Holiday laptop gaming, or, I’m really tired of playing Yahtzee

I’ve got a Samsung QX410, a conservative little i5 machine with a discrete Nvidia GPU. It comes in handy for my gaming fixations on holidays. One can only play so many games of Scrabble and Yahtzee with the parents before needing to log on to Steam or Battlenet.

DEFCON: Everybody Dies

I have a love-hate relationship with DEFCON. I don’t actually play it to win, and the AI opponents beat me every time. For me, DEFCON is all about the unique “big-board” war room visuals that makes me feel like a crazed, rogue general. Though there is the option to speed up the game clock, I like playing in real time and watching ICBMs arc lazily from the West Coast of the United States toward their targets across the Pacific. It’s pure military simulation, viewing the entire globe and its many cities through a cold, tactical lens. Clean lines, simple colors and icons.

I call this picture "Cold War Clusterfuck"

DEFCON is a title that makes the blunt statement that real thermonuclear war is just a numbers game. The number of cities, the number of missiles, the number of bombers. People don’t really matter in such an exchange, and DEFCON acknowledges this with the ruthless way it calculates the player’s score. Every time a missile detonates on a city, a white explosion blooms and is followed by bold letters displaying the number of casualties. Nanking, 6 million dead. San Francisco, 2 million dead. After repeated impacts, the numbers stop appearing at all because there is nobody left to die.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

The original Tomb Raider captured the sense of discovery that I was so attracted to during my early gaming years. Taking turns with my younger brother, we delighted in discovering secret areas and conquering complicated jumping puzzles. We loved encountering new enemies and counting how many bullets it took to take each one down. We loved how Lara could do a backflip and shoot her dual pistols at the same time. We cursed at each other during the level in the cistern.

The enduring mystery of Tomb Raider: Where does she keep all her ammunition?

Eidos’ remake updates the visuals to the Legend game engine, giving the player more control over Lara’s movements and sprucing up some puzzles. It also updates the story in an unusual way that portrays Lara as a sort of reluctant warrior. In one cut scene, she stares at her hands in horror after gunning down one of the enemy characters. I don’t think this contributes very much to the game, but it’s not a very big gripe. Tomb Raider titles have always been about puzzle solving and arcade-y action. That being said, I am nonetheless very curious about Lara’s story in the hardcore survival/adventure planned for the upcoming franchise reboot.

Starcraft II

I know competitive Starcraft II has been compared to the game of chess before, but for me, the comparison is especially relevant. I only play chess with one person, my father, and he beats me every time. I only play Starcraft II with GFTO’s own Evan Rhoades, and though he doesn’t beat me every time, I do still approach every game with a nerve-racking mix of caution and anxiety, like going into a meeting with your boss after you’ve just fucked up.

Screenshot of a replay. I should have probably noticed that burgeoning second base. Before I got nuked.

After I trounced him while he played Zerg and I played Terran, he too slid into his comfort zone and also played Terran and destroyed me in a second match. He managed to cripple my SCV line with a well-placed nuke, and simultaneously build a second base that I failed to notice at all. At one point I thought I had the upper hand when I rolled in with some Marauders and Siege Tanks, but panicked when I encountered his second base. I usually do well in our short games, in those that do not exceed 20 minutes, but this epic match-up went on for 38 long minutes. I learned two things: I need to spend the minerals I mine, and scout the map for enemy activity. You’ve won this round, Rhoades … you’ve won this round.

As pleased I am with the Little Laptop That Could, I always appreciate returning to my desktop rig. Because only on that bad boy can I play Skyrim and get into a tavern fight in Morthal that results in this:

I promise my next post won't have a screenshot of a decapitation.

I put his head on the bar. As a warning. It’s still there.


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