Hello! I’m Jackson, one third of Abnormal Mapping. I have the honour of being the youngest member of the crew, also the only one not in America. Unsurprisingly, I have a different relationship to games than both Matt and Destiny – which is good, having three different angles and perspectives is what makes our podcasts cool! If you want to read about either of their relationship with games, then Matt’s bio is here and Destiny’s bio is here. But if you want to find out more about me, who I am and how that effects my work: you have come to the right place!
So, I was born twenty days before DOOM came out, and I got my first console ten years later: an original Xbox, with Tony Hawk’s Underground packed in. My mother hated games, they were the thing you stop your child from doing if you want your child to turn out well, so I had to wait until my parents separated and my dad was more than happy to, y’know. Healthy family situation.
The effect this had was twofold: one, I basically skipped traditional 2D games entirely. I was vaguely aware of Mario as something that existed, everybody else played Pokemon except me, and there was a SNES in my house for a night before it broke and killed the potential future where I have a better respect for the recent history of games. But that was essentially it, I begun to explore games as a space in those dark years where 3D games were the only legitimate form, and 2D games were either on Handhelds I couldn’t afford, or Flash Sites that I loved but considered somehow lesser. To be clear, they aren’t lesser, and the time I spent roving Newgrounds and what have you is foundational when it comes to my relationship with the medium, but I certainly grew up in a time when rhetoric about realism was far more everpresent than it is today.
Two, and this is the one I’m most sad about, is that I don’t really have any childhood games that I hold dear. Until I was ten, games were things that I played at other people’s houses, forbidden objects that I coveted more than enjoyed. Partially because I couldn’t play anything for a good while, and partially because when I did I was playing what happened to be released on a goddamn Xbox, I don’t have those strong emotional ties to art that you form when you’re young when it comes to games. Six year old Jackson watched enough Star Trek: The Next Generation to fell an Ox, and to this day I’ll get teary-eyed thinking about how much that show means to me, but that sure as shit ain’t gonna happen when I think back on my days as a twelve year old playing Halo.
It’s sad, because I consider games to be incredibly important to me as a form of art and expression, but I never engaged with them on such an emotional and vulnerable later until barely a few years ago, and when you’re an adult that’s such a different beast. I followed games culture far too close for a good long while, and only when I unpacked all the cold and sad rhetoric it throws around did I realise what I’d been missing for so much time. So I can’t help myself but feel a little jealous when Matt talks about their connection to Link to the Past.
The effect of all of this is that my tastes are still a massive work-in-progress, which isn’t a bad thing, I don’t need to feel guilty for not having a solid bedrock of nostalgia for my tastes, in fact I should probably feel pretty good. I’m playing older games, making my way through years and years of history, in order to both better understand the medium and understand myself as I relate to it. Without Abnormal Mapping, I’d never have played Yakuza 3 for example, a nonsense melodrama that brought my to tears multiple times while delivering the most earnest theme that’s been constantly on my mind since I beat it.
Looking over this list of favourites at the bottom, instantly a few recurring ideas stick out to me as things that matter to me or resonate with me just from this small gut-feeling sample. I love melancholy fables, games tinged with sadness and pathos delivering this uplifting message – unsurprising based on my taste in all art ever. And I love good movement, when games truly emphasise the relationship between my body and my space, and as I navigate that tension I find my place in the world.
Neither of these values surprise me that much. I’m a depressed, anxious person on the autism spectrum, I struggle to find the strength to keep going and I look for it in the art I engage with. I feel a lack of control within my body, within the spaces I navigate that body through, and exploring those ideas in a game space helps me to feel better. When I approach games, and when I talk about them or write about them, I always bring all this baggage to the table, and that’s been the central idea of my work here on the site.
For example, I’ve written about Actual Sunlight & Suicide, Gravity Ghost & Healing, and Persona 4 & Productivity. My work is usually confessional, because I try to make my interactions with the games as intimate as possible. A game, like any piece of art, is not something to be examined and judged, it is something to approach and be open to, something that only comes alive when interacted with. It doesn’t have meaning in a void, but when I sit down to play, flaws and jagged edges bump up against each other, and meaning pours out of the friction.
And that’s, well, a nice 1,000 words! A good number to call it at. I’m at @headfallsoff on twitter, where you can ask me anything you want and I’ll be happy to expand on my process, my values, or just shoot shit about whatever! If you enjoy the work that I do, and want to help support it, then I have a patreon which you can donate to, if you want to help keep me going.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the rest of this great site! ❤
My Favourite Games
- Yakuza 3
- Ninja Gaiden Black
- Lydia Neon’s Player 2
- Lost Odyssey
- Jet Set Radio Future
- The Walking Dead
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Tony Hawk’s Project 8
- Burnout Paradise
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty