Alakaiser 's blog
The name's Tom. I used to work as an industry guy, and am currently on the hunt for my next paying gig. In the meantime, I'm working on a bunch of different projects that don't help me pay my bills. I write a lot. I'm a musician, although certainly not of the professional variety. I like trying new things and meeting new people. I'm still somewhat new around Destructoid, so sorry in advance if I don't know something I probably should.

About my blog:

I update daily (not really, but I like to pretend). Generally, my updates get pretty long-winded, but hopefully not to the point where they're unreadable. I'll wax poetic about whatever's on my mind, like current events in my life, things that are happening in the video games I like, or whatever happens to pop in my head that day. With a few exceptions, I write my entries the same day I publish them, so they're pretty fresh content-wise. It also might help explain the occasional typos. I do my best to avoid any errors, though.

About my work:

I worked at Harmonix Music Systems as a tester on a year's worth of DLC, The Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, and Rock Band Network. Feel free to ask me questions about it, but remember: I'm still under NDA. Also, if you know of a job opening, please tell me about it. I'm flexible.

About my contact info:

Want to collaborate with me on something, big or small, related to the site or not? I'd love to. I like working on any project that I'm even remotely capable of working on, and would love to help you in whatever way I can. Feel free to PM me here, or otherwise send me an email at alakaiser(at)gmail(period)com. Even if you don't want to work with me on something, I'd love to just chat. I'm a pretty friendly guy!

What happened to that thing you did? You know, that one thing?:

I wrote an article that ended up getting promoted to the front page of the site, which is pretty damn cool. It removes it from my cblog archive, though, so I'm throwing a link in this here sidebar for the sake of an archive (and in case I lose the link myself).

The Great Escape: One Foot in Reality
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So. PAX Prime.

What a waste of time. Literally the worst four days of my entire life - nothing at all exciting happened, I spent way too much money on garbage, Seattle is a terrible city, and now I'm really sick and stuck in bed. I regret ever going on this silly trip.

Wait, that isn't right at all, is it? Nope, it isn't. Well, except for the being sick thing. That's fairly right. Everything else is pretty wrong, though. Let's break it down by day.

Thursday, the day of western travel

So, for those of you unaware, I am an east coast boy. The east coast is truly awesome, but the west coast is the best coast. I did not sleep Wednesday evening, partially because I'm insane, partially because I left for Logan at 5 AM. After a direct flight to San Francisco, a fairly quick layover, and a quick flight to Seattle, I arrived at about 3 PM local time. After bugging Destructoid superstar TDiddy to let me into the hotel room, I took one look at it, declared it wonderful, and was off on my merry way.

From there, I headed to the Sheraton to meet up, a lot of people. There were a lot of people. I did a lot of "I should know you but I don't" introductions, and I forgot most of their names that night anyway. Off the top of my head, I know Jon Ross, Mid3vol, Solgrim (more on him later), Knives, Cronosblade (I think?), storyr (I think???) and er...a lot of other people were there.* I think it was Knives who greeted me by slapping me with a trout. If you do not understand that, you are not on IRC. You should be on IRC.

* - This whole "me not remembering things" thing is going to be a recurring theme for what it's worth.

After that, we headed to Gameworks, which is basically Dave and Busters, except I didn't play video games there. There were a lot of people there. Like, all of the people. A lot of stuff probably happened, but I don't remember. I do remember that after that, a bunch of us ended up in Dorian's (I have no idea what your username is on this site!) hotel room for a pretty weird evening that...I don't remember too well.

I guess I ended up in my hotel room eventually. My ass had already been thoroughly kicked. My goal for PAX 2010 was to take it easy, not get overwhelmed. I had been in Seattle for less than 24 hours and that was already completely out the window.

Friday, the day of whiskey

Okay, so as some/many/all/none of you know, I worked at Harmonix Music for a year and a half. I'm friends with plenty of people who used to and still work there. The Rock Band 3 panel was at 10 AM on Friday, and I wanted to attend it. At 10:15 AM, I found out I was in the wrong building, and the panel was actually in the Sheraton, not the actual convention center. Oops.

So, I go down to the show floor. One of the things that always bummed me out about PAX East was how it basically had the title of being "PAX lite", so to speak. Well, when I got on the show floor for PAX Prime, I realized why. Wow, it just doesn't even compare. PAX Prime felt like the mental image I had of E3 as a child. It was that good.

I started off my day by checking out Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, because I am a nerd and want to play games I've already played. It was fun, I caught up with a few old friends, and apparently a video was shot of me playing Dance Central. It is not on Youtube yet, but I'll be sure to pimp it out once it is. I am sure I look like a nerdy white boy dancing in it. It is because I am a nerdy white boy, you see.

After that, I got in a few matches of Marvel vs Capcom 3, which is about as awesome as I expected it to be. I was pretty much on my own for a good chunk of Friday afternoon (and apparently missing texts left and right due to poor reception), so I wandered up to the console freeplay area, and enjoyed some more relaxing games that I've played a bunch - specifically Rock Band 2 and Super Street Fighter 4. Not much to say about this, but it was a fun time. Playing SSF4 with other people sans lag was honestly a highlight.

After I had dinner...uh, somewhere, with someone(s?) (I can't remember), I headed over to Elephant and Castle for the Destructoid meetup scheduled. I got there, had a drink, had some awesome chats with Storyr and Kryptonite, and I think a few others, and suddenly we're being kicked out, albeit in a manner that isn't technically "being kicked out". It really was no big deal. The group first moved to Gameworks, but a good chunk of us headed over to the Whiskey Bar instead.

Outside of one unfortunate complication (sorry tga!), the Whiskey Bar was a pretty fun night. I got TDiddy to chug a Knob Creek neat, which may have been the meanest alcohol-related thing I've ever done. I can't even remember most of what happened other than some entertaining conversation and a damn good time. That was the end of that evening.

Saturday, the day of John Solgrim

John Solgrim is the greatest man on the face of the earth. He is perfect in every way, and is quite possibly more sexy than Niero. He is that amazing. There is no one more amazing than John Solgrim. Do not even pretend you are. You are wrong. Very wrong. The wrongest of wrong.

You see, John Solgrim wasn't born like any other child. John Solgrim wasn't even born through virgin birth. One day, God decided "I need to create the perfect human being", and just beamed him down to earth via the USS Enterprise, and thus John Solgrim was born. No one before or after him will ever replicate how amazing John Solgrim is, as John Solgrim is perfect.

Now, the Destructoid panel happened on Saturday, but plenty of people will write about that and describe it better than I can. It was at 10:30 AM and I was pretty hungover so I kind of phoned in my involvement as an audience member. I did play some Bit Trip thing on the iPad afterwards (really fun!), and there was the group photo, also cocks, and all of that. I'll leave it to other people.

Back to John Solgrim.

Saturday night took place at the Chapel, which was actually a converted chapel, which I was somehow not expecting based on the name. It was very nice, and we had the choir loft section of the chapel to ourselves (though it did get crowded pretty quickly). The night started quiet, then into some good dance music, and eventually ended up in dubstep land I think, but none of that matters.

For, you see, John Solgrim was there. I was told early in the week that John Solgrim doesn't really drink - he had maybe one drink his entire life or something like that. Maybe it was the fact that Niero paid for everyone's drink for an hour, maybe John Solgrim was just feeling adventurous - who knows. On Saturday night at the Chapel, John Solgrim drank. God looked upon this, and smiled, for it was good.

This seriously was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. With perfect lucidity, John Solgrim described all of the feelings he had never felt before that come with that first night of drunkenness. The numb face. The giggles. The overall happy attitude, and how it defeated his idea of what would happen if he ever got drunk. I say with no hint of sarcasm whatsoever that it was one of the most truly entertaining things I've ever witnessed in my life.

After John Solgrim was good and drunk, a group of us went to a gay bar called The R Place (I think?). I'm pretty sure the group was John Solgrim, Tactix, Dorian (still don't know your username, several paragraphs later!), ProfPew, Changston, maybe one or two other people, and myself. Sadly, I ducked out of this night a bit early. I am not an indestructible machine like John Solgrim. Truly, my deepest regret.

John Solgrim, I love you.

Sunday, the day of not enough John Solgrim

The last day of conventions like this always seem a bit rushed to me, for whatever reason. It's almost like you're just waiting for the show to shut down, for the farewells to start, then the return to the mundane life back home.

I really didn't do all that much on the show floor worth mentioning, as I had done most of it all on Friday and Saturday. For what it's worth, the only unreleased games I played the entire weekend were Mortal Kombat (surprisingly fun, block button or not), MvC3 (now in preorder status), Rock Band 3 (just to see how it came along), Just Dance 2 (really fun, but I don't have a Wii) and Dance Central (will probably get me to purchase Kinect just for that game). I'm a dancing machine.

Sunday night brought us to Rock Bottom, which was an excellent place that was very accommodating. We crammed a lot of people in there, but it was a really good time - albeit a brief one for me. I left early so that I could get a few hours of sleep in before my flight home Monday morning. I chatted with a bunch of people**, enjoyed a drink, and before I knew it it was time to head out.

(**) - Including Seth Killian. I do not go into nerdy fanboy mode around famous gaming figures all that much these days, but Seth totally had that effect on me. With Niero standing right next to him...yeah, I was dead on arrival in that conversation.

After a long, long round of goodbyes (including a few repeat goodbyes), I headed home, effectively ending an amazing weekend. The closing memory I had of PAX was Niero driving TDiddy and I back to our hotel room in his soccer mom rental van. When he turned on the car, a weird version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" of all things was playing, which he then changed and we landed on "To Be With You" by Mr. Big. The three of us ended up singing along to it, and it was the most surreal/amazing ending to any one of these events I've ever been to. I can't even do it justice - I hate to end stories this way, but you really had to be there.

This barely even scratches the surface of my trip, though. I met so many more people who were amazing, like Halfleft, Kryptonite, Naia (she is wicked awesome!), Justice, Sean Carey (who is surprisingly not just me with a mustache) uh...oh god, so many people. I seriously can't think of all the people I hung out with, and you were all awesome. I know I'm forgetting people, but everyone I talked to from this site was absolutely amazing. Especially John Solgrim.

So basically, I can sum up PAX 2010 like this: If you remember PAX 2010, you weren't there.

(Sorry for the pictureless post - I only took one photo the entire weekend! I'm not really a picture taking guy, but maybe I'll edit some photos of my ugly mug into this post after a good night's sleep. This post is dedicated to John Solgrim.)

I like alliteration. That is not why we are here, though. We are here to talk about PAX Prime. Or rather, I'm here to talk about PAX Prime. You're here to either read what I have to say about PAX Prime, or you're rolling your eyes and saying "Oh god, not another PAX Prime post," and you've probably already closed this PAX Prime post already anyway.

Yes, I am going to PAX Prime. I don't actually like calling it PAX Prime, because it seems to dilute the meaning of PAX East (the un-Primening), but I'm not here to gripe about how the east coast never gets any of the fun. I'm here to talk about PAX Prime.

Painkiller is a particularly puzzling performance in Rock Band

Personally, PAX Prime means preparing to pry myself out of my previous location and put myself on a plane from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Preparation is key. Previously, I traveled to San Francisco, and I did not plan particularly well. The bags I packed contained too many personal items, and I found myself burdened with a plethora of pointless apparel. I have learned from my previous mistakes, though.

I am looking forward to PAX Prime, probably because PAX Prime means I get to play games with personal acquaintances and friends. I'll meet new people, see new places (I've never been to Seattle, party~!), and probably have a pretty damn good time.

During PAX East (the un-Primening), I was preoccupied with personal events, and did not get to participate in as many panels as I would have preferred, nor did I get to pass the time with my friends. To say the least, the amount of time I spent with my friends was paltry.

Pinball Wizard is a personal preference of The Who's catalog.

For PAX Prime, however, I will have nothing to worry about other than picking what I want to do, and doing it. I'm as pumped as a potato, so to speak. My personal arrangements are nearly completed, and then I can plan properly.

I will probably run into some of you during PAX Prime, and even if I've never been introduced to you, it'd be my pleasure to meet you, so you can punch me in the penis, or whatever it is you wish to do. Perhaps when we near closer to PAX Prime, I will post a picture of myself for you to put in your phone so you can find me. You can probably find a photograph of me already, though. Hooray PAX Prime!

This post was presented by the letter P. Please do not pick apart the powerful punch of this letter. This will never happen again, I swear. Baaaaaad writing itch tonight.

5:38 AM on 07.07.2010

On this day two years ago, my life changed in the best way possible. It was my first day of employment at Harmonix Music Systems. As a then-22 year old who was more obsessed with Rock Band than the majority of people on this site, I was like a kid in a candy store as I was shown around the office, and introduced to a seemingly endless number of people whose names I wouldn't remember for at least a week or two.

It was awesome, to say the least.

My job? Well, it was entry level. It was the best pay I had ever made in my life, but I wasn't exactly going to start living a life of luxury. You can find average salaries of QA testers - draw your own conclusions if you're really curious. I was grateful, though. I always felt like I was treated well. Hell, the fridge full of free drinks made me feel like I was working in a dot-com era office. The only thing missing was a toilet paper roll of stock shares.

I got to meet people whose names I had seen in news articles, in the credits, interviews, or wherever else I may have seen them. Generally, I was floored at how intelligent these people were. Be it about game design, art, programming, or just general smarts, it always felt like I could have had any question answered while in that building.

My team was particularly awesome, too. I worked on the weekly DLC for about a year, and was mostly surrounded by students from schools like Berklee, Tufts, NYU, and a handful of other places. As I've mentioned, I've been a musician all my life, and at one point, I was studying music for school, although I never finished. These guys made me feel like I couldn't even play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a piano, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

There are a lot of DLC songs that I feel go unnoticed for whatever reasons that are very awesome. It's hard to pick just one song out of that group, but if I had to, I'd probably go with this one. Outside of being an awesome song, it is very fun to play in the game.

I ended up becoming friends with that entire team, basically. Oh sure, I argued with them and told them about how they were doing permanent damage to the Rock Band franchise, the likes of which the series would never recover from, but it wasn't out of rage or anything like that. They were just doing permanent damage to the Rock Band franchise, the likes of which the series would never recover from (not really).

I learned a lot from them. Not just about the task at hand, or music, or whatever else. They were and are great people, and part of me feels like I never really made it clear how much I enjoyed their company.

I ended up working on the Rock Band Network after that, and got to work with even more awesome people, and make even more friends. RBN was a project I really thought was amazing, and the level of involvement I had in it struck me as kind of stunning. I was still a tester, but I felt like I was doing so much more than that. Maybe this was just an illusion designed to make me feel like I was doing more than I actually was, but I seriously doubt that.

...and this was my least favorite.

Of course, as I've mentioned, I'm unemployed. Layoffs hit the company on December 10, 2009. 39 extremely talented people lost their jobs.

I'm not here to say this or that about it - I already went through the seven stages of grief over it. And yeah, I hit all seven. And really, layoffs at a game company (especially as a tester) is not exactly uncommon. The fact that my job was as secure as it was for so long is kind of surprising to some people, really.

It really hit me the worst with my Dungeons and Dragons session, actually. It was made up primarily of my co-workers (most of whom I worked with directly), and our DM was someone who taught me how to drum in Rock Band, although he doesn't actually know that*. After our sessions, we used to walk back to the subway since we were going in similar directions, and we'd always say "see you tomorrow", or something along those lines. The first time he said "see you next week" is when it really hit me.

* - When he was playing a song for testing, I used to watch what he was doing and mimic it as much as possible, asking questions when I could. When I got hired, I mostly played drums on hard, with a few expert songs here or there. I credit him that I can play all but the really hard stuff on expert now.

Nerdy as hell, right? Well yes, I am a nerd. Perhaps you've noticed this?

...and this is my favorite from The Beatles: Rock Band. That dreamscape always puts a goofy smile on my face.

It really did take a long time to come to terms with the fact that it was over. I even tried to stay involved with RBN as a member of the community, but I realized this was just doing me more harm than good. I liked RBN, and I liked the people I was working with, but it just wasn't right. Part of me was convinced I was only doing it to grasp on to Harmonix, even though they had shown me the door.

If any of this makes me sound regretful, it shouldn't. Everything about working at Harmonix was awesome. Sure, I had bad days, but everyone has bad days. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Even the layoff had its silver lining. I ended up going to GDC in March, meeting a bunch of great people, hanging out with the Destructoid staff (and man do I miss their HQ), and well...that was my first trip to the west coast. It was fun, to say the least. I even chatted with Michael Pachter while waiting in line for a party at one point. I'm pretty sure I said "Oh, you're that guy from all of those Joystiq articles!" when I realized who he was. If I'm recalling, he seemed to get that reaction a lot.

When PAX East rolled around, I had a similarly great time. Met more people, made more friends, got to hang out with friends I had not seen in years (or in some cases, had never met face-to-face), and really, I was just having the time of my life.

After that, though...things kind of slowed down. In general, I am a rather extroverted person, but I entered a phase where I became very insular. I wouldn't really describe it as a depression or anything like that, as I wasn't just lying around moping all the time. I put in very major steps into improving myself.

While I was at Harmonix, I tended to put most things outside of my job as a secondary concern. The job almost always came first, be it over friends, family, or myself. I barely had any hobbies at all at the time (and when I first started working there, my commute was two hours long - one way). I always put as much effort I can into a job, even if I don't particularly like the job. With Harmonix, though, it was an obsession. It was my first industry job, and with a company that made a game that is in my top three favorite games of my life.

Even when I was first hired, I knew so much about the game, but I spent a lot of time learning even more. Now that I was seeing how the sausage was made, I was borderline addicted with soaking up all of the information. It was amazing to me, and it didn't go unnoticed. Inside or outside of the office, I've had a reputation of being somewhat of an encyclopedia about the game on various levels, and I'd say that reputation is fairly solid.**

** - Thumbs up from me if you catch that reference.

...and for Rock Band Network, gotta go with this one, although that's a tough choice. This song is just too much fun.

Like I said, though. I was putting it ahead of everything else. So, a few months back, I decided it'd be a good idea to enter somewhat of a woodshed phase (though not quite to the extremes of the most common usage of the term). I was mostly happy with who I was, but I wanted to become a better me. I started with myself, putting more care into my bad habits, revisiting old hobbies (music, various forms of entertainment, even this cblog is an example of my hobbies), and the very generic, very unspecific "soul searching" that people do oh so much.

From there, I started accepting just how much I was ignoring my family while I was working. I've never hated my family - far from it. I just always convinced myself that I was too busy with work to have time for family while I was working. That was never really true, but asking for a day off was not something I would have considered last year. I had personal days, but I'd be damned if I'd use them. In a year and a half, I didn't use a single vacation day.

For the past month or so, I realized I had not talked to most of my pre-Harmonix friends for the better part of two years. I went to a party on Friday where some old friends were in disbelief that I still existed. That is just not right. Yes, I have had issues with my friends, and part of me was so excited by my new and awesome friends (who, again, were and are awesome) that I felt like they were just dragging me down, but they're still my friends. I'm glad I caught up with them.

Now, I do feel like a better me. Maybe I'm not the best me possible, but I'm getting there. Regardless of how happy I was during 2009, I feel like I am happier now. I am still unemployed, but now I feel prepared for my next job (whatever that may be), and will be ready for it to be a part of my life, and not my entire life.

I have no nugget of wisdom in this entry, no thought I want to share, and it's possible this is of no real value to anyone but myself. I'm not looking for sympathy, attention, or anything else - I just want to share my story. For me, writing it down isn't enough; I need to know that someone read it. Yeah, I'm a bit egotistical like that.

Now if only I could've done all that during a musical montage. That would've been so much easier. And way more badass.

(This is a lot more about my personal life than I am usually comfortable sharing on something as public as this blog, but I really do want to share all of this. Do not get used to it. Also, this is really long so I'm going to end with one last video, from my favorite album in Rock Band, which is also one of my favorite albums ever. Enjoy. Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm posting this two weeks before the actual anniversary, it's simply because I know I'll forget otherwise. Deal with it, huh.)

AMERICA. That is what we are all about on this weekend, the weekend of AMERICA. You see, the United States of America was founded in 1492 when the Minnesota Vikings came from India to kick Squanto's ass. Led by Christopher Columbus, they founded God's Number One Nation, and suddenly an empire was formed.

Since then, no country has ever attempted to refute the claim that the United States of America (named for the Holy Trinity of God, Baby Jesus, and America the Beautiful) is God's Number One Nation, since, well, God would kick their ass if they did.

Oh sure, at one point Britain tried to pretend they could tread on our pride, but George Washington kicked their red coat-wearing asses out of the country faster than you could say "Benedict Arnold."

And now, we have continuously rocked in the free world, with no one slowing us down. We've given the world the most amazing developments in music, like The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Celine Dion, and David Bowie. No one denies that God's Number One Nation is the front-runner in literally every facet of human life.

And this weekend? This is the weekend where we recognize it even more than usual. How? By BLOWING SHIT UP!

On this day, my fellow Americans, we all unite under one banner. The American banner. Even if you are not from God's Number One Nation, but some day aspire that you could be in the Land Of The Free, join us in our celebration.


(For you Americans out there who will be having a fun weekend, stay safe. And have a good time. Summer parties are the best parties.)

Come on, you know the words to the chorus. Don't hide it.

As a living, breathing, thinking person, you likely have a set of beliefs. Not necessarily religious or philosophical, mind you, but beliefs. Some of you reading this may firmly believe that the Playstation 3 is an awful console, or that PC gaming died years ago and nobody noticed. Maybe you believe jazz is the greatest form of music, or that The Wire is the greatest show in television history. Maybe you think I talk about television too much on what is essentially a video game blog (I probably do!)

We all have these things, for nearly every facet of our lives. Even if we don't know how we feel about something right now, when we are presented with it, we'll develop our opinion of it based on our previous beliefs. This is not necessarily the best example, but it's why something like a game or movie trailer is so important. We're shown footage for 30 seconds to a minute (or sometimes longer), and suddenly an initial opinion of that title is in our minds. Personally, I have reached a stage in my life where I will gladly decide whether or not to see a movie based on its trailer*.

(*) - That said, if a particular friend of mine sees a movie I have written off, and gives it a positive review, I'll reconsider my stance. We have similar taste, and rarely do we disagree. Of course, when we disagree on something, it's suddenly a fun topic of conversation.

It is hard to shake these beliefs, sometimes. For many of us (myself included), we may be presented with an objective fact that is not in line with our current beliefs. Speaking for myself, I might end up defending why I think I'm still right, or flat out dismissing the opposition's argument altogether. It probably goes without saying that that is a slippery slope, so to speak.

"Oh god, he's going to talk about Ebert?" Relax, it's not what you think.

That is why I've found myself impressed with Roger Ebert. No, I am not here to argue about whether or not games are art. As it currently stands, I believe that people could argue about this until the entire species has gone extinct and we wouldn't be anywhere close to a consensus. Rather, I'm here to mention an article that Ebert just published**.

(**) - Within 24 hours of me writing this entry, to be clear.

Allow me to paste the very first paragraph of his article, and a bolded line a few paragraphs later:

I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place. I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn't seen. Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so. Some opinions are best kept to yourself.

I should not have written that entry without being more familiar with the actual experience of video games.

Ebert goes on to explain his apathy towards video games, and discusses some of the holes in his argument. Being able to acknowledge major errors in an argument you have presented is nothing to take lightly. Many people in his position would gladly dismiss anything presented against him, and put their fingers in their ears while screaming at the top of their lungs.

This is a personality trait I greatly admire, and one I do my best to keep in my own life. There are many things in my life that even as recently as a year or two ago I would have completely written off as being "not for me." To name a few: Dungeons & Dragons, Facebook games***, country music, and a wide range of food styles I never would've tried years ago.

(***) - This was probably the silliest change for me. It basically boiled down to a good friend of mine going, "Hey, you should try this," me trying it, and then realizing how dumb I had been. They're games, just like any other. This is a topic for another time, though.

Stealth music recommendation! Lucinda Williams is pretty awesome. And yes, I picked the track from Rock Band to link.

The biggest problem with trying new things is the predisposition I'd have with these things. As a hypothetical: I hate Dungeons & Dragons, but someone is forcing me to try this new thing. I begin playing it, and am now finding reasons to confirm that I hate this game. Another thing that goes without saying: this is the wrong way of going about this.

Try something out, and then develop an opinion. Do not do this the other way around. Even in Mass Effect 2****, Mordin's apprentice points out that Mordin supposedly does this wrong. If you're listening to an album, and decide you hate it prior to listening to it, you will find a reason that you hate it. The lyrics might actually be the worst words ever written by the human race, but that doesn't make the way you went about it any better.

(****) - What, you thought I wasn't going to mention Mass Effect in this one? Come on.

The opposite is also true, of course. You might want to like a game so much, that you're willing to ignore major flaws in the game. Just because you like a game does not mean you have to accept it as perfection. I greatly enjoy Dragon Age, but the game has some pretty major technical issues (at least on my computer) that strike me as being fairly egregious. It doesn't mean I can't enjoy the game, but ignoring its faults would be doing myself a disservice. As good as something might be, it can always be a little bit better.

In short: make up your own damn mind, and don't make it up until you've actually experienced whatever it is you're criticizing. If you're wrong, don't be afraid to admit you're wrong. I think you'll find that's a more admirable trait than "sticking to your guns."

It's Monday. I have felt like garbage all day, due to spending Sunday at Mohegan Sun (capped off by watching Conan O'Brien. If you're asking for a review of the performance, really shouldn't need one at this point.) Outside of Robot Unicorn Attack on my iPhone, I haven't really been in a video game mood in a few days. So, this post is not about video games.

If that sort of thing scares you, run away in

At various points in things I've written here, I've talked about how I am a musician, and how music is a major part of my life. There are others on this site who know more about it than I do (and that link is well worth your time, if you haven't already read it), and I'd never claim to be an expert on the subject, but it is a passion of mine.

Growing up, I mostly listened to what my parents listened to. In my house, that meant a lot of music from the 1960s, which means that I've been a Beatles fan for a very major portion of my life. Working on The Beatles Rock Band was one of those unbelievable portions of my life that I still have trouble realizing actually happened.

Over the years, I have always tried to remain consistently exploratory in what music I listen to. Personally, I find the phrase "I listen to everything" to be a bit of a cop-out for what music you listen to, especially when the qualifier of "except rap and/or country" is thrown on the end of it. Just like every genre of video game, I feel that every genre of music has plenty of good music to go along with the obvious quantity of bad music.

If I had to pick a genre of music that I mostly associate with, I'd choose three: blues, jazz, and alternative. "Alternative" is kind of a silly term to me, but I think it gets the message across. I grew up in the 1990s, so songs that I'd probably consider terrible if they came out today have a soft spot in my heart due to nostalgia. Blues and jazz...well, they're blues and jazz.

Recommendations, you say? You didn't say that? I'm going to pretend you said that. Here, listen to this band:

Oh my, that is not a flattering preview image. Click it anyway! The video is actually pretty cool, honestly!

Mother Mother was a band I discovered last year, although the album that contains that song had come out a year prior. Most albums only stay in my MP3 player rotation for a month or two (sometimes a bit longer for an album I really like), but I can never bring myself to delete this one. I am a sucker for vocal harmonies (Beatles fan, remember?), but there's even more going on with this band than that. If you are looking for music recommendations, this is my go-to. This is a band I very much want to see get mega-huge.

Of course, I mentioned that I am a musician. Musicians generally play musical instruments, right? Right. Growing up, I primarily played the trumpet (as well as the piano, but never to a performance level), but fell out of love with it after high school. I still enjoy how the trumpet sounds, and what you can do with it, but I don't enjoy playing it anymore. Wind instruments in general aren't appealing to me as a performer anymore.

So, now I play the guitar. How original. I bought my first guitar during my college days, but never got past a few open chords, and couldn't play a single song. One of the things I've been doing with this wealth of free time I've had (although this started prior to that) is to teach myself how to play the damn thing, while getting advice from anyone who knows a thing or two about the instrument. Given how many amateur guitarists are, and how many musically-minded friends I have, this is usually not difficult.

I'm at a point where I'm fairly happy with how well I can play, although there's definitely a lot I still have to learn. Of course, I have my whole life to do it, so there's no rush. I practice for a bare minimum of 30 minutes daily, although I prefer to get in at least an hour, and two or three hours is preferable. I don't think I need to tell any musician reading this how important practice is.

Recently, a few friends of mine who have heard me play have started asking me for advice, which is kind of a weird phenomenon for me, since I know they could get better advice from elsewhere. That said, I always give them the same piece of advice, and I know it is the best advice they'll get at their level: learn music theory.

A lot of my friends are the type of people who will argue something like, "But *famous guitarist X* didn't know music theory, and he was awesome!" *Famous guitarist X* is generally someone with a boatload of natural talent, who also puts in plenty of effort beyond learning theory. My friends are not naturally talented, and are usually kind of lazy anyway.

Learning major and minor scales (or at least the pentatonics, for crying out loud) is by no means sucking the fun out of your playing, and those are fairly easy to learn. You can get into your phrygian or lydian modes if you want to, but at least start with the basics. Theory is nothing to be afraid of, it is merely the language of music. If you don't understand the language, utilizing it is very difficult for the average player. This might not be the best comparison, but it'd be like me trying to write a novel in Farsi, despite the fact that I don't know a single thing about Farsi.

I'm kind of rambling here, so I think I'm just going to cut myself off. I very much love music, both as a spectator and a performer. Learning a musical instrument is one of the most rewarding things I think you can do, and the barrier to entry is not as scary as a lot of people want you to believe. If you cut out a few hours of video games a week, and replace that with a few hours of practice, you'll improve at a good pace, and will eventually greatly look forward to picking up your instrument (you know, assuming you enjoy music).

And if you don't know anything about music? Pay for lessons. It will be the best money you ever spend, well beyond learning a single musical instrument.