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7:55 AM on 08.01.2008

An Introduction: My Gaming Background

I’ve been a Destructoid reader for a few years now, but only recently decided to register specifically because I felt the need to comment on a particular article. I wrote a brief blog post on July’s Monthly Musing topic, but I never really got around to introducing myself. I thought I’d do so now by sharing my gaming background.

Games have been a prominent feature in my life for as long as I can remember. I've established a number of unbreakable relationships that began with a common love of gaming. Although I've been frequently criticized for my enjoyment of the medium by relatives and friends alike, I have staunchly defended gaming as a legitimate form of art against all naysayers. I was born a gamer, and I will die a gamer (I know it’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s true nonetheless).

Along with my brother, I received my first console for the Christmas of ’89: the Nintendo Entertainment System, the one that came with the Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge. My parents also gifted us with Catlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was swiftly able to beat Mario but have never, even to this day, been able to beat Castlevania II without cheating or TMNT without using the game genie.

The Dam Level in TMNT for the NES. F*** you, Konami

I solely gamed on the NES until I received a SNES for my ninth birthday in October of ’92. It’s still pretty amazing to me to think that a game as brilliant as Super Mario World was bundled with the console. Anyway, some of my favorite games belong to the Super Nintendo.

After playing Golden Eye at a friend’s house (I was floored) I purchased a used N64 from another friend in December of ’97. In all the years since I don’t think I’ve ever been as completely awed as I was when I first played Super Mario 64; flying around the worlds, remorselessly squashing goombas and launching Bowser, all in glorious 3D.


I didn’t care about owning a Playstation until a friend of mine (the same one who sold me the N64) lent me his console and a copy of Final Fantasy VII while he went on vacation in the summer of ’99. I will confess that FFVII was the first Final Fantasy I ever played. The only RPG I’d ever really played on the SNES was Super Mario RPG, a game I still adore to this day. Needless to say, FFVII blew me away. Completely. I’d never played anything like it. And while I can acknowledge its flaws, it’s still one of my all-time favorite games, and is responsible for opening me up completely to the genre.

When I found out that FFVIII was coming out in just a few months after I completed FFVII I had to have a Playstation of my own. So I bought one off eBay. For the next couple of years all I did was play RPGs both old and new.

I bought a PS2 the day it was released, quickly realized there wasn’t anything worth playing and sold it for $600 on eBay. I finally ended up buying one a year later in order to play Final Fantasy X.

I bought a Gamecube when it came out and eventually got around to buying an Xbox which I promptly did not mod.

I bought a Wii last year, an Xbox 360 for BioShock and just recently got a PS3 (because Walmart had this $100 gift card promotional offer). I’ve never been a fanboy, if you can’t tell. Fanboyism seems to be reserved for those who can’t afford to own all the consoles of a given generation.

I guess I've neglected PC gaming in this post even though I've been a PC gamer from day one. Beginning with Castle Adventure (the first game I ever remember playing), a myriad of text-based adventure games and all those Sierra "Quest" games (Space Quest, King's Quest, Police Quest, etc.), on to all the original RTS games, the great RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment, all the way to the modern day classics. Some of my fondest gaming memories were born from this ever-evolving platform.

Castle Adventure - Still fun today

I’m a fan of most types of games with a few exceptions. For instance, I’ve never enjoyed games that use violence to no purpose. If I’m going to be slaying hordes of enemies I like to feel that I’m justified in doing so. Games like Grand Theft Auto don’t appeal to me on any level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Jack Thompson. I don’t believe playing ultraviolent games makes people violent in real life. I guess I just always feel the need to play the good guy. I could never go dark side in Knights of the Old Republic or join the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion. It’s just not for me.

Anyway, that said, I’m always open to recommendations for games that I haven’t played. New experiences are always welcome.

That'll do for an introduction, I suppose, though it turned into something more akin to a nostalgic trip down memory lane.   read

9:45 AM on 07.03.2008

A Cast of Thousands: Manny Calavera

In a long line of colorful and often outrageous characters that emerged from the creative minds at LucasArts, the dominant developer of quality adventure games last century, one stands out above the rest. His name is Manny Calavera, the protagonist of the unique and heavily stylized Grim Fandango.

The game takes place in a purgatorial world where the inhabitants are stuck in a kind of limbo between death and what lies beyond. Manny is a travel agent of sorts, forced to work off his debt to the “powers that be” by ushering newly deceased individuals on the journey to an unknown, but supposedly better version of the afterlife. The more depraved the life lived, the longer and more difficult the journey.

The adventure kicks off when Manny ends up chasing after a client, Mercedes Colomar, whose saintly life should have granted her an express trip on the exclusive “Number Nine” train, settling Manny's debt in the process. Inexplicably, however, she is required to make the four-year journey on foot.

Manny is the ultimate noir hero, cynical and sarcastic at times, reflective and melancholy at others. His outlook on life is typically bleak even though he tends to rise to top in every situation he finds himself in throughout the four-year span of the game.

"Love is for the living..."

At one point, when asked if he is in love with Mercedes, Manny replies “Love? Love is for the living, Sal. I'm only after her for one reason... she's my ticket out of here.” This is the definitive line of the game, encapsulating Manny’s character perfectly. At first glance his actions up to this point and beyond appear purely mercenary, meticulously self-beneficial, but this really isn't the case. In reality he’s a charitable, selfless character, but a man who has been disenchanted and ground down by his daily interaction with the often utterly degenerate newly departed.

His desire for Mercedes is evident by this stage, a desire he will not allow to burgeon for fear of ultimate rejection and disappointment. His pessimistic resignation speaks volumes to how cynical he has become post-mortem; it makes the story’s eventual resolution all the more satisfying.

"Oh Manny... so cynical... What happened to you, Manny, that caused you to lose your sense of hope, your love of life?" "I died."

There is just something completely pure and authentic about Manny. His actions are a perfect reflection of his (after)life philosophy, making him one of the most believable, and thus empathetic, characters in the medium.

If you like adventure games, or even if you don't, and haven't played Grim Fandango you really should. It is the apex of its genre and one of the best character driven stories you'll find in a video game.   read

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