Thank you, Josh Beckett. Thank you.

DG and I seem to have both caught a cold at the game Friday night. She blames the Yankees. It stinks to be sick on such a glorious day like today.

Late to the party as usual, we’ve started watching Heroes and Burn Notice. Both are pretty cool. I’ve managed to turn away from CSI Miami, at least for now. Once you’ve seen twenty or thirty episodes, they all start to seem the same. Of course, Psych still has a special place in my heart.

I’ve been replaying Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Xbox, since it was added to the backwards-compatible list for the 360. It’s definitely one of my favorite games of all time. While doing some surfing today, I came across this nice retrospective on the game from last year. It does a good job of describing what keeps my playing this game so long after it came out.


In the spirit of the “vacation” I took last week, I’m going to do a little tidying up in this post, hitting a lot of points with no real theme.

DG and I took Thursday and Friday off last week for a little mini-vacation. I’ve got vacation days that expire at the end of June and don’t roll over, so I thought I’d burn a few during the college’s spring break. And DG just wanted to get out of the lab for a while. We spent most of it cleaning the apartment, watching the snow, and playing on the Wii.

Most of the games we’ve played on the Wii thus far have been old ones—specifically Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong Country. All good games, though I have to admit to being frustrated by SMB. I beat Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 as a kid, but I was never able to beat the first one. That eighth level was just too hard, and it was difficult to get extra lives in that game. I think my inability to beat SMB may be responsible for my general lack of perseverance in life. All my failures are heaped at the foot your toadstool, Mario, you and your twitchy controls on that first game.

Wormy fate

I downloaded Worms for the Xbox Live Arcade this morning. I’ve been a Worms fan since the very first version of the game back in the early ’90s (though I never tried the 3D versions, as I think that’s just not the right format for the property).

While the game is as good as ever, I do have a couple of beefs. First, the game was designed for HD, and like Dead Rising, a lot of the text (and even some of the graphics) look a little small and blurry on my non-HD TV. Alien Hominid is HD as well, but it looks fine to me, so I don’t know what the deal is. The only difference I can think of is that AH’s graphics are larger, and it doesn’t have any actual “type” text (just big cartoony text), which may make the difference.

My other beef is with the controls. Alien Hominid maps the “shoot” button on X and the “jump” button on A. Worms maps them exactly opposite. This has cost me several wormy lives today; as brave Commander Corndog turned to fire his bazooka upon a foe, he instead found himself leaping to a watery grave.

Worms doesn’t offer the ability to edit the controls, which means I’ve got to teach my brain to distinguish both control sets. Unfortunately, both games make extensive use of those two functions.

But it gave me a thought: why can’t Microsoft offer the ability to remap the controls of any game? You can already add custom soundtracks to any game. As long as all you’re doing is swapping among the same number of buttons, there’s no reason not to make this an option.

Finish the fight

Recently, with all the love being lavished upon the Wii by the likes of Ed and Robin, I considered the possibility of requesting a Wii rather than an Xbox 360 (my birthday comes four days after Christmas, so these days I tend to just ask my parents for one big gift for both Christmas and birthday).

But I’m certain the 360 is the right system for me. It helped to check out the new Halo 3 television ad. Not only does the game look fantastic, but while watching the video I got the sort of excited sensation previously reserved for something like glimpses at early footage of The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m looking forward to Halo 3 with more anticipation than any movie (with the possible exception of Hellboy: The Golden Army), which just goes to show how much the videogame industry has stolen the thunder of the film industry for fans like me.

The 360 will also have the upcoming Hellboy game and will be the exclusive home of BioWare’s Mass Effect (and possibly Alan Wake, outside the PC). More importantly, many of my friends—including my cousin and lifelong gaming buddy Mike—have 360s, so I’ll finally be able to join them over Xbox Live. I’m looking forward to going through Gears of War in co-op mode with Mike, just as we did with Contra back in the days of the NES. While the Wii has a lot going for it (and there’s a chance DG may get one from her parents for Xmas), my allegiance—for this round of consoles—belongs to the 360.

Evil Dead: Regeneration

As I’ve discussed before, I became a fan of the Evil Dead films around age fifteen, when the films were so obscure, my parents had to buy used tapes from a Canadian video store to get me the films for Christmas. By the time I got to college, the films had already gone from cult to legendary status, and by the time I’d graduated from college, there were not only a half-dozen different special DVD editions of the three films, but action figures, comics, and a video game.

Anyone seen my sleeve?

To be fair, there was actually a video game even before Evil Dead II; there was a 1984 Evil Dead game made for the Commodore 64. But the first post-ED boom game was Evil Dead: Hail to the King, released for the Playstation in 2000. It was a survival horror game a la Resident Evil, which probably wasn’t the best genre for a game based on Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness. The game tanked, despite a decent ad campaign featuring Evil Dead star Bruce “Ash” Campbell. The next attempt, for the Playstation2 and Xbox in 2003, was a rip-off of the game State of Emergency, and the game was little more than running around killing monsters.

Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!

I just finished playing Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. I was a huge fan of the The Secret of Monkey Island and later played both the third and fourth games, but somehow I missed the second one, and after being reminded of the games by Ed recently, I decided to hunt it down.

virtual Germans

I’ve been playing Call of Duty 2 lately. I lost interest in the FPS (first-person shooter) genre after Quake II (with the notable exception of the Halo games), but COD2 came with my graphics card and apparently was the best-selling game of the holiday season (nothing says Christmas like an M3 Grease Gun), so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The graphics are excellent, and based on the evidence (my sitting in front of the computer for extended periods time, my lowered blink rate, and the relative frequency of cursing at a pixelated enemy), I’d have to say the game is fun.

But playing has made me wonder–how many virtual Germans have I killed in my time? Games like Wolfenstein 3D, Return to Wolfenstein, and Bloodrayne feature the wholesale slaughter of Nazis, to name just a few games. How many virtual Germans have been slain in WWII-themed videogames? Probably many, many more than were actually killed in the war. Movies like the Indiana Jones films, Hellboy, and pretty much any WWII film reinforce the notion that Nazis exist to be destroyed without a second thought.

The whole Nazis-as-villains thing sometimes makes me uncomfortable. They make such perfect stock villains. Slaughtering them is like killing orcs in a fantasy game; there are no moral qualms attached. It’s not hard to understand; murdering six million people in cold blood tends to get you painted in a certain light–for eternity. Of course, we all know that your average Joe Sausage in the German army probably wasn’t entirely aware of the Holocaust and was almost certainly being misinformed about them, as well as the war effort in general. But that’s really beside the point; for the limited purposes of an action movie or a video game, the soldiers are identified with the Nazi regime, and as such are subject to annihilation.

What I find a bit more interesting is that you never seem to hear any protests from Germans about games like COD2. They never make the above argument regarding the soldiers and sit idly by while their virtual ancestors are wasted time and again. I’m sure there have been protests, but I’ve never heard of one, which presumably means they haven’t been very loud.

On the other hand, the makers of the Western FPS GUN have been censured by the Association for American Indian Development for its use of Indians as bad guys in the game. And you certainly do kill Indians; you gun them down as they hoot and howl, firing arrows and wielding hatchets. And yes, you can scalp them after you kill them (though you can do that to anyone, not just Indians). There’s no question GUN presents a pretty 1860s portrait of the whole cowboys and Indians thing. There are some good Indians, including one who runs a store and another who teaches you to shoot a bow and arrow, but I have to admit that when I first spoke to these characters, I was surprised they weren’t trying to kill me for slaughtering two dozen of their kind just a few minutes earlier.

In any event, the Association for American Indian Development did make a protest. Yet you don’t hear much from the German Veterans Society. Here’s my theory. The Germans have made an unspoken deal with world pop culture: we can use Nazis as stock villains in our entertainment as long as we agree not to bring up the whole Nazi thing too often in the “real” world.

And while there’s plenty of Holocaust literature, there isn’t a whole lot about Germany of that time in pop culture (aside from Nazis, of course). Family Guy even made a joke about it, in an episode where Brian and Stewie are in Germany and Brian points out to a tour guide that the leaflet doesn’t mention any German history from 1939-1945. The tour guide ignores him–before descending into a parody of a Nazi.

At this point, I feel I should write some sort of wrap-up “final thoughts” paragraph, but this isn’t an essay and I don’t have a conclusion. This is really just an extended humorous observation, just one step removed from a Jerry Seinfeld joke. But my writer’s ear dictates I get a few more syllables in to complete the rhythm. There.


Given the name of this site, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out:
Jaws: the Videogame

To my knowledge, there’s only been one other JAWS-based videogame: a 1987 Nintendo game based on the terrible JAWS: The Revenge (which actually had the tagline “This Time, It’s Personal”–on a side note, I’m curious whether this is the origin of that particular action-film bromide). To be honest, I loved the NES game as a kid, but there’s no question it was pretty inane.

You played a diver who was trying to kill Jaws, but most of the game involved shooting crabs and jellyfish to collect conch shells. Jaws only showed up once in a blue moon–and the sad thing was, if you swam to the very top of the waves, he couldn’t hit you.

It looks like the makers of this new game are doing it right–the only way a JAWS-based game could be fun, really: you play the shark. It’s your job to destroy as many boats and eat as many people as possible. It seems like an aquatic version of Grand Theft Auto, minus the hookers (unless a few of them are on vacation, I guess).

The game features a number of locations from the film and its sequels, and in the game trailer I think I saw the Universal Studios ride being destroyed.

The game comes out in August and is pre-selling for only $40, so it sounds like one of those games that’s priced just about right–it’s no Halo 2. But it will allow me to play out one of my childhood fantasies–that of being a huge, man-eating shark.

What, doesn’t every kid dream about that at some point?


I’ve taken down “One of a Hundred” because I may be submitting it to some magazines for publication soon. I apologize for all the vanishing content–lord knows the site needs more. I’ll try to fill the space with some other work–perhaps an article, or a review or two.

One of the magazines I’m submitting to is Flashing Swords, an excellent online magazine of sword and sorcery. I highly recommend it to fans. In just two issues they’ve published some great stories, including long-forgotten reprints of stories by early pulp author Harold Lamb.

If you’re a fan of the genre, be sure to check out their anthology of sword and sorcery, Lord of Swords, which includes stories from Tanith Lee and E.E. Knight.

I’m in the midst of re-reading The Hobbit, to be followed by LOTR. It’s been more than three years since I last read them, and I find reading LOTR to be a rejuvenating experience. I always find something new in them; and while Tolkien wasn’t the best writer stylistically, his unlimited imagination and the Zusammenhang of Middle-earth (the way every aspect of it is painstakingly detailed and defined, such as language, geography, history, and even race relations) is endlessly inspiring. Few (if any) fantasy writers have been as talented at (or as obsessed with) world-building as Tolkien. And there are a few great characters in there, particularly Gandalf and Gollum.

When I read the novels, I always use the old Ballantine paperbacks my father bought me when I was in high school. I own nicer, collectible editions, but for reading purposes I find the paperbacks as comfortable as a worn-in pair of shoes.

In high school, I also played Middle-earth: The Wizards, the original collectible card game based on Tolkien’s work. The game had excellent mechanics and challenging gameplay, and it was a lot of fun. I was the undisputed master of it within our group (mostly because I enjoyed it the most and collected a lot of cards, including the One Ring). Best of all, it had beautiful artwork from all the big names in Tolkienian art. Many of those cards informed my mental vision of the people, places, and things in the novel. I’ve still got all my cards, and sometimes I wish I could find someone to play with again.

I remember my favorite trick involved a card called “Sacrifice of Form,” which allowed you to sacrifice your wizard to defeat some terrible threat–usually a Nazgul, though I think I actually used it on the Balrog once or twice. You received a load of marshalling points for beating the monster, then got to revive your wizard on a later turn–and he would be more powerful than before. It’s analogous to the Gandalf the Gray/Gandalf the White transformation from the novel.

Another interesting thing about the game was that it included two wizards not mentioned in the novel, Alatar and Pallando, known as the “Blue Wizards” (and actually mentioned in some of Tolkien’s writings, such as Unfinished Tales). I often used them just for the novelty of it.

Unbelievably, the website that I consulted for information about the game waaaay back in 1996 is still online: Middle Earth: the Wizards Guide.