Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mortal Kombat Review, Part 2: The Ugly


Welcome to the second (and last) part of my review of Mortal Kombat. This is my second time writing an "Ugly" part of any review. Basically what The Ugly is is my attempt at transparency. Sometimes I feel that I have a very unique reaction to certain pieces of media, and that an explanation is necessary for the reaction that I have. I don't really write this for anyone else's sake but my own, since it allows me to explore my own twisted little psyche and come to grips with myself. Not all of The Ugly reviews will be unpleasant, but most of them are related to unpleasant things in my own life, so most of them will be rather intense.

Without further ado...

Most of my reasons for playing Mortal Kombat stem from my short time as an amateur Thai boxer, which are recorded in the previous The Ugly. Muay Thai is a very brutal sport, as I put up in the other review. But at the same time it's a very intimate sport. You learn a lot about someone by hitting them as hard you can and having the favor reciprocated. You learn how much someone wants to win something in the face of adversity, you learn how much they want to defend themselves, whether they're go-getters or not, things that you wouldn't know in quite the same way.

Anyway, the events that I had discussed from the last post had put me in a situation, where I didn't get to see people very often. I took the opportunity to hide from the world and brood. Since I was homeschooled it wasn't very difficult to do that. Without Muay Thai I started to feel lonely and wanted to hit people. When I was around people I became a bit...overzealous in my rough housing. As I approached 16, however, I noticed a funny thing: when I rough-housed with people I hurt them! I wasn't out to actually hurt these new people, so I stopped touching people as much as I could, unsure of what to do. At about this point my dad enrolled me in a college. He did this for a few reasons: he worked there (free tuition), he couldn't teach me writing (I didn't like his teaching methods), and he couldn't teach me art. Well, to college I went! And, deep in the student's lounge, I found this:
I'd played Mortal Kombat when I was a kid, so I was intrigued. I remember being scared of Raiden and finding that the only character I was truly good with was Sub-Zero, because it could stop other people in their tracks and hurt them. So I started playing. I'm not going to say that it was a good game (Mortal Kombat 4 is most definitely not), or that it was actually enlightening to play, but I couldn't stop. It was bloody, the sound effects were just ridiculous to remind me of reality, and  the hits looked like they hurt.

In essence, it reminded me of Muay Thai, in all its messy glory.

Basically all I did those days was go to school, draw, and play Mortal Kombat. I didn't really see that many people during that time, which allowed for the brooding to worsen. I started screaming and fighting in my sleep, pounding the walls and waking my parents up several times a week. I withdrew further from people, forgetting the good times I had as a child and remembering all the awful things that had been done to and by me.  My drawings grew darker, and my parents grew more and more worried. But I kept playing. And one day I couldn't stand not moving anymore.

I left the Student Lounge one day, and stood behind the college, staring at the trees behind the dorms. Despite doing everything that I could remember as good I felt more alone than ever, and I'd had enough. I started practicing my katas in the back alley. I'm not sure why I did, but it felt good. But I found it felt better when I screamed at each hit. I moved and whirled about, screaming my confusion and loneliness out through my fists, feet, knees, and elbow. Tears started to stream from my eyes, and as I was about to start over on my katas, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned around. There was a security guard.

"Hey man, what are you doing out here this time of night? I've got some noise complaints, people thinking a fight's going on out here. Everything OK?"

I realized I was still behind the dorms. I blushed and quickly explained that I just needed to blow off some steam, and that no one was fighting me. The security guard asked me to show me some moves, and I performed a few katas for him (with significantly less volume). He critiqued me, told me I had serious potential, and we talked  for awhile about the type of training he'd undergone to become a security guard. Apparently this guy was quite the accomplished martial artist, but hadn't gone to a dojo in a while. After about ten minutes of talking the guard told me he had to keep going on patrol. We walked inside the student lounge and parted ways again. But before he left the security guard clapped me on the shoulder.

"Good meeting you, Nate. You're a good guy. Hope to see you again, OK?" I nodded, reciprocated, and hoped I would. I walked back to the machine that drove my days and nights, smiled, and hit the start button again. So what if Mortal Kombat wasn't the intimacy I was looking for? It was a hell of a lot of fun to play.

Shortly thereafter my parents removed me from college and put me into highschool in an attempt to get me to acclimate to "normal" kids, who weren't necessarily going to attack me on sight. After a bit of balking, I entered. I didn't play Mortal Kombat for several years after that, and I never saw the security guard again. But I still think about that guy. I wonder who he was, where he'd come from, and where he went after talking to me. And I still play Mortal Kombat, if only to partially remember who I was and still am, and to remember someone giving me five minutes of kindness when I really needed it.