Archives for January 2015

Nick’s 2014 Game of the Year: Hearthstone colon something about WOW

I am initiating this post in the heat of the moment. Yes. Fury percolates my blood right now. My eyes are twitching just as feverishly as my hands. I am yammering out loud.

I am am am am am am in a state of extreme agitation because I just lost four matches in a row in Hearthstone. Which is, in all honesty, nothing new. Losing streaks happen. But these were sloppy losses, achieved by playing stupidly. Each of the matches at one point were tilted ever so slightly in my favor. But then one critical misplay on my part ultimately led to an embarrassing, enraging demise. I should have walked away after the third loss, but I was stubborn and went back for one more match. After that defeat I was furious; I backhanded my can of Diet Coke from off the desk and sent it flying into the next room. This string of losses seems to sting more than the others.


And so, in this state of mind – this state of what I shall call ‘rabid lucidity’ – I am hereby declaring Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to be my 2014 Game of the Year. Because I can! Because not doing so would be exactly what this stupid game would want! I have the upperhand, fool! Indeed. The fire which doth burn before mine eyes brings forth a clarity of understanding, a recognition of why this game stands apart from all the others I have played this year.

I still hate Hearthstone so much right now…

But there are times when I feel contrary to this, times when I hoot & holler with surprise & delight. There was that one time when, as a Shaman, I danced around two opposing legendaries for three turns, slipped through the cracks with a Spellbreaker and pulled off a miraculous, windfuried victory. I was so giddy I had to go for a walk, grinning from ear to ear the entire time, chuckling to myself, delighted at the flood of endorphins that unleashed as I watched the Paladin’s portrait explode. And hopefully that haughty Paladin had to go walk off the percolating fury in his blood after that loss, just as I may or may not have had to do an undisclosed number of times.

Indeed, no other game this year had me groveling and soaring as much as Hearthstone. It’s like being in a high school relationship all over again. Sometimes I swear that we are meant to be together forever; Other times, out of spite, I don’t even answer the phone. I have torn down Hearthstone desktop wallpapers so fast it would make your head spin.

Hearthstone has exclusively solicited other kinds of behaviors, which is the main criteria that I am using to declare this as my GOTY. (I’ve calmed down now, BTW.)

No other game had me talking out loud while playing. While Hearthstone certainly can churn emotions, its simplicity as a CCG and its unrepentant RNG-mongering keeps me on my toes. And the best way to keep from slipping into analysis paralysis each 90-second turn is to converse to myself about strategies and risk assessment. The extra step of vocalizing keeps me focused. Even if I’m tapping away on the iPad while laying in bed, and even after the elbow jabs from my wife.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

No other game was as methodically played. Meaning, this goes beyond ingame activity. I make sure munchies are within reach. I have tunes in queue to match my mood and at the ready to be changed on a whim. Music level and game sounds level need to be perfectly mixed and are futzed with constantly. My head needs to be covered, preferably with a drawn hoodie. I need a ‘nerves toy’ to fidget with while I wait for my turn – a deck of cards to endlessly shuffle or one of my kids’ slap bracelets.

No other game has as many logged hours this year as Hearthstone. Granted, I don’t know for sure exactly how many but I am guessing it to be somewhere in the range of one and infinity. And because the game is available on iOS it’s easy to sneak away with the iPad at a family holiday function and play a match or two. Either on iOS or Windows, I rarely have matches go longer than 10 minutes. There’s always gold to be earned, booster packs to buy. Sometimes I don’t feel like building and experimenting with a deck. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing Hearthstone at all. Contrary to a grand strategy campaign or story-heavy games, you can walk away from Hearthstone for a week or more and then be able to pick right back up – there’s always other players in queue. This is one of the reasons I enjoy staying within range 22-15 of ranked play; the opposing decks are never the same, always a mishmashing hodge podge. It’s fun playing below the meta threshold. Always fun enough to keep me coming back sometimes after sometimes.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

And finally, no other game was quoted so often by my family. There was a short while during the end of last summer where this was a thing. It was memorable and fun. In Hearthstone, soundbytes accompany every card placement and movement. If the card is a minion the soundbyte is some form of vocalization. And if something involves vocalization my kids are all over it. This mimicry was mindfully executed. Say, if I was arriving home after being gone all day Mitchell would shriek “Gimmie a big hug!” ala Leper Gnome. “Follow de rules” ala Aldor Peacekeeper was a parental favorite, though it didn’t always work – in fact, it rarely worked, but it was certainly fun to hope.

Hearthstone was, and continues to be, a game that always seems to be so near, even if I am on a self-imposed ‘break’ from it. Despite its simplicity as a CCG, Hearthstone still feels like a complete package. Its snappy response and interactive board are just as critical to its success as the swift match-ups and evolving playing field. The game is constructed in a way that the player still has room to ease into the hot seat; thus, cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This post would not exist otherwise.

And so, here’s to another year of facepalms and jubilee, backhanded Diet Coke cans and awkwardly-quoted Paladin cards. “Boys! Look who it ’tis!” Indeed, dear Innkeeper. Glad to be back.

Weekend Gaming : Minecraft, Something Else (But Probably Not)

I have never ever, ever, ever, ever, in a hundred thousand million years ever thought I would get into Minecraft. Looking in from the outside, what I saw didn’t look interesting. This disinterest continued even after some hands-on time with the PS3 edition Santa recently delivered to my 7-year old son. It was fun to share this world with my progeny, neat-o to explore it, but it was an activity I did mostly out of love and support for my kid than actual enthusiasm for the game.

Then I discovered Redstone.

Redstone has completely reoriented my perception of Minecraft. And this is exciting, not just as it pertains to the game, but conceptually. I am engaged by the fact that a single aspect of a game, no longer clouded by my ignorance, gives a novel dimension to the bigger picture, generates new ideas and approaches. Oh man… Son, this is a philosophical rabbit hole I am not prepared nor smart enough to jump in. In what other games has this happened?

So, I discover and get all ramped about redstone. I try to explain circuits and logic gates to my boy. He brushed off my enthusiasm as if it were dorrito crumbs and went back to shearing sheep to facilitate the production of his purple carpet (Sure, dude, go ahead and use all the Lapis Lazuli I mined with the sweat of my brow). Later that night, after he went to bed, I logged back in and, like some amateur alchemist in way over his head, began tinkering with this magical red powder. Fascinating.

Long story short, Mitchell was severely displeased with the changes I made to his world: “It’s my game, and you played without me?” Point taken. Go back to making your carpet. Rookie.

However, I was allowed to dabble just enough that I am ready to begin my own world. Without him! I don’t need him or his carpet (yes, I do). I am considering taking this one step further and purchasing a copy for the PC. The modding possibilities alone have me just as giddy as redstone. It would be a survival world; I am more interested in making rickety, practical contraptions for home defense than in building majestic stone palaces from infinite resources. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you playing this weekend?

(And thanks for visiting ButtonMashing. We are in the process of tweaking the layout of the site and working on some new content. Because we care.)

Weekend Gaming

Well, as you can see from the picture above, I’ll be doing some PC gaming this weekend. I recently built myself a new gaming PC to replace my aging gaming laptop. I have some thoughts about my gaming laptop experience and thoughts about finding myself drifting away from being a console gamer and becoming entrenched in the PC gaming landscape, but those are posts for another day.

This weekend will be all about getting the new PC fully operational and decked out. I documented the progression of putting the system together with my cohorts, but I’ll include you all in the details soon. Needless to say, I am ready to play some games on this bad boy! I have already downloaded Dota 2 (because duh and because I wanted to see it in all its high settings glory), Endless Legend (because it chugged on my old system), Dishonored and The Walking Dead Season 2. The next order of business this afternoon will be to install Origin and download Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are tons of other games I’d like to play, but that’s a good start.

So I’ll be PC gaming this weekend — what are you going to play?

Read in 2014

I am blatantly stealing this idea from Zack. I love reading his post every year and use it to add books to my ever-growing list of “To Read” on While my list of books read in 2014 wasn’t very long, hopefully it’s still interesting:

The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow Motion Exercise That Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week by Fredrick Hahn, Michael R. Eades, Mary Dan Eades (181)

2014 was the year to get back to good health and get back in shape. I had heard about this Slow Fitness Revolution listening to a podcast and thought I’d give it a looksee. To be completely honest, this book wasn’t that helpful. This book could have been 50 pages shorter if they had just got right to the point of the advantages of this work-out mindset. A lot of time was spent needlessly using examples where one or two would have had the same effect. I have some doubts that 30+ minutes a week will be sufficient to get in better shape, but I am willing to give this a try.

Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser (416)

The other half of the getting healthy was changing my diet. I did the Atkins Low Carb diet years ago (to great success) but it wasn’t something I could maintain long term. After reading about the Paleo Diet for years, I figured I’d see if I could make it work. Chris Kresser’s approach to the strict Paleo way of life is one of adaption and experimentation. It starts with a 30-day reset where you eliminate all the process foods, sugars, grain, dairy and other harmful food. Once you’ve gone through this cleanse, you slow add back foods like diary and starch back into your diet to see how your body reacts to them. A lot of people’s health problems stem for allergic reactions to things the body can do without (gluten, lactose). Eliminating them and then figuring out how your body reacts are keep components to this “lifestyle”. He calls it you personal code because everyone’s body is different and requires a personalized approach to nutrition.

In addition to the nurtritional side, Kresser also examines and teaches the improtance of things like eliminating stress, having meaningful activity and “play time” (he even advocates a small amount of video gaming, recognizing the benefit such as hand-to-eye coordination) and getting a good night’s rest. It’s all about taking care of your body, and frankly, we don’t do a very good job of it.

As a testament to how much this book effected me, I lost over 30 pounds over the period of a few months and have been able to keep almost all of it off for almost a year now. I fell off the wagon for a bit during the holidays, but I’ve adjusted my diet and I can already feel the difference.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (216)

Not quite sci-fi, definitely not fantasy but there is some quasi-religious and metaphysical musings going on here. And maybe a touch of fictional history. The story follows Sir Richard Francis Burton (a real historic figure, a very interesting one at that) as he dies and is “reborn” in a strange location referred to as “The Riverworld”. This isn’t the afterlife (or is it?) nor is it purgatory (or is it?) but there are millions (billions) of other humans being resurrected all around him. The story follows Burton and a group of people from different times (including an alien responsible for the destruction of humanity and a neanderthal) as he tries to figure out what’s going on.

Riverworld is actually a series of books, but TYSBG is an enjoyable stand-alone novel.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (195)

Annihilation came out in 2014 (it’s not very often I actually read something contemporary like this) and received critical praise and popularity. It was described as a sort of Lovecraftian-mystery, with hints of “weird” science fiction.

I didn’t love it. The story follows four nameless women (only known by their professions — surveyor, anthropologist etc) as they enter “Area X”, an area that has been shrouded in mystery and has effected every expedition that ventured into it in different ways. This is the twelfth expedition (or is it?) and the story is narrated by the Anthropologist. Is she reliable? Is everything she sees real? The book started out promising, but I found myself losing steam as I made my way through it.

Annihilation is a trilogy, but unlike To Your Scattered Bodies Go, it doesn’t stand on as its own as a complete novel. I’m not sure I’ll make it through the trilogy.

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (301)

An interesting take on a lot of different popular topics — gender roles, humanity, politics. An enjoyable and pretty quick read. I’m not comfortable with the man/machine relationship when it comes to love and this book handles it a bit clumsily. But the Steampunk and Sci-Fi setting mixed with some fantasy is an enjoyable setting.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (415)

I finished the first two books a while ago, but after letdown reading the second book, I wasn’t motivated to read the 3rd until I knew the movie would be coming out. I enjoyed the third installment of The Hunger Games much more than I did the second. I know a lot of people complained of how quickly things came to a conclusion in the second (and some say of the third) but I thought the pacing and action of the third was well balanced and very enjoyable.

And without spoiling anything, it ended how I hoped it would.

So that was my reading list for 2014. A total of 1,724 pages.

What did you read last year?

Books (and pages) read in 2013: Five books (1,546 pages)

Tony’s 2014 Game of the Year – 2 Much Dota 2

We neglected to do “Game of the Year” posts last year. Previously we used to do “Fun Game of the Year” lists where we’d talk about the games we had the most fun with that particular year. We’re going back to our roots and posting our “Game of the Year” posts this year.

For me, my game of the year did not come out in 2014. It actually went into beta in 2011. Heck, it’s conception didn’t even happen in this decade — it’s a revamped version of a Warcraft III mod that was popular almost ten years ago. It went out of beta in 2013. And yet it’s the game that has held my attention longer than any other game not named EVE: Online.

I could spend a month’s worth of posts explaining why Dota 2 consumed so much of my time. The short list includes:

  • “Quick”, concise games – I know what I’m committing to when I hit “Play” in Dota 2. This isn’t going to be a marathon gaming session. It will be between 40-60 minutes. There will be no do-overs, no quick saves. Just me, my team and uninterrupted mayhem.
  • Over 100 heroes to learn and love (and hate) – It takes a while to get used to any one hero and it takes HOURS to get “good”. I would say I am “good” with about ten heroes. There are some I don’t care if I ever play. There are probably another 20-25 I’d like to get better at.
  • Never the same game twice – (Which is ironic to say because it’s the EXACT same game EVERY TIME) With two teams of five heroes each, the combinations are limitless. Add in varying skill levels and teammate competency and you’ve go the ingredients for infinite variety.
  • Free to play, pay to be different – This is actually going to be the subject of its own post, but I used to think free-to-play games that offer character customization (flair, if you will) was no way to run a free to play game. After having spent more on Dota 2 than I would buying a triple-A title, I have to say that Valve got free-to-play “right”.
  • The pro scene – I sometimes compare the pro Dota 2 scene to professional golf. Golf is a game that has a low enough bar for entry that just about anyone can play it, you can read an article about it at At the same time, the level of play of professionals is so advanced, no weekend warrior will ever be as good. But they are playing essentially the same game. Other pro sports are not like that. Your yearly Turkey Bowl with you buddies is not and will never be the Super Bowl. Dota 2 enthusiasts can watch a Dota 2 pro match and understand the strategy and gameplay and think “I could do that”.
  • I am a collector and stats whore – See above about customizing your character for the collector part — I love my Dota 2 inventory. But if you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, you’ll know how much of a stats whore I am (Halo 3, for instance). There is a ton of data generated during each match of Dota 2, and there are great sites like that will aggregate and present it so you can brag to your friends after that great 20-3-15 game.


Yes, the game has a community that is usually toxic but there are always pleasant little surprises sprinkled in among the dreck. If you find some dudes that don’t disparage your manhood nor question your ancestry (like the guys in the Buttonmashing Steam Group!), team up with them again. It’s safer to go into the Swamps of Sadness with some mates.

Even though there is a lot, this post is just scratching the surface. I’d really like to delve deeper into some of the games mechanics and concepts and the things that you can do around the periphery of the game as the year goes on. So I hope you like reading about Dota 2, because I sure like it as a game!