Friday, February 22, 2013

More Like PS-Snore, Amiright??

Look at me, jumping on the meme-wagon.
Have you guys heard? There's a new Playstation console coming out this year, and it's going to usher us (along with the new Xbox being announced later this year) into the next generation of video games. I should be totally excited right now, right? Me, the guy who had to force himself to stay away from video games for an entire year. You'd think, at this very moment, that I'd be frothing at the mouth at the mere prospect of a new gaming era...

...but I'm not. In reality, I'm actually surprisingly unenthusiastic about the whole thing.

Following the Wii-U's launch last year, this now makes two new system announcements in a row that have left me feeling vaguely uninterested in something that used to occupy my thoughts nonstop. I waited in line for over 10 hours in the freezing cold back in 2005 during the Xbox 360 launch. I did it again for a somewhat less crazy handful of hours for the original Wii. Granted, this was all before 'Paused.' Surely I must not be the same gamer now that I was back then, right?

Wrong. Sorry. But I promise that's the last time I'll pull the rug out from under you like that.

The only difference in my relationship with games between 2005 and now is that I don't have as much free time as I used to. Nowadays I buy very few games because I know after a certain point that I'm never going to get around to all of them. But when I get into a game, it still carries the same hold on me that it did back when I was a 5 year old kid who had to be pried away from his Atari 2600 before bedtime (I'm pretty sure that to this day my parents still regret getting me that system and starting my video game habit).

I still make time to play board games with friends almost every week. PAX East is a mere month away and I could not be more excited, even though I know I'm mostly going to hang out in the less crowded board game section the entire time. I have a whole system in place for the weekend. First I walk around to all the vendors and ask them what's new and what they've been playing. Then I check out any new games being demoed on the show floor. I dabble in everything I can, and then a short while later I walk out of PAX with the games I enjoyed playing the most while I was there.

It's an incredibly low-fi process, and yet I'm WAY more excited about doing that than I am about the Playstation 4, or Wii U. Why the hell is that? Honestly, I think it's because we're finally reached a point with our current video game technology that simply doesn't beg for the next generation. There's no obvious justification for a new console at this point. Sure, I'd love better graphics, a better processor,a bigger hard drive, and all that jazz, but until I see a game that promises me an experience I could not have on any of the consoles I already own, I don't any reason to swap out one of the old boxes under my television for a new one.

The thing is, it's definitely not going to be a big fat hard drive or jaw-dropping graphics that's going to wow me at this point. And I honestly don't really know what will. It's tough to say what I want out of a new console, but I do know that whatever it is, I haven't seen it yet. I crave new experiences, not bigger, louder ones.

I actually feel kind of sorry for the console manufacturers, who have the unenviable task of trying to convince gamers that we need a fancy new box to get these supposedly improved gaming experiences, when in reality, the only truly innovative gaming experiences of the past few years are coming from everywhere but the traditional console. Pretty much everything I played and loved last year was something I downloaded and played on my PC, my iPhone, or yes, my Xbox 360 or my PS3, but note that none of my favorite games were actually big budget major studio releases. In fact, they mostly all cost me $15 or less.

I know we haven't seen everything there is to see about the new systems. All the details for the PS4 aren't out yet, the Wii U is very early in it's life cycle, and we know nothing about the upcoming new Xbox (my favorite console of this previous generation) yet. A lot could change in the next year. But I really do hope that, in making this big push to salvage what apparently is a very dire situation in a changing consumer climate, the ones in charge realize it takes a lot more than sequels to your well known franchises and new buttons on your controllers to get people off (and then ultimately back on) their couches these days.

So come on guys. Get me on that freezing cold line at 11:00pm in the middle of November again. Metaphorically speaking of course - honestly, that experience was awful.

What I'm saying is: you did it before. Here's hoping you can do it again.


PS: Actually, if the video game industry crashed tomorrow, I have a large enough back catalog to get me through the next few years, easy. Decades if I really go back and play everything I ever missed that was worthwhile. Ideally though, this crash would happen after Bioshock Infinite and The Last Of Us come out.

PPS: As un-inclined as I am to buy the Wii-U, I will say, I've had some real fun playing Nintendoland (specifically the Animal Crossing game) with a room full of friends.

Monday, February 11, 2013

To Do

I'm a List Guy. Also known as a Big Time Planner. More so than you can probably imagine. On top of a regularly updated and cleared out To Do list, which I know is fairly common, I also keep a list for every source of entertainment I'm invested in: To Watch (Movies & TV), To Read (Books & Comics), To Listen To (Music & Podcasts), and of course, To Play. Way back in 2008 when I first started this blog I showed off my original To Play list that helped comfort me through my year off from video games. I'm sure I'll always have a To Play list, simply because games are just the most time consuming form of media there is, and I'll probably never be able to get around to enjoying all of them. But oh, how a man can dream.

I also maintain a list of Places To Visit, of things 'To Write,' of karaoke songs I can't wait To Sing, and something I have taken to calling "Scatterbrained Ideas" (which hopefully will graduate at some point to the "To Write" list). One day I made a 'Double Dates' list, because I got excited by the prospect of going on them with every one of my coupled friends. Technically 'list' is a bit of a misnomer, since it was actually a spreadsheet with suggested activities and topics for discussion for every pairing. I don't mess around you guys.

While getting through an item on one of my lists always comes with that rewarding sense of accomplishment or enjoyment, I realize now that I also take pleasure in the creation of these many lists of ideas, events and consumables. Not necessarily for the sake of getting to everything (though I'll certainly try - I actually could probably make a pretty huge dent with just a few years of unemployment) but more as an ever-expanding collection of what I potentially have to look forward to. It's satisfying in a way I can't totally explain. I imagine it has something to do with the feeling (illusion?) of having control over my life, along with what I'll label as 'enjoyment of the hypothetical.' Or maybe I'm just subconsciously a believer in The Secret, and I think whatever goes on one of my lists I must be willing into existence. Though if that last part were true, my list of "Women I'm Sure Will Want To Have Sex With Me" would't have gotten me into nearly as many awful situations as it has.

Here's a crazy but totally real example of what I'm talking about: as much as I love occasionally impulse shopping on Amazon, I can pretty much get that same giddy feeling by adding whatever I'm interested in to my Amazon Wish List, without any of the guilt and zero expense. Knowing that I can have that thing someday (if I ever really want it) totally scratches that "I want something new!" itch. And while planning something like a trip to Hawaii may not seem to be as exciting as actually going on the trip itself, fantasizing for months in advance about recreating all six seasons of Lost with my friends while I would be out there (something I sadly never got around to) is very much its own separate, worthwhile pleasure.

This whole blog post has been an extremely long winded way of saying this: the best laid plans of mice and men may oft go astray, but Matt Shafeek's many many plans are gonna work out pretty well for him one way or another.

I hope you've enjoyed what this semi-cocky little stream of consciousness. Hey, I got years of self-deprecation under my belt, so I figured I could get away with this. One final thought - I've heard it said that apparently 'life is what happens while you're making other plans.' Well, guess what? I'm pretty much always making other plans, so I guess it's safe to say I'm living the fuck outta life right now, one additional list item at a time.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Check Out My New Splitsider Series: "Tragedy Plus Time"

Friends - I'm back on Splitsider with a new series called "Tragedy Plus Time," and I'd love for you to check it out. The topic of the first week is cancer...but uh, it's funny. And also sad. But also uplifting! But also a harsh reminder of the frailty of each and every one of our lives. Ok, why don't I just stop and let you click here: