How my Mom saved Christmas

This is a repost from a story I wrote a long time ago and has been featured a number of times, hope you like it.

In the age of online shopping and overnight delivery, the hunt to get the game or game system we want is less of a hassle than it used to be in the past. Sure, we can camp out for special deals and sometimes miss out on getting something on day one, but overall we have it easy. Regardless, for many of us gamers we had parents who struggled to make us happy on Christmas morning and it is important to remember what they did for us especially during the holidays.

NES Controll Deck

This is a story about my mother going on a hunt with me for my NES.

It was about a week before Christmas and the Nintendo Entertainment System was on every kid’s wish list. I had made bargains and promises and finally my mother agreed to get it for me. She was old school in that she did not keep up on anything technical and didn’t really even know where to go get it, so I was tasked to find out where to get it and she would go and pay for it.

It was Friday night and I was at home searching the phone book to call stores asking if they had the NES. Many of the stores were sold out and the smile on my face that I had when I started had quickly faded. Then I got a stoke of good luck. A Toys-R-Us had one, but the store was thirty miles away. To me that was nothing and when my mother walked in the door I had the address and directions to the store ready to go. I was bouncing around with all the energy of a child not taking notice of my mom’s condition. I doubt I even gave her a moment to rest before I was dragging her back out to the car.

Chicago

 

Now I grew up in Chicago, so in December it was bitter cold and snowing. There was ice on the ground and tons of people going home from work, out for the night or shopping as we were. The traffic was horrible, but all I could think about was my new NES and how I’d soon be playing Mario Bros.

We get to Toys-R-Us and I fly inside not waiting for my mother. In seconds I was at the electronics section. By the time my mother got there I was almost in tears. They had sold the last one just ten minutes ago. I had no back-up plan, no other store directions or addresses. I just wanted to die. My mom suggested we try a few stores on the way home which temporality lifted my spirits.

toys-r-us-nes-retro-ad

Seven stores later with no NES in sight I just wanted to go home and quit. I felt Christmas was ruined and didn’t even want to celebrate it anymore. Nothing my mom said or did make me feel any better. I had laid down in the backseat of the car when it came to a stop. I knew we couldn’t have arrived home yet.

I looked out the window to see another store. Now for the life of me I can’t remember the store name, but what I can tell you was it was not known for any toys or electronics for the matter. It was what I would call an “old ladies” store. My mom had dragged me there many times for clothes or home appliances and stuff.

I was actually upset that my mom had brought me to a store like this that had no chance to have my NES. However, I was pretty well behaved thanks to my mom’s firm hand so I did not put up a fuss. We entered the store and my mom headed for the electronics section. Then I caught a glimpse of it. My eyes widened, my heart began to race. It was a display of Nintendo’s behind a glass counter. There were at least ten of them. I couldn’t believe it and I guess that was the point. The store normally would not have carried NES’s, but since it was such a hot item and it was the holidays they did. I guess kids and parents alike did not think to go there to look for a NES so they had them in stock.

I was in heaven until my mom pulled out her checkbook. The lady behind the counter said they no longer accepted checks, only cash or charge. As I said my mom was old school and did not have a credit card and surely did not have the cash on her. I was ready to die again until the lady looked at my mother’s check number.

Now some of you might not know this but the number to the right of the check not only tells you how many checks you wrote but, at least back then, was an indicator of your credit status. Think of it like a credit score, the more checks you wrote the better your credit was. My mother had written over eight thousand checks which showed she could be trusted. The sales lady spoke to the manager and he agreed to sell my mom the NES. It truly felt like Christmas morning. I had my NES and all was right in the world. I was energized all the way home dying to play it.

Even though I was really excited I did take a moment to thank my mom and that was when I saw it. She was tired, like the tired you would have after working ungodly hours as a nurse. My mother was an LPN (licensed practice nurse) and she worked 12 to 16 hours shifts all the time. In fact many times she would work back to back and even overnights. As a kid with no responsibility, I did not fully understand the strength it took to come home after working that hard and having to drive me all over town for some game.

She could have ended our trek after the first store or told me to wait until the next day to go. I understood a bit more that day what it took to raise me and my sister as a single parent, but it took years for me to fully understand all her sacrifices. I made sure to think of that night whenever I got mad over something stupid. Sometimes I forgot and acted like she had never done anything for me, but then I quickly remembered that night and many other things she did for me.

That was not the first or last time that my mother and I went off on an adventure for something gaming related. Perhaps one day I will tell you about our hunt for Texas Instruments software. For now, think about your own parents and what they did for you and if you can, tell them thanks.

Profiled: Ichiro Lambe

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Name: Ichiro Lambe 

Company: Dejobaan Games 

Title: Lead Studio Head

Elegy for a Dead World

We talked with Ichiro Lambe from Dejobaan Games their incredible game, Elegy for a Dead World where you explore dead civilizations, write about what you find, and share your stories with the world. You can find the game on Steam.

Ichiro started gaming at an earlier age and like host, J.A. Laraque even had a Texas Instruments TI 99/4A. We talked about his gaming background and his journey from gamer to game maker. So check out his episode and let us know what you think.

Hearts of Iron III

Cover

Hearts of Iron III is not just a strategy game, it is a strategy simulator. This game is the definitive World War 2 simulator. It takes all the aspects of World War 2 into a game where you plan the war by the hour as if you were the leader of a real nation. It is an interesting hybrid between being turn based strategy and real time strategy. On one hand it is a pausable RTS game, on the other hand, the game has the hour as the basic unit of time which means if you slow the game down, it plays like a turn based game. This is especially useful if you want to track the war step by step, in this case hour by hour. As the ruler of the nation, not the general, you only make the large scale strategic decisions, not the tactical decisions, which are all taken care of by your generals.

As the leader you also take care of diplomacy which is unlike other strategy games where you can “talk” however often you want, and about whatever you want. Again like in real life you spend intellectual manpower to send diplomats abroad on missions such as negotiating trade agreements including not just trade of goods, but debt related issues, and paying for a country to produce units for you. There is also the political aspect of diplomacy, where you can sign defensive pacts, non-aggression pacts, even alliances. Most importantly, if you are part of one of three “factions”, the Axis, Western Allies, or Communist Allies, you can use diplomacy to influence other countries to align with you over time. If you are playing as a neutral country, you can just align yourself with a nation, so if you want to be the axis leader of Sweden, this game is for you :D.

Let me pause for a moment and say that unlike other games, this game includes every country that existed during World War 2, and you have the choice of playing any one of them. You can even play as a commonwealth country independently of Britain.

You also get to control production and the distribution of the production to different industries, however I have no idea how this game works for capitalist countries as I’ve only played fascist and communist countries in this game. I have picked up hints that you have less of a degree of control over your country in weaker governments, which is not the most appealing gameplay to me, but to each his own.

There is the brainpower aspect of the war, mainly: politics, technology, and espionage. These elements of gameplay are separate but interdependent. One thing to notice is that under the technology tab in the game, you not only control which technology your country is researching but how brainpower is distributed among the other categories mentioned above. In politics, you really cannot change your government system, but you can change your different political policies from social to economic issues. This is the political playground for those of you who want to test out your political beliefs (just kidding, social and economic policies are already set for you by the government in power and its ideologies. However, you do have control over things like conscription laws, degree of freedom in your country, how much emphasis on education or industry or military mobilization etc.). Political support for parties can change slowly over time, meaning if you are a republican country, you must beware of not being re-elected.

Finally, regarding espionage, you can do classical spying, or get involved in sabotage and political mingling. The only weakness of this game is the espionage, where you don’t really have control over the numerical amount of spies you send per country, although you can set priorities for them on a scale of zero to three, and you can only have one spy mission per country even if you have multiple spies. Other than that this game makes absolute perfect historical sense, and you will feel as if you are making real decisions for your country if you are playing this game.

The only other detail that is inaccurate is the german flag. We all realize that the Nazis were responsible for the genocides of around 30-40 million civilians but that does not mean that one should sacrifice a historically accurate flag with a swastika on it to make the game “politically correct”. Simply displaying a flag in a game should not equal support for that regime, especially when it is displayed to identify people of that regime. That way of thinking is so erroneous, I can accuse paradox interactive of supporting communism because they displayed the historically correct soviet flag in the game for the soviet union. Instead, the game designers have identified Germany with the flag of the German monarchy, which is even more offensive to monarchists as that is saying that the Nazis who killed 30-40 million, and the king of Germany who only cared for the well being of his people above all, are the same people.

Hearts of Iron 3 Italy
Hearts of Iron 3 Italy

Ratings:

Historical Accuracy: 5 out of 5

I would go as far as calling this game a historical simulator. This doesn’t mean that the computer artificially make sure certain events happen, but it makes sure the game makes historical sense if the leader of the nation was you instead of *insert historical leader here*. Aside from the fact that the flag of Nazi Germany in this game is the flag of the German monarchy for some reason, this game follows historical detail to the finest details. It should be really appealing for people who are World War 2 buffs.

Realism: 5 out of 5

The game is truly epic in scale and you get to experience all aspects of being a leader. I cannot describe even the basic details in a few sentences.

Difficulty: 5 out of 5

If it isn’t obvious already, a game with fine detail like this game is harder to learn than most games out there. The task seems overwhelmingly impossible at first, however if you are willing to put the time and effort, if takes only a day or two to learn. I suggest starting by choosing “The Gathering Storm” historical start, then find Spain on the map and choose Nationalist Spain. This is happening at the end of the Spanish Civil War, when it is clear that the Nationalists who are just outside of Madrid, are winning. It is relatively small scale, and hard to mess up, so it is an ideal first game to learn the game mechanics.

Sellability: 2 out of 5

This is a somewhat important factor, but shouldn’t bother anyone picking up the game if they truly love deep strategy. What sellability means is how well this game is doing on the market. The big failure of capitalism is that smart people who should be playing games like this are prevented from finding this game because only the big companies can advertise the hell out of you, making most smart people waste their brains on dumbed-down games instead of brain stimulating games such as Hearts of Iron. If you are a person who has found this game, consider yourself one of the lucky few. Consider yourself one of the chosen.

Popularity: 5 out of 5

This is not based on how many people play this game, this is based on how well this game is liked by people who have tried it.  Pleased to say that if you have a circle of intellectual buddies, go ahead and present this game to them, and the chances are very high that they will like the game.

Affordability: 5 out of 5

For a game like this, I would expect it to cost $100-$150. However it costs a mere $10, or $45 if you are willing to buy all of the extensions to the game. In short, this is one of the best deals you can find in your lifetime, and the game costs a few dollars on sales on steam, or $10 with all the extensions if I remember correctly.

Final Verdict: 5 out of 5

Hearts of Iron 3 Research Screen
Hearts of Iron 3 Research Screen

Profiled: Kevin Mentz

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Name: Kevin Mentz

Company: Daedalic Entertainment

Title: Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Battle of Olympus (NES)

memoria

When you have a company known for great games you become even more curious about the people behind them so when we had a chance to talk with Kevin Mentz from Daedalic Entertainment we were excited to do so. We were already fortunate enough to have a written gamer profile from Claas Paletta and for Kevin, we learned his favorite classic game is The Battle of Olympus.

We also talked about his move from playing games to wanting to create them and finally working for Daedalic and the number of games he personally worked on including Memoria. Overall, a fun interview with a lot of game talk and trailers from a number of Daedalic titles including, Memoria, The Night of the Rabbit, Blackguards 2 and Randal’s Monday so check it out.

Profiled: Derek Smart

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Name: Derek Smart

Company: 3000AD

Title: President and Lead Developer

Favorite Classic Game: StarFlight

line of defense

When you have a chance to talk with someone who created over 17 games you’re going to want to pick his brain on the state of gaming today in comparison to gaming in the past. Derek and his independent game development company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has developed a number of games from Battlecruiser 3000AD to the current Line of Defense MMO which can be found on Steam Early Access.

We talked with Derek about his early days, including what influenced him to get into game development and the struggles one can go through when creating their first game. We also talked a little about GamersGate and the evolution and near extinction of the video game manual. We even talked about the rumor of Derek purchasing the IP of the Decent Freespace license.

There is a lot more in the hour long interview so check it out I promise you will enjoy it.

 

Kid Chameleon

Kid Chameleon

An attempt to mimic Mario – in a few ways at least – Kid Chameleon offers something much different to Sonic’s speedy antics on the Mega Drive.

It’s a solid platformer, and for fans of the genre it’s worth investigating.

Kid Chameleon

You play as Kid Chameleon, who must enter a virtual reality arcade machine and defeat an evil entity who is trapping kids within the game itself.

There are several worlds, with each one containing two to three levels.

The game starts off, as so many platformers often do, with an ordinary looking forest level – but even these aren’t as dull as you’d expect, thanks to the title’s main gimmick.

Kid Chameleon

You can collect suits throughout stages by hitting the various P blocks (most of the time they just hold gems), and grabbing masks which transform you into various forms.

These include a sword wielding samurai, a knight who can charge and destroy walls, a Jason Vorhees clone who can fling axes, and – most amusingly – a tank driving skeleton.

Fortunately the costumes aren’t the only entertaining thing here, with the enemies themselves an interesting bunch.

Kid Chameleon

They all pose different threats, including crawling hands who restrict your movement, lava-men who leave a trails of fire behind them, and tiny green slime beasts.

The only surprising thing about the cast of foes is the lack of bosses at the end of each world. They would have been worth seeing if the smaller foes in the game are anything to go by.

It’s a shame then, that the level design itself isn’t up to the same standards of the cast of enemies and power-ups.

Kid Chameleon

Too often the game expects you to somehow understand its strange design quirks, such as the fact you can walk through some walls as they’re in the foreground – even though they look nearly exactly the same as all the other walls.

Other times it can be plain cruel, like in a Under Skull Mountain level, which slides you down ramps straight into pits of spikes. It does this twice as well – talk about unfair.

Kid Chameleon

The game only gets harder as you progress as well, and there’s a lot to get through.

With no save system very few people will see the end, or even want to – despite the game’s admirable qualities.

Despite its problems, Kid Chameleon doesn’t hold up too badly today though.

Kid Chameleon

Its simple graphics can look a little dull if the world you’re in isn’t set in an enthralling setting, but there are enough inspired moments to hold your attention.

It doesn’t stand out in a crowded genre, but it doesn’t disappear out of view from it either.