A Week of Tweets on 2011-01-02

  • Lights out. Work tomorrow. Time for sleep. And rest. And sleep. And dreams. Sleep well, my friends. Sleep well and dream better. #
  • Distraction. #
  • I cannot seem to get warm. #
  • By the way… Creationary is da bomb, yo! #
  • I want to run. I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. #
  • @GameCouch I am astounded by the number of skills on that list that I possess. in reply to GameCouch #
  • How obsolete are you? http://obsoleteskills.com/skills/skills #
  • I'm pretty sure that Cap'n Crunch's Oops! All Berries has no nutritional value at all, but it's still tasty! #
  • Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and I still have no plans… #
  • Starting off the new year with Steak 'n Shake. #
  • One down. Three hundred sixty four to go. #

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Early Gaming Memories

Another month, another Round Table.

This month, Corvus has asked people to recount their earliest family gaming memories… so, let’s crank up the wayback machine and hit the road…

I think the earlier memory I have of gaming was my father bringing home a Pong system.  It played four games, which were all essentially the same game with slight variations.  But the thing I remember about it isn’t playing it, because Pong is a highly forgettable game… no, instead what I remember most is getting it connected and functioning on our small black and white TV in the kitchen.  Well, they sure as heck weren’t going to let us kids use the good TV for games, and I don’t think anyone ever intended that ancient B&W TV to be hooked to a game system.  I remember us sitting there while dad read the manual about how to hook the adapter to the antenna inputs, how to set the switch and tune the TV, and how it didn’t work on channel 3, but it worked on channel 4.  And we sat at the kitchen table, as a family, and traded the paddles around playing video games at home.

Some time after that, we got an Atari 2600.  This led to marathon sessions of Pitfall, Yar’s Revenge, Maze Craze and tons of other titles.  Particularly, my older brother and I trying to “flip” games, which means running through all the levels the designers made and having the game start you back at level 1 while often maintaining certain difficulty settings (like speed of enemies or rate of fire).  And yes, we owned and played E.T. and it was a crappy game, but at the time we didn’t know that, we just thought it was hard, not broken.  But one of my personal favorite games for the 2600 was Basic Programming.  It was my first introduction to the idea that I could make the computer do what I wanted it to do.  Well… within reason.  It was very limited, but you could make little pictures on the screen or make it beep and sound sort of like music.  I think I can honestly say that I owned more games for the Atari 2600 that I did for any other console, and possibly even the PC, although with the PC it is hard to keep track.

I can’t say my parents were ever much involved with my gaming after Pong, but my brothers definitely were.  Playing against each other, or with each other, or just watching each other play, entire days were sometimes spent in front of the Atari.  Especially Star Raiders, which had a second special controller so that one person would fly the ship and shoot while the other played navigator.  This shared gaming continued up through the PC and the NES, and even now with each of us owning our own homes we all have Xbox 360s and occationally play online (or everyone meets up at one house to rock out with some Rock Band).

Did this have an effect on me as a gamer?  I’d have to say it absolutely did.  Over the years I always gravitated toward games that allowed multiple players, even better if it was cooperative play.  And I still lean that way now.  I tend to lose interest in games I play by myself, mostly because I end up being able to notice their design patterns and predict outcomes, but another human player always holds the capability of surprising me, of doing something unexpected.  While I have run every race in Paradise City, its the Freeburns and online racing where I have the most fun.

And it has even fed into my desires to make games.  I don’t dream of making the next Galaga or some other single player adventure.  I dream of making the next online sensation, something that brings people together.  And I dream of playing them with my brothers.

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Since I was very young, whatever age I was in the fourth grade, I have had nightmares. When they first started, I would, as is often depicted in movies, awake in a cold sweat, sometimes even screaming. The nightmares ranged from monsters in my closet to alien abductions to demons and ghosts. As I got older, they got worse, and more frequent. What started as a fairly rare thing became almost nightly, and then it was nightly.
One time, in high school, I tried to avoid my nightmares by not sleeping. That lasted about three days, then I succumbed. After moving out on my own at 19, I tried it again. Seven days without sleep, and I started to halucinate. My nightmares, not being able to torment my sleep, came to get me while I was awake. At ten days, I was literally out of my mind. Somewhere, stuffed in a box in my closet, I have pages of … text that I wrote. I don’t remember writing that stuff, in fact I can’t even read most of it. Its largely not in English. But what I can read of it confirms to me what I do remember, I was scared, really really scared. After ten days awake I finally passed out. I slept for two whole days and had to make many apologies for missing work.

Since then, I still have nightmares, well, what other people would call nightmares I guess. However, they have lost one quality: they don’t scare me any more. Night after night, I dream of apocalyptic worlds where zombies eat human flesh, worlds overrun by powermad dictators and their ruthless armies, jungles overrun by monsters and beasts. I dream of death and destruction, often involving people I know and love, and every morning when I wake up, I wake up calm. In ways, I have even come to find comfort in my dreams. In zombie filled cities, I team up with other refugees, friends and family, and together we fight the undead. They die, I die, and in the dream the emotions are there, its not like I’m some automoton just mowing down zombies. But the emotions of my dreams no longer translate to my sleeping body.

Why do I bring this up? Ever since I “broke” my nightmares, its hard to keep those thoughts out of my head. Its not as if I am some kind of mental defective, and I’d never actually act on or try to carry out the things I imagine. But I’ll be standing on the street and see someone walk in to traffic, at which point I’ll imagine them being hit by a car or truck, or that having stepped out into the open the monsters or zombies see him and move in for the kill. The good side of this is that I never lack for things to write about. The bad side is that I often can’t stay focused in one line of imagination long enough to craft it into a story worth selling. So I have these folders on my PC and stacks of paper in boxes and drawers full of short snippets, vignettes, that I want to use but just can’t seem to make sense of…

Anyway, enough rambling out of me.

12 September 2001

The World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists. The Pentagon was also attacked. Four airplanes were hijacked to do this destruction.
Sounds like some hot new action flick starring Arnold or Sylvester or even Wesley. But it’s not. It’s real.
I told some friends yesterday that I kept blinking my eyes, like I was trying to wipe away the last remnants of a bad dream. And it was true. I spent the entire day in utter disbelief that this could be happening.
There have been other attacks on the U.S. by terrorists in the past. But each of those existed in a world of “isolated incidents”. Yesterday was a concerted, organized, deliberate effort to end lives. No kid with a truck of fertilizer parking next to a building, but hijacked airplanes diving down at the world below that no amount of security or protection could avoid, let alone stop.
Terrorism has existed for a long time. But to us in the United States, except for “isolated incidents”, it was a news story, a movie, a book, a television show. It was on the other side of the glass, over the fence, in the neighborhood down the street. It was second hand, rumor. Yesterday it became real.
For thousands of people yesterday, life came to a sudden and final halt. Minutes before they were probably looking, like most of us who exist in a corporate world, forward to the weekend, even though one had just ended. They joked. They gossipped. They smiled. They laughed. They stressed. They loved. They died.
For millions of people yesterday, life as they knew it came to a sudden and final halt. The world crashed down around their ears. Some of them ran. Some of them stayed. Some of them charged into the discord to see if perhaps they could calm the storm, or perhaps just drag one life from the jaws of death and into the world of tomorrow.
For billions of people yesterday, a dream came to a sudden and final halt. The United States has for 200 years been the beakon of freedom and hope for those both within and outside her borders. The dream of the perfect life in the land of plenty is something that people from all over the world think about. Even if they never work toward it themselves, they knew it existed and that people actually lived there in safety and peace.
There is a dream that is America. It still exists, but for most that dream now seems further away than ever. Where it used to be just out of reach, within our grasp, it is now a few paces away, easier to see than to touch. And in seeing the dream, we see that it is tarnished.
We will recover. America will be strong. Woe be to those who have for the second time in a century tempted fates and awoken the sleeping giant.
Life will go on. People will work. People will live, and love, and hate, and laugh, and cry, and die. People will fly in airplanes, although perhaps giving a second glance to all those passengers who made it through the new security checks. People will visit tall buildings to look out and the beautiful skylines of cities all over the world.
But these people are not the same people from last week. They are more like those of 1941. The people of the United States today have been touched by something that leaves no thing unchanged. Its a message. “Time is short. Life is precious. Live.”
Me? I’m off to get a job. Life goes on, there are bills to pay, and I’ve spent too much of my short precious time here on this Earth doing nothing waiting for life to take me along for the ride.
It’s well past time I put both hands on the wheel.
I’m driving from now on.

14 February 2001

Does she think of me,
when I think of her
all the time
Does she dream of me,
when I dream of her
every night
And does she smile
And does she laugh
She does
I do
You’ll pardon the poetic, but today’s that day. You know the one. The roses, the candies, the cards, the hearts. Valentine’s Day.
While this day is often thought of as the romantic’s domain, I think its also important to remember family and friends. There is all kinds of love in the world, and none of it is any more important than any other. Today should be a celebration of all love, not just romantic love.
That said…
You know who you are.
I love you.

23 February 1999

So I have this dream last night… it was an odd mix of The Postman (more the book than the movie) and The Stand. It started as a worst case scenario of the Y2K bug (which will never happen, it’s not like the world is just going to shut down over night), a little anarchy, a little war. People banded together here around Atlanta and we started rebuilding society. It was just an odd dream all around. I don’t remember my dreams all that often, so why do I remember this one?
Dreams can tell you alot about a person, I think. What they are thinking, what they really feel, what they strive for, what they hide. I used to keep a dream journal, and I should probably start that again. I just wish I could find that old journal, because maybe now, looking back, I might get a little insight to myself, applying what I know now to what I felt back then. But sometimes, I think that maybe it’s good that I can’t find it. Overanalysing yourself can lead to a mental lockdown. I don’t know.
Occationally, I get this de ja vu feeling, that feeling that you’ve done or seen or heard something before. And later, after I go through the situation, I’ll remember, “I dreamt that! Months ago! Exactly as it happened!” But for some reason, and maybe it’s good and maybe it’s bad, I can’t remember that I’ve dreamt these things before they happen, always after. What good are precognitive dreams if you can’t remember them on time?
By far though, I would say the coolest thing I have ever had happen in dreams is a shared dream. Where I had a dream and someone I knew was in it, and when I talk to them, I find out that they had the exact same dream, only, from their point of view. And it’s like we were in the same dream space or dream scape or whatever, because everything is the same, and in my dream I had full control, and in their dream, so did they, and it’s just so cool and weird and exciting and frightening. And to me, I guess, it lends credibility to things like mental powers, astral worlds, and magic (or magik or majik or however they are spelling it this week to denote real power not illusions of power). Do you believe in magic?
Theater Review: She’s All That. When I first heard the title of this movie and saw the preview I though to myself, “This is going to be another one of those throwaway John Hughes wannabe movies of the ’90s trying to recapture the ’80s teen angst genre.” But I did go see it, and I was surprised. It was actually entertaining, funny, warming, and good. It made me laugh and smile, and at moments, had me remembering times in my life that were (while not that fantastic) similar. While I don’t think any movie will ever quite get was Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, and all those other ’80s classics had, this one comes pretty damn close.
Today’s Song: No More Love by God Lives Underwater. If Alice In Chains did techno music, this is what it would sound like. And I gotta admit, I love this song. The music is pumping and the lyrics are just cool. I picked up Empty, GLU’s first full album and the second that I have bought, specifically for this song, much like I picked up Life In The So-Called Spaceage for From Your Mouth, and found that once again, while looking for one song, I found a good album.
Today’s Movie: Book of Love. It’s an odd little throwaway movie that most people will never see, but I have, and it was a good way to spend a couple hours. A light comedy about a kid trying to land the girl of his dreams in the ’50s.
TV Highlight: I watched the first part of Stephen King’s Storm Of The Century. This was good story telling so far. I’ve heard from some people that it drops off at the end, but so far I’m glued to the screen. I can’t wait to watch parts 2 and 3.