Welcome back to the stage of history!
Friday, August 27, 2010
Basically screw Game Stop: rot and die you outdated leeches.
When stores are buying second hand games for minimum store credit and then re-selling them at 90% of the retail price at 100% profit, the issue seems very simple. And I believe it is. If merchants undercut the profits of the companies actually making the product to a point of serious detriment, how can that be anything but bad? Games Companies are not the enemies of gamers, they make the god damned wine! The relationship is symbiotic with the retailers sucking parasitically at either end. I suppose the counter-argument is that some people can't afford games upon release and that it's everyone's free right to re-sell their assets. But Game Stop is not an individual selling off single copies of old games they're done with. It's like a store selling DVDs or CDs that are barely weeks old second hand right next to the new ones. I'm curious, would you buy them? Or is the lower price of a dvd or cd enough that it becomes incidental?
Game Stop (because in America and Australia they are pretty much monopolising the product)exist because they offer distribution and advertising for games. But when I buy a product from any other retailer I am not offered scratch guard, extended warranties, pre-orders, peripherals, VIP cards that do nothing, fucking strategy guides! it just goes on to the point of insanity. I just went and bought Mafia II for Chris, which I am about to sit down and lose an afternoon* with, and the guy at Game Stop offered me the strategy guide for 'half price when you buy the game' which is basically bullshit to begin with as they can set the price wherever they want. I firmly said 'no' with the seasoned tone of someone that runs afoul of all too many Game Stop employees and homeless beggars. He then decided to 'get fresh' and spin an anecdote about how he got stuck on the first mission and was going to check out the strategy guide on his lunch break. Okay stop right there guy, 'Don't you have the internet?' I prodded. No response there. That's right, strategy guides are redundant. I tried to console him with a little anecdote about getting stuck on Discworld 2 as a child and having no recourse but an old issue of hyper I found in an op-shop but even that turned bitter as I related the redundancy of strategy guides to the inevitable redundancy of his shitty store.
Having played MMOs and a variety of XBoxLive/PSNetwork titles I have no fear of paying for games that are pure download with no physical box or disc. I long for the emerging technology. Game Stop isn't a place to meet or an enjoyable experience. It's just a place where, if you want to buy games, you have to routinely go to be offended and ripped off. Anyone who whines about trade ins and pre-owned games should check ebay, you'll find that second-hand games can be bought for less and sold for more than Game Stop and delivered to your door.
Also Daelmans Delicious Caramel Bites are delicious.
*A girl who gave me a taste of Slam Poetry in Portland asked me, 'Don't videogames take up too much time and get in the way?' In the way of what exactly? I can't think of a better use of my time.
Chris, Luke and I didn't get up to much this time around. We bought an entire box of M11 and spent the whole weekend drafting. Stopping only to clock Castle Crashers, which was brilliant. Again I went to Monday Night sketch group at Blizzard. This time I filmed a bit of general randomness. It's mainly for my own enjoyment although it could be B-roll stuff if none of them are keen to sue me. Perhaps a few shots for the MG interview? All of a sudden I'm off again. Hopefully I get to extend my stay and enjoy a final week or two with my bestest bud Luke and new bestest bud Chris.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Yesterday was less explosive than Tuesday, but no less full. The first day in town always ends up being pretty crazy, I'm amazed at how well I do meeting people and ending up places. I went to Dark Horse Comics and interviewed some of the people working on video game comic tie-ins. They understand the importance of having the original game's dev team contribute to the design and writing of the comic, to offer an authentic experience that is canonical. I think this is a great idea and strongly encourage them to keep putting comics into special editions of games, like that awesome Warhammer Online SE bundle. I also talked to a Gamer-girl who works there. She introduced me to the idea of the 'Gamer-girl' and the 'Girl-gamer'. Something I feel very strongly about is girls inclusion into gamer and geek culture and she spoke very well on the issue. I will do my best to faithfully convey her opinions and hopefully I can convince a few more girls to speak on the matter. After promptly replying months ago, I've still had no word back from the Frag Dolls about setting up an interview. So (before I lose my thread altogether) the term gamer-girl would suggest that a girl is first and foremost a gamer, just like any guy who plays games. Super cool people like my fiancee and my cousin's girlfriend and some girl's I've met in the US would fall into this category. Then there are girl-gamers that represent gamer-girls like the Frag Dolls, Hex from GG, Morgan Webb. I'm not saying they can't or don't play, but as public figures they are girls before they are gamers. Then there's downright offensive characters such as Jessica Chobot (who I have been told by former friends had nothing to do with games before she realised it could make her famous) that simply use the fact that they play games and are attractive to garner fame, at the expense of the hard earned respect of gamer-girls everywhere. It seems that this has forever been a part of human nature; a girl's worst enemy is not the oppressive man, it is another girl. Unfortunately as long as websites like IGN and tv channels like G4 desperately try to remain relevant (pro tip: they aren't) by appealing to the basest instinct of an audience they assume is predominantly male (pro tip: they aren't) then girls who want to be worshiped will always have a role to play in the objectifying of women who just want to play games without being harassed.
Poor Erin is very sick, please take care of her in my absence. Talking to her yesterday filled my dreams with doors and windows I couldn't seem to get through, I woke in a sweat... there's always at least one screen still dividing us and it brings me down. It brings me down.
Then we got some lunch at The People's Sandwich of Portland which was awesome, authentic and very affordable before heading back to Ground Kontrol for their free play night!
I defeated Shredder and Krang, Magneto and his children, blew up the Death Star using THE FORCE, survived Adams Family Pinball for a few seconds, tore out Johnny Cage's spine, cleared several levels of Donkey Kong and Crystal Castle, needed food badly in Gauntlet Legends, and laid Ken Masters smack-down in SF2-SF3Alpha and SF4. I was even served some Slam Poetry out on the street that made me long for a childhood I never had.
All in all, a good day. Now I have to make sure I catch my flight back to LA so I can have a few days of rest with Chris and Luke. I miss those guys.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
We also attended trivia run by 'real' pirates, the guys who started Talk Like a pirate day etc. They carry loaded flintlocks, fuck! Basically assholes that never grew up but I love that they can get away with it in Portland. Then hung out at Ground Kontrol some more, went to Voodoo Doughnut, Town square and finally a genuine Suicide Girls strip club. One of the girls spent a lot of time with us 'cause she's an oldschool gamer from the Atari era. She gave me her card so we can hang out at PAX. I feel there's a great interview right there. Perfect after spending the afternoon discussing girls growing involvement in the culture. When I have more time I'll go into some detail on that subject.
Portland is my favorite city thus far; when people decide to do something, everyone goes along with it. Rent is very low, cute girls hang out at arcades and you can get married by a robotic Elvis head for a quarter. Music is everywhere and everyone is cool. It's like what Seattle was supposed to be in the 90s.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"But because you used our flat rate box, it's the maximum charge regardless of weight."
At this point the transaction is already in progress, she's just making me even more miserable as I hand her over a hundred dollars. The contents of the parcels cost half that. Screw the postal system.
Add to that the cost of a last-minute flight and accommodation in Portland and I'm suddenly running hot. The next looming expense is the hotel for PAX (a princely $550) but after that it's Canada and good friends and all that cheer. I suppose I'll just pick a date and buy my fares south now, to avoid digging into my savings too much. Good thing I got that tax return.
The train from San Francisco up into Oregon was great. Not only did I get some uncomfortable sleep but I made friends with some like-minded young travelers (a gamer and a film buff) and saw some truly beautiful vistas including the huge bald eagles that are so iconically American.
Albany is a rural town; not unlike those found throughout Australia, yet classically American. It sits close to Corvallis, the 'college town' and Lebanon, the town with an indoor shooting range.
It was here I met with Kristen, Seeth, Steven, Eddie and Pony; definitely the coolest people (and Canid) in the town. I'll write some more later but we had lots of fun and played D&D.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Since then we have done some serious gaming, I have enjoyed some serious hospitality and scored some not so serious interview footage. This is what my trip was supposed to be about! So that's ace :)
I'm begrudgingly wrapping my hands around Soul Calibur 4 (that's 3 variations away from SC perfection, Soul Edge wasn't quite there) in an attempt to stand ready, should I get a chance to face off against the nefarious Robert Khoo at PAX. I was literally untouchable back when I first got my Dreamcast and it was the game that finally brought me into the fighter sphere. My only previous experience was one round of SSF2:T at an eleventh birthday party. I split a dollar with my friend; we chose Cammy. We lost. I thought SC3 was a return to form, with the best features of the previous two games, updated graphics and all those weapon styles! But SC4 is a big facepalm back to the failtrain of SC2. I can still go back and play SC, the graphics are superb and the combat just so brutal and right. For the time the character animation was deliciously smooth. Lizardman's tail!
For his part, Mojo is a perfect host (as you'd expect from a PAX enforcer); I feel welcome and free to chat/play. If you are going to PAX and see a big fuzzy enforcer with glasses give him a high-five. In fact, high-five them all. Then again with the shadow of PAX flu in the back of people's minds why not a convention-friendly 'air-five'? Mike and Jerry actually shook my hand when I met them. Which, in consideration, was a great honour. Their grips where present but unassuming, perfectly matching their friendly countenance.
We also traded SC2 tips and managed to win a couple of games each and hit up an All-American diner for beef steak and cherry pie. Who know's what's in store for tonight's meal? I hear there's a game of Munchkin for dessert.
I found today's image here and it's essentially an official rip of the artwork on the original SC Dreamcast disc. I browsed that gallery for hours (once I'd spent hours unlocking each piece) and it's exciting to see some more of my unconscious inspiration. I think you could actually stick the disc in a PC to get all the artwork. Brilliant. I'm going to spend a while in that online archive.
Friday, August 13, 2010
What is it, Friday? Lauren and Patrick are taking good care of me. We've been to the SJ Tech Museum and the Winchester Mystery House. Patrick also showed me around the impressive EA Headquarters here. They display new concept art in the lobby along with huge statues of dragons and heroes from their fantasy franchises. I really enjoyed their timeline featuring some very, very oldschool EA products; back when their logo was a Square, Circle and Triangle. I was also impressed by their (probably) unrivaled hall of Platinum titles including two Harry Potter games that were 9xPlatinum. Although I wonder if it's the quality of the game that is reflected here.
Tonight we are driving out to a nature reserve to see a meteor shower, which will be amazing. I hope. Then I can finally record my first gamer interview with Patrick. He's a hardcore WoW fan and has as many figures (including Frostmorne and some resin prints of his own character) as any of the Blizzard staff. He has a copy of Dante's Inferno I've been eying too.
Tomorrow we'll check out San Francisco and then Sunday I'm actually going over to the East Bay to meet up with my first volunteer Gamer. He plays board games too and even manages to play D&D over Skype with faraway friends. Exciting!
The gum trees are freaking me out. I woke this morning forgetting where I was...
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
The mansion is renowned for its size and utter lack of any master building plan. According to popular belief, Winchester thought the house was haunted by the ghosts of individuals killed by Winchester rifles, and that only continuous construction would appease them. It is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California.From wikipedia of course. Pity I'll not be there for Halloween as it sounds pretty damn spooky. Perhaps I'll get some footage and insert Boo's in the background heh.
Way back when the internet was still fresh and companies thought they could somehow make money out of it by harnessing the magic of arcane web-masters, a teenaged boy spent his afternoons trolling Geocities (anyone just get nostalgia rush?) chat-rooms. There was no word for Trolling, indeed there was no Internet meta-culture at all. It was the wild-west of the internet; no federal agents snaring deviants, town sheriffs (mods) so old and slow they were impotent, prospectors giving up their lives to join the 'gold rush' and plenty of young confused settlers hoping to find a better life in a new virtual country. Into this anarchy I swaggered: the man with no name. Shoot four men dead before they could refresh their pages, then off for a sordid night in a recommended saloon before heading to the menu-bar for a stiff drink to erase my history. Not that anyone else knew how to check the history (although years later I taught my Mum so she could track my younger brother's movement, double win for Sunny) or even would have.
A fitting way to kick off the scariest part of the trip. But hey, meeting people is easy. Right?In other, non-gaming related news (seriously I'm getting to the good stuff in a few days, Love to Play: USA and all that) I went with some upstanding Blizzard folks to see a Musical version of Young Frankenstein. It was excellent, as you'd imagine, and since I'm not going to Broadway it was good enough to see it at the Pantages theatre in Hollywood (on the walk of stars). I must also report that LA is by and large sprawling and dirty. There are no real landmarks to make you feel like you're there (aside from the excessive number of American flags). The city centre isn't really much bigger than Melbourne, but then the inner suburbs go on forever. Everything is far more spread out in California too. Tall buildings stand alone in seas of car parking and every second road is 8 lanes wide. I don't think it's a place anyone needs to go. Not even on holidays from Australia.