Play Journal: December 2014

by Thom Kiraly

This will just be a quick recap before I do the big Top Ten of 2014 list in a couple of days. December hasn’t really been filled with amazing play anyway. There have been some highlights, but my personal life is in something of a turmoil at the moment, so organizing kick-ass play has to wait for now.

While you wait for the 2014 Top Ten, you can always check out last year’s Top Ten list.

On the the playstuffythingies!

Cambox – Not a game, but one of the most playful music apps I’ve ever used. I urge you to try it, even though it’s old and hasn’t been updated in like forever. Seriously, check out this sick beat (not made by me):

Canabalt – I’ve played it a bit, but the most amazing thing is that my kid is playing it, and liking it. Proud dad. Also, scared dad.

Super Hexagon – What’s remarkable here is that I actually went through all of November without playing Super Hexagon even once. This time I fired it up, got to the high 50s on one if the first tries and instantly felt a bit better about myself. This other time, someone sent me a text and ruined a pretty good run. Unforgivable. Don’t worry, they will get their comeuppance… eventually.

Parable of the Polygons – I am stupid. First thought at the first ”level” actually was: “Ha! I solved it. That wasn’t so hard”. Then I looked at the board:


Yay, segregation!

As with many playable arguments or procedurally rhetorical things, the interpretation can sometimes get out of hand. One argument I was able to glean from this parable was that extreme bias actually is good for the economy because it keeps people moving. A lot. And also, is less available, but coooompleetely socialist, housing an answer? That way, there’s nowhere to move to, regardless of your feeling towards your current predicament. My guess: puuurbably not.

w00t pop-up – I didn’t play, strictly speaking, but I ran JS Joust and that always counts for something.

You & Eye – We submitted our game design course game for review and had people actually test the damn thing. Some of them even liked it. I also played it at a “Julehygge” party in Copenhagen, where they needed something that looked like a prototype to be played while some dude filmed it.

Mutant: År Noll – First session after the big climax. Last time, we managed to tie up a lot of loose ends and kill off some important NPCs. One of the PCs also retired to safety and left a hole in the group that was pretty tangible in this new session.
First of all, the fact that I switched character class made it evident that the one I had played up until that point was basically worthless. There are a couple of classes that simply don’t bring much to the game, and the ”Mutant with Dog” one fits into that category. Nowadays, I’m basically a Stalker, and that taps into some of the very core elements of the game and its world. Scavenging and exploring in the zone is, for example, actually worth the effort now that there’s someone who knows the way around and is able to pick up some useful stuff… like hand grenades and sunglasses.
Second, the new character, replacing the one which retired to safety, is geared towards putting up a moral fight and challenging the other characters’ choices. This works pretty well, but the question is if this, played honestly, won’t just tear the group apart. I’m not sure I see that as a potential problem, but it would probably spell the end of the campaign.
Lastly, my fuckin’ dog got killed. OK? My dog. Grock, the avatar of death, destruction, and cuddling simply head butted a huge spiked club until he looked like someone out of issue #100 of The Walking Dead. All my character has to cheer him up now are three armored buses, equipped with grenade launchers and other means of devastation. But what good will that do now that Grocky is dead? OK, maybe it will do a little good.


Basement exploration with the kid

Heist Game – One of my favorites from the Tiny Games collection. I didn’t play it to completion, buy I got myself a good driver, a cool pickpocket, and a decent lockpick. Then I got distracted.

Silent Dinner – The Play Club session I went to this month was a bit out of the ordinary. We had a silent dinner/potluck, with some added silent play activities surrounding it. I brought cookies and tea and chocolate which meant we all went a bit too far on the sweets, but no worries. The food was pretty amazing. Some highlights include a pizza with red beets, and a risalamande possibly sent from heaven if that’s the sort of stuff they would send.
In terms of play, some interesting stuff happened. First of all, saying hello to people you’ve never met, while not speaking to them, proved to be a challenge, albeit a fun one. Generally speaking (hehe), not talking removed a lot of the social barriers people have when they enter into a new situation. It wasn’t evident exactly who knew each other and who didn’t, and it shifted focus from social hierarchy to social cohesion and collaboration.
Like in larp, I decided that this situation called for us to make our own fun. So, I started the dinner by standing up and making a silent toast. Then, every time I got up from the table, I made a rule that I had to move something in the room or add something to the pile that formed from all the moving. As I had hoped, other people got involved in this silliness and it drew some focus from the table to the rest of the room. As the dinner progressed, we played other improvised and silent games including:
Silly ball game using couch pillows, tying shoes together and chasing people, making collaborative drawings, writing two exquisite corpse poems. I also played Mastermind.
The poems were used to break the silence after about two hours, and they served that purpose very well. I only regret not using a strange voice once we actually started talking again. I would have wanted to see how the newcomers had handled it.

Lethal League – Cool stuff, but as with many LMP games, playing it with 2 players seem like the more boring option. So, I’ll return to a mantra of mine: I want to try it with more players!

Tales from the Borderlands – Compared to The Walking Dead, this IP gives Telltale more freedom to go gonzo, and they totally do. I haven’t played any of the Borderlands games, but I think I’ve picked up most of the jokes from gamer lulz in general.
TftB does at least one rather interesting thing by incorporating and mashing events into each other. This is brought on by the fact that you play (and not just control) multiple characters, and that they have their own views on events. This brings me to the same conclusion as Apocalypse World: why don’t we do this (playing multiple characters) more often?

Injustice: Gods Among Us – I like it alright, even though I’m not a good fighting game player. The animations for basically ALL female characters are beyond ridiculous, though. Fun unforeseen thing I do in this game: screw with my friend by messing with canon and making characters fight in locations they have no connection to.

Metal Slug 3 – This game is juicy as fuck! The pacing is wonderful and it’s insane how they manage to keep the game interesting all the way through.


Hanging out at my friends place, playing LMP games, also allows for this — sweet, sweet dog-human encounters

Progress – Clever experimental exploration of the input and interaction affordances of the iPad. Looking forward to this being released.

WuWu & Co. – This thing is an interactive children’s book in Danish. I have no idea if the story is interesting, but the play definitely is. Once again, the interaction stems from an understanding of the playful affordances of the iPad and I can’t believe we’re not seeing a lot more of this sort of stuff.

Box-pushing game – I don’t know if this has a name, but at the previously mentioned Julehygge party, I played a tabletop game developed for the Pixalade. It was surprisingly interesting, but though it was possible to play with two people, it was a lot better with three. I don’t feel like going through what the rules were, so this’ll have to be one of the notes for me to remember the game, rather than for anyone else to understand what the fuck I’m talking about. #sorrynotsorry

Portal 2 – Played through the coop mode and messed around a lot. We only made it through the basic levels, but I really want to check out if there are more levels out there that maybe afford more silliness or competition. That would be kewl.


So, yeah.