Gaming Goulash

Gaming goulash

I’m sitting quietly in my office listening to Guy Clark, contemplating the wasted years and unanswered questions of a life mis-lived. I sip Earl Gray Tea from a cup with the words ” Domestically Disabled” emblazoned across the painting of a pretty socialite. Then I shake it off to realize that I write about video games…and that I’m getting old. Life is about living, and to me, it’s about spring baseball, games and some other random things.

Anyhow, I’m putting together a list of things that I find interesting, or repulsive, or just odd. I’m trying to represent a demographic of men and ladies that prehaps have some nerdy interests and are in their 30s plus, and don’t have the time or inclination to find this stuff. So, here is the said stuff. Smile a silly smile today and do something awesome. Where have you gone Hunter? Where have you gone?

True Detective

I’m sure everyone and their mother is raving about this show by now. I’m not such an elitist that I won’t comment or like things just because they’re mainstream, which this show definitely is not. For the uninitiated, the show is griping, powerful and dark, just like the T-Bone Burnett crafted music and theme song performed by ‘The Handsome Family‘. It is southern gothic goodness. The quirky and slightly off-kilter song jangles along like it isn’t supposed to be there, and images once reserved for a Nine Inch Nails concert flash across the screen.

The show revolves around an expertly designed time shift following two detectives played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mcconaughey. Both do an incredible job, and their relationship and interplay together is the best acting I’ve seen. This is no buddy cop nonsense. Both of these characters are profoundly flawed but have redeeming qualities. Those good qualities often take a back seat to the neuroses and psychological issues these men have. The pursuit of what may be a serial killer provides a stage for these to men to act out their search for deeper meaning in life. Bleak, troubling and self loathing at times, True Detectives is soon to be a recognized gem of Americana. I won’t drone on anymore, I’m sure there are much better observations out there to be found. Besides, I have cold coffee and warm bourbon waiting to sip as I bore you with other things.

I Wish I hadn’t seen that?
Fiber optic A@# Sex. Now with more fiber!

For those that like their booties to have fiber optics.
For those that like their booties to have fiber optics.

So, um, yeah. This is really a thing. I’m not sure whether to cringe or, cringe. Genuinely one of those feelings where you don’t know if you should share this or not. That kind of feeling you get when you see a cousin looking more sexy than they should to you. Or, if you’re of the male heterosexual persuasian, you see a thin silhouette of a long haired beauty, only to find out he’s the lead singer of a heavy metal band named Dirk.



Upon Further Review: State of Decay

I’m hoping this section will be a regular part of my ramblings. Many of us don’t have the time and money to go out and get the newest games, and some games go through phases of unplayable buggyness. Sometimes these bugs get worked out, sometimes they don’t and sometimes DLC and some time can give you clarity about a game. The game I’m talking about this week is ‘State of Decay’ by ‘Undead Labs.’ The game company ‘Undead Labs’ is a small game company based in Seattle. Their game ‘State of Decay’ is the epitome of indie cred and workmanship, though they’ve signed on with Microsoft Studio. More of that later though.

‘State of Decay’ is the game I’ve been waiting for since I picked up a controller. I’m a fan of good horror movies like most of what George Romero put out, the ‘Army of Darkness’ franchise as well as ‘ Shawn of the Dead’ and some others. So, this game speaks to me. The game tasks you with building and maintaining a community of survivors, scavenging to get by and definately destroying the undead. The game is story-light, but what’s there is actually pretty good. The game throws out multiple scenario possibilities for the cause of the apocolypse, but doesn’t get its hands dirty with reasons. This game is more about the little morsels you retrieve about how life was before and what real people will need to worry about. It’s about the distressed American dream and the remainder of it’s unkempt carcass. The day to day, one day at a time philosophy takes hold here as you must maintain not only food, ammo building supplies and gasoline, but also the dynamics of the survivors you choose to let into your community.

Although the game starts you off as a character named Marcus with a nearly inept and nerdy friend Ed, the purpose of the game is to play as the community. You’re able to switch from one survivor to another that you’ve befriended, and the light RPG elements allow you to customize and power up multiple attributes to build a strong community. Some of the survivors you encounter will have certain drawbacks, such as a drinking or smoking habit that will slow down their progression. Having someone that is a lush and also “drank a lot” with the “skill” of beer pong is a funny device, but also adds even more depth. The main game starts days after the fall of humanity, or the disease that has taken hold in at least the general area, and you’re tasked with finding a community, securing that communities safety and then finding a way to escape Trumball Valley.

The first addition to the game is the downloadable content “Breakdown.” This mode is like groundhog day meets the living dead. In short, the mode is all about finding a home, sacking the valley of everything that it has, building a group of powerful and useful survivors and then “escaping.” Escape happens in the form of finding an RV and moving to a new place. That new place turns out to be more of the same place you just left. You essentially hit the restart button, this time starting from scratch with no home, stranded and this time with higher difficulty. Resources become more and more scarce and the hoardes that walk the streets and fields become faster, more aware and harder to deal with in general. This is offset by unlocking special characters called “heros” when you meet certain challenges like killing 50 zombies with a rifle etc. Although ‘Breakdown’ is less about story, I found it more compelling because there was an invisible progression. It seemed like there was a chance to save my ragtag group of smokers, drinkers and jerks. Even if it is an illusion, it seemed like there was hope. You play a part in making that fight for hope one worth fighting.

‘State of Decay’ certainly has its share of bugs. There is nothing more frustrating than sneaking silently around a hoard of flesh eaters, making your way past a zombie that is a towering hulk of a hillbilly to make it into a shed, and then have a zombie phase through the wall to chomp on your tasty head parts. Draw distance and images taking forever to render are a pain as well. There are vehicles in the game you can drive, and sometimes you’ll be chugging along doing 90 mph on the way back to your ranch, when suddenly a vehicle appears in your path, crashing up your sweet grill and bumper. Although the game has its moments of intense frustration, if you can look past the games limitations and see what a small team was able to do with small resources, brains and incredible amounts of creativity, you’ll find a remarkable experience. ‘Undead Labs’ was working with a tiny budget and took a ton of chances and risks. Talk about pulling a Macguyver. This team took duct tape and toggle switches and made a detonator for a nuke.

I have to acknowledge the studios online forums at as well. It’s one of the most helpful and interactive I’ve seen. I’ve been lurking there since the game came out, and the staff like Undead Brant, Undead Sanya and Undead Nicole are constantly involved with the community. The forum page ‘guns’ is the most active, and the team gleans information from the community to add guns and other weapons to the game. The gun selection is absurdly extensive, especially considering that the game only costs 20 bones and is an arcade game on Xbox Live. Speaking of Xbox, the ‘Undead Labs’ team just signed some sort of super-secret mega deal to develop more games for the media and computer titan. Things are hush hush, but it looks like the team will be able to finally make their much anticpated game ‘Class-4’ that is said to be an MMO based in the same universe. Things are fluid, so don’t quote me on that last part. That brings me to an item of contention and a ton of disappointment on my part-the game is single player only. This game screams and begs for co-op, but allas, it was too much to do.

cost: 20 dollars on Xbox Live and PC
DLC: yes, 6 dollars.
Suggested for old guys and gals? For sure. Especially if you have some time to invest. The game has a permadeath feature and actually simulates when you’re not around. Look into it for more information. Seriously. Now where are my fiber optic manties?

Finding time to game as an adult

I’m an adult. Everything that goes along with that is included. When I was a teenager (late80′ early 90’s) I played games, but my zeal and love for them didn’t develop until my 20s and 30s. I had a lot more time to dedicate to them then. When I was a teen, it was games like Rygar and R.B.I. baseball. Those games you could pick up and beat and then put down, and then run around outside for hours. Now that I’m in my late 30’s, finding time for writing, baseball, my girlfriend, plus trying to keep up with politics and the world in general is hard. It’s been a continual balancing act for years. I can go days without playing, and I can go days without spending a ton of quality time with my girlfriend too. She’s very busy and we have to struggle to find quality time, and luckily with HBOGO, Netflix and a few quality games (that we’ll go over later) we’re able to schedule time together doing things we both like.

So, after finding some free time this past wednesday, we decided we’d try to find something we could do together. The options were (in my mind anyway) going up highway 75 to Choctaw casino in Durant, OK. We could stay the night because she loves hotels, and spend a few bucks on the slots. Since she loves hotels and to win money, and I love games and Dean Martin, the casino was ideal. There are some cool and quirky slots with a cartoon Dino that plays his songs. Golden! The second option was to look into Dave and Busters. I’d always been hesitant to go anyplace that was called an adult Chucky Cheese. The douche factor in Dallas is high enough anywhere you go daily, and I REALLY don’t want to go to someplace where they can be more douchey. But I digress. I decided to look into Dave and Buster’s and found that they have half-price wednesdays. Games, drinks etc. are half priced. Okay, we decide to do this instead of the casino.

We pull up to D&B’s and are immediately smacked with the realization that we are in Dallas Douche town. The parking lot is littered with various empty bottles and mis-parked cars. The lights were very reminiscent of Casinos as well. Cut to later on-we purchased 100 credits or tokens, and had a drink and meal at the bar. The only thing I’ll point out about the bar is the huge and multiple beer bong devices that were 4-feet tall with taps. Yep, it was that kind of place. Anyway, on to the fun.

We started off with a bit of skeeball. The classic game of rolling wooden balls that everyone loves and remembers. My girlfriend and I playfully compete and then move on to a Batman sit down driving/shooting game that is a super fun on rails shooter. The voice acting is solid and campy, and you get a huge selection of bat-mobiles. The game is way too on the rails, but considering I’m out with my girlfriend for fun, she watched and we had a great time. Rumbling all around me and a feast of eye candy keep us both thoroughly entertained for nearly half an hour. Once we were done, we decided to have one more go at finding something we both could do. That’s when we found our couple’s nirvana; Dark Escape 4D.

My girlfriend Kris is a fright-prone young lady. I spend a good amount of time creeping around our house scaring her and setting up elaborate ways to pull pranks.  So I would be super excited to find an opportunity to see her scared. She isn’t exactly the gaming type, but she was pumped for this. Yay for life! THIS is why I am with this woman! The gaming unit is an enclosed box with curtains. You sit down, put on 3D glasses and grab your gun. You start with a bit of backstory where you follow around a Resident Evil knockoff girl, who is rendered in a Silent Hill style, and before you know it you’re off. We’re both waiting for the action to happen, and it doesn’t take long as we are quickly jolted by an onscreen zombie. Kris screams as our surroundings shake violently and her bullets spray all over the 3D background. I am more calm, but not by much. The entire game is little breaths, and then tense moments of terror. An onscreen meter tracks your pulse through the gun you hold too. What a cool touch, though I was surprised how ‘panicked’ how I was throughout the game.The experience was like being in a video game haunted house. Monsters lunged in 3D, growls exploded in our ears, and wind shot into our faces. At the end of every session, the game tells you how many time you became panicked on a scale of ten. I was 4/10 both times and I think she was 8/10 and 9/10. Hurray for video games. Wow. We pumped 30 minutes and who knows how many credits into this experience. I wish I had one in my home.

So after all of that, my point is that there are ways to interact with your family and friends who aren’t really gamers. You can be a part of society too. For times like this, you just have to bite the proverbial bullet and trek on through the ‘normals’ and douches.

Below I’m adding a few activities that I’ve found I can do with my girlfriend in our free time that allows us to spend time and scratch our individual itches.


Telltale Games: Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us

Walking Dead-We both love the TV series, and I love the comics. We play this one together by me handling the sticks and her helping with the decisions. It’s amazing how impactful this can be for us. We discuss the decisions and possible things to happen in the future for an hour sometimes. We enjoy it more than the TV show or something like Boardwalk Empire.

The Wolf Among us-The same thing with this game. We actually went out and bought some of the comics after playing the first episode (thanks Keith’s comics.) This one is more cartoonish, but somehow darker. Perhaps it’s because there is some sort of civilization in this world, albeit a pretend fairy tale district in a pretend New York. Kris actually learned about me through the decisions I made in this one. There was a decision I had to make as Bigby Wolf that made her cringe and made me show my teeth. She looked at me with genuine disbelief, and I responded with “He would have done that. He’s the big bad wolf and the rules are different here.”

HBOGO and Netflix

We have found our free time centered around my Xbox-360, and we’re okay with that. Boardwalk Empire, Treme and the Sopranos have all opened up great new music, books and other adventures that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Netlflix is in three rooms of our house and Frasier, Glee or any number of documentaries can be heard or seen at any time.

Hope you enjoyed reading and found something that will help finding time for your family friends etc.

My playing with Frodo
Me playing with Frodo