I haven’t really written any game reviews, so you may not know much about my gaming history, unless we were friends on the old IGN blogs or Tinychat. I plan of writing reviews in the coming weeks, and I think one of the most important things to know about any reviewer is what they like and don’t so you know how to skew your view based on how you compare to their views. For instance, I generally pay more attention to the reviews at IGN then at other outlets. It has little to do with who I think writes better, or is more professional, and everything to do with who I know. On my podcast subscription list is some stuff from Nerdist, WTF, Science Friday, and about six IGN podcasts. I have spent 400+ hours listening to Greg Miller talk about games (and Ryan Clement’s future death via boating accident). Greg and I have similar tastes in games, save for the fact that I am a racing game fan (which he is not), and he is a wrestling game fan (which I am not). I know that if he loved Metal Gear Peace Walker, there is a DAMN good chance I’ll like it a ton. I also know if he says he cannot get into Gran Turismo that it doesn’t matter to me much.
If you are going to read my reviews, I want you to have context to put my review into, so here is my gaming history in a nutshell: I had a TI-99 since I can remember. I mostly remember a game titled “Alpiner”, where you climbed a mountain endlessly avoiding landslides and abominable Snow-monsters. My dad also had a PC back then, which today is shocking because the family ONLY had one PC, but in the mid 80’s it was kind of a big deal. I mostly played a game called “SOPWITH”, a side-scrolling WWII plane game. “Castle” was a game that was semi-graphic (to avoid ogres who were just Angry-face text objects), and semi-text (to look for lockets and the like). I spent all the time I could looking for necklaces in fountains, blowing up tankers, and running from bears.
Then in 1988 or ’89, I my parents got us an NES (WITH THE POWER PAD!!!!). That’s when gaming really took me. It helped that I got it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The original. A game so hard I still have not beat it to this day. I made it to the Mousers once, maybe twice, and lost both times. It’s where I learned to enjoy a challenge in games (along with American Gladiators, which my friend Josh and I would rent every few weeks, and Battletoads, which we never got more than 50% through). I also had games like TMNTII, which the code for 9 lives and level select I remember to this day (B A B A Up Down B A Left Right B A), and Kirby’s Adventure, both of which I could have played for days on end. These, along with titles like SMB and SMB3 shaped my young gaming self, and had me locked into Nintendo’s clutches. The ORIGINAL console, and the games, are on a shelf behind me as I type. If I can get my stupid lockout chip working again and the contact board clean, it will rise again.
Next came the SNES. Super Mario World, and Super Mario: The Lost Levels, were great. Super Mario Kart brought me into the world of racing games, and Quarterback Club made me start seeing the “AMAZING REALISM” that football games could bring. StarFox was probably my first “flight sim”, and it is probably part of why I love a good flight-sim to this day. I beat that game COUNTLESS times, and never got sick of the amazing 3-D graphics, the crew of wingmen… it was simply amazing. The SNES is back at my parents, along with the N64.
I always preferred my N64 it to Josh’s Playstation because the PS was primarily a single-player machine, where the N64 had good single-player games with AMAZING multiplayer modes, though I did love going to his place and spending hours controller swapping for Gran Turismo and listening to Garbage (that was a band back in the 90’s). Goldeneye, and Mario Kart 64 were my go-to’s, as they were for most. I spent countless hours with Mario Kart, finding every shortcut on Rainbow Road and Wario Stadium. And this was in the day when college email at Iowa State University (which was ranked in the top ten most “wired” schools or something at the time) was done through Tel-net… Basically you checked your email via DOS prompt. There was no Youtube walk-through to consult for the fastest route on Moo-Moo ranch, you had to find it yourself through hour after hour of repetitive play and an occasional friend who knew a guy who saw a thing in a magazine.
This overlapped with the GameCube/PS2 era- Gamecube came out just as I was leaving for college, where the N64 would keep power in the common room for years to come. I started with the gamecube only, with games like Rogue Squadron, Mario Kart Double Dash, Resident Evil 0, and the Metroid Prime series. This is when an ugly trend reared its head for a while. I had trouble finishing games, not because they were too hard, but because now with 10 hour games-but a lack of extra content-I never wanted to finish a game, because at that point, it was over, and I knew I would probably never go back to it. I knew I wouldn’t put another 30 hours into Metroid Prime, so I didn’t want to lose my ability to drop an hour by beating it. It was a dumb, stupid cycle, but one that didn’t really end for another generation and a half… Its also when the trend of internet piracy was at its peak. Napster was a thing- there was a guy on the Iowa State intranet with something like 2 TERABytes of movies! This is in the days when having a 32 GB Hard-drive was a big deal. Needless to say, I suddenly found that I could play ANY game I wanted on my PC, ALL FOR FREE! So I did… a lot. I soon was no longer attending Iowa State…
I got a Wii on launch Day. The first system I ever bought on Launch Day (the Vita is the only other system I ever bought at launch), and it had some great games. Everyone loved Mario Galaxy, but it also had some great underrated titles like Endless Ocean and Elebits. This is the time that I started becoming and IGN fan, with the Nintendo podcast hosted by Matt Casamassina and Mark Bozon. I loved how I could connect to them as reviewers by listening to the show and getting to know their tastes. I took a chance on No More Hero’s because of IGN, and never looked back… it was a blast. Soon, the question came: 360, or PS3?
The long and short of it is, after listening to months of both TRL and Beyond! on IGN, I sided with PS3. The exclusives won me over. I knew I wanted Gran Turismo, and I loved the first Metal Gear on my second try (I was to young and impatient for a stealth game when I first tried it in High School). I do now have a 360, I played some of Halo Reach and Gears 3, but they just don’t grab me- Halo is to spray-and-pray for me, just like COD Multiplayer. I like my shooters strategic- like MAG or Battlefield 3. Between UnCharted 1-3, Little Big Planet, the PSP Patapon series (Sony… really… get ON this! Where is Patapon Vita or PS3/4?), InFamous 1-2, Heavy Rain, and now Journey and Unfinished Swan; I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made in the first place.
If I think about it, I want my games to have a creative hook. It can be literal creativity (Little Big Planet and Mod-Nation Racers), Strategic shooters, racers that are either straight simulation (Gran Turismo) or off the wall (Burnout Paradise or Mario Kart), Sports games with depth (I prefer NCAA to Madden, in part because I can take a team ranked 123rd in the country and make them a POWERHOUSE), or an amazing story. Don’t get me wrong, I have my simple pleasure games too- I probably logged 300+ hours into Day of Defeat on Steam- a simple WWII themed FPS that was based on flag capture (which is still my favorite multiplayer mode in shooters)- but in general I want there to be something to grab me, to make me think about… something.
This was probably more than you really wanted to know, but now you do. So when you see me say that I LOVE “X” about game “Y”, you have SOME idea of what that means compared to your tastes. I hope to have some time to not only review newer games, but also some older titles soon to really let you get a feel for who I am as a gamer.