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December 2020 Retrospective

Even in the darkest depths of the first lockdown, I truly believed that Christmas was going to at least be something I could celebrate with family. Obviously not the typical large gathering of the extended family but maybe with some siblings and/or parents. Unfortunately Ontario's second lockdown explicitly forbade all indoor gatherings and Christmas came and went like most other days of this year.

I don't want the intro of this retrospective to come off as particularly brooding or melancholic. Instead I would like it to be more pragmatic. I think for the last few months of 2020 I have been in denial as to how things are going to get better. There is no silver bullet, no magic potion that is going to cure everything. The approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by Health Canada are important steps forward but they are small steps in the large scheme of things. I will probably not be vaccinated for at least six months and even afterwards mask wearing and social distancing will still be a large part of containing the spread of covid. There are no assurances that other countries will be encouraging tourists who have received the vaccination. Business/restaurants/pubs aren't going to magically reappear overnight. Despite the highs of the stock market, the average person is still unsure for what their financial future holds.

I don't want to go into 2021 all starry eyed thinking everything is going to be great. And at the same time I don't want to carry over all the negativity from 2020. Instead I want to start thinking about 2021 for what it is. A year of recovery. 2020 was a shock to the system. It was something that we simply could not fathom and we've spend every day and week since late March trying to come to terms with it. Now we can stand back up, dust ourselves off and start moving forward again. Not to some magical land of puppies and rainbows where covid is gone by April. But towards a year of constant forward progress. Little things so that by 2022 we can finally return to our "normal" lives.

With that in mind I am going to try to make this retrospective focus on the positives or constructive things that happened in December. 2021 needs to be a year of constant improvements and so what better time to start than now?

Watched Ted Lasso

I don't think there is a better TV show at the moment than Ted Lasso for lifting one's spirit. Not only is it an extremely hilarious sitcom, but it has a level of positivity that is absolutely unrelenting. Every episode just bombards you with good vibes even when objectively bad things are happening on screen. Ted Lasso is the beacon of light you follow out of the doldrums of this pandemic.

Elsie and I watched the first season, all 10 episodes, in a little under 24 hours. It was impossible to stop. Every human being on this planet must watch Ted Lasso.

Christmas Gifts

While Christmas was canceled that did not stop Elsie from making me another amazing Christmas gift.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CJOyYkDHT8s

Since I am creatively bankrupt my only solution was to throw money at the problem but she seemed fine with that.

https://twitter.com/statuses/1342507848950022147

Played Astro's Playroom

In a surprising turn of events, Astro's Playroom turned out to be the best PlayStation 5 exclusive released this year. While Demon's Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are more visually appealing, Astro's Playroom is nearly perfect from a gameplay perspective. Each of the four worlds have their own unique gameplay mechanics that highlight interesting aspects of the PlayStation 5 hardware. After 4-5 hours I had achieved the platinum trophy and was ready to move onto another game. There were no growth hacks trying to get me to come back and keep playing.

Played Bugsnax

Similar to Astro's Playroom, I was not expecting to like Bugsnax as much as I did. I only played it because it was free with my PS Plus subscription and I was desperate for anything to play on my new PS5. I figured I'd only try it out for an hour and then move onto something else. Cut to 10 hours later where I 100% the game and received my very first platinum trophy on the PS5.

It feels reductive to describe Bugsnax as "Pokémon Snap but instead of taking pictures of Pokémon, you capture and eat them" but it really is an apt description. You visit an island that is home to 100 different types of bugsnax spread across a dozen or so zones. Your only job is to capture as many as you can using the tools at your disposal and feed them to the inhabitants of the islands.

What impressed me the most about Bugnax was how well paced it was. Over the 10 hours I played I never really got bored. There was always some little force that would push me to capture a new bugsnax or visit another zone and it just kept happening right up until the end of the story. It was great to play a game that truly understood what was fun about itself and distilled its gameplay down to that. If this was a larger studio there probably would have been all sorts of half ass gameplay mechanics to try to keep you around for 30 hours.

But Bugsnax knows what it does well and did it so amazingly that it even made the podium for my Games of the Year 2020.

Played Cyberpunk 2077

I'm sure that everyone reading this blog has already heard of Cyberpunk 2077. The failures of its launch were on CNN for Christ's sake! I'm not going to sit here and harp on the plethora of bugs or issues that exist because you can easily find hundreds of posts like that on the Internet already. Cyberpunk 2077 has been one of my most anticipated games for the last five years and I want to vocalize my disappointment with the expectations that CD Projekt Red set.

I had been sold a game where we would be in the most complex simulation of a city unlike anything that had ever been seen. You would truly get to live in this cyberpunk world. Sure you could go in there guns blazing and blow shit up. But if you wanted to be a smooth talking corporat or a high-tech netrunner you could. The world was your oyster and nothing was off limits. Obviously this is a ludicrous marketing pitch but I wanted to believe it. If CDPR aimed for this and only managed to deliver half of it I think I still would have been blown away.

But what we got was essentially futuristic Skyrim. And the biggest issue with that? Futuristic Skyrim is still an amazing game for millions of people! I'm not surprised that Cyberpunk 2077 is still being enjoyed by the vast majority of those who bought the game. If my expectations hadn't been so mismanaged and this game just dropped out of nowhere I would probably think it is super sweet. I'd pick up a thermal katana or turn my arms into mantis blades and just go nuts. But I had prepared myself for five years to make a very specific type of character only to find out that was impossible.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a disappointment to me in the same way that Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII Remake are. They are all games that are critically acclaimed but did so by going in a direction that I was not looking for. There are going to be sequels for all of these games that will probably be critical darlings again and it is sad to know that I won't enjoy them either.

The Mandalorian Season 2 Finale

I don't want to spoil the season two finale of The Mandalorian but I do want to call out that I was not looking for that level of fan service. It served up a heavy platter of the same type of member berries that made the Star Wars sequel trilogy so bad.

The problem with every new bit of Star Wars media is that it keeps making the universe smaller. We're literally talking about thousands of planets in this galaxy and somehow people keep running into each other when they're out for a walk. The Mandalorian started out strong and seemed to be focused on creating its own place in the Star Wars universe. The first season was full of brand new characters. As season two progressed they continued to lean more and more on existing characters and that came to a crescendo in the finale.

Fingers crossed that season three can pull back from these member berries storylines and create its own place for Mando in the Star Wars universe. Oh but definitely bring back Bill Burr's character. He's amazing.

Read Ready Player Two

https://twitter.com/statuses/1336353002777612288

I said I was going to try to be positive or constructive in this retrospective but that it just not possible here. Ready Player Two is the worst book I have read in my entire life.

It did not need to exist. It is like the novelization of an exceptionally bad Michael Bay movie. There is absolutely no substance to it. Just constant pop culture references that seem to be the masturbatory aid of a writer who can't do anything else. We are worse off as a species because of this book's existence.

If you have a passing interest in this book just watch these reviews by Amanda the Jedi or Daniel Greene and save yourself not just time but a lot of brain cells.

Played Demon's Souls Remake

I really did enjoy the combat and exploration in the Demon's Souls Remake. It is amazing to think back to how revolutionary this kind of gameplay was in 2009 and how commonplace it is nowadays.

Unfortunately they did not fix the worst part of this game and that is the rampant hostility it has towards the player's time. I don't mind spending time hunting down my corpse after I die because of some silly mistake while I was exploring. That is my fault which I can accept and move forwards. What I cannot stand is spending 10 minutes to run through an entire level to make an attempt at a boss that only lasts 60 seconds. Running through the level does nothing to help me prepare for the boss or make me a better player. It simply pads out the time you are playing the game and I cannot condone that.

After I wasted two hours trying to fight the Old Hero boss, while only actually attempting him eight times, I finally gave up and put the game down for good. I beat future From Software games like Dark Souls III and Bloodborne and while they were just as brutal I seem to remember their checkpoints being much more user friendly.

Stopped setting daily goals in my Hobonichi Techo

In October I set the monthly goal of setting goals for the next day before I went to bed. God that is an absolutely horrid sentence. The point is that I did set five goals every night before bed and what I found was that those goals were usually very shallow. The ended up being more like chores than "real" goals.

For some reason this made me stop setting daily goals altogether. I don't remember making an active decision to do this but my issues with October goals just seemed to carry over. The problem is now when I look back over these last two months I am not actually sure what I did at all. I'm starting to think those "chores" were actually valid goals and that by not even writing them down I made it even easier to do absolutely nothing.

So going forward I want to try two things:

  1. Set daily goals. No concrete numbers but try not to shy away from stuff that is maybe too difficult to complete.
  2. Record my successes. If I complete something that I didn't write down as a goal I should add it after-the-fact. When I look back at a day I want to be able to easily see what I did. Who cares if it wasn't an explicit goal beforehand?

Review December Goals

January Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective

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