Want a quick way to learn history? Try graphic novels! My latest graphic nonfiction read is Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master: Pong, Atari, and the Dawn of the Video Game by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi.
I will admit that I don’t know much about videogames. I didn’t play much growing up and as an adult, my current exposure is mostly limited to helping people check out videogames at the library. However, I am always fascinated in learning the history, well, behind literally anything. Last week while on a road trip, I discovered that the founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell, went on to also found the Chuck E. Cheese’s businesses. (Don’t ask how I fell into that random rabbit hole, but it was a fun trip!) Wanting to learn more, I checked the Library’s catalog and found a nonfiction graphic novel called Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master: Pong, Atari, and the Dawn of the Video Game by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi. This nonfiction graphic novel perfectly satisfied my curiosity, though I will admit that it is based on a magazine article and that is clearly reflected given how short the book is. I would love to learn more about the two men involved and their rivalry. Instead the novel focuses on the two mens’ direct relationship to Pong and a bit of their relationship with each other.
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master is a nostalgic look into the start of gaming. Readers examine the start of Silicone Valley through the lives of Ralph Baer and Nolan Bushnell, two very different men vying for the title of inventor of video games. Baer was a Jewish immigrant whose family fled Germany for America. He developed the first TV video-game console and ping-pong game in the 1960s. Baer then went on to work for Magnavox. Bushnell founded Atari and then put out his own pioneering table-tennis arcade game called Pong in 1972. As a result, a massive battle ensued between Baer and Bushnell over who really invented video games. They spent decades arguing over who started this multibillion-dollar industry, but never really came to a conclusion. This graphic novel focuses on their battle, while also showcasing the groundbreaking inventions and innovation that had to occur for those games to be created and to then spark the seeds for today’s ground-breaking games.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience the past, present, and future all at the same time? Do you like games filled with adventure, fantasy, and cute animal side kicks? Cris Tales might be the game for you!
This Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) follows the story of orphan, Crisbell. Crisbell is an ordinary girl, until one day she discovers she is a Time Mage. With her new found abilities to jump from the present to the future or the past, the fate of the Four Kingdoms lies in her hands. She must defeat the fear mongering Time Empress! However, Crisbell isn’t alone in her fight; allies from around the kingdom Christopher, Willhelm, and more band together. She also relies on her animal sidekick, Matias, who guides Crisbell through this brand new world of being a Time Mage.
Cris Tales is surely to be a new favorite JRPG. Right off the bat, the player is immersed in the drama surrounding the Four Kingdom’s fight against the Time Empress. The player learns a lot of the important skills at the beginning of the game. Cris Tales also allows you to venture off and explore. You can talk to multiple townsfolk and learn more. The plot is fun and easy to follow.
The turn based fighting style, allows the player to think through the moves they want to make. I liked this concept for the game. Some traditional RPG’s can get intense with the fight scenes, and by the time you think about what to do, you have to start over. The turn based element keeps the fight scenes simple and kid friendly.
Cris Tales is available on the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One/Series X.
guest post by Anthony
When I was a kid I loved playing the Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf games but it has been quite a while since I last played one. I’ve been an avid golfer for most of my life though I’ve fallen off a little bit over the last couple of years. This summer I’ve been making an effort to get out on the course a lot more often and it’s been fun to get back into one of my favorite hobbies. It has been so much fun in fact than in addition to playing golf in real life I’ve also been eager to get back into playing virtual golf as well. PGA Tour 2K21 is the more recent golf simulation game that has come out and I’ve been really enjoying my time with it.
The game looks amazing with a multitude of real life PGA Tour courses on offer, including our local TPC Deere Run which hosts the John Deere Classic over in Silvis, Illinois. The team behind the game scanned all 15 of the real courses from the game so all the bunkers, water hazards, and fairways match their real life counterparts. The visuals and sound effects do a lot to showcase the beautiful courses and the gameplay mechanics make it almost as much fun to play as real golf. Swinging a golf club in the game is intuitive and when you make mistakes it is easy to see what you did wrong, something that is not quite as easy to figure out in real life.
The game has a couple of main modes. The two biggest are the PGA Tour mode were you create a golfer than work your way up from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour, while unlocking new gear, clothes, and sponsors along the way. This is the main mode that I’ve been playing and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. The other main mode is multiplayer. I’ve played a couple of games online with friends and it plays just like single player does, just with other humans instead of the computer. It’s fun to be able to play on a bunch of tournament level courses that I will likely never have the opportunity to play on in real life. I can play them a lot better in PGA Tour 2K21 than I probably could in real life as well.
PGA Tour 2K21 is available on Nintendo Switch and XBox One.
I should be honest up front with this review, I love Remedy games. Alan Wake, a game made by Remedy back in 2010, is one of my favorite video games that I have ever played. The games that Remedy makes are examples of how to make effective linear single player games. The stories they write are always engaging, the worlds that they create are always immersive and full of life, and the gameplay is always crisp and responsive.
Control is no different.
Control tasks the player as Jesse Fayden, a woman who lost her brother due to a traumatic event in her youth that she believes is related to the Federal Bureau of Control. The Bureau is a shady government agency that holds plethora of supernatural phenomenon. As Jesse explores the Bureau she gains more and more psychic powers and begins to unravel the secrets that the Bureau holds and with it, how those secrets tie in to the disappearance of her brother.
The gameplay of Control is a 3rd person action game where you use an ever-expanding suite of psychic powers to fight off a variety of different enemies called the Hiss. Starting with an energy strike from your “service weapon” and growing into mind control, the ability to pick up and throw any object with your mind and even the ability of flight. Jesse grows in power in a really rewarding way as you play throughout the game that keeps the gameplay from getting stale and repetitive.
The sound design and atmosphere of the game is also top notch, exploring through mad science labs and bureaucratic labyrinths has never been more fun. The game is a perfect mixture of Twilight Zone, Men in Black and Aperture Science from Portal in terms of the tone of the Bureau. Every single research file or piece of correspondence helps to anchor and engross the player in the world of the game. Remedy’s incredible world-building and writing is in full effect here.
Despite my reservations about Remedy deciding to make this over a sequel to my beloved Alan Wake, I have to admit that they have hit it out of the park yet again. Remedy continues to hold the banner for single-player story-driven experiences that focus on gameplay, immersion and excellent story-telling. No other game developer out there today is able to perfectly blend all of those aspects like Remedy does.
Sea of Thieves is a truly unique game in terms of scope and execution. It is a game best played with friends and honestly baffled me when I first played it on release. There is no grand goal at the end of the adventure, the goal is what you make it to be.
Sea of Thieves is an open-world adventure game that tasks the player as part of a crew of pirates going on quests on the high seas. While the game can be played solo where the game matches the player with random players via matchmaking, I have to say that this is not the ideal way to enjoy this game. Playing with friends online creates the most fun scenarios and is how the game was meant to be enjoyed.
Players work together taking on different roles on the ship. One person can steer, one can man the sails and another can navigate. Sea of Thieves really captures the feel of being a pirate, especially when your ship gets close to another group’s ship.
Nothing can compare to the rush of exhilaration that you feel as a player when someone notices another ship on the horizon. “will they attack us? should we pursue them? are they going to be friendly?” all of these questions are made more exciting by knowing that these conversations are also being played out by the other players on the other ship. Maybe you are returning from a quest with a ton of loot on your ship so you don’t want to risk fighting other pirates, or maybe you are on your way to a quest so you have nothing to lose but attack the other players.
I have never experienced an encounter like these until I played Sea of Thieves. Balancing between manning the cannons, plugging up holes from enemy cannon fire, steering the ship, and managing the sails is such a frantic process that the game can go from tranquil enjoyment of sailing, to intense frantic combat in an instant. There is more to the game beyond that too, players can band together and work to take down massive threats like the Megaladon that requires coordination between multiple ships to take down.
I highly recommend this game to any friend group that is looking for a new co op experience to tackle. Blare the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack loud and proud as you tackle the high seas, fight off skeletons, krakens and of course, other pirates.
Many people give the Borderlands franchise credit for the creation of the “Looter Shooter” genre as we now know it, but I think credit should be given to Destiny for how Bungie has been able to perfect it. Destiny 2 is going free-to-play on September 17th of this year. That means that you won’t have to purchase or check out the game to play the base game on your console of choice. Swing by the Davenport Library and check out the game before that date to get a head start on your friends!
Destiny 2 is a Looter shooter, that means you are going to be shooting a lot of aliens, robots and alien robots. As you are blowing up those bad guys, you are going to level up and get newer and shinier equipment and weapons so that you can continue to blow up aliens, robots and alien robots. This grind is made even more fun if you have a few friends to tag along with. Co op in Destiny 2 consists of 3 total players (or 6 if you are trying to tackle Raid content) and I think the game is the most fun when tackled by a full party.
There is also the competitive crucible mode that pits players against each other in a variety of modes that cap out at 6 v 6 competition. Being that Bungie are the initial developers of the Halo series, the gunplay is quick, smooth and very well executed. There is something for everyone’s playstyle in Destiny 2 and it is a great game if you are looking for something to sink a lot of time into. There is always something to do in Destiny 2 and it is constantly being updated with new DLC expansions.
If grindy loot quests are your cup of tea, then look no further than Destiny 2.
Have you ever wished that you were a star in an action movie where the normal laws of physics don’t apply to you? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grappling hook yourself to a plane as it gets thrown around in a tornado and then use your wingsuit to fly safely to the ground, fighting bad guys as you do it? If you said yes to any of that, then Just Cause 4 might be the game for you.
In Just Cause 4 you play as Rico Rodriguez, as he looks into Project Illapa, a program aimed at controlling weather patterns in the fictional South American country of Solis. This action-adventure game has you fighting against the Black Hand, a private army tasked on seizing control of Project Illapa and using its powers for nefarious means. While the story is a continuation of the story from previous games, it isn’t necessary to have played the previous entries to enjoy the frantic and chaotic gameplay of this most recent addition to the franchise.
This game features new advances in developer Avalanche’s Apex game engine that allows for extreme weather patterns such as sandstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards and more to feature prominently in the open world gameplay. The open world also features a range of diverse locations and biomes to traverse such as ancient ruins, thick tropical jungles and as well as cityscapes.
The advanced physics systems also makes combat far more interesting and fun. You are able to use the grappling hook in even more crazy ways than in previous games. You can use the grappling hook to hook together a helicopter and a tank and watch the chaos that ensues when you do. You can even use the grappling hook to latch on to a rocket and shoot yourself across the map that way. Your imagination is the limit in this sandbox of a game. The new weather features and upgraded physics engine make this a fun game to check out if you want to live out fantasies of being an action hero.
This game is available on both the Xbox One and PS4 at the Davenport Public Library.
This years Call of Duty game has been announced. With the most recent installment in the 16 year franchise, Activision announced the return to the Modern Warfare series releasing later this year with Call of Duty Modern Warfare. It has been 8 years since Modern Warfare 3 released in November of 2011 and 12 years since the original game in the series, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, was released in 2007. With this new installment in the series on the horizon, why not play through those old games to get yourself up to speed on the newest game coming this fall? I am here to help you do just that.
The Davenport Public Library has all three of the original Modern Warfare games for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. But, if you don’t want to have to break out your old consoles to play these games, there are some alternative options. The Xbox One allows for backwards compatibility play for some of their games. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare (COD4) and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) are two of the games that are currently on Xbox’s backwards compatibility list so all you have to do if you own an Xbox One is put those Xbox 360 disks into your console and you are ready to go! Sadly, Sony has not implemented a similar feature for playing PS3 games on your PS4 so if you want to play the original PS3 games, you are going to have to use a PS3. With Modern Warfare 3 (MW3) , however, you will have to play the disk in the original console that they were intended for on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
The Modern Warfare series is a military-style first-person shooter that spans the globe following Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish and Captain Price among others as they fight against Russian agents and rogue terrorist groups around the globe. Each game has a campaign that follows the story of these characters in bombastic Micheal Bay-esque, explosion and action-filled fashion. Each level is filled with excitement with each game upping the explosions and over-the-top action with the 3rd game culminating in the player experiencing the destruction of an entire city while fighting through it.
Both MW2 and MW3 offer cooperative play options for if you want to play with your friend. MW2 has a spec ops mode where you play through levels with a partner. MW3 also offers a spec ops mode similar to MW2 as well as a Survival mode where you and a partner fight off waves of progressively harder enemies to see how many rounds you can make it before falling. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Multiplayer modes for these games as well. All three of the Modern Warfare games have great competitive multiplayer options. It might take you a little bit to find a lobby now that the games are so old but they still have active communities so getting a few games in should still be possible.
If any of this sounds fun to you, or at least makes you feel nostalgic for when you played these games before, feel free to stop by the library to check one of (or all) of these games out to play!
Lego DC Super-Villains is a Lego game from Traveller’s Tales. If you have played Lego games in the past, this one should seem familiar to you. You break stuff, get studs, solve puzzles, and build stuff, all while playing as some of your favorite characters. This coupled with the Lego game’s signature coach co-op means that you can play through the game by yourself or with a friend. This game shifts the focus away from caped crusaders to the nefarious super villains of the DC universe.
There are over 170 playable characters, both villains and super heroes, for you to play as. These range from characters that you know and love such as The Joker, Lex Luthor, Batman and Aquaman, to more obscure DC characters such as Clock King and Condiment King.
This game is unique because of how it integrates the character creation feature into the story. Usually in Lego games, you play as your favorite characters and get to play as them throughout the game. In Lego DC Super-Villains, however, you get to make your own villain named The Rookie that you get to play as an upgrade as you progress through the game.
Another fun game for the whole family to enjoy from Traveller’s Tales. Lego DC Super-Villains is available at the Davenport Public Library for both Xbox One and PS4.
After the incredibly rocky launch in November of last year, Fallout 76 has received a number of updates and has been getting a lot more praise than it was just a few months ago. A lot of the lag and server side issues have now been patched to a reasonable level, the addition of new modes like Survival and new dungeons and questlines throughout the game world have also served to change a lot of people’s opinions about the state of the game. I think with all of these improvements in mind, it might be time to check the game out if you haven’t already or were turned away by it’s rocky launch back in November.
Fallout 76 is an MMORPG released by Bethesda Games Studio in November of 2018. It is the 6th Fallout game in the series and the 3rd Fallout title made by Bethesda Games Studio. It is the 1st Fallout game to allow multiplayer and that multiplayer is the central focus of the game. As with all Fallout games, you are placed in a post-apocalyptic wasteland tasked with scavenging, questing and looting to survive and thrive in the nuclear wastes. The familiar tongue-in-cheek cold war aesthetics can be seen throughout the game, from the soundtrack to the look and feel of the game world, this what you would expect from a Fallout game.
The gameplay is clunky, which isn’t really anything new for a Fallout game, and that clunkiness is further accentuated by the online nature of the game. That being said, the many server glitches have been remedied in recent months and the game is now in a relatively stable state to play and fight irradiated mutants throughout the wasteland with your friends. This game is at it’s best when playing with others. Even if you don’t have friends that already own the game, fear not, you can run across other players in the wasteland to play with. And if playing with people isn’t your thing, you can run it solo just like any other Fallout game and just ignore other players when you come across them. The game is very versatile and customizable in terms of the experience that you as a player want to get out of it.
You can focus on making settlements that you get to build and customize to your liking, you can focus on questing throughout the wastelands like in any other Fallout RPG, you can focus on getting nuclear launch codes and destroying a section of your server with it, or you can even focus on the photo mode and become a photographer for the West Virginia wasteland. There are tones of options in terms of variable gameplay for you as a player to experience and the game is largely about what you make of it. After the months of updates and fixes, I think Fallout 76 is in a state where players can now start really enjoying the game without having to worry about it crashing every 15 minutes.
If this sounds interesting to you, feel free to swing by the Davenport Public Library where we have Fallout 76 available on both PS4 and Xbox One!