2017 is not intended as a "recharge year," if those are a thing people have. It would, as many years before it have been, best characterized as a new "get shit done" year. I think, in fact, that the things I intend to get done this year will really push me - but it's a quantity thing. I have a list. There's a lot on it.

Despite that, 2015 and 2016 were abysmal for my nerves. There was nothing in the challenges I was assigned that I couldn't do, but the constant supervision causes crises; any ambiguity in my condition as it pertains to my assigned goals wrecks me and there's nothing but ambiguity until my work comes in. Academia is bad like that. I got overly wrapped up - I'm still overly wrapped up - and couldn't really concentrate on anything. I'm doing more independant work this year, but I've been really cut off from most art so, you know, movies, books, you name it, I haven't been engaged with at all. Media is one part research and one part relaxing, so that's something I need to engage with a little more effectively. I'd also like to feel more like a person in this new year.

To that end, I bought a few games on the Steam sale during Christmas, including Transistor, which I can't play because my video card is way out of date. I'm installing Bastion to see if I'll be able to run that, instead. I finished The Shivah shortly before the first of the year and Hyper Light Drifter shortly afterwards.

I got The Shivah for a buck on sale - it's worth a buck. Its base price is five, and I'd say it's worth that, too, but it's really short. It's hardly a game at all, though there are some fun game-like elements to it. It feels more like an experiment by the developers before they move on to more elaborate stuff which seems to be the case. Even a small production like that is still pretty trying when you're first starting out, so that's good stuff. I'm amenible to trying out newer games from the team.

Hyper Light Drifter is Heart Machine and it is, I would guess, one of the best game experiences I've had in years. It's also pretty short - like, perhaps Portal short, with what I consider to be good replay value. I didn't find it to be especially difficult for the genre - point and click, isometric third person shooter - but I also figure that it's of a type of game that's either playable or not. Like, the character moves with the arrow keys and your mouse moves the direction of shooting and action, so it's a bit of a rub-your-stomach and pat-your-head at the same time kind of deal; you can either do that or you can't. If you can, you can play the game. If you can't, you'll find it nearly impossible.

The visuals are amazing; I seem to see pixel art games as the new cell-shading, so this'll be a fad for a while. They're easy for a machine to render, though, so if they're well done they look amazing no matter what. In the same vein as chip tunes, there's an element of the nostalgic, but it's hard to argue that there's merit in it. I have a suspicion that people are nostaligically looking back on these formats and there's an appeal there, but it also seems to me that when looking back, an artist or a musician recognizes that these art formats have a kind of appeal that's otherwise vanished out of more contemporary works that could be pushed farther into their own styles. I like that. HLD pushes that direction.

The audio is likewise amazing - if anything, it's even better than the visuals (though it's not a competition and they can't be entirely seperated). Though there's zero tactile feedback through my mouse and keyboard, the zips, clicks, beeps, and rumbles work with the visuals to create an amazing illusion of tactile feedback that's incredibly satisfying. The menu interface is amazing.

HLD is terrific fun to actually play, where the play itself feels like a reason the game was made. There's been a weird push lately where actual play-fun has taken an intentional back seat to stories that are still constantly poor in terms of writing quality, making me begrudge my play experiences. (Dragon Age: Inquisition comes to mind as being an almost intentionally bad game - an opinion I'm more than happy to support any time.)

The story is told in pictures one has to decipher - the lack of easy explainations as you wander the world seems very similar to Dark Souls and I wouldn't be surprised if Dark Souls is something of an inspiration in that regard. I'm not sure it's a good idea to make that a trend - some games can do it well, and it's appropriate for those, and sometimes they can't or it isn't. But it's daring, and I enjoy that, and it lends to thinking about it and playing carefully, and I consider that to be a good thing. 


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