35mm - title

December, January, and February is usually a time when I try to make a dent in my ever-growing Steam backlog. I buy lots of games on Steam sales, and then end up not playing most of them. So when I do go into the backlog, I always try to emphasize some of the shorter, indie games in the hopes that I can power through several before the big spring game releases start rolling in. This time around, I loaded up an independent Russian game from developer Sergey Noskov, which was very well-reviewed back when I bought it in 2016. Apparently, it's going to be released on PS4 soon, so this review is sort of topical. It hasn't really held up as well as I hoped it would in the almost-5 years since its release.

Ironically, this game is set during a fictional ebola pandemic that has turned Russia into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and I'm playing it during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The game was released back in 2016, long before COVID.

35mm is a hard game to classify. It's not quite a shooter. Not quite a survival game. Not quite a horror game. And not quite a walking simulator. It straddles the line between all of these sub-genres, shifting from one to the other at the drop of a hat, but without ever feeling jarring about it. There's even a few little mini-games thrown in for good measure. As such, there's plenty of variety that helps prevent this game from ever feeling stale. Regardless of whichever genre 35mm is currently residing in, its slow pace, subdued, aesthetic design, and melancholy tone remains consistent. It is this pacing and tone that defines the game much more than any one genre.

35mm straddles the line between walking sim, shooter, survival game, and horror.

We play as a mysterious protagonist travelling across a post-apocalyptic Russia, presumably to get home to see his family. He is accompanied by a travelling companion for most of the game. The history of these characters and the relationship between them are never clearly defined, which feels like its setting up for some kind of narrative twist right from the start. Nevertheless, the companion character acts as a sort of guide through the first half of the game, telling the player where to go and what to do. Unfortunately, since these characters are never very well-developed, any potential tragedy or impact of the final twist (regardless of which ending is achieved) is severely neutered.

What's the deal with the camera?

Even though I can't quite put my finger on what genre to classify 35mm, one thing that I can definitely say is that it is not a game about photography. Given that the game is named for the type of film in a camera, and the camera is featured in the game's title screen and promotional material, I would think that the camera would feature heavily in the game. But this is not the case. The camera is never necessary. It isn't used to progress the plot. It isn't used to solve puzzles. There isn't even a recap of the photos I took at the end of the game. Photographs become a major part of the game's finale, but they aren't the pictures that I took during the course of the actual game.

The camera is not utilized, despite inspiring the title of the game and being featured on the title screen.

So I'm really puzzled as to why the game is named "35mm". It kind of set my expectations a little bit higher than they probably should be. I thought I was going to get something a little bit more artsy and creative. But instead, what I got is a pretty straightforward, linear game.

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If you want to depress yourself going into the new year, go ahead and check out the movie Don't Look Up on Netflix. It is categorized as a "dark comedy&qout; -- a parody of modern politics and plutocracy -- but it rings so true, and is so frustratingly believable given the events of the past 5 years, that I have trouble labeling it as a "comedy". It induced facepalms and fury rather than laughs, and its pervasive bleakness offers no hope for our future. It feels less like a warning, and more like a eulogy for the human race. And I recommend it so completely.

It's worth watching almost for Mark Rylance's performance of Bash Cellular CEO Peter Isherwell. His send-up of an eccentric tech billionaire (think Steve Jobs meets Jeff Bezos meets Elon Musk) is one of the few outright funny things about the movie that isn't also depressing.

I've read some people online suggesting that Don't Look Up might be this generation's Idiocracy. I'm not sure if I agree with the comparison. Idiocracy has a sort of naïve optimism that makes it charming. It is a stark warning of a possible dystopian future brought on by corporate greed, public ignorance, and the out of control birth rate of stupid people. But while the characters are all idiots, they are at least well-meaning idiots. They could and (more importantly) would do right by everyone else if they only hadn't been brainwashed by corporate propaganda all their lives ("Brawndo has the electrolytes plants crave"). It's a world run by, and completely populated by, Homer Simpsons: dumb, but well-meaning buffoons.

In Idiocracy, the average-intelligence time-traveler from the present gets a high score on an intelligence test, and is immediately sworn in as a high-ranking member of the president's cabinet. After demonstrating that watering crops with water instead of Gatorade will cause them to grow, he is promoted to vice president, and eventually elected president. The people of Idiocracy may be the dumbest humans to ever live, but they still value intelligence, competency, and demonstrable truth. There's a hopeful optimism there that things will get better if they can only be shown the error of their ways.

Don't Look Up - presidential administration
Copyright: 20th Century Fox, 2006.
Idiocracy - president
Copyright: Netflix, 2020.
Don't Look Up is being compared to Idiocracy. I'm not sure the comparison is apt.
Idiocracy is far less cynical and more hopefully optimistic.
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Last year, when the PS5 released, I didn't bother trying to pre-order one or buy one after release. I just wasn't very interested in the machine that first year, as there weren't that many games for it. Sure, I was curious to see what the Demon's Souls remake wold be like, considering that is one of my favorite games ever. And I would gladly have played the Miles Morales Spider-Man game. But neither of these (nor the two combined) were enough to sell me on a $500 console. I love Demon's Souls, and was sad when the servers were finally shut down, but not enough to shell out $600 to be able to keep playing it.

I'm sorry Sony, but you really needed more than just a remake of a 10-year old game from 2 console generations ago, and a single sequel to a popular game from a few years ago, to sell me on the new machine. Maybe if Silent Hills hadn't been cancelled, and ended up being a PS5-exclusive launch title, or if Death Stranding or Ghost of Tsushima had been PS5-exclusive launch titles, then I would have been more eager to procure a console.

Everything else that I was interested in was a multi-platform release. I bought Cyberpunk 2077 on Steam (then never played it because the launch condition was so atrocious), and ended up playing Control (for free) via PlayStation Plus. So what the heck did I actually need a PS5 for?

The only 2 games on PS5 worth playing are not worth buying a new console.

I also didn't feel like going through the trouble of trying to claim the limited pre-order supply of PS5s. I thought for sure that in 6 months or so, PS5s would be sitting on the shelves of just about every Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Gamestop, just collecting dust. After all, people were losing their jobs and health insurance left and right due to business closures and city lockdowns being imposed due to a global health pandemic. Surely people wouldn't have enough disposable income to justify new $500 consoles, right?

Well, apparently, I completely mis-judged the situation. Losing their jobs and being unable to even look for new jobs (due to the aforementioned business closures and lockdowns) meant that people spent what little disposable money they did have (as well as the eventual government stimulus checks) on home entertainment products like video games. The video game business (along with online shopping, streaming television services, home delivery services, and video conferencing services) was one of the few industries that boomed during the pandemic, and much to my surprise, the PS5 and XBox Series X | S became the fastest-selling video game consoles in history, despite the supply shortages.

I will honestly say that I did not see that coming. Though I do have to wonder if those sales figures would be so inflated if not for scalpers buying up all the stock with automated bots.

Now it's December of 2021 (holiday season), the PS5 has been available for well over a year, and I'm starting to want one, but can't find one. What's changed? Why do I want a console now, when I didn't want one last year?

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Last summer I wrote that my experience with the COVID-19 pandemic at that time was "pretty pedestrian". At the time, I was optimistic that the pandemic would soon be well under control, despite the absolute ineptitude of our government's initial response. But here we are, a year and a half later, and community spread of COVID is still causing almost as many deaths on a weekly basis as it did at the height of the pandemic a year ago. This is despite the widespread availability of free, CDC and FDA-approved vaccines!

Vaccines are now available for children as young as 5.

My partner and I are vaccinated, as are most of our friends and relatives, but we have a 11-year old child attending public school, and a 2 1/2 month old infant. Neither child is vaccinated yet. The vaccines weren't approved for use in children under 12 until recently, and even then, they are only approved for children as young as 5. We had scheduled for our 11-year old to get the first vaccine shot in early November (the week after it was approved for children in her age group). But in a twisted bit of irony, COVID made it into our household before she could get that shot.

Close calls

We narrowly avoided contracting COVID earlier in October. I was asked by a neighbor to walk their children to school one morning because she and her husband had to go into work early. I was happy to oblige. It's the neighborly thing to do. What I didn't know was that the father is unvaccinated. Had I known, I likely would have refused. And I would have been vindicated in that refusal because their entire household came down with COVID that week. The father is a teacher and was required to do weekly testing. He tested on Monday, I walked the kids to school on Tuesday, the father received his positive result on Wednesday, and the kids and their mother began showing symptoms that weekend.

Lucky for us, none of us got sick. The kids either weren't contagious yet, or we just weren't close enough to contract it from them. And don't worry, our neighbors and their kids are all recovered now.

The next exposure, we weren't quite so lucky.

Our luck runs out

The week before our daughter was scheduled to get her first vaccine shot, my partner contracted COVID. The likely vector for the virus was another child of un-vaccinated parents who went trick-or-treating with our daughter on Halloween. The mother of one of our daughter's friends had been watching him on weekends because his deadbeat mom kept dumping him off on her. He had been feeling sick the week before, but didn't bother to tell us, nor did his mother bother to tell us. I think she just wanted to get him out of the house so that she could get some booty calls.

It's too bad the CDC couldn't have authorized the vaccine for younger children before Halloween.
I imagine we weren't the only ones to catch COVID while trick-or-treating.

We had 2 occasions in which we socialized with children of un-vaccinated parents, and in both cases, we were exposed to COVID. We had been rigorous about making sure that any adults we socialized with were vaccinated. But children couldn't be vaccinated, and we couldn't deny letting our daughter visit with friends. All of her friends' parents were vaccinated, so it never really occurred to us to make a policy of verifying the vaccination status of other childrens' parents. It seems obvious in hindsight, but we just never thought of it.

We avoided COVID for a year and a half,
but our luck ran out this November.

Anyway, he tested positive the day after Halloween, and our kid's friend's mom tested positive a couple days after that. A week after Halloween, my partner started sniffling and coughing while breast-feeding our son. I had her take a home COVID test, and sure enough, it was positive. We promptly put her into quarantine in our guest room (thankfully we have a house large enough to allow us to keep a guest room). And since we couldn't be certain that we had quarantined her before she spread it to myself or our 11-year-old, we were forced to all start wearing masks in the house whenever we were around each other, or whenever any of us was handling the baby.

It sucked. You think it's uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear a mask in public? Imagine having to do it all day in your own home!

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There are days in all of our lives in which our life irreversibly changes forever. A few weeks ago, I had such a day. My partner of 7 years and I welcomed into the world a new baby boy. Little Julian was born via C-section in early October at 7 pounds and 3 ounces, and is so far healthy and happy.

My partner and I welcomed our baby son, Julian into the world in early September.

Regular readers might know that I already have a child for all intents and purposes. When I met my partner, she already had a 3 year old daughter from a previous relationship. We've had full custody of that child, and so I've been raising as my own. Since I didn't even meet her until she was 3 years old, I missed out on all the baby stuff. In fact, she was just finishing up potty training when I met her, so I never had to deal with diapers. I had a daughter, but I never had a baby.

The only time I've ever had to deal with infants and diapers and bottles was years ago when a co-worker and friend friend had twin daughters through (I think) in vitro fertilization. She was raising the girls as a single mother and needed some extra help, and since she lived a few minutes from me, I offered to go over and help watch the babies from time to time so that she could take care of chores around the house. She taught me how to change diapers, feed babies, hold them, and calm them when they were crying. One of the twins was particularly responsive to me, and always seemed to calm down when I held her.

They were my little "practice babies", and I was sad when their mother decided to move out of state to the midwest to be with family. She had limited support here (even with friends and colleagues like me trying to help out whenever we could), so I can't blame or fault her for the decision.

But now I have a little baby of my own, and so that practice is finally paying off!

With my partner bed-ridden after the C-section, I was responsible for diaper changes in the first couple days.

In fact, I had to put that practice into effect almost immediately. Since my partner had to have a C-section, she was bed-ridden for the first couple days after the delivery. This meant that during those first couple days in the hospital, I was on full-time diaper duty. Newborn diapers weren't exactly what I was prepared for. The thick, black, sticky meconium was quite a bit different than what I remembered from the practice twins. Having a boy also meant I had the risk of being peed on during a diaper change, which isn't really a problem with baby girls (as far as I've been told). Though Julian has actually yet to pee on us directly. He did pee on his own face once though. I was holding is legs up to clean him after a dirty diaper, he started peeing while pointing right at his face. He was not a happy baby.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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