Jun 18, 2012

From C64 to Xbox. Also, Lollipop Chainsaw.

I'm a late bloomer when it comes to console games, but I started extremely early on PC games.

My first computer was the Commodore 64 and my first game was Alice in Wonderland (1985). All I remember about it was failing to solve the chess board and begging my dad to hack the game for unlimited lives. The next game I recall getting was an early god game that I think was called Populous, which I absolutely loved. I have a thing for playing god. Then I didn't play any video games for years, instead trading my PC for a Mac and video games for PhotoShop and early Painter programs, until I hit college when a boyfriend had a Sega Genesis. I quickly grew addicted to Mortal Kombat, but stopped playing because that boyfriend got sick of me beating him all the time. He'd actually even scream at me about it towards the end of our short lived relationship, "You're not even trying to do moves, you're just hitting all the buttons like crazy. That's not fair! That's cheating!"

That experience was so torturous I stopped playing any and all video games for a long time until I met my husband-to-be, but even then we'd only play House of the Dead at the arcade.

Then one day, about 12 years ago after I traded back to PC from Mac, I was talking to my Dad on the phone about our old video games (one of his favorites was Myst) and how I really missed playing god games and wondered what was out there today (this was 2000-2001). Shortly thereafter 2 PC games arrived in the mail from him: The Sims and Civilization 3.

OMG I fell fast in love!

I'd start playing at like 6 or 7 at night and the next thing I'd know I'd hear birds chirping and the sun would be creeping up spilling unwanted rays in through the sliding glass doors bathing me in early morning shame.

From The Sims and Civilization 3 to The Sims 2, Civ 4, then Sims 3 and Civ 5 that's pretty much all I played for years aside from silly Yahoo games that I'd crack periodically out of boredom like Bejeweled, Big Kahuna Reef, or Jewel Quest. (Fun Fact: Bejeweled is the only game that I have installed on every single gaming platform I own.)

At some point I bought a Wii, but I don't really count that because I pretty much only bought it for exercise, as the games left a lot to be desired insofar as quality (or lack thereof) of the graphics. At some point I also discarded it for exercise because I realized I got a better work out just following along with an old Rodney Yee yoga DVD than I ever did with any game on the Wii. Doh.

But then one of my favorite filmmakers, James Gunn, announced that he was working with Suda51 on a new video game for Xbox, Lollipop Chainsaw.

If you're not familiar with James Gunn, all I can do is direct you to watch a few movies as a crash course: Tromeo & Juliet, Slither, & Super. Those should pretty much paint the picture. If you're too lazy to watch those, well, let's just say he's a bit of a twisted genius blending a perfect balance of fringe horror and dark comedy with a killer soundtrack. (In fact, I'm listening to the Lollipop Chainsaw soundtrack as I write this - from Skrillex's Rock N' Roll to Toni Basil's Mickey to Sleigh Bells' Riot Rhythm to The Runaways' Cherry Bomb, it's an odd mix that just works.)

Well, shit, now I needed to get a damn Xbox.

So, about a year ago now, I got my very first Xbox and around about the same time I got to go to E3. My mind was blown. There were so many more games out there now than there had been back in the Mortal Kombat days and, my gods, the graphics. They were near perfection. Many games even came scarily close to the uncanny valley. I was in heaven.

Of the many games I tried on Xbox while waiting for Lollipop Chainsaw to come out, including The Sims, American McGee's Alice in Wonderland, and Left 4 Dead (all of which I hated on Xbox and much preferred on PC), as well as the Gears of War and Halo series, my favorite by far was Halo Reach. I found I often had trouble working the controls in most games, but there was something about Halo Reach that was just incredibly intuitive to me. I felt more connected to that game than any other. Also I just absolutely loved the graphics: all spaceships, stars, and scifi looking. From the moment I played that game I knew it'd be pretty damn hard to beat it and, until recently, nothing has come close for me.

That is until Lollipop Chainsaw came out this past week.

Granted, the quality of the graphics in Lollipop Chainsaw are sub-par compared to a game like Halo Reach and the game-play is extremely different, but, while I still hold Halo Reach as the penultimate console gaming experience, Lollipop Chainsaw becomes a close second because, well, it's just fun as hell. It's the only other game I've played on Xbox that I've wanted to keep playing to the end (which I haven't gotten to yet but plan to get back to tackling momentarily).

While a game like Halo Reach is slick as hell and I love it, it's acutely masculine, whereas Lollipop Chainsaw is like made for chicks, especially slightly twisted ones. It's perfect for the gal who loves pink but also zombie movies. Also, the setting is a lot more relatable and fun.

Jun 4, 2012

Carrie Fisher and Being in the Audience for Spoilers with Kevin Smith

When I was, oh, let's say 3 or 4, my folks went to see a scifi movie on opening night. They didn't bring me along (even though they normally dragged me out to all sorts of grownup events like Gordon Lightfoot concerts), because they were unsure if I would enjoy it. My Mum was never a big scifi fan, but my Dad couldn't get enough of the stuff. I was raised on Doctor Who and Star Trek. However, once they saw the movie, they knew instantly I would love it, especially because of the muppets. I was a huge Muppet Show fan.

So, shortly thereafter, when the film hit the drive-in theater in Wellfleet, Mass., I caught my first glimpse of Star Wars from the back seat of a VW Bug. I was instantly hooked. Twinkling stars, giant spaceships, lasers, a whiny kid stuck in the middle of nowhere but dreaming big (ok, I wouldn't relate to that aspect until about 10 years later but I sure did have a crush on Luke until I discovered Han), Yoda, R2D2, and, last but certainly not least, Princess Leia.

Oh, how I looked up to her. She was not your typical, boring, Disneyfied princess I was used to all fluff and no substance just looking for a prince, no, she was a diplomat, a rebel, and she carried a big gun. She was the epitome of cool to me. Beautiful and feminine when it was called for, but quick-witted and tough as nails, too. I wanted to be Princess Leia when I grew up.

When I did grow up, I realized Princess Leia was merely a character sprung from George Lucas' mind and brought to life by Carrie Fisher.
My Mum was always an avid reader and one day she handed me a book saying she had just finished it and thought I'd enjoy it, too. That book was Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. I read it cover to cover twice. I watched the movie of it countless times. And every time Ms. Fisher wrote another book, I read that voraciously, too, from Surrender the Pink to Delusions of Grandma to Wishful Drinking, et al. There was something about the way she told a story - it was like you were in the room with her conversing - it didn't come across like formal, stuffy writing. In a way, I suppose, she reminded me a little of my literary hero Jack Kerouac with his easy, free-flowing style, wild life, and lack of filter. I loved it! I lacked a filter in life, as well, and always felt out of place as a result, but here were like minds sharing their most intimate life details on paper. I had journaled my intimate life details, but never had the courage to share the way they did (well, not until recently). I looked up to Carrie. I marveled at her. She could sing, act, write - what couldn't she do? And she was hilarious. And it seemed so effortless. I can't even tell you how many times a day I ask Jeremy, "Was I funny? Is this tweet funny? Is that line funny?" (The only other thing I ask so much is "Do I look fat in this?") I love funny. I love to laugh. And Carrie always brought the funny.

There's always been a part of me that is terrified of meeting my idols. You hear horror stories all the time. So-and-so was an asshole or whatever. I've been mostly incredibly lucky. The handful of people I've met who I've admired the most have turned out to be super cool, nice people (Bono and Kevin Smith spring to mind). And, although I didn't technically meet her, I saw Carrie Fisher for the first time in real life last Friday and right off the bat she seemed so cool and comfortable and warm and real and funny as all get out. I wish I could have actually met her, shook her hand, and said, "Thank you, I love your books," but that's ok. I probably would have accidentally swallowed my tongue and just said, "Abu Dabbu," so perhaps for the best.

Oh, and in case you're wondering where all this happened, it was at Universal Citywalk where Kevin Smith is shooting a new Hulu Original Series called Spoilers (www.hulu.com/spoilers) where he takes you out to a movie, then you head back to the studio to talk about what you thought of the movie with Kev on camera and what not, then there's an interview and a few other fun segments. So, basically, being in the audience is a lot more interactive than most. If you're near Universal and have Fridays free, I highly recommend signing up to be in the audience (smodcast.com/spoilers). Even though I didn't have anything to say about Snow White and the Huntsman (other than Thor was hot), I had a blast being in the audience. Kevin is just non-stop funny. And omg Carrie Fisher! What an awesome guest. I never thought I'd ever be in the same room as such Hollywood royalty. It was a wicked good time.

(Note: you can watch the Series Premiere with Carrie Fisher here: Spoilers with Kevin Smith: Girls Just Wanna Have Guns S1E1.)