Category Archives: Gaming



Shiny & New

This last weekend I got my new gaming computer parts in the mail and I spent Sunday and Monday with a good friend building it and getting everything set up and ready to play. This is mainly a picture post with captions to tell the story. (Sorry for some potatoes.) Here’s the PC Picker Parts List for those who want more specific details. Enjoy!

Computer Parts! They all arrived on Saturday. The case (not pictured) had arrive a couple days earlier.
Computer Parts! They all arrived on Saturday. The case (not pictured) had arrive a couple days earlier.
Sunday night, putting in the motherboard first…
It has cool dragons on it... I was amused because you're never going to see this again.
It has cool dragons on it… I was amused because you’re never going to see this again.
Ran into a small snafu where the optical drive doesn't fit in with the size of the motherboard we got.
Ran into a small snafu where the optical drive doesn’t fit in with the size of the motherboard we got. No big deal, we managed to install all the drivers needed with some creative applications of USB drives.
All the guts are in!
All the guts are in! Minus the CD/DVD drive.
Glamour shot of the case. Nice and minimal.
Glamour shot of the case. Nice and minimal.
The mesmerizing blue light from the power unit.
IT LIVES!! The mesmerizing blue light from the power unit. The power status LED on the front of the case shoots a bright blue circle onto the ceiling too.
Here's my first set up! I've got a 42" TV as a 2nd monitor, a 24" Dell monitor for my main computer, and my old 2011 iMac off to the side, currently off because I ran out of outlets.
Here’s my first set up! I’ve got a 42″ TV as a 2nd monitor, a 24″ Dell monitor for my main monitor, PC on the floor, and my old 2011 iMac off to the right, currently off because I ran out of outlets.

The total was just over $700 with all parts from Newegg. The monitor was purchased separately on Amazon.



Gaming Newb Tutorials

Roller Coaster TycoonI was never a gamer growing up. My brother and I were not allowed to ever own a console. We would be allowed to rent a Nintendo 64 and two games for one week each if we had good grades at the end of a school year. Besides that, we had a limited selection of mainly educational 90’s PC games and my brother would buy the various iterations of Game Boy controllers with his own money where I preferred to save my dollars. Still, we both had some interest in games and while he went towards first-person-shooters and RPGs, I gravitated towards simulation and adventure games. Although we both played the original Roller Coaster Tycoon on our parent’s old Windows ’98 desktop for at least ten years after the fact.

These days though, I’m beginning to find more fun and value in video games, but I find myself a bit stunted in the inherent knowledge of gaming many others (especially guys) in my generation seem to have. The barrier to entry seems to necessitate having had a childhood filled with gaming experience that I just never received. But with a lot of wiki-reading and getting lost in some forums and a considerable amount of help from my more savvy friends, I’ve found a way to enjoy some rather complicated games today.

Still, I hate to think of others wanting to give these games a try without the help I’ve had and it’s inspired me to have the idea of creating gaming newb tutorials. Videos for other beginners with very little assumption as to skill level, intended to help people who didn’t grow up with gaming to get into games. Below are some games and ideas, what do you think?space-engineers-cover

  • Space Engineers
    • This is my latest obsession and is rather complicated – there are many video ideas I’ve had for this game for getting started if you’re unfamiliar with WASD+ to more specific game items and updates.Minecraft
  •  Minecraft
    • I know there’s a million beginner tutorials out there on this already, but one more couldn’t hurt.CIVILIZATION-V
  • Civilization V
    • A turn-based classic that could use some beginner basics that aren’t hours long.Skyrim
  • Skyrim
    • Another relatively simple but super fun game for beginners to learn on… it’s probably what got me back into gaming.Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I & II
    • An older but still really fun set of games with a great balance between story, adventure, puzzle and more. I’m currently playing through II for the first time.

Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing what other games I play, here I am on Steam!

Culture Gaming

Let Us Larp While We May

Nerds are destined to save secularism from itself.  In our unreasonably, some might say disturbingly, passionate hearts lies the missing factor in the grand equation of a new age.  A time when reason is married to a life worth the living.


That life is coming, and in the creation of it, we could learn a lot from a larp.  Larping, once the dirty secret of the gaming community, is busting out in a big way.  With documentaries like Darkon, feature films like Unicorn City, and books examining the past-time like Lizzie Stark’s Leaving Mundania, larp has overcome its self-consciousness and is aimed straight at the hearts of a generation looking for a new sense of community.  For those unfamiliar, larp stands for live action role play, and encompasses a robust variety of rich mystical escapism.  At its most organized, it allows you to flee reality for a weekend and, dressed as a bard or goblin, live in a different universe for a while, playing your character in an elaborately crafted and exquisitely organized scenario with a couple hundred other similarly minded folk out in a forest or campground.  In terms of immersive interpersonal experiences, there’s really nothing comparable this side of, well, church.

It’s a beautiful thing, really, the crossroads of so many skills that we don’t get to exercise on a daily basis.  Leadership and drama, costuming and music, set design and social networking, all meet in this one concentrated burst of creative output that I think anybody with the slightest historical or whimsical instinct can’t hear about without secretly longing for.  In every way, it is that realm of total human recreation that the 1950s thought we would have accomplished twenty years ago, but which our own misplaced sense of quietist dignity has prevented us from acting on.


People cannot do without people, and since we no longer particularly need each other on a day to day or community-wide basis, something must fill the void.  Secularists, guided by their own lights, have come up with some notions, but the suspension of disbelief required to keep these secular “churches” afloat has been mighty, greater even than the relatively simple matter of believing that the forty two year old guy in a cat mask drinking Kool Aid across from you is, in fact, the King of Cats.  We secularists place so much stock in our intellectual purity that we tend to instinctively eschew situations where we might come off as silly, but in the long run that’s really only hurting ourselves.


Perhaps you don’t have a weekend a month to spare.  I certainly do not, and won’t anytime within the next decade.  You could still try a gaming convention near you, dip your toe in just for that brief bit of time and see what you end up doing when wearing a different face for a few hours.  It might give you a notion of what sorts of interaction you are missing that perhaps you were unaware of, what you need psychologically but were not willing to admit out of dedication to your stoic self-conception.  There are even purely online variations that attempt to capture the essence of the escapist-yet-somehow-more-psychologically-true-than-reality feel of live larping (or live-arping, as the case may be).  Whatever your commitment level, there’s some sliver of the experience available to you, and for creatures of a finite life-span, experience is the whole game.


Life is short.  Imagine vigorously.  Because if you don’t feel just a bit embarrassed about your passion in mixed company, then it’s hardly a proper passion, is it?

Culture Gaming

Humans are Great 7: Cooperative Board Games

“Hey guys, I’ve got a new problem.”

Back in college, those were the words that energized a hall.  People would stop what they were doing, grab a whiteboard, and all join together for a moment to try and break whatever thorny problem one of us managed to stumble across.  Sometimes it fell quickly, sometimes it took hours, but in those moments of working through a mathematical or scientific puzzle with a bunch of other nerds while shoveling candy and over-caffeinated soda into our maws, life was perfect.

There is nothing better than getting together with a small group of like-minded folk and tackling a problem that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything actually useful.  Unfortunately, life after college doesn’t present too many opportunities to engage in such activities.  Friends specialize out into their own branches, move off to different places, and so that singularity of purpose and expansiveness of time dissipate.

But humans are clever primates, and some of the substitutes we’ve come up with can, at their best, entirely approximate the cooperative intellectual rush of bygone days.  For a long while, that’s the place that tabletop roleplaying games occupied – Dungeons and Dragons, Changeling, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Vampire: The Masquerade, and dozens upon dozens more all gave adults the chance to meet a few hours every week and put their resources together in a creative, spontaneous setting to solve the problems concocted by their much put-upon Dungeon Masters.

And those were (and are) fantastic, and if you are refraining from looking into them out of pride, you’re missing out on some truly memorable times.  However, the start-up on these games is pretty hefty.  You have to create your character, familiarize yourself with the often weighty core manuals, and get comfortable with carrying out character dialogue at a candle-lit kitchen table.  For those who love problem-solving but didn’t quite have the time to go in for the whole RPG experience, then, there rose the cooperative board game.

It used to be a somewhat rare breed in the board game genre, but has steadily grown in recent years so that a well-stocked game closet can now have a good half dozen quality co-op titles.  The rules are usually pretty simple to pick up, but the coordination and cleverness required can often deliciously strain a room full of the brightest brains.  Here are my top four picks, and if you have a favorite, do drop me a line!

4. Shadows Over Camelot:  You and your friends take up the role of the Arthurian knights as take on the manifold challenges threatening Camelot.  It can be a BRUTAL experience, as no sooner do you tie up one quest than three others go absolutely critical requiring all of your combined mental dexterity to resolve.  Definitely the hardest coop game I’ve played, but every time you end up winning you feel like you definitely EARNED your bowl of pretzels.

3. Ultimate Werewolf:  Sort of co-op, sort of not.  It’s basically the old campfire Mafia game (sit in a circle around the fire, two people are secretly appointed as mafia goons, and one as a police officer, and the game is to communally find out who is who) but with a supernatural twist and a lot more specialty roles, so that the game can actually support up to 68 players.  When I had game night with my students, we tried it out and had a marvelous time piecing together the bits and pieces of psychological clues we found, or thought we found, in each other’s behavior, leading to wild accusations and much fun.

2. Arkham Horror: A classic in the Cthulhu universe, in which you and your fellow investigators have to navigate the twisting hellscape of a city slowly giving way to the invasion of the Old Ones, trying to stop the incursions of monsters and corruption before a supreme embodiment of evil awakes and wipes you off the board.  Like Shadows, there’s a lot here to punish you if you’re careless with your abilities and movement, which means that every turn is open for intense discussion about how to achieve mutual optimization.  So, there’s that same intense manipulation of lots of variables, but in a really cool, creepy setting.


1. Pandemic:  You and a team of disease specialists are running around the world, trying to cure outbreaks of four different diseases as they arise and spread across the globe.  The rules and actions are much simpler than Shadows and Camelot, so it’s a good game for people who aren’t used to board games, the challenge being how to pool your limited array of abilities to halt the steady spread of plague.  It takes all of 5 minutes to explain, and a typical game only lasts about an hour, but there is a lot of subtlety there so you always feel that you are being challenged as a group to find the most elegant use of moves possible, making it the ideal starter co-op game.

So, there you have it.  If a bit of group intellectual challenge is something you feel missing from your life, grab any one of those, two or three friends, and have a go if only to taste  again for a moment those days when all you had was time and all you needed was a delectably devilish problem to while it away with.