"Aw C'mon! Your Shit Is Weak! Where's Your Grouping?"

With some downtime at PAX East 2012 I decided to check out the arcade freeplay area. The week before PAX, Ryan tweeted about almost nothing but his damn Ms. Pac-Man machine and I thought I'd indulge myself and give it a try. See what the fuss was about.

Soon after playing (and not being very good mind you), I hear those words shouted from behind, cutting through the noise and music of the ACAM room. It was a moment in a PAX full of the greatest moments when who but Ryan Davis himself arrived at that very instant, saw two Whiskey member shirts, and decided to say hey in the way only he could. It's been said already many times but it bears repeating many times over: Ryan was masterful at bringing loving sincerity and a larger than life sarcastic wit wherever he was. My time with Ryan in that arcade (the first 6 minutes of the embedded video below) is something that almost immediately came to me after hearing the news.

How could it not? It was such a quintessentially Ryan moment. Swearing profusely at the machine, giving it the double middle finger by the end, and telling us that he knew he could approach us as a friend once he spotted our member shirts. If nothing else, then with my drop into this magnificent pond of love and respect from friends and community members, I can at least give 6 more minutes of Ryan Davis being Ryan Davis.

I followed Ryan for something around 9 years. That's somewhere about half of my waking life. I remarked to myself how long I've been following Jeff, Ryan and the rest but it wasn't until Ryan passed away that number somehow took on a different meaning. Somehow became hard, concrete, meaningful in way it was only a badge of honor before. Those who knew him or of him far less are having a devastated time of things all the same, which only speaks to the quality of person that gave so much of himself for people to enjoy.

But even so, 9 years. It was then put into sharp relief not only how much Ryan and his friends mean to me, but how constant they've been a part of my life. How for the past 9 years, I haven't gone a week without them. I've loved video games since I was very young but as soon as I began visiting GameSpot in earnest so many years ago, my love for video games, and why I know so much, and care so much, cannot be separated from the weeks, months, years, I spent taking in everything Ryan and the rest had to say. More than just his amazing personality and intelligence, his passion for games was something I was more than proud to follow along, to be a part of, however small, for as long as I could. For as long as 9 years sounds, I never thought the ride would end so soon. Too soon.

It would be one thing if I was an enthusiastic viewer and community member, week in, week out, happy and proud to be part of Giant Bomb as soon as the doors opened. To see the truly special things that this site has done in the past unfold. Being in that position for so long even then, my chance would come to close the loop and finally meet them. Talk with them, thank them and show my support. Little did I know I would have Ryan to thank for so much more.

Now Ryan was not exclusively responsible for all the great people who have become friends of the site but if the wonderful Harmonix Livestream about Ryan hit home with anything, it's that Ryan was central to so much in that regard. Hearing John Drake tell it, John knew of the chuckleheads supreme Johnny V and Adam Boyes before but Ryan made sure they were close friends. Ryan's enthusiasm and wit brought in the unflappably :D Brad Muir which, as a result of Ryan's handiwork, has now become friends with Giant Bomb, the Chicago posse, and the Harmonix crew. In particular it was when John said that he "got to meet Max Temkin because of Ryan" that I instantly said to myself, "I met Max Temkin because of Ryan" and it made me realize what I need to talk about in remembrance of his passing. What for me, someone so lucky and grateful to know the likes of Eric Pope, John Drake, Dave Lang, Jeff Green and many more as friends, made Ryan's passing that much harder and the love and sense of community after the announcement that much more meaningful.

It was the very first year I attended PAX East, the first year it was made available, that things were more than just about the staff. Sure, I waited as best I could in a panicked state to make Jeff's panel (he was the only one from the staff that went in 2010) after the seats got filled. To my relief, they had some extra chairs in the back. It was then I shook his hand and finally got to meet someone I followed for as long as I've recounted here. It was also the year I bought the full run of Penny Arcade books, which included a rather large hard cover book I decided would be good enough in the moment for autographs. More on that book in a bit. For that year however, it was a damn dream come true, finally meeting Jeff and more importantly, some other people I recognized. My favorite being Paul Barnett, who not only drew me a great Ork in my book but I saw freezing near the front door of the Hynes Convention center. From that point on, PAX became more than just seeing Giant Bomb. It became about meeting and giving love to the people that Giant Bomb considered its friends. The least I could do, I thought, was make them feel welcomed and know the community is right there with them.

I'm not going to recount the full story of 2011 and 2012 because I already wrote up those up in another long blog post but in brief, as the years went on, each PAX East became another year when I finally got to personally meet a new staff member or a friend of the site. In the first few years I would shake hands and chat with everyone from Giant Bomb and get to know John Drake, Eric Pope, Dave Lang, and Jeff Green among others. Sure these were first meetings but each year would build on the last and of course bring new people. As time went on, PAX became less and less about the panels (since I've felt like I saw most of them already) and more and more about catching up with old friends. It's a bit of an exaggeration for me to call Pope, Drake, Lang, Green, and the GB staff "old friends" and yet not. I probably spent the most time at East this year just walking around booths, shaking hands, catching up with those aforementioned and making new friends. As much as I regret saying I'm "the Lang Zone guy" to people for potentially sounding self-important, it was worth that risk when Giant Bomb and its friends can be so loving, compassionate, funny, and welcoming. Luck and making opportunities is certainly part of it but at some point it was all them and I merely pushed over the first domino.

I tell this story now because when John Drake talked about how Ryan was pretty much responsible for bringing all those people together in the first place, I hadn't realized until then how much the relationships I enjoy with those people was Ryan all along. Even now I can't imagine how I would have gotten through the first day without the people Ryan has brought together. In retrospect I shouldn't be surprised, given how much the panel guests for shows like E3 have been amazing and become the highlight of the show each year.

Right now and for as long as I hope to live, I will look back at Ryan's legacy for not only his personality and humor. Not only his unique and incredibly meaningful insight in video games. But how he took all of what he was and put that into bringing so many great people together which I and the entire community now enjoy. More than thank you will ever do Ryan Davis, but that's all I got.

I will miss you so much. Here's to you Ryan, from all those who will miss him. I still can't believe you're gone.

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"Aw C'mon! Your Shit Is Weak! Where's Your Grouping?"

With some downtime at PAX East 2012 I decided to check out the arcade freeplay area. The week before PAX, Ryan tweeted about almost nothing but his damn Ms. Pac-Man machine at home and I thought to indulge myself and give it a try. See what the fuss was about.

Soon after playing (and not being very good mind you), I hear those words shouted from behind us, cutting through the noise and music of the ACAM room. It was a moment in a PAX full of the greatest moments when who but Ryan Davis himself arrived at that very moment, saw two Whiskey member shirts, and decided to say hey in the way only he could. It's been said already many times but it bears repeating many times over: Ryan was masterful at bringing loving sincerity and a larger than life sarcastic wit wherever he was. My time with Ryan in that arcade (the first 6 minutes of the embedded video below) is something that almost immediately came to me soon after hearing the news.

How could it not? It was such a quintessentially Ryan moment. Swearing profusely at the machine, giving it the double middle finger by the end, and telling to us that he knew he could approach us as a friend once he spotted our member shirts. If nothing else, then with my drop into this magnificent pond of love and respect from friends and community members, I can at least give 6 more minutes of Ryan Davis being Ryan Davis.

I followed Ryan Davis for something around 8 years. That's somewhere between a third and a half of my waking life. I remarked to myself how long I've been following Jeff, Ryan and the rest but it wasn't until Ryan passed away that number somehow took on a different meaning. Somehow became hard, concrete, meaningful in a way it was a badge of honor before. Those who knew him or of him far less are having a devastated time of things all the same, which only speaks to the quality of person that gave so much of himself for people to enjoy.

But even so, 8 years. It was then that it was put into sharp relief not only how much Ryan and his friends mean to me, but how constant they've been in a part of my life, how for the past 8 years, I haven't gone a week without them. I've loved video games since I was very young but as soon as I began visiting GameSpot in earnest so many years ago, my love for video games, and why I know so much, and care so much, cannot be separated from the weeks, months, years, I spent taking in everything Ryan and the rest had to say. More than just his amazing personality and intelligence, his passion for games was something I was more than proud to follow along, to be a part of, however small, for as long as I could. For as long as 8 years sounds, I never thought the ride would end so soon. Too soon.

It would be one thing if I was an enthusiastic viewer and community member, week in, week out, happy and proud to be part of Giant Bomb as soon as the doors opened from a distance. To see the truly special things that this site has done in the past unfold. Being in that position for so long even then, my chance would come to close the loop and finally meet them. Talk with them, thank them and show my support. Little did I know I would have Ryan for so much more.

Now Ryan was not exclusively responsible for all the great people who have become friends of the site but if the wonderful Harmonix Livestream about Ryan hit home with anything, it's that Ryan was central to so much in that regard. Hearing John Drake tell it, he knew of the chuckleheads supreme Johnny V, and Adam Boyes before but Ryan made sure they were close friends. Ryan's enthusiasm and wit brought in the unflappably :D Brad Muir which, as a result of Ryan's handiwork, has now become friends with Giant Bomb, the Chicago posse, and the Harmonix crew. In particular it was when John said that he "got to meet Max Temkin because of Ryan" that I instantly said to myself, "I met Max Temkin because of Ryan" and it made me realize what I need to talk about in remembrance of his passing. What for me, someone so lucky and grateful to know the likes of Eric Pope, John Drake, Dave Lang, Jeff Green and more as friends, made Ryan's passing that much harder and the love and sense of community after the announcement that much more meaningful.

It was the very first year I attended PAX East, the first year it was made available, that things were more than just about the staff. Sure, I waited as best I could in a panicked state to make Jeff's panel (he was the only one from the staff that went in 2010) after the seats got filled. To my relief, they had some extra chairs in the back. It was then I shook his hand and finally got to meet someone I followed for as long as I've recounted here. It was also the year I bought the full run of Penny Arcade books, which included a rather large hard cover book I decided would be good enough in the moment for autographs. More on that book in a bit. For that year however, it was a damn dream come true, finally meeting Jeff and more importantly, some other people I recognized. My favorite being Paul Barnett, who not only drew me a great Ork in my book but I saw freezing near the front door of the Hynes Convention center. From that point on, PAX became more than just seeing Giant Bomb. It became about meeting and giving love to the people that Giant Bomb considered its friends. The least I could do, I thought, was make them feel welcomed and know the community is right there with them.

I'm not going to recount the full story of 2011 and 2012 because I already wrote up those up in another long blog post but in brief, as the years went on, each PAX East became another year when I finally got to personally meet a new person from the site or a friend of the site. The first few years I would shake hands and chat with everyone (except Snider) from the site and get to know John Drake, Eric Pope, and Jeff Green among others. Sure these were first meetings but each year would build on the last and of course bring new people. As time went on, PAX became less and less about the panels (since I've felt like I saw most of them already) and more and more about catching up with old friends. It's a bit of an exaggeration for me to call Pope, Drake, Lang, Green, and the GB staff "old friends" and yet not. I probably spent the most time at East this year just walking around booths, shaking hands, catching up with those aforementioned and making new friends. As much as I regret saying I'm "the Lang Zone guy" to people for potentially sounding pretentious or self-important, it was worth that risk when Giant Bomb and its friends can be so loving, compassionate, funny, and welcoming. Luck and making opportunities is certainly part of it but at some point it was all them and I pushed over the first domino.

I tell this story now because when John Drake talked about how Ryan was pretty much responsible for bringing all those people together in the first place, I hadn't realized until then how much the relationships I enjoy with those people was Ryan all along. Even now I can't imagine how I would have gotten through the first day without the people Ryan has brought together. In retrospect I shouldn't be surprised, especially given how much the panel guests for E3 have been amazing and are the highlight of the show each year.

Right now and for as long as I hope to live, I will look back at Ryan's legacy for not only his personality and humor. Not only his unique and incredibly meaningful insight in video games. But how he took all of what he was and put that into bringing so many great people together which I and the entire community now enjoy. More than thank you will ever do Ryan Davis, but that's all I got.

I will miss you so much. Here's to you Ryan, from all those who will miss him. I still can't believe you're gone.

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The Phoenix Wright Dilemma On iOS

I realize I'm a bit late having just found out through Tested that the Phoenix Wright HD Trilogy was released on iOS like a month ago but it delving into what this release is about has finally pushed me enough to write something. This will be part personal anecdote, part open inquiry into what the hell is up with Phoenix Wright on that platform.

For those that don't know, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the DS port version, has been on iOS for more than a year now (probably two at this point) and as soon as I got my iPad 3 I knew that both that and Ghost Trick awaited me. I decided even then that I would go with Ghost Trick first since it was a one off game. After a bit of hemming and hawing as I do with game purchases sometimes, I bought it. While I knew I would like it, I didn't expect to love it and to the point where that was my 2011 game of the year (despite playing a year late).

Throughout and even before playing Ghost Trick I had the idea to also jump onto Phoenix Wright but for reasons I hope I can explain, I hesitated. In fact, I never did. It was $5, more than a fair price, cheaper in fact than Ghost Trick's $10, and by all accounts a classic game worth playing. Those facts were undeniable but one part was always nagging me which is that I had no idea if the remainder of the series would be coming down the line. I knew then and now that the character and story is a core to why you play those games and I felt disappointed at the idea of getting into Phoenix Wright but stopping only after the first game.

Call it being selfish or skeptical or both but I took a wait and see approach to whether Capcom would follow through. They nailed it with Ghost Trick and everything I've heard about the DS port sounded like it was a proper reproduction of that experience on iOS which made it that much more of a bummer being stuck behind my own stingy skepticism.

At some point down the line my reward would come because I learned that not only were the second and third games ported to iOS in Japan but Capcom would release them in the US app store as a trilogy. I was all but assured that whenever those games were coming (despite worrying announcements of multiple delays) I would buy the first three games in one fell swoop and enjoy the hell out of them.

Upon hearing the news that the trilogy was released I scrambled to my iPad to confirm and I quickly downloaded the free app (that worked similarly to Ghost Trick). Quickly I also checked the other version of Phoenix Wright to see if that was still around...and it was. Confused I compared the two and that was when I realized things had gotten a lot more weird and confusing for Phoenix Wright on iOS.

My feelings on this situation is entirely predicated upon one important assumption: that the ideal and desired scenario was playing as best as possible reproductions of the DS versions on my iPad in lieu of not owning a DS. I say assumption because, given the first release, I expected more or less the same out of 2 and 3 and would be more than happy with that. Also, I would be down with that assumption proving false if an HD remake of those games were crisp and great (as Dual Destinies looks like it does). Unfortunately for Capcom and fans of the series, almost every review I've read mentions either apathy or negative critique of the new art. I personally agree and in numerous comparisons, I find the new art a disappointment and kinda cruddy. Which is where the whole dilemma comes in.

What happens with Phoenix Wright now? A great HD remake notwithstanding, all I and presumably others wanted was just localized versions of Justice For All and Trials and Tribulations. The kicker is that DS ports already exist of 2 and 3, but only in the Japanese app store. I also can't help but feel somewhat responsible as a consumer because I didn't put my money where my mouth was with the DS port. On the other hand, there's no guarantee my sale would have made the difference or have sent any specific message to Capcom. The issue is probably one of creative management as for why an HD remake was decided upon and released.

Regardless of my feelings on the matter, the franchise is kind of left in an awkward positions, especially as fan reception is specifically against both the art and some technical issues. Does this mean Capcom will address that in reaction and finally port the english translation of the DS versions? Will there be a DS graphics option later or will Capcom simply wipe it's hands and say "well we tried" and leave it as it is? The latter option I feel is the one that worries me because as someone who definitely won't be playing the HD version, that almost all but guarantees I won't be playing more than just the first game on iOS.

The problem is ultimately solved with monetary brute force and just buying a DS XL and the full franchise but I don't want to do that, at least not yet. If I must be honest, I'd quicker buy the carts cheaper down the line and get an emulated version when a good enough DS emulator hits the market. Still though, I don't want to resort to that when Capcom has been doing some things right, which is what makes me feel bad for everyone involved, fans and creators alike.

Anyone else in the same boat? (Sorry for the super long post, but it's kinda been years on the backburner).

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The Origins (and legacy) of the Lang Zone

[This is version 2 because I accidentally pressed backspace and my entire post went away. I was nearly finished too :( I was luckily able to recover what I wrote up until the second picture.]

I sort of languished on the task of writing this up after PAX East this year but after seeing the extent to which the Lang Zone (and its sole resident Dave Lang) were prominent at this year's PAX Prime, it gives me a good excuse. Even at East there were only a small number of people who know the full story. A story I was at the center of and one that made PAX East 2012 one of the best (and most emotionally dramatic) weekends of my life.

First a bit of background. I've attended every year of PAX East since it began in 2010 and I've taken to running around like an energetic son of a gun to meet anyone and everyone I knew or admired in gaming development and editorial. During East I took it upon myself to get autographs and I thought it no better than to use the wide swaths of empty space afforded by my Penny Arcade 11 1/2 year anniversary book. My favorite moment in 2010 was finding Paul Barnett sitting on a bench at the then used Hynes Convention Center freezing his ass off near the door. Naturally he drew me a "WAAAAAGGHH' Ork face. Anyway the upshot is this book was filled with autographs from damn near every dev familiar to me as a Giant Bomb fan as well as Jeff and some others who attended East in 2010. 2011 is the same story but even better when I got to meet the whole staff and more friends of the site.

My favorite picture from PAX East 2011.

Fast forward to 2012, the year in which I was disproportionately pumped because I knew that certain people would be there I had not met yet, specifically Adam Boyes. Thanks to this Xbox event video, I knew that I would also be running into Dave Lang and I thought it would fun to run up to him and give him daps for being cool with Giant Bomb. In walking around I hit the Xbox booth and see a friend from past PAX Easts, Mike Wilford of Twisted Pixel, demoing stuff. I ask him where Dave Lang was and he graciously pointed me in the right direction. Lo and behold demoing Wreckateer is the big man himself. So I run up to him, shake his hand and mention something about Giant Bomb, but I can't remember specifics. I do recall vividly however asking him where Adam Boyes was. This was the first surreal moment of PAX for me because the next thing Dave does is ask my friend and I "you want me to call him?". I couldn't say yes fast enough as I was still falling over my own bewilderment. The conversation was priceless. Dave said "yeah I've got a couple of friends I'm sending over, they'll be there in a minute". Already this was great but it got better and this is the critical moment that started it all. When I asked for his autograph, he seemed a bit embarrassed and dismissed me saying to go meet Adam. I thought nothing of it and moved on, thanking Dave and trying to find Adam.

I do in fact run into Adam a few minutes later and was an absolute delight at the show. I immediately told him about Lang and his refusal and naturally Adam ate it up. Almost from the start the incident inflated way beyond its humble beginnings. I go on for another hour or so and I make my way around the Harmonix booth for the second or third time. By this point I was eager to tell anyone this story because of how much fun Adam's reaction was. John Drake being the prince among men that he is, naturally did this:

Hanging out a bit more with Drake, getting his autograph, and thanking him for that and the antics, I wanted to find Adam as soon as possible. This was quickly escalating into something great and I was too excited not to help it along. Finding Adam at the Capcom booth, I tell him to "check twitter" because of something about Lang. He immediately busts out laughing upon seeing Drake's post, which was also retweeted by Ryan soon after. My friend and I stick around and have another nice conversation with Adam in which he shows me the famous Johnny V laptop burn picture. He swears I have to keep this a secret but astute observers will note that picture being joked about at the Harmonix panel that Sunday.

Having something to point to when talking to people, I left the show floor and the pace mellowed out turning back into a pretty typical fun but chill time at PAX. Going home that night I reminisced on the craziness but little did I know it had just begun.

The next day, Saturday, after my first round of panels I get back to the show floor to maybe run into some more friends of the site or the staff themselves. Lo and behold in front of the Gearbox booth I happen upon Patrick, Jeff, Brad, and Drew. Seeing my member shirt they knew I was friendly and said hi. Focusing on Patrick I tell him about Dave Lang and the autograph and he instantly lights up saying, "oh so you're the guy who Dave Lang refused to give an autograph". Patrick then turns and lets everyone know I'm "that guy" and they laugh and we exchange a few words. I learned that Dave and others started telling the story and it became a thing overnight. It must have been told when the staff were all at a bar someplace Friday night, or maybe having dinner, hard to say. I distinctly remember giving Patrick my autograph book to sign and he obliged and took it further writing in it something to the effect of "fuck Dave Lang". Knowing that some little encounter I initiated became something like this was just too much. Honestly though it really was such a joy to see all these personalities from the site we know and love play off of each other. Throughout the show signatures from various devs associated with the site talked shit to each other in my autograph book. This never really happened in past years and the tone of that shit talking would come to define the fun atmosphere I was somehow responsible for.

The rabble-rouser himself: Adam Boyes giving at demo at the Capcom booth

Later on in the afternoon I decide to check out the American Arcade Museum freeplay area to play Ms. Pac-Man. Ryan was tweeting a lot about it at the time and I wanted to give it a shot on a real machine. After about a minute or so, who else but Ryan Davis starts shit talking my Ms. Pac-Man play over my shoulder! My friend and I freak out because goddamnit Ryan just did that and he's right there. Naturally I finished up the game to Ryan's heckling and he had a go (which you can see in the video at the end.) He said he saw my member shirt and knew he could approach me as a friend of the site. I quickly got down to talking about Dave Lang and all that and Ryan hinted at taking that idea and running with it somehow but I can't confirm if Ryan did in fact relay to me some sort of hint. Either way I would soon learn more to that end.

After the last panel of the day before the Bombcast panel that night, I run back to the show floor and run around some more, talking to people like Dan Amrich, Jeff Green (which I visted a lot as well) and a bunch of others. Honestly there's no better time at PAX that getting the opportunity to meet cool people you only get to see on the internet. Anyway, I end up back at the Capcom booth looking for Adam and find him again. (Side note: I'm also fuzzy in the order of the events, can't remember if Ryan or the Patrick conversation happened first on Saturday). Adam talks again about Lang and how I "started the meme!" about Dave. This is when Adam drops a bomb on me and tells me that they're going to have Dave Lang at the front of the stage during the panel signing autographs for people. Equal parts unbelief and excitement, I sat there mouth practically agape at the thought that this is going to be featured in the Bombcast panel. Me! My running around having fun at PAX and knowing people from the site resulting in who knows what! After leaving the show floor I slowly became more and more nervous about the endeavor. It came from not knowing what to expect, what Dave's reactions would be (I deliberately avoided him on Saturday to let the dominoes fall further), and what they would have me do at the panel. Would I go up to the front? The thought was too much to bear and I tried my best to relax while waiting in line with my friend.

In line, I struck up a conversation with two duders who came together and played a few rounds of the Metagame with them using my deck. Coming up on 9:00 pm, we're finally ushered in to get seated. The four of us sit down on the right side, about the first third of the rows. Still a little nervous, once the music began I let all that go and started to enjoy the show. The music, the prelim jokes, I had a time as I imagine nearly all did with me. The panel begins and I am waiting for the moment and then Ryan starts talking about outsourcing the panel and autographs around the 5 minute mark. The rest is PAX Panel history:

As the panel progressed the Lang Zone got its name from the staff and was forever codified as a meme on the site. I get happy and nostalgic ever time I continue to hear or see a reference to the Lang Zone. Its quite surreal to consider how far and wide the Lang Zone joke continues to go knowing its all because of something I did. I'm not saying this to brag, quite the opposite. In fact it comes from a place of immense gratitude that such a small effort on my part was rewarded with so much in the end. I'll say it again later but thank you all so much for the time and opportunity to make that PAX so memorable. Seeing this was just the icing on the cake:

Hold on though, that's not the end. I talked to Dave after the panel and, in addition hugging it out and squashing the beef in jest, I learned what that was all about. Since I asked about Adam Boyes immediately before the autograph, he thought I was a joke sent by Adam or someone he knew. Frankly he said though, he was a bit surprised and embarrassed and was too humble to give something like an autograph so he sent me along. Never let it be said Dave Lang isn't a really nice person, especially given all jibes he was at the center of all weekend. Naturally he took it in stride and more so and for that I have to thank him the most.

Sunday...the panel the previous night was a culmination of everything that came before it and then some, so naturally I had to hit the floor one last time to talk to everybody. That morning we had donuts but there were a few leftover so we thought it would be nice to give some to Dave at the booth for being such a good sport. I swear my luck was unbelievable because I also happen to find Jeff and Ryan talking to Dave on Sunday morning:

My favorite picture from PAX East 2012

Man I wish my smile wasn't so crappy and understated. After taking that picture Ryan told me they were happy I ran around and started all this because they almost had nothing else to put in the panel. So, the thread was complete and I was ready to write off the show as the best PAX ever by a long mile. Still half a day left I go on and visit the Harmonix booth to say hi again and take pictures with Pope, Drake, and Navarro. Little did I know that visit would result in one of the most soul crushing moments of my life. I put my all-black string backpack down on the carpet at the Harmonix booth to take some pictures. A few minutes later I go back for the bag and it was gone...

I was frantic, telling John and Pope about the bag and how it had my autograph book in it. Aaron from Harmonix as well as the others were incredibly generous in helping me look for the bag all across the booth for what seemed like a long time. They even went on the Rock Band stage and asked people if they've seen the bag. For them to do that for me, especially knowing how important the bag was, is beyond simple words. I still eagerly await seeing Harmonix at East 2013 to thank them again personally.

I scramble around to no avail. I finally decide to run back up to the front entrance and inform the enforcers and ask them to keep an eye out for my bag in the lost and found. For the rest of the show, my last four hours of what should have been the best PAX ever was spent looking for the bag. Telling security, checking lost and found for what must have been the 10th time, I was losing my confidence in finding it. I also managed to inform Dave and others about the loss of the book but by that time the GB staff had already left. Nearing the end of the show, I had spent the time I should have been enjoying myself instead looking for my bag and helplessly asking enforcers instead.

Getting my coat from the check-in area I decide to say goodbye and as I was walking use the opportunity to cope with the situation the only way I know how: talk about it. You see all that and more below:

(There are a few typos in the credits, and I cut that together as it says, two weeks after the show)

A long ways out from East I can definitely say I've moved on from the loss of the book. I have to thank Jeff Green for expressing sympathy on twitter and encouraging me to "get all those signatures back" soon after getting back home. I do plan to obtain a book better suited for the purpose (the old one was a pain in the ass to carry and take out) and refuse anything less than a full recovery of all those signatures. Luckily I have a list of all the people who were in the book before so its not a total loss and its another opportunity (or excuse :D) to meet all those wonderful people again. Still though, the loss will forever be a part of my memory and experience with the show and I'm very much okay with that.

With this post I wanted to let people know not only the story behind the Lang Zone, which I see continues to grow thanks to using the same joke at Prime this year, but what it means to me as the one who set it off and saw it all unfold. For me the legacy of the Lang Zone on the site is not only a reminder of the experience of that weekend but the best consolation a fan could ask for. Thank you Giant Bomb, see you next year at PAX East 2013!

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Game Reviews: IAAW Model

During a Bombcast, Brad mentioned another aspect that up until now I had ignored. Basically that making a statement of quality like the textures are low res or the framerate is unstable or the ui is unfriendly can be fair criticisms but simply not apply to someone. So even if your pattern of views match the reviewer(s) and as a result their statements would be echoed by you, the consumer's enjoyment would summarily not be affected by the negative ones. The model must be modified.

After much deliberation I've arrived at what I call IAAW. It stands for Ironsights, Agreement, Applicability, Weight. But first let's break down what a review is and the units processed by this model.

A professional review is an assessment of quality whose proportion of objective and subjective statements are reasonable. By reasonable I mean that no one category dominates the language and structure of the review. Those statements are intended to be informative of a purchasing decision and likewise intended to resonate with the reader. The reader then is making a calculation while reading about how much those statements would apply to their hypothetical experience with the game. Either way the reader (ideally) should leave the review with a firm grasp on where they stand on this game, using the statements as information or motivation to buy it or not. We are also assuming the reviewer is a professional and the reader has not played the game.

The units then become a given statement of quality that is structured as objective or subjective which themselves are positive or negative. This becomes important at the end but also good to remember throughout.

The first part of the model is "ironsights". By that I mean the reader lining up their gaming context with the reviewer. The context of the reviewer may be determined by their reputation, their reviewing history, their place of employ (i.e. reputable gaming review site), or knowledge of personal tastes. However it is done, the ironsights determine the probability that the reader will agree with any given statement. The closer they are lined up, the greater likelihood that they will agree. No matter the equilibrium point (it may be close to perfect or wildly off), the more time spent lining up the more accurate the predictions. However since it is on a sliding scale of probability (never becoming 0 or 1), it allows for idiosyncrasies of disagreement despite majority agreement most of the time (assuming the ironsights are reasonably close to 1). Also this explains the role of consensus. So if enough people's ironsights line up with enough professional reviewers and the reviewers themselves line up amongst each other, then enough agreement exists (despite minor differences) that a game's quality is more definitively this or that.

After a statement is processed through the Agreement filter (the amount of holes determined by ironsight accuracy because the more its off, the more you'll miss? Man this metaphor is extended to all hell), then it goes into the "Applicability" section. Logically if a statement is disagreed upon by a reader, then the statement's information does not apply to them. (Unless later it does and they change their opinion). Either way, with the disagreement removed, the remaining statements that are agreed upon by the reader are processed through another filter. This is where a person determines not if they recognize the merit of a statement (which they already have by this point) but if a given statement of quality matters to them. So I can agree that this part of the game may suck objectively, but if that does not matter to me personally, then I'm not really disagreeing with the reviewer, but the utility of that statement is lost. This is much more of a case-by-case, statement-by-statement approach. Again if the iron sights are good, so will the Applicability filter, but it's not exactly the same. By definition the number of statements that apply are smaller than the ones that are agreed upon.

Finally the reader has a collection of statements (this may any proportion of statements between 0 and 1) that they agree with and would apply to them. Now we must remember the fact that we separated them by "objective" or "subjective". I liken them to bricks in which the objective ones are bigger and hold more weight and likewise the subjective are smaller. However they both still hold weight by this point and so cannot be dismissed as "just opinion" because we already did that back in the disagreement stage. But we're not done. The statements still have to be separated by negative and positive to measure up the game and determine if it's good or bad enough to buy or ignore. The beauty of the process is that by this point the separation was all done relative to the reader and reviewer, so weighing the statements would be relative as well. In the end that what this is all about, weighing the positives vs. the negatives and deciding from that. However IAAW makes sense of how we get to the point where we begin doing that and understanding what we're actually weighing.

In summary here it is in as good an MS Paint rendition I can muster:

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Game Reviews: Objective Statements in Subjective Ironsights

Game reviews are constantly a hot topic in the games industry. Whether the catalyst that drives the adversarial relationship between game publishers and the enthusiast press or simply making the nature of how we look at games more complicated and at times politically confusing, game reviews are important. Important to the people making them, selling them, and buying them. As a result a lot has been made about the best way to look at reviews. After all they have been known to make or break a game's reputation and financial success but they are not scientific tests made in a lab. It's a person playing a game front to back and writing about what they thought. As a result there are many efforts made to subjugate the reviews process as "merely subjective" but also many examples of self-imposed grand swami's of gaming whose word is law (according to them anyway).

In writing this initially I came across a much better way of understanding game reviews and that sticky mess of objectivity in games. I was trying to work around the issue that any one reviewer's view is relative, even if professionally informed and considered, and stitching together multiple reviews doesn't make it definitively objective either. Even the events of history are only as factual as the best evidence and arguments used by people.

However I couldn't shake the feeling that reviews aren't just walls of IMO's and that they do have objective weigh to the people who read them. How? I was also struggling to marry the idea that reviews are written in a mix of objective and subjective language (that is some statements read "this game is poop from a butt" vs. "I think this game's design is poop from a butt" in the same review) with the nature of how reviews are only useful if you know how your views line up with the review. Then it hit me. What if you successfully line up their view with yours, would it then not be the case that their objective statements are your objective statements? That is if your experience and views on games doesn't line up with theirs, you have to invoke the ethereal saltshaker or simply ignore it entirely. However if they line up perfectly or least reasonably well then the objective statements made would logically line up with yours. That is if you were to buy that game you would have the same "objective" conclusions. If enough people line up with that reviewer and enough reviewers line up together, than generally it is agreed upon that a game is or isn't poop from a butt.

This view ties together all the elements I was looking for: how consensus is important but not absolute in judging a game, how lining up your view with a reviewer is important, and how objective statements still matter and hold some weight. One thing I do have to mention is the reviewer must be professional and know the nature of his/her job. That is they know it speaks to an audience looking to see if the game is good or not but also know that it's just one person's view. So to use my thread title metaphor, objective statements in reviews are objective to you if you line up the subjective ironsights. Yeah it's all subjective but there's enough of a functionally objective intent by the reviewer and symbolic interpretation by the audience that it can't be ignored. Also it allows the use of IMO's in a review to supplement the objective ones when it makes sense. That is if an IMO is more likely to be accurate if the ironsights line up but it's no guarantee even if they do. Essentially make them "just their view" and nothing more.

Best of all this view still explains why conflicts exist over reviews: that a game reviews are written on game-by-game basis so there's a bit of relying on the review's experience to know what yours would be. The large number of people reading reviews don't all go to the same place and don't all read from the same person. In addition things are confused further by the lack of effort on the part of the audience to think critically. This is why review scores continue to be an issue because it's just a superficial reading of the reviewer and jumping to conclusions without the proper skepticism. Or better yet when the ironsights are ignored altogether and someone takes or rejects everything at face value.

Most important this perspective/theory/conjecture addresses the biggest problem with my previous consensus argument: "mixed reviews". Essentially it all works out fine if a subset of reviewers all agreed despite being different people and the quilt would be an accurate portrayal of a game. But on occasion it seems that the fine fellows at GB seem to disagree with the majority of their rival video game websites. It was often the case that I didn't know what to think when two reviewers I trusted disagreed. When reviewers I trust do agree, then the ironsights model still works in building a bigger picture of that game's quality but when they disagree I can discern with whom my iron sights line up better. This is by no means an perfect process and I just thought of it but at least theoretically it's better than arguing about games being objective vs. subjective in a traditional way.

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Different take on "Citizen Kane of Video Games"

Pictured: Video Games

I'm gonna be blunt here: this thread is not about debating what the Citizen Kane of video games is, why or why not it exists, or whatever. Instead I'm going to assume you already know about that discussion and controversy and channel it into a different question. Why does the Citizen Kane of video games have to be like Citizen Kane? What do I mean by that? Well let me break it down.

Citizen Kane was a landmark film, if only so after its release, that was forever the example used by fans of film to justify and syndicate movies as a medium of creative merit. The up-and-coming video game industry has now entered the era in which it can tell stories has done so for kind of a long while. Along with the infamous games as art debate, people have been wondering when they can have their Citizen Kane for video games.

The desire is present for sure and questioning that is for another time. What I came to wonder and ultimately criticize is the basic assumption that our interpretation of Citizen Kane as a film biases our effort to make one out of a video game. Video games are a unique medium in which its joys and creativity can be expressed both through mechanics as well as aesthetics. I thought it curious then that we only focus on aesthetics (i.e. characters, storytelling, writing, cinematography, plot) and not the mechanics when looking for our Citizen Kane. At least that's what I've seen.

People think in the language of cinema when they're looking for the CK of games and I feel like that's unfortunate. Why can't it be a game that did what CK did for films but for the reason video games are unique: gameplay? Certainly some aesthetics are inevitable, as text-based adventures are the only exception, but puzzle games and much of the early history of games is certainly reliant on their mechanics to convey expression and entertainment. So if we include the games that might have the status of CK but do so through it's gameplay, what would it be? How would that change the agreed upon answer if the answer was an aesthetically focused game?

I like this speculation because it brings to light the issue I have with the way we look at games in general today: it's creative merits hinge entirely upon aesthetic value. That seems to drive the games as art debate which is also kind of a drag to me. Game design and mechanics is often a feature considered when buying a game but it only seems that art style and story come up when we talk about "games as art" and yes the Citizen Kane of video games. I find game design equally magical and illusive as a character that feels real or a world fully realized in video games. I could attempt to answer the questions presented here but instead I'll leave it up to you. I hope I conveyed what was just a thought in my head when fucking around on Twitter.

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