Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Another year

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

I’m not one for navel-gazing, but I wanted to take advantage of the change in the calendar to reflect a bit on the past year, and what I’m doing now.

When I last updated, we were on the cusp of participating in the Extra Life for Kids video game marathon. We were successful, and were able to raise $600 for Riley Hospital for Children. That was pretty great.

I also managed to keep this site updated for several weeks in a row, something that I slacked off on when I started preparing for the marathon. However, I also was working on launching This Videogame Rocks, which is a website to chronicle my love of video games and video game culture, and to tie in and hone all of the skills that I’ve acquired while farting around with this site, while having a less embarrassing domain name to say. I’m still working on finding my groove over there, so it’s pretty light on content for the time being. But, please, check it out and let me know what you think.

This is also the time of year (well, last week was, I guess) where people tend to set New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t do that. Not because I think I’m better than anyone or because I don’t think that I can improve in any way, but because New Year’s Resolutions almost never stick. Setting a whole bunch of lofty goals all at once and then getting frustrated because I can’t do them all flawlessly is just a recipe for failure. Besides, why would I vow to improve myself only one time a year? Self improvement is a never-ending process, and one that I maybe don’t do as well as I could. But I don’t worry about that. I look at what I’m doing and where I want to be and make adjustments as needed. I might fail, I might not. But, as they say, the journey is more important than the destination. So, if I’m destined to fail (and I hope I’m not, but who can say), the best thing I can do is to make sure that I have fun while failing.

So, join me, won’t you?

Won’t you?

Backlog, Schmacklog

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

As recently as a month ago, I was making grand proclamations about how I was going to knuckle down and get my backlog under control. I was going to pare down that list bit by bit and eliminate it once and for all. That was a good idea, in theory, and I am still making progress toward that goal, but I very quickly came to a realization: No matter what I do, my backlog is probably never going to be zero.

And I’m okay with that.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m giving up and am going to let myself drown under an ever-growing pile of unfinished games. That would be crazy. But I did go through my backlog and I identified three kinds of games in there and my likeliness to get them finished as a good first step.

Type 1 – Games I got as a part of a bundle that I didn’t really want in the first place. There are way, way too many game bundles floating around on the Internet. Lots of these game bundles are ‘pay what you want’ with special plums if you pay over a certain dollar amount. The big problem is that you get a game that you want, that is maybe pretty good, and you also get four or five (or more) other games that you’ve never heard of, didn’t really want, and may never play. I have lots of these artificially inflating the number of games in my backlog, so it looks worse than it actually is. It’s tempting to get rid of a lot of these games, but since most of them are digital-only, I’m stuck with them.

Type 2 – Games that looked interesting or were recommended, but it turns out that I didn’t like. Games like 3D-Dot Game Heroes get moderately favorable reviews, and look interesting enough for a try (or were in the bargain bin), but on putting them in, it turns out that they’re just not very good. I’m sure that to someone somewhere these games are good, but I’m not going to waste my time slogging through them if I’m not having any fun doing it.

Type 3 – Games that are just too long. Probably until I either retire or hit the lottery, my time for playing games is limited, and even when I do get a chance to play, I may not be able to play in long stretches. Some weeks I can manage six or eight hours, and other weeks it’s a bit less (like zero). That time may not be in big chunks, either. Some days I might only have a few ten or twenty minute chunks of time that I can devote to a game, other days it might be two or three hours. If I can’t pick up a game and put it down after a few minutes, I may end up putting it down and coming back to it just after never. If a game takes 40 or more hours to complete, and I can work in 10 hours a week playing it, it’s still going to take me a month or so to get to the end.

What are the odds that I’m going to finish these up? Type 1 is very unlikely. I might play it once to see what it’s all about, or I might never look at it. I didn’t really want it in the first place, so these don’t count toward my backlog. I can write them off.

Type 2 games can also be written off. I’m not going to force myself to play something I didn’t like. If I gave it a try and didn’t like it enough to finish it, or at all, then I’m knocking it out of the backlog.

Type 3 games are an interesting category. Games that I liked, probably, but took so long to play that I just got tired of playing them every free evening for a month or more. These games I’d like to get back to, but the odds of me doing that are directly related to how long it’s been since I played it last. A game that I last played a month ago? There’s a decent chance I’ll give it another go in a couple of weeks after I’ve played something short to ‘cleanse my palate’, so to speak. Something I stopped playing in 2007 two consoles ago? Assuming I remember that I have a saved game, and the console is still hooked up to my television, I might play again. But, realistically, we can take these off the list, too, if they haven’t been played in the last year.

And, just like that, my backlog goes from insane and completely unmanageable to slightly off-kilter and kind of manageable.

It’s a start. I’ll take it.

Chasing Dreams

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Regardless how the last few entries to this site have appeared, I don’t usually like to be maudlin. But I wanted to touch on a subject that I’ve talked about before: the aim of this site, and where it goes from here. But that requires a brief history lesson.

I registered the domain name on December 17, 2001 on a lark. I was in the midst of finals in college and we were learning all about web programming languages, scripting languages, databases, and lots of etc. I figured it would be fun to grab a domain name and do some of that for myself. At that time, services like Bust A Name didn’t really exist (or if they did, I didn’t know anything about them), so I drew inspiration from my surroundings, saw that I was wearing threadbare socks that day, found that was available and registered it, put together an old computer in my kitchen running Debian GNU/Linux, downloaded PHP-Nuke, and boom, I had (more or less) had a website.

I didn’t really have much of a goal at first. I just wanted to learn about putting together a website, and I think that I’ve succeeded in that (plus lots of other things). But my goals were ever changing, and I could never fully dedicate myself to a concrete vision for a long enough length of time. I would even spin up a sister site for a while once an idea struck, but intereste tended to fall off for any of them after too long, which left me discouraged. I also tried lots of things with this site, most of which didn’t really pan out. Like that failed attempt at turning this site from a regular ol’ blog way back in ought-three, to doing gamy-style blog-posts-masquerading-as-news, for a few weeks in ’07, right after I finished my short stint in the video game industry.

Image showing an uptick in the numbers of articles written from June through July of 2007

That was a productive two months

Yes, a lot of this material was covered a couple of years ago, so I won’t really be retreading that old ground again, but this site is important to me. It’s one of the first things that I created that I actually stuck with and added to and experimented with and learned from. So, it’s not going to go away any time soon, but I have to seriously look at it and decide what I want to do with it, where I want to go, and if maybe something is holding me back.

At one time I wanted to be come a professional web-guy that talked about video games, technology, and various other techy-related-things, and I have made some half-hearted attempts to crowbar this site into that mold, but that didn’t happen. In fact, very few of the things I’ve done here have even been seen by more than a handful of people (with a couple of exceptions).

So, why does this site struggle to find anything to ‘stick’? I have a few theories, and a lot of data, but I’ve narrowed down a few reasons that might not be the whole reason, but are enough to give me pause:

  1. This site has struggled with its identity for nearly 13 years. I never really had much of a focus for it, and whenever I did think I had a great idea, I shunted it off to another site where it never really gained much traction, and this one suffered from neglect in the meantime.
  2. I don’t market my site enough. When I first registered this site, I would go around to computers on campus and navigate as many computers as I could to, and leave the browsers there. I wouldn’t set it as their home page, but I would try to make it look like someone was browsing the site, lost track of time, and then just left the browser open to something I had written. It didn’t really work very well, but these days I might spend a half a day writing some article or another, and might give out a feeble, “Hey, I wrote something, check it out, I guess” on Twitter… and that’s it.
  3. It’s possible that the things I write here just aren’t that interesting to anyone but me. I don’t really have any hard statistics on how many people I have subscribed via RSS, but I’m pretty sure it’s not many. Any time I post something, I get a brief uptick in views, but little to no feedback. I might get a comment or two from a friend or family member (which is appreciated, mind), but content here doesn’t seem to get traction anywhere, which is concerning. That leads to frustration, which leads to a content drought, which leads to even fewer visits, etc.
  4. I admit it. Crummysocks is embarrassing to say. It was a cute flight of fancy when I was a struggling college student, but now, well, it’s kind of less cute. I don’t really think about it any more, until I am confirming some information over the phone with a real actual person. When they’re verifying my email address I can hear them trying to hold back the, “Crummy Socks? What on earth is that about?” in their voice, and then I’m embarrassed. I don’t even like telling people I know about the name of this site because it sounds kind of dumb any more.

I could go on and on, but I think there’s a lot of good takeaway here. I need to re-envision what it is I want for my website to be. It’s probably time to de-emphasize this site (hey, 13 years is a good run) and put my full effort behind something a little more… respectable, I guess?

Not that this site is going to go away any time soon. You don’t just work on something off and on for thirteen years and then just casually discard it like… something funny… that you casually discard. No, now is the time to focus. To take all of the things I’ve learned from my failures, creating a YouTube series, running a video game marathon, and all of the disparate things that I’ve learned to do, and put them all together to make… something.

Okay, I haven’t actually figured out what that thing is yet. But these weekly updates are to help me shake off some of the writer’s rust (that’s a thing, right), which is definitely a step in the direction that I want to go.

LAN Party Redux

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

A little bit over a year ago, I wrote about how I was going to the first actual LAN party that I had been to in several years. My intention was to write a followup to that article after the event, but I kind of got sidetracked and didn’t actually remember to do that until right now.

In the older piece, I expressed some concern that LAN Parties might be a relic of a time when broadband internet access was something that was nigh unattainable, and online gaming was tough to organize. Now that broadband internet access is (relatively) cheap and (relatively) ubiquitous, tearing your computer down, driving 100 miles, setting it back up, playing video games constantly while taking breaks to sleep in your car, a LAN Party just seems like a solution for a problem that no longer exists.

So, I took my four days off work, tore down the computer, packed it up and drove to Louisville, KY to see whatever became of the LAN party where I spent so many of my weekends during my college years. And to my surprise, I learned that almost nothing had changed. I don’t mean that in any good way. I’m just going to run down a few of my recollections from the event:

  • There was a projector projecting mostly short videos on the wall with audio being piped over the house speakers. The videos being shown were mostly from the early 2000s, when I went last, with a few newish ones mixed in. One of the videos that got a lot of play was a kind of mean-spirited video where a young kid ran his mouth about his Unreal Tournament skills, and got ‘put in his place’ by one of the ‘pros’. I’m not going to link it here, but the footage from that video was recorded in March of 2002 and the video came about some time around that same time. We were reliving a moment of history that was only mildly interesting to a portion of the 200 people that attended 11 years prior. If any of those guys even attended, do any of them still think it’s funny?
  • There were very few LAN games being played. I figured as much in the leadup article to this one, where I speculated that most gaming was moving toward MMORPGs and Free To Play titles that you played over the Internet. Even Diablo III did away with LAN play that was a huge part of its predecessors. You play games while connected to the server on the Internet at all times. Period. To curb piracy, or stop resales, or whatever reason you want to subscribe to. So I had to look around to see if I found any games that people were playing that I could join. And I found lots of DOTA, lots of LoL, lots of MMORPGs of several flavors, lots of Team Fortress 2, and not a lot not being played offline. But that’s not too bad, we had a connection to the Internet2 backbone, and speeds were good, until people started showing up. And anyway, I could always hop in IRC to see what people were talking about and shoot the breeze for a bit during downtime
  • The IRC server was practically dead. I might be showing my age, but I spent a lot of time in college fooling around on IRC, or Internet Relay Chat for you whippersnappers out there. There were usually a few dozen people in IRC that were in the channels between games or taking a break or whatever, so you could talk about just about anything that you wanted: what was going on during a tournament, comment on the video playing, make requests for food or whatever you wanted. Basically, it was something to do that didn’t involve losing whatever game you were playing. Except that the IRC server was practically empty. There were a few people in there talking about what servers they had up on the network that were hosting games nobody was playing, or hosting files for trade (ahem), but very few actual people having very little conversation about just about anything. The biggest issue I saw was that some person was expressing some concern that there were naughty words in the chat, and that there were children present, so they shouldn’t be seeing that. The staff member poo-poohed these concerns by saying that the event was not and had never been family-friendly, and seemed to indicate that if parents had a problem with it, well maybe they shouldn’t have brought kids to the place in the first place, since it’s really not an event for them. I pointed out that not only were several of the attendants that had been coming for years old enough to have kids who, themselves, are old enough to come to the event now, but the organizer of the event, President LAN Party himself, had his kids in attendance, working the snack table. So, maybe considering making the event more family-friendly wouldn’t be an altogether bad thing. But that, of course, was not acceptable.

And so on, and so on. It turns out that I requested four days off of work and paid to attend for four days, but only stayed for about 36 hours. In those 36 hours, I played a lot of RIFT, I played a lot of Team Fortress 2 on the Internet, and I used the 100mb/100mb to download a lot of the titles in my Steam library that I had been putting off doing. I wanted to be able to say that the magic was still there, that the few hundred attendees that make the semiannual trek to keep the party going are keeping a piece of history alive. But what I found was a shell of a party. Going through the motions of the event that they’ve done a hundred times before. Every strand of cable is in place, and every mark is hit with expert timing. But the passion just isn’t there. The sense of community isn’t there. An event that needed to change with the times, but just didn’t. A time capsule that’s only been maintained in the very barest sense of the word that continues to exist just because it’s been going on this long, and maybe some people can’t imagine life without it (or they bought a lot of networking equipment that will go unused otherwise). Either way, I’m glad I went back to check on it. It reaffirmed that I may not have outgrown LAN Parties in general, but I’ve certainly grown away from this one.

Gamers are generally okay people.

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I want to talk about some topics that I normally don’t discuss on this site, but before I do, I do want to make a few things perfectly clear:

  • Sexism is a real problem, not just in video games, but in every facet of life.
  • Racism, likewise, is a real-life problem.
  • Gender and sexual identity are deeply personal issues, and can be extremely complicated.
  • Neither I, nor anyone else, has any right or ability to tell you what should and should not offend you. All I can do is offer an opinion from my point of view, and it’s up to you to agree or disagree.

Please, refer to that list up there frequently as we go through the discussion today. I’m going to try and touch on a lot of topics that are a lot heavier than what I usually go over here, and I’m going to do it as objectively as I can, but the main point that I want to make today is: gamers are generally OK people.

If you go to Google right now and check, there are millions of pages out there that will tell you that gamers are horrible people.

Google Search that shows 70 million results for gamers are terrible people

70 million articles can’t be wrong!

They’re racist, they’re sexist (usually misogynist), they’re manchildren living in their parents’ basements (or college dorm rooms). They’re slovenly behemoths shoveling Cheetos into their gaping maws with their permanently-stained orange hands, washing it down their throats with a cocktail of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, and only pausing long enough to screech crumb-filled epithets into their headsets at the poor schlub on the other end of the match. That schlub is frequently a games-blogger. A no nonsense professionalgames journalist‘ who plays games, not necessarily for fun, but because it’s part of their job. A person waist-deep in the gaming culture who occasionally takes time of their day to remind the community, the very community that makes up their audience, the very community that the author depends on to make a living, that they’re terrible people.

That does sound like a problem, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong: death threats, rape threats, threats of bodily harm, and the like are never okay.

But before we go much further, I want to look at a few numbers:

There are currently about 318 million people in the United States, and of those, roughly 58% of them play video games, and 45% of those are female. That means that right now, today, of the 184,440,000 people who admit to playing video games: about 82,998,000 are female gamers and about 101,442,000 are male, of all ages. That’s an incredibly important set of figures.

That means that something like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, one of the poster children for video games that spawn abhorrent behavior, which sold 26.5 Million copies… only captured about 14% of the market.

Or something like Mass Effect 3, which had an ending that was so poorly received, that it had gamers up in arms with torches and pitchforks, ready to descend on Bioware headquarters and do horrible things, sold 1.85 million copies, which is less than one percent of the total game players in the US.

So, what am I getting at? Where is all of this leading?


No, really.

Most of the blogs, magazines, web series, and etc. that cover video games are profit-seeking entities. The primary goal of a profit-seeking entity is to, you guessed it, maximize profit. Sure, they may provide a good or a service that you want, and those plums can be very nice, but those are all means to an end: revenue (usually ad revenue). With the staggering amount of websites now on the Internet and the absolutely insane amount of content generated every minute of every day, it’s increasingly difficult to get your voice heard by shouting into the void. So, you rely on one of the oldest axioms in media: “If it bleeds, it leads“.

The media loves a good firestorm, and is not above stoking the coals or stirring the pot, or just glorifying being a jackass to get the most potential clicks/views out of any story they can. The media is not stupid. It knows that controversy, fear-mongering, and sensationalism get viewers/listeners/clicks/whatever. More whatever means more ad revenue, and more ad revenue means that the media outlet can pay its bills, hire content creators to ply their trade full time.

I get that.

And it’s no great secret that ad revenue for virtually every media outlet is vanishingly small. But that’s how practically all of these megablogs on the Internet work: The sites exist only to deliver ads. The content is secondary, and only exists to show you more ads and generate more revenue. Anyone that tries to tell you otherwise is either delusional or works full-time for an ad-supported entity. *By the way, I’m much more likely to put up with some nonintrusive ads if you provide me with something that I find useful and you ask nicely, but trying to guilt me into doing it won’t happen.

So, where does that leave us?

The takeaway I want everyone reading this article (both of you) is that:

  1. It would be very nice if the media stopped equating the abhorrent behavior of 14% of the video gamer community as representative of all of us (we also mustn’t lose sight of the fact that a small percentage of a large number, can still be an objectively large number). I realize that’s not likely to happen, but can we at least stop feeding the trolls? Once we do that, we might actually discover that most gamers are actually okay people, and once that happens, we might actually be able to have a real discussion.
  2. Sexism, misogyny, rape, racism, and gender identity are real issues that deserve real attention and thoughtful discussion. They shouldn’t be trivialized and used as a way to boost pageviews/clicks/ad revenue on a slow news day (or any other news day) or to build a personal brand. And they certainly shouldn’t be used as talking points to try and sell you something. These issues are more complicated than can be dissected in an occasional blog entry/video/podcast
  3. Your favorite ad-supported website exists solely to show you ads to generate ad revenue. If something even mildly controversial pops up on your favorite site and contains language that entices you to click (“…and you won’t believe what happens next!”), it’s probably there to try and generate a spike in pageviews (which equals ad dollars), and you can bet that it will continue showing up every so often to boost views/revenues. Controversy creates cash, after all.

These are all important issues, and I can’t tell you what to make of them. Use your own brain, come to your own conclusions. Consider opposing viewpoints and learn more about the issue whenever and wherever you can and be flexible enough to change your stance if you find you had some misconceptions. Don’t let the vocal minority color your perceptions of the whole community, don’t feed the trolls. Always, always, be mindful of articles trying to sensationalize something to get a rise out of you, they’re primarily concerned with clicks, ads, and eyeballs (as long as you clicked on it and looked at an ad, they don’t care about you, personally, any more). And, above all, don’t be a passive observer. Take action, participate in communities, champion ideas you feel strongly about, and help make the world a better place.

So, what’s new

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Well, yeah, it’s been a while, sorry about that.

My last post was kind of a downer, and I made it sound like I would never make another entry again because I was so disgusted with video games, the internet, and myself. I didn’t mean for it to sound that way, but then a few days off became a few weeks, and that spiraled into months, and, well, you know how those things go.

I’m still here, doing my thing, but not writing about it a whole lot.

That’s not strictly true, I’ve gotten a bunch of articles started, but only half-completed, and then deleted. This little site turns 10 years old this year, and I started to think that maybe I’ve said all I wanted to say. But I don’t think that’s it. I just haven’t been inspired by much lately.

That’s a weird statement to make, really. Video games and computers/the Internet are bigger than they’ve ever been, which is great, but also, really boring. Maybe now that I’m getting a few years older and my tastes are getting more refined, I’m finding the monotonous grey slurry of so-called ‘entertainment’ less palatable than I used to. We are hot off the heels of one of the biggest gaming events of the year, and for the first time in a long time, I can truthfully say that there was so little announced at the show that I was genuinely interested in, that I’ve already forgotten most of it. The kitschy fun stuff that I still love to play is still out there, I just have to work harder to find it.

And then there’s the Internet.

It used to be reasonably useful, but it’s shifting to the blogs, Top X Lists, clickbaity ‘articles’, infographics, and social media. Clicking around and discovering things used to be exciting and fun, but now if it doesn’t show up in my newsreader or a Google search, it doesn’t exist (and anything I click on, I just read the one article, and never go back). I honestly can’t remember the last time I discovered a site by one method or another and then went back more than once. The Internet is absolutely enormous, and I visit the same dozen or so sites every single day. I’m in a rut, and I don’t like it down here.

I know exciting, interesting, and fun stuff is still out there on the Internet, but just like with video games, I just need to look harder to find it.

And that brings me to Gopher. Gopher is one of the many methods on the Internet to distribute information, and it competed with (and actually lost to) HTTP. You can read about gopher and why it’s still relevant. Installing a Gopher client onto my computer is exciting to me. I can visit sites that maybe don’t have as much eyecandy, or popularity, or a comments page. I can visit repositories of information put up because the people genuinely love the technology and the subject matter, and who aren’t necessarily worrying about driving traffic to their site by resorting to clickbait.

I also have installed a Gopher server at gopher:// (also available via to do… well, something with. I haven’t really decided what I’m going to put up there, and this site isn’t going away any time soon. But there are so many protocols and networks on the Internet that I just plain forget to use, that I need to actually take the time to check them out. For the first time in a really long time, I’m genuinely excited about exploring the Internet, and I’d say that’s a very good thing.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Video Games Part 3 – Myself

Monday, September 30th, 2013

This is part 3 of my Love/Hate Relationship with Video Games series. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read Part 1 and Part 2 first, so we’re all on the same page. Don’t worry, this article isn’t going anywhere. Probably.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve liked video games for as long as I can remember. Since the first time I was able to operate a joystick to make the character on the screen do what I wanted was magical. From then on, I wanted to experience more. I wanted to explore these virtual worlds and experience as many of these virtual stories as I could. I also wanted to absorb every shred of ancillary information I could find about the games I loved, canon or not. My passion for video games was so intense that even after I cut my left thumb on a jigsaw in shop class (in the Summer of 1992), I spent the next couple of weeks playing through Super Castlevania IV in spite of the agony, which left me with a pretty nice scar as a trophy.

Cutting my thumb open on a jigsaw is not enough to keep me from Super Castlevania IV

Cutting my thumb open on a jigsaw is not enough to keep me from Super Castlevania IV

This helped me out in a few different ways. We moved around a lot when I was younger, and by the time I graduated high school, I had gone to seven different schools. That meant that I was the new guy. A lot. And, as the new guy, I would usually hang out in the back of the class until I could find another kid who liked video games, and then try to make something happen. That mostly worked (not counting that one guy who decided to surreptitiously show me his wiener in the middle of math class (that actually happened)). But being a video game geek through the 1980s and 1990s was tough. I got a lot of grief from people because I might bring a copy of Nintendo Power to read before class started, or I might write a poem about a controller, or someone might start talking to me in shop class out of sheer boredom and make stuff up about games just to see how gullible I was (“Dude, you can totally shoot the dog in Duck Hunt and get a million points!” “If you go over the top of the screen in World 1-4 of Super Mario Bros., like, up by the score, you can totally skip straight to the end.” And so on), or because the other video game geek and I would talk quiz each other about some new game during homeroom, or any number of things. The point is, liking video games was still weird, and if you liked games, you were weird, and if you were weird, chances are, you got bullied.

Now, I don’t tell you all of this for your sympathy (not because I think I’m better than that). But I do think that it’s important to know where I’m coming from so that I can better paint a picture of where I’m going. I could talk about problems I had in my childhood all day, but most of that has nothing to do with video games, and isn’t really on the table today. That’s a part of my life that is behind me that I’ve dealt with and moved on from.

Once I graduated from the public school system and entered college where I didn’t have to deal with bullies and people who just didn’t like me for whatever reason, my whole worldview changed. As long as my work got done, I was free to like whatever geeky thing I wanted to, and nobody cared. I was even able to keep in contact with the few people I knew from public school that also liked video games. We could talk to each other at length (via X-Mail or AIM, or even on the telephone) about the latest and greatest games.

And it was great.

Around this time, I also discovered that LAN Parties were a thing, a place where I could get together with a few dozen people who were just like me (more or less), and we could play games, talk about games, and generally do whatever geeky thing we wanted to for two days or so and nobody cared.

And it was great.

I also started hanging out on my Friday and Saturday nights at one (or more) of the local arcades (back when those were a thing), making friends with all of the other people who hung out at arcades. We played arcade games and Lazer Tag, sometimes all night long, and nobody cared.

And it was great.

All of these things were great because it wasn’t just me experiencing them on my own. We had a community where we could share experiences with the games we were playing together, games we played on our own, and games we were looking forward to.

In short, we socialized. We shared our experiences and enhanced our enjoyment of whatever games we happened to play, and maybe convinced other people who had similar tastes to try out something that they otherwise might not have looked twice at.

But, some things started to happen all about the same time. Home consoles achieved graphical fidelity that matched or exceeded arcade games, and, with the enhanced penetration of broadband, you could find your favorite competitive game and play against an actual person somewhere in the world any time, day or night, from the comfort of your own house. Rendering the big selling points to going to an arcade in the first place moot, and arcades began their slow decline into irrelevance.

Computer games migrated to an increasingly-interconnected model where you either had to be online to play them at all or maybe just for multiplayer. But, again, with current penetration of broadband being what it is, you can find someone somewhere in the world that will play whatever game with you, any time, day or night. You can even buy, download, install, and play through a game without ever interacting with another actual human. It’s great!

Erm, sort of.

Don’t get me wrong. Video games are great. But it’s also great to be able to discuss them with someone. This applies to just about every form of entertainment, too. Saw a great movie? You want to tell someone about it. Read a great book? You want to tell someone about it. Heard a great new song? You want to tell someone about it.

But I’m at a point in my video-game-playing life where my video game tastes have diverged from the tastes of most of my remaining video-game-playing friends. Since the types of games we play don’t overlap much, we don’t usually have much to discuss. Secondly, I do a lot of my gaming alone, mostly due to the fact that I currently live alone, and, since a lot of my friends have gotten married and had kids while I haven’t, means, a lot of the time, we have even less to discuss. So, even on the off-chance that one of my friends is playing a game that we would both be interested in, they usually opt to play it with their significant other or their child, which is perfectly understandable, but that also means that if we want to play through something that I will end up either being the third wheel, or one of us will have already completed a portion of the game and want to speed through the parts that the other hasn’t already played through.

All of that is a long way of saying that: when I’m playing something new, I usually don’t have anyone around that I can share the experience with.

I think that’s why my backlog is so large. I still see and buy games that I want to play as often as I ever did, but without someone or a group of someones to share the experience with, my motivation to actually play through them has all but evaporated. I’ve taken a few steps to work around that with this very website (and a few others) along with the ‘Basscomm and (someone) play (something)‘ series over on Youtube. Which is a great start, but I need to keep moving. I need to keep sharing, keep participating, and keep my sense of wonder and, above all, keep having fun. I don’t need to force myself to play more games and just kind of hope that I’ll get over whatever it is that’s keeping me from making a dent in my backlog (that never works). I don’t need to chase and devour the flavor-of-the-week game as soon as it comes out. I don’t need to comb through mountains of news that isn’t really news and discuss every non-article to death. I don’t need to spend all my time reminiscing about how good things were during bygone days (even though they sometimes weren’t all that good). I need to figure out what it is that’s holding me back, realize that the way I used to do things may not work anymore, and figure out what I need to do to change what doesn’t really work into what does work. Video games have evolved significantly in the last 30 years, and there’s no reason that I can’t make some changes and meet them halfway.

I think I can manage that.

Let’s Play!

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Back around 2006 or so, some of the folks over at the Something Awful forums apparently decided to start playing through some video games and providing commentary via screenshots and captions. Which is a great way to vicariously experience a game while you’re browsing the Internet at work.

Then, sometime in 2007, the Video Let’s Plays started to appear. This was essentially the same thing, but instead of pictures and captions, we get full video and running commentary. Kind of like one of those old hint videos in the 80s/90s, but going through the entire game. (Without the commentary, it’s what’s called a Longplay)

There are lots of kinds of Let’s Play videos, but I think I can break them down into four categories:

  1. People who play through games just to get angry and yell/cry.
  2. People who play through games without a specific goal, just to play until game over (they may or may not complete the game)
  3. People who have a vlog, but with a video game playing instead of showing their face
  4. People who play through the game to completion, showing off gotchas, tips, and tricks, while providing interesting commentary

The barriers to making a Let’s Play video these days are absurdly low. All you really need is a game to play, a video capture device, a microphone, maybe some video editing software, and an Internet connection. Since I had all of those things handy (and there are about 7 million Let’s Play videos on Youtube already), I figured I’d dip my toe into the world of Let’s Play as an excuse to play through some of the games just kind of sitting around here, but I didn’t want to do any of the first three, since they’re pretty boring to watch. So, I figured I’d give #4 a try, which you can see below.

So, if you ever wanted to know what I actually sound like, or if I actually have any video game chops, now’s your chance to find out!

Finishing business

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I’ve written a couple of times about a problem that impacts a select few (i.e. “most”) of us video game aficionados as we get older: too many games, and not enough time to play them all.

The problem, really, is twofold: I, someone who is technically an adult, finally has landed a ‘real job’, and, thus, have real actual money to spend on games pretty much whenever I want to. And those games, as a consequence of a medium that’s maturing, are getting longer and more complex. But, as a consequence of having that ‘real job’ and ‘responsibilities’, I just don’t have the time that I used to have to dedicate myself to them.

As a result, I’ve been playing games less and less, and writing about them even less than that (hello down there, blog entries from 2010!)

I guess that means that I’m burned out. That I’ve said everything that I need to say, played everything I need to play, and need to move on to the next stage of my life, right?

Uh, well, no.

No, it would be really easy for me to throw my hands up, give up, and slowly lose whatever gaming and blogging mojo I have left. To reminisce about the days when I would get excited about a new release, or find a hidden gem in the clearance bin, or the times when I used to blog about silly things only tangentially related to video games.

But I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’m going to make time. I’m going to make time to do the things I like to do. Starting with that pile of games that I bought because they looked interesting and because I would get to them ‘some day’. To do that, I’ve started up a channel over at where I can share my progress with the world.

And that should give me plenty of fodder to keep this little slice of the Internet going for a while longer.

Geez, given the sheer amount of blogs whose last post is some variation of, “I’m not dead”, you’d think I’d have enough sense to not make one here.

Pressure’s on!

Pardon the post

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I think that’s a long enough break for now. It’s been far too long since I’ve done anything meaningful here, and for the three or four of you still checking on this site regularly, well, you’re in for a treat!

First! You’ll notice that there’s a new post up here for the first time in six months. That’d be this one here.

Second! You’ll notice that the site looks different. After five years, I decided that it wat time to give Drupal the old heave-ho and migrate back to WordPress. It will take me some time to get around to fixing the broken links and such. If you come across one, don’t panic.

Third! Ah, well, my notes seem to stop at Number 2, and nobody likes Number 2.