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    • Video Game Review: American McGee’s Alice
      After the recent release of “Alice: Madness Returns,” I  picked up a copy. With each copy, console gamers also got a free download of  the original “American McGee’s Alice.” Before playing the new Alice, I had to  go back and beat the original again. While many things were just as I had  remembered, I’m glad […]
    • Video Game Rant: Donkey Kong Country Returns
      One of my favorite games of all time is Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2. When I heard they were making a new one, I was super excited, but also somewhat skeptical. So a few months ago, I picked up a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns to try out the new game. My fiancee also joined […]
    • Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: Movie Review
       (Warning: some spoilers) When they decided to turn this Canadian comic into a movie, I’m not sure they were aware of what a cult smash hit this would be. Topping the charts for Blu-rays on the first day it was released on home video, it’s also been on several top ten lists. It appeals to […]
    • Good Kitty: WoW Feral Cat DPS Rotation
      ***Note: this information is from before Cataclysm. There have been major changes to the class. See my sources below for more updated information.*** When I rolled Druid on the first character I legitimately got to level 80, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I leveled Feral Cat, and when I hit 80, I realized […]
    • Finding a Job
      This is a digression from my usual topics, but I wanted to share some of my strategies with other unemployed or soon to be unemployed people out there. My job search has been the focus of my free time lately, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for my next post. 1)      Assess […]
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How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

So you’ve finally accepted the fact that one day zombies will overthrow humanity. Now you want to learn how to not become zombie food. Fear not! The expert at surviving zombie apocalypse simulations is here to share some useful tips for your survival.

1)      Go watch Zombieland.

2)      Create a plan.

Now that some of the common zombie myths have been dispelled and you’ve acquired a basic knowledge of what will happen after Z-Day, you need to figure out a plan of survival. Keep a stockpile of basic things like nonperishable food, water, first aid, and essentials at all times, and make a kit for quick evacuation. You should also communicate with friends and family and designate a meeting place. Don’t forget to include your pets in your escape plan too!

3)      Assess your environment.

Does your house have large windows? Or a fire escape? Do you live on a hill? Plan your defenses accordingly. Be prepared with some planks of wood and other fortifications, or prepare to relocate to a more appropriate fortress. Keep in mind your work place too, or other places you frequent.

4)      Equip yourself.

Buy a baseball bat or a shotgun and keep it in an easily accessible location. Get something easy to use for decapitation or push-back. You’ll also need appropriate clothing; no baggy or loose clothes with things to grab.

5)      Prepare for life among the undead.

Do some more research so you’ll be able to identify signs that the initial outbreak is imminent, symptoms of zombification, and the first signs of widespread panic. You should also consider life after Z-Day. No more traffic, no more fast food, no new tv shows… life is going to be very different, so you’ll have to adjust to being a minority in the new zombie culture. Luckily, you still have some time to prepare for your new life!

Looking for even more info on the zombie apocalypse? Check out this awesome link: http://zombieresearch.net/ Thanks for the contribution, JT!

Top 5 games to play as a couple

Plus there's always rhythm games like Rock Band.

Play video games for the health of your relationship. It’s a great activity to do together—a fun, relaxing, competitive, addictive, bonding experience. It may be a habit or a hobby, a shared passion, or something you’ve never thought about before. Either way, here are some suggestions for games to play with your significant other.

Left 4 Dead

L4D is a quick and dirty zombie FPS. High customizability is a plus: choose your difficulty, play campaign or versus, play for 30-60 minutes or more, etc. Because it’s co-op, you can practice teamwork, cooperation, and communication. Isn’t every guy’s fantasy to save his girl from a Hunter pounce, the whole knight in shining armor thing?

Dokapon Kingdom

For more on this underlooked party game, click here. A little healthy and fun competition can be a good test of your sense of humor. And you can play two player versus bots. Monopoly plus RPG equals win.


For more experienced players, Borderlands is another good co-op that is a bit deeper for the more narratively-inclined, and is a nice combo between the shooting fun of L4D and the overwhelming details of WoW. Check out a review of Borderlands here.

You can easily make Mario Kart a little more interesting.

Mario Party & Mario Kart

Mario games are classics; most people have played them in some form, and can easily transition into the newer versions. There is also a ton of Wii shovelware games that may serve the same purpose, such as Wii Fit or Wii Sports.

Fatal Frame

It’s like watching a scary movie, only SCARIER. In this single player survival horror, players use a camera to capture the souls of ghosts. With plenty of atmospheric tension and jump moments, you can turn the lights off and snuggle up when you get scared (then laugh when your partner screams like a girl).

Games for Guys

Hope: Because she just might want to hear about your 12th level Paladin.

I keep coming across articles about women in gaming, and a repeated topic is how to introduce women to games. What’s with the supposed hordes of guy gamers who lament their girlfriends’ unwillingness to pick up a controller or keyboard? ‘How to get your girl into gaming’ sounds like a bad romance movie to me. Should women try to get their boyfriends to start scrapbooking and sewing, since those are girl hobbies and gaming is a man hobby? ‘How to get your man to do yoga’ will be my next article. Or maybe ‘How to get your boyfriend to play video games’ would be more appropriate, considering women now outnumber men in online gaming.

Lots of sites have beaten me to gaming for guys, including WikiHow, though it seems to have been written before the joystick was invented. Wiki says: “Find a few games he likes and play the ones he is better at. Mix it up, but always go back to the game he is good at. Racing games are generally easier for you to lose at without showing it.” Purposely lose at a game just because he’s a n00b? Men are our equals, so we shouldn’t go easy or treat them any differently just because they button mash and haven’t learned any combos yet.

WikiHow has more to say: “Consider your girlfriend’s personality when picking out a game. Some girls may prefer the brightly colored, all-ages games like Katamari Damacy, Bust A Move, Lego Star Wars, Sims, or just about any Mario game. But remember that your girlfriend is an individual who could just as well go for Halo, Resident Evil, or Grand Theft Auto.”  This is exactly right. The ‘games for girls’ like Cooking Mama or Barbie Horse Adventures are just recommended based on gender stereotyped hobbies. I like cooking but would much prefer Fallout 3 over Cooking Mama, and I’m sure there are guys who watch football but aren’t Madden fanatics and love Viva Pinata.

So remember, anyone can be a gamer; you don’t need a Y chromosome to hit the Y button. A follow-up on games to play as a couple will be posted next week. Readers, what are your thoughts on introducing men (or women) to gaming?

‘Girl’ is a four letter word

I have sometimes found it a bad idea to reveal my membership of the female sex to online gamers. Sure, it’s a great way to meet gamer guys, but all that attention isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I was playing my Alliance Priest on World of Warcraft, with my boyfriend at the time sitting next to me leveling his Hordie. I was partied with some random people heading over to an instance. Some guy referred to me repeatedly as ‘man’ or ‘he,’ which got my boyfriend a bit upset, so he told me to tell the player that I was not a ‘he.’ I think this can be interpreted by some as being aggressive about one’s gender, which is understandable. Most men would probably be offended if they were called ‘she’ by default.

One player seemed to think that since I was a girl, I would need all the help I could get, so he made it his job to protect me in the raid group. And since I was seemingly offended by ‘he,’ rather than just calling me ‘she,’ I became ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie.’ This didn’t go over too well with me, and it was even worse for my boyfriend.

He felt he had to defend my honor, so he logged onto his high level Horde Tauren Warrior (a most imposing figure) and proceeded to chase us down. Our lower level raiding party was ambushed by a very angry Tauren on a PvP server, though of course the Allies had no idea why.

Some random players came in to the fight, so it developed into a kind of faction war. The Hordies and Allies fought to the death in a prolonged epic battle. I was healing my Tauren “champion” and my allies. Amazingly, in the end we managed to put down the mad cow. I then explained to my party members that the rampaging bull was my boyfriend, and that he was sitting right next to me.

That’s why it’s easier to just let people think I’m a guy when playing online. No stereotypes, no pet names, no being looked down on. Sometimes it’s just easier to let others believe what they want.

But I wonder… is it right? Should I politely correct others if they make the easy mistake of assuming I’m a guy? I’m not ashamed of being a female gamer; in fact I’m quite proud of it, so why should I feel the need to hide my gender?  If more female gamers were open about their gender, maybe male gamers would become more comfortable with encountering us. Perhaps my mistake was in letting the insult stand and in letting my boyfriend defend me. I should have stood up for my gender as equal to his, rather than ignoring his attitude. If someone called me ‘honey’ in such a derogatory manner in real life, I would be offended.

Readers, is it better to ignore sexism or try to correct it?

Munchkin: Dungeon-Crawling Card Game

The holidays usually mean spending time with your family. That means time you could be spending playing video games is being wasted decorating trees, baking cookies, and getting presents. What if you could play games AND spend time with family, without having to perform the traditional holiday chores or listen to Aunt Muriel gab on about her seven cats? 



Why not try the game of Munchkin, a multiplayer card game where you fight monsters, get sweet loots, backstab your friends, and level up to win? It’s like a simplified, fast-paced version of Dungeons and Dragons, so it’s pretty simple to teach non-nerds, but it’s complicated enough for gamers.

“This award-winning card game… captures the essence of the dungeon experience… with none of that stupid roleplaying stuff. You and your friends compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. And what magic items! Don the Horny Helmet and the Boots of Butt-Kicking. Wield the Staff of Napalm… or maybe the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment. Start by slaughtering the Potted Plant and the Drooling Slime, and work your way up to the Plutonium Dragon…” 

You can customize the rules as much as you want, so you can dumb down the rules for newbs until they figure it out. And because it has some pretty silly descriptions and crazy rules, each round is unpredictable and hilarious and always keeps you on your toes. Wanna be really crazy? Turn it into a drinking game! 



The original Munchkin version is traditional D&D/RPG style, but there are 9 other stand-alone versions with expansions, plus you can also mix and match to your heart’s content. Other versions include: Munchkin Cthulhu (Lovecraftian style), Munchkin Bites! (vampires that don’t sparkle in the sun), Munchkin Booty (pirates!), and Munchkin Fu (ninjas!). Included: 168 cards, 1 six-sided die, and a rule sheet, for about $25. Official site! 



An average game can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, longer if you’re playing Epic Munchkin (with dungeons, special abilities, and a higher level cap). It’s a multiplayer game, so 3-6 players makes a good match (4 is ideal). The cards themselves are pretty cool too, with cute descriptions by Steve Jackson and illustrations drawn by John Kovalic (my favorites from Munchkin Cthulhu are H.P. Munchcraft and Chibithulhu). 

So if you need a new game to keep your family occupied, for your next LAN party, for the next time the power goes out, or for Patch Tuesday, try out a Munchkin game. It’s a fairly involved game, and once you play it once, you’ll probably be hooked. So kick down the dungeon door and dive right in to the Munchkin universe!


Test Chamber 00

Test Chamber 00

From the makers of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones comes a new religion called GLaDOSticism. It is based around the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System known as GLaDOS, the supreme being and artificial intelligence who controls the test chambers Chell navigates in Valve’s game Portal. The research She does is ultimately for the good of all of us who are still alive.


Watch out for falling cubes, as they may cause dismemberment and/or death.

If only life had more of these...

The metaphor of Portal is simple: life is like a science experiment and we’re the subjects. Life is a test, and we must figure out the rules in order to win. Our lives are controlled by confusing and unknowable beings who oversee the test chambers, who may or may not have empathy or ethical cores. All we can do is try to overcome the odds against us, deal with both divine help and interference, and break out of the seemingly linear paths.


Love The Little Cubes!

Love The Little Cubes!

If GLaDOS is the supreme being in this world, then Her emissary on Earth would be the Weighted Companion Cube. Sent by GLaDOS to aid Chell in her mission in Test Chamber 17 (the holiest number), the WCC will never threaten to stab or harm you, and though it cannot speak in traditional ways, it nevertheless communicates its message of love in its form and function in our lives.


You've Discovered a Secret Shrine to the WCC

The Euthanization of the Cube

In the end of this popular parable, GLaDOS gave Chell the command to euthanize the WCC, and Chell’s faith in GLaDOS and determination to finish the test helped her get through this ultimate test of compassion. Fortunately the WCC can never really die, as seen in the depictions of the Cube by its devoted followers in their secret shrines, for it will always remain forever in our hearts.

Black Mesa back room, a rare vision of heaven.

Black Mesa back room, a rare vision of heaven.

 Aperture Science and Black Mesa are the GLaDOStic version of heaven, the behind-the-scenes area and fount of knowledge one is rarely allowed a glimpse of (Android Hell being  the opposite). Our divine rewards include access to the exclusive Labs, cake, and a reunion with our beloved Cube. “The Cake Is A Lie” is a common mantra that reminds us not to trust what we have been told and that if we do what we must because we can, we will surely reap rewards in the next life.

Still Alive credits

Still Alive credits

The traditional gospel or choir song, “Still Alive” represents the struggles of all lifeforms, synthetic or otherwise, to stay alive. This song has become popular in non-gospel sectors as an Internet fad and a free download in Rock Band. It can be found on “The Orange Box Original Soundtrack.”


 I hope this has enlightened those of you with questions about this up and coming religion for the good of all of us, especially for the people who are still alive. This was a triumph if I have converted even one new follower. I’ll make another note here if this religion is a huge success. Anyway, this cake is great, but I’ve experiments to run, and there is research to be done, for the people who are Still Alive.

Note the heavy use of religious symbolism in this New Game 2nd Playthrough screenshot.

Note the heavy use of religious symbolism in this New Game 2nd Playthrough screenshot.

Leveling IRL


I return to one of my favorite topics always on my brain: how is life like a video game? Today my topic shall be leveling up. It’s an RPG concept that is easily applied to real life experiences and events.

I think of age as like your level. At level 1, you don’t have much. You’ve got crappy starting equipment, no money, no concept of money yet. You’re still figuring out the system, how everything works. By level 5, stuff is either really easy or really hard. You’ve gotten an idea of how to do what you want. You may struggle with not having much in the way of equipment or money, which makes the little things matter that much more. There are probably more un-interactive or static cutscenes than you’d like and than you’ll probably remember later.

 In your 20’s, you look back at where you’ve come from and realize how little you’ve really accomplished in the grand scheme. You gain experience in lots of little ways, and sometimes in leaps and bounds. Nothing is quite as hard as it seems, but you don’t really realize that until something harder comes at you. At 25, you may not be sure yet who will be permanent party members or who will just be cameo characters. The plot is still kind of a mystery.

I’ll have to reserve my judgment on the next levels until I reach them myself, but based on this game logic your middle age levels have some pros and cons. You’ve finally made some money and traveled a bit. You may have some nice transportation (like a 1972 Mercedes Airship in metallic mint green) and a fully furnished house (somewhere to keep all that loot with easy access to merchants). But whether you’re living in Tenpenny Towers or the shack in the Imperial City, it doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be facing tougher challenges than when you were lower level. More boss fights (that may, for example, kill you and cause you to restart) and more minions to deal with (middle management-types have a 50% weakness to fire), but more experience with your chosen profession/class and more .

 The plot may be thickening, with family or work, or it may be dragging on as the game gives you a chance to catch up on some exploration and leveling. You may have invested energy in leveling characters who leave halfway through the game for some ill-defined reason. You’ll probably never reach level 100 unless you power level, which isn’t really much fun all the time. Some people obsess over it (see healthy foods, exercise, or good genes/character class). And no one really knows when they’ll finish the game. It may be after power training all your Pokemon to level 75 to beat the Elite Four. You may have an idea based on the plot and other cues that the final boss fight is coming, and the game will end soon. Or the game may never really end; like so many plotlines in life, you may keep going back to them even after you think they’re done.

 I realize there are a few problems with this extended metaphor. There are many guides to life, but no one’s quite gotten them right yet, no matter what they claim. The Konami Code will not help you; you can’t really cheat to get ahead, beyond a basic gold glitch or item dupe. Spoilers are actually a good thing; if you have an idea of what’s coming based on others’ experiences, you have a better chance at surviving. You don’t really have as much control over party members’ actions as you might like. And, finally, sometimes level doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you get pwned by a boss half your level, or get lucky and beat one twice yours. Sometimes you need to rely on your Luck, or Personality, or Defense, to get you through. And at the end of the day, you never really know which level up will be your last, so you should try to enjoy every single level. Ding!