Indoor Living – My Summer Games List 2016

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Look, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I’m a talented enough writer to think that you all need me to explain how important summer vacation was to a kid. We’ve all had them, we’ve all enjoyed them, we’ve all dreaded their passage, there’s not really much I can contribute to that conversation.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say they were just as important to me as they were you. I was never really a family of big summer plans; never went to camp (and thank fuck because I would have hated every fucking second of it if it wasn’t Space Camp), never went away for an entire summer, never even went to the ocean until much later in life – really, my big summer events that weren’t a long-weekend trip to Toronto or Chicago were largely spent sleeping in and/or eating too much at grandpa’s house.

Not that I’m complaining! Then, as now, I was a lonely young man who really valued his free time away from people, and what better way to spend that time than with video games? Any kind of break from school was, to me, the perfect time to catch up on video games and finally make some goddamn progress, whether it was Chrono Trigger or Metal Gear Solid or whatever. As a result, the majority of my most pleasant gaming memories revolve around summertime, and I try to uphold that tradition as much as I can by staying inside all goddamn summer and playing all the goddamn video games I can!

It gets a little harder as time goes by, though, because now there’s too many goddamn video games and as a result anything I want to remember having played in the summer has to compete with like twelve other games I’ve thought about getting into. To that end I’ve decided to try to keep a record of every summer game I play going forward, starting with these choice nuggets! Join me, won’t you?

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The Dream Of The 90’s Is Alive At My House – Dreamcast GD-EMU Review

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

So it’s no surprise to anybody that I’m obsessed with Sega’s final console, some…fifteen years and change after it shuffled off this mortal coil (an event that coincided with me having to start high school, which if I were a dickhead I’d say was some representation of me having to start the journey into adulthood or something). I play mine with a frequency, and I still lug it over to a number of friend’s houses to get back on the multiplayer for a number of games – indeed, it was really the only time I could ever claim to be good at Quake III Arena, and even then it was because I had the mouse & keyboard.

The only real problem is that they just don’t last too long. I got mine shortly after launch and it’s held up fine enough so far, but browse the Internet for any length of time and you’ll see dozens of accounts of people whose Dreamcasts have just stopped reading discs, thanks to the…er…touchy specificness of the GD-ROM laser lens. And while technology has allowed us to emulate the system well enough, it still isn’t 100%, and for a long time there was no Everdrive-like solution to replacing the need for physical games, even if you’ve been able to burn pirated copies since about a month after the damn thing came out.

Until now. Thanks to an industrious young man in Poland with the patience of a saint (and the skill with a soldering iron to match), I now have access to every goddamn Dreamcast game I could ever want to play. Even that shitty fucking South Park quiz game.

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Ghostbusters Is Fine, I’m Fine, Everything is Fine

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Somehow, despite all the doomsaying and gnashing of manbaby teeth, the new Ghostbusters came out and everything was fine. Trump isn’t President, everyone’s childhoods were exactly as they left them, and we’re not trapped under some kind of grand feminist conspiracy that only exists to replace the cherished franchise media of our youth with – gasp! – girls.

As a matter of fact, it looks like it kinda went how all movie openings went – the people that wanted to see it saw it, the people that didn’t wanna see it didn’t, and everyone’s lives went much the same as they would have otherwise, plus or minus one screening of Ghostbusters. It almost goes to show that maybe everyone didn’t need to get so goddamned uptight about the fact a movie was coming out that was called the same thing as a movie they liked as kids, and also had women in it?

But hey, I’m not an expert, just a guy who talks a lot on the internet, and besides this article isn’t about jean shorts and Reddit – it’s about Ghostbusters!

And as you should not be at all surprised to learn, I went opening weekend with my super best friend in the world (and longtime fellow Ghostbuster) to see a screening at the theater back in my hometown that had recently installed some fancy-ass seats. Full of peach schnapps and overpriced mac ‘n cheese from a nearby restaurant, I braced myself for what was to come.

Guess what? I liked it. I really fucking liked it.

ghostbusters 2016 cosplay and proton pack

Yes, a grown adult who looks like this was really okay with the new Ghostbusters movie. QUELLE SURPRISE.

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Solutions for the Future – RetroPie Review

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

So ever since I was a kid and I first learned they existed, I’ve been obsessed with emulators. There could be any number of reasons for this, but after some soul-searching I think it’s fair to say that my interest mostly stems from the idea that I could access a console’s entire library whenever the hell I wanted without the time or expense of actually, you know, going out and buying them.

But even ahead of that, the idea of having access to them was way more important. No matter what game it was, whether it was a forgotten title from my youth or some random Japanese game that we never got over here, I always found a great deal of psychological comfort in the idea that basically any game I wanted was right there waiting for me on the internet whenever the mood should strike me. It’s allowed me to keep up with old, long-lost favorites and try out all-new experiences. Illegal? Inarguably. Morally dubious? Absolutely. But convenient as hell and oddly comforting? Goddamn right.

The only kicker is that sometimes emulating it just seems so…fake. Call me a big whiner, but to me the experience of sitting in front of the TV, controller in hand, isn’t exactly the same as being cooped up in an office chair in front of a monitor watching Nesticle fake its way through Contra Force or Little Samson for you. So over the last year or so I’ve been experimenting with a number of methods to better replicate the whole “TV-and-console” experience with emulation, whether with different EverDrive cartridges, my modded Wii, or whatever.

During a trip to a friend’s wedding that required me to dress like a Viking, I was exposed to the wonder and convenience of the Raspberry Pi, and specifically the RetroPie software suite/GUI that offers access to a number of different system emulators and the capacity to play whatever damn game I felt like, so long as it wasn’t any newer than, say, the Dreamcast.

Is it perfect? No. But it’s pretty awesome in its own right, and it’s sure as hell easier than actually, you know, buying video games.

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New Adventures in Hi-Def: iScan VP30 Video Upscaler Review

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

(So let’s make this obvious right off the bat – for as nerdy as this shit gets sometimes, I freely admit that this particular article is gonna get a little out there, so apologies in advance if this isn’t a subject any of you find particularly appealing. I still felt like it was information worth getting out there.)

Thanks to a recent Retronauts episode dealing with the pains of playing old video games on modern-day TVs, I found myself confronting a problem that I’d tried so hard to run from so many times before: I didn’t have a good way to play retro games on my TV.

That isn’t to say I’m for want of systems, by any means – at this point I own god knows how many Famiclones for various purposes and needs, and I’ve recently started investing heavily in Everdrives and flash carts to make sure I’ve always got whatever games I need right at hand.

But…they just never looked that great. My current (and probable future) living situation is fairly prohibitive of me owning a CRT television, or at least one worth any kind of shit. Plugging a non-HD system directly into an HDTV will never not look like pure ass, and while there are a few clone systems out there that offer HDMI output they come with their own unique problems.

So I researched my options and finally did the thing I tried to stop myself doing so many times before: I bought a video upscaler.

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Learning to Love The Nintendo Wii

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

So, for people like myself that can’t stop talking about old video games, toys, and movies, there’s one constant, unavoidable problem that I (and assume others) find myself running into:

Given enough time, everything is old.

The march of time and its resulting onslaught of entropy and decay means that every single thing you experience will one day be considered ‘retro’ until you no longer experience anything. I bring this up not to be morbid, merely to illustrate the existential dilemma anyone on the internet is inevitably going to face when trying to discuss old movies, retro video games, old bands, or anything. I primarily spend my time on this blog writing about things I liked as a child (NES games, Ghostbusters, Transformers) but the farther my life goes the more sobering truths I have to face about how everything I like will be old one day.

Such as this: the Nintendo Wii is going to be TEN YEARS OLD in November.

And you know what? I almost like it more now than I did then.


Fuck off, 2006, I spent most of that year wearing skinny ties looking like a dipshit in a ska band (because I was) cruising in a haze of caffeine and X-Files torrents, I don’t need to feel bad about that

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I May Have Played This Already? – Xargon

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

It’s a concept that’s nearly unheard of now, but there was a brief period in my life where I was the only person I knew with a computer.

I bring this up not to boast or imply any sort of superiority about my upbringing, merely to illustrate a story. My dad is a CAD drafter, and as such has always needed to own really powerful computers in order to handle the 3D modeling software he uses for his job. This resulted, one spring evening, in my parents taking my sister and I to the newly-opened local Best Buy where, amidst the giant Mario and Sonic statues they had on display near a wall of tube TVs straight out of a Kriss Kross video, my family bought our very first PC. It was then that the world of PC gaming was open to me, and for someone who at that point had only seen what the NES, Genesis, and SNES had to offer it was revolutionary.

My time spent with LucasArts adventure games and DOOM could fill a series of blog posts, so for the sake of brevity I’ll get to the point. Early PC gaming brought with it the concept of shareware, an idea popularized by id’s Commander Keen games wherein you give part of your game away for free and make people buy the rest. Sort of like DLC, except you’re actually being given a sizable chunk of a game instead of being forced to pay to unlock fighting game characters or some shit.

A lot of games would cross my desk as a young lad thanks to shareware – the burgeoning PC gaming community meant my dad worked with a lot of dudes just as nerdy as he and I who would gladly make copies of shareware games and pass them around so everyone got to try them. This sort of behavior was encouraged by publishers (hence the name ‘shareware’) and seems almost quaint and naive in retrospect, considering how abhorrent the idea of sharing a game must be to most publishers these days.

Most of my fondest PC gaming memories of those days that weren’t related to LucasArts, id, or whoever made the Magic School Bus PC titles, were shareware versions of games like Hocus Pocus, Duke Nukem II, or One Must Fall: 2097. I treasure these memories and love these games dearly, even if I’m…hesitant to replay any of them. Playing them under shareware, which generally just meant I had the first “episode” of the game, equal to roughly the first 10 or so levels usually, made them so much more…mysterious. Like there’s two whole other chapters to these games that I might never actually see, and it really built them up in my mind to be epic adventures the likes of which I’d never see.

One of them, however, eluded me for years. Amidst the deluge of generally good shareware games my dad would bring home, one of them never quite made the same impression on me – to the point where I couldn’t recall it’s damn name. I knew it had a map screen, I knew you played as some beefy European model, and I knew it was kinda hard and pretty to look at. A friendly NintendoAge user helped me track this mystery game down after some 20-odd years of me not really having given it any thought or effort…and it turned out my white whale’s name was Xargon.

Xargon, sure. Why wouldn’t it be called a made-up word starting with ‘x’?

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I’m Beginning to Cave In on the New Ghostbusters (And It Feels So Good)

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

If you’ve ever spoken to me for any length of time, or even read a certain previous article wherein I was mega-sad about Harold Ramis passing away, you know that Ghostbusters as a movie series (and, really, just as a concept) remains super-important to me, and has been since I was a child. Few movies have impacted me like the two Ghostbusters movies did, and I’ve met a lot of friends and had a ton of fun memories through the entirety of my life thanks to the very idea of being a Ghostbuster.

So you can imagine my mixed reaction when I found out they were making a new one. I have to absolutely stress that my hesitation is in no way related to the fact the cast is all female – actually, the fact they were going to all be women was sort of a saving grace for me, since I feel like most reboots don’t do enough to set them apart and having an all-female cast was at least a start.

And yet…I couldn’t shake the feeling this movie just didn’t need to exist, just like basically no remake does. Ghostbusters was getting remade, and even if everyone involved was pretty cool, I didn’t see much need for it to happen. But then I saw one picture that started to change my mind, and I’ve been slowly finding myself in favor of it ever since.

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Sometimes I Miss Video Games, You Guys

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

So I’m going to be upfront with you right now – I don’t really know where this post is going to go. As is often the case with me, I’ve had a lot of thoughts and opinions swirling around that I can’t quite express or explain concisely. Maybe the point of this post is to give me the chance to do just that! So, please bear with me, as this one might get away from me at times. Screw it, that’s why people have blogs, right?

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little iffy about modern video games, and occasionally I get a little iffy about old games too (which may surprise you considering how often I write about them on this blog, and elsewhere). It’s just occurred to me more and more that the video games industry isn’t what it used to be (ugh, I know, I’m an old person now) and I’ve felt lately that either it’s losing me, I’m losing video games, or both. And strangely enough, I have The Misadventures of Tron Bonne to thank for this revelation.

tron bonne

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Miss Tron made me…think a lot about myself. Look, whatever, I was young!

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Start a New Life Today at Offworld Arcade!

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Since last year, a group (or just one guy, actually) calling him/themselves Offworld Arcade has been bringing their collection of awesome old arcade games to various locations all over Detroit. And when I say that, I do mean Detroit, not like Madison Heights or something. It’s hard to talk about how much you love Detroit when you only go there for baseball, guys.

But I digress! In previous months they’d held gatherings at an awesome old elementary school, which is a shockingly appropriate setting for old video games, I feel like, but for the times I’ve attended it’s been held at Checker Bar, which is now my new favorite place in Detroit with the possible exception of PJ’s Lager House, and I really don’t want to have to make that decision.

cheeseburger, checker bar detroit

You look this burger in the eyes and tell it you’d prefer the company of another burger. If you can’t, it means you’re still human.

But enough about what I ate! Let’s instead focus on the truly important part of Offworld Arcade: the games themselves!

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