Old Grandma Hardcore

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.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lights and tunnels

Grandma's life is finally resembling something others call "normal." She has completed cardiac therapy, which is another way of saying Medicare won't pay for it anymore. They gave her a certificate reminiscent of the "Pleasure to have in class" awards teachers give to elementary school students which we threatened to hang on the refrigerator.

"You hang that shit up there and I swear to god I'll set the fridge on fire," she countered.

Meanwhile, Grandma strolled her way through Infamous on the PS3, first as a hero, then as an asshole. She loved that game, but it wasn't particularly difficult for Grandma seeing as (and I hope we're not the first to notice this) it was basically Sly Cooper 4 with Sly Cooper played by a bald jackass.

Also, we have tons of stuff to talk about. Crispy Gamer, GamesRadar, VidaExtra, Swiss TV... Tons of awesome this past month. Things are good. That's not even including PAX 2009 in September. Grandma and I always wanted to go, so this year we're going.

Do you speak German? Maybe you do. Swiss TV produced a piece on the changing demographics of gaming featuring Grandma last month. Arthur Honegger (no, not that one), the reporter for Swiss TV, was very kind to Grandma, visiting our home in Ohio before flying out to E3 to complete the story.

If you don't speak German, here's something for you: you'll notice that when Grandma is interviewed, there is a single, still image on the screen behind her, a screengrab of the Japanese version of Earth Defense Force 2017, complete with an IGN logo in the bottom right hand corner. Arthur needed a still image on the screen of a game she played, and most pause functions darken the screen or bring up a menu, so I used Java PS3 Media Server on my computer downstairs and found the image from an earlier post. I pulled it up on the PS3 and displayed it on her screen. I had to move the sticks on the controller every few minutes off camera to keep the screen from going dark.

If you do speak German, then I'd like to talk to you a bit about something Arthur said while he was here. We were talking about violence in video games and how it's different in Europe. He mentioned "if there is sex in a video game, nobody cares, but if it's violent it gets banned." Sort of a reverse of how it is here in The States. I remember when the Der Spiegel article about Grandma came out, someone had said that they couldn't get God of War 2 in Germany. Are there ways around this? Is it all PAL games or do you have to get a modded console or an NTSC version or.. how do you do it? We're very curious about this.

Literally while Arthur was setting up his equipment, Grandma checked her email and found that Scott Jones and John Keefer with CrispyGamer.com wanted to show her something they thought would make her feel awesome.

They were right.

Just last week, GamesRadar posted a list that one may think would make Grandma feel badass.

And one would be right.

So now we have two lists of elderly badassness published fairly close together, proclaiming Grandma as the motherfucking queen. Hell, no problems from me there, although I tend to think Grandma's personal vote would be for none other than BUGENHAGEN.


Ho Ho Hoooo, indeed sir. Ho Ho Hoooo.

So now let's look at each list critically, to see how they compare.

It's tricky to do as CrispyGamer lists 21 and GamesRadar 7, but the results are surprising.

First, let's narrow them down by similar games. In the CrispyGamer list, published first, we'll leave out games not on the GamesRadar list for science.
21. Bill - Left 4 Dead
20. Hoy Quarlow - Super Punch Out
19. Helen Parker - Hotel Dusk: Room 215
18. Shun Di - Virtua Fighter series
17. The Vizier - Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
16. Dr. Russell Barnaby - Dead Rising
15. Heihachi Mishima - Tekken series
14. Cranky Kong - Donkey Kong Country
13. Strago Magus - FF VI
12. The Hobo - Bully
11. Gouken - Street Fighter IV
10. Dr. Wily - Mega Man
9. Admiral Tolwyn - Wing Commander
8. Cervantes - SoulCalibur
7. Orca - The Legend of Zelda
6. Dr. Muto - Dr. Muto
5. Old Snake - Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots
4. Dr. Gilbert Zan - Streets of Rage 3
3. Agatha - Fallout 3
2. Frogfucius - Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
1. Grandma

To refresh, this is the GamesRadar list

7. Bill Overbeck - Left 4 Dead
6. Shun Di - Virtua Fighter
5. The End - Metal Gear Solid 3
4. Heihachi Mishima - Tekken
3. Avery Johnson - Halo
2. Oro - Street Fighter III
1. Grandma

Not counting sequel differences such as Metal Gear Solid and Street Fighter, arguably the biggest change is the inclusion of Avery Johnson of the Halo series. GamesRadar lists The End rather than Old Snake, and Oro rather than Gouken.

As it contrasts in this way, the hierarchy shares a remarkable pattern:

6. Left 4 Dead (CG) / Left 4 Dead (GR)
5. Virtua Fighter (CG) / Virtua Fighter (GR)
4. Tekken (CG) / Metal Gear Solid (GR)
3. Street Fighter (CG) / Tekken (GR)
2. Metal Gear Solid (CG) / Street Fighter (GR)
1. Grandma (CG) / Grandma (GR)

Discounting the inclusion of Halo, these two lists by two different authors on two different high traffic sites seem to hold very, very close opinions. But why? What phenomenon is displayed here? Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting anything sinister. Both articles are well written and in different voices, so the ugly "p-word" doesn't really apply, thank Christ. I'd like to think there are somewhat universal trends and opinions shared by most authors of gaming articles- there are just some things that become Natural Hierarchies, like FFVII > FFX > Alone in the Dark > FFX-2. Debatable? Maybe. But more often than not, that's probably the order you'd find.

Are there similar orders to elderly awesomeness?

I find this shit fascinating.

Also: after really thinking about it, I appreciate how difficult it is to create a list of the greatest old folks in gaming- characters, NPC's and real people alike. There are waaaay too many for me to compile any kind of opinion on it. For as much as the 'new' demographic is to gaming, they've been arguably well represented in all sorts of ways. No doubt there have been many instances where they are depicted as old biddies who like cats (I'm looking at you, Nintendo Wii startup guide), there are plenty of times when they have kicked ass.

I will say this, though, I'd have to include Doris Self waaaay up at the top of any such list. I wish her and Grandma could have met.

Anyway, it's been verified by respectable gaming websites: Grandma can destroy us all.

And that's awesome :)

Also! Grandma also enjoyed a mention on the site VidaExtra, so we're getting a lot of traffic from Spanish speaking gamers out there right now. I love international readers. The emails and comments especially- there are people all over the world who know others just like Grandma. This was never a nationalistic thing where people would shake their heads and think "only in America..." The gaming world was never that way. It's a big family. A family with more grandparents than people realized.


Now let's talk about Infamous. It's consumed Grandma's life recently between trips to therapy and fishing so it deserves some attention. Infamous was Grandma's choice after beating the everloving shit out of Resident Evil 5. I would have liked to post about RE5 more as well, but the job hunt has limited my activities to applications, resumes, CivIV and the sweet release of sleep. (I know I need to post more often, guys. It's my fault and I'll try to do better.)

But! Infamous was fairly recent so it's easy to remember Grandma's opinions of it.

Such as:

"Fucking... no..no...noooo....NOOOO GODDAMMIT!"


"I can't do this. I give up. I give up, I swear to god."

And that's just one of the "Satellite Uplink" missions.

Where to start. Grandma was first to notice its similarities with Sly Cooper of the two of us. The bluetooth cell phone replacing the radio with the little messages popping up; Bently and Murray essentially replaced by Zeke and John. Jumping on high places and taking a good long look around for missions highlighted by glowing pillars of light. Hell, Cole and Sly even sort of stand and walk the exact same way, haunched over, low to the ground; their worlds distorted as though through a wide angle lens. Look at this:


Not a raccoon.

So if you are familiar with the themes and gameplay of the Sly Cooper series, you're already know how to play Infamous. That is to say, jumping around, find stuff, climbing on stuff, kick the shit out of something, run away before it kills you.

And goddammit, that's not a bad thing. Sucker Punch didn't make a Sly Cooper mod and call it Infamous, but they are clearly going with what they know how to do best. As platformers go, it's great. Grandma really got into finding new ways of electrocuting people. Because really, before Infamous, we could only think of two ways. Turns out it's more like seven ways.

If she had any gripe with the game, beside the usual "this part is rather difficult" or from what I could tell anyway, it was with the plot.

Grandma, for some reason, had a problem with Trish.

If you haven't played the game yet, Trish is Cole McGrath's girlfriend. According to Grandma, Trish is also, apparently, "a self-righteous bitch."

Spoliers ahead.

"I don't get Trish."
-"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. She just blames everything on Cole just because he's alive during the explosion, right?"
-"No, she's suspicious."
"Of what?"
-"That he delivered the package that was the bomb."
"So she's bitching at Cole for doing his job, is what you're saying."
-"Sort of, I guess."
"She nags at him for being a delivery guy, then she nags at him for surviving while other people died in the blast, then she nags at him because SHE wants to drive people from the hospital, she even digs at him by saying 'ooooo, I was in medical school, I know stuff. What the hell did YOU do with your life."
-No she didn't."
"Yes she did! And then she DIES. And if you play as the evil Cole, she nags at him right before she dies. The only difference between good Cole and evil Cole is you don't get that one last nagging when she dies."
-"She does nag."
"I don't even know why they are together. It doesn't make sense to me."

She like the choice between good and evil, as cliche as it has become since the ending of Legacy of Kain. She dug similar games like KOTOR and Oblivion, where choices matter, even if the choice is a clear polar opposite. There were times when she would get negative karma and not know why, however. It turns out it was because her favorite way of dispatching enemies was blowing up cars; cars that often had innocent bystanders doing their bystanding a little too close. Due to her hatred of Trish, she wasn't annoyed that she dies no matter what the hell you do.

The good and evil endings were very similar to the ends of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, where different cutscenes were injected as appropriate.

The gameplay frustrated her, but no more than it was supposed to, I think.

"Hard mode is a bunch of BULLSHIT. They hit you two times and you're DEAD."
-"Well... that's why it's hard mode."

Upon her second playthrough as an evil person:
"I keep trying to fly, but I forgot that I don't have that power yet. It's annoying."


"I like how when you cure people the enemies just stand there and watch. You think that would be a good time to shoot him."

"Look at this."
"On the theater sign. It says 'Sly Cooper 4.'"
"It's like they're admitting it."
-"I think they're just giving a little something to the fans, like.. 'it's coming' or something."
"Shit, it's already here."

And yet she still liked it. She has her own theories about who "The Beast" is, so it's safe to bet that's she'll play the sequel.

As long as they don't have Satellite Uplink missions.

Okay. We finally paid for everything, it's all set, so I can say it with absolute certainty:

Grandma is going to PAX.

In the past, she would talk about E3 as though it was the end-all games conference; something she had always wanted to see but couldn't afford and lacked the necessary media credentials to attend. Then MTV stepped in and made that happen in 2006. She loved it, even though she wasn't feeling well at the time (that was a sign of things to come, wasn't it.) In the meantime, you have all described PAX as a big party for gamers. You told her she'd love it. That it's full of her kind of people. Keynote speeches on things we all find interesting. Concerts from groovy musicians. Exhibitions and booths and all manner of good things she would love to see.

At E3 2006, we finally met Annie (hi, Annie!) who introduced Grandma to Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the creators of a comic that, believe it or not (although most of you know by now) has made Grandma press F5 more often than perhaps people should. It was a brief meeting, but they were cool. She's probably won't get to meet them again with all the stuff they'll have going on during the convention, but goddammit if she's not going to the convention anyway. Grandma is going to have a ball with the rest of us.

It was something I wanted to make happen for Grandma since late last year, but after being laid-off and then her heart-bypass surgery, it seemed more and more like a pipe dream. Somehow we pulled it off. We'll be on a shoe-string budget for the trip, but Grandma is going for all three days of the convention so she can take her time and see all there is to see.

And meet you people!

Seriously, come say hi! Fuck! She loves to talk gaming and lately the only person she's had available to do so is me. And I'm boring.

So come to PAX, goddammit.

Game on!

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