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.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew finds half of a game to enjoy in Owlcat Games’ Pathfinder: Kingmaker while D. Bethel expands his artistic repertoire by investing in an iPad Pro and finds a lot to like in it.
Here’s a recent post on D. Bethel’s Long John website about using the iPad to draw. Here’s the process video that Procreate (sigh) created of the drawing:
“Episode 78 – It’s Not Crude, It’s Savage” (08 January 2016): Where D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the qualities of watching foreign entertainment with dubbed dialogue or in the original audio with subtitles.
MIRA DEL MAHER: Bill Maher redoubles his “complaints” against adult comic book fans on a recent episode of his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, in an editorial titled, “Grow Up” (from the “New Rules” segment he does at the end of his show). Andrew and D. examine less the content of his argument and more the ideas it intersects, discussing the need for fandom self-reflection, literature and literary history, the Western canon, and the invented division between “high” and “low” art.
Though linked above, here is the segment in question:
Wikipedia article about one of the earliest examples of this thing called “comics”, The Yellow Kid.
Comics writer, Peter David, responds to the segment:
Cat Valente’s Response to Maher’s comments on Twitter (click on the tweet to read the entire thread):
Last night, Bill Maher went on a rant about comic books & those who love them & the generation (it rhymes with Schmelennials!) that uses words like #adulting & doesn’t want to give up the things they loved as kids or grow up
Well my name is Miss Valente & I got something to say
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew takes dives into season three of Netflix’s The Travelers and ponders how it continually plays with time travel in interesting ways while D. Bethel gets educated and affected by the Netflix documentary, Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski––a documentary about artist Stanisław Szukalski and his time trying to create a national artistic identity for Poland, his brush with nationalism, his loss of everything due to Nazi occupation, and his rediscovery by a bunch of scraggly Los Angeles underground comix makers.
Here’s the trailer for Travelers, season 3:
And here’s the trailer for Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski:
WEEK IN GEEK: D. Bethel gets inspired by Tintin and Alph-Art, the final Tintin book started by creator Hergé before his death. The book is a collection of his layouts and notes and remains unfinished but showcases the process of one of the world’s best comic book storytellers. After nearly a year, Andrew finally dives into Star Trek: Discovery (originally released on CBS All Access) and gives you a SPOILER-FILLED rundown and response to the newest Star Trek series.
FALL (TV IS) BACK: With the summer doldrums of tv coming to a close, Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the Fall tv they’re looking forward to, including the debut of a new Doctor (and production team) with series 11 of Doctor Who, Andrew’s circumspect approach to the reboot Magnum and quizzical anticipation for Alton Brown’s Good Eats Reloaded, D. Bethel’s blind eagerness for the new season of The Gifted and Outlander, and both hosts’ skepticism of the new Riggs-less third season Lethal Weapon. It’s nerdy Fall tv front to back.
Welcome to the only briefly previously announced, limited series, side-podcast called Con Artists.
Hosted by D. Bethel, what you’ll hear over the next three weeks––posting on Tuesdays––is a conversation between D. and Kyrun Silva, another independent comic creator based in Sacramento known for founding the imprint, Big Tree Comics, before leaving and starting a more focused venture with Taurus Comics, as they drove to and from this year’s StocktonCon where they shared a table in the Artist Alley.
Starting on the drive home from the first day of the two-day event, the discussions of Con Artists are much less focused than that of the main show, A Podcast [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes, and instead follow the natural progression of the conversations as they occurred.
That being said, the conversations revolve around a clustered group of comics-focused topics: making comics, reading comics, and selling comics.
In those topics, D. and Kyrun talk about their history of comicking, the books and characters they grew up loving, and the art of tabling and selling at a show like StocktonCon. It’s two guys talking shop while driving down the freeway. Though it’s an experiment disguised as a side project, [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes is proud to host the limited series and we hope those listening enjoy it.
Con Artists #02 – StocktonCon, pt. 2 : The drive to StocktonCon to start Day 2 of the show. They discuss the importance of continuity, the level of fan engagement and ownership over continuity, and Dan’s strange reading habits growing up.
A WEEK IN GEEK: Before things get started, D. talks about becoming mildly internet famous for about a day (the social media accounts of his favorite band, Twisted Sister, shared art he made of each band member). For those wondering, here’s the scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in which Twisted Sister appears:
INDIE ACCOLADES: Andrew and D. talk about the world of independent creation––mostly games, mostly video games––and how it works in the face of the big corporate franchises discussed for the past few weeks.
NERD LAW: When legal stuff happens in the nerd world, Andrew is on the case (though not dispensing any legal advice). This time around, he talks about Epic Games suing players who use cheats in Fortnite and Comic Con International winning its copyright battle against Salt Lake Comic Con over the term “Comic Con” (19:40)