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The Silent Protagonist's blog

6:52 PM on 06.28.2012

Just a thought: A Solid Samurai

Metal Gear Solid is a samurai epic.

Yep, it totally is.

Whether this was Hideo Kojima's intention or not, the original Metal Gear Solid is very much a post-WWII samurai epic. Think Akira Kurosawa's most celebrated films†or even Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. An epic is the story of the rise of a hero or heroes and a great journey undertaken, with strong thematic repetition and strong supporting characters. In a samurai epic you can also count on the protagonist to be a psychologically scarred, disgraced and even rather cynical warrior.

That's Solid Snake except he was redefined as a voiced protagonist and there were consequences for that choice. However, unlike space bounty hunters or those who raid tombs that one day find themselves with full voices acting, Solid Snake was a protagonist with his agency fully taken away and then given back in full to the players within the sane story. This is accomplished by way of the samurai epic, thus the specter of lost player agency was deftly avoided.

Much like Christian Bale is a terrible Batman on his own, Solid Snake isn't much by himself even with David Hayter's wry and perfect delivery behind it. To make Snake or Bruce Wayne more than who they are, it's the wisdom and insight granted along the way - be it from friend or foe - that allows the player or viewer to have something to ascribe to the protagonist and let it help them enjoy the hero and empower them. You're not so much interpreting and occupying Snake's mind as you are aligning your view of him with that of Meryl, Otacon, Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf or whomever you find most agreeable.

As these other character relate their stories to Snake, players may be given things they may identify with from that ally or enemy, then they just imprint that character's views on Snake to give him that extra oomph. He becomes more than a cranky man in a sneaking suit.

Most people, when pressed to describe Solid Snake will say he's "badass." It's quaint, but it's because they're unfamiliar with how to frame the story and how it made them feel beyond the empowerment. The†samurai epic narrative is just rarely employed in games. No More Heroes also fits, though intent is somewhat different.

Anyway, the next time someone asks you what's so great about MGS, tell them it's because it's a samurai epic. Solid Snake may not have a sword, but he's certainly a samurai.†

If they ask what MGS2 is, say it's Scream 2.

Just a thought.   read

7:24 PM on 06.27.2012

Faces by Galathil: My Dovahkiin makeover

Today my Dovahkiin, Nia Mistquiver, entered Riften's Ratway to be greeted by a surly high elf that said Nia was ugly and would fix it for 1,000 septims. Knowing high elves are snobby and mean and being one that snipes Thalmor for fun, I took issue with her statement.†

I mean, just look at this face. It could win pageants. I worked a good thirty minutes working on this face before sending it off to the chopping block in Helgen many months ago. Nia has been told to stay away from people's husbands, even!

But as I thought about it, she didn't really look like the Dovahkiin that shouted at dragons, that joined the Stormcloak rebellion, the one who had slain Alduin, became the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, head of the Thieves Guild in addition to being a werewolf. She still looked like a fresh-faced barmaid.†

So I took the icy elf up on her offer. New war paint, some blush for the cheeks, darkened the complexion a little, tweezed and arched the eyebrows, let Nia's hair down and a made it a little wild, made her eyeshadow a little more earthy. Leaf green.

Oh, and if those vampires can have cool glowing red eyes, I wanted Nia to have cool eyes, too, so they've gone from blue to silver.

All in all. Nia's looking more traveled and experienced.†

And fabulous. A fine Dovahkiin makeover, if I do say so myself. I thanked the elf, then made Nia shoot her with a crossbow from the shadows for x3.0 damage! Plus it's an enchanted crossbow with exploding bolts, so that really stung.

It's sort of funny how real your characters can become to you, to the point you might even push them to age gracefully. I'll sink an hour into this kind of thing with each new RPG I start if the option's there, so it was nice Dawnguard lets you update your character's look.

So how's your Dovakiin looking lately?   read

8:16 PM on 06.25.2012

I'll wreck your Ralph... or something...

I haven't blogged much of late, as my laptop is out of commission. I'm short on cash to fix it and can't upload images from the iPhone 4. I do have a blog I've been drafting, but as one might imagine it gets tiresome inputting all your thoughts on a tiny software keyboard. Still, I want to have something to offset the inevitable, mind-numbing deluge of Mass Effect 3 blogs that are sure to ensue this week. Fight the good fight and all that. I should have it tweaked by Wednesday, Skyrim: Dawnguard permitting.

Anyway, on to my topic - an image from Wreck-it Ralph and what it says to me:

Happy: Chun Li spotted in Wreck-it Ralph!†

So far it's mostly been a boy's club of arcade nostalgia for this movie, so it's nice to see Chunny is in. Dunno why she's as tall as Zangief, but I guess they want Ralph to be the real contrast of the movie compared to everyone else.

Word is Cammy is also in, though Disney might modify her outfit a little, for obvious reasons.

Sad: Here's where the image is worth a thousand words, though I'm not much for counting these words on this iPhone.

Qbert and company have fallen on hard times. One of the baddies has a sign saying he'll work in an FPS for food. Could there be an undercurrent of commentary on today's gaming trends? The story does point to Ralph wanting to transition from arcade baddie to "modern" hero in a game called "Hero's Duty."

Already, the movie seems to nudge at the differences with the games of today and those of the 80's and 90's. There certainly is a sort of whimsy video games from that time were allowed to have that's deemed uncool now by "hardcore" gamers. Were Qbert to be a new game today it would be an iPhone or indie game sneered at by the hardcore CoD fan. Sneered at until useful, anyway.

It has always bugged me that when gaming is under fire for violence by the media that gamers will run to arcade classics and games like Animal Crossing to show they're not all that way, yet when the coast is clear they turn around and condemn casual or retro games. It's becoming cliche.

Meanwhile they'll try to express how deep and mature a game like Heavy Rain is and people hope wank like that is what will bridge the gap to the mainstream non-gamer, to appease the Roger Eberts. I doubt it, as TV and film already have plenty of actually good crime dramas.†

Sorry, but I can't even sit through five minutes of anything David Cage writes without finding a logical discrepancy or something inconsistent with the way actual humans communicate. No More Heroes, on the other hand, knows its a game, doesn't apologize for it and while it's juvenile as hell it's also brutally honest and gets to its message faster. All that glitters is not gold and revenge is a hollow endeavor.

While it may be too soon to say, Wreck-it Ralph seems to already be looking at the past not for nostalgia's sake alone, but possibly also to put gaming in perspective. It can be a trivial, wacky thing and that's OK. In fact, that might be gaming's greatest strength. Most pastimes are trivial, wacky things, but that's where all the cool stuff comes from.

Four of my favorite games this year have been Kid Icarus, Lollipop Chainsaw, Xenoblade and Pokemon Conquest. They embrace the weird with wreckless abandon and are great for it. Feudal Japanese warlords catching Pokemon? Zombie-hunting cheerleader? Angel that needs help flying? Explore a world that is really two dead robot gods? All works for me.†

This year has really brought back some needed weirdness. I like my gritty moral dilemma RPGs, but I need something to offset them. Gaming can take us places we wouldn't have imagined logically. Qbert was born out of the design limits of its era (or drugs and too much geometry) yet that's what makes it special and worthwhile. †It's kind of sad to think this all could be abandoned willingly in the ongoing march toward greater realism.

Not that I'm overlooking games like The Journey, Fez, Limbo, Mutant Mudds, VVVVVV or Muramasa - they all do thier part to keep games honest and I'm very glad for that. There's still clearly a market for me, but it's sad to think one day there might not be.   read

6:47 AM on 04.29.2012

Playstation All-Stars deserved to be a stand-out, not a knock-off.

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale deserved better, that is really what it boils down to.

The problem really isn't that SuperBot quite clearly ripped off Smash Bros. as much as it is that by ripping-off Smash Bros. they've disrespected the Playstation brand on their first title. Sony makes it worse by being okay with this. Everything that makes Playstation what it is is jettisoned for a "me too" 2D brawler.

Let's be clear - Sony has every right to make their own cross-over brawler but crossovers aren't just about your favorite video game characters hitting each other. They're also about celebrating what you've created and what makes your characters special.

So ask yourself: What makes Playstation's brands different? How are they different from Nintendo, Microsoft or Valve?

If you have a comic book where Batman and Spiderman meet, it needs to be more than Batman taking down Kingpin and Spiderman being funnier than The Joker. Batman and Spiderman have their own ways about doing things. They also have common ground and relationships that can mirror each other. By setting aside their more negative differences and embracing their best qualities to have them work together, you get these little moments of growth for Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. You're reminded of why you came to love these two guys in the first place.

Nintendo tends to go for this in a more historical sense and Square-Enix opts for copious amounts of fanservice, but whether its Smash Bros or Dissidia there are these special moments.

A poignant moment of Super Smash Bros. Brawl was when Samus rescued Pikachu from a device that exploited him for his electrical abilities. The characters quickly bonded after Pikachu's rescue and assisted each other in their escape of the facility.

Was there not a time where Samus rescued another child-like creature exploited for its abilities and it assisted her in an escape? The warrior became a mother and the child an equal as a protector. Isn't Pokemon's story about the bond of friendship between pet and master? These two characters with totally different origins and games come together to express some of the most notable and heartfelt aspects of their character.

Kratos has a lot of reasons to be an angry god but Rau from the Mark of Kri has totally different motives for his rage as a mortal. Kratos is plagued by loss, mistakes and driven by revenge. Rau is simply angry because his people and his only family in his sister were threatened. Rau had great responsibilities in his life and didn't want to lose those he loved. Obviously we have some differences and common ground here. Kratos had a family, but then he got mad. Oops.

I'd love to see these two characters team up for an action game. I've been kind of sad that not only was Rau left behind on backward compatibility, but also that Mark of Kri never got an HD collection or even a spot as a PS2 Classic. Mark of Kri might not have been a big seller for Sony, but it was still an incredibly special and ambitious game that warrants remembrance - a 3D action game with the hand-drawn animation sensibilities driving the 3D animation. It was a lovely game for its time.

I think Rau deserves another shot and meeting up with Kratos could get his name out there. People would buy a game just because Kratos was in it, so why not get Mark of Kri kickstarted again? And in doing this, Sony has copied no one else but themselves. A toon-style Kratos would also be awesome and he could be just as violent as always because MoK was also bloody. There's not much to lose here.

Nostalgic waxing aside, there's also the matter of the origin and identity of the Playstation characters. I wrinkle my nose at a 2D Smash presentation because 2D just is not where Playstation characters come from. Every character in SSB has a reason to be in 2D - its where most of them began, even guest characters like Sonic or Solid Snake. Playstation characters are not of the NES or SNES era, Most of those characters actually come from that second golden age we call the Playstation 2.

PS2 is where the majority of these characters were born, so I would have appreciated them in a 3D brawler as it that is part of their DNA, so to speak. Throwing them in the 2D setting Nintendo favors disrespects them as Sony characters. 2D is awesome, but its not Playstation. Had this been a 3D brawler, Sony could have borrowed or expanded upon whatever else they wanted and people would have been okay with that, I mean, its not like Capcom uses Power Stone for anything.

What really gets me, though, is we have people telling those that call it a "rip-off" to not judge a book by its cover. Well, how many Sony gamers have willingly passed on some great Nintendo first party titles simply because Wii doesn't display HD or have high-capacity storage? That's judging a book by its cover, plenty of people dismiss Nintendo's efforts in that way. So are people wrong when they call Playstation a rip-off when it really does have the looks of Smash Bros.?

Nope, they reserve the right to have such criticisms. Its hard not to see it unless you just wish to be willfully ignorant or had never seen a Smash Bros. game.

But the real tragedy here is that this should have been a celebration for Playstation's successes. All-Stars deserved to be its own game, its own celebration. Instead we're clearly getting a party Nintendo has thrown a few times because it can make money for Sony. Ugh.

Finally, we have people who say that they only care about fun. I can't argue with that, but for me part of the fun of these games is both a reverence for your roots and the ability to poke fun at yourself. Sony does have its own special place in history for me, but when its presented to me this way it feels as fake as Lana Del Rey.

I don't find that fun.

We deserve better and Sony's creations certainly do. But I guess Smash Bros.sells and that's all the reason Sony needs to emulate it. Copying GTA totally made Jak II better, right?

And yet Killzone only tried to beat Halo, not be Halo. Uncharted gave us another way to steal ancient treasure without getting a Lara Croft boob job. Resistance explores a concept I've never really seen with alien invasions. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are stand-out works of art. Mark of Kri defied the need for realism in a time gamers demanded it and it looked great in its defiance. Ratchet and Clank could have been another vanilla platformer, but its weaponry is what sets it apart from the pack. Chicken guns, yo. Who wouldn't want to see Parappa with a chicken gun and rap about it?

Or at least step, turn and signal to the right?

Playstation characters have had stand-out moments. They simply deserve a game that stands out and celebrates what they are. Playstation All-Stars isn't an insult to me as a Nintendo fan, but it does remind me of why I sold my PS3 in the first place. Even if they do have some of the fanservice, its marred by imitation and a lack of respect for its roots.

I respect what Sony created, I just wish Sony would respect it, too.   read

6:20 PM on 04.12.2012

Is it safe to break out Kuribo's Shoe again?

So we heard earlier today that Miyamoto was, rather than head up remake projects himself, looking to perhaps pick up where the likes of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past left off - meaning a new Zelda or a game like it following the design principles of LTTP.

Now its been uncovered that Nintendo has registered a "Super Mario 4" domain and at a recent investors meeting it was said a new 2D Mario game was in the works.and slated for April 2013. Now, its not surprising Nintendo would have more Mario games in the works, but a Super Mario Bros. 4 does seem to fall in line with with Miyamoto's been talking up of late.

Why remake or 3D-ify Super Mario Bros. 3 when you can just make Super Mario Bros. 4 and build on that? With the success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and DS, its pretty clear 2D Mario can still sell incredibly well, but NSMB didn't really take it to the next level for older Mario fans. It certainly stumped some kids for a bit but now that everyone's familiar with 2D Mario again, this could be a chance to build on the classics and that new following.

At points, SMB3 did also take advantage of the foreground and background, if only for accessing secret areas by ducking on white blocks and finding treasure chests with magic flutes in them.

Additionally, Super Mario 3D Land comes out and brings back the Tanooki Suit and makes a tribute to the Hammer Bros. Suit by way of tbe Boomerang Bros. Suit. Nintendo is again goading old fans with this stuff and charming a new audience with them.

So is it time for Super Mario Bros. 4?

Hell yes, but I'd like a few things this time:

We obviously need Princess and Toad back in playable form. Its been too long since Peach didn't get kidnapped. I like Buckenberry and Ali-Gold, but if we're building on SMB3, let's toss a little SMB2 USA in there. And let's invite Yoshi, too. No reason not to at this point.

But if we're going to do SMB4 right, I think we need it in 8-bit or 16-bit at least. I know I'm just wishlisting now, but spirte based 3D games can be just as charming, I know I love my Mighty Switch Force and Mutant Mudds that way. If anyone can still get away with going 2D and 8-Bit again, its certainly Mario given families still turn over Gamestops every weekend looking for a copy of NSMB Wii.

Anyway, I also want Kuribo's Shoe back in, if you can tell. I don't need the Frog Suit and Hammer Bros Suit is kinda still old hat, but I like that shoe, it was fun even if it smelled of fungus.

Bring it. I think we're ready for this.   read

9:11 PM on 04.08.2012

Sparkles, rainbows, lollipops and a whole ton of breasts... er... QUESTIONS!

Do you find Juliet Starling's portrayal to to be sexist?
Have you ever played No More Heroes?
Have you ever played Shadows of the Damned?
Do you even know who Suda 51 is?
Did you swear up and down that you'd buy his games if they came to PS3 or 360?
Did you you swear your dollars if you got his games in a coat of HD frosting?
Did you not turn out for Shadows of the Damned and skip No More Heroes Paradise?
What if I told you Ubi Soft hardly promoted No More Heroes?
What if I told you EA didn't bother to market Shadows of the Damned at all?
What if I told you Warner Bros. as shown more faith in Lollipop Chainsaw than either of those games?
What if that's a good thing?

What if I told you that No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned were layered with sex appeal?
What if I told you their protagonists were male stereotypes as much as the women?
What if I told you that Travis Touchdown is an otaku loser than becomes the best assassin ever?
What if I told you his motives were more about getting laid than getting revenge?

What if I told you Garcia Hotspur was a Mexican badass demon hunter?
What if I told you he was really passionate about his girlfriend, Paula?
What if I told you he had a demon sidekick named Johnson and the game was layered in dick jokes?

What if I told you No More Heroes on the Wii sold more copies than PS3 and 360 versions?
What if I told you Shadows of the Damned didn't sell more than 24k between 360 and PS3?
Don't Suda's games deserve better, all things considered?

Is it really surprising that Juliet Starling is sexualized given how Suda's other games are?
Is it really worth being offended by it?
Do you really want to be the gamer that complains about a stereotype in an iconoclastic role?
How often would she be replaced by a male character in other games?
Wouldn't that be expected?
And would a member of the high school football team be better?
Would a "strong woman" really be that interesting instead?
For men: could it be that Juliet's girlishness take you out of your comfort zone?
Are you scared to play a girl character?
For women: do you harbor resentment because she embodies the pretty popular girl you never were?
Follow-up; Do you think teenage girls are really going to compare their bodies to Juliet's?
Isn't Juliet just a charming spoof of everything women hate anyway?
How seriously can you take a girl with a talking decapitated head for a boyfriend?

Why are people being so serious about a cheerleader that kills zombies with a chainsaw?
Did they miss the sparkles and rainbows coming out of zombies as they die?
Or that Juliet goes to a school named after a zombie movie director?
Isn't this really just a game spoofing movies and games the writers and directors loved growing up?
Why so serious, gamers?

So many questions...

Lollipop Chainsaw is a Suda 51 game that finally has a shot at beating the odds that were stacked against Suda's previous games. Ubi Soft and EA put very little marketing into his previous efforts, but the promotion for this game has been amazing when you look at the gameplay videos and behind-the-scenes footage. its a shame people would take issue with this game's promotion. They clearly don't get the joke.

The game is more parody than anything else. Most people that walk into a Gamestop and see this game seem to get it and thing its awesome, yet every now and then there's someone that misses the parody and gets angry.

Parody isn't meant to glamorize, but to mock social conventions. If we put a "strong woman" or bookish shy girl in as the lead, Juliet would never have the opportunity to defy her stereotype in hilarious ways. She's gaming's Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a world where zombie games are a dime a dozens and women fawn over movies about romances with vampires in high school. It pays tribute to classic B-movies while openly mocking what's popular or acceptable.

In other words, despite all the glittery rainbows and perky breasts, its punk gaming. Maybe more Green Day than Suda's games usually are, but still punk. If you get angry about Juliet, you basically lose.

Between this and Mass Effect 3, I'm starting to question if gamers ever take a step outside their own medium or things related to it. I'm as guilty of it as anyone, but at 34, I'm old enough to see the references and get the jokes. The people making these games are around my age. I grew up with the stuff they're talking about and referencing.

How is it with the tools we have at our disposal today that people can play all these zombie games and not know who George Romero is? How is it the works of Issac Asimov and Blade Runner can come up in Mass Effect discussions and people new to that never stop to consider checking these things out by way of Hulu, on eBooks or Wikipedia?

I'm starting to think gamers are becoming immensely sheltered or just looking for an excuse to show some righteous indignation.

But you know what? Once the game is out this will all blow over. Once the game is out there and played, people will start to get the jokes that were always there. It happened with Bayonetta, after all. People will stop getting mad for no reason and move on to the things that really offend them - like Dante being given black hair and Sonic having green eyes.   read

9:43 PM on 04.05.2012

Will US gamers put their money where their mouth is on Xenoblade?

So tomorrow is finally the day Xenoblade Chronicles is released in the US. Its a game I've wanted ever since it was first revealed. I have a soft spot for games that let me explore vast worlds, you see, and while open world RPGs happen often enough in the West, I've been craving another from Japan since Final Fantasy XI, FFXII and Dragon Quest VIII

I love the Nordic trappings of Skyrim and the wastelands of Fallout, but there's something to be said for the whimsy of Japanese design in these kinds of games. I remember my first trip away from Windurst in Final Fantasy XI, I was just a level 11 Tarutaru White Mage. The journey from the fields of Sarutabaruta had been perilous for one of my profession and squishiness. If one goblin looked my way and aggroed, I was done for, What had become a simple trip for older adventurers was a stealth mission for me at that level and I had very few friends in the game yet.

When I finally got the the ferry in Mhaura, I was giddy with anticipation to venture on to Valkurm Dunes. I'd keep tugging at the coattails of a Mithra, asking her when the ferry would be there. Other adventurers had gathered, ishermen lined to docks and you could almost smell the ocean air.

The ferry finally arrived and I rushed on board, Just minutes later it took off and I was above deck as fast as a Taru's short legs could take them. I looked out to the west and then i saw it - Heaven's Tower, the great landmark of my home nation.

Then an odd sensation came over me. My heart sank and I felt a little homesick. The place I had spent a week getting started, this vast city I had explored was now just a small place on the horizon. A moment later my heart warmed with pride at the adventure to come and I looked a little further down the coast toward my destination.

A Kraken spawned behind me and killed me.

Ah, yes, the thrills of the open world. While Xenoblade is not an MMO, there's always moments like those waiting within an open world RPG all the same.

Anyway, I hear a lot of talk from people about Nintendo needing new IPs, I'm hoping they're not all talk because here one is, folks. Its time to put your money where your mouth is. Even with Xenoblade being a first party title we've had to have people organize and make Nintendo of America aware that we want games like this. We said the same of The Last Story as well, which is a game co-developed by Nintendo and Mistwalker.

But even though things have turned around slightly, I still don't think the likes of Reggie Fils-Aime or NOA believe this or The Last Story are games we need. They don't think there's a market even though there clearly is a market for open-world RPGs.

In my head, I think this is really how Xenoblade got out in the US;

Iwata: Hey, Reggie.
Reggie: Hey boss man. How are things?
Iwata: Good, good. Just got the 3DS turned around, no thanks to you.
Reggie: I do what I can.
Iwata: So yeah, I saw this game called Skyrim sold like 3 million copies in its first week.
Reggie: Yeah, I heard about that.
Iwata: We have a game kinda like that - Xenoblade. Its out in Europe.
Reggie: Yup.
Iwata: Why the fuck aren't you getting it published in the US?
Reggie: Sorry, I got Jimmy Fallon and Oprah on the other lines, can you hold?
Iwata: Fuck it, I'll find someone else. Idiot.
Iwata: Will you at least market it?
Reggie; *click*

So Gamestop, of all businesses, got to publish Xenoblade and to their credit they even got art books to sweeten the deal and put a fair bit of marketing into it. More than NOA has, anyway.

NOA has no faith in it, They need to be proven wrong just like SCEA had to be proven wrong about Demon's Souls on PS3. They need to be shown there's a market, but its really not enough that only the people that really want it turn out, anyone that's ever uttered the words "Nintendo needs to make a new IP" needs to be out there or I just can't take your words seriously anymore. Xenoblade would be the fourth new Nintendo IP since Pushmo, Sakura Samura and Dillon's Rolling Western. Those might just be eShop games, but they're still new IPs. All of them should be supported so Nintendo gets the message that new IPs are cool.

And if you pirated it because you believed it would "never" come to the US, you need to be getting in line because its really not enough to say how good the game is if you don't do your part and just leech. There seem to be a fair number of importers throwing their money in a second or even third time for the US release because they believe in the game and Monolith Soft.

I'll be picking up my copy tomorrow, but I'm still a bit concerned. I hope I'm proven wrong about those who've talked big. They've disappointed me on some great PS2 and DS games in the past, after all. I'm hoping Xenoblade doesn't suffer a similar fate.

I like my Zelda, Metroid, Kirby and Mario games, but it still want something new.   read

10:27 PM on 04.02.2012

10 things you never asked for from The Silent Protagonist

Aw hell, I guess I'll join in on the fun. Plus I haven't blogged in a while and I could use a spontaneous topic. It will be interesting to see if I can even get to ten things about me.

(1) I'm 34.

No one quite believes me when I tell them this. Then again, I never shut up about video games so that's probably why. So yes, I'm as old as Jonathan Holmes if that's really that old. I'm not much on the social concept of being "grown up" anyway since its really not the same thing as being mature. I guess the only thing being my age as a gamer nets you is a vast exposure to nearly 30 years of video games.

My parents never should have taken me to see Tron at the age I had nothing but questions to ask. I asked "Can we go to an arcade?" and that was what ruined me in their minds.

(2) I have a JOURNALISM degree.

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking at the time, but I was having too much of a good time being in student clubs and pulling a Game Boy Color out of my guitar case from time to time to care. That was back when Goldeneye and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 were a thing, so when all the work was done those were good times. I would have Ryo talk to Tom in Shenmue and play my ocarina in Majora's Mask.

I started out with a major for broadcasting because I was told I had a great face for radio, but switched up to Journalism because I like bullshitting and I'm quite excellent at it. One day I was sick and threw together a conspiracy theory for the campus paper about why people came to Boone, NC to "see the leaves turn" every fall. Fuckers from the city were after our trees and oxygen, i still maintain that.

I also have a psych minor. That along with the Journo major just means i can say insightful shit or find questions that piss people off. Protip for our potential and current college crowd; ALWAYS ask your psychology professors questions. They love to talk about their studies and research, so much they might forget to assign you homework.

(3) A backpack saved my life.

You know how people say you should never wear your backpack on your shoulder? Those people don't know anything. I was hit by an SUV while crossing legally in a crosswalk. Got into that last lane almost at the sidewalk and some preacher's kid tagged me.

Just one of those "Oh shi-" moments.

Since I was still in college at the time, there were about six thick, heavy textbooks in that backpack between me and this Ford Explorer. Got knocked into the next crosswalk and gave the women's tennis team a nice traumatic shock. The preacher's kid got really religious if "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" qualifies. I couldn't have really known as the next thing I knew is I woke up on a hospital and a nurse shoved a clipboard in my groggy face for me to sign with my fractured right arm to be airlifted to my home hospital.

Yay, run-on sentence! Not fixing it.

Ben Folds wrote a song about that exact hospital the same year. I was OK, though, mild concussion, some pavement in my face and a fractured right arm. My back was fully protected from impact thanks to that backpack and thick textbooks, though my poor Discman did not live to see another day.

I got a $35,000 settlement for my troubles. I also went to hear a sermon from the preacher's kid's dad who had a church just off-campus. It was a nice sermon, but it was really fun to see him turn white as a sheet when I introduced myself on the way out.

(4) I have a problem with brevity.

See above. Everything damn thing I type turns into an essay.

(5) I don't really hate Sony.

People think i have this malicious hatred for Sony. I don't. I just miss the Sony that made the PS2. I feel like the crazy Sony that has ruined the rest of the company is out to extinguish the brilliant flame the games division once had. You know, the part of Sony that wanted CD copy protections and wanted grandmas and six year-old girls arrested for sampling MP3s. That's the part I have a problem with,

PS2 was their SNES, a fricking second Golden age of gaming and they really don't seem to value that very much. It makes me sad. HD collections are nice, but have you seen the hideousness of the "PS2 Classics?" It makes me run back to SD versions of those games.

In fact, it actually has done that to me. I'm rebuilding my PS2 library as of today. I'm not going to wait for them to ruin Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne on PSN. No blurry Demi-Fiend in stretched to 720p.

(6) 90% of the music on my iPhone 4 is by Shoji Meguro.

I have all these other artists I could be listening to, but its mostly stuff from Catherine and Shin Megami Tensei games. Gonna get some Deus Ex Human Revolution in there soon.

(7) I have all three Etrian Odyssey games and still haven't finished any of them.

There's a fourth one on the way, too, likely by the end of this year. I like them, I think they're cool throwbacks with awesome soundtracks, but I never seem to get around to finishing them. I should fix that this year..

(8) Air ducts are my porn in games.

I'm bouncing between Metroid Prime and Deus Ex Human Revolution right now. I love games that really let me explore every nook and cranny of a world. I don't think we really have enough games that meet that potential and wish we had more of them. Skyrim is obviously an obsession for me. Sure, that's another dungeon with more drauger in it, but I haven't seen it yet.

I see an air duct or small space to morphball into and I get all excited. Knowing one place connects to another in a previously unknown way makes me happy. Samus Aran gave me this love for exploration more than Link or Mario ever did.

(9) I wish more games had non-lethal options.

I don't know why games always have to be about killing people. The Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex franchises have really made me want more non-lethal options. I'm not perfect at stealth, I'm pretty decent at it, but being able to knock out people or talk my way out of a confrontation rather than just go about killing people feels more awesome than being the person who has to kill everyone.

Even Shin Megami Tensei has options to negotiate with enemies rather than always kill them. Its like The Boss said, enemies are determined by the times and are often enemies in relative terms, so why do I have to kill so many in a game like Mass Effect which is so obsessed with talking to people anyway when I can make it through MGS or DX without silencing so many lives?

(10) Gaming, more specifically RPGs, have made me fascinated with mythology and religion in games..

I'm quite a pop culture junkie, but gaming loves to take pop culture and myth and weave them together. You can have Deus Ex; Human Revolution synthesizing a love for Blade Runner and the Icarus myth harmoniously or have Kid Icarus Uprising which loves to forth wall while rubbing elbows with Greek Mythology more directly.

If a game has a beastiary, I'll thumb through it, then I might stuff it, then I might lose track of time on the wiki. Some games throw myth in with no real respect to it while others go for a creative take or a more literal representation. While I do get caught up in the exploration in Skyrim, when I'm hearing the story and lore I'm drawing connections to Norse mythology in the back of my head, seeing Sovengarde as Valhalla, the spirits of fallen warriors - the einherjar - making their way there and the coming of Alduin running parallel to Fenrir and Ragnarok.

Its just how I process things now.

And that's it. Ten things about me. Thanks for reading.   read

11:07 PM on 02.25.2012

I want to be able to control movies and skip the story bits

I want movies to be more like video games. i want to be able to control the actors, participate in violent combat and skip over the parts of the story I don't like. This would reduce the Star Wars prequel trilogy to a bunch of light saber battles and an occasional duck-and-cover shooter because there's nothing of merit for me to be sitting and watching unless I'm really into midichlorians and knowing Darth Vader was such an emotional wimp. By having it playable, at least my time and money is not wasted.

From here on out, I demand that each actor in mainstream and independent film have a chip implanted in their heads so i can use a gamepad to control them, make them pick up weapons or maybe just have Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox enter a branching dialog in which the result is them making out.

We can do this, just look the movie Clue - it has multiple endings so its an open-ended film - we just need to expand on that idea and add in the ability to control humans so we can participate in violent acts that movies already glamorize. It can be done.

And so what if putting chips in the skulls of celebrities is unethical? So is the movie Gamer and I don't see anyone complaining about that. Nor do people complain about the plastic surgery or other augmentations actors get to make themselves more attractive and, thus, more famous. Many of them are already controlled by fame, I'm just asking for that fame to arrive at a logical conclusion for me - a controller in my hands.

Iím not saying you have to enjoy movies differently than you currently do, Iím just asking for this as an option. I want a place at the table of this "movie" thing and I want to have both controllers as I make Angelina and Megan go at it.

And I'm tired of books and their words. I don't have the time and can't be bothered to read anymore. I have a life, a job to pretend I enjoy while looking for other jobs and that's got enough reading and writing as it is. Either every book should come with a Cliff Note's version - this applies to both Lord of the Rings and the Bible - or I should get movie versions packed-in.

I just don't like reading and if we can fix that, then I'll be very happy. It even strains my little head just writing this out as it is because no one has invented a way for me to beam my thoughts onto the computer or have it covert into proper spelling and grammar by itself, the lazy bastards.

Publishers and movie studios should be fully capable of bowing to my demands, so I'm here to ask them to change and conform to my needs. I enjoy associating with their mediums, even if I don't like that they expect me to consume them in a specific way. I want to control movies and watch books.


Well, youíre just a small-minded elitist puritan. You donít want people like me joining in your little movie and book clubs. Well, Iím not leaving until I get what I want, no matter how unreasonable you think my wants are.

Donít tell me I should just play video games instead of expecting movies to change. Donít you dare shove logic in my face because I am not having logic today. And donít tell me I should just read a book instead of expecting a movie to be packed-in. I know how I want this and you canít tell me my opinions are not valid. We can make these vastly different mediums into whatever I want. I will not be limited tot he idea that movies and books have to be their own things.

Can't you tell I don't value uniqueness? I want a chip in Angelina Jolie's head so she will finally leave Brad Pitt and come to me. I don't care that she's adopted children and has all these responsibilities, I want her wearing a slave crown. I've adored the idea of that since Kefka put one on Terra.

And if someone could find a way for me to be able to eat music that would also be great. I get so tired of just listening or dancing to it - and dancing is indeed tiring. I'm sure music can be converted into food somehow if musicians genuinely tried. I bet jazz would have been so much better if John Coltrane made it taste like a warm fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream on top. Why has jazz not achieved this?

Control movies.
Watch books.
Eat music.

That's the world I want to live in. Make it happen.


7:20 AM on 02.21.2012

Fools & money, quickly parted: Vita Memory card speeds tested

So someone finally bothered to put PS Vita cards to the test on the value level. I had my suspicions about the Vita memory cards before playing the demo kiosks and was rather puzzled regarding the large load times of Vita games such as Gravity Rush.

I had gone on and on about the price of Vita cards and why they were too expensive and Sony fanboys swore up and down the prices were what they were because of reasons. One of the latest defenses being that the cards were probably Class 10 reading speed.

Well, that's a nice theory, but Sony doesn't say what class the Vita cards are. I checked in-store and online, but couldn't find any details on the matter. Class 10 SD cards are typically around $59.99 - give or take - if they're 16GB cards, which is the asking price of the Vita card.

Turns out they're not Class 10, though, but Class 4 when someone put them to the test on GameFaqs - meaning, they read at the same speed as your standard 16GB SD card, which can be found at a Radio Shack for $19.99 to $29.99 depending on whether or not they had a sale that week (and I've yet to pass through on a day they're not on sale). I did pick an 16GB SD card last week for $19.99 because I'm a cheap bastard that doesn't want to fork out for a proper 360 HDD right now, but when I do it means I'll then have more storage for my 3DS than I will likely ever need.

This also means the 32GB Vita card should be $49.99 to $59.99, not $99.99, as that is the range for an SD card of a similar class

If you're heading out for a Playstation Vita today, my advice is buy whatever card rips you off the least. You will not be getting the storage you deserve for your money, but at least you'll be getting something closer to your dollar value for a 4GB card than you would anything higher than that. Plus its not like all your PSOne Classics are available for play today anyway.

Additional link with more discussion on the matter.

And now, for the SDF's excuses for this one. The rest of us know what this was really about - mitigating the damage of the PS Vita's price point and nothing more for as long as Sony could fool the early adopters.

What I'm really saying here is if you're getting that 32GB card, you should just give that $100 who would spend it better. I won't turn it down.   read

9:05 PM on 01.01.2012

Never say video games aren't productive, OK?

You know, they say there are no stupid questions. I don't know who "they" are or how they got the authority to say that, but they're wrong. There are stupid questions and things you probably shouldn't say, lest you want to prove you're a moron to other people.

For a gamer, that wrong thing to ask or say amounts to "Wouldn't it be better to do something productive rather than play video games?"

My knee-jerk reaction would be to say this to such a person:

"Allow me to find out what your pastimes are and diminish each one as pointless. Do you like sports? How is watching it on television productive? What does it produce? In fact, how does your favorite team become a possessive to you? How is it 'your' team when you're not even on it? Hm? I don't see you in the NFL replays."

Watching sports on TV is a passive activity, you've produced nothing by watching it, save for perhaps gaining some intellectual and emotional satisfaction from viewing it. Maybe you're into the statistics, seeing the strategies play out. In other words, you might be getting out of sports what I get out of Zelda or Skyrim when I play them.

But neither produce anything outwardly, so by their own logic watching sports is just as pointless as playing a video game - but they wouldn't admit that to themselves.

"Oh, but going to a sporting event can be social," they'd say. "And sharing your knowledge on forums can be beneficial and enhance other people''s appreciation and understanding of sports. That's productive!"

To which I'd say that that's really no different from video games. Arcades were a social environment, knowledge of games can be shared with other people to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of video games. We've watched entire communities constructing wikis for Dark Souls, Call of Duty, Skyrim and every game under the sun from scratch, which if anything is more of a labor of love than something you get paid for. Discussion on forums might turn people on to different games they might not have otherwise tried.

If I post on these forums, write a blog or vlog or whatever, I'm being productive, aren't I? I'm doing something that may benefit another person. I might meet new people and make friends and I quite honestly have. I've written guides, been a guest on a podcast every now and again and I'm about to start being a regular host for another.

And that's before we even touch on the online communities for multiplayer games, be it Street Fighter or Gears of War or DC Universe Online. I've made friends, hell, I've known people who met their husbands or wives through an MMO and went on to have a happy marriage. Can we just drop the zoned-out zombie image of gaming, please? Its a social thing.

All pastimes are valid pastimes, whether they produce something or not - they would not be pastimes if people could not derive some kind of enjoyment from them. Playing video games is part of what keeps my mind nice, balanced and refreshed so I can go on doing other things that are productive. If some guys didn't start writing about hobbits or Jedi one day; if some guy didn't figure out something else to do with his UHF channel the world would be just a shade less interesting. Science fiction, fantasy and video games might be lost on some people, but that doesn't mean any of them are devoid of value.

I can find plenty of things other people like that I couldn't be driven to care about, but that doesn't mean those things lack value to everyone. Who am I to question what pastimes make other people tick? Some people dance, some people do woodworking, collect baseball cards or go hiking - do these things get deemed unproductive? Not all of it makes something, but it does help people find some contentment. Its just lame to disrespect something because it doesn't move you personally.

So I'll play my video games and you just do whatever it is you do, okay?

I put up with this kind of talk from my parents and people their age because they're baby boomers. I expect it, they're never going to give us the benefit of validation so long as they're still in charge and I accept that. The generation before them was that way, too. But from anyone my age or even slightly younger... that kind of talk just makes me think less of you. Old people are old, but those that don't want to look like old fools would do well to be a bit less judgmental.   read

10:36 PM on 12.04.2011

Tales from Skyrim: Excerpts from the journal of Irene Grogdrowner

Day 1

Today was the day I was supposed to be executed. Just as I laid my head on the chopping block and got ready for the Big Sleep, a dragon showed up and tore up the town of Helgen. Not the stay of execution I was hoping for, but I won't look a gift dragon in the mouth. I got to kill some Imperials and escape into Skyrim.

Some fellow told me to head to Riverwood for information on joining the Stormcloaks, but then I met this shopkeeper that wanted me to retrieve his golden claw. Seeing as I was broke and needed some money and the gear from the Imperials wssn't cutting it, I took the job.

Day 2

Just got back with the claw. Saw some funny glowing writing on a wall and now there's a word on the tip of my tongue and I don't know what it is. Also picked up a funny stone, but I don't know what its for.

Heading out to Whiterun in the morning, Re-deading the undead can take a lot out of a fledgling Breton mage such as myself.

Day 3

I do a little work in Whiterun and I'm suddenly promoted to thane and have my own servant. All that for just happening to have that stone on me. Talk about low standards. But hey, I've gone from death row to having my own housecarl to carry all my excess stuff.

To be honest, this Lydia chick doesn't seem too enthusiastic about the job.

Just after getting acquainted with Lydia, a dragon was said to be spotted nearby. I go outside and sure enough there's the dragon tearing up a tower. Not being one for melee and not quite acclimated to my magic yet, I fell back on my bow to take it down.

After defeating the dragon that word I was stuck on just lept out of me.


After the Whiterun guards messed themselves, they started calling me the "dragonborn." Then "Dovakin" thundered in the sky for some reason. The Jarl of Whiterun said it was the Greybeards calling me and I must go see them.

Okay. I had to sell off some of this dragon bone stuff first, it was weighing me down. The storekeeper, Acadia made some fuss about me stealing antlers, the guards came in and I told them it was a misunderstanding, I'm a thane, etc. Everything seemed cool after that.

Jeez, I just saved the town from a dragon, you'd think everyone would be grateful.

I had enough to afford a horse, so I bought one and set out for High Hrothgar.

Day 5

Small detour. Some Nord needed a necromancer liberated from his family's tomb. Couldn't blame him, so I helped him out, but as we got out we were jumped by some bandits. After we killed them, I found a note naming me as a target and the one that hired them was none other than Acadia...

Totally killing her when I get back to Whiterun. I can make my own potions.

Day 7

7,000 steps.... they expect me to learn Thu'ums after all those stairs.

No, my legs were fine. My ass was sore from riding the horse up that far.

Day 9

After learning my first Thu'ums, I set out to explore for a bit, found a fort and proceeded to check things out. Ice mages jumped me and my horse went on the offensive. They killed him.

That horse cost 1,000 gold!

I killed them all, inside and outside of the fort. Still didn't make up the money I lost on my horse.

Day 13

Horse #2 is dead. Bandits this time.

Day 17

Horse #3 is down. Tried a shortcut down the mountainside from Azura's shrine. Gravity wasn't kind to him, but at least he broke my fall.

Day 20

There went horse #4. Dragon went after him first and before I could get back to him it was too late.

Oh, I got a funky mace for torturing some poor old man. Its not really my thing. Torturing is, but not the mace.

Day 23

I joined up with the Companions after killing Acadia. They seem like a cool bunch. Aela the Huntress is smoking hot, too. Think I might swing by Riften and get an Amulet of Mara and see if she's interested..

Day 28

I'm a werewolf! Aela is a werewolf, too! I mauled that Battle-Born fellow pretty good. Pity he survived it. He always has to remind me he is the patron of the Battle-Born family each time I walk by, like I give a damn.

Day 35

We just freed Kodlak from his curse of being a werewolf, if you can call it a curse. He's in Savengarde now or so they say. I took the opportunity to pop the question to Aela. She said yes!.

Day 36

So I married an openly bisexual werewolf. Problem?

She might turn into a hairy, bloodthirsty beast from time to time, but so do I!

Day 45

With Aela and Lydia keeping things in order at home, I've been trying to find new Thu'ums and keep Horse #5 from dying.

Oh, I became the Archmage of Winterhold, too. I still haven't really gotten back to being a good mage and learning spells, but this robe and funky mask make me look like Dr. Doom and I never need Magicka potions when I wear them. I'll have this Destruction magic maxed out in no time!

Maybe I'll set that orc bard on fire...

Day 46

Horse #5 is gone. Spectral archer got it. He said he was sorry and didn't mean to do it - like THAT makes up for it.

Day 60

On the way to a Thieves Guild mission, I passed by Azura's Shrine. First, some nutjob cultist rushes me and Horse #6 us with his pet wolf. We take care of him and just as I investigate this book about Boethiah I find on him yet another dragon falls right beside us.

The world is after my horses, I swear to the Nine!

So I take down the dragon and the horse is still alive. I hop on and we get back on track.

Oh wait, is that a frost troll?

Dismount. Arrrowed.

You know what? I just left the horse there after that.

Good thing too, because when I got to where I was supposed to meet Mercer Fray, he said he had "taken care of" Karliah's horse. I'm not letting him within fifty feet of mine.

Day 61

Yeah, totally a good thing I didn't bring the horse, given Mercer tried to kill me and all. When I get done with his ass, I'm joining the Dark Brotherhood, I hear they give away horses that don't die.

Day 69

I met Nocturnal. She's kind of a bitch, but easy on the eyes. I suppose t could do a lot worse for who I'd choose to serve in the afterlife. I'll go with her. Plus this Nightengale getup is really awesome.

Day 73

I've been pondering whose side I'm going to take in the war.

On one hand, Nords are racist and on the other hand I hate elves.

Stormcloaks it is.

Day 79

Oh, Sheogorath, you cheeky bastard. You remind me so much of... me in some other life. I don't know whether to pluck out your eyes and replace them with cheese balls or summon Haskill for no reason other than to do it.

I don't know where that came from. Somewhere. Everywhere. Underwear. It felt good to say it, though.

Day 85

"Aren't you worried about the dragons?" I asked Ulundil, stable owner of Windhelm.

"If I am to be killed by a dragon, so be it. It's not going to change how I live." he replied.

Famous last words. A blood dragon then promptly swooped down and ate him.

But hey, free horses. That's what's important!

Day 95

Shadowmere is mine. Sithis be praised! For all the blood I've shed I now have a horse that can't die!

Day 98

At some point I'm going to have to get back to Delphine about those dragons and averting the apocalypse and all that.

Nah, I'm just going to kill all the other horses in Skyrim now.   read

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