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All things geek – Surviving the global pandemic one byte at a time

Matthew Lane • Apr 27, 2020 at 10:00 AM

In the immortal words of Michael Stipe, “It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.”

Not to make light of a global pandemic that’s affecting nearly everyone on the planet, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. If you can’t find some small sliver of humor during the constant drumbeat of chaos and despair, I truly believe your life is all the worse for it.

I, like most people, have had to adapt to a new normal this year. I’m working from home, eating take-out way more than I ever have and trying to find stimulating entertainment wherever I can. For the most part, I and my family have adapted fairly well.

We geeks are kinda used to staying indoors, avoiding personal interactions and making late-night food runs to Taco Bell. We’ve been doing it for decades, after all. We’re used to sitting in a chair for days, grinding out levels in World of Warcraft or knocking out the latest Call of Duty game in less than six hours.

It’s the rest of society that’s learning how to adapt.

In case you’ve run out of shows to watch on Netflix or could only play so many matches of Fortnite, then I’ve got some other suggestions for you.

First and foremost, if there’s more than one person in your home, I’d recommend breaking out the board and card games. And not just Monopoly and Uno, but truly deep and enjoyable games you might not have ever played, like Pandemic, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Munchkin, and Ticket to Ride. You should be able to find all of these at either Target or Walmart, so that’s easy-peasy.

If you’re looking for something in the digital realm, I’ve got plenty of ideas there too. And thankfully, all of them are free. Here’s what I’ve managed to find:

KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE

If you’re a child of the ’80s, then chances are you were camped out in front of the largest wood-grained Magnavox you could find after school and on Saturday mornings, watching hours upon hours of cartoons. It was the golden age of animation.

Today, many of those classics can be found in DVD boxed sets, on premium channels and on pay sites. Some, of course, can be found for free. In light of the global pandemic, Hasbro is offering 15 episodes of the mother of all ’80s cartoons — “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” — for free on its YouTube page. Just click on “Playlists” to find it.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can download the Tubi TV app, where you’ll find full runs of the original “G.I. Joe” and “Transformers” series, as well as many of their later spinoffs and reboots.

And not to be left out of the ’80s action, the official He-Man channel on YouTube is also offering full episodes of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “The New Adventures of He-Man and She-Ra.”

Finally, Adult Swim is offering the entire run of “Samurai Jack” on its website or app, SyFy has the entire run of “Battlestar Galactica” for free, HBO is offering 500 hours of free programming, and Sling TV is free during the primetime hours for new accounts.

DEAD TREE EDITIONS

Maybe you’ve binged all you can binge and are looking to stimulate your brain in a different way. If so, then Marvel Comics is giving you a few choice titles to enjoy while you’re staying at home. Until May 4, the following titles are available free of charge:

Avengers vs. X-Men, Civil War, Amazing Spider-Man: Red Goblin, Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1, Thanos Wins by Donny Cates, X-Men Milestones: Dark Phoenix Saga, Avengers: Kree/Skrull War, Avengers by Jason Aaron Vol. 1: The Final Host, Fantastic Four Vol. 1: Fourever, Black Widow Vol. 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.'S Most Wanted, Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate, and Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More.

To check out these great stories, all you have to do is download the Marvel Unlimited app and select the free comics option. No credit card information or trial subscription is required to read these titles.

For a greater selection of titles across multiple companies, there’s always Comixology and its unlimited subscription, which offers comic book fans access to more than 25,000 titles, graphic novels and manga from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and others, along with original series. Normally, the service is $6 a month, but now the company is offering a 60-day free trial.

Considering there’s not a comic shop open in America, you’ve got to find your comic fix somehow until this all blows over. Here’s a quick and easy way to do that until the stores come back online.

PIXELS AND FRAMERATE

Rounding out the trifecta of geekish delights are the digital distractions known as video games. I’m not going to state the obvious — that XBOX and Playstation each have services that provide free games each month to players. Anyone over the age of 5 with a controller in their hand knows this.

But with the constant drumbeat of pandemic news these days (much of it bad), some good information might have slipped under your radar. I know it has mine.

Which is why I was pleased to hear about Sony’s Play at Home Initiative for the Playstation. It’s a two-pronged program where the company has earmarked $10 million to support its independent development partners during this trying time and offered gamers a couple of nice gems to add to their digital collection.

The Play at Home Initiative is offering you Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey for free through May 5. Once you redeem the games, they are yours to keep forever. If you’ve never played Uncharted, you’re in for a treat. The series truly is a site to behold. Journey? No clue, but I plan on checking it out.

Finally, if you’re of the older generation (again, children of the ’80s), then maybe PC gaming is your forte. To help scratch that itch, Good Old Games (www.gog.com) — a site that makes old PC games playable on modern systems — is offering 27 free games, some of which are actually pretty good, like Beneath a Steel Sky, Hello Neighbor and Postal.

So there it is folks: plenty of stuff to read, watch and play. Now get to downloading, stay safe, and I’ll see you next month.

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