What is a game?

Seems like a simple question, right? But when you really sit down and think about it – what’s the answer? Is there a universal definition? Or is it more a case of knowing it when you see it? And furthermore, there’s an even more fundamental query – why is a game?

It’s that last inquiry that seems to be at the center of Oliver Roeder’s new book “Seven Games: A Human History” (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95). It’s an exploration of, well, seven games – checkers, backgammon, chess, Go, poker, Scrabble and bridge – and our connection to them.

With each entry, Roeder offers us a look at the game’s origins – its place of birth, its precursors, its evolution – as well as introducing us to a formidable practitioner. And perhaps most fascinating, he also takes us into the realm of artificial intelligence as we meet the people who have devoted their lives to teaching machines to play these games.

It’s a fascinating treatise on the importance of games and how they influence the people who play them, as well as a wonderful glimpse at some of the eccentric and idiosyncratic folks who have devoted their lives to achieving a kind of granular greatness. To Roeder and the people to whom he speaks, games are far more than mere entertainment – they are an opportunity to better understand the world, both around us and within us.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 12:42

Weekly Time Waster (04-13-2016)

'Bond Breaker 2.0'

Published in Time Waster Weekly
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 22:44

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

MGSV:The Phantom Pain follows the story of Big Boss (aka Snake) as he sneaks, shoots and stabs his way through an open world Afghanistan and Angola during the Cold War. The story isnot front and center throughout the entire game. When the game does decide to hit major story beats, they are very entertaining and the story it tells is fantastic. It is full of twists and turns so the less I say about it the better. The biggest disappointment is how much of the story is hidden away on audio logs you find throughout the game. Even without listening to all the tapes the game still tells a surprisingly thoughtful tale that touches on everything from child soldiers to the power of language.

If the approach to story is unexpected, then the gameplay itself is the biggest surprise. Snake has an ever growing number of tools, weapons and gadgets at his disposal. The amount of ways you can approach any given mission is staggering. Whether you want to slowly inch across through the grass interrogating enemies before knocking them out or charge straight through the middle shooting rockets from horseback you are covered. I tended to play on the stealthier side of things but it was a relief that when that went wrong I could still shoot my way out rather than just fail the mission. The enemies are unpredictable and constantly communicate with each other meaning one enemy spotting you can cause the whole region to go on alert. Luckily, when you are first spotted the game goes into slow motion to give you a chance to take out the enemy that saw you. It sounds like this mechanic would make the game too easy, but it is well balanced.

Published in Tekk
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 19:55

Time Waster - ZomboGems

Sometimes the tensest part of a horror movie is when a character is trying to do a mundane task that is made horribly complicated by panic. Like gassing up your car in the midst of a zombie attack. But with ZomboGems, they've added another level of complexity by adding the nonsensical need to match gems in order to fill your tank (the gems hold the gas, or some nonsense). Basically they were looking for an excuse to squish two games into one, and they did.

As you match gem colors by three or more, you shoot, or lob weapons at the oncoming hordes of zombies. In between pit stops, you can supposedly upgrade your vehicle, buy some items that make killing the zombies easier or gassing up faster. But the upgrade system feels terribly imbalanced you can't afford the good stuff and end up being walloped as you progress through the game. Basically forcing you to replay levels (such as they are) until you can buy better gear to beat that oncoming hoard. It isn't a deal-breaker, but it does get a little tedious especially considering how similar the levels are to begin with.

Published in Time Waster Weekly
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 18:46


Three horror games to avoid

I am a gigantic chicken. It's a well-documented fact that I'm squeamish around anything that can remotely come close to horror. However, I do have a tendency to at least attempt to play horror games. I'm not sure if it's because I'm in control of the action or if I just have a virtual death wish, but I actually do enjoy playing scary games despite my long-standing disposition on terrifying entertainment.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 12:02

Potatoes In A Toilet


Testing a game's immersiveness

I have a curse when it comes to games that allow you any sort of freedom of movement (so ... just about all of them). Anytime I'm supposed to go somewhere, I will seek out the exact opposite side of the map and go there, just to spite that bossy little objective marker. I need to know what lies on the other side of the ocean before I take one step toward picking up that can/meeting my partner at the marketplace/having an audience with the king. When I was growing up, I used to drive my buddy Jeff nuts, because every single time we'd start a game, I'd see if I could go exactly where I wasn't supposed to, and the poor guy just wanted to know what happened in the story next.

Published in Tekk
Thursday, 03 January 2013 09:17

Fanbases At A Glance

Reputations of some of gaming's biggest communities

Friendliest: Minecraft'

I've never seen such a community spring almost out of nowhere, build a foundation (pun not intended) of solid contributors and have such an open attitude toward newcomers. Stacks and stacks of creations populate the great video oasis of YouTube, including 1:1 replicas of the Enterprise, 'Game of Thrones' locales and fantastic original building projects. Cities share their skylines with effigies of Nyan Cat and Sonic, all pointing toward the incredible joint efforts of each server's community. The modding community has come together to create some fantastic additions to the already-addictive core game. If you're about to dive into 'Minecraft,' go headfirst. The fans will greet you at the bottom, possibly with diamonds.

Published in Tekk


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