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Editors’ Picks 9/21: Last Chance to Metagame on Wheels

This week in Editors’ Picks: James likes the Confederacy, Rollin plays games about games, and Ian only has one more chance to see all the things.

James’ pick: Hell on Wheels

I contracted an awful illness over last weekend. I was death incarnate. Typhoid James. So, obviously, that meant I needed something new to watch on Netflix while the only thing at which I was able to physically succeed was keeping my eyes opened for a few hours per day. So, I tried AMC’s Hell on Wheels. I was afraid the show would be terrible based on the name, or some reality show about motorcycles, but it turns out it’s well-written, character-driven drama set during 1865 America.

The main character, Cullen Bohannon, played wonderfully by Anson Mount, is a former Confederate who set out on a quest to avenge his murdered wife and child. He tracks a couple of the culprits to a camp building a transcontinental railroad, run by Thomas Durant, played by Colm Meaney, where he sort of, kind of, eventually seems to settle into his life at the camp building the railroad.

The show is very, very good. From Mount’s portrayal of Cullen, to Common’s portrayal of slave-to-secret-agent Elam Ferguson, the acting is stellar. Though the show often finds itself in beige fields and a muddy shanty town, the cinematography is nothing short of beautiful, and man, working in a railroad town sure isn’t as boring as it sounds.

My one reservation with the show is that, though each episode is generally an amazing piece of television, after having watched the entire first season, I can say that the overall plot is a little lacking. Sure, they’re just trying to build the railroad, and that’s the overall plot, but really, any one storyline doesn’t seem to dominate the plot very much, so you’re sometimes left wondering if an event in a single episode will end up leading to something larger. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. The episodes aren’t stand-alones, and you can’t just jump right in at any given point, but it’d be nice to see something building more toward the season finales.

Regardless, Hell on Wheels, for me, is probably one of the top five best shows currently on television. The first season is on Netflix, and season two is about halfway through being aired, so you might as well give it a shot.

Rollin’s pick: The Metagame

I’m a big fan of video games, in case you weren’t already aware. Game design is something I have always found fascinating. It’s for this reason that the Metagame by Local No. 12 interested me in the first place. Specifically, the video game edition.

The game consists of two decks of cards and can be played with just three people. Essentially, two of those people are duelists and the third acts as the arbiter of the game. After drawing a couple cards — duelists from the trading cards and arbiter from comparison cards — the arbiter then decides what will be compared.

For example, the arbiter might play a card that says, “Which is more elegant?” The duelists then pick a card from their hand to argue. One might choose Breakout, and the other World of Goo, then they each take a turn to present their argument as to why they think their choice is more elegant than the other. The arbiter decides who wins. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It might not sound much like a game, but it’s enthralling to think critically of games that you might not have examined thoroughly in certain ways. Depending on the combination of cards, wonderful combinations can be had. Even if you lose, you’ve come away with a greater understanding of what makes great video games great.

Ian’s pick: Last Chance to See

I’m down from my political high horse of last week and back in my element, nose firmly entrenched in a book.

The Geekosystem offices are dangerously close to a couple of New York’s many wonderful used bookstores. Well, it’s a situation that’s dangerous for my wallet, anyhow, if probably not a hazard for many other things. This results in a lot of wandering around used bookstores, an activity that I can participate in for just, hours on end, until they kick me out at closing time. Seriously, I’ve been kicked out of more bookstores than any other sort of place, and I’m a man who is no stranger to being kicked out of places.

This week, I have the singular pleasure of leafing through one of those wonderful and totally unexpected things you find while engaging in the above activity — Last Chance to See, a guide to some of the planet’s most endangered animals by none other than the dearly departed Hitchhiker’s Guide author Douglas Adams.

As someone whose reading predilections lean heavily toward nonfiction, it’s always a pleasure to find one of my favorite fiction authors writing about reality. When it’s a book you didn’t even know existed, it’s that much better, and when it’s a story that involves Douglas Adams dodging venomous snakes to see Komodo dragons up close and having a seat next to a silverback mountain gorilla, well, I challenge you to put it down.

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