Category Archives: Review

Ready Player One

I recently read Ready Player One over the Christmas break. As it had been descibed to me, it was a book about what happens when everyone plays WoW, loves video games, and pretty much worships the 80s. As an avid WoW player, a rabid reader, and a child of said decade, I figured, why not, it seems to be right up my alley. Ready Player One: Target audience: me.

So how did I like it? Should you read it?

1. Do you like old video games and like impressing people with your encyclopedic knowledge of them?

2. Do you like movies made between 1980 and 1996 and like impressing people with your encyclopedic knowledge of them?

3. If there was a multi-billion dollar scavenger hunt through a virtual world, where all the clues were directly related to question 1 and 2, would you take part?

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you will likely like RP1. RP1 is an orgy of pop culture, video games, and geek culture on the level of ComicCon. If ComicCon were a virtual world like Second Life where pretty much everyone spends all of their time. The book is one long scavenger hunt, about a socially awkward and nearly outcast boy, who becomes a hero, without ever really changing who he is. Never is the nerd forced to stop being a nerd. In fact, his nerdiness receives him praise and admiration from all who encounter him.

Wait, scratch that. RP1 is every nerd/geek/dork’s wet dream. A virtual school where you can mute bullies? Yes, please. The ability to make yourself appear normal, as opposed to fat, short, red haired, bespectacled, or so thin and pale you look like a drinking straw? Why in God’s name would I ever ever meet people in real life again! RP1 is absolute porn on a stick, dipped in chocolate and deep fried for those of us who loved all the things the characters in the book revere. The ability to be famous because you can beat a video game? The chance of winning unlimited wealth because you can recite a movie from heart? Becoming the hero, not because you slayed the dragon, but rather because you did something relatively inconsequential that later turned out to be the magical macguffin you needed to save the world? Okay, well maybe we are getting into spoiler territory with that one, but seriously, anyone who has ever played a graphic adventure knows the truth of “If you can pick it, it’s gonna be important later.”

RP1 is set in a future where virtual technology has advanced to the point that people can easily enter a virtual world, called OASIS, where they can do… anything. Kids are given access so they can go to virtual schools. People show up to virtual work. Chat rooms are more like hang out spots. It’s like WoW mated with Second Life and had the perfect love child. Of course, the author points out a few of the social ramifications of such a creation. No one interacts in real life anymore. Poverty is widespread, escapism the reality. The government is second to the virtual government. The sad thing is though, the author notices these huge, monolithic social issues, and then completely ignores them in favor of more anime references. Yet another video game name drop. The fact that the big bad in the book, IOI, is an internet service provider and wields more power than anything else even mentioned is terrifying, and yet even at the end, when the credits roll, they are still in charge of the access. They are still alive as Glados would say, because she would totally be a part of them.

The book is great. Fairly well written, with a few odd pacing moments. It has some truly unbelievable conceits that one just accepts to move on with the story, but in reality, it’s a nice fun romp through a virtual world every nerd wishes they could live in. But then the crippling truth of the book is… it only appeals to us. Those of us who want to live in OASIS, not the real world. The main character isn’t really a hero, despite saving the virtual world. He is given the tool to save the real world. The one with crippling resource shortages, wide spread starvation, and more social problems that could ever be solved, even if all it’s members weren’t spending most of their time plugged into computers.

This book could have been a fantastic philosophical discussion. It could have been the cautionary tale of allowing ourselves the ultimate fantasy. How everything a human thinks they want is really what is absolutely worst for them. The fact that the “hero” is given the tool to save the world, the real one, not the virtual one, and he glances at it, then WALKS AWAY, just proves this book was written by a nerd for nerds. He would rather make more references and more jokes than face and deal with the very real and very terrifying truths his tale reveals in the dangers of virtual fantasy fulfillment. The dangers of living in video games, movies, music, and tv shows. He would rather end on the hero sitting next to the girl, happy to not want to go back into the virtual world, not realizing that only having one person change isn’t going to change the horrid truth that their world is still dying. It’s still on the brink of chaos and destruction. The author ignores the philosophical, moral, and religious ideas that his book touches on in favor of another video game joke. True discussion and thought could have come from this work, with a bit more gravitas.

It’s a great adventure book for nerds/geeks/dorks, who worship Steve Jobs, Richard Garriott, and Shigeru Miyamoto, instead of the nerds who want to step up and make these men look like idiots. The nerds who want to figure out how to make cold fusion a reality. The nerds who want to find the Higgs Boson. The nerds who aren’t content playing other people’s games, watching other people’s movies, and listening to other people’s music, but instead strive and seek to create their own. The people who would be fixing RP1’s world, instead of practicing Pac Man and watching Pretty in Pink.

I guess I shouldn’t admit that despite it’s faults, I really liked this book. Oh well. I am going to go re-watch Lord of the Rings now.

Catherine vs Katherine

First off – I didn’t actually *play* Catherine in the strictest sense of the word. Rather I sat and watched my husband play it. I do this quite frequently. I generally have one of two reactions – 1. I determine that I would hate playing the game, stop and consider why other people like it, and then go back to playing WoW; or 2. I watch him play, engrossed, until he does something “wrong” and then I itch to yank the controller away until he is done playing then play it myself so I can do it right.

Demon Souls and Brothers in Arms were part of the first category. Valkyria Chronicles and Persona 4 were  part of the second.

Catherine is the first game that has fallen solidly between the two. The game is a action puzzle game, by Atlus’s Persona team. I was very excited about the game, because I am such a fan of Persona 4. The action portions of the game consist of what is essentially a huge puzzle block tower the player must climb. The “social” portions are of the player and the other characters in the game hanging out at a bar.

Honestly, after watching him play a few stages, I was completely convinced not only would I not want to play this part, but I would be bored to tears. The methods of moving up the tower are unchanged, regardless of the trick blocks, enemies, and boss events that try to break it up. Once you have figured out the general moves, you have figured out the game.

However, the “social” part of the game was utterly fascinating. The surreal encounters, the background characters, the strange effects thrown about, it all added up to an exceptional world that was interesting. I could crawl into the world portrayed and spent hours simply getting to figure out all the weird stuff going on. I do think however that the point of the mysterious murders will be lost on most American players.


So the Boss is killing young men who are of the appropriate age and economic status to get married and have kids, but are unwilling to do so because they like their freedom. They want to remain independent and “having fun” as opposed to settling down.

It doesn’t make a ton of sense to American Culture, but in Japan, where a negative birthrate is literally affecting the stability of their culture and society, it would seem completely logical. The Boss is taking out the men who are causing this problem. Essentially saying, “Get with it, or get out of the way.”

*End Spoilers*

The game also does some very interesting things with it’s Order and Chaos meter, in addition to using it to determine the one of 9 possible outcomes. I love that the “canon” of the game changes based on your order/chaos level and responses to questions. It makes me wonder though, if they did a sequel, would they do it like Persona, and ignore the previous entry’s “canon” or chose one to make it the “correct” ending?

While I didn’t play Catherine myself, I do believe it is an interesting game to experience. There is a demo, which should be played, but even so the game stands true with other Atlus games as beautiful, fascinating, relatively fun although possibly grindy to play, with interesting insights into Japanese culture. Though mostly it just made me want to play Persona 4 again, or think about what awesome things they might be doing for Persona 5.

Games I played this week

The 3ds came out this week, so there has been quite a bit of goofing around on it.

Pilotwings is pretty stellar. Much better than one would expect with the resort title.

Lego Star Wars 3 is simple great fun, just like all it’s predecessors.

The AR stuff on the 3DS is nothing short of magical. I hope they full support this and do tons of cards and games.

Of course I am still rocking the Dragon Quest IX. I got to the point where I am digging through grottos as quickly as possible. I can’t wait to hit one that is more my level.

In WoW, I was a part of a guild 10 man that downed Atramedes, a boss in Blackwing Descent that has some odd sound mechanics. It was quite the challenge as I was the gong ringer to interrupt the Searing Flame. We are still hitting the 25 man content pretty heavily. I am a bit depressed at the state of Affliction dps and considering trying some Destruction so I can blame my poor placement on that. My shaman may have finally reached the gear “tipping” point. One hopes. My priest is still rolling right along, and I have started doing Tol Barad dailies on both of them when possible.

My friends at Electrified Games went into Open Beta with their game, Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. It is quite fun for me, as I enjoyed the Pokemon TCG but haven’t had time or people to play with in a long time.

I picked up several games, multiple Dragon Quests, Nintendogs +cats, and some other older DS games.


I hold something magical, in the palm of my hand.

I hate gimmicks. 3D is a gimmick 90% of the time it is used. I am also one of those people who insists on wearing glasses. I can wear contacts, but due to the fact I spend 18 hours a day looking at computer screens, I don’t blink nearly enough so contacts make my eyes dryer than the Sahara after about 15 minutes. This explains why I dislike 3D movies so much. I already wear glasses. Adding a second set of plastic, poorly fitted glasses on top is just a fast way to make my ears, temples, and nose hurt. In addition to having to adjust them every few minutes, it just makes watching 3D a pain.

I am used to the belief that if you are adding something to your creative work, it needs to make it better. Adding something to a game? It should make the game better. Adding a brush stroke to your painting? It should make the entire composition better by it’s inclusion. 3D rarely makes something truly better in a movie. The immersion is rarely better than a well done soundtrack or compelling dialog.

That being said… Nintendo has proven they are the masters of making gimmicks exceptional. A caveat – the inclusion of the gimmick will not make a bad game good, but rather that the inclusion of a gimmick can make a good game better.

I am one of those people who desires the newest gadget. I have a netbook, iPad, MacBook, iPhone, and iPod all sitting on my desk at home. I own all three current generation consoles and most of the older generation consoles. I own a DS Lite, a DSi XL, and now, a 3DS.

Despite a rather weak launch lineup, I decided I wanted a 3DS. (As an aside, who ever heard of a new Nintendo console without a Mario game?!?)  Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is coming out for it in June. There will be a new Mario Kart. There will be a Kid Icarus game. There will be new Professor Laytons. And at the very least there was Nintendogs +cats, a game I was excited about because I wanted cats for the first one. So I put my pre-order in.

The first thing was a test of the 3D in Pilotwings Resort. I am terrible at these kinds of games. Star Fox, Nights, and I am sure if I tried it, the original Pilotwings. I can never get the controls down well enough, I always have trouble telling the distances, etc etc. It took me about 10 minutes to find the “sweet” spot for the slider. Mine is about 2/3rds of the way up, the 3D was good, but not so overpowering that I had trouble focusing. Then I ran a course.

It was great. I felt like I was moving through a space. I felt like I could gauge the time I had to adjust for the next ball or hoop. For the first time ever I got every hoop on the whole course. For the first time ever, I felt like I had all the information needed to play these kinds of games.

I played several of the other games and my only conclusion is, this is the way 3d game were meant to be played. Sure, it’s not going to help Metroidvanias or Super Mario Brothers, but Super Mario Galaxy? Oh yeah.  Now I can’t wait to see how OoT runs on this. Lego Star Wars showed me how the simple depth made gauging distances and double jumps so much easier. Enemies leapt from ledges and I felt like they were moving through the world towards me in a way they never quite have before. I can’t wait to see what new games do with the mechanic. We have been limited by our ability to give depth perception using art, but now we can do it with tech.

The only complaint I have with the console is the size of the screens. After falling deeply in love with my DS XL, playing on the tiny screens is just annoying to me. May I have a 3DS XL please? Thanks.

It does make a difference, that it is glasses free, but I am sure that over time the tech will get better, and lessen the eye strain (I can still only play for 30-45 minutes, after which I need to take a break). Regardless, my mind can’t help but boggling in wonderment. What I am seeing, what I am playing is MAGIC. It is pure MAGIC and there is nothing anyone can say that will convince me otherwise. We have taken code and rendering blended it with display technology, and created wizardry. How far away from the holodeck are we really? When we can create 3D images without the need of glasses and hold them in the palm of our hand! To feel like I should be able to reach in and grab the mini-fig. To feel like I should be able to pet that Pikmin standing on that card and feel his smooth skin.

I spend my days doing cool stuff, and here, I just sit, marveling at the wonder of the virtual taking spacial shape.