I am a Kappa Sigma and a nerd (still)

There was an email on this week's bombcast about Fraternities and the duders said some negative things. In response, I would like to share my personal story about joining (founding) a chapter of Kappa Sigma at my College.

First let me say this: I know bad shit happens with fraternities. Each school and each chapter is different. MY story is simply that, my story. But I want you all to know that not all Frat guys are "bros" and we don't all go raping girls every chance we get. Those types of guys shame us all.

In highschool, I was a nerd. I played Magic: The Gathering, was VP of the Computer Club (in 1998 not even when liking computers was cool), and played way too much video games in and out of school. While I was decent looking (based on comments on my senior yearbook picture made by my wife's friends not trying to brag), I was very awkward in social settings and didn't even have a girlfriend before graduation. I went on a few dates that didn't really go anywhere serious. I only had a small circle of 3 friends that I did everything with. Basically, I was invisible.

I went to the local State College and immediately fell back into my rut. My 3 friends went to schools out of state and I commuted back and forth to school and work every day. I knew cool shit and parties were going on all around me, but being socially awkward I couldn't just go to people in class and ask to go to their dorm/apartment for a party. Plus, I thought that was very creepy. I wanted to join a fraternity for the immediate benefits, go to parties, make new friends, and meet girls. What I got, as the story goes, is much more.

I looked at the other chapters and found the guys there to be boring or "bros" basically guys that didn't want me or were not a good fit for me. In passing, I found out about a group of guys who were trying to found their own chapter. Guys just like me who for some reason or another looked at the other organizations and wanted something better. It took some hard work, community service, and fund raisers, but we finally all got initiated together. The best times were the road trips, the hanging out in dorms playing Halo, and the brotherhood events.

The dudes I founded with and the brothers that came after were and still are some of my closest friends. These guys accepted me for who I was regardless of how awkward I was. Having that confidence of being accepted, gave me the courage to meet girls. I got kind of good at it actually.

I met my wife at a mixer since she was in a Sorority as well. We dated my last 2 years in college and now I have 2 kids with her. Our friends are still many of the same people we went to school with and some new brothers and sisters that came after us. After college, our life became a series of weddings, baby showers, baptisms, and now kids birthdays. We still hang out with the same people, we just don't get as crazy as we used to (since we're old now). Since I was a townie back then and haven't moved far from the college since, I have a steady stream of younger brothers in the chapter I can call on to help me move furniture or whatnot. I never got the business benefits that come with pledging, but that's not why I did it in the first place. I did it for the brotherhood that started off as artificial but ended being legit.

Pledging a fraternity is not for everyone. I understand that. I just wanted to say that it's also not all bad either. Based on who I was before and all that came after, I can honestly say that pledging Kappa Sigma was the best decision I have ever made.

AEKDB for those who know.


My day has been made.

No Caption Provided

As a joke, I sent Dave Lang (from the Lang Zone) a connection via LinkedIn. I totally told him I would send him an invite so we could discuss some serious Eggs Benedict related business. To my surprise, he accepted the invite. When I tweeted about this on Twitter, he responded by...


And my day has been made. It was going pretty shitty before this too, it cheered me right up. I wasn't sure I should post this because I didn't want to start a Dave Lang invite swarm. But I seriously had to tell someone, and you guys would understand this better than the rest of the internet.

As a side note, I am also now have a secondary connection to Jeff Gerstmann.


I might be as crazy as Will Smith

Because I think that making my own arcade machine is an awesome idea. Specifically, I'm thinking about making an old school, sit down cocktail arcade machine. AND, I plan on using my vast supply of snes/genesis/nes/GBA roms to make a sick old school emulation machine... you know, for my kids..

I'm thinking of a sit down cabinent, with a screen angled within/through the top and two (or four) wired controllers coming out of one side so we could play together. I could fashion a way to make the controller wires rigid, like you see at a best buy or something. I don't think a regular cabinent where the players sit across from each other could work with my emulation idea.

The problem is, I have very little experience with woodworking and this seems like jumping into the deep end. But, half of the fun is in the creation process, right? So, I have some questions for the giantbomb crowd...

Has anyone here done something like this?

Aside from the woodworking issues itself, any unknown hardware/software with the computer issues I might run into? I don't know yet how to make the gaming on my old computer streamlined to the point where someone could just sit down, load up a rom and play. I want to make it as easy and simple as possible. So, a little help in this area would help me out too.

Don't be afraid to shoot down my idea for being stupid/crazy, but I think this would be a fun thing to do.


Reliving (and ruining) my childhood

The Chrono Trigger endurance run inspired me to relive my childhood through the joys of emulation.So, I played through Chrono Trigger along with Ryan and Patrick.After that, I started on Shadowrun (SNES).Playing through your childhood favorites can have a side effect of realizing that those games weren't actually that great, but years of nostalgia can make a mediocre game amazing in your eyes.

Shadowrun has been one of my all time favorite games since I was a kid.And, luckily its still a good game, the nostalgia I had for it didn't ruin my experience.Sure, it's a little hard to figure out what to do during the middle sections of the game, but I enjoyed it.Now that it's over, what game should I play next?

Eathbound (Snes) - I actually started it before Shadowrun but stopped about 2-3 hours in.This is a game I remember renting from Blockbuster a few times but never ever finishing.That's a mistake I would like to fix.

Shadowrun (Genesis) - Another game I never finished as a kid.That's bad since I'm a pretty big Shadowrun fan and the genesis version is the closest to the original PnP RPG.

Secret of Mana (SNES) Another one of my all time favorite games.My brother, mother and I only ever played through this game once.We used the multi-tap in order to play together.The memory of the three of us playing a game like this together is one of my happiest childhood memories, we seriously had a great time together.

And I was able to find just about all of the classic RPGs from the SNES - Genesis era. So if you have any other great games that I should play, let me know.I intend on reliving my childhood and exposing the reality behind some of my favorite games of all time.Were they really that great, or are my memories of the game enhancing their quality?

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4 games with 4's in the title - which game should I play tonight?

I have that problem that I'm sure most people have. I have 4 games that I'd like to play, but I don't know which one to spend my time on. So, duders.. help me out.

1. Mechwarrior 4 Great game, I just found this game at the bottom of my games collection and it's time to give it another go. I've played the first mission and it's still a blast to play. I even found my sidewinder pro joystick and plugged that badboy in.

2. Wing Commander 4 Got this game recently from gog.com (for like $2, it's crazy. Great deal for this game). The joystick works great, and I'm about 25% of the way through the game. I nearly had a nostalgasm when I played the first mission.

3. Sim City 4 Maybe not the best Sim City, but still a great game. I'm not a Sim City expert, but I also have Sim City 3000 in my bin just in case. Either way, Sim City is a great time waste and is awesome to play with the mouse in one hand, and a beer in the other.

4. Civ 4 If you can't tell, my computers are old ass shit. So, I can't play Civ 5. Maybe a better time waster than Sim City.

4 Games with 4s in the title, which game should I boot up tonight?


Old Stereotypes - Are Video Games "bad"?

I've written in the past about what it was like for me to grow up with video games. In previous blogs, I've examined my desire/obsession with games through the past 30 years and how life itself slowly took more importance. Now, I'm facing another period in life where I am asking myself, is this all worth it? I now have two kids, a wife (who hates video games, but I'll get to that later), and a house to take care of. Video games have become such a second thought these days that I'm lucky if I get to play an hour a night.

The amount of time that I play, or what I play isn't what concerns me anymore. I feel that I play a healthy amount of games, I only allow myself to turn on the Xbox when there really is nothing left to do. What concerns me is the old stereotype of "gamers". My wife would tell you that all games are a waste of time, and honestly, they are. The time spent playing games can be better used on just about anything else. But what if you have nothing else to do? Are games still "bad"? The days where games were educational, made you think, and honestly made you feel smarter for finishing them are over. Now, most games are extended tutorials and hand holding while you do unspeakably violent things. I can't recall the last time I got anything beneficial from a game outside of the sense of accomplishment. I used to play games for the stories, but that seems to be in a decline these days as well. I mentioned my wife, because she has a point. I honestly can not think of a reason, other than entertainment, to justify playing a game.

I know the irony in coming to a video game site to ask the question if games are "bad" and I can only assume the answers that will come after this. Video Games are the highest revenue producing entertainment market out there so there's no question in their success. But, aside from the entertainment value of games, are we getting anything else out of them? I know that everything is best in moderation, but even in moderation, video games seem hollow. I might just be going through another phase of life where games are meaning less and less to me, because life is more important. Which leads me to the second part of the old stereotypes; age.

I can tell you that I played much more games as a kid in highschool than I do now. And in college, I played less games because it was more important to me to have a girlfriend, get good grades, and do well in my job. But, as I've become more of an adult with more responsibilities, I've played games much less frequently. Statistics would show us that the average age of video game players are 30ish years old. But are we really fooling ourselves? Even with mature rated games (that are definitely not for kids), I'm one of only a few of my friends who play games at all. It might be different in other circles, (just look at the GiantBomb guys, they are all 30ish) but in mine, even how I little time I spend playing games seems excessive. Most of my friends have the consoles, but never play them. So, are games just for kids, and 20-somethings? Because I can't see gaming being anywhere close to as important it is to me as I get older.


Are video games themselves "bad" for not offering anything else these days beside entertainment? And should grown men really be playing video games as much as we are now?

Also, please forgive my free-flowing stream of thought style of blog writing. I didn't really plan this thing out, I just got inspired.


There needs to be a truly great cyberpunk RPG.

Imagine this game, a first person rpg in the theme of The Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3 where you have a huge, open world city but with a cyberpunk setting.  There would be a main quest line that (like Oblivion or Fallout 3) is optional to see to the end.  Include different factions (Corporations, various gangs) that you can align yourself with for side quests and a whole bunch of other stuff to do if you want.  Allow the player to truly create their own character that can be a hacker, a melee fighter (stealth), a shooter, or a mix of the three.  Also allow a wide variety of cybernetic augmentations that could either be quest rewards or the result of a corporate raid that you can undertake. 
 So, basically, a Cyberpunk Oblivion.  That is the game I've been secretly hoping for for a long time now.   And unlike  Deux Ex: HR, I want a game that is RPG first and action second (like an Elder Scrolls game).  And for a really awesome bonus, make the whole thing a Shadowrun game.  (Yeah I know that will never happen, but if I'm wishing for something I might as well wish big)
Hell, this game idea practically writes itself.  
So, game industry... DO IT. 


Review Assumptions

When a game reviewer looks at a game that may or may not be derivative, should they assume that their audience knows what they are talking about? 
I see this in reviews all the time.  Some games "borrow" ideas and concepts from other games and sometimes they down right rip them off.  The problem with this comes around when the game needs to be reviewed.  Often, the reviewer would say "This game is so much like God of War, you might as well just play that instead." Or something to that point.  The reviewer is assuming that the reader not only owns a PS3, but also has played God of War.  Is that assumption justified?  In this economy, not everyone has the resources to own more than one system.  
That assumption, I feel, is a little off.  Wouldn't it be better to review the game without assuming the reader has played every game released on every console this generation?  Especially system exclusive releases.  I'd like to see reviews of a game that don't really mention any other games but judge the reviewed game on it's own merits alone.  Sure the game might be a God of War clone, or a twin stick shooter, or another Diablo Clone.  But if you have never played any of those source games, then the concepts would be new to you and any comparisons between the two games would be lost on you. 
I could be wrong, but I feel that the majority of gamers out there haven't played every popular game on every console and any assumptions that they have is off the mark and invalid. 


BLAST from the past

Typical Sunday errands, I was out fixing crap all day.  When I was finished with the yard work, I decided to get to something I've been putting off for years.  Since the last move, I haven't gotten all of my computer gaming accessories in order and organized.  The games, manuals, and unnecessary boxes were scattered around the office and it used to take a long ass time to find the disc of the game I wanted to play or the book if I did find the game.  Most of the time actually, I settled for an endless search for old games that I could never find.  The only game that I kept out and close to me was, in fact, Baldur's Gate 2...which I am now replaying...again. 
But lets get to the point of all of this.  Searching the storage areas, the closets, the rubbermaids, I found my old Sidewinder 2 and a copy of Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance .  For the hell of it, I reinstalled both of them.  And oh, dear god.  It's on.   It's like finding an old friend hidden in your closet. 

Time to blow some shit up.  


Why people really play games.

When looked at video games simplistically, they are all puzzles.  You push this button to solve this problem, then move on to the next one.  The little feeling of accomplishment comes with every successful problem solved.     
Think of it this way, in FPS's you push the trigger to shoot someone then move on to the next enemy to shoot while avoiding getting shot yourself.  In racing games, you steer your car around the track until you finish it, only to do it again with the next race.  In fighting games, you push the attack button to defeat your opponent while trying not to get defeated yourself.  In RPG's there are actually puzzles to be solved while progressing through the story with your chosen character.  In each case, you get a feeling of accomplishment.  In RPG's and other games, the sense of accomplishment is tied into a story which can get you emotionally attached to the character or your own created character.  Every battle is a puzzle to be solved, every quest is a series of puzzles, and every story is a series of quests.  (And the internet is a series of tubes).  
The bigger the challenge or difficulty, the bigger the feeling of accomplishment.  Getting to the top of a leaderboard, beating the Nurburgring in Forza, or fighting and winning a good match in MK9 or SSFIV are all great examples.  Personally, beating the challenge tower in MK9 (especially 251) was the last big accomplishment I had in gaming.   
 Accomplishment is addicting.  Once you feel it, you want to do it again.  Each kill in an FPS is a mini accomplishment; every match won in a fighting game; every level gained in an RPG.  It's also why achievement points are so popular.  It's just another way of giving people that feeling of accomplishment. 

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