70 Things I Noticed During PAX South

conventionsPAX South took place this past weekend in San Antonio, and I dropped in on behalf of originalgamer.com to help out with Video Game Jeopardy! and play some games.

  1. Rainy and cold on Friday. Did the weather follow the Penny-Arcade guys down here?
  2. First time I’ve ever seen people scalping tickets at a con.
  3. Weird con idea: Coat check-in
  4. Found it hilarious that OG forgot his battery pack and his phone died. Seriously, dude?
  5. Dafuq with all the Seahawks jerseys? I thought these were supposed to be nerds?
  6. Nice line for Video Game Jeopardy, hope my voice holds up
  7. Men’s room was out of soap, hopefully that means people are using it 
  8. Actually, I didn’t use any. Sorry, guys, I was in a hurry
  9. We’ve been doing Video Game Jeopardy for years and of course I goof up in front of our biggest audience by pulling up an answer when the contestant had it wrong
  10. The guy won easily, no harm done there. *whew*
  11. Despite all the Seahawks jerseys, ‘Cover Athletes’ was easily the most-hated Video Game Jeopardy! category
  12. Somebody actually knew the obscure Atari 2600-related answer (Pele’s Soccer) Impressive.
  13. The risk of picking random people for Video Game Jeopardy is that we may get folks that know little or know it all, we got two of the first and one of the second.
  14. Had a case of mistaken identity after Video Game Jeopardy, hadn’t had that happen in a while.
  15. Sorry, I have never worked at GameStop, though like many gamers, I’ve spent enough time at them for it to seem that way.
  16. Thought someone was giving away bean bags until I realized it was a chill area.  Derp.
  17. Saturday-If you don’t mind walking a few blocks there’s a $2.50 per day parking lot under the freeway at E. Houston St.
  18. Forgot to bring my 3DS on Friday, not making that mistake again!
  19. I always bring a box of Rice Krispies Treats in my backpack.  Just the thing to hold one over till the next meal.
  20. Nerds love em too, which is good for sharing
  21. Seriously.  Anime, comic, furry, video game, whatever-con. Nerds flip for Rice Krispies Treats.
  22. Left my gloves at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, sure would have come in handy today!
  23. Random guy came up and offered me a Saturday badge because he was looking for a guy ‘with a red shirt and a fist on it.’  Lucky for him I’m honest.
  24. Weird thing: He apparently didn’t notice I was already wearing a badge.  Hope he found who he was looking for.
  25. Saturday con day breakfast: Breakfast on a Bun with sausauge.  If you don’t know what that is, have breakfast at Whataburger the next time you see one.
  26. Oh, they do have a coat check here.  Cool.
  27. So one hall is to hold the line to get into the other one? I am a little disappoint.
  28. Remember when arcades weren’t just fighting games? Pepperidge Farm remembers
  29. Maybe its because I’ve been to E3 but my initial reaction to PAX was slightly underwhelmed
  30. What was there was cool, but in terms of volume, other cons have more stuff.  Quality vs. quantity, I suppose.
  31. Also, I’m also not a OMG HARDCORE GAMER so I’m not exactly the ‘target audience.’
  32. Plenty of signal, no data, thanks Cricket/AT&T!
  33. Crisis:  3DS battery light turns red OH NOES I’LL MISS ALL THE STREETPASSES
  34. Nintendo: Y U NO USE USB?
  35. Good idea: Arriving half an hour early for a panel. Bad idea: Standing in line for about a half-hour waiting to get in
  36. I own an iPad mini, a Windows 8 tablet, a smartphone and still ended up using paper and pen to take my notes.  Yay for dead trees!
  37. Weird moment: Sitting at the lower level of the Rivercenter food court eating, looking to my left, and seeing people’s feet.
  38. They had shoes on, so it wasn’t that bad
  39. Weirder moment: Seeing a Starbucks gift card next to said feet
  40. Weirdest moment: Asking the owners of the feet if they had dropped it
  41. The card wasn’t theirs and I was too honest to take it. Oh well!
  42. Thought I saw the paleta man but it just a bicycle-rickshaw thing BOO
  43. Scott Kurtz was the only celebrity I knew of, so I said hi, told him I enjoyed PvP and went on my merry way.
  44. I probably weirded the dude out. Sorry man, couldn’t think of anything clever.
  45. Booth observations:  No demo, no write up.
  46. I also don’t think my editor is interested in Kickstarter projects.
  47. Saw one booth that looked like a T-shirt company-cum-game developer…huh?
  48. I tended to ignore booths that had ‘just another’ shooter/platformer/adventure game.  Yes, I’m jaded
  49. No interest in mobile games, either. Sorry, guys /shrug
  50. Loneliest booth was probably Gamechurch.com
  51. Sitting across from an empty seat resting my feet and some gal just sits in it.  I guess being pretty means not having manners.
  52. The next gal that showed up after Ms. Thing left asked if the seat was taken.  Go fig.
  53. Not interested in swag, but Astronaut ice cream?  Yes, please!
  54. I have no idea why they had Astronaut ice cream.
  55. Rest time = Streetpass harvest time!
  56. Losing weight is good. Having to constantly pull up my jeans is annoying, made me like a bleeping teenager
  57. I referred to the jean-tugs as the ‘reverse Picard maneuver’
  58. Lots of compliments on my ‘I can wreck it!’ shirt again, woo!
  59. Realized after the fact that I overpacked and should have left my Bluetooth mouse/keyboard at home.
  60. Observation from OG: There were no volunteers barking at attendees like at other cons
  61. Wonder if it’s because the attendees seem to be a mite older here?
  62. Regardless, perhaps other cons need to jazz up their marketing and call their volunteers something else to add prestige and respect to what is a very thankless job.  “Volunteer?”  Boring.  “Enforcers?”  Oooh.
  63. Not sure what I’m going to do for Sunday.  I pretty much saw all the booths yesterday
  64. Made darn sure to charge my 3DS last night
  65. Also remembered to fill my water bottle before leaving the house this time.  Mmm, home water.
  66. The weather was so nice I almost forgot my coat when I left
  67. Now that the event is over, I can finally delete all those ‘PLEASE COME SEE OUR STUFF’ emails from devs.
  68. Great, now they’re finding me on my Twitter
  69. Obligatory work item: My legs should not be this sore after the fact, need a gig where I *don’t* sit on my tail all day
  70. PAX South is probably the best fan-run gaming convention around and I can see why folks love it so.  Its not really my thing; if I go next year it’ll just be for a day.  Plenty of my friends had a blast, though!

GAME OVER?

videogamesI think I might be done with video games, or at least done with buying new consoles. I have been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600 but my enthusiasm for new games and consoles has grown smaller and smaller with each sequel/lookalike/dark-haried protagonist/space marine game announcement for the last year or two.

One reason is I just don’t consume as much media as I used to.  I see movies very occasionally, watch little to no television and don’t buy very many CDs and Blu-Rays anymore.  A bigger reason is a feeling of ‘been there, done that.’  The Big 3’s E3 announcements impacted me with a great big ‘meh’ as I saw the sequel numbers get higher and higher.

So let’s run down the list:

SONY

I like to describe my PlayStation 3  as my “Blu-Ray player that also plays Ratchet and Clank.”  I can count the number of PS3 disc games I own on my hands, and most of the downloadable ones I have are games that I reviewed for original-gamer.com  It should say something that I still haven’t finished Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault and have yet to even purchase Sly Cooper 4.  As I have nearly zero interest in JPRGs or any of the Sony exclusive titles, I don’t see any reason to get a PS4 anytime soon.

MICROSOFT

The Xbox 360 was easily my favorite machine of this generation, though it bears mentioning that about a third of the disc games I own have either ‘Rock Band’ or ‘Guitar Hero’ in the title.  I’ve also purchased about a dozen downloaded titles and the Kinect is always fun when friends are over.  The Halo and Gears of War series have both been entertaining, but I have little interest in seeing them drug into the ground a la Capcom.  The TV functions of the 360 were also nice: I used it to stream and record HDTV from my PC via Windows Media Center to the living room TV.  I was actually intrigued by the Xbox 360’s TV functionality but the high price and anti-consumer policies Microsoft may or may not be imposing mean I won’t be getting an Xbox One in the near future.

NINTENDO

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” the old joke goes.  Nintendo has finally gone to the well once too often because Mario has become the new Madden as far as I am concerned.  I think the breaking point was when they started making sequels.  I may yet acquire Super Mario Galaxy 2 but my initial reaction was “Oh boy, they added Yoshi…whee.”  When New Super Mario Bros. 2 was announced,  I saw the ads about the whole ‘collect a bajillion coins’ thing and thought, “That’s IT?”  I am intrigued by the Wii U, but its initial lineup landed with a great big thud and the current game drought makes me feel like I didn’t have it so bad after buying a launch 3DS.  The sad thing is that the one franchise I would like for Nintendo to drag into the ground is one they’ve completely forgotten about: StarFox.

PC

I haven’t done any PC gaming for quite a few years now.  Seriously, the last PC game I bought was Portal…on disc…at Circuit City.  Oddly enough, I may end up playing games solely on my PC from here on out.  Since most of the big multi-platform releases end up on PC, I shouldn’t miss very many of the few AAA titles I’m interested in and there are loads of smaller devs doing interesting things these days on the indie scene.  Maybe I’ll get an Ouya after its had a little more time in the oven.

So there you have it.  I have been a gamer for well over 30 years now, and while it has been loads of fun, it may be time to hang up the controller for good.  Will it happen?  Who knows, but my current consoles and 3DS are doing just fine for now.

Has Nintendo Jumped The Shark?

Detractors of certain games, genres, and even systems often complain that “all they do is make the same game over and over again.”  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m starting to feel that way about Nintendo.

I first got this vibe when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was released.  I still haven’t picked it up and don’t really have any desire to.  The New Thing in that game was the addition of Yoshi.  Yay.  New Super Mario Bros. 2 was announced and I reacted to the whole “COLLECT A BAJILLION COINS!” thing with a great big “whoop-dee-doo.”

Its not just what some call “sequelitis,” either. Indeed, the Big N is almost expected to drop new Mario or Zelda games every so often, its what they do. To their credit, Nintendo has kept their franchises fresh by evolving and adding to their gameplay over the years, but I now find myself unexcited and uninterested in Mario’s latest adventures.  It also doesn’t help that the one franchise I wouldn’t mind seeing them drag into the ground (StarFox) hasn’t seen a new game since 2006.

The Wii U is now here and its not even on my radar; I find myself more interested in hunting down an iPad mini.  As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to take more than just another Mario or Zelda game to get me to drop the cash for a Wii U.

They just aren’t special to me anymore, and there’s something sad about that.

Wii Snooze

zzzzz…

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized that the Wii U is being released in the USA this Sunday.  It sneaked up on me the same way like Thanksgiving did.  But whereas I am excited about spending time with family and watching football and eating good food and shopping and a long weekend away from the office, I have virtually zero interest in the Wii U.

I was interested in the system after the Wii U’s debut at Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference.  Like the Wii, it promises to provide new ways to play games.  I even wrote an article discussing the similarities between it and the 3DS for original-gamer.com.  This year’s Nintendo press conference, however, completely let the air out of that balloon.  All I saw was Mario, a bunch of recent releases, and one or two mildly interesting games.  One of which was Lego City Undercover, which should say something.

While I didn’t get a Wii at launch, I did find the idea interesting and ultimately purchased one once some interesting games came out for it.  This time around, though, Nintendo is going to have to do better than dragging out yet another Mario or Zelda game.

My apathy towards the Wii U leaves me feeling a little sad: Part of me is wondering if Nintendo has jumped the shark, but that’s a discussion for a future time.

RANDOM REACTION: Wreck-It Ralph

Thank you, Disney, for finally giving us a really good movie about video games.  Wreck-It Ralph is an homage to all of video gaming, not just the ‘arcade days.’  The best compliment that I can give to it is that you don’t have to know anything about games to enjoy it.  Granted, you’ll get more out of it if you have played video games, but they do a good job of explaining how things work in the world behind the arcade screen.

The video game cameos/references/in-jokes all made sense.  I never got that feeling of “HEY! LOOK! IT’S SO-AND-SO! AREN’T WE CLEVER!” that sometimes comes with movies like this.  Everything just felt right.

Despite being labeled as a kids’ movie, Wreck-It Ralph has some dark moments and is rated PG.  There were plenty of funny moments, and I heard as many adults laughing (including myself) as I did kids throughout.  I am going to gladly watch it a few more times in the theaters and buy the inevitable Blu-Ray release.

YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT!

I’M GONNA WATCH IT!

You Can Fix It!

I’ve been hyped up for Wreck-It Ralph ever since I saw the first trailer.  While Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a fun ride, it was more geared toward the NES kids that are just a hair younger than I am.  Tron and Reboot gave us a look into the ‘world inside the computer’ but Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to the arcade games many of us dropped numerous quarters into back in the 70s and 80s.

The story centers on the titular Wreck-It Ralph, a “bad guy” from a fictional early 1980s arcade game who has grown tired of playing that role for the last 30 years.  He attends group sessions with other bad guys including such heavyweights as Zangief from Street Fighter, Kano from Mortal Kombat, Neff from Altered Beast and even Clyde (the orange ghost) from Pac-Man.  In an effort to become a hero he jumps into other games, eventually putting the arcade in jeopardy.

Disney has even gone through the trouble of making fictional posters, TV commercials and even real “Fix-It Felix Jr.” arcade machines.  I can’t wait, because the movie just feels right based on what I’ve seen in the trailers.  Those of us old enough to remember when arcade games were video games should probably watch this movie, it looks to be a fun one.

An Editor’s Tail

You MUST play this game.

I am the Editor/Voice Guy of Original-Gamer.com and I all but handed in my resignation two weeks ago.  I had become burned out having spent the last two years and change reviewing games, editing and writing articles about games, voicing over videos about games, going to game-related events, and actually having to PLAY a bunch of games.  Video games had become work, and I had become sick of them to the point where even the Wii U announcement during E3 had failed to excite me.  What little joy I could muster from videogames came from playing 3DS titles.  Mighty Switch Force and Final Fantasy Theatrhythm were two recent titles that I had actually enjoyed.

I wanted videogames to be fun again, and so I told OG that I was done.  That was it. Game Over.  No mas.  Bueno, bye.  I would wrap up the games that were currently on my plate and be completely done with the site.  I reconsidered it over the San Japan weekend and decided that I would stick around, but would no longer review games.  This is part of a greater desire to cut back on ‘side projects’ so that I could concentrate on my writing.

I was happy to be getting a break from videogames.  I only had one or two more to finish before clearing my plate of everything that I ‘had’ to play and then I could get back to playing games that I wanted to play.  One evening while chatting, OG mentioned Dust: An Elysian Tail (or simply Dust).  He said that he was enjoying it and that I probably would like it, too.

At first, I wasn’t sure that he was being serious.  OG and I know each other well enough to mess with each other and I thought he was being all “you’ll like it because ITS FURRY LIKE YOU HURR HURR.”  But no, he said: “it is pretty damn good, and it looks amazing,” which is pretty high praise, especially coming from him.  I read up on the game, got excited, went to Ye Olde Electronics Store for a Microsoft-moon-money card and downloaded it the next day.  I was curious to see if it was really as good as he had made it out to be.

It was.  My socks were completely knocked off.  I cannot remember the last time I have been blown away by a game like this, but I should mention that yeah, I have missed out on a lot of excellent games these past two years.  Nearly every moment of Dust has been a joy to play so far: I have been laughing at the dialogue, gritting my teeth as I fight my way through enemies, marveling at the game’s beautiful world as I explore it and enjoying the story.

I think Dust has restored some of my faith in gaming.  Its not that I’ve been playing nothing but bad games as part of my role at Original-Gamer.  Far from it,. I have played games that were fun and that earned high scores for being fun, but they haven’t crossed that line from ‘this is fun’ to ‘this is AMAZING’ the way that Dust has.

Except for being (as far as I know) one of the few mainstream ‘furry’ games to emphasize its story, Dust really isn’t anything new.    It is a 2D hack-and-slash ‘Metroid-vania’ game with RPG elements.  That said, everything in Dust that I have seen so far has been executed very well: the art, animation and music combine to make a beautiful game to see and hear, the voiceovers have been very well done, the gameplay makes me feel like the mighty warrior that Dust is supposed to be, and the story is starting to suck me in.

At a time when everything seems to be recycled, rehashed or rebooted, it makes me feel good to know that a game can still come out of nowhere and move me the way Dust has.  I haven’t finished it yet, but from what I have played so far, I can only hope that Dust ends up being only the first of many Elysian tales that I get to enjoy.