Lost in Loki

My enjoyment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is something I’ve documented previously. The consistent quality of the films (for the most part) has been a wonder to behold. A question that loomed when the Disney+ shows were announced was, “Will the MCU transfer that magic to a smaller screen?” Now that WandaVision, The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, and Loki are here to consume, it is safe to say the answer to that question is a definitive YES.

This morning, I set my alarm for 5AM so I could watch the finale of Loki before work. I lost faith that I could control avoiding spoilers a long time ago so it was either 1) go internet-dark for at least an entire day or 2) wake up early. The choice was clear! While watching the series season finale some gears whirled and clicked in my brain. I felt transported to another time and place when mysteries abounded and a cast of characters were figuring out how to wrestling with their glorious purpose.

Not the multiverse, no.

Lost.

Ever since the initial promos, Lost was a show that captured my attention. The dramatic voiceover teasing the show, a catchy premise, stunning visuals, a soaring score, and with Merry from The Lord of the Rings prominently involved – I was hooked. For all its eventual flaws (we’ll get to those in a moment), Lost excelled at establishing a setting that allowed attractive, charming and talented actors to tell entertaining stories and delve into a variety of intra- and inter-personal relationships.

Sound familiar?

The high-water episodes of Lost stack up with anything from Prestige TV that has come since. The voilà transformation in Walkabout, the vibrating urgency of The Constant, the incredible build-up and execution of Through the Looking Glass, and the hilarity and sweetness of Tricia Tanaka Is Dead stick with me 15 years later. On that last point, we named our son Hugo because there are worse things than having your namesake mutter, “Let’s look death in the face and say, ‘Whatever, man.’ Let’s make our own luck.”

The Marvel Mystery Box

With my enjoyment of Lost as a backdrop, let’s return to the journey of our multiverse-crossed pair, Loki and Slyvie. Having cleared a path through Alioth to reach the Citadel, the two finally get to meet The Man Behind the Curtain. The introduction of Kang The Conqueror into the MCU has been rumored for almost a year. Where WandaVision ended with a otherwordly display of magical powers and action, the majority of Loki’s finale was exposition from Kang and watching how Loki and Slyvie would respond.

All that was missing were the fish biscuits.

Kang now replaces Thanos as the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG), which allows the characters throughout the MCU to respond to a new threat. The Lost parallels truly clicked for me after the post-credit scene simply displayed the stamp: LOKI WILL RETURN IN SEASON 2.

For either good or bad (it’ll take years to play out), the MCU as we know it triggered not only a massive, multiversal war but also a significant paradigm shift with the audience. The MCU has been fueled by spectacles on the big screen and the shows have given previously-underutilized characters a place to shine so they can take on more prominent roles in future films. Loki coming back for a second season truly breaks that mold because the finale functioned more as a tease of what is to come than the culmination of specific plotlines.

The MCU is its own multiverse now – versions of itself stacked on top of each other with the sole purpose of consuming our attention. There will be mystery boxes, BBEGs, character development, and – yes – seasons of shows to continue the vast, episodic, and relentless worldbuilding. It has the potential to be amazingly and staggeringly beautiful – an arena where talented creators and artists have an unlimited palette to craft critically-acclaimed stories that can be inspiring, heartbreaking, or simply triumphant.

It also has the potential to become a never-ending series of unfulfilling stories. The flaws with Lost are that it changed the questions a few too many times and suffered from a lack of adequate answers. Lost asked fascinating questions with the Smoke Monster, The Hatch, and The Others; some of those answers were magnificent and others…. eh, not so much. It also knew how to shake the snow globe for its characters. Need to inject some new life to spice things up? We have survivors in the tail of the plane! The MCU is using a similar bag of tricks and has demonstrated that they can build up and pay off the investment of fans. It would be foolish to doubt their ability to keep up this quality though the slew of shows and movies on the horizon will put those abilities to a greater test.

The danger is that fans burn out on the MCU moving the goal posts one too many times. Let us build up the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and get you invested in what that might be only to show it’s a conjuration of Kang the Conqueror, who is just one version of Kang and you’ll have to wait for that story to unfold over years in future shows and movies. Loki and Slyvie (and the audience) got some answers in the finale, though I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions!”

4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 Billion Served

The success of the MCU is more impressive by how other franchises have so utterly failed to maintain their hold on pop culture. Harry Potter once dominated and (weak prequels aside) that property is complicated to enjoy due to viewpoints by JK Rowling. Game of Thrones lit itself on fire and has quickly faded from relevancy. Star Wars is in a weird and sad place where they cannot seem to escape the shadow of three films from nearly four decades ago or animated shows that aired to a small audience years ago.

As I sat through the trailers before Black Widow I was struck by how it’s All-MCU-All-The-Time. The trailers for ShangChi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and The Eternals played back-to-back. A piece of me worried that our films are getting funneled through a narrow output machine and another is ready to embrace the glorious purpose of the MCU.

The ambition of the MCU architects to dream this big and execute it all so well….

Where are we?

Breaking Up with Games That Never End

I seem to have quit Hearthstone.

Last month I traveled to visit family in New Jersey and my intentions were to be mindful and focus on quality time with my wife, son and extended family. Squeezing in Hearthstone games to knock out Daily or Weekly Quests did not seem aligned with the “quality family time” value so I took a break from opening up the app on my phone.

I have not opened Hearthstone in weeks and it feels – liberating.

Like more and more games in the past decade, Hearthstone is a game that never ends. One could say that Chess never ends either, though Chess does not have the allure of frequent expansions that promise new pieces and mechanics to revitalize the game. Hearthstone resides in a perpetual state of being…. there. I rarely played while sitting at a computer even though I dabbled here and there with streaming it. It’s been primarily a phone game for me – jamming games while on a walk, eating lunch, watching sports in the background, and likely between many other activities that I should have my full attention.

It’s fair to say Hearthstone became a habit (not an addiction), and that habit is now broken. Interfering with the behavioral chain has given me some space to decide if I want to return to the game. I still follow the same community of players and developers online and know a new expansion is on the horizon, which promises a new Tradeable mechanic that will introduce more deck-building strategy and in-game decision making. I find myself not terribly interested, and again that feels pretty good.

Similar to how I’m evaluating my relationship to tabletop roleplaying games, I’m examining what I get out of playing Hearthstone these days. There is a bit of fun to be had; it’s nice to win games and check off Quests. There has always been a nagging question with Hearthstone though, “To what end?” I had some fantasies about becoming a Hearthstone streaming personality and never seriously worked to make that happen. I’ve likely spent $1,000 or more on the game and my digital collection of cards is worthless; I cannot sell them or trade them in for anything else. That money did provide a good deal of entertainment over the years, though should I really devote so much time to playing the same game for a year – or five?

Or forever?

How and When to Cut Ties with a Game That Never Ends

My goal is not to decry Hearthstone; it remains a fine game and there are talented, dedicated people who are attempting to make it the best product it can be. After playing the game for years and achieving the goal of hitting Legend, the game feels stale TO ME. The repetition of expansion release, honing in on a deck or two to learn, absorbing changes to new and past cards, and hoping I had enough dust to field more than one competitive deck got increasingly expensive and frustrating. I stopped pre-ordering expansions over a year ago, and that also changed what I felt comfortable playing. Since I no longer had a collection that allowed me to field more than one competitive deck in Standard per expansion, I moved to Wild. It remained fun for some time though the returns were diminishing.

Continue reading “Breaking Up with Games That Never End”

Was Elita-1 in Transformers: War For Cybertron That Irritating?

Last summer I was excited to watch the new series, Transformers: War for Cybertron: Siege. I grew up with the toys and cartoon series, which was appointment viewing after school each day. Transformers: The Movie arrived in theaters the year after my father died; I recall being in the theater with my mom when Optimus Prime died. I was nine-years-old, and there are some moments that just sorta hang around in your brain….

So I was excited when the franchise was rebooted through live-action films though those quickly became a mess of computer-generated effects and flashes that resembled little of the characters I knew so well from childhood. I was pleasantly delighted by Bumblebee, which toed a similar line to Cobra Kai by updating a franchise from the 1980s for the modern world; it’s a fun movie, and worth your time if you haven’t caught it yet.

I never delved into the comic book versions of Transformers, so maybe the War For Cybertron series on Netflix closely aligns to that content; I would not know and I acknowledge my ignorance of the comic stories. As a fan most familiar with the animated series and toys, Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege is a tough watch. The show is dark in every way imaginable from the color palette to the content. The show begins with the Autobots near extinction and running out of options. Energon is scare on Cybertron and the Decepticons are searching for a means to deliver a final blow to win the war. I cannot properly do justice to the grimdark setting of the show, though I’ll briefly try.

Ultra Magnus leaves the Autobots in hopes of convincing Megatron to end the war; Magnus is tortured repeatedly and dies. Bumblebee is not an Autobot but a freelancing energon scavenger; a fend-for-yourself mercenary that Prime pleads with to join the Autobot cause. The show elects to give the robots very mechanized voices, which makes sense considering they are robots AND it is extremely disruptive to trying to figure out what the characters are saying. It reminded me of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises; it’s a struggle to comprehend what is happening at times. The leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, is beleaguered and running on fumes and desperation. His confident (and maybe love interest though it’s never quite defined) is Elita-1. Of all the challenging things to endure during War For Cybertron, the incredible negative of Elita-1 was the most difficult.

I even make a joke about it!

Captain Panaka (better known in my brain as Captain Pessimism) is a minor character in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace who brings such encouragement as:

Your Highness, this is a battle I do not think we can win.

If we can’t get the shield generator fixed, we’ll be sitting ducks.

You can’t take Her Royal Highness there. The Hutts are gangsters. If they discovered her…

Captain Panaka Pessimism

I somewhat chuckled at the negativity of Elita-1 and wrapped up War For Cybertron deciding, “Eh, that wasn’t for me and that is fine.” My stronger reaction to Elita-1 would creep back into my mind from time to time. Why did this show and – specifically this character – irritate me so much? Is this a sexism thing on my part? Would I have a similar reaction if Prime’s second-in-command was a male character with the same lines? Is it partially because the voice for Elita-1 is purposely shrill (and again, way too robotic sounding)?

It nagged on my mind so much that I decided to test my assumptions by going back to War For Cybertron to write down every line she has in the first six episodes. I know War For Cybertron has another season on Netflix, and I’ll likely give that season a watch at some point to see if it becomes a little less grimdark.

In the meantime, here is every line from Elita-1 from Transfomers: War For Cyberton: Siege:

Continue reading “Was Elita-1 in Transformers: War For Cybertron That Irritating?”

Is This a Hobby Anymore? Reflections on a Decade of Dabbling in Tabletop Roleplaying Games

My blog crossed the 10-year mark earlier this year to no fanfare. I knew about the milestone (and even tweeted about it) though the moment lacks any sort of significance other than a reminder of how much time has passed since I was eager to share my thoughts with the world about combat speed in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. At that time, my motivation for writing was to fill a perceived gap in the flourishing online discourse about D&D; I felt my background as a mental health provider and researcher could be unique, and that first article was enjoyable to write!

The community enjoyed the article, which provided me with reinforcement to write about other topics. A pleasant feedback loop started as I was playing D&D regularly, which would spark ideas for articles, which would get me to write for the blog, which would result in others in the community discussing or sharing those articles, which would result in me being more interested in playing D&D and other games.

My enjoyment of tabletop roleplaying games such as D&D took on a bigger role in my life. I went from not playing at all to playing with a consistent group 3-4 times each month. And not only was I devoting time to LONG sessions each weekend (4e combat speed, am I right?!), I spent a good portion of other free time writing, editing, and promoting my blog on social media – primarily Twitter. Looking back, that time was such a luxury!

I am proud of the blog, which has accumulated the following stats in the past 10 years (and two months):

  • 276 Posts
  • 1,521 Comments
  • 627,461 Views
  • 319,380 Visitors

The busiest day for the blog was on December 1, 2016 after Patrick Rothfuss shared an article I wrote about The Slow Regard for Silent Things on Facebook. That was cool!

And while I am far from the only person to get interested in podcasting, I figured again that I had a unique perspective as my clinical skill set helps me interview and move discussions in specific directions. I created Ego Check with The Id DM in 2016 without really knowing what I was doing (I probably still don’t).

Continue reading “Is This a Hobby Anymore? Reflections on a Decade of Dabbling in Tabletop Roleplaying Games”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Mark Meredith on Rediscovering 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Mark Meredith

Welcome to 2021! This week I’m joined by Mark Meredith and we start out 2021 by going in the “sorta-way-back machine” to discuss 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons with Mark Meredith. He has been writing for Dice Monkey for over 10 years and recently started to rediscover 4e with his family. He talks about surprising aspects of the edition after years away from it. He speaks to the forward-facing design and energy from the tactile nature of combat. We highlight some of our memories of the edition and focus on positive elements of the 4e experience. It was great fun to talk about the edition and it makes me want to play it again!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Subscribe through iTunes

Subscribe through Spotify

Subscribe through Podbean

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

Listen to the episode here:

Mark Meredith on Rediscovering 4th Edition D&D Ego Check with The Id DM

We start out 2021 by going in the "sorta-way-back machine" to discuss 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons with Mark Meredith. He has been writing for Dice Monkey for over 10 years and recently started to rediscover 4e with his family. He talks about surprising aspects of the edition after years away from it. He speaks to the forward-facing design and energy from the tactile nature of combat. We highlight some of our memories of the edition and focus on positive elements of the 4e experience.
  1. Mark Meredith on Rediscovering 4th Edition D&D
  2. Ronen Givony on Not For You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense
  3. Matt Forbeck on Shotguns & Sorcery
  4. Kelly Carlin on Legacy, Purpose & Resilience
  5. Tomo Moriwaki on Designing Epic Tavern

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Rickie was a young boy…. Character Creation in Tales From the Loop

Tale From the Loop is a tabletop roleplaying game that’s been on my list of things I desperately want to try for some time now. A friend got the book and has threatened to run a campaign, which we finally started this week. My interest in the system was fueled by listening to a campaign run by the fine folks at the Very Random Encounters podcast and it hits on my sensibilities as a child of the 80s.

Why?

Your character in the game world is a child living in a version of the 1980s. A twist is the government has created the world’s largest particle accelerator underground, known as The Loop, in your town. The children in the game deal with typical issues that were commonplace in the era such as bullies, absent or nagging parents and homework though they also get to explore mysteries related to The Loop. Weird events start to happen in town and it’s up to the children to figure it all out because adults prove to be inaccessible and otherwise ineffective. Tales From the Loop exists with six main principles:

  1. Your Hometown is Full of Strange and Fantastic Things
  2. Everyday Life is Dull and Unforgiving
  3. Adults are Out of Reach and Out of Touch
  4. The Land of the Loop is Dangerous but The Kids Will Not Die
  5. The Game is Played Scene by Scene
  6. The World is Described Collaboratively

I was born in 1976 so the late-80s and early-90s are my wheelhouse in terms of pop culture touchstones. I have created plenty of characters in fantasy settings for games like Dungeons & Dragons though creating a kid living in the 80s brings another level of enthusiasm and connection to character creation. I started to think about the different character Types in the game:

  • Bookworm
  • Computer Geek
  • Hick
  • Jock
  • Popular Kid
  • Rocker
  • Troublemaker
  • Weirdo

I quickly honed in on Rocker and Troublemaker. I grew up with kids that fell into those categories and thought it would be fun to inhabit that role in the game. Plus, I’ve been gushing about Billy from Stranger Things for years. I also took inspiration from John Bender (The Breakfast Club), Duncan (Some Kind of Wonderful) and Griffin (Prayer of the Rollerboys). My other initial thought was, “This kid listens to Skid Row.” However, our GM running the game said the adventure was set in 1988, which was a year before their first album was released. I had plenty of other heavy metal and hard rock options to choose from as our GM wanted each character’s playlist. I dove HEAD FIRST into this activity and came up with the following 10 songs:

  • Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  • Peace Sell… but Who’s Buying? – Megadeth
  • Battery – Metallica
  • I Don’t Believe in Love – Queensrÿche
  • 2 Minutes to Midnight – Iron Maiden
  • Ace of Spades – Motörhead
  • Too Late for Love – Def Leppard
  • Live Wire – Mötley Crüe
  • Over the Mountain – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Some Heads Are Gonna Roll – Judas Priest

For the record, I created this playlist on Spotify and it’s fabulous!

Continue reading “Rickie was a young boy…. Character Creation in Tales From the Loop”

Holiday Giveaway Bundle!

Happy Holidays!

I hope you are surviving in this difficult time and finding joy with family and friends however possible. As for me, I have been preparing to dive into a Tales From the Loop campaign with my new favorite character and embracing Christmas songs. I have also been concocting a way to raise more money for suicide prevention and clear out some space in my gaming closet.

Several years ago I teamed up with Limitless Adventures to publish No Assembly Required, a collection of 10 highly-detailed monster characters that could be used in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The PDF continues to be sold for $5 and ALL of the money goes directly to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can see that we have raised nearly $4,000 since starting this endeavor in honor of my brother who ended his life in 2017.

No Assembly Required is still on sale and everyone that purchases a copy of the book between December 21st and December 24th of 2020 will be entering into a drawing to win ALL of the following:

That’s right, one lucky individual that already gets a holiday, feel-good boost from donating money for suicide prevention will win:

The books retail for nearly $200 combined plus you get a sweet dice bag! My hope is that we’ll raise more money for AFSP than it costs to ship everything to the eventual winner who will be selected on December 25th – CHRISTMAS!

If you purchase No Assembly Required, then at the very least you’ll have donated $5 to help prevent suicide AND get access to 10 vibrant and interesting monster characters that were conceptualized by me, illustrated wonderfully by Grant Gould, and brought to life in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons by Limitless Adventures.

Please consider entering the contest and spreading the word (although I realize spreading the word dilutes your chances of winning; it’s the holiday season – help us out!)

Good luck!

The Last of Us Part II Strives to Disappoint

Spoiler Warning: The following post contains massive spoilers for The Last of Us Part II.

It was almost seven years ago when I wrote this after completing The Last of Us:

Joel’s life was filled with nothing but misery and pain for 20 years. Can you blame him for stopping at nothing to keep his final connection to his deceased daughter alive? He kept Ellie alive because he could not live in a world where she no longer drew breath. The experience of empathizing with Joel during his journey across the country and merging with him in that final sequence was harrowing. After the credits rolled, I was thankful I could put down the controller and turn the game off.

And not live in Joel’s world.

Earlier this year, I stepped back into Joel’s world by replaying The Last of Us and then playing The Last of Us: Left Behind for the first time. With The Last of Us Part II coming out, I wanted to refresh my memory about of all the elements of Joel and Ellie’s story that riveted me years ago. The backdrop of a real-life global pandemic made playing through the games unsettling in a new way.

I was curious to learn how the team behind the original game would answer the questions left hanging from the conclusion of The Last of Us. Joel’s lies about The Fireflies not needing Ellie because they’ve already found others with immunity seemed more flimsy this time playing through the game, and Ellie seems fully aware Joel is bullshitting her as the credits in The Last of Us begin.

  • How would Ellie discover definitely that Joel lied to her?
  • What will Ellie do once she learns that Joel killed The Fireflies to save her life?
  • What will happen to the relationship between Ellie and Joel once that reveal takes place?
  • Are surviving members of The Fireflies searching for Ellie because they still believe she can provide a cure? Or searching for Joel for revenge?

As I’ve said more than once about the long-rumored Kenobi show, “I don’t care what it’s about. Just give me Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan quieting drinking tea and musing about his past failures with Anakin. Everything else is window dressing; I just need that!” Any sequel to The Last of Us has to focus on the powerful dynamics between Ellie and Joel.

Everything else is window dressing.

ellie-lostCertainly knowing this, the team behind The Last of Us Part II provides a lot of window dressing. The game owes a debt to shows such as Lost, Breaking Bad, The Wire (especially Season 2), and Game of Thrones. The primary moments I was truly invested in as a player are told in flashbacks (Lost). The image on the title screen shows a pivotal scene from the conclusion of the game though you do not realize that until the very end (Breaking Bad). Instead of focusing solely on the characters already established, the game introduces a variety of new characters including devoting a significant amount of playtime as Abby (The Wire). And to top this all off, the player spends hours of time as Abby after we see her brutally murder a prominent character, Joel, quite early in the game (Game of Thrones).

The Last of Us Part II was designed to be disappointing; quite on purpose. As I’ve been in my own state of quarantine since March, I was able to avoid spoilers and still have not reviewed commentary about the game. I am honestly not sure how others have reacted to the sequel. What follows is a bit of a running diary of how I processed the purposeful disappointment that plays out during the experience.

Continue reading “The Last of Us Part II Strives to Disappoint”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Ronen Givony on Not For You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense

Back in 2015, I started writing an article about my relationship with Pearl Jam. I stalled after a few paragraphs; how could I find the words to describe the emotional and cognitive connection to a band and their music that has existed for most of the decades of my life?

Having never found a way to adequately answer that question, I shelved the article and it remains as a draft. While celebrating the band since high school, the only book I’ve read that includes “their” story is Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music. It’s an interesting book, and I think my favorite element are the remarks about how unfair it was that Chris Cornell could sing like a god – and looked like one too. (He is missed….)

So I was intrigued when I saw a new book releasing this Fall on the band, Not For You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense. Being locked away from many enjoyable activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, I have been trying to read more often when not completely devoted to playing Hades. I reached out to the publisher and asked if I could get a review copy of the book and speak with the author, Ronen Givony, on my Ego Check podcast.

They agreed!

I took the opportunity to speak with Ronen quite seriously; here’s someone that spent a few years writing a book about the band. Surely this was a like-minded soul that would be fun to engage with about our shared interest in all things Pearl Jam. I cracked open the book and read through it, taking various notes along the way. Prior to speaking with Ronen, I emailed him 6-7 pages of “Show Notes” with possible questions and explanations for why I was asking those questions.

Overkill? Probably.

Thankfully he was not scared off by that and we enjoyed a good conversation about his background, his motivations for writing the book, the choices made about how the book is structured, and why the band has persisted while their contemporaries have long (and often tragically) faded away.

Along the way, I offer details about why I gravitated toward the band in the first place, and how songs ignite memories of my father and brother. We close out the interview by exploring a topic near and dear to my heart, Philly. I grew up in South Jersey and the band always seems to have memorable shows in Philadelphia. At one book early in the book Ronen wrote, “If there’s one thing Pearl Jam people agree on, it’s this: never, ever miss them in Philly.” We talk about why the band seems to get to another level in that city and – spoiler alert – the mentality of the fans is likely a big factor.

Perhaps I’ll return to my article about Pearl Jam one of these days. The impressive thing about Ronen’s book is that while he certainly offers his opinions about the band, he spend more time placing the band’s prominence in context with a wide variety of socioeconomic and political forces that transpired over the years and decades.

Enjoy the episode, and certainly check out the book!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Subscribe through iTunes

Subscribe through Spotify

Subscribe through Podbean

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

Listen to the episode here:

Mark Meredith on Rediscovering 4th Edition D&D Ego Check with The Id DM

We start out 2021 by going in the "sorta-way-back machine" to discuss 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons with Mark Meredith. He has been writing for Dice Monkey for over 10 years and recently started to rediscover 4e with his family. He talks about surprising aspects of the edition after years away from it. He speaks to the forward-facing design and energy from the tactile nature of combat. We highlight some of our memories of the edition and focus on positive elements of the 4e experience.
  1. Mark Meredith on Rediscovering 4th Edition D&D
  2. Ronen Givony on Not For You: Pearl Jam and the Present Tense
  3. Matt Forbeck on Shotguns & Sorcery
  4. Kelly Carlin on Legacy, Purpose & Resilience
  5. Tomo Moriwaki on Designing Epic Tavern

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Hades Is Relentless in Teaching and Rewarding You

It was late September when I joined the Cult of Hades players. I had been patiently waiting for Star Wars Squadrons to release so I could devote countless hours to chasing the feelings I had while playing X-Wing and TIE Fighter back in my younger years. Numerous people I follow on social media were mentioning Hades and gushing about it; and the interesting thing was the people were not in the same circles. My Twitter feed is an amalgam of folks from tabletop roleplaying games, Hearthstone, sports, and politics – and people from each sphere of influence were talking about Hades.

I was intrigued.

Not knowing much about the game, I purchased it on my Switch, and the last six week have been DELIGHTFUL as I’ve been sucked into a pleasing gameplay loop that feels like a combination of Diablo II and various “one-more thing to collect” mobile games like Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes. And yet the game design is not exploitative of the player’s time or resources. There’s a hypothetical version of this game where the player could spend money to purchase upgrades or make the game easier – like how Candy Crush levels are near-impossible unless you play them 100 times or purchase special upgrades for a few bucks. Hades sometimes feels like that though the upgrades are all built into the experience; it’s not trying to bilk the player of additional cash even though the game has multiple currencies for various upgrades. The allure of collection and progression is baked into the gameplay loop. For those not familiar with the loop of Hades, a primer.

You are Zagreus, son of Hades, living in the underworld with his family, their pet dog, Cerberus, and a few other members of note. Zagreus wants to escape the underworld as he does not get along with his father, so he must leave the House of Hades, which means fighting past monster-filled rooms. The gods of Olympus learn about Zagreus’ quest and offer him support along the way in the form of bonuses (Boons) so he can be faster, stronger and/or more resilient. Zagreus begins his quest with little in the way of Health or resources, and achieving success in terms of escape is not something that happens quickly.

Zagreus dies. A lot.

Continue reading “Hades Is Relentless in Teaching and Rewarding You”