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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Kyle Hyde from Hotel Dusk: Rm. 215

Now, I'm sure some of you reading this blog may be asking yourselves why I would be bringing up video games in this blog.  Certainly, I imagine that only a small percentage of people in the world are die hard gamers.  I imagine even fewer people have played or even heard of the game that I am featuring in today's blog entry.  Well, fear not people...I have a reasonable answer for all of you out there that I'll split up into several reasons.

First off, I kind of want this blog to cater to all tastes.  This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to come up with theme days.  That way, everyone can have their tastes satisfied and their thirsts quenched.  Some people are really into film.  Others like television sitcoms.  And some love playing video games.

Secondly, video games have gotten a lot more complex over the last fifteen years.  No longer is the object of a game to shoot a whole bunch of space invaders, munch on power pellets to chase ghosts or dodge barrels thrown at you by an overgrown monkey.  No, today's video games have plots.  Plots that may or may not make sense mind you, but at least they have a goal other than "saving a princess that may or may not be in the castle you happen to be in at the very moment".

More importantly, the characters in video games these days really have a lot of character development.  They have emotions.  They have backstories.  They have friends and foes.  Love interests.  Some live happily ever after, while others have sad, even deadly ends.  They're characters we love or hate.  They have adventure, romance, and danger at every move.  They have storylines that Susan Lucci would probably be jealous of and she's had 40+ years of experience as a daytime diva!

(Wow...whoever thought I'd mention Susan Lucci and video games in the same paragraph?)

Anyway, video games are starting to become known for deep storylines and exciting adventures.  Alas, it seems that some game series seem to be shoving meaningful plots and deep character connections to the side in favour of realistic graphics and retooling of the gameplay features (I'm looking at you Final Fantasy series).  There's still quite a few games out there that I found quite fun to play, and I'm sure that some of you might be interested in playing them too.

So, I guess the whole idea of the Thursday posting is to bring video games into a whole new light, as well as offering up my own personal recommendations as a part-time gamer myself.

Oh, and to try and link these games to my own personal experiences along the way.

I'll admit, it does sound kind of challenging to try and compare myself to a pixelated image on the screen of a Nintendo DS, but I shall do my best.  At least I picked a great game to talk about, and the main character is someone who you'd never really expect to see in the role of video game protagonist.

As nice looking and demure as "Rachel" looks on the far right of the image...this entry is not about her.  Rather it's about the guy on the left hand side.

The man in question is Kyle Hyde.  Born 1946.  Used to be a police detective in New York City in the mid-seventies until his partner was shot in a bizarre crime, and as a result of this mystery, he resigned from the police and took up a job as a traveling salesman.

Already we have a guy who had it all, hit rock bottom, and is now trying to reinvent himself.  That sounds really familiar...I wonder why that is?  I'll get to that a little bit later.  Don't let me forget!

The game takes place in sunny California on December 28, 1979, at a quaint little motel.  The name of the place is not 'I like it like that', but Hotel Dusk.  On the surface, the hotel seems to be another run of the mill motel, but inside the place has more skeletons hidden away than you'd ever hope to find in a graveyard or a crypt.

The game itself isn't perfect.  I'll be the first one to admit that checking into a hotel where all the guests and most of the staff members have a secret to hide seems a little contrived.  Then again, there wouldn't be much of a game to play if everyone was as squeaky clean as Ned Flanders.

Wow...mentioning Ned Flanders in the same sentence as video games.  I'm on a roll!

Really though, the game was very much entertaining from start to beginning.  It really felt like I was reading an interactive mystery novel.  The plot was deep, the characters were incredibly well developed, and the puzzles that you had to complete to progress into the game were challenging, but not impossible.

In short, I recommend this game.  You don't steal any cars or shoot up soldiers, but it's a fantastic way to kill some time.

That was the easy part.  Writing a review for a video game I find really easy.  Of course, I used to write reviews for compact discs and movie releases for my school newspaper a decade ago, so it's nothing new to me to have opinions on things. 

But here's the conundrum.  How can I take the main character of Kyle Hyde, compare him to myself, and talk about what life lessons I've learned along the way as a result?

I think I can do it...but I'm gonna have to go into detail a bit storyline wise.  Particularly with one secondary character in particular.

When Kyle Hyde checks into room 215 of the hotel, his initial purpose is to retrieve a package from the front desk and bring it back to his boss.  Hyde happens to get the package, but due to the package arriving later than normal (at least, I THINK that's the reason as it really isn't made completely clear as to why he has to stay overnight), he is forced to check into the hotel for the night.  As mentioned before, everyone on his floor seems to be keeping a secret, and unbeknownst to Hyde, those secrets all come together to link to one gigantic secret to be revealled at the climax of the game that opens up the secrets of the hotel as well as offers closure to something bothering Hyde for years.  But to those of you who haven't played the game yet, I won't spoil the ending.

Still, Hyde ends up meeting a whole lot of people in the hotel.  There's an elderly lady in room 212 who enjoys wine and has a secret.  There's a published author in room 211 who has a best-selling book...and a secret.  There's a woman in room 216 who looks like she stepped out of the pages of Italian Vogue...and has a secret, and well, you get the idea.

And Kyle Hyde happens to use his not yet rusty detective skills to try and find out what these secrets are, and after he does, he tries to find a way to help them out.

However, there's one person who happens to have more of an impact on Kyle Hyde than anyone else in the whole hotel.  When Kyle first checks into the hotel, he tries to go upstairs to see his room, but a preteen girl happens to be blocking his way.  She refuses to leave the staircase and stubbornly tells Kyle Hyde off, annoying him in the process.  Finally, the girl agrees to let him by IF he'll help her put together a jigsaw puzzle.  And then once Hyde puts the puzzle back together, she throws it on the ground and it comes apart before running up to her room.

Confession time:  In kindergarten, I was kind of a bratty kid, and I didn't like seeing other kids play with the puzzles when I wanted to play with them too.  So, during playtime to show my frustration of it all, I took all the jigsaw puzzles and buried all the pieces in the indoor sandbox.  Boy, was my teacher mad too!  Almost as mad as Kyle Hyde was!  I think I spent the class outside time trying to put the puzzles back together again.

But, that point only serves to compare my younger self to do I compare myself with Kyle Hyde?

I'm getting there.

So, in the rush, the girl happens to drop a puzzle piece on the staircase, and the puzzle piece has a pen mark on the back of it.  Kyle returns the puzzle piece back to the girl, and after being forced to put the puzzle together a second time, the girl reveals herself as Melissa Woodward, and she's staying in room 219 with her father.  She opens up to Kyle, talks about how she and her father haven't been getting along lately, and how the puzzle was a gift from her departed mother, who seemingly abandoned the family without explanation.  Kyle tries to find out more information, but Melissa's father comes in at the wrong time and orders Hyde to leave.  Some time later, Kyle hears a crying noise coming from a room that was listed as vacant.  Turns out Melissa had a fight with her father and accidentally got herself locked in room 218.  You can see how Hyde gets her out in the clip below, but what I'd really like you to do is skip ahead to roughly the 5:18 mark...we'll pick this blog entry up from there.

NOTE:  It may freeze at roughly the 6:18 mark, but skip ahead to 6:33, and it'll run from don't miss much.

Of course, some of you probably are too busy to watch a whole video clip of someone else playing a video game, so I'll summarize.  Basically, Melissa and her father went to Hotel Dusk to try and locate Melissa's missing mother, as it was one of the last places she was seen.  He told Melissa that if she went with him on the trip, there was a good chance that she would be reunited with her.  Of course, that proved to be a lie.  This was the reason why Melissa got into a fight with her father and got herself in trouble by locking herself in a vacant room.  When Kyle rescued her and asked her the right questions, she told him everything.

The Woodward family was a family that was torn apart by the departure of one of its members.  This was a family that had hit the skids.  In fact, as you play the game, almost everyone in the game has hit rock bottom at some point in their lives, and they figured that by going into Hotel Dusk, they would end up finding the answers and soul-searching that they were desperate to find.

In many ways, Hyde too felt that way.  He had lost his partner in a bizarre crime, and ended up changing his whole life around to end up selling cosmetics door to door.  Hyde could understand those people because he himself had been in their shoes.

And, I myself have found myself in Hyde's shoes.  I hit rock bottom not once, but twice.  And survived.

I'll talk about my 1997 experience in a future entry, but this time, I'll bring up 2001.

As you all know, 2001 was a rather turbulent year in the world with uncertainty in financial markets thanks to Enron and the worst terrorist attack in American history occuring on September 11 of that year.  2001 was a rough year for least the later part of it.

The first part of 2001 couldn't have started off better.  I was a 19-year-old in university having a blast.  I had a core group of friendships that in high school I only could have dreamed of having.  I was in a program I loved doing in school.  I was working for my school newspaper.  Life was good.

And, within a matter of months, that rock solid foundation came crashing down like a stack of Jenga blocks toppling down when the wrong brick was moved out of place.

It all started around April of 2001.  My job at the school paper was such that I was doing a great job editing and writing articles for the editorial staff.  A job so great that they were going to start paying me for my contributions.  It sounded great.  Unfortunately, the group that ran the newspaper took serious advantage of me, and without going into detail, I resigned from the paper when I wasn't getting treated fairly.  So, goodbye newspaper.

I guess the stress of the newspaper gig kind of expanded into my study habits somewhat.  The severance of ties with the school newspaper came at the most inopportune time, which happened to be the week before finals.  Granted, I did my best to study for them, and I did manage great marks in a couple of my classes.  Unfortunately, they simply were not good enough.  I ended up not getting back into my program my second year of school.  I missed the cutoff by a lousy tenth of a percentage point.  Oh, I fought it.  I tried my best to convince the heads in charge of academics to let me back into the same program I was taking.  No dice.  I'd have to redo my whole first year to be able to stay in the program.  That crushed me.

So not only did I end up losing my chance to write for a school paper, but I ended up getting kicked out of my program too.  And I still had not yet reached rock bottom!

So, my second year of school, I switched to a general arts program, and tried to make the best of things.  I volunteered as a facilitator for Frosh Week, I found a different school newspaper to write for, and I still had a good group of friends by my side.

The only problem?  I HATED my new program.  I gave it the old college try, but I couldn't seem to figure out how I would ever use a general arts degree in real life.  It just seemed like a worthless diploma to have, and the classes were as dull as dishwater.  I wasn't getting anything out of it.  So, I made the decision to leave school after four semesters.  I haven't been back since.

So, there you have it.  I was a college dropout with almost fifteen thousand dollars in debt.  On top of that, I had to move back home, which happens to be a place without many job opportunities, and it took me almost two years before finding steady employment.

That, my friends was my rock bottom moment.

So believe me when I say that I know what Kyle Hyde and most of the guests of Hotel Dusk must have been feeling at the time.  I felt it too once upon a time.

I did get over it though.  I have a steady job that while I wish it paid a lot more than it did, I mostly like.  I'm well on my way to eliminating my student loans once and for all.  And while I'm not currently making any money writing in this blog, it is something that I love to do.  And really, if you find something in your life you feel passionate about, isn't it worth holding onto?

Kyle Hyde also found his passion.  He wanted to know the truth behind the reason why his partner was gunned down.  By staying in Hotel Dusk, he found the truth.  Might not have been the truth he wanted to hear, but at the very least, he found closure.  Most of the people in Hotel Dusk found that closure too, with Kyle's help.

I guess maybe that's the lesson I can take from Mr. Hyde.  Hitting rock bottom doesn't have to break you.  If anything, it can make you stronger and wiser.  As Mr. Hyde found out, hitting rock bottom can teach you things about yourself you might not have known before.  By helping other people get out of their depression to heal from the secrets they've kept for years, he was actually helping himself heal.

I guess maybe I want the same thing.  If telling my stories helps other people make sense of their own lives, then maybe it's helping me out too.

Or, maybe I just love my Nintendo DS and wanted to justify it in this blog entry.  Who can say, really?

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