Monday, December 20, 2010

New Poll - What do you want most for Christmas?

Here's my Holiday poll:

What do you want most for Christmas?

the latest game
any game
a job
world peace
a date with Pengwenn

Vote now. Be honest.

Missed it by that much

So for the last couple of months I've been working my way through the story of Gears of War 2 on Hardcore . . . and in Co-op. I've had several of my friends help me out with this. It started with Kralon, then Weasell and Evil helped out.

There were a few times when I played the game that none of my friends were available to help. For those times I started my game as "public" and waited until someone joined before I did anything. If that person left I would stop until someone else joined my room. Some nights it was frustrating, especially when the same person jumped in and out of my room multiple times. Because I was being careful I thought I wouldn't have any problems getting credit for those rare public co-op sessions. I was wrong.

Weasell and I finally got to the end of the game and I was richly rewarded for the achievements for casual, normal and hardcore, but I didn't get the achievement for playing the entire game in co-op. After trying to remember which chapters I played on my own, Weasell and I loaded a couple of them up and played through them. After 4 or 5 levels the achievement still didn't pop up.

Now I still have to get the achievement for Insane so Weasell and I talked about playing it through that way and the achievement would eventually pop up. I guess that will work but I thought I had kept track of everything. I guess I was off a little bit.

And that time hasn't been the only time I've been robbed of an achievement by one little mistake. There is an achievement in Fable III for playing the entire game without being knocked out in battle. I was doing really well in the game and then I jumped in with Genghis. We were playing in his game but during a battle I got knocked down. At first I was bummed but then realized it was his game so it shouldn't matter in my game.

A couple of days later I was playing in my game and I wasn't paying too much attention to what was going on. I got trapped in an area and before I could get myself out I was taking a lot of damage. Unfortunately I didn't have any healing potions or food on me. Before I knew it I was knocked out. I realized I messed up and I thought the only way to correct it was to get myself out of there. So I went back to the sanctuary. Unfortunately as soon as I did that I regretted my decision.

When you travel back to the sanctuary the game saves your progress. In my attempt to get out of a sticky situation I only made it worse. I had briefly considered getting out of the game completely by going back to the dashboard but I wasn't sure when the last time my game was saved and I didn't want to loose anything. It wasn't until I hopped into the sanctuary and saw that spinning wheel with the chicken that I knew I was screwed. Now the only way for me to get the achievement for not being knocked out in battle is to start the game all over again.

One brief moment of inattention in two different games and I'm out of a couple of achievements.

I will play Gears again to get that Insane achievement but I wasn't planing on doing that anytime soon. As for Fable III, that's also a game I'll put aside for awhile after I've finished it. I've got a lot of other games that I want to play and friends that want to talk about games without having to put out a spoiler warning first because I'm in the room. If I'm still playing "already finished" games then I won't be making any progress on "as yet to be played" games. At this rate I won't be done playing 2007 games until 2012.

The good news is I FINISHED GEARS OF WAR 2. Now all my friends can talk about everything in the game without me having to turn my mic off. The bad news is not many of my friends are playing, or talking about, Gears of War 2. I might have missed out on a couple of achievements by that much, but I've missed out on talking about a great game with friends by so much more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Real Gamers Do Cry


I got Evil to play the Gears of War 2 campaign with me last night. I was still replaying the game up to where I'd previously gotten in the story so I knew everything that was going to happen. And I still cried.

Yes, I'm talking about when Dom finds Maria. The first time you see this scene you don't know what to expect. Yeah, he found her! She looks pretty good. Oh wait. Oh no. I feel so sorry for Dom. Dom don't do it. Dom! Noooooooooooo! Okay, now lets go kill some Locust.

It's a sucker punch to the gut when you see what's happening. Dom becomes a real person with real emotions and you feel sorry for him. He's no longer the minority sidekick to Marcus Fenix. You start to see the price COGs have paid in this war. And if you're any kind of gamer you shed a tear or two. Or, if you're with friends you blame that something got in your eye . . . both of them.

The second time playing through the game you know what's coming up. The scene of loss becomes palatable the closer you get to it. As you get closer and closer to that moment you start to feel it weigh heavy on you. At least I did. I knew the spot. I knew what to expect. And I still cried. I probably cried more this time than last time. Last time I was too shocked to cry much. This time the water works started to flow. Last time it was the punch in the gut surprise. This time it was the emotional connection.

Maybe I got more emotional this time because things in my life have changed since the last time. Someone broke in and robbed me and left feelings of being violated. Friends have come and gone to war. I'm watching as my friend's love lives are struggling or crumbling apart and I'm left thinking about my own barren love life. Is there anyone out there that would love me enough to come looking for me? Would he forgo saving the world if it meant he could save me? Would someone think I'm beautiful even when I'm not? And if things were really bad would he save me by killing me? If I was kidnapped by the Locust I think I would live the rest of my life filled with nothing but work, torture and hours trapped standing up in pods. The world will have moved on from Pengwenn and I would not have a knight in shiny armor (or COG armor) to rescue me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't sit at home every night and lament about the nonexistent status of my love life. I'm an independent person and I've enjoyed living on my own. And the thought of being a "damsel in distress" bothers me. If need be I'll rescue myself but sometimes I want someone to rescue me. Sometimes I wish I had someone in life to share things with. Someone to save me. When thieves break in. Or when Locust start kidnapping people and sinking cities. It would be nice to know that someone cares enough to look for/after me.

Yes, I know Gears is just a game. But it's a game with real life emotional context. And when gamers experience that they might get a little teary eyed. Now, if you'll excuse me, my eyes are getting a little misty just writing about this. But if anyone here at work comes by in the next little while I'll just tell them it's allergies, or I got something in my eye . . . both of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bah Humbug to the Christmas Spirit!

I spent over 10 and 1/2 hours trapped in the the back seat of a pickup truck, feeling sick and listening to nothing but Christmas music on our drive home after Thanksgiving. Needless to say I was done with Christmas long before I finished digesting Thanksgiving dinner. Well, almost. I was a little sick.

Sense then I've tried to get into the Christmas spirit but a single note of a holiday jingle gives me the heaves. People laughing and joyous while I'm struggling to find a parking spot even remotely close to the store I want to go to makes me want to buy a baseball bat and take some practice swings out in the parking lot. I'm already tired of trying to find a specific gift for someone and having to go to six different stores looking for it. Six months ago I could have found that gift anywhere. And don't get me started on wrapping presents. I hate it. I spent a night doing nothing but that and by the end I wanted to step outside my front door and toss those gifts in the general direction of their intended recipients. If they don't make it all the way there? So what. Broken? Who cares. I'm done.

I'm trying hard not to let that Bah Humbug attitude get in the way of anything else, but it's hard. I'm irritable and crabby by the time I come home and no, it's not because it's that time of the month. When I sit down to play video games I don't have the energy or concentration to do anything. If the slightest error/cheap kill/problem comes up I'm out of there. I even pulled a "Pogue" the other night . . . and I was hosting the party. Sorry. I've tried playing several games. Gears 2, Mass Effect, Puzzle Quest 2, Harm's Way, Fable III, the new Doritos game, you name it, I've tried it. I just can't seem to get invested in anything.

It doesn't help my frustration when all I want to do is kill people online and none of my friends are playing. I've tried playing along but it's just not the same . . . and definitely not for someone who's already pissed off. There are too many pricks online who don't care about helping you out or playing like a team. They're only in it for themselves. At least when my friends play that way we all know about it and can compensate as a team for their Rambo style of play. Besides, I miss my friends.

I know it's the holiday seasons and I'm sure there are Christmas parties, family parties and other general meet-and-greets that might be going on that they are participating in. But that doesn't mean I still can't miss them. I also miss my friends who don't have the same games as I do (or vice versa). Some try a game out and don't like, others don't even try. It's hard when the usual group of friends played every night together are now slightly going their own separate ways because of changing tastes in their gaming habits. At least when Star Wars Battlefront was still around we could always go back to a classic. I miss that game.

So I guess if you play with me for the next couple of weeks and I seems a little more pissy than usual, it's just me in the holiday spirit. Don't let that stop you from playing with me (and I'll try not letting that stop me from playing with you). Maybe if some friends played a couple of games with me along with some of our highly entertaining bantar it just might be what I need to get out of my funk and back into the holiday spirit. Or at least a gaming spirit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

For the Love of the Game(r)

I took a trip to see my sister's for Thanksgiving. For five days I was off line in my gaming and I realized something. It wasn't the games I missed, but the gamers.

That might have been because I took my DSLite and PSP with me. Whenever the itch to play something came on me I pulled one of those out. I played for a little bit but eventually put the system up and turned to something else. It was nice to play games that I hadn't played in a really long time. Unfortunately they didn't hold my interest for very long. I felt like they were missing something.

I realized what they were missing early on in my vacation: my friends. I missed playing with people. I missed the camaraderie, support and direction in the game itself, but also the friendship and bizarre conversations my friends and I usually have. I miss finding out how their days were going and what plans they have for the weekend. And with the holiday weekend there were more friends available online than usual. And I missed out on most of it.

Now this is not to say that I sat around with a bunch of strangers and didn't talk to anyone. I was with family and had some good times. But I could have done without the 10 1/2 hours straight of nothing but Christmas music on the ride home. There is just so many time a person can hear "Do you hear what I hear?" without turning into a slobbing, axe-wielding psychopath. I think I was 10 minutes away from that transformation.

I did borrow dain's laptop to jump online and check out what my friends were playing, but that made me miss them even more. To have a group of friends in your life almost every night then to suddenly be without them for 5 whole days is very shocking to the system. Yes, I know, I should probably get out more often. But I like my life and see no real reason to change it (with a few exceptions). Even playing with Pogue and his lag and echo is more appealing than playing alone. Of course, after an hour or two with that whining and echoing buzzing in my ear playing alone sounds pretty good.

I remember when it was all about the game for me. I wanted to own every system so I could get whatever games I wanted and wouldn't worry about where to play them. But lately I've felt less and less like buying a PS3 and taping into that game market. Why? Because I wouldn't want to miss out on a night playing with my friends.

I tried to explain this concept to my mother a while ago. She seems to think that you can't really be friends with someone you haven't met. I totally disagree. I've spent more time with my "online" friends than I ever would if we had met in real life. And I spend more time with them than my mother spends with her friends. Plus I KNOW things about them that I'm sure my mother would never find out similar things about her friends.

Maybe it's a generational thing. Maybe it's a gamer thing. It doesn't matter to me because I've come to realize I play for the love of my gamer friends no matter the game or the system.