Welcome to the first in what I’m planning as a weekly column – Rich’s Week in Geek. I toyed around with a couple different names before deciding on this one, and for the longest time it was going to be called something along the lines of “Commitment Issues” or “Short Attention Span” – because as anyone who listens to our podcast can attest, I tend to jump around in my interests quite a bit. But the truth is that it’s not really an A.D.D. thing or a lack of commitment that makes me jump from one awesome piece of media to another (to another), but rather, an excess of passion and an interest in so many things.
Let’s face it – in this brave new Netflix / Amazon Prime Video / Xbox One / PSN / Marvel Unlimited (to name only a nary few) world we exist in, we are absolutely spoiled for choice. I spend (almost) as much time deciding what to watch or read or play as I do watching, reading and playing the things I decide on, and there’s just so much good stuff out there that this problem isn’t going away any time soon. Sure – one day I might get this “problem” under control a bit better, but for now, I’m writing a column about it.
So each week, I’ll be choosing 3-5 things I watched/played/read that week, and sharing my thoughts, recommendations, raves, pans, etc. on each. Some will be new each week, some may span multiple weeks (as I play through a game, for example), but I’ll have to take it week-by-week and see what emerges. So join me for this passionate adventure into media, and please share your thoughts below in the comments – I wanna know what you’re watching/playing/reading too. Opening the floodgates… now.
#1 / Modern Era of Doctor Who
I’ve been wanting to get into Doctor Who for a really, really long time and all of my previous attempts were unsuccessful. Part of the challenge was always that opening episode of the new run, “Rose,” and those ridiculous living plastic mannequins. That whole episode is just so campy and it turned me against the series. See, I’m used to watching sci-fi that’s more serious in tone, and Doctor Who just seemed too ridiculous to ever invest in and care about. That is, until you watch it for a while.
My advice to people who want to understand Doctor Who (and it’s massive gravitational hold on geeks and geek culture the world over) is twofold. One – approach it with an open mind. You can’t go in with pre-conceived expectations because it’s a show that has to be enjoyed on its own terms. And Two – give it a chance. For the first two – perhaps three – episodes, I remained a total skeptic, but not long after that, the show’s tremendous heart, characters and humor – as well as it’s surprisingly serious and (mostly) well-thought-out world building – won me over completely.
And oh what a difference eight weeks and an open mind can make. Two months ago, I was someone who didn’t understand the appeal of Doctor Who, and was baffled at how big it’s presence was at cons and on geek websites and podcasts. And now? I’m on my way to becoming a hardcore fan. This week, I’m just about to finish Season 2 of the modern run (I’m on “Army of Ghosts” at time of writing), and I’ve even started listening to the Big Finish audio dramas starring Paul McGann, Peter Davison, etc. (If you’re interested in those, Spotify offers a lot of them for free, btw). More on this story as it develops.
#2 / Deus Ex: Human Revolution
No, that’s not a typo in the heading. I’m not referring to the new Deus Ex game, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which came out earlier this year. Rather, I recently re-started Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game developed by Eidos Montreal and released in 2011 to much critical fanfare. I had played more than half of this game when it first came out, absolutely loved everything about it, but somehow never quite finished it. So when the sequel dropped, it seemed like high time to correct this historical oversight on my part.
And the best news of all is that since its original release, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been re-released as a “Director’s Cut,” improving the game’s previously under-cooked boss battles, upgrading the graphics, textures and lighting effects, adding the “Missing Link” and some other DLC into the campaign to make the story a more cohesive whole, and making some other smaller changes. I’ve been playing the game now for the past few weeks and I can say that it while it still feels pretty identical to the initial release, these tweaks and upgrades do make an already excellent game slightly better.
This game is everything I like – cyberpunk setting, a mysterious plot involving shadowy organizations with secretive, malignant plans for the world, tons and tons of world-building, and a deep customization systems that rewards me for playing well and indulging my “gotta find and collect every little collectible” neurosis. At this moment, I’m in Hengsha and just about to visit Tai Yong Medical to see what part they play in the overall conspiracy, and I am having an amazing time with this game. When I think about it, there aren’t many games quite like it either. That said, I do have high hopes for that Cyberpunk 2077 game by Witcher 3 developer CDProjekt.
#3 / Westworld on HBO
You don’t need me to tell you how great this show is, but I’m going to anyhow. Westworld started off solid, building a strong foundation of ideas and characters, and has continued to evolve into a better and better show each week. The last three episodes have been some of the best television I’ve ever seen, and demonstrate what happens when you assemble a team of immensely creative and talented writers, and give them both creative freedom and a nice, big budget.
From the “robot orgy” in “Contrapasso,” to the insane and unprecedented deconstruction of the show’s status quo that was this week’s “Trompe L’Oeil,” this show continues to surprise and amaze me – and those are the two biggest compliments I can offer.
And to think that this show was in trouble last year, delayed by HBO and drastically overhauled due to it just not being good enough. Whatever they did in the intervening time, it was time and money well spent as the show is currently firing on all cylinders, much like the Gatling gun so frequently used by the show’s “Conferados.” I’m secretly hoping that the prevailing fan theory – that the show is actually taking place across two separate time lines is proven false, but whatever happens, I know that it will be the right decision for the show. Over the course of seven episodes, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have fully earned my trust.