Back to the past...

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I just wrote about how this console generation is going to most likely be my last, and it felt great to do so.

I've spent a good portion of this console generation struggling to come to terms with the direction that the industry is headed. Higher prices, DLC, constant connectivity, focus on multiplayer, and other trends have been turn-offs. I've done my fair share of complaining and arguing about these things, and am realizing that I'm in the "vocal minority" that people seem to loathe these days. I may not like these trends, but sales seem to indicate that other do-- or they at least have accepted them as part of what console gaming is now.

Starting last summer, I started to build my PlayStation 2 game collection. Games were starting to get cheaper, and it was less risky to buy games that I already knew about or had already played than it was to spend $60 blindly on new games. I've managed to build my PS2 library up to over 275 games now, along with over 100 original PlayStation games. I also bought a Super Nintendo unit last month and quickly built a library of over 40 games for it. Older was simply better. None of the issues that I disliked from this generation interfered with my enjoyment. I was having fun again, and complaining less.

The trip that I mentioned in the linked blog entry above is really what sealed the deal. Seeing all of those consoles and playing the games was what I needed to believe that I was making the right move by heading backward instead of forward. I hadn't had that much fun in a long time.

As my gaming preferences change, I'm rediscovering sites that I used to frequent... like GameSpot and IGN. It's like a homecoming to be writing something here after a pretty long absence. I'm going to try to update here when I can.

It's nice to be back.

Reappearance...

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I visited the site for the first time in a long time today. I'm thinking about coming back to contribute a bit... along with doing some cross-posting from my stand-alone blog. It's good to see that there are some familiar faces here, along with some new blood.

I took the first step and added the site back to my bookmarks. Let's go from there.

Rethinking and Reflecting...

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I deleted my previous blog entry because I still have a lot to say regarding the events surrounding Jeff's termination. Seeing straight-from-the-heart posts from staffers that have been nothing but kind to me in my time here at GS motivated me to rewrite my feelings from last night.

For starters, Alex, Aaron, Kevin and the rest of the remaining editorial staff must be going through hell right now. I can't imagine such upheaval-- especially in the closing moments of the busiest part of what's been arguably the best year in gaming in a long time. Reading their blog entries is difficult. These folks certainly would like to tell us what went down. They feel like they do owe the readership an explanation. Unfortunately, they're also working for a living. Writing jobs don't grow on trees, and who's to say that the competition would hire them or pay them enough to get by? It's painful, but it's loyalty. You just have to suck it up and keep at it, either until you can rebuild what's been devastated or until another opportunity comes along. I am as angry as the rest of you when it comes to this incident, but I understand who isn't responsible: The GS staffers who have busted their collective asses to provide the best content they can.

As I've mentioned in the past, I've worked with Aaron before. We've had our differences in the past, but when I found out that he'd been hired at GS, I was ecstatic for him. Making such a move, from PSX Extreme to GameSpot-- former stomping grounds of talent like Greg Kasavin, Joe Fielder, and many others-- is a dream come true for those in the gaming media. He's weathered some difficult storms here during his tenure (I had even gone to bat for him although he didn't need it), but this... this is tragedy.

Alex has been here considerably longer, and I've always enjoyed reading his work. The man deserved a medal for dealing with Big Rigs for as long as he did, but he's shown knowledge in all areas and has a great personality.

The bottom line is that we're not likely to ever find out the true circumstances of what transpired. I will admit that I tend to believe that Jeff was forced out after the negative reaction to his last review. I think that was all that CNET could stand, and they got rid of him at that point. I believe that publisher complaints about Jeff did exist. At the same time, I also believe that GameSpot's former EICs were able to stand up for Jeff's right to his opinion... but once Jeff was in a position where nobody could go to bat for him (since he was, in effect, GameSpot's EIC), he wound up being cut loose with no defense.

I could be wrong, or maybe my details are a bit off.

The more severe effect of this incident is that game reviewers have collectively suffered heavy damage to their credibility. How can any of us prove that our opinions are not influenced by publishers who may threaten to withhold ad revenue for whatever site we work for? We can't... so the stigma will be attached to reviews for a long time to come. Look for a lot of questions from the readership at all of the big websites once a score that's deemed too high comes in for a game. Charges of "bias" and "moneyhatting" will abound, and we have no defense against these allegations.

Since I rarely visit GS anymore, it's ridiculous for me to say that I'm leaving for good. I'm certainly less motivated to come here now, but I admit that I will be checking in to see what other reactions are out there. I will say for the record that I will not pay for GS Complete for quite some time. This is not a slight on the folks who bust their asses to keep this site filled with content; however, it is all I can really do to show my dissatisfaction with CNET and the top brass and their opening of a Pandora's Box that will have lasting and devastating effects on gaming journalism for a long time to come.

Finally, not that Jeff will read this blog, but he was one of my inspirations... along with Andy Eddy and Dan Amrich, among others. I felt that I had a lot in common with Jeff's viewpoints and the games that he liked. He was never anything less than personable during the few times that we communicated online. I never told him how much I thought of him... but once he gets back on his feet somewhere else, I'm not going to hesitate to let him know.

The madness continues...

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You people amaze me.

12 hours later, and the day shift is at it now, littering the PS3 forum with conspiracy theories and new charges of bias. Moderators have tried valiantly to remind these people of Aaron's past and how one site's review score doesn't mean much in terms of a game's overall success, but to no avail.

Blind loyalty makes these people look like morons. Whining morons, at that.

Let's take a look at a couple of these more recent complaints, hm? This'll be fun, I promise.

First up, KoolEmpty writes, "Some reviewers appear to be given to much freedom over how a game is reviewed..." So, what... you expect reviewers to have some sort of canned review style? Of course! Why should gaming journalists-- some of which have been playing games for more years than you've been alive-- have the freedom to write what they think about a game? Screw it. Let's just give perfect 10s to everything. Big Rigs might have been frustrating and felt broken, but those bugs are pretty damned funny and that makes the game awesome! There's no such thing as "too much freedom" when reviewing a game; it's your opinion, and you have to rely on your experience and reputation to win the day for you when writing what you believe are accurate impressions of a game. Not everyone will agree, and some others will have their minds made up, but you're bring paid to write your own opinion of the game... and if they disagree, then so be it.

Here's some alleged insight by elfranger007: "The PS3 did get low balled from all directions. It got low balled when GameSpot gave it to a person who doesn't review these games. It got low balled again when the reviewer decided to bash the game because he couldn't comprehend the enjoyment of the series..." OK, OK... stop right there. Wow. If we take a look at Aaron's past reviewing experience (He did work as a professional journalist before GameSpot hired him... try using Google), you'd see that he covered a lot more than sports games. Aaron's covered action games, racing games, FPS games, music/rhythm games, and more... so this guy is dead wrong on the first point. As to the second point, he didn't dig the story. Is that a crime now? Apparently only reviewers who have played a Ratchet & Clank game in the past and "comprehend the enjoyment of the series" can cover new games in the series? So this also means that gamers who have never played a Ratchet & Clank game before should buy Tools of Destruction, right? Wrong again. The fact is that you're weeping bitter tears with no base for your allegations. "I am pissed because he didn't like a game that I liked." There. Fixed. Move on. That reminds me... I still have to put the screws to Jeff Gerstmann because I thought Irritating Stick was much better than a lowly 3.0 score. GameSpot sucks! :roll:

For these people, and the rest of you who can't seem to comprehend the notion of a difference of opinion: All you've done with this pointless crying and baseless theorizing is to pump up GameSpot's hit counter and earn the site moe money. Aaron's review is now more successful than it would have been by being the mindless and conformist piece that you all wanted it to be. He's pushed your buttons and is now sitting back and laughing at all of this hate mail, along with those of us who actually understand reason.

So, congratulations to you. Job well done. I guess.

An open letter to the GameSpot readership

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Unlike many who have threatened to "leave" GameSpot over Aaron Thomas' recent review of Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, I've been away this site for months now... and I am reminded of why I chose to leave.

I'm not sure when it happened, but the site's populace has become woefully immature and there's usually more whining going on in the forums than there's ever been. People are complaining about the latest review format... or the site's perceived lowballing on review scores... or something other than traditional thoughtful conversation. Sure, that still exists from time to time, but moderators have to wade through pages of crap-- and tonight, that crap reached almost anarchaic proportions due to the backlash regarding this review.

Folks... grow up. Seriously.

If you're going to take your business elsewhere because one man's opinion about a game that he's played doesn't match up with the expectations you have about the same game that you have not played... then go. You are what is wrong with the internet generation. You think you know everything, right? Then why aren't you all journalists? Go ahead... create your own site and hand out 9s and 10s like they grow on trees. Give the scores that people want... who cares if the game actually deserves those scores, right?

I hope your friends will read your new ventures, because nobody else will. A fair majority of you probably don't know what's required to write a review. You think that 100 words is sufficient, because the game was awesome and had the "best grafix evar". Good for you. Your opinion is duly noted, along with the thousands of others out there.

Do any of you know what it takes to do what Aaron, Jeff, Kevin, or Alex do? Do you know what 18-hour days are like? Do you know what it's like to take your work home with you, and possibly put off social plans because a big review is due the next day and the game's giving you fits? Do you know what the pressure of a deadline entails?

A few of you may, but most of you don't. I don't want to hear about how gaming journalists shouldn't complain because they have awesome jobs and get to play games all day and get paid for it. News flash: The pay is crap, and we do it because we love what we do. It's not just playing games, either. We have to sit down and actually write. We get rewrite demands. We're given short deadlines for feature games, many of which arrive late. We don't have to, but we usually enjoy spending time chatting in forums with our readership. We have other features to write other than reviews, too.

It's not a pleasure cruise. Not by a long shot.

It would be one thing if you could argue intelligently against some of the points that Aaron raises in his review... but you can't do that. No... here, in Internet Land, we insult people's appearances, families, and reputations without fear of recourse. We can say what we want... freedom of speech and all that. Let's get Aaron fired, or make fun of him because he sucks. That's maturity to the hilt, Gamespotters. Be proud of yourselves. Would you say all this to Aaron if you met him? I suspect not.

This is why I applaud Aaron and the rest of the GS staff for doing what they do. Sure, I'd love to write for bigger sites with a lot more exposure... but is it worth being verbally raped and assaulted by your readership for sharing an opinion that might not be what the majority expects? I have it a lot easier than these guys, and I still have plenty of reasons to enjoy myself.

The biggest sham at GameSpot isn't its material, and it's not its staff or moderators. It's the readership. Your collective attitude is an embarrassment.

Congratulations. You fail at the internet.

The pathetic state of video gaming retail...

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So... I'm getting pretty tired of some things:

For starters, I don't understand why Nintendo continues to hold back on Wii production. I'm sorry... I don't want to hear about how demand is high and that they can't keep up. It's common Nintendo BS. They ooze out production to keep demand high, as if releasing too many systems at once would cause a giant glut. Give me a freaking break. Heaven forbid a gaming specialty store would stock a Wii system or two. I am sorry; I should not have to camp out or call eighteen times or wait ravenously for a store's doors to open just to buy a video game system. In November or December, yeah... but not in July or August. As much as I want to replace the Wii that I used to have (before my ex took it back), I can't seem to do it. Fine. I'll stick with my PS2 and DS. Jerks.

GameStop has gotten on my last nerve. As much as I want to shop there, as the used game selection is usually top-notch and it's primarily a game store-- I'm tired of getting verbally assaulted for EDGE cards and reserves every time I walk in. I understand why, but give me a break. I already have an EDGE card... why do I need two, or four, or five? And... what am I going to need to reserve for my PS2 that is going to sell out day one? I don't want Madden 08, for the millionth time. I don't care about Halo 3-- I don't even have a 360, you genetic defects!

"You don't? Well, we have those in stock for..."

"Did I say that I wanted a 360? No. I wanted a Wii, and you assclowns apparently don't stock them."

"We do, they're just hard to come by. We just sold our last one this morning... but why not reserve Super Smash Bros. Brawl for when you do find one?"

You know what? I want to open my own chain of game stores. No subscription-pushing. No discount card pushing. No reserves down your throat. Yeah, we'll buy and sell used games, but if you don't want a discount card, that's fine. Maybe I'll suggest a reservation for Metal Gear Solid 4, but that's only if you own a PS3... and it's because the game may sell out. If you want to try out a game before you buy it, that's fine, as long as it's not overly busy at the time.

FuncoLand, before they were cruelly assimilated by Barnes & Noble, used to employ a lot of these same practices. Yes-- they hawked Game Informer subscriptions and yes, they forced cleaning kits on anyone and everyone who walked in-- but stores still generally displayed a gaming atmosphere and a little respect for gamers themselves. FuncoLand used to let shoppers try games-- even new ones-- before they were purchased (upon the shopper's request). They used to stock everything; even those NES and SNES games that were cheap finds and that budget-conscious or collectable shoppers used to look for. Now, nothing prior to 2000. Collectors... screw you. Go to eBay. Go to tag sales. We don't want your business, unless you want to buy a scratched and worn copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for your PS2 at $100 plus tax-- although you can save $10 with your EDGE card! It's only $15 to get one!

Speaking of scratched and worn, it is too much to ask GameStop employees to, you know, check the discs before they accept them? We're not talking just the obviously scratched ones that even trained monkeys know are rejectable-- but how about rejecting or defecting discs that have circular scratches or damage to the label? I bought a copy of NHL 2005 from them that had all kinds of label damage, just to hear:

"Well, if it doesn't work, you can bring it back! Do you want to put scratch protection on it for an extra $1?"

Game Crazy is slightly better, but not much. They, too, have abandoned the "any game, any console" platform that they used to live by. PSX, N64, NES? Get that crap outta here. Then you get a slightly different spin on the discount card force-feeding.

"It's cool. It's an MVP card! It 's better than that GameStop place. You get a subscription to a better magazine. You can pick!"

Except the sub isn't a year, and the mag choices are either irrelevant to gaming (Maxim? Softcore porn, FTW!) or just lame altogether. And... Game Crazy also shoves reserves down your throat. What's more, Game Crazy Corporate punishes shoppers by not sending any copies of some games to a store if they secured no reserves for it, as if the game would never sell.

Let's face it, folks. Brick & Mortar shopping for video games has become a farce. You either suck it up and go to a GameStop (or Game Crazy) and get pounded with EDGE card and reserve demands in order to pick up a game on release day, or you wait longer and go to a big box store whose employees know as much about video games as your great-great grandmother does. Then you have to sift and sort to find it... oh, what fun!

I guess that the problem with video gaming becoming so popular is that retailers have found new ways to screw their customer base-- because they know that, despite their best efforts, we'll just keep coming back.

A new chapter begins!

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So... how long has it been... a few months?

Well, I am ready to begin a new chapter in my life. The Connecticut Experiment is officially over, and I am once again living back in Western Massachusetts-- ready to start a new job and ready for the best part of my life to begin.

I'm still as busy as I ever was. I still work karaoke three nights a week. I'm about to be working 8:30-5 Monday through Friday. However, I met someone online who struck a chord with me from the first day we talked, and things have been incredible ever since. Unlike Amanda, she is far more even-tempered. She is incredibly smart. She's funny. She's drop-dead beautiful. We enjoy the same taste in music. And... I've even hooked her on video games... sorta. (I just bought her Sims 2: Pets yesterday.)

Things are about as good as they've ever been. I'm even getting back into gaming for the first time since before Amanda and I split. Granted, it's last-gen gaming on the PS2 and portable gaming on the DS... but it's something. I actually just picked up Touchmaster (DS), Odin Sphere (PS2), Heatseeker (PS2), and a $9 new copy of Major Legue Baseball 2K5 World Series Edition (PS2). I've still got somewhere around 50 PS2 games, 10 DS games, some GBA games, and my N64 collection.

I had to part with most of my PSone collection in order to get some extra money when things were tight-- which was a very painful experience. I kept a few of the "must-have" games, but about 70% of my collection is gone. I may try to rebuild that collection once things improve financially... but I have plenty to keep me busy for now.

I don't know how active that I'll be able to be here... my GS Complete status is gone, which is too bad, and my free time is still at a premium... but I do miss writing and keeping up with what's going on. Even though I'm not current-gen, I do keep track of the industry because I love it so very much. It'll be nice to get back to consistency and normalcy after what's been a turbulent few months.

That's all I've got for now... but I hope to write again soon.

FInding my way back...

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So... after a considerable amount of time away... I am back. I managed to score a used computer from my new roommate, added a 120GB hard drive and a wireless card, and am now back online. Unfortunately, I've also been dealing with being sick-- climaxing with acute bronchitis, which I'm currently trying recovering from-- but things are leveling off.

The split with Amanda left a lot of you with questions, and I wasn't ready to address the details when I had posted last. I can tell you now that it was a variety of things that led to our split. She had some issues with insecurity when it came to my karaoke shows which caused a lot of friction... plus she'd been out of work for nearly 6 months and hadn't made much of a move to improve herself, which made me wonder about how much slack I was going to have to take.

So... I've been living here in Naugatuck, CT (about 30 miles south of Hartford or so) since February 11th. The rent is reasonable, my housemates are awesome, and the commute to work is about the same as it was. The commute is a bit hillier-- so the recent snow has made things tricky-- but it's still fine and with spring approaching, it's doable.

Amanda took back the Wii that she bought me for Christmas and sold it... so I'm back to my PS2 and DS for now. Of course, living in a new place, I might consider re-investing in an Xbox 360 since electrical problems are a thing of the past. That's going to take some time, though, as I'm trying to regain some financial footing. Stuff like rent, my car's excise tax, cell phone bills, and other stuff has made things a little tight.

Honestly, I haven't been playing much lately, between being sick and getting back out into the world to do things. I'm still working my karaoke gigs on the side, so I quite literally work seven days a week. Once I regain a little balance, I'll begin to start gaming more-- although I still keep my DS with me at all times. My N64 is at my mom's, so that when I stay up there on weekends, I have something to fall back on.

So... there you have it. I'll post more as time allows, and as more gaming-related stuff hits me. I really don't want this blog to be a personal one in terms of my life struggles. All of you deal with similar issues day in and day out, and I'm sure that you don't want to be bombarded with more crap. The important thing is that I'm finding my way, and I'm still here. That's a victory in and of itself.

Catch you later.

All good things... must come to an end.

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I know that it's been awhile. Again. Unfortunately, life throws you a series of ups and downs-- and this is a down period.

Without getting into too much detail, since this is primarily a gaming site, I ended my engagement-- and relationship-- with Amanda about 2 weeks ago. There are multiple reasons why I came to this conclusion that I won't get into, but I will say that I am beginning another difficult life transition... and those of you who know me will understand how difficult this will be for me.

So... I'm probably not going to be online much. This is Amanda's computer, and mine at my mom's crapped out on me last year... I think it was the power supply. GameSpot is firewalled at my full-time job, so I have way to get in here and say hello from there. On occasion, I might be able to drop and say hi, and I will try to do that... but there are no promises until I can get my computer fixed.

Thankfully, I am not giving up on gaming. My PS2, of all things, has been getting lots of playtime during this difficult period... and my DS, as always, is with me at work. I just got Phoenix Wright: And Justice For All and am loving it-- although I'm already having issues, and I'm only on the second case. Some lawyer I am. I'm looking forward to Chulip and God of War on my PS2... and then there's Final Fantasy VI Advance due this week for some fun RPG-on-the-go action. I still haven't found my love for FFV, though... I traded away the GBA one recently.

So... it is with sadness that this entry will likely mark my last one for some time. I thank each and every one of you for reading it... through the good times and the bad, through all of my Randominity entries, through all of my rants, and through everything in-between.

Until next time... my princess is truly in another castle.

Late To The Party: Yakuza (PS2)

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After I read that the used price on Yakuza had come down to $35-- and since I still had some funds left on my GameStop gift card from Christmas-- I picked it up last night, much to the behest of the employees there. They warned that the game "sucked" and wasn't worth the money. I know that GregK's review wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, either... but after reading about the upcoming movie based on the game, and after seeing some info about the upcoming sequel, I had to find out for myself.

All I can say is: Damn the naysayers. In spite of the mixed reactions to Yakuza, I'm totally digging it. Sure, it's nowhere close to perfect. The "VS." screens could have been done away with. Leveling up could have been done differently. The dialogue delivery could have been better. These things are secondary, though, if you're having fun playing it and there are times in the story when you scream, "No FREAKING way!"

I actually like the fighting engine. I like the open-ended nature of the game, too... although it'd be nice to have a better way to track your side missions. It reminds me of the Konquest mode from Mortal Kombat: Deception. You can take on all the side missions you want, but you need to remember where the rendezvous points are. Bah.

The story-- to me, at least-- is genuinely interesting. The stunning character turn of Nishiki, the betrayal of the clan, and how all of the pieces fit together really intrigues me and keeps me playing. I spent over 4 hours last night playing the game, even blowing off my nightly Wii Sports session.

I don't have a lot more time today, as I have to run to work soon, but this game snuck up on me. I wish I'd bought it sooner, but it's a great way to spend time waiting for Wario Ware: Smooth Moves to come in next week. I'd like to be close to done by then.

*sigh* Time to get ready to go. At least it's Wednesday already. I've got two days off next week (in honor of Wario Ware and for a karaoke event that I'm a part of), so I've got a lot to look forward to in the coming days.

Later on, peeps.