It’s that time of year again! The semester is winding down (or already has wound down), final exams have been taken (or given), grades (or assignments) have been turned in, and calendars are booked with various holiday gatherings and parties. And, in keeping with Play the Past tradition, it’s the perfect time for us to share what we’re looking forward to playing during our down time. We look forward to seeing what new discussions and games 2014 brings us!
Trevor: Board, Card and iOS games with fun narrative and mechanical devices
The holidays generally mean a return to board games. So lots of warm drinks and playing Carcassonne, Dominion, and Apples to Apples. Pictured below, playing Carcassonne at a cabin out in the Shenandoah a month back. Which reminds me, I should really get around to writing something about the procedural rhetoric of Carcassonne and Dominion and that I should make up some kind of historical Apples to Apples deck. I think there is an interesting possibility there for an educational game…
Aside from these, I really hope to make time to catch up on some cool mobile games. In particular, Year Walk where I look forward to “Experience the ancient Swedish phenomena of year walking through a different kind of first person adventure that blurs the line between two and three dimensions as well as reality and the supernatural” and Sorcery! which promises to “uses inklewriter technology to tell your journey in real-time, shaping the story around your choices. The text itself changes based on how you play and what you do, and in combat, the action is description on the fly based on how you play.”
Rebecca: Friends, family, and arcades!
This holiday season I’ll have some time off of work to spend with my family. That means lots of travel by bus! Perfect for focusing on marrying the characters in Fire Emblem, so that I can breed, er, assemble the best tactical team (I feel like I shouldn’t be so excited about this, but I totally am). Holiday gatherings with friends will be the perfect place to play Cards Against Humanity, the hilarious and extremely non-P.C. version of Apples to Apples. I just hope my friends and family still love me come 2014!
There are also some extremely exciting and fun game-related things going on in NYC over the holidays. The Indie Essentials exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image recently opened, and the show features the tabletop RPG Dog Eat Dog by Liam Burke (whom I interviewed for Play the Past here) alongside the wonderful mixture of Joust and Starcraft in retro arcade form, Killer Queen Arcade, by Joshua DeBonis (also the designer for Meriwether, which I’ve written about for Play the Past here) and Nikita Mikros. The indie arcade Babycastles is continuing its professionalization by throwing a benefit party to fundraise for a permanent gallery space in Manhattan. They’re also selling memberships, in case anyone’s looking for an end-of-the-year tax deductible donation and would like to support indie developers and arcade exhibitions in NYC. And last, but not least, I plan on Jousting and Gauntleting at Barcade for my upcoming quarter century birthday with friends.
Roger: all Assassin’s Creed, all the time (or most of it)
I wasn’t expecting to spend as much time on Assassin’s Creed as I now seem destined to spend, but to my surprise I’ve actually developed an interest in the frankly ridiculous frame plot that serves as the justification for the animus, and I need to fill in the bits of it that I haven’t managed to play through before. Above all, I’m fascinated by what Black Flag has done to that story. Everyone seems to be treating it as a throw-away with a few meta-fictional jokes, but even if the designers saw it that way, in light of what I’ve dubbed “Ubiculturality” I think it may well have much more cultural meaning to yield.
Kevin: to Infinity and Beyond!
Finally having cracked open the box to my Wii U version of Disney Infinity (which, of course, I had purchased “for” my 10 month old daughter), I was captivated instantly by the power of the “Toy Box” creation capability. I have a suspicion that I’ll be spending a decent amount of time creating, rather than simply playing, in the Disney universe. Aside from time on the Wii U, I also hope to explore a bit of Helm’s Deep, the latest expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.
Jeff: The Wonder Years
Like many with young(ish) children, my holiday play time will be focused on games targeted toward 4-7 year-olds (although I am presently in negotiations with my wife to bring our household into the age of next gen).
For the youngest set, I can’t say enough about the value of Toca Boca’s games for iPad. I’ve never seen very young children so easily understand game play. My youngest can have a tea party, cut hair, cook, or even run a shop without the need for cumbersome tutorials.
My six year old is a big fan of the Lego series, particularly Batman 2 and Star Wars. My wife and I enjoy playing with him, each game allows players to experiment, cooperate, and explore without fear of death and losing your place in the game.
Minecraft also offers us a valuable chance to play, with a bit more creative activity. Its quite easy to very quickly set up a network game. My six year old prefers to play with me (something I’m told I should cherish now). We’re particularly fond of the Millenaire mod, which allows players to interact with NPCs from a variety of historical cultures.
For a nice mix of play and creation, I’m planning on introducing the iOS game/game making platform Createrria soon.
If Santa brings us an XBox One, I’ll be very interested in critiquing the Assassin’s Creed IV interpretation of the “age of piracy” (a particular favorite of mine in both games and history).
David: Forgotten Treasures
The game I was most looking forward to playing during the Holiday break was Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. However, I caved under the pressure to buy it a couple weeks ago, picked the game up and have been so immersed in it that I’ve already gained 100% synchronization in the story campaign.
With that in mind I think I’ll spend the holidays catching up on some games that I’ve ignored over the last few months. I picked up the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection over the summer and really enjoyed playing Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater but have yet to beat it. As well, I was given an original Nintendo Entertainment System last Christmas with an accompanying Legend of Zelda game. As a Zelda fanatic it feels almost sacrilegious that I have yet to beat the original adventure but I hope to rectify this over the break.
If time permits (and my family has caught on to all my hints), I hope to receive The Last of Us as a gift. I borrowed the game this summer from a friend and beat it with much enthusiasm but haven’t gotten the chance to play it since. In order to get me in the mood for this game I am likely to play through the Uncharted Trilogy again as I find the best way to prepare yourself for a Naughty Dog masterpiece is to play another.
I wish you all a Happy Holidays and am excited for you to continue reading Play the Past in the New Year!
Peter: Holiday Traditions
Ever since I first started grad school, I’ve had a stack of unplayed games that keeps getting taller (and that’s not counting the vast hoard of Steam games I keep adding to). Though I always have intentions to try and lessen the pile of new games over the holidays, I almost always end up getting sucked into old favorites like Master of Orion, Deus Ex and Cave Story. A more realistic holiday forecast has me spending most of my free time playing some of those through for the umpteenth time. Hopefully I’ll get some time to do some coding over the break as well, but testing your own work-in-progress games isn’t quite the same. My friend’s Minecraft server also just got updated, which means I’ll probably spend some time staking my claim and building a little castle. I’ve also recently started playing through Freelancer again, which may or may not be a side effect of my anticipation for Star Citizen.
On the analogue side, I’ll probably be playing a lot of Dominion with friends and family over the holiday season, as well as some Legend of the Five Rings RPG and Traveller. If enough people stop by, we might even get some 7 Wonders going. Boardgames also tend to be popular gifts in my circles, so there’s a good chance we might get introduced to a few new ones over the break, too.
Angela: Classics, Curriculum, and New Toys
The winter holidays are a time when I get to share and discuss games with my family. I am preparing to teach a composition course organized around rhetorics used to talk about games, so I will be playing the games I will assign in the spring: Portal, Tomb Raider, Doom and Myst. Like many others, I have a stack of neglected games to pay some attention to, and I am looking forward to sharing some newer PC titles with my brother, such as Long Live the Queen and Papers, Please. I am also going to continue working my way through the Quest for Glory series, which I started last winter break. As for consoles, I will probably return to the old NES for some classic gaming, and I will play or replay whichever Zelda I get my hands on first this season. There will also, of course, be a healthy amount of board and card games with my family and our friends, especially Z-Man Games’s Grave Robbers From Outer Space. Finally, my brother has been studying game design at DigiPen, and so my family and I will be testing the games he has been developing for his classes.