At the end of last year, I did a top 10 list of my favorite things that was probably of interest to no one but me. Well tough noogies. I'm doing it again.
Before I do though, it's kind of interesting to take a peek at last year's list and see that some of those things still rank pretty high. I still play Dwarf Fortress (#10) and Guitar Hero (#6) like crazy. I haven't read a book this year that was better than last year's conclusion to the Prince of Nothing series (#3). But there were plenty of highlights from 2007 that made it the greatest of years so far.
10 - Armageddon Empires
Earlier this year I mentioned a couple of games that were taking up my allotted gaming time. Armageddon Empires was one of them and it still is my favorite computer game of the year (Dwarf Fortress being disqualified due to inclusion on last year's list). It's a single player game and you can get an entire session finished in a couple of hours, but the number of permutations is so crazy that you'll never play anything resembling the same type of game twice. It's a wonderful strategy game made by an independent developer and if you haven't tried it out I encourage you to do so.
9 - The Fountain
This movie came out in 2006 but was only in the theaters for a couple of weeks due to absolutely terrible box office performance. I didn't see it until it arrived via Netflix in May of this year.
The history of this movie is tortured. Originally it was budgeted for huge amounts with Brad Pitt slated to play the lead, but as folks started to realize just how outside the norm this thing was going to be the money began to disappear. When the money disappeared, Brad Pitt disappeared.
Despite all of these setbacks, Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky would not stop finding ways to keep the project alive. And we're lucky he did.
The film spans three (sort of) separate plots in three separate time periods, but they're all connected by a man coping with death by trying to find a way to prevent it. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of a lifetime in what is without any question whatsoever the best movie I have seen since Lord of the Rings and one that in retrospect I wish I had seen in the theater. There are space sequences in this movie that rival Space Odyssey: 2001 in terms of sheer beauty.
I don't mind admitting I cried like a baby at the end of what was an unbelievably fast 90 minutes. Julie was fast asleep though, so be warned that this probably isn't for everybody, but I have never seen a movie that dealt with life and death in such original and profound terms.
8 - MLB Power Pros
The second of two video games to be featured on the list (available for PS2 and Wii), this is the most fun I've had playing a baseball game since Baseball Stars on the original 8-bit Nintendo.
It's like the perfect combination of my favorite features from baseball video games over the course of eternity. There are an unbelievable number of different ways to play this game, and what really sets it apart is the "Success" mode which allows you to take a made up player through college in an attempt to get him a minor league contract. To make it through Success Mode you need to balance your studies, a part time job, potentially one (or three) girlfriends, and make sure you get enough practice in to increase your skills. It's a total blast, and if you get through Success Mode... um... successfully, you can then register that player as a free agent in an already existing season OR make him part of a team that you assemble yourself.
The cartoony graphics might disguise what is the deepest baseball game I've ever played. Hopefully poor commercial sales of this long running Japanese series don't prevent a port next year as well.
7 - The Diamond Mine
Once back in college I finished a first draft of a novel. It was called Stick Figures and was basically the most pretentious and boring piece of drivel anybody could ever have been cursed to read. Perhaps fortunately, my computer caught fire a few months after I finished the first draft. The coup de grace on the hard drive would be performed when the landlord tossed it (along with a lot of other stuff in the house) into the basement while I and others were in the process of moving out.
During 2006, I finished National Novel Writing Month but didn't actually finish the novel. To this day this is a source of major disappointment to me and a serious indictment of my motivation considering there are two video games on this top 10 list. It would have been better to have two drafted novels.
On the bright side though, this year for National Novel Writing Month I did a children's/young adult book called The Diamond Mine. It wasn't as large in scope as the previous year's project and I was actually able to complete an entire first draft. In fact, I finished it a few hundred words shy of the required 50,000 which led to some wacky results involving zombies.
I did a little bit of work over the weekend editing, and it felt good. It's up to me to stick with it and finish a final draft, which would be a first for any piece of written material for me since college (this blog does not count).
6 - Dodgeball
Yes, I'm still playing dodgeball.
This year Julie and I joined a new local league with rules that match the infamous Dodgeball movie a lot more closely (catches bring back a teammate, for example). It's less competitive/serious than the old league which I think makes it a bit more fun overall.
Typically teams are named with some kind of double entendre involving "balls". Our team bucked the trend by naming ourselves "Smarter Than Sexual Innuendo". Sadly, this proved too many words for the organizers to handle and they started calling us "STD" in an alphabetically challenged attempt to abbreviate our name. Depressing.
What wasn't depressing was capturing a division title with two playoff wins, including one against a previously undefeated team. Our run ended in the finals against a team that had a coach. You heard that right. A recreational dodgeball team with a coach. They had a very intricate rotation system that probably rivals that of Liverpool's soccer team. I'd laugh if that wasn't so sad.
But it was always a blast, and I'm looking forward to the next season starting up in a few weeks. It's a great stress reliever and an excuse to hang out with friends.
5 - Burning Empires
At the beginning of the year, I started checking out some independent tabletop RPGs. The problem was that our Shadowrun group started to have more and more trouble meeting (not anybody's fault, just people's situations/availability changing), and the amount of work that was required by the GM (me) to prepare for games that may or may not be happening was starting to make things a tad wearying.
Enter Burning Empires, which would change the way I thought about tabletop games forever. I even did an interview with the creator of the game to try and learn more about it.
Shortly after that a couple of my buddies and I started playing an almost weekly three person game of Burning Empires, and it has been some of the most exciting tabletop gaming I've done in years. My only regret is that we haven't had more time to play because we could be starting a second campaign now.
4 - Wedding Season
It was a big year for weddings, with some of my closest friends tying the knot. It's just cool to see people so happy, and I'm grateful to still have such fantastic friends for these many years.
3 - Wednesday Nights
If you're wondering where such wacky ideas as the infamous pickup basketball game and the Mitchell Report Pool have come from, it's from the crew of local gents that I have the pleasure of hanging out with regularly on Wednesday nights.
The story of this crew goes back to when Julie was doing a clerkship for Family Court in Wilmington. She worked with several other girls there and they all became very close friends. By proxy, the boys associated with these girls were forced to hang out.
And a good thing we were. Perhaps more shocking than being able to stand each other, we have actually genuinely become friends.
We all have been getting together on Wednesday nights for almost the entire year now at a local bar (Wednesday is half price pitchers and burgers). We have spent most of those Wednesdays arguing about sports, in particular baseball or our fantasy football team's starting lineups. That's right, we actually shared a fantasy football team. You can imagine the number of arguments this produced. It was glorious.
But much like the Burning Empires game, it's good to know that you're going to see friends on a weekly basis.
2 - Phillies Win Division
It's sad that my beloved Phils got swept in the playoffs, because it's made a lot of people forget just how awesome it was that they were there at all.
In one of the biggest comebacks in history (or one of the biggest collapses depending on your perspective), the Phils made up a huge deficit against the hated Mets at the end of the season to capture the division pennant for the first time since 1993.
The thing that made it so delightful wasn't just that it was my favorite team coming back to beat my least favorite team. It was that, for once, the collapse wasn't us.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the Phillies can do in 2008. There's no reason to believe they shouldn't be major playoff contenders again.
1 - Trolley Square
This year's award goes to my move with Julie to Trolley Square in Wilmington, Delaware.
A few months ago Jules and I moved in together. We moved into a neighborhood near a lot of our friends, and it has been fantastic. It's great to actually be sharing a place AND be able to walk down the street to see people AND be able to walk to restaurants/bars in the area. It's been a bit of a lifestyle change, but one very much for the better.
It's also great, with the wedding coming up in just over a month now, to know we're going to really enjoy where we're going to be.
Here's hoping that in 2008 wherever you end up is where you want to be too.