In a year that defied description, there were two games that stole my heart. I have written about both of them in length and I extolled the virtues of one of them in my previous post. The other co-GOTY is second because I’m doing it alphabetically and because, well, I’ll get to the second reason once I announce it.
The best game that still brings me to tears whenever I think about it
This game is one of those comes along once in several years and I have to give massive props to Thunder Lotus Games for creating it. Their tagline for the game is, “Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about dying.” While, yes, it is that in a nutshell, at its heart, it’s so much more.
I knew about this game before it was released. I was following it on Steam and when Ian let me know it was being released, I checked it out on Steam. Why did I have an eye on it? Quite bluntly, because of the graphics. The game is hand-drawn and saturated in rich, lush colors. The colorful cartoon characters as well. The palate is breathtaking and I loved the attention to details. There was a demo on Steam, which I downloaded. After the short demo, I fell in love and quickly bought the game.
There is so much about this game that I absolutely adored. Oh, before I go any further, I will be talking about the game as a whole so there will be spoilers. With that out of the way, let’s talk about what this game is and isn’t. There is no combat and there is very little in the way of action. There is no voice acting and all the conversations (and there are many) are done as text. So if reading in games isn’t your thing, then this isn’t the game for you.
The Surge (the original) was a surprise hit for me when I played it back in 2018. I even gave it an award and everything! I will never argue that it’s a great game, but I had a blast playing it. The RKG group (members of the group, not RKG themselves) hates it almost uniformly, and they got mad at me for saying I liked it better than Nioh. They argued that Nioh was a better game, and they seemed befuddled when I agreed. I know Nioh is a better game than The Surge. I mean, it’s more technically accomplished, it looks better (though there are some UGLY levels in Nioh–I’m looking at you, snow world–and the combat is more complex. Actually, that was part of my issue with Nioh, though I’d be curious to see if I felt the same way now that I’ve finished Sekiro. It’s more imaginative, and I like the demon/fantasy theme much better than the sci-fi world of The Surge. However, when it comes to which one I enjoyed more, indeed, which one I actually finished, it would be The Surge.
It was such a success that a sequel was inevitable. I was hyped about it, but also nervous. Why nervous? Because I was hyped about it. See, I wasn’t expecting anything from the first game. Why? Because Deck13 Interactive’s first game, Lords of the Fallen, was a hot mess. The reviews ranged from lukewarm to downright excoriating. Me, I hated the game. A lot. It was fantasy, and should have been right up my alley, but all they seemed to take from Dark Souls was ‘heavy’ combat. They were transparent about their love for Dark Souls, but they didn’t seem to understand what makes it such a transformative game*. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa and thinking the smile was the only thing important about the painting. Yes, it’s an integral part, but it’s not the whole. I feel the same about Deck13 and Lords of the Fallen. Yes, the combat is weighty, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Dark Souls. Also, the magicks is shite in LoF, at least in the first hour. Also also, just throwing a mob of enemies at the player isn’t a great way of making a game difficult. My biggest complaint about LoF was that they seemed to go into the game thinking, “We want a game that is hard” and built everything around that instead of having a vision that integrated elements of a challenging game.
When The Surge was announced, I wasn’t anything more than mildly interested. Nothing about it screamed, ‘come here!’ to me, and I let it go until it went on sale on Steam. Then, I tried the demo and had a reasonably good time, so I bought it for like ten bucks. I wasn’t expecting anything from it, and I was pleasantly surprised. There were several things I did not like about the game, but overall, I had a decent time with it. When the sequel was announced, I was stoked. But, as I said above, also nervous. Was I expecting too much?
Fast-forward to September 23rd when the game actually dropped. I bought it four hours before it released and pre-loaded it. I was excited and ready to roll by the time the game was installed. Graphics looked better than the last one, and the environments were more varied in the first few hours than they had been in all of the original game. I got to make my own character, and, yes, I made her an Asian woman. There wasn’t that much customization, but the fact that they allowed me to do any at all was a step up.
As my parents’ trip comes to an end, I find myself ruminating over the concept of boundaries. Why? Because they are unheard of in my family. Or rather, they are set up haphazardly and followed only when the person feels like it/wants to/can be stuffed to do it.
Let me start by saying my mom is a psychologist. Theoretically, this should mean that she knows about boundaries and is enthusiastic about setting them. The reality is much different as she is often the worst offender for many reasons–which I’ll get into later. In addition, she’s Taiwanese, and the culture is different when it comes to boundaries. Family is paramount (though it might be changing as all cultures change), and children are expected to put the needs of the family first. I remember one time several years back when I was still in therapy and my mother expressed concerns that my therapist was putting a wedge between us. It took all of my will not to blurt out that it was necessary and that my therapist was keeping me from screaming at her all the time. This was during the time where talking to her (or my father) for more than ten minutes made me want to poke my eyes out, and it’s not hyperbole to say that it depressed me for hours after each time.
That’s part of the problem. Yes, the Taiwanese culture has more porous familial boundaries, but my family is also dysfunctional. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I didn’t realize any of this until I was in my twenties. Of course, you think the childhood you grow up in is normal until you get out of the situation and then you realize that your family is banana crackers crazy. For example, my father has a bizarre idea of saving face. Now, most people know that saving face is a big thing in many Asian cultures. My father takes it to an extreme, however, and it’s partly because of his narcissistic personality. I remember a time when I was a teenager and one of my parents’ friends called to ask for my father. I innocently said he wasn’t home because he was playing tennis. My parents were big into tennis when I was a kid, playing with their friends from church. When my parents got home and I gave my father the message, he exploded at me for telling the (female, and it’s important) friend that he was out with other friends. He went on this rant on how it made him look bad and she would feel excluded. Even as a teenager in my dysfunctional family I knew it was out of line, but I didn’t really suss out why he freaked out to that extent until much later.
You see, my father is a serial cheater. He’s been having affairs ever since I can remember. I can’t tell you when I first realized this fact about him, but I know he started staying out until midnight ‘working late’ when I was as young as six or seven. My parents had epic fights over this until my father gradually accepted this was the price of admission to her marriage. I figured out in the tennis situation, not only did it feed my father’s rabid obsession with his personal privacy (only for him), the woman who called was probably his ‘special lady friend’ at the time, and he was probably playing with another woman who could be considered attractive. To clarify, he and my mom were playing, but that never stopped him from paying special attention to his lady of the moment.
Everyone knew. It was a poorly-kept secret, but no one ever talked about it. People in my extended family mentioned they knew, and it’s only been fairly recent that I have had discussions about it with my mother and my brother (separately). He currently has a mistress, possibly two, and, yet, my mother still dances around him, catering to his every whim. I will get to that more in a minute or maybe in another post depending on how I feel after writing about boundaries.
The background: My parents get up much earlier than I do, so by the time I get up, they’re ready to chat. To be fair, my mother is ready to chat all the fucking time, but I’ll put that aside with difficulty. And, as they’re getting older, they’ve become more clingy and needy. I understand that part is natural of the aging process, but I just can’t handle it the minute I wake up. I live alone, and I can go days without actually speaking with someone in person. They would pelt me with questions, requests/orders, and whatever else was on their minds. I finally had to tell them that I needed to do my morning routine first before I was in any shape to talk. I enforced this by going downstairs to do my morning routine. Did that help? Yes and no. Yes because it kept them away from me in general. No because if they really wanted something, they just went downstairs to present me with their pressing (to them) concern.
In the weekend threads of Ask A Manager, there are always one or two about writing. The writers always have solid tips…and they always rankle me. On the face of it, it’s ridiculous because it’s good advice, such as, have a set writing time, make sure your sentence structure is varied, and have beta readers. There is nothing objectionable in any of that advice, but I have two issues with it. One, it makes for bland and safe writing. Two, it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s tended to be presented as The One True Way of Writing.
Addressing the latter first, I used to freak out any time I read these kinds of lists because I inevitably fell short on each one. I don’t plan my writing. At all. This is one of the near universal tips when it comes to writing–have an outline. Me, I laugh at your outline! I don’t, actually, but I’ve never written one. Anytime I try, I give up after one or two bullet points. I write mysteries, and you’d think that would be prime fodder for lists. It is, but not for me. The way I ‘plan’ a novel is by having the idea come to my mind or fixating on something and thinking it’s a good idea. I let it marinate for a day or ten, and the ideas slowly start flowing in. For example, the idea of a protagonist who follows her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her sprang to mind. The first scene of her seeing him snuggle up with a blond in front of his apartment as the protagonist sat, fuming, in her car immediately came to me, and I wrote it in a fairly short amount of time. As I was writing, the idea that she was from his past seemed logical, and the details started filtering in as I was writing. He went missing, and I knew from the very beginning who did the taking. That’s something that has been a constant for me when I write a mystery–I know who the perpetrator is from the start. I may not know exactly why or the reason may change as I’m writing, but the perp remains the same.
I guess you could say I do an outline, but I do it in my head. That may not be an option as I get older, but it’s easier for me that way. It also keeps things fresher, and whenever I try to force my characters to adhere stringently to my plan, they rebel by becoming flat on the ‘paper’. Yes, I’m an Old. I still think of writing as pen on paper, even though neither of these things is true any longer. I know it sounds woo-woo to say that my characters shimmer when they’re fully realized, but it’s true. There’s an energy that emanates from the paper when I keep true to their spirits. When I don’t, there’s nothing I can say or do to coax them to be real people. That’s why I like to say that I’m merely a conduit for my characters and not the actual writer. I don’t feel as if I have control over them, even though I do shape their worlds.
It’s time to admit it. I’m depressed. Well, ok, I admitted that to myself a few months ago. However, I downplayed it to myself or told myself I would get over it in time. I haven’t. If anything, it’s gotten worse, even though I’m able to cope with it somewhat. When I say cope, I mean semi-deal with it. When I semi-deal with it, I mean, keeping the worst of it to myself. When I say keeping the worst to myself, I mean not snapping at everyone all the time.
Here’s something I knew about myself but didn’t really give much thought to: I’m also anxious/suffer from PTSD. I mean, I’m fully aware of both, but it was only after reading a comment in the Ask A Manager blog that made me aware that much of what I’m experiencing now is related to anxiety disorders, which includes PTSD. Or anger disorders, if you’re asking the Mayo Clinic website. The commenter listed all the things she read about anxiety disorders that clicked with her including getting upset about minor things, being ‘lazy’ about getting shit done, and other things that really resonated with me. She said she never knew all those things were part of being anxious, and that hit me over the head. In doing research for this post, I read that anxious disorders and anger disorders have some overlap, which makes sense, but I never made the connection for myself.
I’m like a textbook case right now. Things that normally would just irk me for a second before I let it go now irritate the fuck out of me, and I can’t shrug it off as I normally would.
Side note: I spend quite a bit of energy in general keeping my demons at bay. I would say at least 30% of my brain is dedicated to making sure I keep my irritation to myself as much as possible and not saying the sarcastic things my brain says on a near-constant basis. I have a reputation for being a good listener who is compassionate, but that is a very conscious decision on my part.
Content Note:In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.
Anthony Bourdain’s suicide spurred a lot of thought about suicide in me–and pain. Actual pain for a man I had never met and hadn’t really thought about except tangentially over the past few years. Here’s part one of my thoughts and musings on the subject. Let me expand on these thoughts, starting with the last one: stopping the stigma surrounding depression and suicide.
There is still a lingering belief that you can conquer depression by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. “Just think positive thoughts!” “There are people who have it much worse than you do!” By the way, this last one? Never say it to someone. Ever. I don’t care what the circumstance is, it’s a shitty thing to say regardless. Yes, it’s true someone has it worse, but someone also has it better. Plus, someone else’s suffering doesn’t negate your own. In addition, while gratitude for what you have is a good thing, it’s not helpful to have someone else scold you for not being properly grateful enough. And, again, it touches on my earlier points. We already know what we have to be grateful for. We already know whatever it is you think you’re telling us. Or conversely, there are plenty of people who have pretty rough lives. No, it may not be starving in a refugee camp, but that doesn’t negate that it’s still shit.
“Mind over matter!” “The mind can do anything!” The last is from a story I heard on NPR about someone who had to deal with a close friend dying by suicide (and had interviewed him about his suicidal thoughts before he (the friend) actually did it) and later, the brother of the friend who died by suicide as well. The friend’s therapist told him this, and I was appalled. Want to know my own therapist’s (my last and best one) take on this? When I was telling her that I felt I should be able to think my way out of depression, she said to me, “Minna, your brain is what got you here in the first place.” It was a light bulb moment for me, and while it didn’t stick around long, it did plant a seed that continued to flourish.
Side note: Drugs. There’s a disturbing trend for some people (both on the right and the left, for vastly different reasons) to decry antidepressants at the top of their lungs. Whether it’s because they’re ‘not natural’, ‘pushed by Big Pharma’, or ‘turn to God instead’, they need to STFU. I am not the person to go immediately to drugs, but I also know that they can help–they really can. I’ve been on three of them, all in the SSRI family–Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa), and each one really helped me for approximately a year. Unfortunately for me, the effectiveness wore off, and when I tried them again, the result was disastrous. They actually made me suicidal, and I hastily had to get off them stat. By the way, a side note to the side note: During this period, I had a doctor’s visit. Because of the suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t eat, and I lost nearly twenty pounds in two months. My doctor, who was a fanatic about weight (side note to the side note to the side note: she was a fairly new doctor to me. I had to leave my last one for stressful reasons), noted approvingly that I had lost weight. I explained the situation and said it was because I was deeply suicidal. She faltered for a few minutes then quipped feebly, “Well, it doesn’t matter why you lost the weight as long as you did it!” I was shocked by what she said, and I never went back. Later, in retelling the story, I realized that she probably felt deeply uncomfortable by what I’d said and joking about it was her way to deal with the discomfort. This is a perfect illustration of what not to say to someone who is in a lot of pain, but it’s not uncommon.
I know it’s difficult to be with a friend who is seriously depressed. I’ve been both the depressed and the friend of the depressed, and while the former is harder, the latter is no walk in the park, either. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering so much without wanting to do something about it. In addition, let’s address the elephant in the room–a severely depressed person may not be the most pleasant person to be around. In addition to being self-destructive, they may lash out at anyone who is near them. Part of my own depression was pushing away people I loved and pursuing people who were incapable of loving me because deep down I didn’t feel I deserved love. I was never outright nasty to my friends, but it’s not uncommon. And, as in the case with any kind of relationship, the friend in question should not feel guilty about setting boundaries with their depressed loved one.
I heard of a game calledKitty Powers’ Matchmaker, and I don’t remember how. All I can remember is that it had positive reviews, and I’m always here for more queer-positive games. It’s done by a drag queen (or at least she’s lent her name and voice talent to it), and the trailer looked like campy fun. It got positive reviews, and it was on sale last week because the sequel, Kitty Powers’ Love Life, was released on February 8th. Now, I’m not much into sims, especially not dating sims, but I was willing to give it a go.
From the start, it was slow-going. I had to fill out a questionnaire about myself so that my avatar could go on dates in other people’s games. The character creator is limited, but I really didn’t expect much from this quirky, obviously low budget game. Then, I was quickly shoved into the game, and we were off to the races.
The tutorial is minimal, and it’s not really representative of the game. It gives the best-case scenario, which rarely happens on the dates. The basic premise is you’re helping Kitty run a dating service. Clients come in, and you match them with potential dates. You send them to restaurants where you’ve installed hidden cameras (ew) and give them advice as the date continues.
From the beginning, the dick jokes fly fast and furious. The beginning restaurants are Jerk King (Jamaican), Route 69 (American), and The King’s Helmet (British). Kitty Powers is British, btw. Most of the comments she makes in the game are sexual innuendos, and they are limited in number.
My favorite thing about the game is that there are bisexual clients. You can have a female client looking for a woman, one who’s looking for a man, or one who’s looking for ‘anything’ (I’m sure that’s an ‘I’d fuck anything that moves’ bisexual joke). It sounds stupid, but as a bi person, being able to match someone with a person of any gender is refreshing. You match up your client with a potential date to your best ability, based on criteria such as astrological signs, interests, professions, types (sporty, hipster, geeky, etc.), and different personality traits.
I have issues because it’s not easy to tell what type of person the potential dates are. Supposedly, if you look at their interests and what they look like, you can tell, but it’s not always easy. The graphics are cute, but not really definitive. I can’t tell, say, sporty from hipster or hippie from geeky just by eyeballing the person. Plus, the makeup for the women isn’t all that distinctive except for the natural look. Frankly, it all looks like clown makeup to me.
Then, you have to pick the restaurant. Once that’s done, it’s off to the date. There are mini-games you have to play, and most of them range from annoying to tedious. In one, you have to help your client hold in their flatulence by…get this…playing higher/lower with cards. A card is shown, and you have to guess if the next card will be higher or lower. If it’s a one-star restaurant, you have to do this thrice (I think. Or more. I can’t be stuffed to remember). If it’s a two-star, it’s more times. Probably more for a three-star. That one is juvenile and annoying. The memorization ones are tedious, and the pachinko one is infuriating. There’s a math mini-game as well for figuring out tips, which just seems out of place.
I read the story with increasing incredulity because it sounds like something straight out of a dystopian universe, albeit a genteel one. The flight was overbooked, and United asked for volunteers to fly at another time after everyone was already seated. There were United Airline employees who needed to be in Louisville for a flight. The volunteers would be compensated with $400 and and overnight hotel stay. No one volunteered even after they upped the compensation to $800, so they said four people would be selected by a computer. This is all from the account of a fellow passenger who witnessed the incident, recorded the video, and uploaded it to the internet.
One couple left when their name was called, but one man refused, saying he was a doctor who had to see patients in the morning. A security guard came to talk to him, then a second one, then a third. Next thing you know, they are forcibly removing him from the plane. Apparently, he hit his head, screamed, and then you see one guard forcibly dragging the man off the plane. It’s in the tweet above, and be forewarned, it’s disturbing and appalling. What’s even worse was United’s explanation. After saying they were overbooked, the spokesperson went on to say (as per the link above), “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.” Apparently, this person does not know the meaning of the word ‘voluntarily’ because this statement is ludicrous.
The CEO of United, in heavy spin control, had this to say:
This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.
Progress is frustratingly slow right now. I think I overdid in class, even though I didn’t do much at all. In actuality, it probably was the drive and the shopping that did me in rather than the taiji. Either way, I’m dragging my flat yellow ass now. I’m trying to use this as a reminder to take things slowly. I’m feeling better, yes, but I’m not anywhere near fully recovered yet.
In the video below, a tiny dog is ecstatic by her new friend which is three times her size. Lucy struggles to carry it, but finally manages to make it to the car with her new BFF in her mouth.
President Obama gave his farewell address last night, but I haven’t had the heart to listen to it yet. I’m still grieving the fact that in nine days, he has to hand over the reins of the presidency to Trump. PBO has been nothing but gracious during the transition, but I’m outraged on his behalf. PBO has been the best president of my lifetime, and my mind cannot accept we’re going from him to…You know. I’m still in shock and disbelief, truth to be told, and more than that–
I’m angry. Angry? More like livid. Fasten your seat belts because I’m about to tell you why.
I’m angry that a man as ignorant and incurious as Trump is going to be the our president. I haven’t been playing close attention to his daily stupidities, but I’ve seen enough to know that he’s going to be the worst president of all time.
I’m angry that his supporters voted for him because he tapped into their fear and hatred. Some of them now are fearful because they’re going to lose their Obamacare and/or Social Security, and it’s hard to be sympathetic because this is exactly what they vote for.
I’m angry that 40% of the country didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the people who had difficulties in getting to the polling place or had to wait in line for hours–voting suppression is real, yo–but those who shrugged their shoulders and didn’t even bother to go. I can understand feeling disaffected and as if your vote doesn’t matter, but it’s one thing you can do that has any effect at all on how this country is run. It’s literally the least you can do, and for most people, it’s not that difficult. I do think election day should be a holiday and that people shouldn’t be penalized for taking time off work to vote, but I also think it that’s the case,, then there should be a small fine for people who don’t vote.