New(-to-me) Games Week!

It’s only about a week before I go back to school, but I still have a massive Steam library of games that I haven’t played yet (though that’s been true of my Steam library the entire time I’ve had a Steam account!).

That’s why, every day this week, I’ll be playing a game I haven’t played before every single day! I’ll be trying to include genres that I don’t usually play either because I want to branch out a bit. And just to make sure I give each game a fair shot, I’ll be playing each game for a minimum of 2 hours.

I’ll be streaming at 11am Pacific each weekday this week. You can watch at or at my gaming blog

Here’s the (tentative) schedule for the week:


Avadon: The Black Fortress

Perhaps best described as an old-school RPG, this is a game I’m hoping will surprise me. I’m not a huge RPG fan, especially the old-school kind. They’re awfully slow, and I tend to want to overthink when playing an RPG with all those stats and equipment slots. This is mainly why I’ve got the two hour minimum.


Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

Here’s another RPG, but with a little more modern twist. It aims to be old-school, but it’s got a funny slant, instead of being all “steeped in mythology.” So I think I’ll enjoy this one a little more.


Jurassic Park (Telltale Games)

I first sat down and watched Jurassic Park (the movie) all the way through a few months ago while it was in its theatrical 3D re-release. It sold me. Great movie (short on plot, but big on fun). I’ve heard some… not-so-nice things about Telltale Games’ adventure game based on the franchise. I haven’t played it, so I guess I’ll find out if it’s as boring as people say it is.


Alan Wake (subject to my computer’s awfulness)

Alan Wake looks like it’s pretty awesome. Moody and atmospheric, I’m just hoping my computer will be up to the task of playing it and streaming it at the same time (spoiler alert: the graphics setting will be on “really really low”).


Retro City Rampage

Friday is a time to just shoot things up. And that’s what I’m going to do. Mayhem! 80s references that will go above my head because I was born in ’89! Stopping the evil good guys! I hoping this one will be a blast!


Each day after I’m done playing, I’ll try to pull out a few highlights and write up some thoughts about the game.

Here’s to making that Steam library more worth the money!

An Introduction to PHP

One of my jobs is tutoring for COMM 310 at BYU-Idaho. The course is called “Creating Online Media,” and in it we learn HTML, CSS, and a little PHP. PHP is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the class. I had a couple tutoring appointments earlier today on the subject, and in preparation for those appointments I made this presentation. I’m posting it here for two reasons: to possibly help other people, and to get feedback. Let me know if it helps you, or if you would make any changes!

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It’s the Little Things

A couple of weeks ago I got to do a full day of video shooting for my internship. I wasn’t so happy about it the next day though. We spent all morning outside. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, there was barely a cloud in the sky, and the wind mostly stayed away so it didn’t mess with our audio too badly. Best of all, it wasn’t incredibly hot. It felt just right outside.

Maybe that’s why I forgot sunscreen. It’s not one of those things you immediately think of, but it sure is a great idea. I go pretty much straight from “super white” to “lobster.” I don’t really tan. By the end of the morning my arms were incredibly red. So was the rest of me, but my arms were the worst. A couple of days later I was about to drive to the office to start editing the videos when it happened. My left arm itched. It was about the worst itching I’d ever experienced. Of course, I didn’t want to scratch too hard or I’d just tear my skin up and make things worse.

So I drove to the grocery store, got some aloe lotion and some diphenahydramine (you may know it as Benadryl), and proceeded to have a miserable day. My arms were sticky from the lotion and I was fighting to stay awake from the medicine (you may also know diphenahydramine as Unisom, a sleep aid). Of course, none of this would have happened if I had worn sunscreen that morning.

Sometimes it’s the little things you bring on shoots that make all the difference.

It Was Arrested Development… Again

It’s hard to describe Arrested Development’s 4th season. It’s even harder to describe it without an abundance of spoilers. Here’s my best effort:

Arrested Development has become a different show in the seven (7!) years it’s been off the air. Some of this is from the story, and some of this is from the harsh realities of Arrested Development having launched several cast members’ careers, making scheduling for this fourth season a nightmare.Without wading too far into spoiler territory, after the events of the original series finale, the Bluth family has fallen apart. While their paths cross often, everybody’s off living their own lives. This forces a completely different storytelling structure. Gone are the manic, laugh-a-minute interactions between the Bluths. In its place, we have a vastly different way of telling the story of this family, and it’s a little off-putting at first. Each episode largely follows one character, with little deviation from their path through the episode. We start with Michael, and return to him several times in the course of the series.

This relative isolation reduces the frequency of laughs significantly, but in its place we get something that was largely absent from the original series: character growth. Yes, the Bluths are largely still lying, scheming people who will do anything to get their own way by the end of Season 4. But they’re learning things about themselves, and their mistakes catch up to them. They each have to learn to fend for themselves and, in doing so, they (and we) learn about themselves in a much deeper way than has ever been on display before.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still laughs in there, but you won’t be laughing out loud as often as you did during seasons 1-3. Ultimately, this new season feels less like a comedy than it does a tragedy. Their lives have turned to shambles in the last seven years, and we see that play out on-screen. This makes season four far more quiet and introspective: the characters are starting to reflect on their mistakes and are actually seeing the consequences of their decisions. Another factor that contributes to this slower feeling is the new running time. Unshackled from the restraints of network television, the show has more room to work with in its running times. Each of the 15 episodes varies in length, ranging from 28 minutes (about 6 minutes longer than the old series’ episodes) to 37 minutes long (about 5 minutes shy of an hour-long network TV show with the commercials removed).

I think there will be a number of fans disappointed with season four, but I think it serves as the perfect example of how to take advantage of the new format opportunities that services like Netflix provide. Season four was created for Netflix, not just in a money sense, but in a format sense too. This season begs to be watched more than once. Throughout the course of the episodes, we see several scenes repeated with almost every character’s perspective, gaining additional insights into what really happened. It’s only after watching the entire season that you know what really happened during those repeated scenes. This is the kind of stuff that just wouldn’t work on normal broadcast/cable television, but it can work perfectly on Netflix. And if we get nothing more out of season four than seeing a new format work, I’d be happy.

The bottom line: watch season four of Arrested Development. It may not be what you were hoping for, and it certainly won’t be what you were expecting, but it’s what the show needed.


Want to comment? Leave spoiler-free comments on my Facebook post (click that to go there), and leave spoiler-filled comments below!


48 Hour Video? Piece of Cake!

For one of my classes we had a little video project. Except it was a pretty big video project: we had to create a 60-second commercial in 48 hours.

Technically we had a little more than 48 hours to work on it. We could come up with ideas ahead of time, but my group didn’t get together to meet until about half an hour before we had to present our idea to the instructor for approval. That’s when things got good. I don’t know exactly how we came upon the idea, but we managed to think of an idea for a Pepto Bismol ad. We all were leaning in a comedic slant the entire time trying to come up with ideas, so this one ended up being pretty good.

The premise of the ad is that an actor is auditioning for a bunch of parts in one day. As the day goes on, the food items he’s auditioning for get more disgusting: it starts with some greasy tacos with “atomic sauce,” and progresses up to the most greasy pizza imaginable (achieved by slathering some vegetable oil on a slice of pepperoni pizza). By the end of the day he just collapses on his couch. At least until you hear his stomach make some pretty upset noises and he practically flies off the couch to get to his bathroom as fast as possible. Cue Pepto Bismol logo and a slogan.

We had the basic idea down in about 10 minutes, presented it to our instructor, and then spend another hour or so in pre-production. We needed to come up with shot ideas, an actor, and some lines. We got those down.

That’s when my knowledge of what happened gets iffy. Simply put: I had work and wasn’t able to help with any of the shooting. Yikes. I know, but I had already expended all of my favors getting others to cover my shift so I could go to my grandfather’s funeral over the weekend. Sometimes that’s just how it goes I guess.

We met up as a group to talk about how we wanted the edited piece to turn out, and to review the footage we got. One shot was blurry, so that had to be re-shot later.

To be honest, the editing didn’t really take that long. There weren’t a lot of shots total, and we already had a clear idea of what we wanted the finished project to look like. The only hard part was getting the timing of the bites right.

Anyway, we got that finished up and presented it to the teacher. He suggested a few minor edits and we ended up with this as our final product:

Of course, he had to throw us a curveball: we now had to edit the video down into a thirty second version.

We met briefly as a group to discuss what parts to trim up or cut out, and I got back to editing it. We cut the intro down quite a bit, reduced the amount of time it took for each bite, and then compressed the audio montage at the end a bit. Voila! Thirty second version! Again, the editing didn’t take too long because of our planning and exceptional teamwork. We ended up with this:

We actually like this 30 second version better than the original 60 second version we made! I think the project ended up being rather successful, and we got a good grade on it!

Special thanks to the awesome partners for this project. I’ll update this post as soon as I track down social media links for them or whatever.

Lyric Video!

For one of my classes, we’ve been learning After Effects, and our final project was to do a motion typography video.

Here’s mine: 30 seconds of Madeon’s “The City!” (Be sure to watch in HD!)

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Madness of March

I wouldn’t normally consider myself a sports watcher. Sure, I’ll watch sports if they’re on. It beats watching reruns of NCIS or Law and Order (that I’ve seen 50 times before), but I usually don’t specifically turn to a sports channel just to watch. Except during March.

I can’t explain it, but I just love March Madness. Perhaps part of it’s because basketball is so fast paced and the action doesn’t let up as often as some other sports. Maybe it’s because there’s the inherent challenge of the brackets. All I know is that when it comes to the NCAA tournament, I use as many screens as possible. Case in point: I’m typing this at work. I work in the Communication department lab, so I’m typing this on one iMac, with the Saint Mary’s v Middle Tennessee game open on the iMac next to me (in full screen, of course). Am I working? Yes. But people aren’t needing too much help today, so it gives me some quality time to keep the game on in the background.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m totally going to fail all my classes over the next couple weeks.

Edit: After Thursday you can view my bracket at Yahoo!’s “Tourney Pick Em'”. Or you can view a PDF right here, right now.

Busyness and Breaks

Well, that was quite a week.

To give you an idea of just how busy my last week was, I’ll point out Tuesday. On Tuesday, I was on campus, either in class or working, from 8am-11pm, except for about an hour and a half in the early evening. Wednesday wasn’t much better than that.

It seems like this is the point in the semester that things just get ridiculously, insanely busy. I probably should have written about it on here, but I managed to get myself two jobs this semester on campus: as a lab assistant in the communication department computer lab in the Spori building, and another as a tutor for COMM 310, Creating Online Media. This was one of those weeks where having two jobs was very hectic. For student employees, there is a limit of 20 hours per week. I’m hitting 19.5 hours this week, probably closer to 20 when you add in a few minutes here and there of overage (tutoring appointments rarely last exactly one hour).

Of course, this was all combined with some stress arising from a death in the family. On Tuesday, of all days.

Basically, I’m ready for a break. Maybe I’ll try to get 12 hours of sleep tonight. But, to be honest with myself, I’ll probably end up being up until 2am watching movies with my roommates, because that’s what we do as an apartment (they’re seriously some great roommates).

Games I Love: Psychonauts

A quiet day at the lake at Whispering Rocks summer camp. For psychics.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m one of those people. The ones that gush praise on Psychonauts saying things like “it’s so underrated,” and “it should have sold so many more copies than it did.” I agree with that second one wholeheartedly. I have played through this game several times in the past, but my interest was rekindled when they released a Mac port. And they added Steam achievements! And they made one of the hardest parts of the game a little bit easier!

Let’s face it: this game has its flaws. Especially in the last level, some of the platforming is deviously hard. But this game simply oozes charm. Until Portal 2 came along, I would say that this game had the best writing and voice acting in a video game I’d ever played. That’s probably not a coincidence either: Erik Wolpaw was a writer on both Psychonauts and Portal 2.

Things are… not quite right in this paranoid’s mind.

Minor spoilers in this paragraph. In the game you are a boy who has run away from the circus to join a summer camp for psychic kids. However, things start to go wrong as your fellow campers’ brains are stolen. And the adults have to leave for some kind of “psychic emergency.” Eventually you are the only one left to try and find everyone else’s brains. For your training you go into people’s minds. The teachers’ minds are normal enough: one is a battleground from memories of war, one is a very well-organized mind that begins to get out of control as you mess around in it, and another is a giant dance party. But the minds get increasingly strange as you go off in search of your campmates’ brains. One is a legitimately insane paranoid person. Another is battling a genetic memory of his ancestor Napoleon Bonaparte. Another is haunted by critics’ views of her stage performances. And another is haunted by the image of a rampaging bull. And you literally have to enter the mind of a giant fish that has been forced to kidnap children; in that mind you are a giant Godzilla-like figure that the fish calls “Goggalor.” Each mind has its own unique visual style and every style is wonderful. The minds of your instructors aren’t really focused on anything but getting from the beginning to the end, but once you hit the asylum’s minds, it becomes a matter of puzzles to make it through each person’s mind, as you have to help unravel their problem and resolve it.

The game’s visual style is very cartoonish in a delightful kind of way, which helps to cover up the dated graphics (it is an original Xbox/PS2-era game). The game works best with a gamepad, but I’ve always played it with a keyboard and mouse and it still works fine.

This game really is one you must play. And do pay attention to the Steam achievements: they help you discover some of the great things that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Psychonauts on Steam

Super Bowl Ads 2013: What Did Others Think

Last week I made a short video, asking a few people in the BYU-Idaho Center what they thought about this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads. I thought I’d go ahead and post the video I made here. Enjoy! I’ll be posting my own thoughts by the end of the week (spoiler alert: I’m not super impressed).