Friday, January 22, 2010

One Foot In The Grave Adopter

I realized recently that I'm actually the opposite with video games as I am with nearly every other piece of technology. I'm an early adopter of all things video games in general (though here's a startling fact that still kind of boggle my mind a little: I still don't have a PS3), but in every other piece of popular electronics, I pretty much lag behind the pack, being lapped by most of my peers by several generations in a most embarrassing manner.

I had a black and white 1st gen iPod until about a year and a half ago, now I have the first gen color one. I recently purchased a new standard, bare bones flip phone, which I half assumed they didn't make anymore, given that no one else I know has them. And only in the past year or so have I upgraded to the relative current generation of digital cameras and televisions.

The biggest embarrassment of my collection is my computer. The PC I use right now at home was made in 2001. That's right. NINE YEARS AGO. I believe it received some sort of minor upgrade at one point (I don't think XP was available then, and currently I have what I assume it some form of XP Beta), but don't be mistaken, this computer runs like a 9 year old computer. I can't even keep facebook open any more, as whatever memory it takes to run the home page eats up every last piece of available memory my computer has. And this is a machine I use every day. Typing each letter in a twitter update can take about 10 seconds per character. I might as well just send all my friends telegrams! (Mental note: potential business idea - Twitter Telegrams?)

So anyways, it brings me great pleasure to announce that I've purchased my first laptop recently, to arrive here at or before Valentine's Day. Because what I lack in my life in terms of physical love, I fully intend to make up for with electronic love. That sounded creepy...intentionally. Yes, it's a Dell Studio 15*, seen below in a sexy laptop spread:
How exciting! Now where do I plug in my 28K modem?

As to why someone who uses so many electronics in his day to day life would be so seemingly unwilling to leap eagerly into the new generation of gadgets and toys, well...money is certainly a factor. And general laziness (I think its safe to say I get more enjoyment out of a new video game than a new gadget, unless that new gadget is a new video game system).

I think the bottom line is that new generations usually only seem like a small step forward, and even when something wholly new and original comes out (a la the iPhone), I've decided the accepted behavior is to let the people who simply need to have it get it, find the problems with it, let the company work out the kinks, and you wait around for the next one to come out. Which I also don't do...so who knows. All I can say is my Xbox 360, which I bought the day it came out for twice as much as it costs now after waiting on line for 16 hours, died on me twice in 5 years (with one of those years going completely unused). So perhaps that experience soured me a little.

In summation: I don't buy new things all that often, but this week I did, and I'm excited, whee.

-Matt

Currently Playing: Just finished New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Best Bowser Battle eva!), and have basically cleared the table for this Tuesday's release of Mass Effect 2. WHEEE!!!

*Yes, I'm still living in a time when Macs aren't considered cool, hip, or the all around the better option.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

From the Agent Jester File: No Pants 2K10

Earlier today I was involved in a little event you may have heard of. It's a stunt called 'No Pants' pulled off (no pun intended) every year by a group I've been a part of for several years now, Improv Everywhere. If you've never heard of it before, the basic idea is that a group of us all gather together in one location here in New York City (well, not anymore, but I'll get to that in a minute) and take a subway ride up/downtown and as we're riding the train we take off our pants, get off at various stops and re-enter new subway cars so it looks like an increasing number of people are getting on the train not wearing any pants. We all pretend to not know each other, and if pressed for a reason behind our pantslessness, we simply tell people we've forgotten them...and yes, we're very cold.

No Pants has been going on for 8 years now, and I got involved starting with the 2nd one in 2003 (side note: man, EVERYTHING has started to make me feel old lately!). When it first started it involved a handful of people. The first year I participated there were maybe 30 -40 people, which felt large at the time. Today we had close to 3,000. And that's only in NY - this year apparently 44 regions in 16 countries participated in their own version of No Pants. Crazy!

You can tell this picture's old because I'm playing on a Game Boy Advance.
Also, there's weird stuff on my head!

There was a moment earlier today where I was lamenting the inevitable loss of details from the No Pants of Yesteryear, like when a pants seller used to come on the train towards the end of the ride, selling us (our own) pants for $1. There was also the sense of being a part of a special, secret event that wasn't covered by seemingly every major news organization.

But as the event was wrapping up today in Union Square, I couldn't help but notice how happy everyone looked. How, despite how big it had become, people still felt like they were doing something fun and cool, and they were all making it their own special thing: someone had set up a "Try Pants!" information booth, everyone was swapping stories of what happened on their ride, and sporadic chants of "NO PANTS NO PANTS!" were constantly starting up over and over again. And keep in mind everyone was outdoors chanting, chatting, and posing for pictures with big, goofy smiles on their faces in 28 degree weather. In their underwear.

The defining moment of the day came when I was just about to leave to head back home. Having had enough of the cold, I put my pants back on and started to make way through the sea of people towards the subway. Someone noticed I had put my pants back on, and started yelling "HE'S WEARING PANTS!! BOOOO!!!" which the entire crowd quickly joined in on. As I was standing there, experiencing easily the largest booing ever aimed in my direction, I motioned to the crowd to hear me out, and a few potential responses ran through my head: "Hey, I was doing this back when you were all still in junior high!" (did I mention the crowd skewed young?), "Sorry, say that again? I can't hear all of you through all the WARMTH in my legs!" or the old standby: "Do you KNOW who I AM?!?" I quickly realized three things:

1) There's little you can say to an angry, pantsless mob to change their mind.
2) They did not, in fact, know who I was.

See! There I am 6 years ago in front of that random Indian guy!

And perhaps most importantly:
3) No Pants (and Improv Everywhere) has become something much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and really, I'm just grateful to see what it's become, and still be a part of it, in whatever small way.

So I shut my mouth, ripped off my pants again*, and became one with my fellow agents, fully embracing the future of of this wonderful event.

NO PANTS! NO PANTS!

Official Site/Event:
http://improveverywhere.com/2010/01/18/no-pants-subway-ride-2010/

-Matt

PS: One last interesting thing I noticed - amongst the many standard responses I overheard today, (you know, old hat for a vet like me) at one point I heard a young girl say: "What's going with these people? Oh, that's right! It's No Pants Day! I read about it online..." which I can totally imagine being the standard response in just a few years. 'No Pants Day' - I love it. I really do!

*...actually, I just slinked away slowly. But I think the "truth-ish" (a wonderful David Sedaris term that enables him to make whatever little tweaks he wants to his real life stories) ending works a lot better, so since I ultimately got the sentiment right, let's just say I did what I claimed I did up there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One Year Un-Paused - "We don't have to take our clothes off to have a good time, oh no..."

Ding Ding Ding! Yeah, I know, not quite as momentous as it was one year ago, when I was finally able to start playing games again after a seemingly forever long three hundred sixty five day hiatus. But it's still a date to remember, if for nothing else that it's also the two year anniversary of this blog! Hooray! Ok, now onto the list, broken down by title, completion level, time played, and my newest, highly subjective rating system, the 'OER' or Overall Enjoyment Rating:

Matt's 2009 Games Played

Game Played CL TP OER
Geometry Wars 2 D 10 9
Braid C 8 9
The World Ends With You D 100+ 10
Rock Band 2 C 12 8.5
Super Smash Bros. Brawl D 20 8.5
Mass Effect D 30 9
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess SW 15 XX
Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode 1 D 8 8
God of War 2 C 15 9
Assassin's Creed C 22 8.5
Doom C 12 8
Exit 2 SW 8 XX
Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode 2 D 8 8
Plants Vs. Zombies D 40 9.5
Street Fighter IV C 10 8
Been There Dan That C 5 8
Patapon Db 2 7
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia D 20 9
Burnout Paradise C 15 8.5
N+ SW 7 XX
Prince of Persia C 18 8
Bionic Commando Re-Armed SW 2 XX
Puzzle Quest SW 4 XX
Space Invaders Extreme C 2 7
Time Gentleman, Please C 5 8
Professor Layton and the Curious Village D 20 9
Contra IV Db 1 7
Batman: Arkham Asylum D 25 10
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box C 20 8
Final Fantasy VI Advance SW 30 XX
Left 4 Dead Db 1 8
Half-Life 2 C 10 7.5
Shadow Complex D 12 9
Defense Grid C 20 9
Wii Sports Resort Db 2 8.5
The Beatles Rock Band Db 2 7.5
Dead Space Extraction Db 2 6
Punch Out!! Db 2 7.5
Resident Evil 5 D 40 9
New Super Mario Bros. Wii SW 8 8.5
Assassin's Creed 2 SW 10 XX

Legend:
CL = Completion Level (D = Destroyed, C = Completed,
Db = Dabbled, SW = Still Working)
TP = Time Played (In hours)
OER = Overall Enjoyment Rating

That's a total of approximately 603 hours, give or take who knows. Looks like I beat 26 games, about one every other week. My top three games of the year, in terms of time commitment are The World Ends With You, Plants Versus Zombies, and Resident Evil 5, which were all incredibly addicting, incredibly satisfying games in their own right. The top 3 highest rated games is basically the same list, swapping out RE5 for Batman: Arkham Asylum - which basically only says that Batman wasn't quite as replayable for whatever reason as RE5 was. In other words RE5's Mercenaries Mode were great, the Challenge Rooms in Batman, not quite so much (though, I did totally conquer them).

I left out the OER on games I haven't beaten yet, for what I believe to be fairly obvious reasons, though some games, like NSMB Wii, I can easily assign a rating to without finishing the last 2 worlds. Lowlights from the year? Contra for the DS underwhelmed me, but I really only played it twice. Patapon I REALLY wanted to like (it was the only game I even attempted to play on my PSP all year), but I just could not get into the flow of things.

Completed/Destroyed is a fairly arbitrary distinction, but it usually means I went back did just about everything was to do, as opposed to just beating the game. This distinction also can be taken as a note to game developers as to how much fun your side/bonus content was for me.

Lastly - I played mostly single player games this year, a trend I see continuing for the foreseeable future. In other to really enjoy a multiplayer game like say, Modern Warfare 2, I'd have to invest much more time than I'd like given the number of games I like to play. Believe me, if I somehow had more than 603 hours to devote to video games in a year, I'd be on the front lines, kicking ass and taking names.

So that's that. A fantastic rewarding year for my favorite hobby. What will 2010 hold for me and my yo-yo like time management tendencies?

-Matt

Monday, January 4, 2010

364 Days UP - "You're all I knew you'd become..."

Aw, thank you Google Image Search!

So...I turned 31 today. How about that! Quick stray observation - I got more birthday wishes on Facebook then ever before, and I don't think it's necessarily because I'm made more friends, or that people are just using Facebook more. I think my birthday happened to land on a day when a lot of people are going back to work after a nice long (or even short) vacation, and they're looking for any excuse to not do any work. Hah, so yes, I'm basically calling out all the people who wished me a Happy Birthday over the internet today as lazy bastards just looking for another in what I imagine was a series of 30 seconds delays to the miseries of their 9-5. But hey, I love the attention regardless, so let's be clear: I'm not complaining. I'm just analyzing the situation, and deciding how I can use this information in the future. (Note to self: post all blog posts and internet videos on the first weekday after long weekends)

Now 2009/My 'Nerdy 30' was a year I sort of allowed myself to relax and enjoy the year without worrying too much about specific, organized goals. And it was certainly a fun year. But I'm going to try to get back to attempting some long term projects. First on the list? Writing my first short story. And don't get your hopes up, because unless I'm dead and you're ransacking my hard drive, or I become some sort of literary sensation and it gets included on a heavily asterisk's* "Early Works" collection, you'll probably never read it.

A friend recently proposed an interesting arrangement with me to make sure we're each productive - using our level of productivity as a way to nudge the other into not being lazy. I write a page, I text him and let him know he owes me (or really, himself) a page. We both really WANT to be productive, and we're both pretty good about pestering one another, so the plan should work, in theory. The only fatal flaw - which has already reared its ugly head - someone has to be productive first.

-Matt

PS: Full post-Paused video game rundown on the official one year Pause-aversary in 2 days.

Currently Playing: Knee deep in Assassin's Creed 2, and loving it. Just finished up and am currently making the final rounds of 100% puzzle completion in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (Spoiler Alert: It actually wasn't all that diabolical) and believe it or not, I'm still playing Resident Evil 5 on a pretty regular basis, both the campaign and the stupidly addicting Mercenaries mode.

*Note that at the time of this writing, Matt Shafeek was without an author, and was not aware of whether or not his usage of "asterisk's" was proper English. Also, he was too lazy to find out.