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8:57 AM on 02.02.2008

Animal Crossing: A Hardcore Gamer's Secret Obsession

If you married a non-gamer spouse, then youíve probably experienced the same things I have. My wife stopped playing games after Mario, and she avoids anything new. I continuously look for any game that I may be able to get her into. To say the least, itís been near impossible. While I have had some success stories, such as Mario Kart: Double Dash and Warioware, nothing has come close to Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing is something really special. For some inexplicable reason, it grabs the adoration of everyone from the shmup hardcore crowd to the casual ďvideo games are for dorks who fantasize about half-naked elvesĒ crowd.

But why is it special? You basically just run around to collect stuff and manage your house all while looking at crappy graphics. When I first saw the game, I thought it looked like the stupidest thing in the world. Iím still not completely sure why itís such a special game, but I hope to nail, at least, a few points.

No decapitating here

Itís relaxing. Everything about this game, from the music to the atmosphere, the activities you do to the in-game rain, makes you want to just lay under your warm covers and play during a rainy weekend day.

No one is trying pwn you while calling you a newb. There isnít an evil empire trying to bring death and destruction to the world. No zombie dog is jumping out a window making you leave man stains in your pants. No one is trying to decapitate you. Youíre just strolling around your town with no real goal, just minding your own business.

I love action-oriented games that are so scary I defecate in my pants and curse at the T.V. But sometimes, after all the stress that games like Ikaruga and Resident Evil 4 cause, you just need a nice, relaxing, stress free experience.

That gopher is damn funny

Anyone or anything that makes you laugh, you naturally feel more affinity to. Your friends are probably your friends in part because they make you laugh.

With that said, the writing in Animal Crossing is fantastic. The jokes are completely corny, but in a funny sort of a way. Each character has his or her own personality, and there are several dozen different characters. They talk about everything from their house dťcor to how chubby they feel. Sure they repeat themselves sometimes, but you know you were sad and pissed off when they decided to move away after they had lived in your town for several months.

Damn right, those are boobs I drew on my custom shirt

As a society, weíre all about customization. It creates a sense of individuality in a culture where everyone is dying to get noticed on some level in some setting. We also like to customize ourselves and our possessions with things that we think are cool, not what the original manufacturer put on as a default.

In Animal Crossing, almost everything is customizable: the furniture and layout of the house, your clothes, hairstyle, radio music, etc. Even the townís layout is open to your every whim, from planting your own garden to sadistically cutting down the town trees.

Besides, who wouldnít love the ability to draw boobs on your original T-shirt design?

Sometimes simple is fun

Everything in the game is simple. The customization is fun, but simple. A very minimum amount of buttons are used in the game. The concept of the game is simple. The different game play functions are simple. The music is simple. Hell, even the graphics are simple. Sometimes, after having to manage a million different factors on how I customize my characters, weapons, etc, in different games, sometimes you need simple.

The point

If you havenít played Animal Crossing, try it. No matter what the game looks like, try it. If youíve already played it, introduce it to a nongamer you know. If you do, suddenly youíll find yourself spending the 4th of July with that person playing Animal Crossing as the town celebrates the holiday, mailing each other items that you need for your house, or discussing your latest T-shirt creation.


12:15 PM on 01.09.2008

A manufacturing perspective: Is Nintendo purposely starving the market of Wiis?

Is Nintendo purposely starving the market of Wiis to make the demand seem larger?

Though this has been talked about before, I wanted to give my perspective since I actually work in the manufacturing industry. I wonít say who I work for, but I will say that I work for a juice company that is a subsidiary of one of the major soda manufacturers.

Though the company I work for would be considered a smaller company, we have grown on a consistent basis every year, and we will soon be opening whatís called a co-packer on the other side of the country. A co-packer is a company or plant that makes your product but is not owned by you. So essentially, we are increasing our production in the same way that people are asking Nintendo to do with the Wii.

While I donít know exactly how Nintendo controls the manufacturing side of their business, I seriously doubt that Nintendo actually owns the plants that manufacture its systems and games. Iím sure itís outsourced.

Iíve gone through the trouble to explain this in order to help you better understand Nintendo and my companyís position. Weíve been working to get this co-packer up and going for several months now. By the time it is operational with our product, it will have been about a year. This is the point I think that a lot of people miss. Again, it will be around a full year once they get going. Why? Because thereís so much that goes into it.

Have they ever run our product before? Have they ever run similar products before? Do they have the equipment to manufacture it, or do they need to buy the equipment and have it built and installed? How are the preliminary runs? Was there a lot of downtime? Where are the negotiations? Is there something thatís putting the negotiations on hold? How many will units will they make? Where will the components needed to make the product be purchased and shipped from?

These are only some of the questions. This is a very long and complicated process. And while I believe that Nintendo probably has more experienced people that are better equipped to handle these problems than my company, itís still not easy, and Iím sure that it would take them a significant amount of time to get a plant up and running.

But by the time they do all of this, the demand may not be there anymore. Demand and sales forecast is such a crap shoot a lot of the time. Who knows how consumers will respond?

Thereís a lot more that I could and want to say, but Iíll stop myself. This article is already longer that I expected it to be. Suffice it to say, the conspiracy theory about Nintendo starving the market for Wiis is doubtfully true. Think about one of their major consumer markets for the Wii: older people who havenít played games for a long time or maybe ever. Those are spontaneous purchases. They may never have the desire to buy that system again except for that one time they were walking through the store. I believe that every time Nintendo misses their chance to sell a Wii to one of those people, they potentially lose a sale for life.

So stop watching those conspiracy theory movies.


10:10 AM on 01.07.2008

Eternal Darkness: One of the best games I've ever played that no one else did.

Every once in a while, a game comes around that, for some reason, knocks you on your ass. Itís not always the same game for everyone. Itís so much more than you expected it to be, and it holds a special place in your gaming heart.

For me, Eternal Darkness is one of those games. I feel bad for anyone who has not experienced it. No game has played the player as much as Eternal Darkness, and Iím disappointed that no game has tried since. It had so many memorable moments.

When your sanity meter would start to fill up it would:

Start off with simple things like hearing the door knock or the floor creaking. Then it might escalate to walking into a bathroom with an empty bathtub then a quick flash of the bathtub full of blood and youíre in it!

But when the sanity meter really got good was the following:

After about 1 Ė 2 hours of play a screen pops up that says ďThank you for playing the demo. Now go out and buy the full version.Ē But then the game continues on because it is the full version. LOL.

Late in the game, after you save your game, it acts like you told it to delete all of your saves. WTF? But then it flashes back to reality and your saves are just fine.

Youíll run down a hallway and your head will suddenly get chopped off, or your body will suddenly grow too large for the room. But then you flash back to reality.

You enter a hallway you already cleared, only to find half a dozen monsters killing you while your screen flashes that your controller is disconnectedÖthen you flash back to the reality of an empty room and youíre fine. This one really made me crap my pants.

This game was a trip on acid, and truly scared me in a way that I havenít been scared before (Why the f#*k is my memory card deleting?!!). And I havenít even mentioned how awesome the adult storyline was that took place or several centuries and characters. What about the voice acting? Some of the best Iíve ever heard. Music? Top-notch.

Even with the old-gen graphics and all, this game would be awesome. I played through it 3 times, and I almost never play through a game more than once. If you havenít played Eternal Darkness then I feel bad for you. Check it out, now!


8:10 AM on 01.04.2008

The Power of Community


Thereís something that can be potentially powerful about that word. It entails a sense of friendship, trust, and, maybe most important, belonging. Everyone wants to belong to something. Everyone needs to be wanted and accepted into some form of a community

Back around May í07, I picked up Lord of the Rings Online. I was a 2-year veteran of WoW, and I was getting a little tired of the game, even after the expansion pack. So, I picked up LOTRO and loved it. Turbine nailed a lot of the Tolkien universe.

I did what you usually do in MMOs: level-up, grind, quest, gather materials, try to rip people off at the auction houseÖthe usual. And as you usually do in MMOs, I joined a guild. I made friends. It didnít seem to be anything different than what I did when playing WoW.

After a little bit over a couple months of playing LOTRO, I quit. Not because I was disinterested in the game, but because there were other games that I wanted to catch up on. I always planned on coming back. However, when I quit, I never told anyone in my guild. I mean, I had fun questing, talking, and hanging out with them, but it was just an online game. It wasnít real life or anythingÖjust a game. They wouldnít even notice that I was gone, right?

Well, I finally started back up about a couple weeks ago. I found my old guild, recognized a few names, and asked if I could join back up. All of the sudden, I get bombarded by my old guild mates:

What happened? Where did you go?
We missed you! Of course, we noticed you were gone!
Why did you leave? Where have you been?
How has your family been? Donít leave again!

I couldnít believe it. I mean, this was just an online game. Thatís it.

To most people on the outside, I was right. It is just a game, and a dorky one at that. Why should I feel bad about leaving online friends? But I did feel bad. I felt horrible. I felt like an ass. I also felt great that there was a community, however small, that missed me and was excited to accept me back. With all of my years in gaming, I never realized until this point how strong the video game community is.

So what is it that makes these online gaming friendships strong? Is it that weíre questing together, using our heads and skills to take down hard bosses and dungeons? Is it the sharing of items and materials, or the comradery you get from being in a group or ďguildĒ of friends? Is it that, no matter what our other beliefs or views on life, we all have, at least, a common interest in video games?

Or maybe itís easier to break the ice and approach someone in a video game that you may never see in person than it is to walk up and talk to someone you donít know. Think about how much easier it is to ask someone to help you on a quest, make you an item, or ask to join a guild than it is to ask someone on a date, borrow sugar from your neighbor or ask to join a group of friends. Itís easier to make friends in an online game because rejection is less risky or heart wrenching.

Everyone needs to be wanted. We all seek it. We all want acceptance from certain communities. I was foolish enough to discount the communities in video game culture. I guarantee you I will never make that mistake again. In fact, I hope to study it more and see how it can be harnessed and improved as I seek my M.B.A. and entrepreneurial goals.

One thing is for sure: with the friendship and community I now feel in my LOTRO guild, I donít think Iíll be leaving those guys anytime soon.


8:47 AM on 12.28.2007

The Struggles of a Video Game Dad

Has your son or daughter ever started crying from their bed, when they were suppose to be asleep for the night, while your group is fighting to stay alive in Scholomance?

Maybe your wife has called for your help while your kid is freaking out, and all youíre trying to do is desperately hear the critical scene with Andrew Ryan in Bioshock.

Some of you may even have survived the torture of making small talk at your in-laws house during a Sunday afternoon dinner. But all you wanted to do was stab an almost uber-charged medic in the back while playing Team Fortress 2 (which still gives me a boner every time I do it).

The struggles of a video game dad. They are so meaningless to those outside of our world. My wife canít understand why I have to intently listen to Andrew Ryanís lecture of a free man, or why my group in WoW will blast me for dropping out during a Scholomance beat down.

And it pains me. It pains me every time I miss the critical plot twist because the kids suddenly start screaming, or when a boss starts pwning me because my daughter thought it would be funny to jump in my arms and block my view. OhÖand the pain of the screen going blank because my daughter pulled the cord or hit the power buttonÖugghh.

But in the end, you put up with it all because of a little thing called love. You figure out a few tricks of how to work through it and smile through the rest. Video games definitely arenít what they used to be for me.

But thatís ok. Besides, maybe one day weíll have family video game tournaments. Now that would be a dadís dream come true.


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