Steam Key Giveaway: The Results are In!

We're psyched to be able to do more giveaways for you guys. Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winners!

For all of the games, we had more than one key and could pick more than one winnter!

For CastleStorm: letsmaybeLP92 and Danilo Nombre

For Frozen Synapse Prime: Sophie and sastaityou

For Skulls of the Shogun: Ted Bundy and Yaroslav

For those winners in our Steam Group, the GIR will contact you through Steam to give you your keys. If you are a winner and entered by leaving a comment on the blog, please send the GIR an email at so he can send you your key. 

Congratulations again!
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone and best wishes for a happy remainder of your con to all those attending Celebration right now. I'm not jealous at all...ok, who am I kidding? I so wish I could be in Anaheim right now. Sigh. Since we can't be in California right now, let's distract ourselves with Steam key giveaways and This Week in Geekdom!


Marvel executive editor Mike Marts has left the powerhouse label to join forces with writer (and fellow Marvel alum) Joe Pruett to begin their own comics label: AfterShock Comics.

Archie Comics gleefully takes its titular hero into the patently insane with Archie vs Predator

Also, Archie vs. Sharknado is going to be a thing.


It's one of the all-time young adult classics, and this week we got a 3-page snippet of A Wrinkle In Time that had been cut from the final edit of the book.


There are plenty of video game titles that have a celebrity's name attached to them, but here are nine of the weirdest times that a game got a celebrity cameo. 

F1 2015 is still a work in progress, but it's already gaining quite a bit of acclaim as a well executed and fundamentally fun racing simulator.

And, of course, we have the brand new trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront. Battlefront will be available on November 17th on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Rumors abound following the release of an internal Sony memo that stated that Doctor Who will be made into a major motion picture.

Flash Gordon is also apparently going to be made into a movie, with Matthew Vaughn in talks to direct the project.

Celebrity Deathmatch will be coming back to MTV

Olivia Munn will be joining the ranks of the X-Men as Psylocke.

This week was the week of all the new trailers. Below are the teasers for Episode VII, Star Wars: Rebels, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.


On Thursday Central Japan Railway announced that the newest incarnation of their line of maglev trains reached a speed of 366 mph (590 kph) during a test run. If these tests continue to turn out well, this new shinkansen will be taking passengers as soon as 2027.

We all know that space is mind-bogglingly vast, but here are some helpful infographics to help us wrap our heads around just how much space is out there in space.

A new study out of the University of Durham indicates that what we've been calling dark matter may not actually be completely dark after all.

You may know of someone who treats their dog as though the canine were their child (this someone may even be you), but it turns out that there's a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates this attachment isn't complete hyperbole.

On Tuesday SpaceX came this close to successfully landing their reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The company then provided this breakdown of exactly what went wrong (and right).
Could this Vulcan rocket give the Falcon 9 a run for its money?

While SpaceX was coming a hair's breadth away from success, Boeing and Lockheed Martin (with a little help from Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin) released these images of their forthcoming potential rival to the Falcon 9: the Vulcan rocket.

Meanwhile, the New Horizons probe sent color images of Pluto back to Earth. Here are said shots along with a breakdown of just what it takes to send the pictures from 2.9 billion miles away.

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein's introduction of the General Theory of Relativity. Here is a thorough and interesting accounting of why the Theory is so important and how it continues to have a massive impact on theoretical physics a century later. 

Just one more reason to fear your future robot overlords: they now know how to use swords (with bonus robot swordfighting video goodness!)

Your pain reliever of choice may also be relieving you of happiness.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Meet Ronald Mallett. He's the theoretical physicist who's trying to bring us the first functional time machine.

Chauvet Cave contains some of the most detailed and astounding examples of Paleolithic art known to humankind. It's also one of the most tightly guarded places in all of France. One Smithsonian reporter was among the few individuals given access to the Cave and this was his experience.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Steam Key Giveaway!

Hi everyone! We have a handful of Steam keys that we'd love to send to good homes. 
Original image by How to Get Free Steam Games
This contest is going to be short and sweet. We have keys for the following games: Skulls of the Shogun, Frozen Synapse Prime, and CastleStorm.

To enter to win, just post a comment on this post or in our Steam Community (or a Tweet, G+ comment, Instagram Comment or Facebook comment) with the title of the game you'd like to win. 

While you don't have to use your real name in order to enter, we do ask that you give us a distinct handle so we can contact you if you win. No anonymous entries will be counted.

We'll draw winners this upcoming Sunday (April 19) at 4pm EST. Good luck!

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Gias Games: The Static Speaks My Name

The Static Speaks My Name is a game developed by creator thewhalehusband. The game is only 10 minutes long and would best be described as an “interactive narrative” more than by the term “game”. It is free to download and play, but the creator also accepts donations.

The Static Speaks My Name is a very strange experience. A warning to those sensitive to the subject: this experience deals with suicide. You begin floating through space with a giant static ball as the only object in space you can approach. As you near the object, you are given the name, age, and mode of death of a person. Stepping into the static, you apparently wake up as the person just described. Perhaps it was a bad dream?

You are given a couple of objectives such as use the bathroom, and get something to eat. However, the experience of the narrative is in exploring your tiny apartment. You quickly find that the person you are inhabiting is clearly not well. Just looking at the notes and pictures of one subject left me creeped out and shuddering. It was an entirely alien mindset to me. Imagine you woke up one day to find unsettling writings all over your apartment (in your handwriting no less) indicating a deep-seated emotional disturbance, but you had no recollection of writing them. Imagine that as you looked over them you found that the “you” that had written them became more and more unhinged. That is exactly what this narrative simulates. It is very creepy, a little scary, atmospheric, and very short.
A person could run through this game in about 3-5 minutes if they knew what they were doing, but there is no point to that, as in this title the narrative is the experience. Reading all of your notes, looking at your doodles, exploring this person’s apartment for the life he had. It is the same point that story-based games like Gone Home and Dear Esther have at their core. It is not about the destination, it is about the tale that is told before getting to the end.

If you are a fan of atmospheric narratives, creepy simulations, or free short experiences, I suggest that you give this interactive narrative a try. You have nothing to lose but a couple minutes of your time. I really like bite-sized experiences like this. It gives you a chance to have a small amount of the emotional experience you wanted without the chance for that experience to become mire in any minutia or stumble in its execution. It is too short to ever be sold as a product to the masses, and is nothing more than a walking story. But interesting, short, and free are right up my alley.

The Static Speaks My Name is available for download via the creator's personal website.

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Party On! It's Our Birthday!

It's absolutely insane to me that it's been three years since a burst of post-PAX productivity resulted in the Care and Feeding of Nerds. Even crazier is just what's happened in the three years since that day. Just in the time since this same point last year we've reviewed nearly 30 video games, finished 4 costumes, made 6 different types of noms, and got to have a hand in 4 crowdfunding campaigns. Add to all that a few movie recaps, our annual game-a-thon to raise money for sick kids, some new crafts, new books, and plenty of board games and it'd be a pretty busy go of things.

But that was only the beginning of what we got to see unfold in the past year.

This year we partnered with the Game Makers Guild, covered three conventions and spoke on our first panel! On top of all that, some of the biggest changes stemmed from our transition from a one-person blog to a full-fledged website. There are now three of us creating content in this corner of the internets, plus help from the occasional guest author. We have a beautiful interface courtesy of the talented KayLuxeDesign and our own domain. Happily, all those efforts seem to be paying off (or at least give me an excuse to make graphs!).

The best part about all of this has been getting to watch the community that's sprung up around this site change and grow. Last year it was thrilled to see that 100 people followed us on Twitter and 600 did the same on Pinterest. As of the time of writing, we have over 600 Twitter followers and more than 1,400 fellow nerds digging our pins on Pinterest. We've also grown over on our Facebook page to nearly 100 likes and we've really enjoyed expanding into both Instagram and Steam. I say it every year, but it definitely still holds true: watching this growth is a profoundly humbling thing.

We've gotten to meet so many new people and reaffirm connections with veteran readers. It's been an absolute privilege to work with you as you design your games, make your costumes, or just saying hi on one of our social media pages. You guys are the best and, because you deserve the best, we'll continue to give you the highest quality content in the days to come.

Here's to turning 3 and to many more happy years ahead! Happy birthday Care and Feeding of Nerds!

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This Week in Geekdom

Holy moly, we're already coming up on the midpoint for April. Fortunately, it's finally started to feel like mid-April around here (no snow, woot!). The improving weather serves as a good reminder that Gen Con is only a few months away. There will be plenty of updates regarding our preparations for the Best Four Days in Gaming but, for now, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!


The top slots on's bestseller's list are occupied by coloring books that are targeted towards adults. Here's why the book world is shifting its assumptions regarding what defines 'age appropriate'.


Sorry Crimean Warcraft fans. This week Blizzard joined the ranks of Apple, Google, and PayPal in suspending its services to the conflicted peninsula.

Chinese Xbox One users rejoice: the console is now officially region-free for you.

EA may be the biggest name in sports games, but it's far from the only name (and is arguably doing more harm than good to the genre). Here's a breakdown of some of the best indie sports games out there.

Are you a YouTuber who derives any income from streams or video reviews of games? Well, Nintendo would like 40% of that revenue. Kthxbye.

If you're one of those gamers eagerly awaiting the release of Grand Theft Auto V on PC, you may want to take a look at this list of the errors you may see when you install and try to start up the game.

On Wednesday Square Enix gave us this trailer for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. There is no official release date yet, but the game will be available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.


In this nifty Star Wars featurette we learn where the Millennium Falcon got its distinct shape and what exactly the asteroids were made of.

IMAX theaters have gone from relative rarity to fairly commonplace in only a few years. One of the consequences of this cinematic proliferation? An increased demand for technicians who can handle the complexities of an IMAX projector. Check out this video of the elaborate process involved in just changing an IMAX light bulb.

We may all soon be doing the Time Warp again.

On Friday we got the debut of the Daredevil TV series, but some people are already displeased. Turns out the show about the famously blind superhero isn't actually configured for blind viewers.

We will no longer get the Simpsons on DVD.

Marvel and ABC are working together to create a spinoff series based on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D


It's no secret that this past winter in the U.S. was more than a bit on the weird side. It turns out that this was due in no small part to a warm 'blob' in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.

Hundreds of researchers have spent untold hours trying to definitively prove the root cause of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The latest edition of Science introduces a new theory: that volcanic eruptions caused the Earth's oceans to acidify to the point that very little life could be sustained.

Speaking of dinosaurs, one of the biggest science stories of the week were the findings out of the new University of Lisbon in Portugal that appear to have proven that, contrary to years of being told that Apatosaurus was the only correct name for a type of long-necked herbivore, Brontosaurus was very real and entirely distinct species of dinosaur.
Photo credit: Tu Wien

A team of researchers from the Vienna University of Technology have captured light in a glass fiber. Their research, published on the University's website, details how the team was able to bring light to a halt in their customized fiber.

Scientists out of Stanford University are also keen to push the boundaries of existing technology with their work on creating batteries powered by aluminium-ions (as opposed to the more common lead or lithium-ion).

Bad news for the fun-sized among us. New research out of the University of Leicester indicates that an increased risk of heart disease may be linked to the same genes that give us our height.

General Awesomeness

Octopi have become famous for everything from hosting their own internal raves to predicting winners of the FIFA World Cup. Now meet Rambo, the world's first octopus photographer.

Woo comic-related infographics! Here are the 50 suits of armor that have depicted in all media incarnations of Iron Man over the years.

Feats of Nerdery

This kid has a future in paleontology. Five-year-old Wylie Brys got quite a thrill this week when scientists from SMU helped him and his dad excavate a Jurassic-era fossil he discovered behind a shopping mall. 

It's one of the more recognizable images permeating the internets, but it's also incredibly lucrative. Here's the story of 'Trollface' and how its creator is laughing all the way to the bank.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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GiR by GIR: Primal Carnage - Extinction

Dinosaurs - Check!  Pitiful Humans - Check! Fun and Engaging Gameplay - Errrr not so much....

First person shooters may not be my favorite genre, but I like to think I've certainly built up a reasonable level of competence and qualifications with quite a few hours logged in the Counter Strike, Team Fortress 2, L4D (341 hours), Borderlands (198 hours), and Far Cry (110 hours) franchises. As a child of the 90s, the movie Jurassic Park cemented my already expansive love of Dinosaurs (by the way, welcome back Brontosaurus!). These things should theoretically combine to make me the ideal candidate/target demographic for a game that bills itself as "class-based online multiplayer shooter featuring humans versus dinosaurs." Yet, much like the ill fated Isla Nublar, I am left wondering how did it all go so terribly, terribly wrong?

Recently escaping from Early Access, Primal Carnage: Extinction by Circle Five Studios was supposed to be a simple and FREE update to the code for the original Primal Carnage (2012), but somehow ended up as a $20 stand alone purchase. Full disclosure: I did not play the original, but asking around and reading old reviews it seems that it was a highly enjoyable and well-received game at the time of release, which only makes what I experienced in Extinction even more baffling.

This image courtesy of Steam User Rufinator
There are 3 different game modes a server can be hosted on: Get to the Chopper, Free Roam, and a traditional Deathmatch mode. The first pits a team of humans against a clutch of dinosaurs where the objective is to capture a series of checkpoints. This, in turn, eventually allows the human to escape a compound which has been overrun by the rampaging dinos. Personally I found this to be the most enjoyable of the three modes but that's somewhat generous; maybe tolerable is the better word. Next up was something called Free Roam, sort of an Open World Roleplay type setting where you can roam free as either a human or a dinosaur. This intrigued me, as I do enjoy the stories and moments that organically spawn from this type of open world setting similar to what you'd see in DayZ or Rust. Encouraged by the fact that this mode had the largest number of servers being hosted by far, I was nonetheless disappointed with what I found there, which was nothing. I kept waiting, hoping for that moment where I would encounter another dinosaur and battle over territory or hunt/be hunted by pack of human poachers but it never came. In the last mode I tried a "Dino Warfare" map, which was just your basic team death match with both teams being composed of dinosaurs. This last point only served to highlight the lack of balance between humans and dinosaurs, which had originally been made unmistakably clear in Get to the Chopper. Instead of taking part in an epic clash between mighty dinos, I was treated to the same glitchy, buggy lagfest the other modes had been. It was like watching the game unfold via flipbook; for a non-indie multiplayer shooter this is unacceptable. For the record, the servers reported my ping as ranging from around low 40s to a high 67, so I don't think the issue was hardware on my end.

If my previous warnings haven't been enough and you are determined to give Primal Carnage: Extinction a shot you may as well know what your playable options are. Let's start with team dinosaur. Extinction let's you choose from nine different species, though really there are only five core choices, the rest being slight variations on the T-Rex, Raptor, Dilophosaurus, Pteranodon, and Carnotaurus. Remember how I hinted at poor balancing earlier? Nowhere is it more evident than in the dinosaur faction. The Raptors primary attack/skill is the ability to pounce and pin humans, ripping them apart. While the screenshots make it look good, in practice the excessive lag issues coupled with unresponsive, janky controls make this pounce attack stupidly difficult to use for pathetic amounts of damage compared to the attacks of some of the other dinos. On occasion I would "merge" with an enemy player instead of pinning them and nothing would happen. Dilophosaurus gets blinding spit,  which is nice but, again, anything with a skill shot is going to be virtually unplayable and half the time I would be furiously clicking and the animation would trigger, but no spit would actually emerge (and no damage would be dealt). Pteranodons were the most interesting to play as the only flying unit in the game, but were extremely difficult to control and maneuver due to unresponsive inputs which, again, leads to the issue of way too much effort and no reward. On the other hand the Carnotaur, for example, does damage by charging in straight line, trampling and biting all in it's path. Where one needs pinpoint accuracy to land a Raptor pounce or snag human to drop off a cliff as the Ptera, if the Carno slams into a wall or crate or gets stuck in the corner but is still "moving" and a human will still take damage from this clumsy onslaught.

Team Human, which consists of five classes, wasn't really too much better. There's a Native American Tracker (perhaps a distant relative of Turok?) who uses a shotgun, a Commando with an assault rifle and under-slung grenade launcher (which does less damage than the shotgun), a Pyro with a flamethrower (which only led to this type of situation), a "Scientist" with a sniper rifle, and a Trapper with a net gun that disables dinosaurs with equal effectiveness regardless of the size or type of the target. This is a brand of logic consistent with the quality of product on offer here. There may not be friendly fire so there's no damage to allies, but there IS collision so those same allies will block your nets, bullets, and grenades like bomb shelter wall. For the record NONE of these classes have the ability to use iron sights though the Sniper *ahem*, excuse me, Scientist get's a Scope Zoom which seems unaffected by wobble, wind, or physics in general. Now I know L4D and CS don't have iron sighting either, but the controls and accuracy are responsive and smooth enough to at least compensate and the latter title allows for console commands to adjust the reticle size and color, etc.  

The last thing I feel I have to address is the loot/crate system in this game. As if it wasn't insulting enough to now charge players for what was supposed to be a free update to a well loved classic, they have implemented a loot crate system similar to Team Fortress 2 where crates containing things like custom skins or weapons will spawn randomly in the server. It would be one thing if this loot was just part of the in-game reward system and you could open the crate to receive your items, but players need to spend roughly $2 USD per key? Again this is roughly inline with TF2 pricing but, unlike TF2's endless bounty of awesome workshop creations and a game setting that invites the wacky and weird, Primal Carnage: Extinction's crates are filled with poorly made pallet swaps at best and just down right ugly or immersion breaking skins at worst. Now I admit visual aesthetics are highly subjective, but if I'm spending real world money on in-game vanity I expect a drastic visual upgrade, not just a blob of purple or green slapped over a stock version. Also, I feel the whole loot economy is hurting the game overall as, at any given moment while I was perusing available play options, "Loot Servers" where folks were idling for crates were as common as legitimate game mode servers. Add to this players frequently just AFKing even in non "Loot Servers".

Bottom line: I unfortunately cannot recommend Primal Carnage: Extinction in its current state and , frankly, I don't see it improving anytime soon. According to some forums, the original Primal Carnage is still being actively hosted and, while it may be slightly dated, you might be better served seeking it out as an alternative to Extinction. Or, like Mr. Hammond did Dr. Ian Malcolm, you can boldly ignore my warnings and try Primal Carnage: Extinction for yourself.  It's out of Early Access (or so it claims) and is available on Steam now for $20 USD (it is slated to also be available on PS4 later this year). It should be noted there are achievements and trading cards if that sort of thing matters to you. 

Full Disclosure: This review was written based off a review copy of the game provided by @PrimalCarnage via Twitter.                            
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Star Wars: Armada Giveaway...The Results Are In!

And the winner is...

Jeff Hayward!

Congratulations Jeff! Please send us either a Facebook message or an email ( for all the details of your glorious victory!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our contest. We received a lot of awesome entries and we had a lot of fun running this for you.

Notes: the winner was chosen at random via The winner has 24 hours to claim their prize. If they do not do so by Friday, April 10th at 8pm EST then a new winner will be drawn from the existing pool of entrants. This process will be repeated as needed until we can get a winner!
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy Easter to all you celebrating today and best wishes for a happy remainder of the con for everyone attending WonderCon or Anime Boston this weekend. Woo for convention season getting into full swing! Also exciting: the chance to win a copy of Star Wars: Armada, get your chance by following the instructions here.

Back from getting your entries in? Great! Now let's get down to the week in Geekdom!


Comics as we're experiencing them today are the result of three-quarters of a century's worth of drafting and evolution. In that spirit, here are 50 issues that helped define the modern comics industry. 

It seems like something of an April Fools prank, but is is possible that Superman has been in the Marvel universe all along?

Is the Clark Kent disguise much better than we all thought?
Did you know that the Avengers once did battle with the Church of Scientology? Neither did we.


Old and busted: comic book movies. (old) New hotness: video game movies.

Yesterday Mr. Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., turned 50!

It's become one of the most iconic opening sequences on the small screen, but where did the Game of Thrones intro come from? Turns out there's quite an interesting backstory.

George R.R. Martin will be developing a new science-fiction TV series for HBO (sadly not derived from Tuf Voyaging). The author also claims he's buckling down to finish Winds of Winter in an effort to complete the much-anticipated tome by 2016.

While we're on the subject of Game of Thrones, Miss Maisie Williams, Arya Stark herself, has confirmed that she will have a guest role in the next season of Doctor Who.


Want to get your game on but you're a bit short on cash? Check out these 10 Steam games that are completely free to play.

Speaking of free, click here to play a hybrid of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Pong for the low, low price of nothing.

You can also play this level of Super Mario 64 that's been painstakingly re-made in HD.

Fans of Star Citizen have thrown a combined $77 million USD at the title's developers, but, three years after its Kickstarter closed, they have yet to receive a complete, bug-free game.

The guys behind the insanely popular party game Cards Against Humanity have released a science-themed expansion. Awesome bonus: all the proceeds from sales of the new pack going to fund a scholarship (a full-ride for an undergraduate degree) for women in the STEM fields.


Astronomers using two pictures from New Mexico's Very Large Array have been able to capture the birth of a star. Extra impressive: the images they used were taken 18 years apart.

The technicians at CERN were keen to get in on the April Fool's fun with this claim that they had confirmed the existence of the Force.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum also tried to pull a fast one on Wednesday with this 'exhibit' featuring Wonder Woman's invisible jet.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham were amazed to discover that a nearly 1,000-year-old folk remedy made from garlic is able to eliminate one of the most feared infections of our time: MRSA. 

Nuclear submarines have fascinated the public for decades, but decommissioning them is a laborious, lengthy, and extremely hazardous process. Where do nuclear submarines go to die?

General Awesomeness

These programmer proverbs will likely prove amusing to all you software devs out there.

We started off this post with a mention of con season getting into full swing. Here's a fun, but poignant reminder of why conventions are so important.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Star Wars: Armada Giveaway!

We're psyched to bring you guys the second round of our promised spring board game giveaways! This time around the grand prize will be the second major hit from last year's Gen Con, Star Wars: Armada by Fantasy Flight Games. Board games + Star Wars = so much win. This two-player strategy game promises the chance to indulge in some intense tactics with the high quality minatures you'd expect from Fantasy Flight (though there's nothing small about these models if you're used to playing Star Wars: X-Wing).

Awesome! How do I enter?

If you're reading this and you're neither the GIR nor Elder Gias (sorry guys) you are eligible to enter by following the directions below.

How to Enter the Contest

Step 1: Think of the name of your favorite character, weapon, alien species, type of ship or individual title from any of the movies, comics, or TV shows in the Star Wars franchise. (see the Rules below for a note about Expanded Universe titles)

Step 2: Leave the name you thought of in Step 1 as a comment on either our Facebook or G+ pages, or tweet it at our Twitter account, tag us in a picture of it on Instagram, or leave it as a comment on this post. (Yes, you can enter multiple times; see the Rules below for an example of how this works) 

Step 3: Check back here on Thursday, April 9th at 8pm EST to see if you're the winner! The winner will be selected using

Contest Rules

- You are allowed one entry per social media site (plus this website) and your entries must be different responses to each of the items in Step 1. For example, I could say my favorite character is Mara Jade on the Facebook page, then say my favorite type of ship is the Chiss Star Destroyer on G+ and earn myself 2 entries into the contest. 

- Since there are five categories and five places for your potential responses, you can earn up to five entries for yourself by putting a different response on each of the sites. If you say 'Han Solo' 5 times in 5 places, only one of those will count.

- While you do not have to use your full, real name to enter the contest, we are going to require that you give us at least a valid handle or nickname so we can contact you if you're the winner. Contestants who are found to be using burner accounts to try and earn more entries will be disqualified. 

- For the purposes of this contest, all Expanded Universe titles, weapons, species, ships, and characters can be treated as valid and canonical (since Episode VII hasn't been released yet!)

Good luck everyone!

Notes: The Care and Feeding of Nerds and this contest are not in any way affiliated with Fantasy Flight Games, Inc. Star Wars: Armada, and all imagery used therein, is licensed to Fantasy Flight Games, Inc.
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Game Review: Sid Meier's Starships

It’s undoubtedly a good sign when both the GIR and I are writing about PC or video games, as it means we can spend a few hours in front of a screen rather than in front of a shovel.  Where the GIR has been hard at work getting out ahead of the release dates for some of our favorite games from PAX East, I’ve had my nose in a title from one of the few AAA publishers I claim any sort of loyalty to. Despite the initial draw of Civilization: Beyond Earth, and subsequent disappointment,  the Sid Meier name piqued my curiosity when Firaxis announced it’d be attached to a new turn-based strategy game: Starships.

There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Firaxis set the release of Starships less than five months after Beyond Earth made its debut. The studio responded with many expressions of, “Don’t worry, it’s a totally different type of game. It’s just set in the Beyond Earth universe.” The not-so-subtle implication there being that not only could they could totally develop a solid game in their appointed timeframe, but that this would be the model for a series of games that would share a setting. So, were they successful in this venture?

Eh, sort of.

That’s not to say that Starships is terrible, there are quite a few very fun bits, it’s just not particularly good and when your game has that Sid Meier prefix, ‘not particularly good’ takes on a considerably more dour meaning. What’s particularly frustrating about Starships is that there’s plenty of potential for it to have been a richer, more enjoyable game but those opportunities seem to have either been ignored or shunted aside in the interest of time or the need for compatibility with mobile platforms.

That last point is actually the foundation for more than a few of the disappointing qualities of Starships. The game looks, feels, and largely plays like it was configured exclusively for a tablet (which it was, as the game is available in the App Store), which translates to more than a few awkward bits when you play on a desktop. You may find yourself frustrated with the hover-to-open-dialogue-wheel controls that are the basis for all the non-combat portions of the game, as these tend to be less responsive to a mouse than they would, say, a finger on a touch screen.

Wait, let's back up a bit.

In Starships, you assume a leadership role in one of the same civilizations available in Beyond Earth. You also select an Affinity for your civilization from the three presented in Beyond Earth though, in all honesty, neither of these choices have a whole lot of impact on actual gameplay. After making your selections, you're hurled out into the darkness of space and presented with a planet that serves as the base of operations/effective capital of your eventual empire. That's quite literally your introduction to Starships. While the game itself is not terribly complex, there is nothing in the way of a tutorial; be prepared for either some trial-and-error or scouring the in-game encyclopedia.

In addition to your home planet, you're provided with a pair of the eponymous starships. These vessels are your primary means of establishing and maintaining your galactic presence. You move them between various planets on a map that's randomly generated at the outset of the game and attempt to gain influence over said planets by performing various tasks for the inhabitants. These quests can vary from eliminating navigating a labyrinthine asteroid field to battling a pirate armada and it's in completing these tasks that you get to experience the high points of the game.

Because dogfighting with space pirates is almost always a good time
Regardless of the goal, the quests all have the same basic form: a turn-based tactics scenario. You maneuver your starships amongst environmental hazards or against any number of adversaries. It can be a lot of fun, particularly after you've installed a few upgrades on your ships, but there's not much variety in the types of tasks you're given, so even the more interesting quests get repetitive towards the tail end of the game. The upgrades to your ships, while definitely helpful, are very clearly modifications to a statistics engine. Furthermore, there's no discernable scale for the difficulty level of each mission, so there may be occasions where you'll lose a mission largely because you had no way of knowing how to prepare properly. To that effect, you're provided with a predicted probability of success for each mission, but this percentage doesn't seem to reflect any actual inputs from the game and thus doesn't provide you with a meaningful gauge of difficulty.

The game throws a ton of information at you, but most of it is noise
The iterative tactical combat gives the impression that Starships is a much deeper strategy game than it actually is. Outside the framework of the quests, you're tasked with cultivating your empire as it exists across the array of planets you've been able to gain sufficient influence over. While there are a handful of ways to do this, namely constructing buildings or wonders, what you elect to do with each planet (and how you manage the array of resources that are produced by each) seems to matter considerably less than just completing the quests. After finishing a few tasks you can treat your fatigued crew members to a bit of shore leave on a given planet, which also seems to do more for influence levels than active engagement.

Whether by building or by blaster, your goal is to extend your influence over 51% of the galaxy. Aside from roaming gangs of pirates, other civilizations will seek to thwart your efforts via varying degrees of aggression. No matter what your play style, the mid-to-end game will come down to warfare of one flavor or another, with battles taking same the turn-based tactical form as the planetary missions. It's all a matter of which fights you pick and who you rumble with. As in some of the classic Civilization games, you may find yourself shaking your head at the questionable choices and sometimes suicidal aggression of the AI.

Starships has its moments; if you're playing on a mobile platform or are just in the mood for light, snack-sized strategy (with playthroughs taking only a couple of hours) then you may get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It's neither particularly challenging, even on the higher difficulties, nor especially deep in what it offers, which can be good if you're, say, waiting to meet up with friends or commuting home. What it's not likely to do is satisfy PC/tabletop gamers who want their 4x strategy fix. If you do want to try Starships out for yourself then I highly recommend waiting a few months and pick it up during a Steam sale.

Final Grade: C/C+
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Gias Glance: Sending the Gaming Industry a Message (Part 3)

This post is the third in a series examining why gamers should reconsider pre-ordering games. If you're just joining us now, you can find the first part in the series here, and the second part here.

Why Not Pre-Order? For a Better Video Game Industry

Please oh please let VR be a huge gaming success.
I have wanted in-home gaming VR since I was a kid.
If you're a fan of video games, then presumably you would like the video game industry to continue existing for decades to come so that you can continue to play games as you get older. Presumably you would also want there to be innovation and progress in the industry in order for better, more exciting games to come out in the future.

Looking back at the history of gaming tells us a lot about what we can expect in the future, just as any historical background can help inform us about where we’re going. For example, look at how the graphics of games have changed from the 80s to today. The leap is so profound and amazing that if you tried to explain it or show it to a gamer from that era, they might have a difficult time grasping how it’s possible. The content of games has also changed rather dramatically. In the 80s, the available hardware did not have the processing power to simulate large open worlds for exploration, or for there to be hundreds of things going on at one time in one place. We can expect these trends to continue, though perhaps not to the same startling degree, but improvements in these areas are logical steps forward.

However, with all the hope that those amazing changes give us, there are some disturbing things from gaming history that we must consider as well. It is possible for the market to reach a point where consumers lose so much faith in developers that the market crashes. It's happened before. There was a North American video game crash in 1983 followed by a recession that almost destroyed the video game industry altogether. The most widely accepted cause for this crash was market saturation of poorly made games, such as the legendarily bad E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game. The gaming industry got to a point where developers were comfortable pushing out games in a terrible and/or unfinished state. Customers became fed-up and stopped buying the products in large enough numbers that the industry collapsed. Following this collapse, companies sought to avoid the mistakes that lead to the disaster and began making higher quality games.

The state of the gaming industry today is such that I wouldn't be surprised if there was another crash. Companies have grown complacent and find it acceptable to push unfinished games out the door. They promise patches to fix the issues, though much of the time many bugs are left unfixed. Companies do this because there is a time value to money: if you can earn $100M today instead of in 3 months, the money today is worth more since the value will appreciate over time. Developers could easily hold back games until they are polished and in a good and playable state, but don’t because they know that people will buy them anyway. They understand that the market will bear the buggy nature of their games.

Final Note

Change IS going to come to the video game industry, one way or another, and what that change is depends on how consumers choose to spend money. If we continue the trend of handing over money every time a developer makes a new game, regardless of the quality, then the game industry will wither. Giving money to developers without care for the entertainment value of a game tells them they don’t need to spend money or effort on their games. I want a game industry that puts out well polished, innovative, entertaining games. If you want that sort of game industry as well, please show the game developers by voting with your wallet.

We are also on the verge of thought controlled games.
I can't wait to see the future of gaming if companies
and consumers can get their acts together.

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