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Category Archives: games

Gina’s Bachelorette Adventure, Pt. 2

When I left you hanging a month ago I was planning my best friend and bandmate Gina’s bachelorette party with two of her other best friends, and we were all determined it had to be the best party in the history of all parties.

On a Rt. 36 trolley during the actual bachelorette party, as shot by Kelly's partner Gudrun. Wondering what the pins are and what our shirts say? Keep reading. (Oh, and is that Gina in the background? What is that thing she's wearing as a hat? Hmm...)

One month out from the event we were still trying to piece together dozens of ideas for an Amazing Race-style event when I had an epiphany: Gina’s party would be a video game. Here is my actual verbatim pitch to fellow BFFs-of-Gina Kelly and Mikki:

I know I am completely insane and you can say no to this, but what if the way we put a wrapper on the entire day is not that it’s Amazing Race but that it is a giant Gina-themed video game, a la her lyrics in “Fisher Price”? It wouldn’t change any specific task, but it would give us a way to theme the events. We could even make up a little “Strategy Guide” to give to her at the beginning with hints and stuff :)

Or, I am insane.

Even if I was insane, Kelly and Mikki are equally so, and they immediately bought into the idea without a moment’s pause and continued to fire off increasingly more ridiculous plans for the day, such as:

I was thinking it would be fun to get gina a labcoat for the chemistry [demonstration]…decorated and bedazzled of course.

Kelly's party favors, all based on 8-bit video game graphics. I have one of these pinned to my book bag and I still have not the slightest idea of how they were assembled or how Kelly worked out the patterns.

While I was excited that they liked my idea, I was also terrified that I now had to transform a day wandering the streets of Philadelphia with 20+ guests into a live action video game. Not just any video game, but a decidedly retro one that would click with a group of people who grew up on classic Nintendo – and, for many of them (including my co-planners), hadn’t played a video game since!

It was at this juncture that I pulled out my Nintendo and SNES and started skimming through instruction booklets.

Most old-school video games share a basic architecture. A character has to accomplish something (return home, free the princess, kill all the zombies, etc), defeating increasingly difficult challenges (monsters, puzzles, etc) along the way. Their victories yield rewards (points, items, etc) that serve to increase their sophistication (levels, powers, etc).

Gina’s journey was clear – she had to complete all of the previously disconnected Amazing Race challenges to move through the city. We were lucky to have a starting point on South Street and an end west of the city, making a sensible (if not linear) world map.

Mikki's stencils, corresponding to our various city challenges. Note the mix of incredible realism (the amazing camera, the pig silhouette, the Kanye glasses) with pixelized video game ephemera. Click through to see a larger version of her handiwork.

I drafted an intro to Gina’s game booklet as a sort of proof of concept of merging 80s video game hyperbole with our shared pithy sense of humor:

Gina F____: Chemist By Day, Rock Star By Night – The Almost Married Edition! is an epic adventure that will take our hero, Gina, on a journey from one end of Philadelphia to the other to transform her from Chemist By Day, Rock Star by Night to Chemist By Day, Rock Star By Night, And Also Bride!

In GF:CBDRSBN-TAME!, Gina will visit key locations of power to defeat challenges, level up, and energize her POWERFUL BRIDE POWERS. Along the way, complete special tasks on the TABLE OF PERIODIC ELEMENTS OF GINA & WES board to complete her special WESLEY QUEST.

Gina won’t be able to defeat GF:CBDRSBN-TAME! alone – she will be abetted by friends and buoyed by special power-ups during her journey.

Powers? What powers?!?

This is where my cohorts saved me from writing our event to death with their amazing creativity. While trying to dream up rewards, Kelly thought of making a grab bag of pixelated party favors. Meanwhile, after hearing Kelly’s idea for the favors, Mikki began to design a series of elaborate stencils. The idea was that each one was based on one of our challenges, and could be sprayed onto the shirts we planned to give to all the guests.

With a cohesive visual interpretation to tie the video game concept together, the layout of our game was suddenly much clearer. Now I simply had to figure out how Gina could play this game along with twenty of her closest friends.

Tune in next time to hear about my concept of gameplay as our preparations became increasingly frantic with less than two weeks until Gina would take the controls of her own personal video game!

How to succeed at (the (video) game of) life.

My life is a lot like a video game, and this blog is a lot like my life, because this blog talks about my life and thus resembles it.

(My musical other half Gina debates the topic of life being like a video game in a song, asserting that “there’s no extra lives, you don’t get big from a magic mushroom, and you don’t find coins in an underground room,” but let’s leave that argument aside for a moment.)

The timeless style of the Red Mage

I remember the first Final Fantasy, for Nintendo. It was my (and millions of others’) first exposure to the concept of an RPG. Sure, older kids had played some D&D by 1987, but that was the demonized (heh) occupation of confirmed nerd. FF brought that nerd-dom to the spoiled kids who already had their own NES.

(Nope, no bitterness there.)

In the original Final Fantasy each character was an archetype: Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage. That meant you were good at that one thing, and mostly that one thing only.

The exception was the Red Mage. He could cast black and white magic, plus fight a little. Oh, and he was styling with a long coat and a pimp-hat.

This seemed like the perfect solution to six-year-old me (and probably a lot of other people, too) – why waste time with characters who are only good at one thing if you could have one that’s good at three? Why not just have a party full of Red Mages?

Of course, game developers realized this, and so the Red Mage wasn’t quite as kick-ass as we had hoped. He could fight, but not as well as the Fighter. He could cast spells, but not as advanced as the White and Black Mages. A party full of them would rock at the easy levels, but probably wouldn’t stand a chance in the end-game.

In effect, game developers rewarded specialization. The jack of all trades wound up the master of none. Also, he had a branding problem – we called him a “red” mage, but wasn’t he more like a grey mage that could also hit stuff?

(The myth of a character that’s good at fighting and hurling powers from a distance continues in video games to this day, called a “Tank Mage.”)

Maybe six-year-old me liked the Red Mage so much because I was a Red (Tank) Mage. I was good at science and math, strong at writing and social studies, and eventually on stage in plays. I’ve always delighted at being self-sufficient, which meant being good at everything.

A decade ago if asked to describe my strongest skill in one sentence, none of my friends would have answered with the same “Peter is/does [x].” I didn’t have a brand. I went on my merry way, doing everything, but I wasn’t the greatest at any of it.

That’s the story of my blog, too.

November is Na[tional] Blo[g] Po[sting] Mo[nth], a month which challenges us to blog daily. It sounds easy, but you have to maintain it through Thanksgiving! And, in some years, through getting engaged to your wife!

This year for NaBloPoMo I’m trying something a little different. I’m branding Crushing Krisis. Up above us my tagline reads:

The collected crushes of Philly singer-songwriter Peter Marinari
(The longest-running blog in Philadelphia, est. 2000)

I’m setting an expectation – this blog is not a Red Mage. It’s about the things I love the most, Philly, and being a musician.

So, this month it’s going to be exactly that. And, just like a video game, I get a new chance at it every day.

Take that, Gina.

But I Regress, pt. 5

Last time I exposed my Behind the Music Monitor lost year-and-a-half, during which my free time was entirely composed of playing City of Heroes while drinking Grey Goose martinis.

This is the official version of Risk, as far as I'm concerned. It takes a relatively undynamic game of war and turns it into free range Stratego.


I shirked City of Heroes and plunged that same amount of time into being a musician, and within one year I joined an acappella group, wrote new songs, rebooted CK on WordPress, and nudged Arcati Crisis towards becoming a real band.

That was 2006. My geekdom laid low for the next four years. Sure, I got addicted to Battlestar Galactica, but sci-fi tv and movies have always been a shared domain of E and I (one of the many factors rendering her as “best wife ever”).

Otherwise, I just played a few tournaments of Lord of the Rings Risk against myself (don’t judge, I was an only child) and idly kept pace with Joss Whedon’s scripting run on Astonishing X-Men.

I have been convinced since day one that there is some secret drug-taking component to Katamari that would render the King of All Cosmos sensible.

I even bought a Playstation 2, ostensibly to Dance Dance Revolution my way to fitness like Elise’s brother, but instead mostly played Katamari Damacy, and later X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance – both a safe comics fix so long as they were closed-loop RPGs and not MMORPGS like City of Heroes

Or so I thought.

We put in an offer on our house on May 5 and that weekend we were pretty stressed – I stressed myself sick by Monday. Grumpy and home alone, I ordered Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 to have something to new bash between haggling with our sellers.

The beginning of the end of my responsible adulthood...

MUA2 tells a pretty darn accurate story of Marvel’s 2006 Civil War saga, wherein Iron Man and Captain America got into a major spat over whether all heroes should be registered with the government. Their brotherly quarrel spills out into the entire Marvel Universe, resulting in some major changes to the status quo.

Or, at least, that’s what Wikipedia told me.

A few weeks later it was May 21st, the night before Gina, Wes and I planned to jump out of a plane. I was stressed-sick again, but dragged myself out to a happy hour for a co-worker, and wound up rambling down to MikeyIl’s Movement & Motion: One Night Art Show @ Brave New Worlds.

A comic book shop.

It had been a long time since I had been in one, and everything was foreign. Why was Wolverine on the cover of X-Force? What was Blackest Night?

Since nothing made sense, nothing was tempting. I wanted to support Brave New Worlds with some business, so I decided to pick up a trade paperback – a graphic novel collecting a run of several single comic books.

At a loss for what I’d be able to jump in on cold, I grabbed the most familiar thing – Civil War, and the accompanying tie-in with Ms. Marvel, an old favorite (I was amazed she had her own title!).

This was the beginning of the end … a four-month re-emergence of focused geekdom that in some respects would make my lost year of City of Heroes look like a serious addiction to gummy bears.

I’ll tell you about it next time, but suffice to say it has a lot to do with my Guide to Collecting X-Men TPBs, which – not coincidentally – was born on May 22nd.

But I Regress, pt. 4

In my last installment I had given up pretty much all elements of boyish whimsy in favor of being REALLY SERIOUS about college, music, and dating, not always in that order.

Then came graduation. Or at least the specter of graduation on the horizon. I was zeroing in on a something-cum-laude diploma, my relationship with E was going well, and I was no longer maxing out my credit card to keep up with my new CD acquisitions.

In short, the pressure was off.

I let a little bit of whimsy back in to my life. When my mother bought a house I brought all my old comic books to my college apartment, slipping highlights to Erika and Gina under their doors. On a whim E and I bought Warcraft III, but our addiction was elastic – it never waylaid an assignment.

Then came what I refer to as my lost year. Actually, it was a year and a half. No, not the Behind the Music period with the evil girlfriend and all the vodka. (I’ve already blogged about that enough.)

I should have been so lucky. Nope, this time it was all me. Me, and City of Heroes.

Having drawn my comic collection back close to my bosom, I had gotten to wondering what was up with all of my former favorite heroes. In reading about their recent histories I also caught up with other industry news.

In my reading I kept catching rumors about a game that would totally immerse you in a comic-book world. I never retained the name. Whenever E and I would hit a mall I’d snoop around for said game, but I never saw it.

Then, smack in the middle of completing my Senior Project, I found myself reading an article about City of Heroes.

This was it – the superhero game. It was completely non-denominational – not Marvel or DC, but a continuity-free universe to plan your own hero in.

It was a long weekend at the end of April, and I decided to download the game client for a trial. It would be a way to let off steam between bouts with my Senior Project. I created some characters, including my sardonic superhero version of Rabi.

The incomparable Cassandra Lewis in action.

The next thing I remember is Autumn of 2005.

Okay, not really. Well, sort of really. I mean, I recall the rest of 2004 and most of 2005. I finished my Senior Project, graduated, moved in with Elise, and got a job. We moved into our house on Greenwich street and had a big party.

I just don’t recall anything else.

City of Heroes wasn’t a video game – it was liking living inside of a comic book. That’s what I always wanted – way back from my original comic book days when I was writing my Crisis Team novella on the bus.

I was playing it semi-professionally – like, 7.5 hours a day on the clock, double on weekends. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t write very many songs. Essentially, I worked, dated E, and played the game. THAT WAS IT.

I was known for showing up at 6pm on the dot with a martini in hand. My main character, the Rabi-derived Cassandra Lewis, was well-known to higher level folks on my server. I was a numbers guru, with lists and spreadsheets calculating damage and detailing game badges. I was a captain in my super-group. My under-bill consisted of dozens of other characters who – in my mind – all knew each other.

I even started talking about the game at work – a sure sign of deep, intractable addiction. In fact, on my lunch breaks I had begun penning a novella to tie all my characters together in a single sweeping narrative.

It all ground to a halt in the fall of 2005. The CoH staff made a big change to how they calculated data, and I realized that all of my spreadsheets and characters and stories didn’t really belong to me.

I was doing exactly the thing i swore never to do again when I started Crushing Krisis – write within someone else’s continuity, someone else’s editorial control. Quite suddenly my heroic bubble burst. I wrote a calm letter to the head game designer thanking him for 18-months of fun and went back to writing songs.

Thus came the second dark-age of my geekdom, which was spoiled this June by Mikeyil.

Tune in Thursday for the next installment in my saga. In the meantime, have you seen my Guide to Collecting X-Men Comics as Trade Paperbacks? That’s what started us down this whole geeky rabbit-hole of memory.

But I Regress, pt. 3

Warning: This image actually has nothing to do with the rest of this post. It just makes me giggle.

Holy continuity, Batman! Do you remember where I left off over a month ago?

In short, I had to give up my monthly comic book addiction to fuel my constant need to be online, which brought with it Real-Time Strategy games like Warcraft & Starcraft. Static characters on a page couldn’t hold a candle to tiny sprites with their own hit points and attributes.

Oh, Sega Dreamcast. We had such good times. I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don’t let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.


Then idle gamer-me met college. With unlimited bandwidth and nearly unlimited time, Freshman year Peter kept playing Starcraft solo, but added shooters like Unreal and Rogue Spear to his repertoire, playing with his (okay, enough: my) roommate Kenny and the gang from Shafted.org. I got addicted to in-browser games, particularly the deeply strategic Archmage.

I even got into console gaming, playing endless rounds of Madden 2k on Kenny’s Dreamcast.

Yeah, I’m old.

Actually, our college D&D sessions represented a major milestone for me - I RPed a male character!


Then the utopia of free time, free games, and free T1 internet came to an abrupt halt. Sophomore year found me working to pay for my apartment and with a single meager line of dial-up and a teeny 13-inch television with no console. It also found me starting a blog and finally scraping together the money for a nicer guitar.

The result? The Peter who dug comic books and video games evaporated completely long before I turned 21. Elise never met him, aside from a weekly night of Dungeons & Dragons and some in-browser gaming.

Any attention and cash I had left to spare after class and E went to my burgeoning collection of songs – both by other people and by me – and concert tickets, when I could afford them.

I really thought geek-Peter was completely dead and gone. That is, until graduation…

To find out how that happened next, you… well, you don’t have to do anything. I need to write at least two more entries of this transcribed oral history of geekdom. And, hey, let’s not forget that the impetus of this entire thing was my best-in-class Guide to Collecting X-Men Comics as Trade Paperbacks. As of today I am officially caught up to 2010 in X-Continuity!

But I Regress, pt. 2

Where were we? Oh, I was telling you about how with the responsibility of owning a home I have suddenly regressed to being a teenager.

Last time I detailed my overwhelming love for comic books, and how it was vanquished by the great expanse of the internet.

To this day I marvel at how mercenary I was about my decision. When it came down to $40 a month on comics or on internet access I phoned up the comic store and canceled my orders without a second thought.

How could I?

Comics were a world I could dive into and experience alone, but the internet was a world I could lose myself in along with millions of other people.

To put it in today’s terms, comics weren’t social.

I wanted them to be. I’d skulk at the comic shop … beg my mother to let me find a pen pal at the back of The Maxx. I would read the letters page in X-Men and imagine being able to talk all day with people as obsessed with the characters as I was.

The internet had all of that, available 24/7. Within days I was on a Dungeons & Dragons listserve and in a Final Fantasy fanfic club. After years of being a pretty insular only child, I found out I had things in common with people. Lots of things!

And, while building my first website became a top priority, so did Warcraft II.

I have never been much of a PC gamer, so was completely unfamiliar with the concept of real-time strategy war games. When my friend Lucas made me download the WCII demo over my 14.4k modem I was floored – it was like Risk crossed with Dungeons & Dragons, but with none of the plastic pieces or dice rolls.

(I was the kind of kid that, when bored, would set up elaborate six-person games of Risk between my GI Joes and play each side against each other for hours. Actually, I still do that a few times a year with my LOTR Risk, just sans the GI Joes.)

(My wife finds this fascinating)

All it took was one modem game of Warcraft II on the single demo map and I was hooked. I had an army of orcs to do my bidding, and friends to trade taunts with all night. And sea turtles!

I had no interest in quick, decisive battles. When we both bought the full game I’d make maps packed with endless gold mines so we could entrench and battle for hours on end.

Much as my comic obsession stayed mostly contained to X-Men, my RTS urge was isolated to Blizzard games. Even after buying my first guitar put the whammy on many of my other adolescent hobbies (say goodbye, fanfic!), I remained a devoted late-night WCII addict.

The addiction was made worse senior year when one of my friends slipped me their extra copy of Starcraft. It was Warcraft . . . in space!

I think that – and how it relates to my current predicament – is a story for next time.

The impetus for this whole tale is my recently-launched Guide to Collecting X-Men in TPBs, which is meant to aid former adolescent addicts such as myself in catching up on what they’ve missed.

Tuesday Tech Links

Here’s the techier side of the links I re-remaindered out of last night’s remainders post.

Why did Duke Nukem’ Forever take forever? I’ve read some great articles on this vaporware legend (my fav example of which I cannot seem to track down), but none with a line so succinct and close-to-home as this one:

t’s a dilemma all artists confront, of course. When do you stop creating and send your work out to face the public? Plenty of Hollywood directors have delayed for months, dithering in the editing room. But in videogames, the problem is particularly acute, because the longer you delay, the more genuinely antiquated your product begins to look — and the more likely it is that you’ll need to rip things down and start again.

Substitute “pop music” for “video games” and you have the story of Chinese Democracy, or my long-promised LP. (Via Daring Fireball).

.

Indie acousta-rocker Scott Andrew got tired of trying to sync his blog to MySpace, so he wrote an app for that.

I’ve been seeing little boxes from LaLa on just about every blog albums-of-the-year/decade list, proffering handy audio samples. Apparently Apple just bought the La^2, and in the process scuttled a longstanding CD swap service. This is notable because they backed out of it in (what I considered to be) an apologetic, helpful fashion. Take note, MySpace/iMeem.

Via Contentious: An E-Book Buyer’s Guide to Privacy charts what personal info different eBook services can track. This chart should be combined with “An E-Book Buyer’s Rights” guide that talks about what privileges can be rescinded by each service. For example, if you replace your Kindle it will not reload your purchased periodicals.

(For the record, I am anti-eBook – if I wanted to read something I don’t own from a screen I’d just keep sitting in front of my laptop.)

Also via the same Contenious post: Backupify to back up your Twitter, FaceBook, and Gmail … for free. That is, sign up for it now, get a grandfathered freebie account even when the service switches over to a paid model. Quote from Backupify president: “[S]torage is cheap while customer acquisition is very expensive.”

Smart guy.

In a similar vein: Download videos from YouTube with Gazzump I come and go on the usefulness of this service. I used to want to sit on my own personal archive of everything. While I still feel that way about my audio collection, I think I’ve sacrificed video to the cloud. Still, handy.

Finally, not strictly a tech link, but: The Flag of Earth.

Play at playing with The Beatles. Or, just play with The Beatles.

The pair of surviving Beatles recently appeared at E3 to hype the impending The Beatles: Rock Band, out on September 9. It represents a remarkable milestone – mass licensing of Beatles songs to a third party, cooperation of all four Beatles estates on new intellectual property, release of new studio chatter from the band, and creating multi-tracked masters of songs originally recorded live in mono or stereo. (see the full fact sheet)

In the game, you and your friends can take the Beatles from the Cavern Club days all the way to the rooftop in your own living room, not mention traipsing through their imagined acid trips. You’ll start out with 45 Beatles songs in-game, but many more will available as downloadable content – starting with the complete Abbey Road.

Assuming you already have a plethora of plastic video game instruments lying around the house, the a la carte game will cost you $100. If you need all of the plastic instruments to go with it, you’ll be dropping $250 for the full kit.

Seems like a bargain to play along with 45 of your favorite Beatles tunes, right?

Not really. Because, if you have an actual instrument lying around the house, you can buy The Beatles: Complete Scores hardcover tome for half the price of the a la carte game and learn how to play the actual music to every single Beatles song.

If you need an actual instrument to go with it, you can pick up a starter guitar or bass package plus the book for about $250 – yes, even including a replica Hoffner bass! (The scores plus drums will run you a bit more – $300-$500).

Herein lies your dilemma. Do you want to have a primary experience with the music you love, or a secondary experience?

If you’re a non-musician, you might argue, “I don’t really have a choice,” but I think you do.

You might argue, “I don’t read music,” yet you’re willing to learn an arcane method of notation in Rock Band that’s not too different from reading guitar tab, which is included in the score book.

You might argue, “I don’t have nimble fingers, a sense of pitch or rhythm, or a decent voice,” yet if you expect to surpass even easy mode on Rock Band you’ll need to hone some or all of those skills just as you would playing actual music. In fact, Rock Band is much less forgiving of mistakes with drumming and vocals than a jam with friends would be.

You might argue, “I don’t have time to practice music enough for it to be worthwhile,” yet you have time to play Rock Band two or three hours a week. That same time would serve you equally well training on an actual instrument. You could probably learn how to play “I Want To Hold You Hand” on guitar in the same time it takes you to reach your first save point.

Convinced yet?

Other Rock Band titles offer the allure of collecting disparate, virtuosically-difficult music into a video game – much of which is impossible to track down as printed music. None of that is true this time around – the music comes from a single source, the virtuouosity is in the ease of playing, and it’s all collected in a single, relatively cheap book. It’s a completely level playing field for anyone – novice to expert.

You can’t say that about any other Rock Band game or for any other artist in the history of music.

Essentially, you have no argument to buy The Beatles: Rock Band other than perhaps, “I already know how to play all 213 originally released Beatles songs, and now I’m bored.”

The game does have some redeeming features in the areas of drumming and singing – the two bits of Beatles that are the hardest to master on your own. Designers worked closely with Ringo to make the game a tutorial for his unique drumming style. Also, the game features a harmony training mode, which will allow you to voice any part in the band’s remarkable multi-part harmonies.

Based on that, if you’re a Beatles-loving singer or drummer starting from scratch I can appreciate wanting to purchase the game for some guidance. If only the game also allowed you to plug in an actual midi-guitar in to test your chops against the recordings … then I’d buy it in an insant!

Otherwise, if you’re a Beatles-lover who wants to experience playing their music yourself, my advice would be to actually play it yourself.

I so did not violate any confidentiality agreements by writing this post.

How to write this post and not get fired? It’ll be tricky.

You all know by now I work in communications for a major Philadelphia company, and I love it. I get paid to do things I would probably be doing at home by myself anyway, as frightening as that concept is.

What you might not know (because I haven’t mentioned it in about seven years) is that I had a childhood obsession with the Price Is Right. I loved the One Bid, I loved the Showcase Showdown.

But, I loved nothing more than I loved Plinko.

I was obsessed with the way the penny slid into the board and plunked back and forth and to and fro down the pegs before it finally wound up in a prize slot.

You might not understand how those two facts are connected to each other. Here’s a hint:

Right now, somewhere in Philadelphia, there is a fully functional Plinko board.

I can’t tell you why there is a Plinko board, or where the Plinko board is, because it’s … well, it might be a trade secret? Like, if I were to reveal the purpose and location of the Plinko board, the reason behind my termination would be “dissemination of trade secrets on the internet.” I think.

What I can reveal is that within the last month my co-workers’ “duties as assigned” meant they had to acquire said Plinko board, and that when I walked one of said co-workers to the parking lot today I came within one hot second of climbing onto the roof of her mini-van like a fucking ninja and riding that sucker through rush hour to the location of the Plinko board.

I have been promised photos, and possibly even a video demo, of the Plinko board in action. Yet, pester, plead, and outright beg as I might I could not obtain permission to play, touch, or even view the Plinko board at its secret location. And, after tomorrow, it will be gone, whisked away by the cruel whims of fate (and/or the decrepit liver-spotted claws of nigh unknown game show dieties).

However, though I may be barred from visiting the Plinko mecca, or enlisting you to help me gain entry to it by some nefarious means, I have taken away one important thing from this experience:

I now know that there is a life-sized, fully-functional Plinko board that can be delivered to the Philadelphia metro area.

And, I’m pretty sure I have a high enough credit limit to rent it for the weekend…

In Which I Confess to Lazing

If we define me by being musical and active and despising passive expenditures of time, then I think it’s safe to say that I went through a bit of an Anti-Me month in February.

Mostly due to video games.

Let me back up a step. In 2004 I gave up network television as a concept; it figuratively and literally doesn’t exist to me anymore, the latter because we haven’t had a vestige of television reception for going on three years.

Since 2004, 95% of the television I have watched (intentionally or not) has been Eagles games. And, because we don’t have reception of our own, most of my Eagles-watching is done with friends.

This season the group of friends happens to also be a group of depraved video-game maniacs, and when we decided to get together for one post-playoffs hurrah we did nothing but play video games.

I haven’t given up video games in the way that I gave up television, but they do make me wary … mostly because I spent a year and a half of my life doing nothing but playing City of Heroes. Sure, there are a handful of site updates and new songs to prove I was alive, and also I was apparently maintaining a relationship at the time, but I was also putting in 40+ hour weeks in at work and on the game.

Well, after our little party I decided that owning a video game system wouldn’t be the end of the world. It wouldn’t be connected to the internet, so it couldn’t suck me in the same degree as City of Heroes. And, much in the way we selectively view TVDs of good shows to replace our lack of television, I would only buy and play games that were compelling. It would be a social and intellectual pursuit.

Right. And then I bought We Love Katamari and a month of my life disappeared.

It’s not that I played video games for the entire month, so much as that video games were emblematic of my lack of energy for creative pursuits. Not lack of inspiration, mind you, but lack of energy.

Merrily, I was right – a non-networked PlayStation doesn’t have the kind of grip on my immortal soul as an internet world full of unique superheroes. This iteration of gaming in my life is merely a distraction, not an addiction.

But then I think – how much blogging could I have done while I was thumbing a joystick? How many songs could I have recorded? Et cetera, et cetera?

Who knows. Life doesn’t work like a metric conversion scale. Could I have recorded an awesome album, or did I simply not have anything to say creatively?

A retrospective answer is meaningless; it’s a question you and I need to ask ourselves each time we pick up a remote or a controller.

This week my answer is “you have plenty to say – start talking.”

What I’ve Been Doing for the Past 14 Hours

A great, simple, javascript chess page that works in Firefox. Allows you to play either side w/three opponent settings. Also, fantastic chess resource Chessville. Taking up chess is one of the summer hobbies i currently have under consideration (as if i need more ways to spend my time).

Chess tends to make me think of X-Men, maybe because Magneto has a board in his plastic cell in the movies. Any mention of X-Men merits a link to the best X-Men site on the face of the internet, UncannyXmen.net. Note that they have issue summaries of the vast majority of a wide-range of X-Men-related comics, and an accompanying character archive for when you encounter someone unfamiliar. Great for detering me from filling in the ten years of X-Men that i’ve missed buying, and also for reading on lunchbreak.

In other superhero news, my co-worker just called to say he won’t be able to see Superman with me today. If you’ve already seen it, or if know the big plot-twist already, you may appreciate Larry Niven’s classic essay Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex.

The Bitch is Back

Jett Superior, one of my all-time favorite peddlers of snark, is back online with an astounding new layout. While she was on her extended hiatus, she asked her readers to put an old set of her lyrics to music, promising to post them upon her return. She hasn’t yet, but here’s my version.

Here at CK we don’t go on hiatus, we graduate, take long naps, try to buy cell phones that take pretty little pictures that we can display while not on an aforementioned non-existent hiatus, and play City of Heroes until 4am (thus necessitating longer naps). We pretty much being me, along with my omnipresent sidekick slash new roommate slash built-in fanclub Elise.

She finally met my dad the other week, he who owns a gun shop and a flock of plastic lawn flamingos, and makes “boop boop” noises when he pulls a U-ee in the middle of Market street. She has not met my cousin Cary, age seven, but the lass is nonetheless intrigued by the concept that my partner/roomie/stalker has “Chinese Eyes.” My aunt claims that this, though perhaps verging on offensive, is a reflection of unspeakable jealous curiosity, as said eyes are a particularly fashionable favorite of my cousin’s. In the car on the way back from the el Cary politely enquired if “Have you kissssssed her?,” to which i responded “Oh, a few times.”

Otherwise, life is similar to how life was last time i mentioned life, except for the piece of parchment with the shiny Magna Cum Laude sticker sitting on my mantel and what seems like eleventy-thousand people trying to make me feel anxious about whether or not i really have a job (don’t worry, it’s not working). I think Elise is appalled at how much time i spend a) listening to music, b) doing nothing but looking productive, & c) being so frighteningly productive that i cannot stop talking or moving, sometimes all at once. Still, things are fine, especially now that i unpacked my Ani DiFranco mugs.

Transmissions from the planet Peter.

Not shockingly, i play Sims much like i play life: I’m out the door for work at the last possible minute, i eat just enough to subsist (which occasionally leads to some large meals to make up for the difference), i indulge in any practicing activity too much (guitar, sit ups, playing sims ect), i maintain my friendships only as much as i have to, and i never get enough sleep unless i miss the proverbial car pool.

Of course, my sim always turns out happy and successful, so, go figure.

It occasionally comes up, between Elise and I, that we might eventually live with one another. It isn’t such a strange and alien topic: we’ve dated for a year and a half, enjoy roughly similar means of entertainment and standards of cleanliness, and both of our current leases end sometime next summer. However, similar standards do not a happy household make. And, so, I have discovered the next best way (after the Ikea catalog) to proactively predict and resolve the problems associated with co-habitation while evaluating the important similarities and differences in our styles of living.

I am, of course, speak of The Sims. It has been running on the computer-shaped-debt for more than 72-hours straight, courtesy of Karen. We each created our own pair of us as our test-pilot families, each surfed meticulously for the right clothes and balance of traits for our virtual avatars. And, without any argument, we arrived at the unspoken agreement that our collective goal was to become both rich and famous.

Our paths to have been slightly divergent. In my version of events, Elise is a successful computer programmer by night, while by day she practices in the mirror until her big break arrives. In her reality, Elise is a up-and-coming star who goes to photo shoots and hob-nobs with celebrities. Interestingly, both of our Peter’s have the same job as a lobbyist, and are currently stuck in the same mid-level position because they/we/I do not have enough networking connections (ie: Friends) to climb higher up the corporate ladder.

Our pairs mingle: the Peters are not fond of each other, but my Peter enjoys the company of her Elise — the two of them are both incredibly charismatic — funny how we focused on that trait in our own characters. My Elise is typically in need of social contact because she is busy practicing her skills, while their family has a huge nest-egg saved from my daily work and her occasional print ads. My house has been ruthlessly arranged and rearranged to maximize mood and efficiency, while hers is more aesthetically pleasing. And, notably, neither of us have had me quit my moderately-paid job to attempt to become famous.

It is at once amusing and very telling. I suspect that I only have a few more days of playing in me; only for so long can modeling my virtual life hold my attention captive from my real one. The appeal lies in the ability to see our separate ideals co-existing in the same virtual neighborhood, complete with subtle differences and less obvious similarities. However our experiment in collective house-keeping turns out, rest assured that the major points have been taken, with the chief amongst them being: No matter what you hope, wish, plan, or virtually model, you only have one chance to get it right; don’t waste it.

Bloated from eating the majority of a loaf of cinnamon bread and considerably bleary from hours of repeatedly dying and re-leveling as Circe, i messaged Benjy in hopes that he could provide some entertainment. Sadly, all he had to offer me was Ernie’s new webgame, where he is a contestant.

This new game is actually a Best-Of romp featuring contestants from all of Ernie’s previous ventures, including a few of my personal favourites. The one player who i wasn’t familiar with was Rusty, who was not a player but a commenter on Ernie’s most recent venture. His claim to fame, apparently, is running some sort of website called Kuro5hin. I had heard the name before, but never clicked through to it as it contained a 5 instead of an S, which is either the indication of someone being pretty stupid or pretty geeky. Or both. But, i was bored, so click i did.

Apparently, Kuroshin is a less blog-like more-wordy Metafilter, where posters are expected to research and edit their own intelligent articles instead of merely linking to them for fun and profit. Most of the articles on the main page were either too sharply divided or entirely too technical for my taste, but after browsing around the categories for a while i found this interesting article on the effect of small presses on music sales.

I was especially engaged in the article because Record Kingdom owns tens of thousands of such small press vinyl, thousands of which i’ve personally handled. That article was apparently a response of sorts to one which laid out many of the (obvious) flaws in signing a record deal. The article was the work of Mark Taw, whose websight features a wealth of articles on topics spanning from basic composition to avoiding spam. A commenter on his article pointed out a similar piece by Janis Ian, who would probably know about the industry even better than Mark would.

And, through all of that i only managed to level up twice. Sad. Meanwhile, if those links don’t keep you busy for a little while then… um… start a character.