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Gradius - Review Experiment no. 2

This is my second go at this type of writing experiment. I first undertook this a while back; see link.

I chose to review Gradius for the NES while listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico by The Velvet Underground. I actually only got about halfway through the record or less this time. My ideas where already pretty clear to me when I sat to write this I guess. Well here it is.

------------------------------- Gradius (1986)

Review - Gradius

Playing Gradius is like having an infinite supply of micro adrenaline doses that you can pop anytime and just dig the ephemeral high as often as you like. Sometimes the high is really short-lived as your space ship gets blown up halfway through the first level. It only takes on hit to die and lose the feeling of rising power and the invincibility rush. Other times, the high is long lived as you blast your way through the entire game without so much as a menu or loading screen interruption; sweating the whole way through.

As you destroy the oncoming space robots and mobile artillery, you pick up power cells. These power cells can be immediately consumed to increase your speed or they can be hoarded and later used to upgrade your offensive and defensive capacity. This is where the game becomes a tactical experience. Power cells are easy enough to come across, but there are only a set amount of them per level. So, you must decide on the fly (literally!) if you wish to upgrade your speed right away, or wait and accumulate more cells and get ground missiles first, and then get your speed up later. But if you're too slow you will likely fail to destroy the enemies carrying the power cells. Hence, every power cell allocation decision you make will affect the outcome of your play session.

The adrenaline rush you get from seeing your space ship move faster and fire more rounds in more directions, from more directions and at faster rates is dizzying. The gameplay accelerates to breakneck speeds in no time at all. Within one minute of smartly upgrading your ship you can already become a force to be reckoned with, laying waste to hoards of enemies before they even fully appear on screen. Then you die and start over. Every time you die you must start upgrading your ship from scratch. This creates a high-low adrenaline rush dynamic that makes this game addictive and infinitely awesome.

The game is pattern based, but most of the patterns are dynamic and play out differently relative to your space ship's position on the screen. Hence, the more you play the more you memorise the patterns and the more effective you are. Thus, the more you play, the longer the adrenaline highs last, and the more fun you will have.

This is an absolutely flawless twitchy arcade masterpiece from 1986. The music is awesome; the game world is completely off-the-wall crazy and psychedelic. Nothing gets in the way of the fun. It only gets better as you go along.


A fun experiment as always!

Back, with a mandate to develop 2-D 8-bit games (75th post)

It seems like just about every time I come back from another long hiatus…I leave on another one. I certainly don't mean to upset people with my sporadic activity on this site, but it is in my nature to jump from one thing to another at any moment's notice. I just can't sit still for too long.

Lately I've been thinking about my long-time desire to make my own games. I never had the opportunity to learn how to do it. I never had friends that were into it, there was nobody to show me the ropes. It's a tough thing to get into. I'm sure many of you feel the same. Where do I start, what does it take? Well, I have found some pretty good answers over the course of this month and I count on sharing them with you guys right now.

I started doing research on game development and useful tools at the start of this month. I found some interesting stuff. The most interesting find was from a developer's blog. He challenged himself to make an rpg from scratch in one week, i.e. 40 hours. The whole ordeal is documented on the website with images and even snippets of code. This blog is the perfect entry point into the world of game development. After reading it, I realised that this was possible and I found out about the best free tools out there to help me get it done. See the link above.

The three big elements I got from this blog:

- I need to learn pixel art

- I need to learn Python

- I need to learn Pygame

Learning Python

Python's website contains some very detailed documentation for many versions of python. I initially got python 3.2, but had some issues getting it to work with pygame. So I ended up using my old (2002...egh) Toshiba laptop with Ubuntu on it and python 2.7.1 already installed. I got a compatible version of pygame running on it eventually (just a couple of days ago!) and have been really stocked ever since. I also found some great websites with basic info on python and object oriented programming, which is essential to game design.

The python language is not nearly as hard to learn as Java or C++, so it's a bit less of a hurdle. The syntax is much simpler and the keywords are more intuitive. Basically, it looks less cryptic, more readable. Thankfully learning python makes learning pygame much easier since they both use the same syntax.

Learning Pixel Art

I mainly use MS Paint for this. Just zoom in to max and display the grid (ctrl + G) and voila! You can make a canvas of 16 by 16 pixels and just paint your tiles or make a bigger canvas for character sprites. It's really just a question of practice and patience. As for GIMP, it is useful for zooming in, since MS Paint has a weak zoom, and for whatever other fancy uses you might find for it that MS Paint cannot do. Although it is easy to learn how to do pixel art…it takes forever to actually get some useable stuff for your actual game.

Learning Pygame

The pygame website is full of tutorials and examples with full source code. You can run their example games and modify them to test your skills. The chimp tutorial is the best one to start with. I recommend doing that one after you've grasped the basics of python and are comfortable with c1asses, objects, methods and importing modules. There is also a great tutorial for a pong game which I'm working through right now. I managed to get a sprite to move on-screen in 8 directions with keyboard input today! It's still a bit clunky, but it works.


If you want to make games, you can! I have provided you with all the tools I've found along the way. In about 20 days (still working full time during the week, mind you) I managed to get a sprite to move on screen, just imagine what you can do in a year without a full time job and other commitments.

If you want to do something, don't let anything or anyone hold you back, the tools are there and they are free. All it takes is time and hard work. Good luck!


(One of the links had the word c1ass in it...


Just replace the stars with the word c1ass, but with the letter "l" not a 1.)

Content and Video Games

How do we define video game content? Do all gamers define it in the same universal way? Do game creators define it differently than gamers? Well, publishers tend to define content in numbers and this is evidenced by the things they print on their game cases. For example, if you look on the back of a game box, you're likely to see numbers such as the number of levels, the number of maps or a lower bound for the number of hours of gameplay that you can expect from the game if you play through all its content. Sometimes they are more subtle and use attractive adjectives instead of numbers to convey the breadth of content you will obtain by purchasing their games. As for developers, I cannot say. Just by looking at the diversity of games available I can only infer that there are several schools of thought when it comes to content, at least from the developer perspective. What about gamers? This article intends to answer that question.

We all have certain games that we always come back to. And I'm not just referring to our favourite games. I mean there are games that go beyond our list of favourites. There are games that we have played so much that we know them by heart, that we can play through blindfolded. I knew people that played Mario Kart 64 with their toes because they knew the courses so well that it was boring to play in the conventional way. Perhaps it is the familiarity of the game that attracts us to come back to it thus producing a slippery slope. This is the principle of radio and hit singles in the music industry. If you hear a song often enough (on the radio for example), you will like it and buy it from iTunes, let's say. However, this theory cannot capture the dynamics of what makes a game more playable than another as we choose to play games based on our own perceptions and friendly recommendations, while on the other hand music can more or less be imposed on our ears. You may choose to listen to the radio, but you do not choose what is playing on the radio. So clearly games are not like hit singles on the radio. They need to offer something to gamers in order to get them to try them or to buy them.

What about nostalgia? Can nostalgia explain why we keep coming back to certain games? I think this is easy to disprove. Consider a game like Super Mario Bros. or Pokémon. These games were both massive hits when they were first released and the fans of the originals still love replaying those games as well as subsequent sequels that capture the same magic that the old ones had. But the new games are also massive hits, indeed the new Mario and Pokémon games are still attracting new players as well as old ones. Hence, nostalgia cannot explain why these games are immortal, so to speak.

My belief is that content is both invisible and implicit. Content is something so abstract that you cannot put your finger on it; it is the stuff that dreams are made of. It is unc1assifiable and indivisible. It cannot be isolated and analysed. It is like the heart of the game; if you take it out it is no longer a heart, but just a lump of ugly meat while the game becomes nothing more than a corpse. Also, the game must be born with its heart, it cannot accept transplants. Do excuse my rude analogy, but I think it is quite fitting.

So my idea is that a game that you can play indefinitely without ever truly getting bored must be a game that contains infinite content. And what content can be infinite but that which is invisible? Explicit content is only new and interesting the first time you experience it. For example, you only watch the daily news once. Nobody in their right mind is going to watch the exact same news report on the same channel on the same day more than once. There is nothing left for you to experience; once you've seen it you've seen it. The same goes for anything else. If a game has only explicit content like a story that you follow as the game progresses, you will not be likely to come back and play it again. You already know the story, why bother hearing it again, it's old news. In order for the game to be worth replaying it must contain implicit content. Consider a game like Halo. Why do so many gamers love playing through the same single player campaign so many times? It is because every enemy skirmish is unique. It's a combination of enemy AI, level design, weapons design and balancing as well as 3d physics. These things are implicit to the game and impossible to fully describe. Thus the content of Halo is infinite. Forget about the 5 hour long campaign, the less than a dozen weapons and the 4 types of enemies. The content is absolutely infinite and this is why Halo is still such a smash hit, even a decade after the original was released. I still pull my old Xbox out of my closet just to play Halo again!

Another example is Tetris. At a glance the game appears to be content anaemic. There are only 4 types of block configurations and they fall downwards and only downwards every time. Yet Tetris is one of the most well known and replayed games in the world and has maintained relevance for around 25 years! Remember those old shareware PC games and short one level long demos? Many gamers, myself included, who were very young in those early PC gaming days used to think that those were complete games. I didn't know that Doom had more than four levels when I was eight years old! I though that the demo was the game and I played it a million times! Such games that can be mistaken for complete packages despite being demos are made of the same infinite and implicit content that games like Halo, Tetris, Super Mario Bros. and Call of Duty are made of.

So what makes a game complete? Is it production deadlines or ripened ideas that are fully realized and implicitly ingrained into a video game? Ideas cannot be quantified and they cannot be haphazardly implemented. This is why it is so hard to make a hit game like Super Mario Bros., Halo, Pokémon or Modern Warfare. Although many try and reproduce games of that calibre, too many fail and you can see this by looking at the sales charts. No game can consistently outsell those games and create new fans with every iteration of the series unless the development team infuses their game with true content; the kind that makes a gamer play a game for ten years and still counting.

So the main point of this piece is that you don't replay games just for story or for gameplay. You replay them because they immortalize an idea that you find entertaining. For example, you don't replay Super Mario Bros. for 25 years to save the princess or because it's fun to jump with Mario. You replay it because it embodies elements of freedom and risk and reward. You play it because it's different every time, because it's still challenging even if you know the game by heart. Ideas are too complex to fully describe and this is why it's difficult to understand what makes a game a massive immortal hit. If it were any simpler, we'd all be living in gaming heaven as all game makers would know how to scratch our itch. As it stands very few do and I'm starting to get real itchy.

Review Experiment

I just finished a small writing experiment. The idea was to write a quick, concise review while listening to a short record that acts as a sort of inspirational rhythmic source of pressure that drives you to write quickly without looking back. I figure this is a good way to avoid spending too much time thinking or writing more than I really need to.

The record I chose to use for this first try was December's Children – The Rolling Stones (1965). The record is under 30 minutes long, but I stopped writing just past the half-point.

The game I reviewed was Serious Sam: The First Encounter.

Cover (December's Children (And Everybody's):The Rolling Stones)---AND--- Serious Sam: The First Encounter Boxshot

Review – Serious Sam: The First Encounter

Guns, guns and guns, baby. This game is all about'em and don't you dare to bother me about anything else while I'm playing. Serious Sam is a very serious game and I'm a very serious man. I just can't be bothered. I need to shoot headless rocket launching freaks with my shotgun. I must blow up transgenic boulder-sized bulls with a cannon ball as big as your old 60-inch CRT television set. These things I must do. Why should I bother talking to non-player characters? Who cares why I'm in Egypt? I'm here, right? And I have a dozen pieces of artillery to enjoy wasting hordes of skull monsters and cyborg chickens three stories high.

This game is just pure action. There has never been a more frantic single player shooter. This game is as twitchy as an old-school top down space shooter. You need sharp reflexes to survive out there; they have headless kamikaze freaks after all.

Unlike many other shooters out there that give you many choices of guns yet restrict ammunition supply and kill your freedom, this game gives you plenty to shoot with. Unlike modern FPS games that pit you against small groups of sophisticated enemies that hide behind cover and whatnot, the enemies in this game are plumb stupid, but there are so many of them and they charge at you from all directions. The challenge here is far more exhilarating than any I've encountered in any modern shooter outside of perhaps Halo when it is at its finest.


Well, that was a little rough around the edges, but it was a good exercise nevertheless. It's hard to concentrate while there's loud rock'n'roll pounding your brains, but thinking is not always a good thing. I need to try this again sometime soon!

So many games!

Yes, it has been another long while since last I was active here on Gamespot. I don't really plan on completely severing my ties to this great community, but time is scarce and fatigue is high! I'm away from home as you might know (see previous blog entry). So far it has been a really busy and challenging time over here – living alone comes with its fair share of responsibilities, not just pure freedom. Chores take up a lot of my time on top of my full time job, an internship within a government agency that provides advice to ministers via policy driven economic research. The team I work with studies post-secondary education as well as earlier outcomes that influence access and performance in post-secondary education. Bah, but onto the games!

The very first week here I happened to discover a small store that buys, sells and rents used CDs, vinyl records, cassettes, DVDs, video games, and even some consoles. As for consoles they don't really have much, but they do have a huge collection of games! Actually, this store also offers CD repair services and, in fact, they seem to repair most of the older stuff they get before even putting it on the store shelves, which leads to mint condition game discs despite how old some of the games are.

When I first entered, I immediately went for the PS2 section which is HUGE. They had everything! Yesterday, I looked at the PS1 shelf; they also had a great selection. And most of the stuff they have there is in pretty good condition and usually comes in its original case and includes the instruction manual. The discs themselves seem to all be scratch free. As for pricing, here lies the icing on the cake folks! Most games are $5.95, but when you buy more than one, you get about $1 off each additional game. I'm used to paying about $20 for a used game that may not have a manual or the original case, so to me this seemed like a golden opportunity to bolster my Playstation Library!

So far, I've gotten Red Faction, Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 (the essential collection versions), Tony Hawk 4, Tomb Raider and Tony Hawk 1.

Needless to say, I've been pretty busy with all these cla.s.sics. This explains my absence!

So, I guess over the course of the next while I'll be sharing my thoughts on all these games and others that I've been playing recently.

Anyone else recently discover a tiny treasure shack full of unloved games that need a home and some digital affection?

Long Hiatus, Short Return

Well, I've been gone for some time now, but that doesn't mean I've abandoned Gamespot just yet! I've had a heavy time table and gaming just didn't make the final cut. Thankfully I was able to achieve a lot of things this year that I would not have been able to do had I not been disciplined and set gaming aside temporarily. It's really important to know when to stop gaming and when to pick it up again. I've learned discipline and I've learned hard work, but I still come back to gaming. It's a hobby you just can't drop. Even when life gets too busy for gaming, gaming is always there when you come back. Gaming is never too busy for life.

This year, my main achievement was getting an internship to work in research as an economist and study lifetime learning issues. I'm moving out of town and into my own little apartment far away from friends and family. Although this is just for 4 or 8 months it's still a pretty big deal for me. I've never really lived alone for more than 3 or 4 weeks and I've never been so far from home for so long. I guess, starting in January 2011, I'll have to call my new place home. Wish me luck!

Main Events of 2010

1. We got a dog…

2. I stopped gaming

3. I started a band with two friends

4. The band subsequently disbanded temporarily

5. I got into the Masters program of my university

6. I got an internship

7. I got my first apartment

8. I started gaming again!

All is well that ends well…


Happy Holidays!


Facebook. Count me out.

I read a very disturbing article this morning. I already knew that there was something fishy about Facebook, but this is too much!

Go read it as soon as possible. Link: http://tech.ca.msn.com/pcworld-article.aspx?cp-documentid=24638955

Some Quotes

"You've authorized that application to do whatever it wants to do," says Thought Labs' Popp.

Unless you've gone into the 'info accessible though your friends' portion of Facebook's Applications, Games, and Websites privacy settings, your friends are taking your profile information with them on their farming and gambling adventures--without your knowledge, but in most cases with your tacit consent. (For some advice, read "Facebook's Social Web: How to Protect Your Privacy.")

Game applications are big business. For instance, FarmVille maker Zynga is reportedly valued at as much as $4 billion. Plus, Facebook just revamped its Insights dashboard, which page owners and application developers can use to obtain data and graphic visualizations about social plug-ins and integrated site content to better understand their return on investment for using Facebook.


"The biggest danger that I can see is that they get your log-in credentials," says Beth Jones, senior threat researcher at Sophos Labs. The intruders can gain access to information such as mobile phone numbers, partial credit card numbers, and billing addresses stored in the Payments section of Facebook's account settings.


So how much is your Facebook identity worth?

Researchers at VeriSign's iDefense recently reported that a hacker named Kirllos claimed he had 1.5 million Facebook accounts for sale for a price of $20 to $45 per 1000 accounts, depending on the number of contacts. According to a New York Times story, Facebook said that its own investigation did not find the claim credible. Facebook did not answer an interview request for this article.


You could also say that Facebook users are worth the $605 million that eMarketer expects marketers to spend on worldwide Facebook advertising by the end of 2010. That's up from $435 million in 2009.


Despite waves of privacy backlash, Facebook continues to thrive and to look for new ways to make money for itself and its partners. To do that, Facebook will continue to leverage its biggest asset: you.


"Quantifying the value of a Facebook fan is something we're going to see a lot more of in the next year," says eMarketer's Williamson.


I'd feel like a mouse in a test lab! Count me out, Facebook.

Be aware folks.

Bloat, Replayability and Entertainment

My response to Aberinkulas' recent blog post which was itself a response to one of my comments to his own blog post...

Keeping in mind that I play games solely for the purpose of entertainment.


Just because you haven't played any good modern games doesn't give you the right to label them all as middling!

I've played some excellent modern games, however I have not often been able to "replay them". And that is the key. I will return to that notion soon.

Story elements are not automatically bad. Context is not automatically bad. Plot, story, meaning, ideas; they're all not automatically bad things.

I agree, and I don't think Malstrom ever said that story and text are inherently bad. If the story is entertaining, then I don't mind. If the dialogue is entertaining, I will enjoy it. The problem is that when those "elements" are of poor quality and when they are injected at the wrong time, they tend to detract me from my gaming experience and that is when I call them "bloat". If those "elements" are not entertaining and are interrupting my gaming experience then I will be unhappy with the game itself for that reason. Maybe I will endure the interruptions on my first play-through, but it is very unlikely that I will ever be able to replay the game.

So if I can fly over a stage on Super Mario Bros. 3, I will, and it will feel like I'm not only cheating myself, but getting cheated by a developer's insecurity.

Back in those days there was no option to save the game, so warp areas and the ability to fly over an entire level were probably implemented for the player that wants to get to the last level they failed on as fast as possible. If you died on "8-2" and you know that you have mastered every level from 1-1 to 7-4, what is the harm in having the ability to warp right back to 8-1 and possibly skip over 8-1 entirely to get to where you want to be right at that moment?

It wouldn't annoy me so much of Malstrom wasn't purporting his opinion as common sense, like, "oh, Zelda back in the day was just better designed because of this, this and that." You THINK it was better designed. That's an OPINION. It's not common sense.

His argument is that the original Zelda created an entertainment phenomenon whereas modern Zelda popularity is in decline, if you take population growth in account (and the fact that NES games were only really sold in America and in Japan back then). When you adjust for those population and market changes, Zelda sells much less then it used to. That is all he is really saying. We aren't talking about one game being "absolutely" superior to another; no one can argue something like that. In fact no game is "absolutely" superior to another.


My definition of bloat has to do with replayability. If a game contains elements that push me away from replaying it, I call that bloat. For example, I would love to replay Zelda Twilight Princess, but there are all these elements (weird boring mandatory quests for example) that are pushing me away from doing that. I would love to replay Zelda Wind Waker, but the fetch quests are not attracting me. I would like to replay The Conduit, but I know that I have to perform some dumb puzzles in order to get to every next room full of aliens I want to blow up. Halo is replayable because I can shoot the heck out of aliens from start to finish without much interruption. I don't mind a short cut-scene at the start and finish of a level and I don't mind a 2 minute long mini tutorial in the first level, but if I had to talk to NPC's and go fetch them berries or find their missing dogs I would be pissed off and I would not replay the game. Hopefully you get the idea that I'm driving at here. It's obviously a personal thing. We are all annoyed by different things. Whatever keeps me away from replaying a game that I would otherwise love to experience again, I just call those elements bloat.

The key is that I actually liked the game in question, but it is the bloat that is keeping me from enjoying the game again. Thus, the game loses value due to the bloat.

On The Road, Music, Busy

Yes, yes, very busy; lots of stuff going on inside as well as outside my brain. I don't live in a cage just yet. Lots of music, lots of books, blah, blah, blah…

Still paying attention? Okay so those of us that have enough patience to read past the title of the blog will actually find many words that have things to do with the title, however there is always more to a blog entry then the, at best, summary title at the top of the page. Instead of rushing to the comments section and punctuating ecstatically with exclamation marks! and happy smiley emoticon symbols of last minute frenzied rushed out the front door "I must comment on this person's blog before I get on with my life" full of insight and understanding and true legitimate care for the state of well being of the ones concerned, please take a minute to consider the words carefully and discuss the things that interest or concern you and discover and learn new things that might enrich your life.

Erhem…enough rambling, I suppose, for today.

On The Road

On The Road

I just turned the last page of Kerouac's c1assic novel a couple of nights ago. It is the very same book that ignited a generation (apparently) and with the help of Tim Leary really exposed the modern world's youth to the possibilities of a marginal and bohemian lifesty1e. "Take lots of drugs and repeat after me" was what it really amounted to by the end of the sixties, but there was much more meaning to Kerouac's 1957 novel than all that. The book is set in the late 1940s and the story spans 1947-1950, about. The book relates several road trips that Kerouac experienced during that time.

Sure, the book is the embodiment of freedom, in its content as well as its form, but there is more to it than freedom and lots of drugs and alcohol and women. The true meaning lies in Dean Moriarty (a.k.a. Neal Cassady). Kerouac describes Dean as being a mad psychopath, a holy goof, an angel, a rotten rat, the craziest driver there ever was, a man in pursuit of everything at once and who is ready to abandon his best friends without a thought if he has something going on somewhere else, a generous man, an unpredictable madman that scares the hell out of everybody but Kerouac, several unsuspecting women and other mad people just like Dean himself. Dean Moriarty is the Beat Generation. How everybody blew this whole thing out of proportion I do not know. Beat is what you say at the end of a long day's work in the lumber yard: "Boy, I'm beat today." Beat is a state of being that is attained when all your senses and muscles have been overloaded to the point of literally feeling 'beat'. Beat is a lifetime of non-stop exhilaration and never ending ecstasy, it is a trip that never comes to an end, it is what you feel when you've done so much that you literally cannot possibly do anything else for a good long while because you've just collapsed, you've just fallen face flat on the ground and you can't even think anymore. No entire generation has (or can) ever attained that. The hippies of yesterday are the music industry and 'art' industry robots of today. The beat are shooting stars. The beat are the beautiful angelic mad people that are locked up in asylums because they live too hard, because they ask too much of the world, because they require too much understanding from the world. Who are we to judge them and lock them up?


For more insight and ways to comprehend the complexities of all this that even I cannot pretend to truly understand, but at least wish to share, see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie as well as the book, which I have yet to read.

I'm too tired to write about the music right now. I'll possibly post something else soon?

Pachter Wakes Up

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the show! Today we have a very special guest appearing. His name is Michael Pachter. Please, everybody give him a big warm welcome!


Me: Hello Mr. Pachter, how are you today?

Pachter: Something is terribly wrong.

Me: What? Does this have anything to do with April's massive sales decline? How do you feel about that?

Pachter: It baffles me. I'm speechless. I don't understand. I'm just an analyst after all.

Me: But at the start of the year you made these predictions:

Despite the glum results, Pachter is optimistic for 2010. He said game sales would be down again in January, but a dynamite lineup of new releases would lift the industry into positive territory starting in February. "We think that it is likely that sales will begin to grow in February, hit high single digits in March, and hit double-digit growth from April through October," Pachter said. "Once sales begin to grow sustainably, chatter of an end to the current console cycle will likely be stifled, and we expect investors to again grow interested in the video game publisher stocks." For the entirety of 2010, Pachter is expecting software sales to be up 10 percent.


Pachter: …

Me: Is it because of the games?

Pachter: It's easy to blame the lineup, which was quite light (Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Conviction was the only AAA title, and it was an Xbox 360 exclusive), but the results suggest something is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, we are at a loss to identify precisely what was wrong, given relatively robust sales for the three months prior, decent weather, an improving economy, and a deep catalog of recently released titles…As we cannot explain the reasons for the shortfall, we can only conclude that April was a fluke, with many core gamers enjoying recently purchased games and looking forward to new releases coming out in May.

Me: You think this has something to do with the weather? Yes, clearly April was a fluke *rolls eye*, thank you for your deep analysis Mr. Pachter.

Pachter's responses can be found in context right here.