An Ode to the Light Gun Shooter

For the most part, I am relatively okay with losing arcades. The arcade experience was something that I like out of nostalgia, but admittedly I also really dig the home gaming experience. There is, however, one thing I do definitely miss.

Remember light gun shooters? Oh man, now those were some good times.

I remember playing a copy of Time Crisis on my PSOne in the good old days of 1997, I still have a disc actually. I had played a handful of light gun shooters before, or at least saw them. But it was Time Crisis that actually got me into the genre.

I also played Virtua Cop and pretty much all of the House of the Dead games (except for 4). I still have to play Time Crisis 5, but that’s probably gonna be a permanent thing unless a port comes out. I haven’t played Razing Storm either, though I did play Crisis Zone.

But, as the arcade went, so too did light gun shooters. Pretty much the only two franchises that are still alive and kicking are Time Crisis and House of the Dead. Everything else has basically gone under.

One of the side benefits of the Nintendo Wii, despite its lack of graphical prowess, was the fact that the Wii Remote was well-suited to light gun games. Indeed, we got House of the Dead: Overkill and the Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles games.

This was important because until then, light guns worked off CRT (big-ass) monitor technology. You had to use a CRT monitor, and even at the time of the Wii they were on their way out.

But that ride had to end, too. All I’ve got left are fond memories. At this point, I’m going to wax nostalgically about both Time Crisis and House of the Dead. For the record, I saw both House of the Dead movies and they were pretty terrible.

Ok, so let’s start with Time Crisis. Time Crisis is, as I was told by an old friend, a “bad action movie simulator”. In terms of plots, they’re pretty terrible and pretty campy. Yet, I enjoy this camp factor, especially in Time Crisis 3 where we got banter from the VSSE agents.

And of course, we got Wild Dog. No matter what happens, he always seems to pull through. He loses his arm after the first game, but it is replaced with increasingly more ridiculous weapons.

In fact, I think the games got more and more campy as they went on. But still, in terms of intense shooting action, you can’t beat it.

But while taking down armies of mercenaries/terrorists/whatever action movie bad guy they’re using is certainly fun, others may want to hone their shooting skills on a less…living target.

Enter the House of the Dead series of games. House of the Dead is known for two things: Shooting zombies and the worst possible voice acting to grace video games. Watching the cutscenes alone is entertainment enough, especially if you’re watching House of the Dead 2’s cutscenes.

House of the Dead 1 and 2 had an emphasis on branching paths which could be triggered by saving hostages or destroying objects in the environment. This was neutered in the third game, where you were given more direct choices that had less of an impact.

I never got to play House of the Dead 4, but I have seen playthroughs. Outside of the numbered games, we have Overkill. That game was so much fun, with a humorous take on grindhouse cinema. Agent G is cast as a rookie teamed up with Isaac Washington, who constantly swears.

There was a Silent Hill rail shooter, but it wasn’t honestly that good. Still, it’s got classic monsters in it.

I must confess, I love the simplicity of the genre. If I have some time, I can just pick it up and play. But, it seems pretty clear that this will have to remain a relic of a forgotten age of games. I have heard of attempts to resuscitate the genre with VR, and if that’s the case, I’d be more than happy to pick that up. Until then, I guess I can watch playthroughs on YouTube.

A First Time For Everything…

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Photo by Dylan Greene

As a way of dealing with some of the stressors, I find it helpful to get out of the house. Being cooped up in my room with no one else around often leads me to rumination, perseveration, and isolation. I decided to head down to College Park to a board game cafe known as Board and Brew.

I was greeted with a wide assortment of games and a variety of players to game along with. My friend’s dad was there, so I said hello to him. Truth be told, I had the mischevious impulse to give him a hard time. Thankfully for him, I was dissuaded when my group of players started up a game.

Board and Brew’s selection of games goes beyond what you would find in a department store such as Target. It also goes further (though I am unsure as to how much further) than my beloved store in Glen Burnie, Games and Stuff. There were hundreds of board games, ones that I had never heard of before.

My group and I played Room-25, Euphoria, and Abraca-what. In fact, going to a board game cafe is good not only for meeting new people but also for trying new board games. My experience with Euphoria, while lengthy, was positive to the point that I considered introducing it to my friends once my bank account goes back beyond double digits.

There was an interesting conversation that I had with several of the other players. One of them brought up OkCupid and it had inspired me to reactivate my account, which I had shut down about a week prior after a mediocre date.

Pikesville is not well-known for its geek subculture. It may exist on some level, but it’s small. It is a community in Baltimore county best known for being religious and affluent. If you spend enough time there, you’ll find plenty of synagogues, and the Jewish community there is quite large.

Ever since I moved out there, I have felt very out of place. It was a consequence of my father’s remarriage, so I’m just kind of stuck with it until I move out. Fortunately, I am mobile and there’s nothing better than a road trip.

So it was a bit of a refresher to find a cool new place, just a bit out of the way! I wonder, perhaps a trip back will be in order come January?

It All Falls Apart in the End

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Photo by Alvimann @ Morguefile.com

There’s a particular trend with games that I find quite troubling. I began observing the trend in the previous console generation and it doesn’t seem to have died down. My experience with Final Fantasy XV has proved this. Although I have thus far enjoyed much of the game, my experience with the endgame has not been so favorable.

Before I go on, spoilers for Fable 2, Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit), Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Bastion. With that in mind, let’s continue.

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Return to My Heart, Dear Aletha!

 

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Photo by adwinda @ Morguefile.com

Recently, I got an email from someone that I thought was rather intriguing.

 

Hey Dylan

its me Aletha Deaton in Pikesville.

phone my cell-phone –

seven two 4 9 zero three one four 3 five .  if you have a minute.. I miss ya sexy

The uninformed reader may believe that this poor use of grammar, sentence structure, and the completely out-of-the-blue nature of this email was the result of a spammer that somehow got around the filter. Indeed, they may also believe that it would not be a good idea to contact this number, as it is likely an attempt to phish information out of me.

How wrong they are. I knew Aletha and this email reminded me not only of the good times we had together, but also awakened a desire within me that I had not felt for a long time.

My story with Aletha began in preschool, and we remained classmates for a long time. Much to the chagrin of her English teachers, she was raised in a religious cult that held in its doctrine that grammar was a tool developed by evil forces to enslave letters. The so-called “Lettertarians” believed that human-letter relationships could be improved by discarding the notions of grammar in its entirety.

I was invited to her house for a playdate, which quickly turned awkward when I brought along a Dr. Seuss book to read. Her father threatened to burn it, freeing the letters from their torment at the hands of a cruel author who was more interested in wordplay than the well-being of the letters on the page.

Yet, I always knew that she was good in her heart. As we grew older, our time spent together consisted of awkward stares and the constant struggle of her having to articulate in a language that she was programmed not to speak or read. Everyone else became so exasperated with her, merely stating “Are you out of your fucking mind?!” But they could not understand the bond that I shared with her. It was a bond beyond words, one that I hoped would be understood but sadly wasn’t.

Aletha’s family was not only Lettertarian, but they were also under the belief that photographs were created by evil people to control the minds of those they photographed. To them, photographs could be used to manipulate one’s desires and will. As such they had no photos in their house. Though I am doing this without permission from her or her family, I have found a reasonable facsimile of her.

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Yes, I remember the days in which she would let me run my fingers through her curly brown hair. It was a texture that I thoroughly enjoyed, the soft silky feel was something to be retained. Though, perhaps an incredulous reader might point out that this could be anyone since it’s just an avatar. But this is how I remember her, including the fact that she was literally two-dimensional.

As we reached our adolescence, my friendship had blossomed into something more intimate. We walked along the Gunpowder trail, searching for small beige colored rocks for her cult rituals. We would skinny dip in the water when we could, taking our youth as an opportunity to transgress boundaries. This was fully realized one fateful evening when we manifested our love for each other underneath a running waterfall. While more discerning partners would not have appreciated her abysmal grammar in the context of the throes of passion, I was enthralled by it.

However, as I grew older I learned that Aletha had enlisted in the Army and was sent to Vietnam, sending me the single email “i iz goings on this wars. shooting peeple for countrie.tell prents loove theim.” I thought her all but lost. Her family had decided to disappear off the face of the planet and retreat to a Lettertarian enclave where they could engage in an illiterate utopia.

But now she has returned to my life, and henceforth my heart. I brought it up to my therapist and she responded with “Dylan, what the fuck are you talking about? You’ve never known anyone named Aletha, there are no Lettertarians, and you didn’t have sex on Gunpowder trail while you were a teenager. Vietnam was over decades before you were even born. How the hell do you come up with this shit?”

But she will not understand. Aletha and I have something special. We will marry in the spring, according to Lettertarian customs. We will be dipped in India Ink and smeared all over a giant sheet of blank white paper to symbolize approval by the letters.  The love between me and my illiterate-by-choice, two-dimensional cult member fiance will just be something that society will have to accept. My friends have come to accept this as real, though it’s always preceded by an awkward silence. But Aletha, I wish to thank you for coming back to me. I feel much more like a complete person because of you. That is a love that I will always appreciate.

Denial of a Common Language

 

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Photo by gracey at Morguefile.com

 

I wanted to take today to address something that I had alluded to yesterday. It was a brief reblog that I wanted to make about video games.

I happened across a blog post from the perspective of a mother of an autistic child. Her blog post gave the impression of a very strict environment, with little access to forms of entertainment. She specifically singled out video games, citing that they encourage antisocial behavior. While I would normally link it, I really want to talk about the thought process

I despise the term “antisocial” because it means two different things with very serious implications depending on which definition you use. The first definition is more accurately described as “introversion”, an inward focused mindset or behavior. The second definition, however, describes deliberate harm to social structures. Stealing, lying, and other bits of social nastiness. I do not know which definition this uses, but the lay definition tends to use the former, so I will assume that is the case.

This is not a specific reaction to this post, but the broader implications behind it. Obviously, she is not the first one to do this and probably not the last. Her comment section was overwhelmingly supportive of this decision, and I feel like offering a direct comment is not going to be productive. I am therefore doing this for my audience’s benefit, not the person who wrote the blog post that inspired this.

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