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Gaming: A time away from video games

I am a gamer. If there were a pencil and paper avatar of my character in some nerd-culture RPG my point level in “gaming” would far surpass all other attributes, even “star wars”. I’ve amassed more Gamerscore in a little over one year than some of my friends have in 5+ years, while still managing to maintain Platinum Level over at Club Nintendo. My cohorts read more books / comics, see more movies, etc., but I just keep on gaming.

I haven’t been too active on the site recently because, just over two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of marrying my wonderful girlfriend of many years. When we went on our honeymoon I smartly decided, “no gadgets, no technology.” After all, the honeymooning is about spending time together and decompressing after what is usually the most stressful few weeks of any couple’s life. However, there is downtime… and No, I’m not talking about downtime. Even on the honeymoon there is actual downtime. So, what can an avid gamer do with extremely limited access to (console) video games for two weeks? First, try to relax… but second…

 

While Traveling

Hello reading, it’s been too long. Most of my reading is related to work, technical papers and the like. I’m usually too tired to read before bed, but long plane rides are the perfect time to get back into some good sci-fi. Fellow NA co-founder Matt let me borrow [amazon_link id=”0812550706″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Enders Game[/amazon_link] , which I shamefully have never had the pleasure of reading. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out this novel, there’s no better time with a movie version back on the horizon. If you have read the book, use this time to ponder whether a movie with a PG-13 rating (as opposed to R) will be able to do the source material justice.

Anyhow, this book was great enough for me to take a look at the sequel, [amazon_link id=”0812550757″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Speaker for the Dead[/amazon_link]. While you’ll probably want some of the same game-theory-mind-fucks (trademark pending) from the first book, Card manages to draw on some of the other themes for Speaker to create a new compelling story.

And a quick tip for you e-readers out there. Consider brining the tree-version of your books to squeeze in an extra hour of reading during take off and landing while other passengers’ electronic devices are “powered down and in the off position”.

 

At Hotels

When you were (read: I was) a kid, finding a gaming outlet at a hotel was easy. Back then, most hotels had arcades, even the smallest hotels had a couple of cabinets. And, while I will admit that I may have canvassed an arcade at our hotel, I had the wherewithal not to ask my wife for a handful of quarters to hang in the game room for a half-hour. Perhaps even more comical, was the fact that the hotel’s bizzaro pseudo-cable  included a games channel (ORLY?) filled with… GameCube games!! Are you serious? It’s 2011… have you heard of the DS, or iPads, or OnLive? Kids will find the selection laughable, and adults will find the price outrageous — seven dollars… per HOUR! GTFO.

Ok I lied. I brought a laptop on this trip… for research purposes only. You know, to scope out restaurants, shops, and attractions. I’ve always thought that if you couldn’t get to the meat and potatoes of console games you could go for the side projects instead. I queued up some demos on XBL, including one for Dragon Age II which has already been reviewed on the site. I also got into the Dragon Age Legends game on Facebook. While I “dislike” the game being on FB I approve of the fact that this game (if it ever gets out of Beta) will ultimately unlock items in [amazon_link id=”B0047TG2R0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dragon Age II[/amazon_link], similar to the way in which Dragon Age Journeys unlocked items in the original Dragon Age. Both games have good depth and offer hours of gameplay. DA Legends allows you to bring your friends’ avatars into your battles too! But beware of microtransactions!

Pro Tip: Check out the wi-fi situation before you book your hotel. Some spots charge as much as $10 / 24 hour period for access. At barely 2.5 up that’s no bargain. Some hotels offer free wi-fi in the lobby area, or will provide you with free access with enrollment in a free customer loyalty program (spam away).

Steam! How could I forget about it? It’s been on my laptop all along. Enter Puzzle Quest II a micro-review: if you’re familiar with the RPG elements of the original Puzzle Quest, you’ll want to play Puzzle Quest II. There’s some sort of story in this game, and as quaint as that is, you’ll just want to bash the bad guys through gem-matching games. New games have also been added for opening doors, learning spells, and looting treasure chests. look for this one during Steam’s many sales weekends.

 

Out and About

There are other ways to be a nerd other than games, movies, and reading. We were in San Diego, so we went to the Zoo. There is nothing that I can say about the San Diego Zoo that you don’t already know, other to confirm that it is totally Awesome and entirely Nerd Appropriate.

Museums are a great nerd diversion in any city, and there were plenty in San Diego. Old Town is host to many museums, many of which offer historical perspectives of San Diego. Historical museums are also a good source of technological perspective as well. There was plenty of lo-fi tech back then for communications, transportation, and commerce. For example, the Wells Fargo museum has stagecoaches on display, which were the antecedent to the armored behemoth trucks driven today. That’s progress for you.

Finally, the cell phone is an invaluable resource on the road. And like a nerd I checked out restaurants on UrbanSpoon, cross referenced them on Yelp, used Google Maps to plot a course, and checked in via Facebook when I got there. Sounds like an iPhone commercial (sequences shortened). I also checked out some mobile games, but alas I have an Android phone. And without any significant support from major publishers, limited app screening, and a difficult to navigate marketplace, Android as a gaming platform is a major fail.

 

Relaxing

I learned something these past couple of weeks. Perhaps the best thing about vacationing, and being away from the stuff you like to do at home, is the fact that you can comfortably do nothing at all. Its different than doing nothing at home, different from being too busy to be a nerd when you want to, you may just have to take my word for it. There really is something to be said for taking a moment to go outside, take a walk, sit by the pool, whatever. This may have been the most significant nerd activity of the time away, taking the time to just not be a nerd. Whatever you do on vacation, take a second to relax.

Now, I’m proud to say I’m back, refreshed, and ready to go. Still in the pre-wedding queue is Fable III, NFS Hot Pursuit, Dead Space II, and Dragon Age II, among others. Happy Gaming.

Scott

Hi, I’m one of the founders of Nerd Appropriate and the Rated NA podcast. I like good and bad sci-fi films and tv, pho, and the retrofuture. I am primarily an Xbox gamer, but also do some PC and Wii U gaming as well. By day, I am a research scientist, mostly in topics related to human-computer interaction and user experience. Before all this, fellow NA co-founder Matt and I played music together in various bands. I also used to make "comedy" videos for my high school morning news program before there was a place to post them online. Favorite Star Wars character? Admiral Ackbar. Best Bond era? Timothy Dalton (Craig a close second). Game of all time? Maybe System Shock 2. Thanks for being a part of this labor of nerdy love with us.