Points

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Achievements. Trophies. Icing on a video gamer’s cake.

The virtual playgrounds of Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network (PSN) each feature what basically amount to  mini-games, the achievement/ trophy grind. In a battle that has no meaning, players try and see who can out achieve and out trophy their fellow gamer. Street cred in its digital essence.

I was recently playing through Uncharted, when I noticed I was receiving trophies for “50 headshots” and “100 kills with a pistol”. While I knew that these trophies really didn’t mean much, they kind of did. The more I played the more I noticed how much I liked receiving these in-game accomplishments. It was as if someone had come and patted me on the back, every once in awhile, for completing some soulless task.

Many of us work thankless jobs; jobs where negativity thrives in the absence of praise. These small, pointless, meaningless achievements and trophies are a breath of fresh air after a hard day of work. Even though I know that they mean nothing, ultimately they do. In the rush of everyday life, the rewards systems employed by these online networks reinforce that feeling that your actually achieving something for the time your investing.

One has to openly wonder though if all this icing is somehow fattening our egos. Will we come to expect being praised for doing something as simple as getting dressed? I wonder…

(Somewhat Related: In marriage, the points don’t come as easily… Check out the video below!)

The Collection

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Once upon a time, I collected video game systems and games as a hobby.

*Not my collection. Would have been cool though...

I slowly built up my collection over time. A SEGA Saturn here; a random game there. Often I would plug in a misc.  system and play some of the games I had for the fun of it. As time progressed, however, I found that my collection was gathering dust. Mt interests had changed. I mean, I still liked playing video games but didn’t feel the need to collect them anymore. So, I started to sell off the mounds of hardened plastic I had accumulated. I remember that  upsetting me at first. No longer would I be able to play Panzer Dragoon for the heck of it. The collection that had been everything to me was being dwindled away into nothing.

We all find our identity, who we are, in the things that we believe and do. For a long time, my identity had been as a video game collector. With the selling of my collection, that was a title I would no longer bear. Perhaps this was a good thing though. Collecting chunks of plastic, consoles and games, only to let them collect dust and ultimately not be played makes no sense. It’s like me going into the public library, buying all the books up, only to never read them or let anyone else read them for that matter. “Captain it is simply not logical.”

Since the great video game purge, I have tried to limit my video game library. I have done this by becoming an avid user of Goozex, on online video game trading site. This has allowed me to obtain $60 games by getting rid of games that I no longer play. This has occasionally led me to slight dilemmas of which games to get rid of -the inner collector in me wanting to keep them all!- . As I stated above though, this makes no sense. Especially when I can take a game I no longer play and trade it in for something I actually  will.

Worldview

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A recent run-in with a game developer got thinking me about game creators/ developers and the lens with which they view the world.

Worldview – “A worldview describes a consistent (to a varying degree) and integral sense of existence and provides a framework for generating, sustaining, and applying knowledge.”

As a Christian, I view the world through the lens of the Bible and the man Jesus Christ. Within this framework, I make judgement calls and live life. Everything I process and believe is tainted, per se, by my Christian worldview. What happens though when a game creator/ developer offers a rival lens with which to view the world? For example, say they view the world through a “patriot”-driven, anti-government, atheist lens. What then? Would all the games they potentially work on be flavored by their personal opinions? To some extent, yes.

I write this today in hopes of bringing about awareness. Christian or not, we should all be evaluating the things we take in, be it in books, movies, music, or video games.

Virtual Real Estate

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I have never owned real estate in a game before. In the past, saving up money and having an actual housing option stopped me from making such a commitment. Until now…

Note my awesome hat!

Lord of the Rings Online offers housing options that are not prohibitive in price. A starter home only costing about 1 gold. My interest piqued, I decided to visit the local real estate agent in Bree. I was quickly given a list of homes available. Not knowing if one neighborhood was better than another (I have no idea what school districts are like in Bree), I randomly picked a neighborhood to see what was offered.

I love the cartoon drawing of the house. It's the little things.

The house was small, situated on a good piece of property, and had a convenient mailbox located outside. Inside, the floors were bare and the walls ready to be decorated with my spoils of war. Now, I do want to note that while there are no utility costs involved, there is a monthly upkeep fee (in the case of this house, 50 silver). Wonder if that is for both the gardener/ housekeeper? Having seen enough of the house, I rode around the neighborhood and happened upon an area meant for parties. Wonder how many this area holds?

I was all ready to purchase a house, however, I found myself a bit short on funds. A few more adventures across Middle Earth should do the trick. I’ll be sure to post a picture of my house once I have settled in. Until next time.

Demo Friday

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Today has been a demo day for me. First up on the list was Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution on the PS3.

The only other Sid Meier game I have ever played was one of the first Civilization games. I found that game to be dull, complicated, and had absolutely no patience for it. Civilization Revolution, on the other hand, plays at a faster and more entertaining pace. I was so engrossed in my fight against the Aztecs and the more recent discovery of the Egyptian culture (I was playing as the Romans) that I became a little angry when the demo came to an end. What would happen to my cities of Bryantopia, Bryansville, and Awesome? I guess I’m going to have to buy the full game to find out.

The next game on my demo tour was Ron Gilbert’s DeathSpank.

Unlike the humor found in the Monkey Island series, I just couldn’t connect with DeathSpank’s humor. I found myself continually skipping through the quest text, bored. The combat was fun and the controls were tight. Overall, just not my thing.

Dreams

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Sorry the picture is so grainy…no flash photography was allowed in this part of the game. Might scare the zombies!

I do not do well with scary stuff. Take for instance a sudden twist in the Uncharted storyline last night. Everything had been going along swimmingly, when suddenly a past Nazis influence was introduced. Poof! Cue the supernatural elements such as killer Zombies -thankfully not armed with weapons, yet!-. After battling through darkened corridors with only a flashlight, I finally thought I had gotten away from this demonic horde. I was wrong. Very wrong. The game’s developers then decided to chuck not only zombies at me, but terrorists as well. A deadly combination burrito. Without the cheese.

Jurassic Park. Apparently not a fun place considering all anyone does is run and die.

All of the above to say that I had some pretty intense dreams last night. I dreamed of a zombie apocalypse that was somewhat akin to the movie Jurassic Park. Except this time…all of the golden retrievers died.

Dreams can take us to the wildest of places. Sometimes making sense and other times not. I am thankful not to live in a dream world…the nightmares are far too intense.

What crazy dreams have you had recently?

Victory in Death

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“Stories of people who died after living godly lives are stories with happy endings.” – Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I recently had the privilege of attending my wife’s grandfather’s funeral. As words were said about him, I couldn’t help but feel convicted over where I am in my own spiritual walk and life. Her grandfather was a man of:

  • Prayer
  • Conviction
  • and Dedication

Married for over 66 years, my wife’s grandfather was a fantastic example (while still humanly flawed) of how a Christian should live his life.

Death, that thing that we shove into a corner for a rainy day, awaits us all one day. It is something that could happen to anyone of us, even in this very moment. If your like me, you don’t think that this is true. You somehow feel invincible. Guess what? Your not.

Of this we can all be certain:

  • One day we will all die.
  • On that day we will be judged.

27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, – Hebrews 9:27

Even now, you might find yourself wanting to continue to push this topic aside. “It’s too morbid,” you might say. Making a decision to accept Christ, by simply believing in Him, is the difference between living a life of victory (in Christ!) versus one that ends in defeat.

Confessions of an MMO Tourist: Cataclysm Edition

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A few months back, I had heard that there had been a cataclysm in Azeroth. All of the lands and continents of the game had been changed. Realizing that this might be a great time to visit at a discounted rate, I made sure to keep my eyes open for travel deals. No sooner had I started my search, when an e-mail arrived in my inbox with this subject line: “Bryan – Try World of Warcraft: Cataclysm FREE for 10 Days.” 10 whole days of vacationing in a new land, for free? How could I not pounce on this offer? A game client download and a few patches later, I found myself venturing once more in the lands of Azeroth.

A giant lurks in the mist.

Blizzard wasn’t joking when they said that things had changed. Right away I noticed the two new races featured in the game, the Worgen and the Goblins. So I decided to choose a new race. The thought of being a werewolf was too amazing to pass up, so I quickly created a Worgen mage by the name of Ruford. Ruford and I rode around the Worgen starting area, slowly learning about the Worgen infestation and how the great cataclysm occurred.

Ah Gilneas, World of Warcraft at its most refined.

My adventures with Ruford lasted until level 9. It was then that I decided that enough was enough. Though Cataclysm represents a fantastic upgrade to the World of Warcraft experience, the game is still the same. Frustrated, I quit playing. 10 days later I find myself wanting to play again…but alas, it is not to be. Farewell new content!

Super Meat Fail!

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Dear Team Meat,

I know I probably shouldn’t let stuff like this bug me…but it does. I have been wanting to play your game, Super Meat Boy, for awhile now. So, I went to check out your blog when I came across this post:

So Christmas is coming up. My family doesn’t celebrate the Jesus version of Christmas, we celebrate the awesome give toys and stuff to people…which I think is better. Must have been hard on Jesus to have a birthday so close to Christmas…probably why he acted out and got in trouble with those Romans. Poor guy, he just wanted attention…

I know the post is old, but I am still bothered by it. Such flippancy/sarcasm towards Christ and my faith…I find it sick. If Jesus Christ was just out to get attention, being the Son of God and all, I’m sure he could have found a better way to do so. No, instead of attention, He came to die for both you and me. A selfless act versus some sort of modern day attention whoring.

I’m not sure where I am going with this, but I am sick of people (like you) thinking that it is cool to bash on Christ and Christianity just for the heck of it. From my own experience, these same people preach tolerance. Living a double standard? I think so.

If you have been hurt by Christians, I am sorry (we can talk about it). If you want to celebrate a Christ-less Christmas, then go for it. In the end, all I want is respect for what I believe and for the God I serve. I’m not looking to win a medal here…just looking for a little respect. Team Meat, you have failed in this department, and I will not be purchasing your game unless some sort of apology is given. Being a bit of a pessimist, I doubt that will ever happen. From this day forth, I will be staying away from the virtual meat you serve.

Sincerely,

Bryan

Shank: The Demo

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Ultra violent. Gritty. Extreme.

Awhile back I downloaded the demo for Shank, an old school side-scrolling brawler of sorts, on the PS3 (also on PC and 360). The game follows the title character through the dirty streets of some nameless town (at least in the demo). Shank is after THE BUTCHER, a luchadore that beat the crap out of him and stole his girl. Wrought on revenge, through any means necessary, Shank battles to win not only his pride but his woman back. Sound like a typical Tarantino script? I’d say yes!

So the demo starts as Shank begins his road of bloodshed and violence. Ultimately ending with him killing the wrong masked wrestler. “WHERE IS HE?!?”, Shank yells questioningly in rage. Fueled by Shank’s anger, I can only assume that he completes his mission by the game’s end.

Overall I enjoyed the demo and wish it had been longer. The game’s M rating has me questioning just how much sex and language are in the rest of the game (the demo really didn’t showcase anything but violence). As of right now, I’ll be passing on Shank.

Fridays with Nathan

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Awhile back, Nathan Drake and I set out on a whirlwind trip to discover some secrets related to a relative of his. We found an ancient temple, a submarine in a waterfall, and even back tracked through the same ancient temple just to escape with our lives. Exciting stuff huh? Not really. From there our relationship, and adventure, started to get complicated. You see, the difficulty, in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, has suddenly spiked. I went from killing a handful of goons to small jungle legions of them. Certainly not cool. For now my adventures with Nathan have come to an end…but I am sure they are only just the beginning of a long and frustrating future. Cheers!

1:50pm Update:

There is that scene in The Matrix where the character Trinity suddenly finds herself in need of being able to fly a helicopter. Almost instantly, the knowledge is given to her via download, and she is ready to fly!

After posting earlier this morning, I now realize I was having a Trinity-like moment. My gaming skills had yet to adapt to the game, Uncharted, at hand. After spending a few hours playing, I finally have the feel of the game and am flying quite nicely. Massive gun battles, crazy stunts, and a love to rescue are just the order of the day. Good times.

Intent

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Last night I happened to hop onto the Twitter’s and discovered this tweet:

cwgabriel
cwgabriel cwgabriel

Sarah Pain lecturing us on civility is like Jenna Jameson lecturing us on chastity. (No offense to Jenna Jameson is intended.) (via @wilw)
Now I do note that this was not from one of the Penny Arcade guys but was originally tweeted by Mr. Wil Wheaton. That said, while I do not agree with everything Sarah Palin says, I also do not think that she is the dimwit that the media makes her out to be. To compare Sarah Palin to Jenna Jameson, a modern day whore, is just plain insulting.
I hate, HATE, it when gaming personalities try to inject their brand of politics into the gaming arena. I have never followed the Penny Arcade guys for their politics, no, I have for their interesting comics. In other words, the package I was sold long ago, about a few guys making a web comic, has suddenly transformed into something else. Something sinister. I don’t give a pigeon’s fart as to what Penny Arcade, 1up editors, and anyone else in the gaming industry thinks about a particular political topic.
Intent is everything. Clearing defining what one intends to do, from the beginning, lets the audience know what to expect. Johnny B Gamer is all about integrating faith and gaming. There it is. Nothing out of the ordinary. I have talked about this since 2003. However, you will not see me making political statements here because this has never been a political platform. JBG is about faith and games. Nothing else. Ever.

iTunes Preview Times

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The increased music preview times, that iTunes has added recently, are a real hit with me. I love how you can really get a feel for the music and the song being previewed. Kudos to Apple and iTunes for only making the listening experience better. 🙂

*Please note that this is not a paid endorsement by Apple. This is simply a note from a user who appreciates the little things in life.

Recovery

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In light of my upcoming scheduled surgery, I thought it would be fun to talk about my gaming experience the last time I was in surgical recovery. Prepare for a flash-backed story in 3, 2, 1.

Many moons ago, my wisdom teeth decided to become impacted and were in need of a good pull. My parents, being the wonderful people that they are, decided to rid my mouth of these painful nuisances. So, we quickly found a local ex-military oral surgeon who was willing to embark on this potentially painful mission. A few hours later, I was at home in the bed of recovery. Finally, rest!

Hyped up on Vicodin to help ease the pain, I fired up the faithful SEGA Genesis. Vectorman was on the menu.

  1. The first time I played the game I got to the end, used all my continues, and died. Game Over.
  2. The second time through I somehow did the same thing.
  3. The third time though…I beat the game! Take that Warhead!

I actually think that Vectorman was the first 16-bit game I had ever beaten. Simply glorious! The precision with which I could play the game, after almost beating it multiple times, was borderline machine-like. I had somehow overcome the pain, embraced the drugs, and evolved into Vectorman.

Gamer OCD

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I have quickly come to the conclusion that I play too many games at the same time. A friend of mine calls it “gamer OCD”. Want proof? Within the last month I have explored:

  • Ratchet and Clank: Future
  • Dragon Age Origins
  • Final Fantasy 13
  • World of Warcraft
  • Little Big Planet
  • Flower (With only six levels, I rocked this game!)
  • Final Fantasy 7
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Did you count how many games I have played off and on? 8! Keep in mind that it is not like I play each game for 5 minutes and then jump to the next. No sir. Instead I dump more than a few hours into each title. With Final Fantasy 13, I have probably played for more than 6 hours total. Run. Battle. Discuss random things. Run. Battle. Etc.

The problem with moving between so many games at a time is that you quickly forget how to play a specific game. Take last night for instance when I fired up Final Fantasy 13 and quickly died. I had forgotten how to play the game. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So, where am I going with all this? This year, I really want to focus on playing one game until I complete it or decide to discard it forever. FOREVER. I inwardly laugh over making such a resolution (I don’t think I’m capable of it) but I would certainly like to try.

Climb aboard my tidy ship of serial-gaming-monogamy. The waters ahead could be a tad rough.

Radical 3 – Two Different Mindsets: Receivers Vs. Reproducers

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As I have continued my journey through David Platt’s Radical, I have come across a section that I thought I’d like to share. This particular section deals with what Platt calls Receivers Vs. Reproducers. Let me explain:

A Receiver receives the Word of God and does nothing with it. Whatever has been:

  • Preached
  • Taught
  • Heard
  • or Witnessed

All of the above come to a dead end by the believer absorbing the information.

Meanwhile, a Reproducer listens with the intent that the information being presented needs to be passed on. They replicate and apply the the teaching to not only their own lives but in the lives of others.

I have to be honest that I often listen to sermons and such with an attitude of “how does this apply to me?” A very “me” mindset. I do not purposefully absorb spiritual information in an attempt to purposefully pass it on to others. While this may sometimes unintentionally happen, I do not actively practice the art of being a Reproducer.

As we move into 2011, this is something that I realize I need to change. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you will. Until next time.