Sunday, December 22, 2013

My 2013 in books, games, film, tv and music

What I read (saw, played, etc) in 2013.  Most of these weren't released in 2013, though.

My top picks, the ones that stood out:

  • The game "The Walking Dead" (season 1)

    Though I still don't think interactive storytelling has truly lived up to its potential, The Walking Dead does a pretty damn good job.  It's a pretty powerful experience.  Even if you don't like computer games, it's worth taking a look at.

  • The movie "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"

    Deservedly a classic.  Quite enjoyable, never too predictable, and has a good ending.  I really liked how it felt quite naturalistic, with the plot arising organically from the situation.


Also worth a mention
  • Books
    • I didn't get to read that many books this year, but out of those I did, the best ones were:
    • Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee. Nice memoir of childhood in Cotswold village in 1920s. The writing is mostly pretty good.
    • The Main Dish (Kindle Single), Michael Ruhlman. Interesting look at how, to the author's surprise, he ended up becoming a food and cookbook author. Well written and pretty funny.
  • Games
  • Films
    • Kumare. Pretty interesting and thought provoking.
    • Indie Game: The Movie. Doco about the journey of some indie-game developers as they're making their games.
    • Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Interesting doco about Jiro Ono, a master sushi maker, and his philosophy on work and striving for perfection.
    • Unforgiven.  Quite good.  Been wanting to see this movie for so long - glad I finally got around to it.
    • Once Upon a Time in the West. Style wins over substance, but a pretty good triumph. Visuals and music were excellent. Intriguing all the way through.
    • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.   Good, though I liked "Once Upon a Time in the West" (also by Sergio Leone) a little more.
  • Music
    • I didn't listen to much new music this year.  For whatever reason, I just haven't been into music as much lately.  Part of it's that most of the time I'm listening to music I'm doing PhD writing, and I find vocals a bit too distracting, so I only listen to instrumental stuff (mostly electronic stuff) and I don't really know of a good way of finding out about new releases of the sort I like.
    • Tomorrow's Harvest, by Boards of Canada.  It's a good album but I don't like the bleaker aesthetic on it as much as that on their earlier albums.
  • TV shows
    • Derek, season 1.  Ricky Gervais comedy/drama.

  • Books
  • Games
    • Gone Home.  An admirable experiment interactive storytelling, but ultimately I don't think it works that well.  Worth a look if you're interested in how interactive storytelling can be done.
    • Katawa Shoujo.  A straight-up "visual novel", so pretty much just a matter of reading through it rather than being a game.  Wasn't bad, but targeted more at teens than someone like me (I was curious about these visual novels and this was one people recommended).
    • "Fester Mudd" episode 1 (on iOS).
    • "The Silent Age" episode 1.
    • The Majesty of Colors.  A quick play.  Ok, but nothing special.
    • Proteus.  Ok, but I found it a little dull
    • Sourcery!  I was interested to see what those "game books" are like.  Good presentation and I think good for what it is, but not really my kind of thing.  Even though it is textual, it doesn't feel like a story to me.
    • MIMPI.  Puzzle platformer where you play as a dog.  Some frustrating puzzles and controls can be frustrating, but otherwise pretty decent.
  • Films
  • TV shows
    • Broadchurch, season 1
    • The Shield, seasons 1 & 2.  Pretty decent -- and compared to most tv shows, pretty good -- but it too often relies on improbable escapes from tricky situations.  We decided not to watch the rest of the seasons.  Our search for another show that can stand up to The Wire continues...


Bit Meh
  • Books
    • The Last Website.  Nice presentation but the story didn't do much for me.  Far too obtuse.
  • Games
    • The Novelist.  An experiment in interactive storytelling that doesn't work.  I mostly agree with these reviews.
    • Galatea.  A textual 'interactive fiction' game.  Didn't find it interesting.
    • De Baron.  Also interactive fiction.  Didn't do much for me.
    • The Graveyard.  Nothing to really engage with in it, so its hard to get emotional impact from it.
  • Films
    • Rashomon.  Interesting idea, but it wasn't well capitalised on.  Dull, and doesn't convey anything interesting through the use of the multiple perspectives.  I've only seen one other Kurosawa film so far, The Seven Samurai, but I thought that was much better.

Lots Meh
  • Books
    • Juniper's Knot.  Lame. Adolescent-quality writing and content, and the way animation/interactivity was used actually detracted from things.
  • Games


  1. Harold & Kumar!? What has happened to you .. I like the collection overall though. A great idea. Guess what's on my 2014 new years resolution.

  2. to watch Harold & Kumar?? :)