More Wacky, Less Egghead!
From an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Klavan:
"There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past."
Huh, I must have missed the part where Batman misled the people of Gotham into blaming people who had nothing to do with the crime rate in order to support his own personal agenda.
Last night, I set aside a vital stack of papers that I needed to bring in to my new job today to hand over to the HR department.
This morning, I couldn't find my keys. I can usually find my keys. I usually know exactly where they are. This morning, I could not find them anywhere. Not a huge deal, as I take the bus, and I'm sure they're there somewhere, but still, it was unsettling, and I was kind of panicking.
Now, here I am at work, and I go to hand over the paperwork to HR only to discover that the stack of papers I grabbed this morning is not at all the one I set aside last night, which I really need to turn in to HR today. Outstanding.
This means that I get to spend my lunch hour running--literally running--back home, hoping that one of my roommates is there to let me in because I don't have my keys, grabbing the correct stack of papers, and running back. If I'm lucky, I should just barely get back to my desk, huffing and puffing, in under an hour.
I'm not normally this clueless, I swear. It's just been one of those days.
A pretty heroic lunch hour, I must say.
I picked up Space Invaders Extreme for the DS today. I think that a number of cIassic games, like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, achieve a kind of perfection in their simplicity. Both Pac-Man and Space Invaders have seen numerous iterations over the years, most of which have strayed too far from what made the original games so timeless. However, last year brought us Pac-Man Championship Edition, one of my favorite games of the past few years, which thoroughly delivered on the potential inherent in an update by staying true to the cIassic gameplay and just making a few minor tweaks that made it feel totally fresh and new and really, really intense. Now we have Space Invaders Extreme, which takes the same sort of "let's stay faithful to the original but kick it up a few notches and set it to a techno beat" approach as Pac-Man CE did. Personally, I'd say that the cat-and-mouse gameplay of Pac-Man is inherently a bit more exciting than the blast-the-relentlessly-descending-invaders gameplay of Space Invaders so, in a battle of the awesome updates, I'd put Pac-Man CE ahead of SIX (That's a more extreme way of abbreviating it than SIE would be, wouldn't you say?), but they're definitely in the same category, and I'm really enjoying my time with SIX so far.
I uploaded my high score after my first go at the Ranked mode and am currently ranked #1,547! But I didn't really get how scoring worked, and as I come to understand the game better, I'm hoping to improve my ranking at least somewhat. It seems, though, that at this point there's only one person out there extreme enough to really understand how the scoring works in the game. Currently the #1 ranked player has a score of 1,411,603,407, while the #2 ranked player is way behind with a mere 13,281,740. That's got to be the most ridiculous scoring gap I've ever seen.
UPDATE: I played by far my best ranked game so far last night, making it to stage five and initiating a number of Fever Times throughout the game, winding up with a score of 5,562,320, which currently has me at 146th on the leaderboard.8)
I came home this evening after spending a gorgeous day out and about in San Francisco to find this email in my inbox:
BERKELEY'S CODY'S BOOKS CLOSES AFTER 52 YEARS
Berkeley CA, June 20, 2008 –
After 52 years, Cody's Books will shut its doors effective June 20, 2008. The Berkeley bookstore has been a beacon to readers and writers throughout the nation and across the world. Founded by Fred and Pat Cody in 1956, Cody's has been a Berkeley institution and a pioneer in the book business, helping to establish such innovations as quality paperbacks and in-store author readings. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Cody's was a landmark of the Free Speech movement and was a home away from home for innumerable authors, poets and readers.
The Board of Directors of Cody's Books made this difficult decision after years of financial distress and declining sales.
This news saddens me. I'm a big believer in supporting local businesses, and Cody's has been one of my favorites, from the shop on Telegraph to the store just a few blocks from my home on 4th St. to their final home on Shattuck. More than just a bookstore, Cody's has been a Berkeley institution, with a passionate, knowledgable staff and frequent appearances by some of the most wonderful and important authors of the day, and I will miss it. I urge you, whenever possible, to spend your money at local businesses rather than nationwide chains.
Now if only someone would open up an independent local video game shop in the space Cody's is vacating so that I can stop giving money to GameStop!
Few things make a game really stick in my heart like a powerful sense of place, and since there aren't many places I know as well or love as much as my native California, games that really capture California well seem capable of making me homesick for it, even though I'm still living here.
I spent so many hours gathered with friends around the Commodore 64 playing California Games, the superb, extremely sunny collection of games put out by Epyx in 1987. I remember how much I loved rockin' the Ocean Pacific and schoolin' friends on the half-pipe with the Hollywood sign in the background, a sign I associated as a child with glitz and glamour, hopes and dreams. I'm looking forward to this game getting released as a downloadable title for current consoles, hopefully with online leaderboards so I can demonstrate how much better I am at computer hacky sack than you are.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is undoubtedly the game that captures the feel of contemporary California better than any other. I played some of Rockstar's beautiful epic again in the weeks leading up to GTA 4's release and this aspect of it still got to me. The trees, the sunsets, the architecture of the strip malls, apartment blocks and mansions, the dusty stretches of road between small towns--it's all so gorgeous and so California. (Except for the parts that are more Nevada, of course.) Standing in the ghetto cul-de-sac that CJ calls home, I could almost feel the Santa Ana winds.
And finally Outrun, Yu Suzuki's 1986 driving game, remains a personal favorite of mine in this regard. The unforgettable, summery tunes and diverse, vivid locales come together to create a place that has little to do with the actual California, but is obviously a depiction of a kind of idealized California. Every time I hear Last Wave, the game's lovely end game high score music, I remember those drives I loved so much as a kid, riding with the windows down and the wind in my hair, my dad driving us along Pacific Coast Highway or through Topanga Canyon, out to the beach in Malibu.
Regardless of whether they're inspired by a real place like California or are the stuff of pure fantasy, what games have created an especially powerful sense of place for you?
In an era of increasingly sensationalistic televised so-called "news coverage" of politics in the United States, coverage that is often worse than disposable, that is in fact obfuscating and manipulative, Tim Russert was one of an increasingly rare, increasingly important breed. His clear-headed, well-informed interviews on Meet the Press actually explored and illuminated the political figures and complex issues of the day. He was one of the very best.
Thank you, sir. You will be missed.
I've seen a lot of talk on these boards lately from people who weren't so taken with GTA IV. This is fine. In fact, I knew when I was playing it that it was a game that would leave some fans of the series a bit cold, with its slower pacing, overhauled driving mechanic, and so on. (Though I have to say, the number of people who are really upset that you can't customize your cars in the new game totally takes me by surprise. It just never occured to me that anyone really cared so much about that little feature in San Andreas. But hey, to each their own.) But what irks me about a lot of this talk is the one assertion I see again and again: that people who love the game, such as myself, are simply "giving in to the hype."
I take umbrage at this notion, because those making it seem to disregard the possibility that other people simply genuinely like the game a lot more than they do. Hard as it may be for some to accept and understand, I have not willed or confused or hypnotized myself into thinking I like it a lot more than I actually do. I have not been bludgeoned into submission by Rockstar's massive ad campaign. No, I actually really like it, and not because of the amount of hype that surrounds it, but because, to my mind, it is simply one of the most compelling, exciting, rich and rewarding games I have ever played. Plenty of other people feel the same way. In my opinion, it accomplishes what it sets out to do extraordinarily well.
GTA IV is certainly not the first game to divide people along these lines, and it won't be the last (I'm gonna go out on a limb here and predict that there will be a certain amount of similar disagreement about MGS 4 as well), but we have the power to make a difference, to put a small dent in this unfortunate trend. The next time someone expresses a passionate admiration for a popular game, or film, or album, or book, or fast-food sandwich that you found mediocre and disappointing, before you jump to the conclusion that they've been deluded by media frenzy, just stop for one moment to consider the possibility that they simply enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than you did. Maybe some middle ground can be found where we can actually consider and to some degree understand opposing points of view, and come away from these interactions with mutual respect for our differing perspectives.
Also, if you don't think GTA IV is one of the best games ever made, you're wrong.
(See what I did there?)
Hard to believe it's been something like eight years since I first stumbled upon GameSpot. It was a pretty life-changing experience, I must say. I'd always loved games, but although I'd read tons of magazines devoted to games, I had never found writing about games particularly interesting or insightful. That all changed in an instant when I discovered GameSpot and read by far the most well-written, thought-provoking reviews and features about games I'd ever seen. It was like being struck by lightning. It was love at first sight.
It's difficult to articulate how much the site has meant to me over the years since then. I've evangelized it to friends, and made plenty of new ones in the community. I've continued to read and enjoy the outstanding content produced by this site, day in and day out, ever since. And this week, when the review for Roogoo went up with my name on it, my first freelance review for GameSpot, it was an exciting moment that carried with it a huge sense of personal accomplishment. I've achieved one of my dreams. I've worked hard for it, and I'm very grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the plot of Grand Theft Auto IV.
It's been ten years now since I graduated from college, and that fact put me in a bit of a reflective mood for much of the past few weeks. Thinking of what I've done with the past ten years, and where I hope to be when another ten years have gone by.
When I graduated, in May of 1998, the future was anything but certain. I mean, a degree in theater from a small liberal arts college is not exactly a license to print money, and at that point, I still didn't really know what I wanted to do professionally. But I had a dream for my life. Not a big dream at all, really. It's quite simple, but it's mine. Maybe it's yours, too.
It's a dream that was expressed pretty well in this exchange on Showtime's entertaining Dexter:
Dexter: Do you have a dream for your life? Your future? Yes?
Rita: Of course. Do you?
Dexter: It might sound weird. I want to someday be content. Just feel comfortable, like everyone else. I want...
Rita: ...a normal life?
Dexter: Yeah, a normal life.
Rita: That's all I want. Just that.
Dexter, in case you don't know, is a sympathetic character who kills people, and he has the same dream for his life that I have for mine. That seems appropriate here, as I've been spending a lot of time lately with another sympathetic character who kills people: Niko Bellic, the protagonist of Rockstar's truly superb Grand Theft Auto IV.
Yes, as I was playing GTA IV, I was also thinking a good deal about my life, and my dreams for my life. My life since college has had its ups and downs. After graduating, I fell into teaching. That was a job that I think I knew immediately, as a transgendered person, I wasn't going to stay in, because it was neither safe nor, some might argue, appropriate, for me to attempt to transition while teaching high school students. Some people may have been brave enough to attempt that path. I am not one of them. And I suspect that, even were it not for my gender issues, I would have wanted to seek out other professional experiences. Teaching is simply not my calling. Since then, I've worked in coffee shops and customer service call centers, trying to inch my way closer to my dream, and also to work towards getting a job doing something that I'll find truly satisfying.
Niko Bellic comes to Liberty City with dreams of his own, dreams that have been fueled by letters from his cousin Roman, who wrote of living a life filled with cars, women and money in the land of opportunity. When Niko arrives, he finds that Roman has overstated his success just a tad, and that in fact Roman is deeply in debt, and in trouble with just the sort of unsavory characters Niko came to Liberty City hoping to get away from. What's Niko gonna do when he arrives in LC and needs to make some money, get a job at the local Bean Machine? No, that's what suckers like me do. Niko is not the latte-slingin' type. He's been through a little too much. He's a little too broken. Early on, a character named Dimitri Rascalov (Niko should have known better than to ever trust someone with that name) says to Niko, "We can choose the game, Niko Bellic, but we cannot choose the rules of the game." Niko has, for better or worse, chosen his game.
It's not unusual for a good film or book or television show to make me think about my own life in some way, or about the world around me, but a video game? That's pretty much unheard of. GTA IV, though, did just that. I'm not saying that the characters could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those on The Wire, but I am saying that while The Wire is, in my opinion, the best television show in recent years about the America we're living in today, GTA IV is the best videogame ever about the America we're living in today, and that, like all truly good crime fiction, it is not the immoral or amoral product so many right-wing crusaders would have you believe it is, but it is, in fact, deeply moral, a story of choices and consequences.
There's a moment near the end of GTA IV where I really believed that Niko might end up with a simple, honest life, that he might fly off into the sunset, heading for the American Midwest with a nice woman at his side, leaving the crime network of Liberty City that he's fallen into behind. Of course, I realize that I was naive to think this, but it's just that I'd come to feel really attached to Niko as a character, and that I really wanted it for him, wanted him to have his own little American dream, and when it was all taken away from him in an instant, it was genuinely upsetting. Money is the closest thing you have in Grand Theft Auto to a score, and by the end I'd racked up well over a half million dollars, but as another character declared, "You won!", it all felt so hollow to me, and, I suspect, to Niko as well. Yes, Niko wound up with tons of money, and had established for himself a seemingly pretty safe and secure place in Liberty City's underworld, but at what cost?
It would take forever for me to list all the reasons I love this game so much. I love the razor-sharp satire of things like the Republican Space Rangers cartoon, Weazel News and the Bastion's Buddies right-wing radio talk show. I love the huge, diverse, vibrant soundtrack, filled as it is with wonderful details like jazz great Roy Haynes DJing the jazz station and sharing poignant, heartfelt anecdotes about the musicians he's featuring, but, in a nice touch, referring to events as taking place "here in Liberty City" instead of New York. I love the exhilarating beauty of unplannable moments like finding yourself flying over the city by helicopter on a rainy night as Pruit Igoe by Philip Glass swells up on the radio. I love the living, breathing city, where people walk down the street talking on their cellphones, or wash shop windows, or do tai chi in the park. But most of all, I love the characters who populate it, and the story it tells. When Niko finally comes face-to-face with the man who betrayed him so many years ago, a moment he has built up in his mind, been obsessed with, for years, he finds that the man is an utterly pathetic figure. This is one of the moments where the game gives the player a crucial choice. You can kill him, as Niko has intended to do for so long, or you can walk away. GTA IV certainly isn't the first game to offer choices of this kind, but it sure does it better than any game before in my opinion. Your choices in games are frequently between the most saintly of goodness and the most diabolical of evil, and so they never feel quite real to me. I'll do one to see what happens, then play again to make the other choice, but I never feel any real investment in it. It's just a game, after all. But so well-drawn are the characters in GTA IV, and Niko in particular, that I really felt personally invested in these choices. In this case, I chose to walk away. In the moments that followed, on a quiet car drive back home, Roman said some things to Niko about forgiveness, about letting go of the past. Things that were simple and true. That was beautiful. And while Niko's victory against the predatory forces of the underworld may seem hollow, there are other victories, smaller but more meaningful. Niko meets a young woman who had, like so many, come to Liberty City from the Midwest with big dreams of making it as a star, but had fallen into drug addiction and prostitution. Niko helped her get on a train back home to her parents, and she sent a nice email to thank him and let him know she was doing all right. That meant something.
Of course, like so many, I'm already wondering what's next for Grand Theft Auto. How do you follow this game? Will Rockstar continue along this more serious, contemplative path for the next few games in the series, or will we see things veer back towards the more cartoonish violence of earlier games? Will we return to the neon-drenched streets of Vice City, or visit someplace entirely new? And, I can't help but wonder, when the next game rolls around, will I be any closer to my own little dream? In any case, I won't stop trying, and that's what matters. I'll just keep on cranking up the LCD Soundsystem and walking through this world like the badass superstar I am.
20May 08I currently work at a coffee shop in historic downtown Berkeley, California. Our clientele always features a significant number of crazy people, homeless people, and crazy homeless people. We had a few remarkably hot days last week. This heat only made things much, much crazier.
At one point, after a particularly lengthy, stressful, exhausting rush, a customer, who was clearly gifted with some sort of cosmic ability to peer deep into my soul because somehow she could tell that I was a bit stressed and a bit exhausted, looked deep into my eyes and said, "There is so much trouble there." She then took a few ice cubes from out of the iced tea I had just handed her, grabbed my hand, and squeezed tightly. Her face contorted in a look of powerful concentration as she bent her will on purging this trouble from my soul. She began to shake as she fought an epic battle with the demons of stress and exhaustion that were inhabiting me, as I stood there wondering if I was supposed to be shaking too, or if she was doing all the work and I was supposed to appear increasingly serene. Finally I settled for focusing my effort on just trying not to look like I thought she was crazy.
When it was over, I made a half-hearted attempt to appear grateful for her efforts and to indicate that I was feeling better. A few minutes later, I realized that I actually was feeling better. The sheer unusualness of the experience, and her desire to help, oddly expressed as it was, had helped me relax and laugh a bit and forget the stress brought on by the mobs of irritable high school kids demanding free cups of ice water.
I love Berkeley.
In Rockstar Games' hugely anticipated release Grand Theft Auto IV, which comes out tomorrow, the Statue of Liberty has been rechristened the Statue of Happiness, and she holds aloft not a torch, but a cup of coffee. "Give me your tired," indeed.
I think this is a brilliant little detail. I've spent my fair share of time working in coffee shops, and I'm of the opinion that while many people come in because they genuinely appreciate coffee as coffee, plenty of others have made Starbucks and other coffee shops part of their daily routine not because of any particular appreciation of espresso, but because the act of drinking a grande vanilla soy latte or a caramel Frappuccino each morning is a way of saying to others and to themselves, "Yes, I am someone in our consumer society! Behold, I can afford to spend four dollars each day on a cup of coffee! And with every precious sip, I keep the voices of doubt at bay, and restore meaning and value to my life! Doesn't this branded coffee cup in my hand go great with my iPod and my RAZR?" Meanwhile, despite the tremendous success and proliferation of such shops, the people who work them can often barely afford to shop them. From Naomi Klein's blistering 2000 book No Logo:
"They expect us to look like a Gap ad, professional, clean and neat all the time, and I can't even pay to do laundry," says Laurie Bonang of Starbucks. "You can buy two grande mocha cappuccinos with my hourly salary." Like millions of her demographic coevals on the payrolls of all-star brands like the Gap, Nike and Barnes & Noble, Bonang is living inside a stunning corporate success story -- though you'd never know it from the resignation and anger in her voice. All the brand-name retail workers I spoke with expressed their frustration at helping their stores rake in, to them, unimaginable profits, and then having to watch that profit get funneled into compulsive expansion. Employee wages, meanwhile, stagnate or even decline. At Starbucks in British Columbia new workers faced an actual wage decrease -- from Can$7.50 to $7 an hour -- during a period when the chain was doubling its profits and opening 350 new stores a year. "I do the banking. I know how much the store pulls in a week," Laurie Bonang says. "They just take all that revenue and open up new stores."
Anyway, enough quoting of left-wing text on my part. I just want to say that to me, in addition to everything else that they were, the earlier GTA games were also truly incisive satire of American culture, and that I'm really looking forward, not only to wreaking havoc in Liberty City and getting into plenty of shootouts and high-speed car chases (though I am most definitely looking forward to that stuff -- A LOT!), but also to discovering the game's humor, to cruising around and listening to Fox...er, sorry, Weazel News, and to seeing what GTA IV has to say about the America we're living in now.
Saw this awesome image on the front page of a Bay Area publication today:
Yeah, that's right, Bobby Fischer! CHECKMATE, SUCKA! You died! How embarrassing that must be for you! The ultimate defeat for the one-time champion. Everyone knows dying is for losers! It's like the worst thing that could ever possibly happen. I hope I'm never such a loser that I die.
Capcom announced an all-new Bionic Commando game last year, and that was exciting news. Bionic Commando for the NES is one of my favorite games of all time, and it's a game that's long been in need of a sequel. But as exciting as that news was, those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I have some reservations about how well that game will capture the spirit of the classic Capcom game I love so much. Rad Spencer has been replaced by the dreadlocked Nathan Spencer, and the nefarious army of the BADDs has been re-imagined as, I don't know, the Imperials or something. I'm keeping an open mind and looking forward to the game, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much just yet.
But this...this looks awesome. Yes, an update of the original NES game is coming to XBLA. (Click here to see it in action.) It's exciting on multiple levels. For starters, it looks gorgeous. But what's really neat is that it appears to do more than just take the cIassic game, slap a 3D coat of paint on it and call it a day. (And let's be honest, they probably could have done just that and plenty of people would have been satisfied, including myself.) It seems like it's attempting to update the gameplay in ways that will make the experience fresh and exciting again--co-op play, new weapons and abilities--while still being very true to the original game.
Finally, this game lets you unlock the Rad Spencer "skin" for use in the new Bionic Commando, so you never even have to play as Dready McBioDread.
The one thing I'm left wondering is if the overhead stages from the NES game will be carried over to this update. There's no sign of them in the video, and frankly, as I thought they were the weakest aspect of the game, I wouldn't be crushed if they weren't in this version. But there'd better at least still be the map screen. Bionic Commando just isn't Bionic Commando if I can't ask a helicopter pilot to fly to a new location only to have him sullenly reply, "Okay, we'll move."
Happy New Year everybody! I hope your 2008 is off to a great start. So far this year, I've had a substantial rent increase and literally vacuumed up something like a hundred gallons of water that came flooding into my place during the massive storm we had here a few weekends back, so, suffice it to say, this has been an awesome year for me so far.
You Are the Strongest Link. Hello.
On the job front, well, for the moment I still have one, which is good. I took my current job as a sort of seasonal employee with a company that needs more people around the holidays, with the understanding that only a few of us might be offered permanent positions, the best of the best. Since then, our numbers have dwindled significantly. There's a wall in the office that has photos of me and all the people who started at the same time, and most of those faces are no longer wandering the hallways. I feel like I'm on Survivor, only instead of competing for a million dollars, I'm in it for a modest hourly wage and health benefits! Of course, this adds an element of excitement and suspense to the proceedings but employment is one area where I think stability and comfort are preferable. Anyway, wish me luck.
Trying to be Hopeful About Politics in an Era in Which Carlos Mencia is a Popular Comedian in America
Meanwhile, in the realm of politics, there are a number of reasons why I'm currently supporting Barack Obama for president. Of course, most importantly, I want to be able to say that the person in the White House briefly attended the college from which I graduated, and amongst people about which that can be said, I think Obama is more qualified than Ben Affleck. Secondly, I want to see the looks on the faces of all the extreme right-wing crazies who are sending emails around the internet reminding us of important facts to consider like the fact that HIS MIDDLE NAME IS HUSSEIN!!!!!!
I'm so excited about Obama that I almost picked up his book The Bodacity of Hope...sorry, I guess it's actually The Audacity of Hope...the other day before remembering that I don't actually care about politics enough to read books about it in my free time. (Yes, I am what's wrong with America.)
But in all seriousness, I feel really good about him, his message and his politics, and although I also saw a scholarly book the other day entitled A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, I want to believe that we live in an America where he can, so, as naive as it may be, I've decided to do that. I'm certainly not about to support Hillary after some of the positions she's taken on video games!
Virtual Console, Real Disappointment
And speaking of video games, well, if anyone needed any further evidence of the fact that I'm an idiot, know this: I actually get a little excited every Monday morning at the thought of finding out what new games are hitting the Wii Virtual Console that week. Of course, more often than not of late, this has led to pretty crushing disappointment. I mean this week, for instance, we got Pac-Attack--not a bad game, but not one anyone anywhere was exactly holding their breath for--and, AND! Riot Zone. YES! RIOT ZONE! Finally!
For the love of God, are you @#$&ing kidding me with this Riot Zone nonsense? Riot Zone is a truly abysmal beat-em-up. Who the hell thought this would be a good game to put on the Virtual Console? When there are still so many really great games from the libraries of these bygone consoles waiting in the wings, weeks like this are just frustrating. I wish that, rather than keeping each week's releases a surprise, Nintendo would at least tell us what's coming so that fools like me wouldn't get our hopes up only to have them dashed by weeks like this one.
Brother, Can You Spare a Ticket to Paradise?
Meanwhile, on the 360 front, mine is still out of commission. I could deal withnot being able to play Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed, but now here we are on the verge of the release of Burnout: Paradise. This cannot stand. But it seems I have to give up hope that my 360 will red-ring on me. I was still firing it up every once in a while hoping that it would give me those sweet red rings and at least do me the courtesy of getting itself replaced for free, but it doesn't even try to read discs anymore. Not games or DVDs or anything. It just kind of spins the disc lazily for a second, then it shrugs and says, "Man, I'm too tired for this," and stops. Looks like I'll be sending off my console and a hundred smackers to Microsoft here any day now. Boo!
Navarro Rides Off Into the Friscallating Dusk Light
Alex Navarro is taking his leave. Like many others, I've always felt that his voice was one of GameSpot's best and most defining qualities. It's a significant loss to the site and the community but I don't doubt he's on to bigger and better things, and I'll be keeping tabs on him via his blog. I encourage you to do the same.
Currently I'm looking forward to the final entry in his top albums of 2007 countdown. Among my favorite records of last year which he's already mentioned are Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City (# 27 on his list) and Living With the Living by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Alex put the Ted Leo at 69, way too high in my own estimation, but hey, what I admire about Alex as a music writer is not just his ability to write about music but his own deeply held belief that music is the most wildly subjective of all art forms.
See ya 'round, Alex.
Props to GameSpot user Devouring_One for uploading this video. Hearing the Muscles from Brussels say "Je suis un mage" just cracks me up. Yeah, if Van Damme is a mage, I'm a night elf mohawk.
In this video I talk about the current state of my romance with GameSpot, things I've recently overheard people saying about the Wii, why the holidays suck, why the holidays are great, and my pick for 2007's Game of the Year. For those keeping track, I say "you know" a lot less in this video than I did in the last one.
And I forgot to mention a game I wanted to give Honorable Mention to, a game that probably provided me with more concentrated jolts of pulse-pounding excitement than any other game I played this year. In all honesty, for me that game would be Pac-Man: Championship Edition, a brilliant update of one of the greatest games of all time. The game is fundamentally outstanding and being engaged in a high-score battle with Carrie and Aaron took it to the next level. I would literally scream in dismay as one false move saw a shot at a new high score slip away from me, and jump up and down with glee as I set a new personal best. I think I pretty much milked the experience of the game for all it's worth and don't see myself going back to it, but it was amazing while it lasted.
Amidst references to Almost Famous, Network, The Godfather, Godard, Shaw, and The Wu-Tang Clan, there's a thought-provoking piece here about what recent events at GameSpot may suggest about the complicated and difficult state of affairs that sites that are fully devoted to games may currently be finding themselves in, by N'Gai Croal, who covers games for Newsweek. I recommend it.
And the words enthusiast press in my blog title should be in quotes, but that doesn't seem to work very well.
I respond to recent events by, naturally, talking about Super Mario Galaxy and King Arthur. This one's for die-hard Caro fans only!
A few thoughts:
-Please don't mind the mess.
-Yes, I know it's way too long. Sorry.
-I really need to get some lighting that doesn't make me look like a green-haired ghost.
-If you're over 21 and want to make this video more interesting, take a sip of your favorite alcoholic beverage every time I say "you know." Man, what the heck is wrong with me?
-What Merlin actually says in Excalibur is "STAND BACK! Be silent! Be still! That's it... and look upon this moment. Savor it! Rejoice with great gladness! Great gladness! Remember it always, for you are joined by it. You are One, under the stars. Remember it well, then... this night, this great victory. So that in the years ahead, you can say, 'I was there that night, with Arthur, the King!' For it is the doom of men that they forget."
-Wizards with metal skullcaps are awesome.
-It was actually The HotSpotfrom the 27th, not the 20th, on which Ryan Davis called the ending of Super Mario Galaxy mindblowing. I knew that, but my tongue is an idiot.
-I didn't know they'd put that birthdate verification deal on videos that are flagged offensive. If I'd known, I probably would have sworn a lot more and said "you know" a lot less.
When I first started reading GameSpot back in 2000, it was an eye-opening experience. The level of writing was so far superior to anything I'd ever previously read about games that it was a revelation. It hadn't even previously occurred to me that there could be genuinely good writing about this medium that I was so crazy about.
Ever since then, GameSpot has really meant a great deal to me. I've visited the site daily. I've made friends here. Heck, it's even been a sort of goal of mine to work for GameSpot someday. Maybe as a writer or maybe as the person who tosses out the trash every day. I didn't care, I just really believed in the site and in the people who made it what it was, and I wanted to be a part of it. And a huge part of why I wanted that was the fact that this site had integrity.
What's happened here really upsets me. It runs contrary to everything this site has always stood for in my eyes. It destroys every shred of integrity this site had. It casts a shadow on everything it has meant to me personally. When marketing and sales decisions start having the slightest bit of influence over what's going on on the journalistic and editiorial side of things, you're through. You stop doing right by your readers. I still believe in the integrity of the very good individuals who work at GameSpot and, damn it all, I will probably still come here to read the great reviews and other pieces they write. But as a corporate entity, I'm really disappointed with GameSpot, and will never think of it the same way again.
It couldn't have happened for a more ridiculous reason. It couldn't have happened to a less deserving person.
Thank you so much for all your hard work over the years, Jeff. I've been a fan.