Saturday, November 27, 2010

The real redeem team

After a rollercoaster season, the Riders are back in the Grey Cup. I've gone up and down with the team at various points over the season, including a very stressful Western Semi-Final against B.C. two weeks ago, but I think I'm okay with whatever happens on Sunday against the Alouettes. They have struggled through a less-than-stellar end to the season and made it back to the Grey Cup despite what many people thought. They have come back from deficits in both of their playoff wins. I know that some people would require a win to make up for last year's horrible last-second loss, but I'm just happy they're playing on Sunday. Go Riders.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Metroid: Other M

Samus Aran, everyone's favourite galaxy-travelling bounty hunter heroine, returns in her tenth new adventure, and the first new game in the Metroid series in three years. This game takes place following the events of Super Metroid (released for the SNES in 1994), and chronicles the events that occur when Samus responds to a distress call on an isolated Galactic Federation space station called the Bottle Ship.
Perhaps the first thing to notice is that Other M looks different than previous Metroid games. It incorporates the first-person view from the Prime trilogy with a 3/4 fighting view, and it ingeniously manipulates the Wii remote to incorporate both views. The game is visually striking - perhaps the best of the series - and the addition of dramatic cut scenes as part of the action gives the game a different feel from most of its predecessors. The scenes, besides telling a story to place the game within the established Metroid timeline, also help develop the character of Samus, creating the feel of an interactive movie as much as a game.
The game has its frustrations, though. At times, the game puts Samus in a first-person scanner view and expects the player to find the often almost-unnoticeable disruption in the normal environment; it can be frustrating to search for a nearly invisible item. Occasionally, the game places Samus in an awkward 3/4 close-up view in which she cannot use her weapons or jump; these sequences are not often, though.
Some players will find the linear format frustrating, as it allows for less independent exploration; other players will find the format easier to play, since it does not allow as much deviation from the story.
Metroid: Other M is an interesting addition to the Metroid series, as well as to the family of action-adventure games for the Wii (there are not many available for fans of the genre, especially compared to the PS3 or Xbox). It combines the classic look, feel, sound, and gameplay of the series with a new format and new environment. It has distinct appeal for fans of the series, but could also appeal to a wider audience in search of a sci-fi action shoot 'em up. The length (between 13 and 15 hours to find all items) is decent for a game of its ilk; if it were much longer, it would be frustratingly slow, but if it were too much shorter, it would not be expansive enough. Its replay value is somewhat limited compared to previous Metroid games, but I think it will be replayable every few years. It is a fun game, albeit one that occasionally requires a player's guide, but judging by Metroid: Other M, there's a lot yet to be explored in the Metroid universe. The game makes me look forward to the next time that Samus will set off on an adventure, to re-playing or finally finishing previous Metroid games, or to the time when the series finally gets a cinematic translation.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How tweet it is?

I may have either revolutionized the way I interact with the world around me, placed a large expectation on myself that I cannot hope to meet, entered into a new form of managing relationships, created an irrelevant forum for the minutiae of my life, or all of the above. That's right: I joined Twitter as @lifeofturner. I suppose it has been coming for close to a year, but I did not have the time or energy to invest in a new venture that could become a not insignificant part of my life. Much in the same way that I took time before beginning to blog and before joining Facebook, I felt like I had to determine whether to take part in the phenomenon based on its ubiquitousness, estimated longevity, uniqueness, irreplaceability as a form of communication , and its application in my life. The first four quickly became clear to me as I watched the form evolve: Twitter seems to be here to stay (unlike, say, myspace, which I never joined), and it seems to be poised to play a large role in the future of online interactions. Of course, it seems somewhat belated to finally admit this in 2010 (Twitter was so 2008, I'm so 2000-and-late), but it was that final criterion that had me hung up on joining. Would Twitter be a valuable forum for communicating about my life and my experience that I would miss if it were not there? The answer, I think, seems to be yes, which is why I joined. Whether it's pithy observations, quick instant reviews of movies/music/tv shows, links to stories I have read online, or random thoughts throughout my day, I feel like this blog or my Facebook status are not sufficient to allow for that level of communication. Of course, I also see the inherent egomania of a format like Twitter: not only do I feel I have a right to say things, but I think other people should be interested in what I say. I don't necessarily disagree with that statement in my case - obviously, I feel like other people would be interested in what I say or I wouldn't say it - but I know that a lot of what happens on Twitter is essentially meaningless blather; then again, so is much of what people say every day anyway. I know that I need to be cautious not to overshare information, and that the nature of the format itself presents a possible impediment to self-editing - after all, part of the appeal is the immediacy of the communication - but I feel that after six and a half years of blogging that I should be able to negotiate that challenge successfully. Perhaps the greatest challenge I foresee is the insatiable nature of Twitter: it is the beast with thirteen followers (as of now, and to paraphrase Iago). It is not a format that can be left dormant (as I have occasionally done with this blog); its nature demands immediate response, and there is almost an impending sense of disappointment were I not to engage an issue that would seem to require my input. (I say "seem to" because I'm not entirely sure if that is actually an expecation that my followers would have or a self-manufactured sense of responsibility that has no basis in reality.) I know I have a lot to learn about Twitter, particularly about how to connect with others using the medium, so I'm certainly not ready to declare whether I am "all-in" or not. I imagine that my experience will be somewhat tentative and experimental as I sort out how it works and how I work with it, but I know that I have to be prepared to fully immerse myself to truly maximize my contribution to the Twittersphere. I don't know how long it would be before I could say what my definitive position on Twitter is, but I know that at some point I will have to decide whether to push forward and keep going with it, or whether to let it fade into relative obscurity, revived primarily for me to live blog certain events or when I finally join the smart phone revolution. Perhaps it's not even a discussion that I can answer definitively soon; despite its seeming staying power, I vacillated about this blog for several years, and it's possible that the time still might come when it's done. But whatever the possibilities and doubts and challenges and little joys that Twitter may bring, I'm there for now, waiting to be followed. My ego would like to think that more than 13 people care what I think...right? Right?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Gamer's Lament

I have always loved board games, even though I seem to blog on them fairly infrequently (I didn't realize that this post was written over four years ago). And we're "games" kind of people; it's usually much more fun for me to play a game with someone than to watch a movie or take a hike. Right now, we own well over 100 games of many different genres, and we still have not played over a dozen of those; I'd probably bet that I've gotten rid of more games than most people have owned. (This is what happens when you move often and buy games for an average of less than $5 each.) But what I find is that there are so many more games that I want to play than I have time to play or money to buy them, and that it's hard to dedicate time to being a "gamer" in the truest sense of the word. We own a large number of fun party-type games, both of the "get-to-know-you" and the "this is only fun if I know the people well" variety; we play these often with people who are not really interested in learning games, but are more interested in socializing with us. We do own several "strategy" games, but the list seems unfortunately small to me: Carcassonne (with the first two expansions), Thurn and Taxis, Killer Bunnies and the Journey To Jupiter, and Starfarers of Catan (not Settlers, surprisingly enough), and a not well-known game called Portobello Market. (We do own the full set of Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, a 700+ card behemoth of a family card game, but that's not an advanced strategy game.) But there are so many more I want to try and probably own: Ticket To Ride (another favourite we don't own), Alhambra, Puerto Rico, Small World, Dominion, Zooloretto...the list could go on and on. I guess I wonder how many games it is reasonable to own and play regularly, and how many I can know well. Of course, I need to make time for them, and I need to find people who own them so I can try them (which was how I got into Carcassonne, Killer Bunnies, and Bohnanza, for example). We seem to be on the verge of having those connections here, so maybe it's just a matter of time at this point. Perhaps we should try to make it a point to learn one new game a month, for example, to keep expanding our repertoire, but I am curious as to what our limit will be. Of course, we also need to keep playing the games we have, so there could be a whole lotta shaking (dice) going on. May the games begin!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Home or hotel?

I have been sequestered in a smallish city several hours from my home while I am giving presentations in high schools. I had a day off in between working days, so I ended up spending a decent portion of my time in my hotel room. I find hotels to be an interesting metaphor for life, inspired distinctly by Moby's essays accompanying his 2005 album Hotel. The whole idea that someone can have a place prepared for them, not have to maintain its condition, and then be gone without leaving a trace seems ridiculous at face value, unless you consider it in the context of a hotel room. There is familiarity - after all, most hotel rooms are almost identical - but not a personal touch. There is a community of people sharing an experience, but rarely does anyone break out of their bubble to share it with others. There is a sense of being hermeneutically sealed in a room-sized bubble, and that this behaviour is in fact okay. I am really starting to dislike hotels. Perhaps my summer experience of staying mostly in hotels in the Bay Area helped sour me on the whole experience, but I feel stifled, contained, and restricted in a hotel. To me, hotels seem to represent the compartmentalization and depersonalization of the human experience through a higher level of socialization to what should not be considered normative experiences. Hotels are not normal life; they're a construction of primarily 20th century commercialization (I'm sure the history of the hotel goes back further, but the current state is certainly not akin to its Victorian predecessors). And so, despite the fact that I was glad to get away and to have some time for me, I have found myself dissatisfied with my experience. I feel like I'm trying to impose myself on a sterilized environment - one that actually will not withstand any form of "infection" from me or my life. I want to be at home, in community, with all of its faults and foibles and messes and joys and stuff and complications and frustrations and business and people and rest. I guess that's the key for me: I can't rest in a hotel, but I can rest at home. Maybe that's the key here: a hotel is a forced and necessarily temporary existence in which a personal experience is unsuccessfully impressed on an impersonal template. Home is the full opposite of that, and I'll take home over hotel anyday even though I have to help make the bed and there's no waterslide. After all, as Dorothy once said, "there's no place like home."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Strange bedfellows

I have been very interested to watch the coverage of two political events over the past two days: the US' midterm elections on Tuesday and BC premier Gordon Campbell's resignation on Wednesday. As always, I find that the results, although intriguing, are often less interesting than the dialogue about the results. In the discussion of the US' elections, the phrase "Republican wave" was so far overused, and the analysis of the Tea Party's contribution to the election varied significantly depending on the news source. Obama has been either judged, challenged, undermined, upheld, chastened, vindicated, indicated, or doomed by the Republicans' taking control of the House. It's all so reactionary and futile, much like the rhetoric surrounding Obama's election two years ago. Granted, I think it's possible to create an initial impression, and it's appropriate to do so, but so much of the coverage - even on the satirical sources - is unbalanced. That brings me to today's announcement from Campbell. The variety of responses to the development is unsurprising, but shocking: most media pundits seemed to try to balance what good Campbell did for the province with his current status as "premier non grata" and how he damaged his own reputation to get to this point. Most of the commentary retrieved from "man on the street" interviews was vitriolic and full of a sense of relief, which, whether warranted or not, indicated not only that the media was trying to advance a particular point of view, but also that they had contributed to the general malaise surrounding the historically unpopular premier. This all just reminded me that politics and media are "strange bedfellows", and why we can't be consumers when we watch the goings-on around us. It should be an interesting week or two to come, and I'm interested to see how the dialogue develops.

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