Recently I have been on another one of my Symphonic Metal kicks. Mostly Within Temptation, but of course Nightwish enters the playlist at some point because of their obvious contributions to the genre. That is where one of their newer songs gripped me as I looked up the lyrics and definition of the song title: Élan

While I consider myself to be an educated man, an aspiring Rhodes Scholar of sorts. However, at the same time I feel the best way to continue that track is to simply admit when one does not know something and with sincerity ask someone for explanation or clarification. With that thought, I turn to the almighty keeper of knowledge that is commonly referred to as Google, and here is what I found:

Definition of élan. : vigorous spirit or enthusiasm.

This is a word I hope to work in to either conversation or my writing quickly! Such a joyous concept to work with and hope to evoke. As I watch the video and digest the lyrics of the song, I begin to see what the goal is:

Shed the weight of your daily monotony and allow your passions to flourish.

The repeated imagery in the song is of very routine and unfulfilling jobs. Not careers. Not occupational pursuits. Menial jobs that offer little in personal satisfaction outside of what I am sure is an equally menial paycheck. Obviously, there’s more to life than the routine.

The lyrics tell a very different story. Throughout the song are invitations to set yourself free and indulge in what ever may be. From the first verse:

The meadows of heaven await harvest
The cliffs unjumped, cold waters untouched
The elsewhere creatures yet unseen
Finally your number came up, freefall awaits the brave

As the song progresses, the emphasis shifts from identifying sources of inspiration in to practical application of what to do next. From the bridge:

Riding hard every shooting star
Come to life, open mind, have a laugh at the orthodox
Come, drink deep let the dam of mind seep
Travel with great élan, dance a jig at the funeral, come!

I Thought This Was a Gaming and Tech Blog!

So, why AM I getting all emotional with a Symphonic Metal song and pouring over the lyrics like an angsty teen? Here’s the thing: As I have stated on multiple episodes of VGXT, Gaming is escapism. When we load up a game, we (mentally) depart from this reality and allow another to wash over us. Others dive deeper than some, I like to think that I dive deeper than most. There have been countless times, especially if I am wearing my headset, that it takes a few seconds before I actually return to this world if someone calls me or my attention is called elsewhere. It will take a measurable amount of time for me to physically re-calibrate myself and once again be able to function properly in the real world. I also experience the same psychological shift if I am engrossed in a good book as well. Think of the scenes from “The Never Ending Story” when thunder claps and the scene abruptly moves from fantasy to reality.

Mentally I am elsewhere until suddenly, and not of my own accord, I am not.

Very Poetic. Now Get to the Point!

Simply put; This is the reason why I game. There are very few experiences that one can engage in that creates such a separation, yet at the same time an equally deep connection. Most recently I have completed the main story of The Last Guardian on my newly acquired PS4.

In this game, the player engagement and emotional investment was vast. The boy and Trico didn’t always get mesh perfectly, but that’s just the way it is with dogs. The motion capturing of this game must have been extensive because I swear they nailed the motions of a long bodied dog PERFECTLY, and this is coming from the owner of a Weimaraner.

Bringing it back to the lyrical content of the song, this level of engagement is only possible if you allow it to happen. You can view this game as a simple 3D Puzzeler with simplistic controls, or you can allow it to be something more. The way you allow this to be something more is to abide by some of the songs concepts such as the chorus:

Come, taste the wine
Raise the blind
They will guide you from the light
Writing noughts till the end of time
Come, surf the clouds
Race the dark
It feeds from the runs undone
Meet me where the cliff greets the sea

In gaming, and in other forms of media and entertainment, your experiences are limited to how much control you relinquish. Allow yourself to become lost in the narrative. Project yourself in to the world that the artists have assembled and converse with the inhabitants that the authors have crafted. Allow this, and I guarantee that you will be left with a bit of your soul moved.

Come, Drink the Wine

Gaming has reached a point in its maturity that it has become a art form, and has been here for awhile. Gamers know this, particularly those of my generation who have witnessed the normalization of digital electronics. The industry has matured as we have, along with the technology available to tell these stories on.

Outside of gaming, what has long been considered “Geek Culture” has also been aware of this phenomenon. This is why comic books and other forms of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fandoms continue to flourish after so many years. Perhaps it is because only now that since theater technology has caught up and can properly recreate the scenes that have been depicted for so long. Possibly it is that long time “geeks” are now having children of their own and they are able to bond with their children, and consequently their friends, over stories that have spanned generations.

Before I ramble on too many tangents, as is common on my podcast, I send out this invitation one last time: Come, Drink the Wine. This bottle is yet empty, and there are plenty more still kept in store.

With a selection as vast as you may dare.