Friday, August 9, 2013

My game collection

After seeing what my friend Jason did with his game collection site, I decided to make my own. So here ya go. It took a few days to get all my games added. They're broken up into categories that can be accessed from the side menu. Unfortunately they're listed in the order I posted them, which was in (mostly) alphabetical order. So they're listed in reverse alpha order on the site.

Regardless, all my games are listed there. I should be able to add new games pretty quick now that the bulk of my collection is there already. Most games just have the system, release date, genre, and if I completed the game or not. A few have some comments about the game.  I'll probably add more as I have time.

I also still put game pics up on Tumblr of new additions and other random gaming stuff that I find interesting.


My Game Collection

Games are for Grown Ups Tumblr

Monday, July 22, 2013

The dreaded backlog (and great games that stay great)

I'm easily distracted. That's really no secret. For someone who can multitask at work I'm horribly inefficient at it when I'm at home. My wife is a superhero. I don't see how she does it. My lack of focus has meant that many games over the years have gone unfinished. Part of that is having more disposable income, and thus more games. As a kid I remember having to save up my allowance for months to get a game. Because of that there was plenty of time between game purchases, which usually meant playing a game until I beat it. I was one of the few among my friends in middle school who finished Double Dragon on the NES for example (not an easy game).

I had finished so many games back then that I had a list. It was just a normal sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 notebook paper. But it was nearly full, front and back, with the games I had finished. I wish I still had it. I can remember the big ones. Zelda. Mega Man. Kid Icarus (I'm not sure if I could beat that today). It was an epic list. I had very little money, but I had loads of time (as most kids do).

Fast forward 25 years. I'm married, have two kids, and a full time job. My list of unfinished games feels like it's as long as that list of completed games I had when I was 12. At the start of this year I was determined to start going through this backlog of games. Nearly every one was amazing. I didn't stop because it sucked or it was too hard. Most of them are highly rated. Some were the game of the year the year they came out. But there were other games that came out within a month (or a few weeks) of it's release. Having more disposable income, I was able to buy it. And my vow to "go back to it after I play this new game" never happened.

I haven't only played games in my unfinished backlog this year. I played through the Mass Effect trilogy in January and February when ME1 finally made it's way to the PS3. I also played Ni No Kuni when it came out. Same with The Last of Us. But I played these games to completion. I didn't let myself get distracted. Once I started them, I played to the end.

So while I've played a few new games this year, my main focus has been on the unfinished games in my collection. The last few I've gone back to play have reminded me that there are some truly great games out there that need to be played by almost everyone. Games that earned awards the years they were released really deserved them. They're just as good now as they were then. When I fired up Red Dead Redemption again, I was stunned (again) at how beautiful and alive the world was. I looked forward to every minute I could spend in that world. I'm still not a huge fan of open world/Grand Theft Auto type games, but the setting can make a world of difference. Riding around on horseback in the wild west and shooting bandits is just great fun.

Next up was Batman: Arkham Asylum. While I may have some issues with choices they made to the story (particularly Bane and Venom), the world was incredible. The Scarecrow scenes were some of the best scenes in the entire game. At one point I thought the game (or my TV) was glitching out on me. I almost powered everything off to fix it. Then I realized it was part of the game.

Currently I'm back to finish Shadow of the Colossus (part of the Ico/SotC HD collection). I had only played up through the first 4 colossi when the game was first released on the PS2. When I got the HD collection I played up through the first 2. There are some control issues, mainly because it's a PS2 era game, but the game itself is one of the best ever made. The HD collection came out in 2011, and minus a brief attempt to get back into it this past April (where I beat the 3rd colossi), I had completely forgotten how great this game is. I started playing it again this past weekend and got up through the 10th colossi (out of 16). I couldn't put it down. Each beast is a puzzle where you have to try and figure out how to bring it down, sometimes using the environment to help. That's the whole game. Just you and this huge open world. There are no other enemies. You ride from the temple to track down each colossus. When you bring one down, you end up back at the temple and do it all over again. It doesn't sound like much, but there's really no other game like it. It was one of the first (and best) examples of "video games as art", and it still holds up.

Red Dead Redemption, Arkham Asylum, and Shadow of the Colossus have showed me that great games stay great. And hopefully I can keep the momentum going this year to finish games I started, and if I start a new game to play it until I finish. I don't want to miss out on great game experiences again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Emotional storytelling in video games

Having played video games for most of the last 30 years, it never ceases to amaze me to see how they have evolved over that time. Looking back at my earliest gaming memories with simple games like Demon Attack on the Atari 2600, the fact that a game can stir deep emotions in me still blows me away. They've moved beyond the simple "bleep bloop" of those early games. Those kinds of games still exist, and they're still fun (albeit far prettier). Nowadays some games are emotional experiences, like watching your favorite movie or reading a classic book. It's hard to believe it's the same hobby I took up so long ago.

The first game to really move me was Final Fantasy 3 on the SNES (which is actually Final Fantasy 6 in the series). 3/4 of the way through the game a (literal) world shattering event changes the entire landscape of the world, and your entire party is scattered, and a single character wakes up alone on a deserted island. I sat stunned at what had just happened. Even a game of fairly simple sprites had moved me to silence.

Years later, I remember showing off Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation to my parents (who had always seen games as "for kids"). To them video games were Mario. I don't know if seeing MGS in action changed that, but it opened their eyes to see gaming wasn't just moving around a fat plumber and jumping on turtles (although you could still do that). Years later, after I was married and had a kid, I showed them the intro to Uncharted 2. I don't know if they were as blown away as I was, but they definitely seemed surprised that games had come that far.

Recently I played two games that, for me, are the pinnacle of what video games can deliver as a storytelling medium. In The Last of Us you play as Joel. After a very tragic and emotional prologue (which ironically is totally spoiled by the game's box art), the game fast forwards 20 years and we see Joel dealing with life after the apocalypse has wiped out much of humanity. He's clearly been shaped by the events 20 years ago and his life since then. He's not a very nice guy. Eventually he meets Ellie and agrees to take her across the country to a group trying to find a cure. Through the course of their journey together, and after many tense, terrifying, and emotional experiences, their relationship evolves. You don't need to be a parent to be moved by their relationship, but since I am one I couldn't help but be effected by it. I smiled at their banter more times than I can count, and I got angry at Joel when he belittled Ellie or discounted her ability to contribute. This world made Joel a hard man. And seeing Ellie try and break through that was great to witness in a video game. The whole game from beginning to end is one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had, and the story moved me in ways games rarely do.

After finishing The Last of Us I played last year's critically acclaimed series The Walking Dead. Like the TV show, it's based on the popular comic book. It has a cast of new characters (and a few from the comics have cameos), but it's an original story with all new characters. Even the art style has a graphic novel quality that looks amazing. The game spans 5 episodes in season 1 (season 2 is coming out this Fall), with the 400 Days episode, which just came out a few weeks ago, that acts as as a bridge to season 2.

At the start of The Walking Dead, your main character Lee stumbles across 9 year old Clementine, who's parents were out of town when the apocalypse broke out. Clementine had been left with a babysitter (who is now dead), and is all alone to fend for herself. Not wanting to leave her, Lee takes her with him. Over the 10 or so hours of season 1 (which spans a few months in the game world), the relationship between these two characters grows and deepens. Lee doesn't have children, but he tries his best to care for and protect Clem (as he lovingly calls her) the best way he knows how in this violent and deadly new world they live in. Since we're making choices for Lee, like whether to save one person over another, to show mercy to someone else, or to be truthful about Lee's past (or to lie), the relationship dynamics can change dramatically. It's fascinating to see that in a game.

Unlike The Last of Us, the zombies really only play a minor role (although there are plenty). They're more of a backdrop. In the foreground are the characters and how they react to the events around them. Some I was immediately drawn to. Others I was annoyed with and wanted to leave them behind. But even if someone I didn't like was bitten, it was heart-wrenching having to decide what to do. Even more so if it was someone I had grown fond of.

As season 1 was drawing to a close, I had become attached to Lee and Clem. And I had started to become anxious about what was going to happen to them. I hoped for a happy ending, but I feared it would end tragically. I won't say how it ended, but I will say when it ended I was completely satisfied. It was like finishing a good book. As the end credits rolled, I set the controller down, took a deep breath, and marveled at the experience I just had.

Games have come a long way in 30 years. The Last of Us and The Walking Dead are prime examples of how this medium can elicit the same emotional response as any other form of entertainment. And while games about the zombie apocalypse might not be for everyone, these games show what games can be as an art form. With the next generation of systems on the horizon, I think these kinds of experiences are what will set great games apart from mediocre ones. Graphics won't see as big a leap as in previous generations, but I think these games set the bar high for what games can be. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Games are for Grown-ups tumblr

So I decided to start a tumblr. Since I've started collecting games I figured I'd start the tumblr to post pics of my collection and games that are added to it, like today's additions in the pic to the right. It should be easy enough to keep up with.

Games are for Grown-ups tumblr

Friday, March 22, 2013

Game collecting

With the exception of a few years in the mid 00s, I've played games for most of the last 30 years. I never really considered collecting as part of that hobby until recently. Thanks to Jason Jasicki (who has a great game blog at, and is a contributor), Dan Tolin (also a Splitkick contributor), and an incredibly lucky snag on Freecycle a few months ago, I finally took the dive into collecting.

I don't collect for the sake of collecting. I don't have the money or the space for that. But I started to think of all the series of games that I've loved over the last 30 years and decided to focus on those. Final Fantasy, Metroid, Zelda, Castlevania, and Metal Gear are the big ones. I've recently thought of doing the PS1 Squaresoft games like Vagrant Story, Parasite Eve, etc.. Stuff like that.

When I stopped gaming around 2004 I thought I was done. I hadn't bought a console or a game in years and I hardly ever played games (except for long sessions of Everquest). So I sold all my games and consoles. They were in pristine condition and complete with boxes, manuals, maps, etc. Some of them are nearly impossible to find, and if you do they're outrageously expensive. I couldn't have anticipated getting into gaming again, let alone collecting. While the sale of those classic games was for a great cause (an engagement ring, and she said yes), when I decided to collect those were the very games I wanted.

Unfortunately I can't walk into most stores around town and expect to find the games I want. So I scour Freecycle and thrift stores for games. Any games. I don't often find the ones I want, but I'll if they're cheap I get them anyway. I found a handful of Dreamcast games at a Goodwill recently for $1 each. I posted them for trade on (a great game trading site). I'll use the points I get there to request games I want. And just this week I got an original XBox with 5 games off Freecycle. I didn't want an XBox, but the trade in value of the console and the games is around $40 at eStarland (an awesome local game store). That's plenty of money to pick up a more expensive classic game that I want for my collection.

I pretty much take any game or console I can find (and if anyone reading this has some to get rid of, please let me know!). The lucky snag from Freecycle that I mentioned above really got me in the collecting spirit. Someone posted having an NES, to which I quickly responded to claim. I was thrilled that I was soon going to have an NES in the house again, but when I picked it up I was surprised that the bag contained not only an NES (with 2 controllers, a Zapper, and all the cords except for the AC adapter), but also an SNES (with controllers and cords), 2 SNES games complete in their boxes w/ manuals, and 4 NES games, including a barely used copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 with the box and manual. It's worth a short trip across town for a surprise like that. And making connections with people on Freecycle has paid off. One person was giving away a bunch of old PC games. I wasn't fast enough to email her to get them, but she said if she found more she'd let me know. Well that same day she found more and I got them. Most of them were junk (an Italian copy of Diablo 2 for example), or CD-R copies of games, but some were great and I was able to trade a few for some games I really wanted. Then last week she emailed me after she found 5 Sega Genesis games and I got those too.

My collection isn't a big as some. But part of the fun is in the hunt, and in getting that last game to complete a series or a set. And getting my hands on a dozen games I couldn't care less about only to find a store will give me $10 in credit for one of them is a thrill.

If you have even the slightest inclination to start collecting, I highly recommend Jason's Game Hunter series of videos. They're on his blog above, and the first has recently been posted on (another favorite site of mine). And as I said before, if you're reading this and aren't a collector but have a bunch of old games to get rid of, let me know. I'll take em off your hands (or pay a reasonable price for them). 

My Final Fantasy collection as organized by Evernote.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gaming memory - Super Metroid

Chris, one of my oldest friends (maybe the oldest friend I have), reminded me of one of my favorite gaming memories the other day. Way back in the SNES days we occasionally played games while talking on the phone.

We were (and still are) huge Metroid fans and happened to be playing Super Metroid around the same time. One day we managed to be on the phone when we reached Mother Brain. There was a lot of "Oh crap!" and "Dude!" back and forth as we battled her. Somehow we managed to beat her at about the same time. Then it was the mad rush to escape.

We started our escape, with more yelling and screaming at our TVs. As the timer ticked down, I made it to Samus' ship. Chris did not. As I yelled, "YES!", I heard an agonizing "NOOOO!" from the other end of the phone. Chris had gotten to the ship but overshot it when he jumped, with only seconds left. As I was flying away victorious, he was starting the escape over again. 2nd time was the charm.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Game backlogs

This is going to be a pretty long post. It's a pretty serious problem (first world problem anyway). I can't think of a time in recent memory when I've had a backlog of games so huge that I didn't know how to deal with it. I saw it coming last fall when so many must have games were coming out within 6 weeks of each other. It started with the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus collection and ended with Zelda: Skyward Sword (with Dark Souls, Uncharted 3, and Skyrim in between). Then some other games were on sale for dirt cheap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was doomed.

I have so many half finished games, some of which I want to play, others that I just don't feel like playing but still want to finish, and others that I started but don't care if I finish or don't plan on finishing (that last ground doesn't really count in my backlog). The list below will be primarily focused on the ones I want to finish, with brief mentions to those I'm not really set on finishing anytime soon (if at all).

Red Dead Redemption: I don't know why I stopped playing this. But I won it on a website contest and started it Spring of 2011. I got to Mexico (in the game) and was quite a few hours into it. Another game probably came out and distracted me. I don't remember which one. But I really want to get back into it. It's a fantastic game. I haven't even touched Undead Nightmare, the big expansion.

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus: I never played Ico, and I only ever got to the 5th colossi when I played it on the PS2. I loved SotC. But it came out at a bad time since another big game was coming out a week or two later...

Dark Souls: I love this game. But it took me away from the Ico/SotC collection. So I guess it's fair that I've gotten sidetracked on it twice. I'm currently halfway through New Londo Ruins. Dark Souls was first sidetracked by Uncharted 3 (which I finished) and Skyrim (which broke in the main quest but I later finished, minus a ton of side content). But it's high on my list to finish.

Zelda: Skyward Sword: This was the last big game last fall that I knew would be hard to juggle with the other ones. I started it, and was loving it. But the controls kept getting in the way. I felt like I was constantly fighting them. I eventually got sidetracked by the other games (Skyrim most likely, and maybe Dark Souls), and in January...

Final Fantasy XIII-2: I was really enjoying how they structured this game. I loved FFXIII, but I enjoyed the freedom they gave you in XIII-2. I played a solid 25 hours before getting sidetracked...again...

Around the holidays I found a few great deals on some games I had missed that people said I should play. Enslaved and Vanquish. So I got those for dirt cheap, played them for an hour or two and they got put back on the shelf. They were a lot of fun (despite triggering some major motion sickness), so sadly they're very low on my "must finish" list. 

After FFXIII-2, I grabbed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I loved that game and got maybe 6 hours into it. Then I got distracted again. I started craving something different (which seems to be the problem). So I grabbed another game I had wanted to check out. Darksiders. I played that for a few hours, then got sidetracked by Batman: Arkham Asylum (another huge game I had missed). I enjoyed that for probably 5 or 6 hours but distraction fell upon me again. I really want to finish Castlevania and Batman. Darksiders, not so much.

I think it was at that point that I went back to Dark Souls. I dabbled into Skyward Sword again briefly, which had me revisit a dungeon I had cleared already, and I went back to Dark Souls and was on that for a good while. Confident that I would finally finish it.

Then Diablo 3 came out.

And I haven't even talked about the PS Vita games in my backlog with Gravity Rush and the MGS HD Collection (which I also have for the PS3).

So you see there's quite a lot in my catalog that needs finishing. I don't know if I'll put them in a specific order and then tackle them that way. The GoW games are really tempting. Oh I didn't mention them yet? Well the HD Collection (PS2 games) and GoW3 arrived today. But that's my problem. I get a craving for a type of game, buy them, and set everything else aside even if I'm enjoying the heck out of them. I need to stay more focused. 

Anyone else have a hard time staying focused like me?