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Make TV Scare Again: gimme that old time television!

Television can be both blessing and curse for storytelling. The blessing is the longer form that allows for more involved stories. The curse is a narrative beholden to episodic structure and uncertain series endings. Although anthologies forego the blessing, they easily avoid the curse with their fun-sized approach storytelling. The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery are some of the earliest and best examples of television storytelling, and they often live squarely in the genre of horror. So to start out a week of television recommendations, here are a couple of specific episodes we recommend.

After the jump, do not attempt to adjust your web browser Continue reading →

Make Games Scare Again: zigging instead of zagging

What number are we on for Resident Evil games? How many Friday the Thirteenths are there? The thrill of a good scare is something we intellectually know can’t be repeated, even though we never stop going back to the well. But the scares we know too well aren’t scares anymore. They’re horror comfort food. We can almost guess which crew member is the first to be Xenomorph meal. We know which couple gets the chainsaw first. We know the monster is going to be some CG boondoggle. We know when the refrigerator or medicine cabinet closes, something will be there. Ah, yes, it played out exactly like it was supposed to. Next!

After the jump, what if someone adjusts the formula? Continue reading →

Make Games Scare Again: ghosts of games past

In October, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone’s “best horror games of all time” list. So that’s not this. Instead, this week we’re running a list of recommendations for recent horror games we really like and think you should play, but might have skipped or even not thought of them as horror. If you can come up with a snappy way to stick that at the top of a list, let us know. In the meantime, we’ll roll out two a day. Today we recommend a couple of games for how they put us in mind of older games.

After the jump, ghosts of games past Continue reading →

Make October Scare Again

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Just before the start of fifth grade, my family moved across town to a new neighborhood and subdivision. I only knew a few kids on my street since I stayed at my old school. October and Halloween could have been awkward, so I was thrilled and relieved when some neighbor kids asked me to go trick-or-treating with them. My parents didn’t seem to bat an eye at this (though I think they’d gotten to know the other parents in the neighborhood pretty well), and on Halloween night I set off with three kids I’d known for less than a month, after dark, in a neighborhood I barely knew.

After the jump, welcome to old school Halloween. Continue reading →

Lovecraftian epic Eldritch Horror got better, worse, and more confused

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Last year, I predicted that Fantasy Flight would choke their elegant Lovecraftian adventure boardgame, Eldritch Horror, with the usual glut of add-ons. This was like predicting the sun would rise in the East.

Was I right? In a fit of pique, curiosity, and indiscretion, I bought all of the expansions. I spent a day organizing everything. Labeling plastic baggies (not included), integrating the bits and bobs from six (6!) separate boxes, and trying (and failing) to fit everything in fewer than three full-size boxes. Then I spent several more days playing Eldritch Horror. I lost several points of sanity. But I have emerged to update you on my prediction.

After the jump, rumors of Eldritch Horror’s death are mildly exaggerated. Continue reading →

The 10 commandments of boardgame design

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The god of boardgaming is an angry god. Very Old Testament. I have just come down from the mountain with these 10 commandments printed on quality cardboard stock mounted on boards that unfold like, uh, like this, I think. Here, you hold that side, and…no, no, that doesn’t bend that way, it bends the other way. No, no, yeah, okay now this part folds out like so. Okay, lay it out on the table. I think it’s upside down, spin it around thisaway. Okay, there. Let’s see what we’ve got here.

After the jump, this god sure does cuss a lot. Continue reading →

You suck at real time strategy games, so here are 10 ways to improve

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(The following article is reprinted without the permission of the site where it orginally appeared, because they never paid me, so I can do whatever I want with it. The article is relevant now because I’ve been playing weekly Age of Empires III matches against my good friend, Jason McMaster, and I’m hoping this will help him out of his 4-to-1 losing streak.)

There are different levels of playing RTSs. Like chess. In chess, the first step is knowing how the pieces move. Once you reach that point, you can theoretically play a game just fine. But then there’s a deeper level where you know things likewell, likeokay, I’ve never gotten further than learning how the pieces move in chess, because I’m too busy playing RTSs. But I know there’s a deeper level where you use phrases like “Sicilian opening” and “Queen’s gambit” and other stuff referenced in the titles of spy novels.

So maybe that’s where you’re at with real time strategy games. In which case you’re probably not reading this article. So send the link to this article to all your friends who suck at RTSs. Because I’m going to give them ten tips to make them better. Note that some of this applies to MOBAs, which are just RTSs for people who can’t handle the challenge of actual RTSs.

After the jump, A.B.V. Continue reading →

The top five games you’ll be playing in 2016

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The year of gaming 2015 gave us is undoubtedly good. We got epic, million-hour games like Fallout 4, Pillars of Eternity, and The Witcher 3 to quick multiplayer engagements like Rocket League, Battlefront, and Heroes of the Storm. You wanted a better Assassin’s Creed? You got it. You asked for more Call of Duty? There it is. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls II not punishing enough? Get some Bloodborne and get slapped silly. More Batman! More StarCraft II! Looking for an ultra thoughtful indie game? Take your pick of Her Story, Undertale, or Everybody’s Gone to Rapture. Maybe a less navel-gazing indie is more your style? Look up Massive Chalice, Vietnam ’65, or Invisible Inc. Heck, one of the best horror movies of the year was in Until Dawn. Even Nintendo dropped some love on gamers with Splatoon and Mario Maker.

The mind-blower is that there’s more gaming goodness right around the corner in 2016. Beloved franchises will return. New properties will launch. Huge games will get even more content in the form of expansions. Will the gaming in 2016 equal the buffet of awesome that was 2015? Based on what we know already, there’s a good chance we could see a tidal wave of gaming coming our way.

After the jump, let’s check out the games you should be looking forward to playing in 2016! Continue reading →

12 games you didn’t play in 2015 but should have

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I don’t actually know what games you played in 2015, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t play more than two or three of these 12 games. Five, tops. I’ve only played 11 of them, and some of those for only an hour or so. So far, I’ve actually reviewed just one of them. And I’m the guy writing the list!

Now I’m sure you have your reasons: The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5, Fallout 4. But as those reasons wind down, as your backlog threatens to shrink, as you wait for the release of highly anticipated games like XCOM 2, No Man’s Sky, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, consider pulling some of these gems out from under the avalanche of 2015 releases.

After the jump, S&R Continue reading →