Recommendations

How To Share a Love of Video Games With Your Significant Other

When my wife and I first met, she was a gamer who only played one game: The Sims. She might occasionally find other games intriguing, but—for the most part—none of them appealed to her. If I asked her about trying games other than The Sims, she would say that she really didn’t “play video games.”

Well, after a while, I began to understand that when she said “video games” she was talking about the fast-paced, and often technically-demanding, games that I was playing. She was looking at Call of Duty and Dying Light and assuming that all of the games I played were chaotic, gory, and overly complicated. 

She thought ALL video games looked like this.

The Beginning of a Journey

At first, I asked if Vii would be willing to try some side-scrolling platformers, retro arcade games, or some other games that I’d deemed to be “Beginner Games.” She agreed to play a couple and see how it went. 

It… didn’t go well.

She lost interest very quickly. She also felt that the controls were too complicated and that the games we were playing required timing and reflexes that she just didn’t have. 

It was a little disheartening. Gaming has been a huge part of my life since I was a wee lad, and I really wanted to be able to share that part of my life with the person I loved.

Eventually, I understood a few very important things:

  1. Vii might never develop an interest in gaming, and I had to be okay with that
  2. I was the one dictating our approach to gaming
  3. Point two might have been affecting point one

So, I took a different approach. I asked her what she liked about the one game she did play.

She told me that she liked:

  • That she got to pause and think about her actions
  • That she could play with the genetics of sims and see how the children turned out
  • That she got to make decisions for her sims and see what the outcome would eventually be
  • That she could stop at any point and pick it back up when she wanted. 

With those points in mind, I asked her if she would be willing to scour STEAM for games that met her criteria (that I might also enjoy), so that we could try playing something together.

The two games we ended up buying were Massive Chalice and Darkest Dungeon. Both were turn-based strategy games, with some decision making and resource management. Massive Chalice had the added benefit of having a genetics aspect, while Darkest Dungeon’s aesthetics and impeccable voice work managed to pique her interest.

To this day, those are two of her favorite games. I attribute some of that to nostalgia, but the truth is that those were games that she was interested in, and they allowed her to see what “video games” had to offer her specifically.

> Half Way

When I talk to a lot of gamers—who also did not marry gamers—I often hear that their significant other “won’t even try playing” or that they “tried them, but didn’t like them.” 

Some people really — probably — don’t like video games in general

If your significant other really doesn’t like video games, that’s fair.

More often than not, however, I believe the gamers I was talking to were approaching this the wrong way. When I asked what games they were asking their partners to try, it was always a game with a high bar for entry. They were trying a first person shooter or an action RPG. Even the most tame version of either genre requires a degree of hand-eye coordination and a familiarity with the subject matter. Just because Ni No Kuni looks adorable and is pretty forgiving by my standards doesn’t mean that a complete novice will be able to pick it up easily. 

So, you really need to meet your significant other where they are, rather than where you are. Even meeting them halfway is still a big ask.

The Deep End

A lot of people will say that the best way to learn something is to jump into the deep end. While that might work with some things, there is a very simple reason that you can’t just throw your partner into the deep end with something like video games…

…they drown.

Basically, it takes all the fun out of playing.

Starting with a game that requires you to know how to use two control sticks, previous knowledge of how action-RPGs work, the prerequisite reflexes to be effective, and the genre savviness to know not to shoot the red barrels when you’re standing next to them is completely insane. You don’t start them with a Dark Souls game. Hell, you don’t even start with Mario Odyssey

You start where they are most comfortable.

If that means starting with a point and click adventure, or a visual novel, or even a dating simulation game, then that’s what you have to do. 

Playing games is about having fun, and if your significant other isn’t having fun, then there’s no point. You could get them to try some of the best games in the world, but they wouldn’t be able to appreciate them.

Even we gamers did not spring forth from the womb with a controller in hand, ready to play every game. We learned slowly over time, and if your significant other has never played a video game, then they need to learn just like you did. 

A Gradual Incline

Once you’ve figured out exactly what your significant other would enjoy playing, and if they would like to continue to pursue gaming as a mutual hobby, then it’s just a matter of introducing new concepts gradually.

Did your significant other enjoy playing turn-based games? Great, maybe try a real-time strategy. Were they really feeling the visual novels? Maybe try something like Valkyria Chronicles that combines strategy with a story that unfolds as a visual novel. 

It’s about finding out what they love about games, and then exploring new ones together. 

After playing Massive Chalice and Darkest Dungeon, my wife and I played The Wolf Among Us, so that she could see if she liked adventure games. We then moved on to quirkier titles like Crypt of the Necrodancer and Shovel Knight. Games that were a little more difficult, but had simple controls that were hard to master. 

These days we can play games like Skyrim or Hades, which require spatial awareness, fairly quick reflexes, and the ability to navigate and remember several menus at a time. 

This doesn’t mean that we play all games together…

I still play this one on my own

…but the overall number of games that Vii is willing to try has increased from almost none to over half of the games I play.

This is because she has a better overall understanding of what video games are and how they operate. She also has the confidence to know what she likes about them and what her skill level is. She even seeks out games that she knows I have no interest in, but that she would really enjoy.

She now “plays video games.” 

Fun and Games

Now, I’m not saying that what happened with us will happen for everyone. 

Some couples may try several types of games and never really develop a taste for it. Others may find one game, or genre, and decide to stay there. No outcome is “bad,” they’re just different. It’s all about comfort levels and fun, because if no one is having fun, then there is no point.

So, if you are a gamer and would like to try sharing your interests with your significant other, remember that handing them a controller and a copy of Call of Duty is not the way to go.

 That’s just frustrating for everyone involved.

Instead, take the time to see things from their perspective. Find out what they like and what they’re interested in, and see if you can find a game that really speaks to them. Because while it’s sometimes true that people “don’t play video games,” I honestly believe that there is a game out there for everyone. 

You just have to find it first.

And that game could lead to another, and another. And that could lead to a passion that you and your partner can share. 

Recommendations, TV Show Reviews

8 Animated Shows For Adults That Are Well Worth Your Time

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Cartoons, more often than not, get a bad rap as just being for children. Back in the 90’s that was largely—but not exclusively—true. 

Since then, the number of cartoons aimed at adults has increased at an explosive rate, and I could not be happier about that. I love most animated shows anyway. I mean, my tastes have gotten a little more discerning in recent years, but not by much. 

So, as a connoisseur of all things animated, I just wanted to offer up some cartoons that are specifically aimed at adults. The following list is but the tip of a much larger iceberg, but hopefully this will give anyone uninitiated an idea of what the world of adult animation has to offer.  

Corner Gas Animated

The original Corner Gas is a Canadian sitcom that aired on CTV from 2004 to 2009. It was basically the most quintessentially Canadian television show ever made, and it was awesome. It was about a small gas station in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan and the eccentric townsfolk who frequented the establishment. 

Well, back in 2018 CTV Comedy Network continued the show in the form of Corner Gas Animated. Which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s Corner Gas, but animated.

This is great for a couple of reasons. The first is that the cast has aged quite a bit since then, so having them animated allows for their ages to remain the same. The second is that they got most of the cast to reprise their roles, so it feels like nothing really changed, except that they can do more extreme cutaway gags with less effort. 

Archer

Archer is ostensibly an animated show about the worst spy agency in the world. It’s run by a narcissistic alcoholic, their best agent is a man-child who never learned what consequences are, and the office staff doesn’t seem capable of doing even the most basic tasks.

Needless to say, it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. 

This show has perfected the running gag. There are jokes that were in the first episode that they continue to use throughout the series. These jokes just seem to get funnier every time, and there is nothing sadder than when they retire one of them.

Of course, there is also nothing funnier than when they bring them back from time to time just to make you chuckle. 

It’s also a show that decided to go completely off the rails starting with season 5 (aka Archer Vice). In this season they flipped the script in a number of intriguing ways. Then they decided, with season seven, to completely abandon the spy thriller aesthetic, put the show in Los Angeles, and turn their organization into a detective agency. Season eight saw the cast as old school noir characters. Nine had them as Indiana Jones-style adventurers, and ten had them in space.

So, what I’m trying to say is that they are willing to take risks. 

Star Trek: The Lower Decks

For me, Star Trek: The Lower Decks is something I didn’t know I wanted, but that I desperately needed. In fact we said as much in our review of it, which you can find here.

Usually, a Star Trek show follows the bridge crew. You know, the captain, first mate, pilots, chief science and engineering officers… those guys.

The Lower Decks instead opts to follow the nobodies who work in the bowels of the ship, and the misadventures that they have while the bridge crew is trying to save the universe.

There are a few of reasons The Lower Decks is worth your time. The first being that the show has a surprising amount of heart for a joke-version of an existing franchise. The second is that the characters are actually interesting and manage to grow over the course of the series. The third would be that while it has all the trappings of a Star Trek show, it manages to stand apart from its source material and do it’s own thing. 

Final Space

Final Space really came out of left field for me. I didn’t even hear about it until the second season was about to come out. Then, when I finally sat down and watched it, I was… underwhelmed.

The first couple of episodes were only so-so. The story was a bit “Meh” and the sophomoric humor, while funny, wasn’t really impressive in any way. 

Well, it turns out if you keep watching, Final Space will surprise you. By the end of the first season it became something worth watching. The story becomes both massive in scale and importance. It manages to find its stride with humor, and its characters go from being two-dimensional cutouts to people you actually care about. 

All that being said, the humor is still pretty sophomoric, but, sometimes, it makes you think. 

The Venture Brothers

The Venture Brothers ran on tv for almost fifteen years, even though there were only seven seasons. It was a master class in what adult animation could be. It took a simple premise (which was, admittedly, a little lackluster in its first season) and grew it into something else entirely. 

It starts off as a satire of the Hanna Barbera cartoons of the mid-to-late sixties, such as Jonny Quest, and slowly builds upon itself. By the time you get to the third and fourth seasons, The Venture Brothers has managed to—without punching you in the face with exposition—created an entire world with a rich and storied mythology. You start to see how the events of the past ripple into the present, and how that influences each character’s motivations. 

Of course, on top of all of the meticulously crafted worldbuilding is a ton of irreverent and sometimes off-the-wall comedy, which makes this bizarre show worth every second.

I will throw in a disclaimer here. Some of the early jokes haven’t aged well over the last seventeen years. So, be aware of that. 

Samurai Jack – Season 5

Samurai Jack aired on Cartoon Network from 2001-2004, and was about a samurai warrior on a quest to slay a shapeshifting demon. 

During its original run, it did some things that a lot of cartoons would have never dared. For example, there are several episodes with little-to-no dialogue. What’s more is that those are some of the show’s best episodes.

Samurai Jack also won several awards, including 8 Emmy’s.

Needless to say, it has long been one of my favorite shows. However, it always had one glaring flaw; It was incomplete. It ended after four seasons, and the final episode resolved exactly nothing. 

It was something I was bitter about for roughly twelve years. 

Then, in 2017, something glorious happened. Somehow, Samurai Jack was renewed for a fifth and final season. What’s better is that the final season wasn’t for children. The overall tone of the show was much more serious, they exchanged robotic enemies for ones with blood and guts…

It had become a show for adults.

Honestly, I can only recommend this show if you’d be willing to watch the first four seasons, but if you do (or if you were already a fan and didn’t know that they’d created a fifth season) then I strongly recommend that you do yourself a favor and watch this miraculous fifth season.

Rick and Morty

If you haven’t heard about Rick and Morty, that’s very impressive. It’s consistently praised as one of the best animated series on television, and honestly has some of the most mind-bending episodes of any show I’ve ever seen. 

The show is about the smartest man in the multi-verse and the insane—and often disturbing—adventures he goes on with his grandson.

The show is mostly overt toilet humor with a sprinkle of violence and just a dash existential dread. That might not sound like the greatest set of things for a show to offer, but Rick and Morty does a couple of things so well that it’s hard not to love it. 

The first is how mind-blowing the show can be. The way they conceptualize the universe and how things could operate within it is often disorienting, but in the best way. There are episodes where multiple timelines are shown on the screen at the same time, with different versions of the main characters trying to kill one another from across the timestream, and other episodes where there are universes contained within universes, which are all contained in a car battery. 

The second reason to love Rick and Morty is the heavy hitting morals… or lack thereof. Sometimes you feel like you walked away learning a deep and valuable lesson from the episode you just watched. Other times you walk away with the knowledge that the universe is merely chaos and you are but a speck of dust within the cosmos.

If none of that is your thing, it still has an amazing amount of toilet humor, which is just the best. 

Oh, and if it turns out that you like Rick and Morty, or you already know that you do, you should check out Solar Opposites on Hulu. 

Invincible

Invincible—based on a series of comics by the same name—is currently still airing its first season. Usually, I would reserve my judgement until after I’ve seen the whole thing, but currently I’m only a few episodes in and I don’t think I could recommend this show enough. 

It takes place in a world a lot like the DC-comics universe, and follows a kid who is basically the son of the in-world Superman. The story begins just as this kid’s powers are starting to develop, so it’s a bit of an origin story. However, what sets this apart from something you might find on Cartoon Network is how seriously the show takes itself. 

It does not pull any punches. It shows what really happens when a supervillain shoots a death ray into a crowd, or when a superhuman who can break the sound barrier punches someone in the face. This can get a little gruesome, but it sure does make for some powerful scenes. 

Because it plays everything straight, it shows the psychological side of what it would be like to become a hero. The main character does not start off saving everyone, and unlike children’s cartoons—or even the Marvel movies—the stakes are, more often than not, deadly for everyone. 

There is also an incredible/terrible scene at the end of the first episode that is so compelling that you don’t really have any choice but to continue watching the show to see where it’s going.

It’s also worth mentioning that when the first part of the credits starts rolling, the episode is not over. 

So make sure you keep watching.

Recommendations

5 Killer Musicals for People Averse to Musicals

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Let’s face it: not everyone is into musicals. 

I, myself, only really came around to them within the last few years. I didn’t hate them before, but I mostly ignored anything labeled “musical.” 

These days, I know several people who have opened me up to the larger world of musicals. This is mostly because of the myriad of newer, more interesting, musicals that have come out within recent years, Like Dear Evan Hanson, Hadestown, and Hamilton. I mean, I’ve warmed up to some of the older ones, but things like Grease have not aged well enough for me to embrace them.

This change in how I viewed musicals was not sudden. It was slow, laborious, and multi-layered. It wasn’t that someone showed me Hamilton, and it blew my mind. Nor did any of the speeches people gave saying “but musicals are just as good as other movies” have much effect.

No, what finally brought me round was watching some select musicals that were not exactly traditional. They were musicals that were intriguing because of their inherent genre, or story, and which seemed an odd choice to make into musicals in the first place.

So, for anyone who’s not really into the idea of musicals, I offer this list of five musicals—that aren’t from Disney—that helped me better understand the breadth and scope of what musicals could accomplish. 

Anna and the Apocalypse

This one is the trifecta. It is a musical, a zombie apocalypse movie, and a christmas movie all rolled into one. 

The movie focuses, of course, on Anna Shepherd, a young woman who is about to finish high school and is considering taking a year to travel before she goes off to college. On the night of the school’s big Christmas show, a zombie virus sweeps through the town. The next morning, Anna heads off to school to find that her town is overrun with the living dead.

What I find so compelling about this movie is that they were brave enough to try three different things at the same time. A zombie musical would have been enough, but nay, they decided to add in the Christmas thing just for kicks. Granted, the Christmas part is more incidental than the other two, so very little of the music focuses on the fact that it’s around Christmas. It’s mostly the backdrop for this brazen genre mashup.

It’s also a movie that manages to be funny while still taking the zombie apocalypse pretty seriously from time to time. 

Stage Fright

Stage Fright feels a bit like an experimental film. It’s basically an 80’s slasher movie smooshed together with a musical.

The story begins with Broadway sensation Kylie Swanson being murdered by a man in a phantom mask during her production of “The Haunting of the Opera.” It then jumps to ten years in the future where her children, Camilla and Buddy, are being raised by Roger McCall, Kylie’s former lover and the owner of a struggling musical-theatre-based summer camp. 

When the camp decides to put on a rendition of “The Haunting of the Opera,” Camilla decides that she wants to throw her hat in the ring and audition for the part. When the stage director offers her the part in exchange for some “favors,” Camilla is torn between her love of theatre and her moral compass. However, before she can make a decision, the stage director is brutally murdered by an assailant in a “Haunting of the Opera” mask.

What follows is your basic slasher movie, interspersed with musical numbers. 

While it never really wowed me, the idea of a musical slasher was just too novel to pass up. So, if you’re a big fan of slasher films, this is a good way to dip your toe into the proverbial waters of musicals.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd got its start in the penny dreadful’s of the mid-to-late 1840’s. Over a hundred years later, the titular barber received the stage treatment, and became a Tony award winning musical. However, the version I’m writing about is the 2007 version directed by Tim Burton and starring who else but Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. 

Johnny Depp plays Benjamin Barker, a barber who was wrongfully convinced of a crime by a corrupt judge who only wanted Barker’s wife for himself. Upon returning from his exile fifteen years later, Barker seeks revenge on those who wronged him. So, he takes up the alias “Sweeney Todd” and lures the unsuspecting marks into his barber shop where he slits their throats and has his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, turn them into meat pies. 

While it can get pretty gory, the dark aesthetic of Tim Burton, and the insane acting (I’ll let you decide if that means it’s really good, or really crazy) of Johnny Depp really help to make this movie shine.

Also, the music isn’t half bad. 

Little Shop of Horrors

Another title that’s life started well before the musical in question, Little Shop of Horrors is the charming tale of a young man who works at a florist shop, and the man-eating plant that tries to convince him to murder people. 

Rick Moranis (from Honey, I shrunk the Kids) plays Seymour, a down-on-his-luck florist’s assistant who is in love with his co-worker. When he inadvertently stumbles upon a bizarre plant that only seems interested in drinking human blood, he puts his florist shop on the map. Unfortunately for Seymour, as the plant begins to grow, it demands more and more blood. Eventually, Seymour can no longer sustain the plant himself, so the plant suggests he murder someone to feed it. 

What I love about this movie is how dark and funny it is in equal measure. Watching Rick Moranis bumble his way through murder and dismemberment is as unsettling as it is hilarious. I mean, it also helps that Steve Martin is there to spice things up as a dentist that will give you second thoughts about going to your bi-annual checkup. 

Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

This is most definitely a case of saving the best for last. Not only does this musical star Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion, three of my all-time favorite actors, but it is also a superhero movie to boot. 

NPH stars as an aspiring supervillain who goes by the name Dr. Horrible. However, he is constantly stymied by his arch nemesis, Captain Hammer. Luckily for Dr. Horrible, the Evil League of Evil is giving him one last chance to prove how evil he is. While attempting to fulfill his objective of joining the League, he also tries to woo Penny, an activist who frequents the same laundromat as Horrible’s alter ego, Billy.

That description, unfortunately, does the movie no justice. NPH is hilarious as the protagonist, and Nathan Fillion’s Captain Hammer is the worst/best example of an arrogant hero. The movie is only 42 minutes long, so it’s really more of a short film, but an awful lot is crammed into this lovingly crafted musical. 

So, that’s it. Those are the five I would recommend if you are curious about what the world of musicals has to offer. They show that musicals are more than just My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music. There are a myriad of other genres and stories to be told… just in song.