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Tycho / 1 week ago

It seems like it’s getting more difficult to retain one’s identity.  Is anyone else getting that impression?  It’s bad enough that you need to fucks with all your autopay shit and get a new card, but settling on a new identity can be fraught for real.  You might want to have one on deck just so you’re ready when the inevitable happens.  Next time I get “the call,” I’m gonna go with Burnaby Swaggler and I’m gonna be super into teak.  Yeah, I mean the wood.

That’s gonna be my thing.

I really liked the first two Amnesia games.  I think SOMA is also an Amnesia game, for a lot of reasons, but also because you can’t really talk about it without ruining it.

There is something kind of strange about trying to approach a “Lovecraftian” project, as they did with the first Amnesia: the Mythos trades on the unknown, and indeed the unknowable.  So in order to do something that is Lovecraftian in the truest sense it can’t be Lovecraftian in a material sense.  Bloodborne is an amazing example of something that feels “right” while only evoking the broadest strokes, and it gets there because its mythology is its own.  You have a right to disagree on this obviously, but deep down these stories are about what we can know.  What it is possible to know.  One concentric ring out from that idea, one parenthesis, we start talking about who, or what, actually contains this “knowing.”  It turns out that it is a super good thing to make a game about.

I was always going to buy SOMA, which I think I’m going to start typing as Soma.  I like games where you walk around and feel bad; it’s what I do the rest of the time, so I’m something of a gourmet.  But the video that made me excited that I had bought it is this one, what they call the “Story Trailer.”  I really, really don’t like the end of it.  I think Kris Straub would call that “body horror” though it’s possible I’m wrong and body horror is something else.  But can we agree that it’s horrible?

The last time I felt like I do in Soma is when I played The Swapper.  I don’t consider The Swapper optional in the overall interactive ouvre - it has some of the best puzzles and best writing in the medium.  I haven’t put a bow on Soma yet, both of these games get at some of the same themes: what it means to be who you are.  I had to stop “playing” last night because it was late and my reserves were low; I couldn’t handle the atmosphere anymore.  I was “playing” a “game” but it’s hard to imagine the things I experienced being considered a leisure activity.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

A note, which is secondary to the topic of the strip:  something is happening with this motherfucker’s art.  The panels look like they’re about an inch deep apiece, and I feel like if I tilted my head to left or right a little bit, I could see behind the characters.  I don’t know anything about art in general, but I know about his art, and the way he perceives space has been altered.

There’s a new Animal Crossing which isn’t like the old Animal Crossings, in that it’s basically just the decorating part and that’s it.  I’ve seen a few reviews of the game which lament the fact that Happy Home Designer places too much emphasis on designing happy homes, which is fine, but you can’t exactly say you weren’t warned.  My mom would probably say something similar; she’s kind of an OG in Animal Crossing.  She likes the whole loop.  I guarantee there is an audience for this, though.  And, like a spooky call, it’s coming from inside the house.  By which I mean my house.

Not me, no.

In The Sims, Brenna didn’t mind that people had jobs because that was a part of their character - but the idea of waiting actual time to earn pretend money is not even a thing for her.  I would hesitate to generalize overmuch, I’m simply giving you information: the arc we tend to prize in games isn’t a sigil with universal power.

For people who have difficulty taking time for themselves anyway, games of the kind we tend to like are very insulting.  The game she actually wanted to play in The Sims for example was entirely about social interactions and interior design, and she was forced to endure what she perceived as a fundamentally false slash manipulative drip feed of potential gated by earning “currency.”  Pretending to work is not aspirational, it just made her feel like it was wasting her time on the way to what she wanted to do.  So while I think that life-sim stuff will be missed by the Animal Crossing stalwart to varying degrees, I’m actually overjoyed that they committed to an experiment like this.

“Screen Time” is sort of my domain, just because I like this kind of stuff and I know how it all works, but I’m gonna drop Happy Home Designer on the card in my 3DS, hand it over to Ronia and Brenna, and see if we can’t cook up a different kind of tradition.

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / 2 weeks ago

Anki Overdrive

I got the Anki starter set last Christmas “for my kids” and we’ve had a lot of fun with it over the last year. I saw that the expansion was set to come out and made a tweet to my wife suggesting she get it for me for my Birthday. Then a big box of it showed up at my house a couple days before release. It seems the Anki folks saw my tweet and found out where I lived.

So that’s pretty cool.

and a little scary.

Regardless! I spent some time this past weekend playing with it and I figured I’d share.

If you’re not familiar with Anki, it’s essentially robot slot cars with weapons. You control the cars from an app on your phone or tablet. The cars themselves are smart enough to stay on the track most of the time. You control the speed and steer it within the borders of the track. You also use the app to fire your weapons and upgrade your cars.

It was already pretty rad.

The big difference with Overdrive is that the tracks are modular now. The tracks used to be pre-printed on big sheets that you rolled out and then raced on. Now you build your track from various pieces just like the old slot car tracks. They also have added elevation so now you have risers and jumps. Once you build your track, the cars do a couple slow laps as they scan the layout. The app builds a little map of your track and then it’s off to the races.

Literally I guess.

I thought I was a cool guy because I made my track go under the couch.

Then I saw this shit.

I think Overdrive is a huge improvement over last year’s offering. The modular tracks are exactly what Anki needed. I will say that in my experience it can be harder to keep your cars on the track now. I started building some bank turns using couch pillows and Legos that were pretty tricky. It used to be that you could just go full gas all the time but now you can build tracks that require more precise driving. As a recent Forza convert, I find the challenge really exciting.

This is something my boys and I like to play together. It’s easy enough for my 5yo to play and challenging enough for my 11yo and I. If robot slot cars and real world mario kart sounds cool to you, Anki Overdrive will not disappoint.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

The office I share with Gabrickle always manifests certain properties, certain ratios, which are designed to retain a configuration we have deemed holy.  At every turn we have endeavored to replicate Apartment 26 on the off-chance that it was the apartment that was responsible for all of this and not something we did.  There is a couch and our desks and a television arranged in accordance with the mysterious weft of the universe.

So it is as much like a living room as possible, essentially.  And it was into this fully armed and operational idea gestation engine that he did bring his Man Candles, an assortment of them.  I did a search online for “Mandles” and found no less than six purveyors of candles whose scent profiles are optimized for today’s man(?).  One was even called Mandles, which makes me want to fight.  There’s low hanging fruit, and then there’s just buying some fruit in the produce section of the grocery store.  The brand Mork has is called Old Factory, which certainly evokes a realm of productive masculine virtue, but I prefer to think that there is someone over there who managed to sneak the word olfactory into the name of their candle company - and to this person or persons I doff my metaphorical cap.

Some of the candles out there are jokes about the idea of candles for men, which I endorse wholeheartedly.  There are also some designed specifically to evoke, and perhaps even summon or bind some kind of Eternal Grandfather.  I think it would be difficult to pin down what precisely it means to be a man, I’m not very good at it yet.  But at some level it’s got to be about Not Giving A Shit if Someone Gives A Shit.  By which I mean: if you want to burn candles, and somebody is like “hey you’re a man what why are you” and you’re like “fuck you, warm honeysuckle 4 lyfe” and then I think you kill them with the candles?

I have no idea.  Like I said, I’m new.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 2 weeks ago

For a long time, you could make the case that - no matter the role - that Nolan North was basically playing Nolan North.  Because this is the Internet, I have to append this suffix; I’m not even saying this is a bad thing.  I like Nolan North.  I mean, I don’t know him, but I like his whole thing.  Nolan North as the Ghost in Destiny though is a sometimes energetic, sometimes fragile, always a little nervous thing.  It’s great.  He also has the best line in the new Destiny, at least from my perspective.

There are these evil balls you need to open doors sometimes, called Tomb Husks - the balls are the husks, not the doors - and they are the Needed Object to progress.  Sometimes, when you grab one, your Ghost says that “It is better to have a Tomb Husk and not need it than to need a Tomb Husk and not have it.”  It is simultaneously true and also takes the entire notion of a Tomb Husk grates it into confetti.  But that combination of words is too funny, sorry.  When we were playing a quest that required them the other night, we started to wonder about their origins and what structures we were reifying by being party to their use.

I had dropped out of the group pretty hard before the expansion, my dedication has always been in question, but I had to Witch almost constantly to bring that sitch to fruition.  I told them that I was a “rolling stone,” which “makes it difficult for moss and lichens to attach and thrive” but they weren’t feeling my flavor.  It’s possible they didn’t like being the “moss” in that euphemism.  But I got into the group after they already had the two extant raids on lock, I was filling a hole in the group, but the crew was already deeply professionalized.  Coming into a brand new one with no FAQ and no YouTube guru to firmly delineate the rituals is something I’m pretty excited about, even though my experience with previous raids has shown them to be warrens of absolutely the worst kind of bullshit treachery.

(CW)TB out.

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