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.

alice-butterflies

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.

Handbook for the Recently Diseased

handbook 1

Deceased.”

Hey, so check out this awesome Christmas gift I got from Mr. Finger Candy!  As the little (removable) sticker in the top right-hand corner states, this is a set of note cards and other stationary-type items (oh, how I love paper products!) housed in a box designed to look like the battered Handbook for the Recently Deceased from my favourite movie, Beetlejuice.

handbook collage 1

Inside there’s a mess of Beetlejuice-themed goodies, including cards, envelopes, stickers and a cute little notebook with an MC Escher-esque Sandworm on the cover swallowing its own tail.  Careful, buddy – I’ve got it on good authority that you’re 100 percent non-natural polymer clay, so you might want to take smaller bites.

handbook collage 3

And because this is me, I just had to do some inspired-by, matching nail art.  I’m not sure how successful I was at capturing the very retro design on the cover of the Handbook; things got quite muddled once I added the matte topcoat.  It *did* lend the manicure that sort of undone, shaggy appearance that cloth-bound books begin to take on after a millennium or so of sitting about, but it’s not a look I deliberately set out to create – just one of those random moments of nail art kismet.

handbook collage 2

I’m so delighted with this present!  I actually wasn’t expecting anything this Christmas, because my husband and I decided pretty early on in the season that we’d instead put our earmarked funds towards another trip to Disney in the new year.  But if he’s not as big a Beetlejuice nerd as I am (he’s not) then he’s definitely just your garden variety nerd (he is) because I think this awesome gift speaks to him as well – who wouldn’t want this sitting all nonchalantly on an end table?!  My man knows me – us – so well. 🙂

Slime Rancher!

Slime Rancher 1

A blogger friend and I recently fell down a comment section hole with regards to the post-apocalyptic, pre-apocalyptic and intra-apocalyptic literature we’ve both been gravitating towards the last number of years, concluding at the end that we were just bloody tired of it all – tired of the dire and tired of the bleak.  It can’t all be zombies and geo-political crises and environmental disaster all the time, or at least it shouldn’t be.  Not if you’d like to stay reasonably sane in today’s geo-political atmosphere.

And that’s precisely what makes Slime Rancher, a sweet, colourful, gentle little game, so very, very special and unlike anything else on the games market today – it’s adorably innocent, and completely unconcerned with anything other than being cute and making its players contentedly happy.  And that’s the kind of media philosophy I think we could all stand to pay a bit more attention to these days – the simple pleasures of a thing designed just to bring you joy.  What a novel idea!

The Slime sitch plays out thusly: You are Beatrix LeBeau, first person Slime farmer on a planet far, far away.  As Beatrix, you explore the area around your ranch, collecting resources and rounding up free range Slimes, which are round, squashy, bouncy little balls of mischievous glee.  The Slime on my thumb here is a Pink Slime, the most common of the Slimes.  Slimes come in all shapes (Tabby Slimes!) and sizes (Giant Golden Gordos!) and need quite a bit of managing – each type has a structured diet, and some even come with musical preferences (Rock Slimes are, quite unsurprisingly, total metalheads.)  Slimes require fencing and feeding and all manner of other tending, and it’s all rather expensive.  And so financial consideration is provided by Plorts, little diamond-shaped trinkets the Slimes spit out (or at least I hope it’s spit!) which act as a kind of currency ’round the ranch.

Slime Rancher 2

My favourite thing about the game, besides tending my large pen of grey striped Tabby Slimes, is just heading out into the nighttime desert to stand beneath the gently twinkling night sky as a cluster of Pink Slimes bounce daffily about, emitting goofy “Woo hoo!” noises with every sproing and brroing (something I tried to capture with this manicure.)  With the gentle, cheerful music tinkling about merrily in the background, it’s more relaxing than staring at a computer screen should ever possibly be.  It’s just a ton of fun, with no shooting, no killing and no misery.  Armed with a kind of vacuum canister gun, you, Beatrix, suck up any Slimes that catch your eye and then deposit them safely back on your ranch.  And that’s the extent of the “weaponry,” delightfully enough.  And the worse you can do to the lone bad guys of the game, Tarr Slimes – giant black blobs shot through with rainbow veins who hypnotize other Slimes and subsume them – is suck them up with your vacuum gun and then shoot them out over the sea.  Even then, if it’s between the hours of sundown and sunup, the Tarr Slimes’ prime huntin’ hours, they’ll just come back, no harm, no foul.  It’s seriously such a gentle, sweet little game – I actually fear for it on the playground; the other video games will surely pick on its gentle naivete, won’t they?

Slime Rancher 3

Anyhow, if you’d like to check out a game that won’t have you contemplating either the end of times OR throwing your controller across the room in maximum difficulty frustration, I’d implore you to check out Slime Rancher.  It’s currently available on Steam for $21.99 Canadian, and it’s a real sweetheart – well worth the very reasonable price, and a ton of fun, woo hoo!

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Fingers

Raspberry Pi circuitry nails, for the major nerd in your life.

The major nerd in MY life (Mr. Finger Candy) has been messing about with the Raspberry Pi (basically a super stripped down, build-your-own-computer system) for years now. One Saturday morning three or four years ago I sleepily stumbled out to the livingroom to find my him gone, save for one tiny, computerized, rainbow-flashing display blipping away on the coffee table, repeatedly informing me that my husband was out procuring breakfast and would be back shortly.  It was super cute.  His nerdery is really quite adorable, even if three-quarters of the time I have no freaking idea what he’s talking about! 🙂

Dressed Up, Ready to Roll (31DC2016)

ready-to-roll

Not that it would change a thing, but I married Mr. Finger Candy (12 years ago this Halloween!) without fully appreciating exactly how much of a nerd he truly is.  I mean, I knew, but I didn’t know, you know?  And not the pop culture-spewing, “I’d DIE for (insert fandom here)” kind of geek either.  Naw, he’s THIS type of nerd:

nerd

Okay, yes, there’s a handful of VHS tapes in there, as well as an inexplicable assortment of cassette tapes (The Cult?), Sims guidebooks and one very large coffee table book about Ottawa that I have space for nowhere else in the house, but the overwhelming majority of the real estate in that cupboard is occupied by RPG manuals, ranging from old school favourites like Earthdawn and Dungeons and Dragons (enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment thanks to Stranger Things) to newer entries like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, which he bought shortly after we were married, so hey, it’s not like I’m not at least a little bit complicit in this madness.

But whatever makes him happy, and once upon a time, what made him very happy was Dungeons and Dragons.  I know the series – indeed, the entire realm of fantasy RPGs – took a big hit in the late ’80s and ’90s after a handful of violent crimes were committed supposedly with the game as their inspiration, but I’ve always found the entire idea – a choose-your-own-adventure-type game where you build a playable world from the graph paper up – to be a wonderfully creative one.  The sweet stories my husband tells of huddling around a paper-strewn table with his friends, quarreling with the DM, scratching out stats equations on graph paper and pounding back the Jolt Cola until three in the morning are utterly charming.  It makes me sad to think there were some people in his life (PARENTS, IT WAS TOTALLY HIS PARENTS) who couldn’t see the creativity and social engagement behind the “bad fantasy” label.  Flashlight Brown totally gets it.

And as weird as I think it is, I also get it, and so I put it on my nails, this time for day 16’s theme of geometrics in the 31 Day Nail Art Challenge.  I also found a way to work in yet another nod to Stranger Things, this time a polyhedral design (nestled among an index and a pinkie finger’s worth of The Upside Down) referencing the 14 Will needed to roll, versus the 7 he did, which ultimately landed him in (cold, dark) water with that damn, dirty Demogorgon.  Hmm, so maybe Mr. Finger Candy’s parents were on to something…?  Just be careful what you roll, kids.

PlayStation

PS Nails

Don’t tell anyone, but one of the things I love most about Mr. Finger Candy is that he is an unabashed Sony fanboy.  This is a man I once watched break into a delighted happy dance in the middle of Best Buy because they had an unexpected shipment of impossible-to-find PS3s.  Our 3D TV is a Sony.  Our sound system is Sony. You can count the number of PlayStations and Vitas and PSPs (a whoozit?) we’ve owned in plurals.  I respect brand loyalty, and my husband’s got that in spades.

The flip-side to that devotion, of course, is that those consoles – today a PS3 and a PS4 – have very nearly achieved “other woman” status; they monopolize a lot of time and brain cells (his AND mine; I love my video games, too, although let’s not kid ourselves – the consoles are his.  I’m more of a PC gamer.)

Although these pink, framed-in PlayStation nails are clearly all about me, because I’m the one with the frosted pink controller.  His is red.  And white.  And blue, and about five in basic black (GTA is murder on the old thumb toggles.  And any innocent pedestrians standing around if I’m behind the virtual wheel.)

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario 1

So 1 is the gold standard, 2 is the acid flashback, 3 is the one everyone loves, 4 (or World) is the one with Yoshi and then I stopped playing the Super Mario games.  But some things stick with you forever, and it was high time I gave the nail art treatment to one of my favourite childhood video game franchises (bested only by the Donkey Kong Country games, which are a nail art subject for another day!)

Super Mario 2