2017 was a hell of a year for most people, but together, we survived. Without stating too much about politics and world events, many felt frightened, embarrassed, angry, and oftentimes completely lost this year. Thankfully, there are places to still find joy and wonder, letting us escape, however briefly, into distant worlds and fantastic stories, and, as art is wont to do, giving us a place to call home when the real world seems all too daunting and demanding.
I don't listen to music just to listen to it very often, if you catch my meaning, usually leaving it on as background noise while working on art or falling asleep. Yet Paramore's latest album, After Laughter, became a mainstay in my Spotify library and has gotten at least 100+ full plays since its release, prompting me to dive deep into its meaning and mission. Moving past their pop/punk roots and into a sort of 80s synth-pop style grabbed my attention immediately, a choice I'm sure caused many of their fans to riot (heh) but fits my personal tastes perfectly. The entire album sounds musically upbeat, but is grounded in depressing, mournful, and reflective lyrics, a juxtaposition I find truly enthralling, allowing you to zone out and bop your head to the catchy, digitized beats or study the lyrics and lead singer Hayley Williams trying, tough stories regarding her own anxieties and past conflicts within the band. It's an open, honest creation, one that has kept me enthralled all year.
On the visual side of the art spectrum, the first film that comes to mind is It, the latest attempt at telling Stephen King's haunting story of Pennywise the Clown and his young victims in the town of Derry. Featuring an astounding performance by Bill Skarsgård, King's monster is brought to life as an eerie, almost animalistic evil, weaving horrors into the children of Derry's minds and feasting on their resulting fears. Though Tim Curry's performance in the original TV series is impossible to match, Skarsgård has made the character his own and given us all a new nightmare to be afraid of.
Another amazing horror movie, although never feeling confined to a single genre, is Get Out, possibly my favorite film of the year. Without spoiling too much, the story revolves around couple Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) meeting the latter's family--a family who happens to be white, unaware that their daughter is dating a black man. That shouldn't be much of a story in 2017, but given the film's genre, very strange things begin to happen and not everything is as it seems.
Sci-fi got a lot of love this year as well, with space comedy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hitting a ton of highs (though not as good as its predecessor), space comedy Thor: Ragnarok hitting a ton of highs (hey, wait), and space comedy The Last Jedi hitting a ton of highs (okay, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here). Maybe Hollywood thought we all needed a good laugh this year. Regardless, I really did love all three films, especially The Last Jedi, which I found both more entertaining and daring than The Force Awakens, taking a very divisive step forward and moving Star Wars into territory it, in my opinion, needed to traverse in order to stay relevant. The backlash is understandable, but personally I adored the film and can't wait to see what happens next in the galaxy far, far away.
On the games front, I played far too many this year to count, even dabbling in my Steam backlog a bit (though it's still a mountain of unplayed impulse purchases). As usual Minecraft dominated my free time, and old favorites like Left 4 Dead 2, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, 7 Days to Die, and The Forest garnered a ton of hours, especially now that a good buddy of mine streams on Twitch with me--multiplayer shooters and survival games offer just the right amount of unpredictability and gore to entertain our huge (see: tiny) slew of fans.
A surprise late-year purchase was Door Kickers, a top-down mix of RTS and Strategy genres where you guide a group of S.W.A.T. team members to rescue hostages and eliminate terrorists. It just received an online co-op update, and trying to figure out deep strategy in real time with a friend is both daunting and super rewarding.
This was also the year of the Switch, giving us not only excellent entries in Nintendo's Zelda and Mario franchises (both of which I loved), but also a ton of indie games taking over the eShop. I've even found myself re-buying certain titles just for the portability factor, and I'm not alone in handing my wallet over to Nintendo: The Switch is close to surpassing the Wii U's lifetime sales, and it hasn't even been available for a full year yet. Obviously Nintendo has struck gold, and good for them. Now if only they could get around to adding a messaging system so I can, you know, talk to my friends. Seriously Nintendo, get on that--not being able to message people is so last year.
Despite the world's slow burn towards chaos, I had a lot of great experiences in 2017, and although I won't go much into my personal life, I did a lot of adventuring, both physically and mentally, and tried a lot of new things I was afraid to try for a long time. Hopefully I grew as a person, and I can greet 2018 with open arms and a readiness for whatever may come with it. I wish you all the best, my friends, and I hope the new year treats you with all the love and kindness you deserve.