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4:18 PM on 07.18.2014

Fighting Death

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.   read

1:21 AM on 05.11.2014

10 Things to Hate About Myself: A BoomingEchoes After School Special

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.


(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!   read

1:21 AM on 12.08.2013

My Most Hated Character Of The Year: GTA V's Franklin

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: ;)   read

12:14 AM on 12.08.2013

My Favorite New Character Of The Year: Lara Croft

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: ;)   read

5:15 PM on 11.27.2013

How I Only Payed $568 For My $793 Next Gen Experience.

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.


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 and check it out there. C-Blogs give me formatting headaches)   read

2:44 PM on 11.26.2013

Zombie Survival Kit: A Thank You Wrapped In An Homage To Text Adventures

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

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
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, 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


>Eat Spam

This stuff, especially pineapples, doesn't cut itself

>Use Pocket Knife


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!!   read

7:29 PM on 11.08.2013

I'm a Little Embarrassed to be a Gamer Right Now.

Last night Markus "Notch" Persson, creator of Minecraft, appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and, generally this is a win for the videogame world in it's own cheeky way.

Notch wasn't really there to plug his game, or the big convention that was just held for the game, or his company, or show a new game off, or even talk about the biography that's been written about him and the making of that game. None of that. He certainly wasn't there to defend the medium from it's attackers. He was sort of just there to talk, refreshingly, about.. Stuff. And really different when it comes to the videogame world, but not wholly unusual for the sandbox world Craig Ferguson's created for himself.

This is a show, an oddity on network television in every way, that features a gay skeleton robot sidekick and a not-horse named after a real one, hosted by an extremely funny man who throws candy to his audience when he isn't throwing another real log onto his fake fire. Or asking people if they want to play the mouth organ (a harmonica, get your mind out of the gutter). Or asking guests to take his kangaroo testicles to the top of Mount Everest. Or goes on a week long guerrilla style episode filming in France, where they often walked the streets with Craig dressed up as Michael Caine, sipping a martini in a space suit, talking about his sexual prowess.

But it's also a show that's won the man a Peabody Award in 2009 for a gripping interview with Desmond Tutu, while every night ripping up the questions and throwing them out his fake window, choosing to do a more free form version of what everyone else is. The immigrant experience of doing things your own way, he once said. A way we've all got to respect, being gamers, especially when we're talking to the creator of probably the biggest "do it your own way" game of in our lifetime.

But during part of the lighthearted talk with Notch, something happened that I'm sure only a gamer would really call bad, even if the rest of the world wasn't exactly paying attention between Perrson's shy awkwardness and his claiming to be the Swedish janitor, there to tell Craig the studio smells because it's burning down, just like Ferguson thought at the top of the show. During the interview, Craig said:

"What about the gaming world? Because every time I look at it -I looked it up on the internet and stuff, and it seems like there's quite a lot of bitchiness in your world.

Like quite a lot of people, like, 'I hate him, he created Minecraft. How dare he.. Not.. be.. me!'

Is that a really bitchy world, you think?"

To this, Markus replied in a way that, to me, felt like he didn't know exactly how to field the question, or was at least just a continuation of his ongoing nervousness for being there, by saying:

"Yeah, a little bit, I don't know why but.. I'm a gamer too and it's very emotional; the games we play and we get very protective of them.

I don't know why we do that, because people don't do that with music or movies."

Diplomatic, doesn't call anyone out, and even puts himself right there next to us, instead of trying to distance himself from the pack. But he sort of says why this happens without really scraping the surface. If he were possibly more prepared for the question, he would have dug deeper into what it means to us; or gone on a tangent about how games have been traditionally competitive things, so gamers are inherently more competitive then other people. But, honestly, I think he handled the question just fine given the subject matter of the rest of the interview. This also really isn't me trying to call out Notch for how well he did fielding a tough, probably unanswerable, question from a man that just got done commenting on Kat Dennings breasts.

Putting aside all the already messed up people who kill people and get the world to blame our favorite medium for their idea to do it, we've really hit rock bottom when a Swedish man can't talk to Scott-turned-America about a game where you build worlds, where little true violence is committed and you make your own fun, and can't manage to get a third of the way into their allotted time together without having the universal jerkiness of the overall game playing community come up.

Now, I know Craig mentioned it in a harmless way, and this isn't an attack on the question he posed to Notch. It's a good question. But the exposure, however small for a show on so late, that's often jokingly admitted to being taped in a dungeon, paints us in a harsh light, even compared to the usual slandering we get from the likes of major news outlets. However, those guys usually have a direct reason for saying, "well, Someone who plays games did something bad," no matter how overblown they make it out to be. But to have a late night host who was only trying to research his guest a little find that sort of blanket behavior, and then feel it pertinent enough to include it somewhat seriously, offhand, amongst his mostly irrelevant interview that featured watching Notch eating chocolate Euros, cuts pretty deep.

Usually, we have Conan O'brien being a straight forward Clueless Gamer, sort or opening up the idea that, yeah, you really don't need to know what your doing to play a videogame. Allowing a sense of all inclusiveness to our beloved, often venomously guarded, hobby.

Or we have Jimmy Fallon incredulously jumping around like a primate in heat because he and his guest are playing the new Halo before everyone else. Basically being a 15 minute long advertisement.

But neither Conan or Jimmy seem to have sat down and asked a videogame maker, not about their game or console, but about the community they make the games for. Or why the community acts the way they do; with little to no agenda other then simply being curious about what the hell is happening with us.

So while this exchange was happening last night, my knee jerk statement to myself was: "God, thats embarrassing." Because, frankly, that's how I feel. Lately I've been feeling it a lot. I'm truly embarrassed for all of us.

A guy who paints himself a lovable jerk, who actively tells people not to applaud him or his jokes, no matter how hard it is not to, just called the community I run in, basically, a bunch of bitchy babies. And he did it without having to inflect any negativity on it at all. It was just simple fact to him.

Sure, he followed it up by saying Hollywood was full of assholes, but it seemed akin to a situation where he sort of had to save face a little in front of his obviously nervous guest, who did nothing to be accosted by such a question. Talking about Hollywood felt more like shooting another person to make up for the fact that you shot someone you didn't mean to.

And it isn't like Craig meant to do this to us. It isn't like he was looking to ask a hard hitting question that was meant to rattle the cages of our hidden world. But it happened any way because its so ridiculously plain to see, and it's way more on us for giving him the opportunity to ever ask that question, then it is on him for having asked it.

I mean, we can't even leave the writers we love, who stress themselves out to bring us our news as a way to pay their own bills, alone. We treat them like they're in some ivory tower spitting on us, like we perceive the big corporations doing; so often forgetting just how much like us they are while trying to scrape along in this world, trying to do what they have fun doing.

Or how the sites those people write for, that go out of our way to make us feel at home in, get trashed for trying to be different, or change with the times.

We can't voice a simple, happy, comment about how we've won, or got a good deal on, a game without a ton of people piling on within seconds to rip away that happiness and replace it with bile and venom in the form of: "Well, that game is shit, that system is shit, you just wasted your time!"

You can't ask any questions, or for any clarifications, without being mauled like the stupidest kid on the short bus. Or how simply answering a question posed by your favorite site about which console your getting next, can cause an irrational fear of thousands of anonymous, meaningless, downvotes.

And that's all just pertaining to things that happen on a website about videogames, or possibly one persons harmless view of gaming, and not even hardly about the videogames themselves. All Ferguson needed to do to get a face full of how we act is simply look at just about any article, on any site, to find even a fraction of this same behavior running rampant all over it, before he ever saw a single word about a videogame uttered; and thats very well what could have happened. It's akin to shitting where you eat, and then telling guests you barely know, but you want to like you, that that's tonight's meal plan, then to "deal with it, because that's the way it's always going to be."

If Craig had pointed to real gaming issues, something like Microsoft's DRM announcements, and how people attack them in the name of consumer advocacy, then yeah, it could be somewhat passed off in small doses; because the man understands people going after things because of what they believe in being right: He often comments on the American spirit as being his main reason for naturalizing himself to our country.

But his wide eyed bewilderment on why we treat each other so badly is an indication that there is no spirit in what we do, there is no just cause, just a lot of people bitching about, basically, shit that largely won't matter in 4 months time, if it even matters the second after they've submitted their comment. We drag this whole industry down before the corporate leaders get up in the morning and decide to do it for us. We really can't blame them for beating each other up, when we've already started the beatings early.

And all in all, I'm happy it was Markus at the receiving end of this question, and not some other developer-turned-personality.

I hate to bark up these trees, but I also hate to imagine the response he'd get if he had asked someone like Cliffy B, Randy Pitchford, or (I'm really going to regret mentioning this one) Phil Fish, because all of them have had their own ridiculous times in the spotlight, perpetuating the same negativity thats been slung at them by slinging it right back in spades and acting like it's alright because we do it. Or as I call it: The Ouroboros of Negativity.

Sure, some people simply have their breaking points, but there's also plenty of unwarranted egos to think about, which, frankly, some of them would be lying if they said they didn't have. I can just imagine the sour looks and harsh tones that would be taken with Craig, at the perceived action taken against their beloved city-state -if only because they're in front of a camera when it happened.

Notch really did do good to paint not paint us all as self contained warlords, and kept it going light.

Even though I know this will all inevitably end up torn to bits under the weight of hypocrisy; under the guise of bitching about bitching is still bitching; I truly hope having someone outside our world come into it and take the time to say, without an agenda or their own misguided rage, "Good lord, it's a mess in here," is enough for us to clean up our space a little bit.

Even though I'm stretching muscles I probably shouldn't be, I'm trying to be uncharacteristically optimistic that, being the dawn of a new generation, we'll begin to look at our behavior during this last one and decide to make a conscious change; at least so more, less forgiving, media personalities don't try to vicariously grab on to what Craig haphazardly threw out there, and try to really burn us down, giving us a mess of real reasons to be upset with ourselves. Because if its easy enough for him to see, lord knows how others must be seeing us, and our actions are half a step away from being featured on a very true story about online bullying.

But till then, yeah, I'm a little embarrassed that a guy who just sang a song in drag with gay skeleton robot, just shamed us all without really much of a thought about it. Without even meaning to. Somethings got to give, and if there's ever a good time for change, it'd be right now.   read

6:38 PM on 10.19.2013

Question: What's Your Next Gen Resolution?

Not the lines for next gen consoles... Maybe...

So the next generation of console gaming is about a month away, give or take a few days, and a sudden question popped into my head after peeling my ass out of bed today: Since the next gen is like the New Years of gaming, what's my next gen resolution?

Honestly, the answer to that came just as easy as the question, really in the next thought: Really do what I've been saying for years and actually play multiplayer games.

I'm a pretty active member of a great community that has a night (really multiple) put aside where we can get together and game. I also say just about every month how I'm going to get my head out of the sand and try to join in... Then I don't, make some excuses and then repeat the transgressions.

Even now, with GTA Online being a thing, I can't even bring myself to start it up and do that damn starter race everyone's been complaining about. I'm a hermit on an island in a sea of social butterflies. Or better yet, I'm the island. And that island is really a turtle.

Me in a nu.. I mean turtle shell...

Getting over this is going to take doing, I realize. Really, it's going to take an entire change in the way I think, without prescriptions.. Or a lobotomy.. I'm going to need to get over my fear of sounding like ass over a mic, because I hate the way I sound on answering machines. Or any possibility that my skill really doesn't live up to that of others. I'm going to definitely have to get over the thought of people bitching each other out endlessly by anyone for little to no reason. You'd figure I'd be over things like this, having been a steady raider in WoW for years, but, if anything, WoW instilled these things in me early on, before the utter randomness of console multiplayer existed. And I've just never sought out other people when it came to gaming; talked about it with tons of people, but never really looked to play much with them; even when I played MMOs like WoW (and others, list is horribly long for someone as closed in as I am).

But I'm really hoping the idea of being just as fresh into things like everyone else, after having bought expensive hardware I'm going to want to make the most of, is going to help push me through the threshold. I may need some friends to pull me through.

There is a few other, loose, resolutions that aren't as important to me as the one above, or may possibly be even more impossible to do then my main resolution, as if that was even possible. Like I'm going to try not to get hung up on finishing a game to the point where I stop playing the game I'm trying to finish (another long standing psychological block), specially if I'm going to make full time reviewing a real thing.

Or, how I want to stop buying games in such a way where I'm going to make my backlog even more impossible to tackle. We'll see how that goes.

So, there's the question: What's your Next Gen resolution? Why and, maybe, how do you think you'll achieve it?   read

6:03 PM on 09.02.2013

Quick Reviews: The KetchUp


It's Labor Day and I'm not the type grill and have a party. Being deficient both with a grill and socially, its just not in the card for me no matter what day it is. So I much rather be lazy, sit down and play a videogame, or, better yet this year, write about them.

With the new generation of videogames cresting over the horizon, I'm thinking pretty deeply about selling off a sizable chunk of my game collection to help in funding the endeavor. But what about the blog? What about all these games I can review just for the sake of reviewing something?

So, from the deepest darkest depths of my memory, a dank, scary place, thats too dangerous to go alone, I'm going to do just that: Review some games (that I haven't played in forever...) in hopefully quick, easy to digest, blurbs. This also lets me showcase my newly minted (literally made up on the spot while writing this), Bea-rating system, which I'll detail in depth when I have more of a clue of what it all means.

Come, watch me fall flat on my face!

Final Fantasy XIII:

One of the reasons I bought my 360, because why spend more money on a better experience, right? (I kid.. Sort of..) Any way, this isn't a console review.

Not saying everyone has to join a bandwagon on either side, but after a lifetime having objectively rolled through the punches of every change made to every Final Fantasy, Its pretty easy to feel like XIII was the worst overall experience I've ever had with the series to date, including XIV before Reborn (We should just coin it XIV:BR).

Everything from the janky story, the 20 hour tutorial, the combat system that still baffles me to this day, the non-open world, the open world, the grating characters.. Just everything.. Still makes me cringe to this day.

I hear XIII-2 was a better game, but I'm afraid.. Very afraid.. I also hear Lightning Returns is going to be a departure from this, but I'm skeptical, with that being the opposing bookend to this game in the "Lighting Trilogy." I'm trying hard to keep an open mind, so we'll see where time takes us.

1 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:

Assassin's Creed (series till Revelations):

For the sake of saving a lot of everyones time I'm lumping together the entire series that I've played to date.

I've just finished Brotherhood last week (with Revelations waiting for me after I finish something else) and man, this series doesn't feel like its going anywhere. And not in that good, "it shouldn't go anywhere," sort of way. Three games in and it feels stagnant to me already.

There is a marked improvement between the first and second game in every way (Gameplay, environments, story, graphics, the general concepts) but between the second and Brotherhood things seem to fall down a hill, with Brotherhood having odd ranges of difficulty that shouldn't spike out of no where, environments being a little too cluttered and just a weaker, almost gimped, overall story. I found myself having to go through far too much trial and error to get from point A to B in Brotherhood.

The only thing keeping me tied to the series is that I'm now invested in whats happening to Desmond, even though I'm not really all that fond of him (and even though there needs to be MORE happening to Desmond -I guess I'll see) and the historical settings that the games are built on, but only because I'm a history nut. If you don't care about history, you're going to lose interest, I think.

3 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:

Batman: Arkham Series (overall, not yet counting -may never be counting- Origins):

Batman is, I really have decided recently after a life long love of comic books, at the top of my favorite characters list, if not my most favorite (Spider-Man's going to find me and punch me dead). If anything, he's simply my favorite DC Universe character, with Green Arrow possibly trailing in at a close second.

The biggest draw to The Bat is that there really is, truly, a Bat for all seasons. He's a detective, a fighter, a philosopher, a (curmudgeon) teacher and, always, a guardian. Depending on who has him in their hands he can be any or all of these things, and it never feels like it strays from being Batman.

In the Arkham games Batman is a cross section of detective, tech-guy and fighter, which all work perfectly for a videogame. Particularly in the the fighting aspects, which (disclosure) I both suck at and love, all at the same time. The free-flow combat system that Rocksteady came up with is both easy to pick up, but is a big bite in the ass to master. You never have to be great at it, unless of course your like me and have an aneurysm over missing achievements.

I did find a weird shift in the way the gameplay felt between the first and the second, but I can't quite put my finger on what it was. It wasn't the addition of more area to work with, or more gadgets, It might have just been the flow of combat, but I remember feeling like the first one might have been a tiny bit better, but really both are amazing examples of game making.

The stories are pretty basic Batman stories, but if you really look at it with the eye of a reader, you can see where the pages turn, and where the end-of-issue cliffhangers sit. And that makes it kind of exciting for fans to see played out on screen for the first time (cause the movies don't do it, or do it rarely), but could also peak the interest of a non-fan to the point where they may want to put down the controller and up a book. Thats an amazing thing to have unfold before you, between game and book, when its usually happens the other way around.

I'm not counting Origins into this series yet, and may not at all. It really depends greatly on what the change in studios does to the game. It may only be an Arkham game in name only, and if it is, then we'll leave it separate. Only what October brings will tell.

5 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:

Brutal Legend:

Another disclosure (your learning a lot today): I'm a metal head. In fact, while I write those words I'm singing along to Nevermore's Dreaming Neon Black (Great song, check it out. It has a very sad backstory to it). So that said, Brutal Legend really spoke to me as a fan.

Brutal Legend drips solid Metal from every pore, which is why I could see how some people shied away from the game all together. But as a pure lover of music, a person can see how much love for a subsection of sound that was crammed into this game. The things Double Fine pulled from the genre and all of its stereotypes (I even venture to say the worst of those stereotypes), is just a joy to see given life.

The voice acting is top notch, everyone really hit their mark, from the goofy Jack Black and the always marvelous Tim Curry, to the surprising Lita Ford, of The Runaways. The guy who really stole the show though was Rob Halford, front man of Judas Priest, who played 2 characters, General Lionwhyte, one of the games main villains, and The Baron, an ally, who played both roles so differently, you'd think he was doing this sort of thing for decades now.

The gameplay for this one takes 2 forms: 3rd person action and a sort-of real time strategy. The 3rd person action works very well and is befitting of the game, bashing things with your "axe," but the strategy aspects of the game easily threw me off, both mentally and from the tone of the game. They were fun enough, but they were confused and didn't seem to fit.

The multiplayer, which is one of the first and few times I've tried multiplayer on the consoles, is based entirely around the strategy-like play system, and sadly really wasn't all that much more fun to play with other people, then it was to go at it alone versus the A.I.. Just simple co-op gameplay would have really elevated this game.

2 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:

Borderlands (GOTY Edition):

Borderlands is a game that called to my artistic side, which is something I'm imagining not many reviewers have said about game, or series. And I don't mean painting the wastes with the blood of thousands of bandits, either. There is just something about the stylized, almost comic book, nature of the art that grabbed me and put me in a seat.

The game does a wonderful job at world building however. From start to finish you'll feel like you've been to this world before. Each area seems to have its own story, but the areas aren't closed off from the rest of the world, so theres a flow that makes a "one world, one conflict" feel that really helps everything along from start to finish.

The combat is your usual FPS fare, but the game adds in a ton of gun combinations that brings a loot pinata, Diablo, feel to the game. The game makes you want to go into a place and grind away on bad guys, just to see what will drop. This, however, does tend to get quite boring over time, and if you spend too much time doing it, like I did, you'll end up out-leveling most of the game, and flying through the rest. I was at least 5 levels ahead of everything from a certain point on, and I think that ruined my experience with the rest of the game.

One of the other downsides to the game is the DLC, which you don't have to buy, but if your getting the GOTY Edition, your going to get any way -and are probably going for in the first place. The DLCs are a great value when you consider how much content they add to the game, but they end up being more of a chore then anything else. They're so super focused on what each DLC brings, even though you can go back and forth between the DLC areas and the main game, its easy to feel where the game starts showing the fault lines if you try.

Even though I took the DLCs as standalone experiences, I found that they were just janky. Considering the DLC can take just about the same amount of time as, if not longer then, the main game to finish, its hard not to feel overwhelmed by the DLC to the point where it smudges the entire experience. Some of the DLCs, like Mad Moxxi's Underdome riot, an arena "Horde Mode", just drag on and on no matter how you go about it. Then theres The Secret Armory of General Knoxxx, that has a fun storyline to it, but is so badly layed out that getting around is tedious when you just want to connected some of the story's dots quicker. The DLCs are a great value when you consider how much content they add to the game, but they end up being more of a chore then anything else.

I've been wanting to get Borderlands 2 and catch up on that for a while, and now that they've confirmed a collected, GOTY, edition, just recently, I guess I'll go ahead and do that soon. But the thing is, even a year after finishing the first one later then everyone else, I'm still really very burned out on the idea of more Pandora. I am willing to admit that if I played this game in its hay-day, with friends, the overall experience probably would have been heightened a bit and would have taken the edge off of the boredom I ultimately felt by the end of my run. Problem is I know a few friends who did play during that time and have said they had a hard time wanting to play it ever again, even saying they'd hold off on Borderlands 2 for the same reasons.

3 out of 5 Bea Arthurs:

Well, with these five heaping helping sized courses from our overstuffed pic-a-nic basket (trust me, that was just the tip of the iceberg lettice), I'm going to get going before Bea rises from the grave and decides to snack on my liver.   read

5:06 PM on 08.31.2013

Wii U Price Drop: A Thing I Have Thoughts On

Not the hands of an Ambassador

I was one of the people highly pissed off by the 3DS price drop and subsequent ambassador program. There was very little about the situation that any one could say to console me before the games started rolling out and I got a chance to play them. There was a lot of talk in my house about how 20 games, many I've already owned before, wouldn't be enough value, shouldn't be given at all, and how all I really wanted was for all 3DS early adopters to get a $50 refund instead.

Then I got my hands on the games. I even replayed the ones I had... And then I shut my fat trap.

The Ambassador program won me over. In fact, it won me over so much that I almost didn't go and get a Zelda themed 3DS months later (or give my original one to someone else, who we were going to get one as a gift any way), because at the time I was so unsure if the program would transfer over to a newly bought system, that I didn't want to take the risk of losing those games. I almost learned too late that it would all transfer over, almost missing the window to get a Zelda bundle at retail, but ended up being lucky to have some great people at my favorite Gamestop track down the last one in the surrounding four states.

I love mine

Anyway, that was a bit of a rocky time to Nintendo and its customers, but oh boy, did I not foresee what would happen with the Wii U.

Now, with the Wii U and all its varied problems, I don't really feel like it needs to be cleaned up by throwing free games at people, and Nintendo seems to feel the same way.

The 3DS wasn't yet 6 months along when the price drop hit, and even 6 months was still too soon for consumers (but not to save Nintendo/the 3DS. The cut, and the new red color, really was great for salvaging the situation.). As the Wii U goes down in price it'll be about a years time past since its launch, over double the time it took the 3DS to do the same, and it'll be following a much more tumultuous year of loss then the 3DS had in its few months of life, before its price drop. The Wii U really needs this drop.

Except, I don't think this is exactly what the Wii U needs to vitalize itself. Not surprisingly, what I think it really needs is more games people want to play. And, because of that point, it needs the promised-yet-abandoned 3rd party support, that I don't think is totally Nintendo's fault this time around (I have serious thoughts on their past in this failings and why they happened).

Its not hard to believe that, this time, its on the 3rd parties making promises they weren't really going to follow up on -It didn't take them all that long to bail out, or claim the simply couldn't figure out what to do with the gamepad. It strongly suggest that no one was trying and Nintendo should be far more angry then they appear to be. If the company were a child, it'd be seeing a psychologist for abandonment issues.

What could they possibly give us?

You really can't fix a problem with free stuff that doesn't exist. The games the 3DS got were games that were going to be making it to the system eventually, even if many of the games, the majority being Gameboy Advance games, are still nowhere in sight. If the Wii U had games coming for it that could be rushed out to save the system, then, I think, Nintendo would have learned from their experience with the 3DS' Ambassador program and have simply released these (as in any) games for a greatly reduced price and made some money while giving the players exactly what they want to save the system, with at least the same promise of improved functionality from a later update, like 3DS users got with their games. I don't think they're being as obstinate as people like to claim, I just don't think they have all the resources people seem to think they do sometimes.

Nintendo may also need to think about dropping the basic package all together. Reports (that I know I've read, but I can't find) have said that the deluxe package is the one people seem to be going after and, at just $50 more, with a game and some extras, is really a no brainer. Even looking online, some big retailers aren't even carrying the basic box. So maybe Nintendo's already started this initiative.

My thought on this is that if the lesser box, that has less memory; is a different color; is missing a game and a few extra bits, isn't selling well, and people are choosing to pay $50 more to get all of that, then it seems like a simple choice to cut the lesser thing out completely and save the money you would have spent to further manufacture and market it. It just wasn't working. Hopefully they've arrived at the same idea.

Long story short: The Wii U doesn't need an ambassador program. If anything, Nintendo's been rolling out the value with $0.30 game sales on games they already have on the Wii U's eShop and the digital deluxe promotion.

It may be really cynical to say it, but it sounds like anyone clamoring for an ambassador program for the Wii U are just looking for a hand out. And thats funny, cause thats something a lot of us who were mad at the 3DS price drop, were accused of doing too. Seems like what goes around, comes around.   read

6:30 PM on 08.29.2013

Nintendo 2DS: A Thing I Have Thoughs On

Yesterday Nintendo announced their next handheld, another iteration of the 3DS that is actually has no 3D at all named... Wait for it... The 2DS.

Yes, the 2DS. This is not a joke. The handheld that takes all the goodness of the 3DS and doesn't let you see it in 3D. Oh and its also a cheese wedge shaped block.. And thats just weird.

Now, I'm not one of those doomsayers that thinks Nintendo is doomed to fail if they don't go strictly software-only. I have a lot of strong opinions about their course of action over the last.. Eh.. 17 years maybe? At least since the N64. But I still think they're a wonderful company, with wonderful ideas, and great games, but they make some funny choices with some things that I know they have to be feeling as if they're doing right by. It might not jive with everyone that they're like this, but I can at least respect them for trying to go against the grain everyone else is following, even if that usually keeps them stuck in some weird alternate past most of the time.

But this announcement is kind of underwhelming, even in its complete, random, oddness.

Well, actually, thats not totally fair. The 3DS itself is a great machine to begin with. And I'm pretty sure most people agree that the 3D is largely unnecessary, whether or not they have issues using it because of their eyes. So this actually seems like a great idea.. Except where it isn't, or at the very least highly questionable. I want to explore some of those questionable things, good or bad, and see if we can mete out where Nintendo is making a good decision here, or if they're just pushing themselves deeper into the red.

Surely the 2DS will make a few of these.

Price point:

Along with the announcement yesterday Nintendo gave the release date and pricing information, setting the release date for October 12th, and the price at $129.99.

The date isn't much of a big deal, I do worry about the holiday season that follows and all the other, bigger, things being released during it, but if people are going to want or ask for a DS of any sort at that time, and the stores have amazing sales or bundles, then the money will be made. The real question mark is the price point.

Don't get me wrong, $129.99 is a great price point. Its nice and cheap and could open up a lot of people to jumping onto the platform for the first time, I also have this itch in the back of my mind that tells me its going to push any future purchase towards it, instead of the other models. But more on that later.

What it does do is puts a clearer price on the 3D aspect of the 3DS. The base 3DS is 169.99, the XL is usually $199.99, but theres been a ton of sales in the past that put it just five dollars over the base model. This means Nintendo appraises the 3D technology at more or less around $40. Which is an interesting statement to be making.

What it also tells me is that if you need a replacement for a 3DS, and you can forgo the 3D aspect, that this is where you should look as a replacement for your system. If you can't get it fixed for some reason through Nintendo, like a situation I'm in where they wouldn't have the outer casing to a Zelda 3DS to replace (weird story behind that, straight from Nintendo support. I may tell it here sometime.), then this would be a cheaper alternative to just say, "F-it," to the calm shell design of the others and save some money.

This will also be a great alternative for parents who don't care to spend a ton for their kids to have one, 3D or not. Or to replace one if you happen to have a clumsy kid (more on that later, in another section).

If the 2DS was full of coins, it'd be great

What is this thing?:

This is actually sort of a strange question. We obviously know what it is, but I feel like the question still needs to be asked, not because its a confusing concept, but because.. Well.. Its just a DS. And no, I don't mean, "DS" as a way to just not have to push my finger up to the 3 on my keyboard, but because this really does make this handheld just an upgraded DS.

But thats all I've ever felt the 3DS was in the first place. With this however it feels like they're rolling backwards instead of forwards. Where people would cry havoc when the 3DS was first released and focused so hard on the 3D aspect and this irrational idea that the 3DS was only about the 3D,and nothing else. Not a day would go by where we didn't hear, "But I don't like 3D," or, "3D hurts my eyes," or even a few articles or official statements that had to flat out tell the public that you don't need to have the 3D turned on to play things.

People were ridiculously focused on the one aspect of the 3DS that clearly set it apart from all the past generations DS models. With this new iteration, however, Nintendo has stripped away any and all of the facade that the 3D matters by basically saying, "Hey folks, this doesn't really matter!" No matter how they go about saying they're still supporting 3D. Sure, this also strips away any idea some parents may think about 3D burning their kids eyes out, which strips away the last real negative aspect that the 3DS had against it.

It does give me a pretty good platform to do something I normally wouldn't, and puff out my chest while saying, "I told you so," to all the people who fought with me about it a the time, and laugh really hard at everyone who freaked out about the 3D being everything. Its fun, but its simply just an additional feature that happened to make it into the name.

Almost too happy...

Who is this for?:

This is another funny thing about all this, who is this thing even for?

Sure, I've mentioned people who need to replace a broken system, but don't want to spend almost $300 to do it, but the marketing video that Nintendo provided in their announcement their usual ridiculously clean cut adults playing games on this, acting like they were looking into the black hole sun.

But then later on, lovable Spelunky boyscout, Reggie Fils-Aime, came out and said that the 2DS' intent is to be a starter device for young children, for 5 or 6 year olds.

So which is it? Is it really for everyone or should we just hand it to kids, whole adults go on to something that can actually close up?

I mentioned earlier all the ill feelings parents had about the 3D, and how the general idea being fed to us is that it'll burn out a child's developing retina, as if staring at a tiny screen -so many tiny screens that now flood their lives- wasn't going to do that anyway, and how this was a good play at eliminating that sentiment. So it does seem like it could be just geared towards kids.

As does the form factor to the system, thats more of a blocky wedge, that will be easier to hold in small hands, like all those "my first tablet" tablets that are out there.

Otherwise, I just don't see who else it could be for if your going to pin point a demographic. I don't really know if an adult would look at this, without a price or anything else being looked at, and really feel like this is something they'd want to hold. At least not when you can look like less of an ass holding a 7' tablet, or, really, just a regular or XL 3DS. Sure, it won't be gated off, like Judge Dredd's gun, where if an adult holds it, it'll blow off their arm, but I can't see a ton of people, not saying it won't happen at all, who can vote or drink alcohol, flocking to buy this thing without some other outlier to it; most likely the price. Those people in the video just looked goofier then usual, and it wasn't because they were cartoon representations of real people.

Is if for Picard or Professor X?

I did have another thought however: Older individuals.

The DS had a big following with the older demographic who were able to use the system for other things, like playing Brain Age to keep spry, or to grab some of those carts that weren't games at all, but lifestyle aids, like recipes or just ebooks. At the time the DS XL was brought out not to appease gamers who wanted to see their games on a bigger screen, as it seems we've adopted with the 3DS XL, since players complained about the baseline system's screen was too small, but for people who weren't gamers who just couldn't read the tiny type on the smaller DS screen.

That demographic hasn't really been talked about on the 3DS at all, specially since everyone, including Nintendo, have been enamored since the 3DS' launch with whether or not Nintendo is failing themselves out of the business of making games. The older demographic has been more or less left behind, where I'm sure some of them are savvy enough to know theres an upgrade to be had but may not exactly feel included in the discussion any more.

So I'm just a tiny big surprised that we didn't see people 50+ playing the 2DS, showing off the benefits for them. They'd benefit from the blocky tablet design that doesn't ask you to hold the system at a certain angle to see clearly, or really hold it at all, if you can rest it on the fact that it does away with the imposed notion that you'd have to subject your failing eyes to the idea of 3D.

The 2DS, chopping the competition

Form factor/colors:

I mentioned the wedge-like form factor a few times now, and its exactly that: A slightly tapered block.

As a person who has problems with his hands (as far as I know, its psoriatic arthritis), handhelds, sadly, have become more and more painful for me to hold over the years. The only way I can play both my 3DS or my Vita is with the help of a 3rd party grip add-on.

The buttons seem to be in good places, the buttons seem centered on the machine, as to make the balance of having to hold the entire system all at once seem a little less daunting, even though they have said that it weighs less then the 3DS XL. I've seen some people say they think the buttons are too crammed together, that it'll be murder on big hands, but I'm not seeing it to be any different then the current setup on the other iterations -unless thats their point.

The placement of the buttons seems to be in such a way that you also won't run into one of the base 3DS' biggest complaints: the sharp corner edges. Those corners on the baseline 3DS (I don't know if this was an issue on the XL, I've never really heard any complaints about it) were absolute murder on my palms, and even forced me not to play the system for months after launch because of the pain it'd cause me. It wasn't until got a Dreamgear comfort grip did I finally feel like I could hold the system without remorse.

Really the only thing that concerns me a bit about holding the 2DS is the fact that there doesn't' seem to be anything to really grip to behind the machine, so some people might have trouble holding it in that respect. An example of this is the woman playing with the man at the table, she's having to curl up her digits to get a good grip. She's having fun, but she's being paid to -we won't be.

Due to similarities, cheese and 2DS' can be used as doorstops

I feel like Nintendo could have fixed that situation by giving the back of the system a bit of a curve inwards, as to create a grip-able area of its own, without the need for a secondary device to create one (I don't know if any will be in production, but I have a feeling there will be a market for one.. Also.. Are they going to bother with a Circle Pad Pro for this iteration too? Some games really do benefit from it, but having to buy one for every version is getting to be quite stupid)

Overall, any handheld should really should be about games over aesthetics, but I really can't deny that I love my 3DS because I was lucky enough to track down a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time edition 3DS when they were released. I just love the thing; its such a beautiful sight that I go against the grain of my OCD and have chosen not to put the top portion of my aforementioned comfort grip on the top part of my 3DS. However, colors and graphics are just an option, but can be an important one -just look at how many 3DS' sold after they released the red one 6 months or so after the systems launch: they flew off the shelves.

What you'd see about the 2DS from looking at it is that the majority of it is black. The backing is black, possibly because your not really looking at it at all. The front is black, like the top section of the prior iterations, as to provide contrast between it and the games (which I had thought was a move made to make the 3D easier to see.. So this is an odd thing to keep up with to me). Its basically black, whether you like it or not. There is color, but its around the sides, and isn't much. Its not even totally worth saying theres different colors at all, because all you'll be paying attention to is black.

And that loops me back to my Zelda Model. I don't think they'll really do special 2DS', which is sort of sad. Without any colors to background from other then black, they seem somewhat limited to what they can do. I mean, I guess the skies the limit, and they could, but I'm just imagining more scroll work type effects (beautiful, effective, but can be a bit boring and not for everyone) like they did with the Zelda 3DS or the Gamepad for the new Zelda Wii U bundle, and a lot less, maybe cooler, things like a yellow system thats made to look like Pikachu's face. They could change the backing of the system to a color to match the side and that'd change the battlefield for special release versions, but (and I'm just speculating) I'm having a hard time imagining them doing that here. It just seems like they're going to force us to paying the premium of the clam shelled, 3D, iterations of the system. Maybe thats part of the strategy, maybe thats a weird accident. I kind of can't wait to see.

It all may not matter overall, but people love to have unique things, and these things sell like hotcakes. Nintendo is just opening themselves up, again, to lose out to the varied 3rd party peripheral makers out there, to design better system looks then they provide as a base.

So deceptive...

The screen:

I'm tackling the screen separate from the form factor because theres some odd things happening with the 2DS' screens. First being the screens aren't actually screens, but a single screen being sectioned off.

To me this is just weird. Cost effective maybe more then anything, but it suggests a few things about the whole screen situation.

1) The entire screen is a touch screen. Even though the top portion is blocked off from touch, and no DS or 3DS games handle anything having to do with touching the top of your game.

2)They basically hint, and I know I might catch flak for this, that theres no reason they couldn't just make a tablet -specially when you factor in the entire design of this iteration. And that will somehow lead into some peoples arguments that Nintendo should just make apps instead of anything else. And I don't want to get into that, cause its not a good argument, or at least not one I want to perpetuate.

3) The bottom screen really doesn't have to be smaller then the top screen. I mean, its all one screen, so why do this? Is it because the available games, software and the other versions aren't able to stretch to fit the area it'd create? Is it some sort of touch design issue, where these games would get confused if it was stretched. I really wish I knew more on it, because its a curious thing. Your cutting costs making it one screen, but your not using all of what your using? That still seems wasteful.

Not a huge leap now...

It just seems to me that it wasn't a big deal that the resolution between the DS and 3DS was different, it seems like we've made due on that. It also doesn't seem to matter too much that the top screen on the XL is bigger then the baseline 3DS, or that (I think) the 2DS' screen size is the same as the XL.. So I don't totally see why they couldn't do something to make the size of the top and bottom "screens" here, equal.

Second overall thing about the "screens" is that they're pretty much right there, out in the open, because you can't close the 2DS.

I mentioned that I'd hit on the clumsy kids in another section, and this is it. Kids. You know what?screw that. Even adults. Are wreaking balls, it seems like these days more then ever. Sure accidents happen, but it seems like we're in this weird place where most of us don't have a ton of money to spend on expensive items, even a little over $100, but we're perfectly okay running a train all over what we do have. I just get this really bad feeling looking at this that people are going to go about thinking "Oh, Nintendo quality!" and just flinging this thing around, where they wouldn't do the same with their slightly more expensive 7' tablet. I'm just picturing a ton of broken screens in the future, and that really frustrates my OCD.

One speaker, right there on the top left


I'm going to touch on this lightly, because I don't know enough about it right now, but from what I can see, the 2DS only has one speaker on it. I don't know if they've put the other one somewhere else or what, but from what I can tell its not going to be stereo sound, and thats an odd choice.

If this is true, then I have to imagine they're thinking that a lot of people, like myself, don't use the sound on most games any way, or simply opt to use headphone of some make, if not for games, then to watch Netflix (P.S: Wheres the Hulu Plus app we were promised 2 years ago?). Either way, you just don't see a ton of mono sound on handheld gaming devices, and that isn't exactly a positive difference.

They couldn't do larger then this?

Poor battery life:

"...though the funny-looking handheld does support slightly better battery life -- 3.5 to 5.5 hours for 3DS games compared to 3 to 5 hours on 3DS, and 3.5 to 6.5 hours on 3DS XL."

                                                                                         -Jordan Devore, Destructoid

I've said it before way in the past: a half hour is hardly a blip of time for a gamer who's really enjoying what they're doing, this isn't really "better" in any way.

The hinges, and the ability to open the clamshell design, on the prior iterations created a gap that a battery obviously couldn't compete with. You'd think that something that doesn't need to bend, but could have all the space of an XL, and it can't even match the XL's battery life. And by all accounts from simply looking at it, with the tapered design, adding it all up I just can't figure out how they couldn't manage to put a bigger battery in.

I don't know, I'm a little disappointed here. It might seem like I'm kicking the dirt and shoving my hands in my overalls, but I'm started to get the impression that handheld makers are going out of their way to keep battery life around 5 hours, when we're all making it pretty clear we'd be happier with 8 to 10.

And thats all before the fact that I can't quite understand how it pulls so little battery life, but doesn't have the power draw of the additional 3D functionality working against it. Is it just that they've put a 3DS battery in, instead of an XL, or is there some sort of leak? Aside from the 2 screens that are really 1, the lack of 3D, and the general design of the thing, I don't see how this is any different. It just doesn't feel like it should be pulling this power struggle.

All these colors mean something. They'll tell us one day.

It [u]could[/u] fracture the market:

Much of the sentiment I feel like I've hit on, weaving through this whole post, is that the 2DS' market seems to be all over the place. Not knowing exactly who its for hurts it a bit. I'd love to say, "a lot,"
but only time will tell on that. If the 2DS takes off I don't think it'll be the form factor of the device or who its marketed to, that sways people to it, but I could see it being the the price. Gamers will go about getting their games as cheap as they can, if only so they can go get more games with the savings.

Most of all I could just simply destroy the 3D market. People aren't very fond of it any way, so if they could abandon it for a greatly reduced price, they probably will. I meant it when I said earlier that systems should be about games, and this is just a more painless way of accessing the DS/3DS/eShop library. The 3D market may need to be sacrificed to do that, and possibly, the other iterations of the 3DS with it. Again, only time will tell.

I can guess, but I just don't know!

I realize that it seems like I'm pooping allover the 2DS parade. I'm not trying to. I love the 3DS as much as I've loved all Nintendo handhelds, and my initial knee jerk reaction to the 2DS was very positive. But then everything sunk in a little bit, and I got to thinking about it while I really looked at the system and yeah: here we are. In fact, even thinking back on the top of this post I said the 2DS was a bit underwhelming. But if I was able to pull this much out of it it obviously wasn't. It just feels that way to me, even after spending so much time on the thought of it, and thats really not all that good, either.

Feelings are a big part of this industry, an industry ridiculously driven by feelings, be them speculations on how somethings going to do on the market, or just plain nerd rage across the variety forums we've set up for ourselves to bark on. If I can go on and on about this, mixing the positive with the negative where I can find it, and still be underwhelmed.. Well.. Thats just not too good.

I just hope the 2DS doesn't cause Nintendo to fall as flat as the name implies.   read

2:21 PM on 08.26.2013

Give Or Not To Give, Should Origin Really Be The Question?

Over a period of time now The Humble Bundle, the pay-what-you-want storefront that offers amazing exclusive, timed, bundles of well know and not so well known indie games, has also been doing bundles devoted to bigger developers and publishers games.

There was the Deep Silver bundle featuring the Dead Island series; the now defunct THQ, with their Darksiders and Red Faction bundle; a bundle featuring Remedy's fantastic Alan Wake series, and 2012 Game of the Year recipient many times over, Telltale Games, that featured a ridiculous chunk of their library, including the award winning The Walking Dead. All at a super pay-what-you-want value.

Want to get 4 or 5 great games for a dollar? Go for it. Want to drop a grand on a developer you love with little to no middle man? Have at it. Most bundles (every one I've seen) has also had a pay wall, where if you pay above the average paid amount, you can get a few additional games. And most bundles include soundtracks for many of the games, which is just inflated the value to such an extreme. Its magical.

What takes this one step further is the possibility that you don't have to give the developer anything at all... What?! Yes! You can choose to snub the publisher all together and put all of the money you just spent into tipping the Humble folks for their kind services, or, more miraculously, put your tithe into the charity pot, for a wide range of charities including, but not always limited to, Child's Play and The American Red Cross. Or you can split the pot up equally amongst all the possible recipients.

So anyway, what am I going on about other then praising the ever loving balls off of The Humble Bundle? Well, all that exposition above was to set up that, for possibly for the first time in the Bundles history (that I know of at least), a bundle has been put in place only to raise money for charity, and somehow EA's set themselves up to be the ones to step out of their own way, taking no profit for themselves, to be a part of that. Yes, that EA.

And to tip it off its one of the biggest bundles I've ever seen since I've started partaking in this wonderland of digital delights.

This game alone is still eight times the amount this bundle full of games is.

You get 10 games, valued at $240 if bought alone, for $4.91 (at the time of writing) and none of that money will go to EA. Thats Dead Space, Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box; Crysis 2 Maximum Edition; Mirror's Edge; Dead Space 3 and Medal Of Honor, with the post-average-paid Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3-Uprising; Battlefield 3; Populous and The Sims 3 + Starter Pack (and The Sims 3 and Battlefield 3 soundtracks, which aren't mentioned on the bundle page), and theres not even an option to slip EA some pocket change for some crappy vending machine coffee. A miracle on top of miracles - What ever will we get Tiny Tim for Christmas after this! 2013 may actually be the year the world ends!

So whats wrong with all this, other then EA's unreported lobotomy? Well, nothing.. Or at least there shouldn't be until you inject the situation with a heaping helping of gamer cynicism into the equation.

After more then week with this bundle in the wild so far, even with (at the time of writing) ten million dollars made, with almost two million bundles sold, with I'm still pretty surprised and a little bit mortified by how many people I see who are still saying "EA/Origin, not buying", when the dead horse had been beaten, and re-beaten some more, about how EA doesn't get a dime for the offer. Which brings me to the main point of all this malarkey.

Its redonkulous to me that so many people can hate a company, or the way it chooses to deliver its games, so much, that they're willing to forgo giving to a worthy charity just to avoid them like a plague. Frankly, it pisses me off to no end.

Totally worthy cause.

These are very deserving charities, like Watsi, which allows you to directly contribute to the funding of medical care for people in need; The American Cancer Society, because we have to remember that we haven't come close to obliterating Cancer yet; The Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, just to name a few.

We live in a pretty terrible world if people aren't willing to give even a dollar to charity, just because they might get games from an "evil" company, or won't bother with a cause because the games are offered primarily through a distribution client thats seen as a "DRM laden mess". One of my newest favorite things to say lately when dealing with things like this, things that people act stupidly over while other people, somewhere, even right under our noses, are suffering, is, "First world problems," and that really is exactly what this is. Only people who have money and think they can rest on their laurels, because they have this notion that they're comfortable, can act like this.

You don't like the game or how they're played? Then make someone else's day, and be even more giving, by gifting the codes to someone who might want them. Some -most at this point- of the listed games also have Steam codes; another DRM system thats irrationally more accepted the EA's Origin, and even though the Bundle folks frown upon this, you can keep the Steam codes and gift away the Origin codes. Seriously, half a second of critical problem solving is really all that took to mete out.

If the real argument from the general population was.. Well.. One of two things really:

1) I just don't want the games, so I don't want to spend the money, no matter how little it costs.

2)EA is probably just using this to spring board themselves, or Origin, into our good graces.

Then I could bring myself to understand.

If the reason was #1, then yeah, sure, don't buy what you don't want. A sound financial decision for your home.

If its reason #2, then certainly, I applaud you for your deep thought that goes beyond your personal consumerism and reaches into the the depths of consumer advocacy, about how a company could loop around and Jedi mind trick us, just to achieve more sales later on, because they did that thing that one time that was good. To me, thats a pretty damn good reason and one I wouldn't mind EA to be pressed on a little.

This is not you, the fire is not EA/Origin.

But its not either. This is literally just people rationalizing the situation down to caveman terms of "EA, Origin, BAD!" and thats just irritating. Even Frankenstein's Monster had a deeper level of hate for fire -that shit will kill ya! Origin, maybe EA, won't. All this comes off as is a bunch of entitled people (really wanted to use another word there), without much of a care in the world, at least not on the level of needing a charity to help them out, shrugging off the chance to do something greater then themselves, with what amounts to pocket change these days, for maybe 2 minutes of their time.

One person I spoke with said something along the lines of, "I'd rather just give the money directly to these charities then give through EA." To which I felt forced to retort: How many people are going to look at this humble bundle, say the same thing, and then actually follow through with that thought? My guess, being a bit cynical at the moment, is some where between none and not many.

Most people really need this sort of carrot on a stick, get something for almost nothing, sort of thing to push them into helping. Even people who claim to be selfless still take those lavish dinners and gift baskets they're given for large donations why they pat themselves on their backs. No ones clean here, theres just varying levels of dirty.

I made this connection to someone else, whether they got it or not, last week, and it still feels relevant: If someone just pissed on your shoe, but you saw his/her kid was dying of cancer and asked for a donation, would you not give to the kid because his parent is a jerk with a weak bladder?

Is something that generally isn't hurting anyone, being done by someone else, at all a really good reason not to help an entirely different person in need?

That's a set of questions I'd genuinely love to see answered. And thats not even that good of an good analogy, because surely the person peeing on you isn't giving you anything worthwhile in the back end, like games, unless you really really like pee/being peed on.

He's laughing at us all.

But hey, we now live in a world where Ben Affleck is going to be Batman. I guess anything goes these days.

(Seriously, like EA/Origin, don't like them, this is for charity.There's 2 days left.

If you really don't like them so much that you can't get past yourself, then please go right to one of the charities listed (or all of them, all of them would be great!) and donate directly. Yeah, it might take longer to donate directly, but time is fleeting anyway, why don't we make it just a little better for the next guy, and feel a little better about ourselves in the process. The world could use a lot more of that train of thought.)   read

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