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About
Currently residing in Portland after attending Portland State University and earning a bachelors degree in communications with aspirations of working in the videogame industry in some capacity, preferably as a writer. I've always wanted to work in the industry, but I'm really not into the idea of 70 hour work weeks while on the development side of things, so I'm looking for alternatives. I'm 24, a big Portland Traiblazer fan, and I've been enjoying my newfound post graduation freedom quite nicely. My all time favorites include Metroid Prime, Yoshi's Island, Sonic CD, and Metal Gear Solid (The whole damn series). I haven't really been involved heavily in a gaming community for a few years now due to a crazy schedule, and I look forward to getting to know all the fellow uber nerds here. Come to my blog for high quality reviews and the occasional rant.
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mad as hell

I got fired last week.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I had nothing to do with my termination. Sure, I got some real bad things to say about my previous employer, but I was a pain in the ass to deal with on occasion, particularly over the last year, where frustrations with my career and path in life have made me insufferable. I've never been much for Astrology, so when my hippie Portland friends keep warning me about my Saturn Return, I never really thought much of it. Essentially, for those of you unfamiliar, your Saturn Return happens sometime in your mid-late 20's, and gamma rays from Saturn somehow make you rather depressed for around twenty months. During this time, through adversity brought on by this event, one finds the person they are supposed to become, and, ideally, become a better, more rounded individual through this experience.

My father, who is in no way, shape, or form into Astrology, calls this “Being in your mid 20's and growing up, numbnuts”.

growing up

 Here's what I do know: I'm 26, and it's time for change. I'm one Bachelors degree down, and one career path down too. Being on the internet, I'm sure you've read untold amounts of drivel written by failed writers explaining how making money as a writer is about as difficult as splitting an atom successfully, so I will spare you of that essay. Nobody wants to read that. Add to that, apparently the people who paid me to make pizza over the past two years don't feel like paying me to make pizza anymore. I've got next month's bills paid and $10 to my name.

I have one possession of monetary value. A library of wonder, collected over decades. Tens of thousands of dollars dumped into a wall that I have taken immense pride in over my life. It has become one of the defining characteristics of my being. When company comes over, it's the first thing they notice or want to talk about. It's in my basement, in my living room, in my personal room, tucked away in my closet, and hidden behind my furnace. You can't go too far in my house without finding one aspect of it. In times of hardship, it has provided me so much comfort and joy.

wakk

It is my massive videogame collection, and I am fucking sick of it.

 In a way, collecting videogames has become a prison where, I, the prisoner, have to lay the foundation brick by brick. Tens of thousands of dollars. Countless $60 videogames now barely worth the plastic they're concealed in. The rare, sought after, financially viable aspects of my collection are so vastly outnumbered by piles of nearly worthless games. So many times I would tell myself, “Oh I need to buy this RIGHT NOW, or else it will be out of print and I'll NEVER get it!”, only to find stacks of it sometime later in a bargain bin for $8. If you're looking to make money, videogame collecting is NOT the way to go.

I think about what could've been accomplished with that money instead of it being added to the wall. How jealous I've been of people I've known who were given extravagant European white privilege vacations by their parents in college, but never thinking about I could've funded a truly exceptional globetrotting excursion if I would've saved some of it. I think about all the times where I've turned down doing fun things with friends not because I was playing games, but because every dime of my disposable income over the past decade has gone to this obsession of collecting.

 twi

In time, collecting the games has become more of the game than actually playing the games. There are countless $60 purchases made on games that I probably didn't even play an hour of. And that's not including the games I haven't even played at all! “Hmm...Well I hated Final Fantasy XIII, never even played XIII-2, but I have to own Lightning Returns for completions sake! What would my Final Fantasy collection be without it!?!” If I never bought another game, and forced myself to beat every game on the wall that I haven't, I assure you that I would be a pile of decaying bones before that task was completed.

I hardly even define myself as a “gamer” anymore. Since graduating college, I've been leading a very physically active lifestyle in an attempt to get in shape. I play rugby for a local team, play tennis where and when I can, go hiking, and actually attempt to lead this thing called a “social life”. Frankly, I've spent less and less time in the basement playing videogames. In an attempt to keep my writing chops going and stay connected with the videogame world, I opened this blog with the hopes of keeping it updated regularly. It's been around two years since my last post. When I do venture into what it's like in the internet videogame scene, I usually come out marginally disgusted by what I've seen, which causes me to not want anything to do with it.

gamergaes

But I still feel its pull. Even though my game playing time has diminished, I still funnel money into the wall like it's going out of style. I have sixteen PS4 and Xbox One games, and I've finished one of them. I'm more than an hour into maybe five of them. I got to the first checkpoint in Infamous: Second Son and never touched it again. When I do go downstairs with the intention of playing something, I often find myself staring at the wall, completely at a loss as to where to even begin. So many times I've said, “well, I'll get around to beating that eventually”, but that lost it's meaning long ago. I end up just basking in it's perceived coolness, like Thror aimlessly wandering through his mountains of gold.

Well I'm no longer waiting for a dragon to come and steal it from me.

 gold

I need a complete paradigm shift in life. While Portland is awesome, I've lived here my entire life. The most exotic place I've ever been is Toronto. Furthermore, I'm done making pizza. It served me well while in college, and pizza kept me afloat while I struggled with the rest of the recent college grads, but it's actually time I did something with my degree. Also, I'm kinda done contributing to America's obesity epidemic, so doing something positive with a net gain on modern society is important to me.

So, for all these reasons, I've decided to go teach English in Vietnam. Their economy is growing at a rapid pace, and due to that, there is a ever expanding need for English teachers in the region. Working with kids is awesome, and helping a country grow in my small way sounds incredibly rewarding. My calculations state that the entire venture, including the flight, the training, food, passport & visa acquisitions, and startup money to put down a deposit and first month's rent on a room works out to around $4,100. Now how could I ever land a chunk of change like that?

That's what my wall is: It's a golden ticket. A way out. Combined with my movie collection and a couple of HDTV's and after talking with an expert in the field who used to run a local game shop, $4,100 is an easily attainable amount for my collection. Sure, if you look at it as a long term investment, I'm losing my ass in a big way, but I hardly find myself caring. A new lease on life is priceless, and something so many people in my situation would kill for, so if my wall can do that for me, than it is all kinds of worth it.

Granted, I still love games, so with great discipline and anguish, I went through my nearly 1,100 piece collection and chose exactly fifty games to keep as a momento. Firstly, The PS3 stays. Of the fifty, nearly half of them are playable on my PS3 (doubling as a PS2 & PS1 didn't hurt on that front). Of the current generation of consoles, I'll keep the PS4 pretty much just so I can play Metal Gear Solid 5 and Final Fantasy XV. I feel a portable device will get far more use in Vietnam than it will here, so the Vita stays as well. Lastly, the PC is the most viable platform on the planet, and my PC is also, y'know, my computer, so that has to stay. That's it. One retro console (is the PS3 retro at this point?), one modern console, a PC, and a handheld. Losing access to Nintendo hurts, but when it came down to it, I love Metal Gear and Final Fantasy more than Mario and Zelda, so they're gone. Also, one of the primary factors in what stays and what goes is general ease of being able to play it on a PC, and there are many, many ways to play Nintendo games there.

As mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear are pretty damn important to me, so keeping those was a must. I have a boxed copy of every numbered Final Fantasy, and that complete collection stays (I may frame it and make it into some kind of art display). Luckily that Metal Gear Solid Legacy collection makes having all of those pretty easy, and then my copies of Metal Gear Rising, the PSP games, the GameBoy Color game, and the Documents of MGS2 all come too. Aaannndd that equates to half the collection on its own.

snes

Choosing the lucky 50 was actually a faster process than I had originally anticipated, but it still hurts. The original intention was to keep the SNES collection, but it drives up the worth of the collection too much to keep it. I had visions of someday giving it to my child and having him play Chrono Trigger and Yoshi's Island the same way that I did, and maybe that will still happen once I'm rich and have enough Fuck-You-Money to buy whatever I want, but it has to go. I also use and love my Wii U a lot, but keeping two modern consoles doesn't seem in the spirit of the great separation I am undertaking.

I'm sure many of the people reading this are downright horrified at what I'm doing. Even two years ago, I would have never considered it. One of my best friends has been jokingly egging me on to sell it for years, to which I would respond with something like “Pfft. It's my pride and joy! I could never part with it.” People change. I changed. This stationary life I lead is no longer a viable option for the sake of my sanity, and if cutting the cord from my wall helps in achieving my goals, than so be it. Somebody reading this may be contemplating the same thing, and if they are, I can only say that this is how I have decided to try and fix aspects of my life, and while I cannot guarantee it will work for you, maybe it's time to consider a new path.

I already had one Tolkien reference, so I'll end on another. My basement is my hobbit hole. Like Bilbo's, it's well kept, neat, and, as he perceived it, perfect. All the comforts he could need are right there. However twelve dwarfs and a wizard are attempting to pry themselves out of my brain and drive me towards adventure. That requires abandoning everything I've known, without guarantee that I will return that same individual, if at all. Previously, like Bilbo did originally, I refused. I didn't think I was cut out for adventures, and wondered why I would need to leave when I have such a nice hole here. But Bilbo finally grew a pair and left everything he knew in the name of adventure, and that's what I aim to do here.

 hobbit

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It's not easy coming to the realization that you're a walking ATM machine for a major corporation. Konami, the famous Japanese fitness club operator who occasionally releases a videogame now and then, has been relying more and more on it's tactical espionage cash cow over the last couple of years, much to the chagrin of my wallet. The increase in Metal Gear titles certainly hasn't been a bad thing for fans of the series, as Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker turned out to be one of the finest entries in the franchise, and the tepid expectations I had for Platinum Games' Metal Gear Rising: Revengence were completely blown away when that gem of a game was released earlier this year.

But maybe my favorite cash grab by Konami was 2012's Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection. High definition re-releases have been ample on the PS3, and the collection featuring Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, & Peace Walker, is one of the best. Replaying Sons Of Liberty and Snake Eater at 60FPS on my big widescreen TV was an absolute joy, as was the ability to play Peace Walker without developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to the PSP's obtuse control scheme. But while HD collections have (somewhat unfairly) been lamented for their double-dip nature, Konami is treading into uncharted territory with the recently released Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, which is essentially a double-dip of a double-dip.

To be fair, there is some substantial difference between the two. For $50, you get the previously released titles from the original HD collection, as well as the first Metal Gear Solid, the Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions standalone PS1 game, Metal Gear solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, a nice little art book, and the digital graphic novels of MGS1 & 2 from the PSP, the second of which is making it's western debut in this collection. The box also mentions the inclusion of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 from the MSX days, but they're really just bonuses that were included in Metal Gear Solid 3, which means they're in the old HD Collection as well.



This being the Legacy Collection (whatever that means), and the fact that Konami is billing this as the be-all end-all, only big box of Metal Gear you would ever need, I think it's important to point out what isn't included. You don't get Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel, which was one of the best Game Boy Color games ever released, but given this is a PS3 game, that's somewhat understandable. You also don't get Metal Gear Ac!d or Metal Gear Ac!d 2 from the PSP, but they're not officially cannon so, once again, understandable.

However Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on PSP is cannon, and upgrading it to be played with two analog sticks like Peace Walker would've been a nice treat. Some people would've liked to have seen them include the 2004 GameCube remake of MGS1, titled Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, but that game is a poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly implemented pile of garbage, so I'm not mad over its absence. So Portable Ops not being there is a bummer, and the Uber Metal Gear fan in me wishes the bizarre and informative PS2 interactive...thing known as The Documents Of Metal Gear Solid 2 was included, but this set pretty much has all of the Metal Gear games you'd probably want in a Metal Gear collection.

Now then, the following series of complaints can very easily be written off as nitpicking, but being that this is the fifth or so time I've bought all of these games, I think I’m entitled to a little complaining, as I envisioned this set being perfect. It's not. Big complaint #1 is the packaging. For reference, here's a picture of the American Legacy collection (Left) and the Japanese version (right) side by side.



Now that Japanese version, that's a nice box set. Notice I said box, as the American version comes in a cheap paper sleeve that fits over the game and book vertically, meaning its contents are in danger of falling out any time you decide to pick it up. Given this is supposed to be a celebration of 25 years worth of Metal Gear, it would've been nice to receive the premium packaging the Japanese got. The book itself is somewhat neat in that 'disposable video game art book' kind of way, and is mostly a collection of promotional material and posters for the various games in the series. However, it's nowhere near as beautiful as the large, hardcover Metal Gear art book that came with the Limited Edition of the previous Metal Gear HD Collection.

It feels cheap, which is also how I would describe the presentation of the games themselves. First off, Metal Gear Solid 1 and the VR Missions aren't actually on the discs. There's a download code to pluck them off the PlayStation Network, which cheapens the worth of the overall package. Once again, I envisioned this set being the only Metal Gear package one would ever need, and if 10-15 years from now I want to play the first Metal Gear Solid (which is something I absolutely envision myself doing), I'm guessing those digital copies aren't going to be viable. Sure, I have three physical copies of MGS1 (I may have a problem...), but not everyone does.



Don't expect much new from the discs themselves either. Disc 2, which houses everything except MGS4, is just the previous HD collection. It doesn't even call itself the Legacy Collection in the main menu. The only difference is the Digital Graphic Novels, which are just video files you access from the XMB. They're still quite cool, as the illustrations from Ashley Wood are still superb, and they're now fully voiced by the original cast, but all of the interactivity from the original PSP releases are gone, as they're now strictly movies. Furthermore, they're not exactly blu-ray quality, as there's some compression problems throughout.

Disc 1 is Metal Gear Solid 4 (shouldn't the disc numbers be swapped?), and that's hardly a bad thing given it's one of the very best games released this console generation. It still looks, sounds, and plays magnificently, but the servers for Metal Gear Online, it's supremely underrated multiplayer component, went down last year, so the multiplayer option is fundamentally useless. It would have been great if Konami dusted off its servers to let MGO live again through this re-release, but instead this strange take on online shooters will continue to stay dead.

Once again, these problems are marginal at best, and the last six paragraphs of complaining is patently absurd given I'm bitching about a box set that contains five of my favorite games of all time and dozens of hours worth of amazing entertainment, but I just wanted more than an art book and two re-painted discs that I already have in a cheap case.



See that? That's a fuckin' box set. It's the Rush: Sectors box set my father bought me two years ago for my birthday. Rush is my favorite band, and that three part, 18 disc, beautifully crafted chest encompassing their first 15 albums is one of my prized possessions. I'm looking at it right now and thinking about blasting Grace Under Pressure. I will own that box for the rest of my life, and it serves as a wonderful tribute to Rush. Metal Gear deserves a box like that. And, given that this is the third Metal Gear compilation they have released stateside, I had hopes that The Legacy Collection would at least stand out a little more. It doesn't

So there's three potential markets for Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection: People who've never played a Metal Gear game before, fans of the series, and the superfans (IE: the suckers). If you're a sucker, then this is the most pointless article you have ever read because you already ran out and bought this collection day one just like me because, dammit, it had the words “Metal Gear” on the box. If you're not quite a sucker, then my recommendation on a purchase hinges entirely on if you already own the original HD collection and/or a copy of MGS4. If that's the case, I'm not sure a code for a $6 PS1 game, a paperback book, and the Digital Graphic Novels are going to be worth the $50 asking price.




But, somewhere out there, there are people with a PS3 who have never touched this series. Who never fed on tree frogs. Who never experienced the greatest and most infuriating switcharoo in videogame history. Who never pondered if love can bloom, even on a battlefield. If you're one of these people, believe me when I say that whatever complaints I have about this box set are completely irrelevant to you, and I have a hard time imagining a situation in which you spend a better $50 on a video game related product this year than on Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. There's never been a better time to jump into Metal Gear, but if you already have, you may find the pool to be a little shallow.
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The goals I have set for myself are not easily attainable. If they were, we wouldn't be living in the middle of something as ludicrous as an obesity epidemic, and it's blatantly clear why we are: Our existences have become increasingly sedentary, with most of our jobs and hobbies involving a lot of sitting and staring at a screen. Meanwhile, mad scientists in secret underground lairs have scientifically formulated the food we consume to be as cheap and addicting as humanly possible, which means deep frying beef, potatoes, and various corn products, then injecting them with as much salt as possible. Frankly, I'm amazed the situation isn't worse when you consider you can get your entire caloric intake for a day from your goddamn brunch in this country.

This is especially true in a place like Portland, where men on the street try to sell you things like deep fried hamburgers and chicken & dumplings housed in an ice cream cone. I had all of these things working against me when I was at the peak of my weight problem. I was a pizza delivery driver at (ugh) Papa John's, which meant 90% of my job was sitting. And when you're a broke college student, free pizza four days a week doesn't seem too bad until you have to start shopping for new shirts. Also losing weight kinda puts a damper on that whole “socializing with friends” thing, especially when bar food is slightly above nuclear waste and slightly below swamp mud on the list of things you should probably avoid digesting.



The point I'm trying to make is that this isn't a matter of me turning on my Kinect four times a week and magically turning into Channing Tatum by June. It's just one part of the lifestyle renovation that needs to take place for the dramatic results I hope to achieve. No more late night runs to the 24 hour hotcake house with my roommate for eggs Benedict. No more permanently stocked mini fridge full of RC cola in my room. No more free pizza. Missing a workout is off the table. My current post-college existence of flingin' pie, playing videogames, and debauchery fueled evenings is far too kush to not be able and squeeze in a run. It's simply inexcusable.

So this is to help you get a better idea of everything else that is going into this outside of the videogame itself. I'm a little more than two weeks into my current program with Nike+ Kinect Training, and the next entry in this series will begin the dissection of its still beating heart to laud its fantastic highs, its puzzling quirks, and one simply infuriating bug. This is more about my diet, and the smart decisions I try to make on a daily basis to maintain a well balanced lifestyle.



But before that, I feel I should put forth a disclaimer: I ain’t a nutritionist, or a doctor. Nobody in the fields listed above were consulted in any way on my diet or regiment, and I pretty much made it up by doing some research online and simply thinking about healthy things that I like to eat. So please don't sue if you choke on a grapefruit.

The Diet


When I decided to map out my food intake, I wanted to stick with a couple of themes. Firstly, it had to be relatively inexpensive. Now I say relatively because, after changing my eating habits to almost completely remove take-out food, the amount I’m spending on food has dropped dramatically. Wanna get pissed at yourself? Get receipts for every meal you eat not from the grocery store and tally it up at the end of the week. You may be somewhat surprised and revolted. Even when I buy mostly organic products, at the most my food is costing me around $60 a week compared to the $100 or so I was dropping when I was eating at the thai place across from my house every other day. Those meals add up fast.

The other main theme is one of simplicity. Not just in the types of food, but in how easy they are to prepare, handle, and transport. There's a very primal feel to a lot of the food I'm eating. Fruits, veggies, beans, rice, chicken, milk, oats. IE: shit that comes out of the ground that we've been eating for thousands of years for a reason. They're easy to produce, all house vital nutrients, and are, for the most part, delicious. Also you don't need a cookbook for a banana. I'm big on foods that only require hands to properly eat.

Then there's the protein powder.



Protein is super important for muscle generation and maintenance, but unlike fats and other nutrients, your body doesn't have a way of storing it, so daily intake is key. The average adult male needs about 50 grams of protein a day, but if you happen to be 6 foot 2 inches tall with a big frame and you're working out six times a week, that number is probably closer to 70. You'd need to eat around eleven large eggs to get 70 grams, so my low calorie, high nutrient diet isn't exactly conducive to meeting or exceeding that number on its own. Whey protein shakes are a super efficient way to insure your body is getting enough protein, and unfortunately the bro culture that surrounds them has clouded how people look at them. I still feel this slight jolt of douche run down my spine whenever I head to the check out counter with two drums of this stuff. The MuscleTech jug in the picture above is the brand I use the most because its the right mix of price with quality, as the cheap brands tend to taste like cement sprinkled with cocoa powder. It's probably the most expensive aspect of the diet, as a month's supply of brotein works out to around $36, but it's vital.

BREAKFAST

The day always starts with a pink grapefruit. It's stocked with vitamin C, antioxidents, and it supports strong joints and can dramatically lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. And, as a kid who grew up on mega warheads, I find their intense sourness to be quite dilectable. Then I'll have some Total whole grain cereal in fat free organic milk, which is all kinds of good for you. I also take a daily multivitamin

LUNCH
Sometime after breakfast is usually when I end up working out, so lunch is usually where the brotein gets involved, as I'll usually down a double shot of it immediately after a run or a Kinect session. The shake works out to about 340 calories and 60 grams of protein, so it's fairly substantial. I'll usually accompany it with a banana and an apple, or I'll grab the oat silo and get some oatmeal in.

DINNER


Resisting pizza while working at Papa John's was probably the most difficult part of the whole ordeal when I went through this last year. Literally piles of free pizza with managers begging you to take it home with you. Granted, my roommates were very thankful, but it was extremely annoying to deal with. Luckily, my college degree has enabled me to finally break away from being a driver at Papa John's. Now I work as a prep cook at a local, far nicer pizza establishment. Hey at least I upgraded jobs! Most recent college grads can't even say that.

The free pizza bit is true here as well, but unlike the corporate pizza factory I worked at before, I now work in a fully stocked kitchen capable of making much more than pizza. So, after looking at the potential health benefits of every ingredient in the store, I came up with the super salad you see above. It's mostly spinach (superfood), with carrots (iron), onions, chicken breast (protein), garbanzo beans (great fiber source), apples (superfood), almonds (superfood), and cuccumber (negative calories). Furthermore, I'm in charge of making the salad dressings at our restaurant, so I'll make a little batch of our spicy Asian dressing without the oil just for myself. It's super tasty and it gives me something to eat at work that isn't pizza. You can taste its goodness. Best of all: it's free. Every time. It's a lot easier to stomach eating the same dinner over and over again when it doesn't cost you anything, and my non workday dinner of baked chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice mixes it up when I need something different.

How To Snack While Gaming


Hey man just because I'm dieting doesn't mean I don't value the importance of having some grub handy while in that extended XCOM session. But it doesn't have to be a bag of Doritos, a 6-pack of Mountain Dew, and a pizza. May I suggest some carrots? A bowl of grapes, perhaps? That's a little bit of a stereotypical diet answer, so how about something you probably like: Popcorn. Specifically, air-popped popcorn, which has tons of antioxidants and fiber, and a giant bowl of it probably only contains 200 calories or so. Furthermore, it's insanely cheap. You can buy popcorn kernels in bulk for about as much as dirt, and you can get an air-popped popcorn machine for under $20. But don't destroy your healthy snack with a half stick of butter! Instead, sprinkle nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper all over it and douse it with some soy sauce for a super tasty and guilt free dose of game fuel. The cayenne pepper actually speeds up your metabolism.

The Mountain Dew may be the hardest thing to replace. I drink a lot of green tea, and the theanine in tea will lower your stress level after you stupidly kill your captain by blindly running into the alien crash-site. Really, other than brotein and occasionally tea, I drink tons of water, which brings me to quite possibly the most important tool at my disposal during this process:

The Big Ass Water Bottle (BAWB)


BAWB has been tethered to me since January 1st. It's actually a two quart juice dispenser ideal for kool-aid consumption, but its proven very useful in my goal to drink 100 ounces of water a day. It's big, sturdy, the cap doesn't pop off easily so it doesn't spill, and I don't have to fill it up every fifteen minutes. It's with me when I play games, it's with me when I work out, and it's next to me right now while I type this. Instant refreshment within arms reach nearly at all times. It's a good way to control cravings too, as a swig from BAWB could save you from an aimless trip to the kitchen. In short: BAWB has my back.

The thing I want to stress about changing your diet is that it's easier than you think. People often cite the convenience and speed of fast food or already prepared meals as their primary reason for eating them, quite frankly that's a bunch of hogwash. It doesn't take a lot of time to start throwing down on some fruit and vegetables, and other than the chicken dinner which does take some time to cook and prepare, most of the food I eat takes no time to prepare at all.

This is the most important part of the process. All the work I do on the road and in the basement would be for nothing if I ruined my workout with a cheeseburger afterward. Also it feels great knowing your putting in such great fuel for your body after sending it through the proverbial meat grinder. Like I said, no scientific studies were conducted to check the validity of the nutritional statements listed above, but hopefully someone could pull out a few nuggets of wisdom and start down the path of better health. Anyone else here have a specific diet they follow? Let us know how you fuel yourself and maybe what I could be doing better in the long run.
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Oww.

Uggghhh...AhahHHHHHHHTSHHHHHHRMPHHHHHHHHH.

I'm pretty sure that's the noise that came out of my mouth the morning of Janurary 2nd after day one of this grandiose experiment. I fondly remember the act of actually rolling out of bed onto the floor because my legs hit the snooze button when the rest of my body started to wake up. My shoulder started to make noises that I'm not sure a shoulder is supposed to make. My stomach, starved from a whole day without some sort of greasy sandwich or a packaged snack with wonderful flavored powder substances sprinkled on top, demanded sustenance.

And that was just day two.

Anyone who has recently started to work out somewhat seriously after an extended period of general slothery will probably remember how much the first week sucks. Imagine every muscle in your body at the office, getting coffee, bragging to each other about how great their fantasy team is going to be, then getting a sound kick in the ass as word comes down from the boss that it's time to be productive for the first time in years. Needless to say that there's an adjustment period for both sides.

Nevertheless I was excited to get back on the wagon and wore my aches like badges of honor while I tied up my shoes ready to hop back in to Nike+ Kinect Training. Last week I laid out my plan towards a better-er version of myself, and how I hoped to accomplish this by primarily playing a video game. I'm sure my mother would be so proud.

DAY ONE: Meeting Mr. Molden



After redesigning my basement and lighting setup to create a more perfect Kinect play area (which is something you shouldn't be forced to do and probably isn't feasible for most of the people reading this), I thought it was best to get everyone's favorite camera controller thingamawhatsit calibrated and make sure it can read me properly. In my previous work out escapades, the Kinect sat about five feet off the ground atop of my TV, but since then I've upgraded to a very flat flatscreen, so perching it back up there wasn't an option. Now it's underneath the TV about three feet up, so the viewing angle needed a slight adjustment. Then, figuring this game was going to potentially be played four times a week for the next six months, I went ahead and installed the game to the hard drive to maximize performance and keep the console quiet (ish?).

The first thing I did in the game was sync my Nike+ account so that I could track my Kinect Training activity alongside my runs, which my iPod keeps track of, then syncs to the site when I plug it into the computer. You can then go onto the Nike+ website and set goals, compare your stats with others, and keep track of personal milestones. This extra layer of connectivity is easily the neatest part of the whole process. As of this writing I've earned 2,571 Nikefuel points (whatever the hell that means) with 1,223 coming from my runs and 1,348 from Kinect Training.



Right from the start, it's clear that Nike+ Kinect Training, from a production standpoint, is leaps and bounds above the other Kinect fitness games I have played. EA Sports Active 2 was a port of a Wii game, so it wasn't exactly fun to look at, the music was horrendous, the menu's were clearly designed for a WiiMote in mind, and its “pristine desert locale” reminded me of some sort of lame fat camp in suburban Phoenix. THQ's UFC Personal Trainer was another game I burnt some calories with last year, but its extreme emphasis on all things bro almost turned me off of it completely.

Very little of that can be found here. I actually grew up about three miles from the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. It was always kinda jarring as a kid growing up in a small suburb knowing the home base of one of the biggest corporations on the planet was tucked away behind a wall of hills and trees right by the Costco on Jenkins. I remember taking a school field trip there and playing soccer in the big field by the front gate. As a delivery driver in college, I hauled $100 worth of pizza to the Bo Jackson Sports Fitness Center inside the main campus. While collecting the money, I'll never forget walking by some sprinter running on a pristine, white treadmill from the future with a baker's dozen cords and hoses attached to her, making her resemble some sort of strange science experiment.



This game makes me feel like I am at the Nike campus. Everything from the modern look of the environments to the font used in the menus has the shoe giant's prints all over it. The music is a pleasant blend of uplifting but never obtrusive beats that fits the decor of the game perfectly. The game is also filled with professionally made live action video to show you many of the game's features. There's a distinct goofiness to other games of this ilk that is completely gone here, and it shows that everyone involved from Microsoft to Nike to British developer Sumo Digital were on board with the idea of creating an authentic, slick, consistent, and polished mystique.



Once you decide it's time to get moving, the first step is to select your trainer. Your two choices are former NFL cornerback (and former Oregon Duck) Alex Molden or Nike Master Trainer Marie Purvis. This is another section where Nike+ is, so far, excelling over its competition. I cannot tell you how much I hated my trainer in EA Sports Active 2. I can still hear his medicated, Canadian voice slowly telling me the benefits of cooldown exercises. Both Molden and Purvis are both obviously exceptional personal trainers who know how to properly motivate and play the part, so both of them come off as enthusiastic, prepared, and extremely natural. Furthermore they are also exceptionally well rendered, as their in game avatars are easily the most impressive character models in any fitness game to date.

So being a dude who likes football and finds the idea of ogling at digital interpretations of women to be kinda creepy, I went with Alex. I figured a guy who had to chase down Jerry Rice for a living has to know something about staying in shape. The next step is setting up your personal plan. Nike+ runs on four week cycles, and at the start of each one, you'll select if you want to get strong, get lean, or get toned as a general guide for the coming weeks. Wanting to lose some of the gut earned from the holidays and start my regiment with improved cardio, I decided to get lean.



It's at this point where you assume the role of guinea pig, as Nike+ then sets you through a series of tests to check your mobility, flexibility, and general fitness level. My mind was somewhat blown when the game informed me I tend to favor my left side, which made sense given how I recently avoided using my right arm for just about anything over a four month recovery period. This is the kind of precision that helps to make this game feel as right as it does. After the tests and your initial fitness exam, the game shows you your first Fuel Print. It's a 100 point scale that measures overall fitness and athleticism. The day one results pegged me with a rating of 44 on the fitness side and 55 on the athleticism side, which felt pretty good considering the current average of a male age 18-25 is a 36/44.



Day one wrapped with me implementing my schedule for the next month. The plan is to play the game on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while running Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday is my day of rest (if you count working in a busy kitchen for eight hours as “rest”) where I'll also occasionally bend the rules of my diet. If I want a some pizza or a coke on Saturday, I'll have some. Moderation is the name of the game here.

Nike+ certainly left a great first impression. It's clear that Microsoft was obviously shooting for a next level fitness game and everything from this first encounter made me excited to hop right back in the next day (until I rolled out of bed, that is). I wanted this entry in the series to focus mostly on the introductions, so I'll be talking far more in detail about the workouts themselves and how well Kinect reads my movements next time. I also plan on giving a full rundown of my current diet in that entry, so watch for that too. For now, know that I am optimistic. I see a goal that I feel is attainable and well worth the trouble, and I look forward to the upcoming challenges. It's not going to go perfectly. I'm going to miss a day, or I'm going to give in and get some sort of blue cheese bacon burger at a bar one night with some friends (Which is going to be sooooooooooooo damn good), but I'm confident that I have the tools necessary for success.

John F. Kennedy once said, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I look forward to the hard part.
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I can’t think of any singular object associated with videogames that has had a more profound effect on my life than the Kinect. Just typing that seems preposterous. People hate the damn thing, and for good reason. It was gutted right before launch by its corporate overlords to cut costs, which crippled many of its features. The library consists of countless examples of hastily put together mini game collections, very few of which are entertaining, and much of that entertainment probably stems from it being broken and you having a good laugh about it with your friends. Furthermore, the handful of games marketed to suckers as the “Hardcore Kinect experience you’ve been waiting for!” have ranged from mildly entertaining but still kinda obtuse (The Gunstringer), to some of the most vile, busted, infuriating, and downright deplorable games of the last few years (Steel Batallion: Heavy Armor). It’s ugly, It takes forever to start up, and Microsoft’s need to make everything Kinect Friendly has made the XBox Dashboard into a cluttered mess.

And through all of the bullshit associated with this thing, it still managed to change my life.

On December 31st, 2011, I weighed 255 pounds. Years of playing videogames as your primary hobby and a diet consisting of the cheap nuclear waste most college students eat on a regular basis will do that to you. It was starting to effect my back, I couldn’t run more than probably 150 yards, and my arms were about as toned as my grandmothers. I’d show you a picture, but frankly, I don’t have any. I hated how I looked, so I avoided photographs like the plague, and it was starting to get to me emotionally. After an…ohh lets call it an enlightening experience on a basketball court, enough was enough and it was time for a change, so I cut out soda, cut out fast food, kept the diet simple, and set a course for better health.



However, as someone who, for better or worse, tries to find all the answers he seeks within videogames, I bought two Kinect titles to facilitate this endeavor: EA Sports Active 2 and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Gym’s aren’t my kind of place, and the Kinect still intrigued me a great deal a year ago, so I wanted to see if a video game could indeed help you lose weight. It turns out the answer is a resounding yes, depending on a few factors. If you commit to playing them six days a week for six months while also eating a lot of broccoli and baked chicken breast, then yes you can. The secret to weight loss is that there is no secret: do a bunch of aerobics and don’t eat like shit is pretty much all you need to know. Your success is based entirely upon your commitment and personal discipline, and by mid June, my commitment had paid off in the form of a scale that read 198 pounds. I was under 200 pounds for the first time since I was eleven, and it felt incredible. My confidence got a huge boost, I felt fantastic, and for the first time in a long time, I was proud of myself.

Then this happened:


That bitchin’ scar is the aftermath of a bicycle crash that left me with a shattered collarbone. Frankly, it could have been a lot worse, but the severity of the break required a titanium plate be fused onto my clavicle so that it would heal and function properly, which pretty much ended my workout routine. My entire upper body was damn near useless for two months, I couldn’t work, and my doctor wouldn’t clear me to even run for three months. In short: it was devastating. Not to mention my previous plans for a Summer filled with all kinds of debauchery got thrown into the wood chipper. Then the old habits started to reform. My new job at an upscale local pizza restaurant meant I was given all the free pizza I could eat, and when you’re beyond poor after a prolonged stint of unemployment, you’ll take whatever scraps one will throw at you. Then I started drinking soda again, and sure enough the scale read 210 pounds a couple weeks back. I was told you can gain it back just as fast as you lost it, and seeing that unfold was demoralizing.

Now the last thing I’m going to do is let myself fall back into the same hole because of a bump in the road. my collarbone is fully recovered, the doctor has cleared me for physical activity, and now I’m ready to take it to the next step. I’m no longer fat, but I’m hardly in optimal shape. The gut is still there, as are those ever-present man boobs, so there’s clearly room for improvement. But now I’m going to do the thing I should’ve done last time: Tell the world of my excursion. I used to write as a freelancer in college for a couple of video game websites like GamesRadar, and I had grandiose visions of working in the video game enthusiast press full time, but I pretty much stopped writing after I got sick of being forced to play such well executed and fun titles as The Fight: Lights Out and the Wii port of Sid Meier’s Pirates! I’d like to think this dream could still become a reality, so this blog will also serve as an archive of my writings and general musings over gaming at large. Losing weight and getting into shape was last year’s resolution, and since that was so successful, this year I will work to instill the same level of discipline I used to lose weight towards becoming a better writer.



And this is my first project. Nike+ Kinect Training has been heralded as the finest fitness videogame ever created, and while this may be true, I’m still skeptical. This skepticism doesn’t come from the game itself, but rather the fact that I find any review of a fitness game from a traditional gaming media outlet to be patently absurd. It took me months to form concrete opinions about EA Sports Active 2 and the other fitness games I played, and reading a review written by a guy who most likely played it for five days max and went back to his cheetos binge just seems incomplete. That’s not what you’ll find here. I plan on running Nike+ through all its courses for months on end, and only by seeing the real world results and comparing it over the long haul to my other fitness game experiences will I be able to tell if this game is indeed the one fitness game to get. I’ll be updating this project on a weekly basis while tracking my weight loss and reporting my findings. But there were a few things that needed to get done before that could happen.

DAY ZERO: PREPARATIONS


That room right there is where all the magic happens. I live with two roommates, and as anyone with a Kinect will tell you, space is a premium. Luckily they don’t seem too keen on hanging out much in our cold, creepy basement, so I kinda turned it into my game room. But it didn’t used to look like that. It was a mess a few days ago, and while I still had an adequate amount of space to play Kinect fitness games, it wasn’t quite enough. Nothing like stubbing your toe on a table or tripping on your sofa while jogging to remind you of the technical limitations of the Kinect hardware. So for round two, I did a little renovating, moved some stuff into the garage, moved the couch to the back wall, and hopefully that will give me more freedom.



For the record, the Grim Reaper and the Unicorn posters were there when I moved in.

Anyways, Nike+ recommends an 8×8 square play area, but hopefully that rug will provide enough space, because slipping and falling onto bare concrete is not my idea of a good time. The room is quite large and dark, so lighting was also a major problem the first time around. So I changed out the dead fluorescent bulb and equipped my lamp with high wattage natural lighting bulbs to alleviate this problem. I say problem like this is my fucking fault, but this aint a me problem. It’s a Kinect problem. I’m already sucking down the kool-aid Microsoft is serving due to my dramatic weight loss, but I’m guessing around 10% of the people reading this have the space and capability to properly play these games. If I hadn’t hit double sixes on the housing dice roll and ended up with this kickass basement that nobody in the house was using, this whole project would have probably never happened. Lemme know if this is feasible to do in your household in the comment section.

Then I started to spend money.


For another record, one of my other new years resolutions is to be a little more frugal with my money, but the actual outfit was a gift from my grandparents. They gave me $100 to get a new workout outfit, and after some thrifty shopping, I got the shoes, socks, shorts, and the shirt for $99.88, which made me feel like I had won some game on The Price Is Right. My old, cheap shoes were just that, so they needed to be replaced, and I decided that if I was going to keep down the workout path that it was time I started to dress the part. The clothes are durable, lightweight, unobtrusive, and very comfortable. The thermal underpants were $20 and actually were suggested to me by my testicles, who really got sick of going into hibernation every time I went on a run in the middle of February. The game itself was on sale for $35, so overall things weren’t too pricey.

But I then made the wonderful decision that, yes, going without much food for the last half of the month and endangering my ability to pay rent so I could buy an iPod was in fact a good idea. In my defense, I found my new 7th gen iPod Nano on sale and I had some gift certificates, so with the armband it only came out to $125. Also my last MP3 player broke two years ago, and since then I’ve been using a PSP as my primary music player, which I wouldn’t recommend anyone attempting. However, while running with some proper tunage is always better than going without, the new Nano also has built-in Nike+ support, so I can track my runs alongside my activity in the Kinect trainer. This is fantastic, as one of my biggest pet peeves was there not being any way to track runs with the previous Kinect fitness games.



The last bit of prep that was needed is also the most important. I’ve been living for the past 18 months practically without a bed. At the last moment, my new landlord told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to use my water bed when I first moved in, and since I was broke after moving, all I could afford was a six inch thick piece of foam that I folded over to give me about three feet of width to lay on. How my back is not completely and permanently fucked from this is a miracle of modern science, so I figured it was time to have a bed. Best $230 I ever spent, and every time I lay onto its greatness I am astonished at the sheer lunacy that was going on in my head to allow me to go this long without a proper bed. You spend a third of your life asleep, so being comfortable during it is important, but I’m sure you all know this since you’re probably all smarter than me.

Today was a nice sneak preview of things to come. I ran for the first time in five months this morning. Well, “ran” may be a stretch. There were a few more stops than usual, so I can already tell I’ve lost some endurance, but it felt fantastic. The memories of empowerment and knowing that, yes, you can improve yourself were enough to fill me with excitement over what’s to come. It won’t be easy, but if it was, we wouldn’t be living in an obesity epidemic that I was once a part of. Goal #1 is to be under 200 pounds by February, and I can’t wait to get started. Also if anyone reading this feels like joining me on a mission of self improvement, I would greatly encourage you to do so. Let us know what your plans are or even simply what your New Years Resolution is.
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I don't feel like talking about videogames today. Really its the idea of laughing, smiling, or having any kind of fun after reading some of the details about the unspeakable acts against humanity that some piece of shit unleashed in Newtown, Connecticut this morning. It's the kind of thing that makes you question the nature of life, and how different we actually are from the primates we are descendants of. Unless you make your living spouting hate speech on news channels, truly a most noble profession. Sure enough, it only took about an hour, but Fox News brought out some schmuck that made the connection we were waiting for.

(On a side note, this chode actually used the term “computer games”. When was the last time you used that phrase? Anyone out there still playing Zork or Red Baron with that particular bit of vernacular still in their back pocket?)

And that was all we needed. The internet is sharpening their pitchforks ready to go to the mattresses in defense of their media of choice. “Shame on them!”, we say! “How dare you use an atrocity of this magnitude to attack our innocent video games!?”, we also say! But it seems in our fervor to lambast the grandstanding done by our favorite cable TV talking heads for their incredibly ignorant and archaic arguments used to capitalize on a national tragedy, there's one question that never really gets asked in our circles:

What if they're right?

So lets be clear: yes, you're right, Grand Theft Auto did not somehow magically brainwash the aforementioned asshole into gunning down an elementary school. That is a patently absurd argument, and the millions upon millions of people who lead perfectly normal and law abiding lives on top of playing copious amounts of videogames are proof of that.

But, man, I gotta tell you, I spend a LOT of my day killing people. Or aliens. Or mutants. Or tigers. Or Zombies. I spend more time looking down the barrel of a gun than the president of the NRA. The list of people I've gunned down without batting an eyelash is large enough to inhabit a small country. And so have you. No, it's not the same as taking the lives of 20 children and 6 fine educators, but the act of aiming a gun at a persons head and pulling the trigger is something we are all too familiar with. And it's our hobby. It's what we do to have fun. To unwind after a long day's work.


This was witnessed during my leisure time.

How this has affected me in real life is something I do not know. It's impossible to tell because I have no reference to the kind of person I would be if videogames didn't influence my life in some small way, as they have certainly influenced yours. If someone was shot in the face right in front of me, would my reaction be different after seeing endless virtual renditions of the same act thousands of times? I've never picked up a gun before. Am I a better shot than a novice who doesn't play videogames? If I was the sick fuck who did this in Connecticut, and I was as obviously disturbed as he was, would I have found the actions he took today easier to perform because of the digital blood on my hands?

It is very easy to write this off as a preposterous notion, especially right now when you feel that videogames, this wonderful medium that has enriched our lives, may have inspired us in some way to do something more with our existence, may have even dictated a career path to some of us, is under attack. And you should be defensive. You turned out okay, right?



One of the unfortunate byproducts of the horrendous news coverage we see in the United States is peoples need for someone or something to blame, and these bumpkins targeting videogames is as tired as it is shallow. But, if I were to play the role of cable news pundit and find one arbitrary reason why these events unfolded today, the answer is simple: America's gun culture. A culture that romanticizes, worships, and fetishizes a machine that does unspeakable destruction throughout the world on a daily basis. What just happened in Connecticut is a byproduct of this mindset. I hope someday we grow out of it, because I sure as shit don't see how a culture that perceives the #1 source of pain and misery across this planet as a cool part of their identity is supposed to lead humanity to a better future. But for now, our media is dominated by firearms. Guns are represented as the ultimate means to an end in our society, and we experience that definite end on a daily basis in the media we consume.

And if you don't think videogames are part of that gun culture, and in some small way contributed to this calamity, you're fooling yourself.
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