Tag Archives: Games

Happy new year!

I’ve decided to post really quick reviews of each game I play.

The thing is, I’ve been replaying some older games and realizing how much of them I’ve forgotten, and then I have a tiny moment of panic about how ephemeral my experiences with these games are–a tiny existential crisis ensues. Do I play the games because life is nihilistic and I should just fill it with personally engaging experiences, or do I try to contribute something to the societal world–games culture and academic progress? And then I figure, well, it won’t take much time to write at least a one-line review of the things I’m playing.

Part of the hesitation, though, is also the fact that I play *a lot* of games. A LOT. It’s kind of frightening, actually, given that I’m trying to finish the dissertation and apply for jobs and do academic stuff at the same time. So, there’s a bit of shame or guilt involved, too.

But talking with Theresa, another student at the college of ed who also studies games and learning, has convinced me that knowledge about games is part of my academic identity. I’ve come to be known as “the games guy” in my department, and that label or position has definitely given me some cultural capital that I’ve been able to ply into various opportunities within academia, if only by giving me confidence in myself by seeing that others value my knowledge.

The positioning, though, is kind of strange since I don’t think I’ve done all that much to cultivate it. It seems like I can contribute to it and make it productive while also justifying all the game playing if only I shared my thoughts about these games, and thus, my new year’s resolution is to write about each game I play.

Or maybe I’m just trying to make an obsession have some sort of extrinsic value…

Games I’m playing now

(All images from Wikipedia!)

The collector’s edition headstart for Warhammer Online started yesterday. I’ll start playing on Tuesday, probably. Same servers as Michael Zenke [Edit 18-9-2008: for some reason I thought it was Mike Sellers’ blog, but I am wrong… unless Zenke and Sellers are the same people]:

  • Destruction: Volkmar
  • Order: Averheim

Except that he chose regular servers and since I’m partial to RP servers, I also started on an RP server, Ostermark – Order. [Edit (Tuesday): Lucas Gillispie sent me a note that his RP guild is starting on Phoenix Throne, so I started there instead. Order side.]

Spore came out over the weekend to some crazy low reviews on Amazon and other user-based review sites due to its onerous (draconian) DRM. I tried it out yesterday and decided that it was not for me. I mean, it’s kind of fun for a while, but it gets rather tedious. And it seems unbalanced in that the first few stages go by quick and then the last space stage is humongous. Like way too detailed. The first stage is almost a clone of but not as good as the Flash game flow. The other stages remind me of other games, too. Namely Populous in the tribal stage. [Edit: At first I thought this made sense since I thought Populous was made by Maxis and Will Wright, the person behind Spore, but it turns out that it was made by Bullfrog and Peter Molyneux. We’ll see how his game Fable 2 plays in a few…]

While everyone else has been hyping about Spore, I’ve been more interested in Mercenaries 2. It’s fun so far. Blowing shit up is always fun I guess. Basically, think GTA but you start with an arsenal from the get-go, and your missions involve making money for destroying stuff for various factions. You get the missions GTA style by going to a contact’s location as marked by a little circle beam of light.  🙂

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve been playing World of Warcraft (in prep for the expansion due out in a couple of months) using two accounts at the same time! Basically, on the first day I had my laptop open next to me with one character following my main guy on my desktop. But then I read that you can actually run two (or more) copies of WoW at the same time, and since I got a new monitor last month, I decided to do that with each monitor showing a different WoW window. Then I installed an app (HotKeyNet) that lets me send keystrokes to both windows at the same time. So on one screen I hit 2 for Sinister Strike and on the other screen, 2 triggers a macro that targets my main’s target and casts Sinister Strike (yes, two rogues :p) Check out wowwiki and dual-boxing for helpful details.

Aaron, Gray, and Song Gong all in town

for a week of total geekdom.

We’re going to try to play at least these games:

  • Long Live the King
  • Game of Thrones
  • Arkham Horror
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Dungeon Twister
  • Pandemic

And we’re going to the Seattle Art Museum‘s Roman exhibit (with a slew of Reedies–“slew?”  gaggle?  grouping? an anarchy of Reedies maybe?).

I’ll post game write-ups and photos if I have time.

This comes at a time when I’m trying to write a game review on The Witcher and morality in games.  I’m also going to submit something for a pre-conference on games ethnography happening as part of AoIR 9 in Copenhagen in October.  Due in one week!  But if I don’t get in, there’s also a doc consortium happening there and the deadline to submit for that is in 3 weeks.  🙂

The history of New York City (architecture) in video games

The Bowery Boys | New York City History: The history of New York City in video games

One day back from New York and I see this post.  🙂

Zak McKracken 2 is out!

The Grumpy Gamer posted that a fan-made sequel to Zak McKracken is out!

Grumpy Gamer Kracken

I am way more excited about this than GTAIV. :p

[Edit May 2: Oh, boo… it’s not in English yet.  Damn my lack of multilingualism.]

The Witcher

This past week I’ve been playing The Witcher, an RPG by CD Projekt Red using the Aurora Engine (the one Bioware used for Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, etc.). The Witcher is based off a series of short stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski set in a wartorn grim fantasy world. Witchers are a clan of superhumans devoted to destroying monsters and evil. I had heard, however, that there was a lot of moral ambiguity in the game, which made me interested enough to download the demo. From what I saw in the demo, I was impressed enough to buy a copy.

The Witcher screenshot

Continue reading The Witcher

Amanita Design – point n click Flash games

Amanita Design’s games

Amanita Design

Love their art style!

New boardgames!

I just got some new boardgames!



I wanted a pure cooperative game but I thought that Shadows Over Camelot and Lord of the Rings were a bit long. When I heard that this game was pretty quick and good for newbies, I grabbed it!

Battleground: Fantasy Warfare

Battleground: Fantasy Warfare

This is a cool idea and caught my eye when it first game out a few years ago. Basically, think miniature war game without the miniatures. It uses cards that you place and move around on the table instead, using the sides of other cards to measure how far they can move (like Pirates of the Spanish Main). I used to play Warhammer Fantasy Battle back in high school (16 years ago) but ever since have never been able to get a stable enough life to consider getting a huge miniatures collection. Expensive and bulky! Having them in playing-card form is genius! I hope the game is good.

Dungeon Twister

Dungeon Twister and the 3/4 player expansion

I’ve been playing a lot with Ari or Brian H. recently, and this made me think that I need a good two player game, but I also saw that this game had a 3/4 player expansion so it would work with more people, too! I hear it’s like dungeon chess. Reading the rules, I really like how combat is done Cosmic Encounter style except that you don’t have a random hand. It adds a nice guessing game to the combat–“do I play my good card or save it for later?” I hope the game works well and that it isn’t so cerebral as to be unapproachable.


Dungeoneer – Vault of the Fiends

I originally got one pack of Dungeoneer (Tomb of the Lich Lord) a few years ago after I had been playing Carcassonne a bit. Like Carcassonne, Dungeoneer is a tile laying game but around the dungeon delving theme and using playing cards. (I wonder if the use of playing cards only came about due to CCGs like Magic.) I never felt like there was enough variety in the dungeons though. Brian H. got another deck of Tomb which will make the dungeon bigger, but I got Vault of the Fiends hoping it’d make a nice complement to our two Tomb decks.

Got up at 2 today…

That’s 2AM, thank you very much. 😛

Sometimes I get insomnia and can’t fall back asleep. Usually, I can get some work done, but last night all I did was play a PC version of HeroQuest and then some Peggle that came with The Orange Box.

I found HeroQuest through a geeklist on BoardGameGeek.com that features computer versions of boardgames. HeroQuest is an old Games Workshop/Milton Bradley game. The PC port is still in beta and is made by a guy named Gerwin Broers, who’s really good at illustration, too. 🙂

There certainly are a lot of games on the geeklist that deserve some trial. Space Hulk is there in a couple of different ports. This is nice because a friend and I were just talking about Space Hulk recently. Other gems include Puerto Rico, San Juan, and Ra. Man, the list just goes on!

Peggle, by PopCap, the same people who made Bejeweled, is very addicting. I wanted to try it out because it received best puzzle game of 2007 from Games for Windows magazine.

Very quick intro to games literacy from a multiliteracies perspective

On Feb 6 and 13, I guest presented/led Dixie Massey‘s literacy materials for teachers class. She’s covering a different medium each week including comic books, anime, blogs, etc. and GAMES!

Anyway, I was invited to lead the games bit. I took the opportunity to push a specific agenda (of course, don’t we all push specific agendas, whether implicit or explicit?) and that was of highlighting “new literacy studies” or “multiliteracies” approach to games culture (see the New London Group). This was instead of just presenting academic stuff about how games can be used in literacy instruction.

Games literacy PowerPoint

Multiliteracies basically is a particular kind of stance about what it means to be literate, that being literate means being literate in *something*, whether it’s traditional textbooks or basketball or whatever, and that means being a partcipant in a particular sociocultural domain with its own practices and ways of being/social norms.

The emphasis is that meaning is derived through the cultural life of the community. This means that issues brought up about games (violence, addiction, etc.) really depends on the localized social situation. Those terms are socially defined. Whether a game is harmful or helpful depends.

One example is Barry Joseph’s anecdote about Grand Theft Auto in the classroom. The student in question recognizes GTA as a game system and figured out how to work the system. It wasn’t “violence” that he was doing… or not real meaningful violence, anyway.

So anyway, I tried to present this idea of games-as-culture to Dixie’s class but I think maybe it was a hard sell to a class full of teachers who probably were interested in specific games they could use for literacy instruction. I wanted to emphasize that to be critically literate requires one to be literate first. You can’t use or criticize a movie without seeing it first (no matter how much people try), and you can’t criticize games without playing some and understanding gaming culture first.

It *was* fun, though! And we ended up playing a lot of games. The first week we read a chapter from Gee’s What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy book, the one about identity play in the game Arcanum. Then we played Arcanum and some web games or other games during the week and reflected during the second session.  Time for reflection is necessary for critical literacy, but it’s a skill that doesn’t just happen…

If interested, here’s the handout on games literacy I used the first week and the slideshow, also on games literacy, I used the following week.