2020 A Personal Retrospective

You don’t have to scroll too far back in my blog to see what high hopes I held for 2020. The beginning of a new decade, and putting an end to the worst decade of my life. It felt like the right time and the stars were aligning to make 2020 a real direction-changer for me. It was going to be the beginning of something special.

Well, we all know 2020 wasn’t exactly the “best year ever.”

However, I’m also going to be the first to admit it was far from being the “worst year ever.” Yes, there were challenges and things didn’t always work to plan. But 2020 was still a far cry better than, for instance, 2018. And it was perfection when compared to any year between 2010 and 2017. So I’m not here to bury 2020, just to remember it.

I will say the first six weeks of the year were as close to perfect as they could have been. I was so happy. I was working on my MLB The Show rosters because I wanted to kick off MLB Spring Training on the actual date and play a full season on the game in franchise mode, so when the offseason hit I could make the transactions as I saw fit.

And this plan worked up until COVID-19 shut down baseball for almost five months.

At some point in mid-February it felt like everything changed. Where as everything had been so perfect those first six weeks, there was a negative connotation to everything and when we went on lockdown, it felt like everything had fallen apart. My new year/new decade triumph wasn’t a loss, but it was shaping up to be far from what I had anticipated, which I am sure was the case for everyone on earth, not just me.

One of the highlights of February and March was getting Doom Eternal for my PlayStation 4, as I was a huge fan of the original Doom games dating back to the Super Nintendo in 1996. And I was so happy with Doom Eternal that I also bought the Doom Slayer’s Collection, which covered several of the games for the newer consoles I hadn’t played before.

March, April and May were enjoyable because I played Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II all the way through to completion, back to back. But I played II before I because I wanted to play the games in chronological order in regard to the timeline of the games. I also was neck-deep in watching old western shows and movies.

Looking back, I wish I had taken that time to play my baseball season on MLB The Show and saved the Red Dead Redemption games for winter.

June and July are a complete blur. I have no idea what I was doing during that time. Clearly nothing constructive. I wasn’t even taking time to smoke cigars or watch Star Trek or do any of the other things I wanted to do even before baseball had been rescheduled. The very idea that I just threw time away like that annoys me to no end.

August brought “MLB Training Camp” and a sixty-game season. So I got a couple of months of baseball and that was enough to whet my appetite for MLB The Show, so when the season ended I downloaded the latest roster and began making all the real transactions (and a few of my own with the White Sox that weren’t made in reality but that I wanted to do) so that when Spring Training 2021 comes, I can do what I wanted last year.

I was also concerned when the season ended about what direction I was going to go in terms of entertaining myself for the winter. I used to play one of the Grand Theft Auto games to completion back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and in 2015 began a yearly tradition of playing a Batman Arkham game as soon as baseball season ended.

This year I thought about immersing myself in Spider-Man games, shows and movies. I bought several Spider-Man video games, as well as the early 1980s cartoon series and the 1994 cartoon series, as well as the original movie trilogy on Blu-ray.

Then, by a complete fluke, I happened onto the show Chicago Fire. And I realized I had my winter all sewn up. So I bought eight seasons of Chicago Fire, seven seasons of Chicago P.D., five seasons of Chicago Med and one season of Chicago Justice on DVD. I started watching them in chronological order, along with the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit crossover episodes. As of today (December 18), I am 111 episodes into a 448 episode marathon, with new episodes set to begin in January 2021.

Enjoying these new shows has definitely been the highlight of the year for me, because I haven’t watched a “current” show since Family Guy debuted in 1999.

So, as 2020 comes to a close, I can’t say I’m altogether thrilled its over, like a lot of people can, but all the same I’m ready for a new year. I’m also ready to do the things I neglected to do in 2020, like working on my White Sox franchise on MLB The Show, smoking cigars and just enjoying life. And working myself back into good physical shape.

In closing, on a scale of one to ten, I’d give 2020 a six. I can’t really complain but I did miss out on a lot of opportunities I’d hoped to take advantage of. The major positives (finishing both Red Dead Redemption games and beginning my fandom with the Chicago shows) definitely outweighed the negatives this year. And I guarantee no one on earth is looking at 2020 ending the way they had anticipated or wanted. Hopefully 2021 will remedy that situation and everyone can move forward with their hopes and dreams.

Peace.

My Thoughts On The Red Dead Redemption Series (SPOILERS)

Red_Dead_Redemption

This won’t be the most timely blog I’ve ever posted, considering that the original Red Dead Redemption was released on May 18, 2010, while the sequel, Red Dead Redemption II, was released on October 26, 2018. I bought both immediately upon release (though Amazon, so I didn’t receive them on release day) but I didn’t play either of them until now, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown and the lack of Major League Baseball.

If that wasn’t odd enough, I also played them out of order. I played RDR2 before I played the first RDR, which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as RDR2 is actually a prequel, and ends where the first game actually begins. So I’ll review the series in that order, beginning with RDR2 on the PS4 and then covering RDR on the PS3.

It took me roughly 30 days to play my way through 100% of the story mode of RDR2, playing roughly two hours per night. While I was slow to get started, within a couple of days I was completely hooked. The main playable character, Arthur Morgan, is great. He is the ultimate anti-hero. I enjoyed controlling him every bit as much as I did Batman in the Arkham series. Graphically, the game is incredible. A huge open-world, missions that actually make sense and smooth storytelling are some of the highlights of RDR2.

The first RDR is a step down on every level, but that’s to be expected since it’s being played on an inferior console. It took me 16 days to play through 100% of the game but I also put more time in per day. The main playable character, John Marston, is also a playable character in RDR2, following the death of Arthur Morgan. The point at which you take over John Marston was a negative for me on RDR2, and that feeling continued when I played RDR1. I just wasn’t a fan of John Marston as a character.

Just as you have to transition from Arthur Morgan to John Marston in RDR2, you have to transition from John Marston to his son, Jack Marston, following John being killed near the end of the RDR1 story mode. I found this transition much more enjoyable, as I think Jack Marston would have made a great main character.

If there is ever to be a third entry in the series, it would be better to roll it back before the events of RDR2, because there is a lot of talk about what happened prior to the game’s beginning, while the events involving Jack Marston at the end of RDR1 are taking place in 1915, not the best time frame for a game set in the “old west.”

I’m not crazy about the concept of a prequel game being followed by another prequel, but it would be better than nothing and would help to flesh out the story in RDR2, which opens with the Van der Linde gang already on the run after a botched ferry heist in Blackwater. A third game could cover the attempted ferry heist and what lead up to that point, including how the Van der Linde gang came to be together in the first place.

RATINGS

RED DEAD REDEMPTION (2010): FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE

At first, I was going to rate the game three stars out of five, but I realized I was unfairly holding the hardware against the game. Yes, the PS3 isn’t as good as the PS4 and it’s really obvious when playing RDR1, especially in the cut scenes. Bad camera angles were a really bad problem as well. However, when taking that out of the equation, the game is outstanding. The story is really good and well written, but there are quite a few wild goose chases searching for Bill Williamson and Dutch Van der Linde. This is especially annoying when in Mexico. It made the game feel overlong even though I finished it in nearly half the time it took to finish RDR2. There’s just too much “down time.”

RED DEAD REDEMPTION II (2018): FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE

There’s really no other way to say it, other than MLB The Show, this is my favorite video game of all time, and I’ve been playing video games since 1983 when I got my ColecoVision console and fell in love with Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr. It’s perfect. The graphics, the gameplay, the story telling, the game mechanics, it’s all perfect. The cut scenes are must-watch (whereas I found myself skipping the cut scenes on RDR1 by the time I was 75% through story mode). My only complaint was that Arthur Morgan was killed and the story transitioned to John Marston, but I understand why that was done given the fact that the entire RDR1 game revolves around John Marston and his family.

If you enjoy gaming and you haven’t played both of these, I can’t recommend them enough. I would, however, suggest you play them as I did, playing RDR2 first since it’s a prequel. It makes the story flow better between the games, with the only negative being going from the PS4 graphics to the PS3 graphics. But it’s well worth it in the end.

Thank you for taking the time to read. God bless.

 

Red Dead Redemption II: How Life Imitated Art… And The Closure And Happiness I Got From It

Red-Dead-2-3

For the past month or so I have been playing Red Dead Redemption II on the PlayStation 4. I originally bought this game when it was released (October 2018) but neglected to actually play it until April 2020. Apparently, MLB and MLB-related offseason activities were keeping me from being able to spend the time necessary to enjoy the game.

(That’s probably not accurate since I’ve played the entirety of the Batman Arkham series in the past 5 years beginning when the baseball season ended)

Today I reached the sixth chapter of the game. Today I also had a friendship I had hoped would develop into more end after knowing her for over a year and literally nothing going anywhere. So how are these two happenings related?

I woke up this morning to a message in my Facebook mailbox basically telling me to take a long walk off a short pier from the girl I had been pursuing. While this isn’t the first time, or the fifth time, it is the final time. How does that relate to Red Dead, though?

Today, my character (Arthur Morgan) received a goodbye letter from the woman he had pursued in the game prior to the story beginning and had dealt with on a few occasions during the game, drawing out their history and issues.

Mary's letter

I’m not going to include the full text of the letter here simply because the relevance isn’t in the details, its just the fact that I got to enjoy two curb-kickings in one day.

On the plus side, watching Arthur put the letter away and go back to work without giving it a second thought was a great motivator to me. Not that I was as crushed as I had been the other nine times I’ve endured this, but I was down enough that it ruined my day.

This was the wake-up call I’ve been needing for a long time. I have been trying to fool myself into thinking I was “relationship material” for too long; over 15 years, in fact. And the fact is, I never was, and I never am going to be. Deep inside I’ve known that for my whole adult life, but I guess it took a video game split to make it hit home in real life.

So, I’ll get this out of my system today and tomorrow is a new day, and a new era. It should have been already because 2020 was supposed to be the new start, and for six weeks it was. Then I hit a little detour. Tomorrow will put things back on track, like they should be. Today I lick my wounds, and tomorrow I go out into life a little smarter than I had been.

All thanks to Arthur Morgan getting dumped by his should-have-been girlfriend, Mary.

Life is truly beautiful…