Videogaming: Pentiment

This past week I have been knocked out of commission due to a nasty head cold. I unfortunately have never been able to "nap" so I have be stuck on the couch, cleaning up work emails and trying to find something else to pass the time. Too tired to read or engage my brain in any real creative activity I decided to give the recent Gamepass release Pentiment a go, and boy did it hit the right spot at the right time. 

Pentiment is a text based murder mystery game focused around 16th century Bavaria, the Catholic Church, and the Holy Roman Empire. The adventure takes place in the town of Tassing where you have to first investigate a murder at the local abbey. The murder mystery has you as the main character going around the town, looking for clues and interviewing people in the town. All standard "your choice affects the world and people" stuff we have seen in many games. 

What really sets Pentiment apart though is the atmosphere. First the game's art style is a wonderful hand drawn and there is almost no music in the game, with the exception of two notable instances in my play through. It came to be incredibly relaxing while laying on the couch sick. 

The other thing that really caught me about this game is how it built this sense of family and community. The game is really about the people and the families of Tassing. There are three acts in the game that take place over twenty years and through each act you see families grow, some members pass away, and others get married to each other. It was touching and it really grounded me to the characters to see where they have come and where they were going. Finding out that someone from the first act had passed away really struck me emotionally as I needed to delicately navigate how to inquire about the circumstances of what happened the seven years I was gone. 

This was the late 1500's after all and times were tough. Political and religious struggle was bounded by the plague and class warfare and that is reflected in this game. It all came together though in the third act as the game culminates on Christmas Eve. All of your choices an all of the lives of the characters in the game come together on the Christmas Eve celebration at the local inn. All of the townspeople are there and there is this brilliant moment of cultural community that is brought together that just really touched me from a storytelling perspective. That pure sense of community and despite all of the hardships and tragedy that have occurred to the characters in this game, they all soldiered through it together, as a community.

The game can be a bit hard though to get invested in, especially if you aren't prepared for the amount of text you need to parse through. Additionally, there is a beautiful element many of the character's text in the game is different based upon their profession. For example, the monks at the monastery have text bubbles in a gothic font. The local printer has his family's text in a print font. This is a great touch, but can be a bit hard to read at times. Thankfully, there is a "simple font" option for those who want to turn it on, but the game does lose a bit of charm there. 

Also, the other minor fault in the narrative flow is that the game doesn't always give you a good indication of how much interaction and time you have between the scenes. There were multiple instances where I could have interviewed more people, but didn't realize my current interaction was going to progress forward the clock. That was not telegraphed very well early on. 

Overall though, such a wonderful and touching game and I think I might play it again to see how the story changes with different dialog choices and different interactions. Check it out if you are looking for a nice, slow paced game.


Ridelog: Arkanas and Missouri

It just occurred to me that, after switching phones this past fall that I never actually posted all of the highlights from our big motorcycle trip this past fall with the MEWS crew. If I am being honest, I did not journal the trip this year, so instead I'll just go ahead and share the GPS data, photos and videos. 


Video

Photos

40th Birthday Dinner (or how I learned there is such a thing as a food hangover)

Megan took me out this past Saturday for my 40th birthday, so let's take a look. 

The afternoon started off by hitting up the Starbucks Reserve located on Michigan Avenue. One of six in the world it is a four story roaster selling specialty coffee and even has a bar on the fourth floor serving coffee cocktails. We arrived mid afternoon so it was incredibly busy, but we were able to grab a spot by the window and have a latte and a snack. 

Next stop was to the Driehaus Museum, which was absolutely fantastic. It is located just two blocks west of Michigan Avenue at Wabash and Erie. It was super gorgeous and in immaculate condition. It took us a little over an hour to walk through the house. It is a a restored "gilded age" home owned by the Nickerson family from the late 1800's. 

The final highlight of the evening though was dinner at El Che Steakhouse, where Megan book us the 10-course chef's counter. We sat right at the chef's prep kitchen in front of the open wood fire, where they cook all of the food. I'll be honest in that I can't remember exactly all of the details of the menu, but needless to say, it was delicious. Both of us though, while not sick did sleep horribly that evening as our bodies had to digest all of that super rich food and drink. 

Ohh, and the outfit I wore that day? Also part of my birthday gift from Megan from Banana Republic's Heritage clothing line. Overall a wonderful birthday experience. 

Maybe we need a bit more philosophy?

Everyone knows about the Roe vs. Wade decision which was overturned yesterday by now. There is a planned parenthood/abortion clinic near my house that we routinely drive by if Megan and I are doing errands or grabbing a bit to eat at Panera. Without fail there are protestors out in front of it. Even today, in the rain, after the largest anti-abortion victory in fifty years, they were out there again protesting. 

Ironically, I came across this video on TikTok this morning and while I don't normally like this sort of hyperbolic rhetoric, I do feel like it aptly sums up what I seem to observe. 

As I continued to drive home in the rain, it really got me thinking about the why and my mind drifted for some reason to philosophy. I have mentioned on here before who I studied political theory as my undergrad degree and there is a lot of overlap to philosophy there. Without a doubt those courses changed my entire outlook on the world and me as a person, and I grew and learned more from those courses than anything else I have ever taken. STEM has been such a large push in our world the past 20 years or so, and it just makes me think that perhaps instead of reinforcing the productive, output-driven focus of STEM education if we all might just be a little bit better off if we have some art, philosophy and music eduction to slow everything down. To teach people some contemplation an insight. 

You know, in Dungeons and Dragons there are two fundamental mechanics for using your brain to solve problems. Intelligence and Wisdom. We've really been pushing that intelligence part pretty hard with STEM learning. Perhaps we need to take some time and give the Wisdom score a little bit of love.

Several years ago I posted some reading ideas for those who may want to get into Political Theory, and by proxy some philosophy. I'll re-link that post here: Matt's Reading Suggestions for Political Theory

Additionally, this seems to be a nice list to start for many people, although any 1-2 of these will probably suffice as an introduction: 15 Best Philosophy Books for Beginners (Introductory Books to Start With)

Writing Prompt: You, a humble elf farmer, happen upon the lost hatchling of a dragon. You raise it until it is self sufficient and set it free. Centuries later, a young woman with draconic features knocks on your door and claims you are her mother.

Fire light danced across the oak and marble walls of the Eluvian temple as Lireal set the candles for the evening. She has been repeating this same ritual for nearly four centuries, each evening pointedly lighting each of the one hundred and thirty-one candles in the main hall in a succinct procession. This evening however was different when there came a rapping on the front door. The other stewards in the room all paused, surprised at the sound, looks glancing from one to another. Putting down her long match Lireal glided toward the front door, the gaze of each of the stewards following her across the hall. She lifted the iron handle, pulling open the large wooden door, which lurched under its own weight. 

Peering out into the  town of Eglarest, Lireal’s gaze surveyed the square outside the temple. The evening air was soft and quiet. The warmth of the late summer day still clung to the white limestone buildings and the cool air from the Lavalling forest swayed through the oaks outside the city wall. The sound of the rustling wind whispered across Eglarest and Lireal saw a few men across the square finishing closing off the gate for the evening. Besides those elven men though, there was no one else to be seen. 

Stepping outside Lireal looked again, confused about the knock  she heard, when a weak voice caught her attention to her right. 

“Mother.” 

The voice was delicate, but unmistakable. Lireal’s breath caught  at the sound and her hand trembled as she brought it up to her mouth. 

“No, it couldn’t be. It simply cannot be," she thought to herself. The simple desire in and of itself was almost heartbreaking enough as she turned toward the voice. 

Standing to the right of the door was a young elven woman with blonde hair and striking ice blue eyes. Her hair and clothes were a mess, torn and burned. The skin around her eyes held a distinct tattoo, drawn in white ink following the contours of her cheek bones up to her ears and her brow in the design of dragon scales. Her right eye was bruised and blue and dried blood ran from a fat lip which she nursed with the tip of her tongue. 

Lireal’s heart skipped and then sank and the sight of her daughter Adalina. “My child!”, she exclaimed and rushed over to Adalina taking her into her arms. Adalina’s weight pressed into her as Lireal brought her hand up to brush the hair out of her daughter’s face. 

“What has happened to you?” 

“Mother, please I didn’t know where else to turn.”

“Quiet child, let me tend to your wounds”, replied Lireal, her instincts taking over as she directed stewards to grab water and fresh linens

“Mother, please. They are coming. I am sorry, I didn’t mean to bring them here, but they are coming,” said Adalina before she lost consciousness.

It was not until several hours later that Adalina finally awoke. Lireal was sitting at her side. In the course of a few hours Adalina’s wounds had healed remarkably fast. Her lip had reduced in swelling and the bruises across her body had all but disappeared. As she came to, she bolted up in the bed. 

“No, I must leave. I must be gone before they come”.

“Ada, please. What are you talking about?”, asked Lireal. Concern and longing in her voice for the daughter she has not seen in two centuries.  

Before Adalina could respond the ringing of the guard bell from the front gate chimed four times and shouts came from outside the temple. Both women arose at the sound, Lireal surprised at her daughter’s swiftness considering her injuries. 

Before they could reach the front door of the temple a crash rippled through the building as the front gate to the city exploded into splinters of wood and fire.  Lireal threw open the door and ran out into the square. Bodies of elven men and women of the town’s guard lay scattered across the square. An orange glow throbbed like a heartbeat from beyond the city walls as the Oak forest of Lavalling was burning. Through the gate strode Men, borne in iron armor and carrying the magic of fire in their hands. One man in particular stepped forward into the empty square. 

“I am the most holy emissary of the White Cloth, come to bless and baptize this town in the name of his lord. My name is Eringas and we have tracked to this place an abomination of the rightful order. Come, bless yourselves in the name of the White Cloth.” 

Lireal stepped forward raising her hand in a gesture of calming, but before she could take more than two steps, the whistle of an arrow sang through the night finding purchase. Lireal didn’t even realize what had happened before the dull punch in her chest was followed by the pooling of warm blood across her white dress. She stumbled forward another step, before falling to her knees and the hands of two stewards closed around her shoulders. 

Time slowed, the sound of the world dulled to a muffle in Adalina’s ears as she watched the arrow loose from the archer’s bow across the square. With her perception of time and speed she watched in horror as the arrow stretched across the town square and bury into her mother’s chest. The weight of the impact rippled through all her senses as she darted from the door of the temple to where her mother stood, and now began to fall. With each step she took she could hear the weakening beat of her mother’s heart and could smell the fresh blood pouring from the wound. 

Silver tears streaked her face as she collapsed over her mother’s body, cradling it in her arms. Each weakening heartbeat reverberated in her mind in  slow agony as she listened  to the final moments of her mother’s life pass before her. Centuries of time that could have been spent together lost in moments with each beat. 

Lireal looked up into her daughter’s face, raising her hand to caress her daughter’s hair. 

“I always hoped I would get to see you again.”

And she was gone. The last heartbeat died away in Adalina’s mind leaving behind a void of silence that would never be filled again. It was replaced with the beating of her own heart, of her own rage which she had spent so many years culling and learning to control. It rose deep from within her chest, at first only in her mind, but beat after beat growing and bursting forth in a rage and sorrow that would consume the town of Eglarest. 

“Men. Men will pay. Mankind will pay for what they have done.”