Gamer’s Hangover 02.23.04

“You Suck”: A Collection of Reader Mail

I’ve been unbelievably lucky that my reader e-mails to this point HAVEN’T been as simplistically insulting as this. I haven’t even had anybody flame me in l33t yet, so I guess I should consider myself lucky.

Still, not everything has been positive. As is my tradition, let’s clear the bad away first.

As much as I enjoy reading your news reports, I really wish I didn’t have to slog through your political views and diet options, especially considering that they take up over half the column space. I appreciate that you want to have space for some random thoughts, but could you at least try to keep them at least within a stone’s throw of the column’s theme? It’s a video games site, not a health site. Save the other stuff for 411Black.

Frank Benjamin

Now, my first knee-jerk insecure reaction is to go “my column” yet again, but the guy really does have a point, and it’s one that ties into something I wanted to comment on this week anyway.

Mr. Berg’s short plea to video game makers a couple of weeks ago really struck a chord with me. As with most people my age (that would be the Mesozoic’), I remember my childhood/adolescence/early adulthood with a sort of idyllic filter. “Remembering the simpler times,” and all that garbage. Unfortunately, there is a bit of truth to that nostalgia; the truth that, while I didn’t have any money or a life to speak of back then, I did have loads of time and thus could obsess completely over my favorite video games.

Video games *were* the connection between my friends and me. Even when we weren’t playing them, we were talking about good games, griping about hard ones, and trying to glean tips from each other on how to play certain games better. What? It was either that, study, or talk about girls, and being in Clay Center, Kansas, the girl situation was a bit on the thin side.

We got older. We graduated college. We got married and bought houses and started having kids. Now life wasn’t just about bringing home a paycheck and spending the evenings playing SimCity anymore. The ultimate enemy to video games has taken a foothold in my life and won’t be leaving anytime soon: Responsibility. I now have a family to take care of, a house to keep up, and a career to make. Diapers need to be changed. Taxes need to be filed. Dishes must be done (which, like laundry, was unbelievably optional when I was single). The days of spending every free minute with a controller in my hand are long gone.

Some of the other writers (read: Berg) at 411 are starting to experience this themselves, and their inability to focus completely on games may be being interpreted as a lack of quality of modern games. I believe the problem is us. Go back and look at some of those old games. They had no story, terrible graphics, and even worse sound, and we sat for days on end playing them. We have been spoiled by ever-expanding expectations of what a “good” game is, while simultaneously losing the ability to really get into a game by virtue of pure exposure time.

In my first version of this, I made a list of every “marquee” video game, games that EVERYBODY had played at some point, that I could think of and I that list linked Pong all the way up to Grand Theft Auto 3. The point of that list was to show that there have ALWAYS been good games out there; games that draw in audiences with nothing more than innovation. And it isn’t too hard to believe that there always will be. It may take a little more to sift through the crap, just like the Hollywood analogy Bryan invoked, but the cream will still rise to the top.

What we have to do, as aging gamers, is to not give up on the medium. We need to keep playing, no matter how little time each week we can squeeze in. Maybe we won’t be the people to determine what the next big thing is, but if we just stay connected, we’ll find out what it is. It’s just like music; the coolest “adults” I know are the ones that never let the music industry pass them by. 50-year olds that listen to Kid Rock and such. Stay connected, and you can still share in the innovation that will take place, even if it isn’t the focus of your life anymore. It’s kind of sad that the “rush” may be gone, but I console myself (that’s conSOLE, not CONsole) myself with the facts that I have money and a beautiful girl, two things I NEVER had as a student.

And here’s the best part: If I keep playing, before long I’ll be the “cool” dad to my boy’s friends. Yeah. I’ll live with that.

So, what the hell does this have to do with my column? Just like life has been getting in the way of my playing, it’s been getting in the way of my columns as well. Since writers “write what they know” I’ve been finding myself increasingly writing about the non-game issues that have dominated my life as opposed to the game issues that everybody tunes in to read. I discussed the issue with Alex Williams online during a game of Project Gotham Racing 2.

“Cretin,” he said, “your columns are pointless and the shame of the entire website. Bow before my Eggplant Power.” With that he ran my car off the road and shared some derisive laughter over me with the other racers. I took it in the good fun in which it was intended.

I asked him what I could do to improve things, “Write better or die,” was the succinct response. I must say that I appreciated his candor in the whole ordeal, although I thought calling me by the name “Nazi Bastard” for the entire game was a bit unfair. I’m only HALF German, after all.

Another thing: for every disapproving e-mail I receive regarding my QRT section, I get two or three which enthusiastically support my writing, but I can’t help but wonder about the legions “¦ er “¦ dozens of people who read and just get turned off from my off-topic stuff and just don’t read any more. After much deliberation, I’ve (yet again) resolved to make this news report a true haven for those who wake up on Mondays wondering how the hell their entire weekend could have gone right down the Ethernet cord. I’m not killing the off-topic commentary, of course, (besides I could argue the relevance of the diet talk in a gaming column if I felt comfortable invoking a common stereotype of gamers “¦ which I don’t) but I’m aiming for more games content whether it be in the form of news; commentary; or aimless, blithering, incomprehensible ranting.

Oh, by the way, I did have a second knee-jerk response before I got down to the heart of the matter, “The reason I don’t write this stuff on 411Black is that I actually want people to read it.” Good thing I didn’t come back with that now, eh? I’m sure the Bobs would’ve gone nuts if I’d actually written *that*.

Moving on (nasty-gram from Widro in 5 “¦ 4 “¦ 3 “¦ ), I must say that this has been the most prolific e-mail week of my tenure here, all because of a little throw-away comment at the end of my news story about Championship Manager.

Basically Championship Manager is to Football/Soccer what EWR is to wrestling except way more in depth. You can run every league as well as manage multiple teams. The game even has a history of every team so you can learn along the way.

Justin Galston

Hi mate i have had every championship manager game there has been like around 15. Since 1992/3. Basically you take a team and your the manager/coach and the basic premis is do as well as possible You pay the wages you decide who plays you use tatics to beat other teams . Its the most addictive game ever and has been listed as reasons for divorce in England. Eastside hockey manager is the same thing but with hockey not “soccer” cough* FOOTBALL. It is anyway considered to be one of the best games ever. Get it and PLay it. What are you waiting for? The doors that way, Go Buy

Matt

And there was more. A couple of dialogues on the subject that I won’t bore you with, but wow. Okay, I NEED to get copies of some of these games. I know how many days of my life I’ve lost to EWR; if I could do the same with actual sports “¦ oy. These games must kick some serious ass for this strong of a response (although Mr. Williams admitted to putting that on the News board to increase exposure: “It’s the only thing you wrote all week that I didn’t retch at outright.” Good chap that Alex.)

Quasi-random thoughts:

Really, my 411Black comment was a joke. Really.

Dammit, now I’m going to be paranoid about what I write. I wish I had a Szuczewskian level of not-giving-a-damn but I don’t.

Those of you who had Tuesday, February 17 in the “day Cory and Veronica end up sodding the diet” pools please collect your winnings. We’ve decided that we’d already successfully changed our eating habits and could enter the “maintenance” phase, which is code for the “I want a freakin’ piece of cheesecake and I want it NOW” phase.

Valley Center Chess update: Chess is a game. Really. It belongs here. Anyway, we’re heading into the home stretch towards the State and National tournaments. This last weekend was the tournament at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, which just so happens to be three blocks from my house in Wichita (set your GPS targeting coordinates to “¦). That was probably the worst 3rd place we’ve ever had. We had only one player score over 3 wins, but because there was only three schools that fielded full teams in the high school division, we still have a new trophy. Wee.

A-Rod. Yankees. A match made in the Fifth Ring.

You have no idea how pissed I am that “Angel” is being cancelled. I am vowing that, once the series is over, NEVER watching the WB ever again. I don’t care if they get the freakin’ Super Bowl; I ain’t watching.

For those of you that care, tomorrow is Mardi Gras.

NEWS

Yet Another Virtua Fighter 4 — Street Fighter 2 Suing For Copyright Infringment
credit: Spong.com

For those that just can’t get enough of capoeira-less fighting games, Sega has announced yet another Virtua Fighter 4 game for the arcade, due to be out in July.

Sega has gone avant-garde with the title of the new version: Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned, and the press release describes it as a more properly single-player version of Evolution, with an all-new challenge mode which features different fighters and tasks will be given to the player in missions. Clear the missions, open the challenge mode.

The standard new movies and items that come with any new version are included. The control system will be slightly tweaked, probably just enough to mess with everybody’s muscle memory. They’re also promising “massively enhanced” AI which is supposed to make VF4FT‘s fights indistinguishable from human battles. The old letter ranking system will be replaced with actual words this time; like “novice” and “master” and “space cadet” and whatever.

Of course, it will be out on the PS2 within the next year “¦ but there are no plans for such as yet “¦ but Axel’s dead “¦ but there are three Axel’s “¦ but Axel’s got a babe shrink.

Gran Turismo 4: The Heartbreak of Vaporware
credit: Spong.com

I must be a bit ahead of myself, because I thought that Gran Turismo 4 had already been officially slipped till Christmas this year, but apparently it’s just until autumn “¦ although strictly speaking autumn lasts until four days before Christmas.

The reason: Not known, but suspected to be online integration issues “¦ not to compare too harshly here, but this is something that Project Gotham Racing 2 has been doing as close to perfectly as this writer has ever seen for some time now. (BTW, “Meet the Kliq” races take place every Wednesday night at 10 ET/ 9 CT. Just look for “Cory411″ or “Tuxedo Alex.”)

I’ve said this before, but E3 is going to be really interesting this year.

PSP + PS2 — Dream Ticket For The Democratic Party
credit: Spong.com

SCE Japan is doing the shaking hands and kissing babies thing to retailers and developers regarding the PSP. Out of these meetings comes some rumors, organized by the fine people at Spong. First, PSP will “be linked” to the PS2 from its release. Also, people are saying that releases for the PSP and PS2 will be simultaneous, and that you can even do multiplayer games with “linked” PSPs and PS2s. There’s also bits about curing cancer and definitively proving the existence of God, but some of that is probably just hyperbole.

Until The Tax Returns Get Here, We’re Stuck Renting
credit: Gamedaily.com

Home Video Essentials, a product of Rentrak Corporation, has released a preliminary list of the top renting videogames for the week ending February 15, 2004.
Here are the top 10:
1. Mafia—PS2
– Starring George Steinbrenner.
2. Need for Speed: Underground—PS2 – a.k.a. “No Need For GT4, Apparently”
3. NFL Street—PS2 – With new unlockable character: O.J. Simpson!
4. True Crime: Streets of L.A.—PS2 – No, wait. That was THIS game. I’m sorry “¦
5. Tony Hawk’s Underground—PS2 – Actually, Snoop Dogg should have been in THIS game too.
6. Medal of Honor: Rising Sun—PS2 – Judge Ito “¦ no “¦ I’m sorry. I won’t make that joke.
7. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2—PS2 – The new platinum version inspired by Salvador Dali.
8. SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals—PS2 – Sorry. I’m married. My testosterone is exercised enough.
9. Sonic Heroes—PS2 – The new album by the Three Tenors “¦
10. Manhunt—PS2 – Wow! We’ve finally got dating sims here!

And Then, For Those That Filed Early (Like Me)
credit: Gamedaily.com

NPD Funworld has released the latest monthly videogame sales charts for the U.S.
The data covers the month of January, 2004, spotlighting top sellers by both platform and genre. Please visit the main TRSTS index page and select the appropriate pull-down menu in order to view individual charts. Listed below are the top five selling videogame titles overall for January 2004:

1. NFL Street—PS2—EA – Yawn.
2. Sonic Heroes—GC—Sega – Woo?
3. Need for Speed: Underground—PS2—EA – More yawn.
4. NFL Street—Xbox—EA – Snore.
5. Grand Theft Auto Double Pack—Xbox—Rockstar – Feh. I bought ESPN College Hoops with *my* tax return. I mean, no offense, these are all fine games (well, with the exception of NFL Street, but doesn’t ANYBODY obsess on college hoops like I do? I mean, I have a legitmate gamer’s hangover this week (and this IS the reason this column is turned in late yet again. Old school all the way, baby) from playing a marathon Legacy game of ESPN. I mean marathon like in a didn’t_sleep_Saturday_night_and_barely_Sunday kind of way. Oh, and Wichita State snapped Austin Peay’s 14-game win streak this weekend in ESPN’s Bracketbusters.

Spring Is In The Air, And I Have Sick Days To Cash In.
credit: Gamedaily.com

For those of you stuck until the snow melts and the real greens get fast again, Microsoft Game Studios has released a new course for Links 2004 which can be downloaded through Xbox Live for $4.99. The new course is a model of the Plantation Course at Kapalua — a par 73 designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.

Maybe we’ll have to have a Kliq golf tourney sometime. Knickers optional.

The Passion Of The Crap.
credit: Gamedaily.com

Remember Boll KG? The company that keeps thinking that video game movies are a good idea (and I don’t believe any of the previous ones we’ve reported on have been even made yet “¦ unless they went straight to video “¦ anyway, they’ve now decided that the PC FPS game “Far Cry” is good material for a horror movie. They’re planning on shooting next year with a budget of $25 million.

Here’s an idea, they should donate that money to Joss Whedon to help with the production of a “Firefly” movie, then take a cut of the gross. They’ll make more money, and the product will be better.

PIMP-LICIOUS

I’ve been giving some thought to this, too; and I think I’m going to retire the individual Pimp Awards. The last thing I want to do here is to slight somebody or be divisive. When I started this, I fully expected there to be an even distribution of awards throughout the Kliq, but time has shown that not to be the case. Not that they SHOULDN’T have been distributed evenly, it’s mostly that yours truly is a lazy bastard who often waits until the minute after the last possible one to finish this thing and as such the Pimp Awards are thrown into a sort of routine, with a couple of members walking away with them most of the time and everybody else just getting whored out.

So no more awards. We’re the Kliq. We’re all pimpin’ anyway, so I’ll find other ways to distinguish people each week. This week, in anticipation of Spring Training (and ripping Bryan Berg off almost completely): The 411Games Baseball team

A-Will – The Ace Starter
He’s young. He’s entertaining. He’s almost certainly overpaid, but you don’t mind when he’s fanning 10-15 a game with a fastball that actually redshifts as it moves away from you, and junk that you couldn’t find in a Trans Am graveyard.

Badlassi -The Shut-Down Closer
Yeah, you hear the jabber. “Not really a pitcher,” and all that garbage just because you work an inning or two a game, but that’s YOUR jersey on the backs of those fans, so the critics can sod off. So can anybody thinking of getting a hit when you’re on the mound.

Baxley – The Wise-but-Intimidating Catcher (a.k.a. The Immovable Object)
Oh just run. I dare ya. Did you see that guy that just tried to get home through me? He bounced off into the club level. He didn’t even make it to the plate, not that I dropped the ball anyway. So now you’re thinking you can take 2nd on me, huh? Go ahead. Give it a shot. I’ve thrown out faster people from my knees than your poseur ass.

Berg – The Golden Glove 2nd Baseman
Sometimes you get tired of making that shortstop look so damn good, but what’s a 5-4-3 double play without the 4, huh? Besides, he covers the base when the ball comes the other way, so it all balances out, right?

Jackson – Your Average 40/40 Club 1st Baseman
Yawn. 40 dingers a year is no problem, along with 40 stolen bases, and probably 100 RBI to boot. Doesn’t need to look for press, and doesn’t need to crow when press comes. He just does his job as good as he can and the rest comes to him.

LiquidCross – The Roid Raging Center Fielder
He’s just so damn angry. He could club upwards of 80 home runs in a year and still look like he’d love to rip your head off your body at the press conference. It’s a tough price to pay for such excellence, and there’s always the “White Bronco” pools going on behind his back, but until he actually kills somebody, he’s great for ticket sales.

Lucard – The Superstar Pretty-Boy Shortstop
Hey, don’t get me wrong. This is the shortstop every team dreams of having. Lightning quick on the step. Dazzling with the glove. Rifle of an arm. Bats in the mid-to-high 300’s and is THE guy you want at the plate in the clutch. But it does get a little tiring with all the camera and reporters at HIS locker after every game, no matter what went down. The pitcher could throw a perfect game, and they’d still ask the shortstop about it first. Still, that’s pittance to pay if it gets you a ring, you know?

Misha – The Obligatory Foreign-Born Left Fielder
Nobody knows much about him, other than he hit somewhere in the low 900’s wherever he’s from. He’s also got Olympic-caliber speed and can apparently fly. Whatever the truth is, he’s a hell of a lot better than the cynics give him credit for.

Pankonin – The Reliable Middle Reliever
Starter got shelled. Arm started coming off in the 4th. Now it’s the 5th and Coach needs you to hold the line until mid-8th at the earliest, through it if you can. You pray for run support to get your side back in the game and you go to work, giving the cocky bastards at the plate something different to chew on. You work em with all the junk you couldn’t fit in the drawer: Sliders, curves, forks, maybe even the occasional knuckler just to keep them guessing, and your heat isn’t anything to sneeze at either. It’s far from glamorous. Most of your own fans don’t know your name, but your team climbs on your back every other game, and you’re glad to carry them, because you can.

Platt – The Cannon-Arm 3rd Baseman
So you laid down the perfect bunt. Right up the 3rd baseline. You’re hauling ass just like Coach told you to, but you know you’ve got it beat. Three more steps. You’re already thinking about how you’re going to steal second and maybe notch up another run after that when you hear this whistle coming in from the left, like a freakin’ Tomahawk closing in on you, then THWACK and a half step out, you realize that you’re meat. He doesn’t pump his fist, he doesn’t smile, he just trots back to his position, getting ready for the next victim who dares to try and go opposite field.

And, of course, yours truly is ALWAYS the Right Fielder.

Next week, I’m looking at something special; a return of an old “friend” from ESPN Gamer. It will be fun.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory