friday lists: distraction edition

Games I Should Be Playing, Apparently, According to Twitter:

  1. Undertale, which is somehow already old news thanks to
  2. Stardew Valley.

To be fair to both of these games, it’s not their fault.  It’s mine.  I have a PC that’s barely holding itself together, and I’m also missing the part of my childhood that has any nostalgia for retro graphics and/or Harvest Moon.*   (This is also why I’m finding myself somewhat immune to the charms of the (currently free for PS+ members) Broforce.)

Games I’m Playing, Not Quite Begrudgingly, But Mostly Just Because They’re There:

  1. Far Cry Primal.  It’s not bad!  And while it’s more or less the same game as the last two, I find that I do prefer the emphasis on stealth.  And certainly ever since Elder Scrolls: Oblivion I’ve always found myself in open-world RPGs gathering plants obsessively, and it’s nice to finally have a real, legitimately important use of them.  Do I care about what I’m doing?  No, but that’s never really stopped me before, as far as Far Cry games go.  Will I finish the game?  Probably not, since The Division is coming next week.
  2. Train Conductor World, which just hit iOS this week and is the third (and best) iteration of the Train Conductor formula.  Also, I’ve been using it as a negotiating ploy with my son; if he stays in bed, he gets to play it on my iPad in the morning.  (He is obsessed with trains.)  (He is also getting somewhat better about staying in bed.)

Books I’m Currently Reading:

  1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra, which has been on my to-do list for a while.  The problem is, I’m not really in the mood for it right now; I do want to get to it, but I’m finding myself unwilling to stay with it.  So I’m putting it aside for the moment and instead I’m reading
  2. Songs of a Dead Dreamer / Grimscribe, by Thomas Ligotti, which is ABSOLUTELY my speed right now.  Why is my current speed that of super-creepy dread that gets under my skin and stays there all day?  I don’t know, but it’s what’s happening.  I’d previously read Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco, which was similarly creepy and dreadful; I’m still in the beginning of this collection but I’m ready to say that it’s far superior already, for whatever that’s worth.

Things I’m Currently In Denial About:

  1. that there’s $11 in my checking account
  2. the Republican party
  3. that I’ve had Cookie Clicker running in my browser for two weeks
  4. that I’m still no closer to getting my album done, even though I’m taking off a week from work in early April with the specific purpose of finally finishing this goddamned thing
  5. the impending NJ Transit strike

(Normally I’m very much pro-union, and I hate Chris Christie with the fire of a thousand suns, and if Christie is the sort of shitbag who’s willing to fuck up the George Washington Bridge just out of spite, I have little to no faith that he’s going to be a reasonable negotiator at these talks.  That being said, have you ridden NJ Transit lately?  It’s a fucking joke.  The morning train has been overcrowded and inexplicably late all week this week, and Penn Station during the evening rush is the living embodiment of a panic attack, and I only wish it were possible for me to work from home.  It is literally impossible for me to work from home.)

 


* I know I’ve said this before, but if you’re just joining us for the first time, I went from the Atari 2600 to my younger brother’s Sega Genesis, and then only had cursory knowledge of the PS1, and my first console that I bought with my own money was the Dreamcast.  Actually, that’s not even true; the Dreamcast was a birthday gift from an ex-girlfriend.

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“the texture of the search itself”

“It’s all right,” dialogue boxes assure her, “it’s part of the experience, part of getting constructively lost.”
Before long, Maxine finds herself wandering around clicking on everything, faces, litter on the floor, labels on bottles behind the bar, after a while interested not so much in where she might get to than the texture of the search itself.
– Thomas Pynchon, “Bleeding Edge”

I’m 8 chapters into the new Pynchon book, and I am continually amazed at how such an famously reclusive author who is also, at this point, an old man, can still get it when it comes to popular culture.  The quote I pulled above describes a Second Life-esque game experience (the book takes place in 2001, 2 years before Second Life was officially released), but that phrase at the end – “the texture of the search itself” – is the thing that’s hitting me square in the solar plexus.  It’s precisely that feeling of pure exploration for exploration’s sake that makes games like Journey feel so utterly transcendent – or, likewise, of simply wandering around in Skyrim (or other Bethesda RPGs) and seeing what pops up along the way.

And it’s also very much why I’m still playing GTA V, despite my weariness of the game’s many faults; for as much as the game’s narrative can fly off the rails, and the characters are simply poorly motivated (when they’re not being actively repulsive), the world is so incredibly detailed that I tend to tune the other stuff out.  Kotaku’s been featuring some videos that highlight just how subtle some of these details really are (this one in particular is pretty amazing); my personal favorite thing that I’ve seen is how, after a head-on collision with an oncoming car, the driver of the other car will silently, but with great anger, flip you the bird.

Rockstar’s Social Club says that I’m 65% complete.  I’ve finished 59 of the game’s 69 missions, plus a few miscellaneous activities here and there.  I’m definitely in the home stretch, as it were; there’s “one last job” to pull off, though we haven’t started planning it yet.  The point I’m slow in getting to is that I’m probably not going to write any more about it until I’ve finished the main story, so that I can then try to put the whole thing together.

Other things that I’m hoping to write about this week include:

  • Beyond: Two Souls, which will probably arrive on Thursday or so from Gamefly;
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest, which came out on iOS last week and which I’m pretty disappointed with;
  • Cookie Clicker, which is currently running on my browser at home (I’m generating 4.5 billion cookies per second);
  • Picross titles that I just discovered are in the 3DS eshop (sadly, they are only 2D puzzles, which are not nearly as interesting or as fun to solve as Picross 3D (on the 2DS), but it’s still Picross, so…); and
  • Minerva’s Den, which I got for free when 2K upgraded everybody’s copy during the switch from GFWL to Steam.  I’d originally played Bioshock 2 on the 360 and was summarily disappointed by it, and so I’d sent it back before Minerva’s Den was released; I then picked up Bioshock 2 on the PC during a sale but couldn’t access Minerva’s Den, for some reason; now I have it, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, being that I’ve heard such amazing things about it.  I actually gave it a quick spin over the weekend and realized that I’d forgotten how to play the original Bioshock – and while the PC version offers controller support, they never re-wrote the in-game button prompts to tell you how to do things with the controller, so it might be a little while before I get the hang of it.
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