphant moment where I raised my fists to a sunny sky and roared in triumph.

Instead, I simply muttered, “Huh” and went back to work.

And that compassionate voice is still low. It doesn’t come out every time the hateful voices do. But it comes out sometimes, and when it does it chases them away – it makes me realize how baseless they are, and how much more powerful forgiveness is than ritualized abuse.

The voice is low. But it’s growing. Growing in strength.

I’m just still astonished it’s there.

————————————-

(In case anyone’s interested, my therapist is Cherish Dorrington, and she does take Skype appointments. I’m not selling her services, but it seems disingenuous to discuss a good therapy practice and not let people know where it is.)

“We Cut A Board”: On Writing Drafts

We were novice woodworkers, and it was a very bad table saw, and I don’t know why I’m making excuses this early, because nobody lost a finger. When you’re just starting out with power tools, “Keeping all your appendages attached” is a triumph in and of itself.

That said, every Wednesday I’d go out to the garage with my friend Eric, and we’d build something. Or part of something. Or we’d learn how to use a tool that could build part of something.

But the best part of the Woodworking Wednesdays was sharing our work with Gini. Whenever I got back to the house, my wife would perk up and say, “So what’d you do tonight?” And I’d tell her all the cool things we’d done that evening, bubbling over with enthusiasm, and she’d be thrilled that we were making progress.

Until that Very Bad night.

“So what’d you do tonight?” she asked.

“We cut a board,” I said glumly.

And I watched her face as she did the calculations – yes, we’d been out there for three and a half hours. Yes, she’d heard the power tools running on and off all that time.

Her brow creased as she realized we’d spent an entire evening trying to cut a board square, a ninety-degree cut across two parallel sides, for a bookcase we wanted to build – and it had taken us three and a half hours to accomplish that trivial feat. I saw her correctly imagining us starting out with a project that required a 36″ board, then settling for a 35-3/4″ board, then cursing as we adjusted the measurements down to a 35-1/4″ board, continually trying to get the tablesaw to cut that perfect right angle…

“Well,” she said, brightening, “At least you – ”

“We cut it wrong,” I said, admitting total defeat before traipsing back into the bedroom.

Now. The evening, as it turns out, was not a total waste. We learned a lot about compensating for wobbly fences, and how to correct (or not correct) a bad cut that we made. We figured out all the ways in which our bad saw was tetchy, and come the next week we used all of that effort to make a good cut in only half an hour or so.

It was not a pleasant evening.

But even though we finished the night with zero results, we came away with a great deal of knowledge about what not to do, which in some cases is more valuable than a completed product.

The reason I’m telling you this is because last night, I went downstairs to write the first chapter of my new novel. And I spent about ninety minutes massaging the 500 words I’d written the day before, fine-tuning the exciting opening of an hyper-competent techno-genius breaking into a prison cell, before realizing this wasn’t the story of a hyper-competent techno-genius, this was the story of someone scared but competent doing something they’d never done before.

And with that, I realized everything I’d been doing for the past three nights was completely wrong. I’d been starting the novel from the wrong emotional beat, because I’d been focusing on the wrong aspects of this character, and needed to come up with a start that emphasized this person’s vulnerability, not their flawless planning.

Which happens a lot, particularly in writing, particularly if you just wing things like I do. You get a couple thousand words in and realize it’s the wrong character, or the wrong plot development, or the wrong tone.

And because people are always sharing their daily word count, there’s that temptation to think that all that writing was wasted energy. But it wasn’t. You learned what didn’t work, which is equally valuable. You had the humility to walk away from the sunk cost fallacy, the wisdom to stop polishing a turd, and the faith in your own voice to find the story you’re excited about telling instead of the story you accidentally wrote down.

That’s all progress, even if it’s not as tidy as “+1,000 words.”

So when I slumped upstairs after realizing I’d have to scrap everything and start over fresh tomorrow, Gini asked me: “So how’d the writing go tonight?”

“I cut a board,” I said, and she nodded.

Why Your Friends Are Probably Lying To Themselves About What They’re Good At, And How To Work Around It

I had a friend who was extremely loyal. They didn’t abandon their friends when their buddies in trouble – they buckled down, and found a way to help.

This was, of course, a trait they were extremely proud of.

It was, of course, also not entirely true.

It turns out they were very loyal to the people they could help. If there was someone who needed some cash, they’d scrape up some cash. If there was someone going through a short-term illness, they’d show up with hot dishes and pillows. If they had a wheelchair-enabled friend who needed help getting around, their car was at their service.

They weren’t so good with problems that didn’t have easy fixes.

People who relied on them to help with their chronic depression? Well, all the happy talks in the world couldn’t help what was, fundamentally, an issue of miswired brain chemistry. Folks with chronic illnesses of no clear fix, where one day they’d be walking fine and the next they’d be laid up in bed? That was frustrating for my friend, because they couldn’t do anything.

Slowly but surely, they distanced themselves from anyone who had problems they couldn’t fix. Which is not a bad thing! We all have limited energy, and it’s not wrong to say “Hey, I’m sorry you’re constantly seized by social anxiety, but I don’t have the strength to reassure you through every freakout.”

But here’s the problem:

They didn’t update their self-definition to say, “I’m extremely loyal to people who have problems I can solve.”

So while they were, on the whole, really good people, they quietly left behind a sad trail of folks who’d been sold a bill of goods that didn’t quite work out. Because they defined themselves as “loyal,” they told everyone they were new friends with, “Don’t worry – I’m loyal as fuck. I’ll stick with you through thick and thin.”

These folks trusted that definition.

And were hurt to realize that this definition of loyalty wasn’t true for them.

And because my friend’s self-definition was “I’m loyal!”, a strange alchemy happened in their mind:

The people they weren’t loyal to quietly evaporated from their memory.

They’d either engineer good reasons why these people weren’t worthy of their loyalty – “Eh, they don’t want to change” – or they’d quietly ghost out and pretend they’d never been close with the unfixable people in the first place.

They thought of themselves as loyal. They’d stress that undying loyalty as one of the main benefits of being friends with them, yet whenever something conflicted with that definition, they’d rationalize that exception away.

Which is not at all unusual.

Most people have one or two core positive things they’ve built their ego around. “I’m not good at everything, but I’m good at this!” And when they’re confronted with proof that they’re not good at that, they’ll sweep it under the rug because honestly, sometimes untrammeled positivity is the only way you get through a hard day.

But it does mean you have to watch out for the things that people promise you they’ll do for you, because while those are often genuine strengths you can still get crushed beneath someone’s weak spot.

If someone tells you, “I’m empathic, I’m always aware of other people’s pain,” they might be so caught up in trying to fix someone else’s drama that they completely ignore the pain they’re inadvertently inflicting by taking their attention away from the people they love.

If someone tells you, “I’ll always listen to what you have to say,” they may be completely oblivious to all the times they quote-unquote “listened” but then shrugged someone’s complaints off as ridiculous.

If someone tells you, “I’m good at negotiating BDSM scenes,” they may have found ways to blame the other person for all the scenes gone wrong.

And when I told my poor girlfriends “I am really open and honest, so you’ll never have to worry” back when I was 25, I was blatantly ignoring all the evidence that being effectively open and honest required a self-awareness that I was not at all capable of. Years later, I can see that but holy God did I not fathom that “telling them everything I understand about me” was not even close to giving them “everything they needed to know.”

Point is: recognizing when someone’s trying to sell you on a belief that they require to stay functional is a part of creating healthy relationships.

Because I did not wind up hurt by my friend. As a depressive, I’ve learned all too often that people self-define as “I’m compassionate,” and they get upset whenever you imply they might not want to hear about your never-ending, reason-free trauma.

Years of experience has taught me that until I get better evidence, someone saying “I want to know everything about my friends” actually means “I’ll listen to you bitch if you’ve got a good reason for it, but mostly I just wanna hang out and make bad puns.”

Which is totally doable! Most of the time, the problem comes from a bad self-definition – if my friend had said, “I’m really loyal, but I’m not good at handling chronic depression, so talk to me only when it’s like emergency-level stuff,” then my other friends would have been fine. If my 25 year old self had been able to say, “I’m really open and honest, but I’m still learning a lot about myself, so the information I give you may be of limited use,” I suspect far fewer hearts – including mine! – would have been broken.

But that’s the lesson: when someone builds their ego around a portion of their personality, they’re often really bad at spotting their own weak spots. And because these traits are the few constants in their life, the handful of things they can unequivocally point to as the reasons people love them, they’ll just forget those problems existed.

Alas, it’s your job to spot them. And if you can get better at homing in on, “This person values this about themselves a lot, so perhaps I should check around to see whether they’re as good at this as they claim,” then you’ll build friendships that are actually designed to bear the weight they need to.

Because when you play to someone’s actual strengths, you get a strong friendship. Who knew?

Parents, You Probably Don’t Know How Good (Or Bad) Your Kids Are

Over on FetLife, there was a brief essay-scuffle on “How to raise well-behaved boys who won’t do bad things to women,” which is always a good topic as far as I’m concerned.

The problem is, there were a bunch of early forties moms going at each other, each convinced their kids’ beautiful behavior was proof – proof! – that their parenting style created compassionate, loving boys, and that all the other women were probably raising, I dunno, the next Harvey Weinstein.

Here’s my unpopular take:

You don’t know how your kids have actually turned out until they’re thirty.

And even then you probably don’t know for sure.

See, for me, I’ve watched too many parents of toddlers going, “Look! They’re well-behaved! That’s proof that my parenting techniques are wonderful!” And then these kids go to school and become screaming monsters, and it turns out that all this goodness was just a phase they were going through.

Or the parents of high school kids preen, “My child gets good grades and has no behavioral issues, so clearly I’m doing parenting right!” – and then the kid goes to college and bombs out hard, because it turns out that they’re incapable of functioning without a guardian eternally breathing down their neck.

Or the parents of college grads brag, “My kid’s on a great career path! I’ve taught them right!” and then they wind up with a disastrous divorce at 27 and it turns out they’re kiiiind of a deadbeat parent.

For me, I say that thirtyish is when you finally get to say whether your parenting techniques worked out well, for whatever version of “well” you’re aiming for. Thirtyish is when they’ve been bobbling along on their own for long enough that all their mistakes have had time to catch up to them.

Thirtyish is when you see whether they’ve learned from their mistakes.

And every time I see a parent going, “Well, my kid is fourteen and their current behavior is proof that I’ve raised them right,” I cringe and think, You realize that most people evolve from fourteen, right? That kid’s a moving target. I hope their trajectory’s putting them on the line to “good people,” and I’m not saying not to be proud of them now – but being so certain that they’ve turned out well that you’re telling the world, “MY PARENTING STYLE SHOULD BE APED BECAUSE OF HOW THIS CHILD WHO HAS YET TO DRIVE A CAR ACTS”?*

That’s a little premature, isn’t it?

Plus, you know, kids usually have an incentive or two to hide their bad behavior from their parents. They clean up the apartment before you come over, tend not to mention the unsafe sex they had the other day with that stranger at the bar.

To be honest, how boys act when they’re trying to get a girl to bed them is not how they act in front of you, the parent. They certainly know how you want them to act, may even understand that you want honesty, but there’s certain aspects of a kid’s life that they often won’t share with you even though you’re totally open about it.

(Fun fact: My mom once trusted me enough to ask me to come home stoned, so she could see how a stoned person looked, because she wanted to be able to tell if my sibling was smoking. I did not take her up on this, because I could do many things for my sainted Mom, but that was a LIMIT.)

If you’ve spent your days telling them to respect women, chances are good they’re not going to mention the times when they went against your long lectures because their friends told them this would work.

Which is not a ding on your parenting style personally. I just know a lot of fundamentalist parents who are convinced their kids are straight-laced conservatives like them, and they’re actually cheerful poly freaks – and I know a lot of liberals who are all like, “My daughter tells me everything,” when in fact their daughter tells them like 80% of it.

You don’t know that 20%. You probably don’t even know what the percentage they’re hiding from you is.

My point is, yeah, as an older guy who was raised in a pretty toxic stew of bad consent messages that I’m still trying to untangle some days, we should absolutely have a healthy discussion of how to raise men who treat women respectfully. And pointing to your adult kids as examples of what you did right is a useful addition, so long as you recognize that almost no parent knows their kids as well as they think they do.

And if you’re talking about your fifteen-year-old kid, well, as I said, that kid’s in flux. I hope that trajectory works out for you. I want that kid to be as good as you think they are.

I’m just saying, they’ve still got the training wheels on. And you’ve gotta give ’em time to ride through the streets on their own before you know whether they’re a good bike rider.

Why Prey Is The Best Game I’ve Played In A Year

So here’s the moment when I knew I loved Prey:

I had just retrieved a plot-specific piece of data from deep within a gravity-free core, fighting my way out of a computerized library overtaken by alien horrors.  I emerged from the library into an open space, then braced myself for the inevitable boss fight that had been triggered when I got the plot-specific piece of data –

– and there was nothing.

And that’s when I realized: This game did not give a shit about my existence.  It was not here to provide me with a roller-coaster thrill ride of canned events driven by my magnificent activity – if I’d wanted to, I could have broken sequence to slip into this data core at any time and grab the information before the plot asked me to.  There were no artificial walls stopping me from coming here, no implacable monsters placed to block me from coming here – this library was merely one of many locations on the ship for me to explore, to survive, to investigate.

The monsters were there, sure, but they didn’t really care about me.

The ship clearly had had its own existence before I arrived, judging from the crew logs and the named dead and the very specific agendas each ship section was designed to carry out – and if I didn’t propel the plot forward, it would deteriorate without me.

I was not central here.  I was, literally, dropped into the middle of a living breathing environment, where I could affect it, but the ship was not revolving around my presence.

There would be no boss fights because that wasn’t the point of this. Boss fights only exist when the narrative agrees that the player is important that they need a challenge here.  And Prey was indifferent to me.

Which was so goddamned satisfying.

I can see why Prey struggled in terms of sales, because most games these days are power fantasies – even if you’re skulking about as a thief, you’re a legendary thief.  The whole point is to make you the center of everyone’s existence, and as you progress through the competency curve you become increasingly renowned.

Prey, however, has a vast and well-designed ship that feels like it was designed for a crew of scientists – the cafeterias, the air filtration systems, the gyms, the cargo bays.  And unlike most games, which covertly design their levels to suit your powers, Prey’s levels support a genuine variety of approaches – if you’ve put your points into being super-strong you can lift that fridge and enter the room, or you if you’ve chosen electronics then you can hack the door on the opposite side, or if you’ve chosen alien powers you can turn into a coffee cup and roll under the door, or you can use the GLOO gun to make a walkway up to the top…

Prey is one of those games where it’s almost impossible to write a walkthrough, because it’s been out for a year and players are still finding new ways to access areas.   There’s not a way to get to a place, there’s usually at least ten ways – because the game is genuinely open-ended.

It’s also really, really fatal.

In the beginning, you’ll die and die a lot, because again, the game is indifferent to your existence.  There are monsters, and if you try to take them on without strategies, they will kill you.  As you gain more powers and skill you learn to handle them better, but that’s entirely up to you – the monsters stay pretty much the same.  (Though the one nod is that as you progress the plot, worse monsters do arrive.)

Prey is, if anything, the opposite of a power trip.  The plot tells you that you’re important, but the game itself informs you repeatedly that nothing you do is that special – if you feel the flush of triumph of getting somewhere, well, there was another way to get there.  Beat a monster?  Well, it wasn’t there for you to beat.  Accidentally nabbed a plot-specific piece of data before the game asked you to get it?  Well, the plot isn’t going to collapse if you sequence break.

Which, if you’re of my mindset, makes Prey awesome.

Because when you win, it wasn’t because you figured out what the game wanted you to do.  There’s so many boss battles where the solution is “align yourself with the designers’ way of thinking” – which can get frustrating if you don’t think like them, leading to eventually looking the solution up on the Internet because there’s one way to do it and you don’t know.

Prey is nigh-infinite flexibility.  When you discover a solution, maybe that’s not the only way to do it but it’s the way you thought of it, and it’s equally valid.  Your triumph is solely due to you.

And Prey is also a game that rewards paying attention to its environment – mandates it, in fact, because one of the mainstay enemies is The Mimic, a small creature which sneaks away when you’re not looking and morphs into a copy of something nearby.  Hey, that’s a single-person table, there are two chairs there, that’s odd and WHOOMP a mimic is eating your face.

The more you go through Prey, the more you start to realize that everything fits together.  Yes, the security office certainly should have a few spare rounds cached somewhere, and in fact it does.  The lab center where they store precious materials should have a few loose materials that rolled underneath the platform, and it does.  The safe’s combination has been erased from the whiteboard, but if you look at the old security tapes you should see it, and you do.

The point is not to beat the monsters, but to understand how people lived here.

Which, in turn, makes it feel like people lived here.

Which, in turn, makes it feel like increasingly more of a tragedy as you come across the corpses, each named, each destroyed by this alien infestation.

So for me, Prey felt like I was creeping through two great clashing forces, genuinely trying to survive.  There wasn’t hand-holding, there wasn’t a significant difficulty curve – a monster is a monster is a monster – there weren’t boss fights to test my mettle.  There was merely scavenging and being wise and feeling genuinely smart because I could think “Hey, what if I try this?” and generally if it was reasonable there was a way to do it.

I loved Prey.  I wish it had done better.  But that’s the tragedy of fandoms, sometimes: you find something that feels custom-made for you, and it turns out there’s not enough of you out there to make it a profitable franchise.

Still.  If Prey sounded good to you, maybe it’s made for you too.  Check it out.

 

 

I Can’t Remember If I’ve Told You About Flaming Dave, But If Not, Here We Go Again

Let me make this clear: Flaming Dave was very straight, insofar as I knew, and not called “Flaming Dave” when I first met him. He was a refrigerator-sized wall of meat, as befitted his position as a college quarterback.

Now, if you’re asking, “How the hell did Ferrett know a quarterback?”, you’re on the right track. I was a weedly nerd in college as you’d expect, but for some reason they put me on the football team dorm room. So at night, I’d continually be walking past behemoth frat pledges doing shots and wrestling and discussing sports.

It was a pretty lonely year.

But Dave – soon to be known as Flaming Dave – was nice to me. He had hidden depths, occasionally asking about the books I was reading, making small talk on the elevator. He seemed a kind fellow, and I thought well of him.

Then one day, after returning from a long weekend away, I saw Dave in the elevator.

His cheeks and lips were covered in blisters.

And not fresh blisters, either. Stubble had sprouted like weeds in between the bulbous outgrowths. He clenched his fists, trying not to itch his wounds.

“Dude, what happened?” I asked, appropriately distraught.

“I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“It looks serious! How did you injure yourself so grievously?” I cried.

“I. Don’t. Wanna. Talk. About It.”

So of course, the moment I disengaged from Dave, I asked his friends – who were thrilled to be able to tell this story again.

And apparently, the tale was this: Last week, Dave and his buddies had stayed up late doing flaming shots. You might think this unwise, but they’d already done enough non-flaming shots that frankly, almost anything seemed like a good idea at this point.

And Dave… missed.

He splashed flaming Bacardi 151 all down his cheek.

And was drunk enough that he did not notice.

No, Dave – then a very flaming Dave – sat there contentedly as the flames consumed his flesh, savoring the taste of his beverage with a cryptic smile.

“Dude!” One of his friends cried. “Your face is on fire!”

“Mmm-hmm,” Dave said, astoundingly mellow for a man currently ablaze.

“No! Dave! Your face! It is on fire!”

“Yup,” Dave agreed merrily, the sizzle and pop beginning to permeate the room.

His friend, even as inebriated as he was, realized this was the time for action. He leapt from his seat, slapping the flames on Dave’s face –

And Flaming Dave decked him. One roundhouse punch knocked his rescuer out in one mighty blow – for, as previously noted, Dave was a muscular wall of meat.

Dave, furious that someone had dared attack him while he was lounging so happily, glared around the room, face engulfed in burning rum. “WHO ELSE WANTS SOME?” he thundered, as the blisters rose and rose.

They tackled him to the floor to put him out, of course, but by then he was – and would forever be – Flaming Dave.