Something that isn’t Peggle

Really, two weeks since I posted? That’s too bad. Still trying to find that direction, I suppose.

I just watched Synecdoche, New York on Blu-Ray, which I was heartbroken about missing in theaters last year. While I thought it was a grandiose, beautiful experiment, told with a fairly elegant self-indulgence, I don’t think Charlie Kaufman is cut out for directing his own work. I think he’s a brilliant writer, whose ideas need reigning in somewhere between inception and screen. Though I do have to admire his ability to make it work as a film at all; my friend Dan and I once started on a screenplay — rather, an outline — of a similarly…meta set of ideas (for lack of a better word), and had a ridiculously tough time even keeping the basics relationships straight in our heads.

I had wanted to see Knowing yesterday — after Dark City and the horrendously under-appreciated I, Robot I’ll see anything Alex Proyas does — but ended up seeing I Love You, Man instead when Knowing got a 25% on RT and it became a lot tougher to convince friends to join me (though I still have every intention of seeing it this week). I Love You Man was alright…Jason Seigel was great, I’m just getting a bit tired of the Apatow crowd and sensibility, regardless of whether he’s involved directly or not. It was refreshing for a while, but now I find myself just wanting more Wes Anderson and his ilk; comedies that are actually films, as well. It’s also tough because really, nothing is remotely as funny as Stella or Arrested Development. The bar is set so goddamn high for comedy right now, it’s disgusting.

I’ve owned an iPhone now for 11 days, and yes, it’s pretty great (except for the sometimes miserable reception in my apartment) . It’s just astoundingly cool how everything works so well together: I can be playing a game on Scrabble on the train while listening to a podcast, and then suddenly the audio fades away since I’m receiving a call, and there I am, talking to someone simply by doing the douchey thing where you talk into the headphone cord. I haven’t played them all yet, but I’ve bought Word Fu (3750-something is my high so far, I have no clue how Karen got 33k), Scrabble (not a bad version, wish it was online), geoDefense, 7Cities, Zen Bound (brilliant), Eliss, and Fieldrunners (and Lite versions of a few like Rolando and Edge). I’ll buy almost anything for 99 cents, and I don’t mind ponying up 5 bucks to support a unique idea.

I’d love to see some of the more creative, successful iPhone devs move to console development at some point (though I understand that would be somewhat of a step back right now, business-wise). I just think the forced distillation of small game concepts could make for a better grounding for full-scale development; I thinking having to write 90-word reviews of twenty-hour games for EGM really went a long way toward making me a better writer. Though I received about a million app and game recommendations on Twitter that I have yet to check out, I’d love to hear any more.

I’ve played through the 5th act of Resident Evil 5 co-op, and I’m really, really enjoying it. I feel like I’ll never catch up on all the great single-player games I have to play, so I’m really happy to be playing something building from the ground up for co-op. I’d also recommend everyone check out last week’s episode of RebelFM, where they had a great discussion of the Great RE5 Racism Debate. Phil was kind enough to read a letter I wrote in to the show during their discussion. Being a white Western gamer who was born in South Africa, I figure I have a relatively unique vantage point of the situation.

And before I forget, I must take a second to give my highest recommendation to A Life Well Wasted, Robert Ashley’s new podcast. The “This American Life” of gaming, as people have been calling it. It’s absolutely fantastic, as good as anything on NPR, and the production work he puts into it really shows. As much as I’ve loved 1UP Yours for years, and the podcasts I’ve been a part of, I think Robert’s work has the best chance of pushing the perception of the industry forward if it can find a larger stage. So please, check it out.

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 8:59 am  Comments (14)  

Sunday musings — iPhone, Watchmen, and 1UP

I don’t want this to be one of those things I rarely update, but I think that’s more because I haven’t figured out who it’s for yet. For me, to have an outlet for relatively creative/personal writing I don’t have a place for otherwise? Or you, the amazing audience I’ve worked hard to garner in my short career, and would love to maintain? I think it’s more the latter, but also by virtue of the former; I have quite a few passions in my life, and if I can share and infect others with some of my experiences related to them, I’ll be happy. So that’s that.

Firstly, and most excitingly, my iPhone arrives tomorrow. Now, I’m about the biggest Mac whore you’ll find, ever since my dad bought me a Performa 6116CD for my bar mitzvah (on which I enjoyed countless hours of Marathon, Myth, Sim City 2000, and plenty more). I fully believe that Mac people are a different breed from those who don’t understand the appeal, and I’ve been fighting an uphill battle with my friends since high school. I was always the lame guy quietly pimping Macs whenever I could, and now they all own Macbooks. It’s been…manically satisfying. Mwaha.

So! When the iPhone was first announced, my best pal Dan and I watched the entire 2-hour press conference online, and I drooled through every second of it…at least, until the very end, when they announced the launch pricing, and I know it would be a while til I was able to get one. I also hate cell phones, as evidenced by what I’ve been using for the last 5 years or so: a pay-per-minute, bottom-of-the-line Virgin Mobile phone that actively discourages me to use it (and that’s how I like it). Obviously lots has happened since then, and when I found out that I got 15% off my monthly service as a Sony employee, and that they had refurbished 16giggers for $200, I cracked. Upon first seeing the iPhone, I thought that it would change American culture like the iPod did, and I’m insanely excited to have it change my life as well. Even being able to look us bus times on the go will be a godsend. Also, I’ve had a game I want to make in my mind for about two years, and the iPhone is a perfect platform for it, so I should probably finally get familiar with the whole mobile gaming scene. So I guess this is a good time to say that if anyone reading has any sweet games or apps to recommend, please do so in a comment (especially cheap ones!).

I might write a full Watchmen review sometime soon (it’s been years since I’ve written a movie review), but generally I fall into the camp of having definitely enjoyed it, but finding it a bit unnecessary as a near shot-by-shot adaption of the novel. Except…missing all the periphery stories that act as microcosms of the main narrative and give everything a little more context. Some of it was sublime (the intro, a few of the music choices, the Comedian and Night Owl’s casting and performance), some of it was horrid (Laurie’s performance), and some of it was just unnecessary (the extra violence/swearing/nudity). Though I am glad that a slightly more thoughtful superhero film is out there for the masses who’ll never take the time to read the novel or indulge themselves in deeper comic book culture.

One last thing I wanted to touch on this evening (since I’ve forgotten most of the other things I thought about that I wanted to write during the week). I haven’t written much at all about the 1UPocalypse, and one day, I certainly shall (I was actually thinking it would make a great book: “1UPocalypse: The Rise and Fall of Gaming’s Enthusiast Press”). But something that’s struck me even after two weeks working at a very big company is how wonderfully isolated we were at Ziff from the corporate end of things. It’s not bad by any means where I am now (my small group particularly is great), but walking around the building it’s clearly…a business. At Ziff, we were just a bunch of writers and filmmakers who loved hanging out and making things together. Sam and Simon did all the dealing with New York (our corporate office) that needed to be done, and I now realize just how amazing a job they did shielding us from everything. There was a never a sense that we had to look a certain way or behave a certain way or write a certain way or not play loud music during the day. We could do, almost literally, whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Yes, we were being paid to make editorial content, but we did it because we loved doing it, and cared about the industry, each other, and — against all odds — the fate of 1UP and EGM. I try not to think about it too much because it makes me sad, and I know I speak for many of us who got laid off when I say that losing our jobs really wasn’t that distressing in the end — it was losing 1UP, and everything we had built together.

Man, that’s a bummer to end on, I apologize. See you soon!

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 10:36 am  Comments (21)  

Today was a rock day.

When I woke up this morning, I never thought I’d be screaming into the mouth/mic of this man, “You and I, we were meant to be together!” Well, I knew I was going to see my favorite still-together band Les Savy Fav tonight, and that their wonderfully bearded leader and sexual icon Tim Harrington would be strutting his stuff amongst the crowd at some point (many points). I suppose our beards just had a connection, and we shared a sweaty moment. It was grand.

The show was amazing, as LSF always are (opener The Mae Shi were pretty great too from what we caught), and while it was fantastic to have my lady with me, I was sad that none of my friends attended. Though why would they? I wouldn’t pay to go see a band I don’t listen to either.

But things were different back home (in Chicago). For the last decade or so, I’ve been the guy who introduces my friends to new music (and rarely ever the other way around). I go out of my way to discover bands, and immerse myself in their culture, something most people don’t make the time/have the impetus for. So I forced my opinions on my friends until they paid attention, and now many of my favorite bands are theirs too. It’s something I’m quite proud of, actually, probably more so than anything else in my life — that I’ve been able to introduce people I care about to awesome music. But for whatever reason, things have been different since I’ve moved out West. I suppose when you’re working alongside people on the premise that you both care about videogames, that’s the initial basis of discussion as far as entertainment media. One of the long-term projects I was working on at 1UP when we got laid off was making a weekly mix for people that I’d bring in and put on the office server on Monday mornings, with some notes about each band. The first installment was two weeks away; probably one of the more personally sad things about leaving that place, but maybe I’ll still find a way to share (and on a larger scale, if people care).

Anyhow, I’m going to try to do a better job of it. I’m going to see Trail of Dead, RX Bandits, and Pelican this month, and I’ll be damned if I don’t drag along Anthony or Phil or someone.

Also, I was recognized for the second time ever tonight, on the bus on the way to the show. Being approached by strangers on the bus in San Francisco is about the most normal thing ever since half the city is insane, but they don’t usually ask “Are you Nick Suttner?” Kind of a weird thing, really. And very fleeting; little does he know, I want to know who he is, what he does, what he thinks about games, etc., etc., etc. Honestly, I’d rather go out to a diner and chat with someone like that than have a brief hello/goodbye. But still…neat, I guess?

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm  Comments (25)