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Gaming of a Different Sort

All has been fairly quiet on the Oddball front lately, all thanks to a certain event that occurred on November 14th, 2011: the birth of my son, whom I think I shall refer to as “Oddball Jr.” or “Mr. C” until such time as I think of a better alias for him. Since Mr. C’s heralded and long-awaited arrival — one week ahead of schedule! — the missus and I have been thrown headfirst into a whirlwind of new joys, new challenges and lots of new educational experiences. My outlook on life has already been altered profoundly in ways that I couldn’t have imagined before.

And yet, at my core I’m still the same odd dude. Since this isn’t really a family blog — most of the family news gets shared on social networks now, either by Mrs. Oddball or myself — I imagine that I’ll mostly keep posting the same kinds of things here: musings on life, technology and auto news, and plenty of gaming reviews. Because if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s my taste for gaming of all kinds, and I’m still finding ways to inject a little “game time” into my day. The difference is that now I sometimes have a passenger along for the ride during my game sessions.

Like most newborns, Mr. C likes to be held and is typically calmer when being cradled. Already I’ve spent a few collective hours gaming and typing one-handed since we welcomed him into our home! During his first weekend in the world, Mr. C got to experience the wonders of our game room upstairs, whereupon he slept happily in my arms for two hours while I worked on my game of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. (Don’t worry; I was wearing headphones and he most certainly was not looking at the TV, not that he could have seen Adam Jensen’s violent antics with his week-old eyes.)

Unfortunately, since that day, Mr. C decided that going upstairs to the game room was kind of scary and began balking at this activity. I’ve thus found it easier to sit with him at my computer in the study downstairs. Sometimes he’ll sleep in my arms while I’m there, and other times he’ll allow me to put him on his special “sleep positioner” pillow atop my desk so I can easily keep an eye on him while he hangs out with me. I’ve since discovered that playing first-person PC games is fairly tricky when you have only one hand available, although — just like writing stories one-handed when my arm was in a sling back in high school — I’ve managed to find a way.

It would be a lot less complicated, no doubt, to resort to more rudimentary games, like Uno or poker. (Everything I know about poker I learned from playing against varmints in Red Dead Redemption, but that’s another entry entirely.) Of course that would require other people, which is often a tall order at 1:00 in the morning when Mr. C decides he wants to be as alert as a cram school student on speed.

During some of my late-night (and early-morning, which is a new one) PC game sessions, I discovered some new games to play. I largely gave up PC gaming in 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360 — and believe me, I haven’t missed the driver issues, the crashing, the overheating, the patches and the other rigmarole — but there is a certain charm to PC gaming that really comes out when you find a PC-only gem like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its predecessor, the three-part Penumbra series. These first-person survival horror games are more about creating mega-gobs of suspense and tension in creepy environments than they are about shooting and bludgeoning things to death; in fact, the central gameplay mechanic of Amnesia requires that you run and hide from your assailants, accepting the fact that you cannot hope to fight them. The “unstoppable monster” trope coined by Michael Myers is fairly unfamiliar in the videogame realm, and it adds a whole measure of terror to the experience.

I’ve already begun planning an Oddball Review Survival Horror Series that will examine some of my favorite games of this genre, including at least one that predates it (and is, in most circles, usually referred to as an RPG). The creepy goodness I’ve been lapping up as I begin exploring the first episode of Penumbra simply cannot go without mention.

Tonight I’ll find out what kind of mood Mr. C is in, and perhaps we’ll do a little gaming together — though it has to be said, he has been very cranky of late and has decided that he can be satisfied only by the opportunity to suck on something! I’m already looking forward to the Christmas holidays, because for the first time in six years I’ll actually have a holiday (from the office, that is), consisting of nearly two weeks of pure stay-at-home playtime. I can’t wait.

Look for the first entry in the Oddball Review Survival Horror Series (which, by the time it launches, will hopefully have a more succinct name) sometime in the near future. In the meantime I’ll be creeping around Greenland, trying to hide from the zombie dogs in Penumbra. As weird as it sounds, that’s my idea of a good time.