A summary of things I “finished” in 2019, with comments.
In 2019 I had my second child. Having one kid (born in 2014) actually opened up a lot of free time for my hobbies, since I had to stay at home most evenings, but with two kids there’s so much to do that my free time this year suffered. I still found time to make games, but I didn’t have as much time to sit down with a book or movie/TV show. So much programming takes place in the brain at all times; the time spent in front of the computer is mostly implementation of plans.
Books I wrote
- Shine and Glow Reldni (first draft): A short, semi-fictional account of Reldni, a 90s video game developer
Games I made
Games made: 7
Not too productive this year, just a few short jam games, but I like how my first narrative game Cabin ended up.
- Cabin: A short, narrative-driven experience about a sad family history, made in Bitsy.
- Mini Lights Out: Lights Out puzzle game for CHIP-8.
- Patrick’s CHIP-8 Challenge: Puzzle game for CHIP-8, based on a Reldni game.
- Pico Hexagon: Super Hexagon for PICO-8, in 280 characters.
- Pico Puzzle League: Tetris Attack/Puzzle League for PICO-8, in 560 characters.
- PICO-@: A soulless roguelike for PICO-8 made in the 7DRL jam (7-Day Roguelike). Not very interesting.
- TEMPRES.P8: A puzzle game for PICO-8 in 280 characters.
Books I read
Books read: 35
This year I read about half the number of books and pages as I did in 2018. I also finished the first draft of a book I started writing a couple of years ago. As I write this, that first draft has been laying dormant for almost a year again, but when my paternity leave is over I’ll probably pick it up. I still managed to read a bunch of books and listen to some audiobooks, though!
I had a small obsession with true crime, and I read a few books on game programming and design. I finished my re-read of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (and Urth) and started his Long Sun series as well, but only read the first book (a clear goal for 2020). After Game of Thrones ended on a sour note, I decided to pick up A Song of Ice and Fire and read the first four books.
The year ended with reading a couple of books on my current obsession: Computing history. In fact, I just started writing a book about an obscure piece of computing and video game history, which I think can turn out pretty nicely. Soon I’ll have two different first drafts collecting dust on my hard drive!
- Joey Comeau – We Are Become Pals: I don’t really remember this, a sweet little YA thing, by one of my favorite authors.
- Christopher Ryan – Sex at Dawn: Interesting popular anthropology book about the history of sex that I picked up after liking Sapiens last year.
- Michelle McNamara – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: I only found out about the East Area Rapist after he was captured, but it’s such a fascinating case that I listened to a lot of podcasts about it, and read this book by Patton Oswalt’s late wife. It’s too bad that she didn’t live to see him behind bars.
- Paul Holes – Evil Has a Name (audiobook): Another look at the EAR case, from one of the detectives who investigated the case and the final suspect.
- Ian McGuire – The North Water: A great book that reminded me of a mix between Moby-Dick and The Terror.
- Gene Wolfe – Nightside the Long Sun: Very different from New Sun. Basically a sci-fi heist novel starring a priest.
- Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles: A poetic and tragic novel narrative about the Trojan War and Achilles’s fate.
- David L. Craddock – Dungeon Hacks: I had a brief interest in “roguelikes”, turn-based strategy games that are procedurally generated. This is a nice overview of the genre.
- David L. Craddock – One-Week Dungeons: The annual Seven Day Roguelike competition, or 7DRL, is a week-long game jam where people make roguelike games. I joined it for the first time in 2019 and read this to prepare, which follows a bunch of developers over the course of one 7DRL.
- Kurt Vonnegut – Slaugterhouse-Five (re-read): Still one of the best books I know.
- Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep: Great book about sleep. I read it, got scared of how I will die early or get dementia from my bad sleeping habits, and then promptly decided to forget so I can leave peacefully in ignorance.
- Rudyard Kipling – The Adventures of Mowgli: After reading Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, I learned that Wolfe loved Kipling, and that one of the stories in his books was heavily inspired by Mowgli stories. I’d never read any Kipling before, and only seen the Disney Jungle Book movie, but I liked this a lot. It wasn’t really what I expected, which is so often the case with the classical canon.
- Robert Nystrom – Game Programming Patterns: As I’ve gotten more into game development in recent years, I decided to do some studying of how to structure games properly. This book lays out many common patterns in games, and was very educational.
- Alan Weisman – The World Without Us: I bought this book 15 years ago or something, and for some reason didn’t read it until now. I don’t remember much of it now, but it’s always chilling to think of the world with humans gone, like in the I Am Legend movie.
- George R. R. Martin – A Game of Thrones: After the TV show ended so badly, I wanted to check out the books. I started this one a few years back but never finished it. Glad I did now; it’s amazing.
- Jon Krakauer – Into Thin Air: I loved Into the Wild by Krakauer and am very interested in Everest, so this was a nice read.
- Kristin Storrusten – Barsel (Norwegian): Poems about child birth by an acquaintance of mine, read when my son was born.
- George R. R. Martin – A Clash of Kings: It’s amazing how close to the source material those first seasons of Game of Thrones were.
- Gene Wolfe – The Citadel of the Autarch (re-read): Review
- Linn Strømsborg – Aldri, aldri, aldri (Norwegian): Novel by a friend of mine about being childfree.
- Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Ruin: Great sequel to Children of Time. Like the first novel’s spiders, this one also has an uplifted species of Earth animals that are still very alien to humans: Octopuses. And actual alien lifeforms maybe.
- George R. R. Martin – A Storm of Swords: Probably the high point of the series. Great book where lots of stuff happens, including some stuff that doesn’t happen in the show.
- John le Carré – The Little Drummer Girl: I love le Carré, although this was a slower and more introspective book than the Smiley books I’ve read before.
- Madhuri Shekar – Evil Eye (audio): A short audio book told through phone calls, which was an interesting format.
- William Gibson – Alien 3 (audio): The screenplay that was dropped, dramaticized with a full cast. Very cool to hear it after so many years.
- Josh Malerman – Bird Box: Like A Quiet Place, except that instead of not being able to speak, you can’t look at the monsters.
- George R. R. Martin – A Feast for Crows: Much slower than the first three books. This one took me a while to get through.
- Paul Tremblay – A Head Full of Ghosts: Shirley Jackson-esque book about ghosts and/or mental illness. Interesting format, with a kind of “true crime” blogger (whose identity is revealed later in the book) narrating an old case.
- Tracy Kidder – The Soul of a New Machine: Interesting story about a team who developed a computer in the late 70s.
- Gene Wolfe – The Urth of the New Sun (re-read): Review
- Heidi Bøhagen – Feltnotater fra småbarnslivet (Norwegian): Funny comic about life with small kids. Very relatable.
- Stuart Ashen – Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of: Novelty coffee table books about old games that aren’t very good.
- Paul Freiberger – Fire in the Valley: Fantastic book about the early days of personal computers. I wish I lived through the late 70s and early 80s.
- Ted Chiang – Exhalation: A fantastic new collection by the short story master.
- Billy Jensen – Chase Darkness With Me: Another true crime book by an amateur private detective.
Games I played
- Asemblance: Very weird game. Cool premise, but indecipherable story.
- Asemblance: Oversight: Mechanically similar to the first game, but much more interesting.
- Return of the Obra Dinn: Fantastic detective/puzzle game with a great aesthetic. Anyone interested in game development should read the devlog.
- Untitled Goose Game: Charming, short game that I liked but forgot quickly after completion.
- Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection: Remasters of three good games I played years ago.
- Assassin’s Creed III Remastered: I fell off of AC3 back when it first released, but this time I
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag: Very fun take on the AC franchise. The way the over-arching plot turned after AC3 didn’t work for me, but the rest is good.
- Control: A super fun game. Lighter on the narrative than Alan Wake, one of my favorite games ever, but stronger on the gameplay. Just a real blast to play.
- Prey: This was free on Xbox Game Pass, so I tried it out, but it really surprised me. I didn’t care much for Dishonored, but this game really sucked me in.
- Outer Wilds: My favorite game of the year, probably the decade, and maybe ever.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remastered: I bought a Nintendo Switch just for this game. The original was my favorite childhood game; it taught me English, and made me fall in love with video games.
TV shows I watched
- Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes: What a crazy dude. I can’t imagine how it was to follow this case while it was going on.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion (re-watch, new Netflix dub): I actually really liked the new dub (although it’s weird that they say stuff like “He’s the First Children” like the Japanese “Engrish”).
- Rick and Morty season 3: Still dumb and still funny.
- The Good Place seasons 1 & 2: Feel-good sitcom with some funny moments, but the hilarous ones are unfortunately few and far between. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it feels a little too slick at times.
- Mindhunter seasons 1 & 2: Really good show, amazing casting choices.
- You Me Her season 1: Very silly, and the plot is dumb, but the scene-to-scene jokes are surprisingly funny.
- You season 1: Surprisingly clever show. I liked it all right! Although I’ve heard I shouldn’t bother to watch season 2, so I probably won’t.
- Chernobyl: Great miniseries, just like the other miniseries with Jared Harris that I love, The Terror.
- True Detective season 3: After so much true crime this year, I was glad that this show started up again, and even gladder that this season was on par with the first.
Movies I watched
- El Camino: Almost exclusively fan service for people who miss Breaking Bad (but don’t those people watch Better Call Saul?), but I still enjoyed it immensely.
- A Quiet Place: Not sure why this film received so much attention; it’s basically just any old horror/action flick, but definitely competent.
- Blair Witch: I love the first movie, have never watched the second (it seems very dumb), and liked this one okay. Many weird choices (didn’t care for the leg leech) but ultimately I liked the direction it went.
- Hereditary: Very unsettling and well-acted horror movie.