Category Archives: Gaming

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Consumerism

Christmas Color

To say that my dad loves Christmas is more than just an understatement. It would be like saying, “Hey, let’s watch some reruns of my favorite old tv show, I Kind of Like Lucy.”  Or maybe that the characters in a Nicholas Sparks novel are fond of each other. My dad looks at Christmas with the kind of glee that most people reserve for winning the lottery. (It’s the kind of glee that I reserve for a night when marriage equality becomes reality in three more states.)

My dad’s Christmas-mania extends to all things winter. When snow is predicted, he can’t sleep through the night. He wakes up hourly, hops out of bed, and looks out the window to see if it’s snowing yet, or how much has accumulated. It drives my mother crazy, but after forty years, I suspect she’s less annoyed by it than she lets on.

The last two years, we’ve had a pretty low-key Christmas morning at my house. We do the whole Santa thing, but the boys don’t seem to get too bonkers with anticipation. They wake up on Christmas morning, open some presents, have breakfast, play for a little while, and then we spend the rest of the day with my parents and extended family at my parents’ house.

Last week, I suggested adding a new activity to the Christmas Day lineup.

“Hey, Mom,” I said, “I was thinking that maybe it would be fun for you and Dad to come have breakfast with us on Christmas morning. You could see the boys open their presents, and they’d think it was fun.”

She wasn’t convinced. “They’ll want to get up and open their presents awfully early, won’t they?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “I can probably hold them off until 7:30 or 7:45 without a problem.”

The line was quiet. I know that getting up for breakfast madness at the crack of dawn is not Mom’s idea of a good time.

“We’ll see,” she said.

“Ok, but be careful. If you mention it to Dad while you’re still thinking about it, you won’t have a choice anymore.”

We spoke again on Saturday.

“I mentioned your Christmas idea to your Dad yesterday,” she said.

This is good. My mother can be a little slow to warm up to an idea, but mentioning it to Dad meant that she must be on board. I mean, sure, getting up early is annoying, but there are only so many chances to watch the boys open presents on Christmas morning while they’re still young.

“I assume Dad jumped up and down like the boys would?” I asked.

“No,” she laughed. “He said, ‘Maybe we can go to their house on Christmas Eve, after the boys are asleep! Then we could sleep there, and surprise the boys when they wake up in the morning.'”

“You’d certainly be welcome,” I said.

“I tried to remind him that we’ll have houseguests at own house that night,” she said.

“Well, it’s up to you guys,” I said. “I’m going to try to get a Wii U tomorrow, and if I do, it’ll be a very exciting Christmas morning.”

On Sunday morning, I got up before the boys were awake, and drove to the local Target. We like to joke that it’s the secret Target, because there’s never anyone there. You can go there on a Saturday and not see another customer. But when I got there a little before 7:30 on Sunday, there was already a small line of people waiting for the store to open at 8AM. I was seventh in a line of very cold, but very friendly, people.

I thought I was all set. I mean, certainly there would be enough consoles for seven people. Over the next little while, the line kept growing. A few minutes before 8AM, there were probably thirty people waiting. Literally, that’s more people than I have ever seen at this quiet little Target.

The manager came out. He asked if everyone was waiting for a Wii U. Obviously we were. Then he let us know that his store only had four of them. Oops.

Well, the local Best Buy was going to open at 11AM. I have limits, and I wasn’t going to stand in line outside Best Buy for three hours on a cold Sunday morning. I went home and had breakfast.

I said to Austin, “Ok, I’ll drive by Best Buy at 9:30. If there’s a long line, I’ll just come home. If there’s only a few people, I’ll try waiting until they open.”

So I made some coffee and drove over to Best Buy. There was no one waiting. Too good to be true? I parked, and walked up to the door. A few minutes later, a woman got out of her car and walked up to me.

“Are you waiting for a Wii?” she asked.

I nodded.

“I think you’re in luck,” she said. “There were a few of us waiting at 7, and the manager gave us tickets when he got here. He gave out six, and said he had four more. I haven’t seen him give out any tickets since then.”

Turns out I didn’t have to wait very long. They decided to open the store an hour early to get rid of the crazy people camping out on Sunday morning for a Wii U.

I got a ticket, and the manager said how glad he was that he worked in the suburbs now.

“I used to manage the Boston store,” he said. “I will never forget the launch of the PS3. We had to call the police, and they came in riot gear. This is much nicer.”

Much nicer, indeed. They had enough that everyone who was waiting was able to get one.

That was most of my Christmas shopping taken care of right there, in one swipe of the credit card. The boys are totally going to lose their minds when they see a Wii U under the Christmas tree.

But!

I might lose my mind, too. There’s a new game console in the spare bedroom closet, with a new Mario game, and I have to just leave it there for a whole month.

I had never considered this possibility when I thought about becoming a parent.

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.)

I Cast Magic Missile at the Darkness

My first experience with Dungeons and Dragons was in eighth grade, when I got a boxed set and tried to run a game for a couple of friends one weekend. Needless to say, I was not a particularly skilled dungeon master, and we spent most of the game arguing over how the rules worked. (Actually, that sounds like a lot of adult D&D games, too, so maybe we weren’t as far off as I thought.)

I’ve been playing D&D on and off ever since, but that weekend in eighth grade is the last time I tried to be a dungeonmaster. Until yesterday!

I’ve started a campaign for a few of my World of Warcraft guildmates (are you seeing the layers of geekdom here? playing D&D with friends from my gay World of Warcraft guild?), and we had our first play session yesterday evening. It actually went pretty smoothly, and I think everyone had a good time.

The most difficult part was bending MapTools to my will. I spent a lot of time last week making sure that everyone’s abilities were properly scripted so combat would go smoothly. It may have gone a little too smoothly, because my players completely steamrolled their first combat encounter. But that’s ok, because we left off at a cliffhanger, with an army of skeletons surrounding them.

Gays of Our Dice

I haven’t DM’d a game of Dungeons and Dragons since eighth grade, but I’m going to start soon! Some of my World of Warcraft friends (and my husband!) are going to get a weekly game going. I told them that I am going to begin every session by saying, “Last week, on Gays of Our Dice …”

Arcade Rituals

You would think, based on all the time I spend playing video games, that I might enjoy bringing my children to an arcade for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. But you would be wrong. I hated arcades as a kid (I made an exception a few times to play the Ninja Turtles arcade game back in the day) and I still hate them now. But the boys had fun, and they earned enough tickets to bring home a stuffed, blue monkey and a deck of Red Socks cards. Wow!

Some 3DSatisfaction

If you say that headline out loud, it sounds like dissatisfaction, right? Oh well, I tried.

A few months ago, I tried out a 3DS in a store. Took me a minute to get my eyes to adjust, but then it was amazing. New, different, and very appealing. I made my husband give it a try, too.

“Does this mean we need to get one?” he asked.

“No, not yet,” I replied. “I’ll wait until a few months from now when there are some games I want.”

So now it’s a few months later, and there still aren’t any games I want. I went over to Gamespot this morning to look at the available games, and this is what I saw:

Not exactly awe inspiring ...

Three of the ten best rated games are NINTENDOGS?!

So it’s not exactly surprising to see that Nintendo’s investors aren’t happy, is it?

I was burned on a console once before. I bought a PSP at launch, and was extremely disappointed when no games came out. Sure, six years later, it’s an all right handheld, and I can download old PSOne games, but it took an awfully long time to get there. After that, I decided not to buy consoles at launch anymore. I’ll wait until there’s a large enough library of games that I won’t feel conned if the library doesn’t expand.

Entertainment To Do List

I’ve got a serious entertainment backlog right now.

Xbox 360: Bastion

Playstation 3: InFamous

PC: Finished all 5 episodes of Back to the Future, always playing World of Warcraft.

TV: I’m watching Drop Dead Diva. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Netflix: Season 2 of True Blood

Books: A Clash of Kings