Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gamer appreciation

This could have been me

With the festive season upon us it has become apparent that I will be receiving a Nintendo Wii from Jesus for Christmas. I am incredibly excited about this prospect but also a little concerned.

I'm certainly no hardcore gamer who spends 17 hours a day playing World of Warcraft. In fact, I don't really know much about any of these new, cool games at all and am likely to say something as laughable to a gamer as referring to "Jerry from The Beatles" would be to a music fan. My gaming experience is mostly grounded in childhood on Atari and original Nintendo. Asteroids and Mario are my friends. This might suggest I have left this life behind me for all the consoles that have come since, but that is far from the truth. The fact that Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3 are being released in a special anniversary edition shows that the nostalgia for these games goes a long way and I am right there ready to play them all over again. Oh, how I can't wait to uproot a giant radish in Super Mario  2!

It really was the biggest and most exciting Mario Bros adventure to date!

Just a few years ago I salivated over until I got a Game Boy Advance which came with Super Mario 3 and a fully illustrated guide on how to conquer the game. I finished the game in my youth without any such aid, but once I was older I welcomed the guide to get me through the things that age and a lack of patience were holding me back from. The Legend of Zelda was another game which I persevered with and conquered. After clearing the entire game, I went through again and mapped out ever maze noting each room's prizes and enemies for easier game play in future. I transferred my findings tidily to graph paper, the process taking me a week to complete. I loaned the maps to a friend along with the game, the whereabouts of which remain unknown, something which makes my stomach turn to this very day.

So as this new Wii calls out to me along with a brand new edition of Mario, I worry about my future. Sure, the Wii will be great for exercise with Boxing and Tennis on Wii Sports, but I can't exactly take Mario lightly. I have a reputation to uphold. I will beat that game, oh yes I will. I will get Rock Band too and unlike when I've played it other people's homes where I can barely finish a song on Easy, at home I will eventually beat Expert level on all my favourite songs. I must.

Whenever I see someone in this shirt, I want to shake their hand in camaraderie. I'd have one of my own if they came in girl sizes.

Addiction to video games is most often frowned upon for it's utter uselessness and waste of time. As addicted as I can get and with what little I have to show for afterward, I don't entirely disagree. But there is some credit due to the gamer which they never receive from anyone outside of their gamer nerd peer group. There is a real commitment involved in completing these games. A real determination along with strategy and deep thinking are often involved to get to the end (at least there was until you could Google your way out of any gaming pickle.) When I was stuck on Bart Vs The Space Mutants, I thought about it in my private moments until the solution came to me in a dream. When I woke up, I tried what I dreamt and it worked.

The level I was stuck on in 'Bart Vs The Space Mutants'. It must have been the exceptional graphics that held my attention.

I have long remarked that my commitment to video games is actually a mark of my good character. Surely my perseverance is commendable? I can only ponder what greatness I could have achieved in life had I parlayed this deep thought, problem solving skill and determination to something more useful. At the very least a career in which I could have afforded Wii the day it came out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vegas Baby - Why I'm embarrassed to say I'm going there

I just returned from one of my twice yearly trips to Las Vegas but please, just calm down.  I hate that I can't just say that I'm going there and be done with it before whomever I tell gets the chance to say "All-RIGHT!", "You're so lucky!" or a sickly "Oooh! *wink wink*." Without a thought, I find myself saying, "I'm going to Vegas for work, but I hate it there." It's all those debauched expectations of Vegas that have forced me to say this, lest I immediately have to bring them down from their bogus high after they've expressed unwarranted delight.

I have travelled extensively and no place on earth has a more immediate and consistent reaction than Las Vegas. Whatever our differences are, apparently we are all supposed to come together in Sin City for over indulgence and the wasting of money. Perhaps there's a  booth marked "Brain Check" at Primm, Nevada, just after you cross the border when driving in from LA, but I must have missed it because I am never unaware of the failings of this town.

For the middle aged suburbanite, I suppose I can understand the appeal. They don't get out much and when they do, there isn't a lot for them to do. The closest thing to Las Vegas is their local sports bar, and so these people come in droves where they can drink, gamble and stay up late which they would never otherwise get to do. Fine. I get that.

Faux opulence at every turn, yet no-one bothers to dress up for it which kinda defeats the purpose.

But when it comes to people around my age, living in a big city, I simply don't understand it. What is there to do in Las Vegas? Gamble, drink, eat, go to clubs. All of those things except gambling can be done in Los Angeles without tourists with polo shirts tucked into their khakis at every turn. The other big demographic are frat boys and douchebags and the girls who want to date them. Once again, in Vegas you can do things you can do at home but with a higher price and the addition of morons.

Cutting loose in Vegas like you can only do there.

While in the company of some of the most miserable and annoying people America has to offer, you can walk around and suck on a giant margarita. Perhaps the giant cup and straw is a badge of honour. I am a party animal. I am going to drink this ridiculous amount of weak alcohol and follow it up with five more. I know how to have a good time. Envy me. Garish and weak, I'd rather drink at a bar near my home that's off the radar of the pig people. Plus me being drunk and belligerent around stupid people could get me into trouble.

A slideshow of some of the many things Vegas boasts. (*Note* I have nothing against old people, but they do make up a large portion of your Vegas party cohorts.)

Of course there's still the gambling. Unless you live near an Indian Reservation, Nevada or Atlantic City, gambling is otherwise not available to you, but again, I don't need to tell you that Vegas was built on losers. Any time you spend at a slot machine or table you are again surrounded by desperation and depression as people pump away their life savings so the next biggest casino in town can be built and they walk away wondering if they'll be able to pay their health insurance bill this month. And again with the ugly t-shirts, khakis and obesity.  There is some relief on the casino floor as a waif-ish, scantily clad, overly tanned cocktail waitress will come by to offer you a free, weak drink. Her humiliating "sexy" outfit and depressed expression she wears as she walks away from you reminds you of what this hell hole does to people who actually live there.

"Did you want dignity with that White Russian?"

I am not made of stone. Of course the strip is dazzling and unlike any place on earth. There was a time many moons ago where upon first arrival in Vegas I'd be giddy with excitement and think I wanted to move there. Like clockwork, on every occasion after almost exactly 24 hours of this feeling, I couldn't wait to leave. Everything looks so amazing from a distance, so like a mirage, you walk and walk trying to get there. When you get there, oops, there are just a bunch a slot machines. Further you trudge, Paris is right there! But again, you go in and it's just more slots.

The good old days

Going out to eat is something I enjoy and the dining in Vegas, previously wretched, has greatly improved. Still, most restaurants have lines to get in and are ridiculously expensive. One would think that Vegas could at least come through for me as a night owl. Again, no. Apparently if you want to go out and get crazy, you better start early because most of the restaurants close at 10pm. One time we ended up eating at the only place that was open because apparently 10:30 was too late to be starting our big night out. When we finally did hit the town, not much was going on. There was no perpetual party, but rather we'd have to seek out an activity much like we'd do back at home and most bars closing just one hour later than at home.

The bad new days

The other end of me having to hear others get needlessly excited about me going to Vegas is being told that others are going there with the expectation that I am supposed to give one of the responses I outlined earlier. If you utter the phrase, "I'm going to Vegas, Baby!" it will be met with a sullen expression and a groan. Apparently I am supposed to be automatically impressed. No, while I have no doubt reasonable people can have fun there, I am not wowed by a mecca for the culturally oppressed. That is not, and should not be a given. The notion that it is Disneyland for adults is a fallacy so I would simply appreciate otherwise sane people not assuming that without question, hardcore partying is totally what's going to happen.  Las Vegas is definitely worth seeing once, but if you tell me you're going, please don't call me "baby".

Thanks, but no thanks.