“Behind the Curve” Announcement

In my little rant last week, I mentioned how all the media I consume is old. Old games. Old movies. Old shows. Old books. Even old music. As I write this, I’m listening to big band tunes that were recorded before my parents’ birth. Maybe this is why my girlfriend calls me an old man?

But rather than lament my antiquated media habits and grossly stale cultural knowledge, I’ve decided to celebrate them. Starting in October, I’m beginning a new blog series about old media. It’s called Behind the Curve.

DSC_0413Here’s how it works: I’ll be reading/watching/playing not-so-new books, shows, movies and games. And then, I’ll write about them. The stipulation is that the media needs to be at least six months old.

These won’t be reviews exactly. More like small essays with the content in question as a jumping off point. As an example, my write up on Dragon Age: Inquisition may not mention whether the game is good. It might simply meditate on religion and its effect on people’s lives.

I’ll be talking about a TV show every Wednesday, a movie or documentary every Friday, a video game for the first Monday of the month and a book for the third Monday. I’ll try and let people know ahead of time what I’m doing so you can keep up if you like. Regardless, I’ll try and write in a way that’s spoiler-free and can be enjoyed independently.

Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Movie: The Terminator (1984)- Friday, October 2
  • Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)- Monday, October 5
  • Show: Star Trek: The Next Generation (S01E23: Skin of Evil) (1988)- Wednesday, October 7
  • Documentary: Citizenfour (2014)- Friday, October 9
  • Book: Dune (1965)- Monday, October 19

I’ll update the schedule regularly. If you have any requests, mention it in the comments or on Twitter.

I hope you all will be able to join me as a journey into the out-of-date.

All the extra bits

DSC_0404This is a lousy age to be a story completionist. Between games, books, movies, TV, and web shows, we have more content than ever at our fingertips. And a lot of it is actually good. The struggle becomes which you’ll choose to experience.

I know I sound like one of those “first world problems” memes, but it’s frustrating when you’re trying to get up-to-date in cultural discussions and don’t know what the hip kids are reading/watching/playing. I don’t want to waste my limited time and income on something that turns out bad or just bland.

It’s paralyzing! Usually I end up consuming old books/games/show that other folks remember fondly, because if it passes the test of time I know it’s at least relevant. Right now I’m reading Dune, re-playing the Dragon Age series and watching Sopranos, Futurama and Star Trek: TNG. These are all really interesting and I have a lot to say about them, but who do I talk to? My friend aren’t watching these shows or playing these series.

And yes, I said “re-playing” Dragon Age. Sounds like I shot myself in the foot there, doesn’t it? Actually, that’s my other issue with entertainment these days. I’m the kind of lunatic who likes to spend a lot of time with a story and experience everything it has to offer. And that’s just not an option anymore. Nothing is self contained. It DSC_0416seems every property, big or small, needs a tie-in graphic novel or mini-series or set of novelty pint glasses.

I’ve actually learned to ignore most of that side stuff after a difficult withdraw. I still get pangs of panic when characters in the main property drop hints about the extended universe. There’s a particularly infuriating bit in the beginning of Mass Effect 2 when some aliens explain that they’re angry at Cerberus by waving the events of a Mass Effect tie-in novel in our face. It felt unnecessary, because we already knew Cerberus were anti-alien terrorist assholes. That seems reason enough to be angry.

Sometimes I wish I grew up in the old days when good content came out rarely enough that you could keep up without quitting your job.

Confession of a story junkie

This Sunday I spent more than 10 hours playing a video game, and I’m not sure if I’m proud of it. I didn’t set out to use my day that way. I thought I’d spend just an hour as the stalwart hero of the land and then get to work on my novel. One hour became two. Which became four. Eight. You get the idea. I couldn’t stop.

I think most people these days know that feeling of enthrallment to a really good story. Whether it’s video games or Netflix binges or a good book. When the last Harry Potter book came out, I missed an entire night’s sleep finishing it.

I’ve mixed feelings about this phenomenon in stories. On the one hand, it’s clearly a testament to the quality of the piece. Part of the writer’s job is to capture the audience, make them want, need to know what happens next.

But there’s a line between engaging and addicting. That 10 hours wasn’t entirely pleasant. I felt anxious. Trapped. A prisoner of the game I was playing. I felt guilty I was wasting my whole day.

But whose fault is that, mine or the writers’? They crafted an experience without stopping points. An experience specifically designed to grab you and not let go. Yet, they can’t be responsible for my each individual’s willpower. Some blame must, necessarily fall on me.

The truth is, I don’t know if this addictive enthrallment is a positive or a negative. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.