For a Time, I Was a Gamer that Didn’t Play Video Games 

Hi folks. Remember me? Wait, come back. Don’t be that way. I had a lot going on. All good things really, just been very busy. Don’t be upset, you’re still my number one. I won’t pretend that we can pick up right where we left off, but maybe you can give me the opportunity to win back your hearts. 

The past 6 months have been a whirlwind. A lot of life changing events occurred since my last post. I can’t say that none of the things that happened were unplanned. On the contrary, they were all planned, so there is no one I can blame, other than myself. As my wife is more than willing to remind me, time and time again, I am not an intelligent man. 

While I have been away, I left my previous employer, which apparently was a company that was a front for intergalactic Lizard People bent on world domination. In turn, I started at a new company. The transition has been a challenge, but worthwhile and rewarding.  

I have also sold my first home and purchased a new one. This was by far, one of the most stressful things I have ever done. Purchasing a home, when you’re a renter is easy, compared to selling a home, then trying to time things just right so that you can roll in funds from the sale into a new home purchase. Of course, once you get through all the paper work, mortgage applications, lawyers, realtors, you then must pack up and actual move, which used a form of torture in the less civilized world. 

Oh, and those aforementioned lawyers. Fuck these people. I hope the Lizard People pretending to be the humans that are my former coworkers enslave all the lawyers first. I despised the sellers’ attorney’s attitude and lack of intelligence and MY attorney an even lazier nickel and diming piece of shit. Does being a lawyer make people miserable or do miserable people become lawyers? I actually have a friend who is an attorney and he actively tells younger people who are considering a profession in law to consider something else. 

Perhaps the biggest change in my life is that I became a dad again. That’s right folks, my ding dong is still strong and my loins have spawned fruit again.  

Now this was a planned pregnancy, so that’s fancy talk for being treated like a piece of meat by the wife. Sounds great a first, but it really isn’t. She had iPhone apps, and timetables, and best practices that must be followed. No wining, dining, and romance this time around. This pregnancy was going to be cold, clinical, and efficient like German S&M. It was all worth it in the end, as it resulted in a healthy, happy, and perfect little girl. I’m actually typing this from the hospital right now, as my wife and newborn rest. 

So, to say that I have been busy is an understatement. One may ask when do I even have time to play games, and the answer to that is I really don’t. Matter of fact, I have had very little time to a lot of things that I enjoy lately, which has been taking quite a toll on me.  

Gaming, along with exercise, reading, and writing is what keeps me grounded. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and when I feel like I’m going down to a “bad place,” my pastimes keep me grounded and normalize me. As one can imagine, changing jobs, moving, and having another child, even though all good things, can really mess with a person’s psyche. 

Then one day, while I was lurking on some gaming related blogs and catching up on news, I had an existential crisis.  Am I even a gamer anymore, since I haven’t played an actual video game in months? Then some panic and anxiety began to set in. Will I even have the time to play games in any extended capacity anymore?  

I mentioned in the past that I have been on this quest to create my optimal gaming space. At the new house, I was able to get damn near close to my ideal. It was one of the first things I set up in my move, and then for weeks, I hardly spent any time there. My new job is demanding and time consuming, my older daughter is starting kindergarten, and there is now an infant in the house. Add all those things to my regular day to day tasks and I was starting to think that my gaming days are over. 

This is a painful thought. I have always considered myself to be a gamer and the idea of no longer being able to actually play video games, because of my career and family was terrifying. I was also feeling like I was being selfish. Should I even be worrying about my lack of time to play video games because I had so much more important things to do? 

The answer to that question is yes, I should be worried about it, because I enjoy playing video games, they are part of my identity, and they allow me to be centered. Sometimes you have to be selfish and make time for yourself. That sounds like something Sigmund Freud would say, right before snorting a huge line of cocaine. 

In all seriousness though, you can be a gamer that doesn’t play games. Being a fan or a follower of gaming makes you a gamer in my eyes. For those months where I wasn’t playing any games, I still considered myself a gamer and even if I don’t play as much as I used to. In much of the same way, I consider myself an auto enthusiast, who drives a hum drum boring ass SUV, I still can appreciate a Ferrari or a Lamborghini when I see one.  

I’ve written in the past on how getting older and having more responsibilities has a tendency of stripping away the free time available for casual pursuits. Well friends, it only gets worse. If you’re in school, classes will become more and more challenging and require more study. Buying a house? Well, houses will always need to be fixed and updated regardless of how new they are or in what condition they are in. Thinking about having kids or already have them? Well as kids get older they begin to have activities of their own, like swim classes, soccer practice, play dates, concerts, plays, and recitals. Lastly, you work hard and move up the corporate ladder getting paid a lot more, but then you find that you’re working 80 hours a week and so stressed out from the amount of responsibility you, hardly have the energy to do anything. 

However, even with all of the above, you need to make time to do what makes you happy. I’m going to continue playing, reading, and writing about gaming even if it’s just for minutes a night, because that is what gamers do and doing those things brings joy and balance in my life. I’m not going to let life get in the way of my favorite pastime. 

Maybe when the kids are in college I will have the opportunity to play more games. I reckon 13 years from now, which, in the grand scheme of things, is not that long off and just imagine how great the games will be by then. That’s something to look forward to. 

German Police Use HTC Vive to Prosecute Nazi War Criminal

Ralf Breker's Team / Bavarian State Criminal Investigation Office

Ralf Breker’s Team / Bavarian State Criminal Investigation Office

The jury is still out on whether VR is the next big thing in gaming in my humble opinion. That doesn’t mean that it won’t become a big thing over time, but we’re still a ways off. Virtual Reality however, can and already has proven, in some circumstances, that it can be a very powerful tool.

Case and point, German police used an HTC Vive headset to prosecute a Nazi war criminal who worked at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The forensics team created a detailed digital model of the camp using historical maps and thousands of photos from the time period. Using an HTC Vive, they were then able to see exactly what the accused would have seen, therefore he could not use the Sgt. Schultz, “I SEE NOTHING I KNOW NOTHING” defense.

Oculus Working on Cheaper, More Mainstream Version of the Rift

Virtual Reality is not cheap, especially with the Oculus Rift, where you’ll need,  an $800 PC and a $600 Rift. Facebook owned Oculus is looking to change that.

After a lot of initial fanfare, the Rift has not been flying off shelves. Price is certainly an issue, as well as a lack of a killer app. According to the Wall Street Journal however, Oculus is looking to change that.

Rumor has it that Oculus is working on a stand alone virtual reality device that will not require a an expensive and beefy PC or even a mobile phone.

Analysts predict that that Oculus will ship 180,000 Rifts by the end of year, which is nowhere near the 500,000 that were initially projected by the company.

Sony Wants to Teach You Many Things About PlayStation VR

On October 13, Sony will unleash virtual reality to the unwashed masses. Console users rejoice! No longer will you be hampered with the need to purchase an expensive PC in order to frolic blissfully in virtual worlds.

All that is needed is a PS4, and $399 (to start), which is still nothing to sneeze at, but it’s better than the thousands of dollars needed if your a PC gamer.

Leading up to the big launch, Sony wants you to know  about the great many things the PlayStation VR is capable of doing and what you need to do to join the virtual reality party.

Go ahead and take a gander at the Official Sony PlayStation Blog for the full FAQ, you will not be disappointed… Or maybe you will, I for one haven’t bought into the VR hype just yet.

Buying Games Used to be Convoluted, but Magical

Buying a game today is a non-event. You simply go to a store, pick up the game, walk to the checkout and pay for it. Some retailers, like Target or Walmart, keep them behind a display (CLASSY), which requires the extra step of asking a kind associate for assistance, that is if you can find one.

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GameStop keeps their games behind the checkout, so you need to ask for a copy, which in return they would ask if you pre-ordered it, which my response is was, NO I DIDN’T FUCKING PRE-ORDER IT, BUT YOU HAVE A STACK OF 100 OF THEM BACK THERE SO GIVE ME ONE GODDAMNIT! I have a love/hate relationship with GameStop. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t buy physical copies of games anymore and just download them, like a civilized person. I have also been told that I have a tendency of over reacting.

Back in the day however, there was a process that must be followed when purchasing a game. This was especially the case at Toys R Us, which was my retailer of choice to buy games when I was a kid.

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This unique process, employed by Toys R Us, has been embedded and buried into the depths of my mind. This memory was only uncovered recently after watching a documentary about Tony Robbins on Netflix late one evening.

During this documentary, Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, life coach, self-help guru, and cosmetic dentistry enthusiast, demonstrated an exercise that helps uncover long lost memories. These memories, often times deeply buried, are both positive and negative, but none-the-less, make you the person that you are today. These memories can be very powerful and one can harness them, helping to make you a stronger person.

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With that said, after trying this memory dredging exercise myself, I have no fucking idea why I remembered, and quite vividly I might add, the convoluted and confusing video game buying process employed by Toys R Us from when I was a child.  It’s apparent that my brain is broken. No memories of early vacations, or interactions with my grandparents, birthdays, holidays, or even traumatic events. Nope, I remembered how Toys R Us made the process of buying video games akin to a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or may have forgotten, back in the 80’s and the early to mid-90’s, Toys R Us used a ticketing system for the majority of their large and or expensive products. One would walk down the aisle, find a display of the product they wanted to purchase, select a ticket, take it to the register, pay, and then someone would get you the product you purchased.  If you bought a bicycle, someone would bring you a box of an unassembled bicycle. If you bought swing set, someone would bring you a swing set, et cetera.

Many Toys R Us stores still employ this method, as it does make sense, and it is efficient for large bulky items. Toys R Us used this method for pricier things as well years ago, such as electronics and especially video games.

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As a child, I remember going down the video game aisle and seeing rows and rows of plastic flip cards for games.  The front had the box art and the back had some screen shots and a description. Essentially, it was a representation of the box.  And just below each game, there was a pouch with the fabled Toys R Us item ticket.

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I have vivid memories of going into Toys R Us with my mom or dad to pick up a particular game, only to encounter an empty ticket pouch stating that the game was out of stock and be an utterly devastated 8-year-old. Perhaps it was a mistake. Maybe some asshole took all the tickets and hid them somewhere in the store for some nefarious reason?  Maybe the store just got more in stock and didn’t replenish the tickets? A quick trip to customer service would always validate my fears. The game was indeed sold out.

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More often than not, the game that I wanted was in stock, and I would select my ticket and excitedly go to the front cash registers, like a demented Charlie Bucket, but instead of a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, I was buying what was most likely a forgettable and utterly average NES side scroller.

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After paying for the game at one of the cash registers, the cashier would staple your receipt to the ticket and that is where the magic begins. You then head off to what appeared to be as an excitable child, a plexiglass monolith of electronic and video game goodness. Sadly, all images of this structure no longer exists.  All my image searches came up empty. The image below is the closest representation I could find.

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Within the confines of this structure were stacks of every gaming console imaginable—NESs, Sega Master Systems, Gameboys, and random Atari garbage. Later on there would be the Genesis, SNES, TurboGrafx 16, and holy shit, was that a Neo Geo? Also housed in the clear monolith were games. Stacks upon stacks of games.

Eventually, a sales associate would be called down to get the game that you payed for. A lethargic and disinterested looking teenager would unlock the door, take your ticket, and then attempt to locate your purchased game among the stacks of other games. I say attempt, because they would inevitably pass over your game a half dozen times before zeroing in on it.

IT’S RIGHT OVER THERE MOTHERFUCKER!

…I totally would have said that—if my father wasn’t standing there and would have totally beaten the shit out of me, right there in the store. Remember, this was the 1980’s, parents got away with doing that, and if he got tired slapping me around in public, another parent would have come over and beat me while my father caught his breath.  It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

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Eventually, the teenager would locate your game and hand it over.  I would stare at the box the entire car ride home.  Sometimes, I could not help myself and I would open it up to flip through the instruction manual. Those were the good old days, when games had instruction manuals. The best games had meaty manuals, that contained some back story and a list of enemies.

On a slightly darker side, I also clearly remembered how my friends and I used to scheme during lunch on an Ocean’s 11 caliber plan to infiltrate that plexiglass fortress and make off with all the goodies inside. It was our casino bank vault, ripe for the picking, that is of course if you had a good plan, the right people, and the guts to pull it off such an amazing heist.

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I bet you thought the Clooney version, right? Nope, I’m talking about the infinitely cooler Rat Pack Ocean’s 11.

There were even legends of kids who had found a way in and made off with a handful of carts (or even consoles, depending on who you asked).  These kids then conveniently moved away to other towns, cities and even states, so it could never be confirmed or denied if the story was true or even learn how they pulled it off. Sometimes the tales were cautionary and the kid got caught, sent to juvey and became a hardened criminal. These stories were all legends, who knew if there was any shred of truth to them. (DEFINITELY NOT)

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Risks of juvenile detention aside, my friends and I would speak in hushed tones and plan our caper. Danny would buy a cheap game so that someone would need to unlock the booth. Brucie would wait by the booth and fake a heart attack when the sales associate unlocks the door, causing a commotion and a distraction. Johnny would then go into the booth with a garbage bag and take as much as he can. He’ll then hand the haul off to Jimmy, who’s waiting outside on his bike. It was so crazy; it just might work!  SHHHHHHHH. A teacher’s aid was walking by, she’s onto us. CHANGE THE SUBJECT!

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Also, in the 80’s all of my friend’s names had to end in “-y” or ”-ie” for some reason.

We never did follow through with our plan. It was too risky, and too stupid. Deep down inside, we knew it would never work. We would have been caught in an instant, and our parents would have been called. They would then take turns beating the shit out of us in public.

It was the 80’s, after all. That’s how things were. It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

I Played the Hillary 2016 Video Game, Now I Have Even Less Confidence in American Politics

As some of you may have heard, there’s a presidential election in the works here in the U.S. Things are going to get really heated between now and November 8.  The candidates are pulling out all the stops to get the vote, and some of them are going high tech.

This is the most interesting election I have ever encountered and not because we have two upstanding social servants vying for the highest office in the land.  Never in my life have I seen two candidates that are more unlikable and unqualified. On one end, there is the tallest and most aggressive Oompa Loompa the world has ever seen. On the other, there is a corrupt, untrustworthy, career politician, and carpet bagger. It doesn’t matter what happens in November, because the U.S. is doomed.

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But enough doom and gloom.  There is a bright side to all this.  Hillary’s campaign just released a video game for mobile devices. Everyone knows millennials love video games, just look at the Pokémon Go phenomenon. So those in Hillary’s campaign took five minutes (probably literally) to create a mobile game.

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Like most mobile games today, after downloading the game and launching it for the first time, you’re asked to create an account.

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No thanks. I’m good. I’d rather just play. I don’t want to get bombarded by spam.

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Then the game gently reminds you that if you want to play, you must create an account…

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Christ, you’re a pushy bastard, but if I must…

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All that the back and forth about creating an account was well worth it however.  Had I decided to simply decline and delete the game and move on with my life, then I would not have had the opportunity to witness the splendor of a virtual Hillary Clinton 2016 Campaign Office. Also, I used to burner Yahoo e-mail account because I’m not stupid.

Okay. Fake Yahoo e-mail address entered. Let’s get campaigning…. GODDAMMIT!

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Looks like I’m finally ready to play this game. Let’s get acquainted with my new campaign office. Just swipe up to turn on the lights. This is actually the first time I get to interact with this game.  This is also the pinnacle of the type of interactivity one can expect with this game.

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There’s not a lot going on in here.  I would expect to see more people working. Why am I here all alone? Where is everyone? Am I in some 28 Days Later post-apocalyptic zombie infested wasteland and I’m the last person alive? That sounds sweet!

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I’ve been playing for 15 minutes and my campaign office was never attacked by zombies. Perhaps I should find something to do.  How about a game of Trump or False?

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That sure was fun. Oh look, a plant needs watering. I can’t take the excitement!

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Oh look! There’s a store front.  I can buy some furniture, new walls, and posters for my campaign office. Posters that no one except me will ever see, and chairs that no one will ever sit it, sofas that no one will ever lounge in, and walls that no one will never, erm… be walled in by.

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I’m depressed now. I think I’m going to go take a nap.

During my nap I dreamed of a better world. A world that was peaceful and everyone was happy. I’m roused from my slumber by a chime from my phone. Looking at my phone, I noticed that I had a Push Notification from the Clinton 2016 app.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and opened the app, curious as to what the news may be.

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I’m confused. The app that I downloaded yesterday and have played for 20 minutes (which felt like an eternity) is now telling me to download the app. I’m reading this in the app’s news feed. What kind of Bizzaro World black magic is this?  Is this some kind of elaborate psychological experiment from some secret CIA Black Ops program meant to break my will? What is the ultimate goal of this app?

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Well that explains it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, nor am I ignorant as to what the ultimate goal of this app is.  The issue here is this app is a flaming pile of garbage and it has no redeeming qualities. This app makes the Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood game look like a masterpiece.

Even if you’re a Hillary supporter, I cannot recommend it. That’s why I give this one sad Robin Hood hat wearing Bernie Sanders supporter out of five.

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Enjoy the election!

Game Protagonists Are Old Farts Now and That’s Okay

Getting older is not as bad as people make it out to be. Take it from me, as someone who has been on this merry-go-round called earth over thirty-six times. Complaining about it is so cliché anyway.

Sure, my muscles ache a bit more than they used to, and my peaches hang down a little lower, and my beard has a touch of grey here and there, but you learn to deal.  Perhaps the worst part was the thinning of my long beautiful mane of hair, but I just started shaving all that shit off. Now I’m a sexy bald man, like the late great Telly Savalas.

I’m also wiser now.  I know stuff just because I have been alive longer than other people. Want proof? Read my 100 Blog Post Fapstravaganza AMA and be enlightened.

Know what else is great about getting older? I now have more in common with the protagonists in the video games I play. Believe it or not, many of the main characters of games are getting older, and the reason for this is because apparently the people who are creating the games are getting older.

This was brought to my attention awhile back in a promo from Sony for Unchartered 4, where Nathan Drake is no longer a spring chicken destroying future UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but rather a 30-something who destroys future UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the video, which I embedded below, there is some interesting commentary from the game’s makers on how they grew up designing Nathan Drake and in turn, Nathan has grown up with them.

However, games protagonists have been skewing older for some time now. I first noticed this awhile back when playing Max Payne 3. When I think of Max Payne, I used to picture a young man with a perpetual “who farted face” with questionable style choices.

Boy was I surprised when I first started up Max Payne 3 to see a man that looks surprisingly similar to me, with a shaved head and beard. It’s eerie, like looking into a mirror.

However, I would never be caught dead in a Hawaiian print shirt. It’s obvious that Max Payne still suffers from questionable style choices.

Then, towards the end of the last generation of consoles, the amazing and in my opinion, groundbreaking The Last of Us was released, featuring a protagonist that’s touched with a bit of grey, just like yours truly.

Joel is a little worse for the wear, and has a greying beard, which I can relate to. But, look at that thick head of hair he has. FUCK YOU JOEL! Why do you still have so much hair? What is your secret? I HOPE ALL THAT BEAUTIFUL HAIR FALLS OUT AND YOU BECOME A BALDIE LIKE ME!

Getting back on track — I especially liked Joel, because he’s a father figure, and as a dad myself, I empathized with his struggle in this game and can understand the reasons for the actions he takes. That’s a powerful thing for me and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed and remember this game so fondly.

On a side note, The Last of Us was developed by Naughty Dog, the same folks behind the Unchartered series, so they are apparently attempting to corner the market on games featuring older, aching, grey haired male main characters.

Grand Theft Auto 5 also has its fair share of more experienced leads. Matter of fact, two out of three of the main characters can be considered old farts. Trevor Phillips, reminds me of that crazy uncle that every family has and tolerates during extremely awkward conversations around the dinner table during the holidays.

Michael De Santa (nee Townley) is a well-to-do man, who’s married to an attractive woman that may be porking her tennis instructor and a father to two pain in the ass kids.  It’s obvious that he’s undergoing some sort of midlife crisis, and going back into a life of crime is both a necessity in order to pay off debts, an outlet for his internalized rage, and a longing for his younger days full of excitement.

According to some armchair hack psychotherapist on Wikipedia individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis may feel:

  • A deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished
  • Fear of humiliation among more successful colleagues
  • Longing to achieve a feeling of youthfulness
  • Need to spend more time alone or with certain peers
  • Heightened sense of their sexuality or lack thereof
  • Ennui, confusion, resentment or anger due to their discontent with their marital, work, health, economic, or social status
  • Ambitious to right the missteps they feel they have taken early in life

Now, tell me that doesn’t essentially sum up Michael De Santa’s story arc.

Speaking of people having a midlife crisis, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Bruce Wayne/Batman can be diagnosed with this condition.

It seems that for the past few Batman movies and games, the story has centered around how Wayne/Batman is getting old and his decrepit body can longer hold up to the stresses of being a winged vigilante detective face puncher.

One of the main frustrations of getting older is noticing that your body is not able to perform in the same ways as it had in the past.  It takes a little longer to get loosened up, after workouts you stay sore a little longer, and when you get banged up, it takes a little longer to heal. This is my experience as someone that is in relatively good shape.

Also, let us not forget that in Arkham Knight, Batman was rolling around in his fancy new Batmobile. This is important, because everyone knows buying a fancy car is the first thing a man does when he’s suffering from a midlife crisis.

It’s getting obvious that this is not a coincidence that game characters are getting older. Another recent example is Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

If memory serves, Big Boss was the main character in Metal Gear Solid 3: Sneak Eater, where he’s a relatively young man. The Phantom Pain takes place in 1984, approximately twenty years after the events of Snake Eater takes place, so of course Big Boss is older, wiser, greyer, and worse for the wear.

He still has a thick head of hair, so I hate him. No way he still has all that hair after years of stress. I say it’s hair plugs or a really good toupée. Look at the technology that he has it his disposable. They are probably light years ahead of everyone in toupée technology.

And yes, I do realize that Big Boss is an integral character in many Metal Gear games, but on this case, I’m referring to playable old Big Boss.

When I first started writing this blog, my plan was to stop at Big Boss, but recent develops have required me to make one more addition. Thanks to Sony, we are in store for a new God of War game, where an older, grumpier, and bearded Kratos battles Norse gods.

This time, Kratos will be accompanied by his young son, and if the E3 gameplay trailer is any indication, Kratos is the type of dad who yells at his son during Little League baseball games. I imagine he’s like that dick dad from the original Bad News Bears.

So as you can see, this trend of older lead characters in games is going to continue and I think that’s brilliant. Sorry young whippersnappers, but the people who make games are getting older along with the people who play games and we like playing as old people and it’s only going to get worse.  Soon, Batman will be in his Batmobile doing 25 mph in the fast lane with his left turn signal on, Kratos will sit on his porch yelling at Norse monsters to get off of his lawn, and Nathan and Elena Drake will settle in a nice condo in Boca Raton, Florida. I can’t wait.

 

Thanks for Ruining My Summer, Video Game Industry

Summer is a time of year that I look forward to.  The long days are perfect for spending time outside being active and on hot days I look forward to taking a ride to the beach, or down the shore, as we say in the Jerz.

Of course, the best thing about summer is grilling large amounts of red meat outside then trying to shove as much of as possible into my face while washing it down with a refreshing cold beer.

Because of all the outdoor activities that become available during the summer months, playing video games usually becomes a low priority. It also helps that video game makers avoid releasing video games during the summer months. It’s as if doing so would make them susceptible to bad humors which will give them the plague.

I never understood why publishers don’t release games during the summer months. Students who are in school are either on break or have greatly reduced schedules.  Those who are working can also expect additional time off for holidays, summer Fridays, and folks generally take time off for vacations. For the most part, people have more time in the summer, so one would think that publishers would take advantage of that.

The movie industry certainly takes advantage of this.  Summers are when big blockbusters are released. Big, stupid, action oriented popcorn flicks are a summertime staple as the studios generally save the more serious stuff for the holidays, which makes sense, right?

The gaming industry however, has been stuck in a rut of releasing everything worthwhile in this tiny 4-month window between September and December. Sure, you’ll want to capitalize on holiday gift giving, but all these big releases so close together causes cannibalization among the big budget titles and smaller titles get lost in the shuffle.

You would think that publishers would want to spread out their release calendar a bit. Why not give the consumer a steady stream of titles throughout the year, instead of a glut all at one time? It just makes sense. Who are these amazingly smart executives making the decisions at these big companies anyway?

Okay, that’s not fair, but I can’t help myself.

This year, however, I’ve noticed a shift. There are a decent amount of good games coming out this spring which is going to force me to play throughout the summer.

Uncharted 4, Doom, and Battleborn have already been released and are solid if not exceptional games. However, just over the horizon we have Overwatch coming out in late May, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in early June, No Man’s Sky in late June, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in late August.  All of these games are AAA titles, which is a rarity for the summer months.

Uncharted 4 is an awesome game that his lived up to all the hype and I’m thoroughly enjoying it right now.  Doom, a game in which many thought was going to be pure shit due to a review embargo has actually turned out to be more than decent and warrants a purchase. Not to mention, Doom and especially Overwatch, are solid multiplayer titles that will have long life spans.

Also, all the hype and general high praise for Overwatch during its beta has piqued my interest, and not just because Tracer has a beautiful rear end. I wonder what my good friend Pacino thinks?

Doom and Overwatch alone would have taken up my entire summer, but I had no idea that No Man’s Sky was scheduled for the summer. This title alone appears to be a total time suck just by the nature of this game’s style alone.

It’s actually a good thing that there are no big trips scheduled this summer and we just have “staycations” planned. Of course, my wife can make an executive decision at any time and pile us all into the car for a leisurely 26-hour road trip to god’s waiting room.

My plan is to lock myself into my game room, crank up the air conditioning and draw the blinds. Who knows, I may even take a break every once in a while to stuff grilled meats into my face and drink cold beer outside.

The FBI Wasted My Tax Dollars on a Video Game

The wife and I got a jump on our taxes this year. All of our tax forms from our employers, banks, and creditors have been sent off to our accountant. Hopefully, we get a decent return this year, which is never a guarantee. My hope is that it’s enough to put a stripper pole in the basement.

Every year, for eight years, when we send all of the forms to our accountant, I tell him to get me big refund by COOKING THE BOOKS. He then cordially reminds me that he is a reputable CPA. I also have no idea what cooking the books entails, but it sounds cool.

Eventually, we’ll get completed tax forms from the accountant to sign before submitting to Uncle Sam, and I marvel at how much money I paid in taxes both to the state as well as the federal government.

Where does all this money go?

Well, a portion of it went to the FBI, who spent it designing a website and a “video game,” with the aim of teaching teens the dangers of violent extremism. The money would have gone to better use if the feds used it to wipe their asses and then setting it on fire.

Have you ever encountered an instances where someone shows you something that they are very proud of, and you just smile, grit you teeth and nod, because you’re afraid to tell them that in actuality it’s total shit?  That’s the feeling I get when visiting the FBI website and right up front, on the page’s main carousel you’ll see “Don’t Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism.”

FBI Home Page

According to the FBI, “today like never before, violent extremists of all kinds are deliberately targeting our nation’s young people with poisonous propaganda—especially in cyberspace, where they are flooding social media with slick recruiting videos and persuasive calls to action.”

This is very true and terrifying. So the FBI’s plan to counter this is with a website using the slickest imagery and styles from 2003.

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The goal of the site, which can be viewed here, is to “teach teens recognize violent extremist messaging and become more resistant to self-radicalization and possible recruitment, through the use of activities, quizzes, videos, and other materials.”

This is a noble goal and it’s a shame that it was squandered on a such a horrible site that appears to be an perfect example of what out of touch beltway pundits believe teens find “cool.”

The ultimate goal for the user is to click on each section and complete small tasks.  These tasks are actually very informative and one can learn quite a bit.  After each task is completed, a string is cut on the puppet, freeing an appendage. Ultimately, you must free the puppet, so he can go home to his father, Geppetto and eventually become a REAL BOY…. probably.

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I’m not even sure what’s going on here. Where are we supposed to be? Is this some kind of post-apocalyptic safe house? I’m getting a Myst vibe. Click on any of the boxes and you’ll zoom into that area and get a definition and a task.

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That’s a sweet ass rig there. What is that? A 486 tower with floppy and CD-ROM! Damn, we’re going to be playing some original Wolfenstein tonight, kids.

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Holy shit that’s an original Gameboy! Do teens today even know what an original Gameboy is? I like to imagine that a group of old grizzled G-men sitting at a meeting and one them say, “When my son was teenager, he used to love playing with something called a Gameboy. Let make sure we have one on the site because teens love those things.”

It just so happens that this area will also allow you to play a game called “Slippery Slope” on that Gameboy.

Slippery Slope Game

You play as a goat that must dodge obstacles and make it to the finish line. Make it to the finish line and you’ll get a message.

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Wow, that sure came out of nowhere. How does one go from playing, as a happy goat traipsing through the countryside avoiding obstacles to what appears to be a quote from Conan the Barbarian? That escalated quickly—slippery slope indeed.

In the end, I really didn’t want to shit all over this site, as it does have a noble goal. Terrorism and extremism is real and it is scary, and yes, they are targeting teenagers, who may vulnerable and can be impressionable.

But here’s the thing, teens may be impressionable, but they are not stupid. A site like this panders to them in a condescending way.  You don’t have to make things edgy, cool, or fun to get through to youth. This was the case when I was a teenager and it’s true today.

Better with Age: Classic Games Just Look Better… For Now

I’m not a big fan of the term ‘better with age’ since many things are simply not better than age. Sure, things like wine, scotch, and some cheeses are better with some age. Technology? Not so much.

Ever notice that no one ever yearns for medicine of yesteryear? I’ve never met a person who looked fondly at the time when doctor’s prescribed Camel cigarettes for weight loss and bled people with leeches to release the body of bad humors.

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I’m not one to look back at videogames with rose-colored glasses either. Many folks make a big deal about how games were simply better than current generation titles, but that is not entirely true either. Also, many people who claim that that older games are just better dress like lumberjacks and like in Brooklyn. I don’t believe anything these people say.

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Take the original PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 as examples. For the most part, the games on these systems don’t hold up well visually. At the time, we thought they looked amazing, as they were in 3D and everything was built on millions of polygons, but this was just a novelty as it was new and fresh after years of gaming on a 2D plane. Simply put, early 3D games looked horrible.

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Take Mario 64 for example. The game itself was amazing as it was the first iteration of a platformer to make the leap from 2D to 3D and not muck it up. It was groundbreaking, but looking at the game today, the years have not been kind. I’d rather look at Super Mario World on the SNES than Mario 64.

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And that’s the crux of it. Older games do look better, but you have to go back further to see it. In my humble opinion, the games from the 16-bit era, especially as that era was coming to close looked visually unique and amazing. The large colorful sprites really popped.

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Again, I’m not saying that games from the initial PlayStation to today are garbage, but quite the contrary actually. The PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 took gaming into what I like to believe is the modern era of gaming, where 3D, innovative mechanics, story, and high production values became the norm. Unfortunately, it took some time for the visuals to catch up.

Personally speaking, even though classic games, in which I like to define as the 16-bit era and earlier, are more visually pleasing than the early 32-bit era of games, game play wise however, they have not held up very well.

From time to time, I’ll pick up a classic game, either running on an original console or emulated on a modern machine and I’m surprised at how bad I am at playing them. Keep in mind that many of these games are titles that I played years ago as a child and could run through them at ease. Maybe I’m really becoming an old man and my reflexes are going to shit? Or perhaps I’m just not as patient as I used to be and I’m not willing to put in the time to perfect my run through or memorize the maps.

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I remembered all the strategies and secrets, but could no longer execute them. I then become easily frustrated by the pixel perfect timed jumps, or the questionable hit detection and quickly return to more modern games. I find this a bit ironic actually. I’d rather look at a classic game than play it.

I suppose that this is not an extraordinary breakthrough. It’s not too dissimilar from classic movies actually. Take Citizen Kane as an example. Everyone agrees that this movie was groundbreaking and a classic, but ask me to watch it and I’ll cordially decline.

It took some time, but I would argue that we’re coming to a new golden age of gaming. We have gotten to the point where visually, gaming is getting near its apex. I say this because the leap in visuals from last generation to current generation was not all that groundbreaking. Yes, current generation games look amazing, but compare to last generation, the change in visuals are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Take EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront as an example. It is perhaps one of the most visually impressive games I have ever scene, even though game play wise, the game is infuriatingly mediocre. It’s almost as if we’ve reached a point where creating a beautiful looking game is the easy part, yet making it innovative, fun, and memorable is where the true challenge lies.

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I reckon time will tell if my theory holds true. In the meantime, I’ll stick to watching people speed run through classics games. I’m retiring from playing the classics. I’ll leave that to the young whippersnappers.