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Chris_Watters Blog

Comic-Con 2007

Before I begin, I must briefly describe to you my delight that my Current Rank is Ikari Warrior. Back in my non-8-bit-Nintendo-having days, which... umm, shoot. I've never owned an 8-bit Nintendo. Let's narrow the scope a bit. Back in the late 80s, one of my Nintendo Friends had Ikari Warriors and we used to play the crap out of that game. I loved it because it was two-player, involved shooting and blowing stuff up (even G.I. Joe action figures were off-limits for me in those days), and, whenever you died, you could jam on A-B-B-A-A-B-B-A and viola, mo' lives. I'd say it was a simpler time, but I realize that I love Halo for pretty much the same reason. Sometimes stuff is just awesome.

On a more topical matter, I went to Comic-Con this year! It was my first time attending and the weeks leading up to my trip were filled with eager anticipation by me, and admirable efforts by everyone I told to combine [geek, nerd, dork, weirdo] with [-fest, -apalooza, -stravaganza, -opolis] in as many different ways (16 possible) as they could. The idea for the trip was spawned by a friend of mine who works at NBC who was going to have a big ol' empty hotel room all to himself. He invited three of us to capitalize on the opportunity, and soon we were flying south.

I was at the show Friday and Saturday, two days marked by distinctly different states of being: the former ambulatory, the latter sedentary. I went to one "panel" on Friday - Neil Gaiman. This man's work is breathtakingly awesome - The Sandman comic series alone blows me away, plus Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust (yes, there's a movie now)... it's all wonderful. As might be expected, he's a wonderful storyteller, so hearing him speak is always a pleasure. I'm done gushing about him now.

The rest of the day was spent wandering the massive exhibit hall, costume-watching (some pics will turn up later, I reckon), and basking in the sensory overload. It was actually quite pleasant as wandering through a crowd of tens of thousands people goes. I bought a signed Armadeaddon poster (at the bottom) from the Penny Arcade fellas, and two posters of the cover art for Flight. I looked at a lot of artist tables and wondered how many of them would take umbrage at being asked to draw Wonder Woman getting it on with Link (or some equally bizarre pairing). I briefly pondered spending $20 to get LeVar Burton to sign a picture of Geordi LaForge with the phrase "But you don't have to take my word for it," but, in the end, declined.

Then Saturday, I sat in the same chair for 7 hours. This is a feat I perform almost daily, but there's something different about it when, instead of being surrounded by a few headphoned co-workers, I'm in the midst of thousands of people straining to catch a glimpse of famous actor types. I luckily scored a pretty good spot, and proceeded to watch a pretty stellar line-up of panels, detailed below:

The Bionic Woman panel - Watched the pretty cool pilot, then listened to the panel. Want to know more about the panel? Why then, read more stuff I wrote! The TV.com fellas weren't as lucky as I in gaining entry, so I volunteered to write up two of the panels for the site. The Bionic Woman panel was one.

Heroes was the other. The cast seemed super happy to be there, and everyone was amped. Very enjoyable.

The Women of Battlestar Galactica panel - Lucy Lawless, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, and Mary McDonnell on stage. What more could you ask for? Answer: Grace Park, but hey, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. And by gift horse, I mean four beautiful and charismatic women.

The Futurama panel was sweet as well, with all the major voice actors present. They read a short comic that "bridged the gap between the end of the series and the beginning of the four new feature length films" that they are making. Oh yes. Futurama is back. The highlight of this panel was when the actors talked about where the voices came from. Billy West described Kiff as "Spock totally fed up with Shatner's antics," or "Jon Lovtiz + Truman Capote." [Bonus fun fact: Billy West is the voice of the red M&M in commercials!]

The day ended on a high note, with the final panel consisting of one man - Joss Whedon (prepare for more gushing). I love Joss Whedon. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Fray... love 'em all. His writing is witty, sharp, and remarkably deep (rein it in, buddy). Ok. It was awesome. Deep breath. He talked about Ripper, a Buffyverse movie featuring Giles that the BBC is on the cusp of green-lighting. More Fray. He knows how Buffy: Season 8 ends, and knows what happens in Season 9. Putting lots of time into Goners, whatever that is. Very exciting end to a great first Comic-Con.

More soon. I promised a buddy I'd write more, so hopefully some more regularity will work its way in here. Next time: more Blog Backlog, and some Mario Strikers Charged. If I write that I'll write it, that makes it more likely for me to write it. Right?

Blog backlog: Button Mashing!

Hola, amigos! I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I'm back with video links, references to The Onion, and coming attractions.

First up, my GameSpot Live debut. About two months ago now, I participated in the filming of an episode of Button Mashing. It took up about half my day here at work and was totally fun. Played some Fight Night Round 3 in the Demo Room while waiting to tape, then headed down to the studio to get my game on. It was Wacky Controller Day, and no one does wacky controllers like Nintendo: SNES Mouse, DS Stylus, and Wii Remote. You can check out the totally epic trailer, courtesy of the inestimable Vinny Caravella. So awesome.

About one month ago, that bad boy aired. The actual episode is replete with fierce competition, goofy faces, and pretending not to know Rich Gallup very well. My V8 walk joke didn't make it in, probably a bit too obscure - a reference to those commercials in which a guy would wake up and walk around at a 75 degree angle to the floor until he drank his V8 and righted himself to 90 degrees. Anybody?

It was, as expected, totally weird to see myself on camera and hear my own voice. I think everybody feels that way, to some degree. Hopefully that goes away at some point, but it is a seriously strange disconnect to hear yourself one way in your own head and then hear your recorded voice coming out of speakers. A fellow GameSpotter and I have a new video project in the works right now, so you'll have plenty more chances to see me being a goofball, and I'll have plenty more chances to exclaim, "No, seriously, THAT'S what I sound like?!"

Yes, Chris, yes it is.

Paprika

One of the things I love about living in the Bay Area is the ready accessibility of many movies that are only afforded a "limited release" by the distributing studio. This weekend I went to see Paprika, one such movie, and was absolutely delighted.

My affinity for animated television and films was nurtured in my childhood by a measured diet of after school and Saturday morning cartoons, with the occasional Disney film thrown in. When, in college, I discovered Adult Swim, I found myself fascinated by the more mature fare on offer, specifically the lonesome beauty of Cowboy Bebop. I could crank out a few more paragraphs on my love for that show alone, but I'll save that another time. I continued to seek out movies and series of that ilk, works with some heart and soul behind them that looked at the human condition in a mature way. I really liked The Lion King when I was younger, but I loved and now own Spirited Away. Characters or elements that ring true to me + beautiful and enchanting animation = my bag.

So I really liked Paprika. The plot follows a couple of scientists as they struggle to deal with their dream monitoring device gone haywire. The animated dreams, animated reality, and their subsequent intermingling makes for some really stunning and imaginative visuals. I knew I was going to get that from the trailer, so my worry was whether or not these images would work together into a reasonably comprehensible plot, or if they would just run away with themselves. In that regard I was pleasantly surprised and emerged from the theater with just the right amount of bewilderment, something I have come to expect - and even enjoy - from this type of film.

Verdict: Recommended. The trailer features the following quote from a critic that I think hits the mark:

"Evidence that Japanese animators are reaching for the moon, while most of their American counterparts remain stuck in the kiddie sandbox." - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Any of you fellow moon-reachers have any recommendations of your own?

How I came to work at the 'Spot

I was recently messaged by a user who inquired about how I came to be employed here at GameSpot as a Data Producer, and I thought the subject worthy of a blog entry. The following is that blog entry.

I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Connecticut. Going into college I didn't really have any idea what I wanted to major in, so I chose a liberal arts school (Wesleyan University) that would allow me to take a variety of classes - one of my academic goals. The other two were a) study abroad (Costa Rica!) without too much trouble, and b) become fluent in Spanish. I accomplished these goals by majoring in Spanish Literature. When I graduated, I got a job at GameSpot, easy peasy one two threesy. You wouldn't believe how eager they were to bring my knowledge of Don Quijote to bear on the site.

Riiight. So. I graduated and my partner and I decided to move someplace cool. We both love the Northeast where we grew up, but she and I were eager to try somewhere new. Where's cool? The Bay Area. We packed the car, took a two week road trip along I-40, stayed with her sister for two weeks while we found an apartment, and moved in. Then came jobs.

My college jobs - filing in the Admissions Office, waiting tables at the faculty eatery, teaching archery at summer camp - didn't really turn me on to any particular career path, so I was pretty much looking for anything that would keep me sheltered and fed. I worked temp jobs for the better part of a year (moderately to intensely bogus), then got two part-time jobs that lasted me roughly two years. I taught SAT and GRE prep courses for the Princeton Review, and worked as an Online Project Manager for a big publishing company. The latter of the two was a lot of processing data across different formats, sitting on my couch with my laptop, and watching DVDs. Fun times, though not particularly engaging or fulfilling.

Man, I do like to take the long way 'round sometimes, don't I. Thanks for stayin' with, I promise we're getting to the actual game-related part now!

So, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what kind of job I'd like to have, and came to the conclusion that I liked writing, and I liked video games, so why not try writing about video games for a living? Sounds pretty righteous! So I started scouring Craigslist and job sites for relevant opportunities and applying when I found them. I was pretty uniformly unqualified for the jobs I was applying for, so I went in search of a way to get me some qualifications.

I wrote a few reviews for a random wikimedia site, which actually led to my first contact with GameSpot. I had applied for an editor position and was travelling to L.A. to attend a gaming conference in an effort to try to make some contacts, meet some folks, you know, network. A GameSpot Data Producer called me and told me that he and two compatriots were going to be scouting the convention scene and invited little ol' me to have lunch with them. As you can imagine, I was super jazzed. The lunch was good fun, but turned out to be a dead end. Though I did have fun AND beat the Frag Dolls in a Halo 2 slayer match, I hadn't quite leveled up enough yet.

My hopes for GameSpot employment got a big boost when I met Rich Gallup at mutual friend's apartment, and from then on every out-of-reach job I applied to had the vast influence of GameSpot TV's host-with-the-most behind it. Despite this totally sweet hook-up, I still had no luck. There was still one trifiling little detail missing - actual relevant experience.

That bit - really the catalyst that made all my efforts bear fruit - came in the classic form of an unpaid internship. I found a listing for "Editorial Intern" at GamesRadar on Craigslist, and began working there two days a week. My time there was split between writing - news stories and occasionally previews - and data production - processing screens, movies, articles, and the like. It was fantastic!

Finally, I felt like I was getting somewhere with this whole "career" idea. And I was! Six months later when an opening for Data Producer popped up at GameSpot, I was on it like flies on rice. Or was it white on... bah, no matter. I was in. I had the experience and I had the connection. At my interview, the first thing Eddie said to me was, "So everytime you apply here I get Rich Gallup filling up my inbox! I take it you know him?" or something like that. The man came through big time, and I have yet to buy him lunch - a situation that must be rectified.

And that's how I came to work at the 'Spot. The morals of this saga are myriad. Internships actually work like people say they do. Networking (essentially being friendly) works. Your college major doesn't lock you in to a certain field. Most importantly (and most cliche-edly), you can achieve what you want to achieve, however unrealistic that thing may be. Is that silly cliche universally true? Probably not. But if you don't believe it, you're screwed from the start. So believe it! I did it, and so can you! All you have to do is set your mind to it, send me a sizable check, and then go for it! Yay for you!

Whammy. Nothin' like a good long blog entry to start the weekend off right. Thanks to ghostrc for setting that one off! Time to head east and fire up the grill. Cheers!

That's not sniper ammo!

Just remembered an amusing gaff of mine from last night! I was hanging out in my base on Valhalla - I was the VIP and was being guarded by an excellent teammate whose name escapes me. I had picked up a sniper rifle, but felt that sticking my neck out to snipe people was really just asking to be sniped. So, I conspired with my teammate to drop the sniper ammo so he could replenish his. We gathered next to the Spikers to make the switch. Then I reverted to Halo 2 control styles.

Instead of dropping the sniper (RS button), I dropped the trip mine (X button!) I had picked up, much to the surprise and chagrin of my teammate. Fortunately we both backed away quickly and he set it off safely, but not without much chuckling and a slight twinge of embarrassment on my part. I M 2smooth.

Halo 3 Community Game Night -or- Call me GSadmin5

Wowza. Last night I hosted 7 Big Team Battle Training games as GSadmin5 as part of GameSpot's Community Game Night, and I must say, it was the most fun gaming I've had in a good long while. Don't get me wrong fellas, I love Kart Kall, but in Halo 3 I can actually, you know, WIN sometimes. It's a good feeling.

Before I get in to fun anecdotes and restrained boasting, I have to say that one of the best things about Game Night was the company. My party was almost always filled to the brim, and sometimes overflowing (thanks to the guy who patiently tried to help me set the Max Party Size!) with good-natured folks. In my extensive Halo 2 playing, I would often have games ruined by [mean-spirited jerks], a phenomenon we're all too familiar with. Everyone I played with last night was sportsmanlike, most downright friendly, and that totally made it for me A big thank you to all y'all, and much respect.

Now, I'm on Bungie.net peeping the postgame reports and loving it. My teams ended up winning 3 and losing 4. We lost both Slayer matches, thanks to the vigorous efforts of Xelloss101 and EPIC xX Fate Xx. Those seemed to be two names that throughout the night kept coming up with a lot of kills. I looked through to see if I ever actually ended up on a team with both, and the answer didn't surprise me - the lopsided Territories game. Good times.

To be fair, the other team was a man down. However, that man would have been GameSpot's own Aaron Thomas, to whom I, and mah bulletz, seemed inexplicably drawn to the entire evening. Many a postgame lobby was witness to Aaron's dismay as I continuously managed to, to paraphrase his own words, " put bullets in his eye, and other places he prefers not to talk about." Ouch.

Got a message today from Spartan 117 xx recounting his noob combo slaying of me, the VIP, to tally his team's lone point in the last game of the night. I was totally caught off guard by the plasma thingy, as I hadn't really seen it used much that night. Well met, sir, well met. My favorite moment of that particular match was when, VIP again and abandoned in my own base, I clocked a double kill to save my own Very Important Ass. Close one.

Also memorable was the CTF game in which, judging from one of our more vocal participants whose name escapes me, our team had successfully stolen the flag, gotten into the warthog, and driven away from the base only to have the flag carrier DROP THE FLAG! Shouts of "Oh! Em! Gee! How do you DROP THE FLAG?! We HAD it!" mingled with laughter in the lobby as we lamented our fate. As the old saying goes, a flag in the base is better than two in the 'hog... I guess. That one didn't translate too well, but you get it.

Shout outs to Steek, DmnLink, Kevi2684, Crunchman2600, The ruso, PAST EXP, xxDrAiNxx, Flamechu, MECHAN1ZED, xWH1T3 SH4D0Wx (hard to type, man!), and all the other fine folks who played last night. Good times. Keep an eye here and when the real deal lands in September, perhaps we can take the field again. Cheers!

Quik hitz

I play video games. What have I been playing recently? Peep!

Mario Kart DS: Since starting here last week, I've been compet.... errr, participating in the daily Kart Kall. I was psyched to learn about this ritual and eager to play an old favorite on a new system (I just got a DS a month ago). At the time of this writing I've raced in 9 Kart Kalls and placed last every single time. Today was both a record high and low, as I finished the ten races with my highest score thus far - 16! - yet lost to the computer-controlled racer that replaced a dropped player. Fortunately, through a strict regimen of reciting "I'm good at games, just not this one yet" and some minor whimpering, my ego remains roughly intact.

New Super Mario Bros.: Loving it. My commute home is just long enough to get in a few levels, so I'm progressing pretty well. I love encountering the bizarre new foes (sharks?! boxing ghosts?!) and butt-stomping anything I can.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off: I was definitely intrigued by this game when I learned about it, but wasn't real excited about it after an hour of playing. And it wasn't just because my arm hurt. I've partially attributed my disappointment to the Food Network, which I've watched occasionally and whose sumptuous food porn makes the dishes in Cooking Mama look decidedly unfoodlike. Cooking Mama herself was very encouraging and I would totally watch her cooking show, but the super-twitch action she demands of me on the Wii makes me feel unhappy.

Good times. 

Irksome websitery

My daily data pursuits often take me to the far reaches of the Internet, realms populated by spurious claims, rumor-mongering, and head-spinning contradictions. It is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, and it is only by the grace of Kim Cuartero that I have managed to survive this long without perpetrating major falsehoods on the GameSpot community. I feel a bit like a bear cub who, without parental guidance, would end up stomped by a moose.

Of the more vexing items I've encountered actually comes from Nintendo's Official Site. For upcoming games that are known to exist, but haven't had their release date set, they offer the following super-useful piece of information:

"Release Date: Announced"

Sooo, the date has been announced, but what, you don't want to share it with us? If you've announced it, dear Nintendo, is there any conceivable reason why you wouldn't list the date here? I've theorized that they are dealing here in a sort of quasi-information, releasing into a dark metaverse between knowing and unknowing where it cavorts with its fellow vagueries - cut-during-the-beta gameplay modes, stillborn titles, and promises half-broken. This realm is ruled by a giant, melancholy, three-dimensional Duke, who waits on his throne of anticipation for a day that will never come.

A mildly itchy pox on you, Nintendo.com.

CTW

 

(Ed. note - In writing this I realize that the "Announced" likely refers to the game's status, which is marginally less vexing, since now there is some possible reason to post such an exasperating item. Still, the phrasing alone is enough to irk me but good, so my poxing stands.)

A good beginning

Over the past couple years, there have been many occasions when I've thought to myself that writing a blog could be really a lot of fun. I'd find myself Replying All to my friends with longer-than-your-average emails filled with tangential storytelling and curious non-sequiturs, and realize that though I enjoyed the ensuing correspondence spawned by these e-orations, it was really the authoring that engaged me. So I'd sidle up to a blog hosting site to get the ball rolling, but never ended up giving it more than a furtive nudge. In the rare event that I managed to come up with a title I thought appropriately witty/thoughtful/irreverent, I'd usually be good and stymied when it came time to write my first entry. I viewed the first paragraph as crucial to the inception of my blog, as if the success of my endeavor was going to be ordained with those first few sentences. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right?

While that aphorism does reflect some truth about our world, it wasn't really a good fit when it came to my predicament. I imagined would-be readers being put-off by a turn of phrase I'd used or by some opportunity for wit I'd let pass, and promptly judging my blog to be lacking and leaving to never return. So much for my 100% reader retention rate. As I cowered in the cold shadow of this horrid specter of failure, I realized that there have been plenty of times when I've been put-off at the beginning of something then gone on to totally enjoy it. I didn't really like the first episodes of Battlestar Galactica, but now I think it's one of the best shows on TV. I thought Fight Night Round 3 was an emasculating brew of frustration and humiliation, then I finally won a match and found the game transformed into a hearty draught of exultance and satisfaction - liquid boo-yah. Had I given up on these things after a bad first impression, I would have missed out on all the awesomeness they had to offer.

I first applied for a job at GameSpot almost two years ago. It was, admittedly, a long shot at the time and the outcome reflected that, but I kept it up. Every time a position came open that I was remotely qualified for, I would update my resume and send it off post-haste. Many applications, a few years, and some relevant work experience later, I'm now writing having finished the first full week of my new job at GameSpot - career boo-yah.

What is my job? I'm a Data Producer. What does that mean? Well, you know how GameSpot is the place to go if you want to know any information about any game ever? That data just doesn't roll into our inboxes, you know. Alright, some of it does, but there's a lot more that doesn't. After a week of learning some of the many ropes, one might more descriptively refer to my position as Data Harvester. Or Data Sleuth. Or Data Repo Man. Or He To Whom All Data Shall Make Itself Known, Lest it Burn in the Cold Fires of Obscurity Forevermore.

In my first forty hours, I've met all types of friendly and engaging people and been jovially welcomed by all. I'm excited to be here, excited to get involved in this community, and excited to tell you all about it. I've finally followed through on my oft-started blog, and my first post is nearly at an end. That icy specter may still be lurking nearby, but at the moment I'm flush with the warmth of new beginnings, so I heed it not.

 

Cheers,

Chris