My Second Language is Metal Gear

The Japanese use of the circle button. The overhead view. The fourth-wall breaking. The endless codec conversations, full of unique dialogue. The bizarre touches like sleeping guards, exclamation marks above rats heads, impenetrable easter eggs.

If the Genesis, SNES, and NES were my gaming preschool, the Playstation and Playstation 2 were my gaming education. I was only two or three when my dad brought home the PS1. He brought it home with some racing game, Contender 2, and a Pizza Hut demo disc. The very same disc featured in the first demo derby.

I remember stumbling through the Tomb Raider III demo but never figuring it out, watching my dad play the Metal Gear Solid demo, and shortly graduating to playing it myself--endlessly! I bet I've played Metal Gear Solid (and it's demo) more than I've played any other game, ever. The inimitable language of Metal Gear is one that has been burned into my brain before I had most of my phonetics down. I even brought the game case to Thanksgiving once, so I could look at the case and manual. I remember talking to my great grandma. "This game has mature themes (I pronounced it them-s), but I can handle it." I remember zooming in on the knocked out guards pixelated butt. You can see it if you zoom in far enough.

Watching Metal Gear Scanlon has been extremely eye-opening for me because I've never truly got to realize the games greatness, or strangeness! I'm mostly taken aback by how different Metal Gear has managed to be throughout the years, even as its moved towards traditional western conventions, yet nothing is really like it. Metal Gear is influential, yet it has no imitators.

I wrote a post about Wolfenstein and difficulty in games earlier this week, and realized that whenever the guards in that game went into alert status, I would take it as undesirable, if not totally recognizing it as some sort of interactive failure. This is a side effect of my stealth-heavy Metal Gear education. For better or for worse, my extensive time with Metal Gear Solid has informed every game I've ever touched in my life in some way. The series here on GB has made me re-appreciate it in a lot of ways.

I've been thinking. Has any other wildly successful game been so different, and remained so different and isolated? Has anybody else here ever grown up with a game so much that it changed the way they played games forever, without even realizing why?

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Difficulty, the Cinematic Experience, and Wolfenstein

You're playing a fantastic action game with an excellent story. The hero whom was down and out is now on the up and up, the soundtrack is erupting, and the stakes are higher than you thought they would ever be. You're in the heat of battl--whoops! You died.

Okay, let's try it again. You're playing a fantastic action game with an excellent story. The hero wh--Fuck! You're dead.

Okay, let's try once more.

Along with the grey/brown tinged FPS and the white male protagonist, the difficulty of games (or lack of) is nearly always on the chopping block. To explain that, we have to examine the obvious. Galaga and Pac-Man are more challenging in the first five levels than most games are by the dramatic conclusion. Why?

Well, quarters. But that isn't all.

The way we play games is fundamentally different. Instead of dropping a quarter, I drop $60 bucks and bring home a disc, (or not a disc) expecting to be immersed in...something. I can make up scenes in my head about the valiant crew of my spaceship(s) in Galaga and can pretend I'm the captain of my ship in Bosconian, but that's of my own creation, vague at best, and ultimately unimportant to the arcade experience.

Big, modern games are supposed to be fully engaging. As the player we expect fleshed-out characters, fantastic stories, well-detailed environments down to the textures on a tile floor, or the reflection of a cityscape on the rear window of a moving car. We expect gameplay mechanics that feel fresh and familiar, we expect voice actors to deliver their lines flawlessly, characters to emote with their faces and bodies. We expect the menus to be well-designed and a minimal amount of button presses necessary to navigate them.

When games don't do these things well--even one of them--they fail. They're right to fail, too. I'm not calling for the death of criticism. Without the ability to nitpick, most criticisms would be reduced to tweets written in Newspeak.

When you're engrossed in a game, flow is important. Many times I've had a game obviously want me to do a very specific thing in a very specific window and in a very specific way, and if I'm able to complete that task the payout is cinematic and thrilling. If I fail, the game is suddenly just a game. I'm not the ultimate badass, I'm just playing this fucking game. I'm suddenly in my living room again.

With mysterious pizza.

Right now I'm playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order on my PS4. I'm playing on the third to last difficulty, the one I perceived to be "Hard" but not "Extreme". I don't need that. I only mess around with crazy difficulties with games I absolutely love and am dying to squeeze life out of again. I'm on the last legs of the game and I'm looking back on my time with it and thinking I would have enjoyed it far more on an easier setting, or better yet, with no transparent setting at all.

Wolfenstein has stealth sections, but Wolfenstein also enables your character to dual-wield giant shotguns and blow Nazi soldier limbs into mist. However, I found myself taking the stealth approach nearly all the time because if I didn't, I risk alerting a commander, who will call in reinforcements until he himself is dead and the signal terminated. So I'm crouched, constantly using and retrieving throwing knives, using my silenced pistols to bag head shots before quietly exiting the area.

That doesn't feel like Billy "BJ" Blazkowicz, though. That doesn't feel like Wolfenstein, even if its still a great game. BJ Blazkowics erupted like a volcano out of a fourteen-year vegetative state to lead a charge against the Nazi regime that wouldn't end until the entire world the Nazi's had built was a pile of rust-colored rubble. Even coming into the game at a point where I knew exactly how it was supposed to surprise me, it still surprised me. It really does have great characters, even when the evil villains are just evil villains. It really is funny sometimes. It really is a serviceable story. To paraphrase Vinny, it's a lot smarter of a game than I (or anyone else) expected.

It's still thick as a fucking brick though. Yeah, it does have some pretty gut-wrenching holocaust-like scenes. It also has giant robots that shoot lasers and explode. The games tone during gameplay was off-the-wall, but since I chose a higher difficulty I was forced to play reservedly. I was constantly scavenging for ammo and going for the melee takedown when that game was designed for me to sprint into a group of men and spin around in a circle while two machine guns sounded off like buzz rolls.

Stealth elements and faux-cover elements aside, it's not a game to be played tactically in any practical sense. Popping in and out of cover is made awkward and when the going got tough, I never had an "epic" moment where I overcame because BJ is a machine. Instead, when I was having trouble with a mech, I would find an area the mech wouldn't get near and exploit it, because if I went toe-to-toe (like the game tonally wants you to) I would've been turned into hamburger meat.

Games that are punishing exist, and in droves. Super Meat Boy. Rogue Legacy. Don't Starve. Hotline Miami. They tend to be smaller games, because those can still subscribe to a more arcade-y type of punishment where you can die repeatedly over and over again and 1) Not lose any real ground and 2) Not be taken out of a greater story context, or world.

Maybe my favorite game ever. Man I love Hotline Miami.

It isn't that I have anything against difficult games because I loved the four I just mentioned. I loved the Souls games and am looking forward to Bloodborne. The problem with Wolfenstein's harder settings is that they water down some of the most spectacular moments of gameplay with clunky tactics.

All games that have difficulty settings and stories run the risk of the player experience being damaged because the player has to replay a section seven to ten times. It's like tunnel vision. I'm playing a game for four hours and the story is progressing, the action is good, I'm way into it and then STOP! I have to spend an hour replaying the same part because I keep dying, or I get stuck, and I start to lose sight of where I was and where I was going. I start hugging the walls and checking the internet, wondering if my game is busted, and at that point I am no longer immersed. I'm dying and re-loading and hearing the same music, I'm hearing the same dialogue uttered over and over again. It's showing me more and more of how the sausage is made.

No good! No good!

I don't need the games I play to be padded and I don't need them to be hard for no reason. Listen: I'm broke as hell, but I would rather spend my money on an incredibly tight and fluid six-hour game than spend fifteen hours being frustrated and bored half the time. Keep the settings in there when they're justified, but god forbid they're in a game in such a manner that fundamentally changes the gameplay and makes it a shadow of what it should be. Gaming is only getting more immersive, more real, and as this happens, game-breaking moments are only going to yank a player backwards even harder. The first time I see somebody clip through a wall while I'm wearing a VR helmet, I won't just frown, I'll be crushed.

I don't need mega-extreme-sledgehammer-my-balls mode, I need good games. I need experiences.

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Breakin' (Into Games Journalism)

I've spent a lot of time thinking that I wanted to be a writer of fiction. Ultimately, my body of work consists of the same autobiographical-fiction story I've re-wrote and attempted to write like fifteen times. I wrote a lot of pseudo-poetry in high school, too, but that's all garbage. I do think I have writing talent, and today I had a professor give me an A on my final despite not conforming to the rubric in really any way. He said their was something "unmistakably brilliant" in my writing, and I felt validated enough to write this blog post if nothing else.

As I got really back into games last year and this year, it dawned on me that maybe I wanted to go into games journalism. I wrote that off, though, until this past month. Mashable was looking for freelancers last week who were "knowledgable about gaming" so I sent along a few clips, and the three articles I wrote to send (a re-writing of a blog post about being a gamer dad/ gamer son, a piece on digital distribution, and a Rogue Legacy review) came with extreme ease. Chelsea Stark said she really enjoyed my personal essay! Hooray!

When I thought I wanted to write fictional stories, I would hear other writers say "Oh, god writing is just the greatest. I write and everything melts away, I just flow and flow and its meditation". I didn't feel this, and it was disheartening.

When I wrote about games (etc), that feeling came over me for the first time. It was all fairly natural, and I was really proud of the things I had said and the way I had said them. So, for the time being, the reality is this: I want to be a game journalist. I know that the written word is sort of dying if not just taking a backseat to video content across the industry, but I'm also totally alright with that. I love filming, editing, I love making videos. I love talking to people. I love the people in the industry.

With that, does anybody know how to get into game journalism? All of the people I like on the scene have been a part of it forever. Jeff went to CES when he was sixteen. It's like he was born into game journalism.

I could start taking journalism classes at college, but that somehow doesn't seem right? The degree I'm working on is English as it is.

How do I get moving towards game journalism?

EDIT: I suppose I should have written this post differently, because I assume that the actual writing aspect as a kind of minor function to all of the content I'd be involved with the production with. If I had came here and said that I wanted to work in games so I could do stuff like quick looks and UPF, I feel like I would've sounded like an idiot.

I do have editing/prod skills though, so maybe I will make some videos. That actually sounds great.

As far as working a 9-5 to support my dream, I'm already doing that. I'm a father and a husband. I'm going to college to teach, and I've thought about things like a career in games as a secondary, more elaborate goal. As far as journalism vs personality driven opinion pieces, all of the things I have written have basically been those. The concept that this website thrives on, "personality-based journalism/content" is what drove me to it, because I hate writing under standard journalism guidelines.

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I Sold Some Video Games and Now I'm Living in the World of Tomorrow

My PS4 is still new to me, and I have only managed to purchase two physical games since I bought it in July. I ended up selling both of those games last week, and when I arrived home, I realized that I had pawned my way into the future. I’m going on week two now with no physical media for my PS4, and I can’t really say I’ve felt it like I thought I would.

The first time I heard someone propose that physical media would die and digital distribution would reign supreme as invisible king, I guffawed. I thought collectors (and most consumers) would always want physical media, and then realized that while I prized my shelves of carefully curated physical media and ephemera, I only really watched movies and TV on Netflix. I realized that most people I know basically watch Netflix and don’t really mess around with cable. I watch The Price is Right every morning with my infant son. That’s it.

On top of this, I noticed that I had accidentally kept true to the PS4’s indie good intentions by only digitally owning one true disc game. It was Injustice: Gods Among Us, surrounded on all sides by incredible indies like Fez, Rogue Legacy, Strider, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Trials Fusion, and a handful of surprisingly competent free-to-play games.

It’s taken me a little bit to warming up to a future where I don’t dust off bookshelves full of plastic boxes, but I understand it. I used to buy CD’s, and the only reason I really keep books on the shelves is because it allows me to put on my fanciest pants in front of strangers who come to my house. It has nothing to do with practicality, sort of like collecting vinyl records. People can say what they will about fidelity, but every vinyl record I’ve ever bought is because I like displaying things and think they’re fun. I don’t have a reason to own an album physically, people don’t even buy full albums anymore—let alone tangible copies of them.

It’s a fairly new development that games don’t have manuals, and the backs of video game boxes are plainer and plainer because most gamers don’t walk into stores anymore and make blind buys. They don’t dual-wield boxes and read the copy on the back to make their purchase because as disc games become more expensive, the weird obscure ones cease to exist. Whenever I see a game in a store that is for Xbox One or PS4 that I don't know about, I’m blown away. All the information that used to be included in a manual was generally in-game anyway. Manuals were relics, even in the Playstation One/Nintendo 64 era.

The biggest hurdle for a long time was speed, and as the internet has gotten faster, hard drives have gotten bigger, and I can download games freely instead of playing the heart-wrenching puzzle game that was deciding what old saves to delete on a memory card. I don’t need to do that. Even when/if I fill up my hard drive, I can swap a larger one (or simply a different one) in pretty comfortably. The last hurdle is keeping up with the price drops of physical retailers, which is something that’s hard to wrap ones head around since their is no digital shelf space to free up.

In that sense, digital distribution is not quite ready yet. However, the libraries of games ready for download and the speed at which they can is better than ever. Personally, I still want The Last of Us on my shelf, it’s a handsome box. It’s something I can give up, though. In the end, I would rather have shelves full of things I really want to have on display, and not have to sacrifice space in my home to the two-disc copy of Cannibal Holocaust I bought when I was fourteen.

I remember reading about the world of tomorrow in elementary school, and hoping that one day I could just buy things on the internet and have them materialize in front of my eyes like Wonkavision. I can do that though, with songs, books, movies, video games. People can deliver groceries and pizza to my house because I clicked some buttons. I can’t download a glass of apple juice to my desk, but I can download a video game. I can get behind that.

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Are we officially in the new generation yet?

I have been shrugging my shoulders at the PS4 and Xbox One about as soon as I got over their announcements. As someone who has sort of been outside of the gaming loops for a little bit, I haven't been playing a lot of big stuff--mostly just Steam indies, emulators, and my 3DS now and then.

I started listening to the Bombcast again in my car a few months ago because I remembered how much I liked it, and got back into gaming big time--I caught all the E3 stuff, and as someone who has been spreading doom and gloom all year long saying "If this year isn't something special, these consoles--I DON'T KNOW MAN!", I was really impressed. Even the stuff I thought I wouldn't care for like LittleBigPlanet 3 looked surprisingly fun, and fresh. I got all hype for the new Battlefront even though DICE had nothing to show off, and I think that Criterion's first-person car thing looks super cool, and could be incredible with the Morpheus/Rift.

Point being, I still feel like most games coming out are cross-generational, and I just wondered--is 2015 going to be the year we really feel the weight of these consoles? Obviously we're in uncharted territory what with the super long life cycle of the previous generation, but I just feel like the new boxes are really gonna matter this coming year.

I'm all full of joy and my birthday is in July, so I'm hoping to scoop a PS4 up!

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I Am The Dad

When I was in pre-school, I would not answer to my first name, or any variation of it. I would only answer if somebody called me Indy, or Indiana. I would even settle for Doctor Jones. I'd spent afternoons and even days pretending I was on some grand adventure, and I even had a handful of leather whips I'd got at Native American shops in Mackinac Island. I would go in the big pole barn and try to swing across the rafters. This was far more effective than the time I got the Spider-Man web shooters that shot silly spring and not giant spider webs. I bruised my tailbone on the cement.

I don't have a great story about the first game I ever played, or the first movie I ever watched. Whenever that happened, it happened too early and my mind has since recorded over it. It's probably a safe bet though that one of the first games I played was Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures on the SNES. This was the first time I was ever really immersed in a game, and even with those paltry sixteen bits (retrospectively) I was living in the skin of my cinematic hero.

It was my gateway title, and I soon pillaged the SNES library at my grandparents house. Super Mario World, Super Return of the Jedi, Black Bass, and Sonic Blast Man. I'd rent games from the convenience store every weekend, and would buy used Sega Genesis games from Funcoland.

I remember when my dad brought home the Playstation. He brought it home with some boxing game I don't remember very well, and a Pizza Hut Demo Disc.

It had demos for Tomb Raider III, MediEvil, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, and most importantly, Metal Gear Solid.

I played that Metal Gear Solid demo endlessly. It went from the opening scene to the Darpa Chief meeting, and I bet I played it 1,000 times. This was the second time a game had really, really pulled me in! I would wear Ski Goggles around the house and a headband, sneaking from wall to wall. A girl in my first grade class had this purple coat with a bunch of square puffs all over it, and I wanted it so bad--I thought it was a Solid Snake coat. I didn't understand that Solid Snake was supposed to have abdominal muscles. On the playground, I would make daring escapes from nobody on the jungle gym and crouch down under the slide with my hand cupped around my neck, making and receiving burst transmissions on my Codec. My friends played Soccer, and a bastardized version of Rugby--but us American kids didn't know what the hell Rugby really was. They just played a version of football where they clotheslined and punched people. This was the eventual bitterness of disconnect, though. My friends wanted to play sports everyday. They didn't want to play tag anymore, and they really didn't want to play Star Wars. I played by myself.

My dad was into video games and Star Wars too. He was very much a Gen-X'er. He was also deep into sports, and cars. At family gatherings, my cousins and uncles and whoever else would congregate and talk about the big game and all that, and I felt like such an asshole. I was never made to feel like a bad son, but that's exactly how I felt. What kind of a son was I, when I didn't want to play football? When I didn't know any sports stats? Was I even a boy? I remember trying really hard to relate to my friends on this level, telling them one day how I woke up for school late on my bedroom floor covered in potato chips, with Sportscenter on my TV. Somewhere I heard my friend Richard say that the sports commentator Dick Vitale "talks too much", and this would become my line in the middle of people talking over my head about sports.

"Dick Vitale talks too much," I would say, unsure.

In 3rd grade I got a subscription to GamePro. On a month-by-month basis, I seethed with anticipation. I would look at screenshots of new games and upcoming ones and imagine scenes playing out, sort of like paper dolls. Years later an ad ran for The Godfather video game. It was a full-spread and you could see exploding storefronts, the Don with his sack of oranges, people having rooftop shootouts, and I would stare at this ad for hours, thinking of the possibilities. I would imagine all the things I would, and could do in the game. I remember seeing the first look at The Simpsons Hit & Runand being so excited, I went to school and told my friend Devon a bunch of lies about it, basically extrapolating that the stuff I was imaging in my head had to be in the game.

"Yeah man! You can play as Maggie in a stroller and blow people away with a shotgun!"

Nope! You couldn't!

We would get these weekly, or at least bi-monthly surveys handed out to us. They would ask us if we felt safe at school, how we felt on the bus, how our teachers treated us, and then it had a questionnaire where one would bubble in how many hours they spent a week playing outside, watching TV, or playing video games. I was always very excited when I got to make a dark mark in the bubble that said 20+ Hours. It wasn't all alone time though, and I was delighted whenever I could get my parents into gaming too.

Like I said before, my dad and I played that short demo for Metal Gear Solid a lot, which led to us ending up with Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions by accident. Nonetheless, we played the shit out of that game, and theirs an old home video somewhere where my mom walks through the house, and my dad and I are sitting on the floor playing it. We also had a copy of Namco Museum Vol. 1 and my parents would play Toy Pop and they would call me in to play the bonus stage with the apples. It is one of the only prominent memories I have of my parents being happy together. One of my earliest memories of them fighting is over Norse by Norse West: The Return of the Lost Vikings.

Apparently it's pretty tough.

I spent a lot of afternoons walking around the virtual museums while they fought downstairs. As they grew apart though, they still played with me. I eventually received a PS2, and my mom would play The Urbz: Sims in the City, Fatal Frame, and Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. My dad and I would play Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel, and a lot of Guitar Hero.

Things faded between them, and my brother and I ended up downstate with my mom. She was never home, so we rode bicycles, watched a lot of Scrubs, and played video games. I played Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction until it stopped booting. After that we would marathon Bully. The same way some people go on GTA rampages to let some stress out, I would beat the shit out of waves of people in Bully to counteract the fact that I was called a fag everyday at school because I didn't want to play football in someones yard. Even among the friends I made, I was still "that gay, new kid".

We only lived there for a few months before my parents got together. We moved back with my dad in Christmas of 2007, the same Christmas I got a PS3. I haven't even played a current-gen console yet so I can't speak to it, but booting up Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one of the most spectacular moments I've ever had in video games. In only a matter of months after this, my parents split up again. My mom only moved across town this time, and things started getting really bad for me. So in games I stayed, and when I packed my black duffle bag every weekend before departing for one of my parents house, it had these items:

  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Bar soap
  • Shampoo
  • Clothes
  • PS3
  • Controller(s)
  • Games

It wasn't that the other house didn't have bar soap or shampoo, but when one has to travel a lot, they find they're not a very particular person, or a very particular one. I remember one day my dad brought home a Zune, and gave it to me. I had never even heard of it, but as someone who had always wanted an iPod and now had something similar, I was blown away. I spent like four hours looking at Podcasts that night downloading stuff just because, and came across the Giant Bombcast by accident. It was in August of 2008, so Giant Bomb was still pretty new. I listened to this on the bus and for hours at night lying in bed. I did this through most of High School. I had a lot of friends, and mostly different sets of friends every year but I still didn't know who I was. I didn't really want to hangout with anybody outside of school and I wasn't participating in anything with my family. I was withdrawn, and in a weird way, the Giant Bomb crew became my friends.

I would have long, drawn-out daydreams where I would see Jeff, Ryan, or Brad in a grocery store or something and they would ask me if I wanted to cover TGS with them. Lately, actually I've been really thinking that maybe I want to get into game journalism, so this dream lives on. Only, I tend to imagine I'll run into Ryan. Then I end up being real sad at work, about someone who is ultimately a stranger to me.

When I was shut-down all the time though, Giant Bomb would make me laugh. They would keep me in the loop, and I did find people in the forums to "talk shop" with about video games the same way my relatives would about sports. It was elating to know that their were people like me. The first podcast I heard right after a Super Bowl, members of the crew would just shrug and say "Because I don't care about the Super Bowl". That felt good. The podcast and the forums were my first windows into the gaming community, where it was the thing that you did, and not just a thing that you did.

My semi-respectable PS3 library was cut in half when my moms live-in boyfriend at the time stole and sold a bunch of my stuff to a pawn shop. My mom tried to tell me that it was one of my brothers friends or a homeless guy she had seen riding his bike in the area. My brothers friends were all under ten though, and that homeless guy lived four houses down from us. He just had long hair and liked flannel. I told her I thought it was her boyfriend, but then she shouted me down. My brother and I's television was stolen, so she changed the locks. About two weeks after, all of her jewelry went missing, including a bunch of gold jewelry my dad sent home from Kuwait when he was deployed. No forced lock, no open windows. She claimed that somebody broke in, took all the jewelry, and also ate half of a stick of pepperoni and left it on the counter. So I guess the Trailer Park Boys robbed us. I still had 15-20 titles though, and I took to bringing them with me to school and keeping them in my locker during the day.

Towards the back end of high school, I ended up meeting the woman who would become my wife, and the mother of my child. I played games to pass the I had between going home at night and sleeping. Situations were breaking down at home; I moved out the day before I finished High School. The year since has been the most beautiful of my life, but also the most different and stressful. I finished High School a year and a month ago. I started college 9 months ago. My son was born 8 months ago. I got my first real job 8 months ago. I lost my first real job 5 months ago, and got a much better job 4 months ago.

Honestly since sometime in 2012, I've been sort of out of the gaming loop. I stopped posting in forums, I stopped visiting press sites. Most of this year I had just been fooling around with indies on Steam, emulators, and a 3DS I had won by chance. It was all pretty rare, though. The few short weeks I faced of unemployment were rough, and retrospectively I'm lucky to have only faced such a prospect for that short amount of time.

That time off though really let me sink into my dad skin, though. I was waking up with my son and letting my other half sleep in however long she wanted, and my son and I would go downstairs. We would play, watch movies and TV shows, and it got me thinking of those salad days of yore with my dad. It made me excited for the first time I could show my son the things that defined my youth. Naturally, I decided to put onRaiders of the Lost Ark. Now, I have no delusions--I didn't think my (at the time) 5-month-old would appreciate it, or even pay attention, but he ended up quietly and attentively sitting through the whole thing. It was obviously the perfect storm of lighting or sound or color or something, because he was just sitting there with me in silence watching it.

When my fiancee was pregnant and it was still a secret, I was writing a lot of poetry, or just little short form prose notes. I would refer to my son as "sesame seed" because I remember when we were reading about how far along he was in development, and sesame seed was just the one I always thought was the neatest. My fiancee was "My matryoshka doll" fiancee. I would wax all the time about how I was making a human being, and how I would get to show a living, breathing person the sun, moon, and the stars. Big stuff. Oceans! I never thought though about the stuff that defined my childhood. I never thought, "Oh, god I can't wait to show my son ice cream." or "Man, I can't wait until we can play Street Fighter II and Tekken.

Long boxes!

That's the stuff that really mattered to me, and played huge parts in shaping me into the husband and father I am right now. I don't remember the first time my dad took me to watch a sunset, I remember the first time I stabbed his ass to death in Tekken withYoshimitsu. I remember the first time he spun me out on a go-kart track, and I remember him playing Spider-Man with me on the PS1 and then mailing me a copy ofSpider-Man for the PS2 from Iraq. I remember writing him a thank you letter/christmas card and crying on the page by accident, circling the dark spot and labeling it "My tear". I remember getting up at 5 in the morning on Sunday mornings to watch Bozo the Clown and CHiPs.

That's the stuff I can't wait for. I can't wait to surprise him at school with fast food lunch, or take my family to Disney World. I can't wait to show him all the games I played when I was a kid, and him to show me the games he likes. I can't wait to take my family to the movies. He's really lucky, in that way--he's going to get to grow up with the MCU, and the new Star Wars movies! I can only hope that he will be ready for his first movie by the time Episode VII comes out.

My childhood was cut short, and most of my formative years ended up sour. I went down a lot of rough roads and spent a lot of my teen years not caring about what happened to me in the future, and not really planning on one. No one could have ever predicted my life would have gone this way, but I would have it no other way. I love my wife and son. I love being a father and a husband. I can't wait for all the big stuff, but I'm dying for all the little things.

My wife, my son, and I.

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Paper Dolls

When I was in pre-school, I would not answer to my first name, or any variation of it. I would only answer if somebody called me Indy, or Indiana. I would even settle for Doctor Jones. I'd spent afternoons and even days pretending I was on some grand adventure, and I even had a handful of leather whips I'd got at Native American shops in Mackinac Island. I would go in the big pole barn and try to swing across the rafters. This was far more effective than the time I got the Spider-Man web shooters that shot silly spring and not giant spider webs. I bruised my tailbone on the cement.

I don't have a great story about the first game I ever played, or the first movie I ever watched. Whenever that happened, it happened too early and my mind has since recorded over it. It's probably a safe bet though that one of the first games I played was Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures on the SNES. This was the first time I was ever really immersed in a game, and even with those paltry sixteen bits (retrospectively) I was living in the skin of my cinematic hero.

It was my gateway title, and I soon pillaged the SNES library at my grandparents house. Super Mario World, Super Return of the Jedi, Black Bass, and Sonic Blast Man. I'd rent games from the convenience store every weekend, and would buy used Sega Genesis games from Funcoland.

I remember when my dad brought home the Playstation. He brought it home with some boxing game I don't remember very well, and a Pizza Hut Demo Disc.

It had demos for Tomb Raider III, MediEvil, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, and most importantly, Metal Gear Solid.

I played that Metal Gear Solid demo endlessly. It went from the opening scene to the Darpa Chief meeting, and I bet I played it 1,000 times. This was the second time a game had really, really pulled me in! I would wear Ski Goggles around the house and a headband, sneaking from wall to wall. A girl in my first grade class had this purple coat with a bunch of square puffs all over it, and I wanted it so bad--I thought it was a Solid Snake coat. I didn't understand that Solid Snake was supposed to have abdominal muscles. On the playground, I would make daring escapes from nobody on the jungle gym and crouch down under the slide with my hand cupped around my neck, making and receiving burst transmissions on my Codec. My friends played Soccer, and a bastardized version of Rugby--but us American kids didn't know what the hell Rugby really was. They just played a version of football where they clotheslined and punched people. This was the eventual bitterness of disconnect, though. My friends wanted to play sports everyday. They didn't want to play tag anymore, and they really didn't want to play Star Wars. I played by myself.

My dad was into video games and Star Wars too. He was very much a Gen-X'er. He was also deep into sports, and cars. At family gatherings, my cousins and uncles and whoever else would congregate and talk about the big game and all that, and I felt like such an asshole. I was never made to feel like a bad son, but that's exactly how I felt. What kind of a son was I, when I didn't want to play football? When I didn't know any sports stats? Was I even a boy? I remember trying really hard to relate to my friends on this level, telling them one day how I woke up for school late on my bedroom floor covered in potato chips, with Sportscenter on my TV. Somewhere I heard my friend Richard say that the sports commentator Dick Vitale "talks too much", and this would become my line in the middle of people talking over my head about sports.

"Dick Vitale talks too much," I would say, unsure.

In 3rd grade I got a subscription to GamePro. On a month-by-month basis, I seethed with anticipation. I would look at screenshots of new games and upcoming ones and imagine scenes playing out, sort of like paper dolls. Years later an ad ran for The Godfather video game. It was a full-spread and you could see exploding storefronts, the Don with his sack of oranges, people having rooftop shootouts, and I would stare at this ad for hours, thinking of the possibilities. I would imagine all the things I would, and could do in the game. I remember seeing the first look at The Simpsons Hit & Run and being so excited, I went to school and told my friend Devon a bunch of lies about it, basically extrapolating that the stuff I was imaging in my head had to be in the game.

"Yeah man! You can play as Maggie in a stroller and blow people away with a shotgun!"

Nope! You couldn't!

We would get these weekly, or at least bi-monthly surveys handed out to us. They would ask us if we felt safe at school, how we felt on the bus, how our teachers treated us, and then it had a questionnaire where one would bubble in how many hours they spent a week playing outside, watching TV, or playing video games. I was always very excited when I got to make a dark mark in the bubble that said 20+ Hours. It wasn't all alone time though, and I was delighted whenever I could get my parents into gaming too.

Like I said before, my dad and I played that short demo for Metal Gear Solid a lot, which led to us ending up with Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions by accident. Nonetheless, we played the shit out of that game, and theirs an old home video somewhere where my mom walks through the house, and my dad and I are sitting on the floor playing it. We also had a copy of Namco Museum Vol. 1 and my parents would play Toy Pop and they would call me in to play the bonus stage with the apples. It is one of the only prominent memories I have of my parents being happy together. One of my earliest memories of them fighting is over Norse by Norse West: The Return of the Lost Vikings.

Apparently it's pretty tough.

I spent a lot of afternoons walking around the virtual museums while they fought downstairs. As they grew apart though, they still played with me. I eventually received a PS2, and my mom would play The Urbz: Sims in the City, Fatal Frame, and Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. My dad and I would play Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel, and a lot of Guitar Hero.

Things faded between them, and my brother and I ended up downstate with my mom. She was never home, so we rode bicycles, watched a lot of Scrubs, and played video games. I played Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction until it stopped booting. After that we would marathon Bully. The same way some people go on GTA rampages to let some stress out, I would beat the shit out of waves of people in Bully to counteract the fact that I was called a fag everyday at school because I didn't want to play football in someones yard. Even among the friends I made, I was still "that gay, new kid".

We only lived there for a few months before my parents got together. We moved back with my dad in Christmas of 2007, the same Christmas I got a PS3. I haven't even played a current-gen console yet so I can't speak to it, but booting up Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one of the most spectacular moments I've ever had in video games. In only a matter of months after this, my parents split up again. My mom only moved across town this time, and things started getting really bad for me. So in games I stayed, and when I packed my black duffle bag every weekend before departing for one of my parents house, it had these items:

  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Bar soap
  • Shampoo
  • Clothes
  • PS3
  • Controller(s)
  • Games

It wasn't that the other house didn't have bar soap or shampoo, but when one has to travel a lot, they find they're not a very particular person, or a very particular one. I remember one day my dad brought home a Zune, and gave it to me. I had never even heard of it, but as someone who had always wanted an iPod and now had something similar, I was blown away. I spent like four hours looking at Podcasts that night downloading stuff just because, and came across the Giant Bombcast by accident. It was in August of 2008, so Giant Bomb was still pretty new. I listened to this on the bus and for hours at night lying in bed. I did this through most of High School. I had a lot of friends, and mostly different sets of friends every year but I still didn't know who I was. I didn't really want to hangout with anybody outside of school and I wasn't participating in anything with my family. I was withdrawn, and in a weird way, the Giant Bomb crew became my friends.

I would have long, drawn-out daydreams where I would see Jeff, Ryan, or Brad in a grocery store or something and they would ask me if I wanted to cover TGS with them. Lately, actually I've been really thinking that maybe I want to get into game journalism, so this dream lives on. Only, I tend to imagine I'll run into Ryan. Then I end up being real sad at work, about someone who is ultimately a stranger to me.

When I was shut-down all the time though, Giant Bomb would make me laugh. They would keep me in the loop, and I did find people in the forums to "talk shop" with about video games the same way my relatives would about sports. It was elating to know that their were people like me. The first podcast I heard right after a Super Bowl, members of the crew would just shrug and say "Because I don't care about the Super Bowl". That felt good. The podcast and the forums were my first windows into the gaming community, where it was the thing that you did, and not just a thing that you did.

My semi-respectable PS3 library was cut in half when my moms live-in boyfriend at the time stole and sold a bunch of my stuff to a pawn shop. My mom tried to tell me that it was one of my brothers friends or a homeless guy she had seen riding his bike in the area. My brothers friends were all under ten though, and that homeless guy lived four houses down from us. He just had long hair and liked flannel. I told her I thought it was her boyfriend, but then she shouted me down. My brother and I's television was stolen, so she changed the locks. About two weeks after, all of her jewelry went missing, including a bunch of gold jewelry my dad sent home from Kuwait when he was deployed. No forced lock, no open windows. She claimed that somebody broke in, took all the jewelry, and also ate half of a stick of pepperoni and left it on the counter. So I guess the Trailer Park Boys robbed us. I still had 15-20 titles though, and I took to bringing them with me to school and keeping them in my locker during the day.

Towards the back end of high school, I ended up meeting the woman who would become my wife, and the mother of my child. I played games to pass the I had between going home at night and sleeping. Situations were breaking down at home; I moved out the day before I finished High School. The year since has been the most beautiful of my life, but also the most different and stressful. I finished High School a year and a month ago. I started college 9 months ago. My son was born 8 months ago. I got my first real job 8 months ago. I lost my first real job 5 months ago, and got a much better job 4 months ago.

Honestly since sometime in 2012, I've been sort of out of the gaming loop. I stopped posting in forums, I stopped visiting press sites. Most of this year I had just been fooling around with indies on Steam, emulators, and a 3DS I had won by chance. It was all pretty rare, though. The few short weeks I faced of unemployment were rough, and retrospectively I'm lucky to have only faced such a prospect for that short amount of time.

That time off though really let me sink into my dad skin, though. I was waking up with my son and letting my other half sleep in however long she wanted, and my son and I would go downstairs. We would play, watch movies and TV shows, and it got me thinking of those salad days of yore with my dad. It made me excited for the first time I could show my son the things that defined my youth. Naturally, I decided to put on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, I have no delusions--I didn't think my (at the time) 5-month-old would appreciate it, or even pay attention, but he ended up quietly and attentively sitting through the whole thing. It was obviously the perfect storm of lighting or sound or color or something, because he was just sitting there with me in silence watching it.



When my fiancee was pregnant and it was still a secret, I was writing a lot of poetry, or just little short form prose notes. I would refer to my son as "sesame seed" because I remember when we were reading about how far along he was in development, and sesame seed was just the one I always thought was the neatest. My fiancee was "My matryoshka doll" fiancee. I would wax all the time about how I was making a human being, and how I would get to show a living, breathing person the sun, moon, and the stars. Big stuff. Oceans! I never thought though about the stuff that defined my childhood. I never thought, "Oh, god I can't wait to show my son ice cream." or "Man, I can't wait until we can play Street Fighter II and Tekken.

Long boxes!

That's the stuff that really mattered to me, and played huge parts in shaping me into the husband and father I am right now. I don't remember the first time my dad took me to watch a sunset, I remember the first time I stabbed his ass to death in Tekken with Yoshimitsu. I remember the first time he spun me out on a go-kart track, and I remember him playing Spider-Man with me on the PS1 and then mailing me a copy of Spider-Man for the PS2 from Iraq. I remember writing him a thank you letter/christmas card and crying on the page by accident, circling the dark spot and labeling it "My tear". I remember getting up at 5 in the morning on Sunday mornings to watch Bozo the Clown and CHiPs.

That's the stuff I can't wait for. I can't wait to surprise him at school with fast food lunch, or take my family to Disney World. I can't wait to show him all the games I played when I was a kid, and him to show me the games he likes. I can't wait to take my family to the movies. He's really lucky, in that way--he's going to get to grow up with the MCU, and the new Star Wars movies! I can only hope that he will be ready for his first movie by the time Episode VII comes out.

My childhood was cut short, and most of my formative years ended up sour. I went down a lot of rough roads and spent a lot of my teen years not caring about what happened to me in the future, and not really planning on one. No one could have ever predicted my life would have gone this way, but I would have it no other way. I love my wife and son. I love being a father and a husband. I can't wait for all the big stuff, but I'm dying for all the little things.

My wife, my son, and I.

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Phil Fish, the Death of the Artist, and the Future of Video Games

My friend Jacob is playing through Fez for the first time, and posted that he loves the game, in spite of all of the Phil Fish drama. It really got me to thinking, did Phil Fish really deserve the ire of the community? Did he really do anything to become the gaming pariah he is now eternally infamous for being?

No. The answer is no. Do you know what artists do? Or even creative types, if you can't be bothered to call Phil Fish an artist? They say stupid shit. Sometimes they are brash, sometimes they are mean. That's the tradeoff, though. That's how we get the art: through these often troubled, always different people. In my opinion, Phil Fish's public stoning spoke a lot more about the state of the community than it did the comments he made.

So that guy is an asshole. Jonathan Blow seems really pretentious. If I met him, I might even think he's an ass. Does that make Braid a piece of shit? Does that make me discredit Blow, and attack him?

Fez might be an independent, pixel-art platformer but I bet if you played the game you liked it. Many folks went as far as to call it a work of genius, and if it's not, it's very inspired and well-made. It's very fun, and very cute! I do not believe something so saccharine could be created from someone who is a genuine asshole.

Phil Fish maybe received the most flak ever after his infamous comment that "Gamers are the worst fucking people". The culture we have created though, is toxic. I'm not talking about most of this website, because I believe that Giant Bomb is a great website with a great community. I hope that none of us are homophobic, misogynist, or anything like that. I hope none of us have neck beards.

But I think we can agree that it's the stereotype, and it's not unfounded. Everything always sucks and nothing is ever good. So many people will bitch about getting the same game over and over again, but do they want a new game, or do they want a new way to blow someones fucking head off?

When I first saw the trailer for Watch_Dogs, I was smitten. But as time went on I cooled off and tried to look at the game piece by piece. Full disclosure: I haven't played Watch_Dogs, but allow me to make an assumption. I bet when the heat is on and the noodles are boiling, I'm going to be running for cover to blast some dudes away. I'm going to be running around a corner to beat someone to death with a baton. I'm going to be blowing up police cars. I'm going to be running over pedestrians. That phone is going to be the last thing on my mind, save for the 1-3 functions I find genuinely useful.

Listen, though, because I'm not really going to shit on Watch_Dogs. I'm still excited about it. It's still one of the games that are pushing me in the direction of the now-current generation of consoles. But I just beat Max Payne 3 last week for the third time.

It's a great game. It's definitely in my favorites, even if its a bullet-romp that's full of white antiheroes and slow motion. We don't need more Max Payne's, though. This isn't where gaming stops! But I don't know where it goes anymore. Take the InFamous franchise, where not only is your character a superhero, but an unlicensed one that gives Sucker Punch free reign to do whatever they want with their characters. But somehow, I'm still shooting people? I'm still throwing grenades, I'm still shooting rockets--but it's not with bullets, so it's supposed to be different.

Games aren't bad, and they're not getting any worse so to speak. I just don't know where games are going. I caught myself a couple times this year pointing in the direction of the independent, but is that the answer? Can we really expect studios like Hello Games, Supergiant, and Devolver to be the true future of games? Fez sold a million copies not too long ago, and that's a big deal. One million is a big number. But Call of Duty: Ghosts is a game that is less than 7 months old, and has sold 14,500,000 copies. To reiterate, the state of AAA gaming involves bigger budgets, bigger, fragmented studios, and narrower avenues of gameplay.

I'm so excited for E3 because I have it in my head that it has to be good. I expect to see at least a glimpse of the future of gaming, and I just have no idea what that is. I sort of feel bad that I'm only interested in indie games, emulators, and my 3DS right now because I feel like that is somehow untrue to "real" gaming. I want to like AAA titles, I want to want to play them. I don't care about any of them, though. I'm still totally mystified by this console launch, and I feel like when the the last two gens came out of the gate, I could feel it when I woke up in the morning. I could look at cardboard boxes on store shelves in wonder thinking about the brave new worlds that awaited me, and now with the new gen, I can't even think of what game I would buy with either system aside from Infamous Second Son or Titanfall, two games I have only meager interest in.

So here we are, bombardiers. Where do video games go? What happens now? What is happening now?

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"Buildin' a Sentry!" (But really, help me make a computer)

After a long foray into things like film and music (And one that certainly isn't over by any stretch of the imagination) I decided that I really missed gaming, the forums, and basically being in the loop. So I'll start building up my console collection in a little while, but that still doesn't solve my need for a decent computer, and well I've never been a PC gamer. But I hear about stuff like Fall of the Samurai and all these cool Steam games (And fucking Steam sales, jesus) as well as bigger facets like Starcraft if I obviously kinda came to that party late.

So I suppose you could call me tech and computer savvy but my knowledge of PC Gaming is null. So, I'll be building a computer from the ground up.

For, well, optimal gaming, what would you guys recommend in terms of hard drives, ram, cooling fans, etc? I need suggestions for everything! Links are appreciated.

And keep it a bit cheap, would you folks? Man, I haven't been on Giant Bomb consistently in so long. Thanks.

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The Great Sony Sh*tstorm of 2011: Who is to Blame?

The Shit Hits The Fucking Fan. 

So on Thursday, I went to log on to PSN. And it was down. I was upset but didn't think anything of it until I looked up an outage a few ours later and noticed they were down. Then a little later, I heard it was an external attack. And thats some straight scary shit.
 "EXTERNAL!?"


So the questions come up, and quickly people are bitchin'. The questions are all logical.
  • Is my info out there?
  • Who did this?
  • Who fucking farted? Because this shit stinks. (Okay, that was just me.)
  • When is PSN coming up?
  • Are people going to steal my shit?
  • (And the funniest one to me) Are my trophies safe?
Now, i'm proud of my trophies, like anybody is. But some dickbag could be out there buying shit, letting my info loose, and buying bulk amounts of double-clitted unlicensed blue Avatar fleshlights. Which are a real thing. I'd link it but I'd be afraid to get locked or banned.


Now, I'm just as concerned as you, but this is a bad situation that is turned sour on every aspect and handled TERRIBLY by Sony. I just don't buy that a multi-million dollar company didn't know things were even missing until Monday. Thats a load of shit. The vague and infrequent PSN Blog updates were not-helpful at all, and now they finally put one out that answers some questions and its pushing the boundaries of "Too fucking late." Now if this was Valve and their Steam service, or fucking Addicting Games dot com, thats cool, fine. Whatever, its a fucking small service/site. But fucking Sony? The software and hardware MEGA ASS CORPO GIANT, let their goddamn PSN service fail by a band of hackers? And not only that, but didn't notice at first, let a bunch of info go, and then don't tell us until almost a full week later? That is insanity.
But.

this is teh interweb.

And the reality is that hackers (Especially in groups) are incredibly fucking capable. Shutting down websites, hacking emails, and presumably farting in the faces of everybody they fucked over.

Now, who is to blame for this fucking mess?
Sony, sure. They fucked up and thats not questionable.
But let me tell you about the other fine folks on the PSN comments section after almost every update on this bad scene.
  • Glad I have a 360.
  • (And then the less polite) this is ridiculuz sony has no concern for my safety clearly
  • i am trading my ps3 in for a game gear and a virtual boy at least thos dnt get hacked
  • And then the more eloquent: This is ****ing stupid, insane. I am going to trade in my PS3 right now for a 360.
  • (And all over XBL forums and in banners) LOL STUPID SONY GET WHAT U PAID 4 MOTHERFUCKASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS$

And like I said, Sony did screw the pooch. And let me tell you, i'd like to fix their fucking wagon just as soon as I would the people who caused this bullshit.
But hackers are capable fucks, indeed so in groups. Would I have guessed (What I assume is) a bunch of dickheads could break PSN over their knees?

Hell Fucking No.

But they did and here we are, us and Sony with our dicks in our hands.

And fellow bombers, whose fault is this shit? Are people right or wrong to blame Sony and threaten to switch over one incident, albeit a large one?
What can be done to stop these plagues of info leaks? I remember when the Gawker one was a big deal, but this shit has to break some kind of record.
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