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2019: No Time To Play

2019: No Time To Play

This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. Today we have our other co-host, Andrew Asplund, looking at the 2019 that was (to him).

For all intents and purposes, 2019 was a big year for all things nerdy and geeky. There were big movies, big video games, big TV shows, and big just about everything. When I looked back on the year, something stood out to me and it is encapsulated pretty well by my experience at PAX West back in September: despite being at one of the biggest game conventions in the United States, my notable memory from that event was my experience at the nearby parallel event, the Seattle Indies Expo.

What I realized was that 2019 became the year in which I began actively seeking out small studio and independent video game titles in lieu of more standard, big studio content. This isn’t mean to suggest that I never really played indie games before or that I entirely eschew big studio content. It’s more that my overall preference (at least with respect to video games) has changed enough that I noticed.

The (AAA) World Is Not Enough

It is important to begin this retrospective on 2019 with where it started: in January 2019, I was still excited to see where Bethesda Game Studios intended to go with theiruhhh, masterpieceFallout 76. But, shortly thereafter, I fell into the sublime oceans of Unknown Worlds’ Subnautica. Two months later, I discovered Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. As the year went on, other small studio and indie titles made their way into my hands. It’s not that I stopped playing other games: July saw me finally pick up Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 and in August, I spent a little bit of time with EA’s The Sims 4. And, to be honest, I still managed to find time to play some of the Bethesada Game Studios “classics,” which is to say Fallout 4 and Skyrim. But, by the time PAX West came to town, it felt like I couldn’t even be bothered to look at the big studio content.

A picture of a friend and me, tired of overgrown, AAA studio content.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t write this to dismiss or deny the value of a well done AAA publisher title. Just a month or so ago, I was talking about my experience playing Hideo Kojima’s … masterpiece? … Death Stranding. I also spent time with FarCry Primal, a game I still consider one of the only pre-historic RPGs on the market.

Exceptions aside, it’s hard not to see the AAA video game market as a testament to … playing it safe. It’s a place where companies are willing to spend millions (or tens of millions) of dollars on a game title, which means their willingness to deviate from the standard of “what works” is minimal, to say the least.

From Indies With Love

In contrast, my interest in indie content, whether it be small studios of one or two developers or larger “triple-I” studios, has increased significantly. This year, I have dedicated seemingly countless hours to playing indie games. And, to an extent, I feel like that’s what has come to define my memory of 2019, at least insomuch as it relates to nerdy and geeky content.

I’m not necessarily looking for games that are this indie. Image source: 3909 LLC.

It’s not that I’m on some adventure to play especially bizarre video games. I’m far from somebody who is looking for video games that are #hashtag #edgy. As important and envelope-pushing as a game like Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please is, it’s not the kind of game I want to spend hundreds or even tens of hours playing. But, there’s something about a lot of these indie titles that I engage with. So often, these are games that a small group of people put a lot of work and feeling into. Not to say that big budget AAA games don’t have work and feeling. It just resonates with me that indie titles feel more less like a million dollar dog-pile and more like something that I could do with my friends.

It helps that 2019 was also the year that I completed a certificate in web development. What I originally started as something that might help me build a cool cooking website turned into something else entirely. An in-class assignment putting together a basic adventure game opened my eyes to the web as a tool for delivering game content; this eventually took me down a path of extremely amateurish game development. I started to really relate to the … allure of indie game development.

This is the kind of stuff big AAA studios just don’t do much anymore. Image Source: Picklefeet Games

Perhaps, for all intents and purposes, that’s why the Seattle Indies Expo became such a benchmark for my 2019 and a reflection of something that had been going on for me since the year began. Getting to actually meet the developers of games like Wildfire Swap, The Wind and Wilting Blossom, or Monster Jaunt really gave it all perspective. Maybe it’s just a little dose of childhood fantasy given perspective. As a young person I always dreamt of making games “when I grow up.” In a sense, 2019 was the year that I finally remembered that.

In the end, my look back on 2019 is a personal one. I have been playing a lot more indie games than I used to. I have started following more indie developers on Twitter and other social media. Honestly, I’m just trying to pay more attention to all of the creative people out there making their mark on gaming. And, as we move into 2020, I hope to start getting more involved in those communities as well.

Tile Pile

Tile Pile

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, our humble hosts are back playing games of all sorts. Andrew heads to the tile-covered table and is reasonably impressed playing yet another Legacy-branded game––Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill a multi-session version of the popular semi-cooperative horror game, Betrayal on Haunted Hill. D. Bethel finally had some time to step into the digital realm and got lost in the clockwork expanse of the very interesting and subtle Outer Wilds (no, not The Outer Worlds) by Mobius Digital (WARNING: mild spoilers for Outer Wilds are given in the episode).

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Giant Bomb takes a look at Google’s Stadia:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Math That Works

Math That Works

WEEK IN GEEK: Taking a break from the news, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the things that have been interesting to them over the last week or so. First, Andrew goes back to finish Unknown Worlds Entertainment’s Subnautica. Then D. Bethel finds much to appreciate––and much to make him uncomfortable––in the recent film, Joker. Then, to round things out, Andrew also gets underwhelmed but intrigued by the possibility found in Lazy Bear Games’ Graveyard Keeper.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 21 – Love the Stank (30 Dec 2016): Where Andrew harvests his experience playing Stardew Valley.
  • Episode 126 – Not Choosable Parts (10 March 2017): Where D. Bethel discusses another challenging comic book movie, Logan.
  • Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado (11 Aug. 2017): Where Andrew and D. talk about Lazy Bear Games’ previous game, Punch Club.
  • It’s Always A Game (08 Feb. 2019): Where Andrew first talked about his time with Subnautica.
  • Tummy Drums (04 Oct. 2019): Where D. Bethel mentions “grotesque” art when discussing Warhammer 40,000 (the show notes also include a link to the Wikipedia explanation of “grotesque” in art and literature).

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

States of Play

States of Play

WEEK IN GEEK: The boys are back to video games as Andrew plays the 1.0 release of Klei Entertainment’s sci-fi survival game, Oxygen Not Included, while D. Bethel can’t believe he’s enjoying the heck out of Final Fantasy XV, especially because it makes no sense.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Wet Shirt Feels

Wet Shirt Feels

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays Ultima (a.k.a. Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness) in the hopes of reverse engineering it so he can build his own browser game while D. Bethel is genuinely surprised by the depth and charm of Sabotage Studio’s action/platformer/exploration game, The Messenger.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 67 – Baguettevania (24 Aug. 2018): Where the metroidvania rogue-like game, Dead Cells, was discussed.
  • Episode 159 – Toxic Delivery Mechansim (12 Oct. 2018): Where Andrew discusses the metroidvania, Timespinners, which very much wears its devotion to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, on its sleeve.
  • Plants Having Sex (19 April 2019): Where Andrew first stepped into the open world mysteries of No Man’s Sky.
  • Good Gamefeel (28 June 2019): Where D. and Andrew spend the episode talking about the metroidvania glory of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Biker Earthquake

Biker Earthquake

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew takes a step further into Image & Form Games’ Steamworld, uh, world with their newest entry, Steamworld Quest. D. Bethel dusts off his bushido and patience as he’s both impressed and slightly confused by SNK’s reboot of their classic franchise, Samurai Shodown [sic].

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Good Gamefeel

Good Gamefeel

A RITUAL CIRCLE OF ARIAS OF THE NIGHT MOON: Mentioned last week, both Andrew and D. Bethel have put some time into the newest Igavania game––meaning a Metroidvania game specifically made by Koji Igarashi––Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and they are enjoying the presence of both nostalgic throwback and interesting choices that move the genre forward.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Source: Sony
  • Part 1 of D. Bethel’s playthrough of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

  • Clip from “Harvester of Sorrow” by Metallica (written by Hetfield/Ulrich) from ..And Justice For All (Elektra Records, 1988).
08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

Image Sources: Unknown Worlds Entertainment (top)/Team Cherry (bottom)

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. finally return to video games for their Weeks in Geek. Andrew gets lost (in a good way) playing Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment while D. Bethel explores the mysterious labyrinthine world found in Team Cherry‘s Hollow Knight.

Andrew’s accidental screenshot while trying to escape the maw of a Reaper Leviathan in Subnautica.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Part 1 of D. Bethel’s playthrough of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

End-Of-Year-Cast 001 – #WIN

End-Of-Year-Cast 001 – #WIN

THE YEAR THAT WAS: With the final week of the year barreling toward us, Andrew and D. Bethel decide to throw format out the window and just talk. Guided by the question, “What does 2018 make you think of?”, they veer all over the place from Fallout (of course) and learning how to code to the many-tiered beast that was ComicsGate and the panacea to that garbage with things like the new Halloween and She-Ra.

What do you think of when you think of the 2018 that was? How would you summarize this year? Let us know!

RELEVANT EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shortcast 72 – Little Paper People

Shortcast 72 – Little Paper People

Image Sources: @profounddark (top)/Boss Fight Books (bottom)

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew starts things off by falling in love with the crafty goodness of using paper mini-figures for tabletop gaming. D. Bethel dives back into consuming the written word (about video games) with Boss Fight Books’ Shovel Knight by David L. Craddock. Andrew wraps back around to dish a little about Stardew Valley on iOS and how its able to manage saves between platforms.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/