I Walked Into the Past….

A few of the local Zellers stores closed down in our city in 2012 and they had massive clearance sales before they closed their doors for good.  The Boyfriend and I decided to check it out and see if we could score anything for cheap.

We were in the electronics section when I came across something from a bygone era hanging on one of the shelves.  I was immediately swept back to middle and high school and I was shocked that these were still in production let alone available for purchase anywhere other than the internet:

2012-03-30 19.04.55

And there you have it, folks…a discman.  Something not been seen since the late 90’s to early 2000’s.  I definitely had one of my own and it went everywhere with me in a backpack full of CD’s; until of course I got my first mp3 player, that is.  So let’s all toast a piece of history that I’m sure was a part of all our teenage worlds back then.

But really? $40 for the damn thing?  I can’t see it being wanted for any reason let along someone paying that much for them.  Perhaps that is why the Zellers are turning into Targets up here…

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I Miss Video Games…

For those of you who don’t know me all that well, I’m a gamer.  I love video games and have been playing them since I was small enough to hold the controller for my parents’ Atari.  My most formative childhood years were spent playing Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pacman and of course, Pong.

Then of course, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) arrived.  I still remember the very first time I held that controller.  My uncle rented a system to have at my grandmother’s house for Christmas and I watched in utter fascination as he and my other uncles all played Super Mario Bros., taking turns and getting really excited.  At some point in the evening, my Uncle Kevin looked at me, placed the controller in my hand and said, “Here, why don’t you give it a try?”  That was it.  I was hooked.

I got an NES shortly after, having begged my parents constantly.  They were great about it, since usually we only got stuff like that for Christmas.  That system lasted me for years.  I played it until it literally would not play another single game.  By the end, there was no sound.  I had to wrap the cord around the box tightly to get any colour and I had to stick a VHS tape into the slot to keep the game down.  But I still loved it and mourned its passing when it finally died on me.

After that, my mother got us a Nintendo 64, a joint gift for Christmas for my sister and I.  Again, I played the crap out of that thing.  My sister would watch me play games like Ocarina of Time and my friends would come over for marathon sessions of GoldenEye 007 multiplayer.  A custody battle broke out over the system when I moved out and was only solved when my mother determined we would each get the system a month at a time.  I ended up buying an original NES from a pawn store for the months that I didn’t have the N64.

Over the years I’ve also added an Xbox, a Wii and a PS3 to my collection and gained a whole lot more when I moved in with the boyfriend (including an Atari!!).  I played games so very much over the years and it was one of the things that bonded the boyfriend and I so well when we first started dating.  The very first gift he ever gave me (spontaneously) was a copy of Double Dragon for the NES…a game I had lost years ago when my first system died.

Sadly, however, my life as of late has not been allowing for very much gaming.  I find that I’m missing it terribly.  Work has been crazy for months and if I’m not doing overtime, I’m exhausted when I get home.  It always seems like I have social commitments, I have to go to the gym, or any other thing that pops up and there’s never any time or energy left for gaming.

The most gaming I’ve done in the last month of my life was to play about ten minutes of Mario Kart 64 at the Games Day Summer Pwnage event.  I loved it.  The atmosphere was charged, everyone was social and talking about the games and I had a great time trash talking and shooting blue shells.

So yes, I miss gaming.  I look at my shelf and realize that there are so many games I’ve purchased and started that I haven’t finished.  Some of them I haven’t even started at all.

All our games, siting lonely on the shelf...

The boyfriend is starting to complain that I never game with him anymore and I’m starting to get really annoyed by the lack of gaming presence in my life so I’m going to try and get some more play time in.  Right now we’re working on Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 because it’s a cooperative play game we can do together and also, it’s Harry Potter, so it’s awesome.  Wish my luck in getting back to my gaming roots this summer, it’s been way too long.

Why I Win at Mortal Kombat (When Playing Against the Boyfriend)

Jade, one of my faves

Let me begin by saying that I really am not very good at Mortal Kombat.  I can manage well enough, but for the most part, I’m always just button mashing and when I do something nifty, it’s almost always by luck.

There are a few moves by my favourite characters that I have memorized, but my timing is always off and I never do them on purpose at appropriate times.  So why, you ask, do I always win against the boyfriend?  Because I always play as one of the female characters.  He asked me once why I did this and I simply stated, “Because it helps me win.”

I like playing the girl characters for several reasons.  One, they are fast and light and very “kicky”.  I like this.  I spend

Sonya, the longest legs for being kicky

most of my time bouncing around and kicking at my opponent and then bouncing out of the way again.  Sort of like a cartoon character on speed.

Secondly, it’s so very rare in a game that I get to play a girl, that I’ll take the opportunity to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, a good game is a damn good game, but I’m still a girl and it’s easier to identify with the character I’m playing if they’re

a female.  In Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and every other role playing game I’ve ever played, I always make a female character.

Thirdly, and I hate to say it because I know that it sounds so bad on my part, but I use these scantily clad characters to distract the boyfriend and win the game.

Mileena, the boyfriend's fave

I noticed it the first time we played the game together.  The boyfriend actually knows most of the moves for his fave characters so it was difficult to play along but I commented a couple of times on the costumes strips of cloth the characters I was playing were wearing and he got distracted looking at them.  I won.

I then pointed out the, shall we say, largeness of the assets on the female characters and I won again.  It was awesome.  I had a secret weapon and this was not one of those times when a girl should be annoyed by her boyfriend looking at the half undressed video game chick on the screen.  I love games and I can learn all the moves and skillfully navigate my way through complicated dungeons and solve puzzles with the best for them…but I can’t play fighters.

I’m a button masher and any kind of boost in my arsenal is acceptable.  Besides, I will say the characters are all very well done.  They’re pretty and they’re colourful and they kick ass.  So what if they’re half naked.  Perhaps in Outworld, that’s how things go.  The only one that confuses me is Sonya anyway.  She’s supposed to be a special agent of some kind.  I wouldn’t think her outfit would be very effective on the job.  Mostly I think her boobs would fall out and the bad guys might fall down while staring at them, but that’s about it.

Besides, I have to admit that I can’t have a double standard about this anyway.  If the boyfriend can sit around with me while we play Resident Evil 5 and I comment on how buff Chris Redfield is or when I drool over Nathan Drake in Uncharted and he never says a word, then I can certainly allow him to ogle the very well animated women of Mortal Kombat.

I always say there’s no room for a double standard when it comes to men and women.  If I’m allowed to ogle, so is he and everyone can be happy when gathered around the PS3, no matter what we’re playing.

Nausea Rules My Life No More!

I discovered something over the holidays, my friends, and I have to tell you, it’s something absolutely wonderful.  I can play first person shooters again.  I can run around in a virtual world and kill the enemy and not throw up all over the floor.  At least for a couple of hours anyway.  Let me explain.

A while ago, I posted about having Simulation Sickness, a condition where certain people cannot handle the visual graphics and movement of certain kinds of video games.  For me, it was most prominently first person shooters.  I LOVE first person shooters so you can imagine how this upset me.  I missed out on a tonne of triple A titles in the last eight years or so of my life when this little ailment started.

However, over these past Christmas holidays, I was invited by the awesome members and friends of The Games Day Podcast to a marathon gaming session that lasted from 11:00 am until about 2:00 am.  I was stoked because I hadn’t gamed like that since high school when I used to have all the guys over for hours and play the crap out of 007 Goldeneye for the 64.

I knew that first person shooters would definitely play a huge roll in the days events because they are awesome, but I knew there would be a plethora of games for me to play so I didn’t worry too much about it.  When we got there we checked out the demo for Just Cause 2 which was totally awesome.  I was happy because it was third person and the game play rocked.

We also checked out DJ Hero, which is a hell of a lot harder than it looks and despite my original thoughts on the concept, some of the mashups were actually pretty cool.

Eventually, I was drawn to the back room where some people were playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, specifically, the zombie mode.  I sat down and watched for a while before someone put the controller in my hand.  I stared at it for a few seconds before I started playing, expecting the well known hot flash followed by cold sweat and nausea.  However, a few rounds into playing, this hadn’t arrived.  I kept playing, learning the controls and getting used to the feel of it again as I wondered why I wasn’t getting sick.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that playing a first person shooter on an HD television did not cause the nausea I used to experience on an standard definition television.

As you can imagine, I was overjoyed.  This was pretty much the game I played for the entire rest of the day, switching out with the other players, learning how to best play the game and experiencing multiplayer online gaming for the first time.  Eventually, they filmed the last episode of the year, the topic being Game of the Year 2010.  I got to sit in the background and play COD: Black Ops while they filmed it, which was awesome.

Eventually, I played for too long and I did start to feel nauseous, but I didn’t let this discourage me.  Since then, I’ve purchased my own copy of the game and I have found that I can play for about two hours or so at a time before I need to turn the game off.  I’m freaking thrilled.  I have so many plans to play catch up with all the games I missed and to get in on massive online death match rounds.

So happy gaming to all of you out there in 2011…the year I didn’t throw up during a first person shooter!

A badly drawn representation of my joyful reaction to being able to play FPS again

Ditching the Old Ball and Chain (Otherwise Known as Cable)

I used to love television.  I used to know the schedule of all my favourite shows, what time they were playing on which day and I was totally absorbed in many different story lines in many different shows and eagerly looked forward to each one.  My friends knew who to ask when they had questions about past plot lines and how they had led to the present and I could explain it to them so they were caught up and ready for that week’s upcoming episode.

That was back when I was in high school (yes, I was just that cool).  Back when I would never leave the house on a Sunday night, nor would I accept any phone calls between the hours of 9 and 10 because I was immersed in the world of Mulder and Scully (Oh yes, I was one of THOSE kind of nerds).

This is a visual representation of my dedication to TV during my teen years...sadly, it's pretty accurate

When I moved out of my parents’ house at the age of 19, I watched less television.  This was mostly due to the fact that I had to share the TV with at least three roommates (one year, it was up to five).  This creates very strict scheduling necessities and discussions about what shows will be watched on what nights by whom.

I will say, from the time I moved out, we had time shifting on the cable, but PVR was not available for about five years after that up here, so that was not an option.

I shaved the list of shows I religiously watched down to about five, easy to do since they all corresponded with shows that various other roommates were watching.

Over the years, various reasons came about for the list of dedicated shows to grow smaller and smaller.  Buffy ended and a year later, Angel was also gone.  I disliked the direction that Grey’s Anatomy took and reality TV was just simply getting annoying and predictable.

Over the years I stuck with my few shows and mostly movies and then when I met the boyfriend, I discovered that he was not an avid fan of fictional television.  He loved reality TV.  When I moved in, in an unspoken and unintentional compromise, I gave up pretty much all of my television shows aside from a couple sitcoms (I also recently picked up Glee and adore it) and he gave up most of his reality television except the ones that I would watch with him.  So together, we had Survivor and Hell’s Kitchen to look forward to every week and I would watch my fiction shows, for the most part, alone.

A year passed and I was heading to a friend’s house once a week to watch Glee and pre-recorded episodes (PVR had finally arrived!) of How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory.  The boyfriend and I had given up on watching everything but Survivor on the television, instead catching up with them a few episodes at a time streamed online.

I found myself resenting cable’s presence in our lives more and more, strictly for the fact that it was there, there was television, but I tended to always find there to be nothing to watch.  I would put National Geographic channel on in the background while I surfed the net, but I wasn’t paying any attention to it half the time.

So we assessed the situation and some very serious discussions about it (ie. I asked the boyfriend if he cared about cable and he was like…meh).  So finally, decision made.  Cable went away for good.

It’s been two weeks since the big step towards freedom and I haven’t noticed a huge loss in my life.  There have only been a few times where I though, “Gee, I’d really like to watch [insert random show title here]” and then I’d realize that was not possible and find something else to do.  The only thing that has happened that made me actually wish we’d waited a month was the fact that I found out I would be missing Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

Somehow, though sharks terrify me and have since childhood, I LOVE Shark Week

The best thing about having no cable to pop on in the background when we’re eating meals or bored?  We are FINALLY working our way through the backlog of television shows that we keep buying on DVD but never watch.  We’re almost finished with My Pet Monster and will be moving on to complete the first season of She-Ra next.

This was my fave cartoon as a child. I used to run around with a plastic sword and pretend that I was She-Ra.

More Than a Feeling: How Gaming Ties Into Our Emotional States

Picture the following scenario: you worked your butt off all day at your job, were constantly answering questions for people needing answers, running around like a crazy person trying to solve a whole bunch of problems that could potentially become disasters in the future and despite the fact that you had a completely exhausting day, you got almost no physical work done to show for it.  You stumble home, shuffle through the door and sigh, thinking about your options and what you can do to make up for such a crappy day.

When I reach this point in my day, several options come to mind:

  • Run a nice hot bath and light some candles to relax – that’s a nice sentiment, but way too girly for me and honestly, it’ll just put me to sleep.
  • Alright, so option number two is have a nice strong drink – this one is sounding more appealing and there IS a nice bottle of wine just sitting there on the counter, beckoning me to have a wee sip.  Alas, I am one of those people who will be very tipsy after a couple of glasses and I haven’t eaten yet, so that’s out (but totally an option to revisit for later on)
  • Watch some television and zone out – this used to be what I did, but I fell out of love with television a long time ago and we have since gotten rid of cable.

You might be asking me by now, “Gee, Shan…if none of those options are appealing to you, what on Earth will you do to relax after that insane day at work?”

I will tell you what I am going to do…something that brings me great joy and happiness and never fails to bring me to a completely relaxed state of zen.

I’m going to slaughter hundreds of zombies.

No, you didn’t hear me wrong, but don’t go running to the windows in a panic, wondering if the apocalypse is finally upon us; it’s not (yet).  When I am stressed/angry about something, I play video games and the best choices for stress relief are those in which you kill stumbling corpses out for blood by the masses.  Somehow, it’s utterly satisfying to take them out one by one, to scream your frustrations at their uncaring faces as they all line up to try and get you and the feeling of succeeding against this unending wave is fantastic.

I will scream whatever I want at them and take them out, running through a maze of creepy design in an effort to secure the essential object of the game (rescue the president’s daughter, find out [finally!] where the T-virus really came from, etc…).  Some people work out, some people will go out dancing, I like to kill the undead.

Yes, this is what I picture. I'm totally badass, just like Sheva. Taking all those Zombie Bastards down with my big gun!

I will admit, though, that this is not the only use of gaming I’ve ever seen used as a stress reliever.  The boyfriend does this too.  His game of choice, you ask?  Well, he likes to play Rockband.  When he’s upset or stressed and needs to blow off a little steam, those plastic drums get dragged out of the corner, the microphone gets plugged in and he’ll spend a few hours singing at the top of his lungs and slamming the drumsticks down on the little round pads, effectively draining any bad emotions and leaving a satisfied sense of well-being behind.

Gamers may not realize it, but gaming is an emotional thing just as much as a mental one.  We get attached to our characters and the story lines that they are going through, almost as if we were experiencing it ourselves.  I have never played a game (one that was worth it, mind you) that I didn’t get emotionally involved in.  Who hasn’t cheered their character on as they battled through any game, trying desperately to make it through the next boss and further into the story?  Who hasn’t sat at the edge of their seat, tensed to the point of almost being in pain as they battled heroically against Gannon at the end of a Zelda game they’ve invested hours of their lives in, just to see the story play out to the very end and save the Princess?

Rage is also a very prominent emotion when gaming; at least for me.  Sometimes, I can get so mad at something in a game, that I will eventually turn it off and not play again for months, because I hold such a grudge against the boss that is keeping me from progressing through the game.  I typically have several games on the go because I reached a point in all of them that made me angry and I had to walk away, lest I do something drastic…like this:

Anger is a powerful emotion and I love my PS3, so I wouldn't want to do this just because something in a game made me angry

What about you guys out there?  Does gaming evoke an emotional response from you as well?  Or is it just a game to you?  Are you attached to certain characters?

Is it a curse or a cash grab?

I picked up my fifth mp3 player in about four years yesterday.  It got me wondering if I’m cursed, forever damned to replace these little devices every year or so, or if it’s a clever plot by the companies that make them to make sure they keep receiving their 100-200 dollars from us unlucky consumers.  I wouldn’t be so curious about this except that I’ve never had one of these things die for any apparent reason.  I’ve never stepped on one, I haven’t cracked the screen or accidentally run it through a trash compactor so why are they dying?  It is me?  Am I cursed to kill any electronic device I come in contact with that’s smaller than a DVD player?  Because this only happens with items such as this.  Cameras, cell phones, and mp3 players should watch out but anything else (DVD players, game consoles, computers) are just fine…they seem to live forever under my tender care.  My sister actually dropped one in a McDonald’s coke once, and despite the fact that it looked disgusting after that, it still worked and to this day, still does…and it’s about four years old.

My problem with this phenomenon is the fact that I can’t seem to get through the day without some kind of background soundtrack to keep some of my brain distracted from the monotonous plodding of life.  I feel that if I went and took the time to shop around, spend two hundred dollars after taxes and product replacement guarantees and such, that the stupid thing should at least give me the enjoyment of keeping me sane.  Perhaps it’s overuse…I do run them anywhere from six to eight hours straight at least five days a week.  Maybe it’s just too much to expect something like that to work whenever I want it to.

So I’m once again toying around with my new little music device and trying to figure out how it works (because none of them work the same way at all) and wondering how long this one is going to last.  I have a feeling that if it does die a random, sudden and unexplained death, I’m going to be pretty angry.  Not only will this be the fifth (yes, the fifth time) it will have happened, but this is the last one I could find anywhere with an additional SD slot for extra memory.  Apparently the companies caught on and realized that if they put those little slots in there, we can just add all of our own extra memory instead of having to give in and buy another whole device and give them another couple hundred dollars.

I actually had a store clerk say that to me when I asked if he had any players with external memory…and I’m quoting here.  “No, if we did that then people could just add their own memory and we’d never sell any more.”  Well, I guess he was right on one count, because I wouldn’t buy another one just because the last one was full, though I have friends and family that have two or three stupid ipods just because they keep filling them up (don’t even get me started on the ipods).  And so I left his stupid store because he bothered me.  He was kind of like the guy at the store where I bought a couple of SD cards for my player.  Just because I’m a girl, they treat me like I’m slow or something when it comes to electronics.  I asked for two 4G SD cards and he actually said, “You know that anything 4G and up is a high capacity card, right?  Do you know if that’s actually what you want?”  I was so angry, I’d never been that close to starting a fight in a store (or anywhere else, for that matter).  Like I would go to the store and ask for something specific without knowing if it was actually what I needed?  I’m not stupid, I know how to work an electronic device that doesn’t cook a pie in the kitchen…grrr.

Anyway, that’s my little rant and now I’m off to put some more music on my new player…wish me luck in not killing the stupid thing.