distracted and dismayed, part 2

I’m in that thing where I want to write, but I don’t feel like I have anything terribly interesting to write about, even as I keep a tab open specifically so that if anything interesting does happen to pop into my brain, I can write it down as quickly as possible before I inevitably delete it.

As with my last entry, I am in a weird emotional state.  I continue to be disgusted by Trump, and I continue to be frustrated with the seeming inability of anyone to do anything about it.  I cannot turn this frustration into anything useful; I come home from work exhausted and after putting my son to bed I find myself going to bed not that much later.

I don’t think I mentioned this, but I bought a new phone a little while ago; my iPhone 6 had been shitting the bed ever since I installed iOS 10, and so I decided to splurge and upgrade to a 7+.  I like it!  It’s huge but not distressingly so, and more importantly the damned thing works.  I have an alarm clock again!  I have tons of storage!  The new Portrait mode in the camera is fucking amazing!  And all the games I have for it look and sound better than they ever had before, and so I’ve been going back and re-downloading a bunch of cool stuff that I had to kick off my older phones simply because they took up too much room.

I have not yet bought any bluetooth headphones for it, though.  To be honest, I haven’t been listening to a lot of music on my commutes lately, and when I’m at work I have shitty but effective headphones for my PC.  (Even though they’ve turned off Facebook and Gmail, they’ve not yet turned off Spotify.)  I suspect I’ll break down and get some eventually, because I’m still in that sort of Trump-fueled anxiety that can apparently only be soothed by retail therapy.

Similarly, ever since the news broke that Pebble had been bought out by Fitbit and that Pebble’s smartwatches would stop being supported, I knew I’d have to get something new.  I am a smartwatch convert, even if I’m not particularly fitness-inclined.  In any event, you probably can guess where this is going – there’s an Apple store in my office complex, and so now I’m wearing an Apple Watch v2, and it’s quite lovely.  Even if I’m not using it for exercise, I do like that it reminds me to stand up every once in a while, and the ‘breathe’ app has come in handy during moments of stress.

Gaming-wise, let’s see… I’ve kinda given up on Prey, in that my last few save points are all in troublesome areas and I can’t seem to last more than 20 seconds without encountering immediate and certain death.  From everything I hear, the game falls apart towards its conclusion, so I’m kinda inclined to call it a day while I’m still intrigued by it, even as I know I’m still a ways off from where it falls off the rails.

I bought Danger Zone, which is basically Crash Mode from Burnout 3, and it’s… pretty good?  It’s pretty good.  The presentation is somewhat lackluster and the camera isn’t the best, but it’s still pretty great at creating joyous catharsis out of spectacular car collisions.  Load times are kinda shitty, which I hope can get improved with a patch, but it’s not (yet) the end of the world…

…I bought Injustice 2 a little while ago, even though I’m not really a big fighting game fan (nor am I a DC fan, either).  As far as fighting games go, it’s pretty amazing – I can see why it got the review scores it did – but I also know that I’m terrible at it, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get beyond “very easy” difficulty.

I also bought Shadow Warrior 2, which I need to spend more time with.  A friend of mine worked on it, and I’m hoping to put up an interview with him once we’ve both spent a bit more time with the final product.

also bought Lego City Undercover, even though I told myself I was done with Lego games, because I think my kid will get a kick out of it.  I played a couple missions last night; it’s essentially Lego GTA, but you play as a police officer, and nobody really gets hurt.  I think that’s OK for him to mess around with.

Book-wise… I finished Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, which was quite good.  Now I’m on book 2 of Ben Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy, which is also quite good – I mean, they’re relatively on-the-nose detective novels, but surrounding each mystery is the fact that an asteroid is going to collide with Earth and destroy all living creatures in about 4-6 months, and so the priorities of day-to-day life have changed somewhat.  (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I relate to this context a bit more than I’d like to, being that we’re living under President Donald “Covfefe” Trump who decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord for no discernible reason other than that Obama helped make it.)

Yeah, I’m not going to back off of politics here.  I mean, that’s not what this blog is about – you can see my twitter feed for that, if you need to – but given the state of events, it’s hard to not talk about this stuff.

That’s it and that’s all.


distracted and dismayed

Yes, it’s been a while.  No, I’m not dead.

It is very hard to write about videogames while Donald Trump is still President.  Indeed, it is very hard to enjoy videogames while Donald Trump is President.  I sit in my basement every night, intending to release pent-up energy by committing digital murder, and instead I pause whatever game I’m attempting to play and continue refreshing Twitter, because HOLY SHIT HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY GET ANY WORSE [refreshes Twitter] HOLY SHIT IT GOT WORSE.  This has been going on for the last two weeks.

Nor do I have anything exciting to talk about, as I’d hinted at in the opening of my last entry.  The very short and necessarily non-specific version of that little vaguebook thing is that an amazing opportunity fell in my lap, and I went for it, but it didn’t work out.  It was the correct decision by all parties involved, even if I’m still a bit disappointed.  And I also ended up catching a horrific cold because of it.  That’s that, basically.

I’m kinda playing Prey at the moment, and also Injustice 2 for some reason (I was home sick yesterday and saw it was getting amazing reviews).  Prey is something that needs a bit more focus on my part to properly discuss, and I don’t have it in me today to get there.  I am enjoying it, though I also feel like I’m terrible at it, even on the easiest difficulty setting.  It’s hard to play it and not be reminded of any of the Bioshock games, though I think I’m enjoying this a little bit more than those games if only because the world and the story and the gameplay actually sorta have something to do with each other.   Prey is a hard game to binge on, though; I inevitably get frustrated or stuck and feel compelled to turn it off before I start souring on it.

As far as books go, the last book I mentioned here was “A Gentleman In Moscow”, which was wonderful.  After that I read “Waking Gods“, the sequel to last year’s excellent “Sleeping Giants“; it’s not quite as good as the original, but I’m certainly curious as to where it’s going.  Then I read Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”, which is as amazing as everyone said it would be.  I am currently (and very slowly) reading Jeff VanderMeer’s “Borne”, which is also quite good and I have absolutely no idea where it’s going, even as I’m about a third of the way into it.

All right, I think I have to call it now.  I have medicine-head and work is piling up and I need to refresh Twitter again.

a hole in my life

[Please pardon any typos in this entry; I have a bit too much adrenaline in my system for reasons I can’t yet disclose, but will hopefully reveal in the not-too-distant future.]

So where was I?  In last week’s post, I had rolled credits on Mass Effect Andromeda after sinking in 60+ hours and nearly all of my remaining available attention after worrying about my mom in the hospital and being alone in my house while my family vacationed in Florida.

I am now in that familiar post-game void, where the urge to sit down and play something is at odds with the lack of anything fresh in my library.  I mean, yes, I have dozens of games in my backlog, but a lot of them are either things that I’ve already played or are things that I can’t find my way back into.  (Exhibit A:  Final Fantasy XV, which I’m just not sure I’m ever going to get into.)

That said, I do need to play something, because there’s a giant Mass Effect-sized hole in my life, and so over the weekend I started and finished What Remains of Edith Finch for the PS4.

I don’t know how to describe this game without spoiling it or, arguably worse, comparing it to Gone Home.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Gone Home!  I adore that game.  And in all fairness, I’m not sure that Edith Finch would even exist were it not for Gone Home; after all, Edith Finch is, among other things, a story about a family that is told via the exploration of a strange house.

That said, Edith Finch is a remarkable achievement, and one that will linger in my mind for a very long time.  I’m not sure I’ve been as emotionally affected by a game since, well, probably Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  To be sure, this is a story about death, of a family that feels cursed, and of the eerie and odd spaces of the mind.

I should also state, very loudly, that Edith Finch is not a “walking simulator.”  That is perhaps the most ingenious thing about it; as you explore the house and experience the final moments of your family members through journal entries, those journal entries become playable set pieces, and part of the puzzle is seeing just what you can and can’t do.  Ironically, my least favorite character narrative (that of the older brother, recovering from drug addiction and working a very repetitive job in a cannery), contained the most compelling gameplay – your right hand goes through this very mechanical and repetitive (but necessarily very precise) movement pattern, while your left hand ends up doing something utterly different and fantastical, and then suddenly the end of that sequence comes out of nowhere.  (Well, not nowhere – and again, it’s impossible to talk about this without spoiling it – but in the most general terms you’re led to expect that the actions of the right hand are where this person’s end will result because you’re too busy paying attention to what’s happening with the left hand, but what ends up happening is something else entirely.)

And, of course, the game’s ending is – look, I can’t talk about it.  It is better to not know.  Perhaps I’ll write up a spoiler-filled post and talk about it, because I HAVE to talk about it.  But GODDAMN the ending hit me like a ton of bricks.

Folks, the game is $20 on Steam and PS4 and you should play it.  It’s about 4-5 hours and it’s unlike anything else you’ll play this year, and it will move you in ways that you might not expect.  As I’ve noted before, I spent $90 and 60 hours on the deluxe edition of ME:A and didn’t care about a goddamned thing I was doing; I finished Edith Finch in two sittings and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it out of my head.  It is executed about as well as it can be, and this will be near the top of my GOTY list without question.

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