Nerd Block Unboxing September 2014

Continuing my Nerd Block unboxing series, this month I take a look at the Nerd Block Classic box and try my best to embarrass my nephew.

Here’s a bit more info on Nerd Block in case you were interested in getting one yourself:

Nerd Block is a nerdy subscription box service similar to Loot Crate which I had previously reviewed here, except that Nerd Block has 4 different box “types” that you can choose from. There’s the Nerd Block classic for $19.99 , which is your basic box of toys & t-shirts a la Loot Crate. They also offer Nerd Block Jr. in boys or girls flavours for $13.99. These ones don’t come with t-shirts, but do seem to include craft items and books as well as the toys and action figures. Nerd Block also offers a Horror Block for all you fellow horror aficionados and they just released a brand new Arcade Block for video game lovers!

The Nerd Block site is very easy to navigate and canceling your Nerd Block is as easy as sending an email to their cancellations department, instructions which are clearly stated in their FAQ, unlike Loot Crate who seem to make their cancellation process as obscure as possible.

I also like that Nerd Block has distribution centers all over the world, which means that I got my box here in Canada at the same time as everyone else in the US or Europe. No waiting around like a looser watching everyone else’s unboxing videos for me.

*Full Disclosure: I paid for this box out of my own pocket. However, this post does contain affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you sign up for the service through the link. All opinions expressed are my own.

PAX Prime 2014 Part III: Games, Games, Games

Alright, now for the part of my PAX Prime 2014 recap that I know y’all are actually interested in: The Games.

As I’d mentioned in Part I, this was my first PAX where I wasn’t working the show floor so I actually got a chance to play some games. After making a list of everything I played, I decided to organize this post according to the themes I noticed emerging, since that seemed like the most logical way of doing things. In each category I’ve ranked my top three games using the totally subjective “I had fun” scale.

I should also point out that some of my favourite games were actually played at the Seattle Indies Expo that happened on September 1st outside of the convention, but since I played them on this same trip I decided to lump them together with everything else.

AAA


The Order: 1886 – Story based shooter with fun steampunk weapons created by none other than Nikola Tesla himself. Mostly I’m into the moody Victorian setting, monster hunter plot & thermite cannon. That’s right. Thermite. Cannon.

Alien Isolation – From what I can tell, this is an Alien game done right. It’s stealth based, not combat based & looks scary as fuck. I got in the wrong line and ended up playing the crazy hard 3 min challenge, but it still looks like it’ll adequately soothe the sting of Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Smash Bros. Wii U – I got to play this one with Usagi and some strangers and was shocked to find I came in 2nd both times we played. I’m never usually that good at a Smash Bros. game.

Puzzle Coop


Never Alone – Cooperative platformer with puzzle elements based on traditional Alaskan Native American stories, made in collaboration with Native American communities in Alaska. This game is an incredible gem and I want nothing but success for it and the developers.

Together: Amna & Saif – Puzzle game that requires players to work together to solve puzzles and progress through maze-like levels. Gets extra kudos for keeping diversity and accessibility in mind while the game was being designed.

Chariot – A charming twist on the platformer where players need to work together in order to push/pull their chariot across an increasingly unforgiving terrain.

Mobile Wow!

Sneaky Sneaky Teaser
Sneaky Sneaky – Turn based stealth dungeon crawler for tablet. Insanely polished and fun to play, this one should be released sometime in October 2014.

Adventure Time Game Wizard – This one is sort of a game within a game. Using the Pixel Press framework, you create your own platforming levels that are then dressed up with preloaded Adventure Time assets.

Moonrise – Super slick mobile based monster collection/battle game a la Pokemon. Features cross platform play and customizable avatars.

Couch Coop/Multiplayer

Viking Squad Splash
Viking Squad – Castle Crashers style brawler for up to 4 players with procedurally generated levels & lane based play. Also, characters have RPG-like class based play styles, meaning I can actually play a ranged class in a brawler. From the guys who made N+.

Game 4 – Stripped-down SRPG by the guys who made Castle Crashers. Features battle cupcakes, a space bear and lots more weirdness.

Crawl – Already available on Steam, this multiplayer dungeon crawler features super minimalist pixel art and a sort of capture the flag gameplay style where players take turns being monsters and adventurers.

Educational


Counting Kingdom – Math based tower defense game where numbers are magic and players need to add and subtract to defeat an onslaught of monsters. Like Plants Vs. Zombies with numbers.

Machineers – Episodic construction puzzle game for teaching programming through experiential learning. Features a female protagonist and gameplay that will keep even adults entertained.

Penguemic: World Domination – Vocabulary building game from Learn District where you use SAT words as weapons to defeat bears and protect all of penguin kind.

Honourable Mention

Magnetic by Nature – Neat twist on classic platforming, previously featured in a Take My Money Tuesdays post.
Free-Range Dragons – New prototype from Spry Fox (makers of Triple Town & Road Not Taken).
The Moon Is Dying – Trippy little mobile game about a love affair between an umbrella and an inner tube.
Dragon Fin Soup – Gorgeous rogue-like, also previously featured in a Take My Money Tuesdays post.
SlashDash – Team based capture the flag for up to 4 people.
Sportsball – Competitive multiplayer game for up to 3 people which is basically bird polo.
Tumblestone – Casual competitive match 4 puzzle game with a variety of game modes.
Framed – Narrative puzzle game for tablets based on film/graphic novels.

Then there’s Sonic Boom, which I stood in line FOREVER to play just to get the swag bag for my nephew. It was embarrassing. 3D platformers are not my genre and I know the staff guy was honestly trying to help, but all of his offers of aid just served to reinforce how badly I was failing at even the most basic tasks. Even getting schooled in the Alien: Isolation challenge wasn’t that humiliating, especially since there was a 4 year old on her mom’s lap doing better than I did. Ugh.

You can read about the rest of my PAX Prime 2014 experiences here and here.

PAX Prime 2014 Part II: Panels & Cosplay

This second part of my PAX Prime 2014 adventures is devoted to the two firsts I experienced this time around: my very first experience cosplaying and my very first time speaking on a panel. You can read Part I of this series here.

Since I got involved with the #FGBlogers group on Google+ this year I’d developed something of a cosplay jones from seeing so many incredible cosplayers in that community and so I decided to make cosplaying for the first time a goal for this year. I set PAX Prime as the event to unveil my creation, but a lack of passes meant that my attendance wasn’t guaranteed until my friends at Pixelkin invited me to participate in a panel they were putting together on the subject of diversity in video games, which had been another goal I’d set for myself at the beginning of the year.

First things first, cosplaying was a blast. I can totally see why it becomes such a passion for people and the attention I got from what I considered a pretty simple noob costume was amazing. Sadly, traveling alone meant that I didn’t get nearly as many pictures of myself in costume as I would have liked, and my plans to get pictures around town in costume also fell totally flat. I was also very amused by the fact that a number of people didn’t actually realize I was in costume, since it turns out Delsin’s outfit is really just a variation on what seems to be a pretty standard Seattlite hipster uniform.

PAX Prime 2014 Delsin Rowe Cosplay

By far my favourite cosplay moment was tooling around the giant Sony booth and getting treated like a freaking rock star. I guess I can see why they would be so excited that someone was cosplaying as a character from one of their games, but I really did not expect the reaction that I got. Nearly every staff member who saw me shot me at least a “thumbs up” and the guy manning the photo-op in The Order: 1886 demo line even insisted on taking a photo with me. As well, when I finished the demo (which I really enjoyed, details coming in Part III), they even hooked me up with a free Order: 1886 pin and a special golden t-shirt!

I also had an amazing time bonding with total strangers who were also cosplaying as Delsin. Oddly enough, out of the 5 other Delsin cosplayers I saw, 4 of them were women. Go figure. However, I only managed to get photos with 2 of them, but I included them in the slideshow below along with pics of some of my other favourite cosplays.

 

Although I was waffling on whether to or not, I ended up wearing my cosplay again for my panel on Sunday night. We were a little bummed when we saw when our panel had been scheduled for (8:30 PM on Sunday night), but in some ways that might have been for the best as it definitely kept the rabble out. That said, all of the panels I personally attended were incredibly civil and definitely put me at ease leading up to ours. While there may have only been 30 people in the room (including panelists & convention staff), all of the questions asked were intelligent and on point and at least two of the people in attendance told me it was their favourite panel at PAX.

I’d have to say my favourite panel I attended was the Loving What You Hate: How to Engage with Problematic Media panel that shared most of the panelists (minus me, obviously) as the panel I was on. There is such a ridiculous assumption in our culture that criticism is automatically the same as condemnation, so it was great to have a group of crazy intelligent people laying out the difference with humour and sophistication.

My second favourite was the Top Women Characters of All Time panel which convinced me that I really need to play Chrono Trigger & Persona 4. Probably my least favourite panel was the Consenting Adults: Sex in Video Games panel, which, likely by virtue of happening at 10 PM on a Friday basically turned into a drunken happy hour that while entertaining, was not exactly as informative as I would have liked.

And while I didn’t attend it myself, I did managed to meet up with fellow blogger Usagi in the waiting area for the Cards Against Humanity panel.
PAX Prime 2014 Delsin & Usagi

Anyways, I guess that’s all for now. Stay tuned for Part III where I finally get to the part I’m sure you’re most interested in: THE GAMES!

PAX Prime 2014 Part I: Show Floor & Art Shows

As usual, I had all sorts of romantic ideas about having a whole series of posts about my adventures at PAX Prime 2014 ready to go as soon as I got back. And as usual, life had totally different plans for me. Some of those plans have been great, like finally jumping into the swing of community management for Cardboard Utopia, while others have not been so great, like the nasty cold/flu I am now battling.

That said, this round up might not be as robust as I would have liked, but I’ll be making a point of sharing the rest of my PAX Prime stories as I remember them. I’ve opted to organize these posts around different aspects of PAX, so this one will focus on the trip down to Seattle, my time on the show floor & the surprising number of pop art shows I found myself at this year. Future posts will focus on cosplay, panels, and of course, games.

Because there weren’t any direct flights to Seattle from Montreal available, I’d actually decided to fly to and from Vancouver so I could also visit with my family and then just take the bus down and back. This was great because I relish any chance I can get to visit them, especially since travelling across the country is usually more expensive for me than it would be to go to Europe. Sigh.

Arriving at the bus station in Vancouver was kind of funny because it was so obvious who was going down to Seattle for PAX and who was just another tourist. My dad even managed to point out who he thought was going, and he didn’t even know what PAX was until I’d told him the night before. The other funny thing was that there are actually three different bus companies with service to Seattle all operating out of the Vancouver bus depot, but the company I’d bought my ticket with doesn’t actually have a counter in the station, you just had to wait out on the street in front of the station and hope that your name is on the list the driver has.

Luckily there weren’t any problems there, and since I’d opted to sit near the back of the bus, it really did feel like I was on the part bus to PAX. The people around me were young, boisterous, and luckily friendly, even sharing their snacks with me. Also, I got to learn a lot more about their friends and their relationships than I had counted on. It was hilarious, and totally reminded me of my friends back in college.

Once we crossed the border and were dropped off in Downtown Seattle, my next mission was to locate Daryl, my host for the week and figure out how to get a temporary sim card to avoid those legendary roaming charges. The first task was a little weird, only because I’d never actually met Daryl before and we’d only exchanged the briefest of emails on Facebook since he was technically a friend of a friend/acquaintance who’d been hooked up due to my travel plans being so last minute and every affordable hotel room in Seattle that wasn’t a billion miles from the convention center being booked.

However, once we did manage to connect I was happily relieved to find that he really was the nicest, most generous dude ever. Like, ever. This man was a life-saver. Also, I promptly fell madly in love with his doggie Doc, eventually even surrendering one of my convention purchases to him because he was just too cute.

PAX Prime 2014 Me and Doc

Cutest dog ever, or cutest dog EVER?

As this was my first time attending a PAX convention not exhibiting on the show floor, it meant that I could actually play games and enjoy the surrounding events. It was pretty magical. That said, I didn’t get a chance to talk with as many people as I would normally working in a booth, but I also really enjoyed actually getting a chance to enjoy some of the PAX related activities that I’m usually too pooped from working to enjoy. That said, I still felt like I’d been hit by a truck by the time it was all done, although I’m sure ended up at a full on DANCE CLUB for the first time in like 10 years might have had something to do with that.

Some show floor highlights included feeling like a super star in my Delsin cosplay while touring around the Sony booth (I even got extra free stuff!), accidentally getting into the wrong line at the Alien: Isolation booth and having to play the 3 minute death challenge inside the alien egg instead of the regular demo, and actually getting to chat face to face with some of my favourite game makers.


Another accidental theme that seemed to emerge this year was art. I actually ended up attending three different art shows, all associated in some was with PAX. First up was When We Were Young at The Raygun Lounge, a cafe/gaming space up in Capital Hill. I’d heard about the show from Stasia Burrington’s blog and had actually tried to check it out a day early, but there was nothing on display yet. Whoops. While not exclusively video game themed, there were a variety of pieces based on 80’s cartoons and nostalgia, although not nearly as many as I’d thought there would be. Oh well.

Since that had been kind of a bummer, after dinner and another panel I wandered back up to Capital Hill for the Press Start III: Turbo Mode show at Ltd. Gallery. This show was amazing, and I especially liked the fact that most of the art was also available to buy as much more affordable prints. Sadly, I’d failed to heed Krystelle’s convention advice and didn’t have a poster tube with me, meaning anything print-like I purchased would surely have ended up a crumpled mess by the time I got back to Montreal. Luckily it seems like many of the prints are still available for purchase on the Ltd. Art Gallery website.

Last up was the Fangamer Vs. Attract Mode party which in addition to music and cocktails by The Drunken Moogle, also featured a whole range of limited edition prints available for sale on a make-shift gallery wall. Again, I opted not to buy anything because I couldn’t guarantee it’s safe return home, but I still really enjoyed getting a chance to check out everything on offer.

Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of my PAX Prime recap, including a few more picks of my Delsin cosplay and the details of how my very first panel went down.