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GX notes - july, 2000

thursday, 27 july

Returning from Las Vegas the ugliest city. Heaping piles of jeweled luxuries tossed on top of human misery. Excellent indulgence, so you come to hate yourself faster.

I worry that Las Vegas is the gaming capital, as Serdar said, it is the entertainment hub, the city most permeated by entertainment and gaming - everywhere are diversion machines. If this is what gaming culture looks like in its most raw form, I am afraid.

I was sent to cover a collection of geeks buried deep within a rundown hotel, the Classic Gaming Expo where people are keeping alive the Atari, defending their devotion to aging sparse games by dissing the graphics heavy productions of modern gaming. Today's games are larger spectacle, mostly made by professional teams of corporate artists. Still, the beating heart of gaming is not forever lodged soleley in Space Invaders and AstroSmash - there is a key ventricle, perhaps. But there is still good gaming to be found, storytelling that's provocative. Let me know if you find any.

Staring down the machine, 1996 Otherwise, it's all leading to a brain-crippling addiction, where we all hurl silver counters into pleasantly melodic machines that remind us constantly of money and dreams and freedom. I find myself thinking, "I could just put a coin in and win and that would make me different." Different like all the others, cripples and old people slouching over the flashing wheels, hurling their government checks into the machines. The young have alluringly colored plastic boxes they carry on the road - brain pacifyers. Is the solution to hook them up to SETI at home? I loathe myself when I think about my time on the box. I love the box. The box leads to Las Vegas.

thursday, 27 july

yesterday I discovered that an old pair of pants felt a lot better if i unbuttoned the top button. I was happy that I had found a way to relieve the slight tension in my stomach reason. Then i remembered drinking a beer with dinner most nights and then sitting firmly on my ass all my livelong days and I realized I must be getting fatter.

Later Nick noticed that my open button had lead to a mostly open fly and so I was flashing the company my four leaf clover boxer shorts. Oy.

I have secured a new role/title "Director of Innovation" - mostly a new title, because innovating requires the same level of nosiness and researching and conversation that I've been maintaining since I got here. I hope to leverage my new title to get myself into more interesting meetings. But my new title comes at a time when there are more directors than ever, and the title means less than it used to. It does put me at a higher corporate elevation than I've ever been, at a time when I'm feeling sympathetic for the NAB protests, for example, and I wonder whether I'm not supposed to be politically active since I might be in a position to work on a TV deal, etc. Strange times for a twenty-five year old.

Meanwhile I'm still leaving town at a brisk clip. After DragonCon in Atlanta, there was Origins in Columbus Ohio, and tomorrow I'm off to Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. Then week after that, I'm headed to GenCon in Milwaukee. I'm spending half my summer weekends on the road interviewing sweaty gamers! It's a brain jamming. I'm learning a lot about something.

I figure after a while I'll be done with this road madness, ready to retreat back to my baby Amy and my cat Fernando, and the life of a writer, and I'll compose some meditations on electronic entertainment. Something that might be a book sometimes pulls at my attention.

Meanwhile, Amy's moving out. That will give us the chance to be more creative maybe, without so much domestic sharing. I love that girl still, and she loveth me, but I know that I write more when I don't have her lovely conversation. And she does her stuff when I'm not niggling her about cleaning the shower maybe (hah hah - that's what she bugs me about). I was talking to my mom, about Amy moving out, and my new job, and she agreed that this is a good time to hurl myself into my career. Here we go! wheee.

friday, 7 july

Still playing Counter-Strike. Even though Diablo II has swept through this office, Counter-Strike maintains. That's nice to see - a gaming trend enduring. Actually, DDR still endures as well, though the people playing attention to it have dwindled. Now it seems to be exercise for some folks, while others are battling it out online. Also Foosball. I saw Dennis and Hardie take on Hank and Kevin for hours last night. An analog game! I guess once you get into them they can really rope you in.

The guys playing Counter-Strike last night were playing as famous game developers - Paul Steed and Sid Meier and Richard Garriot, I was Warren Spector, since I'm playing Deus Ex. And there's the ever present "The Romero" - Robert, who really kicks butt at the game. Funny to see "Johnny Carmack kills Pimp" as you're playing.

Last night was game night and I'm so happy that I've found a way to spend regular time with my neices and nephews. I work a lot, until pretty late, so normally it's hard for me to find a few hours to get out of the office to chill with folks. In this case, Chris drives Eli and Cassidy up from San Francisco and those two tow headed kids run around the office playing pinball, "is it free?! wow!" Super Sprint, Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure on Neo Geo Pocket, and last night's hit was Power Stone. I tried to get the Japanese Beta of Power Stone II to work - it's funny, working at with all of our gaming technology will make console gaming seem as complicated as PC gaming.

Watching Eli play these games - I'm psyched that he has found something to love, but I get a little scared because as the game continues, he becomes so excited and wound up. Pleasure and pain begin to merge. Any interruption of his play experience is a serious threat and he begins to scream about victory and defeat in the same pained tone. So I don't know whether to have a "time out" kind of situation where he leaves the machine and takes a breath, or just leave him to play and try to respect his mood.

Meanwhile, while I'm being freaked out by my nephew's reaction to gameplaying, the Counter-Strikers around us are themselves screaming, "fuck!" "goddamn it!" just swearing but also objecting to people who nailed them unfairly, etc.

Eli was excited to play against his sister Cassidy, because she was easy to beat. He'd play her over and over again, beating her each time. Then he'd praise her, "you're fun to play Cassidy." I was sitting there, trying to coach Cassidy, and she eventually began to hand me the control when Eli was on a winning run. I'd turn the tables and get her to a place of power where she could fight against Eli. Well this was just the peak of injustice for poor Eli - if his routine pounding of his sister was interrupted it was the height of injustice. Strange - is that the way most gameplaying works? People get excited about an imbalanced system and then think it's fair?

I'm spending two of my weekends in July on the road for gaming conferences for "Summer's almost gone..."

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