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Born in 1983, I've been gaming since 3 when I discovered my dad's Atari 2600. Pitfall and Kaboom were my favorite games at the time, though, like so many, I never really made it very far in Pitfall -but I really liked getting eaten by crocs.

Moving forward from there I think my parents knew they couldn't stop me from gaming, so they did their best to fuel my passions by giving me an NES for Christmas in '87. My first games were Mario/Duckhunt (derp) and Dragon Warrior, because no one knew how ridiculous that game would be for a 4 year old to play. Dragons = Cool and that was that. I'd never actually get far in that game, though I always tried.

From there I would go on to collect over 200games for the system, most of which I finished, that I didn't the foresight to keep into my adulthood. God am I sad about that.

After the NES I was lucky to have both a Genesis and an SNES, but only because my cousin was kind (or stupid) enough to give me his Genesis, but I leaned towards the SNES. After that I had a Playstation, PS2 and Gamecube, then an Xbox 360. All during this I had most all of Nintendo's handhelds, and even a Sega Nomad (which I wasn't smart enough to keep into my adulthood either...)

I really would like to find a way to make gaming, one of the only things I've ever stuck with in my life, into a career. Theres few things I'm this passionate about.

My favorites games, ironically, are RPGs, but not for the obvious reason. My cousin (the Genesis fool) is actually to blame for that by letting me barrow Final Fantasy II (IV) for the SNES -the first RPG I've ever finished. I got wrapped up in the story, and thats were I still find myself wrapped up in with games today, and something I feel we've seen wane largely over this generation.

Other then RPGs I really will play anything I can get my hands on. Though, generally I don't touch sports games, generally because I don't care too much for sports, but I will pick up a Hockey game from time to time.

I'm not much of a multiplayer person, mostly because I've been a lonely single player all my life. I'm REALLY timid and really don't like to make myself look like an ass. I'm really hoping to break that, but am finding old habits suck. I've been telling Mr. Andy for over a year now how I want to, and I think he should be sick of seeing it :D

Ironically, I've played and even tested a ton of MMOs for over about 11 years now, and its one of my favorite game styles. A few (WoW, the gone-since-09 MXO) I have years of experience in (have played WoW since before launch, and have just quit -possibly for good), which really goes against my no multiplayer-ness, but I usually enjoy the games where I don't really have to rely on others for much of anything.

Anything else you want to know, hit me up and ask. I know I'm timid with mulitplayer but answering questions about myself has never been something I've ever been shy about doing.
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BoomingEchoes
4:18 PM on 07.18.2014

This morning I woke up to find an email from my dad saying that my Uncle Frank, my mom's brother, had passed away. This comes just a few days over 3 years after my mom's death and.. well, frankly.. I know less to do about this then I did about my mom's death, mostly because I don't know how to console my aunt or my cousins that -to equal heartbreak- I don't really know.

What makes it feel worse for me is that, even though I'm far from what you'd call a practicing Catholic, I'm my cousin, Arianna's, godfather. In a way now, from what I understand about the practice, even though my aunt is still alive I'm supposed to be the one to step in as the father figure. It was an honor bestowed to me by my  uncle, even though I've far from been a paragon in the field, I've always taken the title as seriously as the time my uncle asked me to name her. It's just,  I can't get myself out of bed most mornings because I'm so depressed, so how am I supposed to help her with this pain when I haven't been able to get through the multitudes of pain I've felt since my cousin, Eugene, and all those who followed, died while I was growing up. No one person's pain is better then anyone else's, there is no winning in that game,  but it's extremely hard to be in the same sinking boat, and know what to do to save the other person when you haven't figured out how to save yourself.

You'd figure I've been through this no fewer then 10 times now, in what some would call a short life, I should be well versed in knowing what to do in the event that my good friend Death decides he's going to show up for another round of "let's test Mike's will to go on." But I'm not. I don't think there is really any way to be and still be considered a human being.

Ever since that first time I've experienced Death's advantage over us I've done nothing more then float around disconnected from my thoughts and feelings in order to make sure everyone else is okay. That's the only way I function through this. I even did it at my mom's funeral, where I spent most of my day at the door greeting people, whether they knew or remembered me or not. I wanted them to see a smiling face -in the only times any more that I do smile- rather then walk coldly into a sea of people in mourning. For whatever reason, that's when I shine, when the darkness is so thick that it'll choke the life out of you. I just don't know how to convey that.. momentum.. into everyday life.

I hadn't talked to Uncle Frank since I trekked up to visited him, my aunt and my cousins after Hurricane Sandy, after my cousin Tracy's wedding during the Hurricane (yeah.. during. The raging pack of daredevil's we are). I had tried to call them after I had a health episode a year later, but we missed each other and then time simply passed. And that hurts a lot too.

But somewhere inside me I know he loved me, we just weren't all that good at phone tag. Just like I know that, even though events in life may make some of them think otherwise, he loved all of his children. They all really need to know that.

I don't know. I missed him already, now that's never going to end.

My Uncle didn't really have a ton of influence over my love for videogames, but he fed other things in my childhood that helped make me, me.
 
                      

Keith, my cousin, may have bought me my first comic book, an Eastman/Laird era issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; which blew my mind only knowing -aka: being obsessed with- the cartoon; but it was my Uncle Frank who bought me my first mainstream comic: X-Men 172 (which may have been a reprint, because it was a few years after that issue was published that I found it at the little convenience store next to Petland Discount on Midland Avenue in the Pathmark Parking lot).

I was drawn to that issue because of the katana pinning Wolverine's wedding invitation to the wall, and the garb the furrier-than-usual man and the obviously Japanese woman were wearing. It's clear I was a Japanophile far before I knew what one was.

When he bought it for me it was my in to a world I still haven't come out of, even if I've stopped collecting the books. It introduced me to Wolverine, who would go on to be one of my all time favorite characters (yeah, I said it), at a really really strange time in his existence: One of the rare times he was actually sort of happy.

I know how you feel, Wolvie.

Uncle Frank didn't stop there however. My greatest memories of my uncle would come from four completely unrelated things: Rye Playland, Rye Beach, the Bronx Zoo and Wrestling.



One of my earliest and most vivid memories (though it's surprising to me how vivid the memory of X-Men 172 was) is of a night where my mom and dad went to a work-related dinner and my Uncle Frank was the one to watch me. But he didn't just watch me: he took me to Playland.

Playland, as some of you may or may not know, is the park used at the end of Big, where the fortune telling machine ended up and where Tom Hanks turned back into a kid. It's also the park in the background of Mariah Carry's video for song, Fantasy. To me, it was just that really fun amusement park that was 15 minutes from our house.

It was just after dark in the summer when he took me (Playland wasn't open in the winter, if memory serves) and snuck in through a nearby fence. Now, something to remember about my uncle is that he was about 4 years younger then my mom, which put him about 21 at the time, and if any 21 year old hasn't done something like this, then they really haven't lived. I remember walking around and riding rides, but what I remember most is how it got to be late, like after 10, and we were still there and he stopped everything we were doing to find the closest pay phone (You see, back in the day we didn't have cell.. Ah, forget it..) to call them to tell them we were okay. He was always responsible like that with me, and I've never forgotten it. I remember how pitch black it was that night, with the Long Island Sound reflecting that blackness, in spite of the bright lights of the park behind us.

I still love the feel of being in an amusement park, even though I'm too much of a wimp to go on most adult rides.

Rye Beach was another place he'd take me that was always a huge treat. I've never been an outdoor person. Well, that's not entirely true, I did love parks and I really loved going camping in the Catskill Mountains. But other then that, I was an indoor kid. Uncle Frank didn't like that much, I think, cause he'd do anything he could, when he could, to get me out of the house and into the sun. I remember thinking I could never go there because I didn't know what to do, because I don't know how to swim (he did try to teach me a few times, to his credit. It isn't his fault it never stuck) and since I was a shy kid, I never thought I'd find other kids to play with.

But somehow, against all odds, He'd still find a way for those days to be some of the most fun I've ever had.
 
   

Going to the Bronx is something that few people deem as a good thing (sorry, if you live there), but going to the Bronx Zoo? Well that's an event. Class trips there, being with your friends, possibly wearing 2 pairs of underwear because you were so excited to be going (long story), are one thing. But going with Uncle Frank was a whole other exciting thing. Exploring that place with him forever helped along my love for animals (as if my mom wasn't helping that enough).

I remember the bat house and how scared I was to go in, in spite of knowing they couldn't get me -a sentiment that followed me right into into the snake house. But most of all, I remember the otter pool. The otter pool was both our favorite places for some reason. We spent more time then we should have staring at them playing then any human should have the right to. And that was okay by us.



Wresting, above all else, was the one thing we geeked over together then most when I was a kid.

Wrestling also shares a common place in my heart with my great grandfather, who would sit with me during Saturday Morning Superstars and oooo and ahhh, and make jokes with me, when the guys would get hit. All while telling me stories of the really old wrestlers from when he was younger; back when a more unified federation of wrestlers wasn't even imaginable. No one spun a swear laden story about men in tights smacking the shit out of each other, quite like that man.

When cable started really gaining traction, our house was one of those houses that paid for the expensive basics (times haven't changed that much..) and stole the rest. This meant that every month we'd have access to the newest "biggest event" in sports entertainment history (that would go on to become some of the actual biggest events in sports entertainment history), and my first question on the tip of my tongue, every time we'd gear up to watch them, was "when is Uncle Frank getting here." The event came second only to being guaranteed that I'd see Uncle Frank at least once a month (though, he'd be over all the time, so I don't know what I was worried about).

Even our dog at the time, Belway, loved having him there; every time he'd leave she'd get spiteful and pee in the seat he sat in, further cementing her achievement of being one of the only animals my family couldn't live with.

Incidentally, this also brings up the memories of his iguana's. Which were his, but often lived at our tiny apartment, and were taken care of by my mom. I think (eff that, I know) she loved the excuse to have extra animals around.

Any way, I don't remember who his favorite wrestler was, I'd venture to guess it was either Macho Man or Hulk, but it didn't really matter -we'd talk about them all.

He even once tried to get us tickets to one of the bigger events at Madison Square Garden, and when that fell through, he was more crushed then I was over it. The fact he at least tried has always stuck with me though.

Another story that stuck with me was how one day he was doing a delivery for the job he was working at the time, and saw Macho Man and Hulk -who had been feuding on screen, I believe- sitting down and eating at a restaurant somewhere along his route. I'll never forget how excited he was to tell me he saw them, or how his mind was blown that they were sitting down like real people and having a bite to eat.

Since then I've wandered away from wrestling, like many who loved that era have. I sneak in every once in a while to see what's up, but it never grabs me enough to stick with it, and I know it's mostly because I didn't have Uncle Frank and Grandpa Vinci around to watch these guys get bodyslammed any more.

       

All of the loss I've seen in my life is why I think I've played videogames for so long, that some just don't understand. For good or bad, videogames have been the only place in my life where I've felt any measure of control over any given situation, in a world that's proven have have absolutely none and likely never will. it's a coping mechanism that's helped keep me from going crazy years ago.

As much as I love them, movies and television don't do that for me. In fact, I don't think they can any more.

I can watch a thousand movies or TV shows and really not feel connected to the events going on in a way that makes me feel like I've ever been in control. There may be tension when Walter White faces down Gustavo Fring, with a cigarette full of ricin in is his pocket, but I'll never feel the rush he feels while doing that. I'll never be the one to do that -and even if I did, what control would I really have in that situation? Likely none. In fact, I'd likely end up getting killed.

The tension of doing is not the same as the tension of watching. It's apples and oranges. I've already put myself into the terrible corner of being a spectator to life that I've been trying to claw myself out of, so I can't squeeze nearly as much escape, or even -and this is soul crushing to put to words- joy, from watching Markie Mark find a "Transforma," as I do when I stop President John Henry Eden from further poisoning the Capitol Waste in order to rebuild America into some warped "perfect" image.

It's not about, "hur hur, you get infinite continues, so you feel like Superman," and being able to beat circumstances that way. No, that's a gross misconception of what I think people feel from videogames. It's more about being able to rise up against crushing odds, and overcome them, in spite of physically sitting in a world that's constantly bearing down on us with laws and drama, that we can never truely turn off and walk away from.

And yeah, sometimes that means fighting Death.

Every once in a while -criminally far less these days- you'd get to meet Death eye to eye and punch him in his turkey (turkey bone?) neck. Fighting death, the personification of a material him, as unrealistic as it ever will be, is probably the most cathartic thing a person can do in a videogame, whether any of us realize it or not. It gives us a power far greater then any mushroom or chainsaw-bladed gun can ever achieve.

 
I really wish more games would put that asshat in, just so we can slap him back to oblivion just a few more times. Hell, even if it's just to beat him in a game of Battleship.










This has taken me all week to write, far longer then it should have, so I'm going to just fling this out there and hope it skips. This took so long because a lot of the subjects that make me, me, are a real downer (You've been warned!). But at least it shows why I throw myself so deeply into my love for gaming and the issues of the industry behind it.

It's funny that Andy's asked us to do this, since I've been looking for a reason to write something like this this for a long time now. But it always felt awkward to be like "Hey, look at me.. Over here... HEY!" like a selfish Navi with nothing substantial to add to this game, especially because of how I can't come up with even 5 things without the biggest of them being REALLY dark. So I'm pretty thankful that the call was put out for us to list some things about ourselves -it makes posting about my mess of a life a little less awkward.

If Andy and Philkensebbin are reading this, most of this will clear up all that "I'll tell you at some point" stuff I've been dancing around for a while now. Put an extremely optional, no emotional strings attached, gun to my head, and I'll spill the beans pretty readily, lol.

Now, with that out of the way, lets go into the facts that only patient client privilege can provide! Sit a while, and have a nice nap!





1-3) Psoriasis is just the tip of my iceberg:

I'm not big on it myself, since I've shunned my Catholic upbringing, but have you ever read the bible? Or, at least, heard of the Book of Job? The guy at the lead there is a dude that just can't catch a break, mostly because God's decided to test him by letting Satan piss all over his life, at least from what I've always understood of it. There are many days where I feel like that guy.. But in modern times I may be worse (it, like the source material is up for interpretation).

My life has always been unnecessarily complex, even before the psoriasis conversation that Occam's Electric Razor and myself had just recently. So much so that it comprises the first three sections of this post, and filters into many of the others.



1) For at least 8 years I practically lived in funeral homes:

I come from a large Italian family, and yeah, the usual idea, the law of averages if you will, is that a lot of people mean a lot of people will eventually die. EVENTUALLY. Not the majority of your family by the time you're 16.

From age 8 to 16 I went to -at the very least- one funeral a year, and every one of the deceased was close family member; the majority of them weren't really that old either.

The first and most devastating was my cousin, Eugene. I plan on writing about soon because there is a deep gaming connection based around him and the anniversary of his passing was recently. I often attribute his death to being the first of many reasons most of my problems that have consumed me, started. Right to the point, he was my hero. Even at 11 or so years older then me, he was always there for me and willing to spend lots of time with me. He was a star high school athlete, super popular, handsome.. Pretty much everything I wasn't and will never be.. And he'd waste his days with hanging out with me and feel just as amazing as he was. When he died it was like someone knocked down my Jenga set and shit fire all over the pieces.

Even though he was the first and, at that time, the worst, he wasn't the last, all of which had some sort of lasting effect on me, including the death of my great grandfather, which lead to my having to move away from the only home, and all the people, I had ever known, right before high school. Most recently, 3 years ago this July (and 10 days before my birthday), my mom died of a sudden heart attack at 50, which I'm still struggling hard to come to terms with.

As a side note, I'm pretty much uncomfortable in social situations and always have been. But that's sort of a lie.. Maybe.. At least is it if you feel that a funeral is a legitimate social setting. I feel more comfortable at funerals then I do any where else.. But that also includes me seeing to everyone elses emotional needs, making them happy and smile, while never getting asked how I feel (even at my moms funeral, which I'm still bitter about). Subsequently, weddings make me sick -not because I don't believe in them, or love (I do believe, in both), but because of some weird gut punch reaction that happens inside me while attending, that makes me physically ill.



2) I'm (what I call) a 9/11 refugee:

9/11 was a big day in not only American history, but world history. Just about everything that has happened in the world since has been shaped by that day. My life was greatly effected beyond where I may have been that day and the terrible changes that happened in the world that followed.

I do remember where I was when I heard: I was bumming a ride from a friend of mine to my mall job (Thanks Randy) when a usually jovial radio morning show crew stopped everything they were doing to say a plane hit the first tower. 

The rest of the day was dead in the water. The mall was a complete wasteland that day; the mall in Dawn of the Dead had more patrons in it. My co-worker, Kathy, and I spent most of the day standing outside of the the shop watching the news through the window of the Ruby Tuesdays next door. Eventually there was -which has been forgotten in hindsight- threats against large, big money-making malls, and the one I was in was one of them. So we were told to shut down by 2 or 3pm and leave. What I didn't know during all that was my dad was supposed to be way closer. 

At the time my dad worked in a warehouse in Nyack, NY, right outside the city, that was supplying things (and workers, I think) to the towers. The guys that had to go down there that day had forgotten things that my dad was going to have to bring them, and, from what I remember him telling me, he was just about to leave with the stuff when the horror started. He dodged a huge bullet that day (but we'll get to more of that in a few..).

I also have a cousin, who was a banker, who worked in the buildings, but wasn't there at the time. I forget if he took the day off, or was on the ferry (he lives in New Jersey) when the events started, and got turned away. He dodged an even bigger bullet.

So, somewhat oddly for my track record with my big buddy death, I didn't lose any one that day. 

To the people who did, I'm still eternally sorry, in a way, that this one time luck was actually on my side meant that I couldn't take that burden off of so many others. But boy-howdy does fate have a sick a way of turning around and kicking you in the ass with the force of a freight train...

After that day, after the economy started to fray and collapse. My dad's company began to freak out at the stocks dropping, the people who weren't making orders, and the short-term money that was leaking from all seams. So, like so many industries at the time, they started firing people left and right. My dad, in spite of being in a management position, was amongst the first to get the ax.

I remember the day I heard that too. It was my 9/11 2.0, and I wasn't going to be as lucky as I was the first time.

It was only a month or two after 9/11, and as soon as the words left my moms mouth as I was walking out of the door to spend the night drinking with my friends, a cold premonition of us losing our house washed over me. To put it lightly, that night went terrible for me.

Trying hard to keep the house, my dad never did get steady work again in New York, and we did end up getting to the point where we lost it, in spite of my lending him thousands of dollars at a time to pay the bills (he never would simply take it and leave it at that), while trying to put myself through college. I was still living there, so if they went, I would likely have to go too if I couldn't find another living arrangement.

That arrangement never came, not for lack of feverishly trying, and I was forced to give up everything I've ever worked for -school, work, friends-who-were-basically-family... everything-- again to move a full more 3 times before my parents finally decided to settle in Blackfoot, ID. aka Hell on Earth, minus all the cool Cenobites.

At that point, when the dust finally began to settle, a few years after the fall of the towers, I was also still broken beyond repair. I was long into making excuses for not going out, my psoriasis was in full swing (from, I completely believe, the stress I feel daily), I was sleeping all the time or generally hiding from the world in my room. 

The only thing that's marginally saved me was meeting my fiance, something else I'll write about sometime due to it's heavy gaming connection, and moving to where I am now with what little money I had left.. And even that's been far from smooth; I'm still living life like I'm about to be forced to move again, out of boxes and stuff, almost a decade later. I guess I feel like if the next fallout were to happen, I'm already packed and ready to go.



3) To my health (or the lack there of.):

Okay, my psoriasis is really bad, but the rest of me isn't well either.

Physically, be it because of the psoriasis or other reasons that doctors (who I'll fling shit at in a bit) ignored. Physical, random, pain wracks my body daily. It's the first thing that comes to mind when I wake up, and the last thing I worry about before I go to bed (if I even do that, because I'm an insomniac). Daily I worry about my chest, eyes and head, because I have a long family history of heart issues; my mom having had a stroke in her eye a year or so before she died of a heart attack. 

The night WoW's Mists of Pandaria expansion was launched was spent in the ER, with a blood pressure reading of well over 200, instead of getting my blood pressure raised by the wall of players stepping over each other trying to get to max level first. The reason for the problem? They don't know; but they did know I should have been dead while issuing me a $3500 bill I still can't hope to pay, while ejecting me like a bad disc.

Following up with a doctor who knew I couldn't afford him, I got strung along for months to the tune of another $600 or $700, to not be properly diagnosed with a single thing other then high blood pressure before I told him I couldn't afford to see him any more... That's the day he tried to tell me, after I said, "hey I can't do this any more," he thought I was bi-polar, but wasn't qualified to tell me for sure.. Thanks, Doc.

Mentally I'm a train wreck. I was already pretty convinced before the doctor told me I was bi-polar, that I was; the powerful mood swings I have were enough for me. But other things I've come across, having to go through the process of self diagnosis and research, that seem likely accomplices too: OCD; PTSD; self neglect; quite a few fears, rational and irrational (I'll get to one of them later.. This stuff all hooks together); tons of worries and stress.

My family and friends have all pretty much turned their back on me, because no one believes that I'm as troubled as I tell them; they think I'm just lazy. The government doesn't want to give me disability because they said I haven't worked long enough to be given it, but I can't really work in my condition, so that debt -and lack of self worth- isn't going to go away any time soon. My fiance has told me she doesn't want to marry me because of the debt; that we're still engaged, but we can't afford to get married with that over my head. And there's a bunch of stuff on her end of things, that are really hard on me for a lot of reasons, even though I can't say or do anything about them. And the 2 suicide attempts I've had.

Yeah, that last bit is a thing that happened a few times.

So yeah, there's all that really heavy stuff... Always rough times, even on the good days. I know everyone has their own pain, I keep hearing that from everyone (usually those who don't want to talk to me), the whole "someone's always got it worse," thing, and I understand that, but this is just mine. Nothing more, nothing less.

One thing I can say though is that I'm not a drug addict (I've never done any, I don't even smoke) or an alcoholic (I drink rarely), even though both run in my family, and some would say I have basis for starting either. Silver linings!



4) I have a genius level IQ:

Seems like they don't call it "genius" any more, it's "gifted" now. Like I'm suddenly an X-Man. And it seems like people are downplaying IQ a bunch, if only because most people with high IQs don't do anything worth while with it any more. Hell, all Stephen Hawking is doing lately is warning people about Skynet.

Even so, as far as being considered gifted goes, I'm somewhere towards the high end, having tested at anywhere between 155 and 165. But it's not all unicorns and optic beams, I'm afraid. It's a blessing and a curse.

If you've ever seen the movie pictured above, being gifted or a genius, or Jor-el, comes with a price. Traditionally the people with high IQ -whether they use it or not- are most often plagued with psychological troubles and instability, and having the studies that say so is somewhat comforting. It's about as flowery as my problems get, being so smart (or whatever) my brain can't handle it.

IT'S OKAY FOLKS, IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM. HAVE SOME LISA FRANK STICKERS! 



(shhhh, I'm not stealing a page from the Occam playbook.. But The Occam Playbook does happen to be my award winning film debut, adapted from a book)



5) From what I understand, I'm a direct descendant of Leonardo Da Vinci (on my mom's side):

As fate would have it, no matter how I feel about Assassin's Creed series, it has a small place in my heart because it lets me imagine what my ancestor would have done if he had bad asses around him (also see: Da Vinci's Demons, where he's sort of a bad ass himself). But I'll never really know what he was actually like, unless of course Doc happens to work things out with the Libyans some time soon.

Let's face it, he was probably as loony tunes as I am.

Story goes that when my Great Great Grandfather, and whoever else in the family that was with him, landed at Ellis Island, they didn't have to change the family name; the people in charge of that stuff were fine with it (usually names were changed because people couldn't pronounce them). They actually chose to it because they thought being associated with Leonardo was like being associated with a kook. Sounds like someone was bitter about something... Or a warning of things to come... 



6) My nickname growing up was Boner:

Anyone old enough remember Growing Pains? Remember how Mike Seaver had a best friend named Boner, not because he had an embarrassing moment talking to a girl where he popped one, but because his last name was something vaguely Italian, like Stabone (yes I looked that up..), or something?

Well same thing happened to me. Different real name, completely the same basic premise, but with more innuendo, because: real kids aren't mid-80's sitcom kids.

At some point an ingenious friend started calling me "Bones," and another "Bone-daddy," after Jack the Skeleton King, which was a far better nicknames that I accepted immediately.

I've also been asked far too many times if I'm related to U2's Bono... Or Sunny Bono.. by a bunch of people, including teachers who knew better, even though my real name is very seriously not spelled exactly like either -there are more letters in it. It's really irritating for some reason.

Oh, and I remember bringing this up to my dad once and all he could say was: "Well that's fucking original, " leading me to believe this was far from the first time this had happened.



7) Was going to be a baker, then a film maker:

Most of high school was spent in photography and media arts classes, but since I was little I really loved cooking. I've got this weird driving need to make people happy, as if in spite of my own pitfalls in life, and food is the absolute best way to fill that void in people. Can't make'm smile? Make'm fat! That's what I say!

Most of my early life was spent watching my great grandmother cook, I absorbed a lot and wanted to take it all the way. Nothing celebrity-like -though I have thought about trying out for Master Chef should my mania ever let up enough- but I wanted to at least own a restaurant. Somewhere along the way in high school I found the exact science of baking really relaxing, most likely because it was a constant: you follow the recipe, don't try to deviate too much, and things won't flop over and die. That sort of thing is stabilizing for a teenager with the life I already had at that point. So my sights turned on at least having a bakery.

By junior year, in spite of everything else I was doing and really good at, I was dead set on going to the prestigious Culinary institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, literally a stones throw away from where I lived in Poughkeepsie, NY. That is, until my idiot-no-good guidance councilor screwed up everything for me.

I'm not going to skirt around this one bit: The woman was the biggest brain dead moron you'll ever meet; totally substantiating the myths that guidance councilor is a "phoned-in" job. She couldn't get my name right worth a shit and kept mixing me up with another kid, all the way down to switching up our files/transcripts somehow. I really don't know if she ruined any other hopeful student's chances at getting into a school, but it seems likely. But beyond such colossal mess ups like that, she also completely misinformed me on what I needed to do to prep for my attempt at being accepted into the CIA. Due to that, and a few other things that could have been fixed, my credentials were all wrong and I was completely derailed off course.

As kid who didn't know what he was doing in this case, with parents that didn't go much further with their education after high school, I had no help from anyone other then this person who's sole job was to help kids get to that next step, and she fumbled the entire thing for me behind the scenes.

Stumbling hard off course, I ended up taking a year off trying to figure out what to do with myself until a friend of mine told me to cut the crap and at least go to community college (Duchess Community College; aka, Harvard on the Hudson), where I ended up going back to the well I was using in high school, taking up a communications major with my sights sent on film making. My high school media arts teacher was one of the professors there, and he loved me (I hope. Always seemed like he did), so it sounded perfect.

Eventually it came to the events of what I outlined above, with having to give up everything. Somewhere in between Poughkeepsie and Blackfoot I tried, misguided and defeated, to look into going off to a school somewhere and had settled on the school Kevin Smith went to (and dropped out of) in Vancouver, but I still didn't know what I was doing, and was in a terrible place all around, so I never followed through.<br />

I still really want to do something video or sound related. I'm extremely rusty, but I know those skills never left me... They're like the bike I never learned how to ride.



8) I've trashed hotels, but have also danced in castles; stalked a famous baseball player,  almost got struck by lightning, and banned from the Vatican and US Capitol!:

That's me, with sun in my eyes (and before the psoriasis), outside the Blue Grotto on the Island of Capri, in Italy... Right around the time the sea cave had almost decapitated me. Remember kids: when the Italian man rowing your dingy tells you, "get down lower," and you're already laying on the bottom of the tiny row boat, there just may be no where else to go no matter what he says...

Before things got really bad for me I did get out and traveled a bit. Honestly, that's something I miss the most that life has robbed me of, seeing new places. At heart, buried somewhere under the darkness and the viscous putrid goo of fear that clogs me up on a daily basis, I'm an explorer.

One of the first great places I went to was Quebec, Canada, on a class trip with French class. 30+ kids set free in the great white (and fuck was it white! it was winter!) french speaking north. And they really did let us go free.. I'm not entirely sure how they got away with it, either, but we were allowed to go run around the city on our own at any time during that week where we weren't supposed to be going off and doing something touristy. It was a blast, especially since there was a full on arcade near our hotel that I spent most of my time in.

Oh, the hotel.. It wasn't as much of a hotel as much as it was, pretty much, a high class castle. Our class was almost collectively put out on the street, because we'd trash the rooms to see how far the staff would go to put them back together.

The next year they took us to Washington D.C., which for someone who loved history from a way-too-early young age, was awesome. We went to Fords Theater, got to run around the National Mall in the way-to-dark of night (which is really cool when you go to see the Vietnam memorial),  got harassed by bums selling fake Oakley's ("O-keys," they said.. I shit you not) outside the national archives after viewing the Declaration of Independence and such.

More fun still, I almost got personally escorted out of the Capitol Building for looking up at the rotunda dome, and spinning around in the middle of the room till I was too dizzy to walk. Apparently they frown on that there.

On the way back from DC we stopped at a bay side mall in Baltimore and were allowed to run around unattended (seriously, they'd never get away with this today....) for a few hours. The Seattle Mariners were going up against the Orioles that night, just down the way, and the then Seattle pitcher, Randy Johnson, was walking around the mall trying to look for a shop to fix his watch. My best friend -who was way more into baseball then I ever was, ever- and I decided to tail him, discussing if we were going to ask him for an autograph... Then someone else actually acted on that urge, asking for their small child who was standing right there. Johnson went BALLISTIC on the woman for even bothering to look in his direction.

So we never did go up to him after that. We didn't see the point (looking back on it though, it may have made for a better story if we had). Now my knee jerk reaction whenever I happen to see him in anything, is to say "cockhole" rather loudly -pretty much the same reaction I have to all commercials for King's mobile games.

After high school, when my friends and I were all 18 and legal to do everything in Canada, some of us decided to take a trip up to Montreal for a week to hit up the casinos and drink in strip clubs: the real man things things we couldn't do by law in America.

And by "real man things" I also mean my almost getting struck by lighting running through the storm soaked streets going back to the hotel from our favorite strip club. Completely drunk, lightning hitting pavement yards away from you is seriously surreal.

Later on, right before I was circumnavigated around the country like a 1st world nomad, my grandma and aunt took my cousin and myself to Italy because they wanted to see where we came from.

That trip was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life, so much so that I honestly, very seriously, almost told my family that I wasn't going back home with them; that I was going to stay there and try to work out a life for myself (in a time of big, sweeping, crazy moves on my part to try to pick where I was going to be the next year for myself).

Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Capri.. So many places, so much food.. Amazing. Florence is where I felt the most at home, and that's where I almost wandered away from the group and never looked back. There was just something about that place, in spite of the massive crowds and all the fear mongering about pickpockets (yadda yadda), that felt like home to me.

During that trip we formally dined and danced at in castle (a real one this time), and we even ended up at the Vatican.. Oh boy the Vatican.. 

Those silly clothed guards really do get up in arms about the no photo portion of their do's and don'ts.

I'm 5'5", My cousin (also seen in the picture above, behind me) is around 6'1"-ish. Now tell me, in what world is a person around 6 foot tall obscured enough by a midget like me, while taking restricted pictures with a flash on in one of the worlds holiest, most famous and beautiful chapels?

No amount of people around you is going to constitute an Assassin's Creed-style blend-in-to-stealth crowd in that situation.. I call you're bullshit Ubisoft.



9) I was speed running waaaaaaay before I knew what speed running was:

One Saturday morning when I was 5 or 6 (strongly believe it was 5) I was sitting in my parents room -the room that housed my NES- watching cartoons, but came to that dreaded point in the morning where there was absolutely no cartoon I gave a shit about. Oh, something I wanted to watch was a half hour away, don't get me wrong, but that current half hour was complete dreck.

So what was a kid with an NES and a few games in front of him to do? How about play some videogames!

I popped in Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers.. Bleep blop blooop.. Done in less than 8 minutes.. Not really because I WANTED to be, but because I was trying to beat the clock till the shows I wanted to watch.

Panicked in the way a kid that age would, I still had around 20 minutes left to kill.. I mean, what the hell was I going to do! Oh, Duck Tales, quick!

Bleep blop blooooop... Finished in another 6 to 8 minutes or so, under the same pretenses of knowing I  had a restrictive time limit..

With about 10 minutes left in the show, I decided I couldn't pull off a hat trick with any of the other games I had in the box (I had so many games for the NES.. I wish I never sold them later on) next to the TV, so I tapped out and chose to eat the last bit of commercial heavy viewing time (aka, the worst time to watch anything).

Fast forward to today and I find out that I could have very well set the world record for that time, when all I really gave a damn about was not wasting a half hour on crap I didn't care about watching. Funny thing is, I still don't really care to speed run anything. I respect those who can do it, but I really do like sitting and enjoying my games for a bit.



10) I almost had a paid writing job for WoWInsider:

Sometime a few years back, when I was in full WoW swing, I used to also frequent WoWInsider on an everyday basis. My most boisterous comments would be seated in the articles on the class and spec closest to my heart: The Elemental Shaman.

Someone was watching I guess, because one day an email hit my inbox stating they needed a new Elemental Shaman writer, asking me if I wanted a shot. I had already been my current state of mind for a while at that point and was well aware that the only way I'd make anything of myself, at least to help financially around here (which I'm still not doing, as personally frustrating as that is), was to start writing and hope to make some money off of it. So, my heart a flutter, I gladly jumped on the opportunity.

Things were stacked against the applicants from the start however, since they also extended the sentiment to (former?) Elitist Jerks Elemental Guru, Binkenstien. If anyone knew anything about anything WoW at that time, and I don't know if this is still the case, the Elitist Jerks were the go-to people for all things theory-crafting -they were the people that most players wished they could be. At that point I pretty much figured, somewhat bitterly, that no one had a shot once he entered the race. Low and behold, not long after, he had gotten the gig.

It must not have struck a cord with many readers though, as his first few articles were full of crazy number crunching and other hardcore theory-crafting antics (that Elitist Jerks are known for). While confusingly interesting for someone like me, who likes to learn things (even if it's math.. screw math...), he didn't stick around very long with WoWInsider; being replaced by someone else not that long after. All I remember there being some groans that no one knew what he was talking about, at least. 

Either way, it was an odd, enjoyable, experience to feel wanted and looked at for adding something to a community. I've been kind of chasing that high timidly ever since (especially the part where I may get a few buck out of it to help pay for food around here).

So that's me, more or less. There is more, but I'm locking that DLC up for now. This has already gone on long enough.

Hopefully I haven't put anyone to sleep, or worse, in a deep state of depression (but if so, welcome, there's cookies on the table in back). It really does feel good to get some of this off my chest, though. Thanks for reading if you made it this far!










Franklin.. Oh Franklin.. If videogame characters were bicycle wheels, you'd be the big, deflated, third one. If this were a big wheel, you'd make a kid cry...

I started to write this in response to the Destructoid community casting call for the same subject, but life and my fickle health made me take more of a detour then I wished, and I missed the boat. But screw it, I'm typing up what I wrote through the week and posting it any way!

There maybe some light GTA V spoilers here.. But, honestly, given we're talking about Franklin, I sort of doubt it'll be anything special. This is going to be ridiculously shorter then my favorite new character post.

Actually, to tell you the truth about this, someone would actually have to pay me to waste any more time on writing about this digital waste of skin. My review of GTA V said about as much (in so little) as could be said about Franklin. In fact.. Screw it.. Since it'd just be a rehash of portions of that review any way, heres what I had to say about Franklin from it.

"Franklin is.. Well.. Basically he's a low rent John Singleton character. He's trying to get out of the hood while trying to get his girlfriend, who doesn't want him, back (Edit note: Who would blame her?). Everyone around him aside from Michael and Trevor tells him he never does anything for them, even though he does everything for them. And that pretty much forces him into the arms of Michael, mostly babysitting Trevor, where he still can't bother to say no and simply walk away from everyone. He really is the weakest of the 3, I can't stress that enough."

"Franklin was basically a waste of space, and I really don't know what that was supposed to say about Franklin.

Nothing Franklin does means a whole lot of anything, and he doesn't add anything but a third person to play as. Remember how I say that things sort of just happen to Michael with little rhyme or reason, that are supposed to better his life? That's pretty much the entirety of Franklin's story. Things landing in his lap, including becoming a hired killer (which bares no weight on him what-so-ever, and feels forced considering he tries to be a -pitiful- voice of reason for everyone else through the game.).



At best he's everyone's Morgan Freeman, driving them all around like Miss Daisy. Even when he takes charge, he's never fully in charge. (Edit note: He even falls asleep while in charge at one point, leaving Trevor and Lamar to have one of my favorite conversations in the game). He was boring, and was portrayed as being as ho-hum as he's played out. He doesn't really add anything to the game except his friend Lamar, who says some really really funny stuff during the course of the game.

In fact, I was just reminded of one character that Franklin claims keeps him and his friend Lamar down a few times, that only shows up maybe twice, only to kill him off later as a way to clean his slate so he can lead his own life (instead of simply walking away from everyone and everything the 50 times he could have). Unless I missed something, there really wasn't a huge reason to go after this guy other then to give Franklin a villain of his own. It's forced, just like the rest of Franklin's part in the game.

He was my least played character and he contributed almost nothing to the game by way of story or gameplay, but the game pretty much tells you at the very end that Franklin is the main character, after hours of evidence otherwise.?"

There is very literally nothing more that I can say about Franklin that I haven't said already. After I drafted out my Lara Croft post, I pretty much could only bring myself write out scant notes about Frankin, and I realized I had written them all before (a usual sign of insanity; doing something over and over thinking you'd get different results). Even in weeks removed hindsight, he's still the most underwhelming character in that game.

Oh, actually, no, I'm wrong.. I'd nominate him for the title of one of the worst characters in gaming of all time. So I guess there's that. Funny thing is how this games already started getting Game Of The Year titles, with him at the proverbial helm.

Guess he really is a good driver.

(2 Things before I go: 

First, I know I'm riding a no-no line having posted this and my Lara Croft post in one night. This week's been tougher then expected and having not making it in time to get them in on the festivities they were meant for certainly of punctuated that. So I'm taking a chance just throwing this up for everyone, like I intended to had I been able to space them out.

And as usual, since C-blog formatting seems to hate me with a white hot passion, I invite you to come over to my blog and read it there if my formatting here took a giant dump: http://geek-forge.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-most-hated-character-of-year-gta-vs.html ;)










I started to write this in response to the Destructoid community casting call for the same subject, but both life and my fickle health made me take more of a detour then I wished, and I missed the boat. But screw it, I'm typing up what I wrote through the week and posting it any way!

This may have some light Tomb Raider(2013) spoilers.

Now I know what you all might be thinking: Lara's been around for 17 years, she's not new.. Or even the best. But in thinking back on what we want out of videogames, especially in the last 2 years, this re-envisioned Lara has it all, and every bit of what makes her up is new:

She's fresh (literally and figuratively, compared to her older iteration).

She looks amazing (graphically and otherwise).

She's innovative (in road less taken approach they took with her)

A story, more about her herself, instead of just gut pounding action (though the action is there)

She's a strong female character that isn't a lifeless flaunting of negative things (in spite of what people wanted to believe prior to release)

And all of this, in spite of certain award nominations, from a game that seems to have gone largely underrated by the gaming community.



The game imagines the jarring start of Lara Croft's journey from college student to hardened explorer, in  a way that gives a much more definitive start then the original Tomb Raider; a game that simply had the voluptuous adventurer being what she was is within little to no context. Now we got to see every we get to experience every grueling step, allowing us to achieve her personal growth with her. And it's a growth that has extended beyond the screen, and into the real world.

The problem's facing new Lara weren't always a part of her journey however, since the community seemed to find a heaping pile of reasons to hate on her, from about the moment we found out about her return.  But rarely have any of these issues been actually about Lara herself, but stigmas people have about her based on very little interaction with the actual game.

Thinking back on it, I'd say the exact point where the negative reactions started was actually at the very beginning, with the first rumblings of the games existence. The announcement got a mixed reaction of optimism and frustration. The new game, and take on the character, would be far better then any game we've seen from the prior series of the same name in past years, but Lara was met with a lot of hate for the idea that she would be waify (yet not overbearingly sexy), fragile, and younger. Thing is, this happened in comments across the internet, but isn't quite as remembered as what happened after, when the game was finally shown at E3.

I don't think Crystal Dynamics could have foreseen the turbulence they were flying into after showing the game at E3. The general feeling I got was awe at the way the game looked, and seeing the new Lara in action, but many took what we saw and earnestly ran with it in the most ridiculous direction imaginable, based on how little we saw of the game: Lara would be brutally raped.



As completely serious the subject matter was, I began to personally call what was going on "Rapegate," just to give it just a little levity, if crudely so; because no one else was apparently going to do that for me, at least not in any comment sections I was looking at. Everyone else was simply too busy claiming it was the only thing going on.

I still really can't believe that people thought, in any capacity, that the developers of this game would openly depict Lara getting brutalized like that by Yamatai Island's inhabitants, especially from out of context footage of her barely being caressed, when cornered by a single dude -who, as we find out, she knees in the junk and becomes her first human kill -never, to my memory, being remotely touched that way again. It just wasn't going to happen, and when we played the game: it didn't.

But this is also the exact moment where I feel like the big time rush of videogame feminism found its ground; on the back of a vulgar display of the mass consciousness thinking the very worst. In one fell swoop Lara went from strong female character; a determined survivor that that could have wiped away the negative stigma of being a big boobed sex symbol of past Lara; immediately into being talked about the better part of the year leading to the games release as being the penultimate sexual assault victim; sight unseen.

And that was it. For months. Lara was going to be raped and no one could convince those vocal about it to believe anything different.

Then the game dropped, and we got to actually play the scenario out.. And there was no rape. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, she kills the only guy who really got the opportunity to get that close in one of the games best "fuck yeah!" moments. All the "hype" was completely overblown.

Yet this also almost immediately started the next phase of "Operation Hate Lara," the: "She's a little too good at killing" phase. An extremely odd turn from being initially perceived as the international poster child for weak abused and battered women.


Gamers had been angsty all along about the fact that new Lara wasn't like past Lara; a person who can just go in and gun up a place, be it against humans, animals or the occasional dinosaur. Here we had been presented a new version of the character that may not have ever handled a gun, or at least not in the same capacity of the her prior. The initial frustration was with the fact that this island full of men would simply trample her.

Then we used her to trample them.. In bulk.. And people got twisted the other way, saying that she couldn't possibly do that.

But this was also the moment where I started to feel she was my favorite character of the year. She wasn't really the mass murdering beast everyone was making her out to be, and had really wanted all along. It wasn't really a case of "She mows them down with shotgun like they were nothing. Rawr, Marcus Fenix!" when it was more along the lines of something like," She's surviving the best she can, under impossible circumstances, and look at the way the kick back effects her."

What we were asked to see, and  many apparently ignored, was Lara struggling with every aspect of the journey she was thrust into, as told through the animations and sound direction. The game actually goes so far as to make the player look a bit closer at the periphery of the beautifully presented characters and environments we were all clamoring for since we were fed the handful of footage, to see the little idiosyncrasies of the subtle actions, movements and sounds Lara makes all throughout the game; in a way that would cause David Cage to need new a new pair of shorts.



Dislocated shoulders hurt. Jumping for a ledge you can barely catch, hurts. The kickback of a gun can throw you off balance. Killing for the first time, will leave in shock; but having to continue to survive will keep you moving. Running for 5 hours straight is going to wear on you. Those little groans aren't suggestive, they're the reactive calls of a body wracked with pain. And Lara shows evidence of all of this, coming out the other side a tattered mess of nerves and instinct that simply didn't give up when the chips fell so far down Yamatai's darkest crevasses, where hope would be little more then a dream that only normal people can achieve, before overcoming all obstacles to finally save her friends. Lara's story was better told through these intricate subtleties, then it was the story most of the time.

But many unjustly bemoaned her for being, as they saw, a steely eye'd killer, the likes of (insert most protagonists here); but in that they had found exactly what they wanted when they said she was being done all wrong, not being the hardened, often uncaring, warrior they always had in past Lara.. And they still weren't happy with that.

It only proved there just isn't pleasing everyone.

But the various problems seated in peoples perception aren't the only things that make up the new Lara Croft. There's one hell of a soul in there too.

One thing you can always pull out of the prior Tomb Raider games is that Lara was bored sounding and often heartless superwoman, who was simply about shooting her way through everything with relative ease, and never having many problems climbing the walls and flipping over obstacles. Unlikable would be something of an understatement.

The mission always seemed a bullheaded paramount to her her, and anyone (or thing) who got in her way was going to get a bullet for their troubles. Any amount of talk in between is all business. Nearly no allies, but tons of rivals.




New Lara, however, has many more layers of emotional depth, allowing her to be a much more human character then the tempered loner-bot we've always known.

There's new found compassion for people; a whole crew that she not only saw as friends, but as close family, some of which had known her through all her life, and loses to the islands unrelenting cruelty over the course of the game. These situations made for some of the games most gut wrenchingly sad moments I've seen all year. She even seems to care a lot about that shifty asshat of a professor that totally screws everyone over.. Well, at least before he goes just a little too far.

The entire reason Lara pulls her friends to this island is because her best friend, Sam (who I've not mentioned, for the fact that people think Sam and Lara were lesbians, on top of all the other baseless things people thought) wanted to know more about her Japanese heritage. She wasn't looking to become rich to trick out her mansion or grow her collection of unitards. Or to find some artifact before some other character could use it to destroy the world. She just wanted to help a friend get more in touch with herself.

I don't think we'd be able to see that, and believe it, from old Lara.

While old Lara was always implied to being the smartest bean in a lonely field, the new Lara is decidedly more learned, and more gleefully inquisitive, then we've seen a lot of characters be in recent years, outside of puzzle games. Listening to her wonderment when she'd find an artifact became part of the joy of seeking them out.

And, it almost goes without saying, new Lara is a far more determined then old Lara ever was, if only because old Lara never seemed to be frightened by anything she faced, mundane or supernatural, or ever all that worried that she'd come out the other end intact. She was always a little too confident that she'd come out the other side of the tomb.



And all of this mucky muck is why my favorite new character of the year is Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics took an out of touch, aging, character from a series that had become largely laughable, and made her feel more human then she ever had in her 17 year history; even against the backdrop of a world that had her running around worrying about such ridiculous notions as Oni and mystically powerful Sun Queens. A character that, for me, grew beyond the confines of a game and broke out of conventional confines to became so much more to people then a bunch of pixels; that they couldn't find reason to stop talking about her as if she were a person you could walk up to and shake hands with.

And she's a character that still has room for plenty more growth as the future of the series rolls on, in a journeys that I can't wait to go on with her.

These levels of depth (and heated debate) say a lot for a character, especially when the character finds a way to outpace their own game, even after so many years of being one of the biggest names in gaming.

Big kudos to Lara and the company that made her, for that.

(Since the C-blog formatting often hate me; if the formatting of this post is a little off, I invite you to come over to my blog to check it out:  http://geek-forge.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-favorite-new-character-of-year-lara.html ;)








I got all of this (and then some) for $568:



That's $225 savings, just from a little smart shopping and some pretty simple planning ahead.

The Shopping list:












3 PS4 Games: $179.97








So how'd I manage it?:

Nope, not Black Friday (or Black November.. Since that's how things have been rolling this year...) sales.

The PS4, PSN+ Membership Card and Killzone: Shadowfall (one game of the 3 PS4 games that make up the 179.97) were bundled together for a grand total of $499.99. Thats $10 off what should be a $510 purchase outside the bundle.

The DS4, PS Camera, Power A DS4 Controller Dock and the HDMI Splitter would have come out to be $154.97. "Would," if I didn't manage to get this all for free. How'd I manage that? It's a funny answer considering my console choice:

Bing Rewards Points.

Yep, Microsoft actually paid for a large portion of my Sony-centric purchase because I spend just a little bit of time every day appeasing them and gaining their digital favor.

Seeing as how you can't buy currency to use on Xbox Live any more with the points, since phasing out Microsoft Points, $5 Amazon gift cards are the way to go -and get arguably better games, no matter which system you choose, from it. That's just a better base value.

But what about those other 2 games. I mean, we've got Killzone accounted for, but what about Assassin's Creed IV and Lego Marvel Super Heroes? Well, because Amazon does as Amazon does do, I got one of those games free, because having Killzone pre-ordered opened me up to get buy one, get one, on another 2 games. 2 already well reviewed games for the price of 1? Yes please!




Well what about that splitter and the Cat6, did you really need them?

For me, the short answer is yes.

The long of it is that our TV has 3 HDMI ports; 2 in the back, 1 on the side. We have a DVD player that upscales to HD and our 360 taking up the two back ports. The side port goes unused because.. Who really likes having growths poking out of the side of their TV? This isn't a prison yard, we don't like things shanked in the side. I much rather do it like a rogue, from the back. It would drive me nuts to have the wire sticking out of the side, it'll just catch my eye every time I look at the TV (which is pretty much all night). If this will stave off my personal OCD frustration, it'll be well worth the $10. Now the 360 and the DVD player can share a port while the PS4 will sit pretty in it's own.

Subsequently, we've been having some wi-fi issues in the house lately, and have had certain.. Problems.. In the past with the 360/XBL that have been nothing but frustrating. So I decided to wire the console this time around for both faster downloads and to keep one more device off our wi-fi signal. Now if the wi-fi goes down like it has been lately, I'll be able to keep playing (because it's only been the signal, I think the transmitter is dying on our router).

I also couldn't go without a 50ft cord, but if I could, I would have saved a few dollars. In fact, I have a few 25ft cords I tried to use, but couldn't get them to reach. They go up in 5ft increments til you hit 30ft, then it jumps up to 50ft.

I could have also have gotten a coupler and connected two of the 25ft cords I have together, for around $2, but I couldn't find one locally, and buying one from the internet would have run me around the same price (after shipping) as the Cat6. And I feared that I'd lose bandwidth in the coupler.

I could have also just went with Cat5e, it would have been a buck or two cheaper as well, and a lot of people will tell me that it's not a huge difference; I knew this going in, but sacrificed the pocket change any way. Figured why not, even for a marginal speed boost. I've noticed things have been downloading super fast on the PS4, and I'd like to think there is some extra boost coming from the cord.

So I didn't see why I should waste 2 cords and a coupler, for the same price, and lose speed/data when I could buy 1 cord and gain a little more.

Economics.

All of Monoprice's cords are high quality (I've also used their HDMI cables for years, they're awesome) and just as importantly: whole sale prices. A cord like this, at this length, from a retail store would have run me over $35, for no extra gains. Why waste the money? Even with their lack of free shipping options (which to be fair the cord got to me in 2 days, which was helpful since I didn't know the cords I had wouldn't reach -because I suck with a tape measure), this cord still came at a small fraction of the price I could have paid.

Over all else, spending around $20 to make sure I'm not going to be super frustrated when I'm already holding my breath waiting for anything to happen to the PS4 (because: early adopter blues) just makes sense to me from a piece of mind standpoint. Sometimes that's more valuable then saving a little extra. In a way, it's saving in the long term.

Most people could, and will, leave things like this off and save even more. The first rule of saving is: If you don't need it, don't buy it!



The Experience:

Almost all of this has had free shipping. Because I'm buying right from Amazon on nearly every purchase, the only exception was the HDMI splitter, being the only thing I'm getting on Amazon from a secondary source.  All my orders were approved for Super Saver Shipping. Yeah, this means I'll have to wait 5-8 days, but I'm patient, and usually Amazon and UPS only manage to take 3 days to do the job. I could have paid out the ass to have it either day 1 or a day or two later, but why do that when plenty of people will be slamming the servers first thing, trying to get the day 1 update? Waiting a few days will actually save me some more frustration, and sometimes that's currency in and of itself. And I've already mentioned the small, but not game breaking, fee for Monoprice's shipping.

As far as pre-ordering everything, that went smoothly all things considered. I didn't pre-order the console first thing, because I was originally going to wait a year, but I had the money put aside for it already and it was burning a hole in my side, so when I got an email from Amazon saying they had some pre-orders for the bundle I wanted open, I swooped in immediately.

As far as waiting actually goes, I will warn people that pre-ordering a launch console from Amazon was a... Interesting experience... It wasn't really Amazon's fault, but from a matter of personal perception, it was frustrating in a "wait, why am I waiting again?" sort of way.

The system with Killzone was supposed to get to me this past Friday (November 22) and no where was I warned that they'd ship it next day. I had picked Super Saver, I had no reason to believe I didn't have to wait. However, the package came the next day. Meanwhile, everything else I had pre-ordered was still around a week away.

To compound the insanity, Amazon didn't acknowledge having (or getting) the Power A Controller Dock till the day of its release, the same day as the PS4's release, where it almost immediately sold out. Somehow however, this got here before everything other then the PS4.

From there Amazon had sold out of Lego Marvel Superheroes, and I was told I would have to wait. Okay, that's fine, I have other things to play. However, somehow it still got shipped and received faster then all the other items (Assassin's Creed IV, the DS4 Controller and the PS Camera), which came almost a full two days later.

Given I didn't really want to set up the console just to tear it out again to plug in the Camera or the Cat6 when they came, I decided it best to just wait for opening and set up till everything got to me and make it 1 project instead of 3. After running the Cat6 through my house to the set up, the rest of the set up as easy peasy. Had everything gotten to me when I thought it would be (AKA:When I was told), this wouldn't have been an issue at all -I was ready to wait- but getting the PS4 a full week before I figured I would, cascaded into anxiety and frustration (frustration mostly from having a console just sitting there that I didn't know if I'd have to send back or get fixed, but didn't want to manhandle multiple times to get fully set up) that I'm pretty possessive I couldn't possibly be the only person who would have felt like this.

No big deal, nothing terribly bad seeing as it was mostly a matter of impatience, and I chalk up  Amazon's end to having 2 consoles launching in 2 weeks, and then following that up with hardcore holiday shopping, but it's something people should know going into pre-ordering a console, I guess.



The End Game:

On top of the savings above, Sony's packaged a $10 PSN credit into all PS4 boxes, meaning extra savings. And we already have Vitas in the house, meaning, since we don't have PSN+ already, free games for those over the term of our tenure, as well. And I also have enough Gamestop points saved up to get a off $20 coupon, that I didn't even have to redeem points for yet -more savings waiting in the wings.

I also know people will also say, "Well, you could have saved more money not getting any of the crappy launch titles." Well.. Whatever, I'm not going to tell you what to like and not like, but I don't see a problem with the launch line-up, and really never have. I can't really help that people don't see things they want here, and those things they do will come eventually -I saved enough money for Infamous: Second Son, Watch_Dogs, and some. I may even pick up Knack with some of that money I saved; that game seems to be the stuff fond memories are made of.

Overall, the most important thing to remember is to shop where you want to and where you're most comfortable -which is especially important to remember during the holiday season.

Just because I had this experience doing what I did, doesn't mean someone couldn't have played Gamestop's trade in offers and points system to get them good deals. Or played Target for the 5% off they give on everything, for having their credit card (which I had thought about using myself, since we have one). Or Sony's credit card offering a $100 credit after your first purchase. Or Best Buy for their rewards program (which hates me and thinks I live in Florida, when I don't). This is just a long form note to tell people that there are a lot savings out there day 1 and beyond, and with a little work and planning, you could also reap those rewards too. If this inspires even one person to try to dig a little deeper, and save just a few extra dollars, then I'll be extremely happy.

So, did any of you guys and gals pull some shenanigans to get your next gen experience for less? If so don't Bogart it! Go head and share the information wealth with us! I'm always looking for new ways to save, and so should everyone else. Knowledge, and the sharing of it, really is power in our hobby.

My impressions of the PS4 and the other things in this post are coming soon.

(P.S. It does occurs to me that this comes off as an advertisement for Amazon, Microsoft, and Monoprice. Trust me, it's not. None of these people know me aside from the money I've handed them over the years.

Also, if your having trouble viewing this, I invite you to head over to my blog at http://geek-forge.blogspot.com/2013/11/how-i-paid-only-568-for-my-793-next-gen.html and check it out there. C-Blogs give me formatting headaches)








(Note: If this isn't showing up very well for you, I invite you to check it out on my blog. 

http://geek-forge.blogspot.com/2013/11/zombie-survival-kit-thank-you-wrapped.html

PS: I may be changing my blogs name when I get the time in the next few days, I'll try to remember to come here and change the link above to reflect that)

Zombie Survival Kit
Copyright (c) 2013, Maybe 2014 (if it survives) Geek Forge, Blog, All Rights Reserved
Zombie Survival Kit is a registered trademark of Big Fish Games and Destructoid.com
Revision not 3/Serial Number 8679309

Your friends and family are dead, you are on the run form a horde of zombies. You're also really hungry.



You are in an open wood. You came from the east, but not Japan, bro. There are snarling man sounds to behind you and to the west. A river to the north, sun obscured woods to the south what do you do?

>Go North

You'll fall in and drown in 2 inches of water. You can't swim, remember dummy?

>Go West

Really? Didn't I tell you about snarling man sounds?

>Damn God

That's real mature.

>Go South

The setting sun obscures your vision just enough that you don't see the ridge in front of you. You fall down. Go boom.

You get up, hoping no zombies heard your fall. Your now wearing a funny hat of freshly fallen leaves. Very autumn chic. If the world hadn't just ended a few days ago, you'd be all the rage.



You've found yourself on the precipice of a neighborhood. Idealistic once, now it's mostly burned out husks and hopefully fully dead bodies strown on lawns. I wouldn't check those if I were you.

Cars that obviously won't start anymore block your path to the east and west. It's not like you can drive any way, with physics like these.

A lone house with attached garage seems invitingly untouched by the ravages of the current, non-economic, apocalypse. What bad could possibly go wrong?

Your stomach growls.

>Check Door

Be more specific.

>Check Front Door

Tightly Locked. Possibly blocked from the inside.

I'll ask again, what bad could possibly go wrong?

>Check Garage Door

Unless you have the opener in your butt, this thing isn't going to budge. Does feel weakly constructed though.

>Slam Door

The door was even weaker then I thought.

You crash through it like the Kool-aid Man. OHHHHHH YEEEEEEAH!

Behind you the garage roof caves in, blocking your path behind you. Like life, you have a knack for not being able to turn back. There is a door to the west.




>Check door

Locked, but doesn't seem blocked. There are no screws or hinges on this side. The owners must have thought the garage door would hold. Boy we taught them.

>Shout

Shout, let it all out. These are the things I can do without --cause there isn't any response.

>Look Around

There is a bunch of stuff here, would take days to go through. This isn't that type of game.

Immediately around you are some loose tools and the usual assortment of jars with random things.

>Look At Tools

There's a shovel, a hoe (get your mind out of the gutter), a screw driver.

>Take Screwdriver

(Screw driver pick with words: for when things get screwy)

>Check Door

Still a door

>Use Screwdriver

Told you there were no exposed screws. But if you must: You try to pry the door with the screwdriver. The screwdriver breaks.

You now owe the owners $2.75. Time to raise your debt ceiling.

> Check Jars

You dump some jars over and get repulsed by the amount of belly button lint these people kept. Enough to start a new human. There are some screws and some paperclips though.

>Take Paperclips

(Paper clip picture with words: No clipping bugs here)

>Check Door

Do I need to say it again?

>Pick Lock




You didn't know you had the skills of a seasoned thief, but with a little doing you use the paperclips and screwdriver to pop the lock.

You are the master of unlocking!




You are in a pretty nice kitchen directly off of a living room area. Not your style, but who's stupid enough to be picky these days?



>Check Cabinets

All empty. Though neat, someone must have left in a hurry.

>Check Drawers

Mostly empty. Who takes their silverware with them?

There is a pair of scissors here though.

You hear a deep African American voice in your head, telling you to, "keep that hair short."

Pretty weird, huh Zach?

>Take Scissors

(Scissor's pic with: Cut. It. Out.)

> Look around

Not much else here. Comfy living room nearby.

>Go To Living Room.



Another nice room, still not your style, unless your a grandma; then it's the tits.

You see pictures of a family here. At closer inspection you decide those are the pictures that came with the frame, unless the owners had 5 families.

How lonely.

Anyway, nothing out of the ordinary, unless you count the bloody box on the table in the corner.

>Bloody Box

It's not nice to cuss, even if it's in classy British slang

>Inspect Bloody Box

(Box Picture: Is it just strawberry sauce?)




The box appears to be a package that have been post marked shortly before the fall of man.

Box reads: "Zombie Survival Kit"

Odd. The owners seem to have taken every other important item, including silverware, but not this.

Maybe the blood scared them away? Silly germaphobes.

>Open Box

Taped as tight as a tiger. These people didn't even look inside. I guess they do say curiosity killed the cat.

>Use Scissors

The box, made of cardboard, lets out an odd, chest like, creak. Your surprised you aren't met with twinkly music too.




We don't have the budget for all these images. Inside the box is: $100 gift card; Spam; A Nerf Gun; A Swiss Army Knife w/ 8gb USB; Dogtags, Carabiner; Hand Wipes; Flashlight; Multipurpose Glow Stick; Camouflage Netting.

>Take All

Way to be greedy.

Your Stomach Growls.

>Eat Spam

That sounds nice, doesn't it? But Gordon Ramsey would probably tell you that Spam alone will not do. Or that your a donkey.

He's way harsh Ty.

>Look around

Not much other then an empty box and some nick knacks. There is a door to a bathroom nearby though.

>Look Bathroom



Nice bathroom. Strangely you like it better then the rest of your house. You must have been an Italian plumber in a past life.

There is something catching your eye, poking out from inside the bathtub.

>Check Bathtub

Well doesn't that beat all. It's a pineapple.

You think you should trust bathtub pineapple, Zach? It could make you go blind.

>Take Pineapple

Like the Brady Bunch, you can now go Hawaiian.

You hear an odd thumping.

Your stomach growls. And before you ask, that isn't the source of the thumping, Iron Man.

>Eat Spam

You're not a barbarian. Unless you are; what class did you pick again?

Either way, you need a kitchen for this.

>Go Kitchen

Well?

>Eat Spam

This stuff, especially pineapples, doesn't cut itself

>Use Pocket Knife




Handy.

Thump thump thump

>Eat Spam

Now you know why they eat it this way. That was good.

Thump thump thump

>Look Living Room

There is a shadow moving around the living room.

>Use Camo Net

There's not enough ficus' in here to warrant a forest, aside from the funny leaf hat your still wearing. If this was covered with Hummel Figures, you'd be set.

>Use Nerf Gun

You hit it. Nice shot kid, but don't get cocky.

Most things are impervious to foam darts. Try again.

> Use LED Flashlight

You stop the shadow from moving erratically.

But now it's coming right for you.

What now Mr. Bright Ideas? (Get it? Because: Puns)

>Throw Cash Card

What a waste of money. You plainly see this guy can't be bought.

The Shadow lurches towards you and you realize it isn't the Slender Man - he apparently hasn't arrived at all- but a much more sinister being.. One with much better hair.. And there's nothing you can do to stop him now.




AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Cough.. Gasp.. Wheeze.. Cough)



Thank-you for try-ing to play with GLaDOS to-day. We will-not cont-in-ue be-cause you-are-no-fun. There is cake in the lob-bee. Have-a-nice-day.

Seriously though. Thank you to Big Fish Games and Destructoid for my contest prize. You guys are awesome.

The $100 gift card should be the thing that makes me happiest (and trust me, it makes me happy) about winning this contest, but honestly it's the Swiss Army Knife w/ USB drive that I love the most. It appears to be high quality and it's something I'll actually carry around and use.

I've also never had Spam before, but always wanted to try it; so what better time then now, right? I figure if there are whole diners and such in Hawaii devoted to the stuff.

If you haven't already, go buy Zombie Zombie Zombie (or Zombie X3) from Big Fish Games now. Seriously, don't even think about it. Just go.. GO NOW!!