Category Archives: Games

One week with the DS Lite and…

I am totally convinced this is the best gaming related thing I’ve ever bought.

The reason is the same reason why I am scared to hell about it. I can game anywhere. (well, except when it is too bright outside)

Yesterday, I played at a local park. Holy shit; I got some sun.

Got a DS Lite

Aaron is in town and wanted to get a portable gaming device for his plane trips… He decided on a DS Lite and since Ari has a DS also, I decided to get one, too.

We found out that a lot of games have a downloadable component which other DS owners can get to play certain game modes without owning the game cart. So we played a little Mario Kart, Metroid, FIFA, and Advance Wars. The Advance Wars Combat mode is fine but some sort of turn-based mode for download would have been great. The FIFA game advertises on the box that the download mode is from 2-4 players but they lie; it’s only for 2 players. Totally lame.

My first ever portable… can I afford it? We’ll see…

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

This past weekend I started playing Beyond Good and Evil on the PC. The developers did something I’ve never seen before which was to allow inverted mouse movement that forced one to have the X-axis inverted with the Y-axis. WTF?

I tried to use both ways and neither made much sense to me. I’m used to flight sims and treating the mouse like I would a joystick for camera/POV movement.

Then I looked it up on the BGaE forums and found that other people were having the same problem as me. I found someone’s blog post ( about it which referred to his journey for a way to invert only the Y-axis through a third-party solution. His write-up led me to email a guy named Moritz who wrote a custom mouse driver which would let a user toggle Y-axis orientation. It worked okay… sometimes didn’t seem to work… anyway, when I started playing the game again, the menus and such (especially the code entering screen for locked terminals and doors) were too hard to navigate.

That night, I was thinking about it and visualizing why I am so used to the flight-sim method of input. I pictured my head and my right hand on the back of my skull pivoting my head up and down. But that analogy doesn’t hold true for right and left because if I move my hand right, my face should point left as a result… which isn’t how I was used to moving and isn’t how joysticks work for flight sims.

This made me frown. In other words, I introduced a cognative dissonant thing into my thinking… and when I went back into the game the next morning, I was able to think of using the mouse on a 2D plane instead of embodied in my head. My task was to point the center of the screen (or the mouse cursor) up or down, left or right. (Insert philosophical questions about whether 3D game interfaces should be embodied in a 3D environment or on a 2D screen here…)

And it worked! When I went into World of Warcraft later, I found that the inverted Y-axis that I set up in that game was no longer working for me. In three days I retrained myself through mental visualization how to use a mouse to navigate a 3D environment and unlearned what I had been using (A LOT) for the past 20 years! Wow.

50 worst game titles ever.

This is why I like games.  Nuts and Milk!

What’s missing from World of Warcraft and other MMOGs

I've thought of this for about 15 months now, but it recently came up in a great conversation I had with two cool people, Tom Baer and Theresa Horstman, yesterday at the Cafe on the Ave.

There is a quest line in WoW that happens pretty early in the life of a Horde player. Thrall wants you to investigate some baddies in a cave outside Orgrimmar, the Shadow Council or whatever they're called want you to go into Ragefire Chasm, etc….

My memory sucks. Most of the quests in WoW blur together for me.

But I do remember this: I thought there was a build-up happening between Thrall and the Council who wanted to usurp power from him. I thought (thoguht) that, as a player, I would get to choose sides. How silly of me to think the developers would let me decide how to role-play.

It is a sad world we live in right now when players cannot count on CRPGs (not just MMOGs) to let us act and make decisions based on information that we get in the game in interesting ways. It's like they go halfway… they have a cool story, but then don't follow through by taking advantage of the interactivity of the medium.

Summary: World of Warcraft and many, many other computer role-playing games are missing the most important part of a role-playing game. They don't let players choose how their character would act and react in the dynamic worlds that've been created for them. I would love to have to make decisions about who to ally with and who to betray–moral and ethical decisions.

WoW instead has different factions you can gain reputation with… but none of them mean anything. Their only mechanic is to act as a time-sink so you can craft stuff with questionable utility. It would be interesting if the factions weren't so clearly divided into who you are meant to ally with and who you are meant to attack. Wouldn't it be cool if gaining faction with Argent Dawn made you lose faction with Cenarian Circle, for example? That would be a real choice.

Wouldn't it be cool to funnel some of your money and wool and silk and other crap collection into the Shadow Council to secretly work agains Thrall or vice-versa rather than just giving it to the Horde collector?

Bah… I ramble… What I want is a game that actually makes me grapple with who I am, who I want my character to be, and who my friends are.

Hitman coaching

So, a friend from high school, Grey, was here during the crazy week of papers, professor deaths, and emotional turmoil. My apologies to him for not being able to devote as much time as I had hoped to gaming.

We and another high school friend of ours who also lives in Seattle did, however, get to make it to a monthly boardgame fest held by a couple who work for Wizards of the Coast (well, at least one of them does I think). Anyway, they have a lot of games. We played Killer Bunnies, some color-matching card game, Cartejena, Witch Trial, some ship moving collect and sell resources at ports game, and that archeological dig game with the tokens… Sheesh.. I need to remember the names of these games better.

We also played Hitman Blood Money on my PC. I had played the previous Hitman games and also played a bit of Blood Money before Grey showed up. He played a little on his own at night but one morning we were playing together. One would watch while the other played and we would switch off whenever someone failed. It was pretty clear that I knew the levels and the patterns of people walking around and what events were happening more than he did for any given level/mission. So when he was playing and I watching, I had to think about how much information should I give Grey and how much should I just let him explore on his own.

Actually, it felt a lot like how I felt when I was looking over TEP students' shoulders while they were working on their websites or blogs. Just thought I should write that feeling down before I lost it… What was similar about both was that I could feel the students and I could feel Grey wishing I would just tell them what to do. But in a game, part of the fun is exploration and discovery. I think that should be part of learning, too, and believe strongly that the best way to learn something is to just mess around with it for a while with a goal in mind. Am I wrong?

What works in an adventure game

Last summer I played a whole bunch of adventure games… I mean a whole bunch… check out that link and look at Summer 2005. Old school games, newer games. The whole gamut. BTW, I think Still Life had the most engaging story of them all and the best presentation. Indigo Prophecy has been touted as a great way of reconceptualizing the mechanics of the genre, and it is a great game, but the story fell apart, and honestly the story is king in an adventure game.

Anyway, I typed up some quick notes in August of what works and what doesn’t work (at least for me) in these point and click third-person games. I recently uncovered this document and tried to clarify it a bit… I wish I could say more, but my memory sucks. Here’s what I have.

Continue reading What works in an adventure game

You are the WoW to me…


Holy cow. Single player RPGs are dead. Long live single player RPGs! Why the hell am I wasting my time on a designed timesink (World of Warcraft) when I can be playing the engaging Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion instead? Wait a minute… I HAVE been playing Oblivion instead! Is it worth jeopardizing 2 years of ethnographic work? Oh, hells ya. But I’m not… It would be worth it though… 🙂

Name in the Hat

a friend requested the rules so this is what i wrote him:

N.I.T.H. (I like the abbreviation) does indeed involve teams and a time clock. you partner up (sometimes we break up “couples” to make things more fair) and a round consists of one partner drawing names from the hat for one minute. so another person needs to keep time.
**basic rules and guidelines** (boy, I’m gettin’ involved now. I should probably start capitalizing.)
*Each player writes, legibly, 5-10 names on uniform pieces of (recycled) paper. The number depends on how many players total there are and how long everyone wants to play. I like to pick a theme for myself so I can pump out names quickly – famous Marthas, actors who’ve costarred with John Cusack, etc. Not necessary, but helpful for speeding things along when you have perfectionists and drunks in the crowd.
*The names should be of single people (not groups), either real or fictional, that one believes more than half of the people in the room have heard of. Bad examples are “The Beetles,” “Max Weber,” and “My neighbor, Harry.” Try a specific Beetle and Max Weber only works with sociologists.
*If some explanation seems necessary to distinguish a name, put it in parenthesis below the name. That stuff may be given as a clue during play.
*Fold the papers the same way so people can’t tell which ones are theirs. Put them in some kind of hat-like vessel. Like a hat.
*Draw numbers to find out who goes first. Find two volunteers to share timing.
*Decide how many rounds will be played. The rounds look like this: #1 say anything but the name. Sing, gesture, and talk really fast trying to get your partner to find the right association. You may not spell things out or say any particular letter. You may not say the “name rhymes with something” but you may say “it sounds kind of like that thing that does this thing…” #2 use only three words – hopefully memorable words used in round one. This includes “the” but excludes “ummm.” This is where more gestures, humming and grunts become useful. #3 grunts and gestures only. Any memorable gestures from previous rounds are especially useful. Many people break into Charades in this round. That’s fine, but it is also fun to stay unstructured.
*Partners alternate the jobs of guessing and drawing names from round to round.
*The guesser must say the complete name as it is written on the paper.
*When the timer says “go” the drawer starts drawing names. Each one guessed correctly goes in a pile by the partners. If the name in play hasn’t been guessed when the time is up, it gets folded and put back in the hat.
*The rounds are over when the hat is empty. Each team counts their pile of names. To continue to the next round, refold the names and put them back in the hat.

Tips for giving clues: Break the names into smaller parts. If you have Stewart, say the first syllable is thick soup and the last is stuff to put in museums. Think outside the hat.