Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Newest paper sculpt project!

Sonic Screwdriver trio for my friend's birthday.

An interview with Adam Harum of Transolar Galactica.

They achieved their Kickstarter goal, and now the world gets more of their award winning sci-fi comedy!

Doctor Who themed lip balm!

Brought to you from Earthtastic! and A Bit of Geek.

Minecraft paper sculpt!

My submission to the Mojang community art contest. Watch the video!

A TARDIS desk lamp!

Instructions and babbling on how to make a TARDIS lamp from foam core!

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Favorite Things About PAX

Good morning, and welcome to PAX Prime 2012 everyone! By the time you read this, I’ll be knee deep in Enforcer hullabaloo in the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington, surrounded by tens of thousands of gamers and having the time of my life. 

It'll be as much fun as when Tycho groomed Felicia Day. Source.

I feared that this write-up would come off far too brag-y, so here’s my solution to fix things: today’s article is about my favorite aspects of PAX. Its purpose is to entice you to attend some year, or get you super pumped about attending next year if you were unable to obtain tickets for the 2012 show.

It’s not easy to narrow down the innumerable fantastic things about PAX, but I’m going to do my best. Keep in mind that this is in no way a definitive list, and everyone’s experience varies! No matter how you prefer to spend your time, PAX has something fantastic to offer. This is but a tiny sampling of an ever expanding table of geek nourishment.

1. The Vendors

Have you been eyeing a specific shirt, dice bag, or other piece of nerdy accoutrement? Chances are that a vendor at PAX will have exactly what you’re looking for. Better yet? A reasonable price and free shipping*! My personal favorite? Sanshee, the New England based nerd clothing and accessory company. Last year I purchased a shirt, earrings, and bumper sticker from them. This year I anticipate many more shirt purchases!

*free shipping because you'll be carrying it. Get it? Heh.

2. The Expo Hall

I love video games. They’re exciting and fun and I can’t wait to get my hands on the upcoming titles from my favorite companies. PAX provides opportunities for the general public to play games before they’re released. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are always on the scene with the latest and greatest, so you can bet they’ll be bringing something exciting. PAX 2005 I played Twilight Princess for the Gamecube before the Wii version was announced (a whole year before the game was released) and it remains one of the most glorious moments of my life. 

3. The PA Q&A Panel

Gabe and Tycho, your gracious hosts. Source.

Mike and Jerry, or Gabe and Tycho as they’re better known online, are the founding fathers of PAX, and indeed the creative duo behind Penny Arcade, the webcomic from whence PAX sprang. Every year they host a Q&A panel where excited attendees can ask whatever questions they want. More often than not, people share deep, personal, touching stories, and it’s quite the experience to be in the room as the tales unfold. Additionally, Mike and Jerry wax hilarity and share entertaining behind the scenes information about their ever-expanding empire.

4. Tabletop

One entire floor of the convention center is dedicated to tabletop/board games. Dice, mats, and player tokens as far as the bespectacled eye can see. Practically any game you could imagine playing will be present at PAX, and you, my friend, will have the pleasure of playing. Friday and Saturday night PAX is open until 2 am, so there’s practically no limit to how many games one could get in (OK that's not true, some games take hours upon hours). And it gets even better. You know those vendors I mentioned earlier? Well, a lot of them sell board games, too.

5. Community

Cozy socialization. Source.

It’s amazing knowing that I’m with friends when I’m at PAX. Even if I end up wandering alone, I am surrounded by friendly faces. Lines are long, but tempers don’t run high. It’s difficult for me to strike up conversations with strangers, but at PAX I don’t even hesitate. Everyone is friendly and willing to talk. It’s the most accepting place I’ve ever been. If you find yourself in the handheld lounge desperately seeking a beanbag chair to relax in, don’t be afraid to ask for a spare one. These people are nice, and they’re willing to share.

So there you go, my favorite things about PAX. If you’re still really upset that you’re not attending, then please follow us on twitter and instagram (both @abitofgeek)! We’ll be doing our best to post highlights and entertainment throughout the weekend. If you ARE at PAX and you managed to read this, then I thank you and we should find each other and say hello!

What are your favorite things about PAX?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Man-Eater' brings gamification to riding in cars.

Everyone has played the license plate game and the punch bug game, but now gamer hungry car-folk can play a new type of car game: 'Man-Eater'! It was created by an artist named Daniel Disselkoen, whose inspiration was drawn from his daily commute of four years while going to school.

Now I wish I had a road trip to embark upon so I can try to eat some people's heads! I don't know if I'd ever end up playing this on a public bus though, all of the ducking and weaving with one eye closed might draw unwanted looks from other passengers. Of course, with one eye closed and the other trained on the window I suppose I wouldn't even notice!


found via laughingsquid

Monday, August 27, 2012

Collect ALL the Coins! New Super Mario Bros. 2 Review.

new super mario bros. 2 3ds start screen
New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo 3DS.

For the past two weeks news has been floating around that New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS is more of the same old Mario, but that it’s not a bad thing. A lot of people are wondering if the series needs a break, but Nintendo has announced that they’re planning one new Mario game per platform. Personally I believe that the Mario series is one that can be revisited with great frequency because Nintendo is always looking for ways to improve and innovate. There are always new things to add to classic gameplay, and I’m glad that they continue to reimagine our little Mario.

If anyone out there has played New Super Mario Bros. for the DS, or New Super Mario Bros. Wii, then New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS will feel right at home in your hands. The graphics and physics are the same, along with a familiar World layout, and there are a lot of hidden levels and stops along the way to the castle for the curious and determined. While on the World view, the bottom screen shows spots of where hidden levels exist. This is great for players such as myself, because I frequently don’t discover the secrets of levels. These spots serve as pointers to at least know which levels merit further exploration!

new super mario bros. 2 3ds lower screen world select
Tiny dots of great potential in NSMB2.

The additional levels also add a great amount of replayability, as does the ‘collect as many gold coins as possible’ angle. Some reviewers believe that the ‘coin collecting’ aspect of NSMB2 is pure gimmick. I feel that it creates a more driven gameplay system, one where I explore carefully and aim to bring each level as close to completion as possible. The lure of getting all the coins has integrated some very fun new mechanics, such as the Coin Block Head power up, and the Gold Coin suit. It’s also incredibly satisfying to hit a new tier of coins. Your first congratulations will show up at 500 coins, then again at the 1,000 mark. After that you’ll get satisfying notifications every time you gain another thousand coins.

new super mario bros. 2 3ds super leaf power up
The white leaf (super leaf) power-up in NSMB2. 

Along with new coin-centric power ups, old favorites such as the raccoon suit make plentiful appearances. Having never played Super Mario 3D Land, I had yet to experience the powerful white racoon suit. World 3-3 gave me my first introduction. NSMB2 incorporates yet another feature that has been sorely missing from newer Mario games: the reserve item! The lower touch screen now plays host to a back up item that will fall from the sky at the player’s command. It’s a sigh of relief, especially during the tricky castle fights. Those Koopalings are getting quite inventive.

new super mario bros. 2 3ds lower screen reserve item
New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS brings back the reserve item.

I ended up purchasing NSMB2 through the Nintendo eShop, and it was a hassle-free and easy experience. This is good, since Nintendo's "how to purchase and download games through the Nintendo eshop" tutorial is lacking some important information. Players can add funds to their 3DS through Nintendo point cards (available at retailers) or via credit card. Set amounts of points can be added to the 3DS ahead of time with a credit card, or the player can choose to simply pay the exact amount of the game at the time of purchase and download. There is also an option to store credit card information (with a PIN for verification purposes) to facilitate quicker purchases in the future.

As of now I haven’t had a chance to experience the multiplayer aspect. I’m not near anyone else that owns a 3DS, and even if I were they’d have to have a copy of the game as well! I wish Nintendo had offered the multiplayer through single cart play, but with all of the simultaneous gameplay going on I can see that being a bit much for download and play. I haven’t missed out on all the extra content though, because NSMB2 offers coin collecting speed runs! Once completing a world, the player has access to three random levels to get through within a set time limit, all the while collecting as many coins as possible. It’s a total hectic blast!

new super mario bros. 2 for the nintendo 3ds
All of the Hidden Coins from World 1-5 in NSMB2 for the 3DS.

Overall I give New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS eight out of ten golden apples. The gameplay isn’t totally original, but it’s still very solid. I wish the multiplayer were accessible through the single cart experience, too. It’s worth picking up, especially if you have a friend to play with! Did anyone out there pick it up already? If so, did you do in-store or download? If you did download, did you experience any problems? Personally I was very pleased with how easy it was. It took maybe ten minutes! Go Nintendo!


P.S. There is even MORE additional content than what I've mentioned here! This is how you can play as Luigi, and This is how you can unlock a very special Rainbow level!

Friday, August 24, 2012

PAX Prime 2012 Planning Tips, Part Three - Staying Energized

PAX tip number three is finally upon us, and with it only a week left until the doors of the Washington State Convention Center open to receive the great geek flood of 2012. Have you been studying the schedule yet? Working on your geeky opening lines? I hope so! But let's get a move on and dive into the third, and possibly most important, tip.

Watch Your Conference Fuel Gauge: food, naps, and hygiene.

The Guidebook (for almost all smartphone OSes) is chock full of restaurant recommendations.

This final tip is SUPER IMPORTANT for any con, for you, and for everyone around you. Watch your Conference Fuel gauge. Be aware of how tired, hungry, and smelly you are. If any of these go bad you’ve entered the danger zone. Going non-stop all day will get tiring, and when we con-goers are tired we’re prone to crankiness. Get some rest! Stop by the handheld lounge and grab yourself a bean bag chair. You can rest up in a relatively quiet area and maybe even catch a little nap if you have a friend to watch your stuff. I see people snoozing in there every year!

Keep an eye on your hunger and thirst levels, it’s super easy to forget to eat! The convention center has a Subway inside, but it’s always very busy (this counts as a convention line, can you say "one hour wait?!") I’d recommend avoiding the Cheesecake Factory across the street, since it’s the closest sit-down restaurant to the convention center it can have around a three hour wait.

Relaxed, rested, and happy PAX goers! Photo by Ario Midgett.

Walk one block in any direction from the convention center and you’ll find a less crowded place to eat. Take a leap of faith and walk two blocks, you’ll be amazed with the culinary fare! If you’re saving cash for convention schwag pack yourself a bag lunch! Sandwiches, Cliff Bars, apples and oranges (in zip locked bags), mixed nuts, dried fruit, powerade, gatorade, or boxes of apple juice are just a few solid choices for a 15+ hour day on the go. Avoid dairy (it spoils) or super soft bruisable fruit (bananas or peaches), and never eat onions, you never know if this is the year you meet that special someone. Don't forget to check out yesterday's tip for being social to find an amazing nerdy pick up line.

I hope this has been useful in preparing new attendees, and exciting the veterans. Let us know which events look the most enticing to you! Tweet us @abitofgeek or leave some comments here. I hope to see some old friends as well as new faces this year! And if you have a great tip for good eats around the convention center, drop that knowledge on us. Everyone gets hungry!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

PAX Prime 2012 Planning Tips, Part Two - Being Social

Hello future PAX attendees! Today brings PAX tip number two to help you get the most enjoyment out of Prime 2012. Have you seen yesterday's tips for scheduling yet? Be sure to check it out, then let's get going!

Be Social: bring a handheld system, wander the tabletop areas, and ask questions in the exhibition hall.

Any one of these folk can be your friend, you just have to say hello! Photo by Kiko Villasenor.

The second, and probably most profound, reason for even attending this con is to be social. This is the friendliest convention in geek history and if you’re here, you’re family. If you’re shy and need some coercing you can break the ice passively by doing any number of things.

-Join the Buttoneers! A ragtag crew of people who trade buttons! You’ll start up hundreds of conversations and get to know people really well simply by asking... “What does your button mean?” This one does require some forethought and planning since you have to design and then purchase buttons to distribute. If you're interested, be sure to do it for next year!

-Join the cookie brigade and sell cookies for Child’s Play. This is a sure fire way to make some fast friends while supporting an amazing cause. Last year they brought in an astounding $14,276 at PAX Prime, maybe you’re all they need to bump it up over $15k.

-Bring pocket games to play with fellow line waiters, nearby groups, tabletop gamers, or lunchtime doddlers. If you have a game in the public eye and you’re all by yourself people WILL approach you and become your best friends. (On a side note if you forget your pocket games: keep an eye out for the line Enforcers, they often have items to hand out to help keep people occupied and happy!)

Everyone is your buddy when you have a Nintendo DS! Photo by Lisa Juvinall.

-Bring a handheld gaming device! (preferably with multiplayer games) The airwaves will be swimming with DS gaming requests, Vita challenges, and the occasional Zune Tetris Tournament. Even though one of the best parts of online gaming is not wearing pants, please be sure to attend PAX fully clothed. Thanks.

If all of these techniques fail, you can fall back on old reliable: talking. Try to start a conversation with one of the many people around you. There are no strangers at PAX, just nerdy friends you haven’t met yet. Just for you dear viewer we’ve compiled some good lines to break the ice if you’re shy...

How many ears does Captain Kirk have?
Three! The right ear, the left ear and the final front ear.

If you were a Transformer, you'd be Optimus Fine.

Or my recent favorite:
How do you organize a space party?
You planet!
(please note this works best with a visual)

Does anyone out there have any great stories of meeting new people while waiting in line at PAX? I'd love to hear them :D Tomorrow is the final tip (staying energized!), and also marks one week until the first day of PAX Prime 2012!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

PAX Prime 2012 Planning Tips, Part One - Scheduling

Coming up in just over a week is PAX Prime 2012. I am beyond excited, and now that the official schedule has been released it’s time to start planning the weekend. This week I'm bringing you my three very comprehensive tips to make sure you have a happy and healthy PAX. A PAX survival guide, if you will. Today is tip number one, with two and three following this Thursday and Friday.

Make a Schedule: this applies to panels, exhibition, tabletop, and competitions.

Part of Saturday's schedule, courtesy of the PAX Prime 2012 scheduling page.

The first and foremost tip is schedule your time. PAX is thirty seven hours. There are thousands of hours of things to do. PAX is the ultimate amusement park of awesome geeky things, and unless you have a time machine, you’re going to miss a lot of it.

There’s a schedule of events online. Learn it, use it, love it. You'll get the most out of your PAX experience if you know which events you’ll die if you miss before you step through the door. Having a set schedule of  “Can’t Miss” items will make the conference, which is organized chaos, feel more organized.

A sampling of the chaos from PAX Prime 2010, photo by Kiko Villasenor.

It’s a challenge for even the most seasoned attendees to properly split their time between panels of industry specialists, the Key Note address, Q&As with Gabe and Tycho, an expo hall bursting at the seams with playable games, a whole floor of table top and card games, a handheld lounge covered from head to tea kettle in bean bag chairs, and more... so much more.

Many of the biggest panels, games, and competitions will have huge lines, some with multiple hour waits. Make sure you get to where you’re going early. If you’re not sure when to queue up for a certain event ask an Enforcer in that area, that’s what they’re there for. For panels, pay special attention to whether or not the panel room will be emptied between events. If it isn’t, consider sitting through the panel before the popular panel that you actually want to see. Who knows, it might even be interesting!

The expo hall from PAX 2007. A photo from my own collection.

The best times for the expo hall -> You don’t even have to like panels to take advantage of them. During the really popular panels like Friday’s PA Q&A and Saturday’s Make-A-Strip panel there will be less people everywhere else. It’s a great time to get your anxious mitts on the latest and greatest expo hall games. If you can manage to shake off Saturday night’s drunken stupor before everyone else, Sunday morning is another time when the lines will be shorter. Sunday evening around an hour before the hall closes is (comparatively speaking) slow.

Do you have anything super helpful and/or important to add? I'm always on the lookout for insider information about the expo hall and panels! Be sure to check back tomorrow to get some great tips on socializing!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Get Your Intergalactic RTS on with Planetary Annihilation.

One of the newest and more promising games pumping through the Kickstarter veins is Planetary Annihilation from Uber Entertainment. It's an RTS that promises unique and exciting experiences never before offered in a real time strategy through planet domination and maps that are never exactly alike. The company is also boasting a client-server model which benefits the player so that the game runs on the company servers, effectively freeing up the player's machines to run games with less lag.
planetary annihilation screenshot
A screen shot of Planetary Annihilation's planet select screen. Source.

The team at Uber Entertainment has games such as Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander, and other popular RTSs under their collective belts, so gamers can believe that they'll be delivered a seasoned and comprehensive RTS experience. Their Kickstarter has been going since the 16th and has already passed the halfway mark of their $900k goal. It seems likely that they'll achieve their amount by the time September 14th rolls around, and hopefully gamers will be delivered a truly exciting and new RTS experience.

Games such as StarCraft and Dawn of War have the genre fairly well covered, and nearly perfected. While there are plenty of strategy games that take place in space, Planetary Annihilation promises a hectic, planet-hopping good time. Check out their Kickstarter video and saunter over to their Kickstarter page if you'd like to donate. Only $20 gets you the full game on either PC or Mac once it's released!

If you're feeling particularly generous and excited, a $1,000 donation will get you a custom in-game character that only you can play. That's pretty neat! Are there any pumped RTS folk out there?


Friday, August 17, 2012

Anticipated 3DS Titles Are Finally Given Release Dates!

After over two years of scant news and high anticipation on my end, Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS finally has a set release date!
Does anyone mind if I put a happy David Tennant here?

November 11th, 2012 is sure to be the most glorious of Sundays to come (for me, anyway). Now to wait and see if Nintendo will be doing eShop distribution of Paper Mario like they're doing with New Super Mario Bros. 2!

In addition, Nintendo has also announced release dates for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the first Professor Layton iteration for the 3DS, as well as Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, the spiritual sequel to Castle/World of Illusion for the Sega Genesis.

It feels so wonderful to be pumped about upcoming games! This year has been fairly sluggish for me, so I've been using it as a chance to catch up on old games that I haven't yet finished. Gamers can always count on the holiday season being a wallet breaker though!

With these announcements we haven't received any new footage or additional information. Power of Illusion still lacks a gameplay trailer on Nintendo's official page, as well as an ESRB rating. The newest bit of footage that we have is a trailer released this week for Miracle Mask.

I was a bit disappointed to see that developers decided to go with 3D cel-shaded animation for this newest version. It distracts me from the whimsy that is otherwise ever-present in all of the previous Professor Layton games. Cut scenes are still fully animated to a beautiful extent, providing a half movie, half game experience. Perhaps the three dimensional scenes will incorporate new puzzle aspects using the 3D slider and the lower touch screen, but that remains to be seen.

Which of these three games are you most excited for?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Acceptance of Games and Geeks in Art and Culture

games and geeks in art and culture

Many nerds and geeks find themselves at the heart of misunderstanding and rejection from the general public. Not everyone gets the obsession that can come along with being a geek, and I’m sure many of you can relate to an outsider insisting that you drop your interest, back off of the hobby, and move on with your life. How many out there have ever been told that cartoons, comic books, and video games were something you’d grow out of?

In college, nearly all of my photography assignments were video game based seeing as they were what interested me the most. Eventually, my focus on gaming photography became a problem with one of my teachers. He said that I should try to branch out and take pictures of different things. I explained that I was told to photograph what I loved, and that I loved gaming. He delicately explained (and I'm paraphrasing here) that the photos were only interesting to me. No one else around me cared about video games or video game photography. 

nintendo, super nintendo, and games stack

Naturally I felt a bit insulted, but I also believed that what he was saying was absurd. Plenty of people care about video game photography! I told him that I had a great idea for a new project, one that would be a little bit different. I wanted to photograph gamers from the position of the TV or the handheld system. We all know how interesting people can look while they play a game, right? The concentration, the facial contortion, the exaltation when winning and the rage when losing. I felt particularly good about this idea, and my teacher's response was to, more frankly, tell me that no one would find that interesting except for me.

At that moment another teacher heard our exchange. He came by and informed me that I couldn't do that project because someone else already had. I immediately felt heartened, and I used it as a "See?! Other people care!" example. In spite of his insistence that I photograph other things*, I continued with video games. I believe that some of my best work lies within those images. I put in so much care, thought, and love with each shot.

This "adversity" didn't stop me from allowing my geek flag to fly, or letting my true self shine. It was difficult to repeatedly be told that my work was interesting to only me, but I'm proud that I continued with it, that I followed my heart and created images that lots of people enjoy. Everyone should be doing what they want to do, and focusing on what they love. We work our hardest in those situations, and we reap the most satisfaction upon completion.

original nes and the legend of zelda gold cartridge

When a gamer sees my image of the original Legend of Zelda against the NES, they see so much more than plastic boxes. The photo, like all photos, becomes almost a mental time machine. The person can be transported to a young age, their first experience with gaming. They'll remember the sensations surrounding the NES, blowing into the cartridges, the start up sounds, the feel of the controller in their hands. A photograph can show stacks of games, and if the viewer recognizes any of them, there's an immediate sense of relatability and satisfaction. Or perhaps anger and frustration, depending on their memories with a particular game.

It’s important that we never allow negative views of our passions to bring us down. Video games as art has been a hot topic as of late, with many traditionalists believing that gaming has no artistic merit. Whether discussing the music, design, or story of video games, or the games themselves as a springboard for other forms of art (such as sculptures, movies, and photography), I believe that it has great cause for artistic celebration and exploration.

yoshi plushi with a nintendo DSi and game cartridges

Considering how strongly gaming and geek phenomena have affected popular culture, I continue to be surprised by how many people will insist on talking them down as passing fads or branding a devoted fan as a singular entity. It’s my hope that those of us with a passion for video games as art (and video games and geek culture in general) will continue to proudly display our enthusiasm, and maybe someday break free of the stigma that, in some places, still surrounds us.


P.S. If you share my love of video game photography, then be sure to check out my Etsy shop where I sell my prints!

P.P.S. To see more of my video game photography, head over here and see the full album.

P.P.P.S. These photos are property of Miranda Eubanks/abitofgeek. Please attribute and link back if you're going to share them!

*He was a great teacher, I learned a great deal from him. Ultimately he had my best interests at heart as he was consistently trying to push me in new directions to expand my capabilities and interests.

Monday, August 13, 2012

'Doctor Who' References in Other Shows. There Are Tons!

Happy Monday everyone! Yesterday a friend showed me this:

Doctor Who reference in other shows: Rugrats. [nerdist]

And I about lost my freaking mind. Rugrats was one of my favorite shows as a child, and if it is on you can bet I will be watching it. Seeing some friggin' Daleks in the toy store, I mean come on. It's pretty awesome to see this reference considering my past love of Rugrats and my current love of Doctor Who. It got me wondering though, how many other times has a Doctor Who reference snuck its way into popular culture?

To the internet!

Better Off Ted and Doctor Who. [flickr]

Apparently the creators of Better Off Ted were Doctor Who fans, because there is a (hopefully) decommissioned Dalek in the basement of Veridian Dynamics. 

Here we have a rather spooky reference to an episode from season four called 'Silence in the Library'. Watch the clip above, and then watch this. I haven't played Fallout: New Vegas yet. I'll be sure to avoid this area.

Precious cargo in Pocket Planes. [source]

Hot on the heels of my Tiny Tower review, we have a game called Pocket Planes from the same company. It would appear that some planes carry a rather special item. (pssst, it's the TARDIS)

Is Moffat playing pranks on us? [source]

As an avid Sherlock fan, this image and subsequent speculation makes my mind boggle. It's time to re-watch The Hounds of Baskerville!

Buffy and Doctor Who? An unlikely crossover. [source]

I'm currently watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and having nightmares from some of the creepier episodes), so it's pretty fun to see this Doctor Who reference in a Buffy comic book!

Look closely: there are some tiny Daleks! [source]

In this screengrab from the Dungeons and Dragons episode of Community, you can see some Daleks behind that four sided die!

Doctor Who themed snacks on your Facebook. [source]

Most companies aren't very happy with Zynga right now, what with their blatant rip offs of popular games, but Doctor Who fans are probably still pretty happy to see this refined taste reference to the Eleventh Doctor.

No worlds are safe from Cybermen. [source]

I haven't watched Supernatural before, but Doctor Who has zapped into that universe as well.

Doctor Who references in Pokemon!? Get outta town! [source]

Pokemon is from Nintendo, and I love Nintendo, so if Nintendo incorporates Doctor Who that means that Nintendo loves Doctor Who, and that means that some sort of blindingly amazing trifecta is coming into play. Somewhere.

Doctor Who in Futurama. [source]

GIFs like this make me want to start watching Futurama again. I didn't stop for any particular reason, but this is a great reason to start again!

Read the back John, the back!! [source]

And with this second Sherlock/Doctor Who reference, I will wrap things up. Doctor Who has been a cult hit since it first aired in 1963, so it's no surprise that it has permeated so many aspects of the world's current popular culture. I think from now on I may try to keep an eye out for my own references. Are there any out there that I have missed? I'm guessing yes! If you have any, please share and then I'll be happy like this:

My favorite picture of Ten. Ever. [source]

Friday, August 10, 2012

How Do You Take Your Mario: Tangible or Digital?

New Super Mario Bros. 2 releases for the 3DS on Sunday the 19th. Will you be picking it up from stores, or grabbing it digitally?
Nintendo is offering simultaneous in-store or download purchase of New Super Mario Bros. 2
It's a first for the company and the 3DS system.

I've been asking myself this question ever since the digital distribution was announced. I like tangible, hard copies. Something I can see, touch, smell and taste, if I really wanted to. I like having a physical copy of things that I can lend to friends if they're on the fence about a purchase, or if they don't have the funds but they still want the experience.

Digital distribution is undeniably popular because of the ease of access. Games beamed directly to me without leaving the house? I can't deny that that's appealing. The cost of gas, the potential stress of traffic, and sometimes even the hunt to locate a copy are all eliminated when downloads come into play.

Of course, in the case of Nintendo, there's a seriously murky area when it comes to downloaded titles for the 3DS or Wii. Since Nintendo doesn't have traditional online accounts like one would find on the PS3 or 360, anything someone downloads will be tied to the console/handheld in question. So, theoretically, if the 3DS or Wii breaks, chances are you'll have to pay for every purchased download all over again.

Nintendo is offering extra Club Nintendo incentives for those who purchase NSMB2 digitally.

Once Club Nintendo arrived on U.S. soil, Nintendo integrated the ability to link Wii and 3DS systems with a person's Club Nintendo account, and that does create a visible history of all downloads and purchases. All the same, my research online hasn't included anything conclusive either way. Some places say that if the 3DS or Wii breaks, then you're out of luck. Other places say that Nintendo has a way of transferring data. I just know that I'd hate to lose my downloads and then have to pay for them all over again.

It's that sort of factor that comes into play as I continue to kick around the idea of downloading NSBM2 come the 19th. There's also the fact that initial launch numbers from Japan showed hour plus long download times, as well as server lag and other issues. That's a gamble that I'll have to take if I choose to grab it digitally.

What will you be doing? Download, or physical copy? Let me hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Harmontown 8/6/12 : Confessions, Hardwick, and Cockroaches

Monday night was my second time attending Harmontown, and if you live within reasonable driving distance of Los Angeles then I recommend that you head down to Meltdown Comics some Monday night and try to catch a show!

Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles.

Harmontown is a two hour stand-up show with Dan Harmon, creator and recently-fired showrunner of the NCB hit show Community. Tickets are only ten dollars per person, and now that he's doing them every Monday instead of once a month it's much easier to get in to see him!

Harmon and his friend Jeff Davis hit the stage and tell stories, field questions, and spin off on both hilarious and (potentially) deeply offensive content. As the show progresses, your gracious hosts become exponentially more drunk on their straight vodka, and the hilarity continues to ensue.

The most recent show had a very special guest in the form of Chris Hardwick, Nerdist founder and all around stand-up guy. Harmon asked him to pop in briefly so that a story could be shared about the gentlemanly nature that Hardwick possesses: essentially, Harmon "made an ass" (his words) of himself on a Nerdist stand-up podcast, and it was never aired because Hardwick didn't want to inadvertently add to the negativity that had been hitting Harmon's life. See, the press is so eager to spin things negatively, and apparently some of Harmon's comments could have been taken out of context. Hardwick didn't want that to happen.

Dan Harmon and Chris Hardwick during Harmontown at Meltdown Comics.

Harmon proceeded to talk extensively about how Chris Hardwick is a gentleman among selfish assholes, and a true Knight in Shining Armor. It was all pretty adorable. It was also quite a treat to have Hardwick up on stage telling fun stories. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the Podcast, then you can hear all about Hardwick's Bjork story, and hopefully the editors keep in the bit about the giant cockroach!

One of the great aspects of Harmontown is that Dan Harmon likes to walk the line of fans pre-show so he can talk with everyone. He's kind and constantly funny. On Monday night he wanted to have a segment on confessions, so he gave each guest a piece of paper and asked them to write down a confession that would possibly be discussed during the show. It's this kind of interaction and treatment that makes Harmontown such a great experience, and makes me like Dan Harmon all the more.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Revealing Photography: Minecraft Creeper Edition.

While in Ireland last year I made a small papercraft Creeper from Minecraft, then I took it out into the wilderness for a photo shoot. Some of you may have spied the photos on my now not-posted-to photo blog, but that's irrelevant.

These are the photos that mobs don't want you to see! They're... the lighter side of Creepers!
papercraft Creeper minecraft
Little known fact: Creepers love tiny daisies. 

papercraft Creeper from minecraft in a tulip
Their preferred sleeping location? Inside of hybrid tulips.

papercraft creeper
You wouldn't know it based on their common tendencies to explode, but
Child Safety is extremely important to Creepers. 

creeper from minecraft
Here we catch a rare glimpse of a Climbing Creeper. The height advantage
allows them to survey the land for children in distress and comfortable flowers.

And there you have it! Aren't you feeling more informed and enlightened already? These creatures are horribly misunderstood. Perhaps I'll investigate more characters in a full video game photography series. Any suggestions?


*all photo credit A Bit of Geek, feel free to share but please credit and link back :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

PA Kickstarter creeps close to 450k goal

The Penny Arcade Kickstarter has been going for almost a month now, and while at the time of this writing they've made $410k, almost twice their $250k goal, they're still a far cry from their ultimate and still-secret goals at the one million dollar mark.

Penny Arcade’s undertaking is straightforward and still fascinating: raise enough money to make the site ad free for an entire year. Be sure to read their Kickstarter for full information, but here's a short summary: eliminating ads, and therefore the time needed to organize, sign on, and create advertising content, would free up time for a plethora of new and exciting projects.

I was surprised at first, because I don't find their ads to be intrusive. I'd even say that it's easy to forget Penny Arcade even has ads. The ads on the site don't include flashing images, bright colors or sounds, and they never pop out and take over the user's screen. Each ad is carefully chosen, and games are only advertised if they have first been played, and more importantly enjoyed, by the Penny Arcade team. They are ads that can be trusted, assuming you respect Penny Arcade’s opinion.

Once one understands that the ad removal is less about the actual ads and more about sparing time for new projects, then it's easier to rev up your excitement engines and start kicking money toward all of the goals.

Penny Arcade Kickstarter goals that have been achieved so far.

Personally, I find their goals to be awesome and inventive. Fans can, so far, expect the leader-board ad to be gone for a year, a new six page Automata comic, and a cosplay event from Jerry Holkins aka Tycho from Penny Arcade. The next goal to be reached is titled 'Strip Search,' and will be a reality style show about up and coming webcomics.

It's amazing to see the list of ideas that the Penny Arcade team has formed, and it seems that the fans and community at large are anxious to help the goals come about.

Mysterious Penny Arcade Kickstarter goals.

However, the highest goal sits at a whopping $1.4 million. Other Kickstarters may have reached into the millions, but those all had a tangible reward, i.e. something to buy, have, or use once funding had been reached. In the instance of Penny Arcade, the money simply goes toward paying the Penny Arcade corporation. This isn't a bad thing though. As stated on their Kickstarter page, a lot of fans want to contribute financially but aren't interested in purchasing books or t-shirts. And truly, there's nothing all that strange about paying for a product that one enjoys. Penny Arcade is merely allowing fans to help fund them directly.

They're breaking new ground and very likely starting the wing flaps of a revolution. I'm very curious to know where it all goes and if they try it again next year. It doesn't seem likely that they'll make all of their goals, and it doesn't seem realistic to ask people to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year. That's really the only part where I draw up short: what will happen next year? Where will Penny Arcade go from here? They've said themselves that they have no idea, but they really want to explore the "what if's" of the situation.

Lookouts: Daughters of Eyrewood preview drawing from the Penny Arcade Kickstarter.

As a huge fan of Penny Arcade and a believer in chasing your dreams in general, I hope that the Penny Arcade Kickstarter exceeds all of my wildest imaginings and Mike will get to draw to his heart's content. If we're lucky, the world will soon know more about the Daughters of Eyrewood, we'll get a free Twisp and Catsby children's book, and I'll finally get to cruise around the PA website via a custom made app! Man, who cares* what they do next year, this year is going to be awesome!


*actually I do care, I'd love to see all of the incredible, amazing, inspiring things that Penny Arcade dreams up year after year after year All images taken from the Penny Arcade Kickstarter site

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

All your wildest Landlord dreams come true in 'Tiny Tower'

I've never been much for mobile gaming. I mean, mobile phone gaming. The battery life is too valuable. I could be tweeting and instagraming instead! Now that I own an iPad though, I've been seeking ways to expand its usage outside of Netflix and tumblr

But then I found 'Tiny Tower,’ an adorable micro game by NimbleBit, creators of 'Pocket Frogs' (one of the only games I have on my Android phone). The premise is pretty simple: players build a skyscraper and fill it with residential floors and shopping centers. The "real" goal is to make each "bitizen" (in-game characters) as happy as possible by giving them their dream job.

A portion of my Tiny Tower. 

The player can see each bitizens dream job by checking their profiles, and the game also has a cute Facebook-esque feed, called a "bitbook," filled with the thoughts of each bitizen. This allows for a silly and unique way of knowing what kind of floor needs to be built next, and if your bitizens are satisfied or not with their jobs.

Apparently the developers of Tiny Tower are fans of Lewis Black!

'Tiny Tower' utilizes a subtle micro-payment system that I think is very effective. Players earn coins by having residents and by selling the stock in the tower stores. The coins are used to build new floors and to continue stocking all of the stores. Players also earn 'tower bux' through a variety of means: building a new floor, receiving a tip from a bitizen using the elevator, or locating a bitizen when they receive a pizza delivery. The tower bux can be spent on speeding up the process of building a new floor, or for eliminating the time needed to stock an item in a store. Tower bux can be exchanged for in-game coins, and real money can be exchanged for tower bux. If a player is patient they'll earn all of the tower bux that they could need. However, for those not willing to wait there is the option to purchase tower bux for real money. I wish more free-to-play games would adopt this less intrusive system.

There's an excellent balance of rewards in the game, and little opportunity for a real sense of loss. Games like Farmville punish the player for not returning to their crops quickly enough. Wilted, useless ‘product’ creates a sense of actual wasted time, which should be a huge no-no for supposedly fun and recreational gaming. If I'm away from my Tower for too long, then the stores will run out of stock. Nothing wilts. Nothing disappears. Of course, I'm also not making in-game money, but that's a minor consequence that I can deal with.

Tiny Tower cake studio shop stock.

The graphics are cute and refined while still being charmingly pixelated. The music is upbeat and kind of reminiscent of something one would hear in an elevator, which is appropriate considering the player is constantly moving bitizens up and down in the tower's elevator! 'Tiny Tower' has a great and simple interface that many people will quickly be familiar with: it is very similar to the modern smart phone user interface. Very clever of NimbleBit!

Tiny Tower's menu is kind of like an iPhone. Anyone?

Some aspects of the game that I have yet to explore are Missions and Friends. Missions require having specific stores in your tower and then fulfilling orders such as one thousand cakes and five hundred suits in order to throw a giant party. Players who complete these missions will be rewarded with tower bux! As for Friends, well, I don't yet know anyone who plays 'Tiny Tower.' Does anyone out there want to be friends? :D

I give 'Tiny Tower' a whopping ten out of ten apples! The interface, music, and graphics combine into one pleasant sensory package, while the reward/loss system is very even and stable. I like having a game that I can pop into from time to time just to keep things going, or if I choose I can stick around and keep ferrying people up and down the elevator. It's available on iOS as well as Android, and it's FREE! Give it a try!


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