I am an aspiring games journalist based in Vermont where I live with my wife. I have written for RPGamer, GamePositive, Strategy Informer, Ve3tro, ECG Games and The Game Reviews. I currently write for the The Next Level as a staff writer and freelance for GamesRadar and UGO.
I am often tempted to start my own gaming publication.
I think I'd keep it feature focused, with a strong opinion section and maybe only a smattering of reviews when big or interesting stuff comes along. I'd look for writers with the sort of integrity that aspire to, and of course, I'd base it on the East Coast.
This is just a pipe dream of course. I know very well that I have neither the necessary skills or patience to launch and maintain a successful, profitable venture like that and for the most part I am content with being the guy that works for the skilled, patient people. That said, it does sincerely suck that virtually no major gaming publications are based on the East Coast.
Writing about video games is something I love, but generally speaking it is a career path in which I know that I can only go so far because most every big publication is based out in California. This isn't so much an issue when it comes to freelance work; distance hasn't kept me from writing on article by article basis for GamesRadar, IGN and UGO, but it makes it all but impossible for me to ever really contemplate finding that dream staff position where I go to work each day surrounded by gamers and nerds. Point in case, GameSpot has Guide Editor position open I'd just love to apply for.
Why not just move? I am young after all, and if I really want something I should pursue it, yes?
Well, as idealistic as I'd like to be, life, or namely the recession has kind of squeezed all of that out of me. To move you need money and I have none. Moreover, I already have the constant nagging of student loans bills, car bills, hell, just life bills to pay and as much as I'd like to chase a pipe dream across the great American landscape, it's just not something I can do without bankrupting my wife and I, potentially all for nothing.
And beyond that, there is just the simple fact that I would hate the West Coast. I live in Vermont, was born in Canada and generally am more comfortable with a bit of a chill in the air. How do you think I would fair in LA or San Fransisco? Heat aside, I hate hippies and if South Park is any indicator, I'd be waist deep in trendy, hemp-wearing folk who look down on my Saturn Vue and smell their own farts. Beyond those reasons I have family and friends here, and I generally don't make friends easily.
It's not that I don't understand the reasoning behind the location of most publications. The gaming industry generally has a lot of predisposition toward that area, and I imagine it's rather convenient to just be there considering that E3 happens there every year. That said, for all us poor shmoes out here in New England, a few more opportunities would be nice. We have kick ass maple syrup in Vermont, if anyone's interested!
Anyone? No? Fine, I'll just have to wait until Game Informer has an opening, Minnessota isn't that far away at least.
(Be forwarned: My most emo, self-indulgent post to date)
Unemployment is like a broken quick time event. You wake up each day and follow the onscreen instructions but no matter how many times you mash the appropriate button it never seems to register. You sit there waiting for your reward but all the work and worry seems to be for naught.
What sucks is that it really was not supposed to be this way, not for me at least. Trust me, I know how foolish a sentiment that is. I myself have criticized people in the past for thinking that way. “I'll never be robbed!” “I'll never be raped!” “I'll never get into an accident because texting while drunk and stoned and driving in the snow!” But honestly, I did think my chances of finding some sort of permanent work. I mean, for the most part I'm a straight arrow. I am the very definition of a square. I rarely drink and hardly ever to excess. All through college I was in a monogamous long term relationship that eventually resulted in a marriage. I worked hard, got decent grades. I may not have been the cream of the crop but I can definitely say I was smarter than a lot of the people that spent their undergraduate years screwing around.
And yet here I sit, nine months later and as far as I can tell a lot of those people are working somewhere, whereas every job I've applied and interviewed for has been a no. I can't pinpoint anything I'm doing wrong and my resume isn't all that shabby, so all I can figure it to be is bad luck.
The funny thing is that by the end of college I had grown into a bit of an existentialist. I fully believed that to achieve my goals in life all I needed was the skill and will to achieve my goals, which for their part, were not overly ambitious. All I want is a job so my wife and I can afford to get our place, maybe a video game here and there and then someday it would be nice to write a book if I could muster the talent. I've since learned that skill and will are nothing if no one will hire your, and as much as I hate it I am forced to leave my present life in the hands of those strangers who can say yay or nay to me as a prospective employee.
I despise not having control of my life. Again, I know that sounds stupid because what with all the requisites of modern living, no one really has control over their life. We all have to deal with bills, laws and those damned obligations to visit our far off loved ones every now and then. I suppose all I miss is the illusion of control, because at least when I'm working I have the money to pretend I have a handle on the day to day crap that makes up life.
I suppose that's why I'm looking forward to God of War III so much. I've always loved the series. After all, what is there not to love about butchering your way through hordes of mythological characters? That said, with my recent difficulties it has been nice at times to have outlets of escape where in I can at least pretend that I can shape the world, rather than world shaping me.
Because really that is what serves as the very heart of Kratos' character. As much as he might sometimes resemble a massive, goatee sporting toddler throwing fatal tantrums at times, he essentially just the ultimate, violent existentialist. Nothing, not even the gods themselves can control him because he simply refuses to be beaten. If an obstacle stands in his path he just smashes through it. If he dislikes the decisions of an authority figure he sticks them with the Blades of Chaos and that's that.
I am not a particularly violent man, but sometimes I envy that sort of power and attitude, fictional as they may be. A part of me really wishes that my sheer force of will (and bulging pectorals of course) were enough to stop the world from jerking myself and my wife around. You don't want to hire me, well I'll just have to decapitate you now won't I?
But alas, I'm just a man, muddling his way through life hoping that tomorrow will be the day that my button mashing pays off and I finally land a job. In the mean time I'll just have to settle for ripping of Helios' head. God I can't wait for that game.
God of War III is going to rock, just as every God of War game prior has rocked. I would dare say that I haven't been this excited for a video game since Ocarina of Time when I was a wee lad of ten (that story later). Now, with such a major game coming up, many often like to do a bit of pre-release prep. I myself played through all the Metal Gear games prior to the release of Guns of the Patriots. That said, what are you to do once Kratos' previous adventures have expired? The answer is simple, take on the clones.
It's become a bit of a cliché to call a game a "God of War clone," but nonetheless there are more than a few games that deserve the moniker. On the one hand, they're often cheap imitations, nowhere near as good as the real deal. On the other, even if they're not half as good as God of War, that's still better than most games. Having some experience with a couple such clones, I'd like to offer a bit of insight into their finer points. Imitation is after all, the best form of flattery.
Honestly, I flinch a bit when people call Heavenly Sword a clone. It's as much of a clone of God of War as God of War is of Devil May Cry. Essentially, it has similar action and some similar weapons and therefore is branded by some as a rip-off. Truth be told, Heavenly Sword is radically different from God of War in a lot of ways. That said, as it's generally reputed to be a clone, I'll include it; it gives me a bit more material to write about.
Heavenly Sword does a lot right and even better than God of War. The combat is fast-paced, simple yet challenging, and fun. The story is one of the best I've ever played in a game, being both compact and complex. The voice acting perfomances alone are worth the price of admission, with Golem himself (Andy Serkis) producing one of the best villains I've encountered in King Bohan. In short, it's a well produced game.
If only it lasted longer. Heavenly Sword is at best, six hours long, with no small bit of that being taken up by cut scenes. There are no extra modes, no online play, just the short story mode. Now I love Heavenly Sword. It is a great, underrated game, but I will be the first to admit that it was no worth the sixty bucks I paid when I first bought it. While the combat is great, you never really get much of a chance to use it, leaving the you with a constant feeling of what could have been if developers Ninja Theory had only extended the action just a bit longer.
I love Conan the Barbarian. Next to Terminator 2, it's my favorite Ahnold flick, and I wrote my bachelor's thesis on the existential nature of Robert E. Howard's creation. Conan the game does little justice to the film or the literature, but it is a fun action game. Now Conan absolutely deserves its clone rep. The first time I played it there was no learning curve involved. I already knew the controls by heart from playing God of War. Button for button, the control scheme is almost identical. Light attack, square. Heavy attack, triangle. Grab with circle and jump with X. Conan even has the obligatory nudity.
On the merits of how well it copies God of War alone, Conan is fun. That said, it also does a few things of its own that I feel actually improve on the Kratos experience. The parry system is quite good. By blocking an opponent's attack at the right moment, it is possible to execute a short quick-time attack that will instantly kill your opponent. Furthermore, Conan's combo system was an improvement on God of War's. Where combos were largely optional in God of War, they are a necessity in Conan. Some enemies can't be taken down with standard attacks. Moreover, the skill tree branches off depending on what fighting style you like. Conan allows you to pick up the weapons of dead opponents making it possible to dual wield, use two handed weapons, or a sword and shield should you desire.
What Conan lacks, like Heavenly Sword is length. The game took me about seven to eight hours to topple the first time I played it. Aesthetically, the game is also lacking. At best, the graphics are adequate for the year it was released. At worst, it looked like a late PS2 game. Story wise too, there isn't much, which is annoying considering the breadth of material available. I'm still waiting for the Conan game that tackles each of Robert E. Howard's short stories episodically. This game simply doesn't have much going on plot wise, and even goes so far as to alter one of Conan's key characteristics, his hate of magic.
Clones to Avoid:
Viking: Battle for Asgard
I had high hopes for Viking. I had read some not so kind reviews of other GoW clones and still enjoyed them. Viking on the other hand plays exactly like what it is, an incomplete mess. Initially, it seems pretty cool. The combat is relatively solid -copying GoW of course- and the open world atmosphere seems promising. That said, the game is just dull. You go on boring missions to free equally boring vikings -how do you screw up vikings?- and then fight in huge battles that you literally cannot lose.
If you see it resting on the Used game shelf, ignore it. It may be cheap, but sometimes there is a reason for that.
Now I understand that a lot of people work weekends. That said, what with the weekend generally being a time when a lot of folk have at least a day or so off, I can't help but wonder why in the hell publishers have to release games in the middle of the week.
Point in case: Heavy Rain.
I am excited for this game, not just because it will be cool, but because it's a game my wife and I will likely enjoy playing together. That said, it launches in NA on a Tuesday meaning that I need to find time to get out of work and go grab it from GameStop. What does that mean? Skipping the gym. I'm going to skip running on the track to go and buy a video game. All I need is a Baconator and a coke and I'm the epitomy of the fat ass American.
I know I shouldn't be complaining. There are, after all more dire problems in the world like AIDS, hunger and war, but those are big things that I being the puny, insignificant mortal that I am, have little power over. This is a small thing and therefore more tangible.
Moreover, I could very well just pick it up with my wife after work. But then we're both hungry, and that makes us cranky and well, the loving just isn't is as good if you're thinking about hotdogs the whole time. Well, maybe it would be for her; I've never asked. The point is, stick to weekend releases please. You won't please everyone, but I'm betting it would make more of us happy. Or at just me, and that's all that matters, right?
Oh and here's looking at you Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III. Pricks.
(Bonus points if you know which of the two Sonic cartoons the title of this post references. Hint: They both had the same name.)
Up until 2009 I had never played a singe Sonic game all the way through. In fact, the only Sonic game I have beaten is Sonic 2 and that wasn't even on a Genesis. I pwned Robotnick (not Egmman, damn you!) on my PSP. That said, in terms of the games I've loved Sonic still claims a legitimate place on my list.
Growing up a Nintendo fanboy, I had one early moment of lapsed faith. I absolutely fell in love with Sonic the Hedgehog. It's something you can blame on the fact that my main gaming system up until 1996 was an NES and that every other boy I knew had a Genesis. I would visit them on occasion and always, always they would show it off to me. The console would come to life, the classic, 16-bit Sega logo blazing across the screen and then, unless we were playing Mortal Kombat Sonic the Hedgehog would appear and leave me green with envy.
I wanted a SNES too, no doubt. My uncle Keith had one and without fail whenever we'd visit him I would hunker down with A Link to the Past and play it joyously until the grown-ups stopped talking, but every kid I knew had a Genesis and truth be told, Sega's marketing worked. Sonic was a way cooler character than Mario or Link.
Not being able to play the game, I became enamored with the franchise through other methods. One day, while visiting the grocery store I came across a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. My parent's bought if for me and I quickly began collecting them. My first subscription was to Sonic the Hedgehog, the comic. Moreover, I fell in love with the cartoon show. No, not the crappy one but rather the cool, edgier, dark one where the world had fallen under Robotnik's cackling thumb. Emboldened by these well fleshed out visions of the game, I yearned for a Sonic game more and more.
When I actually got one, it was a sad disappontment.
One Christmas, I received a Game Gear accompanied by none other than Sonic 2. I was thrilled! I was ecstatic. The game kicked my ass!
If you've never played Sonic 2 on the Game Gear (which I imagine many haven't) the boss of level 2 is about the hardest thing on earth. You wouldn't think it, considering it's basically just a pair of pincers but the damned thing bested me every single time and being but a wee lad at the time my patience soon ran out. With time I grew tired of my Game Gear, and opted to sell it.
The mythos of Sonic remained strong with me though. In my mind the Game Gear version of Sonic 2 was little more than a bastardization of the real deal, which lived on the Genesis. It was a game that lived in my dreams until one fateful event would all but destroy my love of Sonic for years to come.
It's a shallow thing to blame all your problems on your parents, but damn it Mom, why did you have to tell me that the Sonic from the cartoon was voiced by Erkel? I don't know why, but somehow it just demystified the entire franchise to me. Whenever I would sit, watching my favorite hedgehog foil one of Robotnik's schemes, read a comic book, or yes, even catch a chance to play the game, my mind would just wander to that suspender wearing, pocket protecting nerd from Family Matters. It was an ailment that would affect me for years to come.
An ailment would sadly resolve itself after the best of Sonic had already passed. It heartens me a little to know that with the announcement of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 that I may yet have a chance to experience a classic styled Sonic at its release, rather than past the twilight years of its gaming domination.
So things are going pretty well right now on my gaming front.
As my wife has been devouring mass quantities of Dragon Age, my PS3 has been a bit unavailable in recent weeks. That said, this has allowed me some more time to play my handhelds, or more namely, my PSP. There haven't been many PSP releases of interest to me in a while. That said, I'm loving the thing simply because of its usefulness as a retro gaming machine. The expanding library of PS1 classics available via the PSN has given me an opportunity to visit many of the games I missed out during my days of dogmatic N64 fanboyism. Most notably, I've finally been blessed with the opportunity to play Wing Commander IV. I'll admit I was a bit nervous about buying it. The PS1 version is well noted as being inferior, and the moreover even with some between myself and its initial release date, I couldn't find much info on how well it controlled on the PSP. I love the thing, but damn would some more buttons (and a joystick of course) come in handy. That said, I took a chance and have been playing it just fine. The game's Advanced 2 control setting seemed the best fit to me, and though it can still be a bit awkward from time to time, overall I love the game.
Some other awesome portable news. I was recently confirmed to be doing UGO's review of SMT: Strange Journey and just received word from Atlus today that I will be getting a debug in the mail probably some time next week. I don't this to seem like bragging (well, maybe a little bit), but I'm really stoked to be doing this game. Nothing like a good, dark sci-fi JRPG to preoccupy a few months.
Hmm, what else...well...I just saw Avatar with my wife, it was great and I highly recommend it to anyone with a hankering for a good flick. Beyond that not too much going on! I really want to buy Castlevania: Adventure Rebirth, but have thus far remained strong in my will to resist the urge to spend money.