Heap II

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.

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Save Scum

XCOM 2 Skyranger loading screen screenshot.jpg

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.

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Forever Game

Destiny Vault of Glass concept art.jpg

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.

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Theory: The better you know someone, the fewer manners are required to engage with them.

Here “manners” are defined as the rules and customs your parents taught you so that you wouldn’t embarrass them in front of their parents and friends (Your parents were taught manners by your grandparents for the exact same reason).

Corollary: Presenting the above theory to family, no matter how well you know them, will not be accepted as an excuse for lack of manners.

Praxis: When I sneeze in public and a stranger says “Bless you,” I say “Thank you.” When I sneeze in the company of friends and someone says “Bless you,” I say nothing. My soul is not leaving my body, and I don’t have the plague. There.

Another: a haircut is not worth commenting on unless it fundamentally changes a person’s appearance. If someone gets a haircut merely to trim back or shorten their existing hair style, nothing needs to be said. This kind of haircut is upkeep, basically an act of hygiene. We don’t routinely compliment people for taking a shower or clipping their toenails.

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First Name Basis

Father’s Day is one that I throw over my shoulder. Instead, I keep the third Sunday in June as Opening Day, as it was for the eleven summers I spent growing up at camp.

In the run of all those summers, the routine for opening day changed little. The gates would open in the morning, cars that had lined up on Highway 306 would pull in, and they would be directed to the assigned cabin.

Six summers I was a camper, craning my head out the window to see where I would be spending the next four weeks and who would be joining me.

The other five summers I was a counselor, stationed somewhere around camp to make the day go smoothly.

After the initial rush, the day panned out as a series of meetings. Meeting the counselors. Meeting other campers. Meeting old friends. Then the last meeting of the day, dinner with the rest of camp in the Mess Hall.

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Part Four: Metagaming

The real thing is far more Escher-esque.

When you tell a story, you don’t have to explain why you’re telling it. We tell stories to tell stories. It’s part of living.

But when you are the subject of the story, you’re telling it for a reason. There is some nugget or morsel buried under all the dross and dressing that you’re trying to get to, and for whatever reason, you can’t just come out and say it.

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Part Two: Brothers

Super Smash Bros. 64 logoEvery summer, Las Vegas hosts the Evolution Championship Series, the world’s largest fighting game tournament. The 2013 edition of the tournament marked a special occasion. One of the headlining games was Super Smash Bros. Melee, a game that was twelve years old at the time and that had only been featured at EVO once before in 2007. More to the point, it’s one of my favorite video games.

Tuning into the livestream of the tournament, I saw people play the game in a way that I could barely comprehend. It didn’t look anything like the game as I have played it, not because there were any visual updates, but because they were using techniques and abilities that I had never come close to figuring out when I was younger. There were people talking about the game in real time, giving play-by-play analysis and color commentary. All of this was happening on the main stage at an event attended by thousands and watched by hundreds of thousands of people – record-breaking numbers.

I knew that there were people who played Smash on a professional level, but I didn’t know that the game had endured to this point. After the tournament ended I wanted to know where it had all come from. I wanted to know who these people were. I needed to know their story.

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Part One: De Facto

My old blog’s subheading reads: “That state of being trapped in a mood of varying unreality, such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet come to pass.”

That’s the definition I came up with for subjunctivitis, a word I didn’t make up but have adopted. If your last grammar lessons were a long time ago, the subjunctive mood deals with lots of words like “if,” “ought,” “would,” and “should,” words that lend themselves to uncertainty and thoughts presented in contrast to reality.

I’ve been thinking my definition was a bit too vague for a while now, so I’ve written a short series of posts hoping to expound on it.

If I’m going to talk about what subjunctivitis is, first I have to talk about two of the formative factors of my childhood. I have to talk about the band that I listened to and the game that I played.

Let’s start by facing the music.

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