Ten years ago I turned 18 and was halfway through completing my final year of high school. I looked like a slightly deflated version of my present self with a small army of zits occupying my face and chest, but I’ve done so much growing since then. I feel better about myself and others, and have become simultaneously more loving of the important people in my life and cynical about the political systems I cannot control.
The fleeting quality of memory means for every strikingly clear image I have in my head of growing up, there’s at least a thousand moments lost in the cloud. But if there is one thing I latch onto throughout the years like roadside objects in the rear-view mirror, it’s video games. Games give me a foothold on my backwards climb, offering a brief respite as a I grasp for distant emotions, allowing me to re-inhabit a person who I hope would be infinitely proud of me.
Ten years ago today I was probably piloting predator missiles onto the multiplayer battlefields of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, unlocking a myriad of gun attachments and camouflages to corny electric guitar riffs rising above the action. I was probably using the limiting quality of reflex sights and radar blips to avoid thinking of the stress of graduation and the next big step. I was probably playing alongside a close personal friend who I don’t talk to anymore.
But the double-sided joy and anxiety of games is that they keep coming. There’s more memories to experience alone or with people I care about, even if that means it’s impossible to play every single one. So in the second installment of a series I want to make a year-end tradition, let’s reflect on some, but not all, of the games I played in 2019.
Kratos is a Spartan warrior turned god who’s fled the Greek Isles after enacting a destructive revenge quest. Seeking refuge in the Nordic tundra, he falls for Faye, a woman with a hidden origin, and fathers a boy named Atreus in a secluded cabin. Kratos barks orders at him, but not much else, and the pair are forced into reckoning their distant relationship when Faye dies. The story opens with Kratos assembling a funeral pyre, from which he bags and attaches Faye’s ashes to his belt. Father and son set out to complete Faye’s final request, to be scattered from the highest peak in all the realms. Not long into the journey, however, Kratos finds he’s merely traded one adversarial pantheon for another, and their ritualistic journey is caught in the crossfire between wrathful figures of Norse mythology.
December has always been a reflective month for me. In the opening third, I turned another year older. Twenty-seven. Then the new year approaches. Twenty-nine-teen.
Twenty-eight-teen was a strange one. I became really sad, but then got a little better. I learned a lot about myself. I changed careers. I wrote some things, read some things, and played some things too.
With bellies full of french toast and coffee, Stephanie and I opted to lounge away the hours until Thanksgiving dinner with a mobile game called Florence. It’s a series of bright, colorful vignettes about finding, exploring, and re-defining love. Playing Florence is like eating a bag of Skittles, with each panel a sudden burst of an ambiguously colorful flavor. Green apple meet cute. Strawberry move-in day. Citrus growth in opposite directions. Lemon move-out day.
It’s a lovely and genuine experience about the work that goes into relationships. We discussed out loud the minutia of unpacking. Will he ever use that cricket bat? Well, the stuffed elephant has to have the top shelf. He needs space for his record collection. This made the reverse that much more bittersweet, stuffing away the objects we so lovingly placed.
Florence will only take an hour of your time, if that, and costs less than a latte. It’s available on iOS and Android. Check it out!