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Unreasonable Attachment

[Note: I don’t like to allow myself to get personal or introspective in my blog posts. It’s not what I’m comfortable writing about or what I think others find interesting. I’m allowing myself this particular indulgence because it’s something that’s important to me and at least somewhat ties in with my normal post topics of gaming and stories somewhat. I’ll try not to make this type of post a habit.]

I am increasingly becoming more and more aware of the fact that it seems to be strangely easy for me to attach myself rather strongly to the characters in the stories I consume.

I believe that a part of me has known this about myself for quite a while, but it is only recently that I am really beginning to understand this phenomenon and what it means.

My clue to this little quirk first appeared when I was younger. Whilst watching movies, I slowly learned that anything sad or touching would seem to affect me far more than other people. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have been able to state it quite so clearly at the time. I just knew that these endings stuck with me and bounced around in my head for far longer than I thought they should.

One slightly embarrassing example I remember was the ending to The Parent Trap. Yes, the cheesy children’s movie starring a young, pre-career flameout Lindsay Lohan.


Shut up. I was young and didn’t know any better.

Anyway, and consider yourself spoiler warned if this particular cinematic masterpiece is on the top of your Netflix queue, the film involves two twins who were separated at birth and find out about each other, then they switch places to... fuck with their parents or something. I don’t really remember.

What I do remember was the inevitable happy ending where the two girls were reunited and together again and their parents were back together and everything was happy and magical and awesome.
For some reason it really struck a chord with me and I just couldn’t stop thinking about the ending to that damn movie. I didn’t even think it was a particularly terrific movie at the time, but I couldn’t get the ending out of my head.

This is the earliest example of this phenomenon that I can currently recall (though more than likely not the first time it has occurred) and the pattern has repeated itself plenty of times since.

It’s to the point where my current relationship with stories that carry any sort of emotional weight is tenuous at best. I even go so far as to consciously avoid anything that I know ahead of time might be sad or hard to watch or touching.

Not because I won’t enjoy it, but because I know I won’t be able to get it out of my head. I won’t be able to stop thinking about it. I’ll obsess over it and possibly even become slightly depressed over it for no apparent reason.

This phenomenon extends to games and other forms of media as well, and as The Parent Trap proves, the story doesn’t have to be a particularly good one.

This weird quirk’s reach even goes so far as to force me to become overly attached to characters that I create in the frameworks of in-game creation systems. I have been playing with the same character in Rock Band since the original game came out (around a year and a half ago) and even had an overly expensive figurine made of her via Rock Band’s web site.

I worry about what my increasing fondness for The Sims 3 might do to me. I’ve already had to turn aging off, because the idea of one of my virtual creations getting older and actually dying terrifies me. I’m having to slowly wean myself off of micromanaging every aspect of their lives because I don’t want anything to go wrong.

It even spills over and affects my actual play style in some cases. Only recently have I made the connection, but I now believe that my aversion to being “evil” in games with a morality system isn’t due necessarily to my inherent goodie-goodie nature, but rather to the fact that I latch onto the characters in the game and become overly empathetic to them to the point where the idea of doing harm to them actually bothers me.

Hell, even when reading web comics (a mini-marathon of Questionable Content caused me to write this post in the first place) or experiencing other seemingly silly things that other people wouldn’t even take seriously, I find myself strongly latching onto characters and not wanting to let go.

I don’t want to make this sound like a bad thing, as honestly I’m not sure what kind of thing it is. I have only recently figured out exactly what was going with myself in this regard and am still working through all of its implications and meanings.

Even with all of the apparent downsides this personality trait brings, it also means I can empathize with characters strongly and enjoy some stories on levels that a lot of people may not be able to, which I think is a plus.

Of course, it also means I get attached to crappy stories, mediocre characters, and RPGs I don’t intend to finish, not to mention that I have trouble letting story points go, getting past sad events, and getting myself to even experience certain things because of my foreknowledge of what they may contain and how it might affect me.

What I still don’t know about all of this is why.

Why am I so much more fond of nonexistent characters than other people seem to be? Where did this come from? Is it bad? What does it say about me?

Perhaps that’s a can of worms I don’t really want to open.

What I do know is that it makes watching, reading, or playing more emotionally poignant material difficult for me. I’m beginning to tire of avoiding good stories simply because they stand a strong chance of embedding themselves in my brain for a few days and bringing down my mood, but I also don’t think this is something I can be blamed for doing.

After all, avoiding self-induced depression sounds like a good thing by any other name, doesn’t it?

Ultimately I don’t know if this is normal, I don’t know what it says about me, and I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, but it is certainly a big part of who I am and I’m at least glad to have finally figured this out about myself.

Maybe if I’m lucky I can eventually figure what I can do about it. That is, if anything needs to be done.

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