4 Ways to Stay Young at Heart

By: Joey Petty (guest writer)

With healthy diets and workouts sweeping the nation in efforts to live longer, it’s important to remember those won’t necessarily keep you young at heart.

I am fast closing in on the big 40 and am still in great touch with my youthful side. So, I thought I would share some tips that will keep all of us from turning into that old geezer we swore we would never become.

  1. Try some new music. We all have favorite genres and artists, however, try something completely different and see if it fits you. Recently, I have become hooked on female-fronted pop-core or punk-pop. Paramore was the first band I tried. After realizing how much I enjoyed this upbeat, feel-good music, I found similar bands that were harder (Picture Me Broken) or softer (Darling Parade) that provided me with an energizing youthful feel. I am among the older fans at the concerts, but I am never the oldest!
  1. Read a young adult book. If you have not read Harry Potter, shame on you! Books can help you remember the problems you faced as an adolescent and all the joys that followed. As I got older, I became more work and family focused. Not that it is a bad thing, but I love getting lost in a fantasy that reminds me of my past aspirations. It also helps me realize it is never too late to follow my dreams.
  1. Watch cartoons. There is nothing that simple, slapstick, nonsensical humor can’t cure. Cartoons are one of the best stress relievers. A simple episode of SpongeBob can make a bad day disappear into laughs. “It could be worse, you could be bald and have a big nose,” is my favorite quote whenever someone is having a bad day.
  1. Play a game. If you’ve ever watched Tabletop, then you see how board games can help you relive the “glory days”. There are numerous simple card games as well (Flux, Munchkin), and they will have you laughing and hanging out with friends like you used to. If you are a hardcore gamer, there are now more ways to connect online and play than ever before. If you are the athletic type, try an adult athletic league (even kickball) to rev up your engines.

You may feel younger, and be surprised when you better understand your kids and his or her friends when you can remember that it is alright to let out a bit of your wild side.

Feel free to share your tips and comments below!

Chess: The Perfect Game

Twenty years ago the mass media portrayed geeks as wearing glasses and pocket protectors, and they played chess, which was so not cool. Growing up, I never understood the last part because I played chess and was cool. Right?

Chess is more than a strategy game; it’s the perfect game. You can play alone – as the Pixar’s Geri’s Game shows us – or you can play with your best friend, child, or significant other. It requires no luck (unless you count the other player’s screw up as luck), and you have to consider your next move. It’s not mindlessly stacking blocks or mining, you’re not just shooting people or beating them up, and you’re not throwing down chips on a table hoping to out bluff four-plus other people.

Traditional chess set
Photo by: commons.wikimedia.org

Chess challenges you. It’s good for your brain, and there are dozens of studies that explain the mental benefits of playing, such as improving your memory, preventing Alzheimer’s, and increasing your IQ. And who out there doesn’t need a little brain boost?

Chess Brings Us Closer

Brain benefits aside, my favorite part of playing chess is the intimacy of the game. I remember my dad teaching me to play when I was 9 years old. I remember teaching my son to play when he was only 4. Ten years later, I’m proud to say he can beat me, sometimes in less than 10 moves.

Another cool thing about chess is the types of chess sets available. In a quick search, I found Street Fighter chess sets, literary-themed sets, sports, aliens, etc. And sure, some are a little pricey, but when you consider how much you spend on movies, apps, and video games in a year, the price is affordable. If well cared for, the set can provides hundreds of hours of gameplay, and you can pass it down to future generations without it freezing or becoming outdated. How many apps and video games can do that?

They also make great gifts as they can accent a room and start a conversation. Chess sets are versatile, and you can play anywhere. I’ve even played in a parking lot after work out of the trunk of a car!

Common Misconceptions

When talking to others, I hear “I’ve never played, it’s too hard,” or “I wouldn’t be any good at it.” Bull stuffings. I guarantee these people have never tried to play. Each game piece has a rule and moves accordingly. It’s not hard to learn – in fact, it’s probably one of the easier games to learn – but it can be hard to win. However, it’s not about winning; it’s about having fun, learning, and bonding with your opponent.

According to Parents magazine, in 1990 more than 3,000 kids ages 14 and under played chess for school. Today, more than 35,000 adolescents play. That’s a huge leap, which tells us parents of my generation and just above me get it. They see the importance and encourage their kids to play, no matter how nerdy the world tries to portray it.

So, get a chess set, whether it’s a $5 board at Target or a custom $250 set, or dig out the one in the closet and play a game. It’s family-friendly fun but can also be very romantic. It’s up to you!

Check out some of my favorite sets:

Street Fighter

Wizard’s Chess

Mario Chess

Disney

Star Wars

Off the Edge #4: Issues with Next Gen Gaming

Off the Edge

I’ve maintained a console through every generation of gaming, NES, Genesis, Saturn, Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, XBOX, Gamecube, Playstation 3, Wii, XBOX 360.  I’ve owned (or still own) all of these at one point or another and I just assumed I would always have a console.  I have to say the recent pre-launches of the upcoming PS4 and especially the XBOX One have kind of put me off buying either next gen system.

The first question I have is, “why?”  Though I jettisoned my 360, I have to say the PS3 and 360 are still both strong systems.  They can get loads of life out of them and provide years of games with the “current” gen technology.  I know there are loads of gamers out there who always want more and more in terms of graphical capabilities but they can squeeze so much out of the hardware it seems unnecessary that new hardware is needed to make games look better.

The second objection is the threat of DRM control.  Most of us are familiar with the gaming industry in general and have heard that, despite shaky economic conditions and various natural disasters, the game divisions of most of these companies are turning profits, and in some cases are helping keep the rest of the company afloat.  So why are game companies so concerned about “piracy” or the used game industry?  It isn’t about their economic viability at this point it’s just greed.  As a cartridge-gaming kid I never had more than a handful of games.  My friends were in a similar situation.  So we borrowed and traded with each other.  Broke kids could play lots of games that way.  When your friends wanted it back you had to either do without or, more often, sell some of your old ones and buy the new one you wanted.  Buying used and trading has always been a dynamic part of the culture.  The new plan is to DRM all games.  To borrow a game from a friend you still have to pay for a game.  This makes trading useless.  All so companies already turning profits can make more money.

Even worse is the method in which they verify the DRM, specifically the XBOX One seems to have adopted the atrocious method used for Diablo III and the latest Sim City, always-on online server verification.  It reminds me of the first time I put in my copy of Empire Total War and it made me install Steam.  At that time Steam had to connect to the internet.  I had a dodgy wi-fi connection.  I couldn’t play it.  A similar problem occurred when Diablo III came out, despite all the server preparation they didn’t have enough to allow the first-wave rush and people who pre-ordered the game couldn’t play it.  The same happened with Sim City.  Companies are now forcing you to be online even when you just want to play single-player games.  I exclusively play one player so this is a barrier; as they focus on their marketing on online gamers and ignore what I’m guessing companies feel is a less-valuable customer.  Microsoft can tout the number of servers they have ready for launch.  There will be people who can’t get on.  They will crash, and those gamers who want to just basically play a game won’t be able to.

They’re watching us…but they aren’t paying any attention to what WE want…

And my third major objection, can we have a game machine that really just plays games?  Both Sony and Microsoft seem to be obsessed with all the other stuff their dream machines can do.  It can connect to their proprietary networks to play proprietary movies!  It can constantly keep connected to social media!  It can control your TV!  It watches you while you sleep and checks your vitals like HAL from 2001!  Ok.  All well and good…and well-and-creepy, but does it play games?  Are the games any good?  Do they do anything new and worthwhile?  It doesn’t seem to be the case just yet.  They look slightly better from what I can tell.  The question really is do they look good for what they NEED to do?  Sonic the Hedgehog and Double Dragon II still look amazing for what they need to do.  Make it HD and it doesn’t add much more.  Make it 3D and it doesn’t make it better.  Add motion control and it generally gets in the way…  Do they do anything worthwhile and new?  Or is it just “here’s the single player game (with maybe some motion control stuff) and here’s the multiplayer game.”  At this point I’m not sure how much innovation can be put into games, but typically the innovation comes from designers and writers not the hardware.  Get some good, creative ideas and you can make 8-bits look amazing.

I once read a book called The Pentagon Wars by Air Force Colonel James Burton.  In the book he describes the major issue with weapons development in the Pentagon (in the 80s and it’s probably still true) is that weapons manufacturers use military funding to create new technology that was ridiculously overpriced and entirely unnecessary.  The developers and consequently the Pentagon top-brass, made the weapons they wanted to see using the new technology they wanted to play with.  In doing so they totally ignored what the soldiers and pilots wanted and needed.  He discovered pilots mostly dog fight with enemy planes via sight…in response the Pentagon and weapons industry produced a missile that can fire from miles away and missed far more often than it hit.  A troop transport vehicle was requested to carry troops and instead it was outfitted with so much hardware it doesn’t carry enough troops and can’t do anything well, it just does them “good enough.”  While reading about next-gen consoles I thought of this book.  The console manufacturers are spending WAY too much time trying to shoe horn the newest technology into their latest plastic box.  All the cameras, TV-internet connectivity, social media functionality, 3D gimmicks, motion control, and voice activation won’t be worth anything if the newest, fanciest game machine doesn’t have good games or play let you play them easily.  There will be decent games on it, but to me, it won’t be worth what we’ll be paying for all the technology I don’t want or need.

The only way to send a message to the gaming industry would be to NOT buy their latest over-engineered next-gen system or let them know NOW what we really want in a new system.  The economic system is all on its head; it should be what the market desires not what the industry mandates we will have.  I won’t be getting one any time soon after launch.  But I have a feeling the market will buy it.  They’ll buy it, complain about it, and continue to support an industry that cares more about doing what they can do rather than doing what’s needed; and increasing profits via absurd protection methods rather than simply making products their market wants to buy.

I’ll have fun with Mega Man 2 and Streets of Rage 3 in the meantime…

I’d take almost any one of these any day at this point…

Life Lessons Learned from Video Games 1: Found Food is Good For You!

Like most of the American generation born between 1975-1985, I grew up in the golden age of video games.  Starting with an Atari 400, moving to an Atari 800XL, an NES, and finally settling with Sega consoles throughout much of the 90s, I became a “gamer” at an early age and remain one to this day.  Recently elitists and exclusionists have hijacked that term, but to me a “gamer” is still just someone who enjoys playing games.  Any games from the board variety, to the cellphone kind, to the newest console release.  Whether they play once a month or 24/7, whether they’re hardcore MMORPGrs with hundreds of hours logged or they just play the Sims on their PC, it’s the pure enjoyment of playing a game that makes one a gamer.  Not how high they’re ranked, how many accessories you own, or how many noobs you’ve pwned.  At it’s heart, gaming is just entertainment; it’s not life or death.  So to all my generation who live and breathe by their gear, their rankings, or their e-reputations … seriously … it’s just a game. Kick back and have some fun.

During my long gaming history I have learned a lot of lessons, lessons that apply to both the real world and the virtual world.  Real world lessons aren’t always apparent, and the games that teach them can sometimes be surprising.  Virtual lessons are more about the peculiarities of the gaming world, ways you learn to interact with a world of invisible walls and filled with store clerks who never leave their desks and repeat the same two lines over and over for all eternity.

Since this is the first post of this type, I thought I’d keep it light and start with a virtual world lesson:

If You Are Ever Injured, Seek Out Turkeys, Apples, Pizzas, Pork Chops, and Sodas Hidden in your Environment … and EAT Them Instantly!

I know what everyone’s thinking … eating found food doesn’t sound like a good idea but, trust me, I spent a lot of time playing Castlevania, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Streets of Rage 2 & 3, and Final Fight.  Found food will help you immeasurably.  A turkey found in a garbage can you’ve just smashed into a fading, dented version of  itself after breaking heads all over Metro City or a roast uncovered after you’ve whipped some brick walls of a Transylvania castle into rubble will save your life!  This is one of those lessons I’ve always questioned as I’ve played games, but it shows up again and again.  I can’t imagine grabbing food out of the trash or a crumbling castle being good for one’s constitution, but don’t take my word for it; ask Simon, Donatello, or Axel…it’ll bring you back from near death.

Castlevania Meat
There’s the delicious, life-saving food item…found by smashing open the walls of a musty evil castle…
TMNT Food
Ever been near-death beating up weird spider-things and guys with chainsaws in a warehouse? Look around and see if there’s a pizza floating in the air on a blue square! A WHOLE pizza too. Those are the best ones….
Streets of Rage 2 Apple
Taken some hits pummeling street trash through blue back alleys and baseball fields? Luckily there’s an apple hidden in a roadside sign. That’ll give you the boost you need!  Eat the apple, Axel…EAT IT!
Streets of Rage 2 Turkey
And if you’re in REAL trouble knock over the random trashcan and you may discover a fully-cooked turkey dinner complete with platter!

Now, obviously, game programmers and designers probably got a little sick of using medical kits and vague red crosses as health power ups.  It still seems strange that food as a medical restorative was and still is so popular.  In the amazing fantasy world of video games it’s one of those things we just take for granted.  But who says it can’t be applied to real life?  I say we all give  it a try.

So lesson learned.  Next time you feel life slipping away and the world (or a gang of thugs) is beating you down, break open a nearby sign, rock, garbage can, or potted plant and eat the tasty contents revealed.  Instantly.  And watch the profound impact on your health!