WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. Bethel start the new year with some things they have only light knowledge of and experience with. Andrew starts watching Netflix’s The Witcher and only briefly plays Haemimont Games’ Surviving Mars. D. Bethel has fun playing detective in the disgusting Lovecraftian world of Frogwares’ The Sunking City.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: As 2019 hurries to a close, our hosts kick up their feet and just chat about the things they’re doing to occupy their time until the new year rolls around. They talk about everything from the winter Steam sale, to finishing Outer Wilds (no spoilers!), to Lovecraftian tabletop games (Fate of Cthulhu), video games (The Sinking City), and novels (Winter Tide), to developing for web browsers, to––of course––Doctor Who and Star Wars.
“Weird World News“––a module for Fate Core by friend-of-the-show, André La Roche.
La Roche, André. “Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us.” A Website [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes, 27 October 2019––André’s critical look at one of the most divisive movies of the year.
WEEK IN GEEK(kind of): It turned out to be an accidental Week in Geek episode as D. Bethel talks about his disappointment with Valve Corporation’s sidelining of Campo Santo’s Firewatch followup, In the Valley of Gods. On the opposite side of breaking news, Andrew finally gets around to watching Star Trek: Discovery and kind of unabashedly loves it.
HAPPY GEEKSGIVING: Disguising a perfectly good Week in Geek episode, our hosts discuss the recent nerdy things in their lives that, like American Thanksgiving, seem to be all about bringing people together––directly or indirectly. Andrew relates his time with Hideo Kojima’s recent game, Death Stranding while D. Bethel has spent the last half-year taking up the challenge of finding out whether he’s actually a fan of the band Queen or not.
What nerdy and geeky things have brought you through the beginning of this winter holiday season? Let us know!
The quote about there being “two Kojimas” can be read in full in the write-up about this book.
Episode 06 – Hear Law, Article 9 (03 July 2014): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the importance of Hideo Kojima’s PS2 masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, has in the continuum of video game history.
Episode 18 – All the Way (26 September 2014): Tangentially related to Queen, in this episode Dan and Andrew talk about the Highlander franchise.
Episode 28 – A Mighty Oak (05 December 2014): Where D. and Andrew discuss the place the first Metal Gear Solid holds in video game history.
Episode 70 – The Big Fiddle (30 October 2015): Where D. Bethel discusses his time with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain after completing it.
I Can Segue (01 November 2019): Where D. and Andrew discuss the most recent level of tragedy around Fallout 76, and spitball ideas for how to make it into a single-player game with light multi-player elements…something that Death Stranding seems to pick up on.
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).
THE LAST FIRST:Fallout 76 continues to accidentally grab headlines or, at least, grabs headlines it doesn’t want. After a year of toiling in player complaints, bugs, and marketing schemes gone awry, the game seemed to have found a balance for those still enjoying the experience. Then Bethesda announced (and released) “Fallout First”, a premium subscription for players that would get them a whole host of goodies. In true Fallout 76 fashion, it didn’t take long for this to fall apart in big, bad ways.
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.
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).
A BLIZZARD OF CONTROVERSY: Activision Blizzard––makers of such hit games as World of Warcraft, Overwatch,and Hearthstone––have hit a geo-political wall as they take a stance over controversial statements made by the winner of a Hearthstone tournament about the protests in Hong Kong against the People’s Republic of China. Andrew and D. Bethel investigate the complicated relationship between popular American entertainment and China.
TWO MAN’S SKY: With No Man’s Sky Beyond––the newest big 2.0 patch for the open world, sci-fi survival game, No Man’s Sky––it kind of brings to a close the long, arduous, but ultimately heartwarming story of this unique game by the small team at Hello Games. Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the years-long journey of this game.
“I’M NOT LISTENING”: Amid the stories about the varoius #[Insert Noun]Gates and #MeToo stories circulating through nerd culture, one of the bigger cases in the last year revolved around voice actor, Vic Mignogna, known for work in many anime, especially the Dragon Ball franchise. When allegations were made about his misconduct in the workplace, he started suing people and companies when they started dropping him from their employ. In the last few weeks––in an almost comical fashion––a few of Mignogna’s cases were dismissed, casting his defense and seriousness about this fight in doubt despite crowdfunding nearly $250,000 to pay for his legal fees. Resident nerd lawyer, Andrew, talks Dan through this bizarre moment.