Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Got ESRB'd

You know, I’ve often heard people complain that the ESRB ratings system is flawed. And while I’ve always thought that they should have made the ratings identical to the MPAA movie rating system, I still defended the ESRB as a good thing and better than nothing.

Well last week the flaw(s) hit home. My 2 year old loves watching my wife and I play games. We also let him “play” too. He likes making Mario move, driving cars and loves just about everything in Wii Sports. For many weeks now, I’ve let him mess around in Super Smash Bros. training mode. I always make him Mario and the CPU Diddy Kong. A common request is, “Daddy, Mario and the Monkey!” That means he want to play. Well this has not been any kind of issue until my wife saw me playing the game one night well after my son went to bed. I was in a heated online battle and we were all beating the tar out of each other. She asked if this was the same game I let our son play. I confirmed that it was and that’s when the great debate started.

Now I consider myself a conscientious parent. I watch over my kids with an eagle eye. But I’m also realistic and don’t try to shield them from every little danger/evil out there. My wife is pretty much the same. I agree with her 100% that a 2 year old does not need to engage in the main portion of Brawl. However, I explained to her that I had sequestered him into a tiny fraction of the game that I was able to control every single piece of content he would be exposed to. My wife is no stranger to games. She understands how they work. She knew that in this case Mario would be throwing fireballs, Diddy Kong would shoot peanuts and they would be knocking each other off platforms. Still, the thought of how quickly this gaming snowflake might turn into a snowball had her concerned. She threw out the “race card” if you will. “What is it rated,” she questioned. I replied it was T for Teen. With that she declared that he could not play it any longer. Again, I petitioned that I was in agreement with her that we should monitor what our kids play but that I had this locked down into a controlled environment. She wouldn’t listen. I brought up that Wii Sports is rated E but that it features boxing (which our son plays) that is way more realistically violent that anything in Brawl. She said that he couldn’t play boxing anymore either. We then got into an interesting parallel debate about movies. Like most kids, our son enjoys Disney movies, Shrek, Bee Movie, etc…most of which are rated PG. I challenged that if we are basing our acceptance strictly on ratings, than surely all of his favorite PG films must be ousted as well. She conceded the point but would not budge on her game stance. This led to a discussion about when he could watch a PG-13 film. (Growing up, my parents didn’t really monitor my media choices while hers put the entire family on lockdown.) Her response was, “Maybe when he’s 10 or 11.” The film discussion was purely to gauge her opinion as I knew she was sticking firm on the game discussion. By the end of the day, the rule became, “No E, No Way.” And for the most part I agree. Children definitely don’t need to be exposed to any M rated games before age 13 and the T rated games should be played by the parents first.

But here’s where the flaw is. What if the parents don’t play games? The ratings tell nothing. My wife and I do play games and the ratings are still flawed enough that even we disagree. Brawl is rated T for “Cartoon Violence” and “Crude Humor”. But what does that mean? Is “cartoon violence” the Road Runner falling off a cliff or is it Vegeta slicing the arms of someone? Is “crude humor” having someone burp or is it them smearing their own crap on someone’s wall? Who knows? And that’s the problem. Even switching over the MPAA system still probably wouldn’t help matters. Games are so complex and far reaching these days that they are near impossible to correctly classify. And with the Political Correctness that has gone awry in this country, you can forget about it. Ratings will never be right. In the end parents are still going to have to play (and play them all the way through) a game if they truly want to know if a game is right for their kids.

As for me, I took one for the team and picked up Mario Kart. It has Mario. And the Monkey. And Driving. - All my Son’s favorites. And it’s rated E - My wife’s favorite.

Life is good! :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Manly Score

If you look to your right, you will notice my majestic Xbox Live Gamerscore. I've had my 360 since before launch. (I was a Hex168 contest winner.) I've played more than my fair share of games, but apparently, I don't play in a manner that's conducive to earning Gamerpoints. I tried to be a points whore at first, but playing a game strictly to boost perceived gaming prowess quickly became ridiculous to me. So there it is. Beat it if you can. :-P

I've also decided to let my XBL subscription lapse and move back to Silver. I rarely play anybody online so it's not a big loss at this point. But when Super Street Fighter II HD Remix comes out...

Finally, I just want to mention that I'm pretty excited about Mario Kart Wii. I'm still spending all of my time with Brawl, so the 1-2 punch Kart is going to add will ensure that my Wii never gets cold. I'm especially interested in the Mario Kart Wii Channel. Looks like we're finally going to get a true lobby and other XBL-ish features for Kart. It would be nice if they went back and made one of these channels for Brawl as well. The bad thing is that I have to leave on a business trip the day Kart comes out. Grrrr. I guess another week of waiting won't hurt.

Until next time, take 'er easy and if she's easy take it twice.

Monday, March 31, 2008

System Sellers

I always find it interesting to hear the first game people go out and buy whenever they get a new system. I’m not talking pack-ins or games they got with the system if it was a Christmas or birthday gift. I want to know the first game they went out and spent their own hard-earned cash on. Here’s my list. The game(s) in parentheses were pack-ins and/or games that were received as a gift when I got the system. The game below is the first one I bought myself. Looking back, I guess I’ve been pretty lucky. Not a stinker in the bunch.

Atari 2600 (Pac-Man, Star Raiders, Combat, Donkey Kong)

Nintendo (Super Mario Bros, Kung-Fu, Excitebike)
Rad Racer

Gameboy (Tetris, Qix, TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan)
Motocross Maniacs

Genesis (Altered Beast, M.J.'s Moonwalker, Sonic the Hedgehog)
Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion

Super Nintendo (Super Mario World)

Playstation (Tekken 2)
Need for Speed

Nintendo 64 (Super Mario 64)
Pilotwings 64

Dreamcast (Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur)
Virtua Tennis

PC (Rebel Assault)
Mortal Kombat

Playstation 2 (SSX, Madden 2001, NHL 2001)
Tekken Tag Tournament

Gamecube (Super Smash Brothers Melee, Star Wars: Rogue Leader)
Wave Race: Blue Storm

Xbox (JSRF & Sega GT)
Splinter Cell

Gameboy Advance
Metroid Fusion

Xbox 360 (Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3)
Dead or Alive 4

Nintendo DS (Super Mario 64 DS, Feel the Magic)
Nintendogs: Lab & Friends

Nintendo Wii (Wii Sports)
Super Mario Galaxy

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Way it Should Be

I'm by no means a huge South Park fan, but I just found out that over at you can watch every episode of South Park ever made...for FREE! No registering, no signups, no downloads, no nothing. Just pick an episode & watch. Each episode has a commercial or two, but that's a small price to pay for 10+ years of episodes. Of course the episode Make Love, Not Warcraft is always good for a laugh. Kudos to you Matt & Trey! It seems like you guys get it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Music That Matters

I’m pretty strange when it comes to music. I consider myself pretty open-minded musically, but when I find a song I really like, I lock onto it like a….really tight, sticky, lockey thing. As in, I will put the song on repeat in my car and it will sit there…for months. Some songs, I’ve had in the rotation for years. Seriously. So I thought I’d post (in no particular order) my top 10 life changing songs. When I say life changing I mean it. These songs have had such a profound effect on me that they have helped shape me as a person. I still listen to all of them monthly, if not weekly.

So for your listening and viewing pleasure, I found all of them for you on Youtube. Enoy! Most are the official music video (where applicable). Others have an original video, but the song is correct.

1. Are We Here? (Industry Standard Mix) – Orbital

2. Regret – New Order

3. Thunder in Your Heart – John Farnham (Skip to 3:35 for correct song - This song is from the movie Rad)

4. Children – Robert Miles

5. Boyz in the Hood – Eazy E

6. Eternity: Memory of Lightwaves – Takahito Eguchi (This is the prelude/intro to Final Fantasy X-2)

7. Rippin’ – Sir Mix-a-Lot

8. Loops of Fury - The Chemical Brothers

9. Message in a Bottle – The Police

10. Radical Dreamers - Yasunori Mitsuda (This is the ending theme from Chrono Cross)

Honorable Mention: Their Law - Prodigy

Monday, March 3, 2008

What's Next?

I am totally pumped about Super Smash Bros Brawl next week. I bought a Gamecube specifically to play Melee and it did not disappoint. Brawl looks like they’ve thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. I’m very excited to play the Pictochat stage where the “user” draws in stuff that becomes the level. I haven’t seen this since…well since Comix Zone about 15 years ago. I’m a total sucker for Nintendo nostalgia and Brawl has me falling all over myself with the classic characters, levels, music, references, etc. Hope to play you guys online! My Wii friend number is on the right. And while we’re on the Wii, where the hell is Pro Wrestling? This is an egregious Virtual Console omission. It was apparently announced as “coming soon” a long time ago, but I have been disappointed every Monday for weeks. C’mon Nintendo, put it out there!

In intellectual news, I was watching a movie over the weekend and the main character started talking about all of the major dreams/goals he has had in life. It got me thinking about my own. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a race car driver. Of course that never happened. When I was in high school, I just wanted to get the hell out. When I was in college, again I just wanted to get finish school so I could marry my college sweetheart. After I got married, I just wanted to be left alone with my wife and start a family. Now that I have children I realize that I don’t have any dreams anymore. It’s rare that you meet a person who has had all of his life goals realized, but not counting the race car thing, I am just such an individual. I understand how lucky that makes me, but now I wonder what’s next? I’m not even half though with my life and I’ve done it all. Yes, I still have fantasies; I’ve always wanted to set a pitching machine up at an MLB park to see if I could hit one out. I’ve always wanted to drive a Ferrari 355. I’ve always wanted to win the lottery and build a house with a basketball court, bowling alley, video game room and movie theater all in the basement. However, these fantasies are not likely to ever become reality for me. That’s not a concern. What is a concern is wondering if the fact that I have no more major life goals at the ripe old age of 30 is a problem. Right now, it absolutely is not. But I’d hate to get down the road and be screwed up as a result. So I guess I’ll focus on little goals. So for my next dream: I would like to go to Cedar Point for a week. That seems pretty doable. Of course it will have to wait several years until the kids are older, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never been there and it looks like a blast...despite the fact that I am petrified of most "big" rollercoasters! But more on my various phobias at a later time. This "dream" may seem trivial, but I guess if you are fortunate enough to have knocked out the big dreams (job, house, spouse, family) then the little guys will have to do.

Monday, February 25, 2008

You Asked for It!

(Note: This is a lengthy post filled with unimportant details and romanticized nostalgic fluff. Feel free to skip if you’re looking for quick and easy.)

Before we get into it, I wanted to mention that I watched the Academy Awards last night. Truthfully I could care less, but my wife enjoys watching the celebs and likes to be in the know. The one part of the show I do look forward to is the “In Memoriam” piece where they show all of the people who died the previous year. There were only a few surprises for me in there, but there was an absolute glaring omission: Brad Renfro. C’mon Academy! He died barely a month ago! Don’t act like you didn’t know. It’s not like he wasn’t a high profile actor as well. The Client, Sleepers, Apt Pupil, Deuces Wild; you’ve seen him before. My wife hypothesized that maybe the Academy didn’t want to do a tribute to someone who died of an overdose, but of course Heath Ledger was in there front and center and he OD’d after Renfro. Just my random observations.

In more exciting news, my internet pal Caro has indulged me with my first topic request. I must shower her with good vibrations and well wishes. (I’m willing that perfect new job opportunity to you right now!) Truthfully, I have never spoken to Caro other than through forum posts or the occasional site-driven email. Even though she is on my meager list of XBL and Wii friends, I have never played a game with her. When you get right down to it, I know her in name and blog posts only. Yet I find her to be a compassionate internet friend who is always there with friendly words for a person whom she doesn’t really know either. Our love for videogames along with our slightly above average intelligence and ability to type a coherent paragraph (most of the time) is pretty much our only real link. Still, I find Ms. Caro to be a kindred gaming spirit I’m happy to have as an ally!

In my previous post, I solicited for blog topics particularly in the old-school vein. She came back at me with this:

Have any games on there (Wii Virtual Console) really surprised you, either in how well or not well they lived up to your memories of them, or, in the case of games you hadn't played before, how good they are?


So here we go:

I’ve only had my Wii for about two months and so far I’ve only downloaded the requisite Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3. But I can still talk old-school all day long. When I read this question, one game immediately came to mind: Mega Man 2. (Yes, I know MM2 isn't available on the VC yet...but it's just a matter of time.)
As you get older, it’s funny what moments (and in this case gaming moments) remained burned in your memory while all the rest fade away. I distinctly remember the evening I beat MM2 for the first time. I was spending the night at a friend’s house. We had rented some movies and games, Mega Man 2 obviously being one of them. Around midnight, he put in some movie I wasn’t really interested in. So I went over and fired up MM2. Long story short, after many tries, I finally beat Dr. Wily & his alien form using the bubble weapon (which I completely guessed as the “correct” weapon on the first try!). Maybe it’s because it was 2:00 in the morning. Maybe that star-scape screen hypnotized me. I don’t know why, but the memory of beating that game stands out in my mind as important. In my lifetime, I’ve beaten hundreds of games, but the list of game beatings that are really etched in my memory are in the single digits. (In case you cared, they are: Super Mario Bros. 2, Mega Man 2, Gunstar Heroes, Final Fantasy 7, Metal Gear Solid).

That was 1990. Flash forward to 2004 when I picked up Mega Man Anniversary Collection . In my continued attempts to relive my youth, I started in on MM2 right away. I was cruising until I hit Dr. Wily’s Base. After many, many tries I managed to get to the part just before you fight Wily himself where you must fight all of the robot bosses again. To this day, I simply cannot beat this part. I know the correct weapons to use and whatnot, but I cannot make it though all of the bosses on a single guy. I’m not terribly upset about it, but I often wonder why I can’t do it. I was able to beat the game without a real struggle when I was in the sixth grade almost 20 years ago. And it is my observation that the majority of classic games become easier as you get older and your thought processes improve even if reflexes slightly deteriorate. What does this say about me? I often wonder if there is some deep, hidden meaning to this. No other game I’ve gone back and replayed has ever given me this kind of trouble. Usually I find that I am either markedly improved at it or I’m simply the same. But almost never do I find that I am worse. Especially after warming up…I guess maybe I just want there to be a greater meaning behind it. It probably really means nothing. But still, there’s this nagging part of me that deems this as significant. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’ll find out in the year 20XX.

Oops....looking back, that doesn’t really answer the question so I’ll answer it by saying: Super Metroid – Wow! I played this for the first time about 3 years ago and couldn’t believe it. It’s an amazing game that came out of nowhere for me. Amazing graphics, sound & fluid control. I had heard the hype, but I’m not too susceptible to that kind of talk. The map system in SM is flawless. I would have been way less impressed by Castlevania: SotN back in the day if I had played Super Metroid first. It’s a total rip-off! Both are tops in my book though, and thankfully you can now virtually own both! SotN is on XBLA and Super Metroid is on VC. Download both and enjoy!

Thanks again for the topic Caro…and to everyone reading this: keep the suggestions coming.