Weekly Little Big Planet: euphemisms

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PlayStation Network is currently undergoing maintenance.

That’s the notice you get when you try to sign on to the PSN nowadays. Well, that’s one way to put it. Here’s another way…


Look at my little sackboy up there. He’s a gamer. Old school. You know what he’s doing in addition to playing that old school game? He’s unlocking a new Versus level for me. What’s a Versus level you ask? Well just look at that screenshot again and you’ll see an open seat to the right of my sackboy. That open seat is just waiting for a friend to fill it so we can play some pong against each other. Or whatever. This game loves to make spaces for us to interact as gamers. It’s all about establishing community and engendering a sense of collaboration and healthy competition.

After the jump, board beyond belief

Sadly, the world is full of douche-nozzles. People who get their kicks from vandalizing playgrounds and pissing in punch bowls. Yeah, a lot of well-deserved vitriol is focused on Sony for not securing its own house. But let’s not forget that those fuckheads who are ruining the Internet for the rest of us are…well…fuckheads. They are scum, pure and simple.

Therefore, this week’s screenshot comes from another story level. Obviously not a community level. Duh. This is a story level called “Negativitron Incoming”. It was fine. Mainly it just served to remind me of the crappy fact that the PSN is down, and will be for the foreseeable future, and this is particularly galling given that my most recent story level’s main reward was to unlock versus modes. Which I can’t use now. Because the PSN is down.

–okay. Hold on. Let me just say this. I wrote a few hundred more words on how Sony has let down and betrayed the community that has come to rely upon PSN. It was highly idealistic. There was much pontificating. High dudgeon was the order of the day. But in the end I figured I wasn’t saying anything you didn’t already know if you’re a member of the PSN community, and if you’re not my words would mean about as much to you as the adult-speak in Peanuts. Suffice to say, Sony screwed the pooch. News flash.

Let’s talk about Endeavor instead, since I’m far more interested in that.

When I informed my wife that I’d be having the guys over to play board games, she got pretty excited. Also a little jealous because she was out of town that first time. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t what she was thinking. No Apples 2 Apples. No Pictionary. No Scattergories.

“Then what are you talking about?”

“Um…stuff like Carson City. Puerto Rico. 1960.”

” 1960? What?”

“It’s a game where you play as either Richard Nixon or–”

“Nevermind. Have fun. Are you fixing the guys dinner?”

“Well, I was–”

“Fix them dinner.”

Before a few years ago I didn’t know games like this existed. I thought the same thing my wife thought when a buddy of mine suggested a board gaming night. I had no idea I was in for an evening where learning the directions would take at least as long as playing the actual game, and had no conception of a game that lasted only seven turns but still somehow took two hours. I’ve since come to enjoy those nights. They are a nice change of pace from LAN and console nights, because you are actually looking at your friends while playing the game, instead of focusing on a screen. There’s something pleasing about that unfiltered concentration, something necessary.

I have to admit I always get a little nervous when one of these board gaming nights gets launched, though. Even when I’m the one launching one. I get nervous about all those directions, all those chits, all those cards, and the unbelievable phyllo-dough layers within every so-called turn. The tutorial isn’t going to be akin to being taught a shooter. I’m going to have to concentrate the whole time. Really concentrate. Which, again, is gratifying. And necessary. I’ve got two things going for me, though. 1) Exceedingly patient friends who know I’m going to ask a ton of questions, many of them repeats. And 2) One particular friend who is flat-out excellent at teaching just about anyone a new game. Even a dingus.

I can only wish for you such friends.

The first go-round with Endeavor was pretty much a mess for me. I concentrated almost exclusively on dominating shipping lanes and lost badly. But then we found out we were totally wrong about the proper way to draw cards, so it didn’t really count. This week, when I had the fellas over to play again after I put my boy down for bed, we decided to try to play Endeavor properly as our first game of the night. The other game choice surprised me. Pennsylvania has been wanting to try his hand at Arkham Horror for what seems like months now, so I was confused when he showed up without it, holding a game called Samurai instead. Apparently Arkham is too epic for a night session–keep in mind who they’re going to have to teach–and Samurai takes like ten minutes, so that would be the other game.

Round 2 of Endeavor, then. I mentioned above these games make me nervous at first, but when all the pieces and cards start to come out, I feel that sense of anxiety dissipate as it is replaced by a sense of remembered appreciation for the art and texture of games like this. Especially when those games are well-kept. Pieces lovingly separated into zip-top baggies, various cards properly segregated and in pristine condition. A sense of respect, something bordering on reverence, attends the setup of one of these games. Food and drink are generally banished from the table upon which the game will be played. We are far less careful around the thousand dollar computers on LAN nights. There is something about that fact that really pleases me.

I was more deliberate this time in Endeavor, concentrating on victory points and working with a strategy of getting at least two of my categories (in this case Culture and Finance) up over the ten-point mark so that at least those two wouldn’t have to drop back to the nearest icon point marker. I worked on opening shipping lanes and colonizing with an eye toward those point totals primarily, and this really paid off. So much so that when we were tallying scores the other dudes didn’t believe my score tally. They flat didn’t believe me. Which was kind of a cool moment, to be honest, in spite of the suspicious looks and double-checking that ensued. This strategy, along with the proper (and more restrictive) way we drew cards pushed me over the top. It was a good game.

Hey, I bet you didn’t know you could dominate the world by controlling the Caribbean. Well, you can. True story.

Samurai was cool too, though not a ten-minute game as Pennsylvania initially claimed it would be. Maybe it’ll turn out to be that as we get more used to playing it together. I’m not sure how much we’ll return to it, though. Might be too mathy for our little group. We’ll see.

Okay then. I’m introducing a new feature to this column. It’s my Lesson of the Week. Not really something I’m trying to teach you, because really, who are we kidding? Rather this is something I learned in the week between columns. Just a short epiphany kind of deal. Here’s the first one:

Lesson of this Week: Know thine enemy. I first mentioned this lesson back when Tom, Kelly and I wrapped up our League of Legends collaborative game diary, and I learned it again this week as I continued to play Puzzle Quest on the plane back from Virginia. I went into battle against a troll, and lost. Before the rematch I took a moment to read the information about my opponent and found out the troll had an unlimited health regen as long as he could collect blue mana. Huh. I shifted strategy to one of primarily bogarting the blue mana regardless of what I needed for my own spells. Never tried that before. It worked like gangbusters.

Here endeth the lesson.

*(h/t Kelly Wand)

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