Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Condemned

My quest through the 360 launch line up continues today with a look at one of my favorites, Condemned. Amateur Bombastica, like the 360 at launch, is proud to announce that we're now in HD!

Condemned was a hidden gem at launch and arguably didn't get the attention is deserved. I loved the insanely violent combat. While the game only had one real mechanic which was the combat, it was strong enough to carry the player to the end.

Other Amateur Bombasticas:

Call of Duty 2

Quake 4



Steve, Kessler, and Pascual Do Podcasting

Myself and half the Daily Dota crew got together for a chat about hard-hitting topics like Dota vs. League of Legends, Kessler walking his 360 like a dog, discovering awesome coke machines, Mechagodzilla 3, and more!

I would post the podcast player here, but Giant Bomb doesn't recognize PodOmatic. Just hit the link below.




Everyone's a Sexist!? What Happened to our Industry?

With PAX Australia coming up, controversy hit today regarding one of their panels.

Tami Baribeau wrote a piece summarizing her problem with this. She got the impression that these panelists, whom of which aren't employed by Penny Arcade, are claiming that the videogame industry is exempt from criticism.

I didn't get that impression from this short bit of text describing the panel. Instead, it struck a cord with me on exactly what's wrong with our industry: We're all too sensitive and letting emotions cloud judgement and compromising the integrity of having a real conversation.

Of course this panel isn't necessarily the best launch case for this topic, but it is something that has been on my mind lately so after seeing this whole debacle I decided to write this thing. The bulk of the controversy was in regards to Gabe's arguably offensive remarks towards transgenders, but the other side of people getting pissed off on the Internet (weird, I know) was the text describing the panel.

You got the Anita Sarkeesian side of this industry of super pre-feminists that instead of opening up conversations, they just assume they're 100% right and while they're fighting for a social issue, they're just throwing a tantrum instead of being mature about the topic.

Some folks tweeted comments about shutting PAX out all-together.

Above is the same woman that said folks should automatically block anyone that disagreed with Phil Fish on a statement he made complaining that there aren't enough female protagonists in games. Most of the tweets to Fish about that topic were pretty constructive. Yes, you have the handful of assholes trolling with kitchen comments of course. Then of course I had to be an asshole and say, "Isn't Gomez a male?"

...I couldn't resist.

Back during the #1reasonwhy movement, a friend of mine saw a developer state an issue she had with a friend not getting a job "on the grounds she's female". My friend was attacked on social media for simply asking if the woman applying had qualifications, previous work history, and so on. The female developer responded with something along the lines of "that doesn't matter". Of course she retweeted his "sexist" comment and he was bullied for a good day or two.

My point is that of course I would love for more female representation in games. From an outsider's perspective I saw a lot of progress this E3. Most press outlets had females covering the event and I saw a lot of female developers on the floor talking about their games.

Of course I'm not saying there isn't an issue, but clearly the game business is doing a lot better. I mean, I've been in a college environment for awhile and I haven't met a single female interested in computer engineering or any other educations that might lead to the game business. There's a larger pool of males that are interested in the business so of course it's going to be male dominated.

The issue lays with anytime someone disagrees with a statement made by someone supporting #1reasonwhy or Anita, they're labeled as a sexist and the champions of those pro-feminist messages just shut that person out of any potential conversation or purposely sets that person up for bullying.

I have yet to talk to anyone in person or on the Internet that says, "FUCK WOMEN BEING IN THIS BUSINESS, DICKS ONLY!". But people out there on the world stage are communicating these messages we all agree with, but their methods are questionable and rash.

Even if you have a good message, there's still potential for bullshit. Everyone needs to be prepared to be called out on their bullshit. Back to my example of the unemployed female developer, it's reasonable to look at her actual qualifications. Doing so however, makes you an easy target and makes folks afraid to challenge the people with the microphone.

Whether you think Penny Arcade is sexist or if Anita deserves a Medal of Honor or if you are some crazy lunatic that thinks a woman's only job is a womb, be prepared to open a conversation. For no matter what your motivations, no matter how morally right they are, we aren't going to make progress if you shut out everyone that disagrees with you. Turning into a bully to defeat bullying is not the answer. Instead we need to take a step back once in awhile, take a deep breath, and remember that we all love videogames and this industry's quality and integrity has to be something we all protect.



Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Call of Duty 2

We started with Quake 4 on this quest to look back at the beginning of this generation to see how far games have come. Now lets look at the 360 version Call of Duty 2. This Call of Duty is probably my favorite WWII COD, if not my favorite in the whole series. It's also one of the first examples of playing a console version of a PC shooter without making a lot of technical sacrifices.

You can find my Quake 4 video here.



Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Quake 4

I just bought some capture equipment and wanted to use it as an excuse to look back at all the Xbox 360 launch games. It's amazing comparing games that came out in 2005 to today's releases. Historical context is sometimes important just to be proud at the industry's progression.

This is the first video I've ever made, ever. So I would appreciate some feedback, just be respectful. If you like what you see, you can look forward to videos on all the 360 launch titles minus the sports stuff.

Quake is one of my favorite franchises, but the forth entry came out to mostly mediocre reception. The 360 version suffers from atrocious frame-rate issues and simply doesn't look nearly as sharp as the PC version. This was back when you were typically insane to pick up a console version of a PC game. Now, it's usually totally fine.

I couldn't find anyone to play multiplayer with. Which isn't a surprise because that was even the case at launch because everyone was playing Call of Duty 2 and Perfect Dark Zero.

Sorry it isn't available in 720, but that would just take way too long to upload on my connection.



Guess Who Won E3

Enjoy your glory, Jack, you are E3 2013's MVP.

E3s of past have always been insane. They always capitalize on the alluring effect of getting a glimpse into the future. The past two years have been dull and I've always said, “Yeah, this was kind of a whatever show. Just wait until we get into the next-gen.”

Finally that happened.

Universally everyone is saying this has been a fantastic show thus far. While it's debatable if Microsoft really wowed gamers or if there were too many shooters or not, this whole show has proven that videogames are still very much alive. 2013 hasn't just given us a glimpse into the future, but solid evidence that this industry we love is about to get some fresh energy injected into it.

First we had Microsoft's Press Conference. They showed a shit ton of games as promised but I would've also enjoyed seeing some of the system-level stuff. We saw Sony demonstrate the PS4's UI back in February, yet I don't have a good handling of what the Hell a XONE looks like.

Despite being the first guy that would shit on a Kinect-heavy press conference, Microsoft could have been well served dishing out some details on Kinect 2.0 and demoing some games. Kinect 2.0 (is that even the official title?) is technically an entire platform itself. Two years ago the original Kinect was treated as its own platform with a unique identity and given the full circus any new console gets. I don't know if this is indicative of low confidence in the new(er) motion sensing tech or perhaps Microsoft knows people like you and me just want to see titles like Titanfall.

I can't wait to see what Kojima does with an open world.

Microsoft started the show with a showstopper with MGS5. I think Afghanistan has a lot of environmental and historic elements that can play well within the context of a videogame. It looked gorgeous to boot! Metal Gear has always been very linear but has always held onto some fun elements that break linearity such as the memory card thing in the original MGS and the fight with The End in MGS3. I'm stoked to see Metal Gear break out of its very linear environmental design. With that, I feel Hideo Kojima is truly out of whatever sanity cage may have existed.

A lot of folks are excited for Project Spark. If it plays as advertised I will be the first in line for it. However, I'm awaiting to see how that game actually operates in a real environment before placing any pre-orders. I'm skeptical of how well it works or if whatever you create will be fun. Aside from that I'm excited to see Swery's new episodic game but everything else was kind of “meh”.

Microsoft showed up with what they thought were the big guns. While titles like Titanfall are impressive, the XONE doesn't appear to have any personality. Microsoft's robotic presentation and their idea of just tossing out game announcements like dog food is alarming. Not to mention the $500 price tag.

Next we had third parties. I felt EA's event was very by-the-numbers. Battlefield 4 was super impressive, but a known and familiar quantity. Seems like just a prettier more technically competent Battlefield 3, but for me that's enough for now.

Ubisoft was knocking out of the park with new properties.

Yet Assassin's Creed has simply run out of steam. I'm at the point where I'm honestly confused whenever someone is excited for a new game in that franchise.

Jack Tretton is E3 2013's MVP, hands down.

Sony's press conference started out dull with “megaton” announcements like TellTale's The Walking Dead coming to Vita. But the conference slowly started gaining momentum until the Sony train couldn't be stopped. Not even by a price point of a new console.

After playing a 15 minute demo of Transistor at PAX East this year, I can confirm that it plays insanely well. That game's commitment to atmosphere is astonishing. SuperGiantGames is shooting for the stars with the full package of smart gameplay, awesome music, and a creative art style. So far, they look that they are going to be successful.

Of course there will be indie games on the XONE, but Sony positioned themselves as the console for the people. They won hearts and minds putting the likes of Octodad on stage and if the reports are true, this console is super easy to develop for and indies can self-publish with ease. Anything that gets rids of the behind the scenes clutter and paves an easy avenue for indie developers to express themselves has my vote.

Given all the games, Sony was clearly going for the kill. They virtually put up every bit of bad press Microsoft was getting and saying the PS4 will be the opposite. The shear insanity that ensued after Jack Tretton announced the PS4 will allow used games and not impose controversial DRM plans will probably go down as my most memorable E3 moment ever. My phone almost crashed with the Twitter response.

It was then GiantBomb moderator Marino tweeted: “If Sony says the PS4 is $399 the roof is coming off that place”. I instantly realized that Microsoft was down. Sony then went on for about 10 more minutes bullshitting. We were all awaiting the price. I could feel that at that point Jack Tretton felt on top of the world and was living in his moment. He knew he “won”. Tretton delivered his final blow that he technically didn't even need. Yet he unleashed that $399 blow.

At that point I stood up from my couch and just yelled, “WHHHAAAAATTTT!!!!! Shit this videogame machine down, it's over!” It was the equivalent of a flawless victory in a fighting game match. No videogame thing has ever gotten a verbel response out of me outside intoxicating Rock Band nights.

Jack Tretton Divekicked Don Mattrick.

Don't get the wrong impression. I don't get into this “console war” bullshit. But I love competition. It's sexy to think that these companies are in a bloodbath for my dollar. I'll end up with both consoles anyway, but the show is entertaining. Simply how well Sony executed its middle finger against Microsoft was brilliant.

A lot of folks are asking me what console I'm getting. Right now there doesn't seem to be a big reason to get anything this November. Most of the PS4 and XONE's games are cross-gen. However, if you're crazy like me and want a new shiny toy, I'm getting the PS4 for the PSN Plus benefits and smaller price tag. I made the commitment to pre-order a PS4 and if I happen to find a XONE this holiday I'll grab it.

Still waiting for news on Kickboxes.

So who won E3? You did. We did. The game industry has been kind of lackluster the past two years. Thankfully the new generation appears to be pouring some energy in the mix and we're all getting great games out of it. What makes videogames amazing in this era is the incredible volume of options and power the consumer has. All major avenues to consume game are totally viable and offer their own uniqueness without heavily sacrificing anything.

So whether you share some weird allegiance to a corporation, sticking with Steam, or an insane person that just buys everything, sit tight because you have so many great things to look forward to.



How the Army Uses Videogames to Train Soldiers for War

Not nearly close to actually shooting.

Seemingly often I read articles or see news reports of the military using “videogames” to train soldiers for combat operations. I've been in the Army for 5 years and this isn't on the scale as one might think nor are we playing Arma to prep for war. More often than you might think I've even seen folks look at America's Army and say something along the lines of it being used to "teach soldiers how to carry out the real life mission."

A lot of Army training is half-assed and the virtual reality portion is probably the greatest example. I can appreciate a lot of it might be proof of concept and might just be planting the seeds for the Holodeck. However, most of it is an incredible waste of money and the soldier's time.

So what are my qualifications for critiquing a commonly used training device? I don't have a particularly unique or impressive career, but I've been around the block.

-I've been in the Army for 5 years, since I was 17.

-I'm a Cavalry Scout, a combat arms job that mainly deals with recon and is expected to be proficient with all the Army's standard weapons. Cav Scouts also have more tasks that they are expected to perform as a Private than most other entry-level military occupations.

-Deployed with an Infantry Company to Afghanistan 2011-2012. Conducted combat patrols and trained Afghan National Army.

The military have created the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) in hopes to cut the crazy cost of actually shooting weapons. I don't know if the Army gets some deal with arms manufacturers, but a single .50 cal round on the public market costs around $8. Imagine a single soldier firing 200 rounds with .50 cal machine gun? And that's typically the minimum amount of rounds an individual will receive to fire at the range.

Watch this short video below to get an idea on what EST is:

Ok, and here a few more videos. But you get the point by now probably.

Another EST video.

Annnnnnnd one more.

Ok, great!

Soldiers show up to a building to practice shooting in an ideal environment. However, these artificial weapons might share the weight and feel of the real thing, but the air compressor doesn't allot the same recoil as firing the real deal.

The fundamentals of marksmanship the Army teaches are as follows:

-Steady Position



-Trigger Squeeze

Some simulators try to stress the soldiers out, making them question whether to fire or not.

Due to the lack of recoil, I can fire a rifle in this training without using any fundamentals. Hell, I was chatting with my friend next to me holding the M4 in one arm knowing it's pointed at the target that will pop back up in 3 seconds. I got a perfect score. Normally on the yearly real M4 qualification I will shoot around 35/40 targets.

I recently had to do my yearly M4 qualification. This comprises of using 40 rounds of ammo to shoot 40 pop up targets that range from 25m-300m using three different firing positions during daytime outdoors. It also comprises of using certain equipment for firing during the night.

For whatever logistical errors, I wasn't able to be hooked up with doing a real night fire qualification. Our Squadron set up an EST training sight. For the night fire, we shot at a small blinking light on a black screen...

...not exactly Special Forces training.

For me this is ok. I've had plenty of experience shooting at night. However, a lot of younger soldiers aren't well-versed with using the night time optics and infrared lasers. Those soldiers got cheated out of some possibly good training.

EST does have some redeeming qualities. One element I appreciated in Boot Camp was the Judgement Skills Training. Here, the screen will play an interactive video. Imagine this as a live-action first person shooter with moral choices. Mind you I have zero control over the movement, but with my rifle I choose when to fire.

One scenario was built to reduce hesitation seen in a lot of early Iraq operations.

My “squad” and I were conducted a search in a suspected insurgent building. We kicked down the door with weapons raised expecting contact. We saw two men in the house dazed in confusion as the result of our violent entrance. One of the men said he had a bomb strapped to him and said he'll blow himself up if we didn't leave the home.

The dilemma was that there was no evidence the man was strapped. He also had no trigger in his hand. However, the man to his left had his hands in his pockets. Did he have the trigger? The answer was to immediately shoot upon receiving a threat that severe. If the man is strapped, it would've killed the entire squad and possibly civilians outside.

When entering a room after kicking down the door all action happens within seconds. No one has the situational awareness to truly assess the situation well enough to see if the man is bluffing. You just have to believe the threat.

Of course there are other good scenarios for not shooting people like entering a room and a man jumps off his couch scared as shit. These scenarios try to help the soldier build quick judgement skills on what is a threat and what isn't. The ultimate lesson is that if someone can be captured/questioned then they shouldn't be shot. Or to put it more simply, shoot only if someone's life is in danger.

There are also a lot of virtual driving scenarios that soldiers will use often before getting on the road. I went through virtual training before getting my license to drive the MRAP vehicles. It placed me in the cockpit of the vehicle but the windows were TVs. This was good training because those vehicles roll-over easily and it taught me how to use the vehicle's features to prevent me from killing the crew inside.

I'm sure tankers and fighter pilots receive similar training.

Regardless of recent advances, nothing is as good as getting out and doing "real" training.

The military is playing around with a lot of virtual reality training tools. Some of it is a huge waste of time, money, and resources. However, there is a place for some of it. Regardless, a soldier learns best with hands-on training. In order for any of this stuff to be successful, the military has to make sure these tools are accurate and give the soldier scenarios that can't be duplicated in regular training.



I just finished Star Trek TNG

Star Trek is seemingly that thing everyone knew about but me. I would always hear references to characters and episodes and wouldn't be able to participate in the conversation. Even as an outsider I recognized Star Trek (mostly The Next Generation) is a zeitgeist. It's like The Simpsons in pretty much anyone on the street of a certain age can name you the entire main cast and probably list specific episodes as their favorites. Frankly speaking, I felt horribly out of touch. My dad is way into The Next Generation (TNG) and I would watch it in passing growing up, but to a six year old boy TNG is too dry.

I really enjoyed J.J. Abram's Star Trek and noticed immediately that this fictional universe is incredibly convincing. The idea of the most ideal capture of humanity's future was appealing to me. Star Trek has the rules that makes a consistent universe work. Finally on a February evening I took to plunge into TNG and now three months later I finished the 178 episode series along with all 4 movies. Overall outside of a painful first 2 seasons and Crusher banging a ghost, I fell in love with the series.

What Star Trek does best is the suspension of disbelief. It skips the bullshit of aliens would obviously speak another language, thus it would take decades for humans to actually establish meaningful contact. Everyone just speaks English! It allows to series to delve straight into the main elements of exploring new cultures and how those cultures interact with humans.

In no particular order here are my favorite episodes!

The Measure of a Man

Written by: Melinda Snodgradd

Directed by: Robert Scheerer

The terrible second season did have one redeeming episode that happened to not only be one of Data's (the android character) bests but also a weirdly accurate portrayal of dark American history. This is a perfect example that demonstrates why Star Trek works without giant space battles all the time.

Starfleet wants to disassemble Data to study in hopes of creating more androids. This procedure however has a high chance of killing Data. Captain Picard along with the android crew member opposes this.

A court case is set into motion to answer the question on whether or not Data is a person or Starfleet property. Tackling these moral dilemmas is why TNG is great. Riker (The Officer with the beard) has to play the unfortunate role of opposing Data as a sentient being. He tried to prove Data is just like any appliance to the court by easily removing Data's arm without harming him and in a bold move simply turns him off like any other machine.

Picard playing defense eventually wins the case demonstrating that Data has pride over Starfleet medals and has even been intimate with a human. He explains that if Data is considered property, he loses his basic rights. At that point, Starfleet would be slavers and eventually frowned upon by other civilizations and future generations. Data is not only the realization of his creator's dreams but is an entire new species and must be treated with the respect any other culture would receive. Starfleet's mission is to explore strange new worlds and discover new life. Picard pointed out Data is new life, he and any androids that may be created after him must be treated with dignity.

This parallels slavery in early America. There was a case in which a black slave in the South ran away and found himself in the free North. The slave was eventually captured by his master. There was a court case that was designed to figure out that if this black man was the property of the Slaver or could be considered a person so long as he was in the North. Unfortunately, this didn't end like Data's trial. The salve was considered property.

Dr. Marin Luther King also released a short book titled “A Measure of a Man” which illustrates his definition of political and social philosophy and non-violent activism.

Best of Both Worlds

Written by: Michael Piller

Directed by: Cliff Bole

This 2 part episode is so insane it ended up at my local theater last month! “Best of Both Worlds” is known for being the most action oriented episode of Star Trek and for what is argued as the most intense cliffhanger in TV history.

As a polar opposite of “A Measure of a Man”, this is about the giant space battle. The Federation has to tackle their ultimate nemesis, The Borg head-on. Picard has been assimilated into The Borg, becoming the antagonist.

There are some great dynamics between an up-and-coming female officer seeking Riker's job as First Officer of the Enterprise. She eventually gets her position but only at the expense of Picard's capture and Riker moving up to captain. Riker then struggles to let go of Picard and make the ship his own.

The Enterprise eventually saves their part of the galaxy from being enslaved. Picard however, is haunted and will spend the next episode, “Family”, struggling to cope with the fact he's responsible for thousands of deaths.

Inner Light

Written by: Morgan Gendel

Directed by: Peter Lauritson

In this episode, the Enterprise encounters an alien probe the knocks Picard unconscious. He wakes up on an unfamiliar planet, yet he is known in the community as Kamin and even has a wife. Picard immediately rejects this as an illusion but after years go by he embraces his wife and community. After he lives out an entire life , Picard reawakens on the Enterprise. It turns out he never left the ship and was only unconscious for 25 minutes. The probe turned out to be an artifact of an ancient civilization that preserved their culture for other beings to witness.

Picard is saddened. He lived an entire lifetime as another man and raised a family. Yet somehow he discovers the flute that he played for his wife and kids.

This is an amazing episode that went on to win the 1993 Hugo award for best dramatic presentation. It also did a fantastic job at showcasing Patrick Stewart's acting.

I, Borg

Written by: Rene Echevarria

Directed by: Robert Lederman

The Enterprise brings aboard an injured Borg, part of the race of enslaving cyborgs we talked about in Best of Both Worlds. Being in the anonymous race of collective consciousness this drone has the simple name of “Third of Five”. The Borg don't use first person and lack individuality. Instead of saying “I will destroy your race”, Third of Five would say, “We will destroy your race”.

Between Guinan and Picard being violently treated by the Borg in the past, there's an extreme prejudice aboard the Enterprise. Geordi La Forge (that guy with the visor) and Dr. Crusher (red headed female) are more open minded of helping this young boy despite the rest of the crew seeing “it” as a threat.

After some heartwarming interactions, Third of Five forms a relationship with Geordi. Some of the ship's crew starts identifying Third of Five as "he" instead of "it". The Borg drone eventually becomes “Hugh”, embracing the individuality of a real name and also starts speaking in first person.

Picard believes this to be a trick. He pretends to still be apart of the Borg and orders Hugh to assimilate (turn into Borg and enslave) the Enterprise crew. Hugh objects, even referring to himself as an individual. At that point Picard he must decide to take Hugh back to the Borg collective or to protect him and let his newly found individuality grow. Realizing the Borg would never stop hunting for him, Hugh opts to go back.

A moral dilemma arises. The crew realizes that Hugh's experiences will be downloaded into the Borg. Then the Borg will have a split second of experiencing individuality. Picard choses to do that instead of committing genocide with the proposed idea of infecting Hugh with a virus. The possibilities of the entire Borg seeing themselves as individuals, even for a short while, are endless.

The Enterprise understand the Borg are evil, but only as a collective. They understand sending Hugh back without a virus to infect the other Borg puts the galaxy at risk of genocide. However, Picard begins to see the Borg as a race of beings that if they had individuality they may choose to choose a different life path.

This episode was probably the most emotionally impactful for me. Not a lot of fiction really gets to me, but it was truly touching when Hugh refused to kill off the crew and found his individuality. Also has a lot of good messages about not making hasty judgements against people.

Other episodes I really loved opening every description with "The one where".

Frame of Mind: The one where Riker is in an insane asylum and is being told he isn't in Starfleet and is crazy.

Lower Decks: The one where the episode pays attention to lower ranking officers that aren't reoccurring characters and them struggling with career advancement.

All Good Things: The one where Picard is traveling between three different time periods. Must assure people he isn't crazy. It's the last episode. Also, Q.

Remember Me: The one where everyone on the Enterprise is disappearing, along with their memories besides Dr. Crusher. Has the best line ever, "There's nothing wrong with me, there's something wrong with the universe."

Family: The one where Picard goes home to France and spends time with his brother. Picard struggles to cope with murdering a bunch of people as a Borg.



How Videogames Changed my Life

GamePro was my first exposure to videogame journalism. It legitimatized my hobby.

Everyone needs a center. Something that their life might not necessarily revolve around, but at very least drives them. That can be directly or indirectly. I've been taking a hard look at my life lately, something I've never really done before. I'm only 22 but I have had the luxury of having countless life experiences, most notably my combat deployment to the war in Afghanistan. My life has been in the fast lane, and that has been my purposeful doing. I want life experiences and the wisdom that comes with it.

My entire life can be rooted to videogames. That might sound a bit obsessive, but the thing that we like to think of as our fun little hobby has had such a dramatic impact on my life that if I were never exposed to them I would be an entirely different person. My love life would be different, education level, my current living location, employment, everything is the result of videogames.

How it Started:

Surprisingly didn't have a fondness for games at first. Didn't expect that one did you!? My parents owned a PC and a Genesis and tried to get me to game at a young age. I played games at an extremely casual level. I didn't know my Sonics from my Marios or my Quakes from Unreals. Most of my game time was me sucking terribly at Sonic 2 and giving up after 30 minutes to go outside. My Mom and Dad were way bigger gamers than I ever thought I would be.

Everyone I encountered was way into videogames. I almost got to the point I was outcasted for lacking in game knowledge or experience. Of course I accepted them and on occasions sought out game time but they were never an active thought on my mind. Just more like background noise. Yet every friend I made between Pre-School through early Elementary were way into gaming. Through osmosis I eventually adopted videogames as a hobby, but they still weren't my creed.

Probably the turning point my videogame playing career was Pokemon Red. That perfect adoption of a show I loved and a complex enough portable game was perfect. I was completely hooked! Pokemon was the perfect social tool. Through that game I learned about RPG mechanics, how to look up tips/cheats on the Internet, and made a ton of friends.

It was probably 1997 when I officially proclaimed videogames were my hobby. But I was confused on where to take it. Then in 1999 I found the Resident Evil 3 cover issue of GamePro. It was my first memorable exposure to games journalism. No one article jumped out, the magazine as a whole was a portal to a world I was interested in. It successfully engaged conversations about upcoming titles and industry topics. But I still didn't know game journalism existed despite having it in my hands.

This was a turning point.

Every weekend I would visit my friend Landon's house to play Tekken 3, Future Cop, or whatever dumb game we were into. He introduced me to G4 and I saw the likes of Tommy Tallarico and Adam Sessler talking games and it was then I knew I wanted to do that. I've already been helping my friends make purchasing choices on games for years, it clicked in my head that was an actual job.

I'm now in my Pre-Teens and have a solid hobby and a career in mind. Then I started listening to podcasts, reading articles, and learning everything I can about videogames. I continue to do this today at 22.

When I was 15 I met my first love, Liz. I know at 15 that sounds kind of dumb. Yet nearly 8 years later I look back and believe that little Steve was in love. I spent most of my small McDonald's earnings on flowers and shitty dates. We met on the Internet. Yes, that's lame as hell but it worked out fine. I distinctly remember her expressing interest in my videogame blogs early on and that made me want to date her. She was an active reader. I asked her out and we went on a horrible fantastic first date to John Tucker Must Die. We ended up dating for awhile. That was my first real exposer to a woman and I got over all my pre-teen awkwardness. Overtime I got a basic understanding on how to treat a lady. That girl even had me take a stab at poetry. Holy shit that hobby didn't last long! No, I didn't save any examples. I'm sure she still has some to show her future daughter to giggle at.

At this point I'm 16 and getting heavily into blogging on GameSpot. I was an avid listener of The HotSpot and started following what is now the GiantBomb crew. All this videogame writing eventually built my skills as a writer which lead me to advanced English courses in school. I always graduated at the top of my class. Videogames made me care about school. I saw English class as an avenue to develop my reviewing skills. My 10th grade teacher even helped me edit my game reviews.

My Sophomore year challenged me with a reality: If I want this game journalism job I need education and skills. My school district offers a chance to go to a technical school for your Junior and Senior year of High School. I saw their Broadcasting class as an opportunity to make myself useful in the game business. I busted ass to get my GPA maxed out and eventually was granted access to the tech school.

I was spending tons of time outside of school playing and learning videogames. My desire to get in the press drove me to become an expert in the skills taught in the program such as video editing, directing, and podcast editing. It was their I met my next girlfriend, Jennifer.

As High School came to a close a new reality hit me: college. How the fuck am I going to pay for this shit? I have a belief every able bodied young man should serve his country at a time of war. I believed in the conflict in Afghanistan to my bones. To my mother's dismay, I enlisted in the Army as a Cavalry Scout at the age of 17 and went to Basic Training at Fort Knox. I actually lied to my mother about what job I was going into. Being a Scout is one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army. I told her I was going in as Military Police. There were combined elements of patriotism and getting the means to break into game journalism. Not too sure if my love for videogames really made my decision for me. However, I'm sure it was the tipping point.

I proposed to Jennifer at my Basic Training graduation. We moved in together and made wedding plans. Behind her back I volunteered for an upcoming Infantry deployment to Afghanistan. As a young soldier, I desperately wanted to do my part. Being in combat arms without combat experience is embarrassing and shameful, even if it isn't your fault that you haven't had the opportunity. My unit just got back from a combat tour and was grounded for a long time. I took matters into my own hands and found a unit that was about to deploy.

That was in 2010. My paperwork was approved and was awaiting the deployment that year. It eventually got cancelled and I moved on with my life. I got an internship at GiantBomb in 2011. My first day there I was called to return to Ohio immediately to ship overseas. My internship lasted one week.

I spent most of my deployment exposing the rest of the men to videogames. The goal was to give them a hobby to distract them from boredom and the horrors of war. I didn't want them to be susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. You can read that full story here. I was also able to tell this story on Kotaku. This also lead me to have a little bit on Gamespot and my school paper.

In March 2012 my Platoon and I were on a dismounted patrol. We were ambushed by Taliban. An RPG round hit a wall I was standing against just (from what I'm told) inches from my face. I was knocked unconscious and eventually diagnosed with my second concussion. Over the course of the deployment I would have 3 diagnosed concussions.

I awoke in Bastion Hospital outside Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Two of my buddies were with me and told me they called a MEDEVAC, Airforce Pararescue saved my life. Immediately I called Jennifer to tell her the news. To my surprise she told me she didn't have time to talk to me. We were having relationship problems already and I decided to end it all their. I almost died, I just wanted 10 minutes of the lady's time. To think videogames lead me in that hospital. Maybe if I never went to Landon's to watch G4 I would've never been shot?

No regrets.

To think videogames did so much for me is insane. They inspired me in school, lead me to higher education, kindled two long/life changing relationships, made me go to war, and write this blog to you now.

Games have been a driving force in my life. I like to think I saved a lot of men's minds from diving into madness with games. Possibly that can be linked with prevented suicides. Our Brigade has had 5 suicides since the return home.

Good chance I would've never done this if not for games.

I also believe that they've benefitted my life. At no time was I bored in life, so I never got into drugs or got into serious trouble growing up. Thanks to the game industry, I've been inspired to chase a career. Even if that never develops I will still walk away with valuable skills and education. I believe I'm more well-rounded than the alternate-universe Steve who never got into gaming. I'm a more driven and experienced individual. Every major event since I was 10 wouldn't have happened if not for videogames. I've traveled the world, met tons of interesting people at places like PAX, and have stories to tell for days.

I'm now a student at Miami University majoring in Mass Communication with a focus in Media Criticism.

Please share stories on how games have changed your life for better or worse below!

Thanks for Reading!



Amateur Dumptruck: Interview with Divekick's artist Anna Kooiman

Divekick "Kickboxes" communicate everything you need to know.

Here's the link to my interview with Divekick's artist, Anna Kooiman:

The big talk in the fighting game community and at conventions like PAX has been Divekick. During the first day of PAX East, I couldn't walk 50ft in the Boston Convention Center without someone I knew asking if I've checked out this hilarious and weirdly legitimate fighting game from Iron Galaxy. Even when playing other developer's games, the conversation somehow went to Divekick.

From a distance, the game looks like a joke. Well, it was a joke at first. Before playing it, Divekick looked like some dumb flash game you would play on Newgrounds. To my surprise it was more than that. The folks behind the game somehow took that intense last 10 seconds of any close fighting game match and made that a videogame. Everyone has 1,000 health and attacks do a million points of damage.

The “Kickboxes” make the game and communicate everything you need to know. It's a two button fighting game. This means no stick either. I've been curious about fighting games from a distance ever since I can remember. The arcade era was a few years before my time so I feel like I missed my window to get in the genre. Fighting games seem to work best when a personal community is around it and any attempts to break into the genre has boiled down to me playing Street Fighter alone.

One of the loading screen messages in Divekick says, “It's better to master 2 moves than to know 20,000.” That sums up the entire game's philosophy. Even a guy like me that isn't well-versed in the genre can pick up a Kickbox and win matches. Don't take this to mean there isn't skill involved. Each character will take time to master and despite everyone having the same two moves they still all handle distinctively different.

Even with every character sharing the same two attacks, they all handle differently.

Some of the Divekick team came to Arcade Legacy in Cincinnati this weekend to have a tournament. Surprisingly, everyone already knew about the game and have even had chances to play it previously in other venues. I didn't expect random Street Fighter fan at the arcade to know about some indie fighting game, but the crowd was stoked to get their hands on it.

It's insane that a game that was built to be a joke at the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament in Chicago became not only a real game that you can buy this summer, but a game that's actually being taken seriously and that folks are screaming to spend a bunch of money on Kickboxes.

Something that didn't make it in the interview is that according to Kooiman, there still isn't a buisness deal made to get Kickboxes to retail.