Friday, November 8, 2013

You Can Thank Us Later

Dear Children,

This is an open letter to all of you who like to ask this ridiculous question:

"You're XX years old and you still play games? Don't you have a life?"

I hear this a lot. Because, for some reason, kids these days think that there is an age limit on playing games (video games mostly, but sometimes tabletop as well). You know, once you reach a certain age, you suddenly get a walking cane, pull your pants up to your chin, go to bed at 7:00 pm, AND STOP PLAYING GAMES!!! Actually, that "go to bed  at 7:00 pm" thing doesn't sound half bad some nights. But that cuts down on time for activities! Mainly, playing games.

No, I no longer have 20 hours a day to sit at home and play games--I have a family and a job and I like to do other things. But I used to, and I did. But my time was spent playing games like Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, and StarCraft...yes, the first one. That was probably before your time.

I started on an Atari 2600, moved on to the Colecovision, NES, then the SNES. I had a PC that didn't even have a proper video card. Why? Because they didn't exist yet! I had a Hercules Graphics Adapter (HGA). With it, I could emulate (through software) EGA and, again, through software, emulate VGA. Yep. I did that so that I could play games. In fact, I got into computers TO PLAY GAMES. I am betting you probably have no idea what "EGA" or maybe even "VGA" is. I do. Because I routinely disassembled my PC and tinkered with it. I was the only one I knew who was knowledgeable, and there was no Internet. Our 3D cards (once they came to be) were completely separate, add-on cards that you bridged to your main card. Mine had 12 megabytes of RAM. And IT USED GLIDE!!!

I found the first official easter egg hidden in the Atari 2600 game "Adventure" and glitched into invulnerability in the game "Dragonfire" on the same system. And I did this all, again, without the help of that handy tool we call the Internet. Back then, even strategy guides for pretty much anything were years away. If you wanted answers, you found them yourself. Save points? Continues? Pfft. If you lost, you started over. Old school. So you made sure you were really good at the game...and didn't lose.

The first game I played "multiplayer" with a friend remotely? "Populace"...over a 2400 baud modem. And it was awesome. I think I lost, but that wasn't the point. And, no, there was no voice chat. I'm guessing you've never heard of "Populace". You could say it was the precursor to "Black and White". You may not have heard of that game, either.

I hung out in arcades. Random adults I didn't know would bet their friends that I could beat them at games. I almost always did. It was worth a laugh...and a free game. I found the perfect kick return in Cyberball against most opponents that would never fail, I was unbeatable at Pigskin, and I sucked horribly at Gauntlet. Once, in college, I had a line of frat boys out the door just waiting to get their shot at beating me at Super Street Fighter II Turbo. They all failed and I got hundreds of dirty looks. In fact, I played for nearly two hours before I finally had to go to class (I was late). I did all of that on 50 cents. I also competed at the local arcade in Street Fighter tournaments and won almost every time. When I didn't, a friend did.

I did all of this and, yet, still found a way to spend a majority of my time playing outside, with friends, rain or shine.

Until the Colecovision came along, I could not play accurate re-creations of arcade games, and it killed me inside. Atari tried its best but it just couldn't even come close, and it was sad. Technology eventually caught up and arcades began to vanish. Why go to an arcade when you could play on a console that was just as good and, most often, better?

When video games were introduced, they met with skepticism--they were seen as a fad that would quickly pass. They had a rough time and nearly disappeared from existence (maybe the E.T. game had something to do with that). But you can thank my generation for keeping them alive. And you can thank the generation before mine for providing them in the first place, and continually trying to improve them.

So before you go and ask an adult "Wow, you're XX years old and you STILL play games?" Remember that we're essentially just like you, only older and much wiser. Sure, we hold jobs and our manners are usually much better than yours, but we like to have fun just like you. And we've been playing games probably longer than you've even been alive. I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon and I would guess that you're the same way. The good news? At some point you'll hopefully get a steady job and be able to pay for your own games like me. No more asking Mommy and Daddy for Christmas! ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Good Guys Don't Run Out of Ammo

Hi. I have a deep, dark secret that I need to get off my chest. I'm not proud of it and I've been suppressing it for years, like the memory of that time I spray painted that cat's butt. Oh, but that's an entirely different discussion.

I am an habitual reloader. There. I said it, and it feels good!

I don't care if the clip is still almost full. There could be a horde of zombies or Locust or Covenant just around this next corner and if I'm short one bullet then I could die! So, yeah, I want a full clip! Is that wrong?? I'm just trying to be dependable!

Seriously, though, I reload my weapon in videogames constantly. If I don't have a full clip, I feel naked and exposed. If I fire off a mere two rounds out of 60, yep, I reload. In Halo 4, this translates into reloading the SAW constantly, each reload taking 5 seconds or so (which feels like an eternity). In Gears of War, this means that I will shoot one round and reload just to get a perfect reload.

In a real war, I would be spending all of my time reloading and probably never really shoot anything. I could probably be the "Designated Reloader"--soldiers could give me their empty weapons and I'd trade them a fully-loaded one. I've become pretty good at reloading long as that only requires pushing the X button. I can push that X button like it's nobody's business. So if you need someone to push the X button, I'm your guy!

I finished all three Dead Space games in less than a month. These were my Creepy October Games for 2013. I had only intended to play through maybe the first two but I sort of devoured them voraciously, like a dog in a room populated with full litterboxes. Yeah, stunning visual, right?

Dead Space 1: Sluggish controls but a suitably creepy atmosphere. Half the time, it's what you don't see that freaks you out--sounds, shadows, etc. The other half, it's the face-eating necromorph trying to crack open your noggin that scares you.

Dead Space 2: More of the same, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The developers tightened  things up and made a pretty good game, here. The downside? The plot. Wow, it's a bit out there. Honestly, it wasn't very interesting, seemed a teensy bit convoluted, and was all around just tough to grasp.

Really Fast, Really Simple Game Reviews:

Dead Space 3: The plot generally gets worse and the action stays the same. Things are less creepy this time around, and are more action-oriented. But what I really found annoying was the drastic change to the way gear upgrades are handled. Wow. They used to be simple (maybe overly simple) and, now, they're all over the place. I found myself just not caring much about most of the upgrades/weapon construction options and simply powering through the game to finish it. And, seriously, sending three ubermorphs (undefeatable enemies) after me at once and having them follow me through a good portion of one level...that's just cheap.

All of that said, they are generally enjoyable games--even moreso because I got all of them for about $20, if I recall correctly.