Super 8

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While my wife was busy prepping for school last night, I watched J.J. Abram’s Super 8 for the first time. I had a blast!

Behold, the lens flare of doom!

While the movie clearly felt like an older Steven Spielberg movie, the pacing and visuals easily surpassed his earlier works. I have to say that I enjoyed the clever camera shots that hid the “monster” until the appropriate time. I also loved the overarching theme of kids making a movie. Reminded me of all the films I tried to make as a kid with my friends.

I would have been the chunky kid…that eventually thinned out with time. 🙂

There was one particular scene, in the movie, that got to me a bit. Reminded me of how awesome it is to have home movies, especially of those that we love that have passed away.

This past June, on a vacation to see my parents in Southern California, my wife and I happened to spend an evening watching old home videos. In the videos, I saw grandparents who are long deceased moving, talking, and acting with all their memorable mannerisms. It made me cry.

Watching Super 8 reminded me of that night with my wife. Strip away the monster plot and Super 8 is all about a father and son living in the emotional aftermath of losing a wife/mother. What I most enjoyed about the film is that it focused on its simple human story, even when the town was being blown a part by the cliched “evil” military. Movies that are bold enough to be quiet and thoughtful are a rarity. Regardless of what critics or what you might even think, I enjoyed my night with Super 8 on Netflix.

I’m ready for the weekend!

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Today has been one of those days. The hours have slowly crept by. No matter how many times I glance at the clock the clock hands have barely moved. I just want the day to end. I’m ready to go home, straighten up what needs to be straightened up, and spend time with family. This has been a long week for me. How about you?

This past week has marked the first week my wife is back at work after summer break. I absolutely miss coming home to a house that is occupied with the two people I love most in life. My lunch breaks have been quiet and solitary. Which isn’t all that bad but still, I miss my family.

At the age of 31, I am not exactly where I thought I’d be by now:

  • My body looks nothing like Daniel Craig’s in Casino Royale.
  • I have yet to move on from a job position I have spent almost 5 years in that features no upward promotional path.
  • I still haven’t ridden every single roller coaster in North America.

One day I will move forward and achieve these things but today is not that day. Right now, I just want to go home for the weekend. How about you?

Rewind Wednesday: Being Atlas

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In my senior year of high school, I served as a background vocalist in my church’s youth praise band. Because of my “position” in the youth group, I was considered to be in leadership. At the time, I admit, I had no clue what that meant.

One day, I remember being approached by the pastor’s wife, she wanted to talk. Word had gotten back to her that I had been talking about a R-rated movie I had watched (The Patriot). While I didn’t think that this was any of her business, she was upset that I had been talking about this movie in front of others in the youth group. I didn’t see what the big deal was. I was told that because I was in leadership, I needed to either lead by example or step down. Time went on, I must not have changed, and soon I felt pressure to move on. I left the church in anger and frustration.

Looking back on this situation, I can understand it more as an adult. I can understand how talking about a movie (yes, something this simple) could potentially be damaging to other believers. Romans 14 goes into greater detail on this subject of the “weak” and “strong” in faith. Verses that really stick out to me are:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (14:13)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. (14:19-20a)

And finally:

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (14:22)

I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone. I do not want to destroy the work of God over something as petty as what I consume media-wise. With this in mind, anytime I write about a certain game or a game review on this site, I am writing about it just to share my experience. I am not writing about it to brag or to cause someone to stumble (“Hey look, Bryan is doing it, we can too!”). Just because I can guilt-free, without conviction, play a first person shooter doesn’t mean that you necessarily can. God may convict you over things that I am not convicted over. That is cool.

I now know that being in a leadership position, a position or platform in the open, automatically holds me to a higher standard. As a blogger, that is something that is constantly running through the back of my mind. I have a responsibility for what I write and say. Words can bring either life or death.

What do you think?

Basic.Fellowship – Francis Chan

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As part of his Basic.series of films, Francis Chan tackles the topic of fellowship in his Basic.Fellowship short. After watching the quick fifteen minute video, I was left with the following question:

  • Beyond potlucks, going to out to eat in large groups, and having large get-togethers that leave homes in shambles, what does fellowship look like for the modern Christian?

To answer my question, I immediately thought of where Acts 2 talks about what fellowship looked like for Biblical Christians:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2: 42-47 (NIV)

Notice that they simply got together and took care of one another as one body of believers.  Those that needed help were helped; those that gave did so with sincerity. So again, what does fellowship look like for us?

Fellowship looks like:

  • Calling a brother in Christ during the week, randomly, and seeing how they are doing
  • Meeting up for lunch, sharing life together
  • Playing a game of softball with some of the guys from church
  • Serving at the local rescue mission
  • Passing on clothes that are no longer needed (like kids clothing)
  • Making the most of every opportunity to grow closer together in Christ (our glue)

When Life Gets Hard: James 1

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Friday I had a tough day at work. Thankfully, I just so happened to read the first chapter in the Book of James that morning. God showed me this:

 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4 (NASB)

Date Night Idea: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

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About a week ago, my wife surprised me with a date night filled with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. We had a blast figuring out puzzles and blowing away spiders and other creepy crawly things. Our fun came to an end, however, when a summer thunderstorm rolled through. With the power flickering and almost killing the game, we decided to call it a night. So we watched the lightening outside instead!

If you have never heard of this game, picture a co-op puzzle-filled adventure through tombs and other exotic locals. The competitive/cooperative nature of Guardian of Light makes it a great choice for a fun date night. $15 is the price of admission via PSN.

Papo & Yo

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From Minority Media’s site:

Papo & Yo is the story of a young boy, Quico, and his best friend, Monster. Monster is a huge beast with razor-sharp teeth, but that doesn’t scare Quico away from playing with him. That said, Monster does have a very dangerous problem: an addiction to poisonous frogs. The minute he sees one hop by, he’ll scarf it down and fly into a violent, frog-induced rage where no one, including Quico, is safe. And yet, Quico loves his Monster and wants to save him.

Last night I downloaded the demo for Papo & Yo on the PS3. I had read a fair amount about how the game was based on the developer’s abusive childhood, at the hands of an alcoholic father, and I wanted to see how that translated into the game.

While the game featured an interesting aesthetic and puzzles that made me grin, I was bothered by the shoddy controls and poor level design. Not to give anything away but the demo ends on a tense note. I literally found myself wanting to buy the game despite my thoughts on its overall design. After going online and reading some reviews, which sadly turned me away from the game, I decided not to take the abusive journey with Quico.

For some reason, perhaps it was the sparseness of the level design, Papo & Yo reminded me of Ico. Ico was a game that I didn’t necessarily love but appreciated. This reminder then got me thinking about how I had never played Team Ico’s other game, Shadow of the Colossus. So, on a spur of the moment purchase, I bought Shadow of the Colossus off of PSN. Hours later, I was playing the game.

Shadow of the Colossus has a NeverEnding Story feel to it. I love it! Will write more soon.

Rewind Wednesday: For the Love of Nook

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Reviled by many gamers due to his slumlord-ish ways, Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook is a character I will forever be thankful for. Tom Nook, you see, is single-handedly responsible for easing my wife into the world of video games.

Back in 2004, I met my now wife at a Halloween event hosted at the college we both attended. We literally bumped into each other in the darkness of night. From that moment on, we dated and got to know one another as all couples do. As things began to grow more serious, I knew that I needed to share my love of video games with her. So, I went out and bought her a Nintendo DS and two copies of Animal Crossing. Two copies? One copy for her; one copy for me.

Soon we were enveloped in the chatty world of talking animals and weed pulling. Random bouts of letter writing, fishing, and strange conversations consumed our gaming time. Every once in awhile, we would visit the other’s town and exchange items—it is because of these visits that I was able to obtain a wide variety of fruit trees—. We were both enjoying the time spent playing the game and hanging out with each other.

Our love of Animal Crossing lasted almost a year. I don’t think that I have ever played a game for such a duration of time. One of our final gaming sessions in the game revolved around checking out the New Years celebration. Fireworks exploded in the sky with great bursts of volume and intensity. A sign, situated in the town square, proudly proclaimed, “Happy New Year”. We were surrounded by virtual buddies we had spent countless hours with. It was a happy new year indeed.

Looking back, we both fondly talk about our New Year’s Eve spent in Animal Crossing. If it wasn’t for Tom Nook and his gateway drug game, I’m not sure that my wife would still be playing games like she does today. A big thank you Tom. Your evil squirrel ways will not be forgotten.

A Worthless Journey

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” What happens though when the journey is beautiful but mundane and the destination turns out to be a complete waste of time?

This past weekend I journeyed through the lands of Journey on the PS3. When all was said and done, I had no clue what had just happened or what I had just played. So, I took to Wikipedia to make sense of my experience. The Wikipedia entry only confirmed my suspicions that not much had just happened. To further illustrate this, the following is a quote from the developer’s web site:

Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s.

I can admit that I thought it was cool to travel across the desert, plunge into the dark depths of despair, and finally rise above a wintry landscape onto the mountaintop of hope. What I disliked about the game was it’s stark simplicity. The interactions with other players, while nice, especially in the dark depths, were pointless. Beyond the amazing stylized graphics and tight game play, the narrative journey of Journey fell short to me. If Journey was a movie, I’d be asking for my $15 back.

The Walking Dead: A World Without God

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I’ve been trying to figure out why The Walking Dead: Episodes 1 & 2 have gotten under my skin so much. Sure the storyline, characters, and environment are compelling but there has to be more to my fascination with this game. The other day, I finally figured out what has been bugging me, the world of The Walking Dead is a world without God.

The chaos of the virus outbreak has left the world in tatters. Law and order have been completely shoved out the door and the basic instinct of survival has taken over. This survival instinct is solely based on emotion. The problem with emotions is that they are often founded on heat of the moment reactions. Logic is relegated to the corner when emotion is involved. There is no peace in this zombie-filled world of emotional rule.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:33a

Sometimes friends “make” you do stupid things.

There came a point in the game where I was presented with a situation where I had the choice about whether to kill someone. Up until this point, the game had made me highly dislike this particular character. To make matters worse, earlier in the game I was conveniently told that anyone who died would quickly become a “walker” (re: zombie). So here I am, dealing with a man who has just collapsed on the ground, seemingly dead. What do I do? My best friend in the game quickly pushes to bash the man’s brains in (which is the only way to kill a zombie). My emotional response that followed was one based on my dislike for the character and the survival response of not wanting to be eaten. I decided to let my friend kill this man. My decision, though based in a game world, has bugged me ever since.

In retrospect, I feel like the game somehow ripped me off; I felt like I had been goaded into an emotional response. It was either going to be him or me. The basic instinct of survival ruled.

Regardless of the game, I am thankful that I live in a real world created by a God who loves order. The Walking Dead is an intense game based on emotional choices. In the end, I know that emotions lie as they vary from day-to-day. I am thankful that God is my compass and not mere emotion.

The Walking Dead: Episodes 1 and 2 Impressions

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Last night my wife left me. Well she left me to go to a bachelorette party, I should say. Soon after my son went to bed, I loaded up Telltale Games The Walking Dead: Episode 1 on the PS3. Thinking my wife would be gone for a few hours, I thought that I could at least finish up Episode One – A New Day (I had played for at least an hour a week ago). Little did I know that I would spend the next three hours deeply engrossed in a zombie-filled horror.

I want to say something upfront about this series. Unlike most M-rated games, The Walking Dead earns its rating almost immediately. Beyond the bloody and sometimes lingering gore-filled camera shots, the explicit language used in the game is intense. I don’t think I’ve ever played a video game that uses the f-word with such frequency as The Walking Dead does. This is about as far from the Mario universe as you can possibly get. Just a word of warning.

Living in the chaos of a decimating virus outbreak is not dream of mine. Personal survival quickly becomes the rule of the day; personal survival at the cost of others lives. The Walking Dead: Episode 1 opens with a man named Lee being transported in the back of a police cruiser. Whether he is guilty of whatever it is he has done, the game leaves that up to your imagination. All you know is that something is going horribly wrong in the City of Atlanta. A zombie, standing in the middle of the highway, leads to the police cruiser crashing. The story of Lee’s survival has just begun.

What makes The Walking Dead so compelling is its storyline. The game makes you actually care about different characters. Soon after the car accident, Lee meets up with a little girl named Clementine. This is where the game sucked me in. Lee suddenly has someone that is watching his every move, an innocent. Knowing Clementine is watching me, Lee, makes me make decisions differently. I want to shield her from the carnage. After playing Episode 2 – Starved For Help, I’ve learned that shielding her is often impossible. There is evil in this world, evil that knows no bounds.

I haven’t been this captivated by a game in a long time. The characters, voice acting, and storyline all come together to create a group of people I care about. Deaths come about as shocking. Choices I’ve made I’ve later regretted and have reaped the consequences of. The Walking Dead represents interactive drama at its best. I just wish they’d tone down the language.