Monthly Archives: September 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

Got birth certificates for both of my sons this week. Yay!

However, on one, I am listed as “Mother.”

Advertisements

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago today, I was 23. I was working as an assistant manager at the Huntington Theatre Company’s box office in Boston. I was living in Medford with a roommate. I hadn’t met my husband yet, and I was spending a lot of time trying to revive a relationship with a guy who just wasn’t that into me.

That Tuesday morning, I was lounging in bed. I didn’t need to be at work until one o’clock that afternoon, so I was taking it easy. It was a beautiful day, and I opened all the windows, made myself a cup of tea, and got back into bed to watch some tv.

I sat in bed, stunned, while the Today show shifted from its normal coverage to the breaking story of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center. Shocking, and tragic, but obviously just a freak accident, I told myself. And then there was the second plane.

So I got out of bed and tried to find someone, anyone, to confirm for me that I wasn’t hallucinating. My roommate was already at work, so I went to the phone and tried to call my best friend. Couldn’t connect. Tried to call my mother. That didn’t connect, either.

I heard footsteps, and realized that my upstairs neighbors were getting ready for work. So I went out to the front steps of our two-family house and knocked on their door, barefoot, in a t-shirt and some plaid pajama pants. My neighbor answered the door and asked if I was all right.

“Are you watching tv?” I asked.

She wasn’t.

“You need to turn on your tv,” I said.

So we went up to her living room, and turned on the tv. Over the next couple of minutes, her roommates, who had been getting ready for work, abandoned their routines and joined us on the couch. The four of us sat there, saying almost nothing, for hours.

Eventually, my call phone rang. It was my coworker, asking if I could still come in to work. The performance was cancelled, and we’d need to call all the ticketholders to let them know, and she didn’t want to make the rest of the staff come in if just the managers could do it.

I got ready for work and decided to drive in, not knowing if the trains were even running. Driving south on I-93 into Boston, I had never seen so few cars. The lower deck, which would usually be backed up even midday, was practically empty. I listened to WBUR, the local NPR station, on my way in. It’s strange to listen to the radio when they have no idea what to say.

I got to work, which was mostly deserted. The other managers and I tried to call our ticketholders, but it was an exercise in futility. The phones refused to connect nine times out of ten. Eventually, we decided that people would figure out on their own not to come to the theatre.

My coworker and I decided to grab some lunch. Standing outside, just a few blocks from the Prudential, the fighter jets kept circling. It was like watching a movie. We stood in the middle of the normally busy road and looked up at the planes.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” my coworker asked. “I’m pretty sure it’s making me feel worse.”

The day passed very slowly, and the staff began to leave. The general manager and I stayed around until the performance was supposed to begin, just in case anyone came and didn’t know. I don’t think anyone came.

My Sink Runneth Over

Almost every day, I walk into my bathroom and become convinced — absolutely, utterly convinced! — that the cold water faucet on the sink is leaking. The counter is covered with water, and it’s centered on the cold faucet. So I get some paper towels and wipe down the whole counter. Then I test. I turn the water on and off. I lean on the faucet. I try to replicate the flooding.

Nothing.

I cannot figure out how my son does it.

Riding in Cars with Turtles

I originally posted this on my Destructoid blog, in response to a community call for posts on handhelds:

It’s the summer of 1990. I’ve just finished the sixth grade, just turned twelve, and there’s one thing that I want: a Gameboy. But my parents are not sold on the idea. Not at all.

“Please?” I begged. “Think how much more fun vacations will be. I won’t complain about having to spend all day in the car if I have a Gameboy.” (Note from the future: I am now 33, own every handheld game I want, and my husband and children can attest that I am not any more pleasant to spend all day with in a car. So I guess my parents were smart not to fall for that argument.)

A compromise was reached. Well, not really a compromise. I still wanted a Gameboy, but my parents got me a handheld LCD Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game before we went on vacation. Victory?

If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing a handheld LCD game, I will try to explain the experience. Maybe you’ve set the time on a digital watch? Yeah, it’s basically like that. But instead of cycling through the hours and minutes, the hours and minutes drag on while you try to make an inanimate, 2D, black and white Ninja Turtle hit Shredder’s little foot-shaped robots. Or jump over them or something. I don’t remember.

The Ninja Turtles game was fun for about ten minutes. After that, it was mostly just frustrating. It was hard to get the timing right, and took forever to play through to the end and save April. So I still complained about spending all day in the car, and I believed that if I could just be playing Super Mario Land, life would be perfect.

Now it’s twenty-one years later, and I find myself in a similar position to the one my parents were in. My older son, who is five, wants a handheld. And we’ve compromised. He is the proud owner of a Leapfrog Leapster 2, on which he can play games like Batman: Strength in Numbers (SPOILER: The numbers from which Batman gains strength are ones like four plus two.) and Star Wars: Jedi Reading. My gamer soul dies a little bit when he plays these games. They’re not games, really. As a parent though, I feel like at least he’s learning something.

There aren’t many good video games that are appropriate for a five-year-old, though. We’ve played through LEGO Batman and LEGO Star Wars on the 360. I tried Viva Pinata, but it’s still too slowly paced for him.

When the time is right, I will let him play lots of video games. Good ones. Someday, I will try to convince him to play Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV. And he will probably roll his eyes at the ancient games his dad loved. I really look forward to a time when he’s old enough to play an MMO with me. (Or whatever we’re playing instead of MMOs in another decade.)

But I won’t make him ride in cars with turtles.

Gaming Wishlist

The next 12 months are going to be really big ones for gaming. Especially for MMOs.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

If you had asked me a month ago what upcoming game I am the most excited about, I would have answered without hesitation: “SW:TOR!” (And I would have tried to pronounce the acronym! Swoetor? Swetor? Swutor? Your guess is as good as mine.)

But Bioware has managed to dampen my excitement on the title. They’ve decided to be schizophrenic about gay people again. (This is an ongoing theme with Bioware. Mass Effect 1? Yay, lesbians! Dragon Age? Yay, Bioware loves the gays! Mass Effect 2? Gay people don’t exist, and, um, the idea of a gay male Shepard makes Bioware uncomfortable somehow. They’re fine with any other moral choice on the spectrum, but guys kissing guys is just too much. Dragon Age 2? They love us again! Mass Effect 3? That stuff we said about how Shepard just can’t be gay because it doesn’t fit our worldview? We were kidding! We love the gays!)

So during Gamescom, one of the SW:TOR developers was incredibly dismissive when asked about same-sex romances in the game. He just shrugged and went, “Nope.” The idea of romances in an MMO isn’t one that I’m sold on, but if you’re going to include them, you need to include everyone. If you want me to connect to my character in an MMO and potentially play that character every day for years, you need to let me decide who that character is. Don’t tell me that my character can’t be gay. (And really don’t tell me that my character can be gay as long as he decides to be celibate while everyone else is out there participating in relationships.)

Guild Wars 2

I’ve spent about two hours playing the original Guild Wars. It just doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe I should give it more of a try, though, because Guild Wars 2 is looking great. They’re trying to do away with the tank-healer-dps system, which would be amazing if they could do it and still make compelling gameplay. Waiting 30 minutes for a tank is not any fun (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft and Rift.) and removing those roles would go a long way toward making spontaneous groups viable and quick.

Diablo 3

I know, it’s not an MMO, but it’s an O, at least. And it serves a lot of the same purpose — playing a character while grouping with friends. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a beta invite.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

My biggest gripe with the last two Elder Scrolls games has been that everyone is ridiculously ugly. But it looks like Bethesda has finally figure out how to make people that look like people, because Skyrim looks gorgeous. Breathtaking visuals, and hopefully the kind of depth and replay we’ve come to expect from an Elder Scrolls game.

Mass Effect 3

I’m frustrated with Bioware over the SW:TOR thing, but Mass Effect is easily the most compelling single-player game I’ve played in the last decade. I’ve played through the first game probably ten times, and it really never gets old. I can’t wait to see how the series draws to a close.

 

Currently, World of Warcraft has been losing my attention. I’ve been spending a bunch of time in Rift lately (and I hit level 50 this week!) but I don’t know if it has a lot of long-term potential for me. The gameplay is fun, but the art drives me crazy, especially the clothes. (If I wanted to look like a farmer, I’d play Farmville.)

Moo with Me

I have been tricked.

“We should bring the kids to Drumlin Farm tomorrow,” said my best friend.

“Ok,” I said, assuming that she was talking about the apple picking farm we’ve been to before.

But no. This is a real farm. So I’m going to a farm today. New posts to follow, if I don’t get kicked in the head by a cow.