Friday, September 28, 2007

Press Start

With the weekend approaching, it would be an appropriate time to explain a bit with how my weekends usually pan out.  You hear lots of gamers out there, married or in a serious relationship (read: where you don’t ditch the girl because Team Fortress 2 was released), are able to have few hours long gaming sessions.  I personally have never truly understood how that can possibly occur. 


To clarify, I don’t have kids, nor do I participate regularly in team sports (I do play squash with my good friend twice a week) so I should technically have lots of free time to play games.  But somehow it is never seems like I can get more than 30 minutes of gaming in.  I do take care of chores at home, such as doing my part in cooking, cleaning, and playing with the dog (he’s high energy!) but the other part, I think, is my own habit of filling up my evenings with other frivolous things.  I have a routine.  I get home and prepare dinner/eat/clean up.  Then I proceed to read all the news in tech and games before I feel relaxed.  During this time, I’m also interacting with my wife, my dog, and all other manner of interruptions.  So what ends up happening is 9:30PM rolls around and I have yet to play one second of any game. 


After speaking to some of my other “attached” friends, I believe they do their gaming times in the late evening, when their spouses or significant others have gone to bed.  This is an option but my home office (funny how we call it that when we do maybe 1% of our work there) is upstairs so noise levels are an issue.  Our big screen TV is in the bonus room, which is on a direct sound path to the bedroom.  This choice in positioning was a mutual decision but it’s something I’m beginning to think may not be a permanent solution. 


With Autumn here and Winter in Canada being pretty cold, I should be able to stay in for more evenings and be better off playing some games than doing yard work.  But for this weekend, I am going to try something new.  I will vow to stick to my schedules, and allow for at least 3 hours of pure gaming, with minimum 1 hour intervals.  Let’s see how that goes shall we?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Small Segway

Ok, I didn't buy a Segway, or do I ever plan on doing so. But this morning, being the productive employee I am, I was checking the news on Extremetech and came on a story by Joel Durham Jr. on the current state of games. He touched on something that's been at the forefront of my mind this last 2 weeks, Halo 3. Now I'm not a fan boy of anything, and as you read the continuation of my first post, hopefully you will see that. But certain games I just believe are superior on certain platforms. Racing games are meant to be played on a console. Sports games are meant to be played on a console. Shooting games are meant to be played on a PC. You have probably been exposed to many points of view about this game already, and here are my two cents on the matter. Halo is mediocre. Mr. Durham wrote in his piece, "...just like television and movies, mediocrity pleases the gaming masses more than true inventiveness." I agree with this observation wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, the gaming masses are those that are purchasing consoles for under $500 each and are not even in the same category as those PC gamers that constantly upgrade, tweak, and care for their PCs. An analogy would be that the masses purchase Toyotas. Cars that are mass produced, gets the job done, and meets your everyday needs, where the connoisseurs of gaming are those that purchase BMWs and Massaraties. When Toyota introduced power steering and power windows, BMW owners wondered at what all the excitement was about. This was understandable as they were already using power windows and steering for the last 5 years. My purpose is not to advocate a particular attitude towards any genre or sect of gamers. In my mind, a true gamer is not one that discriminates but enjoys games at their core, fundamental level. This means that you do not limit yourself to any one particular genera, platform, or developer. I personally own all consoles ever made (I do now, and I again refer you to my forthcoming continued blog series for more information) and there are games I truly love on the consoles and games I truly love on the PC. Halo is just not one of them. I urge any of the deep Halo fans out there to broaden their horizons and try something else before playing their Halo 3 multiplayer maps to death. True, the Xbox 360 can pump out some impressive graphics on the right settings and immersion is quite realistic if you have the correct setup (read: 1080p and 7.1 surround sound) but on a PC, you can enjoy all those features and more with games that are 5 years old. Halo does not look any better than Prey does on the PC. Halo does not control better than Quake does on the PC. When id software completes their Quake Zero project, I believe console shooters will have a true competition. This will be the first, freely available, massively multiplayer (read: 64 players) online FPS, readily available to the masses with minimal hardware requirements (it runs from within a browser).

Go and read Mr. Durham’s article. He has many suggested FPS games with better narrative, more variety and better multiplayer options than Halo ever has.

Some Assembly Required

Welcome, dear readers, to the first bi-weekly posting of the Ikea Gamer blog. So what is an Ikea Gamer? The Ikea mentality is minimalistic for the sake of function and ease of use. You have an objective, what is the easiest way to get there with the least amount of cost to you? If you ask any student trying to furnish their dorm or rented rooms, they would undoubtedly tell you they are going to "Ikea the place". Such is the mentality of an Ikea Gamer. Some of us in this world were born to play. Be it sports, games, cards, toys, or instruments, these people were all meant to play. Some of these people are able to make a career out of it, pro-sports, pro-card sharks, game journalists, etc. But the majority of us are left with playing football with our friends on the second Saturday of each month for 2 hours, then hitting the bar before going home to clean the toilets and mow the lawn. For those of us in the latter scenario, I sympathize. I'm not a sports nut, I watch hockey time to time, cheer on my team, and even make it to a few home games during the season. I watch tennis on and off, and I play squash twice a week with my friend. But when it comes to video games, that's a whole different story. You see, my childhood was devoid of video games until my family immigrated to Canada when I was 8 years old. As a part of the bribe to lure their son to a foreign country and leave his childhood friends, my parents promised me a 8bit Nintendo Fami-Com system complete with a Disk Drive and 66 games. What they didn't tell me was that the system would require a power converter that wouldn't be available until 6 months after we arrived, and that 80% of the 66 games were going to be in Japanese. Myself being Chinese, this was, of course, unacceptable. But what is an 8 year old to do be accept that he is now in a foreign country, and he was the only black haired Chinese boy in his grade 3 class? So I did what most 8 year old at that time would do - play outside! This outdoors activities stage in my life lasted all the way into first year university when I was able to get a job and start to afford some luxuries in my life. At this time, I was already dating my wife so my minimum wage salary was divided into such: 50% tuition, 30% dates, 10% bills, 5% food, 5% entertainment. With that 5% budget to work with, I was once again deprived of any form of games short of a few rounds of arcade street fighter at the local Mac's (at $0.25, I could only play Street Fighter 2 and not the fancy new Capcom VS series, which required a significantly larger sum of $1.00). This trend continued well into my university education. I was finally able to afford my first real gaming system in my 3rd year of university. The Sony Playstation was the chosen system. At that time, many games had already been released and the hints of a Playstation 2 was already on the horizon. I realized I had a lot of catching up to do - but with work, school, and my girlfriend, I could barely spend time with my friends, let alone play video games. Sadly, this situation continues into today. What I hope to convey in this blog, is to share some of my views, as a married gamer about to turn 30, and perhaps release some of the stress of trying to balance a well rounded life at work and at home with a level 25 Blood Elf Warlock. Until the next post, have fun, enjoy the sunshine, and don't forget to multi-task!