What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Ron Currie Jr.

Ron Currie Jr., author

Don’t expect help from the author of God Is Dead when the zombie apocalypse hits.

By Drew Toal • June 1, 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.

Ron Currie Jr. lives in Maine and is the author of two novels, God Is Dead and Everything Matters!—the story of the world’s smartest man, cursed from infancy with specific knowledge of the Earth’s fiery destruction.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Ron Currie Jr.: I got the first installment of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. It’s sort of a prequel to the storyline in the comic books and television series, with a discrete set of characters, though two of the characters in the show make cameos. It took about an hour and a half to polish off, which is okay because it’s just the first of, I think, five installments. The Walking Dead is heavy on character development and artwork, and light on action. It’s much more about the decisions you make rather than how quickly you can dispatch a room full of zombies with an AK-47.

Playing video games, especially as the games become more and more sophisticated and try harder and harder to simulate the relationships between actual human beings, has taught me what a fucking Boy Scout I am. How badly I want to please, to be thought of as a good guy, to think of myself as a good guy. Of course I’ve always known this about myself, but video games, with their binary choices, their white hats and black hats, highlight this tendency in a way that can be uncomfortable. I want to make all the right choices. I don’t want a computer-simulated person to not trust me. I want to save everyone, even when the computer doesn’t give me the option to do so. I’ll keep going back and trying again, thinking I’ve missed something and will get it right this time, and the same computer-simulated people keep dying the same gruesome deaths.

Gameological: Junior Thibodeaux, the main character in your last novel Everything Matters!, also has issues with trying to save everyone, in his case, from a planet-killing asteroid. I’m sensing a pattern. Where’d you learn this Boy Scout behavior? Damon Wayans and Bruce Willis?

Currie: Good point about Junior—as usual, the most obvious things about my own work elude me. And dude, The Last Boy Scout! My friends and I watched that one at least a hundred times in the mid-’90s. Wore that VHS right the hell out, no exaggeration. We used to delight at the absurdity of Billy Blanks shooting himself in a PCP-fueled rage after scoring a touchdown, or Bruce Willis referring one of the thugs bent on killing him as a “pimp-looking motherfucker with a hat.” I still roll out quotes from the film, and in a truly strange coincidence, I used the “Water’s wet, the sky is blue, women have secrets” line in my forthcoming book.

Gameological: There is something, though, to be said for dispatching a room full of zombies with an AK-47. Do you have a favorite zombie game?

Currie: Not sure I have a favorite. I most often define myself by what I don’t like, and so in regard to this question what I don’t like are games such as Left 4 Dead and the Resident Evil series, where the purity of the zombie hordes is sullied by big hulking alien-looking creatures, sort of like bosses. These totally ruin the premise and destroy suspension of disbelief. They’re not zombies, they’re fucking monsters, and if you need an explanation of the difference, then I probably won’t be able to convince you anyway. The whole point of zombies (in the strict Romero sense, to which I am a fierce adherent) is that they’re a uniform, and thus wholly communistic, bunch. There’s no zombie stronger or faster or fiercer than any other, and this is precisely what makes them terrifying, especially in large groups.

Gameological: When the zombie apocalypse hits, where will you be, and what will you be doing?

Currie: I know a few people with boats, and since the open ocean is the safest place during a zombie apocalypse, I will try to find these people with boats. And if they won’t let me on their boat, I will kill them and take it.

Gameological: Some Boy Scout. If you could take one game aboard this murder boat, pretty much the only thing you’d be able to pass the months at sea with, what would it be?

Currie: I’m going way back in the vault for this one: Nobunaga’s Ambition, the 8-bit version for the original NES. The goal was simple yet extremely difficult (at least for a 10-year-old): Unite feudal Japan. This was the first video game I genuinely fell in love with, and to this day I like simulations more than any other genre, probably because of its influence. Nobunaga’s Ambition was hugely complicated for the time—you didn’t just raise armies and fight, but engaged in diplomacy, city planning, even espionage and assassination courtesy of ninja-for-hire. The more territory you conquered, the more administration and planning you had to tend to, as these jobs were all engaged in by fiefdom.

My cousin and I spent entire weekends—months all told, probably—draped over the living room furniture at his house, eating countless PB&Js on white and battling one another to become emperor. Just as often, though—perhaps more often—we worked together to subjugate our opponents, an attitude of cooperation and trustworthiness that continues to influence my thoroughly moral video game conduct to this day.

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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961 Responses to “Ron Currie Jr., author”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Back from vacation, I’ll be playing a bit of Minecraft again, but starting to get bored with it pretty quick.  Pondering re-entering Second Life and trying out the new Mesh Import option – having to construct everything from “prims” a couple of years ago turned me off to it, so maybe being able to build something in SketchUp or Maya and then import it will be a bit more fun.  (Still convinced virtual space has SOME use to it other than for cybersex!)

    My wife will be playing Diablo 3 as soon as her copy arrives from Amazon.  I decided to hold off and see how she likes it after reading all the negative press about it.  (Seriously…people’s single player characters getting hacked and stripped naked because you have to login to the server?  Waiting in a queue to play solo?  What the hell is that crap??!)

  2. HobbesMkii says:

    Crusader Kings II but A Game of Thrones mod! Kicking ass as the Lannisters. I’m also writing up an AAR for it over on the Paradox forums.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       Nice. When I get it, I’m kind of thinking of starting a game in Cyprus and writing an in-character diary as its power-mad, would-be conqueror king.

    • JudgeReinhold says:

      What what WHAT!? Tell me more about this, good sir. I was intrigued by what I read about Crusader Kings II, but a full-on Westeros mod would have me sold. 

      • HobbesMkii says:

         http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?610007-Mod-A-Game-of-Thrones

        It’s the 1.0 version as of the moment, which means its absolutely riddled with spelling errors and event errors. At one point, I looked on in horror as Ser Kevan slew Ser Kevan, with Ser Kevan’s sword sticking out of Ser Kevan’s chest. Ser Kevan was fine–he’d just put some captured mayor out of his misery.

        My AAR is here: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?611108-AGOT-mod-The-Lions-of-the-Garden-A-LannistAAR

        Also, I don’t know how long its going on for, but Amazon is selling not only Crusader Kings II, but five other Paradox published games (including Victoria 2) for the low low price of $12.50. So, that’s Crusader Kings 2 for like, two bucks. I believe it gives you a code you can redeem on Steam.

        Here’s the link to that:
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0085CD7BE/ref=s9_simh_gw_p367_d0_g367_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0P207HG8Y54B90ZK2GB2&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          Ok, I bought CK II, and managed to play for a while when my kid was asleep and I got pissed at how poorly the Heat were playing. 

          First impression: Holy crap is that game complicated. I’d watched probably an hour of YouTube tutorials before I bought the game, and I still don’t really feel like I know what to do. Any tips? 

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @JudgeReinhold:disqus Yeah, I do. There’s a bunch of tactical stuff about how the armies move over terrain that’s important in the long run, but can be ignored in the short run. Don’t attack armies on rivers or mountains–they get defensive bonuses. Also, pay attention to attrition: you can find out how many men an enemy county can sustain by clicking on it and reading its “support” modifier.

          You can build improvements by clicking on a county, then clicking on the demense (the collection of portraits of cities, castles, and churches), which will bring up a box for upgrading. Upgrade things that give you cash boosts first (Castle villages). Build in peace time, and save up gold reserves before going to war. Make sure you have enough money for long term fighting. If you capture enemies, ransom them to pay for the war (unless they’re the ruler or heir of the person you’re fighting). Make sure your bishops like you more than the Pope, otherwise they won’t pay taxes to you.

          You’re always going to fight, but it’s always a good idea to explore diplomacy, which is how you’ll grow your land faster than conquering. Look for daughters who might conceivably grow up to be rulers and marry them to your sons. Their grandchildren will inherit both high level titles in the early game, and inherit everything under primogeniture succession. Try to switch to primogeniture when you can. The conditions for it are wonky, but it happens. Another good way to combine diplomacy with conquering is to push your daughter-in-law’s claim to a title (but only against weaker places).

          Try to be a good vassal to your overlord, unless you’re trying to spark a rebellion. Be a good overlord to your vassals, but pay attention to what titles they hold, and don’t let any obtain more power than you hold directly. I generally try to find one county that has 5-7 slots for building in it. In the late game, you’ll be able to own more than 7 demenses, but in the early game, you want to have all your power concentrated to personally handle rebellions. Build castles. Don’t hold cities and churches. Don’t hold more baron-level titles than your demense limit allows, unless you know you’re going to add more to your state stewardship score really soon. In the early game, if you can’t pursue a diplomatic marriage, marry the youngest woman with the highest stewardship score you can find. This will increase your demense limit considerably.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @JudgeReinhold:disqus Also, unless such things are totally abhorrent to you, I think a good way to learn is to play without an economy (by using the cash cheat) first, to get a feel for the diplomacy and war side of things.

  3. Merve says:

    I have that Boy Scout problem too when I play games. On my first playthrough, I always want to help everyone, no matter how stupid or trivial their requests are. I just completed the “Young Hearts” quest in Fallout: New Vegas, where you help a young Boomer man and a young Caravaneer woman who have mutual crushes meet. It’s as lame as it sounds. But I did it anyway, because I must help everyone. I hate myself sometimes.

    On second playthrough, though, I like to fuck around and act like a total jackass. I kill people even if I don’t have to. I always choose the meanest dialogue options. Given the choice between stealth and explosives, I’ll make things go boom. The more destruction the better.

    As for what I’m playing this weekend: probably some combination of New Vegas and Arkham City, with maybe a little BioShock thrown in for good measure. I may even get started on Costume Quest.

    • dreadguacamole says:

        I do the same thing! but rather than thinking I’m some lame goody-two shoes for playing it the way I want to the first time, I consider it a test run for the creative evil I’ll inflict on the second play-through.

    • Girard says:

       I’m this way, too. It feels like most people role-play in games to play at being violent/sadistic, and get some kind of catharsis out of it, but for some reason in games I always want to role-play as a nice, thoughtful person (a role I hope to, but don’t always succeed at, playing in real life).

      This becomes a problem in games like GTAIV where overt choices are often between two or more “bad” paths, or where you are flat-out required to kill a person or steal a cop car, or drive dangerously.

      • ToddG says:

        This is why I don’t like it when games structure their achievements to make you play through both the good and evil way to get them all, as I usually find playing through as the evil guy to be a genuinely unpleasant experience and I am a completionist of rather severe magnitude.  Oddly, though, it doesn’t bother me to play a game as an antihero, whose evil actions are mandated by the story.  But when I have a choice to be “evil” or “good” in a game, I have a lot of trouble taking the evil path.  Thus, I was quite glad when Mass Effect abandoned the “max out paragon/renegade” achievements after the first installment, though this “Overload 100 enemies when overload isn’t a bonus power available to any class” nonsense has to go.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Definitely!  I had so much fun playing Shepard as an overall nice guy with a serious mean streak when it came to Cerberus in ME3!  Ended the game about 3/4 paragon and 1/4 renegade I think.

        • Merve says:

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus: Though I was still overwhelmingly Paragon, I played ME3 a lot more Renegade than I did the first two. Part of it was because they tweaked the reputation system to give overall “reputation points” regardless of which path you chose. But equally importantly, they changed the Renegade dialogue options from “cartoonishly evil” to “merciless.”

          Plus, sticking it to the Illusive Man just felt good.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Haha, yeah, I feel the same way. If I was feeling psychoanalytical, I would say something about how it’s easier (and usually immediately profitable) to be virtuous in a virtual environment, while in real life doing the right thing to your own detriment usually just nets you a curt “thanks”, if that, instead of a +1 Flaming Sword.

        • Girard says:

           Or conversely, if the virtuous choice has a negative outcome (you could have stolen the flaming sword, but instead gave half you gold to rebuild the museum that will now house it, or something), the negative outcome is virtual, but you can feel genuinely smug for a little bit. Whereas in real life you might actually put yourself in a difficult situation by making the right choice, making that choice less attractive…

    • JudgeReinhold says:

      In games where there is a clear ethical decision, I make up a backstory that makes my choice to take the clearly unethical path the right call. 

      For example, if I was playing an Oblivion/Skyrim type game and a character asked me to help him get vengeance by finding the person that killed his family, I instead rob the person blind and then kill him. I justify this by deciding that the person with the dead family actually killed them himself, and is trying to kill off the only person who knows he did it. 

      I’m an adult!

      • ShrikeTheAvatar says:

        I generally play a saint in RPG games like that, but if anyone disrespects me, they’re going to get murdered.

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          Shrike the Unassailable! 

        • HobbesMkii says:

           At one point in Skyrim, I snapped and decided to kill anyone who said anything that began with, “I used to be an adventurer like you…”

          The game got a little harder from there on in.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        In Skyrim I started off as a goody two-shoes, completely rejected working for the Dark Brotherhood after their first “test”, but then got corrupted by wealth for the Thieves’ Guild.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       SPOILER ALERT, in case @Merve2:disqus hasn’t finished F:NV:

      To the game’s credit, it makes sure that all the major factions are morally grey to some degree.  Granted, few people are going to find good in the Legion’s philosophy, but the NCR’s reasons for wanting New Vegas are exactly on-the-level either.  House just wants to subjugate/eliminate both for his own gain, but it would at least keep NV stable and prosperous.  And the “No Gods, No Masters” independent new Vegas options (the one I eventually went with) gives the New Vegans freedom but with a heavy dose of transitional chaos.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I am on my second playthrough. Last time I went with the Legion and handed the strip over to Caesar, but this time I am going all out NCR. I want to finish the game with as many allies as I can, but a lot of bugs are preventing me from doing so, ending in me annihilating both the Khans and the Brotherhood… shoddy.

        • Merve says:

          Speaking of bugs, in my playthrough, the Yes Man just disappeared. I have no clue where he went. It might not be a bug, though. I’ll have to double check that he hasn’t changed location.

          Oh well. I’ll always remember New Vegas as the game where I slept with and then killed Matthew Perry. (The Black Widow perk is hilariously awesome.)

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          @Merve2:disqus Could you be any more lustful and murderous?

    • Enkidum says:

      I’m totally a boy scout in games too. I tried to play RDR with an emphasis on Marston’s outlaw nature – I killed a few innocents, etc – but I really couldn’t do it consistently. I literally couldn’t make myself hogtie a woman and kidnap her.

      And I also complete every possible side quest if it involves helping people, but when I played Infamous II I couldn’t deal with the evil ones, so I was Lawful Good or whatever it’s called within an hour. Plus the evil woman was so frigging annoying…

      FWIW, I take out every pedestrian I can in GTA IV, but that’s more like collecting all the stars in Mario, right?

      • Merve says:

        Yeah, in Grand Theft Auto games, I knock over every street lamp I can because there’s almost no consequence. It sucked that I couldn’t do the same in L.A. Noire without negatively impacting my case evaluations.

      • Girard says:

         I only began GTA IV a few months back, and it was/is my first ever GTA experience. I tried (and am still sort of trying) to be as “good” as the game allows, but when I first started, I was so set on not ruffling any feathers that I also tried to drive around the city in a sensible and legal way.

        The game obviously doesn’t expect you to do that, and getting around town was even more boring and ponderous than it typically is in GTA games.

        Eventually, due to some mistakes and the janky driving controls, I discovered that there were zero penalties for running over people, hitting street lamps, or running red lights – pretty much the only traffic law was “don’t rear-end police cruisers.” It was kind of amazing how quickly I became desensitized to careening full-speed between the lanes, running reds and taking out a street light at almost every corner…

        • A_N_K says:

          The cops in GTA are essentially another gang, which is awesome. You can break every law, but if you get into a fender bender with a cruiser, expect a shoot out.

        • Merve says:

          If you run over enough people within a short period of time, the police will come after you. But yeah, you can knock over as many street lamps or park benches as you like.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I took to driving in GTA IV in the first person view. It allows great control, but unfortunately, because you can’t see around corners, you’re not always able to avoid smacking into a cop at a red light.

    • BarbleBapkins says:

       I’m the exact same way, I have to make a conscious decision to take the “evil” route, otherwise I just take the most boy-scoutish choice possible (and i almost always take the good option on my first playthrough of a game).

      I think it doesn’t help that in most videogames “evil” = just being kind of a dick for no reason. If you could actually do something mustache twirlingly awful I think I would be enticed down that route more often.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         Yeah, the ME effect series was really guilty of the whole “Renegade=Asshole” thing from time to time :

        “Oh, you came to me, Shepard, your peerless leader, in this troubling time for a few reassuring words in the face of unrelenting despair?  Well, too fucking bad! You’re probably gonna die, everyone you care about is probably gonna die, suck it up!”

        “BAM!  Oh well, I had to kill him, because I was mildly inconvenienced!”

        On the other hand, it often has the same problem at the other end of the spectrum:

        “Of course I believe him because lying is wrong so I cannot see how he would lie to me.”

        “Well, yes, that approach is more pragmatic and would save lives, but the law is the law.”

      • Atomicommie says:

         That’s why I was a big fan of Jade Empire, because they actually made a distinction between the “I’m a colossal asshat” evil choices and the “I’m following the Way of the Closed Fist” evil choices. So rather than just ruining the livelihood of that riverside town for dickish reasons, you could actually do it out of the belief that personal hardship would make the community stronger as a whole. You could actually make the “evil” choice and turn down the financial reward!

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        The problem is that being evil in most games contradicts their basic foundational myths. Most stories don’t have psychopaths and craven bastards as their long-term protagonists. 

        Bioware games, for example, have always assumed goodness on the part of the protagonist. They work when you RP as being good / paragon but quickly become confusing when you play evil. In Baldur’s Gate 2, going after Irenicus as a lawful good paladin is self-evidently justified – your childhood companion’s been kidnapped. If you’re a callous psychopath chaotic evil berserker, the reasons you’re fed for why you have to follow the main quest are… flimsy, to say the least. This is largely why instead of having a good / evil dichotomy in Mass Effect, they made Shepard always good (you can’t side with the Reapers, obviously) and gave the player choices based on what “kind of good” they wanted to be.
        Beyond that, most game design just doesn’t work with evil playstyles. Not out of something inherent to them, mind, but because, again, it’s assumed that people will play the game to be good, to follow the implicit script the game lays out. It’s a function of fairly basic incentive-ization that lies at the heart of the gaming experience. Let’s say I’m playing a conventional Bioware-style RPG and someone comes up to me in the game seeking help, their house is burning and their cat is inside, and they want me to get it out. I’m given a good option – go get the cat – and an evil option – tell him/her to fuck off. As someone who’s played games before, there’s every reason to go with the former option and no reason at all for me to go with the latter option. The former will probably net me some form of loot and will almost certainly give me experience, the carrots that the game uses to keep me moving through it. The latter will close off those carrots to me. Why deny yourself content? In that case, you’d take a third route, one that the developers didn’t anticipate – save the cat, then kill the questgiver AND the cat. That way I get the goodies that are exclusively offered to good characters while still being evil.

        As a sidenote, this is largely what’s so aggravating about characters like Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins. When you agree to take on a remotely altruistic quest, she gets mad and you lose favor with her. While it makes sense given the way the character is generally written, it still registers as penalizing the player for seizing opportunities to advance in power, opportunities for which there are no real alternative.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’ve got the same affliction, I’m always a good-guy doormat whenever I play these games. I don’t know why, I know it’s only a virtual world, but for some reason I usually can’t bring myself to go the full evil. Even in games without overt moral choice systems I tend to go the goody-two-shoes route. Whether that means pacifist runs (I even use the tranquilizer against bosses in Metal Gear Solid), going miles out of my way to do sidequests for the villagers, anything like that. I’ve replayed Bioshock three or four times from start to finish, but I’ve never once Harvested a Little Sister. In contrast, though, most of my gaming buddies tend to play jerks to various degrees. Back in the day when we used to take turns playing the same game it lead to some very schizophrenic game files.

    • Jakeymon says:

      I did much the same – at least I did through all of the ME and Fallout games on the first playthroughs.  I remember doing that for both of the KOTORs as well.  Though it didn’t keep me from using certain dark side powers.  (Force lightning, anyone?)

      I agree with Atomicommie that Jade Empire had a pretty sophisticated system and I really appreciated the respect that it gave me as a gamer and the respect that I felt it paid to the quasi-Confucian value system it represented.

      Anyway, for some reason I’m less inhibited (?) on the GTA and Elder Scrolls series.  Maybe there’s just something about being an Serbian/Orc that makes being bad feel better inside.

      I won’t be playing this weekend because my in-laws are in town, but if I was, I’d be playing Skyrim and rampaging around Riften with my increasingly deranged warrior Orc.  I swear to Malacath, if Lydia says she’s my shield and sword one more time, she’s going to feel my PAIN.

  4. TomElman says:

    diablo 3 mostly. also planning on getting the new humble bundle so I can play amnesia!

  5. GhaleonQ says:

    Okay, I don’t really blame famous people for having mediocre taste in games, but I do have to praise anyone able to namedrop the Nobunaga’s Ambition port.  We missed so many brilliant console and handheld Japanese games in this country, of course, but there ought to be a book on the Japanese computer game industry.  If it was just stuff like Super Mario Special, I’d understand, but Game Arts, Koei, Enix, Falcom, HAL Laboratory, and ASCII had huge presences on stuff like the PC-8801.

    I think the narrative of video game history (arcade simple to flourishing industry to major revenue source) gets upended if you recall that stuff like Nobunaga’s Ambition, Herzog, Nuts And Milk, Dragon Slayer, Laplace’s Demon, and The Portopia Serial Murder Case came out before Super Mario Brothers 3 (with half coming before Super Mario Brothers 1, even).

    • JudgeReinhold says:

      Romance of the Three Kingdoms or GTFO!

      • Jakeymon says:

        I thought I was happy to see Nobunaga’s Ambition name-checked, but seeing Romance of the Three Kingdoms… caused me to post my first comment on this site.  +1000

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          That game devoured weeks of my time. And about 80% of that time, I was playing as Liu Bei.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Another little bit of video game history that often gets elided:  People like to assume that after the post-Atari video game crash, that it was Nintendo (and Sega to a lesser extent) that brought it back.  But in the interim, there was a scrappy little computer called the Commodore 64, which had a very robust library of both PC-style games and console-style games.

    • Enkidum says:

      Can you expand on this? I just don’t know the standard story that well – is it that Mario 3 was supposed to be the first “flourishing industry” game but actually the other games you mentioned are?

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I mean that, for a lot of American people, that was the moment that games became really expansive.  Platforming maps, dropping behind backgrounds, crazy costumes and secrets: call it The Wizard Syndrome.

        I only mean that crazily ambitious, expansive, or complex games existed before the Koopalings.  There was no linear progression from Dig Dug to Dark Souls.  Simple and complex games existed (basically) simultaneously, always.

        • Enkidum says:

          OK, fair enough. Yeah, things have always been insanely complex – at least since, I dunno, the mid-80’s or so.

  6. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    I just found out that Dillon’s Rolling Western was actually developed by Vanpool, so that’s numbero uno on my list. I’ll probably set aside some time for Gitaroo Man Lives! to unlock the PSP exclusive tracks.

    I also got the ridiculous Humble Bundle V, so brace yourselves for me telling everyone how Bastion’s totally overrated next week.

  7. dreadguacamole says:

    Dragon’s Dogma has got its hooks in me pretty deep. I also got Crusader Kings 2 at a pretty amazing sale Amazon did; My intention is not to touch it until I finish DD, but we’ll see. From everything that I’ve seen of it, I’m kind of afraid of that game… it’s got the potential to consume me completely for a long time.

    • JudgeReinhold says:

      Holy shit, based on you mentioning the pretty amazing sale, I just looked it up at Amazon. It’s $10!

      This, plus @HobbesMkii:disqus mentioning a Westeros mod, has just sold me. I will buy it, then never play it because I have near-zero free time. 

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Make sure you look at the bundle:
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0085CD7BE

         Even having most of the games in there besides CK2, I still got it for Sword of the Stars 2.

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          That certainly is the better deal, but as I mentioned I don’t even really have time for one game, let alone five. 

      • doyourealize says:

        I hate this problem. I love buying games, but have a backload of titles on Steam that I will most likely never play – and I’m sure that list will get bigger. Usually I’d have time in the summer to catch up (I’m a high school teacher), but since I’m getting married this summer, chances of that look slim.

        • JudgeReinhold says:

          Oh, you think marriage will slow your gaming down? Just wait until you have a kid. It’s browser games or nothing. 

          Congrats on the marriage, though! 

        • ToddG says:

          Congratulations!  My wedding is the primary reason I have not yet played Red Dead.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Solution: get married in a video game. I’m not talking “we held a little ceremony in WoW where a guy playing as a paladin cast some buff on our characters,” either. I mean literally in a videogame. Like Tron.

        • Colliewest says:

          If there was a browser based video game buying game I would save a lot of money.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           My girl and I have two computers standing across from each other on a huge desk. I have been playing more since I am with her than ever before… So that can work out too.

        • doyourealize says:

          @JudgeReinhold:disqus @Effigy_Power:disqus It’s not that I think marriage will make me play less, but the wedding itself will take up a good portion of my summer. We’ve lived together for a couple years, so it won’t change too much…until the little ones come!

          @HobbesMkii:disqus …someday.

          @BreakingRad:disqus et al. Thanks for the congrats!

  8. Swadian Knight says:

    That Walking Dead game is seriously great: it’s one of those few games that can do the whole ‘moral choices’ schtick very right, with no clear-cut division between the consequences of either of your options. I don’t think there’s a lot of games that can pull that off: off the top of my head, I can name The Witcher series as perhaps the best example and maybe Dragon Age: Origins as a very distant second.

    As for what I’m playing this weekend, I predict I’ll play a lot of Fallout: New Vegas, still. However, a recent article in this very website has awakened my love for the Tomb Raider series, so I imagine I’ll play a little bit of that as well.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      I’ve talked about Way of the Samurai here before, but let’s go again from a different angle. Since a single playthrough is really short, the focus isn’t on creating your own story like in Bioware games, for example. Instead, it invites you to return again and again and explore the consequences of your actions. You’ll kind of succeed, kind of fail over and over again, but you’ll uncover pieces of the story you missed because didn’t change your allegiance or because you simply weren’t at the right place at the right time. You’ll include that knowledge in your next playthrough, acting on that instead of on what you concentrated on before, because time is limited. You don’t just get to do everything and then watch the best ending. Also, non-action can be as important as action (as in: You just stand around and watch a scene unfold from a distance, not as in: Choose “Do nothing” from a menu during a cutscene — it’s as close to a video game rewarding you for adhering to a philosophical tradition as you’ll get, I think). The story itself is fairly standard Yojimbo stuff, but the storytelling is closer to an interactive Run Lola Run than to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I say it’s essential playing for anyone interested in the form of storytelling in video games.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Oh baby, I love Way of the Samurai! You’re perfectly right, as well, the choice system in that game is probably one of the best implementations of such a system I’ve ever seen. It’s never like choosing between being Superman or the Joker, it’s more about making allegiances (or not) to different factions, each with their own noble and ignoble traits. And since playing a whole story from start to finish usually takes three hours or less, there’s a huge emphasis on experimentation. Plus, the combat is pretty solid as well! It’s not flashy, but it’s very functional, and your weapon’s fragility means you have to choose your fights wisely and fight them very carefully. Plus there are all sorts of little touches, like if you take your sword out in public everyone runs away in terror, and the police start getting up in your business. Really great game, I think a lot of companies walking the “moral choice system” path would do well to play it.

        (Sorry for basically repeating everything you just said, but I just had to throw my own recommendation in as well. Really great series.)

    • Girard says:

       I keep hearing these good things, and I’m kind of really intrigued by a moral choice system that isn’t binary good-bad Bio-Shock/Ware bullshit. I may have to get back on the Telltale wagon for this.

      • ToddG says:

        It really is excellent.  There’s a choice near the end of the first ep that I made based on a clear, logical assumption, and I think TT was kind of counting on me to think the way I did and completely undercut what I thought would happen.  It was awesome, and really made me feel the weight of my decision in a way games rarely are capable of doing.

    • I’ve always liked games that were subtle in their morality. Rather than huge obvious red flag moments like you get in Mass Effect, I prefer it when your decisions have a cumulative effect over the game. 

      Rather than choose my outcome directly (kill/don’t kill), I prefer to roleplay a character and have my outcome be a consequence of the choices I’ve made. 

      The perfect example of this is Pandora Directive. If you’re a jerk to a character in Act 1, they won’t trust you in Act 2. Another example is the affection mechanic in Final Fantasy VII. Practically every dialogue choice you make will influence what happens near the end of the first disk. 

      • Swadian Knight says:

        I’ve always liked games that were subtle in their morality. Rather than huge obvious red flag moments like you get in Mass Effect, I prefer it when your decisions have a cumulative effect over the game. 
        This is extremely true. No matter how grueling the choice may be, it will be very easy to make if you already know its consequences when making it. The Witcher series is particularly good at making your choices have delayed effects – in the first game, for instance, there is a choice early on to either help or destroy a guerilla group, but you won’t see the consequences of helping them until you make it to the next act of the game.

        The perfect example of this is Pandora Directive. If you’re a jerk to a character in Act 1, they won’t trust you in Act 2. Another example is the affection mechanic in Final Fantasy VII. Practically every dialogue choice you make will influence what happens near the end of the first disk.

        I really wish more games gave this much value to the consistency of your choices. In most dialogue-heavy RPGs, it’s extremely easy to alternate between hero and sociopath and there are absolutely no consequences for doing so! The Walking Dead took a real step forward in this, making it so that every line you choose to say changes the perception other characters have of you, and sudden breaks from that perception are poorly received.

  9. After seeing the Kickstarter pitch video for a new Tex Murphy game, I do believe I’ll be playing Under a Killing Moon. 

  10. doyourealize says:

    Just wondering if there are any zombie games that don’t have bosses. Maybe that indie I Maed a Game with Zomb1es in it!!!11!! (or something like that), but the conventions of video games pretty much require bosses. Is The Walking Dead a bossless game?

    This weekend, I’ll hopefully find a good chunk of time to delve into SpaceChem. Sitting down with it for 15-20 minutes doesn’t really cut it anymore, since it’s not enough time to actually solve a puzzle, but I can at least make a breakthrough in that time. Hopefully I’ll remember what that breakthrough is when I come back.

    Also, this might finally be the weekend I get into FFXIII-2. Had it for a while now, but only played the intro so far.

    • ToddG says:

      I think Dead Rising’s take is a good compromise.  (Disclaimer: I never finished the game, or probably even half of the game.)  It has bosses, but they’re unzombified, thus keeping the consistency that Mr. Currie speaks of intact.

    • FFXIII-2 is really great. There’s a bit more to explore than in the first one, but it’s still all about the battles.  

      The newest Lightning DLC has some great rewards that can benefit you from the very beginning of the game (unlike the Coliseum DLC), but it contains some pretty big plot spoilers. (Time travel’s a bitch.)

  11. Maudib says:

    Playing more Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb, like I’ve been doing all week.  I’m in the process of making myself a small notebook from items found around my house to jot down theories/functions of trinkets and new items.  Hopefully will expand to all the items, so that I can refer to it in case I stop playing the game and pick it up at a later time.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

      I just picked up the BOI (but not the DLC…yet) for supercheap on a Steam sale and I am absolutely loving it, though it seems a little on the easy side (or maybe I just had a really lucky run) through much of the Basement levels and some of the Depths.  I came very close to the end my first run through; My death was partially due to my desire to go to sleep.

      • Maudib says:

         It’s very much dependent on what items the game provides for you.  If you win a certain number of times, the game becomes more difficult, so keep plugging away if you’re worried it’s a cake walk.

        Worse comes to worse, you can restrict yourself to more difficult spacebar items.  You’ll know them when you find them since you’ll be going :/

  12. ToddG says:

    I will be finishing up Future Soldier on Elite and then… I don’t know what.  I’ve been meaning to finally play the Alan Wake DLC, so maybe I’ll do that.

  13. Raging Bear says:

    It’s been about five years, so I went and got another Dynasty Warriors (DW NEXT for Vita). Weirdly, as a jaded iDevice owner, I liked the marginally interesting ways it uses touch controls. But the main draw, as ever, is watching screenfuls of soldiers embody Sun Tzu’s teachings by standing perfectly still and waiting politely to be cut down in their thousands.

  14. Xtracurlyfries says:

    Will be playing some board games, probably Ascension and/or maybe some Mansions of Madness.

    Then I might check out Dragon’s Dogma, although I seem to change my mind every five minutes as to whether I’m going to like it.

    • doyourealize says:

      Haven’t played Ascension but what do you think of Mansions of Madness? If I’m thinking of the right game (I think you’re exploring a house as one of several personalities and then one of several scenarios ruins those plans), it was a cooler idea than it was in actuality. I only played it once, but remember feeling like it became pretty repetitive and dull towards the end, just fighting off zombies. The beginning exploration I thought was much better.

      • Xtracurlyfries says:

        I like Mansions a lot. From your description you could be thinking of Mansions but also Betrayal at House on the Hill, which is somewhat similar.

        Mansions can be excellent, but is deeply story driven and consequently is only as good as the story you’re playing. You might have just played one that’s not that good, assuming you played Mansions and not BaHotH.

        It also cannot typically be played as a straight Keeper versus the players game (the Keeper is the ‘DM’ and plays out the story, controls the monsters, etc.) because it’s just not balanced that way unless your players are complete masochists that enjoy winning only 1 out of every 20 games.

        In other words, it takes a good story choice and a good player who knows the game to run it, and who will maximize enjoyment for the players and not just try to smear them on the walls at every available opportunity. I encourage you to give it another chance, but I understand that these are high requirements for a board game.

        • doyourealize says:

          Based on those descriptions, I think it was actually Betrayal on House Hill (plus the name sounds more familiar). I’ll have to give Mansions a try some time.

        • dreadguacamole says:

          I’ve tried mansions a couple of times, and didn’t really enjoy it – we found it has the same problem as descent, where it’s in the GM’s best interest to make the players lose time to build up their power… and it wasn’t a lot of fun. So it sounds like what you mention in the last paragraph might be a problem as well.
           Which stories would you recommend as the most fun to play?

           Also – “unless your players are complete masochists that enjoy winning only 1 out of every 20 games.”
           Isn’t that pretty much the target audience for games based around Lovecraft’s stuff?

  15. Xtracurlyfries says:

    Also: Hi Ron! I really enjoyed ‘God is Dead’!

  16. the orange box for ps3… PORTAL!

    when i beat it i intend to go out and immediately buy portal 2. 

    • Enkidum says:

      Playing through Portal 2 now. It’s so frigging good – that and Halflife II basically convinced me that I should work for Valve.

      • ToddG says:

        Make sure you guys also play the co-op, if that option is available to you.  Preferably with someone else who hasn’t before.  Figuring out the co-op puzzles with a friend is an awesome experience, as is occasionally messing with them.

        • BarbleBapkins says:

           The co-op puzzles are an absolute blast, by far my favorite part of the game (which is saying quite a bit as the rest of the game is damn good). It really does have to be played with someone who hasn’t already gone through them though, makes the “Eureka!” moments all the better.

        • doyourealize says:

          Going through these right now with someone from this board (Aaron Riccio, who I can’t tag since he hasn’t posted). Having a blast so far. We took some time the other day to get some of the achievements, and Portal Conservation Society felt great to finally figure out.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          Co-sign. Personally I think Wolpaw and Pinkerton dropped the ball in the single player, but the co-op is pure Castles of Dr. Creep/Adventures of Cookie & Cream goodness.

      • Merve says:

        Speaking of working for Valve: the Valve company handbook.

    • Portal was great, but Portal 2 is even more amazing. I got stuck on puzzles once or twice in the first game, but I managed the second without any guide or spoilers. 

  17. BarbleBapkins says:

    Bought the most recent Humble Bundle yesterday, so i have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time with Psychonauts this weekend. Always wanted to play it, butjust never got around to buying it before.  My god if it’s not the most charming game.

    Really, all of the games in that Bundle were gems, but I have a feeling Amnesia is going to remain un-downloaded. Scary movies hardly effect me at all, but the freaking Re-Deads from Zelda still freak me out so I think Amnesia might actually kill me.

    • Citric says:

      That bundle is killer, I already had (and completed!) Psychonauts so I bought it for Bastion and Amnesia.

      Psychonauts is 90% great, the final 10% being the really terrible final area which sucks the ugly cocki.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Blasphemer!

         Nah, I’m just biased. Didn’t they fix the difficulty wall for the new Steam version, though?

        • Citric says:

          If that’s the improved version I can’t imagine how horrible the old one was. Still, it’s a good enough game that the final area doesn’t ruin it, and it very much would ruin a lesser game.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Ooh, Amnesia and Psychonauts…may have to buy that one too!  Already played Bastion last year, it was great.

    • doyourealize says:

      & @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus @Citric:disqus Great bundle, but I’ve played all the games except Superbrothers. Is it worth it for that? I’m also tempted to own Psychonauts on PC, but I wouldn’t buy the whole bundle just for that.

      • Girard says:

         Is it worth the $1 or whatever you could pay for it? Of course! Plus you get Psychonauts on PC in the deal, which it sounds like would be convenient/good for you.

        • doyourealize says:

          I would feel bad spending $1, especially since it goes to charity. I’m thinking $10 minimum.

        • Girard says:

           Then the question of worth is a bit silly, isn’t it? Donate your $10 to charity and reap the benefits of SuperBrothers.

          If you want to donate less than the average, you’ll still get the specific games you want, as Bastion is the bonus game for high donations, and you can assuage you conscience because you’ll be straining their servers less if the only game you’re downloading is Superbrothers, which is the smallest game in the current bundle (I think).

    • Girard says:

       This bundle will probably be a fair bit of my weekend. I just beat Bastion, and have done a couple of “sessions” of Superbrothers (I like the way they break it down into sections like that – it gives me a good chance to walk away and not just get endlessly hooked).

      I’ve already played Psychonauts, so I won’t be going through that, and Amnesia may not be my cup of tea – but I may give it a spin.

  18. Citric says:

    I probably should finally finish Mass Effect (the first one) though I don’t know if I will. I’m pretty far in, but unlike most people I haven’t really been sucked in by it, and I’ve kind of bypassed all the extra nonsense because I want the game to be over.

    I started Zone of the Enders 2 but I’m really bad at it.

    I also just bought the Humble Indie Bundle. I think I might try out Bastion first.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I suggest finishing ME1.  There’s a lot of blah content in the game itself, but the ending more than makes up for it in sheer awesomeness, and IMHO ME2 and 3 are some of the best action RPGs of all time.

    • Merve says:

      I wholeheartedly second what @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus said. Unless you’re super-concerned about achieving the “best” ending in ME3, you don’t need to bother with most of the side missions in ME1. (I would recommend, however, that you do the Cerberus one, because it explains some of the backstory in ME2.) And the ME1 ending is pretty much an hour straight of “holy fuck!”

    • doyourealize says:

      For some reason, I found planet exploration in that game to be fucking magical. I know there were a lot of complaints about it, but I just loved being able to land on some distant planet and explore, sometimes find some weird life walking around, like those six-legged antelopes. As @Merve2:disqus and @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus have said, the ending is especially mesmerizing, but I seem to have enjoyed getting there more than most.

      • dreadguacamole says:

        I’m with you. The first game isn’t the best in the trilogy, but it’s the one I enjoyed the most.

    • Merve says:

      @doyourealize:disqus: Those six-legged antelopes made a reappearance in one of the ME2 DLCs (Overlord, I think). The AI in my hovercraft would say hilarious things every time I killed one of them. So, naturally, I killed them all.

  19. Effigy_Power says:

    Finishing off the remainder of side-quests in Fallout: New Vegas this weekend… mind you, there is a good amount of bugs still preventing me from playing some quests the way I want to, but hey… I guess that’s what you almost have to expect.

    In relation to the article: I am glad for people who can still enjoy anything zombie-related, but personally I’d love to shove a shotgun into that meme and bury it for good.

  20. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    I recently started going through the Portal 2 coop with a friend, because I never had a partner for it before. Working with four portal hurts my brain, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and super satisfying.

    I’ll also be playing Dota 2, duh, cause I always do. They also added the shop/item drops in the latest update. So now you get in game stuff for playing the game (it’s very similar to TF2s system, but there’s a level up feature that lets you get items with some consistency or something. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but I’m certain it will help the game become much more addictive.

  21. The_Misanthrope says:

    Personal milestone:  Finally got to the damn hidden fireplace in Sen’s Fortress, so I don’t have to run through that damn blade-narrow bridge gauntlet again.  I might’ve found it sooner, but being repeated firebombed really screws up my sense of direction.

    • doyourealize says:

      Ah, that was maddening. I think I had to look that fireplace up.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

        I did, too, but it was still pretty confusing:

        http://www.kouryakubo.com/darksouls_en/SensFortress.html

        I think when they designed Sen’s Fortress (in addition to several other areas) they deliberately to instill a sense of hopelessness and confusion. Because its all continuous (not in separate partitions), you can see how far you come–as you prepare to cross that super-narrow bridge–and how far you have to fall.

        Few games can make snipe-killing a boss or mini-boss seem like evening the odds, rather than cheating the system.

  22. caspiancomic says:

    I beat Limbo last night. In other words, one down, four to go.

    (It was pretty great! There were a lot of areas in which you’re simply running straight forward for a few seconds at a time which could have been shortened, but maybe that was for a sense of scale and atmosphere, what do I know. There was only one puzzle I had to look up on GameFAQs, and the rest of them tickled my brain for the perfect amount of time to be challenging without being frustrating. Almost all of them had a satisfying solution as well. And the atmosphere, well damn, we all know that was the game’s biggest strength going in. I can’t remember who, but someone on these forums mentioned that the game’s biggest problem was its “trial and error” style of gameplay, in which you run into a situation, die, respawn, and try to figure out how to avoid dying. True, that’s an issue in this game. But the respawns were so quick and placed you so near to your last death that I didn’t find it too frustrating. I’m going to go back and try to collect all the little… things. Whatever they are. I only collected two in my first playthrough, although I could see a few more lying around. Next up I think will be Super Brothers… although I really want to play Bastion. I’m going to save Psychonauts for last, I think.)

    • doyourealize says:

      Did you have to look up the puzzle where you fall and have to switch gravity in midair? That’s the one that got me.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Nah, the one where it’s like an elevator and like a see-saw thing, and you have to drag the elevator onto the see-saw so you can like move a box… or whatever. I figured it had something to do with manipulating the elevator to interact with either the see-saw or the box, but I tried like half a dozen permutations of those interactions and didn’t hit on the one that worked. In the end I decided I was stumped.

  23. Finally got around to a copy of Red Dead Redemption.  It is not good for studying.

  24. A_N_K says:

    I downloaded the Xbox version to my 360 a few years ago and it remains on my hard drive to this day, with that final level uncompleted. Maybe I’ll do a replay one of these days.

    Speaking of finishing games, I have the final mission of Mass Effect 3 that I’ve been waiting to complete for a couple weeks now. For some reason, I lose interest in some games right around the final boss. Perhaps it’s because I know I’ll get a crappy ending because I haven’t played multiplayer.

    • Merve says:

      If you completed most of the side missions, you probably won’t get a crappy ending.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Multiplayer really just makes the side missions worth more points; The idea is that if you play a lot of multiplayer (and win at a consistent rate, of course) you can blow off a bunch of the single player campaign.  Vice versa, if you imported your game and you play the single player missions obsessively, you can probably ignore multiplayer.  It’s an odd little dynamic, but I guess Bioware figured there might be a bunch of players who would buy ME3 mainly for the multiplayer.