What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Bennett Sims

Bennett Sims, writer

The novelist’s unconventional book equates video game death screens with zombie semi-consciousness.

By Drew Toal • June 14, 2013

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.

Bennett Sims is a Baton Rouge-based writer whose fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All Story. His first novel, A Questionable Shape, explores the zombie genre from a quiet place: His characters aren’t in direct physical danger, which leaves them plenty of time to meditate on the nature of undeath.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Bennett Sims: Probably nothing. I’ve been on a gaming hiatus for the past few years.

Gameological: I see. Well, what was the last thing you played?

Sims: I think the last couple of games I played to completion were Shadow Of The Colossus for PlayStation 2 and Twilight Princess for the GameCube. After that, I sort of stopped having consoles available, and the only games I would play would be browser-based tower defense games.

Gameological: In your book, one of your characters pictures becoming undead as something like the multiplayer kill screen in GoldenEye, where one quadrant goes dark as the others continue. Where did that idea come from?

Sims: One of the things that the characters in the book are interested in is, what would it be like to be a zombie? What would zombie consciousness look like—or even whether there is such a thing. And that’s the question in mind-body philosophy, and even anthropology of zombies. So, in mind-body philosophy, zombies are thought of these creatures that are quote-unquote “all dark inside.” They can look and say they admire the greenness of the grass, but in reality they’re not processing the color green internally, qualitatively, the way a conscious human would.

And anthropology—this ethnobotanist Wade Davis speculates that when zombies are poisoned in Haiti, they’re poisoned with this neurotoxin from a blowfish called tetrodotoxin, which is a powerful paralytic that sort of lowers your vital signs to low levels; you couldn’t hear a heartbeat with a stethoscope. You wouldn’t register a normal body temperature. You wouldn’t move at all, and your breath would be undetectable. But you’d retain consciousness. So there’d be horrifying stories of people being laid out in morgues, and hearing themselves declared dead, and seeing the family weeping around them, and then being awake and sort of half-conscious while being buried in this completely immobile state.

And so when the characters are thinking about what it’s like to be a zombie in the book, they’re drawn to these weird models of consciousness in video games that resemble those. Being “all dark inside” in GoldenEye, when your quadrant shuts off, you can no longer see, and your character is no longer moving through the space, but you sort of still have access to the world, because you’re watching and hearing everyone else moving around in their own quadrants on the screen. You can sort of still see what’s going on, even though you’re laid out in a semi-conscious, immobile state.

Gameological: What’s the connection between the Caribbean drug-induced-stupor zombie and the undead rising from the dirt? Where is the jump?

Sims: In Haitian folklore, I think they are called zombies, and they’re considered “the walking dead.” And it’s a form of social death. So, once you’ve been turned into a zombie, you’re actually buried, and actually dug up, and actually impressed into slave labor on these plantations. And for a variety of reasons, Wade Davis speculates that you’re fed powerful psychotropic drugs that make you mentally submissive and docile. If they happen to escape the plantation and make their way back to their home village, they’re ostracized and marginalized and regarded as walking corpses. So there is a sense that they are the living dead, just socially.

And then pop culturally, George Romero—well, in terms of film, there is Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked With A Zombie, which is this really beautiful, haunting film set on a Caribbean island in which there’s a small subset of voodoo practitioners who are turning the colonialists into zombies. And then later, with Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, you get this figure, a cannibalizing, mindless, robotic walking corpse who is literally reanimated and undead.

Gameological: Your book is set in Louisiana. I heard that, in New Orleans, because of its low altitude relative to sea level, the graves are above ground. Wouldn’t that be a terrible place to be if the dead did rise? I feel like you would have a bigger problem there than, say, Denver.

Sims: Yeah, they have the stone, above-ground tombs. I’m not sure what kind of protection those would provide in an actual zombie apocalypse.

Gameological: A Questionable Shape is the quietest zombie anything I’ve come across. There’s hardly any brain eating at all. It’s more an administrative nightmare than an existential one—deciding what to do with all the quarantined zombies. How did that come about?

Sims: When I began writing the book, I really just wanted to foreground these questions about undeath that have been raised in fields like psychoanalysis, mind-body philosophy and anthropology. I wanted to create a context in which characters could pose those questions and hash them out and argue about them. But I couldn’t imperil the characters and have them so busy running from and fighting off zombies that they aren’t having these conversations. And so I decided pretty early that I wanted zombies out of the picture, dramatically. They’re quarantined and no real threat. It’s funny, I think of that as a hallmark of the zombie genre. Like 90 percent of the George Romero film is people fighting zombies, with those people locked up in a building with the windows boarded and arguing about zombies. But that was always external to them. What’s dramatically propulsive about the films are these tensions between the living characters trying to survive and cohabitate together.

Gameological: I loved how your characters debated whether or not the zombies should even be eradicated. That’s not a debate that happens in zombie fiction. Some were genuinely horrified at the prospect of, I guess, re-killing zombies. What side of the fence would you come down on?

Sims: The humanistic or progressive stance with regard to zombies, and treating them the way you would treat the comatose or the mentally ill—that’s something I encountered in one zombie film I can think of, which is They Came Back. It’s about a bunch of recently deceased family members returning to a French village. And they’re not rotting, or decomposing, or biting people. They’re just mentally sluggish. The question for the village is to how to build relief centers, and tents, and cots for them to sleep on—and families taking them back into their homes and reintegrating them into society. Like you said, it’s an administrative nightmare. That appealed to me, because it seemed like a realistic response. To answer your question, I would come down on the side of erring on the side of humanism, and progressiveness, and not immediately exterminating the zombies.

Gameological: The property values would go way down. Have you considered that? Can you imagine what they’d be saying on Fox News if you were trying to protect zombies?

Sims: [Laughs.] Yeah. It does approach the proportions of, like, the Guantanamo debate—these highly tabooed, vilified figures that no one wants in their district.

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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150 Responses to “Bennett Sims, writer”

  1. vinnybushes says:

    After the emotional roller coaster that was the week of E3 I think I’m going to focus on my dual life as Mayor and international free diving, shark fishing playboy in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My favorite character by far is Kap’n the Kappa, a salty old sailor who sings the most wonderful stream of consciousness songs ever put to music while ferrying me to my island getaway. Julian the snooty unicorn who moved into my town is a close second, even if he is a bit of a jerk.
    Maybe also some Shadow Hearts, as the copy I bought on e-bay finally showed up.

    • Citric says:

      Just did Shadow Hearts a few months ago. We need more weird supernatural games set in the early 20th century.

      • vinnybushes says:

         I’ve had shadow hearts covenant for a while, but I quickly realized I had zero idea what was going on, so I finally pulled the ebay trigger last week.

  2. Jackbert says:

    I’m getting a 3DS this weekend! I’m definitely going to pick up Fire Emblem: Awakening and possibly Animal Crossing: New Leaf as well. Obviously, I’ll be spending a lot of time with that!

    I’ll still find time for Persona 3 Portable though. I’m about a week from the September full moon event, as Ken just joined my party. I’m also toying around with the idea of filling up my compendium. Anyone else do that? How hard is it?

    I don’t really have anything to play on PS3, as I can’t really play Sleeping Dogs anymore, and I finished up all the side missions except for Riddler’s (too many damn trophies, no way) in Arkham City. I also did the Harley Quinn DLC. Playing as Robin was fun, and much different than I expected, but the story was disappointingly short.

    • vinnybushes says:

       Animal crossing is actually the only game I’d recommend getting on the e-shop over an actual physical copy. There’s something fantastic about having it on your system in addition to whatever game you’ve got in the main slot.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        Definitely. It’s perfect for a game that sits right on the system. It means I can bounce out to something else and then right back in.

    • Enkidum says:

      You can ALWAYS play more Sleeping Dogs!

      • Jackbert says:

        Well, my 8-year old brother is out of school and schlepping around under my feet, and it’s not really a game I want him to see/hear. If he’s out of the house and I’m not, I can play, but that’s not a common occurrence.

    • Cheese says:

      I haven’t made an effort to fill up the P3P compendium (or the P4G one) but if you’re not going for a Max S.Link run, you’ll have to do another playthrough anyway.

      Ugh, I really need to do that P3P Max S.Link run. I fired it up the other day to look at what Personas (Personae?) I actually used to beat the game and I got a little embarassed.

      • Jackbert says:

        Personae, yeah. At least that’s the nomenclature used in the game. I’m not really doing a Max Link playthrough; I’m doing NG+, so my max stats have let me start some stuff earlier, and I’m planning out who to hang out with ahead of time, but I’m not using a guide or anything. Yeah, the Personae I used to beat the game were also pretty embarrassing. All in the level 60’s. In my defense, it was my first JRPG, so I was playing on easy.

        • PaganPoet says:

          Maxing out the compendium out isn’t so bad, but I’d recommend using a guide, otherwise you’ll waste a lot of yen and time. I haven’t done a max compendium in P3 yet (I have yet to max out all of the social links), but I did do it in P4Golden and it wasn’t so hard.

  3. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Zombies in fiction: too few, or not enough? More at eleven.

    Last weekend I finished the expansion for Trine 2. The game is charming and the physics-based platforming allows for some neat experimentation, but at the same time it reminded me how loose the game feels and how much of it involves collecting things (relatively optional things, but things nonetheless).

    Not sure what I’ll be into this weekend. I might play more Trine 2 to get some of the harder achievements, but I’m not in the middle of anything. I’m tempted to download the free version of Game Maker and see what that’s like so I can decide whether or not I want to throw my hat in with the ad hoc programming team for the Gameological Community Game Project… thing. I’ve always been interested in trying my hand at game programming, but I’m not sure how much time I’d be willing to devote.

    In other news, though, I plan to look at some condominiums this weekend. I’m so nervous about the whole thing. I talked with my dad about the whole process, and quite frankly some of the things he brought up are intimidating. I’m supposed to have a lawyer! I don’t have a lawyer. Luckily, a friend of mine recommended a realtor that I’ve already talked to and he’ll be helping me with a lot of it, so I guess I’ll be playing on “easy” mode.

    • Captain Internet says:

      Crikey, I completely missed this Gameological Community Game Project thing. Are coders still required? Because I’m pretty skilled on that front

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        As far as more coders go: probably!

        Everything started here before picking up sometime in the last couple weeks. You’ll find some related discussions in the Steam group’s forum here, with a programming and design specific thread here. There were also a couple of Steam chats on Wednesday and Thursday that @aklab:disqus was kind enough to upload here for posterity.

        There’s no definite lead or direction on the programming and design side of things yet, but it looks like a few people are going to try out Game Maker Studio and see how well it might suit our purposes. The free version of Game Maker is limited, but I think we’re only looking at some quick and dirty scratchwork to test it out before anyone even considers throwing down any money.

        I think we’re looking at Game Maker primarily so we don’t have to worry about low-level engine design. I don’t think anyone in the last chat has any game-making experience more involved than some light modding attempts, so we’re not exactly a crack team of experts. For the most part, we might want to consider it a friendly learning experience.

        That is, of course, friendly until the highly successful million-dollar Kickstarter. Then the backstabbing can begin in earnest.

        • Girard says:

          If we go the GameMaker route, I picked up a pro version when it was heavily discounted earlier this year, so we’d have a way to output the final Windows/Mac/HTML5 game without a watermark.

          I’m not sure how dependable the HTML5 output is, since I’ve never used it, but I remember some folks advocating for a web-based, platform-independent game, so that might be a route (unless we do ActionScript or Haxe, which a more straight-up languages, but can output to Flash as well as other platforms).

          I’ll post this info in the Steam thread once I’ve read through and digested the chats I missed.

        • duwease says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus, I don’t see where to mention this in the threads so I’ll mention it here.. HTML5 may cause more headaches than it’s worth at this point.  Since the HTML5 definition isn’t quite nailed down, the various browsers vary wildly in what they support (which can cause major headaches for something complex like a game). 

        • djsubversive says:

          Hey, I can’t log into steam from work, but a couple of things about the GS G-D: Design thread (mostly correcting Emperor Norton’s summary):

          -I have not actually done any Unity coding. I looked at it for a few minutes and said “fuck Unity.” I HAVE worked with the ArmA 2 and 3 mission editor and scripting language, but I don’t know how much of that knowledge will carry over (probably not much).

          -The rotating-head is Toal, not Teti. Because of the flying moustache, you see.

          (and in case you couldn’t tell, I’m Ricky Spanish on Steam. *rickyyy spaaanissshhh*)

      • Girard says:

        Yes yes yes. If memory serves there are a few people who are professional coders, but don’t have a ton of time, and a few folks who are hobbyist/diletantes who are maybe more acquainted with Actionsript or whatever, and could be brought up to speed and help with coding, by may not have the knowledge base to decide on a language/IDE/platform or to determine the overall architecture of the game from a programming perspective.

        So another experienced/pro coder to through their hat in the ring would be much appreciated.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

      Derek Yu made the first version of Spelunky in Game Maker so if that’s not a glowing endorsement I don’t know what is.

      Also, I can’t believe there’s a Gameo Game making Group!  I will play whatever the hell you guys put out even if it’s a game where all you do is discuss which Mass Effect is best.  Gameological Comments: The Game!

    • Fluka says:

      Damn, I’d like to help you guys, and I’ve actually been looking potentially for a side-project to hone my abilities (in the event I ever bail out of academia).  But I’m so over-subscribed at work right now that I’m reluctant to add another unfinished task to my pile and/or let another group down.  I might lurk form the sidelines and see what tasks there are to pick up on eventually.

  4. Cloks says:

    I’m going to be playing some Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker after beating Paper Mario 2. I got an extra half-hour out of that game when I realized that I didn’t have enough healing items to beat the final boss so I got to backtrack through the final dungeon just to buy some mushrooms. That was fun. /s

    I’m also going to be checking out Gamemaker because some nerds are making a game and I’d like to help. Keep an eye out for the parts that are just Shining Force with sprite reskins.

  5. caspiancomic says:

    I’m out of town this weekend, so it’s a good thing I’ve got a shiny new red 3DS to keep me entertained on the three hour bus trip. This weekend I’ll be playing Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. I know I said I’d be breaking ‘er in with a little Professor Layton, but after that KHIII reveal I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’m about three hours deep so far and have a few criticisms (the Heartless substitutes strike me as being overdesigned and difficult to differentiate between, the story so far is already pretty difficult to parse and not especially well told), but so far it’s all getting washed away under a lot of actual, bona fide fun.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       Ahhhh, good old KH3D:DDD.

      I’ve been mad at that series ever since Kingdom Hearts II’s story required you to play an obscure handheld game to understand what happened to 7 of the 12 main antagonists.

  6. Merve says:

    I’m doing a DLC weekend! Yay! I’ve got Year of the Snake and Zodiac Tournament to play for Sleeping Dogs (as well as one particularly nasty DLC race). And I’ve got Dunwall City Trials and The Knife of Dunwall for Dishonored. Since I love both games, this will be a good chance to revisit them.

    • Enkidum says:

      The race (it’s the complete circuit of the island, right?) is actually less hard than you might think. Took me less than 10 tries I think. Helps that most of the places where you’re likely to screw up are Victoria Peak and just after, which are relatively close to the start.

      • Merve says:

        It’s the one called Enduro, and it’s on motorcycles. It’s not too hard to stay near the front of the pack. The main problem is getting thrown off the motorcycle and having to forfeit the race. Also, there are some particularly difficult tight turns towards the end.

        But I beat it last night, so go me!

  7. aklab says:

    I’m playing “throw your kid an Aquabats party!” for most of tomorrow. Hope to wrap up both Thomas Was Alone and Psychonauts over the weekend… 

    • duwease says:

      Kids like The Aquabats now??  I’m not sure whether that makes kids cool, or me childish..

      • aklab says:

        It can be both, right? They have a kids’ TV show now that is pretty awesome. And M.C. Bat Commander also created Yo Gabba Gabba, which is the best kids’ show. 

        Although, if you went back to 1996 and told me I’d be dressing my kid up as an Aquabat 17 years later…

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       I hope you’re going to implement some Yo Gabba Gabba in there!

  8. Roswulf says:

    I was planning on finishing up the main campaign in Neverwinter Nights 2, which I bought after a bout of soul-searching brought on by being briefly sucked into the Neverwinter MMO.

    The UI is atrocious, and the number of fiddly bits is annoying (I’ve completely ignored the crafting system to protect my sanity), but I am liking the ambitiousness of the campaign. Definitely a vast improvement over the original NWN, which really can only be justified as a modding framework. The game has also provided lots of satisfying opportunities to light things on fire, which I’ve apparently been craving.

    However my computer began making terrifying fan noises this morning, so destroying the Shadow King will have to wait.

    • Zach_Annon says:

       Interesting you should say that NWN2 is better than the original, because I was incredibly disappointed by it when it first came out.  I’ll always have a soft spot for the Forgotten Realms, and the warlock class NWN2 introduced is definitely my favorite class ever, but I preferred NWN’s emphasis on your character over a party, and still feel it was a mistake for the sequel to place such a strong emphasis on a group, especially since all social interactions are still handled by the main character (until Storm of Zehir, that is) instead of by whoever’s got the the most points in talkability.  I still resent Obsidian Interactive for the direction they took that game, and it’s the biggest reason it took me so long to warm to Fallout: New Vegas.

      All that said, I did enjoy revisiting it from time to time, though I lost the CDs for one of the expansions during my last move.  I can’t bring myself to repurchase a game I already own, so it’s been languishing in my closet for about a year now.

      • Roswulf says:

         I wasn’t clear, I mean specifically the packaged original campaign (and I suppose the look of fire…did I mention I’m enjoying making things burn? My main character is basically Qara’s lockpicking henchman). My preference for NWN 2 is really about remembering crushing disappointment with the mainline campaign in NWN, which I just found tedious (the unfun parts of DA2, without the interesting narrative approach or compelling characters). I do remember liking Hordes of the Underdark (I think…of the two expensions, one I enjoyed greatly, the other I quit out of boredom a few hours in). I have an enormous amount of affection for NWN 1- so much it got me sucked into the NWN MMO briefly- its just almost all tied to player-created content.

        I completely agree with all your critiques of NWN 2. The D&D 3.5 rules system is so intense, so fiddly, that it’s just no fun to control a giant party. It might still work with a really well designed UI and/or AI (and I admittedly haven’t delved into mods), but instead we get a system that doesn’t even include a Select All option and an AI that cannot be trusted with spells.

        • djsubversive says:

          Tony_K’s AI mod ( http://nwvault.ign.com/View.php?view=nwn2hakpaksoriginal.detail&id=141 ) makes the AI less moronic, and gives you many more conditions in the “Behavior” section. There’s also a UI mod that shrinks everything down a bit, Charlie’s UI ( http://nwvault.ign.com/View.php?view=NWN2UI.Detail&id=25.&comment_page=10 ). 

          Both of them make trying to slog through the OC much less painful. 

          And you have NWN2, which means you can have Storm of Zehir and Mask of the Betrayer, which are both far superior to the OC. Storm especially kind of overhauls the gameplay – @Zach_Annon:disqus mentioned other party members contributing to conversations (based on skills and class! barbarians can help too!), but death also works differently (it exists), and the story is pretty much “hey, adventurers, go have adventures!”

          And MotB is fuckin’ MotB. The spirit meter is kind of dumb, but it doesn’t take much before it’s not really an issue. The companions are pretty neat (well, Gannyev-of-Dreams is just pretty). Crafting is much more simplified (just a magic enchanting bag and a magic enchanting tool, and it uses elemental “shards” that just about every enemy drops), and the first companion you get (right at the beginning of the game) has those tools and some appropriate skills and spells.

          If I had to give grades:
          Mask of the Betrayer: A
          Storm of Zehir: B
          Original Campaign: C

        • Roswulf says:

          @djsubversive:disqus Thanks for the mod recommendations- I’m close enough to the end that I want to finish the first campaign vanilla (IT’S BROKEN ENOUGH ALREADY THAT I DON’T WANT TO TEMPT FATE), but I’ll definitely download those before I try Zehir or MotB. My very brief forays into nwvault for NWN2 mods had just left me overwhelmed.

          I’m really looking forward to MotB.

        • Zach_Annon says:

           @djsubversive:disqus I personally prefer Storm of Zehir more than MotB, and it’s ironically because almost all the characters I control are ones I personally designed.  I’ve always preferred more open-ended RPGs over story-driven ones, though, and I suspect that’s why that’s my favorite expansion of the three.  Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve played MotB that I don’t remember a whole lot of it, besides loving how much more damage my epic-level warlock does with the right feats and being frustrated as hell with the soul meter for the first couple hours, before I figured out how to properly manage it and make it irrelevant.
          All this talk about NWN2 is making want to buy it again.  I think I might, if only because I STILL haven’t been able to complete Storm of Zehir due to graphics card problems (namely, my old cards were total shit and couldn’t handle it)

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       Neverwinter Nights seems like such a nebulous concept in my mind because like you said, I’ve heard it described as a modding framework or a tool for people to make their own campaigns.  As someone with only a passing knowledge of CRPGs can you explain how this works to me?

      • Roswulf says:

        Neverwinter Nights was designed as a successor to the Infinity Engine games (Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale), very highly regarded and entirely single-player CRPGs based on Dungeons & Dragons.

        The concept behind Neverwinter Nights was that, rather than just telling a single story in a D&D world under D&D rules, it would actually try to reproduce D&D as a tabletop RPGs. Instead of giving the purchaser a single story, Neverwinter would allow people to use the game engine to tell their own stories, to act as Dungeon Masters as well as players.

        What this actually meant was, as far as I can tell, two things. The first was a campaign making tool that, although WAY above my head, is seemingly easier to use to create a single-player RPG story than the tools used to create a full-fledged alternate campaign for, say, Skyrim. Some of these campaigns are multiplayer, but that always struck me as awkward. A fair number of the resulting, player created adventures/campaigns are very good. The downloadable material is mostly at nwnvault.com.

        The second result was something called Persistent Worlds, privately run servers with their own rules that functioned as miniaturized MMOs. I think. This never appealed to me, and by the time I got interested in NWN beyond the built-in campaigns these were well past their prime.

        NWN also includes a singleplayer campaign, but the consensus is that it is nowhere near the quality of the Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment (although the second expansion is much better).

        NWN 2 had essentially the same goals, and opinions are split on whether it achieved then as well or better. I haven’t played with it enough to have an opinion.

        • Kyle O'Reilly says:

           Wow, that sums it up rather well.  The concept of NWN always appealed to me as I’m interested in Tabletop RPGs but can rarely find a group of 4 willing participants.  I may have to check out GoG.com to see when they have a sale on it again.

        • djsubversive says:

          @Roswulf:disqus  and Kyle (disqus apparently hates your name because it keeps erasing it when I try to tag you). and anyone else, I guess: check out the steam group! I have a post up there about trying to get a group together for something NWN 2-related. Storm of Zehir could be fun, if we figure out a good party and split up specialties (don’t need 4 rogues. 4 clerics, though? that’s a different story. Go Team Cleric).

          The OC would be hilariously broken with even a 4-person party (which doesn’t include the NPCs you pick up). Also, the conversations are more tolerable when you’ve got one person actually having the conversation and the rest of the party standing around getting in the way during the ‘scene.’

    • Zach_Annon says:

       OH.  MY.  GOD. 

      So, after looking for the Storm of Zehir CD off and on for over a year, I finally find it sitting in the CD drive of my old computer.  I am going to reinstall this game, and then I am going to shoot myself in the face for being so dumb.

  9. Citric says:

    Nothing! I’m going to be out of town for an anniversary shindig, no time for games.

    I did beat Ghost Trick this week though, it has the BEST TWIST EVER!




    It’s the best twist.

  10. HobbesMkii says:

    My father used to work for an aid charity focused on children in the developing world so he used to travel a lot. He remembers Haiti with both a great deal of fondness and sadness, because it’s a beautiful land with a wonderful people who have been routinely exploited, abused, and ignored by the rest of the world since their founding. He told me a second hand story, from a coworker who encountered a “zombie,” a man who was followed through the streets by a crowd that harassed him. He wasn’t “poisoned” (TTX, the poison cited by Wade Davis, is a powerful paralytic, but it wouldn’t produce zombification as he describes it), but he had been turned by a bokor. By all accounts from the aid worker, he was simply a normal guy (he could explain his situation), but was shunned by society (including his wife and children!), which is more consistent with the story Zora Neale Hurston tells about the zombie she encountered while in Haiti. Almost no evidence–outside of some folklore and questionable rumors about Papa Doc Duvalier–exists for the slave plantation use of zombies.

    Also, I hate that I had the idea for this book on Tuesday: http://gameological.com/2013/06/naughty-dog-days-of-summer/#comment-926500343

    I’ll be playing Crusader Kings 2 and possibly some Saints Row: The Third.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Hey, just like me coming up with the idea for The Last Of Us last year, one week before hearing of the game!  It happens.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I used to participate in a GameSpot contest called Developer for a Day, and one guy really did a great job describing how to make the perfect Batman game. It was so incredible. And then, a year or two later, Arkham Asylum was announced, and while I’m sure it was a coincidence, the game was basically an expanded version of that experience.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I may have told this story before, but almost an entire month I developed an idea for a comic book about a guy whose best friend comes under the impression he’s a dog, going so far as to dress in a dog costume and walking on a leash. For a week I bounced it off a friend, fleshing it out and listening to feedback.

          Then one day we went to see Daybreakers (that Ethan Hawke vampire movie)–during the car ride I was still talking about my idea–and they played TV ads before the previews, one of which was for a new show coming to FX: Wilfred (I’d never head of it or the Australian original before).

          My friend’s face was one of absolute glee.

  11. EmperorNortonI says:

    After I finished Fallout New Vegas, I preordered Company of Heroes 2, and have been playing the Beta.   It rocks.  All the good bits of the gameplay from the original are still present – cover, early game skirmishes, territory based resources – but the maps feel bigger and the pace is a bit more forgiving.  In the original, you’d likely win or lose a multiplayer match in the first 5 minutes, but here it really feels like you have time to recover and regroup.  Light vehicles are nowhere near the terror they used to be in the early game, either. 

    The new winter dynamic is also really cool.  You have periodic blizzards, which slow movement and reduce visibility, and also freeze you infantry if they’re out in the open.  You need to get them into buildings, or next to a fire pit.  This has a wonderful effect on game pacing, as it breaks the battle into a series of engagements, broken up by short blizzard breaks.

    The only thing I’m not happy about is how often weapons teams drop their weapons on death -WAY TOO OFTEN.  And, the weapons don’t seem easily destroyed, which means you can never really kill off an MG or Mortar crew, and have to sacrifice manpower to re-crew it if you want to keep it from the enemy for long.  Really annoying.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       How is the heavy armor in the Beta?  That was the one thing in CoH1 I never really got a hold of which sucked because all the final single player missions required you to have a nuanced understanding of tank warfare.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

         Heavy armor plays a lot like in the original.  The Russian tanks all seem to have special abilities of one sort or another, which is cool.  The T34 is their mainline tank, and it has the awesome ability to ram enemy tanks.  The big Tank Destroyer can narrow its viewing area to extend it forward along its firing ark, while the little one can perform an artillery barrage.  All of them can shut down weapons to capture. 

        It’s fun, but you’ve gotta really be careful to use the abilities to their fullest, or the Wehrmacht will steamroller you.

        From a sim perspective, it’s still pretty crappy.  Tanks survive way too many shots from the big guns, and aren’t vulnerable enough from the back, and there’s not much of the hit&kill, or no damage at all nature of tank warfare in the era.  It’s no Steel Panthers, but then again, nothing really is.

        Still, it’s a heck of a lot nerdier than an ordinary RTS.

  12. So i’m planning to visit The Sony Store and several other VG vendors to look at pre-ordering the PS4.

    Anyone doing the same thing?

  13. Chalkdust says:

    Well, last weekend I beat Persona 4 Golden!  I maxed all Social Links and maxed all my attributes, and got the best ending.  I won’t say too much about that ending, but I was supremely delighted by Maria and Kanji’s outcomes.

    So, since it comes out on Friday, I’ll be going after The Last of Us, but I also just picked up the Zelda Oracle games on virtual console on my 3DS. So, if I need a break from exhausting survival-horror-induced stress, I’ll be trekking along through The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages first.  I’m not sure how the game linking stuff will work on virtual console, though.

    • Is Persona 4 worth spending for a PS Vita?

      Because i’m saving my cash for a PS3 and a PS4 (and also a cheap HDTV) and i don’t think i can whip out more for a Vita.

      • Chalkdust says:

        It is by far the best game on the system currently, and the primary reason I bought mine.  I’ve since found a bunch of other things I like, but P4G was the main draw.  I think it is a game that deserves to be played, and it adds so much content over the PS2 release that just playing the original pales in my mind.  Don’t get a Vita solely for P4G, but if you do get a Vita, make P4G one of the reasons.

        The games offered on PlayStation Plus sweeten the deal, though, so if you do sign up for that for the PS3/PS4, you’ll get at least a hundred dollars worth of good Vita games as well (Gravity Rush, Wipeout, Uncharted, and BlazBlue currently on offer, though they took Disgaea 3 out of the mix a few weeks ago so who knows how things will shift in the future).

        Virtue’s Last Reward is fantastic, too (but also available on 3DS).

        I’d say it’ll be an easier choice to make a few months from now after Muramasa and Ys: Memories of Celceta are out.

        • Citric says:

          Goddammit new Ys making me want a Vita in spite of myself.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I have P4 for the PS2 because there’s no way I’m getting a Vita, but I imagine I’ll enjoy it just the same. As soon as I get around to it. But I will often wonder how much better Golden would be.

    • BuddhaBox says:

      The Oracle games are two of the best Zelda games ever produced, in my opinion. I’m inclined slightly more towards Seasons, just because the default companion for Ages, Moosh, is terrible, but they’re both really great. As for game linking on an emulator (which is what I assume you mean), it should be fine. A few years back, I played Ages on my GBA then Seasons on an emulator, and the linking worked out just fine.

    • Zack Handlen says:

      I got both the Zelda Oracle games last week, but have to finish replaying Link’s Awakening first because, I dunno, reasons. LA is a great game, though; I remembered the basics of the story well enough (Wind Fish!), but I’d forgotten how playful and odd everything is. Hell, Link can jump around with the right accessory. Sometimes he side-scrolls.

      I plan to pick up The Last Of Us after work. I’m house-sitting for my parents up north this weekend, and they’ve got a place on top of a hill on the outskirts of a small town (well, small for most other states); it’s super quiet and isolated at night, which should make for a prime getting-fucking-terrified playing experience.

      • aklab says:

        I don’t know if Link’s Awakening is my “favorite” Zelda necessarily, but certainly the one I’ve played the most, over and over and over.

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        Link’s Awakening is pretty great. The only downside is that you’re forced to pause the game a lot to switch items, but considering the limitations they had their implementation was pretty genius. You could also shoot bomb arrows!

        • aklab says:

          The music is also great. And maybe it’s because I was so young when I first played the game, and it was the first time I had ever seen the “it was all a dream” trope, but the ending really got me and still does. 

    • PaganPoet says:

      “Hey, j-just…SHUT UP! I just got stage fright, that’s all!”

      I laugh out loud every time I hear that. Troy Baker is just perfect for Kanji, and that epilogue is so good.

      I also loved Marie, especially the precious music box version of The Velvet Room music that would play every time you discovered one of her poems. I loved the new dungeon as well, and was happy that it was genuinely challenging, because, let’s face, your team is so powerful at that point.

      • Chalkdust says:

         Marie’s dungeon was very fun.  I was a little disappointed at first, because I wanted to use my hep new Velvet Room costumes on everyone when I rescued her (I like thematically coordinating the wardrobe to the dungeon I’m running, shut up!), but I quickly got over it.

        Every day I don’t hear something about Persona 5 fills me with a little bit more anxiety.  I don’t think they’ll go this route, but my inner fanboy wants the events in Persona 4 Arena to be canon and a lead-in to 5, and for the cast of 3 and 4 to come together in 5 (alongside new faces of course) in a big crazy way.

  14. The weekend promises to be light on gaming. Sunday is Father’s Day, so I’ll probably play a few games of Cribbage with the old man.

    I just picked up the GBA version of Breath of Fire, so that’ll be my main game for the next little while. Then I’ll probably play the sequel on Virtual Console again. 

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       That was my intro to the BoF series and man was I not ready for that hardcore, no revives, policy.  That’s a really good game though and the battle animations are pretty flippin sweet!

    • Citric says:

      I hate Breath of Fire. That’s not very helpful, but seriously, I really hate it.

  15. GhaleonQ says:

    Can we all agree that (Holy Sword Legend:) Secret Of Mana’s artwork is some of the most iconic in games?  Hiro Isono, http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~hiroo/html_folder/seiken_forest.html https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%A3%AF%E9%87%8E%E5%AE%8F%E5%A4%AB , the creator of stuff like http://flammy.free.fr/Images/arbremana.jpg , apparently died last month.  I think I’ll play through the endgame of the series’ 1st 2 games while I prepare to move.

    I also donated to this Kickstarter promising English-language interviews and information on the great developers of Japan.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1748556728/the-untold-history-of-japanese-game-developers  Nearly all of it, if it works out, will be exclusive.  People went by fricking aliases in those days.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1748556728/the-untold-history-of-japanese-game-developers/posts  If he manages to get any one of Game Arts, S.N.K., or Climax (he already has Lovedelic), it might be my favorite nonfiction of 2014.

    His latest update got me excited about the now-deceased Hudson (of Sapporo *sniff*), and it’s been a long time since I played Nuts And Milk.  I adore that title.  It’s a platformer chase game, which I always preferred to maze chase games like Pac-Man and Rompers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We2sYmyxOPw  I will never play that well, because the concept of milk being chased by nuts gets me thinking if it has metaphorical import and if it’s, in fact, the 1st art game.  This distraction usually has me falling into pits and weeping softly to myself.

    • Chalkdust says:

      That is very sad news.  I’ve never really sat and soaked in how beautiful and lush the Seiken Densetsu artwork is, but you’re right.  He didn’t work on very many games, did he?  How great to leave so distinct a mark on the medium’s history with only a couple titles.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I assumed when I heard news of his death that he did every game in the series, but apparently not!  If I think about it further, it makes sense.  I love Legend Of Mana’s pastels and Heroes Of Mana’s Final Fantasy-influenced design, but they don’t feel like they have the HISTORY of the 1st 2 games’ work.  Perhaps his lack of input in the background accounts for that.

        • Chalkdust says:

          Actually, he apparently did return for Heroes, based on the google-translated version of his Wikipedia page.  I know I bought that game at one point just to fill out my World of Mana collection (I even still have the totally confused Dawn of Mana!), so maybe I should actually try it out.

    • The Mana series has some really iconic monsters. Even though he didn’t work on SD3 of LoM, his influence was definitely there.  

  16. Zach_Annon says:

    I’m currently still slogging away at FNV, though I did just pick up both Bioshock Infinite and Far Cry 3 the other day.  I’m gonna stick with Fallout until it becomes unplayable, though, because now that I’ve purchased all the DLCs and gotten a character to nearly level 40, I’ve fallen back in love with the setting.  The biggest problem I have is stability; my most recent game decided to corrupt its save file while I was in Zion, and my other character lost ED-E (as in, he is not at Primm, my home base, or anywhere else I can hire him back) after I finished Dead Money.  So, that was incredibly disappointing, but I’m going to keep playing that, and might end up also picking up the Secret World unless people tell me not to.  I really liked the game in beta, and although I haven’t played it since, I want an RPG that blends a modern setting with more fantasy-esque magical bullshit, because that’s how I roll.

    • Fluka says:

      Are you playing on console or PC?  With the latter, command-line codes were sometimes the only way I could keep the game running…  My husband lost Cass in a similar way to your ED-E during this game, and he used the commands to teleport a clone of her to his location.

      Then the original Cass showed up, and things got weird.

      • Zach_Annon says:

         I’m playing on console, so no codes for me :(  I’ve got a couple saves to reload and see what went wrong where, but it was a pretty disheartening experience.  Fortunately, I have another character, so I’m trying to run him through Zion without my saves getting overly corrupt and freezing up on me.

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          I really want to say that one of the DLCs (Gun Runners’ Arsenal?) adds a computer terminal at the Gun Runner robot’s shack outside New Vegas, that fixes the missing companions problem. In any case, they made it so that their location will always be present on the map.

          Of course if you’re playing hardcore it’s possible that ED-E just died and you didn’t notice. If you’re still able to detect enemies with the compass at crazy distances, he’s still in the party.

        • Zach_Annon says:

           @KidvanDanzig:disqus the thing is, I had to dismiss him to do the Dead Money DLC, and sent him to the Lucky 38.  When I got out of the Sierra Madre 10ish hours later, he was nowhere to be found.  I am wondering, however, if maybe he’s just repeating his ED-E My Love script, since I had sent him to the Brotherhood before I ran Old World Blues (the first DLC I tried out).  I’d test it out, but not until after I get my other guy through Zion, since that place is unstable as hell, and I won’t have time to complete it until Tuesday (the start of my “weekend”).

    • djsubversive says:

      next to the Gun Runner’s kiosk, there’s a terminal that you can use to basically reset your companions. It SHOULD dismiss all your companions and send them back to their hiring locations.

      You could also try using the elevator in Vault 22 (the one with all the plants). Sounds silly, but it worked for me before they patched in the terminal.

      • Zach_Annon says:

         Hmmm, I tried the kiosk to no avail, but I hadn’t heard of the Vault 22 elevator trick.  I’ll give that a try next time it happens.

  17. Nudeviking says:

    I haven’t purchased a new game since Skyward Sword* and have spent the better part of a year and a half playing through the backlog of games sitting in a cabinet in my living room, but as we speak, Skyrim is downloading on to my machine from Steam, so I’ll probably end up playing that this weekend.

    * Dogme ’95 style confession: In that year and a half period I did download some games on my ipad.  I also traded a Black Flag album to my younger brother for a couple of Game Cube games.

  18. Flying_Turtle says:

    I have Avatar Golf from the Xbox Live Arcade, and I have started designing another golf course, so I’ll probably do that this weekend. Their hole creator is very easy to use, and I got farther with that than I ever did with the course architect in some of the older Tiger Woods titles. I’ve never managed to successfully share my first course, but they’re fun to design anyway.

    Beyond that, maybe Football Manager and NBA 2K11.

  19. ProfFarnsworth says:

    I will probably still be playing Civilizations V.  It has been an enjoyable (yet time consuming) game.  I really like the gameplay and the strategy as well as the ability to be a real jerk if you wanted to be (my first game was role playing America).

    • CrabNaga says:

      I just picked up Gods and Kings and started a game as the Byzantines to test out the faith mechanic. Faith is pretty interesting, but I sort of wish that it had more impact. It seems that unless you pick specific faith bonuses that jive with your other primary goal (conquest, culture, diplomacy, or science), you just end up with faith whose sole function is to spread more faith. I’m really digging the new changes to how city-states function, though. Just by playing the game and keeping them in mind from time to time I’ve been easily able to keep all but one city-state on my home continent (~7 of them) pretty much permanently allied with me. Although I realized, somewhat late into the game, that my starting position is awful. It’s on Prince difficulty though, so I’m way ahead of every other Civ in pretty much every area.

      I’ll probably be playing a lot more of the game over the weekend, especially if it’s going to be as gloomy as it seems.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       I realize now that’s what I always do. I’m expansionist but nice until someone’s land is butt up against mine. Then I dominate and take over and then smile until my wandering eyes see some new territory.

      • ProfFarnsworth says:

        I did that my first time as well.  America seemed perfect for that idea.  I had all the assets ready to expand for whatever resource I needed, and if someone  decided to “not let me have it” I usually just invaded and stole what I needed.

  20. NakedSnake says:

    FISHING. And then also doing a couple more Gamemaker tutorials to see how much help I can be with The Project. Hey, how do you guys do bold in your comments?

  21. BuddhaBox says:

    If I achieve my workout goals for the week later today, I’m going to be spending this weekend playing my newly-purchased copy of Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods. Refounding a Zoroastrian Persian Empire sounds like a task of sufficient fun/hair-pulling difficulty to keep me engaged for a good long while.

    If I don’t, I’ll just keep on playing FTL and/or my “conquer the Middle East as Chile” game of Victoria II.

  22. Raging Bear says:

    The Last of Us, because I’ve been too chipper lately and need a little apocalyptic despair to level me out. Maybe a little LBP Karting, which was free on PS+ but induces its own brand of despair that’s not really all that enjoyable, so in fact I might just delete that.

    Also, Animal Crossing. I named my town Wabznazm as a Day Today reference, and only realized too late that I’d spelled it wrong, so I’ve inadvertently made that whole experience constantly tinged with regret. And the first resident who moved in was a bear, but he’s a bro-tastic meathead bear. A lot of mixed feelings.

  23. stakkalee says:

    No gaming for me this weekend unfortunately.  Saturday is a work day (stupid work!) and Sunday is Father’s Day so I’ll be spending the day with my dad doing the whole backyard-cookout thing.  I WILL have time to play some Sudoku, my favorite puzzle game, in between installing servers and grilling sausages, so if there are any other Sudoku-lovers out there I’d love some recommendations for Sudoku apps on Android.  I currently use Sudoku Free from Genina and I like the way it handles “potential” numbers but it only does Classic Sudoku and avoids the crazier Sudoku variations.  So, any recommendations?

  24. duwease says:

    Finishing up my “high chaos” runthrough of Dishonored .  Also playing Reus, which is a charming little god game on Steam where you build the world for humans, and the particular layout you choose influences their growth.  Certain types of animals next to certain plants generate more food, or certain plants next to certain minerals generate more gold, or tech, or whatnot.  It’s quite well done.. it nails the addictiveness of the early part of a Civ V game without the part at the end where you trudge armies around for a couple hours and the AI takes forever to take a turn.

    I just pulled out The Gunstringer, which I never finished.  It’s probably one of the best Kinect games, but that’s not saying too much.  The gameplay is very simple, but it has the standard Twisted Pixel humor to it.  Unfortunately, this being maybe my 4th or 5th Twisted Pixel game, the humor has diminishing returns.

    Looking to the past to see what to play next.  I saw that I never played the Ilomilo DLC, and I loved that game, so I think I will.  Most likely going to get a copy of Dragon Age 2 as well.. the forums have convinced me.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I consider every time I play Dishonord to be High Chaos. Not on purpose.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I always lose control of humanity in Reus and they force me to wipe out their villages to protect my giants.

      • duwease says:

        It’s a delicate balancing act I’m still getting the hang of.  The bad thing is, if you wipe out a well-built village, they generally resettle in that same spot and quickly get greedy again because they’re starting from scratch and everything around them is posh.

        One thing I have figured out is that if you can lure the army somewhere fairly clear of smashable stuff and then hit them with the Swamp Giant, they’ll get the message and straighten up.  It takes 2-3 times, though, which is precious time not building things.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Yeah, I’ve done that, but it’s hard if two villages get uppity and then you can’t really protect the giants. 

          I guess the Danger rating can keep them under control, but I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to use it properly. The one time I gave a village a big dangerous creature, they just kept sending hunters to wipe them out.

        • duwease says:

          @HobbesMkii:disqus : I have seen them do that.. I think they do that when the danger gets severe (i.e. the right side of the graph).  Keeping it in the middle seems to work, but it’s difficult.. a single point of danger counts as 4-5 (one for each square the animal is on), which can take you from safe all the way to dangerous early on.

          That’s the beauty of the game design, though.. everything is such a delicate balancing act.  There doesn’t seem to be an aspect of the game you can just ignore.. everything feeds off everything else to run optimally, and everything punishes you for going too far too fast if you ignore the other things.  Not to mention the special buildings are random, so you can’t figure out an optimal town build and just repeat it every game.

    • Fluka says:

      DISCLAIMER: Despite the number of people here that enjoy Dragon Age 2, there is a chance you may hate Dragon Age 2. It’s got…problems, most of which stem from a too-short development time.  At the very least, don’t expect Origins.  That said, definitely play it and forget all the internet hate, because you might actually enjoy quite a bit!  Also, Anders *will* try to sleep with you unless rejected early and brutally.

      • duwease says:

        That’s what’s kept me away for so long, but I finally just decided that I enjoyed DA1 more than any RPG this generation*, so even if it’s 60% of that (like Awakenings was), it’ll probably be up there for me.

        *Disclaimer:  Haven’t played Persona 3/4, hopefully they’ll be downloadable on PS4?

        • Jackbert says:

          This comment was posted 1 minute ago and I’m already here to say: DOWNLOAD PERSONA 3: FES FROM THE PLAYSTATION STORE TO YOUR PS3 RIGHT NOW!

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Totally with you on Twisted Pixel’s humor.

      ‘Splosion Man and Ms. ‘Splosion Man were my favorites. Aside from the few references they could put in, both had to focus on physical comedy. Plus their gameplay was the best).

      In comparison, Comic Jumper mostly switched between two guys bickering and wholesale references. The gameplay also wasn’t as tight.

      I still plan on checking out LocoCycle when I can, though.

  25. DrFlimFlam says:

    Got family in town, so lots of 3DS. Fire Emblem, Mario 3D, and Animal Crossing. I find that 3D is helpful for Mario but unnecessary and often distracting for the other games.

  26. Drew Toal says:

    I’m going back to Jersey for the weekend, but downloaded this Final Fantasy Tactics thing everyone has always been talking about. It was half price. It had better be more than half awesome.

    • Marijn Lems says:

      Replayed that game when it came out on PSP some years ago. Still the best strategy RPG ever made, with one of the best (and most devastating) stories in all of gaming. Enjoy (but prepare yourself for a long haul)!

  27. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    Woof, what a week.  My inexplicable Microsoft brand loyalty has made me a target to roving gangs of redditors looking for a fight

    Anyway this weekend my wife is going to be out of town because she’s going to North Crolina to do some research on the Loray Mill Strike, so like any dutiful husband I went out and bought a PS2 slim on craigslist!  It comes with FF IX, FF X, FF X-2, FF XII, MGS 2 & 3, and NCAA 2009!  I just gotta get this honkey to agree on a walmart parking lot to meet me in so I don’t get jumped by internet bandits.

    Other than that I might try and widdle away at the obtuse El Shaddai or get in on this Beta for Company of Heroes 2 because they added the singleplayer mission from E3 and I’m dreadful at the game’s multiplayer so this is for me!  Also Battlefield 3 is only $5 on Origin and while the multiplayer BF4 E3 demo evoked 9/11 in the worst ways, I’m still pretty excited!

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      That’s an excellent pack of games it came with. Usually it’s nothing but dated racing games, shovelware, and Madden. So a ton of RPGs and two MGS games is a win.

  28. Fluka says:

    Starting Crusader Kings II, for REAL this time you guys.  I tried playing the tutorial, and then a short game last week.  This was on my laptop, in a hotel room, after a very long week’s work.  I discovered several things:
    A) This game is not meant to be played while tired.
    B) I needed a bigger screen to contain all my precious UIs!
    C) Oh dear god I have no clue what to do.

    After a good week’s sleep, a reinstallation on the Big Gaming Machine, and some good beginner strategy tutorials from a friend, I’m ready to make a second go at it.  Because after I learned I can appoint an Anti-Pope?  There’s no fucking way I’m not playing this game.

    Though I also might break and play Kentucky Route Zero or The Knife of Dunwall instead.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I’ll give you the same advice I gave to Eff (indeed, I give it to everyone starting out): Play an independent county in Ireland first (I like the Ua Brian clan, but they’re all the same). Focus just on uniting Ireland into a solid Kingdom under your rule. By that point, you should have a rough understanding of how marriages and CBs and vassal levies and claims work that you can look at conquering Wales, Scotland, and England (or acquiring them through marriage). It’s tempting to start as a kingdom, but for most new players failing vassal management is a quick way to end up on the losing side of a civil war. Starting as a vassal of a king can have its own pitfalls–you can fall prey to opinion modifiers with your liege you didn’t know about and have all your titles revoked. The independent Irish counties are small enough that they’re easy to manage until you can expand, and remote enough that they rarely get conquered.

      Other advice: Read all the tooltips to figure out what things will do. Pretty much everything on the screen will generate a tooltip, so just mouse over something and pause for a moment to read up on it if you’re not sure what it will do.

      • Fluka says:

        @HobbesMkii:disqus Thanks for the excellent advice, Hobbes!  Yuup, sounds like I gotta get my ass to Munster. 

        • HobbesMkii says:

          But not Münster

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Oh, if you haven’t figured this out already, for early expansion, use the Fabricate Claim command for your Chancellor to get a Causus Belli to invade your neighbors. IIRC, the Duchy of Munster has three counties, so by fabricating a claim on one of the two you don’t control and conquering it, you’ll be able to form the Duchy and gain control of the third county as a de jure vassal. And then you’ll have a vassal you can mess around with for a little bit.

    • Merve says:

      If you have Kentucky Route Zero but have not yet played it, then you, madam, are an expired milkshake in a rusty fridge floating in an irrigation channel on a beet farm. Also, we can’t be friends anymore.

      • Fluka says:

        Mooooom!  Stop pushing me!

        (But seriously – it feels like I haven’t finished it *because* it’s so short and easy.  This is the weekend, I swear!)

        (Also, ew.)

        • Marijn Lems says:

          You seem like an intelligent man/woman with great taste – in which case, you’ll love Kentucky Route Zero, one of the more elegant and eloquent games I’ve yet played.

        • Fluka says:

          @Merve2:disqus and @marijnlems:disqus : Finally played part 1 last night.  Loooooovveed iiiiiiiiiit.  Part 2 tonight!

  29. Uncle Roundy says:

    Thinking of picking up Animal Crossing: New Leaf since so many of my friends and YouTube subs are into it and it’d be nice to have a game to play with friends. On the YouTube front I finished Chip’s Challenge and have started diving into the Genesis/Mega Drive port of Lemmings, which has a lot of different levels than the Amiga/PC original due to technical limitations, as well as two more difficulty ratings containing a total of 60 extra levels; also plugging through Threads of Fate slowly but surely—almost to the end of the Rue quest.

  30. Effigy_Power says:

    I’ll be busy sketching stuff for both Hobbes’ and my comic as well as

    Tantalizingly mysterious, huh?

    • HobbesMkii says:

      When you say “both Hobbes’ and my comic” you mean “our comic” right? ‘Cause I feel like it’s hardly just mine anymore.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Isn’t that the same? Fine, “our”.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          It could have meant “both Hobbes’ comic and my (different) comic.” Given that you often do comics, it’s difficult to tell.

          The English language is so ambiguous!

    • djsubversive says:

      I hope the “sequel to a game that never existed” idea ends up happening.

      • Merve says:

        Related story that has nothing to do with video games: There’s this series of Snatch-like Hindi films called Hera Pheri (which means “wrongdoings” or “monkey business”). The second film in the series, Phir Hera Pheri (“wrongdoings again”), ended on a cliffhanger. In order to avoid resolving that cliffhanger, the third film in the series will be titled Hera Pheri 4.

        This is why nobody takes Bollywood seriously.

  31. neodocT says:

    I’ll be playing The Last of Us this weekend. I got it last week, and am a little over halfway through. The game is a lot longer than I thought it would be, and I’m enjoying so far. It does make me enormously tense, so I can’t really play for long stretches of time, though…

    If I do end up finishing the game and have some extra time on my hands (fingers crossed), I intend to finish Metal Gear Solid 2, which I’ve been playing on the HD Collection on and off. I was just past the part where you find the secret service guy using a microphone to detect his pacemaker, last time I played. The game is very much enjoyable, and the mechanics are a great improvement over MGS1, but so far it lacks some of its charm.

    • Marijn Lems says:

      I just finished The Last Of Us, and I am stunned. In total awe. Dumbstruck. The first half of the game is fantastic, but its second half makes it the best narrative game I’ve ever played. Would love to discuss it with you when you’ve finished!

      • neodocT says:

         Hey I
        finished the game on Saturday, And I really liked the game, though not without



        Might as
        well go at this in parts. On the narrative, I thought the game was very well
        written and directed, and I admit to really feeling an emotional attachment to
        Joel and Ellie. That final run to the hospital got me extremely tense, because
        I was absolutely sure something awful was going to happen. When you have to
        split up with Ellie to pick up that ladder I was certain Joel would be bitten.
        But, nope, happy(ish) ending!

        Having said
        that, I would much prefer if the narrative could be more molded by the player.
        I’m a big supporter of narratives that adapt according to gameplay, because player
        control is the one big thing that differentiates video games from other types
        of narrative arts. And, as well told as the story is, this game doesn’t quite
        do that. Also, aside from cutscenes, most of the narrative is told by scraps of
        papers, which is not my favorite thing. It was great when Metroid Prime and System
        Shock 2 did it, but it’s a bit tired by now.

        My other
        big grip with the narrative is that the setting is a bit played out.
        Post-apocalyptic zombie plague… meh. The thing is that the infected aren’t even
        really zombies. The thing with the fungi could have lead to so many variations
        on the theme, but that angle is not explored nearly enough.

        On to the
        gameplay, then. The platforming aspect was minimal, and not particularly
        inspired, so I can skip that. I very much enjoyed the stealth and survival aspects
        of the game, especially early on. The game makes it hard to survive, and even
        harder to not waste all your resources. You never know what lies ahead, so you
        do truly need to keep track of how you use your items. But by the end of the game,
        it does become a bit repetitive, and there is an overabundance of items. I’m
        not sure if the game gets easier or if I got better at it, but I was so
        concerned with maintaining resources, that from the end of the college chapter
        all the way to the end, I had three of every item and didn’t use more than a
        few medkits and a single nail bomb at the very final corridor to the operating
        room. The fact that the checkpoints are very generous is certainly welcome, but
        I do admit that it removes a lot of the tension.  

        I do
        appreciate that the parts where you control Ellie shook things up, though. Having
        to scrounge up everything again, and truly relying on stealth was fantastic,
        and having to outwit David was amazingly fun too. It’s no coincidence that the Winter
        chapter was by far my favorite part of the game. The gameplay changed enough to
        make that part very memorable.

        But I came
        away really disappointed with the Infected. There’s only three types of them
        (except maybe I think there were some runny, seeing clickers in the sewers, but
        I’m not sure), and by the end it is very, very easy to get by them with no

        overall, the game is truly very good, and I’d easily recommend it. The story is
        very well told, if not very original, and that alone makes it worth anyone’s
        while. But it didn’t quite mark me as the amazing instant classic so may are
        clamoring it is. You see, my points may seem nitpicky, but they truly are points
        where the game seemed lacking to me. It is a very, very good game, but one
        where the well written narrative seemed to make up for a lot of the gameplay’s



        • Marijn Lems says:


          Point by point:

          You thought that was a happy ending!? Sheesh. For me, it was the darkest ending imaginable: Joel dooms all mankind (and murders Ellie’s surrogate mother for good measure) because he can’t let Ellie go. We’ll never know for sure if Ellie would have agreed to sacrifice herself, but Joel’s selfish love made him a (tragic) villain in my eyes. I’ve never experienced a game ending as gutwrenching as that one.

          Furthermore, I don’t agree that the game would have been better served by letting the player influence the plot. I don’t think player control is the big differentiator from other arts, but player involvement, and The Last Of Us succeeds unbelievably well on that front (the grim atmosphere and total immersion makes it hard to breathe sometimes). Besides, the game is structured as a tragedy, and any kind of optional deviation from the storyline would have diluted the power of the plot. This is Joel and Ellie’s story, not the player’s.

          I do agree with your other points, though. Yes, there are a bit too many diaries and scribbled notes lying around. Yes, the setting is very clichéd. Yes, the central gameplay becomes ever so slightly repetitive as the game goes on (and the plot has to work overtime to justify the many, many enemies that you have to kill/avoid).

          None of these gripes ever threatened the amazing overall experience, though. The acting, script, pacing, set pieces, atmosphere, scenery, balanced difficulty, unpredictable AI, amazing characters, editing, sound and music design, great level design, the way the gameplay supports the immersion, etc. etc. are all so far ahead of any comparable game that it feels like the game was sent back here from a far-flung future in which the greatest artists all think videogames are a viable canvass for their vision, AAA gaming has embraced the importance of a holistic vision and female, black and gay characters have finally escaped from their current stereotypical treatment.

          Man, I finished it two days ago and I’m still euphoric. Maybe ask me again in a year and we’ll see if I can use anything but superlatives to describe the game, huh!

        • neodocT says:



          The ending was certainly not overtly happy, but considering how awful I was prepared for the ending to be, I think it was strangely beautiful. Seriously, I was expecting that they would die before reaching the hospital, that the whole trip would have been for nothing but at least they would die together. That’s what the darkness of the game set me up for.

          My take is that the game’s major theme is how far people will go to survive, what they can and cannot live with. And in the final moments, Joel and Ellie both accept an emotional betrayal. Joel lies, and Ellie accepts the lie because he needs it. The final shot is a gut punch, but seeing them both in the daylight and overlooking a town (with electricity!) definitely struck me as hopeful. A way for humanity to survive. They will fight, they will suffer, they will lie, but they have a chance of living.

          And the thing with player control vs. player involvement reminds me of this game’s similarities with The Walking Dead. Both games have extremely similar stories, but very different ways of telling them. As I see it, The Last of Us has a better narrative, but I had a much stronger emotional connection with The Walking Dead (I actually felt guilty for the things I did!). Maybe it’s a necessary trade-off?

          And I second your praises to the acting, script, sounds and others, and it was refreshing for so many of the characters to be just that, whether they were male or female, black or white, gay or straight. Having said that, I could have done without the gay porn scene, I think we could have figured out what his relationship with Frank was…

        • Marijn Lems says:


          Agree with everything you said, except that I saw nothing hopeful in the ending. I had the feeling that the game was telling me that even something as pure and beautiful as love for a (surrogate) daughter had been corrupted to a destructive impulse that led to the deaths of many and cost humanity its best hope for a cure and an eventual return to normalcy. That last shot was heartbreaking: I saw Ellie die inside when Joel lied to her. Interesting to see that she was by the far stronger person by the end, pretending to believe Joel so as to spare him from her disappointment and feeling of despair. I have never seen eyes communicate so much in a videogame before.

          But I love your analysis in the second paragraph. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

          I was completely shattered by The Walking Dead myself, though primarily by the moments that you couldn’t influence anyway (Katja and Duck’s death, Carly’s death, Lee’s death). I did love that you got the feeling that you were having an impact on the other characters’ lives by your decisions, though, so you’re probably right (I did feel somewhat guilty about letting Ben fall to his death). I just don’t think that would have worked in TLOU, seeing as Joel and Ellie were such complete characters (far more so than Lee, who remained more of a blank slate for the player to interpret). Both approaches have their merits, though.

          Agree about the porn mag, but seeing as it was a great and funny character moment for Ellie too, it didn’t feel too much like Captain Obvious To The Rescue (besides, having an openly gay character in a game is one thing, but literally referring to their actual sexuality in a neutral way is even more taboo-breaking!).

  32. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    Tomorrow I’ll do the same thing I did exactly three years ago: Play a pre-release version of Final Fantasy XIV.

  33. WarrenPeace says:

    I’m probably not going to be doing much gaming this weekend, since I’ll be spending all my waking time at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) and related events, but if I somehow end up playing something, it will probably be a level or two of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams or Thomas Was Alone. Or some more Portal 2.

  34. ferrarimanf355 says:

    Probably some more Forza Horizon and/or Super Stardust Delta.

  35. dmikester says:

    Well, I’ve barely been able to play videogames because of my new puppy, Cordelia Chase, or Cordy for short, and yes, it’s definitely a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference,  :)

    She’s been a real handful, and unfortunately has been pretty stressed out from the transition of going from rural to city dog, so she has an upset tummy right now, but she’s also been a delight.  One she’s fully vaccinated and can go outside consistently, she’ll be a million times happier.  Not that she isn’ mostly happy, wicked smart, and adorable now!

    In videogames, I just started Portal 2, which in the first thirty minutes alone made me laugh more than many games (and films) do in their  entirety.  I also just downloaded Save the Date, which I’m looking forward to, and I might finally start The Cave too.  But again, I think this is all going to take me about ten times as long to get through as it normally would because of Cordy.  Totally worth it!

  36. SonjaMinotaur says:

    Animal Crossing! Anyone interested in sharing friend codes? I don’t have any 3DS friends and I *NEED* more fruit trees! (I have pears)

    I have also just pulled both my PS2 and my Gamecube out of storage so I might be messing around with them and I have a game on the PS3 that I just need to sit down and finish….But I’ll probably spend the weekend collecting butterflies and fishing. 

  37. PaganPoet says:

    I’ve been playing Final Fantasy IX recently. I played it before when I was in high school, but I was just borrowing it from a friend. For some reason, the game didn’t really stick with me, but after seeing so many people list it in their top FF lists, I decided to give it another go.

    The game definitely has a slow start, but once it gets rolling, it gets good. I’m well into Disc 2. Eiko has just joined the party, and I’m at the Iifa Tree.

    I enjoy the characters so much, and appreciate that Square rediscovered its sense of humor and adventure with this game (FFVII and VIII were so serious).

    Thing is, I don’t remember this game being so sad. Damn. Already I’ve seen three kingdoms be utterly destroyed, met a little boy who discovered he was created to be a weapon and has less than a year to live, and met a small girl who’s the last surviving member of her tribe and has been living in isolation ever since her grandfather died. Yikes! The game doesn’t feel oppressively sad, at least, thanks to the upbeat characters and well written dialogue.

    • Marijn Lems says:

      Yeah, I haven’t played the game since 2000, but it’s definitely its melancholy tone that’s stuck with me through the years. Such a great game (though personally, I enjoyed parts VII and VIII even more (FFVII was even my favourite game of all time until yesterday).

  38. djsubversive says:

    This weekend will probably be full of GameMaker learning, 7.62 High Calibre (with the Blue Sun Mod), and possibly some more Saints Row The Third. Hobbes and I started a new co-op game and made Fat Cops, then spent about an hour just running people over and shooting them with the Saints Tank (Hobbes) and Sad Panda (me).

  39. Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

    I had a sudden craving for Oddworld the other day, so I’ll probably be playing some Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exodus. Also a few months ago I decided to replay all my Bethesda games, so I’ll probably try to finish up Oblivion and work on cleaning all the side missions on Skyrim since I finished all the main quest in the DLC and main game last week. Can’t wait to finish them up so I can move onto the Fallout games,which are my favorite, and their DLC which I have never yet played. I’m also in the middle of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, but haven’t played it for a few weeks, really need to finish it up before too long or I’ll have to start over for some reason I stilll don’t understand like I do with any game that has sat for too long.

  40. evanwaters says:

    So last weekend Steam had a sale/free weekend for Civ V. So that’s several hours of my productivity gone. There are a few quirks to this one (hexes instead of squares, no unit stacking) but it’s got the “just one more turn” feel down pat, and I like just how many paths to victory there are and the variety of civilizations.

    Still thinking I’ll need to pick up Crusader Kings II though.