Welcome to the New Age: Kicking and Screaming into Current Gen Console Gaming

Toward the end of the PS3 generation I started to become exceedingly disillusioned with the gaming industry.

Games that started as well-paced horror franchises became absurd action shooters, beloved turn-based RPGs became mash-up amalgamations of MMOs and action games, platforming vanished (except the three franchises Nintendo makes every year), and everything became about all the additional content you could buy once you bought the original content.

On PC it was even worse; franchises I grew up with had morphed into poisonous, hateful incarnations of themselves. Diablo 3 came out with no use for weapons (despite the original Diablo having a memorable dev quote “When I pick up an axe I want it to look like an axe”) and that awful real money auction house. Sims 4 and SimCity arrived with forced online and reduced content, not to mention broken states. Not to mention the mess that Steam has become.

So I essentially gave up. I played my NES and Genesis more than any system, reliving the old days when games were just games, not virtual market vectors for publishers to extort money.

Luckily Warhammer and other table top games kept me pretty satisfied, because at least those price vectors give me physical products with palpable advantages.

So when the current gen started I decided not to get a new console and that my days as a modern console gamer were over. I’d been one since the Atari days and I’ve participated in every generation since so it was a momentous decision. I never even considered an Xbox One. Despite their desperate back-pedaling, the fact that Microsoft even considered limiting used games, tried to force always online, and initially forcibly bundled with Kinect made me completely dismiss it as an anti-consumer product. Sony’s new pay wall for some features didn’t make me happy, but everything I normally use still came with the free online so it wasn’t too off-putting. Still nothing was out that I cared about so I wrote off console gaming. Until…

Walking through a local Target with Miss Misty I decided to check their clearance section. There, in a box, with a little red tag…was a PS4. I stopped and actually said, “Is-is that a PS4?” It was and it was 289.90. More than 100 off. It was noted as being “repackaged.” I rolled the dice and took it home.

After setting it up I found someone’s account info was still in there. No funding data, but there were some kid’s gaming install info. “Huh…must’ve been a return…” I thought. Then scrolling through the games, just before factory reset, I saw there was a little disc symbol on the GTA5 icon. I selected the “eject” option and sho-nuff, the GTA5 disc popped out. Even though I’m not a fan of the franchise, a free game in system added to the value of the purchase. Essentially I got a slightly used discount bundle.

Fortress of Games
PS4 with free GTA5 at home with my other systems. The PS3 was moved to my gaming room so I could have a Bluray/Netflix player in there too.

I’ll talk about some games in the next post for now here are some late-to-the-gaming thoughts on the system itself:

  • Aesthetics/System Functions: It looks nice. It looks more solid and dense than the PS3, though the front buttons are a pain to get to. Also the constant glow is a little much especially for creatures of the night like me. It isn’t loud and doesn’t get as hot as I thought it would.
  • User Interface: The PS Vita style UI is much more effective than the old XMB. So much so that when I turn on my PS3 and navigate it I realize how clunky that interface is. I like the sorting of icons, and applications, and find it far easier to use. Also the PS Vita style continuation function, where my videos will pick up where I left off, my games will pick up where I left off, etc., even when changing applications or putting the system in rest mode is glorious.
  • Controller: Yes it has that weird touch pad button that I haven’t found a use for yet, but the controller actually feels better than the old PS3 version. One thing I don’t like about it is there is no turn off for that LED which means it’s always glowing all the time. I do like that the PS button is the only one that can turn it off and on…I can’t tell you how many times I kicked the PS3 controller only to have the system start up by accident and have to wait for the system to load just to turn it off. The battery life is pretty good and the first time it made sound during Shadows of Mordor scared the s**t out of me. I could use a media remote tho, as I still use the system for videos more than games.
  • Network: The network took a LONG time to set up. Not the actual process of me setting it up, pretty standard actually, but it was about 24 hours before the system recognized my network and gave me internet access. So much so that I thought it was why the system was returned. Once it was set up the network has actually been more reliable than the PS3 one (though that might be my aging PS3) and navigating the network options and network applications is much better thanks to the UI mentioned above. The PS Store STILL needs work. It takes a while to load and the lists of games on there are organized in such a way I still can’t find stuff I know is there. The PS Vita store is much more user-friendly.
  • PS Plus: I never even considered this as a feature. I don’t like paying for intangibles and this always seemed like a Book-a-Million discount card or Gamestop Rewards card: pay us money for a bonus or discount. If you DO happen to own a PS3, PS Vita, and PS4 you really do get your money’s worth. Two games for free every month each system. Even though they usually aren’t MAJOR titles (depending on your definition thereof anyway…) there are a TON of great games that show up for free. What talked me into PS+ was when I first went into the store Oddworld New and Tasty was free so…sold…

Next week I’ll do a short list of the games I’ve played. I came in at just the right time where a lot of good launch titles are now discounted and the generation is hitting its stride in terms of software support.

Sources of Inspiration: Jim Sterling


There are more online pundits and reviewers than we need.  It is rare however to find a reviewer or pundit who actually has something to say.  And even rarer to find one to whom I’d donate money in support.

I started watching videos put up by online magazine The Escapist because of Zero Punctuation aka Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw.  His show is a pithy, quick, and hilarious take on specific video games and their quirks.  But I admit I stayed to watch Jim Sterling’s Jimquisition shows.


Jim’s commentary on video games, video game companies, and their trends is marvelous and, even if you don’t always agree, is always thought provoking.

Jim has had an interesting and transitional career.  From Destructoid to Escapist he has made numerous comments that have “enraged” (I put that in quotes because this is video games we’re talking about here…) game fans.  From being hated for the ultimate sin of “not liking” a Final Fantasy game (I agree though…Final Fantasy is an empty shell compared to the days when it’s games’ technological advancement could be categorized in terms of “bits”) to having the gall to say that female game critics, writers, and producers shouldn’t be threatened with violence and rape.

I’m actually not really interested in his controversy…  Mostly because I don’t find him to be that controversial.  He says what he believes.  One can agree or disagree (I don’t always agree but I find I agree the vast majority of the time) but he never says anything purely out of hate or shock value.  If a game is shit he says it’s shit and faces the backlash like a champ.  See The Slaughtering Grounds incident for an example of that.  If a practice of the industry or its fans is tasteless or predatory he says he thinks it is just that.  In fact I started watching his videos because he voiced exactly my problems with the way games are conceived and produced now.  And why I rarely play a “so-called AAA game,” to use his phrasing, nowadays.

I truly appreciate is his writing, production, and character construction.  The narratives in his videos are often fast, full of information, and loaded with complex ideas, but his presentations are always not only clear (you know EXACTLY his points from the outset) but often very clever, very witty, and biting in their arguments.   It’s that kind of methodology that is inspiring to other creative people, or at least to me as a creative person.  You can always count on Jim, not only to give you his opinion on all kinds of practices but to do so in a way that is so memorable you’ll go back to them repeatedly (I know I’ve queued his vids up to hear why Ubisoft is idiotic, free-to-play is a misnomer, and pre-order culture is poison).

His series with Yahtzee were also fun.  Last year’s rhymedown spectacular and the Uncivil Wars series which Jim won earlier this year provided another look at both his and Yahtzee’s personas outside of the review realm.

His newer material, since he’s gone rogue and become fan-funded through Patreon is even better.  Freed from even the loose shackles of another company he has been able to write more reviews and even start an absolutely terrific podcast series that is one of the best since The Ricky Gervais Show.


The fact that he owns a chainsword gives him extra points…

If you are a video game fan, specifically a fan who feels the industry has gone the way of film production in its heartless and cold monetization of all aspects of gaming and its focus on useless tech over art design and storytelling, put on a Jimquisition playlist and you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement or raising your finger and saying “but…”  Either way he’s provoking a response and maybe cranking your brain out of idle for 6-12 minutes.  It’s worth it.  Because he’s Jim F’n Sterling Son.  And thank god for him.

Jim Sterling Cartoon
The Author’s Rendition of Jim on a rant.


Jimquisition website

Off the Top of My Head: Media Realism and Doom

Off The Top of My Head

There has been an odd move in video media to make things more “realistic.”  I’m not sure where this trend originated but having grown up in the 80s and 90s I find it more than a little troubling.  I have spotted a few trends that cross various kinds of media but I’ll use some specific examples to try and make the broad points.  There will be a few of these but I’ll start with one that’s been nagging me the most.  Realism in First Person Shooters.

DOOM.  Yes.  When I think 1st person shooters I still think of Doom.  In Doom you could about 8 weapons, you moved like you were wearing roller skates on a conveyor belt, and the rocket launcher fired out of the middle of your character’s chest.  But while playing Doom I don’t recall ever thinking, “You know what this game needs?  More realism.”  If I played Doom II and I could only carry a shotgun and a plasma rifle I’d be pretty pissed…  Likewise, to heal yourself all you have to do is run over various sizes of health power ups.  I’m not sure how much the game would have been improved by making me stop and actually treat my wounds realistically.

Yep firing a rocket out of the middle of my chest. What?

Fast forward to the modern FPS.  You are usually restricted to carrying a limited number of weapons, running makes the camera (and I use the word CAMERA) bob around like mad and healing somehow takes place just by hiding and not taking damage for a while.  It’s like people forgot how to video game…  All of this was done in the name of realism. Without getting into the fact that for some reason hiding behind a building and breathing until you regain color to the screen is a more realistic way of healing gunshot wounds than running over health packs, why did the industry feel this was necessary?  How does limiting the number of weapons I can carry improve the gaming experience?  How does making the movement look more like “actual” movement help the game play?  I never thought the movement in Doom, or even Wolfenstein, felt bad.  It felt like a video game and since that’s what I was playing it was a-ok.

The addition of seeing a characters hands filling part of the screen has greatly improved my gaming experience. Having NPCs do all the work helps too.

Even stranger is the idea that you can make something like this realistic, but not too realistic as that would be crazy.  How about one-hit kills?  I don’t know too many guys who can take a half dozen gunhits before crouching behind a wall and shaking it off.  How about completely limited ammo?  You have your primary weapon and a couple reloads.  Your secondary weapon and a couple of reloads.  You can’t interchange ammo and when you run out you’re SOL unless a realistic supply depot is nearby.  Or powder burns.  Or misfires.  We don’t see our characters eat very often.  Or go to the bathroom.  (unless it’s the Sims) but no one is clamoring for those additions.  Of course no one really clamored for the others either.

To me an FPS is essentially watching a wheeled humanoid, nearly impervious to wounds, with a Go-Pro on its head and a weapon for its right arm navigate an environment, shoot the other humanoids and make them dead.  There’s no adding realism to that really…  Or if realism MUST be added it shouldn’t be done so at the cost of fun.  I can’t remember having fun with an FPS made after 2006.  Of course the new generation of Modern Military Shooter fans will rend their garments and tell me why Call of Duty is far superior to Quake; and just looking at the shiny their case looks sound.  But when it comes to fun there’s no competition.  Give me the brown castles and 2D sprite enemies of Quake any day…  At least its level of “realism” makes sense!

AVGN the Movie: The Film Event of Our Generation

No. That was not hyperbole.

James Rolfe, aka, the Angry Video Game Nerd, encompasses two of the biggest influences of my generation of 20-30 somethings: video games and the internet. (with hip-hop culture rounding out the triumvirate of my generation’s biggest cultural influences).  And for the last eight years, he and his friend and writing partner Kevin Finn have been working on a full-length feature film for Rolfe’s online persona and, yes, I truly believe it to be the movie event of my generation.

Don’t believe me? Here is a short list of the reasons why!

  • Video Games & Gaming Culture: Video games have, since the beginning, had many myths and legends associated with them. The movie discusses all the little secrets that used to appear in Atari games (initials and easter eggs), but even later games like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Tomb Raider, and Killer Instinct all had their own lore associated with them . These little mysteries entered into gaming culture so much that secrets in games are commonplace and expected now. Myths about how games are created and their back stories are just as compelling; from how Pac-Man got his name (anyone believe Scott Pilgrim’s explanation?) how Rock-Man became Mega-Man, we just eat these legends up. The AVGN movie explores a real game legend with a fantastical explanation. It’s the kind of stuff the internet would run with in this day and age! And on that topic…
  • Internet & YouTube Culture: The only cultural aspect that has impacted my generation more than video gaming would be the internet. People make their entire careers as internet personalities (James Rolfe being one of the best and most successful) and legions of fans follow them, often doing just what they are begged not to do. The Angry Video Game Nerd even points out in “Nintendo Classics Re-Revisited” that people bought and played Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after he expressly told them not to. The whole premise of the film is that negative press from the right personality can bring positive results. Both from a slightly sleazy game publisher and from an altruistic scientist. It’s an interesting parallel and sums up how the internet community can have profound impact on course of popular culture.
  • The Movies of Our Youth: For those in my generation, the happy-go-lucky 20-30 somethings out there, we grew up with cheesy horror movies, giant monster movies, goofy cartoons, and practical effects (guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, blue screen effects, etc.) James Rolfe is a filmmaker first and he makes movies the way he likes them. With…guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, and blue screen effects… I think even if he’d managed to raise 10 million dollars we’d still see a model van explode in a spark-filled firecracker explosion and not a real van flip and burn before bursting into a gasoline bomb. Death Mwauthzyx would always be a home-made suit…never a CGI model. It’s just like the movies and afternoon cartoons we all grew up with; summed up in one brilliant two hour spectacle.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the plot or characters. I won’t spoil it and it’s actually got too much going on to sum up in a few sentences. But suffice it to say I think James Rolfe captured the entire culture of 25-35 year olds in a compelling and incredibly hilarious movie, made with love and affection for that culture AND love and affection for his fans. Furthermore it still feels like an AVGN episode. Yes it’s bigger, more characters, expanded world…but it is still his world and has his tone.

James Rolfe has declared a sequel isn’t likely. While I’d love to see another expanded look at the AVGN’s life I can see why and I’m looking forward to seeing what other, new creative ideas he has. Until then I know I’ll enjoy revisiting all things AVGN for a while to come. It truly takes me back to the past and exemplifies what’s great (and delightfully bad) about the cultural impacts of my generation in the best way possible.

Cinemassacre website

Buy the movie!

Life Lessons from Video Games: Every Day Video Game Influences


Video gaming has affected modern culture in strange ways. Many of the more recent ways spring from online/multiplayer culture, but surprisingly the games I grew up with, the ones from the 80s and 90s, have had a lingering effect. Things I do day-to-day still show the touch of the 8-32 bit era and just recently I thought to document the weird game references I do in everyday life and here are just the top ones…I’m sure everyone does something like this…

5.) Korobeiniki: I’ve found this to be more common than I realized. As someone with an advanced degree in OCDs and organization I’ve found that organizing anything, desk drawers, folders, shelves, U-Hauls, is always accompanied by this song playing in my head, and occasionally I hum it aloud. I never even played much Tetris because of how messing up lines made my OCDs want to eat my brain but I attached this song indelibly to putting things in order, in nice right angles, NEAT UND TIDY!

4.) Null sweat, chummer: Yes, yes I know Shadowrun was a pen-and-paper RPG before it was ported to the Sega Genesis and turned into an action/adventure masterpiece in 16-bit glory…but I never knew that in the 90s. I knew Shadowrun as a cool used cartridge I got with a very interesting futuristic landscape and creative lingo. Every now and then instead of the usual “No problem,” “sure,” or “My pleasure,” “Null Sweat, Chummer” pops out, much to the bewilderment (usually) of the person receiving this statement. I think if I ever say this to a girl and she responds “Keep running in the shadows” I’ll probably propose…

You say sure thing…he says “Null Sweat, Chummer”

3.) At Doom’s Gate: I spent more time running down the hallways of Doom than I spent in school I think. It’s a rare game I could put on godmode and not get bored. Thirty days in a row… To this day moving swiftly down hallways, corridors, or even through crowded mall makes this music pop into my head. Given how much time I spent blasting hellspawn in that game I wonder if I should fear for the crowd…

2.) Test Your Might/Flawless Victory/Fatality: Mortal Kombat…it briefly held our attention by being more cartoonishly bloody than contemporary games. Even beyond that it started its own mythos…you could find secret characters, see secret things, and half the rumors about it weren’t true. The fighting parlance of the game though far out-lasted the novelty of ripping people’s spinal columns out. I use the above three phrases a LOT in day-to-day life. “Test you Might,” any time I have anything to do really (not just breaking big blocks of steel, rubies, or diamonds). “Flawless Victory” is usually reserved for a better-than-expected result, with “Fatality” brought in when that result ended in total ownage.

1.) HADOUKEN: I use this ALL the time. It’s sad. I use it when I throw clothes across the room. I use it when I toss my phone on the desk. I use it when I drop a dish in the sink. I have no idea why but anything leaving my hand at any moment and any speed equals HADOUKEN to me. It’s probably from the ridiculous spamming of that move that came with playing any version of Street Fighter II… If I ever do figure out how to throw a fireball (I’ve tried moving down, then slightly down forward, then forward and yelling it…it didn’t work) the world would be in big trouble (see my comments on crowds in the “Doom Music” section above….).


Artist Spotlight: Ike Petro

This month we’re spotlighting a young man who I have known his whole life 🙂 He’s a talented 15-year-old who is truly passionate about video games. Not only does he play them, he creates them! Ike has played video games since he was three years old and beat his first game at four. Thanks to Ike for being this month’s artist spotlight!

Be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel at Ike Petro.

1. What are your favorite things about video games?  The fun I usually have (emphasis on usually) and the challenge. I almost always have fun when I’m playing games, and challenge in the games keeps them from getting stale. I mean, who would want to beat a game without trying?

2. What inspires you to create new stories and games?  Nothing in particular, really. I just have a very creative mind. My friends sometimes make me think about something, but that’s about it.

3. What are your goals when creating games?  I don’t have much experience yet, just my RPG Maker DX. It’s hard to figure out where to set up grinds and side-quests. My main goal is to learn more and more from this software to eventually create a full-fledged game, complete with challenging bosses, creative stages, and great characters. I haven’t done it in a while, mainly playing games with friends in the meantime.

4. What are your favorite games and why?  My favorite game of all time is Dragon Quest 8 — Journey of the Cursed King. I love turn-based RPGs and always will. This game is challenging, has a great world to explore, has great side-quests (Love the Monster Arena personally).

5. Why do you want to be a game designer/programmer?  People always say do what you love, and if you don’t play video games, where does that lead you? Possibly to some random job down the street you don’t enjoy doing. I’ve loved video games all of my life (People, I started when I was 3), and I’ve loved them ever since. So, I’m sticking with what I love to do, and that’s fact.

6. What makes a good video game?  People have very different opinions about this. I think what makes a good game is if you enjoy it. Sure, it might not be the best, but if you like it, don’t let anyone make you think differently. I personally like some challenge (aka, not a ball-busting game or Kirby’s Epic Yarn, for the matter), has an ok at least story(i don’t care that much anyways bout the story, it just helps), and it has to be fun.


7. What makes a bad video game?  Where to start? Start with the opposite of what I said previously — not fun, too easy [Kirby’s Epic Yarn (cough)] or too hard. Story, as I said, I don’t care much for, but it’s ok with me. A lot of people hate bad voice actors or bad writing. It can be annoying, but I don’t think that aspect itself makes or breaks a game. It doesn’t change how the game itself plays at all; that’s why I have no problem with it. Now, the main reason … bad gameplay. If this is bad, the game is BAD. There’s nothing changing this, not a great story, scenery, etc. If you screw up on this part, it isn’t going to be good. Who likes a game you can’t play? While glitches are usually a problem, I mostly laugh at them. If they screw up a quest or objective, yeah, then that’s bad (looking at you Skyrim).