Nerdy Holiday Traditions for the Chronically Grinch-ified

I honestly cannot remember a time in my adult life where I got caught up in the spirit of the winter holidays. For me, holidays always end up being more a time of stress than of joy, usually involving some sort of enforced in-person social interaction with people I do my best to avoid the rest of the year round. There are Expectations to be met, and honestly, there’s just not enough about it that I like to make me look forward despite all the things I don’t.

As a result, most of the media surrounding the festive season is lost on me. Still, over the past several years, I’ve managed to find that a handful of things – at least for me – have either stood the test of time, or have allowed me to stop and take a deep breath during my personal Season of Anxiety.


I used to try to get myself in the holiday mood by watching old Christmas specials – miss me with the Hallmark Christmas romances, but stuff from the years before I knew just how much damn work the holidays were. This year, I sat down on Discord with a handful of my friends and we watched both The Year Without A Santa Claus and The Muppet Christmas Carol. Now, I will not be taking any arguments for any other version of the Dickens’ classic – this one is the superlative version. However, you might be wondering why I choose this particular Rankin & Bass Christmas special over the more well-known (and well-loved) options, and let me assure it, it is 99% for the musical number about the halfway point, featuring the Miser Brothers.

They’re too much – too much!

While I usually watch these on my own, as they put me in touch with simpler times, watching with friends really put a new spin on this one for me this year, and might be something I make an effort to do going forward.


Although my childhood took place firmly in the television age, there’s always been something about radio dramas I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater, which put out a handful of episodes starting in the early 80s. I owned The Case of the Murdered Miser on a cassette tape many years ago, and I was thrilled last year to rediscover it available for purchase digitally on Amazon. It’s a courtroom drama concerning the murder of Ebenezer Scrooge, who in this adaptation, did not quite survive to have a rendezvous with the three spirits of Christmas.


I realize that an annual playthrough of the Santa’s Rampage level of Viscera Cleanup Detail is not a holly jolly holiday tradition, but I’m going to be honest with you – I completely get how Santa might just have gone off the deep end. I mean, sure he might only be on the clock one night out of the whole year, but I still wouldn’t want his job.

I have, of course, played other levels of Viscera Cleanup Detail, a game that is both incredibly frustrating and completely Zen. But almost every year, sometime in December, I’ll fire the game up and clean-up after Santa Claus, calmly and without judgement.

Being the personification of Christmas is an even more thankless job than being crime scene cleanup.

Origin of a Gamer – Getting to Know You Week

Much thanks to for giving me the inspiration for this post!

I am now Of A Certain Age, and if I’m being really honest, I don’t entirely remember the order of things from my childhood. I remember my uncle, who lived with my grandparents at the time, having an ColecoVision, which according to Google could have been as early as 1982. I remember many, many hours spent playing games on an Atari 2600, which was originally release a few months before I was born, and was, in fact, the majority of the console gaming that I did prior to being an adult. I definitely cut my gamer-baby-teeth on Space Invaders, Megamania, Pitfall, and yes, even E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. But I don’t think any of those were what really got me into gaming.

I didn’t really fall in love with video games until I spent some serious time with computer games. I vaguely remember having some sort of computer at home, with a few text-only video games accessed via cassette tape, but I don’t really have any strong memories of what exactly I played like that, or where that machine ever ended up. No, the first video games I remember getting really invested in, I wasn’t even playing.

From the time I started school until we moved after I finished fourth grade, I spent most of my afternoons with my grandparents and my uncle on my mother’s side. If I do the math (and boy, do I hate doing the math), in 1986, I would have been nine. My uncle, who I realize now must have had the patience of a saint, would have been around 25. I don’t know that Might & Magic was the very first game I watched him play for hours on end, but it’s the first one I remember that I can put a name to.

I can only imagine I asked a bajillion stupid questions, as children tend to do, and he was always great about talking me through whatever I didn’t understand. I remember using the code-wheel and game manuals to help him get through the onerous copy-protection. And I remember being absolutely entranced in this oh-so-pretty fantasy world he kept in a small box on his desk.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens that we had a computer at home that I had regular access to, and I didn’t have a machine of my own until I was in college, but playing games on PC always seemed like the “right” way to play. This is probably why I am, to this day, crazy clumsy with a controller, and really awful at platformers. I would occasionally play console games when I was at a friend’s house, but the games I really enjoy were all better suited to mouse and keyboard. In fact, some of those games I really fell in love with in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I still go back and play to this day. The very first game I ever purchased on Steam was a copy of a game I played to death when it came out in 2003.

Sometimes, I feel like this is a thing I probably should have grown out of by now, but mostly, I have a deep appreciation of the evolution of gaming just from having seen it grow as I have also grown. I cannot even imagine how different my life would have been if I hadn’t had my uncle to introduce me to this absolutely fascinating world.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: You all don’t need me for this one, do you?

Spacebase Startopia – Cashing in on Nostalgia or Honest Homage?

Every now and then, I check up on games that sparked my interest but that I hadn’t thought of for a bit to see how things are progressing. When I first heard of Spacebase Startopia back in August of last year, it inspired me to revisit the original, but I really didn’t do a whole lot of research. I guess I just assumed that it was being remade by someone like Nightdive Studios that likes to update classic games for modern audiences.

My first clue that maybe my intuition was way the hell off was checking Spacebase Startopia’s Steam page today and seeing this:

Now, I get that I am cheap, but that’s quite a price hike for a rework of a game that wasn’t particularly commercially successful 20 years ago. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

That’s when I fell into the rabbit hole.

Apparently, Spacebase Startopia is only “inspired by” the 2001 space station simulator of a remarkably similar name, but they’re definitely pushing it hard in the marketing materials. Sure, the AI that guides you is still called VAL, but that’s an acronym anyway, and the voice in the new game is female, so obviously that’s totally different. The aliens who visit you have slightly altered models, and a little bit different names, but even a recent RPS preview article seems to imply that if you’re a fan of the original, this feels in some ways like you grabbed the store brand by mistake.

I’ll be honest – for me the whole thing feels kind of icky. Moreso when I realized the publisher is Kalypso Media. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked plenty of games that they’ve published, but the last one I bought at anything approaching full price was Tropico 3 back in 2009, and I was already starting to find their DLC models tedious back then.

Obviously, the game isn’t done yet – although you can pre-order for immediate beta access, the official release date is still a few months off. However, even without the … shall we call them questionable … marketing decisions, there’s nothing there that would inspire me to drop $50 on a 10-mission campaign.

However, for die hard fans of the cult classic original, there is a slim hope yet. Recently, the trademark for plain old Startopia was transferred over to My Little Planet, LTD, which is owned by one of the original developers of Startopia. There’s a shiny new Startopia website, with resources for the original game as well as some silly merch you can pick up if you’re so inclined. There’s also a recently started Twitter (although as of the time I’m writing this, there have been no Tweets).

Sure, my detective skills are mediocre at best, but I wouldn’t rule out something else happening with the IP – maybe something that might capitalize on the failure of an overpriced game trying to pretend it’s something it’s not, where the graphics are pretty, but the concepts are blatantly ripped off? Either way, my little investigation has led me to the conclusion that Spacebase Startopia doesn’t even belong on my “maybe when it hits 75% off” list.

My Five Favorite Game Series

There’s a thing going around Twitter right now asking people to list their five favorite game series, and I thought that was a fantastic prompt for a blog!

The Elder Scrolls

All the way back to Daggerfall, this series has been such a huge part of my gaming history. There hasn’t been a single main series entry I haven’t enjoyed, and I’ve put some time into most of the ancillary titles as well. And when ESVI comes out? I’ll be buying that day one as well.

Sid Meier’s Civilization

Although I don’t go all the way back to the beginning on this one, each iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization has been fantastic. Although each new version brings some quality of life improvements, the older ones still are fun to play. “One more turn” has become a meme for a reason.

RollerCoaster Tycoon

The most recent RollerCoaster Tycoon wasn’t a hit with fans, but you know what? It’s still not a bad game. Mistakes were absolutely made, but the base game play loop still works. I’ve played them all, and I do think the series peaked with the second installment, but there isn’t a game in this series that isn’t worth the time you spend playing it.

Dead Rising

Not being a console player, I came to this series very very late, but damn, it’s solid. It’s absolute gaming junk food, B-movie action you control. It’s one of the few action games where I will take a melee weapon over a gun any chance I get, because cutting a swath through hordes of zombies feels so very very good.


This one, I’ve been playing since the first game, and they’ve all been great in their own way. Hell, I even played Pirate Cove to death back in the day. Long after city-builders fell from favor, Tropico kept going strong.

Glancing over other people’s answers to this question, I was struck by how many classic series I have never even touched. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game (outside of a brief dalliance with XIV recently). I’ve never played Animal Crossing. I haven’t played any of the Zelda games, Uncharted, Mass Effect, or Resident Evil. I don’t think Pokemon Go really counts for Pokemon, and I’ve barely touched other famous franchises like Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed and Hitman.

I wonder how much our gaming identities are formed based on the games we played as teenagers or young adults, and how the difficulty of catching up on long-running game series affects our tastes. If I’m going to jump into a series, I absolutely prefer to start at the beginning, but when the early games haven’t aged well, it sometimes makes the whole thing feel out of reach.

If you could choose one game series for me to play one game from, what would you choose for me? Please note, if it’s not available for PC, I won’t be able to play it, but I feel like this could be the start of a new project (because I need a new project, right?)

What I’m Playing Wednesday – Startopia

The cinematic trailer for Spacebase Startopia dropped this week (you can watch it below), and instead of getting me all excited for this reimagining, it just made me want to replay the classic.

I have, for as long as I can remember, loved all manner of city builders, colony builders, space station builders. Heck, if you can give me the right toolkit, I’ll happily just build stuff for hours. Give me a resource or two to manage, and I could easily lose a whole evening. I spent a lot of time with Startopia when it was new, but unlike some other games of its generation, I don’t revisit it regularly – honestly, I just like knowing that I can.

This is one of those games I own on both Steam and GoG. I started with the Steam version, futzed around with it, trying to make windowed mode work. Then I tried the GoG version, the unofficial 1.02 patch, and got into a super-extra-bonus-fun crash loop for a little bit. Then I decided I didn’t really need windowed mode and got on with it. I think the fact that I still wanted to play after all that boded well.

Let’s be real – I expect a game that’s old enough to vote to feel a little weird. The controls are actually a little too simple – everything you can do has multiple buttons assigned to it. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can actually do all the things you want to – there doesn’t appear to be any way to rotate furniture, which I found exceptionally offensive to my sense of symmetry.

I did skip the tutorial missions, diving right into the start of the campaign, and it was as wonderful as I remembered. The sound & the voice acting were particularly enjoyable, and obviously, the graphics were showing their age, but not as badly as I might have expected.

I had a good time rolling through the first couple of missions – I feel like I remember it getting harder later on, but I didn’t struggle at all, and was frequently energy-capped during the second. Honestly, the biggest struggle was waiting for the grey aliens – who are the only ones who can work in a sick bay – with any modicum of skill to show up.

Since I’m still playing my way through Little Dragon’s Cafe, and still trying to remember to log into ESO everyday (hey, I might even go back to leveling characters eventually), I don’t know how much more of Startopia I will play, but it’s been a delightful romp down memory lane. I love revisiting games I played obsessively in my younger days, when I had to put a lot more thought into my gaming purchases – and let’s be honest – there were a lot less choices out there.

Developer Appreciation Week – Tiny Speck (Glitch)

I have been blatantly ignoring all the #Blaugust2019 content suggestions thusfar, but I am so here for developer appreciation week.

Developer Appreciation Week ā€“ August 18th ā€“ August 24th: This one is specifically targeted at the gamers among us, but could be re-purposed to talk about any industry. The idea is to give appreciation for some of the folks who have created the things that you love. In the past we specifically talked about publishers and game studios that create the games that we are enthralled by, but it could be authors or artists or anyone who creates something that you love. It is a good time to give some thanks.

Belghast – Tales of the Aggronaut

I probably could have done a full month of entries appreciating all the great quirky developers who have come and gone, but I really feel like I need to start with a game, and a developer, that is no more.

Although the folks at Tiny Speck have gone on to do pretty great things (like creating Slack), I firmly believe that Glitch was probably the very best thing they ever did.

Glitch was a browser-based MMO with a focus on cooperation that ran (mostly in alpha and beta) from 2009 – 2012. Sadly, I didn’t discover it until April of 2011, but for a year and a half, Glitch was absolutely and completely a home for me.

Just a few months later, I was invited to be a player-representative, known as a Greeter, for Glitch, and I jumped at the chance. Rather than a traditional tutorial, Glitch had an experienced player pop into an instanced starter world to show new players the basics.

I spent countless hours happily gathering, growing crops, and petting pigs (which I may or may not have frequently named with porcine puns on rap names, like Piggy Smalls and Ham Master J). I worked on so many projects with huge groups of other folks, trading resources, and working towards common goals. I studied skills, and worked towards achievements, and made so many friends.

My Glitch Profile still exists after all this time.

Sadly, Glitch closed in December of 2012. Normally, that would be the end of the story – online games have a habit of just vanishing. But what Tiny Speck did after the closure of Glitch is what really impressed me.

Glitch is Dead, Long Live Glitch
Art & Code from the Game Released into the Public Domain

Instead of just tossing all the work they put into the game, they released a huge portion of it into the public domain. It encouraged fan projects like Children of Ur, Eleven, and Odd Giants. Although none are playable at the moment, I choose to believe that Ur, the world of Glitch, is not gone, but just sleeping, and I am hopeful that the generosity of Tiny Speck will allow me to someday visit the fantastic world they created again.

Games I Wish I Could Play Again

A Appreciation Post & Wishlist

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to take a moment to gush about how amazing is for us nostalgic gamers of a certain age. Games I never thought I’d play again, like Shivers, Phantasmagoria, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom are all available on, are DRM free, and most importantly, they just WORK.

My GoG library doesn’t even come close to my Steam library, but I love what they do, and I always check there first when older games make their digital debut.

While I certainly have no shortage of things to play, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about games I played in my teens and twenties that I wish I could spend an evening or two with again.

I’ll start with the ones that you’ve probably heard of – all of these games were either very popular in their day, or have a cult following or both.

Black & White was overly ambitious, and clunky, and is still the best god game I’ve ever played. I certainly never even came close to finishing it, but I spent way too many hours teaching my tiger how to be NICE to people, and not do awful things when I have my back turned – like eating the peasants.

The original Zoo Tycoon was everything a dedicated micro-manager could want in a game. Unlike many people, I didn’t release the lions on my unsuspecting zoo guests – I was too busy trying to figure out exactly how many trees I needed to put into each critter’s habitat to make them blissfully happy. I even took notes. Lots of notes.

The Sims – the original game – was like nothing we’d ever seen before. I mean, sure, it also was one of the first games to suffer from the now all-too-common expac bloat, but at least it pre-dated stuff packs, and I would love to buy it and load it up one more time.

Silent Hill 2 was creepy and terrifying and I just kept playing it because the story wouldn’t let me stop. Now, to be clear, I’d love to play the whole series on PC (despite never having played any of the others to completion), but if I had to pick, it’d be SH2 every time.

American McGee’s Alice maybe should be in the “games you’ve heard of” category instead of the “games you never knew about” one, but I’m continually surprised how many people don’t know that there was a game before Madness Returns, which last I checked, was also pretty hard to get nowadays. I’d love to play both of these back to back – by the time I picked up the sequel, my discs for the original were nowhere to be found.

I never got into Myst, and similar games, but the maddeningly difficult puzzles in Jewels of the Oracle were right up my alley. Sure, some weren’t that hard, but the ones that were? There was no better feeling than finally figuring it out, and collecting that shiny gem for your trouble. While I would be thrilled just to get the original game working on a modern system, I also wouldn’t complain about a graphical remaster, provided they left the puzzles alone.

Virtual Resort: Spring Break – otherwise known as Beach Life – was a fantastic little tycoon game with a rather twisted sense of humor. Changing the type of beer you served led to completely different effects in your patrons, and more than once, success hinged on not letting too many tourists get eaten by sharks.

Finally, I’d love to be able to play Survival: The Ultimate Challenge again. I suspect that it wasn’t a terribly good game, but I really liked the idea of helping a group of … well, idiots for the most part … survive after a shipwreck. This game pops up in my memory every now and then, but I was recently reminded of it while playing Seeds of Resilience, and I’d love to get the chance to see how closely the two really play.

Sometimes, I just browse through’s Community Wishlist to see what games others are remember fondly, and I’d love to hear about the games you’d love to see make their digital debut.