Tag Archives: video games

It takes a village. Just not one built using Minecraft.

minecraft

This thrilling-looking excitementfest is what it’s keeping my son up late at night.

Island Packet — For going on nine years, the video game situation in our house has been happily deplorable.

By “deplorable,” I mean we don’t have video games. We are sans Wii. There is no Xbox here, no PlayStation. One time a friend brought over some device that you control by hopping around your living room like a hysterical lunatic, which wasn’t something I could see doing regularly. Somewhere in the attic there’s an ancient blow-on-the-cartridge-era Nintendo, which essentially represents the precise moment my video game evolution came to an end. And that’s it for video games. Somewhere, we are being pitied by the Amish.

Yet it’s hard for me to stand atop Hippie Mountain and say, “The scourge of video games shall not touch this castle!,” because in place of the Xbox, we’ve become obsessed with something called Minecraft. And apparently if you are the parent of a boy between the ages of 3 and 18, there’s a solid chance you just went, “Oh my God yeah, Minecraft!” — especially if you’re the kind of person who talks to your computer a lot. Read more.

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87 reasons dads should never touch “Angry Birds Star Wars”

 

For real, I've been laughing at this for three weeks straight.

For real, I’ve been laughing at this for three weeks straight.

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GateHouse — The thing that I love most is how the 8-year-old hands me — me! — the iPad to clear a level of “Angry Birds: Star Wars,” like that’s something that I can do better. Like because I am a Grown Person with my own retirement account, flood insurance and cholesterol medicine (ha! just kidding about the retirement account, and possibly flood insurance) I possess magic Angry Birds-Flinging powers available only to graying people whose bones make weird noises when they get up in the morning.

I suppose I should be thankful for this, that at the age of near-9 my son still holds me in enough esteem to shovel me problems he finds insurmountable and I, being a dynamic and powerful father, will not hesitate to squoosh a junta of cartoon pigs who are wearing stormtrooper masks. I should also be thankful that we haven’t encountered any Insurmountable Problems that involve, say, removing a snake from someplace confined and damp, or attending to something in or around an engine block.

But most of the time, I’m just watching the kid squish birds. Actually, I’m sort of watching him, because my aging eyes cannot adequately track his fingers. All they see is hands moving, going from one spot to another without apparently visiting the space in between, like a skinny ninja who cannot remember to brush all of his teeth, and then some pigs explode. He’ll fling a bird and evaluate in mid-flight whether or not the bird’s trajectory is pleasing to his little spongebrain, and if it’s clear the bird isn’t going to splat where it’s supposed to splat he’ll have paused, canceled and restarted the level basically before I’ve realized that the iPad is on. One would think someone with this kind of preternatural grasp on physics and trajectory would be able to walk up a door marked PUSH and not pull it, yet here we are.

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I’m just gonna go ahead and let Angry Birds handle the parenting for a minute

GateHouse — “The best things to kill are the monkeys. Not because they’re evil. Because they give you 5,000 points,” my son says, from the backseat, not looking up for one minute from his game of Angry Birds.

First of all, let me clarify that neither my son nor his parents advocate the killing of actual real-world monkeys, no matter how many points it gets you.

But the real world has little bearing on Angry Birds — a game that involves flinging small animals at boulders and glass in an effort to make pigs explode, which I have determined through rigorous scientific research is mostly not possible — except that it’s the one you leave when you press START. That goes double if you are 7, are in the backseat on a two-hour car ride home and you are playing while blurting out increasingly awesome non sequiturs that make no real-world sense whatsoever.

“You monkeys are MEAN!” the boy shouts, with what I can sense is nonsensical but pretty genuine monkey-centric frustration.

For two hours the little mercenary flung virtual birds at virtual hogs on the trip home, and for two hours he rambled nonstop about his game, a span of time in which my increasingly piteous attempts to listen to “music” were demolished by the sound of reckless avian devastation punctuated by the occasional gleeful shouts of “I GOT THREE STARS!” and the even more occasional disgusted grunt — which was in flagrant defiance of our list of Things That We Don’t Pitch Temper Tantrums About (Nos. 1-15,000: video games).

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Stay awhile, STAY FOREVAR: Top 12 Games For The New Commodore 64

At bottom right: AAUAUAUAUAUAUAUAUAUUAAUUAAUUAUUAAUUUAUAUAUAUAU

GateHouse — You kids, you can have your Wii and your DS and that Microsoft thing where you hop around your living room like a lunatic; my heart will always belong to the Commodore 64, the mauve, 95-pound cheese block that, along with “Raising Hell” and an enormous pair of brown plastic Harry Caray glasses, basically defined the mid-1980s for me and set me on a rewarding lifelong path of being able to type really fast (95 words per minute, Mavis Beacon WHUT).

The imbeciles in charge of the “budget negotiations” can have the important TV space this week; for a particular crowd of inveterate nerds, and by that I mean all the people I spent messaging things like “DO YOU THINK I CAN GET ‘STREET SPORTS BASEBALL’ ON MY PHONE?” the news of the week was that the C64 is being re-released for the modern age. The new Commodore will feature modern wonders like a fancypants new processor and Blu-ray player, but keeping the exterior, in the words of the company’s Web site, “as close to the original in design as humanly possible.”

In preparation for what will likely be several weeks of uncontrollable joyful sobbing, here are My Unbearably Scientific Top 12 Games For The Commodore 64, which I know because I played them instead of doing things like learning sports or marketable career skills. If you did not have a C64, you have no idea how much you want to stop reading right now. If you did, welcome, Another Visitor.

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Impossible Mission: To usher in the modern era of video games, Epyx thought it’d be fun to star with an INCOMPREHENSIBLY DIFFICULT PUZZLE that no human could remotely hope to accomplish, and then added passwords, hidden doors, some NORAD-level computer code and sheet music to it. “Impossible” was also one of the first games to use digitized speech, which sounded like Darth Vader speaking through an inverted traffic cone from 30 yards away, but still made people literally drool in glassy-eyed amazement.

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Teaching my son the ways of the World 1-1

super-mario-brosIsland Packet — There’s a kid in our neighborhood — I can’t name him because our neighborhood is pretty thoroughly Facebooked — who comes by a few times a week. He’s a good kid. He’s a little flighty and has some attention-span issues, but he’s a really sweet kid who we disappoint each time he shows up with our home’s deplorable video game situation.

By “deplorable,” I mean we don’t have any. We are without Wii. There is no Xbox, no PlayStation. Somewhere in the garage, there’s a plastic tub with an ancient, ’87-vintage blow-on-the-Double-Dragon-2-cartridge old Nintendo, which represents the precise moment that my video game evolution reached its bitter end, much like real evolution did with Charles Krauthammer. I’m not even sure my TV — a fat, bulbous horror that is hopelessly confused by widescreen broadcasts — can handle these fancypants new systems without exploding. Somewhere, we are being pitied by the Amish.

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He’s the one they call Dr. Mario

GateHouse — As my job here often involves mocking others in a vain and pathetic attempt to increase my underdeveloped sense of self-worth, the reader can be forgiven for assuming that I’d begin a column about people who meet regularly to play “Tetris” with a joke, a throwaway funny, something about living in their parents’ attics and how one day, with a little gumption, they might in a couple of years make manager down at the Chick-Fil-A.

But mocking others isn’t my business today, least of all my Nintendo-obsessed brethren, who, according to a story from Denver, meet once a month in an underground “Tetris” tournament. This regular event brings people together, offers the promise of a little spending money and is, by all accounts, a pretty big deal among those who do this sort of thing. It’s probably more people than you think and no one you can make fun of if you’ve ever participated in a fantasy football league.

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Oh yeah you can play Dr. Mario right now.

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‘King of Kong’ recalls the glory age of really boring video games

Island Packet- When video games were first invented 400 years ago, things were, to say the least, a little different. There were no epic-feeling sports games populated by disquietingly lifelike-looking athletes (the “Madden” franchise), no sprawling quests that took sunshine-free weeks and a swimming pool’s worth of Mountain Dew and beef jerky to complete (“Final Fantasy”) and no obsession in senseless violence without repercussions (“Grand Theft Auto,” “Dance Dance Revolution”).

No, back in what I rather devastatingly refer to as “my day,” we entertained ourselves far differently, when we weren’t milking the pigs at 4 a.m. and standing on street corners hawking the Extra edition in song. Why, I vividly remember my grandparents purchasing the game of Pong, the first home video console, which cost them $43,000, was the size of my high school and was tremendous fun to play for precisely 35 seconds, after which it was stupid. My home also boasted a fully functional Atari 2600, which boasted both “Breakout” AND “Super Breakout” and resulted in many nights that found my brother and I engaged in brutal, combative contests of “Sky Diver.” This was a game in which you controlled a parachute guy whom you had to skillfully prevent from crashing into the ground, except that it was way, way more fun let the parachute guy hurtle directly INTO the ground, because it resulted in the Atari 2600′s best approximation of a squishing sound effect. Seriously, if you’re 8, that NEVER, EVER GETS OLD. I’m sort of snickering now thinking about it, honestly.

I bring this up because of a new film called “King of Kong,” a documentary that tracks the two grown men regarded as the planet’s current reigning players of “Donkey Kong.” (Needless to say, these guys barely can go outside without paparazzi just driving them nuts.)

If you are under the age that might remember playing “Donkey Kong” in an arcade or on the Atari, you’re probably not reading this column if “High School Musical 2″ is on. “Kong” arrived in the early 1980s, right alongside “Pac-Man,” “Q-Bert” and “Zaxxon,” which I bring up under protest because “Zaxxon” was stupid, because to fly your spaceship down you had to pull up, and some of us just couldn’t get a handle on such complexity no matter how much we were made fun of by our friends at Showbiz Pizza.

Anyway, as befitting a cultural icon in the immediate post-”Star Wars” age of consumption-crazed marketing, there was a “Kong” cereal, “Kong” cartoon, “Kong” toys, “Kong” flamethrowers and “Kong” comforter-and-sheet sets, always a good early indicator of someone whose parents will probably want to keep the basement open for after college. (This all despite the fact that hilariously, “Donkey Kong” starred exactly zero donkeys; the game’s evil namesake was a murderous gorilla, although his visage in the Atari game was such that my brother took to calling him “Fudge Brownie Kong,” which would be a cool game too).

Anyway, the film “King of Kong” tracks these two men, Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, who evidently are the yin and yang of “Kong.” One set a record in 1982, the other broke it, and these two developments set off a steaming, chaotic chain reaction of events that continues to this day. Oh sure, it seems silly and petty to most of us, but it probably makes for an entertaining movie, even if I’m reasonably sure that neither of those chumps could hold a candle to me at “Sky Diver.”


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