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Video Game Summer

How I Spent My Summer Game-cation: Tips for beating the summer video-game doldrums.


Summertime may be great for those who enjoy swimming, baseball, picnics, fireworks and going to the beach, but what if you’re a video gamer?

Everyone knows that except for a couple of bright spots—NCAA College Football 11 and Madden 2011—the summer game pickin’s are pretty slim. It’s a slew of movie tie-ins—like the sure-to-not-please Sorcerer’s Apprentice—and craptastic titles that get dumped into the summer wasteland.

So, what’s a gamer to do? As it so happens, I get paid to answer just that question.

Take your time. Sure, there are a lot of bad games coming out, but there are a few gems worthy of your time. The key is, when you find these great titles, you have to make them last. Don’t sit down for one of your 18-hour, Mountain Dew-fueled kamikaze sessions. Relax; search the levels and worlds. Don’t just beat the game on easy and throw it aside; pace yourself, because it’s a long time until the new Halo, Fable, Metal Gear Solid and DC Universe games come out.

Some of those games have already come out. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Lego Harry Potter are two excellent games in an otherwise unremarkable summer. The Lego series continues to impress—and honestly, I’m not sure why. It’s simple, it looks weird and the game play is always great, but not mind-bendingly great. I’m always surprised when I sit down with the rough-looking Lego characters and find myself enjoying the game. There’s also a free, challenging video game from NASA called Moonbase Alpha, and a new multi-player cops-and-gangs title, APB.

Add those games to the new Tiger Woods golf game—save the jokes—and the two aforementioned football games, and with a little time management, it’ll be fall before you know it.

Visit some old friends. If you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of games sitting around that you haven’t touched in ages. Get reacquainted with them. Play as a different character or team, or play at a harder level. There is no doubt that you’ll find something about these games that you didn’t notice before.

One day while going through my games, I realized that I had barely played one of my Tomb Raider games. I got it around the holidays, and paid little attention to it. It’s been a blast to work my way through it, and it gets me ready for the new installment due out next year.

Read a book. Probably the last piece of advice you’d expect to get here, right? But there have been many great books written about video games, the industry and the people surrounding it.

One of my favorites is nearly a decade old at this point, but still interesting. Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho follows a pair of computer hackers from Nowhere, Idaho, as they strive to use their knowledge of computers to get themselves out of Nowhere, Idaho. Another great read is From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games. It looks at the interlocked history of war and games, and the government’s federally funded attempts to try and use gaming to breed a new generation of warriors.

Go to Camp. The University of British Columbia is offering a one-week camp, the Arcade Bunker, where kids get to mix outdoor activities with three hours of daily video gaming. For $140 Canadian, you can head to the great outdoors, learn to swim and—one hopes—come home with mad skills on Guitar Hero. The camp also includes a field trip to video-game company EA. Says Kyle Cupido, camp manager, “Kids come to Arcade Bunker who don’t necessarily fit into other programs we offer.”

Even though I think that might be code for “nerds don’t play football,” at least it’s a way to kill a week until the new Kingdom Hearts comes out in the fall.

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