29 June 2011

"Red-ring, Mrs. Torrance."

About three weeks ago my otherwise solid, completely reliable, quietly humming Xbox 360 Slim began acting up. First sign of trouble: the machine occasionally struggled to load games from discs. The word "Opening," followed by a repeating tail of ellipses, would hang up the screen for minutes at a time. The tiny green light in the center of the Slim's silver circle winked at me in this cadence:


After that, the Slim began to behave as if it was haunted by the demon from Insidious. Games would begin to load up only to abruptly quit, booting me all the way back to the dashboard for no discernible reason. And once, near the conclusion of a particularly trying quest in Oblivion, the Slim just shut down completely, as if someone--the demon maybe?--had yanked the power cord from the wall at the worst possible moment.

The Slim's hiccups became such a handicap that trying to load F.E.A.R. 3 for review purposes a few weeks back required approximately between 10 and 12 load-up do-overs before the game would finally "take." F.E.A.R. 3 is not a great game. But having to endure hardware issues, while on deadline, certainly did not bolster my opinion of it.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone last Friday morning with a peppy, warm-voiced man named Wade. Wade works at Microsoft headquarters where he apparently fields calls from people like me on a daily basis. Wade walked me through a few troubleshooting routines over the phone. He had me remove the hard drive from the Slim--pop open the bottom; yank the drive out by its cloth cord, voila, etc.--his theory being that perhaps corrupted data on the drive was causing games to load improperly.

Yet, even sans hard drive, discs struggled to load. The green light on the front of the Slim feverishly winked at me like an insane asylum patient.

Wade was quiet when I informed him that the problem was persisting. I knew that he was gathering himself--I could feel it--getting ready to deliver THE NEWS--information that he no doubt had delivered to possibly hundreds of 360 owners before me, and would deliver again to many other 360 owners after I hung up the phone.

"Unfortunately, there's no other choice here," he said. "You'll have to send the 360 in for repair."

As Wade described the next steps in the repair process to me--an email would be sent to me which would contain shipping labels, which I will have to print out; the turnaround for the 360 would be two to four weeks, etc.--my anger bubbled to the surface.

"I'm sorry, Wade, so please don't take this personally, but this is the fourth f***ing time I've had a 360 fail on me," I said. "I'm beyond f***ing frustrated at this point. You know, as a consumer, I should hate the 360 as a console and Microsoft as a brand at this point. But the funny thing is, I don't. I don't, Wade. And I don't f***ing know why."

Wade cleared his throat, but otherwise remained silent, allowing me to continue with my diatribe.

"You know, maybe you guys worked some sort of voodoo on me. Maybe you people hypnotized me somehow. Whatever it is, despite the number of times I've been screwed over by Microsoft and its faulty hardware, the thought of having to live without my 360 for two to four weeks sends me plummeting downward into a panic spiral. No kidding. My chest tightens up just thinking about the weeks--weeks!--I'll spend without my 360, not to mention the fact that I also evaluate games as my job, which means that doing my job for the next two to four weeks will be a huge pain in the ass for me.

"If my PS3 or Wii should go down--which they never, ever have, for the record--I think I would be mostly OK with it. But I need the 360, Wade. I need it."

Wade, to his great credit, let me get it all off my chest. Who knows what he was doing on the other end of the line while I was gassing on? Maybe he was listening intently and feeling genuine empathy for me. Or, more likely, Wade had locked eyes with one of his fellow call center mates and was making mock jag-off motions in the air. (If I was Wade, that's definitely what I would have been doing.)

I did a little math this morning. Since the 360 launch in 2005 I've spent an unbelievable two to four months, in total, waiting for various incarnations of 360s to be either repaired or replaced. And here I am, seven motherf***ing years into the machine's lifecycle, and I'm doing it once again.

Another sad 360 story: I once purchased a 360 for a friend of mine a few years back. (He was about to get married, and I wanted him to play BioShock while he still had the time to do so.) While visiting him, the machine red-ringed right in front of us. Mortified, and not wanting to leave my friend 360-less or have him go through the whole Wade process, I simply went to the nearest Target and bought him a new 360 and personally ate the $400 cost.

And yet, after all of this, after all the failure and betrayal and disappointment, the 360 remains my console of choice, and I don't understand why anymore. Wouldn't a group of sane people, two or three hardware failures ago, decide to forego all Microsoft products altogether? If you buy a Chevy and it shits out on you every 75 miles, the next time you go to buy a car chances are most people wouldn't say, "Well, I'm interested in buying another Chevy, since the last one turned out to be such a huge piece of goat shit."

But gamers are a strange lot. We're very, very forgiving. We have an incredibly high tolerance for bullshit. Case in point: By the time Jack Tretton got around to apologizing at Sony's E3 press conference this year, you could feel the tidal shift of goodwill coming from the crowd, as if we were collectively saying, "Aw, come on, Jack. Pshaw. We forgive you for the security breach that may or may not have resulted in the pilfering of our personal banking information! Now show us Uncharted 3, you scamp! Woo!"

And so I sit, brow furrowed, gazing at the gaping hole which my Slim once occupied beneath my television, trying like hell to convince myself that Microsoft f***ing sucks, that the 360 sucks, that the stupid Master Chief eats bags of cocks, etc. and not even coming remotely close to succeeding.

24 June 2011

The Notebook

In the mid 1990's my friend John Galvin and I made frequent pilgrimages to one another's city--me to visit him in Boston; he to New York to visit me--to partake in 72-hour--and sometimes longer--gaming marathons. This is how the visits would go: early on a Friday morning, I would board the Fung-Wah Transport, known informally as the Chinatown shuttle--by far the most frugal way to travel between Boston and New York (tickets were usually in the $10 range), and settle in with the incongruous crowd of horny college students and aged Chinese people, who for some reason always seemed to be carrying a million plastic bags filled with beets.

Once I arrived, John and I would gather supplies--groceries, beer, more beer, etc.--then stop at the game store and rent a stack of videogames. Then we'd go home, bolt the door, draw the blinds, and not emerge until we'd exhausted our supplies, ourselves, or both.

At the time, I was still trying to resist the gravity of videogames, still trying to become a serious writer, and still trying to be an adult member of society. John, bless his heart, was the one who made it OK for me to openly love videogames, if only for those 72-hour time periods. In fact, it was from the primordial ooze of those indulgent weekends--the escape from my then semi-hellish existence (bad jobs, broken hearts, many hours spent staring at blank sheets of paper, etc.)--that the current me would eventually emerge.

Ah, Current Me. You are so vastly superior to Original Me.

During one particular visit to New York, John noticed a heap of scrap papers that had gathered next to my TV. He began to leaf through the scraps. What he saw looked something like this:

B. BEAN 3RD 2:22
B. BEAN 1ST 1:14
B. BEAN 6TH 2:52
B. BEAN 4TH 0:49

What John was looking at, as I'm sure you've deduced, were notes I had taken while gaming. I was playing Knockout Kings at the time on the original PlayStation--EA's boxing franchise that pre-dated the Fight Night series--and I was keeping careful records of my progress.

"B. BEAN," of course, is Butter Bean, the rotund novelty opponent who was featured prominently in the game. As you can see from my notes, I was obsessed with knocking out Butter Bean. After each bout, with Butter Bean's mountainous body prone on the virtual canvas, I'd pick up a pencil, and with my hand quivering with my victory adrenaline, I'd scratch down the round I knocked him out in, and the time that had elapsed in that round.

I was in the habit of taking copious notes while gaming back then. I always had a pencil and pad of paper nearby. I'd write down everything--the location of power-ups, inscrutable clues from NPC's, secrets, etc. Sometimes I'd even draw up crude maps of DOOM levels, complete with the locations of monsters and when and where I could expect that pair of Hell Barons to appear. I'd create a narrative in my head for these moments, something along the lines of this: "Approximately 15 Imps will attack from the West"--draw arrow towards center--"but ignore them for the time being and deal with the flaming, flying skulls that float up out of the well at the center of the room. After the skulls have been eliminated, that's the cue for the Hell Barons to appear from the large descending platform in the East. Try to get the group of Imps to inadvertently strike the Hell Barons with their fireballs. The Imps and Hell Barons will ostensibly fight, tearing the asses out of one another. Whoever remains after this battle--Imps or Hell Barons--will be severely weakened. Go in with the chain gun and mop up the mess. Everyone clear? Alright, let's get out there, people. Stay sharp."

A bit of note-taking was absolutely necessary back then. Ten years ago, games didn't have the same obsessive-compulsive level of stat-tracking features that we now take for granted as gamers. Example: the image at the top of this post features actual notes that I scratched down while trying to puzzle my way through The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask a few months back. Getting through that game without notes? It's borderline impossible.

Other note-taking, like the maps and enemy locations for DOOM that I drew up, while not always necessary, were an effective way to let a game bleed over into the rest of my life. Making these maps gave me cause to think about it, and consider it, and feed my obsession for it--and boy, was DOOM an obsession--during the few non-DOOM-ing hours each day when I had to deal with less-compelling issues like paying bills, or working at my terrible waitering job at that terrible restaurant, or wondering why some cute girl didn't phone me back.

While my B. BEAN notes are gone now, lost during one of the four apartment changes I've endured since then, I can still recall John's reaction to discovering them: 1. hysterical laughter for several minutes, 2. ten year's worth of playful insults.

To this day, without fail, John will make a reference to the B. BEAN Incident almost every time I see him.

I don't resent John's insults in the least. He's right to poke fun at me. Those notes are a physical manifestation of my love, passion, and yes, oftentimes outright obsession for videogames. These papers are the smoking gun; they are tangible proof--Exhibit A--in the court trial convicting me on no less than six counts of unbridled nerdery.

And while I might have been red-faced at first--I snatched the notes out of John's hands and tried to futilely deny what they were for a few minutes--I realized that beyond the gentle ribbing he was giving me over the B. BEAN notes, there was also acceptance and understanding. What John was also saying to me was this: I see you for exactly what you are.

I'm certain that I experienced a cosmic sense of relief in that moment. I learned that though there might be ribbing involved, there's almost always love and real understanding on the far side of that ribbing.

Our 72-hour gaming binges? They're a thing of the past now. John's married with a child and a good career. I live on the west coast now, and I can't drink like I used to.

But he and I, of course, remain the most excellent of friends.

09 June 2011

E3 2011: The B.O. Report

The plug was finally pulled on E3 2011 late in the day last Thursday afternoon. As thousands of attendees either sped to the airport to catch early evening flights or else retired to hotel lounges for much deserved drinks at the bar, the overproduced, overheated booths--including that daunting dragon looming above the Bethesda booth--was all being dismantled. Digression: Where do all the trappings of the booths go? Is there a landfill that gets stuffed with these things? Does the 50-foot TV in the Sony booth get shipped to Jack Tretton's house? Can the dragon be recycled?

E3 always has a mirage quality about it. For a few short days each year, it suddenly appears in in the shimmering heat of downtown Los Angeles, rising in the place where there previously was nothing (convention centers are always vacant, anonymous spaces waiting to be filled), sucking vast amounts of electricity from the power grid, and becoming a physical manifestation of a medium that becomes more ephemeral with each passing year. As games lose their status as physical objects, as game stores become less necessary--love them or hate them, it's only a matter of time before the GameStops of the world are forever shuttered--gamers have fewer real-world destinations to travel to and gather in. And, despite the old saw that gamers are antisocial nerds, I believe that we actually like to gather. We need to gather. We need to physically see one another, and have actual conversations--not comment-thread conversations; not message board posts, or curt twitter exchanges. We need to hug, to tell each other how happy we are to see one another, and to sometimes, on occasion, even discuss things other than videogames.

That's why, more than ever, we need PAX. We need Fan Expo in Toronto and Comic Con and the Game Developers Conference. We need regular excuses to sit across from one another, if only for a little while. One of the favorite topics of conversation at E3 this year, and every year, is the poor hygiene of our fellow gamers. Fact: body odor runs rampant through E3. We pretend to all complain about it--approximately 20-percent of all E3 conversations are centered around gripes about body odor and/or bad breath. Yet, in some strange way, I think that we secretly like the odors. Not simply because they give us common conversation ground, uniting people in an us-versus-them dynamic (we smell good, they smell bad), but because the odors somehow work to make the silly, ephemeral experience of E3 that much more tangible and real.

Because there is nothing more human than B.O. and bad breath.

On my way home on Thursday night, I boarded the plane and discovered that I was to be seated next to a man who honestly could not have smelled any worse. I was initially furious with the situation, and with this man. He was quiet. He didn't take up much space. He read the in-flight magazine and dozed. But his B.O. was not of this earth. I privately begged the stewardess to find another seat for me. "I'm sorry, sir, but the flight is sold out," she explained.

As the plane leveled off at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, as the man napped next to me, I suddenly made the executive decision to stop breathing through my mouth. I decided to embrace the man's B.O. I took it in. Jesus, it was strong. But, really, after a few whiffs, it wasn't that bad. The poor guy was probably a developer who'd just finished a 14-hour shift on the show floor. Who knew what he was leaving behind in L.A.? Who knew what he was headed home to? He was probably a sweet man. He probably had simply forgotten to pack his deodorant. He probably owned a dog, or maybe even a couple of cats. He probably loved videogames as much as, if not more, than I do.

When our plane finally landed later that night, I hustled through the sleepy airport, past the dark Hudson Newsstands, past the beverage refrigerators humming away in the shadows, leaving behind E3 2011, this man, and his wild, piquant B.O. once and for all.

08 June 2011

E3 2011: Day 3

I'm staying at the Wilshire Grand this year, which is only a few long blocks--all the blocks are long in L.A.; you might describe this as a long-blocked city--from the Los Angeles Convention Center. It's pretty great here. My room is quiet, and small, and fairly clean, and only smells slightly of the hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies who slept here prior to my arrival on Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday when I was out convention-ing, someone came in and made up my room. In addition to performing the expected duties of collecting towels and sorting the bed, the house keeper also saw fit to affix some sort of transparent advertisement thing to my bathroom mirror.

Now I've seen some pretty insidious ways of trying to get messages under my radar at E3 before--room keys being branded, "protests" being orchestrated in front of the Convention Center, etc. But looking at my face in the mirror and seeing it literally surrounded by a message--ironically it was from Microsoft, and yes, it was regarding the Kinect--caused me to physically recoil from the mirror, cringe, and reel about dramatically like Fred Sanford having a fake heart attack.

I laughed a little--jesus, this was really something, putting shit in my room to get me to pay attention to it. Then I got angry. I thought, Goddamn it all, Microsoft. This is my goddamn room--my miniature fortress of solitude, my sole sanctuary away from the hammer and tongs of the show floor. Would you kindly stay the hell out of it?

I also discovered yesterday that the Wilshire Grand's days are numbered. The place is scheduled to be demolished soon, erased from the earth right down to the foundations, and that a new, more modern version of the Wilshire Grand will rise in its place. For some reason this makes me genuinely sad. I feel like I'm staying in the old ghost of a hotel. I'm looking out the window on the 14th floor even as I type this, peering down at the traffic on 7th Street and all the convention goers scurrying down the sidewalk, and I'm experiencing a twinge of vertigo, thinking about the fact that pretty soon everything around me--the walls, the floor, the ceiling; the weird toilet with the game show-buzzer flush button on the wall--will be gone.

Completely gone.

I think of all the E3 attendees who have stayed at the Wilshire Grand through the years, all the men--it's still unfortunately predominantly men here--who found some way to get to L.A., who found a hotel room (no small feat each year; my advice: book in January), and who found a bona fide reason to be here, and to be a part of this glorious medium.

I think of all the stories filed since E3's inception in 1995, back when newspapers and magazines were still viable places of employment, and all the blog posts and Tweets and Facebook updates and hands-ons impressions, etc. that are currently being tap, tap, tapped out in the rooms around me as I type this.

I think of all the showers and shits that people have taken here, all the hangovers that people have had to white knuckle their way through, and all the sad, lonely jolts of jism--hundreds of gallons of the stuff, no doubt--that have been spilled in these rooms after horny gamers have had to wait in lines all day while being surrounded by the cute girls in hot pants who have been hired by game publishers from L.A.'s seemingly never ending supply of attractive women who are very gifted at being attractive.

Oh, E3...

A bit of advice to the management of the Wilshire: Be sure to salt the earth after the old hotel is destroyed, or else the new Wilshire will likely be haunted by legions of typing, masturbating, hungover ghosts.

I'm off to the show floor. More soon.

07 June 2011

E3 2011: Day 2

I went to the nearby Carl's Jr. yesterday morning to quietly enjoy a Breakfast Burger, which is one of my favorite things about E3. (The Breakfast Burger is a regular hamburger, but with an egg and some hash browns thrown on top. It's more enjoyable than it sounds. Better still, eating the B. B. is akin to a python eating goat; once you eat one, you don't need to eat again for several days, which is useful while at E3, where food is expensive, terrible, and extremely scarce.)

Unfortunately, Carl's Jr. didn't open until 6:30, so I headed for the nearby Starbucks and ordered one of those taste-free Ciabatta breakfast sandwiches, which I believe contains the following ingredients: sawdust, fur, air, and dreams.

After breakfast, I caught the shuttle bus downstairs in front of my hotel, which whisked me away in pee-smelling ambience to the Microsoft press conference. Things started off OK with an exciting showing of Modern Warfare 3--looks to me like Infinity Ward is doing fine after all the upheaval from earlier this year--but then took a turn when the whole thing devolved into a Kinect fiesta.

I don't love my Kinect. I don't even really know where it is at this moment. My living room is too small to use it. In order to use it, I have to upend my couch, standing it upright and completely out of the way, just so that I can convulse in front of my TV and be informed that the Kinect sensor is not currently registering my convulsions.

Trotting out people like Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot and Lionhead's Peter Molyneux so they could announce nothing less than ringing endorsements of Kinect was really where the train left the tracks for me. Subtext of these endorsement: See everyone? Even these guys just love Kinect!

I'm not buying it. I get the creeping feeling that many developers and publishers have been strong-armed into shoe-horning some kind of awkward, obtuse, superfluous Kinect functionality into their otherwise perfectly fine Kinect-free games. You could practically see the cashiers checks poking from Yves's and Peter's pockets, the gulp motions in their throats, and the the barrel marks on their temples from where the gun was held.

I understand that Microsoft has hitched its wagon to the soaring star known as Kinect. Or, maybe a better metaphor is that Microsoft married a beautiful woman who turned out to be a crack whore. But in order to save face, it now has no choice but to 1. feed her habit, and 2. pretend that everything is perfectly normal.

Well, it's not normal, Microsoft. It's pretty fucking far from normal.

To make matters worse, Microsoft then had to trot out child actors who were pretending to be gamers, so that they could demonstrate how much fun all of their newly announced Kinect games are. No one in the audience thought for one second that those kids were real. In fact, most of us worried that a bus en route to the town where the demon children from Children of the Corn reside had broken down out front, and that these hell-spawn had wandered in looking for souls to eat.

The only true innovation from the Microsoft press conference was something that I am currently calling "Kinect Demo Face." It is a serious condition that all persons who demonstrate a Kinect game on stage at E3 apparently suffer from. Symptoms include glowering, brow furrowing, dramatic exhalations, exaggerated movements, constipation, self-satisfied expressions, and the appearance that you are having far more fun than you actually are. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

The new Tomb Raider game looked interesting, but something about it left me feeling vaguely unsettled and sad. There was something so cruel, and maybe something even a bit misogynist about the demo. If you haven't seen it, Lara Croft has the sh*t completely beaten out of her for three minutes. While sitting in an auditorium predominantly populated by men, something about watching this woman being borderline tortured on a gigantic screen in high definition was disturbing for me.

So thank the gods for Gears of War 3, the sole saving grace of the whole unpleasant debacle. I love how completely cheese-ball and backwoods and out of touch Gears is. Epic doesn't pretend that it's high art, or great storytelling, or furthering the medium, or that Marcus Fenix is a great character, etc. etc. It sets out to deliver a good, mostly sensical time, and that's all Gears 3 appears to be. Dear Cliffy B.: I like you. And in my dreams, you and Ice-T are actually friends in real life...

After Microsoft's Kinect-centric showing, the E3 playing field already seemed to tilt in favor of Sony, who moved their press conference from late Tuesday mornings to late in the afternoon on Monday this year. Our pee-scented shuttle got stuck in late afternoon L.A. traffic, and by the time we finally arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the only seats left were in the nosebleed region.

We were all here for The Great Apology of 2011--sorry for the security breach, sorry PSN was down, sorry all of your credit cards were compromised, etc. Though I believe we were--everyone in the place--was already more than ready to forgive Sony and move on. Jack Tretton delivered the mea culpa with the right amount of sincerity and irreverence. I've hapred on Jack every year since he took over for Phil Harrison. But you know what? He's actually pretty good. And his Ridge Racer zing directed Kaz Hirai was really the only truly spontaneous, funny, and human highlight of the press conference.

I don't know what it is about Sony press conferences, but year in and year out they always feel like grim, grave endeavors, as if we're all on a great, arduous march towards Mount Doom. The place always feels dark, and shadowy. The music is always a little too loud, with a little too much bass, making it feel like we've wandered into the world's largest S & M club. And Sony always tries so damn hard, always feeding us food before, and feeding us food after, and making sure that everyone stays nice and lubricated thanks to their ubiquitous open bars.

Things got off to a terrific start with Uncharted 3. Jesus, was that ever fun to watch. Seeing Nathan Drake navigate a sinking, abandoned ocean liner was genuinely thrilling. Honestly, at this point, Naughty Dog just seems to be showing off. Their grasp of the PS3 hardware is absolutely unrivaled.

But was that ever a tough act to follow. Poor Insomniac had to try with Resistance 3. It did not succeed. It seemed so muted, and small, and so completely unsurprising and expected. Honestly, haven't I played this game, where guys run at me and I shoot them, countless times before over the last 10 years?

While Microsoft has its crack-whore wife in the form of Kinect, Sony has its crack-whore wife in the form of 3D. Why Sony is so bloody certain that this is The Future, at a time when the box office returns for 3D movies are already on the decline, is a mystery for the ages. Wherever Sony has buried "Home"--probably in a New Jersey marshland next to Jimmy Hoffa--they should also bury their borderline obsessive endorsement of 3D. Sony: It is never going to work.

The big news was the NGP, or rather Vita announcement. The hardware looks interesting, but so did the original PSP when it first shipped, complete with the now-absurd-seeming UMD format. If anything, the Vita seems too busy--it does THIS! and THIS! and THIS TOO!--and features too many bells, whistles, and more bells. There's something inherently insecure in this approach, when you just throw tech at a problem. The PS3 is also guilty of doing that--I have no idea what a fraction of the abilities are on the PS3, nor do I have any use for them.

But Sony's greatest sin, as it is every year, is that it never, ever quits while it is ahead. Instead, what they deliver is two hours worth of news--talking, not showing--which could have been delivered in a far more exciting, teasing fashion in one short, compact, and efficient hour. You could literally feel the wind go out of the sails of the whole thing. At one point, during an especially long pause, someone kicked over an empty Corona bottle, which clanged and echoed through out the Coliseum. The whole place went silent, and suddenly, it felt less like a jazzy, cutting edge press conference from one of the world's strongest hardware makers and game publishers, and more like a tedious school assembly on fire safety.

Oh, and one more thing: Please, Capcom, for the love of god, take Cole Macgrath out of the Street Fighter-Tekken Vita game. That shit is fine for other games and series, but there's always been a purity about the Street Fighter games that should be maintained at all costs. I'm telling you, you open the door for this kind of thing, next thing you know Murray the Hippo and Ronald McDonald will be the final bosses in Street Fighter 6.

Last but not least: It was painful to see 2K's Ken Levine trotted out to deliver the de rigueur apology for not being completely on board with every piece of Sony tech. (Gabe Newell played the part at last year's E3.) Like Peter and Yves at Microsoft, Levine, check in his pocket, lump in throat, and fresh barrel-marks on his right temple, apologized for being skeptical about the PS3 Move, and that BioShock: Infinite will--surprise, everyone--suddenly, and inexplicably, feature Move functionality.

I understand these people have companies to run, and mouths to feed, and wives who need their crack, but will the last person who is not for sale in this industry please stand up?

[Insert sound of toe tapping HERE.]

06 June 2011

E3 2011: Day 1

It's early here in downtown Los Angeles. Pre-dawn still. No one wakes up earlier during E3 week than I do. No, not even Reggie Fils-Amie, who may or may not be a kind of robot.

I'm up early because I always get up early. Man, do I ever enjoy that hour or two of quiet and peace--before the phone can ring, before the deluge of texts and emails and tweets and random, pointless information starts spraying all over the place--that only really happens in the early mornings. And that hour or two is especially important this week, during E3, when things start off loud and obnoxious--the Microsoft press conference, at the Galen Center on the USC campus, begins in less than three hours--and only get more so from there.

I'm here to see, and touch, all the newest games, the latest technology, etc. But to be honest, all I really want to do is play the games that I already have in my possession. At E3 every year, without fail, I have countless moments when I wish that I could, like Dorothy, click my heels and magically transport myself back to my couch on Beatty Street where I will continue trying to get all five of the lights in that one particularly hairy race in Blur.

I can't do that, of course. What I can do is bring a ridiculous amount of games to E3 with me. I have the PSP go, 3DS, iPhone, and iPad all with me. I do this every year. I think a lot of us do this. I decided on the plane down from Vancouver yesterday that Dead or Alive: Dimensions was going to be my obsession for the week. And if it should fail me at all at any point, Super Stickman Golf, Coin Drop and Pixeljunk Monsters--damn you, Dylan Cuthbert--are all right there to pick up any slack.

I'm also carrying Pilotwings Resort, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Mario Kart DS, LEGO Star Wars III 3DS, GTA: Chinatown Wars (DS version), and for some inexplicable reason Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies.

I know. Embarrassing.

I remember once saying to Vic that we should do some kind of cooking show for gamers. You know, how to cook something healthy and delicious in the time it takes for DCU Online to update, etc. He asked me if I loved cooking. "Of course I don't love cooking," I said. "I hate cooking. And I'm terrible at it."

He said, "All I know is if you want to make a TV show about something, you'd better love it. Because you have to deal with it every single day, no matter if you're in the mood to or not."

So I'm heading out into my day, slouching towards the lumbering beast of E3 2011, with no less than three gaming systems on my person, with game cartridges stuffed into practically every opening in my pants, while dealing with the completely irrational fear that somehow, some way all my systems will suddenly lose their charges simultaneously, rendering me game-less in the midst of the one place on earth where there could not possibly be a higher games per square foot ratio.

If that's not love, I don't know what is.

03 June 2011

Where the Hell Am I...?

Dear Fine People: I apologize for being so damn lax with my posts and updates lately. Suffice to say that there have been many reasons for this, not the least of which is the annual E3 convention, which is looming large on the horizon. (I arrive in L.A. on Sunday.)

I currently have several posts in the old writing crock pot, which are almost flavorful enough to deserve spots here. Stay tuned for those.

And I'll no doubt be in a writing mood next week in L.A. So there's also that to look forward to.

What I'm trying to say is this: keep the porch light on for me. Because I'm coming home soon.