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1:34 PM on 02.08.2015

Cashed Out: How To Sell Your Videogames And Move To Vietnam


WHEW. Damn. I mean, DAMN. They're all gone. THEY'RE ALL. FUCKING. GONE. My basement has gone from enviable mancave to simply a cave, almost as if it's spirit was sucked out through a twisty straw.

For those of you wondering what exactly is gone, I recently wrote a very long blog post shouting to the heavens my intentions of selling my massive videogame collection to fund a venture in teaching English in Vietnam. However, unlike many of the various declarations about my future I have made to various people in my life over the last two years, I actually went and did it! Over the past two weeks, I have been, without question, the most motivated I have been to achieve something in a long time, and my productivity has been through the roof.

At the very start of the process, I was petrified that I hadn't given myself enough time and that I had bitten off way more than I can chew. Now? I wish I had a time machine to fast forward to my departure. The ferocity in which I attacked every aspect of this excursion, from fund acquisition to frivolous paperwork, instills within me a confidence that, even after selling off a part of my soul to do it, I have made a fantastic decision.


The soul selling was the first aspect of the operation: The collection was where the vast majority of the funds needed for my journey was going to come from, so the plan really couldn't be set in motion until they were sold. Now, as I hinted at in the previous post, I can now confirm that our fun little hobby is a HORRENDOUS INVESTMENT. Seriously, I do not want to know how what my net financial loss on videogames is, and you probably don't want to know either. Lucky for me, I have a friend who used to run a local videogame shop here in town, and he came over for a couple beers and to help appraise my collection.

My initial guess as to how much I could get for my collection if I were to sell it individually was around $8,000. Turns out I was right on that one, as that was the estimation he also threw out. But what does that actually entail? First off, it would take dozens, if not hundreds of man hours over a long period of time to list, photograph, ship, and collect on such a large collection. Factor in the percentage that Ebay or Amazon would take, along with the inevitable percentage of welchers and large percentage of games that will probably never sell, and the act of actually collecting that $8,000 is another matter entirely.

Since online selling is something that I (up until very recently) had no experience with, he said my best bet was to hopefully find a large quantity online seller who would be willing to take the collection wholesale at a bulk rate. Once again, not exactly a home run, as finding someone who does such a thing in my area with thousands of dollars on hand who wants to deal in a market like videogames was not a guarantee. With so many things going against me, he made the final recommendation of listing the whole thing on Craigslist for $5,000 (knowing that I wouldn't get $5,000), and settling for $3-4,000 if I could find a buyer.


$3,000? That's it!??! Again, he was right, and his honest advice is why I sought it out in the first place, but, goddamn man, $3,000 for my pride and joy? My collection, featuring dozens if not hundreds of rare, precious videogames and a lifetime of memories, is worth about as much as a 20-year-old Honda Accord in decent shape? Ouch indeed. Again, he stressed that actually finding someone to dance the tango with was going to be the hardest part, so I immediately got to work doing a complete inventory on damn near every game and console I owned, leading to what has to be one of the more detailed oriented Craigslist postings in recent memory.

The first E-mail I received was from a man in Lebanon wanting to purchase the collection by mailing me cash. He then sent photos of stacks of twenties to “prove I'm legit”. Right. Then there were plenty of E-Mails from people asking to buy parts of the collection, even though I explicitly stated that was not an option in the posting. Lucky for me, I actually was able to find an interested party. Like my friend had suggested, the man was a online seller who knew how to unload something like this, and he low-balled me, again, just as my friend suggested would happen.

I was aware the odds of me actually getting $5,000 for the whole thing were pretty slim, and I grew up under the tutelage of an immensely frugal man in my father who taught me to never pay full price for just about anything, so I knew a negotiation was bound to happen. I won't get into the details, but we were both very upfront in the process about costs and how our numbers clashed with each others numbers, but we eventually came to a compromise. For $3,145, he would get the vast majority of the collection, with the exception of the Xbox One, Vita, and PS4 materials, which I kept for the purposes of selling myself at higher markups to get myself closer to my $5000 goal.


Again, if you're planning to send little Jimmy to college with your old Nintendo games, you may want to check yourself.

So then it happened: he came to my house, we chatted for a bit, he handed me a wad of cash, and I helped him load it all into a truck. I remember the particularly loud thud from the door of the moving van as it slammed shut with my collection behind it. The finality of it all was pretty apparent. He was actually a pretty rad dude and pleasant to work with, and the whole process took about two days, so we both got what we wanted. I remember sitting in my recently excavated basement, looking at empty shelves while glancing at the envelope of cash I was given. I had achieved what I had sought out to do: Turn my collection into the means of setting off towards adventure.

The next day was a busy one: I paid for the TESOL program and purchased my one-way ticket to Cambodia. The school I selected trains people to teach all over Southeast Asia, and all of the students spend the first two weeks of their training at a central hub in Phnom Penh before heading to their destination country to finish the course. So that's it, right? Unfortunately, those were only the first (and maybe the easiest) steps on the mountain of tasks I need to accomplish before I am 100% ready to depart on March 13th.

For those keeping track at home, the total time I had allotted myself to sell nearly everything I own and prepare for moving half way across the world was approximately seven weeks. This is not a lot of time.


My desire to get started meant I had to move quickly. The first step was acquiring my passport, and it's rather nervewrecking knowing the most important document needed to get you across the world takes 4-6 weeks to process, and you leave in seven. I was assured it would arrive on time, so after $145 and a goofy looking photo, I was set.

Luckily that was the extent of the paperwork I needed to do for Uncle Sam, however the paperwork required from Uncle Ho Chi Minh is quite a bit more substantial. First off, I need a personal criminal background done on myself by the Oregon State Police, which required me going to my local Lutheran Center to get fingerprinted. Yup. The Lutheran Center. Why there? Well it turns out numerous church groups help people with their immigration paperwork, so official fingerprinting is something they offer. That was $20, and filing the background report request with shipping was another $43. It was around this point where I realized this trip was probably going to cost more than I had originally anticipated.

The other piece of paperwork the Vietnamese government needed was my college degree. This was actually somewhat exciting for me, as it finally gave me an excuse to actually pick up my degree from The Portland State admissions office where it had been sitting since I graduated over two years ago. Again, fairly easy to do, although parking downtown is never a particularly fun experience. However, there was a slight pause when I was handed my actual diploma. The reality of actually never needing this document until this day left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, but that feeling was immediately washed away with pride. Because now, after years of bitching about the job market and openly questioning if pursuing it was even worthwhile, I realized how important it was. How much I grew in college, and the skills that I learned in the park blocks of PSU. I thought about how this trip wouldn't be happening if I hadn't bunkered down and worked tirelessly to get this diploma. I thought about how I was the youngest person in the history of my family tree to get their Bachelor's degree, and how my family promised me this was the beginning of big things for me.


They were right. They were maybe off by a couple of years, but they were right.

So, with both the background check and diploma in hand, I had to get them both notarized. The original copies no less, so the Vietnamese Government wanted me to have someone use a big ol' stamp to clutter up my new college degree. This lead to a fun conversation at the UPS store where I had to explain that I did not care they were going to 'ruin' my diploma. Another $20 there for the notarization’s. On top of getting them notarized, they ALSO wanted me to go to the state capital building in Salem to get both documents authenticated by the Secretary Of The State Of Oregon. Again, Another $20 there, plus another $20 in gas and food to my brother for driving me out there. These things add up. So, I have to take those two notarized, authenticated, original documents, and mail them to the Vietnamese Embassy in D.C, along with two certified copies of each document, a scan of my photo ID, two passport photos of my face, a prepaid return shipping envelope to get my original copies back, and, oh yeah, $100 for 'authentication fees'.

But wait, there's more! What trip half way across the country would be complete without a trip to the doctor to get caught up on immunizations. After getting a check up, a Hepatitis A shot, a tetanus shot, typhoid fever vaccination pills, and some antibiotics to take with me for when I inevitably get the most ferocious diarrhea on the planet while my body adapts to the food, we're down another $300. I decided to take my chances against Japanese Encephalitis, which would've been another $428. I've read that, in the rural areas where that disease is possible to get, the school you work for will pay for that one, so I'll wait. I hope so, because one of my goals in life is to not get a disease that eats your brain, which Japanese Encephalitis does. That sounds kinda lame.


Oh, and while this is topical, get your fucking kids vaccinatated, you selfish, idiotic, society endangering lunatics.

One of the themes in the blogs I've been reading from fellow ex-pats who went down this road is that the trip always costs more money than you initially estimate. This is turning out to be emphatically true. And I haven't even got to the various equipment I would need for the trip. The main new piece of gear needed would be a laptop, which would obviously be useful for a variety of work reasons. I haven't had a laptop for around six years, and I am absolutely astonished at what I was able to get for $330. I got a HP laptop with a quad core processor, 4 gigs of ram, built in 8400 videocard, and a whopping 1TB hard drive, which I am quickly filling up with all kinds of games and video content. It can't run the newest AAA games, but it runs all the oldies just fine and I've got a fuckton of Steam games I never finished. Plus, it runs Valkyria Chronicles A-Ok, so what more do you need? You can get a lot of laptop these days for not a lot of cash if you don't care about it being a touchscreen or being able to separate it into a tablet.

Next item was a decent little point 'n shoot digital camera. I'm not an expert photographer, but having some good pictures to remind me of this excursion is something I will value down the road, so I picked up a FujiFilm Finepix T550, which seems like a fun little camera. Plus it was on clearance for $70 brand new from $160, and frugality is something that is starting to become more and more important as my ship date draws nearer. Next up was a recommendation from my dad: Get a watch, because fuck phones. So I got a nice Timex weekender on sale for $20, which I hope will keep on ticking as it takes its licking. A quality backpack is a necessity for traveling, so I dropped another $40 on a nice Swissgear backpack which a compartment for my laptop along with sections for holding important documents.


Also, since Vietnam is obviously not as developed as the USA, things we take for granted here like sunscreen and deodorant are considered luxury items there, which makes them both hard to find and very expensive. So let's add another $60 worth of toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, disposable razors, sunblock, pit sticks, shaving cream, daily multivitamins, mosquito repellant, neem pills (IE: More mosquito repellant), and dental floss. Oh, and don't forget to plan on paying for random things you may need, such as a cheap flight out of Cambodia that you never plan on using to show immigration services as proof of onward travel just so they let you into the country (another $120 there).

So, up to this point, I have spent a grand total of around $4,300, and I haven't even got to the airport yet. However, luckily for me (I'm sure this statement will come back to kick me in the nuts), I'm fairly certain that, outside of the estimated $1,500 I would need as money on hand to pay for my first two months stay in Vietnam, I do believe I have filed almost all of the needed paperwork and paid for everything I need to purchase before my departure. Considering my goal was to have all of that done by March 1st and I sit here writing this on Feburary 8th, I'd say I'm well ahead of schedule and very much on top of everything I need to be on top of.


The problem is getting that $1,500. As of this writing, I have none of that. I was originally planning on keeping my Vita and PS4, but it's looking like they're on the way out, especially now that it looks like my laptop will provide me with damn near all of the gaming I would need. So I'll be selling those, along with my bed, a few books, some vinyl records, my gaming desktop, an old HDTV, and a bunch of clothes that won't be making the trip.

 Unfortunately, while that would get me close to my goal, it doesn't get me all the way there, so I decided to use the internet to help with the last bit. That's right, I set up a GoFundMe page. Up until now, it's been listed privately on my Facebook page as a way for close friends and family to help me out with my trip, and they have been very generous so far (especially my mom, who is amazing). The blog I wrote a couple weeks back was really me just venting my frustrations and letting me yell on a soapbox for a bit, but I was frankly somewhat surprised that a few of you took the time to wish me luck and hoped for my success. I'll be honest: The trip is pretty much funded. If your charity dollar is stretched thin, you may want to consider donating to more Earth threatening causes than getting my dumbass to Vietnam, but if you would like to contribute and help make sure I don't die alone in Saigon, you can contribute at . I promise that any money you contribute will go exclusively to this educational endeavor and making sure I am adequately fed and housed while setting up my new life in a new part of the world, and any amount you donate would be insanely appreciated and used properly. Here's a little video I made explaining my crowdfunding venture.

DAMN THIS IS LONG. Okay, I'm cutting this off now. I'm sure I'll have more tales to tell of the various hoops I will be jumping through before I leave for Cambodia, and I plan on making a full breakdown of everything I'm bringing with me, so this isn't the last time I'll be writing here. Enough of you guys expressed interest in updates, and this experience has actually stirred up the urge to write within me, so I look forward to keeping y'all posted about the crazy left turn my life is currently taking.

Safe travels!



4:03 PM on 01.23.2015

Cashing In: Why I'm Selling Nearly All Of My Videogames

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



6:48 PM on 07.09.2013

I'm A Sucker: The Ludicrousness And Greatness Of MGS: The Legacy Collection

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.   read

4:09 AM on 01.18.2013

The Nike+ Kinect Expedition Part 3: Healthy Food...Tastes So Good

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.


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

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.


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.   read

2:53 AM on 01.08.2013

The Nike+ Kinect Expedition Day One: No Pain, No Gain



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.   read

5:33 AM on 12.31.2012

The Nike+ Kinect Expedition or: How To Spend Months Reviewing One Game

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.


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.   read

3:28 PM on 12.14.2012

Violent Videogames Absolutely Played A Role In The Newtown Massacre

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.   read

7:12 AM on 12.12.2011

The Spike TV VGA's, And The Harsh Reality Surrounding It

As I sit down to type out my thoughts on the total Gong Show that is the Spike TV VGA's and the fervor that ensues every single year from unhappy members of the gaming press and community, I'm still questioning if I should even write anything. For almost a decade now, the VGA cycle has continued unabashed: Geoff Keighley gets on the media train a couple weeks before it airs and promises the show will be better, then it airs, its still awful, then people bitch, then you forget about its existence until the next year when it starts back up. However, nobody had ever been teabagged on stage up to this point, so the incessant complaining about the show's format has hit critical mass this year with seemingly every blogger denouncing the shenanigans that continue to piss off just about everybody on the internet.

For the sake of full disclosure, let it be known that I didn't watch the VGA's. I decided going to an ugly holiday sweater party and drinking too much would be a far better use of my time, and even the raging hangover I had this morning didn't sway my belief that I had made the right decision. Today was spent mostly watching Tim Tebow go all Tim Tebow once more and the Cowboys shitting all over themselves (again), but I did manage to check out the results of the show. I must say that if your only experience with the VGA's was reading which games won what and watching the trailers, it's not so bad. While I can't say that I agree with some of the winners, I didn't find any of them to be particularly egregious, and even games like Bastion and Portal 2 won multiple awards. Plus the trailers for FortNite, Metal Gear Rising, and Alan Wake: American Nightmare certainly have me interested.

Holiday sweaters make life worth living

So why am I writing this? I'm not exactly angry that this show is balls considering I knew that already, and I'm sure whatever points I make here have probably already been made elsewhere by more talented individuals. Am I writing this at 2AM because I believe that video games deserve a better spotlight than the one Spike puts forth? Is it because I believe that the industry needs a De Facto awards ceremony to highlight the years achievements? Does it have something to do with the Eggs Bennedict induced coma I was in off-and-on all day while I watched football on the couch that has thrown my sleeping habits out of whack for the evening?

No, I'm unfortunately here to give the people who continue to demand better from this show a harsh reality check. As the great American thespian The Rock once said: it doesn't matter what you think.

To me, the most obvious point as to why this debate is rather unnecessary has already been made by Jeff Gerstmann on Giant Bomb where he argued that television sucks and you should adjust your expectations accordingly. But while Jeff attempts to soften his points by going out of his way to not sound elitist (On that subject: If you predicate what you are about to say by saying, “Its hard to describe that without sounding like I'm some sort of elitist snob, but...”, you are about to sound like an elitist snob.), I don't have any problem sounding elitist: American television is a fucking abomination.

To be fair, one could argue that we are currently in a golden age of TV, as shows like Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, South Park, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, and The Walking Dead show that some of the finest television content ever produced is currently on air. However, for every one of those, there's a landfill's worth of shows like 2 Broke Girls, Teen Mom, Fox & Friends, True Life, and (ugh...) Toddlers & Tiaras that are meticulously designed by the Big 4 media conglomerates to be as mentally deflating to the viewer as feasibly possible in order to inject their cynical worldview into the American psyche. The purpose of television in the United States is to keep people scared, distrusting, uninformed, and to get you to buy shit you don't need at the expense of Malaysian slave labor. If that makes me an elitist snob, than I'll go ahead and keep partying with James William Bottomtooth III.

So with that in mind, instead of asking the people who demand a better video game awards show what their expectations of “better” are, I instead propose a challenge: Find me an example of American television, on ANY TOPIC, that covers that topic in the same way you want video games to be covered on TV. Good luck. Video games are presented in a shitty fashion on TV because EVERYTHING is presented in a shitty fashion on TV. What makes you think the evil fucks who turned the news into reality television gossip rags, who spend more time talking about Kim Kardashian's wedding cake than they do about government run Syrian death squads, have either the ability or the desire to present your entertainment of choice in a rational or fair manner?

And to the people clamoring for a video game equivalent of the Oscars, may I ask what exactly is it about these awards shows that you would like in the VGA's? Want Todd Howard to rip the Bush Administration during his acceptance speech? Do you want real celebrities? What, was the Hulkster not good enough for you, brother? Sorry to tell you this, but Jack Nicholson ain’t leaving the front row at the Staples Center to present the Most Addictive Game Presented By Mountain Dew award any time soon, nor will Hugh Jackman be leading an extravagant musical number while fighting Captain Price on stage. Also, how many of you have actually sat down and attentively watched all three hours of an Oscars ceremony? I think I would rather pay $90 for Duke Nukem Forever again.

Not happening

Furthermore, what's wrong with the Interactive Achievement Awards that the AIAS puts on every year? Publishers, developers, and the gaming press all hold it in a high regard that's probably about on par with how people in Hollywood view the Academy Awards at this point. It's a mostly button-up affair, the winners are given time to talk, and the people running the operation clearly take the subject matter seriously and give the medium the respect it deserves. Hell, Jay Mohr isn't half bad as the host either. Sure, it's a little dry, but because its on the channel featuring constant Cheaters and Cops reruns means it's not as important as the awards show on the channel featuring TNA Impact and 1000 Ways To Die?

Who the fuck cares what channel it's on? On that note, why the fuck should we care IF it's on TV? The idea of being on Television as a measure of importance went out the window around the time TV channels reached the 500 or so mark. People in gaming communities have been striving for cultural acceptance of video games for years now, but the truth is that we achieved that some time ago. The problem is that this isn't readily apparent when you watch TV because of televisions warped morals. If you go by what your TV says, EVERYTHING stinks, so why are video games going to be any different? You expect Bill O'Riley to go on TV and start his show with, “hey, you know what? Video games are alright in my book. Man, Bastion sure is cool!”? These people make their living off of sensationalistic grandstanding, making huge deals out of little deals. and creating false controversies in hopes of getting people to stay glued to the screen. Their negative world view doesn't allow them to say nice things about their own grandmother, let alone video games.

Now here's the part you may not like, because we need to accept the fact that we are not the target demographic for the VGA's. Whether you want to believe it or not, the same 18-34 year-old Call Of Duty/Madden playing, monster energy drink chugging male audience many of you rail on for “ruining” the industry happens to be exactly the demographic Spike TV caters almost exclusively to, and they also happen to outnumber us by a great deal. Remember how G4 first started out? How it was all video games all the time? Hey if that was financially successful, Judgment Day would still be on the air. The television executives in charge of the VGA's, whose soul purpose in life is to make as much money as possible with minimalist effort, do not give a fuck what you have to say on the matter, because they tried banking on you once before and it blew up in their faces. They see you as statistics, and they are ignoring you for the bigger statistic, and apparently that statistic likes Charlie Sheen and teabagging jokes.

So why should we give a shit? An awful TV channel put on awful programming for the sake of pandering to their target audience. Like the Fox News debate, it's a complete waste of time because they people in charge of Fox News are completely aware of how deceptive and horrendous their programming is, but they don't give a fuck because it makes piles of money while appeasing their target audience, so it's not going to change anytime soon and they could care less about your objections to it.

Above: The scene outside of my window as I finish writing my small novel

So, like many people have already said: Fuck the VGA's. But, more importantly, fuck the scumbags that put on this crap on air, because the VGA's are just a very small part of the astonishing structural problems associated with American television. Remember that you, as a consumer, still have options. The VGA's are only the be-all, end-all video game awards ceremony because we make it so, and if you want to stop being so pissed off at its existence, I suggest ignoring it altogether. I assure you I had a better time at the ugly sweater party than anyone watching a fucking awards show on a Saturday night.   read

3:29 AM on 09.18.2011

A Genre Unforgotten: The Disgaea 4 Diaries: Part 1

My relationship with the Disgaea series has been an odd one over the years. I picked up the first game for $10 (before the reissue brought the price way down) at a thrift store attached to a church in the small town of Loyalton, California. How a game like that ended up where I found it is a mystery that I still ponder on occasion to this day, and I've probably spent more time pondering that strange find than I have actually playing it. That's at least more than I can say about Disgaea 2, which I haven't actually played, but the crazed collector in me demanded that I spend money on it so I would have the entire series. Really the only game in the series that I've spent a significant amount of time with before I undertook this endeavor was Disgaea 3, as I got about 25 hours in before hitting a wall, but it also holds the high distinction of being the only video game to ever get me fired from a job.

Like many of the people reading this, I was at one point convinced that working at a video game store would be the coolest job this side of being a cocaine dealer for rock stars, and when a local Game Crazy (hey remember those?) called in reference to an application I must have dropped off years beforehand, I instantly jumped at the chance to dump my well paying pizza delivery gig to go work minimum wage at a place with terrible hours and a habit for scheduling their employees during their requested time off for college. It didn't take me long after the fifth crackhead looking to sell old Nintendo gear for their next fix to realize the job sucked, as the high pressure sales environment created by clueless corporate assholes helped to ensure that every sales associate would be stressed out and miserable, but I was determined to make the best of it.

Imagine actually watching the legendary training video as part of your ACTUAL training!

One of the ways I would do this was to try and push games I wanted to push. Granted, I wanted to avoid being that guy at the game store who berates people for having different tastes, but I was successful at getting some people who wouldn't normally try something like Disgaea 3 to check it out. I'll never forget the night of the Gears of War 2 launch when one of the customers whom I sold on picking up Culdcept Saga thanked me for showing him that awesome game, as he finally found something he and his wife could play together. It was a rewarding moment in a job that didn't have very many.

So one of the things you had to do at Game Crazy (just like at GameStop) was give the same little spiel over the phone whenever customers would call. There was a little script on the computer that read, “Thank you for calling the Aloha Game Crazy where you can trade your old games to pre-order (insert whatever AAA game they were pushing at the time), this is Jarrod, how can I help you?”. There would be a little list on there with games like Madden, Call of Duty, Gears of War, etc., but I decided to do a little improvisation. On a fateful day in October, I answered the phone by saying, “Thank you for calling the Aloha Game Crazy where you can trade your old games to pre-order Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, this is Jarrod, how can I help you?”. The man on the other end replied, “What the hell is that?!”.

That man turned out to be the district manager, who didn't like me going off script too much. You see, game companies pay good money to make sure their games get top billing at game stores, and these contracts are part of the putrid lifeblood that make up video game retail. Odds are if the game isn't buying ad space in the store or if it doesn't have some kind of retailer exclusive pre-order incentive, the store brass doesn't give a fuck about it. They only want their employees to push games under contract so they can go to companies with various spreadsheets that show how successful their partnership was to get bigger, more expensive contracts, and Persona 4 wasn't on the list.


This phone kerfuffle caused the DM to actually go through my sales records to track what I was selling. He noticed I had sold a disproportionate amount of games like Tales of Vesperia and Culdcept Saga compared to other associates, and apparently I was responsible for selling 40% of all the non pre-order copies of Disgaea 3—which I would estimate at around seven copies—in the entire district, a feat which I am still somewhat proud of to this day. This caused him to give me a stern talking to in front of my boss, and on top of calling JRPG's, and I quote: “stupid ass crap”, he would also inform me that “our market doesn't care about the games you like”.

This demoralizing experience was followed up by a 20 hour reduction in my work load on the next weeks schedule (during the holiday season. Merry Christmas!), and that just about wrapped up my time with Game Crazy. A couple of months later, Game Crazy, along with its parent company Movie Gallery, went kaput, so he was out of a job, and I was still in college well on my way to becoming far more successful than that astounding douchebag ever was, is, or ever will be.

I didn't put many presents under trees that year thanks to the Henry F. Potter of video game retail management...

The original intention was to give Disgaea 4 a go after the Cowboys game on Sunday, but Tony Romo's incessant need to continue and shit all over himself caused me to drink a little more heavily at the bar, so by the time my drunk ass waddled back to my house, I was hardly in the desired state needed to play a strategy RPG. Luckily I had Monday off, so it was finally time to dive into the insanity. Not that there's anything wrong with insanity. Games like WarioWare and Katamari have thrived on insanity, and Disgaea 4 wears it like a badge of honor just as its forefathers did.

Monday served as a nice introduction to the game. The protagonist this time around is Lord Valvatorez, and he seems perfectly contempt ditching his horrific vampire overlord ways to become the sardine loving head of a prinny training facility in Hades, which serves as the prison of the Disgaea netherworld. The first thing that will jump out to long time fans of the series is the overhauled sprites. The first three entries in the series could have easily been done on a PlayStation 1, and now I would like to congratulate the developers from NIS for making the jump to PS2 quality sprites. This is far from a detriment, as the sprites are as lively and expressive as ever with lots of nice detail, but it's still a little strange playing a full priced PS3 game in 2011 that looks like this. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Why don't American advertisers use fire as much as their Japanese counterparts?

Then Tuesday came along, and after a shift at work, it was time for another meeting of the Fuck Yeah Lets Fucking Do It Club (FYLFDIC for short). The club was founded on the premise of midweek camping trips, as the five founding members would all cram themselves into my tiny Hyundai Accent along with all our camping gear, go camping for a night, drink a metric ton worth of cheap beer, eat good food, and be back to Portland in time for Yohhei to get to work at the yakisoba food cart before the lunch rush the following morning. The beauty of Portland is that it's a short drive to so many awesome parts of nature, and the seven camping trips we've conquered over the summer have unleashed our inner hippies in ways the FYLFDIC could have never anticipated.

By the way, here's a helpful camping trip tip for all the Oregon campers out there: Get on Powell going towards Government Camp until you hit the small town of Zigzag. Make a left on Truman road immediately following the Zigzag mountain store, and you'll see a bridge. Right before the bridge should be a tiny path blocked off by three rocks. Move the rocks and drive about 150 yards down the overgrown path (if my Hyundai Accent can make it, your car can too) and park when you get to a small clearing. To your left should be a little trail through two trees, and laying before you will be a badass little campsite right by a river (with firepit) that we're pretty sure was once the home of a hobo given the makeshift tent made out of branches, some old PBR cans, and some porno strewn about the site. Don't worry, we picked up the cans and burned the porn, and it's a far cleaner area for your enjoyment. Best of all it was free, which is what FYLFDIC is all about.

I'm not quite sure what this has to do with Disgaea 4, but hot damn do I love me a good camping trip. I highly recommend it to anyone who is over the legal drinking limit.

The rest of the week left me with a little more time to start grinding. There's an amazing, trance like groove that one can find themselves in while playing A Promise Unforgotten. Hours tick away from the clock as you constantly level up, grind, acquire money, buy new equipment, then try out said new equipment to start the process anew. I've yet to find many levels of satisfaction in gaming above the feeling you have when arriving to a pivotal battle only to lay waste to the entire armada due to all that extra work you put into grinding your characters.

Of course, one of the main reasons I've maybe had a fairly easy time sliding back into a game like this is because I've played it before. The fresh coat of paint is great, but not much has changed from Disgaea 3, which wasn't too different when compared to Disgaea 2, which shared an odd similarity to the first Disgaea. This isn't too big of a problem for me, as I kinda knew that going in. Plus I haven't invested hundreds of hours into this series like others have, so it's still pretty fresh to me, especially considering all of the linear corridor shooters I've been playing lately.

So far my pledge to make Disgaea 4 the only game I play until it's done hasn't been broken, but the copy of Deus Ex that I purchased two days before buying A Promise Unforgotten keeps taunting me. Valvatorez and his merry gang of political activists just wrapped up Act 3 with Lord Val leading the way at level 28. The final battle of act 3 required me to level up a weapon to level 10, and the common sword I was told to do it in was weaker than the Bloody Dagger I was using at the time, but I was still forced to use it in a puzzling situation. Item World was something I've pretty much avoided during my time with the series, so I think I'll maybe work on that Bloody Dagger sometime next week. Until then, I'll be in the basement giving The Wall the finger while I continue my quest.


3:22 AM on 09.11.2011

A Genre Unforgotten: The Disgaea 4 Diaries Part 0

This kind of thing used to bother me.

The phrase passed through my head once or twice this past Thursday evening. My New Years resolution was to up the workload and graduate by the end of the calender year, and taking classes through the summer was part of the deal. The extra work upfront paid off, as now there's only two classes left on the docket before I happily accept a fine, crisp piece of paper from Portland State University for the past five years of hard work and perseverance (which I am positive the administration cares far more about than the $41,000 I've given them to continue and fund our shit football team with). The only downside being the lack of a vacation added with the previous twelve months spent grinding my brain into mush has turned the remnants of my physical being into an empty shell; devoid of tangible thought and lacking in purpose.

But a tiny rainbow of relief sparkled across my path on Thursday evening. My final final of the term had finished earlier that afternoon, which left me with about two weeks worth of vacation before school “starts back up” in the fall (I still gotta work but, hell, I’ll take three days off a week with no homework as a vacation at this point) . This brings me to The Wall, as my roommates like to call it. Our basement/Foosball room/laundromat/moped repair shop also became the home of The Wall along with all my equipment and a couple of comfy chairs. The Wall is where the vast majority of my minimal disposable income has gone pretty much since I started working, and this beacon of architectural design has formed over the years to become a video game collection a large percentage of my extended family would probably find alarming.

So there I was. In the basement, with me and The Wall. Finally we had some time together. Being a full time student while also working as a full time pizza delivery driver on top of trying to find work as a freelance writer in addition to attempting to have any semblance of a social life has left me with a fraction of the gaming time I had as a young lad, but the next two weeks were going to be different. All I wanted to do was just kick back in the recliner and tackle a couple of games off the backlog before I bought another round of fall releases doomed to also fall into the backlog. The only question being what games to cross off the list before heading back to school to turn my rainbow of relief into a double rainbow of rejuvenation.

I stood there at The Wall for what felt like hours as side bindings peered into my soul as my wallet shrieked in horror. Somewhere along the line, as I kept buying games and adding to The Wall, the radio of games purchased to games completed derailed into sheer absurdity. I had absolutely no idea where to begin. Once in a while I would get motivated on a day off and plow through Vanquish or a Sam & Max season, but these occasions have become a far too sparse exception to the rule. This true viewing of the current state of my main hobby left me somewhat demoralized, almost as if Mt. Backlog had become a perch too tall to conquer. What started as a quest to layeth the smacketh down on some prior purchases quickly descended into watching Top Gear.

But it was Top Gear America, so that only made matters worse.

In the immortal words of Fred Willard, “Hey, wha' happen?” The seventeen-year-old me always scoffed at people who would complain about not having enough time to finish eight hour games while I ripped through whatever 60+ hour excursion was currently on my plate. Seventeen-year-old me would be pointing and berating me if he was here right now. In response, I would probably hit him over the head with a sock full of nickels and make him pony up for my car payment this month, as that little twerp living rent free at home without a care in the world doesn't seem to comprehend how reality can make the prospects of completing a strategy RPG the length of an aircraft carrier somewhat bleak.

Which brings me to Saturday. It wasn't a particularly pleasant day on the job, but I made a killing in tips. So what do I do? Maybe save that money for fall term or buy that oil change that's due? Pfft. Fuck that! If I made responsible decisions with my extra scratch, I wouldn't be in this predicament. Naturally, my first inclination is to go to the store and buy another game, which is clearly the first step in recovery! This was around the time when I finally realized I was probably never going to finish H.A.W.X. It was a big week for releases with Dead Island, Resistance 3, Driver: San Francisco, and Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, but one title in particular made that seventeen-year-old in me perk up with some enthusiasm.

My internal reasoning at the time for buying Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is partly why I'm in this mess. “I've always loved these games, and I have the other three games in the series, so what's one more gonna hurt, right? Never mind the fact I’ve never actually...y'know...finished one of them, but if I wait, I may not get that premium edition with the little figurine!” You see the problem with this strain of logic? Nowhere in this little monologue going on between my earlobes while I was waiting in line did I think, “Boy oh boy! I sure can't wait to get home and PLAY Disgaea 4!” The $60 I spent on this game could have been my share of utilities at the house next month, and I've already written it off as a cool collectable that will look nice on The Wall.

Then something clicked.

The seventeen-year-old is officially mad as hell, and he's not gonna take it anymore. He has sat by and watched me add to The Wall only to allow it to balloon out of control while I continued spend worthless hours doing things like homework or attempting to further my career path. Obviously, three months before I graduate is the perfect time to forgo these habits! But seventeen-year-old Jarrod has made up his mind and shoved Disgaea 4 straight to the front of the line to conquer like I used to in the good old days, and that's where this blog comes in.

So here's how this is gonna go down: I'm dropping everything video game wise. No more Deus Ex, no more El Shaddai, no more Shadows of the Damned from here on out until further notice. Until it's done, with the exception of games I'm assigned for review through the Portland State newspaper or other outlets, Disgaea 4 will mostly be the only console game I play. Furthermore, I'm not buying another game until I finish it. On top of the time advantage I had in my youth, it was a lot easier to knock these RPG's out when it was the only new game you had to play for months on end. At the end of each week, I'll post a new blog here tracking my progress while sharing my thoughts on the game up to that point. Lastly, I will also be writing a column on a bi-monthly basis for the Portland State newspaper on the same subject, which I will also post here. These articles will have a 500 word limit, so expect the tone and style to be somewhat different. Writing under the constraints of print is a strange beast when compared to the vast wilderness of the internet, but its a skill I would still like to hone even if it is a dying medium.

Whether things turn out the way I hope is yet to be determined. Will I fall back into the same cycle that has done irreparable damage to my inner nerd cred? That seventeen-year-old is gonna do everything in his power to see to it that doesn't happen, and he's bringing plenty of Pepsi and Doritos along for the ride. Now is the time. Now is the moment where I ride atop to mighty steed and take control of my hobby once more! The return to my roots starts NOW!

Wait...Holy hell it's 1:30!? How did that happen? Damn I gotta get to bed. I got work in the morning. Seventeen-year-old me can wait til tomorrow nig...Shit, the Cowboys game is tomorrow night. Umm...well ok MONDAY IS THE TIME...probably.   read

5:50 PM on 01.28.2011

2010 Sucked: NOT!

I sat down here today with the intention of writing why I thought 2010 sucked, and after being convinced by the internet that it was the worst year in video game history with precious few awesome games, I decided to take a moment and reflect to see if I could recall what games from 2010 I thought were awesome. This is what I came up with:

No More Heroes 2, Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake, Enslaved, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Singularity, Starcraft II, Yakuza 3, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Dragon Quest IX, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Darksiders, Red Steel 2, Vanquish, Dead Rising 2, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Scot Pilgrim Vs. The World, Metro 2033, Sam & Max Season 3, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, NBA JAM, Red Dead Redemption, The Sly Collection, Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, Monkey Island 2: Special Edition, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Halo: Reach, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Transformers: War for Cybertron, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Super Street Fighter IV, Gran Turismo 5, Fallout: New Vegas, NHL 2011, NBA 2K11, VVVVVV, and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.

That's 41 games, and I'm sure there's a few that I'm forgetting along with the games I haven't even gotten around to playing. I really don't see how a year featuring that giant run-on sentence worth of neat-o games can suck, especially when I can count the number of movies I liked this year with one hand.

C'mon, isn't "sucked" a little harsh? Is it because 2010 was the year in which the gaming world found out that Activision is *gasp* only interested in making money!??! No shit. It's a publicly traded company with a stockpile of shareholders who are also only interested in making money, and they want to spend as little money as possible to achieve this goal.

Is this surprising to you?

Activision is currently in possession of the biggest moneymaker in video game history, and you don't think every other publisher on the planet wouldn't ride that gravy train as hard as they could in the same manner that Activision does? You mean like when Capcom made 238 variants of Street Fighter II? Or how Nintendo has made Mario the Jim Thorpe of the video game world by making him compete in every sport known to mankind at one point or another? You don't think these companies scrapped ideas for new IP's in pursuit of another home run (or goal, or hole-in-one, or strike)? Guess what: publishers care about your wallet, not the pursuit of artistic enlightenment, and most certainly not you, and that's how it's always been.

My point here is that the things people seem to think make 2010 a terrible year happen just about every year. "Evil" publishers churning out endless sequels? They've been doing that for three decades. A bunch of games you were looking forward to slipped to next year? Check. Mass firings and studio closures? Once again that is nothing new. Frankly, considering we are currently in the middle of the greatest economic downturn in eighty years, it could've been much, much worse. Aww, you're sad because Alan Wake didn't outsell Black Ops? BOO-HOO. Alan Wake is nearing one million units sold, and given its recent inclusion as a pack-in game and Microsoft admitting they fucked up its release, a sequel is looking highly likely. Hell they made a Blinx 2, remember?

So ignore the business end of things. If that's a barometer for judging the quality of a year, it's been a shitty lifetime for the entire medium.

2010 was fucking awesome. Just look at that list up there! Did you play all of that? I sure as hell didn't have the time to finish all of those. My wallet is PISSED looking at that list. If anything, 2010 sucked because there were too many awesome games with too little time to play them. And I totally forgot about Bayonetta. That game was amazing! Holy fuck, what about God Of War III? Y'now what else happened in 2010? Starcraft II ACTUALLY CAME OUT. Seriously, I'm looking at the game's box as I type this and I still can't believe it's there.

So why did 2010 suck? Is it because of motion controls? Well the Wii had a fucking awesome year, so the dead horse that is the "Wii is destroying my precious hobby WAHHHHHHH" argument doesn't apply this year. So is it because Sony and Microsoft entered the fray? It's too early to tell. It's obvious from all the awesome hacks people have come up with for Kinect that it's a amazing peice of technology, and I've played enough awesome Wii games to see the potential for the PlayStation move to be great as well, so are we going to bury them forever because their launches were less than stellar? By that logic, you should have chucked your PS2 out the window after your first rousing play-through of Fantavision.

Oh and if you still think 2010 sucked, go ahead and play the 85 games you spent $12 total on during the 2010 Steam holiday sale. Wow what a shitty way to end a shitty year.

Optimism is a lost art form on the internet. Yeah Square-Enix continued to be baffling, a bunch of really talented and cool people lost their jobs, and Microsoft pulled a Microsoft by hiking the price of XBox Live, but don't lost sight as to why we pay attention to the bad news in the first place: because we love video games, and if you love playing video games, then there was plenty to love in 2010. Glass half full, people. Glass half full.

And for my closing statement, no year featuring Deadly Premonition even has the ability to suck. Case muthafuckin closed.   read

1:00 PM on 09.03.2009

Metroid Prime Trilogy review

Metroid Prime Triolgy (Wii)
Developer: Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 25th, 2009
MSRP: $49.99

If you were to tell me in 2002 before Metroid Prime was released that in 2009 we would be celebrating the re-release of one of the greatest videogame trilogies of all time in the form of Metroid Prime Trilogy, I couldn’t even be able to put into words how dumb I would think you were. The fact that Metroid Prime was good, let alone the masterpiece that it is, defies any and all kinds of logic. The game was being made by Retro Studios, who prior to the games release was the laughing stock of the industry. This was a all star development studio made up of hand picked members from Texas’s finest development houses (id, Gearbox, Ion Storm, etc.), who since their inception in 1998 had cancelled four separate titles, and hadn’t released a single one. Then it was later discovered that the head honcho of the company, Jeff Spangenberg, was running a porno site (with content starring himself) and hosting it on company servers. All their eggs were in the basket of Metroid Prime, which Nintendo fans worldwide had already written off as a blasphemous insult to a once great franchise. Not only did Nintendo hand over development to a bunch of unproven westerners, but they were turning one of gaming’s premiere side scrolling franchises into a first person shooter of all things. Anyone with a brain could see this as the recipe for diasaster that it was surely going to be.

Then it came out, and everyone seemed to shut up pretty quickly.

Seemingly overnight, Retro Studios went from running gag to the toast of the town, and suddenly a franchise that had been dormant for almost a decade was once again thrust into the spotlight. It was, as the great Jeremy Parish put it, a miracle. Seven years and two stellar sequels later, we have yet another franchise reboot on the way with Metroid: Other M, which makes it a great time to go back and bask in the glory of the Prime trilogy, and Nintendo has decided to give these games a proper send off with this fantastic collection.

It’s quite obvious from the moment the game is in your hands that Nintendo had the hardcore Metroid fan in mind when designing the packaging. In a word: Gorgeous. Every version of MPT is housed in a beautiful steelbook case with a nice little art booklet/timeline thrown in for good measure. The menus from the three games have been condensed into a single menu designed to look like the inner workings of Samus Aran’s arm cannon. This menu is slick, easy to navigate, and a nice alternative to the basic static screen where you pick which game you wanna play that you see in most other compilations.

Let’s move on to the actual games in the compilation, starting with Metroid Prime and…Fuck, I don’t even know where to start.

Metroid Prime is a generation defining work of art. For my money, it’s the best Metroid game ever made, it’s the best Gamecube game ever made, and probably the single best game from the last console generation, which I think probably puts it as one of the top five or so best games ever made. Retro Studios greatest achievement in Prime 1 was the transfer of the core gameplay of a 2D side scrolling platformer into a first person viewpoint, and they did it flawlessly. Metroid Prime is a platformer through and through and any resemblance to a first person shooter is completely superficial. Somehow, Retro Studios made Metroid Prime truly feel like a Metroid game. One of the big reasons for this is something you might take for granted: Jumping. up until that point (and frankly it still hasn’t been properly replicated) jumping in any kind of First Person game felt stiff and janky. In Prime, it works flawlessly.

Another one of their accomplishments is just how immersive the game is, and the way they pull this off is how well the game makes you feel like you are in the Varia suit. Raindrops hit the visor, steam builds, and once in a while you can see Samus’s reflection when it gets really heated. This feeling is further heightened by the most intuitive and all around best HUD in any game ever created, that at any point in the game will tell you everything you need to know about your current status without ever getting in the way. However the most important thing Retro did to keep the mood intact throughout is they have removed the #1 mood killer in all of videogames: Load screens. There is not a single load screen at any point in Metroid Prime. Granted, there’s lots of hallways to make up for this, but that’s far better then the alternative.

One of the few complaints thrown Metroid Prime’s way is the games lack of a story, and this is completely unfounded. In Prime, the story surrounds you, you just have to seek it out. Using the games genius scanner, you will see that every plant, every piece of architecture, every creature, and every computer screen has a story to tell. There is a hidden narrative where you learn of the fate of the ancient Chozo race, the Space Pirates biological experiments, and maybe a little about the one they call “the hunter”. There isn’t a upgrade shop with a jive talking merchant, no commander feeding you intel from a base somewhere, and there isn’t some evil overlord spouting rhetoric every chance he gets. All of this leads to a feeling rarely felt in gaming: loneliness. It’s just you, your gun, and a giant (and I mean giant) world for you to explore. Tallon IV is a dark, claustrophobic place, and one of the most detailed and well designed locales in gaming, with beautiful art design and more secrets then the CIA. Add to this the phenomenal soundtrack by Kenji Yamamoto, and you have one of the most atmospheric games ever created. Everyone who loves videogames should play and own a copy of Metroid Prime.

So needless to say Retro had their plate full when work started on the sequel, as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had a lot to live up to. Given the mammoth pedigree of the first Prime, expecting the same type of revolution from Echoes would just be unfair, but it is a nice little evolution. The core gameplay is basically identical to the first (this is a good thing) sans for a few weapon swaps and the inclusion of the almighty screw attack. Prime 2 is a much darker, more sinister title the first game. While Tallon IV had more of a organic feel to it, the world of Aether is far more technologically advanced, especially when the dark world takes over and you see the light world twisted and distorted. Some people didn’t like aspects of the dark world, such as it constantly draining your health while in it, but I didn’t mind it. I thought it added tension, and the rate it drains health at isn’t really enough to put you in serious danger in most parts, plus you get an upgrade later to protect you. From a design standpoint, Echoes is every bit the game Prime 1 was, but Prime 1 did it first, so Echoes doesn’t have the same wow factor, but it’s still is a absolute joy to play. One leg up Echoes does have on it’s predecessor is in the graphics department, as this is probably the best looking Gamecube game ever made. Prime 2 also has four player split screen multiplayer which I have never played and probably never will, as the idea of multiplayer goes against everything I like about the series. Plus even in 2004 I was already past split screen multiplayer for shooters, and in 2009 there’s no fucking way I’m doing it.

Now we come to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Being a Wii game and all, Corruptions big thing was the control scheme, which I think works flawlessly, however it does have a fairly steep learning curve. Give it an hour or so and you’ll get the hang of it. Some people have said it’s the best controlling console first person shooter ever, and I don’t know if that’s a fair comparison as, like I said earlier, the Metroid Prime games aren’t really first person shooters, but for what Corruption is you really couldn’t ask for more out of the controls provided. Corruption is, in my estimation, the weakest of the three games. While Echoes did have a “real” narrative to it with the occasional cutscene, there’s simply way too much in Corruption. There’s lots of badly acted Star Trek techno babble between characters you won’t give two shits about while Samus just kind of stands around waiting for a order. Also instead of taking place in one giant world, Corruption takes place on numerous smaller ones, so the pacing isn’t as smooth as in the previous games, and the overall level design suffers because of this. Granted Corruption is still fantastic and one of the top two or three games on the system (and from a technical standpoint it‘s the best looking game on the system), but it’s not the game it could’ve been.

Metroid Prime 1 and 2 have both seen some pretty significant upgrades for Trilogy, the most obvious being the control schemes. The fantastic controls from Corruption have been ported over without a hitch, and they are a improvement over the original Gamecube controls. The other big addition is the ability to play the games in true 16:9 widescreen for us with HDTV’s, and that is a really big deal. Going from playing the first two games in the series on a 19 inch CRT with a Gamecube controller to my 40 inch flat screen with the Wii controller has been a great treat so far, and both games still look better then 90% of Wii games anyways, so anyone going back to play these games will be very pleased. One last thing is that apparently Retro went back and tweaked the difficulty of Echoes in certain spots, so the Boost guardian isn’t as much of a total bitch to get through as he was in the original. Really my only complaint with this box is the exclusion of the original Metroid, which was a unlockable in Prime 1. Granted you needed to connect your GBA to your Gamecube with a copy of Metroid Fusion to get it, but it would’ve been nice to have it here as well. Buy hey, why do that when you can buy it on Virtual Console for $5, right?

A thought crossed my mind as I was driving home with Metroid Prime Trilogy: there’s quite a few people out there who will be buying this who have never played these games before. If that person is reading this before, I just want you to know just how jealous I am of your precarious position. Ohh how awesome it would be to go back to when I was fourteen and my jaw was on the floor as I traversed Tallon IV for the first time. Unfortunately you can’t go home again in this situation, but playing Prime again on an HDTV with Wii controls has been a wonderful experience so far. I cannot stress how awesome this package is. You get probably the best game of this millennium fully upgraded with its two awesome sequels thrown in to boot with great packaging all for $50. while I hope most of the people reading this played Prime 1, I’m sure many of you missed out on Echoes for whatever reason, and now is the perfect time to go back and play a overlooked gem. Hell even if you didn’t like Prime when you first played it, maybe you’ve smartened up a bit in the last seven years and you’re ready to appreciate its greatness. This has gone on long enough, so I will end with this: There is no better disc to spend $50 on for Wii then Metroid Prime Trilogy. Buy it right now.   read

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