Monthly Archives: October 2013

Somebody’s Birthday

On his second birthday, Luke was terrified of candles.  Since then, he wishes every day was somebody’s birthday so he can blow out the candles!

Growing Up

Luke Spagheti

Anybody who’s been around Luke for any amount of time, knows that he is just the happiest little guy around.  He just loves to have fun.  Loves to play.  Non stop.  He’s a chatterbox, and a goof-nugget!

I absolutely love hanging out with him, of course because of all the things I just mentioned, but also because it reminds me so much about growing up myself.  And how fun and carefree it all was.  I mean yeah, Luke will have the occasional breakdown when he really wants something, but has to put his toys away first.  But he rebounds quicker than you can flip a pancake.  I had some extra time to spend at home this weekend and just about every minute was spent with this little guy.

He wouldn’t be such a happy kid though, if Andrea weren’t such a great mommy.  I know it can be tough on her sometimes.  I can imagine going all day without any kind of adult interaction can be draining, and probably a bit lonesome.  But when you’re around Luke, you know how awesome she is at what she does!  I try to help after work and on the weekends like this, just to give her a little break.  I’m sure she could always use more though!

Luke Andrea Kangaroo

But basically what inspired this post was just all the things I’ve been able to share with him.  And that he totally latches onto.  We do a lot of things together that I did when I was a kid.  We play with Hot Wheels cars, we race around on the carpet, we watch cartoons.  We’ve been watching the Super Mario Bros cartoons from the 90’s, the Care Bears from the 80’s, and we see a lot of Mr. Rogers too.

Mario Cartoon

It’s fun watching him get excited about things like the Care Bears.  To us, they’re retro and dated, they’re brand new to him.  And to be honest, it’s fun for me to watch them with him and see certain things and think to myself, “I THINK I remember that…”  Mostly it’s not really specifics, but like the voices of a lot of the characters just feel super familiar, and this after not even thinking about the Care Bears for at least 20 years.  Funny how our minds work.

Care Bears Cartoon

Part of me feels a little guilty that I’m subjecting him to something that’s 3 decades old, compared to what his peers are probably being exposed to.  He’ll go off to school and his friends will have whatever the hot new lunchbox is, and he’ll have no idea who the characters are on the cover.  It’s not going to derail him socially, but still it’s a consequence of a choice I made, that he didn’t even know existed.

The other part of me thinks… you know my parents would have done the same thing as me… if they had the option to.  We don’t have cable.  We watch all this old stuff on places like Hulu and Youtube.  It’s amazing how much is out there.  More than I ever saw as a kid of these shows.  When I was growing up, what was on TV is all that I could be exposed to.  I suppose if my parents had the ability to keep me in a bubble of the media that they knew, trusted, and felt comfortable with, they would have done it too.  They just had to keep an eye on what we watched and make sure it wasn’t too “out there”.

Mr Rogers Feed Fish

It does make you wonder though, if this is all he knew, what would Luke share with his children?  Will kids still be watching really bad Mario & Luigi skits between animated mushroom adventures from 1991 in the year 2033?  I’m sure as he gets older and starts interacting with other kids and being exposed to more, he’ll develop his own memories.  Stuff that I just won’t understand.  It will happen eventually.  But until it does, I’m going to soak up our awesome Saturday mornings eating pancakes, watching cartoons, and pretending I’m growing up all over again too.

Pancake Smiley

The List: One Party Game

As an adult gamer, by far the thing I miss the most is gaming with my friends.  Online gaming is okay.  But it’s nothing compared to sharing the couch and laying the smack down on my friends, and the shouts of joy and agony that fill the room.  Amazing come from behind victories, impossible shots, hilarious screw ups, all reminisced over the entire evening over endless beverages and snacks.

All my friends may have moved on, just like I have with my own family and career.  But there are still some amazing party games out there, and some old ones that are always worth going back to.  Even if it’s just some family coming over, we can still fire up some great games and have a blast well past bedtime.

Now, as a reminder, the games on my lists are only games from my personal collection.  So yes, there are great games left out.  But the point of this is mostly just a thought experiment to pare down what are the best games I’ve ever played.  So if I could take one party game with me to that wonderful desert island where no one ever bothers me again and I get to do nothing but play games… what would it be?

The List

I’ll be honest.  Most of the categories so far, I’ve known going in which game was going to win.  This one though, even as I write this, I’m still not sure what to choose.

GoldenEye is a very strong possibility.  Having hosted eight GoldenEye Fests, and countless nights with friends playing until literally the sun came up, it might be hard to deny this one.  BUT… if I choose it as the best party game.  It won’t be able to compete in the First Person Shooter category… which wouldn’t feel right at all.

StarFox 64 is one game that I wish I would have had the opportunity to play with more people.  The ability to loop around, lock on to your friends and play with them like a cat plays with a mouse before going in for the kill is ridiculously satisfying.  Being able to choose between the tank and arwing is a neat feature, though it seems like the tanks were always at a disadvantage.  But usually games like Mario Kart or GoldenEye took the spotlight away from this great game on party nights.

Nintendo Land is one of my biggest surprises in recent memory.  I didn’t really expect to give much regard to the the game.  But one night Andrea’s family was over.  We had 4 people with Wiimotes and one on the gamepad playing Mario Chase… I haven’t had so much fun playing with other people in a long, long time.

Mario Kart: Wii is one of the Mario Karts I’ve been least impressed with, but it really is the best living room Mario Kart experience with family and friends.  Some people love playing with the Wii Wheel.  That’s fine, I’ll kick their butt every time.  I have to use the controller myself.  But the thing about Mario Kart, is that no matter how good you are, no win is guaranteed.  So even people that have never played before, still have a chance to win.  And honestly that’s what I love about it.  I mean I’d love to win every game, but eventually people don’t want to play with me any more.  So Mario Kart in general strikes that perfect balance of skill, random craziness, and just plain fun.

RockBand and Guitar Hero were legendary in my family for a while.  I remember playing it at my sister-in-law’s house and on our way home, we had to pick one up for ourselves.  Until my Guild Wars 2 CE, it was the most I’d ever spent on one single game.  Rhythm games seem like the butt of a lot of jokes these days, but honestly, I still enjoy busting out the plastic guitar, cranking up the surround sound and rockin, right the hell out.  Add in the full band and someone’s terrible singing (usually enhanced by alcohol) it’s a good time that’s hard to beat.

Wii Sports is great because it’s a game that absolutely everyone can play.  Even people who would ordinarily never play videogames, will still play Wii Sports.  And still get highly invested in it.  I remember waiting patiently for my turn to play, and the satisfaction that came with winning a matchup in whichever sport the challenger chose, because winners were allowed to keep playing.  The games were usually short and worked perfectly for passing around the controller with a group of friends.

Ice Hockey and Dr. Mario may only be 2 player games, and they may be the oldest games on this list, but to this day, I’ve yet to see any other game that has people that are more passionate and competitive about them.  My neighbor across the street is a dedicated Dr. Mario player.  And my brother-in-law takes great pride in his Ice Hockey skills.  Both of them (if you beat them) will become physically perturbed. They are also games that are pretty much universally loved and anybody will join in for the next round.

Of course Super Smash Bros: Melee IS a highly competitive game.  There are still organized contests to this day.  I am not any good at this game at all, but I even love losing in this game.  I love, love, love, love, love playing as Peach and smacking unsuspecting people with a frying pan.  I never really had any friends that were into this game, but I did attend a couple parties where I got my ass handed to me.  I’d actually play this game forever, even if I knew I’d never win.

And finally, New Super Mario Bros: Wii.  I picked this over the new NSMB:U just because I have more experience with it.  Even the little kids can come over and play.  When we get to a tough spot, we just tell them to “bubble!” and it’s an awesome way to get the whole family involved and playing.  It’s fun to work together, but also if the action starts to lul, you can start messing with your teammates by swallowing them up with Yoshi and spitting them down a hole, just to be a douche and get some laughs.

And the winner is:

Rockband

So… GoldenEye will live to fight another day.  And I REALLY went back and forth between this and Nintendo Land.  Nintendo Land is SUCH a great game.  Literally the most fun I’ve had in years.  BUT… Rockband or Guitar Hero was infectious.  People I knew would play it, then next thing I know, they had one too.  It hasn’t gotten much love lately, but a couple years ago, it was pretty much expected that this is what we did at family get-togethers.  It’s so satisfying to nail a tricky solo.  And even getting through certain songs on the highest difficulty were grounds for bragging eternally.

But seriously.  If anyone wants to come over and play some games, I have a couple.  It would be fun. You can probably even beat me! Honest!

Bucket List Checkmark

This weekend was a whirlwind to be sure.  It was Andrea’s birthday, she’s 29!  And we went up to the NASCAR race to celebrate her and Duane’s birthdays together.  It was a lot of fun.

The Birthday Crewe

I’ve seen a lot of NASCAR in my days.  I’m not as huge a fan as I once was.  I was probably most into it back in the early 2000’s.  Bobby Labonte was driving the #18 car back then and was pretty darn good.  I remember one season (after his championship) where he finished in the Top 10 like 26 times.  He was a lot of fun to cheer for.  After that he switched teams a couple times and just never was as competitive.  And since then it seems like all they focus on is the drama.  As far as I’m concerned, you can save the drama for your llama.

Bobby doesn't race, and Pontiac doesn't even exist anymore.  Sheesh I'm old.

Bobby doesn’t race, and Pontiac doesn’t even exist anymore. Sheesh I’m old.

Having never been to an actual race I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Honestly I anticipated it to be not as good as watching it on TV.  What I found was it was completely different than a TV experience.  You don’t get the benefit of replays.  I mean they have a big screen down by the pits that show stuff, but it’s not like TV.  But you really get a broader picture of the whole race.  I’ve been to lots of little dirt track races over the years.  And maybe it was all the caution flags, but this really felt more similar to that than I expected it to.  Each restart seemed like a new “heat”, but there was an added strategy of pitting and tires, etc.  It was just really cool to watch it all unfold on a broad scale.

We paid attention to Mark Martin for a good part of the race, a person I’m sure they weren’t talking about much on TV.  But we had the little headsets where we could listen in to his radio.  We could listen to the race officials, the cleanup crews.  It was really cool.  Kinda felt like behind the scenes.

But there were times where I just took the headphones off and just soaked up the experience.  I loved the noise.  It has been on my bucket list to hear the “Drivers start your engines!”.  Check.  And just listening to the cars go flying by.  It was totally awesome to be there.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in one place with that many people before.  I’m not sure what the capacity is, but I bet it was over 150,000 people.  Looking at them from our seats high in the air, they all just looked like gnats.  It probably took us 45 minutes just to get in and parked.  But only took us 10 minutes or so to get out.

I’d definitely be up to do it again, which going into it, I figured I’d go to one just to say I’ve been.  But I can definitely see how people get hooked on it.  I’d love to take a camper out to the infield and just hang out, drink beer and party for 5 days on a race weekend.  That may be a little hard to accomplish anytime soon though!