I’ve had several conversations on my comic book podcast, Trade Secrets, about continuity in long-running comic books and how “mainstream” books differ from creator-owned works. It became very apparent to me this week, when I realized that my subscription list at my comic shop contains only a single Big 2 comic book: Rick Remender’s Captain America.
I grew up on comic books, but I never really grew up on the Marvel or DC lexicon like many kids did. I’m not sure what it was that kept my interests away from them, but they just never grabbed me like other books. Before I started getting comics of my own I’d read my brother’s books, which consisted mostly of Vigilante and ElfQuest. When I started buying my own stuff it was related to my favorite cartoons, so my first comics were Transformers and G.I. Joe.
When the ‘90’s rolled around and Image was born, I was all about the first few comics they made. I was a humongous Spawn fan, and I really enjoyed The Savage Dragon. I had collected some of the lesser (at the time) Marvel books like X-Factor, but Marvel’s premier books and DC’s stuff just weren’t my thing. Over time, I even began to drop my favorite Image books, because I kept losing interest. Stories dragged on and on and there was never any resolution to anything. Everything was a cliffhanger, and for every plot thread that closed, two opened.
When I look at my current habits in consuming all kinds of media - be it books, television, movies, or comic books - I realized how much I want endings. I don’t want to be indefinitely strung along by a character’s plight. People don’t live forever, and when I see that Peter Parker is still in his mid-thirties after 60 years of comics, or that Bruce Wayne is still the same grumpy, mid-40’s playboy he was in, well, the mid ‘40’s, I just lose interest. No matter how good an individual story might be involving those characters, they’re never going to end. I’m never going to get any kind of closure.
I don’t generally watch TV shows that are still running anymore (and I’ll limit this statement to dramas, because sitcoms don’t really count). I have become reluctant to go to a movie that I know is part of a series that won’t be finished for years (a perfect example: I haven’t seen The Hobbit yet, and I probably won’t watch any of that series in theaters). I won’t start a book series unless I know there’s a definitive end to it, which is why I haven’t started The Song of Ice and Fire yet.
I no longer collect comic books from the Big 2, because I know that no matter how much I love a story or a creative team, that story is never going to be the end of the story, and the creative team will be shuffled around at some point.
Marvel NOW! was the first time in a long time that I was excited by mainstream Marvel titles. The creative teams were astounding and it looked like they were going to give a fresh take on some of their tried-and-true heroes. I picked up Uncanny Avengers, Avengers, and Captain America, and quickly realized that I got caught up in the hype and may have made a mistake. I dropped Uncanny Avengers pretty fast, and this last week dropped Avengers. I’m going to stick with Captain America for a little while because it reminds me heavily of Remender’s Fear Agent (one of my all time favorite books) and it’s effectively an “elseworlds” or “what if” title that will hopefully come to a reasonable conclusion.
But that’s just it: Although Marvel NOW! and DC’s New 52 represented new beginnings for these long-running franchises, they still don’t represent any kind of ending. There is no promise of self-contained stories. There is still no permanent death for characters. No meaningful aging, and rarely any lasting growth. There will never be any closure.
And I can’t stand the thought of that. Continuing stories with characters that I love are great, but I want even the longest ones to END at some point. I need to know that there is a denouement, and that I’ll get some satisfaction that my favorite character’s actions were actually meaningful. They don’t have to be heroic or even happy, but without an ending, nothing has any meaning. There’s no arc It’s just a series of false heartbeats in an eternal flatline, and while the first few might represent some semblance of hope, eventually cynicism sets in and there’s no longer any reason to care.
So now, if I don’t have at least a decent inkling that an ending is coming, I won’t partake until something is already over. I don’t watch ongoing TV shows until they’ve ended anymore (with Supernatural being the one exception right now). I don’t start book series unless I know how many books the author intends. I generally don’t watch movies that I know don’t have some semblance of a wrap-up. And I don’t collect ongoing comics anymore.
I’ve fallen in love with independent and creator-owned comics of late. When people look back on the best comics ever made, most will shout to the stars about books like Preacher and Y: The Last Man and 100 Bullets. All books which are great because they’re self contained. They’re stories - not just ongoing background noise. I’m not saying that there haven’t been phenomenal stories told within the pages of Batman or X-Men or Captain America. But the longer a series runs and the more creative teams are given access and input, eventually those older stories get twisted, ignored, or outright shit on.
When I know a book has an ending, I’m all over it. My favorite books right now are maxi-series like The Sixth Gun and The Massive and Fatale and Locke & Key. These are series that have the best of both worlds: long runs that allow for spectacular development, and a definitive arc that comes to a real conclusion.
It’s possible that I’ll become invested in these stories only to find out that the author is incapable of developing an ending that lives up to their ideas (which is my typical experience with Brian K. Vaughn). But I’m willing to take that risk, because - even in that terrible instance - at least it will be over. And maybe once each one of these stories is finished, I’ll look forward to more work from those creators, because they will show me that they’re capable of telling interesting stories.
I’ve had several conversations on my comic book podcast, Trade Secrets, about continuity in long-running comic books and how “mainstream” books differ from creator-owned works. It became very apparent to me this week, when I realized that my subscription list at my comic shop contains only a single Big 2 comic book: Rick Remender’s Captain America.
“There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”
The phrase above is meant to teach kids that asking is better than not asking because - at worst - you’ll learn something new. That’s how I was raised. As an adult, this axiom still holds true, except that what I’ve been learning is that people are assholes.
Lately, I’ve been encountering the Google effect when asking questions, especially in any online forum or social media. Someone mentions something I’ve never heard of and when I ask what it is, I get the online equivalent of a scrunchy-faced scoff. Apparently, the advent of ubiquitous online information and search engines means that no human being ever has to answer a simple fucking question anymore, and people who ask them without hitting up Google first are lazy, incompetent assholes. It’s the modern day equivalent of the schoolyard taunt “Go look it up!”.
It keeps getting worse. The more I try to engage people, the more flak I get for not looking shit up first. The problem is that if I Googled everything I ever saw in social media and never asked a question, I’d never directly interact with anyone. Twitter has been called the “place where everyone talks and no one listens”, and it’s now becoming the place where no one wants to listen. I’m just gonna whip my shit out there and expect you to know. You don’t know what I’m talking about? Go fucking Google it, asshole.
For the first time recently I was linked to a website called “Let Me Google That For You”, where the whole idea is given a snotty twist. It probably takes more effort to create a LMGTFY link than it would to just answer the fucking question in the first place, but people have now been given an engine with which to be douchekits to question-askers rather than simply engage them politely.
I like asking questions. I enjoy hearing people’s answers, especially about things they love that I might not know about. Listening to people’s slant on the information they dole out helps me to learn more about them from how they talk about the things they feel strongly about. Questions drive conversation. But as time goes on, people seem to want conversation less and less, and rather only want to commiserate with like-minded people who already know.
Is answering a simple question really that hard? Have we become so hopelessly inured to the ubiquity of online information that we can’t be bothered by someone wanting to hear our own answers, our own viewpoints? How does anyone pass along knowledge of the things they love to people who don’t know about them anymore? Isn’t that part of the point of social media?
I guess not. It’s the place where everyone shouts into the abyss. The place where, for want of as simple answer, several people I once followed lost me as a follower or an online “friend” because they couldn’t be bothered. When I ask a question and get a snarky “Google it” type response just remember: I’m not the one being the dick.
I read a few different “bookish” blogs, and have been getting into the world of prose publishing more and more lately for obvious reasons. I mentioned in one of me previous posts how I’ve seen a lot of people in the traditional book world talking about their transition to eBooks.
A recurring theme of these conversations centers around the major e-Reader makers and their DRM. Many people complain that e-Books available on Kindle, iBooks, and Nook are tethered to those devices, citing that you never had to worry about where you could read a book before eBooks. The book-reading community, as it were, seems to believe that eBooks should be an open platform, and available anywhere, all the time.
First off, I think the term DRM is slightly misused here. Most of the time, “DRM” (Digital Rights Managment) is used to describe the bits of code a company embeds in a particular file to prevent it from being copied (pirated). In the case of eBook readers, it’s less about piracy and more about file format: Each eReader has it’s own proprietary format that ties a piece of content to that particular type of device. The idea being that purchasing a book on Kindle ties you to that device and thus, into Amazon’s ecosystem, is apparently the Devil’s work in the eyes of many readers. My perspective as a geek and gamer places this practice under a wildly different lens.
I grew up playing console video games. My first console was a Nintendo Entertainment System and over the intervening 25+ years I’ve owned almost every major video game console. Having been a staunch Nintendo fan for many years - a stand that has now shifted to Playstation - the idea of “console wars” is ingrained in my childhood. There have always been two or three major console manufacturers vying for real estate in the video game landscape, each with their own proprietary format and exclusive titles.
And that’s never been a problem. If you wanted to play a Mario game, you owned a Nintendo. Same with Sonic & Sega. In the modern era, Playstation has Uncharted and Killzone, Xbox has Halo and Gears of War. I can’t plug a Playstation disc into an XBox. I can’t use a Wii U gamepad on my Playstation. Not only are these divisions expected, but accepted.
So why isn’t the same mentality true of eBooks?
We live in a world where hardware technology does not support itself. It’s too expensive to develop and manufacture, so hardware makers are forced to find other avenues of profit in order to make their devices successful. Console manufacturers don’t make money on their machines - Sony is a great example of this, having only recently started turning a profit on PS3 hardware after spending 7 years selling it at a loss - they make money on licensing fees and software sales.
Amazon loses money on Kindles, Barnes & Noble loses money on Nooks. Even Apple doesn’t turn a profit on iPads. These companies make all of their money - and fund the development of better hardware - by making it as convenient as possible for the owners of their hardware to stay within their own ecosystem and not venture outward. Every Kindle book sale funnels 30% (or more) into Amazon’s coffers. Without that money - if everyone were able to buy their eBooks elsewhere and read them on any device - the Kindle ceases to exist.
So why is that a problem? The major eBook hardware manufacturers have their own exclusive titles, but the vast majority of eBooks are “multiplatform” - either available in a universal format like ePub or PDF, or are simply released in multiple formats for the different hardwares. This is virtually the exact same model that has been used by the video game industry ever since hardware competition generated the tagline “Genesis Does What NintenDon’t”.
Once the digital publishing world settles down, it will no longer be an issue: It makes ZERO sense for a 3rd Party publisher - be them a behemoth like Harper Collins or a self-published author - to limit their exposure by sticking to a single platform without a major exclusivity contract that pays them hefty licensing fees. The vast majority of books will filter out to all platforms, just like video games from major publishers like EA and Ubisoft do.
I’m sure that the big eBook manufacturers will continue to have their own exclusive titles - especially in light of Amazon starting their own publishing house(s) - but the idea that hardware exclusivity is some sort of demon seed that’s destroying the integrity of eBook publishing is… well, it’s old fashioned and silly. Bookish folk who are just now encountering the notion of hardware exclusivity need to realize that this is not a new idea, nor is it a problem.
Besides, books have a huge advantage in this scenario: If all I have is a Playstation and a game isn’t available there, there’s no way for me to just buy the game in a standalone package and play it anyway. If a book isn’t available on your e-reader of choice, you can go buy a physical copy and still read it, legitimately, without any problems.
On Wednesday (March 13th, 2013, for those of you reading this IN THE FUTURE), I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel.
Well over 10 years ago I had an idea for a story. Being a geek, it was inspired in part by my gaming hobby. It was a fantasy story, about an artificial being called a construct - a sort of metal golem powered by a magical core. This construct had the ability to read the thoughts of other artificial beings, but an accident sort of hotwires his ability so that he begins receiving the memories of any construct in the vicinity who gets destroyed. Through the vision-memories he learns some startling truths about some very bad people, but the influx of new memories starts driving him insane.
Over time, the idea morphed a few times. At one point I had rejiggered the idea in order to submit it to an open call for novels at Wizards of the Coast, where the story was now set in the Eberron setting and the protagonist was a Warforged - that world’s version of the constructs I envisioned in my own story. I was only 23 at the time, and my writing was… rough, to say the least. My proposal did not get accepted.
Over the next few years, the idea just kept pounding around in my brain. No matter what else I did, at periodic intervals this idea would pop back up, and I’d just keep adding bits to the story. I knew that I wanted to write a series of stories centering around this character. I knew how the first book started, and I had a clear vision of how it ended. I knew the themes that I wanted to run through the book, and little tidbits I knew I wanted to include. The plot just kept banging around in my head.
At the end of 2010, I decided to try and write the first chapter. I knew so clearly how the story began, even though it had evolved quite a bit from my original idea. I sat down and banged out a 3,000 word opening chapter in about two hours, involving our hero’s entrance into the world, having woken up with no memories in a burning room, next to a dead man.
It was terrible. I’m sure part of that opinion is every artist’s pitfall of thinking their own art is all shit, but I mean it was really bad. I still have a copy of that version of the chapter, and I cringe when I read it. Even the current version - which you can read HERE, if you like - isn’t entirely finished. I can’t count the number of times I’ve rewritten that passage. I’m still not satisfied with it, but holy hell is it better than the very first version.
After writing that first chapter, I set it aside and didn’t touch it for several months. I picked it back up at random in March of 2011 and felt compelled to add to it. Over a couple of days I plunked in another 4,000 or so words, introducing the main antagonists of the story. That passage was wildly better, and has remained mostly unchanged. I still wasn’t really dedicated to working on it, so I unconsciously set it aside again.
I got a wild hair up my ass in October of 2011 and over two days dropped over 10,000 words into the manuscript. I furthered the journey, introduced a new main character, and felt like I really had something. It was another burst of energy though, and my discipline wasn’t really in place, so it sat for another few weeks without getting touched. I decided then and there that I needed to motivate myself into finishing the damned thing, which meant putting enough words into it that I felt I couldn’t just set it aside again (I was 25,000 words into another novel that I haven’t touched since 2003).
NaNoWriMo was the answer. If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a nifty writing exercise with a website and a community that challenges writers to write a 50,000 word novel entirely within the month of November. If you succeed, you get a certificate from the NaNoWriMo folks and a badge on their forums that identifies you as a “winner”, even though it’s not really a competition.
I didn’t really involve myself in the competition part of it, because I wasn’t really following the “rules”. I wasn’t creating a self-contained manuscript; Instead I was using the NaNoWriMo goals to add bulk to my existing novel. I set aside most everything else and proceeded to write every day in November of 2011, sticking to the running goal of 1667 words per day (which will net you just over 50k in 30 days). I didn’t quite hit 50k, but I dropped 48,000 words in that period of time, and succeeded at what I’d set out to do: I now felt entirely committed.
I mean, I now had a little under 70,000 words in the manuscript. How could I let it go now? I continued to write throughout the next several months into 2012, albeit not at quite the same pace, and then hit a wall. It wasn’t writers block so much as I’d written myself into a corner that I felt I couldn’t get out of, so the next couple of months were spent on an extensive mid-book rewrite, digging trenches and building dykes to redirect the flow of the river. It worked, but I was exhausted when I’d finished.
It almost broke me. That rewrite accomplished what I’d wanted it to, but I was amazed at the brain power it takes to rewrite my own work and still manage to maintain any sense of continuity in the prose. My life became a jumble of sticky notes and notepads and random scraps of paper where I’d jotted down the plot points I’d changed and tried to figure out their downstream effects. A lot was changing - including killing off a character I hadn’t intended to before - and keeping it all straight was daunting.
When I finished, I just… stopped. I wasn’t actively trying to not write, but I just, well, didn’t write for several months. It took some outside forces - namely a number of friends constantly asking me how I was doing on my book - to get me to bust my ass back into it.
Toward the end of 2012 I lit a fire under my own ass to finish the damned thing. I’d originally set the goal of finishing it by the end of that year, but didn’t quite make it. This time, though, it wasn’t because I wasn’t writing, it was because I kept seeing holes I needed to close before the end, which kept adding length to the overall manuscript. I quit my job at the beginning of 2013 to finish it and spent the entire month of February - a month loaded with distractions - writing.
It took longer than I expected. From first keystrokes to last, I spent roughly 27 months on the first draft. If I actually calculate real writing time, though, I’d say the book probably took about 10 months of real work to complete.
At this point I could be humble or self deprecating, but fuck that it’s not who I am. I FINISHED MY BOOK. And I’m proud of myself for it. It’s going to take a cubic-fuck-ton of editing and rewrites to shape it into what I want it to be, and I know I’ve got a long road ahead to get it published, but HOLY SHIT IT’S FINISHED.
I read a lot online. I tend to gravitate toward book blogs and video game sites, which makes sense with my background. Me recent perusals have brought up two wildly different topics, and I’ve decided to just write about both of them.
Recurring articles pop up all the time in the book-o-sphere, and one that always catches my eye are bloggers and industry folk discussing their “journey” with eBooks. See, many of them were staunch opponents to eBooks. On one end of the spectrum there are folks who didn’t want to support eBooks because they thought it to be the demise of their favorite industry and/or pastime. On the other end are the more hipster-ish arguments claiming that the feel or smell of a physical book is integral to the reading experience.
First, let me say that both of these arguments are bullshit. The publishing game is changing, yes, but the idea that upheaval in the modern book industry would result in the death of prose as an artform is ludicrous. Any arguments regarding the book as a physical object being an inseparable core aspect of the reading experience is equally silly: it is the words on the page that keep you reading, and I defy anyone to tell me with a straight face that when they are immersed in a story they still pay attention to how the pages smell.
On the other hand, I agree that the early days of eBooks were pretty rough. Reading a book off of an LCD screen - especially an older one with a lower refresh-rate - was physically painful for me, causing me tons of eye strain and headaches. Upon the invention and refinement of ePaper, though, all of those barriers go away.
I was thinking about writing an article about my “journey” into eBooks, but it really boils down to this: ePaper is awesome, eBooks rock, and the moment that had the ability to rid myself of stacks and stacks of books and replace them with a single device that could, ostensibly, hold every book I’d ever want to read presented itself I jumped in with both feet. I’m sold.
ON VIDEO GAMES
The big hubbub today centers around EA’s release of the new SimCity title, a game they showed at last year’s E3. In a surprise to exactly no one, EA’s been having all kinds of troubles maintaining the persistent, always-on internet connection required to play the game. Players have reported everything from 5+ hour downloads to the loss of hours of gameplay due to a server hiccup to the complete inability to connect at all.
I remember watching the demo for this title during E3 and being really excited for it. I used to play a ton of SimCity on an old Mac Classic, spending hours and hours using cheat codes to get extra money while having natural disasters turned off, then building up a giant metropolis only to turn natural disasters back on and watch the whole thing sink into what amounted to an apocalypse.
When they announced that the game required a persistent internet connection, though, I immediately scratched it off of my want list. The entire concept that if my internet connection goes down I suddenly lose access to games that I’ve either purchased in physical form or downloaded to a local device is appalling to me. It has, and always will be, a deal-breaker.
I really wish I could be a fly on the wall in meetings where executives discuss the reasoning behind requiring an internet connection to play single-player games. Video game industry folk try to sell us this idea as an anti-piracy measure, but I believe that’s more smokescreen than anything else. Executive-level folks like to make a big deal out of piracy, but it has considerably less effect on a company’s bottom line than many would lead us to believe.
In reality it’s more of a way for them to collect data on their players and target all of us with advertising. Plus, with the video game industry about to enter a major era of flux, game companies are panicking because they have no idea what gamers want anymore. Many of them believe that collecting this sort of data will help them figure out what the next big thing will be before it gets here. What they don’t realize is that with game development cycles that last 3+ years, the fickle nature of the industry will have changed between development and release, so all you can do is cross your fingers and hope.
In the meantime, the larger companies like EA and Blizzard are instituting this asinine always-on DRM that will end up losing them way more customers than piracy ever would. How about trying a different tactic: make good games, and make them as easy to obtain and play as humanly possible, for a decent price. Could it truly be that simple? Seems pretty basic to me.
My goal for the month of February was to finish the first draft of my novel and to write one blog post every day. These goals have taught me one very important lesson: Set realistic goals.
I’ve missed the one-blog-post-per-day mark already. I’m not horrified by that, but I am a little surprised. I’m likely going to miss the finish-the-book goal, which I actually knew the moment I started writing on it earlier this month. As it turns out, there were two things working against me in February:
First, the novel is going to be a little longer than I expected. I was thinking the first draft would cap out at around 120,000 words, but I’ve already surpassed that and still have a ways to go. I’m now expecting it to clock in at around 140k. I’m not at all bothered by missing this goal, because I don’t believe I’m missing it as a result of laziness or complacency.
It’s amazing the unexpected things that pop into your writing when constructing fiction. I have a plan for how this novel ends, and I had most of a plan constructed for how to get there. As I wrote, I saw holes; parts that needed filling-in not so that the ending would make sense, but so that how the characters got there would make sense. The last bit of manuscript before the novel’s climax needed some additional info, else it was going to be a jumbled mess.
Hell, it probably still is, but that’s where I stand with it.
Second, the month was filled with holidays and things that required preparation that I had not previously accounted for. The first half of the month was spent adjusting to my new environment and learning how to develop a self-driven work ethic. The second half of the month contains Valentine’s Day, my 35th Birthday, and the Geekerific.com presence at Emerald City Comicon, all of which required my attention and interfered with writing. Not to mention the fact that in the middle of it all, I got deathly sick for about a week.
My original goals did not take into account my personal adjustment period, but overall they did not account for outside forces. I assumed - yeah, yeah, it makes an ass out of Umed… or something - that I would just be able to devote every waking moment to those two goals. In my excitement for that idea, I failed at the whole, you know, reality thing. Hell, I missed my blog post yesterday because I churned out almost 2,300 words on the book. You know, priorities and stuff.
And you know what? It doesn’t really bother me. The last three weeks has taught me so much about my writing process that it’s worth the effort even if I didn’t technically “finish” my goals. I’ve finally entered the climactic conflict in the novel, and I’ve gained insight on the types of things I wand to talk about in my blog. Oddly enough, where I’ve gained confidence in my fiction writing, I’ve eroded my confidence in my blogging after reading a ton of other blogs that are both better informed, more interesting, and way more eloquent than I am.
But I’m still gonna do it, whether you people want to read it or not.
I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot of thoughts in the coming weeks and months about the Playstation 4, but I’m going to start off by talking about my favorite feature - or feature set, rather - about the console: its focus on downloadable content.
Or, rather, the focus on making downloadable content instant and invisible, or at least as much as is possible in this day and age.
Last July, Sony acquired streaming-game service Gaikai. Gaikai, for those of you not familiar with the name (don’t worry, most of us weren’t), created a set of streaming technologies that would operate similar to OnLive, but rather than creating a distinct service, they focused on partnerships that would embed their technology into websites and devices. There was a lot of speculation surrounding Sony’s purchase of Gaikai, most of it centered around whether or not the PS4 was going to be a cloud-based game system like OnLive.
Thankfully, that speculation was incorrect, and the realization of that partnership is even better than we could have imagined. It seems that rather than using Gaikai’s technology solely for game streaming, Sony will instead focus that technology on streamlining the download and play process for gamers, thus addressing one of the largest and longest running complaints about the PS3: constant and frustratingly slow updates.
Sony will combine Gaikai’s streaming tech with something that has never been conceived on a console: internal hardware dedicated solely to managing downloads. In the past, in virtually all digital spaces, the management of background downloading, multiple downloads, or updates to software has been limited to software-side solutions. This would always require the software to set aside chunks of processor real-estate to handle the downloads, and while there have been a few decent PC implementations, it’s never really been done properly. With internal hardware dedicated to the task, gamers will never have to wait for a download to play a game, and background downloads will rarely - if ever - need to be paused in order to accommodate gameplay.
Combine this hardware solution with Gaikai’s streaming tech, and you have an absolute nirvana for gamers: a system that will allow you to download everything in the background regardless of what you’re doing on the console at the time, will let you stream content from the server while you’re waiting for a game to download, and will download and install any and all updates automatically.
Never again will you put a game disc into your console and have to wait for an hour for the most recent updates to download and install. Never again will you purchase a digital title and have to wait for it to download before you can begin playing. Never again will you turn on your system and wait for an interminable system update before you can begin playing.
This set of features, if executed properly, could be one of the best things to come out of console gaming in years. It also proves that not only was Sony listening intently to their fans and detractors, but they took their solution to one of the strongest complaints of this generation a step further than many of us even knew was possible. It bodes well for Sony’s standing in the next round of the “console wars”, which is good news for long-time Playstation hardcores like me.
If you’re not a gamer, or if you’re some sort of reclusive hobbit gamer that lives in an abandoned missile silo, the news of today’s Playstation press conference may have passed you by. For the rest of us, this was the first shell fired into the newest generation of warring consoles, where Sony spent the better part of two hours announcing their plans for the upcoming Playstation 4.
Anyone who listens to the After The Fact podcast knows that I’m a humongous Playstation fan. I grew up a console gamer and cut my teeth on Nintendo’s classic systems. I was just the right age - a senior in high-school - when the Playstation came out, and it was the first console I ever bought with my own money. I was a mild Playstation fan through the life of the PSOne, mostly because I was wholly disappointed by Nintendo’s offering at the time. When the PS2 came out, though, I was completely hooked, and have been ever since.
Today’s PS4 announcement had a hell of a lot of good in it. It seems, for the most part, that Sony has learned from many of their mistakes during the PS3 generation, and is focused on providing a wholly reinvented online and social experience, combined with a system that is focused on getting you gaming as fast as possible and as soon as you want it.
My only real disappointments with today’s conference came in the form of the games that were showcased. A few really caught my eye like inFamous: Second Son and Knack, but the rest kind of fell flat for me. Killzone looked beautiful but it’s a series that’s never found it’s way into my heart. I’m glad to see that Watch Dogs is a PS4 offering rather than PS3, but the gameplay demo they showed actually didn’t feel as dynamic as the one Ubisoft showed us at E3. The Destiny announcement was a given - especially after their conference in Seattle just a couple of days ago - and the Diablo III announcement left me scratching my head.
The two biggest standouts in my mind, though, are the PSVita connectivity - remote play that might, for once, actually work? - and the controller. The DualShock 4 is the first departure from the standard DualShock design since its introduction in the mid-‘90’s, and it looks nigh on perfect to me. A more ergonomic shape, added features, and just slightly re-designed everything means a DualShock that seems like it’s just better.
I’m still processing everything I saw today, and I’ll have more detailed thoughts in the coming week.
Even though I’m lying here, sick as a dog, living off of Robotussin and cough drops, this subject has bothered my long enough that I had to sit up and write about it.
I’m always amazed at people’s reluctance to try new things. This is primarily a reaction to my experience with games and poker. I’ve been playing board games for most of my life in some form, and I’ve always been interested in playing something new. I’ll give damned near any game you put in front of me a try, if for no other reason than to understand why I don’t want to play it.
I’ve met a ton of people over the years who are stuck in some kind of rut when it comes to board games. They’ve found the one or few that they like, and fuck all the rest. Even if something new comes out that’s right up their alley, they blanch at the whole idea of putting the effort out to learn something new, especially if they feel as though they’ve “solved” the game they’re familiar with.
This is especially true with poker. After Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003, the world saw an explosion in poker interest, centered primarily around No-Limit Hold ‘Em, the game that’s played in the WSOP Main Event. Everyone and their brother, sister, cousin, neighbor, mistress, gigolo, mild acquaintance, and most-hated-enemy learned how to play Hold ‘Em. In the years that followed, the combination of home games and online poker kept spurring this interest in Hold ‘Em and everyone just kept playing, whether they were good at the game or not.
What about other poker games? Poker, in it’s current form, has been around for a couple hundred years, but No Limit Hold ‘Em was only invented in the early ‘50’s. 5-Card Draw, 7-Card Stud, and their variants predate Hold ‘Em by a long shot. Since Hold ‘Em’s introduction, variants on the community-card theme - Omaha, Tahoe, Pineapple and the like - have exploded as well. There are a ton of poker variants, and most of them are pretty damned fun. Just look at the WSOP schedule this year: there are 8 or 10 different games being spread, and even more if you count betting variations like Limit, Pot-Limit, and No Limit.
But I’ll be bug-fuckered if I can figure out a way to get home-game players to play anything but No Limit Hold ‘Em.
I was introduced to poker in 2004 via Hold ‘Em, just like most people. I played in a home game that ran for several years, and when it fell apart I started running my own home game, which has been running with varying degrees of success for a number of years now. Even though I started on Hold ‘Em, the whole concept of poker is what drew me in, and my appetite to learn the other games has never really been quenched. I’m absolutely fascinated by the fact that someone designed a deck of 52 cards that a) hasn’t appreciably changed since it’s initial creation and b) has spawned countless variants not only of poker, but of a ton of other games that can be played with that very same deck.
Apparently, many do not share that same level of enthusiasm. There is a small, core band of players in my poker group that will play whatever game is put in front of us. Getting anyone outside that group to play anything but Hold ‘Em is like herding cats. All the other poker games seem to hold this stigma that they’re for “more experienced” players, or people just aren’t willing to learn them because they’re afraid to move away from the game they already know. This cenophobia just baffles me.
The most common excuse I hear is “I’ll just lose my money.”
Wait… Didn’t you do the exact same thing to learn Hold ‘Em in the first place? At some point, every one of the millions of Hold ‘Em players out there were newbs, myself included, and we were just lighting our money on fire by playing it at all. This is especially funny coming from the people who routinely lose even playing Hold ‘Em. Clearly you’re not in this thing for the money, so why should spending a few bucks on a new game bother you? And yet, not one of these people who’re afraid of Omaha or Stud or Lowball has been able to sufficiently explain to me how learning one of these new games would be any different from the experience they had learning Hold ‘Em.
I mean, I really love Hold ‘Em, but with as much enjoyment as I get out of it, it can get a little tiresome after a while. Break out of your shell! Do something new! Don’t be a chicken-shit! Play a new game every once in a while.
Look at that. We all lived through Valentine’s Day.
According to a ton of people in my social media feeds, Valentine’s Day sits in a range somewhere between “annoying corporate holiday” and “candy heart murder-suicide pact day”. V-Day has always carried a stigma for the average adult male: it’s either the day you go try to get laid or the day you fuck everything up and will never get laid again. Somewhere along the line, though, it became this hated thing, perceived not as a day to celebrate love but a day for those in relationships to throw their connectedness in the face of all of their untethered friends.
I’ll admit: Valentine’s day is pretty superfluous. If you’re in even a semi-committed relationship, you don’t need a holiday - or any outside force, for that matter - to reinforce that bond. Well, you shouldn’t, at least. Your relationship with your significant other is a very personal thing, and isn’t something that most people (at least that I know) need or want to celebrate on an international level. We want our celebrations to be just for us - the times that our relationship not only takes precedence over the rest of the world, but does so to the exclusion of all others.
So, yeah. Valentine’s Day is somewhat artificial. But when did it become the target of vitriol? When I was growing up there was always some bitter sap on the sidelines with their fuck-this-lovey-dovey-crap attitude, but somehow this cheesy, unimportant holiday has become THE ESTABLISHMENT, and single people turn into a raging anti-establishment mob for a few days.
I’ll let all you single people know a little secret about Valentine’s Day: most of us in relationships don’t give a shit about it. Yeah, we’ll use it as a random excuse to buy flowers or go out to a movie or have a date night - all things that we do in plenty of other situations - but it’s not us that’s throwing anything in anyone’s face. Truly committed, happy couples think that Valentine’s Day is pretty silly and arbitrary, just like you single folk do.
The percentage of people who go googly over this holiday is (almost certainly) pretty (probably) small (hopefully). The real pressure of Valentine’s Day lands squarely on the shoulders of newly-committed guys whose relationships haven’t developed enough to have their own milestones, and thus V-Day becomes girlfriends’ litmus test for their boyfriends’ devotion. And let me tell ya: that is a shitty place to be.