What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Joshua Foer

Joshua Foer, author and memory athlete

The author of Moonwalking With Einstein now busies himself with memorizing obscure African languages.

By Drew Toal • June 15, 2012

In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.

Joshua Foer is the author of Moonwalking With Einstein, a piece of participatory journalism that immerses him in the world of competitive memory competitions. The book was published last year, but Foer is still in the business of near-total recall.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Joshua Foer: These days, my moments of procrastination are being completely consumed by Memrise. It’s a language-learning app created by Ed Cooke, whom readers of Moonwalking With Einstein will know well. Ed was my memory coach when I trained for the USA Memory Championship. The idea behind the app is to take all of the best practices that companies like Zynga have used to hook people on the most mindless games imaginable, and instead use them to game-ify learning. It’s totally addictive. But more importantly, it actually seems to work.

Gameological: So you’re still memory training even though the book is finished?

Foer: I know, just when I thought I could finally move on to another story, the memory training pulls me back in. I needed to learn Lingala, the language spoken in the Congo, for a new project I’m working on, and, well, the nearest university with a Lingala course is 1,000 miles away. So I turned to Memrise. I’m kind of shocked at how well it works.

Gameological: That seems a suspiciously productive way to spend prime time-wasting phone time. When is a game no longer a game and only an ornamented learning device?

Foer: Isn’t a game just a set of feedback systems that make you want to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing? If someone has figured out how to make me want to keep memorizing foreign vocabulary, I’m happy to call that a game with benefits. Better I should be doing that than playing Angry Birds.

Gameological: That is depressing. I happen to like shooting Brazilian paramilitaries in the face for its own sake, thanks.

Foer: I prefer my virtual enemies to wear swastikas, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Gameological: Do you have to recruit people on Facebook into Memrise in order to advance?

Foer: No, I don’t think that’s a feature yet. But a la Farmville, Memrise analogizes your memories to a garden of plants. It has an algorithm that knows when a given plant is starting to wilt, and it emails me you to remind you to water it, so that it can eventually be harvested into your long-term memory. Just this morning I watered nyoka, mokanda, and mongwa—snake, paper, and salt.

Gameological: Watering snakes seems like a terrible idea. Don’t do that in Congo, no matter how many double-dog dares you get. Have you ever been to Africa?

Foer: A couple times. But I haven’t learned how to say “double-dog dare” in Lingala yet.

Gameological: One of the memory techniques you talk about is filling a room with familiar figures doing unfamiliar things. Do any video game characters exist in your memory mansion?

Foer: Not in mine, no, but I know that three-time world champ Ben Pridmore has some Street Fighter characters in his. Ideally, you want a character in your memory palace to be really three-dimensional, with a big personality—something that will make him or her extremely memorable. Frankly—and maybe this will get me into trouble in a column read by gamers—it doesn’t seem like there are nearly as many fleshed-out characters in video games these days, compared to my childhood. Luigi, Zelda, Leisure Suit Larry—those were personalities that filled the room.

Gameological: I’m not sure I want Larry knocking around in my brain. Might give it the clap. Any new additions to your memory palace lately?

Foer: Besides a whole new African language? Not really. I’ve become a mnemonic schlub lately. I’m out of shape.

Gameological: Is there a Babe Ruth of memory athletes?

Foer: Well, Germany has Gunther Karsten. He won their national memory championship seven years in a row. But he’s not a drunk, overweight womanizer, if that’s what you’re asking.

Gameological: I wasn’t not asking. What’s your first gaming memory?

Foer: My family got our first 8088 PC when I was three, which means I was playing stars.exe, a black-and-white interstellar shoot-em-up, before I could read. I’d love to find that game again and see how it stacks up. [Any idea where to find it, readers? —ed.]

Gameological: That sounds amazing. I’m sure it’s bouncing around out on the internet somewhere. So do people ask you to do memory tricks all the time now?

Foer: Thank God, no.

Gameological: Do your newfound memory superpowers extend to remembering long nights spent at the bar? Just how deleterious an effect does alcohol have on memory, in your opinion?

Foer: Any self-respecting memory champion can wake up in a pool of his own vomit, and still recite every license plate he passed the night before. But for those without such powers… yeah, drinking in excess is not good for your brain.

Gameological: Can you beat three-card Monte now?

Foer: I can beat ten-card Monte now.

And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.

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811 Responses to “Joshua Foer, author and memory athlete”

  1. Cloks says:

    Assuming that’s an open question, the original Halph Life. Although the graphics are beyond dated and it’s occasionally incredibly frustrating the game is still incredibly fun. Are the expansions comparably good?

    • Mr. Glitch says:

      Hello. Opposing Force is an excellent expansion; better than the original game in my opinion. Blue Shift, on the other hand, is best left skipped unless you’re a true Half-Life completist.

    • Merve says:

      Both Blue Shift and Opposing Force are fun and worth playing, but neither of them is as good as the original Half-Life.

      I’ve technically never played the original Half-Life because I played the Source engine remake instead. So if you’re looking for a version of the game where the graphics are slightly less dated, then that might be something you want to check out.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         Apparently the Black Mesa Mod for Half-Life 2 is still kicking (though still in development). It’s a fan made remake of Half-Life from the ground up in the Source engine, so that all the textures and everything act better.

        http://www.blackmesasource.com/

        • Electric Dragon says:

          The big question is – which will come first? Black Mesa, HL2: Episode Three or The Rapture?

          I’ve given up anticipating BM. If it ever comes out, I’ll be downloading day one, but until then I’m not paying it any attention.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Given up anticipating BM?
          Try more fiber.

      • doyourealize says:

        I was into Opposing Force for a while, but I ran into a glitch, pretty far in, that wouldn’t allow me to move past a certain point. Too bad, too, because it was enjoyable.

  2. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    I’ve been playing Tatsunoko Vs Capcom on my wii. It’s a lot of fun, even though I have no idea who the Tatsunoko people are. I played a single match online and was promptly handed my own ass. I guess I’ll try unlocking more stuff and maybe try to convince a friend to try it with me. I’m actually reading guides, so I kind of understand more of the mechanics at play. I usually just button mash with fighters and don’t understand anything at all, but i’m slowly getting the hang of it.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      One of these days, I’m going to really learn combo systems; they seem so intrinsic to the beat-’em-up games that I tend to just mash my way through (God of War, Lollipop Chainsaw, etc.). Perhaps if I understood chains better, I might find these games more elegant . . . then again, a fighter, especially online, *forces* you to learn the system, so I blame the game for not bringing me up to its standards.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Virtua Fighter is the acknowledged master of tutorials.  Just saying.

        I actually think chains and combinations are the last things people should learn.  Fighting games are just as much about spacing, mastery of specials, dexterity, and timing.  If you can learn those, well, 1, you’ll be a master at any game that existed before combos became widespread.  2, you’ll be a smarter player than the fool who memorized the 3 highest damage combos.  That often means victories.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      The game is actually very simple and smartly designed, a wonderful contrast to the confusion of X Tekken and the bloat of Versus Marvel. I even play as Doronjo (because I always pick characters I like, not their playstyle or tier), a projectile character, which I’d never do in an inferior game. Button mashing isn’t such a bad strategy there, but the game has enough depth to make that a futile strategy. For anything, Virtua Fighter 5 (WHICH ALL OF YOU SHOULD PURCHASE IMMEDIATELY FOR 15 DOLLARS BUT ALSO BUY THE COOL DOWNLOADABLE STUFF BECAUSE IT’S BASICALLY THE WHOLE GAME THERE) to Versus Tatsunoko, just go through training and do every move once. Read about the mechanics of movement and gameplay. Incorporate 2 strategies to start, add 1 when you’re comfortable, and you’ll be competitive in 1 week. Enjoy!

      ___

      Oh, man, Tatsunoko’s actually pretty great.  Imagine if, when the creativity of television animation decreased post-Jay Ward, that Hanna Barbera figured out how to make tightly budgeted shows that didn’t suck.  Now, imagine that American cartoons descended from superhero and monster shows, not commercial animated shorts that in turn copied vaudeville and early American cinema.  That’s Tatsunoko.

      Apart from that, only 2 things are of extreme importance.

      1. The influence over Japanese pop culture, especially children’s stuff, is potent.  This graphic adventure game from Level-5 has me hyped and is basically a Tatsunoko ripoff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdszdojtAas and Rockman/Mega Man ripped off http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casshan .

      2.  Their theme songs are as good as any television show’s from any country.  Just search for the Japanese name of a show and OP or ED and enjoy.  Download a gamerip/Find on YouTube/Nico Nico Doga the Japanese soundtrack to the games.  They removed them for rights reasons, but the theme song remixes are essentially perfect. 

      Additionally, if you’re a Takashi Miike fan, 1 of his sillier movies is a live-action Yattaman that actually captures the tone of the show.  It’s even on Region 1 DVD.

      • Enkidum says:

        So, do you think I should download Virtua Fighter? Because over the past week or so, I think you’ve been hinting kind of obliquely at that…

        Yeah, me want, I think it would be kind of perfect for me in that it wouldn’t quite suck me in in the way that a solo story game does – I could just play 30 minutes or whatever and feel like I’m getting better at a skill, rather than that I’m missing the next cool bit of the story. Plus I like all the previous Virtua Fighter iterations. But the trouble is that right now I’m literally broke enough that 15 bucks is an issue, and have a backlog of about 12 games that I haven’t started yet. 

        Oh cruel fate, why do you mock me so???

        #firstworldproblems

        • GhaleonQ says:

          *commiserates*  It’s okay.  1, sell blood, because the FIGHTING SPIRIT of Virtua Fighter in your veins will keep it flowing.  2, it’s okay.  The “real” single-player mode requires the downloadable stuff, and that stuff is addicting.  As I wrote, I burned a summer off unlocking everyone’s costumes and ultimate rankings.  The 15-dollar is much more sane: special challenges and preparation for multiplayer.  Someday, Enkidum.  Someday.

        • Enkidum says:

          @GhaleonQ:disqus Eh, I won’t be broke forever – maybe when I get back from China in July.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Awesome response! I am seriously considering picking up Virtua Fighter after I exhaust TvC (I also have Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus on the Wii, but I’m finding that harder to get into). What platform do you play it on? I have a PS3 with a broken disc drive, which is what I’d be playing it on. 

        Also, do you use an arcade stick? I’ve been playing using a Classic Controller, because there are like 2 fighting games on the wii. But if I found a decent one for cheap on PS3 I’d probably get it. I love videogame peripherals.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Playstation 3, GhaleonQ (though I sometimes use friends’).

          I don’t, because I’m dumb.  Even at tournaments, I try to stand controller-based, just because school/work never allowed for moving that stuff.  But, here: http://neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=207393 and I know people are recommending http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?p=38903037

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Awesome! I only ever play on my brothers PS3, I’m on there as Douchetoevsky, though I really, rarely am on. I did make him buy Marvel Vs Capcom 2 a while back, so if you want to play some of that in the meantime I’d be up for having my ass kicked. I’ll definitely let you know if I pick up Virtua Fighter. 

          I just realized that for as much as I am afraid of fighting games, I sure do have a lot that I enjoy. I’m actually the same way about RTS games. Have fun with them, but am not at all good enough to play with people online.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    Oh man, this Memrise thing has activated my most curious and my most dubious faculties in one fell swoop. A new, different, compelling, Gamified method of learning, including languages? Count me right the fuck in. Oh wait, it cribbed its notes from the mercenary-bordering-on-evil Zynga empire and requires (or at least politely requests) access to my Facebook account, and is openly trying to get me addicted? Get bent. I mean all things created equal I’d rather apply my obsessive personality to a game that will teach me something instead of a game that’s going to burn a hole in my calendar, but I’m pretty skeptical. I’ll probably give this a trial run though, sounds interesting.

    As for what I’m playing? Well, let’s check the board.

    LIMBO: Finished!
    Sword & Sworcery EP: I tried out that room in which you can manually change the moon cycle, but it didn’t take. So, still waiting for that natural Dark Moon. 67% complete, otherwise.
    Amnesia: The Dark Descent: No further than I was last week, due to cowardice. I’m going to go back, though, I swear!
    Bastion: I just started my fourth playthrough. Yeah, I really really like this game.
    Psychonauts: I actually got this bastard running! The trick was getting the Steam version rather than the HiB version for some reason. The bad news: the Mac version is buggy as all balls. Chugging framerate, sound effect errors, no music, graphical bugs, texture flickering, you name it. I’ve scoured the support threads at Steam HQ and all of my problems have been reported by other folks. Apparently there’s already a patch in the pipe, so I’ll nab that when it hits. As it stands, though, I finished Basic Braining and had a blast, even through the mess. Can’t wait to get this party started properly.
    Super Meat Boy: I fire this guy up and get a few levels under my belt every now and then. I usually only play it for like ten minutes at a time. Not anything against it, mind you, it just seems designed to be played that way. Levels go by so quickly once you know what you’re doing, so you can conceivably blow through five or more levels in as many minutes. Although a cursory glance suggests there are a LOT of levels. I’ll probably be drip feeding this one for the rest of the year at this rate.
    Lone Survivor: The only one of the Bundle I haven’t started yet, mostly because I don’t know if I can play this and Amnesia simultaneously without going insane with fear.
    Braid: Just started it today, and liking it, although it makes me feel like a total dunce. It got me feeling confident with a few easy puzzle pieces lobbed my way, but there are a bunch of pieces I’ve seen around that I don’t even know how to begin trying to collect. Still, it looks and sounds great, so I’m enjoying at least that much.

    Dear God that’s a lot of games.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I have to say, with Braid, I started out the same way as you: feeling silly. But the neat thing about playing it is that you’ll start picking up tricks as you go through, and it starts making sense. Almost as if time is passing…. 

      Just don’t bother collecting the stupid ass “stars.” They’re really just an exercise in annoyance, not skill — pretty much the opposite of Super Meat Boy.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        The way I play Super Meat Boy, it’s more an exercise in luck. If you play on the PC, it always flashes up a little thing about how it would prefer you to use an Xbox game pad. But it’s made me incredibly glad that I don’t have a wireless adapter, or I expect my Xbox controllers would be reduced to lots of plastic shards at this point.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Xbox controllers BLOW for 2d games. I managed to get through most of Super Meat Boy using my keyboard just fine. I tried it with a PS3 controller, but it just felt floaty and off. so meh.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’ve just been playing with it, it doesn’t look like it requires facebook. Like you say, it requests your info, but it seems to work without it (I don’t even have an account, so…).

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Yeah, it seems to encourage you to use e-mail or facebook. I assume there’s some social aspect associated as it says “learn with friends” if you use Facebook Connect to sign up. Maybe you can make it competitive or something.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      My Humble Bundle progress:
      Sword & Sworcery EP: Finished. Really liked the first hour or two, but after that it’s mostly repetition. It is, however, a game that does retro just right, i.e. it doesn’t try to emulate something that came before, instead it just uses the formalities of pixel art and chiptune-inspired music to evoke its own thing. It doesn’t obnoxiously shout “SEE IT’S JUST LIKE MEGA MAN WHICH YOU LIKED”,  instead it taps into a both more general and specific well. Remember when you used to pour over screenshots in magazines and imagined the vast and fantastical worlds these games surely occupied? Or the images your mind conjured when you saw a cheesy SF/Fantasy book cover with astronauts and snakemen and ancient temples chiseled out of a mountain side? That’s where SS&SEP is coming from. Sadly it doesn’t really know where to go from there. Not a fan of the dude-speak writing either.

      Bastion: Three hours in. I think it’s capable, but outside of the great coloring not exceptional. I do appreciate the narration. It seems like a modern take on old adventure game narration, like it automatically parses “look around” when you enter a room and it comments on certain actions, just without pausing the game and with voice.

      Which brings me to me being on a first time Space Quest binge with a friend. We’ve made it to SQ4 so far. I could do without the level of self-awareness in 3 and 4, but overall I’m positively surprised. I always thought the deaths and missable items/actions would be far more egregious, but I have to agree with @GhaleonQ:disqus’s assessment that it’s usually fair and to a certain extent makes you think more about what you’re trying to accomplish and how.

      Also, more Kid Icarus Uprising for me (man, I did like the dialog, but still the game is so much better without it — proper soundtrack’s coming near the end of August!). Dillon’s Rolling Western is predictably no new Tingle. It’s solid, but not gripping.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Vanpool and Space Quest references?  I approve!  (Along with your assessment of the soundtrack and III and IV being slightly overrated.  V is like Dragon Quest IV to, er, IV’s Dragon Quest V.  It’s segmented, but it serves the game better.  And Vanpool’s game is pretty smart for a small budget, Nintendo-encouraged trifle.  Like, it’s a better use of their time than the last Wii Play, which had Vanpool AND Skip.)  Plus, you know, Gary Owens (who is also on board for their new game).  As I’ve written, it’s not that a handful of the failstates in Sierra games aren’t cheap, it’s that a failstate is not a severe penalty.  It’s like a failstate in a puzzle game.  I don’t get mad when the blocks reach the top if I didn’t match the colors intelligently earlier on, and I can just start again.  I think the industry could use that really interesting coupling of severe failstates with little consequences.  We either have severe with great or simple with little, and I’d like more than hardecorez and baby games.

        I love the rest of your commentary, but don’t have anything to add.  Good stuff!

        • dreadguacamole says:

           I’ve always kinda thought of Sierra’s deaths as things to seek out – they often had witty writing and unique animations. And the times when they get you with a one you should have seen coming are hilarious (polevaulting with a bag full of grenades? Tsk tsk…)
           My problem is with the timed, “actiony” sequences they attempted every now and then. I don’t remember if Space Quest had any, but the Hero Quest series had a few, including a really long one towards the end of the first game that almost retroactively spoils the whole thing.

        • Cornell_University says:

          I was always a little frustrated that I could kill dozens of goblins at a time, Panthaurs, Trolls, the Minotaur, et al but the game conveniently made it impossible for me to test my might fighting off waves of brigands in the fortress.  RAZZLE DAZZLE ROOT BEER MOTHERFUCKERS!

          EDIT: worst game breaking failstate has to be Quest for Glory 2 where you manage to get all the way to the end of the cave and realize you were supposed to have remembered the name of Iblis’s master (which I’m pretty sure you could go the whole game without learning anyway). cue impotent rage.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        What do you use to get Space Quest running on your computer? I’ve avoided buying copies of King’s Quest and Space Quest because I don’t want to deal with the debugging that goes into making them run on my computer, but if there’s a new emulator or something out there that fixes resolution and game-speed issues, I would love to revisit all my favorite Sierra games of yore.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          He bought the Space Quest Collection from Steam when it was cheap. Comes with a PDFized manual and a launcher that just starts a preconfigured DOSBox, if memory serves. Only the VGA version of Part 1 is included, I think, so if that’s a dealbreaker you’ll have to look elsewhere.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus : I considered buying it on Steam, but thought better of it after reading all the issues that people had running it through that collection (which is really just an electronic version of the one Sierra sells). It’s good to hear that somebody has gotten them to run out of the “box” so to speak, without needing to reconfigure or change anything else. If they pop up for sale over the Summer, I’ll have to pick ’em up.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus I think that they’re downloadable now through various shops and are perfect, but if you go physical, I suggest that you don’t buy the Sierra collections that look like http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51T6HY0ACTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg .  They’re fine, but they literally run on a DOSBox emulator and have no cool feelies inside.  http://www.lysator.liu.se/adventure/images/Sierra_On-Line,_Inc/sqcollser.jpg are the right ones, which include the original manuals and such.  But, you know, play them how you can.

        You just have to play in compatibility mode, and it works very well.  High-powered computers could probably run it in a window.  The only weird timing issue happens in Gabriel Knight: Sins Of The Fathers, and I believe that’s an easy fix at this point.

    • doyourealize says:

      Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me about S&S:EP

  4. X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman says:

    Psychonauts, I started a new game of it last month and got stuck on the Milkman stage (the exact place where I got stuck on my last game) but just checked a walkthrough, realized how silly I was and now will now finish it! BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

  5. Mike Mariano says:

    I apparently am completely stuck in Oblivion, the game I have been playing since January.

    I’m supposed to kill Terence Stamp! But I’m an arch-mage with no real weapons and he has insane spell protection and reflection.  He also heals himself completely while my Wizard’s Fury does nothing.

    How do I beat this guy as a mage?

    • Swadian Knight says:

      I wouldn’t really recommend using Wizard’s Fury because Mankar Camoran has 50% Resistance to Frost and Shock, and that means your Fury only does Fire damage over time.

      If you can summon allies, now would be the time to do it! Otherwise, try and use poisons and debuffs on him and just keep hitting him with as many spells and greater powers as you’ve got since they ignore his resistances IIRC.

      • Mike Mariano says:

        Thanks!  I had to beef my conjuration up and run out and buy a conjuration spell (meaning I had to go back to a previous save and start Paradise all over again), but even a flimsy Summon Scamp spell was enough to distract him and defeat him.

        I am now the Champion of Cyrodiil and am off to the Shivering Isles.

    • dimsmellofmoose says:

       Enough good poisons will take out anything.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       As @SwadianKnight:disqus said, summoning daedra while debuffing him (especially with damage magicka and damage stamina) worked quite well for my mage and she wasn’t even very good with conjuration. Obviously you want to avoid Ice and Storm Atronachs, but if I remember correctly, I got him with a Fire Atronach followed by a … Hmm, I want to say Spider Daedra.
      Summoning keeps Mankar off his toes and the physical damage inflicted by the summons goes right to his health.

  6. ocelotfox says:

    Let’s see, this weekend I’m playing:

    MLB 12: The Show – Trying to replicate Matt Cain’s awesome perfect game from last night.

    Persona 3 Portable – I’m slowly but surely nearing the end of a lengthy perfect social link playthrough, and grinding away in the depths of Monad so I can get Orpheus Telos.  As tedious as its become, this might not happen soon.

    Lollipop Chainsaw – As a fan of Suda 51, I’m excited to see another game that probably plays a little flat, but is thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable nonetheless.

  7. Drew Toal says:

    I’m still playing this divisive Dragon’s Dogma game. Probably move on to Dark Souls if I finish it any time soon. And then I’m going to play BBQ and nap.

  8. John Teti says:

    I finally got to play the Wrath Of The Lamb expansion to The Binding Of Isaac after I got back from E3. I’ve been waiting all week to play the shit out of it some more. I love The Binding Of Isaac.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      The only thing about Wrath of the Lamb that I’m not 100% sold on is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to switch between the base and expansion game: i.e., once you get the expansion, the game itself gets harder (at least in my opinion). That said, a rogue is a rogue is a rogue, and I have a blast every time I head back down to the Cellar/Basement.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Going back to the game after some time without playing it, with the original game’s difficulty increase (I think it kicks in after the seventh time you beat it?) and the expansion, is brutal.
         I caved in and cleared my savegame, and am now playing it from scratch. The expansion makes it a lot more fun than it’d be otherwise.

  9. Aaron Riccio says:

    Right now, I’m working through Lollipop Chainsaw (at this point, primarily so that I can just sell it back, since I think there’s about zero replay, Global Leaderboards notwithstanding). I’m also really enjoying Splice (and, consequently, trying to get back into Auditorium, though I find the latter a little more frustrating from a control stance). 

    Once those two are done, I’m jumping into Krater, although I’ve been dabbling a little with 1000 Amps. (::shakes fist at all the indie bundles:: I will play you all, I swear!)

    • GhaleonQ says:

      So, what intrigued you about Krater?  I was going to play it a little if a friend had it, but no dice.  War Of The Roses looks like a solid game for Paradox’s portfolio, but their other 3 games are heavily, heavily flawed.  I don’t want to commit.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Honestly? It’s the fact that I enjoyed their previous game, Hamilton’s Great Adventure so very, very much. That’s the thing about indie games: once you’ve developed something that I enjoy, I’m going to be hooked on your future work, even if it’s in an entirely different genre.

  10. Enkidum says:

    Oh God I really need to work, and to learn more Mandarin (both are connected – I’m going to China next Friday and want to be able to communicate with my in-laws, so I’ve been studying ~1 hour a day, and I’m trying to get all my work projects in semi-good order before I leave). But I finally cracked last night and started Arkham Asylum, which was lotsa fun. Think I’ll avoid playing many games, though, and just concentrate on work.

    This memrise thing looks pretty cool. Will give that a try as another way of doing the Mandarin – I’m currently alternating between Rosetta Stone and a more traditional cd listen-and-repeat thing by Pimsleur. Oddly enough, I think I prefer the Pimsleur – it’s definitely improved my speaking more than the Rosetta Stone has. 

    Pimsleur’s also a little bit fishy – you’re constantly taking one side or another in a dialogue between a young Chinese woman and an American man, which contains lots of lines like “Excuse me? Do you speak English? Can I ask if you’d like to drink some tea?” “Yes, I’d like to drink some tea. Actually, no, I’d like to drink beer!” “Where?” “I don’t know.” “Would you like to drink beer at my place?”  I like the idea that as soon as I touch down in Beijing I’ll be surrounded by young women inviting me to their house to get pissed, but somehow I suspect my wife would object.

    OK, that’s more than a little off topic. Uh… I’ve been playing a lot of Dice Soccer on my phone, which is surprisingly deep once you get into it. Think I heard about it via Sawbuck Gamer, actually. I’m nearly through the 4th season.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Look, just play 1 of the 500 games that reference Journey To The West and pretend you’re preparing for your trip.  Pax Softnica’s YuYuKi is my recommendation.  (Seriously, that’s really cool.  I like the idea that all conversation there is like a double act.)

      • Enkidum says:

        Well, I finished Enslaved: Odyssey to the West a while back, but (a) it’s kind of crummy in a lot of ways, and (b) it’s “referencing” of Journey To The West is so wafer thin you’ll barely notice it’s there. We’re bringing my nephew a 3ds, to match with my son’s one – maybe we should find them a couple of Journey To The West rpgs or something. Any recommendations?

  11. DrunkPhilatelist says:

    i just tried Memrise. it’s a cute little learning tool, but i think you’d be hard pressed to call it a game. it’s just multiple choice and fill in the blank vocabulary tests as far as i can tell. i does try to access your brain’s achievement-whore zone with a little virtual garden of learning flowers. worth a look, but i don’t think those Brazilian para-military folks can rest easy just yet.
    also, though i know i’m late to the party, i got Batman: Arkham City: GOTY edition. a game truly worth its’ associated acronyms and colons. the only issue i have with it is that when you’re playing as catwoman the NPC’s are calling you a bitch so often the word is beginning to lose all meaning. you’ve got to save up your bitches, so that when you unleash them [pun] they have some real bite [puns!].  

    • Enkidum says:

      I can’t get memrise to play sounds. So it’s just like Mandarin flash cards for me, which I’m sure isn’t the way it’s intended to be used. You have any trouble that way?

      • DrunkPhilatelist says:

         i think it depends on the course you choose. the spanish course had all words pronounced, some with alternates. the german one had some missing words… i believe that it is trying to incorporate a wiki element where the users help develop the missing content. and if the leaderboard is any indication, it’s a pretty new site, so it might improve rapidly.

  12. Merve says:

    This weekend, I plan to finish Saints Row 2. If I succeed, I’ll have to choose between BioShock, Fallout: New Vegas, Costume Quest, Worms Reloaded, Worms Ultimate Mayhem, Beyond Good & Evil, and Far Cry to fill the remainder of the weekend. Yes, that’s right: Far Cry. I don’t care how frustrating or awful the game is. I won’t let it defeat me. It’s a matter of pride. (Rationality is not my strong suit.)

    • dreadguacamole says:

       Far Cry, awful? Granted, I haven’t revisited it since it originally came out, but I loved that game to pieces. I’ll give you that it could be pretty frustrating, and the last act twist actually made it a bit less fun to play (just like Crysis, now that I think about it).

      • Effigy_Power says:

         The early levels of FarCry are very fun, but I must admit that I remember it fondly mostly because it looked so damn good back then and had these huge, open levels. The first view of the Japanese Aircraft Carrier… the view from the old bunker down to the beach (where you just were like 30 minutes ago)… all that is pretty impressive.
        Story-wise I can take it or leave it. I for one am a little sick of scientists always being the baddies.

      • Merve says:

        I’ll admit that my opinions on Far Cry aren’t exactly popular. My frustrations with it are mainly related to the fact that it isn’t compatible with my preferred shooter play style.

  13. dreadguacamole says:

     Enough time has passed since I finished final fantasy 13-2 that I can go back to it and find all the freaking fragments and alternate endings. Having a lot of fun with it, but my original plan to go at it without consulting the internet quickly went down the drain.

    • I loved 13-2, but it’s really easy to screw up the crystarium. Even when my characters were maxed out, I wasn’t strong enough to beat some of the DLC bosses. 

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Oh, great. I’ve almost definitely screwed up the crystarium (I haven’t been paying much attention to it).
         Guess I won’t get the DLC…

  14. Mega Man X2 just came out on Wii Virtual Console! I know what I’m playing tonight. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       Oh snap! I’ve been waiting with baited breath for X2 on Virtual Console, thanks for the heads up!

  15. Swadian Knight says:

    I’m still playing Fallout: New Vegas and I can just never seem to stop. 

    • George_Liquor says:

       I need to get back into NV. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten where I left off.

  16. ToddG says:

    Well, I finished my Crushing playthrough of Uncharted 1 on Wednesday, so now I think it’s on to Uncharted 3.  Also have to remember to play Arkham City on Sunday and get the Calendar Man visit.  Yes, I know I could reset my PS3 clock, but that’s not my style.  As such, I will not be unlocking my platinum trophy until Labor Day.

  17. Raging Bear says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if I played a good deal of Gravity Rush.

    • Chip Dipson says:

      Likewise, I only had a chance to get through chapter 1 this week, but so far it’s a lot of fun. I wasn’t expecting the music to be as good as it is too.

      • Raging Bear says:

        I’m on chapter 5, and it’s still awesome, and quite varied. And, indeed, this may be the first portable game I play in my life where I keep the sound on all the way through.

    • ocelotfox says:

      So, as a VITA owner, any recommendation about the system?  I’m thinking of buying one in the next few months, but I’m worried that the system will become as little-played as my PSP…

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I suppose it depends what genres you like.  Even accounting for the sad state of game localization, the PSP has an enviably big library.  Thoughts?

        • ocelotfox says:

          Well, I used to love RPGs like the Persona series and strategy games like FFT: War of the Lions and Jeanne d’Arc, but as I’ve gotten more busy these days, I’ve tended away from those games.

          I’ve also noticed that many PSP titles began to adopt the Monster Hunter-style grinding gameplay, which I just don’t have the patience to deal with (Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker being the most obvious example).

          Gravity Rush, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Persona 4 Golden, and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward were all games that initially interested me, but I’m curious to hear from someone who owns a PS VITA as to whether there’s something else that makes the experience worth the $250 price tag.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          See the PSP recommendation discussion on the Gravity Daze review (I think)?  I think I recommended Marvelous, Sony Japan, and System Prisma games that were bite-sized. Unfortunately, the good visual novel/graphic adventure games like Danganronpa/Bullet Rebuttal didn’t come in English.  Half-Minute Hero/Hero 30 series is the best on the system and is, well, read the title.

          The big question mark is localization.  There are a ton of top-tier games that are only for importers (same for the end of the PSP).  That’s the risk.

          Ys and Dragon’s Crown seem too big, and Ragnarok Odyssey (by Game Arts!) is grindy and well-constructed.  The same goes for Nippon Ichi and Konami strategy games.  Sports are probably better on a console now that they’re not handheld-specific.  There’s Orgarhythm, Escape Plan, and Lumines: Electric Symphony.  Wipeout 2048 and (maybe with specific content) the phenomenal Sonic And All-Stars Racing.  Unit 13 is fine and bite-sized, as is Katamari.  Fighting game ports seem to be cool for you if you want Golden. Time Travelers is Level-5 and Chunsoft collaborating.

          For you, I’d wait.  If the pipeline of cool action and puzzle games doesn’t come, you’ll be stuck.

      • Raging Bear says:

        I can see you’ve looked into it, so I won’t go into exhaustive detail: I will say that I’m really surprised by how much I enjoy having touch controls integrated into otherwise physically-controlled, console-quality (as opposed to iOS shovelware) games. Motion controls, I can still take or leave.

        Obviously, not every game will do this, and not every game will do it well (Gravity Rush, so far, does it very skilfully–you would think swiping the screen to dodge in that direction would be awkward, but it totally works), so that alone may not be reason to buy one, depending on how enamored you are with the technical aspects of it.

        P.S. You get a like because I’m a sucker for kitty avatars.

  18. JudgeReinhold says:

    When I get the chance, I’ll be playing Crusader Kings II again. Thanks to the person that originally recommended the game, by the way. And thanks to @HobbesMkii:disqus for the gameplay tips. CKII is right in my history- and strategy-loving nerd wheelhouse. 

    My character, Potato (son of Guiness) is now King of Ireland. And I’ve married off my daughter, Potato Princess, to the son of the King of England (William the Conqueror). So the future of Potato in Ireland is looking pretty bright. 

  19. stakkalee says:

    Tomorrow is devoted to a LAN game of Civ4; I’ve been playing the same game with a friend for the past 4 weekends – we’re finally clearing out the detritus of all the AI civilizations and we’re hopefully going to get down to world war tomorrow.  Can’t wait.

    Then on Sunday I’m popping in the GOTY edition of New Vegas I just got; any recommendations on the various DLCs?  Any to avoid?  Any to beeline towards?

    • dreadguacamole says:

       All of them are pretty good; I thought New World Blues was the best of the bunch, and it’s downright hilarious in parts (intentionally!)
       
       They all tell a loosely connected story, but you can play them in any order you want. It’s pretty nifty; they even had references to them in the main game before the DLC came out.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        EXCUSE ME, THE LOBOTOMITE IS SPEAKING AND I’M TRYING TO IGNORE IT.

        Also, “Old World Blues”

      • Merve says:

        Follow-up question to @stakkalee:disqus’s question: What level do you recommend a player to attain before attempting the DLCs? I’m eager to try a couple, just to vary things up, but I don’t want to go in, waste a bunch of my inventory, and realize that I screwed up big-time.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           All the DLCs give you minimal level “requirements” and I found all of them way too low. Especially “Lonesome Road” is devilishly hard, even if you get to keep your equipment. “Old World Blues” is likely the most fun, but you better have some good all-round perks, as you are fighting a lot of stuff in different situations, all the way from a mile away to very close combat…
          I wouldn’t go at it before level 25. “Lonesome Road” not before 30+…
          Also I’d skip “Honest Hearts”, I found it embarrassingly boring.

  20. doyourealize says:

    “A set of feedback systems that make you want to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing” is probably one of the weirdest definitions for a “game” I’ve ever heard. By that definition, reading is a game, but I’m not really sure how I’d change it make it more satisfactory to me. Add that it needs to have some kind of goal? But what doesn’t have a goal? Add that it needs to score you somehow? That said, this was one of the more enjoyable interviews I’ve read.

    I think I’ll finally be able to start playing games again this weekend, so I’m hoping to pick up Lollipop Chainsaw, though that may have to wait. Also need to keep playing Arkham Asylum, SpaceChem, and start up some Sword and Sorcery EP.

    • Enkidum says:

      “Game”, of course, is famously impossible to define. Cf. Wittgenstein and all that…

      • doyourealize says:

        Man, I got sidetracked and forgot to finish that statement with, “I hate when something makes me think way too hard about something that doesn’t have a real answer anyway.”

  21. ferrarimanf355 says:

    I really need to start Lollipop Chainsaw. But Forza 4 keeps getting in the way.

  22. Nothing but Okami all weekend. I’m (pretty sure that I’m) halfway through it, and I’m looking to finish it up by the end of next week. After that, it’s RE5 (just to beat to prep for RE6), then it’s Max Payne 3. Once all that’s done, it’s disappearing into Skyrim or Skyward Sword, depending it I get my cheap ass to actually buy the Wii Motion Plus attachment.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I don’t have a huge problem with the handheld sequel, which got thrashed too harshly, but the DS, bite-sized, more precious sequel by a different team is basically what I hope Luigi’s Mansion avoids on the 3DS.  Enjoy!  It’s exhausting but rewarding.

  23. Cornell_University says:

    that memory game sounds promising.  I had some pie-eyed plan of becoming fluent in Spanish and moving to NYC until I got shanghai’d to Indiana last year.  there isn’t a lot of call to be bilingual here it turns out (unless you feel like confusing the employees at one of our ten hundred thousand Steak and Shakes)

    as for the weekend, my girlfriend and I adopted a kitten a week ago, that is adorable and an absolute terror around the house.  so I will probably spend most of the time trying helplessly to get her to stop chewing on power cables and my face.  in the interim I have a stack of Dreamcast games I haven’t played yet, Sega Rally 2 for one, and I plan on progressing a little further in Soul Calibur and Blue Stinger.  I would really like to play VS on Virtua Tennis and NBA2K, but we’ll see if my lady bites or not.

    Also might finally scratch the itch and hook up my NES.  weirdest urge to play world 5 in SMB3 today for some reason.

    I may or may not have completely abandoned any further progression in FF8.

    • “I may or may not have completely abandoned any further progression in FF8.”

      Never has a summary of FF8 been put so perfectly.

      • Cornell_University says:

        I honestly try to enjoy the game on it’s own terms.  I like the draw mechanic, I like how intensely customizable all the stats are, I like item and spell modding, I like the stupid card game.  I have fun spending a couple hours dicking around grinding.  and then I decide it’s time to continue the story and I turn into a sourpuss and turn the game off.  is there a word in any language that means “I get it” and “FUCK YOU” at the same time?  because there’s a one word review if ever I heard one.

        and is Zell wearing tiny pants or gigantic shorts?

        • I always considered FF8 an interesting experiment. A game that I wanted to like, that had elements that were indeed likeable, but just could not gel. The idea of a love story-based-RPG is crazy ambitious, but just couldn’t maintain itself in a 70-plus hour game. I admit that I made it to the end boss area, but

          SPOILERS KINDA

          they suddenly take all your abilities you earned and you have to fight to get them all back before you take the final boss, and I just game up right then and there.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Ooh, i have to ask, do you have a favorite Sega arcade racer?  I’m generally a Formula 1 person, so Virtua Racing’s my 2, but nothing has topped Outrun 2/Coast 2 Coast.  Sumo Digital’s 1 of the few to match the simple aspiration of Sega’s earlier games.  http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=396

      I’ll often just put on 1 of the industry’s many great soundtrack boxes, and OutRun’s near the top.  http://vgmdb.net/album/5474  Bare Knuckle/Streets Of Rage is scheduled next, as if Koshiro’s skill needed to be concentrated to be recognized.  http://vgmdb.net/album/33417

      • Cornell_University says:

        I used to love Outrun in actual arcade form, though I was always pretty lousy at it.  I’m pretty casually interested when it comes to racing games, generally going for the off-road or street variety, and if there’s sweet jumps and explosions, well all the better (I liked the first Gran Turismo okay, but the subtlety of a lot of it went over my head).  

        appearantly they were planning on releasing Outrun 2 on Dreamcast, but didn’t?  and it was collected elsewhere in import collections?  or something?  I’ll at the very least try to seek out an ISO if one exists, I got a Utopia boot disc as a bonus to a game lot I bought last week.  

        I think I have San Francisco Rush 2049 in the aforementioned stack, and everything I’ve read about it seems to be insanely positive, so that’ll likely be in the queue too.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Rush is definitely a fun trifle. Think Hydro Thunder.  I hadn’t heard that, but it makes sense since it migrated to the Xbox with the rest of their would-have-been-Dreamcast games.  Certainly, there’s Sega GT, F355 Challenge, and Daytona games.  It’s a shame their water-, snow-, and air-based racing stuff didn’t make it to console.

    • Enkidum says:

      My recommendations for Dreamcast: MDKIII and Jet Set Radio.

      • Cornell_University says:

        Jet Set is the same as Jet Grind right?  added to the list!

        • Enkidum says:

          Yeah, it’s the same – “grind” in North America, “set” in Japan, according to wikipedia. Such a weird game – you’re in charge of a gang of, uh, “punk” rollerbladers, who are saving the city from a gang of baddies, all the while running from the cops and spraying graffiti. But the control system really is a thing of beauty, and the animation style is awesome. Watch a few gameplay videos, and if you can stomach the levels of kitsch, definitely order it.

      • dreadguacamole says:

        MDK3??? As in the sequel to, um, MDK I and MDK II?
         (Google’s not helping)

        Edit – as for recommendations, Skies of Arcadia is really really good, and highly recommended if you like JRPGs at all.

        • Enkidum says:

          Whoops, added an extra “i” there. Yeah, I meant MDK II. (For some reason I remembered it as III, but I just looked it up and it’s clearly II that I played.)

          Skies of Arcadia was fun, although I get many hours into it and either my disc was damaged too far to progress further, or I discovered a way of breaking the game. The random encounters were a bit annoying after a while, but I loved the world.

        • Cornell_University says:

          I’ve had my eye on that one, loving JRPGs as I do.  I might break down and burn a copy unless I can scrounge one at a junk shop or an ebay lot.  marketplace prices on the disc alone are pretty bing-bongs.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          The Gamecube Legends is certainly definitive, but, yeah, you can’t go wrong.

        • Cornell_University says:

          thanks for reminding me I’ve sold my Gamecube on two separate occasions.  I’m the Grover Cleveland of giving up on a system!

  24. GhaleonQ says:

    I’ve been pleased to read that FTP Publishing (German graphic adventure games) emerged from bankruptcy with its properties intact, so the rest of the world will still get Memento Mori 2 and the like.

    I’ve been prepping for the English release of Deponia (from a solid developer) and Wadjet’s newest release, Resonance.  Otherwise, I’m replaying Hero 30 Second/Half-Minute Hero 2 to lament its lack of U.S. release.  Oh, and Virtua Fighter.  Lots and lots of Virtua Fighter.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      I hope you prep for this as well: http://www.satinavs-ketten.de/index.php?lang_new=en

      Same dev as Deponia, set in the world of the Realms of Arkania games. Admittedly the animation looks crummy in the videos they’ve released, but the backgrounds and the soundtrack samples hit a lot of the right buttons. Not quite Autumn Forest http://youtu.be/MvpfgbGEnQs right, but right.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Oh, definitely.  The bad animation stood out to me, since this (I believe) is the The Whispered World Team (Deponia is the Edna And Harvey), but it has a very cool (like, temperature-wise) style that hearkens back to those early 1990s European graphic adventure games.  I’ll probably hold off on that one for reviews, though.  I know Deponia is amazing.

  25. Citric says:

    This weekend I’ll be drinking, so probably nothing.

  26. Effigy_Power says:

    We planted 40 feet of tall cedars at our new house this week, so my body isn’t in the mood for movement, which means it’s a great weekend for games.

    – I am still debating if I should pick up Saint’s Row 3, as I am itching for GTA5… I am aware that this may be a weird filler for in between, but I just so damn much love driving around recklessly in a virtual environment. Also I am debating if I should get it for PC or 360…
    – I haven’t been able to do a single day without playing at least one game of Triple Town since I downloaded it about a month ago. I almost cracked the 300,000 point mark once and it’s driving me crazy. Also I don’t know what happens when you combine three castles… do you just get a point-chest like with the Cathedrals?
    – Looking into some HOGs that came out not too long ago. If they are done nicely, they can be quite fun, though to this point no HOG has managed to be as engrossing and fun as the “Awakening” series, especially the third one “The Goblin Kingdom”.
    – Might end up doing some more tricksin’ around in Skyrim. The addon “Live another life” has made it possible to do some interesting things. Choosing to live as an outlaw makes the game not only hilariously simple (no bandits attack you, depending on what keep you come from, no wolves either) but also fun to just lure people to their death.
    -I’d buy MLB2K12 on XBL, but they don’t make it available there… tough shit, 2K Games… guess you don’t want my $50.

    • Merve says:

      I’d recommend that you wait a couple of weeks before picking up Saints Row the Third. In about two weeks, it’ll be time for the annual Steam summer sale, and it’s likely that SR3 will be discounted.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         That’s good advice, but only if I decide that I want to play it on the PC… Saint’s Row 2 had some odd issues on my machine (which plays Skyrim with nary a wink) and I feel that this might happen with 3 also…

        • ocelotfox says:

           There’s also a good chance that Saints Row the Third will be on sale at the big box retailers at some point over the summer, so keep an eye out for it.

  27. TheNotoriousMSG says:

    Hooking up the old ps-x and playin through the jet moto series, probably some intelligent qube, and if i’m really feeling the nostalgia coming i’ll even dust off the crash bandicoot series, ctr, and twisted metal 2.

  28. KidvanDanzig says:

    After burning through the Bioshocks I’ve taken to replaying Knights of the Old Republic 2, with the finally released (/ leaked) Restoration Mod tacked on, and I’m reminded why it’s essentially my favorite game. Chris Avellone’s exceedingly dense writing style is such a perfect fit for the Star Wars universe (even though he reportedly hates it). Kreia is possibly the best character ever put into a video game. It’s the only game whose dialogue I can consistently revisit without becoming bored.

  29. Pgoodso says:

    I don’t remember stars.exe, but I do remember gorillas.exe, the gorilla-throws-explosive-bananas-in-artillery-fashion game that was written in BASIC and came with DOS. You appeared on a randomly generated skyline with an opponent gorilla and threw bananas at each other by alternately guessing the correct angle and power to hit your opponent.

  30. TeaCaddy says:

    Sinistar on my Sony Clie

  31. Matthew McGrath says:

    Stars.exe may be 
    B. Seiler’s 8088 conversion of Space War.

    Spacewar was a technical marvel; great exploding ship GFX and a decent amount of gravitational modeling — take that PhysX/Havoc!

  32. longly333 says:

     The Nike Air Max 95 Shoe http://www.nikeair95.co.uk features a fluid, distinctive design inspired by the human body. The midsole represents the spine, the graduated panels on the upper are the muscles, the lace loops are the shoe’s ribs, and mesh serves as the shoe’s skin.