Top of 2023

My top albums in 2023

What I realized thinking back and looking at stats is that I relisten albums extremely rarely in the past few years. I keep pouring new music to my “listening todo list”, and it’s like a never ending chore trying to chew threw it. So if I came across something great, I was happy that I did, but still I rushed onwards to the next one. I picked the most listened albums from the past year below that I had some standout memories of, but I’m sure there were at least a hundred that I loved but don’t even remember.

I want to change this next year, and consciously keep some great albums on repeat for longer. Perhaps take more walks or bike rides with just music playing, instead of this year’s podcast and audiobook craze that overtook my on the go listens. I was also toying with the idea of getting a MiniDisc player so that I can have some great albums as physical discs and stick to them like I did in the old days. Btw, I absolutely love the idea of an MD player, I’ve always regarded that as the single best disc format and never had the device itself. Just needs a bluetooth adapter for convenience, but otherwise it would be perfect.

Back to albums, the absolutely clear winner of the year is Strength by Unto Others. This one album got the replay treatment heavily. It spoke to me this year like nothing else.

My top artists in 2023

I didn’t use the export for the albums because I had a cyberpunk atmosphere music playlist that I played on repeat a lot and trashed my stats for the year. The playlist was partly playing during some Cyberpunk Red RPG sessions, but I also kept it running a lot on travels, especially when flying (that’s one I always have synced offline). I don’t think it’s representative of album plays, but for artists it makes sense—these were artists I loved to hear all year long.

My top live music in 2023

It wasn’t an extremely packed year for live music, but the standout moments were strong.

When seeing Weval in Paradiso we climbed up to the second level balcony, which was pretty much completely empty at the beginning of the concert. We found a small bench and moved it right to the middle of the stage two stories high, sat down, and this is how we enjoyed the most amazing electronic music live act and visual show from the recent years. It was like some absolute royal treatment, we were literally laughing at how lucky we were. The music was a rollercoaster of genres and moods, building from idm through uptempo electro to breakcore. And the visuals were building with the show, it started from some extremely simple lights, and ended up with a full stage wide, intense animation. It was perfection.

This was the year when I first met Dr Rubinstein, during ADE, at the He.She.They party in Shelter, and it was love at first contact. That level of energy, impeccable taste in selection, perfection in dj technique, and complete control over the audience. It was a benchmark of a dj set on a level that I haven’t heard in years. Funny thing, I originally went there as a fanboy for Ellen Allien, and Rubinstein stole my heart.

My top movies in 2023

I set out for this year with the determination that I want to watch more movies, and I did. I watched 97 movies, which comes down to about one movie every four days on average. All that while watching a couple of series, too, like binging through the entire catalogue of Bosch, and keeping up with some of the currently running shows. So yeah, this was an intense year for film. Now, as for what all those movies were… I wanted to take it easy, took on lots of lighthearted comedies, and went all in for adventure flicks. I guess it was all about compensating and keeping afloat while other parts of life were shit on occasion. Anyways, what it all comes down to is having seen lots of movies, checking off a bunch of Watchlist items, and getting positive energy, so I’m fine with what I had, even if my yearly average rating is not setting records.

Looking at the top list, it was mostly about random surprises. Again it got proven that my hunches work really well: seeing just a few shots from most of these movies I already knew I would love them, and I wasn’t disappointed. The colorful creativity of Three Thousand Years of Longing, the my kind of sci-fi atmosphere of Ad Astra, the nostalgia-infused hilarious entertainment of the Beastie Boys Story, the slowly building space horror of Life, the weirdo humor of They Cloned Tyrone, the jumpscareless gripping thrill of Talk To Me, the stunning art style of Entergalactic, the silent melancholy of The Midnight Sky were the most standing out. Interesting that none of these were well-advertised blockbusters, but they are far from being some kind of art house cinema, so what are these?

The Spidey animation is obviously the big screen one here, so that’s the line of demarcation, after which the complete randomness of my Watchlist kicks in.

My top series in 2023

Bosch had parked on my Watchlist for a few years now, and finally I took a stab at it, and one and a half months later I found myself done with seven seasons plus the Legacy series. I loved the flow of it and the stories, but in terms of art it couldn’t beat those other two.

Mrs Davis is like a spiritual successor to Dirk Gently—absolutely unhinged, every turn unexpected. I would love to say more, but I really can’t. It’s not an experience you describe. It’s something you show, if you want someone else to experience it.

Arcane killed my soul so that I literally had to build back. I actually had to take a pause of like two months at some point because it was just too much. It is an absolutely shockingly strong story that I am sure I have never seen in animation ever in my life (not to mention the surreal good art style), so I just had to finish it, but it literally took a toll. I was willing to pay, still. It’s like speeding to a chasm and you just cannot not be there for the ride if you know it exists.

My top audio dramas in 2023

I started taking walks during the day this year, to stand up from my desk more instead of working through eight hours straight just sitting still. This was when I realized audio dramas exist. These three were actually the first ones I listened to at full length, and I was shocked that this format exists on this level of quality. I also tried some others, but those didn’t stick.

Batman Unburied came out as the top one because it makes use of the format like no other. It is a piece of content specifically crafted for this medium, and since this was a new medium for me, it was extremely exciting to hear how it plays the notes of this format.

The Long Night on the other hand won me out with the atmosphere. It was like a new season of True Detective but audio.

My top game in 2023

Cyberpunk 2007 took me like three tries to get into it, and then suddenly 117 hours passed and I had a hard time getting out of it. I did all quests, side quests, gigs, every content and all endings of the original game. Great story, music, visuals, atmosphere, characters. Two things I loved most: the power fantasy and the open world.

A friend of mine said how much of a power fantasy this game is, and I realized how true that is. Sniping with a rifle, then running into action with parkour moves, dashing in air, splitting heads with a blade, quickhacking people and systems, and hearing your own cyberpsycho laugh, while industrial techno is pumping loud. It’s a mad cyberpunk fantasy dream.

And the world. What I loved most about the side quests and gigs was that they showed such corners of this city and what’s beyond it, that I would probably have never seen otherwise. I could discover depths, heights, entire sprawling micro-universes of their own, within, above, under, and outside the metropolis. The level of detail and the options to discover are insane.

Dishonored (2012)

I loved getting lost in the gloomy and bizarre art of this game. A dark trip in the intersection of steampunk and gothic. The main story is supposedly playable in 12 hours, so I guess I stuck around a bit more with my 30 on the clock. I ended up doing the completionist track, but often I found myself doing just long and lingering looks around, pausing in the gameplay and making note of many details of this beautfully grim world.

Video games are better than movies

There is all this fuss going on about the new Diablo title that Blizzard announced and which is going to be a mobile game. I have mixed feelings about that but that’s not why I opened this post now. I was listening to Rhykker’s reaction video to the story and I found a comment underneath that hits really close to how I feel about games as a medium for years now.

“It is clear to me that the last line of defense against this orwellian nightmare is the gaming industry as the rest of the industry has gone bye bye in terms of neutrality and meaningful content, im referring to the media, hollywood and tv.
Theyve tried endlessly to destroy the gaming community but we have been resilient and stoic amidst this onslaught of social-political venom which only strives to dumb down stories which would otherwise have meaning in people’s lives hence making them free and imaginative thinkers.”

So, along the same lines: I think there are so many overwhelmingly satisfying narratives in video games that no other medium can come even close to. Maybe books. But games still have the potential to be visually pleasing too, and the interactive nature of the medium is another wonderful aspect.

The best thing you can hope for in movies nowadays is that Netflix picks a project up, believes in a team enough not to over-control them, and just maybe they don’t fuck it up. And even then stories are easily sterilized, censored or at least watered down to cater for a larger audience and meet a certain age restriction badge. And it is so disappointing. Going to the cinema to watch my favorite IP’s new instalment or a new and promising flick and end up with something subpar – in the past years this happened to me way more times than not.

In games even the biggest blockbusters can bring such jaw-dropping stories with so much less compromise. Take the Witcher 3 for example. There are so many notable elements in that world from interesting through magically enthralling to crazy-ass horror, but they could pull that off in an AAA quality fashion with quite some investment and still make a shitload of money on it. They didn’t need to remove any weird characters, sick visuals, or flashing boobs to meet an age group. They just put together what felt right and what could tell one of the best interactive stories in the past decade, and it sold. Because it feels right. Because this is what a great product looks like. And because people are not complete idiots and they like when something is right. (At least that’s what I hope.)

Probably there could be many thoughts to be added here to come to some clever conclusion. We could look at all the social dynamics going on in the world, and how economics are shaping up, and what practices are working in terms of sales and marketing, or how the corporate world works when such huge money is at stake. But I don’t want to make some clever point as a conclusion. I just want to express that I am so disappointed in how the “story industry” works these days. And whatever explanations may be wrapped around all this, it is unfathomable for me why most of the industry is only capable of producing mediocre shit while the actually good stuff clearly sell great, too. This is probably some kind of money politics that are beyond my comprehension. But it doesn’t make the whole situation less of a let-down.

Ah, I am reminding myself to the title of this post, so just before I end it on a fully depressed low: most of the movies are shit, but on the bright side there are brilliant games and they just keep coming. So fuck it Hollywood, we are fine on Steam and GOG.

Mark of the Ninja

This game had very nice artwork with great atmospheric music and just enough action-puzzle platformer gameplay. I wouldn’t go for all the extra material and achievement hunting but the 10 hours was well worth the playthrough. One thing bonus was the ending: I totally didn’t see this beautiful piece of art coming at the conclusion of the story. That I would replay a few times just to look at it.

E3 2018

Feeling psyched for a bunch of stuff. It is completely insane what is achiveable realtime in-game. Below are some notes in order of the volume of cheers.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a waiting for ages that I don’t mind. I so don’t want to rush this. Although I am quite surprised of this first trailer, it is much more cartoonish than I expected. On the one hand that’s an interesting take and turn that I may not mind. On the other hand I was expecting something more dark and sharp. Anyhow I think this will change quite a bit until its release so we shall see, long way to go.

Ghost of Tsushima seems like the Witcher 3 in Japan. Everything said. (I clocked 175 hours in the Witcher 3, not a second I regret.)

Beyond Good & Evil was one of the most important gaming
impressions of my younger years, it carved some memories and moods into
my mind. Seeing this getting a sequel and in this quality and change in
tone, well, that’s something that leaves words stuck in my throat. I just hope it makes such an impression on the current generation as it did on me back then.

Anthem still cannot make a mistake, it gives me goosebumps with everything it throws at me. The whole universe and all its features make me excited.

Starfield has this oldschool sci-fi tone to it, which triggers a shut-up-and-take-my-money on me. Somewhere in the corner of my mind also brings up memory of Interstellar Marines, which had the same effect but failed so miserably. Although not a real comparison, IM was an indie endevaour so… Anyway, looking forward to what this will actually be about.

Dying Light was the strongest atmosphere in a game after Witcher 3 in the past years that I kept going back for. Seeing such a generative world building aspect to it in Dying Light 2 just blows my mind, can’t wait.

Rage 2 is the latest DOOM with a Mad Max skin on it. I don’t think it’s much more than that but that is just enough to make this list of mine.

Last of Us 2′s stealth moving around schools even the latest Tomb Raider by a ton of miles. It is absolutely amazing, like watching a movie.

And lastly: DOOM Eternal. That latest DOOM was a smash in the stomach. Once I upgraded my rig for the latest games’ ultra graphics level this was my first test field – and it just smashed. Such brutal speed and action that you can only get from a DOOM game. I am a bit wondering though if they can pull this off two times in a row. We shall see.

Soulcalibur 6. 🙂

Max Payne 3

First I was pissed that after one night of playing I got through to the half of the game, so it was going to be a 10 hour ride tops. And didn’t like the fact that it was basically a rail shooter with cutscenes and shootouts following directly one another.

Then in the second playing session it just clicked: the story got grimmer by the minute, the events went gruesome, Max Payne turned into a killing machine as in John McClane meets John Wick but way darker and with booze and pain killers, and I felt the rage of Doom but with the inherent feeling of the nothing-left-to-loose death wish. And then, getting close to the finale when I had to shoot my way through an airport terminal while Health’s Tears was thumping overwhelmingly in my ears, that moment made this game finally unforgettable.

Totally didn’t expect Max Payne 3 to be anything close to the first or even the second, and it wasn’t, it was a completely different setting but the mood, they nailed it again. Oh, and the writing, quotable quotes all over, Max Payne is a poet.

Continue reading “Max Payne 3”