“Soy un sobreviviente” – What I’ve Been Doing 27 Aug 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 27th, 2012 by Dan

Imagen de 'Juan de los muertos'

The zombie apocalypse in Cuba (Picture courtesy Casa de América)

Busy week of prepping to move and moving, but that didn’t stop me from getting some media in…


Juan de los muertos – It’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it’s pretty damn awesome. I don’t get to see a lot of movies about Cuba or set in Cuba and this was a real pleasure. I mean, now that I don’t live in Miami, how often do I get to hear people speak Spanish the way I’m used to hearing it? I loved this movie and I’d recommend it to anyone who digs a zombie comedy.


Workaholics – I’d heard good things about this comedy somewhere, but I was left feeling a little lukewarm. It’s not bad, but I don’t enjoy it as much as, say, The League. I do dig the unlovable leads, at least.

30 for 30: Unguarded – ESPN’s documentary series is pretty awesome, guys. A ton of them are on Netflix now too. I mean, I really don’t like basketball, but this documentary about Chris Herren’s struggles with drugs was very interesting. The story’s not groundbreaking, but it’s heartfelt and done well.

Top Gear – Jeremy races the other two across Japan in a sports car while they take Japanese public transportation. Very funny competition. I love it when they do challenges on this show.

Community – My S3 box set came in this week so I watched the first episode. Man do I love these guys. Can’t wait for their S4 return!

Breaking Bad – Bob Odenkirk’s debut was perfectly timed and this show is really on a roll in S2. His line, “Right now you’re Fredo,” was amazing and pretty chilling. I’m way back in.

Pretty Little Liars – Gotta pay your dues. Saw the first ever episode with Tiffany (she hadn’t seen it either). Not as terrible as you might think, but still a show that’s clearly not for me.


B.O.B.’s dropped a new record recently. These two tracks (one with Andre 3000 and the other with Nicki Minaj) are pretty hot. I’m pretty sure they’ll end up on my tumblr in a few weeks, but enjoy them for now.


Another week where I let my brain rot.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – It feels like ages ago since I first started playing Mann vs. Machine, but I love this mode. Can’t wait to get some more time in this week, but the move is gonna get in the way.

Iron Brigade – Only played a map or two, but Lee, Min, and I will save the world from the TV menace!

Orcs Must Die 2 – Decent tower defense game. Hope to play with Lee or Yin too since they seem to be pros.

The Last Story – Just started playing this and discussing it with David. Expect more in this space soon. Very interesting so far.

Persona 4 Arena – Finally starting to finish stories. Still one more big mystery to uncover.

Trine 2 – Finally started playing some with Min. I like the co-op and I really like the weirdness of the physics engine. Ninja rope for life!

Spelunky – Made it to Hell for the first time! I got a few levels in before I died too! Brutal, brutal stuff.

Mann vs. Machine – What I’ve Been Doing 21 Aug 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 20th, 2012 by Dan

Big video game week for me while simultaneously being a terrible week for tv that I would normally watch. Since I did most of my watching at Tiffany’s…well…I think you can guess what kind of tv I was subjected to.


Jeff, Who Lives At Home – It’s my first Duplass brothers film and I kind of dug it. Not amazing by any stretch, but a breezy, fun way to spend about 77 minutes. It’s one of those coincidence/fate type of films, but it’s got such a pure heart about the whole thing that it just feels right. Like the Kevin basketball game stuff, I mean, that was just beautiful as Jason Segel and Evan Ross connected on a level that was beyond words. They were a team unit and they dominated that game, which made the betrayal that much more heartbreaking. Ed Helms did a fantastic job as an asshole, but I gotta admit that the Susan Sarandon parts fell flat for me. Just not that interesting at all.


Friends – Killed some time watching old Friends episodes. “How old?” you ask. We’re talking S1, Rachel meets that Italian guy who she dates for a while old. Pre-Ross and Rachel make out in the rain old. That old. The show still has its charm, but it’s weird to see them in a state where they don’t all know exactly who they are yet.

Fashion Police – Guys, straight talk express here. Ryan Lochte was on Fashion Police this week. That guy is the biggest idiot I’ve ever seen. I just wanted to laugh every time he opened his dumb mouth, but not because he was funny, no, because I was amazed that a person could come off so poorly on television.

Pretty Little Liars – This show is about some person who murders these girls’ friends? I don’t really understand what’s going on here. It’s like Veronica Mars a bit, but with a larger group of Veronicas who are all rich and impossibly good looking. They’re all in high school, I guess, but one of them lives with her boyfriend in an apartment? I dunno. I don’t really get it. It was ok, but I’m not about to break out the box set or anything.

Breaking Bad – The show got a little slow when they were unable to cook, but now that they’re moving product again and we’ve got the promise of having to introduce some muscle to the operation…I’m digging it, man. I love how cold and unconcerned Walter acts toward Jesse. Dude is a total asshole to him. Also loved how fucked up the meth heads who robbed Skinny Pete looked. Hey, guys, that’s the true face of meth. It’s not pretty.

Top Chef Masters – Felt proud of myself for properly guessing that Lorena was Venezuelan. Other than that…it’s just not as exciting to see professional chefs do their professions for charity. The stakes are too low.

Drop Dead Diva – This show is still pretty ridiculous with its take on the law, not to mention that I’m constantly distracted by how much not-Judy Greer looks like Judy Greer to me. Highlight of the episode HAS to be Chef Ben-Israel who was delightfully bizarre, per usual.


I guess I didn’t do much music listening this week, but…BUT I had Alex Cuba’s “En Armonia” stuck in my head all weekend. Here’s a performance at Stubb’s. The conversation is kind of annoying (and there is some clipping), but it’s still a fantastic song.


Does the color reprint of Scott Pilgrim count?

Video Games

Persona 4 Arena – I do really like the way that the story mode works and is progressing, but I’m more annoyed with the way that they’re all “To be continued…” until you unlock certain stories. I’m almost there though, guys. Just a little longer and I’ll start clearing stories like crazy. The fighting game itself is pretty tough, but the story is great.

Spelunky – Not as much time this week as I should have played, but I’ve been rushing too much and not making it as far as I should. Still haven’t beaten it from the mines because I’m focusing on the City of Gold too much.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – Had a rather unfortunate mishap where I accidentally saved after getting an alert on my save file. It’s my fault for only having one save file. Now I’ve got plenty to revert to and I’m back to Act II in about the same position. I’ll keep pushing forward on this trophy mode for an hour or so each night.

The Old Republic – Mini-event that was kind of “meh”, but still net me a bowcaster. Just release HK already, guys.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – The beta opened up to everyone who pre-ordered on Tuesday. Pretty solid game. Guess what, guys? It’s CS. The addition of the gun game mode is pretty nice, I dig that, but the meat and potatoes remains bomb planting/defusal and hostage taking/rescuing. Love it. Best pure shooter out there.

Team Fortress 2 – Most fun shooter probably goes to TF2 though. Mann vs. Machine…it’s tough, but it’s also really cool to have a completely different paradigm and completely new goals to work toward. If your team composition/teammates are kind of terrible, well this is gonna be a giant ball of aggravation and stress, but it’s otherwise lots of fun. I just want to play Scout all match though. Let me do that, please!

Driver: San Francisco – Only played like 20 mins of this. Not too bad, but man do those muscle cars have terrible understeer. Or is it oversteer? Guys, I don’t know anything about cars or driving.

Meet the Pyro [GO/ER]
Jun 27th, 2012 by Dan

Ever wondered what it was like to be the Pyro? What the Pyro sees and thinks? You may never sleep again…

Man, Valve is so awesome…

E3 2012 – Quantum Conundrum [ER/GO]
Jun 4th, 2012 by Dan

In case you didn’t know, Kim Swift was the lead designer on Portal. Quantum Conundrum promises to be just as mind-bendingly amazing, but will it be as funny without Wolpaw and Falziek? I’m expecting big things (and they offered TF2 items on pre-order as (what I suspect was) a nice gesture to Kim), so I put in a pre-order.

2011 in Video Games [GO]
Jan 5th, 2012 by Dan


So maybe I wasn't playing video games at birth nor was this blog running 25 years ago, but this is my 25th year too!

2011 was an odd year in games for me. It started out like any other, filled with joy and happiness, and then it was all wrenched away halfway through, thanks to that burglary, until I was able to start replenishing my stores and getting the ball rolling again for the second half.

This list, unlike last year, will cover the games I played most this year, even if they came out several years ago :cough: Team Fortress 2 :cough:. I think it’s better to reflect upon what I put the most game time into, even if it wasn’t new.

Resident Evil 5 – 2011’s 2009 Game of the Year has to go to Capcom’s co-op survival horror epic. I remember the Giant Bomb guys pimping this game super hard, but I ignored them over and over again for nearly two years because I’m not much of a scary games guy. Then the steam sale happened and I wanted something co-op to play with Min and Lee, so I buckled. This game was so good, guys. According to Raptr, I played 57 hours of this guy just cruising through all the levels, S-Ranking each one, finding all the emblems and upgrading all the weapons, and getting every achievement for the first time on a full-sized game. Then I came back and played it all again with David. RE5 may be some of the best bang I got for my buck in 2011.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – I think it’s hilarious that I played both Batman games this year. Make no mistake, Batman: AA is the better game. Tighter story focus, less wandering and rambling around, and that sharp, crunchy combat system that we all love. It almost literally hurts to watch Batman punch people in the face in this game. Lots of fun, even for a guy who doesn’t really like Batman.

Red Dead Redemption – Man, every game that I played in January came out in another year. RDR has a lot of those Rockstar quirks that I hate (incorrigible supporting cast, homicidal ludonarrative dissonance, etc.), but it also has one of the best realized characters in recent video games in its portrayal of John Marston. Horseback riding is fun, lassoing fools is fun, and the story is frustrating (because of the asshole supporting cast), but also solid most of the time. The only thing that really annoyed me was breaking horses every fucking time. Why? It’s not like it was fun to do…

Magicka – 2011’s Game Most Likely to Make You Strangle Your Friends. Ask Min how many times I killed him by striking him with lightning. I never took this game seriously and mostly tried to speed cast lightning. Fun, but the polish wasn’t there. Buggy as all hell. Not to mention that lightning bolt was the only spell worth using…or maybe it was the only spell I knew?

Ghost Trick – I used this game to try and improve/practice my Spanish. It’s lots of fun, quirky, weird, neat, but I never finished it. I thought it wasn’t taken in the burglary, but I’m having trouble finding it now. I want to finish it soon…Pick it up if you have a DS. It’s quirky and fun.

Costume Quest – Picked this up on sale and played it for a few hours. It’s definitely got that Double Fine humor, but it couldn’t hold my interest.

Pixeljunk Shooter 2 – I don’t know why some of the magic was gone with this one. Maybe the new fluids weren’t as innovative or neat? The fluid mechanics remain super awesome and the game is plenty fun on its own, but even more fun with a partner to troll.

Face Raiders – Shooting at Min’s face is the best thing I did with my 3DS before it was stolen.

Pokemon White (Black) – I got David to try a new Pokemon game with this and I’m super proud of that. Gen V brought a lot of really interesting changes to a game that most people feel is flat and unchanging. I had a lot of fun playing it until the momentum was killed with the burglary. When Grey inevitably gets announced I’ll probably buy it.

Game Dev Story – When this finally hit the Android marketplace I was ecstatic. Then I played it and realized it was a competent, but not overwhelming sim. Worth a few bucks.

Borderlands – Another co-op game for Min, Lee, and I to play. Lots of fun even though the story is stupid as hell. Brings out the loot whore in all of us.

Planescape: Torment – Talk about old! Didn’t get anywhere close to finishing this. It seems interesting, but never captures my interest enough to play it for longer than 20 mins.

Portal 2 – This is, bar none, the greatest example of story and comedy narrative laid out in video game form. Portal 2 has just brilliant writing and pacing. Everything from Wheatley to the history of Aperture Science to the origins of GLaDOS is perfectly realized. Then you have the game itself…Portal 2 is not a bad game at all. It’s just not as hard or interesting, with respect to puzzles, as Portal. This was a result of narrowing the possible solution space (story-justified by the decay of the facility, but still) in such a way that it was mostly obvious where portals needed to go, removing that aspect of figuring things out. It’s still probably the best game of this year, but I wish it they hadn’t pared it down as much as they did.

Pro Yakyu Spirits 2011 (Professional Baseball Spirits 2011) – I had a fun, challenging season going with my 2011 Hiroshima Carp before that jerk (those jerks?) came and stole my copy of a Japanese baseball game (in Japanese, mind you!). What were they gonna do with a game in Japanese featuring teams they weren’t even familiar with?! PYS 2011 was a huge step forward from 2010. Home runs may have been a little easier to hit (ok, a LOT easier to hit), but 2011 looked sharper and had enough new, interesting features (the player development was cool) that I was super stoked…until it was all taken away from me. Assholes.

L.A. Noire – I got about 1/5 of the way through the game before someone stole it. I still remember the forensics guy asking me if it was any good. Here’s the thing about L.A. Noire: It’s an adventure game skinned with GTA. Getting anywhere in LA is unsatisfying because driving is a bummer (and property/car damage lowers your rank), the devolution of most cases into shootouts feels a little artificial, and, worst of all, most of the chases (car and foot) let you see how the sausage is made. What I mean is, you can tell that you can’t catch up to a perp before a certain point and you can also see where the game just makes a perp crash or fall intentionally to just let you catch up. The face modeling stuff is super cool (and eerie if you watch Mad Men) and works pretty well minus one or two people. A tremendous achievement, but ultimately a mediocre game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I’m combining these because I don’t have much I want to say about either. The shooting is good, but the missions are kind of lame. I can see where this might be fun, but it’s also not for me.

inFamous – This was my free mea culpa game from Sony after the big hack fiasco. Decent open world game, but it suffers from being an open world game, in my eyes. The electric powers were fun, but the story was stupid. I don’t regret beating this game or getting it for free. Skating on the rails and then getting hit by a train is awesome.

Shadows of the Damned – I wish I’d taken the time to actually beat this game. It plays exactly like a Resident Evil game, has a super cool aesthetic, kickass soundtrack, and some of the funniest, most Japanese characters I’ve ever seen (come on, Garcia Fucking Hotspur is the greatest character name of the year!). Maybe I’ll beat it in 2012.

Hot Springs Story – From the devs what brought you Game Dev Story we have Hot Springs Story. See the entry above. It’s equally meh to me. I think I just don’t like playing games on my phone.

Torchlight – Gave me my Diablo fix a whole year before I’ll ever see Diablo III (I bet D3 is still not out in 2012). It’s fun and addictive, but it can get a little repetitive after a while. Good for loot whores/junkies.

Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyu 2011 – I got this expecting to have as much fun with it as I did back when it was the only Pawapuro/Konami-style baseball game I could play. In a post (Dan Mesa) PYS world, the simplifications of the engine don’t quite work for me. I need the extra systems that PYS layers on top.

Team Fortress 2TF2 has always been good. The addition of large-scale achievements made it even better, but the real tipping point for me was Strange Weapons. Once I learned that there were weapons which tracked the number of kills you had on them…well I couldn’t go back. This year probably saw the most TF2 playing from me since its launch. This game is barely recognizable to what it looked like in 2007. It’s free to play now. It’s got so many new maps and weapons and hats. It’s still the best competitive shooter a person could play right now.

Cahterine – Some people don’t get Catherine. They think the block puzzles are annoying and frustrating and find the whole thing to be stupid, too anime-y, and a waste of time. While Catherine makes a turn right near the end that mucks with its interpretation, it’s still one of the most interesting, adult experiences out there, which isn’t to say that it’s got nudity (none) or sex (none on screen), but, rather, that it deals with a lot of grown-up problems. Vincent’s life is in a rut, he’s being pushed into committing to a woman he’s afraid to commit to, and then he finds an escape in Catherine. I have yet to play a more interesting or convincing game about growing up, taking responsibility, and becoming a man. Catherine forced me to take a hard look at myself, my life, the incidences of cheating that have been in it, and just think about it all. A lot of games don’t do that.

Yakuza 4 – Got maybe two hours in before it was stolen.

Dragon Age II – Man, a lot of people have a lot of beef with Dragon Age 2 and I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s because I came to the game knowing all the complaints that everyone had before I got there, but it’s really not that bad. It “suffers” from the Mass Effect 2-ization of Bioware’s properties, but that’s not all bad. Dragon Age: Origins was bloated, over-long, and caused most people to quit right at the cusp of its climax. The way I see it, there were two things that were glaringly wrong with the game mechanics. First was the way that enemy reinforcements just seemed to pop in out of nowhere, artificially extending every fight and turning them into hyper-frustrating affairs. Keeping things limited to the enemies on-screen would have been vastly preferred. The second big miss was the lack of polish/variety of locations. It was very clear that this game was rushed to market because there were maybe three or four map styles recycled to cover a lot of locations. The minimaps weren’t properly reflecting when doors were shut and it was painfully apparent how much recycling happened. These are not sins worth crucifying the game for. The way that it focuses exclusively on Kirkwall and Hawke’s family is actually a good thing. Rather than be as sprawling as DA:O, it allows for a more personal story. Every relationship in this game is way cooler/most interesting than the ones in DA:O and, arguably, any of the ones in ME2. DA2 gets a lot of shit, but it’s a great game.

Bastion – Considering how much everyone just loves this game I really wish I’d given it a little more time this year. I barely played it, but the narrator was cool and the game seemed neat. I’ve got to beat this in 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – I bought this game to get the pre-order items it came with for TF2. I don’t regret doing so. Played about an hour or two of the game. Haven’t felt compelled to go back yet.

Gears of War 2 – This is the year that Min and I beat GoW1 & 2. It took a long time, but we still managed it. These games are really fun in co-op. Easily among the most fun we had in couch co-op this year.

Gears of War 3 – My GOTY comes down to this or Portal 2. I know I’m way late to the GoW train, but god damn these games are razor sharp. Shooting in this game just feels so right, you know? It’s about as polished and good as a third person shooter can possibly be. Fighting the final boss for two hours because I turned on no ammo drops will be memorable for a long time in a way that I don’t often make memories in video games any more. Thank you, Epic, for this amazing game.

The Binding of Isaac – The second I heard that the dude from Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen, was coming out with a new game, I knew that I would be buying it and that it would be tons of fun. You’ll remember from last year that SMB was the best game I played. The Binding of Isaac is not quite the best of this year, but it is a more realized game than it has any right to be. I mean, the game was $5 at launch, for Christ’s sake, and it featured a free content patch at Halloween. Isaac took 55 hours of my time this year, assuming every one was counted by Raptr, and I anticipate it taking more before I’m done with it. This game is the best $5 you can spend this year.

Galaga Legions DX – Coming off the awesomeness that was Pac-Man CE DX I expected big things from this game. It’s nowhere near as fun, but maybe that’s because Pac-Man is a way more fun game than Galaga ever was.

Batman: Arkham City – I’m pretty sure you already know that I think this game was a major step back from Arkham Asylum. I really don’t think the open world aspects did this game any favors. It’s still got that super-crunchy, razor sharp battle system, but it’s also marred by too many poorly dressed women constantly being called b***hes. This is a game that aggressively pushed me away from it and I was more than happy to be done with it when I was despite being the best thing to happen to brawlers in ages.

Dungeon Defenders – Tower defense made even more fun by allowing us to run around in the environments. I didn’t put in anywhere near as many hours as Min did, but it was fun while I played it.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Man, Uncharted 2 was fantastic, wasn’t it? Try this new one! It’s a lot like the old one, but with a little less charisma. A little less je ne sais quoi. Despite featuring my favorite video game characters of the modern era, Uncharted 3 was lacking in weird ways that the appearance of the The Last of Us trailer makes clear. Focus was diverted. Glad that we got three of these, but I wish it was as much a step forward as the second one was.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Remember how I wrote that article where I outlined everything I hated about this game? Since I wrote it I played another hour or two and said, “Nope. I don’t want to play this.” Will I ever go back? God, I hope not. It was worth spending $60 to drive in the point that I don’t like Bethesda open world RPGs. Here’s a note to Future Dan: Don’t buy any more Bethesda games, you moron.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – This poor game is being victimized by the launch of The Old Republic. Had TOR not come out there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would be playing the most charming Zelda game since Wind Waker non-stop. Skyward Sword plays sharply and is tons of fun.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – My life has been sucked into this game in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I can’t believe that there was a time where I was actively thinking about avoiding this game and staying away from MMOs altogether. Bioware did something fantastic here by adding story to a genre that typically lacked it. This game has already rocketed up the charts for total time played and I predict that it will never be usurped based on how much I truly love playing it. I haven’t even finished one story and I’ve still got seven more to go.

Social Gaming (As It Stands) is a BANE ON HUMANITY [GO/YCQMOT]
Oct 20th, 2011 by Dan

To the abovementioned small man and to others like him, to all the craftsmen of these mommy’s-credit-card-number-snatching games like Tap Zoo and Tap Pet Shop and Top Girl and what-have-you, I offer this lesson from the annals of economics:

“Monetize” is a fucking stupid word.

The idea of a business is to make money.

“To do business” means “to monetize something”.

A “product” is something a business makes.

To speak of “monetizing a product” borders on ridiculous.

If your product is not “monetized”, you’re not in business.

In the modern sense: the only reason to actively talk about “monetizing” is when part of your plan is to trick the user into believing they don’t actually need to pay.

“Monetize” is a word that is nearly synonymous with “to do evil”: to “monetize” a game means to promise the user a “full experience” for absolutely no cost, and then scheme, and devise, and calculate reasons for the user to pay anyway. Then you make them pay anyway. Albeit gently (and shrewdly (and without use of violent force)), isn’t that the same as stealing from people?

-tim rogers. “The Sims Social

Well I think it’s been too long since I wrote about something tim rogers wrote on this site. I finally got around to reading his review of The Sims Social (linked above). It’s long, but it’s vitally important to read going into the future. I’ll wait while you read it.

You back? Okay.

He wrote a companion piece at insert credit too. Read away.

(My favorite bit)

A silence. Now the larger man pointed at me. “He’s run all the numbers on our product.”

The older men looked at me.

“I’ve run them all,” I said.

“It’s totally solid,” the larger man said.

“It’s solid like a rock,” I said.

“It’s unsinkable,” the smaller man said.

“It’s an unsinkable rock. An unsinkable, solid rock.”

-tim rogers. “who killed videogames? (a ghost story)

Ok, we’re back. Do you feel vaguely sick yet? I know I do. Heck, I threw up in my mouth a little. How did we get here? More importantly, how do we fix this?

I don’t think that microtransaction-based gaming is evil. All you have to do is look at Valve and Team Fortress 2. Everything you want to do in TF2 (minus item trading) is absolutely free. Not a dime has to be spent to improve gameplay. Weapons are distributed to you randomly, but at fairly regular intervals and they can be used to construct new weapons. Most importantly, while buying weapons increases your arsenal, they are, overall, not necessary. You can play the game for free and have an equal success as someone who paid for anything. This is fundamentally different than Farmville or The Sims Social where you can pay to have a leg up on completing the game’s goals (loosely defined as those might be).

Sometimes I think, “Who am I to judge the ethical merits of what other people do/create for a living?” I mean, glass houses, right? Then I read a line that is certainly meant to vilify, but also rings hauntingly true:

An ex-drug-dealer (now a video game industry powerbrain) once told me that he doesn’t understand why people buy heroin. The heroin peddler isn’t even doing heroin. Like him or not, when you hear Cliff Bleszinski talk about Gears of War, he sounds — in a good way — like a weed dealer. He sounds like he endorses what he is selling. When you’re in a room with social games guys, the “I never touch the stuff” attitude is so thick you’ll need a box cutter to breathe properly.

(also from “who killed videogames? (a ghost story)”

For all the misinterpreted glamor of Mad Men‘s cast, most viewers seem to miss the point that undercuts the whole show. People despise ad men. Most non-advertising characters in the show despise ad men. The characters sweep racism under the rug, openly lie to customers, and present that life as vapid and meaningless. When Betty realizes that she has been manipulated by an ad in Season 2, she is horrified, insulted, and hurt. She knows how the ad men speak of their marks and is resentful of the manipulation.

People look at the gambling industry with scorn because they operate under the same principles that tim is decrying in his articles. I argue that it’s worse than that. At least in a casino you have a (low) chance of winning money back. This kind of human manipulation just feels dirty. It’s not addictive, in the drug sense, but it preys upon human tendencies and impulses in such a naked way that it is horrifying.

It’s not hyperbole to call social gaming, as it stands, a bane on humanity. The kind of thinking that leads us to develop these systems is inherently selfish and greedy. The companies that are pushing these games are filled with people stealing from you with only two or three layers of abstraction between their hands actually entering your wallets. That’s without dwelling on the kinds of behaviors that these models of play encourage.

There’s a way out of this (or maybe not), but it’s not easy. Don’t ever spend money on those games. Don’t give them their fabled White Whale. Then again, you should just do what you want. Just consider yourself informed now.

What I’ve Been Doing 17 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 17th, 2011 by Dan


Those stupid hats everyone makes fun of actually do motivate me to play sometimes.


Bran Nue Dae – Disappointingly mediocre. I was expecting something interesting from a musical about aboriginal life in Australia, but it just wasn’t there. Uneven pacing, bland characters, and, worst of all, completely forgettable music. That’s the one thing you have to do right in a musical!


How I Met Your Mother – The Jenson episode was great and the roommate episode brought us tantalizingly close to the “Mother”, but I’m catching up on this show by virtue of inertia alone. HIMYM is not a great show, guys. Not anymore.

The League – My favorite kind of crappy show. Can be super hilarious some days and middling other days. It’s a shame that they had to come up with an excuse to not have Nadine Velazquez on the episode. She’s funny and hot.

Homeland – Bizarre opening theme. So weird/surreal/cool. I guess it ties in with Claire Danes’ psychosis. The prince/consort subplot is boring to me, but we’ll see if it bears any fruit.

Prime Suspect – I like the main character, but I don’t love the procedural nature. I’m all about the season long investigations like The Wire. That show really has ruined cop shows for me…

Up All Night – After just watching Bridesmaids practically twice, I was a little tired of the female rivalry thing that Christina Applegate had going on in the class. Still a pretty good show, but this was the weakest episode I’d seen so far.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The writers on this show get so much mileage out of the title cards. So funny even if all of these people are terrible, horrible people. It makes me laugh when they call out Frank for being racist or a jerk, but they’re just as bad all the time.

Parka and Recreation – Not enough April this week! Ann being terrible at being a girl scout was awesome as was the Batman suit, but it wasn’t my favorite episode of this show.

Community – Super dark. Last week’s statement that the study group’s love was weird was right on the money. Seeing that Jeff, who brought them together is kind of bad for the group is really dark. I wonder if this has to do with Dan Harmon’s recent personal problems. This show is going some really heavy places this season.

Better Off Ted – “I think I need to get new breasts. These are covered in sad.” Finished S2 and, hence, the rest of the show. Not too bad. I can see why it was canceled, even though I liked it. Good light entertainment, but it’s not the greatest.

Dexter – This season has been bad so far. The story beats are obvious and too overbearing, even by Dexter standards. I don’t like following the “big bad” around, especially when they’re being annoyingly cryptic and awful. When they said this show would be really changing this season I didn’t think they meant that it would be getting awful. I really hope this season picks back up.


Extra Hot Great – I love this show, but they made me think that maybe watching Footloose might be a good idea this week. Now to somehow suggest it to the girlfriend without letting on that I actually want to see it…


Reamde – Finished the book. Very Stephenson. Brings to the foreground his love of guns, anarchy/distrust of government, MMOs, and his obsession with the way money/gold works. Good read, but not his best work. Anathem was more philosophically interesting and Crytonomicon had better characters.

(EDIT: You’ll note that there’s no talk of comics here. I might be starting a separate project to discuss them elsewhere.)

Video Games

The Binding of Isaac – Finally defeated the first form of Mom, but now I’ve got to get to her heart to slay her. I’m getting better at this game, but I’ve got a ways to go before I can beat the boss.

Mass Effect 2 – Kasumi’s loyalty mission is being annoyingly buggy, so I’m stuck on the final boss and I haven’t felt motivated to tackle it again after two nights of trying and either doing well and having it bug out on me or failing.

Team Fortress 2 – I painted Max’s Severed Head pink and it’s kind of awesome. Been getting a lot of Soldier and Demoman time in, two classes I really didn’t love before this. They’re not so bad, I guess…Had a killer round with Lee as a Heavy/Medic combo. We were unstoppable!

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode this weekend! I will unlock the Laugh Track! Just you wait!

EDIT: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Forgot to mention that I started my replay of the Uncharted series to prepare for the third iteration’s release next month. Good game, but the visuals are starting to show their age after all these years. It’s still a pretty game, just not as pretty as Uncharted 2 or 3.

What I’ve Been Doing 10 October 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 11th, 2011 by Dan

New Camera Tests

Totally unrelated to everything else, but I got a new camera!


Everything Must Go – Rebecca Hall is superb. I first saw her in The Prestige and I instantly fell in love with her acting. She’s a good understated and expressive actor. Will Ferrell in a drama is pretty neat too. He really shows a lot of range on this and I’d like to see his career move in this direction.

Bridesmaids – Saw it 1.75 times this weekend. I love this movie. Super funny. That screaming match at the bridal shower is so excellent that I stayed at my brother’s house just to watch it last night.


Parks and Recreation – Tammy 1 is scary. Aubrey Plaza is hilarious. Didn’t really love the B- or C-plots of the second episode. Having her in the background reacting to stuff was absolutely hilarious. I hope they continue to use her more. The C-story in the Pawnee Book episode about Ann, Ron, and April was great, but I didn’t love the A-plot of that episode.

2 Broke Girls – Bad sign. The first time I laughed in the first five minutes was when my feed got messed up and the same line looped for a minute straight. It’s just not good. I dunno. This week is its last chance! Tune in next week to read that I stopped watching this show.

Homeland – Claire Danes does a great job here of being obsessive, kind of crazy, and great in a way that’s not the prescient, über-confident employee that the bosses can’t understand. Super cool so far.

Glee – All the frequent jump cuts make it damn near impossible to actually watch the dancing. I see what they were going for in the Mike Chang thing, but it was quasi-clumsy in execution because we have never cared about him as a character before. He’s a junior though, so that’s why we’re seeing him get more screentime. I wish they hadn’t abandoned Bieste’s malapropism tendency

New Girl – Seriously upped their funny game. This week’s episode was quite good. The show gets a stay of execution!

Up All Night – Weaker episode, but still got some hilarious moments like the one where they thought the Native American guy turned into a hawk. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have tons of chemistry and Maya Rudolph is much better at her supporting role than I thought she’d be.

Community – Not my favorite episode, but pretty good. I liked the revelation that they’re the “mean clique”. Their vitriol toward Todd was hilarious too. “Offense taken!”


Losing the Sheen – Who knew Justin McElroy’s wife, Sydnee, was so funny? They’ve got great chemistry and this podcast about two people who hadn’t seen an episode of Two and a Half Men until Charlie Sheen left the show is my favorite new podcast.


REAMDE – I just know that the MMO stuff is gonna get a lot more important soon. I’m super intrigued. Can’t wait until some of the principals start interacting again.

(Comic Books Ahoy!)

Casanova: Avarita – This is why I read comic books. Creative and surreal and interesting. Makes super-effective use of the medium.

X-23 – Another well-drawn and well-written book. I love this story. Maybe I’ll pick up the old trades…

Mystic – Still a pretty generic story, but the well-drawn, Disney aesthetic is pretty cool.

Chew – Man, this book is good. Just brilliant and subversive and sneaky. Super funny.

SI: Heroes for Hire – Meh

Batwing – Don’t think I’m gonna keep reading this. Didn’t really capture my attention this week. I want to support minority characters, but my budget isn’t unlimited

Swamp Thing – Continues to get more intriguing. I love that it’s tying in with Animal Man. Fantastic panel design and great art.

Animal Man – The humanoids all look terrible and weird, but the horror aspects of this book are super cool. I’m down

Moon Knight – I’m still in love with Alex Maleev’s work. The book’s pacing is slow, but I don’t care as long as the art team remains.

Action Comics – A good comic book. That’s kind of a knock. It’s about as good as a conventional book can get (minus the art. Didn’t dig the art) where Casanova…that’s art.

Video Games

The Binding of IsaacI wrote about it a little bit already, but this game is pretty awesome. Good for short bursts of random gameplay. I’ve still not managed to beat it once.

Team Fortress 2 – Still solid. Not a bad way to spend any evening.

Gears of War 3 – Min threw a curveball here and suggested we play on Insane. I thought it would go very poorly, but it didn’t until we got to Act III, which is awesome. Lots of fun.

The Old Republic – NDA-ed!

Mass Effect 2 – Watched Eric play a little and David also started playing too, so I thought I would start my game up again to get my Paragon playthrough fixed. I wish the cover stuff was as well-developed as Gears 3, but Gears is also two years newer.

What I’ve Been Doing 3 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 3rd, 2011 by Dan

Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles 8 May 2011

The MLB Playoffs continue. While most of my weekend was spent watching baseball, I also got tons of other stuff in.


Hesher – When I saw the trailer for this Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I thought it would be a weird character study. I was pretty much right about that, but it’s simultaneously weirder and crasser than you’d think without really being comedic. Hesher is a truly bizarre character, the likes of which I’ve never seen in movies before, but he’s still very interesting. Not worth going out of your way to see, but it’s pretty good.


Parks and Recreation – Haven’t gotten around to the most recent episode yet, but this is a show that is absolutely on its game. First episodes of comedies are typically kind of weak, but I didn’t mind it. This is a show that has matured and found its legs and you should be watching it, no excuses.

Community – I liked the first two episodes of this season a lot more than other people did. While I agree that the high-concept, gimmick episodes are usually pretty great on Community, there should absolutely be room for the low-concept episodes where the actors are relying on character development rather than gimmicks. The Cougerton Abbey and Inspector Spacetime jokes in the first episode were also ridiculously hilarious.

2 Broke Girls – Is it really ok to make jokes about female masturbation at 8:30 on CBS? I mean, the obfuscated one early in the episode was, well, obfuscated, but later on she full-on is all, “I was masturbating.” I don’t have a problem with going blue with jokes, it just doesn’t seem to fit the tone or the time slot. How about this one, “We’ve known each other two days and you’re already asking for backdoor.” I love Kat Dennings, but she mugs for the camera so hard every time she says something smug. This show is definitely not good, but it gets me to laugh at least a little. I’m giving it two more episodes per the “Eric Mesa Four Episode Rule” which states that you cannot truly understand a show without giving it four episodes to really lay itself out.

New Girl – Schmidt slapping Spencer was hilarious in episode two, but I’m not sure I’m in it all the way yet. Zooey Deschanel is absolutely adorable, but the show leans on that a little too hard and it’s getting me kind of tired of her. We’ll see where I fall after two more episodes, but I’m not optimistic at this point.

Archer – The mini-series has been good, but not great. I got tired of the longer plot by the end. Archer is better in one-episode arcs or the more disconnected two- or three-episode arcs they do in the regular season. Still funny, but not my favorite. Now I’ve got to wait for January for more. Danger zone!

Childrens Hospital – Did I perhaps enjoy this episode more because Lake Bell spent most of it naked while Malin Åkerman lusted over her? Ok, I’ll cop to that. The episode was funny, but not to the show’s usual standards. I’m amazed that it got me laugh at some of the jokes they tossed out there this episode. Good stuff, guys.

Up All Night – I’ve seen all the new comedies that I’m interested in and this is the best one. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have a real handle on their characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this at all, but it’s genuinely funny. It’s kind of weird that I love this show about young parents considering that I’m neither married nor do I have a child, but it’s funnier than you think. I like that it’s dealing with getting older and trying to remain hip/cool, haha. I can relate!

Prime Suspect – A remake of a supposedly awesome English show, this was another revelation. I was expecting to find Maria Bello too smug and annoying as a character, but she’s tough without being obnoxious (even though she likes wearing that stupid hat). The storylines/crimes are dark and kind of freaky, but I like that they’re not glamorizing crime. After The Wire I thought I’d never be able to appreciate a cop procedural again, but this one isn’t bad. Really makes me want to go back to The Wire, though.

Glee – “Who doesn’t love the Go-Gos?” “I prefer The Bangles”. I totally hated the first episode until “It’s Not Unusual”, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, and the line above had all hit the screen. Last season was a disaster, in my eyes. The show totally got off the rails, focused too much on boring storylines and dull characters, but so far we’ve had nary a Rachel/Finn drama moment and I’m totally ok with that. Bringing back Idina Menzel was brilliant and I’m digging where this whole Quin/custody thing might be going, assuming it doesn’t get really stupid. Way to return to form, guys.

Dexter – Showtime aired this thing before Dexter where they were talking about the themes and such and I watched it and I hated that I did because they were talking about how much this season would be about faith, blah blah blah, and that was in my mind all episode where they really hammered home the faith thing way too hard. Your viewers are not stupid, guys. You can be a little more subtle. Decent start to the season, even if I already don’t care about Angel and his sister. Like I really don’t care.

BASEBALL – The Rays win over the Yankees in dramatic, walk-off fashion was part of the greatest baseball day in my life. As far as the playoffs go, the important series are going better than I’d hoped. Rays/Rangers, Phillies/Cardinals, and Yankees/Tigers all have them knotted at one game a piece. I’d like to see Tampa, St. Louis, and Detroit move on, but we’ll see what happens tonight. Milwaukee has really impressed me this postseason and they’ve become my favorite to take the pennant and go for the series. If St. Louis knocks out Philadelphia it’ll be that much easier.


Not much of note to mention here this week as I’ve fallen behind on my music podcasts. I will say that if you like video games and you’re not listening to the Giant Bombcast you’re doing something wrong.


REAMDE – Classic Neal Stephenson, but with a lot more restraint than what you’d expect. I can see so many threads from his older books coming together to form this guy, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s really captured my imagination. It’s funny to me how a lot of books would be done by the 300th page (I’m around 350) and it took to 250 to introduce the book’s main villain. EDIT: Forgot to mention that a lot of the action has been taking place in Iowa and Xiamen, the places where David lives and Min is from, respectively. Good times!


Ultimate Comics Spider-Man – I’m really digging the new Mile Morales character. Bendis and Pichelli are knocking this book out of the park. Can’t wait for next week’s issue.

The Ultimates – Hickman’s take on Ultimate Reed Richards and his villainous Children of Tomorrow is super neat. They took away Thor’s divinity! Crazy stuff.

Ultimate Comics X-Men – Nick Spencer is also blowing this book out of the water. Kitty Pryde as a mutant terrorist is brilliant. Johnny Storm on the X-Men is hilarious. This could be great.

FF – Typically solid and really makes me anticipate each new issue. Good stuff.

Amazing Spider-Man – Not as good as I’d hoped it would be. Takes too much time recapping its tie-ins instead of progressing the plot.

SI: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Why did I buy this? Seriously…just kind of boring.

Venom – Excellent writing and story even if I think the resolution between alcoholic father and symbiote addict son was tacked on and forced.

Incorruptible – Weaker than I’d hoped it would be. Still good, but I was hoping for more. I really hope this isn’t becoming an afterthought for Waid because there are interesting stories to be told here.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – Apparently Morghan’s playing now. That’s pretty sweet.

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode! I still love this game. Epic at its finest.

What I’ve Been Doing 19 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots


It may look like I’m insulting Gears, but I’m really not. That’s legitimately the closest those guys come to eloquence most games. They’re fantastic games, but their stories are fundamentally idiotic.


Thor – I’m pretty sure that complaining about blatant product placement in a movie was last interesting five years ago, but I found the Southwest Airlines advertising in Thor to be too much. Did not like. The movie itself was cool, although Natalie Portman’s character had nothing to do but be a pretty damsel. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good at that, but I wouldn’t have minded her being more active (like Peggy in Captain America). Her portrayal of Jane was true to Thor: The Mighty Avenger, aside from her career, so at least there’s that. I hope she comes back for The Avengers (and that The Avengers is good).

Adaptation – Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) really kind of cheats here in a movie screenplay that we’ve all just thought about handing in, but that is ultimately kind of lazy on a spectacular level. On the other hand, it’s not too much unlike the New Yorker articles it’s quasi-about where the writer is as much a part of the story as the story (in that Gonzo/New Journalism kind of way). Adaptation is postmodern and deconstructionalist and it works best when it’s not pointing out how obvious it is that Kaufman’s doing this (see the obnoxious callback to McKee and voiceover in its final voiceover), but it’s a clever movie that’s more interesting that it ever should be. If you’re really bored this can entertain you, but this movie about writing a movie strains interest. Perhaps if it was written a little better?


Weeds – About two weeks too late I called that this season is all about Silas and Nancy and it became truly obvious now. It’s funny how the Botwin lines have been drawn since the Lars revelation last season. I can see trouble starting in a lot of directions for Nancy, so I wonder if the payoff this year will be worth it, because I’m not seeing it yet.

Top Gear – Didn’t finish the episode!

Archer – So funny this week! This three-episode mini got off to a great start. Can’t wait for the rest of it next week. The jokes about Rip Riley being a 1930s relic were absolutely hilarious.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Yep, these guys are still the worst people in existence. Loved the closing scene with abandoning the prostitute in the hallway, even if it was shockingly terrible. I don’t think the “Mac gains 50 pounds” gag is working yet.

Parks and Recreation – Finished rewatching S3 with Min this week. So great! “Calzones are useless. No one likes them.”


Even more Wild Flag – I think I’ve hit my threshold with obsessively listening to this new release. I’ve got tickets to see them in October, so I can’t wait.


Collected Stories – Still no stories not obsessing with death. Still interesting in a surreal, well-written way. Still tough to read.


Batwoman – Not sure if this was the best book of the week or Daredevil was, but it was certainly the prettiest. J. H. Williams III’s art was astounding. I’m so in for this new book.

Amazing Spider-Man – Still enjoying Spider-Island, even if this book was relatively mediocre. Stage 2 mutations begin!

Ultimate Comics Spider-ManThe new Spider-Man is Miles Morales. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see where this goes. It was surprisingly well done and unique from Peter Parker’s story.

Spider-Island: Herc – This book was terrible. What a waste of time. If you want a good Silver Age-style story, read Thor: The Mighty Avenger instead.

Spider-Island: Spider-Girl – Middling. When you’ve only got three issues, you can’t waste the first one because then your second and third will feel rushed. This felt kind of rushed.

Daredevil – Still the best book, all-around, that Marvel is putting out. Loved it and I loved the way that the sound villain was integrated with Daredevil’s sound “vision” for ludonarrative resonance. Great stuff.

Nedroid Read the first printed collection that Anthony Clark signed and sketched in. Super funny stuff. I love Nedroid.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m up to 210 achievements in this. I think I’ve got 169 to go! Can’t believe how much I play this game nowadays, it’s so good! Loving the way that the new trading systems are integrated with Steam. It might even get me playing Spiral Knights at Min’s behest.

Gears of War 2 – Min and I beat it this weekend. As I said before, the story is idiotic while the gameplay is mostly solid. Hey game devs: the parts where you make us drive tanks or ride Reavers and stuff are stupid. Torque bow enemies are also assholes. Min and I spent an hour clearing this one room because we kept getting shot with arrows. Ian was also over on Saturday for a marathon session that was lots of fun. Can’t wait for Gears of War 3. I’ve always felt that I’d missed the boat with the releases so now I’ll get the chance to be “in it” for the co-op campaigns and maybe a little Horde/Beast multiplayer. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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