Hey, you know Jeff Bakalar. He's an extraordinarily good-looking CNET host by day, but co-host of your very own Giant Beastcast by night--err, Thursday afternoons. You can always find him on CNET TV, CBSN and other streamable things, but your best bet is to just follow him on Twitter.
Stacie Blair Bakalar is an amazing talent who spent most of her early production career at Comedy Central and Spike TV. She's currently the Post Production Supervisor on the second season of Master of None. Her first console was a NES, which she played religiously, but did not return to the world of gaming until she and Jeff began dating in 2003.
My wife's the best. Every day I look at her and say to myself, "Yeah, you don't deserve her in your life." She's my best friend and has given me the most special thing in my entire life, our spectacularly handsome and lovable son, Dylan.
I often overlook how much of my shit she's put up with since we started dating 14 years ago. A lot of that shit is my obsession with video games.
Growing up, Stacie played a sizable number of NES games but never made it beyond that generation because of saving limitations and what she calls "insane difficulty." In college, Stacie and I took film and production courses together and even made a mockumentary which she wrote and I directed. Perhaps it's our shared love of film that opened the door to her rediscovery of games when we eventually started dating.
More often than not, Stacie consumes games through watching me play them, but will often request the controller when she's seen enough to know she'd like to try whatever I'm playing.
So to celebrate Stacie, here are her favorite games that she's watched me play, or stolen the controller and played herself.
Thinking back on her few hours with Bound, Stacie recalls, "Bound was a beautifully rhythmic ribbon dancer game. I appreciated how well they captured such grace and form in the character's choreography. The setup was very powerful and then it just transforms you into this weird and unexpected world."
"Abzû was like being on vacation. It's a serene, relaxing, zen-like feeling of weightlessness in the vast sea. Swimming with beautiful fish and riding the fins of dolphins was surreal. It's everything I want to do in real life. So yeah, I'd really want to play Abzu in VR."
8. The Witness
Braid was probably the first indie game that Stacie experienced with me, so we were psyched to jump into The Witness, even if there wasn't a connection between the two games.
Stacie adds, "I loved being on that big, beautiful island, and how the puzzles fit naturally into the scenery. The game is deceptively difficult and I liked that we needed a pen and paper to make it through a few of the mazes. For some reason that weird stock archival footage stuck with me--it felt like it didn't belong there and that was awesome."
7. Thumper (VR)
I still maintain that Thumper's aesthetic influence is specifically the time travel warp scenes from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but for Stacie, Thumper VR is "a trippy, beetle rhythmic rollercoaster that was hypnotic and addictive. The feeling of getting lost in that game was scary and thrilling, but I liked it."
"Virginia was engaging from the get-go. You think you have a handle on it but then it immediately goes in a very different direction. I liked that it had a female lead and the score moved it along, keeping you on the edge of your seat. I watched every second of Virginia, but I'm still not sure of who, what, why or how."
I really dug Arkham VR even if it felt limiting at times. Rocksteady did a great job with the tech on the table, especially given the circumstances of being a launch title.
Batman was the first game I had Stacie play in VR. "It was the first immersive VR experience I ever had. If we could just fast-forward through that horrific opening scene--I loved the feeling of opulence once you're in Wayne Manor with Alfred. I had the best time being transported down into the Batcave, there's nothing better. I could stare at myself wearing the Batman outfit all day."
We've been together since Shadow of the Colossus came out so that's reason enough to include The Last Guardian in our list. I loved that game for reasons shared here, but Stacie liked it for its "adorable depiction of a boy and his dragon-dog-bird. I wasn't keyed into the puzzles that much but the slow-motion sequences were really impressive. The Last Guardian did a great job with making it feel like we were hanging off the edge of the earth and there is nothing cuter than Trico being scared of the stained glass eyes."
I loved Firewatch for its engaging story and authentic performances. For Stacie, "the suspense they created in that open natural setting was palpable. Firewatch worked for me because it wasn't aggressive and its episodic format give me that 'must-binge' Netflix feeling. I've never been, but I feel like I know Yellowstone Park now."
"I've seen the entire Uncharted series and every time I'm astonished at the game's cinematography and the epic action scenes. What keeps me watching are the breathtaking views of the world. It's like watching a vacation, aside from all the killing and explosions. I can't deny that I have a crush on Nathan Drake. His shirt is always so perfectly tucked, and that hair... But seriously, I thought the relationship cutscenes were very relatable. That's something I don't see a lot in the games Jeff plays."
No argument from me here. I think Uncharted 4 is a technical masterpiece.
Stacie really liked Limbo because of how much it reminded her of a Tim Burton fever dream. Naturally, she fell in love with Inside because of its "brooding environment and beautiful monochrome art. I like that it's not a shooter and together as a team we were able to solve a lot of the puzzles. My favorite parts were the swimming demon with long black hair, the synchronized zombies and it's not everyday you get to roll around a gigantic ball of human flesh."
Happy holidays and a big ol' kiss on the cheek from all of us in the Bakalar clan. And hey, if you'd like to see my very official Top 10 Games of 2016, head over to CNET and enjoy the slideshow.