Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Wannabe Collector Too

I am a lucky gamer.

I once asked my significant other if when I brought home random gaming stuffs or bought them off the internet if he thought "Oh great, another box of useless shit". He thought about it for a minute and said, "I guess that's true, but, no, I don't think that" :)

So, as you can imagine, I've been buying lots of useless shit lately. And what I once read on the internet is true: you have to watch out about becoming a collector because all too soon it becomes an obsession. Obsession? No, no, no. That'll never be me. I thought as I checked the pseudo-Craigslist every hour. (I live way out in the boonies, so we don't have real Craigslist. It's just some stupid website run by some locals who feel the need to shut down their site every freaking Sunday!)

Oh, NES, someday you'll be mine again.
What's maybe a little sad is that this obse . . . um, 'hobby' has come to the point where I've started collecting games for systems I hope to own someday. You know, when I find it at the right price at the right time and place. (Please remember that I live out in the middle of nowhere without flea markets, so I'm left with online and thrift stores.) Hell, if it's cheap enough, I don't mind the games sitting on my game shelf. Not like I really play the games I do have the system for :(

Sometimes I think, Well, this is certainly a waste of money, but I rationalize it to myself by saying that I don't spend money on manicures/pedicures, I don't go to a salon to get my hair cut and I don't buy clothes to keep up with the latest fashion trends (though with my subscriptions to Vogue, Elle and Runway, you'd think otherwise) . . . you know, stereotypical 'girly' stuff, so I think it's okay to spend a few bucks here and there on video games. (Longest sentence ever!)

I certainly wouldn't want to encourage or discourage anyone from collecting games, but here are a few things I've learned over my transition into a collector:
  1. Unless money isn't a concern, be aware that getting the more coveted games are going to cost you. If you don't happen upon a random copy of Earthbound for the SNES from someone who has no idea what they have, you'd better be prepared to spend $100+ to get it. Sorry, I don't see it's value dropping any time soon (or ever).
  2. Know what you're jumping into before shelling out the shells (however few) for something. Find a few websites (always good to have multiple sources) that you can check up on for price checks. (I like Rarity Guide and Price Charting , but don't be afraid to find others.)
  3. And these are just my recent PS1 purchases.
  4. Don't just take things at face value. Just because some guy on a website says he has a PS1 controller for sale and you agree upon a price shouldn't stop you from looking it over once you have it in your hands and depressing all the buttons, plugging it in, etc. I always look any game over before buying. And I'm not just talking about CDs, I check the boards on cartridge games too. Sure you can't exactly tell if there's something wrong, but if it's insanely dirty or has a gouge in it, it may be better to avoid (not to mention this, in particular, can tell you if a GBA cart is pirated).

I'm no expert; I know I still have a lot to learn about as far as collecting goes, but I thought it might be nice for other beginners out there to hear about collecting from someone who's a beginner herself. Someday I'll have a collection worthy of its own game room video, but for now, my games and systems will have to be content taking up a little bit of shelf space in my closet. And I don't mind it one bit, it's a sort of personal haven for me.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Interview with a Vampire (and Other Scary Things) Flee-er

The past week or two, I spent a fair amount of hours with an indie game by by Dreampainters called Anna. Being 'in the industry', I was privy to a review copy of it. I was really impressed with the graphics and mysterious story, and of course adventure games always catch my eye. But I passed on reviewing it cause I'm such a weenie when it comes to horror games (though I did offer to do the walkthrough). So if you hate scary games, why did you play through it (more than once, I heard)? What kept you going? Well, let's discuss that, shall we?

Random scary event. Fun.
Right off the bat, I got that freaky feeling, just because Anna's in first person (Really? Yes, really. That's why I don't play first person shooters). After about 30-40 minutes of play, I hadn't run into any sort of jump scare (where ghosts and goblins and the like jump out from behind the bushes just to catch you off guard). I find jump scares a poor tactic on a game developer's part as it relies much less on atmosphere and other aspects to just go for ye olde 'boo'. Their absence helped me push through the game.

So other than your odd idiosyncrasy with camera views, what did you find scary? Hmm, I think Dreampainters did a fabulous job with atmosphere. While interesting to look at, all the details in the virtual world couldn't help the fact that you're alone. So you never see anyone in the game? Well . . . not as such. An essential coupling in a scary game is not only the world you create, but also how completely you do so. Nevermind the stack of books you painstakingly created titles for or the fact that your attention to detail ensured that the kitchen had a full compliment of appliances and not just a sink. I'm talking about entertaining as many of the senses that a computer game can: not just visually, but aurally as well.

This game makes even plants look scary.
Umm, orally? I know you're not afraid of adult topics, but come on. No, no, no. Aurally. As in hearing, the ears, sounds. Oh, right. Don't mind me, I'm not thinking anything dirty. Going back to my example before, it's not enough to have made a realistic setting. Who cares that you bothered to put a dishwasher in your haunted kitchen? Now if it starts to run periodically when you're not looking . . . that's freaky. Wind howling outside through thin-paned windows? I'm shivering. Random tin cans flying through the air at you? Well, at that point I just turn the sound off. You get my point? Huh? What? Oh, yeah, yeah whatever. I was just sitting here googling "oral games". Interesting results . . . It appears I'm beginning to lose your interest, so I'll just tack on a quick conclusion paragraph below and let you get back to your internet 'fun' . . .

Ahem, as I was saying. Anna=pretty cool game. Read JohnB's full review of it here. Then purchase and download the game and use my walkthrough if needed. I got a lot of help from Cinnamon Toast Ken, whose youtube videos are entertaining, so watch them, like, subscribe or follow him on the Twit-thing. Oh, and me too. Last self-promotion: my stuff on Jay is Games and The Punk Effect (new stuff is coming soon, I promise). Check it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kyh's Finds

As I continue this journey deeper and deeper into retro gaming, I've become more intrigued by game collecting. Sure, it's easy enough to find most stuff on the internet (I certainly do more than my share of trolling through Ebay), but by searching through physical bins in places near you, that's when it becomes really exciting. Before I continue, I have to give most of the credit for my new obsession to The Game Chasers. They do not currently have their own website, but you can find their stuff on RetrowareTV and Blip. They tote themselves as American Pickers for video games. It's great stuff.

I hope to make this a regular column as I find more and more cool stuff. Unfortunately, I live in a tiny community and the nearest town with a Gamestop has no independent video game stores. Thus, I'm forced to resort to the many thrift stores in the area. It's not so bad, just very hit or miss. All of my finds today come from Goodwill.

Sigh. How I love to beat up the pedestrians.
A couple of months ago, I went into my local Goodwill (which happens to be by my dentist) and saw a PS2 behind the counter. I was mesmerized and knew I wanted it. When I asked the price, the lady told me $45. I didn't have the money, so I passed on it (it ended up selling several weeks later, though I did get one more chance to drool over it). It was the set of Xbox games, though that really got my attention. I knew these would be more in my price range.

Among the small stack of mostly sports games, one particular title caught my eye. Grand Theft Auto III. On the Xbox was where I learned to love this series (Vice City, I believe), so right away I wanted it. When I asked the lady how much, she said $2.99. Hey, three bucks ain't too bad. The manual and map are in excellent shape and the disc only had a few tiny scratches. So I bought it. Quite a pleasing game chasing experience.

Aww, childhood memories . . .
Fast forward to a week or two ago, and I'm in the same Goodwill, hoping for another satisfying find. I knew they didn't have anything in their case (this time I did have the cash for a PS2), so I just wandered around their basic electronics section. I'm just hoping for maybe an accessory or extra controller, but lo and behold, I find a PSOne underneath an adding machine. I couldn't believe myself, this was one of the systems I had growing up (well, the earlier version, at least)! I didn't see any of the cables, but I did find the instruction manual and a third party controller. $4.99 for the system, $2.99 for the controller. Not bad, I'll take them.

In my excitement and eagerness to find those dang cables, I continue scouring the shelves. Double jackpot! I found a lone Sega Genesis under some more junk! I couldn't believe that I'd found these systems on the same day in the same store. Sure, they're relatively common consoles, but if you only knew the isolation I live in, you'd understand. $4.99 for this system as well, why not.

Completely new territory for me.
I looked over each system carefully to make sure I wasn't just dumping my money into total crap. The latch for the PS door stuck a little, but nothing too bad, and the laser crystal looked pretty clean. Especially considering the gunk on the rest of it. Nothing a little rubbing alcohol couldn't fix. The Genesis looked to be in even better shape (perhaps surprising considering how much older it is than the PS). I opened the dust cover and it looked clean in there. Clean enough to play an old cartridge, at least.

I took my treasure up to the counter to pay. There were a few people ahead of me, so I glanced behind the glass as usual. Hey! That looks like a Playstation A/V cable! Sure enough, it was. The guy let me have it, and in my excitement, I forgot to ask if I could get some kind of discount for buying both systems. Ah well, $13 for all that isn't bad at all. Another pleasing game chasing time.

A few days later, I did go back to Goodwill to see if I could find the other cables I needed for the consoles but didn't see them. I'm pleading with you readers, if you know where I can find them for cheap (or perhaps, have them laying around your house), please let me know! I know where I can get PS A/V cables $1 apiece . . .

I'd love to hear about your own game chasing experience, if you'd like to share in the comments below.

P.S. - I got the gig at The Punk Effect. Look out for my articles there. Or if you follow me on Twitter, I'll tweet when they go up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Case Against Gamerism

Sad to say, not only does the world at large continue to have prejudices, but so does the gaming world. I can't say that I haven't been guilty of it myself, and I'm certainly not trying to start any type of movement, but I thought I'd just discuss my feelings about what I call 'gamerism', or the disdain that 'hardcore' gamers may have for 'casual' gamers (admittedly, it goes the other way too).

'Casual gamer' means something different now than it did ten years ago. Back then, a casual gamer was just what the individual words mean: it's a gamer who plays occasionally and is not always up to date on gaming news. Nowadays with mobile and online gaming and consoles like the Wii and DS being marketed toward a family friendly gaming experience, there are a lot more opportunities to be a casual gamer, so there are more of them out there (myself included, in case I haven't mentioned my freelance writing job at JayisGames.com enough).

A 'hardcore gamer', on the other hand, is someone whose gaming is much more prominent in their day-to-day life. It has little to do with what genres they prefer (the same is true with a casual gamer) and more to do with . . . how they game, I suppose is an appropriate way of saying it.

As the title of this blog suggests, I am against this type of discrimination and don't understand the feelings behind it. Do hardcore gamers feel their images are threatened when casual gamers call themselves 'gamers'? Maybe despite the prejudices between gamers and non-gamers, hardcore gamers like the separation and don't want their way of life to enter mainstream society in any way.

Can't we all just be Friends?
Hmm . . . I think that last statement is where my theory stands. At least to me, casual gamers are a step between non-gamers and hardcore gamers. They still enjoy the entertainment proved by the electronic device of their choice without feeling like they need to spend much more of their free time gaming. Can't we all just share in the joy video games bring us? Can't we all just accept one another however many hours we devote to our common hobby? Can't we all just get . . . No, I'll just stop right there . . .

Please, if you're a hardcore gamer reading this, reach out to your casual brethren and accept them. I'm not expecting you to do so with open arms, just maybe a friendly wave. If not that, then at least keep your feelings to yourself from time to time. I'd be happy if I never heard a hardcore gamer look the other way at a casual game just because it's a casual game. Yeah, that's right, I'm scoffing at you! Psh!

[Disclaimer: Just my opinions, duh. I know I could've dug deeper into the issue and I didn't even try to define a 'gamer' in the first place, but I hate overly long blogs. So there ya go.]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ideas, Ideas Everywhere . . .

As I delve deeper into my creative wants and needs, I have a strong desire to give more than just my words. I have dreams of videos and podcasts and the like. If I ever moved to the San Francisco area (a future possibility), I would certainly try jumping into the video game journalism niche. Ooh, please, someone, send me to a convention! (cheapass)

My claw-like hand at ready.
I visit far too many video game-related websites and spend far too much time on them, but one good thing that comes of it is I am more aware of contribution opportunities. Right now I know of a website, The Punk Effect, that is looking for both writing and video contributors. There's no word as to whether or not it's paid, but really, for me it's just exciting to think I could be a contributor to a website I enjoy so much (much like for my current freelance job).

I think that having discovered just how much joy I get from my hobby/obsession, I want so badly to put all my creative juices into it. I even have ideas for video game-related crafts! Sadly, the issue is with time. I happen to have a 'real' job, a 'fake' freelance writing job, a husband, a kid, two cats, a dog, etc. aka 'a life'. I'm not saying that people who are able to put the efforts into their hobbies don't have a life, just that I understand that they're more dedicated than perhaps I. But I'm determined to change!

Perhaps one of the biggest problems I face is the simple fact that many of my ideas are too big for myself. In that I mean that what I would like to do would require too much time to put together (effects, desire of quality and whatnot). So much so that it just ends up scaring me away from it. 'Oh, I don't want to start that project cause I know I only have half an hour to work right now. I'll start it later when I have more time.'

Where the magic happens.
I have this weird belief that if I tell someone about what I'm going to do, then I'll actually get it done. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked in the past (I've given up training for a marathon, though I continue to run) and it's hardly pushing me now (I actually have a person lined up and ready to do music for me). Perhaps this post will help me along my desired path. I'll deal with my overly big ideas, and how about you help me with the encouragement? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or in a private message or however. I know it even if you don't say anything. After all, Blogger tells me every time you visit >:)

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Too-Much-of-the-Same-Thing Towers

Hey, my first review! Huzzah! . . . ?

I recently played through Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for GameBoy Advance, which I had picked up on Ebay for $3.03 with free shipping. Not taking into account the whole Naruto debacle, this was my first GBA game.

It's your basic action RPG with a character you move around and enemies to chase down and hack. Each enemy gives you some experience and leveling up allows you to put more points into both your stats and skills. I do not have the manual for this game, so I can only guess that you can also earn skill points from killing a certain amount of enemies (at least that's the only thing I could guess since it otherwise seemed at random that I had more points to distribute).

While it has admittedly been a few years since I've seen the movie, the game seemed to follow the storyline really well, hitting all the key locations and even including a few screenshots and clips from the movie in all its pixelated glory!

Ahhh, Ebay . . .
At the beginning you can choose which of the five main characters you'd like to play as: Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Frodo or Eowyn. Each has different skill trees, different weapons they can wield and different artifacts they can discover. Probably the main change between the characters is in the locations you progress through throughout the game. As I stated before, it follows the storyline from the movie. This is the biggest aspect going for the game as far as replay value is concerned. It's interesting to cross paths of the character you had previously played through as and seeing how far along you are in your story now as compared to then.

I'll skip going into detail about the colorful graphics or well-suited music to keep this article a reasonable length, and dive right into what I didn't like. If you can't tell from the title of this article, as much fun as it may seem to play through again as a different character, I found the game much too repetitive to bother to do so. Maybe in a couple of months after I've had enough time away from it, I can come back and try it again, but without enough newness to the experience, I'm too bored with it.

Here are some suggestions I have for improvements that could have been made:
1) More puzzles! Sure, every now and then you came across an area where you had to pull a lever to get into a new area or figure out that a certain monster had to be killed, but it certainly wasn't enough to keep my brain engaged beyond the hack 'n' slash.
2) More healing stuffs! Each character starts with a healing spell, and consumables randomly appear to help out with that, but I often found myself standing around waiting for my energy to regenerate so I could cast the heal spell a few times before moving onto the next area. In conjunction with this, I usually ended up putting more points into the heal ability rather than cool fighting moves because of my disinterest in standing around waiting.
What kind of map is this?!
3) A map screen! When standing still for a while, often an arrow will appear to let you know what direction to go toward the exit of the level. While this may be good enough for most gamers, for those more OCD-inclined as to searching every inch to find every last treasure chest, it irks me not to know where I haven't been yet. And the map from the main menu doesn't count!

Overall, I really do think this is a good game and a great experience for fans of the movie (I'd like to say "book" as well, but I've only read Fellowship of the Ring, so can't speak as to that). I realize that many of my complaints are a bit nitpicky and may have to do more with the type of gamer I am than with the game itself. To sum up: good graphics and music, fun to play as characters you know and love, intuitive gameplay and controls. I say, if you come across it at a good price, go for it!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Cost of Doing Pleasure

The more I get into video games, the more I realize how cheap I am (okay, I've always realized this, it's just becoming more prevalent). It is an expensive hobby to have what with the consoles (you can't have just one), games, accessories, memberships, DLC (downloadable content), etc. Honestly, this is how I first got into casual gaming. Why buy games when there are hours of entertainment available for free on the internet? No, I'm not talking about porn. Sure this side-hobby landed me a great and convenient freelance writing job at JayisGames.com (my latest work can be seen here), but it hasn't tempered my desire for 'real' video games.

Literally all the coins out of my wallet.
My main solution to the problem is to just not buy video games. This pretty much sucks as I then feel left in the dust and have to do a lot of internet research and watch gameplay clips to make up for this. It doesn't help because watching someone play something is not nearly as much fun as doing it yourself. If someone says they don't mind watching you while you play, either they don't actually like video games or they're lying to you and indeed do want to participate.

The other solution that I've tended to follow is to lag behind the times. By this I mean to wait awhile (usually 1-2 years) before buying a game so you can get it for a lot cheaper than when it's a new release. I did this with my copy of Diablo II. I got the Battle Chest for $25 on Ebay, about two years after the release. Now, I did get to play this game closer to when it was brand new thanks to my brother borrowing it from a friend, but, of course, I had to own it cause it's just awesome. I plan on doing this same method for Rock Band 3, which on Amazon I'm finding is dropping slowly toward $45, about 1/3 the original cost. It's currently 1 1/2 years old and I've never actually played it (I don't think), but considering how many hours I've put into the first one, I know I'll love this as well. This method suffers from the same issues as the first one, except you eventually get to own the game.

Ooh, I can't wait!
The final solution is the one I hate the most. It's what I like to call 'Just Suck It Up'. This means just buying the game full price right when it's released. It makes me cringe and I hate it, but some games you just have to have. The last game I did this to was Green Day Rock Band since my husband's such a big fan of theirs. And the next game I may buy at release is Diablo III, but I'm still debating it. I'm not saying this way isn't worth the money you spend, it just makes the miser in me holler in pain.

I'm in no way trying to state that I do things the right way nor do I regret indulging my video gaming need the way I have when I have. I just wanted to lay out the way I see this hobby with my frugal eyes. I say your best bet may be to just have friends who enjoy video games as much as you and are generous enough to gift them to you for your birthday. I mean, why else do you have them? Your World of Warcraft guild doesn't count unless they send you real life gifts, then that's cool.

(Systems I own that I paid for: Xbox 360, SNES)
(Systems I own that I didn't pay for: DS, Wii, GameCube, Xbox)
(System I'm currently on the hunt for: PS2)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Game is Rated Aarrrgh!

Piracy. It's often brought up in relation to music and movies. And especially nowadays it's almost all digital piracy (my husband did unknowingly buy a pirated DVD set of GTO). What I never thought would have existed was pirated game cartridges. That's right, I'm talking about people out there selling fake copies of licensed games, specifically, for the GameBoy Advance. What I'm not talking about are unlicensed games for a system as was common in the NES days (this being games that were developed, released and sold as their own work, but not licensed by Nintendo to be sold for the system).

This almost fooled me.
This is a game I purchased recently from Ebay (the image is what the seller uploaded). Why Naruto Ninja Council? Well, while I'm not familiar with the series, I am a manga/anime fan, so I thought I'd give it a try.

This has most of the elements that are part of a real GameBoy Advance game:  the title, ESRB Rating, the Nintendo seal of quality, the developer's logo and the serial code. At a cursory glance (which is all it got from me when I placed the bid) it seems legitimate. So what is it missing? Well, all GBA games also have a Licensed by Nintendo logo on it. Sure this seems like a lot of information to require on such a small cartridge (about 2"x1"), but as I see it, this just makes it easier for us to point out the fakes!

The real deal.

Here we have a picture (again taken from Ebay) of the actual cartridge. As you can see, it looks different! Whereas the real cartridge has a fire background, the forger used a picture of the main character, Naruto, perhaps in an attempt to make it seem legitimate. Of course, the actual cartridge has the Licensed by Nintendo logo, but do you notice something else? The serial code! While AGB (the code for the system) and USA (the code for the region) are always the same, the four letters in the middle will differ from game to game. Though if you're a forger, I suppose it's easier to just bang your fist on the keyboard and go for something random.

Alright, well if I haven't yet bored you to death with details on the fake game I bought (and then returned) from Ebay, maybe you'd like to hear about the actual game. I did play it for about 10 minutes. I had already determined it was fake, but was curious to see if it actually worked. Well, it did. Admittedly, this was to be my first GBA game, so I'm not up to speed as to the system's game standard, but it seemed like an okay action platformer (run around, defeat enemies). I probably won't try to buy it again, but I also wouldn't be against owning it for reals.

Overall, I'd say this was an interesting and educational experience! That is, for a game geek like me who cares about this stuff . . . Who knows, maybe someone out there reading this will discover a pirated gem on their game shelf.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Blog?

I enjoy writing, really I do, so why do I have such a hard time blogging?  Well, I think I just haven't tried the right subject matter.  I need something that I enjoy very much, work at constantly and that will allow me to expand my venues of creativity.  That's why I've chosen video games.

Nothing better than an evening with a game manual.
I'm sure some of you are thinking "Ugh, video games?  Come on, I want to support you in your endeavors, but I just have zero interest in the subject matter."  Well, I can't do much for you now, but I have plans in the future to expand what I offer on this blog, so maybe later on I can lure you back.  And if only the handful of my friends who are at least mildly interested in video games reads this, well at least I'll have a portfolio of written work on hand.  That's right, I don't care if you follow this!  (okay, I care a little)

I look forward to working hard on this blog and I hope you look forward to seeing what I come up with!!!