A Thumb To The Eye Number 1

I’ll be honest here, I REALLY tried to think up some angry rant to go on, a bilious diatribe so filled with expletives and venom that it would be impossible to ignore me. I wanted Bebito to read this and say, “DAMN, that’s one angry dude.” So I sat and I wrote and I thought and I erased and I wrote some more. Licensed games? Check. Sequelitis? Check. The horrible states of game manuals, arcades, and used game prices on Ebay? Check, check, and check. Then it hit me… I’m not really that angry. Hell, aside from the late 16-Bit/ early 32-Bit era, this is the best time I’ve had as a gamer. Seriously, there are so many reasons to be happy about the state of gaming, I’m having a hard time being prissy about anything. Curious what could make a cold-hearted skeptic like me so happy? Read on, read on, and hopefully you’ll be convinced. I guess you could not read this and wonder about it day and night for a week, but it’s probably better if you just go ahead and read.

Dance Dance Revolution- Don’t get me wrong, my no rhythm, two left foot having self doesn’t play DDR but some of the side effects of DDRism are making my life as a gamer better. I mean, how many people who could care less for arcade gaming normally walk in the front door just to play or watch DDR? Tons, and these people are putting money into the arcades, buying home systems, and discovering other types of games are pretty cool, too. I know some people are weary of casual gamers, as I can be, but it can be a huge boon to increase the number of gamers, casual or not. Very much like Street Fighter II, DDR is on the verge of pop culture awareness and could bring in even more gamers and dollars with one more step… a novelty hit. Yes, DDR needs to be the subject matter for this generations “Pac-Man Fever” so that it attains that most prized of cultural positions, one-hit wonderland. Whomever writes this song will earn themselves the fame, fortune, drugs, and dames that umm… the two guys who did “Pac-Man Fever” ( Bucknar and Garcia) got and a spot on VH1 specials in perpetuity. It’s worth it just to attain the level of pseudo-celebrity so that you can go on a “We Love the Naughties” show and wax philosophical about the socio-political ramifications of “DDR Fever” and who knows, a Mitsubishi commercial could follow and Ka-ching part II. Seriously, I love anything that drags in new gamers without resorting to cheap controversy to get attention. Way to go Konami!

Gameboy Advance and the Gameboy Player- While the software side of this has been largely covered by Retrograding, the sheer versatility that this system/ accessory combo bring is an inexhaustible source of happiness to me. My vision sucks so bad that the only hand held I can see consistently is the Neo Geo Pocket Color but the Gameboy Player suddenly opened up a new world for me. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo X for $30? Breath of Fire II and Phantasy Star Collection on the shelves of my local Wal-Mart? Fire Pro Wrestling in ENGLISH? Sign me up! That importing is easy to the point of being a non-issue, games are everywhere and affordable, and I get to use the more comfortable, in my hands at least, Gamecube controller just make me more happy. Look at it this way: from here to New Years, I can play Advance Wars 2, Final Fantasy Tactics, Onimusha Tactics, River City Ransom, and Sword of Mana at home or work and at $30 a game. Damn. That pretty much slays all the other software lineups this fall and makes it pretty easy to write off Nokia’s $300 dollar sub-Lynx phone/ game system.

The Huge Ass Playstation Back Catalog- When I decided to fill in the blanks in my PS collection, I figured it would take, at most, 10 games to make it complete to my standards. By the time I finished lurking on message boards, pouring over old GameFANs, and listing the games I remembered forgetting to buy, the list was 50 games strong. While I live to bash Sony, I can’t deny that there is some pretty awesome stuff in the back catalog, in spite of Sony’s Shiite first party software. Importing is easy, the controller is so good it’s the industry standard, and, best of all, some of the best games are ubiquitous and cheap. There’s treasure to be had at the under $50 dollar range and the CD style packaging means that there are more complete games than not. Try finding complete GBA games and you’ll see what I mean. If affordable kick ass games don’t make me smile, then nothing will.

Nintendo- It makes me smile to see Nintendo, the old man of the gaming world, keep it gangsta and still stick it to the man, Sony. Will they ever be number one again? I doubt it. All the same, though, it’s hard to deny that I’ll be playing hella Gamecube the next six months between Wario World, Mario Kart, Soul Calibur II, Wrestlemania X-9, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Final Fantasy, and Pikman II. Sure, they don’t have the infrastructure of Microsoft or the unit sales of Sony, but Nintendo has the quality, and I can’t argue with that. Most importantly…

The Kids Are Alright- Have you walked down a toy aisle lately? Target and Wal-Mart have Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragon Ball Z, and Gundam stuff everywhere, anime DVDs, and well stocked video games. Every time I see a kid at a store they’ve got something anime based in their cart and are talking about Yu-Gi-Oh the way I talked about G.I. Joe when I was seven. It’s really beautiful to see. On that note, though, do me and you a favor and try to get as many good games into the hands of children as you can. Introduce them to 2-D and platforming and fighting games. Help them get past the hard parts. Donate an now unplayed game or system. It’s for the children, but it also means they’ll keep doing this and the more gamers we have the more clout we’ll have. So, really, it helps everyone.

Well, that was the first A Thumb To The Eye. I hope you liked it. If you didn’t, well, I’ll try harder. As always, hop the barrels, save the princess, and go buy the Postal Service CD, it’s the unacknowledged album of the year.

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