Sunday, January 25, 2009

19 Days UP - "That's what friends are for..."

One of my favorite things about playing video games nowadays is playing with other people. And since 99% of the time there's no one over my apartment to play with, the only other option I have is finding people online. Which I'm totally fine with. A fair number of my friends play on Xbox Live, but more often than not I'm playing with strangers, or at the very least, people I've never technically met in real life. But isn't that really cool, when you think about it? I'm meeting, conversing and coordinating with another human being who I otherwise would never associate with in any way.

Sure, there's an absolutely fantastic amount of douche bags out there that I have to weed through before I find someone worth playing with, but once you do, it's actually pretty awesome. Lately I've been doing all my friend-finding in Gears of War 2's Horde mode. I let matchmaking do its thing, and once the match gets going, I quickly realize who are the people I like (people who have a mic but don't abuse it, are looking to coordinate tactics, and sound older than 12 years old) and the people I don't (everyone else).

I've never been a part of a sports team where A) the games were remotely serious and B) I wasn't picked last or very last. So this is kind of making up for something that's been missing my whole life. I actually wind up as a leader in most scenarios, and I find myself barking orders (which, by the way, I love) to my fellow soldiers. And more often than not, once a game ends I find myself getting friend requests, which is the most praise you could get from anyone you play online with.

I got a few "YOU'RE BACK??!" and "HE LIVES!" from some people who noticed I wasn't around for a year, which was nice (they also didn't simply erased me from their friends list, which was even nicer). And I even have a history with some of them - I met "The Hellian" years ago playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (along with Chaos Theory, one of, if not the greatest, most rewarding online multiplayer games to ever come out) years ago, when he was still in high school, and maybe it was just a little weird to spend so much time chatting together. Every game worth playing we played together. And it always heightened the experience. To play alongside someone else who enjoys the game as much as you makes even a mediocre game a pretty fun time.

Any time you seen an article written about people playing video games online (or in general), it's a terrible, sad story. Someone died from addiction, spouted some awful racist banter, or someone fooled someone else into giving away their password, getting molested, or whathaveyou. But hey, guess what? Some people playing out there are decent, cool people. And playing games with them makes the precious time you spend in front of your tv that much more enjoyable.

-Matt "RC Jester" Shafeek

Currently playing: Gears of War 2 (Just beat the campaign with my buddy Slow Jones!), Geometry Wars 2 (Just beat "Sequence," and thus, the game last night!), Braid (beat it, amazing), Assassin's Creed, The World Ends With You, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and of course, lots of Rock Band 2 (I have to justify spending $50+ on downloadable songs!) Looking forward to the Resident Evil 5 and Halo Wars demos in the next few weeks...

Monday, January 12, 2009

6 Days UP - "Just when you think you're in control, just when you think you've got a hold, just when you get on a roll..."

So here were a little less than a week later. Games are back in my life. Life was supposed to be good again. Except...something's not right. Somethings...missing. The happiness, the joy they brought me - I can't explain it, but I think in the past year I realized that the world around me is what I truly enjoy, and not some digital image burning a hole in my retinas. What was I thinking, wasting all these hours playing games?

Haha - nah, I'm just fucking with you. I still love 'em. Video games still rock my world. Don't you see that smile on my face? I played Geometry Wars as my first game at midnight. I scored something like 760,000 in my very first ten minutes playing games in over a year. A million would have been extra cool, but as it stands I think it's safe to say my video game muscle memory remains fairly intact. From there I went on to Rock Band 2 with some friends, and the following day I dabbled in some of the dozens of demos I downloaded and let gather virtual dust on my hard drive over the past year.

Now the real challenge begins. I haven't been to the gym yet since becoming 'Unpaused' (hence the "UP" in the title). This is first my blog entry in over a week, when I was posting almost biweekly in the month leading up to the 6th. Will I completely devolve into the person I was before I took a year off from games? Not that I was a horrible game addict before I gave up game up games anyway. I think my goal for 2009 has to be to find that perfect balance - time for games, and time for everything else.

One funny thing I noticed was that I have been extremely hesistant to pick up and play anything I know will be more than a 20-30 minute commitment - GTA IV being a prime example. I've been dying to dig into that game for 8 months now, and now that I'm able to play again, and the game is literally sitting in my basement right next to my 360, it sits there in the box untouched, cast aside for the Crackdown demo - I game I actually had on my hard drive pre-2008 that I just never got around to checking out (for the record, it's really fun!). I think I realize that if I get hooked onto something big like a Fable 2 or a Fallout 3 I'm probably not going to play anything else, and right now I kind of just want to dabble in everything. I'm like the guy that just got out of an incredibly miserable long term relationship who's not looking for anything serious, he's just looking to play the field for a while. And unlike the jerky women of the world who refuse to sit around and wait for the guy to get his shit together, these games ain't going anywhere, so I think it's ok for now.

Man, it's been a week, but it really does feel like I've been back for some time...


PS: Apparently I'm a trendsetter!

Currently playing: The World Ends With You, Gears of War 2, Geometry Wars 2, Rock Band 2. One new, the others tried and true. All of them really, really fun!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 365 - "But that was when I ruled the world..."

So I turned 30 years old today. And I get to play video games in less than 36 hours, which is great. This is also my 50th blog post, a nice little milestone. But this entry will be about none of those things, because I had an AMAZING dream last night that I wish to share with everyone.

My dream started off at the dinner table in my old apartment in Rosedale, Queens that I haven't lived in since I was 18. I was with my mother and my grandmother, and we had a few guests over. Namely, the Bushes. President George W. Bush, his wife Laura (though my brain got her likeness all wrong), and his father, former President George H.W. Bush. The actual dinner itself was quick and uneventful - that is to say, whatever happened during it, I don't remember. What I do remember is us finishing up our meal, which was take-out Chinese food, and starting to open up our fortune cookies. Everyone opens their own, and when I open mines, a ballot comes out. On the ballot (which proportionally probably couldn't have actually fit inside my tiny cookie) was a vote for Barack Obama,* which, being the ass that I am, I quickly flaunt in front of the current president.

"I think this one's for you buddy!" I laugh as I toss it in his direction. President Bush gives a quick chuckle, without a hint of anger or resentment. Shortly afterward, I wonder aloud if this vote is important, and I ask everyone if "we'll ever found out what the final count was in the election, or if it's still a secret." Which is kind of weird, since I think those numbers are readily available. Maybe I was just trying to diffuse a potentially awkward situation by pretending I didn't really know how things turned out.

At this point an alarm starts to go off. Quick side note - and this is why I love dreams so much - this was actually a real life alarm going off in my roommate's bedroom. Normally any noise wakes me up, but I think it was far away enough to keep me going in dreamland for just a little while longer. Eventually I woke up and had to let my roommate know there was an incredibly loud noise happening in his room that he was somehow sleeping through.

So the alarm in my dream also sounds like its going off in the distance. After a few seconds I look up and ask everyone if they know what the source of the sound is. Mrs. Bush lets out a contented sigh and says that yes, she does in fact know what the alarm is - it's coming from their bedroom, and it's from "her favorite alarm clock, the one from her father*." She then excuses herself, and goes to presumably turn it off.

Now this is where it gets interesting. All of sudden, I realize we're not in my old apartment anymore, but we're in the White House. One of those funky dream switcheroos. I look over and I see former President George Bush shaking current President George Bush's hands and telling him: "you did a fine job, son," to which I snicker somewhat obnoxiously. I then put two and two together and realize that the alarm is actually signaling that it is now the end of Bush's run as President. The now 2nd former president in the room stands up, and also excuses himself to go gather the rest of his things and leave, I assume.
At this point I'm thinking to myself how I want to address him when he says his final goodbye. I had been ribbing him all during dinner as you recall, so it was kind of clear I really didn't respect him all that much. In the back of my mind I was thinking of all the hilariously disrespectful things I could call him as he left office. Something along the lines of: "Peace out G.B.!" or possibly: "Hasta la vista, Georgie!" or maybe just a simple: "Bye Bye Bushie!" All of those would have worked, it was just a matter of picking a favorite.

Just then, the man of the hour comes back into the room, looks at us, and gives one the most adorable, hapless, "aww geez," shrugs I've ever seen on a man, and as he lowers his shoulders, he says: "'re not gonna believe this, but uh, heh, I don't have a ride back home..." and we all look at each other, my mom, my grandmother, and former President George Bush, and we all start laughing hysterically. "Of course he forgets that!" we're all thinking. And at that moment, I'm so full of just pure pity for the man, that I stand up as I prepare to leave and I go: "Take care, Mr. President..."

Honestly, I did consider offering him a ride, but then I pictured a long awkward drive to Texas that I did not want to be a part of. I started making my way over to the White House bedroom to see what was taking Laura so long with that alarm clock.

And then I woke up.

31 hours and 26 minutes to go.


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: Anything and everything, in due time.

*I always thought you couldn't read in dreams? But I definitely remember reading this.
*For the record , I have no idea who this is.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 362 - "Gotta bad habit and it ain't goin' away..."

Well, 2009 is upon us. People have already begun asking me what the new year holds for me. Am I really gonna start playing game again, after all that I've accomplished? (Yes) Am I going to give up anything else this year? I think, given that I gave up something pretty big in 2008, I've earned the right to really just add something back to my life this year. Having said that, I have something pretty fun in mind for this year.

In 2008 I read 12 books, posted close to 50 blog entries, ran a half marathon, started a gym regimen, traveled up and down (and outside) the country, but the one goal I didn't manage to accomplish was learning to cook at least 5 new meals. I've definitely cooked more this year (mostly due to the lack of any good restaurants in my neighborhood), but my menu is limited to very simple options generally usually less than 3 ingredients/utensils.

So - 2009 is the year I'm going to become much more well versed in the culinary arts. Now since I have literally zero motivation to learn or take the time to cook anything new when I come home after a long day of work and I'm by myself with an angry stomach, the trick is going to use my friends' knowledge of cooking (and willingness to do most of it) to inspire me. I will invite a handful of friends over every week or so to introduce me to a new meal - it can be something they've cooked dozens of times before, or something they've been meaning to try forever but have never had a proper excuse to.
After we're done with our delicious spread, then it's my turn to shine! We'll turn our attention to my vast gaming collection, and after taking the inevitable swim through the gaming pit*, we'll actually pick a game and play it. My goal will be to find a new and exciting game-playing experience for my guests. Will they enjoy the simple delights of Wii Sports, the twitchy, competitive Geometry Wars, or the thinking man's Portal? Or...will they all just want to play Rock Band? Only time will tell!

The title of this project will be Dinner And Games, with a new blog to go along with it ('Dinner And A Game' was my first choice, but unfortunately that name was taken by some jerk who apparently is too busy to bother using it). It'll start with lots of pictures of delicious food and what will most likely be me lecturing people in front of my television. And maybe as time goes along, if I get bold - and maybe get a new computer with video-editing capabilities - I'll post some video as well.

Finally, I hope to continue posting here as well. I won't officially be 'paused' any longer, but I definitely will still want to continue about my gaming and non-gaming adventures. I'm sure the next month will be a bit lighter than usual, but I will definitely post of some stuff from my first day back on games, my big party on the 10th, and some impressions of the games I've been waiting as many as 12 months to play.

4 Days, 8 hours, & 21 minutes to go...


Yeah, but I'd still rather be playing: This game initially didn't make my list because I wasn't a huge fan of the originals, but the new Banjo and Kazooie game is apparently a ton of fun to play with the additional vehicle creation feature that's been added to it. Reminds of my obsessive Lego days - only this time, I actually get to ride my creation! Looks like I'm adding one more game to my list of games to play from 2008!

*Admittedly, Scrooge has a few more gold coins that I do games. But it's closer than you'd think.