That Angry Dwarf

Grumbling about Games (and more)

Extra Life 2015

Posted By on Nov 03, 2015 | 1 comment

 Wesley EL small
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since the last time I’ve written about my participation in the Extra Life gaming marathon. This year will be my fourth in a row, and this one is extra special.

Extra Life is a 24-hour gaming marathon, in which participants from all over the world come together to raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. This year, I am fundraising for the UCSF Children’s Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco. As you probably know, Amanda and I have had the (un)fortunate opportunity to become acquainted with these hospitals on a personal basis – our son Wesley was born almost three months prematurely and spent his first two-plus months in the NICU. While that NICU was run by Kaiser, he also needed to have a procedure to correct a heart-related issue, which was performed by the great team at UCSF Children’s.

Due to their caring and expertise, Wesley is coming up on his first birthday, and he is doing amazingly well, especially given his rocky start. We are so thankful for all of the medical teams that we have interacted with, and want to make sure that they – and the families that they need to work with – are well-supported and cared for. I’ve always thought that Extra Life was a great cause, but now it is personal.

This Saturday (11/7), I will once again don my headphone, stock up on caffeine, and play for the cause. If any of you are able to help, I would be incredibly grateful. Any amount would be meaningful, and if you aren’t able to donate money, just checking in and lending support would be fantastic. That said, even as little as $5 will help. The money flows straight through to the hospitals, and is entirely used on patient care and quality of life.

If you’d like to make a donation, please head over to my donation page.

Thank you so much, and feel free to pass this along to anyone that you think might be interested!
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Extra Life 2014 is Tomorrow!

Posted By on Oct 24, 2014 |

Extra Life 2014It’s almost here! Extra Life 2014 game day is tomorrow (Oct 25), and I’m almost ready! There are always a bunch of last-minute things to do – try to build a list of games to play (and some semblance of a schedule), install them, make sure I have some non-potato chip snacks around, get plenty of rest – and this year is no different.

First things first, though. I’ve had a great response this year, and together we’ve already smashed my fundraising goal! This is super awesome, and I wanted to thank every one of you that has contributed so far. I also wanted to reach out one final time to anyone that is on the fence. Please do consider donating – even $1 or $5 can make a difference.

Click here to donate!

So what am I playing? I’m honestly not entirely sure yet! This year is a little tricky because I’m not playing any MMOs, which are always a good way to sink 4+ hours into a single thing. What I do know is that I am going to be playing at least one horror-ish game, because apparently the fact that I don’t really like them is a thing now. These are the things I do for the entertainment of my gracious donors!

The games that I know that I’m playing:

  • Alien: Isolation – This sounds pretty awesome in terms of atmosphere and scary factor. A bunch of people agreed that this is something I should play on camera, and therefore I will. I’ve heard varying reports on how deep in you have to get before it’s interesting and/or extra scary, but I’ll push through it for the kids.
  • Dragon Age 2 – So I made it through Act 2 on my initial playthrough before WoW and other things took me away from it. And Telaan swears that the entire point of the game is to watch how little things change within the same world over time. So I’ve started over. I’m a few hours in, and playing a mage this time, so Extra Life seemed like as good a time as any to try to hook myself back on it. Plus, Dragon Age: Inquisition is coming out soon, and I want to be able to play it, but I really need to have finished this one first!
  • Gunpoint – This is an indie game made by Tom Francis who I discovered through The Crate & Crowbar podcast. I really like the podcast, and I finally picked it up as part of a Humble Bundle. I played the first 15 minutes or so, realized I liked it, and decided to save it for Extra Life. Indie games for everyone!
  • Telltale something-or-other – I’m not sure if it will be The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, but I love playing these things during Extra Life. They take up an hour or two per episode, and are just super fun. Plus, people can get to see the agonizing choices I make.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins – Good mindless beat ’em up that I’m ~10 hours into. Figure I might as well finish it up, and this is as good a time as any! Plus, I’m watching the new Arkham show and random Batman things are always fun.
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2 – Yeah, I bought this one at some point. I will try not to pass out from sleepiness while driving across Europe. Much like a real trucker!

I’m sure there will also be various other multiplayer games, probably a Magic draft, and whatever else I need to keep me going. I usually pick some sort of upbeat platformer because apparently zoned out at 4am is a time when my reflexes get a lot better. Who knew?

Anyway, come stop by the Twitch stream and say hi! Pick a game off my Steam list that you want me to play! And wish Liore and me luck!


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Episode 62 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available!

It’s almost Halloween, and in honor of our favorite spooky holiday, Liore, Arolaide and I sat down to talk about scary games and movies, and what gets our blood pumping.

Liore starts us off by talking about the differences in her reaction to scary movies and scary games. Aro is all for them, and she lets us all know (spoiler alert: she really likes Silent Hill 2). I comment a bit on the different types of scary, and what those mean.

Zombies are pretty cool, but are movies handling them as well as possible? What about games? How do we feel about vampires? It’s unclear. We do like scary space stories, though, and the intrinsic terror of being alone in space. Can games handle this within their restricted design… space? Regardless, we think that games could learn a thing or two about pacing from films.

Also, something-something-Alien. And Aro is skeptical when it comes to horror games where you can’t fight back. Liore sighs very heavily at <insert grimdark horror game here>.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, check out ourYouTube channel, or simply watch below! Please keep sending in comments and questions, and don’t forget to give us a thumbs up or rate us on iTunes.

Cat Context is part of The Gaming and Entertainment Network. Check it out for other great podcasts!

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Extra Life 2014

Posted By on Oct 14, 2014 |

Extra Life 2014

Extra Life 2014 is nearly here! On October 25, I will be participating in a 24-hour gaming marathon, benefiting Children’s Hospital Oakland. For the third year in a row, I will be joining Liore on the Totally Legit Publishing team to celebrate the positive spirit of gaming to raise money for an excellent cause. There are so many sick kids, and the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals do a ton of good work throughout the year. I look forward to being able to participate in this event all year.

Over the past two years, Liore and I have raised over $2000, and the fundraiser as a whole has collected over $6 million in donations! That’s incredible! But it’s never enough to treat every kid that needs it, and this year we are looking to do even more. I’ve worked with the local Bay Area branch of Extra Life to expand participation, and we are looking to smash last year’s participation numbers. I think we’ll do it! But I need your help.

Please, if you are able, consider donating even $5 at my page. Every bit will help, it’s all tax deductible, and it the funds go directly to the hospital to help provide services for patients. If you feel like participating on the day of the event, I’ll be streaming my progress through I’m taking suggestions on what to play, and I even have a number of game codes to give away throughout the day! Pop in to say hello or join in a game –  or send in something that you’d like me to play. If you donate, I might even listen. Thanks so much!

Click Here to Donate!

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Cat Context

Interested in learning more about the games we cover on the show? Follow the new Cat Context Podcast curated list on Steam!

Episode 60 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Arolaide, and I talked about the Kickstarter-funded RPG Divinity: Original Sin, the launch of new MMO ArcheQueueAge, and the addictive mobile game Dragon Coins.

Aro has been playing Divinity: Original Sin in co-op mode, and she talks about how much her household has been enjoying the throwback nature of the game. We also learn (again?) that neither Liore nor Elly has ever played Baldur’s Gate, and this sends Aro into a sweary rage. Is it okay for us to skip out on an intimidating classic game because of its depth? Or are we just cowardly monsters?

Liore has spent a lot of time in queues for ArcheAge, and even a little bit of time actually playing. She talks about her early Alpha-colored impressions, and shares concerns about the future of land ownership and its impact on non-headstart players. We all hope that it shakes out and can support both casual goose-pluckers as well as more competitive trade pirates, and think it has a chance to be successful if both groups are happy!

And then… Aro discovers the joys of Dragon Coins, the crazy little Pokemon-style mobile game that we blame Liore for getting us to play! Should we or shouldn’t we recommend this? Who cares, because the monsters are SUPER CUTE! Elly also mentions Magic and eyes glaze over. Liore goes to school with pigeons!

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, check out ourYouTube channel, or simply watch below! Please keep sending in comments and questions, and don’t forget to give us a thumbs up or rate us on iTunes.

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First things first, links to previous missed episodes.

Cat Context

Episode 59 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide got together to talk about The Crew PC beta, the terrifying Silent Hills teaser, and Destiny’s future.

The Crew recently held a beta event on the PC, and after a mad scramble to get keys, all three of us had the opportunity to check out the upcoming CaRPG! We all agreed that it was gorgeous to look at, but we are unsure about its long term plans and “MMO” factor. But is that really that bad when you get to speed around a city crashing into things while looking like Gordon Freeman? Maybe not.

Also, Liore and Aro are finally allowed to talk about P.T., the Silent Hills teaser. This leads to some spirited discussion about how awesome the series is, in general, and a lot of Elly saying things like this. Overall, they are quite impressed with this take on the horror genre and the specifics of this “stealth marketing” campaign.

Finally, we talk some more about the other games we are playing! Several mobile games come up! Elly is excited about Destiny! We got a listener mail!

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, check out our YouTube channel, or simply watch below! Please keep sending in comments and questions, and don’t forget to give us a thumbs up or rate us on iTunes.

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The Gaming Questionnaire, Part 1

Posted By on Aug 22, 2014 | 3 comments

A bunch of people have been answering the gaming questionnaire that was posted at Cannot Be Tamed earlier in the week, and I figured I ought to respond with my own. However, like Liore, I’ve decided to split out the first 10 questions into one post. This is convenient, since SPOILER ALERT we may just end up talking about the second half of it on Cat Context this week!

So, here are my answers!

  1. When did you start playing video games?
    I’m not sure I even remember. I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember, but I expect the first non-arcade games I played were in the mid-80’s on my family’s Apple IIe.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    It would have to be one of the aforementioned Apple IIe games. Probably Choplifter or Swashbuckler or Hard Hat Mack. It’s entirely possible that I played something on a friend’s NES or ColecoVision, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind.
  3. PC or Console?
    I’m going to hedge here and say both. I love PC gaming, but I would not be anywhere as much of a gamer today if it weren’t for consoles. And I’ve been buying and playing console games for basically just as long as PC games. These days, if it’s a game I have to pick? It totally depends on whether I’ll be playing with people. Although I will say that sitting on the couch and looking at a large screen is pretty appealing…
  4. Xbox, Playstation, or Wii?
    I have all of them, does that count? I’ve owned a PS1, PS2 (two!), PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, and every Nintendo console except a WiiU, so I’m pretty committed to not letting those lines stop me from playing something awesome. I’m leaning PS4 to start the next generation, though, if that helps. Even though Microsoft has the better controllers.
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    This is basically an impossible question, but I’m going to answer GemStone III/IV. I’ve talked about this one before, but it is a MUD-style game that basically introduced me to long-term roleplaying and MMOs. I don’t actually recommend that anyone goes back and plays it now (sorry, Simutronics), but this is really my first true gaming love. And my longest-lasting, although WoW is creeping up on it!
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    I love this question, and wish I had a better answer, but I really don’t. I have a lot of uncompleted games, and most of the really bad ones fall into that pile before I can start to feel too strongly about them. That said, I’m going to go with Star Wars Galaxies post-Jedi/combat revamp. I seriously hated what Jedi did to that game. Seriously hated it. Star Wars is SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING when it involves the normals, and not the stupid god-like Jedi. I don’t want to know about your bullshit ability to kill people with your mind or whatever, I just want to explore what it’s like to be a struggling spice-trader who sides with the Rebellion out of convenience! Also the combat revamp and attempt at shoehorning WoW-like quests into that game was a really bad idea. What is it with Star Wars MMOs doing stupid things to otherwise fun games?
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    Umm… Warcraft 3? Anything in the Civilization series? Basically, any RTS or turn-based strategy game. With very few exceptions, I’ve never really enjoyed my time with them, despite being totally intrigued by their intricate balance and long-term strategizing.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    I’ve talked about Heavy Rain a bunch of times, so that’s the easy one. The other game that I really enjoyed, but didn’t do well critically, is Brutal Legend. There was just something so… fun about that game. And for whatever reason, I totally dug the tower defense/RTS boss battle bits, which were pretty universally panned.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    I have an irrational love for beat-em-ups. Like Devil May Cry and God of War. I don’t actually know if this is my favorite genre, but it’s one that doesn’t seem to get enough love in these things. I like a pretty wide swath of games, from FPS to puzzle games to Adventure games to MMOs. Basically, if it’s not an RTS, I’d probably try it. Or maybe a sim, since those have a lot longer learning curve than I’m willing to put up with these days.
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    It’s pretty hard to argue with anyone’s choice of Commander Shepard, here. I’m sure that this is in large part due to the personal investment I had in her life, but there was also just a ton of well-realized detail and depth. So I’m going with the easy answer!

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed, and tune in to the podcast for some more discussion!

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Struggling to MMO

Posted By on Jul 17, 2014 | 7 comments

When Wildstar first launched, I was super excited. I stayed up until 2am or so just trying to create my character(s) and play around on head start weekend. A bunch of folks were hanging out on Mumble and everyone seemed super excited – and so was I! I played quite a bit for the first few weeks of launch, and maintained a reasonable leveling pace that combined exploring all sorts of things and feeling like I was making progress.

Then, however, life got a bit busy. There was some vacation, some work travel, some heavy work weeks, etc. And, eventually, I realized that I hadn’t even logged in to the game (or any other MMO, for that matter) for almost a month. That would normally be fine – I’m casual or whatever, right? – but the problem is that, even after being back to “normal” for a couple of weeks, I still just… can’t.

I’m not sure what it is, exactly, because I still like Wildstar. And every time people talk about it, I wish I was playing. But the one time I made myself log in, I just sort of wandered around my (really sparse) housing plot, looked at the 5g in my bag and the 1g it cost to make myself a relic farm, wandered around Thayd trying to remember where my quests actually were, and then logged out.

I talked a bit about some of this on the podcast this week, but I think there are a few reasons that I’m struggling:

MMOs reward habits. Or, maybe more directly, they are specifically crafted to be habit-forming. And I think they work best when they are habitual. You get into the routine of logging in, checking mail and auctions, remembering where you are in the questing, figuring out what names all your guildmates are using this time around, and going about your business. Once you break that habit, it can be hard to start forming it again. And particularly hard if you have previously been through the cycle of teaching yourself how to break an MMO habit!

Whether it’s true or not, I feel like I’ve missed out on a crucial period. My highest level character is 21 or 22, but it seems like the critical mass of my guild is now 40+. And so I’m not going to be among them when they are first running into Skullcano and encountering the guy who wants to make them into a stew, or the giant thing, or whatever the hell this picture is showing… And that’s fine, really. It’s not like anyone should feel bad for me that I was enjoying myself on the beach in Hawaii! It’s just that what I was looking forward to the most was the actual process of learning to overcome these things with people while they were learning, too. I think I kind of hyped myself up for that, and now I am left wondering if it’s all just going to be another WoW situation where everyone “knows” the best way to run any instance I go to, or whatever.

And, actually, the fact is that I could probably push hard at leveling and join most of my group by the time the stragglers are hitting 50 and starting to do dungeons and attunement things, and then I could still get involved with the learning of some things, even if it’s not all the things. That’s pretty cool! So then I come up with feelings about how speed-leveling is annoying because I like exploring and reading the stories and listening to datachrons and all that, and then I feel like I have to make that tradeoff which kind of sucks. Or, alternatively, I look at “having” to play 50-60 hours of mostly-solo gaming for a chance at something else later. And if I was going to spend 50-60 hours on a single-player game, I might actually play Skyrim! (hah)

Anyway, I’m mostly just venting here. There’s clearly some merit to the “Just start playing again! Log in for 20 minutes, do something, and see if you keep wanting to play. Then try again tomorrow!” plan. That’s probably how I will get over this funk, even. There’s also an argument to be made that I should just sort of give up on Wildstar (or maybe MMOs entirely?) for a while, since this does feel a bit like burn-out. But that sucks since people are actually playing together!

Mostly, I’m just looking to see if I’m the only person that this sort of thing happens to, and if there are any sorts of tricks that people have used to pull themselves out of it. In the meantime, I’ll work on the backlog or something…


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