What Modern Games Are Like If You Haven't Played Since Atari

Skylanders Giants

The Point

Make your action figures come to life while doing some sort of stuff that I'm not sure about.

The Experience

Skylanders Giants is a really great game. Totally appropriate for kids, but still fun for all ages. Or at least all ages as long as no one's watching you make your sparkly robot dragon rescue singing geckos by bouncing on trampoline spaces. It's a big, beautiful world, and I'm pretty sure our 5-year-old won't make it to the end of the game for years.

"I did it, Dad!"

It took a while to get used to the two-pronged Nintendo controller with the Nunchuk motion-sensor part, but that's fun, and I got to play with the boy by having me steer while he hit "A" and zapped the bad guys.

The Aftereffects

Having to buy lots more Skylanders figures and merchandise.

Left 4 Dead

The Point

To kill as many zombies as possible while heading to an evacuation site. Incidentally, this should be the point to every video game ever.

The Experience

I opted for the first in the Left 4 Dead series, as that was the only used zombie game at my local GameStop, and my only purpose in gaming is to kill zombies. I can't compare Left 4 Dead to those that followed or any other shoot-'em-up game like Halo or Tour of Duty or whatever, but I do know that I like killing zombies. The Left 4 Dead zombies are weird, though. One dude pukes on you, another boa-constricts you with his super tongue, and most are 28 Days Later fast. But none of them bite you. They just want to beat you up. They literally punch you. Especially the mutated one that looks like the Hulk. I guess that makes sense because you can get punched a lot, but bitten only once, so ...

Yes, he vomits on you. Congrats, Xbox, for finding a way to make zombies grosser.

Zombies typically scare me -- not because they're so strong, but because they still have some humanity, and in most movies you have to get really close to them to destroy the brain. It's sad. Taps into a fear of only making something suffer more by attempting to put it out of its misery. Anyway, I don't have that problem with Left 4 Dead because you're usually machine gunning at long range. It does, however, tap into another fear -- not knowing whether to look in front of you or behind you in the dark. That's what makes those real walk-through haunted houses scary. It's a heightened sensory feeling with an adrenaline rush.

Oh, by the way, I played for a week before knowing how to use the D-pad, or what I like to call the plus button in a circle. Now I can say that one of the greatest moments in my life is setting the Hulk zombie on fire with a Molotov cocktail, bringing it to its knees, and machine gunning its flaming head at close range. THANKS, LEFT 4 DEAD!

I wanted to get a good video of this but I couldn't find it, because apparently I'm more awesome than everyone.

The Aftereffects

The game, no joke, gave me low-level post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares. When I drive down dark streets in my zombie slayer (minivan), I instantly seek out dark corners, looking for surprise zombie attacks. THANKS, LEFT 4 DEAD!

A new season of HATE BY NUMBERS is almost here. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.

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