Friday, April 24, 2020

Animal Crossing: Earth Day, Dreamcast: Year One,

I've only done a bit of gaming the past two days. I've ironically been more social than ever during this pandemic. Now all of my "normie" friends are forced to communicate through voice chat, web calls, and discord servers. They are in my world now.

The "Earth Day" event in Animal Crossing turned out to be a bust. It's literally one very small mini-quest a day which earns you additional Nook Miles, a currency I was already swimming in. There's an NPC that sells bushes. I can now craft shrubs. I'm not sure how one really "crafts" shrubs, but I'm a blogger, not a gardener.

The weather has been great this week. In the real world I mean. The weather is always great in Animal Crossing. Which is actually a problem, because I need rainy days to fish up some of the rarer fish. I've never been happy.

Dreamcast: Year One
Back in the halcyon days of 2019, when I could leave the house for a coffee without relieving someone's grandma of her ability to breathe, a little book about the launch year of the Sega Dreamcast was Kickstarted successfully.

(I didn't Kickstart the book, I bought it normally like a normal person after the normal process of waiting for them to (normally) print the things and then sell them for a guaranteed price, you know, like normal. I may not be great with money, but I don't spend it on things that don't actually exist yet. I know lots of people who did Kickstart things like books, board games, and video games and are all perfectly happy with the process. But I've never seen any sense in it. I like to exchange my currency for goods and services, not the promise thereof. Maybe I just lack enough risk tolerance in my portfolio. My entire retirement fund is gold bars buried in my backyard.)

Anyhow, the book arrived from the far flung reaches that is the England, which I was pleased to find still exists in these days. The book arrived a bit scuffed though. They managed to find an envelope that fit the book perfectly. But like a well-fed woman in an evening gown, a perfect fit is not always a perfect fit. I'm a little bit disappointed, I did pay extra for a physical copy instead of the eBook so it would look nice upon my shelf. The spine is in decent enough shape so perhaps it's fine.

I spent ten minutes looking for a joke about judging a book for it's cover. I have remembered that I have never once been funny. Shame that.

My expectations were a bit out of wack for what it was. I was expecting something a bit more comprehensive. A real deep dive into a console that's come to represents both the end of an era (an end of Sega hardware and an end of arcade-focused gameplay,) and the beginning of a new one (online focused gaming). But the book is a little more pedestrian than that. And for $5 (for the eBook) that's really what I should have been thinking.

So with expectations realigned what do we have here? About 23 pages covering the development and launch of the Dreamcast, 38 pages of interviews with gaming media and the then President of Sega America Bernie Stolar, and then about 30 pages of quick blurbs about some of the games that came out that first year.

At the end of the day, I think I would have rather had one full-sized book about any of these topics. But I do mostly like what is here. The intro to the production and launch of the Dreamcast is a story I've read many times, but this was the first publication I know of that focused on the European side of the story. I do hope the author (or someone) will take up the mantle and give it the full book-treatment it deserves.

The interviews are probably the best stuff here. Bernie Stolar has given a number of interviews at this point, so there's not too much new here. His tenure at Sega (at Sony before that) didn't end amicably and he's usually happy to share his thoughts on those matters. The other interviews are mostly gaming magazine writers from the era. These were fine, but the interviews naturally end up about life in the gaming magazine industry, which isn't really what I came here for. The last interview is with the proprietor of the Dreamcast Junkyard, which is a great blog you should binge read if you have any interest in the Dreamcast at all.

The quick blurbs about each game are easily the most disappointing in this book. Only about 20 games get mentioned, and most are about two paragraphs each, which isn't enough to say anything at all. Some of the blurbs are written by the Kickstarter backers. I hate this idea. It's probably great for fundraising but doesn't add anything.

I'm not sure if I'll get Dreamcast: Year Two. I like the idea, but didn't care for the execution. Maybe I'll find myself more satiated with a cheap digital edition. But I really do hope the author decides to go in a more robust direction. There's a lot to say about the Dreamcast, and I'd love to hear it.

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