No Underestimating the Walking Dead and a Theology of Exploration

In which, contributions elsewhere point-out the value of oft-overlooked folk and remind us to have an explorative theology.

No Underestimating The Walking Dead’s Protagonist

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Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season Two is shaping up to quite a curious tale. An eleven-year-old girl starts showing up the men in her life. And I realized that maybe this has something to do with the “least of these.” GameChurch pubbed the piece.

A Theology of Exploration (and Videogames): The Podcast

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Ted, Zach and I discussed the merits of theological exploration in a diversity of traditions and the videogames that somehow relate to that. Ted related it to playing Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Zach linked it to Dark Souls, and I drew connections to Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall/Brigmore Witches. Go figure. Listen to Podcast 35: Exploration on Theology Gaming or through itunes.

Resurrection and Octodad: GameCell Recap

In which, our GameCell talked about the resurrection of Jesus and octopuses who have to make coffee.

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The Convo:

“What do you think Christianity is really about?”

I lobbed this query into a room of young men. (My suspicion was that they had the answers and maybe didn’t even know it.)

“Like, forget all hypocritical trash. What’s the real substance?”

“Like that Jesus died for our sins?” Matt replied.

“That’s an awesome point, Mr. Romano.” I said. “I like how you emphasized ‘our sins’ and made that connection to each of us. What do the rest of you guys think?”

Brian told a recent real-world good Samaritan story and how important it is to take care of others. I affirmed that that was tied to the greatest commandment. Newcomers, Garret Kraut, and Alex Hively filled in a few gaps in the story, bringing up resurrection. Alex Carter shared a bit, too. Then Vince fleshed-out how the whole story related to his experience with Jesus and the church.

“So what do you think of Jesus resurrecting from the dead?”

“Do you believe it’s true?”

Then I read this bit from John 20 in our Jesus For The Win Bibles:

Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

“So what do you think? Do you believe this?”

Garret said, “Yeah, I do believe it. I didn’t understand when I heard bible stuff before, because it was boring. But I get this.”

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Octodad: Starring Alex as the legs and Garret as the arms

This got messy fast. Octodad is a hard game to control. That’s the fun of it. You’re an octopus trying to keep the world (and your family) from realizing that you’re a mollusk. It’s surprisingly easy as everybody in the world is pretty deluded.  You just have to be careful not to smack your wife with a toaster or beat your kids with the milk jug when you pour them a drink. Problem is, that none of that is easy. Even when you’re two dudes who are like this:

Pretty sure they had a blast. Though, it’s pretty painful to watch when all you have to do is a simple task like, “make burgers” and our heroes can’t seem to get the last burger on the daughter’s bun because their tentacles are going each way to Sunday and Alex just laughs hysterically the entire time. Very funny. Though, maybe not exactly fun to watch. Though, everybody got to enjoy the extreme sense of accomplishment when we successfully weeded the garden, brewed coffee, and hung the birdhouse on the tree.

Then it was time for something we could all be good at.

Towerfall: Ascension

Then Tim showed up with pizza!

GameCell Isn’t An Event Anymore

I told the guys I’ve messed up. I’ve treated GameCell like it’s an event. It’s not an event. GameCell is us. We are GameCell.

My mistake was in how I framed things by saying “Come to GameCell.” Instead, it should be, “Our GameCell is getting together. Wanna see what we’re like?” From here on out, people are a part of GameCell the moment they they show up. It’s up to them whether they want to own it or not.

So, would you like to be a part of our GameCell?

Holy Monday: Why Did Jesus Really Curse The Fig Tree?

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The first thing Jesus does after Palm Sunday where he rode into Jerusalem, cleaned-out the temple, and healed the sick?

He flip-outs on a fig tree:

“May you never bear fruit again!” He shouts. Then it withers and dies.

It seems like he was just hungry and got pissed-off that he couldn’t have a snack. Or that he just wanted to show his disciples that if you have enough faith, you can boss nature around. But it’s important to note that whenever a Bible story starts, you’ve got to read it until the story ends or that day ends in particular. Or you might miss the point of the story.

When the disciples were done swooning over Jesus like starstruck fanboys, he explained that if have enough faith and don’t doubt, you can “say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”

So why did Jesus really curse this fig tree?

Where does this story end?

It starts in Matthew 21:18 with them going into Jerusalem. And then the day ends in Matthew 26:5, where the religious leaders scheme to abduct Jesus in private. That’s five chapters of activity in one day. It’s a pretty busy day. But what’s interesting is what Jesus says to his disciples around the time that he’s passing the dead fig tree on the way out of the city. The disciples are all marveling over how rad the temple is. And Jesus says “not one stone will be left on top of another.” And they’re all confused by all of this.

Ever notice how Jerusalem is on a mountain? And what did Jesus say about prayer and mountains? And where was the temple exactly? Wasn’t it like at the top of the town? Might Jesus have actually been cursing the corrupted temple and the system of it’s screwed-up leaders?

I think all of that is a solid maybe.

What I do know is that just after Jesus cursed the fig tree, we get to see some of the best verbal Kung-fu recorded in the bible.

Check this Jesus fight out:

Jesus shows up in the Temple and schools the religious leaders and then they’re like, “By what authority are you doing these things?” And he’s like ““I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” Of course, they can’t validate John or they look like fools. So he’s got them trapped. They don’t answer his question, so he doesn’t answer theirs.

Then Jesus tells this parable about two sons who appear disobedient before their father. One son says he’ll obey and doesn’t. The other son says he won’t obey and then does. Then Jesus explains the parable by saying that whores and traitors are closer to God than the religious leaders.

This doesn’t exactly earn any points for Jesus among his enemies. He spends the next two chapters turning their own words on them and making them look as guilty as a middle-aged man walking out of a porn shop.

And if that’s not harsh enough, he starts yelling at them:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

And then:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

And in case, that wasn’t clear enough:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

(At this point in the story, it may become clear why these leaders didn’t like him.)

Pause.

So where are you at in this story? Cheering-on Jesus for calling-out the religious buttholes? Watching it all in disbelief, not knowing how to take it all in? Or are you questioning where you have hypocrisy in your own life? Carefully making sure you don’t end up like the pharisees?

Play.

After all of this goes down, you can feel the heat coming off of Jesus with how angry he is. He leaves the temple with his disciples and they’re super shocked when he tells them the temple is gonna be destroyed. So they ask the obvious questions of where, when, and how. They’re trying to make it fit with their view of the end times (which says a lot of other things have to happen in the temple before it can be destroyed). So Jesus tells them a pretty scary sounding story of deceptions, rumors of wars, faux-messiahs, and a time when “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”

This is a really weird bedtime story.

Then after Jesus seems to have screened the most depressing version of a Left Behind film trailer, he says this:

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

So I’d love to do a fancy pastor/teacher thing and wrap this all up super nice and clean. But instead, I’m gonna leave you with this:

A Holy Monday question:

What does Jesus want us to do with all of this cursing/faith/criticism/apocolyptic stuff? How do you think it’s meant to affect your faith?

Pitch Process: Invisible Inc., Ether One, Luftrausers,

In which, Josh digests three games and discovers something worth writing about (maybe).

Invisible Inc.

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I opted-in to Invisible Inc.’s alpha. It does for turn-based tactics what Mark of the Ninja did for stealth games. Or what Don’t Starve did for procedural wilderness survival. Or what would happen if you mashed both of those games together to make Ninja Starve stew, then poured it into an ice cube tray, let it freeze overnight, and then set the cubes on your tabletop with some D-20s and the simpleminded determination of “let’s do this.”

In short, it’s a two-man tactical stealth game with random levels and a permanent death. Or at least that’s what it is right now. Being in alpha, all of this could change with the next update.

I heard some preview dude at IGN say it was his favorite game of PAX East. Made me excited that I beat that guy to the previewbial punch. I’m the hipster schlepp who put down money on a game that isn’t even on Early Access yet. It’s was a gamble. And while I feel cool, I really don’t know what to think about the rogue-likeness.

When I press-into my tactics games, I like growing attached to each and every man, woman, and manchild I toss into the battle-arena. I like knowing that if they die, I can re-load to the quicksave event in time that exists before I funkified the visceral discourse. The punishing permadeath nature of a roguelike assures that I don’t get a second-chance. My Dr. Pedler is Dead. And my Agent Deckard has to just wipe-away the tears he sheds for his robot BFF. Lest the run ends in a near-waste of time.

I’d like to really deep-dive into the mechanical ingenuities at display here.

Luftrausers: A History Lesson

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In the mid-early twentieth century, Axis forces unleashed a submarine-launched aircraft that decimated the Allied front. If it weren’t for the last-minute luck of Allied diplomats, the Luftrausers would have won the war for Axis powers and subsequently destroyed everybody in the known universe.

Immediately after the war, Luftrauser technology was dismantled and disavowed – assuring that future generations would never know the destructive awesomeness captured in tiny “Rauser” bits.

Thanks to modern advances in flashpunk cyberdata technology, reformed Axis scientists have made it possible to “Raus” once again – and for the first time ever, experience what it was like to shoot at their grandfathers. You can thank “Luftrausers,” by Vlambeer for making it possible.

Saddle-up, children. For tonight, WE RAUS!

Ether One

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Ether One’s pay-off trumped every Bioshock game I ever played (including Gone Home – sorry Gaynor and team). It made each action I made in the game matter in real-world terms that I didn’t expect. And it made me want to play through a second time just to take each of the puzzles more seriously.

Admittedly, the game got slow – both from a technical standpoint and from a mechanical one. There’s not a lot of tension in this first-person-walker. I just had to find the basic memory cores that show up as red bows and slowly I come to understand what is going on in this strange world. Think Inception meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in first-person dealing with dementia. It’s not cheery. But the brilliance of the conclusion makes it worth pushing through the five or six hours of confusion. I promise.

Also, it’s a game that made me empathize with real-world horrors.

Rest, Heal, And Clothe the Naked

In which, contributions elsewhere remind us to rest, heal, and clothe the naked.

Rest: Do We Need Tengami’s Rest?

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From the article:

When I look across the videogame landscape, I see some of the most intense games ever created. Titanfall, Dark Souls 2, and Towerfall all came out just in one week. But then I look at little Tengami, sitting quietly in the corner as calm as can be. It’s content to focus on walking and quietly collecting cherry blossom flowers while folding paper. When I look back at the stress-addled games of today, I can’t help but wonder if Tengami is just what we need: a game about rest.

On GameChurch: Do We Need Tengami’s Rest?

Heal: A Discussion About Healing In Videogames And The Church

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Do you believe supernatural healing can happen today? Healing’s such a regular part of video games, but we don’t often think of it as we play. So Zach, Ted, and I discussed the collective imagination of videogames, the gospel, and healing on the Theology Gaming podcast.

On Theology Gaming: Healing Podcast

Clothe: Toplessness in Wolf Among Us

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Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. And while videogame nudity has historically served the male gaze, it’s fascinating that Wolf Among Us lets us interrupt that gaze and provide clothes. It raises the question of what’s most honoring to those who are disrobed: to find a way to clothe them or to just throw out the story they’re a part of.

On Theology Gaming: Toplessness in Wolf Among Us

Starwhal Identity GameCell

In which, we welcome two new Matts, discuss identity, and play not nearly enough of Starwhal: Just the Tip

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So where do you get your identity from?

Alex shared a couple of posters he designed based on what he learned in school. We oohed and awed for a bit. Then we watched the video below and discussed the question at hand.

Really, where do you get your identity from?

New Matt number two (Matt Smith, my buddy from college) shared about how he discovered the futility in getting your identity from your job. New Matt number one (Matt Romano, a teen from the youth center) shared how he enjoyed just fitting in with everybody. And Vince shared how he’s struggled to get his identity from anything until he found out he’s a son of God. I echoed similar notions. Brian contrasted his thoughts with Vince and myself, questioning whether or not we really get our identity from God or if that’s just something we say.

I admitted that games sometimes compete for the biggest piece of my heart pie. But that I don’t want to let that over-clock Jesus. I said I want Jesus to frame and shape every part of my story. He seemed to resign to this notion. But I got the impression he’s not convinced.

Game Time!

New Matt number one (Romano) picked Kentucky Route Zero for “show and tell.”

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For those not familiar with GameCell show and tell, it’s an opportunity everybody to watch, listen, and help the new guy along the way. It’s kind of a meat-world Twitch stream.

Mr. Romano dug it. But it became apparent that everybody had ants in their pants for something more adrenaliney – to which Starwhal obliged.

Starwhal: Just The Tip

I encourage watching this video of kids playing this game with relatively pure hearts:

Oh man, does Starwhal get awkward fast. As the objective is to use horned space whales to poke each other’s hearts, it seems clear that the designers knew that this goes wrong fast and often.

In one survival match, all of us Starwhals just laid on one another. It was intense.

There’s just thrusting and turning to worry about in Starwhal. And a taunt button. With that super simple toolset, you have all you need to poke your space-foes in the heart.

Our crew found their favorite custom starwhals pretty quickly.

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Tim dubbed his monacled gentleman starwhal, “Mr. Peanut.” Vince seemed to prefer the light saber horn. Alex paid homage to Mega Man. And Brian’s Bear Hotdog became the destroyer of worlds.

And yes, there was lots of hysterical yelling.

Ugly Fan Service: God’s Not Dead (Un)Review

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So this God’s Not Dead movie surprised a lot of folks by making a multi-million-dollar splash in box offices this weekend. It’s supposed to show how Christians should respond to atheists. But I take huge issue with its ugly framework:

“Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade.” -God’s Not Dead movie synopsis, Rotten Tomatoes

The movie seems designed to make Christians feel like a persecuted minority where evil Atheists rule the world. And the film seems designed to make Christians feel good about arguing for God’s existence. But apologetics that serve only to make Christians feel good are garbage. It’s just fan service.

When an argument is built around a villain created purely to be a hateful antagonist, the faith “conversation” turns into propaganda. It’s not terribly different from the posters used in WWI to get American soldiers primed for war and dehumanize their political enemies.

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People who don’t follow Jesus are people that Jesus loves. They deserve more than ugly caricatures. And our first and foremost apologetic is gracious engagement that doesn’t paint them as the bad guy in an Olsen Twins movie.

So forgive me for not bothering to sit through the whole of God’s Not Dead. My issue isn’t with the actual information the Christian student pursues to prove God’s existence. My fight is with the ugly framework.

Shrewd as Slugs, Innocent as Dingos

Jesus’ apologetics were subversive acts of love. He gave this a name when he told his disciples to do likewise: “be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

Our apologetics should follow our Rabbi’s model. Jesus was far more interested in showing what God’s kingdom looked like than proving God’s existence. And it showed by how he loved the tiny tax collector in the tree by hanging out with him while challenging him to give up corrupt extortion practices. By singling him out, Jesus made little Zacheus look like the tallest man in the street parade. And when confronted by actual antagonists, Jesus got angry and used his anger to restore a crippled man’s hand on the Sabbath.

For those of us who are more interested in following Jesus than American Christian Subculture, we define apologetics more like 1 Peter 3:15:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..”

That gentleness and respect bit is huge. Otherwise it’s really hard to have a clear conscience.

Like I said, I’ve not watched the movie. But if the promotional materials are any indication, it seems clear that the script doesn’t give atheists a fair rendering. And when a people group isn’t rendered well, then maybe you can’t expect to have a meaningful conversations on matters close to the heart?

Pitch Process: Banner Saga, Loving Gay Folk, Walking Dead, Sang Froid, and No John 3:16 Without Miraculous Healing

In which, I write about the too many things I want to write about and you, dear reader, can be like, “Dude, do that!”:

Walking in Desperate Refugee Shoes Through The Banner Saga

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The Banner Saga may look like a bright and colorful Nordic fantasy game, but it’s all about the desperate sadness of being a refugee. And leading refugees. And losing refugees. I think I’ve played quite a number of sad games. But nothing put me into the quiet desperation of “anytime things could go terribly wrong” quite like Banner Saga. In an instant, somebody in your caravan could betray you. Bandits could have your whole crew surrounded. And then you will be forced to fight in tile-based-tactical fashion. Unlike many entries in the genre, your combatants don’t go to Hel (or Valhalla) when they fall in the field. They’re just wounded. This somehow makes the battles themselves far more of a knuckle-dragging desperate grab at victory. You have to fight until your last man (or lady-archer) uses up all of their strength. It’s in this not-so-quiet desperation that Banner Saga never lets up, truly casting it’s first-world players into the kind of plight their social advantages keep them safely unfamiliar with.

I Spoke At Church About Justin Lee’s “You Love Gay People? Prove It.” Post

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Justin Lee’s blog post had a lot of fascinating things to say. I just shared the blog post’s contents with my church. No matter what anybody think of LGBT folk, it’s undeniable that Jesus loves them. So we’ve got to have a groundwork for how to show that. I could write about exactly what I said to my church. But a blog forum is probably better a place to elaborate on the same thoughts differently. Wondering how my church fam took Justin’s post? It’s more than safe to say there weren’t any pitchforks involved (it went better than well, actually).

Eleven-Year-Olds Make Fascinating Leaders (Walking Dead)

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Ender’s Game illustrated how eleven-year-olds can make the best strategic leaders. A House Divided (Episode two of Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season Two) does the same. Clementine seems to be the person folks turn to when they don’t know what to do. It’s a strange notion that the little girl you would do anything for in Season One has turned into a leader simply because it’s the only thing that makes sense. Maybe that’s because of game design. But that’s also the build-up in the first two episodes and conflict with what’s leading to episode three.

I wonder if we actually want Clementine to become the leader of this band of survivors. I mean, of course we do. But the implications of what that will do to her (and our) psyche is just too horrific. When we played as Clem’s mentor, we had to chop off legs, put infected people down before they turn, and decide who lives and dies more than once. But the question to me is, how could an eleven year old girl live with those kinds of things? Leadership is too much for most adults, let alone a tween.

Tactical Survival Horror from French Canadians – Sang Froid: Tale of Werewolves

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I hate planning. But Sang Froid (said, “Sang-frwa”): Tale of Werewolves made me love planning. Each morning, I had to buy and set traps all around my family’s property. If I planned things perfectly, I wouldn’t even be spotted by the horrors of the night as I dashed from site to site, triggering traps at just the right time with my slow-loading flint-lock rifle. Meanwhile, French Canadian lumberjack hymns played through my beardy flannel-man’s brain to help me stay calm when a plan failed. When a plan failed, and it was just beardy and the wolves, an intimidation chess-match would ensue where yelling, bonfires, and axe wielding became very important. Since Sang Froid is all about this very tension, it makes sense that the rifles take ten-to-thirty seconds to reload. Shouting has a cool-down starting at three and a half minutes. And every action you take has a tactical disadvantage. It make you have to play smart and love the value of a perfectly-executed plan. Good job, French Canada!

Did You Ever Notice That John 3:16′s Story Was Only Possible Because Nicodemus Saw ‘Miraculous Signs?’

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Nicodemus was came to meet Jesus just because he saw the supernatural stuff Jesus was doing. If you know the story, you know this led to that uber-famous verse, John 3:16. But I’m most-fascinated by how the story started:

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

It’s got me thinking. Maybe the way God wants to get social elite folk to take interest in the Kingdom of God is through healing, signs, and wonders?

I’d be lying if I said I came to this conclusion on my own.

This past week, I was at a conference where our Malay speaker (Raymond Mooi) told story after story about how he was able to get a special audience with social elite folk in Japan, Myanmar, and his home country of Malaysia because Jesus healed them when he prayed.

Just to prove his point, he then prayed for everybody at our conference and I saw at least ten people I know personally go up and give an account on how they suddenly didn’t need hearing aids anymore or their back pain stopped or they could suddenly use their knees again.

It seems that God wants to use healing to make fancy people take another look at him?

Pick One, Will Ya?

So which one of these are you most curious about?

Epic Lent Gamecell

In which, our GameCell attendees screamed more than ever, we talked about Fasnachts, and what Jesus has to do with doughnuts:

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“What do you think of Lent?”

“Ever give something up for a little while? Maybe videogames?”

Veterans (Alex, Caleb, Jeff, and James) plopped around my living room and reflected on these questions. Newcomers, Owen and Mason warmed up to the discussion after I explained that Lent basically starts with Fasnacht Day.

“Want a Fasnacht?” I asked.

Vince provided an enormous tub full of them for us to enjoy (thanks, Vince!).

We discussed the value of giving things up so that you can allow more mental and spiritual space within us to be yielded to Jesus. And to that effect, we looked at how Jesus rode into Jerusalem: on the back of a baby donkey.

Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it:

No fear, Daughter Zion:
See how your king comes,
riding a donkey’s colt.

-John 12

“So why do you think Jesus chose to come into town on a tiny donkey that could barely carry him?” Jeff responded right away: “Because he wanted to show his humility?” ”Good answer!” I said.

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We talked about how this was a way of a King declaring peaceful intentions. And then I may have read too much (sidenote: keep things focused instead of trying to cover too many bible stories at once). I got a few of blank stares after reading the “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies” bit. Though, asking them what they thought about that concept, I got some solid answers. Some dudes caught how that connected to Jesus sacrificing himself for our benefit.  Guys asked a bunch of questions for clarity, too. So I know nobody fell asleep!

“Anything you want prayer for?” I asked. No hands. “Okay we’re gonna pray for Vince and his coworker in the hospital. Cool?” Bowed heads.

The Pick For Owen: Toto Temple

“Owen, you’re the new guy. I have a perfect game for you where you get goat powers.”

He responded, “Okay, cool. But I have to leave by 8:30.”

“Okay. That leaves twelve minutes. New plan. Here’s a game where everybody has to grab a goat and hold onto it as long as possible:”

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Toto Temple is crazy fun. It’s a four-man game of keep-away on a single screen. Think Smash Bros meets Halo’s oddball and you’ll know exactly what’s up. Players can get straight to competitive competency in a few seconds. And most wonderfully, the version we played is presently free on PC. Download it! This version is just a single bare-bones stage. But it’s quite fantastic. And it will probably get a lot of use as we wait for the final PC version to come out.

The official release is supposedly system-exclusive on Ouya and launches “this Spring.” But I suspect a Steam release isn’t too far behind. Either way, if you’ve got a PC and four 360 controllers, you should be playing this with your friends ASAP.

Mason’s Pick: Rogue Legacy

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I didn’t know for sure that Mason was gonna make it. So I didn’t pick what I thought would be perfect. Fortunately, he felt drawn to Rogue Legacy, the Castelvania-ish roguelike (“roguelike” means random level layout and permanent death) which is all about storming a castle to grab as much gold as possible for future generations. Everything your character gains before they die goes to the next “heir” as you pick up the game and again. It’s a smart level-up loop. And Mason seemed to love it. He seemed pretty disappointed that it’s not on Xbox 360.

James Plays My First Game Ever: The Hard Night (NEW!)

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I made a game. Seriously. It’s all text (Twine). But I think it’s pretty fun for a short bout. The guys laughed.

Go ahead and try it out. It’ll only take about five minutes to play through and discover the multiple endings.

Alex’s Pick:

It’s been a while since Alex picked a game, especially being the longest-standing GameCell attendee. So I made sure to pick out a game that appealed to a couple of his interests” “In this game, you’re a big strong black man who beats up bad guys Devil May Cry style.” I said. “Yes. That one.” Alex Said. And all of that gets summed-up in this screenshot:

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And why all the Screaming….

Tim Hilbert showed up with a pizza and Stromboli from his workplace. So it’s safe to assume we forgave him for being so late! To commemorate his arrival, we turned to what’s become our offical GameCell go-to: Samurai Gunn

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As players got more and more comfortable with Samurai Gunn, the intensity of each match led to more and more excited of a response from our resident loud guy. If you’ve ever played a game with Tim that he loved, then you’re undoubtedly familiar with his hilariously explosive reactions (to success or failure).

If my neighbors are reading this, I apologize for all the noise.

BEST EVAR?

Everybody seemed to be having more fun than usual. Alex Carter kept saying “THIS IS THE BEST GAMECELL EVER!”

Due to structural circumstances, GameCell went way late into the evening. Some of our guys started asking about sticking around for the night at about 1am. I realized it might be time to send everybody home.

The guys don’t believe me when I tell them next time we get together, we’ll be playing a game that’s “even more fun than Samurai Gunn”: Towerfall Ascension. We shall see…

Pitch-Process: Walking Dead S2:E1, Last of Us: Left Behind, Alpha Protocol, Remember Me

In which, we process a bunch of thoughts on videogames stream-of-consciousness style. We let readers decide if any of these thoughts warrant further development. Warning: mid-game spoilers to Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1:

clemdog

Clementine Kicks Puppies

Fortunately, Clementine doesn’t literally kick any puppies in Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1. [Spoilers:] She does, however, stab a fully-grown dog to death. Or at least my Clementine did. It was kinda optional. The other option was to just let the dog stay impaled on rebar after you fought it off. I mean it wasn’t the dog’s fault exactly. It was just so hungry it lost its darn mind. Kicking puppies is a trope; a shorthand for “do not trust this character because they are bad.” But as this scene depicts a veritable puppy punting, it also serves as a subversion of this trope by obligating it for the benefit of a likable protagonist’s survival.

It shows us that Clementine is kind of a BAMF for a tween lass, sure. But it also makes us question what humanity has she lost by the forces of her environment. Yeah, I know, that’s kinda Walking Dead’s theme. But as a player, it’s really up to you to protect Clementine’s integrity. And sometimes that means putting down a dog that would otherwise suffer.

arcade

Deep Friendship Love in Last Of Us: Left Behind

Last Of Us’ new prequel DLC is pretty good at a lot of things. One of those is showing off raya.

Ever hear of raya? It’s one of seven Hebrew words for love. It’s like this intense and whole-hearted kind of friendship. The concept stuck with me and it’s something I’m looking out for.

I never saw that kind of love expressed in a game until playing The Last of Us: Left Behind. We knew it was gonna do friendship and loss (based on what we find at the end of the main story). But we didn’t know it would be a tear-jerking demonstration of deep raya. Plus, it’s so clearly interwoven with the gameplay and the moment-by-moment actions I’m taking in the game. Like finding a joke book and reading jokes to one another. Or restoring power to a lost arcade and discovering what’s inside together. Or any of the other dozens of things post-civilization teenage girls discover when they see a living mall for the the first time ever. It’s deep and good. That’s all we’re saying for now.

alpher

Alpha Protocol: Deus Ex’s Wacky Little Brother

Alpha Protocol is kinda my new favorite game. It takes Deus Ex’s obsessive EXP-hunting stealthiness and mashes it with a “How do I get them to like me?” social meta-game. Sure, it’s got more pimples than tenth grade me (which is really bad). But the core grind of sneaky abilities and sucky shooting made each on-foot mission sugary-stressful.

When talking to in-game-humans, it’s about figuring-out how people liked being talked to. Kinda like real life – minus the real-time feedback of “+1 relationship (liked)” or “-1 relationship (disliked).”

forgetme

Forgetting Remember Me

So if I’m a skinny white girl in Future-Paris with a tool to mess with enemies brains, what do you think I want to do? Brawl with street thugs? Jump from pipes to dumpsters or wherever the orange triangle tells me to? Go pixel-hunting through 3D videos? No. None of that. I want to investigate the world! Experiment with my brain-wipey powers!

But noooo… the game makes me brawl and press X through clearly-labeled obstacle courses. Boring. And just like that, I want to go play more Alpha protocol. Or anything else. Forgettable.

Cast Your Votes!

Or don’t. Sometimes it’s nice just to throw ideas to the wind and see what has any weight. If you think any of these thoughts warrant development, leave your citation in the comments down yonder.