Robert and Gabriel (who is also called Mike, Michael, Misha briefly, and - though rarely - Mihael) took me out to lunch for my birthday a couple weeks ago, to a place called Von’s they had discovered and enjoyed. The past tense of "enjoy" is appropriate here, and not only because this all happened in the past. I’m not sure we’ll be eating there again: it turns out that there is an inverse relationship between appetite and the presence of mice.
At least, there should be. My compatriots were deeply affected by his presence. Once I learned that our meal was essentially being subsidized by the creature, I began to feel toward him a certain warmth. I summoned additional Sarsaparillas and craggy, mountainous desserts. I would raise my glass to him as he poked out from his barrel, as if to say "You know what, mouse? You’re okay by me."
They had named him Chico, I assumed to normalize somewhat the idea of a rodent perpetually underfoot in an eatery, but this was incorrect. It was really more to differentiate him from Pico, the other mouse.
There was a Games for Windows hovel at The Last E3 Ever, viewable only from specific angles, and most of the content within it gave me the willies. It consisted largely of games which did not run well on machines that I felt confident were equipped with at least two video cards, and I would say that the "take-away message" was one of terror for the medium.
I saw a game there, though, that I haven’t talked about until now, because I am only retroactively excited by the prospect: I actually saw it on two different screens, and the material being shown was so different on each that I assumed they were two different games. In reality I was seeing a character walking through a lush valley and also a constructible city from a high vantage point, but both scenes were from FunCom’s Age of Conan.
It was my entry point into Conan creator Robert E. Howard‘s work, which is to say the amazing work he managed to create before he succumbed to depression and suicide. Occupational hazard for writers, I suppose.
I was pulled into his work by a single animation from the game, which I will admit sounds ridiculous, and even more so when you understand that it was an idle animation: it was the player character from the back, leaning heavily on one foot, one shoulder held higher than the other. The way he - I have already admitted this is ridiculous - the way he shifted his weight communicated that this was not only a bestial sort of aggressor, but that he was bored, the way a great cat can become bored, ready to kill for sport.
Months later I asked my comic store guy for a good entry point into the series, and I heard there were a number of trades out, and he directed me toward Conan: The Tower Of The Elephant (And Other Stories). I read three more trades and then jumped to the pure stuff - uncut product from Howard himself. I was startled to find horror and mysticism in the stories, startled to learn he had been a contemporary and even a correspondent of Lovecraft’s. When FunCom secured the license originally, I had no idea what they were thinking. Now, I know what they were thinking with absolute precision: why didn’t anyone do this before?