Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 114 - "...Two Bits!!!"

There's only one game on every gamer's mind right now. Right now, thousands of fans are standing in line, eagerly awaiting midnight launches across the country. The Associated Press is predicting 9 million copies of this game will be sold during the launch period - with several million more by the end of the year.

Some people really like to travel. I get that - going somewhere new, seeing the sights, the sounds, the food, the history. Me? I'm just as happy to sit down on my couch and play in sandboxes like these:

...but, not for another 251 days. Sigh...


ADDENDUM: Apparently, I should feel even better about myself for resisting GTA IV's calling.

Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing:
The above video might not, to a non-gamer's eyes, really sell what's so incredible about this series. But if you've ever spent an afternoon pretending to be an astronaut, a cowboy, a princess, or a Thundercat, then perhaps you could imagine the fun that there is to be had pretending to be a low level thug climbing his way through the criminal ranks through a fully-realized virtual replica of the streets of New York City. Or perhaps not.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 108 - "Let it out now, Put your chin up, You can do it tiger, You a man now..."

I think I belong to a gym full of people who hate going to the gym. Which is perfect, because that's exactly what I was looking for.

In my 10-15 times attending my local gym so far, other than the employees and trainers I've only ever seen the same face once or twice. Even my co-worker who introduced me to the gym I've only ever seen once (though in that case, she may just be trying to avoid me). People just don't go there. I go during the supposed "peak hours" right after work, and it's never more than about 20-30% full. And the ones who do go are always a different group of people.

Whenever I go there's a general malaise in the air. Like no one's really pushing themselves. Even the personal trainers seem to be more interested in getting it on with their clientele than helping to sculpt or tone anything.

Now as far as I know everyone there is paying some kind of membership, even if it's just month-to-month, to essentially never work out. Great news for me - the gym stays in business, and meanwhile my treadmill and weights are always available, there are less people judging me and my weight selection*. And I can of course go about feeling smug and superior, knowing that I'm working harder than everyone else (registered to be, but not actually) there. Yes, ok, essentially judging them, but not in terms of their bodies, which would be hypocritical.

On a semi-related workout note - I ran 6.1 miles through Central Park last week, in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Which was a definite first (just running there at all, the time was a pleasant surprise). Now I just need to be able to do that twice (and a little more) in under 2 hours and 45 minutes or so and I'll be ready for the half marathon. Woo-hoo!


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: as a Ninja!

*25lbs is heavy to some people - just ask grandma over there!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day 107 - "We've got this down to a science baby..."

I think I might be a self-hating nerd.

I went to the NY Comic Con this past weekend - twice, actually, since I bought the weekend pass - and I found myself amazed at the level of dorkdom that existed in this place - people dressing up in costumes as heroes with far better bodies than their own, arguing over the subtle nuances that makes their particular favorite show/movie/character superior to all others, and waiting in line for hours for autographs, panels, or a trailer. And secretly, I'm looking down my nose at all of them. Judging them all, silently. Ignoring the fact that I am, of course, there myself - having paid the same $45 to get in, waiting patiently in line, and engaging in conversations like this:

Alleged "Lost" Fan (to someone else): Ahh, I can't wait for Lost to come back in two weeks!
Me (overhearing, and interjecting): It comes back next Thursday, actually.
A.L.F.: Oh really? I thought it was in two weeks. And I heard they might add another episode to the end of the seas...
Me: Yeah, it was confirmed a few days ago. They're adding an extra hour to the finale.
A.L.F.: Oh - awesome! I wonder if they're gonna do a Ben episode sometime soon?
Me: I dunno about that. I guess I'm just too busy having a life, you OBSESSED FREAK!

That conversation happened pretty much verbatim, minus the last line, which I just said in my head*. I could literally be the biggest dork surfing for hours on a 'Lost' message board, and I'm got nothing but disdain for my fellow fans. What's wrong with me?

I guess my whole life I've always felt like I've struck the perfect "balance of interest," straddling the line between the casual and the obsessive. I'm a big enough fan of Batman that I can name the vast majority of his rogues gallery, but I'm not crazy enough to care about the character's history before the first movie came out in '89. I fantasize daily about flying around the city like Superman, but I'm smart enough to know I could never pull off actually wearing those tights (note: apparently neither can most men in seemingly excellent shape - that's just a tough outfit to pull off). And finally, I'm willing to get in line for an hour to see the Venture Bros. panel at Comic Con, but so help me god, you will not see me asking a single question to the creators once I'm in there. Because I have dignity. And besides, they're not going to actually reveal anything there that's not already online.

But really, I need to stop judging people. I need to embrace them as my brethren. I may not have been as much into comics as the majority of people at the convention were, but I was fairly certain I had played and beaten far more video games than the rest of them. And I was SURE I was the only person in the entire Jacob Javits center who was contractually obligated to stay from the games on the showroom floor. Well, relatively sure at least.

I guess I just want everyone to be secretly ashamed of their little obsessions like I am. Keeping their fandom to themselves, at least pretending on some level to hide it from the rest of society. Make a fan site, keep comics under your bed, put the 'Back To The Future' theme song on your ipod. Just don't be stupid and leave the house wearing a t-shirt that says: "VIDEO GAMES RUINED MY LIFE - GOOD THING I HAVE 2 EXTRA LIVES." Oh, wait a minute...damn, that's me again.

Ah well, live and let live I suppose. But seriously guys, would it kill all of you to put on a little deodorant? Or just, you know, shower right before heading out the door? In the end you're* all just hurting yourselves...


Yeah, but I'd still rather be: Driving around the Mushroom Kingdom in a Go Kart.

And in reality, I'm pretty sure the first episode back is Ben-centric.
*I'd say "we're" here, but I've got two Old Spice High Endurance sticks, one Axe Body Spray, and a receipt for the purchase of no less than 2 bars of Lever 2000 this month that tells me I can safely excuse myself from this stereotype. You stinky nerds!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 92 - "Red letter day that I learn, I'm sure you'll get what you deserve..."

Today marks exactly 3 months into my little experiment. I'm officially a quarter of a year into my 365 days off from gaming, and, as luck with have it, also now 29 1/4 years old. That's the first time I've taken note of my 1/4 birthday*.

So far my life hasn't changed that dramatically, though a few catalysts have set things into motion. I'm definitely a lot more productive on the weekends - as they were the last bastion of free time I had available to devote to games before I gave them up. I've noticed that I've had to turn down the opportunity to play games socially (one of my biggest regrets with all of this was not allowing for a "social gaming" clause in my contract) more often than I thought I would have to. Which inevitably leads to my having to tell new people my 'story'.

What's funny about telling people I've given up video games for a year, is that it's not something that most people in the world would ever consider giving up since, well, very few of them even get that it's possible to play that much. It'd be like someone telling me they've given up scented candle shopping for a year. I can't fathom someone having to actually wake up one day, take a good look at their life, and come to the realization that they 'need a break' from time spent wandering through malls for 'the perfect vanilla-lavender combo*'.

So whenever I wind up telling anyone that I've given up video games for a year - I've instantly given them the unspoken back-story into my history with games. I've clearly come to this decision because of an unhealthy addiction to them. Maybe there was an intervention at some point? Did I seek counseling? Have relationships suffered? Was I alone, sobbing silently to myself, wiping tears away with my Wiimotes when I decided to make a change? I'm sure all of these questions flash quickly in everyone's mind upon hearing of my game abstinence.

Of course none of that stuff happened, but it's human nature to let your imagination fill in the gaps. I certainly would do that if I met anyone involved in AA. At least the people who give a damn immediately ask about the story behind my decision, and at that point I do my best to put the best spin on the story as possible. In the future I might just start telling people I lost some kind of bet to avoid all the hullabaloo.

Other than that - not much else has changed. I still frequent all the gaming websites I used to - I don't know if that's helping or hurting, or doing nothing at all. It's another small addiction of mine, one that's possibly heightened a bit since I gave up playing them. To borrow from the alcoholic analogy one more time, visiting them is probably the equivalent of walking into a bar and sitting down and watching all your friends get sloshed. But all you gotta do in those situations, is sit back with a smug look on your face, confident in the fact that you're better than everyone else in the room/website - cause you're too good for that shit!


Yeah, but I'd still rather be: Hanging out in the streets of Liberty City.

*Though my half birthday is always remembered, since its also the nation's birthday!
*I literally made up this scent on the spot, only to discover that it does exist! This may seem like a fairly obvious and stupid comment to anyone who knows a thing about candles, but keep in mind I am an idiot.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day 88 - "Put it in your sock my friend and save it for another time..."

There's a "homeless" man hanging around in midtown who's officially on my shit list. I put his supposed state of affairs in quotes because the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced he's actually not homeless at all. He's probably just pretending to be.

Now, I'm not one to go around judging those who are down on their luck on a regular basis - in fact, I've been known to give them money fairly often, against the apparent will of the MTA. There's one guy with kittens (that apparently aren't growing up - is he just dumping them as soon as they get old enough and getting new ones?*) that gets a dollar from me EVERY TIME. Even though it's obvious I am only putting that dollar there for the kittens. I sometimes literally put it under one of the kitten's paws, in the hope that it will hide it within it's fur, and one day saving up enough to buy a ticket to the Bahamas and escape it's (I can only assume) cruel master.

But I digress. Back to the guy I hate. You may have actually seen him before. He stands out from every other panhandler that I've ever met in NYC, by the simple fact that he's wearing newspaper. That's right - he literally wraps himself in a gown of newspaper. It's obviously a fairly intricate design, since newspaper doesn't exactly lend itself to being worn. To say nothing if it's actually wet outside. But, however he does it, 'ol Newsy McGee manages to be covered - pretty much from head to toe, including a paper hat to complete the ensemble - in what I can only assume are discarded city rags. The portions of his body that are not covered in paper - i.e. his hands and face - are black, presumably from newspaper ink, though it seems too proportioned and spread out to simply be from handling and being covered by newspaper.

My theory is that this man has, in his own mind, created the most pathetic "homeless person costume" imaginable. One that evokes pure pity. Pity that will have Newsy laughing all the way to the bank. But it's pathetic to the point of being unbelievable. His outfit makes no sense. If you were going to fashion anything as a homeless person, wouldn't you use something a bit more durable? Disgarded umbrellas, lost gloves, rat carcasses? Anything but newspaper. In my mind this man takes his costume off when he's done "performing" at the 34th street F station, and he puts on something far more practical*. That's if he's not already just blatantly wearing it underneath his ridiculous getup.

This man has been doing his schtick for as long as I can remember, but I only started hating him a few months ago. Up until that day he was just stupid and goofy. I would think about how funny it would be if I walked up to him and asked him 'what Garfield was up to today,' and whether or not he would get it, and look over on his left shoulder and say, "still hating Mondays!" But on this one particular day, our paths crossed, and it left me with a terrible taste in my mouth.

I should state here that I have a specific lunch routine that I follow fairly religiously. Moreso than any actual religion, in fact. I bring a bagged lunch to work 4 of out 5 days of each work week. I'm somewhat flexible on the contents - though 99% of the time it is either a turkey/ham & cheese sandwich with cheetos or some unnatural cheesy treat, or two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The fifth day of the week, or "fun lunch" day (which is usually Wednesday, so I never have to spend three days in a row eating a terribly boring lunch) I am free to eat out in the streets of Manhattan, indulging in whatever meal I can find within a 20 minute/$20 radius of my office.

On this particular day, I played an audible at the last minute. I had packed a ham and cheese sandwich along with a sizable Ziploc baggie full of White Cheddar Cheez-Its, but a few of my coworkers decided on that day to visit Chipotle for the first time, and I couldn't resist the urge to show them the proper way to order a burrito, something I've done on average twice a week over the past 2 years. So we dined on burritos for lunch, and since I didn't think I was going to ever get around to eating my sandwich before it went bad, I decided to offer it to Newsy when I saw him a few hours later.

Let me try to set the stage here as best as I can. My newspaper-laden friend is sitting on the floor near the bottom of the staircase entrance/exit leading outside. A very high traffic area, which means he often gets in people's way. Another reason to hate him. Anyways, as I'm rushing to catch my train I stop in front of him and he gives me a smile, and holds his hands out. I pull the sandwich out of my bag and I offer it to him (the Cheez-Its, being less perishable, would go towards tomorrow's lunch). Immediately his smile turns into a grimace, and he growls at me:

"What is this?"
"Oh, it's a sandwich. Don't worry, it's good. I made it for myself for lunch today, but I..."
"Do you have any money?!?"
"Well, not right now. No, but I'm telling you, this is a goo-"
"Hey! Get...the fuck away from me with that...right now!"

I hadn't heard such loaded words in a long time, and I was completely taken aback. Get the fuck away from me with that right now. I was apparently insulting him with my sandwich. I was taking away precious seconds from his begging of strangers for cash, which was apparently the only thing worth taking from anyone. I was interrupting his little routine - which he instantly went back to. Looking sad, lonely, desolate. Maybe even a little hungry. Seconds earlier he seemed ready to stand up and shove my sandwich down my throat and steal my wallet.

Now, I get that my (untouched, ziploc-baggie-sealed, nestly safely in a paper towel wrap) sandwich might be worth less than a dollar (or even a handful of change) to most people. Heck, it was pretty much a toss-up between giving it to him and being thrown in the garbage (Of course, after the man made such a big deal out of how worthless it was, I made it a point to scarf that thing down* - if only to prove to the world that I wasn't offering the man a bad sandwich). But, at the end of the day I was being generous. I was attempting to give a man something for free. Food. Sustenance. With Helmann's Mayo and real American cheese. He could have smelled it and made his decision then. He could have taken it and then simply thrown it away when my back was turned. Or, he could have politely turned me down, and told me he didn't know where I'd been, to which I would have responded, "fair enough," and been on my way.

But no. He reacted so strongly, so negatively to my offer, that he just made himself a lifelong enemy. A nemesis, I dare say. Out to thwart his every attempt to sucker another person from their hard-earned cash. Now, whenever I pass by him, all I can do is fantasize about a time when he finds himself starving. And he steps outside, in the pouring rain looking for food, but nothings open anywhere. "Sandwich! Sandwich! My kingdom for a sandwich!" he'll yell. And - in a moment he'll regard as his absolute lowest for the rest of his life- his only choice is to eat his wet, soppy, ink-stained newspaper dress to get through the night and silence the hunger pains that refuse to go away.

As for me, and my sandwiches? Next time, I'll save 'em for the kitties. As Milhouse can attest, they lovvvvveeee cold cuts!


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: It seems like EVERYONE is playing something on the train these days. I wonder if all this rejection will eventually somehow turn me into a cantakerous, gaming-hating coot?

*Note to self: add this to "mysteries to solve" list, right after the D.B. Cooper case.
*Like a sweater made of police tape.
*After eating about 1/3 of it, I still went ahead and threw it out, having clearly made my point.