Category Archives: Games Played

Thoughts on Games I’ve played as a consumer

Lisa’s Favorite Games of 2014

2014 feels like it’s actually been 5 years crammed into one. So much has happened! I was skimming over a list of game releases for this year and kept thinking “wait, wait that only came out THIS YEAR??”

Anyway, once again my usual caveat: these aren’t necessarily games I think were THE best games of the year, just ones that happened to consume me personally in a special way. And on that note, this is games that I played for the first time this year. On we go…

Continue reading Lisa’s Favorite Games of 2014

Lisa’s Favorite Games of 2013

And now the games post as promised. Keep in mind, this isn’t “Games I thought were the best out of all games of 2013,” because I did not play all the games. I thought Antichamber was brilliant, but I only spectated that one. And these aren’t necessarily the artsiest-fartsiest of games, or the games with the best design. Rather, this is more of a list of “Games that consumed me in 2013,” or games that was antsy to get off work and get home so I could play some more. Here they are in order played.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch


This game ended up being exactly what I hoped it would be. It had that whimsical, wondrous JRPG-from-my-childhood feel that I have been missing for so long, and I was startled to realize that a lot of that feeling merely comes from the presence of a world map. It was beautiful, and a world that I wanted to spend time in. I didn’t really get into the monster-collecting aspect of it, and stuck with a core group and strategy for the better part of the game, led by MonGod, the tankiest of tanks. I loved the combat in this game, which was active while still retaining something of that menu-based combat feel that I loved in JRPGs of old. If not for Nick’s fatigue of coaching boss battles, I would have plowed through all the post-end-of-game quests. I will do any quest that is framed as helping someone out, so the frequent-buyer style stamp cards were incredibly compelling for me. I wanted to help ALL THE PEOPLE.




I had seen this game at Indiecade the year prior, and it won me over instantly with its aesthetic and the fact that you can transform from luchador to chicken. This is a fantastic metroid-vania style brawler, and the art and animation is delightful. The theming was spot on and the music did that weird mariachi-electronica mashup that just worked so well for the game. It had some ups and downs in co-op: the brawling was a great 2-player experience, but the exploring and platforming aspects felt better in single player. I loved how many elegant design solutions showed up, especially for combining get-to-new-places abilities with specific combat needs (the different colored shields). Also you can transform into a chicken. The only bummer in this game for me was the tired old damsel-in-distress trope. I kept waiting for them to throw a clever twist on it, but they never did 🙁 Alas, can’t have everything.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf


It had been a long, long time since I bought a console specifically for a single game, but the indirect peer pressure of friends posting about their villages was too much, and before long the 3DS and Animal Crossing were mine all mine. I really liked how they toned down the guilt-tripping in this game compared to previous iterations. This made me much more excited to return to my village after a small absence, rather than being terrified of the berating I would receive at the hands of my villagers. I’ve never been much for decorating house, but I do love to help run errands for my villagers, and I did manage to find all the fossils. The Halloween event was super fun, and I still feel guilty about caving and becoming another exploitive beetle farmer. I think this game consumed me so well because it fit right into my daily routine. After work every day I would take Mr. Davis for a walk for an hour, and it was the perfect time frame for checking in, digging up my fossils, watering my plants, and taking care of day-to-day town maintenance. Surprisingly, even though it was seeing other people post about this game that compelled me to buy it, I never visited a single other person’s village.


Papers, Please


Oh, man. This game, you guys, this game. I feel like I’ve gushed enough about how much I love this game already, so I’ll just do a short recap. I loved how simple the actual mechanic was, and how complex they were able to make it without needing much more input. It made it incredibly accessible while still having the potential for a lot of depth. I loved how many ethical dilemmas I faced playing this game, and how they just showed up without any face-rubbing or drama, but were simple but still stirring. I love how intensely I cared about the wellbeing of my family, who were nothing more than names on a screen (and perhaps that is why they became so important to me, because my imagination filled in all the meat). This was also an incredibly intense, at times stressful co-op experience. I’m actually not sure if I could have handled the later levels alone. If you have yet to play this game, please give it a try. For me.


Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

File:The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds NA cover.jpg

Buying a 3DS for Animal Crossing suddenly made me realize that I got to be excited about the release of this game! A Link to the Past is tied for my all-time favorite Zelda, and I have fond memories of how much of an impression that game had on my life, so I was very excited about the idea that this game would take place in the same world. A Link Between Worlds was like coming home, the perfect balance of nostalgia factor and fresh new content and mechanics. It also made really good use of the 3D feature, with all of its clever puzzles that had to do with verticality in the top-down world. The pacing was delightful, and even when I perceived solutions to puzzles very quickly, the discovery was still intoxicating. I did a lot of the completionist stuff purely because I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the world, and was depressed to have finished it.

Thoughts on Okami

People who know me well know that Okami is my favorite game of all time. Recently, when playing through the HD release, I found myself at a particular moment in the game just before I had to stop playing to go get dinner with Nick. I was turning in a side quest, and was mentally time managing what I was going to do next – “I think before doing the next story quest I’m going to train up at the dojo on my way back to Shinshu Field and get the clover that I couldn’t get before, but I need to go to a shop and get more seed because I missed some birds back there. I wonder if I should farm up demon fangs and get that mirror teleport now or wait until after I do the next dungeon…”

It struck me how excited I was about doing ALL THE THINGS in that game. This is unusual for me, because in most games of this nature I tend to be a primary-path sort of girl. Even in Zelda games, which I enjoy very much, I’m never too concerned about finding all the heart containers or whatever. So I got to thinking, what is it about Okami specifically that makes me so excited about doing all the collections and side quests and essentially 100%ing the game?

Theory 1:

In many games, the story artificially drives my sense of urgency. I’m talking about when the story is like “oh no we must rush to the castle before it is too late!” My logic brain knows that I could go out and farm for experience, complete the secret side quest in the first area, AND finish the entire chocobo minigame series or whatever before going to the castle (and when I got there I’d still arrive just in the nick of time).

However, emotional brain doesn’t quite understand this. Emotional brain feels I need to book it to the castle as fast as I can, because something very serious is at stake. I think my tendency is to let myself get engaged in the experience to the point where emotional brain is sort of guiding things, so I readily go from story point to story point.

In Okami, the story has a lot of exciting moments, but when you get to a new place it tends to frame things as not being in too much of a rush. Your companion, Issun, will be like “you’re gonna love exploring the city, there’s so much to do! I guess we should investigate the weird thing about the queen at some point…but the city is so happenin!”

It is an ever so slight encouragement to do whatever the hell you please, framing the next story point as “yeah, we’ll get around to it.” Possibly this setup sets emotional brain at ease, and makes me much more enthusiastic about feeding all the bunnies along the coastline before actually going into the city.

Theory 2:

It’s possible that the only thing compelling me to do so much of the extra stuff in Okami is that I’m so starved for a game experience that speaks to me. I know in the back of my mind that it’ll probably be over 10 years before someone else makes a game of this scope with this amount of whimsy and personal Lisa Brown appeal, so I become desperate to squeeze every last drop out of the experience before leaving it.

What about you, internet? What games compel you to do all their extra things when comparable games do not?

Indiecade 2012

I was starting to think that I had been cursed to never again attend Indiecade, as 2 years ago I came down with the flu this time of year*, and last year it was Nick who was let's-go-to-the-hospital sick right over Indiecade.  But this year we were both in good health, and ventured down to Culver City to check out all the games.  There was lots of cool stuff, but here are some of my favorites:

Continue reading Indiecade 2012

Starcraft Nerd

If you had told me a year ago that by the summer I would a regular e-sports watcher, I’d have called you crazy. But here I am, Wednesday-Sunday evenings, planted in front of the laptop watching Starcraft 2, and all giddy about the North American Star League finals in a few weeks. Let this be a lesson, a lot can change in a year!

Anyway, you may ask, "Lisa, there are so many great pro Starcraft gamers, how do you ever decide who to cheer for?" Good question, reader! It can be complicated, especially when you’re new to watching e-sports and don’t know all the players. Fortunately, I made this handy guide for how I decide who to cheer for in a Starcraft 2 match…
Diagram Below

A Conversation

So I was playing the StarJeweled beta last night (it’s a mash-up of Bejeweled and Starcraft II, where you play bejeweled to get energy to create units, which auto-attack the other team’s base). On one match, my partner was just doing insanely good, and had like 3 times the energy as anyone else. But I was baffled because he kept chatting, suggesting strategies and cheering when we broke through and stuff.

“You’re really good at this!” I said, amazed at how he could be typing and clicking on the bejeweled board and getting such a high score all at once.

“It’s my girlfriend,” he said, “she plays and I can type, lol.”

“Well, she’s really good at this!” I replied

“Girls tend to be good at this game, lol”

I hesitated, as I always do when about to reveal my gender to strangers in an online game, but went ahead.

“I’m a girl, but I’m only so-so at bejeweled.”

“…u a girl?”


“Not many girls play Starcraft II”

“Yeah, I always hope to see some girls in the big tournaments someday”


By then the match had ended and we went our separate ways. Anyway, it just made me thoughtful.

Meanwhile, I like Starjeweled a lot, and I noticed that there’s not a lot of chatter if you’re not doing so well and your partner is, as can happen in some other games. Part of this is because you would sacrifice so much energy to stop playing and type a message that it’s often not worth the effort to say “why are you sucking!” But I think part of it is that there’s just something weird about berating someone for not being good enough at bejeweled.

Anyway, StarJeweled – it’s fun!

15 Games

Can’t resist a meme, sometimes.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. 15 games you’ve played that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what games my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the note — upper right hand side.)

1. Super Mario Bros. 2
2. Doom II
3. Sonic the Hedgehog
4. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
5. Gemfire
6. Shining Force
7. Okami
8. World of Warcraft
9. Spyro the Dragon
10. Final Fantasy 7
11. Silent Hill
12. Warioware (the gamecube one)
13. MarioKart: Double Dash
14. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
15. Halo

You’ll notice I didn’t tag anyone. That’s how I roll.

Todayborday is Labor Day

This weekend was fun-busy and restful all at the same time, as any good Labor Day weekend should be. There was lots of Starcraft II, some WoWing, some Magic, some Critter Crunch, and some Halo: ODST Firefight mode. I sadly missed Rich when he was in town (sadface) but I did snag a lunch with Bryan Cash on his brief stopover (happyface).

The Starcraft phenomenon is baffling to me. Could it be that I wasn’t ever as bad at RTS games as I’d thought? Or was it the privileged one-on-one (or one-over-one’s-shoulder) coaching I received in the beta? Somehow or another, I’m enjoying this game, and hold my own well enough that Nick and I moved up to Gold League in 2v2 (I remain convinced that this is 90% Nick, but I do feel I am improving!)

I am still skulking around in the practice leagues as far as 1v1, though. Every time I muster up some courage to do my placement matches, it fleets away before I can go through with it. Right now I rely on Nick during 2v2s to help me identify stuff when scouting if the other guys are playing Protoss or Terran. At work at if I’m lunchcrafting and doing my practice matches, I do the same thing with Nick and Ben, yelling “you guys what is this that they are building what does it meeean??”

In theory, I should play some Protoss and Terran myself so I can at least have an idea of what the strategies and structures are. But, I don’t wanna. <3 zerg. Ah well, I'll figure it out eventually!

Mario Galaxy 2 and Scott Pilgrim

Upon entering Nick’s apartment last night, we discovered that Nathan was playing Mario Galaxy 2, and the two of us immediately had an epic battle to see who would get the privileged position of Bit Collector. With a sigh of resignation, Nathan dug out a second Wiimote, and Nick and I settled to take turns collecting Bits.

Like its predecessor, the game is an absolute delight, but it took me awhile to realize that the role of Bit Collector had been expanded somewhat. I could now pick up coins and 1up mushrooms in addition to grabbing bits, and if I chose, knock down and kill enemies in addition to just holding them in place for Nathan to stomp. These were nice additions, but still didn’t put too much pressure on the Bit collector, which I liked.

Will and I had this conversation about the last game, about how it was very clever for Nintendo to acknowledge that gamers have friends who are not necessarily as good of gamers as them, but would still like to be involved, and accommodate that role. And not just that role, but the role of the Watcher, which is one that I often adopt, even though I do enjoy playing games.

Watching other people play games takes me back to my childhood, and the times when I would sit and watch my brother play games. This is a comforting experience, though confusing to some when I deny their offer to play as well, and insist that I would just like to watch. Bit collecting is just enough sideline opt-in engagement to involve me a little more in the game without overwhelming the brother-watching comfort feeling.

Third on my list of “Lisa’s indie games that she’ll make someday” will be a hard core shooter that has a casual opt-in support role for the players’ less skilled or watch-savvy friends. I’m not sure what that would be, but I have fun brainstorming about it.

ANYway, after collecting the Bits, we gave the Scott Pilgrim game a go. It is a good time, as one might expect, even though I am terrible at 2D beat-em-up games (I have a really hard time figuring out if I’m on the same horizontal layer as the enemy I’m trying to attack).

Cats, Vets, and Starcraft

I am so proud of my cat! He did really well at the vet, wasn’t scared at all (though he was grumpy about being restrained to get his heartrate, and was absolutely affronted by having his temperature taken). He’s also in great health, so I feel reassured as a cat mom.

He had a little tartar buildup on his teeth, but the vet said we could safely wait until next year for a teeth cleaning, so I have a new goal. See, the vet offers a service where they can clean the teeth without putting the cat under, which would be ideal. But, Mr. Davis isn’t keen on having his mouth handled right now, so he wouldn’t be a candidate for that.

My goal for the next year is to train him to accept handling of his mouth, so that he wouldn’t have to get put under for the cleaning. Can it be done?? Only time, clicks, and a lot of treats will tell.

In other news, I’ve been playing Starcraft II 2v2 and occasionally 3v3 versus the computer with Nick and Nathan, and having a fantastic time. We’ve worked out a way to play that is great fun for me, but I don’t think it’d work very well against human opponents.

I’m not very good about dividing my attention between base management and then microing my units out on the field of battle, so I just give Nick control of the units and churn out dudes and send them his way, whiles’t he lays waste to the opponent with the ever increasing army. I’m like Hydralisk Depot over here, which is fine, because base management is fun for me. When Nathan plays with us, he does his signature move of “build a ton of expansions.”

We rocked the computer’s face for the most part, but after a faulty mouse incident, it was clear that Nathan and I are as defenseless as newborn puppies without Nick leading the forces. Oh well, it’s still a fun time!