What I’m doing, part 1: gaming

If you were super excited to read what I have to say about Homestuck comics, then you’ll have to wait until tomorrow (my time, at any rate. Apparently, for WP, my today already is tomorrow. It’s confusing…). Anyway, I decided that I’m going to intersperse those posts about my favorite things with posts about what I’m currently up to.  And for the sake of mixing up topics, I’m going to start with games instead of books. Also keep in mind that I’m not just talking about video games — I’m an equal opportunity gamer. You’ll hear me talk about table top, card, video, and board games, eventually. But today we’re just focusing on the last two.

VIDEO GAME OF THE WEEK: Saint’s Row IV

What I'm doing 1

God bless America, and superpowers.

This game has kind of been out for a while, and I’ve also been playing it for more than a week. But I’m living off a blogger’s salary and, if you didn’t know, there’s an absurd amount of stuff to do in this game. It’s almost as absurd as the game itself. Well, no, actually, the game is in a whole other class of absurdity. It’s probably teaching the university course. Also it’s very much a sci-fi game, so I get to lead with my guns this time.

Anyway, this is the first time I’ve played a Saint’s Row game, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. When I first tried it at E3, I was too overwhelmed by everything else at the show to handle this game. Even though the demo was just running around the map with the superpowers on, there was far too much going on. And while that sounds like a problem — it turned out to be a good thing, possibly for the first time in sandbox game history. I mean, I even play the stupid little mini-games that are normally too tedious for me to bother with.

And the reason? Saint’s Row IV gives gamers an actual incentive to complete those dumb games. If you want access to the majority of the game’s powers and weapons, you have to do them, and the reward makes them worthwhile. Plus each mini-game focuses on a different power, making them varied enough not to be completely mind numbing. Also it makes sure the player uses the many powers that might otherwise be overlooked. Still, I guess it does get repetitive eventually, and you’re prone to falling into one or two patterns of dealing with everything. So while those incentives keep you playing for a lot longer than normal, eventually you still might lose interest.

Ok, enough about incentives (despite how huge of a difference it makes for a game like Saint’s Row IV), let’s move on to some other great things about this game. For one, it’s a perfect riff on your typical sci-fi tropes. It takes pompous, alien over-lords and turns them on their heads by making his incompetence obvious to, not only the audience, but everyone else as well.

I also love the fun SRIV pokes at other games like Mass Effect. Instead of spending the entire game romancing a single crew-member, players can screw almost every crew member with a single button, at any time, repeatedly. Also the crew-includes a little floating drone which is controlled by an AI. And yes, you can have sex with that, too. It should be offensive to you, but also hilarious. Maybe not erotic though — but that’s just me (you do you, though).

There are plenty of other moments of parody sprinkled through SRIV, but there’s too many to list (and I probably flat out missed some while playing). But the game’s main joke, one on the Matrix franchise, is actually handled with sincerity and almost does a better job of simulated-world sci-fi (is that an industry term?) than the Matrix itself.

As for the game play, it’s like Grand Theft Auto on the hardest drug you can imagine. Since I’m not into that scene, my imagination falls a little short — but Saint’s Row IV is a trip. You can run faster than any car, hit harder than any weapon, and basically glide above the entire city. Throw in telekinesis, shooting explosions from your finger tips, and super stomping (it’s cooler than it sounds) and there’s not much else you can ask for. On a final note, while you will almost never use a vehicle after a certain point in the game, you will still use the many guns, which can also be a blast (you decide if the pun was intended. I trust you.)

THE BOARD GAME I’M ALWAYS PLAYING: A Game of Thrones the Board Game: Second Edition

I defy you to find someone who has played this more than I have

I defy you to find someone who has played this more than me

The same friend that introduced me to The Wheel of Time also introduced me to A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s accompanying board game. That was the first edition though, and it was back when I was 13. Those hormone filled game sessions were mostly filled with shouting and a completely wrong interpretation of the rules, but playing instilled a love of this game in my heart forever.

Then, when college rolled around, I borrowed the first edition and brought it with me to the dorms. I took the time to actually read the rules and proceeded to teach as many of my hall-mates as possible how to play. The rest, as they say, is history: a history of skipped classes and missed homework assignments.

Eventually, though, Fantasy Flight Games fulfilled our greatest wishes and released the second edition, whereupon we lost our souls. Seriously, there was a point where someone in my group of friends was playing this game almost every day of the week — and that period lasted for about an entire semester of college.

With that in mind, it’s safe to say we’ve pretty much explored every possibility this game can offer (except alliances?). And yet, despite that fact, we still play it as often as possible. In fact, I’m going to play it tomorrow, probably twice, after driving 100 miles to another city to meet up with my friends. That’s not the only reason I’m visiting friends, though — only half.

Suffice it to say, this game is amazing. It’s a little complicated to learn, but there are so many dimensions that no two games look alike, even for those of us that have played it a thousand times. And, thanks to Fantasy Flight’s amazing continued support, there are expansions to add a new layer of strategy once the base game grows stagnant.

Of course, it’s only now I realize I haven’t described this game at all, so I’ll try to do it as concisely as possible. It’s like Risk with almost all of the chance taken out (fuck dice rolls), but twice as complicated with four times as many things to keep track of. Each player controls one of the six great houses of Westeros, marching armies led by characters from the books across the land. Wildlings will attack, plenty of people will sit on the Iron Throne, and you’ll win or die. It’s that simple!

Anyway, if you’re a board game fan and don’t own this, what are you even doing with your life? Go buy it right now (and then come at me…bro).

Ok, so that’ll do it for now, I think! Tomorrow I’ll talk about comics. And hopefully that subtle Homestuck foreshadowing at the beginning of this post won’t scare you away. I promise, you won’t get no gray skin-paint or horns from me, no sir. And for those of you who are confused? Well, let’s just say tomorrow is going to be a fun day.

– Jason

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