New Consoleation Video: Escapism

This week’s video is of a more personal nature, breaking down one of the reasons why I play video games– and have done so for nearly 40 years of my life. We all have our own reasons, of course, and my example of escapism or wanting to get away from real life for awhile is one that you may or may not share.

I think that we all have our own solutions for dealing with life’s challenges and difficulties. I guess that video games have just been the most consistent solution for me. Interestingly enough, a lot of the foundation with my video gaming experience came courtesy of my paternal grandmother, who I talked about in the video. Spending weekends with her almost always included a visit to one of the local mall arcades. She knew that I liked spending time there and she knew that I was gradually building my own skill sets with the games. She would always about which games I played, the scores I beat, and if I’d made any personal progress. She watched me beat Dragon’s Lair during a mall visit in 1984, courtesy of a monitor on the top of the cabinet so people could see without crowding around, and gave me a big hug afterward. It was a really special moment.

Visits with my grandmother were important during my childhood. It was a mini-vacation away from the difficulties of home life for much of the time… from the stress of being the oldest of three, from the yelling that often took place at home, from the difficult social situations that school often left me in. Arcade visits were a lot like that, too, and I mentioned that in the video. It was important to have my places, similar to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, where I could get away from things and recharge my internal batteries. As I got older, through my teens, I could go to arcades on my own… but there was still something special about going during visits with my grandmother, even into my late teens.

Anyway, I hope that you’ll check out the video. Not all memories and personal experiences can be positive or happy ones, and it may give more insight into why video games and I have remained so close over the years. Next week’s video will continue the Summer of PlayStation series, and it won’t be as emotional as this one.

One last note: My new column went live on Retroware earlier this week. It summarizes and even builds a bit on what I’ve mentioned in my Summer of PlayStation content so far. My plan at this point is to increase my output there to include one column and one retro review per month… which means bi-weekly written stuff from me. I’m looking forward to being more active there during my summer break.

That’s all from here for now. As always, thanks for watching and reading my work. I’ve recently fixed some settings here that were affecting comment submissions; although I’ll still be approving them first, you can resume leaving comments if you wish. Look for another written piece and another video next week, after the holiday weekend!

Consoleation Review: PS2 Collector (iOS App)

Cataloging a games library can be a daunting task, especially when the number of games owned reaches into the hundreds or even thousands. Sure, you can painstakingly enter each game’s information into a spreadsheet, but there are also simpler options that allow collectors to more quickly begin the process of keeping track of which games they own and/or want.

Puregaming.org offers iOS apps that do a really good job of giving collectors an easy way to keep track of and manage their libraries. I use these apps myself, for platforms including the NES, SNES, Genesis, and PlayStation– among others. Eyeballing my game shelves and cases and adding games took very little time to accomplish, and before long, I had most of my platforms accounted for.

My NES Collector app "Trophy Case".

My NES Collector app “Trophy Case”. (iPad Air 2 screen)

The PS2 Collector app is finally available, and not a moment too soon for me. My PlayStation 2 games library is close to (if not more than) 700 games, and that’s the largest number of games for any of the platforms that I own. Was it worth the wait?

In a word… yes.

The PS2 Collector app is identical to its Puregaming.org counterparts. Adding games to your collection is as easy as finding it on the alphabetical list, tapping a few fields, and moving on to the next one. There are options to classify what you own as disc-only, disc and manual, or complete… plus the app has a few customizable fields for things like included demo discs, strategy guides, or any other user definition. Each game has its own generated monetary values for loose disc, disc & manual, and complete classifications. There’s also a rarity value (between 1-12) assigned to each game, although I suspect that these rarity values may be a bit off at the time of release. Users have the option to assign their own rarity values and monetary values, as well. So, if you’d rather go by PriceCharting values, you can manually enter them if you’d like… or you can use other sources. These values are then pooled and averaged for a third set of numbers for the Other Users column, so you can see at a glance how your prices and rarity– as well as those given by Puregaming– compare with others.

Note the three columns of possible data for rarity and pricing.

Note the three columns of possible data for rarity and pricing. (iPad Air 2 screen)

As with the other apps in the Puregaming suite, my favorite feature is the Trophy Case. This is where users can see key overall stats about their game libraries, including the number of games owned, lists of the Most Rare and Most Valuable games owned, and more. Sure, it’s a bit of gloating, but it’s also interesting to see these kinds of stats and superlatives. What you see on your own lists might surprise you; for example, I had no idea that Metal Slug Anthology was so valuable, even outpacing my .hack//G.U. games.

While I’m really impressed with this app, as well as with the rest of the Puregaming Collector’s Suite, there are a few nitpicks. Buying each platform’s app from the suite separately can get expensive, for example. I’ve dropped more than $20 on these apps collectively, versus paying one flat fee for other, more general collecting apps. The issue with the rarity grades also stands out to me. I understand that the PlayStation 2 is still only recently retired, and assigning rarities to so many games is a daunting task, but it’s hard not to question some of the data. God of War and Kingdom Hearts II really can’t be that uncommon, and yet their rarity grades out of 12 are 7 and 8 here. I’m guessing that rarity grades will take more time for the PS2 to really round into some kind of standard, but some of these grades are puzzling. Another issue is with the graph in the background; even when tinkering in the settings, it’s hard to see and having it constantly obscured by other things further lessens its importance. The graphs included with the Coll’ Them All app (review soon) are much more useful and can be seen cleanly whenever the user wants. Finally, fields for game ratings, high scores, and other user experience data would be welcome; many other collecting apps have these fields while this suite only has a generic “Notes” field.

My PS2 Trophy Room. Metal Slug Anthology is valuable? Who knew?

My PS2 Trophy Room. Metal Slug Anthology is valuable? Who knew? (iPad Air 2 screen)

These are relatively minor quibbles, though. After trying multiple game collecting apps across both Android and iOS, the Puregaming.org suite impresses me the most. They’re easy to use, they sync across iPhone and iPad, display pertinent information quickly, and have been worth the money that I’ve paid for them. The app creator gladly accepts feedback, and updates the apps as needed with fixes and price changes.

Now, when I’m off game hunting, I can hopefully avoid buying more doubles.

Note: The PS2 Collector app and all other apps mentioned in this review were purchased by me from the iOS App Store. No promotional consideration was provided.

Consoleation Summer of PlayStation (VIDEO): Riiiidge Racer!

This first Summer of PlayStation video picks up where I left off with my PlayStation story. The title gives a lot away, but it’s interesting how this experience lit the fuse that sparked my interest in the PlayStation… after being only slightly interested beforehand. I would have a similar experience– thanks to the same video game store and owner– with the Dreamcast just 4 years later.

Behind the scenes: I’ve gone back to filming next to the GxTV, with games running beside me. While I may return to shooting in front of my game shelf at some point, I do like having live games running and the option to play them to drive the current topic home. It worked pretty well with the Star Wars Day episode, and I think it works okay here. I’m also having some fun with the whiteboard when shooting next to the GxTV. It’s a nod to ESPN’s Around the Horn program.

Up next: I’ll be submitting my next written piece to Retroware early next week, keeping with the Summer of PlayStation theme. My goal is to get that finished, shoot another video (keeping with my weekly schedule), and perhaps get another written piece up here. The Summer of PlayStation will a fair amount of written reviews, if all goes according to plan, and most of these will be published here.

As always, thanks for reading and for watching!

Consoleation Summer of PlayStation: The $299 Mic Drop

May 11, 2015 1 comment

PSBoot

September 9th will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the Sony PlayStation here in the United States. It was the first console that I ever got to try (via import) before it came out here. It was the first console that I ever preordered. It was the first console that I bought on launch day. The PlayStation and I– we have a special bond. Not only was it responsible for those “firsts” that I mentioned, but it was a key point of interest in my life as a whole from 1995 through 2001. My PlayStation knowledge helped me get hired to work for FuncoLand. PlayStation games became a focus for some of my early effort in writing video game reviews. Due to a weird technical circumstance, the PlayStation drove me to buy a new TV in 1997, a TV that I still own (and actively use) today. The PlayStation reinforced my love of and interest in video games in a way that no future console would.

The Summer of PlayStation, which starts here on Consoleation today, is a series of written and video content that pays homage to Sony’s freshman foray into the world of console video games. In addition to sharing some of my own personal memories of and personal experience with the PlayStation during its time on the market, I’ll be writing some game reviews and compiling lists of my favorite games in various categories. In addition, you can expect some exclusive Summer of PlayStation Consoleation content to go up over at Retroware as the summer progresses.

With that said, The Summer of PlayStation starts with… E3.

E3 took place during the period of May 11-13 back in 1995. There were two big bombshells that broke from the E3 press conferences that year. The first came from SEGA, which announced a surprise immediate launch of its 32-bit successor to the Genesis. Dubbed the Saturn, the new platform was available for immediate sale at certain retail stores for $400. The announcement pleasantly surprised some, but angered others. Retailers who were left out of the surprise launch, such as Kay-Bee Toys, were the most angry; Kay-Bee wound up refusing to carry the Saturn or its games. Publishers were also caught off-guard by the launch, which was nearly four months ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, SEGA was hitting the ground running first, assuming that a head start would be a key advantage in the upcoming war with Sony.

Sony’s own press conference in 1995 was highlighted by Steve Race, who was the president of Sony Computer Entertainment America at the time. Race’s one-number utterance changed everything.

$299 (which is really $300, but who’s counting?) severely undercut SEGA’s asking price for the Saturn. As the new kids on the block– not to be confused with the Bostonian boy band– Sony’s launch strategy was aggressive. The company had to make a splash in order to make video game consumers at the time feel as though the PlayStation was worth a shot, and coming in 25% less than the competition at that time was a big one.

Race’s $299 proclamation was Sony’s first “mic drop” moment. Sony, at least on the outside, was not going to be intimidated by SEGA or by Nintendo.

When I got word of $299 for the PlayStation, I was mildly curious. Admittedly, I was still quite happy with the hardware I had at the time. Donkey Kong Country, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, and Chrono Trigger were getting lots of playing time on the SNES. The 3DO was still getting some support, including the upcoming Slam ‘N Jam game from Crystal Dynamics. Sports games for the Genesis were also still coming, with no imminent signs of stopping. Despite this, I knew that the 16-bit era was bound to end soon. Nintendo’s Ultra 64 was a thing that was eventually going to happen, so even my beloved SNES was eventually destined for retirement. The 3DO’s struggles were apparent, sadly. As for the Genesis? The 32X debacle really soured me on SEGA at the time, and I needed to be convinced that the Saturn would be a good fit. (It never was.)

That mild curiosity of mine regarding the PlayStation would morph into something much larger just a few weeks after the E3 announcement, when I was granted a special opportunity that would introduce me to Sony’s machine well before release.

I’ll share that experience– and what came of it– next time.

Categories: Summer of PlayStation

New Consoleation Video: Konami Memories

With Konami in the video game news, engulfed in uncertainty and under siege by fans angered by the cancellation of the Silent Hills project, I thought that it was a good time to instead look back at the good times. There was a time that Konami was a video game powerhouse, and many of its games are memorable for me… so I talk about them a bit in this video.

After shooting and uploading the video, I took some time to play a couple of Konami games for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that I have in my library. As it did when I first bought it back in 1992, Contra III: The Alien Wars (which you can see playing on the GxTV in the video) kicked my butt… and I enjoyed every minute of it. I ran out of continues at the end of Stage 4. The boss battles are still awesome (and challenging) today. Then I popped in Gradius III— a game that I really hadn’t played too much since I’d added it to my collection a couple of years ago– and made some personal history as I made it all the way to the final stage of the game. I had never done that before, so accomplishing such progress after nearly 24 years was a great feeling. All that’s left is to beat the game, but I’ll have to save that feat for another day.

Even if Konami does pull out of console video gaming, which I suspect it will, I choose to remember the good things that the company gave us. I mentioned a lot of these things in the video, but I forgot a few things. Konami’s presence in Microsoft’s Game Room was pretty great. While we didn’t get Sunset Riders (which still stings today) before support for Game Room ended, we did get a nice selection of lesser-known coin-ops along with a couple of more recognizable games. While we already had Xbox LIVE Arcade versions of Scramble, Time Pilot, and Yie Ar Kung-Fu, having access to those games in addition to titles including Super Basketball, Blades of Steel, and The Main Event within Game Room added arcade authenticity. Frogger also deserves some love, even if Konami kind of ran the franchise into the ground in its later years.

Konami’s fantastic run through the 1980s and 1990s will be something that I’ll always remember, and I’m grateful to have quite a few of the publisher’s fantastic games in my Retro Library today.

Post-Mortem: For this video, I decided to changing my shooting location to where I regularly shot my Retro Unscripted episodes… right next to my GxTV. I was also able to finally put my white board to use for this video, and it was nice to have a game playing in the background to add some atmosphere to the video. I’d be curious to hear from some of you regarding shooting location… do you prefer setting up in front of my game shelf, near the TV with games playing in the background, or perhaps an alternation between the two? Also, I do understand that the sound is not what it was when I was shooting videos with the laptop. The picture quality is better via the iPad, but the sound quality is a bit more hollow. I may look into an external microphone for the iPad down the line, but it will probably be a little while before I can generate the funds to get one. That said, I’m hoping that the sound quality is still acceptable as it is.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the video, and that it brings to mind some of your own Konami memories.

Consoleation Status Report: April 28, 2015

The end-of-semester crunch is just about here, so I wanted to get this month’s status update out before I get buried in last-minute schoolwork deadlines…

Level 43: Thanks to all who sent birthday wishes! I had a couple of great Level 43 celebrations, including a nice meal (and brief game hunt) with my mom before the big day and a trip to Dave & Buster’s in Manchester, CT during the night of my birthday. The highlight of the Dave & Buster’s trip was easily spending time in the Star Wars Battle Pod. My first playthrough left me a little disoriented, given the size and scope of the screen and all of the action going on… but subsequent plays took me through all four missions that the game offers. I cleared three of the missions, but the last– an alternate reality mission where you play as Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced– was too tough for me to beat. Of course, I also got my classic arcade game fix, playing some Dig Dug and Mario Bros. while there. It was a fantastic experience.

This is how I spent my birthday. No regrets.

This is how I spent my birthday. No regrets.

Recent Retro Library additions: I added about 30 new games to my Retro Library over the last month, with a dozen of those being original PlayStation games and the rest being PlayStation 2 titles. Notable PlayStation games included Punky Skunk, Omega Boost, Resident Evil Survivor, NBA Jam Extreme, and The Three Stooges. I did find one longbox PlayStation game, which was Destruction Derby… so I’m now up to 11 longbox games total. The PlayStation 2 games were mostly acquired via my local GameStop store’s 10 for $10 clearance deal; among the plethora of music games, I did find a few discs that I didn’t yet have… including Capcom Fighting Evolution, Medal of Honor Vanguard, Need For Speed ProStreet, and Street Hoops. Now that my birthday is over, additions to my Retro Library will probably be more limited over the summer unless I stumble across some extra money or find the occasional deal while visiting tag sales or flea markets.

Consoleation video updates: Since the last status update, three new Consoleation video episodes have been posted to my YouTube channel. I also posted a video about the RetroWorld Expo, which I’m really looking forward to attending in October. That’s a pace of one new video each week, which I think is about right for me… and it’s a pace that I’m hoping will continue for the foreseeable future. Episode length right now is between 11-12 minutes; I do worry sometimes that it’s a bit too long, but I also don’t want to fear a clock while I’m discussing a topic. I’ll try to be mindful of too much length, but not at the cost of sharing what’s on my mind as clearly and thoroughly as I’d like. Episode #5 will be shot this week, possibly as soon as today (April 28th).

Retroware contributions: May will mark one year since I started contributing written work to Retroware, under the Consoleation brand. My most recent piece went up back on April 7th, coinciding with the start of the Major League Baseball season. May will likely see one new article– sometime in the second half of the month, after my college semester ends– and then I’ll be shooting for getting back to a bi-weekly contribution schedule for June, July, and August. I remain grateful for the continued opportunity to contribute to Retroware; being a part of the family there means a great deal to me.

The Summer of PlayStation: Leading up to September 9th, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the launch of the PlayStation here in the United States, my goal this summer is to create a series of videos and written pieces celebrating Sony’s 32-bit machine. As with most of my work, this content will revolve heavily around my own experiences with the PlayStation– talking about how I first found out about the console, my first experience with it, how I got through the long summer before it launched, and talking about several games. I’m hoping to culminate the event with a written contribution for Retroware that will hopefully go up on September 9th, as well as with a video and written piece here celebrating the PlayStation’s 20th anniversary on that day. I don’t know yet how much content that I’ll create for this series, but it’s a priority for the summer and will be a definite theme in my social media presence.

The Summer of PlayStation is coming...

The Summer of PlayStation is coming…

So… that’s it for another monthly Consoleation Status Report. Aside from the next Consoleation video episode later this week, things may be a bit quiet here until the semester ends on May 9th. After my last final exam on May 13th, though… I’ll be free to do a bit more. I can’t wait.

Birthday Reflections: I am Level 43!

April 22, 2015 1 comment

Birthday Shirt

As I celebrate my 43rd birthday in less than an hour, I’m grateful for a lot of things. I’m grateful for being able to focus on school and getting my teaching degree. I’m grateful for my family, who not only has been so supportive of me… but who have also put together an awesome birthday for me this year, between gifts and a trip to Dave & Buster’s to celebrate the big day. I’m grateful for being at least somewhat healthy, even though battling hay fever this season has been challenging at time.

I’m also grateful for the retro video gaming community, which includes retro stores, retro-related writing and video talent, and everyone who talks with me about the games that I enjoy so very much. Three years ago, when I turned 40, the retro community came into my life at a time when I really needed something positive… something to focus on that wasn’t having to do with how difficult my life was at the time. I had moved back to Massachusetts from a failed living experiment in Arizona, having lost many of my possessions and with very little money remaining. It was a humbling experience to move back in with family and figure out how to start over. My self-esteem was shattered, I had no focus, and I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with what was left of my life.

In the spring of 2012, just before my 40th birthday, I was turned on to a site called Retroware, and a fellow called Pat the NES Punk whose videos were housed there. I had recently scrounged the money together to purchase a Super Nintendo from my cousin and my interest in older games and systems was growing. He recommended Pat’s work to me– notably his Flea Market Madness series– and I binge-watched the rest of his videos. His focus on the NES for reviews stoked my interest in that platform again, much like I felt before getting a system back in 1990. I wound up receiving an NES for my birthday from an Internet friend, and my mother took me to a local flea market to find some games for it. My course was set, and I was excited to be “collecting” games like so many others in the retro community.

Yeah, that's me. Over the hill.

Yeah, that’s me. Over the hill.

Three years later, I’ve managed to build a library of older games and systems. I bought some myself, thanks to trades or sporadic occasions when I had saved a bit of money. Thanks to stores like Game Depot and Game Xchange, even a little bit of money has managed to go pretty far in terms of adding games to my library. I’ve also been extremely fortunate in that friends and family have donated or bought games and even a couple of systems as gifts. I’ve also been honored to be contributing articles to Retroware, the site that I became such a fan of three years ago. Finally, I’ve been creating my own video and written content, taking inspiration from the many talented and driven creators whose work I’ve admired: Pat the NES Punk, Norman “The Gaming Historian” Caruso, The Game Chasers, Joe “SpaceKappa” Walker, Matt “Cygnus Destroyer” Ezero, the Living in 8 Bits team, RetroLiberty, Joe and Dave from Game Sack, Classic Gaming Quarterly, and many, many others.

Being a part of the retro community for the past three years has been the gift that truly has kept on giving. It’s provided me with inspiration, excitement, focus, a desire to continually increase my knowledge, and a platform to share my memories and experiences of the video games that I hold so dear.

The clock has struck midnight, and I’m now Level 43! Thank you for celebrating with me, for your support, and for being so awesome.

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