Literary Inspiration: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Collage

Fun fact: I’m a bit of a gamer.  Always have been, actually.  As a kid, I loved playing Q-Bert, Frogger and OG Donkey Kong on my family’s Texas Instruments rig whilst waiting for our gigantic claw-footed bathtub to fill.  Naked (and yes, there is a completely mortifying photo to that effect – a Polaroid, no less – and no, you will never see it!)

As a slightly older kid, I owned every generation of Nintendo and squared off with my friends every chance I could get – the Super Mario Bros. games were favourites, though I’d dabble in Sega titles from time to time.

Super Mario 1

In high school I fell in love with the Donkey Kong Country games to such an extent, I was able to parlay my mad skills into a first place finish in a Kong-centric drinking game during a big, multi-school party.  Yup, I was definitely the “winner” that evening. 😦  And I know I used to drive my best friend absolutely bonkers because I’d play while we were on the phone together, and she totally knew.  Sorry, Sandra!

Then one Saturday morning right toward the end of high school, my dad came home from a local garage sale and tossed me an open NES cartridge, saying, “Here, you like this zombie crap, don’t you?”  The game?  Zombies Ate My Neighbors, a super rare cult classic from Konami that went on to occupy my off-hours attention for the remainder of high school and most of university.  Trust my dad to just wander into purchasing one of the rarest and most beloved zombie games ever released for a buck at a garage sale. 😉

Between the end of university and the beginning of my Life As An Adult (still waiting for that to take hold, by the way) my gaming fields went fallow – access is key, and I didn’t have either of the big consoles at the time, or a PC.  Then I met Mr. Finger Candy and we got so serious so quickly, he MOVED HIS PLAYSTATION INTO MY APARTMENT.  This really warrants all caps, because at the time, this was basically the equivalent of him leaving his penis at my apartment all day long – that’s how important that PS2 was to him (also one of the ways I knew how very serious he was about our relationship, because he was willing to entrust his most beloved possession to his new girlfriend and her roommate, who played the CRAP out of it – particularly the badass snowboarding game, SSX – every chance they could get.)

PS Nails

Then a couple of years after we got married, Mr. Finger Candy introduced me to the Sims.  And the next four months are largely unaccounted for (beyond knowing that I spent nearly every second of them in the guest bedroom crafting a glorious desert trailer park filled with pirates and carnies and ill-tempered ex-celebrities.)  I haven’t played with that level of intensity since (and that’s probably a good thing; the Sims is, shall we say, demanding of one’s time) but I’ll still dabble from time to time.

The Sims

I was for a time also completely obsessed with this totally messed up American McGee game called Alice: Madness Returns.  It was an utterly beautiful game, and the visuals were just incredible, but yeesh, what a mindf**k.  I adored it, and indeed, I launched this very blog with some of those working-way-beyond-my-comfort-level designs.

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And my husband is a pretty hardcore gamer, clanning up online with a bunch of buddies to run around and kill virtual things every weekend, be they rogue military factions, zombies or rogue military zombie factions.

The Division Hand

So still lots of gaming in my life, then, now and probably always, so it’s a no brainer that I was drawn to 2018’s Ready Player One, a Spielberg-directed Amblin throwback of gigantic nerd proportions inspired by the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline.  I adored the movie – spunky kids saving the world from fantasy-based destruction! a giant melee fight scene scored to Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It! and an incredible mash-up of about 200 competing video game, movie and TV titles, including The Iron Giant, Halo, Pikachu, DC Comics, Overwatch, Back to the Future, Gundam, Jurassic Park, Hello freakin’ Kitty, and an absolutely incredible scene set within the world of The Shining that’s worth the price of admission alone.  I loved it.

I loved the novel, which I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the second theme of “You saw the movie but didn’t read the book…now read the book,” ever so slightly less, simply because it was so intensely detailed and relentless in its references to tech and nerd culture, I found it hard to map the overall story.  It was a really enjoyable read – fun, lively, and with so many delightful little nods to the games and movies that have shaped my life – but I could also never quite shake the feeling that I was sitting an exam on 400-level nerd culture for which I had not studied, and I was about to fail HARD.  This is one of those books that probably requires a second read-through just to pick up the smaller details you may have missed the first time around.

Ready Player One 2

Barring one or two deviations, the movie and the novel tell the same story: It’s the year 2044, and everything sucks.  Humanity’s just given up on trying to solve its unsolvable problems and has retreated into an online mecca known as the OASIS, an unending virtual playground where you can do or be anything you wish.  In Columbus, Ohio, a poor young man by the name of Wade Watts has spent the past five years trying to solve a puzzle left in the OASIS by its late creator, James Halliday.  And Watts is far from the only Gunter (egg hunter) hard at work on cracking the puzzle, because the player who finds Halliday’s easter egg will assume total operational and financial control of the OASIS, a property estimated to be worth nearly two trillion dollars.  With that amount of money and power on the line, the hunt for Halliday’s easter egg lures in more than just the Gunters, with the world’s less morality-minded organizations lining up to lay their claim to the egg.  IOI, or Innovative Online Industries, an outfit that sells medically questionable allotments of ad space AND correctional services, is at the head of those companies, devoting nearly the entirety of their significant operational budget to the search for the egg through any means necessary.

When both the book and the movie open, Wade and a few friends have cracked the first clue, with IOI nipping close at their heels.  And the rest of the book follows this back-and-forth between the independent and corporate forces as they try to assume control of the OASIS for their own ends, peppered with about nine bajillion references to popular culture, technology and hardcore geekery.  There’s also a bit of romance in there.

Where the book and the movie really deviate is in tone, with the movie striking that perfect Spielbergian note of sassy childlike wonder – bad guys are trying to trying to take something good and make it bad, let’s stop them! – while the book went for something much darker.  In the movie, Wade’s parents are dead, victims, he insinuates, of a harsh world ill-suited for good people.  But in the book, you find out that Wade’s parents, paying no heed to their duties as caretakers, destroyed their family and died badly, Wade’s mom overdosing and his father dying during a failed looting attempt.  In the same vein, the IOI of the movie is almost quaint in its forgotten era bad guy tactics, with the book IOI just straight up throwing people off balconies.  But apart from the darker content, the book is just missing that sense of innocent wonder that made the movie such an appealing adaptation in the first place.

Ready Player One 1

But I really liked Ready Player One, sped through it like a beast in about three days, nitpicky little details notwithstanding.  I like these nails I did, inspired by DOS lettering, a lot less.  This is what happens when you refuse to use nail art stuff like striping tape that might make a design that needs to look precise look a lot more precise than it does.  Which is not one bit!  Egads, would you look at that S?!  On second thought, don’t look too closely at it – that thing is atrocious.  This is definitely one for the redo pile, perhaps the next time I reread Ready Player One.

You’re a Sorcerer, Mickey!

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Here’s a fun manicure memorializing the main magical mouse, Mickey, and an even funner video I made for our YouTube channel showcasing one of our favourite related games to play when we’re at Disney, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

sorcerer 1

I’ve spoken about Sorcerers before – it’s the free-to-play, card-collecting, interactive scavenger hunt you can only play at the Magic Kingdom, and Mr. Finger Candy is completely obsessed.  No trip is complete without finishing off at least a couple of games of Sorcerers, and more than a couple of visits to the Firehouse on Main Street USA.

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Sorcerers is a cute, not-so-little diversion (no joke, you will walk for MILES completing a single game) that always provides tons of fun while we’re bounding about the Magic Kingdom.  If you’d like to join in on the RFID-enabled scavengering and hunting, please watch this video I recently made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, featuring fun tips on making the most of your magical Mickey.  Thank you so much for watching, and happy spellcasting!

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Sorcerers Collage

Imagine this chaotic scene, if you dare: It’s noon on Christmas Day at the Magic Kingdom.  Mr. Finger Candy and I are pinned into a tiny nook in a walkway that runs along the Rivers of America as a never-ending herd of people swarm past, shoulder-to-shoulder, Rascal-to-Rascal, eyes halfheartedly glancing over at the parade running in the opposite direction.  Up ahead, the parade stretches on and on into Lynchian infinity, each bright, branded float pumping out more lunatic Christmas carols than the one that preceded it, while Elsa and Anna, snuggled together in a cozy little sled, sweetly trill about how wonderful it is to all be together for the holidays!  Stepping out of our Nook of Exile, we immediately run directly into the back of a man on a motorized scooter who has stopped in the middle of the walkway to stand up so he can get a better view of the parade.  I give some very un-Christmasy-like consideration to shoving him into the Rivers of America.  Nearby, a pack of reindeer plushies have broken out into a manic little shuffle, as smudgy snope (artificial, soap-based “snow”) drifts down onto the restless crowd.  It’s also hot as balls, and our walkway nook provides no shelter from the blazing midday sun.  I’ve no idea how we’ve come to be marooned in this sweaty holiday hellhole, but it’s clear that Anna and Elsa have lied – this is so not wonderful (what I actually said – shouted at my husband in order to be heard above the din – was “WE’RE IN THE EPICENTER OF HELL!!!”)  It wasn’t a great scene.

Unbeknownst to us (information we were not entirely shocked to learn until much later that evening) the Magic Kingdom had actually reached capacity some hours earlier; back at the front gates they were turning away all but re-entries.  Disney is notoriously guarded when it comes to its official park numbers, but it’s widely believed that the first level of attendance throttling begins somewhere around 65,000 guests.  Which means that at noon on Christmas Day along the holiday parade route in one of the biggest bottlenecks in the park, YES, we were absolutely in the epicenter of hell.  Also in a couple of righteously – though thankfully temporary – bad moods.

A day at Disney is just far too expensive a proposition to allow it to circle the drain over a few thousand cruddily-behaved people, and I was determined to pull us out of the abyss.  And so it was decided that we would outlast AND outsmart them, by outplaying them – literally. 🙂

Sorcerers Nails

And so we marched off to the firehouse on Main Street USA and signed up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, an interactive role playing collectible card game and scavenger hunt.  Which for the aging Sword in the Stone and Magic the Gathering nerd I’m married to was just the BEST. THING. EVER.  Bad mood?  Gone, gone, gone.  And I can’t ever be unhappy when my husband is this pleased over the acquisition of a rare Winnie the Pooh spell card. 🙂

Sorcerers Collage 1

Nerd.

Here’s how Sorcerers works: After signing up at the firehouse (it’s free to play) you’re conscripted into Merlin’s army.  Seems Hades has assembled an army of his own, joining forces with a number of classic Disney villains, from Ursula and Cruella De Vil, to Dr. Facilier and Maleficent, and the lot of them have been rampaging about the Magic Kingdom, up to no good.  It falls to you, novice sorcerer now thrust into the deep end, to find Hades and his co-conspirators, hidden in portals all throughout the park, and put a stop to their dastardly plans.

And so you go through a bit of in-firehouse training in which you learn how to identify the portals (they’re semi-hidden in what might otherwise look like a shop window or a cabinet or simply a plain old wall all throughout the Magic Kingdom), how to open them (by tapping your enabled MagicBand or card against a nearby lock-shaped RFID reader) and how to stop the misbehaving meanies (by standing on a Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom seal centered on the portal and casting an attack spell with one of your reader-enabled spell cards.)

Sorcerers Collage 2

NERD!

New players are given a free pack of cards to kick off their spellcasting journey, and returning players who present at the firehouse are given a free pack for each day they’re in the park.  Additionally, if you complete all of the multi-part missions in one day (there are nine missions to complete in total, each with five or six sub-missions) you’ll receive another set of spell cards.  Each spell card (there are 70 base cards in total, with a number of limited edition extras) corresponds to a different Disney character and is assigned a rarity, a strength and a set of attack stats.  Each card is also embedded with a tiny chip that interacts with the portals’ RFID readers, which is what casts the spell, specific to your chosen card and character, and defeats the villain.

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NERRRRRDDDDDDDS!

There are also, of course, booster packs available for purchase at select locations throughout the park.  These packs contain a mystery assortment of cards from the regular offerings, as well as rarer, slightly more valuable picks.  Mr. Finger Candy could not contain his glee upon discovering that not only were there more, better cards to be had, but that there was a snazzy spellcasting book in which to house them, no less!  Manna from collectible card game heaven, I tells ya. 🙂

Sorcerers Book Collage

It was in the single booster pack we bought that we found this wicked powerful Winnie the Pooh card, which trounced any and all enemies it ran up against with a thick, smothering layer of smackery honey and extra stingy bees. 🙂  Mr. Finger Candy traded spells with a number of other players that day, and there was a fair bit of jealousy over that high performance Pooh card, let me tell you.

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Of the other cards we received, my favourites were Tiana’s Hot Sauce (Tiana of The Princess and the Frog being our resort’s official/unofficial princess) and Rover’s Christmas Carousel of Progress, a limited edition card given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (which we did not attend…this time) themed to the Carousel of Progress, a weird throwback of an animatronic stage show starring John the oven-killing idiot and Rover, a VR headset-wearing dog.

Sorcerers Carousel Collage

And so on Christmas Day, this is what we did – ran from one end of the park to the other and back again defeating villains, looking like dorks in public, making new friends, exploring hidden spots, trading spells, following clues, deciphering riddles and just generally confusing everyone we (politely) asked to move out of the way of one of our portals (“Excuse me, could you please move your arse off this thing that absolutely looks like a fireplace but is actually about to burst into villainous life?  Thanks!” always proved to be a bit of a non-starter.)

Sorcerers Collage 3

This is actually what we did for about eight solid hours on Christmas Day.  And if you’re thinking to yourself, “What a waste, you could have been riding the rides,” keep in mind that what drove us to Sorcerers in the first place (aside from the parade from hell) were the hour-and-a-half, two-hour wait times that were being posted for every single attraction in the park.  And when given the choice between waiting statically in an infuriatingly long lineup with 3,000 other frustrated people or getting out there to actually explore the park, we chose exploration.  And adventure!  And so. much. walking.  If you’re trying to complete all nine missions in one day, as we were (of course we were trying to complete all nine missions in one day; I think we’re incapable of going to Disney World without turning it into a challenge of some sort) it will take you to every corner of the park twice and then back again, and then a third time just for good, tootsie-aching measure (actual foot note footnote: I believe this is how I hurt my right foot Christmas Day.)  I’ve been only half-joking that I need to create a diet and exercise plan around this thing; you’ll walk miles a day and hardly even notice it.

Sorcerers Maps Collage

And not for nothing, but in addition to almost (oh, it was by the skin of our teeth!) completing all nine of the Sorcerers missions, we also rode 13 rides, watched the fireworks, hit up numerous PhotoPass locations, suffered through that godforsaken parade and had a nice, leisurely dinner at Be Our Guest.  We’re no slouches in the Gettin’ ‘Er Done Department.  It’s just that neither one of us cared to blow our entire day on endless lineups for attractions we had already experienced.  Also, sitting in line for hours on end runs completely contrary to our general vacation mantra and battle cry of “Park or perish!”  Also-also, odds are by the time you return to the attraction later on in the evening, having spent the afternoon dashing about the park having a blast, the wait time will be halved or better, even on that most insane of days, December 25th.

In the end, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom proved to be so much more than a nifty little diversion.  In fact, plans are already in place to return as soon as possible and complete our game!  Someone needs to defeat Hades, you know, why not a couple of Disney nerds from Canada? 🙂

The Sims

Sims HandWhile I’d never classify myself as a gamer per se, casting my mind back to important and not-so important events in my life, I realize games have ALWAYS been there. Waiting for the gigantic, claw-footed bathtub to fill in the 100-year-old farmhouse I grew up in? Fire up a game of Q-Bert. Attending a new school and looking for something fun to do with newly-made friends? Bond over the supreme aggravation that is Super Mario 2 (the All Acid Trip Edition.) At a party with a bunch of drunken jerks who think you can’t whup their butts at Donkey Kong Country? WHUP THEIR BUTTS AT DONKEY KONG COUNTRY! Then discover the Sims in your late 20s and cease all productive activity for roughly the next year and a half.

Ahhh, those early, halcyon days of Sims discovery; what a precious time between a girl and her PC. As I mentioned, I didn’t come by the Sims until my late 20s, when, accompanying my husband on trips to the local gaming emporium, I’d inevitably drift over to the PC section, where colourful boxes bearing decorations and housewares and furnishings for tiny little simu-people beckoned me with their possibilities. That was actually the Sims 2, at that time the latest, priciest release; a bit of an investment in the unknown, in other words. And so Mr. Finger Candy set me up with an inexpensive edition of the complete collection of Sims 1 games as a bit of a test, which I must have passed with flying colours, because you couldn’t tear me away from my laptop for the next 36 hours, and then for about the next two years after that. I eventually went on to RULE the Sims 2, creating a gigantic, custom desert town filled to the brim with kooks and other weirdos, and then the Sims 3, where I’ve been playing the same family of turquoise-skinned fairies for the past two years.

But first came the Sims 1 and a bit of a fun story. When I first began playing the Sims, I had no idea how the mechanics of the game actually worked. I rather incorrectly thought it was a Tamagotchi-type of setup – you set the parameters of their lives and personalities, give them a home and the rest just does itself. So I noodled around for a bit, creating a disparate family of an elder, tweed-covered librarian by the name of Fusty Pants, a young boy in short pants named Nigel and a lady of the evening named Taystee. They had a combined 20,000 Simoleans between them, which I sunk into a 20,000 Simolean house that had no table, TV, sofa or beds. Then, leaving the game up and running on my computer, I went out to the livingroom to watch a two-hour movie with my husband.

I think we can all guess where this went, right? When I returned to Fusty and Co., I walked in on pure chaos. With no beds or a sofa on which to catch a nap, Fusty, Nigel and Taystee were forced to simply pass out on the front lawn or, in Taystee’s case, in a pile of fly-covered garbage in front of the empty refrigerator. Because they were all such exhausted, starving, filthy nutcases, Fusty ceased going to work at the library and was fired, Taystee starved to death and wee little Nigel was taken away by the social worker. How do you say “Reset” in Simlish again?!

These nails are inspired by the Sims’ logo, and Plumbobs, the little green diamonds that float above their heads as mood indicators. Well, green if your Sim is in a good mood. Red if they’re Fusty, Taystee and Nigel. 😉

The Resourceful Gamer

Clash of Clans HandCalling all Clash of Clanners! Mr. Finger Candy, who is a level 118 Clasher, is in need of a new clan, having outgrown the once-benevolent, now-trigger happy gang of weirdos he presently lords over. All interested parties should report to the comment section of this blog post. I gather reaching level 118 is something impressive? You know what else is impressive? How he managed to cajole me into doing another manicure inspired by his odd little “casual” gaming obsession, when I’ve yet to do even one manicure inspired by my not-remotely-casual gaming obsession, the Sims. How is this fair? The things we do for love, folks. Like these nails, which highlight the resources, or collectibles, one has to amass during the game (from index to pinkie, elixir, gold coins, dark elixir and gems), plus a little shout-out to his admittedly pretty impressive ranking.

Bubble Bobble

Mr. Bubble BottleOof, I am definitely betraying my true, dinosaur-like age with that reference, Bubble Bobble, of course, being an arcade and Nintendo video game first released in 1986. Heavens, how frightening – contemplating your mortality through video games come and gone (said the woman who has lived a lifetime of Donkey Kong Country games.)

Tangent aside, this manicure actually has nothing to do with Bubble Bobble the game and everything to do with the amazing glitter topper I used in this matte manicure, Polish Me Silly’s pink, blue and white Mr. Bubble. My favourite colour combination is probably something exactly like this, a lush raspberry pink alongside a cool cobalt blue, and when you add in the tiny bits of white glitter for that extra hit of visual interest, it’s pretty well the greatest stuff ever! A really lovely consistency, too, with just the perfect amount of glitter to provide even coverage without swamping your nails in an inch and a half of solvent-resistant matte paper flecks. Lovety love love!

Here I’ve shown two light coats of Mr. Bubble over two coats each of Picture Polish’s scattered pink holo, Electric Dream, and Pure Ice’s deep blue Celestial. And taking a bit of a nod from the matte glitter in Mr. Bubble, I topped the whole thing off with a matte topcoat, Essie’s Matte About You, for the perfect softening touch.Mr. Bubble Hand

Clash of Clans

Clash of ClansMr. Finger Candy, have I told you lately that I love you? Because if I haven’t, then these nails honouring your supremely aggravating and socially-debilitating “casual game” obsession, Clash of Clans, say more than those three little words ever could.

Yes, folks, these are the things we do to maintain a happy marriage, even if those things are finally caving and whipping up a set of nails inspired by a game that a) you’ve never once played yourself (trust me, the stories about dark ether and hog riders and wizard towers alone paint a pretty vivid picture) and b) sort of drives you insane because it’s time-consuming, expensive and turns your husband into a muttering nutball who can only speak in gems and thinks dragons are actual currency! All right, so we’re still a long way off from DEFCON 1 on the Crazy Gamer Scale, but you guys, he’s some sort of grand poobah high wizard-type (he’s a clan leader, actually) and despite being pretty vehemently opposed to carrying mobile devices (we’re some of the only people we know that don’t have cell phones) he’s freaking CHAINED to a gifted Samsung device these days commanding troops and deploying traps and gifting his little simu-army dragons and witches and whatever else gets all the other Clashers excited in the pants, which judging from the comments on his page – “Best leader ever!” – is pretty much everything.

And if it sounds like I’m being all snobby, yes, I totally am, but I’m also pretty indulgent about this stuff (some may say too indulgent) because hey, I’ve so been there, done that. I seem to recall an entire lost week about seven years ago when I first discovered the Sims (“Oh hi, sweetie, just let me get up and I’ll make you some coffee to take to work.” “Uh, I just got home from work. Wait, how long have you been sitting there?”) Bottom line: So long as he keeps his in-game currency spending down and doesn’t command his troops while we’re out doing social things, it’s cool. He works hard, and if he wants to play hard like the big geeky weirdo I know and love, that’s fine with me. Besides, it’s led to some pretty sweet nail art!

This manicure is for you, sweetie. I hope you like.