My most played game – Overwatch. Sometimes maddening, other times hilarious, it made me think of 6v6 combat as a puzzle. What playstyle do I prefer? How can I use that to help the team and accomplish the objective? It doesn’t hurt that that characters have a lot of personality, thanks to the wide variety of emotes and voice lines.

Persona 5 – Effortlessly stylish and cool, and yet utterly WTF in the way only a Japanese role-playing video game can be, you literally live day-by-day as a maligned Japanese high school student. But at night, you become a Phantom Thief, where you enter distorted dimensions and fight warped mental perceptions in order to make reality a better place. Fight monsters, manage your time. friends, and resources, and see if you can make a difference.

Wolfenstein: The New Order would have likely been my game of the year if I hadn’t seen how many hours I put into Overwatch. Released in 2014, this installment of the Nazi-killing franchise envisions an alternate timeline where the Nazis triumph and BJ Blazkowicz must resist and survive. This game could’ve easily been an ultraviolent run and gun (and can be if you want) if not for two pleasant surprises – 1) broken stealth mechanics so if you want to be sneaky and kill someone by throwing a knife at a guy’s knee, go for it and 2) the writing which makes for some deeply intimate moments for the game’s cast of characters. The New Order does a great job making things incredibly personal for our protagonist and his friends, something that I felt was lacking in this year’s sequel The New Colossus. Add in the trauma of this past year’s politics? Violence can be cathartic. Resistance can be healing.

Seedship is an interactive fiction game written in Twine. You are a ship AI that is tasked to find humanity’s next home. It’s a simple game, challenging and fascinating. The game gave me a sense of wonder and occaisionally loneliness. It’s very much like life, I suppose. You do your best with what life has given you and hope for the best.

I’ve played a some video games these past few weeks but haven’t logged them since I wanted to write more in-depth about some of them. But words are hard and I didn’t want to delay any more and eventually forget about them. Then what would be the point of this pop culture log?

Interruption Junction (play)

[Interruption Junction screenshot]

Dietrich Squinkifer (writing as Deirdra Kiai) created this game about feeling alone in a crowd. It’s a simple concept – you are hanging with some friends and you press the spacebar (or click the mouse) to interrupt. To keep talking, continue to press the button. Every time you give up control of the conversation, the game brushes off your contributions (“Okay. Anyway…”) and the other three computer character continue to converse among themselves.

If you let them dominate the conversation, your character begins to fade. If you hog all the words, they fade. No one truly wins.

The game demonstrates the ebb and flow conversations need, but there’s something heartbreaking and almost sinister by having the game essentially ignore you. That’s its purpose, to show that no matter how much effort you put in, it is wasted. The fade out only enhances the damage, no matter who is disappearing.

Journey

[Journey - Alone in the desert]

This video game came out to enormous acclaim in 2012. It’s beautiful, the music is evocative, and the way the game allows fellow players to interact with you adds an extra dimension to “the journey is the destination”.

I noticed when watching videos of me playing the game that despite the game’s relaxed atmosphere, I spent most of my time moving and looking around. It was rare when I actually stopped to take in the view. Even then, I’m swinging the game camera around so I could see more. The game lets you take its time but the way it’s structured makes time feel slower. You trudge through sand, swim through water, fight through snow. There are times when you can slide down a hill or even fly, but you are generally forced to take it slow.

You explore a world of a civilization gone by. There are discoveries to be made. Sometimes people will help you. No one helped me. Although I encountered several other players, I only interacted with one for maybe a few seconds. Sometimes you have to do things alone.

KELLAN’S BIG DAY (play)  [KELLEN'S BIG DAY]

Oh my gosh, KELLAN’S BIG DAY, is an interactive comic made in Twine. It’s more of a quick proof-of-concept than anything else, but I need to make gifs of this game because it’s done so well and look! Comics! In Twine! Imagine the possibilities! I wish I could draw!

[Journey first scarf]

One of my overall goals this year is to be a better writer. I hope to be more thoughtful about the pop culture things I’m consuming. My brain is pondering over Journey and Interruption Junction at the moment. Whoever said writing is like excavating isn’t kidding – I feel like there’s a germ of a good idea somewhere buried under miles of rubble. I’ve written a lot of words about these games that feel empty and tangential to what I want to get at. I wish the good stuff comes soon.

[Twine map of "Wait and See"]

New month means new project. I got stalled in my January project, which was to be my first ever fan video. Finding a working free video editor for Windows 7 that wouldn’t constantly crash was more challenging than I thought. Add in some personal issues, some January blahs, and it didn’t get done. I know I’ll get back to it someday, but February’s project is time-sensitive so I want to focus on it.

I want to make a self-directed Twine guide to help people do their taxes. My primary audience would be college students, young adults, and those who dread and fear the process. Less like TurboTax, more like You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide.

The initial plan is to educate the user of resources they might not be aware of, like the IRS’ free tax software that’s available for those who earn under a certain threshold and to walk the user through the 1040, 1040EZ forms. If I have enough time to introduce more complexity, I hope to include some or all of the following:

  • Itemized deductions vs. standard deductions
  • International students (1040-NR?)
  • Credits the audience should be aware of (student loans, moving, EITC?, retirement)
  • Info on hobbies vs. freelance business (Etsy, tumblr artists?, Schedule C)
  • Multiple visual encouragement packs (cute animals, Courage Wolf, etc.)

This week’s plan is to go through the 1040 and 1040 EZ forms, make notes, and get a rough outline of how to proceed. I’m going to use Twine 1.4.2 since it seems more flexible than Twine 2.0.10 for potential multimedia encouragement and I’m more used to the formatting in 1.4.2. I want to focus on getting the thing to work before I make it look good.

(The screencap is of a Twine I wrote last night that helped me decide to use version 1.4.2 for this project. See how much work I need with writing?)