Here’s part one.
We didn’t expect to be writing a Part 2 so soon after the first chapter, considering Valve Time. But I suppose the pressures of the market affect everybody, particularly if they intend to compete directly with the big console makers.
If you haven’t read Valve’s press releases, you can find them here.
I split my gaming time between the Xbox 360 and the PC. I run linux, so these announcements are particularly exciting for me. I’ve been particularly underwhelmed by the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s offerings of late, and was considering building a media pc to sit next to the TV rather than another console. I’ll wait to see if any of the official Steam Machines suit me, but even if they don’t, I’ll certainly give SteamOS a try.
I’m particularly interested in the controller. All of the recent ‘innovations’ in game controls have been gimmicky. The last real innovation that improved gameplay that I can think of would have to be adding analog joysticks to a gamepad, which I think Sony did first, at least among the mainstream manufacturers. Going wireless just introduced lag into the control stack, which altered the kinds of games we can play, and how we can play them– remember “Parappa the Rapper?” Not possible with modern consoles, mostly thanks to wireless controllers and flatscreen tvs. Move, Kinect, Wii, Guitar Hero– all of these interfaces turned out to be cheap and shallow, good for a few parlor tricks, or looking like an awkward goofball, and little else. Part of their failure is in sacrificing fidelity to meet a manufacturing price point. Hopefully we won’t see the same kinds of sacrifice with Valve’s new toy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Valve is claiming a performance level on par with mouse-and-keyboard. That’s a bold claim, and I hope it pans out (FPSs with Mouse and Keyboard are hell on my tendonitis). But for now we wait. Hey, we’re used to that when it comes to Valve, right?
Many mornings on my way to work I think about the incredibility of the fact that, as a species, we haven’t all killed each other yet. It’s pretty amazing, don’t you think? There’s no better illustration of the inherent selfishness, narcissism and rampant entitlement of the average human being than to watch a large number of them all try to drive to work at the same time. Well, maybe YouTube comments.
Actually, you don’t even need to watch them. You just have to participate, and pay attention to yourself, and your mammalian impulses to scream, honk, bludgeon and fling feces at your fellow commuters. It’s rather enlightening– it’s also terribly depressing, but sometimes the truth, she hurts.
It’s usually at these times I start thinking about getting older– what if I have a stroke, or am struck with dementia, or somehow otherwise lose some of my impulse control? Will I end up dying in a hail of police bullets because I pushed some idiot who doesn’t understand turn signals into a river? I suppose there are worse ways to go.
But I’m thinking about taking the bus instead.
“Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.”
― Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
After a man realizes that his one day becoming a badass is pure fantasy, it’s downhill from there. Slowly your potentially-heroic self-image is dismantled, one little illusion at a time. Once you start a family, those illusions evaporate quicker, until what’s left is a guy who, god forbid, enjoys spending time with his significant other and his children, and would choose a less interesting activity that includes them over one that is more engaging, but is done alone. Like watching a movie about hitmen instead of playing a game where you get to be one, for example.
Men who resist this process are the sorts who hit the mid-life crisis really hard. Sports cars, monster trucks, hair transplants, pec implants, etc. You know, unbearable pricks.
But if you don’t resist, if you go with the flow, or even swim with the current– you’re in for a good time. About as close to a meaningful life as is available to us modern, alienated types. At least until your kids are grown. After that, you can go find an obscure monastery on a mountaintop in China, and learn kung fu.
And so begins our new story. Every Tuesday we’ll update Three Hour Tour, and every Thursday will be more hijinks with the usual Unicorn Soup gang. Three Hour Tour is definitely a darker story, as you’ll see in the next few weeks, so it should provide a nice contrast to our usual goofiness. Let us know what you think!
A few weeks back Jack announced a new feature coming to Unicorn Soup, which will be a sort of serial adventure, updating Tuesdays in this same space. I’ve got about 2 months’ worth in the can, so we’ll start airing “Three Hour Tour” in a couple of weeks. Specifically, Three Hour Tour will premiere on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Jack and I are quite excited to show you this story, and I don’t want to spoil anything by talking about it too much. But I will say that it is a departure from our usual storytelling style, with bit of a darker touch to it. Unicorn Soup isn’t only about diaper jokes and video games (note to self– write diaper joke script), and this is just the beginning. Three Hour Tour isn’t an unlimited series. It has an ending, and once it’s done, we’ll move on to other stories. We’ve got a lot of ideas, and are working hard to find the time to explore them. Stick with us, we’ve got lots of fun in store!
My own children have learned this; if they can’t find a way to share something peacefully, then dad gets it all to himself. I’ve heard them whispering to each other, “My turn!” “I’ll tell!” “Ssshh! Do you want daddy to play Dark Souls all day?” This system works great for other things, not just video games. Desserts, for example.
They should really be playing outside anyway.
Commenting on someone’s weight at work is inappropriate. Most of us understand that. But soliciting comments on your weight or appearance is… reverse harassment, I guess? At any rate, it’s inappropriate as well, at least if it’s a regularly occurrance. If you’re insecure about your appearance, I recommend you follow Stuart Smalley’s lead. And leave me the hell out of it, while you’re at it.
Personally, I’ve only seen about 5 minutes of Game of Thrones, in total. I use my TV as nature intended, for shooting imaginary men in their imaginary faces. Judging from the fact that nobody on the entire internet can effing shut up about it, it must be a very good TV show. That’s nice. Maybe I’ll look at it when the series is finished. But probably not– I burnt out on long-running series back when X-Files started to founder. Actually, I quit that series early because I was still smarting from when David Lynch was forced to wrap up Twin Peaks. And have you seen the end of Evangelion? They had to make two movies to make sense of that, and it’s still incomprehensible.
The problem I have with these longer format stories is that I don’t like the rhythm. The writers are forced to always end with suspense to make sure their viewers come back next week, or next season. It becomes tiresome, and feels more like feeding an addiction than enjoying a story for me. Watching the episodes in chunks after they’ve first aired helps, but the over all rhythm remains unchanged. It’s even worse for shows that break for commercials, because the format requires three little suspense moments every episode. That’s why you can set your watch to an episode of House.
I’d like to see more series that run for one season only– Like Shogun. Tell a story, then stop. Unfortunately, when ratings are high, there is no ‘stop’ for studio execs. That comes when ratings droop, and they force a show to wrap things up. And I can’t think of any examples where that made a show better.
As hard as it is being frightened for your children in an uncertain world, it’s even worse to see that your children are afraid of something you have no control over. You can only protect them so far– confirming a lack of monsters under bed or in closet is the easy part. When they ask the hard questions, it’s hard to answer truthfully.
But I’m convinced that a truthful answer is the best; even if it has some short-term ramifications, such as nightmares. Maybe not the whole truth, but at any rate, no fairy tales. Later, when they learn the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, they’ll learn that you are untrustworthy. That’s bad, m’kay?
Okay, enough with the serious. We’ll be back to our usual inanity next week. Sleep tight!
Jack didn’t really feel like writing something funny last weekend, and who can blame him? So we’ll take this week to touch on some more or less universal parenting truths, and then be back to our usual goofy selves next week.
Every parent has a moment when they’re struck by panic and horror– when they realize exactly how fragile their child’s life is, and how futile it is to try protect them from the world. It’s a terrible feeling, as though the ground were suddenly dropping from underneath your feet. It feels as though it’s easy to slip into paranoia, and become “helicopter parents,” trying to shelter your child from every bad thing on this planet. It’s hard to know when to let go– to find the balance between sheltering and smothering.
News media does nothing to help you find that balance. If you take ‘infotainment’ to be a representative sample, then every third person you meet must be a predator just waiting for you to let your guard down, for that split second.
When my daughter was 3 or so, she took a header out our back door, and slid headfirst down a couple of concrete stairs. Right in front of me. She’d walked down these stairs countless times before– but this time she got tangled up by her own feet. I’ve been in a few situations where my own life was at risk (mostly on freeways in Southern California), but never did I feel the kind of cold panic that gripped me as she lost her balance. She was fine, just some scrapes on her chin and lip– a miracle she didn’t bust her teeth out, really.
And that dread was nothing compared to what I felt when she would ask questions about greater horrors– about what happened to the Indians on this continent when Europeans started setting up shop, or about terrorism. How do you explain that to a young child, in a way that is useful to them and avoids making them feel helpless? Without lying to them? Well, we’ll get to that on Thursday.