What I Read, Watched, and Played: 2018 Edition

I used to write up a sort of look back at the year in cultural objects I examined and I’m going to try to get back to that. For years I’ve kept a list on the blog of the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen, and the games I’ve finished. This has usually been for my own benefit — it’s helpful when I’m in the library and looking at a book quizzically to be able to search for it on my site via Google. But at the end of the year, it also helps me look back a bit.

2018 was the year I read. Hoo boy, did I read. I finished reading 279 books this year, which is about 100 more than the next nearest year I’ve had with books since I’ve been listing them in the blog. There were a few reasons for this:

  • I wasn’t able to play games due to an injury. More on the injury in a week or two, but less time spent playing games meant more time reading books.
  • My kids are grown. Less time spent with kids means more time reading books; it also means fewer movies, since in any given year I’d probably watch upwards of 50 movies that were with them.
  • Fewer films. See above. I saw a bunch of movies this year but fewer than most years. Part of that is having the kids out of the house, which meant that I spent more time with the movies I prefer and less with stuff that appeals to kids.
  • Getting off social media. I decided to leave Twitter for good in August, and had been lessening my use over time through the year as well. It wasn’t making me happy. I deleted my Facebook account for good this year, although it had been disabled for years, and although I dabbled with Instagram I remembered that it too was Facebook and I quit that too. I love being able to be in touch with folks I know mostly through Internet connections but… the draw to be always on those things is strong. So, goodbye to all that, as they say. (I do still manage the Dev Game Club account, but that’s strictly for interacting with listeners, the only account it follows is Tim’s.)

Aside from that, though, there were some other trends in my reading.

  • I read more by women than men. A few years back I read only women authors for a year, and that had the intended effect: it exposed me to more women authors with whom I keep up on a regular basis. I had looked at my list in the couple of years prior and seen them hover in the under 25%, and that dismayed me, because it meant I was missing out on huge swaths of reading about the human experience, which is why I read so much anyway. I’m really happy with this trend, and it’s essentially 50/50 now.
  • I read more by people of color. I don’t have hard numbers on this, but I look through what I’ve read and I see names where I recognize the authors as people of color. I didn’t make a special effort, this just sort of happened, but it’s a nice trend.
  • I read a ton of genre fiction this year. Part of being exposed to more women authors was that I was looking specifically for those authors who might expose me to new ideas in genres I already enjoy, and the other part was that after Ursula K. Le Guin’s death early in the year, I both read (or re-read) several of her books and started looking for other voices. For horror, that meant a couple of books by Tanarive Due, for example. For mysteries and thrillers, that was Karin Slaughter and Kathy Reichs and Laura Lippman (and also Dorothy B. Hughes, who wrote novels back in the 40s). For fantasy, that was Laura Anne Gilman and N. K. Jemisin, for example.
  • I like reading projects. I have a bunch of them going on right now, and these tend to be series of novels in the case of long-running character genre stuff, or reading all of John McPhee, for example. I started doing this sort of thing a few years back when I revisited all of the Spenser series and all of John MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. So I often have a few of these on the go.

As far as films and games go, the biggest single influence on my film-viewing this year was probably attending a film festival with a friend. We watched a lot of movies together and I’m hoping we’ll get the chance to go again this year. With games, I was pretty much limited to what we played for my podcast with Tim Longo, Dev Game Club.

The biggest change in how I play games, though, has come from streaming them as I play. Around the middle of the year I thought I might start streaming those games on Twitch as I played them, and now I’m finding myself playing games as much as six or seven times a week on my Twitch channel¹, which is fun. It really enriches my experience of the games to be a more social experience. I don’t have tons of viewers, but I enjoy my chatter with my regulars tremendously. In addition to whatever we’re playing on the podcast, which is what I normally play on weekends, I also try to fit in a couple of hours with a JRPG most weeknights. It’s a welcoming group and while we talk about the game in question at times, we also just shoot the breeze.

So, what next?

I said above that I like to have reading projects going, and I do, so I’ve definitely been thinking a bit lately about what sort of projects I’d like to pursue as far as reading goes in the next year.

Naturally, I’d like to see the balance in my reading continue, and I’ll keep a vague eye on that. I’ve found that really enriches my reading experience. But I’d also like to move away from the fairly steady diet of genre fiction to other sorts of things — more classics and deep reads. I’m going to have to figure out how to do that. In all honesty, if I read fewer books altogether but more books that left a lasting mark, I’d consider that a big win — this includes looking to read something like Moby Dick or War and Peace this year.

As far as films go, I’m going to try to winnow my Netflix streaming list down to things I actually will watch and consider cutting that particular cord this year. I will maintain the DVD service, because most of what I enjoy from Netflix is actually not streaming anywhere. I’m also going to try and mix in films from Kanopy, which is available to me through my public library. I didn’t even watch ten movies a month this year, so having that many available to me each month through Kanopy might just be enough, in addition to what I see in the theater.

With games, I’m enjoying playing down my backlog through regular streaming play. I’ve got hundreds of games I’ve paid for and never played, which is silly, so no time like the present. Plus, I enjoy hanging out with that gang.

Last but not least, I’m also hoping to spend more time blogging this year — I’ve made it kind of a goal to blog once every couple of weeks as a minimum. This will continue to be the sorts of things I’ve wrote about in the past, whether that’s some particular aspect of mechanics or just general commentary on some game I’ve played or am playing.

I hope all of you out there reading have a great 2019 in culture. I’ll continue to measure out my life in pages and frames.

¹Obligatory “like, share, and subscribe” message here. Also: shout-out to a podcast listener, Matt Alan Estock, for his help in getting me squared away as far as getting going with streaming, especially with retro games. It was hugely helpful. (back)

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