Since I played Borderlands 1 and 2 back to back, it made little sense to try and create two different entries. It makes even less sense given both games are almost identical. Sure, there is a reddit thread for everything, but most of the “differences” are nerds talking about math and skags.
I spent most of my evenings for the past couple weeks co-oping Borderlands with my BF. Exploring Pandora is best done with someone else; I’ve attempted to finish the first installment since 2012 but never had the motivation to finish in single-player mode. I think that’s because while Borderlands is pretty good at world building (I consider Claptrap and Scooter muh friends) the game doesn’t exactly suck you. Everything seems tangential and nothing important, particularly the story.
One of the best adult moments I’ve had is experiencing the music of The Beatles. Consider that I almost made it to 30 before really appreciating the breadth and endless selection from the best band of all time. How did I avoid it for so long?
When I was younger, I was extremely pro African American music. I was the only white 17 year old I knew in the county of Hanover that could list every Stevie Wonder album and owned Marvin Gaye shirts. When driving my friends around, I felt it was my job to introduce them to Ray Charles, The Four Tops, and the like.
Out of spite, I defended it against all potential perpetrators, particularly The Beatles. My main evidence? The early creampuff pop entries that were fueled by Beatlemania and teenage girl hysteria. I didn’t know, or care to find out, about the later albums when the band grew up and began to push music forward in all sorts of ways.
Rubber Soul is the demarcation. After this album, The Beatles were no longer boys singing about wanting to hold your hand. There might still be a lot of relationship talk, but the edginess and experimentation is evident. There was no going back after this.
Every system from the 90s required a mascot with side-scrolling adventure. Early Mario and Sonic games are not that different to play. Both involve making articulate jumps as you perilously move from L to R.
Crash Bandicoot isn’t any different either. Even though it came out in the mid 90s and is 3D, the game sends you down train tracks and tunnels. There isn’t anything to explore; it’s a decorated hallway with tons of traps.
Somehow, it still gives you that visceral gut check. I cringed with every “almost made it” slip up and rang out in glee when entering the exit tunnel. What I was most interested in was the extra challenge of breaking all the boxes. The game boasts 45 hidden gems along with the mandatory 25 crystals. I thought i’d been spending a good part of my Winter pulling off amazing feats of daring acrobatics to close out this game with a 100%.
Some games try and reach a higher plane of existence. Using powerful narratives, nostalgic music, and stylized imagery, some games really come across as high art and should be adored.
Diablo III is more like Candy Crush.
The backdrop is the typical fantasy trope, but what really sets Diablo apart is what happens in the foreground: button smashing. Each piece of movable plastic on the controller is mapped to a different ability with different recharge times and effects. Battle is the effort to smash each button in the most efficient manner possible by timing your reflexes to be in line when an attack refreshes.
Battles are nothing more than reaction tests without consequences. Endless battle against hordes of enemies don’t matter as you skillfully press X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y.
This movie opens with a 30 minute sequence without a single speck of dialogue. It ends with a cosmic fever dream of technicolor leaving us only with questions. It’s completely weird, but it isn’t trying to impress us or convince us of anything; it just does what it wants to without a sales pitch.
It’s the difference between trying to convince you that it’s artsy (hey! look at how avant-garde I am!) and just being artsy (I don’t really give a fuck what you think). Somehow the latter dismissive approach was the better way to win me over. The pace is sometimes equal to the velocity of a snail, but the plodding builds to exquisite moments.
Taking total responsibility for all facets of your life can lead to great change, but it can also lead to great exhaustion.
The idea that you have untold potential beneath the surface waiting to be unleashed is enticing. Instead of being stuck with a body, relationship, or job you don’t like, you can accomplish everything you put your mind to. How?
Take complete ownership.
You are the reason you are in a job that sucks.
You are the reason you don’t have satisfying relationships.
You are the reason you haven’t lost weight.
There are no extraneous factors to blame, only yourself. It’s a bit irrational, yes, but this simple mindset was a breath of fresh air to my cognition. I could no longer hide from not living up to my potential because I couldn’t put the onus on something else.
I’ve been inundated with pro-capitalism news. Steven Pinker has no shortage of statistics showing how global poverty is being eradicated, environmentalism is thriving, and wars are being reduced due to the principles of free markets. It’s a compelling and important message to get out there given how easy it is to be nihilistic in present times; we live in the most abundant times, but feel as if we have nothing.
Then, something like The Grapes of Wrath comes along and shows you that all that cheery news has a darkside. There are real people this system grinds up. It makes us lose our humanity. It changes our relationships with each other.
By no means have I flipped to some socialistic view. Hell, if we followed the Joad family for a little longer, the post-WWII years would have lifted many out of this meager existence. However, it has made me rethink what we need to do to minimize the negative effects.