issue 035 • 2020-10-04
My Birthday Weekend in Hades
Hello and Happy Sunday, gang.
It has been a week, hasn’t it? I think we all saw some sights and sounds that none of us expected, but that’s 2020 in a nutshell, isn’t it?
At the same time, I personally had myself a long weekend, taking Friday off as today, October 4th, the day I write this, is my birthday.
I don’t bring this up to get shameless birthday wishes or anything like that, it’s just true. And the weekend itself — it’s about exciting as it could be In This Current Climate. I made the effort to take a trip to the just-far-enough-away-that-it’s-a-treat Trader Joe’s. I caught up on some comic books (I continue to highly recommend Chip Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil). And that which I seemed to sink the most time into, time spent with the new game from Supergiant, Hades.
Supergiant Games is responsible for some of my favorite games in recent memory, titles like Bastion and Transistor, and their newest title, Hades stands tall among them.
The concept of Hades is simple: in it, you play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, lord of the Underworld. You want to fight your way through the underworld to escape. This is not an easy task.
But as Hades is what is called a “rogue-lite” game, it’s made even more difficult.
Rogue-lite games are built around the idea of a “gameplay loop”. Meaning, essentially, each time you play, while the levels might be the same, the skills you start out with, the power-ups you find — they’re not. Sometimes it might be more in your favor. Sometimes it’s not.
This isn’t a genre I’ve really been into in the past, but in the case of Hades, I have been devouring it. The failure is the game. Each game over makes you better, stronger, more prepared for the next run. You die. You return to the beginning. You look to improve on your failure. You do. You die again. You return again to the beginning. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And it’s that idea which makes the game resonate so well. In my 36 years, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life isn’t a zero-sum game. You don’t succeed without countless failures and learning moments along the way. Each moment of glory is built on the pile of moments no one cared about or saw, as you built the best version of yourself.
It’s a lesson which resonates deeply, and is really the core of a game like Hades.
In their (spoiler-heavy) review of the game for Kotaku, Nathan Grayson hits this nail even further on the head:
Hopelessness is in right now. How could it not be? People rose up, but the historically awful status quo rose higher. What is there left to do but go on Twitter and Facebook and post different variations of “We’re fucked” alongside whatever headline you read most recently? I’m a white guy in no present danger beyond what I subject myself to. Despite this, I spent a lot of the summer despairing.
I will not go so far as to say Hades got me through it. At this point in my life, I am skeptical of games’ ability to do things of that magnitude. But as the summer wore on, Hades’ story of somebody refusing to despair in the face of overwhelming systemic failure and instead pivoting into helping rebuild his community and support his found family took on a new significance.
Yes, the graphics are stunning. Yes, the gameplay is wonderfully tuned. Yes, the music is absolutely fantastic. But more than anything, Hades is a game where you as a player learn just as much about the mechanics as you learn something about growing and persevering.
And really, isn’t that what we need right now?
Hades is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Now, onto the things…
Thing #1: A Perfect Taste of the 90’s Comics Industry - Maximum Carnage
As a comic book addled young man in the 1990’s, there was only thing more likely to make me rush out to my favorite comic store (RIP Cutting Edge!) than a foil encrusted cover…it was a massive crossover.
For those who don’t know, the idea of a crossover is that — instead of a story being told in the pages of the latest monthly issue of, say The Amazing Spider-Man, the story is serialized across multiple comic series.
Is it a shameless ploy for increased sales? Absolutely. But they’re fun as heck to read too.
One of the crossovers which is most melted to my frontal lobe is Maximum Carnage, a 14- part tale focusing on the more violent sibling of popular Spider-Man villain Venom, the appropriately named Carnage.
Carnage will be on the big screen whenever Sony releases the Venom sequel, Let There Be Carnage, so Brian VanHooker at MEL decided to give us a nice look back at Maximum Carnage, about 25 years after the fact.
Tom DeFalco, Marvel Comics writer and editor, 1980 to present: Carnage was one of the great aggravations of my life. When Carnage first came out in 1992, I was editor-in-chief at Marvel. I remember walking into my office and my secretary says that a bunch of retailers have been calling and that they’re all really pissed. I wondered, “What the heck are they pissed about?” and as I’m standing there, another one calls and she tells me, “That’s another one, and he’s really angry.” So I told her to put him through and I took the call in my office.
The first appearance of Carnage had just come out the day before and this retailer was furious, telling me, “The new issue of Spider-Man came out, and I’m completely sold out already.” I was kind of befuddled by that, so I said, “Isn’t that a good thing?” But he tells me, “All my customers are angry because I’m sold out because you didn’t tell us that you were introducing a new character who was going to be so popular!” Of course, we have no idea who is going to be popular and who isn’t — we introduce new villains all the time!
Check it out here.
Thing 2: Great Seller! A+! Another eBay Deal Gone Wrong!
I think over the years, we’ve all had our issues with different websites, but have you ever irked the people who run a website so bad that they…send you cockroaches?
In an incredibly surreal piece by David Streitfeld at The New York Times, we see what happens when you piss off the wrong people at the Internet’s biggest auction site:
Loyalty. That was one of the tenets of Global Security and Resiliency. In the summer of 2019, Ms. Zea did what her boss, and her boss’s boss, and the chief executive of the $28 billion company wanted — even as those things got more and more deranged, and as they were all drawn into the most lurid scandal in the history of Silicon Valley.
Veronica Zea says she will plead guilty. “It’s easy to say, ‘Why didn’t I leave?’” she says. “But in the moment, I was terrified and stuck. I am so sorry. I regret playing even a small role here.”
One year later, on June 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice charged six former eBay employees, all part of the corporate security team, with conspiring to commit cyberstalking and tamper with witnesses. Their alleged targets were almost comically obscure — a mom-and-pop blogging duo from a suburb of Boston and a Twitter gadfly who wrote often in their comments section. According to the government, their methods were juvenile and grotesque, featuring cockroaches, pornography, barely veiled threats of violence and death, physical surveillance and the weaponization of late-night pizza.
“This was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick,” said the U.S. attorney in Boston, Andrew Lelling, at a news conference, “all because they published content the company executives didn’t like.”
Check it out here.
Thing #3: Feel Free to Skim This
Something nice and light to wrap us up this week, as Drew Magary writes for SF Gate something I relate to far too well, especially as I pull together this newsletter every week…that it’s OK to skim articles on the Internet.
I am a skimmer. You know how the New York Times dropped that big Trump tax return story over the weekend? Yeah no, I didn’t read all of that. Keep in mind, I’ve been horny for those returns for FIVE F—KING YEARS now, and yet their unveiling still wasn’t enough to get me to read through every last detail. No, what I did was peep the beginning of that article to get the $750 chestnut, and then I simply waited for a source I trusted to give me the TL;DR version. Luckily for me, the Times itself was more than happy to oblige and provide an aggregation of its own story for express perusing. I didn’t read all of that, either. I read the bullets at the TOP, and then started skimming the subsequent section breaks and immediately realized that those were decidedly optional. “His tax avoidance also sets him apart from past presidents”? No. S—t.
Longreads? Amigo, those are shortreads in my hands. I’ll start reading a deeply reported piece, and then another shiny link will catch my eye and I’ll leave that longread tab open but abandoned. Stillborn. Have I tweeted out lavish praise for lengthy articles I never bothered to finish? Of course I have. That’s how the longread economy stays afloat.
Check it out here.
Until next time…
Hey, do me a favor, gang. Consider it your birthday gift to me.
This week, do something you’ve been thinking about doing, but putting off. Maybe you’ve been wanting to rent a certain movie, start a certain show, order take out from somewhere new.
Do it. See it through. See where it goes. And let me know how it goes. Maybe it’ll be dope, maybe it’ll suck, but hey, it was something different.
Don’t be a jerk. Wear a mask. Register to vote. See you next week.