Tag Archives: Video Games

Super Dungeon Tactics

Super Dungeon Tactics is the late 2016 release from Underbite Games. Created in partnership with miniatures design company Soda Pop Miniatures and board game maker Ninja Division, the game draws from the tabletop lineage of its patrons to build a vibrant, turn-based fantasy.

At first blush, Super Dungeon Tactics feels like a game for the young at heart. Calling back to the earliest of turn-based strategy titles, players are set in a world of bright colors and chibi-like sprites. The starting heroes, a dwarven warrior and an elven mage, are enthusiastic and excited about their battles.

Honestly, I did zero background on the game before booting it up. When I realized it was a turn-based strategy, I immediately began to compare it to The Banner Saga. That was unfortunate, given how different these games are. While the Banner Saga is a depressing, Viking-inspired tale of woe with roots in games like Oregon Trail, Dungeon Tactics is cut from a more upbeat, playful cloth.

The aesthetic reminded me almost immediately of early Final Fantasy games or, perhaps, the Legend of Heroes Franchise. Dialogue is often between two or more colorfully animated portraits with a shifting array of facial expressions. However, the actual game world and combat stages are nicely computer rendered.

Once you’re situated, the player gets to develop a guild as part of the broader mission to save the fantasy world of Crystalia from the forces of darkness. That mechanic includes several unlockable heroes who can be equipped, developed and deployed for your missions. While not ground-breaking, I did enjoy the ability to name my heroes. I couldn’t resist at least a slight grin whenever a character referred to my mage, KayFlay, or my dwarf, Post Malone.

Rounds of combat are punctuated with random dice rolls that do something good or bad to your heroes. For example, a dice roll may give the player +1 health, which can then be applied to the character of their choosing.

The game is technically proficient, though not perfect. The music is exactly what you would expect; though I had trouble recalling what it generally sounded like once I walked away. The extended prologue can be a bit of a slog, but does a solid job walking players through party play and environmental interactions. Both I and a friend sampled Super Dungeon Tactics, and if we had a single complaint, it was menu organization. Mission setup can feel tedious and, even within the game itself, button clicks are cumbersome. For example, the tutorial instructs you to drag your character to a location rather than click the square you want him or her to move to. After dragging, the game confirms the move. Alternatively, there is an unstated option to double click, but this causes the character to complete the move without confirmation from the game.

Dungeon Tactics also appears not to be optimized for touch screens, but players can still paw clumsily around. This is a non-gripe, as it doesn’t really take anything away from the experience, but touch controls would have opened some interesting possibilities.

Overall, Super Dungeon Tactics is a great pick. Solid gameplay and a vibrant setting make for an adventure that feels both a bit like a board game and an heir to the classic turn-based strategies of old.

Links and Extras:

Underbite Games

Soda Pop Miniatures

Super Dungeon Tactics’ Steam Page

Ninja Division

The Cool Ship was provided a copy of Super Dungeon Tactics for review purposes.


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Halo 5 Got Bigger, but Lesser

Halo 5Halo is in a weird place right now, but let me just get this out of the way: the shooting feels great, the gameplay is solid, and some of the new moves included in the game are a lot of fun. The spectacle of Halo is still in full force, but I can’t help thinking that when 343 Industries took over the series, they assumed that “higher stakes” for the game’s protagonist meant that the galactic threat got larger. When it comes to the Halo games, though, I’m not entirely convinced that bigger is better.

Spoilers are probably ahead. Read at your own risk.

Halo 5: Guardians (a subtitle, really?) begins with new character (in the games, anyway) Spartan Locke and his crew of Spartan pals taking down the Covenant on a planet in order to rescue Spartan-and-Cortana creator Dr. Catherine Halsey. After the rescue, she informs the heroes that a new threat is about to emerge.

Meanwhile, the Master Chief and his childhood buddies are on a mission to stop some Covenant baddies from stealing some stealth ship technology on a secret space station blah blah blah, and then he gets a message from Cortana. She’s alive!

And this, for me, is immediately where the story starts to fall apart. The marketing of the game (not that you can always trust game marketing) seemed to indicate that Spartan Locke would be hunting the Master Chief because he had made a tough decision that went awry. That is far from the case, however.

In fact, the story is kind of incoherent when a little thought is put into it. Sure, Master Chief goes AWOL, but I feel like they could’ve given him a call rather then send a team after him.

And let’s talk about Cortana’s resurrection. Halo 4 was a lot of things, but it’s greatest moment was when Cortana, your AI buddy through the all the previous games starring Master Chief, manages to put off her insanity long enough to sacrifice herself to not only destroy the bad guy that is threatening earth, but also save the Chief. It’s almost a tragic love story. The two had been through a lot.

So I was interested to see how ole John-117 was going to cope without her on his latest mission. And honestly, with Cortana back and evil, the effect is ruined. Cortana has cured her insanity and has decided that the best way to save the galaxy is by enforcing a rule by fear using massive robots to kill anything that threatens the peace–a “Pax Cortana” if you will. And now we get into 343 thinking that “higher stakes” means “galactic threat.”

CortanaFor Master Chief, the stakes were already very high. For seven years or more, Cortana has been his constant companion, his protector, his confidant, his love. She may be an AI, but he had real feelings for her. She died in a moment where he was powerless to do anything to help the situation. She saved him.

Imagine a game where you’re defeating the bad guys, but the real story is about Master Chief’s survivor’s guilt. He loved that little blue robot lady, and now he has to face a universe where the constant comforting voice inside his head is gone. Sure, he still has his buddies, but they aren’t one flesh with him like Cortana was (she was, after all, attached to his brain). The Chief is basically a widower.

So, the threat didn’t have to be galactic. The story could’ve been about how self-destructive John-117 had become, with his friends trying to bring him back from the brink. Maybe Chief’s recklessness had done something bad to one of the colony worlds, and he decided to go AWOL in shame. Locke then, would actually be “hunting the truth” to find out what happened and to bring the Chief back.

I don’t hate the story that the game has. It’s interesting enough, such as it is. But I think the storytelling in Mass Effect, Bioshock, Fallout, and even Gears of War, have shown me that games that are shooters can have deep, personal stories that make you empathize with a character.

Maybe Locke and The Chief will end up saving the galaxy, but is it worth rescuing a galaxy that has no real personal stakes? The expanded universe of Halo is full of good stories about people trying to make their way through the both the chaos of war and the ultimate order of living in a massive police state. The audio series “Hunt the Truth” is a superb example of just how interesting the universe that Halo has created can be.

Maybe what Halo needs is fewer power weapons and more plot. The characters should be what drives the plot; as it is right now, the protagonists are merely slaves to the story rather than the player feeling like they are a part of it. War stories are only good when the characters are well-developed. Here’s hoping that in Halo 6 is less about spectacle and more about the characters involved.

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The Taken King Took Me In

WarlockI’ve written before about how much I love Destiny, the “shared-world” shooter by Bungie. It scratches every itch I have when it comes to video games: first-person shooter, co-operative, competitive, MMO, RPG elements. The newest expansion “The Taken King” has leveled up my love for the game even further.

I came into Destiny a little later than a lot of people. I bought it after the first two DLCs had come out, so some of the things that people had been complaining about had been fixed. I played the game all the time. Got my Warlock to Level 33 and was preparing to do raid stuff in the weeks before The Taken King released. I also got involved in a clan, The Dads of Destiny.

TitanLet me just make an aside here: the Dads of Destiny are a great group of dudes to play with. They are all polite, most of them have children, and they mostly play when they are able to, which can be pretty random. The other day I was playing with a couple guys, and we were all commiserating about sick kids who refused to sleep. It’s part gaming clan and part Dad support group.

Anyway, The Taken King takes Destiny and makes it better. The story is more coherent, the enemies are more challenging, some of the events are more epic, and the NPCs actually feel like characters rather than a means to an end (and I actually remember their names). I also like the fact that Light Level (the measure of how powerful you are in the Huntergame–an aggregate score of your defense and attack values) and character level are separate, so you always feel like you are improving, even after you’ve reached the maximum character level.

The meta also hasn’t reached the point where one load out beats everything else. Right now I can play the way I want to play, and it’s just fine. I don’t have to worry about having a certain loot drop to go into a raid; I can just play. It’s beautiful, and I hope it stays that way.

That’s not to say that everything about the game is peaches.
I really don’t like that so many of the high-level activities don’t include matchmaking. I get that Bungie is attempting to go for tight-knit groups of friends, but I have to play pretty randomly, and mostly late at night. And, let’s face it, most people are using looking-for-group websites to connect with others to play endgame content with. If people are going to a website that Bungie owns to do this… why wouldn’t Bungie just include it in the game?

Other than that, I’m pretty satisfied with the game. Will I still be playing when Halo 5, Fallout 4, or something else I love comes along, that I can’t answer right now.


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Replacement Gameology

Game DudesMy son is home all day due to Summer Break from school. He just finished kindergarten, and having him home again all day has taken some getting used to. I do my best to keep him busy: playing outside, reading, worksheets, building blocks, video games. Playing video games is a hobby with both share, and the unthinkable is happening–he’s getting better than me.

I’ve been coming to grips lately with the fact that he is basically here to replace me. That’s fine; my son is a cool guy, and if someone has to carry on the Johnston banner when I’m gone, he’s a fine choice. Video games, though, might be the last straw. For example, we often battle each other in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. He beats me probably two out of three fights. He’s great at platformers. Really, anything that doesn’t involve crazy amounts of reading is like second nature to him.

He also approaches video games with joy! I tend to approach them with cynicism. His spirit hasn’t been broken by large publishers, crappy movie tie-in games, or promises by developers that were never delivered. Instead, he sees a commercial and thinks everything looks AMAZING! I miss that kind of video game innocence.

As he ages, he’ll be the target demographic for video game dollars. Publishers will market to him. He’ll need to have the latest video games on the first day. In the meantime, I’ll be buying game of the year editions of games and not immediately jumping into online multiplayer. Hardcore gaming is a young man’s game.

I’m perfectly okay with my son replacing me in the eyes of video game publishers. I’ll be more likely to enjoy games the way I want to… and maybe I can pass on my gaming wisdom to my replacement.

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Where is my Fandom?

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. I used to be a fan in the literal sense of the word: fantatic. I used to be able to talk your ear off about comics, movies, video games, board games, and I would do so with glee. But, lately, fandom has been kind of annoying to me. Every time I see a post by a Doctor Who fan, I just want to unfollow them. When I see people arguing over which video game console is the best, I want to give up on the internet altogether. It’s not that I’m not a fan of those things; it’s that I’ve lost my patience for the fandom.

Just this morning, I saw a friend make a post that was ripping apart Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That movie came out over half a decade ago. People are still complaining about The Phantom Menace. It released 15 years ago.  For half my life, I’ve been hearing people complain about that movie. And I was complaining right along with them, for the most part.

What changed me? You know, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that I had kids. Or started my own business. Maybe I’m just tired all the time. Maybe the fandom is just getting younger. But, I am just getting weary of it all. I’ve started unfollowing so many of the Facebook pages of things I like. Some of the Doctor Who pages are the worst.

Pond gagI hate stuff like the above picture. I don’t find it even remotely clever. The picture doesn’t really fit, and it’s sappy as all get out. I think maybe I’m just incapable of loving a television show like some other people on the internet.  Maybe our TV shows actually become a religion to some.


Being a kind of geeky dude, this is starting to worry me. While maybe I’m just growing up, there’s a part of me that feels inexorably linked to geek culture. I don’t want to give it up. I like gaming. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like comic books. But, I feel like my quest for moderation might be harming my geek credentials. And I can’t believe that it’s an actual concern for me.

Maybe it’s my desire to belong with like-minded individuals that makes me worry that I’m falling a bit out of hardcore geek culture and into “dreaded” casual fandom, but I’m not JUST a geek any more. I have family, friends, church responsibilities, job stuff. Honestly, in the face of that, maybe falling a bit out of fandom’s gravitational pull isn’t such a bad thing.

So, if you’ve been where I’ve been, how did you get your fandom back? Or did you just leave it behind?

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The Doctor’s New Threads, When Loki Was Almost Thor, and Uwe Boll is STILL Getting Work



1. BBC finally revealed Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor costume….And it’s pretty freakin’ snazzy! It’s a modern take on a retro style that gives Capaldi’s Doctor just an extra touch of class.  A dark blue Crombie coat with red lining, a white shirt with absolutely no tie, dark blue trousers, and black Dr Martens shoes. The look was created by Doctor Who costume designer Howard Burden. Still no image of his Sonic screwdriver has been revealed, nor any image of him using one. Hopefully he’s not going “sans Screwdriver” for his run as the Doctor.

Lookin' sharp, Doc. (image property of BBC)

Lookin’ sharp, Doc. (image property of BBC)

2. Have you seen the gifs of Tom Hiddleston as Thor? Apparently, before he became the Loki that we all know and love, he auditioned for the role of the god of thunder himself, Thor. Although, he looks more like Bodhi from Point Break. The test footage will be one of the extras on the DVD and Blu-ray release of Thor: The Dark World when it releases on Feb. 25th. Also, there’s some footage dressed as Captain America. It’s like he wants to play all of the Avengers or something.

Thor, God of Thunder. And gnarly waves. (image property of Marvel)

Thor, God of Thunder. And gnarly waves. (image property of Marvel)

3. Remember the ghastly film adaptations of the video games BloodRayne, Dungeon Siege, Far Cry, Postal, Alone in the Dark, and House of the Dead that Uwe Boll made? And remember the petition that was started to convince him to stop making films like the aforementioned ones? Well the petition didn’t work (there weren’t enough signatures and the douchebag wouldn’t have honored it anyway) and Boll is still making crappy adaptations.

During one of my internet searches for movies soon to be released, I discovered that a third Dungeon Siege film is set to release next month (In the Name of the King 3) and Boll was at the helm for it. Dammit. Why is this guy still getting work?! Who is funding this schmuck?! Has no one seen any of his previous work?! I just don’t get it. I’ve only seen one film that this guy has done that I actually like (Rampage) and the rest is garbage. Everything he does goes straight to DVD now, so that has to be how he’s squeaking by unnoticed. Thankfully, no major studio has thought, “Ya know, this guy has got some talent. We should hire him.” There would be riots. Large scale riots with fire and explosions and such, followed by the jackass that hired him being forced to commit seppuku.

Anyway, here’s the trailer for Rampage. It’s also getting a sequel but I’m a little unsure about watching it. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, if ya know what I mean.

[Header image property of BBC]

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Video Games are Losing Their Appeal (To Me)

its-dangerous-to-go-alone-take-thisI’ve been playing video games for a long time. I got my first video game system (the Nintendo Entertainment System) when I was around five years old or so. But, lately, video games are losing their luster for me. I find myself not having fun playing them any more.

It started a few months ago. I was playing Halo 4 (one of my favorite games from last year), and I realized I wasn’t having any fun doing it. So, I popped in Borderlands 2; I also didn’t have any fun.

I began wondering what was making these games less fun for me, and I realized it was because I wasn’t having any social interactions.

I’m a work-at-home dad. I freelance edit and take care of my kids during the day while my wife works a “real” job.  Most of my social interactions come from my kids (Ages 1 and 4) and chatting on the Internet. So, for me, games are less of an unwinding escape and more of a chance for me to by myself some more. And that isn’t fun to me.

I’ve stated many times recently that if I could get some regular tabletop gaming done, I would probably give up video gaming all together. Well, that’s a bit of hyperbole (I don’t think I’ll ever totally stop video gaming), but the sentiment is mostly true. I played a four-hour game of X-Wing Miniatures (with a game of Munchkin before that) and had a lot of fun. And the difference was, of course, social interaction! My friends were there. We could chat, rib each other, and generally share in victory and defeat.

I’ve also been playing and running games over Google Hangouts with the Roll20 App, and it’s been great. Again, social interaction makes all the difference. And since I’m playing mostly with friends, I get to stay away from the negative social interactions in Halo Matchmaking.

There are still video games that interest me. I really like old-school style platformers (I started playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and really want to try Rogue Legacy), but for the most part, I really just want to play games with my friends.

I played Halo: Anniversary with my wife the other night. I had a lot of fun. Maybe what I need to do then, is focus on video games that have “couch multiplayer.”  Whatever it is, I think I crave interaction with adults, and that’s making multiplayer online gaming boring to me.

Who wants to come over for a game night?

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Gun Control, Violent Games & The Digital Violence Paradigm

The sims

Death in a box.

When I started this column, I had this idea. I wanted to write about that space where fantasy escapism (i.e. popular entertainment) and social forms meet.  I wanted to talk about why we make the entertainment we do and what that entertainment does to us.

Because I do believe that the process of doing something changes us. And since I’ve taken the Area Of Effect title I’ve done pretty much everything but actually talk about that.

Until this week. This week a president decided to lay down some new rules about how guns are purchased in this country while petitioning Congress to make even more.

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook there’s a resurgent question in the air. What causes gun violence and how do we stop it? An associated question: do violent video games kill people?

My first instinct is to say no. I love violent video games. They are the only games I play, and I have yet to kill anyone. But I’m an individual, not a statistic. And individuals are pretty bad at working out patterns in huge numbers of people by eyeballing it.

The Stats

1. The U.S. has the highest rate of fire-arm related murders of any developed country in the world.

2. Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than someone in another developed country.

3. An average of 82 people (8 of them children) die in the United States every day from gun violence.

The Sandy Hook tragedy is a single example of something that’s happening in this country every day. After more than a week of media blackout, the NRA came back with a condemnation of the cultural glorification of gun violence in video games. Guns don’t kill people; video games kill people.

Personally, I thought it was laughable at the time. This is an old argument from the ’90s. And, to me, an obvious opportunity for the NRA to guide the conversation away from gun control. Apparently that’s not the case, as a real conversation about video game violence seems to be in the works.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe video games do anything to us. I think the mass consumption of violence is probably doing a lot of things to us, but I don’t believe it makes us kill each other. And science doesn’t believe it either. Academic studies continue to show that there just isn’t any substantial evidence that video games are a causal mechanism for violence.

Here’s the thing. I actually do think video games and violent media in general do something to us. Just this week I commented on how messed up it is that movies universally recognize domestic violence is bad while at the same time romanticizing boyfriends that kill.  And I think it does a lot to reinforce stereotypes about race, gender, and a on and on until we drown in an ocean of political correctness. But there are some important caveats.

First, cultural artifacts like movies and video games are the product of a culture as well as a means for reinforcement. The stuff we see on the screen doesn’t appear from a vacuum. It is somewhere in the society and somewhere in us. That’s the reason someone makes it and the reason other people pay money to consume it.

Guns are a part of our national persona because violence is a part of our national persona. Ask yourself a question. When’s the last time you watched a movie where the protagonist overcame his challenges without using violence? I can’t speak for you, but of the top 20 grossing films of all time I see only two that didn’t need violent protagonists: Titanic & Toy Story 3. And I’m reluctant to give Toy Story a pass.

My point is violence is the most popular way our heroes solve problems. There is a corollary between the the games we play and gun violence, but it’s more apt to say that the idea of gun violence causes violent video games rather than the reverse. Robert Brockway at Cracked may has one of the best takes on it:

We’ve spent the vast majority of our national history involved in active, bloody wars. We won our independence with gun violence; we stayed a nation with gun violence; we helped stave off worldwide genocide with gun violence. Gun violence has, generally speaking, been working out pretty spiffy for us. The vast bulk of our movies, television shows, and, yes, video games revolve around praising gun violence. And we’re all writing, approving, designing, and buying these things, then turning around and looking at the finished product like we’ve just discovered a rabid animal in our bathroom. Everybody is standing there aghast, wondering which of our media caused all of this violent thinking; nobody’s asking why we made them all in the first place.

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Second, everything I’ve read and come to understand about popular media consumption tells a story of perspective rather than impetus. Pop culture may cause us to feel certain things, and it most certainly impacts our thinking, but it does not build within us a drive to murder children.

Consider Spec Ops: The Line for a moment. We did a whole write-up of it at the end of last year because of how profoundly and completely it highlighted the problems with military shooters. The short version is that combat shooters use something that isn’t real, a fun war experience, to make war seem sexy. While I doubt these games cause players to up and join the military, I do think they shape the way we think about warfare and help us ignore some of it’s nastier consequences. Just the same way I think images about race or gender repeated over and over by popular entertainment shape the way we think about those topics too.

What they don’t do is cause stable, mentally healthy people to kill. Video games aren’t the problem, though they are symptomatic of a problem. People are the problem. In a sense it’s true that guns don’t kill people. People kill people with guns.

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Video Game Porn

From the title, you may think that I’m here to talk about “adult” video games with sexual content. I’m not.

While the word “porn” was initially associated with something sordid, it has recently become representative of any number of images that stirs feelings of lust in the viewer. Food porn, for example, is pictures of food all trussed up and lit in such a way to show only how awesome the food looks.

I have an addiction, well, maybe a compulsion, to video games. I love those things! Whether it be building and defending in Minecraft, shooting n00bs in Halo, or spending late nights promising “just one more turn!” with Civilization, you’ll probably find me with Xbox controller in my hand…if I’m in the house, my work is done, and the kids are either asleep or distracted.

And when the stars don’t align, and I can’t play games?

I watch people play them.

Like the smoker who is trying to quit but likes to watch other people smoke, or like the  dieter who likes to watch others eat pie, I go to YouTube and watch various “Let’s Play” videos. My current favorite flavors are Rooster Teeth (those guys that did the Halo machinima Red vs. Blue), for their Minecraft and Halo videos; Game Grumps, for their awesome theme song and ridiculous babbling and wordplay while playing games; and GameInformer’s Replay and Super Replay, for their perspective on games as industry professionals.

Sometimes my wife will be watching a TV show that I’m uninterested in, so I’ll jump on my laptop, pop in my earbuds and start watching people play games. She generally just looks at me sadly. She’s never told me that I have a problem, but she’s definitely thinking it.

I’m not sure what need is filled by watching strangers play video games. After all, when I’m watching people I know play video games, I generally want to go nuts and yank the controller from their hands. Maybe watching people who are at least as good (probably better) at these games is a decent surrogate. I don’t know.

But, as long as these guys keep making “Let’s Play” videos, I’m going to keep watching.

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The Week in Geek: Nov. 16, 2012

Colleen will be back next week. Until then, I have your back.

Twinkies maker Hostess is shutting down due to bankruptcy and a labor dispute. Hey Hostess, pot was just legalized in Colorado and Washington… so maybe you should’ve held out a few more months.

Popular Science has come up with a list of the 25 greatest innovations of the last 25 years.  Auto-tune didn’t make the list.

Google Fiber goes live in Kansas City. I was going to make a joke about being regular with fiber, but meh.

Time Magazine made a list of the 100 best video games of all time. I don’t really agree with their entries, but that’s like… their opinion, man.

Felicity wrote about Twilight and how Kstew and Rpatt’s relationship is probably super fake.

Xbox live turned 10 yesterday. That means it’s officially older than the majority of its audience. I kid, I kid.

Next week is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. So, here’s a crappy song about it. Colleen will be back next week! Yaaay!

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Gaming’s Awkward Adolescence

Ever dug out your 6th grade pictures? I did recently, and boy, I was an awkward-looking kid! I had it all: thick glasses, bowl cut, and pimples. It’s a tough time for most kids. I think we all go through it because the humiliation makes us better people, or maybe we just get better at making fun of other people and taking the heat off ourselves.

Like people, gaming has been aging (albeit more slowly) and going through its own growing pains. Let’s run down the stages before I get to gaming’s current puberty.

1971-1983 – Gaming is mostly concerned with blocks and bouncing balls. In 1983, gaming fell over face first from fatigue and fell asleep for awhile.

1983-1990 – Gaming takes its first awkward steps. Some games are hard due to a lack of fine motor control. Other games are too easy. Some games leave an indelible mark on gaming, setting precedent (and fond memories) for decades to come.

1990- 1994 – More graphics! More colors! Fights on the playground about SNES vs Genesis! Games got bigger and louder and more energetic. We also started to see gaming on the go.

1994- 2000 – Worlds expand with the advent of 3D gaming. Gamers are given a little more freedom to explore their new worlds. Gaming really hits its stride in terms of popularity.

2000- present – The awkward adolescence.

Gaming culture right now is a lot like puberty. Here’s a couple of ways I’ve noted.

1. Trying to be taken seriously

Whether it’s the argument that video games are art (Remember when Roger Ebert kept getting trolled because he said they weren’t? Let’s face it, some of the responses to him were extremely childish and not at all well thought out.) or the need for gamers to justify their hobby (At least I’m not drinking, smoking, or doing drugs! It helps my hand-eye coordination!), many gamers feel a need for non-gamers to take their hobby seriously. They want others to see it as a legit form of expression and amusement.

I still feel the need to justify my gaming habits to skeptical adults. But really, it doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. I like playing, so I do it. I try to do it in moderation and not let it take over my life (gaming as lifestyle rather than hobby can be a big problem), and it gives me a little bit of joy. ‘Nuff said.

2. Gamer entitlement

I’m a frequent reader of gaming blogs and magazines, so I’ve noticed entitlement creeping into gamer culture for a few years now.  It really came to  a head earlier this year, when Mass Effect 3‘s ending was kind of lame. There was outcry, threats of lawsuits, and numerous articles written in favor of changing the ending or leaving it as is.

This morning, I was on the Facebook page for the great little indy game Terraria. It’s basically a 2D Minecraft with a lot more actual game to it. It’s wonderful; the gameplay is nearly endless. It’s been out only on PC for a few years, but word is that another developer got permission to develop the game for video gaming consoles.

This is when the crap hit the fan.

You see, Terraria’s original creator decided to stop updating the game… but these new guys were going to add new stuff to the console version. This made the PC guys very angry. I can see why… kind of. Realistically though, most of these guys have probably gotten 100 hours or more out of Terraria, a game that costs 10 bucks. This whining strikes me as extremely selfish.

I have a bit more sympathy for the Mass Effect 3 players. They payed $60 for a game that didn’t deliver on its advertised promises.

We don’t have to whine about everything. Gaming will mature when gamers can understand the business of making and shipping games, I think. Like a child that doesn’t understand everything their parents have to go through in order to feed and cloth them, gaming culture still has some growing up to do.

3. Misunderstanding what mature is

I’ll tell you what maturity isn’t: it isn’t lots of boobs, guts, and violence. It isn’t constant cursing, or acting the way you want to at any given moment. Maturity is knowing when to act and how to act at any given time. Like I said, I’ve been reading  gaming forums for a long time, and while I’m seeing a lot of maturity, I’m also seeing a huge lack of it.

Gaming culture will eventually mature. When it does, video gaming will be taken seriously by the mainstream. Before that happens, gamers will have to take it seriously, though. I hope you know that takes much more than simply dedicating large swaths of their life to playing games. It takes an understanding of how games are made, the consequences of playing them, and a less entitled attitude.

I think all of that will happen…eventually. These growing pains will be good for us.

Until then, be good to each other.

(Note: The Featured Image is of me and my friend Chris circa 1992. Sorry, Chris!)


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The Week in Geek: Oct. 12, 2012

I had a ton of great links. Then I accidentally exited the window and didn’t realize it for a few minutes. Now you’re stuck with what I remembered finding. Sorry, the internet is a fickle fig.

mario+luigi droids

What makes you think we’re the droids you’re looking for? Itsa me, Luigi, sir! Image courtesy of Andrea Gerstmann Art.

You’re not the only ones trying to figure out what to be for Halloween. Professional Caricaturist Andrea Gerstmann gives everyone’s favorite droids a costumed makeover.  (via Neatorama)

These brother’s built an absurdly detailed Lego Batcave with more than 20,000 pieces over the course of six months. That’s impressive, but what I really want to know is if they managed to do all that and never step on a brick barefoot. (via Kotaku)

TJ has to make Sophie’s Choice…between two games.

John Gurdon won the 2012 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine and is generally considered to be, in technical terms, a Science Beast. However, in 1949, a high school teacher said pursuing a career as a scientist would be a “sheer waste of time.” Guess what Gurdon now has framed?

The New York Times has a fabulous profile on lady-geek entrepreneur/ voice actress Ashley Eckstein and her geek-with-boobies-friendly clothing company, Her Universe. Note: My birthday is coming up, and my closet is conspicuously lacking this.

Arrow premiered and now it looks like I won’t be the only one on staff watching the CW anymore!

oscar + bigbird droids

I’m going to make a Mitt Romney joke here because I’m liberal and topical! Image courtesy of Andrea Gerstmann Art.

The PS1’s graphics often looked like the “Money for Nothing” video, and the licensed games had a tendency to be a giant ball of suck. Topless Robot has six licensed games that not only rock, but still stand up to playing.

Yeah, I lack the skill to make these spectacular geek-o-lanterns. Could I interest you in a charmingly lopsided face? (via MentalFloss)

Just when you think the world couldn’t get any better, what with the crunchy leaves, the pumpkin spice lattes, and my wedding coming up (You know you care), Pixar releases a charming short, “Partysaurus Rex.” (via /Film)

In related news, Pixar has created a delightful website for Monsters University. Not the movie, the university the monsters go to in the movie. Oh. Pixar, thank you for filling my week with win! (via TDW)

Thinking thoughts about Angry Birds: Star Wars Gabrielle has.

Remember the eccentric billionaire who sad, “Bah!” to science and reason and set out to build his own Jurassic Park? Well science and reason have respectfully replied with a logical smackdown of your childhood hopes and dreams.

Steampunk and crafty (Aren’t all Steampunks somewhat crafty, or is that a stereotype?) people alike will be interested in Needles and Artifice, a book of Steampunk knitting patters.

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A Better Class of MMO [Rocking the Boat]

John wrote an article yesterday about his disappointment with the current World of Warcraft. I agree with all of his points, but I thought I would take it a step further and talk about the kind of MMO I would want to play. As I was thinking about it, I came up with this formula.

Mass Effect’s character creation + Skyrim’s open world and skills + Minecraft’s building and crafting + EVE’s approach to PvP and economy + Some other stuff + World of Warcraft  = A game that I would throw all my money at for a chance to play.

Curt Schilling, if you’re reading this, and this was what Project Copernicus was going to be,  I am sad for you.

Mass Effect’s Character Creation:

Besides being very customizable, Mass Effect has you answer some basic questions about your character. I’d love to see this affect the game in different ways. I also hope that it would encourage a little more role playing from the people playing the game. I miss having roleplaying in MMORPGs. Large scale RPing would be amazing.

Image: PC Mag.com

Skyrim’s Skill System

Skyrim has a rich, open world for you to explore. Put this into an MMORPG and make it even bigger. Let me pick my own skills rather than be shoehorned into a class. Maybe instead of being a warrior, I want to be a simple woodcutter and carpenter (this ties into my next point). I don’t mind a framework that I could work from, but I hate being forced into one of three roles with my class. Instead, I want to play the game my way, unbalanced or not.

Minecraft’s Building and Crafting:

Azeroth has a problem. Everything is only related to war and making war. You can only build things that have to do with war. I, however, want to stake out claims on land. Build some buildings. Mine some stone. Cut down and replant some trees. Pick herbs and make potions/medicines for various effects. I don’t want to just be a warrior destroying things; I want to be able to create.  And this just doesn’t go for building either.

I want to be able to make my own weapons and armor. I want them to be customizable, I want them to look the way I want. And give them the effects that I’ve learned. I want to sell them and be awesome. This brings me to…

EVE’s Economy and PvP:

A player driven-economy. Let people buy and sell anything and everything. Let people found their own towns, corporations, cities, guilds. Let the player’s recruit new people and send them out on missions.  Yes, this could lead to imbalance. I don’t care. I have no problems living in an unbalanced world. Factions will rise and fall. People will band together and people will betray each other.

Imagine having to hire a high-level body guard. He’d watch your back. Go out and assassinate rivals for you. And you paid him a set amount of money per month… so long as he stayed above a certain level.

Yes, did I mention? PvP and death have consequences. They don’t have to be big consequences, but a small loss of XP and dropping everything on you is fair, in my opinion. We played MUDs like that for a long time… and instead of whining about it, we decided to get better. To play sneakier. To be aware of our surroundings. This would also force you to manage your resources well. Put your money in banks… and other safe havens…. but you might want to buy insurance… since banks can be robbed and safes can be broken into. It all depends on how the players decide to build things. It could be magnificent.

Want to be a dark lord? Do it.

Other Stuff:

I like the idea of capturing random mobs and drafting them into a faction’s army. You could then send this army to attack other factions. The army limit would be based on the cumulative power level of the mobs, and the size of the faction you run. This could replace high level content/dungeons/instances with what is essentially a strategy war game. Coordinate your NPC mobs with the PCs in your faction. Take over your opponents city. Rebuild it in your image.


I’m not worried about game balance here… I think the free game market (with certain restrictions) could actually balance out play. Things could get ugly for you… but things could also be awesome. You could run a faction. You could lose everything.

Or you could just build a house in a town or in the middle of nowhere, and just farm, log, or frolic in the grasses.

You get to play your way. With hundreds of others.

Where can I deposit my money to play this?

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