READ – WATCH – PLAY
Three household pets (a dog, a cat, and a bunny) become fully armed/armored mechanized assassins, but that’s just backstory. Really, this is a cautionary tale about 3 disobedient super-soldier creature-creations trying to escape their makers. We3 is a timely story about the corrupting power of the military industrial complex, but its telling draws more from Frankenstein, Robocop, and Milo & Otis. It is bad-ass, high-concept, darkly humorous adventure that fully embraces its socially-provocative and morally-complicated subject.
Over the last decade, I have bought the 3-issue collected tradepaperback 3 times and each time I loan it out, the book isn’t returned. Like a lost pet that everyone wants, reading We3 will make you want to share the love. The pages sing with style, oscillating between kinetic action and the soul-searching conversations of animals who were never meant to talk. It is heartbreaking, hated by PETA, and totally fucking amazing. Plus, the bunny poops bombs. Read it, love it, moving on.
Black Mirror is the least-binge-watchable show ever created. Each story explores the dark possibilities of technology and my first thought after every episode is “We wouldn’t really be that bad, would we?” But telling myself this only reaffirms that Black Mirror is challenging and not-easily classified. Often compared to the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, Black Mirror is not about one story, one character, or one world. It is one modern monolithic fear explored from different angles.
Shows feature quality actors you’ll recognize from other things, such as Jon Hamm (White Christmas), Bryce Dallas Howard (Nosedive), and Hayley Atwell (Be Right Back). The stories can be personal tales or global challenges; present day or 10 seconds into the future. In The Entire History of You, the ability to perfectly record and access every memory creates a world where people don’t live in the present. The deeply affecting San Juipero follows digital ghosts seeking personal fulfillment in the afterlife. And in The Waldo Moment, a comedian driving an animated character trolls politicians for laughs and ends up influencing politics. You will be shocked by the vareity and sophtication of stories; some will feel eeriely possible, perhaps even likely.
I dare you to watch Black Mirror. It is media homework for anyone who muses about technology changing their life. If you watch an episode with a friend, you’ll want to talk about it after. For those who watch the show alone, pace yourself.
PLAY – XCOM2 hates you. While many games push their players to do better, XCOM 2 rejoices in kicking you when you’re down. You are the silent commander leading a guerrilla war against a superior enemy. The game constantly bullies you with alien attacks, alarming research, and grief. This is a war game and war games never change. Soldiers die in war and each death stings. Constant and oppressive regret will tempt you to reload your save file and try again. Reload grind aside, it’s addictive because each skirmish awards experience/resources/intel, which are used to build better weapons/soldiers/support, and while you wait to build/level/learn, another battle is always looming.
XCOM wants you to believe you can save the world, and it intends to hurt you as much as possible while you chase that rainbow. Even if you win a battle, your soldiers return to base beaten and bloody, often requiring weeks to recover. Victories rarely feel like wins. And despite all this pain and grief, the game is amazing. Precious few turn-based strategy games know how to balance number-crunching statistical precision with resource management and narrative thrust. XCOM 2 is a hurts-so-good type of game. The world needs saving and you’ll die regardless of whether you try to save it. Good luck.