Staff Picks: Escape into the world of fandom and fantasy


Image compiled by John Louie Menorca.

By John Louie Menorca

Watch This! — Red vs. Blue | Web series

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Photo courtesy of Rooster Teeth

Originally launched on April 1, 2003, “Red vs. Blue” is a science-fiction comedy web series created by Rooster Teeth and filmed inside the “Halo” video game series.

Developed in the machinima style of using in-game footage synchronized with pre-recorded audio and other effects, the runtime of the series was originally destined for six to eight episodes. “Red vs. Blue” has since evolved over the show’s 17-year long run, originally based off the concept of red team vs blue team on the Halo map Blood Gulch, incorporating major story arcs, thoughtful dialogue and character development while still remaining engaging and humorous.

For the many grew up alongside the early stages of YouTube and Xbox, “Red vs. Blue” offers an element of nostalgia for those who either stumbled upon the series’ rising popularity in the late-2000s or played the Halo video games when they first came out.

“Red vs. Blue” is available through Rooster Teeth’s website and YouTube Channel.

Read This! — A Song of Ice and Fire | Book

Book cover courtesy of the publisher, Harper Voyager.

The first book in “A Song of Ice and Fire” was written by George R. R. Martin, published in 1996, and is titled “A Game of Thrones”. “A Game of Thrones”, and the rest of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, is the source material for the critically acclaimed HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

The book series of “A Song of Ice and Fire” takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. Each chapter in each book is written from the point of view of a single character, forming an overarching view of the story on various perspectives throughout the realm, whether they may be of high or low standing.

Three of the major themes for the series centers on political maneuvering and backstabbing of several families vying for control of Westeros, the rise of a supernatural threat in the far north of Westeros and the ambitions of an exiled princess named Daenerys Targaryen.

For those who spent the last decade invested in the HBO series, the books provide more in-depth information on the “Game of Thrones” universe, from extended details on favorite, memorable scenes, to lore on the general workings of Westeros and Essos.

“A Game of Thrones” and the other books in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series can be bought at your local bookstore, on Amazon as a hard or soft-cover copy, or alternatively, as an audio book on Audible or other sellers.

Play This! — Cities: Skylines | Video Game

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Photo courtesy of Paradox Interactive

The Oxford definition of a simulation is “the imitation of a situation or process.” “Cities: Skylines” is a video game simulation of planning and building out entire cities.

Players are presented with an empty template of climates and locations to choose from, usually with a freeway running through their starting grid. In order for their starting neighborhood to begin growing, a delicate balance of residential, commercial and industrial needs are to be met and maintained by player interaction.

Special buildings like power plants, water and waste pumps and even garbage landfills are needed to keep the populace happy and productive. Given a positive, maintained environment, the neighborhood grows into a town, then a city and eventually into a booming metropolis.

The learning curve to “Cities: Skylines” is a challenge, as the game requires players to consider basic needs which are normally taken for granted. Given time, and a lot of trial and error, players find themselves more invested into the planning of their city, from finding an effective way to manage traffic flow, to enacting policies for different sections of their city.

Using these policy choices, players can model their cities into eco-friendly, electric car only, public transit paradises or into industrial powerhouses with smokestacks on every street. There are also plenty of mods available for “Cities: Skylines” with options available from both “Cities: Skylines” developer Paradox Interactive as well as from the wider modding community, all intended to help players craft unique and outstanding cities. Modding is defined as an altercation by players or fans of a video game to change one or more of its aspects, things such as how it looks or behaves.

“Cities: Skylines” is available for PC on Steam or directly from Paradox Interactive. There are also purchase options available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.