Destiny 2: A Narrative Appraisal

Hey, long time no see!

I have good reason for being gone, I promise. Aside from preparing for my last First Day of school, the past two weeks have consisted mainly of sleeping, writing some poems/songs, and Destiny 2.

I’ve been waiting for Destiny 2 for basically two years, and oh my has it delivered. My first impressions of the game have been favorable (No Spoilers contained herein, I swear). The story is fantastic compared to Destiny 1’s story, with a much richer world included in the game itself instead of an online database.

AND the Raid has finally dropped and it’s even crazier than I was anticipating. #worldeatingspaceslug #itpeeswine #forspacerhinos #don’taskmewhy


It’s clear that Bungie, the game’s developer, spent a lot of time weaving stories into this game. In D2, there are two kinds of missions: campaign missions, which are about the fight against Ghaul and his Cabal, and side missions called Adventures that tell smaller, mostly self-contained stories. From here on out when I refer to “the story,” I’m referring only to the campaign missions, which contain all the cutscenes and plot points.

Overall, Bungie created set of campaign missions that was more diverse in gameplay mechanics, more driven and linear, and more epic than anything in Destiny 1, which is all I needed to love my runs through the story. It’s kind of like Star Wars in a way: it’s fun, there’s lots of action, memorable moments, the story hints at huge secrets, and once it’s over you can’t stop thinking about it.

Perhaps the best thing about the new story is the fantastic voice acting done for supporting characters. It brings them to life in a way that almost makes them seem like real people. The new bad guy, Ghaul, had arguably the most complex motivations yet, and his opening scene is phenomenal.

My favorite character in the whole game has to be Failsafe, the AI of a crashed colony ship who has a split personality, often switching between a helpful robot assistant and a moody teenager. She’s so sarcastic and adorable, it’s fantastic.


Yes I do have a mini Cayde-6 statue, why do you ask?

While there’s no doubt Destiny 2 has a superior narrative to anything its predecessor had to offer, and despite the fact that the ending is a hugely satisfying and exciting, I still feel like there’s still something missing from the narrative.

It’s hard to explain, but let me try: Most of the campaign doesn’t have a story that I want to go rave about to my friends.

In all fairness, Destiny isn’t a narrative-based game, but the marketing really hyped up the story this time around. Destiny 2 has an enjoyable, superficial story, because aside from the first and last couple missions, a good chunk of the plot still feels like we’re running someone else’s errands.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly enjoying the game. Sadly, the story is simplistic in order to make it easier to focus on shooting aliens and collecting loot, as was the case with D1.

I think this might always be the case, because four things have always been true of the story in Destiny and its DLC:

  1. You will ALWAYS beat the main villain by the end, but…
  2. You will NEVER be done killing all the bad guys.
  3. The main character is a blank slate made for everyone, so…
  4. Your character has no agency or emotional investment in the story.

The best part of the story is the cast of side characters, because their personalities and stories can evolve naturally, but there’s simply no way for the main story to progress meaningfully since those four things have to be true for Destiny’s game structure to make any sense.

Destiny is an addictive experience by design.


This laughably shameless partnership actually happened

Most of Destiny’s content is designed like a bag of potato chips: short activities, you always gotta have one more, then you run out and are eating the crumbs until the new bag of DLC BBQ chips comes out. They want players to keep coming back for more loot, every week, forever.

Destiny is a power fantasy.

So of course we will always triumph, but we never have to stop fighting. The solar system can change slightly, background stories will move forward, but we can’t have an emotional story with real stakes when we know that everything will be fine.


The nail in the coffin is the fact that your character does not have a personality.

Let me say that again.

Bungie appallingly decided that the protagonist of the story should have no voice or agency, just to be easier for players to project onto. There are jokes about it in multiple cutscenes. Our character does express some emotion through body language, but those moments are few and fleeting.

In a way it makes sense. Destiny is about your legend, and the game is designed to make you feel like your Guardian is you. Giving the character any distinct personality would draw some players in and push others away. So Bungie chose to not favor anyone.

Just to prove it’s purposeful, here’s an eloquent quote from an IGN interview with Luke Smith:

IGN user Ranondra asks: Will our characters remain mute through the sequel?

Destiny 2 Game Director Luke Smith: “Yep.”

I love Luke Smith, but this seems like a counterproductive choice to me. I don’t know about you, but it’s harder for me to identify with a voiceless blank slate than it is for me to identify with a person that has any personality at all.

The finale is a HUGELY fulfilling spectacle that I’m struggling to avoid writing spoilers for. Playing through it was really fun but thinking back, the scene could have been much more epic if our character expressed personal stakes in finishing the fight (Halo 3 anyone?). As it stands, our character can’t even express anger at Ghaul (let alone a complex emotion), so we players have no one to empathize with.


There’s a difference between a good silent protagonist and an empty protagonist.
The Master Chief from the Halo series is mostly silent, but he still speaks, and because he has personal stakes in the galactic events taking place around him, so do we.

His gun is the most important thing about him, but that’s not why we like him. He’s a badass because he does incredible things and chooses to remain silent, and thus every time he speaks it’s important.

Our Guardian does badass things but you can’t like him/her because there’s nothing there to like.

When you combine the piecemeal mission structure that breaks up Destiny’s story, the silent protagonist with no agency or personality of their own, and the fact that there are never any real stakes, it becomes nigh impossible for Destiny 2 to have a really successful, lasting story.

Bungie has created a beautiful, living universe that you get to experience through a brain dead vessel. I love the game, but I want emotional stories in the campaign that make it easier to care about what happens in said game.


Alright I’m done complaining. Here’s how Bungie can improve this in the future.

There are two simple steps:

  1. Write each smaller DLC expansion like a short story with a renewed focus on character-driven narrative, the heart of the story being one or two side characters.

The story’s greatest strength lies in the diverse cast of lovable characters that give us our missions. Destiny 2 does a wonderful job introducing players to them. Now it’s time to make it pay off.

By letting players experience events through the other characters’ eyes, Bungie could easily make each DLC’s story more impactful on a personal level. Then the missions would have more significance than just the call of duty and looty.

In my opinion, a story driven by its characters should be more than a series of scenes pushing players to the next mission. There should be cutscenes or even short missions dedicated to character building for the people we are about to take a journey with. Let us see their pain and joy, give us moments that aren’t just about “The Next Mission.”

Let us meditate with Ikora in a field on Io, show us Zavala hanging out with other Titans. Then the emotional and action-packed moments in the campaign will carry more weight. I know Bungie can do this because the first two missions are close to what I’m thinking of.

That kind of storytelling would be beautiful, and in some ways superior to other narratives in games like Halo which are confined to a singular plot that has little room for smaller stories. That’s why there are so many good TV shows right now: they can take the time for character moments and smaller stories.

I’m optimistic because Bungie seems to be moving in this direction. The next expansion deals with Osiris, a crazy rogue Guardian that once trained one of our Vanguard mentors, Ikora, which is a great setup.

2. Give our character more personality, AT LEAST through body language, if not
minimal voice acting.

These two additions aren’t as likely or important, but they’d help quite a bit. Voice lines would be great additions as D2 has an amazing cast, so it would be easier for our character to make small jokes and be characterized by the strong personalities around them.

If they don’t get voice lines, body language can still really help characterize our character, at least so they react as if they have some emotions. Destiny 2 has one extremely powerful moment of body language at the end of the first mission. This cutscene gave me chills the first time I watched it. Ghaul’s monologue is so cutting and true, but what made me feel something for my character was one small motion he made. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

(I know parts of this section have been commands, as if the heads of Bungie are going to read this, so let’s just call it Wishful Syntax)


It’s hard for me to say this, but in some ways I liked Destiny 1 better. D2 honestly feels like Disneyland. The open world is so dense and hectic yet scheduled that it doesn’t even feel like a real space. The loot drops are WAY too frequent for me to even get to know my guns. They’ve removed most of the reasons for people to keep playing long-term.

The game just doesn’t feel as relaxed and welcoming. Maybe that’s just because I need more time to get used to it after three years playing D1.

But I have a feeling I’ll have plenty of time to get used to it.

Anyway, I have to get back to the grindstone. I’ll have another article out soon about Halo and Destiny and their comparative strengths and weaknesses.

Hasta la próxima, manténganse los ojos arriba, Guardianes.
(Until next time, keep your eyes up, Guardians).

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Resident Evil 7 – How I’d Change the Endings

Greetings! Long time no see, how’s the family?

Okay I’ll spare you the pleasantries, I want to get to right to something that’s been on my mind for a while: Resident Evil 7.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of horror games, but I do like the few I’ve played because I enjoy the challenge of seeing how scary things can get before it really freaks me out, and having to perform under absurd pressures.

I think of horror games like spicy food, I always want to see how much I can handle.

The Dead Space series is probably my favorite horror game series, and Until Dawn was quite unique, (and I can think of few things scarier than being put on a team with five mediocre players in an Overwatch Competitive match *shudders*).

RE7 (as I’ll refer to it from here on out) was an interesting game to tackle, and it did truly freak me out a couple times. The basic premise is that you’re a guy named Ethan searching for his wife Mia in a seemingly abandoned house when you’re captured by a crazy family, the Bakers, who are made seemingly invincible by this magic mold that has infected their minds, bodies, and entire estate. They then proceed to try to infect and/or kill you, and you must survive and save your wife in their madhouse.

The main reason I made it through was because the mysteries of the story kept me intrigued all the way until the end of the game. The developer really did a good job of pacing the reveals so you always want to find out just a little bit more.


RE7 had a few shortcomings, though, like the second half of the game becoming progressively less scary once you know all their tricks, or the fact that I personally consider it to be a less freaky version of the Silent Hills game that P.T. gloriously promised.

With that said, I have some changes that I would make to the game in order to keep it suspenseful and deliver a worthwhile finale. Let me be clear: I really like Resident Evil 7, but as with anything in this world, it could have been better. The best word to describe it is “suspenseful,” and I think I’ve devised alternate endings that are true to the spirit of the rest of the game.


For me, the biggest let down was the endings of the game. There are two possible endings to the game: in the Happy Ending™ you cure your wife Mia of the infectious mold disease. In the “bad” ending, you “cure” Zoe, the infected daughter of the Baker family who betrayed the family to help you escape (don’t even get me started on how underdeveloped Zoe’s character is).

I was initially very excited to play both endings, but then I realized that they were both basically the exact same with minor changes to cutscenes. Neither really delivered as satisfying a conclusion to this fight as I was hoping for, and I saw a lot of wasted potential. And to prove that I’m not just an entitled gamer who thinks he could do better than the developers, I decided I’d rewrite both endings to be satisfying both gameplay- and story-wise.


Your wife Mia on the left. Your savior Zoe on the right. Choose wisely. Or don’t, it doesn’t matter either way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

First, The Good Ending.

To start, I’d like to say that I think this game never needed two endings, especially given that both are basically the same. The only reason to have two endings is if they are drastically different. The most important thing, in my opinion, to creating successful divergent endings is to make the big decision that splits the narrative meaningful to the player. Choosing between saving your wife or a woman you hardly know is not a tough call; its only made uncertain by not knowing what you’re missing in the other ending.

This lack of stakes in the decision could have been fixed by letting us get to know Zoe much more during the entire game, so that it’s a choice between our friend and savior, or our lying, (sometimes) murderous wife.

In the Happy Ending™, you basically end up returning to the Baker house for a final showdown with Eveline, the little girl who’s been causing all the mold to infect the buildings and people in the game. You hallucinate attackers all through the house until you get to Eveline (Evie for short), and walk through the maelstrom of her mental tricks until you are close enough to inject her with a special necrotoxin meant to kill her and then…

It turns out Eveline was actually the Grandma in a wheelchair that’s been asleep for the entire game.

She then proceeds to vomit black mold all over you and turn into an enormous old lady face made of black tentacles with huge swirling tentacle arms that are somehow in the walls (I wonder if this game was a subliminal PSA about checking your house for mold…), and she tries to eat you as you shoot her face.

The final fight of the game sees you outside, unable to move, shooting up at Evie’s face until the Corporation that created her arrives. You defeat her through quicktime events that push you close enough to pick up a special gun that kills her instantly.

Basically, it was really easy, really weird, and not scary at all.

Up until this point, you’ve been collecting so much weaponry, ammo, and healing items that you hardly have to worry about any of the normal enemies killing you. The game loaded me up with so much stuff I couldn’t even carry it all. You spend the whole game in total control, using your wits and reflexes to survive, and by the end you’re ready for a big boss fight that forces you to think on your feet and use every tool the game has given you.

You’re a mother trucking badass, ready to take on the final challenge and make it say your name right before it shatters into a million moldy pieces. And what’s the payout?

Basically a boss fight with no control, and a boss you just shoot in the face with a random gun that literally appears out of nowhere?

No, excuse me Capcom, but that’s a terrible way to end a game like this.

If I could change it…

Honestly the best part about this ending is the reveal that the grandma is the big bad final boss. She’s pops up periodically throughout the game, always asleep in a wheelchair, so I assumed she was unimportant. When I figured out that she was really Eveline, I actually had to pause the game to laugh for a good minute.

I love this twist so much that I’ll keep it, but the subsequent fight has to change.

You’ll inject Eveline with the serum, and she’ll turn into the huge tentacle monster like normal, but now she infects the whole house, or straight up destroys it and surrounds you completely.

The idea is that the boss fight happens in five or so asymmetrical rooms that connect in a ring, all of which are made of the writhing tentacular bowels of Eveline. You have to run around the surprisingly big area destroying nodes to hurt Evie while she’s trying to crush you.

She periodically sends out lesser enemies to hurt you, which are made even more dangerous by the fact that they are silent underneath the music and gross sound effects of Evie all around you. This is made worse by the fact that she’s still in your head causing hallucinations, so you can’t always tell immediately if an enemy is real or not, or if anything you’re seeing is really there.

Eveline tries to crush you and you have to use all the weapons at your disposal and plenty of med packs in order to survive long enough to hurt her. After you destroy all the nodes, she moves in to swallow you, but the Corporation blows two holes in her and enter to try to set off a special explosive to kill her.

She immediately dismembers them, leaving you to snatch the explosive charge and run to the opposite side of the area to grab a detonator from the second team that entered.

Then you have to set it up directly on Evie’s heart, which was exposed by the Corp’s bombastic entrances.  All while fending off Eveline and her minions.

Then you blow her up and save the day and live happily ever after. Yay! Except not, because the mold still has infected the whole area and a short cutscene reveals that, without Evie’s control, it’s spreading.

I feel like this ending is way more satisfying for this kind of game. It forces you to use all your skills and everything you’ve spent the game collecting, and gives far more control to the player to mess up and learn from mistakes. At its best, this is what RE7 forces the player to do: face their fear and suffer through the suspense. And this would be suspenseful as hell, trust me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As for The Bad Ending…

Just a small warning, this section does get a little graphic.

I have some major rewrites to this ending. Let me first explain what I was expecting from this ending after finishing the good ending.

The good ending is SO sweet and perfect that I thought it had to be a joke that would be in stark contrast with the bad ending. I thought we’d get a whole different section of the game after choosing to save Zoe. I thought it would explain a lot of the mysteries that the other ending had glossed over. I thought we’d get to understand the Baker family better.

Turns out it was exactly the same ending just without your wife surviving.

So! Instead, I want this ending to be as dark as possible with absolutely no hope and a completely different final act. This is a horror game, after all. Might as well turn it up to 11.

To start, you save Zoe but instead of her dying unnecessarily, she is taken over by Evie and tries to drown you. Then you end up back in the scary house playing as Mia, whom you abandoned for Zoe. Since you have no hope of escape without the serum to cure you, you’re trying to find a way to defend yourself and possibly kill the remaining family members (Zoe’s brother Lucas, and Evie).

You’ll wander into a new secluded section of the property, one that Zoe used to live in, and here is where more of Zoe’s backstory and life history will come to light. This is a perfect chance for answers, and in a perfect game we would already have gotten to know Zoe so we’d be curious to learn her history. This would contrast with the Good Ending where we learn more about Mia and her relation to Evie.

After collecting answers and guns, you’ll find out through Lucas that the person you played as for the entire game, Mia’s husband Ethan, is trapped and being infected with the virus. You go to find him in the barn, but it’s a trap; Lucas plays puppet master as he locks you in a large pen and forces you to fight Zoe. Zoe looks physically infected, as if she’s rotting from the inside as the virus takes over her body, and seems to have lost her free will as she mumbles about getting away (think partially lobotomized and under mind control).

You fight Zoe in the pen as Lucas causes all sorts of environmental hazards to hurt you and Zoe. There are electrical traps, falling barn debris, occasional infected minions, fire traps, fake exits that hurt you, and possible other hazards. These hurt both you and Zoe, but as Zoe takes damage, she gets more dangerous and she starts looking more and more monstrous and terrifying.

If you play your cards right and use the traps to your advantage, you manage to incapacitate Zoe. Then, one way or another, you are put into a scripted sequence where you short circuit an electrical trap and injure Lucas who’s been controlling things from above you.

You think you’re safe.


Spoilers: You’re not.

Of course you aren’t. Ethan then comes out of nowhere and lumbers towards you. It’s quickly revealed that he’s fully infected and he attacks you. You try to shoot him and escape, the player in full control, but it’s impossible to kill him or get out. Your movement speed gets slower as you tire of running away, and he eventually catches you. You can hear Evie ordering him to kill you, which he does in a very gruesome manner, and you get to witness in first person. Yay for horror!

Ethan then narrates a disturbing cutscene where he’s clearly gone insane from the infection and is just as deranged as the Bakers were, if not worse. It’s then implied through the visuals that Evie is going to spread the infection and make everyone in the world part of her twisted family.

So to recap, the infection is still controlled by Evie, Ethan is infected, Mia is dead, and Zoe and her brother are entirely under Evie’s control as she prepares to expand and take more lives.

Now THAT is the dark ending that RE7 needed, and honestly I’m somewhat disappointed that they even put two endings in the game if they were going to be so insignificant to the way things played out.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Anyway, that’s just what I would have liked to see from this game. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I wouldn’t suggest it for people that aren’t into suspense, gore, survival horror, or who have a fear of mold.

I know it’s been a hot minute since I posted anything, but I have a lot of things in the works that I cannot wait to share, so stay tuned for more.

Hasta la vista, bebe.

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I’m Writing a Story

Hey, how are you doing? I hope you’ve gotten some time to enjoy the return of the sun. Is that a new haircut? It looks nice on you, you should keep it.

With finals over and a bright, eventful summer on the horizon, I have finally gotten around to working on a short story that I started writing last year. The premise and overall plot are, for the moment, things I’d call “spoilers,”  but there is one thing I can share.

This gorgeous image is the main inspiration for where the story begins.


Artistic Credit goes to the wonderful Jane White. You can see more of her artwork here.

Without going into too much detail, the girl in the picture is named Viala, and has lived her whole life on a large remote island that no one has left in a long time (it’s sci fi so braving the endless sea is not as simple as getting a sturdy raft and a picnic blanket on a big stick, of course). Her people hid there long ago to protect themselves from a conflict they refused to take sides in. No one knows what has happened beyond their borders since, and her people don’t approve of those who abandon their families and home to go exploring.

There’s a galaxy just beyond their shores, and Viala is dying to see it. This internal and external struggle sets up the events that come after she finally makes her choice on whether or not to leave.

Sometimes Viala just needs to get away from that constant friction, and this cliffside is where she goes to find herself, to be free, if only for a time.

There will be love and loss, troubling friends and troubled enemies, and tons of lasers. There is plenty more coming, and I am so excited to share it with you.

As I write more, I’ll post a chapter at a time here. I have no timetable for when they’ll come out, so stay tuned for more. As always, keep your head up and your feet on the ground, and I’ll see you soon.


But seriously, keep the hairstyle, it suits you.

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Destiny 2 Gameplay Revealed – A Balance of Hype and Concerns

Last week, Bungie finally revealed gameplay for Destiny 2, the much-anticipated sequel to their 2014 release. The sheer amount of information that has been released to the public since last Thursday has been absolutely astounding (given how many information/content droughts Destiny 1 experienced).

From details on the revamped weapon system, to glimpses at boss fights and new exotics, to an awesome premise that promises many possibilities, it is hard to contain my joy. It seems that Bungie has learned from many of their past missteps and are doing their best to make Destiny 2 deliver on many promises they made for Destiny 1.



Now, in the heat of all this excitement, it’s easy to make a snap judgment on the game. Bungie has a knack for inciting hype that few other companies can match. As such, I want to take a look at the positives and negatives that have come up so far.

Let’s start with what seems genuinely good about Destiny 2.

1. The story is going to be focused, purposeful, and more deeply involve established characters.

Most people are aware of the horrible decision made by Bungie higher-ups just before Destiny launched. How the story that had been developed over years was thrown away, and the higher-ups themselves pieced together a new story out of existing missions and cutscenes (think Frankenstein’s monster with less personality).

It seems that Bungie has focused heavily on making Destiny 2 heavily story-driven.

Not only do are they giving players a focused, epic objective in taking back the City and defeating the Red Legion and Ghaul (or Gary if you enjoy Bungie’s sense of humor), but they also plan to weave in personal stories involving all three Vanguard leaders coping with the loss of their powers.

The more intimate and character-driven the story can be, the better, in my opinion, because it gives players people to connect with and new perspectives to view the game world through.

2. The Crucible will be better, all-around.

All Destiny fans have had their fair share of complaints about Destiny 1, but the one area of the game that never seemed to satisfy everyone was the Crucible, the multiplayer PvP mode. Weapon balancing in competitive play is difficult (especially with guns that regenerate ammo) and its significantly less fun to play with only one gun. Connections weren’t great because there were no dedicated servers. Vertigo has never been fun to play on. Etc.

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that things in Destiny 2 look like they’ll be better, which is because of a few fundamental changes to the game.

Firstly, all special weapons (aside from sidearms) are now heavy weapons, and the heavy slot is now called the power weapon slot. You can have any two primaries equipped at once. One of these primaries will be kinetic, the other will have an elemental damage type applied to it. So, similarly to Halo, shotguns and snipers will be power weapons just like rocket launchers and alien laser beams.

Secondly, while there won’t be “dedicated servers”, per se, Bungie is putting more of the load-bearing responsibility on their end. I don’t pretend to understand how it all works but Destiny inherently must use some peer-to-peer to make its seamless transitions between loading zones for characters sharing the spaces. Connections should be better with the new system.

Here’s to not getting sniped through walls anymore!

3. It looks sick.

Because of course it does! The epic battles they teased, the abilities, the new guns and stories – everything looks bigger and better than before. Cayde is genuinely funny, and possibly my favorite character in the game.

Granted, the art style doesn’t look drastically different from Destiny 1, but I don’t think that a drastic leap in art style would have been the right choice. Destiny is a familiar experience, and the sequel should be everything good about the first game with enhancements all across the board.

Also, did anyone else notice the sun exploding?

Just me? Oh well, all secrets will (hopefully) be revealed in time.


Now for what’s nagging at me.

1. Bungie’s history of hype

Bungie has a long history of overhyping their games before release.

Halo 2 had a lot of things working against it. Bungie such an impressive E3 demo that it physically couldn’t run on the original Xbox, so they used a PC instead. The same segment in the official game was far less impressive. Given pressure from Microsoft, the game was rushed and had to end on a cliffhanger that Halo 3 (somewhat) resolved.

2. No more Grimoire cards

This is more of a personal gripe, but I really enjoy having the game lore in my pocket at all times, readily available in the app. Literally none of it was in the game, but I could find these stories whenever I wanted and draw inspiration from them.

I have no qualms with Destiny 2’s story being filled with the lore, that was one of the biggest problems with the original’s story/lack thereof.


In my perfect little world, the story would be rich with lore and point to a larger story that would be expounded upon in great detail in the grimoire.

I know not everyone cares about the lore or the grimoire, but honestly those dumb little playing cards were probably the reason this game has become so important and interesting to me (that, combined with the fact that Destiny is designed to addict you, but I’ve come to terms with the love-hate relationship I have with this game).

3. Destiny 1 has been spoiling us

As much as everyone loves getting loot, Rise of Iron and Age of Triumph made loot drops really frequent and very high leveled.

To quote the dev team…

“We’ve been generous as f*ck.”      ~ Bungie

Year 3 of Destiny was meant as a sort of final huzzah, a victory lap while we waited for Destiny 2. To satisfy the community as much as possible, Bungie made it as rewarding as possible.

This is great for the average player, but it feels almost like they were spoiling us. Odds are that drop rates will be back to their normal, lower rate in Destiny 2, and that might be hard to get used to again for most people.

But that’s mostly speculation. We’ve seen but a short glimpse into the future of the series, and final judgment will come to pass with its release in September.

That’s really all I have to say for now. I’ll have more updates and articles on D2 over the course of the summer, exploring more niche and curious aspects of the game as we learn more.

Until then, keep your eyes up, Guardian. We’re just getting started.


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A New Fall Out Boy Single is Out, Boy, and it’s Fantastic

Fall Out Boy is back at it again with an adventurous new single and a striking purple wave theme. The song, “Young and Menace,” is the first act of their next album,
M A N   I   A, which is due to release on September 15th.

In the spirit of hype (and there are so many upcoming releases that I’m hyped for right now), allow me to make a somewhat bold claim:

“Young and Menace” is one of the three best songs that Fall Out Boy has ever written.

Now hold on, before anyone starts scoffing at my arrogance, let me explain. There are many perspectives from which to judge how good a song is, and of course which one you use depends a lot on personal preference.


There are three things I generally listen for when judging a song:

  1. Do the melodies, harmonies, and arrangement play off of each other in an interesting way, that builds and gets more interesting as the song goes on? (AKA Is the music good?)
  2. Do the lyrics resonate with me and sound insightful in this musical context, or are they cringe-inducing or too generic? (AKA is the story good?)
  3. Does this combination of music and lyrics make me feel something? (AKA Is the song good?)

“Young and Menace” hits all three of those questions with a resounding “Yes.” Its success comes after Fall Out Boy’s long history of songwriting, and it shows.

First off, the lyrics (of course I can’t help but start here) are wonderfully reminiscent of their Folie à Deux era, when they were scathing and filled with beautiful imagery and metaphors. They demanded your attention and bundled you up in the warmth of their angst and insight.

Unlike that album, however, this song isn’t so abstract that it loses the listener, and manages to keep the critical depiction of a very specific situation. It’s great because the words aren’t so obvious that they bore you after hearing them once, but they aren’t so confusing that no one will ever decipher what they meant. What on earth it must be like to feel that “[you]’ve lived so much life that I think God is gonna have to kill [you] twice.”

Then, of course, is the obvious style change they’ve made. In an interview with Beats1, Patrick Stump, the lead singer of FOB, said that he was simply messing around and came up with a demo for “Young and Menace.”

Stump is a fantastic songwriter and musician, which is evident in the solo album he released back in 2011 during FOB’s hiatus. That record, Soul Punk, wasn’t afraid to break new ground, try distinctly un-rock-like arrangements, and in general do a lot of weird things that FOB had never done before.

This song reminds me of that album.

It’s got the harmonies and creativity of Stump’s solo songs mixed with the rock polish that makes it so intense (and marketable to a wide audience). They clearly had no fear of trying something new.

The best part of the arrangement is something that Stump brought up in the same interview, where he said that he was trying to write a song that could be played on stage by just the four band members, but didn’t necessarily sound the same as the average rock band.

One of the greatest strengths of having a full long-term band lineup is the ability to have each member contribute to their part in a song. Not only does it allow bands like FOB to keep a fairly consistent album release schedule of about two and a half years, it also makes it so that songs like this one get special, detailed improvements to the drum part, the guitar parts, the bass licks, and the vocals and lyrics. Each member specializes, and thus can focus on what they do best to make the song all the more interesting.

(As a side note, one of the unfortunate side effects of Panic! At The Disco losing all its members is that Brendon now has to write all parts to all songs. He’s a great songwriter and musician, but I’m worried about his ability to produce high quality music long-term if he’s always the main songwriter. Tangent over)


The diversity of sound and part layering is one of the greatest strengths of this new single. It may not be as iconic as “Dance, Dance” or “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” but time will tell how it is remembered. It’s also a hella fun song to listen to. It makes me feel something, and not just silly from getting such a big smile on my face while I dance around the college campus with my headphones in.

“Young and Menace” is a fearless and unexpected confluence of all of FOB’s strengths being put to their greatest potential.

Let’s hope the rest of the album has many more pleasant surprises awaiting us on September 15th, because I am so excited.

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“This Is Gospel” – A Cover & Some Musings

This Is Gospel (Piano Version) Cover Art.jpg


Panic! At The Disco. It’s a statement. It’s pretty odd. It’s a band. Their lyrics are inventive (I guess you could argue they’re nonsensical at times, but I find value in the imagery even if the literal meaning isn’t apparent), their melodies are catchy, and Brendon Urie’s voice is like a sparkly angel rocketing over the Mediterranean Sea before sunset at the speed of sound. Which is supposed to be a good thing.

One of my favorite Panic! tunes is “This Is Gospel” off of their fourth album Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, and recently I recorded a cover of it with a good friend of mine. I actually rather like how it turned out as a duet, so here it is if you want to hear.


*If you like the girl singing with me, go check out her SoundCloud! Her name is Gaby DeSpain and she’s a lovely young singer and songwriter in Seattle with some great songs, a bright future, and not enough penguin plushes.

To be honest, this isn’t how I intended on starting this blog. but this song offers a look into a couple themes that are worth exploring. The album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die,  gets its name from a quote in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book that is mainly famous for its cynical perspective on the American Dream. I have yet to actually read the book (reading for school takes up an incredible amount of time), but I do know that the quote is from the book’s main character, Raoul Duke, talking about his best friend/attorney after the two share a drug-fueled adventure through Las Vegas.

In the context of Panic!’s album, the quote is most likely referring to the city itself, since the cover art and subject matter of the songs project a renewed appreciation for the city that the band started in. An important theme in Fear and Loathing, though, is Thompson’s idea that the American Dream has been rewritten, partially because the  counterculture of the 60’s failed enact meaningful change. Drugs are largely to blame for this, and the idea that substance abuse is dangerous and harmful on multiple levels is something that Panic! explores in their song “This Is Gospel.”

The song itself was written by Brendon Urie back when the band had three official members (they’ve never kept their lineup the same between albums, which is really a shame). Urie is the lead singer of the band and currently the only official member. In a few interviews, he’s openly admitted that “This Is Gospel” is one of his most honest songs, because he wrote it about his friend and drummer Spencer Smith, who had been struggling with addiction. During an interview with Billboard magazine, Urie said:

“I was really on edge and anxious about where the future of the band was going, the future of our friendship in general. With him and his health I was really scared of what was going to happen. When I wrote that song I was mad – mad at myself and mad at him. Like, ‘Why can’t I do something to fix this? What is wrong with me? What’s wrong with you?'”

There’s a piano version of this song on youtube that is beautiful, even with confetti and fried chicken falling on the piano. The relatively bare arrangement for the piano version helps Urie convey more emotion, and I think it’s one of the best songs they’ve recorded.

There’s a lot of emotion in this song to begin with. For me, the hardest part about recording our version was trying to internalize the meaning and convey it as I sang, while still making it my own and projecting my own experiences onto it. Part of what makes it so difficult to sing with the right conviction is the way the song’s written. Most of it is in third-person, talking with an odd formality about “the fallen ones locked away in permanent slumber,” who are “assembling their philosophies from pieces of broken memories.” There’s a distance between the speaker and those he’s talking about, which keeps the audience distanced as well.That distance is immediately destroyed in the chorus when he shouts, “If you love me let me GOOOOO,” joining the ranks of the outcasts he mentioned before.

All in all, it’s about seeing your friend go through rough times, feeling helpless in the face of their struggles, having your own similar fight to take care of… and this song is your catharsis, your outlet, your gospel. It’s sad, it’s empowering, and it’s human. I only cried like once the first time I heard the piano version, though. Maybe twice. It’s whatever.



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Sometimes your gospel is improv beatboxing and the robot.

Suffice it to say that even if I had gone through something similar to Brendon, it would still be hard to perfectly capture the emotion of the song. Did we succeed? I guess that’s up to the individual listener. This isn’t gospel for everyone, but rather anyone who feels comfort in the song, in knowing they don’t have to be alone. And the inclusivity of Panic! and their songs, lyrics, fans, concerts, and stories is part of why I love them so. That along with Brendon’s voice/hair/backflips.


And with that I leave you. It’s Nine in the Afternoon, and I have swing dancing later.

¡Hasta la próxima!



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¡Bienvenidos a todos! It’s wonderful to have you, I hope you enjoy your stay.

As a writer, there’s little I enjoy more than a good story, woven into a complex yet relatable web of sorrow and redemption, romance and betrayal, and lasers. Unfortunately, a blog isn’t really the place for any of those things. It is, however, a perfect place to talk about them (especially the romance and lasers).

I guess this is where I’m supposed to wax inspirational about the future of this blog and my hopes and dreams for this space, what I want to post and how I’ll entice you to come back. Let me take a crack at it:

Why are you here?


Contemplate the question as you stare into my old view of downtown Seattle.

I don’t mean on this page (although I’d be curious to hear that answer as well), I mean wherever you are right now. Physically, emotionally, in your life, job, or relationship. How did you get here, where are you going, and what does “here” mean to you? This is a question that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Everyone is on their own path, and where they are right now is only a step on their way to something greater. 

I’ve asked a lot of people that question, hoping for some insight into how they live their lives and how they got to be where they are. Some say that they’re stuck waiting for things to improve so that they can move on with their lives, others are on a clear path towards exactly what they want, and a few can’t even see where they’re going. 

It’s a simple question, but when people get into their answers, they find themselves talking about so much more than the brick and mortar around them (yes, even the people I ask in Taco Del Mar). “Here” is just the current chapter of the story they’re etching into the world with every stride they take. Everybody wants something, and in the struggle to achieve it, people’s lives take on meaning.

It’s a beautiful thing, that the Meaning of Life™ can be tailored to the individual. Personally, I enjoy listening to people talk about something they love; there’s a special way our voices and body language change when we really, truly care about a subject. Everyone has a story to tell and a perspective to share, and I try my best to learn from everyone that I meet. Even hobos sleeping on the street know things that I don’t. Probably.

As such, my hope for this blog is to explore the meaning and importance behind different kinds of stories, and to share those stories with you. I’ll be posting critical analyses and reviews of movies, books, and video games, and also I’ll be sharing stories and poems that I’ve written. There might even be some opinion pieces and other assorted goodies to look forward to.

Honestly, though, the most important part of what I’ll be posting is the chance for discussion. I’ll have my opinions, you’ll have yours. I’d love to hear what you have to say. 

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now. I’ve got some So Cal business (read: relaxing in the sun) to attend to before I head back to the wet mess that is Seattle in April. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from my favorite TV show:

“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” ~Doctor Who


So, look around you. 

Why are you here?

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