Through the Eyes of Keaven [insert wit here]


The Good Place

For those who don’t know anything about this show (first off, why are you reading this?), it’s a sit-com following the experiences of four humans in the afterlife. To quote IMDB’s show page, “Four people and their otherworldly frienemy struggle in the afterlife to define what it means to be good.” The show wasn’t just comedy for the sake of comedy, it also served as a vehicle for examining the nature of humanity, of good and evil, and of moral philosophy. It was deeply engaging and left you rooting for self-improvement and moral maturity.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the show, The Good Place had 53 episodes over its four-season run, which started September 19, 2016, and ended January 30, 2020.

Spoilers ahead!

Over the course of the first two seasons, we see the core cast grow - not only as individuals but also as a unit. They genuinely care for one another and for the fate of humanity in general. This gives us the foundation needed for the successful selling of season three’s arc, where it is precisely that bond and the purity of that care which ultimately allows them to believably persuade The Judge to allow them to overhaul the entire afterlife system rather than destroy all of creation and start over again; thus, they successfully save humanity as we know it.

In season four we see the successful fruits of that renovation labor: The system has been fixed, and our core cast enters that world’s version of Paradice. There is one more small hitch for the cast to overcome in season four, but by introducing the fix for that problem they also present the mechanism that allows for the gracious and elegant conclusion to the entire show.

Make no mistake, the final episode had me in tears from the moment Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) got that distant-but-calm look on his face - If you were paying attention at all throughout season four, you knew exactly what that look meant and what it ultimately meant for the rest of the cast.

Despite the emotional tears I had at the time, the more I reflected on this ending, the less I actually liked it. Here’s why:

Firstly, while I appreciated the use of their X Jeremy Bearimy later hand-wave to convey the passage of enormous chunks of decades, I felt like core cast members were abandoning the group. After so much emphasis had been placed on the unbreakable cohesion of the group over other such “X Jeremy Bearimy” of time (with the very fate of creation hanging in the balance at points), it was jarring to see people peace out with, what felt like, an uncharacteristic and misplaced casualness. They may have done all they needed/wanted to do, but they still had their friends - is the ultimate fulfillment of their friend’s not also worthy of needing/wanting to help accomplish? Characters who we’ve seen go on personal journies of growth and moral awareness suddenly turned into selfish creatures only concerned with self-fulfillment.

The expectation to this, and serving as a proxy for the viewer throughout the show, was Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell). She was the only one who ultimately acknowledged her own selfishness in the process - though, not the way I would have liked… she wanted Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) to not move on because she wasn’t ready to move on and felt like she couldn’t do that without him. I believe this moment of self-awareness was misplaced and should have been had by Chidi and the selfishness of his, “well, I'm done so I’m leaving now… who cares if you are ready or not.”

Secondly,  the ultimate “moving on” as… well… death? Really? In a show about what happens when you die, they suddenly have an existential moment of, “what do you think happens when you walk through the door” - essentially, a death at the end of death where the only difference being this second death is one you specifically opt in to “whenever you’re ready.”  It felt… Lazy. It’s very obvious, particularly in retrospect, that this was the ending they had in mind for a long time, so it wasn’t due to anything like, “crap, we just got canceled... Let’s wrap this up as quickly as we can.” But, that’s pretty much how it felt to me.

Side note: as an Adventist, I found the whole “second death” thing quite hilarious.

Anyway… there you go. I loved the show; and, as I watched it, I found the ending very emotional. I guess I just had greater expectations for such a wonderful show - This ending didn’t feel like it was good enough for The Good Place.


Musings on the new SimCity


SimCity has traditionally been (mostly) a single-player game. I really like the way multi-player has been integrated into this reboot of the series, I just disagree with the decision to tether the game to their online servers when they give you the option to create a personal city region with no one else playing in it. If you’re allowing me to play a “single player” version of the game, why are you still forcing me to log into your servers (beyond a simple authentication… which I would still complain about, but at least it would prevent the 20+ minutes of waiting to play my single-player city experience).

But... fine, whateves. I do honestly feel the addition of city specialization, and resource/research sharing makes it a much more interesting place to play, when you’re playing with people you know (I doubt I’ll attempt playing in public regions). I’m even looking forward to exploring the Global Market some more 😀

All that being said, this trend to tie online game-play to a very public Name, is starting to get on my nerves. Not because of any lack of personal responsibility, but because of the marginalization of gamer households; John and I both love playing SimCity, yet in this incarnation of the game, we each have to buy separate copies of the game, even though we would use the same computer, because otherwise one of us would be online “as” the other, playing games under the other person’s name… quite publicly, with all my friends wondering why I’m playing SimCity in the middle of the day instead of working (yes, there’s an invisible mode, but that’s not the point). What if we had two or three kids, who also liked playing?

Where before, we had one copy of the game, installed on one computer, and I had a login, and John had a login, and each (hypothetical) kid had a login, and everyone could play their own games, with everyone being happy… Now, we have each person needing their own copy of the game (at $60 a pop), despite the fact we’re still all playing on the same machine. The other option is… what, the loss of that online identity completely with everyone in the household playing under a common “house” name? That’s no fun either.

I dunno… I really like SimCity, and I really like the game play of this version. I also really like the multiplayer aspects they’ve integrated from the ground up, so it’s all very natural and works very well. I just really, really wish I didn’t feel like I was being held upside down, having the change shaken from my pockets :\

Anyway.. that’s my two cents. I’m going to keep playing, because I do really like the game play, despite the crap it’s wrapped it.

What do you all think? Is the single-online-identity move simply thinly veiled avarice, or is it an honest attempt to thwart piracy? Do you think this kind of always-on game architecture, even for single player games/scenarios, is a good/appropriate move, or is it just an inevitability we will have to learn to deal with?




Casting a Fire PAoE

I really, really, *really* wish this game had a different control scheme.

Magicka, a game from Aarowhead Game Studios, is a fantasy game, chock full of pop culture and industry jokes, where you wield magic to save the day, guided by your honorable instructor Vlad, who is most definitely not a vampire.

Two things make this game super fun for me. First, the game environment is just awesome. With so many games trying very hard to not break immersion, it's refreshing to play a game that throws that all out the window and just litters itself with pop culture references. Don't get me wrong, immersion is an important staple to good game design for some very solid reasons. Every now and then, though, it's nice to just have some silly fun. If all games were like that, this wouldn't be anywhere near as impactful.

Second, I get a big kick out of mixing my own magic. In Magicka, you have access to a set of basic eight elements, (fire, water, frost, earth, lightning, arcane, healing, and shield .. there are other combo elements you can learn, like steam and ice, but you have to figure those out and they don't add to your hotkey list). You then queue up these elements in various combinations to create your spells. These can then be cast in one of 4 ways: on yourself, as a projectile/beam/cone, as a PBAoE, or on your melee weapon.