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

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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Three Answers to Impossible Gaming Questions

I wrote this editorial back in 2011 for One of Swords and just found it again. Now that the sun has set on 1oS, I’d like to post it here in hopes it might do more good.

I get a lot of questions from gamers every day. I try to answer as many as I can with sourced facts or, failing that, honesty. Sometimes it’s simple stuff that the Customer Support team can handle without breaking a sweat. But if I don’t know the answer and I don’t have much hope of finding one, I’ll tell you so you don’t feel jerked around.  But I have noticed that there are three lines of questioning that I often cannot answer to anyone’s satisfaction. It’s not that I don’t have an answer, or even that an answer does not exist — it’s that the answer is either incomplete or simply not accepted by the person asking. So they ask again, hoping for a different answer that matches what they wanted to hear in the first place. And that doesn’t work out so well.

Here are the answers I have the most trouble explaining:
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My PAX Prime 2014 schedule

Yes, I’ll be there! So will Kat!

FRIDAY 8/29 | 8:00PM – 9:00PM | HEDGEHOG
Game Show Night: Jeopardy!
This…is…Jeopardy! Well, no it’s not – since all the answers and questions are going to be about gaming and geek culture, it’s more like Mild Peril. The contestants will be you, the PAX attendees, so bring your thinking caps to this panel—you might be on the show! Just don’t wear anything that will clash with host Dan Amrich’s incredibly blinding red jacket. Part of Game Show Night at PAX Prime 2014!

Note: This is the middle block of Game Show Night, between Pyramid and Blankety Blank. The show really starts at 7 — but show up early if you want to be considered as a contestant for any of the games!

All three games will be livestreamed on Twitch here, starting at 7pm on Friday night! 

SATURDAY 8/30 | 2:30PM – 3:30PM | SPHINX
Help Design Game Journalism Story!
You’ve been invited to help design a games journalism simulator, a majestic open-world universe featuring Doritos-stained keyboards and fantastic bribes for reviewing games. This satirical panel, featuring game press veterans, invites the audience to participate in the faux-design meeting, allowing for honest and humorous discussion about some of game journalism’s most persistent myths.

Our annual PAX tradition continues — The Great Dalmuti! All are welcome, as it’s a card game you can learn on the spot. Or watch this. But we’ll do that for a while Saturday night.

SUNDAY 8/31 | 8:00PM – 9:00PM | WYVERN
Three Old Guys Play Falling-Block Games
Join us for the 30-year history of falling-block puzzle games, from the genre granddaddy Tetris through clones and milestones like Columns, Super Puzzle Fighter, and even a few you’ve probably never heard of before. As usual, our panelists will demonstrate how not to play.

The real problem with Monopoly is you

A rather elderly blog post focusing on one key Monopoly rule that people don’t follow went viral earlier this year, leading to headlines of “Monopoly: You’re Playing It Wrong.” The author’s follow-up to the viral outbreak is worth reading as well. I am a lifelong Monopoly fan and student, and now that I’ve had time to let this topic simmer a bit, I’m going to go further still: I’m going to point out all the other things you’re doing wrong when you play Monopoly.  Continue reading

A rare instance of making a difference as a game journalist

The problem with writing about videogames is that it’s all transient. As soon as someone reads your review or feature, they internalize it and move on to something else. You only hope that what you wrote helped them out in some way; you dream of making an impact.

Years ago I wrote a story for OXM where I tried to create my own XNA game. I failed — spectacularly! — but I thought the article chronicling that failure was worth writing.

I was simultaneously super proud and totally humbled to find that I was right.

Dean’s long-anticipated game Dust: An Elysian Tail comes out this week on XBLA. I’m gonna buy it.