1. Whether we like it or not, all things must eventually come to an end. We’ve all had that experience where we’re reading a book that we love so much that we never want to put it down, or a song that we can’t stop listening to… but eventually we do, and we have to, because we don’t want to ruin the thing that we love by wearing it out.
This is why it’s sometimes hard for me to stay engaged with a game once it’s outstayed its welcome, and especially when the game in question doesn’t actually have an official finish line. I’ve put in probably close to 30 hours in The Division by this point; I’m level 23, I’ve only got a few more main missions to go before my Penn Station base is completely finished, but I’m starting to grow weary of the game’s repetitiveness. The side missions and encounters and diversions are all identical except that tougher enemies take more bullets. I’m no longer wandering the streets looking for collectibles, since I know that once I finish all the side missions they’ll automatically pop up on my map anyway. I was hoping I’d stay engaged long enough to hit level 30 and do a little cursory exploration of the Dark Zone, even though I don’t care about PvP; now my goal is simply to make it to 41st Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, to see if my day job’s location is accurately portrayed. (Spoiler alert – it most likely isn’t; with a few exceptions here and there, the NYC that’s portrayed in this game bears little resemblance to the actual NYC. I’ve already glanced at the map and immediately noticed that there’s no exit/side-street for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, which bisects 4-5 blocks between 2nd and 3rd Avenues; then again, the game also features a 2nd Avenue subway, so perhaps this near-future Manhattan has done away with the tunnel altogether.)
This is not to say that I think The Division is a bad game; frankly, compared to Ubisoft’s other recent offerings, it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable to play, and in many ways it reminds me of what Watch Dogs could’ve been. But I find myself turning my brain off the longer I go; I ignore cutscenes and narrative beats because they’re meaningless at this point. I finish a mission and they show me recovered video of atrocities committed by the game’s “enemies”, but I find it hard to care considering that I just killed hundreds of people single-handedly. All I’m doing is moving from waypoint to waypoint, mowing people down, hoping they drop something useful. This was fun for the first dozen hours, but it’s growing monotonous; there’s no depth. I continue to hide behind cover and pop off shots here and there, the same way I did 30 hours ago, but now I have a portable turret. I spend too much time agonizing over the relative merits and statistical improvements of different kneepads. Do I sell? Do I deconstruct? Is there any point in engaging with the Advanced Weapons Dealer in the Ops Base before hitting level 30?
I need more co-op time, I guess. That made the game a lot more fun to play, because suddenly I could think tactically instead of simply rushing from cover to cover; my friend and I could consider locational positioning, and work on flanking and suppressing. Granted, this too eventually gets repetitive, but at least we can still talk to each other instead of simply listening to the horrible, horrible stereotypical New Yorker voice acting of each safe house’s side-mission giver.
Then again, I’m not necessarily in any rush to get it out of my house; if my rental Q is to be believed, I still have more than a week before Quantum Break and DiRT Rally show up. But I do need to put it away, soon, because otherwise I’ll just feel like I’m wasting time.
2. Oculus Rift reviews are dropping all over the place, and they all seem to be saying the same thing: “a key to a new era of entertainment“, “like nothing you’ve ever experienced before“, “It [has] changed how we think of games.” I guess this is good? That hopefully this isn’t a fad? I have no stake in this tech one way or the other; I think I’ve said this already, but in case I haven’t, right now the only VR set that I’ve got any eyes on is the PSVR, because my gaming PC is more or less busted and I can’t afford a new one right now, much less a new one AND a Rift. I’m curious, I suppose, but until I actually experience it I will remain skeptical. (I also wear glasses, and I suspect that wearing glasses underneath a VR headset is problematic.)
I’m also a little skeptical of Sony’s ability to make their VR unit compelling for more than, say, the initial launch quarter. Considering the horrendous support that the PSP and the Vita have gotten, it’s hard to have faith that PSVR will be worth the investment – especially since it sounds like any PS4 owner would have to upgrade to the PS4.5 in order to get the most out of the VR setup. As someone who’s owned multiple iterations of iPhones, of course I’m going to upgrade to a more powerful PS4, irrespective of my decision to jump on the VR bandwagon, but not everyone can make the same jump, and the more I think about it, the more of a mess it becomes.
3. Regarding the aforementioned “all things must end”: I’m currently reading Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” and it is slow-going; it’s beautifully written but there’s tragedy on every page, and it’s the sort of thing where I have trouble sticking with it, if only because there’s only so much Chechen atrocity I can handle in one sitting. (There is a section describing the plight of teenaged refugees being kidnapped and executed, and the remaining family members asking for portraits of their missing loved ones; and while it is poetic and beautiful to read, it’s also gut-wrenchingly devastating; I was reading this on the evening commute, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting out in sobs.)
4. I finally got around to seeing Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” over the weekend. I’m… I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s impossible to discuss without spoiling it, so I might make a separate post about it. I’m glad I saw it, and I’m sure it would make one hell of a play, but I’m also wondering if I’m starting to get a bit weary of QT’s tics and mannerisms. (It also didn’t help that the film’s opening credits introduce the film as “The Eighth Film from Quentin Tarantino”.)
5. I was going to wrap this post up by talking a bit about Corey Feldman’s IndieGoGo campaign, but I don’t feel like mocking him. I mean, if you click on that link, most of the mocking is already done for you; you will cringe and recoil in horror involuntarily, whether or not I prepare you for what you see. Frankly, I have no business making fun of him; I have an album of my own that I’m trying to finish, and while I’d love to raise some funds to be able to hire my friends to play on it and have it recorded and mixed by a guy who actually knows what he’s doing instead of me simply dicking around on my Macbook, I’d be lucky to get even half of the pitiful amount he’s raised. If you’re making art, and you’re sincere in your desire to make something that you believe is important and beautiful, I don’t want to make fun of you. I’d rather be angry at myself for not working as hard as I should, because I at least have some measure of control over it.
So instead, let me leave you with maybe the best remembrance (of many) of the late, great Garry Shandling.
“Make the spiritual search more important than the problem,” he told me once. Better than anyone I know, he understood that the search was the destination, that messiness was better than tidiness, that the complexity that makes us suffer also is the source of all beauty.