E3 2014…Through Selfies

As this is the last day of June, this is the last E3 2014 related blog post, I promise.

I wanted to do something different for this year’s show, but I was having trouble thinking of an idea. One night a group of us were sitting around a bonfire when my wife started taking the selfies she loved so much, and I had an idea:

E3 2014, As Seen Through Selfies!

I have about 30-35 selfies here, in chronological order, from the four-day marathon that is E3. I tried to be funny with them most of the time, so I hope at least one of them makes you smile. Enjoy!

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Waiting for my plane at the appropriate gate at Philadelphia International.

 

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Sitting on the Virgin America plane. E3 awaits!

 

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Can’t help but feel like I’m being watched…

 

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THE PASS. Without this, there’d be no E3.

 

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Where the greatest play? Aw, thanks Sony, you’re too kind.

 

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The panoramic selfie of the front of the building. Really happy with how this turned out.

 

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BATMAN. He’s coming to get me!

 

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This was on the bus to the Xbox conference, the first of the day on Monday. Orange shirt go!

 

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In the seat and ready to go. Just off of stage left!

 

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This was my “I have to wait in the wait list line and I don’t know if I’m going to get in” face for Ubisoft. I did end up getting in, thankfully.

 

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After getting into Ubisoft, I was PUMPED for Sony.

 

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The Sony arena wasn’t very selfie-friendly…so there’s my shirt and the stage.

 

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One of the best places you can be before hitting the floor. The spaces are few and precious.

 

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Technically not a selfie, but this was the lineup before playing Battlefield.

 

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Man, what is he so angry about?

 

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Don’t look at me like that, Sims grandma lady.

 

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All I said was I was handsome too. What a hothead.

 

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Lego Robin! I didn’t even have to crouch, dude was tall.

 

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First Disney Infinity Venom tried to attack me…

 

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..then Nova decided to fly onto my head…

 

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…then Iron Fist punched me in the head…

 

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…FINALLY Thor came to help me out…though I didn’t trust him with that hammer.

 

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What do you look so smug about? And what’s Sully pointing at?

 

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At first I was wary about the undead hanging out at an E3 party…

 

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…but it turns out there were really cool and not bitey.

 

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Well, that one was bitey…

 

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OCULUS. Oh man this thing is cool, and until you wear it you’ll never truly understand.

 

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He didn’t suspect a thing…

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…but then he wanted to join the fun.

 

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This is my “E3 is over and I’m leaving the convention center for the last time” face.

 

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Until next year, LA Convention Center.

 

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Finally, the flight home with my best Dom Deluise look.

 

With this, my E3 coverage is officially over I think. Time to move to the next big thing…whatever that’s going to be.

 

 

 

 

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E3 Day Three: Even More Reactions And Other Type Things

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Until next year, E3.

The last day seemed to have the most breaks, but it actually turned out to be the busiest day of the week. I got hands-on with a TON of games, and sat in a few more demos of some pretty big games. I also ended up missing some big time games, and I’m kicking myself for it. Here we go!

-10AM saw me in Telltale’s booth for some Tales of the Borderlands action. It’s amazing how that game is so Telltale, but at the same time SO Borderlands. The humor is there, the action is there, and the new additions to the Telltale formula make it even more Borderlands. At one point Rhys (one of the two characters you control) needs to summon a Loader Bot, but we get to decide what kind of bot it is. The game will also follow two sides of the same story, and we’ll have to wade through the bullshit for the truth. It’s a really neat concept, and it shot up my list big time. Also, there was a little pinball machine for Walking Dead Pinball, and any Pinball FX 2 fans will LOVE that table.

-Next I traveled over to Atlus to try out Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. It feels exactly the same as the other games, and while I’m sure there are changes, it’s been so long since I played the other game that I didn’t really notice. I’m still gonna try it out when it launches, but right now it seemed like more P4A.

-That appointment was an hour long and I was only there for 15 minutes, so I seized the opportunity and tried something I had hoped I’d get to see: the Oculus Rift. For those unaware, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that is currently in development (it was recently bought by Facebook for $2 billion). I played a spaceship shooter called EVE Valkyrie, and the minute I strapped that thing onto my head I saw the power of this device. I was instantly in the cockpit of a fighter jet in space, waiting to go into battle. I could look around the cockpit and see every little detail, even those at my sides. I looked down at MY BODY WAS THE PILOT’S BODY. Playing the game is even cooler, as I was doing barrel rolls (tee hee) and soaring around space as if I was sitting right there. It’s the coolest damn thing in the world, I can’t praise it enough,

-How do I follow that up? Well I still had a little more time, so I thought some 1886 was in Order. I got hands-on with the third chapter of the game, fighting rebels in the streets. The game is incredibly dependent on staying in cover; you will be punished for staying out in the open. The Thermite rifle I was using is an interesting concept: R2 fires ash-like thermite into the field, and R1 then fires a tiny flare that ignites the cloud, incinerating any poor enemy bastard in its path. Most of all, I can’t describe how incredible that game’s graphics are. Everything is seamlessly running in real time, and the character models are so damn realistic. The uncanny valley awaits.

-I finally bridged the gap to my next appointment, where I was back at Activision for two interviews, one for Call of Duty and one for Destiny. Yes, I interviewed with DESTINY. Look for those once I transcribe them, which will be very soon.

-I had a lull in my schedule planned after my interviews, but one of my appointments wanted to move up to 1PM, so I was headed back to Sony’s booth to see how PlanetSide 2 for PS4 is shaping up. The console crowd is getting one hell of no shooter from the PC world. The game is slick and fun with a lot of variety in its classes and loadouts. Best of all it’s free to play, so there will be no cost when it launches later this year. It’s definitely worth a shot.

-After those I rushed to the private meeting room area to get a hands-off demo of The Witcher 3. Good Lord that game is crazy. The demo started in a city, then they fast traveled to a swamp. At one point Geralt stands on a cliff and the guy running the demo says “See that mountain in the far distance? You can go there, but it’s really far away. That city we were in before? It’s FOURTEEN TIMES the distance from here that the mountain is, and none of these landmarks are even close to the borders of the map.” That game is going to be gigantic. Combat and everything else looked smooth, and the dialogue is sharply written, but that map size really stuck out.

-After that I headed to my Nintendo appointment, where I got hands-on with five games. I started with Yoshi’s Woolly World, which is so damn cute it’s intoxicating. The wool graphics are beautiful, the platforming is more original Yoshi’s Island than any current games (without the baby, mind you) and the co-op is really fun.

Next I tried Hyrule Warriors, which is BATSHIT INSANE. It’s amazing how well Zelda fits into the Dynasty Warriors format, with tons of enemies and giant over-the-top attacks. I was really surprised at how awesome playing it was.

Next was a game I’d be waiting to play for an entire year, and you better believe I got my Smash fill. I tried every new character, I fought in every available stage, I fought against other humans, I fought against level 9 CPU, I fought against level 3 CPU, I did EVERYTHING. I wasn’t quite as thorough with the 3DS version, but I got my hands on that for a few matches too. Let me be blunt, because I could talk about it all day: I had really high hopes for this new Smash, and playing it soared above even those lofty dreams. It’s really damn good.

Finally I got my hands on Splatoon, the new multiplayer shooter, and if you think it’s not a viable shooter than you are sadly mistaken. I couldn’t believe how fun it is. Focusing on filling the arena with paint instead of shooting other players is really refreshing, and turning into a squid for added mobility is weird but fun. Granted you can still shoot other players, but it’s more to get them out of the way than anything else.

-Once Nintendo was over, I was off to my last appointment of E3 2014 with 505 Games and Terraria for PS4. I haven’t really played Terraria before, so this was my first experience with it, but that game is HUGE. It’s essentially 2D Minecraft in its core approach, but I feel like this world has so much more to offer in the way of customization. Also, every world a player creates will be different from other players’ worlds, so no two games are the same. I really enjoyed the little demo, and I might give it a shot when it hits the new consoles.

-With that out of the way, I had an hour of a half to squeeze in everything I missed. I started by running to EA and FINALLY seeing the Sims 4 demo. There’s a lot of awesome stuff to talk about there, with the expanded systems and insane customization detail, but you’ll have to wait until I write it up. After that I ran back to Xbox to get some hands-on with Sunset Overdrive, and I am so glad I did. We played a mode where waves of enemies are trying to destroy generators that we have to defend, and man was it fun. I got to use weapons like High Fidelity which shoots vinyl records, a standard assault rifle called the AK-FU, and a shotgun that shoots fire blasts whose name eludes me at the moment. The action was hectic and the enemies were numerous, and every second was pretty sweet.

-Finally, I had a half hour left, nothing else in West Hall I wanted to see, and not enough time to head back to South Hall, so I went back to the Nintendo press area and played Smash until the clock hit zero. I started with Smash, I ended with Smash, and that’s totally appropriate, right?

This was an amazing E3, maybe the best one I’ve ever been to. I saw a ton a great games and I missed even more great games (the fact that I missed out on Batman and Assassin’s Creed Unity burns my ass). At the end of the day, the future looks insanely bright for the industry I love so much.

I’ll write an official wrap-up later on with my personal favorite games and other cool moments, but for now I hope yon enjoyed the three roundups, and feel free to comment or Tweet me with any questions you have. Thanks for reading!

E3 Day Two: More Reactions and Other Type Things

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They’ll let anyone into E3 parties…

So Day Two is done and I am packed to the gills with new info flying through my head. Most of yesterday was spent in South Hall, with the exception of one interview I did right in the beginning of the day. Here’s what I saw:

-The day began with Guilty a Gear Xrd, as I interviewed series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari and animator/character modeler Junya Motomura. A full preview will be up on GamesRadar soon, but here’s a brief tease: one of the two new characters I saw is the most insane and original fighting game character I’ve ever seen.

-I then ran to Square Enix’s booth, where I played a bit of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD. Theatrhythm is just as fun as before, especially when playing the Advent Children version of “One Winged Angel” (aka THE BEST VERSION). They also had “Aboard the Hilda Garde” from Final Fantasy IX in the demo, which gave me many nostalgia feels. Kingdom Hearts was Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a bad thing, I played the boss fight from Beast’s Castle with the chandelier you can jump on, and everything moved and looked beautifully.

-Next I snuck into the Dragon Age Inquisition presentation at EA, and I think I’ve turned a corner. I was apathetic about the game, having not really enjoyed the first two, but this one could be the one I can get into. A lot of interesting things going on, like the War Table where you decide what you actually want to do, and I saw a fight with a dragon that was just awesome. I was impressed.

-Next was my appointment with Konami for hands-on with Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and Metal Gear Solid V. I can’t talk about PES here, as the info is embargoed until later this month, but DAT METAL GEAR. We saw the mission in Afghanistan from the E3 trailer last year, with the full cutscenes beforehand. The game looks AMAZING, every little detail is impressive. Watching Snake using the Fulton Recovery System to transport things to Mother Base is cool, but it also can be funny when he sends things like sheep flying into the air. The entire demo was damn good, and I can’t wait to play it.

-Next I went to Disney Interactive for some Disney Infinity and Fantasia. The new Marvel super heroes are a smart and fun addition; zooming around a city as Nova is really cool and smashing stuff as Hulk is just awesome. I also got to dabble with Toy Box, where I built Agrabah in the middle of New York City then saved a mini Elsa from palace guards with Iron Man. Infinity is fun, but Fantasia is the biggest surprise of the show for me. That game is SO MUCH FUN. It’s not just dancing around like Dance Central; you’re manipulating the song withi your movements, making it sound completely different. Before the song starts you choose parts of three different remixes of that song to meld into one. At some points you can actually add your own section, adjusting beats and pitch with your movement. Oh, and it’s not just popular music; I played “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, aka that song from Fantasia where the devil Chernabog rises from the mountain. SO COOL.

-Next was my marathon two and a half hour Activision appointment, where I saw some Call of Duty and played some Destiny. I really like the new direction of CoD; I really think it could be the next Modern Warfare for the franchise. Destiny reminds me a lot of Halo, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I played the co-op Strike mode as a Warlock, and while I didn’t think I would I really like that class a lot. He had AoE grenades that do constant damage to anyone in the field and a sick double jump that freezes the initial jump’s trajectory; two quick presses of the jump button sends him flying. Good stuff.

-Finally I sat in on a presentation of one of my most anticipated games at the show: MORTAL KOMBAT. Gore galore, and I want more. Four new characters were shown, though only two were played; D’Vorah is the wasp-like woman from the Sony conference, Ferra/Tor is the Master Blaster looking dude with the little girl on his shoulder, Kotal Kahn is an Aztec warrior we didn’t get a lot of info on, and Cassie Cage is THE DAUGHTER OF JOHNNY CAGE AND SONYA BLADE WHAT. We didn’t get to see Cassie or Kotal Kahn, but the other two are interesting fighters. More on that soon.

Today is the final day, and I see TellTale, Atlus, and a big ol’ booth tour with Nintendo. Keep an eye out for day three impressions tonight!

E3 Day One: Reactions and Other Type Things

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Pretty sweet statue from Capcom, right?

So today was day one on the show floor, and things were understandable nutty. Tons of folks trying to play tons of games and it was all awesome. Here are some of my highlights:

-Went right to Smash Bros at noon to see if I could find a open controller before my 12:30 appointment. I did, and it played two matches with Little Mac. Lost the first one, won the second in sudden death. Mac is friggin’ awesome, but that’s for another day

-I then ran to the Xbox booth for some hands-on with the new Dead Rising Super Long Name DLC. The guy describing the game appreciated that I knew who Shoma from Rival Schools was, then proceeded to tell me that the Felicia from Darkstalkers costume we saw in the trailer isn’t Katey’s…it’s Nick’s. Ick. That DLC is awesome though, and I’m getting it as soon as I get home.

-My 12:30 appointment was a 20-minute hands off demo with Bloodborne, freshly announced from the Sony conference. Really interesting stuff, which I’ll get more into soon.

-At 1PM I was off to EA, where I played NHL 15 and Battlefield Hardline. Battlefield is the same as you have been playing in the beta, but NHL…good Lord. The look, feel, additions…oh man it’s good stuff. Going to try to go back to EA tomorrow and Thursday for Sims 4, Dragon Age, and FIFA.

-My next appointment was Deep Silver at 3PM. I saw two hands-off demos, one for Dead Island 2 and one for Homefront: The Revolution. Dead Island 2 looks pretty interesting with a lot of new improvements. With Yager Entertainment of Spec Ops: The Line fame at the helm, I’m feeling pretty good. Homefront was equally interesting in setting (seeing Philly in that state is weird), but gameplay seemed ordinary. It’s still way early, so I’m confident.

-Finally I went to 2K, where I sat in on a 15-minute demo of Civilization: Beyond Earth and got some hands-on as Kraken in Evolve. Beyond Earth is Civ 5 in space, as it should be; those looking for Alpha Centuari 2 aren’t going to be happy. The dev speaking about the game even said to me “we haven’t even mentioned Alpha Centauri, everyone else has.” Interesting.
Evolve is SICK. Playing as that monster and watching him grow into bigger, badder forms is really cool. I played a mode called Hunt, where the four hunter were tasked with killing me while I had to evolve by feeding on native wildlife, so that I could be strong enough to kill the Hunters. It took a while, but those bastards didn’t know what hit them haha.

-Finally I attended the Smash Bros round table with Masahiro Sakurai. Being in the room for the initial Pac-Man reveal was quite awesome, as the reaction to it was fantastic. I recorded it, so if you see me I can let you hear it. A lot of interesting information came from it too, some of which is really deep, but I’ll be more familiar when I transcribe the interview later on.

So that was Day 1, a lot of craziness but a lot of fun. Day 2 has me going to visit Activision, Konami, and Disney Interactive (and more!) so keep an eye out for more updates and selfies!

To the floor!

The Big Show

E3 Gaming Conference Begins In Los Angeles

In a few days, it all begins again.

For those reading this that never have idea what I’m talking about when I post something (looking at you, Ed), The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, is the biggest video game industry conference of the entire year. Last year, 48,200 people filled the Los Angeles Convention Center for the event, flying from 102 countries around the world. That’s insane!

Last year, I wasn’t one of those people. This year, that changes.

I’ll be attending this year’s E3 as a freelancer for the very first time, and I’m diving in headfirst. I’m working with FIVE different outlets spanning two countries to bring you fine folks the best damn E3 coverage you’ll ever see. I’ll be playing games, seeing demos, and sitting in on three of the four big media briefings on Monday (still waiting on you, Ubisoft). Needless to say, I’ll be knee-deep in E3 this time next week.

I want to ask you five people that are reading this what you’d like to see at the show, and I’ll try my best to make it happen. I have some appointments booked (can’t say who until they happen), so I may already be covering a game that you want, but I still want to hear what you’re looking forward to. Also, tell me which of the five presentation (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo’s Digital Event) you’re most looking forward to. I feel like I know who’s going to be win the informal poll, but I’m still curious.

Finally, look for the hashtag #E3Selfie on Twitter starting Sunday…it should be a lot of fun…

Sunday can’t come soon enough!

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Gold for Silver

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Three months.

Three months is how long that man, Adam Silver, has been in office as the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. Three months is all it took for a major controversy to cross the man’s desk…and three months is all it took for Adam Silver to show us he’s the right man for the job.

Lifetime ban. Maximum fine of $2.5 million. Full support of a forced sale. See ya, Donnie.

I am in awe of how well Silver handled that presser. The room was stuffed to capacity with ravenous journalists, flashing lights, and TV camera lenses, all centered on him. No one knew what was coming, no one knew what to expect, but when Silver started talking, we immediately knew he was going to nail it. Every question was answered swiftly and concisely. From the softballs to the “racist slumlord” bullet from Inside Edition, nothing fazed this guy today. I should hope that I can handle a high-pressure situation as well as I watched Silver do today. He showed tremendous resolve, and the entire league is throwing their support behind him already.

I’ve heard all of the criticism about how this is too late, how Sterling has always been a racist turd, and how he still wins out if he has to sell, but there’s nothing we can do about that. The NBA is doling the maximum punishment that they can, right now, and not resting on its laurels. Not much more you can ask.

Also, as expected, I’m starting to see the “what about the first amendment” dissenters/yahoos/closet racists/not-so-closet racists. Here’s that amendment you so like to cite:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So there it is, Article One of the Bill of Rights. There’s a key point that everyone seems to forget: CONGRESS shall make no law. CONGRESS. The GOVERNMENT is not allowed to make a law violating those things; it says NOTHING about private institutions. The NBA is a PRIVATE BUSINESS INSTITUTION, with its OWN constitution, its OWN bylaws, and its OWN code of conduct. Sterling violated the rules of the league, and he is being punished for it. He’s not being arrested, he’s not being executed, he’s being punished by the company he associated with. I can’t go into my office and start calling people horrible names without some sort of punishment, but if I wanted to run outside and scream “Barack Obama is a big stupid doo-doo head” at the top of my lungs, I can totally do that without repercussion (outside of a few annoyed neighbors).

Here’s a comic that says it better than I can:

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Good for you, Adam Silver.

 

 

Back To Normal

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Happy Easter everyone!

I hope the last six weeks have treated you all well. I picked one hell of a Lent to abstain from the social media world, as all kinds of stuff happened both in my own little world and in the actual world. It was weird not immediately jumping on Twitter to talk about a missing plane or a tipped ferry or DeSean Jackson, to name a few examples, but I’m amazed at how refreshing it was to disconnect for a bit.

I started actually writing on this blog. I did a ton of work for GamesRadar (portfolio update coming soon). I went to dinners out with my wife and left my phone in my pocket. Little things, sure, but it made me feel like I was living my own life again, not trying to live the lives of those I read on social media.

I’ve rejoined the masses quickly (a Flyers playoff game always helps) but I wonder if I’m going to revert back to the “check multiple times a day” way I used to be. After six weeks (with a few exceptions) of not focusing on it, I’m interested to see what I do now.

Anyhow, IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: The 2014 St Francis Players show, Once Upon A Mattress, opens THIS FRIDAY. Tickets can be purchased at the St Francis website right here. Come and see a great show; I promise you’ll love it!

See you on Twitter!

High Heel Jet Boots

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So for those that don’t know my preferences, I am a Super Smash Brothers fanatic. The idea that my favorite Nintendo characters can come together in one game and beat the ever-living piss out of each other is divine, and every time a new one is coming out I follow every aspect of it. This past Tuesday, my sister and I ordered Papa John’s Pizza and watched the newest Nintendo Direct episode centered all about the next Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Here, you can watch it for yourself if you want:

Yes, it’s 39 minutes long, but it contains every bit of information you could possibly want to know, including two brand new, never before revealed characters at the very end. Smash Bros is a big thing with my sister and I; we’ve been playing it together since the original, and I have it on good authority (my own eyes) that she used to sit in her room for hours playing Melee as Zelda/Sheik. She got damn good at it too. As we watched it, we saw the reveals of the returning characters like Zero Suit Samus and Sheik and were excited about the fact that they would be their own characters now. We oohed and ahhed at everything Sakurai presented and laughed at his attempts to recreate the Iwata “directly” hand gesture.

Amidst all of our reactions, I’ll tell you what we didn’t do: we didn’t put a second thought into what each character was wearing.

Afterward, I go online to find that a sect of people are upset that Zero Suit Samus’s new jet boots are high heels. They’re angry that gender stereotypes are being continued because a girl has been given high heels. They don’t like the idea of Zero Suit Samus, a characters whose entire gaming life has been about being a girl in a “man’s world,” is given this minute accessory.

The entire debate has me wondering if I’m even qualified to be a “gamer” anymore. Not because I question my enjoyment of video games and love for the industry, but because I didn’t give a single shit, damn, or f— about the fact that Zero Suit Samus is now wearing the equivalent of high heels. When her portion of the Direct came on, I was more focused on how she played and what she could do than her costume. I hope that doesn’t put me at the minority, but I think it might.

Now I know gender issues are high on the list of industry problems right now, with the very successful hashtag #1ReasonWhy still carrying strong. I fully support every person who wants to get into gaming, be they white, black, man, woman, whatever, but I feel like this jet boot issue is completely overblown. Is your entire opinion of the character really going to be affected because she’s now wearing high-heel jet boots? Will you not buy the game because one character is wearing one piece of digital clothing? It makes zero sense to me that folks would be offended by the type of boots she’s wearing; it’s really not important in the least. Furthermore, if you want gender equality, look no further than the Wii Fit Trainer: both the male and female trainers will be included, and both of them have the same attributes, strengths, weaknesses, and moves. The two are exactly the same in every way, making for literal gender equality in the game that NO ONE is talking about. I find it odd that detractors would turn Samus away, but ignore the Wii Fit Trainer.

Bottom line: think whatever you wish, but I feel like a few aspects of this argument are a tad overblown. In the grand scheme of things, this is not something to get up in arms about. Your heart is in the right place for thinking there’s a major argument to be made, but this isn’t the topic to use as a strong point.

That’s just my two cents.

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21-1

21and1

 

This entire weekend seemed off, like something crazy was always around the corner.

It started yesterday when I went to get my oil changed at Wal-Mart and I watched one of the mechanics take a quick five-minute snooze in my driver’s seat before the job was done. Next it was the guy on Chester Pike who, when he saw me trying to make a left at a changing light, looked me in the eye and shook his head “no” as he sped through the intersection. Then I witnessed a mini cat-fight in the middle of MacDade Blvd at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon over a plastic bag filled with clothes in someone’s trunk. All of that occured in the span of three hours, 11AM-2PM, while I ran errands.

Now, as I sit here trying to gather my thoughts after yet another fun Wrestlemania gathering, I can’t help but just feel sad. Sad that at the 2:53:44 mark of Wrestlemania 30 (it’s already on WWE Network for replay) my all-time favorite wrestler, The Undertaker, saw his insane 21 win, zero loss streak at the Super Bowl of wrestling shows come to an end. Sad that the one to beat him is a part-time wrestler who has only wrestled in one other match in 2014 beside this one (and that one doesn’t really fit the definition of “match”). Sad that a piece of my childhood has swept away in the river of time, lost forever. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s absolutely true.

Quick aside: Yes, I am 100% aware that wrestling is scripted, or as detractors like to call it “fake.” “Fake” implies that wrestlers don’t actually get hurt doing these moves or feel any pain whatsoever after a match. “Fake” says that what these guys do is not real, and by that nature doesn’t actually exist. By calling it “fake,” you’re telling me that my eyes have been lying to the rest of my face for the last 24 years, that wrestling doesn’t exist. You’re saying that I didn’t actually go to the Spectrum as a child with my parents, sit right at the guardrail, and watch as my heroes walked right past me to the ring. Did I imagine when Virgil high-fived me? Was I dreaming when one of the Bushwhackers gave me a noogie? I agree that it is indeed scripted, hence why I treat it like a male-focused soap opera, but I will never say it’s “fake.” 

There has never been a time in my life as a wrestling fan where The Undertaker wasn’t a part of it. As long as I can remember I think about getting ready to watch wrestling on Monday nights just to see him. Sure I had other favorites, but no one even came close to The Undertaker in my eyes. I played as him in the video games. I dressed like him for Halloween. I had his action figures, foam fingers, you name it. Even during his “American Badass” biker stage I still thought he was awesome (even though that gimmick in hindsight was totally lame). I can still pinpoint the exact moment where Taker became my wrestling icon: January 22nd, 1994, the Royal Rumble, where Taker fought Yokozuna in a Casket Match for the WWF Championship. Mom and Pop had ordered the pay-per-view for me as a birthday gift, and I watched it with my family as a birthday party. Undertaker lost the match when Yokozuna’s gang interfered, but after the match this happened (skip to 18:59):

To normal people, this is campy special effects backdropped by cheesy commentary. But to a little boy mere hours from his seventh birthday, this was the coolest thing in the entire world. The smoke, the screen, the speech, the rising to the ceiling, all of it…it was just incredible.

Tonight I feel like that moment came full circle. I experienced all five of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief in a mere ten minutes:

Denial: “No way…no way! I don’t believe it! I can’t accept this! What just happened?!

Anger: “BROCK LESNAR?! REALLY? BROCK F@#%IN’ LESNAR?!

Bargaining: “The only way I’m OK with this is if I find out later on that Taker himself requested this ending.

Depression: “Now, as I sit here trying to gather my thoughts after yet another fun Wrestlemania gathering, I can’t help but just feel sad.

Having typed all of my thoughts out, I can now reach acceptance. The reality is setting in: the man just turned 49 on March 24th. He’s made his debut in the WWF/E in November of 1990, a career (assuming he retires tomorrow like I think he will) spanning almost a quarter century. He was a loyal company guy, never jumping ship to WCW or other factions once joining the WWF. He performed to the best of his ability every single night, giving us moves that no man 6 foot 10, 300 pounds should ever be able to accomplish (walking the top rope?!). There’s really nothing else he can give us at this point. He went out with one more shock, even if it was a shock no one really wanted.

One other quick aside before I wrap up: the Undertaker’s loss has reminded me of why I wanted to distance myself from social media for Lent. I went on (it’s Sunday, I’m allowed) to see what people were saying about the match and immediately I saw stuff like “I used to love professional wrestling…and then I turned twelve” or “guys wrestling is fake you’re all dumb for watching it” and so on. It’s one of the worst things about the idea of constant connection: no one is allowed to like anything anymore without someone saying he’s/she’s wrong for liking it. How about this: you like what you like, I like what I like, and neither of us get on the other’s case for it. I remember a time where stories about dragons and swords were reserved for “nerds” and “geeks,” but how many of those not watching Wrestlemania were watching Game of Thrones? I bet a lot.

As I sit here eulogizing the Undertaker’s long career, I realize that I am also eulogizing a part of myself. That little boy who loved the Undertaker and everything he brought to professional wrestling every single night will no longer hear the emphatic GONG that could stop him on a dime. He’ll never again see that man walk down a long aisle beset in blue light, smoke billowing from behind to create the perfect backdrop. The legend has ended, and professional wrestling just won’t be the same without the chance of the dead rising again. People talk about investing time in their favorite TV shows or movies; I invested over twenty years to this professional wrestler, and it seems to finally be coming to an end. It’s bittersweet, but I’m taking the “don’t be sad it ended, smile because it happened” route from here on out.

Thanks, Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, for two decades plus of entertainment. I doubt you’ll ever read these words, but thanks for choosing to give us your best years on this Earth. You’ll always be my favorite wrestler.

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Dropping The Ball

deseandropNothing’s more important than a first impression.

Eagle fans all vividly remember that Monday night in mid-September, only your second game in the National Football League. You, DeSean Jackson, our newly drafted wideout with a ton of speed and upside, caught a long pass with nothing but the endzone in front of you, only your hotdogging led you to drop the ball on the one-yard-line before crossing the goal line. That’s a fumble, and the refs ruled that we’d get the ball on the Dallas 1 instead of six points on the board. Luckily, we were able to score on the next play so it didn’t really matter, but from that moment on I knew there was something about you that bothered me.

You never felt like part of the Eagles to me, you were just…I don’t know, there. Perhaps I was wary of another wideout whose shit apparently doesn’t stink, much like the guy who did sit-ups in his driveway with reporters swarming around him. As your Instagram account became more active, I began to wonder where exactly your head was. Were you a team guy, or were you another Terrell Owens? I sure didn’t want T.O. again, and that’s why I kept you at arm’s length. I waited for the other shoe to drop…and waited…and waited some more.

This past season, I finallly forgot about these inhibitions. You played like a man possessed, easily having the best season of your short career. You were hailed as the future, a playmaker who struck fear into the opposing team every time you touched the ball. You were one of those guys that the other always looked for before doing anything else. “Where’s DeSean lining up? OK, we’ll plan around that.” After this season I was stoked about the future of my football team. Philadelphia hosted playoff football! Things were trending up instead of down! The future was the brightest it’s been in a long time, as if a big red moon had stopped eclipsing the sun of success…

…but then, just like that, the other shoe dropped.

You’re gone now, cut from my beloved Eagles after what’s been an offseason already brimming with tumult. We’ve heard reports of locker room issues, of insubordination, and of irresponsibility. We now read that your off-the-field activities may not be on the up-and-up, considering the company you keep. That unknown reason I kept you distant, the thing that made me never actually think of you as an Eagle despite you wearing my team’s jersey for six years, made itself known out of the blue on a Friday afternoon. I knew I couldn’t completely trust in you, DeSean, and for once I’m sad that I was right.

So far I’ve seen or heard two distinct reactions to this story:

1. The Eagles leaked this info so they could soften the blow of the release.

A lot of callers to sports radio (where my ears spent most of the day yesterday) immediately put on their tin foil hats, accusing the big bad front office of manipulating the media to make themselves look as good as possible for the public. They source the fact that the NJ.com story was out a mere 35 minutes before the announcement of Jackson’s release, calling it too coincidental.

I counter with this possibility: ESPN reports that the Eagles became aware of this report on Wednesday, a full two days before they cut ties with Jackson. How could they then have leaked the information? Those who aren’t journalists don’t always understand the time and effort that go into writing a big story like that: do you honestly think Eliot Shorr-Parks found out all of that information Friday morning, then had his report written and published by lunch? Unless he’s an android, that’s completely impossible. Even the best online journalists in the world couldn’t make that happen. That article was weeks’ worth of research, planning, outlining, then writing. I’d wager that Shorr-Parks finished the article on Wednesday, and that’s how the Eagles found out about it. Perhaps this story was merely the proverbial straw on the Eagles jersey wearing camel’s back and not the nefarious deed of a group of villains sitting in an ivory tower.

2. DeSean is allegedly tied to gangs and he gets cut, but Riley Cooper uses a slur and gets rewarded. Hypocrites!

Right here is this story’s version of the same typical knee-jerk reaction that every single story every written in the history of reporting has ever faced. Without thinking things through, without considering all of the facts, minds turn to anger and rage over what’s basically easy pickings.

There’s a major difference between the two, and it has nothing to do with skin color: Cooper indeed used a slur, a heinous word, but he accepted responsibility, paid his fine to the Eagles, attended sensitivity training, and atoned for his error. He did everything that was asked of him to take responsibility for his bad act. Do you get the same vibe from DeSean? There had to have been conversations with him, with players or coaches or even the brass at the top, about his off-the-field persona…did it change? Did he stop uploading those Instagram photos? Did he change his ways AT ALL? No; he showed no willingness to do what was asked of him, he continued to miss practices and not follow the regulations imposed by his new coach (AKA his BOSS), and he was shown the door. If I went into my office flashing gang signs and turning a deaf ear to my superiors, my ass would be looking for work too.

Which leads me to another point: the idea that “normal” jobs and playing in the NFL can’t be compared. That, for lack of a better term, is bullshit. Professionalism is professionalism, no matter if you catch a ball for millions of dollars or flip burgers for minimum wage. If you’re not a professional when at your place of employment, that employer reserves the right to kick your ass right out of the company. Which is exactly what happened here.

I’m sure of two things: that Jackson will find another team to play for, and that we haven’t heard the last of his life outside of football. He’s going to keep posting to Instagram, reppin’ his Jaccpot records, and being DeSean, just with a different set of colors when he suits up for work. One can only hope that he won’t make any really dumb mistakes.

However, one fact remains: as far as the Eagles are concerned, DeSean dropped the ball. Again.

 

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