The Geekender, October 23-25: Gary Gygax bio, The Final Girls, Back In Time, and more!

The weekend is upon us, and with it, a chance to sit back, relax and consume massive amounts of sci-fi, fantasy and horror pop culture. In The Geekender, our writers share a bit about what they're reading, watching and playing -- and we want to hear from you. Let us know what's on your plate in the comments!

Aaron Sagers: I have been sitting on the book Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons by Michael Witwer for a little time now because I wanted a slowed-down weekend to take it in. But I have finally cracked it open, and the first few pages reveal an incredibly fascinating story about the D&D creator’s life. What has me hooked thus far is that I thought I basically knew Gygax based on boilerplate descriptions and the standard Wikipedia treatment, but Witwer really uncovers a lot and goes into Gygax’s inept leadership and party-animal ways. As near as I can tell, this is the first biography of the hugely influential nerd, and it is definitely the first thing I’ve read about Gygax that makes me think a movie should be made about him. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Witwer has in store for the rest of my read.

Evan Hoovler: This weekend, I am quite lucky. This is because I get to simultaneously play through two video games that, despite being released 20 years apart, are closely linked in their uniqueness.

The first is the 1995 SNES RPG Earthbound. A huge cult hit, Earthbound is specifically known for undercutting and satirizing the traditional RPG narrative with quirky silliness. For instance, the main character (Ness, for all you Smash Bros fans), is a boy who attacks monsters with toys and must call his mom to heal the "homesickness" status ailment. So far, I have reached the second town (Twoson) after beating up slugs, juvenile delinquents and members of the local police force. The game is available on the Wii U Virtual console, so check it out if you have a fondness for 16-bit video game nostalgia.

The other game, released just a month ago, is Undertale for the PC. This title is often thought of as a spiritual successor to Earthbound, in that it turns the traditional RPG genre on its ear. For instance, it is possible to avoid every single battle in the game, but you must figure out how to talk the enemy into not fighting (each enemy has a separate way to be pacified). The number of coy winks by the developer is staggering: I've only played about 20 minutes, and already I've had a character admonish me for restoring my save game after accidentally killing an NPC, had my in-game instruction manual altered by another character (with crude comments on my sub-par gameplay) and built a bridge to reach a sign in only to be admonished by said sign ("Congratulations! You've failed the puzzle!). Undertale is available on Steam for $10. It lasts only a few hours, but has massive replay value.

Matt Dorville: This weekend I'll be going to my first video game tournament. It's called Defend the North and it'll hold matches on such games as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Street Fighter, Tekken, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, and more. I keep hearing stories about how intense video game tournaments could be so I'm really looking forward to seeing it live. I am also a little bit tempted to try my luck in a game of Injustice Gods Among Us or Capcom vs. Street Fighter, but if the players are anywhere as good as they were at New York Comic Con, I don't have a chance. Regardless, I'm hoping to see a good amount of fatalities and quite a bit of cosplay and, for a weekend in October, that sounds pretty dang good.

Trent Moore: This weekend, I'll be trying to dig into some good horror movies to get in the Halloween spirit — but I've decided to go a bit outside the box this year. The stellar indie horror comedy The Final Girls will be my film of choice this weekend, and if you haven't seen it, it's well worth checking out (it just hit VOD services). Basically, it's about a group of teens transported into a slasher flick, but it's so much more than that. This is one clever, meta and heart-tugging story — with a machete-wielding murderer thrown in. Trust me, it works.

Ernie Estrella: I contributed to the second Back in Time Kickstarter campaign and even interviewed director Jason Aron back in April for Blastr, and finally that digital download of the film was delivered to my inbox October 21st of this week. So I'll finally crack it open with popcorn in lap and get a real retrospective look on what should be the definitive Back to the Future documentary. Nearly everyone you could want is involved to tell stories and there's some great human pieces about how the culture of the films took on a life of its own. In case the film is not touring at a city near you, rent or buy the film on a link in the trailer listed here.

Krystal Clark: I know I'm a week behind, but I'm going to see Guillermo del Toro's latest, Crimson Peak. Not only am I a fan of the director, but also the cast. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain? I'm there. Crimson Peak has been described as a Gothic romance that looks like a painting come to life. Del Toro's great at creating worlds and making viewers fall in love with the setting, as well as the characters. The film currently has a 69 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But I hope I like it more than that. Crimson Peak also stars Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver. 

Dany Roth: Leading up to Halloween, I've been mostly watching scary movies. This weekend, though, I'm switching gears and reading scary comics instead. Nailbiter, The Woods, Locke & Key, some of those tasty Fantagraphics reprints of old EC comics. And don't forget the manga end of things -- Uzumaki, Tokyo Ghoul, Secret, and who knows what else. It's easy to forget just how much really incredible horror there is to be discovered in the world of comics. And lest you think all I think of is horror all the time, I'm also going to pull a complete 180 and read a new ongoing digital comic called Heroine Chic, a superhero story set in the fashion world. That's about as far from horror as you can get. Think of it as a palate cleanser for all that blood and gore.

Carol Pinchefsky: Today is the release of Heart of Thorns, the first expansion of Guild Wars 2. And this weekend, I will be playing the hell out of it. GW2 famously has no subscription fee, but this is the first time players have been asked to pay since the initial release (notwithstanding a “living story,” but you could pay for by converting your in-game gold). Since its launch, gamers have spent 1.4 billion hours on GW2. If you include my plans for this weekend, it will be 1.4 billion +48. My familiar red loading screen is now green. I wonder what other wonders await. 

Jeff Spry: When I was a kid I was both freaked out and fascinated by the intricate miniatures and supermarionation puppets on Saturday afternoon TV reruns of shows like Stingray, Thunderbirds and Thunderbirds Are Go!  So I can’t wait to crack open the new 6-disc, remastered Blu-ray set of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds! that I got for my birthday last week and blast off on some crazy sci-fi superspy missions featuring retro rockets, hover-cars, stealth submarines, bobbing heads, strings and all!

That's it for our crew's geeky plans this weekend.  Tell us what're most excited to watch, play or read in the comments below.

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