Media I Consumed in 2017

January

I love William Gibson, and I often enjoy reading the nonfiction of primarily fiction authors, so I figured I’d check out his collection of essays. The articles themselves were interesting, though I (unsurprisingly) find Gibson’s fiction much more enjoyable. What I really liked was that each essay is accompanied by some thoughts from Gibson from his 2012 perspective. It was cool to see his thoughts on his own writing from the early and mid-90s.
This is a collection of blog posts expanded into book form. It started as an examination of the TV series The Office in terms of the various organizational pathologies on display, and goes from there into a deep introduction to the concept of Organizational Literacy. I can’t rightly say I fully understood everything the author talked about, but I was entertained and I am interested in learning more. It also made me want to go back and watch all of the Office I missed the first time around.
This book is still in alpha, so it’s a bit rough and incomplete, but even so, I got a lot out of it. As someone who tends to go depth-first rather than breadth-first on technologies, the web front-end world moves way too fast for me to keep up. Giles is able to play the part of trustworthy guide and give a reader like me just enough info to make better decisions. The Elm chapter isn’t finished yet, and I’m very excited for that to come out, because I’ve had my eye on Elm for a while now.
by Christie Wilcox
I’m not normally a huge fan of popular science nonfiction (unless you count Cosmos), but this title came up in an Ars Technica article so I figured I’d give it a try. While well-written and about interesting stuff, I’m still just not that into the genre. If you are, though, it’s good!
by Toboggan
A super cute bite-sized little take on Sokoban. It’s free and only takes like 30 minutes to play, so check it out!

February

by Studio Ghibli
Believe it or not, I’ve made it this long in life without ever seeing this film. I’m not sure what I expected, but this defied all of my expectations, especially in terms of how many horror elements it has. I think it’s going to take me a while to digest it. First impression though is that it’s as beautiful as everyone says.
Holy cow, this was amazing! I haven’t laughed that hard at a movie in years. I’ll definitely be checking out the other Lego movie after this.
by From Software
This is an unbelievably good game, probably one of the 10 best I’ve played in my life. I don’t have anything to say about it that hasn’t already been said in the 6 years since its release by its massive fanbase, but I can vouch that it is as good as the hype would lead you to believe. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.
Oof. This one really shows its age. The writing itself is quite funny, but the comedic timing is ruined by what I assume are technological limitations from the era in which the game was originally developed. I couldn’t make it more than half an hour in before the sluggish pace of everything just got too annoying and I had to stop. No doubt if I had gotten to this title as a kid I’d love it as much as everyone else, but it’s not grabbing me as an adult.
I read the first edition of Getting Things Done almost a decade ago, and it completely changed how I think about and approach productivity. When I saw that there was a revised edition, I took it as a good opportunity to refresh my memory of this life-changing book. I have to admit that I don’t remember my first reading well enough to know what’s different in this edition. It seems largely the same, though I’m sure there are plenty of changes I just didn’t notice. If you’ve never read GTD before, I can’t recommend it enough; if you have read it, I don’t think this edition offers anything new in the way of concepts, but it might be worth it to refresh your memory.
A super well-made action film that isn’t trying to be anything else. The first John Wick was a beautifully minimalist, stripped down experience that reminded me a lot of the 2012 Dredd in its construction. This sequel is more ambitious with setting but otherwise stays true to the original while taking itself a bit less seriously. Tons of fun; highly recommended if you like action films. OH AND ALSO, it’s not available in 3D, which, hallelujah.

March

by Gott, Strauss, and Tyson
I like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I didn’t like this book. The tone was very conversational, just like an episode of Cosmos, which I normally think is good for a popular science book, but I think it went too far. Ultimately, I think I like this content better in TV show form, where the chattiness is welcoming instead of grating.
A quick, motivating read that feels like a cross between a 37Signals book, The War of Art, and Getting Things Done. The core tenet is getting “crispy”, a term the author uses as a slightly more nuanced version of “specific”. It’s a great, easy-to-remember idea that can have big impact if applied well. I’m excited to get back to work on a side project that’s been languishing for months, using Amy’s ideas.
by Jason Santa Maria
A pretty good introduction and overview of various typgraphy concepts. I appreciate that it’s a slim book that gets to the point quickly. As a design beginner, I’m not looking for something comprehensive, I just want to know the lay of the land so I know what to explore further. One thing I didn’t appreciate as much is that the book makes frequent references to trusting your gut. Maybe someday I can do that, but as a beginner, I haven’t built up the experience to have a reliable gut feeling about typography. That’s a minor quibble though; overall a solid intro book.
by Patrick Rothfuss
This is one of those “geek culture” touchstones that I’ve been meaning to get to for years but just never carved out the time. Well, I finally did, and just like when I watched Buffy for the first time 10 years too late, I finally see what all the fuss is about! Simply one of the best-written fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Can’t wait to read the second one and then join the masses clamoring for the third!
Hands down one of the finest programming books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Metz’s writing style is clear, concise, approachable, and incredibly dense with insight. I’ve been programming for many, many years, and I can’t remember the last time a single book improved my own practice this much. If you’re a programmer (in any language), you owe it to yourself to study this.
Welp. This is one of the books (along with 1984) that everyone is supposed to be reading right now, but I couldn’t do it. I got a few chapters in and just couldn’t hang any more. I am sure it’s a fantastic, deeply insightful book, but I didn’t have the patience to get through such a dense, lengthy tome. It’s me, not you, Hannah.
Randomly decided to rewatch this for kicks. It holds up pretty well! Not really as “mind-bending” as people claim, but it doesn’t have to be that to be a good time. Bonus points for awesome stunts and special effects.
by Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister
An introduction to the concepts and techniques behind Risk Management on software projects. For such a slim book, it’s got a surprising amount of detail and information in it. If you can stomach the kind of eye-rolling dad jokes you’d expect from Tom DeMarco, this has some really good stuff.

April

I love Rifftrax, and this movie was hilarious even without their hilarious commentary. Pretty much nonstop laughs :)
I’m not even close to done with this game yet, but I figured I’d go ahead and put an entry for it here, since I’ll be playing it for at least another hundred hours or so, and I wanted to have at least 2 things listed in April. In short: holy shit this game. Nintendo has basically taken the entire “open world” genre and boiled it down to a single, perfect game. I could go on for hours, but I won’t. I’ll just say this is one of the best games Nintendo (and therefore anybody) has ever made.

May

by Alan Hazelden
A delightful little PuzzleScript game by the master of PuzzleScript games, Alan Hazelden. It was a game jam game and is therefore pretty short, but it’s quite satisfying all the same. It is free to play, so check it out!
by George Orwell
I somehow made it through high school without ever reading 1984, but with the current political climate, I figured it was time. This book is as eerily prescient as everyone says it is. It’s also crushingly depressing, when considered up against a modern society that has totally failed to heed its warnings. I think I need to read some kind of light, fluffy fantasy novel after this to recover. Yikes.
by Charles Duhigg
The first portion of this book, about how habits form in the brain and how to manage them, is some of the most valuable pop-sci I’ve ever read. I’ll be applying and benefitting from these lessons for the rest of my life. The later sections, once it starts to drift into organizational theory, are a little shakier and less useful. I’d recommend just reading the first 1/3 of this book and calling it there, and if you do that, you’ll find incredibly useful advice.

June

by Zach Gage
A really sweet little word game. It’s easy to understand, but some of the puzzles can get fairly challenging. I really like how low-pressure it feels; there’s no timer or anything, so you can just relax and pluck away at it.
by Andrei Tarkovsky
Whoa.
It’s pretty good! I had sort of low expectations because any time I hear a movie getting tons of hype, I assume I’m going to be disappointed. But not this one!
by Jorge Luis Borges
This is a collection of short stories and essays by Borges, and it was my first exposure to the author. Many of the stories I found sort of impenetrable, but there were a handful that were awesome and mind-expanding. I’ve heard some of my favorite authors mention Borges as a big influence in their work, and I can see why.
by David Pittman
A first-person, roguelike, Lovecraftian adventure. In theory, this game has all things that I love, so I should love it. It just didn’t work for me though, for some reason. I think maybe the level generation achieves the whole “disorienting weird geometry” Lovecraft thing a little too well, and it winds up just being confusing to wander the stages. I also wish there was a bit more in the way of monster AI. Lovecraft stories are often about hiding and avoiding rather than head-on combat, but in this game everything just comes right at you and there’s little choice. I may come back and give it another try in the future, because like I said, this should be a great game for me.
by Derek Yu
I’ve owned a copy of this game for years but never really started digging into it. This is old news by now, but it’s easily one of the best modern side-scroller roguelikes out there. Super good, and even though I’ve timestamped my playtime here in June, I’ll continue playing this game for much, much longer.

July

by Alan Hazelden
A very adorable but incredibly, brutally difficult puzzle game. I’ve never given up on a puzzle game that I was enjoying before, but I just got into parts of this game that I cannot beat. Maybe someday I’ll come back and try to finish it up, but for now I have to wave the white flag. In spite of that, it’s as lovely and charming as all of Alan’s games, and I recommend it.
by Playtonic Games
It served its purpose of giving me a Banjo-Kazooie nostalgia hit, but it turns out that I only needed about 2 hours of that.
This is the third or fourth time I’ve tried to play this game. I never liked it before because I didn’t realize it was primarily a stealth game, but this time I played it right and loved it. The other thing I did differently this time was to turn off the onscreen objective indicators, which greatly enhanced the immersion. There were a couple of places where it was clear the designers expected you to have the indicators on and it became a bit frustrating, but surprisingly enough those moments were few and far between. The voice acting is also horrible, but hey, it’s a video game and there are like 3 of those in the world with good acting. Overall, an awesome game, and I’m excited to grab the sequel pretty soon.
by David Lynch and Mark Frost
Frickin’ amazing. I’ve tried watching this series 2 times in the past, and I bounced off it both times in the middle of season 2 when it gets bad. This time, I muscled through the bad times, and I’m glad I did, because the season finale is absolutely incredible. Looking forward to watching the new episodes!
by James S.A. Corey
A reasonably entertaining space opera with elements of mystery and horror. I wound up not finishing it because it’s way too long for what it is, and I will probably not read any of the other books in the series for the same reason, but I did have a good time with it until it wore out its welcome. I’ve heard good things about the TV series, and I will probably give that a shot.
by Christopher Nolan
I decided to rewatch this after finding Nerdwriter’s YouTube channel and watching his video about this movie. It’s good!
by Italo Calvino
This was an interesting read. I think that maybe I lack the intelligence and/or literary background to get out of it the things that are there to get, but I did still enjoy it on some level. I feel like maybe I should find some supplementary materials to get a better grip on this. Or not. Not everything has to be for everyone.
Holy crap, what a show. I normally hate time travel plots because writers tend to use time travel as a get out of jail free card, but the way this show approaches the concept is so smart and methodical that it worked super well. This is definitely one of the best TV series I’ve watched.
Jeesh. This is one brutal movie. I’m glad I watched it, because I love Twin Peaks, and this adds to the universe and lets us see familiar territory from a different perspective, but it was tough to get through. I get why people flipped out when this thing first premiered.
by Hideo Kojima
I’d forgotten a lot about MGS in the >10 years since I first played it, so it was interesting to come back to it. Considering when it came out, this is an incredibly ambitious game. And it meets a lot of its ambitions, too, which is super impressive. It also has quite a few misses, including the graphics that aged very poorly, the outrageously long-winded writing, and the problematic misogyny stuff. Still, it’s possible to look past what it missed and be amazed by how forward-thinking this game was.

August

A beautiful, stripped-down, fresh take on the a medieval kingdom-building genre.
by Daniel Benmergui
A cute, surprisingly deep puzzler that I’ve only scratched the surface of. The goal is find an optimal path through randomly generated levels, with the catch that there’s a timer mechanic limiting the amount of thinking/undoing/redoing time you have. One round lasts only a few minutes, so it’s a great little lunch break game.

September

by Asymmetric Publications
One of the most charming games I’ve ever played. The writing is hilarious (and at times horrifying, dramatic, melancholy), and the RPG systems are great. Battles are quick and engaging, and just difficult enough to be fun without impeding your progress. What a stellar game. Oh and the art and animation are actually great, even though they look simplistic in screenshots.
by Daniel Linssen
A really clever little indie game where the dimensions of the window matter. The idea is cute, and the puzzles built out of it are satisfying and interesting. Also, this was apparently a game jam game, which makes its level of polish really impressive. It’s free with a suggested donation of $2.
The second book in the Dark Tower series. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this series after the first book, since it’s so different from King’s other stuff. This one felt a lot more fleshed out, though, and reassured me that it is indeed a series I want to real all of. I’m a diehard Stephen King fan, and—even though it’s not really his standard horror fare—this is a King story through and through. Good stuff.
I thought this was a really satisfying end to the Bridge Trilogy. I still prefer the Sprawl Trilogy just because I’m a huge cyberpunk dork and love that future sci-fi shit, but even so, I liked this one a lot. Something that never fails to amaze me about Gibson’s writing is how damn prescient he seems to be. Even though the time gap between writing and setting is smaller here than in Sprawl, it’s astonishing how much he gets right.

October

by Dominique Grieshofer
As it says on the tin, this is a relaxing, quick little 3D platformer game. I played through it twice in about 40 minutes and had a nice time. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a couple of bucks reasonably well spent to kill part of a Saturday afternoon.
(* = I wound up trading in a bunch of games for a Switch, and this was an in-progress game that I didn’t actually finish.) A pretty good Pokemon game! Somehow Pokemon the series gets away with a lot of bad game design that no other series would be allowed to perpetrate, but the cute creatures make it enjoyable all the same. I got about 20 hours into this and kinda had enough, but it was fun while I was there.
(* = I wound up trading in a bunch of games for a Switch, and this was an in-progress game that I didn’t actually finish.) What a delight! This is a nice little solitaire game (similar to the one in the also-excellent Faerie Solitaire) wrapped up in a horse-racing metagame. Both aspects of the game are cute and engaging, and even though the gameplay is (intentionally) repetitive, there’s a good sense of progression.
(* = I wound up trading in a bunch of games for a Switch, and this was an in-progress game that I didn’t actually finish.) A pretty good way to kill some time while waiting for the bus or whatever. Not overly deep of a game, but solid core mechanics and good art. Since I only got to put a couple of hours into this one before trading it in, I’m looking forward to getting the sequel on Switch.
(* = I wound up trading in a bunch of games for a Switch, and this was an in-progress game that I didn’t actually finish.) A surprisingly deep, thoughtful, funny, engaging RPG unlike any other I’ve played (having never played another Persona game). I’m absolutely planning to come back to this one someday on a different system or emulator.
(* = I wound up trading in a bunch of games for a Switch, and this was an in-progress game that I didn’t actually finish.) Super cute! The puzzles are fairly engaging, but I had a hard time understanding what was happening visually sometimes. Just a little bit too much on the screen at once.
by Denis Villeneuve
This is a stunningly beautiful movie, visually, aurally, and tonally. I don’t know what else I can say about; it’s just incredible. One of the finest films I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, and that’s not an exaggeration.

November

A super charming, brutally difficult roguelike with a unique control scheme. I love games that are about their core interactions (as opposed to the core interaction being a means to a different end), and TumbleSeed leans into this idea fully. Even though it’s super challenging, I think everyone should at least give this game a try, because I really have never played anything else quite like it. I know I’ll be playing this for a long, long time.
by Eric Barone
I tried playing this game last year on PC, and it didn’t really grab me. However, I grabbed another copy after getting a Switch, and this time around I’m completely hooked. I think having the ability to take it with me makes it a much more appealing little time-killer.
A pretty fun superhero movie! I am kind of superheroed out at this point and find most of them tiresome, but Thor is fairly self-aware and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Also Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure.
There’s not really anything I can say about this game that a million other people haven’t already said, so I’ll just say that I agree with all of them. Absolutely incredible. Like Zelda earlier this year, even if this were the only game on Switch, it’d be reason enough to buy one.
by Patrick Rothfuss
I absolutely loved The Name of the Wind, and this book is everything good about that book amped up to 11. Rothfuss is a true master of fiction. His characters are fascinating, his stories are structured in a compelling way, and his use of language is absolutely masterful—this book begs to be read aloud. On top of all that, Rothfuss himself seems to be a truly awesome guy.
by Pixar
It’s almost always awe-inspiring to see Pixar films. Their level of craft is unparalleled, and Coco is no exception. Lovable characters, beautiful music, and absolutely jaw-dropping visuals.

December

A fascinating little story about one of the side characters in Rothfuss’s larger Kingkiller trilogy. Rothfuss is great at giving you a lens through which you can see the world in a different way, and nowhere is that more clear than in Auri’s point of view. This book won’t make any sense if you haven’t read the other Kingkiller books, but if you have, I recommend it.
by Stephen Lavelle
A nice quick but challenging PuzzleScript game. I had a couple of different “That’s impossible! Oh wait, whoa...” moments that are so emblematic of increpare’s puzzles. Play it for free!
by Rosden Shadow
Another really nice PuzzleScript game. It’s interesting how a turn-based game can have such tight timing like this one and elicit genuinely thrilling moments. It’s free to play, like every PuzzleScript game!
by Loveshack
Lots of beautiful art and animation in this comic book-style puzzler. I never quite felt like I was able to predict the results of my actions ahead of time, so it wound up feeling kind of trial-and-error-y to me, which I don’t love in a puzzle game. There’s so much style here, though, that I stuck with it for quite a while just to soak up the ambience.
by The Duffer Brothers
The first season of this show was one of my favorite TV shows ever, so I had high hopes for its return. By and large, season 2 delivered. I think the first season was a bit better, but s2 was still engaging the entire way through.
A very frustrating game. On purpose! There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, but it’s ultimately not for me. I played for a couple of hours, but I doubt I’ll ever see the end of this game. Still, worth checking out for the unique experience.
by Acid Nerve
You could sum this up as sort of a minimalist, pixel-art-y take on Shadow of the Colossus. I love the stripped-down aesthetic here, and I wanted to love this game. Ultimately, though, it’s a game that’s all about boss fights, and boss fights are usually my least favorite thing to do in games, so I gave up after a couple of hours. If they made another game with the same mechanics and audio/visual style but with more exploration and less combat, I’d be all over it.