The Day After I Turned 40

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I never know 100% what to write here. I go back and forth between writing about video games/board games and then about personal stuff. How many readers who read my stuff about video games want to know about our adoption journey? How many readers want to read about my thoughts on worship music?

Yesterday, I turned 40. I spent my day working. Came home after, ate dinner, went out for ice cream, and then I was on the phone for an hour and forty-five minutes with a family member. By the time I was done, I put Wyatt to bed (we went over his devotional, prayed, and he read for an hour) and soon went to bed myself.

Television makes a pretty big deal about your birthday. I mean, not your individual birthday but birthdays as a whole.

“Your birthday should be all about you.”

“Your birthday is your day, relax.”

I mean just the other night my wife and I were watching Season 3 of Virgin River. The first episode is all about main character Melinda “Mel” Monroe’s birthday. Through out the episode, her boyfriend, Jack Sheridan, is unsure what to do. So he schedules her a message, flies lunch (sushi) in via bush pilot, etc. Towards the end of the episode, Jack surprises Mel with tickets for a dinner cruise. She doesn’t want to go. What she has told Jack all along is that all she wants is a cupcake and a bath. So what does Jack give her? A cupcake, a bath, and Jack’s house catching fire? One could say that Mel got what she wanted and some smoke inhalation as a bonus. How sweet.

I am learning that being an adult, a now 40 year old adult, is about unexpected things that come up in life. Be it a phone call or your boyfriends house catching fire (and burning to the ground). Happy Birthday to me.

Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power Review

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For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has entertained millions around the globe. Allowing us to follow characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America as they ultimately triumph over evil. That cinematic universe has expanded into television with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki (I won’t forget ABC Television’s Agent Carter either). All of which position Marvel as a household name and powerhouse brand. Now branding can be a tricky thing, especially when a product doesn’t live up to the gold standard the brand has set.

Tabitha, Wyatt, and I decided to give Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power a shot this past weekend. We borrowed the game from friends, after they couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with it. Having played Disney Villainous, we thought we were set to do battle against the Avengers, right? What could a few do-gooders do against the might of Thanos, Ultron, Killmonger, Hela, or Taskmaster?

First, we had to pick our villains:

  • Tabitha picked Hela.
  • Wyatt picked Ultron.
  • And I picked Taskmaster.

We each took turns playing our domain (our game boards); getting to know our individual characters, their cards, etc. If you haven’t played Disney Villainous, each turn consists of a player moving to one of four spaces (as shown below). In the “Reconfiguration Base” space, for instance, you can:

  • Play a Card
  • Draw 2 Power Tokens
  • Discard Cards
  • Vanquish an Opponent

Once you do the four things the space requires, your turn ends. If the space has a Fate Card icon on it, like the “Manufacturing Array”, you draw from the Fate Deck. This is where the similarities with Disney Villainous ends and Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power begins.

The Fate Deck

In Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, all of the Fate Decks are shuffled together. (Note that in Disney Villainous, this shuffling is not a thing. You keep your individual Fate Deck that other players draw from/play against you.) So in our case, the 15 common Fate Cards were shuffled together with our characters individual Fate Decks. This makes for one large pile of cards that can impact your turn by:

  • Someone sending an Ally
  • Dropping a Hero on a player (who then has to deal with said hero)
  • Event Cards

Event Cards

When a player draws an Event Card, the game is impacted until that event is dealt with. For “Helicarrier Alert”, you can only draw up to 3 cards at the end of your turn until players have sent enough Allies to deal with the 6 points of damage.

For the Event Card “Stolen Antiquities”, this card only directly impacts Killmonger. However, all the the players are free to Relocate Allies until the card is vanquished.

“Perfectly Balanced, as all this should be.” – Thanos

In the End

Perfection, balance if you will, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power fails to bring anything of value to the Villainous formula. The addition of having one large Fate Deck, in combination with Event Cards, does nothing to the game but bring misery. Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power takes an already complicated game and makes it even more complicated (and longer, time-wise). The game feels like it needed a few more months of plotting before execution. Because of this, I will be sticking with Disney Villainous.

However, Wyatt loved it! Did I mention he won? He told me that the characters actually make sense within the context of the game, unlike Disney Villainous.

Go figure.

My Vampire – Musings from having my blood drawn

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When you go to get your blood drawn, the last thing you want is someone with shaky hands.

Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Today, I went to the doctor’s office for my quarterly diabetes appointment. My appointment went well. All good there.

After checking out of my doctor’s office, I proceeded down the hall to go get some blood work done. I noticed that no one was in the waiting area outside the lab. Yes, I thought, I’m going to get in and out today.

Soon I heard my name called. “That’s me”, I said smiling (with my mask on).

Walking back to where blood is drawn, I asked, “How are you today?” It was then that I noticed that my blood technician, my vampire, was a tad upset. Uh oh.

“Which arm is your good arm?”

I thought about that for a moment.

“No one has ever asked me that before. Definitely my left arm.”

“Okay.”

“Sometimes, I’m hard to draw blood from. If you have to, you can pull from my hand.”

She looked over my hand before deciding on a point in my arm. Her hands were shaking.

One. Two. Three. She plunged her needle into my arm. Not finding the vein, she slowly moved the needle around exploring further. Which then caused me to move (it hurt). She muttered something and then another something. Hurriedly told me to hold a cotton ball against my arm while she surveyed my hand. She plunged her needle, again, this time into my hand. Success!

“I’m just so frustrated. We’ve been dealing with a lot here.”

I looked at her, “I’m sorry.”

“Honey, you don’t have say I’m sorry.”

“I’m just saying that it sucks that it has been hard.”

Her body language changed, perhaps softened.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Have a good day!”

Review – Biomutant

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I have tried to put my finger on the reason developer Experiment 101‘s Biomutant does not gel with me. I know that it has nothing to do with Biomutant feeling like a AAA game made by a small design team on a limited budget. If anything, Returnal, developed by Housemarque, shares this indie game turned AAA game feel. Indie game developers being given a AAA game budget is a fantastic development. The size of the studio does not limit perfect execution on a core gameplay concept. The problem is when the story, which ties everything together, needs more time in the editing oven.

Into the Fire

Anytime Biomutant pauses the gameplay to further the story, told through static cutscene, I found myself wanting to skip it. Sure, there is the Narrator, who does a good job reading what text he is given. But even he cannot save what amounts to two 3D models standing next to each other, doing nothing, while he narrates. I cannot think of another game I’ve played, in many years, that has chosen to convey story in this manner. While I commend developer Experiment 101 for their cleverness in using a narrator, I wish they had chosen a different way to share their story with us.

On that note, I find the humor to be off… way off. At first I thought that it was a dark humor sort of thing. The more I played Biomutant though, the more I realized that the humor needed more time to bake. With a bit more time in the editing oven, I think Experiment 101 could have had a solid winner here. Alas, the way the story is presented with its humor, I 100% don’t get it. It’s not only odd but off-putting.

What I Loved

  • The handcrafted feel of Biomutant‘s open-world.
  • The way Björn Palmberg’s score blends so seamlessly with this post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu RPG.
  • The responsiveness/quickness of the characters movements.
  • The way the character runs.

What I Disliked

  • The way that combat is executed. I hate having to memorize combos. Square + Circle + Circle + L2.
  • Anytime there is a cutscene. Ugh.

In the End

There is a market for Biomutant. You might be the perfect candidate for it! I’m just not it. I need a compelling story to go with my Kung Fu. I need a reason to play.

Title: Biomutant
Developer: Experiment 101
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $59.99

Review by Bryan Hall

*Biomutant was reviewed using a code provided by EvolvePR.

The Surf Report – Missionaries, Legalism, and Biomutant

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Welcome to the Surf Report for June 9, 2021!

.: God :

My wife’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband William came to stay with us a few weeks ago. We had a good visit with them. Getting to learn about Brazil (where they have served as missionaries) and learning about Southern Brazil (where they are going to be missionaries next). I, personally, learned a bit about pride while they were visiting. I learned that when William asks if he can do something, he is more than willing to do it (no strings attached).

God also reminded me, gently, not only about praying/asking Him to show me my gifts (in this case, mine is listening to people). But further more, then asking God where I can serve with my gifts. Who might need an ear to listen?

Liz and William were so giving of their time and themselves. A good reminder of how I need to be as a Christian.

.: Life :

Have you heard this:

“I don’​t drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls who do.”

Wyatt came back from the first day of missions week (put on by a group of local churches) and mentioned that someone had repeated this statement. Got me thinking about Christian legalism. Drinking, smoking, and chewing tobacco are not inherently wrong.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NLT)

In excess, without moderation, any one of those things mentioned above can be harmful to your health; Food and even video games can be harmful to your health. I think that it is funny that we, as Christians, can hyper focus on some things are not on others. Declaring things sinful simply because our parents didn’t do such things. As William reminded me, some things are not in the Bible.

.: Gaming :

Sunday, I played video games for a couple of hours. First, I played Biomutant. After spending more time with the game, I’m finding that the story bits just aren’t working for me. More thoughts to come on Biomutant.

I did happen to buy/play FAR: Lone Sails. From the little I played, I kind of love it. 🙂

Press Start – Biomutant

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Biomutant feels like a AAA game made with the small design team and on a limited budget. I made it through the character creation process, the opening level, and out into the wilds.

I have to decide whether to go with the Jagni tribe or the Myriad tribe. One tribe wants to cleanse the world; the other tribe wants to save it. Which tribe should I go with? Better yet, if you’re playing, which tribe did you choose?

Lack of Communication at Work

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Lack of communication slowly rots an organization from within. No one knows what is going on nor what anyone is doing. The silence invites questions of:

  • What is going on?
  • Do we have enough work?
  • What is everyone working on?
  • Am I doing a good job?
  • Am I going to be fired or let go?

Without knowing what projects are coming up, without proper feedback, the employee’s themselves rot from within. A once useful instrument dulled from a lack of use.

For more than a few months now, I’ve sat in the midst of a non-communicative environment. No one seems to know anything except for the upper management. The “upper management” in my case is two bosses. They have meetings with one another; they know what work items are coming up. Their communication however is not being shared with the rest of the company (me and another employee).

This lack of communication has made my workplace stressful. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted from being in the environment… and I take that home with me.

I long to feel creative again. To take on creative projects. To write.

There is the saying: “Fake it until you make it”.

I’m done faking it.

I’m just trying to make it.

And the lack of communication in my workplace is rotting the company from within… and my soul.

*Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

What We’re Playing – 4/20/21

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I pull into my driveway and park my car. Making sure everything is turned off/good to go, I gather all my things and exit the vehicle. From out of nowhere, “Hey Dad, have I told you about what I’m doing in Sneaky Sasquatch?”

“Umm…”

“Today in Sneaky Sasquatch, I became a police officer. You see, I used my radar gun to catch bad guys.”

It has been like this for awhile now, which is how I know that a game has gotten Wyatt. I don’t know too much about Sneaky Sasquatch, but I do know that it is good enough to catch my son’s attention.

So much so, that Wyatt was asking the other day if the developers sell tee-shirts–They do! Head on over here.–. I think this is a first for him.

When I have had time, I’ve been dabbling in Cozy Grove. Think Animal Crossing, via Apple Arcade, but more of a hidden object game with clues. I’m loving it so far!

What are you playing?

Adoption Update – 4/19/2021

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This is one of those issues that I am hesitant to talk about here (it is supposed to be about gaming, mostly, after all, right?). Sure, I have written about our family going through the adoption process. But what does that look like 2 years in? What challenges are we facing as a family?

We took our classes to adopt through the State of Texas in May of 2019. Since then, besides being a part of a few broadcasts–social workers are sent emails with prospective adoptees–, nothing. With COVID settling in this past year it has seemed like everything has shut down and hasn’t awakened… yet.

Without access to broadcasts (have heard nothing from our caseworker), we’ve been stuck. Adoption has gone from a dream, to what felt like a reality, to a thing we only whisper about.

Q: So what does it look like 2 years in?

  • Quiet. Absolute silence. Is our caseworker not doing her job? Is this normal when going through the State? Are we supposed to become foster parents with hopes of adopting later on?

Q: What challenges are we facing as a family?

  • Dealing with the silence. Deciding whether we continue on the adoption journey.

COVID was a really big deal and still is for some. I don’t want to diminish that feeling of helplessness we all felt in March of last year. I also know that it feels like time is ticking for myself. Do we play the State’s game? Do we close our house and give up the adoption dream?

Something says not yet.

Not yet.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Two weeks ago, I was on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE). I came across a young man who I thought would be a good addition to our family. So I emailed our caseworker and asked that she make inquiries. Beyond a simple email back asking for some more information, nothing yet.

And so we wait.

The Crown – All Things Bright and Beautiful

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With none of our usual shows to watch–hey, it was only Monday–, Tabitha and I sat down and watched The Crown. We are on Season 3 Episode 3: “Aberfan”. Should make for night of light television viewing, no?

The methodical way this episode began should have been our first clue. The shots of school children going about their day in school; the lingering shots of a little girl practicing for her school assembly, her dad coming home from work only to lovingly listen to her.

As an American… as a History-Political Science degree holder… I had no idea.

In the end, 116 children, 5 teachers, and 23 locals died.

Got me thinking about how our American Presidents respond to disaster. Roosevelt with his speech after Pearl Harbor; Bush traveling to the 9/11 site and making a speech as well. Moments where we put down our differences and unite as a country. Our President’s words speaking as if for all of us.

Aberfan wasn’t one of those moments. It took the Queen eight days to visit the disaster site. Reportedly, this is one of the Queens biggest regrets.

But “Aberfan” made for some solid performances on The Crown. I especially enjoyed the gentleman who plays Prince Phillip, and his response to the aftermath.

Thankful that “Aberfan” also helped me understand a moment in history.

No one will care

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There is a lie that is whispered to me that goes something like this:

“If you leave, no one will notice you left.”

That lie becomes a nagging thought, played on repeat, at different volumes throughout the day.

Even just now, that lie was whispered to me in a different form:

“If you quit blogging, no one will care.”

Writing that, I almost believe it.

“No one will care.”

Thankfully, I’m stronger than the lies today. Able to push back against the whispers of deceit.

  • To the lie of “If you leave, no one will notice you left”, that may be little true. But, eventually, someone is going to call and reach out.
  • To the lie of “If you quit blogging, no one will care”, that may be a little true too. Ultimately, I write for myself first. If I don’t have anything to write, I’m not going to write. That’s okay.

The best lies are laced with truth.

For the days where I am weaker… I need to remember that someone does care.

South of the Circle

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Memory is a tricky thing.

South of the Circle begins with a plane crash. But the plane crash isn’t what the story is about… or is it?

As the plane flies into nuclear dawn and credits roll, I find myself thinking, “Why?” South of the Circle’s ending shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. The decision had already been made. I think I blame the faulty memory of the protagonist. Wishing for what might have been… could have been… and in the end, nothing. Blah.