It’s a month away from the Extra Life marathon for Children’s Miracle Networks, and we’ve already raised $400 — that’s 50% of the goal! That’s so cool. To kick off the month leading up I’ve gone through my stash of games (and had some very kindly donated by my guildie Jhun) and I put together a list of what I think are the best 15.
All games will be Steam codes or transferred to you via Steam, with the exception of The Sims 3 which is on Origin and has a stupid DRM process.
(If you’ve already donated: a) you are awesome and b) let me know if you’d like one of these and it’s yours!)
UPDATE: Even more games! Added to the list: Darksiders, Defender’s Quest, Red Faction: Armageddon, and Monaco.
|Bastion||Dust: An Elysian Tail||Papers, Please|
|Borderlands GOTY||Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams||Reus|
|Cave Story +||Guacamelee||The Sims 3 + two DLC|
|Don’t Starve!||Mirror’s Edge||Thomas Was Alone|
|Dungeon Defenders Complete||Orcs Must Die! + DLC||Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War|
Or how about a
code for 400 gems for the Guild Wars 2 gem store, kindly donated by ArenaNet?
Or how about a code for a Blossoming Ancient pet in WoW?
Interested in learning more about the games we cover on the show? Follow the new Cat Context Podcast curated list on Steam!
The Arolaide household has been playing Divinity: Original Sin in co-op, and Aro talks about how much they’re enjoying this throwback hit. Speaking of throwbacks, Elly and Liore admit that they haven’t played Baldur’s Gate and then Aro swears a lot. Is it cool to skip a classic game because it’s intimidating, or are we just chicken?
Liore has been playing ArcheAge, or queuing for it at least. She talks about her impressions from Alpha, and concerns about the future of land ownership for less than hardcore players. Elly agrees — if ArcheAge can support more casual farmers (with fields and cows and stuff) and the more competition-minded players, it could be very successful.
Also we can’t stop freaking playing mobile gotta-catch-em-all title Dragon Coins, even while recording this episode! Elly talks about Magic again for a few minutes! Liore held hands (wings?) with a virtual pigeon!
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* Dragon Coin codes — Aro: 5665-1013-7386 | Elly: 2480-9318-2782 | Liore: 2201-8594-0458
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
This might come as a minor surprise to people who know me now, but Liore of 10-15 years ago was a scatterbrain. I was constantly losing things, constantly late to things, always forgetting things. My house was a disaster and it seemed to take me twice as long to get anything done as most folks.
So what happened to make me the fairly organized and optimized person I am today? Part of it is just getting older and less tolerant of a lackadaisical lifestyle, but part of it absolutely came from being really into World of Warcraft and running a raiding guild.
No matter what aspect of gameplay you enjoy the most, anyone invested in an MMO has a list of things they want to accomplish. You want to grind these reputations for vendor access, or to get those achievements. You need to upgrade your head, boots, and a ring slot to kill those bosses. You need X amount of gold so you can buy that mount.
MMOs are full of busywork — it’s part of their charm, after all — and there are only so many hours in the day that we can play games. It just makes sense to organize a list of your goals and an optimal way to complete them.
Particularly back in the early WoW days travel time was a huge consideration. (Remember when we had to click on each leg of the gryphon taxi?) Again, playtime is limited and it was just good common sense to try and organize tasks by location to limit the amount of time in the air and not end up spending 20 minutes flying from one end of a continent to the other just to have to turn around again.
At least half of good guild leading is about organizational skills. (The other part is about people skills.) Balance the roster so no one sits too often, manage a spreadsheet of loot system points, track down Players A and B who applied to the guild, write a new policy and be prepared to defend it to “rules lawyers”. And during raids, the big fights like Kael’Thas in particular, I also had to learn how to break big battles into discrete tasks and phases, and plot out where people would go and do to make the most of our team.
And man, the guild leader can’t be unexpectedly late for her own raid, or I’d (deservedly) get a great deal of mocking.
The thing is, learning these skills was fun because games are fun, and it all felt pretty low-stakes if I screwed something up. Eventually these habits naturally started drifting into other areas of my life.
Right now I live on the third floor of a walk-up building, and I absolutely optimize my chores to limit the number of times I have to carry stuff up and down the stairs. I keep lists, and put appointments in my calendar. I am notoriously barely officially “managed” at my day job because, people, I got this so just stay out of my way.
Don’t get me wrong, classic WoW in particular enabled me to ignore a lot of my offline life in ways that weren’t healthy, but I also accidentally picked up some good habits along the way that serve me well even today.
It’s this topic that is going around, you see. Technically it’s “albums that influenced me” but I don’t really know what influenced means so I just approached it like if I had to make a Spotify playlist of my life, this is what would be on it. At first I thought there was no way I’d be able to come up with 15 songs, but it was surprisingly easy.
Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual was the first album I ever bought, or more precisely that I asked my parents to buy. It was on cassette. I’m old now, but this album is still really good.
I owned Led Zeppelin IV and it’s of course a classic album, but this entry is just for Stairway to Heaven. It was the closing song for every school dance through middle school and high school, and hearing even the first few notes brings back this rush of memories of those years. Sometimes I sat alone and sad during this song and sometimes I was breathless with wonder that the cute guy in Science class asked me to dance and oh it’s a slow song which means touching a boy and oh my god! I wouldn’t be a teenager again for all the money in the world but hearing this song is a nice reminder of those years.
In Grade 8 this new fellow transferred to our tiny rural high school from boarding school in England. In short order we became best friends, inseparable for over a decade and the soundtrack to our friendship was always Pet Shop Boys. We live on opposite sides of the world now but still see each other a couple of times a year, and we will be (spiritual) family for the rest of our lives. Being Boring is one of my favorite PSB tracks. It just gets better the older I get, and it never fails to make me tear up.
Okay okay, enough sappy stuff — time to rock! As mentioned techno pop was big with my friends, but one day I stumbled on Faith No More’s The Real Thing and suddenly I felt a kinship with music like never before. This was angry music! And oh man, much to the chagrin of everyone else in my life, I really liked it! This set my musical tastes for adulthood.
Because I was young and living in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s.
Courtney Love changed my life. I’m not saying she was ever a perfect or possibly even good human being, nor that Hole was the pinnacle of riotgirl music (there were many better bands). But she showed me that girls with a little punk rock in their hearts didn’t have to just be the Nancy to someone’s Sid, a adjunct to art and fame who eventually dies for it. We could be Sid. Post-Kurt, Courtney was poor dumb, flawed, vicious, amazing Sid for all of us young women out there, and I loved her for it.
And so followed a series of amazing songs and albums by women that in my late teens and early 20s shaped the person I am today:
Of course all good things must come to an end, and by the mid to late 90s my interest in grunge and GenX was fading, only to be replaced by Cool Britannia. I was always on the Blur side of the Blur vs. Oasis fanwars, by the way.
Different Class came out in 2006. I think I probably bought this album because I liked their track on the Trainspotting soundtrack, and it remains my favourite album of all time. The music is super catchy, the lyrics are super clever (oh, Jarvis), and I just can’t resist a good commentary on class struggle. It’s socialist pop, and it’s glorious.
Unsurprisingly, given that previous stuff, I also got super into Rage Against the Machine. Tire Me is my favorite song of theirs, but mad props also to Without a Face for rhyming “DDT” and “bourgeoisie”.
Okay, we’re running out of space so let’s skip ahead to the mid 2000’s. I don’t know how I found Louis XIV — probably Spin Magazine? — but their debut album The Best Little Secrets Are Kept is my second-most beloved album. It’s .. jangly indie sorta-ironic cock rock. I listened to a ton of jangly indie rock after discovering Louis XIV, but nothing was ever as good.
(Warning, the lyrics for this one can be pretty offensive.) That ironic hypersexualized rock trend has continued over the years in different ways. I few years ago I was introduced to MSI by a friend and I can’t even say they’re on my favorite album list because I just love eeeeverything they do. Seriously. Everything. I saw them live last year in Seattle and they were every damn bit as good as they are in the studio.
Die Antwoord is also part of that trend. Yolandi Visser is amazing.
My most recent musical obsession has been K-Pop (and Korean TV and movies along with it). While the title of favorite K-Pop group belongs to Block B, Fantastic Baby by Big Bang was the song that got me into it all. I think I was searching for for bizarre videos to scare people with last year on Plug.DJ Fridays and I saw this and immediately wanted to know more. It’s been kind of my bag ever since. Who knows what will be next?
Oh, Internet. You're why daddy drinks.
— Scott Hartsman (@hartsman) September 14, 2014
Poor Trion Worlds and ArcheAge, victims of their own success. Any experienced MMO player knows that launch week of a new game is usually fraught with technical problems and population issues, but admittedly the ArcheAge queue times can be pretty extreme. Last night I joined the queue as a free player at 7pm and finally got in the game at 11:30pm. Daaaaaang.
The standard MMO launch philosophy seems to be to set up a ton of servers so there are few or no queues for players, and then merge them later. This merge usually involves a bit of “X Game is dying!” bad press and some management of duplicate character names, but otherwise seems pretty straight-forward.
ArcheAge though is a whole different beastie, thanks to the open world housing. Trying to merge servers would be an organizational nightmare, as far as I can tell. Who gets priority over a spot of land? And even if the land is available, imagine logging off in your guild’s secure village and waking up to find that strangers lived in your midst now.
Trion would be causing themselves a whole world of problems if they launch with too many servers. I’m pretty sure much like Scott Hartsman everyone on the team is gnashing their teeth right now, and heavens knows the internet is angry, so very very angry, about the queues, but I suspect that dealing with queues for a couple of weeks is going to be a lot less painful for Trion and for players than having to deal with empty servers and duplicate land claims.
Extra Life is a month away and we’ve already raised almost 50% of our fundraising goal! That’s amazing! Don’t forget that donators will be entered to win a free copy of Guild Wars 2 Digital Deluxe version. Donations are tax deductible and even $5 will help this great cause.