We Need To Talk About Kiefer

In preschool and in daycare I would never answer to my name. I would only answer to Indiana Jones, Doctor Jones, Henry Jones Jr...etc, etc. I would pretend nearly everywhere I went that I was Indiana Jones. Sometimes I still do things like I think Indiana Jones would do them. One of the first gifts I received at my sons baby shower was an officially-licensed Indiana Jones fedora (for children) and a short leather whip, both for my son.

I might have spent a lot of time pretending I was Indiana Jones, but I never did a voice for him. Indiana Jones just sounded like Harrison Ford. When I wasn't Indiana Jones though, I was Solid Snake, and Solid Snake does indeed have a voice.

For a large part of my life, David Hayter was probably the only voice actor I knew by name. I've carried an extreme fandom for Metal Gear Solid since I was three years old, and I first played the game by way of Pizza Hut demo disc.

Let me tell you this again: I love David Hayter's voice for Snake, whether it's Solid Snake, Old Snake, Venomous Snake, Naked Snake, Big Boss, Garden Snake, Snake a Larange.

But now Kiefer Sutherland is voicing the famous stealth hero now--and I'm really okay with that.

I'm writing this post because I bought Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes on my PS3 when it first came out, but didn't really spend much time with it for a myriad of reasons. I did recently purchase on my PS4 (and for like fourteen fucking dollars, like whats up) and have been playing it to death. Kiefer isn't a chatterbox like Solid Snake was, okay--but let's review some of the facts.

  1. Ground Zeroes is the only story mission

The inaugural mission, Ground Zeroes, is the mission that matters. It both introduces the game and shows you all of the story content their really is to see. Kiefer does a sufficient amount of talking in this, and you get to hear him more than a couple times on different cassettes. He even re-recorded the voice snippets for the Deja Vu mission! They have Kaz doing quite a bit of voice work for the filler missions, but to have Kiefer do a bunch of work for throw-away stuff like that would be a waste of resources.

2. Codec, as we knew it, is gone.

With the removal of the Codec system, we just get direct radio in real-time, putting an end to a gameplay mechanic and interface that ran pretty much the same from 1987 until Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. No longer are we freezing time in the middle of gunfights to ask somebody about equipment, or talk about Godzilla. I'm okay with this and I'm not okay. On one hand, I really enjoyed being able to just float around and talk to people the same way I liked taking cab rides and listening to the radio in Grand Theft Auto, but I have been playing GZ with headphones and it's pretty damn cool hearing it in your headset.

3. This was a prologue.

This was a lead-in, guys. Nobody got to have an arc. Like any Kojima production, 1,000 questions are hanging in the air and this was just the tip of the iceberg. To people saying that Kiefer didn't say anything...he did, but what did you want him to say? This was a big teaser

4. At this trajectory, we might see Snake take on Big Boss soon.

And at that point, what happens? Would we have David Hayter talking to a less-gruff David Hayter? Kojima has expressed interest in remaking certain games in the franchise, and Metal Gear Solid has already seen it's re-release even if it was years and years ago now. Big Boss wasn't voiced by Hayter at the end of MGS4 and nobody batted an eye. My guess is that if nothing else, this is a step hinting at us seeing the legendary soldier fight his clone in the near-future.


Hideo Kojima is a visionary. He's absolutely crazy, and we all love him for it. He's behind one of the most well-loved and bizarre franchises in all of video games, and he has done far wilder things than change out a voice actor with great success. He went as far as to hide the MAIN CHARACTER from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty from everyone until release! Even going so far as to swap the character model of Raiden into Solid Snake while demoing the Fortune boss fight, as seen in the Metal Gear Scanlon bonus video.

Hayter is not a bad voice actor. In fact, he's really good! But Kiefer is an actor of a caliber that David simply isn't, and he might bring something new to this character. I don't buy that he was too expensive and that's why he has been so silent thus far--Kojima is way too indebted into what Metal Gear is to chop the script into tiny bits because he could have the Hollywood actor for ten minutes instead. Kojima is a big name, Konami is a big studio, and Metal Gear is their mealticket. I would be utterly shocked if they didn't give Kojima whatever the hell it was he needed.

To date, Hideo Kojima has given me four fantastic experiences in a row. I absolutely trust him, because he has confounded my expectations every time only to leave me in pure adoration. He is one of the last great visionaries in AAA games. I'll follow him wherever he goes.

Now, give me The Phantom Pain already!


GamerGate, or, Why I Contemplate Giving Up On Games Every Day

I want to write about Kiefer Sutherland right now. I want to write about the come-up of indie and what that means to me, but I can't do that shit. I can't fucking write about why I trust Hideo Kojima to make a meaningful Metal Gear Solid with a Hollywood actor attached when people are being driven from house and home.

Those other posts will come. Maybe even later tonight, but I would feel sick to my stomach if I neglected this issue in this forum for another second.

I've had a couple false starts with Twitter but I began again in June or May of this year and have been going strong, when I finally made sense of that platform, and practically since I've been there, GamerGate has been right alongside me. Every time I see somebody posting death threats, rape threats, and people being doxxed, I just feel sick.

I want to fight and bitch and do what I can to help, but it's hard just not to say "You know what? I quit gaming. I quit games. I quit writing about games. I don't want to be associated with this anymore." I want to throw up my hands and surrender.

It's fair to say that games are mainstream, because they are. It's expected that most adult ages 10-35 have some sort of Call of Duty connection at least, but nobody on this site is that kind of person. None of us pop in Call of Duty a couple nights a week and that's it. We have accounts on a video game website. Lots of us pay for special content on a video game website. I listen to at least four hours a week of Bombcasts, and am consuming content here everyday. I got on Twitter for the precise reason of following industry people because this is the kind of work I want to do, but I'm willing to throw it all away if the loudest voices in my community are the people screaming "CUNT!" out of a car window.

I used to feel a twinge of annoyance when I would tell people that I was really into video games and they would immediately draw a line to CoD if they didn't just cringe instead, but the rampant hatred, entitlement, and sexism in the industry from the people who play games just like I fucking do makes me want to cut my ties to video games altogether.

I'm not here to do a comprehensive writeup about whatever I think GamerGate is, because that's available in a million other formats from writers far more informed and competent than I am. I can say though, that even if you do think that GamerGate is about corruption, pay-offs, and agendas, the right answer is not to send somebody a rape threat or a death threat, make their private information public, and harass their friends and families. That shit isn't a game, those are human beings.

I want to play games. I want to talk about games with other people, and talk about the industry. I love it. I love most of the people in this industry--that's a huge part of why I'm here in the first place. I don't want to be a part of this machine though when parts of the community are so toxic and loud. And I'm not saying that gaming is the only thing with this sort of community problem, but to the outside world, it's hard to see what's really going on, and really easy to see the terrible comings-and-goings of an event like this.


The Drought Is Real

Gaming was my defining hobby from the time I was introduced to them until I was about sixteen. I ended up meeting my fiancee, and then I fell off. I moved in with my then-girlfriend, my now wife-to-be (and mother of my son) and even though I was the technical owner of the PlayStation 3, I felt obligated to split it with my brother. As a result, I stopped really buying games. I dabbled in Steam indies and emulators, but it was so infrequent it was sort of inconsequential.

Pictured: Christmas 2011, and love. Not Pictured: Games.

I started working as a vendor this past year and as a result am in the car a lot. An auto-wash ripped my car antenna off and I was sick of burning CD's, so I bought one of those cassettes with the headphone output and started listening to the Bombcast again. In fact, I'm working my way through ALL OF THEM, whilst still listening to new episodes. I ended up catching the E3 presser after spending quite a bit of time saying "If some games don't come out, these consoles are DOOMED!" but ended up getting really excited over E3 even though it was only an okay year by most accounts. My enthusiasm was re-ignited though, and I ended up getting a PS4 when I had some extra cash.

Reacquainting myself with a hobby I loved so fiercely but denied so readily (and for so long) was pretty exciting, and on the short road to getting my PS4, I looked at the paltry selection of games with extreme zeal.

"Fuck, I'll buy Need for Speed and Knack! Great!"

But, when I brought the big box home, I brought it home with Watch Dogs. It was a little while after release, and I was still interested in it enough to believe. I figured that all of the smack talked about it was more about all the hype that surrounded it rather than the game actually being a piece of shit. I really enjoyed the first sequence, but I think I actually ended up hating it more than most people.

I bought every outfit, and Aiden always looked like a fucking dipshit.

Then I bought Sniper Elite III. I have no real excuse for that, I'm just a fucking idiot. I think I got a little too excited over Jeff and Dan's funny quick look and was remembering how much fun I had with the Sniper Elite V2 demo. Turns out, that game is fun for that exact length of time. I played Wolfenstein: The New Order and I thought it was fun, but I felt like I would've enjoyed it more had I had lower expectations (like press did), but I rode in on that wave of "Hey, this is pretty good!" and walked away lukewarm.

Unlike my friends, who were incinerated.

Despite a lull at work, my hours are coming back, so games. But it's still kind of a bummer because 3/4 games I'm considering picking up are updates for newer consoles. The Last of Us Remastered, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, and to a lesser extent, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition.

Only five games are on the "Popular Forums" tab right now, and only ONE of them came out this year--and its the game with the mega hype machine behind it that has only been out for less than a month.

People tell me about inFamous: Second Son but I just hated the first game so much, I can't bring myself to do it. I really want to snatch Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor but I tend to buy used, so I assume I'll have to wait at least a week or two.

Obviously now that I have a PS4, my blind excitement has settled and I'm no longer that punch-drunk sort of enthusiastic when I was convinced I wanted to buy everything.

However, games are starting to come out. Driveclub is on the way, Alien: Isolation, Far Cry 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Forza Horizon 2, The Evil Within, Sunset Overdrive, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, and a handful of other games, too. I can't speak to the quality of anything in the upcoming Fall season, but I'm going to guess that at least a couple will really be worth playing! Then 2015 is the much-talked-about year these consoles are supposed to really come into their own.


For me, Playstation Plus was the thing that saved my life. If it wasn't for the free titles being offered up (as well as the slew of other indies), it would've been a Netflix machine. Honestly it's been so good to me that this month is the only one thats felt really rough because I think Sportsfriends is a piece of shit and I didn't in any way latch onto Velocity 2X. It's alright. Russ Frushtick really liked it.

The drought isn't over, but it's starting to rain. Soon it will be steady, and then it will be steadily pouring down. How did you make it through the drought?


Hotel Game Rooms

I was born, as I understand it, sometime after the arcade died. Obviously arcades exist now, and they existed in a much greater capacity in 1995, but in many senses, the home console had eaten the arcade cabinet before I left the womb. Still, the art and architecture of those machines, my juvenile-borne preference of cocktail cabinets, and the salad days of my early childhood had a lot to do with machines.

My brother, whom is five years my junior, is apprenticing as a pinball technician. Really, it's less serious than that sounds. It's more of a hobby that bleeds into an infrequent job, but it's still a very serious thing for him. We were talking about FarSight Studios The Pinball Arcade (sort of the way my dad and brother decided to start seeking out physical machines) and I asked my fiancee's ten-year-old sister if she particularly liked pinball, or had any favorite machines.

"I don't think I've ever played pinball," she said.

I squinted my eyes, furloughed my brows and shook my head in disbelief--a lot less dramatic in practice than when written out.

"What? How have you not played pinball? That's crazy! I'm sure you have."

She hadn't. She hadn't, and I was kind of an idiot. This girl was born in 2003, what were the chances she had even seen a pinball machine in person? Most modern arcades are full of larger versions of iOS games like Cut the Rope and Doodle Jump. The other half is redemption games in the vein of crane games, and the ever-present entities like Smokin' Token.

I realized that the classic arcade was something that had lived and died prior to me, and I thought about my arcade game roots. I have heavy ties to Galaga, being probably my favorite arcade game. I remember going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn all the time when I was a little kid, with my grandparents. I would define it (as it was) as about as modern as classic arcades got. It had Galaga and Ms Pac Man, and it also had newer titles like Arctic Thunder and The House of the Dead. I remember my dad and I played Arctic Thunder so much, the overhead fan (that's supposed to simulate the arctic air) gave my dad windburn. My grandparents would come up to the area to see us all the time, and take us to the Bavarian Inn, which I affectionately knew as "the lodge". This was my arcade heyday. I spent countless hours and infinite tokens playing The Simpsons Arcade Game with my dad and grandpa.

Alternately, I had the luxury of being the only grandson until I was nearly six years old. I had six years of being the favorite, and I would also accompany my grandparents on all kinds of trips to Orlando, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Obviously I was worried about swim trunks, but my second question would be "Does this hotel have a game room?" and sure enough, they would. Just a cramped room at the end of a downstairs hallway probably no bigger than any suite, dark and full of machines in various states of function. The arcade machines of my youth were fairly reliable, but pinball was like a tempting poison. Robocop 3 was one of my favorite movies as a kid (I had all the toys--bizarre, right?) basically because it was the only PG-13 Robocop movie. One game room situated in a room next to the pool had a Robocop pinball machine and the flippers were so weak, the ball wouldn't even make it to center play field, let alone any ramp. For some reason I took to liking South Park pinball, because

  1. That shit was super edgy and hip for five-year-old Mitchell
  2. It was a pretty new machine, and was usually in total working order. Also a pretty good machine!
You could shoot the ball into the toilet! Kenny dies! 1998!

I was five and under, and just like my Metal Gear education, I took it for granted. I had no idea of the novelty or special circumstance of my arcade privileges. I didn't realize how rare arcades were becoming, it was just a part of my growing up. A huge part of my growing up, in fact. I think of hotel game rooms and specifically that arcade at the Bavarian Inn (as it was) as home. As my childhood went on, both my parents and grandparents would split up. I would never fully recover from that trauma and the nightmare I was forced to endure as a child. It's not worth exploring here, this post is about hotel game rooms. I used to scrounge for change in the street as a twelve year old with my brother so we could buy .89 cent Faygo and Slim Jims. My mom wasn't home. Our across-the-hall neighbors sold methamphetamine. We watched a lot of Scrubs. That stuff isn't important, this post is called Hotel Game Rooms.

What is important though is the sense of home I discovered in that arcade in Frankenmuth. The houses I had lived in no longer felt like homes, and the last time I had been in this place I probably had velcro shoes out of necessity. I ended up visiting Frankenmuth with my brand-new-girlfriend a couple years ago, not at all thinking we would end up there. We did, though.

The smell of chlorine from the pool washed over me in a wave of heat, and I literally felt my heart begin to rise out of my chest. Every corner of the hotel was familiar. My childhood had remained untouched in this Bavaria-themed time capsule. The arcade games were different, but that somehow didn't matter. I was walking around with my girlfriend through a hallway overlooking one of the pools, and I just fell against the window and cried. I hadn't cried in a couple years, I thought I was just thick-skinned. One of my best friends died in the middle of seventh grade. I remember looking at my friends sobbing to pieces, and I just had nothing. I couldn't do it. I wasn't tough though, I was just shut down. The chlorine waves had eroded the cement that was suppressing my emotions.

In a whirlwind, I shared more of my life with this girl that day than I ever have with anybody before. I just started going on, and I found out things about myself I never knew. I discovered the human being I had buried among the smell of pool chemicals, and the raucous whirring of arcade machines.

That person would go on to be my fiancee, the mother of my son (Ernest), and this coming May, my wife. We're getting married in Frankenmuth, probably about 300 feet from that arcade, and right next to that pool.

I feel grateful for this. The arcade is one of the most parodied and referenced touchstones of a generation passed, and I'm happy that I got to have the arcade mean something to me, too, even though it was something long-gone during my childhood. I'm happy I got to be the first grandchild. I'm even glad that most of my coming-of-age was so bracingly acidic and violent I got to really appreciate those shitty hotel game rooms. Those machines are my old polaroids.

Me, in 1997.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.