Tag Archives: gaming

Boston Festival of Indie Games: Highlights

This past weekend MIT’s campus was overflowing with even more geeks than already grace its nerdy grounds. The Boston Festival of Indie Games (FIG) took over, bombarding Boston’s geeky masses with an offering of independently created tabletop games, digital games, and the wisdom of professional game developers.

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Although small in comparison to the numbers that show up to PAX and E3, the Festival featured an impressively diverse offering of games, from ninja dice games to zombie football to games for social change and games about depression. Gamers of every gaming style could find something to satisfy their geeky tastes at this gathering of daring developers.

Below are some of the highlights from the Digital Games showcase, but keep an eye out for upcoming features on some of the incredible developers we got a chance to chat with at the Festival:

Candlelight (Idle Action Studios)



Featuring a beautiful silhouette design, this 2D puzzle platformer allows you to control two characters at the same time — a boy whose movement is limited by the lantern he carries and a taller young girl with greater mobility. The two characters must work their way through a dynamic maze whose puzzles they can only solve together, helping each other along the way and often taking vastly divergent paths in order to do so. The game will be available on Mac and PC late this Fall.

Demon Chic

Created by mom and son team Christine and Michael FrauenhoferDemon Chic is a delightful head-trip of an RPG that warps you into the freaky world of a trio of roommates navigating love, life, and the demons that come along with them. A creative mix gameplay folds perfectly into the immersive stories that touch on big bad ideas like race, gender, and economics, enriching the narrative.  As the three roommates Ashok, his boyfriend Gary, and his brother Devraj, all high out of their minds, get really real with each other, they’re constantly interrupted by various freaky demons, whom they battle using powers they acquire in an on-screen word-jumble. Alternately hilarious, weird, and touching, Demon Chic is as much a surrealist head trip as it is an honest look at real life and queer issues. The game is available in the iTunes App Store and is vying for a place on Steam (for PC & Mac).

The Time Tribe (ThunderSnow Media, Inc.)

Anthropologist Karen Bellinger Wehner is not a gamer, but, with an awe for the teaching power of games, she put her PhD to the test and created The Time Tribe, an RPG puzzle game that sets you off an adventures across continents and time. Designed with historically- and culturally-accurate artifacts, the game aims to endow young players with a greater cultural literacy in a society that often criminalizes or ignores whole cultures and peoples according to political interests. You can play different parts of the game as any one of the quirky cast of four young kids whose choices from the moment they arrive at an old mansion impact how the story unfolds. To bridge the real world with the game’s fun adventuring, The Time Tribe offers artifact packages you can get in the mail, an online community, a Time Tribe comic and short stories, and even a feature that lets players donate in-game currency to social justice organization around the world. But, with a great story and some mystery mixed in, the game is just plain fun for kids and adults alike.

Cognition (Phoenix Online Studios)

A point-and-click mystery thriller, Cognition follows FBI detective Erica Reed as she uses her ability to see the past when she touches an object to solve her brother’s murder by a serial killer who seems to have resurfaced just to taunt her. The game is now in its fourth and final episode, but all four episodes are available online for Mac and PC.

Revolution 60 (Giant Spacekat)

A self-proclaimed mix of Heavy Rain and Mass Effect, Revolution 60 features an all-female special operative team in the future on a mission to steal a space shuttle and prevent nuclear war. Heavily cinematic but boasting interesting gameplay and combat mechanics, the game is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for games on the iPad. You play as special operative Holiday, who can be as no-nonsense or as sassy as you make her, but every choice you make affects the next step and how the game ultimately ends. Part of a six-part series, the game will be out in March 2014 on iOS with PC and Mac soon to follow.

Depression Quest

Not exactly the most encouraging title, but the game has a great premise and offers an important look at what it’s like to live with depression. A free-to-play, text-heavy online game, Depression Quest takes you through the everyday experience of a person suffering from depression, from simply getting out of bed in the morning to conversations with a significant other. With five possible endings and over 150 unique encounters, every choice you make throughout the “quest” has impacts your depression levels and what comes next. At the Festival gamers crawled inside a sheet tent to get the full experience of the game. Created by Zoe Quinn to spread awareness about depression, the game is free to play online, but donations go to iFred, an organization that supports education and research on depression.

Get Water! (Decode Global)

InGet Water! players experience modern India as the young girl Maya, who only wants to go to school, but she is continually removed from classes in order to collect water. The faster you help Maya get water, the sooner she can return to her studies. Throughout the game, Maya acquires new tools and skills that allow her to collect more water faster. Created by Montreal-based team Decode Global, the game aims to draw attention to the dual-causes of water scarcity and girls’ education in India and other nations. However more than just becoming aware of the issues, players also learn about the efforts of real world charities like chartiy:water and the international work to bring water to developing nations. Get Water! is available on iPad in the U.S. and will be available on the App Store for India and Canada September 17th.


Swords, Demon Cheerleaders, & 10-sided Die: ‘She Kills Monsters’ Is Must-See Nerd Theater

The poster for She Kills Monsters
The poster for She Kills Monsters

Dear fellow geek: If you’re not already convinced that you absolutely need to see a play about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with a title like “She Kills Monsters and some beautiful comic-book-y poster art… then let the play’s opening lines convince you:

[cue hooded, accented, ominous narrator] “In a time before Facebook, Worlds of Warcraft, and Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs, there once existed simply a game. Forged by the hands of nerds, crafted in the minds of geeks, and so advanced in its advanciness it would take a whole second edition to contain all its mighty geekery.”

And if you’re still not convinced, watch this trailer:

Right?! A whole play about D&D that opens with a slew of geek tropes and references?! Yes, please! Did you know there was such a thing as Geek Theater?  It’s probably not yet actually a thing. Clearly playwright Qui Nguyen invented it… and in She Kills Monsters he did it to a 90’s soundtrack that’ll make you alternately slap your forehead in embarrassment (because you still know every single word) and/or unconsciously start doing the butterfly in your seat.

If you were like the nerds ’round my neighborhood in the 90’s you spent most of the decade blowing on Sega cartridges, recording mixtapes with weird combinations of No DoubtTLC, and The Butthole Surfers for your brand-new Walkman, and staying up to catch the late-night reruns of Xena: Warrior Princess. If you were like Agnes Evans, the unlikely protagonist (and resident bore among the battle-clad nerds) of this geeky play, you spent the 90’s listening to Ace of Base and tying up the house’s single phone line to talk with your bff, while your geeky little sister played dress up and slayed imaginary dragons…

It’s 1995 and Agnes Evans is a 25-year-old school-teacher at the same high school her little sister Tilly attends. Er – attended, since Tilly, along with their mother and father, were recently killed in a car crash. Agnes is the only survivor of the Evans family, and after a brief shadow puppet intro to set up some bio background, we’re introduced to a fairly well-adjusted Agnes approaching one of her pubescent geeky students for help uncovering the mystery of her sister’s Dungeons and Dragons module (info that sets up the game).

The ragtag team of heroes
The ragtag team of heroes

And we’re off!  In no time there are sexy-clad warrior women swinging battle-axes and kicking some serious demon monster ass.  Agnes is caught up in a world she doesn’t understand and mostly judges it as pretty ridiculous. But it’s all she has left of her sister, and so she takes up a sword and in her flowery “Mom” skirt she fights alongside a ragtag team of heroes, including….

The She Kills Monsters cast
The She Kills Monsters cast

Kaliope, the Dark Elf/Drow (actress Adobuere Ebiama)

Orcus, the lazy demon overlord (actor Stewart Evan Smith)

Lillith, the demon queen (actress Meredith Saran)

and of course…

her sister, Tillius, the Paladin (actress Jordan Clark)

Along the way, Agnes is not only inducted into the fantasy land fueled by obsessive geekery, but she begins to realize how little she really knew her sister.

Qui Nguyen didn’t just write a play about D&D to see a bunch of beautiful nerds swing swords and battle sexy succubus cheerleaders.  For as amazing as the action scenes are (thanks to Fight Director Robert Najarian, cause I’m pretty sure those were actual weapons… that battle-axe looked like it had some heft to it…), and as fun as it is to rock out to Butthole Surfers while badass warrior women slice and dice bugbears and carnivorous gelatinous cubes, it is still ultimately a play about a woman who has tragically lost her family, and who is wrestling with the ghost of a sister she never really knew. And it’s also about Tilly, a geeky girl who retreats from a meaner world that doesn’t understand her into a fantasy land where she gets to decide the rules of the world and slay some mean monsters in the meantime.

Somehow, even sandwiched between the glorious sound of swords clanking over “The World Is A Vampire” by The Smashing Pumpkins and scenes of a sassy, killer faerie grooving to TLC, the more serious moments still hold their weight. She Kills Monsters is smart and hilarious and a complete and total geek-out, and it’s also an homage to all the outsiders for whom games, fantastical worlds, and other geeky enterprises were places to be more themselves, who they want to be, or to get completely away from reality altogether.

The brave team (runs in place) charging head-first into danger
The brave team (runs in place) charging head-first into danger

The cast and crew, led by Director Shira Milikowsky, came up with inventive ways to use the space and create seamless and clear transitions between the D&D world and Agnes’ reality. Actress Kaitee Tredway hijacked the show with her bold and sadistic portrayal of Evil Tina, succubus cheerleader, and the sassy faerie Farrah.

Kaitee Tredway as Evil Tina
Kaitee Tredway as Evil Tina

It was a nice surprise to be so pleased every time minor character Jamianne Devlin came on stage as Agnes’ snarky, no-bullshit best friend Vera. Though not a lead role, Devlin played Vera perfectly, giving the real-world scenes just as much spunk and vitality as the demon-infested sword-clanging D&D world.

And of course, real-life sisters Jordan Clark (Tilly) and Paige Clark Anderson (Agnes), who I’m betting will solve all their sibling disputes via. sword fight from now on, totally nailed the sisterly love, complete with juvenile bickering and taunting.

Sisters Agnes (Paige Clark Perkinson) and Tilly (Jordan Clark)
Sisters Agnes (Paige Clark Perkinson) and Tilly (Jordan Clark)

Because this is Geek Outsider, and because the super awesome cast was winningly diverse and female-led, I have to also give a shout-out to Company One, the super awesome theater company behind the show, which was founded, according to their website, “to integrate Boston audiences, challenge the city’s social divides and foster a new generation of theatre-makers and theatergoers.”  Love it.

Basically, go see it. Now. Ten bucks you go home and dig-out your twenty-sided die immediately afterwards.

She Kills Monsters

by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Shira Milikowsky
Fight Direction by Robert Najarian
April 13 – May 11, 2013
BCA Plaza Theatre

Also. Did I mention swords? There are lots of swords.

SKM swords

The Good Life… Booze, Games, and Geeks in Boston

When you first walk in, The Good Life looks like every other downtown bar in Boston on a Tuesday night — suit-and-tie types sipping gin and tonics at polished fine-wood high tables. But follow the LCD glow emanating from the bar’s basement, and things are gonna get geeky.

I’m not talking PhDs snortling about Kafka geeky. I’m not talking trivia night geeky… I’m talking table top tournament geeky, old school console geeky. I’m talking BYO controller geeky!

It’s Game Over – the weekly game night at The Good Life.

A Magic: The Gathering tournament at The Good Life
A Magic: The Gathering tournament at The Good Life

Would-be challengers huddle around a long central table, fingering the dollars in their pockets, waiting to join in the Magic: The Gathering tournament, while a few feet away a ragtag Rockband group of no-hit-wonders belt the high-pitched part of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

In a dark booth across from the bar, a Nintendo 64 flashes GoldenEye 007 game play. Across from that an enraged gamer cries a desperate “gah!!” as Mario flies past Koopa Troopa on his tricked out go-kart. From the far corner a beepy rendition of the Aladdin soundtrack has pulled in a decently-sized audience around the resident Sega Genesis to watch Abu and Aladdin jump their way through town (seriously, I forget how magnetic that game is! Just try to tear your eyes away from the gameplay).  Street Fighter IISonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Kart, GoldenEye 007, NBA Jam…

Yup. The Good Life has restored the 90’s to its rightful glory – the dark basement of an otherwise bougie downtown bar.

Tabletop games at the bar... and consoles on either end
Tabletop games at the bar… and consoles on either end

Add to that booze and some seriously addictive fries and sliders… ya, I’d say that’s pretty good livin’.

I can’t speak to the bar on any other night, or even the upstairs part of the bar on Tuesdays for that matter, but their game night is pretty epic.

Boozy Munchkin Zombies!
Boozy Munchkin Zombies!

Armed with a Munchkin Zombies deck and a recent paycheck so I can shell out $10 bucks a pop for their cheapest Bourbon, I’ve only ever had a great geeky time. Drinking and gaming? How can you go wrong?

Even in an era where somehow geek got cool and everyone hearts nerds, it’s great to have a place where you can geek out as hard as you want, shout awkward obscenities at NBA Jam, or furiously debate the finer details of a Class card without getting that “okay, this got too real” side-eye we’re all familiar with. It feels almost clandestine.

When you finally manage to pull yourself away from the console, clear up your tab, and readjust to the natural light, you feel like a super nerd agent emerging from your secret underground nerdquarters, back into the normal bar scene that’s been unfolding upstairs all this time. You might even give a secret nod to the bouncer on your way out and look away before he throws a wtf? face your way.

Seriously when's the last time you got your hands on a Nintendo64 controller
Seriously when’s the last time you got your hands on a Nintendo64 controller

Unlike many of the Tuesday regulars, I don’t work in an industry where I run into a lot of gamers or comic book readers, so a refuge like game night is a necessary relief where I can shamelessly unleash the geek.

Because even though geek is cool these days, we all still get that “whoa. too much” look when we get way too into it and reveal just how deep the geeky runs. And if you’re like me, you get that surprise face even in a crowd of the geekiest geeks. The other Black girl who shows up some Tuesdays knows exactly what I mean. They never suspect us. Eventually I’ll hunt down some browner geek havens, But in the meantime…

I’ve slowly accumulated a ring of nerd havens since I moved to Boston a few years ago, and I figure maybe there are some Beantown noobs out there who could use a starter map:

Comicazi in Davis Square hosts weekly game nights, a comic book club, a sci-fi reading club, Magic tournaments, a monthly Drink and Draw, and even a monthly comedy night!

MIT Game Lab hosts some headier gaming events, including talks and conferences on game development, educational gaming, etc., and weekly talks on game development every Friday .

AND they’re hosting Play Day at the MIT Museum this weekend as part of the Cambridge Science Festival

Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square has a basement full of games, expansions, and gamers gaming. Literally every night of the week they host a variety of tabletop gaming events, including Magic, D&D, Yu-Gi-Oh, and an open board game night.

The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square hosts signings with comics artists every now and then, but what’s more enjoyable is that the staff here is crazy knowledgeable and friendly and will talk to you for hours about the minutiae of 80’s comics history until you get your geekery fill.

JP Comics & Games in Jamaica Plain has weekly D&D and Magic tournaments, plus a occasional comics forums.

The Garment District in Kendall Square has all your cosplay needs! (okay, so you’ll probably have to hunt around and get to sewing for the details, but this is a great places to start)

And in case you were living under a rock… Boston Comic Con is coming up next weekend – April 20!

Expect a full report!

PAXEast Day One

Life-size Lara Croft model from the New Tomb Raider

Massive nerdery exploded on the harbor yesterday. Packs of gamer geeks from across the U.S. descended upon the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, armed with backpacks to load up with swag, laptops to plug into LAN parties, and decks to dominate at the tabletop tournaments.

Since the Con sold out early, I only managed to nab a badge for Friday, but SO worth it, if only just to marvel at the only place in the world where there is no line for the women’s restrooms.  That said, women were pretty well represented on the fan side of things. And the Tomb Raider panel showed that there are incredible women on the development side turning out some really awesome stuff.

There was even a little (very little) brown-folk representation, at a booth featuring Independent Game Festival award winner Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios), a combat game inspired by Mexican folklore and traditional Mexican culture.

Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)
Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios)

With a name like Guacamelee, it definitely deserves a skeptical eyebrow raise and hesitant side-eye. But maybe it’s a beautiful work that celebrates an often under- and mis- represented culture in geek world. We’ll see…

In the meantime, the rest of the Con was a bombardment of everything from the big corps and online games to tabletop tournaments, Nerdcore jams, indie RPGs and MMOs, cosplay geniuses, and even a geeky furniture design business.

Here’s a couple of highlights:


WildStar looks like it’s going to be amazing. Graphics look great, and the story is fun – clashes between races from across the galaxy ensue when a dreamy planet called Nexus is discovered and hordes of galactic beings descend upon it, some to colonize, some to protect and defend it, some exiled and looking for a new home, and some are just there to wreak general havoc for the shit of it. Definitely signed up for the beta on this one.

With the Beta for The Elder Scrolls Online out this month, it’s no surprise that there was a 2-3 hour long line of fans at the Bethesda booth, where the insanely awesome trailer was booming on loop entrancing and tempting Elder Scrolls fans into their secreted gameplay section.

Another one that grabbed my eye, purely by it’s beautiful design was Contrast by Compulsion Games. It’s quite the departure from the shoot-em-up battles, galactic space wars, and  zombie frenzy survivalist games flashing on the screens around the rest of the Exhibit Hall.  This game is set around a cabaret and a little girl named Didi. The player plays Didi’s invisible friend Dawn, who can literally become her own shadow for stealth purposes, etc.  It’s an interesting idea that makes for a spectacular design, but I wonder if the concept is strong enough to hold action, story, and strategy…  I might give it a try just to find out and look at all the pretty.

A couple others worth checking out…

…if you’re into stealth games: Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into quirky survivalist, gather/collect games that show no mercy: Don’t Starve (Klei Entertainment)

…if you’re into significantly *less* quirky survivalist zombie games that scare the bejeezus out of you: The Last of Us

Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie
Fun fact: Ellen Page was the model for lead character Ellie


I’d do a  whole feature on it, but it’s been done better over at Kotaku.

I will however, add to the love for Amy Demicco’s supercrazyawesome battle dress made out of Magic cards.

Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.
Amy Demicco logged 200+ hours to create this beast.


Over at the Geek Chic booth, a cadre of very fashionable geeks were opening our nerdy eyes to the possibilities of furniture for your gaming habit. You don’t have to settle for long boxes for your comics or the coffee table you commandeered from your parents for your Friday night Dungeons and Dragons parties.

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God-hood, Your Console, & You: You by Austin Grossman

You by Austin Grossman
You by Austin Grossman

Okay, so this is not a review. If anything it’s a review of a review. I just saw Tom Bissell’s review of You by Austin Grossman in this month’s Harper’s and got the tinglies.

Bissell didn’t even have to praise the book, I was sold when he quoted a tiny excerpt of it:

“To forestall any future threat, the gods decreed that we should each be separated into halves and each half hurled into a separate dimension. There was a human half, weak but endowed with thought and feeling, and a video game half, with glowing and immortal bodies that were mere empty shells, lacking wills of their own. We became a fallen race, and forgot our origins, but something in us longed to be whole again. And so we invented the video game, the apparatus that bridged the realms and joined us with our other selves again.”

Anyone who’s logged hours and hours as a Drakkin Bard, singing and sword fighting in the far reaches of Kunark, or blasting teleportation holes into the walls of a prison maze, or saving the galaxy from Reapers, knows the feeling. Sure the idea of a game character being, literally, your “better half”, is terrifying to anyone who’s ever hidden his game habit from his girlfriend.

Okay so maybe it’s not true love, or even a whole separated-from-cosmic-birth type thing but you definitely develop a relationship with the characters you create (or even just the ones you name) and save the world with twice a week. You think about them outside the game, and wonder what to train them in next. You’re seriously distressed when they die (again). The obsessive among us even conflate them with ourselves switching back and forth between first and third person when we talk about them: “Darkus is training on heavy missiles right now, but I want to get him exploring so I’ve gotta get up on drones.”

I don’t know about you, but, despite the pervasive notion that gaming is a waste of time and brain space, I even feel  pretty accomplished after a few hours in-game, and on occasion the return to this dreary realm can be a sad letdown (Taxes? or Faction Warfare?) And I imagine our soulless, immortal bodies on the other side aren’t too happy to be miserably empty and idle when we shut down.

Anyway, I’m literally geeked on this idea and all the fun questions it raises: What does it say about us how we create our characters? How we play them?  What about playing multiple characters?

Can’t wait to give it a read and let it wreak havoc on my brain and feed my increasingly obsessive gaming habit. I’m gonna get my hands on a copy and give a real review asap. Right after a few-hour session with my glowing immortal half as young Lara Croft. Whattup!

Chrono Jigga: Nerdify-ing Hip-Hop

Hip-hop producer and MC, 2 Mello just released his latest album Chrono Jigga, a chrono jiggaseamlessly sown mashup of Jay-Z lyrics over the music from old-school Nintendo role-playing game Chrono Trigger. 

Prepare to nod and nerd at the same time. Check it: http://2mellomakes.bandcamp.com/album/chrono-jigga

2 Mello  pushes the boundaries of hip-hop and geek culture. I’d call him a hip-hop futurist. He self-describes as “geeky and proud of it, describing his childhood as being spent in lonesome bliss playing Super Nintendo games, watching dark science fiction films… 2 Mello’s artistic goal is to relate his obsessions with music and geek culture to his damaged connection with the real world and all its beauties and perils.” Fan the man: http://www.facebook.com/2mellomakes