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1:05 PM on 09.08.2008

The deal was I had to get a pink one

I was born in 1981. I didn't get a cell phone until 2005, and except for a short period of my life, I hardly ever use the thing. I'm an old man at the age of 26, already insisting I don't need these gadgets and plenty of online software getups. Other than a cell, and a basic one that I don't use for anything at all, not even texts, I don't use anything. I figured out why; it's because I'm an introvert, and that means I need to take breaks from people. I don't need technology to help me get over my cravings for extroverted needs.

So I never really gave much thought to getting a DS, and it wasn't until I'd edited a lot of Snackbar reviews that I considered the fine library it has available. But I do have one, and now, I feel safer. Am I stuck at a movie theater watching a movie I don't like? Am I waiting outside the changing room for half an hour? Am I waiting in line for ten minutes? Waiting for Muschie to get out of work for fifteen minutes?

In all of these situations save the last, a book doesn't suffice. A book does not fit in your pocket, and a book is usually not carried with convenience all over the place. Books are harder to read in distracting surroundings.

It wasn't until I got it that I got it. I'm converted to the way of the portable.   read

11:03 AM on 09.05.2008

Battlefield Heroes isn't "ripping off" Team Fortress 2

Battlefield Heroes is frequently being compared to Team Fortress 2, and for good reason--it's the only other FPS with a similar style of art, and a very unique style at that.

This has led to frequent criticism that it's just some copy, just some clone, and that for that reason it's going to be inferior. The topic of making decisions about games based on trailers or previews is a dry one, and the people who still engage in such fallacies aren't open to other methods or techniques of evaluation, so right here I'll stop myself and think in my head: fine, let's look at it.

My own excitement about the title has decreased, too, for reasons I'd like to think are more intelligent; still, let's not talk about the gameplay or the rest of it. Let's talk about the art, and why the art doesn't matter that much.

Battlefield Heroes:

Team Fortress 2:

Okay, so it's similar. And? What does that mean about the game? How is it a copy of Team Fortress 2?

Is it also copying TF 2 because you have guns? Because it's an FPS? Because it's a team game? Because it's multiplayer only? Because there are classes?

Look, instead of complaining that Valve is being imitated, maybe we should be rejoicing that there is a new standard, a new paradigm, a new sub-sub-genre: a different style of FPS, titles that are just there to be fun, with extreme violence that is even more unrealistic and is merely humorous at best, and gross at worst.

I mean, if you want, they could give you more of this grit*:

These guys are totally ripping each other off. OMG.

Also, you get 100 achievement points or 3 trophies if you can tell me where each of these are from.**

*You will get more of this whether you want it or not.
**As Mitch would say: you do not get 100 achievement points or 3 trophies.   read

12:47 PM on 07.15.2008

Oops, I've been meaning to get around to playing that

Since a point in 2007 there is one encouraging thing I've seen about games, and that is their status as an object of consumption.

In the industrial world, we have more food and more leisure time than ever before. Unlike other types of countries, industrialists spend their time consuming and evaluating their choices as consumers, and discussing those choices with friends.

"Did you try the new sushi place?" "Yes, it was way better than I thought it would be. Make sure you get the ninja wasabi harroken."

"Go see that action movie?" "Yeah, it sucked. He's getting old and should move on. The stunts were bad."

"Okay, I'll read that, but there are ten other books in the queue."

Books, movies, TV, all media: we treat them like a diet. Instead of stomachs, we have mental space and time. We only have room for so much, and we only wish to consume the best. This reveals much about our society and culture, but this is a blog about games, so I leave you to your own conclusions about consumption and markets in your industrial country.

The thing that I am happy about is that games are becoming part of the "media diet". The fact that media are treated like a diet saddens me, but the fact that games have gained respect from it does not.

I purchased Halo 3 and GTA IV, both games that I'm not terribly interested in, because of this rhetoric. I felt that even though I didn't like Halo 3, I felt it was my duty as a gamer who wants to get back into the games world to purchase it. I bought it the day it came out and beat it on heroic within a couple of weeks.

I had these thoughts resurrected when a good friend of mine lent me his copy of the Orange Box for the 360. He texted me to ask if I'd beaten Portal yet, and the fact I haven't played Portal yet is causing me guilt; it's something I've been meaning to do for months. My wife keeps forgetting that I wanted her to at least watch the beginning, and so tonight she will. She loved seeing Bioshock, and considering that my brother has been comparing my wife to GLaDOS, (squeaky, high-pitched voice that is deceptively intelligent and sarcastic), I really wanted us to see it together.

Last night we did, and this week a burden will be relieved. I've been reminded of and encouraged by the fact that games are now considered things we can't miss.   read

1:48 PM on 05.07.2008

Why America Hates Video Games

The Escapist recently published an article about the "media myth", which is really an article that says "So many people hate video games, and it's fascinating," followed by "we can't blame the media for it, it's really due to culture", followed by "this is what some video game industry people think."

The salient quotes express what's surely been said before: everyone fears what they don't understand, older generations always frown upon that confounded immoral rock'n'roll racket, etc.

We've not really hit upon the point though. It's still highly frowned upon by many who are younger than 30, by left and right, and by many men, for example. The hate is not a young vs. old, left vs. right, or even a women vs. men thing.

The cultural belief is broader than this, and we can see it illustrated clearly in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band contest. Imagine (or remember, more likely), if you will, a "Rock Band" playing in the mall or Best Buy. What do we commonly see? Most likely a kinda-long-haired, t-shirt-sporting young man and his cohorts, with liveliness distracting the other shoppers. An incompetent drummer, perhaps. People acting like they're playing music when they're not. The most common criticism of people who spend any amount of time on Rock Band or Guitar Hero is (chant it with me now) "learn to play a real instrument" or, if someone already knows "I can play a real instrument." Anyone who plays is supposed to take it as wisdom and counsel about how to live the true American way and always be producers of content or producers of something in the economic world and other another fun American maxim that gives us our awesome maximum of 2 weeks vacation a year: in the land of freedom, you're free to have fun, but really you should only have fun if you earned your right to first.

Americans don't like it when people play, pretend, relax, or goof off or have fun. It's not allowed. And video games are the exact opposite of those principles. It's why the haters can't articulate a good reason for it. When a good reason is lacking, personal feelings are involved, and in this case, the feelings are the subscription to those American values. Some people have realized that this sacred American ethic is not unchallengable, and is not without flaws. So, they continue to play video games. And amazingly, many of them still produce content and work hard. And marry, and make babies, pay taxes, vote, and other amazing, American-endorsed concepts that aren't supposed to work with video game playing.

It's the American ideals of work and play that lead to a heavy lack of vindication of the medium. Moral issues aren't meant to be explored--the world was already explored, and when they did, they found America--so we're here now, entertain us, but don't do it with video games, because they, more than any other medium or activity, lead to passive, anti-American terrorist non-producers.

Got it? Video games = laziness = non-American. And here you thought America had run out of things to agree about.   read

4:00 PM on 05.06.2008

PC version of Mass Effect: let the Fascism references begin

PC piracy is blamed for a lot of things, especially poor sales on games. Including bad ones.

However, a game we know that won't be bad, Mass Effect, is going to go to the next level in anti-piracy: periodic CD Key checks.

Holy shit.

Anyone thinking Starforce?   read

12:38 PM on 04.18.2008

8-bit music: 7 artists whose stuff you wish you'd heard on your NES

For those not in the know, there is a tiny, tiny genre of music featuring Gameboy and NES synthesizers to create more 8-bit awesomeness simply known as 8-bit music. Most of it is crappy and/or experimental, but I've been digging and I've found some gems. All downloads free, of course.

1. Anamanaguchi

Created by a music student from New York, Anamanaguchi features tunes that make Mega Man's music blush with envy. Admit it: you've thought about what a new 8-bit Mega Man game would sound like, and compared to this guy, you've failed. It's been a long time since a song out of the mainstream (Helix Nebula) has made me want to get out of bed and shout for joy that I get to play video games today. Yeah, the Myspace page is absolutely god-awful. Just listen, and don't look.

Picks: Helix Nebula, Airbase, Sting Operation, Video Challenge. Download here.

2. Boy vs. Bacteria

Most of the time when a DJ puts his music up on Myspace, no one listens to it because it's bad and obscure. This guy is no different, except for the "bad" part. His music combines a techno-stomp with boppity 8-bit beats for something spicy, crunchy, and addictive. Yes, Monstergirl sounds like a cartoon show theme and Waiting for that Feeling is Euro-Weenie-Tech, but it still attests to this Swedish kid's rare talent.

Picks: Saffron Skyline, Apis Adventure, Waiting For That Feeling. Download here.

3. Ipaghost

Very strange, most of it. However, Not All Friends Are 8bit and Not All Friends Are Ice Cream are worth a try. No one admits to listening to Ipaghost, even if it's got a strange lure.

Picks: Valse de Chaton, Let's Go Rodeo, Not All Friends Are 8bit, Not All Friends Are Ice Cream. Download some here.

4. Random

The most remarkable thing is that this artist's tracks are more "pure" 8-bit (no other types of synths added) and yet you forget this could have been on the Nintendo. Random takes a more traditional feeling of the infinite frontiers of both space and woodland and puts them to lasery, sword-swinging awesome. Want to explore the world of Oblivion, only with more exciting music? Working hard at work and need to feel like you're doing something cooler than you really are? Then listen to Random.

Picks: Sitges Savepoint, Spontaneous Devotion, Lightyears 500. Download here.

5. She

She takes 8-bit and puts it to a tough, urban grind. If 8-bit were to go to legendary anime or live-action movies complete with chase scenes (Nebula) and walking-down-a-street-with-a-hood-over-my-face-in-the-rain-looking-both-emo-and-badass-and-not-sure-how-I-feel-about-the-girl-I'm-working-with scenes (Twilight), She would be the go-to artist.

Picks: Nebula, Twilight, Pioneer. Download here.

6. Psilodump

A more "experimental" artist (doesn't "experimental" usually mean "suck"? oh well), Psilodump conceives epic-length songs with epic beats and epic themes.

Picks: Okay, So the Ninjas Went to Space..., Mutiny of the Robots. Download here.

7. Nullsleep

Standard melodies and techno sounds in a pure 8-bit get up. If you need more 8-bit music and you need dance beats or easy listening, Nullsleep will sustain your fix.

Picks: Her Lazer Light Eyes, Dirty ROM Dance Mix, Ballistic Picnic. Download here.   read

2:57 PM on 04.03.2008

Don't use the word "gamer" anymore or they will ban video games in America and you will not lose your virginity

"Gamer" gets 51 and a half million Google hits, which is more than John McCain and Hillary Clinton combined.

The most common discussion involving the word involves the following:

* What is a gamer? (Usually becomes an argument about who deserves to be called one, as if it's an honor)
* What kinds of gamers are there or how should we classify them? (Usually gets weak grunts of approval and humorous anecdotes about furries)
* Does such and such a category really apply? (More interesting, usually ends with a call for extinguishing or redefining the category)

The two common answers to the first question are either "someone who plays games", which comes from a prescriptive dictionary, or "someone who prefers to use free time playing video games more than anything else", adopted from popular usage within and without gaming circles. Well, this doesn't give us much to work with. It doesn't actually define much of anything.

I'm a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) and I can identify with the next step that was taken: adoption of the word "gamer" as an almost holy moniker of sorts. For those not in the know, Mormonism's largest denomination, the one with the missionaries with the little black name tags and that have control of Utah, etc., is the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The word "Mormon" comes from the Book of Mormon, a book they believe is additional scripture to the Bible, which makes them vastly different from other Christian denominations. "Mormon" became an epithet, an insult against people of that religion. The days where it became a slur are long gone and it is simply the name that has gone throughout the world. And we don't mind too much: you're not being insulting, and the word literally means "more good", anyway. So, throughout the common masses, what you hear from Mormons is: "Well, we call ourselves Latter-day Saints, but no, Mormon's not offensive."

Gamers did the same. "Gamer" was probably an insult that rose from gaming's prepubescent beginnings and the rather primitive need to classify our classmates. Even if it was a gamer who invented it and it wasn't originally an insult, it soon became one. There is no doubt that the word gamer had acquired a certain negative stigma (first link NSFW or your ears).

But like Mormons, gamers adopted the name as a sort of official title, one that is automatically supposed to mean something when there's nothing to see. I've looked, and I've gamed over 20 years, and I've been committed to more than one kind of gaming scene, and there is nothing that is guaranteed to make a gamer have something in common with another gamer besides the fact they both play games. It's almost like meeting someone from Tanzania and saying "oh, that guy's from Nigeria, don't you have something in common with them?" (I've seen that happen, and the answer was "no".)

So I propose we eliminate the word gamer. If you're not convinced, please follow me a little more. If you play games seriously, you likely want general recognition that games can be art, that games are going to be the 4th great storytelling tradition (oral, written, and film being the preceding three), and that there is nothing wrong or weird about playing games. But by using the term "gamer" so religiously, you are saying there is something special or unique about it, and it won't work. Not only is it unaccurate and elitist, it's harmful and will tell everyone who doesn't play that we are separating ourselves from them, which is not what we want.

Do people who primarily like TV, film, or books have such a designation? Moviegoer? That's only used once, and for a purpose that's entirely different. TV watcher? Yeah, but they have no common ground. A reader? I've never heard that used before, ever. Even if it were, what would it mean? Someone may read a lot, but one person may read mostly historical nonfiction while another reads romance novels. Remember the argument about grandpa playing Yahoo Bridge and Hearts not being a gamer? The real reason we say this is to make a statement about games themselves. Literally, though, he is still a gamer. Someone may call romance novels trash, but the person is still reading. "It's not literature," your professor or Barnes and Noble cashier will say. But they won't say she's not a reader or that it's not a book, will they?

And of course Hearts and Bridge don't represent anything great in gaming, either. But by now the discussion has already moved on. We're discussing the merits of the games themselves now and what they mean. If we want people to respect gaming, keep the discussion on the games, not the people playing them. Because gaming isn't usually done in public, the only people non-gamers can think of are the awkward teenagers and recluses that are an embarrassment to all they associate with. Again, not what we want.

It's time to move on. Drop the word gamer. Don't say "I'm a gamer." Say something else, like "I game."   read

9:00 AM on 04.01.2008

XBox Flash email announces yet another god damn board game on Live, small crowds applause

Anyone who owns a 360 and Live account that's associated with an email address he actually uses will have received an email five minutes ago with boring link.

Looks like they're coming out with yet another board game on Live (whoopie), a new peripheral helmet for any bike and racer games, and an obviously lame new XBox console, the "Recon." It's like the Halo one--new skin, same sin. Will it have a falcon in it, you ask? Who knows and who cares?   read

7:05 PM on 03.14.2008

When consoles beat PCs, case study number 47: CoD4 and PC guy stuck on Console-Island

Note: I have a forum thread about my new job that I mention at the end of this post. Comments about that or PNT should be directed there.

So, which system have you played the most, ever? The NES, when everyone knew about Punch Out, Contra, and Duck Hunt? SNES, with its RPGs, Capcom, and Nintendo Franchise goodness back when the idea of having a new and improved Mario and Link were considered revolutionary? The N64, with the bounty of four-player games, when we got more hours in Goldeneye than we ever did in Halo? Or, speaking of Halo, was it the XBox? PS2, which had a gajillion more titles than its competitors?

The N64 or SNES were close for me, and the NES is a close call, but I'm seriously thinking the most hours I've gained was on the PC. Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, shareware, demos, Starcraft (at least 1,500 games, and at the conservative estimate average of 20 minutes per match...), WC3, Command and Conquer, Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2, RTS's by Relic and/or THQ, CounterStrike...

God. It's a lot. The parties with people are more memorable (I've got a Brawl Party to attend that starts in ten minutes) but the easiness, the temptation of the PC has given it much more a share of my lifespace. If you're alone, you can always go and play against some whiny 13-year-old who can't afford a better comp and does not but blame you for picking the wrong hero when his hero dies twice in ten minutes, when yours doesn't. Yessirree. Also, when you go to college, you have to have a computer at home. Email. Research, papers, movies, Youtube, comics and other Lulness. You always end up slipping into just one more game, or one more map before you actually, no really, start writing that paper on the boring topic.

So, a conundrum. My friends are all console people, whilest I absolutely love TF2. I have a console of my own and I'm liking it, but I sure as hell am not giving up on the unique and awesome advantages that a PC has to offer. I love my mouse and keyboard. You can't play an RTS on a console--even fanboys have to admit that. And TF2 just doesn't work on a console. It needs to be PC style.

Over at that place where I'm the editor they sometimes hook me up with games to review. The perk is that I get to keep the game. One of these games was Call of Duty 4--for the PC.

With the exception of "leagues" and all of that tempting bullshit, you can't really find talk or community about Call of Duty 4. Why? Because everyone bought it on the fucking XBox 360 or PS3. So when I'm like, "Oh yeah, I got it on the PC" everyone looks at me like that's a weird idea. Like they didn't even know you could get such an awesome piece of awesomeness on the nerd machine.

I mean, you can't even play with a lot of people on one console anyway, and you usually just use a guest account for guy# 2, so it's not like people are having CoD4 parties--they're just playing CoD4 on the console the way they would on a god damn PC. But consoles are a more popular gaming system.

So what do I do? Get mad at pirates? Continue to be protective of my nerd space since these space jocks, men with large arms and dicks who get women with (if they so choose) large breasts and many who are largely, to be precise, actual dicks, spend a hell of a lot more money on a more profitable venture, that is, consoles?

A guy who has friends who console and who don't have CoD4, who discovers CoD4 on his PC, and doesn't have 60 bucks to buy the same damn game again: sucky. Maybe they could implement a system in which I can buy a console game if I prove I buy the PC game, and buy it for, you know, only 20 or 25 bucks?

I don't know. Being between communities sucks, and always has. To compound the problem, next week I start managing a PNT. The manager of the other location who trained me today told me he played TF2 once. On the 360. And hasn't seen it on the PC. I don't know--am I ready for this? Millions of HaloHeads swarming me? Can I work at a place that can only profit by selling console, but not PC? While secretly trying to figure out if I'm a PC gamer more than anything else?

Tense stuff. We'll see, I guess.   read

12:57 PM on 02.07.2008

What's my wife's potential as a gamer?

Dtoid is one of the few places I've seen that garners a lot of discussion by and about women and yet isn't a place with the word "girl" in the title.

I've thought a lot of times about how to go about how to ask this, so I'm just going to describe what the situation is and ask for your opinions.

So, here's the story so far: my wife is fine with games because she worked with one once at a pizza place, then moved in with him and another guy. She discovered it's funner to live with gamers than it is with other women.

She marries me in 2006, and in early 2007 I wanted to get back into WoW. She was excited to watch it as she hadn't seen it played in a long time. Then she sprung it on me: she wanted her own character. I excitedly let her do so, of course. After I'd get home from school, she would still be there. Okay--her first 8-hour gaming session. That's pretty sweet, right? That's a good start, right?
It was so bad we got her her own computer and she's used it a lot and we've gotten our money's worth out of it.

She has played WoW a lot and it's really the only game she plays. I've tried to get her to play a lot of things, including something as simple as Bomberman, and she hated it. She wanted a pink XBox controller (she loves pink) and so she has it, but hasn't opened it yet. No occasion. I made the mistake of getting Viva Pinata without playing it myself at the advice of a random guy who was in the same aisle as we were at Best Buy: "Oh yeah, my girlfriend loves that game, that's one of the few ones I've been able to get her into." Man, that failed.

She sometimes goes for weeks without playing WoW then will play 18 total hours on a weekend.

She says she wants to watch me play Bioshock (because she saw the demo, loves Ayn Rand, and thinks it's sooooo cool).

I tried Earthbound, but it crashed twice and she even got stuck behind Ness's house in a bush and it made her frustrated. This was like the Viva Pinata incident only not nearly as bad. I know she can handle it. She thought the premise sounded interesting.

Lastly, a friend brought Rock Band over and she wanted it so badly that we just went out and got it. But she doesn't play very often.

So to summarize:


Plays WoW, has even called people n00bs before
Willing to try Earthbound, one day
Plays Rock Band
Wants to "watch" Bioshock
Likes games like Puzzle Quest, but only on the PC
She bought me an XBox

Won't play Bomberman, didn't like Viva Pinata
Hates losing or failing, which is antithetical to games. If we wipe in WoW frequently because of someone's being an ass or being incompetent or both, she logs out for the rest of the day.
The XBox is an elite, and was purchased in late September, but was made in June.

My guess: she's an RPG / casual gamer who won't hate on the rest of them.

I admit I have it pretty lucky. The question is, will I ever get her off of WoW? Will she move on to another game, or just plain move on? Can I get her to other genres? She claims interest in more, but how should I do it?

I'm sorry I'm not entertaining, and don't know how to relax. I think the reason my writing is so damn anal and formal or whatever is because (besides the fact I'm an editor in heart and practice) I have true apprehension about the future of gaming in her life. Is that pathetic, or what? What games and how often my wife plays games is almost like "Oh no! Will she be able to have kids!"

Sigh.   read

12:52 PM on 02.07.2008

Random stupid crap 1: Gamestop's bad copy

Gamestop newsletters have copy written by a non-gamer. They're terribad.

Anyway, check this out for confirmation that Gamestop is run by businessmen that aren't exactly in touch . My "favorites" are the football player, the tank, and the alien just sitting there trying to look cool.

"Hey noob"   read

1:42 PM on 02.06.2008

Good Idea, Bad Idea: Dudes that make you go “…”

It seems that a popular topic amongst Dtoiders is game content and games as art. Today’s article is approaching games from that angle. Brad Pitt once said in Newsweek that “leading-man” roles are “all the same guy.” He didn’t elaborate much, but I imagine it was a dig at the glut of movies that contain a male, stereotypical protagonist: he always knows everything, he can handle anything, get any girl, beat any villain, whatever. His body-type can vary, and so can his looks, but generally he’s tough and sexy enough to pwn anyone. The women in these movies, Obligatory Hot Chicks, are usually intelligent and competent, ready to become and ally, and always beautiful, helpless, and difficult-but-possible to sexually conquer.

I’m about to offend everyone if you haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to say: the game equivalent of this is the silent protagonist. Unfortunately, when I thought about it, this means the criticism of some sacred cows. Not just everyone else’s sacred cows—but mine, too. In the Dtoid forums, Gordon Freeman (eep) is my avatar. And well, he’s not really a character. In early video game days, video games were considered (and to a large degree still are) considered forms of wankery. So, you, the player, were supposed to be the main character. It was your form of “escape.”

Games are still an escape, but I contend that games are more social now. Even in a single player game, the first thing someone does when it’s over is go online to yak about it with other gamers. In this way, games are now more like reading a novel than they are watching porn. They’re both done in private, but unlike before, we all get together and have discussion about it afterward instead of pretending it’s something we don’t do.

This is why people will remember the games with all the characters made for us even more than the ones with silent protagonists. The ones that do have silent protagonists are remembered for their gameplay, and perhaps awesome support cast.

No doubt you will protest this. “Link kicks ass,” you’ll tell me. “In fact, so do Crono, Ness, Sonic, Mario, Link, and Samus. Those are awesome games.” They are awesome games, but they are not awesome characters. You may point out that the majority of the top ten 360 games contain games with silent protagonists, and that one, Bioshock, was considered a work of art. But remember, Bioshock (no spoilers) made a statement about the silent protagonist, one that forces us to reconsider our love for it.

Mass Effect is opening us to the idea of having us be the actual protagonist while not being silent—while flawed, it is a step to something different than either of the kinds of stories I’m presenting. Eventually, it won’t be silent protagonists being “low” art while the pre-created ones are the “high” art—it will be pre-created ones being the “low” art with the self-created, self-modded, non-silent protagonists being the “high” art. At any rate, while entertaining and nostalgic, the silent protagonist, like bad Japanese-to-English translation, should be going the way of the dinosaur soon. This is why Super Mario Galaxy had mixed reviews—the gameplay was great, and it was a nostalgic atmosphere being reintroduced to kids from parents, but that was it. There was no real new content. Let’s push games into even better artistic merit and acceptance by the world. Let’s admit that Master Chief is a leading-man role, and that a leading-man role is better than no role at all.   read

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