Category Archives: Pop Culture

Extra Life: A Brief Primer


If you’re a fan of the podcast, you’ve probably heard us (me) talking about the big Extra-Life Event coming up. Hopefully you’ve gone into the show-notes for the link to our extra-life team, but if not you’ll get it again. For those you who join us primarily on the blog, you have no idea what I’m talking abut and that’s what we’re here for now.

Extra Life is a charity that mobilizes thousands of gamers every years to help raise money for local Children’s Hospitals. Started back in 2008, the community has managed to raise over $14 Million for their local hospitals and this is one of a dozen major charity events and programs that the gaming community takes part it. The marque event of the Extra Life campaign happens on Saturday November 7th in a mass culmination of 24-hour gaming marathons. Much like the Relay-for-Life the idea is to raise funds and donations while providing entertainment.

So what are we going to do? Well, it’s all still up in the air but our rough plan is that we’re going to go live around 10am on Nov 7th and I go to bed around 10am on Nov 8th. Seneca will be around a bit on stream, making food (recipes forth coming) and playing games. We’re going to have former guest and friend of the show Joedor_ hanging out from something like the Start of the stream to bout 4pm when he goes off to do his own stream. Everything else, is a mess that we’ll figure out. Come watch us (me) slowly go insane and have fun, pass a few dollars on for the kids and get some entertain in the process.

Check out Our Team, and Donate!

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Lost In: Game Length – Are Games Too Long?

Promo Art for the Tomb Raider reboot

Hey ya’ll, I’m back for another piece and this time we’re going to talk about game length.

We live in an era of unparalleled technological advancement. Video games were born as a by-product of this era and though their origins were humble, they have always been in the forefront edge of technology. For most of it’s history Graphics were the benchmark that the industry held itself against. The most photo-realistic car for someone to drool over [Watch the Video, it’s ridiculous]. Or perhaps the best generic Nazi to shoot. Through it all, we saw rapid forward advances in the fidelity and technology… until now. Sure games still look better but now, graphics aren’t a real benchmark. Art design has become more important and so games found a new benchmark. Now, a game’s true “awesomeoness” can be measured by how much of a “Fully Realized Open World” they can make. These days, that phrase doesn’t just mean map that lets you wander anywhere but a proper simulation where the squirrels plant acorns that grew into saplings that dragons burn down all well you wander the world without load screens, This has led to what I like to think of as the “100-hour minimum”, its the point where you have to hit in order to prove your game pushing the limit. The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V, just to name a few from this year There are countless other games that hover in-between 40-60 hours, which is just about the industry standard for normal games these days. 100 hours. That’s the 4 Days and change solid of your life, sunk into one game. 40-60 hours is a work week. This is often a considered great deal for the consumer, 60 dollars is a lot of money after all. Especially for us Millennials scrambling between random part-time and retail jobs, one game can last months.

Maybe I’m starting to get old [haha says me at 22] and, gods forbid, growing up but these 100-hour games are starting to become untenable. I have too many other demands on my time these days to feel good about playing through Mass Effect 3 as non-stop as possible [it was finals week] until I burst a minor blood vessel in my eye and finished the game [and aced my finals, cause yyeaaahhhh]. On top of that, most of these open world games demand your time in a fairly significant way. Play sessions seem to be intended to be  in the 3 to 5 hour length and story beats are portioned appropriately but even at regular 5 hour play sessions, you’re chipping at the behemoths 5% at a time. With a more industry standard 30-40 hour game that percentage sky-rockets to 16-12% respectively but even then, its hardly scratching the surface. I don’t have a lot of 5-hour time-blocks free and those I do, I try to wedge social events –board game nights and D&D nights– and chores into. Or writing. Or Homework [ew]. Ninety percent of gamers won’t finish any given game’s campaign but we keep making them longer!

Maybe I’m starting to get old [haha says me at 22] and, gods forbid, growing up but these 100-hour games are starting to become untenable. I have too many other demands on my time these days to feel good about playing through Mass Effect 3 as non-stop as possible [it was finals week] until I burst a minor blood vessel in my eye and finished the game [and aced my finals, cause yyeaaahhhh]. On top of that, most of these open world games demand your time in a fairly significant way. Play sessions seem to be intended to be  in the 3 to 5 hour length and story beats are portioned appropriately but even at regular 5 hour play sessions, you’re chipping at the behemoths 5% at a time. With a more industry standard 30-40 hour game that percentage sky-rockets to 16-12% respectively but even then, its hardly scratching the surface. I don’t have a lot of 5-hour time-blocks free and those I do, I try to wedge social events –board game nights and D&D nights– and chores into. Or writing. Or Homework [ew].

Now, I want to dig into the Witcher 3 realllllyy badly and Metal Gear Solid V sounds like fun game but I know that as my life is right now spending money on them is just going to add them to my pile of shame (my backlog). I also know that when X-Com 2 comes out, I’m going to probably put 20-80 hours into it. The Beauty of large 4X (Expand, Explore, Exploit, Exterminate) Strategy games is their inherent flexibility in play session. Sure, I’m going to play my entire Saturday irresponsibly because JUST ONE MORE TURN but I can make satisfying progress in a 30 min session squeezed between work and school. However, as far as story-based game go, I lament the slow death of the 8-10 hour campaign. The kind of game that takes just one or two sittings to burn through, leaving you with a well-crafted narrative paced completely and deliberately.

Last of Us, the Tomb Raider reboot, the Call of Duty or Halo Campaigns, are all these nice easily digested stories. These campaigns last around 15 hours, 14 hours, 3-6 hours respectively. Their campaign lengths all sit within  two or three steady play sessions and are paced much more naturally because of it. You get to experience the whole emotional arch of the story in a weekend or two of game play rather than stretching it out over two, or three, whole months. We need to respect these smaller campaign lengths because they offer richer, more tightly mapped narratives than their giant cousins in packages we as an industry can reasonably expect to people to complete. Really, I just absolutely loved Tomb Raider. Like irrational loved it for it’s shortness.

Thanks to anyone who made it this far listening to me ramble on about why games are too long these days. I know many people disagree and I love these behemoth games just as much as the next person but we’ve passed the point of reasonable length.

So You Want to Add Some Muscle? Lessons from a Powerlifter

Doc Deadlift

Article By Doc Von Derwin [Editor’s Note: Our resident Meat Head]

So you want to get serious about adding muscle. Then get ready for one hell of a ride that guarantees constant soreness, an uncomfortable amount of dieting, and nonstop attention from the opposite sex… or the same sex if you are into that kind of thing (it’s 2015 after all). This article will assume you have the essential knowledge of most lifts and an understanding of proper gym etiquette. Feel free to use your favorite search engine whenever confused, and while you are at it, look up synonyms for “large” so you won’t be thrown off when fellow gym members start referring to you with these words instead of your name.


Step 1: Assess your weaknesses. Do your abs show? Can you do a proper pull-up? Do you get winded walking up a flight of stairs? Identify your starting point and start by making attainable, yet challenging goals. From here you can begin building your plan of attack and start kicking ass one rep at a time.


Step 2: Reallocating your diet. Once you’ve identified your goals, you’re going to need to start eating your way towards them. If it means eating less or eating more, change in physique is incredibly reliant on how and what you eat. When it comes to gaining weight, the key is about being a beast in the kitchen. Let’s say the goal is to bench 300 pounds. The closer your body weight is to 300lbs, the lighter the lift will feel because your body is accustomed to carrying more mass. When you start cutting body weight while maintaining lifting intensity, you bench will stay the same but now you have to deal with rumors about the lifter with six pack ab’s and the ability to throw smart cars like softballs.


Step 3: The bulking diet. If your goal is to be huge like some sort of discount Tom Hardy, then get ready to eat… a lot. A veteran bodybuilder would eat 12 eggs a day (hardboiled or fried), a pound of 4% cottage cheese, and gallon of whole milk a day. Not to mention a decent amount of lean red meat consumption. You need all the protein you can get while cutting out as much sodium and sugars as possible. Fats are permitted in this diet but only if they are easy to metabolize like dairy fat. These food items are ideal for gaining mass but you can tailor it to your taste or health needs. Just be sure to include other standard issue health items; carrots, potatoes, whole wheat pastas, other vegetables, you get the picture. No shit foods like candy bars, fast food, anything deep fried, or soda which is the equivalent poison. Don’t drink soda… at all… ever. Soda is awful. Seriously, don’t drink it.


Step 4: The bulking workout. Three days a week should be dedicated to heavy lifting exercises. Monday: Heavy bench day. Tuesday: heavy leg day that includes squats and deadlifts as well as 500 reps of circuit training. Friday: squats, deadlifts, cleans, and bench mixed with biceps, shrugs, calves and pushups. You will most likely need to buy a whole new set of shirts about 3 weeks due to constant sleeve blow outs. You still need to maintain a large amount of intensity. Think heavy and painful 5 sets of 5. Somewhere throughout your week you need a bicep/tricep circuit training day that has 800 reps and needs to be finished in 45 minutes. Fast and with a lot of intensity like a Jason Statham movie.


Step 5: The cut. For those of you looking to gain that Bruce Lee lean appearance along with strength to vault over walls like a parkour expert, you need to be ready for a very painful process. More painful than Mufasa’s death in the 1994 classic The Lion King. Once you get your size and strength to where you want, you need start cutting back on sugars and sodium even harder than before, but now you cut out as many fats as possible. Start drinking fat free milk, take the yolk out of your eggs, and switch over to 2% cottage cheese. The combination of tuna and salsa will be your closest friend and you will hate vegetables more than a fussy 5-year-old. Fun fact: Broccoli and chicken was Tom Hardy’s constant meal when cutting for the movie The Warrior. By the end of filming, he hated broccoli and chicken.


Step 6: The cutting work out. Now we think about intense high rep workouts. 2 days a week is you power lifting exercises where you focus on which ever exercises work your weakest muscles, 3 days out of your week include 800-1000 reps of circuit training routines. Design them for legs, biceps/triceps, and various other muscles that shape your body to the proportions of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the first Terminator film. Resting must be kept to a minimal between circuits. To picture the intensity of these workouts, think of the last level of any video game where you are not only fighting two armies but also ISIS, Freeza from Dragonball Z, the Green Bay Packers, and a million fire ants that united as one in the shape of an even larger fire ant. These work outs are design to build/tone your muscles and burn more calories. This combined with your incredible dieting will start giving you that lean super soldier appearance.


Step 7: Reflection. These are the key steps to shaping yourself into a high octane monster that is able to stand in front of the mirror and know what it’s like to be sexually attracted to themselves. If you are having trouble getting motivated or find yourself cheating too frequently, try reading “The Iron and the Soul” by Henry Rollins. Once you have done that, read it over and over again to realize what it takes for you to stop being your own worst enemy. People are able want so much for themselves and very few are able to put forth the effort to achieve it. If you really want to add muscle or lean down then you can’t be afraid to put in the work.


Lost in: Act of Aggression and complex RTS’s

Let’s preface this with: This is not a review. I’m not sure we’re ever going to get into that messy formalized review structure that sites like Polygon and Giant Bomb are dealing with. For two real reasons. One: review scores are messy imperfect things that cause problems. And Two: I don’t expect to have time to play games the proper length needed and this site isn’t just about games. So instead you’re going to get us talking about games and pieces we like or don’t. And sometimes these may sound like reviews.

All of that out of the way, let’s talk about Act of Aggression, Eugen System’s newest Real-Time Strategy, RTS, Game and how it shows a coming problem for the genre. Like so many, Act of Aggression . Eugen System’s, aside from being a Bond villain-worthy name for a company is with a history of RTS under their belt, including one of my personal favorite popcorn RTSs, R.U.S.E. and one my least favorites, the Wargame series. Act of Aggresion is a slight half step between the two series, not remotely as cartoon-like and over the top as R.U.S.E. but not quite the highly detailed war simulation of the Wargame series. With heavy Command & Conquer influences visible, the fact that it is a step back from Wargame — which lacked enough of a tutorial to make it penetrable for me, much less a newcomer to the franchise –is welcomed but the game fails in the same place as Wargame does. They both want the player, the lone single officer with a creative brain (well any brain) to manage complex, evolving military situations down to the micro-level.

Think about it, these games put you in the General’s seat (or at least a Major’s seat) but ask you to do the one thing good officer’s never do. They ask you to micromanage everything, from flying the rescue helicopter to telling a squad to run to the next building for cover when they get flushed. In the real world, it’s tantamount to suicidal and you’re going to get good men and women killed. In Act of Aggression, you have to do it.

This isn’t Act of Aggression’s fault anymore than the lack of peripheral senses in First-Person Shooters is Call of Duty’s fault. They’re inherent limitations of the technology we currently have. But here’s the thing, military from the dawn of antiquity has understood that nothing can get done without good subordinates. The centurions, sergeants and other NCOs of the times could be, and still can be, argued to have far more importance to a military’s success than the generals, majors and other ‘brass’. Sergeants keep the cogs oiled and figure things out.

Act of Aggression has a feature that I absolutely adore, even if its just far too specific for me to worry about in a serious skirmish (which is why I’ve been playing against easy AI). The game lets you take wounded enemy soldiers (its a chance thing) as prisoners who can be used for a steady trickle or burst of rarer resources, depending on the faction of course. Aircraft or vehicles that get shot down/destroyed have a chance of spawning a pilot who is equally capture but will run for home if no enemies are around. Healing injured infantry returns them to the fight, a mostly worthless endeavor given the weight of tanks and artillery that get thrown around. But downed pilots grant you a 200 dollar bonus for being safely returned. More importantly, they’re downed pilots of mine and I’m going to everything I can to pull them out. You get access to helicopters that can carry infantry and the number of times I’ve launched rescue strikes to pull out my downed people borders on silly but I love doing it.

The problem with this mechanic is nothing about it is automated. Sure your pilots will slowly run back to base on their own but that puts them in massive danger. So you order a helio to pull them out and it flys over to pick them up, you go put out three other fires that started while you giving the order and maybe start an attack somewhere else. All this while the helicopter has picked up the pilots and is patiently hovering over the spot, waiting for more orders. Never mind that it should be high-tailing it back to base to get these poor bastards to safety, never mind that enemy anti-air is all over the region. It patiently just sits for you until its shot down or you remember it and order it to race for home. But even then your troubles aren’t over, because while it takes time to fly back home, you’re off doing a dozen other things that a cadre of half competent sergeants could do. One damaged tank siting slightly outside the repair radius while the rest of its squadron is fully repaired? Yeah, managing that is your job. Did a napalm strike just chase a bunch of your infantry occupying a bank out it? Well you’d better be right on top of that cause they’ll just stand outside the building roasting to death (or being shot to death, or blown up or any number of other bad things) until you tell them otherwise. Did they evacuate the building and survive (some of them) the napalm strike? Better tell them to reoccupy the tactically vital building they’d just been inside of because they’ll wait forever. While you’re doing all of this, guess what? That rescue helio that pulled out all the pilots? It’s hovering over base waiting for you to tell it to disembark them and then give them the order to run back into your HQ.

Everything in that last paragraph is a lot of fun, I have some other issues with the urban combat but every individual piece is great. But when you tie them all together and add economy, and combat micromanaging and macro-management of build queues, resources and build zones, it becomes more than one person should ever handle. The military has ranks for a reason. Ranks have jobs and they do their jobs so the ranks above them (or below them) can do their jobs. Games like Civilization strip out the micromanagement and tactical levels as an answer while the Total War series splits them into to separate but integrated pieces, and even its far more limited RTS elements suffer from this requirement that you the players does everything. They’ve answered this with a pause and queue order commands but it disrupts the feeling of being a commanding officer when you have to tell your elite legionnaire century that after they scale the walls they should run the 20 yards further along to engage the enemy guarding the gatehouse. Other games, like R.U.S.E. and Starcraft simplify both until the player can grasp it all.

In the end, I think the RTS genre is going to have push the edges of AI in games if they want to play at being a holistic war simulator instead of war-light like chess and Go. RTS makers need to understand that delegation and specific roles are why/how modern militaries function and not try to throw everything onto the player’s plate. Something as simple as letting two players control the same faction and base, something Starcraft and Halo Wars do, can go a long way to letting all those complicated matters become manageable but the only real solution is to give the players virtual subordinates smarter enough to do their jobs, something we’re not quite too.