Category: Games

Video Games in the Media

To: NPR's Morning Edition

On this morning's Morning Edition, Kelly McBride expressed concern that Wii Sports would lead her children to erroneously believe they could actually play sports.

I think this is a very reasonable concern. I just got a Wii and spent a good portion of last week playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Yesterday morning I got up, put on my green tunic, grabbed my sword and shield, and went to cross the bridge at Yorkshire and the I-17. When the gateway to the Twilight Realm did not open and I failed to turn into a wolf, I was forced to come to grips with the shocking possibility that video games might not be real.

The Old Stomping Grounds

October was a busy damn month. Five couples I know -- five! -- got married. I attended three of the weddings.

The first -- technically at the tail-end of September -- involved a road trip to San Diego with Brad, Ian, and Ben to attend Jon and Gina's wedding.

Now, let me start by saying that San Diego is one of my favorite places on Earth.

And let me add that Jon and Gina are my favorite couple. Those kids are gonna do all right.

And let me finish by saying that we arrived at 3AM, picked up Jon, and took him back to our hotel room for 40's and Mario Kart. I don't drink 40's, but I'm not about to refuse the request of a groom 31 hours before his wedding.

I remember very little of the remainder of that morning, but I do remember that Jon and I totally owned at Mario Kart. Just like old times.

Then I hopped a plane back to Arizona to marry my cousin.

...As in performed the ceremony. But yes, I opened with that joke.

You know, it's been a long time since we really hung out and chatted, but the last time I saw her she was really into the whole church scene -- I didn't really expect her to invite a secular humanist to perform her wedding. But it went off pretty well -- and yeah, I quoted scripture (you know, that "love is patient" bit's pretty all right, actually), but I kept my humanist street cred by throwing some Bucky Fuller in there too ("love is metaphysical gravity," baby -- bam!).

It was also very much an Irish wedding. In that people got hammered and were told to leave by security.

The third was...rather abrupt and unexpected, but not entirely unprecedented. I did not attend because I had about a week and a half's notice, and it was the day before...

The fourth, in Sedona -- another of the most beautiful damn places in the world -- where they made us dress up in goddamn medieval attire, but also there was homebrewed beer and mead so I definitely think it was a net gain. Plus I reused my costume for Halloween, which was good because I'd been Brodie from 2001 through 2005 and I really needed something new.

Also there was a misunderstanding with my hotel reservation, because hotels.com tried to tell me that Munds Park was 15 miles away from Sedona. I can't prove anything, but I'm pretty damn sure MapQuest was to blame.

Switching gears, last weekend I went on back up to Flagstaff to see the old Rocky cast perform, and I swear that a visit to Flagstaff is just good for the soul. I stepped out of my car and at the very first breath of fresh air my life felt monumentally better.

I got me a room at the Super 8, crossed the street, and then walked the length of campus from north to south. Let's get one thing straight -- NAU is trying, hard, to be ASU Jr. There's construction everywhere you turn, the roads are FUBAR, and there's no parking anywhere. Oh, and of course the front page of the school paper is talking about another goddamn tuition hike.

The campus has changed a bit, but, contrary to what I was given to understand by Ian, the field back behind Gillenwater -- which I have waxed philosophical about on prior occasion -- is still there. He must've been talking about a different field that got paved over.

The modified engineering building is much prettier than the old one. And the new business building that used to be the anthro building is pretty damn cool.

I went to Burritos Fiesta, and ran into a friend I'd been meaning to see. The last time I saw her was sort of a downer, so repairing that breach was important to me. That worked out really well, and that alone was worth the trip.

The next day I grabbed a bite of lunch with an old classmate, and then watched The Muppet Show on DVD and went to dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery. Then I hit the old theatre on Beaver and Cherry for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I went downstairs to greet the cast and determined that the most nonchalant position to be discovered in was on the couch in the green room, obscured by a clothing rack and with my face half-covered by my hood (medieval attire, remember). I was told I resembled a Sith Lord.

They worked me into the preshow, where I did something that they would later tell me they found a little shocking. And let me tell you, getting your old Rocky Horror cast to say, "Man, I can't believe you did that!" is one of life's richest rewards.

And then I went out to a makeshift cast party afterward, with two old friends and two new ones, drank Corona, and watched Shock Treatment. As always, Tami and I enjoyed it and nobody else did.

At 7:30 my eyes were crusting over and I could barely keep them open. I decided I could hold out no longer and went back to my motel room, grabbed a two-hour nap, showered, checked out, and went to breakfast at Martann's, which, as always on a Sunday morning, was completely packed and had only one waitress on duty. If I hadn't been craving one of their enchiladas with the fried egg on top since I'd started the trip, I wouldn't have gone, let alone stayed the hour and a half or so it took me to get and eat my food. On the plus side, as I took one of my two trips back to the car to feed the meter, I ran into two women I knew from high school. We BS'ed a bit and they told me they'd just attended a wedding of some old friends of ours. (I'm guessing about half of you have been wondering this whole time what the hell happened to the fifth wedding, and the other half are now going, Oh right! There was a fifth wedding!) They were but the first of a cavalcade of familiar faces I ran into on my way out of town.

I managed to ingest enough coffee and tea to get me home, but by the end of the trip I was just about hitting the ol' caffeine crash. I grabbed me another two-hour nap and then kicked back awhile (Ben came over to visit) and finally went back to bed.

But I tell you, it was a beautiful damn weekend and it left me in really high spirits. So high that I spent the next day blocking IP's on our mailserver, whose SMTP port was getting hammered so hard by spam attempts as to result in a goddamn DoS, and still went home feeling good.

Flagstaff's got that kind of effect on me I guess. I should probably go back soon.

But in the meantime, it's good to be back in the valley so's I can vote for Harry Mitchell. Go Harry!

Just Like T's Class

You know, there's just something cathartic about cleaning house -- about going through a few dozen old computers, finding out what works and what doesn't, wiping drives, keeping what may be of use at a later date and donating the rest. Sure it's boring and repetitive, and I inevitably manage to cut myself on something, but it reminds me of high school, and then my first job out of high school, and it's good honest work.

I sure as hell wouldn't want to do it every day, but it's a welcome break from mail server maintenance -- and a whole lot more inline with my salary, too.

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda.


Reading: Neuromancer

Playing: Mega Man ZX

Keep Hydrated

Yeah, this is going to be one of those where I talk about living in the desert.

There's a lot I love about the desert. Oh, sure, it's a hostile environment, particularly to pigment-challenged individuals of Irish Honky descent such as myself, and sure, those same honkies who have the least resistance to the sun's rays have decided for some reason to fill this region with concrete and asphalt to make it that much more unbearable, but there are still some very pretty things to be seen.

I've spent a few hours over the past couple of weeks handing out flyers for our company. I hate to be one of those guys who waves his degree around, but that's really not what I got it to do. But we need business, and there are a hell of a lot of new businesses opening within a mile radius of here, and the boss thinks I should be the guy who hands flyers out, so that's part of what I've been doing.

The first day, I overdid it: I thought I had sunscreen, but it turned out I didn't. Must not have packed any when I moved in February (which, all things considered, makes sense). So I went out and handed out flyers for three hours and got good and sunburned and chafed. I spent Memorial Day Weekend unable to walk comfortably. I am amused by the mental image of the tableau of a very sunburned guy going up to the counter at Target with sunscreen, aloe gel, and talc in his basket -- no explanation necessary.

Since then, I've limited myself to 90 minutes of flyering a day, and of course it goes without saying that this 90 minutes must be complete before 10 AM because I'm not going out when there's an excessive heat warning in effect. But I haven't been out there the past few days because things have been so busy at the shop. Mixed blessing -- I'd rather not be out there handing out flyers, but at the same time if I don't find time for it soon the boss is going to yell at me again.

I don't like sunscreen. It's greasy, smelly, and invariably gets in your eyes, even if the label proclaims it's non-greasy, unscented, and sweat-proof. But it beats being baked alive.

Dad also leant me a hat which once belonged to a family friend who died of cancer. I think that's pretty cool.

And handing out flyers isn't all bad. I dig the desert landscaping surrounding most of the buildings. Often I will hear a rustling in the bushes and see a large lizard come out.

Meantime, I haven't had much time to relax when I've been home from work -- work on a computer all day, go home and work on a computer. See, my grandma's been rocking Windows 98 for the past 8 years, and since Microsoft has ended support for it, I decided I should probably upgrade her to XP.

Have you caught the mistake in my thinking?

That's right: the word upgrade.

Let me explain something. I have never had a Windows upgrade go well. 95 turned out to be incompatible with my processor, 98 hosed my filesystem (which is why there is no complete extant copy of KateStory IX), and XP hosed my partition table. ME...actually upgraded smoothly and gave me no trouble, but I think the fact that it installed Windows ME on my computer means it still did serious harm to my system.

So I should have known better. I shouldn't even have attempted the upgrade. I should have backed up her files to CD, wiped the drive, and done a clean install.

But I didn't. I attempted an upgrade. Which went fine until the reboot, at which point the installation hung. No error, just a hang at boot time.

So then I made my second mistake: I tried to use Recovery Console.

Specifically, I used fixboot. Which hosed my partition table. I wound up with what looked like a 10MB FAT12 partition with only one file on it. Knoppix showed more files, but they were all gibberish.

Daunted, I retreated to lick my wounds and study the problem before going back the next weekend to attempt a fix. I found a useful MBR tool on UBCD4Win, which got the filesystem looking good enough to run a chkdsk on. After that, the files were visible, but the damn thing still wouldn't boot no matter what I did or how many times I installed an OS on top of it. (And yes, the partition is set bootable.)

It was about this point where I hit the Eject button on the CD-ROM drive and it launched my CD across the room. It bears noting that this is not even a slot-loading drive, it's the kind with a tray. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.

There comes a point in a project where you know you need to stop for the day. Seeing your Windows XP disc fly across the room is such a point.

So I brought the computer home to work on it here. (Grandma's is thirty miles from here, meaning I logged roughly 120 in my two round-trips this past weekend.) So far I've made little progress -- my flying WinXP disc does not look to be in very good shape; I made a copy of it last night but it took hours to do, so I'm betting there was some serious trouble reading the data on it. Hopefully it somehow made a good copy anyway. I haven't tried it today because I've been busy trying to revdep-rebuild my Gentoo install, because I can't upgrade KDE until I recompile a bunch of programs that used to have ungif support, which is now deprecated because the patent on the GIF algorithm finally expired. (You see what software patents do? Do you see?)

Also I bought Grandma a new CD burner. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the mail-in rebate on it. It is possible that I did not pick up the appropriate form and will have to go back to Fry's to get it. The fun never ends.

All in all, it's been a stressful month. But on the plus side, I haven't been mugged by a hooker at knife-point, so I guess that means I know at least one guy who's had a worse month than I have. Hey, count your blessings.


Also, I don't intend to make a habit of mixing business with this blog, but I've been working on a website for a local musician named Devon Bridgewater at nuancemusic.org. Nuance Music (AKA Nuance Jazz Trio) is a local jazz group consisting of Devon, Dick Curtis, and Joel DiBartolo, director of jazz studies at my alma mater.

Anyway, I'm just throwing that link out because Devon's looking to drum up some publicity to his site, and unfortunately his Google page rank is pretty low right now, so he needs all the links he can get. So spread the word around, and, most importantly, link to his site. (I might add it to my links page if I ever drum up the courage to dust off the cobwebs and update the damn thing.)

Once again, that page is Nuance Music.

Hell, while I'm at it, Google hasn't even listed any of the other pages on the site, so here are links to them too: gigs, press, jazz, weddings, gallery, corporate clients, festivals, contact, Spanish.


Reading: A Scanner Darkly. Hoping the movie doesn't suck.

Playing: Suikoden 5. Basically at this point the series is openly hostile to newcomers -- this game took 7 hours to get interesting (still better than the 30 hours of 3 and the never of 4), and there's no way anybody would play that far without having a tremendous amount of goodwill left over from the first two games.

Fire and Ice

It's 100 degrees out, but I've just moved into the server room, where it's chilly enough that I'm actually considering going back to hot coffee -- I've been drinking it cold ever since it got up to about 90 degrees out.

Of course, if I'd remembered to bring my towel today, I could probably use it to keep warm. Oh well -- I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Anyway. Come July I think I'm going to be really happy to be in here. But come next February, I think I'll have to bring a blanket.


Playing: New Super Mario Bros.

The Contest, Again/Still

Looks like I made the winners' circle in the BioWare contest. #3 in the community votes.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and anybody who's found my site through the contest, welcome, and I hope you enjoy my ranting about MapQuest. (Incidentally, dexonline.com has not actually fixed its Mapquest system, and still routinely directs me to Kansas.)

Updated Features to put my mod at the top, and to add my current Pyoko avatar.

(...Ack, damn daylight savings time. We don't do that crap in Arizona. Am I really going to have to change my blog settings twice a year? Laaaaaaaame.)

(I sure hope nobody's got an RSS reader open right now. I've edited this entry about a half-dozen times in ten minutes. And I personally hate when people do that shit.)

The Contest

Looks like the BioWare voting should just about be wrapped up.

Thanks to everyone who voted.

We'll see how this turns out; I have a good feeling. They're going to announce the winners on Wednesday.


Playing: Dragon Quest 8, Final Fantasy 4, Super Mario World

Reading: The Catcher in the Rye, which I am given to understand is turning me into a serial killer or an assassin or something. I saw it in a Mel Gibson movie.

Why do people like gambling?

So this morning, I'm driving to work. (I prefer biking, but I was running way too late for that.) And I'm listening to NPR. And I hear the following:

"On March 15, two thousand and fifty years ago, Julius Caesar breathed his last. The news, coming up next!"

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today. I'm here to talk about gambling and wonder what exactly the hell the draw is.

I mean, okay, my coworkers get together a pool and buy a bunch of tickets when the lottery pot gets big enough. I don't participate, and refer to the lottery as "a tax on people who can't do math". They respond that somebody has to win, and you can't win if you don't play. (Which isn't strictly true. My department consists of two people, and if my supervisor wins the lottery, that means I'm the new head of the department.)

But mainly, what brought this sentiment on is my recent experience with Dragon Quest 8. Yesterday I finally got enough money together to get all the best items at the casino.

Which sounds good until you realize I'd been working at that since Sunday the goddamn 5th.

That's over a week where all I did in the game was fucking play the casino. To be fair, I probably average under two hours gaming per day, and played a bit of Sonic CD and Sonic 3 here and there when I got too annoyed with DQ8 to keep playing, but that's still hours and hours at the fucking casino. And it's like pulling teeth.

I guess it's not as bad as it was way back in 2 when the lottery game debuted (and obviously somebody must like these goddamn casino games, because they're still including them 17 years later), but it was a whole lot worse than 7 -- which was still pretty bad (and, unlike 8, had an item which you needed to get to complete the game; 8 just has generally sweet but not absolutely necessary equipment), but had more games and higher-yield slots.

And speaking of slots, that wound up being the game I went with in DQ8. I played a good deal of roulette on the supposition that you're more likely to win there, but it got to be too labor-intensive -- since you have to stack your chips at the beginning of each spin, and since I was stacking a total of 8000 chips all over the board (every single combination including 14, as that also covers every single square on the board except 0, meaning when I lose I usually pick up 1000 for the square I'm sitting on, so I only lose 7000 tokens instead of the full 8000), well, I basically had to sit there and play the game. Whereas slots you can just hit the up button over and over. Don't have to pay any attention whatever. So I could go do something else. Feed my fish, surf the net. Since I have a wireless controller, I could've even done it from another room. Point being, I'd prefer to be doing anything else but sit there and watch what I was doing.

So what's the draw of real casinos? I'm going to admit I've yet to take a trip to Vegas, but it sure seems like gambling isn't how I'd want to pass my time there anyway. I guess you get the excitement of losing real money over the crushing boredom of knowing you're inevitably going to win if you just keep playing because you can always just restore from your last save, but that doesn't seem like a huge advantage. I mean, if you're any good at math at all you have to realize the deck's stacked against you.

A lot of friends have told me the way to go is to play nickel slots and drink free cocktails. Which I guess I can get behind. But for a lot cheaper than a trip to Vegas, I can buy a six-pack and curse at the casino in Dragon Quest 8.

Or, better yet, finally fucking get back to playing Dragon Quest 8. That game's pretty cool when it's not making you play other games which aren't best played on a TV in the first damn place.