Category Archives: Opinion

It looks like I’m returning to Facebook

I’ve been off Facebook for a while now, and to be honest, I don’t miss it. I wrote a post a couple of years ago explaining why, and my stance hasn’t much changed since then. If anything, it’s gotten worse, with news of them curating their feeds, selecting what I can see or their insane charges for visibility, and injecting a political agenda into their operations.

I also know that Facebook is actually good for keeping in touch. It makes it easy, and when I did have an account I got friend requests from people I hadn’t seen in decades, including friends in Sweden! My piano teacher from when I was a kid, high school friends, it was nice.

There was a lot of nonsense drama, of course, and I do not approve of drama, but I suppose that’s par for the course; it happens in real life too. I can’t fault people for being people. Not too much, anyway.

Still, I kept away with only the occasional thought that it would be nice to be in better touch with people. Then, I received an email from my closest, dearest friend, who I visit every year towards the end of October. He said he was distressed by the fact that as I begin the voyage back home, we always enthusiastically say “we’ll keep in touch!” And while we say it with good intentions, and well-meaning, and do keep to the pledge for the first few months, life and time gets in the way and it always trails off and we go months without communicating. So he asked me to get back on Facebook.

I don’t like that Facebook is so dominating as a means of communication, but it is easy. I remember almost missing a concert because a group of friends arranged the whole thing on Facebook and because I wasn’t on it I didn’t hear about it. One of them contacted me via text to tell me and I ended up seeing the show after all, but I fear a societal reliance on it that makes it hard to oppose. Although our friendship has lasted for over twenty years, like him I have worried about it becoming more distance because of the distance, and my distaste for Facebook can be overcome to ensure the friendship continues. It’s an issue of priorities and between the two, Facebook doesn’t even register.

Also, while I’m not certain, I believe logging in will restore my account to where it was before, whatever that means. We’ll see.

Oh, one other thing: I haven’t done it yet. I told him I will but I need to rev up for it. This isn’t something to be undertaken lightly!

Providing the important features!

Flaming Pen

I haven’t seen this before, but damned if I don’t think it’s the greatest thing ever.

I’m in the process of buying a house, so naturally there’s a loan process that is so involved and detailed, with so many players and companies involved and so many documents involved that no sane person could keep track of it all. Most of the documents are signed online using digital signatures, and I’ve done that many times before, but I just got a document to…*sigh*…e-sign, but this time it let me choose the style of my signature!

It’s really nothing more than an aesthetic choice, but I spent far more time than I’m comfortable to admit choosing just the right signature. I hope they come up with many more! It was the best part of that signing process, I can tell you that. Wnat a time to be alive!

Signature Choices!

Signature Choices!

It’s all gone

Finally done

(UPDATE: Many more pictures of the collection itself and some additional narrative can be seen at this Imgur post)

Actually, it’s not really gone, it’s just gone to a better place. It was finally time. I have donated my entire 40+ year collection of video games, consoles, manuals, displays, advertising and other miscellany to the Transformative Game Lab in the Department of Informatics at The University of California, Irvine.

I had been thinking about what to do with it all for a number of years. I have been collecting these things for decades, and while I love them all, most of the collection has been sitting in a garage in Las Vegas for the past six or so years, baking summer after summer in the brutal Vegas heat.

I wanted it all to go somewhere where it would be of benefit and use. Somewhere where it would be appreciated, where the games would be played and the manuals read, where they would be studied and researched as the works of art they are. I had thought about willing them to the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester NY, however the problem there is I would have to be dead to see my dream realized.

While I was thinking about it, I took a position in UCI’s Department of Informatics, where I learned quickly they do games research, they have a game lab, and most importantly of all, they consider it a valid field of study and give it the respect it deserves. I spoke with Joshua Tanenbaum, the professor who heads it all up, and serendipitously it turned out he was looking to expand the lab into retro gaming! An earlier attempt at getting an eBay seller to donate his collection hadn’t worked out, and although my collection was nowhere near what that seller had, we both knew this would still work out perfectly.

It wasn’t easy. My collection is big and random. It didn’t lend itself to easy packing and storing. Having sat in the garage all these years, it was also covered in a layer of dust, not to mention spider webs, dead bugs, and other detritus that is unpleasant to say the least. Having lived in Vegas for so long cleaning it up wasn’t a problem, but it was a big part of the project. Not to make anyone uncomfortable, but here is a picture of one of the webs when I first opened the garage door. You can also see in the background how disorganized it all is. Under that is a (poor iPhone) pic from the other end. It’s the loosest, most disorganized collection you can imagine.

Webs

Webs

Garage View

Garage View

Even my beloved Genesis Collective went into the donation. I was surprised to receive some backlash from friends and family over that, and resistance to it. I didn’t realize how important it was to not just me, but others as well. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, that reinforced my belief I was doing the right thing, that they held meaning and importance and needed to be somewhere they were appreciated.

Also, meet Walter.

The Genesis Collective

The Genesis Collective

As is true of any collector, however, I had some duplicates, and it turned out my friend only wanted Aladdin anyway, so I have already restarted the collection and they got what they really wanted. Win-win!

Rebirth!

Rebirth!

There was much more than that, of course, so here are some non-exhaustive pictures of the other fun stuff that was donated. From the top: Sega Dreamcast (and some PS2) games, Sega Master System/Jaguar/Atari 5200/Sega Game Gear titles, Nintendo Virtual Boys (also notice the adults-only Mystique titles for the Atari 2600 on that lower right-hand shelf), and PC games.

A lot of Dreamcast, a little PS2

A lot of Dreamcast, a little PS2

Master System, Jaguar, Game Gear, 5200

Master System, Jaguar, Game Gear, 5200

Virtual Boys

Virtual Boys

Can't forget the PC!

Can’t forget the PC!

It took days to get it all packed up. And when it was, it was just as chaotic as before. There was simply no way to organize everything into a cohesive package, and I gave up on the idea pretty early in the process.

Here’s how it looked when all packed and ready for loading into the U-haul.

Garage

Garage

Hall

Hall

There’s a lot there. The next step was to finally load it all into the U-haul. My dad flew in from Central California to help, and my dear friend Shauna even pitched in.

Progress

Progress

Some boxes, my dad, and the arcade machines

Some boxes, my dad, and the arcade machines

It was so hot on loading day (105 degrees, which for Vegas is actually considered a cooldown) that when the truck was finally loaded with boxes and other fun stuff, we had to leave the door propped open or it would have roasted the contents beyond repair. We left it open for about 4 hours, until around 7, until it was cool enough to finally close it up.

Because of the heat

Because of the heat

The next morning at 6am, we were off.

It’s a long, mostly uneventful drive through the desert and down the 15 until you hit SoCal, but I like the desert and its vast open plains. We saw the massive reflector fields, formally known as the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, near Primm, and this picture is only one of them. They’re an impressive thing to see!

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

And to be fair, when you’re driving through the desert, EVERY road is a ghost town.

It sure is

It sure is

We arrived at UCI around 11:45, and began the unloading process. Josh Tanenbaum, who I introduced earlier as the main man doing game studies in the department was there, as well as just-hired Aaron Trammell and others who agreed to pitch in. While it took three and a half hours hours in the blazing heat to load the truck in Vegas, with the help of 10 people it took about ninety minutes in not-too-bad heat to unload, and that even means carrying everything – including three arcade machines – to the sixth floor and through a labyrinthine maze of doors and halls to get to their final resting place. Well, it’s not actually their final resting place, but they’ll all be here for a while until we find them a permanent home in the building. Thanks to Josh for providing these pictures, as I was too exhausted and excited and neglected to take any!

The first is the truck right before unloading, the second and third are a couple of celebratory poses after a job well done, and the rest are some pictures of the room after it was all loaded.

The truck before unloading

The truck before unloading

Finally done

Finally done

Cheer!

Cheer!

Storage Room

Storage Room

The storage room

Storage room

Storage Room

Storage Room

To say it’s bittersweet is an understatement. I have carried some of these items with me for what seems like my whole life, having received them as birthday or holiday gifts when I was still in the single digits. I distinctly recall the specific moment when I acquired many of these things, whether it was the subpar Fighting Masters for the Genesis I picked up at the Annapolis Mall in Maryland or the Genesis collection I found in a flea market in Edmonton, Canada; Adventure for the Atari 2600 I received for my Bar Mitzvah at 13 or the ColecoVision controllers I had to wade through a warehouse in a seedy part of Baltimore to find. The Atari Lynx games I’d buy at the very same Toys ‘r’ Us at which I worked or first discovering the original GameBoy, each one carries significant memories with it, and it’s all a major part of my life. I did not give it up lightly.

I by no means have lost interest in the hobby, I’m still very much interested and very much vested, however changes have occurred both within and without the industry that moved me in this direction, however those are issues for another post. I would just like to say PC Master Race. PC MASTER RACE! Also, Steam, GOG, and emulation (don’t judge!).

I kept a couple of things. A Dreamcast VMU that has a fully unlocked Hydro Thunder Save, The World of Warcraft server (Bloodscalp) I used to play on, a soundtrack for the PlayStation title Road Rash: Jailbreak that my band was featured on, and the promotional Christmas Nights Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn. But everything else went in the truck.

At the same time, I have no regrets and had no hesitations. Where the collection is now is where it belongs – with people who will truly appreciate it, where it will be treated with dignity and respect, where it will be used and enjoyed. It wasn’t right to keep it in the garage for years on end, and although they’re just inanimate objects, well, I think they’re happier here, and we all are, too.

As the collection is inventoried and catalogued, as a final location for its display and use is selected and brought online, as the catalog and apps and everything else are created, and as any other milestones are reached, I’ll post updates. I’m excited for the future of it all.

A post from the new phone

Just a couple of posts ago I wrote about how I  was feeling rather melancholy over having finally given up my beloved Windows phone, which I have used for many years and did so with pride. It had served me well, and I actually am still using it for some of its offline functions, but I broke down and finally jumped ship to the Android-powered Galaxy Note 5.

Why am I telling you this if I already told you a couple of posts ago? Along with the vastly improved selection of apps (confession: I’ve been playing Pinball Arcade – almost perfect recreations of actual pinball machines.  Don’t miss out!), I discovered a WordPress app that lets me post from my phone. I can’t imagine I’ll be doing that a lot, but I figured I may as well give it a try. Incidentally, those links should link to the Google Play store which was a test of this platform and my ability to use it, but depending on how you’re reading this they may not work. So be forewarned!

Today I am sad (over a phone)

Hello there

It finally happened, and how bittersweet it was. After having been a champion for Windows phone and the potential it had, and as a rebuke to the cult of Mac and unquestioning expansion of Android, it was finally time to say goodbye and put my beloved Nokia Lumia (that’s right – it’s an original Nokia phone from before the Microsoft buyout) out to pasture and become an Android myself. Hello Galaxy Note 5.

The Lumia still worked, sort of, but it was starting to experience freeze-ups in both the hard buttons and the screen. Additionally, the quality of the images taken with its camera, once ranked as the best phone camera in existence as you can see with the picture of my parent’s back yard below, were not as high quality as they once were, and let’s face it – although I’m not an app junkie, the app selection is anemic at best.

Taken with Nokia Lumia

Taken with Nokia Lumia

Let’s listen to some (obscure) game music!

Rockin'

(Crossposted from theexperiencebar.com)

This isn’t an article about JRPG soundtracks being performed by symphonies or the great song selection in Grand Theft Auto or the Fallout series, or Song of the Dragonborn, or the track lists for Guitar Hero/Rock Band/other random plastic-instrument game. Those already get a lot of attention.

Here, I wanted to focus on the really obscure songs that I think add immeasurably to a game yet never got the recognition they deserved. I have a couple that were written specifically for games that stand on their own as eminently listenable songs in their own right, and a couple that so complimented their game that the entire game would have been lesser without them.

And I’ll even give you a surprise at the end.

There aren’t that many that spring to mind, so luckily this will be short and not one of those absurd “100 best video game songs of all time” lists.

Off we go!

This is why we can’t have nice things

The Man

As you can see in my previous post, I have a new PC in the office. This involves logging back in to all my accounts and setting things up just the way I like them, which can take a significant amount of time if you happen to be particular about it, which I am.

One of the things I did was copy my music library over to the second hard drive so i can have access to it here. I don’t use it all that much, I tend to rely on YouTube more often (although I’m not sure why when I have local copies), but that’s how it is.

Anyway, I decided to fire up Groove, a service I have never used before as that is what Windows 10 wanted my music player to be, and as I was scrolling through my list I found the late, great John Denver’s hit “Country Roads, Take Me Home.”

That sounded good, so I fired it up. Except I couldn’t play the song, and Bam! I was hit in the face with why I don’t like digital distribution and have gone so far as to set up my own personal Netflix. To explain what happened, have a look at this picture:

This is so very strange

Corsair Strafe

I recently built a new PC, and decided I wanted some flash to go along with it. I put in a motherboard and fans that have some LED elements, and kept the inside to a generally red theme. The nice thing is, the fans are RGB so I can switch them to any color I want, or even have them cycle through colors. No functional application, but nifty to look at.

I’ll be doing a video walkthrough of it soon, but here’s a picture to hold you over until then. And yes, that’s a reference GeForce 1080. It’s by Zotac, a brand I’ve never dealt with before, but it seems to be doing fine so far. Of course, it’s only an office machine.

The new PC

The new PC

Enjoy the Internet while you can

This has been in the cards for a long time, but ICANN, the Los Angeles-based organization that has its fingers in many aspects of how the Web operates, will no longer be managed by the United States, but – according to this article in the Washington Post –  by “an international body made up of technologists, businesses, governments and public interest advocates.”

This is a mistake. While I don’t have an inherent problem with a nebulous international body overseeing the continued development of the operation of the Web, what I DO have a problem with is that this will allow oppressive regimes who have no interest in freedom of expression or the open standards and ideas that the Web is built upon, and they could very well turn back the Internet clock, as it were.

I’m not being facetious when I say this could change the way the Web works forever. It could cease being the glorious, anachronistic Wild West that it always has been, and instead be regulated according to the demands of those who wish to stifle it and the free exchange of information it represents. Some governments, who have expended huge amounts of money and effort to limit what their citizens can see on the Internet, have been salivating over this moment for decades; we can all imagine why.

You’ll notice on page six of the transition assessment (.pdf here) states “This model encourages all parties—including businesses, technical experts, civil society, and governments—to participate and to reach consensus through a bottom-up process.” The problem is, governments will have ultimate decision-making capabilities and will overrule other stakeholders. I’m astounded there is not more attention being paid to this, or that the news isn’t covering it and, frankly, that people aren’t rioting. If they’re so willing to riot over the G20, which is *also* a multinational gathering – why not this? We should be very careful about who has influence over the future growth of the Web.

So enjoy the Web while you can, it could be changing soon.

My experience with the HTC Vive so far

(Crossposted to theexperiencebar.com)

As anyone who reads this blog, or knows me, knows, I went nuts for VR when I tried out the HTC Vive last year. Now, I’ve had my very own Vive for about a week and can offer some opinions regarding where VR is, and where I believe it will be going.

The first thing I should mention is that just getting it was an experience. I received my original confirmation email 14 minutes after ordering, but it didn’t arrive until April 14th. Of course, I was in class that day and missed it, and since it required a signature from me (they couldn’t leave it at the front office like usual, HTC paid extra to ensure my specific signature), I had to go pick it up from the FedEx office.

Finally I got it home, a single big box, and was ready to unpack.