HAPPY STAR TREK DAY: This week, 8 September to be specific, the world celebrated Star Trek Day. With one of our hosts being an avowed and public Star Trek fan, our hosts discuss the ways they decided to celebrate: Andrew watched all the exciting announcements and trailers from the Paramount+ Star Trek Day Celebration event while D. Bethel coincidentally started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation not more than a week ago and is enjoying every minute of it so far.
A BAD BLIZZARD: Our hosts take a quick look at the controversy (and lawsuits!) that came out of an investigation led by the state of California into the toxic and dangerous company culture of Activision Blizzard.
I HAVE THE POWER: Having watched the first five episodes released for Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Andrew and D. Bethel look at this playful and creative reimagining of the classic ’80s toy commercial, er I mean, cartoon series.
“All-New, All-Same” (29 June 2018): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the angry internet’s attempt to “destroy” Lucasfilm following the release of The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“Empty Justice” (01 March 2019): Where our hosts talk about internet trolls trying to review bomb Captain Marvel ahead of its release.
WEEKIN GEEK: It’s a week all about television as Andrew watches the first few episodes of the CW reboot of Kung Fu while D. Bethel compares his experience watching the first few episodes of Amazon’s Invincible and Netflix’s Jupiter’s Legacy.
WEEK IN GEEK: It’s an animated kind of week this week as Andrew gets his specific Star Wars fandom ignited with the premiere of the new Disney+ animated series, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, and D. Bethel nerds out on all the ingenious choices and animation tech found in the new Sony/Netflix film, The Mitchells vs. The Machines.
2020 was a year that upended all expectations. Though the threats that 2020 brought affected people in a variety of ways, for most it became a year of simple survival. For nerds, of course, we turn to the things that occupy our attention, inspire our imagination, or generate conversation. This year, we are looking at the things that helped us survive 2020. Today, co-host D. Bethel shares what kept him inspired throughout the year.
2020 became a year of self-reflection for most people; for creatives, it became a challenge to find inspiration in new places and ways. Working from home proved to be incredibly difficult when, all of a sudden, my creative, personal space became my classroom. Teaching, planning, and grading at my computer all day made it difficult to walk the two feet to my drawing table and work for another handful of hours on a Long John page. To that end, of all the things to provide inspiration, the sweet and sentimental video game, Spiritfarer, hit hard and unexpectedly.
On its own, Thunder Lotus’ newest game, Spiritfarer isn’t particularly notable. Yes, it looks very nice and the systems and loops are fun to juggle and the writing is top-notch. But it’s not revolutionary, at least not on its own. It’s just a good game. Honestly, that’s enough.
Spiritfarer is a management sim; playing as Stella, you takes over the role of spiritfarer––shepherding souls from death to the afterlife––from a retiring Charon. The majority of the game takes place on your boat that houses the spirits found along the way. During their tenancy, you talk to them, learn their stories, and help them get past whatever psychology holds them back from accepting their deaths. Once they have a moment of clarity, you take them to the “Everdoor” which sends them to their eternal home. For each spirit you recruit––taking the form of a different anthropomorphized animal––you do small quests to help brighten their moods. To do that, you grow crops, cook food, take them to specific locations, or harvest materials they want. With so many different spirits on your boat, your job is to keep all of these plates spinning while also maintaining your boat.
The thing about this game is not what it is, specifically, although––as I said––it’s very good. Instead, it’s about what it represents and what came before. Spiritfarer‘s Canadian developer, Thunder Lotus, is renowned for their amazing art and animation; what they can’t be accused of, however, is being stuck in a rut. Their previous game, Sundered, is a procedurally-generated Metroidvania. Before that, their first game, Jøtun, is an isometric 2D-Zelda-like that had you battling giant bosses to get into Valhalla (I played bothgames on the Dan & Rusty Video Game Power Hour years ago).
Every game differs wildly from the last, with the quality of art and music being the only link between them. This also makes them unpredictable, but not in a worrying, nervous way. There is no doubt that their next game will be beautiful and good, even if I have no idea what kind of game it will be, and that’s what I found so comforting about this game in a year like 2020.
While Spiritfarer is wonderful, I find its success validating for the mercurial ethos of Thunder Lotus Games, and for me. Though I’m slow with the output for my western webcomic, Long John, I also know it’s not the only story I want to tell. Seeing Thunder Lotus not only bounce between genres and styles without a care but to also be successful (in terms of execution) with every game they make shows me that a similar desire to bounce around with my own creative endeavors is not only possible but can absolutely work when done with integrity, thoughtful intent, and earnest excitement. Those qualities seep through Spiritfarer on every level (pardon the pun), and they were more than welcome in a year like 2020.
LET’S GET DANGEROUS: With the genius resurgence of Ducktales on Disney XD, fans around the world were delighted with the introduction of another Disney Afternoon fan favorite, Darkwing Duck, into the series during the second season. For the third season’s mid-season premiere, Disney released an hour-long Darkwing Duck-focused episode that delighted Andrew––who has watched all of the rebooted Ducktales so far––and D. Bethel––who has only seen a few scattered episodes. They discuss how the episode looks forward, looks backward, and looks inward in one of the most clever episodes of television either have seen in a long while.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew lives in bliss during CBS All Access’ 23 weeks of Star Trek, especially as the premiere season of their comedy-drama animated show, Star Trek: The Lower Decks, comes to a close, while D. Bethel lives vicariously through hopeful survivalists in reruns of the History Channel reality show, Alone.
Goodwin, Jazmin and Charles Riley. “Regal and Cineworld Cinemas Are Shutting Down Across the US and UK.” CNN, 05 October 2020.
ANY PORT IN A NERD STORM: Rather than blasting the news, Andrew and D. Bethel blur the distinction between nerdy news and Weeks in Geek with Andrew expressing his excitement for Star Trek: Lower Decks on CBS All Access, Dan’s strange sense of place after watching the HBO true crime documentary mini-series, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, before they discuss the news of the upcoming live-action Mulan remake getting a simultaneous (albeit for $29.99) release on Disney+ and in theaters.
Bethel, D. “News Blast: Three X-Films Announced for 2018.” A Website [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes. 23 April 2017. –– Where D. Bethel discusses the announcement of the New Mutants movie, along with the announcement of Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix. Deadpool 2 was the only film to release in 2018.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. Bethel let you in on the newest in modern entertainment. Andrew takes a dip into Nickelodeon’s 2005 animated show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, while Dan finds himself charmed by the 2015 RPG by CD Projekt Red, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.
Shortcast 76 – “A Sense of Place” (30 Nov. 2020): Where D. Bethel mentions Red Dead Redemption 2 in a conversation with Andrew (who uses Fallout 76 as his example) to talk about world-building in video games and how they can be subtle with giving information to players to draw them in.
“Playing the Menu” (20 March 2020): Where Andrew picks up The Witcher 3 after being inspired to do so by watching the Netflix show.
“A Casualty of the Rhyme” (22 May 2020): Where Taylor Katcher shows up to talk to the hosts about the Snyder Cut being released on HBO Max.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the trippy but artistic and engaging new Amazon Prime show, Undone starring Rosa Salazar, while D. Bethel––amidst all of his academic toil––finds time to be challenged and charmed by the actual roguelike deckbuilding phone game, Meteorfall: Journey by SlothWerks.