PAX Prime 2012

I’m back. After a 2 week hiatus from writing anything that stimulated my brain, I feel more refreshed than ever. Although I can’t say the same for my aching legs that are still recovering from PAX.

I like to think of PAX as a 3 day party where all nerds and geeks alike gather in the heart of Seattle to celebrate everything from video games to even weddings. It was my fourth PAX and every year it still feels like the first. However this year it was a little different–a lot more personal and memorable. Why?

After spending nearly 2 hours in line for the MGS: Ground Zeroes panel, I frantically made my way to the queue room to spend another 2 hours in line to meet Kojima himself and get this little baby signed. It doesn’t get much better than this. If there was any developer I wanted at PAX, it was Kojima-San. Considering that I spent most of my childhood playing Metal Gear, it was unreal to meet the creator himself.

Outside of the convention center, Valve was hosting the DOTA 2 Internationals. I’m not a DOTA player but from what I saw at the finals, I’m convinced enough to start playing this worldly popular game. Furthermore the vibe and energy during each match was incredible–much like an actual sports event.

At this point, I’ve experienced most of what the expo has to offer. Panels are usually rest stops for my group to recuperate from all the tedious walking; the swag show floor is mostly a spectacle of what the booths have to offer. Although most utilize the show floor as a haven to play unreleased games, I was never one to stand in line for hours to play a game that’s coming out in a few months–unless it’s game I’ve been absolutely sold on. But don’t get me wrong, for me it’s not all about the games or panels–it’s the vibe and environment you’re surrounded by for 36 hours. Regardless of how many League of Legends cosplays I see every year or the lack of proper hygiene of 70,000 attendees, it’s what makes PAX, well, PAX. And with the expo now being extended to 4 days, I get to experience extra dosage of body odor I’ve become oh so accustomed to. Can’t wait.

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An Ephemeral Break

I often find it difficult to write these blogs when I’m stark of motivation. It’s not that I’m running out of ideas, as I have a lot of them–but I think it’s time for a little break. As a spry writer who has great ambitions of taking this hobby to something much greater and valuable, it’s a telling sign when I start groaning at the thought of writing. Writing has become more of a tedious task–which it never was. Sure, it was daunting at first, but everything  started working out once I got something going. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. Now, the task of writing has warped into something more daunting and monotonous. It’s been conflated with my aspirations of becoming a writer, which has made me ask myself: do I really want to do this? It’s a practical question to ask, definitely; but I’ll have to take some time off and think about it.

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A Letter To Melky Cabrera

Melky, you’re an idiot. Inebriating yourself with a banned substance in lest of getting caught is one of the most arrogant things anyone can do. You were never a great player; well, not until 2 years ago, when your career got an anomalous jolt–probably from the steroids you were poppin’ as if they were pills of NyQuil.

You’ve had quite the year, though: being one of the most offensively-feared players in the league that had showering All-Star MVP votes … in which the NL won. But now look at you: caught in the act; lowest of the low; cheater. I’m sure you understand how detrimental this is to not only you, but the league. Essentially, that home-field advantage is tainted by your decision to enhance your ability to swing a bat; I guess the Nationals are taking it all this year.

Looking at your stats, it certainly shows that it paid off. How did those 2 years of “respect” and “fame” feel? I’m not sure how depressed or desperate you were at the end of your 2009 season, but what exactly was going through your mind? Were you declaring–I’m sure in a slump. Steroids will fix that! Only half of that statement is 100% accurate. But in all seriousness, does it ever cross your mind that a day like today would ever happen? Or is every moment in the batter’s box a testimony to your actual “skill” and “performance”–with no recollection that the next swing that clouts that baseball is a result of those steroids.

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But Melky, I’m sure you’re a great guy … you just made a bad decision–but so did smokers…and that one time I decided to set my toilet paper orientation as under. Granted, you’re one of many players who have tested positive of testosterone, and it’s certainly not fair that I’m relinquishing all this paroxysm on you. In all honesty, what you did wasn’t atypical–which shows what kind of sport baseball has become. There have been several players throughout time–more “well-regarded” players–that have been pumpin’ those roids. But at this point it’s become a league norm. The rain of suspensions have been extremely fewer than previous years–nothing like 2006–but you’re exposing a bad message to everyone. You’re basically telling the fans and the league–You know all the those home-runs and RBI’s?…thank the ‘roids 

*proceeds to mottle biceps with lips*

I might have–just an iota–placated your suspension, but I still stand by everything I said–you are still an idiot.

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Bastion

Just when I was about to abandon all remaining hope on finding my next favorite game, Bastion comes along. I’m a bit late to the party, but for the idiot I am, I finally delved in to the world of Bastion … a year later.

Bastion is a beautiful game. It has an immersive world that complements every facet of the game; from one of the most memorable soundtracks this generation, to the masterful and distinct storytelling, Bastion is game that warrants a retail release.

The game is extremely reminiscent of early JRPG’s–you know, the good ol’ SNES and PS1 days. It has its standard weapon upgrades/customizable system and always-favored plot; but where it really preens its RPG panache is through its level designs and the overall atmosphere of Caelondia, the world of Bastion. You play as The Kid, who is formerly a prole of Caelondia’s main defensive line–The Rippling Wall.The story takes place immediately after The Calamity, a disastrous event that rippled Caelondia. Through the guidance of Rucks, the western-voiced narrator, your job is to retrieve Cores to help restructure the world. As you’re venturing to find these cores, you encounter a variety of levels that inhabit a great sense of mystery and potential. As you discover the levels, the world around you unravels–with tiles of blocks for your next steps and voracious enemies fading around The Kid. Bastion isn’t the typical game that simply renders all of its secrets to the players. It experiences the game with the players, as they attempt to fully structure the once empty-laden world. The levels in Bastion initially may appear empty and stark–but in truth, with each step you take, there is a veritable amount of significance and value.

For someone who has a patience of a 10 year-old, it’s often relieving to have a game that is conservative with its dialogue. In Bastion, the writing is brief and concise. It doesn’t overburden the players with too much information; or too less, for that matter. But considering that the crutch of the storytelling is told through the convivial narrator, it’s fitting that the dialogue outside of Rucks is somewhat stark. Furthermore, the storytelling itself is extremely compelling. The combination of a first-person narrative and an unspoken hero greatly magnifies the plot of the game. The significance of a silent main character is that it puts the aspects of the plot in perspective. Rather than having a hero that is able to think and express their thoughts, a silent one allows for players to interpret the plot for themselves–disregarding any outside source.

Bastion was a great surprise that left an expression of astonishment and amazement. It’s a game that does so many things right with its gameplay and its intangibles that many developers rarely consider nowadays. It’s hard to explain what kind of emotions were evoked out of me while playing this epic, yet short, adventure, but one thing is for sure: I haven’t had this much fun since Fallout 3.

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Gathering My Thoughts…

I’ve been in front of a computer all day going amuck trying to fix a financial aid issue; so it doesn’t look like it’ll be a word laden day.

Friday–I finished a game that re-formalized my list of top games this generation–I’m just as surprised as you are. Expect a review of this special game later in the week.

And seriously, Breaking Bad? My heart’s BPM last night reached a record-high. Brb gonna get some Xanax and add 911 to speed dial. Maybe writing about it will help.

Like I said, not a very heavy day. My mind is utterly mottled with stuporous exhaustion. I need rest, or something.

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A Letter To Dwight Howard

Goodbye O-Town, hello Lalaland– in no way shape or form was that a reference to the early 2000 boy band; those were the days, though.

Dwight Howard–

I don’t know you personally, nor do I think I ever will. It’s unfair to judge someone I don’t know– but I’m going to do it anyway because, hey, that’s what people do. First and foremost, congratulations on becoming a Los Angeles Laker; welcome to prime time. In attendance will be Hollywood superstars: Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and many other celebrities with preternatural egos. There are no hard feelings, as it’s all part of the business; you asked and you received. In Orlando you were more than just a player–you were a simpatico human being. You laughed and joked with the coaches, the media, and the fans. As a fan of you and the sport, it’s refreshing to see a player act so humanly off the court. But things became rough and sour; and that image you spent so long building, quickly went to sham.

Let’s be real, when you denied all claims about wanting Van Gundy fired, we all knew who was in the wrong. If you’re having a hard time with that, let me help you out– it was you; you were in the wrong. When management passes this kind of information to a coach, it’s mighty hard to buy that flummoxed face of yours when you were questioned on that day. But good for you; for that moment, you shelled all your remaining values and decided to portray yourself as the villain; the Joker; Hannibal Lector; Darth Vader– I’m being sarcastic, by the way. You’ve became stark in character and class– the qualities that we once thought you carried. It’s true that in the past, there has always been ugly coach-player relationships, so don’t feel too bad. But don’t get it twisted, you still have a lot to develop as a player and a human being; but fortunately, you chose the perfect place to do so.

You are now a teammate of Steve Nash, Metta Worldpeace, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant. This is definitively the best roster you’ve played with, excluding the USA Olympics and Eastern-Conference All Star team. From the 8 years you’ve played in Orlando, you’ll be handling with the most pressure and scrutiny of your career in L.A.– on and off the court. But good news for you, you’re no longer the most important player on the team; nor the second most; and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. You’re in the best situation of your life, Dwight. You have so much room to improve– which might be surprising for an 8-year veteran. In Orlando, you weren’t much a leader. You were the big-man with a marbled-chiseled body who constantly put up the best numbers on the court. But when I look at you, all I see is a great player … but that’s it. You’re now in the presence of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, two players who were drafted in the league when you were only 11 years old. Both are proven leaders that will make your job as a player a little bit easier; but it’s time for you to learn the intangibles that weren’t available to you in Orlando– it’s time to be a leader.

Eventually, the torch will be passed to you and the Lakers will become your team– assuming you come back as a Laker. Kobe and Steve are past their prime– but still have a lot left in them–Pau and Metta are off in their own worlds with their sporadic performances, and who even knows if you even considered the trifle bench. But this is not to say that you chose the wrong team. You’re playing with a team of great versatility and depth; and also a team that just became the ones to beat in the Western Conference.

But Dwight, don’t take this opportunity for granted. We all know how much you wanted to play with Deron Williams and co. and even with Jeremy Lin (lol) in Houston, but none of those teams–not even with Jay-Z–are as well-rounded as the Lakers. No matter what anyone says, you’re a perfect fit in L.A.; and despite all that’s happened in Orlando, you’re now in the City of Angels– a place where dreams come true … I think? Get back to me on that one.

Your somewhat of a fan,

Max

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I Guess I Like Batman

It took only 15 convincing minutes to finally realize what my life has been devoid of. My usual pre-bed routine consists of lying down on my mattress, while heedlessly carousing app after app as the dim light of my iPad conquers my exhausted ridden face. But last night, rather than doing just that, I decided to read Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve heard and read many great things about the story and thought I owed it to myself to finally start this iconic masterpiece; and guess what?– I’m hooked.

It’s foolhardy of me that I’ve waited this long; the first issue has been idly cached on my iPad for quite some time. And now that I’ve finally reached the end of the issues, it’s left me wanting more. I don’t remember the last time I became so inspired to read comic books; or even read, for that matter. It’s one of those moments that you start realizing what you’ve been missing out on for so many years; and the thought of knowing that there is so much more out there, imposes a frame of mind that triggers a radical sense of keenness. It was a revelational moment that got me out of the house this morning, scouring bookstore after bookstore, for graphic novels of the consummate masked vigilante.

My morning started off in Barnes and Noble where I found everything I wanted, but there was one small problem– B&N doesn’t price-match with their online store; absolute hokum. So I decided to take my business to a Half Price Books, and I’m glad I did. It’s amazing what this book-laden business had for sale. From retro vinyls to graphic novels, something about it felt too perfect– as if it was borderline illegal. I went in with little expectations that they’d stock graphic novels; so when I made my way to the cramped aisle of plethoric collections of graphic novels, I was barren of those expectations and contained with veritable trepidation. With eye-opening prices and a cluster of various items, it looks like comic books weren’t the only thing missing from my life.

Here’s the haul:

Sadly they didn’t have The Killing Joke nor Batman: Year One. But fear not– Amazon to the rescue!

I’ve beaten to death my lack commitment with these kinds of things, but I swear that no stones will be left unturned this time. Excuse me, as I need to start reading some Batman.

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