Tag Archive: video games


(Notice – I’m on vacation this week, so I may or may not be able to do a full post every day. Depends on how busy I get doing other stuff.)



My nephew, whom I shall call GhostBoy, is visiting for a few days. I love having him here because I very rarely get a chance to spend time with him, so I asked him if he would like to play LEGO Batman and he said “I guess.” Not a ringing endorsement but hey, I’ll take it.  This is what happened;

I get the game set up and give him the Wiimote (I only have one) and ask if he wants to continue the game I’ve been playing or start a new one.

“Can I just run around and smash stuff?”

“There’s a Free Play mode, but I’ve only unlocked a few levels. You might want to play the missions first so you can learn how everything works. They go pretty fast.”

“I can figure it out.”

I get him to the first mission where things are pretty easy and  as soon as the game starts he starts in with the questions.

“How do I walk?”

“Use the toggle.”

“I can’t use the stuff. How do I use the stuff?”

“What stuff? You’ve only been playing for two minutes.”

“The Batman stuff.”

“If you did the mission it would tell you how to use the stuff.”

Bad guys arrive and begin punching him. He starts violently jerking the Wiimote around.

“It’s not letting me hit them!”

“You have to press the buttons.”

He continues jerking the Wiimote around.

“It’s not working!”

“Press the buttons.”

He finally figures out how to hit things and use the grappling gun and Batarang. I give him plenty of pointers and he manages to get the end of the level. Upon returning to the Batcave (the main menu area) he gets a text on his cell. (I think it was the third one in the fifteen minutes it took him to get through the level.) I decide to go get my clothes out of the dryer. I come back and he’s in a completely different part of the game.

“Hey, did you know there was a plane and a boat in the cave that you can ride in?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t gotten to those areas of the game yet.”

He starts a mission I haven’t done and immediately begins having some trouble.

“What do I do?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t gotten this far.”

“What do I do now?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t gotten this far.”

He gets a call on his cell and gives me the Wiimote so he can go into the other room and talk to whomever it is. I fiddle around a bit before he comes back and starts playing again. He gets frustrated after a few minutes and gives me the Wiimote again.


“Are you giving up?”


He leaves, presumably to do more texting, I shrug and go back to the Batcave and see if I can improve my score on the awesome chase game from the first chapter.

The moral of this tale – Always do the tutorial if you’ve never played a game before. And I should probably get another Wiimote so I can play with him next time.


Thinking with portals

I’m not a gamer.

I barely have the hand-eye coordination to feed myself, let along kill aliens and Nazi zombies.

But I love video games.

It’s a bit of a paradox, I know. It confuses the hell out of me sometimes as well.

Old-school games like Pac-Man or Tetris I can handle with some success, but modern games … Not so much. But I love ’em.

What I love about games, like Half-life  or Portal, is the story behind the game. Designers now spend a great deal of time working on the back story, the reasons behind the why and how of the game-world. It’s that part of the game, the boring, non-explody bits, that I adore.

In any other age I would have no alternatives I could either play the games and do abysmally, or find friends who  would let me what them play.

Thank the Internet gods for YouTube.

For the uninitiated, players will post videos of gameplay, sometimes with commentary and tips, sometimes without, and other gamers watch to pick up these tips and tricks. This is wonderful for the gaming impaired, like me. I can watch hours upon hours of games without actually having to play anything myself.

Since you might be wondering where I’m going with this, I’ll tell you.

I spent most of yesterday watching game play from the newly released Portal 2, and it was wonderful. I thought I would give my impressions as a non-gamer.

I’ve watched the walk-through for Portal and found it highly entertaining. Seeing the player solve the puzzles and hearing the dry, sarcastic wit of GLaDOS as she becomes increasingly insane makes for an enjoyable experience.

She might be crazy, but her cake is so delicious and moist!

The original Portal game has built up a large and incredibly devoted fan base and spawned several internet memes that I will not repeat here. Portal 2 is somehow even better.

The storyline is much more complex than that of the original. In the original Portal, the silent protagonist navigated a series of test chambers before reaching the central computer, GLaDOS, and disabling her. It’s revealed in the beginning on the second game that the protagonist, Chell, has been placed in “cryo-sleep” for an unspecified but extended length of time.

When Chell wakes up, her room, once a bland hotel-like room, has aged and decayed. I even noticed a depression on the bed in the shape of a body, as if someone had lain in one place for a very long time. It’s those attention to details that makes the game good. If you look for them, there are quite a few little jokes added in. For example, when opening a several stories tall door, the massive door rolls back to reveal … an ordinary door with a couple of folding chairs beside it.

The addition of another AI, the grossly incompetent Wheatley, and the recorded messages of the mercury-poisoned founder of Aperture Science in the lowest levels make for a rich and wonderful experience.

The entire game seems more … alive. The rooms move and shake, you can hear sounds of distant machinery or dripping water, and it just feels quite real. The first game had, for the most part, sterile testing chambers that were almost tomb-like. In the sequel you can really feel the decay of this place that has been neglected for decades.

As I’ve said, I didn’t play the game. I only watched the walk-throughs on YouTube, so I didn’t have to do the same over and over again. I got to do the easy part, enjoy someone else’s labors. It looked absolutely kick-ass, though. I definitely plan on watching it again.