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.

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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!

(Di)vision Street Wear

division-street-wear

Oof, showing my age with that reference to Vision Street Wear, an American skate footwear company founded in the late ’70s and popularized in the ’80s.  When I was about 11 or 12, only the coolest of the cool kids wore Vision Street Wear (also Chip and Pepper, Vuarnet, Sex Wax and Independent Trucks) and it will surprise absolutely no one to learn that I had a monstrously huge slow burn of a crush on the only floppy-haired boy in school to wear his Vision tees (swoon) whilst riding an actual skateboard (commence pre-teen delirium.)

Anyhow, bit of a tangent there on the origin of this post’s title, which actually arises from The Division, my husband’s favourite video game.  The title is a play on words on the Vision Street Wear name, although it’s also in reference to the design inspiration for these nails – a limited edition holiday sweater coveted by only THE most festive badasses in the game.  That the sweater comes festooned in tiny cats, candy canes and snowflakes is merely icing on the fruitcake.  But the bragging rights that result from simply owning the sweater?  Now, THOSE live on forever!  I once likened The Division to the Sims – a collector game where managing your inventory occupies more time than actual game play.  But I’m starting to think it might be more like a fashion game, given the amount of time Mr. Finger Candy and his online friends spend managing their virtual wardrobes.  Cher Horowitz spent less time picking out her school clothes, I swear.

But it’s a very cute sweater, and my husband is a pretty cute guy, so who was I to say no? Especially when the manicure turns out this well (a real surprise; holiday sweater designs have never been my thing.)  Stay warm out there, friends (real and virtual.)

Alice, What Have You Done?

alice-butterflies

Mr. Finger Candy likes to joke that my taste in video games is completely schitzoid – it’s either totally family-friendly, G-rated fare (currently working my way through the PS4 reissue of the Lego Harry Potter series) or it’s a blood-soaked, LSD-fueled descent into Victorian era madness (I’m awaiting 2017’s release of We Happy Few, a gorgeous, Bioshock-ish game about a filthy, dystopian version of 1960s London where everybody pops a super mood-enhancing drug called Joy to distract them from all the real activities going on in dirty, dystopian London, which would be mind control and slaughter.  Good times!)

2011’s Alice: Madness Returns, a favourite of mine – indeed, I launched this blog with nothing but those first rough Alice designs – falls squarely into the latter category.  It’s beyond messed up – rough subject matter, abject cruelty, nasty blood and gore.  Cripes, why would I play such a thing?  Well, I haven’t, not since I platinumed it back in 2011 (yes, I just used “platinum” as a verb.)  But Alice ranks as a favourite simply by virtue of its beauty; it’s the most gorgeous video game I’ve ever seen, filled to the brim with mesmerizing visuals.  Sometimes I’d just park Alice on a cliff and randomly swing the camera around, taking in every inch of the sick (in every sense of the word) artwork.

Getting down to these inspired-by nails, our girl Alice wears black and white striped tights.  And since American McGee’s version of Alice can’t seem to take two steps without running something through with her Vorpal Blade, I added a bit of blood spatter.  Finally, when Alice needs to take giant leaps across immense chasms, she busts out this nifty little double-hopping float that (usually) lands her gracefully on the other side. The best part of that move (aside from the physicslessness of it all) is that when she hops, she’s swept up in this pretty little tornado of blue, black and white butterflies that guide her safely to the other side.  So I added some of those boosting butterflies – can’t be too careful when you’re running (floating) through Wonderland hacking and slashing. 😉

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

The Division

The Division Hand

I’ve been coming at you all hot and heavy lately with the quasi-serious metaphysical discussions.  Death, the afterlife, precognition – none of these are your usual topics of conversation in a nail blog.  So after that hopefully interesting diversion, let’s take a moment and go back to what we do best around here, nerd nails!

This manicure is for my husband, King of the Nerds (King of the Dipshits, in the parlance of Sixteen Candles.) As of some 325 playable hours ago, my husband became quite enamoured with Ubisoft’s latest Tom Clancy-branded video game, The Division.  In it, you run around a nearly deserted, pandemic-stricken New York City as one of a team of random badasses handing out supplies to ill stragglers whilst gunning down enemies and former allies-turned-enemies (also known as rogues; also also known as asshole 12-year-olds who just play video games to f**k shit up.)

Fans (Mr. Finger Candy included) will insist that they play this game because of its online tactical first person shooter open world RPG and blah diddy blah, blah, blah.  That’s the smokescreen they throw up to hide the real thing they love about this game – collecting. Oh yeah, The Division is a collector game all right.  Clothes, mostly (“I got a Sentry Call Backpack last night!” was the first thing my husband said to me this morning, by way of greeting) but also weaponry and parts of weaponry, and probably one day very soon some household/base items as well (the nesting instinct is strong among the agents of The Division.)  It’s the Sims if they offered a Post-Apocalyptic Stuff Pack.

Don’t say I don’t love you, man (never any question, particularly if you look back at that 325-hour number.)

The Division Fingers