Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 16:54 on 23-11-2015, Ronan Wills
If you're into museums the British Museum and the Natural History Museum are both excellent. The former has a really cool atrium thing with a glass roof that I thought was the absolute bee's knees and possibly worth the trip by itself.

at 11:32 on 23-11-2015, Arthur B
Whereabouts in London are you likely to go? It's a big place so don't want to recommend anywhere too out of your way.
at 11:10 on 23-11-2015, Craverguy
I'm flying to England on Wednesday. We'll be staying for about three days in Cambridge, then off to London. Any local knowledge of things to do/places to go/restaurants to eat in would be appreciated.
at 23:29 on 22-11-2015, Arthur B
To be fair, "wading through piles of books" is exactly what the Reading Canary theme is about. And I'm entirely happy to publish reviews of stuff that isn't presently available in English.
at 23:20 on 22-11-2015, Shim
Now that Ferretbrain has risen again, I'm a bit sad that I don't really do anything here any more.

GOGathon is kind of stymied by not having time spare to play games, let alone be snarky about them on the internet. And my reading these days mostly a) takes the form of trying to wade rapidly through enormous piles of books, and b) is in Japanese. And I moved hundreds of miles away so podcasts aren't very practical now, or at least lack atmosphere.

I mean, I still read everything, but I've kind of regressed into a lurker.
at 08:30 on 21-11-2015, Jamie Johnston

In my excitement I unwisely tried to use an emoji...
at 08:29 on 21-11-2015, Jamie Johnston
Yay, the 'Brain is back! �� Nothing like an unexpected hiatus to make one appreciate a thing. How's everyone been?
at 02:50 on 21-11-2015, James D
That's one of the creepiest things I've read in a long time.
at 15:04 on 18-11-2015, Arthur B
So the author of Hemlock Grove has ostentatiously outed himself as a terrible person.
at 05:30 on 06-10-2015, Craverguy
I am somewhat nonplussed to discover, given what a huge part of British pop culture the show is, that only one actor who played the Doctor has ever been knighted.

(It was
John Hurt
, if you're curious.)
at 19:44 on 05-10-2015, Fin
MGSV can be a lot of fun, but god the story is incredibly disappointing. The opening sequence in Cyprus might be one of the best sequences in a Metal Gear game and then once you get into the open world the story is told in dribs and drabs over a ridiculously long time period. I didn't get the ending until about 120 hours of playtime (compare that to about 10-20 hours for pretty much every other Metal Gear title). And what story threads were there were poorly developed, often loosely connected to each other and in one major case completely unresolved due to cut content.

The gameplay was a lot of fun but did get repetitive. You'll find yourself returning to the same outposts again and again to do the same kind of missions as last time and there simply isn't enough activity between enemy outposts to make the open world particularly worthwhile. There isn't even a decent fast travel system to take the sting of the lifeless world away.

But petting my adorable doggy and using party balloons to airlift everything I see back to my military base while listening to 80s pop music never gets old.
at 06:30 on 05-10-2015, Craverguy
I know I conform to the "only play a limited number of games a year" model, but that's because I am chronically employment challenged, so I buy maybe one game a year for myself and the rest come from birthday and Christmas gifts.
at 04:15 on 05-10-2015, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Gotta admit...seeing the trailers for these new, gigantic open-world games with all this customization, sidestories, and the like...I just wonder when people get the time to finish them. I mean, if you're holding down a part-/full-time job, family, hobbies, and the like, it seems like it'll take a month before you find out how the story ends. And let's not get into the padding and busywork.

I don't know what to make of it. Given how expensive new games are getting, are publishers assuming that people will only be buying 2-3 new titles a year, and therefore they should make their games worth the investment? Is gaming really a young man's (or young woman's) racket, and it's implicitly assumed you'll be dropping out in your 30's or 40's?

And on the subject of recent open-world games with lots of content...any of y'all taken a stab at MGSV? The reaction I've been looking at has been pretty interesting: while it's an excellent action-stealth doesn't seem to be a very good Metal Gear game.
at 13:00 on 04-10-2015, Craverguy
Having seen this video, I am giddy with anticipation for Fallout 4. Customizable weapons and power armor? Fully interactive character designer? Minecraft-style settlement construction? Little Atari-style minigames on the Pip-Boy? A new cute doggie who obeys commands and can't be killed? Shut up and take my money!

...Except that I remember that the console Fallout game I loved and hold up as a shining example of great CRPG plotting (Fallout: New Vegas) was made by Obsidian, and the one I could never bring myself to play for more than about six hours (Fallout 3) was made by Bethesda Softworks...and this new one is by Bethesda Softworks.

Hmmm...giddiness mildly tempered...
at 03:11 on 03-10-2015, Melanie
At one point when showcasing the game, a Rabbi saw the board, paused, and said that he understood what the game was about.

"I don't want to play it," he said. "You just did," Brathwaite replied.

at 09:30 on 01-10-2015, Craverguy
So, I went on a WikiWalk starting with one of the links posted in Dan's old article about Monopoly, and I ended up here:

It's like that Super Mario Maker level was specifically designed to parody this game.
at 07:45 on 25-09-2015, Craverguy
But that would require buying a Wii U, and who wants to do that?
at 20:50 on 20-09-2015, Arthur B
Anyone with Super Mario Maker can download the level and find out. (And also be complicit in all the complicity.)
at 18:48 on 20-09-2015, James D
Probably it calls you a bad person for not willing to go far for your son. Which you don't even actually have. Or the choice is just an illusion. Those "you are a bad person" games are like the schoolyard bully who makes you hit yourself with your own fist and then says "stop hitting yourself."
at 01:21 on 19-09-2015, Melanie
Now I want to know what you get if you choose the "not that far" door.
at 16:32 on 17-09-2015, Arthur B
Someone made a Super Mario Maker level parodying Serious Decision narrative bullshit "ooooh, do you see, you were the baddie all along" art-games. Brilliant.
at 03:09 on 17-09-2015, Sunnyskywalker
Well, I can definitely understand him not trusting Tony Stark. (And how do you even call Thor? Does he even get cell service wherever he hangs out?) But this does highlight how awkward it is that they have an Avengers program but, apparently, no Avengers weekly virtual meetings or mandatory Avengers training sessions so they can all get to know each other and coordinate their Avenging. Have the writers ever worked for the government? There would be meetings! With agendas! There would be an official Avengers Program Plan full of Missions and Objectives and Visions! Yes, even in a top-secret agency full of independent maverick consultants. That is just how government programs work and you can't stop them.

He ought to have spent a little more time around them than just that one time saving the world, iow, and at least initiate some helpful dialog for the viewer on how he doesn't know them well enough to risk calling them even if they did suffer through a mandatory webinar series with chat sidebar together last Friday.

I think that fic explains where Hawkeye was perfectly. Ha!
at 02:00 on 16-09-2015, Melanie
Honestly, I haven't read a single one of the comics either. There's just so much investment involved, no guarantee the story will ever wrap up properly (if it hasn't already, I mean), changes in writers, research required just to figure out where you can start reading (assuming that you a)don't want to be confused about what's going on and who people are, and b)don't feel like trying to hunt down fifty+ years' worth of back issues so you can read everything, in order), etc. So generally I only read comics if I've heard something good/interesting about a specific run and I can actually find all of it.

there's still the question of why she didn't ring up her best friend Hawkeye to help them fight the bad guys. I prefer to believe he was in deep cover while all this was going down and couldn't be reached.

I actually found this brilliant, hilarious fic along those lines (gen, short).
at 00:30 on 16-09-2015, Robinson L
Huh, I haven't really read the comics in years, but I guess I got enough background knowledge from that to figure out most of that stuff.

(Totally one of those people who goes around asking "so, what were all the other established characters in that universe doing while this was going on?" Actually, come to think, that could be a great concept for a series of one-shot comics - just explaining where all the other superheroes were during, say, Iron Man III, for instance. But yeah, you also got that in the comics, wondering why the various heroes and villains don't trip over each other much more often.)

Sunnyskywalker: "I'm pretty sure Steve knows other superheroes. Does he not trust them?"

That initially bugged me in Winter Soldier, too, but then I thought about it a bit more and I said, "hang on a minute, why would he be inclined to trust them?" After all, Fury told him not to trust anybody, and unlike in the comics, he hasn't known Bruce and Tony and the others since forever - in the movie timeline, he's met them all once for a couple of days at this point, and yeah, they saved the world together, but that doesn't mean they're always going to be on the same side. He doesn't really know what type of people they are, and their interactions in The Avengers gave him reason to have doubts about pretty much all of them. It looks like the only one he's worked with closely since the Battle of New York is Tasha, and by the time
Fury apparently dies
the film has already established that he doesn't trust her and why. We, as viewers know that she and the other Avengers are on the level, of course, but when I thought about it for a minute, I could absolutely see why Steve would be distrustful at this point.

Of course, once he's decided to throw in with Tasha, there's still the question of why she didn't ring up her best friend Hawkeye to help them fight the bad guys. I prefer to believe he was in deep cover while all this was going down and couldn't be reached.