Choice Validation vs. Objective Morality in Gaming

The “Right Choice” Wins

Choice Validation vs. Objective Morality in Gaming — Kimia Wood — moral choice

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Moral choice is rooted in worldview, and video games are uniquely suited for exploring worldview.

In movies and books, you can watch characters make choices and explore the consequences through their eyes…but in video games, you’re invited to become the character, make choices, and experience the consequences in a different – and powerful – way.

But are we allowed to make the “wrong” choice? And if so, what worldview does this reveal? Continue reading

The “Blackwell” Bundle

In an attempt to recapture the gaming experience of Gemini Rue, I hunted through its developer’s catalogue. The Blackwell series caught my eye, and I took advantage of a sale to snag the bundle (because who buys anything at full price?!).

TL;DR for the series? It’s not as amazing as most of the other puzzle games I’ve played, but it was definitely worth some #SiblingTime.

The premise: Rosangela Blackwell’s life turns upside-down when she discovers she’s a medium and inherits a spirit guide from her aunt. Her guide – the saucy ghost Joey – teaches her of her mission in life: helping spirits come to terms with their death and “move on”.


Not my usual genre at all…but half of “paranormal detective” is detective, right? Continue reading

Best Video Games for Kids

I grew up on video games from my earliest childhood. Many of these I watched my dad play — in fact, we have a photo of my brother, not yet old enough to walk, sitting on Dad’s lap watching Warcraft III.

But I myself played my share of video games. You may scoff, but some of my fondest memories, the most enduring stories, breathtaking characters, and immersive experiences have come from games.

If you have kids, you want them to be encouraged, educated, and edified by the media they consume. This includes watching the books they read and the friends they play with.

Dare you let video games play a role in their development? If so, let me share with you the best and brightest games from my youth…the ones that taught me most, or touched me the deepest.

DISCLAIMER: CHECK YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM AND THE GAME’S SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS BEFORE BUYING ANY GAMES. After all, I’m not exactly a spring chicken…

Teaching Games

Admit it. We parents are duplicitous, and want to sneak little nuggets of knowledge into the things our kids think are just fun.

Sure, there are lots of games like this, some more recent or successful than others. But from my own vast childhood experience, these are my top picks:

Alphabet Express

Best Games for Kids — Kimia Wood

Image credit: mobygames.com

Do you know your alphabet? This game has a colorful scene for each letter, filled with colorful characters and hidden “H”, “L”, “Q”, or the like.

This “game” is simple, but entertaining. Clean and cheery, it’s also perfect for little kids.

The Blaster Games

Blatant educational content has a name. In my childhood, it was Science Blaster Jr., Math Blaster Jr., Reading Blaster, and Math Blaster (Ages 6-9).

There are many more in the series, as I learned from the walkthroughs on YouTube. (A walkthrough for a kids’ educational game? That’s like taking a Dr. Seuss book, designed to get kids to read, and making it into a movie! Ya dig?)

Best Games for Kids — Kimia Wood

Image credit: EliSoftware.org

Meet Spot, G.C., and Blasternaut – my first self images. Spot is also my first game crush; he’s the cute little blue robot. I even have a notebook featuring a pictogram story about them.

These bright characters introduced basic science facts, easy math, and reading puzzles to us youngsters on their spaceship full of mini-games. Not so arduously academic as my exposure to Reader Rabbit, and not so story-driven as the Humongous games, the Blaster games hit a sweet spot of fun and function.

Be careful playing the Big Kid game, though: Math Blaster Ages 6-9. It features Gellator – the Brain-Drainer…an evil yellow ooze-being who kidnaps Spot and terrified my five-year-old self. To the point that I would never play the actual story-line, only test mode.

Ah, kid fears. Continue reading

Top Ten Mysteries

I’m a huge fan of mysteries. “Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the theme for this week is a FREEBIE. Since I’ve noticed a troubling lack of mystery-related lists for Top Ten Tuesday, I offer up my list of the top ten…specifically, the mysteries which most took me by surprise or had the most satisfying twists!Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

1– Have His Carcase, Dorothy Sayers

Mystery author Harriet Vane is on a walking tour along the coast of England when she discovers a body with its throat cut. Along with her suitor and friend, noble sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, she sets out tracking down suspects, busting alibis, and cracking conspiracies.

The twist is truly original, beautifully foreshadowed, and is surprising yet inevitable – and thus very satisfying.

All in all, an excellent mystery story, with a smattering of romance mixed in.

2– Gemini Rue (2011)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodThe hook for this sci-fi puzzle game is a former assassin hunting for his long-lost brother. But there’s way more in this story about organized crime, friendship, and whether we can really trust our memories.

Read my full review to see how the twist totally floored me and made me a fan for life!

3– The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodA man washes up in the Mediterranean Sea, riddled with bullets and more dead than alive. Several months of care on a tiny fishing island restore him to health, but not to himself – he can’t remember who he is.

Once he steps off the island, a world of danger and secrets rears up, threatening to swallow him unless his “gut-instincts” from who he was can keep him alive long enough to figure it out.

This amnesia mystery is not for everyone, but if you’ve got a strong stomach and conscience, it’s a fascinating onion of conspiracies and secrets!

4– The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This classic noir detective film stars the iconic Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade – smooth-talking, quick-thinking, razor-sharp intelligent, and sly as a fox. When his partner is murdered, Sam sets out untangling a conspiracy of greed and murder, accompanied by a beautiful and mysterious woman wound in a cocoon of lies.

It’s not just a cultural icon — it’s also a terrific mystery story.

5– Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother-in-law to be is murdered in the dead of night. Lord Peter’s brother is arrested for the crime, and to clear him Wimsey must delve deep into his sibling’s darkest secrets.

Full of intelligence and British wit, this is a fantastically tangled tale that resolves with a dramatic twist that stuns the entire House of Lords!

6– The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

This is a suspenseful and intriguing mystery, with a satisfying ending. There are a lot of characters, but they’re colorful and individual enough to be easily distinguished from each other.

7– “Now You See Him…” (Columbo Season 5)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

The main question of Columbo is not who committed the murder, but how our shabby, trenchcoat-wearing, cigar-chomping protagonist assembles the evidence to finally nail the culprit.

In this episode, Lt. Columbo faces down a magician. While the ending might be a little “goofy”, it’s adorable, satisfying, and totally condemning (of the bad guy, that is).

8– Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Fourteen passengers on a train. One is brutally murdered in the night. It has to be one of them…but who? The Russian princess? The Swedish maid? The American secretary?

Only Hercule Poirot could solve such a case. And trust me, it’s worth it to read the original classic!

9– “Candidate for Crime” (Columbo Season 3)

This episode is one of my all time favorites. As the ending stretches on, Columbo seems to be doing nothing, while the murderer trundles along doing exactly what he wants. Then, in the last five minutes of the show – BLAM! Columbo unleashes his smarts, and the perp can do nothing but hang his head in defeat.

10– Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010)

Another video game – but one well worth your time! Sissel awakes in a junkyard to discover that he’s dead…but not just dead, dead with powers. He remembers nothing about his life, and must use his abilities to unravel the mystery of his own murder before dawn!

Full of easy physics puzzles, bright humor, and unforgettable characters, if you venture into Ghost Trick you will make friends for life (and also explore a neat amnesia mystery)!

Honorable Mention– The Tuesday Club Murders, Agatha Christie

This book is good the way pizza and popcorn are good. Perhaps they don’t have many vitamins, but they’re great to chow down on once in a while.

The short stories in this volume each feature a little mystery, and can be finished in about one sitting each. If you like brain puzzles, clever clue-laying, and brilliant old ladies, you’ll suck this down like a peanut-butter chocolate shake – just as I did!

What are some of your favorite mysteries? What story twists have made you go, “Uhg! I should have seen that coming. This is awesome!”

(Did you see what I did? I went through a whole TTT post without mentioning the Master Chief!)


Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodKimia Wood grew up under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier!

Top Ten Relationships

“Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the topic for this week is “Love Freebie (Romances, swoons…) etc.

I’m not actually a fan of romances, and I’ve already shared my top “ten” romantic hits-and-misses and the top ten fictional guys I really admire (and would have crushes on if I did the “crush” thing), so to avoid just talking about the Master Chief again I want to share the Top Ten Relationships (friendships, platonic bonds, etc.) that I find most compelling.

1– Frodo and Sam (Lord of the Rings, Tolkien)

Frodo is the meta heroic protagonist who goes from quiet-living aristocrat in an ivory-tower corner of the world, to laying down his life to save all creation.

Sam is the down-home, unassuming, cleaning-the-toilets type who’s there to take care of his employer…and ends up helping to save the world. Continue reading

Top 10 Heroes

“Top Ten Tuesday” is a weekly blogging event created and hosted by the Broke and Bookish blog, and the theme for this week is “Top Ten Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends (Which characters do you have crushes on?)”.

Frankly, I don’t consider having “crushes” on fictional characters a good thing (and goo-goo eyes make me nauseous), but I can talk about ten characters I admire, for various reasons.

–”You know me—when I make a promise…” –”You keep it.”

1 The Master Chief
Halo 1, 2, and 3, Bungie

Heroism. Bravery. Self-sacrifice. Dedication. If you’re looking for nobility of character, look no further than the Master Chief, a super-soldier of few words who will stop at nothing to defend humanity, whatever the cost to himself.

He betrays no doubt, experiences no angst, and is super patient with the AI companion who does express anxiety, irritation, panic, and trepidation.

And while his ability to single-handedly blow through vast alien armies is impressive, he also has a gentle humility of character that makes my heart-strings play strange, mushy songs. Continue reading

“Grim Fandango: Remastered”

There’s something rotten in the Land of the Dead. Manny Calavera, travel agent to the recently deceased, is desperate for a big commission so he can pay off his dues to the “powers that be” and start his own “four year journey of the soul.”

When he tampers with the system to steal a client from his rival, he falls into an adventure that will have him pointing-and-clicking all over this hilarious Mexican-inspired landscape. Continue reading

Diversity in Games

The YouTube team ExtraCredits creates short, thought-provoking videos about the craft of game design, story creation, the philosophy and psychology of building and playing video games, and other cool stuff.

One of their videos discusses Rust by Facepunch Studios, a multi-player survival game. In Rust, the physical appearance of every player’s character is randomly generated: specifically their skin color. The format doesn’t allow for re-rolling, so whatever your character looks like is what you’re stuck with – what you’re “born with,” as it were.

Continue reading

“Primordia”

Snarky and Bittersweet – Two Great Emotions…

Primordia_cover On a sand-swept wasteland, Horatio Nullbuilt, version 5, and his floating companion Crispin Horatiobuilt, v. 1, live in their broken rocket-ship of a home – until the day a big robot with laser-shooting claws steals their power core, leaving them with days or weeks to find a replacement before they and their home are left helpless and drained.

It’s MacGyver in the post-robot revolution-apocalypse, or Pajama Sam‘s more intellectual older brother, and a slow start didn’t prevent this point-and-click puzzle game from having a profound, slam-bang ending.

Plus, I and my “gameplay associate” completed it without consulting a walkthrough (ahem – personal achievement right there)! Continue reading

Top “Ten” Romances

Ten Eleven Romance Hits and Near-Misses!

The Top Ten Tuesday topic for today is “All About Romance Tropes/Types.” I’m not a huge fan of romance for its own sake, but I do have some favorite fictional couples and almost-couples:

1. “The Big Show” — Dragnet

In this episode of Dragnet, a military officer’s wife doesn’t see him for two years, and in her loneliness has a baby out of wedlock. To avoid hurting her husband, she decides to secretly give up the baby. It might not sound very profound explained like that, but the profound part is when her husband returns to the country, he not only forgives her, but takes the baby as his own. Now, that’s the kind of romance I can get behind! Continue reading