January 19, 2015

On Game Obsessions, Disillusionments, and Finding Meaning

Alec Meer, over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, wrote an interesting personal piece looking back on 2014 and thinking ahead about 2015. In the article, he touched on both his expanding life role as a father – a demanding reality I can sympathize with – as well as how games fit within the broader context of life pursuits and bring (or fail to bring) memorable value. He also raises a concern over the mindless nature of some games, which seem to lure us in with a promise of freedom and a world of wonder but deliver something far less thrilling.

Alec Meer Wrote:
“I have a strong suspicion I spent too much time with too many games which use the Assassin’s Creed structure – the map full of icons, each pinpointing exactly where the next known quantity was, each one closing the door on having an experience which felt in any way personal. It’s a simulacrum of freedom – really, you’re in a theme park, repeating a sanitized and mechanical experience. You know exactly what’s where, exactly what’s going to happen, exactly how it’s going to feel.

The time passes pleasantly, maybe even thrillingly at times, but it means nothing, there’s no sense of achievement other than Achievements. Maybe it’s more compulsive masturbation than Disneyland (or maybe Disneyland is masturbation? Discuss) – make the itch go away, risk a faint sense of guilt and self-disgust afterwards, then do it again anyway.“

January 16, 2015

Starbase Orion: The Brightest Star of All

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Note that this review was originally published for iOS Board Games on July 24th, 2013.

The Pre-Ramble
The 4X space game genre – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate for those scratching their heads – has in many ways been a problematic genre. Fans of the genre hold Master of Orion II, a game from 1996, in exceedingly high regard; and rightfully so. MoO2 struck a fantastic balance between complexity, level of detail (or micromanagement), meaningful player choice, and strategic diversity. For decades, designers and developers have been chasing the dream of making the “next” Master of Orion game – and there has been no shortage of valiant attempts.

While a great many games have been developed and released to varying levels of success, an undercurrent among fans is that there hasn’t been a title that quite got the right mix of elements. Each game draws its criticisms: too much or not enough emphasis on combat; lack of diplomacy or other non-military mechanisms; too much (or too little) micromanagement. The list of critiques goes on…

Starbase Orion, by its own admission, is an iOS 4X game intended to be a spiritual offspring of Master of Orion II - AND designed to be imminently playable in multiplayer formats. A lofty goal! So how well does it reach it? This review will take an in-depth look at the game, where it is successful – and most importantly why gamers, including boardgamers, should take a good look at Starbase Orion.

January 5, 2015

2014 Synopsis and Highlight Reel

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So doing these end of year wrap-ups appears  to be a thing – so I better get on board lest I be accused of not doing the right things!

2014 has been a bit of a transitional year. Family changes (these things called babies and kids) has made breaking away from the home front an evening of boardgame debauchery a wee bit more challenging – driving me back into the hovel of PC and iOS gaming a bit more. Sadly though, within this hovel, I found myself bombarded with far too many seasonal sales of tempting digital goods for my own well-being. Steam seasonal sales, the Touch Arcade iOS app tracker (with sales notifications!), Humble Bundle sales (lord help me), and the ever-present GOG.com (nostalgia runs deep with this one!) has made sure that my wallet feels the cruel bite at regular intervals.

So given all of this, what have I picked up? What’s worth special attention? What have I actually been playing? What do I wish I was playing? What should I have played but didn’t? Well good friends, read on if you dare!