Last year, over on my blog, I put together a small read of the best things I consumed in 2013. So I figured I’d continue the tradition. First, a caveat: some of this stuff isn’t from 2014, but I first discovered/got into it in 2014 and my 2014 was particularly defined by it. Oh, and since nobody actually pays me to review games, movies, TV, or even comics, all of this is the stuff I decided to spend my money on in 2014. That means there are a lot of things I didn’t get to see, that maybe I’d really like. Like Interstellar? Who knows. So yeah, very personalized list. I also don’t think I read enough books or listen to enough music to really list those, but I read The Bone Clocks and it was amazing, and I started listening to music podcasts to introduce myself to new music. So maybe next year!
Anywho, enough preamble. List time. I’ll try to stay concise. Let me know in the comments if you agree, disagree, or want to add!
Games I Played
I think words like “gorgeous” are thrown around way too often when it comes to mobile gaming apps. But Monument Valley fits the bill. It’s simple, beautiful, and absolutely engaging. It’s a puzzle game in which you, the player character, wander around Escher-like buildings to get to the goal. Along the way, a simple story unfolds. The music and art are amazing, and the gameplay itself is easy to pick up. The only downside of this game is that it eventually ends. Available on iOS and Android.
I’m not actually sure I like Destiny very much. I have really great memories of meeting up with buddies on XBox Live and running through the “story” from the beginning through the end. Except the story is terrible, the voice acting is worse, and the entire 20-level game is really just an introduction to the grinding you have to do to remain competitive in the PVP, which you’re not competitive in anyway because you haven’t spent thousands of hours grinding. It’s an ouroboros of grinding to upgrade to grind to upgrade. But it wouldn’t be fair to not mention it, because I had a lot of fun playing it with my friends. And it looks and sounds beautiful and, criticize it as I do, it was one of the best gaming experiences I had in 2014.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
I just finished DA:I about a week ago, and I’m still not entirely sure what my feelings are about it. I played for a little over 100 hours and feel like I missed so much content. I happen to have the time to go back and play again (and probably a third time), but if I experienced the game only once I might feel let down? It’s hard to say. I spent a lot of time wandering landscapes in silence, doing exactly the same thing I did in Destiny: grinding out missions to level up. But unlike Destiny, there was a fairly engaging story attached. BioWare is great at character-driven games, and I do love the characters. I’m sure this will end up being one of my favorite games, and it was definitely one of the games I enjoyed the most.
Like Bastion, Supergiant’s game before it, narrative and music are really important to gameplay in Transistor. The story is that you’re Red, a sing whose voice has been stolen. Also there’s a giant talking sword, which had something to do with the attack, and which comes into Red’s possession. From there, you make your way through the city to the Transistor, to get your voice back. IT’s a beautiful game in almost every way and, even though I tend to dislike the mechanics of turn-based combat, the game itself was lush and enjoyable.
I didn’t play as many new board games this year as I have in past years; mostly old favorites came to the table a lot. But honorable mention to Memoir ’44, which is a two-player (though there’s an expansion for four players) World War 2 board game that’s equal parts luck and strategy. It’s probably the game I take out of my own personal game closet most often.
Movies I Saw
All Cheerleaders Die
So, uh, this is kind of a movie about enchanted zombie cheerleaders? But there’s more to it than that, and it’s kinda queer and kinda feminist and kinda delightful? It’s sort of like Jennifer’s Body (I liked Jennifer’s Body a lot) but lower budget and also Caitlin Stasey is in it. I really enjoyed this movie, and think it’s a delightful little gem of a horror revenge witchcraft movie with a ton of queer ladies.
You probably know what Maleficent is about, right? A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, including events leading up to the original story. I love what Disney did with it, and I thought Angelina Jolie was great in the title role. This is the fairy tale update all fairy tale updates should aspire to be.
Edge of Tomorrow
Woefully underrated, Edge of Tomorrow stars Emily Blunt and some guy named Tom Cruise, and is actually some fantastic action science fiction. I admit, I had low expectations for this movie, but it really surprised me. Enough that I’d consider buying it on disc, which is saying something these days. This is Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers and it works. And Emily Blunt is sooooo aweeeesommmme in it. She should be considered for action roles more often.
This is a romantic comedy, starring Jenny Slate, about a young comedian who meets a cute guy, has a couple of dates, and then gets pregnant. Except it’s 2014 and Jenny Slate isn’t afraid to make an actually realistic modern romcom, so instead of raising the baby with the guy, she considers getting an abortion. But the movie isn’t about that, and it still has a satisfying ending and great performances (there’s a scene with the main character and her mother that totally brought tears to my eyes).
TV I Watched/Am Watching
This is a show about a transwoman with adult children, navigating the early stages of transitioning, including coming out to her family and finding community. But it’s also a show about her children, and about the ways they naviagate their lives, and their gender and their sexuality. I really like the way that this show doesn’t just focus on one type of non-mainstream gender or sexuality (and let me be clear that I use mainstream to refer to what is commonly shown on television).
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Yeah, I’m super late to the party on this one, but I’ve spent the last month catching up on Avatar, and I’m starting Korra this week, and I loooooove this world that has been built, and the characters that populate it. In case you don’t know, Avatar is about a boy named Aang, a mystical savior-like figure who’s meant to bring balance to the world. But it’s a lot more than Just Another Boy Hero’s Story and if you’ve never seen it before, you should maybe see it now. I know it’s a cartoon, ostensibly made for kids, but along the way I realized that this show does storytelling better than most shows made for adults.
Another one to which I am late. But it’s still airing, so! Not as bad as the last one! Bob’s Burgers is hilarious. It’s probably the best family sitcom on television right now, and certainly the best family cartoon since the early days of The Simpsons. Everything about this show is perfect.
At first, I was like “meh, Girls but a real comedy?” and, admittedly, I didn’t make it past the second episode. Then it started streaming on Amazon Prime and I went back to it and it’s hilarious. It’s not really like Girls at all, other than that the two main characters are white ladies in Brooklyn. But there’s something about Abbi and Ilana as a duo that really works for me. There’s also something to be said for women making comedy like this, and I think the women making this comedy are very aware of their role.
Comics I Read
I’m going to do a little something different with this category, because I write about comics weekly for the site and I think I’ve been pretty vocal about my favorites there and on twitter. So instead I will say that it’s been a good year for me, in that I like reading about women and people of color and queer people, and there have been a lot of really well-written, beautifully illustrated comics that have done exactly that. I think it’s a great time to be a comic book fan, as the traditional superhero stories, which still exist in droves, become better than ever while also making room for less traditional stories. There’s a diversity in storytelling that exists right now, and more of a willingness to critique and to accept criticism, and I think we, creators and consumers alike, are all the better for it. I can only hope, as we transition to this new year, that comics continue to improve and that the rest of the media I love does the same.
Happy New Year!