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Tale of the Boogie Mouse (Based on a true story)

Once upon a time back when I was working at a paint roller factory, I used to hear stories of other workers who claimed they had seen a ghost roaming the ware house. Some claimed they saw a woman while others would say they saw a man. In the plant's history there was in fact a man around his fifties if I remember correctly who unfortunately died of a heart attack in the ware house. It was because of this that the folks in charge decided to install defibrillators in the plant since it could have saved that man's life. In any case those who worked the late shifts or long hours claimed the ware house was haunted.

I myself worked near the ware house area as did one friend of mine named Mike. We both operated some of the larger lines in the back area. Aside from all the noise the machinery made it was actually rather peaceful. Occasionally we'd be able to talk to one another so long as we did our jobs our boss didn't mind. One night Mike claimed he saw something move on it's own where his supplies were kept. I didn't believe him since he was known for pulling my leg a good number of times. But he kept claiming that something was knocked off his supply shelf. I went back to my line and thought nothing of it. About an hour or so later I go to talk to him and he said something else was knocked over. He even left it on the floor this time so I could see. Again I didn't see anything fall over myself. All I saw was a roll or paper towels on the floor. I shrugged it off not believing him but he sounded so certain that it fell over by itself. Not only that but he said he felt a chill whenever he walked near the shelf. Again I paid no mind to it and went back to my line.

Another hour went by and I went to talk to Mike asking if anything had been knocked over. He shook his head and told me he didn't want to go near his supply shelf. We both looked at it for a moment but suddenly I saw something this time. Out of no where some rubber gloves that were sitting on the shelf just fell over. His eyes opened wide as he looked at me pointing at the shelf asking if I saw it. I told him I did but I had a sneaking suspicion. I walked over to the shelf and looked around it. I moved a few things and that's when I saw it... a mouse. That's right folks, a mouse was the reason things were being knocked off his supply shelf. Not long after I discovered it the little fellow scurried off. I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear as I looked over my shoulder at Mike, who's only reaction was look at me sternly and tell me to shut-up. It was priceless. I would continue to give Mike shit the rest of the shift asking if the “Boogie Mouse” had come back. He would only keep his arms crossed with a pissy look on his face.

But what was that chill he felt? The very same chill I myself could feel when I inspected the shelf? Oh yeah that's right, it was the breeze coming from the nearby exit which was used on occasion by our maintenance crew.

Happy Halloween!

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The Trials and Tribulations of Video Game Ownership (long read!)

I was born in 1982. I've been playing video games for as long as I can remember being first introduced to the hobby by my dad who let me play the Atari 2600 when I was a toddler. Eventually my folks got my siblings and I a NES which really instilled the love and passion for the hobby. Eventually we got a SNES, later a Genesis, even a Sega CD that we got second hand from a friend I knew. Hell I even asked my parents to buy a Sega Saturn. My only reason being I favored Sega over Nintendo at the time... don't judge me I was young and stupid then. Last thing my parents had gotten for us was a Nintendo 64. Each console brought a lot of joy and great memories that I cherish to this day. Even during the 16-bit era my dad got a home computer and I was then introduced to Wolfenstien 3D which was the first PC game I had ever played.

By time I was 16 I started buying video games and hardware for myself. First console I bought with my own money was a PS1. As years would go buy and my jobs would change video games would eventually become my greatest money sink. If it was a major console I had to have it. Dreamcast, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, PSP, Game Cube, PS2, Xbox, 360, PS3, Wii, and a capable PC if it played games that people were talking about, I felt I had to have it. At the time during all this cash wasn't really an issue. I had no problem still living with my folks, I worked a decent factory job with benefits where I had been fully trained and even trained people myself. Life was good.

However in 2009 things would change drastically. I'll spare you the depressing and boring details but let's just say the job situation changed. Money wasn't as plentiful as it was. I had sold off my NES and SNES collections. The Genesis well... no one wanted it along with the Dreamcast so they went into storage. Sold my Gamecube but kept the games since they could be played on my Wii. Same for my PS2. My original Xbox just eventually died out since the disc drive on it went to hell so I had gotten rid of what games I could. Even sold off my Gameboy collection which was rather small. My GBA and games I still posses as I couldn't part with them as well as my PS1 library of games that I still have. PC games... let's just say one shelf isn't enough to hold all of them.

Things got stable in 2011 when I got a new job. Things were good and I went back to my game buying ways building up a pretty well sized library of 360, Wii, PS3, PSP, and DS games. All while still holding onto my PS1, PS2, GC, and GBA games. However now, as I look at all the stuff I have, coupled with how things are going with the video game industry itself. Things like On Disc DLC, Day one DLC, Draconian DRM, publishers rallying against used games. I look on all this, all the things I have and how little time I have for it all and I wonder... does it really make me happy? Do owning all these games and holding onto them really make my life better? Is it even fulfilling anymore? I thought a good long while about this... and I honestly couldn't give myself a straight answer.

A lot of the games I own I haven't had the time to finish. I bought them well ,cause they had good reveiws. Don't get me wrong I had a lot of fun with some of these games like Silent Hill 3, Red Dead Redemption, Metroid Prime, Crash Bandicoot, Golden Sun, among many others. But I've only finished about less than half of them and maybe revisited a few here and there. Being a man of 31 I'm feeling like I need to focus on things that are more important. I love gaming and I feel I always will especially with all the indie stuff that's come out which is fantastic! But as times become a bit harder and I get older I feel that I have to some changes. Hell if I ever decide to move I don't know how I'd take all this stuff with me and if it doesn't make me happy any more why lug all this stuff around?

With a lot of thought I finally came to the conclusion that I need to cut back on my game spending. I shouldn't buy something just because it gets high praise. I should buy it because I really like it. I don't have to own every console or handheld. Hell since I got a smart phone my DS has only collected dust and I used to play that thing on a daily basis. So I decided that while I can, I'm going to sell off some portions of my gaming collection starting with my PS1 and PS2 games. There's a lot of great memories here but I think going forward it's time to simply let them go. Maybe to someone who can maintain such a large collection or just wants these old games. I'll admit, I'll probably try to hold onto my Wii for as long as I can with as many VC games as I bought for it. And I'll always need a PC so I can pay my bills, get all my news, entertainment, etc. Not to mention a vast Steam library of Triple A and indie titles.

Also I feel maybe it's time I take a month off from gaming. Honestly I feel like I'm playing less for fun and more so just to satisfy whatever OCD fueled needs of unlocking things or keeping up with friends. There are times I feel like I lost my reason to keep playing games. Like I didn't know what was fun about it anymore. However there are some titles I was able to pop in and remind myself why I fell in love with this hobby. Still doesn't change the fact that since I'm not some game critic or writer, I can't hold onto everything. If I ever want things to get better in life, if I ever want to be happier, I've gotta part with some things. Especially since I hope to move someday, somewhere there's more possibility to have a better career. Seriously if you look up the job market stats for Henry or Defiance county Ohio you'll see some pretty sad results. It's where I've lived all my life and it just seems like nothing is getting better around here.

I hope I can make some decent cash on Ebay selling off my old games, and what I can afford to keep I hope I can enjoy for a good long time to come. I hope doing this will mean making my life better. Might even get into better shape which is something I've been struggling with for a long time. I hope that no matter what happens, that I'm making the right choices and that I can find what makes me truly happy. If giving up this large extensive library of games meant having a better life, how can I say no to that?


When winning matters more than fun (then no one has fun)

I enjoy a good multiplayer game from time to time. Granted I'm not always that great at a lot of games but I play video games for recreation. After all that's what video games were created for. To have fun and enjoy yourself. Even if I lose I still have a good time. I believe in being a good sport and having fun so that everyone can have a good time. That's what matters to me the most in every game I play. Halo: Reach, Mass Effect 3, League of Legends, TF2, etc. Yeah I put in as much effort to win as anyone would but I don't freak out at all in the middle of a game, or shun people because they aren't as experienced as I would be play the game.

However often times recently I keep running into people online that only care about winning and they don't care who's having a good time or not. For example last night (at the time of this writing) I was playing some Super Monday Night Combat (which is a fun game btw). Halfway into the match our defenses start going down and things aren't looking so good for our team. One fellow in particular happens to have a head set on and is barking orders at people and constantly yelling at us to protect the lanes, spawn bots, get on the anihilator ,etc.

Needless to say the dude was getting on my nerves to where I finally just typed into the game chat saying "Dude, chill out it's just a game" and that merely opened the flood gates for him to start spouting off how I'm such a noob and that I'm not playing the game right. Okay if there's one thing I really can't stand is when someone tells me I'm playing the game wrong. I think I speak for a lot of folks that when you have a game that's online only and you're just figuring things out, yeah you're gonna make mistakes and you shouldn't get on someone's case because they don't know as much as an expert would. Lighten the fuck up.

But how about when you can't even get into a game at all? Couple nights ago I wanted to play some Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. I had a level 5 Vangaurd that I wanted to get some XP for so I decided to use him. Since none of my friends were online I had no choice but to use quick match to find a group. Not once, not twice, but three times in a row I was voted out of groups. I even set my quick match settings down to Bronze level challenges thinking maybe I'll find a more accepting group of people who don't mind playing with a low level character. Nope, same friggen result. I mean I couldn't belive it. People cared that much about winning that they won't allow anyone below max level to play with them? It's like what crime against video game multiplayer did I commit? Basically I said screw it and went back to playing ME3 Single Player

Finally last week, I wanted to play some League of Legends. Now I've been kinda out of touch with the game since I hadn't loaded it up in a while but I wanted to jump back into it to play a few games for fun. To make a long story short it was something similar to what happened in SMNC, but with my whole team bitching at me instead of just one person. With constant game chat messages in all caps saying "STOP FEEDING" or "WHY DON'T YOU HAVE THE RIGHT GEAR" I mean jesus christ, I'm sorry if I bought the "recommended" equipment from the store and that I don't play the game like I'm trying out for the friggen MLG or something. I stayed in the game until we finally lost to which I was kicked from the game lobby very quickly. I mean... damn.

Stuff like this needs to stop and I know not everyone online acts like this but I wish there was a way to tell these folks that winning isn't everything and a game is supposed to be about having fun. That's why it is called a "game" not life and fucking death.

But that's my two cents folks. Play to have fun, not just to win because as long as there's competition there's always going to be a loser but it doesn't mean you have to be a sore loser.


Preserving our Games

With each new generation of consoles there's new hardware and a new library of games. However despite some of the new block busters that eventually come with a new generation there's always the block busters ,sleeper hits, and cult favorites of the past that we always hold near and dear to our hearts. For some games of the past no longer matter thinking that all they need is the next best thing and they'll easily forget about all those games of yesteryear that couldn't possibly stand up to the technology of today. But as I've learned "Latest" dosen't always mean "Greatest". And no matter what new thing there is on the horizon, there are some games we all as a community will never forget like the original Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man 3, Chrono Trigger, or Metal Gear Solid. Now I should admit I'm a man in the final year of my 20's so some of the games I mention may be before the time of some folks here. But I will touch on the games of today.
Today backwards compatibility has a few solutions either by  having hardware built in like the early PS3's that allow it to play PS1 and PS2 games, or by downloading and software emulation like some PC games and the Wii virtual console. However both of these answers to backwards compatibility are not easy for hardware makers and software makers alike. I could go on as to why emulation and the like is difficult but that's not what I want to focus on. My main concerns are how we as devoted players are going to continue to play some of our favorite titles as the years go by and the technology gets better.
One answer to this is to hold on to the hardware that the games were made for. Now for a PC owner who wants to play old school PC games that may not always be easy but the wonder of Virtual Machines has taken away some of the headaches old school PC gamers would normally have if they wanted to play something 10 years old on a current generation PC. For console owners though it can be a lot of upkeep to preserve your old NES, SNES ,or Genesis. Thankfully some of these old consoles are far more reliable than the disc based systems of today which can keel over in a handful of years. Now I realize there are some folks out there wondering why any of us would care about these old machines and to them I have this to ask. Take a look at one of your most favorite current gen games for your PS3, or 360, Wii, DS, or PSP. Now ask yourself if you wanted to play this again 10 years from now what options do you think would be open to you? And do you think it'd be easy to simply forget about something Like LittleBigPlanet? Halo: Reach? Mario Galaxy? God of War: Ghost of Sparta? GTA: Chinatown Wars?
Those might be difficult questions to answer now with the uncertainty of the future but one that might be easier to answer is do you think you'll still be able to find a perfectly working Xbox 360 or PS3 10 or 15 years from now so you can play your favorite game like CoD4: Modern Warfare? Me personally depending on what the console market looks like in that time frame it might be simple or really difficult. The big thing that I'm trying to get at with all this is that as we move forward we need ways to keep our beloved games intact. Not only so that us old timers can continue to enjoy them ,but so that New Generations can see for themselves some of the humble beginnings of the franchises we love. I'm very glad we have something like the Wii Virtual Console, XBLA, PSN, and even Steam to allow us to play some of the games from previous generations. Much like how many classic films are carried over into new formats and preserved for future generations to see I believe video and computer games should get the same treatment. And with the magic of digital distribution I hope that can be a more convenient reality.
However the only remaining question would be if legal issues between publishers and the like would get in the way of truly preserving our games as we've seen in the past with Golden Eye 007 and many others.


Sympathy for Game Developers

Before I begin let me just say that I'm aware that there are much more difficult and dangerous jobs out there than being a video game developer. Farmers, Coal Miners, Oil Drillers, police officers, firemen, EMT's and most importantly the Armed Forces. All these are professions I have much appreciation and the utmost  respect for. Without these men and women things would simply go to hell. With that in mind I simply wanted to take a moment to focus on Video Game Developers since after all this is a gaming site and share my thoughts on what seems like a very harsh job.
Over the last couple years I've been shaking my head a lot at the decisions made by big name game publishers and the hell they put their development teams through. I've loved video games for a very good portion of my life and I always appreciate the hard work and effort many dev teams put into them. Which is why it always saddens me to see that as far as gaming has come as an industry, the hardest working individuals of all are still mistreated and over worked with little rewards for thier efforts and more often than not find themselves laid off looking for work all over again.  Having suffered job loss and lay off myself I can honestly say that it is something I wish on no one. It's an emotional hell that takes an awful toll on you physically and emotionally and it's horrible so many hard working game developers suffer this fate.
As we've seen in recent articles with stories about the ethics companies like Activision, EA, and Team Bondi about how they treat their dev teams these individuals are put through some pretty harsh work conditions. Putting in far more than 40 hours a week in sometimes crowded spaces with few breaks and most devastating of all being away from their families and friends constantly. More and more I feel that being a video game developer is less of a job and more of a burden than anything else. There was a time when I was still in high school that I dreamed of making games myself someday. However as I learned more about the industry and found out more and more what it's really like I decided not to pursue that career path. And that was all the way back in 1999 and today things look even worse now than they were then.
With all the hard work and sacrifice these people put in how are they rewarded? Sure there's probably bonuses and profit pools but these things are never guaranteed and... nor is their job. I can't tell you how many stories I've read this year alone about mass lay offs happening just within the US. And this happens for a number of reasons such as if a game doesn't sell which honestly isn't always a good reason. As much as we like to hold our standards of quality for games that deserved to be praised the sad truth about the world we live in is that quality doesn't always matter. Sales do. It's a travesty when a team puts their heart and sole into a project like Prince of Persia Sands of Time or Psychonauts and then gets flak from their publishers because it didn't sell. It just makes me sick that things like that can happen. OR when developers try their hardest to meet a deadline and the game turns out to be disappointing, that's more hell they're going to get or worse lose their jobs over. And it's not even their fault most of the times. 
No developer wants to make a bad game. There are usually a lot of things that are far beyond their control that end up making a game turn out as bad as it is. Like marketing people who think rediculas changes should be made or tight deadlines from publishers etc. And I think the most common problem that all these people publishers and marketing groups alike don't realise is one simple fact... 
Making a video game is HARD!
There's a reason developers have to go to college to learn this stuff and why it takes so many people and so many years to make something as good  as say Red Dead Redemption for example. I'm not gonna go down the laundry list of things that go into the making of a game but something so simple as changing one character's face in a game can seriously take months of rework to accomplish! I constantly ask myself when are people gonna see just how hard it is to program this stuff? When can folks like the Publishers and the marketing reps understand that making these games are not easy! That you can't plop a project into a dev teams lap like oh I don't know ANY movie based game and expect them to make the next Ocarina of Time in less than 12 months!
But getting back on track, game developers sacrifice so much for the sake of the project and in the end they aren't rewarded to well for their efforts. I'm not saying every company mistreats their employees but the fact that even one of them does is still wrong to me. I honestly don't see why they started the whole video game dev commission to create rules when most companies don't even need to enforce the regulations they come up with. Why? And when problems like what happened to dev teams like the employees of Rockstar or Activision are brought to light how can some people simply shrug their shoulders and say "Well that's the industry get over it" No! We shouldn't have to get over it. No one should! These people go through hell on a daily basis with little or no time for their loved ones and that to me is just unacceptable. There's gotta be time to enjoy the finer things in life. There's gotta be time to enjoy the quality of living. No one should be treated the way Team Bondi abused their staff. No one.
Bottom line for me is something really has to change. Development teams should have better working conditions, better hours, better pay ,and better job security. My heart and sympathy truly goes out to families who lose so much precious time with their loved ones because of the long hours they have to put in for a game. At least that's my opinion. Again I know not every company mistreats thier dev teams but we are all aware that some of them do. And to me, that's still a bad thing.
What do you folks think?