My Favorite Storytelling Element: Spider-Man “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”

Superheroes visiting terminally ill children may be a reality in the 2010s—Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland has even visited children in the hospital—but in 1984 when “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” was first published (The Amazing Spider-Man #248), the Make A Wish foundation was barely three years old.

The story had some exploit of Spider-Man’s, but no one remembers what battle Spidey fought. Readers latched onto a kid named Tim who suffers from leukemia and only has a short time left. All Tim wants is to meet his hero. Spider-Man gives him his wish.

Part of what makes “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” great is Tim’s wish fulfillment. It’s a short human-interest story that writer Roger Stern made Will Eisneresque, and that is a fantastic element of the story, it dwarfs any battle, but I what I liked most happened after Spider-Man sees all the memorabilia the kid has collected (kinescopes of Spidey’s early TV appearances, a whole album of The Daily Bugle’s retractions, and bullets from a crime foiled by Spider-Man), and the kid asks Spidey who he is as Spider-Man’s about to leave. This kid loves him.

Spidey hesitates but figures the kid won’t tell anyone his identity, so he takes off his mask and identifies himself as Peter Parker. What Spidey didn’t expect was that by doing this it would lead to him telling the kid how he became Spider-Man. Part of him wants the kid or someone to know his secret.

He imagines the kid will hate him after he tells him how his negligence led to his uncle’s death, but it doesn’t. The kid hugs him and a reassures him. It’s okay for a hero to make mistakes. For a moment, it’s okay for Spider-Man to be Pete.

During this holiday season, I hope you know that it’s okay to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. It’s also okay to take off any mask you may wear and be yourself. Take care and be nice to each other.

My Favorite Innovative Video Games

I’m going a little off pattern with this latest favorite game mechanism in choosing several game innovations. This writeup skirts the boundaries of a list and the semi-weekly “My Favorite” series. I’m also kicking it old school with this video games as these are the first time a game style or game feature was used, so these won’t be so much modern innovative video games—I could see that as another writeup in the future—as much as it’ll be video games that shaped how they’re designed and played.

I could go on, but let’s talk about some games.

Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is an easy one to include, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t shaped modern video gaming in many ways. It’s one of the first open-world role-playing games. Without the original Legend of Zelda there would be no Bethesda as we know it. Sorry, no Fallout or Elder Scrolls. I played Morrowind a lot like I played The Legend of Zelda. I skipped the first dungeon and found one of the more difficult ones in the world and got my butt kicked. Who says I learned anything since I was a kid?

This game also created the first save file. Before The Legend of Zelda, players had to remember or write down codes to continue a game. When I first loaded the original Zelda, I wondered what a save file was. How far we’ve come.

Grand Theft Auto 3

Grand Theft Auto III

Speaking of open world gaming, no game captured the idea of “sandbox” gameplay than GTA3. Players could go anywhere and do anything. Unfortunately for your uncle Geekly, all I wanted to do was drive around town and listen to the radio. What do you mean the DJ’s name is Michael Hunt, but you can call him Mike?

Oh. That’s naughty. And players could be as naughty as they wanted to be with this title. Freedom, beautiful freedom. Now if only players could take the role of a woman like they could in the first Grand Theft Auto.

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 didn’t try a lot of new things in terms of a platform game. All it did was become the first game to effectively immerse gamers in a 3D world. Players could make Mario jump, flip, and run in 3-dimensional space. If they didn’t like the camera view, they could move the camera for a better angle. You know, the things gamers take for granted today.



This title took the easy way out: let users create content. Okay, with a user-friendly creation tool, LittleBigPlanet ushered in the era of “user-created content” in video games. There have been other games that have put design in players’ hands for the PC, but LittleBigPlanet made it as easy as I can remember and brought this idea to consoles. Power to the people.


Super Tecmo Bowl

No. I’m not talking about the first Tecmo Bowl where players cheated by using the Raiders and Bo Jackson. I’m talking about the follow-up game Super Tecmo Bowl where the game kept track of players’ statistics for the first time—something sports gamers like—and it simulated a full season of games—another something sports gamers like. If only Super Tecmo Bowl used real names for every player.

This game gets bonus points for modders who update the classic with modern NFL rosters. J. J. Watt is in our featured image at the start of this post, and Stefon Diggs is in the one above. Those are actual screen grabs from a Super Tecmo Bowl with updated rosters. What?

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

Sure, I could focus on Metal Gear Solid’s stealth gameplay, which was revolutionary at the time, but I’m going to concentrate on MGS’s storytelling. The game played out like a series of short films that included some topical themes and did a lot with developing characters, even if the dialogue was wanting at times. Metal Gear Solid showed that video games could thrive as a storytelling medium.



Doom’s biggest contribution must be its immersion. There were first-person games before Doom, but this game was the one that immersed gamers in its world. It’s the first game that made the environments their own characters, but it didn’t stop there. Doom introduced the world to multiplayer gaming via the internet. It also popularized a “shareware model” or a “try before you buy” system that game companies still used today.

That’s my first list of innovative video games. I’m sure there are plenty more that I could make another fifty to hundred lists. If you have a problem with any of the games on this list or take issue with an omission or five, come at me with a thumb war. Or you could leave a comment.


My Favorite Game Mechanic: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Your uncle Geekly has talked about Castles of Mad King Ludwig before, so if you want to see our review of it and Suburbia, check it out here, but this week we’ll talk about the one game mechanism I like the most from Castles of Mad King Ludwig: I cut, you choose.

I’ll try not to repeat my review of Castles, but I can’t promise to cover some familiar ground. Most games that use an I cut, you choose mechanism play out like the pizza game New York Slice. The starting player groups things together (depending on the game type) and then the player to the starting player’s left picks which group they want first and play continues to their left, meaning that the player who decided which stack of things went together gets whatever’s left over. It’s a nice little game of cat and mouse. Do I want to group things I know another player would want together, giving them points, or risk something I’m playing for? Most often, players will split the difference and hope for the best. This system gives players more agency in games. To be honest, not enough games use I cut, you choose.


But Castles of Mad King Ludwig takes a different approach to this mechanism. Each turn there’s a different master builder and the master builder determines how expensive tiles (with which to construct player castles) cost each turn. When a player selects a tile from the supply, they pay the cost to acquire a tile to the turn’s master builder. That’s coconuts.

Not only does a master builder set the market price each turn, there’s an added level to I cut, you choose in that the master builder places an item for sale at the highest price they think another player would be willing to pay for the tile to get the most money they can get during their turn as the master builder. Flushed with master builder cash allows for more purchases and builds at the end of a turn (master builders still take their build turns at the end of the round like most other I cut, you choose games), and to date, I haven’t seen a tabletop game empower players at this level. This adds so many new strategies and questions.


Do I price the tile I want that turn as the most expensive? If I do, will other players buy enough of the cheaper tiles for me to buy the one I really want? Would another player pay top dollar for the tile I want most? Are other players even interested in the tile I want most? Can I price it lower or will someone buy it just to spite me? Even though the titular Mad King Ludwig wasn’t mad, this game can drive players mad with its number of choices.

Each game changes how players score, so a tile that mattered in a previous game might not matter as much in a future one. That gives Castles of Mad King Ludwig a lot of replay value.

I like Suburbia a lot too. It’s a similar game about building suburbs of a city by the same design team and publisher, but Castles of Mad King Ludwig’s take on the I cut, you choose mechanism makes it a much better game.

If you disagree, you can send me to the stocks or you can leave a comment. If you’d like to tell me I’m wrong every day, feel free to subscribe.

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Sentinels of the Multiverse

There isn’t just one game mechanic that I like from Sentinels of the Multiverse, there are several, but most of them center around one thing: character building.

Sentinels may not be perfect—your Uncle Geekly will have to write an in-depth analysis about it after a while—but most of the design choices in Sentinels do something to characterize the heroes, the villains, and sometimes the world in which they live. Players feel like they’re heroes. They feel super. And that doesn’t happen as much as it should in board games with superheroes.

Some games like Marvel: Legendary (perhaps a better game than Sentinels overall) puts gamers in the role of someone like Nick Fury. You’re assembling a team of superheroes to deal with a threat. Others put gamers in the role of a superhero, but there isn’t an attachment to the character or the characters are flat. You are a unique hero in Sentinels.


While there may be some misses (in terms of character building), there are more characters like NightMist. She’s reckless. How do we know this? She’s just as likely to hurt her teammates as she is the enemy, and the mechanisms in her deck bring out that flavor. Legacy is the leader of the gang. A lot of his abilities promotes this identity. Visionary has a more hands-off approach and many cards in her deck reflect her personality.

The villains have just as much personality, and Sentinels does one of the best jobs in tabletop gaming of building antagonists. Some villains have no regard for their henchmen and prefer the heroes to squish them, others may care for their righthand man, but have no attachment to anyone else. Still others depend on no one else but themselves. These henchmen, if there are any, also tend to build on the eccentricities of the various villains. Citizen Dawn’s lackeys don’t behave like anyone else’s. Grand Warlord Voss has his own unique cronies. The Matriarch always has a murder of crows in tow.


There are even some villains like Akash’Bhuta who are more forces of nature than true villains. The Dreamer who is an 8-year-old girl whose dreams come to life, but she suffers from night terrors and therefore, she’s a victim herself. And Wage Master who’s the resident Mister Mxyptlk who turns game play upside down just because it strikes his fancy. The characters in Sentinels have plenty of—well—character.

Even the environment decks (that represent the location the game takes place) have their own sense of character. Certain environments like Wagner Mars Base aren’t so good for specific characters like Bunker (kind of like Ironman) or The Wraith (a female Batman) because it randomly destroys equipment, while other environments like Rook City (a Gotham City type) hates on all heroes because even the cops are crooked. There are even a few environments that handle heroes with kid gloves. I won’t mention them here. Greater Than Games has plenty of forums for that and many of new game copies rates each environment according to difficulty.

It’s easy to fall in love with Sentinels despite any shortcomings. It has personality. And personality is something more superhero games and antagonists in cooperative games need.

What do you like most about Sentinels? Is there another game that handles character building in a fun and interesting way? Let us know in comments.

My Favorite Storytelling Element: Iron Man “Demon in a Bottle”

I’m not sure if I can say it any better than several other critics “’Demon in a Bottle’ is THE quintessential Iron Man story.”

Tony Stark/Iron Man’s alcoholism is one of his key characteristics, and “Demon in a Bottle” introduces this. Does “Demon in a Bottle” do as well of a job tackling this issue as other, more modern stories (in comics and other media)? Not necessarily. It’s a 1979 comic book story arc after all. Does writer David Michelinie speed through what occurs during recovery? Yes. It’s almost comical. But he does an excellent job with loss and the struggles Tony deals with, and it’s easy to see why “Demon in a Bottle” remains one of the best Iron Man stories.

Prior to “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man was a relatively flat character. Many of the stories weren’t engaging. I like how the “Demon in a Bottle” begins as usual Iron Man fare at the beginning of the arc. The storyline ran from The Invincible Iron Man #120-128 (March-November 1979), but it wasn’t until issue 124 or so that alcohol really came into play.


It’s odd watching modern critics address this story. They’ll say things like they wished Iron Man started with Tony’s alcoholism sooner and expand on it. Do I wish, in hind-sight, that “Demon in a Bottle” did more to address alcoholism or do so sooner in the arc? Yes. A serious subject like alcoholism deserves as much space as needed.

Other storylines in the 1970s dedicated plenty of issues to drugs. Roy Harper (the original Speedy) was revealed to be a heroin addict in Green Lantern vol. 2 #85 (1971), and Spider-Man fought drugs that same year (The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98), but those two storylines showed third-person accounts of addiction. Speedy wasn’t the main character in Green Lantern. Spidey fought crime, but drugs were kept at arms’ length, in third-person. Tony is Iron Man. “Demon in a Bottle” is a first-person account of how someone slowly descends—but perhaps not slow enough of a descent—into alcoholism.

Furthermore, Spider-Man and Green Lantern knew they were making a statement with their stories. “Demon in a Bottle” came out of nowhere. The issue of alcoholism grew organically, and that tends to be the insidious thing about addiction.

The first several issues Tony started drinking occasionally. As events unfolded—I won’t spoil much here, but many people would consider what happens in the early going of this story side battles and tragedies—he drank a little more each day until his addiction consumed him.

Comic book characters change a lot through the years and decades, but one thing has remained the same for Tony Stark/Iron Man since 1979. He battles with alcoholism. For a story that had little to no intention of making a statement, “Demon in a Bottle” makes a huge one. For a character who was just another guy in a flying suit, he gains one of his most defining characteristics.


Tony’s alcoholism has been revisited in later Iron Man storylines. He may offer advice to someone else suffering with addiction or he may hit the bottle again. Alcoholism is one of the things that makes Tony Stark relatable, human.

You can even see the impact “Demon in a Bottle” had in the film Iron Man 2. Tony gets drunk during a party in his armor and mayhem ensues. Director Jon Favreau may not have wanted to delve too deeply into Tony’s addiction—Disney/Marvel wanted to keep things light—but he wanted to homage to the most important Iron Man story.

I’m not sure what else there is to say. Perhaps one of you is more eloquent than me or has more insight into this groundbreaking comic book story. If you do, please share in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanic: Mansions of Madness

Have I mentioned that the Geekly household likes cooperative games? I have? We’re a family of sore losers and think the other people at the table are cheating. I mentioned that too? Well, we’re also fans of puzzles and like the occasional Lovecraftian horror game. Ha! That’s new.

When I think of those criteria, I think of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, but there’s a specific mechanism that brings out the best in that game: integrating an app.

You know what they say about not being able to beat them. Many games use apps as game night assistants, but Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition uses the medium to create ambiance with mood-setting background music. It adds character to the game. Not just with the music, but with the variety in each area’s setup and whatever algorithm that tells the app that the players of this game have done specific puzzles in the past, it’s time to mix it up. It even randomizes the solution of each scenario, so someone can play the game more than once and get a different outcome.

Okay. Some of these features aren’t executed as well as they could be, but Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition harkens a new age in tabletop games. I don’t think we’ll get too many of these type games at once, but there’s enough in Mansions of Madness to make someone excited for a third edition or how other games will incorporate apps in the future.

There’s plenty more to like of Mansions of Madness besides its app integration. The exploration, discovery, and puzzle-solving are well done. The Geekly household likes to rotate who takes the role of narrator each turn so that everyone gets a turn. If there’s another gripe I’d have with Mansions of Madness’s app it’d be that they could’ve included more voice acting (as in various actors or more of it so that a player at the table wouldn’t have to roleplay)—but more roleplaying isn’t a bad thing. Ham on, Hammy.


The Mansions of Madness’s app works well overall. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in this game and other games like Beasts of Balance, the One Night Ultimate series, Alchemists, and World of Yo-Ho. This is a trend I don’t see going away soon and if Mansions of Madness is the start of a new wave of games, I’m okay with that as a change-up, but I still like my classic analog games.

That’s what I have as my favorite game mechanism for Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. There are plenty more that I could include. What are some of yours? Maybe there’s another tabletop game that uses a companion app better. You can challenge me to a leg wrestle or tell me about it in comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Fallout Shelter

Old Uncle Geekly is trying a new trick. This week’s favorite game mechanic comes from video games, Fallout Shelter in particular.

On the surface Fallout Shelter shares a lot of commonalities with other free-to-play games/apps like Clash of Clans. Players download it for free and it offers in game purchases for players to get better at the game faster than they would by investing only time. But the one thing that separates this game from other free-to-play games is also the one thing that makes it uniquely Bethesda. The player competes against the game, not other players.

When one logs off of Clash of Clans or a Clash of Clans clone, logging back in allows them to see what other players did to their defenses while they were offline. This sometimes leads to players paying for repairs (tying up a worker to repair counts as “paying”) and regrouping. There’s usually a tournament included in games of this ilk and only the best players—or the ones willing to pay to win—fair well in these tournaments. There’s a reason people scoff at these games as “pay to win.” The only way to get ahead in a game like that is to pay something. Fallout Shelter eliminates that style of play.

Sure, you could pay to get better things faster in the game, but the only player you can see is yourself. Fallout Shelter allows players to do things at their own pace. It doesn’t apply the pressure of a tournament.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the occasional competitive free-to-play game, but Fallout Shelter’s brand of leveling up your vault dwellers how you see fit and sending them out on missions or exploring the wastes fit with Bethesda’s gaming catalogue. This isn’t just a free-to-play game. This is a Bethesda free-to-play game.

Is it for everyone? No. Did some gamers download it because they saw the word Fallout? Of course. Am I a Bethesda fanboy? You know it. But it’s the Bethesda open-world RPG flavor of Fallout Shelter that makes me interested in the game, and I hope other free-to-play games follow suit.

Player versus environment may be my favorite game mechanic, but I promised at least one more mechanism and here it goes. When Fallout Shelter first hit the app store, it bragged about players not having to wait for construction. Again, games like Clash of Clans have players build items and then they must wait real-world minutes or even hours for those items to be constructed. It’s a time waster. Well, you could pay gems (which end up being real-world money) to instantly build an item, but that ruins the idea of “free-to-play.” Fallout Shelter doesn’t have players wait for construction. If you have the resources, you build the room within your vault immediately.


While immediate construction was a huge selling point for the game, it opened new game mechanisms: push your luck and managing vault dwellers. Players didn’t wait on construction, they waited on their rooms to produce resources like food and water that their people needed.

The more dwellers one sent to a room, the faster that room produced the resource. This is a clever way of adding yet another resource (workers) to the game system. One could also “push their luck” by rushing production in a room. If one succeeds, the game gives them more resources. If the rush fails, the game generates some crisis (radroaches, a room fire, or deathclaws) the player must resolve.

It’s subtle, but the push your luck and managing vault dwellers mechanisms are excellent additions. Come to think of it, they may be just as important as making Fallout Shelter player versus environment.

I guess I had more than one favorite mechanism for Fallout Shelter after all. I’m sure I got lost somewhere while I searched the wastes. If I did, slap upside the head with a radscorpion barb. Or you could always say something in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanics TMNT: Shadows of the Past and Batman: Gotham City Chronicles

It might be time for a new series of articles: my favorite “fill in the blank.” We’ll talk about something in a game or show or movie or comic book that we like and dig into why we like that one thing. Good old Uncle Geekly will get things started with some board game mechanisms, or for the tabletop game newbie, the elements that make up a tabletop game. This week we’ll cover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and Batman: Gotham City Chronicles and their asymmetric one versus many game mechanism.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past

Both of this week’s games can be classified as “one versus many,” meaning that one player plays one side of the characters (usually villains) and two or more players assume the role of the other (usually heroes).

First off, I like how these games make the player who assumes the villains (the one) asymmetric to the gameplay style of the heroes (the many). TMNT: Shadows of the Past has the Turtle players rolling dice and performing actions based on what they roll, while the player who assumes The Foot Clan, Shredder, and the rest uses a deck of cards.

The individual turtles also play like their personalities and that gets to another mechanism I enjoy in Shadows of the Past: sharing dice. The turtles can share what they roll with their teammates. Dice placement makes all the difference. Each turtle player places their dice in front of them in a row and other turtles can only borrow a die that’s the closest to them. The player on your right can only borrow the die that’s the farthest on the right of the row.

Leonardo gets a bonus whenever someone borrows his dice. He’s the leader and that makes sense. Raphael gets extra dice but can’t borrow anything because he’s a loner. This is such a great touch because the players who’re playing Leo and Raph tend to sit as far away from each other as possible and those are the turtles who tend to butt heads the most.

Playing as either side can be fun, but also different, and that adds replay value. It also helps that TMNT: Shadows of the Past has a scenario system that works like playing through classic turtle stories.

Ah. It’s almost like reading the original comics.


Batman: Gotham City Chronicles

Monolith Board Games uses a similar gaming system with Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. Like TMNT: Shadows of the Past, the two sides use asymmetric gameplay, but both sides use gems that serve as their energy pool. The heroes have a set number of actions, depicted on their character cards. They use their gems to activate any of the actions they have at their disposal.

The villain (or Overlord) has a group of enemy tiles on a track that begins with smaller enemies on the left and larger ones on the right.

In a sample Batman game for instance, it’d be henchmen on the far left, Harley Quinn on the spot just left of the Joker, and of course the Joker would be on the far right.

Somewhat like the heroes, the Overlord activates their enemy tiles by using energy gems equal to the spot on the track that the enemy tile they want to activate is on. So, if you want to activate the first set of villains, pay one gem. If you want to activate the second set of villains, pay two, and so forth. As soon as a villain is activated, it goes to the end of the track (far right), and the other tiles slide one spot to the left.

This is so clever because the Overlord could activate the small fry for cheap or they could pay a little extra if the villain to the right has more strategic value. They wouldn’t spend all their gems to activate the Joker, would they? But it is the player’s choice.

But the heroes are also satisfying because they each have unique abilities based in their character’s lore—so Catwoman may be more useful than Red Robin in a game requires theft, but Red Robin is more useful in another that needs more detective work—and each scenario has very different objectives. The heroes win if they meet their objectives. The villains win if the heroes don’t.

Perhaps the best thing is that Batman GCC recreates dozens of classic Batman comic book tales. Not the movies or TV shows, the original comics. And from what I’ve seen, they may be using Capullo’s art as the basis for the miniatures. What!?

Is there anything you like about these games that we didn’t mention? Maybe you like TMNT better than Batman, and I’m too much of a Batman fanboy. You could have them challenge each other to a duel or you can let us know your thoughts in comments.