I Played the Hillary 2016 Video Game, Now I Have Even Less Confidence in American Politics

As some of you may have heard, there’s a presidential election in the works here in the U.S. Things are going to get really heated between now and November 8.  The candidates are pulling out all the stops to get the vote, and some of them are going high tech.

This is the most interesting election I have ever encountered and not because we have two upstanding social servants vying for the highest office in the land.  Never in my life have I seen two candidates that are more unlikable and unqualified. On one end, there is the tallest and most aggressive Oompa Loompa the world has ever seen. On the other, there is a corrupt, untrustworthy, career politician, and carpet bagger. It doesn’t matter what happens in November, because the U.S. is doomed.

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But enough doom and gloom.  There is a bright side to all this.  Hillary’s campaign just released a video game for mobile devices. Everyone knows millennials love video games, just look at the Pokémon Go phenomenon. So those in Hillary’s campaign took five minutes (probably literally) to create a mobile game.

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Like most mobile games today, after downloading the game and launching it for the first time, you’re asked to create an account.

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No thanks. I’m good. I’d rather just play. I don’t want to get bombarded by spam.

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Then the game gently reminds you that if you want to play, you must create an account…

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Christ, you’re a pushy bastard, but if I must…

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All that the back and forth about creating an account was well worth it however.  Had I decided to simply decline and delete the game and move on with my life, then I would not have had the opportunity to witness the splendor of a virtual Hillary Clinton 2016 Campaign Office. Also, I used to burner Yahoo e-mail account because I’m not stupid.

Okay. Fake Yahoo e-mail address entered. Let’s get campaigning…. GODDAMMIT!

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Looks like I’m finally ready to play this game. Let’s get acquainted with my new campaign office. Just swipe up to turn on the lights. This is actually the first time I get to interact with this game.  This is also the pinnacle of the type of interactivity one can expect with this game.

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There’s not a lot going on in here.  I would expect to see more people working. Why am I here all alone? Where is everyone? Am I in some 28 Days Later post-apocalyptic zombie infested wasteland and I’m the last person alive? That sounds sweet!

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I’ve been playing for 15 minutes and my campaign office was never attacked by zombies. Perhaps I should find something to do.  How about a game of Trump or False?

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That sure was fun. Oh look, a plant needs watering. I can’t take the excitement!

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Oh look! There’s a store front.  I can buy some furniture, new walls, and posters for my campaign office. Posters that no one except me will ever see, and chairs that no one will ever sit it, sofas that no one will ever lounge in, and walls that no one will never, erm… be walled in by.

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I’m depressed now. I think I’m going to go take a nap.

During my nap I dreamed of a better world. A world that was peaceful and everyone was happy. I’m roused from my slumber by a chime from my phone. Looking at my phone, I noticed that I had a Push Notification from the Clinton 2016 app.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and opened the app, curious as to what the news may be.

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I’m confused. The app that I downloaded yesterday and have played for 20 minutes (which felt like an eternity) is now telling me to download the app. I’m reading this in the app’s news feed. What kind of Bizzaro World black magic is this?  Is this some kind of elaborate psychological experiment from some secret CIA Black Ops program meant to break my will? What is the ultimate goal of this app?

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Well that explains it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, nor am I ignorant as to what the ultimate goal of this app is.  The issue here is this app is a flaming pile of garbage and it has no redeeming qualities. This app makes the Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood game look like a masterpiece.

Even if you’re a Hillary supporter, I cannot recommend it. That’s why I give this one sad Robin Hood hat wearing Bernie Sanders supporter out of five.

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Enjoy the election!

Game Protagonists Are Old Farts Now and That’s Okay

Getting older is not as bad as people make it out to be. Take it from me, as someone who has been on this merry-go-round called earth over thirty-six times. Complaining about it is so cliché anyway.

Sure, my muscles ache a bit more than they used to, and my peaches hang down a little lower, and my beard has a touch of grey here and there, but you learn to deal.  Perhaps the worst part was the thinning of my long beautiful mane of hair, but I just started shaving all that shit off. Now I’m a sexy bald man, like the late great Telly Savalas.

I’m also wiser now.  I know stuff just because I have been alive longer than other people. Want proof? Read my 100 Blog Post Fapstravaganza AMA and be enlightened.

Know what else is great about getting older? I now have more in common with the protagonists in the video games I play. Believe it or not, many of the main characters of games are getting older, and the reason for this is because apparently the people who are creating the games are getting older.

This was brought to my attention awhile back in a promo from Sony for Unchartered 4, where Nathan Drake is no longer a spring chicken destroying future UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but rather a 30-something who destroys future UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the video, which I embedded below, there is some interesting commentary from the game’s makers on how they grew up designing Nathan Drake and in turn, Nathan has grown up with them.

However, games protagonists have been skewing older for some time now. I first noticed this awhile back when playing Max Payne 3. When I think of Max Payne, I used to picture a young man with a perpetual “who farted face” with questionable style choices.

Boy was I surprised when I first started up Max Payne 3 to see a man that looks surprisingly similar to me, with a shaved head and beard. It’s eerie, like looking into a mirror.

However, I would never be caught dead in a Hawaiian print shirt. It’s obvious that Max Payne still suffers from questionable style choices.

Then, towards the end of the last generation of consoles, the amazing and in my opinion, groundbreaking The Last of Us was released, featuring a protagonist that’s touched with a bit of grey, just like yours truly.

Joel is a little worse for the wear, and has a greying beard, which I can relate to. But, look at that thick head of hair he has. FUCK YOU JOEL! Why do you still have so much hair? What is your secret? I HOPE ALL THAT BEAUTIFUL HAIR FALLS OUT AND YOU BECOME A BALDIE LIKE ME!

Getting back on track — I especially liked Joel, because he’s a father figure, and as a dad myself, I empathized with his struggle in this game and can understand the reasons for the actions he takes. That’s a powerful thing for me and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed and remember this game so fondly.

On a side note, The Last of Us was developed by Naughty Dog, the same folks behind the Unchartered series, so they are apparently attempting to corner the market on games featuring older, aching, grey haired male main characters.

Grand Theft Auto 5 also has its fair share of more experienced leads. Matter of fact, two out of three of the main characters can be considered old farts. Trevor Phillips, reminds me of that crazy uncle that every family has and tolerates during extremely awkward conversations around the dinner table during the holidays.

Michael De Santa (nee Townley) is a well-to-do man, who’s married to an attractive woman that may be porking her tennis instructor and a father to two pain in the ass kids.  It’s obvious that he’s undergoing some sort of midlife crisis, and going back into a life of crime is both a necessity in order to pay off debts, an outlet for his internalized rage, and a longing for his younger days full of excitement.

According to some armchair hack psychotherapist on Wikipedia individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis may feel:

  • A deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished
  • Fear of humiliation among more successful colleagues
  • Longing to achieve a feeling of youthfulness
  • Need to spend more time alone or with certain peers
  • Heightened sense of their sexuality or lack thereof
  • Ennui, confusion, resentment or anger due to their discontent with their marital, work, health, economic, or social status
  • Ambitious to right the missteps they feel they have taken early in life

Now, tell me that doesn’t essentially sum up Michael De Santa’s story arc.

Speaking of people having a midlife crisis, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Bruce Wayne/Batman can be diagnosed with this condition.

It seems that for the past few Batman movies and games, the story has centered around how Wayne/Batman is getting old and his decrepit body can longer hold up to the stresses of being a winged vigilante detective face puncher.

One of the main frustrations of getting older is noticing that your body is not able to perform in the same ways as it had in the past.  It takes a little longer to get loosened up, after workouts you stay sore a little longer, and when you get banged up, it takes a little longer to heal. This is my experience as someone that is in relatively good shape.

Also, let us not forget that in Arkham Knight, Batman was rolling around in his fancy new Batmobile. This is important, because everyone knows buying a fancy car is the first thing a man does when he’s suffering from a midlife crisis.

It’s getting obvious that this is not a coincidence that game characters are getting older. Another recent example is Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

If memory serves, Big Boss was the main character in Metal Gear Solid 3: Sneak Eater, where he’s a relatively young man. The Phantom Pain takes place in 1984, approximately twenty years after the events of Snake Eater takes place, so of course Big Boss is older, wiser, greyer, and worse for the wear.

He still has a thick head of hair, so I hate him. No way he still has all that hair after years of stress. I say it’s hair plugs or a really good toupée. Look at the technology that he has it his disposable. They are probably light years ahead of everyone in toupée technology.

And yes, I do realize that Big Boss is an integral character in many Metal Gear games, but on this case, I’m referring to playable old Big Boss.

When I first started writing this blog, my plan was to stop at Big Boss, but recent develops have required me to make one more addition. Thanks to Sony, we are in store for a new God of War game, where an older, grumpier, and bearded Kratos battles Norse gods.

This time, Kratos will be accompanied by his young son, and if the E3 gameplay trailer is any indication, Kratos is the type of dad who yells at his son during Little League baseball games. I imagine he’s like that dick dad from the original Bad News Bears.

So as you can see, this trend of older lead characters in games is going to continue and I think that’s brilliant. Sorry young whippersnappers, but the people who make games are getting older along with the people who play games and we like playing as old people and it’s only going to get worse.  Soon, Batman will be in his Batmobile doing 25 mph in the fast lane with his left turn signal on, Kratos will sit on his porch yelling at Norse monsters to get off of his lawn, and Nathan and Elena Drake will settle in a nice condo in Boca Raton, Florida. I can’t wait.

 

Thanks for Ruining My Summer, Video Game Industry

Summer is a time of year that I look forward to.  The long days are perfect for spending time outside being active and on hot days I look forward to taking a ride to the beach, or down the shore, as we say in the Jerz.

Of course, the best thing about summer is grilling large amounts of red meat outside then trying to shove as much of as possible into my face while washing it down with a refreshing cold beer.

Because of all the outdoor activities that become available during the summer months, playing video games usually becomes a low priority. It also helps that video game makers avoid releasing video games during the summer months. It’s as if doing so would make them susceptible to bad humors which will give them the plague.

I never understood why publishers don’t release games during the summer months. Students who are in school are either on break or have greatly reduced schedules.  Those who are working can also expect additional time off for holidays, summer Fridays, and folks generally take time off for vacations. For the most part, people have more time in the summer, so one would think that publishers would take advantage of that.

The movie industry certainly takes advantage of this.  Summers are when big blockbusters are released. Big, stupid, action oriented popcorn flicks are a summertime staple as the studios generally save the more serious stuff for the holidays, which makes sense, right?

The gaming industry however, has been stuck in a rut of releasing everything worthwhile in this tiny 4-month window between September and December. Sure, you’ll want to capitalize on holiday gift giving, but all these big releases so close together causes cannibalization among the big budget titles and smaller titles get lost in the shuffle.

You would think that publishers would want to spread out their release calendar a bit. Why not give the consumer a steady stream of titles throughout the year, instead of a glut all at one time? It just makes sense. Who are these amazingly smart executives making the decisions at these big companies anyway?

Okay, that’s not fair, but I can’t help myself.

This year, however, I’ve noticed a shift. There are a decent amount of good games coming out this spring which is going to force me to play throughout the summer.

Uncharted 4, Doom, and Battleborn have already been released and are solid if not exceptional games. However, just over the horizon we have Overwatch coming out in late May, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in early June, No Man’s Sky in late June, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in late August.  All of these games are AAA titles, which is a rarity for the summer months.

Uncharted 4 is an awesome game that his lived up to all the hype and I’m thoroughly enjoying it right now.  Doom, a game in which many thought was going to be pure shit due to a review embargo has actually turned out to be more than decent and warrants a purchase. Not to mention, Doom and especially Overwatch, are solid multiplayer titles that will have long life spans.

Also, all the hype and general high praise for Overwatch during its beta has piqued my interest, and not just because Tracer has a beautiful rear end. I wonder what my good friend Pacino thinks?

Doom and Overwatch alone would have taken up my entire summer, but I had no idea that No Man’s Sky was scheduled for the summer. This title alone appears to be a total time suck just by the nature of this game’s style alone.

It’s actually a good thing that there are no big trips scheduled this summer and we just have “staycations” planned. Of course, my wife can make an executive decision at any time and pile us all into the car for a leisurely 26-hour road trip to god’s waiting room.

My plan is to lock myself into my game room, crank up the air conditioning and draw the blinds. Who knows, I may even take a break every once in a while to stuff grilled meats into my face and drink cold beer outside.

The FBI Wasted My Tax Dollars on a Video Game

The wife and I got a jump on our taxes this year. All of our tax forms from our employers, banks, and creditors have been sent off to our accountant. Hopefully, we get a decent return this year, which is never a guarantee. My hope is that it’s enough to put a stripper pole in the basement.

Every year, for eight years, when we send all of the forms to our accountant, I tell him to get me big refund by COOKING THE BOOKS. He then cordially reminds me that he is a reputable CPA. I also have no idea what cooking the books entails, but it sounds cool.

Eventually, we’ll get completed tax forms from the accountant to sign before submitting to Uncle Sam, and I marvel at how much money I paid in taxes both to the state as well as the federal government.

Where does all this money go?

Well, a portion of it went to the FBI, who spent it designing a website and a “video game,” with the aim of teaching teens the dangers of violent extremism. The money would have gone to better use if the feds used it to wipe their asses and then setting it on fire.

Have you ever encountered an instances where someone shows you something that they are very proud of, and you just smile, grit you teeth and nod, because you’re afraid to tell them that in actuality it’s total shit?  That’s the feeling I get when visiting the FBI website and right up front, on the page’s main carousel you’ll see “Don’t Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism.”

FBI Home Page

According to the FBI, “today like never before, violent extremists of all kinds are deliberately targeting our nation’s young people with poisonous propaganda—especially in cyberspace, where they are flooding social media with slick recruiting videos and persuasive calls to action.”

This is very true and terrifying. So the FBI’s plan to counter this is with a website using the slickest imagery and styles from 2003.

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The goal of the site, which can be viewed here, is to “teach teens recognize violent extremist messaging and become more resistant to self-radicalization and possible recruitment, through the use of activities, quizzes, videos, and other materials.”

This is a noble goal and it’s a shame that it was squandered on a such a horrible site that appears to be an perfect example of what out of touch beltway pundits believe teens find “cool.”

The ultimate goal for the user is to click on each section and complete small tasks.  These tasks are actually very informative and one can learn quite a bit.  After each task is completed, a string is cut on the puppet, freeing an appendage. Ultimately, you must free the puppet, so he can go home to his father, Geppetto and eventually become a REAL BOY…. probably.

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I’m not even sure what’s going on here. Where are we supposed to be? Is this some kind of post-apocalyptic safe house? I’m getting a Myst vibe. Click on any of the boxes and you’ll zoom into that area and get a definition and a task.

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That’s a sweet ass rig there. What is that? A 486 tower with floppy and CD-ROM! Damn, we’re going to be playing some original Wolfenstein tonight, kids.

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Holy shit that’s an original Gameboy! Do teens today even know what an original Gameboy is? I like to imagine that a group of old grizzled G-men sitting at a meeting and one them say, “When my son was teenager, he used to love playing with something called a Gameboy. Let make sure we have one on the site because teens love those things.”

It just so happens that this area will also allow you to play a game called “Slippery Slope” on that Gameboy.

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You play as a goat that must dodge obstacles and make it to the finish line. Make it to the finish line and you’ll get a message.

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Wow, that sure came out of nowhere. How does one go from playing, as a happy goat traipsing through the countryside avoiding obstacles to what appears to be a quote from Conan the Barbarian? That escalated quickly—slippery slope indeed.

In the end, I really didn’t want to shit all over this site, as it does have a noble goal. Terrorism and extremism is real and it is scary, and yes, they are targeting teenagers, who may vulnerable and can be impressionable.

But here’s the thing, teens may be impressionable, but they are not stupid. A site like this panders to them in a condescending way.  You don’t have to make things edgy, cool, or fun to get through to youth. This was the case when I was a teenager and it’s true today.

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.

 

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.

Cut from the Same Cloth: Gamers, Geeks and Sport Fanatics

One of the best things about big gaming and comic conventions like PAX, E3, Tokyo Game Show, and Comic Con is seeing all the hardcore fans in cosplay showing off what probably took weeks and possibly months of passionate hard word to create.

Some people take more time creating their costumes than others.

Some people take more time creating their costumes than others.

Many people will say that cosplay is unique to gaming and ‘geek’ culture, a term that I don’t care for personally.

Yes, gamers, as well as those who enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, and comic books are a passionate lot, and we get lumped together as being geeks or nerds. We can be very enthusiastic when it comes to our hobby and genres of choice, leading to impassioned conversations, public displays of fandom, and remarkable acts of cosplay.

Non-gamers and non-geeks will casually point out that cosplay, online flame wars, the waiting in line for a midnight launch, and Gamergate as examples of their superiority over the lowly gamer and geek.

Dressing up like idiots, queuing up outside in the cold, having irrational and heating conversations is beneath them. They have too much class for that nerd bullshit.

There is one group in particular, who has a tendency of being very much anti-geek and anti-gamer, and yet, practices the same behavior as many hardcore gamers and nerds, but they would never admit it.

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The NFL is the most popular sports league in America and its fans are a passionate and vocal bunch, just like gamers and pop culture enthusiasts.  Dressing up and going to a game looking like a rejected juggalo is okay, because they’re just showing TEAM SPIRIT. They’ll put a block of cheese on their heads and sit in sub-zero temperatures with their fellow fans and enjoy it god damn it. If you have a fucking a problem with that or god forbid, are a fan of the opposing team, you better be prepared to have beer poured on you and being cursed at the entire game.

Or if you’re at a Raiders game, being shanked in the belly with a filed down screwdriver.

Or if you’re at a Raiders game, being shanked in the belly with a filed down screwdriver.

It’s not just American football that has fanatical fan bases.

Random baseball fan.

Random baseball fan.

Random Canadian hockey fans.

Random Canadian hockey fans.

Random Swedish soccer fan.

Random Swedish soccer fan.

There are other parallels as well between gamers and sport fans.  In the case of this blog post however, we’ll stick with football fans, since football season has just started and football fans can be the most obnoxious.

As it was mentioned earlier, gamers and geeks alike can be very vocal online in the comments sections of various blogs, websites, and online forums.  Look at the reactions you see online whenever a highly anticipated game comes out or the game industry is going under some controversy, like Gamergate.

RAGE!

RAGE!

Sports fans and football fans especially can be just as vocal. Go onto a site like ProFootballTalk.com and read some of the comments and you’ll encounter some of the most amazingly fanboyish trolling since the inception of the Internet. It’s almost like someone just took the comments from the Destructoid forums and did a ‘find and replace’ of all mentions of PS4 with the New England Patriots, and Xbox with Dallas Cowboys

Sports talk radio is also incredibly hilarious.  I was up in Boston recently and had the opportunity to hear Patriot apologists, like long time listener first time caller Peter from Quincy Massachusetts who thinks “AHHH, THE NFL COMMISSIONAHH HAS IT OUT FOR BRADY AND THE PATS BECAUSE WE AHHH WINNAHS AND EVERYONE AHHH LOSAHS. YOU THINK BRADY IS THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRSIT? THANKS! I’LL HANG UP AND LISTEN.”

Tomorrow they'll be back at their jobs as neurosurgeon and attorney.

Tomorrow they’ll be back at their jobs as neurosurgeon and attorney.

Hardcore football fans, like Peter from Quincy are worse than console fanboys. Console fanboys are bad, but hardcore Patriots fans and football fans by extension are delusional and highly paranoid group of people.

I freely admit that I used to be a jock. I played football and soccer, ran track, and was a gym rat. I still enjoy going to the gym, passionate about soccer, watch a fair amount of both baseball and football. There are also teams that I follow closely and I am passionate about. I own a few Yankee caps and soccer shirts, I follow the NFL and root for the Giants, and on occasion, still play a bit of soccer and try not to tear my hamstrings or shred the ligaments in my knees.

Then there is the fantasy aspect of the NFL, something that I partake in every year, because I like to combine watching grown men giving each other brain damage with gambling.

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When I first tried Fantasy Football, the Internet was still in its relative infancy.  A group of my jock friends and I met in one of our parent’s basements, and performed our draft.

We elected someone the commissioner of our league, ran a raffle to setup the draft order, and consulted a book that contained the rules and statistics of every player in the NFL that could be drafted. This was the gamification and nerdification of football in its infancy as far as I’m concerned.

Looking back I see that our early NFL Fantasy Draft was essentially D&D for jocks and frat bros. Our commissioner was our Dungeon Master, the official draft book was our Official D&D Player’s Handbook, and the teams we were creating were our avatars, who would battle every week.

zerocharisma

My group of friends and I were now no different than the nerds we made fun of for playing Magic the Gathering at lunch. The only difference being that the nerds debated the tactics of using a Fire Wizard against an Ice Orc (or some shit like that) and the jocks deliberated whether to start Steve Young against the Dallas defense.

Magic the Gathering Players

Because I was not a pure meat-head like many of my jock friends, as I was into sports, but liked to indulge my nerdy side as well, I was able to see how the two pastimes of fantasy sports and fantasy role-playing had plenty in common. However, the jocks, meat-heads, as well as the nerds would never dare to admit that what they were actually were pretty closely related.

I'm like this guy, who went to a Saints football game dressed as FABULOUS Master Chief.

I’m like this guy, who went to a Saints football game dressed as FABULOUS Master Chief.

Now, fantasy sports have gone online and massively multiplayer with sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, much like video games in general with the proliferation of eSports, Xbox Live, and PSN. On top of all this, there is substantial money that can be made in both fantasy sports and eSports as well. The only difference is that the media and public perception is that fantasy football is cool and manly; while eSports is for geeks and freaks that live out of their parent’s basements and is generally a fringe pastime.

It does look like we’re starting to see a pivot however. ESPN, the self-professed worldwide leader in sports has taken an interest in televising and covering eSports.  This is a substantial shift in my opinion.  Perhaps they see that the demographic is merging, and that there is no longer a clear distinction between the fans of sports, eSports, and gaming. I mean, I like sports and gaming, and the fact that ESPN is now covering both is something that resonates with me personally.

"I too enjoy combining sports and gaming" - FABULOUS Master Chief.

“I too enjoy combining sports and gaming” – FABULOUS Master Chief.

Even DraftKings, purveyor of horrible advertising and weekly Fantasy Football betting is tipping its toe into eSports gambling. Their goal is to tap into eSports Gambling in Asia first and then slowly expand globally.  So our friends in Asia can look forward to being constantly bombarded by shitty ads featuring grinning screaming/morons like the ones below.


So in the end, the sports nut, the gamer, and the sci-fi/fantasy geek have more in common than not.  We’re all kindred spirits who should be united in our fanaticism. We should rid ourselves of juvenile terms coined in the halls of high schools such as nerd, jock, geek, meat-head, and freak. In solidarity, we should wear diary products on our heads like a hat, dress up as Bilbo Baggins, cover our bodies in grease paint while stand out in the cold. We shall continue to berate and verbally assault people online who may disagree with you, whether it’s an obnoxious Pats fan our PC Master Racers.

We are all the same. Except for wrestling fans. Those people are weird.

SmugFan

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.

1388203-peter_molyneux_ego_super

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.

moly on beach

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?

Kojima Vaca
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.

Sid Tour-guide-w-umbrella copy
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.

garriottttt
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.

Lord British New-Jersey-Renaissance-Faire
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.

alexey-pajitnov
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.

ap on vaca

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

The Silly World of Gaming Related Stock Photography

As someone who has been gaming for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen the medium go from children’s pastime to mainstream entertainment.  However, there is one thing that has not changed much, and it’s that many advertising agencies don’t understand gaming for shit.

This is coming from someone who has actually worked in and collaborates with ad agencies to this day, so I do have real world knowledge of this.  I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt that the vast majority of them simply do not understand the core concepts of video games.

Even fancy ones with giant face chairs and shit.

Even the fancy agencies with giant face chairs are clueless when it comes to games.

Now, there are exceptions.  There are (probably) plenty of agencies out there that specialize or have experience in video game marketing and advertising. These are the companies contracted by game makers directly. Many publishers develop their advertising internally, because who knows the product better than the ones who are creating it, right? RIGHT?!?

We’re not here to talk about those types of ads.  These are good ads from competent companies, for the most part.  We’re here to poke fun at the ads and stock photos of agencies that have no fucking clue what they’re talking about, because making fun of ignorant people is fun.

"This copy is good, but let's add some more stereotypical dialogue like EXTREME and RADICAL!"

“This copy is good, but let’s add some more stereotypical dialogue like EXTREME and RADICAL!”

Let’s take a relatively recent ad for the delicious and colon exploding savory confections known as Hot Pockets.


This commercial goes off the rails mainly because this is not how gaming works in the real world. Gaming will probably never work like this. However, in the minds of ad executives who probably never picked up a game pad in their lives, this is EXACTLY how games work.

That’s a recurring problem with many ads that have video games. The act of gaming is either extremely out dated or severely detached on how it actually works.

This isn’t just a problem with video games mind you. Agency folks have told me point blank that they tweak many things in order to make a point or capture the essence of an activity due to time constraints in the ad or to make something look more interesting.  However, there are many instances when the agencies and creative folk simply don’t give a fuck.

Take this image, for example:

XBox-720-Concept-Controller
I first came across this image approximately 3 years ago while working at a large global consumer goods company.

I was walking to my desk, which just so happened to be near the design “gurus” when I noticed this image was posted on a very large poster with other Xbox branded items.  There were mock-ups of the Xbox Live dashboard, sample banner ads touting my company’s products, images of people enjoying our product, images of people gaming, various charts and graphs, and that fucking monstrosity above.

I went to one of the designers and asked what the poster was about. The designer, who was bearded, wearing a flannel shirt, and donning very expensive designer eyeglasses said that they were pitching Microsoft on a marketing partnership and that was part of their presentation.

Horrified, I told the “lumber sexual” designer that he couldn’t use that image of the controller. I explained to him that this controller does not exist, will never exist, is clearly a joke, and if they show that to Microsoft, they will get laughed out of the fucking room.

The designer, who was clearly trying to channel a myopic Paul Bunyan, annoyingly peered at me above the rims of his designer eyeglasses, sighed and stated that he wouldn’t know, because he never played a video game in his life (highly doubtful) and he thought that the image was fine, but he will chat with his boss about it.

Lumbersexual

I was a fan of not playing video games before it was cool.

I don’t know if they ever changed the image, but I do know that my former company never formed a marketing partnership with Microsoft, at least, not at that time.

What’s even sadder is that this image was seared into my mind’s eye after all these years. When I decided to write this post I starting Googling images of controllers and after a short while, found it. It came from a PS4 fan site and is a knock on Microsoft. That would have gone over great with the folks at Microsoft.

Clearly, this was a dumb move on my former company’s part, but the truth is that even proper stock photography and video houses have tons of crappy gaming related images and video that they are selling to ad agencies and internal marketing departments of corporations who simply don’t know any better.

Here are just a few examples.

Generic Console

Stupid Hardware

These first two images are examples of stupid hardware.  Consider the first image and how ridiculously generic it is.  I realize that you cannot use the actual hardware with the Playstation of Xbox logos , but you can cover that shit up. These two images are just plain lazy.

Generic FamilyWhat a beautiful family. Look how close they are, huddled up together.  They must really love each other.  Too bad 3 out of 4 them appear to have never held an actual controller before.

This time with grandmaHey, let’s invite grandpa and grandma too.  By the way, why are the kids facing away from the TV, which is also not on? Is that how video games work? WHO CARES!

Close GamersI don’t know about you, but when I’m gaming with my buddies, this is exactly how we look. Practically on top of each other and we may or may not be wearing any pants.

For the ladiesGirls play games too you know.  Also, thanks to the Wii, people think that motion controls are now an integral part of every game ever made. The PS2 had motion control right?

Swaying in the WindWhy are they sitting on a table? Why are they swaying back and forth? Why are they yelling?

Now, you may be thinking that I combed through stock photo site after stock photo site looking for the worst of the worst and you would be wrong. First of all, I’m incredibly lazy, so I would never do that, these images were easy to find and secondly, they are all from reputable stock photography companies. You may have also noticed that these images are not cheap either.

It’s not just photography though. Stock video is just as bad if not worse.

Bask in the green glow of video games and technology. It’s so alien and possibly dangerous. Also, what is up with the girl in the back?


Overly expressive gesticulation. Also, do people still pass the controller back and forth like a joint?


Look at grandma and grandpa, play the Xbox Three Six Wii. This is a great example of using hardware incorrectly or in a way that does not makes sense to an actual gamer. Also, there is a very good chance that this video can be used for Cialis, Viagra, or any other pill that makes your dick hard when the time is juuuuust right.



This is wrong on many levels. It appears that at any moment they are going to swap partners and start eating each others genitals.


This girl is having a whirlwind of emotions. She may need to go on mood altering medication.


Lastly, you can cut the sexual tension here with a knife. These kids are clearly going to have unprotected sex any second here. Gaming is a gateway to sexual deviancy and children being born out of wedlock, everyone knows that.

Also, Shaggy McBeardy over there clearly has never picked up a controller before and this is turning his girlfriend on.

The people who created these stock images and videos are ignorant on so many levels its laughable. The concept of video games at this point is nothing novel, and yet people in the advertising world are still relatively clueless about how gaming actually works.

That brings me to a question for you. Has there ever been an ad that portrayed gaming so poorly, whether it was for a game related product or something completely unrelated that rubbed you the wrong way? Would this keep you from purchasing said product?  Let me know in the comments.

One for the road.

One for the road.

World of “Bat” Tanks

The late great comedian Rodney Dangerfield once said “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” I can relate. I once bought a game about Batman, and I was completely ready to play a game about being Batman, it just turns out that it’s a game about tanks.

No respect.

No respect.

There’s nothing wrong with tank combat in video games by the way. I wrote a blog post about my favorite game related tanks that was front-paged a little while back. Fighting in a tank against other tanks in a video game is a jolly good time and I highly recommend that everyone try it at least once.

There is just one issue though. I like to specifically engage with games where tank combat makes sense. A game like Call of Duty is going to have a tank level, guaranteed. The Battlefield series would be strange without a tank level. I would be remiss if I did not have the opportunity to play in a Scorpion in Halo. Tanks in these games make sense.

I was, however, not ready to engage in tank combat as Batman and this is something that you do a lot in Batman: Arkham Knight.

You better get used to this view.

You better get used to this view.

Now, I’ll be totally transparent and say that the tank combat in Arkham Knight is very competent and certainly fun. The problem is, being a Batman fan, there was never an instance when I said, and “You know what Batman needs MORE FUCKING TANKS!”

When I think of Batman, I see a haunted man, who uses his wealth and wits to become the ultimate detective who then beats the living shit out of bad guys with his bare hands. Sure, he has incredible gadgets, weapons, and vehicles, but a Batmobile that can turn into a tank on the fly?

I can suspend disbelief to an extent, this is a comic book character after all, but I feel like the whole Bat Tank function is bit contrived. My Bat senses tell me that developer Rocksteady depends on this functionality way too much in the game for my liking. It feels like a crutch—a way to pad out the game, or maybe force it into new directions, adding a new dimension to the gameplay and it is wholly unnecessary. There are far too many instances where the Dark Knight is piloting his stupid tank.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW

Spoiler Squirrel is looking out for you.

Spoiler Squirrel is looking out for you.

The fact that the storyline has to explicitly state that the tanks Batman battles against are unmanned drones, so he can blow them to smithereens with his 60-millimeter cannon is a bit of stretch. He can blow them the fuck up because he’s not killing anyone, which would be against his bat code. Isn’t it great how that works out in such a nice and tidy fashion? It’s also fortunate that the city is entirely abandoned by all civilians, so Batman doesn’t run anyone over accidentally or blow them up by his tank’s 60-millimeter cannon or the machine gun, because collateral damage is a bitch.

All in all, I’m enjoying Arkham Knight for what it is, and that’s fun video game. It just doesn’t seem to be a true Batman game. It’s too much of a departure, even if the mechanic it’s self is well done and well executed.

I mean, what will they think of next? A Bat motorcycle with sidecar?

bcycleShit.