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.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Grandma and BioShock part 1: A Series of Vague Spoilers
Grandma finished her first run-through of BioShock last weekend. There's still a lot she wants to accomplish, so we're not quite calling this game 'destroyed' yet. From what she's told me there are something like three different endings one can get; not to mention she only has about half of the possible achievements. For a single player game, this just isn't acceptable to her. She needs to get everything she can before setting it aside to the cabinet; to pull out later as some fantastic little piece of nostalgia from way back to that late summer of 2007. You guys know Grandma by now, that's just the way she is. I've been working a lot lately. That's great for me but it creates a strange interruption of game cognizance that Grandma just can't explain, saying simply "you haven't played it yet; you wouldn't understand." I leave for work one morning and she's chasing around some surgeon who had tried to turn his patients into works of Cubist art. I come back from work late that night and she has motherfucking bees flying out of her arm.
When I came home Friday night, she was beating Andrew Ryan with a golf club and I thought "well fuck, she's already done with the thing and I haven't had time to post!" As it turns out, however, she still had a ways to go. Not so much a ways that she hadn't seen the somewhat jarring first ending by the time I finally dragged myself in from another full weekend at work. First she was harvesting the Little Sisters, next she was saving them... I still don't know what the hell is going on. I haven't had time to play it! Her explanations are completely lost on me.
Hearing Grandma try and explain to me the purpose of ADAM and The Little Sisters and what a Big Daddy really is, well... that's like listening to someone explaining congressional points of order to a six-year-old standing at the front of a tour group that keeps pushing ahead. I just get that stupid look on my face that says "I have to go eat lunch with the other kids by the big Washington Monument thingy."
All I know is- she wants to talk to somebody who's as deep into the thing as she is, namely you folks.
I'm no help :)
So ask whatever you like about BioShock. Talk with Grandma about it. I'd love to discuss the art style, the implications of major ethical questions brought about in the game, the philosophy of Rapture, the ignominy of Jack's decisions, the anachronisms throughout the underwater city of the 60's... But I'd be lying if I said I was as up to speed as the rest of you and Grandma. I'm just not there yet. I am one confounded gamer.
I picked up a copy of BioShock Tuesday afternoon for Grandma, much to the ire of the poor soul behind me in line who heard the clerk say the depressingly cheerful phrase "you got the last one!" to that grinning jackass in front of him. She immediately dived into the thing (no pun intended) cranking the exquisite audio to a point where I now hear the preemptive whistling sound of an approaching sentry bot in my sleep.
From the start, it became clear to Grandma that 2K Games had read her mind to search for all her necessary components:
1. A clear map 2. Subtitles 3. Frequent health and ammo pickups 4. Terrifying fucking enemies 5. Hilarious fucking enemies 6. Evil children 7. Potato Chips Now, I've been working quite a lot lately and haven't found the time to play the game myself- but according to Grandma one can write an entire GameFAQs-like walkthrough by typing two little words:
The game has a handy dandy little 'goal tips' feature that tells you exactly what you need to do. Prima Games is going to have to find a hell of a lot of artwork to fill the rest of the 105 pages, but essentially- that's all you need to know! Getting through it is another story. It's not just some simple tour through of a beautiful environment; it's goddamn challenging. I've heard Grandma say many things some folks wouldn't expect their grandmothers to say, so I'm pretty much immune to surprise and awe anymore.
That was until this morning when she told me "goddammit, I can't hack worth SHIT."
It's just not a sentence that suited Grandma. If she ever uses "pwned" or "l33t" in casual conversation I may have to rethink things a bit.
Anyway! She's playing BioShock and from the looks of things, she'll be playing it for awhile.
Now on to the postcards: Here are two of our favorites right now.
First up is from Gamer Named Tim who sent Grandma an awesome, early welcome into the BioShock realm. This one was somewhat curious to our postman as well, but an arm-drill usually raises eyebrows with federal employees these days.
Second is from miltownkid, who sent Grandma a little somethin' somethin' rights about here: Why is this particular card so awesome? Because we all get to fucking see the thing get sent! Right here:
You guys are alright :)
Now some folks were asking us about deadlines for the giveaway and such so here we go: The deadline for postcards is September 21st, 2007. That's closer than you think, so send them right away! Yes, the drawing is completely open to international readers so you can send a card too. The winner gets a valid card worth 12 months of Xbox Live Gold. Rock on. We'll make a video of Grandma randomly choosing the winning postcard at the end of the contest, and we're posting the coolest postcards as they come in each week. You can put whatever the hell you want on the card, or nothing at all for that matter, as long as it has your name and address so we know where to send the Xbox Live goodness.
If you want to send her a postcard, send it to:
One Year Xbox Live Gold Subscription Giveaway Thing c/o Barbara St. Hilaire (aka Old Grandma Hardcore) PO Box 553 Mantua, OH 44255
Here's Grandma doing her best Darkness infused Jackie Estacado impersonation, complete with glowing, demon snake heads, upon completing this god-awful, piece of shit game. Even Mr. Bungle couldn't salvage this thing. For me- Mike Patton growling evil things into a microphone would have been reason enough to buy it but they somehow managed to fuck that up too.
This one was my fault; I take full responsibility. On Monday we read on Joystiq about some lucky bastards getting their hands on BioShock from Toys-R-Us early. Wednesday, (without checking, mind you) I took her to get a copy of her own, figuring the Toys-R-Us mistake was someone jumping the gun by only a day or so. Surely it would be out then. Well it wasn't. NEXT Tuesday, we were told, would be the day for BioShock awesomeness. But Grandma was bored NOW. She needed a new game and we didn't have much from which to choose. And so- it was I who pointed at The Darkness on the PS3 rack and said "hey look, that one is made by 2K as well. Let's get that one for now. I heard it's good."
That was a goddamned shameful lie. Grandma:
"Jesus, where do I even start with this? It was DUMB. I don't know if the game was supposed to be funny or serious or what but it sure didn't make any fucking sense. So it's supposed to be this guy, Jackie's 21st birthday, and he ends up getting in a car accident by being chased by the cops and some guys paid by his Uncle Paulie (the bad guy) to kill him, but he ends up in this building that just happens to have a television set with a message from Paulie that he now, out of the blue, really fucking hates Jackie because of a thing that just happened that day, and he planted a bomb in the closet and it blows him up and now he's hearing voices and has demon heads coming out of his shoulders and shit and he decides to calmly GO SEE HIS GIRLFRIEND.
You know, any normal person that has fucking demons coming out of their body is going to freak the fuck out, find a doctor, crawl in a ditch and scream for awhile, anything! But to head down through the subway saying hello to everyone he meets like he just had a slightly bad day at the office? It doesn't make any sense! Maybe I could have gotten passed the shitty dialogue if the graphics on the characters didn't look like they were Guitar Hero singers just moving their mouths up and down a little bit. And it was really obvious when they zoomed in to show how great the skin textures were or something. I mean- they can make a guy have really sharp looking stubble but they can't make his mouth move when he talks?
And that's the other thing. He NEVER SHUTS THE FUCK UP. I don't mean he's like Dante in Devil May Cry 3 or anything, I mean- and this might be the worst part of the whole game- whenever you go from one area to another, like going from Chinatown to the Canal Street station, you have to sit through a stupid fucking cutscene of him sitting in the dark playing with a gun acting all stupid. EVERY TIME. Sometimes he's talking about what's going on in the game, and that's fine, but he repeats himself every time you go into that area.
You enter the Subway a LOT in this game. They couldn't make it so you could just walk down the street, no- you HAVE to go through the station. So that's two stupid cutscenes you have to sit through. You can't skip them, you can't turn them off, they're always there. It would have been better to just have a black screen with a loading bar at the bottom but I had to listen to the same goddamn quip about Crazy Abdul given in a ridiculous, cartoony New York-Italian accent about fifty goddamn times.
And if you accidentally step back into the area you just left? Fuck you- you have to watch the cutscene again. And then another one when you correct your mistake.
Then there's the 'collectables' thing where you pick up pieces of paper with phone numbers written on them. You call the number, listen to an occasionally funny message, and it says "Extra Content Unlocked" every time you do it. I still don't know where this 'extra content' is, and I really don't care at this point.
It has minions like Overlord, kind of, only they're called "Darklings." They're good for shit. They don't always go where you tell them to go and when they do get there they don't always do something. It was funny at first when they would say stupid shit like "let's kill a commie" or "up yours asshole" or something like that, but it gets old. It was FUNNY when the minions in Overlord peed after getting drunk in a pub. The Darklings seem to pee on every corpse they pass, even if you're being shot at and need them to do something! It ceases to be funny and just gets annoying.
The game isn't really fun at all until you get the Black Hole Darkness Power and start sucking groups of people up into the air. It's easy enough to aim the weapons because it sort of drifts into whatever there is to shoot at, but the weapons are nothing to write home about. Then there are these parts that go back to World War I trenches with his grandfather or something and everyone looks like Frankenstein and those whole levels are just dumb as hell to anyone who's played a decent WWII shooter recently. They could have made it so much better. Make it scary. Make it funny! WHATEVER. Just make it not suck.
I haven't played Multiplayer yet so maybe that will justify what I paid for it but I doubt it.
Maybe I'm just pissed I didn't get BioShock and ended up with this crap. I don't know. But this was really, really lame."
I haven't finished it yet, but Grandma finished it tonight. She even went back to her save to see if there was an alternate ending if you make a different choice at the end.
She didn't find one.
We've gotten a few postcards (more on the awesomeness of what's going down with that contest coming next post) so if you haven't already, send us one! Here again is the address:
One Year Xbox Live Gold Subscription Giveaway Thing c/o Barbara St. Hilaire (aka Old Grandma Hardcore) PO Box 553 Mantua, OH 44255
I cannot stress enough how much Grandma loves getting mail.
So send her a postcard! And unless you haven't already- for the love of GOD, avoid The Darkness, out now on the Xbox 360 and Playstion 3.
Just to review: The Darkness = quirky, crazy band from the UK The Darkness = mediocre television show The Darkness = mediocre vampire movie The Darkness = shitty video game
If you remember that, then we will have done something good this week.
One Year Xbox Live Gold Subscription Giveaway... Thing
The story about how we got this thing is actually kind of sweet. Evan at Microsoft/Edelman was afraid Grandma's Xbox Live subscription would run out before they got a chance to get her a code, so he sent her a 12-month card before he searched for a one-use code he could e-mail to her, just in case he couldn't find one in time. Well, he did find a code, and the card arrived anyway via DHL. She e-mailed him back to thank him and also to find out what to do with the card. His reply: give it to someone else, give it away on the blog, whatever we wanted. It's all good.
Evan's awesome like that.
So we're going to have a giveaway! We can't do the e-mail thing because that didn't work so well last time when 20th Century Fox bailed on us when they found out Grandma didn't like the movie Grandma's Boy respectfully fell out of contact, so we'll do it the old fashion way. Grandma digs old fashioned shit. And so do I!
Send an awesome postcard to:
One Year Xbox Live Gold Subscription Giveaway Thing c/o Barbara St. Hilaire (aka Old Grandma Hardcore) PO Box 553 Mantua, OH 44255
Now when we say "awesome postcard", it can be whatever the hell you want. You can make it yourself if you like; she doesn't care as long as it gets here. Grandma loves getting mail; if you want to be creative or unique- all the better. If you send her something crazy we'll even post the best ones for posterity. The drawing for the subscription, however, is going to be random. Whether you send us a beautiful stick figure rendering of Grandma kicking some zombie ass or a nude picture of yourself licking a wireless controller provocatively or if you just send her a $.29 "Greetings from the World's Largest Toothbrush Holder" postcard from the highway rest-stop down the road, you have the same chance of getting the card, worth about fifty bucks nowadays.
The card hasn't been cracked open or scratched or anything, and I don't see any restrictions about international 360 gamers written on the back so as far as I know, you're good for it too. If I turn out to be wrong about that and you win the drawing, I'll get you a region appropriate subscription myself. The only thing I see is that it's just for the Xbox 360, so classic XBox gamers are out of luck on this one.
So send her some postcards!
And if any of you folks who aren't 360 owners just feel like writing Grandma for the hell of it, the address up there is the place to send it. She loves getting mail. We'll do something similar for the other systems as well later on so no one gets left out. Most of you know Grandma enough to know she's all about all the consoles.
G4 Media Inc. Demands Removal of Our YouTube Video
Some of you may remember Grandma appearing on G4's Attack of the Show last August for a panel discussion on 'Women and Gaming'... We drove to studio here in Ohio from which Grandma could participate via satellite. During the taping, I sat in the control room with our little camcorder pointed at the screen (with the studio's permission, mind you) showing the feed from the camera that was being sent to LA, with the audio from Grandma's earpiece piped into a tiny speaker by the monitor. We couldn't see the show, only Grandma. Grandma was told by a producer of AOTS before the show started to speak up whenever she had something to say. Grandma tried the best she could. She didn't get too frustrated when it was clear the 'panel discussion' was merely going to be a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing, but it was obvious from our view that she was a bit disappointed.
The day after it aired we put up a post showing our video from the control room. Under our video we also included G4's own embedded flash video of that particular segment of the show so readers could compare and also see what it's like to be on the other end of a satellite feed. The G4 producer who contacted us initially saw the post, thanked Grandma for participating and that was the end of it. Amber and Seanbaby were actually very cool people, it was just a silly skit rather than a real discussion.
Our video, in the year it's been online, only got a little over 10,000 views total. To put that in perspective, Video 21, which we posted Wednesday, is already at 15,000. Nobody really seemed to care all that much about the AOTS fiasco.
Today, G4 Media Inc sent a third party copyright infringement notice to YouTube for the video I shot of Grandma sitting in the studio in Ohio. The video was subsequently deleted and we were given a warning that that ALL our videos may be removed if another video is flagged.
We don't have any hard feelings against YouTube for the video removal. It's more or less an automatic thing anymore. Hell, even the person at G4 who flagged our video might not have watched it, they simply saw the thumbnail of Grandma on a television screen with the video title "Old Grandma Hardcore on Attack of the Show" and thought to themselves 'SONOFABITCH! I got one!" ...and then pressed the 'report' button. Could have it been taken down because it portrayed AOTS and G4 in an unflattering way? I don't know. Maybe! But it's more likely that this is either a mistake or there is just some real fucking ball-buster content manager over at G4 Media that cracks a heavy whip to the backs of interns to meet their daily quota of YouTube, Break, and Metafilter infringement reporting.
Hell, they might even have a little corkboard with everybody's name on it with differently colored stars representing the number of videos deleted in a day. Now, I'm not saying that corkboard was stolen from an underfunded elementary school; the poverty stricken kids forced now to huddle around an ancient eMachines monitor displaying a poorly formatted spreadsheet of the class roster with cold, unfeeling numbers where their beautiful, shiny star stickers used to be.
I'm not saying it isn't possible, but it's highly unlikely.
Here's why: G4 Media Inc is located on W. Olympic Blvd. in West Los Angeles, right near the Santa Monica Freeway. The closest elementary school is The Park Century School, which is a private institution. A G4 Media Content Manager couldn't get passed the guard without some sort of identification as a parent, and it's even more unlikely they could make it out with a corkboard and shiny star stickers if they managed to bribe one of the kids with a classic and rare TechTV t-shirt from their secret Vault of Quality Programming into faking a family relationship, because the guards at an elementary school in West L.A. can see right through that shit.
It just wouldn't make any sense.
So it was probably just an innocent mistake!
Anyway, here's the segment as you would have seen it on television, provided by G4 on their very own nifty embedded player.
Our video, however, has been cast out into the ether; lost forever, only the remnants of its tiny zeros and ones remain in the form of a haunting thumbnail on our YouTube Channel.
That is, unless you click here and judge for yourself. That's right folks. Grandma is clearly an evil copyright infringer. She infringes constantly. Just look at her infringe. You might want to do it quickly before an intern goes for another coveted gold star.
1. The chain 'bling' she's got around her neck is an emergency alert tag displaying that she's currently taking blood thinners.
2. This stage was the battle with Kahn at Heaven's Peak. There's some voice cues you might pick up if you've played it through, but other than that there's nothing that could be construed as a spoiler ;)
There wasn't a post Sunday because my goddamn monitor's base broke because goddamn NEC makes great goddamn LCD screens but sh*tty goddamn bases, goddammit. All is well now, so the next post is Friday for yas.
"I don't really care about the corruption thing, I just kill the peasants and the sheep and raid all the houses for the hell of it. It gets your little guys all armored up and you don't get arrested like in Oblivion. Farming sheep is an easy way to boost up your weapons and shit in the forge, but you can do that in the dungeon and you don't have to run around all over the damn place. I set the Sacred Tree on fire too, but that was an accident."
"I fucking hate this camera.... SHIT! I keep going to use the thumbsticks and that just drowns your minions! They're stupid! Look at 'em; you make them go in the water and they just stand there and die. Why can't it be where you hold down the LB button and use the thumbsticks? This is a pain in the ass, you can only turn left."
Grandma - "There's a spawn thingy out in the middle of the water for the yellows, but only the blues can go in the water." Me - "Browns." Grandma - "What?" Me - "They're brown." Grandma - "Well the fucking glowing thing is yellow and the Y button is yellow so they're yellow." Me - "But the dude says 'Browns' when you press the button." Grandma - "Whatever. The thing is, you have to put the blues in the water before hand so when the yellows or browns or whatever-the-fuck comes out and dies, the blues can bring them back to life and carry them HERE." Me - "Okay." Grandma - "But they won't stay there for very long so you have to fight with the goddamn thumbstick after you let the yellows out or you have to keep the blues until the very last possible second. And you don't have enough to get all of them anyway." Me - "Well what do I do with them when I get them?" Grandma - "Hell if I know."
"Fucking... BLUES don't fight for SHIT- GODDAMMIT. They're all fucking dead. Now I have to go all the way back."
[While on phone with someone] "Hang on a minute I have to turn this down. When the dude is almost dead- yeah, in the game I'm playing- well, when his health is low the heartbeat sound shakes the goddamn walls. .........There, that's better. Now I can hear you."
"Aw, you cocksucker. Every last one. Couldn't kill the fucker fast enough and it lit them on fire. ........FUCK!"
Grandma - "You know this game would be fabulous if it had a goddamn map." Me - "It has a map." Grandma - "Where?" Me - "It has this little fold out thing that came with the manual." Grandma - "That's not a map. I can't even read that. They might as well have put it on a postcard. I need a real map on the screen. Each area; all the paths look the same. I just run around in circles until I find some tree or something that they were supposed to cross. This game needs a map."
"FUCKING BIRD KILLED ALL MY BLUES."
Me - "Did you get a Mistress yet?" Grandma - "Yeah, but all she does is puts that thing upstairs so you can decorate." Me - "Well what did you think she was going to do?" Grandma - "I don't know. Maybe it would be like God of War." Me - "Nah, it's rated Teen." Grandma - "So that's what teens do, then." Me - "What?" Grandma - "Decorate." Me - "Right." Grandma - "What kills me though, is that it assumes you're a dude. You have to get a Mistress for the achievement. You can't see the Overlord's face, so maybe it could be a woman." Me - "Why are you assuming it isn't?" Grandma - "I'm saying you should have a choice."
"C'mere! Look at this! Watch.. you put them in the bar or ..tavern or whatever, well look- ....They come out pissing! Hahahahaaahaaa! You know what this is like? This is like Conker, kind of. Conker was a drunken pisser too."
Grandma - "Shit." Me - "What?" Grandma - "I have to go all the way back to the Tower to get health and I have no more minions. Goddamn zombies killed them all." Me - "No you don't, just pause the game and select 'Go to Tower'". Grandma - ".......You gotta be shitting me." Me - "What?" Grandma - "I didn't know you could do that! Jesus! You know how many times I've ran around this place? Christ! You could have told me that before." Me - "I thought you knew." Grandma - "Yeah well... I didn't."
"I have to get rid of some of these but I need the yellows or the greens to fight those things because the blues and reds don't do much in the front. At least the greens jump on stuff."
"God DAMMIT! NOooooooo!! There goes every one of my guys. He fucking sat on them."
Well, I decided to quit smoking this week and now I pretty much hate everyone. Seriously, I have no idea how to deal with this shit. I'm not even quitting because of health reasons or because of the evils of the tobacco industry or because truth.com has convinced me of the error of my ways. I'm quitting because it's too goddamn expensive. So there you go, you nonsmoking health-nazi nanny government fascist fucks. You've WON.
When Grandma and I have heard the gaming news of the week, my reactions have become amplified like some paranoid cokehead reading the national security summary on terrorism. Grandma's response has been consistently "...meh." It's not my fault I'm freaking out over every stupid thing. I am denied the nicotine necessary to function as a rational human being. For instance: the moment the Resident Evil 5 trailer found its way to the PSN network, she downloaded it to her PS3. It was beautiful. Still, while watching it I (and I'm sure a bunch of other people) had one of those "aw shit" moments that revealed itself today in the form of someone's small blog post that consisted of merely:
The new Resident Evil video game depicts a white man in what appears to be Africa killing Black people. The Black people are supposed to be zombies and the white man’s job is to destroy them and save humanity. “I have a job to do and I’m gonna see it through.”
This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young… fearing, hating, and destroying Black people.
Well, that little post ignited a huge shit storm that reached all the major gaming sites and forums. Well my reaction was entirely different from Grandma's.
Me - "HOLY SHIT! I fucking KNEW this was going to happen. She's got a point, too; I mean they basically SAID the game was going to be like a scene from Black Hawk Down and THAT fucking movie wasn't exactly racially sensitive either. But it looks so goddamn cool and we were soooo close and now it's going to create this big deal when Capcom didn't mean it to be that way, but fucking look at the trailer- it IS that way. FUCK!! Everything is going WRONG, man."
Picture an ugly person with long hair saying that really fast while pacing around a tiny room, and that's pretty much how it went down.
Grandma on the other hand...
Grandma - "You know, I really didn't even think about it the first time I watched it. It was just Chris and some zombies. It never even occurred to me that they were all black. I guess I could see how someone might think the trailer is racist, but it's just zombies. No one meant anything by it. RE4 was fucking Spain, this is just another location. Oh well. It does look cool as hell though, doesn't it?"
Meanwhile, Grandma is primarily playing Overlord, which she seems to really dig. The camera controls were a bit difficult for her to get used to, but 12 hours into the game she's speeding right along. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's kind of an Oblivion meets Lemmings RPG/RTS where you play an evil dude who controls a bunch of happy little evil minions who just love to do evil shit for you. The humor is in line with Conker, Destroy All Humans and the like, so naturally Grandma and I both find it to be hilarious.
For some reason I laughed incredibly hard the first time a minion came up to Grandma's character to deliver some sort of something he had found somewhere and says in the cute little evil minion voice "for YOUUUUU! ♥" Then again, I'm allowed to be crazy. My heads all fucked up from the lack of ciggies.
Hence the absence of a Sunday post. That was Day 1. When you go from a pack a day to practically none a day, every tiny frustration in a video game sets you off in a Hulk like rage. It's probably best if I just watch Grandma play for awhile instead of also playing a game myself.