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1:54 PM on 01.22.2010

My Mass Effect Machinima

It's Mass Effect Awesome Time on my c-blog until Mass Effect 2 comes out. Enjoy.

Being more than normally attached to a video game creates strange desires. One may become active arguing the finer points of gameplay or a storyline; or dive into books, comics and expanded parts of the game; cosplay and fan art are also a symptom of this. For me, it was machinima.

I really haven't made a video of any sort since high school or that time at my cousins' wedding when someone handed me the camera for a few minutes. My impulse to create was the relative lack of Mass Effect related machinima. The ME universe is ripe with possibilities, but the bulk of interest seems to be in Halo or GTA. So, taking up my part of the burden, I challenged myself to make a Mass Effect machinima a week until I had six or got tired of it (it ended up being a bit of both).


The most difficult part of making Mass Effect machinima was getting good camera angles by typically crouching next to something and swinging the camera around. Also, NPCs would only be useful as actors if they didn't detect my Shepard and turn their head to look at him crouched behind them ...


Doing alien voices was the trickiest but most rewarding part of my experiment. I think I did pretty well without using any voice modification software (which likely would have helped).


All my videos take place on the Citadel because it was the easiest place to access. I wanted to make these as quick as possible and did not want to be zipping around the universe constantly. Also, the Citadel has the most NPCs available.


The ideas for most of these just came out of nowhere. One time, I got the ideas for the engineer and announcement videos in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep until I wrote them all down. I really like Mass Effect.


"Filming" was pretty simple. I'd just get a great angle and record with my TV capture card. I was impressed with some of the cool shots I could get of the Citadel. I also found it interesting how intricate some of the animations for the various NPCs are, too.


Replaying the game after I made these, I now see these NPCs in relation to the conversations and personalities I gave to them. It's pretty weird ...

Well, that's it. Maybe Mass Effect 2 will be more friendly to machinima, or maybe not. I managed it, so I'm sure others can too. I've yet to dabble with the PC version, so that might have some possibilities also. Oh well, only the weekend, then Monday, and then Mass Effect 2 launches!   read

6:50 PM on 01.20.2010

Mass Effects - Minor Regrets

It's Mass Effect Awesome Time on my c-blog until Mass Effect 2 comes out. Enjoy.

Having played through Mass Effect numerous times as different variations of Shepard, my memory of what I did my first time around is a little hazy. I remember important moments, but from many different sides. I could definitely tell you what my full paragon/renegade Shepard did, but everything else is twisted and fuzzy. This must be what it's like to be the Doctor remembering his past, or Capt. Picard recalling that other life he lived when connected to that alien probe. But enough, onto the regrets.

My biggest regret is the outcome of a side quest for my Shepard's background. Being a colonist, "I" survived an attack on my colony by interstellar raiders - not everyone was so lucky (like my parents). I encountered an escaped slave, a victim of the attack, on the dock of the Citadel, ready to blast her head off to forget her horrible experiences. My Shepard had a good streak in him, so I wanted to help this woman out - but I hadn't invested enough points in charm; after multiple tries at convincing her, she still kept blasting herself into oblivion.

I regret the Geth and I didn't work together more.

At the time, I felt completely helpless - my Shepard was too many parts biotic and not enough paragon to save this woman. A few playthoughs later and after doing a little recent research, I learned that I could have sedated her by closing in on her cunningly. Though her life probably figured next to nothing in the big picture of Mass Effect, having her pull the trigger egged on by my awkward help influenced my Shepard and me for the rest of the game - which made loosing Wrex hurt even more.

I love Wrex. He is my absolute favorite character in the game. His attitude had a tough nonchalance and his reluctant dedication to his species inspired me; his humor was peerless. So, when faced with the prospect of destroying maybe the only research that could save his species from extinction, Wrex pulled a gun on me (Shepard). I wanted to talk him out of it, but I again didn't have enough charm points.

Impressive, but no Wrex ... just like my first save game! Argh!

I tried every conversation choice I could to change Wrex's mind, but it wasn't enough. Sgt. Williams shot him before he could take me out; but, in all seriousness, I would have rather had Wrex blow Shepard away than kill such a great squad mate and outstanding Krogan. Wrex's death will likely have major consequences in the game. Such a moving moment will surely have ripples in Shepard's future - I regret it'll likely be unpleasant for Shepard to revisit that moment; at least, it will be for me.

Besides these two instances, I don't really remember any other strong regrets surrounding my first Shepard. I probably should have let that asari inside the Thorian live, but it doesn't keep me up at night. Thinking about it, I should have blasted Fist - but I bet some thug got to him eventually. Above all, I'm totally ready to see what repercussions and new events await "me" in Mass Effect 2. Tuesday ...

First image mine, second from here.   read

5:21 PM on 01.19.2010

Spending the Night with Crash Bandicoot

Many gamers are quite fortunate to have and play the consoles they want. Not everyone has that chance though. Due to various circumstances at one time or another, some of us only get the chance to play videogames on other people's consoles ...

Staying the night at another person's house can be a tricky experience. You have to figure out where the bathroom is, the trashcan, and the all important food you are allowed to eat. Also, trying to leave the bed and bathroom just as you found them adds another worry to a finicky guest. But, having a PlayStation in the room helps the anxiety.

Sometime in the mid 1990s, my family was moving, going on an important trip or our wood floors warped again - one of those problems forced my mother to put us kids up at the neighbors. It was an older couple, whose children were all off at school or grown up. So, my sisters and I timidly hunkered down for the night in the strange home. Luckily, I got a boy's room with a game system.

What a mysterious piece of technology to play with ...

My family didn't have any game consoles at this point in our lives. My Gameboy and those Mr. Game-n-Watch type el cheapo games were my sole electronic entertainment. So, PlayStation was a pretty big deal. I'd seen the commercials, played at a few friend's houses and knew Crash Bandicoot was not a demolition derby champ.

I remember thinking how awesome it would be to a have TV and a PlayStation in my room like this guy; he had a few other games in those now giant-like plastic cases, but I stuck with Crash. The game felt interesting - not exactly the most fun I'd ever had. It seemed so different from Mario or Sonic (the characters Crash was supposed to compete with). I expected more exuberant jumping and speed - which Crash just didn't have. I have distinct memories of jumping over logs in a jungle and not much else. The original PlayStation controller sticks out in my mind too. It seems so small and odd now, compared with the beefy Dual Shock. Though, that dull gray color was pretty hip for the time (I wouldn't mind a PS3 in a similar scheme).

Crash should maybe think about branching into demolition derby unless that Universal Studios gig really pays well.

Seeing as I was a guest - and dealing with moving/a trip/unnavigable kitchen - I was pretty tired and only played a bit before I 'crashed.' That's my only strong memory of the PlayStation before the turn of the century where I bummed a friend's console to play a few games. Of course, by then controllers had analog sticks, so the experience was more like PlayStation 1.5 than that simple affair late one evening, all alone in a strange room.

However mediocre the game seemed at the time, I'll always have fond feelings for the bandicoot who made my out of place evening a little more enjoyable.

Images from here and here.   read

1:15 PM on 01.13.2010

A Dead Rising Sword Fight

While gaming provides us with many memories and hours of fun, most of us have spent a lot of time in front of the screen without a controller in our hands. Whether waiting our turn or the next death, we often get to watch others play videogames. Here are some of my experiences when it was just fun to watch ...

While the general gameplay of most games is fun to watch, boss fights are a different beast. The increased difficulty, importance in the game world, and sometimes education aspects make boss fights entertaining to the best of us.

It was fall semester at university and also that era when everyone seemed to have an Xbox 360 but me; and they bought all the same games when they would come out. One of those was Dead Rising. My pal Oliver played it the most. Every time I might walk by his room, the moans of zombies filled the air and I would hover by the door, watching a couple moments of mall/zombie action.

Being a photographer is a tough job ...

Some lazy night when Oliver, me and some friends probably had better things to do, the planets or our schedules aligned to put us all in Oliver's room while he played Dead Rising. Sprawled out on a bean bag, small sofa, and hanging from bunk beds, we all watched, captivated by Oliver's prowess in destroying the undead. Things went from everyday zombie combat to mesmerizing when he came to a tricky boss.

The boss fight consisted of Frank fighting a wacky cult leader. However, since Oliver saved in a nearby bathroom, the fight going to the boss became a part of this repeated experience. Oliver would grab some health behind the concession stand, then carefully pick off the cultists around a corner with a deer rifle before they blew themselves up in their yellow raincoats, and scour theaters for health jumping around angry cultists. After this OCD like ritual, Oliver would begin the tense sword fight.

Staring through a deer rifle at the cultists actually looked a lot like this, but without the beach.

Frank West, the main character, being a photographer his best sword move was simply a slash. The cult leader obviously had more practice. As Frank, Oliver spent most of his time running between the seats of the movie theater the fight took place in. He tried slashing from behind, each side, or even a war of attrition where he'd get hit every time he hit.

Thus, the rest of us in the room watched, over and over, as Oliver happily fought it out. We would all suggest things for Oliver to try. Though, sideline strategists don't often have the feel for a game that someone with a controller in their hands does. Oliver was polite enough to try our suggestions, but he definitely enjoyed figuring it out himself more. I even kept some tactics I came up with to myself, in case I got the chance to play (I didn't, and my ideas wouldn't have worked either). Oliver did figure it out on the fifth romp through the theater: avoid the cult leader until he performed his leap attack, then slash at him while he recovered from his giant swing. Games can seem so easy when you know the answer.

Am I crazy if I want to check this theater for cultists in yellow rain coats?

Years later I got Dead Rising and played it myself. The cult leader fight was easy as pie; and, quite naturally, I played it just like Oliver did jumping behind the concession stands, taking out the cultists around the corner with a deer rifle, and etc.. It's almost as strange as the dead coming back to life how certain ways and thoughts reemerge in us from our interactions with others. Also, I likely would have never realized there was a bathroom save point in the theater if not for Oliver.

Images from here, here, and here.   read

12:46 PM on 01.11.2010

Lego Star Wars Revisited

"Can we play the Double-U Eye Eye?" my little cousin asked constantly; my mom and I looked after my four and six year old cousins this last weekend. While I'm practically old enough to be their uncle, those two little boys love Star Wars (like me) - thus, if they weren't watching Star Wars movies, coloring Star Wars coloring books, pretending to be Jedi while eating breakfast, building X-Wings out of Popsicle sticks or relating everything to Star Wars, they were playing Lego Star Wars: The Complete Sage on the Wii with me.

I've played the Lego Star Wars games more than enough. The timing and medium were cruel: I got Lego Star Wars for PC during finals week (the previous semester my friend gave me copy of KOTOR - Star Wars was out to destroy my grades). I didn't have a game controller for my PC, so I controlled the game with my keyboard. Pain set in within an hour, but I just had to collect all the mini-kits and get enough blocks to buy more characters. When the original trilogy came out, I went through the exact pain again - luckily not during finals that time.

This proves I'm not the only one with a Lego Star Wars problem. This guy had it worse, I stopped getting those bits after I reached 100% ...

So, it becomes odd watching other people play a game you have a history with. Seeing my cousins play Lego Star Wars made me smile when I recalled playing all the wacky characters. But my hands recoiled in fear at the pain memory of that addicting game. At times I wanted to just jump in and play; other moments I hated just looking at some annoying levels on Naboo.

Just watching them play was fatiguing too. They woke me up early every morning so I was pretty tired to begin with; watching a game I'd played for too many hours also bored me steadily. However, when I watched what my cousins did with the game, it became its own unique little comedy show. Watching an X-Wing trying to always go opposite the Falcon in the asteroid field; Jedi Luke using the reasoning of a four year old; two little kids trying for ten minutes to time a level pull just right. The most priceless moment was when they asked me when they'd get to "the kitchen that Han Solo is in." Han Solo, in a kitchen? The only kitchen I remembered was Aunt Beru's ... I later figured it out to be the cantina from a New Hope. Kids are so cute!

My cousins called these "tough walkers"; I tried explaining the correct nomenclature, but I too now see them as "tough walkers."

They had the most trouble with the pod race from Episode One. Imagine trying to get two kids to go in the same direction, quickly and not explode - yeah, that's the trouble with co-op. I did it by myself and beat it the second time around (I was rusty, I admit). I also gave tips about anything I could remember or played a particularly tricky part for little thumbs. However, I did encourage them to figure it out on their own, which they often did. My aunt did ask me not to have the entire game finished when she returned from her trip.

We never played anything else on the Wii. Thinking about it, I think they were both so well behaved and ate all their dinner so we would let them keep playing W-i-i. Also, I've gotten in enough Star Wars for the rest of this year ...

Images from here and here.   read

11:09 AM on 01.06.2010

Dots and GTA IV

Christmas conjures the taste of green bean casserole; Fourth of July brings back delicious potato salad; Grand Theft Auto IV reminds me of Dots (the candy).

Good food can tie itself to memories of other things, especially repeated instances of the same yummy concoction eaten during similar experiences. Popcorn and movies, Popsicle and summer, pizza and everything - it's our minds telling us that eating is awesome. Videogames go well with food too - but not everything. Items like hots wings, chocolate or Cheetos actually produce bad memories of sticky controllers. Though, when you do manage to successfully eat and play at the same time, it's magic.

To me, this is a photo of Niko Bellic taking out a helicopter with an RPG

Dots will forever be linked to Grand Theft Auto IV for me. It was a few weeks before the game came out and I was stocking up on necessities for my intended marathon of playing. I wanted something tasty that wouldn't leave gunk on my hands that would spread like an infection all over my controller (which, sadly, most snack foods do). So, I got some Dots. They were tasty, relaxing to chew on when I came to a difficult point in the game and didn't make me want to vomit after two boxes. Now, every time I see Dots in the supermarket, I think, "I should go play some Grand Theft Auto!" And, driving around Liberty City does make me crave a box of Dots, too.

Pizza is probably the single food most associated with gaming. But, it's high popularity means pizza has been around the block too many times. I can recall eating pizza while playing games - but there have been so many that I can't really remember any specifics - except that pizza was there and it tasted awesome. Also, unless you're playing Wii Sports, it's hard to play and eat pizza while taking care not to spill your drink.

What makes a food-gaming memory for me ultimately is: repetition (lots of Dots), a unique food (not pizza) and, of course, a great game (GTA IV). Oh, and napkins.

Image of yumminess from here.   read

1:14 PM on 01.04.2010

Keyboarding to Bolo

As technology continues to permeate our lives, schools receive wonderful learning tools. However, these tools often become the playthings of clever children - which leads to gaming at school ...

Most kids only do well in a class with massive support from every quarter. Teachers often struggle to find motivation to encourage their students to learn and apply themselves. Educators have tried numerous techniques to achieve this; and while the carrot and stick often fails - when the stick is keyboarding class and the carrot BOLO - it works.

Anyone who knew anything about computers often wailed at the Macintoshes that plagued many schools. But in a way, it was serendipitous - if they had been PCs, we'd all be stuck with Solitaire and Minesweeper. This particular middle school keyboarding class had rows of crisp, beige Macs - mysteriously loaded with a war game.

What an evil machine! Well, it wasn't that bad - it had games ...

Of course, this was school. Everyone in the class had to type out whatever the instructor assigned that day; some competition naturally occurred among the developing young people (myself included). But we didn't type quickly and well to finish first - we speed through our work to play BOLO first.

BOLO is a multiplayer game where you control a tiny tank. You could move around a green, forest like map; attack and destroy other players; harvest trees for materials; construct pillboxes to attack enemy players; and build barriers and forts to protect yourself. A classroom of eager boys and girls preferred team deathmatch, but BOLO may have had other modes, we just never tried them.

There was nothing more exciting to a kid in junior high than playing videogames at school. And not just that, I got my first taste of a LAN party without even realizing it. Half of the fun was joining a team with your friends and picking on that weird kid who didn't like Jurassic Park: The Lost World or that sweet girl who was also in your history class who you had a crush on. It was an additional social network of sorts made possible with technology - our keyboard class could have invented Facebook (but we wanted to play BOLO).

This screen-shot actually doesn't do justice to the awesomeness of BOLO on a Mac around 1996 ...

The game was pretty fun too. Constructing giant mazes that enemy tanks would have to navigate or destroy to get to you (hopefully holding out until the bell rang). Yelling (ever so softly) across the room in victory as you won, or lamenting in defeat - BOLO brought arcade tank combat to life and made it fun, even for people generally not interested in video games; everyone in class played.

Since our BOLO-time was towards the end of class, our BOLO sessions were often short. But that small window lent an immediacy and excitement to the game and even typing class. You'd develop strategies while working the left side of the keyboard or pick teams while you worked. Battles were quick and fierce to decide who was the best BOLO player before class ended. Our instructor must have been a genius educator or an aloof teacher - who knows. I just remember that I used to be a wicked typist and loved BOLO.

Images from here and here.   read

4:44 PM on 12.30.2009

Christmas Wii-ing

Gaming during the holidays can be difficult. Either away from home or crammed like sardines into your regular abode, it becomes tricky to find the time or space to game like you want to.

My mom had stood in line for a Wii at launch (something she later gave me a lot of crap for). I was super excited like any grown man would be over a Nintendo system. I knew it was going to be under the tree that Christmas, even though my family had cracked it open previously to wrack revenge on me for their cold Novemeber all nighter in front of Best Buy.

It looks nice and all, but the tree is where the TV is supposed to go!

But, my family were spending Christmas with my grandparents in the Midwest. Far from home and in a much colder climate. Also, being able to play a game system in a house with few televisions became a challenge. The TV in my grandparent's room wasn't viable - I couldn't stay up late and play Wii Tennis there. The large TV in the den was good for Christmas morning but with some hazards - my grandmother tripped over the power cord which I stupidly stretched across the floor to an outlet which in turn earned my Wii the nickname "Scar" (brick floors are a bitch on consoles). Also, some people actually prefer football and holiday programs to videogames, weird, I know!

The only television I could muster was a tiny 12 something inch VCR combo. It had seen service for over two decades and while battered, could still produce an image in color - that was all I needed. I propped it on the only viable surface, an old leather couch. I sat opposite on a mound of pillows, wrapped in a blanket. Though this might seem uncomforatable, the sensor bar was three feet away, the TV was eye level, and I was warm; that was enough for Twilight Princess.

This technology saved my life as I played my Wii underground ...

Despite having to run and empty the humidifier so I wouldn't get pneumonia, I was sucked into the world of Hyrule. I completely forgot my meager surroundings as I battled through dungeons and rode around the green pastures on Epona. However, I couldn't swing my Wiimote too wildly to make Link attack - or I'd let the cold air into my warm blanket-cocoon.

Surviving the cries for Wii Sports from my younger cousins (which I gave into, it was the holidays ....), I got my gamimg in over the break. Other years I haven't been so lucky - only being able to really dive into a game well into January. But I got to experience the Wii launch (thought a little late) to my heart's content in that chilly basement. Ah, what cold and warm memories ...

Images from here and here.   read

4:13 PM on 12.28.2009

Old PC Gaming

While gaming provides us with many memories and hours of fun, most of us have spent a lot of time in front of the screen without a controller in our hands. Whether waiting our turn or the next death, we often get to watch others play videogames. Here are some of my experiences when it was just fun to watch ...

Before PC gaming was about the latest graphics cards, water cooling, dedicated servers, or Steam, people were interested in the games those giant calculators could play. Old computers had a mystique for me that seems to have disappeared with the many rapid advances in the PC market. Maybe I'm just older and less ignorant, but I'll forever remember those big beige machines fondly.

The PC scene of yore seemed wrapped in science and scholarship. The area where families kept their computer seemed like a cross between a lab and a library with the strange furnishings it contained. The computer rooms at my friend's houses were filled with manuals the size of Bibles; boxes with colorful designs toting "Picture Editor 5.3 Deluxe Edition Limited"; scattered or dutifully arranged groups of shiny discs or scribbled-on floppy discs; and, the most epic piece of any computer room - that giant biege machine that whirred and beeped to bring a screen saver of flying toasters to life along with other strange goodies.

Sort of like this, but this is much too hip and modern to be an old school computer room.

My friend Dan lived at the end of my childhood block. With other neighborhood kids, we would explore the undeveloped area and forest around the subdivision and adventure in a nearby creek. But, Dan also had videogames at his house. The computer room at Dan's was like the general description above - a den of techno goodness. It was a slightly smaller space, but that made the computer paraphernalia littered about all the more intriguing to little me. Of course, Dan sat in the computer chair (with wheels). Those chairs always seemed so cool to me as a kid - the power to use the PC and to roll around, what an experience.

Of the many games I watched or played at Dan's, I remember Full Throttle distinctly. To someone not used to computers, watching Dan play felt like interacting with a cartoon off the television. It was like being able to control Bugs Bunny or whoever - quite a concept to a child. I recall Dan (or was it me?) clicking around the back of some place in the game looking for the next thing to do. I can still see the character swinging his chain or whip around while Dan played around. I think what we needed was in the dumpster - but other than that I can't picture anything else. In the end, I went back home and unfortunately never saw anymore of the game (children lose and gain interest in things very quickly).

Wait, there was a hot girl in Full Throttle? I guess I should have done more than explore that dumpster ...

Yeah, old PCs were like a whole other world to someone who didn't have one. Despite what game it was (though Full Throttle was neat for what little I saw of it), or even if it was just a funny screen saver - I just remember having so much fun sitting in a pulled up chair next to Dan whenever he showed me something absolutely wonderful - even at a low resolution.

Images from here and here   read

11:46 AM on 12.23.2009

Watching Burnout

While gaming provides us with many memories and hours of fun, most of us have spent a lot of time in front of the screen without a controller in our hands. Whether waiting our turn or the next death, we often get to watch others play videogames. Here are some of my experiences when it was just fun to watch ...

I was once naive enough to think there were only two types of racing games. Arcade racers (Cruisin' USA, kart games, etc.) and simulation racers (GT series, Sega GT and others). Though different in many ways, these games were about going from point A to be B and being the first one to do so. My infantile beliefs about racing games were crushed against a wall at 90 miles an hour one afternoon when I watched a game called Burnout 3.

It all took place one lazy weekend in college. Some friends and I were waiting around our house to do something or go somewhere. I don't remember what we were going to do or if we even did it; but, the waiting game turned into watching Jim play Burnout 3 on his Xbox.

It doesn't matter what place you're in when something explodes ...

My thought process when something like this: Oh, Xbox, wish I had one of those. Okay, a racing game - wish I had my Dreamcast here I could whip out Sega GT and reminisce. Huh, why did he just ram into that car? Wait, no ... is Jim insane? Now, what's this? Driving you car off a ramp into a pile of other cars to create an explosion for points - awesome!

We all started giving Jim tips on how to create bigger explosions in "Best Non-Racing Mode in a Racing Gamer Ever Mode" (I don't remember what it was really called). There aren't many games were audience participation is appreciated - but Jim gladly tried any suggestion that might lead to a larger glowing ball of burning automobiles.

Maybe it was the boredom, might have been the explosions. Could be the cars involved. Whatever kept us intrigued, watching crash after crash just hypnotized my friends and me. That drab almost squalid room in a rental house became a glowing, rambunctious den of igniting innocent piles of vehicles.

One should watch Burnout 3 so unexciting wrecks like this don't happen.

Now, if Burnout had only been about crashing your car, that would have been enough to keep me entertained for years. But, it also had racing with crashing. I was astounded at the genius of being encouraged to ram your opponent into a wall or T-bone them into scrap metal. Jim didn't really care about winning races (he could do that anytime) - he wanted to trade paint with every car and make them remember it.

I guess my pals and I never did get around to going or doing whatever we were waiting to do. Or maybe we did. The memory that remains of that possibly fruitless afternoon is one of Burnout. I never looked at racing games the same again. With the explosions and outrageous crash mechanics, I cannot think of any other racing game that's as fun to just watch than Burnout 3.

Images from here and here   read

1:19 PM on 12.21.2009

Memories of Mario Kart

Many gamers are quite fortunate to have and play on the consoles they want. Not everyone has that chance though. Due to various circumstances at one time or another, some of us only get the chance to play videogames on other people's consoles ...

As kid, having friends was a plus. They were fun to hang out with, helped you in a jam, and you could copy each others homework if the teacher wasn't looking. I valued my friends on trust, kindness and general pleasantness to be around. Though all those things were actually important, I sometimes rated my friends on who had the coolest videogames I could play with at their house.

Curtis had an SNES and lived in the same neighborhood - naturally we were best friends! So of course I would hang out with him if I wanted to play games. He also had a pool and all the Voltron toys, so no idle times over at his house.

The SNES was located on the third floor (his family had a big house too). After climbing two flights of stairs, my excited little body would enter into the small playroom filled with cupboards, pillows, and a videogame system I didn't own. It was almost magical, except for the griminess of the controllers. Curtis had four other siblings, who liked touching things whether they understood how to use them or not. Only after I mustered the courage to touch the d-pad or happened to grab the "cleanest" controller, did the fun start.

Like this, but with an inch of some substance that was probably contagious ...

Since I was always Curtis' guest (and he was such a great friend), we typically played two-player games. Of course, that game was often Super Mario Kart! Competitive games can be divisive, but they can also kindle a friendship. Curtis would typically beat me, but that only gave us a reason to play more often: so I could beat him.

It's curious thinking on the time spent at my friend's house when I was a child. Memories range from the mundane (a car that always smelled like diapers) to fun (the terribly fun pool parties). I bet if I did have an SNES back then (and Mario Kart), I might not have the great memories of going over to Curtis' house so often to hang out and play. I seem to remember all the cool toys and gadgets my friends had that I didn't - and that connects to my memories of them, making those recollections stronger.

Replaying courses from Super Mario Kart or even revisiting the old game brings back all these memories. Every time I race Mario Circuit, I feel nine years old again, sitting on loads of pillows, hoping to over take Curtis at the next turn.

Credit to the wonderful image here.   read

3:26 PM on 12.18.2009

Zelda: The Shiny Game

Many gamers are quite fortunate to have and play on the consoles they want. Not everyone has that chance though. Due to various circumstances at one time or another, some of us only get the chance to play videogames on other people's consoles ...

While only a child of six or seven, I can distinctly recall visiting my uncle who lived in the same town as my family. He had two golden colored dogs, awesome wood paneling (for the 80s) and a backyard with trees that I could actually climb. Though my family had a dog, 80s-esque house and a backyard with younger trees, there was one thing that definitely set my uncle apart - videogames!

Uncle Quinn had a Nintendo Entertainment System. To this day, I can see the setup in the corner of his den - the TV with the little gray box under it and the two, now classic, rectangles with cords. I don't really remember ever playing videogames with Uncle Q, but I certainly remember thinking they were somehow more interesting than forts! Then again, it doesn't take much to impress a six year old ...

It looks fun, but can it compete with videogames?

My uncle had Super Mario Bros. (of course), and then some game with pipes (not the bulky green ones of Mario, but like the pipes screen saver with gameplay ...); however, the most intriguing part to a child was that shiny gold cartridge with the ancient symbols on it - The Legend of Zelda.

Whenever my family would visit, I would just hold the cartridge and examine the mysterious symbols on pictured on it. The seeming ambiguity of the hearts, the key and the lion must have played like fireworks on my young mind. I'd seen my uncle play the game a couple times; I figured Zelda was the little green guy with sword (for many, many years). The game was impressive, but no more than Mario or those pipes, but the cartridge impressed me the most. I just liked having something shiny and esoteric in my little hands.

Where your treasure lies, there your heart piece lies also.

Eventually my family moved, and visits with Uncle Quinn became less frequent. And while the details of The Legend of Zelda and that pipes game melted into the mist of my mind, I still recalled that fantastic, silver crest whenever anyone mentioned Zelda (but not when they mentioned Link until Ocarina of Time set me straight).

I almost miss the simplicity that the Zelda series held for me as a child. Just a gold cartridge, a cryptic silver crest and a tiny green adventurer named Zelda. And pipes.

Image cred goes to here and also here.   read

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