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I was on the phone with a close friend when I heard the front door open. Assuming it was one of my roommates, I dismissed it and continued my conversation. I heard something fall (which later turned out to be our Menorah), but still paid it no mind. I was busy and it was nothing.  Half an hour later, I was leaving the house with one of my aforementioned roommates, and noticed a game case sitting on the floor.

“Seriously,” I thought. “Can we not make sure the games get put back properly?”

I then glanced to our mantel to see where the game had come from and my heart dropped. Every single piece of our gaming collection was gone. I frantically looked to our TV stand, where I saw that my backwards compatible, original 60gb PS3 was missing, and our Xbox 360 yanked from its home, sitting in the middle of the living room. Wires were everywhere.

“We’ve been robbed,” I said quietly.

We were devastated. We had been violated, our home had been violated, and our video games had all been taken from us. This was wrong, and unfair.
Disparaged, we left on our errands – the show must go on, right? In the couple of minutes it took to leave and get to my Jeep, I could do nothing but mourn our loss. But then it hit me.

I scrambled for my phone, and called one of my old stores. I lucked out – an old friend was current manager-on-duty.

“Have you gotten an old 60 gig PS3 and a whole ton of games in trade today?”

He was quiet a moment… “What were the games?”

I began rambling off a list of titles, to which he responded, “I’m doing it right now. Get here, quick.”  I hung up the phone, whipped into reverse, and was off.

After hopping a curb to grab a parking spot, my roomie and I sprinted into the store. We had already called ahead to mall security, and they were waiting for us as we came to a stop, panting in front of the red and white sign.  As it turned out, they didn’t have the authority to arrest anyone, and so they were on guard outside so they could follow the culprits if need be. I left my roommate as he was calling the cops, and nonchalantly entered the store.

My friend was nowhere to be seen – I was informed by the other guy working that he’d gone into the back to look for some cords. This was GameStop speak for he was standing in the back room killing time. I went and knocked, and was greeted by a hushed “I’ve been stalling back here for you. It’s the couple at the counter.”

I whispered, “the cops have been called,” and we both made our way back into the store.

My friend proceeded to stall like I’ve never seen anyone stall before. For more than forty-five minutes, he used such tactics as “the computer made an error,” “I can’t seem to find that cord you gave me,” and “oh boy, I think I might have missed one of the games, let me check on that.” It was marvelous.

About halfway through, the man turned to me and asked, “do I know you? You look familiar.”

For a split second, I froze, but then responded, “you know, I have one of those faces. I don’t actually think we’ve met.”  He seemed content with that answer, and turned back to his transaction.

By the end of the trade, both and he the girl who accompanied him (who was 24, but looked like she was 35) were almost yelling at my friend that they needed to leave. Apparently, he had a job to get to. So my friend finished the transaction, gave them their money, and they left with my PS3 still in tow (you can’t trade a system without the cords, which they managed to leave behind.) Mall Security followed.

After a few minutes of waiting (and still no actual policeman in sight), Mall Security returned with a black backpack. They told us that after following them to the bus stop, one officer had said “that bag is stolen, I suggest you hand it over.” The woman immediately dropped the bag and they both bolted. Security bravely tried to chase them down, but to no avail. Luckily, you have to give a license in order to trade at a GameStop, so all the information we needed was already on file.

We stuck around for ten minutes more, to see if any police decided to come round, but none did. And after an hour of waiting, we decided just to call from home. We thanked the mall security and my friend, shook some hands, and left.

So I’d say there are a couple morals to this story:
1. Never steal video games from a GameStop employee.
2. Mall Security is often more helpful than the real cops, and almost always nicer.
3. If you’re going to steal a bunch of stuff, don’t immediately try to pawn it at the nearest location.

He was stupid enough to steal, but good enough to get away with it. Unfortunately for him, I’m rather clever, and really like my video games.


The Humble Bundle is back again with the Humble Bundle 4.  Five new games are now available for download, with another two for those who pay at least the average amount.  It’s currently $5.03, and even though that amount will change as more donations are made, it usually stays around the five dollar mark.

As always, the Humble Bundle is pay what you want, DRM free, cross platform, and helps charity.  The games you’ll be getting, with descriptions thanks to the HumbleBundle site, are:

1.  Jamestown – Jamestown is a beautiful, new shmup that brings neo-classical flavor to the grand tradition of scrolling arcade shooters. Up to four players blast and bullet dodge through a hostile Martian frontier, armed with the very best in steampunk weaponry. A “stay-alive” co-op system will have you screaming at your buddies during the epic, retro-style, screen-filling boss battles, while unlocking sick new ships and weapons.

2.  Bit.Trip Runner – Bit.Trip Runner radiates charm and challenge with retro-styled, music-platformer gameplay. Players take control of Captain Video as he runs through more than 30 levels. Each stage features a unique music track perfectly synced to Captain Video’s hops and slides, resulting in a fresh and intuitive platforming experience.

3.  Super Meat Boy – Super Meat Boy is what you get when you mold a little man out of ground meat, and put him in a world full of tricky gaps, slides, and hazards. Plan to perish many times in the course of saving Bandage Girl from Dr. Fetus, but prepare to bask in the glory of pulling off impossible platforming feats, unlocking secret characters, and triumphing over 300+ levels.

4.  Shank – Shank is a highly stylized, action-packed, 2D brawler, featuring satisfying fight combos and familiar platforming challenges. Players assume the role of Shank, a former mob-hitman, on an epic quest for revenge. In the solo game, Shank traverses levels filled with henchmen, culminating in awesome boss fights. There’s also a full co-op story, which tells the tale of Shank‘s life prior to the events of the solo campaign.

5.  NightSky HD – NightSky is an atmospheric, 2D physics puzzle platformer. The player uses acceleration, gravity, and motion to navigate a glowing sphere through over 130 unique and picturesque levels.

As for the bonus games for meeting or beating the average payment:

6.  Gratuitous Space Battles – In the sci-fi strategy game Gratuitous Space Battles, players outfit a complete fleet — from bulkhead-to-munitions — to clash mightily with opponents from across the galaxy. With layer upon layer of customization, master strategists will always be able to find a way to blast the competition into smithereens.

7.  Cave Story+ – Cave Story is the critically acclaimed opus by indie game developer Pixel, originally created as a tribute to games like Metroid and Castlevania. Cave Story is a 2D platformer in the “metroidvania” tradition, with a classic, world-saving hero and an emphasis on exploration and discovery. The indie studio Nicalis worked with Pixel to update graphics and add new game modes, reflected in this edition of Cave Story.

This Bundle, like all the rest, is only available for two weeks, so make sure you hustle on over and grab your copy.  Mac, PC, and Linux versions of every game are available, as well as a Steam key for any of you Valve gamers out there.  Get awesome games, at a great price, and help charity.  Seriously, stop reading this and get on that.

A Humble Offer

Posted: November 28, 2011 by Ash Saraga in Cool Shit, Indie Game Jam, News and Updates, PC News, Video Game Deals

The folks over at Humble Bundle have been in business for a year and half, and in that time they have amassed more than 8 million dollars towards charity and for the developers highlighted by these bundles (not to mention a nice tip for the Humble Bundle team.)  Honestly, people are just throwing their money at these guys.

The idea behind the Humble Bundle is simple:  pay what you want, support charity, get awesome games.  Average payment for this bundle now sits at $3.78 (though this will change as more gamers contribute.)  And for that measly amount of pocket change, you’ll be getting six excellent indie games.  If you want to pay less, pay less, though you’ll miss out on a couple games if you don’t meet average.  And if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can always give more.

The best part is that you choose where your money will be going.  You can evenly split it between the indie developers, charity (Child’s Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation), and the Humble Bundle Team, or give all/none to any of them.  Feeling like the Humble Bundle guys are doing a great job?  Give them more of your payment.  Feel like those greedy sick kids have enough gaming equipment?  Give them nothing.  And then find a therapist.

This Humble Bundle comes with Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON, and Multiwinia.  And if you match or beat the current average payment, you’ll also get Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe as a bonus.  In the past, these bundles have come packaged with gaming hits like Braid, World of Goo, and Penumbra, so make sure you check it out.  But don’t wait around!  The Humble Bundles are only available for two weeks at a time, so make sure you head over and get your outrageously good deal before time’s up.

PAX East is Open for Business

Posted: November 16, 2011 by Ash Saraga in News and Updates

Registration for PAX East is officially open!  The Penny-Arcade Expo (East coast edition), will be happening in Boston, Ma the weekend of April 6th.  Single-days passes for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, are going for $35 a piece, while a three-day pass will run you $65.

Unfortunately, this is also the same weekend that Easter falls on this year.  So for all our Christian and Catholic gamers, Sunday might be a bit tricky for you.  But if 2012 PAX East is going to be anything like 2011, you’ll not want to miss it.

The PAX East site has all the information regarding passes, hotels, and transportation you might need.  Hope to see you there!

How PETA Tried to Ruin Video Games

Posted: November 15, 2011 by Ash Saraga in Editorials, News and Updates

PETA has been a major force in the world of animal rights since its debut in 1981 – it’s been a laughing stock since a little bit after that. PETA made itself notorious for barely legal, mostly stupid and outrageous stunts like dressing up as KKK Klansmen or stealing the face of Michelle Obama.

But now, PETA has turned its sights to the virtual world. Are they outraged at Link’s chicken abuse? What about Shepard killing all of those Krogan? Oh wait, no no, I know, it’s got to be all those innocent Rakk being put down in Borderlands.

The real answer is, well, just as ridiculous. PETA recently launched a campaign against Super Mario World, for Mario’s used of the Tanooki skin. You remember, that ferret-y looking outfit that let you fly? Apparently, the Tanooki is a real animal found in Japan, and PETA simply will not stand for “Mario sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.”


PETA’s response to the “problem”? They’ve added a page to their site where you can play SUPER TANOOKI SKIN 2D, a game in which you’re a skinned Tanooki trying to get his fur back. (Don’t worry, I’ve included the link for your gaming pleasure.) The funniest part, to pick from the many, is that if you fail to keep up with Mario and your skin, you die. Again. Which seems to be what PETA’s trying to avoid? I digress.

It’s unfortunate for animal lovers everywhere that PETA so often makes a fool of a great cause. But in the meantime, head on over and give Super Tanooki Skin 2D a try. You can even check out Super Tofu Boy and New Super Chick Sisters while you’re there.

There are those of us who use Halloween as an excuse to play hilarious (and sometimes tragic) pranks on people.  There are those who use it to explain away a night of candy-binging.  And then there are those of us, men and women armed to the teeth with sewing needles, pins, and thread, that use Halloween to become awesome.  Or, in the very least, make a solid attempt at becoming awesome.

This species of human is most commonly referred to as the “cosplayer”.  They can be found herding about the nearest anime or video game convention but can, on occasion, be seen flying solo in more typical settings (like the girl in the Buzz Lightyear pajamas wandering around my college campus.)  A hierarchy exists amongst these people, with three main tiers:

1.  The Professional – this cosplayer spends countless hours and way too much money on his costumes.  In addition to sewing, he is also skilled in welding, dyeing, and makeup.

2.  The McGuyver – the at-home genius.  Able to make excellent costumes out of whatever he’s got lying around, and scraps from the local GoodWill.  Abnormally good at misappropriating household items to work with his outfit.

3.  The Half-Ass – this guy wants you to know he likes Indiana Jones, but isn’t invested enough to make a whip.  He’s wearing some khakis and a white button up, with the hat he got at Universal Studios that one time.  In this same third tier, is The Seuss, who probably put a lot of effort into his costume, but for whatever reason, still looks utterly nonsensical.

After scouring the internet and an emergency session with my therapist (the things man, the things I saw), I have compiled a pretty solid list of the best Halloween cosplayers for 2011.

The Professionals

Like I said, proficient in welding.

Is it racist if I think he actually looks the part?

I know what you’re thinking.  Also, your girlfriend is behind you.

The McGuyvers

He’s a Spah!

Reverse Annie is adorable.  Adorable and deadly.

Link seems rather preoccupied with the garage door.  Still cute.

Original and badass.

The Half-Ass

Half the costume is trying to look pensive, right?

The Seuss

It looks like he put so much effort into it, but it’s still just, disconcerting.  It’s like seeing a male Chun-Li.  Actually, hang on…

From my trip to PAX East last year.  Not Halloween, but relevant.

And there you have it – a view into the inner-workings of the cosplay universe, and how we use Halloween as an excuse to walk around being more awesome than usual.  Well, trying to be more awesome than usual.

1.  Gameplay

League of Legends gameplay is deceptively simple.  For the most basic mode and map, there are two bases on each side, three lanes which connect them, and turrets scattered throughout.  At the heart of each base sits the Nexus, which is what you will need to destroy in order to win.  You and four of your closest friends (or more likely four people you know only by their ridiculous handles) square off against five other Champions in a fight to the death(s).  That’s basically it.  However, League is very much a game of “oh, there’s also this other thing.”  For instance, “jungling” isn’t something you learn in basic training.  This describes going off the lanes into, well, the jungle, and killing various enemies in order to gain their powers.  There’s also quite a bit more strategy involved than seen at first glance, especially when dealing with different Champions, but more on that later.

2.  Support

Riot, the studio responsible for League, is constantly patching the game.  Updates with new Champions, new skins, and bug fixes come pretty frequently.  Add that to some great customer support, and you’ve got quite the force to be reckoned with.  At the beginning of September, Riot was forced to drop support for the Macintosh Beta – this was not very well received.  Players across the globe, myself included, flooded Riot’s inboxes with outrage.  A few days later, Riot sent out an email to all of its players; any Summoner who’s had a majority of their log-ins come from a Mac computer will either receive a full refund for any money spent on Riot points, or a free Champions Pack.  Though this did not quash the problem, it was a show of good faith from Riot to its Mac users, with the promise of a full Mac release in the future.

3.  Champions

Though your objective through each round remains the same, the variety in gameplay is astounding, depending on which Champion you choose.  There are three main categories you can pick from, with many sub-categories after that:  tank, carry, or caster.  Your tanks are going to be just that, tanks.  Very hard to kill, and average attack strength.  A carry is going to be very “squishy,” that is, he will have pretty low health, but incredible attack stats.  And of course, a caster is going to be heavy on magic, and can vary on the other categories.  What makes this game so outstanding is how your knowledge of each Champion (and their specific abilities) will affect your entire play experience.  My favorite Champion to play currently is Miss Fortune, a ranged carry with a couple of absolutely killer abilities.  She has low health but packs a real punch, so my job is to harass other players from outside of direct battle, and to secure the kill once it’s down to the wire.  For me, knowing the tells for when other Champions are about to unleash hell is hugely important so I can haul tail out of the way.

4.  It’s free

No, no typo.  League of Legends is completely free to play, and they host a link to the download right on the site.  Now, to say that you won’t spend money on this game is a outright lie – I swore I’d never pay for a free game, but I’ve long since broken that promise.  Like any free-to-play game, there are two types of currency used in the store: the kind you earn by playing well and playing often, and then there’s the kind you get in exchange for your money.  So, many times it comes down to, “how much do I want that Champion, and how long am I willing to wait for it?”  However, remembering that it’s going to help support an awesome game and developer takes a little of the bite out of handing over the cash.  A little.

So really, what we’ve learned here today is that if you’re not already playing League, you should be.  You have literally nothing to lose in trying, and once you do, you’ll be hooked like the rest of us.  And for any new players out there that would like some help, a battle buddy, or an arch nemesis, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m happy to give you my handle and play a few games.

See you on the Fields of Justice, Summoners.

Steam is going all out for Halloween this year – from now until the 31st, Valve is having a huge sale on Halloween-related titles (some more, ehem, “loosely” related than others.) With more than twenty games to choose from, you’ll be busy slaying zombies long past the end of the month.

“But Ash,” you say, “these are all obviously terrible titles they couldn’t even pay someone to play.” Ah but that, my friends, is where you are wrong. Nestled in amongst “Ghost Master” and “Woody Two-Legs: Attack of the Zombie Pirates” (no really, that’s an actual game), are some of the best games in the genre. FEAR 3 and Dead Island, both released this past summer, are going for $30 and $37.50 respectively. If you’re looking for some good old shotgunning, zombie killing fun, both Left 4 Dead GOTY and Resident Evil 5 are under $10. Even two of my all time favorites, Borderlands and Bioshock are on sale for $5 a piece.

If you’ve been on the hunt for some cheap thrills (not that kind of cheap thrills), Steam has what you’re after. If you’ve not been on such a hunt, you should probably check it out anyway. Seriously, they’re practically giving away Woody Two-Legs.