My secret weapon? Video games

Tomorrow I will take one last test that will dictate the rest of my life, and video games are going to give me an edge.

First some back story, after college I decided I wanted to changer carers from working in the construction industry (I do not recommend it) to becoming a federal Air Traffic Controller. So, now I've gone back to school to learn these sorts of things, passed with flying colors and in less than 24 hours I will take the federal governments Air Traffic Standard Aptitude Test (AT-SAT).

Much like the SAT that we all took in high school, it's not the kind of thing you can study for. It's built not to test how well you can memorize a book, but how fast your brain works. There will be the standard analogies, psych, and maths to be sure. But some of the most grueling portions of the test are the simulations, screenings and planning tests; and these are built like games, turns out I've been training to be an air traffic controller my whole life.......who knew?

These games not only test how well you can plan ahead, how quickly you can make decisions and how well you can shake off a mistake, but also your dexterity with a mouse and keyboard. Shit, Starcraft 2 may have been the greatest investment I have ever made! People tell me that the AT-SAT is not really about aptitude at all, but it's more of a stress test. Awesome! I don't see how doing 20 min of simulated ATC (basically working with a computer to tell planes how to go where they want to go) can possibly compare to the stress of a 20 min match against a human opponent that knows every inch of the map and wants nothing more than to beat you badly.

The only handicap that gaming might have given me is the dreaded rage quit. Parts of this test is designed to fuck you, deliberately and unavoidably, just to see how you react to an emergency. The reasoning being that if you are controlling traffic and someone crashes and dies, even if it was your fault, the other planes in the sky did not magically go away and it's still your job to control them until you are relieved. So I just need to resist my urge after a screw up to quit and start over, no such thing tomorrow.

So, one more test to see if I am good enough for the job of my dreams and I have been training for this through 18 years of gaming? 

Achievement Unlocked - I got this shit 

So, I started achievement hunting....and now I hate myself

I decided that I want to get some extra life out of the games I have already in my arsenal by trying to S-rank some of those that I enjoyed the most and looked possible. I started with Assassin's Creed II because, hey it was easy and I realized I only needed 3 more. Then I did ME2 because it may be my favorite game ever and it was fun. 

Then the wheels started to come off a bit. 

It started with Stacking. I had played Stacking, enjoyed it and never thought of it again......until I was bored and started on my  self imposed S-rank quest. Long story short I actually bought DLC for the sake of my Gamerscore. Don't get me wrong, the Lost Hobo King was fun and appropriately cockney, but I still bought it for those extra 50 points.

I started a second run of Darksiders and Dead Space in an effort to S-rank them but just kind of got bored of them during their respective second play-through's 

And now I have started Borderlands, and fuck that shit in its stupid ear. What really kills me is that the achievements for the box game where actually entertaining, a fun challenge or just a silly bit of nonsense. But the DLC has the most diabolical achievements that I have attempted in gaming. The Underdome pack is in no way fun, it is clearly meant to be attempted in groups of four serious players, and even then the last 3 arenas will take you at least 3-4 hours each with no option for STOPPING, honestly who thought that was a good idea? This is my envisioning of the meeting:

Randy Pitchford: OK guys, Mad Moxxi's Underdome! What do we have so far?
Some Dude: Standard horde mode stuff so far, sir.
Randy Pitchford: OK, any quests?
Other Dude: Just the one, sir  
Randy Pitchford: Wait, wait, wait, how are we going to sell DLC with only one quest?
Some Dude: Well, we where thinking of just making the last 3 stages really hard and take 4 hours per stage.
Randy Pitchford: Wow, sounds hardcore! How many save points?
Other Dude: None, sir!
Randy Pitchford: Won't that make it almost un-doable for  the vast majority of our customers?    
Some Dude: .......We......hadn't thought of that, sir
Random Asshole: Hey, Randy, you know what I was thinking? Fuck those guys.
Randy Pitchford: .......That's the best idea I've heard all week! Ship it!

And that's the story of the first Kwanzaa.

But really, I don't get the whole idea of building entertainment products that are that frustrating, I play games to relax dammit!

Because I have made this post too long for the internet already I'll not get started on the Claptrap Revolution achievements (which also sucked). But, what do you guys think, how big is the sweet spot between too easy and fucking infuriating when it comes to achievement packages? 


Time for "the talk" again

It looks like this is another year where I will need to have that horrible conversation with my girlfriend.
"Sweetheart, you know I love you and living with you gives my life meaning.......but there are new Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Batman and Warhammer games all coming out this season. So.....yea........I'll see ya in March!"

It usually works out that every other year there is a slew of games scheduled to come out that I am foaming at the mouth to get at. I don't think it's a coincidence that there is a parallel between that and BioWare's and Bethesda's development cycle. 

I'm thinking that this year I might try something different though (and no, not give up the games and spend more time with my girlfriend, I mean yea, I love her but let's be serious). I think that this year I will mention that there are all these new games coming out that I am super psyched about, but leave out the whole spending less time together bit, and just play the games while she is sleeping. I always wake up before her anyway, and go to sleep after so it can be done easily. This way I can get up at 5:00 or 6:00 and play for a few hours before she gets out of bed, when she comes out to the kitchen I can save and quit my game, 

she'll be all "Oh, you can keep playing baby" 

and I'll be like "No, sweetheart, no game could ever be more important then spending time with you" *charming smile*

BOOM, fucking genius! I get my game fix in and get mega brownie points for being an attentive boyfriend that I can cash in for getting out of going to her parents house for dinner, then you know what I do while she is at her parents? If you guessed play Mass Effect then congratulations, you have been paying attention! I hope you're taking notes kids, they don't teach this kind of stuff in school these days.


360 vs PS3; a case of horribly misplaced loyalty

Full disclosure, I have owned the following systems; Sega Genesis, N-64, PS2, X-box, Gamecube, X-Box 360. Use that knowledge to invalidate my argument if you like.

The PSN outage and security breach has kicked off another skirmish in the fanboy wars, and I could not be more disappointed in the lot of you. 
To PS3 owners let me say first that I am not my X-Box, you are not your PS3. Take a moment to let that sink it? Good. Now, why then are you defending Sony so vigorously? You don't owe them anything, you bought that expensive and overly impressive piece of hardware back when most of your peers saved a hundred bucks and got a 360. The only plus you had was free online access and now they have the balls to charge you for that too and it breaks? Fuck them, you should be pissed off at them, not at some dickhead trying to start a flame war. 

And to my Microsoft fanboy friends, stop being so giddy about this. The PSN security breach does not "cancel out" the RROD cluster-fuck. That still happened, our consoles broke, remember? This did not somehow undo that, there was no time vortex created, I have seen no flying DeLoreans, both of these issues where horribly shitty in their own right. How does an outage of the PSN help anybody? Do I get a free month on XBL now? Is there some kind of loyalty prize for kicking Sony while they are down? Because if there is, then I'll get in on it, sure; if not then what the fuck is the point?
Fanboys, let me tell you a little want the other console to do well. I know! That sounds fucking crazy, right! Here's why, competition. If either Sony or Microsoft starts slipping to far behind then the lead company has no incentive to innovate. I remember back when Sony launched the PS3, they had games that did not excite me, a big price tag and a fucking god awful marketing campaign. So I got a 360 and the PS3 floundered. Then, a couple years ago Sony actually started making really awesome games and had brand new, good, funny commercials (Kevin Butler did more to restore that companies image than any of their real executives ever could). Now Microsoft has to get of their asses and build some awesome shit if they want to stay competitive, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Moral of the story, never let a company think that it has your undying loyalty, remember that you are a customer dammit, and they need to work for your money.



Fait's Thoughts on Insanity

I'm sure I'm late to the party, but I just finished my Mass Effect 2 Insanity play-through and here's my take on it.

ME1 vs ME2 import:
I played insanity on my second play-through; however, I did not use the "new game +" feature. The reason being is that if you import your ME1 character and start a second game you will still get the long-service medal and all the perks of "new-game +" but you will start at level 3 (or maybe 5) and not 30, and because your enemies are locked to your level the game won't start with you getting jacked by level 30 mechs. The only other difference is that you won't keep any weapons from your first play-through, but I did not find them to be a huge advantage anyway because they are not upgraded, plus I played as a soldier and had the Firepower DLC so I had access to the strongest AR in the game from the get-go.

Bonus Power:
Playing as a soldier Shepard, I made sure to pick Warp Ammo as my bonus power. Some guides I read have suggested the Geth-Shield boost or Fortification. In hind sight  I may have picked one of those because it could have been very useful in the early levels, and the Warp Ammo is not really necessary until Horizon and you have the opportunity to retrain powers before then. That way, early in the game when you are weak and have no upgrades you have some additional protection and later in the game when you need the extra killing-power you switch to the Warp Ammo. The reason I picked warp-ammo over any other offensive bonus power is that it seems to be built for killing collectors, giving you bonus damage against barriers, armor and health.

I was actually surprised at how quickly I got used to the new difficulty. Mass Effect kind of has a reversed difficulty curve, in that if you make sure you get upgrades quickly the game seems to get easier as you go on. My squads usually consisted of whoever I felt like brining unless I felt that I needed specific abilities, for example, on missions where I would be fighting collectors I would bring Miranda and Thane because I could use Warp to take down barriers and armor, on missions where I would be fighting a lot of Blue Suns I would bring Miranda and Garrus so I could Overpower shields and so on. In battle I would turn Squad Disruptor Ammo on for the team and then typically switch to Heavy Warp Ammo for myself, so the squad could take down shielded opponents and I could finish off everything else. The only other tip I can offer is make sure you pick up Hardened Adrenaline Rush, as it can keep you alive long enough to get that last head-shot on a heavy mech and don't be afraid to just sit behind cover while it recharges, Insanity favors are more methodical play style.

I am not a guy that usually looks for a challenge in a video-game, I just want to have an experience, I originally started the Insanity run just in case there are any bonuses for doing so in ME3. But now that I am finished I am glad I did it just for the sake of getting an S-rank in what is my favorite game of this generation, possibly of all time. 

Have fun, kids!