Gamer’s Hangover News Report 12.22.03

Quasi-random thoughts:

Why do people even make depressing Christmas music? We have to deal with everyday life for 12 months out of the year anyway, do you have to drag that ill will into our last bastion of hope and good cheer? Huh? “Christmas Shoes” is not uplifting or touching — it’s probably chargeable as criminal solicitation of suicide in most states.

I hear that crap twenty times a day, but I can’t find the Mackenzie Brothers version of 12 Days of Christmas anywhere on the radio. Where are your priorities, people?! Thank God my pal Deb gave us a mix-CD that has the Cheech & Chong Christmas on it.

Okay, now that we’ve all read Lucard’s year-end thank yous; I have to admit that if I tried to do the same thing I’d come off sounding like Cartman: “I love you guys “¦. Screw you guys.”

I’m sorry, but 12 straight hours of “Lord of the Rings” may be approaching critical mass. What makes it worse is the knowledge that Tolkien wrote the thing as an allegory to the Christian faith. I came out of the ordeal wanting to come straight home and write an essay relating the story to the tenuous grip we have on “life” and the concepts of faith and hope. Of course, I already spend WAY too many clock cycles of my brain on trying to resolve my real-world experiences, my better-than-average knowledge of physics and astronomy, and my Lutheran upbringing into some understanding of the nature of God. Those that have tried it know that this is like trying to prove the existence of squirrels using a pocket calculator and a butter knife — not only do you not have enough tools and knowledge, the tools and knowledge that you do have are utterly useless for the task. Anyway, you can thank a decent amount of sleep and the pedantic task of bathroom renovation for sparing you from the metaphorical onslaught.

Now that we in the hinterland actually have Bravo, I’ve finally gotten to see Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. My impression: Meh. The shows on The Learning Channel/BBC do the same thing without having to resort to that sort of whorishly attention-grabbing premise. That said, they do good work; even though the blond one is a total bitch.

Looking at the Movies site, I can’t believe that not one of them took in the LOTR marathon, or if they did they didn’t write about it. Of course, I can’t really blame them if this is the case; here is an excerpt from my attempt at a diary for the experience:

12:50 p.m.: First movie starts in ten minutes. People were apparently here lining up just to get good seats at 9 this morning. As such we’re in the second row. I’m guessing my eyes will start bleeding about 2 and a half hours in.

1:05 a.m.: Heh. *snort* bwah. Mrrv tsriaow anauras boo “¦ BOO! Hah! Eagad mqwas zdrastvuytye. Pmm “¦ vrrm “¦ beh. Gih. *sniff* E.

You can linearly interpolate to figure out what the middle was like. I figure coherence was lost somewhere around 8:45, which was bad for reviewing ROTK, since it didn’t start until 10. I think I wrote my 11:15 entry in Holstein.

The holidays can be a very hard time for people. It’s understandable. It’s lamentable. It’s also preventable, or at the very least deal-able, because almost all of a person’s issues with the holidays can be traced back to one fundamental problem: unreasonable expectations. As a service to my readers, I have some wisdom to impart on how to survive, and maybe actually enjoy this holiday season if things are less than perfect for you. You’ll notice that the most common theme is to relax. This is because that is the purpose of holidays. If a holiday is stressful, it’s not really a holiday, is it? Simply relaxing and taking the bad with the good will go a long way to making a painful holiday bearable.

– The most common problem that I’ve seen is that of loneliness, which is exaggerated by the stereotypical expectation of “family unity” during the holidays. Little info: If your family isn’t tight the other 11 months out of the year, it’s not going to get suddenly tight in December. If there are family events that you’re dreading, figure out why you’re dreading them and deal with the specifics — dealing is always better than letting things fester. If your family isn’t gathering or you can’t make it, realize that it’s not your fault. Give those that you love a call, or a visit if you can; but don’t be afraid to relax and take the holiday for yourself. If there are marital problems or other related issues, just know that the holidays are completely disconnected from your problems. They occur whether your problems are there or not, so they shouldn’t even factor in to them emotionally. They are NOT there to taunt you about your supposed “failures.”

– Those of you who have grown apart from your respective religions and are regretting it, just go back. Go to one service and listen. Leave behind regret and don’t even acknowledge any judgmental stares from other men. Just go and listen. Don’t try to be perfect or to make up for past absences or discretions. Just go and listen. You’ll figure out the rest.

– For those of you who stress over presents, useful trumps unique. The logical conclusion of this is the gift certificate/gift card. If you just can’t find the perfect thing, then give the freedom of choice with one of these. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT HOW LITTLE YOU SPEND ON PRESENTS. If you can’t afford big, you can’t afford big and that’s that. No shame in that, and don’t let your Visa think that you’re of higher means than you actually are.

– If you get a chintzy gift, deal. Don’t be so damn shallow.

– For those having a crisis of faith, or those who feel too weary to care, or those racked in depression — Relax. I know, easy for me to say, right? No, it’s not that easy. The holidays are steeped in the tradition of exaggerated expectations and the potential for great joy, or more commonly great disaster. My grandmother died on Christmas. I spent my entire school break that year dealing with the loss as well as dealing with legions of relatives, Mom and Dad doing funeral preparations, as well as the accompanying short tempers and weariness.

True story about that whole ordeal: My aunt and uncle from Phoenix were staying with us for that whole mess. There had been a lot of ill will between them and my parents regarding the settling of my Grandma’s estate (which wasn’t that astute of an estate to begin with). The funeral came and went, and it was now a few days after Christmas. It was a Saturday morning and, as was my tradition, I awoke early to catch Looney Tunes. The house was quiet; everyone was either up and out already or still asleep. Given the heaviness of the week I was really looking forward to the mirth and normalcy of watching Saturday morning cartoons alone. I went into the kitchen to prepare my breakfast. As I did this, I pulled down my box of Froot Loops — I usually ate them dry right out of the box as a snack — and I opened it up and took a big handful and ate it. Right then my uncle happened to walk into the kitchen and saw me. He yelled at me for eating the cereal out of the box. He went on some bullshit line about him being a guest in this house and my poor manners and whatever else. I was 9. He was somewhere in his mid to late 40s. He wasn’t going to eat Froot Loops for breakfast, so why the hell should he care? He was yelling at me because he could. He was pissed at my Dad and didn’t have the balls to yell at him so he took out his frustrations on me. I’ve had a lot of not-terribly-nice stuff happen to me, but that reproach angered me like I had never been before and have seldom been since.

Fortunately, my nine-year-old mind led me to do the single best thing I could have done. I got dressed, left a note for Mom and Dad explaining my intentions, and I walked over to my other Grandparent’s house and spent the rest of the weekend there. I told my folks to call when my aunt and uncle had left (which was to be the next day). Sunday afternoon, they left and I went home to salvage the rest of my Christmas break.

The point is that I knew when I had to get out and go somewhere to relax. I had just spent the week, and most of my Christmas vacation, either getting the house ready for Christmas or dealing with the death of my grandmother and the resulting funeral. Then I had to deal with the bruised ego of my uncle? No. No I did not. If he wanted to be a jackass, that was his problem. I decided to take some comfort for myself rather than let myself be beat up by what was going on around me. Maybe a lot of that is happening to you. Circumstances beyond your control are making things uncomfortable. Maybe you’re beating yourself up for things that may or may not be your fault. Maybe you don’t feel worthy to take this holiday. Bullshit. Take the holiday. Make it your own. Rest. Sleep until noon, or stay up until dawn playing EverCrack. Buy a latte and a paper and read. I’m not saying you should ditch your family or obligations. Just don’t forget that this is a holiday. It’s a time for rest and celebration.

The bathroom still taunts me. This week’s joy is the drip leaks in the supply line to the toilet, AND the fact that we screwed up the grouting so now we have to dig it out of the relief of the friggin’ tiles. Thank God for the Dremel.

Shox beat Tulsa on Saturday! Woo! (NOTE: This writer may be hedging his bets on the Chiefs’ season after the beyond piss-poor performance Saturday afternoon against the ViQueens. He is and always will be a die hard Chiefs fan, but he just really wanted to focus on the positive this week.)

My new obsession: Project Gotham Racing 2 on Xbox Live. You know, I thought the Xbox was an okay game machine “¦ not much better than the PS2 or the GC if at all, but then I got initiated into Xbox Live. Wow, folks. Longtime readers know how much I hate giving Microsoft any sort of kudos (PGR2 reference for you freaks) but they hit a home run with XBL. Oh, and my online NBA Inside Drive record stands at a proud 1-0 following a 27 point trouncing of four guys (?) playing as the Chicago Bulls by lil’ ol’ me playing as my beloved Celtics — circa Antoine Walker. Toine had 45 points on the game. You’re next, Berg. Where are you, Berg? WHERE ARE YOU?!?!

Any 411 Fans/Staff that want a friendly game online, my Gamertag is “Cory 411″. I play mostly PGR2 and Links 2004 but will also be up for NBA Inside Drive and NFL Fever for the foreseeable future.

NEWS

PS2 Price Point Forces Owners To Rent Instead Of Buy
credit: Gamedaily.com
Eh, maybe not. But we have another clean sweep of PS2 games this week.
Home Video Essentials, a product of Rentrak Corporation, has released a list of the top renting videogames for the week ending December 14, 2003.
Here are the top 10:
1. Need for Speed: Underground—PS2
– *singing* I’M YOUR “¦ TUR-BO”¦LOVAAAAAH!!
2. Medal of Honor: Rising Sun—PS2 – Hmmmm. Must investigate this one “¦.
3. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2—PS2 – And the code to unlock Stinkoman 20X6 is “¦.
4. True Crime: Streets of L.A.—PS2 – Fo shizzle.
5. Tony Hawk’s Underground—PS2 – Still with Halo-esque availability. I grow suspicious.
6. Madden NFL 2004—PS2 – This week’s’In Denial’ Madden players — Chiefs fans. There. I said it.
7. WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain—PS2 – *indignant* But it still isn’t as good as No Mercy!
8. SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals—PS2 – Current score: U.S. forces in Iraq: 135, U.S. pimply-faced teens in U.S.: 2.
9. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne—PS2 – Sequel: The Rise of Crunch Rockgroin.
10. Manhunt—PS2 – Only at #10 due to the loss of the New Zealand gamers “¦ (don’t say it “¦ don’t say it “¦ don’t you DARE say it “¦.) “¦. both of them. (Jackass.)

Midway Prolongs The Suffering
credit: Gamedaily.com
Midway Games has put up an official website for its upcoming horror game The Suffering. The game revolves around Torque, your character who might just deserve to be where he is: inside a haunted maximum-security prison that he has to escape. The website has some trailers, screenshots, and some more info on the game’s storyline and weapons (weapons? Against ghosts? What does he have? A positron accelerator? Don’t cross the streams!). The game is due out in March for the PS2 and the XB.

Where The Term E-Ticket’ Isn’t Completely Lost
credit: Gamedaily.com
Disney Online has opened up a new area in its massively multiplayer online PC game Toontown Online. I know. Slow news day. Anyway, the kid-friendly game now has the Sellbot Cog Headquarters area. For those who don’t know, the game’s premise is that the players are working against the “cogs”, which are robots created by Scrooge McDuck (a guy who needs more good press, I think). The new area features an “advanced” play area which will lead to a “free-for-all” with the Boss Cog. Whee. For those who care, Toontown Online can be downloaded for free with a three-day trial. After that there’s a $9.95 monthly subscription fee to play. Note: This is almost TWICE what the cost of the whole Xbox Live experience. Although a suppose both involve The Beast on some level, so pick your poison.

The Fallout Of Decent RPG Games Hits Consoles
credit: Gamedaily.com
For those of you that never played Fallout on the P.C. Let me tell you that you missed probably the first truly self-determining RPG ever. This was the first game that I saw that let you do pretty much whatever you wanted, including pick which goals you wanted to accomplish. As such, you could end up as a sterling hero, or as a complete waste of oxygen. True story: After I won Fallout using the goody-good route and got that crappy-ass ending (basically, they kick you out of your home for becoming such a hero), I went back and played it again, only this time I killed ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I came across. I’d go into a town, get the items I’d need for that town, and then exterminate the entire place. Women, kids, dogs, you name it. I even used my friends editor to jack up my character stats. I was the friggin’ Terminator. Of course, I was in Montreal at the time, away from my girlfriend and lonely as hell, so there’s MY court defense.

Anyway, Interplay and Vivendi have announced that Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel will ship on January 13. It will support two player cooperative play, as you play members of the Brotherhood, attempting to exert “their own sense of order” to the post-apocalyptic world. Weapons. Mutants. Yadda. Rated “M”. $49.99.

Bugs In GT4 Not Limited To Volkswagons
credit: Spong.com
See also: Bad omen. Apparently the Japanese demo of the upcoming Gran Turismo 4 has a bug in the game where the accelerator fails to accelerate “¦ that is, IF the accelerator is hooked up to a Logicool GT Force or Force Pro steering wheel set. There’s ANOTHER bug where the steering wheel actuator fails to return to neutral after it’s been turned. As this author has said many times, racing games should be fully playable with the stock controllers. There is revised (read: FIXED) version available free to anybody with a defective demo. The game Itself will be released in April.

What do Military Intelligence And PlayStation 2 Have In Common:
credit: Spong.com
Okay, so the PS2 was supposed to go on sale in China (that is the People’s Republic of “¦) two days ago (the 20th) but “¦ there were no consoles to be had. Not one. Sony didn’t say diddly about it until today.

“We are working with all our power to satisfy everyone’s hopes by making the PlayStation 2 available to sonsumers, and we deeply apologise to you for any inconvenience.”

The reason for the delay? An “unfavorable environment.”

WTF?

The morning’s scuttlebutt is that some hardware within the PS2 may be “¦ get this “¦ in violation of laws forbidding exporting of military technology under Japanese and American law. Yes, the thought is that YOUR PS2, the one your dog peed on, could have military applications.

Which is scarier, the Chinese having the PS2, or millions of bored teenagers in this country with military-ready hardware?

“We hope to deliver the product as soon as possible and are trying to get it ready,” is the announcement from spokesman Kenichi Fukunaga this morning. The only other reason (and probably the actual one) are security flaws found late. As you all know, the reason manufacturers have been hesitant to go into the Chinese market is their well-known propensity for copying/selling/redistributing anything and everything digital. Stay tuned.

PIMP-LICIOUS

I haven’t had any mail for the last few weeks for a very good reason: I haven’t had any mail. Really, is ANYONE reading this? 411 Staff members? Fans? Moltar? Zorak?

Pimp Coat: Berg is always there to defend the common man, even if he IS a pansy and won’t face me on Xbox Live.
Giving one controller is shortchanging everybody involved (lack of interaction among gamers), but making a customer pay $20 just to save their game is outright robbery.

Pimp Stick: Lucard tells it like it is.
Of course, we ARE the elite here at 411, but I think the rest of the Kliq would agree with me on that, egotistical primadonna sides of us talking or not.

Pimp Boots: I thank Chuck for his thoughtfulness.
I still participated in Kliq functions, aside from ‘Makeout with Cory Night’ due to a cold sore and waited for the dark period to pass.

This week’s Ho Train:
A-Will can’t get a Pimp award every week, much as I’d like to give him one. At some point his closet will get too full of coats.
Lee may be near the end of his self-imposed sabbatical (think of it that way, Lee. It’s more empowering that way).
Misha talks of the aesthetics of video games, giving you some ammunition with your Mom/girlfriend/wife.
L.C. never gets a Pimp award. I think it may be subconscious. I think I may be a size queen. I’ll check into this.
Yip is back. He’s tanned, he’s rested, he’s ready.

Next week, the Year-End Hangover special! I have no idea what that means, but I will by next week.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory