Category Archives: Games

The Thousandth Landing

(With apologies to Bear McCreary, Brendan Adkins, and pretty much everyone at Bungie.)

The staff is a lashing blur, but ‘Otamee is prepared, already leaping up and back as it strikes his chestplate; the glancing blow discharges most of the weapon’s energy into the air, with the remainder just enough to carry him through his roll back into a ready, empty-handed crouch.

The armsmaster watches with a fond approval he’s careful to hide. “Well. At last you move like the heir to your birthright. Time for the next lesson.”

He tosses ‘Otamee an inactive arcstaff grip.

“You’ve learned how to take a blow.” He smiles. “Now you learn how not to have to.”

Trauma Center

Sometime not too long ago, and I wish I could remember where, someone mused about what it would be like to play a game in which your principal job was to patch up the hapless victims who’d been brutalized in all of the other video games.

It turns out that a game along those rough lines, Trauma Center, actually exists. That’s not the surprise. The surprise is that it’s apparently quite good. I might have to check it out once I get around to acquiring a Wii of my own.

Now all someone needs to do is create a version that supports heterogenous networked play: as your roommate piles up the casualties in the latest Vice City franchise, you’re the one whose emergency room they show up in. Just be sure to keep the guy playing Halo off of your local network. (“Doctor, this man has plasma burns over 30% of his body, and is carrying shrapnel from a Covenant Needler.” “Oh, for Christ’s sake! I’ve only got 21st-century medicine to work with here!”)

Update: Holly has helpfully pointed out that it was in fact Demetri Martin, in a recording we listened to while en route to Palm Springs. I was thinking that it might have been Tea Leaves or possibly xkcd. I’m glad someone around here’s got a decent memory…

Quote of the Night

Greg and I just played our first game of WarCraft together in weeks, against supposedly hardcore CPU opponents. I’d worried that this was a bit ambitious, given our lack of practice, but we turned out to crush them rather effortlessly. This led to the following bit of post-game chat:

Me: I guess genocide is like riding a bike.

Greg: Genocide is like riding a bike: if you do it right, it only hurts for the other guy.

This is going to have me chuckling foolishly all evening.


If you’re acting as a carrier for viral marketing, you know you’re acting as a carrier for viral marketing, and you persist in doing it anyway, what does that make you? A typhoid moron?

Anyway, these ads for Xbox and Xbox 360 are pretty cute. (If any of the games released for the 360 at launch showed half the cleverness or ingenuity that the ads do, I’d have been standing in line to get one at midnight along with all of the other suckers.)

First, there’s a touching vignette about the transience of existence. This is followed by a meditation on the importance of a willing imagination. My favorite, though, is this cautionary tale about the dangers of hot-rodding. “Alles klar, Jungs?”

Original infectious vector provided by Faisal. Thanks, Faisal!

“My Buddha sense says…”

“‘You owe it to yourself to check out the amazingly goofy Ragdoll Kung Fu.'”

One reviewer, whom the game’s creators saw fit to cite in their promotional trailer, called it “brilliantly stupid fun.” I don’t think I can put it any better than that. This game has everything, including obvious, bad bald wigs and dope-smoking ninjas. If, after playing it, you don’t think it was worth the $15, I can only shake my head in sorrow for the state of your soul.

The entertainment value of the game itself aside, the fact that a single developer working with friends in his spare time can create something like this and distribute it via Steam in a way that’s commercially viable offers hope that some spirit still lives deep within the shambling bulk of the game industry. Take heart in this thought as you wander the shelves of your local retailer, shifting your gaze passing from one soulless, overproduced, overhyped, would-be blockbuster game after another. It doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe it won’t be forever.

Chi Power!

Katamari Birthday, Paul

My friend Paul recently marked his fortieth birthday, and today we celebrated the event at his home. Much fun was had and even more good food was eaten. There was air hockey, and pinball, and — thanks to a collaborative effort involving Bill, Rob, and Paul, among others — there was Katamari Damacy, a game I’d never played before despite having owned it for several months now. (The TV’s been dead since December, and I haven’t gotten around to repairing it.)

In case you’ve never heard of it, Katamari Damacy is a silly, strange, and above all exceedingly Japanese game that manages to be disarmingly charming despite its considerable weirdness. The premise almost defies explanation, but the gameplay is mind-bogglingly simple: run around the landscape with a sticky ball, and roll things up into it. When you begin, your ball is tiny, and can only pick up small things — pushpins, paper clips, coins, and so forth. As it grows, though, it can pick up ever-larger items: small animals, people, bicycles, large animals, and, eventually, cars, ships, and buildings.

The controls are equally simple, requiring the use only of both thumbsticks. (This is especially fortunate from my current perspective. Playing did ultimately hurt my wrist, but I can’t say it wasn’t worth it.) Past acquaintance with a tank-piloting game, such as Battlezone or Assault, is surprisingly helpful.

I can’t explain just what’s so insanely entertaining about running around firing nothing, destroying nothing, and in fact doing nothing besides rolling up crudely-modeled objects into a ball. I can only report that it is, in fact, deeply addictive fun. I might still be playing had my wrist not stopped me. Part of the amusement, to be sure, are the indignant squeals and shouts you hear once your ball is big enough to start picking up living things.

Another part is the promise of having your performance cuttingly critiqued, at the completion of every level, by the King Of All Cosmos, surely the most eccentric diety ever to carelessly abuse the Godhead. Think Simon Cowell in an outfit that’s equal parts Liberace, Carnival in Rio, and Mummenschanz, and you’re in the right ballpark.

It’s fun, and all too rare, to experience something that lives up to its billing. Katamari Damacy delivers.

A Gamer’s Manifesto

The ranks of those who both (a) care passionately about games and (b) can write coherently — let alone thoughtfully and engagingly — about them is painfully, excruciatingly small. (Probably in no small part because it’s such a brutally unrewarding enterprise: your reward for calling a spade a spade is typically a giant steaming heap of angry e-mail, liberally sprinkled with exclamation marks and precious little in the way of intelligence, from a horde of subliterate fanboys apparently lacking anything better to do.)

So it’s doubly heartening to see that the guys over at Pointless Waste of Time are willing to fight the good fight regardless.

How to Torture an Idiot

Tell him that there is now a locked copy of Half-Life 2 sitting on his machine, inches away from his itching hands, and that he’ll be able to unlock it… Real Soon Now. (It’s just as well, I suppose. This gives me a chance to dig the registration number I got from ATI out of the disaster that is my office filing system, and thereby avoid feeling like a completely different and more acute class of idiot.)