Buying Games Used to be Convoluted, but Magical

Buying a game today is a non-event. You simply go to a store, pick up the game, walk to the checkout and pay for it. Some retailers, like Target or Walmart, keep them behind a display (CLASSY), which requires the extra step of asking a kind associate for assistance, that is if you can find one.

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GameStop keeps their games behind the checkout, so you need to ask for a copy, which in return they would ask if you pre-ordered it, which my response is was, NO I DIDN’T FUCKING PRE-ORDER IT, BUT YOU HAVE A STACK OF 100 OF THEM BACK THERE SO GIVE ME ONE GODDAMNIT! I have a love/hate relationship with GameStop. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t buy physical copies of games anymore and just download them, like a civilized person. I have also been told that I have a tendency of over reacting.

Back in the day however, there was a process that must be followed when purchasing a game. This was especially the case at Toys R Us, which was my retailer of choice to buy games when I was a kid.

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This unique process, employed by Toys R Us, has been embedded and buried into the depths of my mind. This memory was only uncovered recently after watching a documentary about Tony Robbins on Netflix late one evening.

During this documentary, Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, life coach, self-help guru, and cosmetic dentistry enthusiast, demonstrated an exercise that helps uncover long lost memories. These memories, often times deeply buried, are both positive and negative, but none-the-less, make you the person that you are today. These memories can be very powerful and one can harness them, helping to make you a stronger person.

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With that said, after trying this memory dredging exercise myself, I have no fucking idea why I remembered, and quite vividly I might add, the convoluted and confusing video game buying process employed by Toys R Us from when I was a child.  It’s apparent that my brain is broken. No memories of early vacations, or interactions with my grandparents, birthdays, holidays, or even traumatic events. Nope, I remembered how Toys R Us made the process of buying video games akin to a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or may have forgotten, back in the 80’s and the early to mid-90’s, Toys R Us used a ticketing system for the majority of their large and or expensive products. One would walk down the aisle, find a display of the product they wanted to purchase, select a ticket, take it to the register, pay, and then someone would get you the product you purchased.  If you bought a bicycle, someone would bring you a box of an unassembled bicycle. If you bought swing set, someone would bring you a swing set, et cetera.

Many Toys R Us stores still employ this method, as it does make sense, and it is efficient for large bulky items. Toys R Us used this method for pricier things as well years ago, such as electronics and especially video games.

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As a child, I remember going down the video game aisle and seeing rows and rows of plastic flip cards for games.  The front had the box art and the back had some screen shots and a description. Essentially, it was a representation of the box.  And just below each game, there was a pouch with the fabled Toys R Us item ticket.

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I have vivid memories of going into Toys R Us with my mom or dad to pick up a particular game, only to encounter an empty ticket pouch stating that the game was out of stock and be an utterly devastated 8-year-old. Perhaps it was a mistake. Maybe some asshole took all the tickets and hid them somewhere in the store for some nefarious reason?  Maybe the store just got more in stock and didn’t replenish the tickets? A quick trip to customer service would always validate my fears. The game was indeed sold out.

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More often than not, the game that I wanted was in stock, and I would select my ticket and excitedly go to the front cash registers, like a demented Charlie Bucket, but instead of a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, I was buying what was most likely a forgettable and utterly average NES side scroller.

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After paying for the game at one of the cash registers, the cashier would staple your receipt to the ticket and that is where the magic begins. You then head off to what appeared to be as an excitable child, a plexiglass monolith of electronic and video game goodness. Sadly, all images of this structure no longer exists.  All my image searches came up empty. The image below is the closest representation I could find.

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Within the confines of this structure were stacks of every gaming console imaginable—NESs, Sega Master Systems, Gameboys, and random Atari garbage. Later on there would be the Genesis, SNES, TurboGrafx 16, and holy shit, was that a Neo Geo? Also housed in the clear monolith were games. Stacks upon stacks of games.

Eventually, a sales associate would be called down to get the game that you payed for. A lethargic and disinterested looking teenager would unlock the door, take your ticket, and then attempt to locate your purchased game among the stacks of other games. I say attempt, because they would inevitably pass over your game a half dozen times before zeroing in on it.

IT’S RIGHT OVER THERE MOTHERFUCKER!

…I totally would have said that—if my father wasn’t standing there and would have totally beaten the shit out of me, right there in the store. Remember, this was the 1980’s, parents got away with doing that, and if he got tired slapping me around in public, another parent would have come over and beat me while my father caught his breath.  It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

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Eventually, the teenager would locate your game and hand it over.  I would stare at the box the entire car ride home.  Sometimes, I could not help myself and I would open it up to flip through the instruction manual. Those were the good old days, when games had instruction manuals. The best games had meaty manuals, that contained some back story and a list of enemies.

On a slightly darker side, I also clearly remembered how my friends and I used to scheme during lunch on an Ocean’s 11 caliber plan to infiltrate that plexiglass fortress and make off with all the goodies inside. It was our casino bank vault, ripe for the picking, that is of course if you had a good plan, the right people, and the guts to pull it off such an amazing heist.

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I bet you thought the Clooney version, right? Nope, I’m talking about the infinitely cooler Rat Pack Ocean’s 11.

There were even legends of kids who had found a way in and made off with a handful of carts (or even consoles, depending on who you asked).  These kids then conveniently moved away to other towns, cities and even states, so it could never be confirmed or denied if the story was true or even learn how they pulled it off. Sometimes the tales were cautionary and the kid got caught, sent to juvey and became a hardened criminal. These stories were all legends, who knew if there was any shred of truth to them. (DEFINITELY NOT)

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Risks of juvenile detention aside, my friends and I would speak in hushed tones and plan our caper. Danny would buy a cheap game so that someone would need to unlock the booth. Brucie would wait by the booth and fake a heart attack when the sales associate unlocks the door, causing a commotion and a distraction. Johnny would then go into the booth with a garbage bag and take as much as he can. He’ll then hand the haul off to Jimmy, who’s waiting outside on his bike. It was so crazy; it just might work!  SHHHHHHHH. A teacher’s aid was walking by, she’s onto us. CHANGE THE SUBJECT!

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Also, in the 80’s all of my friend’s names had to end in “-y” or ”-ie” for some reason.

We never did follow through with our plan. It was too risky, and too stupid. Deep down inside, we knew it would never work. We would have been caught in an instant, and our parents would have been called. They would then take turns beating the shit out of us in public.

It was the 80’s, after all. That’s how things were. It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

5 Things To Do in Amsterdam Other than Playing Games at Your Hotel

In full disclosure, I have never visited Amsterdam. I came close to going a couple of times, and my wife and I almost honeymooned there, before deciding on going elsewhere. Suffice it to say, going to Amsterdam is on my bucket list.

Before my wife and I decided to stay exclusively in Austria for our honeymoon, we did have a rough itinerary planned for Amsterdam.  There is a lot going on in that bohemian city. So why would anyone decided to hole themselves up in a hotel and play video games when there is so much more worthwhile things to do?

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The folks at the Arcade Hotel, however hope that’s exactly what you would do. To their credit, the place does sound cool and the price for a stay is reasonable with rates starting at about $70 per night. Its location appears to be on the outskirts of the city center in a trendy and hip area where the streets are named for Dutch master painters.

The hotel also appears to be relatively small with only 36 rooms, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Each room comes with a console and some games. Guests of the hotel can also borrow a handheld if that tickles their fancy or peruse the comic book library. The Arcade Hotel also maintains a fleet of loaner bikes, which is apparently the preferred mode of travel in Amsterdam.

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I certainly don’t want to poo poo this establishment, because it sounds appealing to me personally as a gamer. The problem is that I can’t see myself taking full advantage of this establishment when visiting a city with such an amazing reputation as Amsterdam.

This is sound like your typical Catch-22. Put a hotel like this out in the middle of nowhere, and you will fail because who want to be out in the middle of nowhere.  Put this hotel in an amazing city like Amsterdam, and people don’t take advantage of the amenities because who want to be holed up in a room playing games when they are vacationing.

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I hope that this place succeeds, and who know, maybe one day my wife and I will make it out to Amsterdam and get to stay at this place. We already have a list of things we wanted to see on our Honeymoon, such as:

5. Visit the Anne Frank House

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4. Go on a canal boat tour

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3. Go to various museums

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2. Go to a “Coffee Shop”

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1. Shop at the many open-air markets

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BONUS: Red Light District

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On a side note, my wife and I have this on-going debate that originated when we were considering going to Amsterdam on our honeymoon and I mentioned that we should visit the Red Light district. I believed (AND STILL DO) that a hand job from a lady of the night is fine as long as no kissing is involved. It’s essentially a massage right?  I don’t give her crap when some dude gives her a massage when she and her friends have one their spa days.

She disagreed and says that if I did, she would have our marriage annulled as soon as we got back from our honeymoon. In the end, it was one of the main reasons why she decided we would go to Vienna and Salzburg instead of Amsterdam.

 

Selling Games Online is Like the Wild West – But I Can’t Shoot Anyone

It truly is amazing the amount of crap I have accumulated over the years. You find that special someone, move in together, eventually get married, and one day, you realize that you have no more room to store all your stuff.

When I moved in with the girl who would eventually become my wife, we lived in a tiny fourth floor walk-up in Manhattan. There was room for the barest essentials. Not like it mattered—rent was expensive and we were just starting our careers, so we didn’t have much to begin with.

However, we climbed that corporate ladder, started making some more money, and were able to afford bigger places and the ability to buy things—Many, many things. We moved into a bigger apartment, and after a few years, an even bigger apartment. A few years later, we bought an actual house, just like grownups.

Houses, by their nature, have multiple rooms, even our quaint one. My wife and I proceed to fill those rooms with even more things. Finally, one day, the wife and I were struck at all the shit we accumulated.  We felt cramped and suffocated. It was time to unload. We made a conscience effort to de-clutter and downsize. We wanted our space again. We wanted to simplify.

Furniture, appliances, clothes, accessories, electronics, and various sundries were listed online. We became experts of Craig’s List, eBay, and our personal favorite, Facebook Virtual Garage Sales.

It’s amazing what people will buy on a Facebook Virtual Sale. Things we were willing to throw away, were listed for shits and giggles for a few dollars and to our surprise, people would buy them. People purchased things like old coffee machines, tattered rugs, scratched furniture, and all things we considered garbage. Folks were literally buying our trash.

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Simplifying our space even galvanized us to simplify our budget. We took the leap and cut the chord, forgoing cable for just the Internet, and we have not missed it one bit. We became a streamlined household, physically and fiscally and it feels great.

Of course, I did my part as well.  There were many gaming related items that I decided to unload. Old physical copies of games, various accessories, consoles, you name it—they were going to be put up for sale.

Selling games and hardware online was not something entirely new to me.  I’ve done it a few times before, but I was more apt to trade things in at GameStop for credit. This time around though, I was going to attempt to get top dollar online for cold hard cash. CAPITALISM!

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The first thing I noticed is that selling games is going to attract a very different audience than selling a coffee table. Soccer mom’s are interested in coffee tables, because they read an article in Better Homes and Gardens on how to turn old furniture into shabby chic masterpieces and they are looking to do a project. Meanwhile, freaks, mouth breathers, criminals, and generally people without a modicum of social skill came out of the woodwork for my gaming stuff.

Take the PlayStation TV I listed for example. I got guys who wanted me to deliver the item to them, 50 miles from my house. I got guys who wanted me to ship it to them. I got guys who acted seemingly normally, until it was time to arrange for a place to meet and then got cold feet when I said to meet me at a public place, perhaps because their master plan involved stabbing me in the face.

I eventually sold it to a guy who refused to get out of his car, I had to hand the PlayStation TV to him through the window and he handed me cash. If the police drove by, they would have thought that I was selling this guy crack or a blowjob.

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Then there was the guy who wanted to buy a PS4 controller.  I was selling the controller for just $30 and it was like new and hardly used, but he kept trying to talk me down. I finally told him that the price was firm and I was moving on to the next person. He capitulated and agreed to meet at a public place. After showing up 30 minutes late, he looked over the controller, and asked if I’d take $25, I took it back and began to walk out when he agreed to pay the agreed upon price.

The weirdos really came out though when I listed my Xbox One Elite controller. I used it only a couple of times and realized that my meat hooks and sausage fingers were just too large. I kept hitting the bumpers accidentally and removed them. I paid a premium for what is essentially a nicer Xbox One controller, so I decided to pack it all up, put it back in the box and listed it on Craig’s List. This was a mistake.

The Elite controller is a hot item apparently. It’s pretty much sold out everywhere. Not to mention, the one I was selling was practically new and listed for $125 a savings of $25. I started getting responses immediately.

Craig’s List, is supposed to act like a local classified. I would post to the North Jersey page and people from North Jersey would find my post and then contact me, right? Why then, are there people from the next fucking state responding to my classified?

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This guy was my first respondent, so I was relatively nice to him and simply told him no. He tried to get someone local to meet me, but could not work it out, which is a shame, because the guy seemed normal, so I moved on.

The next guy was possibly illiterate, as he kept asking me questions that would have been answered if he simply read my post. He also was trying to lower the price, which was firm.

He finally agrees on the $125 price, and we make arrangements to meet, and then I get the following text.

Buyer Text

What’s funny is after all this back and forth; he flakes out and asks to meet at later times twice. I know that shit happens, but this deal became to sour in my book and I moved on to the next person. What’s funny is that this flake never contacted me again. It was like I dreamed the entire thing.

Luckily, the next person in line was normal. He agreed on the price and location, got there early, and was pleasant. No muss, no fuss.

So, happy ending, right? Not necessarily. I forgot to delete my Craig’s List post and got a few more responses, including this gem.

You Take 80

This dude struck a nerve with me. I love the written word and take umbrage when people butcher it.

Also, how does distance impact the price of something? Where the fuck did you learn how to haggle? How does distance impact the price? How is where you live my problem? Why don’t you go ahead and watch more American Pickers or Pawn Stars on the History Channel, because all of the sudden, everyone is an expert in dickering.

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I especially like how in the end, he throws in how he already bought one for $70 and was no longer interested, all this in a span of eleven hours, in the middle of the night. Some people just feel the need to make it seem like they won. So I did what I do best. I gave a passive aggressive sarcastic response.

Fortunately, I think I’m done selling stuff, at least for a little while. The wife and I feel like we purged enough. When the time does come to unload more stuff, I think I’ll avoid Craig’s List. It’s not worth the aggravation. Simply put, it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy. (Gratuitous Star Wars Quote)

Have any horror stories of selling used games online? Let me know in the comments.

 

Better with Age: Classic Games Just Look Better… For Now

I’m not a big fan of the term ‘better with age’ since many things are simply not better than age. Sure, things like wine, scotch, and some cheeses are better with some age. Technology? Not so much.

Ever notice that no one ever yearns for medicine of yesteryear? I’ve never met a person who looked fondly at the time when doctor’s prescribed Camel cigarettes for weight loss and bled people with leeches to release the body of bad humors.

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I’m not one to look back at videogames with rose-colored glasses either. Many folks make a big deal about how games were simply better than current generation titles, but that is not entirely true either. Also, many people who claim that that older games are just better dress like lumberjacks and like in Brooklyn. I don’t believe anything these people say.

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Take the original PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 as examples. For the most part, the games on these systems don’t hold up well visually. At the time, we thought they looked amazing, as they were in 3D and everything was built on millions of polygons, but this was just a novelty as it was new and fresh after years of gaming on a 2D plane. Simply put, early 3D games looked horrible.

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Take Mario 64 for example. The game itself was amazing as it was the first iteration of a platformer to make the leap from 2D to 3D and not muck it up. It was groundbreaking, but looking at the game today, the years have not been kind. I’d rather look at Super Mario World on the SNES than Mario 64.

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And that’s the crux of it. Older games do look better, but you have to go back further to see it. In my humble opinion, the games from the 16-bit era, especially as that era was coming to close looked visually unique and amazing. The large colorful sprites really popped.

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Again, I’m not saying that games from the initial PlayStation to today are garbage, but quite the contrary actually. The PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 took gaming into what I like to believe is the modern era of gaming, where 3D, innovative mechanics, story, and high production values became the norm. Unfortunately, it took some time for the visuals to catch up.

Personally speaking, even though classic games, in which I like to define as the 16-bit era and earlier, are more visually pleasing than the early 32-bit era of games, game play wise however, they have not held up very well.

From time to time, I’ll pick up a classic game, either running on an original console or emulated on a modern machine and I’m surprised at how bad I am at playing them. Keep in mind that many of these games are titles that I played years ago as a child and could run through them at ease. Maybe I’m really becoming an old man and my reflexes are going to shit? Or perhaps I’m just not as patient as I used to be and I’m not willing to put in the time to perfect my run through or memorize the maps.

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I remembered all the strategies and secrets, but could no longer execute them. I then become easily frustrated by the pixel perfect timed jumps, or the questionable hit detection and quickly return to more modern games. I find this a bit ironic actually. I’d rather look at a classic game than play it.

I suppose that this is not an extraordinary breakthrough. It’s not too dissimilar from classic movies actually. Take Citizen Kane as an example. Everyone agrees that this movie was groundbreaking and a classic, but ask me to watch it and I’ll cordially decline.

It took some time, but I would argue that we’re coming to a new golden age of gaming. We have gotten to the point where visually, gaming is getting near its apex. I say this because the leap in visuals from last generation to current generation was not all that groundbreaking. Yes, current generation games look amazing, but compare to last generation, the change in visuals are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Take EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront as an example. It is perhaps one of the most visually impressive games I have ever scene, even though game play wise, the game is infuriatingly mediocre. It’s almost as if we’ve reached a point where creating a beautiful looking game is the easy part, yet making it innovative, fun, and memorable is where the true challenge lies.

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I reckon time will tell if my theory holds true. In the meantime, I’ll stick to watching people speed run through classics games. I’m retiring from playing the classics. I’ll leave that to the young whippersnappers.

What Game Maker Would You Go on Vacation With?

Summer is winding down. Soon, we will be heading back to school, half-day Friday’s at the office will be ending, and there will be a nip in the air as autumn approaches.  Of course, if you live in the southern hemisphere, summer is just beginning.

As I sit here writing this, just a few days before Labor Day in the states, which is the unofficial last day of summer for us yanks, I’m thinking back on the recent and the not so recent summer vacations that I’ve been on. Some were good, some were great, and some were utter shit. That got me thinking, what would it be like to go on vacation with a big time gaming personality?

Shigeru Miyamoto – Creator of all things Nintendo.

Going on a vacation with Shigeru Miyamoto would probably be nice if not amazing.  I imagine a wholesome, family friendly, and highly organized affair to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

I’d like to think that he would have customized tee shirts made that everyone had to wear. Embroidered on the shirts, along with your name would be “Miyamoto Dream Vacation 2015.”

Miyamoto with Family

Sure, the cool kids at the beginning of the trip thought this vacation was totally lame, but end up having the best vacation ever! Even grumpy uncle Frank who poo poo’d the trip in the beginning has a blast and learns a valuable lesson of love and forgiveness at the end. THANKS SHIGGY!

Peter Molyneux – Creator of Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Fable, and broken promises.

Going on vacation with Peter Molyneux wouldn’t be bad, but it would probably fall short of initial expectations.

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Have you ever been looking forward to a vacation to someplace new and exciting only to show up and realize that the place is okay, but not quite what you were expecting? Maybe the brochure was using a fancy camera angle with fish eye lens. Maybe you decided to go during hurricane season. Or maybe the pictures you saw were from thirty years ago and the place now looks run down and is in desperate need of a new coat of paint.

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The Hotel looked bigger on the pictures we saw online.

The vacation wouldn’t be bad per se, and you may end up having an okay time, but you just can’t help feeling a bit disappointed.

Cliff Bleszinski – Creator of many games with muscular space marines.

Going on vacation with Cliff Bleszinski would probably be, no pun intended, FUCKING EPIC!

Who’s ready to party?

Who’s ready to party?

There is something about Bleszinski that screams debauched vacation aficionado. Maybe it’s the fact that he used to go by the nom du guerre “Cliffy B” or he used to have an awesome Pornstache (see above).

He looks like the type of person who would rent a party boat on Lake Havasu while flying a giant banner from the mast (party boats have masts right?) that says “SHOW US YOUR TITS!”

Cliff Lake Havasu

Natty Ice would flow freely. Jell-O shots would be eaten off the tummies of co-eds, whip cream licked off the chests of frat bros and everyone will have horrible hangovers the next day. WONDERFUL!

This actually sounds horrible to me now, but when I was a younger man, this would have been awesome. Also, Cliff has grown up a bit the past few years. He may not be down for doing a line of coke off an Arizona State sorority sister’s tramp stamp anymore either.

Hideo Kojima – Creator of Metal Gear, Snatcher, and other things… probably.

Remember that Swedish dad who took his kids to the Gaza Strip to teach them how war was not a game when they asked for a copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts?

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It will be like that, but much worse.

Sid Meier – Creator of Civilization (the game not literal civilization).

Sid Meier reminds me of a cool history teacher that I had in high school. He’s just a nerdy looking guy who takes things that should be dull and boring, and he makes them fun and interesting.

I imagine that a vacation with Meier would be educational but fun, perhaps to someplace historically significant, like Rome or London. He’ll probably be leading a large group, holding up an umbrella so that he doesn’t lose anyone while pointing out interesting things that can be easily missed and regaling us with fascinating facts.

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Richard Garriott – Creator of Ultima, Tabula Rasa and other things that will not help you get laid.

Garriott will probably be the exact opposite of Meier in terms of a fun yet educational vacation. There is just something about the man, that makes me believe that he will just take things a bit too far.

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I see Garriott creating meticulous and accurate costumes for each family member, piling them into the station wagon and driving to a distant Renaissance Fair out in the middle of nowhere.

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He’s going to force you to stay in character the entire time and if you don’t, well it’s off to stocks for you. People are going to throw rotten vegetables and it’s going to be horrible and psychologically scarring.

Alexey Pajitnov – Creator of Tetris, Tetris, and Tetris.

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Pajitnov is Russian. Every Russian person I know likes to drink excessively on vacation. I’m completely okay with this way of vacationing. People who do not do this on vacation should be looked at with suspicion and contempt.

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Is there some other game maker you think would be fun or horrible on vacation? Let’s hear in the comments.

Sharks Can Thank Sega for Their Two Penises

Sega, a company that is responsible for molding me into the gamer I am today has been hit by some hard times. The reasons for this are numerous, but in a nutshell, one can say that Sega has not made a sound decision since 1994; the sole exception being the short lived Sega Dreamcast.

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I’ve written a lot on how much of a fan I was of Sega growing up, so it makes me sad to see the company going through such hard times as of late. Things have gotten so bad that for the first time in its history, Sega will not have a booth at E3 2015.

As reported by Game Informer by way of Ars Technica, Sega claims the lack of presence has to do from moving from the long time headquarters in San Francisco to Los Angeles.

“Over the next months, Sega of America will be focusing on the restructure and relocation to Southern California, and we have decided to not attend E3 with our own booth this year… With the majority of our bigger titles launching later in 2015/2016, particularly those from our AAA studios Relic Entertainment, Sports Interactive, and Creative Assembly, we are concentrating our efforts for some of these major announcements after our relocation.”

Well that sucks. I always considered Sega of America to be a Northern California company and here they are, going off to LA LA Land, with stars in their eyes, looking to start off on a clean slate, like a naïve and young Axel Rose.


Or Pat Benetar, boob menacing a rat faced pimp in the greatest music video of all time.


Moving to new digs in SoCal aside, Sega has also been in an extreme restructuring mode, shifting away from console and PC development and towards smartphones so bowing out of E3 after attending for twenty years straight is not all that surprising, since they are obviously struggling as a company.

Interestingly enough, one can pinpoint where it went all to shit for Sega and it was at the very first E3 in 1995, exactly 20 years ago. In Los Angeles on May 11, 1995, then Sega of America CEO, Tom Kalinske announced that the upcoming Sega Saturn will cost $399. He also announced that even though they initially stated that the Saturn would be release in September of 1995, Sega had already shipped 30,000 consoles to Toys “R” Us, Babbage’s, Electronics Boutique, and Software Etc. for immediate release.

Now, Tom didn’t say that all other retailers not mentioned can go fuck themselves, but that’s how Walmart, Best Buy, and various other retailers took it and returned the favor by dropping Sega from their shelves.

Later that day, Sony Computer Entertainment America president Steve Race took the stage, said “$299”, and then walked away. I would have dropped the microphone, but Steve Race has class.

So at the very first E3, in 1995, Sega was cast into a death spiral in which it could never recover. It’s a fall that it’s still experiencing today—a perpetual fall from grace while it fights a Balrog into a precipice.

Personally speaking, I will always have found memories of Sega. My first console was a Master System and my favorite console of all time is the Genesis (aka Mega Drive). From 1984 to 1995 Sega was intertwined in my memories of holidays and birthdays. I had invested countless hours with some of their most memorable characters, like Sonic.

Poor Sonic has been dragged through the dirt for so many years. Sega has never been able to recapture the magic from his early days on the Genesis or even the Sega CD. Sonic holds a special place in my heart however, and it is evident that he is firmly entrenched in the hearts of others as well.

Take the geneticists who discovered the SHH gene. The SHH gene is responsible for creating a protein vital in the development of eyes, limbs, spinal cord, among other things. I’m not a scientist, but the way I understand it, this gene appears to be the reason we have two identical eyes, rather than one large eye like the cyclops of Greek antiquity.

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Genetics can be such a dry topic however, so the cheeky geneticists named the protein that SHH gene creates after the fast blue hedgehog as in Sonic the Hedgehog, because why the hell not.

As it turns out, Sonic the Hedgehog is the reason why many sharks, skates, and rays have two penises. Scientists at the University of Florida actually confirmed this, because they apparently really into shark penises.

So they next time you’re watching Shark Week or some other nature show and you see a shark with two cocks swaying in the ocean current, you can go ahead and thank Sonic the Hedgehog for that. In a way, Sega will continue to exist regardless if they succeed as a company, because Sonic the Hedgehog will forever be associated with shark dick, and that is a good thing.

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The 6 Best Video Game Tanks 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to do some work related travel. Let me get this out of the way by reaffirming how much air travel sucks nowadays. Oh how I miss the days when airlines allowed you to chain smoke, served filet mignon, and kept the bourbon flowing. Go ahead and give your stewardess a slap on the ass for a job well done without fear of sexual harassment lawsuits or getting throat punched by an air marshal.

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The only good thing about air travel today is the entertainment options. Whether you bring your own handheld, tablet, phone, laptop, pay up for Wi-Fi, or watch TV or movies provided by the airlines, you have options to pass the time. Getting drunk is no longer the only option that you have. Having a choice is good.

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So on my flight I watched two movies. I got to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is hilarious, and Fury, the World War 2 tank action movie starring Brad Pitt. Fury was better than I thought it would be.  I compare a lot of WW2 movies to Saving Private Ryan, and even though Fury is no Saving Private, it’s none the less entertaining.

So that got me thinking. Tanks are underappreciated in movies even though the whole concept of a tank is awesome. There are not enough movies about tanks blowing shit up in my humble opinion.

This is less of a problem in video games, however. Tanks are well represented in FPSs to help break up the action and even have their own standalone games, like World of Tanks. So as I asked the flight attendant for yet another little bottle of Johnny Walker, I got to thinking about some of my personal favorite tanks from video games.

6.  M1 Abrams – Battlefield 3

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The M1 Abrams is the main battle tank for the United States.  It’s been around for awhile, but over the years the military has stayed with the times and continually upgraded it.  This machine is a well-balanced beast and in Battlefield 3 and under the control of a smart, unified team, it’s hard to beat.

 5. OT-34-85 – Call of Duty: World at War

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When you think of World War 2 tanks, the first thing that comes to mind for many are the German Tigers and Panzers, as well as the American Sherman tanks.

The German Tigers essentially had field supremacy, outclassing every other tank the allies had. The Russian OT-34-85 was the exception. Yes, the Tigers were still slightly better armor and more firepower, but the Russians were able to crank out these tanks faster than Stalin grows mustaches.

He was actually was clean shaven in the morning.

He was actually clean shaven in the morning.

4. Rhino – Grand Theft Auto (Multiple Titles)

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The Rhino is pretty much a mainstay in the GTA series appearing first appearing in GTA III. If you manage to get a six star wanted level in the game, the fuzz (rozzers for my UK friends) are going to come after you with one of these beasts. sure, they are slow and easy to avoid, but if this machine has you in it’s sights, you’re done for.

Getting your hands on a Rhino sure is a treat if your main goal is to cause as much destruction and chaos as possible. don’t think for a second though that you’re unstoppable. The cops will come after you in full force and the Rhino’s slow speed and large size makes it an easy target.

3. M35 Mako – Mass Effect

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FUTURISTIC SPACE TANK! I like the Mako missions in Mass Effect, even though I know a lot of people who were not fans.  Their thinking was that the Mako missions was too big of a departure for the series. They believed that the Mako missions were an attempt to make the game more mainstream like Call of Duty and Halo at the expense of the game’s RPG elements.

Whatever my friends may think, I like the Mako.  It’s quick and nimble, has plenty of firepower, and it can hover. These are all good things in my honest opinion.

2. Scorpion – Halo (Multiple Titles)

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Speaking of Halo, no tank discussion would be complete with mention of the venerable Scorpion. What I love about this tank is that is futuristic while still being instantly recognizable and current. It’s not a huge departure like the Mako from Mass Effect. 

1. Sophia 3rd – Blaster Master

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By far, the best tank out of the bunch.  Growing up, I was infatuated by the game Blaster Master for the NES, but it was a horrible relationship though, because this game is brutally hard.

Insane difficulty aside, the game was fun and it has an awesome title.  I’m immediately reminded of the character Master Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. 

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Sophia 3rd may not have the firepower of the other tanks on this list, but it makes up for it with pure moxie.

If there is one downside to Sophia 3rd, it’s the name.  I’m reminded of the Disney cartoon Sophia the First, which my daughter was infatuated with just a short time ago. Luckily, she has moved on to new cartoons and I’m doing my best to get her to like Star Wars Rebels as my wife thinks that Archer is not appropriate for a 2-year-old.

Not a tank.

Not a tank.

Evil Rabbits

Many, many years ago, a bearded Jewish man was crucified in the Middle East. After a week, he came back to life. His modern day followers remember this miracle by celebrating a long-eared woodland rodent.

As a Christian (Roman Catholic actually) this time of year is one of the most important holidays. I actually go to church on this holiday, to celebrate my savior’s death and subsequent resurrection. The only other time I actually go to church is to celebrate my savior’s birth, which is ironic. I never said I was a good Christian.

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As you have probably gathered by now, I’m speaking about Easter (and Christmas), two holidays ruined by commercialism and the greeting card industry. Christmas is about giving gifts, and the baby Jesus takes the back seat to a fat hirsute man in a red suit, which is okay, I suppose, because you get gifts, which is nice.

What I cannot tolerate is an adult Jesus, who died for my sins, playing second fiddle to a furry rodent known for it’s elongated ears and it’s ability to aggressively procreate.

Quite simply, rabbits, and by extension, their larger cousin, the hare, are evil, with no redeeming qualities, with the exception of making exquisite stews.

Even our ancestors knew that rabbits are horrid creatures. Rabbits were showcased quite often in medieval art performing horrible deeds.

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Case and point, did you know that in the Middle Ages giant rabbits carried swords and regularly beheaded people?

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Humans were also forced to fight three-headed beasts for the amusement of our rabbit overlords.

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Apparently, it was not unheard of rabbits chasing people up into the trees, where they would be taken down by crossbow totting hares. Also, fair maidens were frequently kidnapped.

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Humans also could not travel, lest they be accosted by gangs of marauding rabbits and bludgeoned to death.

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Man’s best friend, the humble dog, did fight a brutal war against the rabbits on our behalf. Here, we see an army of dogs lay siege to a rabbit castle.

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However, the rabbits were too strong, and the dog army was cut down and brutally crushed by rabbit archers.

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The rabbits showed complete disregard for modern legal practice. This poor dog was tried in an apparent rabbit tribunal. He will not be judged by a jury of his peers.

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The outcome of the trial was never in doubt.

Why then, do we subjugate our poor children this time of year to the Easter Bunny (if that’s his real name), after all the atrocities that his ancestors performed on mankind? This is unconscionably.

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Rabbits have even infiltrated my beloved video games and I’m disgusted by it. They have no place in video games, unless they are playing the antagonist, which is a rarity.

Take Jazz the Jackrabbit for example. He’s the main character of the game that bares his name. However, in an age when character based platformers were cute and merely hopped on their enemies, Jazz saw fit to use high powered firearms against unarmed tortoises and bumble bees.


Or take the Rabbids from various Ubisoft games.  These rabbits simply cause pure chaos while speaking incomprehensible jibberish. They are obviously high on drugs.


If the Rabbids are not on drugs, then Max, from the Sam & Max series definitely is. I’d say he’s on cocaine or speed, as he’s absolutely manic and has no business solving crimes.  As far as I’m concerned, he’s a criminal himself.

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Lastly, Peppy Hare from Star Fox, I’m onto you. You’re kind elderly mentor act is fooling no one. One day you will betray Fox McCloud, I KNOW IT.

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You may be asking if perhaps I’m being too hard on rabbits?  Their atrocities against man took place many years ago. Should I learn to love and forgive them for their transgressions? Some would say that is what Jesus would want; after all, this holiday is about him.

The answer to that is NO. I am a rabbit racist, and I will never forgive them. As far as I’m concerned, the best place for a rabbit, is in the stew pot, prepared in the agrodolce style, as my Sicilian grandmother used to serve for special occasions.

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Buon appetit and Happy Easter.

Gaming in the Classroom AND 5 Classic Apple IIe Games

Couple weeks back, I was browsing the interwebs pretending to work, when I came across an interesting TED Talk about gaming. What made it even more interesting was that it was presented by third grader Cordell Steiner. The presentation was called ‘Individualization, failure and fun’, and I’m hundred percent certain that his parent’s helped him this.

Here’s the presentation, in its entirety. It’s just over 5 minutes long. Go ahead, I’ll wait.


First things first, he really gets on my nerves. There’s nothing more annoying than a precocious kid who talks like an adult. There’s something disturbing about it ­– something, unnatural. It gives me the heebie-jeebies, like watching a spider or millipede scurry across the floor.

You may be surprised by this reaction, since I have written many times that I’m a father myself, and you may be under the incorrect assumption that parents love children in general. You would be only half right. I love my daughter, more than anything in the world. Every other child is intolerable, and should be seen not heard.

Or both.

Or both.

I don’t want to be cruel, especially towards an argyle sweater clad third-grader, but his entire “talk” concerning games in the classroom is a non-issue. Before watching the video, I assumed that he was going to make a plea for mainstream and commercial games like Call of Duty, or GTA, stating how they improve problem solving or hand-eye coordination or some other stupid cliché shit.

To my surprise, he was speaking of educational games, which his third-grade teacher, Mr. Pie (TEE HEE!), assigns to his students. He goes into how the games assigned to him and his classmates are individualized, so that everyone can learn at their own pace and how fun it is. He waxes eloquently on how his teacher, the so called Mr. Pie (if that’s even his real name!) “rocks”, and how cutting edge he is. The little scamp even nonchalantly drops that he’s an “advanced learner.” Perhaps Mr. Pie should teach a lesson on humility next week.

Maybe I’m being tough on the kid. There’s a very good possibility that I’m harboring a wee bit of jealousy, towards a child no less, since no one has asked ME to do a TED talk. Sometimes, when I’m home alone with the dog, I like to give an impromptu TED talk to an audience of one. The wife may be out shopping, or visiting her mother, and I’ll just be inspired to give a kick ass presentation to the dog like a fucking BOSS! When I’m done, I feel fantastic. Maybe the dog will be awestruck by my rhetorical eloquence. Then she’ll lick her own ass and leave the room. MY DOG DOES NOT APPRECIATE MY IDEAS!

Meh...

Meh…

After watching the video, I decided to do a bit of research. When I say research, I’m referring to speaking with my wife, who just so happens to be a teacher with seven years of experience, and also currently teaches the third grade. COINCIDENCE!?!?

Actually it’s totally a coincidence. And aliens.

Actually it’s totally a coincidence. And aliens.

Do kids no longer have access to educational computer games in school? When I was in elementary school, back in the 80’s, when big hair was in and Michael Jackson was legitimately cool, we played tons of games on Apple IIe computers.

Matter of fact, the possibility to play a game on those old Apple machines was a bit of distraction. Many of the classrooms in my elementary school had only one and maybe two computers if you were lucky. The urgency to get your work done first for the chance to play a game on the computer led to some Lord of the Flies style shenanigans. It was not a pretty site when two kids finished their work at the same time and rushed the teacher to get permission to boot up the computer and play a game.

Little Simon got the message. He'll read a book silently in the corner.

Little Simon got the message. He’ll read a book silently in the corner.

Things have changed over the years however. Having visited my wife’s classroom multiple times, I’ve noticed that she has five desktops in the back of the room for her students. I asked if her students play educational games on those machines and she said that they do all the time. All of the computers are loaded with educational games and the browsers are bookmarked to hundreds of educational Flash sites.

So frankly speaking, what the hell is Cordell Steiner talking about? This is a non-issue. Maybe he’s speaking about schools in poorer areas, where they do not have the budgets to facilitate video games in the classroom, but he never states that in his talk. If that’s the case, then this is societal issue. I really can’t blame Cordell for that GLARING error though, since he’s just a kid, albeit a self proclaimed “advanced” one. I blame Mr. Pie.

...And his parents for dressing him in that HORRIBLE sweater

…And his parents for dressing him in that HORRIBLE sweater

Okay, enough on TED talks! Let us take a trip down memory lane, where acid wash jeans were worn non ironically, MTV played actual music videos, and Playboy Magazine had more bush than a botanical garden in summertime.

That's a big bush

That’s a big bush

Spieler Dad’s Top 5 Apple IIe Educational Games from the 80’s

5. Math Blaster

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All that I remember about this game was how cool the title was. In the 80’s anything with the word “blaster” in it was cool… probably. It reminded me of the NES game Blaster Master as well as the totally cool Master Blaster character from the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Sadly, Math Blaster has nothing in common with each of these things.

WHO RUNS BARTER TOWN!

WHO RUNS BARTER TOWN!?!

4. Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego

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I had the hots for Carmen Sandiego when I was in grade school. Carmen Sandiego, for a fictitious female thief is not unattractive. The red hair, the fedora, the sultry come hither glare, she’s a pre-pubescent boy’s dream come true. Was she a Latin? Pretty sure she was a Latin. I’d say she’s probably from Argentina. That means she’s red blooded and fiery.

I vividly remember Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego being so much harder than Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. What can I say, even as a child, I was so much worldlier and sophisticated. The borders of the United States could not contain me.

3. Oregon Trail

This is the game that made shitting one’s self to death into a meme.

This is the game that made shitting one’s self to death into a meme.

Every Brooklynite hipster has the t-shirt.

2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego

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Did I mention that I had a crush on Carmen Sandiego? Sometimes, while playing this game, I used to fantasize that I was part of some international crime fighting task force, akin to Interpol. Carmen was smart, but no match for my wits. I will pursue her to the ends of the earth and I will capture her. She will crumble under my interrogation and we will give in to the sexual tension. We will then run off together becoming the most formidable art heist syndicate known to the world. Our lair will be a stately villa on the shores of Como. Antiquities and famous objets d’art will not be safe. We’ll sip cordials from our terrazzo while planning our next big heist, before retiring to our boudoir for a night of passion.

1. Odell Lake

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This game was my favorite. I’m not even sure that this game could be defined as being educational. You were a fish. You ate other fish. You tried not be eaten by bigger fish or caught by anglers. I’m not sure what this game was trying to teach. Maybe it was a commentary on society? Was it teaching the big fish little pond theory? Maybe it was trying to teach kids about the dog eats dog mentality of our society?

Or maybe this game was designed by a bunch of Minnesotan stoners and this is about being a fish. The world will never know.

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It’s a mystery.