22 August 2010

This Post Contains Adult Language and Adult Activities

[Note: This is a post that I wrote a few years back for my now-defunct old blog. It's not for kids. So, if you are a kid GO AWAY. DON'T READ THIS. GO DO SOMETHING WHOLESOME. SUGGESTION: EAT A SLICE OF WONDER BREAD WHILE READING THE BIBLE. Are all the kids gone? OK, good. Now, fasten your seatbelts, folks. It's going to be a bumpy night. -jones]

I was in Orlando recently for a videogame-related event. They booked me in cavernous Sheraton situated in an industrial park. Rain fell constantly, blurring the view from my room of the parking lot.

I went downstairs to look for something to eat. The girl in Guest Services informed me that the hotel's restaurant was closed at the moment. "Is there anything close by?" I asked.

"Applebees," she said. A pink barrette pinned her hair behind her left ear. "Across the street." I peered through the glass doors. There, in the distance, through the drizzle, I could see the neon Applebees sign.

Between me and the Applebees stood six lanes of traffic. People in Florida always drive like maniacs. I noticed that there was no concrete oasis in the middle of the road. I'd surely be killed out there.

Lightning flashed. Rain came down harder. It was only four o'clock in the afternoon, but already the parking lot lights were on.

I went back to my room and decided to take a nap while waiting for the hotel restaurant to open for dinner. Not feeling especially sleepy, I turned on the television. And, naturally, this led me to peruse the hotel's selection of adult channels.

It's truly amazing the amount of pornography that hotels have now. Twenty years ago, people had to drive to creepy ADULT WORLD-type places to watch a scratchy film loop inside a dark, not to mention beyond unsanitary, bleach-soaked booth to get a little titillation. Now, press two or three buttons on your hotel room's remote, and boom, you've got hardcore.

As the British say: Brilliant.

I scrolled through the countless pages, noting the abundance of titles that featured the word "secretary" in them. Secretary Nights. Secret Secretary Sex. Sexy Secretaries: Unleashed. Secretary Hardcore Hotties. Asian Secretary Sluts of the Orient. Honey, I Banged My Secretary!

I settled on a movie called The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex. When in doubt, always go with a "best of." That's my motto. Or, rather, one of my many mottos. I hit the big green ORDER button on the remote. A warning appeared on the television: ONCE YOU PROCEED BEYOND THIS POINT YOUR ROOM WILL BE CHARGED WITH THE MOVIE AND THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS.

Thunder rumbled overhead. I hit the OK button, agreeing to spend the exorbitant price of $19.95 for a movie that was, at most, 70 minutes long. And of those 70 minutes, if history has taught me anything, I would most likely only need about four of them. Which, if you do the math, averages out to be about $5 per minute.

Music started coming out of the TV's speakers. Nothing gets men in the mood quite like the dulcet sounds of a Casio keyboard coupled with a braying saxophone. A picture appeared on screen, but it was all scrambled and blurry. I thought I saw part of a leg. Then a fish-net stocking. But then it vanished. "Mr. Johnson's office," a woman's voice said. "I'm sorry, he can't take your call right now. He's in meetings all morning. Call back later. Bye."

"Ms. Cox," a man's voice said. "Would you come into my office please?" A wristwatch. A phone. Another leg. Something was clearly wrong here. I got up and shuffled over to the TV. I peered at the back of the TV. I pressed a few of the buttons.

I sat on the end of the bed, fuming, still watching the $19.95 jarbled-up porno I'd just purchased. This is just great, I thought. Lightning flashed outside.

I spent about five minutes fuming, hoping the TV picture would miraculously clear up. Then I realized something: This porno, hell, the whole porno-ordering system, might have been broken for months, or even years. People would gladly take the $20 loss in the name of preserving their dignity. I mean, what kind of person would actually call the front desk to complain that their porno is not working properly?

I'll tell you what kind of person.

Me. I'm that kind of person. What do they think I'm up here doing anyway? Knitting prayer rugs? I thought. I picked up the phone and dialed.

"Guest services," a voice said. It was the girl with the pink barrette.

"Hi," I said, suddenly feeling nervous. "I just ordered a movie? Here, in my room? And it's not working?"

Silence. Keystrokes on a keyboard. "What exactly is wrong with the movie, Mr. Jones?" the woman asked.

"It's jarbled," I said.

"It's what?"

"It's jarbled up. I can't see what's going on. On the screen. There's no picture. I mean, there's a picture, but it's scrambled."

More keystrokes. Silence. I imagined the words THE BEST OF SECRET SECRETARY SEX appearing on her monitor in big, flashing letters. "Well," she said. "Everything looks fine down here. Why don't you cancel out of that particular movie. And then reorder it. If you're still having problems, let us know."

I thanked her and hung up.

Cancel button. Back out to the main menu. Back into the porno menu. The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex. ORDER. Warning. Music. Dialogue.

And once again: the dreaded jarbled-up picture. I stared at the phone. Well, I've carried things this far, I thought. I suppose I have to see this through to the end now.

"Guest services."

"Hi. I just called a minute ago."

"Jarbled picture?"

"That's me. Jarbled picture. I reordered my movie, as you suggested, and it's still jarbled."

Silence. Keystrokes. More silence. A sigh. Did I just hear some degree of judgment in that sigh? Because it sounded judgmental to me... "At this point, Mr. Jones," she said, "all we can do is send up a technician."

She waited. I was sure that she was sure I'd decline. That I'd cut my losses here. That I'd hang onto whatever tiny shred of dignity I had left.

I thought of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of horny travelers and horny business men who had tried to watch The Best Of Secret Secretary Sex and had gotten duped by this jarbled porno. The fucking buck stops here, I thought.

"Send him up," I said.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

I looked at the screen. The hem of a skirt. An ankle. A Rolodex. Something hair-covered that could have been a man's armpit or a crotch. "Oh yeah. I'm sure. Send him."

About 45 minutes later there was a polite tap on the door. "Maintenance!" a voice shouted.

I opened the door. A bald black man with a massive keyring on his belt carried a toolbox into the room. He set it down on the bed. "I'm in room 237 now, over," he said into a walkie-talkie. "What's the problem?"

I pointed at the TV. A wrist. A necklace. A woman's mouth. The back of a hand. "I've got sound, but no picture," I said.

The man put his hands on his hips. He furrowed his brow. "Hmm," he said. "Quit out of this movie. Go to another one. Let's see if you get the same problem. Could just be a bad movie in the system."

I fumbled with the remote. I felt awkward having this stranger in my space. I wished I'd picked up a little, put some of my personal things away. Stray sections from USA Today were scattered around the toilet. My suitcase was on the bed, opened, my Hanes on display.

Cancel button. Main menu. Porno menu. I started aimlessly scrolling through the titles. Secretary Ass Fest. My Secretary Loves Cock. Cocked-Up Secretaries From Barcelona. I could hear the man breathing through his nose. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Rain pounded against the room's air conditioning unit.

I thought: Do I just pick anything? Or, do I pick something that I want to actually watch? I scrolled through the list, faster and faster, picking up speed. Finally, as if reading my mind, the man sighed then said, "Just pick something. Anything. It doesn't matter. We just need to see if it's the one movie, or if it's all the movies."

I landed on something called Secretaries In Da Hood. The WARNING screen came up.

"Now hit the 'OK' button," the man said.

I did.

Sound came from the TV. And then, miraculously, a picture appeared. A light-skinned black girl was on her knees fellating a man with a penis the size of a six-dollar hoagie. The Sheraton maintenance man and I stood there together, watching the TV screen.

Inhale. Exhale.

"Well," the man finally said, "it sure looks like it's working now." He grabbed his toolbox. Then he said something unintelligible into his walkie-talkie. He headed towards the door.

"So I guess that other one was a bad movie?" I said.

"I guess so," he said.

"You know, it could have been out of order for a long time," I said. I thought of all those business men before me. My brothers! I'm making a stand for you!

"It could have been," the man said. "Who knows, really."

He stopped in the doorway. He looked back at the TV. "Look, don't worry about the movie," the man said. "I'll tell them downstairs to take it off your bill."

I thanked him, then shut the door.

I stood in the room's entryway, listening hard, my ears straining for the slightest sound. I could hear the hum of the hotel around me. The cooling systems. The vents. The inner workings. The elevators going up and down.

I was listening for something beyond the hotel's machinery, listening for something human. A judgmental snicker maybe, or even a chorus of judgmental snickers. Or maybe a bark of laughter as the maintenance man told his maintenance buddies about the call he'd just responded to. I stood there, listening as hard as I've ever listened.

And I heard nothing.

Then I thought, Man, what do I fucking care. Fuck Orlando. Fuck Florida. Fuck these people.

I drew the blinds and enjoyed four utterly delightful minutes of a fine piece of cinema known as Secretaries In Da Hood.

19 August 2010

Ah-oogah Ah-oogah: Old Time Cars Coming Through, Sonny!

So Mafia II is mere days away from completely turning the game world upside down with its GTA IV gameplay and Heavy Rain-caliber cutscenes.

Or, so 2K hopes.

Is it great? Is it terrible? Am I even playing it? Forgive my coyness, but 2K has issued a blanket, industry-wide gag order. Anyone who is actually playing the game--and, presumably, many writers are--isn't allowed to even Tweet that they are playing the game. Or else unholy 2K-style hell shall rain down upon them.

So, in the name of keeping the hell-rain at bay, I'll cop to playing the Mafia II demo, which is freely available on XBL and PSN. Go download it, if you haven't already.

My main qualm with the Mafia II demo is the handling of the old-time cars. I realize that this is a period piece set in the late '40s and '50s. I realize that a great many talented people were paid a great deal of money to create a hyper-detailed version of a '40s-'50s era metropolis. Everything in the game, from the wardrobe to the fonts on the street signs, feels considered and crafted. The result: a credible, convincing, and totally impressive gameplay world that can only be navigated in two ways: on foot, or in one of the game's incredibly heavy, lumbering, slow-moving Happy Days-like cars.

The few cars that I've driven so far in the demo are slow to accelerate. How slow exactly? This is how slow: I could boil an egg in the time it takes for my car to achieve top speed. And once I did achieve full speed, it's not uncommon to see NPC's on the sidewalks out-pacing me.

And forget about stopping. Hit the brakes now, and you'll likely come to a stop several, skid-marked blocks beyond your intended destination.

Turning is another adventure unto itself. Most cars in the game feature wider turning radii than a three-wheeled shopping cart.

All of which is to say that driving around Empire City--at least from what I've seen in the demo--is a stop-and-go, ass-pain-ish chore. Is it authentic? Oh, yes. It is true to the period? Oh, absolutely. But is it fun to drive around a car that feels like a 4,000 pound steel box that handles like its wheels are made out of old banana peels?

It is not.

This is the same problem I had with Pandemic's The Saboteur. Yes, eventually I was able to access better, slicker rides later in the game--presumably this will also be the case with Mafia II (I wouldn't know because I AM ONLY PLAYING THE DEMO)--but The Saboteur's first third forced me to navigate Nazi-occupied Paris in a rooty-toot-toot, 23-skiddoo, ah-oogah, ah-oogah, old-time car. I didn't feel like a professional race-car driver on the cusp of turning into a James Bond-ian spy. Instead, I felt like I was auditioning for a roll in a remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Was it fun?

It was not.

Maybe part of the problem is that I could not give one shit about cars. I remember, in high school, friends of mine poring over car magazines, studying the glossy pictures of Corvettes and shit. I didn't get it. I still don't. A few weeks ago, when I was on the East Coast visiting my family, we went for a walk after dinner one night in Sylvan Beach, New York, and stumbled across an old-time car show. Hoods were popped open on all these roadsters, with men gathered around, peering into their dark workings.

I honestly can't imagine a more dull scene than this one.

And whenever a wealthy colleague of mine, or someone in the business, purchases an expensive car--cough, cough, Cliffy B., cough--my response is always the same: "You dope." Blame it on the fact that I haven't actually owned a car in nearly 15 years now--the New York subway worked fine; and in Vancouver, I can walk everywhere--but purchasing something that, as soon as you drive it off the lot depreciates in value nearly 50-percent, does not sound like a wise investment to me.

Man, I'm all for period pieces, and realism, and verisimilitude in videogames. But I'm against all of these things--100-percent, across the board against these things--if they come at the expense of gameplay. This is a fiction, people. Poetic license and creative liberties are not only O.K. in videogames; they're encouraged. They're absolutely essential to creating a compelling entertainment.

So, in Mafia III, please let me drive it like I stole it. Because, most of the time, in Mafia II, even though I did actually steal it, I'm driving it like I'm taking my grandmother to her podiatrist.

NOTE: In the name of full disclosure, the premise for this post was born out of a very pleasant phone conversation that I had with my colleague John Teti. SO THERE'S YOUR POUND OF FLESH, JOHN. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT, MAN??????

17 August 2010

Spiders: The Bane of my Gaming Existence

I was at a BBQ at Vic's place last Sunday afternoon--the incomparable Ryan Payton was in town visiting, and we were grilling salmon steaks in the name of feting him--when the topic of conversation suddenly turned to spiders.

Confession: I am no fan of spiders. Snakes? Fine. Heights? No problem. But spiders? You can keep your damn spiders, thanks.

"You should have seen the one that I killed this morning," Vic said. "It was right there." He pointed his spatula at the corner of a free-standing umbrella, just above our heads. "I knocked it to the ground. It was one of those mean spiders. It coiled up. Like it was ready to come at me."

Naturally, the question for me in this moment, without fail, is always the same: "How big was it?" I asked.

Vic made a circle with his forefinger and thumb. Much to my chagrin, his finger and thumb did not touch. Whatever hellspawn demon spider this was, it was larger than the span of Vic's finger-thumb circle.

"JESUS," I said. I started involuntarily brushing invisible things off my arms and legs and neck like a crazy person. (If you watch Reviews regularly, and you've got a quick eye, you can often see me swatting away non-existant bugs.)

Another guest at the BBQ overheard our spider story and weighed in with one of his own. "I remember going down into the basement in our old house a few years back," he said. "And I spotted this huge, black spider scuttling across the floor. I grabbed the closest weapon--in this case, it happened to be an old hockey stick--and went after it."

"JESUS," I said.

"I hacked at it a few times, but it just kept going. It was faster and tougher than I thought it would be. And though I'd landed several solid blows and wounded it, the thing still got away."


"I never saw it again. I always wondered where it went. I pictured it down there, healing in our basement, one of its legs in a tiny cast, plotting its revenge on me. Then, about a year later, we were moving out of the house. I pulled an old sofa away from the wall, and there it was. Dead. Upside down. Its corpse was huge."


"I went, 'Ha, ha! So that's where you went, you little bastard! Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

"So. How big was it?"

He held up his hand, fingers splayed as wide they would splay. "It was probably just slightly smaller than my hand," he said.

"OH, COME ON," I said.

"Trust me, it was big," he said.

Again I started swatting at the non-existant bugs that were crawling on me. Goddamn invisible bugs!

Finally, a third guest at the BBQ overheard us and weighed in with his story. "When my girlfriend and I were moving out of our old place, I went down to our storage unit to get our things. I saw something moving around in the shadows and when I looked closer, I saw that it was this huge spider."


"I'd never seen a spider like this around here before. It was a frigging tarantula. It had these thick legs and this fat body and hair all over it."

"So what did you do? Did you kill it?" I asked.

"No. I just grabbed my boxes and got the hell out of there."

"THAT MEANS THAT IT IS STILL ROAMING THE EARTH," I said. I was beside myself with worry now. No one told me, before moving to the Pacific Northwest that this was THE LAND OF THE GIANT SPIDERS. Nobody warned me. If someone had informed me of this before I moved here, I might have reconsidered. We have cockroaches and waterbugs--and yes, large rats with pink tails--in New York City. But the spiders, if you do see any in NYC, are usually only modestly sized. Before I travel anywhere for a vacation, I always do some research, to get some idea of the size of the local spiders. If they are above a certain size--bigger than a silver dollar or so--THAT DESTINATION IS OFF. (South America, for example = OFF.) I had some friends who honeymooned in the south of France about 10 years ago. They stayed in an old manor house, with high-beamed ceilings and stone walls. It sounded like just about the perfect place to honeymoon--roaring fire, red wine, blah, blah, blah--until they discovered A MAMMOTH SPIDER in the room. They covered it with a shoebox, and then mummified themselves inside their blankets for the night and didn't sleep a wink that night. (South of France = OFF.)

Yesterday I was playing Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light on the 360 when I received a new objective: ENTER THE SPIDER TOMB.

"OH COME ON," I said out loud, even though it was just me and the cats in my apartment. No sooner had I opened the door to the Spider Tomb than a horde of spiders the size of German shepherds came rushing out to greet me.

Spiders are one of the most ubiquitous enemies in all of gaming, second only to zombies. Almost every videogame ever made features a fight at some point with a spider, or spider-type creature. Here are a couple off the top of my head: Brutal Legend (heavy metal spider), the entire Resident Evil series, Devil May Cry, all MMOs, Doom II, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of T., Earth Defense Force 2017, Ghostbusters: The V.G., Overlord II, Bomberman 64, Darksiders, and Spider Fighter for the 2600.

I stepped inside the Spider Tomb--which is far more intimidating-sounding than "Spider Picnic Area" or "Spider Wild Times Fun Park"--and, naturally, there were webs EVERYWHERE. Suddenly, more of the German Shepherd-sized spiders came galloping out. After I dispatched them, a second horde arrived. Fine. Then a third horde. Fine, again. In the middle of the third horde AN EVEN LARGER SPIDER APPEARS. (JESUS.)

I traveled deeper into the Tomb, and things got worse when a BEHEMOTH spider appeared. I have a 42-inch HDTV, and this thing practically filled up the entirety of it. It was so hairy that it appeared to be wearing a $16.99 JCPenny Mohair sweater.

But what I feel when I play through spider levels of games is not fear, or anxiety. I'm not literally afraid of these virtual spiders. Mostly what I was yesterday while playing through the Spider Tomb was really fucking annoyed. I was annoyed with the lack of creativity on the developers part for yet again trying to draw water from a well--call it The Spider Well--that has long gone dry. Using spiders as enemies is cheap and unimaginative.

Think about it: a bunch of Mohair sweater-wearing game designers are sitting around a table at the Crystal Dynamics offices, brainstorming their way towards a new Tomb Raider game, when, glory be, one guy says, "Eureka, I have it! People have an irrational fear of spiders. Let's USE THAT TO OUR ADVANTAGE. Let's play off of their irrational fear! LET'S BUILD AN ENTIRE LEVEL CENTERED AROUND SPIDERS. That will really give gamers a jolt! Ha, ha!"

A second guy says: "And let's put all of those spiders...IN A TOMB."

A third guy says: "HOLY CRAP, THAT'S IT."

Fourth guy: "I can't believe how wildly inventive we are!" (Rampant back-slapping and high-fiving ensues.)

I'm a zombie fan, and an exploding-barrel fan. I will argue passionately for both zombies and exploding barrels to be integral elements of videogames until the day I die. But Mr. Spider: The sun has set on you. Yes, tales of your exploits will continue to cause me to involuntarily say the word "JESUS." But your presence in videogames is no longer required. Good day, sir.

11 August 2010

My Mom Comes Out of her Gaming Closet

At this point in my life I see my parents twice year: Once in the summer, once at Christmas. Last week, I endured the once-per-summer visit back East, to rural Upstate New York.

My father, now in his '60s, has never used a computer in his life. He does not have an email address. He claims, rather defensively, to have no interest in such things. When it comes to technology, me thinks my dad doth protest too much sometimes. There has always been a vast divide between my interests and his. I pride myself on being different from him, and vice versa.

Computers and books and Star Wars were always my thing. Chain saws and cheese and feats of strength were his things.

My mom, however, has managed to achieve a low level of computer savvy over the last few years. She's got a laptop--my old one--and a Verizon broadband card, which I pay for. No, I am not running for Son of the Year, but I probably should be.

When I was a kid, whenever my mom was on the telephone for longer than 10 minutes, my dad would begin shouting, "GET OFF THE GODDAMN PHONE." Now, here in the future, it's the computer that he yells about.

"Where's mom?" I asked him last week.

"I don't know. She's probably in there ON THE GODDAMN COMPUTER AGAIN," he said.

My mother likes her email. Much to my relief, she has finally evolved beyond her forwarding phase. She no longer forwards inspirational junk mail--REACH FOR THE STARS!!!!!!!!--or my uncle's dumb jokes emails, or spam. And she's on Facebook now, which was basically the final nail in the Facebook coffin for me. Ever since she spotted me online one day and decided to ambush me with an instant message--HELLO SCOTT IT'S YOUR MOTHER--I've avoided the site. No matter. Facebook was kind of on the way out for me anyway. My mother just hurried it along a little.

What I realized on this most recent visit home, is that my mom, more than Facebook or email, loves videogames. She constantly seems to have a browser window open that's connected to Bookworm, or some variation of a match-three, Bejeweled-type game.

As you might imagine, I don't mind seeing this.

A week or so before I was due to fly home, my mom phoned and asked if I'd be willing to part with one of my Nintendo DSes. I currently have three DSes with me in Vancouver--a second generation DS complete with GBA slot, a DSi (black), and a DSi XL (maroon). And I've got at least two--or maybe three; I've honestly lost count--DSes back in New York.

Not only could I afford to part with one--or two, or three--I was, sort of surprisingly, looking forward to giving my mom a DS.

My parents don't really understand what I do for a living, or why I do it. They know that I have food and shelter, and that I can provide for myself, and that I seem reasonably happy. Beyond that, my affinity for videogames and nerd stuff seems to baffle them.

But when she asked for the DS, I thought, My mom gets it. She sees the value in videogames, a least in some small way, and by association, maybe she sees the value in what I do for a living. The prospect of finally being somewhat understood, at least by one of my parents, was really exciting to me.

So I gave her a DS--the DSi XL, specifically, since it's so big that I rarely take it anywhere with me anyway. I loaded up some games on it for her--her beloved Bookworm, and Bejeweled 2, and I threw in Aura-Aura Climber, just for the hell of it. I bought her a 4 GB SD card at Wal-mart, and showed her how to take photos. I also bought Wedding Dash, a Diner Dash variation, which I thought she might enjoy.

At one point during my visit home I spotted her actually reading the tiny instruction booklet for Wedding Dash, trying to figure out how to play the game. She looked so earnest, peering at the tiny font in the tiny booklet. It broke my heart a little, honestly.

The days are kind of long and lazy when I go home. My parents can't wait for me to get there, but once I arrive, we all sort of sit around and look at one another, wondering what to do. One afternoon, out of boredom, we went for a drive to buy a soft ice cream. My mom insisted on me sitting in the front passenger seat. She chose to sit in the back behind my father, who was driving. As we sped down Route 13, I noticed that she had her DSi XL out. She was quietly tapping at the screen, working her way through another level of Bookworm.

"How is that version of Bookworm?" I turned and asked.

She looked up from her game, alarmed. She shook her head. She pointed at the back of my dad's head and made a shushing motion. I realized that the reason she was sitting in the back seat was so that she could get a little gaming time in, without having my father complain about it.

The three of us rode along in silence--my dad peering at the roadway, my mom playing Bookworm in the back seat, and me, aware of what my mom was doing, but feeling more than happy to comply with her wish to sneak in a few minutes of private game time.

All of which leads me to suspect that I might have inherited more from my mother's side of the family than just my giant, lumbering frame and my round head.

02 August 2010

Gaming Project 101

I'm on vacation this week. Sort of on vacation. I'm going East to visit my family for a few days. Which, I don't expect, will be terribly relaxing. (It never is.) We always drive all over the place, visiting a million relatives. And my parents yell at each other. And I sit in the backseat and completely regress. My dad is having trouble seeing out of one of his eyes these days--his name is Bob; and I've started referring to him as "Bobclops"--which should make riding around with him driving A LOT more exciting than it normally is.

Whenever I have a few days to play what I want to play--as opposed to playing stuff that I have to review for work--I almost always take on a gaming project. A gaming project is when you pick one game and focus only on that game for the duration of your vacation time. Example: Over the Holidays a couple years back, I worked my way through Shadow of the Colossus in its entirety, defeating one colossus per day.

It was not unpleasant.

Gaming projects are a good way to fill in gaps in my gaming resume. Usually what I do is this: I pick a vintage game that I've been meaning to finish, but never quite got around to finishing. Mostly, it's just a good excuse to go back and appreciate the old crap.

Ah, old crap.

On Friday, late in the afternoon, Vic came into the office--he's off too this week--and announced that he was planning to get every last star in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Which surprised me, because I thought the whole "gaming project" thing was unique to me. Apparently, other people do these gaming projects too.

Or maybe it's just Vic. Who knows.

Over the weekend, while contemplating what my gaming project was going to be, I popped in the 360 version of Clash of the Titans. I was kind of excited for it. I enjoyed the movie far more than I thought I would. And I do love my God of War knock-offs. So the game had a lot going for it. Plus: The PR company who sent me the game also saw fit to include the Clash of the T.'s Blu-ray.

Good will = generated.

The game was originally supposed to come out when the movie was in theaters. But at the last minute, it was delayed. Which I read as a good sign. They realized the game needed more work, so they held onto it and decided to work on it some more. I'm always OK with that. I wish more publishers would make these kinds of executive decisions. There would be a lot less crap/junk in the world.

Clash of the Titans: The Videogame blows. It blows about as much as anything I have ever played in my life. I can't even describe how terrible it is. I can't believe that the WB and Namco would even bother to lay this big, damp turd of a game on the world. Poor world!!!!!

I played for about an hour before taking the disc out of the 360, boxing it up, then literally hurling it across my living room. (My living room is small, so the game didn't have very far to travel.)

What total and complete shit. And Sam Worthington looks like Sloth from The Goonies for some inexplicable reason. (Durrrrrrrrrrrrr! Durrrrrrrr, durrrrrrrr!!!)



As the English would say: What rubbish!

This game is so bad that it has, as an unfortunate side effect, retroactively diminished my opinion of the movie. Fuck this movie. I never want to see this movie again. And Liam Neeson: The Allman Brothers phoned. They want their wig back.


Back to my gaming project I went.

I've been meaning to get around to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for awhile now. I've been thinking about the game a lot for some reason. I've decided that this is my week to get it done. I sank about 4-5 hours into Majora's yesterday.

I go back and forth on Zelda as a franchise. Twilight Princess bored me. I tried to finish it TWICE. Both times I got so bored that I quit. Wind Waker was boring too. All that fucking sailing! And the ending just went on forever. (What do you mean I have to RE-FIGHT all the bosses again? What??????)

But A Link to the Past is ONE OF THE GREATEST GAMING MOMENTS OF MY LIFE. Man, I will never forget sitting in my tiny apartment in Chicago, eat gyros from the Greek place across the street, and playing through that game. I just loved it so much.

So Zelda: You will forever have a place in my heart, no matter how many boring games in a row Nintendo makes.

Majora's Mask always interested me because it seemed like such a dark, dirty little diversion when compared to the other games in the series. And man, is it ever dark! That weird cackling mask dealer in the clock tower! The Skull Kid and his weird dances! The grimacing red moon, looking like the creepy moon-face in the George Melies' 1902 movie.

It's all so strange and morbid. And great.

Beyond great.

Again, I'm left wondering why we even need these high-powered machines like the PS3 and 360. Man, we do not need all that power! We do not need more realism, and more pixels and more polygons.

We don't.

This game manages to be both silly and profound. It's almost 11 years old--it came out, appropriately enough, just before Halloween in 2000--so it looks crude by today's Modern Warfare 2 standards. Yet it somehow, someway manages to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery that is pretty much unmatched by almost anything I've played recently. Playing the game is akin to having a lucid dream. Everything seems familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It's so strange.

And great.

Did I mention that it's great?

Well. It is.

There are a couple of scarecrows who I've encountered on my journey so far. Or maybe it's the same scarecrow who continues to pop up in different places through out the game. Either way, The scarecrow(s) always offer(s) to do a dance that will fast-forward time 12 hours, if that's what I want him to do.

The scarecrow dance--the flailing arms! all the swaying!--makes me cringe every time I see it. It seems to go on far longer than it needs to. Yet I can't look away! I try, but I can't! Watch it for yourself. You'll see what I mean.

There are so many moments like this in Majora's Mask; moments that I react to, that I have an emotional response to, whether I want to or not. The weird jugglers in town who make the terrible joke about the kidnapping (the punchline: a "kid" was "napping"). The odd mask-wearing creature who disappears behind the Curiosity Shop door just before I can reach him. The old astronomer up in the tower, talking about Moon Tears. It always feels like the whole game is teetering on the edge of poor taste. It flirts with poor taste, then pulls back at the last second. It has this weird, discomforting menace.

These moments resonate long after I shut the game off. There's poetry and art in these moments. Real poetry. Real art.

These moments are far too rare in videogames. Far too rare.

I'll keep you posted on my Majora's Mask progress, just as soon as I make more. Stay tuned.