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Playing now:
- Animal Crossing: City Folk
- Mass Effect Galaxy

Wish I Would Finish:
- Baldur's Gate 2

Want to Play:
- Resident Evil 4
- Mass Effect 2

If I had a TARDIS, I'd play:
- NFL 2K1 online ...

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!

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.

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.

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.

12:46 PM on 01.11.2010

"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.

11:09 AM on 01.06.2010

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.