Inside Pulse 12

The Gamer’s Conscience 12.01.03

Endorphins! still! in! effect! ugh!

But not in nearly enough force to keep the Conscience down! Let me tell ya- when you take two sloth-breeding elements like “Thanksgiving” and a “6 Day Weekend” in a compound dose, all elements of work become non-existent. In the face of such lethargy, finals are within a mere two weeks from the current date, and frantic studying will once again become the norm. So when time needs to be allocated to stuff like Comparative Literature and History in order to make the grade, to what do I invest that time?

The legion of you kick-ass 411 Readers. That’s who.

But with that aside, I welcome you to the third edition of The Gamer’s Conscience Mailbag. A sampling of questions and comments that I have had the privilege to read and entertain, and ultimately share with other readers who might click with the content. In any case though, quite a few topics and musings have been covered, which will no doubt constitute a longer-than-usual edition. But hell- that’s the stuff we all enjoy anyways, no? So in a Soul Train-esque fashion of unbridled lapse of integrity, “Let’s Get it On!”

With that in mind, think back to a dark and sordid hour. An interval of time that gripped at the greedy pull-strings of the bargain hunter within the US, only for the puppet masters to leave it’s denizens weak and powerless, or so goes the A Perfect Circle of the same name. That distant and faint time was Friday, November 28th; better known to the business world as “Black Friday” and to the proletariat as “Fear for Your Life and Your Cheap DVD Player Day.” Now, in retrospect, it seems that not only bring cost effective gaming links was an act of sensibility, it turns out some lives could have been spared too. So in the interest of perpetuating the goodness that is maximizing your gaming dollar, krisna drops some other links of help that could save your life as well as your wallet:

“Just saw your article about saving money. There’s also a site called VGtalk.com (http://www.vgtalk.com). It’s a game deals site, and in my personal experience, a lot of video game deals are posted here before cheapassgamer.com. There’s also GamePriceSearch.com. Just a few other sites you might want to consider adding to your list of websites.

Thanks for the heads up, krisna- your commitment to the cause will not be overlooked. Hell- I now might be able to finally get my hands on a cheap copy of The King of Fighters whose price doesn’t hover in the triple-digit range. Man, wouldn’t that be sweet.

Next up is the column that attempted to earnestly address the construction of a cultural video game narrative, and in dealing with elements of nostalgia in that gaming culture; something that gamers in all age ranges are currently shaping with their passions and tastes. And as a small sample of the vast enlightened readership emerges to comment, Spinner brings some other examples to the floor that had eluded my previous analysis:

“Hey man just a couple of heads up in your column.

We need more midnight showing of the Wizard with Fred Savage, Super Mario brothers 3 movie and all.

Second, check out Nick Swardsons stand-up on video games, it’s actually pretty close to what you have been saying.

That EGM is really gut wrenching, but there are a couple of great things( ET sucked, I don’t even think the developers moms bought the game for their kids, so I don’t blame them for hating on that). Like the line in Space Invaders “Everyone who was responsible for this is dead.”

Street Fighter 2 is still the measuring stick, you know the bitch ass punks you hang out with because they use E.Honda and just hit punch alot.

Tkids have no respect for their fore fathers in gaming, Donkey Kong and mario is what this world is built on, but they want it to be built on Tommy Vercetti adn the Master Chief.

Peace,
Spinner”

Ahh, Spin- if I may call you Spin, too many points deserve comment here. First off, The Wizard is a stellar example of the perversity that Hollywood can impose on our mutual healthy hobby- and at the same time was a damned hilarious movie! Any movie that tries to introduce something as cumbersome as the Power Glove in a serious light is worthy of any attention to be sure. Second, it hadn’t occurred to me that there were cats out there who were incorporating video games into stand-up comedy. Hell- that’s what Bebito is here for! (in Triumph The Insult Comic Dog Voice: “I kid, I kid!”) The Street Fighter 2 comment brings a memory to mind that I might put in a future column, I agree just the same- there ain’t no room for bitch ass punks. And that last comment regarding kids wanting Vercetti and Master Chief over Donkey Kong and Mario in the video game cannon! you’ve got absolute concurrence. It’s sacrilege! However, cats like you keep it real. And that helps me sleep easy.

The next response came from Grimace, an avid reader of the Conscience, who chimed in on the playfully deceptive question of “what habits constitute that of the normal gamer?” Citing the quote in question, Grimace brings to the table a direct and affirmative interpretation for my apparently deviant gaming practice:

“‘!I began to wonder, as I frequently do. The question I pose this time around is this: I have a whole nine unopened video games on my shelf, some sitting there for over a year; does that mean that I’m any less of a gamer?’

Just the fact that you’d have bought not one, nor two, but NINE games and still haven’t played them, some of which were purchased a year+ ago, is proof that you are a hardcore gamer. It takes a man dedicated to his craft to buy that many games with the knowledge they’ll just gather dust for that length of time. Holy shit though. 9 games you haven’t even so much as OPENED yet? That’s crazy.

By the way, great columns. The only guys on the staff that could top you are Lucard and Bebito.”

Good Grim, my shaky nerves are put at ease indeed. Whether this practice of mine exists in delusion or in meditation, I don’t quite know. And since the Toys R US promotion last month, that quantity of unopened games has grown by 5! However, I’ll say this: there’s no more gratifying a feeling than being able to sit down to a great game of your choice after all of your obligations are said and done. Well, at least without the aid of foreign chemicals into the bloodstream.

On the same column, Antwon submitted a meticulous opinion on the question; a welcome meticulous opinion, as it was he who supplied the statement for me to run with. Rooted in the empirical as well as the subjective, Antwon breaks it down and builds it back up with solid results. It’s a long read, but to edit it would be an erroneous omission of any given part; all of which are necessary to the whole. And in the interest of continuity, I’ll bust commentary in between paragraphs where warranted:

“Hi there. I was the one that said this to you: “To answer your question, if you are spending only 2-4 hours a week on games then you are spending WAY less time than the average gamer playing…and certainly much less than the average RPG gamer.”

But how much time you spend playing games doesn’t really count towards what makes someone a gamer…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Now before I go on, let me put in this disclaimer and side info. First, these are only my opinions and not facts…but they are based on 15 years of gaming experience. I’m 24 and I live in NYC. I work from 10-6. I’ve owned every system that Nintendo has ever made (yes, even the Virtual Boy), and I’ve known people
with every other system starting way back from the Atari 2600. So unless I say THIS IS A FACT, this is just me and my 2 cents.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The fact that you have a couple of unopened games on your shelf just shows that you have more money than most and not as much time dedicated to playing those games. But it certainly doesn’t make you less of a gamer. And plus it’s YOUR money…if you want to literally shit on your games and then fling said games at the stray cats up and down the street, then that is your business.

You bring up an interesting notion regarding the cost of games in relation to the amassed quantity. While this aspect of the analysis may not hold much significance to the question at hand, the 9 games in question were all purchased for no more than 20 dollars a piece and over a period of 2 years. Budgeting is essential in this manner, and can afford it’s practitioner some crazy effect over finances. That, and I go to a public school too.

My definition of a gamer? If you can beat just about any one game not targeted towards kids (Shrek, Spongebob) without a strategy guide, you are a gamer. That’s it. The rest (actual games beaten, hours spent) only shows how much you like being a gamer…what games you play and how long you play them doesn’t make you better in any sense of the word.

Ahh! I’ve made the cut! And to think I almost picked up Finding Nemo! kidding!

Now, from my experience, the average gamer spends about 6-12 hours a week playing…mostly during the late night hours and during the weekend. Any kind of schedule (not counting lawyers and such) should permit at least 1 hour of gaming a day…it good for your health! I get home at 7 and don’t go to sleep until 12 or so on weekdays. If I’m not out on Friday or Saturday night I’ll play until really late…plus I’m an early bird also.

Interesting proposition here, Antwon, with regards to the sleep/play ratio. To be quite honest, I’ve never thought of it in that light. That is, time being a commodity in light of a fixed schedule, versus when a gamer may feel the urge to play on a whim. My guess here is that it is probably an issue of preference in either case. You have your quasi-set times, while I wait just a bit longer. Moving on!

I have to say…NINE unopened games? Damn, you could have at least played them when you first got them :) But it just means you are not a HARDCORE gamer (but neither am I). But for most gamers, they/we highly anticipate a game, and then we must play it to death.

At this point, I’m ready to get you and Grimace e-mailing each other in a debate forum to see just how hardcore of a gamer I am. That, and the third sentence is probably most ‘serious’ gamers can agree upon. That is, at least those who would admit to that sort of thing :)

Take my last 6 weeks for example…late September up until last week…I didn’t have any new games to play. So I played Mario Golf for like an hour a week plus another hour or so playing my roommate in Madden. So that’s like 2-3 hours per week, right? Well on Saturday, I got bored and rented Conflict: Desert Storm 2 so me and my friend could play it. My roommate and I spent at least 8-10 hours between late Saturday and late Monday playing it. Also, I rented Disgaea over the mail and it should be coming today…I plan on playing it every moment I get. Add on the fact that my friends are coming up this weekend, and we do 2 things: play games, and go out to drink. So this week, we are looking at 20+ hours or so, easily. 90% of my gaming hours in the last month is coming from this week. And Mario Kart comes out soon…

So don’t fret…everyone plays differently according to there priorities. And when I was in college, I had friends that would skip classes just to play games…now that’s way too far. I’d never put gaming over women or having fun. But me and one of my roommates from back then were real good at nighttime gaming…classes until like 4, then coupled with homework and studying, we might game from 8 until 1 AM or some nights. But remember, I’ve NEVER had 9 games at the same time so for me, these were bursts of gaming, not continuous 2-4 hour gaming weeks like you (much like I explained above).

My suggestion: start renting games instead of buying, slow down your game buying and try to add in some gaming time on the weekends (this seems to be the main area that you might want to work on)…Do you go to sleep early?

Games just fit in lower on your priority list…you probably have another hobby or activity that you put less/more time into. I used to like comics…I had all the Silver Surfer’s, but I didn’t really put the time into collecting more…but that didn’t mean I didn’t like comics.

Personally, I’d never have the patience to take 2 years to beat a game.

Other things that are common with most gamers:
-Spending 4+ hours in one sitting playing a game on a regular basis
-Planning ahead of time to dedicate X amount of hours/days to a game.
-Renting games and therefore, trying to beat them as soon as possible
-Taking the day off from a class/classes/work to play a new game
-Gaming until the wee hours of morning (1 AM+)
-Beating two 10+ hour games in one week
-Beating one 10+ hour game in 1-3 days

Thanks,
Antwon”

At this point, I would like to thank whatever cosmic being at work whose benevolence affords us the luxury of Cut & Paste. That, and to thank you, Antwon, for the analytical e-mail. Keeps my inbox hot and my head ablaze. Yeah!

Next up is some feedback regarding my open letter to everybody’s favorite toy-wheeling giraffe, Geoffrey- the Mohammad Khatami of Toys R US. When they had their buy 2 get 1 free promotion in effect, I jumped on that sucker like Alex Williams on any Konami game whose name begins with two consecutive nouns and ends in ‘Revolution.’ Alas, I didn’t have much luck in finding exactly what I wanted, and evidently I’m not the only one!

“That was a great article man. Over here in the UK Toys R us games zone is pathetic so I have to rely on Game which so far has never donea buy 2 get one 3. To make it worse Xenogears is not going to be released over here sucks to be UK lol.”

But conversely, there are those who took the deal in stride!

“Bro, I know it sucks you didn’t get the games you planned on with that deal, however, Toys R Us did a fine job of stocking the brand new games that came out that week for the buy 2 get 1 free sale. I got 3 brand spanking new games for a total of $107 after tax. I would have been looking at close to $160 if it hadn’t been for the deal. I’m sure they planned on the majority of the game sales at the time being on the brand new games, since $35.67 a piece for brand new games(again after tax) is much better than $53.34(after tax)!!!! Yeah, there was older games I wanted, but I can still get those at a cheaper rate than I got the brand new ones during the sale. Ya gotta take in the whole picture.”

Spoken, no- typed with a calm that I wasn’t able to attain. But damn it- if nothing else, Panzer Dragoon Orta will be mine. Hell- if any of you cats out there want to trade it for Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven or something else for my copy of Jak II, my e-mail is at the bottom.

Moving on, here’s some feedback in strong concurrence with my passionate approval of the Legacy of Kain series. As of this writing, Defiance is sitting on my shelf, waiting until finals are over, which at that point I’ll plunge everybody’s favorite duo of a geriatric vampire and a jawless zombie-smurf further into vengeance. But seriously folks- this series is worthy of more praise than most of it’s contemporaries. Don’t believe me? Then listen to this guy!

“So glad someone decided to write on the merits of this series. It’s incredible. You know it.

Here is a testimony of my own love for the games. In order to satiate my Kain fix, I videotaped all of the important story-related gameplay moments for all four games currently out. I did these tapes as a boredom project over the course of three years. Earlier this year, I finally finished the Soul Reaver 2 movie. What was left for me to do? Heh, I then watched them all one night, in episodic order, from the beginning of Kain’s death to the the mysterious end of Soul Reaver 2. I said, “it never gets old. Bring on Defiance.”

Damn straiht it will be cool. One last thing, if you don’t know about it, check out www.thelostworlds.net. AWESOME Kain site featuring some very little known info.”

Dude, you’re hardcore. So hardcore, I just might have to scrounge together a couple of bucks for a blank tape sent your way. Major thanks for the link too. For all you LOK heads out there like myself who fancy a bit of information to compliment the gaming experience, The Lost Worlds has a wealth of information and little-known tidbits concerning the series all the way from Blood Omen 1 to Defiance. Great stuff indeed.

Oh, and Chad, my misspelling of Raziel has been noted and will not be repeated again. Well, at least not in a sober state.

And last but not least, an epitaph on my resistance to play Final Fantasy VII was drafted, and come this December 22nd I will visit the school of thought that holds said RPG in such high esteem. As much enthusiasm as I carry into this endeavor via my friend, a few of you chimed in with as many words of caution as of support:

” Man, are you about to be disapointed.

You’re probably going to get about 1000 emails this week telling you that FF7 is god’s gift to video gaming, or that it’s overated. I’ll just give you one more datapoint: It’s the most overated game I’ve ever played, and I think it’s pretty much ruined the current RPG. It ushered in an era where cinematics and graphics were more important than gameplay. I don’t think it holds a candle to FF1, FF4, or FF5, but lots of people would disagree, as the graphics aren’t that great in those games, and there’s no cinematics.
You don’t have to spend the entire game running around an old town though…

Anyways, have fun with it.

Paul D”

And this one too!

“Yo Fred, great column. That’s the way RPGs snag you, bro: that first flick of the power switch, that opening CGI scene, and naming and equipping your first character. It’s over after that; you can kiss everything else goodbye. I’m on a self-imposed sabbatical from FFX, which I’m thisclose to being done with. I’m dying to get FFX-2, but will not allow it to occur until my completionist mentality has been satiated.

Dude, where did you grow up in CenTex? I’ve been here all my life, and love it beyond measure. I’m sitting in my cubicle here at the corner of IH-35 and 183 in Austin, just browsing the 411-age before the work day gets crankin’. Did you graduate from the area, or just grow up locally? Small world, bro.

Well, good luck with VII. I’ve yet to actually play that edition, but may pick it up based upon your buddy’s glowing recommendation and authoritative challenge of RPG-dom. Could be some good gaming on the horizon. Cheers.

Jason”

So, I guess it will be with some apprehension that I delve into Final Fantasy VII, but also with a renewed sense of skepticism. A skepticism that functions outside of the gaming mainstream and continues to be critical of the product regardless of it’s size and stature. And to answer your question, Jason, I spent the first 6 years of my life across Bryan, Flatonia (spelling?), Kountze, and Bryan again before moving to the West Coast. Should the price of living in Bryan remain at it’s current level, and Texas A&M decide to institute a “Giant Robot” development program, I just might come back. But in the meantime, it’s LA livin’!

Next week, I’ll be back to the usual grind of churning out material that you can either agree or disagree with; just keep the communication fresh and alive.

Disseminating the good ideas for more enlightened gaming- that’s the Gamer’s Conscience.


And that concludes another Mailbag edition of the Conscience. Stick around this coming week at 411Games, as the rest of the staff is coming off of the same endorphin high we’ve all come to expect. News, reviews, columns, all the good stuff is coming you way this week! E-mail is at the bottom- use it if you feel so inclined.

Also, I would like to know from all of you out there on which format you’d like the mail handled. That is, do you prefer one column devoted to received mail? Or would you rather it be included in each week of the Conscience? Let me know, and I’ll set it the way you want it.

So until the next time!