Come to Mexico with Grandma and me!
Dig this: let's say you have some free time this November, say from the 13th to the 18th. Let's say there existed a cruise that went from Long Beach, CA to Ensenada, Mexico that just so happened to fit into that schedule. Let's also say (hypothetically speaking of course) that on the first night of the cruise is a concert by VIDEO GAMES LIVE. Just to fucking START. Let's say this whole cruise is packaged for gamers. Let's say Cloris Leachman was a guest star, just to tag along for the fun of the thing. Let's just pretend for a moment that there would be a full casino, fine dining, Wii tournaments, handheld contests, the works.
Let's just think about the notion that there exists a short, inexpensive vacation for gamers to just relax in the Pacific ocean soaking up that Mexican sun and talk about games for a few days. The very PURPOSE of this aquatic mobile congregation of like minded technophiles is for us to knock back a few drinks and argue on the virtues of Western vs. Eastern RPGs. Just for the hell of it.
And, just for shits and giggles, let's say Grandma was going to be there to bullshit about games right there with the rest of us.
Well goddammit, it's happening.
I'm not even kidding.
It's not some podunk rowboat fitted with a television and an N64 with a single copy of GoldenEye for us to fight over, no. This is a huge-ass Carnival line CRUISE.
Look at this shit:
Pools, spas, restaurants, and the best damn video games concert in the WORLD. This little cruise has been officially added to their world tour schedule, slated for November 14th, 2008. If you want to see them, this is truly the way to do it. You simply CANNOT do better than this, I SWEAR to you. Of the whole trip, this concert is what I'm looking forward to the most. YOU SHOULD COME, DAMMIT!
Grandma's not much of a drinker, to be honest. She wants to hang out with you guys deckside and talk gaming. I'm a responsible drinker (never the day before I have to work and never before driving) and I'll be completely sincere: I want to feel the pleasant buzz of Mezcal and Tequila with the Pacific wind on my face. I want to buy you guys a drink. I want to test the functional impairment of Wii playing after six shots of whatever Agave-based liquors they have to offer. It's a vacation. That's what vacations are for. I'm not an obnoxious drunk, I'm quite giddy in fact! So you can make fun of me right along with Grandma if you want to. Or join me! It's all good!
Let's go to Mexico, hang out with Grandma, watch what may be the most brilliant concert of this decade, bullshit about games and just have a blast doing it.
Sign up for this thing.
And, because you know us by now, here's some full disclosure: Grandma isn't getting paid to come to the cruise. I'm not getting paid to advertise it. She was invited and emphatically said yes. We're just thrilled to go. Grandma doesn't whore herself out to anyone, not even for a cruise. She and I both like to keep things honest. It's just easier that way. So let's be honest. Drinks and food are probably going to be expensive. You folks that have been on cruises before know what I'm talking about; it's a fucking cruise. That's how they are. I'm going to work on saving a lit bit to make sure Grandma has a good time. You should do the same for yourselves (but seriously, hit me up for a drink, I'm always happy to.)
It's a shorter cruise compared to a lot of the mega two-week cruises so you don't have to bring too much unless you intend to gamble, which- by all means do if that's your thing. I'll keep mentioning it throughout the year in case you forget where to register. If you don't yet have your passport, GET IT NOW. We aren't just parking outside Baja and looking ashore, we're GOING TO MEXICO. So you need a passport. The cruise is in November so you've got lots of time for the State Department to screw up your application and get it right.
Let's go! I'm serious! How often to you get to go away from things for awhile? Make an impulsive decision to treat yourself. This is going to rock.
Grandma is currently tackling Veteran Mode on Call of Duty 4.
You have no idea how happy this makes me. It wasn't that long ago when Grandma was terrified of FPS games. Sure, she played them. But she never really counted herself as an FPS gamer. She dug RPGs and platformers, she'd tell the press, but apart from that she always said she liked some of the more difficult FPS games like Perfect Dark and Halo with the caveat that she completely sucked at them.
I cannot take credit for any of that. I never pressed her to play any game or genre, I just kicked back and watched her do her thing. As you could tell from some of the videos, like when she played Resistance: Fall of Man, I'm not much of a coach, either. I know fuck all about FPS strategy other than that which got me through the level. She did this on her own.
I'm pretty sure the progression of skill level went something like RE4 - Halo - Lost Planet - Resistance: FoM - Doom 3 - Gears of War - Halo 3 - Mass Effect - Call of Duty 4. She is getting through checkpoints on Veteran difficulty that I simply could not. It's a beautiful thing to see. So far she is to Act II: One Shot, One Kill. The last bit of sniping at the end of the mission is starting to make her, well.. let's say "frustrated."
You bet your ass we're going to have another video here in the next week.
She hasn't attempted multiplayer mode yet; hell, she doesn't even have a single achievement for Team Fortress 2. I think it's in part because she's intimidated by those online who know who she is and also because Xbox Live wasn't exactly cooperating in finding matches when she was deep into Orange Box. I think that's why she moved on to Mass Effect so quickly.
When Jennifer with Sony sent Grandma Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, she also included Heavenly Sword just in case Grandma was into that too. Grandma popped it in after she was done with Mass Effect so she wouldn't neglect any of her systems. She likes to give each console an even break when she's done with a game. To play a Wii game, then a 360 game, then a PS3 game seems to lower the wear on her setup and in some karmic way she's not hurting the feelings of any one of her soulless machines. (Don't laugh, I think we all do it to some extent.)
But Heavenly Sword and Grandma just did not get along. Sure, the graphics were incredible, but Grandma had difficulty with the timing of the attacks; treating the game as a button masher instead of another Devil May Cry. Add to that a rather over-the-top plotline with extraordinarily dramatic dialogue and some frustrating SixAxis controls for the flight path of projectiles and it was pretty much over for Grandma. She didn't like it. So I bought her Call of Duty 4 based on your constant recommendations online so that she might have a new challenge. I figured if she didn't like that either, no problem; she could get maybe 200 achievement points and I would have something to play on my own profile for those rare days when I don't have anything to do.
But she really got into it!
Grandma's main problem is that she battles her way through a checkpoint so quickly that often she doesn't pick up the right weapons to get through the next one, so she starts the chapter over again a little wiser and with more of a tactical plan. Through a combination of repetition, memorization of AI movement and locations, as well a healthy dose of emotional outbursts, she eventually gets through.
Sometimes I honestly don't know how. She's putting C4 in doorways and bottlenecking enemies into claymores and doing shit I could only get through on Hardened difficulty by running from cover to cover praying I could go prone by the time a bullet flew by. Apparently that doesn't work as well in Veteran mode.
So.. well done, Grandma!
Many, many of you have been e-mailing us and leaving comments on YouTube wondering about Grandma's holiday and what she got. Truth is, not much. We had a pretty modest Christmas this year. When I got her the television I said "well, that's your Christmas present. I'm broke!" I wasn't kidding :) She of course didn't care, she's cool like that. From the rest of the family she got some awesome gift certificates to one of her favorite local cooking-supply stores among other things. She did get a pair of pajamas with the Super Mario Bros. logo printed all over it, which she's probably rocking right now as I type this.
I got her the Close Encounters of the Third Kind Boxed Set on BluRay. She loves that movie. We're starting to rack up a little BluRay collection. Right now she has Weeds: Season 1, 28 Days Later, Kingdom of Heaven, Ratatouille (which is awesome in high definition), and I have the Blade Runner: Final Cut boxed set. Now that Warner Brother's has gone the way of the Blue, there's a lot of movies she has her eyes on.
Let me back up a little.
Grandma had a god-awful, shitty Christmas. I had a awful, no-good shitty New Years. Our holidays were just BAD. Not at all because of the gifts, we loved what we got. We're not the greedy type. Gifts were great.
No, it was something quite different.
Let me tell you a little bit about our holiday season. On Christmas Eve morning Grandma felt an incredible pain in her stomach. It was bad. REALLY bad. She later told me is was worse than childbirth. It had kept her up the night before and now it wasn't letting her do anything. She couldn't bake the cookies she wanted to, she couldn't sit down, she couldn't stand up, she couldn't do shit. If it was gas or something simple, it was the worst fucking gas she ever had in her life. She called her doctor who gave her the usual predictable answer: go to the ER.
So she did.
I drove her to Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna where she's pretty much a regular customer anymore. It just so happened that I was the only photographer on duty that day, but luckily the assignment was scheduled for later that morning in the same city as the hospital. So the plan was, take Grandma to the hospital, get her registered and attended to, go to the courthouse for the assignment, take the photo, go back to the office, upload the photos, go back to the hospital, see what's up with Grandma. It worked pretty well! But the day was filled with omens. That morning the windshield on the Jeep cracked from the intense cold as the defrosters blasted on the other side. The coffee machine at the courthouse spit out grounds into the water. The cell phone battery died. Lots of little things like that. Warnings, maybe.
When I got back to the hospital, Grandma told me she had a fresh round of CAT-scans and MRIs coming up, so we were going to be there for awhile. They gave her some morphine which helped the pain somewhat, and we were pretty sure that when the tests came back clear she would get to go home and that would be the end of it.
They kept her overnight.
Now, this is Grandma we're talking about. One might think of such a situation as an "aw jeez golly mister, but it's CHRISTMAS!" kind of episode, but that's not the case with Grandma. I was in the waiting room playing Lumines II when she finally called me back and told me to go home until they knew what the fuck was going on. She called that night, and she was PISSED.
We made the decision as a family that we wouldn't open the presents until she got home from the hospital, which we figured (and the nurses figured) would be on Christmas Day, sometime in the afternoon. It just wouldn't be cool for her to miss the thing, so we'd wait. Well, that pissed Grandma off too. She more or less said "goddammit, you don't have to wait for me to open your presents, that would make ME feel like shit!"
So we opened a few and brought Grandma up some of hers. They kept her overnight again. After the third day of this, she never really was told what had caused the most sharp pain of her life, only that "well, it's not there anymore, or at least not as much so.... you're cool. Followup with your doctor."
She's fine now, but that was one shitty Christmas. She came home, got back to gaming and we went shopping the next day so she could use her giftcards.
THAT was just a prelude for an even shittier New Years Day.
I can't drink New Years Eve. Not allowed. Personal rule. I'm working that night, driving to all manner of bars and restaurants photographing the celebrations for the big New Years spread. Drinking and driving isn't safe nor is it smart and drinking while WORKING is just downright stupid. Add both of them together and you can see why it's a pretty good rule to have. Being the third year in a row of doing this I don't mind, really.
So imagine the irony when, the next morning as I'm driving back from work to drop off the photos from the previous night, THIS HAPPENS:
Black ice. High winds. Blowing snow. Hell, I wasn't even speeding.
If you look close, you can even make out Grandma's special "OGHC" license plates.
Luckily, I was the only one in the car, I was wearing my seatbelt, and nobody else was in front of me when it flipped. But let me tell you, the people that stopped immediately to pull me out of the flipped vehicle and cleared away the glass and called 911 and got my camera bag well... those people are my fucking heroes. I hadn't expected that. THAT was awesome. The unexpected kindness and urgency I saw made me almost not even care that the car we had loved so much that had been through so much had just been destroyed by a thin patch of frozen water.
To whoever you are, thank you.
The time it took between the car settling in a ditch after the rollover and my ass being in a hospital bed was maybe 8, 9 minutes tops. Mantua-Shalersville police department were quick as a bunny out there, man. Lots of accidents that day and they were on top of them all.
Well, just fucking GUESS which hospital I went to.
The neckbrace and everything turned out to be an unnecessary precaution. I walked out of there maybe an hour or two later (following X-Rays and CAT-scans and all that jazz) without a scratch on me. I had some shattered glass in my hair. I think that was pretty much it.
How lucky was THAT.
The paper called me later that night to see if I had any weather related, car-in-a-ditch type feature art for them during my travels. They still didn't know I had been in an accident.
It just so happened I shot some pictures from the back of the ambulance before we took off to the hospital. (The paramedics must have thought I was goddamn insane.) I told my editors the story and it made front page above the fold the next day. You can read it if you like!
At the end of this messy story is as good of an outcome as I could have hoped for. The Jeep was totaled but insurance paid for everything. Grandma got a much more gas-efficient car with less mileage and less of a chance of rollover to replace the Jeep. I finally killed the fucking car, but maybe it was for the better.
So when I tell you that our holidays were somewhat lacking in that charming fireside spirit, even as bad as they were, slap me upside the head and remind me it honestly could have been worse.
A HELL of a lot worse.
I've thought quite hard on just how worse it could have been.
I could have lost my RT button finger, for instance.
Upcoming posts include a new Call of Duty 4 video, a whole post on Grandma's adventures with Dead Head Fred (by request), and Evan sent Grandma a couple of NEW games that Grandma is excited to try, so lots to come!