Easing into gaming: Level 2

So, I’m going to pretend everyone now has reasonable hand-eye coordination and logic skills. The two games I mentioned last time should have gotten beginners up to a reasonable level. If not, supplement games include, but aren’t limited to, Professor Layton games, Rock Band/Guitar Hero games, and almost every game that started its life as a phone game and was adapted for a larger platform (Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, etc.). A lot of people are going to disagree about the phone games, but I think they are a pretty reasonable start, especially if played on a  proper system instead of a phone. They aren’t meant to be the core of your experience, just something to keep in the practice of playing games.

Back to pretending everyone kind of knows what they are doing. Now that basic mechanics and strategies are out of the way, real challenges are brought in. Limited lives and enemies, not to mention competition, are really important to bring in. We don’t play in a bubble. If there is no threat, the game gets boring. So, let’s bring in some competition.

Level 2:

  • Portal 2: Playing Portal 2 is a lot of fun. It has puzzles to solve and a high chance to die. There are any number of things that can kill you between pits of goo and turrets and lasers and whatever else I’m forgetting. There is a pretty good likelihood of you biting the dust. But, that’s okay. Plus, in Portal 2, you can play with someone else and fail/succeed together. That’s why I say Portal 2 over Portal. Portal is great, but it’s nice to have someone play with you and to work together.  It puts together hand-eye coordination together with puzzle solving. It also kind of gets you used to a gun. Not so much that you could play Portal 2 and then go play Halo, but it does get you used to aiming and having a gun on the screen.
  • Mario Party/Mario Kart/Super Smash Bros./etc.: I’m not going to get into which version each of these is the best. Everyone has their personal favorites so I really can’t speak too narrowly. These kinds of games really help you develop good sportsmanship as well as gaming skills. These are games you play with your friends and have a healthy competition. Many a relationship has been lost because of poor sports. If you pitch a fit over Mario Party and Co. you aren’t ready to play online with others in other games. Learn your self-control here. These games remind you that you are playing with friends and that even if you are horrible you can still have a pretty good time. I usually came in last when there were four people playing. Of course I played with three guys most of the time and they all had more gaming experience. Yeah, there was some teasing, but when I did well they gave me positive feedback. I had a blast anyway, plus I got better over time. Also, here’s a tip if there is at least one computer player: don’t worry about beating anyone in the room. As long as you beat the computer you’ll have a good time.
  • Kirby games: Kirby is a great franchise. The games are varied and you have to maneuver through the various stages. It’s a little less intense than Super Mario Bros. because the platforming isn’t as rough due to Kirby’s floating. The enemies are interesting and the gameplay is solid. You can lose lives and health in more than just an abstract way. The games themselves get harder the more you play and you get better just by playing further into the game. That’s true of most games, but this series has a nice, gentle curve. You’ll still yell at it, but you won’t be throwing any controllers.

There are still a few games that should be played to help bulk up skills like Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man for platforming. These are great to play in general, but especially for platforming. Pokemon is a good way to learn basic traveling around a world and battle systems. It’s pretty linear for the main part of the game, but afterwards offers some more freedom. Mortal Kombat is a classic fighter that does require skill to do well, but unless you are playing against that kid from the arcade it’s worth picking up for combat basics. To be well-rounded is important to me because I like to play with a number of different people and know what I’m doing. Everything can contribute to becoming a better gamer, so why not learn a little of everything? These aren’t really necessary, but I think they are important enough to mention.

This is the point where most people know what kind of games they want to play. Now is the time to at least research what you are interested in. I’ll cover the varying genres in the next list because the games most people want to play are easier to adjust to after getting used to gaming. This isn’t what I did and I know a lot of people just dive in, and that’s fine, but the purpose of this is to help those who don’t want to just jump in. I respect that most people don’t play Bioshock as their first full game like I did. Look up all of those games that you’ve been itching to play, but didn’t know how to start. Watch some gameplay or download a demo if applicable.  If you used to play games and want to start again, go for the nostalgia. You’ll have an easier go of it, except for maybe Sonic fans. You may just want to opt to play the old games again. But overall, find something you used to like and try the modern takes, or play the old games over. I don’t care if you like sports games, RPGs, FPSs, beat-em-ups, or anything else. Find what you like and try it. We’ll get to the good stuff next time.

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Easing into gaming: Level 1

I know that there can be some timid gamers out there. They are afraid that they don’t have the skill set needed for the game they want to play. I know I’ve definitely felt this. Even though I’ve been around video games a lot, I only really started playing them more recently. I’m not the best source for video games, but I thought I’d share what I think is a pretty reasonable progression of games to grow accustom to different styles and skills in a new series of posts. And this is assuming no skill or previous contact with video games.

First, I’d like to say that people just starting should try a handheld system first. They are comparatively low commitment and less costly. Most of the time you can set it down after an hour of playing, too. Larger systems and PC games don’t lend themselves to that as readily.

Level 1

  • Tetris: Everyone knows Tetris and almost everyone knows how to play it. It helps build up coordination and eases the player into getting better at strategy and skill. Plus, if you lose, there really is nothing to gain back. There isn’t a checkpoint to be had and losing is low risk. My mother even played it and became very skilled.
  • Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: This may seem like a strange choice, but hear me out. This game has the player handle trials and find evidence for them. This helps develop reasoning and logic skills simultaneously with searching skills. The trial setting may seem limiting, but many RPGs have large overworlds that lots of people don’t explore. Those that learn to search everything for a clue will probably be more inclined to search everywhere for some good treasure. It teaches you to be a bit more unconventional. Though it may make you think more, it doesn’t require any physical skill.

These two pair up so well because one helps deal with hand-eye coordination and the other with problem-solving. Some people have a hard time marrying the two. I think it helps to develop them separately and focus on combining them later. There are a number of other games that are well suited to beginners, but I think these two would do the trick. What do you think? What other games would you add to the list for people taking their first step into gaming?

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Dinosaur pick-up lines

A while back I had mentioned that my Significant Otter and I met over out mutual love of dinosaurs. In that post I had suggested that people who were actually looking for dino pick-up lines were sadly out of luck because the title of the post could be read to mean that it was. I’ve complied a list of lines that are the combined effort of the Significant Otter, the Best Friend, and myself. They are absurd and a little raunchy, but with pick-up lines that rely on puns based off of “-saur” and “bone” there was really no alternative. Use at your own risk. I’d love some of these, but your average club-goer may not.

  • You’re the tricera-tops
  • We should carbon date because our half-life would approach eternity.
  • Why go for the b-rachiosaurus, when you could go for the D-rachiosaurus.
  • I couldn’t help but notice that you’re not a b-rachiosaurus, but a DD-rachiosaurus.
  • I’m hung like an Apatosaurus.
  • You must be the La Brea tar pits, cuz I want to get my bone stuck in that.
  • You can dig up my bone any day./It wouldn’t take much digging to get to my bone.
  • You should come home with me, because I’ll make you dino-sore.
  • Why don’t we mosey-osaur over to my place?
  • Are you an angel? Because I’m a dinosaur.
  • I know how to plesiosaur a lady/man.
  • I’m hornier than a styracosaurus.
  • I’d wish you’d stegosaurus the night.
  • Why don’t you Triassic a little tenderness?
  • Jurrassic-ing me back to your place? Okay!
  • Dimetro-damn!
  • This bone may not date to the Jurassic Period, but it’s still rock hard.

These didn’t make sense as people talking to each other, but as dinosaurs talking to each other. I thought I’d include them anyway.

  • One ankylosaurus says to another, “Hey, you wanna go clubbin’”.
  • Don’t let my tiny arms fool you.
  • You know what they say about a man with a large crest.

As I collect more, I’ll add to the list. I warned you that they were absurd and probably not something you should actually use on a person.  Also, I know that the plesiosaur and the dimetrodon weren’t dinosaurs, they were prehistoric reptiles. I couldn’t pass them up, though. If you have some creative dinosaur-themed, or even prehistoric beast, pick-up lines I’d love to hear them.

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A heck of a haul

Geeks love shopping. I’m not talking about girl geeks, I’m talking about the vast majority of the geeks I’ve seen. It may not be the shuffle across the vast expanses of shopping centers in search of the one sweater that matches your eyes, but geeks love to buy things. There are so many collectors. Whatever we can get our hands on that has our favorite character we will buy if we have the money, and sometimes if we don’t have the money.

The proof of this is the huge supply of stuff that no one thought to have, but now exists.  I’m pretty sure most Spider-Man fans would scoff at snow globes until they saw this one. I can’t speak for everyone because I’m sure in the Venn diagram of “people who like Spider-Man” and “people who like snow globes” there is some overlap. Still, someone thought there would be enough interest that it would be worth making on a large scale. I don’t particularly like either Spider-Man or snow globes, but if it was a few dollars in a shop, I’d buy it for the sake of having it. I have the sneaking suspicion it isn’t just me who does this, either.  I could go on forever about buying stuff online and that whole sector of geek culture and even just modern culture, but I’m going to talk about the actual hunt of geek things in stores.  While I love a good online market place, there isn’t anything quite as exciting as finding a few geeky thing for super cheap in a store.

I’d like to touch on something quickly. I think many people find their geeky treasures at garage sales. I’ve never had much luck at this. Maybe it’s the neighborhood or the kids are too young, but the best things I’ve found at garage sales were old records, some old books, and a paper cutter to help me with my art making. Anyway, enough of that. If I ever manage to score some long-lost geek Holy Grail at a garage sale I’ll put some more stock in it, otherwise it’s moot.

Also very quick, the photos have a yellow cast because my lights are really warm and even my white balance couldn’t cope. They might look like hipster-chic to some, but I’m just tired and wanted to get a few quick shots to illustrate my point. Now, where were we?

Store shopping is not for everyone. I get that, but I’ve found that it’s the only way to find great things. I could shop online till my keyboard shorts out, but I really don’t think I’d do as well as in stores. It’s really about patience and sharp eyes. I like to play Pokemon and while I’m not obsessed with it or feel compelled to own a whole bunch of merch, I did pick up a 3 pack of figurines when I saw it was $3.20 on clearance from $12. They are sturdy toys and make nice bookcase fillers. I like having little toys sitting around, I find them charming.

Yes those are dinosaur sprinkles.

I also picked up a Doctor Who TARDIS that was meant to hold trading cards, but I use to store small things and jewelry. After discounts it was $2.50 and I also got a magazine, cards, and a Matt Smith mask that kind of freaks me out. The catch is that the magazine always has something with it and the next issue was supposed to have the lid. If anyone has a spare top let me know and I’ll be happy to trade a knit golden snitch or a tribble or something. Even without the top it’s still pretty cool and worth the $2.50.

I know the quality is poor. I promise my serious work actually takes me more than 3 seconds to produce.

Earlier I mentioned that I pick up records at garage sales. They are mostly okay, but my favorite geeky records have been found in resale shops. I have a Star Trek read-along record with the stupidest stories and has the worst impressions of the characters I’ve ever hears, but it’s great. Also, I have a number of Doctor Who records, including two picture records and one The Timelords/KLF record with this masterpiece on it.

I don’t spend more than $5 for a record or less than $0.50, typically. So when I come across a record on dinosaurs I don’t think twice about picking it up.

A nice sampling. I know that Bruce Willis isn’t especially nerdy, but how could I not share that with you?

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m also very frugal. I don’t spend a lot and try to get the most from my money. Why spend a dollar on ebay for a silly record when shipping can be anywhere from $3 to $10? I’d much rather take the luck of the draw and get something silly and wonderful for a dollar or two a few months later. I owe my stack of Monty Python records to that patience.

While we are talking about the luck of the draw, bookstores have been very kind to me over the past few months. And more than bookstores, but thrift stores that have book sections. Actually, those have been the kindest to me. After this long post I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you that the first thing I gravitate to in thrift stores is the book and media section.  I venture into the clothes half the time, mostly for sweaters to rip apart and use for yarn, but I always look at the books. This has paid off so well I can’t even begin to describe my happiness. I feel like the queen of geeky shopping.

My first big book score was picking up 10 D&D books for $16. Not $16 a piece, $16 total. They are all clean and are all core books that I can actually use. I know about the pull away from D&D in the table-top gaming community, but I’m excited. I’ll get use out of them and if I find Pathfinder books or the like I’ll probably pick them up, too. I’m pretty equal opportunity.

All I need now is a group.

    As you may have guessed with my frequent mentions of Doctor Who, I’m a big ol’ fan. I have a huge collection of the kid’s story books that were published in the ’80s. I find that they are overpriced half of the time and have slowed down my collecting since the average price went from $2 to $5. That may not sound like much, but for a book a little over a hundred pages, that’s silly. I could get a full novel for the same price at the same store for that money or two novels from the clearance section. But when they were inexpensive I amassed quite the collection. I also found my way to owning a framed Tom Baker picture. A really swell person I befriended shares a love of Old Who and saved it for himself and once we realized we shared a fandom he let me have it. Such a nice guy.

Every room should have a creepy frog-baby.

And the ones I’ve posted are just the ones I haven’t read.

    So, this has all been kind of small potatoes. Except for the fact that I spent less on D&D books used than I would have on one new, there hasn’t been anything too crazy. That’s because I’m saving the best for last. I like Douglas Adams a lot. I think he is very clever and has a great sense of humor. I’m sad to say that I didn’t really know who he was until after he passed, but I can still enjoy his work and that’s what’s important. I’m also quite keen on Neil Gaiman. At a particular trip to a thrift store I happened to pick up a copy of Anansi Boys. It’s pretty beaten up and has a sticker on the front, but for $3 it’s a book I haven’t read and have been meaning to, so I look at it. A few pages in I see a bit of red. It’s a signed copy and the sticker on the front is there to tell me that it’s a signed copy. It’s clearly been loved and I plan on reading it, but it’s a signed copy nonetheless and I’m pretty happy. My collection of signed Neil Gaiman books is now up to 3.

Sorry about the blur.

    This would be a perfectly acceptable highlight for a number of nerds. It gets better. I stumble across Mostly Harmless . The fifth book in the Hitchhikers trilogy. I have all the books as much later reprints so anytime I see an old hardcover I check to see if it’s a first edition. I like having first editions. I open the book to the front to check the copyright but I land on the title page first. I’m saddened to see some kid has scribbled in the front and that probably means that the rest is ruined. Seeing as this is a happy story some of you may have already figured out what this scrawl actually was. The rest of the pages were neat and well taken care of. I checked the copyright page and it’s a first edition and a first print, which makes me very happy. And then it hits me, it wasn’t some dumb kid. I flipped the page and recognize the D and the A. It’s a signed first edition, first print for $3! I couldn’t care less that it’s just Mostly Harmless. My geeky shopping gods were truly smiling down on me. It is not printed, the ink is clearly different, and it matches up to his known signatures. Plus, I don’t know too many people who would fake it. I’ll get it properly checked out in the future to be 100% sure instead of just 99%. That’s something that I know couldn’t be picked up on the internet for $3.

The prize!

And then I found these guys for a buck a piece. A nice little extra after what I believe to be a huge find.

They make noise and everything.

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the longest time in between finding work and responsibilities. I buy geeky crap at really low prices. For all of you internet-only buyers, look at the cool stuff that you’re missing out on. And maybe I’ll do another mega post when I buy more geeky things. Maybe I’ll do an internet version. Anyone else just have the best luck buying things?

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Doctor Who season 7 is off to a pretty good start

If you have not watched the season premiere to Doctor Who and want to see it spoiler-free, skip this post.

I’ll wait here to give you some time to leave.

Are they all gone now? I hope so.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I’m a devout Whovian.  The new season starting up got me really excited. Even though Moffat likes to throw me through a loop, tugging at all the emotions, I am really excited to have the show back. This year they had little shorts on each of the 5 days leading up to the season premiere which they called Pond Life. To say that this is a bit of a misnomer is an understatement. Most of the minute for each video was about the Doctor rather than how his companions coped at home. And the last one was kind of needed to be seen before the first episode, otherwise the viewer was lost.  Why are they getting a divorce? What’s happening?

That aside, I thought is was great. Not without issues, but I’ll get to those in a minute. I was very pleased with Oswin. I’ll be anxious to see how they bring her back later in the season.  If anyone had to replace the Ponds, she seems like a pretty good fit.  Gotta love a good tech girl. It would be especially interesting if they left her in the dalek, and had a dalek and the Doctor running around the universe in constant tension together. I’d watch the hell out of that. Though they may just do what they did with Martha and Amy. Freema Agyeman and Karen Gillan both appeared in New Who episodes before becoming permanent companions.  Of course, those are a little different because neither of them were scheduled to be a companion at the time of their filming. A handful of Old Who actors showed up later in the series, probably most notably Lalla Ward. She played a princess and they asked her to be Romana II.  I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent it seems. Anyway, I’ll be curious to know how they’ll bring back Oswin.

The main story was pretty interesting. I’m not sure how the altered humans had dalek casing adaptations instead of the squishy center cyclops tentacles, but I’m sure there’s some reason for that outside of “it looked cool.”  I did have a chuckle when they were almost smothered by plungers so that makes up for the logic. Speaking of logic, it seems that the daleks get their hands on a lot of tech that can’t actually be handled by daleks. Weird. But the running about and Amy converting was really all very entertaining. There was a few fiddly things that could have been changed, but nothing to speak of. Except for one thing.

What was up with the Amy and Rory subplot? They are getting a divorce. Why? If we didn’t find out in this episode there could have been much more dramatic and awkward scenes because they still haven’t talked to each other.  And the fact that they didn’t discuss things over before being shoved into a position where they would actually have to cope with the other dying is baffling. Did Amy really think that keeping the real reason she wanted the divorce secret was a good idea? I’m pretty sure she would have done or said something before assuming having biological kids was more important than a life with her. I’m hoping that things aren’t completely “Woo! We’re super in love even though we just got a divorce!” Seriously, things don’t change like that. I’m not usually one to hope for turmoil, but I wish they’d at least be more honest.  Outside of this, I really enjoyed the episode.

I will bring up that I can’t talk about Dinosaurs on a Spaceship yet. Since I got the Significant Otter into Doctor Who we can’t watch episodes without each other. It’s a nice tradition until we won’t see each other for a week and we both have to wait. It happened this week and I’m dying to see it because of dinosaurs and Arthur Weasley. With any hope this will prompt me to actually post regularly  because I’ll have something to talk about.

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Cutscenes, not feature films

As of late I’ve been trying to play more video games.  I’ve always had an interest in them, but I could never find time for them that wasn’t being spent knitting or drawing.  Since it’s too hot to be working with fiber and I am now actually drawing with purpose, and am therefore procrastinating, video games are kind of perfect. I’ve been watching a number of Let’s Plays.  I’m watching anything I can’t actually play.  Doing this triggers a bit of nostalgia. Part of that is because of the games being played, but partly because that’s what I did as a kid. I watched the boys play their games and got to watch the game unfold without touching the controls. I retroactively wish I had insisted they let me play or had an interest in playing alone.  To this day I rarely play because I like having someone else in the room with me. Anyway, the LPs recreate that community experience as best as possible.  Since I don’t have anyone to watch anymore, these are a nice fit.

The real way I started to incorporate video games into my life was actually playing them.  I dove back into playing White Knight Chronicles after a rage quit over a year ago.  I had just started to adventure and my teammates just stopped attacking. No matter what I changed in the menu I just couldn’t get them to attack and because of that I died quite frequently.  After that I had left it for a long time.  Eventually, the Significant Otter noticed that I had pushed a thumbstick down by mistake and no amount of menu-changing would alter the thumbstick selection.  After it was fixed, I was still pissed at the game and didn’t pick it up again until last week.

Now that I have started it again the only time I feel like hurling the controller at the screen is during the cutscenes.  I’m not sure how familiar everyone is with the game, but it’s not too complex. It’s an RPG that has a group of people travel everywhere to rescue a princess, and there are enormous knights in it.  It’s fun. It doesn’t seem too special to me, but I’m not exactly experienced with games so I’m not sure how to compare it.  The battle system seems easy enough without being boring and running around is enjoyable.  The fact that some enemies insist on you battling them is a nuisance, but it’s not the worst thing.  The worst thing are the cutscenes that take an eternity to end.  I know that they are there to tell a story, but sometimes it’s just too much.  I don’t want to watch the princess and the hero dance around on a lake, I want to smash a giant’s head in with my axe.

Right now I’m not too far into the game.  I hope it stays enjoyable and I really want to try out the multiplayer in the GeoNet.  I haven’t touched that very much, but I hope it will be fun.  It was one of the reasons I bought the game, so I could play with the Significant Otter online when we weren’t spending time together.  Even if it turns out to be not so good, then at least the main game is still worth playing.  The only way the game could be rendered worthless would be a crap ending. The bosses are pretty good and the game is fine, but a bad ending would render it not worth playing.  Fortunately, I’m going to assume that won’t be the case because it was recommended as opposed to me just picking it up.

I’m hoping to continue to play games consistently.  There are a few that are coming out soon that I want an excuse to play. I can’t buy new, shiny things until I play what I have, right?

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A collection of comics

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I never really made it to reading comic books.  They are a very expensive habit.  What I do read an obscene amount of however, is webcomics.  I read 30 different webcomics and am always on the lookout for more.  I’m even in the middle of writing one and illustrating for possibly two. I adore the medium. It’s a lot more open than the books that are put out.  There’s a lot more communication between the creator(s) and the audience.  The format can also be adjusted to fit different creative ideas. The confining nature of a page, or three panels in the case of comic strips, doesn’t need to be followed.  It can be, but many do deviate from it.  And the humour doesn’t have to be so safe.  The strips are often tailored for a certain audience and not meant for everyone and their brother to enjoy.

I like so many that I’m not even sure where to start.  I don’t want to just make a long list of stuff I read because that would be boring.  I also want to stay away from talking too much about xkcd, SMBC, and similar ones because they’ve made the rounds and everyone has already read through them.  I’d much rather address the smaller ones because they deserve more attention, not that my piddly blog is going to help too much.

Abstruse Goose caught a lot of flack in it’s early days for resembling xkcd too closely because it has simple drawings and deals with science and engineering.  It still has a lot to offer and has developed into something a bit different over time.

Earthsong is a comic I’ve been following for a long time. The art is really lovely and the story is interesting.  From the “About” page written by the comic’s author/illustrator Crystal Yates,

“The planets are living powerful beings and the sentient species that occupy their surfaces are their children. They face a crisis when their elemental lifeblood begins to seep into the children, eventually culminizing into a soulstone which gives them great powers, but at the cost of their life and eventually that of the planets’ too. One childless planet, Earthsong, is given the task of retrieving these children from their homeworlds and bringing them to her surface where they are safe. She is given tools made of Siderean, or star, element which allow her to remove the soulstone from its host and both back to their planet of origin. Visiting children remember little of their previous lives while on Earthsong and when they return they recall only glimmers of what occurred during their time away. These individuals often build up legends and myths around their strange and fragmented memories of alien species.”

Head Trip is a bit of a melange and takes from pop culture and daily life.

Hell Inc. is a stick figure comic that tells the story of a demon from Hell trying to live.  Hell and Heaven are just power companies and good and evil really are moot in business.

Between Failures is my most recent find and has a pretty sizable cast that work at a multimedia superstore that reminds me of a cross between Half-Price Books and Game Stop.

I’m pretty sure those are the least known comics in my bookmarks.  That’s not to say they don’t have a sizable audience, but they sure as heck aren’t being paraded around the internet like most of the other comics I read. And if there’s one thing I’d really like to do, it’s bring something new to the table.

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