It’s the cold, bitter truth: 2016 was a shitty year for everyone, so much so that it’s going to be one second longer than it ought to be. We were all scrambling for whatever bits and pieces of Fun and Happy that we could find to keep us afloat, and thankfully? Some fantastic, geeky things DID roll out this year. There’s has also always been a lot of stuff from ages past to fall back on when you need to. Some members of Girls Got Game would like to share their love.
PAM WITH “THE WITCHER 3: THE WILD HUNT”
I was dragged unto the Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt train by the younger brother near the end of 2015. Heart of Stone had been released by then, and most of my afternoons after work were spent watching him play through the thing with envy.
And then I got a PS4 and bought the thing. Then it was “goodbye, world” for months to come.
Now that I think about it, getting into Witcher 3 a little late made 2016 bearable for me. It’s hella long all on its own especially if you play it properly (“properly” meaning do All The Things). It also has two impressive DLCs. Blood and Wine was released in the middle of 2016 – great timing for a fangirl who was looking for a beautiful escape.
The game single-handedly raised my standards for RPGs and provided immeasurable amounts of inspiration for my own creative pursuits (hi, Waking the Dead!). The cinematics and rendering in the game are some of the most beautiful things on the market already. Combine that with a compelling story that stands well enough on its own in spite of The Wild Hunt being the third in the series, and you’ll find yourself torn between finishing Witcher 3 and its DLCs as quickly as you can or immersing yourself forever so that you’ll always have something great to fall back on.
It took me on a rollercoaster of Feelings and academic geekery that has not been matched since Suikoden or Mass Effect. There’s just so much to love and discourse on about the Witcher world, I don’t even know where to begin. I still owe this website and What’s a Geek articles on it.
If you’ve played this monster already, I am sure you understand how I feel. If you haven’t, play it. Play it now. You needed it in your life yesterday.
NOEY WITH “CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”
Civil War coming to the big screen was a Big Deal for me. Before I tell you why, let me give you guys some context:
I have my dad to thank for my love of Marvel and comic books in general. Dad was a fairly serious collector back in the day, and he didn’t shy from sharing his hobby with his kids. He used to take both me and my brother on trips to Filbar’s – one of the oldest comic book stores in Manila – whenever he’d pick up the latest issue of X-Men. He taught us how to take care of them, and when life priorities changed and collecting came to a full stop, comics stayed a Big Thing for us as a family.
I never pictured myself collecting the way that Dad did. I always thought I’d stick to the compilations whenever those finally came out. But 2006 came around and the source material for the film came out and I – newly graduated from uni with enough of my weekly cash/baon squirreled away – thought to myself: I really, really want this run on my shelf.
Marvel’s Civil War was the first ever comic that I started collecting. This run taught me to put those advance orders in (after a mishap that meant I ended up with a variant instead of a unified set), and that getting the copies fresh off the press is different from digging around for back issues in bins during Free Comic Book Day.
On a more personal note, Civil War also got me through the first uneasy year of Adulting. When you’re daunted by the idea that putting on those Big Girl Pants might mean letting go of things you love. No joke: looking forward to holding the next issue in my own two hands meant a lot for my sanity.
Fast forward seven years later in 2015 – yes guys, the MCU is almost a decade old HOLY SHIT. The trailer drops, I subsequently freak the eff out, then proceed to spend the next couple of months rereading the entire run in utter anticipation. I babble my feelings into a predictions post for What’s A Geek a few days shy of the release, and then wake up really freaking early by my standards so I catch a seat right before my work shift.
And you know what? I was a happy mess of tears watching that movie. The Russos did a fantastic job of taking Mark Millar’s source material and translating that gravitas onto the big screen. As a longtime fan of Marvel, being able to watch the MCU unfold and gain traction enough to lead up to an arc that brought me home to comic collecting was nothing short of amazing. If I could shake their hands and tell them personally how thankful I am that they made that happen, I totally would.
Okay. Who’s game for a marathon rewatch?
PAULA WITH “ROGUES OF THE REPUBLIC”
As far as years go, 2016 hasn’t been that great; that’s the general consensus. But it’s hard to deny that even when the going gets rough, the geeks still get going. This year we’ve seen fandoms rise from the ashes, resuscitate through the power of nostalgia (and a genderswitch that delighted many and enraged more than a few men, which – come on – who doesn’t love?) so it’s difficult to pick just one geek thing of the year and stick with it. (Which is why you’re getting a list.)
Recently, I moved to another country and started a freelancing job that makes me commute a lot. Like any commuter born in the 80s, I seem to cope with the tight spaces of the underground by reading. Among all the books I’ve consumed these past few months, I’ve only truly devoured one. A trilogy, actually. And it’s so geeky, so delightful, that this is my geek pick so that I can drag more people into this fandom with me, because: 1. It deserves it, and 2. It’s lonely here all by myself.
Penned by Patrick Weekes, Rogues of the Republic trilogy has the air of a Dragon Age-esque plot-turned-novels, and it’s no random occurrence. Weekes is the man responsible for characters like Iron Bull, Solas and Cole from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and his Dragon Age Wikipage can give you more details of what characters he’s written (hint: he writes for Bioware), because I don’t want to focus on Weekes but on his creation(s).
If you’ve ever watched Leverage, back when TV shows about thieves with hearts of gold were actually good, Rogues of the Republic will remind you of that show. Only, you know, with added dragons and unicorns. If you hate nice things and never watched Leverage, then I will elaborate:
The Palace Job, the first installment in this trilogy, is a heist book. Set in the rich fantasy world of the Republic (the world grows exponentially larger in books 2 and 3), it tells the story of Loch, the most amazing lead woman you’ll read about this year. Declared missing in action, Loch is a former army scout who swears revenge on the deaths of her parents, and aims to take down the man who lead to their demise – one of the most powerful men of the Republic.
It doesn’t end up working for her the first time, landing her in jail, so Loch locks in (heh) on smaller goals: stealing a valuable manuscript that belonged to her parents from a heavily guarded palace, using only her wits and an assorted crew of thieves and con-artists, while attempting not to get dragged into fulfilling a few prophecies (poorly). You know, smaller goals.
The strongest selling points of the trilogy are, in my opinion, its characters. This is a diverse cast; Loch is Urujar, a dark-skinned race that used to be used by the ancients to ‘till their fields’ without monetary rewards, of course. She is joined by Kail, her Urujar right-hand man who never bats an eye about being the subordinate of a woman, a fantastic lockpick and cunning linguist who can insult your mother in quite a few languages. Together, they recruit for their palace job, bringing the cast together to a very eclectic ensemble: a death priestess who resents her powers, a talking war-hammer, a dropout magician, an alchemist and an acrobat, and a mothereffing unicorn. (I love unicorns.) They are chased by Justicar Pyvic, a dude you can’t help but cheer for quietly, as well as by wind-demons, Hunters who want to destroy all magical creatures, satyrs, and more.
Plot-wise, the trilogy is like reading a high-speed car-chase scene over and over; there’s fighting, there’s things that explode, there are plot twists and (gasp!) enemies lurking in the shadows waiting for our characters to say ‘phew, that was close’ so they can jump out and say ‘YOU THOUGHT!’, and there is friendship and love and intrigue and even a little bit of (non-graphic) sex. It’s a very suggestive, tongue-in-cheek creation, and you can tell it’s not exactly marketed towards teenagers; some subtle social commentaries on race, gender issues, and even sexuality, are written with sufficient respect that you end up thinking ‘well, not bad, from a white guy’.
Rogues of the Republic doesn’t pull punches; it’s a delightful read, an exciting (three) adventure(s) that take you through a new, fantastic world. You’ll grow to love the characters, cheer for them (and even for their sex lives, if you’re like me?), anticipate which villain will die first based on how quick they are to express their superiority in comparison to the characters of color or other races, and be happy you were right. There aren’t a lot of plot-twists that will surprise you, granted, but you’ll be having fun either way.
I’ll make a confession, though: at one point during the first novel, because I’m me, I couldn’t help but think ‘damn, you know this would be better if at least a few of these characters were LGBT?’ True, you gonna wait it out until the second book, but wish granted; gotta love me some bisexual unicorns – #canrelate.
I’m not saying they’re the best books you’ll read, but you will come out of the trilogy wishing every fantasy epic novel were a little more like Rogues of the Republic. Why is it my geek pick of 2016? Because given the panorama of the year literally everywhere, who doesn’t want a little escapism where the good guys triumph over evil, especially when those good guys are made up almost entirely of the underdogs?
MIA WITH “WESTWORLD”
Westworld is about…Uh… cowboys. And then some.
Let’s try that again.
Westworld is an amusement center where people pay millions of dollars per day to do whatever they want, without any consequence, to engineered human-like beings. Suddenly, the very concept itself becomes the consequence. That’s as spoiler-free as I can get, and I feel bad as I had already pulled away the first curtain (out of many) for non-Westworld watchers to get interested. If you haven’t watched it yet, (WHY? HOW?) imagine me reaching across the screen and shaking you.
Westworld also marked the end of what looked like a dry spell for a number of well-known actors who had seen more prominence in the 90s. Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Thandie Newton have been long overdue for better scripts, and they got it. Much to my pleasant surprise, they even had award-winning Danish TV actress, Sidse Babet Knudsen, who I first encountered on the small screen through Danish drama, “Borgen”. This seems to be Knudsen’s year to do Hollywood, as she was also given a sub-billing in the latest Dan Brown screen adaptation.
Seriously though, it’s hard to talk about Westworld if you haven’t seen the series. While this was a series that could have tested Facebook friendships the way Game of Throne season-enders do, the writing is so finely layered that I witnessed a significant lack of Facebook wall fighting over Westworld spoilers on my own wall. Most commentary were limited to shrieks and pleas for people to message them privately to “process” (actual word used by a friend). There were theories abound, but it was anyone’s game. I even placed a bet on who were real and who weren’t in Westworld, and both of us with the season-ender’s big reveal.
This was a concept that may have flopped upon its initial release as a movie directed by Michael Crichton himself, but clearly it’s a concept that has ripened with age. The Verge had an article likening the concept of Westworld to a “horrible video game” and a reflection of society’s present technological anxiety. Another article which I can’t quite find as of writing ponders if Westworld is our modern fable for internet personalities: where some people curate who they are online, others use the internet as their wild wild west to fulfill their deepest and darkest fantasies.
Or even just as is, it can’t be denied, that’s some damn fine writing. While terribly dreary it really was the breakout new TV show of 2016.