Friday, November 23, 2012

Post Birthday Blues

At what point in your life do you officially become "out of it?" I'm certainly behind the times in the world of videogames. Yesterday at the Thanksgiving table, some younger folk were talking about the wonders of Halo 4, a game which I know very little about and have even less interest in playing. I can't stir up much interest for Angry Birds, Kinect, or any of that stuff. For a guy who specializes in old videogames, this is all perfectly acceptable. But I still am a fan on contemporary music, so it's a bit more troublesome to find myself developing grumpy old man syndrome in that department. After all, I did work for an online music retailer for a number of years, something I've mentioned on this blog before. (I believe I wrote about having spoken to Johnny Rotten on the phone - he was calling buy some Can CDs. (Incidentally, I also sent a hard-to-find CD to Steve Jones, though I never actually spoke to him directly. I'm pretty sure it was a Silverhead record, maybe this one. Before you judge Steve Jones as a pervert based on that remarkable sleazy cover, please note that Silverhead was a pretty good 70s glam band, so Mr. Jones must have decent taste is music.))

This was acceptable in the 70s.
What triggered my current state of feeling old and in the way was a trip to a local burgers and beer place that sits next door to a musical venue. I've been to that musical venue a number of times; I even wrote about seeing Mastodon there. Outside, a huge line of people were waiting to get in, stretching literally around the block. After dinner, security was still working on getting people into the venue. It was sort of an unusual crowd, with lots of young people and older folks as well. I asked one of the venue's employees what was going on that night. "Halestorm. It's a huge show. Been sold out for weeks." "Halestorm?" I thought, "I've never heard of them. They're this popular?" I should explain that I live in a town that is not exactly known for supporting the arts, and I don't often see big crowds at these sort of things. Upcoming shows at that same venue include the likes of Trapt, NOFX, Snoop Dogg (!), and Sum 41, none of which appear to have sold out. So apparently these Halestorm guys are a big deal? There were a few folks wearing Avenged Sevenfold shirts hanging around, so maybe Halestorm is a Christian band? (Avenged Sevenfold is a Christian band, right? I would assume so with a name like that.)

There's nothing objectively wrong with not knowing who some popular but probably terrible band is. But not that long ago, I at least had a passing familiarity with terrible crap like Linkin Park or Daughtry. Now, it appears this stuff is passing me by. Maybe this is a good thing, and means fewer distractions.  Or it could just be that I'm getting over the hill.

It's no coincidence that I'm writing a post of this nature the day after my birthday. Once you reach a certain age (probably some time in your 30s) birthdays become less a cause for celebration, and more a grim reminder of your mortality. However, since it was my birthday, I decided not to cook Thanksgiving dinner myself, for the first time in around 8 years or so. At least I had a day off.

Speaking of 70s glam rockers....
By the way: the final piece in the Chronsega 8 puzzle, Phantasy Star II, has been completed. I've also finished the new and sort of weird Chronsega opening title sequence. It's mostly now a matter of editing everything together over the next few days.


Iron Peach said...

Bosconian wins over Angry Birds, even on Thanksgiving. I'm saving a local brew, Fretzy's, for the next episode. Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

It's not that you're over the hill, as much as the information age has us all living in bubbles. There's too much information, and even more distractions, so even if you wanted to keep track of everything popular - and I wouldn't recommend it - you'd need to devote your life to the pursuit.

Myself, I prefer to skip everything new entirely, and then be blown away by all the good stuff I missed. When did Dr.Who become so much fun? What's a Scribblenaut? Holy crap, there's so much good indie music to drown inside! This last decade has been one the best ever, as far as middlebrow culture is concerned - but only if you filter out all the trash. Thank God I don't have cable TV.

As for Halo, it's as deep as Metroid. Master Chief isn't at all realistic. The alien weapons err on the side of being pretty. The enemies escaped from an old 80's Thundercats episode.

Kind of like an 8-16bit game.

Most people claim it's more fun in multiplayer anyways.

You're not missing much, but you wouldn't be missing much without Contra and MegaMan in your life, either...

Entertainment is almost always about what you bring to the experience, more than the experience itself.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

Can't wait for the new Chronsega episode! :D

Anonymous said...

i am in love with the fact that, for years now, i see magazines in supermarket check-out lines and have no idea who any of the people on the covers are. i relish hearing "you don't know who [musician x]/[actor y]/[video game z] is?!"

Chris Sobieniak said...

I've been this way for quite a long time now, so it's not quite as sudden as I expected, and I feel like a better person for not being 'in the moment'.

pursuit agent said...

When Steve Jones had his radio show on Indie 103.1 in the middle of the 2000's, he played all sorts of great music from the 70's. He still has a show once a week on KROQ, but it's just not the same as when he played whatever he wanted. He does have decent taste in music, and obscure stuff, too.

Luke said...

Phantasy Star 2, my favorite game of all time in Chronsega 8? Well, now I know the wait will be worth it!!

Doctor Sparkle said...

PA - As I recall, Jones did want that disc for his radio show. This was early-mid 2000s.

I hear that some folks really like Phantasy Star II. Having played it for the first time, I don't understand how it could be anyone's favorite game. Hopefully, once the new episode is up, I get some insightful feedback for PS II fans. Because I am currently baffled as heck.

sizone said...

PS2 is my favorite game as well. I think it's mostly aesthetic, it' my favorite video game sound track. That might account for more than average to me, I still really like the Ecco games and Metroid largely for the same reason. The monster designs also look really cool.

Story wise, it has a really sinister dystopic setting. It isn't over the top with it, the vibe you get from townsfolk is more of despair, giving up hope not because of an oppressive overlord, but the futility of effort in a overabundance of comfort. That sort of makes the introduction of massive amounts of strife hit home a little harder. Crop failure and factory malfunction are just as nasty as brigades of storm troopers marching down the streets and constant surveillance, but their hardships that aren't any where near as frequently used. It sets up a world where, instead of being part of an underdog fighting force
which has always existed, you're stuck fighting threats in a world where everyone has forgotten how.

More important than the story is that everything is presented so minimally that you're left to fill in all the details. It's the center point between something like a 2600 game where you really have to stretch your imagination into thinking that a blocky head is Mr. T and everything since the 32bit era where it all gets laid out in cut scenes. You're given neither too much nor too little story or information.

Gameplay wise, ehnnnn. Yeah, it's grindy. Dungeons though, you get ready to play the game, you print out maps of the dungeons, highlight your route to all the treasures, then another route to dungeon goal then you navigate with map in hand. I can see it being disconcerting if you've never done it before, but it's part of the game, like a lightgun is to a lightgun game, or feelies are to infocom games. You're also always on the verge of defeat. You really need to stock up on healing supplies and you also have to be aware that no matter how well you plan, you will eventually run out of TP and healing items and you will have no choice but to warp out. That's something else you don't often see. With most RPGS, if you exercise a little bit of resource management, you're essentially unstoppable, but PS2 -always- keeps you on the edge.

Kamiboy said...

There is no shame in being out of touch with a medium that is past its prime.

Until early this generation I would devour any and all gaming information I could lay my hands on. Alas it did not take long for me to discover that as of this generation the home console industry was suddenly passing out of Japanese hands, into which it had firmly been since the Atari crash, and back into western hands.

Something of a cataclysmic change in my opinion. As for my sentiments regarding it, well, let it only be said that if I enjoyed western game design tropes I would have had a gamer PC instead of a Mac.

In any regard, after the change I actively shunned gaming press and tried to be uninformed because knowing what was going on was too aggravating.

In short this generation turned me into a older gen gamer. But I feel now is as good a time to bid farewell with the new as any, as  I firmly believe the home console market budget bubble is going to burst this coming generation.

Anonymous said...

its not you. halo 4 sucks

sizone said...

PS2 also makes, what I'm pretty sure is, an allusion to the Bhopal disaster. Which is a pretty significant statement/real world reference for a game form 1988.
I always kind of wonder what could have been done with it in terms of scope and polish had it not been rushed out the door for the hardware launch, then I look at Phantasy Star 3 and just get depressed though.

yoyoyoit'smyname said...

I don't consider it to be "out of it" just because you don't give a **** about mainstream games. Like the film industry and music industry, gaming has now gotten so big that there's too much product. The dumb, "tween", thinks-they're-hardcore audience will lap up whatever annualized, derivative, yearly mega-franchises that Wal Mart and Gamestop tells them to buy. It's fine to ignore most, or all, of that junk. It's ultimately disposable anyway; that's why a new one comes out the next year.

I grew up with NES and SNES and what-have-you. And I could not give one iota of a **** about Assassin's Creed III or Mass Effect or Call of Duty Black Ops 2, let me tell you. So at this point, I'm sure I seem "out of it" to some people... except I know a heck of a lot more about literally anything else than most people. I could talk for hours about Zero Escape, Sly Cooper 4 or Ninokuni instead. And indie stuff on Steam? Forget about it! As long as we're talking fresh experiences, colorful style, personality, I'm down for that stuff.

It's almost like there's two game industries. Just because you're ignoring the dumb one doesn't mean you're out of it, Dr. S ;)

EmptyRoom said...

Just watched the Chronsega 8. I thought you made some really interesting points about Phantasy Star 2 (I played it first when I was 9 years old, so of course it has major nostalgia factor for me).

You mentioned in your commentary that the people of Mota were idiots since no one knew how "Mother Brain" worked.

However hamfisted the presentation, I think the point was commentary on how a leader or technology can make people ignorant and complacent by providing them with everything that they want.

The fact that your character is the only "agent" on Mota sort of reflects that - in a perfect utopian society, who needs investigators / watchguards?

You kind of get a feel for that after the intro and the first town:

"The people of Algo perhaps became soft in the long years of peace"
"My dad is just goofing off every day. He says he can live without working."
"Why should I work for a living?"

Although now it may not be impressive, as a 9-year-old who was just getting into sci-fi and was already obsessed with video games, it kind of blew my mind.

Thanks for the videos Doc!

Doctor Sparkle said...

"PS2 also makes, what I'm pretty sure is, an allusion to the Bhopal disaster." Hmmm, maybe? There is a reference to a poisonous gas leak, and it did come out only a few years after the Bhopal leak. I didn't make the connection, but....

EmptyRoom - I meant that the gov't or the MC's bosses were idiots. Sure they may have been complacent, but c'mon, there's a supercomputer controlling the world and they don't know anything about it? There's all these egghead scientists hanging around and no one says "Hey, we should go check this thing out." What exactly do those guys get paid for? Mota has a spaceship, teleportation and cloning technology. They should have been able to figure out where the signals were coming from. Hell, my party of four people found the Weather Control Center AND Mother Brain, mostly by walking around on foot.

Unless, maybe no one went looking for Mother Brain because it was a metaphor for God? o_o

Unknown said...

Ugh I said I wasn't gonna get into this but I think a good comparison was the Movie Wall ae by Pixar. You had a society that was basically a Utopia where everything was done for them and the didn't need to know about how. It just worked. The scientists were more or less glorified technicians. There was never a need to question Mother Brain because it provided everything and led society to a complacent state. Also the Mike Judge movie Idiocacy has similar overtones where everyone relays on on technology and are blithering idiots who can't figure out there crops aren't growing because they are trying to water it with a futuristic Gatorade. It's a parable on giving up hard work and freedom for Utopia. When you don't have to do anything, when you do have to when shit hits the fan there a few capable of,doing so. Part three fills in some of the story that the Palmans , appently that's where the scholars were, we're planning a revolt and learning the truth and thus that's why the planet was destroyed.