Hey there, Gameologians, and welcome to our weekly forum for gaming plans and whatever else we decide to talk about. For this week’s early installment, I gathered a handful of longtime Gameological contributors in a chat window for a special Thanksgiving installment of What Are You Playing This Weekend? Except we didn’t talk about the games we’re playing this weekend. (I know at least two of us are knee-deep in Dragon Age: Inquisition.) Instead, we shared the things that we, as players, are thankful for this year. We’d love to hear what you’re thankful for, too (even if you don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving). And as usual, tell us what you have on your gaming plate.
Steve Heisler: I’m thankful for people who teach other people how to play board games. I did a ton of it this year, and afterward, I had a newfound appreciation for those who take time to walk people through complicated things, because it can be infuriating. And the end result is something people may not even like, but they do it anyway. My friend Chris spent a ton of time teaching me and two friends how to play San Juan. At first I was like, “This is really complicated, and Chris wasted his time.” But he was so patient and insistent and excited that we all got into it, and now San Juan is one of my favorites. So yeah, thanks to everyone who goes non-digital and is patient enough to answer the same question over and over: “Can I look at my cards?” YES, JUST LOOK!
Matt Gerardi: That’s a good one! I imagine a lot of the people in this group are the “explainers.”
Samantha Nelson: Yeah. I’ve been on both ends of that table, so I absolutely agree.
Derrick Sanskrit: It’s better when the people learning are not stoned, which in my experience, is rarely. “No, don’t look at the cards. No! NO! Okay, now draw new cards, but don’t look! DON’T LOOK!”
Ryan Smith: On a related note, I’m thankful that there are so many game-friendly bars these days.
John: What are your favorites?
Ryan: Geek Bar just opened in Chicago, and they are ridiculously board game friendly. They have set days just for gaming.
Sam: I’ve been meaning to go there. I hear it’s awesome.
Ryan: Video game-wise, I prefer Logan Hardware. I can’t believe there are like six arcade-bars in Chicago. I feel like almost every city in America has an arcade-bar now. I took an Amtrak to Chicago a couple weeks ago, and we stopped in Denver for two hours. I wandered randomly and found a place called 1UP. We’re living in the golden age of beer and pinball.
John: Okay, Steve and Ryan have given thanks. WHO’S THANKFUL NEXT?
Drew Toal: I’m thankful for my wife helping to cure my Hearthstone addiction. More specifically, I’m thankful for pause functions in general. I feel pretty strongly about people not being glued to their phones when they’re out to dinner or in social situations, and here I was kind of drooling over my iPad and my boss Warlock deck as she tried to talk to me. (I understand this is a common situation.) The fact that you can’t really pause the game because you’re playing against another person makes it rough, in terms of maintaining a functional relationship with another human being. But Stacey sat me down and explained that me being a Hearthstone zombie was no way to live, and once I realized that I didn’t have to finish every single daily quest—or really any quest—I walked away and never looked back.
Matt: I know the Hearthstone bug all too well. I mostly play on PC, so I was able to avoid being sucked into it in social situations. That didn’t stop it from distracting from other things, though.
Sam: My husband didn’t stage an intervention, but there was a lot of, “You sure you should be playing Hearthstone right now? Haven’t you been saying you need more sleep?” Speaking of which, I’m thankful that I haven’t had to buy a next-gen console yet because enough stuff I’m interested in is still being made for the systems I do own.
Steve: Yes, Sam, I was thinking about that today actually. The new systems haven’t started a buy-or-no-more-games-for-you situation.
John: What kind of stuff are you playing on the “old” consoles?
Sam: South Park: The Stick Of Truth was one of my favorite old console releases of the year but I’ve also really enjoyed the variety of excellent games out on the 3DS, which is a modern console but not one of the big two. Plus there have been plenty of games I can easily play on my PC. I know companies will transition eventually, and I’ll have to choose which I’m going to buy, but at least it’ll be cheaper when it happens.
John: Yeah, you’re doing it right, Sam. I always tell people that unless you’re a hobbyist, you’re nuts to buy a console in its first year of existence. Just wait. Even having said that, I’m surprised by how long it’s taking for the Xbox One and PS4 to get libraries that justify their cost. A PC with Steam is basically console of the year.
Sam: Yep. And between that and my handhelds, I’m pretty much set.
Ryan: Man, I don’t know. I played the Call Of Duty and sweet sassy molassey, the graphics were amazing. I feel like they are beginning to justify.
John: Fair enough, we’re getting there. Who’s next?
Derrick: I’m grateful for color. It’s been a while since the alarming rise of browns, grays, dust, and dirt in video games, but it feels like this was the year that bright joyous colors finally got their chance at the spotlight. Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. 4 are brighter and more joyful in their use of color than ever before. FRACT OSC was fantastic in its use of neon greens, blues, and pinks. Hohokum was a pastel dream, Hatoful Boyfriend makes excellent use of whites and pinks, Nidhogg is all about searing bright yellows. Even InFamous Second Son and Diablo III, which are caked in dark, gritty realism, exploded with joyous electric color effects.
John: InFamous Second Son was dull, but I kept playing purely because of the color. It took me a long while to get tired of drawing crackling neon electric zaps across the screen.
Derrick: Every power in that game had its own beautiful burst of color.
John: InFamous was really at the forefront of that bold use of color in open-world games. The original game stood apart for its electric hues, too.
Derrick: There are still a lot of dark gritty bland games out there, but it feels like more than ever brightness is making a comeback.
John: I’m thankful for the Wii U. Partly because it is the only place to play Mario Kart 8, which is fantastic, but also because it just seems content with itself. Confident, even. Every pundit is calling on Nintendo to ditch hardware! Make free-to-play games! iPhone something! But the Wii U is like a Bob Ross tree, just happy to be what it is. It doesn’t nag me to update as relentlessly as its counterparts from Sony and Microsoft. It’s not always trying to sell me movies, TV shows, and other “MAKE US THE SET-TOP BOX KING” horseshit. And Miiverse is just as much game social networking as I need. It’s used really well in Mario Kart and in more obscure entries like NES Remix.
Matt: I’m thankful for the local multiplayer resurgence that we’re going through. Most of my favorite games to have come out this year were multiplayer-focused games—Nidhogg, Sportsfriends, Lethal League, Super Smash Bros. I sympathize with the people who pine for online multiplayer—it can be really hard to get a group together—but there’s just nothing like burning through these games in some sort of multi-part video game Olympics with some friends, hooting and hollering the whole time.
John: This is one quality that made Fibbage so remarkable to me, too. It nailed same-room and online multiplayer with one design choice: Use your phone as the controller.
Matt: Plus I think we’re in a really great period for these sorts of games, design-wise. There’s a real movement toward minimalism and accessibility without sacrificing frenzy.
John: Okay, that’ll do it. Everybody have a nice Thanksgiving, the local multiplayer holiday! Enjoy co-op eating with friends and family.