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Gaming

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Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Grommash.

Aaahoo, Warlords of Draenor, aahooo On top of all the other busy-ness of late, WOW’s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor is now off and away as of last Tuesday, meaning more off hours shoring up the garrison and leveling my almost-nine-year-old rogue (and his army of alts) to all-new, rarefied three-digit heights. (I dinged 100 last night, with three more zones and lots more content to explore.) Aaahoo…

Ready Player One.

“Dig Dug, Berzerk, Frogger, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter II — they are all there.” In the spirit of preservation, killing productivity, and saving me trips to, and quarters spent, at the Columbia Heights laundromat, the Internet Archive — keepers of the always useful Wayback Machine — now offers 900 old-school, browser-ready arcade games for your nostalgic pleasure. “Firefox [is] best optimized to run these free games.”

Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer.

“The rug is a moveable barrier which move backwards to reveal more of the rug as the shot is repeatedly hit. Unrolling the rug really pulls the room together and starts one of the modes featured below.”

Speaking of the brothers, it might be a really good time to kidnap yourself, dude: The Dutch Pinball team just made us all privy to the new sh*t at a launch party for their all-new, fully licensed, and very spiffy Big Lebowski pinball machine — available 2Q, 2015 for the ransom of 8500 simoleons (tho’ for your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected multi-ball.)

Here’s the official site. If I had ridiculous money/room to burn and were the sort to treat objects like women, man, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

The Grandmasters.

“To you and me, going unbeaten and undrawn in five straight tournament games sounds impressive. But to chess aficionados, Caruana’s performance is nigh on miraculous. It’s frightfully difficult to straight-up stomp another top-10 international grandmaster…Yet Caruana wasn’t merely avoiding draws and losses. In the words of one commentator, he was ‘spanking’ his opponents.”

Need a new sport in these corrupt-NFL, steroid-ridden MLB times? (I myself have opted for EPL and MLS futbol.) Old friend Seth Stevenson makes the case for chess from the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, “one of the most emotional, dramatic, newsworthy chess events of the past 40 years…I encourage you to tune in for some of the championship series in Sochi…Perhaps you’ll get swept up in the beauty of this 1,500-year-old pastime. Start to learn a few openings. Maybe some defenses. Eventually yearn to execute a perfect smothered mate. It really is a seductive game.”

Gashlygame Over.

“Video game characters are always getting stabbed, burned, blasted, electrocuted, and crushed — when they aren’t falling to their dooms. So they’re perfect for this macabre poem in the style of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.” (Via io9).

You Win or You Restart/Discard.

Now here’s a Super Mario land that Bob Hoskins would’ve been more at home in — Game of Thrones, Mario-style.

In related news, Reddit users craft a GoT deck for Blizzard’s impressively addictive Hearthstone. Many more here.

Update: Now, Hyrule gets the same treatment.

Everyday I’m Hustlin’ (and Doublin’.)

Happy Easter. Quiet here at the Ghost, I know. Chalk up 65% of it to an extremely busy month of work — one of the busiest I can remember — 25% to the usual existential malaise that accompanies blogging these days, and 10% to the sheer addictiveness of 2048. In any event, the schedule is clearing some now, so I expect the posts will pick up around here in short order.

Kill Me Again.

“Imagine Zelda and Link et al. being brutally, graphically murdered, over and over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now you’ve basically got it: The Souls games are like 50-hour playable Red Weddings in which you are the victim. These are, to put it mildly, games in which you die…The jokesters at From Software, the Tokyo company that makes Dark Souls, have put in the new game’s central hub an obelisk on which is written a constantly updating count of the global number of deaths. As of last Wednesday night, the count was 4.3 million. The game came out on Tuesday.”

At Buzzfeed, Joseph Bernstein sings the praises of the highly deadly Dark Souls games. “Basically, the Souls formula is to put a very difficult boss at a very far distance from a checkpoint with many difficult enemies in between who come back to life every time you save or die. It’s devious.” He spends entirely too much of the piece fretting about gaming’s respectability, and I think he oversells the uniqueness of the Dark Souls franchise, but still worth a read nonetheless.

Be the Batman.


This still ain’t no place for no hero: The Scarecrow threatens Gotham, and Bruce Wayne gets a spiffy new Batmobile, as Rocksteady Games announces Arkham Knight, the fourth and final installment in the excellent Arkham series, now enhanced with XBox-One-level graphics. There goes another fifty hours.

For Want of a Checkmark…

“The Battle of B-R5RB was the largest and bloodiest in the history of warfare. More than 20 million soldiers were killed and more than 600 warships — some of them kilometers long and capable of destroying lesser vessels with a single shot — destroyed in a battle that raged for 22 hours…[But] The biggest battle in the history of forever started with a clerical error.”

By way of Dangerous Meta, it has happened again. Wired‘s Bo Moore explains the tactical snafu that precipitated the costly Battle of B-R5RB in Eve Online last month. “Though it was just a game, the 7,548 people who fought the Battle of B-R could not have taken it any more seriously — and not simply because they lost virtual ships worth more than $300,000 in real-world money fighting it.”

For Want of an Eggplant.

“To watch Rex play Spelunky is to watch someone who has spent hundreds of hours — entire days — with the game, training his muscle memory, familiarizing himself with every possible situation, memorizing Spelunky arcana and honing techniques. Yes, he’s naturally gifted, but his talents are clearly bolstered by a colossal amount of experience. If anyone were going to pull off a solo Eggplant run, it was going to be Bananasaurus Rex.”

By way of longtime reader Jared Dunn, Polygon‘s Douglas Wilson tells the story of a successful solo eggplant run in Spelunky, 30-For-30 style. “[T]o someone who’s played Spelunky, those times aren’t just impressive — they’re superhuman. They’re like the four-minute mile of video games. And watching Rex use the Teleporter, one of the game’s most lethal tools, is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball with a bomb, successfully.”

I’ve never actually played, or even heard of, Spelunky until this article, but thought this was a fascinating deep-dive into one particular gaming subculture.

Warlords of Draenor (Aaaahoooo).

He’s the hairy, hairy orc who runs amok on dwarves. Lately he’s been overheard in Orgrimmar. You better stay far back, he’ll rip your lungs out Jack. Huh, I wonder if he leveled tailor. Aaahoo, Warlords of Draenor, aahooo. And, yes, that song’s been in my head since, over the past weekend, Blizzard announced the fifth and most recent Warcraft expansion. I was in for Outland, Northrend, the Cataclysm, and Pandaria — I’m up for another tour.

Blue Man Group | Examine Meth.

“What, exactly, does it mean to be a ‘man’? It’s a question that sits at the dark, warped heart of the entire series and its anti-hero protagonist. A nerdy chemist whose brains haven’t earned him any power or respect from the world at large, the terminally ill Walt decides that he’s finally going to get that power and respect through whatever means necessary (and whenever possible, using science). The show doesn’t just trace Walt’s arc from Mr. Chips to Scarface, as Gilligan famously described it, or from Walt to Heisenberg; it also maps his journey from being a ‘pussy’ to being a ‘man.’ And while he succeeds in his goals, it’s a transformation that comes at a high price.”

You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole! In a well-thought-out and close reading of the show as a whole, Wired’s Laura Hudson discusses “the toxic masculinity of Breaking Bad.” “The series begins with what seems like an odd image: a pair of pants, flying through the air. Much of what follows is about who gets to wear them.”

Also among the many farewells, homages, and critiques of Breaking Bad as it departs: screenshots from the Breaking Bad text-adventure game. Admittedly, this sort of article is basically just egregious click-bait, only one step higher on the content chain than Buzzfeed listicles. (Breaking Bad as a Nintendo Game/Choose Your Adventure Book/series of commemorative plates!) Still, I’m always down for a little Infocom nostalgia.

My Money’s on Scorpion.


“What’s really great about these clips is the way they incorporate classic sprites from the game and put them in a real-world setting. It’s…pretty amazing that technology has advanced to the point where YouTube users can do this stuff without the backing of an entire studio.” An enterprising Youtube user films himself sparring against Mortal Kombat‘s fiercest fighters. Somebody needs to work on their combos.

Knocker of Knocks.


Round the decay of that colossal wreck, nothing beside remains: In anticipation of the final eight episodes, Bryan Cranston’s Walter White reads Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias. Breaking Bad returns Sunday, August 11th, meaning you now have less than two weeks to beat the Lego game.

When Routine Bites Hard…


And ambitions are low. And resentment rides high, but emotions won’t grow… “The game asks players to explore relationship issues like miscommunication, emotional impasse, and the sadness of separation, and players must learn to accept that not all relationships are salvageable. Each level of the game is inspired by a verse of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.'” Meet Mario’s older, depressed cousin, Emo! Anyway, haven’t tried this yet, but it’s definitely in the queue.

Follow the Bouncing Dot.

“‘We are trying to understand how human motor performance changes with age,’ the researchers say. ‘We believe that research should be done in collaboration with people—with people like you who are interested in learning about themselves and helping research.'”

An online Harvard experiment tries to guess your age by evaluating your mouse-clicking ability. Hard to say how good it is, really. It deemed me thirty — eight years too young — but then again, with blogging and gaming both ranking high among the extra-curriculars, I probably use a mouse more than most people too.

Where Worlds Collide and Days Are Dark.

“Here I am, standing outside Winterhold, watching the snow blow in gusts down the path. There’s that bridge to my right, and that mill to my left, and the docks beyond the bridge. I hear a dragon somewhere. I still have no idea what else is up in the mountain behind the city, despite having sojourned to its peak multiple times. I’ve still never collected all of the types of blood that one demon asked for…There’s still so much of Skyrim left to see, and so much Skyrim left to play. But I’ve probably seen enough.”

Onward to the next adventure: With the announcement that there’ll be no more xpacs, Kotaku‘s Kirk Hamilton says farewell to Skyrim. To be honest, I haven’t even started Skyrim yet. I borrowed my father’s copy many moons ago, but I’ve been daunted by the scope of the game — and afraid of the inevitable timesuck it will generate — since it came out. As Alan Sepinwall noted of the currently-unfolding Golden Age of Television, it seems to get harder and harder to keep up with all the great pop culture out there at the moment. Not enough time in the day.

Farewell, LucasArts.

“‘After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,’ Disney informed Game Informer in a statement. ‘As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.'”

It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. As part of their recent acquisition of the Star Wars empire, Disney decides to close down LucasArts. (A solid appreciation of their middle period is here.) As one of the wags at Coming Soon well put it, this deal is getting worse all the time!

Granted there hasn’t been a must-play Star Wars game since Knights of the Old Republic in 2003, and that was mostly on account of Bioware. But give credit where due – in the late 80’s and early 90’s, LucasArts had an unparalleled record of excellent games: Maniac Mansion, Zack McCracken, Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grimm Fandango, Dark Forces, and, of course, the original X-Wing.

Throughout, the LucasArts sign was a symbol of quality craftsmanship, and in many ways, they kept the torch of adventure games aloft after Infocom had closed up shop and Sierra’s Quest line had faltered. (Today, that torch is held by Telltale Games, where Sam and Max and Monkey Island live on.)

Aperture Science.

“With a portal at each university, students can stand in front of a vertical 50-inch high-definition monitor and communicate with the help of a webcam, microphone, speakers and a computer running a video communication service. A backlit booth will house the portal.” Look at them still talking when there’s science to do — Now Duke and UNC are playing with portals. (I just hope the Duke side is red.)

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