Frivolous Comforts in the Crises

This is a reworked draft from July, which is a rather long time to finish a blog post. Things have been fortunately, though frustratingly, busy. Juggling work and trying to keep Arthur focused on digital kindergarten classes has destroyed any defined sense of “work day.” That I still have a work day to worry about I am quite thankful for, all things considered. The curious series of events that has made up the last few decades for me seems determined to keep its course. I’ve even managed to lose some weight, bucking the trend among what I assume to be similarly overly-fortunate people who would bother to take part in the sort of survey required to get this data during all this madness. I can only hope, whoever might be reading this, that things have treated you equally as well.

In writing about 2020 it is difficult to resist the urge to make some reference to hindsight or to quote the generically-fitting 90’s alt-rock wisdom that there’s “reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last” which has perhaps never been truer in my lifetime. Of course, just typing this I have already failed to cave in to that base desire to fill my ramblings with aging cultural references. Buy hey, when pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime.

I’m not going to waste time summarizing the year 2020. There’s essentially a room with infinite journalists and infinite keyboards trying to do that as I type this, and two or three of them are bound to do a pretty good job of it, so I’ll leave it to that engine of eager editors to do its work. I’ll note, however, that the sense of each year getting longer and longer has been going on for awhile now, and this is just the latest and longest. The common wisdom has always been that time was to become faster as I aged. I was meant to hit middle-age with a dreadful sense of wondering where all the time went, but such was the wisdom from before the dark times. Before the Facebook. A relentless news cycle and a need to feel pretty much constantly outraged at something (there are so many valid things to be outraged about) packs one’s mind to the brim. It’s exactly that fatigue that’s made it curiously more difficult to finish write-ups like this.

What I will waste time summarizing are the trivial pursuits of distraction in the midst of it all: An pandemic-triggered, early-onset middle-age crisis fueled campaign to finish off (or start in the first place) some collections of things vaguely remembered from my teenage years. If you’re not into that sort of thing, but are still reading to this point, this is a good off-ramp.

Cheers to a new year with a very low bar to meet some hopeful expectations! (And あけましておめでとう for those still on that end of the Pacific.)

On-Ramp to Inconsequence

Still with me? I’ve not fully documented all of the things how I’d like to present them, so here’s a little preview of the nonsense that’s kept me busy in the moments I’ve been able to tear myself away from whatever other chaos gripped my attention.

Who could have guessed my middle age crisis would mostly consist of defunct 1990’s card games? Cloistered in my closet, where I’ve put together my perma-work-from-home setup, I began to eye my little dead card game display. Over the months there grew a bizarre desire. I had always wanted to finally finish collecting Ani-Mayhem, being the finite card set it is, and having once before been within 10 cards of the full set. In my digging around the Internet for modern sources of the cards, other old cardboard memories were brought back to mind: Middle Earth and Star Trek. After some Googling I discovered that one of them was already retooled into a single-player experience, and the other could certainly be molded into one, and so the “I wish I was a game designer” gears in my head began to turn.

Trivial Pursuits

I set off to do three needless, nostalgic things in the last year. I wound up doing four.

1) Finish my Ani-Mayhem collection. A lofty goal that I didn’t actually think would happen. In the process, I wanted to create a game format that used as many of the cards from the game as possible, which meant a huge world map and a number of new features to make it work. The end result is a huge board game that requires a ton of space, but I’m happy with the result.

2) Put together an Arda deck for Middle Earth. Arda is a format that supports one or more players, with some tweaking for single player, and essentially turns it into a board game, something I was already trying to do with Ani-Mayhem (and found, in the process, that the rules I had come up with were in some ways quite similar to Arda).

3) Gather up enough of the Star Trek CCG (1st edition. 2nd edition just looks… off to me.) and mold it into a one or two player game. The original rules for this game are a bizarre sort of slog, but with a little tweaking it can work out pretty well.

4) Finish Apocalypse (not a purposeful 2020 reference). Often I am called back by an inexplicable desire to play one of the worst MMOs ever created: Final Fantasy XI, a bit of nostalgia that, unlike the top three, is neither cardboard nor a relic of the 90’s. This is a relic of the 00’s. Since its awful inception a lot has gone wrong and right with it, and while the miserable guts of it are still there, it’s a much more accessible garbage fire than it used to be. Apocalypse, the original, neigh-unobtainable weapon that turned Dark Knights into a hasty, self-sufficient machine, was one of those glimmers in the eye of any level 75 DRK, so in spite of it being much easier than before it was still quite satisfying getting hold of it. To what end? No idea!

I may actually try and force myself to document these more thoroughly, if the energy sapping properties of just existing in 2020 are arbitrarily alleviated by ticking over to 2021.