blog, thoughts

easy mode


Can I talk about DuckTales Remastered for a minute?

I’m not going to cite any specific examples, but I’ve read more than a handful of reviews that knocked Remastered down for being a bit too “classic” in the difficulty department. Some people had such a rough time that it actually soured their opinion of the original — I guess DuckTales was just more flawed than we dared to admit, and it took this remake to finally bring the truth to light.

I am very disappointed in those people.

It’s f*cking DuckTales, one of the easier games in the NES library! Are you so spoiled by modern design leniency that you spout tired labels like “cheap” and “unfair” whenever a game punishes you for your failure to learn and adapt? Or is it that you\’ll only accept above-average challenge when offset by a safety net — like checkpoints seemingly every two steps — to spare you the horror of having to exercise caution and restraint? Heaven forbid a game asks you to plan ahead before plunging headlong into uncharted territory.

If that’s you, you need to play Volgarr the Viking and gain some goddamn perspective.

via Review: Volgarr the Viking – Destructoid. -Tony Ponce


Couldn’t agree more with Tony. I suppose we’re both of the generation that grew up with Atari 2600, NES and the arcade. Definitely remember noting DuckTales, as well as the other Disney NES games as being on the easy side-They were made for the younger kids so there should be no surprise at their level of difficulty. And yet players today, I’m guessing the kids that grew up playing N64 and PS1-They’re having difficulty getting through a simple game like DuckTales.

I have definitely noticed how modern Triple-A titles and their developers have included easy modes. From the beginning of the game to the end it’s no sweat-Whereas when I was growing up as a gamer it was one mode, and depending on the game, it ranged from easy as pie to hard as fek!  As you progressed, the gameplay got more insane, more frenetic. You had to memorize patterns and get good” as the kids these days say.

I do think it’s funny how casual gaming and hardcore gaming are defined at times. The hardcore games seem to be the Triple-AAA titles from big name companies with large investments in developing the graphics, sound/music, and narrative/story; While the casual games are far less graphic intense and cost a small fraction of the big titles and are often developed by small independent/indie game studios.

Gameplay-wise, I think most of the AAA titles with their epic narratives are generally easier and lead to more boredom; whereas the casual games with often arcadey or simplified gameplay tend to cause me more frustration, but oftentimes keeps me coming back due to their addictive nature.

If it wasn’t for the human vs human factor (see: competitive arsehole jockeying) in the multi-player portions of these Tripe-AAA shooter games like Call of Duty, or fighting games like Street Fighter, I can imagine the Triple-AAA games may not be known as hardcore.

Since we humans have to label and categorize everything, I propose the following base category prenomen:

  • Narrative – Solo with story
  • Arcade – Solo with little to no story
  • Competitive – Multi-player, player versus player
  • MMO – Massively Multi-Player On-line (still works)

From these base categories you can tack on the genres:

Narrative Shooter, Arcade Platformer, Competitive Fighter, MMORPG etc. etc.

Sounds pretty straightforward and less malicious than the ego driven hardcore! and the (sounding less involved) casual.


tried and through

This post might actually lose some followers.


The other night at work when we were about to start lunch (a whole 30 minutes), one of my co-workers asked what time it was. The manager replied, “It’s 4:20(am).” The co-worker quickly joked back, “Oh it’s that time, eh?” And they both started to laugh. I got it, but I didn’t think it was particularly worth reacting to-A little giggle maybe. (In case anyone need reference.)

Now I once did have strong feelings against (ab)use of recreational drugs. That old standard kept me from hanging out and getting to know some really interesting people (who used)-And I somewhat regret that. Put simply, I tend to be safe-Do not try to do anything illegal. If I must do something illegal, it must not lead to hurting anyone.

Secondly, and most importantly: Deep down I wonder if the persons/friends who I’m talking to are behaving genuinely as themselves; Or are they indeed under the influence of the drug. I suppose it’s a trust issue.  

 I never did have a lot of (close) friends. Still don’t.

Whether it’s legal or illegal, you just can’t get away from recreational drug abuse anymore. While I still prefer to stay out of such scenes, there just isn’t any avoiding it altogether. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a large city or small town-It’s there whether you know it or not, or like it or not.

I’ll explain why I choose not to do it based on my own experience.

I have tried marijuana on more than one occasion. Each time it was more or less under peer pressure, and each time lead to undesired, embarrassing, and/or catastrophic moments/events in my life.

Surprisingly enough, I never gave into trying it in high school during the early-to-mid 90s. I started to smoke cigarettes when I was 18 (legal age), still do on occasion, but smoking tobacco is not illegal. As far as drinking goes, I did do that once illegally (underage) and willingly…  but that’s another story.

The first time I tried marijuana was in 1998 or 1999. Can’t remember the exact date, but if anyone is willing, they can look up the last official Switchblade Symphony concert-Which was in San Jose, California at the Cactus Club. Probably in the summer time.

Again, it’s a whole other set of posts, but to summarize, I was in love with the local gothic rock (darkwave) band called Switchblade Symphony. I followed them up and down California on their North American tours. They came from the goth scene, but did have good commercial/popular appeal and attention at one point. Hell, I heard their music on a TV show once. They could have been big if they stuck with it a little longer. I think after a decade or so of hardwork, perhaps they just got burnt out. The lead singer, Tina Root, I believe is still performing, but I haven’t really paid much attention. Although Tina was the voice and lyrics, I think Susan Wallace played keyboards and who composed/programmed the music is just as, if not more important. Together they were absolute magic.

In any case, it was there at the Cactus Club in San Jose. I went by myself. By this time, I had left Salinas and was living in Santa Clara. And I had not made any friends yet, locally.

I can tell you the vibe of the night was different. I knew Switchblade’s road crew, well sort of, I always chatted with them at the shows. I was a regular. Wasn’t a groupie, I’m far too ugly for that-But I was a very regular attendee and big fan. I approached them early in the night (as usual) and said my “Hello!” and “Hey! How ya doin?”

They replied to me yes, but I could tell something was wrong. They were very low energy, and very lacking enthusiasm. Maybe they didn’t recognize me. So I pulled up my sleeve and showed them the tattoo I got of Tina and Susan. There was recognition then, a smile, but still rather down.

The rest of the night was kind of like that. Low energy. As Switchblade was performing their set, there were instances of Tina and Susan just looking very out of character-Both tired and frustrated.

Susan performed a solo piano and voice version of Wrecking Yard,” a song from their first album Serpentine Gallery-And she messed up, then started over, and botched it again. She appeared very frustrated. I looked behind me and seen some people leaving in disgust, which of course frustrated her even more. They finally did get through it.

Between songs, Tina kept asking for someone to buy her some alcohol, and was rather belligerent about it. “Someone buy me some feking alcohol!” she screamed. After her alcohol fix she did something that was totally out of character. She pulled up her shirt and quickly flashed the audience while screaming in elation. I mean, hey, I’m a guy, that’s pretty nice-But in the back of my mind I knew something was wrong. There’s some unnecessary risk taking, dare I say, suicidal actions taking place before me by my favorite band. That event caused even more people to depart the Cactus Club that night.

Then finally they got to their last song, which was as usual “Clown” probably their hardest hitting song to send the crowd home happy. Unfortunately Tina just had the most indignant attitude when announcing it. “Okay this is our last song. Come on, you know what it is…” Even the performance was noticeably off time. After it was over, I saw Switchblade Symphony collectively sigh and walk off stage looking defeated. Something had to be wrong.

I waited around a bit by the backstage entrance talking with some acquaintances that I knew from the online Switchblade Symphony fan club at the time. George Earth (the guitarist) spotted me, and invited me to their dressing room area. George and I e-mailed quite a bit. He’s a good guy.

Set the scene: Tina, George, George’s (HAWT) girlfriend from Hawaii, some magazine reporter, and me chatting around benches in the dressing room. Susan wasn’t there, unfortunately-I believe she was packing up. This was a moment I had waited years for. Just casual conversation with the musicians I had most admired in life. And for once, I wasn’t acting star struck, tongue-tied, and unbearably shy as I was with them in the past. I look back now, and I realize, I could have had great conversations with them even earlier had I not been so darn shy, and so insecure that I didn’t think they wanted to talk to me.   

And FINALLY here’s where I did marijuana for the first time (two pages later, sorry). The magazine reporter guy brings out his pipe and starts offering it around. Tina eagerly went first, then George, then George’s hot girlfriend, then it came to me.

Keep in mind, I’ve never done this before. Never wanted to. Still didn’t. And yet, I kind of folded into the pressure. Didn’t want to disappoint my new friends, right? So I went for it, and thankfully, I went last because I would not have had any idea how to use that pipe. Luckily I saved face by first observing what they were doing and applying it. I took a small drag, and that was it. It went around a few more times, but I politely passed. Figure I passed my initiation.

I will make a quick note of the conversation: It was basically fronted by Tina herself talking about moving to Los Angeles and starting over there. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I drew the conclusion that Switchblade Symphony was on hiatus if not going defunct. After that nights performance, I knew they at least needed a break … but it came to be…

Switchblade Symphony was done. There were some remixes that they did for other bands, but the live aspect was over, and I believe a year later it was official. There was a couple shows for their record label, Cleopatra, but it was just Tina and George (who also moved to Los Angeles) performing. You can’t really call them Switchblade Symphony without Susan and her layers of classical synths and samples.

And there ya have it. First experience with marijuana was uneventful to me physically, but was devastating to me overall. I owe a lot to Switchblade Symphony for introducing me to that genre and more, and for keeping the stability of my sanity by inspiring me with their beautiful music.

The second time I tried marijuana was with some co-workers and their friends. Won’t go into too much detail-Honestly I can’t because I was also drunk off of hot saké. I believe I took three drags from the pipe, but it was really the saké that did me in.

Later that night, after sobering up a bit, I headed home, but noticed I needed gas. So I stopped into the local gas station and asked the teller to give me twenty dollars on whatever number it was I was parked at, and headed out.

She called me back as I opened the door to exit, and I interrupted, saying again “Twenty on…”

Then she lifted up the bill I had dropped before her, and it was only a five dollars. I don’t know if it was the alcohol or marijuana that impaired my judgment and attention at that moment, but it was embarrassing.

The third and final time smoking marijuana (to this date) was the night I drove Tom to see the Dwarves. You might remember Tom from my post called The Mighty Testicles. We smoked some in the parking lot after work before heading out to the show. I know it was a more significant amount for me, but it was mostly Tom who finished up the bowl.   

If you read that post, you know that Tom died via suicide not long after.

The acts of smoking marijuana may not have been physically significant, but when I see it (and I see it a wholefekinlot these days) or if I hear people talking about it, or I see paraphernalia in shops, the leaf, a picture of Bob Marley… whatever-To me it’s associated with embarrassment and great loss.

People have offered me a hit many times since then, and I have politely declined each time. Some have asked why, and I tell them straight up:

 Makes me stupid, favorite band quit, friend died-So I just choose not to.

All that said, I’m not going to try and preach and say not to do it.

Do whatever the hell you want. Just don’t hurt anybody (including yourself) while you’re doing it.