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Not_over_till_its_over

Most games don’t end well, and many games take a few hours too many to end. So you can hardly be blamed for giving up before it’s over and pronouncing judgment. “It’s fun!” or “It’s boring!” There. On to the next game. But there are times you can’t do that. There are times the finale, great or otherwise, is the real payoff. There are times that you simply cannot understand a game without getting to the ending.

After the jump, these are those times Continue reading →

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labyrinth_puzzle_and_games

Normally in this space there’ll be a review of a game, and as a potential player you can decide whether or not it’s something you might want to play in the future. Instead of reviewing and recommending an actual game here, I’d like to do something a bit different and recommend a board game store.

One of the inherent disadvantages of tabletop gaming in comparison to videogames is the lack of instant gratification. Thanks to digital delivery, I can buy and play a new videogame in a matter of hours, perhaps even minutes. I don’t even have to put on pants and leave my home. I can also join other players without any face-to-face interaction with them or their possible nasty habits.

But to play a boardgame, unless I’m willing to wait for a delivery, I have to hoof it to a local game store. Local game stores frequently and sometimes literally stink. They’re typically utilitarian, dingy, and clumsily thrown together. The extent of customer service too often tops out at a nod from an uninterested person behind a counter. Furthermore, random gamers playing at tables can seem standoffish, if not downright unfriendly. It’s tough for a new player to find a group that he actually likes.

So I was absolutely delighted to discover a the small miracle of a store that bucks all those stereotypes. Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington DC is a glorious, astonishing exception.

After the jump, heaven can be other people Continue reading →

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Winter

When I was in seventh grade in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was sledding with some friends during one of our precious snow days when we didn’t have to go to school. Because snow. We put our sleds on the frozen street, laid belly down on the sleds, and then hurtled downhill along the frozen asphalt, hoping a car wouldn’t come along. It was winter and there was ice everywhere, so cars never came along. But for whatever reason, ice isn’t as uniform as you might think. Something to do with physics. So when my sled hit an unfrozen patch, the runners caught on the asphalt and the sled stopped. I didn’t. My body continued hurtling downhill along the frozen asphalt. I basically did a fullspeed faceplant along a frozen street. When I got up, my entire face was numb, I could taste blood, and my tongue was probing a strange new gap in my front teeth, like an explorer who’d just found a pass through previously inviolable mountains.

“Whoa,” my friends proclaimed when they saw the blood and especially the jagged lines of my broken front teeth. “Whoa!”

“You guys have to help me find my teeth! You guys have to help me find my teeth! You guys have to help me find my teeth!” That was my panicked mantra as I fumbled around in the snow, looking for things tiny and white, with images in my head of having shiny gold front teeth replacements for the rest of my life. If I could just find my tooth pieces, the dentist could glue them back into place. So that’s why I live in California now, where winter isn’t allowed.

Anyway, this is an article about the ten best games about winter, none of which will knock your teeth out. Okay, maybe the #4 pick, because it’s just that good.

After the jump, don’t forget your fur-lined parka. Continue reading →

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Singed_ydm

It’s a new year and with it people like to make resolutions. Some want to lose weight or quit smoking, but not me. I already quit and I’m one sexy machine. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions because they’ve just become this wistful imagining of what I might do instead of what I want to happen. So, this year, I resolve to reach the highest possible level in League of Legends… and I’m starting from the absolute bottom. Yes, that’s right, I’m in the dreaded Bronze V. This might take a while.

After the jump, the plan Continue reading →

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fipster

I’m obsessed with early access games. From Minecraft to the new standalone DayZ release, I can’t stop paying for half-built games. I usually end up regretting it in the end, but I can’t help myself. To that end, I’ve spent a bit of time recently trying to understand my sickness. I think I finally figured it out.

After the jump, Fippy Darkpaw and the dangers of Blackburrow Continue reading →

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Bogarus

The cultural origins of Russia aren’t something you’d expect to be addressed in a fantasy strategy game. The fact that you can find a synthesis of mythology and anthropology derived from a long-running historical controversy in the nation backgrounds for Dominions 4 demonstrates just how far from elves and orcs an erudite game designer can travel in creating a compelling, fascinating milieu. And still populate it with fireballs and broadswords.

After the jump, a study in red. Continue reading →

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LOL

Twitch gives people, anyone in fact, the opportunity to broadcast and ask for donations. A few streamers even make a decent living at it. When it comes to League of Legends streams, most of the higher level players get the lion’s share of the audience. But there are always a handful of people streaming for love of the game. One of these streams that has recently caught my attention. The Twitch user HanBlades is doing a 24 hour stream for Autism.

I’m Han and I’m 17 years old and diagnosed with autism. My grade of autism has been severely lowered due to constant aid and now I can live a normal life. But many of other people who are diagnosed won’t be able to live a normal life because either their kind of grade is so high that you can only permanently aid them, which costs a lot of money, or they’re untreatable. Even if they are untreatable you can still change their life with little things! And I want to be able to give them something so they can experience life at their fullest!

So this is my plan.

I’ve searched for a charity where I can donate to so I found this site called Autism Donations (https://www.autismdonations.com/donate.php). I’ve made a PayPal donation box which is found at my stream and at the end of the stream, I’ll show that I actually donate the money. I guess you can as well directly send the money to them but I would love to have an overview of how much money they’ll actually get and if you give your LoL username when you donate, I can invite for some games to play! So for the people who are wondering, I’m giving 100% to this charity. NOTHING will get in my pocket!

I’m going to play League of Legends of course but probably as well some other games that you can suggest! League will include Ranked Games, 5v5 teams and many more!

The event will start at 9AM GMT+1 at December, 31 2013.

For us Americans, that’s 3 AM Eastern. There are worse ways to ring in the new year. For instance, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

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the_view_of_2013

This year, instead of just singling out games I like, I’m going to single out games that do best what I like most. Namely, games that tell a story through gameplay. A relevant story, unique to the way videogames tell stories. Games that really get the unique strength of the medium over and above books and movies. Games that are particularly great at being games and not just puzzles or tests of skill or dazzling virtual wonderlands.

This is partly a shame, because it’s going to exclude some of my favorite games this year. It’s going to exclude games I liked mostly for mechanical reasons. Don’t Starve is the game that finally got me hooked on procedurally generated survival-a-thons, partly because it’s got so much personality and mystery. Desktop Dungeons is the most amazingly intricate cerebral puzzle rogue-like I’ve ever played, neatly arrayed under a superlative meta-game of building up and unlocking. Tales of Maj’Eyal is a rogue-like with addictively intricate character development, honed over a decade of development. I never really cared for the goofy sloppiness of kart racers, but this year’s best driving game is a kart racing game called Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Monaco is a glorious playground full of interactive bits, lovingly realized in that often too-precious retro fat-pixel way, and some of the best multiplayer co-op you can play. Splinter Cell Blacklist takes stealth as far as I can imagine it will ever go by giving it varying levels of importance in a generous set of sandboxes, all interconnected by the economy of buying cool weapons and gadgets. Which brings me to Dead Space 3, which drank up far more time than a Dead Space should with its funky cool spaceweapon crafting. Assassin’s Creed IV’s gorgeous pirate ship shenanigans were just the breath of salty fresh air the Assassin’s Creed series needed. If there’s a platformer as good as Rayman Legends at the art of running, jumping, and variations thereof, I haven’t played it. I haven’t gotten very far into Wonderful 101, but I love the fighting system I’ve seen so far and I’m eager to explore the rest of it.

All those games would vie for a spot on a conventional top ten list. But none of those games really had an effective narrative hook, and that’s what my list is going to single out this year. As videogames grow up and increasingly earn their rightful place alongside movies and books and TV, these are the ten games I’m proudest of, the games I enjoyed the most, the games I’ll remember for reasons other than mere gameplay. These are the games that spoke the loudest, the clearest, the most poignantly, the most memorably. These are the games with voices that most deserve to be heard.

After the jump, the best games of 2013 Continue reading →

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Gangs_all_here

The best case scenario for any game is that it will be better than you expect. So if it’s worth calling out games that fell short of expectations on a most disappointing list, why not call out the games that exceeded expectations? Why not call out the pleasant surprises alongside the unpleasant surprises? So here is the opposite of this year’s most disappointing list.

After the jump, when expectation management goes wonderfully right. Continue reading →

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Dramatis_non_persona

Calling a game disappointing arguably has more to do with me than the game itself. Disappointment isn’t an inherent quality. It can’t exist without some sort of expectation in the first place. In many cases, these games are sequels, or the creations of developers with proven track records, or entries in established genres, or games with promising beginnings. But for various reasons, the central fact about these games is that I had personally hoped they would be better.

After the jump, the most disappointing games of 2013 Continue reading →

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Overrated_2013

Overrated is a loaded term. It looks good in a headline. It’s often used for no purpose other than to goad a reaction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. When I call a game overrated, I don’t mean it’s bad, that the reviews were wrong, that the people who liked it were dopes, or even that I didn’t like it. It just means I’m surprised more people weren’t more critical, that the conversation wasn’t more often about ways the game could have been better.

Also, for this year’s lists, my experience has been entirely last-gen. I have no first-hand experience with the latest console systems, which probably have their share of overrated games. So over the next week, I’d love to hear from you early adopters in the comments section about next-gen games that were overrated, disappointing, surprising, or your favorites.

After the jump, the most overrated games of 2013 Continue reading →

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