Games People Play

Oxide’s offices under renovation.

Like most everybody else, we’ve been stranded at home for the past year. While some of us have taken the opportunity to learn cool new skills – baking, carpentry, interpretive dance, and the like – we’ve been doing a ton of gaming as well. I recently demanded to know what everybody at the company was playing to pass the hours.

Because I’m old, I’ve been playing a version of the paper board game Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit on Berserk Games’ Tabletop Simulator. ASLSK returns me to the glory days of gaming when you had to read a 75-page manual before you could even set up the game. I’ve also been replaying Portal and Portal II because I have a passion for great game writing.

There’s a bunch of live roleplaying occurring via MS Teams, mostly D&D 5e but also home-brews. Engineer Leif Myer tells us: “There was one time where our group was boarding a magically powered skyship borrowed from the Eberron Universe. Despite the availability of food and kitchen, the group thought it would be a good idea to climb on the outside of the ship and use the massive flaming propulsion ring to cook some steaks.

“There were a couple close calls with balance and turbulence to reach the ring, but thankfully our goblin party member was able to scurry back onto the deck of the ship without plummeting the thousands of feet below. The taste of victory outweighed the taste of the steaks.”

Note that the heroic band of Oxide adventurers risks their necks not to fight monsters or gain loot, but to grill steaks. Sounds about right.

More on RPGs in a later column.

A bunch of folks are playing Hades, by Supergiant Games, a Rogue-like title in which you’re a god trying to escape hell using cool combat strobe effects and loud rock music. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing on Switch is very similar, except it’s about decorating a deserted island and encountering cute anthropomorphic animals. Microsoft’s Minecraft gets a lot of work too. (This author likes to get their character killed as far as possible from the respawn point, leaving full sets of magical weapons and armor behind to get eaten by sheep.)

Baldur’s Gate 3 (Wizards of the Coast) is getting attention, as are various older Nintendo Zeldas. Engineer Akshay Rachapudi is playing the Dark Souls series because “I like dying a lot in games.”

Designer Emily Turner has an awesome list: “Hades, FTL, House Flipper, Knights of Pen and Paper 2, Planet Coaster – and I also played some very niche indie games – Death and Taxes, Change, and Tangle Tower. Also EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER: BOUND BY ASH which is about beating up neo-Nazis in the middle of the desert and was satisfying in a variety of ways. There are more but I don’t need the readers to know I have a problem.”

Another title prominently mentioned was: Divinity II, Original Sin, by Larian Studios, mostly because of its quirky characters. Game producers LOVE quirky characters. If you cannot make an half-elf assassin-chef who looks like Millard Filmore, what is even the point?

A few more titles thrown about: Ghost of Tsushima, Wasteland 3, City Skylines, Elder Scrolls Online, Sid Meier’s Civilization 3-6, and the recently re-released Disco Elysium: The Final Cut.

There’s more, but my wife is telling me it’s a beautiful day and I need to turn off the damned computer and go outside and play. I never get to have any fun.