Who are you?
My real name is Edmund Lee. I'm just a boring loser sitting in front of my computer, browsing the internet, and playing video games.
What do you do?
I created this website to share my thoughts on games and related culture. My reviews are about interpreting games to help you understand and appreciate them. Games can be quite complex, and it can be hard to pinpoint what exactly makes a game good. Games are ultimately about deducing effective strategies to progress and win, so breaking down the strategies is a big part of understanding how a game is designed and what can be improved.
When it comes to analyzing stories, there will be discussion of politics because it is disingenuous or just ignorant to think games have no political implications behind the stories they tell. Social conflict and the best way to resolve them are what stories are built on to give them meaning, which means analyzing how they are portrayed is an important part of being a critic. To not discuss politics would neglect discussion on a significant part of games that may influence how you see the world, so I am here to broaden and shape your perspectives. However, I am not here to indoctrinate, but to encourage free thinking and sharing of opinions. I go to great lengths to lay out my thought process to help you understand where I am coming from, but you are still free to disagree with me.
As a critic, it is my job to accept the unequal reality we live in, and define hierarchies to inform and contribute to a process of cultural improvement. An egalitarian critic is an oxymoron because you cannot simultaneously believe in equality and claim that some things are better than others. While you can claim that every game has its strengths and weaknesses, you cannot claim they all balance out to the point of every game being equally desirable. There will be cases where certain games are just better than others, and a hierarchy need not be one-dimensional or precise to be useful.
What kind of games do you like?
I like first-person shooters the most because I like to be in control of every action. I enjoy feeling the nuances and rhythm of aiming and pulling off multiple head shots, and the violence is quite cathartic for my masculine sensibility. I play on PC because I can't stand playing shooters on a gamepad. However, I don't play multiplayer because it isn't so much about playing the game as it is about playing other people. In my experience, multiplayer is a lot of waiting around for split-second opportunities. As soon as I get impatient, I just die over and over and spend half the match watching other players instead of playing.
Getting kills and staying alive takes a lot of effort and I often come out of a match feeling stressed out, so I'm not surprised to see multiplayer communities tending to be toxic and rampant with cheaters looking for revenge. Waiting for players to join is also boring when single player puts me in the game immediately. However, I do have to give credit to competitive multiplayer for showing off some of the best players so I can learn some of their tricks to improve my own play.
Why don't you do voiced commentary on your videos?
Because I'm awful at talking and holding conversation. If you met me in person, I wouldn't talk much and it's just who I am. My thoughts tend to get stuck and confused, so writing is the only way I can come up with and organize my thoughts into something coherent. Also, not talking allows me to focus on playing so I don't slow or stop the action to talk. Not having a voice talking over the game also allows you to hear the game sounds to understand audio cues.
While I could try, I doubt I will ever be as smooth and entertaining to listen to as others, so there would be no point to watching me over them. Not all games are entertaining to watch, and my play style can be quite boring as I may stand around pondering what to do, experiment with different things, and just practice doing the same thing over and over to work my muscle memory and get better at the game. Producing videos takes time when I could be focusing on my core competency of writing, which is why I do not put out videos often.
What's a "ChockrickBear"?
It's a corruption of "Chocolate Bear", which is the given name of a brown plush bear I got when I was a kid recovering from asthma. My two older brothers liked to make voices for their various stuffed animals, but I never had the imagination for such a thing, so Chocolate remained voiceless for many years. My mother speaks with a strong Cantonese accent, so "chocolate" sounds like "chockrick". My second brother came up with a high, airy voice that plays on my mother's accent, resulting in "Chockrick Bear". So, I decided to use it for its uniqueness and historical relevance to me. I removed the space to make it appear more in line with internet culture.
Video games have been in my life for a long time. When I was a kid, I was happy to watch my brothers play games on the PC, Nintendo, and Super Nintendo. Back then I was too scared to play for myself because I didn't know what to do and didn't want to see myself get wrecked. Watching them play allowed me to enjoy games without the effort and I jumped at every opportunity to watch them play. Eventually, my second brother pushed me into playing Gunboat for DOS. I was still scared at the time, but I played the practice mode a lot and eventually got the hang of it. If I recall correctly, it was the first game I played to 100% completion, something my brother didn't bother to do. A friend of my first brother introduced us to shooters like Quake and Hexen. When I played them, I couldn't bear playing without god mode, but I found the violence amusing and liked to shoot bodies into giblets.
Eventually my brother introduced me to Deus Ex. It was just a demo at the time and it came with my brother's Maximum PC subscription. At first, I didn't know what it was about and thought it was another shooter where bad guys come at you and you shoot them. When I saw Paul Denton in the distance, I just whipped out my pistol and started shooting at him, ran out of ammo, then rage-quit in frustration because he could not be killed. My brother showed me that you could actually talk to him and that you could do stuff like sneak up on the actual enemies and whip them in the back with a baton. It was the first game that made me realize that games did not need to be about mindless killing and could be intellectually sophisticated. But that didn't stop me from hacking bodies into giblets or piling up bodies and throwing a grenade at it.
My grades in elementary school were nothing special. Even though I did my homework, it bothered me how there were kids who were smarter than me because it was unfair that they were just like that. They get showered with awards and recognition, which only gives them a further advantage while we average and dumb kids were largely ignored. I was disappointed that I received fewer and weaker awards over the course of elementary school, going from strong computer skills to perfect attendance to nothing.
Much of my learning was through memorization rather than through reasoning, which is why I bombed algebra and science fair projects since they required abstract thinking. I did have moments of brilliance. Some of my peers thought I was smart because I could memorize big words, like "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" (it's quite simple actually, since you just have to break up the word into the many sub-words that make it up: a cognitive process referred to as chunking).
Eventually my brother got the full version of Deus Ex. The conversations introduced me to political philosophy, although I didn't really understand the more complex lines when I first played it. What is "The separation of powers" and how does it "acknowledges the petty ambitions of individuals"? Seeing fancy words like "rhetoric" also got me to look them up in a dictionary, but my understanding of them was memorization-level at the time. However, my brother enthused about the game and explained some of the concepts to me. The idea of augmentations intrigued me because they allowed people to surpass their limits. I was also intrigued by the idea of an AI authoritarian government because a sufficiently powerful machine has the capacity to process everyone's needs without bias and doesn't have the selfish ambitions of human leaders that would lead to corruption.
I also learned about critical thinking, logical fallacies, and atheism since my brother was into them. I learned to reject religious superstition even though I went to a Catholic school, but Jesus' teachings still inspired my sense of morality. The idea of unconditional love and doing the right thing even when nobody is looking were attractive morals to me. I believed there was a sense of emotional security when people did not turn on each other out of their own self-interest. Doing the right thing regardless of external reward demonstrates genuine goodness and makes a person trustworthy. Whether or not God or Jesus existed for real is a separate issue to the validity of the teachings. In fact, Jesus used real-life analogies to justify some of his teachings such as putting a lamp on a lampstand so everyone can benefit from the light instead of hiding the lamp where it will benefit no one. However, I was far too reserved to do anything that would have made me an actual force of justice.
A naive hard-worker
The transition from elementary to high school made me realize I was growing up, so I wanted to work hard for my future and become a productive member of society. A lot of concepts just sort of clicked and I did a lot better than in elementary school, getting high 80s to low 90s in grades. I didn't have close friends because I was a quiet guy who kept to myself most of the time and focused on my homework. However, I still found time for gaming after my homework was done, thinking gaming was my reward for my hard work. Gaming was something I continued to immerse myself in and I walked to the nearest EB Games on occasion to buy games using money I made from working at the restaurant my parents ran as well as money gifts from relatives.
I believed that as long as I followed instructions, as long as I dedicated myself to my work, I would make a fine professional. I thought my work ethic made me a top-tier student. However, I was not the best of the best in grades. By graduation, the extracurricular talents and achievements of my peers became known to me. They were the ones receiving attention and awards, not the hard-working me, which made me feel under-accomplished. It seemed hypocritical for a Catholic school to engage in an award parade when Jesus teaches people to "not sound a trumpet before [them]... so that they may be honored by men" (Matthew 6:2). I felt like I didn't matter and my jealousy and disdain for the meritocracy drove me into an episode of madness where I sat alone almost laughing at the irony of it all then feeling terrible about myself afterwards. Under a self-loathing trance, I picked up a kitchen knife when I was alone and thought about jabbing my neck with all of my hatred, but the rational part of me kicked in and I realized I was being rash. I was still interested in what new games might come out in the future.
I went on to university studying Electrical Engineering because I liked technology in a shallow sense, it was the kind of field smart kids go in to get decent careers, and I didn't want to copy my brothers who went to Computer Science and Computer Engineering. I believed that education would turn me into a competent professional and I religiously attended classes and did my assignments. The work was tough and I barely had any time for gaming. I thought it was a good sign that I was working hard, but as much as I tried to keep up, I didn't understand most of anything and just kept falling further and further behind, but I managed to survive my first year by some miracle.
My co-op work terms were worse. It was mostly listening to a group of older guys talking technical gibberish to each other like it was common sense. I had absolutely no idea how these people knew the things they did and yet they talked about it so easily. According to the criteria in my co-op evaluation form, I was supposed to understand everything and offer my own contribution to be considered a good student. Seeing the difference between me and the ideal co-op student was disheartening because it was a level of competence that existed yet I had no hope of attaining. I wanted to understand, but my mind kept grinding to a halt. I kept telling myself that as long as I continued to work hard at it, I would eventually get it, but I was lying to myself. I was working hard at just trying to stay awake.
A lack of passion
I realized that being a competent professional wasn't about merely exposing myself to a field and expect to be trained, it's about being passionate about my field. I actually have to care, to have an imagination of my own that I want to make into reality, which naturally leads to taking the initiative to actually do it without being told to. Because I didn't have a passion for electrical engineering, I never did any projects in the past that would have given me important hands-on experience. I thought working hard on my homework was enough, but my ineptitude in real-life contexts was disillusioning me and eroding my self-esteem.
University courses only got harder as they built upon knowledge I should have mastered. I was expected to do assignments and projects I had no idea how to do while applying for co-op jobs I didn't understand and was woefully under-qualified for. Where did these employers expect you to get all these obscure certifications and knowledge from? Was I not doing enough with my life even though frantically keeping up with the course material was all I could handle? It was only made worse by seeing a guy wearing a suit to class almost every week because of all the interviews he was getting. Trying to force myself to continue in a field I could not relate to and pretending I had a strong work ethic only led to burnout. I decided to stop caring about my work and went back to playing video games. It really lifted a lot of my stress, but of course, it meant hopelessly falling behind. I would certainly fail and waste tuition money, so the smart thing to do was to quit.
A longing for professionalism
I switched into Economics with a Finance specialization on the advice of my brother. I thought it would be a safe bet because if I could manage money, I could live a comfortable and sustainable life. Psychology was also something that interested me, so I did a minor in it. It was certainly less demanding than Engineering and I didn't bother with co-op, but the course material was still somewhat cryptic to me and I just barely understood it if I focused hard enough. I thought about the "work smarter, not harder" phrase, so I needed to rely less on brute force memorization and focus more on thinking efficiently. There were concepts I studied in high school that I only memorized to pass tests and then forgot about afterwards, but working out the logic of those concepts allowed me to gain a genuine understanding of them and I did not forget things I truly understood. However, I was far from being a genius and there were quite a few concepts that I could not learn in time for exams.
The words of BioShock rang in my head: "Are you a man or a slave?" I felt satisfied with my choice to leave Engineering since I could achieve a better work-life balance and it was a life-changing decision I made for myself instead of just going with the flow, but a part of me felt that I was an underachieving coward who was too weak to handle the stress. My ineptitude crept up on me as I learned of people in my class who were working on their own side-business while I was just keeping up with the course material and spending my down time gaming. I realized I was still stuck in the same mindset: that if I just did what I was told to do, I would be fine. Before one of my classes, there were a group of mature, good-looking students from a technical program discussing course material after class with each other like professionals out of business magazine. However, I was just an outside observer looking into a world of intellectual sophistication and collaboration I could never be a part of.
A conflict of expectations
When I graduated with unimpressive grades, I didn't feel like a newly forged professional ready to take on the world. I thought I could just get a job at a bank, but I barely had anything to put on my résumé and had to really stretch what little experience I had. What few job interviews I got from the help of my father's connections, I botched because I didn't bring anything new to the table and didn't really understand what I or the employer wanted. No entry-level job I could find explicitly asked for an Economics degree or any skills my education taught me. My father thought I was just shy, but I knew I was shy because I didn't know jack.
Trying to play up my meagre experiences felt dishonest and embarrassing. I wasn't a people-person and I just wanted work that put me out of the way so I could afford a life doing what I enjoy. However, I knew that anything that doesn't require expert knowledge and puts an employee out of the way could be computer automated and no longer exists as a worthwhile job in this day and age. There is no generic office job producing generic units of work where I could just work hard and climb the corporate ladder to make a middle-class income.
Still, the idea of making money by taking advantage of price movements without actually producing anything myself as my education taught me is morally reprehensible to me. Financial management doesn't care what a given company does as long as it generates a good, stable return determined by statistical models. If I am to make money, I want it done through the direct creation of value, not being a middleman and manipulating it. I'm not against the idea of banking, but I believe that the pursuit of maximizing return on investment distorts what companies should be about: producing useful products for people rather than what makes the maximum amount of money possible. However, this also meant I had no resolve to work in my field.
Video games were the closest thing to a passion for me, but I didn't have enough creativity and programming skill to make game development a realistic career path for me. It's hard to take the idea of playing video games for a living seriously when I grew up with parents who extolled the virtues of hard work because the restaurant they operated brought them out of poverty by working 12 hours a day with no vacations. My parents suggested that I go back to school, but without a clear idea of what I wanted, I felt it was a waste of time and money. If my current education didn't get me a job, why would another one do? There are people who get jobs right out of graduation. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs don't even finish school because they figured out everything they needed on their own.
With career options at a dead end, I could do nothing but the only thing I knew I could do: play games and browse the internet. Even that became boring after a while and there were times when I just blankly stared at my desktop trying to think of something to do. I felt empty, like I was missing something vital in me that everyone else took for granted. I was neither sociable nor a genius, yet I wanted a life on the high road where people respected me for my sophistication. Suicide echoed in my head, but I told myself that there was no way to tell what will happen in the future or what kind of revelation I might encounter. Everyone dies eventually and suicide is a choice that cannot be reversed. If I was going to fail, I might as well see what it would look like.
Living with parents
I packed take-out at the restaurant and helped my father with some paperwork, but the problem was that I worked there since my teen years and seen many co-workers my age and younger come and go. The longer I worked there the more it reminded me of how little I had accomplished with my life. I had no interest in the restaurant business because taking over the restaurant would mean following my parents' lifestyle. Even if I had money, I would have no time to spend it on the things I like, making it a pointless life. My parents did it because they had kids to raise, wanted the best for them, and taking over the restaurant from its retiring founder was a huge opportunity for them. For me, being a loner with a university education, I felt I was capable of so much more, but I didn't know what else I could do. If I just did as I was told and just "worked hard", I would continue doing the same thing over and over expecting things to change. My ability to work deteriorated as my head filled with negative thoughts about being a failure, which made me lethargic and get headaches. Despite my frustration, my father told me to be strong and pushed the hard work angle on me.
One day, I just had it and walked out of the job. It was completely unlike me as I always worked hard following orders to be the good boy. My father was merciful, but my mother grew frustrated, and they argued over what to do with me. My father believed kicking me out of the house would accomplish nothing and just cause trouble for someone else. However, part of the reason my parents put up with me is that I didn't make demands, didn't leave messes, mowed the lawn, fixed the toilets and faucets, did heavy lifting, fixed my mother's smartphone, and didn't waste money. I also went back to the restaurant to fill in for absentees on occasion. My father believed in unconditional love and told me I was worth more to him than a sports car. He valued family stability and wasn't selfish enough to sacrifice his son to live a bit larger.
I spent a lot of time reading various gaming websites, news, and comments sections trying to figure out how people come up with the opinions that they do. Around the end of my university years, I discovered let's plays. Watching let's plays and listening to the players' personalities reinforced my self-identity as a gamer when my passion for video games clashed with the realities of life. The first person I discovered was Spoony. I saw someone recommend his let's play of SWAT 4, so I went ahead and took a look. Before I realized it, I was just watching video after video anticipating something funny to happen. I also became interested in his reviews and I was surprised at his ability to analyze details and tear stories to pieces. However, he didn't do a lot of let's plays and his releases slowed down over time. Having went through most of his work, I ended up looking elsewhere, particularly YouTube.
Let's players I watched included Helloween4545, Kikoskia, EricVanWilderman, Cryaotic, PewDiePie, Markiplier, and jacksepticeye, roughly in that order of discovery. I also came across Jim Sterling after he discovered copyright deadlock on YouTube's draconian Content ID system and I became hooked on his critical coverage of the gaming industry, which helped me understand that people in high positions are not necessarily people to look up to.
It wasn't just the games or the personalities that interested me. Seeing these people grow their subscriber base from nothing and making a living out of it just by being themselves gave me inspiration. A lot of popular YouTubers had similar backgrounds to mine: tried to get a traditional career, failed, started a channel doing what they enjoyed and hit it big. This made me realize that if I wanted to accomplish something in my life, I had to be true to myself. I spent my youth pretending to be some kind of hard-working professional, but it got me nowhere. My whole life revolved around video games; it was the one constant that stuck with me and gave me strength when I doubted myself. I am a gamer first and foremost, and I have over two decades of experience to tap into. If playing video games wasn't a real job, I had to make it one and the people I watched were the precedent telling me it's possible. I've seen commenters describe how watching let's plays saved them from depression, a feeling I understand. If it satisfies people, it's valuable and can be turned into a job by committing to it.
At first, I was thinking about just starting a YouTube channel and being a let's player, but I wasn't sure I could stand out from all the other let's players because I didn't have a strong voice and personality. So, I was unsure of how to proceed. At the same time, my father was worried about my lack of progress in job hunting, so he convinced his friend who ran a small accounting office to take me in as an intern to see how people worked in an office environment. I wasn't really interested in accounting, but it was my last chance at starting a "normal" career, so I gave it a shot.
I solved a few computer problems they had and played with Microsoft Excel to enhance some of their spreadsheets. I learned to create macros, which naturally led me to using the scripting features to fine tune the macros. Because of my aptitude for programming, I was eventually tasked with developing a website for the company. I didn't know how and nobody at the office knew either. Initially, I shied away from programming because the more advanced concepts (e.g. object-oriented programming and data structures) were beyond me. All I knew was basic top-down scripting and creating a few functions to reuse code. University courses and programming textbooks were awful at teaching what I needed to know because they taught a lot of hypothetical stuff with obscure practical purpose while demanding mastery while piling on new concepts at the same time. However, I knew that I had nothing better to do. The whole point of being a professional is to figure out the things your employer can't or doesn't have the time to do.
Working on the company website was instrumental to learning programming because it gave me a context, a goal to work towards while the office environment compelled me to not slack off. Because the web site wasn't critical to the company, there was no deadline and I could learn at my own pace. Programming was something that immersed me and I was able to develop a simple website in a matter of months that impressed my boss, although I spent over a year feature creeping, which allowed me to learn new techniques. The website was never finished because it was lacking in useful content and the company needed someone to maintain it, but none of the staff had the technical knowledge or time for it. Since I acquired the basic skills I needed and that I had no obligations to the company, I left to work on this website and finally start on the gaming career I had envisioned. Starting from scratch, I spent all day, every day for two years on this website to build the infrastructure and write my first articles. Living at my parents' house and not having deadlines to worry about allowed me to carefully work out the logic to do what I wanted and establish my initial perspectives of life.
This website is the biggest thing I have ever done and more than what I thought I was ever capable of doing. I never imagined myself to take the initiative, thinking that following orders was enough to live a comfortable life, but that meant I had to pick someone to follow and subscribing to that person's values. I understand that working to satisfy others' expectations comes at my own expense and forcing myself to do it will only lead to hitting a wall; hard work without passion leads to misery and anger. My purpose in life is not what someone else gives me through a job board, but it is whatever I make it to be because only I know what I want and it is strictly my responsibility to create the career I want. A life goal is not as simple as, "Make lots of money" or, "Be a productive member of society". There are lots of ways to do that and not every way is equal for everyone because different people have different inclinations and talents. Working in accordance to who I am and what I am passionate about allows me to work my hardest and do my best work even though I am not the smartest person in the world.
I also realize that the opportunity to choose what I want comes from a position of privilege. What if my parents were poor or took a hardline stance on me? What if there weren't any free online resources to learn from and use at my own pace? I would not be able to dabble in programming to do any of this. People need time and resources to even figure out what they want to dedicate themselves to, which is why I believe in a strong level of generosity and patience. When everyone can work on the things they take the most pride in, they do good work, they become happier, and everyone benefits from the productivity and social stability.
I look back on my history and have come to realize how much my way of thinking has evolved. I certainly had socialist attitudes of being frustrated at my own weakness, jealous of other people's strength, and believing in the idealism of making everyone happy. But over time, I began to study the opposing view after going down the rabbit hole of YouTube recommendations from video game politics to men's issues to Jordan Peterson. I followed social issues from more moderate to right-leaning sources like Quillette, Tim Pool, Sargon of Akkad, and GamerGate, which exposed me to a variety of incidents and attitudes pointing out the hypocrisy of social justice activism due to flaws in its core premise of equality.
A part of me was afraid of what I was becoming, and it has made me reluctant to really put myself out there. I was taught by education, mainstream media, and role-playing games to be compassionate and help everyone, yet everything I have seen taught me to criticize and exclude. However, I could not in good faith unsee the hypocrisy of those who believe in charity but would rather impose on others, the belligerently anti-free speech attitudes of those who claim to represent tolerance, and the historical atrocities of socialism in an attempt to help the poor. I could not eliminate the possibility that empathy could be used to manipulate people into sacrificing themselves for those who are not entitled to anything. I could not reject the deep and nuanced interpretations that conservative thought enables because we don't just live in a society, we live in a reality.
Conservatism is not anti-charity, it places the burden of charity on private individuals instead of the government. It sets boundaries and limits to preserve the system that created the wealth to share, which does not contradict the desire to make society better. The fact that I learned programming with free online resources means that society is already quite charitable as it is, so the burden of responsibility lies on individuals to actually do something. While the right is defined by callousness, the left is defined by hypocrisy, and I think honesty is a better principle than kindness.