RANDOM REVIEW – 2009

Another year has come and gone, and as I sit here bored at work, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the end of what I like to call “the 2Ks.”

2009 was both a good and a bad year for me, personally. On the good side, I got off my rear and put the left side of my brain to work writing a few short stories and poems. I also started to pursue voice acting: taking lessons, getting into a studio for the first time, and doing some podcasting.

Interestingly enough, the shove that got my creative ball rolling again was Mizuumi-con, held on March 21st. There, I attended two panels; the first was a voice acting panel held by Kevin M. Connolly, which gave me an idea of what to expect going into the voice acting business. The second was Chris Holm’s “Inspiring Artists” panel. He and I had won the “My Cage” art and writing contests a while back, and it was my first time meeting him. At his panel, he told his story about (quite literally) where his art took him.

I started by going back through old ideas I had written down, thinking over which ones would be worth the effort to bring them to reality. I got started on a few things, and then a number of weeks later, Chris Holm emailed me. He wanted me to sit in on a meeting of an artists’ group that was starting up. I thought that it would be fun, and so I found myself at a coffee shop that Saturday afternoon. That group would eventually jell into First Storm Manga. My involvement with them has introduced me to some new friends, provided me with a creative outlet and led to some fun times spent at anime conventions.

Career-wise, the best I can say is that I had the same job at the end of the year as I did at the start of it. I was introduced to Military Flavored Baloney, as opposed to the Corporate Flavored Baloney I am used to having. At the end of the day, its still baloney, but the money’s good and the work isn’t too hard, so I’ll ride it out.

Moving on to the less-pleasant events of 2009, I lost two people that were important to me, namely Melinda Garcia, wife of my good friend Carlos Garcia, and my grandmother, Manuela Soliz. They are already sorely missed, and their passing has made me think about the direction I want to take my life in, but that is a topic for another time.

I had also hoped to have a house by the end of this year, but that got put aside due to the uncertainties of my job. Now that I feel more confident about my employment situation, I will start looking for a home in earnest, and my hope to have purchased one by summer.

In my opinion, 2009 was “The Year of the Attention Whore.” Maybe its just because we see them in the news more frequently, but I don’t recall the last time we had this many nutballs jumping up and down screaming “LOOK AT ME!” Just off the top of my head, we have Dick Cheney, Octomom, Joe Wilson, the Balloon Boy parents, Jon and Kate, the White House Gate Crashers, Lady Gaga, some prison escapee in England that has been taunting the cops via Facebook, and the various women that slept with Tiger Woods. Now, I’m not claiming any level of moral high ground, because I was admittedly watching and talking about them just like everyone else, so I guess I’m part of the problem.

It was bittersweet to have to say farewell to some folks in 2009, but new friends were also made. Thus, as a new year begins, I find myself a little more appreciative of my station in life and hopeful for the many possibilities that lay ahead in The New Year.

Here’s to you, 2009, don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!

Apple is the new Nintendo (which is the new Apple!)

Somedays it is easy to believe that I have waken up in Bizarro-world.  Apple recently decided that the iPod Touch was going to be a game machine.  Nintendo turned the DS into a music player with the DSi, (using Apple’s codec, of all things!)  In addition, Nintendo announced the DS XL not even a year after the DSi’s release.

What’s next, a new version of Windows that actually works?

Oh…

I have thought of Nintendo as being the “Apple” of the video game industry for some time.  Much like Apple, they march to their own beat and don’t worry about what “the other guys” are doing.  Sometimes it works out great, sometimes they trip over their own innovations, and sometimes they are just too far ahead of the curve for their own good.  At the end of the day, they make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Apple, of course, has long been known for “thinking different,” as well as for Steve Jobs, overpriced hardware, constantly re-releasing new iterations of said hardware with minor updates, and not being very interested in gaming.  At the end of the day, they also make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Thus, it came as a surprise to see Apple take a page out of Nintendo’s book, as they touted the iPod Touch as their new portable “game machine.”  Apple was also pretty blatant in promoting their device as being superior to Nintendo and Sony’s portable offerings.  The beauty of Apple’s approach is that Apple itself does not have to make any of the games themselves.

Nintendo, for its part, recently announced the DS XL, a curious move which defies traditional gadget logic.  After all, things are supposed to get smaller over time, not bigger!  In fact, the 4-inch screen of the XL nearly brings it to par with Sony’s PSP.

Speaking of Sony, Lord only knows what they’re thinking…I mean, seriously, $250 for the PSPgo?

For all of the hype, I don’t see games being a big part of Apple’s overall strategy; instead they will be another revenue stream just like apps and music.  The games themselves have been mostly casual affairs, the ‘big budget’ titles have come from EA and their ilk…as if they needed another platform to release Madden onto.

It remains to be seen whether Nintendo will be adding other multimedia functions to take advantage of the DS XL’s bigger screen.  While a video player would be much appreciated by DS users, it won’t contribute to Nintendo’s bottom line, so I doubt we will see that happening anytime soon.

While Nintendo and Apple have taken pages out of each other’s business plans, the fundamental core of what both companies will remain the same, so long as the DS and iPod continue to be money-makers.

I suppose Bizarro-world isn’t such a bad place to be after all.