Review – The Trousers of Time

It’s the simplistic way of explaining the multiverse theory. Whenever we make a decision we simultaneously travel down each and every path, and the universe divides like a pair of trousers with versions of us travelling down on leg each. I don’t like it… it has several huge issues. I prefer universal spaghetti. Here’s why:

We are living components in the most complex Rube Goldberg machine ever, but replace marbles for particles and elaborate conjoining mechanics with fundamental forces. The trajectory of every fragment from the very instant of expansion sets into motion a pattern that would be predictable if you can observe every part. A mass gathers in one location rather than another, a planet forms around a sun that’s astonishingly similar to ours, life begins, crawls onto land, and after several false starts forms a creature that raises a civilisation with a calendar, a complex social structure, and a biology that relies use of tools to survive the environmental phenomena.

The biggest difference between that universe and ours? A meteor strike that would have gone into Jupiter’s outer orbit instead collides with Earth, causing a temperature shift that alters the weather patterns for a few hours just enough to change cloud density, and I decide to wear a coat. In one world I’m too cold and feel like an idiot for leaving it behind, in the other I’m too warm and feel like an idiot for not grabbing a hoodie instead.

Did I still make a decision? Did I still divide universes in two? No, I don’t have that kind of agency. If the meteorological circumstances had been identical and yet I’d made two different choices, then there is an inherent difference between each version of me caused by genetic or environmental differences. Maybe that me has a thinner coat, it looks the same but somewhere in the design process in the manufacture of the coat made a thinner fabric, that affects my decision to wear a coat or not. Or circumstances involving a surprising number of complicated changes of local behaviour meant that I couldn’t buy the coat I currently own and ended up with a different one.

We simply do not have the agency to divide universes, that kind of power in theory only comes about when we manage to observe or navigate between universes, and personally I think that’s when things get more interesting, even time travel starts to make sense and a little extradimensional.

So, at the moment we have a sphere of infinite size that comprises the universe of which we know anything. We have an infinite sphere of universes that comprise all possible outcomes that could have arisen from the initial expansion, every possible permutation of probability. Now imagine that an individual manages to travel through time. The universe in which he arrives is functionally identical except that he has appeared and altered the course of all events, and if he can return to his own time he can never return to his own universe* because he just goes to a future which is changed.

The theoretical existence of time travelling anything be it people, particles, or arthropods with weird defensive measures, creates another layer of infinite possibility, spheres within spheres, and then if you start layering up that’s when things start looking like a Tool video. Tool videos rarely resemble trousers, and vice versa.

So here’s the world we live in. Things happen. You can’t change them. You couldn’t have chosen otherwise, your genetics, circumstances, and passing meteors all change the way you behave, and no matter how powerful you think you are you are a slave to the sloshy chemicals in your head. If you regret anything in your life, then… well stop it. The universe is the way it is, nothing could be anything other than the way it is, and right now these words are either making you feel better about your lot in life, or worse, or neither, and you can’t control that, or how that will affect your behaviour in the future.

In short, this is what there is, go and attend to it. Or learn how to travel between universes, that would also be awesome, actually that would be amazing, an escalation to four-dimensional existence, possible biological changes allowing for… this is a tangent that I’m not going on. Read The Long Earth, watch Sliders, something. Go have fun.

Joel Out.


*Unless he already occupies the universe in which he arrives, that’s “perfect” time travel, and is highly unlikely to have happened in our universe. That sucks but we might still have a few universe-hoppers.

Dungeon Situational – The Arcadia Spell List

Some time last year I made this, the Pandemonium spell list. Well, it sparked something, and for a while now I’ve been picking away at a project that creates sixteen new wizard subclasses, one for each of the outer planes. Today I present the polar opposite of Pandemonium, Arcadia, a plane of law in the name of the greater good, the pursuit of perfection and harmony by rigid obedience and tireless work.

This will be the fifth complete wizard school, with Pandemonium, the Nine Hells, Mechanus, and Ysgard, with Hades and Limbo close behind. The completed product will be published somewhere as a downloadable pdf from The Shropshire Dungeon Master.

Continue reading “Dungeon Situational – The Arcadia Spell List”

GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet – December: Gift Wrapped

Hey Joel, why were you late to the last ever GeekOut pre-meet? Well I’d like to blame it all on the traffic, getting into town was something of a nuisance because of all the extra people trying to get somewhere, and yes, Frankwell carpark was rather full of shoppers. But to be honest, my tardiness began well before then, I was held prisoner in my own home, emotionally blackmailed and manipulated into staying put for as long as possible…

Anyway…

Pre-Meet – The Pour House

Non-alcoholic espresso martini, good stuff. Pre-meet was far more relaxed than average, nobody desperate to break out an early game, mostly conversation and relaxation, a little light commiseration on the end of an era but generally a cheerful face turned toward the future.

Main Meet

After last month I still hadn’t sorted the games out in my car, thanks to Callum for helping me out with that one, took us a while to load up the trolley and there were a couple of hairy moments with Zombie Dice and magic cards almost falling into the boot of the car and chaos ensuing but we made it through. Now, the future of the boot of my car looks even worse, as it is overburdened with parting/christmas presents. But seriously, thank you to everyone.

I had an early christmas present to play with, and I did… but honestly I got thoroughly stuck into a cycle of Resistance and visceral rage. Walk away, socialise, talk to people for a while, be ready to go again, get my feelings hurt by people I thought I trusted… Oh and Magic! Played some Magic.

There were hugs, plans were made, presents were exchanged… and then I guess we left! Wow, this one went really fast.

The Box!

Oh yes, I didn’t forget about this one! In January you pledged yourself to certain geeky targets for the year, but how many other groups will hold you to your word? New Years Resolutions are so much more meaningful when they come back to haunt you in December.

READ THE CARDS, THEY TELL NOT YOUR FUTURE, BUT YOUR PAST, BECAUSE PAST IS ALL THAT REMAINS!!

Next Time

Oh…

How To Top 10 (Like What We Do)

One of the greater pleasures of working for GeekOut has been the weekly Top 10s. They’re shamelessly pandering, entirely subjective, and we did them for the consistently high views they brought in, at least to start with. It turned into one of our greatest collaborative projects, not a difficult thing in terms of a writing challenge, but as a matter of cooperation, deliberation and debate it has been something that Tim and I have loved and hated, not quite in equal measure, but enough to motivate us week by week to produce something that many of you came back to us to read regularly.

So how do we do it?

GeekOut Top 10s

Thursday – Discuss

I’m frequently out on a Thursday night gaming at a local pub, and I frequently stand up to leave saying “Right, I’m going home to have an argument” which is only slightly hyperbolic. When we began the list it was purely via chat, constant recapping of our content and order, and it would take hours. When we made the move to a google doc it dramatically reduced the time this section took, dependent on how well we’d agree on definitions as they pertain to the heading of the list, or how well certain entries qualify. Some weeks, astonishingly simple and smooth, others infuriatingly long and filled with torturously long and granular deliberation.

It’s a simple process of positing a candidate. Many are self explanatory, some may require explanation if one or other of us are unfamiliar, or if the link to the title is not wholly obvious. Last week’s Suspiciously Cheerful Tunes as a prime example, my first suggestion for the list was Candy Man in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Little needed to be said, and despite it being my suggestion, Tim took the reigns of writing the entry, only missing the deific qualities of Willy Wonka ascribed to him by the song, otherwise capturing its essence, promise, a lure to damnation. Conversely, Tim had to give a quick summary of Porky Means Business, as I’ve never played Earthbound, and we had something of a debate between Drs. Horrible and Steel.

After we have sufficient entries, and maybe a few too many if it’s been a particularly fruitful topic. We’ll argue the merits of one entry over another, often earmarking certain outstanding entrants as going straight to the top three, or pushing them to the bottom for little consideration, with only a few changes made until we’re done. Finally we divide up the list between us to write, and call it an evening.

Friday – Write

The writing process often drives us to research more deeply than we initially intend. While some subjects we’re more than knowledgeable to spit out a couple of paragraphs, or perhaps having to kerb our enthusiasm and restrict how deep our explanation goes.

Sometimes we’ll add something that we know only as “common knowledge”, those things that you absorb as part of being part of the culture. Occasionally we are driven to extensive googling on the matter, sometimes cribbing off the compiled lists of others or simply delving into a topic until we uncover something. It makes the process of writing a matter of learning, and hugely beneficial. Courtesy of recent lists I now know a surprising amount about Pikmin for someone who has never played a single title in the series, the same with the Pink Panther, various mythologies, and Robin Williams.

Usually Tim takes command of the framing work, the introduction, and those intermediary paragraphs between sections, what we refer to as “the spiel”, although I take up the duty from time to time, especially if I’m light on entries I can viably write adequately, or if I have a particularly quiet Friday to look forward to.

Saturday – Publish

Once the blue button has been pressed on a Friday night there’s little left to do. The final product is complete with relevant screen captures, images, or videos for each entry, and finally the vote for the following week.

Once it was the case that Saturdays would see a discernible spike in viewership, these days we’ve attracted a high enough number of regular readers that Saturdays aren’t much more than a wiggle in our day-to-day viewership, and while it’s not so noticeable a thing as to ascribe entirely to the work we put into each and every Top 10, I for one consider the work we’ve put in over the years of collaboration on our lists a key factor in our own improvements as writers… or at least my own.

Honourable Mentions

It’s been a strange transformation over the years, but the honourables list began in our first list because we had too many bears that we couldn’t bear to omit. Over time we made adding a couple of extras to the ten mandatory, and over time that part of the list became a place for entries that were not quite right for the list but had some quality that expanded the definitions, thinking outside the box, but thinking about the box as it were.

You might say that we began riffing off WatchMojo, I’d like to think that these days we produce a more compelling list than they do, but now that we’re only a couple of days from our penultimate list, it feels right to reflect for a moment on the strangest highlight of our time on the internet.

Theros: What Is Ashiok Up To?

It’s astonishing to remember that Magic: the Gathering’s first foray into the Grecian myth inspired plane of Theros was six years ago… actually closer to seven, and for those of us who are interested in the lore and the ongoing narrative, there has been a lot crammed into that time! The formation of a new set of core-heroes, there war with the Eldrazi and Nicol Bolas, two of the biggest foes to threaten the multiverse, culminating in a war that resulted in some big, high profile deaths among the ranks of the Planeswalkers.

In all that time, we still don’t have a damn clue who or what Ashiok is, or what he/she is up to.

Also, I’ve seen references to Ashiok as male, or at least male pronouns so male pronouns is what I’ll be using, but still, let’s put that down as one of many markers that build upon the mystery of his identity and nature. There are no fixed points upon which to stand with the Nightmare Weaver, his face is a wisp of black vapour, pouring from between a pair of slender horns like a shroud, the lack of eyes making him inscrutable and disquieting. We do not know his plane of origin, but I’ve seen some solid support to the idea that he’s a former vizier of Amonkhet, his attire has similar designs, and his horns have a similar curve to God Pharaoh Bolas.

During the previous events of Theros, Ashiok managed to manipulate the particularly potent dreams of the polies (the people) and briefly created a god. He started wars, played puppetmaster to people in positions in power, and endeavoured to put the entire plane to sleep so that he could harvest their dreams forever. In a world where dreams can create deities, Ashiok is at his most powerful, which raises questions to his efforts in the War of the Spark, but presumably he simply answered the same call that summoned the others… actually, who’s the Wanderer- y’know what, that’ll take me too far off topic.

So, new Theros block, the land of the dead is “leaking” souls, following the return of a mysterious God of Destiny, Elspeth is also returning, a zombie planeswalker with a grudge against the gods. And Ashiok, he’s back, and appears to be better than ever. Having been rendered invisible to the gods, he’s free to pursue whatever machination he pleases, and I can damn-near guarantee that he’s got something to do with the return of the new god, and his affiliation – if not outright allegiance – with Phenax, the god of lies and his host of zombies, will no doubt be working in his favour somehow.

This looks like a mythological zombie apocalypse story, orchestrated by the god of lies, the real villain of the whole piece. That’s cool, undead centaurs, minotaurs, sirens, the works, it’s going to be great. But ultimately, there is a mystery that appeals profoundly to my sense of aesthetics, a creature that manipulates nightmares, it has no origin, and yet it has impossible power to manipulate minds and it toys with the motives of gods, all with a faint and disquieting smile. I like mindscapes, and the creatures that haunt them, I like the idea that belief creates gods – it’s the Pratchett fan in me – and I like blue/black mana decks. Ashiok is my kind of mystery, and I look forward to knowing more.

A brief moment of conjecture before I wrap this article up. I suspect that Ashiok is building a weapon, a new mega-horror like an Eldrazi but totally under his control that he can take home and seek revenge against… something. If he did come from Amonkhet it may be that he wants the world brought under his control and the remaining gods wiped from his path, but there are other planes, many others, and there are a handful that have been hinted at in a few post-war releases.

And a lot of Planeswalkers died recently, leaving the multiverse highly vulnerable, the Gatewatch is shattered and picking up their own pieces, Elspeth is going to have some personal stuff to deal with by the looks of things, confronting her own death and a few of her old Phyrexian demons… but there’s someone back in the picture with experience and talent for killing planeswalkers. And he’ll probably be keen to get into a fight with anyone screwing with people’s minds.

Christmas Saga

The last week or so in the UK has been pretty damn grim, and while I am hideously behind on my Christmas shopping, there is at least one part of the season I am ready for. World building is something of a passion, and over the last… let’s see… eight years? I have been building a world, a mythology of Christmas that I use for a host of role-playing games over the festive period. It’s a story I have told over and over again, adding a little more every time. Here is the story to date, concisely summarised for you.

The Archipelago of Misfit Toys

A band of slightly broken toys escape solitude and captivity among the broken and discarded things of the world, and in their bid for freedom they come across a freedom fighter, Bannock, Gingerbread King of the candyfolk, the only creature capable of evading the elfen wild hunt, dashing through the clouds on their one horse open sleighs. By helping one another they overthrew Santa and his hunt, sneaking into his feasting hall through a tunnel opened by the Muffin Man, driving the Slaver of candy, the dark lord of festivity, into the darkness and obscurity.

The Castle of Teeth

In a faraway village the children brave the cold and the dark to do mischief, acts of rebellion, fights, gorging themselves on sugary treats. Only tooth fairies could cause such havoc, finally freed from the service of Santa Clause, they can do whatever they please. Fortunately King Bannock has friends, the ones who taught him to sneak and creep, a group of Bogeymen whose duty it is to keep children safe and fearful in their beds, to teach them the wisdom of caution. Through the hall of lanterns where teeth burn, revealing the disposition of each child – be they naughty or nice – and into a secret cellar, the Bogeyfolk halt a plot to build a Krampus of their own, that would abduct children and feed them to the fey.

Long Live the King

King Bannock is dead. His champions take the long climb up Mt Verdance Eternal, a conical mountain fraught with beguiling hazards, baubles that dangle your greatest desires before you, twinkling lights that are malevolent fey that would lead victims into deep gorges, and the twisting, shimmering, Tinselworms. At the top, an angel, of the order Solar, who alone may declare the name of the heir to the Sugar Throne. Only a deceptive and cunning confection can keep his people safe, a member of the resistance… the Muffin Man… now the Muffin King. Only one champion crawled down from the sacred mountain to share the news.

Unholy Night

A prison of festivity hides deep in a cave, in which the words “HO HO HO” are gouged with deep claw marks upon the walls. A handful of Santa’s truest disciples climb down to try and free the Fey Prince who once ruled the solstice. Through malice and carnage they work their magick upon the locks, dragging a sacrifice behind them, and conduct a powerful ritual, hanging stockings with care, ensuring that nothing stirs, leaving an offering before the fireplace… but the creature that stepped free of the chimney was not who they expected to find, a puppet and his master, a servant of the Black God of Candy, the Bittersweet, Bartholomew Basset.

The Factory Awakens

A hidden fortress in the snow has sprung to life, brightly coloured packages loaded into the back of a cart that already has a team of reindeer tacked and harnessed ready to fly, but no elves work here. A team of assorted Christmas Champions attempt to sneak their way inside to learn more, fighting their way past the clockwork guards, sneaking into the factory floor to find the place overrun with long-legged scaly creatures that laugh and sing, and giftwrap chaos for a whole new year to begin!

This Saturday… the story continues. A nightmare being guides the hand of cruel old St. Nick, and despite the best efforts of good, and honest heroes, it’s looking less and less likely that there will ever be a silent night again.

90’s Nostalgia

It’s begun a little prematurely, but it has already begun.

In our last decade we saw an overwhelming flood of love for the 80’s in media, Stranger Things being one of the biggest flags waved on that particular hill, but the resurrection of Mad Max, the themes weaved into Guardians of the Galaxy, Legion, Joker, a few ill-advised reboots and remakes, and while there wasn’t such a clamour to see the return of big hair and shoulder pads, there was a definite rush to see the return of a certain colourful aesthetic.

Well, the thirty year wheel of nostalgia is turning, those of us who most keenly remember the 90’s in TV in film are now well into their thirties and entering positions of power within the film and television industry, and rapidly all of those “90’s Kids Will Remember” memes are about to become the guidelines to a whole era of mainstream media. So what have we got to look forward to over the next ten years? Well how about a Jumanji reboo- oh hang on…

We’re not going to roll back to the days of playing GameBoy games in short bursts by street light, and this decade is more likely to see a few deaths in the physical media market than a return to floppy disc, CD and cassette – well, unless cassettes make a vinyl-style comeback. We might see retro gaming reunite us with the old black and white, heavily pixelated game style, and while it won’t be anything new to create pixelated games, I suspect we might see some low-poly graphics like Superhot become a growing vogue over the next five years, an effort to evoke the days of emergent console gaming, days spent crosslegged in front of CRT monitors playing early renditions of Street Fighter and Mario Kart, on their first Playstation or SNES.

Tamagotchis are already circling the mainstream again, weirdly I can see the incredible growth of mobile gaming and the GO-gaming era creating some new Tamagotchi style trend. Not that one can’t get a Tamagotchi app, but they’ve hardly exploded the same way Pokemon Go did. The handheld gaming market exploding in the 90’s could spill over into the mobile market as well, I can envision a greater boom in mobile games in the years to come than we have seen before, driven by those kids who so fondly remember their first GameBoy.

Television and film, the titans of the 90’s were – for the geekier kids – Buffy and the X-Files, and not forgetting Charmed. Of course there were the Star Treks and various other space-faring sci-fi’s that some might consider a golden age, but I suspect that Star Trek has shot its proverbial quiver. We might see Babylon 5 resurrected, but I suspect it’ll be the teen-appeal horror that makes a return, 90’s kids sick of Twilight just waiting for the right time to step up and “show these kids how it’s done!”

Sitcoms never go away, they’re a universal constant, and the Seinfeld formula of “Friends in New York in a Coffee Shop” has the potential to make a comeback. I’d love to see the trope blended with the kind of dark-backdrop cartoons like Hey Arnold, Doug, and Recess, some kind of blend of cheerful fantasy set against harsh reality… seems like we could do with something of the sort at the moment.

So many of the television themes are about the outsiders perspective. There may be nothing more iconic than Daria, I’d argue that it’s a version of the 90’s that will linger longer than the likes of Friends, but time, and the release of a new Jay and Silent Bob film, will tell… maybe Bill and Ted 3. Better, I think, to see a return of flannel shirts, baggy jumpers, and Doc Martin boots, than to raise Mr. Blobby from the dead. Who wants another Spice-Girls decade when we could bring back Deftones instead?

I for one, look forward to the 2030’s. Assuming a natural progression and no apocalyptic event in the next ten years… as unlikely as it may be, I anticipate a new age of long leather coats and films ending with nu-metal tracks.

Legion

Seek television that breaks concepts down to dust, a story of the mind that tinkers with perception, deception, time and personality, every bit as warped and alien as a dream. All of those arguments you’ve ever had about what a superpower should be capable of are great fodder for a creative mind, but it’s so rare to see the product of those arguments come to mainstream television. This kind of arthouse flexing of the thought muscles, toying with metaphors brought to life, the landscape of the mind turned into a battlefield, that’s usually the reserve of Sundance Festivals and indie game developers.

Legion, a series based on a lesser known X-Men character, and played by Dan Stevens, who you’ll know if you watched Apostle on Netflix at all. Legion is the son of Charles Xavier himself, and like his father he is a staggeringly powerful telepath, actually a great deal more powerful, but there’s a few complications attached to his ability. At a very early age, David Haller was subject to a dark parasite that piggy-backed off the strength of his mind, another telepath – Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, disembodied but no less alive, arrogant and malevolent, and harbouring a vendetta against David’s father.

Now, whether it was because of Farouk, the strain of carrying the indomitable will from an early age, or the side effects of having the bogeyman that haunts you for decades, or if it was already part of his mind, David… Legion, suffers a host of mental health issues, not least of which being dissociative identity disorder on a massive scale. He’s a bucket of voices, a classroom of toddlers piloting a psychological tank, and the results are amazing.

Where Legion breaks the comic book mould is that war between telepaths isn’t an action packed romp of explosions, gunfire and thrown fists, they’re wars of words, and emotions, and concepts, which leads to battles of song, dance, hallucinations, haunted-house style walks through memories, and the reshaping of reality, not just mental reality but the physical world.

The series features surreal and dark performances from Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement, predominantly comedy actors but masters of the strange, and brilliant at creating unsettling characters. One can never be certain if Aubrey’s character, Lenny, is real or a mask of the Shadow King, worn to gain trust, even to the very end it’s near impossible to know for sure. As for Jemaine’s character, Oliver, is never entirely certain if he is real, being so wholly attuned to his own mind and the myriad worlds and sweet jazz therein, that his body has become a fiction to him.

The “side cast” are also arranged to explore psychological concepts; memory, identity, loss, dependence, addiction, and all of the madnesses that dog these parts of human interaction, and because they each represent a part of the human condition we get chance to explore their feelings and their characters through interconnected narratives that drive towards a single, many layered plot.

It’s all strangely beautiful, and set to a 60’s/70’s backdrop, colour scheme, and soundtrack, meaning everything is cast in this psychedelic clash of colours and images, equal parts horror film, musical, and emotional drama, but dotted with anachronisms to  There’s astonishingly little in common with anything else based in a comic book universe, although I’d say it has fingerprints in the Joker, being based on the struggles of mental health. We’d have seen something like it in the New Mutants, a project so quagmired in production limbo it looks set to sink into oblivion.

But it’s more than just comic books, I don’t remember the last thing I saw that was so willing to violate the basics of narrative to the point where it becomes an aesthetic study of character rather than a straight forward beginning-to-end story. And sure, there’s a narrative to follow, but it’s impossible to know what parts are story, what parts are fictions, what takes place in the mind, or out of it. This is television that plays with the medium, rolling camera angles, shifting aspect ratios, clever transitions, unapologetic use of colour motifs, even the recaps that begin some episodes replace “previously” with “apparently” or “ostensibly”. When season three introduces the mere concept of time travel, it’s not a shark jumped, more a continuation of themes, themes of warped narrative and the inherent instability of the mind. We cannot trust our narrator, not the accuracy of his story, or his motives, or the way he perceives himself.

The only thing I’ve seen come close is American Gods, or perhaps Westworld, and more should be done like it, mentally challenging, shifting sands of ideas that force the brain to work harder instead of accepting a linear and heavily simplified story telling upon which our brains grow fat. A little mental junkfood is all well and good, and I’m not saying that this is your meat and potatoes as such… perhaps a more accurate analogy would be that it’s like a long holiday somewhere far from home compared to a weekend in the same old pub. One expands the mind, the other is all too comfortable to promote active thought. There’s nothing wrong with either, but too much of one makes the other lose value.

Infinity Train

A few years ago I stumbled across a pilot for a possible cartoon series to star Ashley Johnson in the lead role. That pilot became a series, that series will be getting a follow up some time next year, and there’s a handful of short episodes somewhere that I haven’t seen.

The series takes place on a train that is, unsurprisingly, infinite in length, and comprised of extradimensional cars that contain worlds that conform to a strange and alien theme. Kingdoms ruled by dogs, nations of sentient water blobs who are terrible salespeople, caverns of crystal that alter with sound, worlds where reflections can gain independence from their caster, that sort of thing. The cars reorder themselves on a whim, and some require quests to be completed or revelations to be reached before they will reveal a door onwards, some are just hard work.

Main character, Tulip, is a young programmer and games designer who flees a troubled home life to get to a design camp, and takes the train oblivious to how it’ll interfere with her plans. Suffice is to say that the train turns into a journey of self discovery, and she gathers new friends along the way, because it’s a kids show, of course she does, and one of them is a robot with mental troubles of its own, and the king of all corgi’s voiced by Ernie Hudson because hell yeah he is!

I won’t lie, I tend to evaluate any intellectual property based on how easily I imagine running a role-playing game in the setting and using the rules inherent to the world, and by that category alone I’m pretty well sold. Characters could start with a fixed level of mental disquiet, and every step of their journey either brings them closer to, or takes them farther from the revelation that will point the way home. Sessions are based on cars, their are enemies… allies, and all of it is in pursuit of personal betterment… like Quantum Leap… but it’s a train.

How can hindsight be so flawless if we use rosy tinted glasses to see it? We look at the kids shows of our youth as “the golden age”, hell, I’ve had plenty of arguments with people about who got the best era of cartoons, but the truth is we only remember the good ones. When I was a kid I watched Hey Arnold and Recess (also starring Ashley Johnson), and that’s still good TV, it’s dated surprisingly well over the years. But we also had Bodger and Badger, Teletubbies, and the Men in Black cartoon series. And it’s easy for us to watch kids TV now and say “Well this is terrible, we’d never have sat through this!” Well, we did, we just forgot because it wasn’t very good.

We’re already confronted with a generation who grew up on Adventure Time, of which I’m already a fan, and I think that – given another season or two – Infinity Train has that kind of potential. It doesn’t shy away from thoughtful dialogue, challenging issues, or emotional moments, nor does it dress up every heartbreaking moment in clunky metaphor, we see the unpleasant home life that drove Tulip to flee home, and we understand the struggle she’s going through. It’s a situation many children suffer with, and it can present them with challenges that are horrible and confusing, but all too real. And slowly but surely we see her come to terms with her situation, and that’s not say that things automatically get better for her. There’s a happy ending that’s not “happily ever after”, but accepting, and powerful in its own way.

Ok, it’s also a kids show, I’ve no doubt with a subtle change in target audience – like if this was an anime instead of a western cartoon – it’d be able to go a little darker, take things a little more seriously, maybe even take a more dramatic stance on the adversity Tulip faces; it’d be nice for more animation to embrace the melancholic. But I won’t lie, I’m curious to see what a second season of Infinity Train can offer. The trailer already shows that we have a new protagonist, but thanks to certain events in the first season we keep Ashley Johnson’s character, Tulip. There’s also no malevolent force controlling the train, so I’m curious to see what adversity our new hero faces.

GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet – November: Away Team

Merry November everyone! A quiet GeekOut this month, and a relaxing one at that, I even managed to play some games for a change…

Premeet – The Hole in the Wall

Might have forgotten to take photos in the Hole in the Wall, after a while that may have proved a conscious decision due to… let’s say disquiet in the immediate vicinity. Still, a couple of great games of Magic in which I was – for some reason – picked on mercilessly for the sole crime of playing a black/white allies deck with a mean streak. I also took the time to pick some brains for ideas, mostly gap filling for the party rosters on pre-generated characters.

Moving on…

Montys

It’s rare for us to play a game at GeekOut featuring a perfectly normal deck of cards, but when it’s a game with excessive and increasingly elaborate rules that’s designed to be won through sheer tolerance as your fellow players drop out from pure frustration, that’s our kind of game. I could hear people writing characters for RPGs, talking video games, and generally enjoying themselves, and ultimately that’s what matters.

I don’t think I talked to many people this month, certainly not everyone because this GeekOut seemed to have barely begun before it was over, so if I missed anyone I apologise. We were suitably quiet that I got rather embedded into a few games, and that in itself is a rarity, where I’m usually buzzing around making sure everyone is attended to and don’t seem to get the opportunity to settle into anything.

Next Month

The last GeekOut Shrewsbury is sooner rather than later, with Christmas a little too close to the last Thursday of the month, we will instead be at Monty’s on the 19th! Keep an eye on Facebook for the details, and don’t forget with it being the December Meet, we’ll be doing the Super Secret Santa: buy a gift for no one in particular up to a spending limit of £5, and if you put a present in you get to take a present out!

We’ll also be opening… the box.