This Fourth of July provides a chance to appreciate friends, family, and good memories for a moment, even with the current political climate.

I spent today hanging out with friends on the Oregon coast, a small tourist town called Jackson It’s been a pause in an otherwise hectic schedule, a time to spend with friends and reflect on the past few months. For the longest time though, for me, the Fourth of July was about fireworks.

Even in gaming, fireworks hold a soft spot in my heart. For a long time, one of my darling games was Boom Boom Rocket, an XBox 360 rhythm game. A Bizarre Creations title, players detonated fireworks in rhythm with background music. Many tracks are classical-inspired techno pieces, giving new energy to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and other famous composers. Unlike Dance Dance Revolution, the visuals felt like an integral part of the game: firework explosions were bigger and brighter with perfect timing. It felt like a good lead-up to the actual fireworks shows on hot, summer holiday nights.

As I get older, the Fourth of July is more about time spent with family and friends. National holidays give many people a chance to pause with those close to them: cookouts, family meals and the like. This year, though I miss my family, I spent time with good friends and took time away from work. Those reprieves are increasingly important as the world seems to speed up around me.

I’ll admit, there’s a piece of me that wishes I could play Boom Boom Rocket tonight. Though I’m looking forward to the sun setting and watching fireworks blaze over the Pacific Ocean, I feel more conflict about this Fourth of July than previous years. With some of the actions taking place in the White House lately, it’s felt frustrating to be an American sometimes. But today, I think about the people directly connected to me: my family, my friends here in Portland and abroad. And I think about the Intelligame community, who’s helped me dive deeper into games and society than before. There’s a lot to be proud of and thankful for.

Today’s a day off for Intelligame, but we’ll be back tomorrow. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, everyone.