But that's what makes it so awesome…

Advance warning: this post has no purpose… just a walk down memory lane. That’s what a “personal blog” is for.

I remember the first time I really encountered the phrase “but that’s what makes it so awesome.” It was after I had already become a jaded sixth grader. Cartoons were over, it was all about computers and video games for me. Who watched TV after school? Evidently, everyone.

You see, a year or so before, Fox had unleashed something on the American public called “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” As far as I was concerned, it was a show for kids. So when I was asked if I had ever watched the show, I scoffed, no, it’s a show for little kids! – “But that’s what makes it so awesome,” was the argument I was presented with.

I remember the feeling of shellshock… that was all one had to say, and anything which people could make fun of was instantly defused? So if video games are for kids, I can say “but that’s what makes them so awesome” and everything will be okay? Nobody can laugh about it? Surprise! It doesn’t work that way.

These were lessons that I’ve learned from that era: you can only say that if you’re already in the “in” crowd. Liking Power Rangers when you were ‘too old’ for it made you “ironically hip” – before we knew what that was – so long as you were one of the cool kids. If you were in the wrong group of friends, they laughed at you for liking Power Rangers “for the wrong reasons” – though they never explained what their cool kid reasons were that made it okay. So I continued on thinking it was for little kids, I didn’t like it all and didn’t bother finding a reason to like it, cool or uncool. I just stayed out of it.

Many people who know me sometimes think that I stop liking bands who “sell out” – once other people like a band that I liked, it’s not cool anymore… that’s not really the case. I enjoy things that people have always hated: Weezer’s Pinkerton (now see The Pinkerton Effect), Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless Album, and I’ve loved Greenday from the days of 409 in your Coffee Maker through Jesus of Suberbia. Just because someone changes, doesn’t mean they’ve gotten worse. When I say I like ‘earlier’ recordings of songs from an EP version, people roll their eyes and say “of course you would,” even if I genuinely just liked the sound better (see In Fear & Faith’s self titled EP vs. the Voyage EP, mostly the same songs, but better vocals on the self titled EP!).

I don’t like things because they’re liked by other people, nor do I like them because they’re not liked by other people – I like what I like, there’s not some ironic reasoning for it, it’s just me. I’m tired of having to have a reason for a hobby, ever since sixth grade. It’s too much work. But maybe, just maybe, all that work defending your hobbies is what makes them so awesome and so personal to you.

Games for Windows Live Misses the Boat, Again

We are so far in to the development of Games for Windows Live it’s too late to make excuses for Microsoft’s platform. I’m as big of a fanboy as one can self-admittedly be, but it’s excruciating to know that Steam has done things right for over half a decade, and Microsoft still can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing wrong.

With a Steam game, if you bought it in a store, and registered it on Steam, and it’s available as a digital copy on Steam – you can throw your discs away and never see them again. Haven’t played Half Life 2 since the Lost Coast came out? That’s fine, just click, download, and enjoy!

But in an attempt to find something good from the Games for Windows Live client, I decided to test the same idea on their platform. Having noticed that Gears of War was recently released as a $20 downloadable game on demand, I attempted to pop in my yellow-stickered 5×5 CDKey that Microsoft so kindly gave me inside my boxed copy of Gears of War for Windows. Only to have the code rejected and ignored as a useless bygone thing of the past, forcing me to rely on *shudder* my physical media.

This isn’t something subtle that Steam snuck in there – the platform touts downloadable games from physical licenses as a big selling point… I have no idea why Microsoft would let something so simple pass us by, and insult the customers that keep supporting them.

I love Windows 7. I love Games for Windows Live. I want Gamerscore for all of my PC games! It’s too bad so few good PC games support the platform, and too bad the platform doesn’t support PC gamers!

Review: XBLIG: Nomis: Legacy Islands

This review originally appeared on XBLARatings.com.
After recently winning a free copy of this game in a Twitter giveaway, I thought it would be nice to give it a quick review!

Nomis: Legacy Islands itself is a ton of fun, having a lot of that platforming fun that has disappeared from console games in recent years. As one reviewer already stated, the main character is very much a “Nathan Drake” wanna be, which is apt: I found the game to feel quite a bit like the poor man’s shadow complex – another game featuring another “Nathan Drake” like character (and, in that case, voiced by the same actor that plays Drake!).

The side scroller and platformer mechanics are fast and fluid. The game has an excellent pace to it, which helps when the levels seem to sprawl in a ‘not-quite-linear’ fashion. While all roads may lead to Rome, you feel like you have a choice in how to get there! The ability to angle your shots with the right analog stick makes the game automatically stand out from other shooters… it suddenly feels more like Contra III on the Super Nintendo, rather than a classic Contra rip-off.

I hadn’t played the game before it’s first ‘overhaul’ – but graphically it’s very well done. Treated with a lot of care so that nothng disappears into the background or is not seen before it attacks you. Some of the ‘backdrop’ girders make me think I have to go around, from time to time, but that’s a matter of learning the level design on my end.

The sound is well done, and the little extras like robots crying out when they kill you, or your character making comments at the end of a level add a great deal to the game.

My biggest complaints come directly from the combat system. If you do not hold down the right trigger when you fire, your shots disappear from the screen. You can’t fire repeatedly as you approach a target, because you must wait for the first shot to hit them! The first boss battle also got very frustrating – if you ran out of ammunition, he was practically impossible to get to. I went to the in-game store to buy some ‘extra lives’ during this battle, but even after they ran out, I just kept respawning. Is there a mechanic where you’re supposed to have unlimited lives during a boss battle that wasn’t mentioned? Was this a bug? I may never know. The tutorial mentions how the Stealth does not work against bosses, however it certainly aided me in getting by certain parts. Tiny other things, like typos (“then” instead of “than”) were evident, but as someone with a degree in English, proof-reading is a curse, sometimes!

From reading other reviews, it seems that the game has seen some enhancements since it first launched, and with a few more, this game will be undeniably fun. For $3, there’s absolutely no reason not to pick this game up, it will bring back a lot of the fun that you haven’t had since your last run through Contra! At the very least, give this Xbox Live Indie Game’s free demo a shot!

This ain't your grandaddy's TV

On my drive home from work, I heard an article on (yes, again) NPR, discussing how boring cable TV had gotten. First of all, why this counts as news is beyond me. I’ve hated most things on TV as long as I’ve been alive, save for a grand total of maybe 10-15 shows in my life time.

This NPR article kept coming back to the same point; the big crux of the article was “remember the good ol’ days of cable?” No, Pappy, I don’t.

In my life time, and in all likelihood the lifetime of anyone reading this, “cable” has been synonymous with “television.” There are lots of “cables” running all around my house these days. I grew up with “basic cable” – which still meant, even when I was about 10, I had over forty channels to pick from. Now I have a “cable box” that goes up in to the thousands. And it seems that, no matter how many ways people are cutting corners to get through this ongoing depression (I’m sorry, recession that neglects to take in to account underemployed), cable TV is one of those things that people are keeping. It’s not only a comfort, but it’s commonplace. Your life would feel empty without it, because you’ve had it as far back as you can remember. Your cell phone, for many who aren’t quite as bound to it as I am, is a new fangled gadget of convenience, or your home phone an unnecessary burden. These can be dropped. But cable TV? No way would someone give up something that’s been part of their daily life for over twenty years!

The article’s author, Andrew Wallenstein, used antiquated reasoning to justify why cable has cleaned up it’s act a bit, even saying things like “They’re courting advertisers just as big as the broadcasters at this point.” To me, that’s asinine. They’re not just courting them, and it’s not a new development. For nearly a decade I’ve seen the same advertisements be it during a live sporting event, a 10-plus-year-old re-run of The Simpsons, or The Daily Show on Comedy Central. It didn’t matter if it was “network” or “cable” – the advertisers have been the same, and in general, the content has been the same. I would wager that the majority generation doesn’t understand the difference between broadcast and cable, they just know that when your cable bill is late, only a couple of channels work – but that has nothing to do with the FCC standards imposed on the content of the cannels, as far as my peers know.

I think, with that government mandated “switch to digital” – the terms “broadcast” and “cable” should’ve gone by the way-side, as a way of defining the content on a channel. It’s absurd and antediluvian, stop saying it: your readers, viewers, and listeners have no idea what you’re talking about.