Overwatch? More like Watch Over, AmIRight?

Recently, during the brief moments I’ve had time to spare, I’ve been hanging out in a new Discord server. By which I mean it’s an old Discord server that I’ve been a part of for several months, but it is new that I’m hanging out in it. The people there are pretty nice and they all think I’m cool (or at least they’re always happy to hear from me when I show up), but they’re all trying (gently, in a friendly and only mildly pressuring way) to get me to play Overwatch with them. They’ve been unsuccessful so far because they make just as many points about why I should stay away as they do about why I should redownload the game, but what managed to break the mighty temptation I felt watching them last night was the fact that Overwatch 2 requires you to add your phone number to your account if you want to play the game.

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Watching TV With My Sister 150 Miles Away

I’ve been watching Steven Universe with my younger sister over the last few months. For the most part, it has been a few episodes at a time becasue she’s even busier than I am, but since July, when we went on a group vacation with one of our siblings and a couple of our friends, our watch sessions have grown less frequent but longer in length. After all, the first few months of watching were all of the light-hearted early days of the show. After our trip, we’d moved into the emotionally complex and somewhat difficult portion of the show, where the bad stuff starts to pile up and Steven goes from being a happy-go-lucky young kid to the responsible, serious leader of the Crystal Gems. We have another session coming up (a couple days before this posts) where we’re going to finish Season 5 so that, on her birthday, my sister and I can watch the movie and then Steven Universe Future in one go. I’m even driving out of the state to visit her so we can watch in person with our sibling and maybe some of my sister’s friends.

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The Splatoon Comm Error Saga Continues

After spending a week struggling to find every single possible issue that could explain why I kept getting an error claiming my Switch had lost connection to my router, I spent the first twenty-four hours of the most recent Splatfest trying to enjoy myself between instances of getting temporarily banned from continuing to play. Nothing I’d done had worked. It had maybe decreased the frequencey of the issues, which was probably enough to hide the problem in the week leading up to the Splatfest, but with all of the heavy traffic and multiple hours of playing that weekend, the lost connection issues resurfaced. I spent time on Saturday doing more research, once I’d gotten so sick of being banned that I decided to call it quits for the night, but it was one of my friends who gave me the tidbit I needed to confirm the actual source of the issue.

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The Second Coming of Splatfest

I’m writing today’s post in the brief period between the end of my work day and the start of the September Splatfest. I’m excited to play a bunch of Splatoon 3 with my friends, especially if the fixes I’ve done to my Switch’s internet connection managed to eliminate all of the wireless errors I was getting. It would be amazing to be able to play for multiple hours without getting kicked out of a match because my switch hiccupped hard enough that it lost connection with the internet. I’m still a bit nervous, though, since I’ve been too busy, sick, and tired to do much video gaming the last few days and I’m not sure if the one night of testing I’ve done was a fluke or a reflection of the fixes I did. Only time will tell, unfortunately, but I’ve set myself a pretty relaxed schedule for the next few days so I’ll be able to walk away if I wind up getting connection errors that leave me feeling frustrated.

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Working Out, Body Image, and Aching Muscles, Oh My!

After a couple weeks of trying to take it easy on myself (and potentially against my best interests since I’ve at least got a cold if not mild COVID), I’ve gone back to doing my full workout every morning. It’s not an intense routine, focused as it is on daily rides on my exercise bike, a bunch of bodyweight exercises meant to work out all my muscles just a bit, and a plethora of stretches mean to loosen all the muscles I used and help counteract some of the effects of getting older or spending all day sitting or standing at my desk. It’s more of a “be healthy” workout than a “get ripped” workout. I don’t particularly want to be ripped since none of my work these days calls for a high degree of strength and I don’t particularly like feeling big and bulky. If anything, these workouts are hopefully going to make me feel less bulky as I lose weight. Once my muscle mass has stabilized, anyway.

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Years of Pandemic Precautions Vs. One Coughing Doctor

I have made it through two and a half years of this pandemic without catching COVID-19. It is entirely possible I was asymptomatic at some point, but I’ve tested every time I’ve had a potential exposure to the virus or any of the symptoms and come back negative every time. So far as I can tell, I’ve managed to avoid getting sick through a combination of good masking habits, having the privilege to work from home as needed, and keeping my exposure to the public at large to a bare minimum. Now, as I spend a week working from home that was supposed to be in the office, coughing and sniffling my days away, I find myself struggling to accept that I might have gotten it from a doctor I saw earlier this week.

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Digital Impermanence

I’ve always been a little suspicious of digital ownership and things that exist only online. Even back in the early days of buying CDs on iTunes and being forced to log in to my account if I wanted to listen to them on my computer, I was always a compulsive downloader and hard copy producer. After all, you could get around the limits of iTunes if you burned a CD and then ripped the songs off the CD using a different service than iTunes. Made it a lot easier to transfer music from the family PC (which was the only PC connected to the internet in my family’s house for a very long time) to my personal laptop (which wasn’t allowed to connect to the internet and didn’t even have wi-fi capability since I bought it with my saved-up babysitting money when I was 13). It’s not like I was giving the music to anyone or sharing it with people. I just wanted to get the Scrubs Soundtrack: Volume 2 from the family PC to my laptop so I could listen to while I wrote stuff or played Age of Empires II.

Since then, I’ve felt more and more justified in my mistrust of digital ownership as the primary vehicle for a lot of modern media. The internet is full of stories of people losing access to their digital libraries, either through unrecoverable music service accounts, closed amazon prime accounts, the ever-present specter of death coming to claim an old online game’s final servers, or the more recent sudden deletion of media as a new aspect of the usual corporate grift by a company working its way through consolidation. Not to mention the bevy of single-player games that had an always-online portion to them which now can’t be played because that online component is no longer supported by the developer. Plus the weird sites I can’t find anymore that let you digitally own movies before every single major network or movie studio decided to create their own streaming platform, while they were still resisting digital ownership on iTunes and Amazon. You know, the websites you used to go when you wanted to redeem the digital copy coupons that came in the big DVD/Blu-ray combo pack for major film releases.

A pretty frustrating picture begins to appear once you toss in all the other egregious examples of digital rights abuse like a huge number of NFTs, digital art theft (I’m looking at you, “AI” image production algorithms and those bots that scrape social media sites to create and sell unlicensed t-shirts), and plain old copyright infringement. The legal system just isn’t really for digital rights management and the existing systems are an enormous mess of one-off decisions that have somehow managed to shape the industry. It’s a huge, complex web of rights, legal systems, and capitalistic abuse that I’m certainly not going to be able to solve here. Hell, I can barely even comprehensively complain about it without needing to do some research to ensure my complaints are at least factually correct.

The one corner I feel the most qualified to discuss, given my own experiences, is the video game side of things. For example, I’ve been struggling lately with playing Splatoon 3. The game keeps disconnecting my switch from the internet despite my efforts to remove any barriers that could explain this weak connection on my end, to the degree that I’ve begun to get temporarily banned from online play when it happens. What’s most frustrating is that there’s very little of the game that I can enjoy on my own without using the internet. The primary focus of the game is the online matches and whatever system is in place to connect people might wind up preventing me from connecting at all. This isn’t the first game I’ve had this level of trouble with, or even the most egregious offender (though it does have an immediacy that is frustrating because it is otherwise an amazing game). I’ve had days of being unable to play Destiny 2, lost access to an Assassin’s Creed game, and own a whole pile of unplayable digital titles that I can only get access to if I spend money on moderately old Nintendo systems (my Wii’s network card just doesn’t work anymore).

It’s a frustrating problem, to own something and be unable to enjoy it. A problem that’s becoming more and more common with every passing year, as old consoles die, leaving game discs to gather dust in the corner since any attempt to maintain access to that game other than though official channels (which frequently means paying again) is treated as piracy. I’m not entirely unsympathetic to getting developers paid. Despite production costs skyrocketing (which is it’s own entire week of blog posts), game prices haven’t changed, making them more and more reliant on DLC, in-game purchases, or high sales volumes to make up the cost. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to pay more for a game than we do, and I don’t really mind paying yearly for updates to games like Destiny 2. After all, that’s a whole year’s worth of new content for another sixty or one hundred bucks or whatever. It’s pretty easy to justify paying that much when you consider that people pay ten to twenty dollars for a two to three hour movie. I get way more out of a video game that I’d get out of three or four movies (or two movies if you buy snacks).

Anyway, this went pretty far from my original point of digital ownership being the primary means of owning media these days. What really started this whole thing was the idea that anything we do on the internet, any digital media, would be available indefinitely. All of that is contingent on platforms being maintained and I think we all know that the current environment means that companies will start tossing shit aside the instant it becomes more profitable to do that than to maintain the platforms they’re running. I’ll be genuinely surprised if there’s anything but personal data downloads left of twitter by 2050. I wouldn’t be surprised it if was all gone by the year 2030, too. I know I sound old-fashioned and like a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but try to make sure you’ve got local copies of all your digital media, that you have the tools required to shift it from one form to another, and that you’re prepared to lose access to things you’ve been told would last forever because they’re digital. People said the same thing about books once and look at what happened to the Library of Alexandria. Nothing lasts forever.

The Changing Season Through My Window

After what felt like a lifetime, summer has ended. Fall is here in all its bright, colorful glory. The trees have begun to change from the pale, warm, or emerald greens of summer to the various browns, scarlet reds, muted yellows, and eye-catching oranges of Fall. It is a slow process, where I live, striking seemingly at random rather than in the calm orderly manner the trees displayed when coming to life in the spring. Different trees of the same type begin to change in their own time, content to merely overlap instead of coordinate. Spots of red appear at random and the giant green tree outside my window has four parallel streaks of orange in it, like Fall somehow passed by and rent the summer from its boughs with massive claws. Already the parking lot fills with fallen leaves and the summer heat fades into the haphazard warmth and chill of the changing season. It has been barely four months since the trees finally tore free from winter’s grasp and I find myself wondering if that is part of the reason so many branches stayed bare this year.

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