Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Graduated Gamer's Top 5 Video Game Memes

5) The Cake Is a Lie
For anyone that’s been around gaming for the last 5 years, this meme should be pretty familiar to you. The now infamous line “the cake is a lie” had its humble origins in Portal. Throughout the game you’re promised that, should you finish a bunch of tasks set forth by the GlaDOS computer system, you will get cake. However, as you progress through the game you find ominous messages on the walls claiming that the cake you were promised is in fact a lie.

Soon after this phrase caught on in the Portal community, it soon spread to various areas as a way to convey to someone that what they were after or wished to obtain was in fact unattainable. “The cake is a lie” hit even loftier heights when it was used as an achievement in games World of Warcraft (“The Cake Is Not A Lie”) and Minecraft (“The Lie”).

4) It’s Dangerous To Go Alone! Take This.

Number four on the list is a true classic, spawned from the 1986 hit The Legend of Zelda for the NES when Link is offered a sword by the old man for his quest. However, as with most things on the internet, this quickly formed into a meme where the phrase would be caption to a picture of someone offering an object in hand. Also, because the internet is about 75% lolcats, that “object in hand” was usually an adorable kitten, thus spawning a meme within a meme, “Dangerous Kitten”. To this day, deep in forums and blogs everywhere, someone this very day, maybe this very second, is talking about going on a blind date, and someone is cleverly posting a picture of a condom with the phrase “It’s Dangerous To Go Alone! Take This.”

3) Do A Barrel Roll!
I apologize to everyone reading this because if you’ve heard this once, you’ve heard it a million times. This is one of those memes that, depending on the day and my mood, I can either laugh hysterically about, or want to destroy with every ounce of my being. Being a huge fan of Starfox 64 and playing countless hours to get perfect runs as a kid, I was all too familiar with this simple yet versatile phrase. Like Admiral Ackbar before him, Peppy Hare would forever be associated with a seemingly innocent one liner.

“Do a barrel roll” has since been used for everything from gifs to fails to ringtones to its very own Google Easter Egg! I have a feeling that an entire generation of people is going to completely forget about how barrel rolls were actually used by fighter pilots beginning in WWI, and will only associate this with Fox McCloud and his Arwing. With that sort of ability to revise history in the public mind, it’s no wonder “Do a barrel roll!” is the third best gaming meme on the list.

With the size of the game and community at large, I’m surprised there aren’t more ridiculous memes to come from World of Warcraft. However, WoW did give us one of the most memorable videos and catchphrases in gaming history. Who cares if it was staged and whether or not the actual event happened the way to video portrays – this meme is funny as hell.
But what made this meme spread like wildfire? Maybe it was the mystery behind exactly who Leeroy Jenkins was, and what he was thinking. Perhaps it was the clever anticipation and build up in the video to the climactic idiocy of said Leeroy Jenkins that made this such a hit. Or could it be because if you’ve ever gamed online you’ve run into people just like this and you can relate. Whatever the reason, the impact this simple battle cry had on out forums and gaming lives has been large and it’s persisted. With pop culture references abound from The Daily Show to Jeopardy, and one of the true YouTube classics, we tip our hat to Leeroy for being AFK and charging head first at complete doom like a complete dumbass.

 1) All Your Base Are Belong To Us!
You may have seen this coming a mile away, and if you did then I’m sure you don’t mind reliving what is quite possibly the very first video game meme. Now, I’m not actually claiming it is, and I don’t think there’s any way to prove this, but this major translation FUBAR from the arcade game “Zero Wing” became a popular phrase with gamers before the Al Gore invented the internet for lolcats and porn.

Back in 1989, Japanese-to-English translation in games was…sub-par at best, and many games at that time had little bits of confusing text. However, “Zero Wing” caused raised eyebrows and chuckles in arcades across the US with an entire intro of, well, just watch:

To this day, I still bust out this gem for no reason but to remember a truly great meme and a time when arcades were king. When a meme spawns an entire internet subculture of people looking for mistranslations in games and still using this simple phrase to create genius works of comedy, then it certainly deserves the #1 spot on the list of greatest video game memes. 

With so many memes out there, it’s difficult to pick just five greats to create a top 5 list, but we at Graduated Gamer do the dirty work so you don’t have to. See a meme that you don’t agree with? Think we left something off? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Graduated Gamer Reviews Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm makes no apologies about what it is, which is pure unadulterated gun porn. The game is vulgar, violent, mindless, and filled with potty-mouthed jokes that you’d likely hear from a middle-schooler just learning how to curse, but dammit it’s a hell of a lot of fun! I just finished a marathon session of playing Prey (courtesy of the recent Xbox Live Ultimate Summer Sale) and I was worried that another FPS would be too much too soon, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Not since I played Black on the PS2 have I had this much fun just unloading gun clip after gun clip into rows of enemies. The people at Epic must have thought that the Gears of War series wasn’t enough to satiate people’s bloodlust, so they gave us Bulletstorm which pays homage to arcade-y shoot-em-ups. This game isn’t going to threaten any of today’s biggest shooters like Halo, Gears, or Battlefield, but for the 7-10 hours it’ll take you to beat the campaign mode you’ll be laughing along with the characters at every Skillshot you make.
Big wheel keep on turnin'....Big wheel keep on turnin'....

The real star of Bulletstorm is the weaponry. Like most shooters you start out with one trusty gun, a rifle in this case, and you also start with a pair of gravity boots which allow you to kick enemies into the air where they float helplessly for a few seconds. Kicking swarms of killers into giant cacti, off cliffs and shooting them to pieces is fun for a while, but in a matter of time you’ll be armed to the teeth with side arms, explosives, and other crazy weapons to maim and dismember enemies with (which, let’s face it, is a lot more fun).

One of the neatest weapons you have is the Leash, a bio-electrical device attached to your hand that allows you to manipulate baddies and the environment around you. Most of the time you’ll use this gadget to pull enemies into gruesome deaths or close enough to get a good shot. The Leash also allows access to hard to reach places by pulling debris to form a path where there was none.
Scorpion would be proud.Scorpion would be proud.

Creative kills are encouraged by the SkillPoints system. With every new weapon you gain you open a new tree of kills, each worth a certain amount of SkillPoints which can then be used at DropKit stations to buy ammo, upgrade your weapon ammo capacity, and unlock special charges. Each gun also has a powerful secondary firing method which can give you an edge against large swarms of enemies or minibosses (and can lead to more creative kills).

One of the joys of Bulletstorm is unlocking these charges and trying them out on your enemies in new and varying ways to get as many points per kill as possible. Pinned down by a dozen enemies? Use your Leash to throw them all in the air and pick them off one by one with your rifle. Sick of that sniper nest across the way? Shoot a guided bullet into an enemy, move him like a puppet towards his buddies, and detonate him for a pleasant surprise. Yes, this is all possible and it never gets old.
The game itself looks gorgeous. I shouldn’t expect anything less from the Unreal Engine, especially after playing Gears for so many years, but I did find myself just stopping to take a panoramic look around at the beautiful scenery. Not all levels are pretty (this is Epic Games mind you so there’s going to by dark and dank underground missions), but when you’re topside near a waterfall, you can’t help but wish you were actually there,  gazing at the destroyed city on the horizon across a crystal clear lake (minus the psychotic killers out to behead you, that is).

There’s story to the game as well, although it’s not anything super creative. You’re an outlaw who’s been wronged, and you’re out for revenge. After endangering your crew with your drunken recklessness, you crash land on an abandoned paradise planet and slowly make the transition from fallen anti-hero to fairly respectable dude with a moral compass of sorts. It’s been done before and you likely aren’t going to find yourself feeling anything for the characters in the game (except maybe a little hatred towards the main antagonist, General Serrano), but chances are you’ll be having too much fun running and gunning to care.
The bigger they are, the easier they can kill you.

The bigger they are, the easier they can kill you.
A couple of flaws hold Bulletstorm back from being an amazing game. The first thing is that the fast-paced gameplay can lead to some untimely deaths. This game is all about larger than life explosions, big kills, and monstrous environments. At any given time there’s so much going on that it’s very easy to miss objectives that pop up on your screen. This happened to me a few times, and I found myself dead because I forgot to meet a certain required objective in time. For a game that is all about quick pace and quick kills, it really shouldn’t hang you out to dry like that.

Second, the dialogue, although fitting with the theme and style of the game, can be excessive in its attempts to be vulgar and controversial. Throughout the game you’ll be treated to excessive swearing, jokes ranging from homophobic to racially insensitive, and even potty humor. Most of the time it’s excusable given Bulletstorm’s tongue-in-cheek nature, but from time to time I found myself almost embarrassed to have the volume up on the off-chance my neighbors could hear. Still, it’s a game that’s meant to be fun above all else, and the dialogue is a part of that; Bulletstorm does a very delicate balancing act between “too much” and “just enough”. Sometimes I found it to be on the former end of that spectrum.
Key character flaw: inability to say anything without an F-bomb or a sexual innuendo.Key character flaw: inability to say anything without an F-bomb or a sexual innuendo.

As for lengthiness, there’s plenty to keep you busy once you complete the main campaign. If you’re an achievement hunter, there are 5 difficulty settings with which to beat the game. If that’s not your style, there’s also an extra game mode called Echo that allows you to play through certain portions of the game again while literally shooting for a high score. I found this to be a nice addition after beating the game because it allowed me to explore more creative kills and to unlock more SkillPoints that I may have missed during my first playthrough. And if you’re looking for some online action, Bulletstorm allows you and up to four friends to battle in the online community.

So there you have it: if you have an extra $5 and 10 hours just lying around, and you love mindlessly gunning through hordes of enemies, you can’t go wrong with Bulletstorm. Sure, it’s not the most creative FPS on the market, and the story isn’t going to win any awards, but who cares? This is gun porn pure and simple - meant to please with insane kills and massive battle scenes, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Graduated Gamer Plays With Emotions

There are many things in life that stir the emotions and create those “I-know-the-feel” moments. Of course, everyone has their own personal triggers and stimuli, and some may even argue that these moments should be reserved for very special events in your life (marriage, birth of a child, etc.). However, since it’s all based on the individual and the situation, there are no rules to dictate when you should or should not feel. For instance, I recently watched a “Let’s Play” featuring the PS3 game Journey and what began as a typical fan view became an emotional investment. Somehow I was drawn into the world of Journey without even placing a hand on a controller, and by the end of the video I realized I had unexpectedly spent 90 minutes of time and emotional investment on a game that I had previously never even heard of.
We all know that games can be a major time suck where you can easily spend 50+ hours completing a campaign without even realizing it. But some games require more of us, tug at our heartstrings, get in our heads to linger there for hours, days, weeks, maybe even years after the last battle is won and the credits roll. Chances are if you’ve been gaming for more than a few years, you’ve played a game like this.
This to me is one of those special things about gaming that not only sets it apart from many other hobbies, but also causes it to be scrutinized and misunderstood by those who aren’t a part of the gaming culture. Whenever I try to explain this emotional attachment to fake characters and video game OSTs, it’s always a conversation that makes me feel a little stupid, like I should be embarrassed. I’ve recently realized that these experiences are something to be cherished rather than hidden.
One of the first instances I felt this emotional attachment was when I played NHL ’94 with my dad on our Sega Genesis. Those are some of the best memories I have as a child bonding with my father. I’ve heard that you never know what your child will remember of you, it could be the smallest instance that seemed insignificant. To many, the time spent moving pixelated Red Wings and Blackhawks across a screen with a D-pad would seem unimportant, but there was just something in my brain attached that experience with my father to a feeling of pride when I beat him, happiness at spending time with him, and nostalgia years later when I found our old system and game buried in my parent’s basement.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve added more emotion-triggering games to my collection. To this day, the title screen and box art of Earthbound gives me goose bumps. The entire soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX, especially Melodies of Life, sometimes even has the power to move me to tears. And when I see Mario team up with Bowser and Geno in Super Mario RPG, I give a little smirk. I’ve since realized that these games are closely tied to not just well developed characters and story, but to moments in my life that are significant to me. The memories and thoughts of those games allow me to travel back in time to a simpler, more innocent time. It’s the same reason why people hold certain songs or movies in high regard - they remind them of a first date or dance or achievement. 
So the next time you pop in your favorite cartridge just to hear the opening theme, or you go to a local used game store to peruse old PS1 artwork, do it with pride! There are people just like you out there who hold certain games in high emotional regard.  For me, it’s a calling to a simpler time in my life and it’s the reason why I’ll cherish my Sega Genesis and copy of NHL ’94 forever.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Graduated Gamer Games In The Real World, And So Can You - Part 2

[This is the second part of a two part post about how to pick up that dusty controller after years of neglect. If you're in the darkness known as adulthood with...well, a life, then you've likely been away from your beloved games for too long and this post is for you. But hold on there Sparky - if you haven't done so already, check out Part 1 then come on back for the thrilling conclusion.]

Where did we leave off last? Oh right, I just finished telling you poor fools stuck in the real world how to get back to the path of gaming where you belong. So far we've made carved time out of our busy schedules for gaming, taken inventory of our games and systems, and done a little research into the current gaming landscape. Now we’re on to the final steps to bring you back into hardcore gaming from the depths of n00b-y-ness. Buckle up, cause here we go...

Burnout 3 would make for some gruesome driver's ed videos.

Step 4: Organize Your Gaming Area

I can’t stress enough how important this step is. Let's imagine for a minute you wanted to bake a cake, yet the sink was full of gross water and dirty dishes, the baking pans were scattered about and in the wrong cabinets, and the ingredients were either missing or almost gone or expired. Yea buddy, good luck making a cake (or scones or cupcakes or whatever the hell else you like to bake). A clean working space is essential for anyone to get any serious work done, whether it be for your work life or personal life. When I decided I wanted to get back into gaming shape again, I took one look at my entertainment center and nearly gave up right then and there. I had cords going every which way except in the proper inputs, game discs in wrong cases, XBox games mixed in with N64 games mixed in with my Nintendo DS. It was a clusterf***, but instead of giving up, I rolled up my sleeves and got to organizing.

First, I took a trip to Target and bought some basic organizing bins with separators to store memory cards, controllers, and battery packs. I also bought book-ends to keep my cases in proper standing order. I gave my XBox, N64, and 360 each their own space on my TV stand (they've put up with you this long, they deserve it). I organized the cords in an orderly fashion and clipped them together with cord clips to make it aesthetically pleasing (maybe I'm just OCD, but cords going every damn place make my skin crawl). And most of all, I made sure that my game discs and cases were matched (seriously, I have no excuse for how the majority of them were in the wrong cases other than I just got lazy).

If your games and systems have been untouched for long enough, they likely have a nice dust layer that'll need wiped away, so bust out the Swiffer or the Green Clean (environmentalism is sexy) and get to work. A dusty console is a miserable console, and as you all (should) know dust is bad for electronics, so do a good enough job that you could eat off of that PS3 (not that I recommend that either, because trust me the only thing worse for electronics than dust is nacho cheese). Once you're done, take a step back and admire your new and improved gaming space. Hell, feel free to take pictures with it, because you two are going to be very chummy in the near future.

Step 5: Start Gaming...Slowly

Before you roll your eyes at this, think about it for a second. You're an adult with responsibilities, deadlines, possibly a wife and kids, friends, obligations, etc. Burnout is always a threat in a non-gamers life, and adding in one more "to do" will only increase that possibility. The last thing you want is to kill all your hard work at the start because you tried to have a few late night marathons of playing Skyrim in the first week. The real world shouldn't come between you and gaming, but in all fairness your playing time shouldn't interfere or disrupt your life in the real world either.

Finding a life/gaming balance is essential, no matter what age you are - the only difference is that you have far more people depending on you as an adult than you did as a child or a college student. Remember Step 1? Take the time you set aside for gaming and adhere to it strictly. As you become familiar with your craft and feel more comfortable setting more time aside, readdress Step 1 and change your habits accordingly. The point here is to get into a good groove with a slow start. If you try to push yourself back into gaming shape too soon it's bound to shoot you in the ass like a 6 year old kid in Blazing Saddles.

Step 6: Buy More Games and Enjoy Yourself

Alright hot-shot, you've taken the time to get set up, test the waters, and finally drag yourself out of the dark pit of despair known as life to enjoy gaming once more. Now comes the final step in your metamorphosis. Just like any other hobby or pleasure in life, there's an investment to be made, and to truly be back in the realm of true gamers, you'll need to update that game library of yours. If you're still mashing buttons on your PS2 I suggest looking into a shiny new PS3, or trying something new and buying the sleek looking Super-Slim XBox 360. If you've got a newer console but are "stuck" playing Gears of War 2 or Resistance, there are so many games to choose from that are bound to satisfy your newfound game-lust. You came a long way from the real world n00b to be where you are at this point, and you should celebrate with a copy of a game you've wanted to play for a long time.

And there you have it: my 6 steps to take yourself from the depressing depths of a gameless adulthood to the grandeur of pwning n00bs (or whatever it is people call it these days, I don’t know since I just started gaming again not too long ago). Now go forth with controller in hand and stake your claim once more in the landscape of gaming greatness. Oh, and feel free to share this with any other poor shmucks who haven’t yet seen the light and are also trapped in the real world.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Graduated Gamer Waits On Next Gen Consoles

It's that time once again when new consoles are announced and fanboys/gals take precious time away from their 360s, PS3s, and even Wii's to argue for the glory of their chosen gaming medium. It's been hammered out long and hard even though we've only known details about these consoles for a couple of months, and blood has already been shed. Sony took pot shots at the Xbox One, everyone and their mother moaned about Microsoft's questionable intent with their new console, and Microsoft (wisely, IMO) listened to it's consumer base and reneged on regular online authenticity checks and restrictions regarding used games. This is all old news, and although it added a lot of hilarious content for me to eat my popcorn to, it didn't really change my approach to deciding which console will be my next investment.

Despite what anyone is saying about the pros and cons of the PS4 or the XB1, I'm going to patiently bid my time before I buy my next gaming console. Perhaps it's the fact that I was raised by parents who made me earn everything I got in life. At the young age of 12 when I asked my father for a Nintendo 64, he bent down, put a hand on my shoulder and said "get a paper route". I was the last kid in my neighborhood to own an N64, but I think I was the only 12 year old to throw down $200 of his own hard-earned cash to buy his. Since then, I've looked at bigger purchases throughout my life with more scrutiny, and I certainly know the value of my money vs. what others tell me (especially when those "others" are corporations that see me as part of their quarterly figure). Even at the age of 26 and making way more than my 12 year old self, I find myself unable to preorder either of these powerful new entertainment systems on the opinions of others (and because nearly nobody has yet to play these systems, that's exactly what they are: opinions).

There's also what I like to call the "PS2 Effect" (I'm working on a trademark so don't try anything). The PS2 is arguably my favorite console of all time. With a massive game library, killer graphics for it's time, and exclusive tie-ins with some of gaming's all-time greatest franchises, it was hard not to love that slim black box. Possibly the best part about the PS2 was it's shelf life, which saw the storied console last for 10+ years on the market. Not only did sales of the console continue for over a decade, but the library of games continued to grow in that time, even when PS3 and Xbox 360 were slugging it out for space below Christmas trees. At that time, I was a poor college student who saw Subway as a luxury, and thus was in no financial position to buy a $500 piece of gaming glory. But I didn't really care that much because I still had hours of gameplay left with my PS2. Why buy hundreds of dollars worth of gaming when you have 40 hours left in Final Fantasy X, or lap times to beat in Gran Turismo? Why battle it out with the Chimera when you still have so much to explore in Vice City (also on my list of greatest video game soundtracks of all time)?
So as the end of 2013 edges closer and closer, I find myself in the same position as I did in 2006, except this time it's the Xbox 360 that still has a lot of life still to go (that, and this time I have more money and eat all the Subway I want). Even more so now because I made the terrible transition to adulthood (I don't recommend it, and college definitely doesn't count) and gaming has forcibly taken a  backseat in my life. Still I find time to play Minecraft and explore Pandora with my pals, but there are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay I still have left with my 360, and that's just counting the games I own and haven't played yet (seriously, why does GTA V have to come out this year?). So as the days continue to get shorter, fanboys/gals will continue to squabble, Sony and Microsoft will make their billions in preorders, and I'll grab another bowl of popcorn, because there is no way I'm going to drop hundreds of dollars on a new toy when the one I've already got still has a lot of entertainment to give.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Playing Hooky - War of the Monsters

For some reason I can still recall anticipating the release of War of the Monsters back when the PS2 was king and I was sporting some sexy, spiky gelled hair. I remember soaking up preview videos, news, and articles that came out about the game. Perhaps it was the little kid in me who grew up watching the animated Godzilla series that wanted so bad to wreak havoc in a totally destructible city. Or maybe I liked that it seemed as if a developers were finally making a fighting game for people who suck at fighting games like me. (I’m at step 5 of “Button Mashers Anonymous”). Whatever the reason, when War of the Monsters was finally released I went to the bank and realized that I didn’t have enough money to buy it. Therefore, I never got to play a game I waited months for… 
Until now! I recently made a trip to my local used game store and snagged this gem from the shelves for only $11* (a steal). For as much as I complain about being a real adult, it has it’s perks – for one, I have a job that pays well enough for me to buy all the retro games I never got to play growing up. I brought the game home and decided to invite my buddy Andrew over for a little gaming session to see once and for all whether War of the Monsters would live up to my 16-year-old self’s expectations.
It's about to get weird up in here.
First off, I’ll admit that my gaming session with Andrew was the very first time I cracked into this game so any unlockables and achievements are currently not included in this write-up. If I get around to these in the near future I’ll update this post accordingly. Instead, we took advantage of the basic game modes: free-for-all and elimination. Free-for-all is just as it sounds: you pick your own monster and the CPU’s, then duke it out in various locations. You can also select how many “wins” (i.e. – kills) you need to obtain to be declared victor. The game is basically a mix between Rampage and WWF Royal Rumble (two supremely awesome games that deserve their own sessions), except with totally destructible 3D environments. 
The elimination mode is similar to free-for-all but instead it’s a “two monsters enter, one survives” situation where you have a finite number of respawns. However, if you picked one of the weaker monsters, you’ll find yourself suffering a quick death (sure it’s the monster, not you…). Luckily, the game allows you to pick a new monster each time you die. This allows each round of fighting to be different instead of a bad case of deja-vu and it was a welcome breath of fresh air. It actually made dying less painful because I knew I could mix it up and try my luck with another character. 
Each game mode is a blast to play with a buddy, but the real star of the game is the attention to detail. I don’t just mean the graphics, but the homage to classic B-movie legends like Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, and the like. Each character in the game is inspired in some part by some cheesy rubber suit monster, right down to special moves and monster screeches. You can just picture you and your opponents on some miniaturized city set duking it out 40+ years ago while model planes buzz around your head. Even the loading screens are based on classic movie posters and fake newspaper articles about monster attacks. The makers of War of the Monsters obviously took their fandom of the genre and proudly made a game to reflect their love for a bygone cinematic age. 
The game environments are also heavily rooted in the monster movie genre, from an island of atomic waste to a typical city teeming with people running for their lives beneath your feet. That right there would be enough to satisfy me as the backdrop for epic clashes, but each environment is littered with hidden weapons and power ups for you to discover. Fortune favors the curious in this game – destroying buildings just for the hell of it can provide a steel girder with which to pummel your opponent, or it may reveal a secret power-up instantly giving your monster extra energy for special attacks. Smashing any and all things in War of the Monsters is fun on its own, and even more so with the chance of a reward beneath the rubble.

Unfortunately, I did have a few problems with the game. For one, it was a straight up button-mashing affair. Now granted, I’m no expert in fighting games and button mashing is sort of my thing (seriously, play me in Super Smash Bros. any day for an easy win), but after just 30 minutes into the game it was painfully clear that “combo moves” consisted entirely of hammering triangle until your victim went flying across the screen. Rinse and repeat. There are variations on this, such as special distance attacks and aforementioned weapons (good luck getting that impaled antennae out of your chest, BTW), but the overall experience is dulled by favoring frantic thumb smashing.
Another issue is the AI response to itself – it’s essentially non-existent. The CPU monsters seemed to not know what the meaning of “free-for-all” and proceeded to mercilessly tag-team me and my buddy, forcing us to run for our lives rather than stay and fight. It got so bad at one point that Andrew and I actually forgot we were in free-for-all mode and were convinced we were on a team against the CPU. This should never happen, especially because it can quickly turn a fun game into a rage quit should you decide to team up with the CPU against your buddy(3-on-1 does not a rumble make). However, this is easily rectified by snagging a multi-tap and inviting at least one more friend to join in the slug-fest. (Who’s at the disadvantage now, CPU?! Stop hitting yourself!)
Lastly, if you’re going to make a button mashing arcade beat-em-up, character balance is a must, and War of the Monsters misses that mark. For some reason, some of the playable monsters had a feeling of cheapness about them. For instance, certain monsters are given longer reaches to easily pound their opponents while remaining a safe distance away. Others are given special powers that, although cool and fitting to their design, given them unfair advantages over others, like being able to fly and strike from above while all others are grounded. It’s a minor gripe, but it can be enraging when all you can do to stay alive is keep your distance and spam everyone with distance attacks, which in turn only pisses them off more, and causes them to hunt you.
Despite the issues, however, War of the Monsters is a great addition to your PS2 collection. I haven’t even started the single player gameplay yet, and I know that I have a game that’ll continue to get good mileage whenever I have a few friends over. So if you have a soft spot in your heart for old-school monster movies, need a fun and social fighting game that anyone can pick up and play, or simply love discovering new games that are good time wasters, you can’t go wrong with War of the Monsters.
*You can find complete copies of War of the Monsters online for decent prices. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Graduated Gamer Games In The Real World, And So Can You - Part 1

Being an adult sucks. I don't mean being a college student, 21 years old, invincible, going to sleep at 5 AM and skipping all your classes to wake up at some time in the late afternoon. I may sound like an old fart when I say this (and believe me, I’m not proud of it) but those glory years in no way resemble real adulthood. How do I know? Because I'm 26 with a full-time job and two college degrees on my wall. I've been there, and I should have never left.

I did not stay as long as I could, nor did I fully cherish it.

One of the biggest differences I've noticed between adulthood and blissful freedom (apart from making more money than I spend) is the amount of time I can devote to gaming. For the first two years of what I consider adulthood, I had forsaken my precious consoles and PC games for long hours at work and sleep-filled recovery weekends. However, over the last few months I've made a conscious effort to find time to game and get myself back into “gaming shape”. This isn't so much a rebellion against the real world or an escape from it as much as it is a way to find my way back to a true passion I've had since I first booted up my Sega Genesis to collect golden rings and defeat Dr. Robotnik.

Now that I've finally settled into a nice groove of gaming in the real world (see, that's the title so I had to add it in somewhere), I want to share the steps I took to turn back the clock to the good ol’ days where weekends were for parties, hangovers lasted only as long as it took me to eat breakfast, and I had enough free time to beat a game in less than a month week day.(Disclaimer Time: These are suggestions and what works for me may not work for you. Also this is a post about getting back to gaming, so take it for what it's meant to be - fun.) To keep this from being "tl;dr", I broke this post into two parts, each consisting of three steps to get anyone back into proper gaming shape if you've found yourself lost in the craziness of (early) adulthood. So without further ado...

Step One: Make Time To Game

This may sound obvious, but honestly, it's the most important step in the process (apart from actually gaming). For me, this took a little planning and a lot of luck. My job requires long hours - it's common to work 50+ hours per week (sometimes significantly more). To make matters worse, my job also requires frequent travel that takes me away from my precious game consoles. As a result, I had make a more deliberate effort and decided to sit down and brainstorm ways to make time to game. Here’s what I came up with: sacrifice sleep, improve work week time management, make fewer plans on the weekend, and create gaming "appointments". If you're like me, you make some of these same sacrifices for your job, so why not use some of those same strategies to make time to game? If you travel a lot and don't have a handheld game system, consider investing in one. I decided to go a little old school and got a Nintendo DS because while you may not get the newest games, the bigger screens, or the better graphics of the 3DS, you can play DS and GBA games which vastly increases your repertoire of possible games to play. So now instead of napping or working while travelling, I either bust out a book or spend an hour or two catching up on Pok√©mon White/Black. If you can free just 3 hours out of your week to start gaming again, you’ll be off to a great start.

Step Two: Take Inventory

When I finally made time to game again, I barely even knew what games I owned, let alone which ones I had never completed due to adulthood kicking into high gear. It is my opinion that in order to know where you need to go, you must first understand where you left off. So I decided to dig into my game collection to find out just that. I started out by separating my games into three categories: 1) those that I had completed and had no real desire to re-explore, 2) games I started but didn't complete, and 3) games that I hadn't even started/opened. If you’re feeling really organized, you can  break group 2  into two subcategories: 1) those you wish to finish, and 2) those you stopped playing because you had no desire to finish (we've all played those games before - I'm looking at you, Dark Cloud 2). Once you do that, I suggest breaking down those games you wish to play by priority and by estimated hours to complete (any reputable gaming site should have this IGN...duh). Keep in mind that this list is fluid, and it doesn't have to be perfect. Chances are you'll revise the list by the time you actually start gaming again. This is a good thing! It shows you're critically thinking about gaming once again and you're regaining your gaming passion once more.

Step Three: Research the Current Gaming Landscape

This step is just to get you acclimated to the current series, news, and other topics in the gaming world. In my gaming heyday I would frequent sites like IGN and 1UP daily and even had subscriptions to various console magazines. I'm not suggesting you need to be that dedicated but try to take some time to catch up on reviews of games you want to play, the latest industry news and trends, your favorite game series and genres, and, if you've been out of the loop for a long while, the latest consoles (seriously, we all know the N64 is awesome but you might want to upgrade to a PS3 or a Wii). Take as much time as you want with this; the point is to soak up enough information to be adept in today's current gaming landscape and to know where to look once you get back into the swing of things.

Well, that covers the first few steps of my plan to help you pull yourself from the pits of n00b-dom. I hope you find this helpful and it gets you well on your way to gaming in the real world. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in “Gaming in the Real World – Part 2”!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Graduated Gamer Welcomes You To The Real World!

Welcome to the real world, gamer! My name is Tim, but you can call me Graduated Gamer. There was a time in my life when all I needed in the summertime was some Mountain Dew, a bag of Doritos, and my Nintendo 64. With that, I was the happiest kid in the world – sleepovers consisted of Goldeneye marathons, days consisted of waking at noon and playing until 4 AM, and beating a game was the greatest and only achievement you needed. From the moment I booted up my Sega Genesis and collected gold rings as Sonic the Hedgehog to saving the galaxy as Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, video games have been a part of my life. However, one day I made a vital mistake: I graduated from college and entered the real world.

My gaming marathon food has changed a little since my childhood.
Blissfully ignorant, I had no idea that this slight change in my life would cause my video gaming to suffer immensely. My Xbox 360 went from running hot to taking up space in storage, my knowledge of the gaming industry went downhill, and I had more half-played games in my library than I care to admit. Who knew that having a full-time job combined with a girlfriend, a cat, bills, and various other adult responsibilities would take so much time away from my console?

Over time I realized how much I was neglecting my games and how much I truly missed the joys of that Xbox. So I did something about it, and today I’m slowly rehabilitating myself into the gamer I used to be…or something close. Sure, I’ll never have the freedom to play from dusk til dawn like I did in middle school, but real life just shouldn’t come between a gamer and his controllers.
Less daunting than working 60 hours/week and trying to beat Mass Effect on Insanity.
After some time, I figured there have to be more gamers living in the real world, who love gaming but may not have the time to buy and play the latest games, or they may have unfinished games that they want to finally complete. Perhaps they’ve been away from gaming for so long that the consoles you own are from the 64-bit era (or earlier). All of those things are totally cool, and I believe that gaming isn’t all about the latest and greatest or about buying the hottest game and beating it in one night (seriously, I only get so many vacation days a year and I’m not going to use one to beat GTA V in one night…although it’s so damn tempting).
This is where this blog comes in. I wanted to create a place where people can enjoy video gaming in the real world. Maybe you don’t have time or money to spend on the latest game(s) and some older, cheaper titles are more your preference. Perhaps you wish to reminisce about consoles past, or you’re still getting some good miles on your N64/PS1/PS2. Maybe you just like to talk about gaming because your style is purely recreational. Whatever the case, I hope you’ll join me on this adventure, and perhaps in time you’ll go from a level 1 n00b to a level 50 curb-stomper (and if not, that’s okay too – seriously, don’t quit your job, leave bills unpaid, or dump your girl/boyfriend*).

*Graduated Gamer is not responsible for gaming ruining your life, just like we’re not responsible for the real world ruining your gaming. A healthy work-life-gaming balance is what we strive for here at Graduated Gamer and we hope we can be a part of that.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Graduated Gamer's Comment Policy

Graduated Gamer loves offering you the reader a fun and safe commenting experience that supports free expression while at the same time striving to limit negative interactions. Here are a few of the things you should be aware of before posting comments on Graduated Gamer.

Insults, Flaming and Bashing

We encourage open discussions and sharing of personal opinions and viewpoints. While it’s okay to have disagreements in discussions, personal attacks against other users will not be tolerated. It is never acceptable to discriminate against another user's origin, appearance, age, sex, sexual orientation, or religion. If a user exhibits this behavior, his/her account will be blocked from commenting.

While the usage of usernames and custom avatars is a freedom offered by the blogging community, it is not to be used as a means to treat other posters or content creators with less civility than you would give them should they be standing in front of you face to face. Likewise, just because something's a meme, a popular quote, or other users have made the same comment before, it does not grant a commenter the right to repeat an insult against another person.

Trolling and Spam

Trolling is defined as posting anything specifically designed to attract a negative reaction from an individual or group. Not all negative opinions are automatically considered trolling, but constructive and positive discussions are encouraged. Gamers are vocal about their likes and dislikes and some display their partisanship by leaving comments on posts about subjects they oppose or don't enjoy. Constructive feedback and discussions are to be encouraged, but blatant trolling devoid of opinion/discourse (e.g. – “Xbox One sux” on an Xbox One post) should be removed. Active contributions to discussion will always be welcomed; however, determination of flaming, trolling, and spam posts will be made at the discretion of Graduated Gamer and staff.

Advertising or excessive spamming of posts is not permitted, and will result in a removal. Graduated Gamer welcomes someone posting a helpful link or highlighting a counterpoint on another website, but users who post repeat links, commerce, or constantly talk up another site should be warned. 


Use of profanity as personal expression, in pictures, or in text, is allowed on Graduated Gamer (hell, we use it ourselves sometimes). However, any profanity used is subject to guidelines and the discretion of Graduated Gamer. Still, keep it clean if you don't want your posts to get flagged or hidden from view. Graduated Gamer will take action against those who repeatedly use excessive profanity for no reason.

Racial slurs or hate speech are not allowed anywhere on the blog and any person caught using them will be immediately banned. Explicitly sexual or profane descriptions and writing are not allowed.

Profanity directed in an attack against another user is subject to the same considerations as flaming and trolling (see above).

Off-Topic Posts and Spoilers

Excessively posting off-topic comments or hijacking and driving a discussion off topic is not tolerated and may result in a ban from commenting. Please be considerate of the other users who may not have played a game that you're talking about (seriously, just because you and all your friends have played Mass Effect, there are likely people who haven’t but don’t want to have the ending spoiled for them…like me!).

When a game is released, please wait a few months before openly discussing spoiler content in article comments. You can use visible spoiler warnings in comments and avoid openly posting major plot points that could ruin the experience for those who aren't yet in the know (like Mass Effect – I’m serious about this; I’ve been avoiding this spoiler forever!). Posting information with the intent to spoil the experience for others may result in a ban from commenting on Graduated Gamer.

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Absolutely no form of pornography is allowed. Images that contain sexual acts, pubic hair, female nipples, bare bottoms, bodily fluids or genitals that are in any way visible, even on clothing, are not permitted. We allow discussions of sexuality if it pertains to video game content, but these discussions must remain mature at all times and never contain sexually explicit or profane wording or imagery. Any posts, pictures, jokes, or discussions with a clear intent to sexualize children, including sexually suggestive photos of anyone seemingly under the age of 18 will incur a permanent ban and possible legal action.

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Graduated Gamer has a policy against piracy and the illegal use of copyrighted material. Encouraging software or media piracy, including linking to or giving information about any site that seeks to distribute illegal software or media, or any site seeking help to circumvent any copyright laws is grounds for an immediate ban. This goes for all copyrighted material, including but not limited to games, movies, music, magazines, and videos. General discussions about customizing hardware, emulators, etc. are fine.

Questionable Content

These are public discussions, so act like you would if you were in a public place, or in front of your grandmother who’s knitting on the porch and telling a story of her youth. These issues are left to the discretion of Graduated Gamer, but may include any material that is knowingly false and/or defamatory, misleading, spam, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, sexist, obscene, racist, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, that otherwise violates any law, or that encourages conduct constituting a criminal offense. Asking for or offering any of the material listed above is also not permitted.

Graduated Gamer's Privacy Policy

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