28 July 2010

Pizza, StarCraft, And How You Can Get My Job

Yesterday Vic and I locked ourselves in the production office and attempted to plow through as much StarCraft II as we possibly could in the name of shooting a review sometime in the near future.

Blizzard worked on this damn thing since 2003, and here I was trying to choke the whole thing down in a day or two. It's one of the unfortunate aspects of my otherwise really, really--and I mean really--great job. In the name of being timely, sometimes there's just no time to take your time and savor experiences.

And we're not the only ones who are consuming StarCraft II in huge, unhealthy chunks. As my friend John Teti poetically put it yesterday: "StarCraft II is making game reviewers everywhere completely miserable right now." Imagine going to a great restaurant and ordering a huge steak, and then being told that you have four minutes to eat the whole steak and get the fuck out. That's pretty much what game reviewers are forced to do much of the time.

Around dinner time last night, I thought I'd spin the Canadian Pizza Wheel again. Pizza sounded good to me. I paused my StarCraft II campaign and called up a chain restaurant called Panago. An hour later, a delivery guy arrived. "Are you guys playing StarCraft II?" the delivery guy asked.

"Yes," I said.

He was visibly invigorated by this information. "Oh MAN," he said. "Can I have your jobs? HA HA HAHAAAA."

I was feeling miserable, having just endured a mission-ending base-storming by the Zerg, which meant DO-OVER. I wanted my pizza and I wanted this guy to leave. "We're professionals," I said, handing him his change. "So don't try this at home."

The guy lingered for a few more moments, until I finally had to shoo him away so I could get back to StarCraft. I ate some of my pizza and braced myself for another Zerg onslaught. "How is your pizza?" Vic asked.

"It's terrible," I said. "It tastes like a dog took a shit on some dough."

We laughed. "It smells good," he said.

"It's not good," I said. Even the most terrible pizza in New York was better than this. If you dug an old piece of pizza out of a garbage can in New York, it would taste about a million times better than this. Man, I missed those oily, salty slices the size of shape of Yield signs at Koronet on 110th Street and Broadway.

Fuck! Now those were slices!

I get the how-do-I-get-your-job question line a lot these days. Everyone in this business does. I get emails every day from people--some half-joking, some dead serious--asking for my job, or advice on how to get my job. I don't mind giving out advice. I love helping people more than anything in the world. If you really want advice--practical advice--I'll give it to you. But occasionally, on my worst days--like yesterday--I get cheesed off by these knee-jerk inquiries.

The truth is, you don't just wake up one day and do what I do. I'm sorry, but you don't. I went through a lot of shit to get where I am. I had a lot of lean years. Years when I lived below the poverty line. Years when I cast myself into the abyss of E3. I took chances. Shit, I wrote game reviews for free for years, before anyone took me seriously, before anyone paid me one cent to do any of this.

Anyone in this business who has endured took a huge leap of faith at some point and lived to tell about it. Look at Vic. He was an actor waiting tables. He loved videogames. Sixteen years ago, he invested in a camera and some editing equipment and decided to try to talk about games on TV, not knowing 1. if anyone would even broadcast his show, or 2. if anyone would care about anything he said should his show, by some miracle, get on the air.

Vic told me a story about this one guy who emailed him almost daily. He wanted a job in TV production. Finally, tired of the emails and feeling generous, Vic wrote back. "OK, here's your chance. Show me what you got. Impress me. Send me something cool showing me what you can do."

The guy wrote back immediately. "YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!" he said.

A couple of days turned into a week. A couple of weeks became a month. Still no word from the guy.

Finally, one day, an email pops up from him in Vic's Inbox. "I'm almost finished! I can't wait to show you what I've got! You're going to love it!"

Vic could have left it at that, and ignored the guy. He didn't. He gave him another chance. "OK, get it to me ASAP," he wrote. The company was hiring editors and production people at the time.

"I definitely will!" the guy wrote back.

More days passed. More weeks. More months. Vic forgot about the guy. Until one day another email showed up in his Inbox. "I am almost there FINALLY! Whew! Look for something in the mail soon!" the guy wrote.

But nothing ever arrived in the mail. And Vic never heard from the guy again.

The fact is, a door was opened, very briefly. Here was Vic, giving this guy what he said he so desperately wanted. And the guy, for reasons we will never know or understand, delivered nothing.

I get emails all the time from one cute girl who believes that she is supposed to be on G4 and hosting a show. "I KNOW I WOULD BE GREAT AT IT!!!!!!!!!" she writes. (Almost everyone I know gets emails from this girl.)

Look, it doesn't matter if you're a cute girl. Or the best gamer in the world. Or a cute girl who happens to be the best gamer in the world. You want my job? Don't spam people in the business with emails telling them that you should be on G4 because you think you would be "GREAT AT IT." Man, do something about it. Prove yourself. Show the world why you should be doing what you want to do. Give the world a fucking reason. Tell yourself that you're going to do this--you're going to work in the videogames business in some capacity--no matter what goes down in your life.

No matter what your parents say. No matter what your guidance counselor tells you. No matter how much shit and trash and terrible shit-ass pizza life throws at you.

Do that, and then maybe we'll talk about you taking my job.

24 July 2010

Comic Con 2010: I Bought A Comic

I've been in San Diego this week, attending my very first Comic Con. I've never had any desire to go to Comic Con. I have no urge whatsoever to dress up as anything, or even look at people who are dressed up as anything. I don't even really want to be around the dress-up people. Some are cool about it, and sort of keep to themselves, and aren't into flaunting the fact that they are dressed up as Jocko Sinn from Obscure Manga #782. Others, the most terrible ones, embrace their disguises a little too much and run around posing and interacting with other people while in character.

One man wearing orange body paint and paper mache shoulder pads approached me yesterday. He held a greasy section of Plexiglass in front of his face, then squinted at me through it.

"Hmm. This life form does not appear to be registering on my scanner," he said.

"Please, I beg of you, leave me alone," I said.

He left me alone. Most of these people are nice about it. Whenever I find myself losing patience with all the play acting and faux sword fights and less-than-epic reenactments of something that's beyond obscure, I try to remember that many of these people probably have terrible existences that involve god-awful jobs and awful relationships. (Though I did meet one nice man who ruined my ability to stereotype; he appeared to be in his 60's, and was dressed as a Ghostbuster. He works as a doctor in Indiana and claims to be happily married.)

Who am I to get peeved by the three days out of the year when these people get the chance to do something in public that would under normal circumstances get them chased out of their hometowns by pitchfork-weilding villagers?

So I try really, really hard not to get peeved.

Have your fun. Live it up.

You damn freaks.

In an attempt to embrace the show and make myself a part of Comic Con, I forced myself to shop for, and purchase, two things: 1. a toy of some kind, and 2. some comics.

I made a long list of comics that I was interested in purchasing: Eisner's A Contract With God, Clowes' David Boring, Lynda Barry's One! Hundred! Demons!, Spain's Nightmare Alley, Pekar's Our Cancer Year, etc.

I brought my list to the biggest shop on the expo floor and handed it to one of the employees. He peered at the list. He peered at the shelves. He peered at the list. Then again at the shelves. List. Shelves. List. Shelves.

After about 10 minutes of searching, of the 12 comics on my list, he'd found only one: Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics.

"That's it?" I asked.

"That's it," he said.

I took my one comic--which is really excellent, by the way--and waded back into the crowd of costumed freaks.

I tried a few more tables, and again came up empty. I sort of understand not being able to find Lynda Barry--man, she's so great--but Harvey Pekar? The man died a couple weeks ago. And there's nary a trace of him or his work anywhere at the show.

That just shits.

Instead, there are giant Hulk ads everywhere. There is a Red Hulk now for some reason. There are a least four different kinds of Spider-mans (I don't know their names; Old, New, Future, and Mega maybe?). There are several kinds of Batmans also being advertised. A gigantic metal Transformer Bumblebee towers over the show floor. There are a handful of Iron Man statues, and the car from The Green Hornet--LOOK IT'S THE FUCKING GREEN HORNET CAR! I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I AM SEEING! AIIIIEEEEEEE!--and some sort of rubber alien prop that might or might not have been used to film this or that scene in The Green Hornet.

I get it. Super heroes are cool. They make money. That's where it's at. That's what this is all about.

In an ideal world, a world that catered solely to my wants, needs, and desires, a larger percentage of Comic Con would be devoted to the stuff that I like, and am interested in. But the world is a long, long way from being designed with my needs in mind. Instead, it's filled with people named Jocko Sinn who don't mind standing in a four-hour line so that he might be able to stand within a foot of a rubber alien prop and maybe get close enough to Kevin Smith so that he can smell his musk.

Meanwhile, Harvey Pekar's corpse rots in its grave in Cleveland.

Which is a fucking shame.

As for my toy purchase, I bought a Kenner Star Wars action figure. Old school, baby, all the way. I settled on an old, battered, well-worn, far-from-mint Obi-Wan Kenobi for $8. When I was a kid, my mom took my brother and me to the local store and let us pick out exactly ONE Star Wars action figure each.

My brother, predictably, chose Luke Skywalker. Everyone always chose Luke Skywalker. Whenever my cousins got together to play with their Star Wars figures, it was a fucking Luke Skywalker/Han Solo convention. "Hello, Luke." "How you've been, Luke?" "I've been fine, Luke, how have you been?" "Oh, look who's here. It's Han." "Hey, Han, over here!"

It was impossible to recreate scenes from the movie, or cook up any credible fiction, with 10 Lukes and eight Hans.

So I settled on Obi-Wan.

Because nobody had Obi-Wan.

Nobody wanted Obi-wan. And we needed, more than anything, an Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan and I are flying back to Vancouver today.

May the Force be with us.

15 July 2010

My First E3: Part 5

[Late to the party? Get caught up by starting with Part 1.]

The L.A. Convention Center is a confusing, poorly designed space, especially for a first-time E3 goer. The place is chopped up into several cavernous halls: West Hall, South Hall, and Kentia Hall. The only "hall" I'd ever heard of previous to this was the "mead hall" that Grendel lays waste to in the Old English poem, Beowulf. Ah, 9th grade English class.

To make matters worse, each of these halls is approximately 4.3 miles from the other halls. So, if you get confused and head to the South Hall for an appointment that's actually in the West Hall, you can forget all about making the West Hall appointment.

I was trying to get the lay of the land in the name of locating the Press Room, where I would, hopefully, acquire an important object known as the press badge. The press badge is the key to E3, only instead of being wrapped in tinfoil and buried under some dirt in a planter, it was buried inside several tons of steel and glass inside the convention center. The Press Room, according to the useless L.A.C.C. map I was peering at, was not located in any of the halls, but in a "Meeting Room" on "Level 2A-1."

For the second time that day--but far from the final time--I was lost.

As I studied my map like Magellan, certain that I was on the cusp of discovering a lost, game-loving civilization--a civilization that I was sure I was always destined to be a part of--convention-goers milled around me with a great sense of purpose and direction. Almost everyone wore baggy-type khaki shorts and carried giant backpacks. A guy with a mustache walked by talking excitedly into a cellphone. "We need to get the live blog of the Nintendo presser posted NOW, NOW, NOW!" he said.

His trilogy of NOW's jarred me out of my map-gazing stupor. Live blog? Nintendo presser? What the shit? Not only did this guy have a cell phone, which seemed like an incredible indulgence at the time--like the last passenger on the Titanic, I was still clinging madly to my plug-in-the-wall AT&T home phone--he was speaking a language I did not understand at all.

The guy saw me staring at him as he barked still more important-sounding jargon into his fancy phone. He gave me a dismissive look before he and his dumb mustache strode off into the buzzing throngs.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with self-consciousness. I felt paranoid, as if all of these khaki-shorts-wearing, backpack-carrying people around me knew full well that I had no idea where the fuck I was going or what the fuck I was doing here. I recalled my first days in New York City, when I was constantly certain that I wearing the wrong clothes and doing all the wrong things; clothes and actions that were forever exposing me as some kind of banjo-plucking, jug-band-blowing rube from Upstate New York. (Which I was.) Here I was hemorrhaging cash, riding mysterious blue buses around L.A., looking for sets of keys wrapped in tinfoil, sleeping in some lady's apartment in Santa Monica who I'd never met before (and at this point, still hadn't met), looking at unreadable maps. In my head I heard that creepy Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street singing his creepy song, "One of these things is not like the other..."

I put away the shit-ass map and instead started to look at the people around me. I studied them the way that Jane Goodall studied her beloved tick-eating apes. Some people already had badges hanging around their necks; some people did not have badges. I focused on the badge-less. I noticed that they all seemed to be milling towards one particular nearby escalator. I followed these badge-less apes. I rode their escalator. And voila, they led me straight to the Press Room.

While congratulating myself on my display of cleverness, I located the "U.S. Media" line and took my place at the end. When it was finally my turn, I walked up to the attendant, a chubby, gray-haired woman who looked as if she'd recently had her entire mouth removed and had a frown tattooed in its place. I handed her my New York State driver's license--one of the so-called acceptable forms of I.D.--along with one of my flimsy, totally junky business cards. She looked these items over, shot me a skeptical look, then punched some data into the computer in front of her. She then spun around in her desk chair and stared at the large, humming printer behind her.

We both stared at the printer for awhile. Man, was it ever a big printer. It was the biggest fucking printer I'd ever seen. After a few agonizingly long moments, the printer began to groan, making a sound not unlike the front door of a haunted house opening. Then a small index-card sized piece of cardboard emerged. Without a word, the woman slipped the bit of cardboard into the pocket of a clear plastic envelope that was attached to a lanyard.

She handed the lanyard to me. "That's your badge," she said. "Try not to lose it."

Outside the press room, my need to don the badge became almost physically overwhelming. I found a quiet corner, then inserted my head through the loop of shoestring. I felt like I'd been knighted. I half expected a blast of clarions, or maybe a flock of dirty pigeons to take flight.

I looked at the badge, which, from my perspective, was upside down. It was still warm from the huge printer. Below my name, at the bottom of the badge, was the indicator of who I was here at the convention: MEDIA.

I let the badge fall to my chest. I surveyed the milling crowds below. Everyone was waiting for the clock to strike 10, so that the doors to South, West and Kentia--well, nobody was probably waiting to get into Kentia--would officially open.

With my badge in place, I suddenly felt a great sense of pride and belonging. I felt the day's momentum shifting in my favor. I was no longer a cash-hemorrhaging banjo-plucking outsider here. I belonged here now. This piece of cardboard hanging around my neck proved that I belonged here now. I belonged here because I was MEDIA.

I got onto the escalator, and as I descended into the crowds, I thought, Look out, you game-loving motherfuckers. Here I come.

13 July 2010

Be Gone, Demon: Knowing When It's Time To Let a Game Go

There's that scene in The Exorcist where the track-shoes-wearing priest says, "Take me! Come into me!" And the (apparently invisible) devil flies out of the little girl, and flies into the priest, and he and his track shoes go out the window and roll and flail down a flight of stairs. By the time he reaches the bottom step, he's dead.

Sorry if you've never seen the movie. BELATED SPOILER ALERT WEE-OOO, WEE-OOO.

I'm thinking of this scene because I had lunch on Sunday with my developer friend, Thumb-Blaster. Thumb-Blaster's ambitious wife was out of town for a few days shooting a TV show in the woods, and I always worry about him whenever she goes out of town, because he has a habit of letting himself go when she's not around.

He was waiting for me outside the restaurant, unshaven, un-showered, and wearing clothes that he might or might not have slept in last night.

We ordered food, then attempted to talk over the roars and groans of the crowd in the bar watching the World Cup final. Thumb-Blaster told me that he'd recently become obsessed with an iPhone game called Tower Madness. He explained to me how it worked, and tried to articulate why he liked the game so much. "In fact, I'm enjoying it a little too much," he said, wincing a little. "I think I have to delete it."

I asked him why he would delete something that he was enjoying. "That's like deleting hamburgers from the world," I said, about to bite into my hamburger.

Thumb-Blaster explained that sometimes, when he really got into a game, and I mean really got into a game, getting the game out of his life was the only thing to do.

"So you've been playing a lot of Tower Madness?" I asked.

"A lot of Tower Madness, yes." He looked down at his plate and laughed a little.

This isn't the first instance when Thumb-Blaster has, in a lunging act of self-discipline, deleted something from his life. There's a Vampire RGP on the iPhone that he also became obsessed with. Most people make it only to level 20 in the game. Thumb-Blaster achieved a level of 130 before deciding that enough was enough.

Then there was an iPhone game called Galcon. "One morning I started playing it, and the next thing I know, the sun was down. I'd lost an entire day to playing this game. I literally had missed the sun." So Galcon was deleted.

All gamers have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder in them. And all games are made by people who are also gamers--at least the better games usually are--and therefore also have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder in them. Ergo: Most games are designed by obsessive-compulsives for obsessive-compulsives.

Though I've personally never deleted anything, or gotten a game out of the house because I couldn't stop playing it, I have heard stories like this. I know a man who became so obsessed with Madden NFL 2005 that one night he gave his copy of the game to his wife and told her that under no circumstances, no matter how much he begged and pleaded, should she give it back to him. She was afraid of him, afraid to hear about this other creature that he could transform into.

A few days later, the raving maniac arrived. He begged. He pleaded. He threw a tantrum, his first trantrum in over 30 years.

It was a low for their marriage. Through some miracle, their relationship survived.

I know another man who played Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Dreamcast version) for three days straight, never leaving his apartment. He even peed into empty two-liter Dr. Pepper bottles, Howard Hughes-style.

On rare occasions, videogames get under our skin in the worst possible way. They turn us into people who we don't want to be. Sometimes they consume days, or weeks of our lives. They take us away from our wives, our girlfriends, our families. They make us late for work in the morning. They make us miss the sun.

It's a darker side of gaming that we don't usually talk about.

Thumb-Blaster and I paid our bill at the restaurant, then said goodbye. He went home to play out his own version of "Take me! Come into me!" and finally--hopefully--exorcise Tower Madness from his life.

But probably not before getting in a final game or two.

09 July 2010

Found: Poems/Flowery Language In Activision's Singularity

Despite what you may have heard, the Raven-made, Activision-published Singularity is not, I repeat not, a bad game.

Not at all.

It's a pretty good game. Damn good, in fact. I've enjoyed it as much as I've enjoyed anything in 2010. It's got issues, sure, but right now it's got good a shot at making my top 10 list this year. No, I'm not kidding.

Speaking of those problems, the most egregious error--and this one is a real game-killer for most people, including critics--is that it gets off to a rotten, shit-ass start. I nearly quit playing in the game's opening frames, out of frustration and boredom.

But once I acquired a magic, glowing glove that allowed me to age certain objects in the game world, including my enemies--just like the song, the poor bastards literally turn to dust in the wind--things really started to get cooking.

The game borrows liberally from other, better games--BioShock, Metroid Prime, Modern Warfare, etc. Which isn't a knock against Singularity. It simply means that the wise people at Raven, located way up there in Wisconsin, of all places, did their homework.

One of many aspects of BioShock that the game co-opts is the whole old-fashioned tape recorder thing. You find an old reel-to-reel machine, hit the X button, and suddenly a recorded voice is telling you something meaningless in a faux Russian accent. (I would hit the X button, then move forward, just in case an Achievement of some sort finally revealed itself later on in the game. One never knows, so it's always better to be safe than sorry.)

The tape recorders feel positively space age relative to the old school--and when I say old school, I mean very old school--notes that are also scattered about the game. These notes are utterly useless and pointless to read. Raven added the notes in the name of fleshing out the plot, and giving Katorga-12--the WWII-era Russian island commune/science experiement where the game is set--a sense of place.

Reading notes and pressing play on antique tape recorders? Man, I haven't wasted this much time since I collected all of those fucking thermoses in Alan Wake.

Yet, I kept reading, kept pressing the X button/play, in the name of hearing the familiar BLUP sound effect followed by an onscreen graphic letting me know that MY GAMING SCORE HAS INCREASED BY 10 WHOLE POINTS and that THIS ENTIRE EVENING SITTING ON MY COUCH HAS NOT BEEN A WASTE.

Then, yesterday, something odd happened. I found two notes that were so strange, so spare, and frankly, so surprisingly beautiful that they could be passed off as the early scratchings of William Carlos Williams or e. e. cummings.

The first one--above at the start of the post--is a screen shot taken from the game.

Here's a second note from the game, word for word:

February 28, 1953
I wish Dr. Demichev would let me
go home.
I am not feeling very well today.
Where's my bucket?

Don't look for this "poem" in next month's issue of The New Yorker. My point is that this kind of spare, suggestive writing--where what's on the page has far greater implications, implications that suggest a far larger world--is a long, (long) way from the old "All your base are belong to us" days.

Progress = Made.

05 July 2010

Now Hiring: Experienced Loot-Sifters

For about a week now I've been clocking three, four hours a day on Mass Effect in the name of finally finishing the game. I'm not the biggest RPG fan, so playing the game takes me outside--way outside--my comfort zone. Which is no doubt why I stopped playing it on at least three previous occasions.

I lost Wrex on Virmire. I was really fond of him. And I lost Ashley, too, which really made me sad. I spent several minutes staring at my TV screen saying, "YOU MEAN SHE'S REALLY GONE? FOR THE REST OF THE GAME?" All the time I'd spent flirting with her between missions in the name of possibly having Mass Effect sex with her? Gone. Wasted. And it was too late in the game to start courting the blue woman.

Mass Effect, as you probably know, is a terrific game. I'm enjoying getting caught up in running petty errands around the universe in the name of earning scads of XP. I can't ever get enough XP. My thirst for XP is great; it will NEVER BE QUENCHED. NEVER.

But one aspect of the game that I find really unpleasant is the constant need to sift through my loot/inventory. I don't mind grabbing loot from a crime lord's lair--which, amazingly enough, looks identical to the other crime lord's lair (perhaps they had the same decorator?). I realize that the loot-grab that takes place at the end of every quest is my reward, my tangible takeaway for completing the mission. But unlocking crates and safes should be an exciting moment. For me, it's not. All I can think is this: Oh great. More junk.

Let's see. I've got Cryo Rounds III and Tungsten Rounds IV. I've got a Banshee II assault rifle, and a Scimitar VII sniper rifle. I've got enough suits of armor to fill up a Sex & The City character's closet. And I've got Biotic Amps, Scanner upgrades, Toxic Resistance things, Ablative something or others, etc. etc.

I honestly don't even know what half the shit in my inventory does, or why it's better than the other shit. Before a mission, I'll fool with the weapons, just to make sure I've got the best guns for everyone. If there's a better suit of armor, I'll be sure to put it on. But otherwise, I'm accumulating stuff until I feel less like Han Solo and more like an intergalactic Fred Sanford.

And I was fine just hauling all of my junk around until I got a message warning me that I was APPROACHING MY 150 ITEM LIMIT. This message popped up again and again, adding an extra layer of stress to the Geth-filled mission I was on at the time. Each time it popped up I thought, "JUST GREAT."

After the mission, I headed for the nearest store/junk dealer/intergalactic Salvation Army to clean out my inventory. I scrolled through my 150 item-long list, comparing/contrasting shotguns, thinking things like, "The Scimitar has a higher damage rating, but its rate of fire and accuracy are inferior to the Thunder VI. So. Hmm."


This went on for about 20 minutes before I lost all patience. What I did was this: I sold a bunch of stuff, some of which, I'm sure, was the wrong stuff to sell. And I turned the rest of it into the always-useful Omni-Gel. But this moment--right here--is exactly why I've never been a big RPG fan. I have no patience, no stomach, for the compare-contrast loot-sifting that the genre requires.

I fucking hate it.

My next thought was this: I wish with all my heart that I could bring in a neighbor boy, or maybe hire a person who would come to my house and do all of the loot-sifting for me. He or she would arrive at my home, and then proceed to comb through everything in my inventory, making sure that all the useless tripe is sold or Omni-Gelled, and that my characters are assigned only the top-shelf gear. Then this person would leave and send me a bill, and I could get back to the game.

Think of it as a kind of Geek Squad, but instead of fixing your computer (or "fixing" your computer; I have friends who've had bad experiences with Geek Squad), these experts would get you through the portions of videogames that you otherwise dread playing through. And the service wouldn't apply solely the dreaded loot-sifting. Example: I have a friend in Boston who absolutely hates boss battles for some inexplicable reason. He enjoys everything before the boss battle. He enjoys everything after the boss battle. But the boss battle itself is so painful for him--so anxiety-inducing--that he has shelved games that he was otherwise enjoying.

Example: My friend John Teti in New York has told me several times how much he hates the opening hour of nearly every videogame. He dislikes the process of familiarizing himself with an entirely new set of controls, with learning the new rules of the game world, with watching the cutscenes and meeting the characters, etc. But once Teti's beyond that first, painful hour, he says that he typically enjoys the rest.

After nearly 50 years, games remain messy, shaggy, ever evolving constructs. As stream-lined and mass market as they've become, most games, if not all, in their worst moments, still evoke boredom and tedium and frustration. Not enough boredom, tedium and frustration to make me quit them, but still, more than I'm comfortable with at times.

No doubt you have your own pet peeves when it comes to gaming.

So two things:

1. What are they?

2. How on earth do you endure them?