This Week in the Mercury

Still Living with Everclear's Ghost


Still Living with Everclear's Ghost

Portland's Biggest Band of the '90s Sparkled Before the Fade

Hall Monitor


Hall Monitor

Kitzhaber in Camp


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hitman: Agent 47 Fumbles for the Reset

Posted by Andrew Wright on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 10:59 AM

HITMAN: AGENT 47 Not pictured above: Timothy Olyphant.
  • HITMAN: AGENT 47 Not pictured above: Timothy Olyphant.

Now that comic book movies have conquered the world, can video game adaptations follow the same path? Well, not yet, no. Despite a few promising moments of splattery clarity, Hitman: Agent 47 displays little of the vicarious imagination that keeps gamers glued to the couch. Taking a second swing at the source material (after 2007's attempt, a knowingly Eurotrashy Timothy Olyphant vehicle), Agent 47 fails to distinguish itself from pretty much every other B-picture featuring skinny ties, copious bullet-time, and guns in every available hand. For a movie based on a game that prides itself on offering multiple paths to an objective, it sure does rely on the tattered old John Woo playbook.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pixels Wants Your Money, Dweebs

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 11:29 AM

PIXELS Ashamed of being part of all this, Q*bert tried to duck out of sight. He wasn’t fast enough.
  • PIXELS Ashamed of being part of all this, Q*bert tried to duck out of sight. He wasn’t fast enough.

There's nothing to admire about Hollywood's current, relentless flogging of "nerd culture"; it's a straightforward lunch-money shakedown. Nerds are the original brand ambassadors, quick to define themselves by the stuff they buy, dutifully on board for the remake, the sequel, the TV adaptation.

Maybe this is why we keep getting stuck with movies and books (hello, Ernest Cline) that insist on the marginalization of the nerd while simultaneously valorizing his unique and under-appreciated worldview. Hey everybody, turns out nerds are really great guys! Now go see Iron Man 7.

The basic conceit of Pixels, lifted from an enjoyable 2010 short film by Patrick Jean, is that aliens are attacking the planet using tactics learned from old-school arcade games. Enter Adam Sandler, Kevin James (as the president), Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad—a cliché '80s kid misfit squad, now all grown up and ready to save the world. It's classic childhood wish fulfillment: Someday they're gonna be sorry. Or, even sadder: Someday the thing I loved as a kid will be important again.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Talking Videogame Production with Jumpdrive Studios' Brain Trust

Posted by Ben Coleman on Sat, Mar 28, 2015 at 12:44 PM

  • Jumpdrive Studios

"I was trained as a computer science major. I took six or seven math classes, including linear algebra and calculus and all sorts of stuff," Justin Pando tells me over the din of a bustling coffee shop. "I was useful up until like a month ago in that area. What Dominic's been doing has gone way beyond what I can understand."

Pando, a four-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a graduate of the Art Institute of Portland, is the lead developer at local Jumpdrive Studios, and he's talking about Dominic Mandy, the other half of the development team. Mandy, or the "math guy," was most recently modeling "metabolic networks in cells" for the University of Minnesota. (I don't know what a metabolic network is, but it sounds difficult to model.)

Beyond the brain trust of Pando and Mandy, there are just two others at Jumpdrive: Corey Warning, a one-man marketing department (and former lead singer of indie band the Graduate), and founder Brian Jamison, an accomplished entrepreneur with a history of successful startups under his belt.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Conan, Marshawn Lynch, and Rob Gronkowski vs. Mortal Combat X!

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 2:29 PM

Behold the hilarious wonder of Conan O'Brien's latest edition of "Clueless Gamer" in which Super Bowl foes Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks) and Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) play the so far unreleased Mortal Combat X! Marshawn's reactions are especially sweet and funny since he really hates all the violence he sees (maybe he's never watched himself play?). However, he is a huge fan of Mario Kart's "Toad" character—which has endeared me to him forever.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Look But Don't Megatouch

Posted by Alex Falcone on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Maybe I haven't been spent enough time in classless bars, but I was only recently exposed to MegaTouch Live machines. How did nobody tell me about this low-point in human culture?

Megatouch is an arcade-like game cabinet for sad, lonely men who don't have iPhones. The machines offer a bizarre mix of smart phone game rip offs and ancient newspaper puzzles all on a laggy, outdated interface. In a world with so much fun available at your fingertips, it's a dinosaur. But the worst part is the way it constantly advertises itself: when it's alone, it's a groan-inducing, sexually aggressive dinosaur.

While it's not being played (99% of the time, as far as I can tell), it cycles through a series of game previews, inexplicably sexual images, and terrible jokes. The sexual stuff is so confusing; none of this makes me want to pay $1 to play mah-jong. And the number of slides like this just makes the whole machine feel sad. Like it's constantly yelling at you across the bar "Hey! Wanna play Irritated Eagles? No? Here's a cartoon porn star. How about now?"


The jokes are just as bad. Like somebody split an email forward from the 90s into a slide show.


I hope they didn't pull a muscle going through the motions on that one. It's hard to imagine less effort being put into a joke.


Mega-touche. That is WAY less effort. There isn't even an attempt at a joke here, just a mention of a sad thing and an unrelated image.

The good news is Megatouch went out of business in January. The bad news is that doesn't mean they ceased to exist. Their garbage machines are still bolted to bars around the city, just now the bar owners suckered into buying them can't count on tech support.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse Disaster Preparedness Game

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Where are we at with zombies? It's hard to keep track as zombies and vampires compete neck-and-neck for popularity. I'm leaning toward zombies being the less enticing of the two at this point, but then again I see that some of you are still watching The Walking Dead for some reason, so who knows.

Certainly we've seen our share of zombie-themed flash mobs and dance parties, and 5ks and whatnot, and at first glance The Zombie Apocalypse Disaster Preparedness Game just looks like another one of those. However, unlike 99% off all zombie-related events, there is a point:

Survival skills! That's certainly something that won't be going out of style soon, especially here, where we live everyday under the implied threat of a devastating earthquake for which the city is woefully under-prepared, and which will probably level the historic downtown building from which I write (so I'm hoping it will happen on a Saturday). Jenny is bringing her game to Portland on February 21 (from 1-4 pm beginning at Pioneer Square), and it's totally free to play as long as you RSVP. Plus you'll leave with some supplies for that preparedness kit you've been meaning to put together, as well as, hopefully, a little more confidence as we march into a dark future of increasingly extreme weather patterns. And, on a lighter note, she promises that in the event of an actual zombie related catastrophe, she has better methods than these guys:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stephen Colbert vs. #GamerGate: WHO YA G...Oh, You Know Who Wins.

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 9:59 AM

It may have taken awhile, but Stephen Colbert has finally gotten around to dismantling the misogynist dicks of #GamerGate—and of course he does it in his own faux misogynist style. He starts here with a recap of how it all started...

And then delivers the haymaker with this interview with Anita Sarkeesian—the woman who has bravely stood up to these fucking children and brought their misogyny to national light— and who calmly lays out the truth of the situation, and eventually turns Colbert into a feminist! (Or at least a feminist who's pretending not to be a feminist, and [thanks to this interview] is now a feminist. THAT'S PROGRESS, PEOPLE!)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Today in "Hey Old Person, You're OLD!"

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 2:29 PM

To watch this video of teenagers reacting to an original Nintendo NES player is the same sensation as lying in a grave with someone shoveling dirt on your face. Watch.

Yeah... well! Screw YOU, damn kids! And stay off my lawn!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pickathon Putt-Putt Golf

Posted by Courtney Ferguson on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 4:44 PM

  • Eagle Landing

While Pickathon has more than its fair share of entertainments... music, eating, camping (glamping, if you're fancy), and spa la la-ing... but you can never be too prepared for fun times this weekend. So let's check out a nearby extracurricular activity in case you grow tired of frolicking at the farm. I'm not in the know about swimming around Pendarvis Farm. (The slim things I do know: The Clackamas River is quite close, but it's going to take a bit of driving to get to it. Also, there looks to be a pond and/or swimmin' hole right by the farm in the nearby fields, but it's potentially on private property. Ask a friendly Pickathon volunteer or the Pendarvis family if they know of any good Happy Valley spots to dunk your junk.)

What I have gathered: There's amazing putt-putt golf on your way to Pickathon at Eagle Landing golf course. Talked up by our fearless art director Scrappers, he who scouts adventure, this is a three-par course with 27 (!) holes, and it also has 36 (!!) holes of mini-golf. WHA?! That's crazy! But this isn't your standard scurvied pirate ships and molten volcanoes putt-putt, this shit is EXECUTIVE! Actually, I'm not sure what that means, but here at Eagle Landing the course has real waterfalls, mountains in view, forested holes, and it's open 7-10 pm every day in summer. Plus, the mini-golf holes are situated alongside the actual golf course, so no worries about your ball ricocheting around a cement bunker when you let loose with your itchy putter. It would make for a nice outing away from the hula hoops and dusty trails of Pickathon.

Eagle Landing's 36-hole mini-golf course
10220 SE Causey, Happy Valley
daily 7-10 pm, June-September
18 holes for $8, 36 holes for $11 (rates cheaper for children)


Friday, June 20, 2014

I’m Giving Up On Videogames

Posted by Angela Webber on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Part of me wants to be able to put up a wall between creators and the products they create. Does it matter to me that the artist of the comic, the coder on the game, or the writer of the book I’m trying to read can sometimes be an asshole on Twitter? Not if I don’t notice! But as soon as I notice, that’s going to put me off. And that happened this week.

People are talking a lot about “playable female characters” right now—something I always find important, but is in the spotlight particularly after the people behind Assassin’s Creed said at E3 that they couldn’t add a lady because it would have "doubled the work" on the game, something that simply isn't true, and lazy, in the face of a pretty important subject.* So it seemed pretty reasonable when someone on Twitter asked developer Garry Newman whether there would be a female avatar in his game Rust, a game I've been looking forward to.


Sure, he’s probably trying to be funny—but not all of this is a joke. He probably isn’t going to put a female avatar in Rust. Is that because women are silly? Or because he’s lazy and including 50 percent of the world’s population just isn’t important to him? I don’t really want to go off on Newman in particular, because seriously, he’s just a guy, a guy with an opinion, and my problem isn’t him—it’s that this opinion is popular, the sentiment is systemic, and it's followed by the fomenting bowl of hate that is the internet. For every popular videogame developer who says something “only a little bit sexist” as a joke, there are tens of thousands of fanboys of that guy who are looking for an opportunity to pick up a banner and fight for what they believe in (sexism). If Newman just let the art speak for itself? I'd probably play Rust. But because he's out there unwittingly leading an army, I'm not interested.

Continue reading »

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Your Portland Pride Paper Dolls

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Hey, internet readers! Here's another reason besides the smell of fresh ink to pick up the printed version of the Mercury this week: We made you paper dolls! Using two sets of adorable Portland queer folk, along with clothing drawn by Kjersti Faret, the dolls make a fun game out of demonstrating how getting married—while grand, and all—transforms you from a hip young thang into a normal-ass, dweeb-tastic norm, with a variety of outfit combinations to demonstrate. Cut 'em out and play along at home!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Three Best Party Games: Nidhogg, Johann Sebastian Joust, and Towerfall

Posted by Angela Webber on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Mario Kart is so high school. (Especially now that Nintendo is losing money like crazy and Mario Kart 8 isn't expected to get that many people to buy a Wii U). That's okay though—we don't have to remove games from our social equation! These days, all the cool kids are playing Nidhogg and other games that are strangely pixelated for their cutting-edge newness. Here's what I recommend:

1. Johann Sebastian Joust is not your typical sit-on-a-couch and stare-at-a-screen game: you actually do neither of those things! JSJ uses PlayStation Move Controllers as "candles"—and you need to jostle your opponent so they knock over the candle. Music sets the pace at which you can move, and the accelerometer in the Move controller is the judge. This game is a ton of fun and a huge, awesome innovation.

  • photo by Brent Knepper
  • JOHANN SEBASTIAN JOUST Playing with fire. Sort of!

Johann Sebastian Joust is part of the Sportsfriends game, and came out earlier this month for PS3 and PS4. Mac, PC, and Unix are lined up to come to Steam "soon."

Continue reading »

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rocksmith 2014, Reviewed by a "Musician"

Posted by Angela Webber on Tue, May 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM

I am in band, and I'm sorry about that—but I am terrible at guitar. I've played various instruments in my life, but my current genre requires guitar playing, and I'm just not very good at. I've tried to take lessons, but this has resulted, in our wonderful city, with a fellow named Kyle or Randy trying really hard to relate to me in a weird contrived situation that is somehow worse for me than the 10 years of violin lessons from an old woman who did all she could to not relate to me. I guess what I'm saying is, I hate people. Which is why I LOVE Rocksmith 2014.

ROCKSMITH: This looks boring, but its actually kind of a big deal
  • ROCKSMITH This looks boring, but it's actually kind of a big deal!

In the world of guitar videogames of my generation—First there was Guitar Hero. Then came Rock Band. And we all got really good at playing fake instruments, and that one friends of yours got CRAZY good at playing fake guitar, and still couldn't play a real guitar for his life. And that's okay, 'cause actually playing an instrument, and playing a videogame about playing an instrument are two different things. But then Rocksmith happened. Rocksmith is a videogame, a lot like Guitar Hero, except it's played with a real electric guitar or bass as a controller, connected to a Mac, PC, Xbox, or PlayStation via a special cable. When the first Rocksmith game was released in 2011, it was an awesome step—but that game was more great for the idea of using a guitar as a controller than for actually teaching you how to play a guitar. It was a bit awkward and doesn't translate skills that well, and it never got nearly as popular as Rock Band (perhaps because buying a real electric guitar is more expensive than even those fancy limited-edition rock band controllers.)

Rocksmith 2014 fixes a lot of the problems of the previous game, and I love it. Like Rock Band, there's a library of classic rock and modern rock and in-between rock hits. The game gets gradually harder through a smart-progression system that figures out what you need more help with. And the control system, while it doesn't super easily translate into reading music or tabs, builds up all the speed and motor skills that you actually need to play a guitar or bass—just like guitar lessons, but with no humans involved.

My favorite thing about Rocksmith 2014 is the "Guitarcade" (pun!) in which you can play a series of games that build guitar skills: power chords, scales (for those sweet rock solos), volume, speed and more. It feels so EXACTLY like a videogame: you get frustrated, you die a bunch, you have to start over—but you're building skills in playing guitar which, for me at least, is a good use of time.

ROCKSMITH: Kill zombies with your sweet riffs!
  • ROCKSMITH Kill zombies with your sweet riffs!

If you're looking for a gift for your niece/nephew/friend who's about to graduate from college and have a whole lot of unemployed time on their hands, and you want them to get trained in a really terrible career choice, I recommend Rocksmith 2014. And good news for those who might miss the charm of in-person guitar lessons: Just to make it realistic, perhaps, the narration voice in Rocksmith is a bro-y dude who is probably named Kyle.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spaceteam Game Developer Asks Fans for a Salary

Posted by Angela Webber on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 9:59 AM

SPACETEAM: A perfect excuse to yell at your friends
  • SPACETEAM: A perfect excuse to yell at your friends
In the game Spaceteam, you and your friends play the crew of a starship, frantically yelling commands at one another while your interface (inside your smartphone) falls apart from the pressures of space. Commands can be the sort of nonsense you might hear on the deck of a ship in Star Trek: "Take Evasive Maneuvers," or "set Geiger Powerlantern to 4," or they can be nonsense like "Refrigerate Leftovers" or "Baste Energy Whittler."

It's a perfect game, and my favorite cooperative party game for smartphones and tablets. Oh, it's the only game I've ever played that fits that description? Shut up.

Spaceteam has been out for a while, but now its developer is trying a new way to fund his ventures in indie game development: a Kickstarter campaign. Ok, that's not new. At all. But what Henry Smith is doing with his Kickstarter is a little different—instead of planning out a specific game and asking the internet to fund it, he's just asking his fans to fund his salary for a year, promising he will work on game ideas that aren't finished yet—and when those games are finished, he will release them for free. Backers will get insider access to a forum, where they can watch Smith build the games he wants to build over the next year.

The "Spaceteam Admiral's Club" project has raised over $34,000 of it's $80,000(CAD) goal with just under a week remaining, which is a promising, though not guaranteed, trend toward success. If it does succeed, this seems like an interesting and transparent model for game design to follow. Overall, the shift from using Kickstarter to fund specific games to Smith's specific model is not a huge one, but it follows the trend of making the creator-sponsor or creator-patron relationship more transparent. The directly-asking-for-a-salary model has been growing in popularity among webcomic artists: Local cartoonist Erika Moen uses Patreon to fund her Oh Joy, Sex Toy comic, and Seattle's Penny Arcade recently enabled "Club PA" to exchange insider access for a sponsorship. All of these sponsorship models, whether they be weekly, monthly, or annual, do require a fan base to start with, and they all raise the issue of a balance between accountability and creative independence. But if the goal is to have fans directly in touch with people making the things they like, the Spaceteam project seems like a step in the right direction.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Frozen: Grand Theft Auto-Style

Posted by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM

I am getting so SICK of people trying to label me! NEWSFLASH: I will never allow you to constrict my feelings, or put me in your convenient little box! So if I say I can love the Disney musical Frozen AND Grand Theft Auto—then I can love Frozen AND Grand Theft Auto!

Hey Anna, don't let Elsa have all the fun! (But seriously... what did the police ever do to you?)

Hat tips to DoD!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Do You Like Being Sad? Here's My Girl: The Videogame

Posted by Angela Webber on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Do you remember My Girl—the 1991 movie starring Macaulay Culkin as a cute little kid with glasses and Anna Chlumsky as a little girl obsessed with death? ADORABLE!

You're welcome for bringing back the pain! Well, now I can do you one better: why not relive the memories of watching a small child being killed by a swarm of bees with My Girl: The Videogame? Someone made a simple sidescroller inspired by the film, because why wouldn't you do that, it's the most natural thing in the world. It's actually pretty amazing, even just for the awesome 8-bit rendition of the title song. Check it out.

MY GIRL: this movie was just begging for a video game, right?
  • MY GIRL This movie was just begging to be a videogame, right?


Monday, March 24, 2014

More Women Making Videogames, Please

Posted by Angela Webber on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

No smart people think that women shouldn't play videogames (except perhaps people who think we all need more fresh air), but there's still a real problem with representation, and costumes, and attitudes in the industry that makes it a hostile place for women to be players and, especially, designers of games.

LAST OF US: Look! A Lady!

It's clear to many of us that it would be a good thing for more women to be involved in the making of videogames. We believe videogames are the next big art form, and they are amazing and interactive and great—and that the current system just doesn't seem to care about a female audience (either acknowledging the one that's already here, or trying to grow it). Having more women working in the industry seems like a big part of the solution—but it's not an easy one. At last week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, however, some people on the ground started talking about how the industry needs to make big changes—and less excuses—to make this happen.

Elizabeth Sampat, a senior game designer at Storm8, took on some of the commonly blabbed excuses given for game companies not hiring women—for example, that they don't fit the entrenched "company culture" that makes game design work.

"If you can't find any women who can fit into your company culture," Sampat said in her GDC panel, "Have you considered that your company culture might, you know, suck?"

Continue reading »

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Plants Versus Zombies and Drinking

Posted by Angela Webber on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Happy St. Patrick's week, nerds! Here's a fun idea on what to do with all those empty bottles:

And here is why I'll be emptying my bottles: like most humans, I had a crippling Plants Versus Zombies addiction for several months of my life. And then when Plants Vs Zombies 2 came out for iPhone, that whole thing started over again. There is a NEW Plants Versus Zombies game out right now, but it is only out for XBoxThings, and I am not playing it, and thus I am sad.

The new Plants Versus Zombies game, if you are interested in a new addiction, is a multiplayer first-person shooter, in which you play a zombie or a plant on teams, participating in deathmatch, capture-the-flag, or other play styles. The plants and zombies have similar character classes (you can be a healer on both teams, for example, or the big bulky fighter type), but they have some variety, and the game style and range of characters and modes seems to have been created to indoctrinate/appeal to those casual gamers who took Plants Versus Zombies way too seriously for the last two semesters of college.

Unfortunately, those casual-to-transitioning gamers (me) don't have a new console (yet, I guess) so we can't play. The game has been announced for Windows "and other systems" soon—and I will be patiently waiting for that to happen. While playing Threes. (It's out for Android now, everybody!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lego Convention Made Me Feel Feelings

Posted by Angela Webber on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 9:59 AM

My friend Rich and I pulled into the Oregon Convention Center un-premeditated last weekend: we were driving by after brunch and happened to remember that Bricks Cascade, the annual Lego convention, was going on. It seemed like an excellent way to spend nerd dollars, so we stopped in. My goodness, dear people, the world of Lego is a big one.

Rivendell, created by LEGO artist Alice Finch

Here are things that you could find at Bricks Cascade:

• custom-made realistic weapons and armor for Lego minifigs
• custom capes and wings for Lego minifigs (for people who aren't so violently oriented)
• Lego t-shirts, phone cases, and no fewer than three vendors selling Lego-related jewelry

That, of course, was just the vendors. Bricks Cascade has a whole "convention" outside of the public expo just for AFOLs (adult fans of Lego)—and over 150 of those folks attended to display over 400 works of Lego construction and art. The headline of that show, of course, was the huge Lego Rivendell (above) based on The Lord of the Rings, complete with Council of Elrond and Nagzul-defeating magical elf-horse water. And I was also super impressed by this cat made by local Lego artist Cole Edmonson:

The cat says meow
  • Lego cat: allergen-free!

There was also a KOIN tower and an aircraft carrier, you should check out some photos. But here's the truly great part of the Lego convention:

Continue reading »


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kickstarter, Games, and Portland

Posted by Angela Webber on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Monday morning, Kickstarter announced that the crowdfunding platform has received over $1 billion in pledges for projects around the world. $215 million of that has gone into games projects. That's so much money, you guys. Kickstarter loves sharing its data, especially this data—but we went ahead and broke down some Portland-specific stats for you.


First of all, the most funded games project in Portland ever ended last weekend! A board game called Lagoon: Land of Druids, by local company 3Hares Games, raised $147,762. It is one of 54 successful games projects in the history of Portland Kickstarters. 52 percent of games projects in Portland have succeeded: just under the 56 percent success rate for Portland Kickstarters in general. Our success rate is higher than Kickstarters overall, which is only 43.55 percent.

Here in Portland, we've funded 1,299 of 2,316 launched projects. Our most funded project, a technology project of an iPhone dock, raised $1.46 million back in February 2012.

Keith Baker is a local Portland game designer whose game The Doom That Came To Atlantic City is Portland's third-most funded games project, which raised $122,874. He's also published his card game Gloom through a traditional publisher, and told me that Kickstarter has changed the game for independent designers like him.

"Kickstarter makes it possible for someone with a good idea for a game to make a game in a way that was impossible before, by raising the capital directly," Baker said. "It's also very dangerous, though. Just because you have a good idea for a game, doesn't necessarily mean you know how to produce it."

The direct-to-customer model puts a lot of pressure on designers to also be businesspeople, which he has seen not always work, Baker said. Kickstarter also cuts game stores out of the equation, which is another complicated problem. Overall, though Baker says Kickstarter is a helpful tool and he will be using it to fund a new RPG project later this year.

If you want to see some more local Kickstarter data for Portland, check out this spreadsheet we put together. (I should also probably note that I just finished my own Kickstarter campaign, too.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Millions of People Are Playing Pokemon At Once

Posted by Angela Webber on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 9:59 AM

I didn't own a console growing up, so my experience with videogames was always a little annoying: I got to play Mario until I died once, and then I watched the friend who owned the console play the rest of the game. Or if I did get to actually hold the console, I spent the duration of the game being micromanaged by everyone in the room.

Well now, finally, that experience has been translated to the internet. Sort of.

Through the use of emulators and scripts, a few amazing nerds have made a system where a chatroom full of people (over 120,000 at some counts) can control a single character. After starting with Pokemon: Red, the concept has now been expanded to Legend of Zelda. Each person "votes" on the character's next move by typing into the chat, and then sometimes it actually goes somewhere.

TWITCH PLAYS ZELDA: Possibly not the best way to play a video games
  • TWITCH PLAYS ZELDA Possibly not the best way to play a videogames.

It's anarchy and it's fun to watch: the original Pokemon stream has garnered over 20 million views, people watching a chatroom of people futility disagree about which decoration to move. It's a beautiful combination: you can be really frustrated that people aren't playing the game right, AND you can do something about it... AND it won't help! I just watched the Pokemon stream, which meant I watched a character stand outside a door for three solid minutes before moving.

Thank you, internet.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Goat Simulator. Thank God.

Posted by Angela Webber on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I've been thinking a lot about goats lately. The Belmont Goats have been in my neighborhood almost as long as I have, and I see them nearly every day. They're adorable and creepy! Goats have oval-shaped pupils, guys, it's weird. But I'm going to miss them, because they're moving out to Lents as their field becomes home to a new development. I guess I'll have to figure out a new "That's So Portland" spot to take visitors.

Thankfully, I'll have a way to remember those wonderful, beautiful, creepy creatures thanks to this upcoming video game in which you can play a goat. It's best if you just watch.

Goat Simulator started as a game jam project and then, after an upswell of "Well, isn't this just delightful!" from the internet, it's going to be a real game that you can pre-order now. (You may want to wait to pre-order it until they actually make the game, but I'm not the boss of you, do what you want.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Two iPhone Games That Are Slightly Better for You Than Flappy Bird

Posted by Angela Webber on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Did you guys play Flappy Bird? If not, good work. It's a stupid, frustrating game that was stupid and amazing and compelling in the way that texting your ex when you drive through his city just to see what will happen is compelling. Also, the developer made a bajillion dollars on it and then pulled it from stores because he either couldn't take the negative feedback OR was secretly pretty sure he was going to get sued for copying art from the Mario games.

FLAPPY BIRD: Not even once
  • FLAPPY BIRD Not even once.

Good news for me, though... as they are not people to miss an opportunity, the people behind Sesame Street created a Flappy Bird clone called Flappy Bert and gosh is it cute. What a beautiful, horrible thing to do to me, Sesame Street.

But here's the thing: not all videogame apps are terrible like this! Some make us read books. Some make us, at the very least, think or develop a skill set. Like, for example....

1. SOCIAL INTERACTION IN FANTASY LANDS: Lords of Waterdeep is a fantastic board game and a wonderful multiplayer phone/iPad game as well. It's set in the universe of Dungeons & Dragons, it's complex, and it's a great way to (sort of) interact with your friends. It's like Words with Friends for fantasy nerds who are bad at words (like me).

2. MATHS: My favorite new game is "Threes!," which requires you to add numbers together and strategize. It's may not be teaching you nuclear physics or anything, but it is a heck of a lot better for you than Flappy Bird. I think.

  • THREES Please don't tell me if your high score is over 1,500.

Please tell me the games I forgot in the comments below. I've gotta go "get some work done."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This is Why I Don't Play Cards Against Humanity with You.

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM


Sorry, but I don't want to play Cards Against Humanity with you.

It's not that I'm grumpy. Or humorless. Or that I dislike the concept of "enjoying myself." It's that I like my games to be games, and to me, Cards Against Humanity is less a game, and more a shapeless exercise in hackwork comedy using "edgy" Laffy Taffy wrappers. It's Family Guy writers' room bullshit at best.

I know this is unfair, and I know exactly why this is unfair. It's the same reason musicians came off like grumpy-gus party-poopers when Guitar Hero ruled the world. Cards is to being funny what Guitar Hero is to being musically inclined. And nothing made a musician sound more like a humorless bag of dicks than when they'd complain about how pointless Guitar Hero was, just like nothing makes me sound more like a pisspants comedy snob than telling you why I don't like the game you laugh your ass off playing.

Some musicians derided the that game's audience as clueless wanna-bes, fooling themselves with their plastic controller into thinking they were making music. If you thought Guitar Hero was a means to create, a substitute to learning how music works, then yeah, I see how "pointless" is a charge you'd level.

But that's not what the majority of people playing the game were doing, any more than people lining up for the umpteenth iteration of Madden every year think they could be defensive backs. They were under no illusion that they were becoming musicians by five-starring Knights of Cydonia. They were just having fun with the game, as a game. And I know the large majority of Cards Against Humanity players are under no illusions as to their comedic abilities as they build zingers out of pre-fabricated set-ups and punchlines. Nobody's going to kill a game of Cards and immediately elbow their way to the local comedy club and try a five-minute set at open mic.

Guitar Hero didn't damage musicianship, and Cards isn't hurting comedy.

Plus, it's really hard to argue that there isn't fun to be had. The popularity of the game speaks to that, (Just as Guitar Hero had its band-focused spinoffs, there's now an independently published, Doctor Who specific Cards game) as well as the sounds of laughter pouring out of my living room every time the game has been played when friends are over.

But I can't play it with you. I'm sorry. For a game whose entire purpose is to elicit laughter, it doesn't make me laugh very much at all, which is a problem. I can't get down with the arbitrary nature of the scoring, either. Comedy is subjective as hell, and even if I know you really well, I can't always predict what's going to crack you up. I like that. But in Cards Against Humanity, that's a negative. You lose for that. It's a "game" that makes me second-guess my sense of humor, and asks me to judge my friends for having their own. It's weird. It kind of makes the game pointless.

I know this puts me closer to the grumpy burnout complaining about those darn lazy kids with their plastic guitars, and far away from the laughing-'til-you're-crying friend who built a child molestation joke out of a card with Cookie Monster's name on it.

That's no fun for me, or for you. I don't want to judge you for the things you think are funny, and for me, it feels like the game is specifically asking me to do that. "Here. Spend an hour being Ant from Last Comic Standing." Even if "winning" Cards actually meant anything (and it doesn't), judging my friends based on what makes them laugh doesn't sound like a fun way to kill an hour. That's all that's left of the "game" when the stack of Laffy Taffy wrappers you're playing with is less-than-efficient comedy fuel. Part of what makes comedy worthwhile is the sense of spontaneity, of imagination, innovation, cleverness, surprise. Cards, by its pre-fabricated, jokes-as-Lego-bricks nature, subtracts all but the cleverness, and cleverness by itself turns cloying really fast.

I know this makes me the bad guy, and trust me, I feel it. But look - while you guys are playing, I'll gather up the plates and glasses, run em through the dishwasher. Refresh some drinks. Maybe make a plate of little Triscuit pizzas or something. While I'm in the kitchen, scrubbing over the sink, maybe I'll laugh at the card combinations that do manage to work, without the pointless "game" aspect getting in the way. I'm more than happy to be the waiter at the impromptu comedy-club facsimile happening in the living room.

Just don't ask me to play. It won't turn out well for either of us.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finally, Videogames For Cats!

Posted by Angela Webber on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Oh yes, America, it's time. The high-stakes real-time challenge: Can you knock everything in this house over before your captors stop your mirthful rebellion? That's right, it's a housecat simulation game. Somebody get Courtney over here.

  • CATLATERAL DAMAGE The perfect game.

Catlateral Damage (for web, Windows, OS X and Linux) is only in alpha right now, but it is genius and probably the only game that really needed to be released in 2014 for all of us to know that videogames are doing good for the world. Perhaps the final version will have better graphics, all I'm hoping for is some really cute cat pictures. You should go play it right now and thank me later.


One more smile for you: the game is being developed by Chris Chung, who works in QA by day. See? Game testing isn't a dead-end way to trick people into thinking they'll eventually work in videogames: it's a stepping stone to greatness if you have ambition and LOVE CATS!

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