How Do You Game in 2022?

My pro­gres­sion into gam­ing was pret­ty straight­for­ward. I start­ed with a VIC 20, fol­lowed by a Com­modore 64, then an Apple IIGS, got a SEGA Gen­e­sis for Christ­mas junior year, then off to col­lege with a Hewlett Packard Pavil­lion. My PlaySta­tion 1 got me through grad school and a PS2 got me through years of under­em­ploy­ment. I dropped my Sony loy­al­ty, get­ting an Xbox 360 when we bought our first house. I upgrad­ed to a Forza Xbox One when I went to Ford. We added a PlaySta­tion 4 Pro a few Christ­mases ago, then to an Xbox Series X last spring. My youngest got a Nin­ten­do Switch some­where along the way, too. This Christ­mas we added a PlaySta­tion 5 and an Ocu­lus Quest 2.

It’s at once embar­rass­ing and over­whelm­ing to try to man­age four gam­ing sys­tems simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and eval­u­ate which games make sense for which plat­form. I’ve tried to sim­pli­fy things with Xbox Game Pass Ulti­mate as part of the Series X pur­chase. That’s been help­ful from a dis­cov­ery and every day play stand­point for count­less titles that would­n’t have been worth $60 or more to prove disappointing. 

Where things get trick­i­er is know­ing which Switch titles are actu­al­ly good for a 2nd grad­er. He’s a good read­er, but some of the games ask a lot of the play­er. Addi­tion­al­ly, try­ing to stay on top of PlaySta­tion exclu­sives may be a chal­lenge. I’ve his­tor­i­cal­ly been an EA devo­tee, so sto­ry-ori­ent­ed games are a bit of a blind spot for me. I’ve pur­chased so many games I nev­er had a hope of fin­ish­ing once we had kids. I did­n’t do a great job man­ag­ing across plat­forms on the last gen con­soles we had pri­mar­i­ly because friends had PlaySta­tion and the prospect of play­ing togeth­er online in the pan­dem­ic was attrac­tive. It has hap­pened maybe a hand­ful of times.

Final­ly, Ocu­lus Quest 2 is new ter­ri­to­ry alto­geth­er. I’ve been gen­er­al­ly bear­ish on VR with the excep­tion of some indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions. What I’ve seen in the last week are some pret­ty sim­ple games that are fine, if not espe­cial­ly immer­sive and fun. Look­ing at this list from the Verge, it looks like there are few com­pelling options for a sports-for­ward kid.

What’s com­ing in 2022 that’s worth look­ing out for?

Another Hex-mas Miracle

I can’t remem­ber if I’ve ever been able to lis­ten to as much of Jon Solomon’s 25-hour #WPRBX­mas as I did this year. It was fan­tas­tic as usu­al and pro­duced some great quotes from my sister-in-law.

But the real Christ­mas mag­ic hap­pened on Christ­mas Day, as the Fall set wrapped up with the debut of Chica­go Now’s Hex-mas Enduc­tion Hour.

When I tell you I could­n’t buy it fast enough. I was spell­bound from the open­ing notes of “The Christ­mas­si­cal.” A must for any Fall fan!

Why Are Voice Assistants so Dumb?

The voice assis­tant seemed so cool and made so much sense. What happened?

If you fol­low Inter­net of Shit, you already know. This Bloomberg sto­ry about Alexa adop­tion sug­gests even the biggest play­ers in voice-enabled hard­ware are strug­gling to find their why. 

We have sev­er­al Echos in our house, all of which are used for extreme­ly banal rea­sons that are just eas­i­er than con­nect­ing dumb speak­ers by blue­tooth for the most part, or press­ing but­tons on an oven timer. Of course, they were envi­sioned as trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­o­gy, not egg timers.

Bloomberg does­n’t go deep on this, but points to the over­all onboard­ing expe­ri­ence as being where users seem to check out, if not short­ly there­after. Some of the com­plaints are famil­iar: in an effort to get you to do more with the device, it starts ask­ing you if you’d like to try new skills, few of which have any rel­e­vance to what you’ve been doing with it.

Dieter Bohn wrote how we’re still get­ting voice assis­tants wrong for the Verge in 2019 and if you search the title of this post, you’ll find no short­age of com­men­tary. Heck, Android Author­i­ty asked their read­ers if they used them and the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty said no. To be clear, this isn’t that they strug­gle with nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing — they absolute­ly do — it’s also that they don’t seem to con­nect to any pat­terns in usage and then devel­op intel­li­gence built around it. Isn’t this what AI and machine learn­ing is all about to the layperson?

It’s not just Alexa; it’s every voice assis­tant I’ve ever used. If you’ve found any Alexa skills or rou­tines use­ful, share them below.

Another Year Trapped in Amber

I was try­ing to find the right way to describe how 2021 felt and then I read this:

For Niko­las Tsamouta­l­idis, an assis­tant prin­ci­pal, the most vivid image of the post-pan­dem­ic stu­dent body was at lunch this year, when he saw ninth graders — whose last full year in school was sev­enth grade — prepar­ing to play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” “It’s like fifth or sixth graders,” he said, “but in big bodies.”

New York Times

There was a meme float­ing around Face­book this year that went direct­ly to the heart of this, name­ly, that the last “nor­mal” year for a 7th grad­er was 4th grade so the above hit me hard. I cer­tain­ly see it first­hand with my own kids, but rec­og­nize how adults have been impact­ed, too.

At the out­set of the pan­dem­ic, we quick­ly make some risk assess­ments around our pod. They weren’t per­fect; in fact it was com­plete­ly porous, but pared down nev­er­the­less. Our core group was real­ly three fam­i­lies. It has­n’t changed much since. We vis­it­ed Michi­gan twice this year and it was like step­ping back into our social lives.

At the out­set of the pan­dem­ic, it tru­ly felt like an oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­plete­ly reimag­ine our­selves and how we live our lives. It’s felt more like try­ing to get tooth­paste back into the tube, espe­cial­ly as new vari­ants emerge and dis­rupt our lives again and again. How can we as a soci­ety real­is­ti­cal­ly address these challenges?

The Endless Fight Against the Infinite Scroll

I first wrote about how to com­bat the infi­nite scroll — since dubbed doom­scrolling — back in 2018, bor­row­ing from the updates Jason Kot­tke makes about his media diet. It’s still all about inten­tion­al­i­ty, right? It still is and I try not to stare at the screen in search of some­thing that nev­er mate­ri­al­izes, but phones just demand our atten­tion, don’t they?

Great exam­ple from Char­lie Warzel why it’s impor­tant we put bound­aries around this behav­ior. Can I just say I hate learn­ing over and over that Neil Post­man was more right than I could’ve imag­ined him being when I first read him as a col­lege freshman?

So here’s how I’ve been keep­ing myself busy when I’m not watch­ing Twit­ter unspool.

  • Read­ing
    • Sing Back­wards and Weep. Mark Lane­gan takes you on an odyssey through his career at the mar­gins of the Seat­tle music scene and soci­ety itself. As some­one who real­ly became a music obses­sive as grunge broke, it was a heart­break­ing work. Lane­gan tells a sur­vivor’s tale that gives an over­due human and humane per­spec­tive on the lives and deaths of his close friends Kurt Cobain and Layne Sta­ley. It’s a grip­ping, brac­ing read.
    • Newslet­ters. I need to declare newslet­ter bank­rupt­cy but just can’t. Your newslet­ter is great and I get why peo­ple are turn­ing to email to stop fight­ing algo­rithms, but I’m open to strate­gies for bet­ter email man­age­ment so they’re not just com­plete­ly buried.
      • But as Bri­an Mor­ris­sey writes in the Reboot­ing, email is hard­er than we’re ready to admit. I’ve spent the bet­ter part of the week on a new desk­top (!) PC (!!) just to make my per­son­al email more man­age­able and found that newslet­ter are fre­quent­ly buried in the fun­ni­est places because of how AI sorts your inbox.
  • Watch­ing
    • Ted Las­so. The first sea­son hit me — and every­one else — like a ton of bricks at the out­set of the pan­dem­ic. It just hit the right notes for the moment. Sea­son two? It has­n’t charmed me in quite the same way, and it seems like pub­lic opin­ion has turned sour.
    • Garth Marenghi’s Dark­place. I was first intro­duced to this in grad school or there­abouts by Todd L. Burns. It’s on Ama­zon Prime and if you’re a Matt Berry fan, it’s won­der­ful to look back at this moment in his career.
    • Rick and Morty. I’m not caught up. Appar­ent­ly the sea­son redeems itself, but it’s been try­ing my patience.
    • The Phillies. I’m reluc­tant to admit that this deeply flawed team has won me back with a streak that put them in first place in August. I’m ready to have my heart bro­ken again.
  • Lis­ten­ing
    • Pod­casts
      • Chin Music — Get­ting Kevin Gold­stein back is a gift that just keeps on giving.
    • Mix­cloud — seri­ous­ly this is the future of radio and I hope they can stay indie forever.
    • Albums — too many to list. I’ll share my favorites now that we’ve got just 4 months to go (!) in 2021.
  • Doing
    • Lit­tle League base­ball. Char­lie’s team fin­ished fourth in New Jer­sey. He made a tal­ent­ed team in his only sea­son in the league. If you’ve spent any time around youth sports, you might know how dif­fi­cult this can be. It was a tri­umphant con­clu­sion to an impres­sive Lit­tle League career. He’s excit­ed to start trav­el ball again this fall, along­side hockey.
    • Run­ning. I hired a coach last sum­mer to try to train for a 100K race. It was going great, right up until the time of the move, when I was strick­en by a relent­less case of plan­tar fasci­itis. I’m near­ly com­plete­ly recov­ered but have no races on the sched­ule. I’m back to run­ning about an hour a day at a good pace, but the dif­fer­ence this time is that I’m focused on being lighter. I’m down about twen­ty pounds since the end of June and am look­ing to lose about twen­ty or so more. My hope is that being lighter will trans­late to few­er repet­i­tive stress injuries.
    • Tech upgrades. New phones! We’re all on iPhone 12 now. I’m typ­ing on a Win­dows desk­top PC and it is hilar­i­ous­ly won­der­ful to have an all-in-one in our lives again. I may even write more, but don’t want to com­mit just yet.

Keep choos­ing things that take you offline when you can and remind your­self that infor­ma­tion isn’t the same as action.