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4:24 PM on 06.28.2010

The waiting is the hardest part [Loading Screens]

I had popped in Fallout 3, waiting for initial hard drive install to finish up when I started thinking. The entire process took about five minutes, but in that time, I realized the importance of loading screens/time and how they can make or break games in the review department.



In most video game reviews, there are mentions of graphics, storytelling, gameplay, audio, and loading times. It seems that in our quest for total immersion, the loading screen is a hiccup that takes us out of our dreamscape, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know that indeed we are just playing a videogame. Reviews make note of the loading times and whether a game is worth playing is sometimes hinging on this one portion of the gaming experience. I haven't had the chance to play Bayonetta, but the reviews tell us that for this multiplatform game, the loading times for the ps3 is longer, and therefore the inferior game compared to its xbox counterpart.

People absolutely hate loading times. Reviewers for games tend to hate loading times.

Not me though.

Why you ask? [You didn't, but for the sake of this blog, I'm going to pretend it so]

It takes me back. Back to a time when the load screen was less of a nuisance and more of a precursor to the exciting experience that awaits. Its the curtain slowly closing after the trailers and slowly opening up again as the feature presentation begins.

My one example takes me back to Wing Commander 3 and my Pentium 2. All around school there was talk of this new game that was on multiple [!!!] cds and had an all star cast to boot. I pestered my dad about this game, what could possibly be the greatest game of all time. He relented and after heading out to the electronics store, I had in my hands what looked to be a fantastic adventure waiting for me.

I remembered installing the game, and then once I was in the game, waiting...

and waiting...

and waiting...

Over six minutes of loading per level. Just staring at a blank screen waiting.

Oh sure, I thought, this was a state of the art graphics so of course it was going to take time to load up. And you know what? All the waiting was worth it. It was Luke Skywalker and a talking lion. It was choose your own adventure dialog. It was a space opera in scope. I tapped my toes, memorized hot keys, and savored every second once the loading screen was finished. Even then, I knew that there was a tradeoff between state of the art technology and our enjoyment of it.



So, even now, when those loading and install screens popped up in MGS4, I didn't bristle. I waited with bated breath, fingers on the buttons, ready to experience another epic adventure. I don't curse at it. I don't mind it too much. I tend to skip over the parts of reviews that mention loading screens/times. You know why? Because its all just part of the game.

  read


5:10 PM on 06.24.2010

I'm not a gamer, I just complain like one

Yesterday, I wrote a comment on one of the cblogs that I couldn't be a fanboy, because I don't even bother playing video games. Written in jest, I came to the realization how much truth there actually was in my statement for myself, and potentially, for alot of other people here. Seeing comments on the cblogs and forums and all the complaining about games, consoles, what's not in the game, how it should better, etc... it's taken me this long [shouldn't have taken that long] to realize that gamers are a fickle bunch, never satisfied and always bitching. But not me. I may complain, but I sure as hell am not putting myself in the same group as you all. In essence, I'm no gamer.

It wasn't always this way...



A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I played video games obsessively. I remember coming home from school and turning on Final Fantasy III [VI], playing beyond dinner, my eyes red and glazed over, my body shaking from the lack of nutrients. I was a primitive version of MMO addicts. I needed to level up my characters to 99. All of them. Nothing could stop me from leveling, even such a silly thing as basic nutrition.

I remembered playing Metroid in elementary school over and over again, unsuccessful in beating the game because I was unable to write down the horrendously long password down correctly. Over and over it happened. And then I figured out what I needed to do. I grabbed a giant stack of papers, and drew myself a map as I played. I was tired, I was confused by all the different paths, but I soldiered on, knowing that I was unable to save the game and play it another time. I had to finish it then and there. After a very long afternoon, I conquered Metroid.

And then there was Super Metroid, a game that I borrowed from a friend of mine. I was allowed one week to play it. I played it deep into the night, slept a few hours, and began my journey again early in the morning, thus giving myself two to three extra hours in the morning. Super Metroid thus, was completed.



Through all that time, I don't recall myself complaining. Complaining about the graphics, the storyline, the characters. In fact, I don't think its the retro goggles talking, but all I remember talking about with my friends were the positives. How awesome the characters looked, their special powers, the coolness of the SuperFX chip, bragging about secret levels I'd found.

Fast forward to now. There seems to a nonstop barrage of people whining that Nintendo sucks, that Microsoft has only space marine shit, and Playstation sucks because they can't play the ps2 games. E3, where new games are shown, was met with the expected wowzers. But what blew me away was the enormous amount of people absolutely saddened and angry by the presentations. That their personal expectations were not met and so therefore the entire thing was a failure.



Fuckin' ay I say.

Have we become such a strange and peculiar basement dwelling sort that with all that went well with E3 we have formed a tunnelvision to only see what we were disappointed in? Do we invest too much time hating different games and consoles that we no longer have the time and energy to actually play video games? I'll admit, I spend most of my time thinking about games. I'm sure most of you do that too. But has thinking about games become a substitute for actually playing them?

For myself, it has. That's why I say I'm no longer a gamer. No longer do I stay up building my characters up to lvl 99. No longer do I wake up extra early to get a couple missions in. No longer do I draw maps with a pencil and paper.



Instead, what I do is complain about exclusivity. Complain about DLC prices. Complain about amount of hours of gameplay divided by the sixty I spent. Complain about Gamestop. Complain about EA, Ubisoft, M$, $ony, Madden, etc. Complain about the shovelware instead of praising the good stuff.

Nope. I'm no longer a gamer. And if all you do is complain, neither are you.   read


2:32 PM on 06.13.2010

You be Russia, I'll be 'Merica [the gaming cold war]

There's an arms race going on. A new cold war on the technological front, and its taking place on the consoles. Except, its not the consoles themselves facing off, its the software companies.

Skyrocketing development costs, increasing development time, marathon hours for programmers, new engines that must be created, hired public relation firms to explain delays in production, movie stars cast as voices, more bloom lighting effects(!), anti-aliasing(!), the necessity to create a surefire hit that will bring in Halo 3 type numbers or be considered a failure, etc. In fact, software companies build their own Tower of Babel, the weight perched above them precariously, and if first month sales numbers don't come back stellar, said software company is as good as bankrupt. It truly is, serious business. All these things are part of the new front in video games.



The arms race was about one-upmanship. The software companies are now in their own arms race. With every new game that gets released, we are not only given just the game to experience, but the software companies themselves join the front lines and proclaim why their game is now the king of the hill. They explain the difficulty in creating a game in high definition on a certain resolution, and how they were successful in merging that with the amount of frames per second, thereby proving that they're the best company.



Another company with perhaps lesser abilities in high definition resolutions will still voice that it is not the rival's company's game that is the best, but their own because they reached out to a famous novelist to write the story, and with that, cast the perfect movie star to portray the main character, blending art, video games, and Hollywood in one. So their game is the best.

And then another company comes out, and so on and so forth. You know where this is going. All the gamesmanship only adds to software companies creating shinier and shinier games. Are the games necessarily going to be better because of the higher budgets that we now demand from games? No, not necessarily, but they are going to be shinier, that much is true.

I'm beginning to see software companies going sideways when it comes to quality. A great game is a great game, but the companies are sticking to a status quo that is given to them by the console makers. They say, "Make a sequel to this game...Make a game that's like this...Make a sequel but give it jetpacks..." All these statements are there to insure that the game sells, because the cost to develop them are so steep, so they take the safest path they can.

So software companies have their hands tied creatively, and are forced to engage in this arms race to make sure that the consoles will support their game through ads and television spots, to insure the hype train picks them up and takes them along.

What can these software companies do?

It's actually quite simple.

Think small.



Handhelds.

The home consoles are a make or break arena. Unless you have the development budget of a Hollywood movie, you are never going to make a game that compete with the bells and whistles of other companies, and even then, it must look shiny, or else potential buyers will write it off as "last gen."

With handhelds, the development costs shrink to two generations or more back. Undeservedly or not, expectations of the quality of the game are also lowered, so this one and done attitude is not present. Heads of the studios no longer feel obligated to hype the game as the greatest game of all time. Computers full of programmers are not spending their time making the game more shiny, more bloomy, more realistic.

The limitations of the handheld become a godsend to game developers. No longer hampered by absolutely needing to maximize the limitless potential of the Cell or the Xbox processor or else risk having gamers call them lazy, these developers can concentrate on story, characters, interesting gameplay elements, and a little thing called fun.



I believe you'll start seeing more and more software companies sending their troops to the handheld levels, because the expectations are so high on the console level, that one has a higher risk of failure with all the rules and restrictions that have to work with. However, on the handheld level, there is potential, a potential for amazing quality through contraction.

[My inspiration for this blog came from playing Peace Walker. As I was playing, I began to think that Kojima Productions purposely put it on the PSP not as a favor to Sony or anything shady like that, but because they learned from their experience making MGS4, and all the time they needed to make that game they realized they could make a game equally as good but in less time by putting it on a handheld. They didn't need to spend all that extra time polishing the corners and making them extra shiny. So I see other big names doing this too in the near future if they haven't started already. I for one, welcome our new handheld overlords.]

  read


12:56 PM on 05.31.2010

Take a minute and raise a glass

Woke up this morning ready to play video games. I wanted to shoot some rival factions in MAG. I wanted to get a couple more levels in Super Mario Galaxy 2. I wanted to suffer through the single player campaign of Section 8 before jumping in to the multiplayer mode. I had a lot of options this morning.

Unfortunately my little nephew was using the living room television where the ps3 is hooked up. I certainly wasn't going to kick him off for my own selfish reasons even though these days, due to work I can barely fit an hour of gaming every other day or so. I brewed up some coffee trying to contain my frustration at having my morning activity abruptly cancelled and began thinking.



Thinking about today. For non-Americans and American dumbasses, today is a holiday. Memorial Day.

It's the reason I'm able to bitch and moan from home today, because of the holiday. Even though I can't play video games, I can make my rant public because of the holiday. And that makes me feel grateful. Grateful that for a pacifist anti-war anti-violence, anti-government, anti-everything person like myself, there was a person out there willing to put themselves in front of a bullet. Grateful that in this world full of selfish selfish people like myself, there are others in this world that are willing to pay the ultimate price so that I can wake up in the morning and be mad that my little nephew is bogarting the living room tv, causing me to not be able to play some video game. Grateful to those that serve.



I'll find something else to do this morning. Then I'll take a shower and get ready to go out, drink a couple beers, have a good time with my friends, and overdose on ribs. Others will be raising their glasses in a toast and sitting out in the sun. Still others will be on their computers writing blogs, commenting on blogs, trolling on blogs, writing witty ass comments, being assholes under the anonymity of internet. And still some of you lucky ducks will be playing video games on a day off on Monday.

Take just a minute from what you're doing and offer thanks in your own way to those that have offered to step up and make sure that you are able to do what you're doing today. Do this even if you may disagree with the military. Do this even if you may hate the policies of this country. Do this even if you have a problem with President Obama. Because it isn't about you or me, or anybody else. It is about the those that aren't here not able to celebrate.

So celebrate for them however you can. You owe them at least that.


Just don't ever wear a ridiculous shirt like this. Its fucking embarassing.

[Short version- Happy Memorial Day! Cheers!]   read


12:21 PM on 04.02.2010

Scratching that Itch

My intentions were honest and pure of heart in the beginning. Having just been gifted an Xbox, and spending fifty bucks on a Ps2 from craigslist, I had completed the holy trinity of consoles [I already was a proud owner of a Gamecube], albeit about half a decade late in gathering these heavy hitters. I bought the “must play!!!” games ie Halo, Ninja Gaiden, Final Fantasy X, God of War, etc. Now, I was stocked to the gills in games to play. I had all the time in the world [spoken in a Burgess Meredith voice].

I was satisfied.

All three systems.



Every available option.

But something itched.

The itch was located just beyond my reach. It started as merely an annoyance. But I began to notice it more and more, like a red spot that may or may not become a zit, but which indeed becomes a zit because you spent so much time thinking about it that you literally willed it into existence.

This itch was taking over my entire being.



Consumption. Purchasing. Things. Trinkets. Games. Gadgets. The “Next Big Thing.” These things made up my itch.

Everywhere I went, I was seeing ads and commercials for these shiny new toys that promised everything under the sun, rendering my holy trinity of systems obsolete. Oh no, there were three new big boys on the block. 360, PS3, and the Wii were new in my little suburbia of contentment, and they came armed with a switchblade comb and a pack of Lucky Strikes. They threatened to upset the balance that I had achieved so recently.

I tried to ignore their cat calls, but they found my weakness. One system promised a mall full of zombies and a shit ton of weapons with which to kill them. I looked at the video. I scraped my open jaw off the sidewalk and began rationalizing, trying to think things through logically. I had three consoles already, and an enormous backlog of games to play. Why should I saddle myself with another console when it would take me years to finish the games I had now? Why was I going to waste my hard earned money on a system with only one game that I wanted to play?

I kept asking myself all these questions as I pressed “buy it now” on ebay for a 360 console.

One new console and just one game, I told myself.

I also told myself all sorts of other shit as I started purchasing games left and right, using sales, $10 credits, buy 2 get 1 free, buy 1 get 1 50% off, pre-order it and get some free bullshit, and any other method to get the anxious buyer to part with their money.

Before all was said and done, I now owned a 360, PS3, Wii, and PSP, knee deep in games that I could never hope to finish since I work 40 hours a week and spend much of my free time getting liquored up at the bars and chasing tail.

So, as I sit on top of my pile of games looking down at everything, I hope that with all that I acquired, that my itch to consume and buy has been quenched. I am locked and loaded for the apocalypse when it comes to having entertainment. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of fun awaits me to open up the shrink wrap and unleash these worlds and characters.

I am fucking set...



though...I still need to pick up Gears 2 to round out the set when it goes on sale [and I'll buy it even though I never bothered finishing the first one], as well as God of War 3, if I ever get around to beating number 2, though that is wholly dependent on when I get around to beating Silent Hill 3, followed by Silent Hill 1 [as I heard they are connected to the same story], but I refuse to jump in to Silent Hill 3 till I finish Final Fantasy X which I still have in the ps2 at the moment, and if I take it out, then Yakuza 2 has to have priority because I also have Yakuza 3 on tap on the ps3, but I won't even bother getting started on that because I'm only 20 hours into Final Fantasy XIII, so I better keep playing because I have Sigma 2 coming in the mail, and I really want to get started on Endless Ocean for some scuba diving action.   read


10:15 PM on 07.14.2009

The Siren's Song- My Return to Animal Crossing

So I have this pile of games that are just yearning for me to continue. What to pick I ask myself. And then, it called out to me, like a neglected child that once stood tall as the son of a proud father before new and better children came into his life, dooming the offspring to an existence as ham on a shelf sandwich. The loyal game with a persistent memory would remain sitting by the window, waiting for the day I came back to it. The game?



Animal Crossing City Folk.

Like the hypnotic spell of the siren's song, Animal Crossing called out to me, begging me to revisit the town of my own creation. But I was afraid to put the disc in and turn it on. Surely it was a ghost town at this point. The weeds would be overgrown and the animal neighbors would be strangers to me, strangers to the kind deeds that I once fulfilled for another neighbor's behalf. And then there was the mortgage. The bells that I owed to Took for my two story shack would still be astronomical. Thank the heavens that late fees were not included as a part of this game.

It would be such an uphill battle, and I struggled to find the motivation to jump back into this "game" in which I would be so far behind in. What I needed was some sort of guardian angel to point me in the right direction. I was all sorts of lost and assistance was oh so necessary.

I said to myself, "What the hell" and decided to jump in with both feet. Upon booting up, Rover the gatekeeper reiterated what I already knew for way too long- it had been a while since I played.

I took a minute to regain my bearings. "The City" was different. I had changed (my guy now had bedhead). Things had changed around the town. All the neighbors were a strange blur of humanoid animals that I didn't recall meeting when I initially started my town. New fuckers I thought to myself. Yet, they knew about my absence. Gossipy ass animals. They were blunt, I prefer to think of them as rude.



I was in a terrible bind. I had to deal with these neighbors and my mortgage, but I did not want to be put to work as a gopher. I have a graduate level education damnit! Forget weeks of being at their servitude. I needed help. This would require outside help. I went on the internet, and looked for City Folk friends, people who would support me in my time of need, keep me motivated so that I could shape up and get to work fixing this town from criminal neglect.

And then it began. Leaving my gate open for visitors when I went to work and when I went to sleep, I allowed strangers on the internet to invade my town to do as they please, as long as they didn't chop down my trees and dig holes in my shit. They were friendly. The first left a note thanking me for my hospitality. The next did a fantastic thing and left behind a fossil for me to collect. My third visitor was the best. She invited me to her town, and it felt like stepping into a wonderland where all my virtual desires (in the Animal Crossing world of course) could be fulfilled. She had, in her time playing, amassed every single item that was available. And she offered everything up for grabs. Anything and everything I could take was mine. I took what I could and then she one upped the offer. She would fill up her pockets and come to my town to drop off some donations. This was a virtual Jesus Christ in the form of a cartoon girl with a button nose holding a golden axe.



After giving me Midna's helmet, Majora's mask, and Samus' mask, she gave me one final treat- the thing that would leave me forever grateful. Four million bells. Enough bells to pay off my mortgage. Enough bells to get an addition to the house. Enough bells for anything and everything I would ever need in the future. I was done working. I was done talking to the neighbors. I was done with that fuck Took. I was free.



And so now, I can finally play the game properly. I don't need to talk to these fucking neighbors ever again. I am just happy as hell to plant my fruit trees, go fishing, collect random shit on the beach, and design my city as the utopia I originally envisioned. The siren song of Animal Crossing called to me, but it took the help of an online stranger before I was truly able to answer it.

Fuck yeah! Animal Crossing kicks ass.   read


1:15 PM on 07.02.2009

My First Affair

I didn’t know it then, but the following experience would be the first in many affairs that I would have in my life. I was naïve, and didn’t think there was anything wrong in what I was doing. In the present day, with so many people on both sides of the issue, my affairs would be looked down upon, but the urge persists. I’m sorry, but here is my sad tale of my first affair.

I was living with my folks at the time in an upstairs duplex. In the bottom unit lived my cousins. I was in kindergarten. I loved Voltron, Silverhawks, and Looney Tunes. Above all else, I loved my Coleco Vision. Mouse Trap, Donkey Kong, and Turbo got hours of my playtime. But there was one that stood as the pinnacle of fun- Gorf.



I was fascinated by space, and this space game had it all. Neat colors, cool sounds, and damned if the levels weren’t ingenious. I didn’t know about Space Invaders, so what Gorf offered me was totally unique. There was even a mother ship that you had to fight at the end that would blow up like crazy on the last stage. And when that was done, the game would send me back to stage one and I would do it again and again. This was the definition of fun. Little did I know that temptation was around the corner. In fact, it was much closer that- it was living under the same roof. And when it got its hooks into me, I would never be the same. The bright eyed innocent child would soon be lost to the grip of a different beast.



The Commodore 64.

One day, I ran downstairs like usual to play with my cousins. Perhaps we would climb the tree in the backyard or play with magnifying glasses and burn something. No. Today was different. They were gathered around the corner of their living room where there was a strange glow. And there it was. The Commodore 64. More specifically, there was Congo Bongo.

Congo Bongo, the greatest game this young boy had ever seen. There more colors than Gorf. There was better sound than Gorf. There were snakes, there were monkeys. I was in a daze. What was happening? I asked my cousins for a chance to play- “I’m next!!!” But no, I would have to wait.



And wait I did until it was my turn. Then, I got hit with a coconut and my turn was over. But that coconut did something. It made me realize there was something else out there that was better than what I had at home. My path used to be straight and narrow, and here was the first fork in the road. What was I to do?

In the coming days, I would continue to play Gorf. But it was no longer fulfilling. Something was missing. There weren’t snakes in Gorf. And there certainly weren’t any coconuts. I took every opportunity to run downstairs and play this new game. It was shinier, more exciting, and more importantly, it was new.

I had a mistress now that gave me what I needed. Gorf was old hat.

And as time went on, I would have more affairs. I would meet Sonic, Columns, and Golden Axe away from home, where the experience would be new and fresh. Ryu and Ken would have to wait a little longer as I marveled at Terry Bogard. And I stopped feeling guilty about my trysts. I do what I want to do was my new attitude. This attitude has carried on for close to three decades now, and it all began with an affair with a coconut.   read


1:07 PM on 06.29.2009

Cooperation in Co-op? What's that?

So there you are, breathing heavily, scanning the alley in front of you, looking out for any signs of zombies. You think to yourself, “My teammates are counting on me. Don’t screw this up.” And then, something clicks. You say, “The hell with this.” You run out of the alleyway, leaving your teammates behind, where you immediately are surrounded by the undead and killed. Game over.

Another similar scenario- Playing SOCOM, teamwork and cooperation is of extreme importance to survive. So what do I do? The round starts and I rush whichever chokepoint I think the enemy is running to, usually after they have already established their position. I get dead. Amount of time elapsed before death- 15 seconds.

The two examples above illustrate my inability to play in any sort of cooperative mode, yet I still do. There is only so much Free-for-All that I can play before it gets boring. And that is where cooperative modes come in. Camaraderie, the shared experience, the sum being greater than its individual parts, all these things that people tout as positive aspects of co-op modes are simply lost on me.



I find that it’s just easier to not have to depend on someone else for the victory, and more importantly, not feel the pressure of having the team’s success be dependent on my actions. I’m a spaz. I generally play without planning. This is usually a terrible sign in co-op modes, leaving me as a bullet magnet/meat shield for opponents. And I know this puts my teammates at a disadvantage because my actions leave them down a person and numbers advantages are important in most modes.

Then there are the alphas. Those that thrive on teamwork, communication, have an innate ability to talk to and plan strategy. They are the leaders, the ones that are able to look beyond the shortcomings of their teammates and can eek out a victory with better planning. They are fun to play with. They seem to have their head on straight. They see the words Cooperative Mode, and are able to do exactly that, cooperate. Unfortunately, that is not me.

Me? I’m the guy that ran towards the middle to meet up with a bullet with his name on it.

  read


9:54 PM on 06.10.2009

Difficulty in Games? That's Easy.

Like many of you growing up, I was only able to afford a new game every so often, and so each purchase was a special experience. The back of the box usually had a fantastic description of the game, tickling my still young and fertile imagination, and from the aisle to the back of the car all the way back to the house, I would look at the 3 screenshots to the game I bought and imagine the new adventure I would soon embark on. What these screenshots usually neglected and wouldn't be able to properly show was the difficulty of the game.



Contra, Gradius, Zanac, Section Z, Castlevania. These were some of the games that captured my imagination as a child. The front of the box promised entry into otherworldy and more importantly, kickass action, and the back of the box explained the backstory that would immerse me into my mission to save the world (sometimes the galaxy, universe and beyond), increasing my heartrate as my brain kicked into overdrive to come up with my own origin story so that I may easily jump into the game.



I would power on the system, turn up the tv, and rock along to the music. I wouldn't immediately press the start button, instead, choosing to wait it out so that I could see an opening movie. This further fed my hunger. Then, when the menu popped back up, I was ready to press start.

Game on.

Two minutes later...

Game over.

What the heck?!

I'm dead?

Yeah, and so the last two statements would repeat itself over and over as I played these games, each time getting slightly further, but like in real life, death was inevitable. My face would be flush with anger and frustration, my hands not even having an opportunity to get sweaty, as the game over screen and mocking music to express failure played on the television. Such would be my experience with the harder video games as a child.

Nowadays, I still gravitate towards the more difficult games. At the game stores, I read through the back of the box, and my ears perk when I read about the inhuman difficulty of some games. When I read about the difficulty of Ninja Gaiden II, I smiled, and ordered it immediately. I love Metal Slug for its beautiful brutality and unflinching honesty in proving my unworthiness to play it.



I can appreciate a game's ability to make me its bitch through its horrendously unforgiving AI or terribly placed platforming sequences. But age has taken its toll. Honestly, I no longer have the time to play extremely difficult games. With the amount of concentration required, and the necessity of having the ability to suppress stress, I can no longer give these types of games my all. I have given up.

I only have so many free hours after I subtract work, sleep, going out, and other activities, that video games can no longer be a primary source of entertainment that I can devote hours to.

Case in point- Months and months ago, I played God of War. A fantastic game. I started on the most difficult setting. As the hours and days passed, the frustration and stress grew from all the times that I died and had to restart. I realized that the absolutely euphoric sense of accomplishment from beating some of the levels could no longer surpass the amount of dread I was experiencing whenever I lost. I put the game away, for months.

A few days ago, I fire up the game again. The experience was the same. Dread, frustration, death, and alot of shaking my head in dismay. Then, the game asked me a question- "Would I like to play on easy mode?" EASY mode? I thought about it for a minute. Would I be cheating myself of the experience that these game creators wanted me to have? Am I such a shitty game player that I have to resort to a girly (no offense) difficulty? Then I thought back to the times playing this game and realized that I was having no fun at all. It wasn't a difficult decision after that.

I selected "yes."



And you know what? I had a fantastic fuckin' time playing through the rest of the game. Yeah, I know. Easy mode. Anybody can beat the game on easy. I say, so what? I was having fun again. I began enjoying the exploration, looked at my surroundings with a new perspective, really enjoyed the creature designs, listened even more intently to the music instead of the dreading impending doom. This was fucking great.

Yes, I know. It's STILL easy mode. But that's alright. Games were made to entertain me, not punish me for not having the patience to withstand a digital hazing. I accept that now.

And in the end, I have come to the realization, that playing through a game and having fun with the little amount of free time that I can devote to a hobby that I've had since I was five is MUCH more important than proving to my more immature self that the most difficult difficulty is the ONLY way to play.   read


1:18 PM on 05.26.2009

Work Bathrooms (NVGR)

Seeing as how the forums are broken, I would post this here instead.

The bathroom at my work sucks. And stinks. And is located in the worst possible location. It is RIGHT NEXT to the office kitchen. Yeah, and the vent that sucks up all the dirty crap smells doesn't work very well. And the walls are paper thin, so anybody in the kitchen is privy to whatever duty is going on in the bathroom. It's like we all have sonar in the office kitchen.



I know Banj had a great thread about this subject in the forums, but since its unavailable, I'll drop this shit here.

Generally, I do not drop shits at work. I find it unappealling. I like to pretend that everyone else at my work also doesn't do what I like to not do at work. It's a part of their life that I have no interest in, and I like to go on my merry way, ignorant of the types of sounds and smells that exit their poophole.

Exceptions being (for myself)- I show up to work twenty minutes early and am the only person there, and the two cigarettes I smoked on the way to work as well as the coffee I drank has loosened up my intestines to the point of leakage.

The only other exception- Eating seven Stuffed Jalapenos from Jack in the Box (a fast food restaurant) last night after downing a six pack of cheap beers. This my friends is a ticking time bomb. And so I woke up this morning, feeling a bit sick. Luckily, I was actually a bit early in getting ready and was able to get a couple minutes to read magazines and empty my bowels at home (or so I thought).



I drive to work. Smoke two cigarettes. My stomach begins to cramp. I begin to sweat. I have two coworkers (both women if it matters) and think whether I should go or not. My ass feels like its on fire (thanks Jack in the Box!) and decide I have no choice in the matter.

I go to the bathroom, drop my pants, and feel as vulnerable as a dog taking a shit in public (you've seen their expressions, its sad).

After carefully making sure all was clean in the bathroom, I exit to the presence of my coworkers in the bathroom, no doubt having been treated to a symphony of sounds that only my ass could provide.



So, anyone else have a shitty location for their work bathrooms? Mine's next to the work kitchen, which I believe is the worst design choice, ever.   read


1:09 PM on 05.14.2009

Aversion to Sports Games

When I was about 6 years old, my dad took all of us to the local Target. This was right after Chinese News Year, and I had a pocket full of money just itching to be spent on the next NES game. Beyond Transformers and toy soldiers, I wasn’t a big action figure type of kid at the time. No, I couldn’t wait to get to the electronics section and see the giant wall of Nintendo games mounted, each a potential adventure for me to play and cherish.

When I got there, (cue the heavenly music) I was inundated with black boxes with cool looking pictures of the games that I could be playing when I got home. Each belonged to a “series.” There was the action series, adventure series, and I also remember the sports series. I could not fathom all the different types of games that were available to me.

My dad is not a very patient man, and he wanted me to pick my game so we could be on our way. I looked and looked, and finally saw something I wanted to play- Baseball. I gestured to it, and he picked it up and looked at it. Then he told me something I would never forget. “These games are a waste of time. Pick something else.”



I was heartbroken. I wanted to play Baseball. It looked so cool and fun. But my dad’s word was the law, and I so I had to pick something else out. In the end, I think I picked Donkey Kong Jr. (I don’t remember completely) and had a blast playing it. The important thing I remember that always stuck with me was that “Sports games are a waste of time.” It would carry with me for many years until I had my own source of income and then I was able to purchase sports games under my own volition.

This morning, I got to thinking, what causes everyone else in the gaming community to have this aversion to sports games? For myself, it was my dad’s words. I didn’t question it, because in my 6 year old mind, truth spoken is truth said. Could it have been, that he wanted me to go out and play these sports in real life? I would go on a couple years later to play Little League baseball.



Or, could the truth have been much more sinister? Could it have been something I was being warned about and just couldn’t comprehend at the time? Yes, I believe I had my answer. My dad was a prophet. He came to the realization before I did that sports games are the same. No matter the title, the initial five minutes of a sports game will be the exact same as the next five minutes of a game. And those first ten minutes of a sports game will be the exact same as the last ten minutes of a sports game. Nothing changes. And real life variables that apply like wind, skill level of competitors and teammates can not truly be duplicated by a computer’s formula. Because in real life, random chance is at play. That cannot occur in a session of Madden or NBA Live. If it does, it is a bug, a glitch.



As an adult, I have the means to purchase my own games and on occasion I do buy sports games. However, each time I do, I do hear a distant nagging in the back of my mind that states, “Its just a waste of time.” Inevitably, I shrug off the talking and purchase my game. Upon playing it though, I make note to remind myself that yes, that voice in my head is correct, and though the graphics may be shinier, the options more robust, that the Madden session I’m engaged in or the online match of Fifa that I’m playing, is the absolutely fuckin’ same game I played when I was little. Only they’re not titled John Elway’s Football, or just plain old Soccer.

Epilogue- I do enjoy sports games. I also enjoy real life sports. No matter how far technologically we have moved forward in the realm of the sports genre, nothing beats being outside playing a pick up game for an hour with friends and strangers. Win or lose. That my friends, is true co-op.

  read


11:38 AM on 05.06.2009

Other Worlds Than These: Hong Kong, 1987



My wristwatch alarm rings at the same time every morning at 7:45. It's so early, yet I know I have plenty to do and should probably get out of bed. I check my notebook and try to remember all the things I found out yesterday and hope that I can actually make some progress today. I put on my favorite leather jacket- the one with the tiger on it- and sneak down the stairs, hoping that the ugly man at the front desk of the hotel doesn't ask me AGAIN for the rent. I will have to tell him the same thing I told him yesterday, and the day before- "Sorry, I don't have the rent right now." That is because I have more important things to do. I'm on a mission in a strange land. I'm in Hong Kong, and I'm looking for Lan Di, my father's killer, and I'm running out of time.



The world of Shenmue II is one of the most complicated, rewarding, and frustrating settings I have ever encountered. The first thing that got my attention about this game was the fact that it was taking place in an exotic location in a rather under-utilized time period (the 1980s). Most games either take place in the middle ages or the post-apocalyptic future, so having it occur in an era when I was a kid really personalized the game for me.



From the moment Ryo steps off the boat from Japan, he is placed in the middle of a port full of hustle and bustle. People are working, loitering, talking to each other, and looking none too friendly. Each and every one of these people look different. There are old people with wrinkled faces, young children with hilarious kid voices, and regular adults, each with their own unique facial features and clothes. These people are annoyed when I stop them to ask them the same question over and over- as they should be. Yet, I can't stop bothering these people. I'm interested in what they have to say. I want to see each individual face. I want to hear each individual voice. So much care has been given these citizens of Hong Kong, that I feel it would be a disservice to not try to talk to everyone I encounter on my journey. Some of these citizens are so grotesque in their appearance that I bother them multiple times under the guise of trying to find a certain street, so that I may gaze upon the travesty that nature has bestowed them.



Hong Kong is littered with people going about their business, selling their wares, and all these people keep directing me to talk to other people who may know more information. This fetch quest may not appeal to some people, but it allows the players the opportunity to explore the locations and talk to people, all the while building a sense in the player that this is indeed a living, breathing world. This is the epitome of role playing.



Shenmue II is different from other RPGs in that money doesn't appear from killing animals. Nope. This is 1987. Hong Kong & Kowloon. You earn money the real way- by arm wrestling. You can also make money by working a monotonous job like in real life- moving crates. Being broke can be a sad thing, in real life and in video games. In Shenmue II, money is necessary to buy sodas, capsule toys, and maps. These capsule toys are great for collecting. So if you want to collect, you have to work. So you move crates from one end of a lot to the other end. Over and over again. It's not fun, but its a living. It is worth it because at the end of the day, you get paid. Sometimes, it feels as though its just a waste of time working, but I keep telling myself its a day job.



Sometimes, I like just wandering around. The design of the cities, the people that inhabit the place, the arcades, the convenience stores, and the almost insignificant details like soda machines, and the subtle changes that occur because of the in-game time, make it so that this place is real. Everything in Shenmue II has a purpose. I find a new appreciation every time I stop and look around.



I ask myself if I should go play a game of Space Harrier, hang out at the park, or bother little kids today. Then I remember. I need to go find my father's killer.   read


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