You’ve seen Independence Day, right? That seems like such a silly thing to ask but you start counting on your fingers and you realize that it’s pretty much the same thing as someone in 2028 asking “You’ve seen The Avengers, right?” Then again, it’d also be like asking, at the time, “You’ve seen Flash Gordon, right?”

Which, of course, you would have.

Since you’ve seen Independence Day, you already know the barest skeleton of what you need to know about the Mindless Diversions Game Of The Year: XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Aliens invade, we don’t know anything about them, by killing a few, we can learn what we need to in order to take them on and win. HOWEVER! The movie was really kinda dumb. There are a lot of little things but the big one was Apple Computers having compatible ports with the alien system (“What part of ‘Universal Serial Bus’ do you not understand?”). Here’s the good news: X-Com is smart. Or, at least, dumb in very different ways.

When you first start fighting aliens you use just your run-of-the mill (if top of the line) combat machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, chain guns, and pistols. By little more than brute force, you can shoot the heck out of the first group of aliens and get their corpses and what’s left of their weaponry (apparently, the weapons blow up when their owners die) and start reverse engineering back at your home base. Through study of their physiology, you learn how to capture some of them alive. Through study of their weaponry, you learn how to make copies of it. Through interrogation of their prisoners, you can even get an inkling or two about what they want… and it ain’t pretty… but before you do any of that, you’ll need to build places to do your dissections, your reverse-engineering, your interrogations. Oh, you’ll also want to build satellite uplinks, laboratories for your scientists, factories for your engineers, and power stations for all of the above… and you’ll want to do this with your limited funding, while dealing with attrition of your forces, as aliens start sending more and more firepower your way.

People who like tactical squadron play will like this game. People who like resource management will like this game. People who like shooting things and blowing things up will like this game. Pretty much the only people who will not like this game are people who do not like to play games. Each mission you go on takes about a half-hour, so even people who only have gametime chunks of a half-hour or less can enjoy the game too (though, granted, I wouldn’t recommend it for people with gametime chunks of less than an hour).

Every year, if you’re lucky, there’s a game that comes out and makes you say “Oh, yeah… *THIS* is why I play video games.”

X-Com is the game that beats Sturgeon’s Law.

And that’s why it’s the Mindless Diversions Game Of The Year.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. Oh, and those of you who remain perplexed by the Holiday Season: The Second Annual Mindless Diversions Unsolicited Shopping Guide should be ready by next Monday.

  2. You’ve seen Independence Day, right?

    That’s the one where there are spaceships the size of mountains hovering over our biggest cities, and we shoot them down? (Not that that’s as stupid as the Mac stuff.)

    • In this game, the spaceships are the size (mostly) of a good-sized suburban house and, for the most part, we shoot them down in forested areas.

Comments are closed.