The Corey Feldman Story

Have I ever told you the Corey Feldman story?

When I was in my early teens I was a child actor. A handful of commercials, a small walk-on role in a movie, nothing major — but I auditioned for a few different roles that probably would have sent my life in a very different direction. I tried out for the part of Tom Hanks’ best friend in Big, and I auditioned for Stand by Me for the part of Teddy, which wound up going to Corey Feldman.

The weirdest one was the day I got a call for a movie called The Lost Boys, and instead of going to a casting agency, I was told to report to Warner Bros. HQ in NYC. That was really unusual, because you would normally go to a little office with a video camera and a rotating parade of kids who were there to read a scene or the commercial script and then go — revolving door stuff. But going to the Warner building? I asked my agent and she said, “I have no idea, but it must be good news or they wouldn’t call you to HQ, so let me know what happens.”

So I go there, up this giant elevator several floors, into this executive’s office. I sit in this giant leather chair, and this exec says, “Well, we cast you in this movie just from your headshot — you have the look we want. But the role calls for twins, and we found a natural set of twins that look enough like you that we don’t need you. Thanks, but sorry.”

My reaction was “Okay, I understand” but I didn’t. I had not auditioned for this part, and I didn’t know I had been cast in anything; neither did my agent or manager. I guess WB thought someone told me and they needed to manage the awkward situation directly. So I got called to WB HQ to be fired from a job I didn’t know I’d gotten — or maybe just un-hired?

Later, I went to see the movie and there were no twins…but there were the Frog Brothers from the comic book shop, and they were about my age. And who was one of those brothers? That’s right — Corey Feldman.

For years I had this grudge against him for stealing parts that should have been mine; my friends would then send me news stories about his various dramas in the press and say “See, that could have been you!” In retrospect, I’m glad it wasn’t.

I have no idea how my life would have turned out had I been a Frog brother. Maybe the same — there are tons of people who do one or two roles and then go back to a normal, obscure life. But I still think The Lost Boys is a fun film, and I still crank the radio whenever I hear “Good Times” by INXS & Jimmy Barnes.

Thoughts on the SNES Classic Edition

If you are reading this, I want you to be happy. Games make me happy. Games make you happy. I want you to have the games that make you happy.

But stop with the shock and surprise that Nintendo “didn’t learn anything” from the NES Classic; enough of the loud “oh my stars and garters” disappointment that the classic Nintendo hardware-shortage cycle has begun anew. This is the same “limited quantities” trick Nintendo has played on you for not just years but decades. From the moment George Harrison looked me in the eye as we discussed a pre-launch N64 and said “Well, sometimes, a shortage is a good thing,” I knew it wasn’t about making me happy. It hurt, but I knew.

Sony, Microsoft, Sega — they pull something like this, and you’d walk away, forever, holding a very loud grudge. But Nintendo does this repeatedly, and your own sense of self-preservation just goes away. That’s what love makes you do. It’s just that the SNES Classic is not about Nintendo’s love for you, but your love for them. Worse, they know it.

So, I’m sorry, but they do not care if you get one or not. They don’t care if they are hard to find or if the people who really would appreciate one the most actually get one. They don’t care that the units will be scalped for several multitudes over MSRP. You getting what you want was not part of their business plan.

“They didn’t learn from last time”? They learned that scarcity equals headlines and that people will fall all over themselves to be associated with their brand. They learned they can charge $20 more this time around. They learned from the NES Classic. What did you learn?

If you are reading this, I want you to be happy. I want you to get this $80 thing that reaffirms and validates your love (especially if you couldn’t get the $60 thing that reaffirms and validates your love last time). But this looks like an abusive relationship, and you deserve better than Nintendo is giving you.

Keep playing their games, but stop playing their game.

Thoughts on the NES Classic Edition

“I cannot wait to get that NES Classic! HDMI out, it’s loaded with great games, and it’s only $60!”

“Yeah, it’s adorable and a great value. But..don’t you already have all these games?”

“Sure! I play the loose NES carts on my Retron, plus I have a few of these sealed in the box. I have a bunch of the GBA re-releases too. I also bought the Virtual Console version of a bunch of these on Wii, then a few more on Wii U since those didn’t transfer over, and I downloaded some of these on 3DS as VC releases, too. And of course, I have the ROMs of everything on my laptop.”

“So you’ve bought the classics four or five times…wow! Hey, what did you think of this year’s Call of Duty?”

“Screw that! Every year, they just keep releasing the same game!”

 
Look, I know people are buying this for what it represents as much as its easy functionality (HDMI is a godsend here), and the content has earned its classic status. I love seeing these games remain living history. But there’s this Nintendo cult effect where the warm fuzzies of nostalgia — even someone else’s nostalgia — cloud all decisions or discussions. When Activision re-released COD4, I saw comments like “Activision Want You To Pay Full Price For An Old Game That You’ve Already Bought.” When Nintendo releases literally the same game over and over again? “Why can’t I preorder?!” (And yes, I do believe these audiences intersect. Worse, I suspect there might be a sidecar of “Why would I buy Steam games if they’re not 75% off?”)

My motto remains “play what makes you happy,” always and forever, and I am staunchly dedicated to preserving game history. But when it comes to this kind of stuff, I feel like Nintendo gets a pass more often than not.

The truth about “To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies”

Doom has returned, and with it, an old wound has been opened. Over the years, the GamePro ProTip “To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies” has become something of a meme. It’s inspired websites. It’s come full circle to become an achievement in the newest game. But mostly, it’s been held up as an example of lazy game journalism. “Ha ha, that kiddy vid rag was so bad, they think this is good advice.”

The trouble is, it never existed. The ProTip never appeared in GamePro, the kiddy vid rag where I worked for seven years.  Continue reading

Summer 1985

In 1985, when I was 14, I traveled with a small company of Evita for about five weeks. Of the 25 men in the company, three were straight:: Juan Peron, Che, and myself. Juan and Che bunked together. I will admit to being freaked out when my roommate asked if I wanted to be on top — because, you know, he’d be drinking with the cast post-show and it would be easier and quieter if he didn’t have to climb the little ladder of the bunk bed we shared. I was 14, I grew up in the suburbs, and I was uncomfortable.

The cast members didn’t have to hide who they were, and they were awesome to me the whole time. We played board games, we talked about movies and current events (“Finally, they’re bringing back Coca-Cola Classic!”), and one guy cut my sister’s hair (“Go take a look and see what you think — we can always take more off, but it’s a bitch putting it back on”). I quickly came to understand there was no significant difference beyond age, which was the same difference I had with every adult I met. There was nothing to fear.

That summer set the standard for me, and I’m still grateful. I still think of Fred and Patrick and DC fondly, but I don’t know if the troupe ever considered the good they wound up doing by just being themselves. I also wonder where some of them are now. I remember reading the TIME cover story about AIDS in the green room. It was fresh and new and terrifying, and nobody really knew what to do about it.

But I cringe when I see homophobic people now, because they’re afraid of (and sometimes violently angry about) nothing, and they just haven’t gotten to know anybody different from themselves to demystify the whole thing.

2015

Facebook is the reason I haven’t been blogging much here. I think I should change that, because even though I look back at some of my angrier screeds and cringe, this is still the one and only space where I control everything. I don’t have to hope that my friends see it in their feed, you know? It’s here if you want it.

Anyway, 2015 is coming to a close and as always, I’m taking stock.

April was my one-year anniversary at Ubisoft, and it’s been an amazingly good fit. I still really like working there; I just need to do it a bit less, because as the year went on, I worked 10- and 11-hour days (not in a crunch time) with alarming frequency.

We finally got a house. Originally, Kat and I were hoping to go to Disney World for our 20th anniversary, but we thought more practically about that expenditure and realized we should get serious about owning our own place at last. Staying in my own four walls has been the best vacation ever (and we’re still surrounded by Disney stuff). We apparently had a lot of good house karma built up, because we found a place relatively quickly, had our offer accepted quickly, and got some key renovations done quickly too. It’s always a hassle and there were a lot of steps, but I feel very grateful that it went as smoothly as it did.

I didn’t get the next Palette-Swap Ninja project out this year, which I had hoped to do. Still working on that. It’s hard.

Mostly I want to take naps over the holiday. Hope your naps are happy too, if you celebrate naps.

On Being Willing To Learn…For Fun

I run Jeopardy games at PAX whenever I can. These are custom-built game shows in every sense of the word — handmade buzzers, bespoke software, and custom-created questions by and for the PAX attendees. It’s trivia, so it’s not all going to be stuff that you know immediately — but my question team and I take great pains trying to create content that geeks in attendance might be able to recall with a little hint or some mental effort.

This year at PAX Prime, after one of the questions went unanswered, a contestant (who passed an entrance exam before they were selected) complained, “But I wasn’t alive then!”  Continue reading

How to Prepare for PAX

This originally appeared on the old 1oS blog, but I’m updating and reposting it here, as I think it might still be useful. 

Someone asked me if I had any advice on what they should expect when attending PAX, or how they should prepare for their first gamer convention. I do! And some of this advice is also good for any gaming or nerd gathering (SDCC, E3, etc) and some is specifically for the PAX culture. But I hope you find it all helpful.
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The Tangerine Dream: Refinishing the Retronix R-800

I got a great deal on one of the first Retronix R-800s — the Korean-made models of J. Backlund‘s designs — thanks to Kickstarter. Fantastic look, very comfortable neck and body contours, trem bridge with coil-tapped humbuckers — extremely well built and designed for flexibility. The company even threw in a hardshell case as a surprise to backers, custom-fitted to the unusual shape.

The only thing that bugged me about it was the color. The Cobalt Blue turned out to be a lot darker than the prototype photo suggested — “blurple” at best, and to my eye, almost black unless sunlight was shining directly on it. I was really bummed, to the point where I considered selling it, but then realized maybe I should just have it refinished. And so…

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