I do everything from the perspective of a writer, even if I’ve been gaming for most of my life. My first console was a Super Nintendo, and even then I was enamored with the story of games like Mega Man, and later Final Fantasy IV and cult classic Tales of Symphonia. I dedicated a lot of time to filling in the blanks of those stories, so to speak, focusing my fanfiction efforts on giving detail to the story that already existed or writing about events only hinted at in the narrative.
My obsessiveness, the large amounts of information I’ve memorized in order to craft worlds, has always been something of a double edged blade.
On one hand, it allowed me to write a few somewhat popular novelizations (that I never completed, but recently had the wild hare to edit and continue), Lunar Song and The Path Homeward. The first was a flat out novelization of Final Fantasy IV with loving detail added to the universe, my efforts with which many of the friends I met through Wayrift (By fellow blogger Aywren and her best friend) will remember.
The second, The Path Homeward, was a re-imagining of ideas I’d had for a story about the past of Kratos Aurion from Tales of Symphonia when I was 15 years old. It was much more popular than a dedicated fanfiction for a game that was20 years old the first time I played it, and still has enough of a following that I occasionally get asked about it three years later, believe it or not. It was essentially a “how I met your mother” story, actually, filled with intrigue, death, and fantasy. The story of one man’s journey from hopeful to hopeless — I’ve never liked happy characters or happy endings, there’s always something bittersweet in my favorites.
That same obsessiveness, though, has always brought me problems. I have a tendency to be overly analytical and almost hoard knowledge, to the point where it’s a collection. For years I was shamed by everyone for what I did, for how interested I was with the worlds and characters I concerned myself with, including my own. People don’t like those who correct their facts out of well-intentioned naivety or who talk nonstop about characters like they’re real people. Well, until you get into fandom, and then people start policing the way you enjoy things, especially in transformative fandom, where I’ve always been told that I’m “ruin other people’s fun” for caring about acknowledging canon and the rights of the author.
I’ve been this way about everything, on top of having other weird tics — I rock and sway, tap my pen when my mind isn’t occupied, get overwhelmed by loud noises or strange textures. In fact, I can’t eat yogurt because it triggers my gag reflex, and I can’t wear anything that’s made of pure cotton because the texture makes me feel like bugs are crawling on my skin. I was known for my chronic inability to socialize easily or understand the body language of others until I forced myself to learn social cues and facial expressions, to the point that authority figures started calling me a “social retard”. For years, I didn’t have a word for myself, other than what my parents, teachers, and (former) religious leaders ascribed me — stupid, misbehaving, immature, terrible at paying attention or making eye contact. I thought that I was broken, and I always knew that I was different.
And then, recently, I got a word for it — Autistic.
Everything in my life makes so much more sense now, in light of that. I’m not any of the things those in my life told me I was, I’m autistic. You can’t imagine how liberating it is to finally know why I’ve always been inordinately passionate about the things I’m passionate about, why it’s been so easy for me to memorize details and compartmentalize them. I use them to analyze the characters, and to reach an intimate understanding of my topic that lets me right insanely detailed stories where the characters are all marginally in character and the details are mostly canon compliant (though I like to take creative liberty with novelizations to make them more interesting).
And though I’ve struggled a lot, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be the, writer (or gamer) that I am without my autism. My attention to my detail, even the way I think about my characters, is attributed to to my autism. It’s such an inexorable part of my that I can no more separate it from myself than I can my sense of fair play and desire to help every suffering person I see. Its shaped my personality, contributed to my desire to create worlds and characters for people like me — People who may not have had anyone they could rely on and who depended on characters to teach them the lessons they might have learned from their parents or teachers.
That desire has culminated in the way I create characters, characters who face isolation but overcome it to become better people, characters that I believe people can relate to. I want to have casts and stories where the characters I craft are undeniably different in some way, but still relatable and still people. Too often I feel like disabled characters fall into the trap of behaving in a special manner just because the author might not understand what it’s like to be disabled or to face incredible odds and have to fight against societal perception. We don’t exist to make people feel good, we exist to have stories of our own, which is why all the characters I’ve liked as much as I have had struggles relating to other people or communicating their thoughts clearly.
I don’t want people to have to wonder if my characters are like them, I want them to know. Naturally, I recognize that means I’ll probably never reach a mainstream market, but I’m okay with that. The people I’m writing for, people like me, probably aren’t mainstream anyway. This isn’t political, it’s personal. It’s about an autistic person wanting to give to other people something they never had when it really would have helped to have it — someone to relate to.
That’s why the protagonists of Wild Core and Aurelia struggle with autism, ptsd, disorders that cause a lack of empathy, chronic illness, and physical disability — because those people exist and I feel compelled to write about them the way they deserve to be written —
Autism has shaped me. It made me obsess over the things I did. It makes me dedicated enough to write as long as I put it into my routine. It made me want to help people who felt as alone as kids as I did. As much as I suffered for it, it was because other people didn’t understand me, not because I did anything wrong or was undeserving of understanding. Moving forward, I am at peace with myself, in part thanks to the characters I related to growing up.
At the end of the day, I want to make stories that everyone can enjoy, stories that people can see themselves in regardless of who they are. I want to provide inspiration, excitement, comfort, and hope. To me, writing is about spreading a message, even if that message is just that there is a place for everyone in the world, so please stay in it just a little bit longer. Bad things are going to keep happening, and it’s my hope that writing the stories I do can make those things just a little bit easier for anyone who needs them.
And I know I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t been obsessed with video games in my youth, that much is for sure.