Backlog: Too Much Coffee Edition

Well, it finally happened. I managed to make the strongest and tallest batch of French-press coffee of my life, and like a fool I drank it all. So how better to handle the comedown period than to hammer out a new Backlog entry?

I'm no stranger to Stumptown Coffee, even living in Austin: in fact, the cleverly named Juan Pelota Café at Mellow Johnny's sells all kinds of their whole-bean coffees, including today's batch of Holler Mountain. But something about the brew I made today knocked me off my feet, and I'm currently reeling from the worst overdose of caffeine I've had in a long time.

Fortunately, I was still able to put some words to paper, and Aaron's got some stuff to share too. Enjoy! -- Nick Cummings

Nick

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For those of you who live with roommates or a significant other, you’re probably familiar with a phenomenon that takes place when you’ve suddenly got the place to yourself: you wind up bingeing on all the media you’d left unconsumed, usually due to a disagreement in tastes.

That’s where I’ve found myself over the last week as I cracked open all kinds of “enthusiast” (read: overwrought or embarassing) games I’d been waiting for a free moment to play — games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, DmC: Devil May CryPersona 4 Arena and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Maybe I’m just self-conscious, but I struggle to justify playing games that celebrate excessive violence on the living-room TV.

Ethical considerations aside, I figured I’d do something different this time around. Instead of talking about the above games — and let’s be honest, you probably know whether you’d enjoy them already — I want to focus on the one game I played with friends.

That game is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Like a lot of kids fortunate enough to have access to a PC with internet access and a graphics card, Counter-Strike ensnared me back in the days when it was just a mod built on top of Half-Life. I spent hundreds of hours learning the eccentricities of the game’s weapons and the best hiding spots in the game’s now-iconic maps.

Things have changed a lot since then, and I’m no longer a high schooler with dozens of hours of free time to funnel into competitive shooters. But there’s something special about the flow of Counter-Strike and its punishing “no respawn” pacing that forces you to consider each decision in a fraction of a second. It’s relentless, punishing and swift, and its learning curve is steep but gratifying. And like all great multiplayer games, it’s a game that’s best experienced in the company of friends.

I spent a couple hours playing with a few west-coast friends who I haven’t seen in almost a year the other day, and I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in quite a while. I think it’s easy to deride an experience where the only human interaction comes in the form of talking over Skype while shooting each other’s avatars, but it’s a whole lot better than never interacting with those friends at all. Sharing a game with friends is a lot like sharing a beer or a conversation — it’s a great way to stay in touch and catch up, even if most people don’t think of gaming as a bonding experience.

Aaron

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My fling with Animal Crossing: New Leaf continues. It's a demanding creature, and rather flippant toward the concept of goal-oriented game design.

I'm enjoying myself because New Leaf avoids feeling overwrought. I'm a mayor, and as mayor I can do whatever I want -- which is unexpectedly cool. Years ago my experiences with Animal Crossing ended in aimless boredom, so I wrote the series off until New Leaf posted excellent reviews. Right now I'm preparing for my town's first fireworks show of the summer. If anyone's looking for the mayor of Cascadia, he'll be diving for deep sea life to sell at double the normal price.

You may have noticed that our corner of the Internet is way different! I'm so very excited to have a fresh presentation for our work. I'm still tweaking little bits of the layout and we need to determine how certain features will function, but what you see is Sasquatch 3.0. That's what I'm calling it, at least.

I've been busy. Between hunting for jobs, applying to grad school and redesigning a website, I've not left much time for videogames. Animal Crossing has the potential to be a major time-sink, but thankfully there's a limited amount of actions to perform in one real day.

And then there's Skyrim. I've installed 10 more mods this week. At this point I should admit that I'll never stop playing it.

Falskaar is a fan expansion one-third the size of Skyrim proper and is fully voice acted. It was also made by a single 19-year-old kid. It's great, and it also makes me ashamed of how little I accomplished at 19.

Damn kids these days.