ESO character standing in front of dramatic landscape
What's New

What’s New – Spring 2020

Now that a new season is here, I thought I’d share a quick life update. Obviously things have been very different of late, with the coronavirus shutting down schools, then many businesses, and eventually leading to lockdowns. The Bay Area of California, like many places across the country and world, has issued a three-week lockdown that requires residents to stay in their homes except for essential business, and when going out we’re required to keep a six-foot distance from others to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. This social distancing has disrupted many lives and livelihoods, and it’s affected a few things for me; for example, the school where I volunteer is closed for several weeks, and I’m no longer tutoring until all of this is over. Still, I’m very fortunate to have online work to do and classes to take, personal projects I have more time to work on, and a family nearby that I can still talk to online and/or see in person when I can.

All of that aside, I thought I’d share the usual updates with all of you! Here are the games I’m playing, the book I’m reading, and the shows I’m watching right now. =)

Video Games I’m Playing

ESO character standing in front of dramatic landscape

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I picked up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt after watching the Netflix show. In the summer of 2018, I replayed the first half of the game, then abandoned it to play other things. But I always toyed with the idea of going back to it, even just for a few hours at a time as a palette cleanser between new games. The Netflix show inspired me to finally dive back in, and now I’m in the final hours again. It’s funny how some scenes I remember so vividly from playing it before — and others feel completely new. In any case, it’s a beautiful game to get lost in for a while!

The Elder Scrolls Online

So I recently wrote a blog post about my husband and I playing Black Desert Online, because we wanted to find a new game to play together. Shortly after that, I convinced him to try The Elder Scrolls Online, a game we played for one session together in the past but just didn’t get into. I actually played a bit more of the game at different times, but I really wanted to play with someone. I also struggled at times with the MMO style of the game, since I don’t play a lot of MMOs. Being such a huge fan of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I loved the world-building in ESO — but not so much the graphics. Online games just aren’t as flashy as single-player downloads (although Black Desert tries to be and largely succeeds).

Diving back into ESO, my husband and I have had a better time of it. I think we still struggle with the fetch quests and all the running around, but that’s just part of playing an MMO. I love seeing all those families races like the Argonians and the Khajiit, and hearing references to places I know from other Elder Scrolls games — sometimes even visiting them. For me, ESO has a nostalgia that is really drawing me in. Besides that, I really want to buy a house and start decorating. This is the kind of thing that always gets me in Skyrim!

Current Reading

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

DryDry is a young adult science fiction novel about a near-future United States going through a drought. It gets so bad that states that have water supplies want to keep all their water to themselves, cutting off states like California. Alyssa is a teenage girl living in California during the Tap-Out, when all the water is cut off. The first step is going to Costco to pick up some water and store it until the water comes back on… but unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, and stores are completely out of water. People in Alyssa’s neighborhood become more desperate, and she ends up becoming friends with her teen neighbor Kelton  — mostly out of survival — whose family is all about self-sufficiency. They have a huge water supply at their house, a garden for growing their own food, and solar panels on the roof that keep the electricity on even when the drought starts having ripple effects. The book is half told through Kelton’s perspective, and I’m really enjoying the back-and-forth to see two different perspectives on the same dire situation.

To be honest, Dry feels a little too real right now in some ways. While we’re not experiencing a drought, going outside I see the lines forming down the street for groceries and toilet paper as people prepare for coronavirus quarantines — and it feels similar to what’s happening in this book. It’s not nearly as bad out there, of course, but the current real-world situation is definitely making Dry feel like a relevant read right now.

I would love to use this book in my classroom someday, as an example of cli-fi (climate change science fiction — I know it’s a dorky abbreviation!). It could inspire students to research whether something like this could really happen, as well as reflect on what they can do right now for our climate.

My Favorite Shows Right Now

Altered Carbon

Netflix just released a second season of Altered Carbon, which was one of my favorite programs in 2018 after reading the book several years back (on recommendation from fellow blogger Sam Leung at CheeeseToastie, I might add)! Because the central idea of this sci-fi series is that a person can upload his/her consciousness into any body or android skin, this season features a new actor (Anthony Mackie) as the same protagonist from last season (Takeshi Kovacs). In fact, multiple actors have now played this main character, since flashbacks have shown his original form and this season opens with yet another temporary body.

The story is that Kovacs was arrested, spent 200+ years on ice, and was then brought back to life in a new, borrowed body — at least three times over now. I just find this concept so fascinating, which is why I wrote about it after watching the first season.

Although I’m still only a couple of episodes into this new season, I’m enjoying Mackie taking on the mantle of Kovacs and creating a really seamless transition from last season’s Kovacs, primarily played by Joel Kinnaman. The story isn’t quite as gripping as the first season’s so far, but I’m still interested to see how everything plays out. For me, it’s the concept of re-sleeving minds in new bodies that draws me in, and the show’s production quality, fantastic acting, and quirky aspects keep me coming back for me. Like the AI hotel inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, which Kovacs carries around with him as a companion. Or the world-building dialogue that feels like throwaways conversations at a bar. Or the well-scripted fight scenes taking place in all kinds of cyberpunk-styled settings. If you’re looking for a new show, I highly recommend Altered Carbon — just start with the first season and take it from there!

Westworld

Westworld Season 3 Screenshot Caleb and droid construction workersThe third season of Westworld premiered on HBO on Sunday, and I loved it. It was exactly the distraction I needed from everything going on in the real world right now. To be honest, I’d been feeling a little off with the quarantines and businesses closing, and I needed a show with enough intensity, quality, and just pure escapism to get my mind off of things. Westworld did the job.

I loved the first season of Westworld, which took place in a futuristic recreation of the Wild West — a theme park filled with robots posing as people, so that real people could go on vacations and live out their fantasies in this other world. Many of those fantasies ended up being horrific, and the androids in the park were abused over and over again. Eventually, they gained consciousness, which is what season two was all about: a robot revolution. For me, season two was a hot mess that was really hard to follow, which meant that I struggled to stay invested.

Fortunately, Westworld‘s season three offers a refresh. The main character Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a former droid host at the Westworld theme park who led the revolution, is now in the real world. That’s 2053, so the cities she’s visiting look a lot like ours — just a little extra technology and neon flash. Representing the human side of the story is a new character, Caleb (Aaron Paul), a construction worker struggling to stay in work and grieving over a past loss. Paul is fantastic in the everyman role, whisking us around his world as we follow him through his day job, conversations with a therapist, job interviews in futuristic high rise buildings, and thievery by night for a little extra cash. At the end of the episode, he meets Dolores. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

To me, the best part of this new season so far is the world-building. Set in this near future, the show suddenly feels like a cyberpunk series, and I love it.

What are you all up to this week? I’d love to hear what everybody is playing, reading, and watching these days. I hope everyone is safe and healthy.

— Ashley

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