Today’s Tune: Summer Vacation by Plasma Cutter
I have to talk about The Best Screwdriver.
Exoprimal released late last week, a wild mix of arcade-like gameplay that involves dinosaurs falling from the sky, powered armor called exosuits fighting them, a mad AI running wargames on infinite loop, potentially fighting to the death against opposing teams, corporate overreach, mutated dinosaurs, and a squadron of misfits trying to escape an island they crash-landed on. As you go, you unlock these little bits of data that all feed into wider mysteries, and, somehow, one of those involves a regular, run-of-the-mill screwdriver. Or at least, I think it is, but what’s more important, at least to me, is the importance that The Best Screwdriver holds. Or doesn’t hold. It’s complicated.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the loops we tend to put ourselves in. Nostalgia over anticipation, the need for comfort in what we already know compared to what’s new and potentially uncharted. I’m no stranger to this; the site you’re reading this on has it right in the name, my own acknowledgement of how some part of my heart lies in the past, the basis of my art being trends from decades ago. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in what I know, which often makes it challenging to try new poses, new angles, and even investigate other styles. I’m trying to recognize where I fall short to reach further, and it’s been hard asking myself that lately. There’s comfort in what we know best, even if it’s not always the best for us.
See, the thing about The Best Screwdriver is that you get different perspectives on it. You first hear about it from Alders, a mechanic who talks about this run-of-the-mill object with a sort of hushed reverence that convinces Sandy, an android on the ship who seems to be developing the beginnings of a personality, that the screwdriver itself has a soul. There is only one The Best Screwdriver, and to lose it means to lose something so precious that the world will never be the same were it to be lost. Alders, at least by my interpretation, believes that there are objects so precious, so vital to this world, that to lose them would be to lose a part of oneself. They have to be fixed, unchanging, and enshrined in a way that they become untouchable. The sense of familiarity must be protected at all costs, or else it will be ruined and unrecoverable.
It’s that reliance on the familiar, the sense of fear of the new that has me wondering lately. Something I don’t vocalize much is how stuck I feel; how it always seems like I’m just spinning my wheels expecting to go somewhere when all I really need to do is get out of the car and start pushing. I’m too afraid to get muddy for the sake of going forward. I’ve put so much aside lately because I don’t want to face the unfamiliar, instead retreating back to what I know, even if I’m not always happy about it. Even if it actively makes me less happy, because the familiarity gives me a sense of being grounded, tethered. But deep down I know it’s not what’s best for me. I know it’s important to seek out change and new experiences to avoid stagnation, that there’s an element of both risk and reward to discovery and setting foot into the unknown. I think we all know that, in some way. It’s how we choose to go about it or not, though, that can put us in a holding pattern.
Chief Lorenzo’s perspective on The Best Screwdriver is vastly different, a near-perfect counterpoint to Alders’ opinion. When Sandy attempts to move The Best Screwdriver back to where it belongs, on Alders’ desk, Lorenzo monologues for a bit about the need for evolution in an imperfect world. We can’t rely on a singular totem that will always be there for us; to deny change is to deny reality itself, and it’s unhealthy and unhelpful to fixate on a perfect moment or an ideal. In fact, he seems to argue, it’s better to embrace change as nothing lasts forever and we can so rarely get back what came before. Sandy seems to take this to (robotic) heart before Lorenzo asks her to play back everything he just said for Alders. Better to press ahead than look to the past for guidance.
There have been two times I’ve moved in my adult life; to my first apartment in my early 20s, then to my current apartment, quite literally just down the road, during the early parts of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020. In late 2019, I had resolved to move out from my relatively small, kinda dingy apartment into something a bit better. At the time, it didn’t really matter what the cost was, as long as it was affordable. The goal was just to get out of where I was. It was time, there were various concerns I had with safety, the noise levels were bad, and it was impossibly hot all the time. (The week that I moved out, I found out the furnace was on at a low level, and very well may have been the entire 12 years I was living there because the thermostat was broken and never fixed. I’m glad I wasn’t paying for gas and electricity, at least.) I’d say it was a good move, though I think at some level I failed to consider the bigger picture. I might have been able to save some money or go for something more permanent, rather than shifting from one rental to another.
The story of The Perfect Screwdriver, at least from where I’m at, seems to come to a close after Majesty, another member of the crew, sees it as nothing more than a common screwdriver and throws it off the ship. Sandy speaks to the player character, Ace, a silent protagonist. After retrieving the tool from being thrown hundreds of meters away, Sandy contemplates the importance of The Perfect Screwdriver as an object of worship by Alders, but also the importance of Lorenzo’s insistence of moving beyond the concept of The Perfect Screwdriver. She notes how something so revered can be so easily discarded, and seems to come to a conclusion that The Perfect Screwdriver is a mix of many things: The importance of understanding the impact that something has, the ability to take those next steps forward while not being tethered to the past, and the ability to keep something in memory long after it’s gone, rather than trying to hold on to it forever.
The thing is… I’ve been looking for a condo, and I’ve had to put that on hold for a while because I’ve been holding myself back. The timing isn’t right. Work is busy. The area is a higher price than what I might be able to afford. A place is smaller than my ideal. I’m no stranger to keeping myself tethered to the familiar in favor of present comfort over having to face the future. A lot of us are. I think it’s only human to do so. But lately, I’ve been asking myself more and more what I have to gain by holding on to some precious idea of what things should be, where I should live, how I should live. What good is there tying myself to things that are overly familiar if I fail to change and evolve with the rest of the world?
Exoprimal isn’t Capcom’s first-ever game involving dinosaurs, but it is the first game in about two decades that features them in the wake of the Dino Crisis series, a dice roll when it comes to a franchise that hasn’t had a new entry in 20 years – and, depending on who you ask, the third game doesn’t count. It feels like a grand experiment, a huge step forward into the unknown, far away from the comforts of well-tread titles like Mega Man, Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and event cult classics like Ace Attorney. It’s not a retread or remake of what came before; it’s a game that seems to embrace the past while dedicating itself to rolling the dice on something new in the hopes that, maybe, it’ll work out. It’s a game that almost demands that you let go of the past to take that next step forward.
It’s about damn time I do the same.