Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Today is Game On's 50th Post, and therefore a birthday of some sorts.  Happy day!  And much love to Debbie who has completely carried the load and gotten us to this milestone while I've been insanely busy running around Sioux City and playing the "single mom" game while my husband is gone.  And this game?  Totally. Sucks.

You know what else is lame?  Being away from all of my gaming apparatus.  I have to say, I am seriously missing it.  I know I have been totally lax on playing Xbox lately (before the move), but now that it's completely unavailable I am dying for some time on the box.  Halo?  Viva Pinata?  Anything!  And can I tell you how much it's killing me to have to wait to play Mario Galaxy 2?!   blargh!

Having this break from video games has really gotten me thinking though..  It is pretty much my main hobby these days. Yes, it's totally time consuming, but somehow it manages to fit into my life better than most of my other hobbies.  I can't seem to find time to read a book, any and all of my artistic hobbies have gone by the wayside (pretty impossible to get out stuff to draw or paint with a 2 year old around and try to take your creation the least bit seriously).  Also, I have the tendency to multi-task, oh, say, constantly and gaming offers me that ability.  It fulfills me in both my entertainment and social quadrants. (Yes, I have quadrants.)  If I'm on Xbox I am, more often than not, talking to Debbie.  If I'm gaming solo or playing on the DS/Computer I am either with someone in my actual presence or I am on the phone with someone.  Pretty easy to play a game & talk on the phone.  Pretty impossible to read a book and talk on the phone.  You can see how gaming wins, time and time again.

Also, as a mother, it is so easy and wonderful to be able to get caught up in the game world.  I can play for hours as someone who is not me and just get away, without actually going anywhere. And I can do it all while my kids are taking a nap or in bed for the night.  It's also easy to play when they're awake, if it's a game I can play in short bursts or play with them.  Kiki is loving to watch me play pretty much anything, even WoW.  She'll say, "You playing Warcraft?"  And I say, "Yes, get on over here, kiddo."  It's a lot of fun (until she tries to help by clicking the mouse all over the screen.  If I fall off Ashzara one more time....)

So what keeps you coming back?  Gaming is time consuming and darn expensive...yet here we sit.  We play and play and when we're not playing we're reading blogs about playing or mulling over that last tricky puzzle in Zelda or what-have-you.  What keeps us coming back?  Clearly, for me, games are just awesome.  Me and games?  We just click.  :-D

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Save Your Pennies and Try the Demo First

There is nothing worse than spending your hard earned dollars on a game and finding out that it sucks. Sometimes you can avoid this by borrowing it from a friend or reading a review from your trusted, friendly blogger. But if its a brand new game, it can be really hard to find a synopsis that isn't sponsor driven. If all else fails, try the demo.

A lot of games make demos and trial versions of their games. These demos are super useful for a ton reasons. They most importantly give the player an idea of the overall style of the game. Demos also provide familiarity with controls, ranking systems, graphics, and so much more.

One thing to be careful of is demos that are really short. Some give the player a very small portion of a level or mission to complete. Sometimes the available section is very representative of the game as a whole, other times it is not. The powers-that-be may have granted access, but its a specialized section. For instance, you could spend the duration of the demo driving around a city, only to find out that the game has very little to do with driving but more of a first person shooter. Or you could be running around gunning people down, but when the game comes out there is quite a bit of puzzle solving as well. So make sure that you do your reading if any is available.

Be careful with multiplayer games as well. You will most likely find the demos to multiplayer games are small chunks of the solo campaign. While the solo may be great, the servers and overall functionality of the multiplayer aspect may be crap.

Luckily, multiplayer games have something even better than a demo: the Beta. Betas are trial runs of video games. The publishers and developers let loose the game on the public basically to see what happens. These testing grounds are incredibly important to the final product. They are able to get feedback about flaws in the game. A lot of times when games first come out, the maps have flaws that are conducive to cheating. There may also be faulty weapons, glitches involving perks, and so much more.

When games run these Betas, it gives them a chance to correct this before the game is actually released and those leader boards start to look cracked. When there isn't a Beta, the multiplayer can be disastrous (I'm looking at you Modern Warfare 2). However, the Beta for Halo: Reach is out but it is only accessible if you purchased Halo: ODST. In my opinion, I think they should have made the Reach Beta available for everyone. It would help test the limits of the game better as well bring in more players. But at least they are smart enough to do a dry run first.

I am more likely to buy a game i tried and loved on a demo than I am a game that I just have to play by ear.
It can never totally hurt to check out a demo or a Beta. They are full of useful information. Plus they are a great way to play a game for 30 minutes while trying to decide what to play for the night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

If You Can't Replay It, At Least Reuse It

We all have a lot of video game junk lying around. I know that a lot of my friends have old consoles, games, controllers, and more. Many people will hoard these items hoping that someday they will be able to sell them for some huge amount of money. Some even hold out hope that they will someday hook that old console or load the game back up and give those ancient levels one last go. But there comes a time when blowing into your game cartridge just won't cut it anymore. Here are some fun ways to keep your non-functioning gaming history near and dear.

I know that everyone has heard of this or has a friend who did it. Turning that old Game Cube console into a lunchbox. The cool one about this is that you can keep the games. The Wii is backwards compatible so you don't even have to sacrifice your favorite Cube titles. Its a really easy process and a great conversation piece. All you need to do is dismantle your Game Cube until all you have left is the shell. When you are removing the inner workings of the console, just make sure that you don't damage or attempt to remove the latching device in the corner that holds that lid shut. When I remodeled mine, I just carved out the space where the disc goes and used that. Other people split the entire console in half. If you cut it in half, you will need to by a hinge and some screws from a hardware store. Luckily, its pretty cheap. You can't fit a ton into the case, but its great for snacks and other random items.

There is no better was to wish Jesus a very happy birthday than dressing your tree in video game ornaments ! My favorite way is to use old Game Boy games. This one is crazy simple. Just drill a small hole into the tiny cartridges and run a string through the hole to make a loop. Easy ! We had a bunch of Game Boy games that we took to several shops to help us try to make them work and no one could fix them. This was the next best option. Every year, our tree is adorned with these adorable mini cartridges. I love Castlevania and Jesus does too.

The controller wind chime. Ok, this one is really labor intensive. I have never done it but I have one lone friend that had the free time to go crazy on this one. Here is the process. She took a thick piece of wood and cut it into a large circle. Drill holes around the edge and one in the center. Run a sturdy rope or chain through the middle to hang up the chime. She then took old controllers (from an NES to be exact) and cut the plug off the end leaving the controller and about 18 inches of cord depending on how large you want to make it. Go to a local craft store and pick up some decorative bells that have loops. Run one bell down each cord so that it rests on top of the controller. Then run the cords through the holes around the edge of the piece of wood. Hang it up and enjoy.

A less time consuming alternate to the crazy ass wind chime would be to make a baby's mobile. You could use game cartridges of different sizes, maybe from NES, Game Boy, N64, Sega, and more. There are lots of "make your own mobile" kits that can be ordered online, add these games and let in spin ! You wont have to bother with the with mechanics of a motor or trying to hang it. Just remember not to put the bells on this time.

Some of these are super easy and others are ridiculously complex. These are just a couple big ideas. There is always the possibility of doing smaller things like reusing maps and strategy guide pages as wrapping paper. Taking apart controllers can provide lots of fun little pieces for arts and crafts as well. I know it sounds harsh to destroy this stuff. But it seems like a waste to keep them all in a box in the closet when they are no longer playable and can't be fixed. The games may not be functional, but at least you will have them around in a nostalgic, cheeky way. Yes, i used the word cheeky.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Letter To The Editor

(copy of the letter sent to Game Informer on behalf of both Lindsey and myself)

Dearest G.I.

We loved the massive article about female lead characters in video games. Its always good to know that someone in the industry remembers that us women game too. But our question to you is, "Why don't you have more female contributing editors?" Looking through both the magazine and online, the female written articles are few and far between. If female gamers really make up 30% as indicated by Meghan's great article, why aren't your topics or staff represented anywhere close to that? When looking through the archives, including the website, there is very little input from Meghan or Annette. Those of us in the 30% want to be represented! Where's the love ???

Much Love

Lindsey and Debbie

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Xbox lives in storage now...

Life update: I am currently in the middle of a cross-country move.  Allied movers came along and packed up my big tv, my xbox, my ps3....all without shedding a tear for me and what it would do to my ability to game (and subsequently blog) until they were back in my possession.  I still have the computer and the DS, but I have to say the amount of time I've spent gaming is pathetically small.  So that is why Debbie has taken the main reins and is keeping the blog alive with her wit and wisdom.  I haven't left, I will return...just not at full strength until probably the beginning of July.  But I am still here!  Don't lose heart!

This move shows just how clearly mobile gaming, (i.e. Nintendo DS), is to a gamer.  It's like my only definite outlet.  I've been keeping up on WoW (sort of in a gimpy, not leveling like normal way), but that's a crap shoot because I have to have the internet for that.  I can just pull the DS out of my diaper bag (yeah I'm hot) and play it on the fly.  If I can get it out of my daughter's hands that is.  :-)

Feel bad for me.  I feel bad for you, since you don't have my awesome blogs to read.  Thank goodness for Debbie.  She rocks!  Keep reading.  We'll be back to ourselves soon.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Quality Family Time Comes in a Box

Family Game Night is a disc that consists of seven family friendly games. You can buy all seven games at one time in a box or certain consoles allow the individual game to be downloaded independently. The games are Sorry, Boggle, Yahtzee, Connect 4, Sliders, Scrabble, and Battleship. Each game has the ability to play solo, with three other players locally, or even play with friends over the console's network. What's even better, is that all three major consoles have this game available.

Story: There isn't one ! It really is the equivalent of bringing out the board game. The only advantage would be that you aren't going to have to struggle to play with pieces of the game missing. And potentially the space saved from storing seven board games in a closet somewhere.

Graphics: 7/10 There is some fun animation of a Mr. Potato Head. He dances, cheers, and periodically flies around the room. There are also some fun animations related to shaking dice, pulling new Scrabble letters, and the like. There is nothing spectacular or really that impressive. But its made for kids and families, so it doesn't really need to be. One of the Design aspects of the game that I found unnecessary was that the games are kept in a "Family Room". You can download new themes for the room and spin around in a circle to view it. You can't really spend time in the room and it seems to be pretty pointless. They could have saved the time and money the spent designing this room and added more achievements or even another game.

Sound: 5/10 Prepare yourself for some pretty annoying music. Its extremely redundant and geared for small children. There are lots of little exclamations made by the omnipotent Mr. Potato Head. Where the game does make up for all this is the life-like sound of the games. The rattling Yahtzee dice in a cup, the little Boggle cubes, the Scrabble tiles, etc. If you play the game for more than an hour or two, those sounds become really irritating. But you probably weren't meant to be staring at this game for a full day.

Game Play: 9/10 This game is really easy to understand. If you can play the games in real life, you can play them on the screen. If you don''t know how to play the games, there are a lot of easy to follow instructions. The opening screen takes awhile to navigate through and that can be pretty annoying. But once the game starts, its really easy to play through. There is not a ton of time wasted in between player turns or even when starting a new game. The fast load times keep the games quick and entertaining. There are also different game modes for each title. You do speed rounds, versus modes, and lots of other old school options. So if your family is used to playing a certain way, it is most likely an option here. You can even set up your own personalized games with game types, score limits, and more.

Overall: 8/10 This game is great for a family. Its not made for little kids. So don't expect your child to come on this thing and understand Boggle or Scrabble before they can spell. Depending on the mental skill level of your child, I wouldn't really play these games with anyone under the age of eight. The game has the great reliability much like Tetris or Peggle. It is easy to play when I don't really need to focus. The achievements are pretty fun as well. They have a pretty great spread. About a third of the achievements are really easy and will be reached through natural play. The next third take some intentional attempts. And the last third are really hard to do and are based almost on luck.

Buy / Rent: This game was a Buy for me and I'm glad that I did it. It is a classic, easy game that can be played over and over. Much like these board games have stood the test of time, they do the same on this disc. Even if I don't play the game every week, I still come back to this it periodically. When I can't decide what game to play, I will chat with people over the network and play this until I have made my decision.

This game is a little bit older, but that just makes it even better. You can buy it pre-owned for around $35 and it is well worth that money. There are newer versions of the game that have other Hasbro titles, but since the game is newer, it is also more expensive.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Truly Mobile Games for Everyone

I have an iPhone. Lots of my friends own one as well. Everyone who doesn't have one, bought a Blackberry, Droid, Treo, etc. What's my point ? Gamer or not, almost everyone has video games right at their finger tips at all times.

For the longest time, the only games you could get looked 4-bit. But now the games look amazing on practically ever mobile device ! There was also period of time where you could choose from maybe 10 to 20 games. But now almost every phone service and individual phone model has hundreds of options if not thousands.

There are a lot of good games out there and for a pretty cheap price. I think that Tetris for five bucks is a great deal. I am also admittedly a total whore for Yahtzee and that was only three dollars ! When I'm waiting in a doctor's office for an hour, I would pay way more than five dollars for something to do. Games on my cell phone are the perfect solution. There are tons of entertaining apps for the non-gamers, but whats even cooler is that they are now catering to the hardcore gamer. I had an app on my iPhone that linked my Call of Duty to my phone. I kept track of challenges, scores, etc. There are also ways to keep track of XBL, PSN, and Wii friends through different apps as well.

One of the few drawbacks would be that there are some really crappy games out there. I try to read the reviews but people's opinions are so varied. One person says an app is their absolute favorite and the next person will claim to hate it. When reading the review, look for specifics. See how many levels are in the game or if it links up to other medias. Especially if you aren't a regular gamer, you might want to look for a settings level that will allow you to start as a beginner or is easy to learn. Also be wary of apps that look like games but are not games at all. There are apps that do things like make your phone look like a snow globe, make farting sounds, or falsely empty a beer. They are cute the first couple times but that's about it.

So don't be afraid to venture forward into the world of truly mobile gaming. We all spend a lot of time in waiting rooms or in transit, a good boss fight might be exactly what you need to speed through those stressful minutes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Video Games IN YOUR FACE: a Short Discussion on 3D Gaming

I am personally not a fan of 3D anything, but the ultimate 3D gaming experience could be closer than you think. In television and movies, 3D can be dodgy at best. It definitely has the ability to enhance what you are watching. But sometimes it is so random that it can be distracting.

Luckily for us, executing that pesky third dimension is far more effective in video games. Where some movies make awkward layers or the occasional flying implement, video games are more successful at making the whole thing fluid. Live action has a hard time being stretched and layered, where as the animation of a video games is perfect for such technology.

There is a lot coming out that will support 3D gaming. So far, it looks like Sony definitely has the head start. They are releasing games in Europe over the Playstation Network that are compatible with the Sony Bravia 3D TVs. If you purchase one of these televisions, then you are granted temporary passes for the games. There are four titles in all. Some are full games in 3D and others only showcase a single level. One of the latest Playstation firmware updates was one of many steps in prepping the console for 3D game titles.

As for titles, I expected to see a lot of lame games like 3D mini golf. But one of the types I was surprised to hear about was racing. It makes perfect sense for racing to go 3D. I've read a lot of reviews of various industry "sneak peeks" of this game. They all seem to love the fact that it makes you feel like you are really on the race track with cars surrounding you. I was also concerned about RPGs just making swords and arrows randomly point in your face, but the new dimensions make the fight seem more visceral and all encompassing. Combine the ultra graphics with some monster surround sound or Turtle Beach headsets, talk about game-gasm.

It's really hard to tell where games are going with 3D. It is safe to say that Microsoft isn't going to be able to keep up without releasing a new console. The Wii may be facing the same issue. The success of the 3D games also depends on what happens with televisions. Some TVs come with glasses, but soon, you may not even need those. With ever changing technology, it's hard to tell what will be next.