A gamer in transition

I have always been a gamer, I think looking back it is one of the few things that have defined me throughout my entire life. At maybe 8 I was playing super Nintendo on a mini trampoline in my basement. When I was 10 I got a computer and began my early life as a PC Gamer. By 12 or 13 I had rebuilt it into a formidable gaming machine and was playing original Starcraft, Counter-Strike, Half-Life and eventually World of Warcraft. PC Gaming is still my strongest passion when it comes to gaming, but it is slowly ebbing away.

I am entering a phase of my life where not only do I have an added amount of responsibility and family time (see posts about my daughter). I now have somewhat less time to sit on the PC for hours at a time. I have less time to play whatever new games there are and honestly somewhat less desire. I find my hands, or more importantly one hand occupied much of the time and my erratic sleep schedule leaves me going to bed early and not spending late hours of the night racking up wins in Starcraft2. I realize this may just be a temporary setback in my gaming time, but, even so, I am starting to expand my gaming palette.

Enter Tabletop

I really have to give a lot of credit to Wil Wheaton’s “Table Top” web show. I started watching these out of mild curiosity and quickly began discovering a whole new world of gaming possibilities. Around that time, I began playing D&D 4th Edition with some fiends who also turned me on to my first “Euro Style” board game (Carcassonne) and my first true indie game Pushfight!. I found myself thinking, “holy shit, there is a whole world of games out here I had no idea about.” I was honestly taken aback, I had no idea even what I was missing. As a kid we had played Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Apples to Apples and the like and I always sort of felt demeaned by inferior gameplay and childish themes. I had no idea there was this world of deep, strategic, fun board games out there.

How board games fit

Some of the advantages to board games feel a little obvious but, I think as someone who never fathomed enjoying them, they are worth pointing out.

  1. Board games have a certain deep subtlety about them that my “gamer” side really appreciates. Sometimes it is hard for me to look at cardboard cutouts, dice and cards and think, ‘hey, this is some advanced thinking going on here,’ when I was used to the insane complexity of an MMO or a good RTS game. However, sometimes complexity is not always the most fun. Complexity can also be crude and complex just to seem like there is a lot going on. The depth and subtlety of board game is apparent when simple mechanics such as tile laying, card playing and piece moving can have a complex strategy behind them. Suddenly moving a piece is as interesting as controlling and building an entire army.
  2. Board games are inherently social. And granted, many games are now played online. In fact I spend most of my life online, talking over chat and on the phone and that is where board games are very refreshing. I find myself craving interactions face to face. Sitting at a table with friends or family over a game is a wonderful way to talk and get all the humanness I can soak up in our increasingly digital world.
  3. Family playtime is something I’ll probably find ways to bring up all the time on this blog. But, as a dad and a husband, I find myself looking for ways to spend more time siting together, playing together, talking together. TV is both good and terrible for this. We sit but we don’t talk, we don’t use our brains, we don’t interact. Board games are something I enjoy playing with my wife (and thankfully, she enjoys them too) and one day I hope to share with my children. Again, I will write more on this at another time, but, I believe strongly, the family that plays together, stays together.

So now, I can proudly announce I have started; my collection has begun. I am now a collector, player and advocate of board games. I have a boardgamegeek collection page started and I play and share games whenever I can. Will there always be room for computer games, sure, but, somehow I don’t care as much about missing my time sitting alone playing Starcraft or Skyrim. I look forward just as much to playing board games and card games with friends and family when it comes to getting my gaming fix.

A collection of boardgames

Sounds like a big difference to me

In my earlier life I put a lot of emphisis on durability cheapness in my compuer periferals. Duribility mattered for traveling to lan events, cheapness was because my bottom line was very low. I hated to see good equipment broken and when it came to cheaper headphones that was something that happened all the time. Now however I have learned the value of the expression ‘you get what you pay for’, and then some. I have become a headphone snob/junkie.

Now, when I say snob I just mean, I am beginning to care more about quality than anything else. There are some people out there posting on amazon saying, “I had this and this headphone and the decible output on the base was less satisfactory at 1200 mhz.” F those guys, you think that helps me figure out of this is a good pair of headphones or not? No way! I want to know are the headphones comfortable, do they have good sound (I don’t care how many mhz’s) and are they going to last long enough to make them worth the hundreds of dollars they sell for.

Enter the Sony MDR 7056 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones. Some good advice from a former soundboard student these headphones were recommended as good sound, great durability at a reasonable price. Now 80 bucks is nothing to scoff at but I needed help at work. With a large wide open room and only crappy little earbuds to protect me I had a hard time getting work done for not being able to concentrate. These headphones saved my butt and the sound they produce I think is quite awesome for the price. I didn’t think the headphones would make that much of a difference but man, was I wrong. With these headphones at work, I knew I needed better headphones for home and gaming.

I did a lot of searching around the internet over the period of months looking for a good pair of headphones with a good microphone for chatting and comfortable enough to wear for hours on end.

This is what I found.

Christmas Headphones

The Sennheiser PC 360 headset for Pro Gaming was the result of my efforts researching. What stood out about this series? The headphones are full ear covering but not noise canceling which means air can get in and out and keep your head from getting too warm. Another advantage is that these headphones have no control halfway down the cable for volume controls, rather the volume control is on the right earpiece and the boom actually works as the mute button; when it is down, it is active, when it is up, it is muted, easy enough. Finally, instead of leather ear cuffs, which can feel a but sticky and hot at times on your face, these ear pieces are felt, comfortable and cool.

The sound is excellent, even my friend’s voices on Skype sound better and I didn’t think those could improve, heeeyooo! The point is, I now know that a good pair of headphones is sometimes worth the price for good sound and better comfort.

I think a cheaper pair which also might be just as good is this one here. The Steel Series 7H also looks like a great pair of headphones and a shade cheaper than the Sennheiser, I haven’t tried them on, but my research extensive as it was for gaming headsets makes me think this would also be a good pair.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a new game!

I’ve got my tree up, I’ve hung my stocking, the manger scene rests on the windowsill, my house, the neighborhood are all decorated and teaming with Christmas spirit. Family, friends and coworkers are in the holiday mood and yet, something is missing – or at least is was. To me, it’s just doesn’t start to feel like Christmas without the Steam Holiday Sale, fortunately, it started yesterday and I’ve already begun to reap the deals.

If you’re not using steam to manage your digital copies of most of your pc games, where have you been? Steam has been around since the early 2000’s originally being developed to help distribute and update Valve games such as Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic and Day of Defeat. Slowly though the steam platform has grown to house around 1,400 games and is estimated to manage a 70% share of all digital game distribution. Needless to say, if you’re not on steam already, you should be.

Moreover, on the week of, and post Christmas every year, steam puts on a fantastic sale featuring massive discounts on all the game titles of the past year.

Any games you hadn’t yet purchased throughout the year might end up being a part of a sale. These titles change every day at noon so it is a new gift every day to see what games you might be able to curl up with on the cold winter night to come in the new year. I picked up Amnesia the Dark Descent already and who knows what else I’ll find this year.

Happy Holidays and a very merry steam holiday sale to everyone!

A little bit about indie games and me

So, this week among other things such as some holidays etc that you might be hearing a bit about, is also the week that the Humble Indie Bundle number 4 is online selling for whatever you want to pay. Indie game developers have been forced to get really clever in their marketing and that means trying some tactics like this deal. 5 games in a pack, pay whatever you want, pay above average and get two more games. Simple, fun and a good cause.

It’s a pretty successful way to buy a handful of fun little games for a nominal price and everybody wins. I am the proud owner of the 4 normal bundles they have released in the last year and a half. I have gotten some classic games from the bundles like Trine and World of Goo that were definitely worth the price of admission. But let’s face it, it feels good to help out some people chasing their dreams and putting a lot of time, effort and probably money into their own pet project.

I have dreams and pet projects too; I feel for these guys and gals, hence, playing to my emotions, the marketing works. I also urge others to check out what they have to offer, hint hint, try the link above, it is probably worth your money.

My other quick note on Indie Game Developers is mainly a note on the fact that I am semi-part (I’ve been to two meetings thus far) of a really cool Twin Cities group called IGDATC which of course stands for Independent Game Developer Association chapter for the Minneapolis/St Paul (Twin Cities) metro area (a great time for an acronym if you ask me). These guys and gals are passionate indie game developers willing to give you advice on projects, tell you what they have learned and how they have been successful or not in the past. If anyone is interested in what a meeting is like, you can check out last month’s meeting which they so nicely recorded for everyone to view. Also if it were me and you want to watch I’d start around 44:30 as I couldn’t really stand the first guy (not a regular member anyway).

As for me I’m off to try one of the games from the bundle called Night Sky. It is pretty good so far.