Congratulations! Your time machine works. It is January 2020. If you’re hoping to stop the COVID-19 pandemic or at least prevent the catastrophe that has been America’s handling of the outbreak, you will need to travel back farther. Much farther. But while you’re here, you can read this timely blog post about the video games I played last year.
If you’re not a righteous time traveler and are instead checking my blog for the first time in a year a while, you might read the headline and think “2019? That was a hundred years ago.” Or you might look to the right and think “That scroll bar is really small.”
For the second point: Don’t worry, friends. I don’t expect you to read all 12,000 words of this in one sitting. That is why I have constructed a Table of Contents for you. Yes, this blog post has a table of contents. You’re welcome. I’m sorry.
For the first: Using the Table of Contents, you can — if you must — skip to my Closing Thoughts, which go into why you’re only now reading this scattered collection of reflections.
There are short entries. There are longer entries. There are entries long enough that they could have been their own blog post. I hope you enjoy reading however much you choose to read.
When we left my grandparents’ house on Christmas day, there was only one possible destination. Our family doesn’t readily depart from tradition or routine, and the schedule for Christmas has never involved midday excursions. We don’t go to the movies, we don’t go for walks, we don’t leave on a family vacation. We do write Christmas lists, though, and that year the first entry on mine was a puppy. Still, it didn’t feel real until we pulled onto the farm in Mebane and saw a litter of airedales jumping at the fence.
“It could well be said that we all live pretty well in one great heap, all of us, differentiated as we otherwise are by the countless and profound variations that have developed over time. All in one heap! Something urgent drives us together, and nothing can prevent us from satisfying its urging. All our laws and institutions, the few I still remember and the countless I have forgotten, go back to the greatest joy that we are capable of, the warmth of togetherness.”
Kafka, Investigations of a Dog
When I’m depressed, it helps me to write things down. While I’m thinking in scattershot, I can take notes, get them on paper, and then rearrange them to make more sense in a better moment. The act of writing brings clarity. It shines light. It provides exposure.
I got up and did my seven-minute workout to warm up, and then I walked out to the street and started running.
It was a short loop, just through the neighborhood, around the nearby Catholic school. I closed the loop out with a short stint on the Greenway access right by my apartment. I ran, carrying my keys and my phone.
When I hit the parking lot again, I slowed to a walk and got control of my breathing.
Back in my apartment, I did another seven-minute workout, the one I unlocked that focuses on stretching.
The most important thing to know about Destiny 2 is that, if you play it, you play it with other people. Even if you start out on your own, you will meet others and link up with them on an inexorable journey. If you don’t, you’ll stop playing altogether.
For that reason, Destiny 2 is a game you experience through dialogue. Not with characters (you play as a silent protagonist), but with your companions, whomever they may be.
These are some of the conversations you should expect to have.
Early voting ended on Saturday. The election takes place on Tuesday. My mother called me the other day and told me that she went and cast her ballot. These are the circumstances in which I’m finally writing down my thoughts on the election, the campaign, the state of things. You know, stuff I should have written down weeks ago when it meant something.
This is going to be disjointed, but I think that’s the only way to get it done at this point.
I feel fortunate that I don’t have to have long conversations about what I do for work. Whenever someone asks and I tell them “I work at a digital marketing company,” their eyes tend to glaze over and the subject changes shortly thereafter.
The only people I really talk to about work are people at work, and even then, sometimes I have to say, “Guys, we’re at lunch, can we just not for half an hour?” The answer is usually no, but that’s the nature of conversation when standing on a limited amount of common ground.
Some people say that the mark of true politeness is to never talk about yourself, but if that’s true, doesn’t it set up one person to be impolite? I guess the solution is to only talk about other things. Maybe that’s why sports make some of the best small talk.
There are two kinds of loading screen in XCOM 2. The first is diegetic, and it appears when loading into or out of a mission. You’re shown an interior view of the dropship carrying the squad you’re sending into battle. When deploying, there’s a mission briefing projected on the wall of the cargo bay, including the code name, objective, and an image representing the terrain of the area of operation. Upon extraction, combat stats are displayed instead, giving you a qualitative indication of how successful your tactics were.
More important than the brief and debrief is the view you get of your troops. Flying out, you can see them shift in their seats, a mix of anticipation and determination on their faces. When returning to base, the mood within the Skyranger will depend on the results of the mission.
This loading screen is necessary to give the game time to load in alien combatants and procedurally generate the battlefield, but it also gives you valuable face-to-face time with the men and women under your command. It endears them to you, and it can give extra weight to any seat that might end up empty.
Destiny was a promise. Made by Bungie, a studio known for creating the Halo franchise (a.k.a. the reason to buy the first Xbox) and funded from the deep pockets of Activision, it was supposed to change the way I played video games. And for a while, it did.
They called it a shared-world shooter. They said there would be guns (lots of guns) and space magic and discovery. There were other hooks laid out, too, baited well with tasty tropes. Warring factions. Alien gods. Undead warriors chosen by a mystical force. Whispered lore about the golden age of humanity, and the dark age that followed.
It was the promise of Bungie itself that sold me most of all, though. Halo was a game I experienced in fleeting measures through middle school and high school. Dragged along to a LAN party with my older brother, feeling out of place. Playing all-night on a summer visit to my cousins’ house. Watching Let’s Plays of the main campaign on a dull weekend.
They said that Destiny was the game they had always wanted to make, and I don’t doubt them. To me, it was my chance to own Halo’s rightful successor, to play to my heart’s content.
But contentment is a hard-fought achievement in Destiny, and it is hardly preordained.