In the Year of Humanity, 12,018

Celebrating another year gone by always feels a little odd as it inevitably forces you to face what you didn’t do as much as appreciate what you did. In the spirit of looking back, not to mention a healthy dose of blackmail, I’d like to take this chance to reminisce about the year of humanity, 12,018.

In spite of the sheer cliff like drop-off towards the end of the year I was actually proud to have accomplished a bit on the creative side of my life. Let’s take a quick stroll through what those accomplishments were, don’t worry it wont take long.

I Made This.

Back in March I took my first whack at writing an actual review that wasn’t just one long paragraph but was visually interesting as well. Golf Story remains, even a whole afternoon into 2019, one of my favorite games that I played last year. The review itself I was very proud of and still remains one of my most viewed posts as well as one of my most popular tweets which was neat.

Admittedly it’s a small thing but as anyone who has taken the time to write or produce any level of content will tell you that tiny bit of recognition goes a long way. Mostly it just gave me a warm feeling to think folks who read it found it in any way helpful. As Tycho from Penny Arcade once pointed out in a podcast he felt his job was not to help people save their money but rather how to actively spend it. That always struck me as a very productive view for people making recommendations to consumers. We spend a lot of time criticizing things we see as bad but perhaps not enough seeking out things that are worthwhile. It’s not to say there isn’t value in those criticisms and I certainly haven’t shied away from it but sometimes its more fun to be a spotlight than a Death Star.

After the Golf Story review I posted pretty regularly week to week as a sort of inter-blog challenge between myself and my friend who writes the incredible Histastrophe blog. It’s hard to put into words how much of an inspiration and motivator she has been this year but the fact that this blog has anything on it at all stands as a testament to that.

So as not to downplay the “It takes a village” concept there was plenty of encouragement and cajoling from my best friend who keeps his thoughts on StrideTheEarth.com. There you will find what most call “The Total Package” of video and tabletop gaming as well as travel posts complete with amazing photos. It’s millennial in the best possible way. Feel free to give him shit for not posting more.

If you’re into projects of all different kinds I expect great things from this awesome guy in the next year who started strong with a pretty awesome post about refurbishing a deck. I crave the woodworking project breakdowns I know are destined to come.

Last but certainly not least if food is your thing we even have a dork for that and don’t worry, she’s in the process of switching over to WordPress so you wont have to visit that weird, scary place ever again. Still though if you aren’t currently hungry the writing and photos there should cure that unfortunate reality in a hurry.

Live!-ish

A couple weeks after that Golf Story post a game I had been anticipating for years finally released, Star Wars Legion. At the time my head was swirling with possibilities and while I still want to attempt it, it’s clear that at the time my eyes were bigger than my abilities. I did quite a few test videos and versions of the pictured setup and none of them came out at a quality I would have liked to share. I argued with myself that it was acceptable for a first time out but honestly that seemed like more of a cop-out than anything. I have continued painting on and off and am still trying to figure out a good way to set up my craft desk so I can possibly make videos. The way I envision it is maybe a way to paint, craft or learn while chatting about things that didn’t make it into their own blog posts. A way to sort of empty my brain of stuff I want to talk about in a more relaxed setting.

It is entirely possible something like that only sounds interesting in my head and not in practicality but there it is. I’d like to give it a shot but in a way that is nice to watch and not an exercise in pure amateurism. Regardless of how much prep I do I know it’ll never be perfect but best foot forward and all that. Much like with the blog I realized that the more work I put in the better the end result. Effort equals quality shouldn’t be that alien a concept but sometimes seeing it in action can really crystallize it for you.

This was definitely a failure of mine in 2018 and while it still disappoints me I will say that the attempt taught me a lot. That knowledge fed into my ability to make cooler things to go into my blog posts and in general sped up my content creation. As silver linings go I can’t really complain.

In the same vein a lot of us experimented with some streaming on Twitch through the year and while it was fun I’m not sure it’s something I want to dive into in any serious way. At least not for now. On the fringes of my always swirling project clogged brain I think it would fun for us to stream as a group a game or three that we enjoy. Seems to me there are a few on the horizon for 2019 that would be quite fun but we’ll see what happens.

Emile Berliner Died for This

I’d like to think that the inventor of the microphone would be proud of what his creation has wrought over the years but alas came April of last year. There is no use denying it, we did this. One day many years ago two friends were playing a game of Civilization when one of them, who shall remain nameless, suggested that they do a podcast together. This would give them a way to discuss their creative journey of hopefully, eventually, reaching their goals of writing full time, among other things. Now while she’ll say she was in fact not responsible for this, she is and we all know it. Not to mention I have proof, not that you know it though, it goes to a different school up in Canada.

At any rate while the origins of this whole thing may be questionable the result wasn’t and I enjoyed the experience immensely. Rolling into the new year we both hope to return to this with a more organized format and schedule and incorporate some other fun ideas. I feel it’s important to note that there is no “endgame” as such for this podcast. It really is just something we do for fun and as a way to keep us creatively engaged, no more, no less.

As it stands currently there are several back episodes, cutting room floor type things and two experiments we did with different content which have not been posted. Starting fresh with 2019 seems like a good time to rectify that. I look forward to once again sitting down and broadcasting our thoughts into the ether for the enjoyment of anyone who cares to listen along.

A Polyhedral Life

Throughout the course of the year quite a few of my posts wandered away from video games and other media to the realm of tabletop games, more specifically, Dungeons & Dragons. Conceptually I just think there are lot of interesting avenues of tabletop roleplaying to explore and more than that I just like talking about it. This might be further exacerbated by the fact that my work schedule isn’t allowing me to actually play any of the tabletop games I’d like to so this will have to suffice for now. I don’t have much more to say on this for right now except 2018 was a great year for my love of rolling dice so I would like 2019 to be at least more of the same but if possible, better.

In the same vein as D&D content I also had the privilege of taking part in a streamed game of D&D with a crew of lovely folks I met through twitter with @DMCorry as our Dungeon Master. His Twitch page is here. While I wasn’t able to make the scheduling work out for the entire run they are still going strong and are a joy to watch. Hopefully in the coming year I’ll have a chance to once again collaborate with these folks and others in the Twittersphere but for now stop by and cheer them on for 2019.

All Things Cardboard

To summarize.

We’re back in. It’s likely a mistake but it happened, wish us luck.

National Blood Pressure Month

For the second year in a row NaNoWriMo has come and gone and shockingly Sophycles and I have managed to hit the word goal by the deadline. Technically having written two continuous novel length word piles is something I didn’t think I’d be able to do, especially not within the time span of a month. So for that alone I appreciate it as a personal accomplishment and while I doubt either of these things will ever see publication it has shown me that it is at least within my power to achieve. We talked briefly, albeit this should go into a podcast, about whether or not I really want to write novel length works at all. 2018 showed me that I very much enjoy article formats and being able to touch on a variety of subjects as they strike me as relevant or interesting. Overall this is something I intend to try and explore more thoroughly going forward and see where my passion really lay. Either way it feels as though I’ve made some personal progress towards figuring out what I want from this whole endeavor.

Even after having the last one still so fresh in my mind I’d be hard pressed to say that I wasn’t at least a little excited for next November and clearing that hurdle for a third time.

Looking to the Horizon

So after all that, where do we go from here?

I know for a fact that I want to keep creating in some form or another and continue learning new ways to bring fun things, people and experiences to this blog. One thing I definitely learned last year was the tight balance I need to keep between reaching too far and expecting too little. Once you get on any kind of roll it’s hard to stop yourself from adding new goals before you’ve even really achieved the previous ones. On the other hand improving and expanding is vital to keeping yourself engaged and productive. This balance by far has been one of my biggest downfalls over the years and in the looming 2019 it’ll yet again be the hurdle I need to clear every day, week and month.

For the third, fourth or… fifth? Time I’m going to try and revive a Friday thing I liked doing and wrap up some of my favorite things from last year in a more traditional retrospective.

I look forward to seeing you then and apologize for being gone so long. Thanks for hanging around and I hope you had a wonderful start to the new year.

Here’s to you and your goals, creative or otherwise, in the year of humanity… 12,019.

Happy New Year.

  • Anthony

Friday Wrap-Up

This was something I said I wanted to do more regularly a while back and like comes naturally to people like me I promptly stopped doing it and immediately began hating myself. I knew it would happen almost the second I hit publish on that first Friday post and while I don’t regret stating the goal I do regret not following through. One because it sucks to make a promise and not come through and two because I actually legitimately enjoyed writing it.

So let’s give it another shot, shall we? I’ve missed a lot in the past month because of the aforementioned personality defect which I’ll wrestle with until I’m dead so I’m not going to bother recapping it all. We’re going to start fresh and cover a few interesting things that happened more recently.

In past posts I’ve been pretty harsh on companies like Ubisoft for their myriad failures and gaffes so I wanted to take this opportunity after reading an interesting article over at Kotaku to give them some kudos. We’ve had plenty of examples of companies who instead of fixing their mistakes simply abandon them and move on to a new project without so much of an admission of guilt. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of great examples of game devs who are willing to stick around and fix what they broke. Bungie did so with the first Destiny and are in the process of voluntarily re-living that adventure with Destiny 2 for reasons that escape me and everyone else.

The Division was a good game that failed to deliver on its promises at launch, a story as old as time, song as old as… anyways, suffice it to say that it struggled along for quite a while. In a surprising move Ubisoft and Massive were unwilling to simply let the game languish and die so instead they persisted until with the final content update it felt like the game they’d promised from day one. This questionable financial move was validated with the return of scores of new and old players giving what should have been a dead title a new lease on life. Even more to their credit with the announcement of The Division 2 complete with extensive gameplay previews they still haven’t stopped giving people reasons to play the original game. New challenges and badges have been added in order to earn cosmetic items in Division 2. They’re being drip fed to the community as the release of the sequel gets closer. As someone who stopped playing a while back after finishing the game finally I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering going back to get these shields.

I have high hopes for The Division 2 and this only serves to bolster them as Ubisoft and Massive continue to prove that they stand by their promises while striving to learn from their mistakes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lets rewind several years and remember the somewhat hilarious disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Recently it was revealed by an enterprising modder who was dead set on fixing the game that some of the more noticeable problems may have been caused by a typo. For anyone who has ever dabbled in any level of programming you can understand how much frustration a typo can cause you, only for most it isn’t to the tune of six figures and international ridicule.

If for nothing else it highlights just how delicate the development process can be and the kind of hell  these developers put themselves through with 80+ hour weeks in crunch time trying to get games finished. I can’t even imagine the amount of typos my code would be riddled with in that environment. In the case of this game it was one mistake among many but one of the few that was truly funny.

I came across this announcement about a game called Digimon Survive and 16-year old me has completely lost his shit especially since it was announced for the Switch which is exactly the right platform. I honestly don’t even remember much about Digimon in spite of watching the cartoon but I’m excited none the less to see how it turns out.

We. The Revolution is possibly one of the coolest game concepts I’ve seen in recent memory, either that or I have some kind of undocumented fetish for pixelated death after playing Domina for way too many hours. It doesn’t have a release date but I’ll be watching it closely.

I feel like this needs little or no explanation. It exists, yes I love it and if you don’t understand why, I can’t help you.

Young Justice Season 3 was announced which is fantastic! DC has had the market cornered on great animated content and its nice to see one of their best coming back.

Similarly the announcement that Clone Wars is finally going to get some closure has me once again anticipating a Star Wars release.

And Godzilla because, Godzilla.

Lastly I want to touch on the Shazaam! trailer that came out and say that I’m really happy to see that DC is attempting to loosen up a little bit and have some fun. It’s no secret that DC’s top superhero line-up is decidedly darker and more dour than their competition but playing into that has done them no favors so far. Their animated offerings have struck an impressive balance between being somber and funny but so far its eluded their DCEU outings except for brief moments here and there. And a somewhat ham-fisted attempt with the Flash in Justice League which was plagued with other issues. I’m not sure where the DCEU is going from here and if we’ll even see Shazaam team up with the rest of the Justice League but if for nothing else I hope this marks a new beginning for them. From here I’d definitely like to see them reintroduce Green Lantern who to date has been a conspicuously absent piece of the puzzle.

I think that’s it for now! What cool things did you come across recently? What things should I know about?

I hope you have a great weekend full of whatever it is you like to do or just some good old relaxation and doing nothing at all.

See you next week!

  • Non-Washable

Not Just Strange For The Sake Of It

I don’t think there are many people who would look back on 1995 and refer to it as a landmark year. Things happened, certainly, as they do every year and there are definitely things that made and are still making impacts all this time later but alas thirteen year old me was focusing on other things. Namely, TV.

You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking back and not remembering any real classic TV that debuted in 1995 with the most notable ones being Star Trek: Voyager, The Drew Carey Show and, Baywatch Nights? Pinky and the Brain may have been out that year as well. My parents loved Star Trek and we watched it regularly as a family so that was an instant hit but for the most part everything else sort of fell flat for me. Like many freshly minted teens in ’95 I had a voracious TV appetite and no access to it in my room so that meant if I couldn’t sleep or I simply wanted to watch more the only option was to sneak out to the living room after everyone had gone to sleep to see what was on.

Infomercials mostly, much to my chagrin.

At some point though I got lucky and something magical happened when I realized that after a bunch of the crappy infomercials there was a run of shows on that included Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess and, The Outer Limits. While Hercules and Xena will always have a special place in my heart as some of my all-time favorite cheesy adventures and acting this article isn’t going to focus on them. Rather on the strange misfit in that trio, The Outer Limits and what had me thinking about it again recently.

For me the only version of this show that I knew was the one that aired between 1995-2002 however it did exist prior to that in a short run during 1963-65. It’s more popular kindred show The Twilight Zone was just coming to a close at that time as it had aired between 1959-64. The Twilight Zone generally held to a more Fantasy-Horror theme where The Outer Limits skewed more towards Science Fiction which meant for me it was a perfect match. They both certainly strayed into each others chosen flavors but they primarily stayed in their own playgrounds.

Speculative
adjective
1. pertaining to, of the nature of, or characterized by speculation, contemplation, conjecture, or abstract reasoning: a speculative approach.

Over the course of my life I don’t think I’ve ever been a bigger Fantasy fan than I have Science Fiction but for no other reason than I simply enjoy the expansive nature of Sci-Fi.

Make sense? It didn’t to me, either.

It’s hard to put into words why one similar passion might necessitate winning out over another and I’ve long been loathe to name my “favorite” of anything much to the frustration of my friends. The fact is that for me it really depends on my mood, no one thing ever ranks as my all-time favorite regardless of what else may come along. Even the incredible tent-pole passions of my life like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dragonriders of Pern, Lord of the Rings and numerous others spend their time at numbers other than one as much as they do occupying that top spot. Like some sort of primal atavism they’re what I revert to when there is nothing to currently be consumed in the fire of my passion for new and exciting content.

Watching Amazon Prime’s Electric Dreams over the weekend, and by extension considering what I loved so much about The Outer Limits, I think it gave me some clarity. As I mentioned above Sci-Fi has this expansive quality to it where it takes bedrock principles of our daily reality and nudges at the boundaries to push us into new and exciting places or ways of thinking. What made me really appreciate the style and execution of these shows is how they explored big ideas in very small, personal and, relateable ways. Even though the vast majority of episodes shared no story, characters or common threads it was nearly impossible to not understand their plight and ride that feeling willingly to whatever bizarre destination was in store. As a young man with a fairly active imagination it was like taking a seat on a familiar carnival ride instead of the usual blind leap needed to immerse myself in a concept.

Fantasy for as much as I love it requires you to stand at a precipice of disbelief and leap armed with only the faith that the author has provided you with a soft spot to land so that you can get up and start exploring. Suspension of disbelief is a vital part of how we connect with these stories and worlds on anything more than a superficial level. This isn’t to say that Sci-Fi requires none of this in order to work but the type of speculative fiction present in these shows, and genre as a whole, has an almost seductive way of drawing you in. By the time things get truly weird you’ve barely noticed the transition and now you’re simply along for the ride. It’s pretty close to the exact reason that I appreciate the writing of Stephen King so much because many of his stories begin as you imagine many normal, average days do around the world. It takes the mundane and stretches it like taffy to sometimes laughable lengths but each step along the way is cemented in plausibility.

Fantasy will never make me look at my reality any differently, even for brief amounts of time, in the same way that Sci-Fi does, especially when presented in the style of The Outer Limits and Electric Dreams. Fantasy is like a bath that you immerse yourself in to lose any concept of your daily existence, to be transported to another world, to become another person entirely. It is an experience wholly removed from our own except in the most allegorical sense, something that can be ignored or acknowledged to the extent any individual chooses. Sci-Fi to me always feels like a more direct extrapolation where instead of fantasizing about living in a place that cant possibly exist, you are bidden to consider what small things would need to happen to bring us to this future.

Like in the oft repeated quote of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” watching this type of Sci-Fi seems like an exercise in the inverse of that idea. Instead of dwelling on things already past and how to avoid them in the future we look to what might be if only we could collectively clear a hurdle or two. Or in some cases fail to avoid the clear pitfalls before us. In this era of our existence we seem to constantly be on the precipice of some new wonderful, bizarre future and while we have yet to truly realize any of them the prospect is tantalizingly close. What The Outer Limits and Electric Dreams do for me is take our present reality on a walk through a maze of fun-house mirrors. Stopping occasionally to marvel at the warped and twisted caricature that stares back while trying to imagine what might have led us there and indeed what may lead us there if we aren’t careful.

While not all cautionary tales presented may have a basis in any possible future there are more than a few which seem less crazy today than when they first appeared on TV decades ago. A trend I suspect that will continue and actually accelerate as humanity stumbles onward into an increasingly muddy future. For example in the past decade we’ve started to have serious conversations on the governmental level about the regulation of AI development. A discussion most people viewed as an inevitability but just not one we’d have to address within our lifetimes, yet here we are.

It makes laughing at things like this a little harder and instead raises some questions we don’t have any easy answers to. It is sure fun to ponder though.

Many of the ideas and thought experiments posed are more philosophical in nature but that level of ambiguity often begs more consideration instead of less. It starts to become more about what we might do when it arrives and less about if. That is the conversation that holds my attention and its the one I enjoy having almost above all others. When I read or watch science fiction everything there seems within our reach if not for a few mathematical equations that elude our understanding. As much as I may want it with every fiber of my being I know I’ll never be able to conjure fire by sheer force of will. But conceivably before I’m dead I might be able to travel into space or visit the moon as an ordinary citizen of Earth.

So, what does this all this mean?

Honestly, I have no idea.

What I can tell you is that you should take some time and watch Electric Dreams then let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

  • Non-Washable