We here at The NYRD are big gamers, in that we mostly just play Candy Crush and Angry Birds when our slave driver of a boss unchains our ankles from the computer and let’s us step away for a few minutes to remember what sunlight feels like. However, when word leaked out two days ago about the upcoming Steam Summer Sale, we got so excited that we almost snapped a few of our vitamin D deficient bones while clapping through our manacled hands. So in preparation for the happiest time of the summer our staff got together to give you our recommendation for what you should be playing instead of going to the beach, or hanging out with friend. Play them well. Play them for us.

Shovel Knight
ShovelKnightLet’s start out this list right by bringing up one the best games ever made, and we’re not just digging our own grave either by making that boast -See what we did there? Shovel pun- It doesn’t get much better than Shovel Knight. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up mashing buttons on an old Nintendo or while mashing keys while playing some “classic” games on Mod for the PC. Shovel Knight is a true testament to the old 8-bit retro gaming aesthetic while still managing to bring in a new flair that’s all it’s own. This game is a platformer, but don’t let that scare you away. You will be amazed by the its beauty, awesome soundtrack, and seamlessly fun gameplay. The difficulty, though not overwhelming, still offers a good amount of challenge to keep you interested, and at $14.99 on Steam it is a real steal. We promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, we think you’ll really “Dig it.” -Get it? It’s another shovel pun-

Darkest Dungeon
We have talk Darkest Dungeon before, but it is so good, we thought we would bring it up again, like that annoying cousin who will never stop telling you about that time he met Ewan McGregor. “We get it, Greg. You know he’s not really Obi-Wan, right? That’s Sir Alec Guinness.” However, Darkest Dungeon is worth bringing up again. One of the New Yorker’s Best video games of 2015, this game has all the macabre turn-based action you could hope for. A true love letter to Lovecraft and video games geeks alike. It is equal parts frustrating and entertaining. Each time you enter into a dungeon you will never know what might happen, who you might lose, or who might just go plain mad. As much a work of art as a video game, the aesthetics will really draw you in, but it will be the challenging gameplay that will make you stay. It is $24.99 on Steam and now with new updates, characters, and dungeons, Darkest Dungeon is even darker than before… but watch out for the pig vomit.

Stick of Truth
Stick of TruthWe usually try to stay away from reviewing big console games that have been ported to the PC, but our next two entries are going to be the exceptions to that rule. The Stick of Truth is everything you could hope for in a South Park Fantasy game. In fact, this might be the game you don’t even know you want. Coming in at $29.99 on Steam, it is well worth the price. South Park has been a mainstay of humor and culture for almost two decades and Stick of Truth proves their staying power. One part parody and one part kick-ass fantasy game it encapsulates all the humor and greatness that is the Comedy Central series without overstaying its welcome. Whether you like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or just a really good RPG game, Stick of Truth is no laughing matter. We recommend you check it out.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of MordorNot only is this game the second major developer game on our list, but it is also the second game adapted from a larger franchise. Lord of the Rings is a phenomen and it seems almost impossible that a video game could enter into the world of Middle Earth and even come close to being worthy of the books of JRR Tolkein or the Peter Jackson movies. Yet, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is damn good at proving that point wrong. A unique story with interesting characters it works well to keep our attention storywise, but that is not where it really shines. No, the true genius of this game is in its gameplay mechanics, specifically the Nemesis System that allows you to conscript your orc enemies into working for you. Even better the enemy AI means that orcs have a hierarchy all their all their own, and your enemies will change and grow over time. It’s a little pricey at $49.99 on Steam, but well worth your wishlist. Hey, that’s why Eru Ilúvatar created the Steam Summer Sale.

Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings IIMore Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings Crusader Kings II, is a grand strategy game taking place in the late Medieval period. This game focuses on raising a family from nothing to become powerful emperors, until you lose it all again when you decide to sleep with your brother’s wife. You can bribe your way to power, assassinate your way to power, or just become a good old fashioned conquer, the possibilities are endless. Crusader Kings II will let you turn history on its head all while sucking up your own time in the process. Admittedly the game is not without its flaws, but they are ultimately forgivable in the end. A slick looking map and the ability to play multiplayer -and assassinate your friends- goes a long way to endearing Crusader Kings II. Currently $39.99 on Steam, we definitely recommend you put this one on your list, because in the game of thrones you either buy now or you wait for the Summer Sale.

StellarisWe move now to another grand strategy game, Stellaris. The latest in a galaxy spanning tactical genre, this game distinguishes itself on several notable points, not the least of which is its customization. Stellaris allows your to design your starting species, homeworld, traits, and even emblem. This game is also incredibly vast in scale, and with an infinite variety. Solar systems and stars are randomly generated so each game is going to be slightly different than the last. However, it is the Pops mechanics where this game truly shines. Introduce new technologies to your empire and your people and you could face unexpected consequences. The game is by no means perfect, there are some AI and UI bugs that need addressing, but don’t count this one out. We talked about StarDrive 2 in the past, and Stellaris managed to take all the good of that game and increase it by ten fold. if you like games where you need to manage entire galactic empires, than we highly recommend you check out this Stellaris. It is currently $39.99 on Steam.

Garry’s Mod
Garrys Mod2Can we get weird for a minute with you? Because we want to talk about Garry’s Mod, an incredibly strange but strangely incredible game that you can download for only $9.99 on Steam. This game is a physics sandbox. It has no goals or predefined rules, other than physics. You cannot win but we promise you will not lose either. With thousands of ready made physics objects that you can spawn and use to create everything form a jet to a jet boat to a jet footstool, the limits of this game are endless. You can create and play and just get as weird as you want, either by yourself or with your friends. Maybe you’re not creative, well don’t worry. There are millions of already user created content in this game that you can simply grab and paint red or add antlers to or just have fun with. How will you ever be bored again?

Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition
DivinityDespite the overabundance of colons in the name Divinity: Original Sin: Enhance Edition, delivers on its promises. Gamespot named it PC game of 2014, and it has received over 150 awards and nominations. if you like playing classic RPG fantasy or like playing Dungeons and Dragons, than this game is right up your dragon-infested alley. An open world RPG experience, you can design your characters, collect your party and interact with everyone you meet. Best of all the “Enhanced” in “Enhanced Edition,” means that everyone you meet is fully voice-acted. You can fight, cheat, lie, steal, and make decisions that affect not only you but the world at large. Still, what sets this RPG apart from others in the genre is its insanely fun combat system. An innovative turn-based mechanic, it allows you to control the action and effortless micromanage your group and your combat strategies. Even better, if you get lonely, you can play with a friend. At $39.99 on Steam it is well worth the price.

Pixel Piracy
Pixel PiracyOf all the games on this list, Pixel Piracy is the lowest rated, but at 71% it is still well worth your time. A 2D simulator you will get the chance to design your own pirate ship, recruit your own crew, customize, and sail the seven pixelated seas. Falling somewhere between beautiful, simplistic, and brutal, Pixel Piracy is the kind of smooth running fun game that can eat away your hours.  It is a simple game to learn, but that does not mean it is simple to master. You will need to manage resource and your crew while you raid other ships, plunder islands, and explore a two-diminsional world. This pirate RPG is not perfect, but if you are looking for a little piracy in your life we highly recommend it. Also, there is a lot of opportunities for poop jokes, and at $9.99 on steam, who can resist that?

Homeworld Remastered Collection
HomeworldRounding out our list is a classic video game, Homeworld. You command the helm of a massive mothership in this real-time strategy game. With your world on the the brink of disaster, you are the only thing left to protect and guide the last remnants of your sleeping people as you desperately try to find a new home. Hauntingly masterful and with a story that will live on in your memory, the original Homeworld, came out in the 1999 and was a triumph of gameplay for its time. Now it has been remastered with new graphics and updates including enhanced audio and cinematics. For $39.99 on Steam this package contains remastered editions of Homeworld and Homeworld 2, as well as the originals. If you were a fan in the past, or even if you have never heard of these games, we cannot express enough how much you need to play this RTS. It is not always an easy game, but always highly enjoyable. This needs to be on your list.

Now that you have our recommendations for the upcoming Summer Sale, we want to hear yours. After all, we are always looking for new games too, assuming our boss ever opens the food-hole in our cell doors wide enough so we can escape. So let us know what’s on your wishlist in the comment section below, and happy gaming.

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Professional sports are all about high impact hits, nail-biting turnovers, unbeatable strategies, well-timed spells, and most importantly, experience. We are talking about electronic sports or professional gaming. This week marks the 2015 DOTA 2 International Championship being held in Seattle, Washington, and we here at The NYRD have caught the fever, so put on your Boots of Travel and take a journey with us as we explore the rise of eSports and the phenomena that is Defense of The Ancients.

The Earthshaker
DOTA -or more accurately DOTA 2- is a Multi Online Battle Arena or MOBA. There a lot of acronyms in professional gaming, so for any newbs you will have to bear with us. The original game, which started as a mod for Warcraft III has exploded on the professional gaming scene. The basic concept is that 5 heroes compete against 5 heroes in a multi-lane arena. The first team to destroy the opponent’s ancient, or main building, wins the game. A lot can happen in the 30 to 100 minutes it might take to complete the game, including a fair amount of less-than polite talk about your mother. Maybe that is why its popularity in the gaming world has exploded, but hopefully not, because we here at The NYRD support mothers… We supported yours last night.

Each year the DOTA International Championship has broken records for eSports prizes. In 2013, the prize pool was over 2.8 million dollars. In 2014, it soared to over 10 million, with the winning team taking home more than 5 million. For this year, the pool has reached over 18 million, with Saturday’s winners expected to take home about 6.5 million, and we’re not talking in gold or experience points. Prizes are awarded in real American dollars, thanks in no small part to the help of the DOTA community which helps crowdfund the tournament through purchases of an in-game compendium. This game is so successful that it is free to play, but people still spend their money on it. However, DOTA fans are only one source of income for the Valve, the game’s parent company. There are now billion dollar sponsors clamoring to get a piece of the l33t action.

Coco-Cola, Intel, and others are getting on the pwnage and for good reason. According to the International Business Times, the amount of people who currently watch eSports is about the same amount that watches NHL hockey, and some analysts believe that by 2017 that viewership could rival the NFL. That means that currently, almost 71 million people watch eSports and half of those viewers are from the United States. In 2013, about 14.9 million people watched the World Series and 26.3 million watched the NBA Finals, but 32 million people tuned in for the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship. The championship sold out the Staples Center in LA. This year, the DOTA International sold out the Key Arena in Seattle in a matter of seconds. Tickets were so hard to come by that scalpers were selling them online for hundreds of dollars above asking price… Not that we here at The NYRD tried unsuccessfully for hours to get them… or anything like that. We never wanted to go in the first place, anyway.

A Spectre
Though this modern craze over competitive gaming may seem relatively new, the truth is that is has been going on since the Windows 98 era, a simpler time with simpler graphic requirements. Amateurs and enthusiasts alike would gather to compete in small lan parties, where players would link their computers together over connecting cables. Back then the only sponsor was the money in people’s pockets and that one guy who always brought the case of Mountain Dew. However, that all changed in 2012 when Blizzard released StarCraft II.

Around the world, but especially in America, professional gaming become something more than just a bunch of nerds sitting around in someone’s basement. Suddenly, it became not only a globally competitive sport, but a spectator one as well. Players began casting their matches. Commentators also started streaming and giving rudimentary analysis and play-by-play over headsets for the enjoyment of others. Perhaps more importantly, people were watching.

Some might argue that this casting craze is what really helped elevate eSports to its current level of popularity. arose to become the most prominent eSports streaming site on the Internet, even if it sometimes crashed right in the middle of the match you are watching, or get hacked, because it’s the Internet. Anyone who has been paying attention, has watched Twitch go from a collection of casters to a full fledged eSports channel to rival any cable network that broadcasts those other sports that you can’t stream over the web. Their production value this year has been top notch, but also might not hurt if they gave correspondents and commentators are least a few lessons in journalism or broadcast. Gamers are great people, but they are not always the most social of interviewers.

A Visage
eSports has really started picking up momentum, especially in Asia. The South Korean military even started its own StarCraft team, and there is a story that a Korean StarCraft team was had to give a pep talk to the Korean World Cup Soccer team before one of their games. These days there are a multitude of online competitive games to play: DOTA, League of Legends, StarCraft, Smash Bros., Call of Duty, and some serious cash to be farmed in professional gaming. The highest earners play DOTA, with Zhihao “Hao” Chen having the highest overall winnings with an all time earning of 1.2 million dollars. That could change depending on how he and his team do in this year’s tournament. Unfortunately, it is not all Cheetos, carpal tunnel, and bling.

Many professional gamers, especially those who live in China, live together in practice houses sometimes playing their dedicated game for over ten hours a day. For anyone who might want to believe that this is not a sport you would be wrong. Teams have trainers, psychologists, media, and communications specialists. They train and work as hard as any professional sports team. It can be grueling, stressful, and full of rage quits. More than one team and player has cracked under the pressure of losing a match that cost them nearly a million dollars. A fact which could be compounded by a competitor’s age.

You don’t have to be an adult to compete. One of DOTA’s best known players, Ludwig Wahlberg, known to fans as Zai, started playing at the age of 16. Unfortunately, the career expectancy on these players is also shorter than that of professional football players. Reflexes and hand-to-eye coordination naturally degrade with age, and most professional gamers will not be able to play competitively beyond their late 20’s. As a side note, that is the statistic we quote the most often over voice chat when we are being tea-bagged by some punk sixteen year old.

The Juggernaut
Professional gaming may seem like a passing fad to older generations, but it is only increasing in popularity among younger generations. In 2000, there were only 27 eSports tournaments held. In 2014, that number had increased to 1,895, with a combined total of 35.7 million dollars. That does not even include the endorsement deals that eSport athletes are receiving from companies ranging from American Express to Ford. What some might find even more surprising is that colleges are now offering scholarships to top online players. Robert Morris University in Chicago gave more than $500,000 to gamers. Overall, as of 2014, roughly 10,000 players in 450 American universities are receiving scholarship money for their gaming skills.

Both colleges and companies understand the potential of this new form of competition. In a world where students and new customers are growing up playing these games there is a new and blossoming market. Younger Americans connect with eSports because they themselves understand and enjoy playing the games themselves. To students in high school, professional gaming seems as natural as professional sports, and furthered by the fact that TV viewership is dying among young adults and teens. More and more Millennials and subsequent generations are spending more and more time streaming channels like Twitch, than watching cable or network television. This means that eSports is already positioned in a place where most major league and professional sports in America cannot be. The NFL just signed a deal with Yahoo to do their first live stream game in the 2015-2016 season, but most traditional sports are still tied up in network contracts. DOTA and games like it are ahead of the curve in a world where more people are turning to Netflix for shows like House of Cards and Daredevil.

DOTA and sports in general are here to stay and will only continue to grow in the future. To check out the current standings of the DOTA 2 International Championship, check out the main DOTA site. We would also recommend checking out a game or two this week to see what all the hype is about. If you we re a newb there is even a beginner’s stream where they will walk you through the game. Already fans have been witness to some epic plays and epic upsets. We here at The NYRD will be tuned in all week and especially on Saturday for the finals, as will almost 40 million other people, but to hold you over until then let us celebrate DOTA in the traditional way, with Swedish dance music.

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The hour has grown late. The world has darkened and the old mansion, your ancestral home, is filled with terrors beyond any half-dreamt nightmare of the human mind. There is no turning back, there is no do-overs, save points, or retries. There is only a team of heroes and the encroaching darkness of insanity.

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG Indie game available on Steam.

With a Lovecraftian flair, this video game is more than just a dungeon crawler. Set in a land of nineteenth century horror, you must recruit unique teams of heroes, each with their own skill sets, strengths, and flaws. Each dungeon will put your team in not just physical harm but psychological danger as well. If one of your hero’s health becomes too low they will only die, but if their stress is raised too high, they run the risk of becoming damaged in other ways.

There are no save points. The game autosaves your progress, which means each action you take is permanent. If a hero dies, he or she stays dead and you will have to recruit another and train them from the bottom up. Besides leveling heroes and completing objectives you are also expected to level up your town, which will give your heroes a variety of new options including new items, armor, skills, and much needed rest to reduce their understandable levels of affliction.

In a gaming world where death no longer seems permanent and failure is hardly ever an option, it is both refreshing and terrifying to play a game where each step could be your last, and tragedy will eventually strike. That team of heroes you raised to level 4, with all the perfect skills and gear, they will stumble into encounters where something goes horribly wrong and some, if not all, may die. You will have to retreat and regroup, if you can.

With more and more modern games returning to the retro aesthetic of death and failure, like Dark Souls  and Bloodbourne, it is reassuring to see this trend continue in the Indie game community. Darkest Dungeon will keep you on the edge of your seat, praying that each hit by your eldritch foes does not drop your glass cannon to death’s door, or stun your healer. You will curse, you will weep, and you will love every minute of it.

Even though the game is not yet finished the developers, Red Hook, have already crammed it with thousands of man hours of work and care, with promises of much more great things to come. Unique hero classes, dozens of monsters, hundreds of unique items, and an aesthetic quality that will grab you right away. Each corner of the game is packed with the delicate touches that you would expect from developers who continue to show a true love for their game and gaming in general.

Can you keep your heroes together as you face unimaginable horrors, stress, disease, famines, and the ever-encroaching darkness? Step into the Darkest Dungeon and find out.

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