When it comes to video games, I have to admit that I love complication.

As my wife will no doubt attest, I have a knack for turning any game we play from fun to boring, from boring to tedious, and from tedious to frustrating. I wish I knew why, but in all too many cases I enjoy the metagame more than the game itself. As with all nerdy newlyweds, we both dreamed of playing games together. I ostensibly crushed these dreams underfoot. When we played Diablo II, I lambasted her for leveling inefficiently. When we played Super Mario World, I threw a tantrum every time she missed an alternate level ending. I’m pretty sure I gave a lecture about zombie survival philosophy when she didn’t pick up the shotgun in Left 4 Dead.

We’re I’m getting better. I have to remember that we are coming from different worlds when it comes to gaming experience. She would play Donkey Kong Country with friends and family; I would spend years alone playing MMORPGs and even more time researching how to optimize my play time in said MMORPGs. I’m starting to realize that Final Fantasy can still be fun without EVERY item, Zelda without EVERY heart container, and Mass Effect without EVERY codex entry. I’m still not entirely sure HOW this is still fun, but I’m learning.

Part of this re-education involves how I play a game. Whereas before I usually wouldn’t play Pokemon without multiple wiki pages open and an open notepad, I’m striving now to play games organically. I completed the Mass Effect trilogy without referring to a single wiki, and even tried a Nuzlocke Challenge!

The other part of learning to simply enjoy video games has come about through playing more simply enjoyable video games.

Tetris for NES

Let’s take Tetris for example, first. I’ve always loved Tetris. Anyone who grew up with a green-and-yellow-screened Game Boy did. But when I was young and played this game, without wikis, meta-gaming, or research. Why? Because it was easy to pick up and play, its rules were simple and standard, and the ratio of time invested to entertainment was very low.

Now, the old Emgee would most likely dismiss these traits as indicative of a weak game. You don’t even have to be a nerd to enjoy Tetris! As I take a step back, I’m finding that I not only -can- still be a nerd and play casual games, but that these simple games work as a great relief to the by-product stress of the complicated games I enjoy.

An example of the orbital view in Kerbal Space Program


Don’t get me wrong–I love plotting Hohmann Transfers and scheduling retrograde insertion burns just as much everyone else. Kerbal Space Program gives me that strange mixture of fun and learning that I haven’t felt since Mario Teaches Typing. It also gives me a headache if I play for too long. Which, unsurprisingly, I do quite often.

One of my goals for this blog is to sojourn into video game reviews, and my first venture will be comparing and contrasting some of my favorite complicated games with the casual games which have caught my attention lately. Any requests?


This may come as a surprise to any readers who know me personally, but I enjoy video games.

Alright; understatements aside, I enjoy a surprising variety of video games. I was introduced to platformers at a very young age by two awesome uncles, spent a fair amount of time in nickel arcades as a youth, played excessive amounts of RPGs instead of developing socially during high school, developed the required LAN-party skills for first-person-shooters and real-time-strategy on the way to college, and spent more time than I care to announce immersed in massively-multiplayer online games as I finished my schooling. Nowadays, I re-play classics that I loved (Megaman), discover the gems I missed (Mass Effect), delve into almost any roguelike I find (Stone Soup, Rogue Legacy, FTL), and play casual party games with friends during get-togethers (Samurai Gunn, Nidhogg). Minus racing games, I’d say my interests run the gamut of video game genres.

An outlier that has piqued my interest in the last year is Mechwarrior Online. Pacifist or no, I’ve always been a sucker for Giant Death Robots. I also tend to like games that focus more on teamwork and strategy than outright personal skill, which MWO does par excellence. I won’t say I’m one of the greatest ‘mech pilots around, but I -can- talk your ear off about the heat efficiencies of Swaybacks and Jenners, can tell the difference between a Splatcat and a Gaussapult, and have more than a cursory knowledge about the politics of the Capellan Confederation and Draconis Combine.

I usually play games with minimal thought to peripherals–in most cases, I’d rather just play the game than spend time or money making the game-playing itself more enjoyable. Sure, I’ve used-hand-me-down gaming keyboards and mice, and I was quite attached to my Super Advantage arcade pad for my SNES, but I’m generally pretty conservative when it comes to my gaming set-up.

Mechwarrior changes this.

Loc Nar's Battlemech Cockpit

This is a home-made replica Battlemech cockpit made by MWO user Loc Nar. Notice that the throttle/control joysticks are affixed and hardwired into the armrests, the rudder pedals for controlling the ‘mech’s legs separately from the torso, and the custom-made memory foam cushions.

Now let it be said: I don’t think I could ever make something of this quality. This mechwarrior has proven not only dedication to his game, but knowledge and skill in carpentry, metallurgy, electronics soldering, aeronautics simulation (He designed his own gimbal system for the joystick he mounted!) I would, however, love to take on a project of this magnitude. I think the technical challenges are certainly surmountable, and I can only imagine the immersive experience this kind of set-up would provide for an enthusiastic gamer like myself.

I think I’m going to start with this:

Thrustmaster HOTAS-X

Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick.

It is a bit more humble than a cockpit replica, but I’ll build up to that. Hopefully.

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