Discovering the Xbox 360 in 2017

There are some people that might consider this a confession. There are others that might consider it a revelation. Most will just read the headline and skip right over this one. Nonetheless I am here to describe the long journey it took for me to finally get into gaming on the Xbox 360.

The bottom line is, I am a gamer. That description alone is often plentiful when telling people who I am. There are different stereotype of gamers, because frankly there are different types of gamers. Some are PC gamers. Others are console gamers. There are mobile gamers, arcade gamers, casual gamers, hard core gamers, Nintendo gamer, retro gamers, etc., I have tackled this before but honestly I am none of these and all of these. What I mean is, oh forget it, let’s just get down to business.

I never cared for the Xbox brand. In fact I cared so little about the Xbox brand that I refused to buy a console, made fun of people who owned them, and went out of my way to avoid them. This probably makes me sound like some kind of PC snob, (the internet refers to PC gamers as the “master race”, or it could make me sound like some type of console fanboy, i.e. a “Pony” for those who prefer Sony Playstation, or Nintendo Nerd for those that prefer the Big N, or worse, the casual non-gamer who only plays crap cell phone games.

Why all the commentary? Because this is my blog, it’s about making sense of the things in my world so deal with it or go someplace else. It’s ad-free, I don’t make money off this so I don’t bother caring what the readers want, I’m pretty sure there’s not more than 2 of us out there, if that. So I say whats on my mind, thank you very much. Unprofessional, sure it’s a personal blog after all.

Getting back to the discussion. Xbox never appealed to me for reasons that weren’t entirely fanboyish. Trust me I have never been a fanboy. I currently own a Pong, an Intelivision the entire Playstation family, and Xbox, a 360 a Wii, Wii U and Switch, and that’s just the consoles. So no I have never been a true fanboy. But I do have a weird set up that made the Xbox systems seem, useless.

I have owned every Playstation console as they have come out. I migrated from PS1 to PS2, PS3 and recently PS4 all within a couple of years of their launch. But I was never a Sony only guy. No sir, I bought my trusty N64 the exact same day as my original PS1, less than a year before getting my GameCube, and two years out from picking up a Sega Saturn and Sega CD/32X complete with Genesis. Yeah I have always been a die hard gamer.

As a die hard gamer I game on everything I can get my hands on, that includes the Windows PC, and by extension, DOS gaming too. So when I owned a PS2, had a desktop gaming rig, a Game Cube, a Game Boy Player and a Nintendo DS, that honestly left me very little room for an Xbox. Why bother? It’s not like the other consoles where you have TRUE exclusives, right? That is what I always thought. I knew it had a handful of games tied to the platform, but I always figured they were just more Call of Duty clones or generic First Person Shooters. Since I am not a fan of FPSes, sports games, or racing games, and since I have a Playstation for the 3rd party stuff, a PC for the Microsoft stuff, which I had Fable and Halo on PC no need for Xbox right? Then I had the Nintendo for everything else. This set up left me in a position where I was just not that interested in Xbox as a brand.

Now that you have read the back ground let me get into what I discovered about the Xbox 360 following my purchase.

First, it’s not a bad console. The system itself runs smooth, in fact from start to loading a game takes roughly the same amount of time as it does on PS3. Both are snails compared to the blazing fast PS4, but I haven’t noticed any major delays on the 360 that are any longer than PS3. So I rate them as equals in that regard.

System library

A game console is only as good as the games it plays, no gamer would disagree with this. What I learned, however, is the reverse of what I always thought. Bottom line, instead of just looking at the games I can’t get on Xbox 360 and focusing on the true exclusives I realized so what if game is on PS3 and 360, if I own both consoles then I can pick and choose which version to buy. I have done this with Sega and Nintendo in the past owning both SNES and Genesis at the same time. I did it while owning N64 and PS1 at the same time and even Wii and PS3 at the same time. So for me owning 2 consoles and picking which one to buy the game for is no big deal. The real benefit, especially today, is that Xbox 360 has been out longer than any other console currently on the market. This means it not only has the largest library, but many of those games are cheaper, and still jut as good as their Playstation counterparts. I just picked up Titafall for 360 and they only wanted $5 for the same store wanted $20 for the Xbox 1 version and guess what, there wasn’t even a Sony version at all so that was at least one game I enjoy playing that I discovered I had to own a Microsoft system to get.

Also the second benefit in terms of games is, Microsoft has a to more money than Sony so they can offer discounts on their digital games Sony can only dream of. I mean this, I have been buying digital games on Sony and Nintendo since 2006, I have never seen sales with deals a great as this last week’s Backwards Compatibility sale that I took full advantage of. I mean I was able o pick up 31 FULL retail digital games and I spend less than $75 bucks! A brand new PS4 game costs $60 new and takes well over a year to get down to $40, so to pick up full games like Fable 3, Lost Odyssey (a game that was going for $18 at the game store I got for less than $5 on sale, full game!) and a bunch of other games, and I checked many of them were on PS3 shop, for twice, or even triple the money in some cases. This was a bargain the likes I have never seen on a Sony console. Sure PS2 games are dirt cheap,  but damn I couldn’t get 31 PS2 games for the price I picked up these digital games. Oh and by the way, while I do prefer physical copies for the most part, I have over 120 digital games EACH on Nintendo and Sony consoles so I am okay with buying digital games. As long as I can download the game and play locally that is. In fact I am starting to get to the point where I think digital games are better than physical ones. IN some cases.

The Controller.

I gotta say as much as I DO love Playstation, the Dual Shock sucks compared to the Xbox 360 controller. I have been hearing gamers say it is essentially the perfect controller for, well over a decade! So yes, I am not officially on board, count me in the camp who spent several hours playing a game on 360, booted up the same game on PS3 and was shocked at how different the controls were. Now Nintendo, hasn’t made a decent controller since the Game Cube and their last truly good controller was the SNES pad, so if you game on Nintendo consoles you have to get used to terrible controllers. Or gimmicky crap.

What about the features?

OKay Playstation wins here HANDS DOWN. Sorry but I can watch Blu Ray movies, Netflix in full HD, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime plus Vudu movies all on the same Sony device that I play my favorite games on. Xbox plays DVD’s sure and it does have many of those same video apps, but at a cost. You have to have a Gold membership to use them. Which means an extra $10 a month for the standard price, or if you have the cash $60 for a full year. I am broke so I have to go the $10 a month route until I can get a head a little. I am okay with paying for it, partly because I want to try out the features and services of Xbox Live, partly because I want to sample the free games, and also, there is a part of me that wants to try getting into online gaming for real this time. Yes, you heard that, here in 2017 I still hardly ever play games online. I played ten minutes of Mario Kart Deluxe online on Switch and said screw this. The last game I tried online was Smash Bros. U, which I barely played three matches before giving up. I am just not competitive enough, or good enough for that matter, to get into online gaming. Maybe that will change if I find the right game?

Anyways moving forward, form factor.

I personally think the original Xbox 360 is ugly. It looks like a white 90’s desktop PC and squished in the middle. I hated it. The black model was just black, it was like an early 2000’s Gateway or something, trying too hard to be cool but still ugly as crap. The Slim model was slightly better but the one I have, the 360 E, is the best looking of the bunch. Too bad it has to remove features to get the cost down, still a fair trade all things considered. If I had to spend more on the machine up front, that’s less money for games. So I took the cheap route because I wanted more games.

But even thought the E is the best looking of the series, it’s still nothing compared to the futuristic sci-fi stylish sleekness of the sexy PS3, or the super cool Skynet looking PS4. Say what you will about Sony, they have style. Microsoft, on the other hand, does not.

So while I am still experimenting with things my initial impression is that, if someone is in the same boat as me, a multi console owning gamer with a gaming PC who overlooked the Xbox 360 for all the reasons I said, this is the time to pick it up. The machines are cheap, the games are cheap, and you can get some of those games that are pricey on the Playstation platform for a very good deal and you aren’t sacrificing quality hardly at all. I have noticed that in some cases certain games do look better and run smoother on the PS3, but my experience is limited as I am mostly concentrating on exclusives and personal favorites of mine. Still, the library alone is vast competed to PS3. Sure PS3 as a lot of good games and it did catch up to Xbox 360 in terms of hardware units sold, but Xbox still has the edge here in terms of number of titles. Sometimes they have multiple entries in a franchise Sony has only 1 or 2 in. I haven’t researched the library extensively, and yes the whole not being nto Sports or FPS games is starting to limit the games I am looking at already. With 31 digital games and 14 physical games, I have already amassed a good start of a collection so I am on track to discovering the library as I go.

Some games I like.

Halo 3

Fable 2

Blue Dragon

Lost Odyssey

Ninety Nine Nights

Quake 4

Kameo

Banjo Kazooie Nuts N Bolts

Perfect Dark Zero

Gears of War

Crackdown

I haven’t tried many others yet, but I can honestly say, so far, I am very satisfied with the games I have played and over all my entire experience has been mostly positive.

The negatives.

Just a couple here. The first, the batteries in the controllers suck. I got one that used AA’s and bought a charging cable with spare batteries. Nothing seems to charge these things so I have to play with it plugged in. At least it’s USB and I have a USB wall charger sitting on my arm rest that I use to charge my PS3/PS4 controllers so it’s not a big deal, but it is kind of an issue having to deal with a cord in 2017. The other issue, the hard drives. Sure I can use my 1.5 Terabyte USB drive to store my games and the internal flash memory for game saves, but if I want to experience backwards compatibility with any of my original Xbox games, I have to shell out more money for an official Microsoft hard drive to get the partition with the emulators on it. Sure I could hook up the original Xbox but then that’s one more thing going against my power bill. Also, I don’t like having to have an avatar/profile. Sony doesn’t force you to do that crap, but Nintendo does and I always hated it. I was happy Switch didn’t force Mii’s on me, until I learned you have to have a stupid Mii to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Okay thanks Nintendo.

So there is my long, long overdue, semi-rant, impressions of the Xbox 360 console. No I haven’t lived under a rock and never played one before, come on I said I was a gamer, all my friends had them I played plenty of hours on Xbox 360 over the years. But I just never felt the need to actually OWN one before now. My distaste for the console was replaced with a slight appreciation when I decided that instead of knocking it for being just a PC you plug into your TV, I reversed my stance and appreciate it for being a very solid, and very stable gaming PC that plugs right into the TV and just works without much hassle. As a PC gamer who hates fiddling with settings and upgrading hardware to get that one game to work, I can appreciate it as a PC for the living room. In some ways more so than a Playstation, but still in other ways not as good.

All in all I am mostly satisfied with my purchase. I fully intend I will continue to get plenty of joy out of owning this gaming machine for years to come.

Getting back into PC gaming

I have decided I am going to start getting back into PC game collecting as well as PC gaming. I don’t know what my budget for this is going to be, fortunately I come across old PC games usually very cheap at thrift stores and yard sales all of the time. My new rule is I am not going to be buying games to play, I am only collecting the disks/packaging for the sake of it, I will rely on Steam, GoG, Origin, etc., for the purchase of games. As for shareware and “abandonware” titles, well I will resort to those means at my disposable.

What got me back into PC collecting?

For starters, I have nearly reached the limits of what I am capable of in terms of console gaming. Not that I own every console game I wish to own, or console for that matter, but what I mean is I have shifted my console gaming collection to mostly digital for playing and only buying physical games where the digital version is not a viable option. I would love to have the time and money to purchase and track down classic retro NES games, but with the market being what it is, the economy being down, and my limited funds all around, I just don’t see this happening any time soon. PC games on the other hand are cheap, dirt cheap n most cases. It can cost a lot of money if I wanted to get into buying big box games or complete games with all the little trinkets and inserts, but that is not what I am going for.

My goal is just to pick up the main games, if the game came on a floppy disk, I intend to buy that, if it came on a CD-ROM, I want the CD-ROM. I do want collectible condition, however, so I will look for CD games that come in the jewel case with booklets, basically the same thing I would get if I were looking for a PS1 game, but I don’t necessarily need to buy the cardboard box with all the papers, booklets, and collectible stuff that was often included. I understand for many collectors that is their goal, and if that is you go for it. Not me, not now. I do want to attempt to amass a reasonably sizeable collection, but I want to realistically meter my expectations so that I stick to buying those items I can hope to find without spending a ton of time or money tracking down the extra rare stuff.

Now if I happen to come a cross a complete in box collectible game for a good price, sure I will pick it up. But since I am resorting to, let’s just say less than official, means of playing these games, I am not exactly interested in the little key codes or maps, etc., that came with the games. In fact, I don’t even have a floppy disk drive to be able to install most of these old games in the first place. Not only that, but I am running Windows 10 64-Bit, most of these retro, old school, and classic PC games are going to be completely incompatible with my system, and I have no intention of buying old hardware just to run old games.

Because loose games with instructions can typically be found at yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and the like,  usually for just a couple bucks, I fully intend to focus on buying the cheap stuff, at least for now. It’s no different, to me, than if I were to get back into NES collecting, I would most certainly be going for just loose carts only, heck I wouldn’t even be that interested in getting dust covers or instruction books, at this point.

As far as playing on “original” hardware. I am a Windows Gamer through and through, so there is no chance I will ever be without at least some form of semi-current PC machine, technically these games are all running on “original” hardware or at least compatible hardware, to some extent.

Part of what motivated me to get back into collecting is watching Metal Jesus Rocks videos on Youtube, and listening to the CUPodcast with Ian and Pat. I do see the merits for going for complete games with all the fun little artifacts, but I also have limit funds, as well as limited space.

Video Game Collecting: Tips and advice

This is going to be a quick article. I am going to write up a list of each game console, retro to modern, with a summary of what is the best approach to take when it comes to collecting for or gaming on these different platforms. I will try to cover as many game systems as possible while mostly sticking to the stuff I am familiar with. Here goes. I am mostly going to focus on the systems I intend to collect and my path I wish to take to get there, or those consoles I already have and an update on my current collection.

First up the Atari

The most common Atari system is the original Atari 2600, also known as the VCS, or Video Computer System. It’s what man of us consider to be our first game console experience. My current interest is in eventually picking up an Atari system and getting games, money and space dictate that I simply focus on getting the right games for the right money. As such I have picked up a few retro compilations that I consider to be key elements to a good Atari collection. The first is the Atari Anthology for PS2. It features over 40 games, maybe more I don’t know the exact number. It includes most of the Atari produced 1st party games and a few arcade games from the period as well. My second compilation is the Activision Anthology. I happen to have both the PS2 and Windows PC versions. There aren’t many differences but I just have them both because I picked one up cheap and got the other also very cheap. I also have the PS1 version of both of these collections but they also don’t offer any thing new.

If you are just starting out and all you want is to relive some of your classic Atari memories then I do recommend checking out these collections. They are available on other systems but PS2 and PC are the two most common and are very cheap.

As far as collecting physical Atari systems, the classic 2600 can be had for a reasonable price and the games are super cheap, even the rarest games aren’t a ton of money. The problem is when you get into later systems. I won’t go into those here just suffice it to say the best solution for getting a good Atari fix right now, aside from emulators of course, is to grab those two compilations. If you want to take it a step further and grab some additional 3rd party games the Namco Museum and Midway Arcade Treasures both feature a lot of games that were ported to the Atari so in a way that almost counts. If you are fine with that as well then I certainly suggest doing that. I currently have Namco Museum for PS2 as well as Midways Arcade Treasures 1 and 2 for PS2. All in all I think this method offers a pretty good entry point for the retro Atari gamer to get their fix without spending too much money.

NES

Currently I do not have any plans to pick up an original NES console. Mainly due to money, the games are just super expensive. But also because of space limitations, I don’t have room to store a ton of physical carts right now. For me, and I would think many collectors and gamers on a tight budget, I am mostly getting my NES games via the Virtual Console. I currently own a Wii, Wii U and Switch so I am able to get all of the Virtual Console games available on those systems. Switch only has Neo Geo at the moment but they are still some good games for a fair price all things considered. I don’t currently own a 3DS so  can’t comment on the Virtual Console on that system, but I can say that it does appear to be pretty robust.

The main reason why I think Virtual Console is the best route right now is because for the most part all the really good, playable games people want are on the service, aside from a few of the licensed games. Additionally they are very reasonably priced. For the most part prices are uniform with exceptions being for import titles. Other than that you can pick up all the best, most iconic NES games right there for just a few dollars each, some of these are significant savings over the physical games. As my budget increases I do eventually plan on getting back into NES gaming, but for now I suggest sticking to Virtual Console as much as possible due to the inflated prices of retro NES games.

SNES

For the most part SNES suffers from the same issues that the NES does, the best games being over priced for what you get. But also the system itself is outrageously over priced even considering all the different clones out there. But there is a little alternative to just Virtual Console that does also work slightly for the NES in some respects, that is the Game Boy line, especially the Game Boy Advance. With a GBA and even GB and Game Boy Color it is possible to pick up many of the same games, usually with just slight graphical downgrades or color compromises, and the best part is they are typically much cheaper than their SNES and NES counterparts with the added bonus of being playable on  the go. Right now I do happen to have a GBA and I am really putting most of the emphasis on my collecting on getting Game Boy games. I also pick up quite a few SNES games on the Virtual Console service and thanks to the Wii I also have Super Mario All Stars and Kirby’s Dream Collection that offers a decent assortment of Mario and Kirby games some from the SNES catalog.

Sega Genesis

Right now there are a ton of ways to get into Sega collecting. Fortunately the system is still fairly cheap compared to SNES. Also the games, even the really good ones, are still pretty decent priced as well. The downside is with many of them on Steam, PSN, and Virtual Console, not to mention the arcade compilations that make so many of the actual Genesis ports obsolete, it’s hard to justify buying a Sega Genesis at the moment. I suppose eventually I will have to get one due to nostalgia but for now I will stick to a handful of collections that I have and the Virtual Console, which really is a life saver when it comes to retro gaming. I currently have the Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection on PS3, the Sega Classics Collection on Steam, and a couple dozen Sega Genesis games on Wii Virtual Console. Not to mention classics like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Samurai Shodown, and many other arcade favorites are on their respective compilations. I have the SNK Arcade classics collection, Mortal Kombat Kollection on PSN, Midways Arcade Treasures 1 and 2, all of the different Capcom arcade collections including the various Street Fighter ones, so to be honest that doesn’t really leave much exclusive content on the physical Genesis left. I might have to pick one up for the Sega CD content eventually who knows.

PS1

I don’t currently own a PS1 console but I do have two pieces of compatible hardware. The PS2 is compatible with PS1 games as is the PS3 which I have both. The good news about the PS3 is the PSN store also has a ton of the really rare classics for dirt cheap also. SO despite them being expensive as hell for physical copies, I have most of the really good rare titles on PS3 PS1 Classics including all the Final Fantasy stuff on the store. As I don’t need a physical PS1 system either I will pretty much be sticking to just games. Although I am focusing on getting Greatest Hits versions if I do get physical, I am mostly focused on the digital downloads as they are just so much cheaper.

Sega Saturn

Forget it. I will be blunt I had one of these things years ago, before the gaming collecting bubble took over and prices became inflated. Even back then it was next to impossible to even find Saturn stuff and if you did it was usually sports or if it wasn’t sports it was always over priced. Even my local game store that has MK Trilogy for PS1 for under $15 is asking for $99 for the same game on Saturn. No thank you!

Dreamcast

I am not going to lie, I have never own a Sega Dreamcast. Currently I don’t really see a lot of reasons to either. Many of the good games were also on PS1/PS2 and some were also on the PC or Xbox and for the most part many have also been ported to Steam or even PSN store so seriously I am just not finding much of a reason to pick one up either.

I know this sounds a lot like all the stuff I don’t want to buy but it really will focus on the stuff I want, just keep reading.

N64

This is a console I am torn on. I had one when they are current, not new but still sold in stores. I enjoyed many of the games but the reality is, most of the 3rd party games are also on PS1 and often times they are cheaper, and usually, but not always, better. So for the most part if a game is on N64 and PS1 I will just get it on PS1, that was how I did it back in the day anyways. But then there is the 1st party stuff, most of which is also, no surprise, on the Virtual Console. Not everything is but I have discovered, yet again, that here is another system that due to all of these factors that aside from just wanting to own one, I can’t justify the price for the handful of true exclusives left due to the price they fetch.

PS2-GameCube-Xbox era

I have all three, in one way or another. I have an actual PS2 and an actual Xbox plus I have a Wii which acts as my Game Cube device. The way I tend to collect these games is convoluted but I will try to address it. First priority is price. I look for whichever system version is cheapest. Sometimes the Game Cube one is cheaper, although this is rare it does happen, sometimes the Xbox one is the cheapest and in most cases the PS2 is the cheapest due largely to the massive sales and popularity of the console. Also fortunately many of the high profile PS2-era games have either been re-released on PSN as PS2 Classics, or for PS3 as HD-Remakes. I currently own all but two HD remakes, the two I don’t have are the ICO one and the Silent Hill one. I have all the others. So when it comes to third party multiplatform games I favor whichever one is cheapest, unless that particular game is console defining, for example Resident Evil 4 might be cheaper on PS2 its superior on Game Cube and a defining game for the system. But it doesn’t matter as I have the HD remake anyways so a better example would be Harvest Moon A Wonderful Life. The PS2 is superior in some ways but the Game Cube is the definitive versions, not just because it is the one I played, but also because of the sequel and the GBA connectivity, so I have that game on Game Cube.

As far as 1st party exclusives well duh I get those on their respective systems, except I do tend to favor either HD remakes or digital copies such as Virtual Console and eShop or PSN wherever possible. That means since I have Twilight Princess HD and Wind Waker HD on Wii U, there is no need for me to get either of those on Game Cube, or even Wii for that matter in the case of TP.

Wii

Speaking of Wii this is also complicated. Since I have a Wii and a Wii U I consider my Wii U my true Wii console and my real Wii console is just a Game Cube. For this reason I favor the digital releases on Wii U wherever possible with a few exceptions. Now as far as Wii goes my formula is simple but it can be tricky. A game has to tick all 3 boxes before I get it on Wii. First it has to be a game I am interested in, none of that shovelware crap or motion control stuff. Second, motion controls have to be optional in most cases, so for a game that is on both Wii and PS2 if its motion controls only on Wii and it is a game I want I will just get it on PS2. If it is traditional controls only or optional, motion controls optional in other words, and its in good shape then I pick whichever one is cheaper. If a game is on both Wii and PS3 however I don’t even consider the Wii version as existing so my Wii collecting focuses on these rare true Wii exclusives and a select PS2 ports that are not motion controls only.

Wii U

Needless to say I am what you call basically done with Wii U. My rules are true exclusives only or HD remakes on a few cases. So that means if a game was a 3rd party port to Wii U from PS3 or something else, I don’t bother with Wii U versions at all, period. Now a game like Super Mario Kart 8 which I do not currently own, is coming to Switch so I will likely get it on Switch and ignore the Wii U version. In most cases I favor digital over physical because pricing and because I got my Wii U when they still had that digital promotion going so every game I bought gave me points to trade in for more games so I got a lot of digital games and usually spent the points when games were on sale to get the most out of my money. This is kind of the simplest machine to collect for because it really doesn’t have a lot of true exclusives when it comes to physical games.

Ps4.

Right now I am not exactly collecting for the PS4. It is my second-most current console so I will pick up games as I go along but my focus is really just on getting the games that come out that interest me as I go along. This mostly is a lot of retro stuff as that is where my interest lies.

I don’t have an Xbox 360 or an Xbox 1. I don’t really see the need, I have a PS3, PS4, Wii U, Switch and Windows gaming PC with a Steam Account, that really doesn’t leave much to get on 360 o2 X1. Truth be told I am sort of tempted to get a 360 just to own one and grab a few games like Crackdown and some others, but I am not sure if that will be a priority for me.

PSP

TO be honest this is most likely going to be my next console purchase. I have been looking at the games for a while and I think there are enough to justify it. Also because I already own so many PS1, PS2 and PS3 digital games on the PSN Store I could get a PSP and already have almost a hundred different games to play on it without having to spend any money on games. Also it plays movies and music so there is that as well.

That is pretty much everything I am currently focused on. I am nearly caught up with compilations and I only have a couple dozen Virtual Console games left to buy so once I exhaust those options and build up the libraries on existing hardware then I will consider buying a new system. I also just got a Switch last month that I need to get a few more games for as soon as they come out. I am especially interested in Arms, Sonic Mania, Ultimate SF 2, and Super Mario Odyssey.

Confessions of a ‘Millennial’: What it means to be a part of the most hated generation of our time.

There is much confusion abounding about what it means to be a “Millennial,” I just wanted to clear a few things up. To some it’s a pejorative, an insult, to others it’s merely a misunderstood “generation” and to marketers in the media its nothing but a demographic that they think they understand. I can tell you one thing, weather you consider yourself to be a part of the so-called millennial generation or one of the generations that look down upon them, there is something you need to know, it’s all a figment of your imagination.

Before they were calling us millennials they called us the MTV generation. Demographers define the “millennial” generation as those who were coming of age during the year 2000, as in anyone who was either a teenager or a young adult. The typical, most widely accepted date line is anyone born between 1980 and 1995. I guess I fall smack in the middle of that generation. I knew I wasn’t Gen-X, that’s my mom’s generation and it’s kind of hard to be in the same generation as your parents, being the “next generation” of their DNA and all that.

What does it actually mean to be a “Millennial?” Well nothing really, it’s a made up word used by members of the so-called “main stream media” and marketers as a way to define those young people currently between the ages of 22 and 37 or somewhere in that age range. The stereotypical millennial is some super entitled hipster that has a smart phone permanently attached to their hand with their face planted firmly into the abstract cloud based world-wide-web of information. Often described as lazy, entitled, too into their technology and so many other negative’s I don’t have the energy to go after them all. But the name millennial itself, is so negative I know personally people in my generation, friends and family who are millennials, or at least are in the generation that is being talked about, who distance themselves from it, or use it themselves to talk down to the “kids coming up” I guess, without realizing the kids born in the year 2000, they can’t be millennials, they’re still in high school.

Here are my confessions as a so-called Millennial. Do I wear the name like a badge of honor, sure why not, the so-called mainstream media gets just about everything about us so far wrong that even other so-called millennials can’t agree on what it means to be one. Let me put it like this, many of the actual millennials I now who are in denial, that say things like we’re all narcissistic, or “they’re” all narcissistic, are usually posting pictures of their kids doing the most mundane thing as some accomplishment to social media while simultaneously knocking other so-called “millennials” for doing the exact same thing. Well sure hypocrisy is rampant among any generation, just look at the “greatest” generation and their baby-boomer children. Actually don’t look that closely because you might discover that the “greatest” generation, wasn’t actually that great, and you might be further shocked to learn that the MTV generation, as we used to be called before it was cool to define us by the Y2K bug that we supposedly caused. Oh right I guess I lost my train of thought, we tend to do that being that we’re all OCD with ADHD and whatnot. I guess I should point out that if you compare the accomplishments of the baby boomers to our generation, well the baby boomers end up looking like a bunch of bitter old farts barking at their computers trash talking those silly millennials and their stupid little gadgets.

Okay maybe that was a little harsh, I have some good friends that are baby boomers, but even they often have not only negative stereotypes of our generation, including false assumptions of me personally. Needless to say they aren’t all that bad, but you know what, neither are we.

So what does a so-called Millennial do with his or her day? The same thing the baby boomers did and the Generation X-ers that spawned us, we live our lives. We go to school. We start families. We build bridges and start businesses, invent new technologies, replace outdated systems with new and improved systems; you know the same thing every generation before us did. And like every generation before us, the one that came before always looks down on the one coming up. Hell we do it to the, what are we calling them now snowflakes, that are coming up behind us. Some people mix up the “snowflakes” with the millennials. In other words, nothing has changed every generation digs on the one coming up, it’s the same as those old timers who reminisce about the so-called “good old days” which is just a myth because the problems of the world have been the same since the beginning of recorded history, pick up a bible or any history book to learn about that.

Alright enough complaining so what are some things that the pollsters get wrong about millennials? I guess for starters that we’re all socialist, elitist hipsters that have OCD and are narcissistic to a fault.

I will tackle each one individually. I will start with the accusation we’re all socialists. False. Our generation has done more for capitalism than the Generation X ever did. When Gen X wanted to go to the moon they built a socialist program funded by tax payers that was used to bolster national TV ratings so capitalist advertisers could line their pockets. Okay a 50-50 split for socialism. What has our generation done? We said screw NASA and their tax payer funded military driven hidden agenda, let’s privatize space exploration with Google and Space X having REPLACED NASA’s outdated shuttle program and currently working on space tourism that is designed to be, eventually, affordable for the masses. Under the generation X/Baby boomers only a handful of government trained elitists would EVER get the “privilege” of flying into space. Under the direction of the millennial generation, our kids and our grandkids will be able to fly to a space hotel in low earth orbit thanks to capitalist investments in space. Point goes to the Millennials. I will give a point to NASA and the Boomers for at least secretly launching the internet as part of the very same socialist space program they developed to combat Russian socialism, I mean Communism.

What about we’re all elitist hipsters? Also false, about as false s you can get. The one most common complaint I hear by boomers and older gen-xers is the breakdown of country clubs, the declining membership of elitist members-only groups that require members to pay monthly dues to participate, alienating the lower-income folks, in order for the so-called elites to stick together to hold onto the way things are. Millennials as a whole tend to be less likely to join elitist members-only clubs, not because we’re not civic minded or even all anti-social, more on that later. The real reason is we tend to be more inclusive, we tend to be more welcoming to who we associate with and while racism, bigotry and other words of the like get thrown about, our generation certainly has its share of racists, on both sides, as a whole we tend to be more willing to associate with people of different backgrounds, including those of a lower economic status as ourselves, and we tend to be more willing to do our volunteer work not so much for show or through organized members-only clubs, but instead we just do it because we see a person in need and we help them out. Again that goes hand in hand with dismissing the false claim we’re all socialists, because you know we’d rather help our members of the community out ourselves than rely on government assistance. We prefer to cut out the middle man and give directly, that is why we created things like GoFundMe and Patreon, seriously proof our generation is MORE giving than the boomers and Gen-Xers.

How does GoFundMe or Patreon prove we’re more giving? Well it also proves we’re less selfish than we’re described. The Boomers especially when someone fell on hard times would give money to charities with large overhead costs that would barely do anything more than make people feel worthless for falling on hard times. With GoFundMe we cut out the middle man, if someone is struggling they create a GoFundMe and ask for a reasonable amount of money to get through their hardship, maybe it’s make a late mortgage payment to help a single mother out who lost her job, or maybe it’s to help someone who doesn’t have insurance pay for a medical bill that is insurmountable. So instead of telling that person go through the lengthy process of filling paper work applying for charities to raise the funds and waiting for bureaucrat to approve the funds, we can just give a few bucks here and there to any cause we feel worthy and the people get the money directly and use it for whatever they say they are using it for.

What about Patreon? Well another thing we Millennials did was we got tired of McDonald’s, Pepsi, Ford, AT&T, Big Tobacco, and beer companies deciding what we get to watch. We did away with the out-dated advertising driven model of TV, movies, books, video games, radio, etc., and developed what is known as social media. The very basic aspect of it is the Facebook and Twitter but it goes deeper. We have YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, Instagram, Spotify, and a host of other internet based content created BY regular people FOR the entertainment of ourselves. Some of the content, much of it in fact, is social or viral videos, normal people sharing the little moments in their lives with the wider internet. You know so whenever one of our babies or pets does something extra cute we video it and share it with the whole world, this partially explains where the accusations of narcissism comes from, however it’s really just our way of saying hey, here is a nice little distraction from the corporate advertisers telling you what you are supposed to enjoy. The way Patreon works is instead of an advertiser commissioning a director and a team of writers to develop a series, a small group of maybe two or three creative individuals goes to the internet and tells their plan for a show to those who might be interested. An example would be someone who has a vlog series (video log) where they talk about topics people are interested in. A very interesting one that I enjoy DAILY is called “Today I Found Out” where you get brief, usually less than 7 minute, video dedicated to a fun, interesting topic that gives you some basic information, usually insightful and often as much as you would get in a typical Discovery Channel program but without all the commercials and filler getting in the way of the entertainment. So Patreon is a way for a fan of the creator to donate any amount they wish, large or small, directly to the creator both as a thank you for the content and as a way of supporting their favorite programs, ensuring they stay “on the air” without having to resort to organize letter writing campaigns like the famous Star Trek deal from the 1960’s.

In addition to GoFundMe and Patreon we have a thing called crowd funding, another example would be Indie-GoGo where a film maker, author, or video game developer can announce their plans for a project and ask for donations directly from the same people who are likely to spend money on the finished project. There is another one called Kickstarter that is popular. The point is we don’t rely on the institutions of the old timers to get our entertainment or other projects; we give directly to inventors, authors, story-tellers, even musicians, instead of letting some big corporate entity take all the profit and control the message. I guess to some that makes us look socialists, but it really just makes us innovators. Another point goes to the millennials.

What about we’re all OCD, ADHD or have some other disorder like social anxiety or something else? This one can be a bit touchy but let me just keep it simple, we don’t have any greater frequency of mental health than any other generation based on any information I could find, we just live in a modern society where more information is known about things that in previous generations we didn’t know as much. I will say that yes we have all grown up with our computers and electronic devices, even more so than the Generation X-ers that basically started the computer revolution. But really all we did as take what they started and perfected it. They made the World Wide Web, we made it better. They created AOL, a corporate portal that kept the internet hidden behind a pay wall with advertisers determining what content was available, we created social media and open source platforms where the entire internet is basically free and anyone can access it openly, you know just taking their vision and making it an actual reality. Don’t get me wrong I have ancient memories of the dusty old dial up days of American Online and using Keywords to search for terms instead of using Facebook and YouTube to share web pages and videos. Memes wouldn’t even be possible without our intervention.

Sure you look at Pokémon Go and see the decline of civilization, or see something like Oculus Rift as one more way for us to stay at home and not get fresh air. But what I see is a world where we have information available to us that we can use to our advantage to not only make our own lives better, but the world a better place too. Also for those politically minded, Millennials vote in the same patterns as their parents, Baby Boomers that were conservative spawned liberal Gen X babies who rebelled against mommy and daddy, those Gen X-ers spawn conservatives who rebelled against their liberal parents, and vice versa, that’s how it works kids rebel against their parents ideals and discover their own way in life, it’s okay for them to do that this is why you kick us out of the house and tell us to get a job. Maybe we drag our feet in leaving the nest longer than previous generations but that’s because we’re often very busy using our electronic gadgets to make the world a little less scary for the next generation.  I give that point to our parents for raising us right. So maybe Generation X and Millennials are both pretty good after all. Maybe instead of spending so much time passing the blame around why don’t we just celebrate our accomplishments, enjoy the fact we live in a free society where we can say whatever we want, and just live our lives without worrying about what other people think. Am I a Millennial, you bet your ass I am, and I am not ashamed of being a part of the greatest nation on Earth, I am just glad I was born at a time when we can reach beyond our own weaknesses and connect with others that share our faults. If I didn’t have the connections I made on the internet, I might not be who I am today.

 

“You are all my children now.”

In the 1980’s there was a trifecta of different styles all blending together in a perfect storm of outrageous thematic elements that would soon dominate the entire fringe culture, and even cross into mainstream. Going a decade back the roots of this movement were beginning with the rise of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG game. The theme was medieval fantasy. It had firmly taken hold of video game culture by the middle of the decade with games such as Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Ghosts N Goblins, Gauntlet, and even Castlevania taking the horror/fantasy genre to mainstream status. On the music side bands like Alice Cooper, Dio, KISS, and many others, were using D&D, horror, fantasy, and medieval art mixed with Gothic imagery. While Hollywood itself was slow to jump on the bandwagon, indie filmmakers like George Lucas, Stephan Spielberg, Jim Henson, and John Carpenter were all making variations of this theme. And best of all they blended together perfectly. Horror movies would reference D&D usually with a gamer depicted or borrow heavily from medieval mythologies, while having a strong heavy-metal soundtrack, which in turn contained lyrics that referenced D&D either directly or indirectly often as the horror movies would. So if you were a fan of medieval fantasy, Gothic imagery and music that told stories set in these thematic worlds, then the mid-to-late 80’s was your decade.

During this time nothing blended these three elements together better than Wes Craven’s Gothic horror masterpiece “A Nightmare o Elm Street.” While the first film itself doesn’t really contain too much in the way of medieval fantasy, it does have a very strong fantasy component, the music is very fitting for the mood, plus it also contains some of that D&D-esque metal rock sprinkled in to ensure it hit all of the notes. In some ways the movie is a murder mystery, you know almost  detective noir-style with Nancy trying to solve the mystery of the masked villain killing her friends one-by-one. It also has a little bit of Gothic horror with Freddy acting as a zombie, a vampire, and a serial killer all while tormenting his victims not with his own dastardly schemes, but using their own fears against them. In some ways it is also a psychological thriller.

The film opens with an abstract scene in the basement of some factory or plant with an unseen man crafting a glove containing sharp razors as extensions of the fingers. Immediately the tone of the film is set, the killer is unseen, hiding in the shadows, nobody knows who, or what, he is or why he is killing these seemingly random teenagers. During the course of the film there are references to Shakespeare, including a quote from Julius Cesar about nightmares, fitting as in the play he dreamed of his demise before it happened, much like the victims in the film.

I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it. I am not under the impression that just because it is old everyone knows what takes place, I will say anyone that has any interest in mythology, fantasy, horror, vampires, zombies, the undead, D&D, or heavy metal music should check out the entire franchise. Each film has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

The sequel, often criticized but still worth watching, goes in a different direction. Instead of a murder mystery where the kids are trying to survive by figuring out who the killer is and how to defeat him, part two, subtitled as “Freddy’s Revenge,” takes on a more haunted house, possession story line. Again it has some moments fans cringe at but it also has a few of the iconic moments that the franchise is well known for. There is even scene that takes place inside of a Gothic night club, further tying the franchise into this whole theme.

Of course if you really want proof the Nightmare films are really D&D-inspired look no further than the third entry. Regarded by many, myself included, as the best in the franchise second only to the original to some, it’s a masterpiece in many ways and proof that a sequel can outdo the original. But there are so many more D&D elements and fantasy themes in this movie. For starters the subtitle is now “The Dream Warriors.” It centers on the survivors of the previous two films, the “Last of the Elm Street teenagers.” something you just have to watch the movies to understand. It also features a kid who prominently plays D&D in the movie, even going so far as having an actual scene depicting, fairly accurately unlike most movies, a portion of game play. In the dream world however things get weirder, this character becomes a wizard with super powers and another character takes on a Gothic/Punk look even meeting Freddy face to face in an alley. There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to the third installment, a D&D type maze/dungeon at the end where they come together as a team, a cleric type, a sage type, a fighter type, and even the silent stealthy bard/thief type, who all have to face the final boss, Freddy, at the end to win the treasure, their right to live, and go back to living normal lives at the end of their mythic quest. It truly is the one film in the series the most similar to an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons, from the very opening scene to the very end credits. It even brings in a fleshed out back story and mythology to the character and his origins are explored in a very medieval Catholic mythology sort of way.

Part four sort of keeps the notion of dream powers, introduces new concepts like the Dream Master, the films subtitle, and ends in a final battle with a new powered up girl in a church where at the end she ends up well I won’t spoil it but it’s very much in line with the theme I been repeating.

Part 5 and 6 are where the franchise takes a turn for the worse. Number 5, the Dream Child, is more of a comic book movie, Freddy is even depicted as a comic book villain and his nemesis is his own mother, resurrected to take him back to hell or something I guess. The movie has a more action movie, comic book vibe and style to it. In some ways that is refreshing, in other ways it can be off putting. Part six is, to put it bluntly, a parody of the franchise. It’s basically a Warner Bros. cartoon making fun of the whole concept, and yes it even features Bugs Bunny and Wizard of Oz references and heavily relies on the 3-D gimmick. It does flesh out the mythology quite well, and features a really great cameo by the dark master himself, Alice Cooper, again really mixing the themes in a way that ensures fans will find something to enjoy. It’s the worst of the films by most accounts but still worth watching for a few things, those cameos and back story plus a surprise I won’t spoil.

Part 7, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, gets back to the Gothic horror theme by basically putting Freddy into the Hansel and Gretel story. There isn’t much else to say it’s almost a remake/reboot of the original film with a twist but it’s one of the scarier films in the series, still worth checking out. I won’t go into either Freddy Vs. Jason or the 2010 Remake as they both stray so far from the original their best left in their own world. I enjoyed them each, in their own way, but neither of them live up to the source material. Freddy vs. Jason is made for the Playstation crowd and the remake was too dark and had no ties to the fantasy mythology that the original had. Worse of all, it wasn’t even about a child murderer freed on a technicality, it was a sick perverted child molester that had no motive for murdering his victims in their dream world, which also had no fantasy elements at all, instead it was trying too hard to be dark an edgy where it really just ended up being creepy and uncomfortable.

What can I say, I enjoy Gothic music and themes, I play Dungeons and Dragons extensively and I thoroughly enjoy the fantasy-themed horror series of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Netflix recently added the original film to its streaming service, Part 2 and New Nightmare had been there before but they are not the actual best movies, the first and 3rd films are really the two to watch. Part 4 is pretty good, 5 and 6 are laughable but somewhat entertaining and the rest are different degrees of bad or too dark for my taste.

I also really enjoyed the documentary on Netflix “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” that really delved deep into the behind the scenes of the movies.

My personal ranking, with scores, best to worst:

  1. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5/5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors 5/5
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master 4.5/5
  4. Freddy vs. Jason 4/5
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child 3.5/5
  6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge 3.5/5
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead, The Final Nightmare 3.5/5
  8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake 3.5/5
  9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare 3/5

Since I consider both New Nightmare and 2010 to be remakes, I prefer the full on reboot over the half-baked soft reboot. I know others will disagree but I just never cared for the breaking the fourth wall and taking Freddy into the “real” world making everything that came before just a movie, inside of a movie, too meta for my tastes.

There you have it, my general thoughts on the Freddy Krueger character and the films he appears in.

Delve into the mind of THE RAT… if you dare.

When I was in the first grade I started signing my school papers with my initials, R.A.T., partly because I had bad hand writing, that is a story for another day, so I was trying to save time but also partly because, well back then I was pretty lazy, and partly because once I discovered my initials spelled out a word I thought it was fun. It didn’t stay fun forever as time went on I became stuck with the name, The Rat, which I currently wish would die out. But who is The Rat? Read on to find out more.

It started in 1997. Up to that point  had pretty much stopped signing my name as such and forgot about that silly initial thing. At least until one day, when I was in the 9th grade, I turned in a paper with just my initials, just because I wrote it in a hurry and added my name last second. It was for my science class,  didn’t get long well with my science teacher anyways so I figured screw it. Well some of the jackals in my class thought it was funny, and being mostly Spanish speaking they began calling me “la rata” or “the rat” in Spanish.

But it goes just a little deeper than that. Not the name but the underlying “persona” that I would invent as a form of identity shield. When I was much younger I had gotten used to being picked up and bullied in school. As such I developed a dislike for, well, everyone. So I went out of my way to discourage other kids from associating with me because I just wanted to be left alone. During my early days I discovered I had a very strong fascination with the Nightmare on Elm Street movie franchise. I suppose much of this could be tied to my being a kid in the 80’s, which at that time Freddy Krueger pretty much dominated the media scene, from MTV to everything inbetween. In 1996 I heard a song on the radio by a fairly new band called Marylin Manson. At first I was drawn to the music, the song that played on the radio all the time was “The Beautiful People,” to this day one of my favorite’s in the heavy metal genre. Although I learned later Manson wasn’t exactly true heavy metal, I still liked his music. It was dark, thematic and reminded me a lot of those Freddy films I had become so obsessed with. During my high school years I day-dreamed of forming my own shock rock metal band, even going so far as wanting to mimic the long hair, make up and stylish clothing that went along with it. But well I didn’t have it in me to put on that public mask that bands like Manson, Kiss, Twisted Sister, and others, wore. Instead I took a different approach.

I had always been divided between my love of the dark, loud, and angry metal music, with the violent, aggressive, and severely more angry gangsta rap music. My attraction to both forms of music was still a part of that persona, if I was seen listening to loud, offensive, and very violent music I figured it would be a good buffer to keep people away. For the most part, it worked. Decent people noticed quickly that a guy listening to “Natural Born Killers” by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre from the Murder was the Case soundtrack as loud as my speakers could play it, well that was a guy to avoid. I also wore a very angry expression on my face and became used to wearing torn, dirty and very rugged clothing to further cement the persona of not just an out cast, but a dark soul to be feared and avoided. I started to take the persona, or the act, onto the internet off and on. Partly because I was still trying to remain tough and distant but also because I hated confrontation. The problem is, this doesn’t work online, in real life you get the whole picture, the image, the scruffiness and you understand what I was going for. But online I just came off as a jerk, a troll even by most definitions.

After many years of justifying this dual personality/persona, it wasn’t just inspired by rock bands like Manson, it was further justified by the poster child for the image I was going for, the infamous Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, aka, Slim Shady. His dual persona image in his music fit what I was trying to do perfectly. I wanted to be seen as clean cut and respectable by those who took the time to get to know me, but feared and seen as a pretty mean dude by those I wished to keep my distance from. I had trouble taking this online and I also, eventually, had trouble separating the two in real life as well. Eventually I decided to take it a step further.

The Rat wasn’t getting the point across. So I changed my music persona name to DJ Serial Killa, taken from a Snoop Dogg song from his debut album, Doggystyle. Now as a kid thanks to the graphic, almost pornographic cartoon in the album art, it didn’t take long for me to figure out what “doggystyle” was referring to. Needless to say I figured if the good guy, or rapper, was The Rat, then the DJ, or the mysterious one pulling the puppet strings, had to be worse, thus I took on the name DJ Serial Killa. Of course I also adopted the phrase, or motto, that as a DJ I justified the name as I “murdered the competition, and there was a whole lot of competition.

I will admit as a rapper, I suck. I can, when I put my mind to it, write good poems, and by extension song lyrics. However I never applied this to my rapping, partly because I honestly never took it that seriously, partly because I kind of was “too white” deep down and there was also the matter of my voice, I hated how it sounded so I never put my full honest attention into my rapping. That being said I will freely say, and I can back this up with examples, my DJ’ing ability was pretty good. I didn’t do much of the Jazzy Jeff/Beastie Boys spinning vinyl records, but I could DJ, or disc jockey a party like no body’s business. This I developed through my years of not just making endless supplies of mix tapes, yes literal cassette tapes, but also mix cd’s, and evnetually playlists. I became skilled at telling which songs fit together in a set, or mood, and which songs blended together smoothly. And I can also show examples of music I mixed myself, using a variety of methods ranging from playing samples and keyboards using my own instrumentals, to the famous hip-hop production technique of mixing loops and samples. Still my DJ or production ability was far better than my rapping thus the DJ name had to have a much strong pull to it.

So what is the point? Just sharing a little bit of why I used to let people call me “THE RAT” and why, especially in recent years, I have shifted away from using that name. I am not ashamed of who I am, look I produced 6 underground records, some I put in stores some I only shared with friends, show me your musical works and I will say okay you can talk to me about names, until then, I can say I did something with my life I wanted to do, not everyone can say that. Lately I have been contemplating making a new musical production, or starting up a new venture online. Whatever I end up doing it will always be for the same purpose, sharing my ideas with people who might be interested for one reason or another.

Will I ever go back to being “THE RAT”? No I don’t think so. I know one thing is for sure, I might never get my chance to play in a shock rock metal band, at least I did get a chance to record an almost gangsta rap but not really gangsta rap, hip-hop record. And there is something to be said of a person doing what they want in life and not being bothered by what other people think. I never got to be as “goth” as I wanted, but I did push the boundaries of what I could get away with as much as possible. Looking back, yes I did take some things to far, something I have to live with to this day. I guess that is part of life, we all have skeletons in our closet, I just think if you dig too deep you might not like what you find. And that is okay, because honestly Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, he made us into a new creation so while The Rat is no more and DJ Serial Killa was always just bad idea for a name, the reality is all the dark and not very Christian things I was either witness to or an accessory to, are all in the past. Going forward life has improved tremendously and I believe things will only ever get better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does the Switch success actually hurt Nintendo?

Right now the entire internet, at least the segment of the internet that pays attention to video games, is paying close attention the Nintendo’s newest gadget, the Switch. I have to say since November when they first showed off what the Switch was capable of I have been taken in. Full disclaimer, I love Nintendo and I typically do buy their machines. But I can safely say my buying habits do reflect the larger gaming audience as a whole so I will use that as a measure to make my point.

Each subsequent home console generation from NES, to Game Cube, Nintendo seems to lose some of their market share. As I have previously pointed out, while their home console base has shrunken over the years, their overall base has grown, partly because they have continued to find success in their handheld divisions. They had 1 outlier, the Wii, which was the first time they not only increased sales, but surpassed their previous record holder, the NES. This was a big deal for the industry because it proved that Nintendo’s philosophy they weren’t competing directly with Sony or Microsoft could be true.

Here is where my question comes into play. I already assume the Switch will be a success because it combines the handheld market with the home console market, obviously that is part of the draw. The reason that could spell success is not because you can take the home console games on the go, that IS NOT a new concept there have been plenty of other systems that did just that. The first notable one was the Turbo Express which let gamers play their Turbografx-16 console games on the go. Then there was the Sega Game Gear which had a converter that allowed you to play Sega Master System games on the go. This was followed by two more portable home console devices from Sega, the CDX which was a sort of, portable Sega CD player, it could connect to a portable screen if you had one, and the Nomad a truly portable Sega Genesis complete with 6-button layout.

Then there is the reverse, which has many gamers also excited, playing portable games on the big screen. This has a big draw because hand held games tend to be reminiscent of retro or classic games. Typically handheld machines were running on last gen hardware or two gens back. The Game Boy was sort of NES hardware and was released during the NES lifespan, but it was black and white only and ran on a much smaller resolution, so compromises had to be made. Game Boy Advance, released at the same time as the Game Cube, PS2-era power, was basically running on SNES levels of power with slight tweaks. Even the Nintendo DS, released just before the Xbox 360-era, was running on essentially N64 hardware in portable mode. This is key because to keep costs down developers have had to make compromises. This means that mobile games running on Switch don’t have to be targeted towards lesser hardware, but they can be tweaked for the mobile experience. I suspect Switch will attract those typical mobile and handheld games that have made past Nintendo handhelds so popular among their target audience. But again playing mobile games, or handheld games, on the big TV is also not new.

In the mid-90’s Nintendo themselves first dabbled in putting portable games on the TV via the home console, they did is with the Super Game Boy cartridge that ran on SNES hardware. They perfected this in the Game Cube era with the Game Boy Player which ran the ENTIRE Game Boy library ranging from Game Boy, Game Boy Color and the then current Game Boy Advance. Sony has even found some limited success with this by putting TV outputs as an option on their PSP and PS Vita devices, especially if you look at the PS Vita TV. So putting portable games on the TV is nothing new, and taking the home console games on the go is nothing new, then what does excite people about the Switch?

This is where it gets messy for Nintendo. Most gamers are banking on the Switch being IT from now on. The belief is Nintendo will merge their portable and home console divisions into a single development platform, they have already stated this as having been done. The reason this is exciting is simple. If you look at a Nintendo release schedule in a given year, they make a TON of great games and attract a TON of great 3rd party and indie support. They do, just not on a single machine. If you divide their handheld and console into TWO machines, releasing separate games and having two divided release schedule you force gamers to make a choice, buy the less expensive, lower powered portable expecting it to have the games that will satisfy you. Another option that fewer people have been making, buy the home console machine for the grander experiences and sit through long periods of droughts with nothing to play. The third option, something fewer people do but what Nintendo really loved, buy both systems to get the entire library. This is key because typically, or traditionally that is, the portable games differed greatly enough from the console games you really had to chose which experience you preferred. Starting with Wii U Nintendo began merging the two libraries. First instead of releasing separate versions of some games, a home versions and a scaled down entirely different portable version, like Super Mario World vs. Super Mario Land, Donkey Kong Country vs. Donkey Kong Land, Kirby Adventure vs. Kirby’s Dreamland, etc. This time they gave you ONE game and released it on both systems. They did this with Super Smash Bros., NES Remix 1 and 2, Super Mario Maker, and a host of others. Another reason the Wii U failed was the library was too similar to the 3ds, which was selling much better and had far superior support. Super Mario 3D World didn’t really offer much different of an experience as Super Mario 3D Land.

So what happens if Switch just gets ALL the games going forward does that automatically mean it will get ALL the gamers going forward too? Here is my pause for concern. If you take this through logically it can mean only 1 thing. Nintendo has basically given up on the true home console market and doubled-down on the portable scene. Their hedging their bets on a dedicated portable machine that can connect to a TV. A few years ago I suggested Nintendo should just make a gaming tablet that used real buttons on the sides and could connect to a TV via HDMI out and I was called crazy for that. My logic was Nintendo’s consoles suffer from lack of releases because Nintendo cannot support two machines, they do not have the resources, money, man power, tools, etc, to do that. If they had all of their teams making all of their games for one system, then they will have the BEST software library in the world and could dominate the gaming industry. They did this twice before, the first time was with NES, they had 90 percent of the entire gaming market during those years. Granted the market was smaller and vastly different then, they dominated because they had so many great games on the system. It was beginning with SNES they had to split their attention between developing games for two machines. It wasn’t as noticable then because the Game Boy was basically just a watered down NES, they could get their summer interns to port NES games down to the Game Boy while sparing a smaller team here and there to pad the schedule with original games. If you look at the classic Game Boy library it really was just an NES port machine those first few years. Even if Super Mario Land was a truly original game, that was about it, and even that was very small scale compared to their console games. Also console games didn’t require as much of an investment to make.

This split wasn’t really noticeable until the N64 and Game Boy Pocket years. This was when Pokemon gave the Game Boy line a second life, remember Nintendo’s intention was for the Virtual Boy to replace the Game Boy, when that failed to take place they scrambled to double-down on saving the Game Boy to stay in business. Then N64 games took a much larger level of investment and a longer time and manpower commitment to get made. They were GRAND, they were large, epic masterpieces, for the time, that rivaled the games Sony and friends were making. The problem was they took so much effort to develop instead of having 7 teams working on 5 console games and 2 portable games, you had 2 teams working on 2 console games and 2 teams scrambling to work on 1 portable game. These numbers are not exactly literal, I don’t know the inner workings of Nintendo, but I DO know from reports at the time and talking to developers over the years, they did consolidate teams and if you read the end game credits you start to see proof of this. N64 was desperate for games so Nintendo handed out licenses to so many partners to help out, which is why you had Rare, Hudson and even Midway making games for Nintendo using their characters, they had no choice they were understaffed and over worked. Thing’s only slightly improved with the Game Cube, droughts were less common partly because Nintendo designed the Cube with their developers in mind, to make developing as easy as possible to streamline the process, they also purchased some new developers to pad the schedule and reached out to even more 3rd party partners to get Nintendo games made using their characters but made by other companies. This time they had Namco and Sega and even Square and Capcom helping out. This was even noticable on the portables when Nintendo handed their most prized IP, the Legend of Zelda, over to Capcom! This was all proof Nintendo couldn’t make enough games to support their systems by themselves.

The issue came about as console sales declined, they couldn’t continue justifying paying developers for support and as costs increased due to going HD and games becoming more complicated and advanced, developers had to be more cautious where they put their money. Again it takes even more resources to make games in HD than SD, even the same exact scope of a game, so that is where Switch comes in.

IF Nintendo can once again consolidate all of their teams to making games for just a single machine, effectively killing off the home console division and merging the two into a single portable first with TV play as an option, then they have succeeded in solving their BIGGEST issue, release droughts. Even now the Switch is seeing fewer games up front than Wii U did, it does have more games announced and in development then Wii U did during the same time frame and from the looks of it, many more 3rd party partners are on board. The key is portables sell better and are easier to develop for and don’t directly compete with the other home consoles, so this allows Nintendo do finesse developers to make games locked to a console, say an exclusive like SF5, because if the contract says console exclusive they could argue Switch is not a console it’s a portable, they have done this in the past, Sony and Microsoft have allowed their games to be released on Nintendo portables at times neither of them had portables in the market. Sony moved away from this once PSP and Vita came along, but even companies that never make games for the home console, still make games for the portable because 1, its cheaper, and 2, the sales potential, thus profit margin, is greater.

In the short term this could spell great success for Nintendo, a unified machine that does everything, gamers have been wanting this ever since PC gamers got their wish with the coveted gaming laptops and even the rise of gaming tablets. This is where the concern comes about, can Nintendo compete directly with Tablets and Laptops and Mobile Phones if say Sony decides to make PS5 a dedicated gaming tablet with multi media features, 4K output, and a Blu Ray disc support? History has indicated that in direct competition Nintendo handhelds do better than Sony while Sony consoles do better than Nintendo, but that is because Sony has ALL the 3rd party support while Nintendo just does well on their franchises and key 3rd party support while being cheaper. In a scenario where Sony had all their games on a machine that was equal parts home console, Playstation dominance, and equal parts portable, PSP tablet but with Playstation support, and instead of asking gamers to chose which machine to get, which they chose the Sony console and Nintendo portable, largely because the Sony portable mostly plays the same games as the console, this could backfire on Nintendo.

In direct head to head competition with hardware parity, 1 device that plays ALL the games no separate machines, and all the franchises land where they land, Sony wins because a dedicated gaming tablet that has Playstation controllers and Playstation level of games and Sony levels of multimedia, would KILL Nintendo because let’s face it, Nintendo survives on their franchises alone but they struggle to get 3rd party support. If Nintendo finds success with this model, Sony does have the resources to play the same game but this time could win. Here is why.

PSP struggled to take out DS despite having better hardware not because it was too expensive or the market just preferred Nintendo but BECAUSE the PSP library was not different enough than PS2. Even though it has a few select exclusives, basically every game on PSP is just a perfect or near perfect portable version of the same Sony Playstation home game. Basically what the Switch is but PSP had to also compete with PS2 and PS3 not just DS. DS was it’s own thing, it played entirely different games or different enough versions of franchises it would stand on its own. It didn’t directly compete with Wii, it complemented it. Switch replaces the home console basically putting all of their eggs in one basket. This could eliminate the edge that makes their portables so attractive. It already removed the SINGLE most attractive selling point, low cost of entry, because it is trying to be both a console and a portable.

Sony could easily out do them, they already have years of developing mobile tech and making a truly dedicated gaming tablet, even higher priced say $399 or even $449, people would buy. I think a single Plystation device that doubles as a portable would sell more than a Nintendo device that does the same thing, when you consider how the Sony machine will get ALL of the games and Nintendo will just have their games and select partners. Nintendo’s portable machines would start selling less each generation and Nintendo loses the edge they had. This is of course assuming Sony follows up with a Switch-like device. I think Sony would do better to stick with home consoles and concede the portable market to Nintendo, a return of the favor Nintendo just handed them the home console market.

See with Nintendo, the other Japanese developer out of the home console space, Sony wins by default. Japanese gamers and console gamers that enjoy Japanese games have had to chose get the Sony machine first and pick up the Nintendo second down the road when price comes down, pick up the Nintendo machine first for the 1st party games and get the Sony machine for the 3rd party stuff later when price comes down, or do what MOST people do anyways, get the Sony console and Nintendo handheld. In a world where every gamer buys a Sony home console AND a Nintendo portable, Microsoft either loses or is forced to compete harder. Sony can handle Microsoft but in a world with a united Nintendo core base, 100-200 million strong die-hard loyalists, Sony would be facing trouble. So Nintendo needs to concede the console space to Sony and concentrate entirely on making Switch a TRUE 3DS successor and let the Wii U and console line rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The untouchable remake?

Hollywood loves remakes. Video game companies and musicians do covers, remakes, remasters, or remixes all the time. But there is one movie that appears to be remake proof, Star Wars. But is that really the right call?

I love Star Wars as much as the next guy, maybe more than the average guy for that matter, but I think it is a terribly dated, and considerably flawed film in many respects. I know I just pissed off half the internet, but honestly it’s not like enough people in the world read this blog to make that statement so let’s move forward.

I have given this a lot of thought and with Disney now in charge of Star Wars, I think a true remake of the classic trilogy is not only in order, but something they desperately need to get in motion. The plan appears to keep moving forward in the new universe while dabbling in the old with spin off films. They have to recast Han Solo to make a young Han Solo film, this is obvious. Now they just did the highly successful Rogue One, so here is what I think needs to happen. They absolutely need to consider the possibility of casting a new Han Solo, Luke, and Princess Leia for these spin offs, while they are at it why not do the unthinkable and actually REMAKE the classic trilogy? This would end some of the who shot first debate, UOT vs. Special Edition Debate, and it would give fans young and old, an brand new way to experience one of the most iconic film stories in history.

Of course the originals will still exist, and Disney should still find a way to get on top of releasing the ORIGINAL unaltered trilogy onto Blu Ray for the fans that want that, the thing with Star Wars is the franchise is so big and so massive it appeals to so many fans with so many different tastes. I would love it if they could then go back and REMAKE the Prequels also, some would argue that needs to happen before a remake of the classic but I don’t think so. The reason is they ARE moving forward with a Han Solo movie, they HAVE to cast a young Han, why not take this opportunity to remake/reboot the franchise NOW while the getting is good and the new fans will fully embrace it while the stick in the mud fans won’t even matter because they haven’t bought a NEW Star Wars item since 1997 if you believe the internet.

Is Star Wars so untouchable that remaking it would spell absolute disaster? No I don’t think so, in fact I think it not only is the RIGHT thing for Disney to do, I fully expect it will happen sooner, rather than later, as Disney themselves LOVE remaking and re-telling their own stories. Now Star Wars didn’t start out as a Disney story, but hey guess what neither did Peter Pan, Marry Poppins, the Jungle Book, hardly anything they create is original anyways so what’s the difference?

Disney if you ever get a chance to ignore the sticklers and decide to remake the classic trilogy, I will be behind it 100 percent. Just as long as you don’t break the golden rule and do some gender/race swapping because well that’s not necessary but updating the franchise for a new generation, IS.

Records vs. CD’s: Music Collecting

I happen to be one of those people that falls in the middle of the technological curve. I am too young to really have major fond memories of vinyl, my dad had a record player when I was a kid, I played with it from time to time, but to be honest most of my early days of music listening were done via cassette tape not record. I also happen to be just about too old to fully embrace digital. I do have an iPod, I download tons of music to it, but I can’t seem to bring myself to get into streaming. I do have Pandora, Spotify, and even Amazon Prime music. I just never cared for being tethered to a service that has so many restrictions, including the advertisements and being at the mercy of an algorithm to determine my musical preferences. So I am just old enough to fully embrace the reality of owning a physical medium rather than being entirely digital. That is why I also have over 500 movies on DVD yet I only have about 30 or so digital movie purchases.

Retro vs. Modern gaming

The age old question, well maybe not age old but the question of the day is, what’s the better type of gamer the modern gamer or the retro gamer? For me personally I think they two both have merits, but as a primarily retro gamer I tend to lean towards retro as the better option. However there is a new way of thinking, the modern-retro gamer is also a thing now. Take into consideration the new, retro-styled games like Shovel Knight, or Retro City Rampage, to name two extremely popular titles. But that is not the type of retro gaming I am talking about so first let’s define retro, then lets define modern and compare the two to see which one offers the more robust gaming solution.

I have always identified four types of gaming platforms. The first is the arcade platform or the short, casual gaming  that dominated the 80’s and early 90’s. The second is the PC gamer, PC being short hand for computer which for me is all encompassing, the third type of gaming is the console game, the dedicated living room machine that offers a stripped down, bare-bones gaming experience or a completely streamlined all-in-one solution. The fourth type is the mobile gamer or the gamer on the go.

I define the divide between retro and modern differently for each of the four types of gaming. Arcade games are considered retro, to me at least, if they were created before the 3-D revolution. Retro arcade games range from the earliest video machines such as Pong or Space War, to the mid-90’s 2D fighting games. The divide is the Sega Model 2 hardware and the Midway Zues/Nintendo Ultra 64 hardware. Everything before those periods is retro and everything following is modern. Modern arcade gaming is mostly made up of dance and rhythm games, hunting games and simulations, mostly sports or horse racing, they aren’t really that many non-gambling games today that have any resemblance to the classic arcade quarter munchers of the yester-year we all long for.

PC gaming is a little more complex. For the most part, non-IBM PC or non-Windows based x86 gaming that ranges from the earliest microcomputers to the end of the Atari Falcon line and the Amiga brand are considered retro. For IBM-compatible or Windows PC, a.k.a “PC gaming” the divide is Windows 95. Everything before Windows 95, including DOS and all early Windows games are considered retro, including those from the PC CD-ROM era. Modern PC gaming basically starts with Windows 98 leaving Windows 95 as sort of a buffer between classic, or retro, and modern. I am talking strictly in game design and philosophy here, PC gaming became incredibly more complex with the start of Windows 95 and the introduction of Direct X, prior to that PC gaming was not at all unified nor easy to identify.

Handheld gaming is pretty much divided up into Game Boy and post-Game Boy. Meaning Everything from the Game Boy Advance (and variants) backwards is considered retro and everything from the Nintendo DS onwards (including mobile phones and PSP/Vita) is modern. Again this goes back to game design and philosophy. Prior to the GBA hand held games were basically seen as miniaturized versions or downgraded ports of existing games. With DS and PSP especially it was possible, and common, to have full blown console level dedicated games on the mobile platform that were basically comparable to the modern platform.

Console gaming the divide is much easier for the most part, but there are some overlaps. As with Windows 95, there is a clear-cut divide between classic game design philosophy and modern or even post-modern design philosophy, this is the Sony Playstation.

The Sony PS1 as it is sometimes called marks the buffer between retro or classic game design and the start of modern, cinematic story based gaming. PS1 is a transition console that includes a diverse library of classic and retro (modern at the time) games that played similar to the true retro games of the SNES, NES, ad Sega Genesis period, as well as the beginnings of the modern interactive movie games of today. The modern philosophy began mostly with Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, and the infamous Grand Theft Auto, which all had their first bouts of success on the Sony Playstation. While FF7 was a benchmark for modern gaming, it was really based on the retro FF6 JRPG style but it deserves credit for bringing the RPG genre to the modern era. However, games like Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Crash Bandicoot, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Tetris Plus, Mega Man 8, and many, many more, play just like their 16-bit SNES counterparts leaving them as a bridge between the retro and modern gaming machines.

There is a little overlap however, Saturn is more modern than Retro and the Dreamcast is very modern while the N64 is more retro than modern. That is why I place the Playstation as the bridge between the classic, or retro and the modern with N64 and Saturn, it’s contemporary competition, as sort of buffers. For me those two machines are clearly retro but they have some of the beginnings of modern gaming seeping through. The N64 especially with its major push into 3-D gaming.

With the Playstation as the divider then, where does a modern gamer looking to get into retro gaming start? And for that matter where does a retro gamer looking to ease into modern gaming go?

I will tackle these both one at a time. For the modern gamer it depends on your point of entry. I will focus on each category, arcade, console, PC and mobile, and tackle them one by one.

The modern PC gamer is most likely going to do what all PC gamers have done since the beginning of time, work their way back to the beginning via their favorite franchises. A modern Doom gamer is going to go back and play classic Doom, a modern Elder Scrolls gamer should check out the original D&D games like Eye of the Beholder or the Warcraft games to get a good bit of history. The modern PC gamer has the benefit of Windows being essentially backwards compatible with pretty much all previous operating systems so it’s much easier for the PC gamer to go back in time and try out older games. Here is a road map I recommend for the modern, millennial and younger PC gamer.

As Windows 95 is the divide I recommend starting with some of the classic PC CD-ROM titles from the early DirectX era. A few to get started are MechWarrior 2, Descent, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3-D, Unreal, Star Wars Dark Forces, Myst, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Diablo, Warcraft, StarCraft, Sim City 2000, and Baldur’s Gate. These are all semi-retro but modern enough games for a PC gamer to get their feet wet looking to sample some classic PC gaming but without going too old school.

Then work your way backwards. Some good games to try from the VGA and 386 period would be the original DOS Duke Nukem side-scroller, Jazz Jackrabbit, Sim City, Eye of the Beholder and Eye of the Beholder 2 Legend of Darkmoon,  any of the early Bard’s Tale, Ultima and Might and Magic games. Then going further back why not give Commodore 64 a shot, either via emulation or scouring ebay for an actual working machine, they are pretty cheap by modern standards.

Arcade gamer I will just say this, either pick up MAME for your PC or get onto Xbox Live Arcade or PSN and look for retro arcade compilations like Mortal Kombat Komplete Kollection, Tower of Mystara Collection, Metal Slug Anthology, Namco Museum, Midways Arcade Treasures, etc, basically pick up any of these classic arcade compilations to get you started. The PS2 is the BEST retro arcade gaming machine outside of MAME.

Mobile gamer. I won’t get too into this one. Basically if you are into modern mobile games like iOS and Android games or 3DS and PS Vita games my advice is just dig back through the catalogs. The Nintendo Game Boy Advance is a very good place to start along with the original DS, there are tons of retro gaming goodies to be found on those as well as the PSP, a portable gaming treasure trove. Personally I recommend a GBA because it gives access to the Game Boy classic and Game Boy color line up of games as well and then pick up a DS or 3DS and work backwards through the catalog as they are backwards compatible then get into PSP when you are ready to upgrade into the meater portable games that are based on console gaming of the past.

Now for the console gamer. The roadmap here is more complicated. If your a modern Playstation gamer and want to get into retro gaming the first place to start is the PS1 classics. Then depending on if you are more into Japanese games or Western (US/European) games will determine which consoles to back track through. If you are more into Japanese games, Castlevania, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, etc, pick up a Super NES and dig into the classic games on there such as Super Castlevania 4, Street Fighter 2, Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country, Final Fantasy 3, Chrono Trigger, Mega Man X, and maybe some Contra 3. IF you are more into western gaming, then I recommend starting with a Sega Genesis and picking up some games like Chakhan the Forever Man, Vector Man, Earthworm Jim, Toejam and Earl, Streets of Rage, Eternal Champions, X-Men, Maximum Carnage, Boogerman, Fatal Rewind, Haunting starring Poulterguy, or even some Comix Zone. SNES has its fair share of western games too as does the Genesis its share of Japanese games, but the split is in favor of each as described above, for the most part.

If you want to wade into retro gaming without diving in head first, I recommend picking up a PS3 for the PSN games, PS2 for the arcade compilations and backwards compatibility with the PS1 library, the Nintendo Wii (or Wii U) for the Virtual Console, and a Nintendo DS and GBA for the plethora of retro gaming titles accessible via those platforms. Unless you are really into PC gaming or PC style games I don’t recommend the Xbox for retro gaming as its really more of a modern games machine and the handful of retro games you can get on an Xbox are ALSO on Playstation whereas there are DOZENS of retro games on Playstation and Nintendo that aren’t available on Xbox. Xbox is fine for modern gaming but its a wasteland for retro gaming unless you mod it in which case just load up the emulators on your PC and be done with it.

That is my Retro vs. Modern PC gaming guide.