Category Archives: Date Night

Whiskey, Wine, and Wolves

[Chip] In the years leading up to our engagement and eventual marriage, Laura and I individually collected the Fables trade paperbacks.  We would discuss this wonderful series at length over the phone; choosing our preferred issues, praising certain characters while damning others, and hypothesizing what would come next for these magical tales.  When we moved in together, our collection was made whole and we have been regularly re-reading these comics ever since.

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Fables is a fantastic series that takes the fairy tales and nursery rhymes from our childhood and brings them into a modern age.  It has such an interesting concept: imagine that all of these magical characters and creatures are real, and they have been living in exile from their homelands for centuries, hidden by magic around our world.  The majority of these characters reside in New York, living in a small community run by the mayor Old King Cole and deputy mayor Snow White.  Nearly every children’s story has representation in this Fabletown, and they are policed by a single sheriff: the not-so-subtly named Bigby Wolf.  It is this gruff lycanthrope who is the main character in Telltale Games modern adventure title, The Wolf Among Us.

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It’s been almost 9 months since Laura and I started this digital adaptation of our beloved Fables.  We have mixed feelings about the climax of the story, but all good fairy tales (and murder mysteries) must come to an end sometime.  For the final episode of The Wolf Among Us, we each picked a beverage that would suit our tastes and compliment our last trek into Fabletown for the time being.  Laura selected the Big Bad Red Blend from Diageo Wine’s “Once Upon a Vine” collection, while I stuck with Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey.

[Laura] I came into this game with cautious optimism. Fables is one of those series that I have wanted to see translated to some other medium, but I cannot imagine any adaptation would live up to the comic experience. But all of the screenshots and trailers leading up to the release of the first episode looked so damn pretty. The noir-styled visuals and the bold colors fit with the aesthetic of the early Fables comics, which resembled a pulpy crime novella rather than an epic fantasy tale. Plus, the fact that The Wolf Among Us would be a separate story that takes place before the main comic gave it some wiggle room with established characters and locations.

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Overall, I was very pleased with The Wolf Among Us. The writers at Telltale made a fantastic murder mystery with characters and encounters that endear to the player. The underlying story of lesser known fables being forgotten by a partially corrupt government of famous fables illustrated a city with a tragically darker side. At the center of it all is Bigby Wolf, a character with a well-known past of being a literal monster, trying to make things right and battle against a magical and criminal force. As a fan of the comics, I enjoyed seeing new faces based on fairy tales that had not appeared in the main series. The Crooked Man and his psychopathic right-hand woman Bloody Mary made for fantastic antagonists in this game.

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The modern adventure gameplay suited the story.  I was happy to encounter impactful dialogue choices and environments to investigate rather than play a werewolf action platformer.  That being said, when the more eventful scenes would take place is where I found the engagement to break down.  These bits were hindered by my biggest complaint about the game: load time slowdown.  There were several moments where a transition from one location/event to another became a sluggish exercise in patience.

Even in the weaker parts of The Wolf Among Us, one element stayed fantastic throughout: the soundtrack.  Composer Jared Emerson-Johnson created a moody and sometimes haunting score that enhanced the plot.  Many songs from the game would be right at home in a crime thriller from the 1980s, with low repeating bass and somber electronic sounds that conjure images of a city at night.

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Now that we have finished The Wolf Among Us, I would definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for an well-crafted story and modern adventure gameplay.  It can serve as a nice gateway into the comic series, or an bonus story for established Fables fans.  With an engaging narrative and dramatic plot twists, The Wolf Among Us also makes for an ideal date night game.  Just be prepared for disappointment when you hear Bigby speak and realize it isn’t David Hayter.  (What can I say?  That’s how he sounded in my head.)

 

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Romance and Gaming

The mission statement of Games I Made My Girlfriend Play is sharing video games with the ones you love, whether they are rabid fans or complete neophytes. Our objective is to offer insight that this medium can deepen personal connections and to introduce games to those who might not enjoy them currently.  While this sentiment applies to friends and family, it can certainly apply to romantic relationships as well.

For many couples on Valentine’s Day, playing video games might be on their minds, but it is usually not found on the list of accepted activities (which is fixed price menus, buying roses, and eating too much chocolate).  In this post from April 2012, Laura explains how to introduce video games into your relationship and turn gaming into a romantically fun activity.


These days it is not that hard to get your girlfriend to play video games. Just look at the casual game revolution (smartphones games, motion control, and social network games) and you will find it is easier to turn your girlfriend towards gaming than ever before!

I decided to write about this because I don’t feel like many articles out there give the right impression about women.  Most people tend to herd us into one finite category. Generally this category isn’t an accurate representation of my gender, but more like a characterization of what a woman should be like. I wanted to write something that didn’t pigeon-hole us as unrealistic, unreasonable, and romantically obsessed. I don’t feel that representation does us justice or paints an accurate picture of what you’re going up against.

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You really don’t need to “trick” your girlfriend into playing video games with you by coating them with some romantic varnish or inventing imaginary friends. Many women, particularly more educated women, know their own minds. You are not going to pull a fast one on us like this, I’m sorry. So instead I’m going to help you out by addressing this:

How to Make Video Games Romantic
(or rather how to capitalize on the romantic elements of video games)

Romance is about intimacy. At it’s very core it is bonding experience. Most of us, both men and women, have a basic desire to interact and bond with each other. The things you want are the same things your girlfriend wants.

That being said, you might not want exactly the same things, but they are usually close enough for government work. She wants you to go dancing with her, you want her to play video games with you. At the heart of this is a genuine desire for your significant other to enjoy the things you like, or at least make an effort to appreciate the things you like. It’s a desire for bonding.  Understanding a few things and a bit of effort on both sides goes a LONG way in making a relationship more successful and less stressful.

So I will start by addressing this simple fact: Video games are not inherently romantic.

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Video games are not roses and Champagne, or a walk on the beach at sunset, or a trip to Paris for your anniversary. They just aren’t. They may be one day, but they aren’t right now. But video games are fun. And fun is certainly an important component of romance.  All the trips to Paris and strolls on the beach really don’t amount to much if no one is having any fun. And fun is enough to work with. So you can safely forgo the candle light and flower petals.

Here are some suggestions to make your video game experience a comfortable one:

Date night
Video games can be a wonderful part of a stay at home date night or a casual end to a night out. Order something from your favorite restaurant (or make your favorite meal at home), hop into your comfy pants, and plop yourselves down on the couch. Pretty much “movie night” without the movie.  If your lady love wants a fancier night (I would venture to say that most girls don’t get dressed up to sit on the couch), go out for dinner and/or drinks and end the evening a little early to relax at home with some games.

We now have category of posts called Date Night to give you some inspiration for just this type of thing. 

Relaxing mornings
Saturday (or any other day off) is a great time to play video games with the love of your life. For me, sleeping in (until the ungodly hour of 7:30am), followed by a bit of breakfast to eat on the couch while I play a game is very nostalgic. It’s pretty much the exact same ritual as the Saturday morning cartoons we all watched as kids, and trust me; that little oomph of familiarity definitely doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting your lady to join in. Cuddling up to each other on the couch to play together is a great carefree way to spend the morning.

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Co-op Games
With rare exceptions, I would venture to say co-op games are going to help you out the most in romance department. Watching your significant other putz around looking for treasure will get old quickly. Competitive games can start fights, especially if there are sore losers involved. Working on something together is far more gratifying and fun.

Now allow me to offer you a couple things to avoid:

Don’t schedule raid night on date night
If you want one surefire way to give your girlfriend a negative association with videogames, trust me, this is it. This is a good way to give the impression that video games are more important that her. Things will not go well. Have a set date night and a set raid night, and ensure they don’t overlap.

Don’t be an ass
I have found this to be the best rule to live by. Most of us tend to avoid things we are not good at, and you will only contribute to this aversion if you don’t behave. Play nice, be helpful and supportive, and just be considerate of your partners feelings.

Don’t be inconsiderate of her time or hobbies
If she has endeavored to be included in your hobbies, you should do the same. Either become more involved in her interests or pick up a new activity together. And never force or guilt her into playing games with you. Be respectful of her time.

There really isn’t much else to it. With a little common sense, gaming can become a fun and romantic activity that you can both enjoy. I plan to write more articles specifically addressing specific genres, as well as giving some recommendations on games to try.

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GIMMGP Pumpkins III: Revenge of the Jack O’ Lanterns

Costumes have been donned, candy has been prepared, creepiness abounds; the day is upon us, Halloween has arrived!  Here at GIMMGP Headquarters, Laura and I have procured a pair of pretty pumpkins for the festivities.  Instead of the usual Pokémon offerings from the last two years, we have been influenced by our current gaming experiences and carved fresh visages into these lovely gourds.

Thanks to hours upon hours of Mario Kart 8, my jack o’ lantern boasts a cute little Shy Guy.  Meanwhile, Laura’s time with Bayonetta 2 has inspired a sort of optical illusion: Is it a snake?  Is it a panther?  With Bayonetta’s unique dash moves, it can be both!

As with every year, we hope your homes are filled with joy, gaming, and lots of candy!  Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

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Pokemon Pumpkins

Since last year’s jack o’ lanterns were such a hit, Laura and I decided to establish Pokémon carvings as an official tradition!  For this Halloween, we have etched our new favorite Pocket Monsters into the sides of pumpkins.  Laura’s autumn gourd features an adorable Axew, while my fall fruit has the dopey Wobuffet on display.  We now proudly present the GIMMGP Pokémon Jack o’ Lanterns of 2013:

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Our Summer Favorites

Being an adult during the summer can be a bit frustrating.  The anticipation for a season of freedom has been replaced with the idea of fitting in fun activities around a full-time job.  While having a source of personal income can afford you greater resources to create interesting summer memories and experiences, the lack of free time can put a huge damper on the season.  We have to face the facts: those carefree days of childhood summers are long gone.  But all is not lost.  Laura and I have managed to jam pack this year with visiting family, hosting numerous friends, and traveling the fields and farms around GIMMGP Headquarters.  Along the way, each of us have discovered some new favorite things, which we would like to recommend to the blog-reading public at large.  Without further ado, here are our Summer Favorites.

Chip’s Picks

IMG_7566Normally, my beer preferences shift with the seasons: as the climate warms up, so must the beer lighten up.  Summer ushers in delicious waves of Hefeweizens, golden Pilsners, and crisp shandies.  But this year, my good friend Ryan recommended not a light and refreshing ale, but a dark and heavy porter to be savored on balmy nights.  From the DuClaw Brewery in Baltimore, MD comes the Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter.  Named for the expression a first taste should illicit, this rich beer smells and tastes very much like a Reese’s Cup in beverage form.  The peanut taste plays second fiddle to the strong chocolate flavor, but neither component overpowers the beer with sweetness.  A great dessert for a summer barbecue, this porter is a welcome addition to our cooler.

IMG_7571Some of my fondest summer memories come from buying a fresh stack of video game magazines to read on the long car rides to my grandparents’ homes.  My brother and I would pack several issues of Nintendo Power and EGM for these trips, planning our future strategies and drooling over upcoming releases.  Unfortunately, the rise of the internet has severely limited print reading options, causing most gaming magazines to go the way of the dinosaur.  But there are some bold individuals who have taken matters into their own hands.  Scroll is the personal project of freelance games writer Ray Barnholt, who has crafted his love of video games into an excellent magazine.  Described on his website as, “video game history uncorked,” Scroll features exhaustively researched and well-written articles along with colorful and impressive layouts.  The newest issue covers the My Summer Vacation games, a Japanese series which despite its interesting premise and gorgeous vistas, never made it to American markets.  On my own summer travels this year, I brought along several issues of Scroll, which made for great reading both in and out of the car.  Be sure to check out Mr. Barnholt’s website, and pick up (or download) a few issues of Scroll while you are there.  It is well worth the trip.

HNI_0092During the summer of my sophomore year of college, I found myself with an abundance of free time thanks to a recent break-up.  So I did what any respectable nineteen-year old male would do in that situation: I proceeded to binge on video games.  Over the course of those three months, I managed to play through 32 different video games, start-to-finish, all in-between a part-time job.  It was a way to ignore all the sadness I was feeling at the time, and just focus on a hobby that I loved.  I wasn’t concerned with actually taking the time to enjoy and appreciate each game, I just wanted to pass the time in my favorite way.  These days, I do not want to indiscriminately play game after game, desperately trying to keep my backlog clear and stay on the cutting edge of the industry.  I would prefer to find a great game, chock full of satisfying content, and take the time to savor every moment playing it.  Fortunately, there is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and that fits the bill quite nicely.  I have plenty to say about this delightful animal-town-simulation game, but much of that will show up in a later post.  For now, rest assured that Animal Crossing has swept through my circle of friends and provided each of us with a little town to cultivate, share, and enjoy for many months to come.

Laura’s Picks

soullessparasolThe Parasol Protectorate books

This is a steampunk series written by Gail Carriger that I stumbled across quite by accident. I ended up grabbing all of the audiobooks off of Audible (which I recommend because the narrator is fantastic). I haven’t been so ravenously obsessed with a series in quite some time. The books are all about Victorian era monsters (werewolves, vampires, and ghosts), science, fashion, and smut (at least the first one is really smutty). I have every reason to love this series, so I do.

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I am quite the fangirl of this amazing show. Book 1 just released to DVD, so now I will force all of my friends to watch it. It’s a bit unseemly actually. I’ve also been re-watching Xena: Warrior Princess which is even worse.

Animal Crossing

HNI_0026I am very glad to have Chip home from vacation because it means I get to play with the Animal Crossing machine again. The simplicity of this game is so alluring. Procuring money is both easy and fun, I don’t feel any pressure to pay off my loans, and everyone seems to think I’m pretty neat. It generally gives me this wonderful feeling that I’ve got my shit together. Also, I have developed what is probably an unhealthy attachment to Lobo the Wolf. He even loves my bee-stung face.

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Aladdin

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[Chip] Growing up in a rural part of the United States, there were not many options for cultural diffusion in the area.  My hometown featured only two restaurants with food outside of traditional burgers and fries, both of which specialized in domesticated versions of cuisine (read: Taco Bell and Chinese take-out). We did have the local library and a general science museum, but outside of these two bastions, there was little hope for an international culture enthusiast, such as myself.  Fortunately, I had two well-traveled parents who believed in educating their children about the wonders of the entire globe.  My mother and father accomplished this through sharing fantastic tales of their life experiences and exposing me and my siblings to a wealth of interesting books and films.  Of the movies we watched, very few featured the allure of foreign people and places as the animated classic, Aladdin.

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As a child, I adored the story and characters of this Arabian fable; I was fascinated at the idea that an entire world of mythology and legends existed outside of traditional European fairy tales.  After watching Aladdin once more recently, I am pleased that the transition to adulthood has not diminished these heartfelt emotions.  However, I now realize that there is quite a bit of cultural humor and references that were completely lost on me as a boy.  I had no idea why the Genie advised people to “brush up your Sunday salaam,” and just who was this “Allah” to whom the Sultan was referring?  It took moving away and getting a job in a rather diverse community for me to fully appreciate the culture from which this Disney adaptation sprouted.

When I first moved away from home, I was a bit concerned that I would not fit in with the hustle and bustle of a larger city.  After all, those people up North did not the time to be polite to one another; they did not have our Southern hospitality (hence the name).  I was very pleased to find that not only were these prejudices wrong, but just plain silly.  At my new workplace, I met a variety of people from all over the world, each of whom was eager to share their kindness and their culture with a newcomer.  One particular coworker hailed from the Middle East, and he took the time to answer my barrage of questions and explain the traditions of his people.  He spoke of Islam and family traditions, of religious holidays and fasting, but most of all, he talked about the food of the Middle East.

Anytime his family had a large meal at home, he would bring leftovers so we could all share in the feast.  For the first time in my life, I tried dates and figs, stuffed grape leaves and falafel, and so many varieties of hummus that my taste buds danced and sang with delight.  A whole new world of culinary delights had opened in my life, and I felt one step closer to the culture in Aladdin.  In an effort to recreate some of these tasty foods, Laura and I decided to have a stay-at-home date night with Aladdin (both in film and Super Nintendo game) and some Middle Eastern cuisine.  We made a Moroccan chicken stew, which we enjoyed with dates, strong coffee, and pita bread.  We even had our first go at making our own hummus:

Hummus
Adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/classic-hummus

1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp Paprika Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Combine the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice in a food processor and puree. Gradually add the olive oil until incorporated. Season the hummus with salt, pepper, and Paprika and scrape it into a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve or use.

We recommend you refrigerate the hummus overnight before serving for the best flavor. Also, roasting the garlic might smooth the flavors a bit more. Raw garlic chunks can be a little…potent…

[Laura] Aladdin is such a fun little platformer. So much of the environment can be jumped on, swung upon, or knocked over. The music is cute, the animation is wonderful, and if you catch a good rhythm, it’s easy to just breeze through the levels. It’s a wonderful game, but I have a couple of issues with it:

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First, there are the arrows. The problem I have with the archers in Aladdin is the same problem I have with the frogs in Mega Man 2. It just seems like no matter how well I time it, I’m always going to get hit by something that is going to nudge me off the edge of whatever I’m trying to stand on. Aladdin is not a fast climber, which is understandable I suppose, but not very convenient. Often, I would be climbing up a ledge watching in horror as the archer reloaded and shot an arrow that would push me back of said ledge to restart this sequence again and again and again. This isn’t really a bad game mechanic, but little frustrations like that tend to make me rage quit (or throw the controller at Chip’s head and make him do it).

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Also, the enemies respawn. Not once you’ve cleared the level, or after a few minutes, but immediately after you have moved beyond the spot they were sitting. Meaning if you have to backtrack, even a little bit, that enemy comes back to bite you in the ass. This is a huge turn-off for me on this game. It doesn’t make sense that an enemy wouldn’t stay dead and having to fight them all over again if I need to move backwards is just busy-work.  Yet another convention of old games that did not age well over time.

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A Night of Song with Lindsey Stirling

[Laura] One blessing the Internet has bestowed upon the world is that our musical preferences are no longer limited to the paltry selection of songs we hear on the radio. Chip and I probably haven’t listened to an actual radio station in years, and quite frankly, I don’t miss it. There’s just something about hearing more commercials than actual music, while the same 12 songs (that you don’t actually like but are willing to tolerate) play in a daily loop. It’s no wonder that radio has become the last desperate resort if there is no signal for Pandora, and we have exhausted every audiobook/CD/MP3 in the car, and Chip has run out of songs to sing. For those desperate moments when we would otherwise be forced to engage in…you know… actual conversation…

[Chip] For some time now, I have been told that I am an old soul. I took this as a compliment, until I realized that it simply meant that I do not know what is hip. Fortunately, I have Laura who will scour the Internet and keep me up to date on what is “trending.” This relationship is especially helpful when it comes to expanding my musical library. Laura will play a song or show me a video, we will both geek out about the music, and thus a new favorite is born. So when my better half showed me epic videos of a spritely young woman playing violin covers of video game music, I was sold on a new artist and (sure enough), we went to see Lindsey Stirling in concert.

The DC Metro can be a long and harrowing (read: boring) ride from GIMMGP Headquarters into the city.  To combat this monotony, Laura and I will often play a portable game of some sort to entertain us.  Here are a pair of musical game suggestions for a couple on a train, desperately trying to pass the time.

When going to see a concert, a solid choice is Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm. I know what you are thinking, “But Chip, my sig other did not play Final Fantasy growing up, so how could he/she even like this odd game?” First thing to remember is that nostalgia is not necessary to appreciate good music, of which Theatrhythm has a great supply (70 songs!). Additionally, your partner has the opportunity to play a fun and engaging rhythm game with cute characters and storybook art. Besides, picture how adorable this would be: you and your partner, seated side by side on the Metro, each of you sharing headphones with a single earbud, passing your Nintendo 3DS back and forth. You will the envy (and possible nausea) of every passenger on the train.

Or you could play Symphonica on your iPad.  It is pretty much like Theatrhythm, but with classical music and cute anime boys.  Plus, the first three episodes are free, so check it out.

While Chip and I don’t always agree with the majority of each other’s musical taste, there are occasional points of intersection on the Venn diagram of our love. Lindsey Stirling happens to be one. So when she announced her tour dates, Chip and I purchased tickets the first day, mainly because we’re very punctual, not because we expected them to sell out. However, they did sell out. I can’t say how quickly, but it fills my heart to bursting that they did. Close to 400 people from all walks and phases of life came from all over the DC area to see this talented little pixie play her violin.

Many of the concerts I have attended in the past have brought me to expect three things from most venues: overpriced greasy food, expensive “cheap” beer, and disgusting bathrooms. The Hamilton defied all expectations by featuring none of these terrible things. The concert hall is part of a larger (and quite fancy) restaurant, with a diverse menu that won’t break your piggy bank. Laura opted for a healthy option in the form of a spicy tuna roll, while I indulged a personal favorite of mine and ordered a giant plate of potato chips; covered in cheese, green onions, and bacon. Before you judge me harshly, please understand that these were freshly made potato chips, and I have a weakness for homemade starchy snacks (and really, who doesn’t?).

The venue was spectacular. Easily the nicest concert hall Chip and I had ever been to. Even Lindsey confided to me before the show that she wasn’t used to playing in such upscale places. (Please enjoy how I talk about Lindsey Stirling like we know each other even though I simply paid extra money to stand at the end of a very long line to meet her…. She’s fantastic, I would happily be her significantly less talented friend). After seeing Miss Sterling perform, one thing is very clear: Chip and I will certainly chain all of our future children to violins. At least the ones that don’t want to be Olympic gymnasts or mad scientists. But we are not complete monsters. They will of course have some measure of freedom: to choose how Chip and I will live vicariously through them.

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GIMMGP Jack o’ Lanterns

With just a few more days until All Hallows Eve (and our first free weekend in ages), we here at GIMMGP decided to carve up the pumpkins we had been saving.  After hours and hours (read: less than 20 minutes) of scouring the Internet for appropriate templates to etch into gourds, Laura and I gave up on following the pack and decided to blaze our own trail!  Into my pumpkin, I chiseled my favorite ghost, Gengar, while Laura carved the adorable Pikachu into hers.  We now proudly present our Pokemon Jack o’ Lanterns:

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Medieval Times, er, Night

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[Chip] On most days, when I am finished with my 9-to-5 job, I like to break free of the office and go out for drinks and general debauchery.  What better way to forget a crumby work day than to be outside and consume several adult beverages?  But sometimes, even a faux-Mexican themed restaurant with two-dollar cervezas can’t cheer me up; sometimes, I just want to go home and relax.  On these nights, Laura and I are faced with a decision: order food to be delivered to our apartment (read: total sloth), or actually make a new recipe and have a Stay-at-Home Date Night.  This week, we chose the latter, mainly due to the discovery of pre-smoked turkey legs at our local Whole Foods.

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[Laura] I am a very lazy cook. It’s true. I don’t deny it. I am happy to throw something in the oven to cook for hours while I do something else. I think this makes me an efficient multi-tasker. (Yes. That’s it.) This is actually a common Friday Night Date for us. Smoked turkey legs make a simple dinner, however it does take around 2 hours to prepare. So when you get home from work, just toss everything in the oven and in a couple of hours, you will have one of the most delicious reasons to never become a vegetarian. And while you are waiting, enjoy a beer or two. It’s good to get all the hedonism out at once before the next day’s self-recrimination and the inevitable march to the treadmill.

Allow me to share a dietary preference with you: I don’t care for turkey, not even at Thanksgiving.  It is a dry meat, with little to offer in the way of diverse or satisfying taste, and thanks to constantly being paired with stuffing and gravy, turkey seems to have very few recipe options.  In fact, before I attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival, I thought I had eaten turkey in all of its forms (which are: on a sandwich, doused with gravy, and hidden under mashed potatoes).  As I wandered around the woods in Crownsville, I noticed fair-goers carrying gigantic legs of smoked meat, much like the food I saw in films with dragons (and video games with vampires).  I inquired as to the mystery meat’s identity, and discovered it was none other than my old nemesis, turkey.  I figured I would give the bird a taste, one more chance to prove itself.  By smoking the meat, the turkey acquires a whole new savory dynamic, and the aesthetic of ripping the flesh from a giant animal leg appeals to my Germanic heritage quite nicely.

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Smoked Turkey Legs

There are a number of recipes for smoked turkey legs. However, we simply buy them pre-packaged because we are lazy practical.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
Place two pre-packaged turkey legs in a baking dish with enough water to submerge the turkey half-way.
Cover with foil.
Bake for an hour. Flip them. Bake for another hour.

Olive oil Roasted Potatoes
We normally throw these in the oven above the turkey legs. While they cook they absorb a lot of the smoky flavor of the turkey. Really, you can’t beat meat-flavored veggies.

4 peeled golden yukon potatoes (This type of potato works best for this recipe)
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Generously coat each potato with olive oil.
Wrap each individual potato in tin foil.
Bake for 2 hours.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before unwrapping.

Two hours is a lot of time to wait for dinner, so we usually have a bit of bread and cheese to tide us over. This also a wonderful time to start sampling your beer. A themed meal is a great excuse to get fancy and have video game/beer pairings. It just adds a certain level of sophistication to the event. Below we’ve listed a few examples of games, movies, and TV shows to add a bit of atmosphere to the evening.

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Watch:

  • Game of Thrones – I love Game of Thrones. Possibly because it’s a great, well-constructed masterpiece, but it’s more likely that I’ve invested what seems like half of my life to reading the books. The HBO adaptation is pretty good, if not entirely (or even remotely at times) accurate to the books. 
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail – This very accurate representation of the Arthurian Legend is a perfect pairing to any medieval meal.  The strict historical standard at which the actors portray brave knights running about while banging two empty halves of coconut together compliment stuffing your face with a comically sized turkey leg quite well.

Play:

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Castle Crashers – If you are looking for a frantic co-op experience to share, this is an excellent choice.  The art style is cute, while the strange and silly characters keep the game lighthearted and fun (despite numerous decapitations).  For this title, Laura provided New Belgium’s 1554 Black Ale; a delicious dark beer that is described as “quite quaffable.”

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Skyrim – If you want to depart slightly from the realm of medieval England and you don’t mind a single player game, Skyrim isn’t a bad game to play into the wee hours of dawn either. We paired this beer with Norse Legend from the Samuel Adams brewery…for the obvious reason.   

And there you have it: a Date Night fit for a king (HA!).  We hope that this post will inspire you, and remember: you don’t always have to get all dressed up and go out (and spend ridiculous amounts of money) to have a fantastic night with your sweetheart.

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The Art of Video Games Exhibit

Chip and I have been in a bit of a rut lately. There is some comfort in going to the same place after work and getting the same drinks. However, as exciting and somewhat nomadic young people, this sort of comfortable stagnation is only fulfilling for so long. Sooner or later there arises a need for something more. So in order to accommodate this craving (and create content for our poorly neglected blog) we decided to smoosh the two into one super exciting thing we call DATE NIGHT. 

[Chip] In early 2011, it was announced that a new traveling exhibition focusing on video games would be housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Before the exhibit would be ready, the organizers needed help from the gaming community to decide which games would be proudly and lovingly displayed.  After two months of voting, an initial list of 240 games was narrowed down to 80 titles across 20 gaming consoles, and the opening weekend was announced for the date of March 16, 2012.  So it was that after a year of waiting patiently (read: obsessively checking the Internet for details), Laura and I made our way into our Nation’s Capital to visit the Art of Video Games Exhibit.

[Laura] Now, this museum happens to hold a special place in my heart because one of my earliest pilgrimages to DC was to visit this museum back in January of 2008. A portrait of Steven Colbert (which had been hung unceremoniously above a water fountain between the men’s and women’s bathrooms) had gone on display earlier that week. Chip had recently moved to the area and I had recently begun stalking hanging out with him, so I suggested we go with our friend Tina. And so we did. It was quite an adventure. And so was this.

After the long metro ride in, we decided to grab a bite to eat. Really, there is nothing I want to do less than wander around a museum on an empty stomach.  We don’t visit DC very often, but we know that (food-wise) you can never go wrong with China Town. I don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant in China Town that I didn’t like. And it just so happens that the Gallery is nestled quite comfortable between half a dozen fantastic restaurants. Being the diligent adventurers that we are, we had investigated the restaurants in the area before embarking on our quest. We compiled a short list of places we wanted to go… then promptly abandoned that list for pizza. Pizza is an amazing date option. It’s cheap and it’s delicious and everybody likes it. Lucky for us, there were a couple different places to choose from in China Town, so we picked one at random that was just across the street from the museum. This is how we discovered District of Pi.

The décor of this place is so cool. The service is awesome. The selection is amazing. With a tremendous number of beers on tap, it’s hard not to waste the day sitting at the bar, sampling all of them (Over twenty beers on tap, and not a single one ends with the word Lite!). We started with Pi Common(because it was the cheapest option on the menu and neither of us had tried it before) and Chip had Golden Monkey Ale after that (quite tasty).  The pizza we selected was called the Central West End. At $17 for a pizza, it’s not exactly cheap, but it was quite easily split between two people and the list of ingredients was unique: Prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula and the most deliciously sweet caramelized onions I’ve ever tasted. All this on top of a thin, crispy crust gleaming with olive oil. The two of us demolished the pizza to give us strength for a museum trip.

After thoroughly enjoying our meal at District of Pi, Laura and I took the short walk (less than a block) to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  As we made our way inside, I expected to be immediately greeted by the blinking lights and immersive worlds of our hobby.  Instead, I was surprised to find the first bit of the museum to be rather, well, like a museum: quiet, somber, and lots of patrons of the arts milling about.  Come to find out that the exhibit is on the upper floor of the museum, which one could deduce by watching the individuals wearing gaming-related shirts making their way upwards.  Laura and I made our way up some grand staircases, then down a hallway featuring some modern art, then we followed a sign down a path marked by strange sculptures, and finally we laid eyes on familiar and inviting screens in the far corner of the museum.  Hmm, putting the nerdy exhibit at the back of the class, not off to a great start.

The Art of Video Games Exhibit consists of three areas, the first of which being a sort of introduction room.  Within this room, there were several video screens playing looped videos of interviews with industry greats like Ken Levine and Tim Schaffer, along with a wall of concept art from a handful of titles (some highlights being Fallout 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog).  Against the wall opposite from the concept art was a set of four monitors which were displaying a changing series of  faces and expressions.  After watching these mysterious screens for a bit, I realized that I was looking at footage of people playing video games.  It was so interesting to see individuals from all races, ages, and cultures reacting so similarly to the joy of playing a video game: lots of surprised and joyful faces, juxtaposed with the furrowed brows of concentration.

The next room was much larger, and housed five stations at which anyone could walk up and play a featured title.  The video games chosen spanned very different graphics and gameplay systems; from the simplicity of Pac-Man, making a jump (HA) to Super Mario Brothers, to the humor and cartoon style of Monkey Island, delving into the curiousity of Myst, and culminating with the beauty and calm of Flower.  While only a limited number of genres are represented here, the simple controls and approachable gameplay of these titles offers everyone a chance to play (and a timer on each station ensures this chance).

The final area of the Art of Video Games could be consider the “meat and potatoes” of the exhibit.  Starting from the left of the entrance, and traveling along the wall around the room (in chronological order!) were very impressive cabinets that housed each of the twenty consoles on display.  Each cabinet had screenshots of four games, representing the categories of Action, Target, Adventure, and Strategy, along with videos of each game and a summary of the console’s contribution to history.  It was so interesting to be able to walk the edge of the room and see the progress that video game technology has made in roughly 30 years.  It was fascinating watching the simple yellow circle of Pac-Man chomp along only a door frame away from the damn near life-like character interactions in Heavy Rain.

No sooner had Laura and I begun to revel in the history of video games, than we were at the end of the exhibit, and back to the world of paintings, sketches, and sculptures.  Overall, I was very pleased with the very existence of the Art of Video Games Exhibit.  I would definitely like to see more public recognition of the massive amounts of concept art and design that go into the creation of video games, and even larger exhibits about gaming in general.  Maybe a Smithsonian Museum of Interactive Technology?  But the founder of the feast, Chris Melissinos, did an fantastic job making a gallery that not only expresses the joy that gaming can create, but showcases the GIGANTIC leaps in technology and design that video games have made in such a short time.  A visit to the Art of Video Games Exhibit (and District of Pi) makes for a excellent date, and a fun and interactive way to share your hobby with a significant other.

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