Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines
Oh, V:TM:B (colon colon), how soon before someone else gets it and makes another game like you? (Full disclosure: I am to Bloodlines as NMA is to Fallout, but I'm nicer about it.) Though it's usually credited with being buggy, once you find the community-made patches, the game runs as smooth as silk and plays even deeper than before.
Based on a modified version of Vampire: The Masquerade's Revised rules, Bloodlines drops you into a perversion of Santa Monica, dirtied by used needles, a thriving homeless population and a supernatural community all atwitter over a sarcophagus rumored to hold the body of an ancient vampire, who may or may not be planning to wake up and consume everything in a 100-mile radius. You assume the role of a newly created vampire, dropped off in the city without a clue and a life debt to the guy who runs town. You eventually run across the head honcho's rivals, a vampire mafia, a werewolf and more zombies than anyone could ask for, meeting a host of great characters with better dialogue than the original Knights of the Old Republic along the way. Bloodlines beautifully mixes action-adventure gameplay with RPG elements and wraps it up in a game world that needs to be experienced to believe. I hopped in this time to try unlife as an insane vampire from clan Malkavian, and other than the main quest line, it's been different the whole way through, down to the lengthy argument with a stop sign I had and the TV talking to me.
This is my second play-through, and I assume by next year there'll be another patch and more content to get into, given the unofficial patch schedule. Not bad for a low-priced Steam game.
The South doesn't do much right, but dear God do they have a handle on pecan pie. The trick is in the molasses - you can't use too much, or it's all a wash.
I came into The Wire over the break, and about three seasons in, I'm already an evangelist. HBO's take on Baltimore's organized crime circuit is the best drama on TV, which shouldn't come as a surprise, given the company's track record. The show tells two stories each, one about a BPD narcotics unit, the other about the criminals they're chasing. The coverage is pretty even; there's likable characters on either side, as well as total bastards. The character interaction is believable, and the writing team manages to tell old stories in a new enough way to keep you guessing. But where the show really stands out is in the sheer brilliance of its scenes. Every episode, there's at least one scene that breaks your immersion because you're so blown away by how perfectly crafted it is. (Like this one, which isn't work safe if you have loud speakers.) At any given time, about three things are going on, so it's not great for lazy Sundays, but if you enjoy TV that gets into your head, The Wire is like brain worms.
Until Next Year
It'll be another 50 weeks or so until my next serious vacation, and I realize I'm suffering from a particularly high-class problem: I live games and therefore can't enjoy them like a gamer. But my lone week off is a great reminder of why I got into this business in the first place: They're a great way to spend time away from work.