Gaming without your brother

Monthly Archives: May 2013

As you can see (I’m trying not to jinx myself, but I’m going to state it here), I’ve been trying really hard to post five days of content a week. This was a terrible time to start, because I’m moving and going on vacation and just trying to sort other things out, but doing it despite all of this is kind of encouraging, internally. But, the vacation thing, I’m going to use to my advantage instead of auto-posting something, because I’m that lazy.

So! In lieu of a post tomorrow, check out my gaming buddy, The Married Gamer. You might’ve noticed his comments on this blog (Ashton is his name), and their constant insightfulness and depth. Can you believe it – he writes whole blog posts like that! He’s a great writer, and a great gamer, not to mention a great game critic (maybe I only say that because we have mostly the same tastes in games and preferences for deep narrative experiences, but don’t worry about it . . .). So, while you’re twiddling your thumbs tomorrow, because I haven’t posted anything (how narcissistic to assume), check out The Married Gamer, and give him some comment love!


Not from lack of games. In that department, I’m actually drowning. I should rather say my gaming writing well is running dry. I haven’t played games in so long! LIIIIIFE. WHY HAST THOU FLOODED ME!? It’s a great thing, really, but seriously, the best gaming experience I’ve had in the past week was playing Fruit Ninja in the bathroom at work. How do you guys do it? How do you carve out time to prioritize games in your life? Teach me your ways!

In lieu of being able to talk at length about one or more games, I’ll just highlight some flash/mobile games that I’ve gotten a chance to check out in the past little while:

Disclaimer: I’m not an iPhone hater, but I do have an Android phone, so all the app links are to the Google Play store. ALSO! Lots of these cost money, but there are really awesome free apps everyday in the Amazon App Store so be sure to check that to pick up some of these for free, like I did!

Pixel Dungeon – My brother put me on to this game a while back (for the subtitle of this site, “Gaming without your brother,” he certainly does come up a lot . . .). It’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler; find the next set of stairs down, go down the stairs, try to find the ultimate artifact, the Amulet of Yendor.

It’s still in beta, but that also means it’s free for the moment! There’s 20 levels at the moment, with more coming in the next update says the dev. It’s difficult! Which makes it fun, but there is perma-death which is heartbreaking. Three classes (warrior, rogue, mage), potions and enemies and weapons and armor and items – all the needed elements for a fun action RPG. And the pixel art . . . gets me right in the nostalgia every time. Well done pixel art is my jam.

Candy box ! – Automated ASCII art?! Get out of town! The key in this game is to just wait until you have more than two options. Then it becomes seriously exciting/addicting because you wonder “WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT!?” You can also “save” which is nice for a browser-based game. Shoutout to friend and reader Susan for putting me on to this super fun game.

Robot Unicorn Attack – Super old, but I figure it’s mildly relevant because RUA 2 just came out, AND, I really am playing this game a lot. Something about endless runners . . . I just want to beat my old high score! I would’ve been hopeless in the 80s, all those arcades around. I also can’t try RUA 2 until I feel like I’ve sufficiently used the original app approximately $2 worth (for the app, free online though). Anyway, an oldie but a goodie!

Continuity 2 – Another oldie but goodie that again my brother put me on to. I had never heard of it, but this a puzzle game I can really get behind. You move around tiles that are snapshots of the actual level to facilitate the character you’re controlling to be able to move through, collecting the key to the last door, as well other little tokens. ALL AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Three factors rank your level success: time taken to complete, how many tokens collected, and . . . moves maybe? I forget, and to find out and tell me how stupid I am, download Continuity 2!

Osmos HD – This game. YEESH this game. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s so good! So addicting! Such a great soundtrack! So hard for me! In general, the object of every level is to become the biggest cannibalistic blob. You can only absorb blobs you’re bigger than, and you die by bumping into blobs bigger than you, which then absorb you. There are some different types of blobs that attract things, and move faster. A cool mechanic is being able to slow down time in the level which gives you a little bit of reaction time buffer. And fo’ real, the soundtrack. Dat soundtrack. Check out the game!

Temple Run 2 – I wasn’t going to include this game because I am a little embarrassed that I play it so often instead of playing some of the other critically acclaimed games in my library, but what can I say? I just love unlocking stuff and endlessly running (virtually that is, never in real life. Have you seen me?) It’s a good game! If you want something mindless that’s easy to play while you’re going to the bathroom at work, this would be my top recommendation.

I enjoy these games that have depth, that I can spend an hour or more on (equivalent to how much time I would spend playing a console or PC game) but can do out and about, away from my TV or monitor. Ya hoo for the increasing caliber of mobile gaming!

What about you guys, what games do you love on your phone, or tablet, or browser? Let me know in the comments!


Credit to Flickr user Contz

MAN! I am two for two this week of just being inflammatory, borderline rude, in my post titles.

I saw this post by the Geek Force Network (check ’em out, lots of great content, but only after you read my blog, please don’t leave my blog, sob) and then proceeded to read the comments and was once again struck by the overwhelming popularity of the Dragon Age series. Based on the hype alone, I bought Dragon Age: Origins in a Steam sale ages and ages and ages ago (truly, I think it was one of my first Steam purchases ever). At the time, I tried to get started on it, but my laptop struggled so hard the game would just quit after about an hour of play, so I just shelved it until I knew I could get a better gaming rig.

Enter last summer, after I built a sweet-a gaming machine, and told you guys that yes indeed-y, I would inaugurate the beast with Dragon Age: Origins, to really get back into the story that so many gamers I respect, really love. I started. I tried so hard. And yet, I got to the first city area, and I just . . . can’t care. I just . . . have so few f—s to give (hi, Mom).

I think in this last attempt, I got to the camping waypoint after that first town, after I handle the thugs on the road heading out of town. I’m pretty sure my lack of interest stems from the difficulty of combat in that first town. The story, when I stop and think about it, is legit. Trying to save the world, recruiting people and help on the way, rich conflict between “races” if that’s how the magic-users are designated. I have multiple characters die in the first few battles. I often have to go back to previous saves to try again, so I don’t lose my power house when fighting that thing at the top of the first tower. And perhaps that’s the only reason I haven’t gotten really invested?

On a side note, I think another aspect of my lack of caring is that I am way out of practice of managing character parties. That was THE THING of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, all those wonderful SNES RPGs, but lately, I just play who I play and who has to come with me is who has to come with me, and I like getting off easy in that regard. The little bit you have to do in Mass Effect 2 doesn’t even matter that much (for the most part . . .). So getting all of these characters in the beginning and having to immediately use them intelligently? Also adds to the difficulty, even though I’m just playing on normal.

That’s sad and troubling to wonder if that’s really the reason I don’t love this game. Am I so lazy, such an entitled gamer, that unless I succeed for the first half of the game, I can’t appreciate the experience? The thought really terrifies me. Enough to dive into Dragon Age yet again to try to find the joy in it. Also, I recognize I’ve devoted very few hours to the game, and where I am is not very far at all, so it deserves from me (if for no other reason than I should get my money’s worth out of it).

So educate me, friends of the internet! What do you love about Dragon Age? What do you hate about it? Worth my time, or should I finish Tomb Raider, and AC3, and Saints Row III, and To the Moon, and my million other Humble Indie Bundle games first? Rant at me in the comments!


Credit to ~vety122.deviantart.com

Most trollicious posts title I could come up with.

Nah, let’s get down to it for real: I feel like I have missed something by not playing the Halo series up to this point. It’s a massive, massive, huge, massive part of gaming culture, and reading the Wikipedia page is still really confusing to me, so bummer, I missed the story and the excitement. I finally bought 4 because I played it at work in the break room and the FOV didn’t make me nauseated, so I took the plunge on a RadioShack deal and bought it a few months after the release date. I like playing local multiplayer games with my co-workers but as we read last week, playing multiplayer online really terrifies me, so with my own fear in my way, I started playing the campaign.

I’ll skip ahead and say after I finished the solo campaign, I started playing the campaign with my brother. We just finished, and even after my second play through, I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON. In both play throughs, I never skipped any cutscenes. I even tried to peruse the Wikipedia page, and I’m still mostly lost. So we can derive that I’m either a total idiot (this, truly, is  a possibility. I’m not just being self-deprecating) or this game is really poorly written. Also, we could deduce that the previously dozen Halo games (4? actually? There are only like 4 or 5 other ones? Today’s post is brought to you by not googling) were REALLY integral to the plot of 4. I don’t think this is totally true, but hey, what do I know, I never played them.

Aside from plot holes I didn’t really understand, the convenience of the entire Halo system made me facepalm. “We need to get to the other side of the planet. But how?!” “Chief, I’ve found a portal that will take us where we need to go!” “Good one, Cortana!” lookofdisapproval.jpg. That’s some lazy-a writing, if I’ve ever seen any. And I have, because I’m a lazy writer.

The bottom line is that Halo is a cash cow, though, and 343 and Microsoft aren’t really worried about new players picking up the campaign; they’re more concerned with the multiplayer experience being so addicting, people die in front of their TVs trying to get the next level, unlock the next ordnance, create the next grifball-type game, etc. And I really can’t blame them for that. It’s a good model, and it worked on me. I bought the game because I had so much fun playing multiplayer at work.

So good on you, 343. You’ve made a successful model that pays off in a (for me) non-traditional way: through multiplayer, rather than storyline. To each their own, just please don’t assassinate me over and over again in SWAT. It makes me feel bad about myself.


Originally published on 1/23/13

I realized tonight, after my weekly D&D session (yes, I am that awesome) that my opinion post yesterday missed some vital points. Someone pointed out that guilds are wonderful communities and when you get in a good one, you’re in it to stay and people are family. I hope my opinion didn’t offend any guild members. Although, if it did, I’d encourage you to comment and rebut my statements, heh.

The other particularly huge exception was tabletop gaming! How could I have left out this entirely vast and wonderful world of gaming! Again, I was thinking about gaming with others tonight in particular because I got together with five good friends like I do every week and we raided a dungeon and some of us collected the teeth of our enemies, and some of us pet werebears, and some of us got poofy, supernatural hair, and some of us tried to knock a swarm of bugs prone. We’re a varied, and ridiculous bunch, all the more when we get together to comb dungeons and slay dragons. It’s a wonderful, wonderful few hours of my week, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a part of it.

Aside from what many would deem nerd tabletop games, I also love board games (which many would still deem nerd games). I love watching the YouTube show “Tabletop” by Geek & Sundry that showcases awesome games I might’ve heard of before, but have never tried or seen, or games I’ve never heard of, and get to see and be intrigued by. Since embracing the expansive world of board games past Monopoly and Risk, I’ve played Munchkin, Fantastique, Small World, Shadows Over Camelot, Sentinels of the Multiverse, a ton more that I’m forgetting, and I have a game gifted to me called Race for the Galaxy that I need to bust out and play finally.

The point is that my post last week was a little hasty. Sure, there are things I really despise about playing with others. But there are things I also love, and wouldn’t give up for anything. I guess like all worthwhile things in life, you take some bad with the good, but it all averages out to awesome in the end.

*cue moral-of-the-story sitcom music


Originally published on 1/16/13

So I’ve discussed this a few times with people, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Gaming with others, either physically or digitally: helpful or distracting?

I s’pose I should clarify the term “helpful.” I mean, do you feel like you’re deeper in a game when you know there are others roaming the countryside around you, or are you constantly thinking about their experience as well as your own?

After multiple conversations about this, I feel like I am in the minority. I must say that MMOs are not my jam, because when I see real live people running around all over my screen, I think about them as people, on the other side of a monitor or console, judging me or living their own lives. I don’t think about their character(s) in relation to my character; I think of them in relation to me. And it takes me so far out of the game, I just don’t want to play. Obviously this is a weird function of some self-esteem problems, if I’m assuming strangers in Guild Wars 2 are judging my Charr as I run by, but hey. It is what it is. Maybe I’ll sort it out one day.

As for me, I love the single player experience. I let myself completely become who I’m playing and suddenly realize I’ve been playing for five hours. The world, with all of it’s imperfections and impracticality, becomes totally real. If someone is there with me? I feel about the same as I do when I play MMOs. Certainly they must be scrutinizing my skill, my technique, and my know-how. Certainly they must be deciding to never play with me again, or that my gamer street cred is an inflated joke.

There are a few exceptions to this, but they’re few and far between. Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can move past this, but as it stands for right now, I thoroughly enjoy playing by myself and try to avoid all multiplayer situations.

What about you guys? Do you prefer single player or multiplayer, particularly from the viewpoint of immersion in a video game? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Originally published on 10/30/12

So this is old rage by now, because this draft has been sitting, waiting to be finished, for at least a week, but you know me and my ability to hold on to rage . . .

I saw GameSpot.com tweet an article with some inflammatory lead-in like “Are all gamers stupid?” or something ridiculous, so naturally I took the linkbait and then watched a GameSpot.com video feature Edmund McMillan, Cliff Bleszinski, and a number of other prominent gaming names, articulating their opinions about whether or not games are getting dumber.

I was almost instantly incensed. What kind of dumb generalization is that, “all games are being dumbed down”?! Of COURSE “all games” aren’t being dumbed down. Are some? Naturally. There’s a huge market for the less intelligent who also love video games. And really, you know what, I shouldn’t even be that dismissive. Really, there are people that buy from that pool of games because they don’t want to think when they play video games. And I’ve been there, I get that. Sometimes you’d rather mindlessly kill things than work through puzzles or an emotionally compelling story. That doesn’t mean you’re missing brain cells, it means you just want a relaxing, thought-free evening every once in awhile.

I wrote out paragraphs and paragraphs of a tangent, but I reigned myself back eventually to what my point is (you’re welcome): the gaming community and industry is now too big to say crap like this. Back in the day, you could make sweeping generalizations about gaming and video games and your exceptions would be one or two titles, so people got away with it. Now? There are hundreds of games released in a year. Potentially thousands, depending on what you’re counting. Some people enjoy “dumbed down” games, some people only enjoy those games once in awhile, and really, those games that appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamers are the biggest cash cows for publishers, so yeah, they get a lot of face time in the media (and some games get media time because they’re just awesome and not dumbed down, like Dishonored).

But there is so much more out there! And the sad thing to me about the video was that Edmund McMillan (co-creator of Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the hardest games of its generation) and Cliff Bleszinski know that. I know they know that. But they must be seeing the games that demand more out of players as exceptions rather than norms. And really, I’m not sure there is a gaming norm any more. Again, the industry is too big for generalizations.

We’re seeing factions and pockets of specific gamers pop up all over the place. Indie gamers, racing gamers, only platformers, only MMO  players, only FPS players. There are all kinds, and I’m grateful, because it takes all kinds to make this beautiful gaming world go round. When you get that kind of genre passion, that leads to experimentation to take something you love so deeply to another level, just to see what can happen. And that innovation elevates the industry, despite any of the “dumbed down” games that some think are ruining it.

I guess in the end my rage was really just sadness. I’m sad that from the inside out, the industry is being hated on from people that a) worked to change it in the first place and b) have seen it’s growth and should know better than to generalize such a diverse place. For shame E and Cliffy B. For shame.