Over the past few years, I’ve had quite a few people thank me for exposing them to some of my favorite musical artists, who have in turn become some of their favorites. I’m pretty outspoken about my musical tastes, and regularly share what I’m listening to in Twitter posts about my tournament songs as well as on my stream. I’m happy that I can expose others to things that I enjoy that they might not find otherwise.
After reading a particularly good book recently and thinking that I wanted to share it, too, with others who might enjoy it, I figured that I might as well use the platform that I already have here at BMKGaming to share with you all things that I enjoy.
Full disclosure: I’ve included Amazon affiliate links embedded in the item images to purchase those things which are available on the site, so if you do decide to buy something I talk about here, I get a very small kickback for it. That said, I value my integrity far more than a couple bucks, and all my recommendations here are genuinely my opinion and not some sales job. You won’t be able to see the images or links if you have AdBlock running, so if you’re interested in any of the stuff here (or just want to help support me and my site), be sure to disable it on my domain.
So let’s get to it – Stuff I Like:
Books & Games I Like
1. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder
This is the aforementioned book that inspired me to write this in the first place. It’s written by Christian Rudder, one of the co-founders of OkCupid, and it’s an exploration of the vast amount of data generated by that website, among others. Christian manages to weave many threads of data together with interesting (and frequently hilarious) commentary on the nature of peoples’ behavior when, as the sub-title says, no one is watching.
I certainly have a few biases in favor of the book from the get-go, since I met my future wife Natalie on OkCupid several years ago, when I sent her the scintillatingly witty message “Do you want to get drunk and do karaoke?” I wonder what the data says about the success rate of that line. Additionally, Christian makes references throughout the book to playing Magic the Gathering, which made many of his asides all the more relatable.
Even outside the personal elements, I found the book fascinating. I was engrossed to the point that I had my nose stuck in it constantly, trying to get a few pages in between every time our airport security line moved. I finished Dataclysm the day I started reading it, which says a lot given how many ways I typically split my attention.
My single favorite tidbit of data in the book was in the exploration of race, and specifically the particular profile terms that were correlated most positively and negatively with different races. One of the “Most Asian” terms that could appear in an OkCupid profile was “Dash Berlin”, who happens to be one of my favorite electronic music artists. My experiences at his shows at Sutra in Orange County or other Southern California music festivals offer strong anecdotal support of that little piece of data. The “Least Asian” terms were commonly used misspellings and slang terms like “holla”, which I found similarly great.
2. Ready Player One By Ernest Cline
I’d had a number of people recommend this book to me over the years before I eventually read it because Natalie bought it and brought her copy to Hawaii. Much like Dataclysm, I found myself very much engrossed, and tore through the novel in just over a day at home after starting it on the flight back.
This is high praise – I used to read quite a bit when I was younger, and even got in trouble in grade school for reading novels secretly in my desk instead of paying attention in class, but these days I generally find myself surfing the internet or playing games instead. Most of my reading tends to be when I’m a captive audience on a plane without access to Wi-Fi, so getting me to unplug and open a book when I could be on my computer means a lot.
My engrossment with the book probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m squarely its target demographic. Ready Player One is a story about an eccentric multi-billionaire game designer in a dystopian future who created a puzzle inside his virtual reality MMO world for players to solve after his death in order to inherit his vast fortune. The clues and challenges of the puzzle are all rooted in 1980s games and pop culture. As a gamer who was born in 1980, there were countless references that made me nod my head and smile.
The story itself is a bit predictable, but it’s well told, and a fun ride. If you’re someone who has fond memories of playing old video games and Dungeons and Dragons growing up like I do, or if you’re someone who has spent more time than you’d like to admit playing World of Warcraft or another MMO, you’ll probably find quite a bit to appreciate in this book.
This isn’t a new game – it came out several years ago – but it was new to me at GenCon this year. I’m something of a gaming snob in that I’m highly critical of most games and rarely find new ones that I enjoy, especially board games. Galaxy Trucker is a happy and notable exception. I had a ton of fun even on my first play through, and still enjoy playing to this day.
The thematic concept of Galaxy Trucker is exactly what its name implies – you play a trucker trying to make a living shipping cargo across the galaxy. The core of the game is building your ship. At the start of each round, each player has an identical ship frame board and all of the ship component tiles are placed face down on the table. These components represent things like engines, lasers, cargo space, batteries, and life support systems, all of which are important for various reasons at later stages.
When the ship building portion of the round begins, players have a limited amount of time to dig through the face-down tiles to find the different components they need to put together their ship. If they fail to follow certain rules in building, the illegal pieces are removed from their ship during the inspection phase, and the player is penalized for those pieces as “space debris” at the end of the round.
After players have completed building their ships, they face a variety of random encounters, like asteroid fields, abandoned space ships, and space pirates. A player’s ability to handle the different challenges varies based on what kind of components they built on their ship – lasers to fight back against pirates, shields to protect from small asteroids, and cargo space to collect the goods left behind on abandoned ships, etc. If a player doesn’t have the appropriate tools to fight back or avoid danger, he or she can find pieces of his or her ship blown off into debris. This can result in losing key components or even drifting listlessly in space if you lose all of your engines.
Those players who survive their long haul through all of the encounters earn space credits at the end based on their relative finishing speed, the cargo they managed to pick up, and the state of their ship at the finish line. Then they do it all again with a bigger ship frame and tougher encounters, and then again with the biggest frame and toughest encounters. At the end of three runs, the player with the most space credits wins.
The game is a blast with hardcore gamers or a more casual crowd. Both the ship building phase and the encounters are a ton of fun, and lead to lots of hilarious moments as players scramble to find the pieces they need or watch helplessly as asteroids pummel their perfect ship into pieces. We couldn’t get enough of it after we first picked it up, and even pushed some tables together at a cafe in the airport on our way home to play. We sounded a lot like that crazy 80s guy in The LEGO Movie asking people to play all weekend.
Music I Like
And some music recommendations. For those looking for the music I play on my stream, be sure to check out the following podcasts by these artists:
And then some specific albums/tracks….
When I first heard Satellite off of this album on the 50th episode of the Tritonia podcast, I absolutely fell in love. I wanted to use it as my tournament song for multiple events, but Tritonal slowrolled the release for months. I would literally look at the track listing for every new podcast to find out if they were going to play it again, and legitimately got annoyed that one of their podcasts had Satellite by Oceanlab (despite the fact that I love that song) because I felt totally duped. In the end, they finally released it with the Metamorphic III EP, and it was totally worth the wait. Anchor off the same EP is also great, though not quite on the same level as Satellite in my mind. Seraphic isn’t really my thing, but it’s still a totally solid track.
This was my PT Portland song, and it’s great. I’m a huge Arty fan, and this is my favorite track of his short of Together We Are, which is just incredible. It’s a bit poppy and high energy and not quite like some of his other popular stuff, but I love it.
This song may be a bit overplayed, but for a good reason – it’s awesome. I bought the remix album myself, but the original is probably still my favorite mix.
This is basically the theme song of my life. It *literally* has the lyrics “Make the magic happen…and become the Dragon”. How can you go wrong? This was my GP Denver song just last week, and felt quite appropriate alongside my Sarkhans and Stormbreaths.
Let me know if you enjoy this kind of content. I have plans to do some more critical reviews about things I wanted to like and didn’t, but wanted to start things off on a positive note. I also have quite a few gadgets that have made a positive impact on my life as of late that I plan to discuss in my next installment. See you then!