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: Straight Outta Tucson

Desert Bus was last week! It’s a cool event that raises money for the Childs Play charity, by playing the game Desert Bus. The more you donate to the event, the longer the event runs, and that means they have to play the game longer and if you weren’t aware, Desert Bus is a shockingly boring game.

What this means is that the whole streaming event is someone playing a dreadfully boring game and doing anything they can to be less bored – with their friends in the room. It’s a festival of events of busking, comedy performances, dramatic readings, a few D&D games, quiz games and also kinda a long-reaching slow-rolling combination of a con and a podcast. And mixed in amongst that there’s other events, including a game jam!

And I submitted a game to it this year!

The game is called Straight Outta Tucson, and it’s a simple little affair; it’s completely free to download and play, and we may be seeing about putting it up on some print-on-demand services as a cost-and-shipping-only option if you want a professionally made copy.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about what was involved in making it.

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Game Pile: The Disney Animated Canonball Tier List

Man this was a worrrrk. For this No-Effort-November game video, I thought I’d do a tier list and talk a bit about how playing with ideas like this is, itself, a game. And anyway, turns out it was a huge pile of effort to do it the way I did, with a video that wound up with over 120 levels of media and 90 minutes of audio…

But hey, here it is! Enjoy!

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Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, i27 — Page 5

I was not expecting this! I was not expecting to get two Homecoming updates this year, which may sound a little sarcastic but please remember Homecoming is a free game maintained by fans for the love of it, so the updates (known as ‘Pages’) are things I try not to expect. I’m a super-invested player, with a huge cast of characters all at the level cap, so I try not to get involved in beta discussions of how the game ‘should’ be — I know that my experience is extremely atypical to most players. That means that new pages arrive in my life like a delightful little fairy sprinkling dust.

This page was definitely lots of little stuff but not lots of #content, so I’m going to run through what it is and what it means, to me, and why you might care about it.

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Game Pile: Bart Vs The Space Mutants (Video!)

I thought it’d be a good time to go back to some older stuff I made that talks about an interesting idea, and this time it was the way that Bart Vs The Space Mutants is a game constructed entirely out of how the ads feel. So I found my old article and made a video out of it!

And now, some space and the thumbnail after the fold:

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Game Pile: Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion

Scooby Doo was never my favourite franchise growing up. I always thought it looked hokey, all the monsters were disappointing because they didn’t tend to make sense and were always just dudes in suits, and there were always so many episodes of it so that any time you were watching cartoons it’s possible a slot that something interesting could be in would be surprisingly filled by Some More Scooby Doo. As I grew up, there was always more Scooby Doo stuff, almost as if it was just a franchise running in the spot while the timeline of the background spooled in a circle behind it.

I have never perceived Scooby Doo branding as a sign of quality.

Let me then explain to you the surprise and delight that came out of playing this game and finding out that it is a genuinely fascinating, clever board game experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Game Pile: The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow - From Where Does Your Horror Grow?

If you want the super-short summary, it’s a point-and-click adventure by Cloak and Dagger games and published by Wadjet Eye, and in that specific genre of current narrative adventures using a point-and-click, Beneath A Steel Sky style, it’s really great. It’s a folk horror game, it does flashbacks and really cryptic puzzles, could be a little more convenient to avoid some of the pitfalls.

The video is, largely, about what we call horror.

Thumbnail below the fold.

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Game Pile: Son of Xenon

There are, officially, six Space Quest videogames, released in order from 1986 to 1995. They follow the adventures of Roger Wilco, a hapless janitor whose adventures started on the Arcada, a science vessel transporting a super-science doohickey that could be turned into a weapon, where everyone was killed but Roger, who avoided certain doom because he was sleeping in the closet. Each game ramped up the stakes and adjusted the setting a little, with Roger going on a series of adventures that were mostly about trying to survive extremely hostile situations in which he’d been flung by the machinations of someone else, or in some cases, great coincidence.

Mostly the Space Quest games were defined by a particular sense of humour, which in some cases doesn’t age great (of the six games, fully three of them pass before there’s a single woman character who says anything), and a gameplay system that’s much more about being a very ordinary person trying to construct solutions to things because of your limited expertise.

But the technology of full-time professionals in 1985 has long since passed into the skillset of the hobbyist, and so the Space Quest franchise, which has been dormant so long the company responsible for it has been dead for years, is mostly continued by fan games.

Like this one, Son of Xenon.

Son of Xenon is a 16-colour, 320-200 pixel resolution Space Quest fan game that is, ostensibly, about Roger Wilco before he became the janitor of the Arcada, before the sun of Xenon was dying, before the Star Generator was ever made. If you want to check out Son Of Xenon before I go on about it, here’s a link. It’s pretty good. I got stuck at a few points, but it didn’t feel nearly as unfair as the genre normally is, and you’ll probably get through it in a few hours on your own.

No spoilers after the fold, but rather, a consideration of Roger Wilco, and his place in gaming, and why we get fangames like Son of Xenon.

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Game Pile: Exalted, The Infernals, and Dreadful Favourites

Back in 2019 I wrote a pair of articles about Exalted, and The Infernals and the challenges of grappling with a book I don’t recommend but still has in it stuff I like in an interesting, vibrant, wild setting. Apparently 3e Exalted is now ending and a new game is being made in its wake, so what better time than to complain about books that are sixteen years old?

Exalted the Infernals and Dreadful Favourites

If you wanna see the thumbnail, here it is:

Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, Page 4

Oh snap, what’s that? That MMO everyone is always talking about with the cool looking characters, that’s free to play up to level 50 and beyond, has gotten a recent update?

That’s right, mother-havers and non-mother-havers, it’s another City of Heroes Homecoming Page, a content update for the sweatiest of weirdoes!

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Game Pile: Skatebird

I gotta tell you, this was hard, because the game is hard and I’m not good at it, but it’s also really good and I don’t know how to tell you that because I don’t know how long the game stays good or if I’m even misreading it and man, you know, games are hard.

Admitting Defeat & Skatebird

And here’s the thumbnail if you wanted to see it:

Game Pile: Kiitos

Kiitos’ rules are so simple explaining them doesn’t really give you a feel for the game as it plays. The simplest explainer is that it’s a trick taker version of scrabble. You have a hand full of cards with some letters on them. You put down a card with a letter on it, then you say a word that starts with that letter, and then pass it to the next player. If they have the next letter in their hand, they have to play it into the word. In so doing, everyone builds on this word until it’s done, and when that happens, the person who set the word originally says ‘kiitos,’ meaning ‘thank you,’ and then takes the cards and they won that round.

If you can’t continue the existing word, the default assumption is you then take the existing letters in front of you, and put them in front of you face down as your negative points – a ‘great job, loser’ pile of cards that indicate you’ve just hecked up in the worst kind of way, great job. Is there some way to escape this fate, though?

Why, yes — if you can’t continue the word with the cards in your hand, you might be able to add a letter and say a new word. And now suddenly someone may have started with the word BURP and you’ve elbow-shoved the table into BUDGET and what’s more, now they’re bound by the same rules – they have to continue the word if they can. They can’t just shove the word back when they get the chance because the word’s been deformed by definition.

And… that’s it! You play rounds until you stop. The game is incredibly simple, and yet brain-expandingly difficult when you understand the rules system.

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Game Pile: Stunts

This game is complicated to discuss. Not because the game is complex or there’s some problem with the provenance or a complicated word in the title, but rather, because most people I know who knew the game knew it only as stunts.exe, but depending on what part of the world your copy came from, it could have been known as 4DS, Stunt Car Racer, Stunt Driver, or Stunts.

We were, however, all well aware that this game was great.

For reasons that are tricky to explain.

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Game Pile: The Learning Company And Super Solvers Explained!

And now, the video that culminates the script you’ve seen formed over the past two weeks! I do hope that this is an interesting way to participate in the Game Pile and not an unsatisfying way for me to parcel out a project that’s too big, eh? Eh?~

The Learning Company And The Super Solvers Explained

A big perk of this process was that taking this much time meant that the video could account for a lot more than normal, and I could focus on some details I often don’t get to do. When I do a video largely unscripted, I don’t have a subtitle script – while this one does have a subtitle script, hooray hooray!

Game Pile: Golden Sky Stories

Even if you’ve no direct interest in helping heal the heart of the grumpy inner-city architect who moved out to your tiny pastoral Japanese town, you should spend some time looking at this game, purely because of what it means to tell a story with such different tools available to you.

Golden Sky Stories - Courage In Comfort

If you’d like the thumbnail, it’s after the fold, to hopefully make it pop up in the twitter preview.

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Game Pile: Quake

In 2021, Quake got put on Steam in a new, updated version that made the resolution work better with my monitor. I promised myself I would finally put down some of my thoughts about Quake.

It so happens while watching speedruns I realised I hadn’t done that yet.

And I needed to to hit this deadline.


Quake and Stories About Now

Game Pile: A Buncha Queer Stuff (I Didn’t Finish)

This time last year, I collected a list of the kinds of games I’d try to play by this time next year. to make Game Piles about. They had something about them that appealed to me, and I wanted to use my platform, as much as I could, to direct some atetention to them, or to what they were trying to do, and I already owned them so the plan was nice and simple: These were the games I’d play for Pride Month.

And Iiii didn’t, or I did, or something about them made them unsuitable, or whatever!

Now this isn’t me going ‘I tried these games and they were bad, so now I’m gunna drag them.’ I think all these games have charm and you should check them out if the pitch works for you. They just didn’t make good Game Piles for me, but I still want them visible for Pride Month.

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Game Pile: The Androsynth

Talking about Star Control 2 is a process of pulling apart an encyclopedia of a game and turning all the phrases in it around until they catch the light. A sprawling epic you can fit on a floppy disk, it was one of the most thoroughly crafted games I ever experienced, supported both by its own historical text (Star Control 1), supplementary text (the manuals) and even the first version of The Author’s Twitter (a set of IRC interviews with the developers back in the days before twitter was a thing). Then there’s the implied spaces of that text, where just by dint of being science fiction made by dorks in the 90s, and drawing on a trope space like that with no real shame, there were a host of things in this universe that even one-note gag characters presented to be the point-and-click adventure temporary problems you routed around were still imbued with personality and culture.

It was also that particular characteristic of writing of the time, which I saw as well in other ‘expansive’ universes where every individual character had basically a single hook to get them into your head. In the same way that you can point at each member of the Transformers core cast as a set of speech tics and single personality traits, it’s not hard to look at the cultures of the Star Control 2 universe as kind of two simple ideas mashed together. Xenocidal spiders, capitalist slavers, sweet plants, blue lesbians, miscellaneous shitposters (malicious), miscellaneous shitposters (harmless), lovecraftian fish — they hold together simply, and they do their job.

I talked about the Ur-Quan, the Thraddash and the Dynarri (a culture represented by an individual). I mean ostensibly, I do want to talk about all the interesting cultures of Star Control 2, and probably get to the Supox as well, but there’s one culture, one group, that deserves special attention for being an absentee. It’s not like the Taalo, who you only know of through their absence — an alien culture you encounter in the backstory of the Ur-Quan. Rather, it’s one of the cultures you met in Star Control and then, in Star Control 2

are gone.

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Game Pile: The Castle Of Doctor Brain

In 1992, Sierra On-line was at the top of their game. They had multiple Quest titles, the 3.5 floppy infrastructure let them make a lot of experimental games without incurring the same kind of heavy costs as would eventually bury the company in the CD and internet era. Part of this was because they had, on deck Corey and Lori Ann Cole, the people who made my favourite Sierra games, the Quest For Glory series, with the point-and-click VGA engine. Know what happens when you get cool people who can use interesting tools in a low-cost low-risk environment?

They screw around and make cool shit!

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Game Pile: Kingdom

The original plan for this article was to make it as a series of nesting paragraphs, where the first paragraph is at the start of the page, the second at the bottom, the next paragraph was in the second place, and so on so you had to keep scrolling from the top to the bottom back and forth with the conclusion being the paragraph in the centre of the whole article.

This was a cute idea, represented the gameplay loop of Kingdom, somewhat easy for me to do, clever, and an absolutely terrible idea to do for you. It’s a cute idea, and it invokes the game, but if I did that, every person with a screen reader would want to choke me.

Instead what I decided to do was introduce this game with a completely incomprehensible statement that implied some knowledge you’d have to have of the game going forward.

Don’t worry, I like this game.

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Game Pile: Avatar Legends, the Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Avatar: The Last Airbender and its superior sequel (because I like it more) The Legend of Korra are extremely well-loved cartoons of their generation. Then on kickstarter, an official TTRPG version of it made ten MILLION dollars. It’s out now, and what do I think of it?

Who is Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game For?

Script and outline below the fold!~

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