Playing Together in Among Us

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“Do you want to play again?”

Wyatt looked at me. He had us playing Butter Royale on Apple Arcade. To say that I was done with it after 3 games was an understatement.

“No, I’m good. Do you want to play Among Us?”

“Sure.”

Among Us

I hadn’t played Among Us before. I had no clue how the controls worked; I had no clue what you did in the game besides make guesses as to who the imposter is.

The game starts you off in the lobby where you wait for other players to join your game. Wyatt and I created a password protected game first, joined the game together, and then opened it up to the public. While we waited, I used the computer to change my color and add some accessories. Perfect. Once we had enough players (the minimum is four), we were good to go.

Among Us - Playing

From there, we ran around and accomplished different tasks (as you can see in the top left of the screen above). While we were accomplishing tasks, the imposter lurked nearby. Before I knew it, I was dragged into a meeting where we could chat and decide who was the imposter. Wyatt and I decided it was a specific player, so we voted for him. Among Us then cuts to an airlock screen where the player who received the most “he’s the imposter votes” is sent floating in space. The person we all voted for, the person we thought was the imposter, wasn’t.

Our game went through this cycle a few more times. Each time we voted wrong, a fellow player was sent out the airlock. Eventually, the imposter won, and we lost.

Wyatt and I played 5 or 6 games together. Each on our own screen (we both have iPads). Completing tasks, making accusations, and generally having a good time.

I miss this.

Playing games, together, is a lot of fun.

It almost makes me miss Fortnite. Almost.

The Surf Report – Bible Reading, Social Media, and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

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Welcome to the Surf Report for January 14, 2021

.: God :

My Bible reading plan for 2020 has carried over into 2021. I’ve got to finish up:

  • Jeremiah
  • Psalms
  • James
  • 2 Kings
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Lamentations
  • Obadiah
  • Ezekiel
  • John
  • Daniel
  • Ezra
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Esther
  • Revelation
  • Malachi
  • Job

.: Life :

I’ve been sitting here scrolling through Facebook. Mindlessly, I scroll past former friends and acquaintances. Some have tried to monetize their lives, perhaps even create some sort of lifestyle brand; Some have tried their hands at homebuilding, while documenting how many kids they have on the side. Through the countless pictures, videos, and inspirational images of scripture, I have to wonder, does anybody care?

We put so much time into social media but what does it really give us?

More importantly, could I start a lifestyle brand? 🙂

.: Gaming :

I spent part of my Christmas break playing Ustwo Games Alba: A Wildlife Adventure on my iPad. I love it! I loved:

  • Skipping around the island
  • Taking pictures
  • Enjoying the wildlife
  • Being able to explore and chill at my own pace

So, what about you?

How did your Bible reading plan go for 2020? Did it bleed over, like mine, into 2021?

Play anything good lately? Read a fantastic book?

Let me know in the comments below.

Welcome to JBG in 2021

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You are probably now discovering what everyone else is discovering, the problems of 2020 have carried over into 2021. We are still dealing with COVID, masking up, and all of the little things that a pandemic brings. Here in East Texas, life has continued as pandemic normal. Which is to say that I’m still wearing a mask when going into businesses (thankfully though, not at work) and that I’m still beyond bothered by decisions this pandemic “forces” us to make.

In the midst of it all, be it 2020 or 2021, God is still in control. Beyond my annoyances (which are annoyances), He is still reigning.

In 2021, I hope that you’ll make the journey with my family and I. A journey were we can:

  • Share what we love and what we don’t like
  • Practice authenticity
  • And continue writing on the topics of Faith, Life, and Video Games

The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8 (CSB)

Impressions – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

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In the absence of Nate, Elena, and Sully, where does the Uncharted series head off to next?

Building upon the lessons learned while making The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, developer Naughty Dog unleashes a new kind of adventure in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Chloe Frazer (Uncharted 2)
Nadine Ross (Uncharted 4)

I’m only an hour or two into the game. Enjoying my time with Chloe and Nadine so far.

The Surf Report – Junior High Boys, Dogs, and Star Wars

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Welcome to the Surf Report for December 9, 2020.

.: God :

I’ve been teaching the junior high boys, at church, for over a month now. I find myself surprised. I think, walking into this, I had thought these kids would be on the same level (at least) of the adults I used to teach. Sadly, basic Bible reading and prayer (essentially a daily quiet time) are really hard for these kids. Be that these spiritual disciplines are perhaps not happening at home, I realize we have a lot of ground to cover. And yet, it is hard to teach the lesson at hand when you are fielding off-topic questions, off-the-wall thoughts, and just trying to create a general order in the room.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge of teaching this class. I don’t regret stepping down from teaching my adult Sunday school class. I just thought it would be easier.

Right now we are focusing on:

  • Prayer – having one boy pray per week
  • Reading – having the boys read the Bible in class
  • Pushing the core theme of the lesson at hand

.: Life :

We got a dog! This is Gus.

Gus

Gus is a American Staffordshire Terrier (at least, that is what his official documents say). He is a good boy who enjoys having his belly rubbed.

.: Gaming :

Wyatt and I have been playing Star Wars Battlefront lately. Specifically the co-op hero battle matches that allow you to destroy one another. Oh yeah, we’ve also been playing Castle Crashers! I picked this one up on sale, and we’ve really been enjoying it.

That’s it for us. How about you? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below.

Animal Crossing: Day 5

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That Racoons are at it again. Little Timmy and Tommy are hard pressed for cash. You see, in order to grow their business, they need some of your bells. Or more specifically, they need resources to help grow their empire. Resources such as:

  • 30 Wood
  • 30 Softwood
  • 30 Hardwood
  • 30 Iron Nuggets

The wood we can get, no problem. It’s just a matter of shaking some trees over a day or two. The Iron Nuggets though, we’ll be hitting the rocks for a few days or more!

Nothing like rock hitting… hitting the rocks… and all that jazz.

Animal Crossing: Day 4

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With winter around the corner, I’m starting to stock up. I’ve been purchasing things such as:

  • A snuggly blanket
  • A mug, for all my coffee needs.
  • A bottom warmer. No need to freeze when your ruling the kingdom.

And best of all:

  • An axe

Now hear me out. I am a pretty hairy dude. The axe is perfect for some late night trimming, if you know what I mean. I can trim with the axe… and I can even cut down some trees if I want to.

Whack a tree three times, you’ll find your pockets full of useful stuff like:

  • Wood
  • Softwood
  • Hardwood

Whack a tree four times, and your tears will start to flow. Goodbye tree.

Animal Crossing – Day 3

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A day in the life of an Animal Crossing Star is something like this:

  • Running Around
  • Hitting Trees 3 Times, Collecting Whatever Falls
  • Gathering Fruit
  • Running Around
  • Finding Fossils
  • Fishing On The Beach
  • And Might I Add, Running Around

While it may not be easy, living the life of a superstar, I do it. I do it because I spent $55 on this game.

Animal Crossing – Day 2

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I didn’t sleep much last night. Hard to sleep on an island full of strangers.

Tom Nook says that today is the day. Today is the day that we are now on synced time. This means that everything that we do is done in real time. Real time? Of course everything is done in real time! I am not sure Nook is up to task on running the island. All in good time though.

Also, I met Bozo (a sports loving nut) and Ms. Put-in-Pockets (a grifter). I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of them, so I’ll put on my best game face.

Animal Crossing – Day 1

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I’m here, on the island. Running around, gathering sticks, pulling weeds, living like a partially deranged madman. Sure, I guess I could go home. But home would entail mucking it up with a raccoon in order to get my money back and procure transport. Having now seen the bill just to get here, I can’t imagine the small fortune required to get home. Guess I’ll just stick out… for now.

On My Radar – Next Stop Nowhere

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Night School Studio, developer of Oxenfree, has a new game up on Apple Arcade called Next Stop Nowhere. I can’t wait to download/try it out.

Next Stop Nowhere is a road trip adventure story set in a colorful, cutthroat vision of outer space. Play as Beckett, a simple courier living a simple life until a chance encounter with former bounty hunter Serra throws him into an adventure he never expected. And might not survive.

The unlikely allies fly across a dusty, deadly galaxy in a race to save Serra’s son Eddy–dodging gangsters, bounty hunters, and the dangers of deep space along the way. Beckett is in over his head. How he survives–the choices he makes, the relationships he forges, the person he becomes–is up to you.

A new story from the award-winning studio that brought you Oxenfree and Afterparty.

Features:

* An intelligent conversation system with branching dialogue that changes your relationships and the story based on every decision

* A spaceship that comes fully equipped with his own personality

* A completely unique version of space (the outer reaches of a dilapidated galaxy) filled with colorful skies, treacherous asteroids and a several orbits to explore

* A thrilling and thoughtful narrative brought to life by a vibrant cast of voice actors

* Cross-device play through Apple Arcade

July 2020 in Review

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I feel like I’ve been all over the map this month. July 2020 has been all about:

  • Turning 39 year old / celebrating my birthday
  • Playing all the games
  • Continuing to read Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (70%)
  • As part of my reading through the Bible in a year plan, I read/finished: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Ecclesiastes, Titus, Philemon, and Jude
  • And a sinus infection that won’t go away

Tabitha and Wyatt bought me Paper Mario: The Origami King for my birthday. So most of my gaming time has been spent working my way through an origami world with Mario. I’m loving the tight writing and unexpected moments of pure Nintendo delight.

Snacks are good

Wyatt and I have been playing Injustice: Gods Among Us a bunch. Nothing like Superman kicking the snot out of Superman.

With some of my birthday money, I picked up:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
  • Doom (2016)

I should note that Paper Mario has been consuming my gaming time, so I haven’t given much time to the above games. Soon though.

Throw Throw Burrito - MeowCow

As a family, we have played a bunch of Throw Throw Burrito (think of the classic game Spoons but with a burrito war/fighting element where you chuck a burrito at fellow players. This game is super fun!

Throw Throw Burrito - Winners Badge

We also had a chance to sit down and play Disney Villainous, which I also got for my birthday. I like how you have your own character board/objective to complete while you also get to mess with fellow villains. Tab beat Wyatt and I with the Queen of Hearts (Wyatt played Captain Hook; I played Prince John). I can’t wait to play again.

Disney Villainous - Prince John
Disney Villainous - Prince John Card Back

My biggest project of all, this month, has been replacing all of the interior doors in the house. After this past weekend, I’m down to 4 doors needing to be replaced.

Door Replacement Project

What have you been playing lately?

Let me know in the comments below.

Press Start – Paper Mario: The Origami King

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Tab and Wyatt bought me Paper Mario: The Origami King for my birthday. I have enjoyed what I have played so far.

Send snacks.
Not creepy at all.
Hit EVERYTHING.
I would like to thank everyone.
New friends.
It's amnesia.
SOLO.
Most challenging part of the game so far.
I did it!
This made me laugh.
Moving on in Autumn Mountain.

From Across the Net – “Focused on What Our Kids Can Do!”

Painted Waters Concept
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Amy and Ryan Green, creators of That Dragon Cancer, announced The Playability Initiative yesterday:

Today, we are announcing the Playability Initiative at Games for Change. It’s an initiative that has our whole heart because it allows us to focus on the abilities of children like Joel, who may not be able to leap and run and dance and sing, but we know that everything they can do is a precious gift to the people who love them. We are designing a video game for “the one.” The one others may not see. The one that may get brushed aside so we can serve the majority. The one who the shepherd might leave the 99 for. And what if this one can only move a single finger, ever so slightly? Can we imbue meaning and joy and connection to that child’s ability? We can. We just have to be willing to consider them, to see value in their abilities, and believe they are precious enough to warrant our efforts. Because of Joel, we see all of these “ones,” and we don’t think, “what a shame,” we think, “look at them go!”

You can learn more about designing a video for “the one” here

Perspective – Black Simulator

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Choose the right clothes.

Don’t make eye contact.

Seriously, don’t make eye contact! It freaks folks out.

All you’ve got to do is run a couple of errands.

You can do this, right?

My first time playing developer Justin Fox’s Black Simulator, I got distracted by the TV in the in-game living room. The option to play “dat Tekken” made me curious. So I chose the option to play… which ended up taking the rest of my day. Game Over.

My second run through the game, I decided to go take some bread to my grandma. In the process, I made some white people mad by looking in their direction (which is a no-no, apparently). I then got mugged right outside my grandma’s house, which left me in my underwear. Grandma wouldn’t talk to me until I put some clothes on. So, I made the decision to run back to my house and get some clothes. Somewhere along that route, the game glitched–I became invisible!–and I had to restart.

What am I playing?

A few weeks ago, Justin Fox (whom I’ve interviewed before) contacted me about writing on Black Simulator. He gave me a code and asked for my perspective. The word perspective is key in discussing Black Simulator. As the perspective in the game, though viewed through the lens of satire, is radically different than my own day-to-day perspective as a white male.

The Steam description for Black Simulator reads:

A SATIRICAL MINI GAME where you spend the day as a black man (er “Blackmenn” if you prefer) on your day off. You must run 3 errands without getting shot or arrested by the Police! Depending on various choices your experience will differ either slightly or drastically with multiple playthroughs.

Avoid the dangers of the PoPo Meter – Police suspicions increases with certain choices of attire, and behavior!

I.G.N.A.N.T Meter, the rage is REAL – Attempt to avoid responses to rude people that may lead to someone calling the cops on you!

T.O.M Meter – Attempt to maintain street cred even though it can be SERIOUSLY unhealthy to do so!

Multiple ways to end your day off! With peace, or bullets.

Blackness awaits!

Survive a day, in the life of a black man, without getting shot or arrested by the police. Sounds easy, right? After my initial experience with the game, I’m not so sure when an errand to grandma’s house ends with me getting jumped.

Am I allowed to say that this game leaves me puzzled? That the overall experience feels foreign?

Maybe that is the point?

I need to play more.

You can find Black Simulator here, for $3, on Steam.

Review: Mutazione

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I have trouble writing about games I actually like. My excuse–yes, it is an excuse–is not wanting to spoil the experience by too much thought. Mutazione is one of those games for me, a game where I’m like, “Yeah, that was good.”

Mutazione‘s Steam page describes developers Die Gute Fabrik’s game as:

A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural. Explore the Mutazione community as Kai as she cares for her ailing grandfather. Discover magical gardens, new friends & old secrets. They can survive an apocalyptic meteor strike, but can they survive their small-town drama?

Mutazione is a chill adventure whose story ruminates on loss, love, and finding a way forward from past tragedy.

I enjoyed running around the island, listening to the subtle wind chimed soundtrack.

I loved seeing Kai’s relationship with her grandfather blossom over time.

Sure there are some soap opera-like elements that I did not like, or at least, I did not feel rang true for me. But beyond those drama bits, the story’s supernatural and mysterious threads propelled me forward–much like Oxenfree did… but this is totally different than Oxenfree–.

Mutazione captures those slow summer days. Days spent with family, friends, and magical gardens? More so days spent:

  • Collecting seeds / gardening
  • Enjoying conversations, with friends, that last late into the night

Mutazione is a game about healing; a game about moving on from the past. Moving forward with new hopes, dreams, and most importantly, new friends.

5/5 – I loved my experience with Mutazione via Apple Arcade.

Title: Mutazione
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
Reviewed On: iPad / Apple Arcade
MSRP: $19.99

Review by Bryan Hall

The Concert
Up in the trees.
Mutazione - Boat Trip
Floating
Mutazione - Meteor
Secrets
Mutazione - Saying Goodbye

Press Start – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All

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This week, I picked up the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch. Tab and I love this courtroom drama series filled with over the top characters and entertaining word play. We decided to start with the second game in the trilogy, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, as Tabitha had already completed the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS), long ago.

Last night, we completed Episode 1: The Lost Turnabout.

Phoenix Wright himself.
Phoenix Wright, doing his thing.
The witness.
Just a typical courtroom.
The Prosecutor.
The Judge.
There are worse crimes than murder...

Note how the witness reacts when accused. Nothing abnormal to report here.

This first episode turned out to be a sad story of someone being killed just because of their uniform. Spoilers. 🙂

Video Game Mechanics That Need to Go – Quick Time Events

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Rushing into a bunker, I found myself surprised by a soldier wielding a knife. I quickly think, “Gotta press the square button just right to defend myself.”

Oh no, I failed!

Quick time events, like the one from Call of Duty: WWII above, need to go. There has to be a better way to create player tension than mashing a button/performing a swipe of the joystick perfectly.