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?
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.