My 2020 Game of the Year

Much of the media I’ve consumed has been in a subgenre of “going outside is bad, actually.” This partially extends to video games, except for when you consider I’ve played Death Stranding, Animal Crossing, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. But there has been one game which really helped me wrangle any sense of control in what I didn’t yet know was already a chaotic year of upheaval, changes, fear, and uncertainty.

That’s right, I’m talking about Frostpunk (available on PS4, XBox One, and Steam).

Logo by 11bit studios

What It’s About

The year is 1886 in an alternative history where the world turns to ice as a result of global volcanic cooling. In the years before, the U.S. and British governments built generators in the coal-rich North to serve as city centers in the events of such an apocalypse. You play as “the Captain” who is to shepherd a group and lead a city to survival, despite plunging temperatures, lack of resources, and incoming blizzards.

11bit Studios based in Poland created the game and it was released on PC in 2018, came out on consoles in 2019, but I didn’t really start plying until 2020. Since then, I have sunk well over 150 hours into this strategic survival game with varying levels of success per play time.

What is the Game Play Loop?

The gameplay loop centers on you providing for your people, acquiring resources, and passing laws. Generally, you start off with a group of new citizens with maybe some coal, wood, or steel. All but one scenario have a generator to maintain heat (temperatures start at -20C and don’t get much higher). Then, to win each scenario, it’s a matter of achieving its goals (or simply surviving for as long as possible in Endless Mode) while also ensuring the survival of as many people as possible.

This game is really freaking hard. The balance between Discontent and Hope is precarious. Too much Discontent or too low Hope (or both) for too long will guarantee a game over when you’re ousted. Almost every decision you make as Captain has consequences, intended or otherwise. Wanting to put children in shelters might affect your workforce. Electing to sustain life or introduce radical treatment for frost bite can affect recovery times. Resources also don’t just affect whether you can erect certain buildings. You have to do research to do things like activate coal mining because there are only so many coal piles available.

On top of that, each scenario presents its own challenges. There’s a moment in “A New Home” where Hope plummets and you get access to one of two sets of laws to maintain morale. In “The Refugees,” maintaining food infrastructure and keeping illness levels low means having impeccable food infrastructure and health care, while keeping in mind that more people arrive every day. The current bane of my existence is “The Last Autumn,” in which you need to build the generator while preventing strikes and fatal accidents (I keep running out of steel, help).

What is the Appeal Here?

There’s a certain cozy certainty to the nihilism which permeates the game from start to finish. But at the same time, you as the player have so much control. Project managing the apocalypse, especially with where I was at with my day job at the time and continuing into the pandemic, made me feel like things weren’t so bleak. What I also didn’t expect to be so charmed by was the fact that each person in your city has a name. It’s your responsibility to make sure they survive, and yes, it is heartbreaking when you forget to turn on your Generator and half of them die, but you know what you can do?

Learn from the mistake and try again.

Redoing the levels is part of the experience. The mechanics don’t change and the game doesn’t throw any unfair curve balls. Time after time, you can iterate your strategy, prioritize different research projects, decide when you want to start exploring, and so much more. I also enjoy the bit where you can do some urban planning to ensure heat distribution, but that might just be a me thing.

In short, if you love strategy games, hard choices, a moving soundtrack, and being responsible for the lives of others, definitely give this game a try.

November 2020 Reading Recap

In November, I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I did not win. Which is fine. Work was wild. I’m not on any contractual deadline. I read a lot, but I feel like this month had more duds in it than usual. It happens.

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October 2020 Reading Recap

In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?

Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.

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September 2020 Reading Recap


September marked the beginning of autumn, of Revision Season, I celebrated my eight year anniversary with my boyfriend, and made a lot of progress as far as job hunting goes. With that came exhaustion, however, so this month’s recap is a bit lighter than normally. Also Hades dropped and that’s been really good for my creative well.

There were two interviews this month:

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August 2020 Reading Recap


Summer is coming to an end, I guess. The autumn equinox doesn’t hit until September 22nd, but we can already get pumpkin spice lattes, so I’m saying summer is over. A few more books read this month. No interviews, but I have so much excitement coming in September. Continue reading

July 2020 Reading Recap


I hit my goal of reading 100 books in July! Which sounds absurd, but between Animal Crossing, unemployment, and ongoing lockdowns, there is so much reading to be done (television, for whatever reason, cannot hold my attention).

This month, I did two blog interviews:

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June 2020 Reading Recap


June was my birthday! I wound up reading a whole bunch of ARCs, a few new favorites, and even interviewed K.A. Doore to celebrate the release of the Chronicles of Ghadid finale, The Unconquered City.

In addition the blog, you will now be able to find my reviews on The StoryGraph, in addition to Goodreads. My handle is JoReadsBooks

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May 2020 Reading Recap


May featured the Nebulas and continued work on myself during this unemployed time.

No special posts this month, but definitely an interview with K.A. Doore coming your way in June.

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April 2020 Reading Recap


Good-bye April, the shortest month this year. I have gone through a lot of sudden changes, but there are always more books to read. I even discovered two new favorites this month, which feels exciting.

This month, I also interviewed Aleksandra Ross to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Don’t Call the Wolf and I had outlined a plan to improve my craft. I will be saving the craft reads for their own post.

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March 2020 Reading Recap


Here we are friends, in a time of social distancing where staying at home is the most productive thing you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe. Which for me, includes working my dayjob from 9 to 5 and then spending time with audiobooks while playing video games (currently playing Animal Crossing). This is what I read in March. I should really consider augmenting my reading goal, I’m 17 books ahead already.

This month, I also interviewed K.M. Szpara to celebrate the release of his debut novel, Docile.

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