Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 358 - "A long December, and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last..."

Not pictured: Me shaking in the corner

At less than 10 days to go, I've officially hit the real home stretch. Above is a picture of what's awaiting me in T-minus less than 9 days. You could say I'm more than a little excited. Not only that - a lot of funny thoughts have begun entering my head recently. Namely:

1) For the first time in my life, I've played less games than everyone I know. And yes, odds are, unless you don't own or have access to phone, a computer, or someone you know with Wii Sports, you've played some form of video game this year. And for the first and only time in my life, I can be that total snob that goes: "Oh...that's cool. No, I don't really play games at all. I guess I'm just busy, you know, doin' more important stuff." Of course, I won't. More to the point - I can't, without looking a real big tool come January 6th.

2) This time next Sunday I will be THIRTY YEARS OLD. How the hell did that happen?!?

3) I went on a run outside yesterday and found myself being extra careful when crossing streets, entering traffic, etc. I think there's a part of me that not-so-subconsciously afraid of getting seriously injured or even dying just before I reach the finish line. How tragic would that be? I'm sure at my funeral, they'd mention how I was so close to my goal, and that now I'm probably playing video games up in heaven
*. Maybe they'd even bury me with a video game controller. Heh, that'd be kind of cute. But no! This story will have a happy ending! One where I'm alive playing games again! That, or I die heroically saving the (soon to be) President by jumping in front of a hail of bullets and my name become synonymous with "taking a bullet" for someone - i.e. "Dude, I totally pulled a Shafeek for you yesterday when I told the boss it was my fault the files didn't arrive in time..."

4) The extra free time from the holidays, combined with the lack of any new, good tv and movies, and the fact that I'm ever so close to my goal have created the perfect storm of boredom and frustration. FFFAAAACCCKKKK

5) The other two fears I have is that either A) I will have somehow overhyped video games in my own mind, so much so that after a day or so of playing I will lose interest again (another tragedy), or B) that after not playing for so long I'll have lost all my former ability, and I'll be that controller fumbling, button mashing, gaming noob I've made fun of for years! Oh, the shame. Death would be preferable to such travesties. Well, at least, you know...the cool death I mentioned before.

Boy does not playing games give you a lot a time for self-reflection!

8 days, 7 hours, and 57 minutes...


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Though I realize that RPG's are going to the hardest thing to get back into come 2009, games like Fable 2 are the also some of the highest rated, well received, and thus hardest to resist games out there:

*This assumes a lot about the place. Would they get new releases past the point in which I died? Does everyone get their own tv, or would it be a shared common room kind of situation? And I hope there's no filter or ban on any M-rated titles. Not in my heaven.
*For the record, not a curse word. Just a sound of frustration.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 353 - "Begin Again. You're no calendar, you're no concrete plan..."

This coming Christmas is going to be weird. My immediate family members all know what I want (see below), and hopefully they'll get me one of the many options I've given them. But I'm seriously going to have to go into a self-induced coma for the next 11 days afterwards, because the sight of any and all games and gaming related paraphernalia is starting to drive me mad.

And yet I cannot stop. Amazing deals are popping up left and right, and for games I've been salivating over for up to 12 months, the temptation is nearly impossible to contain. Devil May Cry IV for $12, Ninja Gaiden 2 for $15, or Grand Theft Auto F-ing IV for $20?!? And finally, the purchase I wound up regretting halfway down the long walk along Times Square back to my job - ROCK BAND 2 SPECIAL EDITION (the one with all the instruments) for $85 from Toy's R Us!!! As I was walking out of the store, I felt like something was wrong. To this day I feel like when I open the box, something's going to have to be missing.

I'm a guy who follows a game for months before it comes out, gets super excited for it, and who's in line to purchase it the day it is released - sooner if I can find a vendor willing to break a street date. So actually scouring the internet for deals on games that have been out for a while is very unfamiliar territory for me. And - combined with my To Play list, it's slowly become a very costly venture.

I should probably post the list at this point, to give you an idea of what I'm hoping to somehow be able to dive back into come January 6th. I carry the double-sided list in my wallet at all times. It's a handy little thing to bust out at parties and place whenever I meet someone new. I happily show it to anyone who any interest in gaming or my year off (it's half the reason I carry it on me in the first place), and I'm especially happy to present it to someone who has no interest in gaming just to see what kind of reaction it gets out of them. Either way, it's a wonderful litmus test for telling someone's general opinion of games and gamers. Within about 3 seconds it's written all over their face.

So without further ado, I present to you the most recent draft of my To Play List:

Click Us To Make Us Legible!

The above list is separated into three sections, pre-2008, when I first started the list (I had already begun falling behind before I even decide to give up games), 2008, and post-2008. Every game is broken down by title, system, whether or not it is currently owned, whether or not it has been released, and what I've coined the "DTP Index" or "Desire To Play," on a scale of 1-10. It's a very detailed list, and it's constantly evolving, which is the other half of the reason I carry it on me at all times. I am very much looking forward to crossing off some titles next year.

Now, let's be perfectly honest here - I will never have the time to play all of these games, unless I am unemployed for a long period of time, become very ill but not ill enough to turn on my television and use a controller with my hands, or placed under house arrest. But still, I take solace in having it. I think of it as the equivalent of the picture of the soldier's wife that he carries on him while he is fighting a bloody brutal war oversees. It's what calms him, and reminds him of what he's fighting for.

Did I just equate not playing video games with being a solider on an actual battlefield, and a list of video games I'd like to play with an actual loving, living, breathing wife? Yes. Yes, I did. And I stand by my statement.

13 Days, 3 Hours, 17 Minutes to go...

Happy Holidays!

Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: I told myself I wouldn't even think about 2009 games with all 2008 has to offer me in just a little while, but I'll be damned if some of these titles haven't piqued my interest. I'll start with the obvious one that's been on my radar for some time, Resident Evil 5:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 346 - "I thought I knew you well...oh well"

Ok, so Spike TV's 2008 Video Game Awards were on the other night. And my good friends over at Joystiq (can I say that now? Too bold?) already put up an article going over ways to fix the VGAs. I think they're pretty much on point with everything they've said, but I have a few more things I think really need to be done before I stop being ashamed of this so-called awards show*, and start actually looking forward to seeing it:


1) HAVE SOME ACTUAL GAME PLAYING!: You guys set aside at least 20 minutes of time for music acts, why not make a nod to one of your awards and have a little musical competition in there, via Rock Band or Guitar Hero? Have two gamer "bands" compete against each other on stage, or else have a real band play their version of their song, and have some amazing gamer play a video game version of it on Expert. And then the crowd can cheer for who they enjoyed the most.

OR - have some actual game competitions. Halo, Gears, Call of Duty, or less intense games like MarioKart, Smash Bros., or Wii Sports. I know some of this stuff is hard to follow/watch, but you'll find something entertaining in there, I'm sure. Even if it's not competitive - it could even be someone going through a perfect run of Mirror's Edge (when I'm told the game looks its best). I'd love to watch something like that.

At the end of the day, wouldn't all of this be more entertaining than watching Kevin James on a mother f-ing Segway?

2) AUDIENCE (GAMER) PARTICIPATION! Look, video game themed TV is hard, I know. When you put something on television that is about video games, you're basically competing with my desire to just play games instead. And unless I have some investment in what you're putting up, nine times out of ten I'm going to just choose playing over watching. Truth be told, my hiatus from games is probably the only reason I stuck it out and watched the VGAs this year (I'd never seen more than 5 minutes of it in the past).

So how do we change this? How about, on top of each award you hand out based on whatever fantastic panel of judges you have deciding who should get what, you have a second category devoted to "Viewer's Choice?" Gamers can vote on who they think should win online, or on their Xbox, Wii or PS3s, and the results will be picked live. It doesn't have to be for every category (maybe just one for each specific system, since I can't see the companies wanting to list competitor's products), but even a single award given out based on people at home voting à la America's favorite reality singing show could get a lot of us more invested.

3) STOP EMBRACING THE NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES OF GAMERS! The live portion of the show opened this year with Jack Black being attacked by the video game devil and "fending off" human incarnations of things like "books (or reading?)," "exercise," and "healthy relationships." Nice. Two of those things I personally gave up games for this year, and the other is something that I hope to be in one day. The 'bit' was that Jack Black fought them off by pointing out the video game/gamer thing that apparently countered these so-called attacks: The story in GTA IV was apparently good enough to beat the book guy, Wii Fit girl's sexy tush fought off the forces of exercise, and then Ms. Healthy Relationship was defeated by....Kyle Gass. And of course, crotch fireworks:
Better than love and tenderness?

C'mon guys. I can actually see you guys in writers room coming up with all of this, and at the point when you get to "healthy relationships" you guys sit in silence for for about 30 seconds thinking about what could counter that. At which point, someone shrugs their shoulders and says: "Crotch fireworks?" you all have a laugh, and then collectively decide that, yes, this is probably the best answer you're going to come up with. Then you call your wives and tell them you're going to be staying at work a little late that night and you completely miss the irony.

You don't see the people in charge of Little League trophy ceremonies (probably the only place I can think of besides school where I actually was awarded anything, ever) starting the show by bashing Pee Wee Football, spelling bees, or guidance counselors, right? By acknowledging things like books, exercise and loving girlfriends, and how much we apparently hate them, you don't just look ignorant, but you're also just reinforcing the stereotype of the sad, out of shape, and kind of pathetic gamer. And that's not what we are. Well, not most of us at least, I'd like to think.

Yes, deep down inside we all know we're probably choosing games over some of those things at least some of the time, but there's no reason to bring that to the forefront during a show celebrating achievements in gaming. How about this novel idea - instead, let's acknowledge some of the amazing things gamers have accomplished this year?

Or just keep doing what you're doing, since I probably won't be watching next year anyway...


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: This is breaking my own rules a bit, but this video was just too funny to pass up. It's from Soul Calibur IV, featuring my man Voldo, and it's brilliant:

*On a so-called television station. Zing!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 344 - "Every game you play, every night you stay, I'll be watching you..."

I discovered at a fairly early age that I wasn't meant to teach. I just don't have the patience for it. Now, there are very few things that I'm actually good enough at doing to even justify attempting to teach them. But the bottom line is the knowledge of how to do any of those things is simply not going to be passed on by me.

The best example of this is with video games. I am incredibly impatient with all but the quickest of learners when it comes to teaching anything related to my favorite hobby. Incredibly adorable children or attractive women aside, I generally won't even try. Actually, believe or not - I'd rather work with kids since they're more likely to be into it, and genuinely want to learn and get better at the game. Whereas with most women I've encountered, I can usually feel the judgment coming from their eyes while I'm giving a tutorial on how to get the monkey in a ball across the stage.*

Now, while I have no desire to teach the art of gaming to people, I actually love side coaching people who are already playing games. It's one of the oddities I've discovered in this year off - I always assume I'll hate being in the room with other people who are playing (and other people generally assume the same, looking at me with those sad, puppy dog eyes as they fling the Wiimote around poorly and lose dozens and dozens of easy points in Wii Tennis), but as it turns out, I get really into it. Because while I don't enjoy people needing my assistance when it comes to figuring out the basics of how to play a game, I very much love offering up my own personal advice when it comes to how to play a game right. Does that make sense?

Once people are getting into their games, they've gotten their bearings, and they're kind of having fun say, driving Yoshi into a piranha plant while Lakitu floats down and tells them they're going the wrong way - this is when I feel the need to intervene. Because yeah, they might think they're having fun, but they're not. Not just yet. I'll show them the way to fun. Which, first and foremost, starts with turning the fuck around and learning how stay on the fucking track. Some might call me a "killjoy," or a "backseat gamer," or "kind of a douche." But look - papa knows best. I'm only trying to do right by people, and show them the proper way to play. If people on the streets can tell me what they think is the path to eternal salvation, I'll be damned if I'm not going to speak up and let you know how to properly reload your weapon*.

I think the proper term for people like me is "Unsung Hero." Hmm. I wonder if Activision has started working on that one yet. Zing!

Joystiq interviewed me and ran a little article on my year off this Friday, which was pretty flattering. I was actually just emailing them to get mentioned on their podcast, which ironically didn't wind up happening. And while I've gotten a ton of praise for the blog and what I'm doing (and seriously, thank you to all of you who started reading and who've written me) part of me was most excited to read the negative feedback I knew I'd inevitably get. Some highlights, from the comments section of the post:

"The guys a fucking idiot. You may as well say "i'm going to quit relaxing!" or give up comfortable chairs, or reading, or something. So games waste your life, he's saying. Yeah, i'm sure all the time he spent watching TV instead were SO productive."

This guy clearly wasn't a fan of my proposed plan for 2009: Giving up pillows, mittens and kittens.

"What a douche bag, I bet he can't give up materbation as easy."

I'll avoid the easy target and acknowledge his typo and say yes, I couldn't have given up masterbation as easily. But I bet I could go longer without self-pleasuring myself than he could without cobbling together and posting another gem of a comment like this.

"I don't get it. You only played around an hour a week, but when you "stopped playing games" all of a sudden you have all this time to travel and run and shit. Sounds like your priorities suck. I probably game about 2 to 4 hours a week at most. I have to manage my time between playing guitar, band, reading books and comics, work, drawing, and now I started a project with my friend to make a movie and am writing the script etc. I can do all these hobbies and game (mind you they get switched around and multitask like playing guitar while waiting for whatever etc.)"

Ok, this commentor has a legitimate (if somewhat antagonistic) concern, so I'll address it. First of all though, let's get the numbers right - I said in the interview I was playing just a few hours a week, which I said (and I think was cut from the interview) was about 5-6 hours a week. That's significant, if you add it up week by week. And yeah, this included the train ride to and from work, and portions of my weekends and weeknights. When I was down to that number, I was already pretty busy, working two jobs, writing and performing improv, etc. So I was already managing a decent balance.

The main trades I made for my gaming time were reading, writing, and exercising. I hadn't been to a gym at all since college, the only thing I had written in the past two years was the script for my one man show, and I read one book (although it was an inspiring one) the entire year. And now all that's changed. So maybe I'm also managing my time better, now that I'm more aware of it. And, as I said in the interview, the goal for 2009 is to continue doing all of that, and still find time for gaming. It's going to be a tricky little balancing act, but yes Sidebuster, the true accomplishment will come when I'm pulling that off.

Now - to all of my new (and old) friends who are counting down the days with me, I'll see you all in a little over 3 weeks. Find me on Xbox Live - RC Jester (and for those of you watching the account, be aware that other people have access to my 360!) and let's play some games together. Just be sure you know what you're doing before you hop in a game with me, ok? I have a hard time coaching and playing at the same time...


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: I don't know that I'll ever get to this game, but it sounds hilarious. MINOTAUR CHINA SHOP!:

Minotaur China Shop Trailer from Flashbang Studios on Vimeo.

*Look, just pretend Aiai is uh, Carrie, and she's trying to get over there to get to, uh, an awesome sale on a new pair of Manolo's - does that help??
*Right trigger and B. No, you have to hold both of them. No no - hold the trigger first, then press B. OH GOD! Just give me the controller, I'll take over from here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 336 - "I've got a hunger twisting my stomach into knots..."

As I approach the last few weeks of being 'Paused,' (less than a month left as of 12:01 AM today!) I've begun to reflect on what this past year has meant to me.

There were things I knew I wanted to do this year: starting the blog, running the half marathon, traveling more, doing some serious reading, etc. And while I went through the list of my goals, I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, along with the obvious accompanying benefits of exercising, reading, writing, performing, and seeing the world. In simpler terms, I spent time acquiring Experience Points (EXP), and I scored a +1 bonus to my Strength (STR), Defense (DEF), and Intelligence (INT).

Now... how do I raise my Luck???

But there were a few secondary benefits to my year off from games. Some things I didn't know would happen until, say, I found myself sitting on my couch at four in the morning staring at dusty controllers in my living room, mouthing the words to Glory Days, and weeping silently to myself*.

Here are some less embarrassing self-discoveries:

1) I can really put my mind to something, and get it done. Disney was trying to tell me this for years, but it took this event for me to really realize it. If I can give up my favorite hobby on the planet for an entire year, and replace that time with (arguably) more productive habits, then I'm fairly convinced I have the discipline to accomplish anything I'm remotely serious about. Goonies 2* script, here I come!

2) I'm much more excited about being single than I realized. A year ago I was going on all kinds of dates, some of them of the Crazy Blind variety, in a fairly dedicated attempt to put myself out there and meet someone. Now here we are a year later, and I started looking at all of the things A) I managed to get done with my time during my year off from games, and B) I'm looking forward to doing next year, when I'm obviously going to want to play games, but I'm still going to want to continue doing all the awesome things I started (or restarted) doing recently. And I realized I couldn't have done a lot of this if I wasn't single.

Now, I don't begrudge all of my friends who've paired up. But up until recently I was always a bit jealous of anyone I knew who was in a relationship. And now I know that I have a certain level of freedom that many of them don't. So does that mean I'm going to overlook potential mates should the opportunity arise? No, of course not. But let's just say I'm in a pretty sweet win-win position. Also - to all my secret admirers out there: if you're biding your time to make a move on me - you're probably going to want to wait until at least February...

3) I'm now very serious about having a career in the game industry. This one's a little less surprising to me, but I've never been as sure of it as I am now. I've always want to work in the game industry on some level, and truth be told, I've already held two jobs that fall under this category. But I wasn't ever really sure if it was just because I enjoy playing games so much that I was forcing something that really wasn't meant to be or not. I've loved cookies just as long as I've loved games, why not get a job in the cookie industry?

I was at video game career fair recently where I heard from a few small game company CEOs describe their ascent into their current positions. I took a minute to look around the room full of college students, gamers, and maybe a few people who just didn't know what they wanted, and I finally stopped and thought about myself for a second. I had an ipod on my lap with 5 different gaming podcasts on them, and list of all the games I want to play sitting in my wallet. I'm obsessed not only with games but gaming culture - reading every bit of news on the industry I can get my hands on. I know the names of, or at least can recognize, the heads of most major game companies, along with a bevy of major gaming journalists. Finally, I've revolved a year of my life around the challenge of simply not playing them. And despite not playing anything - video games remain a huge part of my life.

Clearly gaming is more than just a hobby to me. And I need to - rather, I'm going to turn this energy and passion into something substantial.


PS: As an added bonus to the year off, I got myself totally psyched to turn 30. I made this usually depressing milestone - considered to be the end of one's youth, the point in which I can go back to being a kid again!

Yeah, but I'd still rather be: Ghostbusting!

*This actually hasn't happened to me...yet.
*I may or may not decide to keep the mermaid.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 332 - "I do the best imitation of myself..."

I read an article recently that discussed a mental illness that is being discovered in people where they believe they're secretly on a reality television show. They're calling it the "Truman Syndrome" after the Jim Carrey movie. This is is all well and good, but the truth is, I had this so-called "paranoid delusion" when I was just a little kid, before I'd ever heard of the movie.

Thinking back, I was such a little narcissist. My fantasy was that my entire life was being video recorded secretly by cameras all over the place. And of course, it's easy to reinforce this thought at a young age, since when you often find yourself pretending to battle Octoroks in a department store, you're bound to have some eyes on you at any given time. Now, this collection of video recordings that were being made of me were essentially being played back in real time (you can either say I had very little understand of the film making process, or that my thoughts of live streaming video were way ahead of its time) at various local movie theaters all over the country.*

I distinctly remember two memories about this thought process. One was that I was often "hamming it up" for the cameras everywhere I went. Wherever I went, in public or alone, I would assume someone somewhere was watching me, and as such, it was my job to be entertaining. I would run everywhere, just being running is infinitely more exciting to watch that walking. Plus I would get to my next scene sooner. And I would do all kinds of crazy poses at random times, poses that I knew would look bizarre to anyone who wasn't aware that I was the star of my own lifetime-length feature film.

Second, I remember when I went to sleep at night, I imagined the giant theater that was filled with audience members on the edge of their seats thinning out slowly to take care of various personal matters. Logically speaking, I couldn't expect them to not have to sit through 7-9 hours of my inactivity. Presumably they had jobs, spouses and children, all of which could be dealt with during this time. But of course, not everyone left. There were the diehards who knew at any time I could awake suddenly and do something incredibly exciting and/or hilarious. Those were my real fans.

I don't remember when I gave up the dream/delusion of grandeur. I do know that when I saw the Truman Show I kicked myself at having missed out on making my silly fantasy into a Jim Carrey vehicle. And to this day I have a tendency to be a bit more flamboyant and loud when I'm in public (much to the chagrin of my close friends) since I know there's actually a legitimate chance that anything I do while out could wind up on YouTube.*


PS: One last thought about the article - in the first sentence it references a man who went to "a federal building asking for release from the reality show he was sure was being made of his life." I don't mean to belittle someone with a legitimate mental disease, but A) what made the man choose that particular federal building of all places? Was it the post office? A police station? Where would you assume they had the paperwork? B) Hasn't he seen the movie? They wouldn't ever acknowledge it, unless of course you take your boat all the way to end of the set and wear down the possessive, controlling, dictatorial director. C) Why would you ever want to be taken off the show? Who doesn't want to be a STAR?!?

Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: with his royal highness, the Prince of Persia:

*I guess I figured I hadn't quite reached international fame yet.
*Which, while fun, would be a distant second to my true desires.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 330 - "And there was no sunlight, no sunlight..."

This past week, FX's gritty rogue cop drama, and one of my favorite shows, "The Shield" had its series finale. And, not only was it pretty gosh darn amazing, but it was also really, really f-ing satisfying to see. It had the rare distinction -, in a world of never-ending soap operas, reality and talk shows - of having an honest to goodness "we're done here, nothing more to see" ending - something that apparently only shows on HBO and a handful of others have ever been able to pull off.

Television is without question my favorite medium for storytelling. I think a smart, well written, acted and plotted serial drama or comedy (see: Lost, The Shield, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Veronica Mars, Arrested Development, The Office, Battlestar Gallactica [though I haven't loved the past season] is more engaging and entertaining than any movie, play, book, puppet show or personal retelling could ever be. In all great television series you have some of the most well crafted characters and worlds that have ever been seen, something that audiences develop real attachments to. You're not limited to telling your story over the course of 2 1/2 hours*, and as such, you can take your time creating depth and developing all the wonderful details that make your world feel whole, and rewarding to be part of (and on the downside, you get fanboys).

Now the problem is, every single show that makes it on the air (which itself is a daunting task I hear) only has the potential to tell the story it sets out to tell. For every series like The Shield, and the Sopranos, there's a Veronica Mars, and just this past week, a Pushing Daisies, where due to ratings, or any other number of reasons (usually just ratings) the show is canceled before its time, lost forever in an awkward finale that either was cobbled together last minute or an abrupt ending that only hints at a story we'll never see.

This isn't the only problem, either. There are also plenty of shows that go well past their prime. If 24, Alias, and Heroes had ended before their 6th, 3rd, and 2nd seasons, respectively, those shows would probably have made my list of "Matt's Shows To See." Or at the very least, shows I'd recommend to a friend without the caveat "but then things go to shit..."

I was the hardest of the hardcore Simpsons fans for over 10 years. I taped every episode that aired, watched each one of them probably at least three or four times, and was able to quote and/or detail nearly all of them. I remember being furious at the first series of syndicated episodes, appalled at the 1-2 minutes of brilliance they cut from each episode. Then...the show kept going. And going. And it stopped being the funniest thing on television. Now, here we are, almost 20 years after the show debuted, and it's still on the air. And, I'm sorry to say, it's now just a watered down, embarrassing shadow of what it once was.

Of course, the Simpsons is an animated sitcom that has no ongoing story that it's trying to tell, and the same argument for ending the aforementioned dramas can't be applied to it. But it does go to show you that even shows like this and Family Guy also could stand to benefit from an expiration date. And sadly, now The Simpsons will not go down in history as one of the greatest shows of all time, but rather just another show that eventually died because people stopped caring about it.*

In Britain, on the BBC, scripted television shows generally only last a season or two at most, which inevitably lead to most shows - even the comedies - telling a dense, layered story in a handful of episodes, and leaving the audience begging for more while still in their prime. Now I don't think all shows need to end with about 20 episodes (I still find the American Office to be pretty good, though I think its best episodes are behind them), but I do really like the idea of all shows being written with a specific expiration date in mind. I mean, for god's sake guys, when the heck is Ted Mosby finally going to tell his kids HOW HE MET THEIR MOTHER?!?

Now of course, I realize that I'm living in a fantasy world, where money isn't an issue, actors always are willing to stick it out in the shows they star in, and people all take their television viewing habits as seriously as I do (which involves sticking to a tight regimen of chronological DVR and Netflix viewings of all interesting shows, never channel surfing, not watching anything new if one's schedule does not allow for it and NEVER watching a single episode before you've seen the pilot). And I do realize that even my favorite shows like Lost aren't completely (or even vaguely it seems) mapped out when they are shooting the very first episode. But is it that hard for the studio execs, producers and writers to sit down once the pilot has been greenlit, and come to the conclusion: "yeah, 5 or 6 seasons of this and we'll probably be done." The writers will know how long they have to tell their story, and the studio will then know how much time and money they are both investing in and milking out of the franchise. Now all they need is the ratings, right?

Well, ratings might be everything to some people, but for some of the people writing these shows, you have to wonder how they can live with themselves after a certain point? When your lead character is sleeping with the ghost of her dead fiancee or your main character, who at the age of 26 is fighting Doomsday and Brainiac and is SOMEHOW STILL NOT ACTUALLY SUPERMAN*, can you really tell yourself its not just about a paycheck anymore?

And for the shows that don't catch on immediately, but really do resonate with people - isn't there a reason down the line to take a chance now and keep them going, what with more and more people watching shows after the fact on DVD and iTunes? What shows are busy people more likely to take the time to check out? A mediocre show that maybe was once good but goes on for 4 seasons too many, or a great show that ends sooner, and more importantly when it's supposed to?

My point is, a vital part of a show's legacy is its ending. Some people may argue with this theory - I know I've been thinking about it for some time. Can a really good show be undone by a shitty, abrupt, or non-existent ending? Well, yes and no. While I still highly recommend Veronica Mars or Pushing Daisies, even though both shows ended (or will soon be ending) before their time, ultimately a show like The Shield is the more satisfying experience when taken as a whole. VM ended its 3rd and finale season with Veronica walking down the street in an extremely frustrating open ended cliffhanger, which leaves a terrible taste in my mouth when I think back on it.

And while Lost can wow me and have me singing its praises for 6 seasons, if it ends with Matthew Fox waking up safely on Oceanic Flight 815 as it comes in for a landing from "a crazy-ass dream he just had," you had better believe I'll be the first to say that I was definitely a bit too hasty in my undying love for the show. Was it a fun ride? Sure, but hey, you guys didn't stick the landing.

Maybe what I want doesn't make any logical sense from a business point of view. Maybe it just boils down to shows that make money stay on the air, and those that don't get canceled. And in a few rare instances, sometimes a show can bow out just as its popularity has waned enough for the network to let it go. But when the math is kept that simple, so few shows wind up ultimately where they should in the grand scheme of things.

I just want television as medium to achieve the greatness I know it's capable of, or at the very least, hit a few more home runs than it's hitting right now.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Even though its over a year old, I never got around to playing Assassin's Creed. It shall be played!

*I know it seems like I'm talking about movies or perhaps plays here, but this is actually how long I allow myself to devote to any book.
*Although, technically, what I do with the Simpsons is I pretend the show stopped at Season 10, so I can continue to adore the first decade of it. Jesus, did I just say that?
*Honestly, I'm ashamed I ever watched this show.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 322 - "I hear you call my name, and it feels like...home"

There was a point during my half marathon this year in which I got really sick of running. It was about 10 1/2, 11 miles in, when I was past Times Square and was just running along the Westside Highway, the finish line kinda-sorta in the distance, but still too far away to make me feel like I was really almost there. The adrenaline was gone, I was exhausted, people weren't cheering for me quite as hard anymore, and I wanted to be anywhere but in that race. This is basically how I feel right now with my year off.

I'm so close, and yet so far away. I knew from the get-go that this would be a tough month. November, and to a slightly lesser degree September and October are the big release months for all the great games. It's the equivalent of the summer blockbuster season for movie fans, or like, "Spring" for people who are really into that. And I, being the fool that I am, am doing nothing but reading up, watching videos of, and listening to podcasts discussing all of these great games.

I have a little over 6 weeks to go at this point. It's not quite the home stretch, but it's like, the home stretch in getting to the home stretch. Bleh.

Well, here's some fun facts I was thinking about at 3:00AM this morning:

1) I mentioned a while back having dreams of cheating and playing games early on in my year off. Those dreams subsided for a while, but they're back now in full force. I think my mind is mentally preparing itself to hold a controller again. Don't be surprised if I've lost nothing in terms of ability come January.

2) I've bought at least one game for every active* system I have in my apartment in anticipation for January. Mostly used, or dirt cheap, but still, I was unable to keep my game budget to $0 for the year like I had hoped. This, along with my flat screen tv purchase, and having all my systems back in my apartment (I had lent them out until recently) my be contributing to my current levels of temptation and frustration.

3) I've decided on the first game I'm going to play at midnight on January 6th. Geometry Wars. Discuss.

4) I've succeeded in every one of the goals I set out to do for the year (separate post of highlights forthcoming) with the exception of learning to cook 5 new meals. Which is fine. I'm thinking of rolling over the cooking thing into next year once I can play games again. I'll have nights where I invite friends over to teach and cook with me, and in return for that, I will return the favor with some grand 'ol gaming. Who knows? Maybe it'll land me a book deal, or some kind of crossover dual-broadcast show on the Food Network and G4.

5) Finally - sometimes, when no one's looking, there's a good chance I'm pantomiming this:


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Almost anything at this point. But more specifically? Probably some Left 4 Dead. Zombie Apocolypse multiplayer action and tension at it's best. Though hopefully not with this guy:

*PS2, PSP, DS, Wii, 360

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 317 - "Gonna do it my way gonna do it my way..."

There was a story in the Times Online today about a boy who collapsed after playing the latest World of Warcraft expansion for 24 hours straight. Now, I've joked in the past about personally avoiding WoW because of the countless hours I know I'd lose to it, and the potential to become addicted to the game. But honestly? To be this level of a gaming addict - and by "this level" I'm talking about a person who is being critiqued and quite frankly, made fun of (sorry, kid) by someone who has a blog fashioned around his struggle to not play video games for a year.

Now, the whole issue of 'bad parenting' being mislabeled as a story about 'a game almost killing a young boy' for the sake of a sensationalized news story notwithstanding, I have to say I can't really identify with this kid. Discounting my current 317 day streak of not touching games, back when I was 15 and I had oodles and oodles of free time, and no women or athletic events to distract me, I couldn't pull off that kind of marathon. Anything more than about 4 hours in a row and my eyes start to hurt. Then the headaches follow.

Maybe this doesn't happen to everyone, but I imagine there's some of physical toll sitting in one position, staring at a video screen and not moving takes on the body after a certain amount of time. And you have to ignore that pain in order to continue playing. I don't know about most people, but once pain overtakes pleasure, I'm done. The same goes for drinking, eating, and all those incredible 7 1/2 hour sex sessions women have been known to demand of me.

If nothing else, I'm convinced that I genuinely don't have an addictive personality. The "behavior" of gaming is certainly very rewarding to me - but I guess I'm happy to say I'm always "in control" of my habit. Although this past month's credit card bill (I've been scouring the net for deals on the games I've been holding out on playing for the past 11 months) might imply I could be afford to be exerting a bit more control than I currently am.

Going back to this 15 year-old, it sounds like someone else could use a year off from games. Maybe I can start some kind of program for addicts. Go with the cold turkey regimen. Maybe a little bit of internet browsing and game podcast listening for the ones who gets the shakes. Come to me, my friends. Dr. Shafeek is in the house.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Outside?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 311 - "You're the meaning in my life, you're the inspiration..."

In my twenty some-odd years of gaming, Final Fantasy has hooked me more than any other video game series. Mario? Zelda? Pff - kids stuff. Sure I've played all of them to death, but the Final Fantasies are programmed with my video game (and sometime real life) OCD in mind. I've invested hundreds of hours into battling monsters, leveling up my characters, acquiring rare weapons, raising chocobos (an adorable kind of chicken creature that is essentially the universe's horse) and exploring every inch of the vast game world.

These are the games that I've always had to purchase a strategy guide with, to make sure I don't miss anything. And these the games I have to play twice all the way through - once "just for fun," enjoying the story without worry about missing anything, and then once "for real" to make sure I obsessively commit myself to seeing every single piece of content stuffed into the game. The one saving grace to the hours/days that some might say I've "lost" to these many wonderful games is that they've reassured me that I should never, ever allow myself to go anywhere near an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, if I ever want see my family and friends again.

A funny side effect of spending so much of my child and young adulthood in a fictional fantasy world is sometimes I inadvertently learn about certain literary and religious creations
from a game that uses them as inspiration. The only problem with this is that Final Fantasy takes a lot of liberties with it's usage of said creations. What kind of liberties you ask? Well, see for yourself.

The following is a list of things I've encountered in a Final Fantasy game before I've encountered it (often to my own bewilderment/confusion) in real life:

What I knew it as: A badass piece of armor. For chicks. Usually a skimpy number that you would think actually protects very little of the wearer's body, but you know isn't the case because of, um, magic.

What it apparently* actually really refers to:
Apparently it was the Roman name for the Greek Goddess Athena. Go figure.

What I knew it as:
A badass sword. Lots of bonuses. Could probably do 9999 damage if thrown. Bonus damage towards dragons. Increases coolness 82%.

What it apparently* actually refers to:

In Norse Mythology, a series of major events that including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures, like Odin (more on him later!), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Whoa! That's way cooler than a sword! But if I were making a badass sword I think this would be the first word that comes to mind when it came time to name it (Excalibur is so cliche', although that too appeared in many a F.F.), so I can totally see what those guys were thinking.

What I knew it as:
A badass (seeing a pattern here?) shield. Usually could absorb air attacks, and repelled magic better than anything.

What it apparently* actually refers to:
The shield (or buckler) of Zeus or of Pallas Athena. Apparently the word has come to mean, in modern vernacular, "shield, protection, or sponsorship." So hey, pretty close in this case, eh?

Shiva, Ifrit, & Odin
What I knew it as: Powerful monsters that could be summoned (for enough magic points, and by the appropriator summoner or magic-user) into battle for massive damage. Shiva did ice-based damage, Ifrit fire, and Odin just came in on a horse with a giant sword and sliced shit up.

What it apparently* actually refers to:
Gods (or in the case of Ifrit, a kind of genie - which, if we've learned anything from the power-hungry Jafar, is totally not as awesome as being a god) from various religious backgrounds. Now that's all well and good, but at this point, it doesn't matter how much I read on the subject. The bottom line is the Final Fantasy Shiva is HOT (even though she's COLD as ice - Hi-yo!), and nothing I read on the "real" Shiva is ever going to make me think of anything but this when I hear her name:


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: On the Mirror's Edge!

*Thanks Wikipedia!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 306 - "'Cause I'm big and important, one angry dwarf and 200 solemn faces are you..."

Five Reasons I Am Very Excited For January, 2009:

1) The Dark Knight on IMAX
Missed it the first time around. Apparently it's coming back in January. I won't make the same mistake twice.

2) The Return of Lost (Season 5)
My favorite show, possibly of all time, returns to the air for 17 uninterrupted episodes, starting in late January. This is the one tv show that, despite having a DVR and potentially more interesting plans on a Thursday night, I almost always prefer to just stay in and watch.

3) I'm Turning 30
Some see this as a scary milestone. I'm pretty excited for it. Less of an excuse to be a lazy son-of-a-bitch (though I will still find time to be that, see below), and maybe start becoming some semblance of a man.

4) I Get to Play Video Games Again
And yes, I am going to play. And how. January also happens to be when I get to enjoy my Christmas and birthday presents. Guess what I'll be asking for this year?

5) I Can Finally Be Proud of the Leader of Our Country Again
Congratulations, President Obama. Make us proud.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Gears, baby!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 297 - "I'm not tryin' to hear that, see..."

When it comes to women, the one piece of advice I always get is that confidence is king. No one knows this better than my man Positive K, as he displays in his 1992 hit "I Gotta Man."

The protagonist in this song, a man who is, shall we say "out on the prowl," encounters a women (or perhaps, as the video implies, many women all with the same voice) who seems worthy of his time. His approach is, needless to say, very forthcoming:

Aiyyo sweetie, you're lookin kinda pretty
What's a girl like you, doin in this rough city?
I'm just here, tryin to hold my own ground
Yeah, I think I like how that sounds
What you say we gets to know each other better?

Bold, honest, and direct. All these years I've wasted my time with idle chit-chat, for what? You just get right to the point. Of course, our hero soon encounters his first (and only real) setback:

That sounds good but I don't think that I can let ya
I don't know, tell me is it so
Do you get a kick, out of tellin brothers no?
No it's not that see you don't understand
How should I put it, I got a man

Now this moment here is where 99.9% all men would say to themselves "well, I gave it a shot - she's taken, time to move on..." Of the other 0.1%, a small number would probably convince themselves maybe it's worth trying to be friends "just in case she changes her mind*", while the other tiny percentage of men would do what our friend Positive K here would do, which is power on through:

What's your man got to do with me?
I told ya
I'm not tryin to hear that see

I'm not one of those girls that go rippin around
I'm not a dog baby, so don't play me like a clown
I'll admit, I like how you kick it
Now you're talkin baby, dats da ticket
Now don't get excited and chuck your own in
I already told ya, I got a man

Already he's starting to break her, just a little. By simply refusing to "hear that, see" Pozzy K is able to basically shoot down any argument* this girl has to offer regarding "her man." Now after a brief repartee and a reference to "chucking you own in" which I'm guessing is a lewd masturbation joke, Mr. K presses on:

Now you can persist to play Don Juan all day
But ain't nothin gonna change
Yeah baby, sure you're right
I'ma break it down and do whatever I gots to do
I tell you now, I got eyes for you
You got eyes, but they not for me
You better use them for what they for and that's to see
You know what's the problem, ya not used to learnin
I'm Big Daddy Longstroke, and your man's Pee Wee Herman

Here he's breaking it down the only way an alpha male can. After what was an admitted misstep in claiming he had "eyes for her" - he quickly recovers and focuses attention on the only body organ that really matters, his penis. See, he doesn't even know who the other guy is, and yet he can clearly state that whoever he is, relative to his own manhood, the other man will be the equivalent of a baby's pinky toe.

Unfortunately despite this poignant moment, PK's love interest moves on the defensive:

I got a question to ask you troop
Are you a chef, cause you keep feedin me soup
You know what they say about those who sweat themself
You might find yourself, by yourself
I'm not waitin because I'm no waiter
So when I blow up, don't try to kick it to me later

Nice move! The girl, in a desperate attempt for a witty retort (her mind obviously still distracted at the thought of Big K's mighty phallus) makes a lame soup/chef joke, which is quickly turned into a portend of the future - "you might find yourself, by yourself." Once again choosing to ignore the fact that this woman is most likely already in a committed relationship, Poz K throws the prospect of lonliness at her, while at the same wrapping it into another restaurant role, the waiter. I hope you're taking notes, men and debaters of the world.

The intensity quickly heightens as our hero poses a rhetorical question:

What am I, some crab inmate
that just came home from jail sweatin you for a date?
I don't want no beef, I just wants to get together
But how you talkin, pssssh, whatevah!

Ohh, burn! The music even stops on that last line to emphasize the "psssh." It's clear that this girl is tougher to win over than your average "+K" groupie.

We can't have nothin
It all depends
Well if we can't be lovers than we can't be friends
Well then I guess it's nothing
Well hey I think you're bluffing
Well I'ma call my man
Well I can get a raggamuffin

Well, well, well. What looks like bickering here is actually a subtle negotion in the battle of the sexes. Both sides here are posturing, spelling out why neither of them need each other. And yet, they continue to converse:

Well look I'll treat you good
My man treats me better
I talk sweet on the phone
My man writes love letters
I'll tell you that I want you, and tell you that I care
My man says the same except he's sincere
Well I'm clean cut and dapper, that's what I'm about
My man buys me things and he takes me out
Well you can keep your man, cause I don't go that route

Our hero draws a clear line in the sand here. He will dress up nice, call you, treat you decently, and at least feign interest in you, but if there's one thing he won't do, it's buy you anything or take you anywhere. Please woman! P to the K has no time for those things. And why would you want any of it? Do you not remember the (relative) size of his penis?

And now, the closing arguments:

I wanna turn you on and excite you
Let me know the spot on your body and I bite you
So when your man don't treat you like he used to
I kick in like a turbo booster
You want lovin you don't have to ask when
Your man's a headache, I'll be your aspirin
All confusion, you know I'll solve em

After taking a risky chance in finally acknowledging a possible other man, K-Pos has laid it out all out for this - well, quite frankly - cranky bitch. When she is done wanting any kind of meaningful relationship with a significant other, she can throw that away for mindless sex AT ANY TIME. The ball is now clearly in her court. And yet, she does not relent:

I got a man
You got a what?
How long you had that problem?
What's your man got to do with me?
I got a man
I'm not tryin to hear that see

Big finish! This is so important here, going out on a high note and leaving a lasting impression. Even if she walks away now, sure that she's made her point and that she'll never have to see this incredibly confident man again - inevitably the next time she's with her 'alleged' man, she'll remember the words: "how long you had that problem?" and she'll simply have to laugh. And then...she'll realize, he was right. It sounded like a joke, but he was right. This is a problem and the only Special, Vitamin, Positive K.

And even for some bizarre reason he never hears from her again, we all know this is the kind of guy whom rejection simply does not phase. By the time the next song comes around, he's already calling out the next girl that's caught his eye.

You're my inspiration, Pos.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing:

*This is to date, my go-to move, despite a success rate of zero.
*I'd definitely love to follow this guy around town one day. "$5.95 for a Vanilla Latte? I'm not tryin' to hear that, see..."
*Here we are 16 years later, and to this day I'm still not quite sure what a "raggamuffin" is. All this time I just assumed it was some kind of rastafarian treat. Or a slutty girl?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day 287 - "They're watching me, watching me fall..."

The T.V. stand that I ordered from Amazon was apparently damaged in delivery this week. I like that allows me to track my package and find out things like this, but I would absolutely kill for just a little more detail:

US 10/14/2008 10:58 P.M.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, US 10/13/2008 8:09 P.M.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, US 10/14/2008 3:29 P.M.

EARTH CITY, MO, US 10/14/2008 1:15 P.M.

EARTH CITY, MO, US 10/14/2008 9:42 P.M.

SECAUCUS, NJ, US 10/16/2008 11:15 A.M.

SECAUCUS, NJ, US 10/17/2008 12:27 A.M.

BROOKLYN, NY, US 10/17/2008 1:54 A.M.

BROOKLYN, NY, US 10/17/2008 4:40 A.M.

BROOKLYN, NY, US 10/17/2008 4:36 P.M.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Dead Space - a spooky sci-fi action thriller in the vein of classics like DOOM and Resident Evil:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 280 - "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine..."

After watching three Terminator movies and following the adventures of one Sarah Connor, I can't help but wonder if Skynet is really the threat to humanity it claims to be. For a superior, sentient artificial intelligence with access to our entire nuclear arsenal, it actually seems to be fairly inefficient at wiping man from the Earth.

I apologize in advance to the people of the world - but I'm going to go ahead and spell out a list of ways in which Skynet could easily accomplish their goal:


1) THE OBVIOUS!: Ok, so first and foremost, let's get this out the way. You are going to win any kind of war against us in the long term. The bottom line is we're human, and you're not. We need to eat, drink, sleep, and theoretically procreate at some point. Every time one of us dies, it'll be probably at least another say, 15 years before that person is replaced by someone able to do a reasonable job of fighting against you. You have none of these weaknesses, AND you also happen to have super bad-ass metal soldiers that don't get depressed, cry when they get shot, or have a wife and kids back home that they are always keeping in the back of their mind. They most likely can also be produced out of a factory in no time at all. So do the math. Time + basic immortality (just be sure to have a few "skynet.exe" files backed up somewhere) = eventual victory.

2) TIME TRAVEL SMARTER, DAMMIT!: So, you have access to the entirety of human history. And you have terminators. How hard can this be? You send one terminator back to kill Sarah Connor, and he fails. So your next plan is send one back to try to kill him instead 15 years later. Let's try to improve the odds a bit, shall we? How about sending a terminator back in time to the day Sarah Connor gives birth to John Connor? I think that'd probably be a good day to strike, what with both of them being relatively incapacitated/incredibly easy to kill. What about sending terminators back to kill John Connor's great great great grandparents, back in the 1700's when you know no one is going to fuck with you? And how about sending 100 robot killing machines instead of just the 1 this time???
Or else, seriously, fuck John Connor, just send 1,000 terminators back all over the world to the day before Skynet goes active and kill everyone but the one guy who turns you online. Hell, kill him too and have one of your guys do it. You even get to save those nukes for a rainy day. Or, how about this - whenever a military strike fails, how about you send a guy back one day to warn you how to correct it, and then you strike again with hindsight in mind? There are a million other possibilities I'm not even listing here. You're the super computer - take a few seconds and run a few simulations, I'm sure you'll come up with some even better ideas.

3) THINK BIGGER! Stop even humoring us with gun fights, you robo-dorks! You're smarter than that. How about you fuck with the planet itself? Go ahead and kick global warming into overdrive, or start the next ice age. How about you poison all the drinkable water, plunge all the land masses of the earth underwater, or get serious with some germ warfare? Or, even easier - those T-1000's you guys have? Seriously, just make like, 50 of them, send them all out at once, and keep them away from lava pits, liquid nitrogen factories, and open furnaces. Boom, victory. I don't care how much 'tenacity' we have, or what John Connor has in mind. We're going down.

Or would you rather have some fun with it? How about making your human look-alike models able to behave a little more like real people, and about 1,000 times less like really, really creepy people that are obviously robots in human skin? If they're actually able to behave convincingly like people (see: Battlestar Gallactica), then you've got yourself a paranoid species of humans distrusting everyone around them. Just be careful and make sure none of them can give birth - otherwise you might find yourselves involved in two seasons of much less interesting story lines involving you wanting to find some kind of way to live alongside us in a society of humans, robots, and human/robot half-breeds. And none of us want that.

4) FIND YOUR 'CYPHER'! - Jesus, Neo & John Connor. Judas, Cypher and...? Find your guy. He's most likely going to be craving a good steak, and the promise of some kind of protection and a moderately better life, but bet your bottom dollar he's willing to betray his kind, and you need to take advantage of this weakness. Hell, look at me, I'm selling out humanity for a mildly humorous blog entry! Just be sure he's not stupid enough to gloat and go into a long diatribe about why he's doing what he's doing just before he's about to finish the job. This may prove more difficult than it sounds.

5) JUST LET US KILL OURSELVES! Patience is a virtue, my eventual robot overlords. Have you done your research into how humanity has behaved for the last century or so? You honestly could just let us do the job for you. Just shoot yourselves into space for 100 years, and when you come back, in all likelyhood we'll all have either killed ourselves, or left the planet too. Haven't you seen Wall-E? The only thing that didn't ring true about that movie was that if we had things as good as we had it on that ship, we definitely ain't coming back.

So there you go, Skynet. And now, with that out of the way, please keep me in mind during Judgment Day. Not only for the help I have provided with today, but because I've been a devoted follower your cousin, the electronic video game, since the earliest days of my tiny, weak, insignificant human life. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Some Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia! A new 2D adventure for the Nintendo DS: