December 2007 Archives

This has been making the rounds lately, but if you're one of the 8 Jews who haven't yet seen this video about the Jewish Christmas experience, consider this my holiday gift to you.

The rest of you are free to regift.

Thanks to Mark Engelberg for popping this to the top of my memory stack today

Comment (1) | last by dana, Dec 26, 12:29 AM

Important safety tip: When you and your fiancee agree not to get any holiday gifts for each other this year because you're so overwhelmed with other things and it would make you both happier to not have to worry about it, she will neither keep her end of the bargain nor expect you to keep yours.

Comments (6) | last by Alexandra Fiona Dixon, Jan 24, 12:33 AM


One of the coolest features of the XBox 360 is the ability to download free game demos via Live. It's an easy and convenient way to sample new releases. I downloaded the Bioshock demo somewhere around 11 PM, and I decided to take a look at it before I went to bed. I finally staggered into bed around 4 AM, and I might have stayed up all night had I not reached the end of the demo. Lying in bed my thoughts still swirled around the game, and there was no question in my mind that I'd be going in search of a copy the next day.

Bioshock operates on multiple levels. The surface level is a first person shooter with some spiffy special effects in the form of "plasmids"-- modifications to your DNA that give you special weapons like electric bolts, incineration, or freezing enemies. Telekinesis becomes available fairly early, which effectively gives you the gravity gun from Half Life-- and that alone is fun to play with. Mix in all the other plasmids and you've got a shooter with a very entertaining array of choices for dealing damage and manipulating the environment. The enemies are somewhat limited-- stationary gun turrets, flying security bots, and mutated humans of various stripes-- and if the game was just a shooter, that might be a problem. There's enough going on in Bioshock, however, that you're not likely to get bored.

For starters, the art direction in Bioshock is phenomenal. The underwater city of Rapture looks like an art deco paradise where Something Has Gone Horribly Awry. Giant bronze statues loom over floors with inlaid official seals. Advertisements juxtapose a retro thirties aesthetic with DNA-altering products. Weaponry choices harken back to Al Capone. Everything fits.

Rapture is a fully-conceived city, and a good deal of the fun of Bioshock lies in exploring its wonders. As you do, you'll begin to ask yourself what happened there. The answers come in a number of forms-- there are clues in the environment, in broadcasts made over the radio, in overheard conversations and snippets of dialogue-- but most of the story gets advanced via 122 radio diaries you find throughout the game. These are remarkably well written and acted, and bit by bit they fill in the pieces of Rapture's story. You get to know many of Rapture's most prominent citizens through their diaries, which are surprisingly effective means of character development. Late in the game, when I found a brutally slaughtered body (a fairly common occurrance-- Bioshock is definitely for mature audiences only, and not for the squeamish) and realized who it was and how he'd died, it was one of the most satisfying moments in the game. That's a testament to great storytelling and game design.

There's plenty of eye candy in Bioshock, from incredible water and fire effects to gruesome tableaus of creatively dispatched corpses. This is a game you don't so much PLAY as you EXPERIENCE. Other games, like the Half Life series, also create a consistent, believable world, but none approach Bioshock's level of detail. The game shines in its details, and shines brightly. This is a landmark achievement in gaming not to be missed.

Comment (1) | last by Stephen Glenn, Dec 31, 10:58 PM

Quick Life Update

Apologies for the paucity of postings lately. This can be attributed to the following factors:

  • Wedding planning
  • Home repair and remodeling in preparation for
  • Purchasing a new house, which it looks like we'll be closing on in late January
  • Being engaged with and busy at my job
  • The XBox 360, to which much of my remaining time has been getting sucked

    I have a number of blog entries in my head-- the challenge is setting aside the time to write them. Thank you for your patience, and apologies to restless fans of Survivor who were unsure what to think of James' ouster with two immunity idols in his pocket without my sage guidance. For the record, and for a change, the best player won this season.

  • Achievement?

    Tonight, for the first time, I unlocked all the achievements in a 360 game. OK, so it's a Live Arcade game, meaning there are only 12 achievements worth 200 points, but I've been playing far more Arcade titles than CD-based games. The game in question is Pac-Man Championship Edition, a dynamite variant on dot-eating classic created especially for the 360. The twists in this game are a) only parts of each maze have dots, often very small parts, and b) when you've eaten all the dots on either the left or right half of the screen, a fruit appears which, when eaten, restocks that half of the maze with more dots in a new configuration, often rearranging the maze as well, and c) the game is timed, so you're trying to bag as many points as possible in 5 or 10 minutes. Some dot sets have no power dots, so you've got to manage them smartly or evade the ghosts deftly. And if you keep chomping on power dots before the previous one expires, ghosts can ratchet up to a max of 3200 points each-- encouraging marathon chains of power dots and ghost munching. This is a very addictive game, far more compelling to me than any of the authentic arcade versions-- well worth the download.

    Comments (3) | last by dana, Dec 18, 9:38 AM

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