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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grandma is seriously pissed off today

Right, so...

This kind of post doesn't happen very often.

Grandma has her regular bookmarks on her Firefox toolbar that she clicks through every day for some gaming goodness. Destructoid, Kotaku, Joystiq, Crispy Gamer, The Escapist, etc.,.. She takes the dog out, makes a cup of coffee, sits down at her computer, checks her email and thus begins her routine a couple times a day.

Well, today she read this article on Kotaku.

Immediately afterword, she sought me out, showed me the article (and perhaps more importantly the comments section) and said the following:

"We're posting tonight. I got some shit to say."

The Kotaku article is a brief post on the Today Show disaster piece featuring The Big Fish Babes. Brian Crecente captions the segment with an appropriate eye-rolling sarcastic "Have you heard? Video games aren't just for 13-year-old boys anymore!"

As for the Today Show piece, Grandma's sentiments are pretty much the same.

Grandma has battle-hardened experience being schlepped around for various puff pieces on various news networks, an experience that was all in all harmless and thankfully not nearly as condescending or patronizing as what these ladies had to endure.

Grandma found her own answers as repetitive as the questions. Endless variations to "when did you start gaming?", "what do you friends think of your hobby?", or "what's your favorite game?" were met with near identical "at arcade machines in bowling alleys", "my friends don't understand it, really", and "Final Fantasy VII" respectively. Which was fine! What else are they going to ask?

But Grandma always, always, always included a massive caveat to all the attention gifted upon her:

She is not unique.
She is not the best older gamer.
She is not the oldest gamer.
There are many, many people just like her.
And that's what's awesome.

So when CBS Evening News or NPR or MTV called to ask some questions, she was genuinely bewildered. She would ask me, sincerely, why she was at all newsworthy.

"Because you're awesome" is a cute and easy answer, but it wasn't enough and she knew it. She isn't stupid. So she repeated her caveat to all who would listen.

We thought, naively perhaps, that what was newsworthy was the obsolescence of The Gamer Demographic; not by Grandma, but by the thousands of gamers who obstinately stand outside the marketing targets which were so carefully perpetuated.

And Grandma wasn't the first. Doris Self was a far better gamer. Middle-aged men played Counterstrike in offices. Colleges had Quake tournaments. And then there was the rest of us, who started with Atari and Nintendo when we were kids and never stopped as we got older.

The myth had been dead for awhile.

So the story of The Big Fish Babes is a happy one, an inevitable one. And not at all as unusual and weird as the Today producers decided to make it. They were portrayed as a Hugh Wilson montage of Old Women Find Friendship. They deserved better than that.

But while it peeved Grandma to see clueless reporters repeating the stupid myth with these kind, cool women as a backdrop, and oh boy was she peeved ("Thirteen year olds? Seriously?"), it wasn't what pissed her off.

"There's all these people pissed off at Kotaku because they think they're making fun of these women, and they don't get it. They think he's saying "look at these fat assholes trying to say they're gamers" and that's not what the fuck he's talking about.

And THEN you have people who ARE basically saying these people are ugly and stupid, in agreement with something nobody said in the first place!

First of all: who gives a shit if they only play casual games. I think that counts. I play Sudoku too, assholes. Why is it that these people think I'm cool but these women are stupid? It's the same shit. They like that game, I like different games- they're still games. You want them to play Call of Duty? Show them how to do it. Maybe they'll like it, maybe they won't. What's the difference. If somebody came up to me and said "Oh, I play this puzzle game thing online" I'd tell them "oh hey! I'm a gamer too! That's cool!" Maybe we'd be friends! How else would you know? They don't see themselves as gamers because of people like you who won't let them.

But what kills me are these people laughing at the way they look. I'm old and fat too, but nobody gave me shit about it. Sometimes somebody on Youtube calls me an old bitch, but pretty much everybody else has been so cool. You know? Don't ruin that by laughing at these women. NBC made the story corny, not them. They're just like any of us.

Kotaku wasn't making fun of them. YOU were.

Then Grandma showed me this video, posted in the comments section by someone who I'm pretty sure has opinions that mirror Grandma's:

"The worst part is, there is nothing I can even say to counter these people. They have their minds made up. They think video games are for kids. And if video games are only for kids, then they should be made for kids. And if video games are made for kids, they shouldn't have any violence or vulgarity. So, if video games contain violence or vulgarity, they're bad. Because of kids.

They just want to hear themselves talk.

This makes me so goddamn angry, you don't even know.

This guy is right there next to her SAYING that adults play these games. But she doesn't listen. She doesn't care. "Oh, the kids are going to play them anyway..." How can someone... I don't know.. so confidently have an opinion about something they admit to knowing so little about?

She had no idea that games have a ratings system. But she goes RIGHT ON TALKING as though it were meaningless.

It's like Monty Python. "Yes they do", "no they don't", "yes they did", "no they don't.." It's fucking annoying.

I would never want to be on a panel like that. There is nothing you can say. They aren't listening. All you can do is ask questions and let them dig themselves into a hole. They like to talk, right? Let them talk.

Ask them this: "Do you think video games are for children? How have you come to that conclusion?"
Ask them how old THEY think the average gamer is. Don't bring up this study or that study, just ask them. Watch them pretend like they know what they're talking about.
Ask them what the last game they played was.
Ask them if they liked it.
Ask them what would have made the game better, for THEM. Not for their kids. What would THEY like. Talk to THEM like they are gamers. Force them to.. you know, see themselves that way.

Then all of a sudden they turn from black and white to color like in Pleasantville, everybody skips away and talks about more important shit.


Grandma doesn't tell me to publish her rants on the blog very often, so I figured I'd better do it or she'd hit me :)

Game on!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Video 26: Grandma plays Final Fantasy XIII

Filmed yesterday, so it gives you a good idea of how far in she is on her first playthrough. She's still learning strategy, so if you have any tips on how she can improve her battle ratings, she's very open to your advice.

I'm no help. I can't follow what the hell is going on when I watch her, and I'm not going to start a game myself until she's done with the thing.

Also: I did the best I could to avoid putting spoilers in the video, so it's safe for those of us who want to take the journey at our own pace.

Game on!

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Grandma's playing Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII has been the focus of Grandma's anticipation since 2006. Whenever a game she played didn't quite pass muster or when a giant hole of suck formed on a new releases calendar, she would wonder, out loud, to nobody in particular: "I wonder when Thirteen is coming out."

She said this so much that FFXIII became the Undying Lands to Grandma's Middle-earth, spilling into conversations that otherwise had nothing to do with gaming. It was the manifestation, in her mind, of The Eventuality of Something Good. Having a bad day? "Yeah, but Thirteen isn't too far away." Your back hurts? "When Thirteen comes out, I can just finally just relax." Car has a flat tire? "I wonder when Thirteen is coming out..."

Needless to say, no game can live up to that kind of expectation. But her first impressions are filled with the same gleeful hyperbole.

"This is the prettiest goddamn game I've seen in my life."

"Holy Jesus FUCK."

"Heeeey! A little CHOCOBO!"

"I wonder who Cid is in this one."

"They use Gil! GIL! They didn't change it!"

After picking up her copy at a rather uneventful local Gamestop's midnight release, along with a huge goddamn strategy guide she will likely never use (she sees it as cheating), she sat down with her brand spanking new PS3 copy for only thirty minutes before going to bed, "just to make sure they didn't fuck it up."

All of today, however, Grandma ground away at the poor thing with skeptical eyes.

Thankfully, she was not disappointed.

Several hours and more than a few chapters in, Grandma found she really has only two things she doesn't like about FFXIII.

First, it's linear to a fault. The first chapter is appropriately staged on a train track. And like a train, you can't really deviate from the path. You will slough your way through to the next fight or the next cutscene. Which isn't bad, I suppose, but- and we're not the first to notice, it's more of a distilled version of Final Fantasy; an RPG version of Tekken, where the fights are what matter the most. The paths in this world are merely a mechanism to get you to the next battle. At least it seems that way to Grandma so far. Glancing through the strategy guide, the maps reminded me of FFXII a bit, which makes me wonder if we only had the illusion of exploration then as well.

Second: the battle rating system. If we've learned anything from RPGs it's that even if you suck really hard, like we do, you can compensate by putting the hours in on things you can do so that you may become awesome through sheer work. In FFXIII, however, your spoils in battle are determined by how well you fight. The quicker one can cut that fucker down, the better shit one gets. So you better know what you're doing, which isn't easy at first, what with the sensory overload display and all.

The first time Grandma cast Libra, I couldn't find the information it had supposedly provided. It was pretty, whatever the hell it was, but it went by so fast I couldn't tell you if the dude was weak to fire or if a thousand angels just flew out of his eyeballs.

"Awwwww FUCK" Grandma just said, just now, trying to dispatch some soldiers, dying.

I don't recall Grandma dying a lot in Final Fantasy XII. Which kind of shows you our point. The deceptively simple first chapter masks a hell of a learning curve that follows.

She just started, so her perspective on the game shall no doubt evolve as her skills improve, kind of like when Materia just sort of 'clicks' right after you get out of Midgar for the first time.

She finally has Final Fantasy XIII, and this bitch isn't going down without a fight :)

If you aren't following us already, make sure you subscribe to our Twitter feed, where I'm posting Grandma's comments about FFXIII as they happen. The blog is where I can make the big posts and tell her stories, but Twitter is surprisingly useful at providing a constant flow of Grandma quotes. I'm usually on the computer in her game room while she plays, so it's very easy to just type up what she says without context.

Game on!

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