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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.


Ca-Ching

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.

TOTAL PLAY TIME: 11 HOURS, 17 MINUTES   read


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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