Mario Kart 8

On the weekend I bet my three children that I would beat them at MarioKart on the Nintendo Switch. I said that for every point they could beat me by- they would earn a dollar. I also said that to make it fair, we would play three cups of four races each. However, my stipulation was that we had to play 150cc Mirror races.

I had no idea my kids would be so good, or clever! I thought I could let them win a bit, then school them.

Turns out my kids ganged up on me. The oldest did her best to keep the lead with one of the other two staying close behind in second or third place. The third child did their best to take me out and keep me in the last possible place. They chose to pool their winnings and split it evenly three ways.

I lost $195.

Obviously I learned that my kids think I’m not very good at MarioKart even though I’ve been playing the different variations since 1992. I also learned that when given the chance, they can actually work together for a common goal.

My wife was none too happy. Until I told her that I’m okay with losing some money to the kids. This is the week we were supposed to be in Disneyland. So their “winnings” would have been spending money for the trip.

Look at those smiles. It was totally worth forking over $65 to each of them. Plus I got to “spend” quality time with them.

Fortnite: Father/Son Gaming

My son and I were busy building a front porch the past couple of days. It gave me a great opportunity to share some knowledge about building and power tools. By the end of the build, our son had a blister from using the drill too much. That’s the sign of a hard worker!

While we were building, we talked. Me explaining the build, him telling me all about Fortnite and how to play. I promised him that I’d play some video games once this deck was completed. Originally I was hoping for some MarioKart or something simple that I can press a couple of buttons for. Not a PS4 controller with over a dozen possibilities.

We played Fortnite for a little over an hour. Time really flies when you play video games. I can see why he gets sucked in for hours on end. But he taught me to play and was very patient with my Noob skills. He has been playing this game for A Couple of Years Now. He walked me through the basics and “Protected” my lack of skills from the enemies. We did alright in one match, coming in second place.

If I want to continue with our bonding, I’ll definitely need to get more practice in for games like this. It just sucks that in a house of five, we all play video games and the PS4/Nintendo Switch are on the big screen. We have the old PS3/Wii hooked up in my bedroom. Unfortunately neither of those are capable of playing Fortnite.

I like that he can teach me stuff and I can teach him. In the end I have created a fantastic father/son bond that I shall hold onto for the rest of my life.

Pac-Man Turns 40!

Ghost munching madness! Pacman is effing 40! I remember seeing the arcade game for the first time in a convenience store when I was like 5.

Since then I have bought numerous reiterations of the game on numerous video game consoles. From Atari to PlayStation 4, Gameboy to 1st Gen Video IPod: Pac-Man is my “Go-To” game. I will play it for hours on end.

Scott Pilgrim

Ten years ago I was excited that the Google Doodle was a playable version of Pac-Man for the 30th anniversary. And just think, In ten years it’ll be the 50th Anniversary of the game! Crazy.

But those 8bit sounds and simplistic graphics paved the way for generations of games and players.

Yes, Pac-Man is a great game. I’d love to own an original upright cabinet or cocktail table version of the game. Until that day comes, I’ll just play it on our big screen. I really enjoy playing Pac-Man Championship.

Did I tell you that I like Pac-Man?

Machine.

In the dew soaked dawn

Grass stretched on for miles and miles

The life of the world was starting a new day.

The rebirth had begun… again.

From the dirt, the insects crawled out.

From the trees, the birds came to feast.

From the building came a machine:

Pushed by men

A box of wires and buttons invaded the earth.

Cabinetry of exquisite art and form;

Brought forth a new sense to the field,

Nature was no longer alone.

The men left the machine to stand tall in the grass.

It stood high on the plains.

Tall and proud as it once was,

A former God clearly visible on all sides…

Men had devoted endless hours to it.

These fields had become forgotten in the years past.

But the earth knew that the men would return.

The brief fling with the machine had taken its toll.

Man was becoming poor as his focus changed.

Until one day it all ended.

The machine, like so many others, had been cast aside.

Some men found homes for similar machines.

The machines were stored away in basements,

Hidden from their families; but still shown to close friends.

The hums and tones emanating into the dungeons that were now home,

As the lights shone forth from the device to mesmerize…

Forgotten, was it all.

The memories, the mistakes, the pastimes…

The last of the heroes to man,

Had been dragged to its final resting place.

There alone in the blazing sun,

Its circuits, wires and lights to die off.

No protection from the sun, the rain, the snow.

Never to be played again.

Through the songs of the insects and birds,

The field breathed a sigh of relief.

Never again would man enjoy

Galaga.

Mio Amico

On Monday I excitedly made a purchase online for something that I won’t be receiving until 10/10/2020. I’m one of the lucky 2600 “Founders” of the future gaming system- The Intellivision Amico.

Back in 1981 my father received an Intellivision for his birthday. That Christmas the family received a bunch of games. It was my first introduction into video games at the age of 5. I played the shit out of that system. Then my parents sent it out to goodwill along with our Colecovision when I was 13. I was okay with that, because it was Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo that entered my life.

At age 19, I picked up a used Intellivision with a bunch of games for $60 from a newspaper ad. My friends and I played for hours on end. I played the shit out of the system. We had so much fun hanging out playing games like SNAFU and Triple Action. I still have this system and play on it from time to time.

Anyway, this past Monday I laid down my $100 to secure my ability to be one of the lucky owners of the retro inspired system. This gaming system boasts the idea of playing games as a group again. Couch cooperative! Showing my teenagers about this system has them excited as well. Yes, girls and boy aged 13, 15, & 17 are excited to play games with dad!

That’s the sort of fun I love about video games. The Amico has potential to be a great system with many original and revamped classic titles that Intellivision fans will love and remember. I’m hoping for a good version of Astrosmash to be available.

So check out the video in which Tommy Tallarico shares his new vision of the Intellivision brand: Amico Trailer.

Perler Beads

“How do you use Perler Beads?”

That was the question I asked back in August 2010 when I first discovered them at a convention. Eventually we bought a few of the crafting sets and learned how to use them. It was an easy process and soon we branched out and began to focus on some other creations.

What are Perler Beads?

Perler Beads are small plastic beads that you lay beside one another to make an image, followed by melting them. There are clear plastic plates with tiny pegs which you use for the projects. They are about 4 inch square. Using tweezers to place the beads in formation- eventually you get an image.

Most of this craft is counting and separating coloured beads. Once the image is done- you use a wax style of paper and iron gently in order to melt the beads together. We liked to melt them only slightly to keep the the image, while I have seen other melt them flat, thus “bleeding” the beads together.

Today I discovered a set of coasters I had made years ago. Perler Beads are perfect for recreating 8 Bit or 16 Bit video game characters. Artistically- I found each image needed a bit of “shading” to make the images pop. By “shading” I used a colour that was similar but a tad bit darker. Greens, blues, red, yellows, etc.. all popped around the black frame.

Our kids used the coaster video game characters as templates and made numerous magnets which they would sell at conventions in order to earn some spending cash at the shows. They also made Hello Kitty hair clips and keychain Mine Craft tools which were very popular.

My favorite that I have made to date, also happens to be the largest. We bought an oversized plate and I filled it up with beads to create a Jack Skellington for the film The Nightmare Before Christmas. This particular creation took me about 5 hours and 3500 beads to complete.

Making Perler Bead creations was a fun family hobby when the kids were younger. We still have a metric shit-ton of the beads in all sorts of colours. After discovering my original coasters- I have a feeling that the kids may want to start making them again once more.

Or I could be terribly wrong and our kids will go on to be teenagers and grow their social lives. But I still like crafting and may return to it soon.

A Day Off Together

My wife took a day off work today to spend time with me. She’s going out of town this weekend. (Our son has a Speed Skating competition in Northern BC.) I figured we’d have some nice quality time together.

First, she woke up and helped the kids get ready for school. I then drove them to school. When I returned home, I made us a lovely breakfast of bacon wrapped asparagus with poached eggs. So far our day was off to a great start.

Outside, the sun was shining brightly. Best avoid it and play video games. My wife and I played on the Nintendo Switch in our dark theater room for about three and a half hours.

It was a ton of fun lounging on the couch in our pajamas until one in the afternoon. Ya, I drive my kids to school in my pjs. Not like I have to get out of the car. In fact, sometimes I go shopping in my pjs. I’ve even gone to work like that in the past. Comfort wins out over fashion sense.

My wife gets very animated when playing video games. After an intense round, match or level- she usually flails her arms. She tries to grab at me, pinch or punch my arms in frustration if she loses. Today I earned quite a few bruises.

It’s all in good fun mind you. I’m often laughing at her failures in the games. So I do kind of deserve her little attacks.

I’m going to miss her this weekend. But at least it will give me time to heal. And practice at our games.

Retro Gaming Feel

Over the weekend, I set up a little area near our front door in order to play video games.

Over Christmas we received the NES and the SNES Minis. We had an old 20″ RCA tv that we were using for a computer monitor. I decided to mount it on the wall and connect the game systems.

The tiny alcove reminds me of the look on a basement from the 1970’s/early 1980’s. The perfect little spot to enjoy some retro gaming. It may sound odd, but it works. It’s also a good little spot to hideout, but still be central in the home.

Now when one of our kids are ready to go out before anyone else, they can occupy their time playing a game. It’ll help keep them out of the way and out of trouble.

Hopefully.

Fun Romancing

Yesterday was Valentines Day. Some people expressed their love for one another on social media. Others shared bitterness and sarcasm. Many people shared pictures of lovely dinners and flowers. Whatever your day was like, I hope it was great. Mine was super romantic.

First my wife and I dropped the kids off at school. Then we went for breakfast at a random bistro that we had never been to before. One of the best breakfasts I have ever had. Also the most expensive breakfast I have ever had. This was our romantic meal of the day.

Then my wife and I went home to play some video games in bed. Followed by a mid morning nap. Which led to me sleeping until 4pm because I worked the night shift the day prior. I woke up because I had missed four phone calls from my wife. She left the same message each time in her silliest voice possible. “Call me. Call me. Why won’t you call me? Caaaaaaaaallllllll me.”

When she came home, we played some Smash Bros and Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. My wife is really good at gaming and beat me repeatedly at these games. After a couple of hours of video games, I made dinner for the family.

After dinner we watched one of my wife’s favorite films- “Stardust“. It’s also one of my favorites. A fairytale involving love. Something about Neil Gaiman’s works translate from novel to film beautifully.

Yesterday was a day pretty much designed to make my wife happy. From a lovely breakfast date to lots of video games to enjoying a romantic film. I think we should do more days like this.

Taiko No Tatsujin

We picked up the Nintendo Switch this past Christmas for the family. Originally we weren’t planning on buying it. There was just a handful of games that we thought to be worthwhile. That is until we heard in the fall that a favorite game was coming available.

Taiko no Tatsujin

Drum ‘n’ Fun!

This game is so fast and has some great songs. Mind you most of the songs are from anime or video games. But ones that we recognize at the same time. We love the game because it reminds us of our trip to Japan.

One of our Days in Japan was spent wandering around the various arcades. This is where we discovered the “Table Flip” game, the “Drum ‘N’ Fun” game and many crane games. The joy our children experienced playing these games made us desperately want to recreate it. We even tried to pick up a Nintendo 3DS version of the game while in Tokyo, but it wouldn’t work on our North American systems.

Now that we have it in our home, we love to play it. My arms are getting a great workout as I try and keep up with the beats to the drum. On the easy level.

I was online the other day and stumbled across this video of one of the songs being played on a real drum kit. Just look at the joy about halfway through.

Check out the video: Drum!

I almost want to get the “Drum” controller for our system to add to the realism. Hey honey! My birthday is coming up soon…

Good First Day Of 2019

I had a good start to 2019. I woke up. Always a great way to begin any day.

Then I went to work. Which means I have a job that helps keep my family clothed and fed.

I finished reading a book. I love Felicia Day. She’s like my celebrity crush- sort of. More like a really cool friend crush. The kind where we could hang out and play Munchkin and then not talk for months. Anyways, I digress. I finished her autobiography. I also miss reading. Time to pick up more books.

I also played some old school video games. On a system I wasn’t going to buy. But it was a total impulse purchase just before Christmas. And I had fun playing the Super Nintendo games again.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a cheese fondue dinner as a family. We try and have it every New Year’s Day.

To end the day- I watched some tv with the family before bed. We watched some “Community” and “Parks and Rec” pointing out other shows that we recognize the actors from.

It was a good start to the year. I hope to have many more days like this.

Christmas Video Games

Almost all my life, Christmas has involved video games. Either getting new systems or games. This year was no different.

We picked up a Switch for the family and the NES/SNES minis for my wife and I. Even though I didn’t want to last year. We also picked up a couple games to play. All afternoon and night yesterday had us playing as a family.

Even today, everyone has been gaming throughout the house. Lots of laughs and smack talk a-plenty. When I was younger, my family never played games with me. I did play with friends quite often. Which was great. I also powered through those endless games for hours on end.

As well when I was younger, we had one of those large wooden cabinet tvs that sat on the floor. Over the Christmases, starting around 1980, our home had consoles arrive that would require Channel 3 or 4 to work. Intellivision was our first one. A couple years later, we got a Colecovision/ADAM computer combo. At which point my father bought another tv. This time a small 13″ one that could go into a different part of the house so that I wouldn’t bother him as I played games.

Eventually, when we moved to a new home, that small tv ended up in my bedroom for a couple years. Until the Sega Genesis came into my life. We moved again, and then my parents bought themselves another tv and I was given the large old one. Which took up half my new bedroom. So I got a Futon bed to fold into a couch in order to play games more. Which meant I also never put it into bed form. Super Nintendo, followed by the N64 became favorites to play with friends as well.

Growing into an adult and having a place of my own for nearly the past two decades, I have changed TVs every couple of years. With technology constantly evolving, “upgrading” is one of my favorite things. This Christmas we upgraded our theater room projector. For about five- six years, we had a small 720p Epson projector. It got a ton of use. But as the game systems and games got visually better, it was time to upgrade.

So on Black Friday, we ordered a new projector online. Since we had such good luck with Epson, I wanted to stay with it. Our new projector shows images in 4K. We weren’t expecting it to be such a large machine. However, the entire family agrees that the quality in the images is incredible. Especially when shown on a 106″ screen.

It was strange today to play on the big screen and then take the Nintendo Switch out into handheld mode for the same game. Going from 106″ to 6.2″ would seem incomprehensible in 1980.

What memories do you have of video games? Do you still play them? Have you upgraded your tv or stereo to match the quality of modern systems?

Enjoying Fallout

Last night my son and I began playing Fallout 4 on PS4. Ya I know the game is already 3 years old, but it’s new to us. As I mentioned back in January in Father/son Video Game Day, we finally got a PlayStation 4 for Christmas. We have been slowly adding to our library of games. A game such as Fallout 4 that has been around for a few years is generally inexpensive to purchase. So, we now own it.

Since we only just began playing the game and it is a one player, first person shooter, my son has taken most of the control of the character. I have sat on the sidelines offering advice and asking questions. It surprised my son that I know so much about the game. I had to explain to him that most games like this are formulaic. They follow a set style which makes it more natural to pick up and begin playing.

What sets apart each game are a few key features. Storyline, characters, settings, graphics (these increase in quality over the years), sound effects, and music. Fallout 4 surprised me in this last area. Where most games of this style (shooters) usually boast either no music or go heavy metal/industrial, Fallout 4 does not. Instead, because it is a post-apocalyptic theme, the soundtrack is rockabilly/ bluesy songs from the 1930’s-1960’s. It comes through their mock radio station- Diamond City Radio.

This music playlist really sets the tone of the game for me. I have already fallen in love with it after only playing for about an hour. The use of music in the storyline really sets the narrative. I am looking forward to many more hours of gameplay. With my son at the controls of course… because I suck at gaming nowadays. I miss my blocky running dude from the early 80’s.

Fortnite Paintball Party

I like our PS4. I mostly use it to watch movies. Same with my family. We have a few games for it that I have played from time to time. My wife is killer at “Dig Dug” classic. But I don’t game like I once did. That is now for a younger generation. Mostly my son. So I guess the PS4 is more his than anyone else’s. Just don’t let him know.

My 12 year old son plays the game “Fortnite” on the PS4. I’m okay with this. It’s a poplar game and he wants to keep up with his friends at school. Nothing worse than being the “NOOB” at any game. He is pretty good at it… I think. I have also allowed him to play “Call of Duty” and a few others of the same style. He knows that I’ll sit and watch him play. We finally bought him a headset so that I don’t hear him anymore when I’m not in the room.

Last night I dropped him off at a birthday party sleepover. The boys there were already playing Fortnite. My son marched in and smack talk was in full swing. The plan was for some gaming overnight and then in the morning off to try some paintball!

I’m excited for my son to try paintball for the first time. Nothing like the thrill of trying not to get shot by a marble sized pellet that explodes. I think he’s in for a world of hurt by the end of it. I was about his age when I first tried paintball. Come to think of it- that was the only time I tried paintball. Because I sucked.

We shall see how my son fares. Maybe he will be better at it than I was. My strategy was to use all my paintballs quickly and just keep firing. In first person shooter video games- I tend to “run’n’gun”. Not a good plan. I also do that in all of my nerf wars and water gun fights. I’m the target practice by the end it seems.

I can’t wait to hear about my son’s adventures. Hopefully he has a blast and doesn’t just get blasted away like his old man did.

Reliving a Bit of Tokyo

Saturday night we spent at home playing video games as a family. We played a family favorite- MarioKart!

Playing MarioKart is competitive to say the least in our home. But tonight we raised the stakes a bit. Whoever came in first chose what flavor KitKat the loser had to eat.

I lost the first round and was told to eat the Sake flavored one. My son tied with me for last- so he got to enjoy one as well.

I then lost the second set of matches, but our daughter took pity on me and gave me Apple flavor. Phew.

My streak went from bad to worse. I ended up in dead last for three of the four races in our last match. No pity this time- Wasabi flavor was given to me.

All of the tastes were unique to say the least. But it would’ve been nice to be the one to choose what flavor the loser got. I guess I need more practice at MarioKart.

Now In 3D!!! Or not…

A few years ago, we bought a 3D television for our bedroom. But we’ve never used the 3D function. It wasn’t until the other day that my wife mentioned we can play video games in 3D that I remembered about it.

I had hooked up the PS3 in our bedroom shortly after Christmas (when the PS4 took over our theater room). My wife recently re-discovered her joy for “Super Stardust HD” on our PS3. The other night she told me that the game allows for her to choose an option to play it in 3D. My first thought was “Far out man…”

I dug out the box of glasses that came with our tv. We never used them as I said, and of course they come with a small battery which is now dead in each pair. So much for playing the game in 3D last night. Those cheap plastic ones from the movie theater don’t work on our tv.

In a way, I wish the 3D was like it was in the old days. With red and blue making everything fuzzy to trick your brain. Although, I’d probably still not watch 3D shows. It’s not as immersive at home as it is on the big screen. Even then, last year we only saw about 3-4 films in the theaters. The shows just aren’t doing it for me lately. Unless it’s Marvel or Star Wars, I probably won’t fork over my hard earned cash.

Well, maybe for another Pee-Wee Herman film.

Father/Son Video Game Day

Today is a day of Video Games. The family received a PS4 this past Christmas, so it was time to log in a few hours. Since I am a Star Wars fan, why not play some “Star Wars: Battlefront II” on the big screen?

Since we wanted to do the storyline portion, my son and I are taking turns playing. My skill set is meager at best. I take my time and scout out the level slowly. My son is quick with running straight into the action. He also has a better understanding of the controls than I do.

I’m enjoying what we’ve accomplished so far. The short movie portions are well executed and entertaining. Being a part of the Dark Side is a lot of fun as well. Time to get back to our game day.

This way my son can join me in ruling the Galaxy!

New High Score

I remember being excited when I would break a high score on a video game.  Getting a personal best was always an achievement.  However, in the early stages of home video game entertainment systems, the score was lost when the system was shut off.  Proving your worth to your peers was difficult.


I loved playing on my ColecoVision and Intellivision. Because games of yesteryear just kept repeating and getting faster making them more difficult. There was never really an end, just repetition. 

Just repetition.

Just repetition.

And I played for hours. Usually giving up to have dinner or go to bed.


Of course, in the 80’s the technology was so advanced at all it took was connecting the RF switch to a VCR and you could record your high score to share with your friends!  Now I could have proof of how cool I was and would share with my one or two friends… who showed little to no interest in my accomplishments… but I was excited.

Mortal Kombat 4. My personal arcade machine.


Then there were arcade games.  Every kid I knew in the 80’s wanted their own arcade game.  We all had personal favorites.  But not always having an arcade to go to, we were limited to what the local convenience store/mall had readily available.  I played “Burger Time” when living in Edmonton at a pizza place whenever I could.

The early 80’s had bred arcade playing rockstars.  All shooting for a high score or a “kill screen”.  Two of my favorite documentaries on the subject are:

King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters

Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler


Moving on from the 80’s arcades and as home video game console got better, so did the sharing of high scores.  By the early 90’s, magazines were now devoted to the gaming industry and went hand in hand to a young teen like myself. My personal favorite magazine for gaming info was “Gamepro”.


I had a two year subscription to it.  Every month I’d flip to the back to see alphabetically, the high scores of many games.  My vested interest was in Tetris and Columns.  I played those as much as possible.  I never hit the scores that were posted, but it gave me a goal. (As sad as that goal might have been back then…)

But there were also arcades with more selections now.  From Altered Beast to Street Fighter 2- games took up my free time when away from home.  There were a place to go to and hang out with friends.  As new games came in, I was still drawn to the classics- Centipede, Pac Man, Frogger.  Those were my “go-to” games.  Heck, I’d love to get those in my home one day…  I was close to buying a Frogger machine at an auction once, but the price jumped too high for me.  Pun intended.

Aw look, matching Astrosmash shirts.


Playing videogames that have no ending are my way of unwinding sometimes.  I’ll play Pac Man or Astrosmash until I’ve had my fill, then shut it off.  Re-playing games with a goal, such as Super Mario World or Zelda, doesn’t appeal to me.  If I finished it once, why do it again?  The goal was achieved.

The games I enjoy are much like life.  Life just goes by faster and faster getting harder and harder with no real end goal in site.  All I’m doing is trying to reach a high score before “Game Over” happens.