Getting Ready

Enjoy this third place submission for our annual Halloween Short Story contest, written by Luke Mott.

“Why are you dressed like that?” My little brother asks. 

“It’s how you’re supposed to dress for these things,” I answer, tightening my tie. 

“That’s stupid. I want to go outside and play,” he whines. 

“We will later.” I straighten my collar. 

A knock comes from the door. 

“Come in,” I say. 

It’s my Dad, dressed in black, hair tousled, eyes puffy, stinking of booze. “Who are you talking to?” He asks, looking around the room. 

“No one, Dad.” 

“We better get going,” he swivels his jaw, “It’s best we don’t keep your mother waiting.”

Spring Poetry Contest First place winner, Who’s Missing?

Written By Mary Corro

Seated around the table

We are

Each with a place setting

Who’s Missing?

People who look like me

Experience life

Like me

Who’s Missing?

What’s on your plate

Who dished it out

Will you savor it or choke

Sometime we are fed

What we are

Supposed to swallow

Who’s Missing?

At times it’s delicious

Other times revolting

But we taste it, nonetheless

It doesn’t taste like

Any home cooking

I would recognize

Who’s Missing? 

Where are the foods

Of my childhood

Of my family gatherings

What do I answer when my son

Asks what to take to a White Thanksgiving

My reply is tamales and chile

Who’s Missing?

He takes my recommendation

But also prepares a salad, vegetable tray

And pumpkin pie

He returns with

A salad, a vegetable tray

And half a pumpkin pie

Who’s Missing?

Where are the tamales

And chile

I ask

They loved it

I felt included, he replies

We ate our family food

Who’s Missing? 

My son has found

His seat at the table

He plate contains 

His home cuisine and society’s dishes

His family has grown

He is allowed to be welcomed

He is no longer missing!

Great British Baking Show Review

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

If you’re in need of a wholesome reality cooking show to watch, look no further than Netflix’s Great British Baking Show. You can either start from the beginning, or start with the most recent season, which was filmed last year during the COVID pandemic.

All of the bakers had to quarantine before participating, and they couldn’t see their families during filming unless it was over video or on the phone. Despite that, all of the bakers have great attitudes. They are funny and kind to one another and will often stop what they’re doing to help someone else out. In the context of a competition, this comes across as especially touching. You get the sense that they’re genuinely happy for one another when someone gets “Star Baker” (the award given to the best baker of the week) and sad when someone gets sent home.

As far as the baked creations go, because all of the participants live in the U.K., there are some desserts and dishes you probably won’t have heard of if you grew up in America. Each week has a different theme, like “Bread Week,” with three different challenges/recipes for the judges to try. The first challenge is a “Signature” dish, where bakers can practice their recipe for the judges. The next challenge is the “Technical” challenge, where bakers have a vague recipe for a sign unseen dish that they haven’t gotten to practice. The third dish is an elaborate “Showstopper,” where the contestants should wow the judges with a dish that looks and tastes amazing. The contestants are able to practice their showstopper challenges, but it often goes much differently during the competition. There are also a lot of new words to keep track of, like “stodgy,” which is a word the judges use when they think a bread is too thick or heavy.

Now that I’ve watched more than just the most recent season, I can see that the talent varies a lot from season to season. Everyone on the show is an experienced home baker, but in the non-COVID seasons, the participants seem to come up with more complex and intricate dishes to show the judges. It’s possible that in the most recent pandemic season, there were fewer people willing to leave their families.

There’s no shortage of humor, with two hosts who are actors/comedians in the U.K. Matt Lucas, the newest host, has been on Dr. Who and Bridesmaids, among other works. Noel Fielding is a comedian who’s been on IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. They talk to the bakers during filming, sometimes distracting them, which is amusing to viewers and probably less to the competition participants. Viewers also get to know the bakers over the course of the show, with snippets of their lives shown.

With a few more months to go until widespread vaccination, there’s still plenty of time to watch a new show. Who knows, it may even inspire you to make a new dish like scones or pasties.

A review of Desire to Learn’s new app

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

FRCC students who are tired of checking D2L for their grades on their phone’s web browser have a good alternative. D2L now offers an app called Pulse, that students can download and start using on both iPhone and Android. 

The app is straightforward to use, with a simple user interface. After downloading and logging in, you will see a list of your courses. Clicking a course will display the different weeks, and within each week, your course content for that week displays. There isn’t nearly as much navigation to get to “course content” using the app as there is using a web browser on phone or computer.

Students can also use the calendar view by clicking on “Upcoming” on the bottom of the screen. This view will have a week at a time with a graph feature, indicating which days have assignments due and what those assignments are. I found this feature particularly useful for the straightforward display and integration of all courses, instead of just one course. 

Clicking on the “Notifications” tab will let students know when their grades have updated. I found this feature to lack the information that logging into D2L on a web browser provides. On the web browser, it’s much easier to see individual assignment grades. On the Pulse app, there are fewer notifications and clicking on a grade update will redirect to the website within an app, which can be frustrating to interact with.

Overall, Pulse is useful for a snapshot of your weekly work using the “Upcoming” feature and a quick reminder of your weekly work. The app isn’t as useful for doing any assignments, but the web browser on the phone isn’t either. Students still need a laptop to successfully use D2L, but the app is a good complement.

How to safely celebrate winter break

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

While 2020 has been a very long year for all of us, it still isn’t over. With the holiday break beginning this week and many people planning to gather with their loved ones, it’s important to keep social distancing in mind. We still have months before the vaccine for COVID-19 is distributed to the general public, so in the meantime, we need to be vigilant about not spreading the virus to the immunocompromised and elderly. There are still ways to enjoy the holiday season safely! Here are a few.

You can try a meal train approach, where everyone picks an entree or side dish off a list then does a socially distanced swap. This way, you get to try a variety of foods, but don’t have to gather to do so. If you feel up to it, you can eat all the different dishes with your family and friends over Zoom.

If you plan on seeing family, quarantining for 10-14 days before and getting a negative test prior is likely the safest approach. It isn’t foolproof, as traveling incurs risk, but choosing to drive rather than fly may be a better option this year.

You can also use this holiday as an opportunity to get all the chores you didn’t have a chance to tackle over the semester out of the way. That way you start the new year with a cleaned out closet, which is never a bad thing. It can also be fun to plan for next year’s festivities, knowing that next year you will be able to safely celebrate in person. 

There has been a lot of good news over the last month, including FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. We should all be celebrating (just not at a party!). If you made it through this semester, or even if you took a break and plan to come back at a later point, you can be proud of your progress and determination this year. 2021 should be a year of positive changes and hopefully, safe holiday gatherings.

Among Us Review – 8/10

Written by Lori May

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard of Among Us, a multiplayer title featuring intrepid space explorers that has positively exploded on Steam. Originally available as a mobile app, Among Us successfully made the transition onto Steam in November of 2016, living in relative obscurity until a few months ago. In our pandemic-fueled world of social distancing and relative isolation, interactive, inexpensive, massively social titles like Among Us have gained in popularity with remarkable speed. Blending both Co-Op dynamics with a Survival theme, Among Us challenges players to escape the vacuum of space as a team of crewmates – or as an Imposter, a separate faction that is determined to murder everyone and prevent their ability to maintain the spaceship and seek salvation.

Up to 10 players can join a lobby, where each is assigned a color. Provided your desired hue is available, each character can be customized by color, outfit, and accessory, or even pet company – and inexpensive, bonus cosmetic DLC options are offered to enhance your options. The ability to choose your color has led to countless memes discussing the types of players – the chaotic aspect of Cyan, the know-it-all aspect of Black, the determined effectiveness of Light Green. Regardless of your appearance, each player is randomly assigned to a role: Crewmate versus Imposter. The game allows for configuration, up to three Imposters per 10 slots, but the outcome is the same regardless of ratio: Opposing sides are either working together to repair their ship, or working towards murdering everyone who isn’t an Imposter.

When a body is discovered, the game transitions into the next phase, where the players discuss what happened. The in-game chat is full of arguments and debates, accusations and vehement denials, pitting players against each other because no one can be trusted. Successful Imposters kill in secret, or are convincing enough in chat that even if someone is a witness they can discredit them, possibly even turning suspicion around on the person gunning for them. The voting round follows, and if someone gets the majority vote they are expelled out into space. An important thing to remember is that each player has a vote – so Imposters can work together or sacrifice each other. Crewmates win by surviving and successfully repairing the ship, or by identifying and disposing of the Imposters. 

Thanks to Discord, Among Us can be augmented by playing rounds with everyone on voice chat. This lends an entirely different dynamic, because players must be convincing via voice communication rather than simply relying on text. The discussion feels far more chaotic and volatile, and fast-paced; sometimes, it is easier to discourage accusations when you are an Imposter, and sometimes you can’t get a word in edgewise to defend yourself. With Among Us 2 already being in development, players are using Discord to give feedback for the Devs, contributing to the ongoing conversation for improvements and changes. Cross-platform play between the PC and the mobile versions contributes more versatility if you’re trying to convince friends to pick up the game – especially because the mobile version is free – but the $4.99 U.S.D. price tag on Steam is very reasonable, given the replay value and current hype surrounding the title. 
Other us-versus-them titles have enjoyed periods of popularity, games like Town of Salem and Throne of Lies, both of which have far more extensive mechanics and complicated gameplay, but Among Us is a simplified, fast-paced, easy-to-learn alternative that has a plethora of players to challenge given the current popularity. A Top Seller on Steam for a reason, with seasonal updates and very few persistent bugs and issues, Among Us is an affordable, incredibly addictive way to interact with your friends remotely, without needing masks, or go find new friends (or enemies) on the vast, untamed world of the Internet.

Halloween Flash Fiction Writing Contest Second Place Winner, Past Life

Written by Emily Barnes Read by Joe Fisk

The floorboards creek with weightless feet, explosions in the night. Pictures once face filled now empty spheres of white. Reflection in the looking glass, imageless and bare, this house was once a home now there’s a stranger living there.

 A chill rushes through the windows, shadows engulf the walls, hairs begin to stand as you peer out down the hall. One final lap to recheck all the locks, your breath escapes your body, inside you hear a knock. There stands a figure, one you know too well, the ghost of who you used to be, bidding thee farewell.

Multiplayer Halloween Video Games for a Virtual Party

Written by Lori May

With many Halloween festivities canceled for 2020 due to the global pandemic, many students have been disappointed to lose spooky activities they can share with friends this month. However, a virtual world allows for lots of online interaction – a skill gamers have been employing for decades! Thanks to Steam and voice chat services like Discord or Skype, friends can meet up and indulge in scary, interactive, Co-Op titles in lieu of gathering in person for the Halloween season. The games listed below are all currently available on Steam, and a few are accessible on PS4 or Xbox One for our console, classmates! Gather up a few of your friends, boot up one of these horror genre titles, and we can almost guarantee a fun blend of shrieks and laughter for your Halloween weekend! 

Phasmorphobia Phasmorphobia is one of the hottest video games of the 2020 Halloween season, and for great reason: It is incredibly addictive, challenging, often-terrifying Co-Op fun! Players take on the role as paranormal investigators, going to homes of various sizes and trying to identify exactly what supernatural thing is tormenting the location. There are many different monster types, all A.I. controlled, which have different traits and patterns, identifying behaviors, and weaknesses. For example, a Demon behaves differently than a Spirit, and you use those key traits to figure out which monster you are dealing with. Lights turn off, strange sounds abound, and your friends can randomly be killed in the dark. With gameplay for 2-6 players, Phasmorphobia offers a ghost-hunting multiplayer experience worthy of a virtual Halloween party, and the $13.99 price tag is very reasonable for the replay value. This title also is VR enabled, with cross-play for VR and non-VR, and is enjoying frequent updates in the Early Access program on Steam

In SilenceIn Silence is a multiplayer title released earlier this month, and since then, it has enjoyed a fast climb in popularity among gamers who love a horror-multiplayer blend. As with many of the video games on this list, In Silence employs the Us vs. One mechanic, and one player is assigned to be a horrific monster while the survivors try to either escape or hunt down the creature. One unique mechanic in In Silence, hinted by the name, is that the monster is blind! His “vision” is based entirely on sound, but if he hears you, he is incredibly fast and lethal. Players have Perks available, which allows you to further customize your character and playstyle, and if you cannot convince any friends to join you, there is a single-player gamemode option. Priced at $9.99 on Steam (currently discounted this week to $7.99), In Silence is a scary option for 2-6 players.

PacifyPacify released early in 2019, but frequent updates, new maps and new monsters have kept it high on the charts for horror Co-Op games. The modest price tag and shriek-inducing gameplay have also undoubtedly contributed to its success. In Pacify, there are several different scenarios to choose from (and another due, hopefully, before Halloween!), and players team up to defeat ghosts and other monsters. Playing as a paranormal crew, you investigate evil locations, being stalked by something in the shadows. With a pervasively creepy atmosphere, jump scares are almost inevitable, but players are always on a team vs. the A.I. monster, making it great for a cooperative Halloween party. Grab it on Steam for only $4.99 and gather in groups of 2-5 players.

Sign of SilenceSign of Silence is another new release horror title on Steam, with terrifying monsters and a team of intrepid explorers. In this title, you and your friends fill the roles of a group of pals who decided to go camping in the mountains one weekend – only to find themselves stranded and being hunted by things in the darkness. The maps are large, and you have several options for escape, IF you can work together and defeat the challenges of the mount forest. Sign of Silence is still developing, working out bugs that were reported at launch, so with some known framerate issues this title is better for gamers fortunate to have a hardy gaming rig. Please shop accordingly! The $14.99 price tag is competitive with the other games on this list, and 2-4 players can team up and try to escape the forest.
Dead by DaylightNo horror multiplayer list would be complete without DbD, a spooky title that arguably established and refined the Us vs. One subgenre of spooky Co-Op video games. Released back in 2016, Dead by Daylight has seen extensive licensing of famous Halloween and horror characters, including Michael Myers, Ghostface, and Freddy, all offered as DLC with their own killer mechanics and often a Survivor as well. Players choose between being the murderous Killer or a band of Survivors – but please note, if you want to team up with friends you’ll need to be Survivors for Co-Op mode, with a random Killer-player assigned to your game. The Survivors must repair generators to escape the map, and there are lots of locations both indoors and out. Each character has a “bloodweb” of Perks (abilities you can unlock and use during the match) and power-ups, and there is a halloween-specific event live for October. With a price tag of $19.99 for the base game, Dead by Daylight is a bit more of an investment than some of the other titles on this list, but it has proven longevity on Steam and an active community if you can’t find 2-4 friends willing to face a famous murder with you!

Halloween Flash Fiction Writing Contest Third Place Winner, Wölfin

Written by Seth Keown

Read by Joe Fisk

The full moon shines in the undergrowth puddles, shattered by your sprinting feet.  A guttural howl fills the air and resonates in your chest.  

It’s close.  

Your legs are burning, lungs heaving, hands numb.  You trip and fall, mouth full of decaying leaves.  Scramble on your hands and knees.  Claw at the dirt and kick your cramping legs.

The sound of crunching sticks and leaves rapidly approach.  Snarling and huffing fill the air behind you.  Two great lupine feet land on your back.  You feel hot frothy spit and dagger teeth on your neck.  

Inky clouds cover the silver moon.

Top 7 Video Games for Halloween on Steam under $20

Written by Lori May

The spooky season is just around the corner, and given our pandemic-fueled world, more and more students have expressed frustration over the lack of activities to attend in person for the 2020 Halloween season. For gamers, there is a plethora of spooky, creepy, unnerving, or terrifying video games All Hallow’s Eve. But sorting through the extensive options on Steam is daunting to even the most spooky-loving PC gamer, so the following Top 7 list of recommendations are vetted, tested, and worthy of your consideration. As a bonus, we have limited our Top 7 list to titles that can be purchased for under $20, because no one needs to go broke for Halloween!

Amnesia: The Dark DescentNo Halloween, spooky, or horror video game recommendation list can be complete without the infamous, incredibly terrifying Amnesia series. With Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the franchise started, helping to make Frictional Games a household name among the Indie Dev community. Amnesia is a first-person horror experience that challenges the perceptions of the player and the character they control, twisting reality, adding sanity elements, and making you terrified of the dark. The storyline is compelling, and the admittedly dated graphics – this title released in 2010 – make it a friendly title for gamers who do not have the most upgraded PC. This title is suspenseful and alarming, even unsettling as you discover plot key points, and it is a lengthy game experience. Replay value is minimal once you know all the twists and turns, but never underestimate how fun it is to ambush a friend with this title and send them into the abyss unaware! Amnesia: The Dark Descent is available on Steam for $19.99.

Layers of FearFew titles can rival the psychological aspects present in Layers of Fear, which blends suspense, horror, perception, and delusions to create a rich, highly atmospheric world. Players fill the shoes of a tortured artist in his Victorian mansion and search through increasingly disturbing, distressing halls of his home to unlock clues about the plot – both the obvious themes, and the implicit meaning beneath the surface. Each playthrough differs slightly, and two people playing at the same time can end up with vastly different locations, occurrences, and endings. Released back in 2016, Layers of Fear continues to be one of the strongest, most popular (and award-receiving) horror titles on Steam, and the story-focused exploration leads to all kinds of psychedelic, horrific discoveries. Buy on Steam for $19.99.

OutlastOutlast has become a definitive example of the horror genre of video games and is notorious among the gaming community for its atmospheric, terrifying, engaging style of survival horror. Capitalizing on the popularity of an insane asylum for a location, players delve into a twisting, turning, tormenting experience as they take on the role of one very brave – or very foolish – journalist. Without any means of defense, players must learn quickly how to hide well, or how to unrun scores of horrific monsters inside the asylum. Outlast challenges perceptions, and the variety in enemies blend from deceptively normal but deadly to truly outrageous and monstrous. The developers claim that the scenes and stories within Outlast’s asylum are based on true stories and legends surrounding these increasingly well-known haunted locations, and the AAA-level graphics, audio, and score make the Outlast world come alive in compelling ways. Pick this one up on Steam for $19.99 and find out what all the hype is about!

PacifyPacify is one of the newer releases on this Top 7 list, and it has enjoyed numerous updates and improvements since its release in 2019. With a new map pending any day now in celebration of the Halloween season, Pacify is one of the few titles on this list that offers both a single-player and a multiplayer experience. Each map has a different scenario and monsters, forcing players to adapt to the specific elements of the monster in question, and figure out how to defeat the creature and escape the farm or the mansion. Full of suspense and some jump-scare moments, Pacify is an engaging experience that forces the players to investigate haunted locations and try to escape. There is a PvP option as well, not just Co-Op interaction as the paranormal team, allowing players to choose how they want to play. Priced at $4.99 on Steam, Pacify is one of our most affordable, versatile options for Halloween video games.

DarkwoodOriginally launched on KickStarter, Darkwood released on Steam back in 2017, and since then it has become a go-to classic for modern survival horror. Featuring a top-down view with an expansive world full of unspeakable horrors, Darkwood challenges players to face the things that go bump in the night while scrambling to balance survival needs and terror in the darkness. Part supply scavenger hunt, part cowering in a corner while things shuffle around you in the shadows, Darkwood gives no quarter – there are no quest markers, no helpful map navigation, and extremely limited resources. The world is randomly generated, so each playthrough is unique, and the NPCs in the world range from helpful and diabolical, and each are intriguingly weird. You can tailor your character with customization through perks, and by concocting potions and materials in the in-game crafting system, but as with most decisions in Darkwood, there can be dire consequences to your choices. Purchase on Steam for $14.99 and see how long you can stand the long nights.

Five Nights at Freddy’sFew horror video games have spawned quite the franchise that Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNaF) has enjoyed, but the original remains one of the most popular games of this style on Steam. With a surprisingly compelling storyline that follows FNaF into its sequels, the original experience is a showcase of jump scare terror, spooky atmosphere, and challenging muscle-memory mechanics. This title is great to play in the dark, especially if you want to be startled, and frequently. The cast of menacing robots are coming to get you, and each has its own dynamics and tells. Relying heavily on both audio and visual cues, FNaF lures you in, gets you hooked, and then (probably) wrecks your face repeatedly. There is a bit of a learning curve as you figure out how your enemies work, but once you know the gist of the game, the next step is to get faster and faster at operating the pizzeria controls after dark. Priced at $4.99 on Steam, Five Nights at Freddy’s is an inexpensive addition to your horror library. 

BIGFOOT BIGFOOT is a multiplayer survival horror title featuring the infamous creature of legend, taking place in the vast forest of a wilderness reserve. With many weather conditions and generous maps, players must use their wits and an arsenal of traps to try and find Bigfoot’s lair. Players can choose to go it alone if they wish, as BIGFOOT offers a single-player option, but the game is enhanced by the presence of an entire team of brave adventurers; up to four players can team-up and try not to become the prey in this game of mythical cat-and-mouse. With an active Discord community and frequent updates, BIGFOOT has more on the horizon, and players are eager to see what traps and maps could be in the works for later updates. You can pick up BIGFOOT on Steam for $15.99 and find out once and for all if you’re capable of catching this elusive missing link.