It's Dai Time

Katie & Scott & Simon & Cecily.

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2012: another year, another post

Maybe this year, you’ll get more than one post? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Let’s review last year’s resolutions:

  • Read a dozen books (again!).
    Failure! I did much worse this year. I read Bossypants, and that may have been it.
  • Cook a meal once a week.
    Failure! I feel like we actually ate out/got take out a lot more this past year.
  • Go to the gym (”regularly”)
    Failure! This never even started. I did start trying to play Dance Central regularly late in the year.

Wow. I did well, eh? Let’s go ahead and call it a rebuilding year. You want to know who I blame for this complete resolution breakdown? The newest and cutest member of our family: Cecily Louise! She’s adorable, but makes it harder than ever to keep the house clean, make time for reading and cooking and working out. (That’s mainly an excuse, but because I think it only applies for this one year, I’m using it!)

For 2012, here’s what I propose to myself:

  • Write and “publish” a piece of interactive fiction each month.
  • Read a dozen books. Seriously. That’s not that many.
  • Come home in time for family dinner as often as possible.

I’ve used different formats in the past, but I feel like just making a list this time. People love lists, right? If you want me to explain something on this list, feel free to comment or email or tweet or Facebook or Instagram me or something – and by Instragram, I do indeed mean writing your question down and taking a picture of yourself holding that question.

Best Movie I Saw in the Theaters: The Avengers DBOX
Best Movie I Saw on DVD Rented from Work: What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Best Movie I Saw via Streaming Rental: The Hunger Games
Best Movie I Saw Multiple Times Because Simon Wanted To: Up
Best New TV Show I Started Watching: The New Normal
Second Best New TV Show: Elementary
Best TV Show I Still Watch: Downton Abbey
Best TV Show I Watched an Entire Season of in One Week: How I Met Your Mother
Best TV Show for Seeing Matthew Perry: Go On
Best TV Show for Kids and Me: Phineas and Ferb
Best Book I Read: Bossypants
Best Book I Thought About Reading: The Big Short
Best Baby: Cecily
Best Song I Heard Because of Glee: Let’s Have a Kiki
Best Song I Heard Because of Everywhere: Somebody That I Used to Know
Best Song I Heard Because of People at Work Dancing Like Pony Riders: Gangnam Style
Best AAA Game I Was Excited For: Mass Effect 3
Best AAA Game That Was More Fun Than I Anticipated: Forza Horizon
Best AAA Game That Let’s You Name All Your Characters: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Best Indie Game I Bought On Steam on a Whim: Don’t Starve
Best Indie Game I Got as Part of a Bundle: Somewhere Out There
Best Game That Breaks My Heart: The Walking Dead
Best iPhone Game: Where’s My Perry?
Best Game I Played with Other People: Trackmania United/Nations
Best Free Game Where I Can Be a Sad Mummy: League of Legends
Best Drool: Cecily
Best Hugs: Simon

2011: the year that was

Hey everyone! Remember us? How long has it been? It feels like a year.

Anyway, let’s review – as painful as it may be – my 2011 resolutions.

  • Read at least one book per month. – Failure! So close and yet so far. A review of the books in a bit.
  • Read to Simon at least 3 times a week. – Success! Simon asks me to read him a dozen books every day.
  • Write something (short fictional prose, a poem, an essay) once a week. – Failure!
  • Learn to play the guitar. – Failure! I started, but never got going.
  • Defeat Hunter in Marvel vs Capcom 3. – Failure! I got discouraged.

2012 Resolutions

  • Read a dozen books (again!).
  • Cook a meal once a week.
  • Go to the gym (“regularly”)

Books
I ended up reading 11 books this past year, just one shy of the dozen from my resolution (if you don’t count the Kristin Chenoweth memoir that I listened to on audiobook, which I don’t). Here’s what I read and what I thought about them. What was fun was that Katie read all of these as well (except Outliers).

  1. Water for Elephants – This was actually the first novel I had read in a while, and I really enjoyed it. We were on a circus kick with the PBS documentary Circus, and Water for Elephants felt like a backstage view of the circus while maintaining a fairly good frame story and interesting characters.
  2. The Hangman’s Daughter – This was a translation and a good one. It’s a bit here and there, what with the murder mystery, the mystical elements, and the chase/fight scenes. Still, the story is anchored by a few strong characters that really helped me invest in the novel.
  3. The Imperfectionists – Sometimes, a novel of vignettes works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t. The Imperfectionists was entertaining but wasn’t one of my faves.
  4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Great characters, though a bit slow at times. Enjoyable enough.
  5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – It’s got a great gimmick and an entertaining plot. What more could you ask for?
  6. The Hunger Games – A super fast read with a great hook. I flew through this and bought Catching Fire immediately.
  7. Catching Fire – Suffers from a bit of more-of-the-same, but managed to pull me back in. I’m glad I read it, but I liked The Hunger Games better.
  8. Mockingjay – Still enjoyable, but probably the least enjoyable of the series. It felt like a necessary evil to finish the series, although I do appreciate some of the storytelling risks this book took in stepping away from what had made The Hunger Games so gripping.
  9. Outliers – The usual Malcolm Gladwell stuff. I like the way he provokes my brain, despite the fact that I never really follow up on the case studies.
  10. The Psychopath Test – A witty and interesting look at psychopathy and what it means to be emotional.
  11. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Short, not as controversial as I thought it’d be, and felt at times like it was straining to be humorous.

I started and couldn’t quite get into Swamplandia! and was about a third of the way through Game of Thrones (enjoying it! But man is it long) as the year ended. I also listened to A Little Bit Wicked over the course of a week of commuting to work, which was a cute little piece of work, just like that Miss Chenoweth.

Games
There was another Batman game this year, wasn’t there? Yeah. It was awesome, just like the last Batman game. It was bigger, had great pacing, and felt familiar and new at the same time.

But as far as AAA sequels go, I’d have to lean toward Portal 2. It was the kind of game that fit perfectly in my life – a short campaign with spectacular, fresh writing and extended replay with the kind of perfected co-op mode that only Valve can deliver.

I’ve also been playing a lot of indie games, and a few that I really liked this year were SpaceChem, Terraria, and – most recently – Space Pirates and Zombies. I’ll get back to you on Bastion, but I think I’m going to like it.

TV
Of all the new shows we’ve started watching, I’d say Revenge is the most satisfying to continue watching. It’s soapy, sure, but it’s really quite good. We’re not quite caught up on Once Upon a Time, but I feel like it holds promise. We also are still watching mainstays like Bones and Glee. We started watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix and Community on Hulu. At some point, I’ll get around to Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Walking Dead.

Oh, also, I discovered Phineas & Ferb this year, which is perhaps the best kids show I’ve ever seen. Also, Downton Abbey is, well, fantastic. Was that in 2011? I like those two better than Revenge, for certain.

What I don’t get is the accolades being piled on 2 Broke Girls, which I found offensive and not very funny. What’s up with that show?

Movies
I didn’t see many movies again this year, aside from random stuff on Netflix, Transformers: Something Something Moon, Thor, and The Muppets. As you can see, there weren’t all that many super memorable movies. I think I also watched X-Men: First Class and Captain America on the plane to/from China. Man, I watched a lot of superhero movies.

Let’s just say The Muppets, why don’t we? I saw it with Katie while we were up in Portland and the grandparents were looking after Simon, so it was a nice little holiday date. The movie was fun and cute and had songs in it. So, there you go. Movie of the year!

That’s it. See you next year.
Unless I embark upon some other blog writing project halfway through 2012 or something momentous happens.

A word from the wife…
Scott apparently wants me to chime in on this post. I’m not really one for blogging, but I suppose someone should point out that 2011 was actually not JUST a year of books, games, TV, and movies. At the risk of sounding like one of those annoying Christmas letters, I would remind him that we celebrated Simon’s first birthday and the marriages of several wonderful friends, traveled to China and the Pacific Northwest (twice), and finally got to attend a Steelers game.

Oh, and I also read a ton of trashy historical fiction and crime novels. Go ahead and judge. Happy 2012!

Army of Two: The 40th Day

If you like fist-bumps, a ravaged Shanghai, and hints of beastiality, do I have a game for you. Hunter and I started playing AoT:tFD when it first came out (January of 2010) and finally beat it. It’s a fictionally preposterous game and a relatively standard shooter with cover mechanics otherwise. The things that make it stand out – the moral choices, the gun customization, the mask customization – are more satisfying the more emotional investment you put into them.

The moral choices are kind of absurd. They’re so often a clear choice between moral and immoral, yet the outcome vignettes seem specifically to twist your choice into something different that, as a player, you feel a bit insulted. They’re interesting attempts at storytelling, but the fact that they don’t affect anything other than the vignette directly afterward weakens them to these one-off moments that almost are there to trick the player into feeling bad about their choice. One choice we made, though, concerning a really cool kid with a helmet, will always stick with me.

The gun customization is fun, but surfaces a problem we ran into often. It’s very hard to know whether we should keep upgrading our current gun or to buy a new one. The base stats of the new gun may be worse, but it’s hard to tell what upgrades may be available for it without buying it. Also, there are several parts that seem to have in-game effects that aren’t mentioned in the actual upgrade menu. Lastly, the fact that there are only auto-save checkpoints mean that customizing your gun (which can take a while) and then dying means you lose all the customization work you just did.

That said, walking around with a gold-plated shotgun with a bayonet attached to the end and a silencer (what?) is pretty pimp. So, there’s that.

Mask customization is by far the most satisfying thing that I experienced in the game. Being able to create a mask on the game’s website using a mouse and shapes meant that we were able to take Salem and Rios through the game wearing Buddy and TOBOR masks (from the MySims franchise, don’t you know?), making our sarcastic buddy romp through a devastated Shanghai go from simply weird to a Kafka-esque level of absurdity. Making the masks took a few hours to get the details right, but it was more than worth it. Going through the game with the default masks would have made it half as fun.

It’s a wacky game. The overall plot was unintelligible to us, the dialog was funny but hard to hear over the loud and constant gunfire, and certain sections of stages seemed to have an infinite number of enemies. But we got to blow up Shanghai and play rock-paper-scissors whenever we wanted. So. You know. That’s that.

Transformers: War for Cybertron

Played through the co-op 3-man online campaign on Easy. Transformers: WfC was a fun shooter with some really interesting levels and a strong thematic element. I wouldn’t have picked up WfC and played it myself if it weren’t for a certain Transformers-obsessed co-worker of mine.

I’m glad I played this game. While the action is sometimes a bit too frenetic, the boss battles a bit too punishing, and the art style a bit too overwhelming, it’s a decent shooter and it was a lot of fun to play with friends.

The aerial levels were especially satisfying and the game simply invites moments where a player can transform from a charging vehicle into robot form whilst hitting an enemy with their melee weapon. This feels incredibly good. Also, space slugs: ridiculous but fun.

It’s the kind of game that I don’t anticipate picking up and playing again, but have no regrets about playing through once. I’m sure a true Transformers fan would get a lot more out of it than me, but I would encourage any shooter fan with a few friends to check this out as well.

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