Is It Worth Unearthing the Good Game Beneath the Bad Battles in Paper Mario: The Origami King?

I was recently struck by the urge to replay Paper Mario and, instead of going through the hassle of digging out my old systems or signing up for the more expensive Nintendo Online account so I could play it on my Switch, I’ve spent my time finally playing through Paper Mario: The Origami King. I bought it shortly after it came out two years ago, based on some reviews I read, started playing it right before I moved into my current apartment, and then never played it again after moving. I’d gotten distracted by getting my wisdom teeth removed and the PS4 I purchased with the moving and dental work budget I had leftover when those were all finished. Ghost of Tsushima was incredibly compelling and I had some other PS4 games I still hadn’t played. I barely even used my Switch for months.

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A Piece of Something Greater

As I reflect on the life I’m currently living, one marked by solitude and distance chosen over potential social engagement and closeness due to the risks of the on-going pandemic, I find myself thinking about all the moments in my life that I actually felt like I was a part of something larger than myself. Generally speaking, these moments happened in crowds or as part of some collective action since I’ve never really been one to attach my sense of self to a cause or group identity (like fandoms or social archetypes), and there are far fewer of them than I thought there’d be when I started this reflection. As I’ve worked through it, though, it started to make more sense. After all, my childhood was marked by a sense of being lesser-than, my college years were filled with me attempting to rationalize that sense of self with the way other people treated me (both those who treated me well and those who took advantage of me), and my entire life has been marked by a desire to avoid chaos, crowds, and spaces in which I have no control. It is no wonder I rarely felt like I was a part of something more than myself, though it does hurt a bit to realize how rarely I felt like that in spite of how frequently I sought it out.

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Connectivity, Instant Messaging, and Taking My Time

As a modern citizen of the world, I’m used to being constantly connected to something. Be it various social media platforms, a media streaming site, or just a collection of friends via whatever chat app is currently the cool place to hang out, I always have some kind of mental space devoted to providing access to myself at short notice. As I’ve gone from a student to an employee, a teenager to an adult, my relationship with allowing other people access to me has changed, but it hasn’t disappeared. If anything, it has grown stronger, especially in these pandemic years of mostly digital connections to the people I care about. While I’m a bit undecided about whether that level of access is good or bad (which, to be honest, probably just depends on the context), the way I think and feel about it has changed pretty significantly in my work and personal lives.

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Savoring Simple Domesticity

The part of my vacation I miss the most is the simple domesticity of living with people I care about. We took turns making meals, divvied up the chores a bit, and just generally took care of each other in a pattern of behavior my life has been missing for the last two years. Getting each other drinks, warning each other about bugs, comparing notes about discoveries on our walks, helping each other cook and clean, and the sometimes frustrating dance of having more people than bathrooms. Simple stuff, really. The daily whatnot of cohabitating. Not always peaceful, not always directly and purely positive, but involved in other peoples’ lives in a way I haven’t been in what feels like ages.

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Ongoing Pandemic Life

The pandemic has recently introduced itself into my life in new and frustrating ways. I don’t have Covid-19, thankfully (at least so far as I and my rapid tests can tell), but at least one of my estranged parents has it, as does my youngest sibling who is similar levels of estranged but for very different reasons [my single non-estranged sibling who still lives with our parents also caught it eventually]. Closer to home (emotionally and physically), one of my close friends who happens to also live only a couple blocks away also has it, though they seem to be in recovery rather than just starting out like my biological family. Many of my coworkers have been impacted by it recently as well, some of them showing the signs but never testing positive or having family members who test positive while they continue to test negative. I returned from vacation, had time to do laundry, and then discovered most of my day-to-day world had been turned upside-down and that the on-going emotional difficulties related to having estranged parents had only grown more difficult. Which kinda sucks, not gonna lie.

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Post-Vacation Reflections

Welp, I did it. I went on vacation and survived. Everyone got along, we all had as much space as we wanted, and I got to enjoy having a largely unstructured week. The most frustrating part of the trip was that people would talk about doing something in the morning, I’d set an alarm accordingly (to ensure I was up and ready to go by the discussed time) and rarely was that true of anyone else. Which wasn’t really a big deal since I could just play video games or read or go for a walk or anything else I desired, so all things said and done, it was a pretty great trip. I do wish I came out of it feeling more rested, but I also didn’t spend more than an hour laying in bed, feeling super depressed before coming in to work this morning, so I think I benefited from the rest. Another week or two would have been better, but it would also have been better to have won the lottery, so I’m content with what I got.

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