Fungus Zone

A 2023 Wrap-Up

  • January 10 2024
  • 6 min read
Illustration by Weasel |
Illustration by Weasel |

Now that we're in the first moments of the new year, it's a good time to stop and reflect back on everything that's happened so far. And this year... was a lot. Back in January I was promoted to art director, my partner and I managed a move with an 18-month-old in April, I watched as the studio I worked for laid off a good portion of its staff by July, and I started a new job in October (doing animation for Beastieball!). Amid everything else going on in the world.

One part I always enjoy reflecting on is the list of TV, movies, games, and books I watch, play, and read. I’ve been keeping track since 2016 in the notes app on my phone. Aside from helping me remember if I've already watched or read something, reading each list transports me to specific times, places, and emotions I experienced while engaging with many of the works listed.

And my favourite part of these reflections is discovering which works stuck with me the most.

Now, I hesitate to call this a “Best Of 2023” list because they may not be current works, or ones that most other people are putting on their end of year lists. Neither are they flawless or ultra-polished works. But they’re certainly those that have lodged themselves firmly in my thoughts (outside of baby/toddler-development books). These are works that provoked dialogue or questions about themselves, about my relationship to them, or their relation to other works at the time that I engaged with them. Or all three at once!

Similar to the post I made last year on Cohost, this isn’t a ranked list. Instead, I’ll be running through media in the order I experienced them over the course of the year with a very short blurb underneath to talk a little more about them. And if you’re interested to see the list of all 117 movies, 89 books, 31 games and 6 TV seasons I watched in 2023? Well, here you go!

Screenshot of Signalis

🎮 Signalis

Foreboding. Brutal. Unrelenting. But not without hope. The atmosphere is incredible and it feels like it’s hitting all the right notes without falling prey to being a simple homage to the works that inspired it. Masterfully done, can’t wait to see what Rose-Engine does next.

Screenshot of Sylvie Lime

🎮 Sylvie Lime

I watched Andi McClure play this on one of her streams after playing it for a bit myself, then I read Sylvie’s post, “The Designer’s Heart Laid Bare,” and that whole experience had such a profound effect on my relationship to games that it changed the way I engage with them as a player and a game worker.

Screenshot of Strictly Ballroom

🎬 Strictly Ballroom

Pitch-perfect movie. What a joy to watch something that revels in knowing exactly what it wants to be and committing to it, one hundred percent, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Screenshot of Citizen Sleeper

🎮 Citizen Sleeper

Even with such a minimalist presentation, this game has a thundering heart that manages to course life through the smallest of moments. A brief respite. An awkward joke. A small kindness. All this aboard a pale speck of warmth in the deep coldness of space to reminds us of our connections and the ways we can help each other work towards a better world while simply trying to survive, one day at a time.

📺 Double Fine PsychOdyssey

I’ve said a lot about this one already, so I’ll keep this entry short: as game workers, we rarely catch glimpses of our day-to-day in popular media that has as much heart and nuance as 2PP has achieved with PsychOdyssey. It confirmed feelings I was having at the time and gave me many opportunities to simply observe and listen. And as game workers, we’re not being seen or heard from nearly enough. I also recommend Robin LoBuglio’s piece, "The Game Worker, Labor Organizer, Reality TV Review of 'PsychOdyssey.'"

Screenshot of Princess Arete

🎬 Princess Arete

Stunning and gentle gem. A little slow and meditative at times, and that’s also what’s so beautiful about it. Almost feels like a bedtime story by Ursula K. Leguin. Hard to find, but the studio puts this up every now and then on Youtube for free. Like right now!

Screenshot of Betrayal At Club Low

🎮 Betrayal At Club Low

Probably the game I’ve thought about the most since I first played it. Best played in the wee hour of the night with headphones on and the music turned up. The Eggplant Show episode with Cosmo D is a must-listen, too.

📖 Unmasking Autism

One of those books that you can legitimately call “enlightening.” Helped reframe how I understand autism, neurodivergence, and neurotypicality. After seeing enough people react to it positively I decided to give it a read. Now I’m recommending it to you, reader.

Screenshot of Johnny Mnemonic

🎬 Johnny Mnemonic: In Black and White

First time watching this and I’m glad I caught the version that went up on Criterion Channel. Seeing it in black and white was stunning. Like Fury Road Blood & Chrome, it really helped unify the actors, sets, and VFX in what was already a very far-out concept. Good lesson that colour (or the lack thereof) can drastically change how we we feel about media.

Screenshot of Skip and Loafer

📖 📺 Skip & Loafer (Manga & Anime)

This one absolutely charmed its way into my heart. A story about how friendships form and deepen, and how we can help each other be our truest selves. Not overly saccharine and has some genuinely good laughs too! A good sign for me: I never skipped the opening credits.

Screenshot of Knightriders poster

🎬 Knightriders

It’s a departure from George A. Romero’s usual works, and it’s slow at times, but you can tell how personal of a story this is. It’s about how he sees himself, his work, and his responsibility to do right by those who follow him. Also: ACAB. What a scene.

Screenshot of On-Gaku: Our Sound

🎬 On-Gaku: Our Sound

This is a Japanese indie animated movie where the stakes are so low that the smallest victories feel like world-shattering events. Profound and dumb. And I mean that in the most respectful way possible. Certain scenes still make me laugh whenever I think of them.

Screenshot of The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion

🎬 The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion

I watched Tales of a Golden Geisha at the beginning of the year and was really disappointed by it, and it took the whole year for me to muster up the courage to watch this one. Worth it. That final scene is forever etched in my mind, and I still can’t believe Juzo Itami actually made this movie.

🎧 Homestuck Made This World

I knew of Homestuck when it came out (I remember being at comic conventions seeing people dressed up as the trolls) and I felt it wasn’t something I’d enjoy reading. After listening to this podcast, I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation for it. I still won’t read it, though.

Screenshot of Ravenous

🎬 Ravenous

This film is darkly funny and piercing in a way that only movies by non-Americans about the US can be. Very cool “Aha!” moment when I realized you can use cannibalism as a tool to tell specific types of stories about social issues.

Screenshot of Riven: The Sequel to Myst

🎮 Riven: The Sequel to Myst

I used to play around with Myst on my grandfather’s computer but only finished it this year, nearly 30 years later. Myst is great, but Riven’s the real deal. It’s The Lord of the Rings to Myst’s The Hobbit. A game that rewards you for observing and has puzzles that seamlessly integrate with the world and its lore.

Phew. I can keep going, but probably best to stop here. Below you'll find other stand-outs that are worth your time. If you've checked any of them out too, feel free to drop a comment and share your thoughts!

🎬 The Day After Trinity - The Lost Arcade - Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence - Puss in Boots: the Last Wish - Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? - Heat - Showgirls - Down With Love - Inu-Oh - In the Mouth of Madness - Battle Royale II - Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc’s Adventures in Plastic - D.E.B.S. - Belizaire the Cajun | 📖 Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman - Yiddish Folktales translated by Leonard Wolf - Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters | 🎮 Baldur’s Gate 3 - 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim - Alan Wake 2 - Hi-Fi Rush | 📺 The Bear (Seasons 1 & 2)