What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Ben Dolnick

Ben Dolnick, author

The writer of At The Bottom Of Everything couldn’t get to the bottom of Skyrim.

By Drew Toal • September 6, 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.

Ben Dolnick is the author of three books of fiction—Zoology, You Know Who You Are, and the just-released novel At The Bottom Of Everything. This latest concerns a pair of former friends who have grown apart over the years but still share a strong connection, albeit one that both of them could do without. The Gameological Society spoke to Dolnick about his childhood game habits and the difficulties in giving an articulate off-the-cuff interview.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Ben Dolnick: My wife and I have been playing a lot of this card game 500. It’s kind of addictive.

Gameological: I’m not familiar.

Dolnick: I think it’s a variation on some more famous game, like Crazy Eights or something, but I have a real sort of serial ineptitude for card games, so I don’t really know. I just lose at it perpetually. But it’s one of these “create a run of three cards of the same suit or color” [games], and we have a sort of two-year-long endless game going.

Gameological: Do you and your wife get competitive? Does bowling end up as a bloodbath between two pin-wielding maniacs?

Dolnick: [Laughs.] She would say that I’m extremely competitive. I would say that I’m extremely fun loving. But yeah, I guess it’s probably not wise for us to compete in too many endeavors. Cards we can more or less handle, because it’s clear that she’s the dominant party there. Truly competitive things, I think we kind of avoid.

Gameological: Your book’s two main characters, Thomas and Adam, were extremely close in their formative teenage years, but then they drift apart. What were you playing when you were their age?

Dolnick: There were a bunch of distinct little eras. When I was in elementary school, Nintendo, obviously. We played Punch-Out, and Metroid, and Kid Icarus, and all of the Super Marios. Adventure Island. My brother and I were devout readers of Nintendo Power. And then in middle school, we got a Genesis, which was mostly Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat 1 and 2. My friends and I would devote hours to figuring out the fatalities, and I think we somehow got the misimpression that if you win a thousand times in a row, you get to play ping-pong with the characters, or something.

Gameological: That was one of the pre-internet rumors, wasn’t it?

Dolnick: Right. And it is not true.

Gameological: It’s interesting how those ideas would sort of spread among kids, you know? There’s no direct source, and no obvious way of it being promulgated, but they would circulate widely.

Dolnick: Right. And it’s very much, as you say, a pre-internet problem. And now you could debunk that with four seconds of searching.

Gameological: Simpler days…

Dolnick: Yeah. In high school, I spent a lot of time playing Nintendo 64 at a friend’s. Mostly GoldenEye and MarioKart, were my main games. Both of those were sort of the perpetual background noise of my high school years. You just sit there until three in the morning playing hundreds and hundreds of games. And now, as an adult, I own a PlayStation 3, which I very occasionally use to play Portal 2.

Gameological: Good choice.

Dolnick: Yeah. I tried to get into Skyrim, but I don’t know if I’m too old, or games have gotten too confusing. But I just realized early on that I was either going to have to give up novel writing or Skyrim. So my present video game life is pretty chaste.

Gameological: Earlier this year, you wrote about how you’re fascinated with reading author interviews. Is it weird to be on the other end of that? Like right this second?

Dolnick: I guess so. Those authors seem to have that kind of miraculous ability to kind of uncork these beautiful Paris Review-worthy things that you carry around in your head for the rest of your life. And I definitely don’t find myself doing that, so it feels like a little bit of a different species. But sure, I definitely still, while I’m in the shower or something, “Man, this would be a great thing to say to The Paris Review if they ever get around to calling me.”

Gameological: These brilliant responses have to be at least a little premeditated. They can’t come out fully formed, right?

Dolnick: Right. And I think some places, including The Paris Review, let you get the transcript and then edit it. So Philip Roth is making himself look a thousand times more eloquent than even he is.

Gameological: I saw some cool and eloquent thing the other day that Susan Sontag had allegedly said, and I thought to myself, “Who talks like that?”

Dolnick: [Laughs] Right. It’s like perfect paragraphs, and a theme carried through. Yeah, any time I actually see my verbatim words transcribed, I want to bury my head in shame.

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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  • Fluka

    I know that Skyrim feeling.  After a long summer of both playing new things and cleaning out my backlog a bit, I’ve actually decided to take a break from games this September.  There are books to read, dinners to share, work to do, and everything will feel fresher when I return.  Plus, it’s probably healthy to not give in to my current impulse to replay the entirety of both Dragon Ages.

    It doesn’t hurt that I finally finished Saints Row IV, and pretty much anything will feel slow and super-serious in comparison.  Is it perfect?  No.  Like others have said, the side missions can get a bit repetitive, and you occasionally come across vestiges of the series’ less progressive past.  Did I still love it?  You’re damn right I did.  It trod the fine line between stupid and clever with aplomb, and it contained at least 50% more Jane Austen than any other AAA game this year.  It also provided more evidence for my theory (the other datapoint being Mass Effect: Citadel) that every great sci-fi epic needs to end with a crazy dance party.  Now I need to go lie down for a while.

    • neodocT

       I’ve taken a break from Skyrim because I realized I can’t play that game for a few minutes at a time. It’s either a three hour minimum or nothing. Since I don’t really have three hours, it’s been nothing for me. Oh well…

      But The Walking Dead: 400 Days is half off this weekend! OMG, can’t wait to have my emotions broken into tiny little pieces!

      • Effigy_Power

        I am finally too familiar with the map to be surprised by anything, which is a bummer. That has been the main reason I dialed down my playtime.

        • neodocT

          I was a huge fan of Morrowind and skipped Oblivion, so Skyrim struck me as having a surprisingly boring map. Morrowind had an island featuring swamps, forests, beaches, volcanos, deserts, snow, giant crap shells, mushroom cities and a fucking floating moon rock that you could fly into.

          In comparison, Skyrim has a tall mountain and… plains, I guess? Even the cities are mostly uninteresting. I really wonder what the thought process was for making every city a medieval, nordic, fortress place. I get that this is basically a description of the province of Skyrim, but surely they could have made up a cool Dunmer colony that sprang up after the calamity in Morrowind, or something?

        • HobbesMkii

          @neodocT:disqus Oblivion was probably more uniform over all in terms of environment then Skyrim, but it rarely felt samey, as the settlements scattered around the place were generally built around a single quest or goal, so some were wackadoo and some were straightforward trading places. And the cities varied in character considerably (although at least one sucked because to get to the castle area, you’d have to leave and come in a different gate). 

          Skyrim’s villages are all sort of “oh, I was just here, only it wasn’t snowing.”

        • http://syntheticerror.wordpress.com/ Cyanotetyphas

          I think Skyrim has good variability in the environment, you might just be tired of it. There is a pretty stark contrast between the frozen north and the river valleys. When I come down from questing in the mountains and see the first patches of grass if works for me.

          You guys are totally right on the cities though, Dawnstar and Winterhold are snoozers, Windhelm is needlessly angular, and Whiterun is plotted out like suburbia. To be fair though, in Oblivion the Nord city had the most boring design.

      • MintBerry_Crunch

        I didn’t enjoy Skyrim. Maybe this is my own fault, since there are so few games where procrastination made its way so trenchantly against me.

        I did however enjoy it a heck of a lot more after someone introduced a mod that reduced the NPC distance for detonating deadly boring amounts of exposition if you so much as brushed against someone’s aura. 

      • SaviourMachine

         I think  that much of  success of Skyrim’s world comes out of its astonishingly precise palette, which strikingly gives a feel of a gloomy Nordic country. The world is not bright, often bleary and it  sets the atmosphere very well. When i began to play, i  got pleasure even from simply strolling through the woods.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          I had a ton of fun at the start sneaking through the woods, just seeing what I could find, and practicing my hunting skills on unsuspecting deer (that would usually spot me and bound off before I got a shot off at them).

        • Fluka

          Skyrim is beautiful, but it definitely feels like it comes out of the modern AAA love affair with brown.  Everything looks accurately muddy.  I felt a bit better about it once I finally managed to get to the south, around Falkreath, where there’s at least a bit of green.  The towns are still built out of brown and gray, though – even Scandinavia likes to brighten up their cities with a bit of color!  Maybe I should finally make good on my threat to install Tropical Skyrim.

        • Effigy_Power

          For a fan of autumn you can’t beat the Rift. Everything around Riften is just gorgeous and vibrantly autumn-y. Too bad there is fairly little to do around Riften.

      • Fluka

        I completely bounced off Skyrim when I first played it. (Partially because I started as a mage, and the Skyrim Mage College suuuuucks.)  I couldn’t fully get into it until I accepted that I was only going to enjoy it if I gave it my all.  The actual plot is terribly boring, so I had to actually make up my own story and then roleplay the shit out of it.  Finding somewhere to sleep every night, no fast travel, keeping notes in a notebook of things I had to do, etc.  It worked, but starting to play again always requires so much work, errand-doing, etc.  It’s like a second job.

    • Enkidum

      I really should take September off gaming too. New job, like 8 papers to write, the usual. But… I won’t.

      • Fluka

        My right hand typed this post, while my left hand booted up Dragon Age Origins.  NO!  BAD HAND!

        • neodocT

          I bought that a while ago and still have never even installed it. I’ve always been curious about these games, though. Would start playing it now that I’m just starting my master’s degree be simply a bad decision or an absolutely awful one?

          Edit: I just checked again and I actually installed Dragon Age after buying it! It’s installed right now! Aaaaah!

        • Enkidum

          @Fluka:disqus Which hand is bad?

          @neodocT:disqus I started it 5 months into my PhD. Which I’ve now completed, 4.5 years later. So it can only be a good thing!

        • neodocT

           So, considering that my master’s is only supposed to take one year, you’re saying playing Dragon Age might push that up to forever? Meh, I’m probably willing to take that risk.

        • Fluka

          @neodocT:disqus Depends on your level of self-control!  Like most BioWare games, it’s broken into separate quest areas, so it’s somewhat episodic (although not as much as Mass Effect 2, for instance).  It’s also quite long, however.  So…mid-level bad?  It’s absorbing and distractingly epic, but it won’t become a second job like Skyrim.  
          I did wait to play the first half after submitting my thesis, and the second half after defending my thesis, though, so I might be a bad source here.@Enkidum:disqus Well, neither hand is doing stress tests of calibration database memory requirements, so both of them are bad really.  But the gaming hand is much worse!

        • PaganPoet

          Fluka’s hands are like voting in a presidential election. Neither one is really good, but you have to pick one over the other.

        • Enkidum

          There’s a masturbation joke in here somewhere…

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @neodocT:disqus: Grad school gaming is possible, if you’ve got a bit of self-control. I tend to game only during meal times or in the half-hour before I go to bed. As a result, I’m pretty sure I talk about games more than I play them.

        • neodocT

          @Merve2:disqus I’ve got no self-control at all for studying. The other day I got addicted to another of those browser games like Candy Box where you have a number that keeps going up, except this time it was cookies made by grandmas and cookie factories. I played that for two hours!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @neodocT:disqus: Oh yeah, I know of the horror that is Cookie Clicker all too well. @Cloks:disqus got me hooked on it for a couple of days. I more or less let it run in the background.

          But you make a good point: just because I’ve got self-control with regards to gaming doesn’t mean I’ve got any self-control with regards to studying. *attempts to bury head in research and weeps*

        • Fluka

          @Enkidum:disqus *Tries to think of something involving hands, her job, and “stress tests,” but comes up dry.*  Oh, wait, “comes up dry.”  That sounds vaguely dirty!  *Crosses “inappropriate masturbation joke” off her to-do list for the day!*

        • Effigy_Power

          *Crosses “inappropriate masturbation joke” off her to-do list for the day!*

          Way ahead of you, toots.
          -turns off buzzing-

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I have to ask: is there such thing as an *appropriate* masturbation joke?

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        I’m sort of de facto taking time off games for the moment as I just don’t have time. I’m student teaching right now, which is basically working a full-time job on top of grad coursework, lesson planning, and myriad other extracurricular responsibilities (and paying for the privilege), which means all of my time is pretty much spoken for.

        Speaking of which, welp, back to lesson prep…

      • stuartsaysstop

        @neodocT:disqus Just had my first “day” of grad school this week – it’s all online (thanks Johns Hopkins!), so no real class meetings or anything – and just today I have decided to return to Dragon Age before I completely forget what happened when I first started it several months ago. I strictly relegate all my gaming to weekends, and since I’m only taking one course right now I should be fine. Let’s ignore the fact that I’m also currently playing Rayman Origins, Guacamelee, and Saints Row 3, and that my fiance is surely going to pick up GTAV in two weeks.

        • Enkidum

          If you have the self-control to do that (restrict your gaming to weekends) it won’t be a problem at all. I certainly don’t, and I can assure you that one reason I graduated in 5 years instead of 4 is due to the number of hours I spent gaming instead of analyzing data…

        • stuartsaysstop

          @Enkidum:disqus While I would like to chalk it up to self control, part of me suspects it’s because I watch too much damn television during the week to have several hours devoted to gaming. Fortunately though I don’t think I’ll have any real issues until I up my course load next semester (just in time for PS4! ugh).

    • The Guilty Party

      *looks around, hides his newly-created dwarf commoner*

    • Lurky_McLurk

      I have just purchased a copy of Skyrim. Guess I’ll see you all again in April.

      • The Guilty Party

        I’d get a lot further in Skyrim if I didn’t keep recreating my character after about 5 hours in.

      • Fluka

        Remember to pack sandwiches!  Also, avoid the Mage’s Guild.  It is a silly place.

      • Unexpected Dave

        I’m in the Skyrim equivalent of a “roofie circle”.

        I stopped playing for a while, and forgot what I was doing, so I decided that I needed to create a new character. After an hour or two, everything started to come flooding back. I thought, “This is boring; I’ve already done all this.” So I stopped playing Skyrim in favour of something new.

        Then I hear something really cool about Skyrim that makes me want to jump back in (like the Wabbajack). So I start again from scratch, having forgotten everything I did in the last playthrough. Then it all comes back after an hour, the familiarity of it all makes it boring, and I end up easily distracted by something new.

        When I’m done with the new thing, I jump back in to Skyrim. I start again from scratch, having forgotten everything I did in the last playthrough. Then it all comes back after an hour, the familiarity of it all makes it boring, and I end up easily distracted by something new.

        When I’m done with the new thing, I jump back in to Skyrim. I start again from scratch, having forgotten everything I did in the last playthrough. Then it all comes back after an hour, the familiarity of it all makes it boring, and I end up easily distracted by something new.

        • neodocT

          It’s really just the age we live in isn’t it? Play Skyrim and forget your problems. Play Skyrim to go to sleep. Play Skyrim to forget your problems. Need an erection? Play Skyrim. Need to forget your problems? Play Skyrim! Play Skyrim and your problems are forgotten! Play Skyrim…What an age we live in! It’s great, isn’t it?!

  • patagonianhorsesnake

    so i personally am playing skyrim, and i’ve decided that my character is a detective. she’s an argonian with a nose for the truth, and in practice that means only doing quests that fit with that back story; the murder mysteries, missing persons, stolen objects, and so on. there’s actually quite a lot to do, and it fits quite well!

    but while playing this character, i’ve realized more and more that i don’t want or care about the dragonborn thing. and i know that skyrim is set up for open world, do whatever you want gameplay, etc. but it’s more that i’m sick of games where you’re the child of destiny, where you are powerful and important and it’s all about becoming more powerful and more important.

    i want to see a game where you genuinely are a small person moving alongside big events, that might emphasize weakness and helplessness rather than power.

    • neodocT

       I’ve got a friend that wanted to write fan fiction set in the Harry Potter universe during the time of the Deathly Hallows, about a guy that was a pawn in the fight between wizards, fought bravely but was eventually killed and essentially forgotten. He asked for my help in further developing the idea and I pointed out to him that his story was basically not a story at all.

      So I guess my point is that it sounds neat to have a small person in the Elder Scrolls world, but that is a lot harder to realize than it seems, without feeling inconsequential.

      • patagonianhorsesnake

        well, my point was that i want something that is about being inconsequential.
        or about dealing with smaller events against the backdrop of larger
        events. just… not a game where once again, you are “the hero of
        destiny, fated to do whatever”.

        this might be strange, but as i
        was writing this, i kept thinking of a quote from a short story by
        alfred bester that i really like, and that kind of, i think, has
        something to do with what i’m saying. and i found it!

        “You are all alike. You dream you are the one man with a secret, the one
        man with a wrong, the one man with an injustice, with a girl, without a
        girl, with or without anything. Goddamn. You bore me, you one-man
        dreamers. Get lost.”

        i’m sick of these fantasies. i want to see something different.

        • patagonianhorsesnake

          oh, screw you disqus.

        • neodocT

          Yeah, I get your point, and I actually think it’d be really interesting to have a game that casts the player character as something other than the mystical chosen one person. At the same time, I still believe that this game would be a herder sell to a mainstream audience, specially since most games, by their nature, tend to paint the main character as an agent of change, rather than a character that simply reacts to the world around him. 

        • Citric

          I don’t think it would be harder to sell so long as you keep the stakes feeling important. 

          The person doesn’t have to save the world, or change everything around them, but it’s still a life or death situation. There should be a goal, and that goal should be vitally important to the characters (and probably give them a reason to be in harm’s way rather than just hiding in a corner somewhere hoping all the bad things stop happening, since you want to have a reason to do stuff) but it doesn’t have to be world changing.

          Whipping up a plot off the top of my head, in a big fantasy world with wars and crap, a character hears his father has been injured in the fighting and is not doing well, his goal is to get home and see his father one last time before his death. The trip home is made increasingly complicated by the changing alliances, battles, big beasties and whatever else exists in this fantasy world, and he encounters people on his journey who also want to go to his hometown for their own reasons – maybe a girl believes the city will give her the opportunity to start in business, maybe a guy believes he can be free in that country but can’t where he lives now – but the goal is kept intensely personal. They have to fight through the different conflicts to get to their goals, but their actions aren’t really affecting the geopolitical structure of the world. They don’t want to set the world on fire, they just want to keep their nuts warm, so to speak.

        • NakedSnake

          That’s an awesome quote. I think a good template for a low-stakes but still exciting adventure would be a private eye story. The PI is never anyone special. The world, and major characters, all move around him/her without concern. Some game where you are just some kind of magistrate investigating the death of a minor prince, for instance, would be pretty cool. You could still have the player uncover some kind of conspiracy and have to deal with some powerful people, but the player itself would just be a schmo.

        • Bad Horse

          @Citric:disqus That sounds like The Walking Dead, at least at the point I got to. Or what I’ve heard about The Last of Us.

        • His_Space_Holiness

          @baneofpigs:disqus I, uh, actually did write a novel about a private eye getting unwillingly caught up in a Joseph Campbell-style fantasy saga. So thanks for confirming that people other than me might be interested in that kind of thing.

      • JamesJournal

        How is something “not a story” just because it isn’t about anything “important.” How many non science fiction movies books etc are about normal people doing normal things.

        In fact Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” is basically that. A dramaey about average wizards with no “we must collect X and save the world” plot to speak off. It just used the magical school setting as a backdrop for a coming of age story.

        • neodocT

          Ah, it can definitely be a story, in my friend’s particular case it wasn’t. He was basically developing a really dull Zelig set in the Harry Potter universe, where his main character basically did nothing but every once in a while bump into a major character, and then died anti-climatically in the field of battle to prove was is bad. The idea isn’t horrible in and of itself, but trust me that his execution was.

          Last thing I remember, he  decided to add some sort of character arc by working in a plotline about the character’s mother’s doppelganger coming back to haunt him, or something. It really went off the rails at some point.

      • Kyle O’Reilly

         Au Contrair Mon Frer.  I feel like world’s as well developed as Elder Scrolls and Harry Potter would be easy to tell intensely personal stories about small people in the middle of big events.  For writing, it’s all about the perspective you adopt.  Obviously a third-person limited would limit you to nothing but the events going on around him, which is why you get raw and bust out that first-person unlimited and explore the thoughts, fears and hopes of someone who is taking part in a grand event but is only a small part of it. 

        Inconsequential is a subjective term, I for one would be interested to hear what life is like living in a simple Khajit caravan when dragons have returned to Skyrim.  you can’t fight them yourself really but they’re going to change the whole way you operate.

        What I’m saying is, don’t discount the small stories my friend.  They can have just as much, if not more, emotion than the big event-laden epic-fests video games are full of at the moment.

        • neodocT

          Ah, I don’t mean to say that small stories are inconsequential, just that they can feel that way when badly done. Going back to Skyrim, that game has so many sidequests, and most of them are small affairs where you do something to help someone out. But how many of those were in any way meaningful, or managed to lead to any emotional response?

          I’m not saying they have to be that way – I would love if they were awesome, well written small personal sidequests – but I don’t feel that’s the norm.

          Having said that, Majora’s Mask, for example, managed to strike a better balance with that, where, despite you having to save the world again, the main focus of the game is about helping pretty much all of the NPCs to overcome their emotional traumas. Hell, Mass Effect 2 is a pretty decent example of that as well, using more personal stories as the plot, essentially.

          It’s just that, unfortunately, most developers use “small people in the middle of big events” to mean “fetch quest for five rabbit skins or whatever”.

          Edit: I also really like your idea of the gameplay changes brought about by being caught in the middle of a huge conflict. That really seems like it could create some awesome storytelling and gameplay.

        • JamesJournal

          @neodocT:disqus 

          If you remove the Reaper element from Mass Effect 2, it is basically “The Magnificent Seven in space” 

          The story basically comes down stopping some alien abductions and maybe stopping some shady people from getting their hands on technology. And that’s the big stuff outside of recruiting people and helping them with personal problems.

          I could easily believe that there are thousands of other people in the Mass Effect universe involved in the same class of adventure as Shepard in those days.

          When I saw the ticking clock on in the Arrival DLC is was a giant shock to the system because all the slow paced episodic space exploration before and after the prep for the Collector Base and numbed me to the fact such a massive threat was supposed to exist. I was starting to see myself as closer to Malcom Reynolds than Luke Skywalker

          The same cannot be said for Mass Effect 3 where ONLY YOU can stop space an army of space Cthulus from turning the galaxy into reproductive goo.

    • Enkidum

      We’ve had a few conversations about this here, and I have to agree with you and disagree with @neodocT:disqus - more small-stakes-but-more-reality games would be awesome. To a certain extent I think that’s what Dragon Age 2 was going for (although I haven’t played it, so I can’t comment much more). But yeah, a big world, with big things happening, but you’re just trying not to get your ass kicked by the powers that be.

      In a sense I think a lot of the crime open world games approach this – the GTAs and Sleeping Dogs and so forth. Although even there you end up rising pretty to become pretty powerful. But anyways, something like that in a fantasy setting would be cool as balls.

      • neodocT

         I should add that I definitely think it is a cool idea to have smaller stories in these weird, awesome fantasy worlds. I just feel it’d be hard to implement effectively in a mainstream game. It really strikes me as the sort of thing that is more suited for DLC.

        • Enkidum

          Well, there’s no reason why you can’t be an agent of small changes – it would be, in terms of gameplay and importance of choices to the character, no different from any other game, just the narrative stakes would be lower.

        • neodocT

           @Enkidum:disqus That is basically the reason I love Majora’s Mask so much. The possibility of slowly helping out all the people in this dying world, one by one. Having said that, even that game had a principal story where you ended up saving the entire world. I guess I just can’t see game where smaller, low stake actions compose a game’s plotline? Especially considering you’re the one in control of the game’s major character? Wouldn’t it be extremely anticlimatic to have the game end after an NPCs actions? (not that being anticlimatic can’t be a good thing, but in a game?)

          I’m perfectly willing to be proven wrong, I just don’t quite see it right now.

        • Enkidum

          Oh, the way I’m thinking of it wouldn’t be that you’re totally at the whim of NPCs or fate. It would be just that you’re playing for small stakes while bigger things are happening around you, and those thing affect you but you can’t do anything about them. Like, I dunno, you’re a low-ranking street gang member and by the end after a bunch of missions and so forth you’ve become a high-ranking street gang member (but not even the leader of the gang or anything), but in the meantime your city has been occupied by an invading army. Or whatever. You don’t save the world, you don’t save the city, you don’t even become gang leader, but you do have definable and achievable objectives, and that’s the main narrative, but there’s all this important side stuff happening too.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @neodocT:disqus : I submit that that is because most games are poorly-written and are content to rehash Campbellian hero’s journey bullshit than actually come up with a compelling new story to tell. Sometimes this is because the writing simply isn’t important to the game (most platformers, etc.). Sometimes, this is because the writing is just kind of generic and not that great (most RPGs, etc.).

      • patagonianhorsesnake

        honestly, the best game i have for something like this right now is crusader kings 2. there, you can start as a count, and stay a count, trying to survive in a turbulent, hostile world, while the kings and emperors make a mess of everything.

        • Enkidum

          Yeah, but I’d like a narrative game of this ilk, really just Skyrim where you play as kind of a small town loser trying to stay away from the cops or whatever.

          Basically like the first few levels of any RPG ever, and though you never get super powerful there’s still enough progression in the gameplay that it feels like you’re getting somewhere, but by the end you’re still kind of a low-level player.

        • DrFlimFlam

          It does feel strange to do a few quests for the Thieves’ Guild and then wind up in charge. Call it a Riker Fetish, but I’d like the idea ofa  guy who works up the ladder but never gets to the top; just becomes a lieutenant or second-in-command.

      • JamesJournal

        Well GTA 4 and Sleeping Dogs at least are pretty low stakes if you compare them to your average fantasy game such as Skyrim where you are the chosen one and must save the world from being eaten.

        At the end of GTA4 Nico Bellic is still just a cog in the criminal machine of Liberty City, all you really achieve is revenge.

    • Unexpected Dave

      I question why there need to be big events at all in a fantasy setting. I want to see more “low fantasy” RPGs, similar in tone to the classic Fahfrd and Grey Mouser stories. Not every game has to be about saving the world or seizing control of the government. 

      You can have an epic feel even when the stakes are only personal. Take GTA: Vice City, for example. Tommy Vercetti doesn’t upset the status quo in Miami. He doesn’t become Mayor. His power and fame increases, but the world itself doesn’t change. 

    • needlehacksaw

      It’s not exactly what you are asking for, but I would argue that the “Witcher” games, for all their mutated-badass-monster-slayer-character, actually do that to some degree.
      Geralt of Rivia is, in the end of the day, a somewhat tragicomical character. He is always where shit hits the fan, but in greater scheme of things, he is often one crucial step behind, pretty powerless in the face of the more powerful factions and just trying to do what he can.
      Ultimately, his quest is (as far as I can tell) a pretty personal one, anyway — it’s about him discovering his past, not save the world. (A world which is too fantastically rotten to be saved anyway… I guess that’s the advantage of choosing a somewhat darker fantasy setting.)

      There are echoes of “Planscape: Torment” there, come to think of it, another game where you played a creature of nearly infinite power that found himself manipulated often enough, and in the end achieved nothing at all, but personal peace.

      Oh, and in “Vampires: Bloodlines”, you tip the balance of the hierarchies bit, but in the end, it turns out that the joke was on you the whole time anyway, one way or another.

      So, we maybe do not have small persons moving alongside big events, but big persons who, for all their involvement in big events, do ultimately change fuck at all (nothing but themselves, anyway). It’s not much, but at least a kind of narrative I most often vastly prefer to the Chosen One Saves The Universe (TM).

      • duwease

        V:B is a tragically underrated masterpiece.. forgot about that one.  I definitely get the Witcher 2 feeling as far as I’ve gotten as well, although I keep putting it down because the combat system just doesn’t engage me.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      This is probably not what you’re looking for, but don’t a lot of military shooters cast you in the role of random soldier dude, at least for a few levels? I guess it’s easier to focus on a couple of less-important characters when the game is always switching protagonists between levels.

    • LupinYonsei

        I hear you! A game where you end up achieving a personal goal, while
      remaining committed to being a hidden dragon in terms of displaying any
      of the abilities you’ve developed (which aren’t necessarily all that great anyway — the power sets could be real double-edged swords, as on Alphas).

      A potential followup could incorporate MMO elements. Go online, ferret out other hidden dragons, and join with enough like-minded ones to try to effect or simply just survive change.

      An East Asian-inspired setting would be great for this: check out the ox herding (or Ten Bulls) pictures in Zen — you end up back in the marketplace, re-integrated into society as Nothing Special after your epiphany.

      Plus you could encounter yokai.

    • duwease

      The PS1 game Vagrant Story was good for that.. the story was fairly personal and contained, and I think it was brilliant for that.  There hasn’t been much of that since then (in RPG land at least).

    • Albino Horse Eye

      Imagine a scenario where you are a small creature whose only aim is to get from point A to point B, the most humble and familiar of ambitions. The sum of your agency within your environment is zero; the only mark you will leave will be a small stain on the ground where you die. Perilous as it is, the world into which you were born is indifferent to you, indifferent to your small ambition, and the violent traffic of the business it conducts proceeds inevitably to your death, although you may delay the event as you hop and dodge your way from point B to point C, perhaps to point D, and so on.

      No game captures the honest noble humility of this universal struggle like Frogger.

    • EmperorNortonI

      Wasn’t one of the expansions to Neverwinter Nights something like this, where you had to manage a caravan through some dangerous terrain?

      That game came around at totally the wrong time in my life, when I was beating my head against grad school and experiencing utter existential failure.  A few years later, once I’d quit, and life was wonderful and free – then I would really dug into the editor and the various interesting looking scenarios people created with it.

      • patagonianhorsesnake

         i think so, though i never finished the main campaigns in neverwinter nights. though i played the game a lot, it was always mods. there were a lot of really excellent mods for that game. and a lot of trash, too, of course.

        and some of the mods were, i think, about unimportant people affecting their personal world in small ways that were important to them, which is similar to what i’m still looking for. maybe i need to pull that game out again.

  • neodocT

    Oooh, I’m really early this time! Please tell me you let Ben Dolnick edit his own interview to add awesome eloquent stuff!

    This weekend I’ll be camping out in hopes of getting season tickets for the university’s much vaunted basketball team, so I suppose this will be the weekend of drinking games. We’ve already discussed King’s Cup, Never Have I Ever and Beer Pong. Anyone got any other cool suggestions?

    • boardgameguy

      Do they play flip cup where you live? If not, that can be fun if you have enough for teams.

      • neodocT

         I don’t know, never seen anyone play flip cup! I’ll put that in the list!

        • boardgameguy

          here is a youtube explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lhv-H2oYIr4

    • ZTO

      Games tend to vary a lot regionally, as do the names, but perhaps you may enjoy the numbers game, which I’ve heard named Cheers Guv’nah?

      Cheers Guv’nah is a game I’m sure goes by dozens of names. Players count 1 to 21 with each player saying a number in turn. The catch is that when you reach the place where 7 should be, you must say 11 or drink. Similarly, when you reach 11 you must say 7. If you reach 21, the player who said 21 can then create a new rule for any other number (EX: for 1, you now must switch places with the person on your right without saying anything). It winds up as something like a drunked game of Nomic. The more creative your group, the more fun it becomes to play.

      • neodocT

         Hah, that seems pretty cool. My variation of King’s Cup uses a game like that for when you draw up a 7 (why is it always 7?). In our version, each person says a number, counting up from 1, but they must skip any number that has a 7 or is a multiple of 7. It doesn’t have the chance of making up cool rules, but it’s fun to see how far people manage to go. I think the best run I’ve seen ended up caught by 63.

  • Unexpected Dave

    The disc drive on my PS3 died several months ago, so I’ve been limited to digital games. I finally broke down and put in a preorder for a PS3/GTAV bundle that comes out on September 17; it was too good a deal to pass up. 

    In the meantime, I’ll be dividing my time between Chrono Cross and the Mass Effect Trilogy

    • DrFlimFlam

      That is a fantastic split of time.

      • Unexpected Dave

        I’d like to see a future BioWare game do something similar to Chrono Cross’ branching paths: force players to choose between recruiting certain characters. 

        • DrFlimFlam

          I liked that one of the best characters in the game, with a special weapon and everything, can only be recruited by admitting you don’t know how to save Kid and just kind of moving on.

        • signsofrain

          Which character is that? Is that when Kid is poisoned? I played through CC many years ago, when it came out I just ground on it for about 80-90 hours, using a strategy guide for the latter third of the game. I never did do a New Game +

          (Sprigg FTW)

        • DrFlimFlam

          @signsofrain:disqus , it’s Glenn, who uses the Einlanzer.

        • signsofrain

          @drflimflam:disqus hey you might enjoy this let’s play. Basically this guy plays through CC and adds his own commentary. It’s all text and screenshots, no video. And he has the music on there so you can play the tracks from the different parts of the game he’s talking about while you read. He’s got a great sense of humour and he knows the game really well. Reading it has made me want to play through CC again (though I’m a bit nervous about how much time that means I’d have to put in…)

  • evanwaters

    It’s been mostly Crusader Kings for me again. Sooo close to forming the Empire of Britannia, but the problem is now there are fewer people to attack without breaking treaties. Norway is weak but holds on to its territories somehow. (And they’re all fellow Pagans so I can’t use the Conquest claim on ‘em.)

    • Marozeph

      I got Crusader Kings II with the recent Humble Bundle and quickly found out that i have zero talent for super-complex strategy-games. I literally had no idea what i was doing.

      • Roswulf

         I sympathize. CKII is utterly impenetrable, and does a criminally poor job of explaining what the hell is going on.

        I ended up watching literally hours of youtube videos to understand what was going on. For me it was worth it-once you understand it, a great deal of the complexity is just chaff that enriches the stories you can tell without meaningfully changing game play. And the Paradox games are a wonderful tool for telling sweeping stories of adventure and triumph and despair. But lord are they a slog to get into.

        Just one other tip- if you do decide to try CKII again, either with or without research, I would DEFINITELY start as one of the more powerful Dukes of Ireland. Starting with a large country with huge numbers of rebellious vassals can be a nightmare, and being one of those rebellious vassals can be almost as overwhelming. Ireland is the safest place in the world to be small (this is non-Old Gods advice btw, but I don’t think the Humble Bundle came with Old Gods which pushes the start date back). Additionally, uniting Ireland provides an achievable mid-term goal.

      • evanwaters

         I’ve found it’s reasonably forgiving considering how much I too suck at strategy. The general recommendation is to start at Dublin or somewhere in Ireland around 1066 and just set about conquering your neighbors. (There’s a good instructional LP on the Something Awful forums but it may be behind the paywall-

        http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3559664)

        Also disable Sunset Invasion unless you want the Aztecs to start wrecking your shit. It’s kind of a ridiculous challenge.

      • HobbesMkii

        I strongly encourage the start in 1066 Ireland (I usually play Munster, but Dublin is a good one too). There’s no way to reduce complexity in CK2 except to make your courts smaller, which means diminishing your stature considerably. Once you’ve figured out managing a dukedom with one vassal, you can scale up to King of Ireland and start working from there.

        I will say that I’ve seen people have mixed results. A couple of people have been lost on their first game and powered through by game 2 or 3 to have most of the core concepts down. Others have had to supplement with instructions on the interwebs. Others have dismissed it entirely (although they are the rarest).

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Aw, Mr. Dolnick, don’t bury your head in shame! You sound plenty intelligent.

    Now that I’ve finally beaten Rayman Origins, the sensible thing to do would be to play Rayman Legends. But I’m kind of burned out on 2D platformers right now, so instead I’m going to continue with Max Payne 3, and perhaps I’ll play the Costume Quest DLC as well.

    I’m also going to be playing Adventure to Ikea, which with the arrows on floor, is surprisingly linear for a shopping game.

    • Citric

      I’m tempted to get Max Payne 3 just because it’s cheap like borscht. Is it actually worth it?

      • huge_jacked_man

        MP3 is a mixed bag imho. 

        It has excellent shooting mechanics coupled with really satisfying animations. On top of that it is a highly polished game with great graphics, good level variety and a better story than most shooters, despite the ludonarrative dissonance of Max Payne being an old drunk loser who kills well over a thousand armed enemies in the course of a playthrough.

        The level design is average and doesn’t look like it was made with the slow-mo dive mechanics in mind – rarely is cover positioned so you can dive from one piece of cover to another which is baffling. The use of ragdoll physics on the main character means movement feels very sluggish and whenever you dive Max takes a few seconds to get back up under enemy fire which is pretty frustrating.

        Also the game keeps playing unskippable cutscenes at you. After clearing a room Max literally cannot open a door without a cutscene playing. It gets pretty annoying and occasionally robs you of the chance to scaveng much-needed ammo from fallen enemies not to mention every time the cutscene ends Max defaults back to a one-handed weapon so you need to re-equip rifles. 

        But the worst offender is the Last Man Standing feature: if you have a health item in your inventory and are about to die the game triggers a slow-motion sequence where you need to shoot the specific enemy that is about to kill you. The problem is that it is poorly implemented so if any obstacle lay between yourself and the enemy then you have to watch Max Payne slowly falling to the ground for a few seconds and die. Sometimes because of the ragdoll physics, Max’s arm will be caught against some piece of scenery and you won’t be able to shoot even though you have the enemy in your crosshairs. Because the game is fairly unforgiving and uses checkpoints rather than quicksaves this can be very frustrating. The only way to disable Last Man Standing is to beat the game on Hard to unlock Old School difficulty.

        The game was worth the $8 I paid for it overall and a playthrough (on Hard) took about 12 hours. I’m burned out on the game but I might like it better when I do an Old School playthrough later.

      • Marozeph

        I got the game during some Steam sale and enjoyed the single-player campaign quite a bit (never played multiplayer). I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, but if you like gory slowmo-shootouts with some cool setpieces (and don’t mind the annoying mandatory registration for Rockstar Social Club) i would recommend it.

      • mizerock

        I just joined a crew [Lords of Rock, with Rock Band folks] for GTAV and also finally ordered the damn game [through the PS store, I was thinking I could download it early and thus make sure I had enough space on my HD before release day?]. The Rockstar site lets you use that same crew for online play for Max Payne 3 as well … and what do you know, that’s one of the games I bought cheap and then never played. So I think I’m going to try that out this weekend.

    • PaganPoet

      Protip: Beware of the salmon lasagna in the cafeteria level of Adventure to Ikea; you may be tempted if you’re low on health, but you’ll regret that decision almost immediately.

      Also, check out the floor model secret area near the end of the game. You’ll be surprised how many powerups you can find at a cheaper price than at the main shop in the village.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I refuse to believe that this salmon lasagna is anything but delicious. How can two things that taste so good separately be disgusting together?

        *continues spooning chocolate ice cream onto chicken sandwich*

        • stuartsaysstop

          I find it wholly bizarre when anyone orders anything other than the meatballs.

          Though I will give a pass for breakfast, assuming it still costs 99 cents.

          • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

            I don’t eat beef (Hinduism, what up), so I tend to go for the cured salmon. It’s salty and savory and delicious.

    • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

      It’s eerily close to being an on-rails shopper. And thanks to the process of just writing down or scanning the furniture’s info in the showrooms, you essentially have an unlimited inventory until that pesky warehouse stage near the end where you’re suddenly burdened by the weight of all of your past decisions.

    • boardgameguy

      I hate the inventory constraint of my small car.

  • Citric

    I’m going to be playing “Get really drunk near a body of water in Canada.” I know it got poor reviews from someone around here, but I think that there’s a chance it could go really well.

    Or really badly, since it has the “New boyfriend of a woman with whom you have an unintentionally complicated relationship with” DLC, and there’s a danger of some incompatibilities there that you just aren’t aware of until the game is up and running.

  • PaganPoet

    I’m not really playing anything in particular. I just haven’t been interested lately. I do have unfinished playthroughs of Final Fantasy IX and Arkham City to get through, so if I feel the itch, it’ll be one of those.

  • NakedSnake

    I guess the question is: what should I play? I finished up with Chrono Trigger, which got better and better as it went along, and now I’m wondering whether I should take the momentum to forge right ahead with Final Fantasy VII or take a breather with the comparatively lighter fare of Castlevania: Bloodlines or Asura’s Wrath first.

  • Canadian gamer

    I must fight the temptation to buy the original Deus Ex on Steam. I should go trekking if my kinesiologist tells me I can walk 40 km a day with plantar fasciitis, but somehow I feel his answer won’t be positive. As a result, I may very well remain grounded in Santiago for the week-end and agonize about whether I should start a third run at Human Revolution or buy the first game. 

    I indeed loved, loved Deus Ex Human Revolution, especially on my second run. The visual design and the soundtrack alone provide the game with an unbeatable atmosphere. In Hengsha, I found myself stopping in an appartment and simply staring out the window at the upper layer of the city way above me, like I would have done in real life. Even a run-of-the-mill place like the Omega Ranch felt both mysterious and grim, not a little because of the music. Human Revolution also is the first game to have made me homesick for a moment: when I landed atop the Picus tower, humorously placed in what is the Olympic Stadium of Montreal in real life, I felt all happy inside looking at the Montreal skyline and recognizing the cross over Mont Royal, the Saint-Lawrence River, the KPMG building… I felt like going down the tower, stepping in the street and taking a bus back home. It was all illusion, of course. 

    I found plenty more to love with the game: how much content I had managed to miss out on during my first run, how well core systems worked (stealth, combat, platforming, hacking), how plausible most characters’ personalities were during the social “fights”, or how the game made you feel bad for acting evil, not because of a morality system, but by virtue of the characters being fundamentally human. 

    Before playing the game, I knew it was going to right up my alley given my liking for shooters, stealth games and anything involving politics. I strongly suspect I would equally like the first Deus Ex. So much to do and so little time to enjoy it all, though. 

    • huge_jacked_man

      When you inevitably buy the original for $2 in some Steam sale make sure you install the HD patch, Deus Ex New Vision. It really helps make the game not look like ass on a modern computer.
      Also be aware that the game is long, about 25 hours. 
      DXHR was a lot better than could be expected. You could argue it’s a better Metal Gear Solid game than it is a Deus Ex game but I’m not complaining. Still need to get that non-lethal/no alarms run but I tried to do it in my first playthrough and I messed up because I killed enemies in the tutorial level.

      • miltthefish

        Speaking of Metal Gear, I just finished replaying Metal Gear Solid for the first time since the late 90s.  Holy shit that game does not stand the test of time. 

        • huge_jacked_man

          Yeah you’re better off playing Twin Snakes than the PSX version. MGS2 is my favorite and it happens to be the one DXHR took most inspiration from. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Buying the original Deus Ex on Steam is one temptation that should never be fought.

      • djsubversive

        There are people who don’t have DX? That’s like the first thing I installed on my computer when I got a new one. It’s tiny and awesome and I bet somebody is reading this and reinstalling it right now.

    • miltthefish

      Human Revolution is a fantastic game – a noir film in game format about global conspiracies, with terrific stealth gameplay and RPG elements?  That’s my perfect game.  I’ve played through it twice and enjoyed it more the second time. 

    • Fluka

      Yaaaaaay Deus Ex!  I’d go ahead and give the first game a try – it’s so cheap these days that there’s no reason not to!  I did the same thing after finishing HR.  It shows its age – like @huge_jacked_man:disqus says, make sure to download New Vision – but the mechanics are strong as ever and the plot and characters are entertaining.  It’s got more of a funky 90s new-world-order conspiracy vibe to it than Human Revolution’s neo-Renaissance aesthetic and sociopolitical/class focus.  Still worth a go, though.

      Um, though I should probably finish it at some point.  *Guilt.*

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        You SHOULD feel guilty. Drop everything you’re doing and finish that game RIGHT NOW! (Or set it down gently, if what you’re doing is the dishes. But either way, go play Deus Ex right now!)

  • Effigy_Power

    Fluctuating between continuing the Witcher 2 or starting something else.
    Witcher 2 is pretty great, in general, but it has every annoying Action RPG trope in it sadly. There’s the easily won combat that ends with a loss in a cutscene, the long, unintuitive stealth scene that fails with a cutscene, the inventory is really annoying at times and the crafting window doesn’t compare your gear to what you are about to craft.
    Not at all perfect, but it’s just damn pretty, kind of sexy and generally pretty fun, even though I still think it’s way too hard on Easy. Don’t put an easy-mode in and then make entire passages of the game punishing, especially with the auto-save spots sometimes far apart. I don’t want to be hitting F5 constantly while I play.
    I might install the Saboteur soon or maybe something else, not sure yet.
    I also have my Dunmer Psycho Killer still in Skyrim, murdering all she can get away with. I have a mod that makes all the NPCs non-essential, so I might try my hand at actually emptying out a minor city, maybe start with Roriksted or something and then move on to Morthal or Dawn Star. Could be fun.

    • MintBerry_Crunch

      Witcher 2 is such a pretty game. But not pretty (or ugly?) enough; with so many lines spoken and character faces on-screen, it punches through the bottom of the uncanny valley. 

      This is me being a jerk since they probably didn’t have the size nor the budget, but those dead little eyes and taut countenance kill some of the scenes. Also, the combat features more rolling than a barrel race! AND WHAT-HECK KINDA UNIVERSE IS THIS WHERE HUMAN SKIN IS LESS VULNERABLE TO THE POINTY EDGE OF “SILVER” SWORD COMPARED TO A “STEEL” SWORD…. I do really like the game though.  

      • Effigy_Power

        It shows. ^_^

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Well, maybe they were just aiming to recreate that table-top RPG experience, where combat is mainly dictated by rolls…

        I’ll show myself out.

    • huge_jacked_man

      It took me a while to get used to the combat because I didn’t want to just roll constantly as I thought it looked incredibly stupid. But that’s how you’re supposed to play the game. I really hope they improve the combat system in the sequel. 

    • Electric Dragon

      Also being unable to save during fights, especially long multistage boss battles. The kayran (if you’ve got that far yet?) nearly drove me insane, and I ended up putting the game aside for several months. Tip: use Quen a lot.

      • duwease

        I got just past the Kayran after my.. second? attempt to play the game.  I really like the universe, and the feeling that you’re just a guy in it rather than the savior of all mankind.  But man, that combat.  It is just not satisfying to me in the least.

      • Effigy_Power

        I just finished Chapter 2 and they Kayran itself wasn’t quite as bad as some basic encounters, which is another one of those typical RPG flaws. A bunch of Rotfiends and no space to maneuver is all it takes.

    • rvb1023

       As much as I love the Witcher 2 I do find myself struggling to continue at parts. The combat is more dynamic than the first one but as you said it pretty much comes down to rolls. Some of the enemies are just huge damage sponges as well.

      Most of the time the universe and world building get me through it then I remember I beat the Witcher over a 2 year period of time. Something similar will probably happen for The Witcher 2, hopefully in time for the 3rd.

    • djsubversive

      Saboteur! Saboteur! Blow up Paris! Well, Nazi installations in Paris, but still!

      How many other games make you stop a book burning at the Arc de Triomphe?

  • The_Helmaroc_King

    I’ve played some additional board games with friends recently.

    King of Tokyo! We actually played this a week or two ago, but I forgot to mention it before. It’s simple, quick, and light, but after half-a-dozen games or so I’m not the biggest fan. Games just always seem lopsided, especially when players get multiple cards and/or evolutions. Still, it’s friendly enough that I’m good to go for a few games now and then.

    Innovation! We only played this once, but it falls outside my wheelhouse for a couple reasons. I’m not the biggest fan of historical-themed board games, and the rules for this one were just too abstract for my interests. We also started well before anyone had a decent understanding of how to play. The final score was 5-1-0-0, if that gives you an idea of how well we knew what we were doing.

    Smash Up! Again, we’ve only played one game, but this one piqued my interest. The whole game is pretty deep into “ha, ha, memes” territory, but that didn’t bother me. The rules are relatively simple and easy to explain, but it still seems to have a fair amount of variety despite that.

    I’ve also started playing Offspring Fling. It’s light, fun, and ridiculously cute, but I should probably suppress my urge to beat the developer’s best times before it gives me an aneurysm.

    This weekend, I plan to hunt the most dangerous game: man an affordable condo. The market hasn’t beaten me yet!

    • Kyle O’Reilly

      In regards to Offspring-Fling, Kyle Pulver puts out insanely fun 2-d platformers on a regular basis.  Check out Snapshot for another awesome game from him.

    • boardgameguy

      King of Tokyo is a good time. I really want to try the Power Up! expansion which allows your characters to progress their powers.

      As for Innovation, I greatly prefer Glory to Rome, by the same designer Carl Chudyk. It’s all card based too, but you can create just absolutely wild combinations of things. If you like Race for the Galaxy or Eminent Domain but feel they get a little rote, definitely try Glory to Rome.

      Good luck with the condo shopping.

      • The_Helmaroc_King

        Thanks!

        I’ve actually never played King of Tokyo without the “Power Up!” expansion. It’s a neat addition, and it gives the monsters some variety, but it also contributes to the lopsided feeling I mentioned above. There’s actually two examples that stick out in my mind:

        • The Cyber Bunny has an evolution card that lets them get a lot of energy at once and another one that lets them buy cards for one less energy. So, the player with that card used them and managed to buy Big Brain (extra reroll), Freeze Time (extra turn if they roll 1-1-1), some card that lets them change a die into a one, and another card that lets them use one more die. They took, like, five turns in a row. I think they were in Tokyo as well; if you take the rules as written, that meant an extra two points every time they roll 1-1-1.

        • The Mekka Dragon has an evolution card that deals one damage to every other monster outside of Tokyo each time they attack Tokyo. Said player also picked up the Poison Spit card. So, no matter where that player was, if they attacked, every other player took a damage and was poisoned. We’d attack him, but he yields Tokyo the moment anyone so much as looks at him funny.

        I also hear of one game where a player had Nova Breath, Shrink Ray, and Poison Spit. Supposedly, everyone else conceded on the spot. It’s not like these kinds of combos happen every game, but it’s pretty noticeable when they do.

        Also, I think the game could be clearer about how some cards work, or how some cards work in combination. For example, some things can only happen if I attack; will they happen if I deal damage without attacking, or does dealing damage at all count as an attack?

        • boardgameguy

          This is the danger of most games that let rules be bent by lots of special cards. Glad to hear that it lends the game more variety. I know you can’t compare, but I wonder if it lengthens the game.

          I think the fact that it plays quickly (at least in the base version) makes me feel better about the overpowered combos that come up rarely. Someone mops up quickly and it’s on to the next game where things are more balanced again.

    • http://yourindolentfriend.blogspot.com/ HarbingerOfDuh

      I hear you on Innovation. The game design on that one is pretty well-thought-out, but it’s so swingy and based on the luck of the cards. The course of the game can veer wildly without any way to plan ahead. Which I normally don’t mind that much, but the theme is so dull. At least if it had, I dunno, a space-battle theme I wouldn’t feel so lousy about getting destroyed by a ridiculously powerful combo that my opponent just happened to draw.

      King of Tokyo has a similar thing going on, but because everyone’s big dumb monsters destroying a city, it’s fun instead of irritating for me. @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus , it sounds like maybe you just don’t like “take that”-style games. 

      • The_Helmaroc_King

        Innovation‘s base game alone must have at least a hundred different (unique?) cards, and every player can have up to five active cards at once, which will change frequently. Keeping track of anything past your own cards just gets out of hand.

        I’m not sure what makes a “take that”-style game, but you’re probably right about that. There’s a few games I like that are nothing but direct conflict, but those same games are also small and fast. Games that take two to more hours where you can get stomped into paste before finishing the front half just aren’t my thing.

        • boardgameguy

          Then please ignore the recommendation for Glory to Rome. Although an experienced player might be able to work back from the stomped in the first half aspect through clever deployment of a few cards.

  • Enkidum

    Think I’m almost finished Ratchet & Clank, which I might get some more done on, and the kids and I are slowly wending our way through Quantum Conundrum, and my daughter and I are halfway through the villain levels from Lego Batman, and I still have a save on Persona 3 that I’m completely uninvested in at this point. I’ll get back to it eventually. (Don’t kill me, @PaganPoet:disqus !

    But I also got Journey and Tokyo Jungle for cheap with PS+, so who knows maybe I’ll play one of those.

    Well, that was an exciting and insightful comment, I know.

    • PaganPoet

      Oh, I ain’t gonna kill you. You’re just gonna go missing.

    • PaganPoet

      Honestly, though, how far are you into Persona? If you’re only a few months into it, I might even recommend restarting it on an easier difficulty. Playing on hard in that game is not difficult in a meaningful way, it’s just difficult in a time-wasting way.

      • Enkidum

        Pretty far, too far to restart, I think. I think I’ve got 4 months left?

        I actually only really get angry with it after I spend half an hour levelling everyone up and then get killed by some stupid cheap attack… And I am actually somewhat invested in the story (although several of the friends I find so irritating that my social rank with them never gets anywhere – Bebe is the worst, but also that fucking student council guy, and the gourmet king just depresses me, and Kenji I got to level 8 with because he’s the first guy you hang with, but damn he’s like a 6 year old). 

        Apparently Chihiro’s mad at me, presumably because I’ve been macking Yuko. But I’ll probably dump her for one of the team members. I’m a terrible person.

        So… maybe I am paying a lot of attention to it.

        • PaganPoet

          I tell ya…I know this game is about Japanese students, but it’s almost too bad that they don’t have English names. Describing your progress in the game would be like recapping an episode of Gossip Girl.

          “Apparently Blair is mad at Dan, presumably because he’s been macking Serena. But he’ll probably dump her for one of the team members. He’s a terrible person.”

          (Yes, those are real characters from Gossip Girl, and no I’m not the least bit ashamed to know them.)

        • Simon Jones

           I love me some Persona 3 but I think you could argue without much fear of contradiction that it has the most punchable cast of characters in the series of any of them except the original english translation of the Persona 1.

          No.

          Really.

          Tell me more about your insane story about the Pink Alligator.

        • Jackbert

          @Enkidum:disqus : Don’t worry, you won’t have to dump anyone. You’re a complete skank who dates everyone. It’s fun.

          @PaganPoet:disqus : I recognized those as real characters and am very ashamed. In my defense, I’ve only seen the pilot…man, I wish I could use the drunk excuse right now…

        • His_Space_Holiness

          My friends and I watched some Gossip Girl in college in order to write a parody of it, and it just turned us all into angry leftists for the afternoon, raging at the pampered pretty young things who dared ask us to care about their absurdly privileged lives.

  • Cloks

    I finally beat Metal Gear Rising when a friend came over to help me with the fighting bits at the end and I did the slow-motion blade slashes.

    I’ll be playing some more inFamous, which is a pleasant way to waste time while still feeling a small sense of progression and achievement. It’s by no means a great game but it’s perfectly adequate and honestly, I don’t want much more than that out of it.

    Additionally, I’ll be learning myself real good on how to play Crusader Kings II because @Effigy_Power makes it look like so much fun.

    • PaganPoet

      Revengeance is finally yours!!!!!

      • Cloks

        Not completely though. The disc was dusty or something and a few of the final cutscenes wouldn’t play. I can’t be completely sure if violence breeds violence.

    • CrabNaga

      Prepare to be enamored with CK2 in fits and bursts. If I turn on the game, I’ll expect to spend the entire evening playing it. However, I’ve never maintained enough constant interest in it to finish a single game. That being said, it’s entirely time-based; the game just ends when it ends. There’s no real goals outside the ones you construct for yourself and “getting a high score.”

      Also, you should probably play as Ireland (Munster specifically) for your first time playing.

  • Chewbacca Abercrombie

    After the week I’ve had at work I just want to kill things. I still stand by my counter argument to video games being too violent and making people violent by positing that that same violence is wonderful stress relief and a great way to release pent up aggression without any real world violence. Things like boxing, MMA and wrestling seem much more likely to induce real world violence to me. But I digress…

    Lately I’ve been on an open world where I can drive kinda kick. I beat all the Saints Row games and Sleeping Dogs. I’ve started games on both GTA 4 and LA Noire so I’ll probably be playing those, most likely more GTA than Noire because of the killing.

    Also I just finished the first season of Twin Peaks, so depending on how good the second season is I might end up watching a lot more of that and playing slightly less.

    • MintBerry_Crunch

      Videogames are just another product of a (global) cultural fetishisation of violence. Which is, like, on some level super creepy since videogames plenty of times have paper-thin conflicts to justify ‘this dude’s brains on that there wall’.
      It might not lead to sociopaths, but it contributes to normalized violent imagery! 

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go beat the shit out of people with my big spiked tentacle sword in Saints Row. 

        

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie

      Oh, I’m also thinking of picking up Rayman Origins in the hopes that it might be a game my wife will want to play with me. How hard is the game if you’re playing co-op? As of right now about the only game I can get her to play with me is Borderlands, which is kind of easy on co-op a lot of the time.

      • DrFlimFlam

        If you work as a team, co-op is a bit easier, since you can basically milk infinite lives out of it.

      • Enkidum

        I played co-op with my non-gamer neighbour for a good couple of hours a while back – it’s very doable, and, as @drflimflam:disqus says, unless you both screw up a LOT, you get infinite lives.

    • boardgameguy

      Definitely watch all of season 2 of Twin Peaks. It gets a little draggy at times, but it builds to such a crescendo by the end that it’s all worth it.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      The violence in video games is so fake that it doesn’t even register as violence to me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bunch of brown and beige pixels exploding into fountains of red and pink pixels.

  • ocelotfox

    Since I just beat the Jude side of Tales of Xillia, I might try to finish the optional dungeon and start over on the Milla side.  Then again, the whole game was kinda underwhelming (the combat system is still great, but I really got tired of the leveling mechanic and the story just never seemed to find a decent rhythm), so I might just dig into my backlog.  So many options:  Jak and Daxter: HD Collection, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Iron Brigade, Plants Vs. Zombies 2, or Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings.  I might also just pick up Rayman Legends and jump into the sequel to my favorite game of 2011.

  • ProfFarnsworth

    I am now working on my run through Mass Effect 3 with my Fem-Shep.  I am loving the incredible voice acting performance by Fem-Shep.  She really sells the whole story to me.  Unfortunately, I will probably be spending most if not all of my gaming time Grading which will take a long and grueling time.

    • PaganPoet

      For as much flack ME3 gets for downplaying the RPG elements found particular in ME1, I truly think it’s the funnest of the trilogy. Every single class brings a cool element to the table (although I’m not too fussed about Sentinels, to be honest) that it’s worth it to play through 3, 4 times. ME1, as much as I like it, I was done with it after the 2nd playthrough.

      • DrFlimFlam

        I picked Sentinel for my FemShep run and now regret it. Yes, she is versatile and can handle anything, but it’s not a viscerally fun kind of class.

        • Mike P

          I stayed true to my vanguard class through all three.

          I would love to go back through all three and do a different class, but I just don’t have time with all the other great stuff out there to play.

      • CrabNaga

        ME3 gets flak for downplaying the RPG elements? I thought that damage was done in ME2. ME3 was basically just a tweaking of the cover-based shooter design that ME2 went with.

        Also, Sentinels are the best class in ME3. Take a biotic squadmember with you, have them use some biotic power on an enemy, and follow up with one of your own for a delightful explosion. For added explosions, use Overload on a guy, a squadmate’s biotic (which creates a Tech Burst), and then follow up with one of your own biotics. It makes most of the game a joke, even if you’re playing on the hardest difficulty.

        Also, from my time playing the multiplayer, abusing biotic explosions seems to be the one of the best ways to rack up points in there as well (and doesn’t rely on the RNG to get you weapons stronger than a peashooter).

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Yeah, if anything, ME3 added back a lot of the RPG elements that were missing from ME2, though it was a far more linear game.

        • Bad Horse

          I am taking my third spin through ME3 after doing vanguard and sentinel, and I am finding adepts to be by far the most ridiculous class. Carry light weapons for +200% recharge and you can spam singularity, warp, and pull and detonate them all at will with Throw, Mass Effect’s most underrated weapon. And that’s even if your squadmates die. Add Javik and the Dark Channel/Throw combo is instant death to mooks of any variety.

        • Fluka

          Don’t forget to detonate your tech armor!  

          Honestly, I thought ME3 had the best gameplay of the series.  More customization than ME2, without all the pointless fiddly bits of ME1.  And every class feels appreciably different with an interesting ability.  I will forever be Team Vanguard, but I started an Engineer play-though at some point and was really enjoying that too!

          Except Soldier.  Solider is always boring.

    • ocelotfox

       Jennifer Hale is the best kept secret of the video game industry, and definitely made Mass Effect a far more enjoyable experience.  Mark Meer did a solid job as MaleShep, but Hale killed it.

      • needlehacksaw

        What other industry could have a best kept secret with a portrait in the New Yorker? That makes me somewhat proud in a strange way.

        (And yes, I just used the opportunity to link to that portrait, which was somewhat nice. Plus, I like Bissell as a writer.)

        Edit: A, my html fu is weak this morning. You can find it by googling Bissell and Jennifer Hale, though.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Is she that secret? I thought she was the female Nolan North, famous for being pretty much ubiquitous…

        • ocelotfox

           I mean, maybe not to most of us, but certainly to most of the video game playing public at large.  I still shock friends when I reveal the voice actor links in their favorite video games.

      • Electric Dragon

        I have never played any of the ME games with an MShep. Once I’ve finished Sleeping Dogs and Dishonoured, I’m toying with starting from the beginning with an MShep for a Renegade playthrough. I’m thinking of calling it Masshole Effect.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          It’s totally worth playing as an asshole, as this video demonstrates.

    • indy2003

      Honestly, Jennifer Hale’s performance is so terrific that I can’t even imagine going through that game as a male Shep. I keep wanting to replay the whole series and make different choices, but I’m so attached to Paragon Madeline Shepherd and her noble leadership methods that I kind of can’t bear the idea of doing so. *sigh*

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    And now you could debunk that with four seconds of searching.

    and yet so many don’t.

  • Cornell_University

    I have been playing the first Super Mario brothers repeatedly thanks to finding my girlfriend’s old Gameboy Color laying around the house.  Did you know that if you beat the preset high score the entire Super Mario Bros 2 (Lost Levels) becomes available.  Because I did today.

    This was the first game I ever remember playing, and I have beaten it before (my first few weeks after I moved out of my parents to a rat apartment in the Boston suburbs, everything I owned was in storage except for my NES and randomly a SMB cart.  I got pretty good over that span.) but I don’t seem capable of doing it now, which I guess led to the rekindled interest.  Or I’m just having a midlife crisis (at 30?  God this is going to get exhausting).

    It’s FOOTBAW SEASON.  I may get in the mood with some Joe Montana Football or NFL2K.  Or maybe I’ll just turn on Ten Yard Fight and watch the game play itself.  Not Sunday though, that be for drinkin’.  And nachos.

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie

      I remember beating the original Super Mario Bros. many times when I was much younger, but every time I try to speed run it now like I can with Mario 2, I get completely screwed on one of those last worlds with all the hammer brothers. I haven’t been able to finish that game once in the last ten years. Someday I will… someday…

    • boardgameguy

      I swore off video game football when EA bought exclusive rights. It’s NFL2k for me or nothing.

  • Drew Toal

    I have a bunch of stuff queued up. Saints Row IV, Shadowrun, Diablo III, NCAA 2014 and Magic 2014 are all vying for my attention. 

  • Marozeph

    I ordered No More Heroes 2, Dark Souls and The Wii-Kirby-Game that isn’t Epic Yarn recently and i’m hoping they will arrive on time for the weekend. If they don’t, i might get back to finally finishing Ni No Kuni.

    • DrFlimFlam

      Kirby’s Return to Dreamland is very fun.

  • DrFlimFlam

    Skyrim, actually. Just wrapped up The Thieves’ Guild quest line, so now it’s more general adventuring for me. I was at about 65 hours into Oblivion before I realized my interest was waning and I had to finish, and I’m pushing 50 in Skyrim but I don’t think I’m there quite yet, still having lots of fun doing the same few things, so we’ll see. Now to get noticed by The Dark Brotherhood.

    • aklab

      Link’s Awakening! My favorite Zelda game! 

      • DrFlimFlam

        Played it lots in junior high when I thought the teachers weren’t looking (they knew, of course) and I had to manually adjust the contrast on the Gameboy to make sure I was seeing monochrome as well as possible.

        I love the weird Mario crossover stuff that shows up in Koholint Island.

        • aklab

          And the soundtrack is gorgeous.

  • Chum Joely

    Finally making some major progress in a real-life mission I’ve been chipping away at for months. Having painstakingly collected all the other seemingly random ingredients, Threepwood-style, I finally snagged the “Appropriately Formatted Photos” item last night at 8pm. Now I just have to take two small children along for an appointment at The Consulate this morning, and as if by magic, they will hopefully merge into a pair of United States Passports for the kids. I gather that this, along with the Canadian Passport items I’ll be concocting on my next side mission, will unlock a number of interesting travel and minigame options for the two main characters in the sequel.

    Other than that, I’ve basically got the same medium-sized list of potential weekend games that I’ve been toying with for months, but never totally committing to; no need to bore you with this details for the 18th time.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot: I’ve also got this brand-new copy of Rayman Legends for PS3 — the last copy that was still available at the local Best Buy, where I stopped home on the way back from the mechanic’s at 7pm after a ridiculously long and difficult day that started out at 4:45am after just three hours of not particularly restful sleep. Needless to say, I stayed up an extra 90 minutes or so last night to dive into this one, and I’ll probably be making other stupid decisions in favor of this game throughout the weekend.

    • PPPfive

      I cant wait to spend my whole weekend playing it! Ohboyohboyohboy

  • Jackbert

    My new school computer has Mountain Lion, so I’ll finally play some X-Com: Enemy Unknown. And of course, twenty minutes of Animal Crossing a day keeps the doctor away. I just got a bunny hat!!! The doctor is away because he’s creeped out I get excited about bunny hats.

  • CrabNaga

    I’ll probably be finishing up Rayman Legends. I beat all the main levels, so it’s mostly just the Back to Origins levels that are left.

    There was a lot of sentiment in the review thread that said Legends is a lot easier than Origins. This may be true overall, but there are some challenges in Legends that are way harder than anything I’ve encountered in Origins (particularly some of the later Prankste- whoops I mean Invasion stages). 

    I also realized that Ubisoft completely copied the idea for “Cosmic Clones” from Mario Galaxy. There are certain invasion levels that have a dark clone of Rayman chasing you that mimics your actions from a second or so prior, and if you touch him, you die. Thankfully they kept it to only having one clone at a time.

    I was really stoked about the final unlockable world (Livid Dead Party), since it seemed to be all music levels, but there’s only one unique level in it, and the rest are “8-bit” versions of the previous worlds’ music levels. They are harder in that there are a lot of trippy visual effects that try to mess with you (such as having an extreme fish eye lense effect, or having the screen turn into static just before you hit an obstacle), and that there are no checkpoints. Unless I’m missing something, there doesn’t appear to be any “final level” akin to the Land of the Livid Dead from Origins, which kind of bums me out.

  • stakkalee

    It seems like a lot of people are playing Skyrim this weekend.  I put it in last Sunday to finally travel to Sovngarde and defeat Alduin but that little taste got me excited to play the game some more.  I remembered I haven’t done the Dark Brotherhood quests, I still have all these Unusual Gems crapping up my nice clean inventory, and I haven’t made new enchanted weapons and armor for myself in several levels.  So I think I’ll spend some low-stakes “housekeeping” time in Skyrim, finishing up old quests and finally moving the rest of my crap out of the house in Whiterun.

    • Mike P

      I spent 60 hours in the game, beat maybe 1/3 of the side missions and the main, and I turned the game back in.

      I came to the conclusion it would absorb my life, and had to make a clean break.

      • stakkalee

        I’ve spent well over 120 hours in the game, but that’s because I’ll spend 2 hours just catching butterflies.  And you’re right – it will absorb your life.

  • Smilner

    Going with GTA: San Andreas this weekend.  Gearing up for V, and GTAIV is just soooooo depressing.  I’m hoping V recaptures the fun of the series.

    • Enkidum

      I hear that a lot, but the only one I’ve spent any time in is IV, and I found it funny as hell. The main storyline is pretty dark, I guess, but just driving around, doing random shit, or listening to the radio can be hilarious.

  • Mike P

    Hey guys,
    Hope everyone has a good weekend.

    Finally got a PS3-Turned in my 360 for it-Bought Infamous 1 and 2, Killzone 2, All three Uncharteds, and Last of Us. I started with Drakes Fortune this morning before I went to work. I like it so far.

    Tonight, but the darkness of the sky, I will start Last of Us.
    I have much gaming ahead. What other titles specifically relegated to the PS3 should I purchase, G-Society?

    • indy2003

      If you’re looking for fun platformer action, the Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank games offer a good time. For big-budget mayhem, the God of War series delivers (those games are ridiculous, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a lot of fun). If you want something time-consuming, challenging, soul-crushing and incredibly rewarding, go for Demon Souls.

      • Mike P

         Ok, I will try those! Thanks. Never, ever played GoW, but I’ve heard good things.

        Don’t get me wrong, love the premise and gameplay of Demon Souls. I played it for the XBox, but I just cannot get into it. I hate the repetitive fact that I needed to stay in one area to beef my character up just to take on an onslaught of skeleton warriors. If I was 16 again, I would love that game. I just don’t feel I have the time, nor patience to play it now.

        • CrabNaga

          On the contrary! Levels don’t do much to power you up in Dark Souls. It’s mostly about your equipment and your tactics. Also, most of the good equipment can just be found lying in the world somewhere. The grindiest elements of the game is getting upgrade materials for your weapons, but you can generally stick with one weapon you like (i.e. it has a good moveset) all the way to the end, and there are enough upgrade materials lying around to get at least one weapon to max or near max. It was a big surprise and a breath of fresh air to see an action RPG with lots of different weapons where all of them are usable in the long run.

        • Passe_Partout

           I second everyone of indy2003′s recommendations. The best part is that they have all be re-released as HD collections that you should be able to find on the cheap.

          I found that Dark Souls (I’m assuming that’s what you played on the XB360?) was much more manageable for me when I used online guides extensively. The game is designed to be open-world, with limitations created by the enemies and environments you run into. I have been able to progress without too much level farming, and the game (despite it’s iffy combat system) allows you to beat many enemies by skill alone, but it also works in plenty of cheap shots. It also helps that I’ve been playing it on and off for the last two years, so that really helps mitigate any frustration it creates.

        • Mike P

          For some reason I cannot reply to Crab and Passe?
          Thanks Crab. Maybe its because I chose the Caveman, and I kind of suck tactically in games like that.

          Passe-I am a crazy person. When I start playing a game, I am required by my own brain laws to beat it. I could never wait 2 years for that haha.

        • ZTO

          Starting the caveman/nomad/whatever he/she is called is by FAR the hardest start. Things like armor, shields and, um, clothes tend to raise your survivability. That said, I feel like dark/demon’s souls work out to be 50% skill, 40% knowledge of the game and 10% level. The only thing the caveman has going for him at the start is a high level.

    • Bad Horse

      Don’t sleep on Flower or Journey either. Those games are of a very different sort.

      • Mike P

         Looks good, I am going to have to get both.

    • Enkidum

      I say this every time, but I highly recommend getting a one-year subscription to PS+ for $50. You’ll get enough free games right way to keep you occupied, and with the weekly discounts and free games you’ll have built up a pretty insane library by the end (even if you only stick to the free games, it’s easily $500 worth by the end of a year). In terms of stuff people here have recommended to you already, the HD Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank collections were both on sale a few weeks back, Journey is still on sale right now I believe (or maybe that was last week), Demon’s Souls was a free game, and Flower was also on sale. And there’s a ton of other cool sales/free games that have been on since I started about six months back (off the top of my head and just stuff that people on this site are obsessed with: Sleeping Dogs, Saint’s Row 3, the Metal Gear Solid HD collection, Persona 3, Uncharted 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Hitman Absolution, Deus X HR…)

      • Mike P

        Thanks for the suggestions.
        I still feel dirty I got rid of my Xbox-11 years on XBL this October.
        I will be getting PS+ this weekend!

        • Enkidum

          OK holy shit I just played Journey for the first time last night and I can see that it’s not for everyone, but if you are at all remotely interested in innovative design and beautiful scenery for its own sake, get it, even if it’s not on sale. My jaw literally dropped several times.

          And yes, those are other players, not AI.

        • Enkidum

          Oh, and I should specify that if you do get PS+, you won’t get all the games I mentioned – most of them are only available for a week, and if you don’t download them then you lose your chance. If you do get it, bookmark the PSN blog and check it weekly to see what the deals are.

  • Bill H

    I’ll be playing Borderlands 2 on Steam. I joined Steam because of this site and its community.

    I usually host public games, but I’m a member of the Gameological group on Steam and would happily host a game for any other interested Gameologorinolisticallettes.

    I think my Steam name is ronin.tengu, if it’s not lupin yonsei. My avatar is a wee purple octopus.

    Currently running a lv. 33 Mechromancer, got a lv. 30 Siren and a lv. 50 Gunzerker, and am always happy to start another character. Don’t currently have voice chat.

    In real life, I’ll be trying to find some other interested parties to try the new Pathfinder board game with me.

    I’m waiting to join a real PnP Pathfinder campaign, but our first session has been pushed back to the 25th so I gotta scratch that itch somehow.

  • indy2003

    I’ve had a pretty decent amount of gaming time this past week, so I’ve been catching up on some of my backlog.

    Managed to make it all the way through Zombi U, which was both better and worse than I expected it to be. My playthrough took around 15 hours, and the first half of that was a fairly incredible experience. It’s tough and you really do feel as if you’re struggling to survive every step of the way, but you almost always feel as if you’re making some progress. The game borrows a lot from Demon Souls, but most of the alterations it makes to that formula are quite interesting and satisfying. I was in love around the midway point, but things start to drag in the back half. There’s a looooong, tedious fetch quest which requires to run across the entire map collecting letters, the last few missions aren’t as inspired as the earlier ones and the ending is pretty underwhelming. I’m glad to have played it and it offered some genuinely unsettling moments I’ll never forget, but I doubt I’ll return to it at any point given the frustrations of the later portions.

    Just started Hitman: Absolution (free via PS Plus) and I’m mostly digging it so far. Taking a stealth-driven approach to things is fun, and the game certainly provides you with a plethora of ways to eliminate your target. I will say that the thrill of being sneaky and poisoning a drug kingpin’s cocaine supply was slightly muted by having to wait ten minutes for him to get around to doing some cocaine, but it was still pretty thrilling. I’ll be playing a lot more of this one over the weekend.

    I was going to pick up Rayman: Legends, but spending money is a little tight this week so I’m replaying Rayman: Jungle Run on my phone to tide me over – I actually haven’t played the 20 new levels they added not long ago, so I’m excited about getting those. Trying to collect every lum and beat every Land of the Livid Dead level this time (man, those LotLD levels are brutal), mostly because I need it to last me for a couple weeks of casual play.

    Finally, thinking of checking out Resident Evil Chronicles HD since it’s another free PS Plus game. One problem – I don’t have a Move set-up, and most people seem to agree that’s the way to play it. Has anybody played the game with a regular controller, and is it any fun that way?

    • CrabNaga

      Jungle Run was fun; I distinctly remember getting frustrated on the one Livid Dead level that had you inside a rolling boulder (with spikes on the inside as well). It’s odd that they didn’t add new achievements with the new level packs, since getting the “Get 1000 or so Lums in one run without dying” achievement used to require you to perfect every level in a row without dying. Now you can just miss Lums in certain levels and make up the slack on the bonus worlds.

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    I’m bored with video games. There’s nothing I want to play and nothing coming out in the foreseeable future except for Dark Souls II that interests me. I feel old.

    • ZTO

      If you are into Dark Souls PvP at all and play on xbox, we should duel.

    • DrFlimFlam

      The best way to enjoy something is to never have quite enough time to enjoy all of it.

  • Kyle O’Reilly

    I’ve been flubbing up my daily challenge runs in Spelunky but that won’t stop me from doing them every day anyway though I need to be more cautious when I go for an early whip-rob of the shopkeeper just cuz he has a damn jetpack!

    I also have been playing Mortal Kombat even though I have to quit every 3 to 4 matches due to slow-down.  The story mode is surprisingly engrossing despite being dumb as all hell and full of every bad video game trope you can imagine.  I’m currently stuck at the most terrible of fighting game tropes, the battle where enemies keep coming but your health doesn’t refill between rounds. And I’m playing former-highlander Raiden so it’s not going well.

    But in case I get sick of being pummeled on the regs, I got Dead Space 3, and Kentucky Route Zero up next on the docket so we’ll see if I get to them.

  • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

    Has the Animal Crossing: New Leaf train left the Gameological station?  AM I ALONE??

    (except you, @SonjaMinotaur:disqus , you have a lovely village and I think my freshly imported fruit from your town will bloom soon!)

    • DrFlimFlam

      Not yet. I even opened up the bustling small town of Pawnee yesterday for three hours.

      • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

        PAWNEE? Amazing! Inpired by this

        Shall we friend-visit? (1950–8027–7481)

        • DrFlimFlam

          3153-4175-7229

          And no, I’d never seen that, but way awesome.

        • Jackbert

          Yes. 2466-2262-3080.

        • SonjaMinotaur

          you already have mine, obvs, but: 

          2938-6698-2452

        • DrFlimFlam

          Sonja, lovecraft, added you both. I go by dad in my town because my son plays.

        • Crusty Old Dean

           Me too! 2707-1778-8265

        • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

          Ok, @drflimflam:disqus , @Jackbert:disqus ,@disqus_jc0YTPDJYw:disqus , you’re all added!

    • SonjaMinotaur

      Thanks! And if you’re looking for anything let me know, I… have a lot of things.

      I’m a little frustrated with my village because my villagers refuse to suggest public works projects. And then they complain about how there are no public works projects. 

      But I did manage to sell my turnips this week for a huge profit, so things are good! (until Sunday when it starts over again)

      I’m also playing Pikmin 3 and I think I’m going to try it this weekend with the pro-controller rather than the tablet and see if that is easier for me. Or maybe the controls are just bizarro which is possible… considering that’s the main reason why I lost interest in the original Wii.

      • http://starttocrate.tumblr.com/ Http Lovecraft

        The silver tools, do they all appear in the museum second floor?  The shovel is rad but I could really use the fishing pole and net… :)

        • DrFlimFlam

          I believe I received the pole, net, and shovel all at the museum.

          And YES, you can sell turnips in other towns – I’d go so far as to say it’s mandatory to network with friends for turnip prices. One day I had turnips at 618 per, and I opened up town for the entire afternoon and evening to make sure my buddies could cash in.

        • SonjaMinotaur

          Sure! I’ll keep an eye out for them.

          I think the hardest upgrade for me was GETTING the second floor of the museum because for some reason Redd almost never comes to my town so getting a hold of artwork was impossible (you need at least one donation in all wings of the museum for the option to appear.) 
          And yes, networks! I had my town open last night for mine. I’ve heard that you need at least two other people for comparison, but I was burned last week when all three of us in my group had nothing. 

  • boardgameguy

    Having a games weekend with some friends.

    Will likely be playing Le Havre, Dungeon Roll, Pillars of the Earth and more. Very excited.

    And last night I played through half of Capsized on Steam. The controls are pretty fiddly, but I’m enjoying it enough. And using Zomby’s new album as an alternate soundtrack tied in nicely before switching up to some ambient stuff (Biosphere and Geotic).

  • aklab

    Still in Final Fantasy Tactics. Now I’m at Limberry Castle, and I want to steal all of Elmdor’s equipment, so I’m just grindin’ for a while until I’m high enough level to survive the battle for long enough to steal!

  • duwease

    Breaking this one into two spots, because I just beat Dragon Age 2, and that takes a lot of words.

    SPOILERS

    My thoughts:

    - Was a bit disappointed by Act 3.  Unlike Act 2, which had its major players as part of the plot from the beginning, the fact that the two major endgame players were sort of dumped into the plot right at the end of Act 2 made it a bit more unsatisfying than the previous plot.  Still enjoyed it, though.  Anders was utilized in a way that made perfect sense.. I thought he’d be another “this guy is crazy but the game will make you play nice with him because friendship is blind or something”.. but they really went down the lunatic path, and I dug it.  
    The final decision was difficult.. I sided with the mages in the rest of Act 3 (I was a mage as well), but honestly.. after dealing with abomination after abomination and crazy blood mages out the wazoo, even in the ‘resistance’, I finally just said “screw it, the templars are right, this place is outta control”.  Obviously I would’ve liked a more reasonable outcome, but there wasn’t one, so I sat on the choice screen for about 5 min and finally just pulled the trigger.  For the fact that I had to think so much about it, kudos to the developers.

    - I swapped out Isabela for Merrill after the betrayal, and started to get into her story.  Ended up having to slaughter the entire Dalish village, which bummed me out more than anything in the game, with being familiar with them over the course of both games.  Then I was desperate to find out what happened next… and I ran into a bug where I couldn’t finish Merrill’s storyline.  Ugh.

    - I started to soften on Isabela by the end.. I’d always swing back by the Hanged Man, and she was there drinking by herself, and then at the very end I kinda forgave her.  Too late to learn any of her backstory though, but reading the wiki, it’s interesting.

    • Fluka

      That all sounds about right.  The game made me feel completely trapped with no good way out on more than one occasion, and I’m still not sure if I chose the right side (also went pro-Templar for the same reason).  While it would have been more *realistic* to be able to just say “Screw it!  You figure it out yourselves!”, I kind of like the fact that there’s no good way out, and you can’t save everyone.  

      I also like the fact that they pulled no punches in making Anders a totally unpleasant, creepy guy. 

      • duwease

        Yeah, I’ve heard some complaints about Anders as a companion, but I think the bad notes of his character really benefit the story as a whole.  A couple of decades of RPG plots had set my expectations to be that he was just ‘conflicted’, and we’d have to work through it and play nice despite my dislike for him and his methods, and things would work out in an unsatisfying manner just before we teamed up against the Big Bad.

        Instead, in retrospect, it defied those expectations and did something wholly original.  The way I played, there was this guy who kind of fell in with the group, and he creeped everyone out a bit but we tolerated his presence (although we generally didn’t invite him out).. and in the end, something terrible happened, and all the signs were there, but we still didn’t really expect that from someone we knew fairly closely until it happened.  That’s a pretty creative and original companion plot arc for an RPG.

        • Fluka

          Yeah, this is why I love DA2.  It’s a terribly unpolished game, and the main plot doesn’t hang together that well, so I wouldn’t begrudge anyone not liking it.  But it has characters and storylines which are so damn unusual for RPGs, including: 
          - The focus on Hawke and his/her family rather than an epic quest
          - The city setting of Kirkwall, however small and static it may be 
          -Anders (in addition to being a terrorist, he also becomes rather obviously a non-straight character)
          - Aveline frikkin “PLEASE MAKE MORE FEMALE CHARACTER LIKE THIS PLZ” Vallen

  • duwease

    Other than DA2, I also played through Papers, Please, which was a very fresh idea, and well implemented.  The dark humor was on point, and I really got a kick out of the recurring old goofball guy.  The game was the perfect length.. I played through twice to see the different storylines/achievements, and was just getting tired of it by the end of the second runthrough.

    And with DA2 down, I finally picked up… Saint’s Row IV!!!!  Stayed up well past my bedtime last night getting acquainted.. oh man, this is gonna be fun.  I modeled my president after President Camacho from Idiocracy.  My only quandary at this point is that Voice Actor 2 is the one that fits him, but his delivery doesn’t seem near as good as 1 or Nolan North.  Has anyone else experimented with the various VA’s to find what they like best?  I’m willing to have an incongrous voice in order to get good delivery.. I’ll get used to it.

    • ocelotfox

      I toyed with it over at a friend’s house last week, and I’d have to say it comes down to preference.  Male Voice 1 (Troy Baker) is probably the most even performance overall, but Male Voice 3 (Robin Atkin Downes) really makes everything seem more ridiculous.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Oh dear God, you can choose fuckin’ Byron for your voice?

        Does everyone fall asleep and/or lose interest when you speak to them?

        I almost have to play SRIV just for that!

        (I know he’s done a lot of cooler stuff since B5, but ugh…my wife and I actually stopped watching season 5 because of Byron and the maintenance guys episode.)

  • signsofrain

    I love novels about young, intense friendships. You by Austin Grossman is one such novel, about young nerds and their friendships (or lack thereof) in later life. Masters of Doom is another such book. Carmack and Romero’s early relationship was fascinating to me. Especially the years-long D&D game that ended when Romero tried to grab too much power and Carmack (who was DM) permanently destroyed the world, after which they never started a new campaign, the game was over forever.

    It’s too bad that the Kindle version of this book is $15.00. It really grinds my gears to see that I can buy a used hardcover of this for $10.00 but that a practically costless electronic copy goes for $15.00. Sorry Mr. Dolnick. Bring it down to around $5.00 and we’ll talk.

    Oh and this weekend I’ll be playing Left 4 Dead 2, maybe a little Unreal Tournament deathmatch with a friend of 20 years, and I kind of have a DOS game hankering, maybe I’ll rock a little Jill of the Jungle.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I didn’t even know that Lev Grossman had a twin until recently, and heck, if I like Lev, surely I’ll like his twin’s stuff!

      • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

        If you ever liked superheroes when you were a kid then you’ll love Soon I Will Be Invincible.

    • duwease

      Jill of the Jungle.. haven’t thought about that game in a decade or more.  Does it stand up?  I don’t remember much about it, despite playing all the episodes..

      • signsofrain

        Oh it’s definitely still fun. Great sound. Great level design. The game rewards exploration but you can still blast through it like Mario running for the warp zones if you want to. It’s a great mix of puzzler and platform action. The controls are a little weird (it’s kind of… chunky) but it’s just a little quirky, not annoying!

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    With my wife’s grad school finally complete (and us both waiting on eggshells for her final grade which will hopefully be a passing one, not at all a certainty due to a seeming jerk of a teacher), and her mother-in-law back in her home state, I will spend as much time as possible this weekend decompressing from a stress overload.  For me, this probably means several hours of Terraria, and checking out a few of the other 25-30 games I’ve bought on Steam via Humble/Indie Bundles over the past month.

  • ZTO

    I’ve recently gotten back into playing Pokemon at a more competetive level and I have been getting excited for the new Mega-Evolutions announced for the next generation. As a result, probably a weekend devoted to breeding/EV/IV training an usable Absol. Anybody else gotten into the competetive ‘pokes scene?

    • DrFlimFlam

       No, but I sure do love Absol.

  • Passe_Partout

    I’ve taken a break from FFXIV this week to make way for some extra time at work and a weird bout of malaise. I’ve begun to seriously evaluate my time spent gaming, as it seems to be taking up more and more of my time with less actual progress in any one game. So despite my intense desire for some of the games coming out in the fall, I’ve decided to put a hiatus on buying any new games (Steam Sale or otherwise) until I claw through my backlog and take up a new hobby. Maybe smoking or the gym or something. I might make an exception for GTAV since that games looks to be pretty bad ass.

    I’m also afraid to check on my town in Animal Crossing because of my severe neglect. I wonder if the citizens of my town wonder where I am? Have they elected a new mayor or passed any new civil ordinances? The mind reels.

    • DrFlimFlam

      So long as you have Keep Town Beautiful, at least you won’t come back to a horrifying wilderness of cockroaches and weeds.

      • Passe_Partout

        Oh god. I thought it would just be a few weeds and some trash. I don’t think I can stand cockroaches. Too many memories of crappy apartments. Maybe it’s better if I just make a new town and become mayor there. Hopefully my residents won’t catch on that I’m a failed civic manager a la Ben Wyatt.

  • mizerock

    Magrunner: Dark Pulse is 50% off on Steam. It’s on my wish list, for some reason (that reason is almost certainly, “someone here said it was good”.

  • ShrikeTheAvatar

    I’m really confused by this guy’s description of 500 being completely wrong, as well as Drew having never heard of it.  Am I losing my mind?

  • His_Space_Holiness

    Since I’m the type of player who keeps on one game on each machine until he finishes that damn thing or gets totally bored trying, I’m still on WoW and, more importantly, New Vegas. I had really not anticipated how much weight the game gives to managing reputations around all the different factions. Granted, they’re all more or less entertaining, but I didn’t buy this game for “go here and talk to this guy, then wander around the hotel talking to more guys” missions. At this point, I’m probably just going to wander off and explore some, because it’s been too long since I crawled through an abandoned building filled with in-jokes. The Strip can go screw, daddy-o.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Oh hey, here’s a very weird thing:

      My wife received an unsolicited copy of Mists of Pandaria in the mail yesterday.  The box had a printed label claiming to be from Activision Blizzard (with a Fresno address), but the only other thing inside the box was a “how to activate your 7-day trial” card.

      Neither of us have played WoW since a month after Cataclysm came out.

      I emailed Blizzard support to ask if this was them, and they couldn’t confirm without more information on my wife’s account.  (Really?  You don’t know if this is some sort of marketing technique your company is doing?)

      I will do more checking tonight, but it seems very suspicious.

      • His_Space_Holiness

        This sounds like the beginning of one of those Internet ghost stories about haunted video games. Like, you install it, and everything’s normal until suddenly every symbol on your taskbar changes to a skull and a gang of murlocs surround you at all times chanting blood on the keys, blood on the keys over and over. And then a week later you die or something, I don’t know.

    • djsubversive

      the southeast and northwest of the map are good “exploration” areas. The southeast is full of Legion guys with too much life and equipment (and Searchlight), and the northwest has a bunch of animals and mines (cave-mines, not explosive-mines).

      Really, anything off the “critical path” (from Goodsprings down to Nipton, up to Novac, then following the highway to Vegas) is going to have more exploration than talking to people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

    I randomly bought this game called Stealth on PS3 the other day, which is basically (Mark of the Ninja – the ability to attack) * Portal aesthetic. I like it, although some people might complain that a lot of the puzzles require more speed-and-quick-reaction than thinking-and-executing. While I understand that, at the same time, speed-and-quick-reaction is something gamers also should be good at and skilled at too, since it’s an essential part of gaming.

  • Telamon

    Total War:  Rome II!  It’s got plenty of issues at the moment with chuggy framerates, miscellaneous bugs, and the as always dimwitted battle AI, but damned if it isn’t glorious all the same.

  • djsubversive

    More Saboteur probably, when I’m not playing Batman: Arkham City. I didn’t play Arkham Asylum so I can’t compare the two, but Arkham City is pretty fun. Batmanning it up against gangs of thugs, swooping around with the bat-hook and whipping batarangs at cameras. Plus, you can set a waypoint and it shows up in-game as the bat-signal. Awesome.

    Only six more days until ArmA 3 is released, so next week might see a return to that. If nothing else, we’ll have to do an Altis Exploration Session where Eff and I drive around on quadbikes and say things like “There’s a neat-looking thing,” and “We’re gonna get you to a hospital, bro!”

    • MarloweSpade

       I still maintain that Saboteur is a hidden gem of awesomeness. So stylish and one of my favorite open-world games.

  • MarloweSpade

    Despite the fact that I’ve got Diablo III staring at me from my PS3, I’ll probably go board game heavy this weekend with Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

    Except for Sunday, which, football, so I’ll either continue lazily making my way through Europa Universalis IV (I’ve got Oman up to 11th place with 100 years to go!) or Endless Space.

  • exant

    I don’t post on these threads much because I only play Dota 2. I’ve played this game almost exclusively for half a year now even though I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Getting good at this game is like leveling up, but in real life. After dropping 250+ hours into Dota 2, I’d describe my skill as “acceptably mediocre”.

    I also bought Saints Row IV, because being a superhero with spaceships is always fun and there are no other players to yell at you in Russian.

    • ZTO

      I had played DotA since the early early days on Warcraft 3 but I ended up falling on the LoL side of the LoL/Dota2 divide. That said, I feel like that style of game requires a huge time investment to become even decent since it’s a lot more about knowing what the enemy wants to do to you than what you can do to the enemy. Once you know most of the characters, then you can actually focus on playing your role.

      • exant

        I agree. I think I’m finally at the stage where I know roughly what most heroes do, and I know very well what a few heroes do. Now I have to learn the interactions between everything and in every situation…

  • Thor

    I am Godford. 

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