It can be a challenge to buy a gift for your brainy, science-obsessed friend. What kind of games might he or she like? The science brains among us can be so intimidating, partly because it's always scary buying things for smart people, but partly because who knows what those science people even like? Do they want beakers? A scale perhaps? Maybe some sort of assistance in covering up their secret meth-cooking operation?
This list is for you, weary gift-giver. It's here to help you find some fun science-ish gifts for the egghead in your life. And always remember: if none of these sound good, you can always tell them that your gift-selection process is "still in the hypothesis stage." Scientists love that kind of stuff.
One of the smartest games in recent memory, Spacechem and science go together like peas and carrots. I mean come on, it's called "SpaceChem!" And it lives up to that name. It's an ever-more complex game that involves creatively coming up with combinations of molecules to form new chemicals. It's open-ended, hugely brainy, and rewards lateral thought and creativity.
($9.99 on Steam)
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
While we're talking about things that smart people like, Tom Bissell's 2010 book Extra Lives: While Video Games Matter, while not particularly sciency, remains one of the most purely enjoyable pieces of video game writing you can buy. Think of it as a more holistic alternative to Jesse Schell's book (later)—well-written, humorous stories about games and the people who make them.
($15.61 at Amazon)
Portal 2 "Science to Do" T-Shirt
Since it's a safe bet that your friend will already have played Valve's smart and sciency Portal 2, what better way to celebrate both their love of games and their love of Portal than with a fun Portal T-shirt? This one, from ThinkGeek.com, seems particularly appropriate. One of the best things about Portal T-shirts is that they hold up even if the person viewing the shirt doesn't get the reference. There's science to do!
($18.99 at ThinkGeek.com)
Fate of the World
Fate of the World is a game that cries out for a scientific mind. A complicated and unforgiving simulation about global climate change and strife, it requires players to carefully navigate a minefield of potential disasters while working towards some sort of accord. Which usually never comes. A knowledge of world economic, political, and environmental affairs is required, and even the most seasoned leader will learn something after a few games. It's not easy, and it's not forgiving, but science never is.
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell
One of the smartest and most accessible game-design books out there, Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses strikes a great balance by being both hugely informative about the process of making games while not shutting out readers who may not know a ton about the nuts and bolts of game design. Schell himself—former Disney imagineer, professor at Carnegie Mellon, all around cool dude—is the main attraction here, and his inviting style makes for a tremendously enjoyable and educational read.
($30.87 at Amazon)
When buying games and gifts for a person who loves science, it's important not to forget the most science-tastic game of all, Portal 2. While it's likely that most science fans have already played the game, it's worth making sure, since Portal 2 was easily one of the smartest and most enjoyable games of 2011. The puzzles are first-rate and make you to really use your brain, and the story is hilarious—you'll never look at robots (or potatoes) the same way again.
($42.75 at Amazon, Cheaper Used at Half.com)
Indie Royale's "Difficult 2nd Bundle" of indie gaming fun has been expanded, adding bonus goodies including soundtracks, downloadable content, and new games. As the offer approaches its final day, you can now "pay what you want" (above a minimum price) for a grand six games.
The two new additions are shoot 'em ups Bullet Candy Perfect and Irukandji by Charlie Knight, whose Scoregasm was one of the bundle's original games.
They can be added to a Desura account, but, unlike the other games, not to Steam. If you've already bought the bundle, you'll find the games added to your purchase page.
Fate of the World, NightSky, Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! round out the bundle. It also now includes all Fate of the World Steam downloadable content, which usually costs $11.97. You get its soundtrack too, as well as those for NightSky and Scoregasm.
Head on over to Indie Royale to buy The Difficult 2nd Bundle. It'll only be available until 8am Pacific on Tuesday.
The second Indie Royale bundle has this second gone live. You’ll remember the first one from Adam telling you all about it. It’s the excitingly confusing system where the price goes up over time, but people paying more than that price cause it to go down. I think. Whatever it is, it works, and tens of thousands of people bought the first one, getting a splendid bargain. So what’s in the second collection?
Fledgling 'pay what you want' bundle vendor Indie Royale today launched 'The Difficult 2nd Bundle,' it's next cut-price collection of indies. The new bundle packs Fate of the World, NightSky, Scoregasm, Time Gentlemen, Please!, and Ben There, Dan That!.
As with the first Indie Royale bundle, it launched at a price of $1.99, which rises as people pay the bare minimum. However, when customers pay above the minimum, they can push the price back down a little for everyone else.
The Difficult 2nd Bundle presents a varied spread of games. IGF finalist NightSky is a puzzle-platformer, Scoregasm's an arena shooter, Fate of the World simulates global warming and politico-economic conditions, while Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! are delightfully crude and amusing adventure games.
All the games can be added to Steam and Desura accounts, or you can download them directly.
The bundle will be on sale until 10am Pacific on Tuesday.
Fixed: Steam Cloud synchronisation failure on Mac. Caused save files and mission progress to be reset when game was launched. [#3271]
Crash reported when starting the mission The Flood. [#3272]
Game crashes with a "Failed to DrawPrimitive" message. This most probably means that you do not have enough Video Memory to run the game (you need at least 512MB). Try setting "Texture Quality" to "Low" or "Medium" in the Options screen. [#2726]
Game occasionally crashes when alt-tabbing from fullscreen. [#2517]
Steam version of the game fails to start with Zone Alarm installed. Workaround: Uninstall Zone Alarm Toolbar. [#2738]
"Cannot create device! in D3D9Device::createD3D9Device" error when launching the game. Please try the OpenGL renderer if this happens to you. [#3284]
Energy telemetry pane can sometimes show > 100% energy use under certain conditions (such as large renewable energy numbers) [#3002]
The game is not compatible with MaxiVista software - please turn off the software and/or any devices connected that way before running the game. [#2921]
Edited to correct pricing details – thanks for pointing it out, folks!
It’s been a while since I’ve played Fate of the World, the game that tasks you with saving the world from mankind and itself in a terrifyingly realistic fashion. Quinns wrote a fine summation of it here, summed up by the phrase “You find out you’re an idiot”, which is precisely what I found out when playing as well. And for a while I played it far too much, so that every news report of a real life catastrophe I read would make me roll my eyes at the futility of all possible solutions. It might be time to go back and give it another go with the release of Fate of the World: Tipping Point, which adds new scenarios, cards, features and UI enhancements. It’s available at a 20% discount at present and can be purchased either through Steam, GamersGate or direct from Red Redemption. Both Steam and GamersGate are currently offering large discounts to owners of the original. There’s even a trailer!