Fear and Gaming: An Existential Psychoanalysis of a Yellow-Robed, Faceless Wizard

Jonathan Gourlay finds the notebooks of a character from Magicka and an existential psychoanalyst.


The wizard reeked of lutefisk and anger.

Or was it I?

He came from a forgotten land he called “Midgard.” This is what he could do: combine the elements of earth, fire, water, earth, lightning, life, cold, and arcane. C’est la vie. I can combine desperation, sadness, and ennui into a frothy cocktail of dread. Who is the more powerful?

His elemental combinations created swirling, colorful spells of great potency and very little function. He claimed to be ridding the realm of “monsters” for a “non-vampire” named Vlad. To do this he scrolled through endless forests and caves shooting spells out of his staff. The little wizard should admit that he is a compulsive masturbateur.

What is the little wizard doing in the office of an existential psychoanalyst? Here, in the soulless cultural desert of a mid-sized, nearly empty shopping mall? In the back office of a Pier 1 Import store? This is the edge of the known universe, where sad dreams pile up like dust.

When I get home I shall weep on Simone’s sweet bosom.

I was told by my therapist to write this. How introspective does he expect a yellow-robed faceless wizard to be? I come to him with a simple issue regarding time travel and infidelity and he tells me that this isn’t really the problem. No, he says, we must find my “original choice.”

To begin: my father was a gelatinous cube creeping around in the lower levels of dungeons and my mother was a level 10 elf-wizard. My father beat me horribly. I mean, he beat me gelatinously, which is horrible in its own way. But my therapist doesn’t care. He says I’m totally free to choose what creates my essence, the face I hold to the world (which is no face!) and that even my father can’t simply beat the freedom out of me.

“So go for me and cast a spell of introspect, or whatever it is you masturbateurs do, and find the choosing that created the essence of you,” he said in his hoity-toity French accent.

Upon his suggestion, I immediately raised a wall between us. I formed an arcane stone wall by combining the elements of stone, shield, and arcane. This is the combination I use when I feel emotionally threatened. He could have sliced through it with a mallet easily enough, but instead he waited until it poofed out of existence. In this very controlled poofing, his dried flower arrangement caught on fire (he placed this arrangement on the glass table between us, as if to bring the specter of death between every word we spoke). What’s the point of dried flowers anyway? I’ll buy him a new arrangement in the idiot section of Wal-Mart next to the scented candles.

Patient caused minor conflagration / magick wall when threatened. Resulting fire consumed Simone’s flower arrangement. She will think I destroyed it just to torture her. She will be right.

Patient’s fundamental choice must be brought to light. Patient must understand this choice is prior to logic.


I think better when I create small thunderstorms by combining steam-steam-lightning-arcane-lightning. I guess I pretty much cleared out the Starbucks and ruined my laptop with this one. So I’m sitting in a Starbucks that is raining on the inside, munching on soggy biscotti and handwriting this in a Moleskine notebook. The ink runs down the page like a tiny trickle of dark blood running down a perfect white buttocks.


A new James Taylor song is crackling through what remains of the sound system here. Fuck. I want to kill somebody. He sounds like fucking Mrs. Butterworth singing In the Midnight Hour. Remember when JT was cool? “If I’m feeling edgy there’s a chick who’s paid to be my slave / she’ll hit me with a needle if she thinks I’m trying to misbehave.

Here it is: in my timeline my lover, the green-robed wizard, made love with Jormungandr the snake-beast of Fornskogur Forest just yesterday. In her time-line it was years ago. It’s driving me crazy. Who can compete with a fucking snake-beast? She says she barely remembers his tingling poison darts, his ability to burrow “deep, deep, deep” and his fun but painful tackling maneuver.

Sounds like she remembers Jormungandr the snake-beast of Fornskogur Forest just fine.

I sprayed her with a torrent of water from my yellow-cloaked hands. Then I sprayed her with cold and froze her solid. Boy am I in for it when she thaws. Why do I always do this to myself? Freeze the ones I love? I understand that I use my control of the elements to keep people at a distance. What am I afraid of?

My therapist says that I have to find the origin of this problem but not in something that was done to me or in a dream. Rather in something that I did. Some choice I made.

Perhaps I crawled out of the womb with a wandering and lonely heart and never made a choice in my life. Perhaps I am a thousand rolls of a thousand dice and nothing more.

The patient believes his libido is a mysterious place he can visit in dreams. He doesn’t understand that his essence is prior to his fixations.

Tonight, I will watch Simone sleep and think of her as my possession, like a clock or a dried flower arrangement. She will love me completely.

I have been many things before I was a yellow-robed, faceless wizard. I am, after all, an elemental. The experiences pile up and must go somewhere. I always supposed those years in Sosaria, Skara Brae, and Llylgamyn disappeared into my dreams and subconscious. I can barely remember them. But my therapist told me that my subconscious mind was a figment of my imagination.

So this morning I made the coffee without a subconscious. The pot was no longer shaped like my lover’s sweet, unfaithful buttocks. I didn’t pour mother’s milk into my coffee cup. The coffee grounds did not remind me of the cold earth where I lay naked and played doctor with little Claudia and the other kids from the subdivision. Claudia was so small that her doctor’s uniform swamped her tiny frame. Her face covered in a surgical mask, she slowly approached my naked buttocks with the sharp pin she had stolen from her mother’s sewing kit. The other kids laughed and laughed as they watched me squeal in anticipation of the needle pressing and breaking into my naked flesh. I was so excited that I cast an area spell of fire and stone that burnt the soles of the children’s tiny feet. They scampered away like little mice. Except for Claudia. She could handle fire. She pricked me with the needle and I was in love. To this day, I always go for the faceless types in oversize clothes.

According to my therapist, that’s not the source of my problems!

Jormungandr. Jormungandr. Jormungandr. Thy very name is like a handful of spiked marbles in my mouth. The green-robed wizard is mine, will always be mine, always has been mine — even before I knew her; from her first breath to her last. I dream of you two together, in flagrente delicto, and I am a malignant beholder — I am nothing but an eye and six impotent tentacles, hovering in the air, watching as she betrays me, sad lightning bolts dripping from my monstrous body to the green grass of Fornskogur Forest.

  • Good lord his dreams are boring!

  • Sour cream.
  • Breading of some sort… Panko?
  • Fat-free half and half (for Simone; she will hate me elegantly tonight!)
  • His jealousy derives from his inability to own the green-robed wizard. It is not possible to own something that is completely free.
  • Green beans?

This is what I have discovered. I have discovered that I am a confused jumble of sentient meat that staggers forward in time at the whim of the world. More acted upon than acting. Like Siddhartha I see the river of time but instead of gaining enlightenment, I jump in the river and disappear. Yellow-robed wizards cannot swim. The river is where my soul resides. Unknown, beneath the surface of the rushing water of time. I am a stranger, an avatar, a block of pixels. When I move, the world moves beneath my feet but I stay still. I am searching for a choice; something I did that signifies the fundamental characteristic of my being. I am playing 52-pick-up with memories, but they won’t fit back in the deck; the narrative won’t hit the proper beats; there is no thread or trail of breadcrumbs to help me out of the maze. If I never made a choice, I never existed.

Patient appears to be spraying a steamy mist from the folds of his yellow robe. It reeks of sweat and fish. We are getting somewhere.


A wizard who cannot control his thunderstorms is not welcome anywhere. I am banned from Starbucks. I guess I’ll just wander around the mall. It seems that wherever I go, I must always go forward. I cannot return to the past. I mean, I literally cannot go back — I get stuck on the bottom of the screen. I guess it has been this way ever since I left my gelatinous father and Elvin mother behind in Sosaria. You should have seen me sail away! That was the most magnificent thing I ever did: take off alone from the city of Yew in Eastern Sosaria, my father slobbering on the shore and my mother sending me a sweet west wind of Elvin magic. Even Claudia was there, dressed in an oversized suit of armor and slumped against a rock. I assume she was crying. I sailed the Sosarian sea alone: to the left-arrow, left-arrow, left-arrow I went sailing across the screen of the world and never looked back.

This was the choice that made me.

Now I sail upon a vast inward sea with a time-traveling green-robed wizard woman. And together we will keep going, further into anger, jealousy, and frustration until one of us just stops and says, “Enough! We will anchor here and begin our lives.”

Here she comes, dripping wet and cold. I wonder what her face is like. Her original face from before she was born. I will find it by loving her as completely as I know how.

She thinks she is being sly, slinking from the food court as if she is not preparing a fireball for me. I will not run. I will stand here by the very flammable wicker furniture and dried flower arrangements of this Pier 1 Imports store. My life is just one spark away from going up in flames. It always has been.

I see she is peppering her fireball with lightning. I will not leave this pier. Jormungandr would hide in the ground. I am not Jormungandr. I will not raise a shield or an arcane wall. This time, I will stop running.

“Please, my green-robed love, see me as I am and put out your angry flames,” I said.

And I put down my yellow hood. There are not enough pixels to generate such a wonder as my actual, human face. I caused the entire world to hiccup and jump. We all went crashing to the desktop. My lover, my therapist, the mall, the seas of Sosaria, the world blinked, turned blue, and disappeared. I write this now from the spare memory of an overtaxed universe. When we re-boot, we shall be wonderful together. We shall disrobe, my love and I.

I made a back-up of the yellow-robed wizard’s notebook by re-writing it in blood, ink, and flower ash upon ancient parchment and then digitizing it. Simone will be proud of me, if she ever wakes up. If she does not, she will be a decaying clock lying beautifully upon my bed.

Jonathan Gourlay is an editor at The Bygone Bureau and author of the ebook Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years on a Micronesian Island. He lives in the quiet corner of Connecticut where he is a vicarious goat herder. Follow him on Twitter.