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AlmightyMax Blog

Closing Shop

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This blog is long-overdue and probably expected, and honestly I doubt it will even be read by anyone at this point. Still, it's better to finish a story with a period than a question mark, so I'm writing this for the sake of finality more than anything else.

My activity on the site is definitely at an all-time low... there was a golden period when I could post a blog every couple days and not run out of things to talk about but I haven't been at that level of output for years. It's not that my life has gotten boring - there is a lot of great stuff going on for me right now - it's just that I've been less motivated to write anything anymore. It's hard, too, with the amount of activity going on from the other users lately. There's still a blog or two that updates regularly, and that I enjoy reading, but there are so few active users now whenever I write something I feel like I'm shouting into a void. And there are all the changes that have been made to the site - enough has been written about things like how I can't peruse my old comments so I won't repeat it. Both of these things together make it really hard to continue to feel an attachment to the site.

As far as what's happened and what's coming - I'll keep this quick - I have twelve more days of classes left in high school, I got accepted into both universities I applied for and will be going to UBC come September, I've applied for jobs at two different summer camps that I'm waiting to hear back from. Things with my girlfriend are going swimmingly. I haven't bought any games in a long while and I think I'm going to keep it that way - I have enough games on my plate and I'm struggling to find time to play them as it is. Regardless, I'm sick of buying games just for the sake of buying games, which I've really been doing for years. I'm immensely looking forward to graduating and leaving high school, as well as some of my high school friends, behind. The blog ends on a good note. With all the ups and downs of the past four years I'm really, truly happy to be able to say that.

I'm hoping to not fall out of touch with too many people here. Thankfully I have most of you on other networks. If you want to add me online on anything, my gamertag is AlmightyMax00 and my Steam and PSN ID are both AlmightyMax. If you want to add me on Facebook or whatever, just give me a PM, that would be groovy too!

It really has been swell. This blog has been a big part of my life for a long time and I'll always look back on it fondly.

AlmightyMax, Super Star

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What's up Gamespot! It has been two months since my last blog! I'm sorry, but this is the price of fame and y'all are just going to have to deal with it. You see, in the time that has passed since the last blog I have become an international multimedia sensation!

My rise to such levels of influence began back in January of 2012, when I auditioned for and received the leading role of Frank Butler in my school's Theatre Company production of Annie Get Your Gun. Since then I have been rehearsing rigorously (which is the best excuse I've got for being so absent here, holla) as well as trying to keep the paparazzi out of my face! They were relentless! Here is a picture of me they put in the Province, one of the city's biggest newspapers, for all to see!

AGYG

Okay, so maybe I played that up just a little... But still, getting in the first page of the entertainment section, not too shabby! (It helps when the entertainment listings are written by the mum of the lead, but HEY) And "international multimedia sensation" isn't too much of a stretch, because the same day this was published a camera crew from CBC came in to film our rehearsal! The story is the teachers voted to withdraw extracurricular services as part of their ongoing war with the government, which means our show would have been canned at the last minute. But because we were able to get help from parents we put the show on anyway! This got us on the six o clock news along with footage from an impromptu rehearsal none of us were prepared for. We literally walked into class to find cameras pointed at us, and the teacher told Katie and me to start singing :lol: talk about nerve-wracking! So that covers the "multimedia" part... and since none of you are Canadian that covers the "international" part as well :twisted:

The play itself went up last week and was totally excellent! After rehearsing our butts off we performed three nights back-to-back. The first night was great, and the closing night was - to quote the director - "as perfect as was humanly possible". Second night... not so much. :P For the non-theatre people, second night is "disaster night" and that was definitely true for us. I messed up my one dance in a way that sort of ruined the rest of the song, Katie had a major wardrobe malfunction, and a character was instructed not to "make up" with her at-that-point-estranged sister and brother-in-law, as was written in the script, but to "make out" with them. :lol: And, of course, out of the three nights the one that someone decided to film was Disaster Night. But hey, don't let that deter you from checking it out! The first act is really solid and there's only really a few parts in Act 2 that go awry. I don't expect anyone to watch the whole thing since it's almost two and a half hours but feel free to check out parts! You do get to see Katie and me serenading each other :)

---

I'm sorry I've been gone so long. It feels really good to be writing again, though, let me tell you.

I hope somebody actually reads this, because considering how much blog activity I see lately it seems like I'm not the only one who's been taking an extended, unannounced hiatus.

School's almost over and I, personally, can't wait to be out of here. This year hasn't been fun (excepting landing the lead role in a musical and a provincial playwriting award and an amazing girlfriend in Katie). It's been so difficult knowing what to do with the teacher's job action going on. Nobody is talking to anybody and what the teachers can and can't do seems to change quicker than the weather (which is an especially weighty comparison coming out of Vancouver!) Now more than ever we're getting told one thing by one person and a completely different thing from another and it's impossible to know what is actually happening and what we should actually be doing. It's maddening.

I've only recently started thinking about finances and it's difficult to see just how I'm going to pull through next year. My parents aren't giving me any money for college which I can accept but they also will refuse to support me if I don't go right back to school - if my ass isn't in a university come September it will be on the street. My original plan was to wait until January to start school so I could actually afford it on my own but that isn't a possibility anymore. I don't want to seem ungrateful to my parents because I know they've done so much for me, but ... I don't understand why they're so draconian about this.

The majority of my friends are getting at least support and the option to take a gap year - many of them get both - so talking to them about it just irritates me more.

Figuring out the budget for next year has been putting me through lots of cases of intense depression and anger, most of which have subsided by now. I have a rough plan that involves getting a couple school scholarships, getting a second job at summer camp and working seven-day, 50+ hour weeks for the entirety of the summer, and not spending... well, anything, on games at least... that should get me through alright. Of course this plan operates on a lot of "ifs" and the uncertainty of it all is killing me. I don't really want to take out a student loan because I don't want to be tied like that to a government I can't trust, but if it comes to that it comes to that. (They don't really seem all that bad, anyway.)

I dunno. We'll see.

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I've actually been playing a lot of games lately, to take my mind off of things. I got into Dark Souls and am actually making some progress - I'm in the lower Undead Burg at the mo and getting my ass handed to me by the boss there. I'm hopelessly gone. This game has started to take over my life. It's tough going, obviously, but it's so rewarding and expansive and surprising that I just want to play it all of the time. If I went back in time I would bump it way up on the Game of the Year list, probably as far as 3 or 4. The other game that's been taking up my time is Rhythm Heaven Fever, which is great.

Since the last blog I have also bought (but not really played yet) The Witcher 2 360, Xenoblade, Kid Icarus, and a bunch of XBLA games (Fez, Trials Evo, Joe Danger, Sine Mora, Quarrel). Oh, and Journey, but I beat that one ages ago. Anyway, with all these and some backlog games I have to complete (Skyward Sword!) the not-buying-games thing shouldn't actually be too difficult. I might see if I can convince my bro to go halfsies with Max Payne because a store has a good deal on that one, but that's undecided.

There is a bunch more I could talk about but it's going to have to wait for another blog! This one has gone on long enough! Goodnight everyone, it's good to be back :D

A Blog 9 Days In The Making

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I meant to make a video blog last Thursday talking about the walkout I mentioned in the previous blog, but I didn't get a second home alone to record it. So I planned to do it after the walkout, on the weekend or whatever, but THINGS KEPT HAPPEENING. I have been ridiculously busy in the last week. I was going to record a vlog earlier to avoid having to type out a novel on everything that's happened to me, but as much as I like being busy it has two distinct disadvantages; it stresses me out and it makes me eat badly, both of which lead to BREAKOUTS, which means I'm staying away from cameras at the moment. :P So we're going the novel route after all!

The Student Walkout was the biggest thing that happened, and it ended up being fantastic. Seriously, all the negativity I had last time disappeared almost instantly. While at the start it seemed like it was only catching on with the trolls, eventually everyone else started to take notice as well. By the second day the girls were getting interviewed by every major newspaper and television station in the province... I attended every planning meeting there was to do my part, and less than four days after the event was posted we had more than fifteen hundred kids show up in protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery as well as who knows how many smaller protests happening in cities all around the province. It was the lead story on all the news stations! It was an excellent feeling, seeing so many high schoolers united under one cause. I'd say mission accomplished!

Of course the whole teachers vs. government thing is still ongoing, and as a student I'm still stuck in the middle... I found out today that UBC, which is the most prestigious university in the province (as well as the easiest for me to get to, as well as the one I've wanted to go to since pretty much kindergarten) might end up looking at Grade 11 marks for admission instead of Grade 12 marks, because the dispute is stopping teachers from giving out report cards. Grade 11 was easily my worst year of cIasses but I pulled it together and turned Grade 12 into my best! If all the hard work turns out to be for nothing... I think the worst-case scenario is that I might have to re-apply, and wait until January to start school, but things are so up in the air right now that it's hard not to feel worried...

I wish my girlfriend was here right now because she usually does a good job of keeping me sane, especially when things like this happen, but she's in Ontario for Spring Break. :? Since she's also my costar in Annie Get Your Gun (because bam, that happened) I'm also without a singing partner, which is a shame since I need to get in some practice! There are a couple high notes just out of my reach... Another reason I abandoned the video blog was because I felt pressured to sing for you guys and I'm still really self-concious about it. :P Closer to the show, when I'm more practiced, I'll do a video blog and show off for you guys!

I'm discovering I really love singing, though. I always figured it was one of those things that you could do or couldn't do, and I always had counted myself with the latter group. But I'm quickly figuring out that the voice is like a muscle and you can train it, which is exactly what I've been doing! But still. those high Es. ugh.

In other school related news (there seems to be a lot this week, last thing I promise) back in October I wrote a one-act play with my friend Darius that got put on in front of the school; the theatre teacher submitted it into a provincial playwriting contest and it was one of the three plays to win! So the two of us, plus our lovely cast, are invited to put it on at a province-wide drama conference, which also means we get to miss 3 days of school in May. :D I couldn't be happier. I'm an award-winning playwright now! And playwright is basically the sexiest profession imaginable, so I'm pretty pleased with myself. ;)

My dad got me an iPhone 4S the other day! Well... that's a bit of an inaccurate statement. He came home last week and was all "I have a surprise for you!" I thanked him for the phone but after I took it he told me "I got it really cheap, only $100, you can get me the money whenever." :| So actually... I got me an iPhone 4S. Without knowing or agreeing or meaning to. :P I don't know, I figured he would be the one responsible for getting me a new phone since he tore my old one to pieces while trying to "fix" it but I guess things don't always work like that! Still, it's cheaper than it should have been and my iPod Touch was getting full up anyway so the upgrade is nice.

I put all my games on the 4S (16GB) and they run so much better it's unbelievable. The big games like Infinity Blade or Epoch are most noticable but even smaller-scale games, like Puzzlejuice, are silky-smooth compared to on my 4th Gen iPod Touch (32GB), which now carries my music library and a couple movies I was able to fit with the extra space, including Dr Strangelove, Hugo and Spirited Away. I feel pretty disappointed in myself carrying around two iDevices at most times of the day but I'll be damned if it isn't super convenient!

My gaming life has been pretty much nonexistent lately... I cracked open The Witcher 2, though, and played a little and loved every second. The setting, the story, the characters, the dialogue, the combat, the graphics, the soundtrack... everything is excellent. It seems like the kind of game that was really designed with me in mind. It might give Portal 2 competition for Game of the Year, and will probably at least end up coming in at #2. The only problem I have with it is, well, my computer can't run it! Even with GameBooster turned on and all the settings down as far as they go, it chugs along so badly it's almost unplayable. It's a shame because everything screams quality, but I've essentially paid $60 on a game I can hardly play! :( Either I'm going to eventually put down some cash for the XBOX version or finally invest in a new graphics card, I'm on the fence.

I found the most incredible challenge, which is to listen to the closing song in the Artist without smiling or moving any part of your body to the beat - I've tried and it's the most difficult thing I've ever done! Give it a shot if you've got two minutes.

I feel like this was all weirdly disjointed and I hope that isn't the case. Until next time!

More Reasons Why People Are Terrible

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I am actually shaking with rage as I write this blog. Also it's 12:40am currently. Both these things will likely work against this blog and its chances of staying coherent but I will do my best.

So despite all the bad things I said about my school in the previous blog, on the whole I really do love it and can't imagine going anywhere else. People at my school do awesome things. A week ago an alumni started a Facebook movement protesting the Enbridge pipeline that would supply dirty oil from Alberta, across BC wilderness to eventually get loaded onto tankers and shipped to China... three or four hundred people changed their middle names to "NoEnbridge" to show dissent. I scroll down my feed and half the posts I see have "NoEnbridge" at the start of it. It's great.

Today, four juniors started a provincial-wide mass school walkout to show support and solidarity for the teachers union, who will soon, most likely, be on strike next week trying to get a fair wage increase, smaller classroom size, more aids for special needs students... the list goes on. The plan is to leave in the last hour of classes on Friday, meet at the art gallery downtown (for the Vancouver students anyway) as a way to express that yes, the youth have a voice and yes, we are concerned with matters that affect our futures.

I saw the event when it went up with one single guest... less than eight hours later fifty-five thousand people had been invited with almost seven thousand "attending." I don't know what these numbers will be when you guys read this but I get the feeling it can pass 10k easily. Sounds great right?! Well...

(EDIT: The trolls seem to have left shortly after I posted this blog - maybe they're just afraid of sunlight - and now the page is starting to become more respectable).

Here's the link to the event... You can scroll down and read some of the posts, but do so at your discretion because none of them are really very pretty. There were some intelligent commenters a few hours ago but by now the board has been taken over by trolls making homophobic comments and talking about potato salad for some reason (I know, right?) I've already been threatened to have my balls "cut off with a rusted key," which was honestly one of the more coherent remarks I've seen on there since.

My best guess with some of these so-called people is that over-eager guests went and invited their entire friends list to the event, which naturally included some people who aren't in the province and don't know anything about what's happening. Still, that so many people would decide to devote their evening to crapping all over something that other students clearly worked so hard to put together... it's sad on a level I have never dealt with before. I know I live in a very sheltered bubble, where all my friends care about bettering the school and community whether through volunteering or the arts or what have you... but I always assumed that people were mostly pretty decent on the other side. Nope, it seems like the reality is, People Are Terrible.

There is a reason why the youth feel like they do not have a voice. People like this ensure they don't. And what's most baffling is, the agressors... are other youth! The voting age will never be changed to sixteen, as many youth advocate. We will never be listened to even if we are debating issues that affect us first and foremost. We will never be noticed or taken seriously or respected. Because for every youth who goes out of their way to organize an event based on an idea based on a passion that they have for making their community a better place, there are going to be a hundred more who go out of their way to derail it.

The worst part of this is that I know they've won. They got to me. There's nothing I can say but I'm too angry with them to even think about going to sleep yet. But they don't, for a second, make me question who I am or what I stand for or how I've spent my time over the last four years. They've made me sure I am doing the right thing. If this many terrible people exist in the world today, well, it's all our duty as non-terrible people to fight back as best we can, to make sure that we live in a place we can be proud of, that our world is closer to the world that we want it to be.

Again, this protest was put together by four girls I know, one of whom is a very close friend, and I can't be prouder of them or more in awe of what they've accomplished in such a short time. I hope that they don't take any of what's happening to heart. I'll be backing them 100%, even if the protests turn out terribly - which, given what I've seen of high school students in the last little while, they very well might.

People Are Terrible

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I just need the space to rant, a little bit, about people and their terrible-ness. It won't last the whole blog.

So our school's principal left in September and one of the vice principals left in December, both bumped up a rung on the ladder for being the excellent admins they were. The new vice seems like a nice enough guy, though not yet comfortable with being an admin. The new principal is, in essence, the Muggle counterpart of Dolores Umbridge. I mean, at the beginning of the year it was just superficial, that she was extremely short and had a high voice and talked to all the students as if they were actually five years old - thankfully she didn't share Umbridge's fashion sense or creepy obsession with kittens, at least.

After the vice principal left she's pretty much let her power go unchecked. The school's had twenty people expelled in two months - this is a school of only about a thousand, mind you, and fewer people were expelled in the first four years of my attendance combined. There aren't second chances with her. The first expulsion I can remember, a group of gangster wannabes jumped a boy in my grade completely unprovoked - I saw it happen! - so he fought them off and he was expelled. There was no inquiry or anything, he was more or less expelled on the spot, and the group that jumped him went free ... until they jumped another kid a few days later. (Whoops!)

About a week ago she interrupts classes on the PA system announcing, "in three minutes, I will make an announcement." One minute later, she comes back on and explains new school policies: if anyone swears in the hallways they will be suspended (not sure what counts as "swearing" so this one really has me on my toes) and anyone who throws out something recyclable is expelled on the spot. She has now taken to standing in the hallways at break and lunchtime, standing still and staring at people like that one scene in Paranormal Activity instead of, you know, doing work. What the hell kind of teacher, instead of trying to make the school a better place for students, makes a sport out of expelling as many as she can? (though with the way she's running things, maybe that would really be a blessing).

She also impeached the Student Council president, aka my best friend, last week so that doesn't earn her any points with me. He was impeached on a very, very loose interpretation of the three strikes rule. The first strike was a fiasco where the two of us organized a Halloween neighborhood can drive to amass a whole bunch of cans, then when the whole school did a can drive a month later, we donated the four-hundred-plus cans we collected to guarantee our class would win the competition. Okay, well, we were in the wrong with this one, but we apologized to everyone involved and she said it was resolved... but she brought it back up to get him kicked out of Student Council as well as a couple other programs he volunteers with (strangely, she didn't mention that I was involved to any of the teachers, and I was unaffected). So that was "Strike" One.

"Strike" Two: students from other schools are not allowed to attend our school dances (we are the only school who has this rule, of course). Anyway, after the dance has ended and as the Student Council begins to clean up, Mr Prez lets in his girlfriend to aid in the cause. She is civil and helpful and smiles at everyone and gets him called into the principals office the next day and becomes his second strike.

"Strike" Three is the oddest one as far as I'm concerned. Prez was given two hundred-some odd dollars to donate to the Food Bank. The next day, he was asked for a receipt, which he didn't have because the food bank was proccessing the donation still. So, the principal and the Student Council sponsor teachers make a huge deal out of this, hanging Prez up in front of the rest of the school and loudly implying that he stole the money that was meant to be donated. He is kicked out of Student Council.

The next day the order is processed and he gets his receipt.

None of the staff members involved even acknowledge the receipt, let alone apologize for publicly denouncing him and offer his presidency back. I'm biased in his favour, of course, but it feels to me like the Prez was chucked out for 0/3, or at worst 1/3 strikes. There are a lot of dirty politics at play here from the teacher's side of things, mostly around the grudge the leader of the fine arts program has against the Leadership program that the two of us are involved in, but whatever the motivations the end result is the same. What do these people do to get hired? And what the hell do we have to do to make sure they get fired? :?

(oh my god that was so cathartic you don't even know)

There are really only a few things keeping me at the school, the biggest being the Annie Get Your Gun production (which is still so fun I can't deal, I'm learning my favourite song after school tomorrow) and the other being that all of my seven teachers are pretty good. Four are excellent, one is incompetent but cares about the kids nonetheless, the last two can teach but don't get too involved with the kids... it's a really solid lineup. I'm thankful I'm done with the school in four months, though, there isn't much more I can put up with.

Also, just while I'm in rant mode, I bought a 9-disc Blu-Ray Lord of the Rings set the other day because it was $40 off... 3 of those discs were those "digital copy" things, except apparently they come with expiration dates, and they all expired in April 2011! So I have 3 discs that are totally useless, ugh. Making the things more confounding, they don't actually have any data on them... the purpose of each disc is to open an iTunes link where you have to put in an activation code to start downloading the movie. Why not just include the activation code? Why go through the trouble and extra packaging of making them a separate thing? Why continue to include them after they have expired? None of this makes any sense to me...

On more positive notes, well, I do have Lord of the Rings on Blu-Ray and I've been rewatching them, I forgot how much I love them :D I picked up Archer on FX as my new show to watch and finished it the other day. There's a 3-part episode where the main character becomes a pirate king following the death of his fiancee at the hands of a murderous cyborg... so yeah, it's pretty much my new favourite show. (It also has the single best "let's go to Canada" episode I have ever seen in a sitcom!)

I haven't gamed, like, at all. I did buy Ghost Trick on the iPod the other day (you all should too!) but I don't know when I'll ever get around to replaying it. I guess I'll buy Resident Evil at some point as well!

I read some old stories and scripts I wrote this morning and impressed myself...it brought back an idea I had years ago for a Valentine's Day story that might possibly come to fruition. But don't count on it.

Ehh, thanks for putting up with all that, good night!

Blogging Killed the Radio Star

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I just finished a week-long internship at the University of British Columbia's campus radio station (CiTR) as part of my school's Career Prep program, and it was excellent. (My first placement was at the Vancouver International Film Festival last June, do I luck out with these or what?) I don't know what everyone else was doing at their career preps, but I doubt it could have been as fun as listening to and reviewing advance copies of CDs, recording and mixing PSAs that will be played all through the month, editing audio interviews to make them better-fit for airtime, and even getting free reign of the studio for almost an hour, allowed to play whatever songs I wanted :D

It was such a great environment and all the people were lovely. Nice to be surrounded by people whose tastes are even more alt than mine (the closest they had to a "popular" artist was the lovely Grimes, for reference). I got almost top-marks - I lost one because I was texting a little on the job, boooo. But they all want me to come back and volunteer for them for real, whether I make it into UBC or not. Sounds good to me!

It's a 3-day weekend but considering all the projects and junk we have due it's not turning out to be very restful...ah well. Midterm marks were pretty good and I'm singing all my songs for Annie whenever I have the chance. I really want to get back to school just to get back to work on it!

I've actually been gaming a decent amount over the past week, go me! It's mostly been demos. I tried Twisted Metal - I want to like it because I have great memories of the series (Black was the first M-rated game I've played) but the demo seemed really hectic, and not always in a good way. It's fun but I wouldn't buy it, I really wish that you could still rent games in Canada so I could give it a fair shake...I feel the same way about The Darkness II; the quad-wielding is great and the darkness powers are so much fun to use; you can do all sorts of crazy, extremely violent things and it's all very entertaining! My brother has a friend who might be buying them, maybe we can borrow them...hm.

I'll be buying Kingdoms of Amalur and probably Resident Evil on Tuesday because those demos impressed the hell out of me. Otherwise, all I've really been playing is Kingdom Rush and Temple Run, both of which are excellent AND free, so get to it people!

Thanks for all the birthday wishes on my last blog :)

Sorry for the short update! I wish I had more to talk about...

The Death of My Childhood

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In much less melodramatic terms, I turned eighteen today (January 25), which means I'm legally an adult. What a scary thought! I tried to give my childhood proper send-off last night by building a giant LEGO robot, but apparently my mum took all our LEGOs to her kindergarten class and left none for us... I ended up playing Mario 3D Land for an hour or so and got all the remaining Star Coins, which was an adequate replacement.

I got a laptop for my birthday! :D It's an HP laptop that seems to be built pretty solid...the graphics card isn't good, which means no high-end games, but it's really nice to be able to go online from the couch or be on the computer for hours without daddy yelling at me to let him on or be able to watch an episode of Misfits lying in bed (Misfits is my newest TV obsession, it's a British show about a group of young offenders who all get super-powers - except they're really weird super-powers, I think the idea is they're based on the character's own insecurities or something but that hasn't been explained yet. It's really good!) Otherwise I just got some money, and my friend bought me lunch today and didn't once ask for me to give him a bite, which is a first. Pizza and ice cream cake for dinner. It was a good day!

Ugh so much else is happening but I'll just do the Cliff's Notes because I'm tired already.

  • It's midterm week! :D I love midterms because I only have to go to school for about four hours this week, I don't feel exam stress and never bother studying, and I end up getting all As anyway. My exams this year are in English, History and Physics... Physics is the only one I haven't done yet, fairly certain I aced the other two, except for screwing up my History essay a little bit (shouldn't be too bad!)
  • The musical is so much fun. I'm a person who hasn't sung in front of people since sixth grade, but I'm totally digging being able to get up on stage and belt out a solo. I've got no practice but apparently I'm pretty good... by the end of April I'll definitely be star material. :) The play, again, is Annie Get Your Gun (and, again, I'm Frank, the male lead!!!)... it's pretty silly but I'm really amazed with how much emotion is in every song. I'm in six songs plus three reprises...lots of solos involved! The play actually opens with me singing a cappella, which is really frightening. But I have never been this excited for a production before and we've barely started working on it!
  • I have a crush on my co-star? And unless I'm the world's worst at reading girl-signals, it's mutual? Only dating your co-star, for anyone not involved in show business, is about as volatile as if you decided to date your best friend who is also your co-worker who is also married with three children already so I don't know how to proceed. :?
  • My first university application is almost done. Six days till the deadline... I still need to think of a significant challenge I've faced. I'm starting to seriously consider writing "coming up with a challenge to answer this stupid question."
  • The Kingdoms of Amalur demo is actually super-good? It really is a game with the scope of something like Skyrim with the combat of something like God of War. The demo was massive to the point where I could hardly get my head around it. And even if you're not interested in the game you should download the demo because it unlocks a thing in Mass Effect 3! The Resident Evil demo on the 3DS was also super-good. I really dig the slower pace and it worked well with only one stick. The graphics are the best I've seen on the system but the 3D effect was easily the worst, so figure that one out.
  • Otherwise been playing lots of Skyward Sword! I'm getting to the second flame right now... it just keeps getting better and better.

that's it, goodnight!

Game of the Year 2011

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K FINALLY.

To recap, no games released outside of 2011 (including HD remakes) and no games I haven't played, which should be obvious enough. Numbers 20-11 are here.

10

The appeal of a game like Uncharted or Skyrim is pretty easy to grasp, even by someone who's never played it. It's a lot harder to explain what makes a game like SpaceChem so incredible; heck, it's going to be an uphill battle to convince some people it's more than a simulator to help with chemistry homework. In reality, SpaceChem is a puzzle game so devilishly complex and clever that it will baffle most gamers; in its own way it might be a harder release than even Dark Souls. I can't count multiple occasions I found myself staring for hours at a screen of alien elements and seemingly impossible reactions, but the payoff from the harder levels - those lightning-bolts of inspiration in which you finally understand the solution - are the most empowering and rewarding moments in gaming this year.

9

I don't think I felt more empathetic towards any character this year more than I did Isaac. It's not that his predicament is particularly relatable. However, he experiences the familiar aspects of his childhood - his religion, his family - turn against him and try to murder him, and that's something McMillen makes the player feel expertly. He pilfers from Zelda, Smash TV, Bomberman, Castlevania, and just about every other familiar old-school game you can name, and turns it into something sinister and twisted - the result is unsettling, and often rather horrific. But the retro obsession is far from being only aesthetic: The Binding of Isaac takes the best aspects of these games and turns them into a cohesive whole that's addictive and compulsively playable despite the grim subject matter.

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Real-time strategy games are, almost without exception, deeply impersonal affairs. You view the action from a perch up in the clouds, directing your troops without ever actually taking control of any of them. Their death does not really feel like your failure and it's hard to feel anything no matter how many of your little dudes are reduced to a fine red mist.

Frozen Synapse changes that. The level of control available over each troop is unparalleled, allowing strategists to be as complex and detailed in their planning as desired. This intricacy lends a greater emotional attachment to the units than I could believe - they were faceless, voiceless, monochrome models, but I cared about their fate, because I had planned it out so carefully. The name of the game is figuring out your opponent's strategy and figuring out a way to counter it, something that quickly becomes a rather epic battle of wits. Playing against the computer, it's excellent, but the subtle mechanics make it best suited for online multiplayer, which the excellent (and asynchronus!) lobbies are more than welcome to provide.

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Rayman Origins is a throwback to Super Nintendo platformers in spirit as much as structure. It positively drips with whimsy and charm, in an age where most games (that aren't made by Nintendo, anyway) are lacking in both catergories. The bold, hyper-stylized art direction makes it an easy contender for the best-looking 2D game ever, and the co-op play turns the campaign into a hilarious, messy slapstick. That the levels are so superbly designed and so densely packed with secrets helps too, of course.

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The story of one daring plumber's journey to rescue the damsel-in-(perpetual)-distress is as simple and barebones as it gets, but when Mario is concerned, it's about the journey, not the destination. Helmed by the same team as my 2010 Game of the Year-winning Super Mario Galaxy 2, it should come as no surprise that that 3D Land is relentlessly, almost restlessly, playful. Each level brings something new to the table; excellent ideas are introduced and tried once or twice before being discarded for something equally imaginative. You get the feeling that most games pack into their entire runtime what 3D Land can fit into a single world.

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There is a story in Skyrim, but it's not necessarily the story of Dovahkiin the Dragonborn's quest to free his homeland from civil war. For me, for example, it was the story of Maxie the Ironfooted, and his innumerable journeys into inconspicuous caves that almost always led to waking some sleeping bears, resulting in fairly comical chases that generally ended when the bear had gotten bored with me. For my best friend Darry the Hardheaded, it was the quest to become the Strongest Dude In The Whole World, a title he believed would be bestowed upon him after he murdered every single NPC in the game. He attempted to do this with only his starting equipment, and his journey ended abruptly when he tried to kill a quest character who fought back with greater intensity than anticipated.

So while Skyrim is perfectly functional as a game, it works best as a sandbox - a venue for every wannabe Frodo or Sam to write and live through their own epic tales. While the world is far than perfect, the possibilities it present are innumerable and intoxicating.

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It's possible Paul Dini is the best Batman writer of the last twenty years, and it's obvious Rocksteady is more accomplished than any other developer to handle The Dark Knight. Together, they form a veritable nerd dream-team. Dini's vision of Arkham City is impeccable, and the script makes it apparent he understands each of the characters he works with, even the ones who just drop in to say "hi." Meanwhile, Rocksteady takes everything that makes Batman awesome to watch and makes it fun to play. Combat is brutal, stealth feels deadly, and the toys, well, they're wonderful. It's possibly the best licensed game ever made and also, not coincidentally, the one that best understands the source material.

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It seems pretty incredible that Deus Ex wasn't given the HD-remake treatment in a year where seemingly every other major franchise was. The original, after all, was years ahead of its time, and many of the things it introduced are just becoming fashionable today. The excellent Human Revolution stands as a reminder that, with all the advances gaming has made in the last ten years, very few games are really capable of coming close to that original - and this game is one of them. It's sleeker though more streamlined than its predecessor, and the way you play it is reflects your personal approach to gaming - a boring FPS if that's all you're capable of, a frighteningly deadly cyborg-ninja stealth sim if you're creative and patient enough, a delectable mound of datacubes and computers to hack and read if you have an OCD that needs satisfying. It's a veritable gaming playground allowing for every playstyIe imaginable, and it contains more choice and consequence in both story and gameplay than any other game released this year.

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The Legend of Zelda turned 25 in 2011, and gets the distinction of being both older and wiser, aware of both its past failures and the current state of gaming around it. It does away with the tedious stretches of overworld, presenting a far more focused experience that accentuates what makes the games great without diminishing its sense of discovery. The combat, taking inspiration from games like Dark Souls and Infinity Blade, elevates the combat far beyond anything the series has done previously, and makes the best case yet for motion controls in a hardcore gaming context. All this is enough to make the game exceptional before we even get to the matter of the dungeons and puzzles, the meat of the experience. It's all some of the best in series history, with new items like the Beetle opening up the level and providing puzzles with greater scope. It might just be the definitive retelling of my favourite legend.

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What's the most substantial new component a developer can give a sequel? New play mechanics don't hurt, of course. Take the existing setup and tweak or change or add things in ways that force gamers to look at situations from whole new points of view. Portal 2 did this; the new gels and light bridges and repulsion beams created some truly masterful challenges. Or a developer can add new modes of play - Portal 2 featured a stellar, separate co-operative campaign, and completing it (and the extra-challenging free DLC pack) with tennis12master was the highlight of my gaming experiences in 2011.

But no, the most significant addition Valve made to their sequel was the heart. The minimalist Portal was cooly impersonal, whereas the sequel features a full cast of characters that chat, emote and react to each other, and the game manages to find great humour in every situation. Co-operative play turned even player death into a joke, a hilarious slapstick display that was too funny to ever become frustrating. So while Portal had some great jokes, Portal 2 is a full-fledged comedy, with the most fleshed-out cast of any game this year. It's as epic as Half-Life 2 though in a very different vein;

And all this is with only one teensy allusion to cake-baking!

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The last two days have been pretty stellar; I got the lead in the musical and I was hired for regular hours at my local library, so I don't have to scramble for on-call shifts all the time. Everything's pretty amazing.

I've been doing my university applications and two recurring questions seem to be "what is one experience that altered your life" and "what is a difficult problem you've faced and how did you deal with it?" I can't think of examples for either! Does anyone have any ideas, or remember if they had to answer a similar question?

BEDTIME. Let's hope 2012 is just as good to us all.

The Week from Hell

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I've been back from Belize for eleven days but the forces that be have been conspiring to stop me from posting about it! This has been one of the most stressful (though very fun) weeks I can ever remember. Luck would have it that we are back to early-morning leadership classes this week, which is the same week we perform the one-act plays, audition for the musical, help with auditions to be in Theatre company next year, and get midterm review forced upon us by all our teachers! This is my second fourteen-hour school day this week, thankfully I do have a spare block right now!

The performances have gone really good so far which I'm grateful for because a week ago half the people didn't know what they were doing but managed to pull it together at the last minute. I'm involved in two of the three plays today and they're in a similar state so hopefully we can pull it together for a big finish! Oh, and I've learned the hard way that letting the students write the plays is not a good idea. Five of the nine plays were student-written and while they got a good reaction from the audience lots of them just weren't great. As far as auditions go we had singing auditions yesterday and acting tomorrow! I have never taken a vocal lesson or even sang in front of people in my life and was dead-nervous but still belted out most of Pirelli's Miracle Elixir to the best of my ability. The consensus was I did pretty good! And most of the other guys really didn't, so maybe we're going to see me as the lead? (oh god) I'll find out tomorrow, I really don't know what result I'm hoping for!

Otherwise I've found time to watch LOTS of Parks and Recreation... I started at the beginning of Season 2 and just finished it last night. It's really great - I haven't enjoyed a sitcom this much in a really long time, and apparently I haven't even gotten to the best of it yet! Plus, Aziz Ansari is super sexy.

I haven't been playing many games lately BUT Best Buy had a deal where you could pre-order the PS Vita and get a bunch of stuff, including a memory card, Uncharted, and Little Deviants for free, so I jumped on that! My brother is paying for $125 so it's not THAT bad, but I'm going to be holding off on buying any new games till Spring Break or so, probably...

Oh, and I have a new avatar - a friend drew myself and the other editors of the paper for the cover of this month's issue! I really dug it so I decided to make it my avatar. Here's the full version:

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Anyway, I think that's about it for now, goodbye!

...

OH YEAH, BELIZE.

My dad is very protective of his camera and I didn't get to touch it the whole trip, so any pictures are his.

So anyway, it took three planes to get there (and four coming back), probably sixty hours travel-time altogether, but it was totally worth it. We spent a week on an island called Caye Caulker, which we picked because it was small and quiet and didn't seem like a usual tourist destination.

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The streets were all dirt and everyone rode around in bikes or golf carts... we rented bikes which made getting around a breeze. There were funky restaurants and bars and clubs everywhere; we didn't eat a bad meal the whole time, everything was fresh and natural. We actually spent most of our time at a great little bar that was right next to the ocean... there was even a knee-deep pool with tables and chairs so you could have a drink and soak your feet.

We also went snorkeling, which was stellar after I worked out how to do it and stopped taking in salt water with every breath (super-gross)...

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It was just a great week in a really crazy community! They had a Santa Claus Parade one night, which was basically a procession of tinsel-covered golf carts. One had a stack of speakers on the back playing reggae versions of Christmas carols... but they hit a pot-hole and the speakers started to fall over! There were lots of kids everywhere, and they were all super-fun. We stayed there a week before moving inland where we slept in treehouses:

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...and visited lots of Mayan ruins...

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One day we even went through an ancient Mayan ritual cave! It was incredible... we were walking against a river for about ninety minutes to get to see all the skeletons and stuff, and it was so dark you couldn't tell where you were stepping or if you were about to drop down from your knees to about your neck (which happened often!) Our guide was amazing and could get through the cave with his eyes closed...literally...at one point we all turned off our headlamps and it was pitch-black, and he guided us through the river for a good five minutes, telling us where to step and what to do. Because there are no lights in the cave none of the pictures ended up very good, but you can see just what it looked like from the outside (I thought it looked like the Lost cave personally):

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After that adventure, we went to Tikal and later spent a night in the zoo...we got a night tour and got to pet jaguars and all sorts of crazy things :D It was really amazing! I've just given you the ultra-brief cliff notes, I could go on for days about the things we saw and people we met.

now I'm really finished; I'll finish Game of the Year on the weekend, probably!

Caribbean Christmas

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I leave for Seattle in ten hours, and from there it's only a hop skip and jump (also three plane rides) to Belize, where I'll be spending the next two weeks. Yay me!

I guess the best of 2011 will have to wait until I get back, because I can't see myself finishing it tonight. I only have about half of it written. I'll mull over what I'm going to say in the plane ride home.

Everybody have a great holiday and I'll see you in the new year!