Arrogance Disappearing Act

30 08 2007

Today I attended a conference at the national Sears HQ in Toronto with two co-workers and my boss. The day’s events consisted of several presentations made by representatives from major manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, and Monster Cable. Because I’m not a (real) journalist (yet) and this was not a press conference, I could not conduct a proper interview with the representatives from Sony. Why would I want to do that? To see the looks on their proud faces when I confronted them with difficult facts, of course. Also, however unlikely this was, I hoped I’d get some insider information which I’d later spread via this blog to attain fame and glory. It did not turn out like that, but my attempt to challenge them didn’t exactly fall flat on its face. Intrigued?

All recording was prohibited for the duration of the meeting, but here, pulled from my memory and a smattering of hastily-taken notes, is a fairly accurate transcript of the brief interview:

——————–

Dave: I have a question regarding the PS3. For the record, my store doesn’t carry them yet, but in view of the fact that we got some Nintendo Wiis in last night, it seems likely that we’ll be carrying PS3s in the near future. Now, if I had to sell somebody a PS3 today, I don’t think I could do it. Personally, I’m more sold on the 360 for a few reasons: the big one being that it’s got all the exclusive titles. The PS3 is obviously lacking exclusive titles and big names, (with the exception of Metal Gear Solid 4) and that’s a huge issue for most people. So, if a savvy costumer came to you with this argument, what selling points would you hit them with, aside from the PS3’s slight graphical advantage and its Blu-ray capability? Is there something good coming up that I don’t know about?

Rebecca Grant, Sony Retail Support Specialist: (Coughs.) That’s a good question, really, and to be honest with you, my associates and I aren’t really equipped with the kind of product knowledge to give you a full answer. We’re more specialized in TVs, home theatre, that sort of thing. Playstation is really more of a unit all on their own. But yeah, if you find that you are going to be selling PS3s then I would definitely look into that more if I were you. (nods encouragingly) But our understanding – Sony’s general perspective – is not looking at the PS3 so much as a pure gaming machine, but as an overall entertainment system with Blu-ray capability and so on. So as far as selling them to people I’d go with that selling point, highlighting those kinds of features is probably your best angle. As far as the other details go, I’m sorry, but there’s really not much we can tell you because it’s just not really our area. Ok?

Sony Employee ‘B’, (real name withheld): Actually I can answer some of those questions, I’ll talk to you after.

‘B’, (privately): Yeah, man, I’m gonna be honest with you: I own both systems, the PS3 and the 360, and I love them both. They’re both great consoles. And it’s true what she said about the Blu-ray capability being a really nice feature – with the big hard drive in the Playstation’s gut the whole thing makes for a really nice little media centre. Plus there’s the compatibility with the PSP, which is also a really nice feature that just makes everything feel more connected and mobile. Know what I mean?

Dave: Yeah, you create perks for owning multiple Sony products.

‘B’: Haha, yeah. And like you said, the one thing that is lacking is decent software support. It’s an issue we’re aware of and, you know, we’re working on it and doing everything we can.

Dave: Right. Yeah.

‘B’: That clear things up?

Dave: Absolutely. Thanks.

‘B’: No problem. Take care.

———————-

I’m still processing what I learned today, but my overall opinion of Sony, the most obnoxious group since the Sophists of ancient Greece, might be due for a change. I live in my world, and today I got to play briefly in theirs.

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Deathlips Dancing

20 08 2007

I want to share these three awesome videos I discovered while blog-surfing today.

The first is a hilarious “death metal” spoof of the Red Rings of Death fiasco done by the good people on G4’s Attack of the Show! It’s popped up on several blogs today, including GamePolitics and The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. (I just found this blog recently. An often-funny news blog by a guy pretending to be Steve Jobs and looking and employing lots of satire to make points.)

The second is a fun lip dub of Harvey Danger’s famous song “Flagpole Sitta”, created by the lucky employees at Connected Ventures. Saw this on Amber Mac’s blog, and I have to agree with her that I wish either of my workplaces were this much fun.

The third video is just this weirdly entrancing dance routine done to one of Daft Punk’s classic tracks. This girl has some sweet moves! Found this on Ask Pud.

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri and Vimeo.





Tales of Shelters and Other Things

18 08 2007

I blame that prissy-sounding title on the fact that the main theme from Return of the King just came on my iTunes. Not my fault! (But who am I kidding…I’m still in love with Howard Shore’s soundtrack to this day.) Once you’re done reading this post, the title should at least make sense.

Part One: Rondeau
Last weekend my crew went camping at Rondeau, which is, I guess, an hour or so outside of London. I drove down with Paul and Alex, and we met up with Jeremy, Pete, Beth and boyfriend Andrew in London for a bite to eat and a trip to the LCBO. We arrived at our campsite around dusk, just a hop and a skip away from Lake Erie’s shoreline. For some reason we decided it would be a good idea to cram 5 of us who were not accompanied by significant others into Peter’s 4-person tent. Fun times. Sara and her new boyfriend Ryan showed up later on in the evening. The next day we spent a lot of time at the beach and got significantly cooked while fooling around in the water and building sandcastles, (read: sand empires). We also took a lot of fantabulous pictures that day. I’ll post a couple of my favourites here, but if you’ve got any brains you should definitely check out Peter’s whole set, because some of them are really nice! Each and every one of those has been carefully retouched in Photoshop with Pete’s skilled hand, but I actually took several of the original shots with his camera. Man, I love what that thing is capable of! Also, make sure you view the pictures in their full-sized glory because it’s just not the same otherwise.


Aren’t these gorgeous?! These are probably my favourite two of the whole set, and not just because I took them. It’s pictures like these that send me into starvation mode for a quality camera of my own so I can take shots like this all the time.

So anyway, later on that afternoon Katelin showed up, (legitimately late due to a piano exam) and joined us for a scrumptious dinner of spider-dogs around the campfire. She also became the sixth member of our 4-man tent party. Tip for sleeping in overcrowded tents: Never get suckered into The Edge. That is, unless you want to be awake all night.

Sunday was overcast, and we spent the morning slowly cleaning up our site and then driving the packed cars over to the lake to soak up that last bit of beachy-goodness. After a last lunch together we went our separate ways, Alex and I in Jer’s standard transmission car of Awesome. (You guessed it, I’ve been inspired to learn how to drive stick, even if I’ll have no occasion to do so.)

Part Two: Pad
The very next day, Monday, my dad and I drove up to Guelph to start looking for an apartment for me. Unfortunately, all the places that you could actually call apartments were way out of our budget. Out of our league. Like the kids from The Sandlot versus Barry Bonds. Not cool.

But the good news is, after a few hours of pouring over the listings, making several phone calls, snooping around in people’s basements and my dad trying to set me up with the ridiculously pretty grad-student secretary at the Off-Campus housing office, I actually found a place. Yeah that’s right! I have a place to move to in Guelph next month, woo!

My home for the next 8 months is an upstairs apartment-type-thing in a semi-detached home in a small survey called Wilsonview. This little nook is just around the corner from Edinburgh plaza and Stone Road Mall. Suh-weet! Everything I need is a short walk away, including the grocery store and Rogers video. (I like Blockbuster better on principle, but meh, can’t have everything.) The bus stop is about 80 meters from my doorstep, and about 3 or 4 stops from campus. Solid.

The place itself is nice. My new landlords…erm, lord and lady? Haven’t decided what I’ll call them. “Land dudes” will suffice for now. My new land dudes are a retired couple named Doug and Mary Tonner. They seem especially nice, and are great about keeping a clean house. They have one small dog that will be leaving with them anyway when they go on vacation. “Vacation?” you say, eyebrows raised in sincere interest, “you didn’t mention this before!” I know, I’ve been saving it. Doug and Mary travel a lot. They’re planning to be in Florida for a good part of the time I’m living there. So, aside from occasional, (probably bi-weekly) check-ins from their grown son and daughter also living in Guelph, I am going to have this whole place basically to myself. I have access to their kitchen, which is neither ruled by angry felines nor located in a cold dungeon overrun with small children and clashing bright hues. Thank God! I didn’t bother to look at the laundry room, but I have no expectation that it’ll turn out to be a swamp that smells like a graveyard of soggy sleeping bags. Also, shouldn’t forget to mention that I have a bathroom (again, so far shiny and hairless) to myself regardless of whether the owners are present or not. Wonderful! Last fall I promised I’d take pictures of my place and never got around to it. This time around, please, hold me to it. (Because I know you all care so much.)

Part Three: Whatev
The rest of the week wasn’t that eventful, although in between working I did get up to some things that I’ll talk about in another post. And speaking of work, I’ve arranged to keep my post at Sears – but, alas, it’s going to involve coming home every weekend. That’s actually a pretty huge “alas”. Doesn’t quite do the dilemma justice. I mean, I like my job a lot, but I’m trying to detach myself here. Well, we’ll see what happens over the course of the year, won’t we?

Last night Pete and Paul and I attended a charity fundraising event at Quarters, McMaster University’s bar that is both pit and patio, to hear some live music performed by doctors, professors, and even Spectator journalist Jeff Mahoney. Most importantly was Katelin’s performances with her dad and brother, which was the real reason we were there. It was a good night though, we had fun.

Tune in next time for more awesome stuff about my life! Hint: It involves RAM. Don’t miss it.





BC: The Untold Story

9 08 2007

It occurred to me while writing the entry about Blizzard’s announcement of the new expansion for WoW that I never gave proper coverage of the first one. Suddenly, I had this overwhelming need to give it justice. The result is this post.

The reason I didn’t say much about The Burning Crusade (BC) expansion, which was an enormous deal in the gaming community at the time, is that I wanted to keep the knowledge that I was actually playing on the down-low. Certain people I know, (namely my parents) had issues with me playing a game – that, for some people, can be very addictive – while I was in school, and paying a hefty price to be there. All secrets have been divulged, so now, a whooping eight months after the fact, here’s the previously untold tale of WoW’s first expansion.

The night before the game was to launch, (which was at some point in January, a date that doesn’t matter) stores like EB Games were open at midnight across North America. I didn’t really expect there to be anything like this in Guelph. At the time my new town seemed like the last place you’d expect there to be a healthy WoW fanbase. So, when I found out about a midnight launch at the EB Games in Stone Road Mall, (not more than a 20 minute walk from the animal palace where I was living) Pete and I were all over it. We got there fairly early and snagged a good spot in line, with about 8 people in front of us. By midnight a line had formed behind us that stretched about halfway across the mall. This event was a big thing for us, not only due to the excitement of the game coming out, but the very line we stood in betrayed all kinds of negative stereotypes that people apply to gamers every day. In the video clip I posted earlier from the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert makes statements in his usual satirical style that reflect what are still the masses’ opinions about games. (He himself, of course, is not so ignorant, thank goodness.) Such opinions are that most people who enjoy videogames are young, socially awkward teenagers, (and some comment about their complexion is always tossed in) or jobless, sexless adults who live in their mothers’ basements or garage-apartments. Anyone who has done minimal research, as I have, knows better. For example, the average gamer-age is currently 33, and 67% of American heads-of-households play games. (Source.)

It’s one thing to read such things on the ESA’s website, or read tales on the WoW forums about whole families who play together and married couples who met ingame. It’s another thing to see those people in real life, standing around with you in a mall in the middle of the night because they’re just as excited as you. I had a conversation with a forty-something asian man who said he was taking the following day off sick so he and his son could start exploring the new content together. We wondered what the server stability would be like once everyone got home and logged on, all flocking to the same hot locations in the game world. (As it turned out, there were no significant server issues – my first night playing went off without a hitch.) Also in the crowd was a bearded late-twenty-something fellow who boasted loudly for the entire waiting period about his ingame exploits, such as how he kicked a 12 year old out of his guild for being 12. If I’d met him in game, I’d have probably thought he was the 12 year old. And as for the fairer sex? First in line were two girls about my age – I think I heard them say they arrived three hours early.

I was going to write a brief rundown of the game itself, but that seems completely irrelevant now as the newly-announced second expansion is what’s got everyone ticking. On a personal note, I played BC a lot for just under two months. I leveled my main character, the druid, to 66, and in doing so experienced much of the exotic Outland. I also started a Blood Elf mage to play as a sidekick to Peter’s new character, a Blood Elf paladin. They were fun days, but a combination of playing so much and suffering drastic game-balancing changes to my druid, (what MMO players call “nerfs”) made the novelty wear off by the time my subscription ran out in March. I have not played WoW since.

For more statistics and other research-obtained data about MMORPGs, from demographics to potential psychological effects, everyone should check out Nick Yee’s thesis work, called the Daedalus Project. It is by far the most comprehensive and unbiased database dedicated to MMOs on the web. Such is the quality of Yee’s work that he was recently featured in an hour-long segment on CNN (click for 8-minute cut) about the future of virtual worlds.





Ian Bogost on The Colbert Report

8 08 2007

Kudos to Mr. Bogost, author of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, for getting in front of a mainstream audience and trumpeting the right things. Actually, I can’t say I’m totally on-board with some of his interests. Maybe this is a naive opinion, but I don’t think these unheard of games with blaring political themes are very important to the changing landscape of media. But by golly, to what he says in the beginning about acceptance as a mainstream medium – hear hear!





B-Day Beatts

6 08 2007

On Sunday July 29th, my friends took me out for my birthday. We went to the Thirsty Cactus in Dundas. Upon finding out it was my birthday, the waitress brought me free shots and was especially friendly. It was a good night. We took some good photos too. I’m going to post the current versions here, but I’m planning to put them through some heavy editing, so more fun versions might pop up later on, we’ll see.

Superior-content posts under construction.





You Can’t Say "Music" Without Saying "Muse"

6 08 2007

On Wednesday, August 1st, Rockwell, Kat and I went to see Muse in concert at Arrow Hall (International Centre) in Mississauga. Words in my vocabulary can’t describe how mind-blowingly awesome this night was. This was the first event I’ve ever been to that would be considered an official rock concert, but apparently other bands’ live shows simply pale in comparison. They played most of our favourite songs, as well as upping appreciation for certain others. One outstanding feature was the heat. I likened it to being in an oven – albeit a very wet and crowded one – and we all left the hall that night soaking wet and totally exhausted. One of the best surprises was running into our friend from school, Stefan Herda, and some of his chums with whom we went back to Union Station.

Here’s the official setlist for the show, as well as some media:

Setlist
Knights of Cydonia
Map of the Problematique
Hysteria
Supermassive Black Hole
Butterflies and Hurricanes
Hoodoo
Apocalypse Please (short)
Feeling Good
Sunburn
Invincible
Starlight
Man of Mystery
Time Is Running Out
Newborn
————–
Soldier’s Poem
Unintended
Plug In Baby
————–
Take a Bow
Stockholm Syndrome

kudos to muse4fans.com


RAWK ON!!!!!!!!11
don’t we look delightfully sinister?


In the Waiting Line

Photos courtesy of Pete, who declined to take out his camera more than a couple times for fear of losing it.

Some video clips
courtesy of other dudes and ladies


This is some footage somebody took of the opening number, and needless to say, the video and audio quality are likely to give you a headache. All the jumping people make just about everyone’s camera work look like a Paul Greengrass film, but I think this one does a pretty good job of capturing the madness that ensues when the crowd gets excited. This is also pretty close to where we were standing – just a little further back. The back of my head is probably in this clip someplace.


A brief clip recorded during “Starlight”, (a big audience favourite) showing the mass of people clapping simultaneously.

If anyone’s interested, there’s a lot more where these came from on YouTube – search “muse august 1”.