This blog is the chronicle of my experiences with Grandma, the video-game playing queen of her age-bracket and weight class. She will beat any PS2, XBox, GameCube, etc., console game put in front of her, just like she always has. These are her stories. She is absolutely real. She lives in Cleveland.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Electronic Gaming Monthly names Grandma "Gamer of The Year" for 2005!!
Electronic Gaming Monthly spoke with Grandma in early January, and to be honest the two of us weren't exactly sure what sort of article would come from the interview until recently. February brought with it frequent trips to Borders; eyeing the gaming mag section with a shifty gaze in all directions, searching for the trademark emo-glasses and dangling employee badges as she decided if it would be worth the risk to carefully extract the magazine from it's protective jacket to see if she was inside.
Her subscription to EGM provides a teasing frustration; her copy usually arrives in our mailbox a couple weeks after it's initial availability at the local racks. To be completely honest, she was probably more excited about the cover story of this month's issue than she was for the recognition.
What can I say, she's a Square-Enix fan! Once you make your way to Page 89, the first thing you see is a big ol' tribute to one of our favorite people: David Jaffe, who won the award for Developer of the Year. Congratulations, David! You deserve it you God of War making, VGA winning, George Clooney of DICE crazy motherfucker, you! Congress is proud of you. The AMERICAN PEOPLE are proud of you. GRANDMA is proud of you. Now go make more games. You've had your fun; GET THE FUCK BACK TO WORK.
This image is insanely surreal to Grandma. Imagine that first time back in the 80's when you wrote Nintendo Power and drew a crayon picture of Link smoting a stamp on the envelope only to find three months later they have PUBLISHED it for all to see; only this is so much better. It has all the important elements that qualify it as "awesome:"
1) Grandma looking all snazzy in her Sega "Gamer" shirt, a gift from MTV.
2) She's holding a 360 controller.
3) Stacks and stacks of games surround her not unlike the columns of golden coin resting on the desk of Scrooge McDuck.
The article is a bit dated, as it still portrays Grandma as pining for an XBox 360. When Crispen interviewed her, she was overlooking all of Manhattan in a conference room in the Viacom Building. 15 minutes later she was a single floor above Time's Square on the set of TRL meeting her XBox 360 for the very first time in a touching ritual of interpretive dance that involved much jumping and hugging. Other than that, when you turn the page, you have to stare at Jack Thompson yet again. Grandma is having some sort of bad luck where Thompson's name is mentioned soon after her own in the press.
That's alright. If you thought that was impressive, check out yesterday's article in Cleveland's "The Plain Dealer":
Cleveland Has A Reason To Rock Again: Grandma Has Guitar Hero
When I was able to go to Case Western Reserve University, my college ID allowed me free access to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, a funny looking pyramid on the shores of Lake Erie dedicated to the birth of Rock. In the lower level, one of the first things you see is a giant wall covered in quotes from those opposing the "grotesque" and "evil" music. Tipper Gore is down there, as is our good buddy Joe Lieberman, I believe. Its placement at the front of the museum provides a stark contrast to the beautiful tribute to the rock gods further along. One cannot help but notice the comparison to the battle video games have faced in the past decade.
As one walks through the sometimes loud and noxiously stimulating halls of the museum, one finds a room dedicated to the Ohio born stars. Devo went to Kent State back in the day; Marilyn Manson was from Canton, Trent Reznor is an Akron native, Dave Grohl was born out this way- and all escaped the clutches of the rustbelt. One unmentioned hero remains, however.
Grandma. Many folks recommended Guitar Hero for Playstation 2 to Grandma, and she got to pick up one of the guitar hybrid controllers during her first trip to MTV studios. Some said it would be a great alternative to Dance Dance Revolution for someone who couldn't move their feet that quickly. Some said it had to be tried to be believed. Some said the guitar controller looked like something crafted by Fisher Price and the Devil. No one said it would be so god damn ADDICTING.
The game has somewhere around 40 playable songs, ranging from "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to "Bark at the Moon" by Ozzy Osborne, plus a whole pack of unlockable songs. The first songs we all learned how to play on guitar come first; replicating the practice process fairly well! Easy chord songs like The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated" can be played as soon as you fire up the game. Add to that four difficulty levels per song and you get hours of intoxicating, musical goodness.
There are five fret buttons on the guitar controller. In easy mode, you only have to worry about three of them; in medium difficulty four; and in hard mode all five. In "Expert" mode, more grace notes are added, chord changes become more difficult, and you're going to look like a fool when you play it for the first time. The buttons are sometimes too wide for Grandma, so she has to move her hand even in Medium difficulty, rather than floating a finger above each button in anticipation. The buttons press easy, so you don't need to prepare for bleeding fingers like you did in High School. After playing for awhile, the plastic can get a little sweaty if one grips with their thumb too hard, so ease up a bit. Otherwise, if you're playing with a large group of people, SOMEBODY's getting herpes. And no one wants that. You might think it's silly sitting with a little toy guitar in your lap at first, but after five songs or so, you begin to groooooove. Don't fear it, baby- it's natural!
Instead of strings, you have a little ...clicky...thing that you can either strum with your thumb, or hold like a pick. It goes up and down, which facilitates turning the guitar for lefties and really fast solos. The plastic coating on the flipper is the the only real problem we've encountered with the controller. The sweat thing is no big deal, you just hold it differently. After two family wide "I BET I COULD KICK YOUR FUCKING ASS AT GUITAR HERO" tournaments and completing the game in Easy, Medium, and Hard modes, the plastic coating has come completely off the button. It doesn't affect gameplay so much as it just looks bad.
Grandma's favorite song to play is "Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie. She's gone for hours with the guitar and a set of headphones trying to max out her score and achieve 100%. She liked the song SO much, the two of us went out and bought two things: David Bowie's Greatest Hits Collection, and the movie that truly represents growing up in the 80's: The Labyrinth. This is the same movie that broke through the Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" campaign and convinced millions of children to make a mental note to go ahead and try marijuana when they're old enough with Jennifer Connelly's wide-eyed utterance of the phrase "Everything's dancing....."
Grandma puts it this way: "Look, you have George Lucas before he started worshiping George Lucas; David Bowie as... well, basically himself; Jennifer Connelly before she got stoned, went down on a guy and puked in the street in 'Requiem for a Dream'; Jim Henson was still alive and kicking ass; Frank Oz did some of the voices; and motherfucking TERRY JONES wrote the whole thing, so you know it's going to be awesome... they might as well say it's the best movie of all time."
My own personal obsession spawned by Guitar Hero is the Boston band "The Slip." One of their songs, "Even Rats" is an unlockable feature after you reach Medium mode. Put simply, they fucking rock. I invoke my band whoring skills and advise you to buy every album they've ever made from their website. [A side note, the first song you hear upon entering the site is "Even Rats."] The Slip is touring now, and they will be at The Grog Shop in Cleveland in March. You bet your ass Grandma and I will be at the concert.
This creates a problem. The Slip have a bit of a college following. Whenever they're in town, they encourage folks to print out and put up flyers, etc.,... MOST of the fans I've met are cool people, but they REALLY hate that The Slip's music has been "bastardized" and "attracted the wrong sort of fans by putting their music in some shitty fucking... VIDEO game." I'm an Indie rock elitist myself, when I saw Rilo Kiley on television for the first time hid in my room and feared the corporate powers would destroy them, stealing them away from Saddle Creek Records. I felt the same way when I watched a movie trailer for 28 Days Later, and to my horror I heard a "Godspeed You Black Emperor" tune, a band who SWORE their music would never find its way into a movie or an advertisement. Good music seems to be even better when it's your own little secret; enabling you to laugh and point at people rocking out to Hawthorn Heights.
Guitar Hero is a fantastic game, and it leaves a lot of room for expansion releases with more venues, characters, guitars, and most importantly SONGS for those of us who already own the guitar controller. Grandma wishes the guitar felt more substantial, but dig this: the game with the guitar costs $70 here in The States, at least that's what we shelled out for it. A PS2 costs what now, $150? So for $220 one can probably find a cheap, used six string electric and a small used amp. If it's something more substantial you want, go buy a real guitar. I haven't touched mine in a while, but tomorrow I'm going to buy some new strings and pull that little beauty out of dormancy. Guitar Hero might be fun, but it's a tease. I'm sure the creators would love to know that a generation of instrument-phobic gamers were inspired to try learning guitar by this game.
[Full disclosure: Red Octane, Harmonix Music Systems, Wave Group Sound and House of Moves, Inc. made Guitar Hero; it was published with an MTV Games label. Grandma is a games correspondent for MTV Overdrive's game show: THE G-HOLE. We paid for ours; this ain't no viral advertising, guys. So.... yeah.]
Canadian Red Cross Sue-Happy Motherfucker: "I'm Not Really of a Generation That Necessarily Plays Video Games"
Let's get something VERY clear before we do this thing:
1.) We like Canadians. Love em'. We love their heated political debates on the radio, we love their ballsy journalists, we love poutine (the kind in styrofoam boxes, of course), we love beer; there pretty much isn't anything about Canada that Grandma and I don't like.
2:) The Red Cross as an international aid collection and distribution organization is one of the best. They do a lot of good.
Something that disturbs us, however, is Mr. David Pratt's crusade against the use of a red cross on health items within video games. Listen, asshole: we take issue with some of the comments you made in your interview with ShackNews, and you bet your ass we'll address them; but most importantly we have to wonder why you hate Switzerland so much. The Swiss have done nothing to you, leave them alone. You mess with Switzerland, you mess with GRANDMA. Everyone knows that the little crosses on health packs in games has NOTHING to do with international aid. It is an homage to that beautiful European country whose stoic neutrality and brave, high altitude lifestyle gives us hope in times of need; such as in a video game for instance when your head is nearly chopped off by a six-armed steel-toothed she-demon. In such a scenario, you look for that one symbol that is recognized as the beacon of assistance, the almighty diplomat of health and hospitality: Switzerland. Why? Because only Switzerland can provide the necessary sanctuary for a calm, collected mediation between me and the she-demon. If peace talks break down, then at least I had time to reload and up my HP 50 points.
The people of Switzerland are some of the most friendly in the all the world; an amazing feat considering the droves of impolite power-tourists who visit the country every year to "climb big rocks." In truth, there is much more to Switzerland than visiting its majestic, Alpine peaks; or enjoying frequent, anonymous sexual encounters with foreign national college students in one of Zurich's many fine hostels; or celebrating a successful channeling of your inheritance from the death of Great Uncle Roger into a tax free shelter account by dancing the night away in a Bern trip-hop club, blasted on Ecstasy and delicious Swiss beer. SO much more.
Okay, so you say that the Swiss flag is a negated image to the Red Cross logo, and that I'm just being a Detail-Debbie about the whole thing. Let me tell you something, this little Detail-Debbie is going to come right back and call you a Negative-Nancy, so be warned: your ass is on THIN ICE. The Red Cross was birthed into this wretched world in GENEVA. The very reason your logo looks the way it does is BECAUSE of Switzerland. Oh, but it gets worse: if you really look at the Red Cross logo, you know just... stare at it for 15 seconds or so and then look away, what do you see? Go ahead, I won't laugh at you- get real close to the monitor, stare at your own logo for a while (try not to drool, it is difficult to get that off the keyboard) now.... wait for it....... OKAY! Look away! What do you see?
Unless there is something wrong with your eyeballs, chances are you saw a bluish cross, but you don't see THEM going around suing YOU because some shmuck stares at a monitor for too long and expects full dental coverage at your website, do you? And that's an INSURANCE company, man! They're SUPPOSED to be evil!
Alright, let's move on to your brilliant discourse on the horrors of inclusion:
"Our first step is education. It's letting people know that the Red Cross emblem is not just a trademark, It's also a protected emblem under international law. In that regard it needs special attention and information."
Translation: "I'll SUE!! I'll sue you in England!"
"I have personally been aware of this for about six weeks."
Huh. I seem to remember a certain Looney Tunes character being rescued by a certain St. Bernard under a certain banner you might want to be aware of. If you send me one of those cute little barrels of booze they tie around the dog's neck I'll help you catch the guy that did it. You'll need one of those nifty Red Cross Time Machines, though- it was in 1957.
"I'm not really of a generation that necessarily plays video games."
Grandma to douchebag: "Read a fucking NEWSPAPER, asshole; you can't use that excuse anymore."
"The Red Cross as a humanitarian organization is primarily focused on our international and domestic program. It's only within the last two months that we've done a lot more in the area of trademark protection."
THERE. That quote. That's the money shot. Think about that for a minute. The clouds must have parted and the blinding Jesus fire of goodness must have shone upon the earth in the past few months where nothing is more important than a god damn lawsuit against video game companies and toy manufacturers. Congratulations. You're making the public VERY confident about all that 9/11 relief money we gave down here in The States.
"Actually what happened in this case, is we have a receptionist, a fellow who's in his early 20s. He plays video games, and he's obviously involved in the Red Cross and aware of this issue, and he brought it to my attention."
Well, THANKS A LOT FOR THAT ONE. I can just picture the scenario:
"Travis, do I have any messages?"
"I said did anyone CALL today?"
[beep-beep-"KO!! FATALITY!!!"] "I don't know. Ask Steve."
"What are you doing? Are you playing a VIDEO GAME?"
"Hold on let me pause...okay what?"
"Travis, I understand you're new here, but you can't do this on company time."
"Dude, I was like um..... researching, you know?"
"Yeah, check it out, there are all these little red crosses and shit and... I think we should do something about it. You know, for the children."
"Oh! That's... that's good! I'll issue a press release right away!"
"Yeah! Cause it's um... copyright infringement, eh? People might confused or something and like, donate to the video game instead of us."
"Do you still want me to check your messages?"
"No! No, you keep doing what your doing, excellent work!"
"Based on what I've seen in terms of some of the blog sites I've briefly reviewed, the gamers seem to be split. Some say, what's the big deal, why are these people all bent out of shape about this?"
What's the big deal? Why are these people all bent out of shape about this?
"Others who have presumably doing a little more research are saying, this is a legitimate issue."
You got me there. Although I think ten minutes on Wikipedia and asking some dude I know a bunch of questions is considered "research" in many universities as long as one uses properly formatted MLA citations (Lowenburg, 1988).
"Whether the gaming industry should or should not exist is not something the Red Cross should address, one way or the other. We're not involved in political issues in any way."
WOOOOOO!!!! Alright!! The Red Cross isn't going to firebomb Take Two Interactive!! I was worried for a minute.
"But we do have a responsibility to protect the emblem. I hope that would be clear to people who buy and use video games."
Alrighty. It's a thick stick with a slightly skinny stick crossing it. It's red. It's your own damn fault for making it so common. Shit, if you wanted to make it hard to copy you should have made it an image of a intricate, multifaceted dragon spouting the healthy flames of good fortune through its flaring nostrils. Better yet, make it a tattoo on some guy's arm, just in case someone rips off the dragon. This way, if it's a dragon breathing health fire, and it's on an arm, you know to send the lawyers.
"[...] I think it's impossible to note that we're not in a position to license the use of the Red Cross. If people want to produce educational material that is subject to the approval of Red Cross society, then I can't imagine a situation in which we'd object to that."
See, now you're talking. Work those phones, get people on board, license that logo out and in two or three years Somalia will have a surplus of food and you'll have the fine, lavish offices deserving of the Canadian Red Cross seal of approval. Don't be silly, man! Go for it!! I understand video games are a bit "new" to you, but you can make a god damn fortune getting the industry on board! That is, unless you start suing people.
Then you're going to start seeing Amnesty International logos on first-aid kits in Metal Gear Solid 4.
It's online NOW!! Go watch it!!!! Highlights include Andy Milonakis, The Darkness stumbles through Smoke on the Water in Guitar Hero on Easy Mode (Grandma doesn't feel so bad now...) Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One, and of course, Grandma!! (She's pimping Fatal Frame 3.... Hey, MTV said she could do what she wanted.) Normally, if you clicked on "Read More," you would see something interesting here.... but what can I say; I got nothin'.
Grandma hates when we throw her parties. Our PO Box post resulted in a LOT of birthday cards and presents from folks all over the world; many of you sent her some really kind messages and packages! We're going to showcase some tomorrow for yas; she loved them! Our plans to throw her a party, however, were discovered when she checked my e-mail to find correspondence entitled "Re: Strippers! I need STRIPPERS!!!" Sadly, I couldn't book a stripper soon enough for Saturday.
My quest to provide Grandma with live, clothes-free entertainment blew our cover. Sorry about that. We had a small, intimate celebration Wednesday night with a cake and cards from those of us here at the house.
On Saturday, however, we had an all out family wide party. With booze. I survived to tell the tale. In the days between Wednesday and Saturday, Grandma would remind me of the wrath that would ensue should we "try anything funny."
"You better not be fucking planning anything. I'll KILL you."
"If you people think we're going to do something Saturday, you are WRONG. I won't even BE there. I'll go SHOPPING or something."
"You think I don't know what's going on- I KNOW. You think I was born yesterday, I know you're up to something."
"Oh, gee! Look at that! I got a birthday card! From a reader. I wonder how they got our address. Yes, I WONDER. I THINK ABOUT IT A LOT."
You get the idea.
Thursday Grandma picked up a little birthday present for herself: Guitar Hero for the PS2. There is a whole lot to say about Guitar Hero and Grandma; but for the purposes of THIS post, let's just say it was the center of attention for about 13 straight hours Saturday. At any given time from about 1:00pm EST to the end the madness, SOMEONE was jamming.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning of the party.
We set up many of the cards you sent her as well as some of the press she's obtained recently. (More to come on ESPN and others, by the way.) Mom set up the trays of food and I picked up the pizza; three large pepperoni sheet pizzas that are now digesting in the stomachs of many. The guests arrived in turn; folks from all over- people she hasn't seen in ages, people from out of state, the usual suspects, everybody. Her daughters and sons were there, as were most of their children, and I began to feel the house fill up quickly.
So I thought about how to make the experience a little more pleasurable; something to take the edge off of the thirty simultaneous conversations; something to make me happy.
I found it:
Needless to say, things get a little warm and hazy after that. So here's a progressively intoxicated photo-essay on the party.
We have a strange family. We all have our place under Grandma's tyrannical rule. Josh's place appears to be "crazy person."
Grandma's office had almost reached full capacity for folks waiting their turn to play Guitar Hero, and also to call those currently playing "weak pussies" who "wouldn't know rock and roll if Jimmy Page shat in their mouths," whatever that means. Pretty much everyone loved the game, and after an initial shaming as they get used to the controls, we all got the hang of it; each of us choosing songs we knew at a greater level of difficulty each turn. Grandma's current favorite is "Ziggy Stardust" because the song is "pretty."
EVERYBODY loves Guitar Hero, goddammit!
We did the whole boring "70" cake Wednesday, so this time around we got a cake that more accurately defined Grandma's character; something that portrayed the moment in these, her autumnal years of reflection.
If I told you what she wished for, she'd NEVER get a gold plated PSP delivered by a muscular, naked, oiled-down rich gentleman! Thems the rules, I guess.
Bobby doesn't know which part of the cake to eat. Bobby is a goddamned idiot. I blame the schools.
At this point I was up to six Jager shots and a glass of wine. These are some people... or something.
Here's a quick camera lesson. The Nikon D100 has three settings; "A" for Aperture Priority, in which Depth of Field usually takes dominance; "S" for Shutter Priority, so you can set speed first and compensate light later; and "P" for Program, in which the camera just does whatever the fuck it wants to do. I usually have it set to "A," but there really is no setting for "Drunk." Here's hoping the D200 has the feature.
For instance: what the hell is THIS? It could be a member of the family, it could be a grizzly bear. I don't know.
With the kids still fixated on besting each others high scores playing Guitar Hero, a bunch of us decided it would be a great idea to drink a few more glasses of wine and take Grandma out to play Bingo. Because she was the only one who could still identify which car was ours (she only had a glass of Kahlua at this point), she drove.
It turns out bingo is now usually played using tabletop computer systems plus the traditional nine-card pad. Video games are infiltrating every aspect of society. We're on the rise, motherfucker!! Woooooo!!!!! I hit soon after this shot of my uncle, but I had to split the winnings four ways. I just gave it to Grandma, anyway.
This photo illustrates all that is good in the world.
When we got home, we all played Guitar Hero until sometime this morning... I think. The sun was up when I finally went to bed.
Grandma had a ball ;)
We have LOTS to talk about!! Grandma's presents, DS games, XBox 360 games, PS2 games, ESPN, AARP, and much, much more. Right now, however, I'm going to continue sitting in a dark room with sunglasses and ear-plugs until the POUNDING STOPS.
On this day in 1936, in the fair city of Cleveland, Ohio: Barbara Ann St. Hilaire was born Barbara Ann Sobodosh. She was married soon out of high school and had five children; Deb, Diane, Linda, Ralph, and Mark. Sometime during the mid seventies she discovered something at a bowling alley that resembled table tennis on a television.
On that day, that unrecorded yet monumental day: a new creature, "Old Grandma Hardcore," came into this world; kicking and screaming at everyone she could kick. She might not kick as hard anymore, but she can still fucking scream. Today Grandma works for MTV as the senior games correspondent for "The G-Hole." She was featured in ESPN the magazine, Der Spiegel Online, FHM Germany, BusinessWeek Online, CNN, CBS Evening News, WKYC Channel 3 (NBC), Fox 8 Cleveland, Channel 5 Cleveland, The Washington Post, The Akron Beacon Journal, The Record Courier, The Sydney Morning Herald, Fark, countless radio stations across the globe, as well as hundreds of blogs, messageboards, and e-mails, all within the past six or seven months. Millions of people have heard of Grandma and her habits.
I am DEEPLY proud of Grandma and what she has achieved. When people ask me if I am surprised at the media attention I have to respond with simply "not anymore." As family, it's difficult to assess her character from an outside perspective, but it is not hard to see why she's special.
It's just after midnight here at the house, and if I look just to my left I can see the woman who helped raise me into the funny-looking jackass you see today, angrily trying to punish dinosaurs with bullets in Peter Jackson's King Kong for the XBox 360. I love the old girl! We've been close since always. I can't say I'm jealous or threatened by any of the hundreds of thousands of "new" grandchildren she's acquired since we started this blog. She has a huge, loving family- and it's only getting bigger.
I want to ask her what she thinks about all this; the attention, the free games, the advice, the assistance, the travel, the money, the love.... but right now she's a little preoccupied, and it's her birthday.
"It wouldn't be BAD if you could kill them with one shot, these...FLYING things, but- NO!!! ......Where the fuck did YOU come from?! SHIT!!! Right at the FUCKING end, too.... ....stupid motherfucker!!" [Game Audio]: "50 magazines on backup!" "Mister, you could have a thousand magazines on backup, you're still gonna fucking DIE."