Category Archives: Games

Video games, role-playing games, cards, wargames, board games: Anything you can play to kill some time and maybe make a couple of friends.

Oooh, I’m Shaking

There is a new poll up inspired by the recent Focus on Fear entry (which has a lively—in relative ironSoap terms—discussion going on) and also inspired by the fact that I am a dork.

Other than that the only things of note are that Apple finally did the Bluetooth thing with their Mighty Mouse and you should check out this freaky precognitive letter to the editor from an ancient issue of Nintendo Power which foretells the coming of Super Mario Galaxy.

Oh, and in breaking news, Whimsy is apparently en route to the hospital, hopefully to dispel their new daughter from her innards and wean her from her parasitic ways into something that isn’t so easily comparable to a creature from Alien.

I may have spent too much time thinking about scary movies lately. Just a hunch.

Take a Spin With Me

I have writings in the works. But they aren’t done. As an appetizer, enjoy these links.

  • I don’t know that one other person agreeing with me counts as true validation, but Curmudgeon Gamer agrees with me about how the PS3 shortage will shake out in terms of the XBox 360.
  • Nintendo fanboy site Infendo waxes critical on the strength of the Wii as a legitimate next-gen contender. I totally understand what they’re saying: The Wii is so goofy that it might as well be called GameCube2. The GameCube was a nice little bit of hardware and it had some of the best individual games of any system in the current gen. The sorry part was that nearly all of those games were first party (or based on first party licenses) and there were vast, sprawling expanses of time between those games when there was just nothing to do with the GC except watch it collect dust or play Wind Waker for the 12th time. I hate to say it but I don’t see third party developers jumping all over themselves to build games specific to one company’s crazed idea about what makes a fun game. None of which necessarily erases the appeal of the Wii as a purchase for gamers, but I thought the whole point was to get new gamers excited or convince non-gamers to give it a shot. I keep thinking of people like my parents who really like games in general and have even had some fun playing video games in the past as the people Nintendo is talking about attracting with this new system. Then I watch videos from E3 of people playing Wii games and I just can’t imagine my folks going out and buying one of these systems. And what really has me sighing and shaking my head is that what no one seems to be realizing is that the key point at the top of the sheet with 48-point bold font that should be selling the Wii is the Virtual Console and GameCube backwards compatibility. Every Nintendo game for every Nintendo system in one box. Yes, please.
  • It’s been hard to admit that I once really thought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were cool. I could have coped with the cheesy cartoon show (which I didn’t think was too bad after all) and the original Turtles live-action(ish) movie was actually pretty good (having been lifted almost exactly from the original comic book). But the sequels to the movie were repugnant as they tried to blend the worst aspects of the cartoon with the lamest parts of the original movie. I’m not saying I’m ready to wave the TMNT-geek flag again just yet, but this 3D preview clip shows some real promise.
  • Don’t ask how I stumbled across this article, but I have to ask a couple of questions about the Ms. Wheelchair pageant and the ensuing scandal that rippled through its hallowed, storied legacy. First of all, they have a Ms. Wheelchair pageant? Call me insensitive but I thought the whole point of the handi-capable thing and all the surrounding Amercians with Disabilities brouhaha was supposed to get us all to believe that people in wheelchairs were just like everyone else and they could do whatever anyone else could. Assuming I’m not wrong, doesn’t it seem a bit contrary to that message to have to hold a separate pageant just for people with that particular condition? Also, there were only five contestants. And after all the protests and title-strippings, the third place girl won. Talk about your hollow victories: “Congratulations! You beat two other women to be crowned…!”

Assorted Silliness

An Open Letter to General Mills

Dear General Mills,

I want to start by thanking you for providing my mornings with tasty breakfast cereal delights for almost 30 years. As I sat at my dining room table this morning, blearily enjoying a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, I began to rehash a theory I concocted back when I was but a wee lad. The theory concerns the familial relationship between several of your popular cereals, specifically Kix, Cocoa Puffs and Trix. As a young boy I figured that Kix were the base cereal: The healthy, slightly sweet but mostly mild tasting parental unit of the “round corn puff” family. From there the offspring went either to the rich chocolate side with Cocoa Puffs or to the tangy fruit side with Trix. It isn’t much of a theory, really, but it seemed very clever when I was six and I haven’t quite been able to push it from my mind in the years since.

But as I reflected over my silly little theory, I was struck with a sense of—not sadness really, but more of a mild melancholy (this is only cereal we’re talking about here). The melancholy was wrought from the evolution of the Trix brand.

Compared to its family members, Trix is a vastly different foodstuff than it was in my childhood. Cocoa Puffs and Kix have retained their same basic shape and taste through the years, earning a kind of classic elegance in their stalwart consistency. Sure, you have improved the texture and added extra chocolate flavor to the Cocoa Puffs and have slightly sweetened the Kix as well as give them a heftier crunch, but the same basic structure and flavor has remained steady.

Not so the Trix. My memory of Trix is of a tri-colored bowl filled with tasty, fruity orbs floating in a pool of icy milk that turned ever so slightly pink near the end of the breakfast. The biggest alteration to the formula was introducing the purple (grape) spheres to the formula, a welcome addition. By the time I began to enter high school, a few more changes—not so welcome—had materialized: Green (lime?) colored orbs and blue (flavor uncertain) were making their way into the cereal. I went through a period where “kiddie” cereal was not an acceptable breakfast choice and drifted away from Trix for a few years. When I returned after learning how not to take myself quite so seriously, I found a Trix cereal that I didn’t even recognize.

Gone were the simple round puffs with such perfect texture and mouth-feel. In were bizarre fruit approximations, which not only altered the visual appeal of a bowl of evenly-spaced cereal pieces, but changed the overall texture of the cereal and impacted the taste as well. Or perhaps it was the “new fruitier flavors” that had crept in during my brief hiatus from the cereal. More disturbing was not just the changed flavors but the additional flavors of mysterious origin. The sum was a cereal that held practically nothing in common with the food that had once ranked in my top five breakfast choices.

It was as if Trix had abandoned its family in search of a new experience but in the process had lost its entire identity. How could this cereal that bore no flavor similarities or physical likeness to what I had once so enjoyed still continue to be called “Trix”?

I don’t denounce your choices regarding the Trix brand. Hopefully it has brought you many additional sales and continued prosperity. But I hoped I could offer a modest suggestion, to appeal more to the old school cereal lovers like myself: Classic Trix.

Please imagine with me a cereal with the added heft and robust crunch of modern Cocoa Puffs but with the classic three (or four) colored fruit flavors of Trix from twenty years ago. Add a bit of nostalgic artwork to the box (hopefully you still have the printing plates around!) and advertise them as “Limited Edition” for extra marketing punch. However you were to handle it, introducing a product of this type would guarantee an order for a full case from one lone consumer. I can’t be positive, but I would wager that I would not be alone.

Thank you for your consideration,
Paul A. Hamilton

Experience Music Project: A Homework Assignment

The Experience Music Project building is something you literally have to see in person. Pictures, descriptions and prose do it absolutely zero justice. At best you can try to think of the most bizzare architectural design a drunken Dr. Suess would have crafted as an elaborate joke and then cover half of it with arbitrarily sized metal sheets. The artistry is amazing in its ridiculousness yet somehow compelling. It certainly invokes a strong desire to see the insides which, perhaps, is the whole point.

Inside the modern hipster vibe thrusts out of every Ikea-inspired accessory and display. A series of winding staircases wrap the main lobby in tentacle-like claustrophobia leading to various attractions or locales within the building. Signs with sans-serif fonts point the way to the upstairs bar (The Liquid Lounge) or the art gallery currently showing some sort of educational mashup between classic and modern artists, described in the adversarial parlance of hip hop remixes: Monet vs. de Kooning.

After paying a pricey entry fee, a staircase winds past the strangely shaped interior wall, covered with some sort of spray-on coating that looks vaguely like congealed oatmeal and harshly detracts from the intrigue of the same wall’s opposing surface. On the way up the stairs, a uniformed guide questions visitors about their cameras, confiscating them if they choose to reveal that they are indeed carrying. Pictures of any kind are not allowed in the EMP, although no explanation for why that might be so is offered. It is simply so.

The second floor of the EMP building is the central hub of the Project’s exhibits. Centerpieced by a towering sculpture made of dozens if not hundreds of assorted instruments (mostly guitars), it stretches above in a conical shape toward the third floor. Several listening stations and conservative signage suggest that some of the mechanical contraptions strapped to several of the instruments allow them to be played automatically by computer and suggest that by navigating the touchscreen stations a visitor may be able to influence what the sculpture sounds like. Why this is significant considering that the sound of the self-playing art/instruments is audible only at the very listening stations ostensibly controlling it is never made clear.

The exhibits of the EMP all try to toe the line between complete hipster aloofness (witness the brilliant History of the Guitar feature which includes a guitar-geek’s barrage of ancient or classic guitars, placard-mounted dissertations on the various styles and influences particular brands or models made on music history and smug references to how rare some of the specimen are) and drab historical or cultural fact-reporting. The ambience is medium-high tech with occasionally placed media stations or expensive-looking effects screens while most of the relics and exhibits are standard museum fare. The Music of the Northwest hall struggles with this dichotomy as it tries to inject some relevance to the Seattle area outside of the early 90s grunge fad but lacks the visual flair or self-assuredness of the Guitar exhibit so boils down to little more than a history of Heart, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Hardly worthy of the real estate it is given, the lack of air-quoted innovations in the side passage speaks volumes to the truth behind the gushing hyperbole of the textual accompaniments to such noteworthy artifacts as the original lyric sheet to Soundgarden’s “Buden in My Hand” and a Metal Church leather tour jacket.

The third floor of the EMP is perhaps the best example of what the Project’s ambitions could realize. There are a dozen or so “sample studios,” little booths with specially designed instruments or musical equipment accompanied by a touchscreen interface. You can choose to either simply play or to follow a short tutorial on the basics of the instrument. There are drums, guitars, basses, keyboards and even samplers, mixing boards and turntables. Each is restricted to prevent excessive maintenance (no de-tuning the guitars, thanks!) and the tutorials are instructional and high level so even the least musically inclined guest can still have some fun. In additon to the mini-booths there are a series of soundproofed micro-studio rooms with instruments set up and automated timers that allow visitors to engage in free jam sessions. The rooms even record the ten-minute sessions digitally and allow you to purchase the results on a burned CD for a nominal fee afterward. It’s quite engaging and there were more than a few families that seemed to be truly bonding over the experience, which is what music is exceptionally good at encouraging.

The paradox of EMP lies in its strained efforts to be cool and relevant. There is a certain stoic stodginess to the whole proceedings, almost like a traditional museum framework that the EMP group wished to sweep away with fancy high tech replacements but ran out of inspiration or funding. The result is a hybrid of old and new that has a hard time truly gelling into something different and instead feels more like a terrific amount of money thrown at an otherwise average enterprise.

Of course there is the whole oil and water sensation of celebrating the rebellious and the raucous with a somber and mostly traditional business venture. In some ways the EMP’s ultimate failure is its lack of ability to hide the suits that stand behind the longhairs: Popular music (or perhaps popular rock n’ roll) has always been a sort of strained balancing act between the Man and his “rebellious” avatar whom is always allowed to push the envelope so long as the envelope comes back stuffed with cash. In many cases it works since the important parts come through in the product everyone is trading in: The music. But here among the deep-voiced narrators and the precisely framed concert posters and the carefully placed graffiti wall there is less real music to be found and more celebration of the marketing hype that surrounds the music. The veneer between the nebulous image projected by the artist and the hype created by the marketing departments is thinner here and without the music itself (references alone hold no artistic merit) to pad the barrier, it is gossamer and the puppet strings start to show.

But cynicism aside there is enough about EMP to warrant a visit, at least once. If nothing else the third floor alone is a pretty good way to kill a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. But you may want to avoid the $50+ “Membership” packages.

Writing, Redux

After yesterday’s gripe about Chris Buffa’s rant on why gaming journalism sucks was discovered (by me, at least) just before his follow-up piece hit.

Now I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the guy keeps putting this out so I’m going to keep having to reveal why he’s missing the point. Go ahead and read the article… or just skim it so you get the gist. It’s cool, I can wait.

All done? Didja notice anything? Like, for example, it’s the same stupid article as before? Subtract some of the mindless griping and add in a bit more explanation for why his talking points matter (or I suppose how they can be fixed although his ideas are so simple I wonder if his four-year-old niece helped him out). To wit, Buffa’s brilliant plan for improving games journalism is:

  1. Learn to write better.
  2. Be more original.
  3. Don’t let PR people dictate content.
  4. Actually play or critically analyze games being reviewed.
  5. Challenge conventions.
  6. Step up the quality control.

You will note that I have summarized his (needlessly) two page article into 28 words. I can do it even better, though. Check this out:

  1. Increase professionalism.
  2. Display journalistic integrity.

So Buffa spends like 30 paragraphs saying what he could have said in five words. But I digress because people in glass houses, you know?

Anyway, the point here is that he’s stating the obvious like it was some grand revelation when it should be… well, obvious. More professionalism? Gee, you sure that will really work? But again, the problem is that the audience isn’t impressed by professionalism: Gamers don’t care about that, generally speaking. I wonder after reading this who Buffa is trying to impress—the audience or other journalists. Does he wish he could sit in on White House press conferences and ask hard-hitting questions of President Bush about whether he likes the DS Nintendo sent to him and be taken seriously? Because honestly if he’s looking to make his current profession more impressive on the ol’ resume for his “serious journalism” gambit a few years down the road then he’s going to be sorely disappointed.

But on the other hand I do agree that games journalism is lacking in originality and the PR issue is legit. Of course as in my summary this is easily rectified by applying some journalistic integrity (which is why this really comes down to a management/hiring issue and not some inherent problem with people who want to write about video games). Still, let’s assume that the only people who want to cover videogames are those to whom journalistic integrity is a really long word they don’t want to bother looking up. The root problem here? Buffa is reading the wrong publications and going into them with the wrong expectations.

Sad that it may be, big gaming rags like EGM, GameSpot and GamePro are full of yes-men (not all contributors are, but each seems to have some) who succumb to the PR machine. If you want some proof, take a look at the game scores: A game has to practically rend your hardware in half or reduce it to a smoldering hunk of charcoal in order to get a 50% score on the scale. A game that is half as good as the maximum should be a mediocre game in a reasonable scale system, but game publications would rather give scores like 7.9 for mediocre games because it sounds better that way and they don’t have to explain to irate PR reps why they trashed a game with a lousy score. Granted 7.9 is a lousy score and the review text itself may indicate the game is best used post-bowel movement to clean one’s backside, but at least they can say “Hey, it still got a 79% out of 100, right?”

The solution is not to whine and moan about how broken those publications are but to either not read them or to learn some critical thinking skills and accept that reviews should come from trusted sources, not just anyone with a half-dozen spare decimal places and a copy of Microsoft Word. And of course when it comes to reviews you have to acknowledge that they are at best one man’s opinion and at worst they are one man’s misinformed opinion. What score someone gives a game is mostly irrelevant if a second individual holds a different perspective. If you really want to know if a game is likely to appeal to you the only reliable methods are something like MetaCritic or reading reviews from someone you know has similar taste as you.

I’d agree that more “features” should have original premises except that coming from a guy who’s writing Yet Another Article On Why Game Journalism is Poop, it just doesn’t really resonate that well.

Well, I Asked For It

So the Sharks finally traded Nils Ekman. About time! I’ve been asking for this for… uh… wait. What? They got what for him?

A second round draft pick from the Penguins.

Next year.

Well, that was worth it.

Anyway, the Sharks farm system has been firing out a lot of pretty good prospects lately so hopefully that was the strategy. Meanwhile they lost Scott Thornton and Alyn McCauley (no great loss on either front) but looted bottom dweller Chicago Blackhawks for Mark Bell and Curtis Brown, both acceptable acquisitions. Hopefully Bell will deepen the attack from the Sharks top line next year (he’s reportedly going to play LW on the Thornton-Cheechoo line) where Ekman could not and I’d not mind seeing Brown on a grinder line with Nieminen.

You know how I know when I’m ready for hockey to start again? I’m no longer so bitter with the end of the Sharks season that I refuse to check the news to see what they’re up to in the offseason.

The Writing Game

GameDaily has a feature ranting about how video game journalism sucks. This is far from the first time this particular gripe has been made in the past six months and it won’t be the last. Disregard the irony of a gaming journalist writing (relatively poorly) about how poor the writing is in games journalism for a moment and instead let’s consider whether that makes gaming journalists special.

Chris Buffa’s arguments are that game writers don’t write particularly well, they don’t find a unqiue voice, they rely too much on PR and display a lack of maturity. Hm. Have you picked up a copy of Entertainment Weekly recently? PR machine? Check. Interchageable voices? Check. Mediocre writing? Check? Lack of maturity? Double-check. So far, not seeing much difference here.

So maybe Buffa wants to be more like Newsweek. That’s a semi-respected journalism rag, right? Okay, so it’s a journalism rag. Whatever. A quick jaunt through their site reveals nothing even remotely like a distinguishable literary voice in the writing, most of which is rather drab and lifeless. The PR facet is less noticeable in a publication that ostensibly focuses on current events, but they have certainly covered the recent Wii showing at E3 in typically breathlessly admiring fashion and they fawn all over “hip” culture trends like the iPod whenever global politics slows down enough to allow them to ignore it for a week. Don’t think you’d ever see a “Why We Hate the iPod” article on NW’s cover the same week Apple announces a new model. And maturity? Uh-huh. Sure.

I’m not sure at this point what Buffa wants. Videogames are a fairly immature pastime. Journalism of the type found in The Economist or Forbes or even The New York Times would be received like, well, stuffy ol’ drivel by the industry’s primary audience. If he’s looking to elevate the standard to the level of Maxim or whatever, he’s clearly reading the wrong websites or magazines. There are people who speak semi-intelligently about videogames, just as there are people who speak intelligently about film and music. Most people who talk about these kinds of topics are of the hyperbolic mouth-breathing all-caps-typing variety and the ones who rise above make a mark. Survival of the fittest, you know?

He cites Roger Ebert as an example (I guess) of what he wishes would happen in the videogame world. If that’s what he wants then we have to either wait until that person comes along or we need to start making games that attract that kind of writer/thinker to the hobby. Honestly I don’t know that Ebert is really that great of a writer: He’s certainly passable but I think his popularity lies more in his accessibility (a nationally syndicated television show doesn’t hurt one bit). If movie reviewers are the standard to which videogame writers should aspire to, we’re off to a bad start already. Read a Peter Travers review lately?

Here’s my take on the whole thing: At this point it has more to do with the industry/product than the writing. The writing is a by product of the industry itself because it isn’t taken seriously by anyone except those few social-skill-imparied buffoons that spent most of their community college days drinking Colt 45 behind the student commons building between classes and took courseloads consisting primarily of Human Sexuality 101 and Intro to Macrame so they could focus their off hours traipsing around the Mushroom Kingdom or whatever. And as long as Madden (now with more licensed radio-friendly pop-rock!) is the top selling game and designers like Hideo “I Wrote This Coming Down Off Mescaline” Hojima are heralded as the real masters of their craft there isn’t much respect to be had.

Primarily the problem—if one actually exists—is that the lack of maturity Buffa bemoans is evident even in his rant. As a person working full-time in game writing, what possible good is griping about it going to do? He says copy editing is woeful; Here’s a thought, then: Copy edit your site to death. Copy editors are paid based on their abilities, not whether they care for the material or not. Go hire a team of top-notch copy editors and prove your point. Ranting about things you have no control over is one thing, but ranting about something you could actually influence makes less than no sense to me.

Other Gaming Stuff

If you haven’t seen the Team Fortress 2 preview yet, you need to. I fully confess to being a total cel-shaded sucker. I don’t know, I just love cartoon-y graphics. They tend to look so much better than realistic graphics because even when done wrong they still look pretty cool. Poorly done realistic visuals look… poor.

Also, has an article describing what changes were made to Doki Doki Panic in order to release it as Super Mario Bros. 2. Pretty interesting.

Doggedly Updating

I have much that I want to write about but I’ve been really tired the last week or so. The best I can muster is a few bullet points for now, begging your pardon.

  • So according to my poll (a new one is now up) I have (drumroll please…) eleven readers. Discounting those who are related to me and therefore read out of a sense of obligation, that means that I have attracted the attention of four whole people. Look out, syndicated columnists! Your time is nigh!
  • I went up to Seattle for a few days last week to hang out a bit with Fast Track. Seattle is a really cool place and I had a great time. A little advice for you, though: In Seattle, wait by the curb for a cab because those guys won’t call when they get to your place if they don’t see you standing around out there. I’m not sure why that is.
  • There is an interesting article on about not forcing players into your plots. It was eye-opening because I know that as a GM I tend to really work hard to get a super sweet story rolling when I finally sit down to design and build a campaign or adventure. I don’t want players to miss out on the totally rad scenarios I have cooked up so when they start misinterpreting clues or roughing up characters that were supposed to be allies, it is really easy for me to get frustrated and try to start the railroading process. My most recent foray into GMing was a good example because as the players went a bit off-track my descriptions started getting more and more vague until they followed the breadcrumbs back to the path where I could read from my pre-written exposition again. For me part of the problem is that I love to tell stories but I’m really very lazy so designing a role-playing game is a good way to tell stories like that because I only need to do the fun stuff which is come up with the general plot and a few key characters and then I get to both tell the story and get other people to help me with the details (the hard part) at the same time. But I like what the article has to say so for my upcoming Shadowrun 4th Edition campaign I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to roll with it a little more and be less tunnel-visioned when it comes to keeping the players on the rails.
  • Nik and I have been playing an obscene amount of Catan Card Game, specifically the tournament-style game from the Expansion Set. In a way the game plays like Magic-lite because you need two full copies of the game and the expansion so that each player builds their own custom 33-card deck. There are combos, strategies and all sorts of unique things to try in this variant and I like it quite a bit. The game’s mechanics are pretty well balanced to begin with (nevermind the 5th Settlement naysayers, we’ve had games recently that demonstrate this is not true including me winning soundly with only one additional settlement and Nik winning after falling behind 6:3 settlement-wise) and having to come up with clever ways to work the cards you have in your deck to your advantage works in some cases even better than Magic. I’ve always thought Magic worked best in closed-system style games (hence my propensity for Type-P or sealed deck style games of Magic) and since Catan is a closed-system, it’s neatly sidesteps a lot of the potential balance issues Magic runs into regularly. Of course Nik and I are only able to play this way because we borrowed Lister and Whimsy‘s copies of the game sets and we need to give those back at some point so we’re probably going to have to buy new copies of the game and expansion… I don’t see going back to the old style very often now that we’ve experienced the wonder of tournament style.
  • There is a pretty interesting article over on the Wall Street Journal about abundance paradox with Netflix movies. I’ve noticed this myself because Netflix gives me a greater chance to watch movies that I might otherwise only see if they A) happened to be on TV or B) someone else sat me down to watch. The article’s mention of weightier fare being common bottlenecks in queues is absolutely true: I see lots of the movies I put on my list because they earned high praise from a lot of critics or because they were nominated for awards (stuff like “The Constant Gardener” and “Millions”). But when it comes to seeing movies in the theater I tend to stick to mainstream stuff, mostly action and Science Fiction (at least when it’s up to me). But watching movies that are designed to make you think or that are more artistic for art’s sake requires a certain frame of mind: One that I don’t necessarily attain all that readily when I get home from work. The only thing I’ve been able to do is finally decide that I’ll give a movie two chances: If I fall asleep twice or if I just can’t make myself sit through it after a couple of attempts, I’ll send it back. I may re-queue it for later, but I’d rather try something else (considering there is essentially no drawback to returning it unwatched and in fact it is less economical to hang on to something you aren’t watching—an interesting reversal from the regular video store) now and see if I’m not more in the mood at a later date. This works pretty well but doesn’t address the real problem which is trying to get two people to find the right frame of mind concurrently to allow them to watch a movie they both want to see. Oddly enough Netflix works best as a solo venture and Nik and I have a lot better luck finding stuff to watch together when we hit the video store and can take advantage of the instant gratification factor.
  • So it sounds like my brother didn’t care for a lot of the music I sent him. It’s not a big deal, but it kind of surprised me how opinionated he was with some of the stuff. Back in high school he’d pretty much listen to whatever I handed to him and nod along thoughtfully without really saying much about it one way or the other. The only way I knew he actually liked anything was if he actively listened to it on his own accord. To hear him go out of his way to bash on Interpol and Wilco was somewhat unexpected not because the bands are that wonderful (though I happen to like them both quite a bit) but because it seemed somewhat out of character for Scott. I suppose this just means he’s got a bit of a curmudgeonly streak in him as well (not nearly as wide or as thick as my own of course). In his comments to me about the music he noted that he missed some of the rocking that indie bands aren’t necessarily as prone to do as mainstream rock acts; I realized that I missed the boat by passing over Muse as a possibility. Those guys totally know how to rock and do it all the time. He might have dug them even more than The Decemberists.
  • Speaking of music, I was on a roll there for a while keeping my library of songs growing at a steady but manageable clip. Then I ran across a co-worker who hooked me up with a veritable bounty of new stuff and it steamrolled my playlists with new and unfamiliar tracks. I’ve finally gotten to where I recognize a lot of what he gave me when it pops up on shuffle but I haven’t gotten back to expanding and exploring again. Sad, too, since Thom Yorke just put out a solo album I have yet to pick up and the List of Bands to Check Out When I Have Time that sits on my Netvibes home page has swollen to somewhere in the neighborhood of 22. I’m thinking of re-titling it “List of Bands to Check Out Many Years From Now When They’ve All Broken Up and I Don’t Have to Worry About Them Putting Out New Albums.” Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue so well.
  • There has been a lot of talk about TVs lately. This stems primarily from a new HD LCD set purchased by my friend Foster and the subsequent contemplation it initiated in HB about his own television situation. Then I went to visit Fast-Track and noted his jamma wall-mounted HD plasma TV and felt the twinge of jealousy begin to grow within myself. The problem with a new TV purchase at the moment was well summarized by HB last night when he noted that the real problem is that the technology is advancing at a rate comparable to that of regular PCs so that anything you buy now is going to seem positively ancient in three or four years. And the real rub is that for all the sweet potential of a snazzy new HD flatscreen, it isn’t just the cost of the device you have to consider it also has a lot to do with your signal inputs since without an HD signal to take advantage of the monitor’s capability, you might as well not even bother. The cable situation in our apartment is so abysmal that it hardly seems worth the effort to try and get anything fancier than what we already have. Then again, raw real estate would be an unparalleled delight since I’ve been tolerating a mere 30″ screen (at most!) for the last six years or so.
  • I fiddled ever so briefly with Fast-Track’s PC playing Battlefield 2… I should know better by now than to mess with gaming PCs. Every time I do so I start getting all these wild machinations about being able to play PC games (Half-Life 2 beckons…) which is probably not so great considering my specs for a gaming PC tend to run in the range of $900+. I did see an ad in Electronic Gaming Monthly that I picked up at the airport to flip through while I was waiting for my flight to board that had a pre-built machine of reasonable specs for about $400. The problem with that is the price there is identical to that of an XBox 360. I keep telling myself I’m going to hold out on any more consoles until the price drops but if I was willing to spend $400 for a PC, how much more of a stretch is it for the 360? Granted there could be (potentially) other uses for the PC besides just gaming where the 360 would be little more than another bit of clutter in the ol’ entertainment center, but you have to understand that logic such as this plays no part in my decision-making processes. I fear that at some point it may come down to “$400 for a PC, $400 for an XBox or horde the $400 away like a squirrel collecting acorns?” Those are the kinds of decisions that usually lead to buyer’s remorse because I have very little in common with squirrels.
  • Except cheek capacity. I can hold a surprising amount of matter (typically food) in my cheeks. I don’t usually use this ability as a storage mechanism, but I could.

The Real Top 30 Games

So after last week’s exercise in compiled statistics, I decided I wanted to build my own top 30 Video Games list. As you may have gathered from the commentary on the other list, I’ve played a lot of video games in my life. However, no one can play them all so there will be gaps where games you think were slighted off my list are nowhere to be found. That’s why it’s my list. You want your own list, we gots a comments section where you can do just that. Oooh. Technology.

The List

We’ll have to do these in reverse order… because that’s how everyone else does it. I guess it increases suspense? Anyway, from the bottom up…

30. Gauntlet – The first four-player arcade game I remember seeing… selectable characters in the most moster-packed dungeon crawl ever. If you didn’t scream like a little girl if you were the Fighter and you saw Death coming… you weren’t playing it right. “Someone join as the magic user! Someone join as the magic user! Aagh!”

29. God of War – Platform/brawlers have been around for a long time. After the 16-bit era when 3D graphics became the norm they kind of faded because developers struggled to figure out how to make it work in three dimensions. Finally someone got it right with God of War. Relentlessly violent and darkly comic, scratching past the surface reveals that indeed platforming/jumping and fighting can be done with modern consoles and done very well.

28. Goldeneye 007 – Before Halo perfected first person shooters with console controllers, Goldeneye came as close as you could come. The one-player mode was deep and engaging, the multiplayer was inspired and the total package made for something that was a system seller. It hasn’t aged too well, there has been a lot of improvement with FPS on consoles and four-player spilt screen has been usurped by online multiplayer with four times that many players simultaneously (or more), but it still stands out as a classic.

27. Mario Kart DS – Mario Kart games are staples. The fun, addictive gameplay is better than the most realistic Gran Turismo or Project Gotham Racing and the controls are simple enough for kids but deep enough for more experienced gamers to find challenge as well which makes it a great family game. I chose the DS version only because it is the only one with online multiplayer (wonderful fun) and retro courses from previous iterations. Could easily be replaced by DoubleDash on the GameCube which is just as fun but lacks online multiplayer.

26. Contra – Few games impacted my formative years like Contra. Being good at Contra was being king with my peer group: If you could beat the game without using the famous Konami code, you ruled, plain and simple. Even now the game offers a solid level of challenge and a decent variety plus it’s one of the best games to play co-op, ever. All games should be easier when you have two players. Except, of course, when they jump-scrolled you to death in the Waterfall level.

25. Star Wars: TIE Fighter – X-Wing brought awesome action flight sim goodness but TIE Fighter made the requisite improvements and took the extra step of letting you play as the bad guys in a remarkable story-driven campaign. Why this game hasn’t been remade recently completely escapes me.

24. Silent Hill – I’m a sucker for scary games, and they don’t get much more terrifying than Silent Hill. While Resident Evil went for the obvious startle-shocks, Silent Hill ground into your psyche with atmosphere and tension that ratcheted up and stayed taut leaving players with the ultimate question: Keep playing into the night or go to bed while you still might be able to fall asleep?

23. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Good games are memorable games. Ones that stay with you… like Eternal Darkness. The game’s sanity effects that show blood running down walls, distorted perspectives, simulated program glitches and a whole assortment of freaky occurrences that suggest the game is playing you as much as you are playing it results in a game that sticks in your mind long after the credits have rolled. Multiple endings, a deep and engaging story inspired by Lovecraft’s mythos and strong gameplay round out the checklist of one of the best “adult” titles on the GameCube.

22. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – I admit to a weakness when it comes to turn-based strategy games. Standing tall among them is this gem for the GameBoy Advance: As deep as any disc-based game with a stellar combat system (with just enough randomness built in due to the Judge system) and a near-perfect class system that encourages all those OCD-inspired traits borne by role-playing gamers and strategy hounds. Any criticisms that could be leveled at this game stem from the so-so storyline and relatively bland characterizations. Still, among the best Final Fantasy games released in the last five or six years.

21. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings – The second-best Real-Time Strategy game ever isn’t the most perfectly balanced game in the world but it offers depth galore with scores of available units and upgrades across a huge selection of civilizations. It’s got surprisingly good multiplayer, timeless graphics and a clean interface (a must in the RTS genre).

20. Counter-Strike – Who knew a side project based on a second generation game engine could conquer the world of online multiplayer? Well, when you work in such subtle innovations as real penalty for death, team-based modern combat that actually encouraged teamwork, reward for skill and a development model that lent itself perfectly to being adaptable maybe it shouldn’t have been such a shocker.

19. Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man – From the opening theme diddy to the simple but addicting play and the iconic characters, Pac-Man may not have the claims to fame that Pong or Adventure carry, but it was the first video game that people remember actually enjoying. It’s kind of curious that the game is really no more than those little mazes you followed with your pencil in Kindergarten, but to this day it’s one of the few arcade machines I have a hard time passing up when I see it.

18. Castlevania III – Previous Castlevania games were very good: Creepy and atmospheric (for their time) with cool weapon upgrades and lengthy, tough adventures. CV3 added additional characters, much higher production values and just the right amount of maddening challenge that kept me occupied for months. Besides, who doesn’t want to be a whip-wielding vampire hunter?

17. Metroid Prime – To say I was skeptical about this game that took a beloved side-scrolling action/adventure franchise and dared to make it not just 3D but first person is putting it mildly. But Retro Studios captured the essence of those original games precisely and made first-person platforming viable for the first time that I can recall. The sense of solitude and wonder that permeates the game is uncanny and the little touches like Samus’ face reflecting in her face shield when a bright light flashes or the droplets of moisture that mist up the screen when walking through waterfalls are just tiny examples of a game that was very good to begin with but elevated to brilliance through attention to detail. Plus it boasts one of the most challenging but satisfying final boss encounters I’ve ever played.

16. Final Fantasy VII – Okay so the graphics in the non-cutscene segments are kind of hokey and the final chapter is an aggravating epic. That doesn’t change the fact that this game defined next-gen role-playing games (for better or for worse) and perhaps for the first time showcased really what could be done with disc-based media on consoles (similar to what Myst did for PCs). The quest is perfectly legendary, the characters are mostly memorable and the plot is actually intriguing enough that a novelization of the game wouldn’t be out of the question. Not the best Final Fantasy game ever, but pretty close.

15. StarCraft – What Age of Empires II offers in depth and sophistication, StarCraft trumps with perfect balance and a truly engrossing single-player campaign. StarCraft also offers a healthy dose of the coolness factor with some quality Science Fiction-y units (including a Human faction that is actually as fun to play as the less mundane alternate choices, Protoss and Zerg) that seem to have drawn some inspiration from Warhammer 40K. Not many games boast opportunities as impishly satisfying as rushing an opponent’s base with dozens of Zerglings followed by a swarm of Hydralisks spitting acid.

14. Eye of the Beholder – Classic PC role-playing with the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons license. Dr. Mac, Scott and I spent practically an entire summer listening to Metallica’s black album and fighting our way through swarms of giant spiders and kobolds trying to unlock the game’s secrets. The first-person perspective added some much-needed immersion to the D&D licensed games and the old-school dungeon crawl setting was perfect for passing a slow summer afternoon—provided you’re a pasty geek like me.

13. Galaga – This is the the game I can’t pass up in an arcade. Perpetually 25 cents to play, it’s like Space Invaders without all those sissy shields. Oh, and the aliens dive-bomb you and don’t just drop weak little slow-moving bombs on you. Plus the Galaga spaceship is roughly 400 times cooler looking than the boxy little turret thing from SI. It’s one of those games that has to be experienced in a dark pizza parlor game room (square footage: 4) with a pocketful of quarters and a determination to nab the high score spot. Initials put in when you achieve the goal? P-O-O, of course.

12. Planescape: Torment – The crazed, surreal role-playing game that everyone harkens as among the best of the isometric D&D licensed family is one I picked up on a lark: It was like $10 at Fry’s and had an interesting cover. Plus it said Dungeons and Dragons on the cover so I figured, “Why not?” But this isn’t some Thief/Mage/Fighter/Cleric dungeon romp: This is an intricate and dark tale of an immortal main character with no memory and a cast of increasingly bizarre traveling companions (including a floating skull and a burning corpse) trying to figure out nothing more than what the heck is going on. If not for the sometimes frustrating combat, it would be a role-playing masterpiece.

11. Baseball Stars – If only—if only—they made baseball games this simply fun and ceaselessly entertaining as Baseball Stars these days. The semi-role-playing elements of stat boosting and team tweaking was ideally balanced. The lack of any kind of license actually worked in Baseball Stars’ favor. If only the battery save feature hadn’t been quite as cantakerous I might still be playing this game. Oh, and did I mention that the actual baseball game was incredibly fun as well? Modern baseball sims might get closer to the real game, but none touch Baseball Stars with a ten-foot pole in terms of raw enjoyment.

10. Twisted Metal II – Ah, Twisted Metal: The fighting game for people who don’t like memorizing hundreds of obscure moves. Nevermind all that boring fisticuffs hooey: How about getting into a heavily armored car and racing around virtual cities, lobbing homing rockets and power missiles at your unsuspecting foes? Semi-destructible environments, crazy deep gameplay and the best split-screen multiplayer in any game makes for a game that has yet to be matched in terms of time consumption. Nothing brought more band practices to a grinding halt than someone firing up Twisted Metal II: And no one really complained. No wonder we didn’t get signed.

9. Bionic Commando – “What do you mean, ‘I can’t jump’? Look at all those platforms! How else am I supposed to get up there!?” This is the brilliance of Bionic Commando: With nothing more than a funky physics scheme that made a grappling hook seem like an appropriate replacement for the genre-standard jump button, Capcom created a game that stood head and shoulders above it’s copy-cat relatives (Strider, anyone? Anyone?). A long, challenging quest with hints of open-ended play, varied gameplay, a great item system and the second-most memorable boss fight (“Dude! It’s Hitler! And his face just exploded! Sick, dude!”) ever: It’s a certified classic.

8. Metal Gear Solid – I suspect that the old Metal Gear games from the 8-bit era were ahead of their time. They encouraged sneaking past enemies rather than killing everyone in sight (“Whaa?”) and offered so many power ups and weapon choices that most people just kind of scratched their heads when they tried to play the game. But the Playstation allowed the game to work in a way that made sense for what the Metal Gear series was trying to accomplish. The stealth-based gameplay was new and, surprisingly, exciting. But what made MGS so great was the subtle touches: Snake’s laser scope filtering through the fog; footprints left in the snow that alerted guards to your presence; the Sniper Wolf battle; the frequency key on “the back of the CD case” and, of course, the Psycho Mantis fight. As I played it I kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”

7. Resident Evil 4 – For all the things that Resident Evil did for gaming, it always had a little something holding it back. Whether it was the control scheme (pretty bad for most of them), the unlikely puzzles (RE:CV), terrible voice acting (I’m looking at you, Resident Evil 1), pointless story (ahem RE3) or unconvincing characters (RE0), it was usually very much worth the playthrough, but never a spectacular experience. RE4 fixed all that and added a healthy dose of extra gore, a strong story, engaging (and involving!) cutscenes, phenomenal graphics, sharp puzzles that never got too puzzle-y and plenty of extras to make it not just a great play but a great buy.

6. Final Fantasy VI – If you thought FFVII was epic, you missed out on FFVI/FFIII. I mean, what other game has an apocalyptic, literally world-altering event happen halfway through the game? This is the fantasy role-playing game that made people realize what was possible on consoles. The only bad thing about this game is the fact that its epic story was so popular that later Final Fantasy games (and actually later console RPGs in general) began to think that story could trump gameplay and we ended up with stuff like Final Fantasy VIII and X. Still, you can’t hold that against FFVI which did everything that it possibly could just right and did so without the aid of fancy 3D graphics or even non-game engine cut scenes. The impact of this game can be summarized with Kefka’s mocking, braying laughter.

5. Super Metroid – Everything that was good about the original NES Metroid remained in the Super Nintendo update. In fact, if they had only bothered to remake the original game with the new 16-bit graphics, plenty of fans (probably myself included) would have been perfectly content. Instead they expanded the game, added new power-ups, introduced a more complete storyline and laid out the game in such a way that 2D platforming/adventure reached its pinnacle early. This game stands testament to how to do a sequel right (stick with what worked the first time, know when to tweak or refine and give ’em more of what they want) and even without the pressure attached from two previous, popular 8-bit adventures (Metroid II came out for the original black and white GameBoy) Super Metroid would have been a brilliant game.

4. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Like a lot of people, I was disappointed by the recent Star Wars prequels. I didn’t hate them, but they left me wondering, “Was my delight in the world of Star Wars merely a product of my young memory applying a sense of wonder that eventually became nothing more than simple nostalgia?” Playing through KotOR is direct evidience that there actually was something to Star Wars to begin with: It wasn’t just nostalgia. That Lucas lost track of what made Star Wars good to begin with is a topic for another time but fortunately the team at BioWare tapped into that sense of awe with a prequel to the prequels which draws the player into the world of Star Wars like no other Star Wars licensed property since Timothy Zahn’s novelized adaptations of what would have been episodes VII, VIII and IX. KotOR gets Star Wars perfect, blending enough new with the familiar and incorporating a wonderfully engaging and open-ended story into a huge experience. There is so much here to praise: The Light/Dark paths through the game that make it one of the few role-playing video games that is actually re-playable; PC-style dialogue trees and detailed character interaction—on a console!; a smooth, good-looking combat system based on d20; really stellar character progression including Jedi powers that are introduced at just the right moment. I could go on. The bottom line is that if you like role-playing games or if you like Star Wars or if you like games that make good purchases (value-wise) and you haven’t played this game, it’s worth the price of the XBox alone.

3. The Legend of Zelda – Other than the classic sound effect you get for iscovering a secret door, the other thing that will always stand out in my mind about the original Zelda game is that surreal TV commercial they put out for it that featured a freakish guy looking paranoid and shouting out the names of some of the game’s enemies. “Octoroks!” But the game itself had so much to offer: From the gold colored cartridge to the battery save feature to the detailed quest that was the first I’d ever heard of that didn’t actually require going through entirely the way the designer intended. People would talk about beating Ganon with just the wooden sword. “Insanity!” I thought, but it was certainly possible. Like Metroid, Zelda offered not just places to go but things to acquire: The “collector” gamer was born with these types of games where your avatar increased in ability as the game progressed rather than remaining more or less static and simply offering new ways to use the same basic abilities available at the beginning of the game. That so much game was crammed between two buttons, a directional pad and the questionably useful “Start” and “Select” buttons is still amazing to this day, as is the fact that this game remains nearly as playable 20 years after its release as it was back in the day.

2. Super Mario Bros. 3 – There was a time when all the cell phone stores you see anywhere that could even be remotely referred to as a shopping center weren’t peddling cell phones. The ubiquitous storefront venture of the late eighties was the Mom and Pop video rental store. This was before the big corporate chains crushed everyone out of business, and they were everywhere. In the little shopping center down the street from our house when I was kid there was one of these stores and they were renting something else: Nintendo carts. Someone who worked there must have either been a gamer or was just really ahead of their time because they not only carried video games for rent before most other people were even considering such a wacky notion but they also had a handful of imported titles from Japan. Among them was this insanely anticipated forthcoming title named Super Mario Bros. 3. Following up the fun but unusual SMB2 (which was actually a Mario-ized facelift of an unrelated Japanese game), SMB3 was hyped everywhere, including getting feature billing in a feature film so having a chance to play with it (albeit the text was in Japanese) ahead of its release was spectacular. The game was everything players wanted back then: Reminicent of the original console-bundled classic, offering plenty of new challenges, loads of secrets to find and perfectly tuned platforming gameplay. I rushed out and bought the game when it was finally released in the US and I’ve played through it probably ten times including several times after getting the facelift for Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES. It’s a timeless classic and deserves all the praise it gets.

1. Half-Life – Ever since games started, timidly at first, trying to tell stories along with providing opportunities for play they have struggled with how to do this effectively. If you stop the game and show the story you interrupt the real reason for turning it on in the first place: Essentially you inject a bit of movie into the game. For most designers this was an acceptable compromise. Reward the players with a bit of a break as we throw some exposition at them between boss battles (or whatever). This wasn’t much of a problem with older games which were always third person and whose graphics were generally anything but lifelike. Then came first person games with Wolfenstein (and others) putting players into the protagonist’s shoes. 3D graphics from Quake and a steadily improving market for video accelerator cards started making things look semi-realistic and this presented a problem for the story-in-game people: Players live through the action in this character’s shoes, do we pull them out of that state to show our movies? Half-Life solved the problem like no game before or, really, since: Don’t pull the player out of the character’s shoes. Somehow the writers of Half-Life managed to present a silent protagonist that didn’t strain the suspension of disbelief and using scripted events and a few load-time tricks they delivered the most immersive, emotional and enjoyable experience of any game I’ve ever played. I was literally frightened at times while playing this game… wandering through dark corridors with nothing but a flashlight to guide my way made my palms sweat. Each time I fell into any water my phobia welled up, rationalized by the inevitable Ichthyosaur attack. The conspiratorial tone led by the G-Man’s creepy presence was timed perfectly with the X-Files craze and the attention to detail was such that even later expansions like Blue Shift and Opposing Force fit perfectly within the game’s story and carefully crafted world. When the game was over there was always Counter-Strike which made this game the only real must-purchase PC game for a period of almost ten years. Half-Life stands alone as a game that does what so many others attempt to do but fail and in doing so didn’t forget that above all else it was still supposed to be fun to play.

Agree? Disagree? I wanna hear about it! Post a comment below or drop me an email.


A HyperLink to the Past

Quick! Click!

  • After yesterday’s discussion of A Link to the Past, I found that it can be purchased used for the GBA for under $20. Might have to get in on some of that action.
  • Speaking of the Past, check out Benheck’s sweet nPod update. It’s a little portable device that plays NES carts semi-GameBoy style. Nifty! Too bad you have to buy the prototype to get one. Also too bad you need the original cartidges to play… I’d much prefer a smaller ROM-based emulator. But one with the level of industrial design that Benheck seems comfortable putting forth.
  • has some amusing/interesting top ten lists on their site, and I was intrigued by their Top Ten Game Series That Jumped the Shark. Except as I’m reading it they start talking about Twisted Metal and bringing up TM3 and TM4. Okay, so let’s clear the air here: Twisted Metal III and IV were developed by a different team than the first and second entries based off of purchased intellectual properties from the original developers. They are, essentially, sequels only in name. To classify them as ruining a franchise ignores this fact. That is all.

Top 30 Video Games of All Time

So I sorta stumbled across a site I’ve seen previously which catalogs various top ten video game lists from different publications. I got to reading the site and then noted that the author summarized the results based on how many lists a game appeared on. This is obviously not a perfect summarization because it doesn’t take into account positioning. The author does link to a couple of other people who applied point systems or various other formulas but even there I wasn’t happy with the results because they were based around simple number crunching and not the application of logic.

What got me the most was that a couple of the publications ( and Electronic Gaming Monthly specifically) were included in the tallies more than once simply because they had released more than one top ten list in the last few years. This seemed wrong to me because while they weren’t necessarily that similar from year to year, they did represent one source basically stuffing the ballot box. Also there weren’t any ratings-based lists on there (most top ten lists are subjectively compiled by an editorial staff—there’s nothing wrong with that it just doesn’t represent the other means of collecting best-of data).

So what I did was take the list, cut off any duplicate source entries using only the most recent one available, added a couple of new sources in, including Metacritic’s top meta-rated games, gave each game a point rank from 10 to 1 based on position (a game ranked as #1 would get 10 points, games ranked #2 got 9 points, etc) and then removed any games from the list that came up with less than ten points total. Here is the result:

  1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (101 points) – I still haven’t played this game. I guess I should.
  2. Super Mario 64 (80 points) – I played this some when I lived in Texas and bought myself a Nintendo 64 to aleviate some of the occasional boredom from not knowing hardly anyone in the place. You know, it was interesting at the time, but not hardly what I’d consider to be #2 game all time.
  3. Tetris (64 points) – I suppose I can understand why this game is here, although I’m not sure I’d equate ubiquity with quality.
  4. Goldeneye 007 (42 points) – The first really viable FPS on a console? Yeah, I’d say that works as #4.
  5. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (42 points) – I remember this game being fun but not stellar in the way that the first Legend of Zelda was. It certainly beat the pants off the weirdly incongruent Zelda II, but it didn’t strike me as being among the best games ever. Very good, sure, but tied for #4 overall seems excessive. Maybe I’ll pick up the GBA version and see if I’m just misremembering how good it was.
  6. Final Fantasy VII (42 points) – I grudgingly admit this game is very, very good. Fanboys seem to forget that it certainly had it’s share of issues and there hasn’t been a Final Fantasy worth playing through since, but it certainly deserves to be somewhere on this list.
  7. Super Mario Bros. 3 (35 points) – As the only game I’ve ever been so excited about to bother playing an import version from Japan, I’d say I have to agree with this one.
  8. Super Mario Bros. (34 points) – As with Tetris I don’t know that ubiquity should be confused with quality, but I grant that as far as platformers go it was pretty good in its time.
  9. Doom (34 points) – I never actually played through this game on the PC. I played a weird Doom/Doom II hybrid on the original Playstation. It was just OK.
  10. Half-Life (31 points) – This would be much higher on my list.
  11. Legend of Zelda (29 points) – I would have swapped this with A Link to the Past since my memory says that this game was basically the same as the original only with better, 16-bit graphics. Nice, but not 13 points superior.
  12. Street Fighter II (28 points) – I spent a lot of money on this game and played quite a bit of it. I’m really not sure why, though. I never really cared all that much for fighting games and I sucked really horribly at SFII. I guess I can see where it deserves a spot on the list, but it wouldn’t be anywhere close to my own list.
  13. Metal Gear Solid (27 points) – There were so many memorable experiences to be had playing this game. A gem that deserves a better ranking in my opinion.
  14. StarCraft (21 points) – Let’s see, a game that came out almost ten years ago and is still the most popular game in some countries and has a continuing, active community worldwide? Yep, that sounds like top 30 fodder to me. I enjoyed it for the story as much as the gameplay.
  15. Resident Evil 4 (19 points) – One of the best games ever. I’d have this higher.
  16. Final Fantasy VI (19 points) – Another one of my top games. Words cannot express how much I’m anticipating the GBA port of this game. Move it higher!
  17. Super Mario World (17 points) – It was an okay game, but I could never quite get the hang of the cape and I spent the whole game wishing they’d just bring the Raccoon Suit back. Wouldn’t crack my top 50.
  18. Chrono Trigger (17 points) – I played this game so long ago that all I can remember about it are that I really, really liked it and that I couldn’t play it enough because it seemed like our whole neighborhood had saved games on our cartidge.
  19. Tony Hawk 2 (17 points) – I absolutely loved this game for the Dreamcast. Later versions had more and better features, but this one had some kind of X factor that the others lacked that made it utterly addictive. I think I even called in sick one day to play this game. But time hasn’t been so kind to it and while I might recognize what it was to me then, I think it being fairly low on this list is appropriate. Tony Hawk games seem to be the kind that make a stellar first impression but whose quality doesn’t linger.
  20. Super Metroid (16 points) – Even though I’m loving the Prime series, this is (and may forever be) the definitive Metroid game.
  21. Quake (15 points) – I barely played more than 30 minutes of the original Quake. It seemed about as boring as Doom was. I got some mileage out of Quake III, but only because of the multiplayer.
  22. Civilization (14 points) – I played some FreeCiv on Linux, but never actually messed with the original PC game. It’s hard sometimes to play these classics that you missed the first time around because you spend the whole time thinking that it could be done so much better using modern technology.
  23. Super Mario Kart (13 points) – As much Mario Kart as I’ve played, I don’t think I ever played the original SNES version other than at in-store demo kiosks.
  24. Civilization II (13 points) – See the Civilization comment above.
  25. The Sims (12 points) – I can honestly say that despite some ringing endorsements from people I actually trust, I have never played nor really had any interest in playing the Sims.
  26. Grand Theft Auto 3 (12 points) – For all the controversy, the sandbox style gameplay in GTA3 is still pretty impressive. I wish someone (or even Rockstar themselves) would come up with a similar game with similar quality and attention to detail where you had something more noble to do. I’m thinking along the lines of a truly open-ended role-playing game or a Zelda-type adventure game with a massive world and more or less total freedom. Virtual sociopathy is quasi-amusing for a while, but it’s hard to relate to a thug, you know?
  27. Quake II (11 points) – I played a little bit of Quake II around the time I was messing with Half-Life and Unreal (the original story based game, not Tournament), but I wasn’t all that impressed.
  28. Pac Man (10 points) – Some of my earliest memories involve this game, Chuck E. Cheese and being too blasted short to reach the controls and see the screen without the aid of a chair.
  29. The Sims 2 (10 points) – If you thought I had no interest in the original Sims, apply that double for the sequel.
  30. Elite (10 points) – I had never even heard of Elite until this little exercise. I had to look it up.

Sources: Nintendo Power 2006, Metacritic 2006, EGM 2005, GamePro 2005, GameFAQs 2005, IGN 2005, The Age 2005, Edge 2004, Retrogamer 2004, Entertainment Weekly 2003, Dorkclub 2003, GameSpy 2001, Game Informer 2001, GameSpot 2001, Computer and Video Games 2001, GamesRadar 2000, Nintendorks 2000, Next Generation 1999, CNET (?).

Slow of Mind

Not much to say today… yesterday afternoon was so rough that I’m still recovering today. I don’t even want to talk about it. Instead I’ll just give you a few links and call it a day.

  • Joss Whedon: Funny guy. The thing about Mr. Whedon is that while he does make a person laugh he manages to somehow use those laughs as a hook to get an insightful message across or somehow treat it as a building block to pretty high drama. It’s impressive and there is an eight minute speech about gender equality he gave at an Equality Now awards show which showcases this brilliantly.
  • I saw that Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies got picked up for screen adaptation. I’m reading the first book of the trilogy now. It’s good stuff.
  • Sweet Nethack T-shirt. That baby’s goin’ on the wishlist.
  • I ran across a pretty interesting game site called GamerDad which reviews games from the perspective of a parent who enjoys vids. It’s kinda cool because it’s by gamers but keeps the rugrats in mind both in terms of “Will your kids be able to play this game” and also “Can you play this game with your kids around?” It works pretty well and I think more video game reviews should reveal this kind of information since perhaps part of the problem with the ESRB ratings is that they don’t actually sit down and play through the games they rate. At least you can assume that a reviewer has played quite a bit if not all of a game before posting or publishing a review.

So’s You Knows

Two short links, one short announcement:

  • Next Gen has an interesting article about Nintendo’s role in the video game market. I don’t necessarily agree with their positions, but it’s good food for thought anyway.
  • Opera-based browser for the DS, anyone? Interesting as a novelty, but I’m not sure how much use I’d really get out of it… especially not when they’re charging as much for it as they would a regular game.
  • You may now access any/all Game topic entries from By popular request. Yeah.

Entwined the Story Be

Reading a discussion about Indigo Prophecy on Slashdot today, someone brought up an interesting perspective:

Man, when will these game developers get the idea that *story is not the point*.

Now I backpedal. I realize that some people enjoyed this game, and some *would* like a larger helping of narrative in their games. But every time I see another article talking about narrative as if a lack of it is the one thing holding games back, a little bit of “twitch” gamer in me feels like it’s been kicked in the crotch. There are many of us who don’t want a game whose purpose is to funnel us through a story.

Despite all the talk of cinematic games and making writers on video games a more integral part of the process instead of some hack they hired to slap some cockneyed drivel in an instruction booklet, perhaps it might be worthwhile to step back for a moment and consider if this is something we really want to happen. Using Indigo Prophecy as an example, this was a game that was supposed to be all about the story and the end result, strictly on those merits, is a shoddy shell of a plot and some weirdly unsatisfying gameplay. Maybe we’ve been barking up the wrong tree?

It doesn’t help when people start making Matrix parallels and pointing out that not even strictly narrative mediums like film are always so great about bringing the story in full force. In movies the only thing that can really get in the way of the story is whiz-bang special effects that are expensive and oftentimes repetitive save for those exceedingly rare leaps forward in effects technology. Yet even something as ultimately pointless as that can serve to distract from a lack of serious writing effort. How can it be reasonably expected that game designers will ever look at all the effort that has to go into making a game actually fun to play and say, “No, let’s spend more time on the script instead”?

Then consider the “good ol’ days” of 8-bit NES and even earlier Atari games: Most of those had barely passing nods to storylines and yet are revered in many cases as being spectacular games whose legacy cannot be denied. Can anyone say that Super Mario Brothers 3, as fun as it may have been, was delivering anything remotely resembling a coherent plot? If anything it had an identical plot to the original Super Mario Brothers… and one that can be summarized in half a sentence. Would it have been a better game with a rich and compelling story? Is there such a thing as a gameplay-only video game masterpiece?

Perhaps SMB3 would have been even better with some immersive story elements. It hardly matters: Pure game experiences are not exempt from excellence the same way that a special effects extravaganza is not exempt from being an enjoyable moviegoing experience just because it doesn’t deliver Shakespeare-quality writing. Visceral entertainment has its place and some great games are either purposely or inconsequentially devoid of backstory and linear narrative progression.

What really matters then is when a game tries to bring a story aspect to the table and in doing so fumbles the execution, usually through incompleteness. This is the same valid criticism levelled at the Matrix sequels: Where the first was full of intriguing and well conceptualized plot hooks and ideas, the latter showed a decided lack of follow-through on the part of the writers to have anything beyond a few well conceptualized plot hooks and ideas.

So to a certain extent the Slashdot poster is correct: The story is indeed not the point. A game need not have a bestseller-ready plot to be great, so long as the gameplay compensates for the lack of immersiveness and depth with its own strength. But games that use a narrative device to propel the action forward need to make sure that they don’t fall into the trap of thinking that narrative as just a mechanism whose internal consistency and completeness is secondary to its function in terms of the game. The two aspects must be correctly woven together to create a stronger whole and while perhaps not as strong separately, at least capable of standing alone apart from the other. Consider two opposite examples: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic has some good gameplay and a solid storyline that remains well executed throughout. One could novelize the plot and come away with perhaps an average book and one could use the game engine without context as a sort of bland role-playing adventure. They exist semi-effectively alone but together create one of the best games of the last five years. Now consider Indigo Prophecy: Without the game, the story would be just as inane as it stands today leaving only the game itself as motivation to compel the progression of the plot. Yet the game mechanics themselves are drab and uninteresting when removed from the context of the game so they don’t provide enough incentive in and of themselves to encourage continuing. Separately weak, combined they are just as weak if not weaker. In fact the only real reason the game is finishable is probably due to its remarkably brief time investment.

It isn’t that stories aren’t important to games, it’s merely that stories aren’t treated as important. Gamers like the Slashdot poster who balk at being pushed through a story because they would prefer a more pure gaming experience are not wrong for wanting such, but there will likely always be the types of games which don’t lend themselves to narrative. And when they do pick up story-driven games you can’t blame them for being dissatisfied at the result, especially when it doesn’t seem compelling enough to have interrupted their game-only experience anyway. The solution is not less story in games, but rather better integration and above all, more respect for what positive effects quality writing can have on the finished product.


New Resurrected rumors about the XBox 360’s price dip started in again today. Now they’re saying that the 360 will drop $100 by Christmas. That would put the good bundle at roughly $300 (actually closer to $325 with tax). I’m not going to suggest that’s cheap in any way, but it is about half the price of the high end PS3’s MSRP.

So will Microsoft actually do this? I mean, as it is your options are to get the feature-complete 360 set for $400 or drop an extra $200 and get the comparable PS3. Maybe Microsoft decides to say, “We’re comfortable with that.” Why not? They’re still ahead of the Sony in terms of game library and price point. Why push it?

I think if MS does go this route it will be because of the psychological marketing concept of “Half Price.” But MS needs to be a little careful here so that “Half Price” doesn’t translate into “Half as Good” when they do their holiday commercial blitz. Which is actually why I think they’ll wait until sometime in early 2007 to drop the price. Their options would be to drop the price and say nothing, letting the comparison shoppers make the realization themselves or to trumpet the price differential. On the one hand you may have a situation where people aren’t aware that the XBox is that much cheaper than the PlayStation and won’t comparison shop at all to figure it out (perhaps choosing instead to go off of a child’s wishlist) but on the other hand you could have people saying, “Why would it be that much cheaper? Is it that much weaker?” Consumers—especially around the holidays when they are buying stuff for other people that they may not be very knowledgable about—can’t always be relied upon to make the smart decision based on the limited information available to those who don’t already know and don’t really care to find out.

And MS would really be better served by waiting a few months to drop the price anyway: It’s almost guaranteed that the PS3 will sell out badly in its first few months of release leading up to Christmas. MS can rest assured that they’ll sit back and sell plenty of units with their stockpile ready to go, filling in where Sony can’t match demand. After Christmas when Sony catches back up and stock comes in, then Microsoft can drop the price reduction axe on Sony. I know if I had $600 to spend on video games I’d rather buy a $300 XBox and $300 worth of games than just a PS3 and some crummy launch title. Not everyone is going to be as flexible as me (and unlike some people, I actually like the original XBox and would probably consider a 360 based on that merit alone) but I bet there are enough people that feel the same way that it has to be a real concern for Sony. Or at least, it ought to be.

Elsewhere, someone has written a pretty amusing list of stuff that has happened while people were waiting for Duke Nukem Forever. I suppose you could do this with any decade-long-or-longer wait (the fourth Indiana Jones movie, anyone?) but it’s pretty funny anyway.

Meanwhile, The Escapist’s 50th issue deals intelligently with women in gaming and suggests that perhaps the gender barrier is more of a feedback loop of media perspective than an actual barrier plus argues that non-sexualized female protagonists (such as young Alice-style girls) might be the correct way to get females to identify with game characters.

It’s a fascinating issue and generally speaking I think the gender barrier is mostly hype because it makes a good common wisdom type hook for fluffy magazine articles (the kind that The Escapist mostly tries to avoid). Women play games quite a bit, I think that they simply tend to be more picky about what they play. Whimsy is spending the last bit of her pregnancy playing Monster Rancher; Dr. Mac reports that the Mrs. is enjoying some of the minigames on the DS and Nik has been known to play plenty of Tetris and Kirby’s Avalance (Puyo Puyo). Video games tend to be defined by the fanboy hype machines like Halo, Madden and Half-Life but excluding the twitch games there are a lot that appeal to women, I think they’re just less willing to want to spend the effort to find something they’ll like.

As an Aside…

  • I picked up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow used this weekend. Man, I love this game. Castlevania has been sort of reinvigorated on the GBA but I never got around to trying any of the Aria of Sorrow/Harmony of Dissonance/Orchestra of Discomfort whatever they are. Now I kinda wish I had because Dawn of Sorrow is awesome with a capital Sweet.
  • My Hori screen filters also came in. They are very nice but I put them on wrong because I figured they would be either perfectly sized for the screens (they aren’t) or run slightly large (they don’t) so in both cases the filter comes up a couple of milimeters short on the right side. It’s not a big deal and I should be able to reapply them if necessary but I don’t want to risk messing them all up just now since I just got them put on and for the time being they’re doing the trick.
  • We totally cleaned out our computer/game room this weekend. I think Nik was less than thrilled with the project since it took up most of Saturday and a big chunk of Sunday afternoon, but the end result is that all the piles of paper and other assorted junk are gone from the floor (Mobility: It’s gonna be huge!), my gaming area is actually useable, we have two pretty organized closets, we threw out a slew of random stuff that I have no idea why we were keeping (broken computer parts, non-functioning hair styling products and—I’m not making this up—silverware and cooking utensils that had been packed unwashed two moves ago) and we have a table covered in stuff to trade in/sell/donate. Once all that is gone, we’re about 94% clutter-free.
  • Except for the books. We have a stupid amount of books. I guess in the grand scheme of things there are worse things to have too much of than books. But it’s getting out of control because we have no place to put them so they stack up like modern architectural experiments designed to give engineering students word problems to solve such as “If Nikki has 463 books which weigh between 1 and 3 kilograms, how many can she stack on her nightstand made from particleboard whose maximum load capacity is 100 kilograms before they crash through the floor and kill her downstairs neighbor?” Hopefully we’ll rectify the situation in the next couple of weeks as we’ve picked out an Ikea bookshelf that is 72″ square which is like 18 feet of book-storin’ area that will probably still not hold everything. But it will be better than being convicted of negligent homicide on our neighbors. I mean, I’m guessing.
  • So we’re running through The World’s Largest Dungeon every other week with Lister, Strahd, Fwaaa, Skorn and a few others. Of course, by every other week I mean “We did it one week and said we’d pick it up again in two weeks but then half the party flaked so we just played Magic all night instead.” But whatever.
  • We tried a new Magic tournament type since we were unable to continue the D&D adventure where each person opens a booster pack, chooses one card and then passes the rest to the next player. They do this until all the cards are gone and then go again, switching directions for the pass. At the end you flesh out the decks with some loose land cards and play a best-of-three tournament. It was kind of fun although we were using Mirrodin block boosters for the most part which meant we all had a crazy number of Artifacts and, as usual, I picked Blue as one of my colors so of course my deck was dog slow and I got trounced, eventually being the Ultimate Loser. Still it was fun.
  • Next session (two more weeks… sigh) I’m bringing my new Shadowrun adventure, On the Run so if people flake again (I hope they won’t and that it was a one-time thing due to lots of people being out of town for Father’s Day) we’ll have some kind of cool adventure to try.
  • I must be getting lazy. I used to spend hours and hours working up my own homebrew adventures for all sorts of games. I made adventures that I didn’t even ever plan to run because I knew no one else wanted to play the game. Now it’s so much effort that I’d almost rather run a pre-made adventure and pay the few bucks for it as a trade-off.
  • Want to know why I was nearly crushed by the weight of pretentious poo spewing from Metal Gear Solid 2’s postmodern dialog diharrea and why I couldn’t get more than a few minutes into MGS3 and why I’m wary of MGS4 like a recently-bitten child entering a yard with a sleeping doberman? Because Hideo Kojima is flat out nuts, that’s why. Seriously, does anyone understand what he’s talking about? Ever?
  • I know admitting this marks me as a terrible son, but my dad wrote several books and while I read most of them I didn’t get around to reading one of them (maybe because it was billed as sort of a romance and… well, you know… romance. Gah). Anyway I actually did finally finish it and it was good. One thing that struck me was that in the book there are a couple of scenes where a rapist attacks a college co-ed. In both scenes the narrative voice delivers powerful judgement on the perpetrator by referring to him as both a “coward” and a “fiend.” It struck me mostly because, stylistically, it isn’t something I see very often. I think that usually judgement is left to the reader based on character actions or dialogue but in this case it was specifically necessary that the attacks be described briefly (this is a Christian book after all—detailed descriptions of brutal rapes would fall outside the comfort zone for the audience) and that there not be a lot of dialogue since it comes up later as a plot point. I just thought it was interesting.
  • I went to the doctor on Friday for my stomach issues. He basically gave me some high-strength Pepcid and told me to take it before dinner and to pretty much go on a diet (no fatty foods, no spicy foods, etc.) since he suspected that I might be creating too much stomach acid which was why I felt like junk most evenings. They also took a blood sample to test for ulcers. But what was really amazing was that the lady took two vials of blood in roughly 27 seconds, didn’t hurt me a bit (even when she swapped the vials) and left no discernable bruising. I felt like asking for her autograph.
  • I went for a run on Saturday since my doctor was griping about me slipping off the health wagon. I may have overdone it a bit, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been walking like I have some sort of mild palsy ever since due to the severe soreness in my legs. Stupid exercise.
  • I finally got Mayfair Games on the phone Friday. We picked up a copy of Settlers of Catan around Christmas time and unfortunately we found that the game was missing all the red road pieces. I sent Mayfair a couple of emails and got form replies back saying they would “contact me shortly.” They must live in some sort of temporal vortex because six months qualifies as “shortly” to no one on this planet. But they have weird office hours so it’s always been a pain to get them on the phone. Having the day off Friday as I did, I finally caught up with them. They promised they would ship the bits out to me today. Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

With a Cold Sense of Recognition

In in full Short Attention Span Theater mode this day. Forgive.

  • ‘Twas not a good weekend for movies, it seems. We watched March of the Penguins—a film lavished with priase by one and all—and came away from it going, “meh.” I mean, it was a nice nature show and all, but why it was a feature film and not a regular Animal Planet special escapes me.
  • We also tried to watch The Break-Up as it was Nikki’s turn to pick a theater experience. I understand her choice in a way, she likes Jennifer Aniston, she likes comedies and she enjoys romance stories. You might infer from the title that this isn’t that romantic of a movie but then again it was advertised and billed as a romantic comedy. It isn’t. What it is most closely resembles a 105-minute torture session for humans claiming legitimate ownership to more than four brain cells. It isn’t exactly the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it is quite high up there among the most unpleasant movies I’ve had the displeasure to experience. Among the movie’s primary sins was that it was ostensibly a comedy that utterly failed at any point to be amusing (let alone actually funny) and the one part that could have been comedic was stretched on for ten times longer than the joke had steam to push through. Sad.
  • Got the DS Lite Sunday. After all my yammering about trade-ins and what not, I ended up trading in nothing except some recycled cans for about $25 and then GameStop had a “Buy 2 Used Games, Get 1 Used Game Free” promotion. Since they had Mario Kart DS, Advance Wars Dual Strike and Metroid Prime Hunters used, I got those.
  • Never did get a case or any screen protectors, but I’m ordering the screen protectors online and I’ll probably just do without a case. That’s roughly typical.
  • I like all the games but I have a hard time with the control scheme in Metroid because it involves the stylus, the D-Pad and several of the buttons and triggers and whatnot. It probably takes some practice is all, which I haven’t put in because I’ve been too preoccupied pwning Black Hole forces in Advance Wars.
  • As for the hardware I’m impressed with the unit as a whole. Good battery life, brilliant screens that make good-looking games (Mario Kart DS) remarkable and okay-looking games (Advance Wars) good, and reasonably comfortable. I must confess that I avoid the touchscreen business when possible, perhaps because I lack screen protectors and I don’t wish to tarnish a handsome new electronic device, but more likely because I just don’t dig on it as an improvement in terms of control over regular ol’ D-Pad and buttons. Also the DS Lite is heavier than I expected; it’s far lighter than the brick that was the original DS, but compared to the featherweight GBA SP it’s a beast. I suppose that’s the price to pay for sweet 3D graphics and WiFi capability.
  • My backpack that I carried my work laptop around in ripped last week. It was a really ugly carrying device but I liked it because it had a spot for my little fold-up umbrella, it would (in a pinch) accommodate two laptops, plus it had room for all my random do-dads, a book, a spare floppy drive for the laptop, the laptop’s bulky AC adpater plus my CD case. But it was cheaply made and the zippers were a huge pain to get to work right. Anyway now I’m back down to my old Samsonite laptop case that I originally got for the iBook which holds practically nothing except the laptop, my namebadge/key card and a pack of gum. But it is solid as a rock and I’ve never had any problems zipping it up.
  • Except that time I zipped my favorite shirt into it first thing in the morning and ended up with a big snaggy rip thing across my stomach all day. That was weak.
  • Speaking of weak, I’ve seen people (aside from my brother that is) using the phrase “Weak sauce” quite a lot lately. It even makes an appearance as a catch phrase for one of the (more annoying) characters in Advance Wars. Weird. I kind of assumed my brother had made that up. Unless he invented a meme… Gasp! Scott is Internet Famous!
  • Not really.
  • After much fiddling I think I got my IMAP email working from DreamHost. I love the new hosting company and they have some stellar features but sometimes it seems like getting things to work they way you expect them to is just a few centimeters short of being Really Totally Easy. I’ve noticed this a lot with computing tasks: No matter how good it is, it’s not like working a Microwave. The chasm between, say, a clever bit of software or a clean user interface and RTE is theoretically minute, but it seems like in practice it might as well be the Grand Canyon because no one (not even Apple a lot of the time) can get to that point where you have to want to do something quite unusual before you have to ask for some help.
  • Case in point: I was trying to set up the DS to use my home’s WiFi connection. I was able to do so after a couple of hours’ frustration (also time when I was not actually playing with my new game console so frustration falls a little short, description-wise) and the solution I came up with was to change the type of WEP encryption I was using. This worked great for the DS but of course immediately kicked all other wireless devices off the network. It was a temporary panic moment before I realized how to change the other devices’ settings to reflect the updated environment. My point is that I use Macs at home and it should have been like, “Oh, you want to get your DS on this network? Plink! There you go.”
  • I suppose if that were the case I (and half the people I know and call friends or loved ones) would be out of a job. Viva job security through ineptitude!
  • There is something wrong with me. My stomach starts to hurt and gurgle and get a general bathroom-y feeling after I eat dinner and occasionally after I eat other meals as well, if I eat too much or the wrong thing. I’m seeing a doctor about it, but it’s starting to (ahem) cramp my style.
  • We went up last week to see Beans graduate from eighth grade. I know I graduated from Jr. High with a similar level of pomp and circumstance (Ha! I kill me!), but I remember thinking it was a little overdone considering what our relative accomplishment level was and I had a thought-deja-vu in witnessing the proceedings at Beans’ event. Still, he was class president and got to give the opening speech and his girlfriend was Valedictorian (with something ridiculous like a 4.36 GPA… something I didn’t know was possible since that would mean getting straight A+’s and something else, like—I don’t know—saving twelve drowning people between classes or something). So it was at least quasi-entertaining. There were a couple of musical numbers, and while I don’t recall my mother actually ever telling me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say not to say anything at all, it sounds like a solid policy. One which I will employ at this time.
  • Seriously. Nothing nice to say.
  • I would like to submit, for the records, a few facts. It is June. I live in California. In an area widely regarded for mild weather. It is overcast and cold today. With a chance of rain. What?
  • Stupid non-summer.
  • I keep meaning to watch the World Cup. I actually like watching Futbol, but I think it’s usually on at freaky hours like 7:45 am. I suppose watching World Cup soccer beats working, but I doubt my boss would be thrilled with the “Ole Ole” chant while people are conducting business.
  • Plus he might take back the bonus he told me about yesterday. All things considered it was a lot better than I thought it would be, especially since the targets I and various parts of the company (such as our team, our division, etc) were supposed to meet were graded stuff like “Pretty good, but not great.” If this is what I get for “Pretty good,” I’m fairly intrigued to see what I get for “Great.”