Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Emergent RPGs

Hey, Chris here. I've been writing a lot about role-playing games recently, and while I'm by no means an expert, I thought I'd note down here my vision for RPGs in the future, just in case it actually happens. With so many open-world and sandbox games these days, I think the next step in RPGs is games with procedurally generated NPCs, quests, towns, and worlds. When each player has their own unique world and story, I think there will be much more room for attachment and emotion, knowing that you're the only one experiencing your particular world. There would be emergent stories as NPCs with assorted personality traits lived and struggled. You would help a particular individual or kingdom because you wanted to, rather than being assigned to do so by a quest.

The game in my head draws from many existing games, and more-- the procedurally generated landscape of Minecraft, the individually unique and surprisingly engaging characters of Crusader Kings II, the randomly generated boss names of Torchlight, and many others. I don't know how exactly a game like this would be made, but I do think it would be possible. Replay value would be huge, of course. Just see how many times people play Spelunky.

My guess is that within ten years, this post will either seem hilariously misguided or strangely uncanny. In the former case, leave a comment with what is actually happening in gaming. In the latter case, I'll probably be reposting this all over the social media in joyous glee. For the meantime, I'll just sit back and see what happens.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Science Facts: High-speed Poaching

In 2012, a cheetah completed a 100-meter dash in 5.95 seconds, beating the human record (9.58 seconds) by 3.63 seconds, the record time for loading 8 rounds into a shotgun and firing the first shot. The exact implications of this are unclear, but I'll let you put two and two together.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Number 45

It's been a bit more than a month since I started blogging, and I've certainly enjoyed it so far. For the past few weeks, I've been able to post just about every day, but I'm anticipating a busy semester coming up, resulting in a new plan-- I'll still write and post daily, but some entries will be shorter than others. That way, I reason, and can keep a good flow of information while still having some quality pieces, rather than spreading myself thin with a requirement to make every post at least two paragraphs. I'm still experimenting here, so feel free to give me any more advice for this blog, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Screenshot of the day: Runescape

Infiltrating the palace of Al Kharid *mission impossible theme*.
Runescape is an MMORPG that is more massive than many. I probably shouldn't count how many hours I spent in Runescape in my junior year of highschool. This week, though, I wrote an article on Runescape's player-player economy, specifically related to virtual fishing and cooking. I decided that I needed to spend at least some time in game to do so. I started a new account today, and power-leveled my character,
'Fisherman_Ed' to level 50 fishing and cooking. Runescape is great fun, but it is, when you get down to it, a huge mountain of busy-work surrounding the gems that are achievements and high-level content. The system works, though, and it's a very satisfying accomplishment to have a high-level character.

After spending a few hours clicking on fishing spots and reading while I wait for something to happen, and then another hour cooking all the fish I caught, the reasons I stopped playing Runescape are coming back to me. It's an incredibly engaging game with a lot of appeal, but in the end, I personally don't get any benefit from it. I don't have any friends that play Runescape, so it's just a game of making numbers go higher. While that's great for a day, it's not worth the ultimate investment of time for me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Unstable Internet

Hey, Benjamin here. The internet is a bit unstable where I'm at right now, so I don't have much time to write this. 2013 has been a great year for me, and I've learned a lot of new things, and changed in some interesting ways. I've been thinking a lot lately, and I think it's time to tell the world that

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Screenshot of the Day: Crayon Physics

A triangle works as well, actually.
Crayon Physics is a physics puzzle game in which the player draws objects to get the red ball to the yellow star. It's a pretty simple concept, and much of the joy in Crayon Physics is in its simplicity, but the puzzles, especially the more advanced ones, are both fun to play and make you feel smart upon solving them.
The art is very nice, keeping with a simple theme. Interestingly, I've found that this is a great game to play with other people. It's incredibly easy to learn, but engaging enough to keep the attention of onlookers, who will no doubt be shouting advice and grabbing the mouse from you as the levels get more difficult. Crayon Physics is a game for simple fun and simple learning.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Mirror's Eye

There was upon a time a man who saw
That while a man was he but not to draw
For mirror saw him in the eye a flaw
As saw he mirror straight ahead once more

"Sing for he the mirror by did stare his self within the eye"

Stood forth, that man, who while he 'jacent stood
To burnished glass and less than burnished wood
Now gazed a pupil bearing this well good:
Look not for but to stand and say once more

"Sing for he the mirror by did stare his self within the eye"

But why for he the hurricane did pass
And not pick up the man below; alas
Did shriek above as man regarded fast
His self within the mirror's glass once more

"Sing for he the mirror by did stare his self within the eye"

Monday, December 23, 2013

Screenshot of the Day: Neverwinter

Apparently halflings can have sideburns, but not beards.
Neverwinter is an MMORPG, not to be confused with Neverwinter Nights, a great RPG set in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms. Neverwinter is also set in the Forgotten Realms (The Sword Coast of Faerun, to be exact), but includes MMO elements and days. 'Neverwinter' is also the name of Neverwinter's main city, a trend carried over from Baldur's Gate.

Anyways, I've launched into the massively multiplayer online world of Neverwinter playing as a lawful good halfling cleric. Almost all of Neverwinter's systems are based on D&D, so combat centers around basic attacks, medium powers you use once or twice in an encounter, and 'daily' powers-- big guns that you only bring out when things are most dire.

So far, I've enjoyed wandering around the world of Neverwinter. There's so much to do in the starting city (Neverwinter)  that I actually haven't left Neverwinter at all since I started playing Neverwinter. Questing can be less than satisfying, but the loot and new powers make it all worth it. 'Professions' allow you to build up a commercial empire, aided by an auction house and various guilds. I still have much to learn and much to see, and while it's impossible to 'finish' an MMO, I'm trying my best to experience all the Neverwinter has to offer.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Attending a Museum

Hi, Benjamin here. In this very conclusive time of year, I have another retrospective blog post topic: my job as museum gallery attendant. It's a work-study position that I'm very happy to have gotten, and for the first few weeks of work at the beginning of the semester, I thought it was pretty intellectual to have a job as a 'gallery attendant.' Over time, though, and as I got tired of always being around the same old sculptures and artifacts, I realized that I was actually just a museum guard.

I wondered briefly if the displays would come to life in the night, but I soon became engaged with the 'game' that all of us museum guards played. The thing is, when nobody is in the gallery that an attendant is in, the attendant is allowed to sit down. Whenever there is a guest in the room, though, the attendant has to be standing up.

I found myself learning to stand up and adopt a blank, yet slightly intimidating gaze in about two seconds, and to tell by the volume of footsteps on the stairs how soon visitors will be entering the gallery. I would adopt a strategic position that allowed me to rest against a wall while not getting in the way of any visitors or blocking the view of any display. The sitting down periods mostly involved reading while making sure there were no visitors about to walk in on me.

There were three general sorts of day at the museum-- days with visitors all day, with hardly any visitors at all, and days with visitors on and off. The alternating on-and-off was probably the most stressful, with constant changes is stance. Days with no visitors were the best, basically getting paid to sit and read, but it was actually days with visitors all the time that I think were the most interesting. Standing in one place for an hour, then moving to a slightly different spot for another hour because some inquisitive patron wanted to see who contributed money to the exhibit. I would enter a sort of higher state of daydreaming, thinking about all that was going on in my life and planning out the rest of the day. I would lose track of time until some Art History student would start taking pictures of the maps of Rome and I would have to go over and say, "Excuse, me, no photos in this gallery, please."

I feel like I've learned a lot from my work at the museum. It's an interesting job about only about once every other day, but there's something to be said for learning to stand motionless for long periods of time.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Grocery Shopping

Having moved off-campus, I've had to set foot in a grocery store for the first time in months. I am spending Christmas with my family, which means we buy whole wheat bread instead of white bread, but I enjoy wandering around with a shopping cart even if it isn't half-full of boxes of Poptarts. I've compiled here both Chris's and Benjamin's ways of shopping.

First of all, when pushing a cart, it's all about maneuverability. It's a beautiful thing to make a sharp turn between two coolers of frozen dinners without scraping either one. I like to look for deals while keeping meals in mind. Pre-cooked lasagna on sale? Go for it. The time in-between meager serving sizes can easily be filled with snacks, so a jar of peanut butter and something to spread it on is also in order. Potato chips are finished far too quickly to make them worth the purchase. Lastly, I take a look at that one stand of gift cards near the checkout-- not that I ever buy gift cards, but there's something I really like about looking at a piece of plastic that can be used to buy a meal for four at Applebee's. Now that we're on the subject, money is pretty subjective, isn't it?

Is cheese on the list? No? Might as well go by the dairy isle anyways. Just looking at all the different types of fancy cheese available makes me feel more cultured. Maybe someday I'll buy a block of brie. And some saltines. When I get down to the actual purchasing, scratch ingredients are where it's at. I could buy a medium-sized pizza for five dollars, but if I get a bag of flour and some tomato sauce, I can make my own pizza for so much less. Potatoes, onions, and pasta... so many ounces of nourishment for so few dollar bills. Snacks? How about some oats, or a can of Spam? On the way out, I pass by the deli, just to remind myself that there is fancy food out there. There will come a day when I buy a sandwich at a grocery store, but it is not this day.

Friday, December 20, 2013

More Skyrim Screenshots

Hey, Chris here. I haven't had much time for gaming in the past few days, but the game I'll be getting back to as soon as more time opens up is Skyrim. As I mentioned before, I've just barely gotten started in this huge open-world RPG, but I have been increasingly amazed by the beautiful environments Skyrim realizes, thanks in part to its great graphics. I especially enjoy the woodcutting.

Such firewood. Much cut. Wow.

It's hard to fight and take screenshots at the same time.

And... home sweet home.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Smooth Operator

Hey, Benjamin here. It was about a thirty-minute walk to the bus station this morning, through cold weather, but with my brother's good company. I was happy to get out of the cold when the shuttle arrived, and found my seat amidst a handful of other people commuting to Emory.

Just as we started out of the station, the black bus driver introduced himself over the intercom-- "Good morning, everyone. Today you're riding with the Smooth Operator. That's me." (Read these lines in the voice of Morgan Freeman to experience the full effect.) "This is the last, I repeat, the last Wednesday this bus will be running this year. Next Wednesday is what? Christmas. After that is what? New Years. You're on the last bus on a Wednesday until twenty-fourteen. Isn't that something?" My paraphrase breaks down here, but the Smooth Operator went on to talk about how much he liked his bus route, wishing everyone happy holidays. "Make sure your Christmas is merry, not scary."

When I finished work and took the shuttle back home, it was still the Smooth Operator driving. He actually remembered me from the morning trip and greeted me. The trip back from Emory was much the same as the trip to, and the Smooth Operator had the whole bus laughing and smiling. My commute wasn't a big part of my day, but it was very special. That bus driver probably has no idea that someone's writing a blog about him, but I'd like to thank him for making everyone's day just a little bit better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 5 Games of Fall 2013

Hey, Chris here. Benjamin reflected yesterday on things he's learned this semester, and in the same vein, I'd like to list the five video games I've spent the most time playing this past few months. These aren't necessarily the best games I've played, but there has to be some correlation, right? Right? I got the statistics from my Steam account, so they're precise, if not accurate (woo hoo for statistics).

5. Half-Life 2 (16 hours)
In some ways, I've been trying to catch up on video game history this semester. I had often seen Half-Life 2 as one of the best, if not the best, shooter ever made. From what I can tell, it certainly earns that title. I enjoyed an engaging story in a dystopian world with some of the scariest horror and most fast-paced action I've ever experienced in a video game.

4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (20 hours)
Skyrim came out in 2011, but it still tops selling charts on steam whenever it goes on sale. It's not just a sandbox RPG, it's the sandbox RPG, providing the player with a world full of possibility and adventure. I actually only purchased Skyrim in late November, and while it's already one of my most-played games on Steam for this semester, I've barely scratched the surface of this great open world.

3. Team Fortress 2 (31 hours)
Half-Life 2 had great action, but to get that exciting shooty experience all the time, I've gotten into Valve's online multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2. With nine classes that present nine different ways to play, Team Fortress 2 somehow manages to hold everything together to produce an experience that's over-the-top cartoon action and team-based strategy at the same time. Playing with people from all over the world just adds another level of interest and hilarity.

2. Crusader Kings 2 (41 hours)
Power, conflict, and intrigue-- Crusader Kings 2 is a game that lets you rule in medieval Europe in whichever way you see fit. While gameplay is largely based on different menus and statistics covering a map of the Western World, I began to care about individual members of my ruling dynasty, and it wasn't long before I was submerged in the major and minor struggles of individuals in a world full of danger and opportunity.

1. Dragon Age Origins (97 hours)
Well isn't that something. I enjoy, to some extent at least, most of the games I play. Dragon Age Origins is one of the few games I've not only enjoyed, but gotten into to an almost unhealthy extent. The main game took me approximately sixty hours to complete with my noble warrior character. When I got to the conclusion, I decided I didn't like the way the ending turned out in relation to my character. There was only one thing to do-- I played another sixty hours or so with a mage and made different choices (Steam didn't record some of my session times). In some ways, I regret having spent so many hours in one game, but the dark atmosphere, epic story, and difficult choices of Dragon Age Origins made my experience one I'll always remember, if not repeat. I often say that Dungeon Siege is my RPG, but Dragon Age Origins is what has really shaped my recent experience of role-playing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The End of a Semester

Hi, Benjamin here. I suppose I'm officially finished with my first semester at Emory-- my last exam is finished and my dorm room has been cleaned  up. I'll have more reflections later, but for now, I look back at a semester full of new experiences and learning, both in and out of the classroom. It's been a good few months.

For now, though, I'll just list one thing I've learned from each class:

Latin-- Language reflects elements of culture. Or is it the other way around?
Biology-- When it comes to some parts of life, scientists have no idea what's going on.
Chemistry-- Structure determines function.
Great Cities of the Middle East-- Geography is the framework from which a city adapts.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Screenshot of the Day: Bit.Trip Runner

I have obtained the 8-bit sparkles.
Bit.Trip Runner can be described as a rhythm platformer-- you run constantly forwards, jumping, sliding, and swinging to avoid obstacles. What makes this running game special is that, in my opinion, it integrates music into gameplay better than almost any other game I can think of. Games like Audiosurf and Rockband also have music as a central mechanic, but whereas the soundtrack in these games determines your experience, in Bit.Trip Runner, it is your experience that shapes and change the music. Obstacles require you to jump in time with the beat, and collecting bars of gold as you run adds new notes to the tune. The only purpose for powerups (besides improving total score) is to kick the background music up to the next level. As bad as I am at running and jumping games, I'll play levels of Bit.Trip Runner over and over just for the music. Bit.Trip Runner is exceedingly simple, but what it does, it does well.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Day of Writing

Hi, Benjamin here. I've just finished a day of writing, so what you're seeing here is the last few blobs of today's toothpaste tube of creativity. Comparing creativity to toothpaste actually just took so much out of me that I have to write in cold, mechanical language for the rest of this post.
alarm[0] = 1100;
awake = 0;
if time = 1427
awake = 1;
energy = 100;
if awake = 1 and energy > 10
energy -= 1;
energy += 1;
That's about it. I did manage to finish all eight pages of the paper, and after that Chris spent an hour or so writing the next installment in RPG Weekly (you're welcome, Chris). All in all, it's been a surprisingly productive day.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Screenshot of the Day: Fallout

They won't let me back in.
Fallout is a post-apocalyptic turn-based RPG. This might seem like a strange combination, but I'm surprised by how fast it grew on me. Fallout is also a classic, in that I barely made it out of the first map alive and died in the second. It's surprising, though, how immersive a world can be with aged graphics and turn-based combat where a grown man with a gun can easily be taken down by a few rats. Admittedly, it took me several minutes to figure out how to actually shoot, but once I found my trigger finger, I was impressed by the ability to choose whether you want to shoot the nearest rat in the head, or aim for the back left leg. I should probably admit now that I haven't yet gotten past fighting rats. Besides brushing up on my RPG history, the main reason I acquired Fallout (and Fallout 2) was that they were temporarily both free on good old games (.com). If you're reading this in the eight hours after posting time, they'll still be free: http://www.gog.com/game/fallout. From what I've seen of Fallout so far, I recommend it, adding my meager stamp of approval to all the stamps that have come before.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Niche Jokes With Benjamin

One exam down, three more to go. Here are some of the it-was-funny-at-the-time products of my past few days of studying:

Why didn't the lysosome function when it saw the net equation of photosynthesis?
It was too basic.

Why was the Latin verb telling everyone what to do?
It was in a bad mood.

What's the difference between a rotating metronome placed on a stack of worksheets and a stressed student?
The metronome always turns in assignments on time.

That last one is slightly depressing, so I think I'll get back to studying now. Things are going well, but I'll be glad when these exams are finished.

UPDATE: Have to add this gem from someoldjokes.tumblr.com:

From Cambridge Jests: Or, Witty Alarums for Melancholy Spirits by a Lover of Ha, Ha, He, 1721

That book title, though.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Job Applications

Hey, Chris here. Over the past couple months, I've probably applied for about twenty freelance video game journalism jobs, and I'm beginning to pick up some patterns in the wording of job posts. Here are a few of my favorites and what they mean:

"We are a rapidly growing website" = "We just started up and hardly have any visitors"
"You will gain valuable experience" = "Don't expect to get paid"
"We have a friendly environment" = "You'll probably have to edit your own articles"
"As the site grows, opportunities for payment will arise" = "Don't get your hopes up"
"We are dedicated to high-quality writing" = "We actually have an editor"
"Review copies will be available" = "We sometimes get indie games for free"

To be fair, I've only been working with sites like this for two months, and it is possible that bundles of money start rolling in around the third month. Overall, I've greatly enjoyed doing freelance writing, though there was that one time an editor added a grammar mistake to my article.

As an aside, my character in Skyrim has just enrolled in the College of Winterhold (CoW?). Here's a picture of his dorm room:

I have to say it's a bit larger than my room in reality. Much more grim, though-- that's a human skull on the bedside table.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Walking on Autopilot

Hi, Benjamin here. As I took a walk this afternoon, having finished my last class, I realized that I've acquired the ability to go from my dorm room to CVS and back almost on autopilot. It would be too extreme to say that I was surprised when I found myself walking back to campus with a bagful of peanut butter crackers, but I was definitely operating on two different levels.

In some ways, this is a good example of how much I've settled in here at Emory. I've cemented in my mind pathways between classes that I can walk while barely conscious, which comes in handy when I wake up ten minutes before Latin. I've grown accustomed to the campus through these past few months, and in the same way, I think I've developed into a college student. I definitely don't fit all of the stereotypes, but after completing about one eighth of my university experience, I think I'm hitting my stride. There's a lot more to come. For now, I'll just share a riddle:

"I met a man carrying two packages of peanut butter crackers on the way to CVS. Each package contained six smaller packages, and each smaller package contained four crackers. Each cracker was made of two biscuits, and each biscuit had about one milliliter of peanut butter spread on it. How many milliliters of peanut butter did I meet on the way to St Ives?"

None-- I was going to my local CVS, not St Ives.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Onion Soup

It's gotten cold enough here in Atlanta that I've begun to have to wear a coat in addition to the sweaters that have sustained me through the past couple months. To add to the mood, a cold drizzle was falling all day today. I'm hoping for more cheerful weather for tomorrow, my last day of classes this semester, but for now, I'll just share this recipe for onion soup.

4 T oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 onions, sliced
1 tsp salt
4 C broth

Fry onions in garlic and oil. Add broth and salt and boil until onions are soft.

As I look around my room now, though, I realize that I would have to implement some substitutions if I wanted to make onion soup right now:

1 packet salad dressing
1 handful potato chips, crushed
1 C oats
4 C canned lemonade

Fry oats in salad dressing. Add lemonade and potato chips and boil until oats are soft.

Lemonade is at least a bit like broth, isn't it? Same concept, at least. Maybe my standards in food have been lowered this semester.

Monday, December 9, 2013

RPG Column

Hi, Chris here. In the past few months, I've been sending out dozens of applications to write for various gaming websites. Most times I don't even hear back from the potential employers, but last week, I got a very interesting job at corruptedcartridge.com. Rather than the usual business of scouring social media for gaming news each day or playing through obscure indie games and writing reviews, I'll be writing a weekly column on RPG games, how they work, and why they're fun. Ever since my first game of DnD, role-playing games have been an exciting topic for me, and now I get to expose thousands of people to my opinions.  Just so I don't get too excited, though, this particular job doesn't involve monetary compensation.
The link to my column can be found on the Variant Minds sidebar, but I'll  give it here as well: http://corruptedcartridge.com/category/features/rpg-weekly/. There will be a new installment every weekend. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Studying for Exams

Hey, Benjamin here. Exams are coming up this week, so while Chris is faffing about writing game reviews, I'm studying. In high school, I thought about studying the way I thought about vaccinations-- a short procedure to defend against worst-case scenarios. I've had to make a few adjustments for college in order to avoid the 'Other Freshman Fifteen'-- a fifteen percent decrease in your average test grade.

First of all, I've learned to talk to professors. In the small high school I went to, it wasn't hard to develop friendly relationships with teachers, but in classes containing scores of people, it's important to make sure your professor knows you, not so they can unfairly increase your grade, but so they can give you advice on how to approach the material they're teaching and study for the exam they're writing.

I've also tried to make it a habit to study for each class on a weekly basis, not just when there's an exam coming up. I also make sure I study until I understand everything, or at least almost everything. This can be a lot of work, so I prioritize study. Biology and Chemistry are coming first this semester, and, at the other end of the spectrum, it's a rare week that I study for Health.

Finally, I'm studying with other people. It makes learning a lot more interesting, and for me at least, keeps things more focused. Combined mind power can also solve questions quicker, and the one who understood a concept better can explain to the others. These aren't perfect steps, but they've kept me afloat in this semester of new things. I would write more, but I have to study.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Video Game Music

Hi, Chris here. Today, in honor of replacing my slightly broken earbuds, I thought I'd go over some of my favorite video game music. Music is, for the most part, a background thing in games, but it contributes to the atmosphere and emotion of an experience in so many ways. I'll put a YouTube link for each song so you can experience the aural beauty of these pieces for yourself.

Dragon Age Origins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWFEVbfCcOY
Epic music, but with a dark lilt that characterizes the world of Dragon Age beautifully. Fortunately for me, my computer was slow enough that the initial loading screen lasted approximately three minutes, allowing me to hear the theme in full each time I booted the game up.

SimCity 3000: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctc_gXbkBO4
This piece thrums along with industry, making me want to build a grid of roads or install plumbing and electricity systems. I have so many memories of SimCity, and this theme song captures so much of what made it great.

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3EOibiVzq4
This theme speaks of majesty and a suit of dented armor. Forests and mountains, Oblivion contained a world as beautiful as it was expansive.

Plants vs Zombies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rJ8AqRiNcU
It must be difficult to have music be simultaneously cheerful and eerie, but Plants vs Zombies pulls it off well. The idea of sinister subject matter portrayed in a playful light is woven throughout both the game and its music.

Dungeon Siege: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7aYfjE8h48
Those who know me well will know that Dungeon Siege is the game I enjoy beyond rational reason, and the music is no exception. Nothing tells me that an adventure is about to start like the dynamic theme music that first plays as you leave your burning farm. Incidentally, for this reason, I often loop the Dungeon Siege Theme over and over when getting into something new. Like college.

These themes listed here are only a few of the pieces I've enjoyed throughout the years, and that's only video game music. If this goes well, I'll probably burden you all with my favorite classical or film music. So much to listen to, so little time.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Trivia Night

Hey, Benjamin here. I've just noticed that Chris has posted two 'Screenshot of the Day' segments back to back, so I thought I'd put up something else for those of you not interested in video games (also to convince my parents that I do things besides stare at my computer). Yesterday evening, I went out with some friends for a night of pub trivia (I drank water, parents). It was a healthy experience for showing me how much I didn't know, but I'll go ahead and paraphrase the questions I had a confident answer for.

What lead role does actor Nathan Fillion play in a current TV show?

In the North American edition of Clue, he's called Mr. Body. His name in the original version was Dr. ____

In the Hunger Games, what District 11 tribute uses a sling?

The Roman name for this goddess was Victoria. What was her Greek name?

Richard Castle. (Thanks, Luke.)

Black. I suggested Dr. 'Black' in passing, but I agreed with my team that that was a preposterous suggestion, so we decided on answering Dr. 'X'. The answer ended up being 'Black', and in retrospect, it makes sense.

Rue-- the only other District 11 tribute was Thresh, and I can't see him using a sling. Not that I've read The Hunger Games. I've actually never picked up the book and don't know anything about them at all.

Nike. All the major Greek goddesses had Roman names that weren't Victoria. Given that Nike was the goddess of victory, there was a pretty logical connection.

All in all, a pretty good night. I also learned that sand dollars are called 'snapper biscuits' in New Zealand.

Screenshot of the Day: Half-Life 2 Episode 1

I did that.
Half-Life 2 Episode 1-- an FPS probably more accurately titled 'Half-Life 2: A Series of Unfortunate Events'. In the picture here, I'm holding the standard pistol, seeing as I used up all my other ammunition in a zombie horror sequence underground. Long story short, my flashlight ran out of batteries just as the undead closed in around me. It's been a thrilling ride, and I've found I can't handle more than half an hour or so at a time. I'm often asked myself why I keep coming back for more, and I think the answer is that the Half-Life series engages me as few other games can, flowing smoothly while still exposing me to new situations, telling a captivating story while never taking control away in a cutscene. It's a solid, immersive experience that's not likely to be replicated any time soon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Midnight Snacks

I'd like to share some more recipes, but given that my dorm's occasionally-less-than-fully-stocked kitchen is three floors below me, I haven't been taking up the old saucepan 'n spicerack very often. In lieu of anything wholesome or elegant, here are a few midnight snacks I've frequented through the past couple years.

1. Handful of Edibles
Here's a dilemna: you're in your room late at night, approximately twelve seconds away from the kitchen. You're slightly hungry, but there's no guarantee that there will be snackable food available at the end of your expedition. Is it worth journeying across the cold floors of dark rooms just to check for food? Many factors are involved in this question, such as hunger level, availability of light sources, and time elapsed since last scary movie viewing. For those few, those brave who make it to the kitchen, here are the instructions:

-Find container of edible objects
-Remove objects from container and consume

2. Bread and Hot Dog Fry
A relatively simple recipe developed by myself at the height of my midnight snackery, taking more time to prepare, but totally worth it in the end:

-Melt 2 tablespoons of margarine in a small frying pan
-Place a slice of white bread in the pan, flipping it to let the margarine soak into both sides
-Cut a hot dog in half lengthwise and fry it alongside the bread
-Remove bread from pan and spread ketchup or hp sauce on it
-Place hot dog halves on bread and consume

3. Bowl of Oats
I have yet to find the perfect midnight snack for my college self, but for the meantime, I've purchased a large quantity of discount oats:

-Put dry oats in bowl
-Consider making something nice, like oatmeal with sugar, or oat granola
-Decide that you have so many other things to do with your time
-Eat the oats

I'm hoping for a time when I can cook and eat quality food on a regular basis, but looking back at this list, I see that that time is probably far in the future. Now excuse me while I find some more edible objects.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Screenshot of the Day: Skyrim

This is with the graphics on 'low'.
I know I'm incredibly late to the Skyrim bandwagon, but after years of waiting, I took advantage of the Steam Autumn sale in order to get what is lauded as one of the best sandbox RPGs of all time. I haven't gotten very far through the game, seeing as I have exams coming up, but so far I'm just astounded at the beauty of the world of Skyrim. Simple, intuitive controls and solid combat are a plus, but I'd almost be happy just running around these hills picking flowers and catching butterflies (which is incredibly hard when you're playing with a touchpad, I should add). I'll probably come back with another Skyrim screenshot a few months from now when I've finished the main quest, or at least gotten a bit further along, but for now I simply invite you to gaze upon this scene of mountainous beauty. If you squint a little, it looks like real life, but that's a dangerous path to go down.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thoughts by Benjamin

Hey, Benjamin here, and I apologize in advance for this post. It's almost 2 in the morning, but I think that if I start making exceptions to posting once a day, I'll never get back to it (shoutout to Thud! by Terry Pratchett). I'll just leave you with a few thoughts from my temporarily sleep-deprived mind:

-Photos are like really good paintings done by a machine.
-Would it be cheaper to coat a floor with nickels or dollar bills?
-The public transportation in Atlanta might be better if MARTA had a loop route as well as a big plus sign.
-The more I try to think of something to say, the less things to say I think of.
-My computer can beat me at chess, but I can beat it in a physical fight.

That's it, save for one more thing: after reading the title of this post, I feel that 'Thoughts' should be trademarked and made into a line of overpriced headphones.