The Splendor of the Holidays

It’s a paradoxical conundrum that we spend more time with family over the holidays yet when the good times are over it feels like we didn’t get to spend that much time at all.

Splendor title

To rectify that situation we had her Mom and Dad over on December 26th of last year and played four games of Splendor, and every game had a different winner. Couldn’t have planned that better!


Christmas with the Kranks

Every year during the holiday season we watch through a group of movies that may or may not have a festive setting and theme.

(Hint – they do.)

This year was the first I had seen Christmas with the Kranks (she had seen it previous) so I was hoping we had found another to add to the list of our rotational December viewing.

Christmas with the Kranks movie poster

I’m not (obviously) looking for the new definition of classic cinema, but I was looking for a decent Christmas-flavored flick to get into the spirit of the season with.

This movie did not do that, but a few laughs got me through to the end.

A wonderful, awful idea – reading the Grinch

He's hating the Whos

He’s hating the Whos

We read How the Grinch Stole Christmas! the other night as a family and it was pretty sweet; I enjoyed the Christmas special on TV growing up but couldn’t recall if I had ever read the book.

Now I have, and it was fun to read the story from its original perspective.

Having watched the aforementioned TV special enough to be able to practically quote it verbatim, the book seemed remarkably short (which is weird since its animated counterpart is only half an¬†hour long) – and the buildup to the heist didn’t seem as epic.

Still a good tale well told and one I was glad to read aloud.

The city of Troy by another name


Received this game last Christmas, and while I love history and games this one didn’t grab me like I thought it would.

I played through it with a friend twice to make sure we weren’t missing something, but the only thing missing was the fun we were supposed to be having.

As we played through several of the components you were supposed to keep track up didn’t end up helping you or having any effect on the outcome of the game.

It’s rare that I meet a game I don’t like, but unfortunately this one has to go on that list.

Brand New Low

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 30, 2008

This is the fourth entry into a series about great moments from my gaming past. These wrinkles in time refuse to go away in my conscience, and I want to get them down before all the details are lost. The events are not in chronological order.

I’m not sure if it was Christmas ’94 or ’95, but this wrinkle deals with¬†NFL 95¬†for the Sega Genesis and a specific memory I have of it.

My dad is a good sport. Back when all I had was the Genesis, he would humor me and play a few games now and then. We didn’t play them too long, because back then I didn’t have the, how shall I say, the “patience” I have with others when it comes to games that I do today.

I’m referring to little-used practice of letting someone else win. This involves knowingly backing off of someone who may not be as good as you, or just doesn’t know how to play a game as well. Ever tried it? Sadly, I’m doubt few people have; but, I find it essential in keeping friendships going and new people coming to the table of video games.

That said, I didn’t practice “patience gaming” with my dad enough when I was growing up. Racing games, fighting games (Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition), etc. – it didn’t matter. I would crush him as soon as I mastered the game. This put him at a distance; he didn’t really want to play with me anymore – and looking back, I can’t blame him.

All this changed whenever I received¬†NFL 95¬†as a Christmas present. After the celebration, we sat down and spent some good quality time with the (virtual) pigskin. I won’t get into the details of the game play, but we were pretty evenly matched and had a great time. I knew he enjoyed it because even after we came home late from my grandma’s house, he asked me if I wanted to play some more – which of course I did. It was great.

Now I’d like to say that we had many more football sessions after that, but that would not be the case. You see, by that evening, my skill had begun to pull away from his…and that put us right back where we started: me constantly winning and the joy being sucked out of the game for him.

This ending may not seem happy, but it is – I got to bond with my dad over video games, and it taught me that sometimes you can have the most fun without winning all the time. (To be fair, I didn’t learn that lesson¬†that¬†night, but eventually…)

I’m not likely to ever play¬†NFL 95¬†again, but every Christmas I’m reminded with a smile of some good times with my dad – and what a good sport he is.

Post tenebras lux

A big bowl of thanks

Originally posted at GameSpot on March 3, 2008

Being thankful isn’t something I do enough of. I know it’s clich√©, but I need to strive at being more aware of the blessings I enjoy each and every day.

This is no different when it comes to video games, and I want take time out with this blog to review what an amazing 4-5 months it’s been in my gaming world.

Due to the generosity of family at Christmas and our tax return, I’ve been able to advance more in my game library is these past few months than I have in quite a while:



Forza Motorsport

Jade Empire: Limited Edition

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders

Project Gotham Racing 2

Project: Snowblind

Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow


Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)

Diner Dash: Sizzle and Serve

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Mario Kart DS

Mario Party DS

New Super Mario Brothers

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Risk / Battleship / Clue (GBA)

Star Fox Command

Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 (GBA)


Uno / Skipbo / Uno Freefall


Nintendo DS Lite (2)

Fanatec Speedster 3 Forceshock Xbox Racing Wheel

I look at this list with a sense of awe and intimidation, both excited about the purchases but wondering how I’m going to find time for all of them.

That’s the problem with my gaming hobby – I’m acquiring games faster than I can play through them.

I’m not the first person to have this problem, nor will I be the last – and as far as problems go, I think having an abundance of games is probably the best kind to have.

Post tenebras lux

New Year, New Hardware!

Originally posted at GameSpot on January 16, 2008

It’s been nearly four years since I’ve had a brand-new system, and to be honest I felt it would probably be at least one or two more before that event actually happened. But things have a way of turning out different that you expect, and I now find myself the proud owner of a crimson and black Nintendo DS Lite! Technically, I am not an owner yet – I just won the system on eBay today. And what a contest it was! But I need to back up. . .

The idea of even getting a DS, like all my good ideas, must be attributed to my wife. We were out on a much-needed date night, spending some of our Christmas booty when I mentioned the DS to her. . .again. I had been trying to get her on to the idea for a little while, but not pushing too hard. Then she offered an expression of pure clarity of thought that reminded me why she is one of the smartest women on the planet. To quote her exact words, she said: “Why don’t you just get one?”

Why don’t I? I mean, with the gracious generosity of family over the holidays, I actually had the cash on hand. And, equally just as important, I knew I had my wife on my side due to the fact that she suggested it. If I’m going to invest in something like a new game system, I want her on board – and I want her to play it too! So we talked a little more about it, and she was excited about the old Mario games, as well as the many board and puzzle games we could play together.

So now that everything has fallen into place to purchase the DS Lite, now I actually have to find one. I didn’t think it would be this hard – I mean, it’s after Christmas – right? Wrong. No one has them, and I mean no one. Not toy stores, department stores, actual video games stores, or electronic stores – no one. They all said the same thing: “No, and I don’t know when we’re getting more.”

Was this it? Was this the end of the line? Finally getting to this point, and then falling prey to the short supply of the product? Enter my ace-in-the-hole, eBay. It came down to a literal last second bid, but I beat everyone one out to score what I had been trying to get. Now it’s only a matter of time before I’m enjoying some dual screen goodness. . .

To sum up, I’m excited – excited about a new system I didn’t know was coming this soon, and owning my first portable system since my old Game Gear days. It will also be nice to play some Nintendo again; Microsoft has been getting all my money for the past few years!

Post tenebras lux

Keeping the bighorn sheep population in check

Originally posted at GameSpot on January 4, 2008

My family and I went over to a friend’s house the other night (January 2nd), and between the good food and excellent conversation we managed to get some gaming in. Some of my thoughts on the night:

Their parents bought them (how cool is that?) Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2008 for the Wii for Christmas. Their family enjoys hunting, so the game is a natural fit. I’ve never hunted before, but I enjoy the outdoors and I can see the appeal. I played a few rounds, shot a few deer – even a big horn sheep. It was kind of fun; you definitely have to really enjoy it to get into it, but with the natural sounds and the animals bounding playfully in front of me, it was kind of relaxing in a way.

I found myself wondering if the genre could be expanded and, in my opinion, made better. What if you had actual locations you could hunt on – not just a generic representation? I mean, the game had locations such as “New Zealand Fall” or “Montana Winter,” but it’s not like they were very different from each other. When a game accurately represents a real-world location, its stock goes up in my book.

What about on-line or multi-player? Maybe this is already out there, but I would think hunting with your buddies would just seem natural in a game like this. Isn’t that part of the draw of hunting?

How about an “epic hunt?” By epic, I mean having to track an animal across mountains and continents, all kinds of weather, finally culminating in that one shot that brings down your prize and sends your war cry echoing from the mountains…I don’t know if you can actually translate that into an enjoyable experience in a game, but it sounds good in my head.

In retrospect, I’m probably thinking way too much about a hunting game, but I think there are some interesting possibilities out there.

Next game up was Need for Speed Carbon. I wasn’t that impressed, but it was alright as far as racing games go. I never got into the whole “underground” movement in the Need for Speed games; still some of the cars were pretty nice to look at. What didn’t work at all, however, was the Will remote. They had the wheel shell you could place it in to drive, but it still felt awkward. Racing with a free-floating wheel feels less like the real thing then moving the right thumb-stick.

Something else – when we tried to get chased by cops, we couldn’t find them. When we did get some to chase us, they couldn’t keep up. Weird – in previous Need for Speed games they jump down your throat!

To cap off the night, I hooked up the Xbox and we played Halo. Ah, it always brings back a lot of good memories – back when I had ample free time and could just spend hour after hour at someone’s house playing Slayer. I enjoy what I’ll call the “Halo Effect” – this is setting down to play a quick few games and all of the sudden it’s three hours later. The last time for the four of us played it was Blood Gulch all the way, but this time we had a little Derelict and Wizard action. My wife is getting better all the time…

It was a great night.

 Post tenebras lux