You know what sucks? Spending your Christmas vacation time with a nearly crippling case of the flu and having to continue parenting two young children. You know what REALLY sucks? Homelessness, war, being transgender in Alabama, or any number of other things that are VASTLY more taxing than my temporary ailment so I know- I should probably shut the fuck up and get back to that white privilege everyone keeps telling me I have and put my cashmere sweatpants back on. Those LL Bean sweater vests won’t order themselves after all.
But we have to live within out OWN perspective, right? So in my immediate world, it’s been a bit of a rough holiday. I certainly didn’t set out to be horrifyingly ill through Christmas, is that ever ANYONE’s goal after all? No, it’s not. It’s looking like New Year’s will be a little better though, and at the end of the day I got to be a contagious lump while surrounded by my beautiful wife and my two crazy kiddos so it’s not like it’s ALL bad.
Contrary to my flu-induced fears I did NOT shit the bed.
It’s been QUITE a year, hasn’t it Ghosties? That’s probably the biggest understatement in human history, cause 2019 has been a complete and total shit show of the highest order and lowest common denominator. This year has crammed more violence, hatred, misogny, ignorance, fear, resentment, bitterness, division, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, inequality, injustice, horror, and “insert atrocity here” into our lives than any other that I personally have the misfortune to remember. I’d love to be naive enough to think that it’s all gonna be peachy in 2020 but I think we all know the shit-show parade is gonna keep on rollin’ right through another year, and we’re probably gonna have to try even HARDER to not lose our collective shit after the ball drops on 2020 so I won’t pretend. I respect your intelligence WAY too much to do that to you.
I was also going to do one of those “The Ghost Generation’s Best of 2019” articles or whatever, but honestly I think I respect yours AND my own intelligence too much for THAT too. Sure, I review stuff. In fact, a lot of you even value my opinions on stuff like music & games for some crazy reason, but I feel like I’d be retreading the same ground that ever other writer has been stomping all over this time of year for decades on end. Plus, I’ve had the flu all Christmas vacation long and I don’t really give a fuck to compile my bastard version of “Oprah’s Favorite Shit”- hell, I barely even have the energy to type right now but I need to get back on the horse so here I am.
I’ve consumed enough media to make EVERYONE’S head spin.
The truth is, I’ve played a metric TON of rad indie games this year, and you can read my thoughts on a lot of them right here on the site. What ended up being the most impactful on ME this year though? Well, since you DID ask- 3 things:
- Dead Cells
- and Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Only one of those is technically an “indie” game and THAT one is well over a year old at this point, but it’s the truth nonetheless. To start with, I had never fucked with Minecraft outside of seeing my friends’ kids dressed in blocky Halloween costumes and seeing all the merchandise out in the world. I assumed, like a lot of other people, that it was for kids and it would stay firmly in kid-world unless a compelling argument to the contrary was presented to me. Well, that argument came in the form of the Minecraft 10th Anniversary Sale on the Nintendo eShop. The game was on sale for like $20 and something just called to me. I love pixel art, I love big chunky voxels, and I figured I’d finally see for myself what all the fuss was about. I created a world, dropped into the game, and the rest was fucking INSTANT history.
Blocks and blocks and blocks, as far as the eyes can see.
I was hooked, something about the survival mode gameplay loop just resonated with me, and every minute of foraging, crafting, hunting, and building has been a absolute thrill to me. A pleasant and fantastic side effect? It turns out, all that digital OCD-management also dramatically helped my anxiety and Minecraft became an extremely therapeutic experience for me. AT the end of a bad day I could jump in, do some building, and calm my adult-world frazzled nerves and it was awesome. of course, I have tons of other shit that I love and tons of things to review- but I always make my way back to Minecraft because it is second to none and what it does, and it does SO much more for me than I ever thought it would. To the morons that don’t think gaming can be helpful and therapeutic, I call bullshit loud and proud. Minecraft is an outstanding example of the goodness gaming can bring into our lives and my heart will forever be a little bit square-shaped because of it.
Fact: Dead Cells fucking RULES.
Motion Twin created an absolute BEAST with Dead Cells. Their coined term “roguevania” rings true and Dead Cells is exactly that- a procedurally generated, hacking, slashing, exploratory festival of artistic violence, grim imagery, and an underlying sense of humor that gives you the occasional wink at JUSt the right moments. It’s fucking fantastic and it’s FAIR- but fucking hard as NAILS. Especially after you beat the game once and apply your first Boss Cell. Holy shit, I just ASSUMED I’d never beat it on the higher levels until I did and it opened up to become an experience more vast, electric, and endlessly entertaining that it already was which is a feat of game development I’m not even sure fucking Motion Twin thought was possible. The game slays, and I dove back in after the semi-recent big-ass update and starting carving my way through it again, and again, and again, and…you get the point. Truth be told, when I beat the game on Hard for the first time it felt like I’d just returned home from war. Pelts of slain beasts draped over my shoulders, the blood of my foes under my fingernails, and the sweat-drenched brow of someone who’d just seen some SHIT.
It gave me a real case of “Grinch Dick” because the hard-fought victory made me feel like me penis grew a few sizes like the Grinch’s heart does at the end of the story. Not knowing where to go from “Grinch Dick” I shall move on to….
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 2
Nintendo and Monolith Soft‘s 2017 BEAST of an RPG was always on my radar, but when my lapsed-gamer ass got a Switch back in 2017 I immersed myself pretty deep into indie games, roguelikes, and waiting for Hollow Knight to arrive. Plus, with kids I just sort of assumed I wouldn’t have the brain-capacity to invest in the epics of my youth- when I was a kid I was ALL about RPGs- so I just didn’t pay them much attention. Breath of the Wild pissed me off and yes I DO know how unpopular that opinion is and I don’t give a fuck, so I just kind of left them alone.
I got some gift cards for Christmas this year, and since we’re in that ‘Post-Christmas, Pre- New Year’s” limbo world right now where I’m kind of waiting on some things to get moving- I decided to give Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a shot. It looked gorgeous to me and everything about it seemed like the kind of thing I could REALLY sink my teeth into. Added bonus? The combat isn’t turn-based, and even though it’s not FULLY action-RPG territory it is engaging enough for me to stick with. I’ve put in about 47 hours so far and I can confidently state that it’s probably my favorite overall video game of all time. Games like Minecraft serve their own purpose for me, as do my beloved Indies, but this thing? Xenoblade Chronicles 2 took me back to the time when I wasn’t too distracted to give myself over to a big, sprawling epic of a game and I don’t think I realized how much I NEED that side of me. It’s gotten me back in RPGs in a BIG way, and every square inch of screen space is filled with BEAUTIFUL things. It’s stunning, and I still can’t believe it came out fucking LAUNCH YEAR.
So yeah, there’s MY “Best Games of 2019” shit, and most of it didn’t even god damn come out in 2019. Gotta do shit my own way after all, and since nobody is buying advertising from me right now I can do whatever the fuck I want. Not a bad place to be for an anti-authoritarian like myself.
Your radio is a liar, music WAS fucking awesome in 2019.
It’s true, we got some HUGE stuff this year. What did THIS guy wear out the most? “Fear Inoculum” (Tool), “All Hail” (Norma Jean), and “Be Good” (Off With Their Heads) are the “holy triumvirate” for me this year. Tool took their sound to even HIGHER heights than before and that album just feels like a RITUAL. It’s stunning from top to bottom and it’s always nice when people manage to NOT disappoint us these days. Norma Jean, one of the most interesting and fucking “heavy in all the right ways” bands in music brought an absolute fucking GAME CHANGER with “All Hail”. They do it with every damn thing they put out though, cause their last album was fucking spectacular too. You can check out my full thoughts on “All Hail” here, and if you like heavy music you owe it to yourself to get on board if you’re not already.
“Be Good” from Off With Their Heads took their sound to some truly amazing new places and though “Clear The Air” will probably ALWAYS be my favorite OWTH song “Be Good” is start-to-finish a bold step forward for Ryan Young and his revolving door of absurdly talented punk rock musicians. Our interview with Ryan is coming soon and I’m SUPER excited about it, so stay tuned.
But WAIT, there’s more!
2019 saw me getting super-into Thy Art is Murder and I’m very happy about that fact. The “deathcore” subgenre is a divisive space and Thy Art is Murder is a divide band. Most people either think they’re geniuses or hacks, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Me? I don’t give a fuck about anyone else’s opinions and I only care about one thing: that C.J. McMahon & Co. play fucking CRUSHINGLY heavy music, they have something to say, and they are rabidly passionate-as-fuck about what they do. That was more than one thing, whatever. Thy Art is Murder do shit the way I do shit-raw, unfiltered, and “do or fucking die” and I respect them for doing what makes them happy and being god damn good at it too. Fuck the haters.
Strung Out dropped a killer new record, I stayed obsessed with Ghostface Killah, and I listened to and discovered more rad music than I even have time to share in this post before I start coughing all over my keyboard again. Know this, good music is fucking ALIVE AND WELL, you just gotta dig in and find the shit. There is SO MUCH content out there that it just makes it harder to find the good shit, but IT IS there. I promise.
The idiot box isn’t all that idiotic anymore either.
Don’t even get me started on fucking television. That “Golden Age of TV” thing is REAL. What was big for US this year? Well, outside of rewatching The Office* for the billionth time there was, yet again, an absolute lion’s share of stellar television to be consumed. Glow is one of the best things that has ever been on television, The Crown‘s third season featured some of the most bold and stunning cinematography I’ve ever witnessed with my two eyes, and Superstore redeemed itself to get back into a really great rhythm. Oh yeah, The Morning Show. HOLY SHIT THE MORNING SHOW. We got an Apple TV subscription when we bought the very laptop I’m typing this on and we got HOOKED on that show instantaneously. I’m genuinely sad we have to wait for season two, because that show is a tour de force of career-best performances from Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell. MVP though? That honor goes to Mark Duplass, who brings every ounce of humanity, honesty, and emotion he has in his body to the role of Chip and it is brilliant to watch. Don’t sleep on it, it’s electric.
Wait, I thought you WEREN’T going to list shit?
Yeah well, then I got on a tangent. Sue me.
There a ton more that I could list here, and if you want to know what else I was all about this year just go through my previous posts, they paint a pretty good picture of where my head’s been in 2019 and then I don’t have to rehash it all. Win win! That’s the fun stuff, but what about the NOT so fun stuff?
Look, the truth is that a LOT of bad shit happened all around us this year. Another truth is that it will probably keep happening to us in 2020. I have no idea what to do to stop it but I do know that every now and again we get a ray of hope. Every time I see Greta Thunberg I tell myself “See Aaron, everyone isn’t dead and hopeless inside!” and I know that I’m right. I know that there is goodness out there SOMEWHERE even if the 24-hour news cycle has a never-ending barrage of death, destruction, and decay to shove up our asses every five seconds. I know that the light WILL triumph over all this pervading darkness because either it HAS to or I just need to BELIEVE it will.
The thing is, contrary to his own ego’s belief, Donald Trump won’t be much ore than a shitty footnote in the shitty part of some shitty kids shitty history book in a few shitty years. That shit is true. Do I get paid for every time I say “shit”? No, but it’s fun writing like that’s a thing. Anyway- back on track- it’s true, this awful shit-stain on our newspapers will be nothing more than a cautionary tale AT BEST, and that thought makes me unadulteratedly happy every time I think it. Every time I see that smug fuckin’ smile on his bloated corpse-face I get a little bit of joy because I know that he believes he will go down in history as a great man. The problem is, nothing he’s ever done has been “great”. Business success? Lots of people do that, big fuckin’ deal. Hot wives? Lots of motherfuckers have hot wives, I’m in that club and I didn’t even have to steal millions from anyone. Novel concept. What else? Oh yeah, nothing- fucking piece of vomit hasn’t done ONE THING of benefit to anyone not names Trump and he is gonna go down as a bloated, shitty, ignorant fuck of a mistake who got the spotlight just a BIT too long and shit got real. Same goes for pretty much every other despicable thing that went down in 2019- we’re gonna live through it and it won’t be remembered for anything much more than being shitty.
So just know that, all the scars of 2019 will heal and we’re all gonna move on. Don’t give this year or ANY year enough power over your happiness to fuck with you like we ALL have this year cause this life is MOTHERFUCKING SHORT. You wanna spend ten minutes thinking about Donald Trump and then get hit by a bus? Fuck no you don’t! I can’t fucking solve all the problems, hell I can barley solve ANY problems, but I do know this- it is in all of our best interest to find a way to come together and fix all of the things these old white FUCKS have destroyed. We know how to do it, we have the strength to get the shit done, we just don’t know how to talk to each other yet. It’s OK, baby steps. That’s why I’ll be here, writing my way through this shit so maybe I can be a part of helping us ALL learn how to speak to each other a little better and THEN we can solve the problems of our world as one unified family.
It’s not radical, it’s not “right or left”, it’s not “black or white”, it’s just “human”.
Thank you for supporting The Ghost Generation in 2019, my goal is to go full time with this thing one way or another in the next year or so and it means the world to me that even a small amount of other humans like what we’re doing. Your support is vital, it is needed and it is appreciated. I’m not 100% how this will all shake out but I know that the more of YOU we have on board the more we can do. Pat yourselves on the back, Ghosties- every word you read helps this dream come true in some fashion. Wanna help? Tell your friends about us, tell someone famous so we can steal their followers, I don’t give a FUCK- just help spread the word, we’re here to stay and we want to bring voice to the voiceless and have a platform for all of the other ghosts out there in the wasteland.
You are loved, you are important, and the light inside of you can start a fire that changes the world. Let’s burn this shit down and start something better in 2020, one baby step at a time.
*BTW- You NEED to be listening to The Office Ladies podcast w/Angela Kinsey & Jenna Fischer. It’s a rewatch-podcast for The Office and it is excellent. 🙂
A brand new blog/website where these happily married, 30-something parents of 2 little minions rant, rave, and speak in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together! http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration