Monthly Archives: March 2014

Am Reading.

Sometimes I think that reading has ruined my life.

Ok, I don’t actually think that. It’s just that, sometimes, reading gives you some unrealistic expectations for how life should go. It’s not just the happy ending syndrome, because I’ve always read books that don’t end on any particular high note. It’s mostly, I think, that books focus on a person to whom remarkable things happen. And most of us will never be people to whom especially remarkable things happen. It can be hard to be content with a small, quiet life when you contrast it to life in fiction.

And I read, a lot. It’s probably telling that a lot of the time, it’s not the central character that grabs me and holds me, it’s the support. I mean, I get hooked by the star, of course. But some sense of realism makes me think, should something huge ever happen, I’d never be the star. I’d be pretty happy to be the person who the star leans on, though.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about that lately. I realized, as I finally finished Sherlock Holmes, that I tend to define small periods of time by what I was reading through them. Last spring, things were fairly terrible, and I remember cold nights curled up reading London at War. I was comforted because it was one of my mother’s favorite books, and comforted because the suffering of that enormous city during huge horror was enough to keep my problems in perspective. Not all books sink down in my soul that way, but the ones that do won’t fade. I read the Magicians sitting in my car in front of the ocean at West Dennis beach, nursing a terrible grudge. Northranger Abbey was my comfort during several days without power or heat last year, during a blizzard. I’ll remember Sherlock Holmes, I suppose, as my companion reading during a time of personal unease & gathering resolve, and as my escape during storm after storm as the winter finally faded away.

That’s why, no matter how much I go on about video games and their immersion, I’ll probably always read more than I play. A video game DOES immerse me completely. Books are a bit more subtle, though. I’ll get lost in them, but then I’ll close the cover and they’ll stay with me, coloring everything I see or do.

It’s a rainy, misty kind of day on Cape Cod. I woke up early, and Baxter stared at me till I took him for a walk in the deserted woods. It was peaceful, and I was glad I did it, but I stood at the banks of the river and looked out into the blank fog, so thick I couldn’t see across it, couldn’t see the houses on the opposite shore, and it smelled like Cape Cod. It smelled like Swan Lake and like the Kettle Hole and like so many spring and fall days. Salt water and sand and wet pine needles and … it was comforting at the time, but now I feel discontent and edgy.

 

Am Playing: Civilization 5

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I name cities based on what I’m reading or what I see. Or mocking my teammates.

 

 

“Gotta rename Delhi.”

“Name it meats!”

“…you’re the worst.”

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“Payback, what is taking so long, hit end turn. It’s turn 3, you have nothing to do!”

“I don’t want to Russian to the game.”

“…”

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“Whatever, you’ve got warriors and I’ve got war elephants, we’ll see how well this goes.”

“Hope your elephants….like mice! Muahahaha.”

 

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We’ve been playing a bit, Jordan, Payback and I. Last night’s game quickly trailed off into ennui because our local warmonger was stuck on an island by himself, inccesently bombarded by barbarians and picking fights with some innocent city states. Which was probably for the best for me, as Payback would probably have destroyed me anyway, he had a fully kitted out army while I was still slowly building some great wonders and roads and ignoring the whole war side of things.

 

It’s a great game, but one that needs either only one other human player or LOTS of human players (or none). With three, there’s just a high level of distrust and paranoia going on. Therefore I operate on the what’s best for me spectrum. The only game where I’ll happily betray everyone around me and delight in the chaos. I talked about how I’m a goodie two-shoes, but I think Civ brings out the worst in me. I also trash talk. A lot. And a lot of it is unfounded.

 

God I love this game.

More Let’s Play: Broken Age

Here’s part two of Broken Age in which I prove yet again that I am really, really, really bad at puzzle games? Like, I quickly figured out that I should capture the buzzard to get out of there, but the exact sequence of events (cut corset, borrow water, throw water back, borrow water again, throw water to chicken girl, offer her towel for spilled water in return for chicken, then capture buzzard with corset and fly away) was painfully slow for me to figure out. Additionally, let’s talk a bit about this story line so far, eh? I mean, obviously she has to escape because letting maidens be eaten by a monster every so often is a fairly bad thing, and she’s the first person (minus her grandfather) to seem willing to do so. I felt very conflicted about it because her FAMILY. She’s bringing shame, and what if Mog Chothra is currently destroying everyone and everything.

I like games that make me feel vaguely guilty about what I’m doing. When I was leveling my first post-cata horde character in WoW, there were so many moments when I just felt like the biggest villain. Hanging out in Ashenvale, near the Warsong lumber camp: the local horde bigwigs wanted me to go and attack the alliance who were trying to disable the camp, which made sense — there’s a war on and the horde needs lumber (if you’re going to be all in favor of the Alliance, keep in mind what they’d done at this point in the Barrens, which was a wholesale slaughter for strategic reasons). But then they also made me burn down the new trees that the alliance were fostering, in what was just the most petty act of retribution — it didn’t help the horde in the least! I hated doing it (in theory, I could have skipped the quest, but I wanted to know the rest of the story).

I do a lot of critical (in the unkind sense, not in the academic sense) thinking about my own activities. I don’t know if it’s rationalizing or just general curiosity about my own motivations, which often seem murky. I play games for the story, which is why I don’t love Forza or Battlefield. And I get hooked, man. I couldn’t harvest the little sisters in Bioshock because it felt so morally wrong — even though I am not my character. Likewise, playing SWTOR online, I made the ‘moral’ choices even when playing a sith. Bad characters may be interesting, but I feel so closely connected to the character I have a hard time doing things that might make them less than good. I suspect I play the characters more morally than I would be in real life. Thus, when the game forces me down an uncomfortable path, I feel awful about it. But also intrigued, hoping for redemption.

 

Am Reading: Sherlock Holmes

 

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I cleaned yesterday. I hung pictures. I listened to the wind throw a three year old’s temper tantrum — whines, moans, gusts, sighs. I curled up and read and read and read, with my dog next to me. He was feeling uneasy yesterday — the wind had him on alert and he didn’t like it, didn’t like the house creaking and the snow falling from the roof. He needed lots of reassurance and pets and cuddles, so I let him on the bed. He’s pretty big. And as he sleeps, he spreads out, so I was being kicked in the side by his stupid big paws and his stupid sharp claws digging in. If he wasn’t so cute…

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I’m on the last 200 pages of Sherlock Holmes, flying through. I am overjoyed with the second half of this book because here’s Sherlock Holmes, the little shit, in all his glory. He’s snarky and constantly throwing passive aggressive comments at people whose heads they completely go over (and at Watson, whose head it doesn’t go over but who has a fondness for Holmes that overcomes the exasperation). It makes me think a bit of Lord Rust in the Discworld novels. Lord Rust is the consummate snob. He’s from a long line of Rusts, and his view of the world is very narrow. People who don’t fit in are erased from his personal existence, except when they can’t be (like in the case of Vimes) in which case he grudgingly allows them existence, if not patience. So many of the people Holmes deals with start off by ignoring or belittling him, especially the officials. You can tell he takes a real delight in this, accepts the barbs with mostly good grace because he knows that they’ll be lost in admiration for him in the end. But he can’t resist making fun of them, right to their faces, because he CAN. He kinda says the types of things that I think, only I’m not passive aggressive in the privacy of my own head.

Here’s some of my favorite moments in this read through, including a couple that made me actually laugh out loud.

 

And yet, without a harshness which was foreign to his nature, it was impossible to refuse to listen to the story of the young and beautiful woman… (The Solitary Cyclist)

Aw, you big softy.

Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report which I was able to present to him that evening, but it did not elicit that word of curt praise which I had hoped for and should have valued. On the contrary, his austere face was even more severe than usual as he commented upon the things that I had done and the things that I had not.

‘Your hiding place, my dear Watson, was very faulty…’ (The Solitary Cyclist)

Watson was so proud of himself, and Holmes shot him down, stone-cold.

Re: some footprints which Hopkins swore didn’t exist:

‘My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature.’ (Black Peter)

Poor Hopkins, by the way, winced at Holmes’ ironical comments.

Watson indulges in some of the lyrical writing so despised by Holmes:

It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded? (Black Peter)

I enjoyed imagining Holmes reading this with SUCH an expression of disgust on his face.

Upon producing the black pearl of the Borgias in a theatrical manner:

Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both broke at clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of color sprang to Holmes’s pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend. (The Six Napoleans)

You big softy, part 2.

Hopkins doesn’t pick up on what interests Holmes in a trio of wine glasses. Holmes has some snark.

‘And yet, you must admit, that the three glasses are very remarkable, Hopkins. What? You see nothing remarkable? Well, well, let it pass. Perhaps, when a man has special knowledge and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand…’ (The Abbey Grange)

Holmes doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who ought to know better doubting him.

Watson is on the moors on the trail of the Hound of the Baskervilles, and muses in his diary:

All day to-day the rain poured down, rustling on the ivy and dripping from the eaves. I thought of the convict out upon the bleak, cold, shelterless moor. Poor devil! Whatever his crimes, he has suffered something to atone for them. (Hound of the Baskervilles)

So speaking of big softies. Said convict was a notorious and heartless murderer, but Watson’s soft heart can’t help but feel for him alone on the moor.

Holmes turns sarcasm on Watson, who has wondered why someone sent a cipher without also sending the key along with it.

‘Your native shrewdness, my dear Watson, that innate cunning which is the delight of your friends, would surely prevent you from inclosing cipher and message in the same envelope.’ (The Valley of Fear)

And, my favorite moment thus far:

It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance.

‘Well, Holmes,’ I murmured, ‘have you found anything out?’

He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. Then the tall, lean figure inclined towards me. ‘I say, Watson,’ he whispered, ‘would you be afraid to sleep in the same room with a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?’

‘Not in the least,’ I answered in astonishment.

‘Ah, that’s lucky,’ he said, and not another word would he utter that night. (The Valley of Fear)

Really, it’s a bit of a wonder that Watson never did any remarkable act of violence at Holmes. This was the perfect book for a stormy day.photo 1

My box of books has arrived, to my joy, and I have a to read pile that looks a bit precarious on the corner of my desk. I left work an hour early to exercise the poor pup who had been home alone all day, and we walked in the woods. Walking through snowy woods sounds lovely (thanks, Mr. Frost) (I KNOW, I know, the poem was about suicide, whatever) but in reality it is a pain in the calves and both Baxter and I feel a bit wiped out as a result. So, chores, Civ, and an early night.

Hum the time song of your choice.

It’s so boring to muse about time and the passage thereof, but here it is.

1) On Sunday I sat at lunch with (some of) my favorite aunts and uncles, my father, my brother and sister-in-law and my nephew and thought about three years. Three years before Sunday I was working in Bourne, waiting anxiously for news of my nephew’s birth. Three years ago I saw the first picture of him, little red faced peanut, and fell in love instantly, was shocked at how much love you can feel for someone who didn’t exist concretely in your world just days before. There he was, baby Casey. Three years on, I sat at lunch with him and he talked about what he wanted to eat (“pasta! cake!”) and made hints about opening his presents (“what’s in that box, mama?”) and generally charmed everyone. That little baby is now a little boy with songs in his head and thoughts to share and stubborn opinions held. And it’s three years! Three years is like nothing now, time flies and all that, but three years in the life of a baby is amazing to watch. I don’t really have words for it all, but I’m just filled with bemused wonder.

2) It’s the start of my work week and it’ll be an odd one, with an enormous storm either slamming into us or missing us entirely tonight into tomorrow. Winds are going to be very high no matter what, so I’ll be charging everything up tonight and laying a fire in the wood stove just in case. Snow! It’s the end of March. This is not unheard of, of course, but we’ve had a lot of mild winters lately and I guess I’ve just been in denial about the whole thing. The good thing about March snow, though, is that it’ll be mild as can be after the storm, so whatever falls should melt away. Despite the snow, I’m determined to spring clean this week. I need to fix… everything. Get rid of the rickety $89 amazon desk I’ve got for something a bit more solid and attractive. Get a bookcase that fits more than 30 books. Get rid of my beloved, but too old to fit today’s mattresses, bed frame. Put down the rug padding I’ve had for almost a year now. Throw out a bunch of stuff I haven’t looked at in months. Hang all the pictures that I’ve had sitting around. Fix the window of doom so I don’t freeze anymore (just in time for hot days, I guess). Extend my cable so I can move my TV across the room. Just, chores. If this storm pans out, I plan on spending tomorrow doing these chores (if we have power. Well, actually, maybe either way. It’ll help me keep warm). (I might need some cider to keep me going though). I am excited to do this though, because I’m far more productive when everything is neat and in its place.

3) Meanwhile, I am playing Civ 5 obsessively in multiplayer games with Jordan (he hasn’t found me and my charmingly named cities in our latest game.

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I can’t wait for his annoyance and the charge that I’m not taking things seriously enough.)

Games are long but the time passes so quickly, it’s 6 hours gone before I even look up. There is something very, very satisfying about sitting around and plotting with your little cities and their little workers, thinking about their happiness and also the barbarians at your gates and the great wall you’re trying to finish before your competition and … It’s charming. It’s trouble. I need to remember to play OTHER games, games that are not Civ, sometimes. I’m working on converting the rest of our friends into playing it so we can have a massive, at your throat game. Yessss, that sounds excellent. I’m doing that super villain finger rubbing thing in my mind. I suspect Payback will be devious, making alliances and treaties left and right while making promises that pit us against each other. The consummate pvper. Ephor pointed out that everyone will THINK he’s making alliances and therefore will refuse to trust him, which is probably true. Choober’ll be a dark horse — he’s new to the game and will make the most of that, absorbing and working quietly until he suddenly jumps 100 points ahead. Jordan’s the most experienced, so he’ll be an early leader and therefore an early target — or someone to suck up to. He’ll have to decide to use that power for good or for evil. Me? I’ll be in my xenophobic little corner of the world, talking a big game while I feed money and troops to a secret partner and work on a utopian victory.

4) Everyone must be panicking about the storm because no one is here today, and thus time is dragging. I had a one on one and a 20 minute Q&A this morning so the first half of the day was gone in an instant, but now … I do have 2 more one on ones left in the day, and one of those is a person who keeps telling me “I don’t know what I don’t know, teach me something,” which is the most frustrating experience ever. Listen. Not only do I not know what you don’t know, I don’t even know what you’re INTERESTED in, and there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there for you to try. What do you possibly want from me.

5) Kid with Christmas coming feeling: I woke up to a big credit from Amazon for e-book purchases, so I immediately turned it around into the purchase of my list of books. A pile of them on their way! I can’t wait, CAN’T wait! They’ll be here on Thursday.

Am Playing: Civ Rev

So it turns out that I didn’t have to break my no new game ban to play Civ Rev on the iPad because I bought it ages ago and deleted it. My brother kept talking it up, though, and I’ve been watching people play Civ 5 multiplayer games and I thought maybe I WOULD like it. Maybe. Despite my misty memories of cheating to win, it turns out I was never all that bad at Civ, and since this is very much the original game in feel, I was shortly into it pretty deep.

Every city celebrating we love the queen day!

Every city celebrating we love the queen day!

 

Here’s the hilarious thing about Civ: you pretty much have to be aware that once you get out of ancient times you are going to be constantly extorted by your neighboring civilizations. GIVE US MONEY, they whine, and we’ll have peace for five turns. Never mind that they’re asking for 900 of your 1000 gold pieces, and never mind that you are about seven technologies ahead of them.

That's a lot of money, lady.

That’s a lot of money, lady.

Here’s the other hilarious thing about civ: sometimes, a vastly underpowered unit can still beat a technologically advanced one. Infantry, destroyed by archers. Knights taking down a tank. Insanity.

Here’s ANOTHER hilarious thing about civ: getting threatened by Gandhi.

Bad taste.

Bad taste.

And then there’s having some nation laugh at you because you haven’t discovered ceremonial burial because you’ve been tech lining straight for tanks. Then they offer to trade you the knowledge if you’d just let them in on the secret of nuclear power. No please.

I’m generally a goodie-two-shoes in all games, so I usually aim for a cultural victory. Culture is pretty great, it leads to moments like this:

 

 

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where you know it’s only a matter of time before the citizens of Tzi..whatever decide that it’s safest to join you. Your borders grow, your people throw parties in your honor (I miss the throne room of the early civ games — 1 or 2 — because I’d have a rockingly great one by now) and things flourish. Economic victories are probably more sensible, because if you stockpile gold you can rush the building of important things, like Leonardo’s Workshop or a bomber, when you’re threatened by mighty Spain and her navy. But I usually waste gold on roads and just have a tank and bomber and infantry army that just goes from city to city defending and destroying. The thing is, I’ll be at war for 90% of the game but i just pretend it’s not happening and ignore the various skirmishes by whoever. That’s the benefit of playing on the normal (king) level — attacks are largely not serious. I might lose a newly converted city here or there but it usually doesn’t matter.

IMG_0546It’s rare that I win a domination victory unless we make it to 3000 without me finishing the U.N. I’ve never won a technological victory because you have to be so singleminded in your tech and I branch out here or there for important things like culture. Also once you build your spaceship you have to WAIT for it to get to Alpha Centuri and there’s that whole score thing and blah blah blah. I don’t find technology victories fun.

Basically, when I don’t feel like settling into something serious, I play a quick game of civ. Perhaps this is the first step in opening a whole new branch of games for me, perhaps it’ll turn out I secretly love strategy games.

Or not.

Let’s Play: Broken Age

I’m good at puzzle games, I tell myself. They’re my wheelhouse, I tell myself. I’ve got this, I tell myself.

I’m playing Broken Age, because as I’ve said before and will say a million times more, I am a DoubleFine fangirl and anything they ever make I play. And it’s a beautiful game. And I started playing full of complete confidence that I would play through it quickly. Let me show you how that went within the opening chapter.


So anyway I love it, despite the blast to the ego. I can’t wait to play more. I actually care about the end of this story! Already! Rare.

It’s not just the voice acting that makes it great, but that helps. Good voice actors make a big difference in a game. Imagine Portal 2 without Stephen Merchant or Ellen McLain, right? (I’ve had Portal on the brain. I think I’ve always got Portal somewhere on the brain.

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Some part of me is always quoting GlaDOS at people I don’t like, and sometimes at people I do. I have an inner GlaDOS, people. I am a deeply mean person. I just hide it well.)

 

 

Spring.

Today is the first day of spring, friends. First day of spring! The sun is out! Or it was, but of course as the day winds down cloud cover is creeping back. I took Baxter for a walk in the woods to celebrate.

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They must be preparing for the herring spawn — that’s the only thing I can think of to make this contraption make sense. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really make all that much sense, except to keep exhausted herring from being thrown back down the run?

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It doesn’t look much like spring, but you could feel it. photo 5I’ve been extra productive this week, finishing items on my to do list days before they even appear, so tonight I’ll be curling up with the second half of Sherlock Holmes. I am only a few stories into this post resurrection Holmes and I am enjoying them more than the first half, although I’m aware that I’ve also passed the point where AC Doyle was probably cursing himself for ever inventing Holmes in the first place. I did find this oft-quoted moment, as well:

At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I, at his requet, had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask–an incident which only explained itself some years later, when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes, and that it was my friend who really found the money.

To which I saw, awwww, look at that heart of gold.

These are as soothing as reading an Agatha Christie and not at all more involved. It is funny, though, to realize just how much modern mystery nods back to Holmes all the time. Poirot is a good complement — Sherlock explains that he could easily solve a case sitting in his own sitting rooms, a claim I remember Poirot fulfilling in a story, much to Hasting’s discontent. Hastings isn’t quite as good a sidekick as Watson, though. He’s a bit more daft, I think, although just as relatable. Maybe the difference is that one feels Poirot (who calls himself Papa Poirot to particularly pretty girls) is a bit more approachable than Sherlock Holmes would ever be. They both understand human emotion, but one actually seems to feel more of it than the other.

I’ve spent this afternoon thinking about what books to buy next, since I’m winding down my book pile nicely. I need about ten, and one of those will be coming on vacation with me. Here’s my thinking (for my own reference)

– Lord of the Rings trilogy – so I can stop being such an asshole about not having read it.
– What Makes This Book So Great – Jo Walton, collected essays on books she’s loved  – there’s little I love more than reading about reading
– Raising Steam – one thing I love more than reading about reading is reading anything at all that Terry Pratchett writes
– Hamlet – next up on my classics to read list. Reread, in this case, but if I reread Ulysses I can definitely reread Hamlet.
– Crime and Punishment – after Hamlet. I’m bringing this on vacation with me because that’s the only way I’d ever get through it, and there’s something appealing about grim Russian literature under California sunshine.
– Lightning Rods, which I saw recommended by Boing Boing as being hilarious.
– The Borribles (a kids book, but who cares? It looks amazing)
– The Discovery of Middle Earth – about pre-Roman Europe & the Celts, so a perfect non-fiction one for me.

Man. I’m not sure which makes me happier, gaming or reading, but that list of books make me feel all warm hearted and fuzzy.

 

Am Playing: Magicka and Am Reading: Sherlock Holmes

I kicked today off with a customer telling me that I had ruined her day — her phone, I explained, was in recovery mode and although I could go through the recovery process, if she didn’t have a physical PC backup or an iCloud backup she’d probably lose her data. She wasn’t mean, but she was clearly upset. Luckily, I’ve been doing this for long enough that I don’t let it get to me anymore: iOS failures are not on my shoulders.
Speaking of failures, the last time we played Magicka I was perhaps a bit rusty, and it’s possible that we died a lot more than we should have. Also, there was a dragon with the title the Burninator and can I just… the BURNINATOR. I had an immediate and very strong fit of nostalgia, leading me to sing fhwqugads under my breath for the rest of the night (I know that’s not the Trogdor song but it IS my favorite Homestar song).

Magicka was a pretty great experience overall. All of our game nights have been bitterly cold winter (hence Frozen Thursday) and I’ve been playing in front of a window that isn’t simply drafty, it’s practically open, so my fingers go freezing, then frozen, then red and slow. There’s a reason this part one video ends on our defeat: what is cut out is about eighteen more ignoble deaths, caused mostly by me, but carried out via Yeti. Yeti teeth. I’ll conveniently start part two on our success.

I like to blame the window of doom as the main reason I’m so clumsy at mashing buttons, but playing only every couple of weeks probably didn’t help. My honed video game senses did tell me early on that Vlad was an ass, so I was smug when he turned out to be just exactly that. Not…that it wasn’t telegraphed. But still! Perhaps I’m just distrustful in video games in general. I’m trying to think of one that has an enormous betrayal that you don’t see coming. Something must have made me this way, since I didn’t trust Atlas and I still don’t trust the Prophet in ESO. There’s Wheatley in Portal 2, and I can’t remember if I saw that betrayal coming but I think I might have (he’s a MORON and the game would have been too short otherwise). (Remember when he’s so proud at the test chamber he’s redone, and you arrive to find that his changes amount to the word TEST spelled out on the wall? And GlaDOS says: “I think we’re in trouble.” Wheats. My favorite moron in all games ever). It must have been on an early NES game, but I can’t think of what. It niggles at me, because I remember something shocking as a video game player, but it’s buried deep now.

It’s almost 40 degrees out which is downright NORMAL for March, which means its ABNORMAL for this year. Last night I went out to get a glass of water and I glanced out the kitchen window and gasped. The moon was rising low and yellow, and it was reflected perfectly in the river, like some sort of invitation to another world. It made me think of the Narnia book where the pools of water led to different worlds. See also Lev Grossman’s The Magician, and also also Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell:

Each puddle became a silver mirror…He felt as if he might pass through any of those mirror doors and find himself in one of the other worlds which once bordered England.

Meanwhile, I’m knee deep in Sherlock Holmes and loving it. Every once in a while I run into an issue with the language — there was the moment when a villain pulled a life preserver out of his sleeve, which was not the first time a life preserver was mentioned in these stories but which WAS the first time I realized it might not be a personal flotation device. Holmes, already described by Watson as fastidious in dress (though slovenly in household hygiene) also makes a note upon his shirt cuff, another phrase I suspect means other than obvious.

Throughout the first half of this book, Holmes is relatively mild. He’s not the asshole I’ve come to know and love through so many adaptations. But then there’s the Empty House, where within the first three pages he says:

“In your picturesque account of the matter, which I read with great interest some months later…”

when talking about Watson’s heartfelt and heartbroken account of The Final Problem. Watson opens that by saying:

“It was my intention…to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my life which the lapse of two years has done little to fill,”

so Holmes’ dismissal of it as picturesque is the first bit of harshness. He follows that up practically within the same breath by relating how he sat in perfect comfort on some moss while nearby:

“…you, my dear Watson, and all your following were investigating in the most sympathetic and inefficient manner the circumstances of my death.”

And then, smugly:

“At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally erroneous conclusions…”

So, Watson professes he’s overjoyed to see Holmes back, and of course I’m sure he is, but watching the BBC John beat the crap out of the BBC Sherlock goes a long way to soothe my soul. Surely even this original Watson must have been sitting there thinking “what a perfect horse’s ass.”

To be fair, he then goes on to say how deeply he missed Watson and to apologize for letting him think that he’s dead, but this Holmes, never one to let a compliment go by without a barb in deep.

March is halfway over and I swear I’ve only just turned the calendar over and WHAT IS HAPPENING this year, time’s never moved so fast. Help!

 

Rapture, I dig you.

My first reflection.

My first reflection.

Rapture’s a pretty great place. I mean, minus the splicers, big sisters, little sisters, big daddies, bombs, traps, and blood covered walls. Also, the living on the sea bed thing.

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(In an early journal you find in Bioshock 2, Andrew Ryan reports:

I am told that the people grow tense and isolated in the absence of the sun.

Who can blame them, right?)

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And there’s a level of willing suspension of disbelief that goes on as well, because I’m no scientist but I’m FAIRLY sure that if you live on the bottom of the ocean in a glass and metal structure and a leak springs somewhere, the pressure imbalance would cause a whole lotta damage, right? The pressure must be unbelievable anyway, although I can’t remember how far down Rapture is — at the start of Bioshock you do see a meter count as you descent but it’s all a blur, overwritten by my first meeting with Atlas

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But anyway I’m wandering away from my central point, which is Rapture is beautiful. Even through all the decay, you can see the bones of a really beautiful city — of busy and crowded walkways, and charming stores and diners and clubs bursting with music and revelry. I mean, charming might be a stretch because even in its heyday it was a fairly dangerous city filled with death, but. And it’s packed to the gills with story. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a completionist, which means I will explore every doorway, every alley. And that way I get to listen to more journals — listen to Lamb slowly losing her goddamn mind or Ryan being an enormous hypocrite (freedom’s all well and good until it threatens his vision).

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It’s a “pick away at this” game, which Half Life 2 was for me as well. I don’t feel any urgency to finish it except inasmuch as I want to know what happens to Subject Delta and his little girl. I play a couple of hours here or there and so every time I come back I’m startled all over again at how hard it is for me to switch ammo on the fly or to remain calm when I hear a mob of splicers coming but can’t figure out where they are coming from.

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I used to feel bad about this, tell myself its clear I’m not a natural gamer, but then I remember I don’t have the background in these games that most of my friends do. I didn’t grow up playing Counter Strike or Halo or … I grew up with Zelda and Mario and sidescrollers and so on. It’s the same thing with Hearthstone — I never played Magic or any of its clones, so these games are baffling to me. Plus the more videos I watch of OTHER people playing games, the more I realize that most people have a learning curve in most games. I vaguely remember reading something recently about the way that gaming set people up to accept failing better — that gamers expect to die and to have to try again and that’s just part of the process, making them more determined and more realistic about success in real life.

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This morning, as I was fighting off my normal case of the morning grumps and trudging into the office, I realized that I could hear SPRING BIRDS and that the SUN was out and ok it was freezing but you can feel the sun is stronger and oh god spring is actually going to happen soon.

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