PC Gaming is Hard (For Me)

As I’m sure I’ve said many times on this blog, I have primarily been a console gamer for a number of years. That changed a bit lately with the launch of Amazon’s New World and my out-of-the-blue obsession with Black Desert Online (which I STILL haven’t blogged about, have I?) Suddenly I was back to sitting hunched over a desk, my face awash in the blue glow of a monitor, merrily pounding keys.

Was back. Now I’m not sure. I’m actually finding PC gaming difficult. In fact for the past few nights I’ve sat down to boot one of my two current obsessions, stared at the monitor, squirmed in my chair a bit, then I’ve gotten up and went to the couch and watched TV. I didn’t want to disrupt my gaming focus by starting a console game, but I just didn’t want to sit in that chair for another minute, either. It just made me feel mentally exhausted to be sitting there, plus there’s the little nagging tickle in my brain that maybe I should be doing some work instead, just to make the day job a little less stressful.

This is exactly how I got into console gaming in the first place. Once I started working from home full time I found that 8-9 hours at a PC was plenty and I didn’t really want to sit there for another few hours at night even if it was to play games. It’s weird because the same was true when I was going into the office, but somehow the change of location made it feel different. Plus I didn’t have all my work crap on my gaming PC. I don’t now either but I DO have Parsec and can connect to the work machine in an instant.

There’s a physical toll as well. I guess I really hyper-focus while at a PC and after a couple hours playing an MMO, when I finally get up there are so many pops and cracks in my back and neck that I sound like a string of firecrackers going off. My neck and shoulders get sore, though usually everything loosens up after a bit. No lasting damage done.

So I dunno what to do. All day while I’m working I think about how I want to play New World and BDO, but then when I CAN play I just want to be somewhere else. BDO is actually available on console but it seems to lag behind the PC version in a lot of ways, and of course New World is PC only. (Isn’t it strange that we can’t play New World via Amazon Luna?)

Maybe I just need to reserve PC gaming for the weekends, and stick to consoles games during the week. Not sure. Also not sure the point of this post but it’s been a week since my last post so figured I’d better find SOMETHING to talk about!

Life (and Work) Keeps Happening

Despite appearances, I have NOT thrown in the towel on blogging. I just have had a load of work-shaped and work-adjacent-shaped bricks fall on my head lately.

I have a bunch of work projects heating up which have had me working in the evenings, and I have agreed to join another developer in building out a portfolio site we can both use, and that is eating even more time. End result, very little free time for gaming or blogging.

Last Sunday I broke down and bought Tales of Arise for the PS5 which seems like it will be very good if I ever find time to play it. It certainly is a pretty game. New World is launching Tuesday (I think) and I have it pre-ordered though, again, not sure when I will play it. I did spend an hour on Thursday downloading EVE Online to play through their new New Player Experience which wound up being fairly underwhelming. This morning I played come Control on the PS5 before I nodded off on the couch because I haven’t been sleeping much.

There ya go, one paragraph to describe a week’s worth of gaming. 🙁

But I’m not dead yet, and neither is the blog. So this is just a heartbeat post!

A State of Decay 2 Story

I love stories. I always have. I love to read fiction, I love to watch TV, I REALLY love sitting around a dinner table or at a bar, trading stories with people (I have dim memories of doing this decades ago). And of course I love stories in games.

There are games that have a story baked in. Narrative-driven games, as I (and I think most people) call them. Then there are games with the kind of emergent gameplay that wind up telling a story through player interaction. I think I’m saying all that right; I’m no game developer.

Anyway to set up this story I have to tell you a little about State of Decay 2. It takes place in a zombie apocalypse. There is no official ‘fast travel’ (though I think you can cheese your way around that a bit). You have a group of survivors you play as, one at a time. Some zombies carry a ‘blood plague’ and when they hit you, you get a dose of the blood plague virus. Get enough of these and now you have the blood plague, which left uncured, turns you into a zombie. There is a literal timer that ticks down to zombification. There is permadeath and finally, your band of merry zombie slayers has a leader who (I presume) is more important than the rest of the group. If I sound a little iffy about some of these points it is because I’m still in my first game and I don’t know how everything works.

Whew. Let’s begin.

* * *

So our leader Mary was trying to take out an infestation far, far from home base. She and one of her minions had driven across the map in an SUV. Things went badly. The pair were swarmed by blood plague zombies. Mary called for a retreat and they ran, but in the confusion they’d forgotten where they parked. A running battle ensued. Mary was soon out of ammo for her sidearm. Then her baseball bat broke. All she had left was 3 crossbow bolts. The crossbow was a slow weapon. Perfect for sniping but not much use in a running battle.

They finally made it to the car, but by then both had the blood plague. Their only hope was getting back to base as soon as possible. And just to add to the fun, it was getting dark.

Mary jumped behind the wheel and took off, driving as quickly as she dared. She came around a bend and tried to squeeze the SUV between a wrecked truck and a guardrail and BAM, they didn’t make it. The SUV wedged itself in. Mary tried to back away but the wheels just started spinning. The SUV engine was drawing zombies.

Their luck had not completely run out, though, as nearby was a van that looked like it might start. They abandoned the SUV and ran for the van, fighting a few zombies and taking a few more wounds. Mary was slowing down, but they reached the van. It started, but only just. It was nearly out of gas.

They drove on into the night, Mary being much more cautious now. She was trying to conserve fuel but base camp was still a long way away when the van sputtered a final time and coasted to a stop, the tank dry.

Back on foot, they stumbled through the night. Mary used her final crossbow bolts to clear a path. When those ran out they had to rely on stealth. She was on death’s door, not just from the plague but from the many wounds she’d received. It was a long, frightening walk, but they finally stumbled into camp where other survivors immediately helped them to the infirmary to get the plague treated and wounds attended to.

They survived to fight another day.

* * *

It might not read that well, honestly, but playing through this was such a tense and enjoyable experience. In game mechanic terms, we tried to take out a Blood Heart which drew in a ton of zombies. She was taking too much damage so we ran, but I didn’t have time to open the map to see where I had parked. Mary really did run out of ammo and her melee weapon did break. She ran out of healing items and her HP was blinking red at maybe 5% full. It was just a sliver of health.

The SUV did jam tight between a wreck and a guardrail which might be a bug. When I got the van I tried to push the SUV free but the ‘wreck’ was part of the terrain: completely immobile. Vehicles have Hit Points and the van, too, was almost at zero. I actually had a repair kit, so we took time to repair it and found it was almost out of gas. We didn’t make it back. Working vehicles are fairly rare in SOD2 and we didn’t come across another one.

The rest was pretty much as described. At low health your character starts to limp and hobble along. It was really dark out and I could see the glowing eyes of zombies all around us. It took a LONG time to walk back since we had to crouch and sneak around swarms of zombies, but the “Blood Plague” timer is more generous than I realized and truthfully it had only ticked down to maybe 50% by the time we got back to base.

The biggest loss was the SUV, but we do have a couple of trucks. I’m not sure what would have happened if Base Leader Mary had died.

All in all, it was really fun. I’m a terrible blogger so I didn’t take any screenshots… I was too intent on not dying!

My Brain is Rotting

I’m a web developer. I know that because it is my job title.

I don’t really develop anything anymore though.

Back when I got into this business I did all kinds of things. I had the keys to our Solaris servers. My palm print was registered at the data center so I could access the cage, which I did frequently. Sometimes I’d have to drive over there at 2 AM to address an issue, and it was just me. I knew what to do.

At the time we were running Vignette Storyserver which used Tcl as a scripting language. Tcl! I dunno that I could still write a script in Tcl. Or Perl for that matter, which is a lot less weird than Tcl.

I wasn’t part of the IT department but I worked very closely with them. I was kind of honorary IT.

I was removed from that gig when they hired a new exec who wanted a clean slate. I mean that wasn’t the reason they gave but it was what happened. The exec hired people they had worked with at their last company. The powers that be decided to move to a Java Server Pages platform. While everyone was being trained in that, I was assigned to maintain the old site and its Tcl scripts. Then once the switch over was made I was laid off because I didn’t know the JSP platform (the name of it escapes me… Documentum maybe?) that they’d prevented me from being trained on. Yeah, that’s fair.

My next gig, we were using Expression Engine, which is written in PHP with a proprietary templating language that was very PHP-esque. We didn’t have a data center, we had an ISP who did most of the maintenance on the servers. I still took care of a VPS server we had for odds and ends, and I did some stuff on Amazon EC2 instances. I spent a lot of time writing scripts to talk to API endpoints and stuff. It was a step down from the first gig in terms of tech but it still was a job I was constantly learning stuff at.

Enter a new exec who determined that we should ditch Expression Engine and put all the sites on WordPress because, y’know, he had a nephew that used wordpress or something. (Everyone knows WordPress so I won’t explain it.) Through my whole career I’ve been at the mercy of executives who come in, make decisions based on bad or no data, then usually leave when they fail at their job. But their decisions stick around.

Anyway so I started making custom WordPress themes. Every brand got exactly what they wanted because we weren’t using an off-the-shelf theme. We were secure because we weren’t using dozens of plugins that are constantly being probed for defects. (Security through obscurity!) It was definitely a less rewarding job but I guess learning WordPress had some value.

Then that company got purchased by a much larger company. The new company ran everything on WordPress, which was good as far as it being an easy transition. But this company has an IT Department that is completely divorced from the web team. They’ve erected a major wall between anything that can be called a server and the rest of the company, and that includes me. Now I do none of the server work I used to do. I no longer have access to manage DNS, which I used to do. They seem to have a fear of APIs, so that work is gone.

As for WordPress, they are replacing our custom themes with a standard theme across all their sites. A consultant is building it. I won’t go too far down this rabbit hole, but the point being now I’m not even going to be building WordPress themes. Lately most of my days are spent doing help desk level tasks like resetting passwords, unblocking access, setting up redirects. Stuff, honestly, an intern could do.

It’s clear I need to find a new job, but I also feel like I’ve waited too long. I think about updating my resume and what I do now does not justify my salary, frankly. And I haven’t USED my high-value skills for so long that they’ve atrophied while at the same time going out of date. So I don’t REMEMBER how to do all the things I used to do, but if I could remember then those skills would be kind of dated, anyway.

I feel stuck. I feel like my brain is rotting away. When I get laid off (and it is pretty clear the current company is making a concerted effort to no longer need developers on its payroll…they already have a 3rd party on contract with ‘resources’ in India and the Philippines who I’m sure are MUCH cheaper than me) I don’t think I’ll be very marketable, between my age and my atrophied skill set.

The only hope I can think of is to find A Project. Something I’m excited to build and that I could build in a technology I don’t know. Something like the project Scopique is working on to learn React, or like Tipa’s Python project to import an old blog into Github.

I just can’t think of anything. And really I don’t WANT to do anything, but I feel like I HAVE to do something. I really wish I wanted to. I remember being super excited about web development and learning new things. I put in so much overtime on that old Tcl site not because it was asked of me but because I was pumped about it.

But now I kind of just want to sit around and play video games once the work day is done. And I’m not really sure how to fix that. Like how do you make yourself get excited for something?

Maybe I can be a greeter at Walmart for my next job.

The one thing that has occurred to me is to find some non-profit that is a) working for a cause I believe in and b) looking for volunteers to help them with some technology project. But I’m not really sure how to do that.

Blaugust 2021 – Fini

Here it is, the last post of Blaugust 2021. I made it. Whew! While I originally didn’t plan to post every day and at the 1/3rd point I decided to cut back I never really did. For better or for worse. Technically I think I wrote 32 posts since if I remember right I double-posted once.

So what did I discover? Well most importantly I learned that I can still generate a blog post every day if I really want to. Unlike so many of my projects, I didn’t abandon this one. I also discovered some really nice blogs and really nice people and I intend to keep reading these people in the future.

There were some disappointments along the way. While I tried my best to amplify other Blaugust participants by retweeting stuff with the #blaugust2021 hashtag on Twitter, I found there were only a handful of us doing that. Seemed like a missed opportunity. (There were a few people who retweeted almost every post and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart!) In some cases I Followed Blaugust participants just so I’d be aware of their blog post announcements and could retweet them, but often they didn’t follow me back. Maybe other bloggers just don’t see Twitter as an important audience building tool? Or maybe they just thought it was more important to curate their timeline than to promote people they didn’t really know (which is fair, particularly if they’re trying to build a Following that they can monetize). Either way, that was a bit of a bummer. I mean, it isn’t like promoting each other is in the rules of Blaugust but it was still a little disappointing.

In the run-up to the event I was excited about joining the Discord community, but I only lasted a week or two in there. As with just about every Discord I join, it felt like a clique of people that I wasn’t a part of. (This is just where my brain goes in any kind of crowd, IRL or online, so not a knock on the community, just a hang-up I have about new groups of people.) I dutifully posted content in the “Share Your Content” for a while, but I saw almost no traffic from that and none of my posts seemed of interest to the other Discord users. There are certainly helpful people in the Discord and if you ask a question you will get answers. So it serves a function, but for socializing and talking about writing it was a bust for me. Additionally the most helpful people in the Discord seem equally helpful on their blogs or in Twitter, and since I’m already at those places, making a special trip to Discord seemed like a poor use of my time. (I should note that I am not a Discord user and the Blaugust Discord was the only Discord that I was using.)

In general the broader community aspect of Blaugust was pretty much a bust for me, but then I’ve always struggled to find my tribe. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve joined a micro-community of bloggers who I really resonate with, and that is a huge win.

All that said, I am ready to announce the Dragonchasers 2021 Blaugust Mentor of the Year Award as chosen by ME!:

Aywren from Spot of Mummery!
*confetti cannons go off*
Aywren posted a lot of great advice over the month and her advice was always clear without being simplistic. A marvelous gift.

Honourable Mentions:
Bhagpuss at Inventory Full
Naithin at Time To Loot

So, About The Future…

One of the reasons I did Blaugust was to decide if it was time to shut down the blog. I went something like 8 or 9 months without a post. Is it worth paying for the domain and hosting?

In terms of popularity, it clearly is not. My traffic doubled in August, which sounds great but again, I hadn’t posted in a long time so traffic was very very low. Doubling from 2 to 4 is a lot less impressive than doubling from 2 million to 4 million, after all. Specifically I had like 1000 page views for the entire month of August and 240 of those page views was for a post from last year. Basically 31 days of Blaugust posts barely caused a bump in traffic. Eliminate that article from last year and Blaugust added 250 page views over the entire month.

My take-away is that posting daily doesn’t help me generate traffic, and let’s be real, this blog is 19 years old. If it hasn’t found an audience yet, it never will. My choice of topics or my writing style doesn’t resonate with many. I remember a time when I thought Dragonchasers would become a side hustle. I was going to build it up and then get sponsors or ads or whatever. That dream was 99% dead already, but Blaugust drove the final nail into its coffin. I don’t have what it takes to write a blog that generates revenue. I’m just not focused enough.

And y’know what? That’s kind of a relief in a way. Last time my hosting plan came up for renewal I bought a 2-year plan and I still have a year or so left on it. So for now the blog will stay around but it’ll be MY blog and I’ll write for me and assume no one will ever read it. Maybe I’ll just share stories of my (completely ordinary) life or something. Who knows?

Blaugust is done. It’s not something I imagine I would do again. I’m glad I did it just because it got me back to writing, and getting people to blog is the whole point of Blaugust so it definitely worked. That said, if someone were to ask me about getting started or back into blogging, I’d say rather than waiting for Blaugust just pick a day and start writing. Make a schedule and try to stick to it, but avoid going for a daily post schedule. Give yourself at least one day off a week, and probably at least two. Maybe 3 or 4. Depends on how much free time you have. If you work full time and have a family, I feel like 3 posts/week is PLENTY. You need to reserve some time to do the things you’ll eventually blog about!

Weekend Recap for August 30th

We are slowly, slowly creeping up on October and the start of cooler weather. I desperately miss living in a place where September means crisp Autumn days, but here in the middle of North Carolina the best you can ask of September is to please cool it (ha!) with the 90F+ temperatures. Sadly, September doesn’t always listen. This weekend the heat index was over 100F and today is supposed to be even hotter. Lola and I had a tough weekend with the heat just unbearable and her so torn between “I really want to go outside and explore” and “I am a dark colored dog melting in the blazing sunshine, help me cool off.”

With the obligatory griping finished, let’s get started.

Movie Night — This week we watched Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, an animated Witcher movie on Netflix. This was a prequel of sorts that focused on Vesemir’s story before Geralt came into the picture. (Vesemir is Geralt’s older friend and mentor, in case you’re not up on all the lore.) I love the Witcher IP even if I’m not as thrilled with the games as most seem to be, and I really enjoyed Nightmare of the Wolf. I have questions but I won’t ask them here because spoilers (the movie just came out last week). I was worried @partpurple wouldn’t like it as much, but she enjoyed it quite a bit as well.

Family TV — We usually watch something during our lunch break and lately we’ve been doing a re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don’t think either of us has ever gone back and watched the series in the order it aired. It’s been fun with lots of “Oh I’d forgotten about this!” moments. We just crossed into Season 2 which seems a lot better than Season 1, at least based on the first couple of episodes. Evening viewing has been Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I’d watched a couple of seasons of this solo, but @partpurple hadn’t see it at all. After we’d enjoyed The Bad Batch we decided to go back and catch up and we’ve been glad we did. We’re watching them in chronological order which is a bit of a hassle but makes the storylines much more cohesive than I remember them from my first viewing. Oh, and What If…? and Star Trek: The Lower Decks continue to delight every week.

Reading — I’ve started book 7 of The Saxon Stories, The Pagan Lord. Uhtred’s temper has gotten him into hot water with the King and the Christian church, so he is once again on the move. Uhtred is in his 50s in this book, and there are 13 books in the series and I’m really curious to see what kinds of exploits he gets into as he grows even older. I read somewhere that The Last Kingdom Netflix series (based on these books) is ending in part because they couldn’t figure out a good way to show Uhtred as an old man when the actor who plays him is, of course, still quite young.

Gaming — I mentioned yesterday that I’d started A Plague Tale: Innocence and I got HOOKED so that’s where I spent most of my gaming time this weekend; I finished it last night. It’s supposed to be a fairly short game but it still took me almost a week to play through it. I might do a post on it. It was one of those games with a strong narrative that gets kind of ruined by a difficulty spike at the end. I don’t know why game devs do this in story-based games. They get you hooked, you’re having fun playing and enjoying the story and then “Oh, you want to know how it all ends? Well we’ve got some trick final boss fights you have to figure out first.” I very nearly walked away from it, and I’m talking about the last 5% of the game. I went from “This is a 5 star game!” to “Would hesitate to recommend” based on the gameplay changes at the very end.

That irritation may fade with time. I loved the setting, loved the characters and the voice acting and thought the story was pretty good. There were some changes I’d make besides the ending. In particular on console at least, the game uses a ‘weapon wheel’ UI, and many of my deaths came when I was fumbling with the wheel and an enemy closed a gap and killed me. Your character basically only takes 1 hit to kill. In a game like this where combat isn’t really the main point, I think having things slow down while you use the weapon wheel would serve the audience better.

Also after the Great Controller Debate of ’21 I wanted to play a FPS on the Xbox to see if I could understand the complaints about that controller. Since I’ve been wanting to finish Far Cry New Dawn anyway, I went with that. Weirdly I’m still able to pull off long-range head shots using a cobbled together pistol even with the Xbox controller. Huh. 🙂 I can’t say I’d blanket recommend Far Cry New Dawn; the tone is borderline offensive (depending on what character you are hanging with) and the pacing is strange. It can be hard to get from Point A to Point B just because so many random/semi-random events are constantly spawning. Those encounters are FUN mind you, but after a while they get in the way of you progressing through the story. I once again hope that Far Cry 6 is a bit more serious in tone.

Influenced by Tipa and Bhagpuss, I installed DC Universe Online and woke up a long dormant character. I keep trying to play this game on the consoles and it just looks so incredibly bad I can’t stick with it. On PC though, while it certainly looks dated, it is much better. I didn’t play for too long but did have fun and I’ve left it installed to revisit as time permits.

As for the two MMOs I’m currently subscribed to (FFXIV and ESO on Playstation) I of course didn’t log into either all weekend. Typical me.

Next weekend is a holiday for many of us in the US. I get 3.5 days off. Office closes at 1 PM on Friday, then Monday off. I’m REALLY looking forward to the extra time off, but for now it’s time to slog through one more stupidly hot work week. We can do this!

Game Trailers and Other Terminology

After almost every big gaming press event there’s some discussion of the trailers that are shown. Among other topics, we question how much we actually learned about the game from the trailer. Scopique and I touched on this topic very briefly in the comments to yesterday’s post but I thought it might be fun to unpack things a bit.

In ye olden tymes, game trailers were, well, short videos that showed a game being played. Everyone understood what a game trailer was. Over time though, as graphics improved and budgets swelled, a lot of games started having elaborate CGI intros or cut-scenes. From there it was a short skip to showing CGI as the trailer. I get why devs did that; the CGI could be finished way before gameplay was complete and ready to show.

I get why they did it, but I (and other gamers) weren’t so thrilled. We watched trailers to see how a game played, and these CGI trailers told us nothing. I did (and do) find them enjoyable just as little micro-stories but they do absolutely nothing to inform me as to whether or not this is a game I’d like to play.

Rather than walk back from showing CGI trailers, the marketing teams just made up a new name. “Today we have the world reveal trailer for Game X!” the announcement will say. World reveal can mean anything. Sometimes they say “Tonight is the cinematic trailer for Game X!” This tells us that a CGI movie is coming up but no gameplay. At least with this term we know what to expect. But what we gamers are really listening for is “We have the GAMEPLAY trailer for Game X!” Ah, OK that’s the good stuff. That’s what I need to actually inform me about a game.

Thinking about this led me to chuckle to myself about another loaded word: Exclusive. Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo used to throw ‘exclusive’ around willy-nilly. Sometimes it meant actually exclusive to the platform making the announcement, but usually not. Eventually to protect themselves (consumers started calling them out), the marketing teams forked this one too.

So now when S/M/N says a game is Exclusive to P/X/S (Playstation/Xbox/Switch) it generally actually means it will only be out on that platform. True exclusives are pretty rare these days and mostly come from 1st part studios from S/M/N.

The first forked exclusive term is Timed Exclusive. This means a game is coming out on one console first, then it’ll follow on others and on PC after 6 months or a year (or some other period of time). I don’t think marketers love this term. I feel like if you were talking to them IRL they’d kind of say “Timed” under their breath and then shout the “Exclusive!” part.

A lot of games will come out both on PC and a console. These curiously get tagged as “Console Exclusives.” Microsoft has a lot of these because Microsoft is more interested in selling games than hardware, but Console Exclusives are fairly common on all three platforms. I realize this terms sounds like the opposite of what it means. Console Exclusives come out on PC? It sounds better when you stick the console name in front: Xbox Console Exclusive. The intent is to say “This game is exclusive to the Xbox Console and won’t be out on other consoles and we’re just going to ignore that the PC exists, OK?”

You could combine those too. Maybe you have a Timed Console Exclusive. This means the game comes out on one console and PC on Day 1, then on other consoles at some later date. But again, that “Timed” word is in there and we do not want!

Thus was born “Console Launch Exclusive” which really means pretty much the same thing as Timed Console Exclusive. It means a game will launch on one console before it launches on other consoles. And again, we’ll pretend PC gaming isn’t a thing.

Those are the terms I can think of, but if you have others drop them in the comments.

It all just seems so silly. Did I really have to spend 5 paragraphs defining ‘exclusive’? Also, maybe I’m projecting but do gamers really want exclusive games? I guess maybe some do. I see stories about fans getting all pissed off when Sony games launch on PC, for example. I don’t get it. I want every game to take full advantage of a platform’s abilities but beyond that, put your game out everywhere so everyone can enjoy it.

This is Where My Gamescom Opening Night Recap Should Be

First I have to let you in on a little secret. I write most of my blog posts the night before I post them. I’m not a morning person at all so the idea of getting up and writing a blog post is just…horrid. So really I’m writing this Wednesday night. This is how the sausage is made!

Second, work was a hot mess of headaches on Wednesday. I was super busy troubleshooting and meeting all day. When I was done I was irritable and tired.

OK with that out of the way… Geoff Keighley’s Gamescom Opening Night was yesterday and I watched it, but you might have to as well if you want to know all that went down. It aired at 2 PM local time so I couldn’t watch it live. But y’know, how “live” was it anyway? Watching it after it streamed was good because I could fast forward through bits I didn’t care about (new Super Monkey Ball game, yet another Lego game).

I was taking notes at the start, then I opened a beer and put down my pencil. Honestly I didn’t miss too much because I felt like the show was really front-loaded in terms of announcements. They claim there were 40 games there, plus half a dozen or so during the pre-show. I didn’t count. I did, however, almost nod off a time or two.

I can’t honestly say if the show was bad or if I was just so angry at my work day that any sense of objectivity went out the window.

Here’re the few things that did catch my eye.

The show opened with a trailer for the new Saints Row game, called, as best I can figure, Saints Row. I’ve never really connected with Saints Row games because they all seem super dude-bro in tone, but this time out it seems like the devs have realized that the gaming audience is diverse and we don’t all like to play as human fist-bumps. (The image at the top of this post is your crew this time out.) The trailer was CGI, but at the very end of this segment is a few seconds of gameplay, which looks just as over-the-top as we expect from a Saint’s Row, but the vibe seems very different to me. In a good way.

The other new game that caught my attention was a new Marvel game, Midnight Suns. No gameplay (again) but it’s being done by Firaxis and they’re calling it a tactics RPG. Given the studio, I’m hoping for and expecting Xcom: Marvel Superhero edition. I remember seeing Wolverine, Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider in the trailer. We’re supposed to see actual gameplay on Sept. 1st. Here’s the CGI trailer though it doesn’t even HINT at what the gameplay will be like.

We got some release dates. Halo Infinite is coming December 8th, and Horizon Forbidden West is coming Feb. 18, 2022. Also Horizon Forbidden Dawn got a 60 FPS patch on PS5 so might be time for a replay.

The “creator of Lara Croft” has a game coming out called Dream Cycle that goes into Early Access on Steam on September 7th.

Jett: The Far Shore intrigues me even if I can’t quite figure out what is going on. At least we see some game play, and it’s coming October 7th so not long to wait.

And…that’s about all I have. Oh, they mentioned the next big update for Valheim is called Hearth & Home and then backed it up with an animated trailer that told us nothing. It’s coming September 16th though so we can try it then.

The last spot, the final big reveal slot, was devoted to the Director’s Edition of Death Stranding which seemed like a weird choice because while it has added some stuff and now will look better on PS5, it still is just a refinement of an existing game. Keighley loves Kojima though, so in a way this made the show feel like a Keighley production. Back to Death Stranding Director’s Cut: I’m not completely convinced the additions will make it better. Seems like more combat now, and gadgets like thrusters so you can just jump down a cliff. Hmph.

Again, maybe it’s because I’m tired and in a lousy mood, but I wasn’t too impressed with the show, quite honestly. But I’m not trustworthy! Don’t listen to me. Watch the whole thing for yourself!

FOMO and Pressuring Ourselves to Like Something

Over the past few days I’ve seen two people take to Twitter to talk about how they were struggling to find the fun in games that are widely popular. I won’t out the people, but the games were Hades and Final Fantasy XIV. It’s really hard to tease nuance from a Tweet and it is super easy to mentally add a tone that isn’t there, but to me both people seemed to feel a little sheepish (or maybe frustrated?) about their reactions to these games.

Maybe that’s just me projecting because, OMG do I ever feel sheepish when I share feelings like this. And for me it happens a lot. I just don’t get what others see in some games (or even genres) and it makes me feel like an outsider. Everyone is happily chatting about Game X and I want to be a part of that conversation but then I play Game X and it’s just not fun for me. If I push through, then I just get annoyed with the game and myself.

I give great advice to others who feel this way (I don’t listen to it myself): “Games are for your enjoyment. Play what makes you happy. No one cares what you like or don’t like.” That last one always sounds way more harsh than I mean it to be. But it is mostly true, right? Unless you are an “influencer” who has enough followers to sway the chances of a game’s success or failure, your liking or not liking a game doesn’t really impact others in any significant way.

None of that advice really helps with that feeling of missing out and being outside of a conversation, though. I have no good advice to help with the FOMO, at least not in terms of wide-ranging social media “conversations.” If you have some quiet time with a small group of individuals you can ask them what they like about the game. Not in a “convince me” way but in a “share what you enjoy” way. There are times when you can draw great happiness just from other peoples’ enjoyment of a thing, even if that thing isn’t for you. For example @partpurple LOVES Animal Crossing in all its forms. I don’t care for it in terms of playing it, but it makes me so happy listening to her talk about all the fun she gets from the game. Her excitement and enthusiasm are infectious. So I second-hand love Animal Crossing even if I feel pretty “meh” about it first-hand.

Can we teach ourselves to like something? Certainly there will be times in our life when we encounter something that is an ‘acquired taste’ which — once you have acquired that taste — we may come to love, but I’m not sure it happens very often in video games. For sure I have ‘bounced off’ a game once or twice then come back later and loved it, that seems more about the particular headspace I’m in at a particular time, or even about a game that’s been improved via patches and upgrades. I don’t think that’s the same as making a deliberate attempt to ‘find the fun’ and convince yourself you love a game right here, right now. If someone has a trick to doing this, please share. To me, the video game heart wants what the video game heart wants.

So no huge revelations from me today. Just have fun when you’re playing games. If you’re not having fun, stop playing that game. If all your friends are talking about it, try to listen to their stories as stories, not as an enticement to go do what they are doing. Find your joy where it lives.

YouTube Channels I Support

I watch a lot of YouTube. Since we “cut the cord” I surf YouTube the way I used to flip through channels watching TV. We pay for YouTube Premium so we’re not constantly watching ads (@partpurple watches a lot of YouTube as well).

Just to change things up for today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite YouTube channels. Maybe I’ll do a few of these posts but to get started I’ll cover the cream of the crop. Or at least, the three channels I support monetarily through Patreon or through YouTube itself.

NoClip

Probably of most interest to readers of this blog is NoClip, a channel that focuses on documentaries about video games. With Final Fantasy XIV being so hot right now, maybe a good first watch would be their series on that game. The 3-part documentary is 4 years old at this point, but if you want to see how FFXIV came about and was then reborn as FFXIV A Realm Reborn, get comfortable and give it a watch:

Here’s links to Part 2 & Part 3.

Townsends

Next up is Townsends. Townsends is a store that sells items for historical reenactment, specifically the 18th and early 19th century. The channel started as a way to promote the store’s products but took on a life of its own. Lots of the videos are about 18th century cooking, like this 300 year-old fried chicken recipe cooked outdoors over an open flame:

I just kind of randomly grabbed that video; I don’t really have particular favorites, I just find this a very relaxing channel and I’ve learned a bit about our history from watching it. Host John Townsend refers to himself as a history enthusiast rather than a historian. The store was started by his father and John just enjoys research and reenactment and shares that with us.

Food Wishes

Last up is a more traditional cooking channel, Food Wishes. Chef John covers all kinds of recipes, from the fairly complex to topics as simple as his recent tips for reheating French fries. He makes everything seem really easy and has a genial nature that I find very enjoyable. He also isn’t afraid to share his failures, like this one. I mean, the title (“Baked Cauliflower Fries – How to Waste a Day Making Crappy Cauliflower Sticks”) pretty much says it all.

Just to be clear, MOST of his recipes come out great, but I appreciate his honesty when they don’t.

Actually I feel bad just sharing one of Chef John’s failures, so here’s a recipe that is decidedly more mouth-watering (to me at least, vegans probably won’t be nearly as impressed)

I’m always on the lookout for new YouTube channels to watch, so please share your favorites in the comments!