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.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
The Beast is back! ....Sort of...
Grandma's XBox 360 came back from repair just before last weekend. Well, not really her 360. It's a replacement unit with an April 2007 manufacture date and a new serial number. Apparently The Beast was beyond repair. Microsoft treated Grandma well throughout the whole ordeal; but there is still a DRM issue we're trying to get corrected (They are walking her through the process of getting all 47 of Grandma's XBLA games to work correctly on the other profiles on the machine.)
She's been playing Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters on the PSP along with Oblivion (again) on the PS3, and now that she has a 360 again, she's become somewhat of a Catan addict.
The night before the 360 arrived, Grandma had checked the UPS tracking number forwarded to her by the Microsoft repair system... thing.. and confirmed that it was scheduled to arrive sometime between 8am and 7pm. Someone would have to sign for the package, otherwise it would go back to some pickup center in Northeast Ohio. Grandma is extremely hard of hearing, and I'm not much help if I'm downstairs, and neither one of us really entertained the idea of positioning a chair next to the front door and staring out at the driveway for 11 hours like some crazed redneck ready to take potshots at a census pollster with a rifle.
So we devised a better solution:
Even after our brilliant and artistic plan went into effect, we were both paranoid for the rest of the day; jumping up to the front door at the slightest of sounds. The collective panic was never denied, all it took was one of us to say "did you hear something?" and we would both bolt to the door with our faces scrunched together by the tiny window to get a better view of the front porch. It would have been funny if it wasn't so god damn sad.
When the unit came, I happened to be the one closest to the door so I signed for it, brought it into the game room and took a picture of the box. Grandma looked over and yelled at me for not immediately telling her of it's arrival.
"Goddammit!" she said. "I've been waiting for how long for the fucking thing and you don't tell me because you want a picture of the goddamn box! I would have let you take a picture if you wanted before I opened it. Christ!"
So she opened the box.
It was a similar two-foam-inserts and a static bag set up as when we sent hers out to the repair center, plus a letter apologizing for the inconvenience and instruction on how to hook everything back together.
After we snapped the HardDrive to the new unit and plugged in the Component, Audio, and Power Supply cables, we fired it up and fucking prayed. We're not religious people by any means, but we're not typically lucky in such situations either. The possibility of getting the wrong unit back was something that crossed our minds simultaneously; just at that moment when the ring of light started pulsating and working it's magic.
It worked beautifully.
There was a brief setup for transferring her XBox Live Account and Gamertag to the new machine so the XBLA games would work, and everything was right again.
Mom is the kind of causal gamer that craves Luxor 2 and Zuma, and her profile on Grandma's 360 was chock full of achievements in such games. The repair came back with a card good for a month of XBox Live, and Grandma mentioned in an email to Evan that she would probably give the card to Mom so she could compete a bit and add her scores to the leaderboards. Evan replied back that he had a code for a year of XBox Live if she wanted it, and it was Mom who answered back "Thank you thank you thank you YES!!!"
Evan has always been cool like that.
But it was after Mom had created an XBL account (Gamertag "LSainte" if you want to send her a friend request; she's kind of lonely at the moment in the gaming world) that she and I realized that all the XBLA games for any profile other than OGHC now reverted to the trial versions of the game.
It's a known DRM issue, Mike from Microsoft is working with Grandma now to correct it, and there is even a "download again" feature in the marketplace for such things, it's just a matter of us getting it to work (it hasn't yet.)
The new games Grandma has downloaded since the repair, such as Catan and Double Dragon, work on all profiles, but the older ones are in limbo.
We'll update you as soon as we find a fix, I know a few of you have gone through similar things with your 360's.
Our next post is going to be about Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters for the PSP. I'll try and get some video, but it's different for handhelds; a little more complicated. Grandma is trying to teach me how to play Catan, and we're both trying out some evil characters in Oblivion just for the hell of it. As it is now, Grandma is looking for something to really sink her tooth into after she's done with Ratchet and Clank.
Any ideas? What are you playing right now? It can be for any system; Grandma just needs some recommendations.
Also, I have to share this one with you guys: We were at Wendy's one day for lunch and noticed they had those weird little Wii toys and figures so Grandma and I decided that if they had a cool one that day, we'd just fucking buy the thing to accent her Nintendo Wii shrine.
It turns out they did have the Mario Ridin' a Shell toy, so we asked the girl how much they were.
Wendy's Girl - "You can't buy them." Grandma - "What? Why not?" Wendy's Girl - "You have to order the kid's meal." Grandma - "..." Me - "Well how much is the kid's meal? I'll have one of them." Wendy's Girl - "Umm... which one do you want?" Me - "I don't care. Hamburger. Whichever one will give us Mario."
The Red Ring of Death; O, Texas Repair Center! You're our only hope.
It happened. Grandma's XBox 360, "The Beast", gave her The Ring of Doom; The Three Red Lights; The Texas Eyeball; The Major Nelson Stare.. and this time, there was no cooling off period or power supply reconnection solution. This time, we had to leave it to the professionals. To say it made Grandma depressed is an understatement.
Grandma is bummed.
Grandma is down.
Grandma is on edge.
It happened sometime in the past couple weeks; she fired up The Beast to play some BoomBoomRocket or 3D Ulta Golf. Rather than giving her an error message or at least booting up the dashboard to toy with her into thinking there was some chance; some possibility of human wrongdoing; something she could fix, it gave the three red lights and a black screen, whirring quietly in it's own way of saying "please.....HELP ME!" The power supply light was green. We ran through all the troubleshooting measures we knew, but she did what had to be done.
She e-mailed Evan in a panic.
Evan has acted as Grandma's "guy" at Edelman; he's the guy that happily exchanged e-mails with Grandma about the release of new XBLA games. He has even sent her the codes for full versions of games he thought she'd enjoy. Now, Grandma needed a guy who solves problems. She needed "The Wolf", and he was happy to be Grandma's Harvey Keitel.
Grandma knew she had to be very careful about all this. The Beast was a gift from MTV, afterall. She couldn't afford the 360 when they were released so MTV with Edelman and Microsoft made it happen; beating her to the punch on that first week of January 2006. Grandma wasn't like the other customers that send in their 360's for repair and if anything, she considered her case to be less special because it was a gift rather than a purchase.
I remember her reaction when Alex and the crew of the G-Hole gave it to her as a surprise tour of the TRL set. I remember us hooking it up back in the hotel room, setting up the dashboard for the first time and playing Kameo and Hexic HD. I remember it not quite fitting in the box for the plane ride home, and watching her and Jeff cross Times Square with the The Beast loosely boxed inside at a time when people were still being shot over the system.
And that was the birth of The Beast.
But! There is still hope. Evan sprung into action for her and begun the process of getting the poor thing repaired.
Someone from Microsoft called her right away to explain how this would all go down. Grandma at least feels as though she's in good hands. Everyone has seemed sympathetic and helpful.
She's been casually exploring Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the PS3 as a second runthrough; so she played and she waited. She constantly checked the front porch for the empty UPS Box sent from the Texas repair center for a few days before it finally came; and uninteresting thing with two foam inserts, instructions, and some packing tape. She removed the harddrive, checked for games, unplugged it all, and sent The Beast on its way.
And now she waits.
It's not all bad news, thankfully. Jennifer from Sony sent Grandma Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters and LocoRoco for her PSP and SingStar Pop for the PS2. So right now Grandma is playing Oblivion on the PS3 and Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters for the PSP while I'm playing LocoRoco on the PSP and Civ IV on the PC. The kids "play" SingStar a lot and seem to really like it, but I have some theories on the karaoke nature of that game for another post, and Grandma has LOTS to say about Ratchet and Clank.
Thanks again, Jennifer! You're always very cool to Grandma.
Now that I've finally figured out the basics of how to set up a chain of routers to avoid conflicting IP Addresses, she can finally use the VC more often on her Wii, and there's LOTS to talk about there as well.
On the PS3 front, she downloaded a couple classics: Jumping Flash and Crash Bandicoot and we started on the Easy pack for GoSudoku! which has only proved like Brain Age that once again, we suck at Sudoku, but we can't stop PLAYING for some reason.
Also! Grandma gave her opinion about the potential senior Wii owner reaction to Manhunt II's summer Wii release in this month's EGM (out now) that I think you'll agree with :)
Grandma is playing much so there is much to talk about. And soon!
When she gets The Beast back from repair, there will be even more.
Sweet! The 5th episode of Full Moon Show podcast is now live and Grandma is their Mystery Guest this week. It's worth the listen if for no other reason than more news on the upcoming Ratchet and Clank game.
Grandma talks about her gaming history, Resistance Fall of Man, violence in video games, among other things, so... if you have any questions that you WISH they asked, go ahead and use this comment thread to ask her. She'll be here to answer. We mentioned it in the last post, but once again- THANK you, O people of Insomniac Games for the Child's Play donation. We cannot thank you enough for that. That was DAMN cool.
These guys love feedback, so let us know whatcha think.
Well, Grandma beat Super Paper Mario on her Wii last night. As semi-RPG's go, it didn't take her very long to complete this cool little game. This game didn't invoke the full power of Grandma's frustration, but she did get annoyed at certain points in which her objective wasn't exactly clear.
More on this after the jump, as well as some fantastically awesome stuff that makes Grandma and I jump up and down within the limits of our capabilities.
***Update*** May 8th -- Holy shit, guys! Here we go again! Grandma made Joystiq, Destructoid, Kotaku, Canardplus and someone even submitted it to CollegeHumor where it made National Pick and ended up on the front page. You folks are cool as hell!-- First, a warning that should be pretty clear in the opening seconds of the video: Do NOT purchase the "DreamGear Charge-n-play" for your Wii controllers. The thing, as Grandma put it, "isn't worth shit." Granted, she's been spoiled by the relatively long lasting charges provided by the Bluetooth Sixaxis and her Wireless XBox 360 controllers. With a few notable exceptions, she's fairly cautious about third-party hardware.
She didn't sit and play Super Paper Mario for her usual four or five hour slots, she would usually progress to the next stage, save, and put it aside for awhile, happy to progress a little at a time. Even so, the DreamGear charger and battery pack would only allot her maybe 3 or 4 hours on a full charge.
So... buyer beware and all that.
She's looking into replacing it with a quality Nyko charge station, so if anyone has any experience with it, let us know how you like it.
The last Paper Mario game we remember was the Thousand Year Door, which was more of a turn-based RPG that fit in nicely with DS Mario games she had completed, like Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time. This one, however, went in another direction, back to the old days in which jumping on the heads of your enemies as they milled about waiting for something to happen was the zenith of Mario combat. It's neither better nor worse, but she founded it incredibly easy compared to some of the other, almost musical timing-based combat systems.
The Wiimote handled well, and she found herself pointing at shit on the screen she otherwise couldn't care less about, just to find out if there was some interesting back-story. Switching from 2D to 3D was fun at first, and to Grandma it felt almost like cheating, being able to circumvent obstacles entirely and exposing new paths and blocks. After awhile, though, it turned into a strange, Portal-esque maze of lines that rendered all the GameFAQs guides worthless when she got stuck; reading about as vague as "go over to the thing, change to 3D and jump on the other thing, then go down."
She loves using GameFAQs on those confusing parts, but maybe it was just too soon after release to get a more concise guide.
The sound was on par with all the other Mario games you love. Go ahead, admit it. You're among friends :) Some of those tunes are little TOO catchy, if you know what I mean. Subtitles weren't an issue for Grandma because like the last two Paper Marios, no one really speaks, the words are audibly given emotion by the changing of the pitch and speed of the crazy-ass typing ...um, sound... thingies.
There is the issue of phallic imagery in Super Paper Mario that I don't think I'm qualified to analyze, but Grandma puts it simply: "Dried Shrooms look like cocks. I'm not kidding! You tell me that doesn't look like a penis."
***Spoilers!*** The part that I loved to watch when I reviewed what to put in the video, the part that I otherwise would have missed because I was sitting in some back corner out of frame smoking a cigarette and reading a magazine, is her look of absolute, genuine joy at the revelation that Bowser, Peach, and Luigi were still alive and had returned to assist in the final battle. It's that tiny bit of an emotional leak that we all try to hide when watched playing; the reason we shoo people out of the room and tell people to leave us alone and shut the hell up during those final boss battles and cutscenes. It's the moments that we've EARNED by playing for so many hours; for paying attention to the storyline. It's the motherfucking PAYOFF.
If a game works, you get that moment. THAT'S what Jaffe was talking about ...fucking "game that'd make you cry." He wasn't talking about burning the movie "American Beauty" onto a PS3 disc and making a rather elaborate scene selection menu, he was speaking of a game that effectively creates those moments.
Was Super Paper Mario one of those games? Who knows. All I know is that Grandma was sincere in her interest for the characters. That's just how she plays. Hell, that's how I'd like to think I play too.
Think about all the games that made you feel something. Think about GTA: San Andreas. Didn't you want to find out who the FUCK thought they could kill CJ's Mom and didn't you want to show them how Grove Street deals with that shit? Think about Kingdom Hearts. Think about God of War. Think about Oblivion. Think about Gears of War! If you weren't as pissed as Grandma was when she got the "second ending" to Dead Rising then you might be a sociopath. Or a Replicant. Ever read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep"? It's like that.
Super Paper Mario is an awesome little game. If you have a Wii, go out and treat yourself.
Now! On to some really cool shit.
GamesRadar did a piece on Grey Gamers that included someone you all know. This piece was awesome not only because Grandma was awarded the coveted "Five/Five Walkers" rating, but also because it shows you so many other mature gamers out there. The one thing you notice in all those videos is that they're having fun; they're all getting into it, just like Grandma. When we tell people that Grandma's not unique for her demographic, that there's others out there just like her; people that have never HEARD of OldGrandmaHardcore or The G-Hole and do more or less the same sort of things for fun and entertainment, the response is almost always that Grandma's just being modest.
MODESTY doesn't even enter into it. Grandma isn't afraid of someone stealing her thunder, she's afraid that mature gamers, grey gamers, whatever you want to call them, will be treated like an oddity long after they've begun to become active in the gaming community. Grandma doesn't game for attention, she does it because she enjoys it. The GamesRadar piece illustrates that others do the same.
And THAT is fantastic.
SECOND THING! Insomniac Games made Resistance: Fall of Man and Ratchet and Clank. Insomniac Games has a website. That website has a podcast. The podcast with a special mystery guest comes out TODAY (Episode 5). Now, I don't want to spoil anything for the guys over at the Full Moon Show and reveal their mystery guest Yeah it's Grandma.
Not only were these guys cool as hell to Grandma, but they did something that made Grandma beam for the rest of the day. Fuck, she's still beaming about it.
"In honor of each Mystery Guest, Insomniac Games will donate $500 in their name to Child's Play!"
They laid that one on her at the end of the segment and it fucking FLOORED us. $500 is a lot of money to people like Grandma and me. Child's Play is damn near our favorite charity, and those guys know how to stretch that for people who really, truly need positive escapism and focus during times that scare the piss out of the rest of us.
Grandma can only say "thank you, guys. And keep making games, goddammit! Stop wasting time with me and finish Ratchet and Clank for fuck's sake!"
I'm still trying to get a good Guitar Hero video with Grandma, but the work schedule has destroyed my posting time. She's got lots of games to play, so there is much more coming. Thank you again for the comments and e-mails, everyone! Grandma reads them all.