A Walk, A Birthday, And A Few Board Games

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Woke up this morning and went for a walk with Tabitha. My Apple Watch didn’t record any of our walk as exercise. So if an Apple made watch doesn’t record something… did it ever happen? From the picture below, yes, yes it did.

East Texas in July

I turned 39 this week. Spent my birthday working in the office with frequent breaks to text/talk with family and friends. I loved catching up with those who reached out.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominated many of the conversations I had on my birthday. I’m not complaining. But I can tell that the pandemic and the information roller coaster we’ve all boarded because of it, is weighing heavily on us all.

For my birthday, I received a few new board games. My parents bought me Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – The Thames Murders & Other Cases; Tab and Wyatt bought me Disney Villainous. I’m looking forward to playing and writing on both of these games.

Disney Villainous

As an observation, I was telling Tabitha this morning that I do not play video games like I used to–like, this surprises me–. Board games have become the thing I ask for and play more frequently. There is something about having screens off and being able to gather around the table with family and friends that is special and builds memories.

As a further thought, I am thinking about starting to write board game reviews. Trying to think of an angle that would best serve the JBG Community. All one of us. 🙂

Hope you all are doing well.

Perspective – Black Simulator

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Choose the right clothes.

Don’t make eye contact.

Seriously, don’t make eye contact! It freaks folks out.

All you’ve got to do is run a couple of errands.

You can do this, right?

My first time playing developer Justin Fox’s Black Simulator, I got distracted by the TV in the in-game living room. The option to play “dat Tekken” made me curious. So I chose the option to play… which ended up taking the rest of my day. Game Over.

My second run through the game, I decided to go take some bread to my grandma. In the process, I made some white people mad by looking in their direction (which is a no-no, apparently). I then got mugged right outside my grandma’s house, which left me in my underwear. Grandma wouldn’t talk to me until I put some clothes on. So, I made the decision to run back to my house and get some clothes. Somewhere along that route, the game glitched–I became invisible!–and I had to restart.

What am I playing?

A few weeks ago, Justin Fox (whom I’ve interviewed before) contacted me about writing on Black Simulator. He gave me a code and asked for my perspective. The word perspective is key in discussing Black Simulator. As the perspective in the game, though viewed through the lens of satire, is radically different than my own day-to-day perspective as a white male.

The Steam description for Black Simulator reads:

A SATIRICAL MINI GAME where you spend the day as a black man (er “Blackmenn” if you prefer) on your day off. You must run 3 errands without getting shot or arrested by the Police! Depending on various choices your experience will differ either slightly or drastically with multiple playthroughs.

Avoid the dangers of the PoPo Meter – Police suspicions increases with certain choices of attire, and behavior!

I.G.N.A.N.T Meter, the rage is REAL – Attempt to avoid responses to rude people that may lead to someone calling the cops on you!

T.O.M Meter – Attempt to maintain street cred even though it can be SERIOUSLY unhealthy to do so!

Multiple ways to end your day off! With peace, or bullets.

Blackness awaits!

Survive a day, in the life of a black man, without getting shot or arrested by the police. Sounds easy, right? After my initial experience with the game, I’m not so sure when an errand to grandma’s house ends with me getting jumped.

Am I allowed to say that this game leaves me puzzled? That the overall experience feels foreign?

Maybe that is the point?

I need to play more.

You can find Black Simulator here, for $3, on Steam.

From Across the Net – “Follow the Way You Want To Be Followed”

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
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I feel like God has been teaching me this for years (via Tim Challies):

If we are going to follow in such a way that we parse every word and appeal to every loophole, we should expect our followers to parse our every word and to pursue every loophole. If we are going to follow formally, to go through the motions but with grumbling and complaining, we should expect our own followers to grumble, to complain, to do no more than the minimum. If we are going to follow the letter while ignoring the spirit, we should not be shocked when those we lead likewise follow the letter but violate the spirit. We are all natural imitators, so that the way we follow begins to look a lot like the way they follow.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Google Maps, Mater, and Proverbs”

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Life is a journey. Make sure you’re listening to the right voices. Get godly counsel. Don’t only consider your own opinion, because the way of a fool is right in his own eyes. That means if you are doing something colossally foolish, it may seem perfectly logical to you. Even if you’ve invested a lot in the direction you’re going, progress might mean turning around. And if you get stuck, make sure you call someone reliable for help.

You can read more here

Prayer Is Not My Strong Suit

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Can I admit that prayer is not one of my strong suits? I can read the Bible all day. I can teach through the Bible with ease. When it comes to prayer though, prayer is something that I have to work at.

Chuck Lawless posted “8 Ways I Pray for My Wife“. #5, on his list, is what stood out to me:

That God would maximize Pam’s incredible gift of hospitality—and that I would be fully supportive. I add that latter phrase because I’m an introvert while Pam’s an extrovert. I love seeing Pam’s joy when she serves others. I just need to love it more….

Tabitha also has an incredible gift of hospitality. A gift that I too push against with my introvert nature. I need to work on being supportive when Tab wants to invite others over. Even when that invite pushes me out of my comfort zone.

God has been speaking to me a lot about prayer these past couple of days. A friend posted a quote, to Facebook, that I’ve been thinking on:

The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own. – H.B. Charles Jr.

Got me thinking about:

  • How I’ll often talk more / write more on certain topics than pray over them.
  • How there are some prayers I don’t think God will ever answer–me being honest here–, so I quit praying over them due to lack of answer.
  • What type of spiritual legacy, I’m modeling, for my wife and son.
Photo by Peggy Paulson on Unsplash

Tabitha has always told me that God answers prayer in 3 ways:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Yet

Reminds me of how long I prayed for my wife before we even knew one another. How I went through years of thinking I’d never find someone. Only to meet Tabitha when I was least expecting.

Reminds me of our current adoption process. How I find the silence and slowness of the process to be heart breaking. But I realize also that I need to pray more over the process as God says not yet.

Prayer is that unused tool, on my spiritual tool belt, that I need to actively use more. Not use in order to get what I want, per se, but use to communicate with my Heavenly Father and deepen my relationship with Him.

How about you, do you find the spiritual discipline of prayer to be easy?

From Across the Net – “Writing About Charlie Brown Feels Like Writing About Myself”

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Yet here’s the paradox: Charlie Brown is still happy. He still has friends. He still gets excited about all the projects that are destined to fail. Very often, young Americans are simultaneously pessimistic about the world and optimistic about themselves—they assume everyone’s future is bleak, except for their own. Charlie is the opposite. He knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t stop him from trying anything and everything. He believes existence is amazing, despite his own personal experience. It’s the quality that makes him so infinitely likable: He does not see the world as cruel. He believes the world is good, even if everything that’s ever happened to him suggests otherwise. All he wants are the things everyone else seems to get without trying. He aspires to be average, which—for him—is an impossible dream.

You can read more here

Infected with the Plague

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I started feeling sick last week.

  • Chest pressure
  • Weakness
  • Almost losing my voice by the end of the day

I found myself googling the symptoms of the Coronavirus as I anxiously waited for a fever to pop. Thankfully, my body’s temperature did not go along with the horror story playing out in my head.

Tabitha reassured me, as we tried to figure out what was going on. She told me that I sounded just like I do when I get a cold… my yearly man cold.

By Friday, I was miserable. I was tired of not having energy and coming home and crashing in the evening. A couple hours after being home though, I felt okay. It was then that Tab and I realized something, my workplace has been making me sick.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

At certain times of the year, my workplace zaps my body. I have googled sick building syndrome, etc., but have never figured out why. Until last year, when we discovered that there were no air filters in the building’s air conditioning units. Once we installed filters, I felt fine. All of my bad allergy symptoms, including the daily almost losing of my voice, vanished. Nothing like putting one’s detective skills to use.

It’s funny–not really–how we can jump to the worst case scenario. Thinking we are:

  • Infected with the plague
  • About to lose our jobs
  • Going to die thanks to Google and WebMD

When our typical life outcomes are far more chill and often as simple as changing an air filter at work (which I did this morning).

Where we spend our time (social media, articles, comics, video games, blogs, etc.) affects us; What we breathe in, literally, affects us too.

Review: Mutazione

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I have trouble writing about games I actually like. My excuse–yes, it is an excuse–is not wanting to spoil the experience by too much thought. Mutazione is one of those games for me, a game where I’m like, “Yeah, that was good.”

Mutazione‘s Steam page describes developers Die Gute Fabrik’s game as:

A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural. Explore the Mutazione community as Kai as she cares for her ailing grandfather. Discover magical gardens, new friends & old secrets. They can survive an apocalyptic meteor strike, but can they survive their small-town drama?

Mutazione is a chill adventure whose story ruminates on loss, love, and finding a way forward from past tragedy.

I enjoyed running around the island, listening to the subtle wind chimed soundtrack.

I loved seeing Kai’s relationship with her grandfather blossom over time.

Sure there are some soap opera-like elements that I did not like, or at least, I did not feel rang true for me. But beyond those drama bits, the story’s supernatural and mysterious threads propelled me forward–much like Oxenfree did… but this is totally different than Oxenfree–.

Mutazione captures those slow summer days. Days spent with family, friends, and magical gardens? More so days spent:

  • Collecting seeds / gardening
  • Enjoying conversations, with friends, that last late into the night

Mutazione is a game about healing; a game about moving on from the past. Moving forward with new hopes, dreams, and most importantly, new friends.

5/5 – I loved my experience with Mutazione via Apple Arcade.

Title: Mutazione
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
Reviewed On: iPad / Apple Arcade
MSRP: $19.99

Review by Bryan Hall

The Concert
Up in the trees.
Mutazione - Boat Trip
Floating
Mutazione - Meteor
Secrets
Mutazione - Saying Goodbye

Date Night – Playing Detective

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that Portal Games was offering a free print n play / standalone short case for their Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (you can find that link here). Having never played the game, I thought to myself:

“This looks like a perfect date night for Tab and I.”

You see, Tab and I love a solid police procedural. There is nothing quite like the two of us sifting through clues, testimony, and evidence in order solve a crime.

So, I printed out the:

  • Board
  • Tokens
  • Cards
  • And the “Suburbia” case introduction / information

After dropping Wyatt off with the grandparents, Tab and I picked up Thai food and headed home. Reading through Detective’s instructions, we decided that we did not want to play with the provided board. The game’s time element, where each player action equals a certain amount of in-game time, sounded a bit too constraining for us. Instead of following the game’s rules, we started reading through the individual cards; Each card offering branching story paths with different decisions to make.

Detective game components

We had a great evening reading through the cards together. As we played, I entered some of our case findings into the game’s online database (Antares Network). When we thought we had finally reached a solution, the Network then asked us a series of questions in order to solve the case.

We won!

Thai food + detective-ing made for a pretty amazing date night.

Is there a recent date night/date night idea you would like to share? Tell me about it in the comments below.

The Corona Reset: A Blessing in Disguise

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Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.

Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.

Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.

Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.

My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.

  • I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
  • I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
  • I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.

As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.

Press Start – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All

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This week, I picked up the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch. Tab and I love this courtroom drama series filled with over the top characters and entertaining word play. We decided to start with the second game in the trilogy, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, as Tabitha had already completed the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS), long ago.

Last night, we completed Episode 1: The Lost Turnabout.

Phoenix Wright himself.
Phoenix Wright, doing his thing.
The witness.
Just a typical courtroom.
The Prosecutor.
The Judge.
There are worse crimes than murder...

Note how the witness reacts when accused. Nothing abnormal to report here.

This first episode turned out to be a sad story of someone being killed just because of their uniform. Spoilers. 🙂

From Across the Net – “Leadership Is Being Wrong and Right, All At The Same Time”

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Leaders are called to lead and leading means making decisions. As it relates to worship services within our church, some people will be thrilled if we choose to remain outdoors for the next three months. Others will be frustrated if we choose to endure the July and August heat outdoors in Camden, SC. Neither decision is morally superior to the other, but either decision will be judged right by some and wrong by others.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “What Hath Gondor to do with Geneva?”

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This is a good read.

There are many other truths that Tolkien’s works reflect, but I would like to mention two. First, Tolkien’s works, and The Lord of the Rings in particular remind us that even the most seemingly insignificant among us are important. It can be argued, for example, that the hero of the Lord of the Rings is a gardener, a servant of the one who is usually considered the hero of the story. The steadfast loyalty, faithfulness, and perseverance of the hobbit Samwise is absolutely crucial to the success of the mission that will save Middle-earth. In the eyes of the world, Sam and the other hobbits in the fellowship are small, both literally and figuratively. But the role they play is just as important, if not more, than the role played by the great powers and kings in the story.

You can read more here

Disinfecting Concern

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“So, how often do you do that?” A co-worker asked me the other day.

I had been caught in the act of wiping down office door knobs and light switches.

“About once a day. I am the only one doing this.

The conversation naturally stopped, I continued wiping things down and left the break room.

Disinfecting Wipes

Not patting myself on the back here, but if I didn’t wipe things down, no one would. I’ve even tested this theory by waiting a day or two to see if anyone else–SOMEBODY, ANYBODY!–would jump in. Nothing.

Got me thinking about how we can talk a big game. How we can say and even act like something bothers us and yet how that “concern” ends up being…

Words.

Words.

Words.

Hiding behind those words, that often false sense of concern, lies a lack of action on our parts. If the frequency of wiping things down in the office bothers someone, they can step in and help out.

Beyond our words, our daily actions show our true priorities and concerns to a world watching.