Stuff I Like, February 2019: Thinking about Hell, The Apocalypse, and Escaping to Another World
This series will be a monthly impressions & review type post about pieces of media that I have been enjoying that month. The works showcased here will not always be published in the said month. (You can click on the links to buy or get these things.)
Video Game: Hades (Epic Games Store)
Hades is here to dethrone Transistor as favorite Supergiants title. It is a top-down action Roguelite where your goal is to escape from Greek hell and reach Olympus. I am trying to beat the second stage's boss, and am having a blast so far.
The most pleasantly surprising aspect of the game is its narrative. (As superb gameplay is expected of Supergiants Games by this point.) I have always lamented the lack of a Roguelite game that weaves its gameplay and story together. If the game experience is about dying repeatedly, then the story should be about dying repeatedly. As good as Binding of Isaac and FTL are, they come short in this aspect.
Hades addresses that itch. It is set in Hell, for god's sake! – the whole game is about death. Run after Run, you will encounter the same characters (Greek gods and demigods) yet the dialogues rarely stay the same. In addition to the joy of reaching a stage you have never been to before, unlocking story content is a driving factor to keep on playing this game.
The art style is excellent, dialogues witty, and gameplay engaging. If not now in Early Access, it will definitely be a game worth checking out when the 1.0 official release comes out.
Book: Digital Minimalism (Amazon)
The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.
Computer scientist, blogger, and author Cal Newport delivered again with his latest publication, Digital Minimalism. I have been reading his work for years now, and he is without a doubt one of the most influential minds in my life.
Throughout his career, he has had this common thread of living life in a more proactive way, instead of merely existing day after day. Digital Minimalism is a natural extension of that trajectory, this time talking about focus in leisure, rather than focus at work (which Deep Work covered). In particular, he argues for a more judicious approach to using digital technologies that have seemingly invaded most of our daily lives. Apps, websites, communications tools, texting, gaming, streaming, etc.
Digital Minimalism keeps its philosophical ramblings brief and chooses to elaborate more upon the practical strategies to applying this mindset in real life. This is an improvement from Deep Work, for Digital Minimalism is, at the end of the day, a self-help book.
This book made me think long and hard about my relationship with technology, and have already obliged me to change some habits drastically. For instance, I have decided that competitive multiplayer games provide a net negative benefit in my life, and have drastically simplified my digital applications down to the bare essentials. In addition, I cut down the number of content creators I follow. And it works. It improves focus and clarity in life while seemingly creating time out of nowhere.
Every modern human being should at least check out this book.
Book: But What If We're Wrong? (Amazon)
This book is all about conjecturing how wrong our currently held beliefs will be in a hundred years, two hundred years, even a millennium into the future. The author opens up the book with a disclaimer that what is written there will probably be wrong. On a similar note, the opinions I hold about the book will probably also prove to be “wrong.” (Or it will likely end up being irrelevant, as both the book and this blog fades into the abyss of history.)
This is a short and entertaining read, developing from the more reasonable considerations of media criticism to the wilder realms of world-creation conspiracies. (Which the author concedes is very unlikely to be true, but what if it is?)
Youtube Video Series: Discussing Isekai (Pause and Select)
Food in Isekai is nationalism incarnated in a rice ball.
Pause and Select is by far the best anitube out there, their content as deep as it can get in a non-academic platform. Their anthropological approach to anime and manga have always been unique, and their newest series Discussing Isekai is no exception.
Part 1: How Isekai Imagine Communications laid the groundwork of sorts, though was not their most spectacular video by far. Where the series shines, though, is the newer entry, Part 2: How Isekai Imagine Power which revolves around how Japanese nationalism is portrayed in the Isekai genre. It spans multiple mini-arguments with seemingly weird yet compelling connections from one to another.
The entire catalog of Pause and Select is great, and “How Isekai Imagine Power” deserves to be recognized as one of their best.