By request: my favorite games!

I got asked this question on Twitter, by way of being cc’d on a general question out to 50+ women asking what games they liked and what platforms they’re played on. I’m not actually 50 yet, but since I’m within reasonable distance, I promised my Twitter friend I’d do me a post about what games I play and how!

First and foremost, as long-time online pals of mine will know, I’ve been a lifelong player of Nethack, an ASCII-based dungeon adventure game that goes back into the dawn of Internet time. I started playing that thing on my very first computer back in college in 1987. I’m STILL periodically playing it on my Mac. There are ports to iOS but I haven’t tried those yet.

Aside from Nethack, my gaming interests fall into the general bucket of “casual games”, i.e., the sorts of games you can put onto your PC or Mac or mobile device, play at your own pace, and not have to worry too strenuously about game mechanics. Big recent famous examples of these are Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies, both of which are indeed my bane and my delight. I love PvZ so much, in fact, that I’ve played the damn thing five or six times through on different platforms. (And it doesn’t help either that Popcap keeps adding new achievements!)

And, as many of you also know, I actually work for a casual games company in my day job, i.e., Big Fish Games. Which has upped my casual gaming habit considerably, I’m here to tell you!

Big Fish sells hundreds and hundreds of games, most of which are developed by other vendors. But we develop a few notable lines of games in-house too. I’m a HUGE fan of our Mystery Case Files series, a long-running series of games in the “Hidden Object” genre of casual gaming. (Hidden Object games being the sort where you have an adventure to play through, and many of the screens in the adventure involve a scene of jumbled objects. You have to find a specific list of objects in order to solve the scene, and often, you then have to use one or more of the objects you find to complete necessary game actions.) The earlier MCFs are less complex; the later ones have gotten cleverer not only in terms of plot, but also in terms of variety of puzzles to solve and necessary interactions with in-game characters. The last couple of MCFs have even featured live footage of character actors.

I’ve played the MCFs up through 13th Skull; I still need to play Escape From Ravenhearst (warning on this one, it’s significantly darker in tone than the rest of the series, as well as in comparison to the vast majority of games we sell, so be aware of that) and the newest one, Shadow Lake. Of the ones I’ve played, my favorites are Return to Ravenhearst and Dire Grove. Return to Ravenhearst was the very first MCF I played, and I was impressed not only by the story (I thought at the time, “gosh, I’d love to read a novel version of this”), but also by the soundtrack, which was recorded by an orchestra in Berlin. You can in fact buy the soundtrack on if you want it! Dire Grove, meanwhile, had an excellent storyline and I’ve been having particular fun trying to play a French build of it, to improve my French vocabulary.

Another Hidden Object series we do is the Hidden Expedition series. These are more adventure-based than the MCFs, with less emphasis on paranormal/supernatural stuff. Like the MCFs, though, they’ve gotten more complex with the more recent installments. Of these, my favorite hands down is Hidden Expedition: Amazon, which, again, I’ve played on multiple platforms. Devil’s Triangle is fun, but be aware that it has a cliffhanger. Fortunately, its immediate sequel–Uncharted Islands–is also available.

One non-Hidden Object game we did in-house that I adore is Unwell Mel. This one’s a “Match 3” game–and if you’ve ever played Bejeweled, you know how a Match 3 game works. What I like about Unwell Mel is the schtick that the character Mel has every disease in the book, and you’re the doctor trying to cure him. So all the levels you need to solve are filled with various little germs and/or food that Mel has eaten, and it’s really all rather charming and adorable.

And I can also highly, highly recommend our Mahjongg Towers game for iPad owners. Great work on that one, in playability and design and music. It works very well with the iPad’s multi-touch gestures as well.

I don’t often play games we sell on behalf of other vendors, but I have sampled several. Of the ones I’ve checked out, so far my favorites are the Dana Knightstone series (in which you’re playing a novelist, Dana Knightstone, solving mysteries; the games are arranged in a novel-like structure, and that’s fun) and the Empress of the Deep ones. Both are Hidden Object adventures.

I’ve played casual games on XP, Win 7, Mac OS, and iOS, and so far my favorite experience is actually on my iPad. The touchscreen is an excellent way to play a Hidden Object game, and the iPad’s got a big enough screen that a Hidden Object scene isn’t cramped–which makes objects easier to find. Especially when you can zoom the screen in and out with the appropriate finger gestures.

What about the rest of you out there? If you’re a woman in my age group or older, I’d be particularly interested in what games you like to play to relay to my friend–whether you’re a console gamer or a casual gamer, both, or something else entirely! What are your preferred gaming platforms?

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