Culture Consumption: December 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

For those interested, here are my favorite books, movies and shows, and games for the last year.

Books

Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee SheldonI recently finished Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee Sheldon. It was an interesting read and the author draws on his experience in both games and television to discuss ways of approaching character and story development.

Note that what I read was the 1st edition from 2004, so while the book’s talk of characters and story are everlasting, some of the discussions about the future of games felt a little outdated. Apparently, a 2nd edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective

One section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. I wrote a bit about what I learned over here.

Books Finished This Month:
1. Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon

Total Books for the Year: 40

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate, Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap, Character Development and Storytelling for Games by Lee Sheldon, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

Short Stories & Poetry

Dive in Me” by Selena Chambers and Jesse Bullington (PseudoPod) — “The girls were a gang of three: a triad, a triumvirate, or what have you. Like the Gorgons and Moirai before them, they never made a move or decision separately. So when Spring was missing from their usual hook-up spot in the kudzu-veiled lot behind the Hoggly Woggly one Saturday morning, the gang was thrown into a state of chaos.”

Before the Haze Devours You” by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas (Lightspeed) — “Yunuen was born to be trapped in this moment. She has been looking at the same alert in her helmet’s heads-up display for a perpetual instant that has become her whole existence. One billion kilometers away from home, she lies in the purgatory that is the red glow of this warning message. In front of her eyes, these petrified uppercase letters have lost all their meaning. Time does not exist anymore.”

The Funeral Coat” by Lyndsie Manusos (PseudoPod) — “When I was five, my grandmother took me to Macy’s to buy my first funeral coat. It’s tradition in my family to have a separate coat for funerals. Something black, sleek, with sharp edges and elaborate buttons. A coat with high collars, to hide our pulse and the tender arc of throat to shoulder.”

Cherry Wood Coffin” by Eugenia M. Triantafyllou (PseudoPod) — “The voices begin three days before someone is to die. The coffin-maker wakes up covered in sweat. He has been talking in his sleep again, his wife says, in the language of the dead.”

Zipporah, Moses’ Wife, Returns to Her Sisters” by Janna Schledorn (SWWIM) —

“With two hungry sons, she enters
the circle of seven sisters,
the stuff of their industrious crafts—

triangles of fabric, cylinders of candle wax,
terrarium moss, charcoals, watercolors—
warm rise of cinnamon swirl.”

The Moon is a Rusty Sliver In a Molten Sky, Velvet and Thick.” by Barbara Nightingale (SWWIM) —

““The” seems so pretentious, as if the
moon could be owned,
is
a commodity, an ancient engine,
rusty and crumbling.”

Movies

Parasite

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Fatman (2020)
2. The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two
3. Krampus (2015)
4. Parasite (2019)
5. Prisoners of Ghostland (2021)
6. Mr. Brooks (2007)
7. A Boy Called Christmas (2021)

Television

To put it simply, Arcane is a masterpiece — and by far my favorite television experience of the year. Set in the twin cities of the opulent Piltover and the underground slums of Zaun, this series tells the story of two orphaned sisters, Vi and Powder, who are separated after a tragic event and pushed to opposite sides of a conflict. The artwork in this show is uniquely stunning, blending a computer animation with a painterly feeling. It’s so gorgeous that I honestly wish I could watch this on the big screen.

In the The Witcher, Season Two, we get to see a softer side of Geralt after he finally decides to take charge of and protect Ciri, his child of surprise. The season reveals them making their way to the home of the witchers, where we get to meet his family — which makes sense since it’s such a major theme of this season. In addition, we get more reveals about the world, some of the political plotting behind the scenes, and more information on why Ciri is being hunted. It’s a fun continuation of the show, and I’ll definitely tune in to season three.

I watched all three seasons of The Movies That Made Us, as series about popular movies throughout the years, from Aliens to Coming to America. The docu-series takes a light approach to exploring the making of and reaction to the movies that had so impact on American culture.

Games

life is strange true colors

I was enamored with Life is Strange: True Colors, an interactive adventure tale about Alex, a young woman who grew up in the foster system and travels to a small town in Colorado to live with her estranged brother. Alex is an empath, someone who can feel and absorb the feelings of others — to the extent that sometimes she looses control. However, when a tragedy strikes, she must learn to control her powers in order to find the truth.

Heavily story focused, much of the gameplay in True Colors involves making choices in terms of dialog and actions, which has a direct effect on how Alex develops relationships with those around her and how the story evolves. Some of these decisions are excruciating to make, to the point that I found myself just staring at the screen for several minutes trying to decide what to do.

Creaks was one of my favorite discoveries in December. The game is a puzzle platforming in which a young man discovers a hole in the wall of his study that leads down into a strange underground world, populated by strange robotic creatures that must be evaded in order to survive. I’m in love with the sketchy art style, which perfectly suits the steampunk aesthetic of the game, with its wonderful puzzles and story. Another one of my favorite parts of this game is the discovery of interactive mechanical paintings scattered throughout the world — some of which are comprised of clockwork mini-games.

Next stop nowhere

It’s taken me a couple of years to finish Next Stop Nowhere, because it sort of became my plane game (as in the game I play when I’m traveling on airplanes). In this interactive adventure, you play as a space cargo hauler, who gets wrapped up in a dangerous situation with bounty hunters and other undesirables. It’s a fun little game — both visually and in terms of story.

I’m currently replaying Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game I adore because of its beautiful and vibrant post-apocalyptic world, fantastic gameplay and amazing story. I’m playing it on a harder difficulty, so it’s more challenging, but I’m having so much fun. I can’t tell you how excited I am for the second game.

Podcasts

I discovered She Plays Games, an interview podcast in which host Lauren K. talks with women working in the games industry, from writers to programmers, producers, and composers. I’ve listened to a number of episodes, which provide amazing insight into the behind-the-scenes of making games and gives voice to women.

Whats Good Games presented their 2021 awards. In addition to your typical categories, like Game of the Year, these ladies also include categories like game of the most sleepless nights, favorite husbandos and waifus, and best in-game pet. This episode is always a lot of fun.

Book Riot offered their favorite reads of 2021, which caused me to add a number of books to my TBR list.

Writing Excuses started a new series on worldbuilding with Fonda Lee.  I’ve been having a great time listening to her episodes, particularly when she discusses the Narrative Holy Trinity of World, Character, and Plot.


That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?

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