Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Defense of Video Games

Video games are, once again, getting a bad rap. But this time it's from an unexpected front (although I'm not too surprised). A few Christian leasers have come out saying porn and video games are ruining young men. I agree with the porn assessment. But I disagree on the video game part (which will come as no surprise if you've read this blog at all). As a Christian it's frustrating to see such legalistic perspectives on a hobby I enjoy. You probably won't hear them talk the same way about something they do to relax and unwind.

But instead of giving my own opinions (which I might at a later time), here is a great article by Stephen Altrogge. I think he gets to the real root of the problem.

In Defense of Video Games

Sunday, May 27, 2012

30 Years of Gaming: My First RPG

I'm going to skip ahead a few years from my last "30 Years of Gaming" post and fast forward to 1994. I was almost 2 years out of high school and neck deep in my 2nd (and last) semester at college. My good friend Chris had tried to introduce me for years to RPGs and fantasy books, which were his favorite genre if memory serves me right. But I was never interested. I liked games, and had been gaming for many years at that point. But RPGs just never appealed to me.

I had played a little Final Fantasy IV on the SNES, which was stupidly numbered II In the US. It was a lot of fun. But not enough to hold my attention to the end (I think it would now though). Give me Super Metroid any day. But that's a completely separate blog post (it deserves one).

The game that did it for me and made me an RPG fan for life was Final Fantasy VI (also stupidly numbered in the US, as III). I know a lot of articles have been written on the subject. And a lot of people tout Final Fantasy VII as their first, and favorite, RPG on a console. Some even say it's the greatest RPG ever. I'm not here to argue that point (although I disagree). It was a great game and blew everyone out of the water. Even non-RPG folks loved it (my brothers included). And the Sony Playstation was all the rage. Cartridges were dying (don't tell Nintendo). But I vowed to never buy one. I was a Nintendo guy. Until I saw FFVII. Then I bought a Playstation. But the only reason I was even remotely interested in FFVII was because of FFVI.

Final Fantasy has always been (for a good part of it's life anyway) about the story. I don't think the early games really had much of a story. They certainly didn't have the graphics to pick up the slack like games this generation do. And some would argue that the more recent games sacrificed story for spectacle. And while though I enjoyed XIII and XIII-2 a lot, I would have to agree. But for me no game in the series comes close in story and incredible characters to FFVI. Terra. Edgar. Celes. Locke. Sabin. Cyan. Relm. The list of great characters seemed to go on forever. You get to know these characters and their history. You find out why they're here. Long after I finished the game and played other RPGs, if they let you name your characters, I often changed them to the FFVI characters. My monk was always Sabin. My knight was Cyan. If there was a female character, she was Terra or Celes.

Not only were the heroes great, the villain was probably the best the series has ever had (in my opinion anyway). Kefka was insane. He was a madman in a clown makeup (literally). And he had no problem tearing the world apart (also literally) to achieve his goals.

And you were in an opera.

At this point, I don't think anyone is going to be convinced what Final Fantasy is the best. Everyone has their favorite. Most will say VII. But this post isn't about that. For me FFVI introduced me to a genre I had pretty much ignored. Sadly because, in the minds of many people, if you liked RPGs you were probably weird. But if not for FFVI, I can almost safely say I wouldn't have played games like Skyrim or Dark Souls many years later (and loved every second of them). I'm glad I gave RPGs a chance 18 years ago. And I am grateful that FFVII brought them into the mainstream. Thanks to FFVI I'm an RPG fan for life. And probably a little weird.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


A few months ago Everquest went free to play. It's 13 years old with 18 expansions. My guess is that they made it free to play to try and get more money out of it before shutting it down. Everyone's doing FTP so why not? I don't blame them. I logged on to see if my level 49 monk was still there (he was), and wandered around the once densely populated zones that are now eerily empty of any life except for NPCs and spiders. Maybe enough people do play it to warrant another expansion (which also came out a few months ago). If they do, there weren't where I was.

When I started writing this post, which has sat in my blog drafts for a few weeks, I thought I'd play more. I didn't. That was pretty much it. But I do have really fond memories of this behemoth of the MMO world (until World of Warcraft destroyed it). I played a lot of Everquest. A ton actually. I would spend entire weekends, when my life was devoid of...well, anything really...playing this game. I would wake up Saturdays at 10am, play until lunch, go to Wendy's to get some lunch, eat in front of the computer while camped in Befallen or some place, then stop again to get dinner, and play until 1am or 2am Sunday morning. Then rinse and repeat on Sunday (unless I went to church, then I didn't start until after 12pm).

One of my best memories (and why it stands out I have no idea) I was nearing the end of a play session. I was easily after midnight. I was in Freeport, and having never been across the Ocean of Tears I decided to check it out. So I waited for the boat that would take me there (this was long before they introduced all the teleport/warp stones). I took the "long" 10 minute trip to the Butcherblock Mountains on Faydwer. Since it was uncharted territory for me, I stuck mainly to the path (which was usually safe). I wandered around until I eventually reached Greater Faydark. This had the home of the Wood Elves (Kelethin), and led to the Orc fortress of Crushbone.

Now for some stupid reason I forgot to bind myself somewhere when I arrived on Faydwer. For those who don't remember, when you died in Everquest, you went back to the city you were bound to. But you could change that by casting a simple spell. But I didn't bind myself to the new continent I was on. I'm not sure why. I could have bound myself to the dwarf city of Kaladim (I'm looking all these names up online btw. I'm not THAT big of a dork.). But I didn't. But for some other, more stupid reason, once I reached the elf town (which was up in the trees) I left the main path which had kept me mostly safe up to this point. It wasn't long before I came face to face with an orc from Crushbone (it was closer than I realized). I really didn't stand a chance.

The next thing I knew I was back in Freeport, with all my gear gone. You see back in those days the Everquest folks thought it would be awesome to make it so when you died all your stuff stayed with your corpse. And you had 7 days to get it before POOF. It would just disappear. So I had 7 days. And it was 1am. But I couldn't leave my stuff out there. So I went back to the Freeport dock, waited 15 minutes for the next boat, took the 10 minute boat ride, then walked 20-30 more minutes back to where I died (hoping the orc wasn't still there). It wasn't. I got my stuff, and high tailed it outta there. I finally got to bed after 2am.

That was Everquest. And it was a blast.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Currently playing: Diablo III

I'm currently playing Diablo III. I don't have much to say about it right now except that it's awesome and you should play it. I've heard people who weren't particularly taken with Diablo I and II are loving this game. So take that into consideration if you're doubting a purchase. It's great fun.

I started with a barbarian and it's been a total blast. There's just something satisfying about getting surrounded by 20+ monsters, slamming the ground and stunning all of them, then sending out a shock wave across half the screen that obliterates nearly all of them into a cloud of monster parts. I don't like gore, but it's pretty satisfying.

Oh, and the game is gorgeous. I started Act II over the weekend, which is in a desert. You can't really tell from this screenshot but there is a constant flow of sand moving around on screen here. And it looks amazing, even with my 6 year old Dell (but I did put a decent video card in it a few years ago). My barbarian is below (as of 5/21).

Monday, May 21, 2012

30 Years of Gaming: The Beginning

It's been more than 4 months since my last post, so I figured I should probably write something. I started a post on Everquest a few weeks ago (that will be coming soon), but today it randomly crossed my mind how long I've been playing video games. And if my math is correct (which is should be even though I was never very good at it), then I've been playing video games for 30 years. 30. Years. Wow. 

For those who don't know, I'll be 38 this year. I have two younger brothers (35 and 31, I think). I'm married with a kid. So technically, I'm a grown up. Hence the name of this blog. The thought that came to me today might become a series of posts on various games I played in my youth. Games that made an impact and turned me into a lifetime gamer. I'll probably alternate a few of these posts with posts of games I'm currently playing (Diablo III!!). We'll see.

So the game that came to mind today was for the Atari 2600. It's the first system we got when I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9). I honestly don't remember the game that came with it (if it even came with one), or what the first game we got was, but the first game I remember was Demon Attack. There's really not much to it. The cover art on the box (see below) had robot looking space ships. Apparently they were actual demons or something. But it didn't matter. I spent hours and hours shooting these things from my mostly stationary ship. I remember getting to the last level, beating it, and the game starting over. The good old endless loop of old school games.

There's not really much to tell about it. It was a simple game, as most were in those days. We had more games, but I really don't remember what they were. I'm not sure why Demon Attack stands out in my mind. Some of my friends might have their theories.

In the years that followed a coworker of my Dad's gave us a Commodore 64. The only game I remember playing on that was called Black Magic. Which was okay because Harry Potter hadn't made Christian parents everywhere scared to death of fictional magic. But the best days in gaming for me were yet to come in the form of a little white box. The Nintendo Entertainment System.