Category Archives: Game Pile

My Game Pile is my stack of videogames that I’ve been working my way through over the course of the years, and writing about them. The plan is pretty simple: I talk about the game and I talk about the things that that game inspire. Sometimes it’s short, sometimes it’s long – and always, I try to give you an idea of who the game might be fore, or why they might want to buy it.

Let’s use Games to talk about Everything!

Game Pile: Brew

Brew is a 2021 game made by Stevo Torres, and published by Pandasaurus Games, who you may recognise from other titles like Machi Koro, Dinosaur Island, The Mind, The Loop, Ctrl and – you know what, Pandasaurus just have a lot of great games in their catalogue. They also have Brew, which doesn’t tend to get that much attention, and that’s where I could do a great job of pivoting to rubbishing on this game, because hey, if they don’t promote it maybe it’s because it’s baaaad.

No, don’t worry about it, I like Brew a lot.

Brew has a really cool premise for its fiction. Something’s gone all messed up with nature, and day, night, and seasons are all happening at the same time and also at random. You represent one of four alchemists in this space, who’s going to travel into the surrounding forests where different seasons are happening, brew potions, tame animals, and get chunks of the forest to Settle The Hell Down for a bit, and all in the name of establishing some control. You can walk from one section of the forest where it’s winter across a line to blazing summer, while you try to find animals that are transformed by these chaotic magics. Along the way, you brew potions that let you perform transformative magics, channelling the energies of the land into safe, stable places.

The winner is the person who gets the most victory points.

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Game Pile: Ring Fit Adventures

Ah, the best of intentions.

I bought Ring Fit Adventure during the August 2020 lockdown. I bought it from a local business, so it could be delivered cheaply. When it arrived, I unboxed it, showed it to Elli and to Fox, and left it next to the TV for two weeks. I did this because Fox would go to bed at night, and take the Switch with her, meaning that I did not have a joycon-powered way to play the game. I did not check if I could use the spare joycons on my Switch Lite. I did not ask Fox to make space for me.

I just… ignored it for a little while. You know the thinking?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll start.

I started using it on September the 4th, in 2020. I took notes, for my first twelve days. Twelve! I thought I’d have a lot more than that. And that was two years ago, with this article staying in draft form for oh so long.

I think that Ring Fit Adventures is pretty good. It’s remarkably nonjudgmental game which makes its particular focus of exercise interesting. I got it to get myself an outlet for exercise that I could maintain under lockdown conditions, when normally, I would be travelling around and doing things… and also, I know that I’m getting older and should have a more regular exercise schedule. It seems pretty good at what it’s doing and it didn’t make me feel bad.

I did, however, feel bad.

Content Warning: Under the fold is less of your typical ‘game review’ or critical engagement with the game text. It’s much more of a diary examining myself and my feelings about this game and how I struggled with it. There’s some reflections on my relationship to my body and I’m honestly embarrassed of it, but I think I need to fight that embarrassment and present a fair account of this game.

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Game Pile: HitchHiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Did you know that one of the funniest English language authors in history wrote a bunch of videogames, and they’re really funny? Well, you probably did, because Terry Pratchett made that huge Oblivion mod, but also, his peer Douglas Adams also made stuff, though on earlier, clunkier, uglier hardware.

Yes, once more I delve into the infocom vaults to talk to you about a game that is, primarily, just text, almost as if I have some kind of bias towards that kind of media for some reason.

Anyway, I’m going to complain about Twine briefly.

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Game Pile: Dangeresque: The Roomisode Triungulate

Fox and I got a whole new Dangeresque game to play, and that’s what we did! I don’t play the whole thing, I just play the first third, and I try not to play too thoroughly, so my commentary about things isn’t getting in the way of a proper long play, but this is really fun! I recommend it! Thumbnail belowa tha folda!

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Game Pile: Hit The Silk

I like Hit The Silk. If you’re not familiar with Hit The Silk and also to extend the introduction a little bit, it’s a card game where the players are a bunch of crooks on a plane at the last part of a heist movie that has gone completely terrible. The characters of Hit The Silk are all riding a plane without a pilot, with a pile of money to divvy up, and there’s always not enough parachutes. You have two competing demands, then, as a player, one of which is a numeric value (how much money you get, and if you can get over a threshold), and one of which is a binary value (did you get out with a parachute or are you dead).

The plane is going down, and it goes down faster and faster as you go on – so there’s a clock on how many turns players can play and two competing failure states. Oh one of the other competing failure states is that you can kill people and lock them to one another with handcuffs but they can get out of handcuffs with keys but then those keys can’t be used to raid the plane’s lockbox and potentially get more money. You can attack people to take cards off them, and that means that now, you don’t want people to know too much about what’s in your hand, but your only way to get cards into your hand tends to be interacting with people in trades.

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Game Pile: Small world

Ah, the clash of civilisations! The imposition of different species against one another, in the great and ongoing war for resources, informed by fantasy kingdom fiction! Small World, a board game that I just want to underscore here I like enough to play when I have the opportunity, but not like enough to own, is a game by Phillipe Keyaerts, and published by Days of Wonder.

It’s a delightful little game in that particular type of ‘fantasy cultures building out across a bunch of land,’ and works on the very specific intention of making sure there’s not quite enough space for anyone to just get along. It’s literally a game about a small world. Oh hey, that’s the name. You’re not going to be managing food or water supplies in Small World. It’s not quite that type of civilisation game. It’s much more abstracted, where you smack down little piles of tokens to represent who is where and how much of them there are.

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Game Pile: Why Do Trans Women Love Fallout New Vegas

Released in 2010, Fallout New Vegas is a classic of the FPS-shooter RPG genre, bringing forward the Fallout 3 engine’s integration of real-time FPS combat with the previous Fallout game’s turn-based mathematical combat, and integrating them into a sort of ‘second parse’ at the let’s politely say rough execution of Fallout 3. In this game, which I have reviewed in the past, literally ten years and a much more closely-hewn Yahtzee Impression ago, you play a character called The Courier starting at the point in their story where a traumatic head injury gives you an opportunity to intervene in the existing story with a potentially all new, all exciting direction.

The story is a sort of noir cowboy steampunk fantasy – there’s the trappings of modern technology and post-apocalyptica, but the world that was and its infrastructure isn’t really important as much as it just sweeps aside a lot of options for progress. Technology is chunky and heavy and there’s a durability to everything, where things break, but they can always be fed more technology to make them un-break. Everything has an independence to it, a scrounging, foraging, make-it-work, it’ll-do-for-now technologism all typified with a gun at your hip and your duster fluttering in the hot wind.

Also, I guess, Content Warning: Drugs and violence, because that’s a thing that happens in the game and kinda comes up in this conversation. A bit. I just want one person at least to be more comfortable reading this, going on.

And it is notorious for being a game beloved by trans women. So much so that it’s a meme unto itself, a joke about being into Fallout New Vegas being a gateway to the experience of being a trans woman. And as an investigator of games, I thought I could, this Pride Month, explain to you, why all trans women love Fallout New Vegas:

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Game Pile: Kings Quest I

There’s a particular type of non-arcade puzzle-solving story game, which these days is often built on tapping into the nostalgia of people who were children in the 90s. These games, which I refer to as ‘narrative adventures,’ tend to draw on a small number of specific genre signifiers. Back in the 90s, the two big common threads between the forms were the ‘Lucasarts’ genre of games, which tended to be designed without failure states, and ‘Quest’ genre of game, which tended to relate to failure more actively.

Basically, the vibe was that you couldn’t die in Lucasarts games, and you couldn’t lose either. Lucasart games were always going to give you room to make progress, so anything that could work was going to work, which meant the game could eventually break down into trying everything on everything else. By comparison, Quest games could kill you to signal ‘hey, don’t do that.’

And the game that set the pace, that started the mechanisms for both of these genres was Kings Quest 1.

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Game Pile: Scourge, the Magic Set

Magic: The Gathering has some really interesting things recently coming into my space. In the past literal full year at this point, Wizards of the Coast have released products that do nothing but personally irritate me, and the horizon shows no abatement on that score. I hate Urza, I hate Mishra, I hate the Phyrexians and the only reason I don’t flat-out hate Dominaria is Kelly Digges’ work on worldbuilding that space being absolutely breathtaking to consider as a form of craft. These are spaces for which I have literally no actual emotional attachment, stories that I want over and gone as soon as possible so that Wizards can maybe pursue the dream of twenty years ago presented by Mirrodin of maybe not just continuing to write the same story in the same generic fantasy plane over and over, badly. But then they went and hired the Pinkertons.

I didn’t want to talk about this article this way. I wanted to reflect on the twenty years I’ve been playing this game and the twenty years I’ve been designing custom cards for it. I wanted to reflect on the importance of a game that maybe, part of me wonders, could have been my life, and which could have connected me even closer to some people who I think of as incredible and amazing and beautiful, but talking about that, and reflecting on that, feels deeply irresponsible because wizards went and hired the Pinkertons.

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Game Pile: Bioshock Infinite, Again

When I wrote about Bioshock Infinite back in May of 2013, I had just started university and had some fantasy in my mind about this blog being a bridge to working in the games industry. James journalism, I imagined, was waiting for me to present an example of what I could do, and so, I wrote about games with the energy of someone trying to reach that sweet spot of irreverent professionalism, discussing games in terms of pros and cons and the inevitable consideration of a consumer.

At the time I did call the game a modern classic, on par with Spec Ops: The Line. I cringe at that a little, because while it’s true, it’s true in the way that you could remove that description from context and leave with the impression that I think that makes it good. It’s absolutely a classic – you can look at it in the context of the games of its time and it serves as an iconic reduction of so many of the elements that make up what it was to be games in that time and that place.

I then spent several years familiarising myself further and further with Bioshock Infinite and realising how much worse a game it was than I appreciated at the time. I eventually came to refer to Bioshock Infinite as a ‘shallow game as high watermark.’ That’s reasonable, I think — It does deserve to be regarded as a classic because of it. It was very much a good example of what gaming, at the time, considered The Way Things Should Be, that it was an example of art as a game.

It’s 2023 now.

I resolved the idea that I should be kind with energy, and cruel with purpose. The purpose here, is to look at my own writing, ten years ago, about this game, and see what I think of it, what I think of who I am now.

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Game Pile: Infidel

Boy that’s not a comfortable game title, is it.

Back in 1983, the game studio Infocom was pumping out text adventure games for a bunch of platforms, which included one of the eventual ‘winners’ of the home computer platform, DOS. That meant that even ten years later, you could buy a ‘remaster’ compilation of their games. Designed for a time well before, with assets entirely in text, the Infocom Collection presented 20 games, that once were each a disk, all fitting neatly on a single 3.5 inch floppy disk, with enough extra room for some manuals and ways to circumvent the copy protection, which was, for these games, necessary.

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Game Pile: Klotski

If you’re the right age, you might remember this old Windows 3.1 game, Klotski. Hypothetically, it’s based on an ancient genre of sliding block puzzles that may or may not date back to ‘Ancient China,’ which is typically a sign that the people writing the textbook have given up. I don’t know it by its supposedly more original name and turns out that a lot of the resources referring to it as Huorong Dao are in languages I don’t read.

It’s a block-sliding puzzle game that looks impossible at first, but you get it presented to you as if you can get the big central block out. It’s funny how, as a kid, I genuinely wasn’t sure if it was possible to solve. Think about that, there was a time when I thought it was very reasonable that someone would distribute a software package that literally could not do anything but let you play around and get frustrated with it a lot. I figured, because I couldn’t solve it, that the game was a program made to make people like me feel stupid and waste our time.

Don’t wanna talk to you about the mysterious origin of this game, though, want to talk to you about a table.

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