So, it's been a week and my head is still in the clouds. For my birthday, I grabbed my favourite code monkey and together we drove from Phoenix to Seattle. On the way we stopped in San Francisco to deliver some candies to the good folks of Whiskey Media because I happen to be a chocolatier and what better way to say, "Hey, thanks for existing," than bacon caramels.
We completely expected to buzz the door, drop of the boxes and be on our merry way but to our (okay, my more than my road buddy's) astonishment, Perry gave us a tour of the entire office. I SAW PATRICK KLEPEK'S HAIR! And, of course, I fangirled over everything. (OMG There's the Red Phone. Look, it's MakerBot. Hey, we are standing in the room where Vinny fixed the sound card in the Joust cocktail cabinet!) They are probably still hosing the place down.
I can't believe how incredibly nice everyone was that I had the opportunity to chat with. I'm just a nerd girl with a box of candy. Nobody had to acknowledge my existence, but they did. That was pretty damn cool.
Alternating waves of excitement and trepidation washed over me as I took a seat in the styling chair at the cosmetology school student salon. This is the level of mundane I have acheived at the ripe, old age of 31; the intense thrill of getting a haircut by someone who possibly should not ever be allowed to wield a pair of shears. Before long my Stylist of the Day was happily snipping away at the hair I had so recklessly been growing for the past six months and, as is wont to happen, small talk ensued.
She asked if there was any special reason why I chose to change my radically style-free hair. I explained that there was a gamer convention coming up and, seeing as this is pretty much the only week of the year a nerd girl like me can actually get laid, I figured I would try to at least look as though I give half a shit. After she stopped giggling she uttered the inevitable words I have come to dread: "Oh, my boyfriend is a gamer". She then asked what games I play and I tried to express my love affair with Bastion as succinctly as possible, told her about the planned Fallout: New Vegas road trip my best friend and I are taking soon and explained why the Kingdom of Loathing comic book will be "the best thing ever".
She smiled and nodded and flung wet scraps of red hair to the floor. "That sounds neat. I don't play but my boyfriend is really into games. He plays this one -- what's it called?" My heart sank. "Call of Duty," I asked. Her face lit up with recognition, and with those three words my perception of a man I've never met changed from cool guy who is into cool things to just some dude who is dating a bubbly, blonde cosmetology student and probably bathes in Axe body spray. Backwards baseball cap. Honda Civic with one fake tailpipe and another three sizes too big. Sitting in front of a flat screen that costs more than his entire college education with his two roommates, surrounded by several dozen crushed PBR cans ... I could go on, but I don't think either of us want that.
Now, I am not going to argue merits of what is probably the highest grossing video game franchise in the history of modern warfare. Yes, it's popular, I get it. And if it were entirely shit no amount of marketing in the world could save it. In fact, I'm not going to go into the issues that I have with Call of Duty and similar titles because, honestly, that's not what this rant is about. What it really boils down to is this: Being into one game - the same game that half of the population of the world is also into - does not qualify you as a gamer. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. I don't even call myself a gamer. Sure, I have a passable knowledge on what's going on in the industry, and can bitch and moan about non-intuitive console control functions or my FPS being capped with the best of them. But that's where it ends with me. I played a total of 2 hours of the Starcraft 2 beta before handing the controls over to my roommate (who actually is a gamer). I find WoW about as interesting as a stripper named Candi (in that it's nice to look at for a while, but eventually I want something more, and preferably without having to keep feeding it my credit card number). And while I've watched the aforementioned roommate play through pretty much every major release from the past year, I've personally touched only a handful.
So, yeah, I am *not* a gamer, although I hope to achieve that rank some day. But, neither is Mr. Herp Derp Look-At-My-Big-Gun.
Or, to put it another way, the fact that you play Guitar Hero does not make you a musician any more than GTA makes you a master carjacker. And spending 16 hours a day shooting at your fellow bro dudes absolutely does not qualify you as a gamer.
"That's how the world works, Becks. Things glow when you can interact with them."
It is summertime in the Valley of the Sun. This now being the fifth year I have spent in part or in whole in the desert, I have acclimated to the point that I now reach for a sweater when the thermometer dips to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Those blessedly cool days are far away though, and in an effort to keep this month's electric bill below $300 for our little apartment, my roommate has moved his computer into our living/dining room, on the opposite side of the sofa from my "office".
As I write this, it is Sunday morning, and I am at work. Across the room, Raven the Wonder Roommate is lugubriously working his way through some previously unattempted FPS (I am going to assume it is FarCry 2 because he keeps complaining that he is out of malaria medication). When I turned around to see exactly what he was whinging about, he was in the process of entering a ramshackle hovel where a friendly NPC was seated on what can only be described from across the room as a tanning bed.
"What are you talking about?" Raven asked in that familiar, "My roommate is a girl and clearly cannot be allowed to play games" tone. "The dude you were just talking to. Why is he sitting on a tanning bed?" "That's a cot." "Then why is it glowing? I assume it's not radioactive." "That's how the world works, Becks," He explained. "Things glow when you can interact with them."
And that's when it hit me. In the world of gaming, instinct don't mean shit, yo. If the cot didn't radiate, you'd possibly never realize you could use it to rest. If there weren't one shiny lever in a row of rusted ones, you'd possibly not think to pull any of them. If not for a lamp hanging above that particular door, or a bell that goes 'ding' when there's something to look at or a friendly NPC leading you to one particular spot, how would you ever solve the puzzle before you?
Now, my first reaction is to point an accusatory finger at the modern gaming industry, with their fancy high resolution graphics and open world designs. Sure, when you've got layers and layers of background and set design, it could be difficult, even frustrating to accomplish anything, such as figuring out which palm tree the key to that conspicious speedboat I need to cross this random body of water is hanging from. Let's make it a little bit taller, a little bit brighter. Really pop. Because unlike real life, you can't go chopping down every palm tree until you find the bloody key (or can build a raft). Which would have been my first choice, honestly.
But then my old fashioned, text-based-adventure loving self begrudgingly had to admit that the pre-everything games I loved so much really weren't any different. Sure, there were no blatant audio/visual clues, but the same ends were reached through selective description. You're walking through a forest. You're walking through a forest. You're walking through a forest, there is a tree here. Why here? Is this the only tree in the Great Treeless Forest of No Trees Beside this One? Hmm, maybe I should inspect it. Oh look, a plot device!
All of this leads me to the conclusion that we members of the past generation or two have really been conditioned to look without seeing. The next time you visit a public restroom, count how many diagrams and sets of instructions you find. As if shitting weren't something each of us has done since Day 1. Our coffee cups warn us that hot beverages are hot, and our blow driers have tags to keep us from using them in the shower. Even the soda cup on my desk has an illustration reminding me to throw it in the trash. Are we really that far gone that our instincts have been reduced to a series of Pavlovian responses? Will our grandchildren be forced to wear a monitor when they go swimming to remind them that they cannot breathe under water, or set their watches for mealtimes so they don't starve to death? Maybe our clothes, dishes and houses will clean themselves, so that no one runs the risk of ever sleeping through a laundry day again.
We've all been there. Caught in a sticky situation we know it's too late to talk ourselves out of. At the tail end of a date that could have gone much, much better had you played things just slightly differently. Facing a difficult challenge that would be much less intimidating if only you had the option to save your game.
I know that, for as much as I try to live a life without regrets, I do find myself wondering just how different things would be if I hadn't sent that drunk text message to an ex, or if I had taken that promotion instead of quitting my job and running away to England or Seattle or Phoenix (you think I would have learned my lesson at least once). Hell, even recently I've been thinking that maybe if I got up just a little earlier this past 6 months and did yoga instead of heading straight to work, I might not be quite the embarrassment to the female form as I am today. And every so often I wish I had a magic save button, just for the piece of mind in knowing there was a do-over in my future, in case I really make a mess of things.
Sometimes it's a smack in the face that we live in the real world, and meatspace doesn't offer such securities.
This has been on my mind a lot recently. I'll spare you the gory details, save to say that with both my love life and professional career in rapid decline, the ability to stop, review and start over would be invaluable. But it would also cheapen the whole deal. What's the point in living if you know you can always go back and change the outcome? Where is the adventure in that?
I think that is the feature I like most about LA Noire; the lack of gratuitous saves. Once you have committed to a task, a line of questioning, an accusation, that's it, right or wrong. It doesn't matter if you're missing a vital piece of evidence and you know exactly where to find it. It doesn't matter if guilt is written all over the suspect's face. When you hear those chimes telling you you've fucked up, that's it. It's like life. You face the consequences. Granted, the consequences are minimal (oh no, I only earned 2 stars on that case. How will I ever be "Distinguished" now?) but they are still there. Okay, you can always quit and restart, but it means doing all the leg work over again. Collecting data, examining clues and going through lines and lines of interrogation. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. But when you have the attention span of a Mayfly, retracing steps and repeating unskippable dialogue is the ultimate form of torture.
Still, it is a good torture. It reminds me that you can't always cheat failure. And that is a lesson I forget all too frequently.
Part of me feels a little shallow. Even the slightest bit guilty. Fortunately I have a bottle of Johnny Walker Green Label to deal with that.
Why the inner tumult? The greater than average self-doubt and general feeling of social ineptitude?
This is the day that history will always associate less with JoCo's ode to outdoor fornication and more to the death of Big, International Super-Baddie Osama Bin Laden. As I write these words my news feeds are exploding with presumed facts and assured speculations. Social networking sites have divided everyone I know into camp "Go Team USA - Let's Go Fire Our Guns in the Air to Celebrate" and the wildly less popular "Let's Say a Prayer for the Lost Soldiers and Hope It's Over Now". But what weighs heavy on my mind this night? What singular event broke me from my gameplay reveries?
I am mostly certain Spike Spiegel has a cameo in Gemini Rue. Intentional or otherwise, this is very, very excellent.
I subscribed to the Valve YouTube channel so I could be first amongst my friends to see the Aperture Science commercials. I changed my TF2 name to Hamsterface GerbilTATTIES. I watched the launch counter on Steam tick its way down while my friends debated the merits of staying up to stand in line for the midnight release at their local GameStop (or worse, having to work the midnight release at GameStop). I stalked the hallowed forums and video libraries of Giant Bomb for previews and insider insights.
So, nearly a week after release, why have I barely scratched the surface? Stupid life.
As with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Challenger explosion and the moment the second plane hit the World Trade Center, I will always remember exactly where I was when Portal 2 went live: Singing NIN karaoke at a dive bar in Central phoenix. Hey, when the bartender likes you enough to pull out a stepladder so she can reach the good orange flavoured vodka from the top shelf, you don't stand her up on karaoke night.
The first pale indication that Wednesday would be yet another sunny day had already begun to silhouette the cactus-studded mountains near my home when that long awaited Portal 2 download finally finished. I passed out while Steam restarted itself.
Wednesday. Hump Day for some. A day of rest for those of us who haven't seen a proper weekend in 5 years. My roommate was smart and took the day off work to play through the game. He was even more dedicated than I, earning his Golden Potato a few days previous. That sort of left me to take the car in for maintenance and catch up on some of the sleep I had forgotten to do the night before. By Wednesday evening he was chomping at the bit, eager for me to catch up so we could co-op together without spoilering the single-player experience. I told him to bugger off and let me sleep. Well, I attempted to tell him to bugger off, but it came out as more of a pathetic, semi-lucid wail. I didn't even hear my phone ring when my Script Frenzy writing buddies called to see why I hadn't joined them at our weekly coffee shop meet-up (or why I hadn't come to pick them up for the carpool).
Which is another thing; April is to screenwriters what November is to people who enjoy acronyms. The creative sadomasochists behind NaNoWriMo host a screenwriting competition during the month of April and for some insane reason, I thought it would be a good idea to join. As of 4am I am only 72 pages into a 100 page script with a week to go. And only on level 19 of the game, barely past the training stages.
In the meantime, it has completely slipped my mind that this weekend marked an important time for Jews, Christians and Pagans alike. Apparently today is Easter Sunday. The busy week should have been an indication as travel agencies, like movie theatres, tend to attract more customers around major family holidays. Back-to back clients have filled my overtime laden days to the point I haven't been able to justify the shortest unauthorized break. Thank the gods Amazon had a meltdown and denied me the distraction of Whiskey Media.
In my defense, between birthday parties, Rock Band competitions and other obligations, secular and non, I've dedicated more time to thinking with portals than sleeping with my eyes closed.
So, this is my vow, dear Gods of the Internets. Tuesday I will play Portal 2. No more excuses. No more distractions. Well, aside from karaoke. And having my Trigun tattoo photographed. And making chocolate for the writing group. And ...