Because I know the community will appreciate this

The main event at my high school is a basketball tournament we host every year known as LIT.   It is the highlight of the year and was especially for me this year as I am a starter on the team this year!  
Anyways the relevance to the Giant Bomb community is that every year the tournament has a theme, and this year's theme was video games.  A big part of the preparation for the tournament is decorating the gym to fit both the theme and basketball, and this is primarily done with huge painted panels that are put on the walls.  I always look forward to the panels because often the chosen theme and basketball are combined in really great ways.  The talent level on display is crazy and keep in mind when looking at the photos that all the art was designed and painted by high school students with very minimal teacher assistance.  Plus my school is pretty small (400 ish students) and to put on a tournament at the high level of LIT each and every year is truly remarkable. 
 
But without further preamble, here are some pictures of the decorations put up in the gym for the tournament that I think the GB folks will get a kick out of. (just to help make sense of some aspects, the tournament is known as LIT, it is the 59th annual, an my school is commonly abbreviated to LCHS or just LC, so if you see any of those in the art that is why.)

 My schools mascot is a lion, hence sackboy lion.  And LIT highlited in "little" to connect to the tournament.
 A classic atari basketball poster behind the press box.
 Beneath the press box is the "Snac-Man" concessions.  The pac pellets are pieces of popcorn!
 A great mario themed one.  Too bad the pipe and fire alarm get in the way.
 Personally a think a basketball brawl needs more Pistons and Pacers players, but it will have to.  (Also not me in the picture.)
 I only know of this game because of it's quicklook, but apparently an artist of my school knew of it (or is maybe a giantbomber?)  The yellow building thing on the right is a profile view of the gym and is a symbol of the tournament.
 Now here is a game I would play!  Absolutely fantastic.
 Chilling out relaxing all cool all shooting some bball.
 I guess no one heard that Nintendo trademarked this phrase...
 You know, given Sonic's recent success this could maybe be a step in the right direction.
 I love how there is more than one pokemon panel.  This is awesome.
 The second pokemon panel.  Complete and total LOL at run being super effective against Shaq!!!!!!!
 Yoshi throwing a basketball = win.  PS3 controller player SNES games = fail.
 A friend of mine worked on this one and it is fantastic!  It is three panels making it one of the biggest in the gym, and the clever play on the BLOPS cover is awesome.  My school's colours are black and gold just so you know, and the 2/10/11 refers to the day the tournament started.
 Just awesome.
 No NBA Elite 11, but there's always LIT Live 11!!  This is probably my favourite even though I seemed to be the only one to find humour in that it is based on a game that never got released.  The art is fantastic!
 Just for context.  These are huge wall panels and the effort put forth into creating them was astounding.
 One more for context.  Check the mario sidescrolling going on down on the end wall!  (Also once again not me.)
Well that's all I wanted to share.  I have tons more pictures from the tournament of art, basketball, whatever, but these are the only ones that are relevant to the site.  I hope you enjoyed them they can be seen in higher resolution on my profile.
 
*Note I did not paint any of these, but I did take the pictures myself.
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Making the switch

I need to make a bold statement.  For the longest time I was a Gamespot guy (weren't we all?).  I am now officially a Giantbomb guy (a "duder", if you will).  I have nothing against the GS, and I wasn't following gaming press (and for that matter I was barely following gaming at all) when all the shenanigans with Jeff went down so that hasn't really affected my outlook on Gamespot.  The reason I switched from GS to GB was one thing, the Giant Bombcast, which is the weekly podcast created by the Giant Bomb gang.  Long story short I love it and listen to it regularly and always love it.  There is enough news content in it that I am kept up with what is going on in the world of gaming fully and good in depth commentary on specific games, happenings in the industry, and so forth.  Plus it is wicked funny.  I can't stress enough how genuinely entertained I am by listening to the Bombcast and how likeable and personable the hosts are.  It's weird, I feel like I know the crew on at least a small scale after listening to so many of their thoughts on things.  This it was what drew me away from GS and to the GB website.  Reading reviews that are always well written and informative from people who I feel I know where they're coming from, what sort of bias they bring to the table, and what they like and dislike in games not only makes for a better read but allows me to make my own judgment calls on reviews. Not that the reviews ever seem blatantly biased, not even in the slightest, but you cant ignore that all reviewers bring their own personal experiences and preferences to a review and at least this way I understand what's behind the review.
 
So to those of you who followed me on GS, I am sorry for just sort of dropping of the site.  If it makes you feel better I just wasn't blogging at all.  I wasn't cheating on the blog and blogging somewhere else:P  My plan from now on is to just copy/paste each blog I write so it is posted on both GS and GB because although I am fully a GB guy now, I have no followers and  am quite isolated in the community.  I am sure it is the same way on GS for me now though after being pretty much gone for a year :O  One thing I'll miss from GS is certainly the community.  I enjoyed being actively involved in unions in the past and met some pretty cool gamers and shared some good discussions.  I guess it's just on me now to get involved in the GB community.
 
To anyone on GS reading this I suggest you check out Giant Bomb, at the very least listen to the podcast.  That's what started my road to gaming website conversion and I am very happy I made the switch.
 
Oh, and belated merry Christmas, and happy new year!   A salute to 2010 is coming in my next blog.  So long!

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Better Late Than Never - 2009 Awards

 

I've been meaning to do this since 2009 official ended but just never got around to it. I probably should have done it while I was still on Christmas break because from the time school resumed until now it`s basically been consistent hard work. What little down time I had for gaming was spent gaming, not talking about games on gamespot. Well I wrote my finals this past week and now I have a few days off between semesters. Might as well blog again now before school starts up and I dont have the time or energy. And what else to blog about than the games of 2009?

Although I never really got out of it, 2009 really got me back into playing video games. The sole reason for this was that at the beginning of summer I got a job at Best Buy as a cashier. I assumed it was only going to be a summer thing, but I hve now been working at Best Buy for over 6 months, and I work in customer service instead of running a till all day. I really do enjoy my job, and angry customers are often very entertaining. After my second or third paycheck I decided I had earned the opportunity to do some splurging and bought a PS3 slim they day Best Buy got them in, which was actually almost a week before the scheduled release date. Working around games all day really made me want to play games, and for once I had the money to buy games. Better yet, as one of the perks of the job I can quite often score some sick deals on games. I buy considerably more games than I used to, but still in end spend about the same amount of money because of the deals I get. So basically I have access to cheap games, I have the money to buy games, and I work around games all day. It isn't hard to see why I got back into gaming

An interesting thing about my general gaming this year is that most of the games I played this year are older. Most of my best buy deals are because the games are "clearance" (and I use quotes because although complete crap goes clearance, so do a lot of excellent game. Case and point: Fallout 3 was clearance) so I was more inclined to by older games I had heard good things about. As well, only buying a PS3 this year I had a lot of catching up to do with some of the definitive PS3 titles. As much as I would like to wrap up 2009 be discussing all the games I played (future blog?) I will instead cease my rambles now and discuss my favourite games that were released in 2009.

New Super Mario Bros Wii

First things first, multiplayer mario is fun just not in the way one would expect. Mario is a solitary experience for the most part. Previous to NSMBWii the multiplayer aspect of mario had been in comparing yourself to your friends. Whether it was passing the control to your friend so he could play the same level you did in attempt to beat your score, or trying to best your friends speed run all the multiplayer was trying to beat your opponent, while still playing the game as a single player experience. This is what gamers were used to, and this is what gamers were expecting with NSMBWii. This is why I think the majority of the gaming public reacted harshly to NSMBWii's multiplayer. I personally enjoyed it. Get three or four friends running through the levels and its n absolute blast. It's frantic, exciting and it takes a great mix of skill and luck. It's accessible to all (the day I bought the game me and my parents played a couple levels) and doesn't try and throw to much at the player. Many say it is too casual. Sure the multiplayer is casual and I wont try to deny this. But is that so wrong? I played mario with my parents. You heard me, MARIO WITH MY PARENTS! If one insists on their "hardcore" mario they can still find that by playing the game solo in some of the later levels. That stuff gets hard! NSMBWii is one of my favourite 2009 games simply because it is a blast in a group, and offers a satisfying challenge played solo.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I will start out by saying I did not anticipate enjoying this game as much as I did. This game falls into the long list of games I only bought because I was curious about it and was able to get it for cheap. There was a week last summer where I had my friends xbox and played the campaign for COD4. It was awesome, and really showed me how far FPS campaigns had come. I really wanted to play the campaign for MW2 and that is all I really planned to play. The campaign did not disappoint. Although I would have liked to see a more immersive story, rather than over the top set piece after over the top set piece, dang were those set pieces awesome! And the ending? I actually laughed out loud when it looks like the game is going to do the COD4 ending again, but then doesn't. Just an awesome tidbit for those who played COD4. And then where the game goes with its ending? DANG! They tease you with COD4's intense ending set piece only to completely out do it with an even more intense ending. (OK I know that last bit was very vague, but I do not want to have spoilers. If you played COD4 and MW2 you know exactly what I am talking about). The biggest surprise with this game was that I actually got into the multiplayer. I am generally a single player gamer and bought MW2 with no intention of playing online, and only playing spec ops when I have a friend over. I made the mistake of trying the online, and was hooked. Although as school get more busy I gradually played less and less until I more or less stopped playing altogether, I was very involved with the multiplayer for a while, and I am sure I will jump back into at some point.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Interestingly enough I played Among Thieves before playing Drakes Fortune. This game was so good that once I had completed it soon after I bought Drakes Fortune. I was hooked on the characters, the themes, the humour, and most importantly the great gameplay. This game really define ths term "polish" when referring to video games. Everything looks so clean, and I'm not just referring to the graphics, which are fantastic. (I am going to say the best graphics I have EVER seen, and no I have never seen Crysis) By clean, I simply mean everything fits. No messy details anywhere in the game. Not only do the guns, the story, the characters, the settings, etc etc work, but they work together in a way that is truly stunning. The characters are absolutely fantastic. On the surface they are your typical action-movie cliches. But as the game progresses they reveal themselves to be much more unique. The familiarity of the cliches they are based on combined with the originality of their personalities combines to create characters that are deeply engrossing, yet at the same time safe and familiar. Oddly enough on of my favourite characters is Tenzin (pictured on the right). While not speaking any english whatsoever and without subtitles, he is someone able to convey a deep, selfless caring for Nathan Drake. It really has to be experienced, but the way Tenzins character is shown simply through his mannerisms is something I have enjoyed seeing in certain movies, but never in a video game. It is simply fantastic.

Borderlands

Easiest the biggest surprise of the year for me. I really took a chance on the game as well. Reviews made the game look fun, I was intrigued at the idea of a true FPS RPG (I say true because lets be honest, Fallout 3 is an RPG FPS, and yes there is a difference) but also skeptical. I generally do not enjoy FPS games, and I was well aware that this game was a shooter first, RPG second. Regardless, after several of my friends at work recommended the game rather highly I decided to buy the game, even though I wasn't able to save much with my best buy discount. Well I can now say the gamble paid off. Borderlands stole easily 40+ hours of my life and I loved every minute of it. I loved the art **** the shooting controls are near perfect in my mind, and by far the best feature of the game are the guns. There are guns galore to be found, and it keeps the combat feeling fresh the entire game. You are constantly finding new unique guns, or upgrading to more powerful weaponry and it really feels satisfying. It not only makes the combat exciting, but you really feel like you are being rewarded for the combat. Add in the RPG elements of traditional XP, levelloing up, and a skill tree and you feel all the more rewarded for your struggles. If I were to sum up Borderlands in one word it would be "satisfying". At one point in the game I released I was in fact level grinding my character. It was weird because I didn't make the decision like "oh well those guys up ahead are tough, need to level up". I simply enjoyed the combat so much and was motivated to earn the rewards of playing the game. Co-op online is awesome, but surprisingly I found the game to be quite fun playing solo, something almost every review seems to disagree with. This is the game I am closest to earning a platinum trophy (I am only missing two trophies) and I even bought the Zombie Island DLC. This game took hold of me in an awesome way and I am very happy I gave this game a chance even though I was not sure it was right for me.

And those are my contenders for GOTY 2009. Let me remind you that most of the games I played this year were not 2009 releases. Most likely in my next blog I will discuss what I played throughout the year, and then I can finally wrap up 2009 and be done with it! Anyways, that is why this list is fairly short. As well, there are quite a few 2009 games I have heard great things about, but never got around to playing. I'm talking about games like Assassin's Creed 2, Killzone 2, Demons Souls, Arkham Asylum, and Dragon Age. Of those games I am probably most interested in Dragon Age, but even then it is not really a must have on my list. As of right now I have more games than I have time so I am willing to wait it out until I can buy it for cheap. So if there is a game you put on your GOTY list and I didnt remember that no, I did not forget about them it just doesn't make sense to put a game I never played up for GOTY. And it's my list, I can do whatever I want! Honestly, video games are one of the most subjective forms of entertainment that is popular today. It really bothers me when people, usually internet forum goers, forget this.

But on to the winner!
 
 

Uncharted 2. Borderlands a close second, but really not that close For starters the most obvious reason to give it to Uncharted 2 is the graphics. When talking about MGS4, my previous best graphics ever game my friend told me that MGS4 had the bets graphics because they managed to make attractive women in the game that actually looked attractive. Going along with that I have to say Chloe and Elena > Naomi and the BB corps. But in all seriously aside from making very attractive females, the environments look awesome, the characters animate superbly and the game is full of colour which is very nice to see. And the set pieces That smiley is well deserved because that was my face throughout much of the game. The train sequence is simply spectacular (and it is talked about enough that I am sure most of you know what I am talking about) but it is not the only amazing piece. There is a helicopter chase culminating in a one on battle between a grenade launcher armed Nathan and an attack chopper. Or the awe inspiring truck chase which involves jumping from truck to truck before they explode or crash, all the while chasing a lead truck and shooting bad guys. After typing that out I realize how rediculous that sounds, but trust me it doesnt simply work, it fells completely natural. I could go on, but really the game must be experienced to appreciate. Adam Sessler from G4TV in his review of the game calls it "the best single player experience [he's] ever had". And I completely agree


And that's that. Let me know your thoughts of 2009 and what some of your fav games were.

 


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