notes from a man who spends too much time playing video games

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This is where you stick random tidbits of information about yourself.

A Few Points Shy of the High Score
Friday, January 31, 2003  
Unbelievable--it's already the end of January. What the hell have I accomplished (besides possibly losing my girlfriend)? I've managed to find work as a game writer. An internet site has hired me--or, rather "hired" me, since there's no real pay involved, just free games. I'm really looking forward to the "job." Plenty of people play games, but few people can write (or even speak) effectively about their gaming experiences. Not much of a vocabulary exists at this point for talking about games. Most people sum it up with I liked it/I didn't like it. (Earlier today one of my office mates was trying to explain the problems with Devil May Cry 2. "It just doesn't feel *right*," he kept saying, visibly frustrated with his inability to say exactly what was wrong with the game.) I'm anxious to find new ways to articulate exactly what works, and doesn't work, in a serious forum. Looking forward to my first deadline, whenever that may be.

Polished off Rygar last night. Enjoyed it a lot. Rygar stacks boss fights--in some cases three of them back-to-back-to-back--like no other game. And the boss fights are exactly the kind I enjoy--my blood gets going, strategies are experimented with and discarded, diskarmors are switched, inventory items managed, etc. Great fun. Squared off against Chronos, the final boss. With my health practically depleted, I summoned Cerberus in total desperation one final time...and it was enough to finish Chronos off. Roll credits.

The hard mode is unlocked, as well as the, um, Pizzarmor. I wish I was joking. It's a diskarmor that looks like a pepperoni pizza. Though the Rygar producers were no doubt enjoying themselves when they did this, the pizzarmor is really very lame and I wish it wasn't in there. Just kind of slightly diminishes an otherwise great experience for me.

Meeting my friend Steve after work tonight, which is good. I'm in no hurry to get to Brooklyn, since I have the next couple days to myself.

I know this smacks of urban cliche, but bear with me. This morning on the subway a blind man with a long white tapping cane boarded at 4th avenue. "We've got tonight, baaaaabe," he sang. "Who needs tomorrrrrrrrow...." He held a coffee cup full of change in his free hand, and he shook it in time with his singing. He started tapping his cane all over the place, and much to my chagrin, in my direction. He struck me once on the shin. I seized up, praying he wouldn't come any closer to me. I had no choice but to look at his face. His eyes were perfect blanks. Then he tapped off in the other direction, still singing. "Who needs tomorrrrow...." An unsettling way to start my day, to be sure. It's late in the afternoon now, but I can still feel the spot on my leg where his cane hit me.

4:13 PM

Thursday, January 30, 2003  
After having been punished by the F train too many days in a row, I tried taking the N/R train home last night. Things went pretty smoothly...until I made the mistake of staying on an express train I should have gotten off of. Wound up in some cavernous subway station in a remote part of Brooklyn, very, very far away from where I wanted to be.

After six years, this goddamn city can still humble me.

Proud to say I was 100-percent beer-free last night, though I do have a 12-pack of Sam Boston in my refridge set to go. Feels good to lay off the beer now and then. The whole day today was just a little bit easier to get through because of it.

Long talk with J. last night on the phone. Trying to sort things. Fully realize this is a cowardly thing to say but...I wish that she'd dump me, effectively ending the whole thing. I was sure that's what was happening.... But last night, if I was reading her right, she seemed to be trying to give me, and us, another chance. Which complicates things, goddammit. It's hard for me to just walk away from J. There are good things with her, damn good things. (Like the way her hair smells.) (It's the best hair I've ever smelled, no kidding.) And it's not easy finding a sane girl who'll put up with a video game playing/beer drinking/pornographer recluse. Can't possibly be too many of them out there....

I don't know what the hell I'm going to do now.

For the moment, we've agreed to spend time apart. Which means I'll be in my apartment alone for the weekend. Sounds kind of good, in theory, but by Sunday afternoon a little loneliness will probably start to creep in around the edges.

I ordered some blinds for my new apartment (, so I'll probably take a shot at trying to hang them over the weekend. I'm not the handiest person when it comes to things like this. My friend Steve has reluctantly agreed to loan me his power drill.

Wasn't really in a mood to play anything last night. A guy at the office loaned me Zone of the Enders, so I tried that for an hour or so. All the CG cut scenes at the start of the game just exhausted me. I lost my patience and ended up abruptly switching off the PS2 and heading for bed. Probably the smartest thing I did all day....

4:39 PM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  
Not quite so anxious to secure my copy of Devil May Cry 2 anymore--not after reading the mediocre reviews it's getting. Can't tell you what a tremendous disappointment this is. (The first game is probably one of my top 10 all-time favorites.) Oh, I'll still get DMC2, if only to see for myself just how lousy it is. But any urgency I was feeling yesterday to get my hands on it, that's all gone now. All gone.

Had a hell of a time getting home last night. F train cars were packed to the rafters, literally. Had to let three or four trains go by before I could even squeeze into one. Took me well over an hour to reach my stop. Was so angry about the whole experience--I'd run out of patience somewhere around Delancey Street--that when I did finally reach my station, I immediately bought a six of Brooklyn Lager, though I hadn't planned on drinking last night. Switched on Metroid Prime, cracked a beer, and tried to let everything go....

Polished off Meta-Ridley--who didn't prove to be terribly challenging. Then I took a crack at Metroid Prime. Managed to wear him down some, but eventually he got the better of me. It's just such a long, drawn out fight--and not a particularly thrilling one.

Maybe I need a night off from games. Or,maybe not.

My (former?) girlfriend wants to talk. Not sure what this could be about....

5:04 PM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  
Anxious to get my hands on a copy of Devil May Cry 2. Even though the unofficial word on the game is that it's much too easy, I can't resist, I can't help myself. So I'm checking websites hourly for availability. Will probably stop by Electronics Boutique on the way home, see if it's in yet. Never fails, I always get this way on release days. I get myself all jacked up for some strange reason, and I don't know why. Because the anticipation for a game, in most cases, often turns out to be more exciting than the game itself. Games hardly ever live up to my fantasy versions of them....

Haven't really thought much about my (possibly ex) girlfriend today. Kind of letting the situation just sit at the back of my brain. If I want her back, now is the time for me to start campaigning on my behalf. Problem is, I'm not sure I do. So I'm not doing anything for the time being. Decisions need to be made...soon, but not today.

Last night I drank one beer and loaded up T.H. Pro Skater 4, of all things. And I really enjoyed myself. Managed to clear out four or five challenges, grinding around the Alcatraz level, accomplishing things I didn't think I'd be able to do. It's a great game that got backburnered because it unfortunately came out around the time Vice City was released. By the time I finally emerged from my three-week Vice City daze--haggard, unshaven--I'd forgotten that I even owned THPS 4. But there it is, on my shelf, shiny and new and waiting for me.

And somehow, just when I think New York can't possibly get any colder, it does.

3:09 PM

Monday, January 27, 2003  
So my girlfriend walked out on me over the weekend. Which only proves that this kind of thing doesn't only happen in country songs.

It was a long-distance relationship; we only saw each other on weekends. Maybe we were already a few weekends past our expiration date--who knows. I know that traveling to see her by bus--two hours each way--was starting to wear me down. Must have been wearing her down, too.

She seemed hellbent yesterday to find fault with me, with us. She was clearly trying to talk herself out of the relationship, and I honestly didn't do much to stop her. Even a $50 toaster couldn't save us.

Once she was gone, the loneliness poured in and overwhelmed me. As if a hole had been punctured in a vacuum--the stuff forced it's way in with a kind of violence. I turned to music for help--Wilco, this time. It helped the tears come.

Music is where I always go in moments like this. Video games aren't really useful tools for these sorts of situations. Nor movies. Nor books. Music is really the only thing that helps at all.

I napped. I looked out the window at the gray sky over Brooklyn. I drank beer, which didn't taste quite right. Bored with the Super Bowl, I listlessly worked through Metroid Prime--and, appropriately enough, got stuck on a boss I couldn't beat. Just kept getting my ass whipped by Meta-Ridley. Had him in trouble a few times, but couldn't close the deal. Moved on to Rygar, and met my match there, too. The huge five-headed dragon, presumably near the end of the game, kept draining my life bar. I kept playing, my heart not in it, my heart not in anything at that point, until my eyes were raw and my temples throbbed with a headache.

My teeth are aching today, near the foundations, at the gum-line. Must have been grinding my teeth in my sleep last night, like an insane person. I have a night-guard I'm supposed to wear, but I despise it (and the fact that I have to use Polident to keep it clean). So I stopped wearing it. I'll take the sore teeth instead.

1:39 PM

Friday, January 24, 2003  
I went back to Metroid Prime for a few hours last night (when I last left Metroid, I was entertaining thoughts of leaving the game unfinished) (the game was failing me) (the thrill was gone; tedium was setting in). But I actually had a great time last night. Dug up three or four more Chozo artifacts--some of which are hidden in clever (but never frustratingly obscure) places. Didn't mind all the level hopping, the circuitous routes, battling the same enemies over and over (enemies respawn a few minutes after leaving a room, which can be irritating). Just felt myself getting whole-heartedly absorbed by the game again. It really is a marvel.

...But obviously not enough of a marvel to sell Gamecubes. Sales figures out today show that the G.C. sold poorly over the holiday season--well below projected numbers. Nintendo now is officially in third place in the console wars, and fading fast. Me, I like the G.C., and I hope it endures. I don't feel any particular allegiance to any system. If there's a decent game out there, doesn't matter what system it's on, I'm going to be interested in playing it.

Need to hurry home after work and do a couple quick loads of laundry before Joelle arrives. Maybe I can get in a little gaming session, too.

3:14 PM

On my way to the office this morning I stopped at Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought a $50 dollar toaster. Joelle is a big toast maker, and eater, and now she's got me hooked on the stuff too.

Bed, Bath opens at 8 o'clock in the morning for some reason. The store was virtually empty at that hour. I wandered the aisles, stumbling upon the occasional clerk or two. Every single one of them wished me a good morning. Every one. Must be company policy or something. Still, I kind of enjoyed it, appreciated it.

I put the $50 toaster on my Visa. I haven't signed my card yet--some people consider this a prudent cautionary measure; me, I just forgot to sign my card--and so the checkout woman asked me for I.D. I produced my New York State driver's licence. "This is strange," the woman said as she studied the license, "you look happy in your picture!"

The picture was taken in 1997 during a very unhappy semester at Syracuse University. I'd gained some weight and was looking sort of jowel-y. She was right to notice the smile on my face, but a closer look would have revealed how forced that smile was.

"Oh, I was probably drunk when it was taken," I said. Which, I admit, was a bizarre thing to say. I have no idea why I said it. To a stranger at 8 o'clock in the morning in Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The woman laughed. "I wish *I'd* been drunk for mine," she said. "I look so damn miserable on my license. So damn miserable...."

I wished her a good weekend, and she told me to do the same.

Joelle arrives tonight on the train. New York is still enduring this cold snap, so we'll probably spend the weekend indoors, fixing toast. Lots and lots of toast.

2:40 PM

Thursday, January 23, 2003  
Headed home after work last night, fixed hamburgers on the George Foreman, then loaded up, of all things, Rygar. Never sure why I choose one game over another, but for some reason Rygar was calling to me from the shelf. It felt like the right thing to be playing last night. As mentioned in previous posts, I wasn't too crazy about Rygar when I first brought it home. I did not like the stiff way Rygar jumps, did not like the confined, claustrophobic levels, did not like the fixed camera angles (a la Devil May Cry), did not like the way the game felt so fucking derivative of Devil May Cry in every way (right down to the font choices). I just didn't like it. So I shelved it, thinking that maybe some snowy day I'd come back to it.

And I have. I can honestly say, without any reservations whatsoever, this is a solid game. Great level design, great pacing, great weapons system (I'm having a good time wielding the diskarmor), great boss battles--the game is firing on all pistons. And it's good-looking too. I usually could give a rat's ass about graphics, but you simply have to see the sand streaming down from the ceiling of the crumbling temples of Argos to understand what I'm talking about here. On the negative side, the story is, well, odd, at best. The dialogue--and instruction manual--are poorly written--or poorly translated, I can't tell which. And I'm still not really sure how those damn magic stones function (the instruction manual, not surprisingly, is more than a little vague on the subject).

Ended the night stuck on a boss--the sword-wielding Minotaurs (with an "s"--don't ask me why), and I didn't mind at all. All the bosses so far have required some patience, some diskarmor switching, some strategizing--which is really a testament to how good the game is--and I know it's just a matter of time before I take Minotaurs downtown to Chinatown.

Felt something else last night...a unnerving sense of boredom. In the wake of my night out with Sara, video games just felt, well, kind of lame last night. It was harder than usual to let myself get absorbed into the game worlds. I felt...reluctant. I wondered, quite seriously, if I'm just a big 33-year-old lame-o who chooses to sit home each night, blinds drawn, drinking beer and playing these stupid games, when there's an entire living, breathing New York City going on outside my door.

Took all my strength, and several beers, to stave off this unwelcome bit of self-reflection.

11:47 AM

Wednesday, January 22, 2003  
No games last night. Went out with my friend Sara. Found out something extraordinary. Through a series of coincidences a friend of ours is somehow dating Frodo. *That* Frodo. I'm not usually one to get worked up over celebrities, but for chrissakes this is Frodo we're talking about here. Since George Lucas has forever sullied, and continues to sully, the Star Wars franchise, the L.O.T.R. movies are all I have at this point. So I was more than a little excited at the prospect of meeting him.

Sara is in New York this week bunking with E., our Frodo-dating friend. So last night after work I headed downtown to meet Sara at E.'s apartment in the West Village...hoping Frodo might be there. I hustled along Bleeker Street realizing that my face was slowly frosting over. My nose was running involuntarily, as it does in subzero weather, and I knew I'd have to blow my nose as soon as I entered E.'s apartment. Anyone who knows me can tell you that when I blow my nose, I make a hellacious bellowing. I imagined myself in E.'s apartment, blowing away, then shouting (for Frodo's benefit), "Look out! It's the wolves of Isengard!"

I'd never really do anything like that of course, but it was sort of funny to think about.

I rang the buzzer, feeling more nervous than I'd anticipated. The door buzzed open and I began climbing the narrow stairs to E.'s apartment. Sara's head was poking into the hall. "He's not here!" she said. "You just missed him! They went to the early movie." Then she said, "Frodo hugged me!" And, "He's so little!"

Sara was anxious to get going, but for some reason I wanted to linger where he'd just been a short time ago. I sat down in a rocking chair and rocked a few times, wondering if Frodo had sat there. I inspected the toilet where he'd no doubt made his hobbit water. I looked at the bed where, if things went E.'s way, Frodo would be sleeping that night. It was impossible to reconcile the massive scope of the L.O.T.R. movies--the plains of Rohan! Fangorn Forest!--with that tiny, messy bed in Greenwich Village.

Sara, who would be sleeping on the couch that night, complained about the fact that the only bathroom in the apartment was in the bedroom. "I'll have to tiptoe through there every time I need to pee!" she said. "Maybe you'll get to see his 'Tower of Orthanc,' " I said. And we both enjoyed a laugh over that. Sara and I continued joking in the same vein over the course of the night--swords glowing blue in the dark, rings worn on penises instead of fingers, etc. You get the idea.

There were other Frodo stories, more intimate stories, but they're not really my stories to tell. After my night out--dinner at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, seeing Adaptation, potato pancakes at Kiev--I'm anxious to go back to my own hobbit hole tonight, draw the blinds, crack a beer, and not come out until morning.

3:37 PM

Tuesday, January 21, 2003  
My beer count is ever-so-slowly creeping up each night, and I haven't decided if that's cause for any concern yet. Last night's total: 8, or 3/4 of a twelve-pack. Which is probably too high for a Monday night.


Stayed up too late, drank too much, then showed up at the office an hour and a half late again this morning.

Started last night off with Metroid Prime. Haven't been feeling like playing Metroid lately, and wasn't sure why...until I started playing. I'm officially ready for this game to be over. I'm assuming I'm not far from the end, since I'm collecting Chozo artifacts. Collecting the artifacts is a tiresome, tedious task, involving traveling from one end of the huge worlds to the other. Bleh.

After finding two artifacts last night, I shut Metroid down for then night, then decided to see if I had the stuff to take Legolas through the 20 levels of Orthanc. Again I found myself doing the Dance of the Three Cave Trolls on level 20, with very little health left on screen and a cold icy stone of doubt in my stomach.

Patiently used a hit-and-back-out strategy. Took a hit from a C.Troll, then another hit, which left me with just a shred of vitality on my health bar. "Can't believe this is going to happen to you again..." a voice whispered. "Looks like you'll never beat the Tower of Orthanc with Legolas."

I began keeping track of each time I managed to strike the Cave Troll, whispering the count under my breath: one, two, three, four.... I reached nine when the Cave Troll let out a howl. Then he collapsed.

Glory. Roll credits. L.O.T.R. has been officially hogged out. Will probably mail it off to John this week, since he's the one who introduced me to the game.

Should be game-free again tonight. Supposed to go to the movies and dinner in the west Village with S. I'm dreading it, mostly, but I realize it's probably good for me to get out of the house and leave the games and beer behind on occasion.


2:28 PM

Monday, January 20, 2003  
Game-free since Friday night. Spent the weekend with my girlfriend. The only video game available at her place: Riven, the 5-disc sequel to Myst. Bleh. She introduced me to Riven over the weekend, wanting me to appreciate the beauty of the airbrushed landscapes. I kept teasing by asking her "when does the shooting begin?" Two birds were sitting on a rock near a pond. "Can I shoot them?" I asked, in full jackass mode. Bless her heart, she tolerates me.

Picked up a copy of War of the Monsters on Friday night at Circuit City on Union Square. Popped it in when I got home. Visuals are incredible--but the monsters, I don't know, they feel kind of floaty to me. They sort of drift around the beautifully rendered levels, more like dandelion seeds than 50,000 pound monsters. Had a great time recreating battles between Congar (the King Kong character) and Togera (Godzilla). Buildings toppled. Tanks fired at me. Crowds of people ran screaming. I picked up Togera, smashed him on the ground several times, then launched him clear across town. Then I tore the antenna off the top of a building, tracked him down, and impaled him with it.

Though it can be ridiculously frustrating at times, particularly when you're the one getting picked up and tossed (and skewered with antennas), W.O.T.M. is a damn good time. Can't wait to try the multiplayer with J. the next time we have one of our gatherings....

Knowing that I was in for a two-day game drought this weekend, I went ahead and overdid it on Friday night. Which really wasn't the prudent thing to do, in retrospect. I overextended myself, playing long past the point of having any fun, in search of an evening-defining transcendant video game moment (i.e. when I do something that I wasn't sure I could do). I never found it. Instead, I started switching games every 20 minutes or so--W.O.T.M., Rygar, Two Towers, Rygar again. I've been playing long enough to know that when I start switching games, it's high-time to drain the last beer, hit the power switch, and go to bed.

But I didn't. Instead, I tried taking Legolas through the Tower Of Orthanc. I brought him to the final level, level 20, and began to dance with the three Cave Trolls. With two down and one to go, a momentary lapse of reason--was I reaching for my beer?--left me dead on the marble floor. Not content with letting my night end like this, I reloaded. Again, I took Legolas to the 20th level, and again I danced with the Cave Trolls. Only to have my bones crushed underneath his club.

My screams could probably be heard in Coney Island.

I felt like a Philadelphia Eagles fan.

No smashed controllers, no turned-over chairs. I knew I'd been beaten--not by that Cave Troll per se, but by fatigue and beer. Switched off the power and began cleaning up my apartment. It was two a.m. Took my bottles to the garbage chute, and found the hallway--thank Christ--empty for once.

3:17 PM

Friday, January 17, 2003  
Half-heartedly searched for a copy of War of the Monsters last night after work. I've managed to convince myself that I'll enjoy it...and that I *have* to have it. I get obsessed with these things sometimes--please don't ask me why. So I stopped at the independent video game store on St. Mark's in the E.Village after work--they had it, but it was priced for 45.99. I knew I could do better (the game is listed at 39.99), so I walked over to the Gamestop on Broadway. "Sold out!" the Pakistani man behind the counter said. "That is why I tell everyone, 'Reserve!' Because if you reserve the game, then you are guaranteed to have it! If you had reserved, you could have it now!" He seemed upset at me for some reason.

I felt ambivalent about the whole situation. "That's OK," I said. "When do you think you'll be getting more in?"

"Next week, maybe," he said, still fuming. "Or...maybe tomorrow. Why don't you stop back tomorrow?"

I thanked him and left the store. I prefer Electronics Boutique to Gamestop anyway. Gamestop seems to take more liberties with their prices. Games that are listed at 49.99 at other stores are often five or six dollars more at Gamestop.

12:32 PM

Finished Tower of Orthanc with Aragorn. But things got off to a very slow start. So slow I nearly quit. After bragging earlier in the afternoon to my friend John that I'd "easily" reached level 15, I found myself dying again and again--on level 11. Wasn't even coming close.

So I opened a second beer. Then a third. Developed a new strategy involving Ranger Fury, the charge attack (hold the Triangle button until your sword glows with flames, then release when surrounded by enemies). Ranger Fury was clearing out two, three orcs from each level right off the bat, which was enough to tilt the odds in my favor. Made it past 11--which was a complete bitch, archers surrounding me, and tagging me so often I couldn't retaliate. Ranger Furied my way, very carefully, through 12, 13, 14. I knew I'd overextended myself, didn't even *plan* on making it this far, prepared myself to be overrun at any moment. But I somehow kept clearing out levels. I panicked a little when the first cave troll appeared on level 16 or 17. I knew if I could get close to him and unleash a Ranger Fury attack, he'd drop. I really wasn't in any serious trouble until level 20. The three caves trolls (!), plus archers, plus a few stray goblins, put me on the ropes. Managed to clear out everybody...except the last cave troll. My health was nearly gone. It was one of those moments in video games when, if I win, this gaming moment goes down in history as The Best Gaming Moment Ever. And if I lose...controller thrown, humiliation, start all over again, hate video games, why do I fucking waste my time, etc.

But I won.

Hallelujah, the Cave Troll was felled by my might.

Best Gaming Moment Ever.

My reward: Isildur. Promptly took him into the Tower of Orthanc, expecting to be crushed like an ant. I wasn't. Isildur, I quickly learned, is incredibly powerful. I breezed through the 20 levels of the Tower, never once coming close to my doom.

Not much left to do now, other than take Gimli and Legolas through the Tower.

Number of beers consumed: 5.

I have a garbage chute now, which I'm learning to appreciate. I've gotten in the habit, no matter how drunk I am, of collecting my beer bottles and throwing them down the chute before going to bed at night (recycling laws have changed in N.Y.; it's legal to toss glass now). So, last night at midnight, I opened my door, planning to dart to the garbage room in my slippers, and found a strange woman standing at the elevator with her dog. "Nice to see you," she said, as if we've known each other for years. The dog was a poodle type, with black hair, the same color as the woman's. Chance encounters like this can sometimes be traumatic for me. I felt so vulnerable, standing there in my goddamn slippers. I hurried to the garbage room, and when I came back, the woman and the dog were gone.

12:17 PM

Thursday, January 16, 2003  
No gaming activity last night. Didn't even stop by EB on the way home to see if War of the Monsters was in. Just went straight home like a good boy. Fixed dinner, then read for a spell. My new apartment is like a damn sauna this time of year. The heat is really pumping at night....

Still torn over W.O.T.M. Some reviews are positively glowing, while others are tepid. That means if you enjoy the genre, then you'll probably go nuts over the game. If you don't, then you probably won't.

I'll probably pick it up regardless. Haven't regretted buying a game since, let's see, Rygar? Now, *there* was a game that got good notices, but didn't do a thing for me. Loaned it to one of the guys here in the office before Christmas, and he just gave it back to me today. Curious to see if I can find a way to get into it. Because I can't play L.O.T.R. forever. Or, maybe I can. Just two weeks until Devil May Cry 2. Two long weeks.... I think I can survive until then.

3:34 PM

Wednesday, January 15, 2003  
Played a little more Metroid last night--handily defeated the space pirate elite boss--then played a lot of L.O.T.R.--more than I probably should have. (Drank more than I should have too.) (Seven beers, total.) (Which is a lot for a week night for me.) Took Legolas all the way through Helm's Deep. His hand-to-hand skills are terrible, and he can't take much punishment at all; after a hit or two his health meter is usually drained. The key, I learned, was to stay at the perimeter of the melee and use the bow. (But the bow must be upgraded as soon as possible. The final upgrade makes your enemies burn with a pinkish fire when struck.)

L.O.T.R. actually reminds me a lot of the original Spider-Man for the PS1. It's not a great game, not particularly innovative in any way, but it's so much goddamn fun that I can't stop playing it. I love being in Middle Earth. I love finishing off orcs with one-hit kills. I love when my sword glows with blue light and bodies pile up around me while the words "perfect" whisper across the screen. I love "learning" the three characters. Great stuff, all of it.

Debating whether or not I should pick up War of the Monsters. It's getting decent notices, and I was a fan of Twisted Metal: Black....

Might stop at EB on the way home, see if it's in.

Also played the demo for Black and Bruised. I'm a huge fan of boxing games...and this one doesn't look very promising to me. Got my ass soundly stoved in by some woman character. Not exactly my idea of fun....

4:41 PM

Tuesday, January 14, 2003  
A few nights out of every month I take a break from games and beer. Last night was one of those nights. Went home, fixed some dinner, read for awhile (re-reading Catcher in the Rye for some reason). I generally sleep better on these nights, namely because I don't have pure video-game induced adrenaline coursing through my veins at midnight. Certainly felt the tractor beam of Metroid Prime and L.O.T.R. pulling on me, but I resisted. I was strong. I think it's good to take a night off on occasion, to break the routine. It's healthy. Because I know that when I go back to my games tonight, I'll be appreciate the experience that much more....

J. recently loaned me a Joseph Campbell book called The Power of Myth. I've nevery really gotten into Campbell, but I thought I'd give this book a go. Now it's got me wondering if part of the allure of video games (for me) is the mythical subtext inherent in most games. The majority of games have a fairy tale/Greek myth subtext to them. At the very least, most games purport to be based on something that happened "a long time ago" (The Mark of Kri). Isn't the act of playing a game nothing more than the manipulation of symbols? Even the Playstation controller features buttons with a Square, a Triangle, a Circle, an X.... And the best games always involve the uncovering of old stories (in Metroid--don't laugh--my task is to learn the story of the Chozo, an ancient bird/man race; much of the action takes place in their abandoned temples; I'm starting to figure out that my role in the game is to function as their savior).

The best games, the most memorable games, always ask me to find my place, and to understand my purpose, in a strange land.

I'm anxious to get home to manipulate those symbols. And crack a few Sam Winters.

2:29 PM

Monday, January 13, 2003  
Friday morning I was late getting to the office. Figured I'd stop by Electronics Boutique over at the Manhattan MiniMall on my way to take care of some business. I pre-ordered the new Zelda game (due in March), the Gameboy Advance SP (also due in March), and I picked up a used copy of Rogue Leader for the Gamecube, one of those Star-Wars-In-Space Games I usually hate (it was one of the launch titles for the G.C., and generally received high praise from reviewers). Didn't really have a chance to play Rogue Leader until last night--my girlfriend J. came in on Friday night and didn't leave until Sunday night--and, unfortunately, I hate it. Oh, well, at least I didn't pay full price for it.

No games, or beer, all weekend, until last night, when I really cut loose. Fought my way through more of Metroid Prime--completion percentage is now well over 55--and battled a huge space-pirate boss. Figured out a strategy for him, then set to work. I had him on the ropes, but simply couldn't finish him off. I'll probably take a few more cracks at him tonight. His days are numbered and he knows it.

Moved onto L.O.T.R. Oh, my. Completed Hornburg Courtyard with Aragorn--I panicked when the Cave Trolls appeared near the end of the level, but I managed to stay between them and the wall, and kept throwing down my combos. They fell, finally...and game over.

Spent some time pumping up Aragorn to level 10, then decided to try Hornburg Courtyard with Gimli. Managed to do it on the first try, which was very gratifying. Have actually figured out how to get "Excellent" ratings on the earlier levels (using the one-hit orc/goblin/uruk-hai kills). All told, this game keeps giving it up.

Got Aragorn up to Floor 10 in the Tower of Orthanc--the secret survival level--before finally getting overrun. And I wasn't even trying that hard. I can do it...I know I can.

Was cathartic last night, playing and drinking, especially in the wake of my somewhat tense encounter with J. in the afternoon. It was soothing. I was engaged, engrossed. I didn't want the night to end, and I *definitely* didn't want to go to work today. But here I am.

2:32 PM

Friday, January 10, 2003  
A marathon night. Pushed further into Metroid Prime, and as a reward, finally acquired the plasma beam (which is a devastating weapon in the ice world). Sometimes, as I'm rushing headlong through rooms, searching for the right elevator to transport me from from part of the map to another, I wonder, quite seriously, if I'm having fun. "What the hell am I doing?" I think. Sometimes it seems as if I'm simply in a hurry to get the damn thing over and done with. Part of me *does* indeed wish I was done with Metroid, finished with it, roll credits. I kept playing last night long past the point of enjoying myself. I can't say why.

I wasn't exactly engaged, or disengaged. I was somewhere between those two things, in an unnameable limbo. Which wasn't a terrible place to be, I think.

OK, this is all starting to sound depressing, and last night was not a depressing experience, not by a longshot. I genuinely enjoyed myself. In fact, when I woke up this morning, I considered phoning in sick to work just so I could get back in there...and rush through more of those rooms, plasma beam charged, hunting for the right elevators.

If I made a mistake last night, it was in the form of too many beers. Drank about six Sam Adams and really paid the price for it this morning. I can't handle hangovers like I used to. A few years ago, six beers wouldn't have been enough to even scratch the surface. But now it's more than enough to make me whimper the next day.

Looking forward to a night or two free of video games and beer. My girlfriend J. arrives tonight and stays until Sunday....

4:41 PM

Thursday, January 09, 2003  
Playing time: four hours.
Number of beers consumed: four brooklyn lagers.

Spent the bulk of the evening delving deeper into Metroid Prime. With my completion percentage hovering in the low 40s, the action is really starting to pick up. The Space Pirates, with their powerful weapons and cat-like movements, are proving to be the most formidible opponents in the game. Actually had to reload four or five times before I was finally able to limp my way, health waning, to the next save point.... Great stuff.

Ended the evening by taking a few cracks at the final levels of Two Towers. For some reason I can't stay away from this game. It's not a great game, certainly not on par with Metroid Prime, not even close, but it's a world I enjoy spending time in. I hacked away at Orcs and Goblins for a good 45 minutes (I'm playing as Gimli), finally managing to destroy the catapult in the penultimate level. Made a few runs at the final level, and quickly realized it's going to require some serious effort (and some strategy) on my part.

2:02 PM

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