Archive for the ‘games’ Category

Day 122

by wil — May 2, 2011

Yesterday was May Day/Beltane, and the year is now one-third over, so I thought I’d take stock and see what’s what. I’ve been doing yoga at least every-other-day for 11 weeks now and I’m still enjoying it, so I’ll be continuing with that. I’ve also started learning everyone’s favorite instrument: the bagpipe! My kitchen pipes arrived ten days ago and I’ve been slowly learning the proper fingering for the scale (which, from what I’ve read, may not exactly correspond to any standard Western musical scale). When I get better, I’ll see about posting a video. I know you’re dying to watch me play the pipes.

Hmm…what else? I recently finished Dragon Age II (not quite as epic as Dragon Age: Origins, smaller-scale, new and different, but still lots of fun) and I’ve been reading some too:

meat
The Terror
Faery Tale
How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe
Fight Club
Foucault For Beginners
Rumo
The History of Love
Consciousness
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

 

  1. Meat: A Benign Extravagance: An in-depth, heavy-duty, and sometimes dry investigation of meat-eating from an environmental/sustainability (and British) perspective. A much longer review (Part 1 of 3) »

  2. The Terror: An engrossing historical novel with a supernatural twist: 1840s, the Franklin Expedition searches in vain for the Northwest Passage and encounters an ancient arctic evil. I enjoyed it, but there are several spots where the story really starts to drag. I think it would’ve been stronger if it had been a bit shorter.

  3. Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World: Signe Pike travels from NYC to Mexico, the UK, and Ireland in a heartfelt search for magic, belief, and a deeper sense of connection.

  4. How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe: A humorous, touching ride through Minor Universe 31, time loops, story space, memory, and family relationships.

  5. Fight Club: This is one of those rare instances where I think the movie is actually quite a bit better than the book. I felt like the novel was dark-and-disturbing just to be dark-and-disturbing. I had hoped for more, something deeper.

  6. Foucault for Beginners: A quick overview of Michel Foucault’s thoughts on knowledge, truth, power, justice, etc. My impression: Foucault is highly influential, yet difficult to summarize/synthesize. I think I might try another, longer introduction to Foucault.

  7. Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures: Part Grimm’s fairy tale, part Princess Bride — a humorous, imaginative, delightful fantasy adventure. I will definitely be reading more Walter Moers.

  8. The History of Love: Warm, often-funny prose, but a story that feels disjointed. Halfway through, I set it aside for several weeks, but eventually picked it up again and finished it.

  9. Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction: An interesting but annoying introduction to the scientific study of the “hard problem” of consciousness. Susan Blackmore covers a lot of fascinating research, but for an introductory, presumably objective overview, I felt like she was a bit too free with her own subjective opinions.

  10. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler: The opposite of a flowing narrative, but interesting nonetheless. Calvino has lots of fun with conspiracies, obfuscation, and metafiction, popping in and out of the story/stories to write about writing/reading. Reminiscent of Borges and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

    The novel begins in a railway station, a locomotive huffs, steam from a piston covers the opening of the chapter, a cloud of smoke hides part of the first paragraph.

    You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice—they won’t hear you otherwise—”I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.

What have you been up to?

Video Games

by wil — Mar 21, 2011

I was thinking about video games recently and I thought it would be fun to start by taking a look back at my personal video game history.

The Early Years

In the late-70s or early-80s, my family got an Atari console and my brothers and I played awesome games like Pong, Adventure, and Pitfall.

Adventure (if you never played Adventure, you’re the orange square and that green thing that looks like a cute seahorse is actually a terrifying dragon):

Pitfall:

Around this same time we would beg quarters from my parents and play classic arcade games like Galaga, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Defender, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Pole Position, Star Wars, etc.

Star Wars:

My First PC

In the late-80s I got an IBM PS/2 PC and played games like Space Quest and Bard’s Tale.

Space Quest:

Bard’s Tale:

My First “Modern” PC

In 1996, I got my first computer with a hard-drive, cd drive, and internet connection, and played games like MechWarrior 2, Baldur’s Gate, Myst, and Civilization II.

MechWarrior 2:

Baldur’s Gate:

Myst:

Civilization II (my favorite turn-based strategy game of all time, I still play it occasionally):

The New Millennium

In the past decade, I’ve played several fantastic role-playing games — Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Witcher, Dragon Age: Origins, and (currently) Dragon Age II — with a brief foray into MMORPGs with Dark Age of Camelot.

Fallout 3:

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Witcher

Dragon Age: Origins (the “spiritual successor” to Baldur’s Gate):

I tend toward immersive role-playing games (RPG) with a good storyline, and given a choice, I prefer open worlds where you can explore every nook and cranny (e.g., Fallout, Elder Scrolls) to the more limited/controlled worlds of Dragon Age, Witcher, et al. A good, modern RPG feels like a cross between the old Choose Your Own Adventure books and a movie (I particularly enjoy the movieish camera angles, cuts, and focus/depth of field techniques seen in many modern RPGs [especially notable in the Dragon Age series]).

So if you take my premise that a modern RPG is a cross between a book and a movie, and then look at the numbers — according to a 2008 Pew study, “some 53% of American adults age 18 and older play video games*” — why are video game reviews/discussions so often limited to hardcore gaming/techy sites? Why do bloggers that freely discuss movies and books so rarely discuss video games? I’m guessing the answer is multifaceted: I think there’s still a sense that video games are meant for (and played by) teenage boys (and older dudes that still live at home in their parents’ basement) — so if you play video games, yet you’re not a teenage boy or grown man-child, you might not want to associate yourself with the aforementioned groups. Also, many video games aren’t much more than simple time-wasters or basically-plotless shooters, so what’s to discuss? Plus, many video games fit into the sword-and-sorcery and/or sci-fi genres, which, let’s face it, don’t get much respect in the literary/film world either.

So, yeah, some video games are not worth discussing and there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to gaming, but the good ones are so good. We should be discussing them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Do you play? What do you play? Are you hesitant to discuss video games with others? Do you think I’m a nerd and want to give me a wedgie?

* Compare this to the 2007 NEA survey, which states that “only 47% of adults read a work of literature (defined as a novel, short story, play or poem) within the past year.”

Waaaazzup with Wil (Vol. 3)

by wil — Mar 10, 2011

Lately I’ve had the recurring sense that anything’s possible — that good things can and will happen. A really nice feeling.

I’m loving Neutral Milk Hotel. I respect a band that can jam on the bagpipes and belt out: “I love you Jesus Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiist, Jesus Christ I love you, yes I do.”

My wife and made up a new game using the foam and wooden dice we bought in Denver at The Wizard’s Chest. It’s basically Rat’s Ass with twelve dice instead of six — massively high scores! Woohoo!

That’s all.