102 – The Quarterlife Crisis of a Gamer

I used to be a decent-sized gamer. Just searching my Flickr for game or Nintendo shows collection images, photos from gaming events, the President of Nintendo of America playing Wii, and a number of hardware-related pron shots from my Canon A70 days. There wasn’t a week that went by when I would scribble some notes for an article or editorial for N-Philes (or should I say Nerd Mentality? I’m still iffy on that name change). Lately, however, I’ve written more business plans than I have theories on the casual/core gamer war. I’ve read more book chapters (if not books) than bosses I’ve waggled my Wii Remote at. One day my mom (the avid reader in the family) and I were on a bus, me book in hand, and she proudly engaged with her Nintendo DSi XL. All I could think was, “when did this happen?”

While my bank account has enjoyed my recent and supposed natural avoidance of EB (or are they all Gamestops yet? I don’t even know…) and Best Buy, I miss that feeling of opening a new game and proceeding through the first few levels. My poor Xbox probably needs to be properly de-dusted for fear turning it on will result in a red ring of death, quickly followed by a plume of smoke and flames that will set my television desk on fire. My Wii hasn’t even been plugged in since it’s last outing wherever it went. I can’t even tell you where my DS is (though I need to find it before the next Professor Layton game comes out. September I think), and my PSP, or browser-when-my-netbook-is-too-far-away has been replaced by the iPod, which is a far better browser anyway.

Is it gaming itself that has changed? I have no real interest in internet gaming, which is pretty much all you can get from those fancy hi-def systems. Nintendo’s innovation pretty much ended with the development of the Wii Remote (Mario Galaxy is the exception, but even there I have yet to collect all 120 stars, something I raced through in the much more lacklustre yet somehow much more addictive Super Mario Sunshine. I digress). Is it school that ate all my time, or work that ate all my other time? Was it the recent discovery that I enjoy non-fiction books that replaced the little moments where I’d otherwise be solving Scribblenauts puzzles?

Maybe all I need to do is finish the Metroid Prime Trilogy, or A Boy and his Blob, or Rhythm Heaven or RedSteel 2 or DeadRising (yes, the first one). Or maybe I need to start De Blob and MadWOrld and No More Heroes 2. Or play more Dr. Mario with my friends who recently discovered how awesome a game it is.

Photos: Cousin before playing Baseball, Lotso as Buzz Lightyear (yay Toy Story 3), Graffiti in Barrhaven (right near that Winners that had a carbon monoxide problem, and a couple of images from my recent visit to the Nepean Sportsplex.

201006_14_02 - Pose

201006_14_05 - Lots o'Huggin' Lightyear

201007_21_01 - Barrhaven Graffiti

201007_24_01 - Art-Canteen-Arenas-Pools

201007_24_04 - Climber

067 – Downtown Mini-adventure

200903_06_02 - Pedestrian Bridge

200903_06_04 - Real Smile

200903_06_05 - Branches

200903_06_06 - Pane

200903_06_09 - Chair

200903_06_12 - Motion

200903_06_13 - Gaze

200903_06_17 - The Street

Pictures: Downtown adventure with Prashanta, Jen, and Mika.

This time going downtown, I didn’t get thieved. No Eeyores were stolen, no backpacks taken, no car change missing. We had planned to go skating on the canal, which I enjoy for a short period of time, before it becomes a painful experience. But for that initial 10-15 minutes, it’s a lot of fun! The weather was very warm, though, and the canal’s last day simply wasn’t.

Also, playing Mairokart offline is so much easier than playing it online. Never once have I bounced around in front of the finish line thanks to bullet bills, red shells, invincible stars, losing 8 positions in the process. That was almost as bad as that one time someone hit me with a red shell going over a jump in the final lap of Waluigi’s Stadium, effectively knocking me out of the running for an arcade machine. I coulda taken them!!! I could have an arcade machine in my room right now! And probably nothing else.

Though those 150cc computer opponents, if memory serves, are a nightmare.

Wine ranking so far:
– Pinot Grigio
– Sauvignon Blanc
– Riesling
– Merlot

I know that Sola Nero wine I had over a year ago ranks high on that list. The sauvignon blanc I had the other day (which has a story, which may or may not be all that exciting. I’ll tell it next time) was palatable, albeit strong. It didn’t have that sour apple afterkick that the riesling did. Ick. My next wine will be a zinfandel-vidal. One, it’s pink. Or should I say rose? Two, it’s a blend of two different grapes, so maybe the taste will bounce. Or maybe I won’t even notice. We’ll see later this week.

057 – Day 38

There was a Friday in November that I considered to be among the worst days of my life. I had bought $100 worth of presents for Christmas, and brought food to work in my Ratatouille bowl. That night, Prashanta picked me up from work, and we went downtown to eat and then meet up with some friends. While at the restaurant, somehow, someone had broken into the car and stolen the gifts and my backpack, and even the spare change ubiquitous to any car. At the time, I thought I had 6 DS games and my mp3 player in by backpack. All I could think about was how rare The World Ends with You is and that I wouldn’t want to restart it from scratch. Or how many crosswords I had completed in Crosswords DS, or how I was going to give my mp3 player away whenever I break down and boy an iPod touch.

Fortunately, I found my mp3 player while cleaning my room! Suddenly, that day didn’t seem so bad. And the other day, I was cleaning out my locker at work where low and behold I found my DS games, complete in the game case Vivi brought back for me from Japan. I was so excited at that moment, you could have compared it to a kid getting what he or she really wanted for Christmas. Except for maybe the Nintendo64 kid.

But I was still out a $50 bag. And gifts that I had to re-buy. I guess it all worked out, mostly.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Transit Union wants to end the strike. If all goes according to (whoever’s) plan (this is), buses could be back as early as the end of next week. I’m excited at the prospect of progress, this being the first possibility of such in a month, but I can’t help but wonder why now. Why not on day 1 of the strike? Why not before the strike? Why not 2 weeks from now? Are the picket lines getting a bit chilly these days? Are union members starting to suffer from not working for 6 weeks? This comes just as withdrawl dates from classes are here. I know people who are dropping courses just because they aren’t able to get to class. Plus, the city is just now lowering downtown parking rates to help out.

The city better use this oppotunity to do what they can to get buses back on the roads. And then both sides will have to work hard at earning everyone else’s trust – and even respect. I’d say it’s pretty likely that we’ll get some ads like this favourite of mine:

056 – Day 36

200901_11_01 - Bucattini DS

200901_14_01 - Cold Trek

200901_14_03 - Bus Stop

200901_14_04 - There's a Path Here, Somewhere

It’s been cold walking to school, today in particular. Lauren Stone of Live 885 warned me at 6:45 this morning that it was -39C with the Windchill. Skin can freeze with 10 minutes of exposure at that temperature. As I snuggled the warmth of my bed, I wondered if it was really worth it to walk to school, a trek that could freeze my skin five times over. “Damned bus strike.” Reluctantly, I pulled myself out of bed and spent the next half hour deciding exactly how to dress. Before stepping out the door, I had the following:

I learned this morning that I have as much experience wearing scarves effectively as I do tying a Windsor knot, possibly because I never wear the darned things (both ties and scarves). Despite this, the scarf was instrumental in keeping me warm for my 50-minute journey.

All that preparation made me late leaving the house, effectively making me late for class. I was also slowed down by my inability to think ahead. Wind usually blows snow around, even though it wasn’t snowing, the path that I described in an earlier post was partially snowed-in in some places. The one time I don’t bring my snowshoes…

In other news, I’m really starting to like Clive Doucet. He’s a city councillor for the Capital ward, central Ottawa. He speaks his mind, and usually his mind is on the people whom he represents. He thinks the 15ish million saved from the bus strike so far, and what they’ll continue to save, should be funnelled back into making OC Transpo free for as long as possible once service resumes. This is probably the most brilliant thing the city can do to gain as many riders as possible. I’d also like to have $40 put in my pocket for the unused December pass I have at home (they cost just over $60 for students… a reasonable request considering I was only able to use it for a third of a month), but I’d settle for $20 February passes. $30 even. At least, this strike better not last beyond the confines of January!

I recently bought Nintendo’s Personal Trainer: Cooking game – and I use the word “game” loosely. It’s more of an interactive cookbook. I finally used it to make bucatini with tomato and pancetta, even though I substituted bucatini with linguine, pancetta with a mix of bacon and pepperoni, and romano cheese with medium cheddar. The result was actually pretty good. Many gamers complain about DLC (downloadable content) and how it can increase the overall cost of a game if you aren’t too careful. I bought Cooking for $20, and spent another $20 gathering the necessary ingredients! And that was for one recipe. How’s that for hidden game costs?! I use the word “hidden” loosely as well, even though there’s no label on the front of the box saying you have to buy food to get the best use out of the software.

I bet I could sue Nintendo for that one. I’ll keep my receipts!

051 – Day 3, 4

I went to Cornwall (city south of Ottawa, on the Ontario-New York border) to make sure a window was installed at my friend’s house. Aside from a brief visit to Niagara falls in the early 90s, this is the closest I have ever been to the US. It took about an hour and a half to get there, and all I could think was “in an hour and a half, I could almost get from home to Carleton University, and back by bus and O-Train”. Or not, since it was the third day of the strike.

While there, my friend’s dad and I begun work on a project that we have. A while back, I may have hinted at something cool I was working on. My friend’s dad writes lots of articles about Nepal. What I had done for his birthday was edit and compile a number of them and make them into a book, using Blurb software. The end result was very good. We’ve decided to use it as a starting point to refine the book and make it sellable. We worked a bit on it, changing a few things here and there. We would have worked more, but the house was cold, so we headed back home. When we got back, I made arrangements to get to work the next day.

200811_19_04 - Insight into Nepal
The Book

Luckily Prashanta and Prabin agreed to take me to work, though we did arrive a little bit late. The one thing I love about going to work every day is that you get to see the changes that occur. Because I hadn’t been there in almost three days, there was a lot to take in: things get moved, things are gone, there are new things, someone changes his or her hair. I don’t know what it would be like to be gone for a week. Or more! Someday, I’ll have to take a trip somewhere and find out. I left work early just because there wasn’t a whole lot to do. It’s proving pretty rough being at retail in a prime holiday shopping season when inventory levels are low. It really becomes a box of chocolates when you throw in a transit strike and weather that can change on a dime.

Fortunately, Prashanta was able to pick me up when I was done. I’m kinda looking forward to the time when I actually walk from home to work, or vice versa. I just want to complain about having had to walk all that. Of course, I think I would want to wear a sandwich board telling those who pass me about my wonderful love for the City and the transit union. I also can’t wait for the Internet to evolve to the point where sarcasm is clearly shown as it is when spoken.

I did play a bit of Metroid Prime with a 12-year old. I absolutely love that game – up until the last region, Phazon Mines. Tallon, Magmoor, and Phendrana are all spectacular levels with so much to discover. I could play that first half of the game over and over and still enjoy the story, the art style, the enemies and bosses… it’s that last part of the game that ruined it for me. Replaying that 6-year old game (!!!!) really stirred my desire to continue playing Metroid Prime 3 for Wii. I’ll get to playing games when I have the time.

200812_13_01 - Windshield View

200812_13_02 - Driving

047 – Wind Gods and Ringtunes

October is here, and my room is freezing cold. I really think I need to reinsulate the window area, and possibly get a new window. My plan is to go, hire the worst guy possible, then complain to Mike Holmes. In response, he’ll come here, ask how on earth someone whose job was to insulate a wall and replace a window used 17 junction boxes in the process. After a few words like “unbelievable”, he’ll fix it for me, add a shiny new seat and electrical surge protector, and proclaim that he “love his job”. Simple, no?

In other news, I’ve dusted off my Wii. It’s sad how I’ve become accustomed to not having the time to play such fandangled devices. In a rare spurt of energy, I went and beat Lostwinds, a WiiWare game that I bought back in May and stoppe dplaying after all of 41 minutes. It is a great little game, one that I’d love to have seen more of (seeing as I beat it after another 3 hours). Hoping to continue the trend of actually playing the games that I’ve bought, I moved the Wii back to the living room. It gets more light there.

My DS is far from neglected though. After I get to finishing Kirby, I’ll get back to The World Ends With You until the new Castlevania arrives. I hope there’s a last minute pre-order bonus with it, though.

Which leads me to movies. The last ones I saw were Bee Movie (cute, but not Pixar by a long shot), A Dog’s Breakfast (funny, but not as amazing as I was hoping, despite Rachel Luttrell yummy cameo), and National Treasure : Book of Secrets (much better than the first, surprisingly). I’m working on Hello, Dolly. Walter Matthau is about 30 years younger than what I know him as. It’s quite something.

Lastly, I have a new ringtune for my phone, in celebration of Halloween. Listen.

043 – Digital Nightmare

200804_28_01 - Chai

200805_02_03 - Fish

200805_02_06 - Browsing Vegetables

200805_02_07 - Hột Vịtlộn

200805_02_09 - Booth and Somerset

200805_02_10 - Dye

Sony lies. “Watch videos on your psp” they say. I’m a fairly tech-oriented person, but I really have no idea how to put movies on the bloody playstation portable. I think you need some sort of Sony diploma to do it. It should be as simple as click-and-drag, but it’s not. You have to convert whatever movie file you want to one of the twoish video formats the device can read. And then, if you’re lucky, it’ll fit on the system. No, Sony, I’m not buying more of your high-priced memory.

Let alone trying to take a movie from a DVD and trying to get that on a psp. That requires more software just to take the movie file(s) on the disk and putting it on the computer. And possible intermediate software to take that and convert it to something the psp converter can understand without freezing your system. And that special edition Juno dvd that comes with a digital copy? Brilliant – unless you have a psp.

No matter what, it’ll take longer than the 15 minutes you have before you need to leave.

This is why I want an iPod Touch. I’m sure it’s much more friendly, even if files need to be converted. Though I’m sure there’s an even easier kitchen sink player out there. Actually, probably not. That’s just a dream. And if it were real, it would probably be ugly, and suck battery life like no tomorrow. Kinda like the psp.

Why, if there’s a standard dvd format and a standard high def format, can’t there be a standard video format? Digital protection (DRM) on files is also a terrible idea that just makes it that much harder to deal with. Especially when there’s more than one type of protection. *points finger at Apple, Microsoft* Bad people!

Pictures: Tim Hortons chai tea, Chinatown, hair colouration

036 – It’s a faaaaaaake!

200804_07_01 - Hannah Montana

200804_07_05 - Empty Lot

200804_07_08 - Ground Level Parking

Photos: Hannah Montana mannequin, parking lot at night

What a day indeed! In one mail-checking session, I received money from the government, a notice of bankruptcy and a call for objections for the sale of Disney Store by Hoop Retail, and a letter from Japan. The latter has amazingly colourfully cute stationary! It feels as if it’s a letter right out of Animal Crossing, sans exotic furniture present. Oh I really want some exotic furniture! I also reinflated my purple yoga ball thinking maybe I can sit on it when I play videogames in my room. I tried it out by playing some Beautiful Katamari. Man, that game is trippy! I don’t know how to roll properly, so I don’t end up with big Katamari balls, leaving the King of the Cosmos pretty bummed.

My room is also almost 100% tidy! I will take pictures when it’s sunny. I’m out of room for DS games and cds. Uhoh!

Deep Space Nine’s season six In the Pale Moonlight is probably the greatest hour (well, 44 minutes) of Star Trek. It’s captivating storytelling. If anyone decides to ever make, or even pitch a new Trek series in the future, they absolutely have to watch and learn from DS9 because it has it all: drama, sci-fi, homages, relevance, comedy, consequences, villains with depth, multi-faceted main characters that grow, likable and useful satellite characters, romance (well, pretty good romance for sci-fi), even music moments. It’s hard to believe that it ended almost ten years ago.

I think I need to get me some tarps, some lights, and an external flash for my camera… I’m starting to feel inspired to try new things with my photography. Also a blow torch and some peanut butter.

030 – Flavours of a Quarter

200712_20_02 - Victory
With Michele at LaserQuest.

200712_20_06 - Winter Waterflow
Hog’s Back on a winter night

200712_24_01 - Peace, Yo
Ho Ho Ho, Yo

200712_26_04 - Heart Chicken
Chicken Love

200712_26_05 - Torso
Busty

200801_01_01 - Drunken Lights
Lights through a glass

200801_01_04 - New Year's Snow
Wintery New Year scene

200801_29_02 - Trust in Me
Giant Kaa’s hypnosis

200802_03_05 - Black and White Ball Return
Bowling Ball Return

200802_03_08 - Granny Bowl
Granny Bowling

200802_19_01 - Bully and the Beast
Bully and Me

200802_19_03 - Close Up
Bully– Buddy loves his picture taken

200802_19_05 - Give Up
Surviving a Sister Attack

200803_04_01 - Reflective Visor
Halo Helmet

200803_04_02 - Master Cheif's Helmet
Master Chief in my Bedroom

200803_11_01 Icicles
I want to ride my icicle

200803_12_02 - Sidewalk in a Snowbank
Sidewalk through a snowbank

It’s been too long since my last update! So I guess I owe everyone a happy Christmas, New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s day, Family Day (where applicable), reading week, and now, March Break. But I beat St Patrick’s day… so that’ll come in a separate entry.

I’ve noticed that the number of updates I make is somewhat proportional to how many days I got out with my camera. I haven’t taken very many pictures this year so far. No particular reason why… I just haven’t done a whole lot worth noting. Other than bowling to benefit children with and at risk of Autism, where I bowled an impressive turkey. It was certainly a highlight – that and the pancakes my cobowlers had afterwards. Haha.

I remembered that I wanted to get my bike tuned up while still taking advantage of my “one year of free tune-ups” that came when I got my bike March 31, 2007. Well, my year is approaching it’s end! And if you take a look at the last picture that I posted in this entry, it’s pretty clear that winter is still kicking around. I don’t know how I’ll get to the store just yet.

In other news, I won a Dalmatian canvas print! It’s all that hard work that I do. My dvd collection has increased a bit (star trek ds9 seasons 4 and 5, stargate ark of truth, 101 dalmatians, toy story 2, pixar shorts collection, etc…..), as has my game collection. Professor Layton on DS is awesome. Zak and Wiki for Wii is awesome! Smash Bros Brawl’s music is certainly the highlight of that whole package, which is saying something because it’s a fantastic package to begin with.

And Sarah Slean is tooo awesome. Please listen to her songs: Go Home, So Many Miles, Notes from the Underground. I’m also eagerly awaiting Alanis’ Flavors of Entanglement – first new Alanis in about 4 years? Watch the single video here: Underneath Video. That song itself isn’t that exciting… but I can’t wait for the album!

Oh, and everyone should have a giant Kaa.

I hope everyone is well! Look for more updates soon!

029 – Third Party Promotion: The Final Frontier

As published on N-Philes.com

I hope that in Wii Music (or Wii Orchestra, whatever it’s called), if it is in fact an actual game slated to see the light of day, Nintendo lets me conduct or play music from Super Mario Galaxy. The themes from Good Egg Galaxy, Battlerock Galaxy, and Buoy Base Galaxy are specifically on my wish list. Despite being a more casual experience, gamers will perk up at the thought of interacting with fully orchestrated versions some of Nintendo’s best pieces of music. For the casual crowd, exploring the origins of these songs might be one of the side effects of putting original musical compositions beside Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Fur Elise. Nintendo using one of its games to advertise and leverage its other properties? It’s almost unheard of!

I’m pretending that I haven’t heard of the likes of WarioWare, Smash Bros., and Pikmin.

Actually, Nintendo is very good at telling people about their own games. One particularly brilliant move Nintendo started with its Touch Generations line, and quickly brought it over to all its games, was accompanying the instruction booklet and precautions manual with a leaflet showing off three games that are similar to the one at hand. Between those inserts, various websites, emails, traditional ads, and word-of-mouth, Nintendo the software publisher has multiple channels to tell everyone about anything from Picross to Pokémon.

Despite fixing many of the mistakes universally blamed for the GameCube’s lack of mainstream popularity, there’s still a big one issue Nintendo has yet to resolve with Wii: third party support. Granted, they’ve made strides in opening up and helping third parties with everything from development resources to ironing out game concepts, but they still have some way to go in terms of helping to promote third party efforts (something other companies seem to do well at both causal and core players). Take a look at three of Nintendo’s big websites, Nintendo.com, Wii.com, TouchGenerations.com and count the number of featured third party games. The latter has zero.

With Wii and DS being the runaway successes that they are, it’s more important than ever for Nintendo to tell its consumers about the products available on its systems. Like a gamer to their gaming-deficient cohorts, Nintendo the platform maker should be an ambassador for their systems, showing off all kinds of available games. This goes for both the casual crowd who might not know about Carnival Games and EA Playground, as well as the gamer crowd who might overlook titles like SSX Blur and Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles. Such a simple act on Nintendo’s part could very well affect the sales of a game (Nintendo’s reach might be a bit further than Matt Casamassina’s, unfortunately for Zack and Wiki). I’d go so far to say that Nintendo benefits more in the long term from each third party sale than it does a first party sale.

I’m not trying to say that Nintendo doesn’t advertise third party games. Back in the latter half of the GameCube’s lifespan, the stylish but questionably successful “Who Are You?” campaign eventually lent itself to third party games, though that was more an act of desperation when the number of monthly releases were less than the number of pancakes I can eat in one sitting. On their respective main pages, Wii.com does currently showcase Boogie, and Nintendo.com’s Wii page shows off Guitar Hero III. Curiously, both titles are third party efforts that fit nicely into Nintendo’s post-GCN philosophy of gaming.


Ok, technically two if you count Mario & Sonic

I’m just saying it isn’t enough. Nintendo games might be the ones that spark sales, but it’s the third party games that keep interest burning and Wii consumers comfortably warm. Nintendo needs to step up and show that it cares about those that fill the gap that they themselves cannot fill on a monthly, let alone weekly basis.

Curiously enough, the one website that brings first and third party games together under one proverbial roof is GetUpAndPlay.ca, Nintendo of Canada’s e-effort prove to embittered mothers that Wii gaming isn’t mind-rotting evil. Under “Our Products”, the site mentions a number of third party games. That number may only be eight, but it does take two hands to count that high. Plus, the site has some fancy badges:

I’m a Wii mom

Even after a full year on the market, Nintendo might not have enough Wiis to go around. They’re probably so focused on trying to ship as many units as possible that they don’t always remember that there are 15 million systems out there. There are easily twice as many people enjoying them, 30+ millions that might want to try a new game somewhere between Big Brain Academy and Wii Fit. It might be Trauma Center; it might be DDR. It ultimately is up to Nintendo whether we ever find out.

Music Mini:
The Cliks – Snakehouse (released April 24, 2007)

An album can be ruined if it’s overproduced, when tracks and rhythms and pitches are so perfect that a sense of sincerity is lost. Snakehouse isn’t like that at all. In a debut that’s one part indie, one part rock, two parts alternative, and a pinch of Justin-Timberlake-but-better, The Cliks bake a sense of band and “music for music” in a world where Big Music overcook their talent (or use lots of seasoning on their untalented lot) for that one big hit and move on. Every nuance throughout the album, commanded by lead singer Lucas Silveira’s strong vocals and under the direction of the band’s heavy electric guitars, leaves the impression that I could probably count the number of takes for each track on one hand. In their case, this is actually a very good thing.

The fresh but familiar sound of the album is perhaps personified in the cover of Cry Me a River. The Click’s take on the modern classic has me heavily favouring their version over JT’s. I don’t think it’s the arrangement so much as the addition of emotion to a song that’s supposed to be about anger, betrayal, revenge, and all those lovely things. Silveira’s ability to sing honesty, in a style comfortably between screaming and keeping the tempo, carries strongly into Complicated, and the single, Oh Yeah. The only thing that could boost an otherwise great album is more in the variety department.

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