I am Australian, living in the countryside. Theres not much else to do here except work and play videogames. When the videogames allow, I might write a blog from time to time. Most of them will be about Final Fantasy, sorry.
An aspect of myself I have not yet shared with the Destructoid community, and will remain farily tight lipped about is my occupation. It stirs people up. Lots of people have opinions about us, and lots have had bad experiences with us. Of course, lots of people have had good experiences with us too. Its the nature of my work. I'm a Police Officer.
The hardest part of the job, apart from the obvious, but thankfully infrequent, dead child, fatal car accident, or massive human trauma of another kind, is the unending repetition of it all. Sure all the callouts you get are varied, but they maintain a very common element - aggressive, emotionally stunted, violent and hopeless people.
A brief description:
The most satisfying thought about my work is that I help to keep the crooks away from the good people, so they don't effect your lives too much. There really are people (a LOT of people) out there who cannot walk past a parked car without trying the door handle to see if they can steal something from the centre console. There are people who cannot restrain themselves from getting on the meth every day and wandering into the middle of the road and hijacking a car in a drug fuelled rage. People who can't use their words to solve problems, and have to smash things and hit people. A lot of my work involves knowing and interacting with these hopeless souls, dissuading them from committing more offences, and trying to solve their problems - problems a normal member of society wouldn't get themselves into in the first place. For example: Inviting 50 strangers to come over and get drunk, only to find now they're stealing everything and fighting each other!
There you have it. My days are sometimes entirely uneventful and mundane (Doing bail checks on people who have court imposed curfews because they rob service stations at night) or frantic (get to work, immediately get a callout to a car accident where its gone up in flames and burnt its occupants to death). And you never know what kind of day you'll get until you get there.
To survive this sort of job, you often put on a bit of a mask of confidence and self assurance. Its the only way to deal with life and death situations, as well as people who have survived by being devious, who will exploit any weakness they sense.
Taking this mask off is a different story. To do this, I play Final Fantasy.
The appeal of the huge gameworld and epic, involving story is strong for me, because unlike the real world, its problems are easily solved. Teamwork amongst your party of friends will triumph over any big, evil adversary.
In the real world, there is no big evil adversary. People are their own worst enemies, and their problems cannot just be triumphed over with a battle or a motivational speech - they last a lifetime.
Or, you can have all the best teamwork in the world, but if people are already dead when you get there, all even the greatest team can do is pick up the peices.
I have a wonderful wife, two dogs, and a kid on the way. These are great distractions too. But in a way, seeing all the evil in the world firsthand so often can make them feel like an extra risk to worry about.
Some people get drunk to forget.
But I play epic videogames, where people take heroic stands and they work.
I play epic videogames where the terror and uncertainty in the world are compacted into one figure, or one evil empire.
I play epic videogames where teamwork and heroism actually topples these evils.
And its incredibly refreshing.
After a long and horrible day, there is no better way to put a period at the end of it all than by immersing myself in an entirely different world, and saving its ass.
Sorry there was no pictures. I don't really know of many that went well!
In my pre-teen years, I had a Master System, Mega Drive (Genesis), SNES, and (to accompany me through puberty) a Sega Saturn and a Nintendo 64. I had oodles of games for each. As probably about 60% of my time was spent sitting cross legged, one meter away from the TV, I associate certain games with certain big events in my family life. Prepare to get candid.
Tetris Attack For as long as I could remember up until I was 10 years old, my cat mittens had always been around. She wasn't a particularly nice cat. In fact, she was the kind of cat that could sense you wanted to pat her and would position hersulf under a table or a chair. When I'd get down on my knees, and crawl around trying to pat her, she'd move to another spot. I'd get up, walk around the table to try again (not realising I was an annoying little kid with sticky icy pole fingers) and she'd have magically disappeared. She was also morbidly obese, weighing in at about 7 kilograms, which is a lot for a cat. She had scars all over her nose from the sun and other cats. When you'd manage to catch her and pick her up, she'd curl into a ball and growl and fuss until you put her down.
Some people think that cats sort of have a feeling when their number is up. I remember sitting cross legged on the floor, a meter away from the TV, playing Tetris Attack on the Super Game Boy, when Mitty (Mittens) came up and plopped herself right on my lap. Not wanting to jinx this incredibly unusal display, I barely acknowledged her and played for a couple of hours. I then leant forward to pop another cartridge in, and Mittys lifeless body plopped forwards out of my lap. I carried her out into the backyard, dug a (huge) hole, and buried her. Now whenever I hear the Gargantua Blarg stage music, I feel quite moved.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Out of all the games I have ever played, Sonic 2 has without doubt received the most playtime. On evening, whist sitting cross legged a meter away from the telly, Chemical plant zones pipe system blasting my little Sonic sprite across the screen, I heard the sound of glass breaking upstairs. I hadn't any concept of who was home at the time, I was totally lost in the game. Assuming it was my sister, I wandered upstairs, expecting to see my then newly teenage sister crying, maybe having broken something in a girly fit of anger. She was prone to these at the time. Instead, a loud masculine cough caused me to freeze about halfway across the house. I turned and ran back toward my Megadrive.
A short time later, my dad and my sister arrived home from netball practice with me standing outside in my school uniform with a policeman, holding my Mega Drive in both hands which I had 'rescued' from the house. The crook only took a VCR and a couple of tape recorders from the other side of the house, and they never caught him as far as I know. From that point, every time I was home alone and lost in mhy games, Chemical Plant Zone would remind me to check the locks,
Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time
Being synonymous with my first love lost. Sigh.
I was thirteen, and I had been sending love letters to an fro at school, with one of the girls. When my dad and sister would go to netball practice on Wednesday and Friday nights, we would talk for the whole time on the phone, with me hastily hanging up when I heard the car in the driveway. I don't remember what the fear was - I just don't think I wanted my sister to rip on me about having a girlfriend.
Anyway, I never really had much to talk about, so Lia would talk and talk and I would listen, just rapt with the idea that the pretty girl at school who I loved, was talking to me and loved me back. You remember how it is, right? Gonna be together forever, gonna get married. All that crap that teens feel for the first person they have the hots for. Anyway, as I was mostly just listening to her talking, I would often multitask with a bit of Ocarina of time.
It was probably conversation 12 or so, about a month in to this eternal love that will last for eternity. I was playing through the spirit temple. I remember being hit with the double rush of Twinrova forming, and hearing the words 'so thats why I'm not allowed to talk to you anymore'.
Wha...? It turns out I had sort of tuned out a pretty decent part of the conversation, what with all the mirror reflecting and wing boots getting that was happening on the screen. Turns out her dad had decided the whole family were going to be devout jehovas witnesses, and our once cute relationship was now an unwholesome distraction for his virginal angel of a daughter. She explained to me how she was changing schools and was only allowed to hang out with Jehovas Witness boys.
I don't know what happened in her dads life for him to suddenly decide to 'save' himself and his whole family, but they stuck with it and I only saw her once after that and it was awkward and horrible.
I remember putting Zelda on a few night later and then crying into my pillow. True story.
I was seven, and playing Warioland on the gameboy in the car, on a trip to the Riverland with my grandparents when my grandmother said she felt really nauseous. I remember playing it while Grampa was driving after an ambulance containing Gran, and I remember playing it a lot over the next few weeks, waiting around in hospital foyers while everyone else was being really quiet and weird.
It was a great distraction from having to look at everyones sad faces. I remember not wanting to go in and see Gran, because she had gone yellow and really sick from a pretty aggressive hit of cancer. My dad got really mad and grabbed my gameboy, telling me "get that out of your face for five seconds" and throwing it in a hospital bin. We went into the room and Gran had heard Dad get upset. She said to him 'Goodness James, don't burn your bridges with Pete [me] on my behalf!, and they had a chuckle, probably at a very melodramatic look on my face. After she died, dad took me and got me a new Gameboy.
Games are awesome. I have loads of great memories playing games too, obviously. But as with most things, its the crappy stuff that really sticks in your head.
Over the last couple years, theres been what I can only describe as a fantastic surge in gamers beginning to take their hobby - often a solitary, lone wolf type experience, and turn it into shows, comics and podcasts. Usually completely self funded, and aiming at us - the fluent gamers sitting in our wonderful niche. Whether you love or hate the next few examples, you have to admit, these guys are furthering our hobby. Giving us something to do when the games in our systems run dry, and something to aspire to and talk about. You may be familiar with most or all of them, you may disagree. You may have a totally different five.
5. Screwattack - Video Game Vault
The VGV is a look back at an old game you may not have thought about in years. Likely a big reason for midnight ROM downloads, the vault will sometimes be a miss, but more often, focus on the game you loved as a kid but swore nobody else played, like Ristar. I was a Ristar addict. None of my friends ever played Ristar, and boy did it bug me. Ristar.
Its really interesting too, when they talk about a game that you weren't aware of, either bagging it or lathering it with love. Or sometimes just ending on a bizarre note of college boy humor.
This is the thing that lead me from Gametrailers to Destructoid a year or so ago. I often notice a resounding dislike for the show. I don't understand how people can be toxic towards a show that
A: Is free to watch and
B: Is made by the very people watching it; people who love videogames and
C: Can either be odd, profound, or just hilarious.
I'm all for two people finally putting all the kooky jokes we think of while playing games to film. Its brilliant.
I'd like a tab to it somewhere easily visible on the site, which then leads to an easy list so I can watch them in order, without having to go to the madness of Gametrailers any longer.
Once Upon A Pixel - This is something that started a bit iffy for me, but has gotten better and better as it has progressed. The latest Animal Crossing ep hits the nail on the head. Ashley Davis' narration and artwork will likely see her snared up by a bigger entity somewhere in the future, but hopefully this one sticks around for a long time. A complete original, and totally worth a watch.
Mega 64 is at the opposite end of the scale. Completely unfocused and crazy, these guys take random videogame humor and throw it in the faces of an often confused public. Some sketches fail, but the ratio is far higher on the win side of things. Browse the site and check them out.
I have loved Penny Arcade since I have been on the internet. Very few strips are unfunny, and its amazing to go back to the first frame ever and see how these guys have evolved into not only a top class web comic, but a veritable franchise of Penny Arcade games, conventions, and merchandise. Living the outgoing gamers dream, by making a good living out of our hobby, Gabe and Tycho are people who must have an army of geeks seething with jealousy. But in essence, when a comic is this funny, a bit of monopoly is easily forgiven.
This is easily what I hang out for the most - when a new AVGN goes live. James Rolfe knows his stuff too. In fact, some of the best episodes are the ones where he just - for lack of a less cheesy expression - elightens the viewer about an awesome forgotten tale of gaming lore. The Sword Quest video in particular has some really cool history in it. The videos he does in the character of 'The Nerd' need to be taken with a grain of salt. His strings of increasingly creative expletives might grate on those without the certain sense of humor required (toilet sense!), but his thick Jersey accent makes him both funny, and interesting to listen to.
His entire cinemassacre site is completely worth scouring, and his non-game related videos are just as essential. I find his views on cinema and movies match my own. I've become exposed to all sorts of things because of AVGN, such as The Twighlight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, Godzilla movies. Its a vast untapped resouce of geekdom, and completely brilliant.
Another hope for this blog, though, was to admit that I am frankly underexposed to these sorts of things, and would love a recommendation in the form of a link to something you think I or other readers might enjoy that hasn't already been listed.
Do you know of a better webcomic than penny arcade or a funnier show that HAWP? Maybe a more informative one that AVGN? Fire it at me.
I envy people who can play and enjoy first person shooter games. See, for me, I've been corrupted by the RPG, to the point that if a game doesn't have RPG elements (and I mean it not in the loose 'Playing a Role' sense, I mean in the sense that every action I do must give a tangible reward in to form of XP, Money, Abilities, etc.)
I fail to see the benefit in playing a game if I'm not levelling up. I'll be playing as Space Marine/WWII Soldier/Hit Man character, and every time I kill something, feel a twinge of dissapointment as the game keeps soldiering on and throws another guy at me. Wheres the victory fanfare? Wheres the little +4122 exerience caption popping up over the dead guys corpse?
This is, most certainly, a personal flaw on my behalf, as I also frequently observe that todays FPS games are often the pinnacle of storytelling, presentation, and gameplay. Its just my stupid teenage years spent on nothing but games starting with 'Dragon', 'Final', 'Breath of', 'Tales of', 'Xeno-', 'Shin Megami' etc, have rendered me a stats-whore. And FPS games, with only a few exceptions, bypass this for more of a momentum based rewards system.
FPS games make the player feel cool, fast, and powerful every time you fire your gun. RPGs make the player feel cool, fast and powerful every time you spend 3 hours killing stong enemies and then go back and use your overlevelled party to demolish the last chapters enemies. I know which I SHOULD prefer, but I just can't reprogram myself, dammit.
Not to say that FPS games don't still reward skill and progression. Now weapons, armors, and abilities are often prizes for exploration. On top of this, trophies and acheivments do speak a lot to RPG nerds like me, appealing to the 'Grind away at one particular enemy/section for small but tangible reward'.
I see myself as a breed of gamer becoming increasingly left behind by what are clearly superior storytelling styles that I just can't warm to. Telling the story to the player amidst the action is definitely more enthralling than presenting them with a non interactive cutscene.
Often RPG and strategy gamers see FPS games as the dumb jocks of the medium. I don't see this at all. I see them as highly accomplished, next generation experiences, filled with variety, color, and awesome set pieces. I just have a brain stuck in the mid 90's, before shooters evolved with Half Life and Deus Ex, and RPGs were the storytelling kings.
I look forward to them one day making the ultimate game, with a Modern Warfare 2 sense of scale and excitement, but with Final Fantasy length, outlandish story and constant improvements to the character with every challenge I overcome. Borderlands was a step in the right direction, maybe Deus Ex 3 will have enough to make me a convert. Perhaps the next Final Fantasy could be an action game, where progression is triggered by actions and choices, rather than preset scripted seqences.
Well, I'm off to grind some more Vagrant Story. Peace!