Hate Mail

What is it that compels a person to message another person after a game? Online matches can be intense, there's an emotional investment, and a strong drive to win. But after it's done, why waste the time it takes (especially slogging through the XBOX messaging system) to send what is usually an inane and profane note? Perhaps just to blow off steam? So that the losing player feels a little better about themselves? Not everyone does this, of course, but it's interesting to think about who does and why. At least to me anyway so I'll continue.
 
Recently, I've been playing Halo Wars again after a several month hiatus. I'm working on the Legendary co-op campaign with a friend for the most part, but we also will play a few matches of multiplayer here and there. The highest frequency of hate mail comes to both of us from this game. My friend is a legit 100 in Gears of War 2 who was once ranked in the 20's on the Annex leaderboards and he got fewer messages in that game then he does in Halo Wars.  I think that in some cases people go into that game being good at Halo 3 and assume they'll be good at Halo Wars (even knowing full well that it's a completely different type of game).  The actual content differs but generally it comes down to the fact that we suck because we won. Backwards logic!
 
So I'm approaching this whole this as a sort of meta-game alongside any particular online game I'm playing at the moment. Rather than being annoyed at these messages I'll respond back in an attempt to elicit more responses. Maybe that's a childish thing to do, but hell what can I say? What's of particular interest is if I get a textual message to begin with and then it escalates into a gout of profanity laden voice which is pure comedy gold. Good thing I play after my kids go to sleep! In the past I'd simply block communications, naturally. Now I'll see how much effort this person will put into chiding me for: having no life, sucking, being a douche, etc. 
 
Anonymity is a funny thing. It affords a particular kind of freedom in this online environment so many of us frequent. How like this seething mass of hate filled text are the authors? Would they say the same thing directly to my face were we in the same room? I wonder. For now I'll enjoy my messages and try to work out a reasoning behind them. Until they become annoying again, anyway.

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Old Super Mario Bros. NES

My two year old daughter was helping me attempt to get my basement into something that resembles clean over the weekend. Though help probably isn't the most accurate word to describe what she was doing. Fun though it was, we weren't really accomplishing the task at hand. There's an entertainment center down there which currently contains an XBOX, Playstation 2, Gamecube, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Super Nintend o, Sega Genesis, and an NES. She was fascinated by the controllers (she loves playing with the XBOX 360 controllers and Wii remotes upstairs) and so I thought in an attempt to hold that attention I'd fire up the NES and see what she could do. I snagged the copy of Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt (never did get that Power Pad back in the day) and popped it in. Ironically something that I thought would help me make better time cleaning up worked against me.
 
As anyone who has played an NES can attest to getting the games to work in the system (especially a now 20+ year old system) can be a challenge. It took several tries at  blowing in the cart, blowing in the system, etc. but finally that glorious startup screen appeared. Now since she's only two (and a half I suppose) naturally she couldn't do  much, but she was fascinated with making Mario jump. The next step, of course, was making him walk to the right which she liked, too, but then came the Goomba. I tried  to tell her that she needed to jump over it, but she didn't quite get it yet. It also didn't help that the contacts on the controller were worn, old, and probably extremely dusty.  Hell, I started playing myself and couldn't consistently jump or run. Even though she never quite jumped over the Goomba (yet--we'll try again!) I had a blast showing her  that game and she genuinely seemed to be having fun. 
 
It was such an amazing thing getting that game working in the NES again, seeing the old sprites and screens I hadn't seen in quite a while and actually showing this  piece of my childhood to my daughter. Even better was that she was smiling at it. I know games have grown much more sophisticated in the last 20 years, but there's something to be said for  games like Super Mario Bros. I can't wait until the day when she actually jumps over (or on!) that Goomba and starts racing for the flagpole. And  then eventually the day when she comes to me and tells me she beat Bowser. That'll really be something...

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'Splosion Man, Chime, and Digital Downloads

'Splosion Man has a great sense of humor. The title character's idle animations are really funny. As is when he runs with arms outstretched like a little kid running through a park. Scientists are reduced to cooked slabs of steak when he 'splodes next to them. It makes for a really engaging game. It was one that I'd sort of ignored a bit when it came out as there were a slew of other games out then that I really wanted to get. This week the game was half off, though, so I couldn't resist and I'm glad I downloaded it. I've not gotten far at all, but in the short time I've spent with the game it has made me smile a lot. Even the achievements and the control options are funny. 
 
Chime was released yesterday and was downloaded as well. At first I was on the fence because I wasn't sure how interesting the game mechanics would be. At only $5, though, and with much of the profit going to children's charity it was decided. Happily the game seems to be fun as well. Like A Kingdom for Keflings it's a very relaxing game for me. The music is good and kind of entrancing while you're staring at all those blocks trying to slot them into place.
 
It seems that I get into a groove sometimes where XBLA (and--though as much not recently--WiiWare/Virtual Console) games take precedence over disc games. The stylized graphics tend to appeal to me more than the more modern "realistic" ones do. Games like Braid are just amazing and that sort of art direction really draws me in more than most 3D graphics engines can. Perhaps that's because I was reared on pixels to begin with. But it's not always the graphics. 2D games are really attractive as well. Shadow Complex, for example, was thoroughly engrossing because though it ran on the Unreal Engine it was basically Super Metroid (or later, Symphony of the Night). 
 
Steam is not helping in the least especially with their recent Holiday sales and their crazy sales in general. I got all five X-COM games for pennies along with a slew of older strategy games as well.
 
I'll always be on the lookout for the latest and greatest in games to be sure (latest being used somewhat loosely as I'm just working through Mass Effect at the moment), but the downloadable format is teeming with games that speak to my inner retro gamer and there's no satiating that particular instinct.
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Oblivion Complete

I finished off Oblivion last night. The Shivering Isles main quest was the last thing I was working on, and I was able to put it to rest. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews from friends on Oblivion, but I really enjoyed it. It's a really massive game that just makes you feel like you're in a real living world. People have schedules, react to each other, and mention things you've done. It's not perfect, but still a terrific game. The Shivering Isles main quest was particularly good (better than the main quest in the base game, in my opinion).
 
There were definitely some bugs in the game as I mentioned in a blog post yesterday. I was getting nervous towards the end because things seemed to be unraveling on me. The bug from yesterday and a few other more minor ones seemed to be happening with more frequency as I was nearing the end. So much so that I was getting nervous that something catastrophic would happen. At one point, I drank a potion of invisibility which lasted almost the remainder of the game for me. Strange.
 
Good though the game was, I'm happy to put it behind me for now. There were certainly times when it felt like it dragged along a bit. I removed it from my XBOX 360 Single Player Pending list and pushed Mass Effect to the top which I'm excited about. I don't have the second game yet, but I'd started the first a while back and am looking forward to getting back into it. Again I've heard mixed reviews from friends, but I really liked what I played. 
 
Those mixed reviews brought up and interesting conversation about the more traditional JRPGs and the "newer Western" RPGs. I used to be big into JRPGS. Lately, thought, I've found they don't hold my interest long enough to complete them. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems to hold true almost 100% of the time lately. I do have a few sitting there in my list and I am looking forward to them, but we'll see what happens when I get to them. Eternal Sonata was great--until I put it down part way through Maybe once I get through some of my massive backlog I'll see things differently.

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Oblivion Shivering Isles Glitch

While working through Oblivion in an effort to cull down my XBOX 360 Single Player Pending List, I hit a nasty bug. I only have the Shivering Isles quests left and after the "Retaking the Fringe" quest I was told to go back and visit Sheogorath to complete that quest and start the next. He wasn't in this throne room, however, and upon doing a little searching that's apparently a known bug in the game. There's a fix if you're playing the PC version, but on the 360 the best workaround seemed to be load up a previous save.
 
I had originally done the Ritual of Dementia quest, but luckily still had a save from when I was working on the Ritual of Mania for the achievement so I started from there and was able to get by the bug. Anytime I loaded a save from after the Ritual of Dementia was completed and ran through Retaking the Fringe again, I encountered the problem. Loading from before that quest started and going through the Ritual of Mania (actually just finishing it up) and then replaying Retaking the Fringe again worked finally. Crisis avoided!

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