It's been a lousy week. Read the news and you can't help but want to just bury your head in the sand. Well, due to overlapping deadlines and a long-overdue need for a laugh, I cobbled together several goofy videos for gamers, nerds, and gamer nerds (like myself). But first, a nod of thanks goes to barelydigital.com, which gave me the idea to scour the Web for videos. This new site, created by the team behind Obama Girl, is built around the idea of lampooning tech. Currently in beta, they have a couple original clips up--and a growing collection of stuff assembled from all over the Web. (They promise more original programming in the coming weeks.) What I've seen is hit or miss, but, hey, props to those guys for trying. In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, keep scrolling for a few of the better finds.
Batman Gets Pwned -- A behind-the-scenes look at the Batcave and playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
So a fat pig jumps into my cab, and then he busts out into song while I carve through city streets. Nope, this isn't some deleted scene from the end of Slumdog Millionaire. I'm playing Karma Cab--a goofball mod for Half-Life 2.
What the heck is a mod? User-created game content--it's been around since long before YouTube ever made do-it-yourself entertainment a household concept. Old-school gaming nerds crafted game levels, weapons, character models--heck, entire games have been built using the guts of game engines for ages. (In fact, I highly recommend that you check out Mod DB for a huge selection of game mods.) That means lots of extra, free games derived from what you've already bought. The mod scene also happens to be a breeding ground for tomorrow's great game designers. To wit, the 2009 Independent Games Festival recently announced the ten student-showcase winners, some of which are based on mods. However, I wanted to showcase a couple of my own picks. I've found some really odd Half-Life 2 mods that, coincidentally, all came from the same academic program: the National Academy of Digital, Interactive Entertainment in Denmark (DADIU, in their native tongue).
Want to play 'em? All you need is Half-Life 2 with Steam, plus the FRAPS video codec to see some of the intro videos (but I don't believe FRAPS is required). Okay, back to my cab ride...and the rest of the weirdness.
It was my birthday, 1984. I'd spent the better part of a month convincing Dad that a new computer would help me. I'd use it for homework. I'd learn how to program. Oh, who was I kidding? I wanted to play games like my neighbor, like I'd been reading about in gaming magazines.
But when I woke up with an Apple IIc sitting next to my bed that fateful morning, I don't think I really knew what was in store. This isn't some Apple-fanboy love story. This is a nostalgic trip down monochromatic memory lane, a tale of how one nerd became a full-on, full-time gamer. With the help of Virtual Apple II, you're coming along for the ride.
Nintendo, Sony: Let's talk for a sec--just you and me. Look, guys, over the past couple of years, you've had a great run. Nintendo, your DS has tons of games, a wide variety of unique stuff that's a blast to play. Sony, your PSP is a gadget-lover's gaming tool, with everything from Skype to Internet-radio support (oh, yeah, and you have some cool games, as well). But unless you both do something in 2009, the iPhone and iPod Touch will soon become the top dogs in handheld gaming.
Apple, the same folks who have pretty much ignored games since I played Marathon on a Mac, came on strong in 2008--and now Nintendo and Sony must consider the iPhone a legit competitor. The proof: Apple's iPhone/iPod Touch games start at a buck (going up as high as $10), and games have flooded Apple's App Store since it opened its digital doors in July.
Nobody at either company has asked, but here's my free advice.
The Greatest iPhone Games of 2008
Though Macworld has nailed down its top ten iPhone games of 2008--only ten?--I just had to provide my own list of titles worth trying out. I mean, heck, I can count more than 25 titles that are better than some Nintendo DS and PSP games that sell for 20 or 30 bucks! Here's what's playing on my iPhone.
PC World has been going nuts, putting together gift guides for the holidays. "Buy this!" "Consume that!" Or just "Look at how crazy-cool (and crazy-expensive) some of this tech is!" Hey, I'm all for helping the economy along. Problem is, I can't afford to buy everyone on my list a gold-plated, jewel-encrusted cell phone this year. Sorry, Mom. So, I'm making some people PC mixtapes.
A PC Mixtape?
You heard me. Maybe I'm dating myself, but back in the day I'd load up olde-tyme magnetic tapes with songs from my collection, samples, and sound bites from the radio; it was a lot of work, but something I put a lot of thought into. Computers killed the art of making mixtapes ages ago--damn you, MP3s!-- but I'm bringing it back to life. (Okay, I'll give Muxtape props for trying.)
In my past life, I collected free games on a regular basis. A gaming freeloader, if you will. You can find hundreds upon thousands of great games that won't cost you a dime--you just need to know where to look. We've encountered a few terrific new games here at PC World, too.
Twenty bucks doesn't buy much these days. Two tickets to a new movie. Maybe a dinner at TGI Friday's. But what about cheap games? Sure, you can go over to Web sites such as Cheapassgamer.com to find great deals on some stuff that came out earlier this year, but what about all the games that regularly go for $20?
That's how I wound up becoming a videogame bull. Huh? Out of the Chute, branded by Professional Bull Riders, is currently playing on my Wii. Why? Well, when I saw the $20 title on a store shelf, curiosity got the better of me. I mean, how do you make a game like this even remotely fun? Just flip the box over. It reads: "Climb on the back of....blah, blah, blah...yippe ki-yay"--wait a sec--"...Or become 2000 pounds of fury and try to buck off the best riders in the world..." I get to play as a surly side of beef? SOLD!
Madden. Tony Hawk. Shaun White. Whatever. You ever hear of Chicken on a Chain? (Hint: Not a sadistic KFC snack.) Me neither. Heck, my only exposure to this stuff was the Jeff Foxworthy litmus test to see if I am a redneck--and I am not. So after a quick Google search during a holiday season full of truly awesome games, I can report with confidence that nobody--and I mean no-body--is reviewing Out of the Chute. Until now.
Let's get one thing straight: Second Life is not a game. Not unless you play games that include thumb twiddling for an afternoon and playing with pixelated paper dolls. To me, it's an aimless MMO. No, I take that back. It's a 3D chat room. The oddest or most boring chat room, depending on where you go. (And Sony wants to emulate this on the PlayStation 3 with its own virtual world, PlayStation Home? Yay.) It has no point, no quests. Then again, I'm a gamer--if I'm socializing with someone, a rocket launcher or sword is usually involved. Okay, okay...maybe a round of virtual Scrabble couldn't hurt. So where can one go to socialize and sneak in a quick game? Let's find out.
Second Life: Getting a Life
I decided to give Second Life a second chance (more like fifth, but who's counting?), and to help me I had Dierdre Gausman, a reporter for Second Life News Network (SLNN). She shows up, ready to play a couple games, in a snappy black ensemble and a pashmina scarf. Hey, if you have the Lindys to burn, flaunt it, right? Our first stop is a Tringo parlor. Think bingo meets Tetris. It's actually a neat idea, trying to match shapes on the big board as numbers are called. Next we go to an arcade. But as much fun as the games are, they all follow the same rules: Plunk down real world money to get Linden bucks, and then pay to win bucks back.
I've always classified myself as a hard-core gamer, but I just don't have the time anymore. Do I get demoted or something, like, to casual-core? Naw, I just look for places that can give me some hard-core games without the strings attached. That's what I like about InstantAction. The general idea is that it's a self-contained community consisting of indie games. You make friends, chat with 'em, and play sophisticated 3D games in your Web browser. All it takes is one ActiveX install, and you're good to go. But what stands out here are the quality and sophistication of the titles.
Exhibit A: Marble Blast Ultra is a prettified version of Marble Madness where you roll around puzzles from a marble's-eye view. There's even a free first-person-shooter tribute to Tribes called Fallen Empire: Legions. That's right, it's a huge online multiplayer firefight, all within Firefox.