Every week on The Free Cheese Podcast, we begin with a segment called Now Playing where we talk about the games that we’ve been spending time with. In this article, we’re bringing a bit of that conversation to the written word because it isn’t dead yet.

We’ll share what we’ve been playing and we encourage you to ask questions or share your own thoughts on what you’ve been playing in the comments.

This week I write with my thumbs, each poking the keys on a small screen to transmit a message from a reddened body all the way from Vieques, a small island east of Puerto Rico.

Taking my first real vacation in maybe a decade, I promised myself I wouldn’t work on the website, nor would I play video games. I wanted to really take the week for a vacation. While I was certainly okay with it for the week, knowing we’d be in the water or hopping through various restaurants between sleeping, I had no idea what I would do on the plane ride.

The Nintendo Switch is barely two months old and it’s been six months since we first learned of its true nature. During that first look at the console, we see a man prop his console up by the kickstand atop a seatback table on an airplane. I immediately wanted that to be one of my experiences with the Switch. Yet, as I began packing and sorting my travel items, it seemed really silly to carry along something for the sake of the plane ride. Even my PSPgo made no sense to tag along. Alas, I turned to the bookshelf.

Around the time of our 2016 Game of the Year voting, I became increasingly infatuated and elated at all things DOOM. Following it winning our greatest honor, Danny O’Dwyer released a new Noclip documentary focused on John Romero, one of the founding members of id and a true icon in the industry. The entire zeitgeist of my year’s end resonated with all that the little company from Texas had accomplished. I soon found a copy of Masters of Doom in my hands.

Truth be told, I began the book but never got more than a chapter in because something else took my attention. Yet as I tried to imagine what my travel would entail and had a desire to remain as wireless as possible, the book would finally receive the attention I wished I had given it much sooner.

Masters of Doom is written by David Kushner, and tells the tale of id Software. Specifically, the book details the events that brought John Romero and John Carmack together, and what ultimately drove them apart. It documents the rise of id Software and its properties in popularity, from the schoolyard to the White House.

I’ve just finished the book, reading it during the flight and occasionally while laying beneath the sun as my skin slowly became closer to one of the monsters that would grace the halls of Doom. While I promised myself I wouldn’t play video games this week, the work of id has been constantly on my mind.

Kushner writes the book in a way that feels like you’re playing Doom. It is incredibly fast-paced, spanning the length of more than a decade in less than three hundred pages. Yet, like Doom, it knows when to slow down and let you soak on the details. The writing encourages you to feel and experience the moments as if you were the third John.

By interviewing everyone who ever tangentially had involvement with id for the course of six years, Kushner develops in Masters of Doom the full account of the id Software timeline from its days as a group of moonlighters “borrowing” PCs from its day jobs, through the successes that allowed its owners bright colored Ferraris and massive houses.

What I found most intriguing throughout the story was how well Kushner could relate each character’s personality so well. I feel now that both John Carmack and John Romero are old friends that through anything, I’d understand their decisions and thoughts on anything. Reading about Carmack’s desire for little more than pizza, Diet Coke, and a place to program resonated so well with my absolute essentials. Romero’s “design is king” mantra and unwavering passion for keeping life fun echoes my own disinterest in taking anything too seriously.

Masters of Doom comes with my highest recommendation. I feel motivated to do something. I feel empowered that I can do it. At the very least, I feel that I learned a lot about two guys and the company that they started that would influence me in many ways.

I’ve had a crazy week this week so I didn’t get into much. My week actually seemed to be the exact opposite of Joe’s. While he’s out relaxing on vacation I think I logged about 20 hours of overtime this week. Somehow though, I found a way to play a few things.

I’m going to start off with the game I was all wrong about the past few years. DOTA 2 is a great game and I’m still only on that learning curve. I probably only played three different matches this week, but I used a totally different character each time and got more of a feel for the different roles in this MOBA. It’s not often I challenge myself with a brand new genre so I think that is part of the fun. I will finally have some time to breathe this week so I look forward to playing more matches and continue enjoying myself. I may end up dropping money on this game before the end of this month if my wild ride with this game continues.

I feel like I should mention I’m still “playing” Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm. I really don’t have a good reason why I keep opening this app besides habit now at this point. Finding all the different types of weed has become my goal for this game and I feel like once I do that, I will move on from what I believe is going to be my mobile game of the year this December.

It fell out of my life briefly last week, but the majority of my time spent in video games this week was with MLB The Show. Earlier in the week was the end of a Diamond Dynasty online season, so I was trying to get in as many last minute games as possible to get better rewards for my team. I ended in the the 4th highest tier, but I know I’m better than where I placed. I’m still yet to spend real life actual money on building my team. That’s what is kind of hanging me up online now. I am playing people that are as skilled as me but they bought their team so on paper they have a better rated team. It’s hard to overcome that kind of challenge, but my team is steadily getting better and will soon match up with those teams.

Last but certainly not least, I played more Mass Effect: Andromeda. The more I play this game the more I like this game. I can’t figure out if it is me accepting that this isn’t as good as two or three or if I actually really am liking this game. On the podcast I mentioned the companion app. I must admit, every time I get notified a strike mission is complete I want to hop in the actual game to collect my rewards and see if I acquired anything super rare. The tempo of the story is beginning to pick up so I may not require that companion app to give me that push to go play the game once I get a couple more hours in.

I know I mentioned a lot despite my crazy week, but I probably really only played each of these things a max of three hours. Next week I will be able to get into things more and when I say that I’m looking at DOTA 2 and Mass Effect.

Let me tell you about this world. No. Not THIS world. The digital world.

Digimon World: Next Order mixes my emotions from both past and present. It’s bittersweet nostalgia with a big hint of PTSD.

I’m a huge Digimon fan. I’d pick it over Pokémon any day, but why compare? I’d rather compare Digimon with it’s own games. For instance, DW:NO plays very similar to it’s first title in the series simply titled,”Digimon World”.

If you’re not familiar with DW, it’s a fleshed out version of the Tamagotchi (those little virtual pet key chains) with a story and role playing elements. You play as a human who trains and takes care of their partner digimon as you explore the digital world and fighting other digital monsters. The monsters move on their own while you stand on the sidelines cheering them on and coaching them on what to do.

As a kid, I was AWFUL at this game. Between not knowing where to go, losing every fight, and Agumon constantly pooping and dying, I was a very stressed 11 year old who did not have the patience to deal with all of this. The loading screens every 10 seconds was the torture cherry on top. My friends still tease me by doing their Agumon impressions saying, “MARC! I GOTTA GO POOPY!” over and over again. I hated this game yet I wanted to be good at it. It was a lost cause.

Fast forward to 2017 and DW:NO definitely sticks to it’s f***’n roots I tell you what. It’s a HD remake of the Vita game of the same name. It plays just like the PS1 game except this time, to make things more exciting (worse), you now take care of 2 digimon. i thought Agumon was bad enough. Now I have me a Gabumon too. You can alternate or simultaneously command and take care of both partners. They do a tutorial in the beginning, and even then, I still didn’t get far. I trained my digimon. I’ll list what happened.

Koromon got exhaustion from training.
Koromon got sick due to exhaustion.
I try to use the sleep command to fix this.
“Koromon isn’t tired.”
Looking for a way out of the tiniest town.
Can’t find an exit.
Koromon digivolves into Agumon.
Still exhausted and is losing health from getting sick.
Agumon isn’t even the right color I wanted. I got the edgy “screw you dad” Agumon.
Childhood rage surfaces.
I turn off my PS4.

But you know what, after some time spent reflecting on why I don’t enjoy this kind of Digimon game (I prefer the JRPG turned-based battles like Cyber Sleuth.), I realized that I don’t want to quit. I need to make some real progress. I’m compelled to get Agumon and Gabumon to digivolve to their Mega levels and fuse to become Omnimon. Even if I don’t beat the game, I want to get the hang of this. I want to make 11 year old me proud.

I plan to continue giving updates on this game, but for now, I gotta go poopy.

Posted by Matt Soellner

Matt is a borderline Sony fanboy, but loves to play anything that is fun. Has a healthy diet of coffee, beer, and some forms of food in the middle. Can talk about sports about as much as he can about games and when he is not in front of his consoles he is on the family party boat.

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