Well, here we are in 2021 everyone! New year, new us! That’s what we often tell ourselves at the start of a new year anyway. If we’re being realistic, we know that everything doesn’t magically reset at the stroke of midnight, and a lot of the challenges and issues of 2020 are far from over and may well get worse before they get better.
I say this not to put a downer on the optimism that can come out of starting a new calendar year, but to recognize the realities we face, and the need to manage expectations and look after ourselves as we continue to grapple with uncertain times. In my previous blog looking back at my ‘top picks’ of 2020 that have kept me going, I’m now going to look ahead through 2021 at the same categories. No resolutions, no pressures, just things I’m looking forward to. All too often, when Christmas and New Years is over, we’re left with not much to look forward to, as we get back to work and try and get back in shape, so feel free to join me in creating some joy and anticipation for the near future.
Anticipated Game of the Year – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Another great hit for the Nintendo Switch! Although this was technically a Christmas present for my partner, Megan, we quite often end up playing each other’s games and seeing her start her epic quest in the land of Hyrule, I’m very much looking forward to giving it a go myself. Despite already being a few years old (coming out in 2017), it’s gotten my attention much more than any of the current next generation titles that are currently grabbing headlines.
The landscape and the characters look absolutely beautiful in their cell shaded style and the open game world seems absolutely brimming with possibilities. As the name of the game suggests, the world feels truly wild and untamed, and I’ve already seen how unforgiving that world can be. The dangers of the wild seem to humble you but also push you to be inventive and to treasure whatever gear you can find and craft. Whilst there’s an engaging story, a lot of the joy of the game seems to come from wandering in the world and the surprises you encounter along the way. The world is yours to explore if you can master the dangers set before you and there seems to be so much to find off the beaten track. If restrictions are to continue into this year, this should be a great game for exercising that itch to explore and go on adventures!
Anticipated Book of the Year – Be a Free Range Human (2nd Edition) by Marianne Cantwell
Back in 2019, I took a sabbatical from my former work place to go travelling and figure out the kind of life I’d like to work towards on my return. Going freelance has held some appeal to me and so I naturally gravitated towards this idea of being a Free Range Human and bought the 1st Edition of this book. Whilst I am ultimately pleased I didn’t go freelance last year due to the pandemic and the security my fulltime job provides, I found this book immensely valuable to help me reframe issues I’ve been facing at work and figuring out what is important to me through the book’s many activities it asks you to do.
However, in the relatively short time since then, a lot has changed, in the world and in myself and when the Second Edition was announced, I was interested to take another journey with Cantwell to explore the principles of Free Range Humanity and recalibrate what is really important to me in my professional life. Whilst I’m sure a lot of people have thought about the idea of abandoning their full time jobs to go freelance, but have been put off by the practical realities, Cantwell does a fantastic job of acknowledging these realities, talking through ways of experimenting with new business ideas and trialing them rather than taking a leap of faith and losing everything. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what’s new in this edition and what’s new in myself.
Anticipated TV Show of the Year – Star Trek: Voyager
Whilst a big part of me wishes our viewing of The Next Generation never ends, I have also been looking at other Star Trek series’ to have a good delve into once our journey through Season 7 is complete. Voyager stuck out for a number of reasons. Like The Next Generation it comes recommended by Megan, which is reason enough to be worthwhile in my books! Instead of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, we’ll be treated to Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Kathryn Janeway for some more adventures in space.
Having very much enjoyed Kate Mulgrew’s performance as Red in Orange is the New Black as well as her tweets this past year where she’s commentated on events and issued Starfleet directives to follow COVID restrictions as Captain Janeway, I’m very much looking forward to seeing her in action whenever the sad day comes when we finish The Next Generation.
Anticipated Walk of the Year – Fimmvörðuháls Trail (Iceland)
When I was on my sabbatical in 2019 I spent a couple of months working on a Trail Team in Thórsmörk and Goðaland in the south of Iceland. It was an incredible experience during which we explored and improved many iconic trails in the area, including parts of the Fimmvörðuháls trail that runs from the Goðaland basecamp of Básar to Skógar on the south coast. Our work allowed us to experience the northern end of the trail that runs up from Básar and our time off allowed us to explore a little bit further. However, once we had finished our placement, we were left longing to experience the rest of the trail, particularly the twin peaks of Móði and Magni (named after the sons of Thor) and Skógafoss, the much talked about waterfall towards the southern end of the trail.
Even just looking up the correct spelling of all these magical places is making me long to return to this magical part of the world and explore more of it. If I’m able to do this, it won’t just be a chance to experience some breathtaking scenery, but the very fact that I’m able to travel there would be a sign that the we’re finally getting a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. All this said, should situations not allow for such a venture, 2020 has proved that there is still lots of exploring to be done in my local area and I could easily see a local walk also becoming my walk of the year in 2021!
Anticipated Creative Project of the Year – Tall Hobbit Adventures meets Rogue Octopus Gaming
For a while now, I’ve been a keen gamer and I’ve been of the belief that the world of gaming offers us benefits beyond simply passing the time, benefits that we’ve yet to fully understand. I’ve attempted to look into such features in my Gameslife series, but I am also keen to find other ways to explore this concept. Last year afforded me the opportunity to do a 19 hour charity fundraising games challenge to raise funds for the British Red Cross to support their efforts in supporting people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to do this, I set up a Twitch channel (RogueOctopusFundraiser) and livestreamed my challenge to attract attention and keep people engaged with my progress. Although that was much more gaming than I’d ever usually do over a couple of days, I found the experience very rewarding and having completed the challenge and passed the funds on to the BRC, I kept the channel open wondering if I’d do something like that again.
It’s occurred to me recently that, as well as writing about the benefits of gaming, I could also try coming at this from another angle by sharing my gaming experiences and talking about what those experiences mean to me with other viewers and gamers. Such an idea would have been unimaginable to me 10 years ago, but since then, there have been many content creators who have used their channels and their gaming experiences to create positive and supportive virtual spaces for those who need it (see this previous Lockdown Lowdown for a few examples). As this sort of thing is not a million miles away from what I’ve been doing through my work as an outdoor practitioner, I can’t help but wonder if there’s some value in me trying something similar through my gaming. It is still quite a longshot and having learnt lessons from ambitious starts in previous new years, I’m not going to force myself into doing this until the conditions are right. But if I do find the time and motivation to do it, it’ll not only be an interesting new experiment, but maybe also show that I’ve perhaps gotten closer to that illusive work-life balance I’ve been after! Watch this space and we’ll see if that happens!
There we go, a few things I’ve got to look forward to in the year ahead. Some of these are more certain to happen than others, but I’m also open to the possibility that some of these things may not happen at all and I may even find something completely different grabs my attention instead. It’s important to remember at the start of a new year when we’re tempted to push ourselves to burn off the Christmas roasts and chocolate that we’re not machines – we’re not going to be productive and laser-focused all the time. Choosing things that are familiar and comforting are often sidelined by our ambitions and what we feel we (shudders) ‘should’ be doing. I hope you’ll join me in giving yourselves a few things to look forward to whilst remaining open to the random and changing nature of the world and of yourselves.
Take care and have a happy, fulfilling and comforting 2021!