Living in a Galaxy far far away

Sometimes, despite all the technology we have in today’s advanced society, one might yearn for more. It’s human nature, to want what you can’t have; thus, I think if I had to choose a fictional world in which to live, I’d choose the world of Star Wars. Sure, Facebook and smartphones are nice, but they pale in comparison to starships and bacta tanks, not to mention lightsabers and blasters.

More than just being able to “live in space”, I’d be able to fly around wherever I felt like and explore planets in a starship. If I was feeling like gambling, I’d head to Mos Eisley on Tatooine; if I felt like taking a vacation, I could head to the city of Theed on Naboo. Just the ability to go to these various places in the blink of an eye is tantalizing, and the possibilities for success are endless.

The obvious jump when one talks about living in the world of Star Wars is to become a Jedi; of course, that would be great, but even if I couldn’t do that, I could become a smuggler or bounty hunter. Sure, there are other professions, (I even could potentially take sides in the war between the Empire and the Rebellion) but hunting down bounties or smuggling spice throughout the galaxy would both also be awesome and fulfilling, adding to the amazing appeal of the Star Wars universe.

 

-Spencer Smith

Child Of Eden: Electronic Art

Video games have transformed from the days in the arcade. They have moved away from the 16bit blocky graphics to fully immersive 3D worlds, where a player can get lost in for hours at a time. Art, if done right, should elicit emotion in the viewer; art should enthrall and entice as well as satisty.

Recently, a game came out that can only be described as “trippy”; not only was it based in space, but was controlled by your body motions through the Xbox Kinect. Child of Eden is the kind of game where if you play it for long enough, you might lose touch with reality. You use your hands to control your ship, which blasts through artistic forms and enemies, often creating something visceral and beautiful at the end.

In this game, one controls the stars in space as you create incredibly artistic forms and images. You’re blasting stars for points, but you’re also a cosmic painter; your hands are your tools and you traverse multiple galaxies. It enthralls and excites, and leaves the player feeling better for playing it. Certainly not all video games are art, but some are certainly striving to be considered, and I believe Child of Eden is one of those games.

 

-Spencer Smith

An Ugly Competition

Usually in documentaries, you don’t see a true definitive “good” or “bad” guy; however, in The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, the two main subjects are clearly defined, clashing in a battle of good and evil. The good is embodied by Steve Wiebe, the perpetually down-on-his-luck family man who just needs the world record score on Donkey Kong. The evil is none other than Billy Mitchell, a self-promoting, narcissistic, apparent hypocrite who has held the record for 20+ years. Rather than an epic war between these two rivals, or even a battle, we are presented with Steve Wiebe playing Donkey Kong, while Billy Mitchell stands back and talk to his minions, who are interspersed in the main game score company? Honestly I wouldn’t even know what to call Twin Galaxies, the self-proclaimed “main scoreboard” for all of video games; the supposed pure intentioned organization that basically ruins the movie by exposing the cultish bureaucracy behind “official” video game scores. Instead of what would seem to be the easy task of putting two men in front of an arcade machine and saying “play”, the entirety of this 90 minute movie is a struggle to get the two men to play each other.

Unfortunately for our hero Steve Wiebe, his nemesis Billy “Helen of Troy” Mitchell dodges every attempt at an actual competition, and in this, really exposes how weird and exclusive hardcore gamers can and will be. Even after supposedly winning the heart and respect of the rather creepy “Master Referee” Walter Day, Wiebe can’t catch a break on anything when it comes to competitive gaming (just like the rest of his life, apparently. We are treated to a rather large slew of Steve Wiebe’s life problems throughout this film, making it almost impossible not to root for him). The cryptic, cult-like behavior of the rest of the 30something professional gamers stops Wiebe at every turn, whether it be breaking into his garage to take apart his arcade machine or disqualifying his video taped world record Donkey Kong run.

Evenetually the movie does end unceremoniously with Steve Wiebe “officially” breaking Mitchell’s record, but it almost seems an afterthought, considering after this entire movie, I really just didn’t care that much anymore. After witnessing odd and weird injustices to poor Wiebe occur throughout the entire movie, including the intentional mispronouncing of his name by the old and creepily immature super nerds that run the classic gaming community, I just wanted out of this particular subculture. It’s not something for normal people, and personally it makes me glad to stick to my Xbox and not feel like wandering into the realm of classic arcade games.

-Spencer Smith

It’s hard to pick just one…

When I began thinking about my favorite game, I couldn’t settle on a single one. There’s too many different, amazing types of games to choose from; from the nostalgia-inducing Super Mario 64, or the narrative wonder that is L.A. Noire, or even the game I probably play the most, Madden. I had to settle upon one game, the one that combined not only great and compelling gameplay, but a fantastic story as well. It’s a hard choice, but between my top two, I have to give the nod to Red Dead Redemption, with Mass Effect 2 coming in a close, close second. Not only does RDR bring a fast paced, open world laced with entertaining shoot em up gameplay, but it also ties together an unforgettable, heartbreaking story as well.

I was never a huge Western fan. In fact, the closest I got to experiencing the Western genre was watching “Wild Wild West”, and that movie is pretty damn bad. But a triple A title by Rockstar is usually too good to pass up, so I went over to my local Blockbuster and rented a copy of Red Dead Redemption. Needless to say that Blockbuster never saw that disk again. Besides the tragedy that was protagonist John Marston’s life, RDR hooked me on the competitve multiplayer as well. I didn’t see too many flaws with this game, and I spent my down time for a month after getting it playing it. Shooting bandits, riding horses, hunting animals, and even cheating at Liar’s Dice or Poker; this game has it all. After experiencing the 30 hour story of Red Dead Redemption, I went out and watched a bunch of Western movies, reread the Lonesome Dove book series, and did the best I could to further immerse myself into this lesser known genre.

It’s a hard choice for a gamer to pick his favorite game, but it comes down to a simple truth. To be honest it just got me, this game, and to this day another hasn’t as much as this one did.

 

-Spencer Smith

Gaming’s not so bad

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a “gamer”. Ever since I got that N64 for my 5th birthday, I’ve been enthralled by the video game, of any sort of genre. My friends and family have never minded my sometimes hardcore gaming; in fact, I’ve been able to convert a good many of them to my gaming ways (recently my dad beat Mass Effect 1 and 2, after days and days of struggles). I’m one of the vast majority of gamers, one who can effortlessly juggle a social life and academics, all while on a pretty demanding raid schedule. Unfortunately for us gamers, this balanced, moderate way of gaming usually occurs in the background while the common perception of the “gamer” shines in the spotlight; an image of an overweight, socially inept “video-game nerd” is what people seem to associate with the term gamer. Sure, there are those people, the kind you see during media coverage of Comic-Con, or at your own local comic or game conventions. But what people don’t do is judge these gamers beyond their physical appearance; sure, they may not be a perfect 10, or even smell nice, but they’re usually down to earth people who just happen to have a passion for something that’s not quite mainstream.

That’s why I don’t mind admitting I’m a gamer. Sure, it may not be the coolest thing to do, and the vacant looks when I try to explain myself sometimes do get on my nerves, but it’s part of who I am. My family and friends accept me for it, and I’m more than ok with it. Sometimes I wonder what I’d be like if I had never picked up that first game of Mario Kart, or downloaded that WoW trial, but in the end, it helped define me today and I definitely like who I am.

-Spencer Smith, aka Swagstache the Human Captain