My Odyssey

Sometimes, instead of playing D&D, our group would get together and play a console game. Usually, it would be something we could take turns at, a perennial favourite being Katamari. Then we might fight it out with Super Smash Bros Brawl or, before Twitch was a thing, watch one person play Halo, Portal, or, in one memorable instance, Assassin’s Creed.

It was early 2008 and we’d never heard of this game, but it looked fun. Kind of like Prince of Persia, but with a much bigger world and story. So I bought a copy and played it through, experiencing the usual arc of new game discovery. In addition to learning how to make Altair run and jump and climb, there were extra senses and puzzles and things to collect. It was hard and frustrating, then not so hard and fun in that ‘I’ve accomplished a thing and I really want to accomplish the next thing’ way, then amazing, and then… wow. There was a story here, something deeper than an overarching reason to kill stuff and collect stuff. The best part for me, though, was the fact you didn’t have to fight your way to every victory. A lot of the time, you could sneak around the bad guys, pull off one spectacular kill, and run away.

This wondrous game had also solved the inconsistent puzzle of death and resurrection. Because the player character was reliving the memories of ancestors through a device called the Animus, death was really just desynchronization. Reload and try again.

Perfect game was perfect.

You can continue reading the highlights of my Assassin’s Creed journey in previous posts. (Assassin’s Creed III, Black Flag, Syndicate, Unity, and Rogue.) Today, I’m going to leap forward twenty or so years to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which I just finished, bringing me up to date and ahead of new releases for the first time in ten years. Continue reading “My Odyssey”

I Can Quit At Any Time

One day last week (not sure which, it’s all a bit of a blur), I was nestled on the couch with a blanket and a couple of cats. Too tired to read and having watched enough television to numb certain parts of my brain, I was playing solitaire on my Kindle. Though it makes little sense to play a game of logic when I’m tired, I often play solitaire in the evenings. I find it just engaging enough but just bland enough to fill in the hour I should wait before surrendering to sleep. (Going to bed too early means I get up too early and that’s an unaccountably vicious cycle.)

An ad popped up for a game called Klondike and I figured what the heck, I’d download it and give it a try. It looked even more mindless than solitaire but prettier.

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The game started up with lots of easy to follow instructions. Buy some chickens, plant some wheat, and chop through these bushes to reveal hidden treasures! The juxtaposition of farming and exploring didn’t really make sense to me? Nor did having to rescue people and fix someone’s boat, but the game was telling me what to do, meaning I didn’t have to think, so I went along with it.

For three hours. Continue reading “I Can Quit At Any Time”

Wrapping the Kenways and Completing the Initiates

I had actually thought both Unity and Syndicate were a part of the Kenway saga. The names of Edward and Haytham pop up often enough for them to feel like they are. But apparently they’re their own thing, which doesn’t really affect this post all that much except making naming it more complicated.

I’m talking about the endlessly fascinating Assassin’s Creed series, by the way. I’m behind in posting my thoughts on Rogue, Unity and Syndicate.

assassins_creed_syndicate_logo-HDWe’ll start with the game I finished playing just last weekend: Syndicate.

What I Loved

Which is mostly going to be a list of what I liked, in some cases very much, as I didn’t really love this one. I loved the beginning and felt the game actually got less interesting as it progressed, most markedly when Jacob and Evie arrived in London. There began the relentless and monotonous conquering of the city, which I enjoyed for the sake of clearing out the rabble, but quickly abandoned once I’d leveled the twins and finished upgrading all of their gear. Westminster remains unconquered.

I really enjoyed the Thames as a borough, and had fun riding up and down the river on barges, sabotaging and stealing shipments. I stumbled into the World War I segment by accident and enjoyed that immensely. I liked the short and defined nature of the quests and the feeling of actually making a difference. Also, shooting the planes out of the sky was fun.

I liked how the present and precursor stories were handed in Syndicate. No more tedious traipsing around an office hacking computers for files we didn’t really need. We also got a huge chunk of precursor story, but felt a little recycled. Was it recycled? I did miss solving the logic puzzles, though. I’d rather have scanned barcodes on buildings and solved puzzles for database entries and keys than complete endless London Stories that often had no bearing at all on the main quest.

But we’re talking about what I liked. I loved driving carriages and quickly achieved Wanton Destruction, thus making my carriages even more dangerous! I liked not having to level my lockpicking skill and waiting for tumblers to settle. But I sort of missed that as well?

Jacob was loveable. I made up a ton of stories for him in my head and if I still had the time to write fan fiction, he’d quickly consume my life. I loved his personality. His cheekiness and blunt way of getting things done. I felt he had a lot more emotional investment in his quests than Evie, too.

Finally, being able to infect multiple targets with a poison dart? Delightful.

What I Didn’t Love

The overall story was… dull. Basically, it followed a chain of linked characters who had to be killed before the big bad, Starrick, could go down. And Starrick wasn’t all that big and bad. In discussing this one with my husband, we came to the conclusion that while we like the blurring of the lines between the ultimate aims of the Assassins and Templars, this game really suffered from the shades of grey. Yeah, Starrick was evil, but he also seemed like he had the best interests of London at heart. I dunno. I didn’t feel as though I was ridding the world of super dangerous scum at the end of this one. But I did like that Jacob and Evie had settled their differences by the end.

maxresdefaultContinuing to work backward, let’s talk about Unity.

 What I Loved

Just about everything, actually. I had FUN playing this one. I loved the brightness of Paris and the difference between the neighborhoods. The city felt much more distinct than in previous games, which was probably because I’d played Black Flag, Freedom’s Cry and Rogue in the year or so leading up to it, and so had been wandering the developing world, sacking and pillaging ships and villages for a long, long time. It was nice to shake the mud off my boots for a while and rediscover civilization.

I think my favourite aspect was that it felt like a return to Assassin’s Creed II in gameplay and design. I enjoyed making the city mine and bumping into history via quests and the engaging Paris Stories. I loved solving the mini-quests like the murder mysteries. Again, I fell into the expansion without warning and though I was a little under level for it, persevered and came out all the richer for my troubles.

I enjoyed sneaking into and out of the Bastille. I enjoyed sneaking into and out of just about everywhere, actually. What I loved most about this installment, though, was the story. Yes, it was another shades of grey episode, but it really worked here with the star-crossed romance angle, which I really liked. Arno had so much more purpose than the average assassin. In fact, he kind of reminded me of Ezio, my all-time favourite. Giving the assassin a personal quest as well as a world quest definitely makes the story more engaging.

I also just really liked Arno.

Oh, and the World War II segment was really, really cool. I took so many screenshots of the balloons over Paris and all of the other craziness.

What I Didn’t Love

The present part. BORING. I miss the present story having a face. I miss Desmond. 😦 I also feel like the present and precursor stories have stalled. I love that the series has unlimited potential when it comes to tracking down the pieces of Eden using the memories of certain bloodlines, but what drew me to and kept me fascinated through the end of Revelations was the intertwined story threads of past, present, and possible future (or ancient past). I’d love to see more of that.

10495383_849842478360298_1178114232514149692_oFinally, let’s talk about Rogue.

What I Loved

A lot, actually. My most defined thought is that Rogue is what Assassin’s Creed III should have been, starring Haytham Kenway. I’ve complained loudly and often about Assassin’s Creed III—the game that nearly had me quitting the franchise. If not for Black Flag, I might have. Rogue took the best elements of both—giving us the story that should rightfully have been Haytham’s, that of a man born to one creed and raised by another. Conflict within and without.

If you don’t know Haytham’s entire story, I recommend reading Oliver Bowden’s novel, Forsaken.

Back to Rogue. I really liked Shay’s story. I felt his motivation for leaving the Assassins and joining the Templars was sound and his continuing struggle with his decision was handled well. Not over the top, but not ignored. I played the game with a sort of, “about time” attitude.

I loved the more confined map. This isn’t as big a game as Black Flag, although it was markedly similar in a lot of ways. But the story was much tighter and more cohesive with less reliance on real-world or “storied” events. More its own thing. Like Revelations, the story here was organic to the game world and current character than the more sprawling installments in the series.

I really enjoyed sacking and pillaging.

I always enjoy sacking and pillaging.

I don’t know what’s so fun about it, except that there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment attached to defeating another ship or claiming a plantation or warehouse and relieving each of all their supplies. Maybe it’s that those supplies were then used for upgrades, so there was a real drive to engage in this activity, over and over again. And it wasn’t as tedious as all that shipping and trade introduced in AC II (only to be dropped thereafter, because ugh).

I enjoyed the mini-game of expanding trade routes, though, with the turn-based ship battles. I liked building and maintaining that fleet, and watching my wealth escalate as a result—not that I ever figured out what to do with it all? I’ve generally finished the main plot of every Assassin’s Creed game before realizing the benefits of all the side quest actions like conquering districts and building fleets.

What I Didn’t Love

The limited access to the world map at the beginning of the game. I’m a natural born wanderer and as such, like to wander wherever, whenever. I became so frustrated with the limitations of the map and not being able to clear and claim areas and complete quests ahead of schedule. Same with the access to tools and equipment.

Thankfully, this seems to be the only game where the limitations were so fierce, and I’ve wandered freely since.

 

So, what’s next up? Origins, I guess! I’m usually two games behind, so I doubt I’ll even get to Origins before Odyssey is released, though. Probably not even this year. I’m playing The Evil Within right now, and loving it, and I’m hoping to squeeze the new Tomb Raider in before the new Fallout drops. Then there are all the other new games coming up soon (which I talk about here if you want to read another gaming ramble).

I am looking forward to playing both Origins and Odyssey, though, and despite myriad small complaints, really do love the Assassin’s Creed games. They’ve become my comfort game of choice, taking over from Skyrim. When I just want to kill stuff, I now slip on my hood and become an assassin for a while. Keeps me off the streets. 😉

Game to Movie

Movies inspired by games face several unique challenges. There is an existing audience that must be served. These are the core fans and most of them are going to go see this film (even if it’s directed by Uwe Boll). I’d like to believe some films are made for game fans, to broaden the experience of the game and to celebrate the stories and characters we love. (It’s probably all about money, but whatever…)

Then there is the new audience: folks who don’t game and those who might have heard something about something and are curious enough to check it out. I’m sure there are fans of the Resident Evil franchise that have never played the games.

The biggest challenge is in balancing these two audiences without boring the first and confusing the second. Then there are matters of script, direction, actors and overall vision.

MV5BN2Y2MTljNjMtMDRlNi00ZWNhLThmMWItYTlmZjYyZDk4NzYxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ2MjQ5NzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,671,1000_AL_There have been some truly terrible game movies (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale) and some pretty good ones. I like the Resident Evil movies because you don’t need to know anything about the world before going in. The movies do a great job of catching you up because the plot of each is based on the story. So even if you have no idea what came before, a few minutes in, you’ve got a pretty good idea that a) there’s a zombie thing happening and b) an evil corporation is behind it all. Recruit a capable actor (I really, really like Milla Jovovich), give the movie a half-decent plot, show us some fab stunts and special effects, and we’re happy. With the Resident Evil series, there’s also the added bonus of every movie being a collaboration of a sort between the husband and wife team of Milla Jovovich and Paul Anderson. You can tell they love the movies as much as the fans do. They do their best and it shows.

MV5BNzE1OTczNTc1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgyMDI3MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_I found the Assassin’s Creed movie somewhat disappointing. After learning Michael Fassbender would be leading the cast, I really wanted to see the film. I read articles about how involved he was in the development of the project and got even more excited. I think my main issue with this film is that I have played nearly every Assassin’s Creed game. From the beginning. I know this world very, very well. The movie feels more as though it’s geared toward those who’ve never played a single game. There’s too much backstory and it lacks the impact of having “lived” through several twists and turns of plot over the course of nearly a decade.

I understand they wanted to separate the movie from the games in a way that allowed them to create a new and unique story, and I’m all for that. I’ve read a few of the tie-in novels and am generally a fan of any media that expands a universe. But the story felt almost foreign to me. I failed to connect. The romance didn’t work. All I really came away with was that the new Animus was pretty cool, the special effects had been handled fairly well, and I liked the inclusion of a real-world leap of faith. That was about it. I’d maybe watch a sequel on video. Maybe.

MV5BMjIwNTM0Mzc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk5NDU1ODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_I really, really enjoyed Warcraft: The Beginning. I had a lot of fears regarding this one as I think it’s harder to adapt fantasy worlds to the big screen. There is so much lore. And you have to get it right or every fan with a smartphone is going to nitpick on every social media platform. (Actually, that’s probably true of every adaptation, but gamers are the ultimate nerds.) Warcraft did a good job. I loved the sets. They actually made me nostalgic for World of Warcraft. I remembered being in certain places. I felt like I was there again. I also liked the story. I think the script struck a good balance between serving fans without boring them and giving every viewer something new. If I had a quibble with the movie, it was in trying to separate Ragnar Lothbrok from Anduin Lothar. 😉

MV5BMjI5NTM5MDA2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjkwMzQxNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_One of my favorite film to game adaptations is Battleship. The movie has been roundly ridiculed for a lot of things, the two biggest being the Missouri actually being seaworthy and that amazing anchor-drop broadside. Whatever. The anchor-drop broadside looked SO COOL and I loved that they used real vets in the film. I liked the idea that they were still battle ready. The movie is director Peter Berg’s homage to naval conflict, which doesn’t get a lot of screenplay. My favourite aspect of the film is the unique way Berg translated the pencil and paper game of Battleship to hide and seek game on the open water using the tsunami buoys.

MV5BMTMwNDg0NzcyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg4MjQyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,676,1000_AL_Let’s talk Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Um, I loved it… and I’m going to tell you why. First of all, I feel Jake Gyllenhaal is an undervalued actor. He puts so much into every role, every project, and while he undoubtedly knew this movie would face the same critical ridicule garnered by every “game” movie, he put his all into this. I believed he was Dastan. I kinda loved that he was Dastan. I drew fan art of Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan and went on to design a playable character in another world based on that art. Oh, yeah.

I liked the story. I liked the other actors. I liked the production. But what I really, really loved about the Prince of Persia movie was how much like the game it felt. I’ve played Sands of Time and there were moments in the movie where I could almost have had a controller in my hands. They translated the acrobatic sequences really well.

MV5BOTY4NDcyZGQtYmVlNy00ODgwLTljYTMtYzQ2OTE3NDhjODMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzYzODM3Mzg@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Which brings me to the reason I started writing this post: the new Tomb Raider movie. I went to see it on Tuesday and I enjoyed it very much. I’ve been playing Tomb Raider and watching the movies since the beginning. I don’t know that I was drawn to the series because it had a female protagonist and I’m pretty sure the original series, games and movies, weren’t designed with female gamers in mind. I simply wanted in for the adventure. I really like games that combine action with puzzling, making me a fan of such long-running franchises as Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted. (When are we getting an Uncharted movie??)

The 2013 edition of Tomb Raider (game) felt more like it had been designed with me in mind—except for the multiple occurrences of death by impalement. I’d always felt Lara to be a capable heroine, but her new clothing (and breast size) fit more comfortably. I liked that she could do what needed to be done while remaining feminine (which is what I loved about Wonder Woman).

So I was pretty pleased with Alicia Vikander as the new Lara Croft. She’s smart and capable, but not always the best at everything. She makes mistakes and learns from them. She screams when she’s free-falling and grunts in pain when she’s taking a beating. This is not a woman trying to be a man; it’s a woman being a woman. It’s a difficult distinction to make sometimes, but one I always appreciate.

The movie isn’t the most imaginative, spectacular game-to-movie movie out there. But it’s decent. I liked the plot. I liked that we went back to the beginning so a new generation of fans could get to know Lara. Find out where she came from and appreciate how she became the Tomb Raider. The stunts were great. I was all geared up for impalement and happily disappointed. I enjoyed seeing Daniel Wu and Nick Frost (Into the Badlands) on screen together, even if they weren’t exactly on screen together in this one.

My favourite aspect of the film, though, was the way the stunts were filmed. Like Prince of Persia, I actually felt as if I was in a video game world for some of them. There were even a couple of instances where I was glad not to be because the acrobatic puzzle would have been one I failed and failed and failed. I also felt the movie remained faithful to the game with the inclusion of notebooks and puzzles. All in all, it was just a lot of fun to watch.

I’m off to see Ready Player One today and I have high hopes for it. It looks as if it’s going to be bigger than the book—as though the producers have taken the virtual reality part and made it the most important aspect of the movie because it will all look so cool! I hope they remember to put a good story in there. The story is very good, especially for old gaming nerds like me.

What are your favourite video game movies?

My Favourite Things 2017

Here it is, my favourite blog post of the year, the one where I share all the things I fell in love with over the past twelve months.

For many of us, escapism became all the more important in 2017 as we searched for ways to deal with disappointment, disillusionment, and sometimes the sheer terror of what each day might bring. For me, the year started slowly with a lot of books, movies, and TV shows not living up to their potential. So I stepped outside of my comfort zone. Read things I might not have a year before. Took recommendations I wasn’t sure of. Watched movies that should have been terrible and weren’t.

I found a lot to like and actually picked up a new favourite author. I’m going to start this year’s list right there. As always, links refer back to reviews and posts on this blog.

Books

Mystery/Thriller: The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

This book consumed me for the nearly two weeks it took me to read it. It’s long and involved and completely absorbing. Briefly, The Power of the Dog covers nearly thirty years of America’s “War on Drugs” from the late seventies up to the new millennium. The most astonishing aspect is the fact that it’s all facts—and that author Don Winslow found a way to add a story in there with characters you come to care deeply about. This book wrecked me in so many ways. Even without knowing the consequences were real, they felt true.

I never would have picked this book up on my own. As it was, I borrowed it from the library without even reading the back cover because the waiting list for The Force was months long and I wanted to read Don Winslow now. Best incidental recommendation, ever.

Currently, I’m buddy reading the sequel, The Cartel. It’s almost as good. The research is just as thorough and the presentation of facts just as absorbing. I’ve also started Winslow’s Neal Carey detective series and really enjoyed the first book!

Fantasy: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I’ve always meant to read more N.K. Jemisin and so when The Fifth Season showed up as either an Audible Daily Deal or in one of their sales, I picked it up and gave it a listen. And was immediately drawn into a richly detailed world that felt real, even though completely unfamiliar. I seriously envy Jemisin’s world building. It’s seamless and effortless. If ever you have to ask why, it’s usually along with the inhabitants of her world, and the question is one that will be answered by the story at the proper time.

I also really enjoy her characters. There is an even-handed quality to them. She doesn’t write “strong female characters” and “emotionally mature men,” she writes real people who transcend gender and archetype.

Then there’s the story. It’s epic but relatable. I realized going in that The Fifth Season was the set up for a much larger story, but it’s by no means incomplete. The second and third books in the series rely more heavily on the fact you’ve already traveled the roads of book one, but still manage to include complete story arcs. The final book is truly amazing. Better than I imagined it could be and with a resolution I did not quite expect. The whole series is brilliant and I’m really looking forward to more news about the planned television series.

Science Fiction: How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K Wolfe

Technically, this isn’t a book. It’s a series of lectures from The Great Courses. I’m a huge fan of these series, particularly the audio versions, because I find it difficult to concentrate on non-fiction in print. Listening, I can do, however, and because I’m not tempted to skim, I absorb a lot more information.

And information there is in this course. These twenty-four lectures cover the genre pretty thoroughly from origin to present day to what the future might bring. Each subject was fascinating and I found the Wolfe’s opinions and commentary extremely balanced. He had his favourites (which more often than not aligned with mine), but also talked about books that are simply important to the history of science fiction.

My reading list grew as did my re-read list (which is something I might actually get to now that so many titles are available on audio). What I most enjoyed about this series, though, was Wolfe’s obvious and genuine love and enthusiasm for the genre and the people who have strived to excel within it.

Other notable science fiction reads this year included the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos and, as always, the continuing saga of Miles Vorkosigan.

Romance: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

More than a love story, Aristotle and Dante is an homage to the very real pain of youthful discovery. Of all the YA love stories I’ve read with LGBT characters, this is the one I’d most like to see made into a movie.

Fiction: Kith and Kin by Kris Ripper

I adored this book and never wanted it to end. Ripper introduces the reader to a family that is quirky, enmeshed in drama, a little bit broken, and most importantly, there for each other when it matters—even if they don’t really want to be. Essentially, it’s a book about just that, about what it means to be family, whether by blood or by choice. It’s about being an adult and how freaking hard that is. It’s also about growing up and taking responsibility, and about accepting who you are and being okay with that. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book, and I hope we get to visit with the Thurman family again sometime.

Manga: My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

This gentle manga is the antidote to 2017. I can’t remember who recommended it to me, but am forever grateful. It’s about a Japanese man, Yaichi, his daughter Kana, and their house guest, who just happens to be his brother’s husband. Sadly, the brother passed away, and his husband, the delightfully robust Canadian, Mike Flanagan, is visiting Japan to connect with family.

While the series is light and a lot of fun to read, it also deals with homophobia and cultural differences by answering questions anyone might have had in a straight forward and unabashed manner. For me, though, the growing friendship between Yaichi, Kana and Mike as they become a true family is the real delight.

Movies

In Theatres: Logan and Wonder Woman

I saw a lot of really, really good movies in theatres this year. Usually, it’s easier to choose just one for the top spot, but not between these two.

Logan is the movie I most looked forward to in 2017, even though I knew it was going to break my heart—and it did. But so beautifully, which might sound anachronistic when you consider the rating of this film. Honestly, though, this story couldn’t have been told any other way. It’s a fitting tribute to a favourite among the X-Men and one of the finest performances I’ve seen from Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart.

Wonder Woman has changed the way I will watch superhero movies forever. I didn’t know how much I needed this film until I watched it. I think the moment that sums up my feelings best is when Diana Prince climbs out of the bunker when no one else will. Yes, she’s basically bullet-proof, but the message of that action goes much deeper. A woman gets things done. A woman’s bravery is unquestionable. I cried as she walked into the dark and I cried again when she leaped to the top of the church. And inside my heart, a loud voice was singing, this what a woman can do.

Because this was such a great year for movies, I have a bunch of “Honorable Mentions.”

War for the Planet of the Apes – Another highly anticipated movie for me as I have thoroughly enjoyed this series reboot and the greater story arc of these three films in particular. This was the most powerful, by far, and for longtime fans, the movie that ties it all together.

Dunkirk – Story aside, this is the most carefully and brilliantly crafted movie I’ve seen in a long, long while.

Blade Runner 2049 – Exceeded all expectations and they were pretty high.

I also enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie, The Fate of the Furious, and The Foreigner.

On DVD: Hidden Figures and Get Out

I didn’t get to as many movies on DVD as I usually do this year, but these two were well worth the time.

TV

Black Sails

This series is EVERYTHING. If I were to compile a master list of Favourite Things at the end of the decade (ooh, another list!) Black Sails would probably be at or near the top.

For all my thoughts on this phenomenal series, read the post, “Welcome to the Dark Side.” (Spoilers are kept to a minimum, but as this is a four season show, I can’t guarantee I didn’t slip up somewhere.)

This year I also enjoyed Broadchurch, The Killing, season two of The Expanse, and Dear White People.

Games

Favourite Game: The Last of Us

Oh, this game. So, so good. Dark and gritty and completely unexpected. I loved the story, the characters, the setting, the mood and the gameplay. The attention to detail, from the scarcity of resources to the little Easter Eggs dotted throughout the map. This is a game designed to involve and destroy you, and it does so very, very well. The voice acting is superb and I was surprised to learn Troy Baker (Joel) also voiced Mitchell in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. He has an incredible range.

Then we have the soundtrack. One of the best, ever.

For all my thoughts on The Last of Us, read the post, “Parenting in the Time of Zombies.” (Though I don’t directly give anything away, my defense of Joel could be considered spoiler-y.)

I played a lot of games this year, which is probably why I didn’t get to as many DVDs. I also enjoyed The Nathan Drake Collection (Uncharted 1-3), Horizon: Zero Dawn, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Dishonored 2, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and am currently playing Assassin’s Creed: Unity, which I am enjoying very, very much.

Music

Song of the Year: “Something Just Like This” — The Chainsmokers & Coldplay

This song will probably appear on the playlist of every book I’ve written this year—and for a very good reason: these are the guys I love to write. The heroes who aren’t super. The ordinary men (and women) who go the extra mile simply because they’re in love, or it’s the right thing to do, or because that’s who they are.

Other music that resonated strongly with me this year was the main theme (and soundtrack) for The Last of Us, Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” (for the movie Logan) and “High” by Sir Sly.

Food

Is this the first time you’ve read my list? Yes, I also do food and 2017 was the year of the Instant Pot. I joined the cult of the latest culinary obsession, and if you give me just five minutes, I’ll convince you to join too! Take a look at some of my favourite recipes:

Pulled Pork (pictured)

Indian Butter Chicken

Chana Saag – Instant Pot {Chickpeas and Spinach Curry}

Activity

I’ve always got a game going, but in 2017 I got back into gaming in a big way—partly because having a PlayStation helped me separate gaming from working (normally I’d play at the PC sitting under my writing desk). Being able to switch off after a long day and head downstairs to play encouraged me to play more often. As did the ability to lie back in the recliner with a beer bottle wedged into the seat cushion next to me.

 

Also, I took a break from epic length strategy RPGs to enjoy a series of short and sweet shooters and action adventure games. Additionally, we met more frequently with our board game buddies and spent many days happily hunched over a wide variety of adventures from card collecting co-ops (The Grizzled) to all out competitive warfare (Adrenaline)—and everything in between.

And that’s another year sorted. It’s been long and interesting and sometimes more difficult than I imagined. There were a lot of low points and I’ve had to draw on reserves I didn’t know I had. But we made it to the end and I can only hope that the template for dealing with sh*t I’ve put in place will serve me well in the years to come. On that note, I wish you all happiness and health and all the best for a bright and prosperous 2018.