Gamer’s Hangover News Report 09.15.03

Okay, I promise, this will be the last one that’s late for a while. I’ve finished the fall fun tour of Zoobilee and the Chiefs game, so barring any unforeseen circumstances (like another pair of Chiefs tickets showing up unexpectedly”¦.oh please, oh please) I will be around to actually write this and submit it in a timely fashion.

Quasi-random thoughts:

Watched “School Ties” the other night. Ben Affleck, even with your Oscar, your “engagement” to Jennifer Lopez, and your lame little “Daredevil” gig, how does it feel knowing that Brendan Fraser could still kick your ass any day of the week? Oh, and he’s a much better action star than you’ll ever be.

Why isn’t Fraser all over the box office right now? After “Mummy” I was sure he was on the verge of a Indiana Jones-esque action star breakout. He’s got the build, he’s got the looks, he’s got the sarcasm, and yet they’re still trying to sell Affleck as a box office draw? Disgusting.

My favorite workout music is STILL Chris Jericho’s entrance theme. Seriously, I can lift a freakin’ truck when I have that in the headphones.

I’ll get to my full-on Chiefs game recap next week, but let me say now that I am sunburned, the proud owner of a new Scott Fujita jersey courtesy of the blackjack tables at Ameristar Casino, and a very happy man.

NEWS

Capcom “Discovers” Winning Formula
Capcom Entertainment last week released a new science fiction action game for the GameCube intitled P.N.03.

The game, set in”¦THE FUTURE”¦, has players fighting enemy robots as the games heroine, Vanessa Z. Schneider. Vanessa wields lasers. Vanessa kicks ass through eleven environments. Vanessa can upgrade her weapons and get nine different suits that will give her new abilities. P.N.03 has an M.S.R.P. of $39.99, and a rating of “T.”

Now, I’m not going to say that it sounds like a game that’s already been out for Nintendo products for”¦.oh”¦a good number of years now, but”¦I think I just did. Maybe I’m wrong.

GBA About To Make N-Gage Obsolete
Apparently, Digital Act Co. is preparing to release an adapter which turns a GameBoy Advance into a videophone, with earphone, microphone, and digital camera.

The device will be named the Campho Advance, and will retail for 13,000 yen (about $110 U.S) when it releases in Japan in December.

The catch is, you have to plug it into an analog phone line, but once you do you can view live video of the person they are talking to (given they also have a tricked-out GBA), as well as their own picture in the corner.

There are no plans at this time to release the product anywhere but in Japan, and there is no news as to whether it will work with the GBA-SP.

There Was A Ford Racing Game?

In the most bizarre story this week, Empire Interactive is developing Ford Racing 2 for the PS2 and Xbox, to be released around Christmas. Apparently (I’m using that word a lot this week), there actually was a Ford Racing on the PS1 and PC and it sold over 600,000 copies in the U.S.

Razorworks is developing and Gotham Games will distribute the racer, which will feature of large selection of Ford vehicles, past and present. Play modes will include Standard Race, Mirror Race, Staggered Start, Elimination, and Time Trials.

I wonder if they’ll include the 91 Escort, and if they do if they’ll bother to model the alternator burning out every two weeks.

EA Games Providing More Opportunities To Piss Off Complete Strangers Online

Electronic Arts, in it’s latest decree from the PlayerBoy Mansion, has announced online support for four upcoming EA non-sports games.

In addition to annoying Lee Baxley, EA’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King will allow players to go online and play cooperatively through the entire game.

Undoubtedly with further improvements to cyber-sex, The Sims Bustin’ Out will also have a two-player co-op mode, a centralized “lobby”, and the ability to trade items online.

In the “Share the Mayhem” department, Medal of Honor Rising Sun for the PS2 will have support for eight players set in the Pacific theatre. It will also feature use of the USB headset, so that you can confuse your teammates even further, and be far more personal in annoying your opponents.

And finally, Need for Speed Underground will support four player racing online in all modes of play: Drag, Sprint, Circuit, and Drift Racing. A ranking system will track the top 100 PS2 and PC users and the best lap times. No word on whether there will be steering wheel-only and non-steering wheel leagues forming.

Weekly Rentals

Mailing it in, but you already know why.

The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) has announced a preliminary list of the top renting games for the week ending September 7, 2003.
Here are the top 10:
1. Soul Calibur II—PS2
2. Madden NFL 2004—PS2
3. NCAA Football 2004—PS2
4. Soul Calibur II—Xbox
5. Soul Calibur II—GameCube
6. Enter the Matrix—PS2
7. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic—Xbox
8. Madden NFL 2004—Xbox
9. Midnight Club II—PS2
10. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder—Xbox

Soul Calibur II for the PS2 vaulted into the week’s lead with an estimated $0.38 million in rental income, just enough to edge the PS2 version of Madden NFL 2004, which had rental income of $0.37 million in the week. The Xbox port of Soul Calibur II took in another $0.19 in weekly rental income, while the GameCube version raked in $0.17 million.

Somewhere, Chuck Platt stirs uneasily in his sleep.

NON-GAME NEWS

A little mini-Deconstructing here. Solo effort this time. More angry than anything else, although I tried to pull out some humor.

Romo’s Victim Fears Being Blackballed’

ESPN.com news services

Marcus Williams suggested Tuesday that because he’s not a big-time player, he “may be blackballed” from the league by the Oakland Raiders and the NFL if he pursues legal action against the team and linebacker Bill Romanowski.

Uh, I doubt anyone in this WORLD, let alone the NFL, would mind one bit if you took Romo for everything that he’s got. You’d probably get a parade in Kansas City.

“I haven’t ruled out legal action … right now,” Williams said on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio. “I don’t know yet.”

Son, I’m wondering why CRIMINAL chargers weren’t pressed against the man. Taking the shirt off his back should be a given in this situation.

Romanowski and Williams were involved in a training camp fight last month during which Romanowski ripped off Williams’ helmet and punched the reserve tight end in the face, breaking his left orbital bone and chipping his tooth.

“It was a drill and we got into it,” Williams explained. “[Romanowski] yells … ‘don’t push me’ … then I feel my helmet come off, then I got hit right after.”

Okay, so he ripped Williams helmet off first, THEN punched him. So he purposely removed the man’s only protection first. Therefore, he intended to injure. If he just wanted to get his attention he could have just smacked him on the helmet. Folks, if this isn’t assault, I don’t know what is.

A day later, the Raiders placed Williams on injured reserve, ending his season.

That may be the only thing saving the Raiders organization at this point. They could still get hit with an unsafe work environment suit, but if they’d cut the guy because of this, he’d have had Al Davis chauffeuring him around San Fran.

Williams, a second-year pro who played mostly on special teams last season, was taken to a local hospital for a series of tests following the incident. He saw an eye specialist the following week and was told to rest at home for a week to alleviate the swelling.

But two weeks since the incident, Williams said he still has double vision.

I’d love to make a Foreigner joke here, but I just can’t. I’m too pissed off.

“I’m still seeing double. When I turn my head and look around, I get a bit dizzy. Headaches, too,” Williams said Tuesday.

Neither Kolligan nor the Raiders organization have responded yet to Williams’ latest statements.

Kolli-who?

Williams’ agent Lee Kolligan, who appeared on The Dan Patrick Show on Aug. 26, said that the Raiders had contacted him to suggest that the matter should be handled in-house, but Kolligan also said that if Williams’ career was determined to be in jeopardy, pressing charges against Romanowski and possibly the Raiders is something Williams would have to think about.

Somebody moved paragraphs around. Bad editing: ESPN copy editor. 5 yard penalty. Repeat 2nd down.

Williams is scheduled to make a base salary of $300,000 this year while on injured reserve, but his placement there means his season is over.

Again, there has to be SOMEBODY in this league willing to take Romo out. C’mon. Anybody? Remember when the guy sucker-punched Ulf Samuelsson? He got something like three games and $5k in the NHL world, because Samuelsson was such a prick. For Romo, in the NFL world, I’m sure you wouldn’t miss ANY games and you’d probably get fined a box of Raisinetts and a two-liter of Mountain Dew.

“Is there any excuse for potentially ending a player’s football career?” Kolligan told The Associated Press last month. “We’d rather not (sue), but if it comes down that this man has lost his football career as a result of this incident, then I would hope we can get some compensation.”

Romanowski apologized to Williams within days of the incident.

“I’m sorry for intentionally injuring you. I won’t do it again until you get back.”

“I hold myself accountable,” Romanowski told AP. “It was a classless move by me.”

Just the latest in a long string of them.

“I made my apologies. I said what I had to say to him. I pretty much told everybody what I had to say. You can try to make excuses, but there’s no excuses. It just won’t happen again.”

You’re quitting?! Party!! I’ll bring the beer!!

Romanowski was suspended from one practice and fined an undisclosed amount by the team.

Oooooo! ONE practice! And that fine was probably five minutes in “time out,” knowing the Raiders organization.

Romanowski also apologized to the rest of the team prior to his return to practice. Afterward, some Raiders players seemed almost indifferent toward the matter.

I ask you; indifferent, or simply scared to say anything about it?

“Everybody knew what they were getting when he [Romanowski] came here,” guard Frank Middleton said. “As long as it doesn’t happen again, it’ll be fine.”

Of course, being an offensive lineman, Middleton has nothing to worry about anyway.

Romanowski has had a history of on-field altercations during his 16-year NFL career — most notably for spitting on 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes. He has been fined several times by the league.

Something tells me that $80k pittance he’s gotten away with will be chump change compared to any decision handed down if Williams sues.

He signed with Oakland before last season, and he finished second on the team in tackles while helping the Raiders to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1983. His influence on Oakland’s defense has been praised, and he hadn’t been in any trouble with the Raiders until the Williams’ incident.

And it sounds like he wasn’t in trouble then, either.

NOT-SO-DAMN-SERIOUS-NON-GAME NEWS

Hedonism Meets Conservationism — Zoobilee 2003

Every city/town/village has its own particular brand of weird fun. Whether it’s Mardi Gras or Patriot Day or Pancake Races every town has some silly tradition that they love and honor and cherish and are ever-so-slightly embarrassed about. Wichita, Kansas is one of the cities fortunate enough to have two. The first one is fairly well-known (and by that I mean that you might have possibly heard of it if you happened to read the right travel magazine at the right time of year): The Wichita River Festival — a week long party that takes place in mid May every year, coincidentally at the same time as Wichita State’s finals week. As festivals go, this is your garden-variety local festival — if on a slightly larger scale than most: Food court, 5k race, assorted games and booths, symphony concert, fireworks, the usual.

The other weird tradition is less known outside of the confines of the city, but just as famous inside it. Unlike the River Festival, this party is only one night a year; and unlike the River Festival, where a $3 button will grant you all access privileges all week, you and your date will be dropping a C-note – EACH -to get in without wearing a volunteers t-shirt and doing 4-8 hours of hard labor. This is Zoobilee, the Sedgwick County Zoo’s primary fundraiser for the year.

For the bargain price of $100, you get to wander around the zoo for 6 hours on a Saturday night in September. Great fun, right? Oh, did I mention that the paths are lined with about 200 booths from local restaurants, liquor distributors, and day spas? Basically, you walk in the front gate and spend the next six hours grazing some of the best food the city has to offer, and when that runs out you just get plowed until somebody strains you into a martini glass and takes you home.

For those that don’t want to drop that kind of cash but still go to the party, there are two options. To put on this extravaganza takes a lot of people; people running trash bins to be dumped, people hauling ice to the stands that need it, people setting up tables beforehand and tearing them down afterward, people on hand to break-up any drunken altercations that ensue (although in four years of going I’ve never seen a fight at Zoobilee). If you’re one of the lucky ones to get on the volunteer list, you can get into Zoobilee absolutely free, provided you either work all day Saturday to set up, all night afterward to tear down, or either the first half or the second half of the event itself to do the aforementioned menial labor. Truth be told, for an average of 4-6 hours of work, it’s not a bad deal. I have a lot of friends who do just this every year.

The other option is limited to employees of the zoo and their spouses (wink, wink). Each regular zoo staff member is allowed two tickets at half price, so instead of $100 a person, $100 will get both of you in. As I try to avoid work, especially on the weekends, this is the option Veronica and I always take.

5:55 p.m. Standing in line, outside the Zoo. The air hangs heavy with pretentiousness. Cris is in a nice, but casual button-up/jeans combination; I’m in my traditional khaki shorts and football jersey. Tonight’s featured team: Kansas State (the Chiefs jersey was dirty). People around us are in formals, semi-formals, and clothes they were too old for ten years ago. Everyone’s acting like they look like a million bucks, although I’m sure eBay wouldn’t take them for more than $19.95. Cris and I discuss out loud how the Porsche Boxter and the Hummer H2 are the cheapest vehicles of their respective companies. Hairs bristle on necks. I love the captive riche.

Roni’s friend Callene walks by. She’s the Senior Keeper for the Children’s Farms, and she’s leading a donkey back to the Farms area. I ask her what she’s doing. “Hauling ass.” I like her. Her husband Eric is the head of guest services at SCZ, which includes security, so Zoobilee is his own private hell every year. I’m guessing he and Callene won’t make it home before 3 a.m. tonight, and the sad part is that they’ll both be stone cold sober when they do it.

6:02 p.m.: Still standing in line, we realize that pretty much every other line/mob is moving faster than ours. We bolt.

6:03 p.m.: We obviously had been in the rich-but-stupid line. This line has a lot more of an egalitarian feel to it. These people are more down-to-earth. I can tell because they actually want to get inside and start the feast. To thine own self be true.

6:05 p.m.: We’re in. The first booth we go by is serving Corona. Good omen.

6:10 p.m.: A tip from one of my friends working says to head towards the back of the zoo first, and work our way forward, since most people come in and just mill around the main courtyard area. Most of the top-notch restaurants are back in the Event Field anyway. We’re probably in the first third of people to get in, and it already feels like swimming in a sea of human cholesterol. I’m hoping things thin out as the crowd diffuses.

6:18 p.m.: For some reason, I’m in the day spa booth. Next thing I know, I’m in a comfy chair with a shop towel that had been soaked in ice water on my neck and two pretty little blondes massaging my hands. I have to admit, it felt kind of silly at first, but then the realization that I had two hot girls attending me kicked in. It’s all about the attitude. They asked me if I was having fun at Zoobilee and I told them that Veronica had sent me to have fun and asked them for a price list so I could get schedule her some spa time.

(I’ve discovered that this is an extremely powerful tool for a guy. Let’s say you’re a reasonably attractive guy. Women might notice you. Then lets say you have a good sense of humor and are well spoken. Women might like talking to you. Then let’s say you’re secure enough in your masculinity to do something like this and not act like a total dork. Women might respect you. But if on top of all of this, with two hot women looking right at you, you can talk about your wife and how much you love her, it’s like you’ve reached enlightenment. Your self-confidence and security almost become palpable, and as any woman will tell you, that’s the sexiest thing a guy can be. After I asked for the price list, I had that room around my finger. The same thing worked for me when I was shopping for Roni’s Mother’s Day present this year. No, I didn’t get any sex but I wasn’t looking for that. What I got was really good service.)

I looked over at Cris, and he’s in the same situation, grinning like a madman.

Pretty Young Thing #3: So, is this your first time at Zoobilee?
Cris: No, I was here last year.
PYT3: Did you come by our booth last year?
Cris: No, I think I’d have remembered that, no matter how drunk I was.

6:25 p.m.: Towels around our necks, we stroll over to the River City Brewery booth and score some Prime Rib.

6:32 p.m.: There’s always a nice amalgam of dress at Zoobilee, and while I can understand why someone would want to dress up for a $100 a ticket event, I just can’t get over the fact that these people are walking around in suits and formals AT THE ZOO. One guy in particular is a riot to look at. Probably early 20’s, he’s got the Mark McGrath hair, and a black suit with a red shirt. He’s smiling and pointing at people like he just walked off the set of Swingers. Cris and I break into a chorus of “Every Morning” in his honor.

6:36 p.m.: I get the first, “What’s the score?” from a complete stranger for the night (remember, I’m wearing a K-State football jersey).

6:40 p.m.: The line at the therapeutic massage booth was really short. The gal working on me correctly pegs that I had injured my shoulder recently. She finishes with me in about 10 minutes. The gal working on Cris takes 20 minutes, mostly because Cris hasn’t had any sort of massage in about 5 years. At one point she uses her elbow to work out knots in his upper lats.

6:50 p.m.: Drinks in hand, towels on neck, and backs unknotted Cris and I declare Zoobilee 2003 an unqualified success. We could go home right now and be okay with it.

7:04 p.m.: Look, if you’re going to serve key lime pie, there’s something very basic you need to know: It’s served cold. Still, it’s not the worst key lime pie I’ve ever had.

7:15 p.m.: We’ve hooked up with Cris’ brother and sister-in-law, Patrick and Deb. Deb’s a buddy of mine from way back in the undergrad days, and is how I met Patrick and Cris in the first place. Since Patrick’s 6 foot 9, he’s great to have around in crowd situations like this. I’m buzzing nicely, since I downed a couple of drinks while Cris was finishing up his massage. “If I leave here more sober than when I got here, I’m going to be pissed,” he says.

7:24 p.m.: Talking to Callene, who has finished up her animal demos for the evening and is making the rounds with some of the Farms crew. I can tell that she’s a little tired of the Zoobilee experience herself, after seeing every single minute of every single Zoobilee for the last God-knows-how-many years, courtesy of Eric’s position. She’s the type to make the best out of a situation, though, so of course she has a drink in her hand.

7:45 p.m.: It’s just starting to get dark. We decide to head across the zoo to the Hiland Dairy booth to try and score some ice cream before the inevitable 8 o’clock rush.

7:47 p.m.: Vanilla Rum. Add cola. Phone addiction recovery center of choice.

7:49 p.m.: For the first time in recorded history, they didn’t put the Outback Steakhouse booth directly in front of the Grizzly Bear exhibit. No “we’re all gonna die” jokes this year. They did replace it with the Hyatt Regency restaurant booth, but we’re on a mission for ice cream, and they’re not serving alcohol, so we don’t stop.

8:00 p.m.: In line at Hiland. “How’d the game turn out?”

8:03 p.m.: Mmmmm. Strawberry.

8:15 p.m.: The food stalls are starting to run out, much like they do about this time every year, but this year the alcohol stalls are running out too. It appears that pretty soon our only source of liquor will be the full-service bars set up around the zoo, which is fine if you like standing in line. This does not bode well.

8:30 p.m.: I can hear SCZ Director Mark warming up the crowd for the live auction. Here’s the deal. Once the crowd is nice and lubricated, the start auctioning off the right to sponsor certain animals for the coming year. In the case of animals with babies, sometimes they even get to name them. Wichita really comes through on this, year after year, as silly as it seems. Of course, there is a measurable mammal bias. The giraffes typically pull down $30k a year in sponsorships. The Komodo Dragons are lucky if they can break $3k.

Most of the booths are closed or closing. The therapeutic massage place is open for a few more minutes, and Cris contemplates going back for seconds.

8:50 p.m.: We’re making our way over to the gazebo as they finally start getting the auction underway. God bless A.J.’s Sports Bar. After every other booth has closed and the only places to get alcohol are the zoo-run bars, A.J.’s booth is still open and still cranking out pizza.

9:00 p.m: Cris and I split up to try and find the bar with the shortest line. My God guide our livers.

9:11 p.m: Back at the gazebo. Cris was unsuccessful. I show up with two rum and Cokes and two scotch and waters. Apparently, I rule.

9:13 p.m.: Black bear pulls in $11k.

9:17 p.m.: Mexican wolves pull in $10k.

9:21 p.m.: Komodo Dragons pull in $2500.

9:24 p.m.: Otters pull in $11k. See a pattern here?

9:30 p.m.: I officially declare myself unfit to drive home. I would’ve stood on the table to declare this, but I can’t find my feet.

9:45 p.m.: The auction ends and the dance begins. My equilibrium would probably be okay to dance with, but Roni isn’t here to sell for me. Dancing, just like wrestling, depends on your partner.

9:47 p.m.: Back to the bar. They’re out of hard liquor, but kegs are still working. Liquor before beer, never fear; so I load up with four more.

10:20-ish p.m.: Kegs are dead. The bars are passing out cans of Bud Light now. The lines have melted away, however, and free beer is free beer.

10:55 p.m.: Still chilling in the gazebo, talking to Deb. Cris and Patrick are embroiled in one of their classic political debates, which mostly come off something like “Wabbit Season!” “Duck Season!” Having a fine time.

11:18 p.m.: We decide to call it a night. As we’re getting up to leave, I get my final “How’s the game” of the night, and get roped into a ten-minute conversation of K-State football with the next table over. You see, this is why I like wearing the football jerseys to Zoobilee. First of all, I have to dress up for work during the week anyway, so “dressing up” is not that big of a deal to me. Second, it’s more comfortable, especially on warm September evenings surrounded by 5,000 of your closest strangers. Third, if I showed up in a generic dress-up outfit, nobody would look twice at me. With a smart pair of khaki shorts and a neat football jersey, I can count on random strangers chatting me up about football a number of times during the night, and I would much rather talk about football than”¦pretty much anything else”¦. besides 411 (and I work that in anyway).

11:30 p.m.: Thus was Zoobilee. Can’t wait for next year.

PLUGS, PIMPS, AND THANKS

First of all, I’m a big man, and I can admit when I screw up, and I screwed up big.

Like I said, I’m a man, and apparently so is last week mailbag contributor Misha. Specifically, it was the Misha who wrote most of the Down-Lo last week. I’ve already made my apologies to him, and I hope we’ll be seeing more of him on 411 in the future. There, that ought to keep him from declaring jihad on me.

As for the rest of the posse, what order should I shill this week? Hmmmm. How about”¦.east to west?

The sun rises on Bryan Berg before anyone else on the 411 staff. Springsteen. Bon Jovi. Berg. Coincidence? I think not.

I think Williams is on the east coast somewhere.

Lucard is our last line of defense against the invading Canadian hordes. Minnesota can sleep well tonight, knowing he’s on guard.

Platt keeps all the cards on the table in Missouri, yo.

Don’t let his plain-spoken ways fool you, Baxley is swimming in Oklahoma oil money. How do you think he affords all the anime?

Pankonin controls us all from his secret underground lair somewhere in eastern Nebraska.

Bebito Jackson is holed up with Bella, a small arsenal, and the a copy of every Sonic game ever made in his cabin in Colorado.

Freddie Badlassi covers the airwaves in the City of Angels, baby.

I have no idea where LiquidCross is from, so he has to go to the back of the bus.

Next week, the Chiefs/Steelers trip wrap up, more game news, maybe a little sneak peak at Raw 2, and whatever else I can come up with. I have no life altering events planned for this week, so maybe I can get this turned in on time for once.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory