A Year in Multimedia
In the past, I’ve often written a summary of my experiences with gaming, movies and TV at the end of each year. Similarly, I usually reflect upon my activities in podcasting and blogging as well. However, 2016 has been unique in many respects. Political and social tides have changed in the West and there is much to reflect upon in the real world. Certainly, my appetite for creating content has taken a knock and I have at times stopped and wondered if it really is all worth the bother. But after such moments of introspection I still see the benefits of the written word or bellowing in to a microphone, so here we are once again. The only difference this time is rather than multiple posts, I can pretty much distil my thought on 2016 in one simple account.
To things have had a major impact upon my gaming this year. A lack of time and too few new titles that aroused my interest. I started the year playing through Hearts of Stone, the first DLC for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and continued with the second expansion, Blood and Wine when it was released in May. I waxed lyrical about the quality of this RPG last year and will continue to do so this time. The last DLC not only added yet another superbly crafted narrative but refined the game mechanics and system even further. I think it will be a long time before I find another game from this genre that offers anywhere near a comparable experience.
MMO wise I have continued to regularly log into Star Trek Online during 2016 as it has frequently had new content to explore. This year being the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, the new expansion, Agents of Yesterday, offered an appropriate homage to the original series. The new lighting system has improved the overall aesthetic of the game and it’s clear that developers Cryptic have plenty more in store for the MMO. It’s recent port to consoles clearly indicates that the game is in a healthy state.
LOTRO has had a curious year. I took a six-month break from the game due to the repetitive and formulaic nature of the new content. Yet the Battle of Pelennor Fields brought me back, being surprisingly well realised given the restrictions of the ageing game engine. Update 19 released in October took the game one step closer to Mordor. As ever the epic central story continues to be written to a high standard and certainly compensates for other more pedestrian regional quests. Recent news that ex Turbine staff have formed a new independent company and taken over the development of the game does seem to have renewed interest in the MMO. I remain cautiously optimistic for LOTRO’s future.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention Overwatch. I played the open beta out of idle curiosity and was greatly surprised by how accessible the game is. It has now become my game of choice whenever I want a quick fix of entertainment. I’m still amazed at how equitable this team based, first person shooter is and how anyone can find a role to play, regardless of the style or abilities. It continues to add content and new characters ensuring longevity. Something that Pokémon Go has failed to do. This was another title that I was drawn to out of nostalgia and curiosity but it quickly became apparent that it was unsustainable.
TV and Movies:
I only went to my local multiplex to see movies upon their release, six time this year, which is unusual for me. This is mainly due to there being precious little of interest for me these days. Cinemas seem choked with Blockbusters and Super Hero movies. A lot of the more niche market, independent films have limited releases and tend to be available on-demand very quickly. Those movies I did see were suitably entertaining. Deadpool provided audiences with exactly what they expected and proved that the R rating could still be economically viable. Star Trek Beyond finally saw the new stories set in the Kelvin Timeline hit their stride. It offered a good character driven story that finally tapped in to the soul of the original series. Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them also proved to be a crowd pleaser with excellent production values and a decent storyline. I have high hopes for this off shoot of the Wizarding World franchise. Rogue One certainly met with my approval and filled a suitable gap in the Star Wars lore. I almost got as much fun out of the fan driven debates about the story as the film itself.
TV once again proved to be the home of more cerebral and densely plotted drama. Stranger Things was a wonderful homage to eighties genre cinema and popular culture. Finally embracing both Amazon Prime and Netflix certainly afforded our household with more choice and provided a respite from the scourge of advertising which just seems to become increasingly preposterous and crass. The Man in the High Castle provided a suitable bookend to the start and end of the year and continues to be both intriguing and entertaining. It has also been beneficial to have access to all previous series of Star Trek and work my way through those shows I’m less familiar with.
Network TV on both sides of the Atlantic has been entertaining. There are still far too many shows to keep up with and I’m constantly amazed at how many shows bite the dust after one lacklustre season. Elementary still maintains a high standard of writing and the central characters of Holmes and Watson still have engaging story arcs. The final season of Person of Interest was both succinct and fitting, providing a bitter sweet, yet plausible ending for the show. Blindpsot somehow made it to a second season and completely reinvented itself to try and escape the narrative knot it had go itself in to. Back in the UK, Endeavour once again proved to be both superbly acted and well written. It’s sedate pace and introspective themes continue to be captivating.
As a grandparent, I also watch a great deal of children’s television, especially those aimed at the pre-school demographic. Therefore, I would like to praise CBeebies for their continued quality programming and point out that Hey Duggee is a sublime show. If you are thirtysomething, then you’ll love the pop culture references that litter every episode. Plus, in the last few days, I also been caught up in the hype surrounding Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters. Let it suffice to say that it is charming and entertaining. It’s curious how some creative talents can handle sentimentality without tipping in to emotional overkill.
Blogging and Podcasting:
I stopped writing daily in 2016. I simply ran out of steam after five years and then real world changes meant that such a schedule was off the table for the immediate future. However, I managed to contribute to this year’s NBI and Blaugust, so I guess content creation wasn’t a complete write off (no pun intended). The Burton & Scrooge Podcast became The Burton & Scrooge Uncut Podcast and followed a somewhat erratic release pattern. I enjoy recording with my co-host Brian but I’m thinking we need to either seriously rethink the show format for 2017 or take a break for a while. I’m determined to get my movie related show in to production next year and I also need to return to writing my book, which ground to a halt this summer.
It would appear that real life and all that it contains caught up with many of my blogging and podcasting colleagues this year. Thus, there was reduced output from certain quarters and some went so far as to take a break. It’s sad but totally understandable. Yet it was not all doom and gloom. Syp over at Bio Break continues to write and podcast with great enthusiasm. The year also saw the launch of the Geek to Geek Podcast with Void and Beej. Their dedication and focus has been a source of inspiration and the show itself is thoroughly entertaining. It also reacquainted me with the concept that you can agree to disagree, cordially. Pam over at Cannot be Tamed also produced lots of quality content via blog post, podcast and You Tube. Joseph (formerly known as the MMO troll) kept creating his own unique brand of content with the Pthppt! podcast. It always raises a wry smile and I’ll happily listen to topics that I usually wouldn’t consider exploring.
For me the overwhelming impression that 2016 leaves is ones of change. This has been reflected in politics, world events, within the entertainment industry per se and even my personal life. Yet change is an inherent part of life and cannot be avoided. Therefore, I intend to start 2017 with a positive outlook and rather than focus on what I can’t do, explore what can be achieved with the time and resources that I have. I’m also sure there will still be good content available in all mediums. It may simply be a case of having to broaden one’s search. I recently discovered to my surprise that there’s a fourth instalment of Sniper Elite arriving in spring and I’m still greatly looking forward to Star Trek Discovery. I shall also continue to blog and podcast in my own peculiar way. Perhaps I may even encourage others to do so. After all, you’ve got to have a project.