Quick Hits: MUDA!

I don’t have a major topic to cover with this post, but here’s a few cool odds and ends:

– Updated the Portfolio with my most recent stuff, including a review for GamerNode and a few more galleries for GamesRadar. Check ’em out, and look for the seven (four reviews, three features holy crap!) articles I have in the pipeline for GamerNode soon!

– If you’re in Wal-Mart’s game section in the near future and you see this guy:

walmartmadden

…pick it up! The cover story, Madden 25, was written by some guy whose blog you’re currently reading. I’m published! In Wal-Mart, the biggest chain in the country! Holy sheeeeeeeit!

– Smooth McGroove can do no wrong. Evidence: his latest tune:

Such a good tune to begin with, but this is divine. It sounds repetitive, but halfway through he mixes it up, makes it even better.

– A good friend of mine, my main man Ralph, is also a YouTube musician. Under the name Rakohus, he remixes popular music and gives it a retro 8-bit sound. His latest, Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” is totally worth your time.

– Quick WWE note: I friggin’ love the totalitarian approach of Triple H right now. RAW’s ending last night was something we hadn’t seen since the Attitude Era, the boss doing his things while the rest of the locker room is powerless to stop it. Making them all watch, however, is a new twist that makes me think I’ll love Hunter as the new Vince.

– I’ve taken up an enlightening side project: using various Wikipedia pages and an Excel spreadsheet, I’ve decided to go back and list every game I’ve ever played, sorting the games by the year they released and listing if I’ve ever finished them or not. Early statistics show that I played a ton of fighting games and didn’t finish nearly as many games in my youth as I thought I did. Hopefully when I get to the PS1/N64 era I’ll see some more “yes” marks. Hopefully.

– Applied for my New York Comic Con press pass today, taking place October 10-13.  I missed it last year, and I always have a blast when I go, so hopefully the kind folks at NYCC will let me come back. Pleeeeeeeease?!

– Finally, here’s one of the best pieces of video game music of this generation, period.

Until next time, everyone!

See ya, Charlie

Charlie Manuel

 

I’ll never forget October 29th, 2008.

School and work flew by that day, except for the last hour of work. I switched on the radio at Marple GameStop, heard ol’ Harry’s voice through the speakers, and World Series Game 5 was back on. I heard Pedro Feliz knock in what would be the Series-winning run and jumped up and down like a moron, slapping my hand on the counter so hard it still hurts me almost five years later (I wish I had seen the security tape, I probably looked like a total dope). The store closed at 9:00, I was in my car at 9:05 on my way home to watch the final innings.

I got home at the top of the 8th, a Wawa sandwich waiting for me. I don’t even remember eating it, though I do recall holding it close to my face in sheer terror during every pitch. Eventually it was the top of the ninth, and Brad Lidge took the mound. We all know what happened next, and why I ended up in MacDade Blvd GameStop’s parking lot cheering like a fool. For the first time in my then-21 years of life (and still the only time in my now-26 years), a Philadelphia team had done “it.”

We all had our favorite players, Utley, Howard, Hamels, etc. However, no matter who your favorite player was on the field, there was one guy in the dugout you loved unconditionally: the skipper Charlie Manuel.

He was an entire city’s wise ol’ grandpa, telling stories with a rambling southern drawl and walking to the mound with a trademark gait. Where Andy Reid was the target of many an Eagles fan’s rage, Cholly was universally loved. Winning a championship will do that, of course, but even before that I’d argue Charlie was the most popular head coach in Philly. Andy Reid was a bumbler who couldn’t call a timeout, the Sixers’ coaching position was a revolving door, and the Flyers were still pre-Laviolette. Meanwhile, the Phillies snuck their way into the 2007 playoffs on the last day, then the next year won it all. World F—ing Champions, as our second baseman put it so succinctly.

Today, the city’s grandpa was told his services were no longer needed in a disastrous season. My baseball mind says it’s a good thing–if we were going to reboot the team at the end of the year, why wait?–but my heart is heavy. Anyone born from 1981 on who tells you that they’re not the least bit sentimental about this move is either lying or soulless. All of us in that 32-year span has only seen one Phillies team win the World Series, and Charlie Manuel led them to it.  He says he’s going to take the rest of the season off to think, but I know he’ll be managing next year, and that’ll just be too weird.

Monday I go to the fifth game in the six-pack my wife bought me for Christmas, the first one of the rest of my Phillies fan life. It’s been a good run, Charlie. See ya around the ballpark.

Saints Row Infographic…I can’t even describe it

 

 

I would try to add to this, but I just can’t. Deep Silver buying Saints Row IV might be the best thing that ever happened to the series, because the PR team in charge knows what’s UP. Read, learn, love, and play Saints Row next week.

SRIV_Infographic_r3_sm1

30 Years of (What WWE Wants to Remember of) Wrestlemania!

30yearsofwm

 

Today 2K Sports announced the successor to WWE 13’s Attitude Era: 30 Years of Wrestlemania Mode for WWE 2K14. 45 matches spanning the entire 30-year history of “The Showcase of the Immortals. Three matches have been announced: Hogan/Andre from Wrestlemania III, Hogan/Rock from WM18, and Rock/Cena from WM28 (not WM29, because no one wants to recognize Cena beating Rock. No one.)

I loved Attitude Era Mode, and I love this idea as well. Just hearing about the mode, before the full roster reveal on Saturday, tells me that we’ll get Ricky Steamboat (Wrestlemania III, vs Savage), Sgt. Slaughter (Wrestlemania VII, vs Hogan), and maybe even Kurt Angle (WM19, vs Brock Lesnar). However, I’m curious…will 2K actually cover the ENTIRE history of Wrestlemania?

Wrestlemania 20 gave us one of the best World Heavyweight Championship matches I’ve ever seen. However, due to events a few years later, WWE refuses to acknowledges that match even exists. Why?

chrisbenoit

 

Because this guy won.

Chris Benoit captured the World Heavyweight Championship that night, beating Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a thrilling Triple Threat match. The moment shared by Benoit and the late Eddie Guerrero after the match, both champions, won’t soon leave the memories of longtime wrestling fans. Unfortunately, because of Benoit’s heinous acts in 2007, WWE refuses to remind us of how excellent that match was.

I get it: Benoit did a horrible, horrible thing. No argument from me there. However, erasing the in-ring achievements of one of the best technical wrestlers in my lifetime is rather shortsighted. We all know that match happened, we all know who won, so why keep ignoring it? With this new mode in WWE 2K14 recapping the biggest moments in Wrestlemania’s three-decade-long history, the main event of the 20th anniversary should be included.

Do I think this is going to happen? No, I don’t. Instead, the match that will be included from Wrestlemania 20 will be Undertaker/Kane III, or Evolution vs Rock N Sock, or Cena vs Big Show. However, the tenured wrestling fans know the real main event; we’ll just have to create it ourselves.

Bucking the #Trends

If you listened to the recently released VS Node 28, you heard me wax poetic a bit about social media and its possible impact on video game journalism. If you didn’t, here ya go:

Back in journalism school, if one thing was repeatedly shoved into our heads, it was to be fair, unbiased, and objective in our approach. Even if what we reported on makes our skin crawl, we have to dive in headfirst in order to do our job properly. Journalistic integrity was the message, and most got it loud and clear. However, this was before Facebook and Twitter really took off, before social media ingrained itself into our culture. Now, we can say anything we want, in any manner we want, about anything we want without giving it a second thought.

So what does this have to do with video game journalism? Well, simple: these social outlets give game journalists more exposure than ever. With that exposure comes the added difficulty of maintaining that objectivity. Sure, most of those accounts have some kind of disclaimer saying “the thoughts and ideas written here are that of the individual and not of any media outlet he or she may work for,” but what does that really accomplish? Did the musician who got a little carried away after a recent hockey game have that disclaimer in his information? If he did, it didn’t matter, because his band kicked him out right after it. Disclaimer or not, he was now associated with what he Tweeted, and his credibility and image were tarnished.

That’s the major obstacle for the games journalists: maintaining objectivity and credibility not only in their work but on their social media pages. I can’t tell you how many leading faces in games journalism I’ve unfollowed recently because they’re A) insulting, B) miserable, or C) outspoken to the point of nausea. Granted, they are all entitled to their opinion, this is ‘MURICA and we can say what we want, but when the Tweets begin to color my perception of their work, work that I enjoy reading, it’s best to just tune them out. An example would be a particular writer who was incredibly outspoken about a certain game, then reviewed it without putting the thoughts he Tweeted into the review. To paraphrase the cliche, he told me how he really felt, yet I didn’t see it in the article he was paid to write. The whole thing seemed backwards.

If you need a recent event to make the case for you, look no further than the Xbox One reveal two weeks ago. As the event progressed, my Twitter feed (myself included, admittedly) became a snark war; a footrace to see who could throw the first jab at what was being shown. Sure, it was good for laughs, but eventually I wondered just what the hell the point was. Why was I so hellbent on getting my licks in? If I’m supposed to be a journalist, like the piece of paper I spent four years working to obtain says I am, doesn’t this fly in the face of the integrity and objectivity I was taught in the first place?

I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’ve come to a decision: with E3 2013 a week away, I’m going to take a whole new approach to my use of Twitter during my coverage. Any Tweets you see from me will either be straight-up facts or objective praise/criticism. No snark, no digs, no malice; just the events of E3, as they’re happening, as fast as I can. I may allow myself to get excited a few times (if you think I’ll remain reserved when Smash is revealed, you’re friggin’ crazy), but the majority of my social media presence concering E3 will be, to the best of my ability, objective and fair. It’s what I went to school for, after all, I may as well practice it too.

Basically, there’s a difference between “here’s the info, I do/don’t like it and here’s why” and “holy shit this games sucks and looks bad lololol omgwtfbbq.” I’m trying to be the former. There’ll be plenty of snark and negativity; I just want to cover the show and enjoy it while I do.

It’ll be hard to avoid E3 next week, but if you’re looking for just the facts (m’am) with a little bit of objective opining, @BigManFanelli on the Twitters will be a good place to get it.

Regardless, enjoy E3, and I look forward to having a shit-ton more to talk about once the smoke clears.

It Was Bound To Happen: From The Video Game To The Real Thing

“Look Mom, free turkey on Thursdays!”

The young mother looked puzzled. Her three-year-old son was pointing at something on the opposite side of the car where she pumped gas. She left the nozzle in place and walked over to the door, looking at the toddler.

“What are you talking about, sweetie?”

“Look, over there, free turkey on Thursdays!”

She turned where his hand beckoned, and she couldn’t believe her eyes: a sign of only words, no pictures, which clearly said “Thanksgiving Special: Free Turkey on Thursdays.” Her mouth dropped and she stuttered as she spoke. “How did you read that?” His answer came quickly and simply: “Wheel of Fortune!”

wheel 1

Wheel of Fortune was a daily ritual in my young life. Every night, 7:30 PM Philadelphia time, my butt sat in front of the television and waited for the nightly word puzzles. When that wasn’t enough, I got my fix through my favorite media: video games. Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition for the NES would sit, untouched, inside of the system, and I’d turn it on and go to town. I owned other games, sure, but Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Bros didn’t give me the satisfaction that Wheel did. Learning a new word, asking my parents how to say it, and repeating it was a thrill that’s hard to recreate.

This is how I taught myself to read at age three, and how the story above came to pass. I’d play puzzle after puzzle, round after round, for hours on end, building vocabulary and learning People, Phrases, and Things. I learned the name “Jean Valjean” way before I ever heard of “Les Miserables.” The phrase “Sick As A Dog” meant nothing to most three-year-olds, but it was another puzzle I had to conquer. That video game did more for my education than any episode of Barney or Thomas the Tank Engine ever did. I was becoming a gamer for life; it was bound to happen.

As I grew, so did my gaming tastes. I eventually moved onto Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, all the way up to the consoles of today. Despite this, my copy of Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition remained in that NES, untouched. Every once in a while I’d fire it up and challenge myself, just to see if I still had it. Eventually, with the advent of emulation, I was able to bring my old Wheel of Fortune game wherever I went on my laptop, just to get a few puzzles in before a college class or while I waited for my train. Eventually, my love for Wheel of Fortune would come full circle. It was bound to happen.

This past September, I saw that the TV show was holding open auditions near Philadelphia. All I had to do was submit a 60-second video of myself and why I’d be the best contestant possible. I had two main reasons: my recent marriage and, perhaps more to my benefit in this case, my upbringing on the video game. I made sure to mention both. I was then invited to an audition in Atlantic City in October, received a letter in the mail in November about my being in the contestant pool, and finally received my invite to Los Angeles in January. The video game that I had played into the ground as a child, picking consonants, buying vowels, and solving puzzles, was leading me to the real thing. It was bound to happen!

When I arrived on set, I couldn’t have been more in awe. This was something I had seen since I was a child…and now I was standing in front of it. The wheel that I had digitally spun thousands of times was now an object in my reach. The letter board that I would stare at and agonize over in my youth was now mere yards away from where I stood. The video game had become a reality, and I was about to really play. “This was inevitable for me, I was destined to be here” I thought. “It was bound to happen!”

The current Wheel experience has its differences from the 1990 video game I had been playing, but the puzzles remained the same. I still had to buy vowels, still had to spin the big wheel, and still had to wait for Vanna to push all the buttons. As I stood at that wheel, playing the game I had taught myself to read with, I couldn’t help but think back to my times in front of that television.

“Henny Youngman!”

The young boy ran around the house yelling the comedian’s name. “Henny Youngman! Henny Youngman!”

“Of all the things to be yelling,” his mother quipped, “where did he learn Henny Youngman? I barely know Henny Youngman.”

“It was a puzzle on Wheel,” the father replied. “He asked me how to pronounce it after it was solved, and he hasn’t stopped saying it since.”

“Henny Youngman!”

wheel 2

The same strategies I used in the video game carried over quite well into the real thing. There were a few instances where I was helpless, namely the puzzle the contestant on my left controlled the entire time and the “Penny Candy” toss-up (because who still eats penny candy?!), but I would not have had the success I did if not for playing the video game all those years.

Of course, all of that changed the minute I stepped up to the mini-wheel for the final puzzle. All of the training, all of the strategies, and all of the repetition couldn’t prepare me for that ten seconds of madness. I had asked for the letters I had planned for from the beginning: H P C O and M with the Wild Card. Coupled with the R S T L N E I was given, my phrase looked like this:

-T –S -O-N- TO H-PPEN

My mind was made up. I didn’t need to hear anything else. I was ready. When that timer hit I yelled out my answer triumphantly:

“It Was Going To Happen!”

“No, that’s not it.”

My mind drew blank. I tried to think of what that other word could be. “It’s not “Going?” What else is it?! What is happening?!” The time had run out. My time had ended. The puzzle filled itself out in front of me:

IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN.

I instantly had a new “most hated word in the English Language.” I won’t even watch that movie with the two lost dogs and the lost cat anymore. Done.

wheel 3

Heartbreak. Every time I think about it I get upset. Not just because I didn’t win a bunch of money, but because I feel like I let my people down. My wife and I talked about what we were going to do with potential winnings, and we had two major wants; now we probably have to choose between the two, all because I gaffed. I feel like the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles: storm my way to the finals, choke at the finish line.

Regardless of the ending, the experience is one that I’ll treasure forever, but it’s one that I have to attribute to my favorite hobby: video games. I wouldn’t have done any of this without a video game back in my younger years. Whenever I hear people say “video games aren’t good for children” or “video games cause children to be violent” I can’t help but be angered. I am living proof of the exact opposite.

A video game helped me teach myself to read at the tender age of three. A video game jump started my education, leading me to academic success. A video game led me to try out for the real thing, and a video game resulted in a fantastic vacation and a nice financial windfall for my new wife and I. None of this would have been possible without that game; hell, my becoming a video game journalist probably would have no legs if it weren’t for Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition. There’s only one way to put it, really:

Because of Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition, the rest was bound to happen.

kelce

Oh, What A Night…

So if you haven’t been following the Facebooks and Twitters of basically every single person I know, Stephanie and I FINALLY tied the knot on Friday! WOOOOO!!!

A couple of the funnier pictures from Glenolden Park lol.

It was an amazing day from start to finish, with a beautiful ceremony at Notre Dame and the best damn party I’ve ever been to right after it at the Oaks. I cannot say enough about how well everything went for us.

Before I talk about specifics of our excellent night, I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone for the overwhelmingly positive response Stephanie and I received, from the comments, likes, and Wall posts on Facebook to the various Tweets that came in. We tried to keep up and like them all, but in the craziness of the night itself and the lack of cell phone service in our Paradise Stream hotel suite, we just couldn’t keep up.

If we missed your post or Tweet, rest assured that it was NOT ignored. We saw it, we loved it, and we love you for taking the time out of your day to be a part of ours. We would have never gotten to the altar if not for the love and kindness we’ve been shown since November 11th, 2004, when this crazy journey started. Thanks for all of your kind posts, we really do appreciate it 🙂

Now, onto the finer points of the night, starting with a quick PSA:

– We found a blue Nautica suit jacket on one of the seats after everyone left. It was at the table closest to the door on the RIGHT SIDE of the dance floor. If anyone is missing their suit jacket, it is in the backseat of my car and not as lost as you thought it was :-).


This little turd right here is one lucky feline. For those that don’t know the story, in between the ceremony and reception, we went to get photos taken at Glenolden Park (as I mentioned above). There was a gazebo right near the entryway that we found and thought would be perfect. Pops went ahead to check things out as we all loaded off of the party bus. As I approached the gazebo, my dad turned to me, his face white as a ghost, and said “we can’t take pictures here.” I asked why, and he told me to come look for myself. As I approached, I had heard a noise I couldn’t place…a loud, shrill cry, over and over again. When I got there and looked down, I couldn’t believe what I saw:

This little guy, crying his two-week-old lungs out. He was covered in flies and maggot eggs, and one of his legs was mangled beyond recognition. I tried to warn everyone to avoid the gazebo, but my sister heard “kitten” and “box” and, ever the “OH GOD THAT KITTEN IS SO CUTE LET ME SEE” opportunist, went to go look for herself.

Long story short: we found another place to get pictures, and my Aunt Pat immediately took the kitten to Glenolden Animal Hospital for care. Doctors cared for the little bugger over night, and while the injured leg did need to be amputated, now he sleeps in my aunt’s house in Broomall, fighting his way to a likely full recovery. I’ve since found out that someone called the Stoney Creek Vet ON THURSDAY to report the kitten, and he was ignored. That means the little bugger sat in that box for MORE THAN A DAY. It’s a beautiful thing that, on a day of celebration for two lives coming together, we were able to save a less fortunate life in the process. Fight on, kitty, fight on.

And to the turd who left him there: I wish you nothing but a swift kick upside your head and a head-first dive into the shallow end of a swimming pool.

P.S.: I believe that “Spunky” is the leading candidate for the kitten’s name, but I’d like to throw “Glen” into the ring. He was found in GLEN-olden Park, after all.

If anyone at the reception was wondering what that Asian-sounding song that someone requested for me was, look no further than this. Notice we did the dance from the video too. Awesome.

I hope everyone who joined us in our special day had the time of their lives, and I hope we can all get together for a party like that again. Wedding, birthday, anniversary, I don’t care; let’s boogie down like we did last Friday again. I had TOO much fun.

God bless everyone, now to go be married!