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Gaming Video

My Favorite Games in 2020

Whether laid off and looking or stuck inside for nine months, gaming was critical in helping fill the void for many of us this year. Here are some of my standout experiences of 2020.

Honorable Mentions

Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (GameCube | 2002): A seminal experience for me in high school with my Dreamcast, PSO has continued to be an alluring, simple hum of a grind that relaxes me almost 20 years later. The household and I started new characters and I personally pumped over 160 hours into this classic this year. Our characters as of writing: a 110 HUcast, a 99 RAmarl, a 91 FOnewm, and our guest character, a 26 RAcast.

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Gaming Video

Myst III: Exile Retrospective

Join me for a full playthrough of the early-2000s Presto Studios adventure game, Myst III: Exile! I also discuss the game’s development and reception, and try my best to explain the story and puzzle solutions as I go.


In the closing weeks of 2017, I recorded some for-fun streams of playing through Myst and Riven on Twitch and posted them to YouTube.

Despite being one of my favorite game series ever, I dropped off the series after Exile. In an attempt to get back on and get some motivation to see through Myst 4 (and maybe Uru and 5) before mainlining Obduction, I wanted to revisit the first three games and share my thoughts in some form. Three years later and I’ve finally completed that self-imposed obligation! On to Myst 4!

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Gaming Personal Video

Shooting Stars: New Horizons

What happens when you mix the star-struck owl from 2020’s chillest anti-viral videogame with the hottest celestial meme of 2017? Animal Crossing: New Horizons Shooting Stars!

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Gaming

Games in 2019

True to form, I played a lot of games last year. I didn’t quite carry through on my goal to play the classics primarily but I’m super glad I had the chance to play some of these gems from this year!

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Gaming

Mario Maker 2: Inaugural Jam

Last Thursday (our typical game night), instead of fireworks and flags, we took advantage of the release of Super Mario Maker 2 to host a little game jam! Ever since the original Mario Maker on Wii U I’ve had fantasies of having little game jams where we all create level designs with some constraints. For our initial attempt at a jam, we gave three randomly-assigned traits (game type, level type, style) to each participant and broke for an hour to create levels.

Once the timer sounded, we uploaded and validated our creations and took turns trying them out. Below are each of the levels and their codes:

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Gaming

My Favorite Games of 2018

My love of gaming started early and still burns bright, even if my relationship with it is a little weird right now (feeling pushed out of the AAA scene via boredom). Last year, I kept a quick ranking of every game I touched by enjoyment and thought I’d write a little about my favorites.

Honorable Mentions

Donut County: The game design is a bit simplistic but it’s an ear-to-ear grin inducer from start to finish with wonderful characters, snappy, aware writing, playful graphics, and a soul that exudes joy. And raccoons.

Deltarune: Who would have thought we were going to get a fully functional and super enjoyable first act to a sequel to Undertale out of the blue? Great music, interesting new characters and nostalgic hooks made for a really fulfilling experience and gave way to the excruciating wait for the final product someday, hopefully.

Forza Horizon 4: I’m actually kind of bummed that this didn’t make my top five, but the changes to the world economy and introduction of extremely silly personalization options really took me out of the perfect formula the team crafted for the previous iteration. That aside, the game is still one of the best racing games ever made and a wonderful co-op experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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Gaming Video

E3 2018 Music Video

Here’s a music video / clip reel of my favorite game announcements, trailers, and gameplay from E3 2018! I used to make a point to make one of these every year but it dropped off many years ago. After a really thrilling set of reveals (and the sad state of world), I decided to dust off the process and take on the simple creative exercise.

The whole process is so enjoyable: finding the game trailers I love, selecting the perfect song for the mood I want to impart, extracting the most thrilling video clips, creating a beat track to align the clips, arranging everything…it feels awesome to feel a clip slide right into place with the music. A couple nights of that and some polish and viola, a little time capsule of my mood, interest and excitement bundled into one hype reel.

Even if these games never live up to the hype (or come out at all), I’ll always love a good E3 trailer. Enjoy!

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Gaming Video

Celeste Summit B-Side

One of the best surprises of 2018 so far has been Celeste, a tough-but-encouraging platformer by the developers of Towerfall: Ascension. I bought it after reading reviews on launch day and was enamored by its music, style, gameplay…really everything about it. Get it, play it; you will absolutely love it.

I may have more words on this game later, but check out a little video I put together this weekend on one of the harder levels in the game: the “B-Side” of Chapter 7, “The Summit.” I snapped video of every screen via PS4 capture and stitched them all together showcasing each screen’s first attempt, a death montage, and the screen’s successful attempt. Enjoy!

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Gaming Video

Riven Retrospective

Join me on a journey back through one of my favorite video game experiences: Riven: The Sequel to Myst! Watch at 1.5x, and don’t miss my previous Myst Retrospective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp1jkGEKnCU


Despite being one of my favorite game series ever, I dropped off the Myst train after Myst 3. In an attempt to get back on and get some motivation to see through Myst 4 and 5 (and maybe Uru) before mainlining Obduction, I wanted to revisit Myst, Riven, and Exile and share my thoughts in some form.

The above video is my attempt for Riven, which featured a whole webcam just for my notes! I had a ton of fun with this one; it’s so much harder to related the game through a thorough playthrough (as the puzzles and world are much less modular than Myst). Enjoy!

Categories
Gaming Reviews

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

Jason Schreier, 2017, 275 pages (Amazon)


It’s probably no surprise that I’d buy, read, and love a book about video game development war stories, but Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made is a book really anyone with even a passing interest in the art of video games would enjoy (and should pick up).

Jason Schreier (kotaku.com), a veteran of the video game beat, weaves together several historical narratives from primary sources that describe in often-painful detail the difficulties most every game befalls on its way to launch, from the single-man production of Stardew Valley to the large-team blockbuster Uncharted 4.

The writing is approachable for non-enthusiasts but fills in knowledge gaps for even the most well-read fan. The chapter on Destiny is particularly special, building on the success of Kotaku’s excellent reporting to finally bring the details of that game’s late-stage reboot together into one coherent (if maddening) story.

The book left me with a renewed desire to check out The Witcher 3, another reason to dislike George Lucas, and a much healthier respect for the kinds of experiences Kickstarter enabled. Having lived through and managed a number of product launches over the past decade (though none nearly as intense), these chapters stoked memories of ownership conflict, poor management decisions, troublesome tooling, and the intense ups and downs of being a cowboy coder. The common thread of “crunch”, of working yourself to the bone to finish even somewhat on time, was all too familiar, and the picture Schreier paints of it being an almost essential ingredient in game development is simultaneously tragic and human.

It’s not entirely about failure, though. It was likewise a real treat to read about the Diablo 3 team consoling a downtrodden Destiny team after launch woes, showing how common some of these growing pains can be even from teams with radically different pedigrees. These stories, while bleak, are just as much about turning a lonely coder into a multi-millionaire and allowing a team of burned out and bored friends to risk it all and strike gold.

There’s a fairly ubiquitous quote by Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Blood, Sweat, and Pixels shows that in today’s industry, any finished game at all is a special thing. Highly recommended.

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I digested a good chunk of this in the shade of a local Chick-fil-A. It’s amazing how quickly things return to normal after a major hurricane. I’ll miss this about Florida one day, I’m sure.