GameStop

How Not to Impress the Ladies

No one ever got laid by going to a GameStop. The only woman here is a mother with her preteen son; he is trying to convince her Grand Theft Auto V is an appropriate game for someone whose balls haven’t dropped yet. The kid reminds me of myself at that age, but nowadays all I want to do is play Pokémon Alpha Sapphire.

Every GameStop has the same pair of employees. In the words of Darth Bane, “Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it,” except in this case the power is having a healthy BMI and being slightly less socially awkward.

Since Fatty is too busy facing the Amiibo figurines, Skinny is my opponent at the cash register. I ask him for a copy of Majora’s Mask 3D. He says, “You can’t buy it new unless you pre-ordered. Would you like it used?”

How the hell do they have used copies already? I don’t like sloppy seconds, so I ask for A Link Between Worlds instead.

“What’s your phone number?”

“I don’t have one.” Skinny knows I am lying.

“Debit or credit? Would you like to join our PowerUp Rewards program? Can you take our online survey? Is there anything I can preorder for you?” Thank God print journalism is dead, or else I would have to endure another ten questions asking if I would like to subscribe to EGM or Nintendo Power.

Amazon, I am never cheating on you again.

***

Book stores have a quaint romanticism. The shelves are filled with a wide variety of products. There’s cute girls drinking coffee and reading a books.

Video game stores are the opposite. The shelves are filled with either first-person shooters with RPG elements or third-person shooters with RPG elements. You won’t find girls, but you will run into somebody with Asperger’s. Even back in the day, Blockbuster Video was infinitely cooler than EB Games.

But this quality gap exists not only for the retail space, but also with creating those works. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I mention writing, but I hesitate to include game development, afraid that the listener will look down on my lame hobby.

Why is writing cooler than game development? Part of the reason is video games have a limited audience. I’m not sure what women do with their free time, but I know most of them are not playing video games. Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Video Games series points out negative messages sent towards female gamers, but the larger problem is that most of the messages video games send to women are not harmful, just uninteresting. Macho space marines are not appealing to the female gender. Despite billions of dollars in sales, video games are still a niche product. This is the reason video game stores target themselves towards teenagers and man-children.

The second reason for game development’s unpopularity is that the average person has no idea how games are made. Whenever I show a stranger one of my games, the first question is, “How do you even make games?” Telling them you programmed it in C++ is a meaningless statement. To most people, computers are these magical black boxes, and they never give any thought to how software is created. With no idea how they are made, video games seem like magically appearing products, not personal statements someone slaves over.

Most game studios perpetuate this interpretation of games-as-products by having huge teams. Additional artists water down the personal message, which is why multi-author books are rare and novels with 100 writers are non-existant. Single man game projects are rare, since video games require code, art, music, and design, each having deep specializations. Bold, artistic statements are hard to make when your job is implementing particle effects.

When I was in middle school, I dreamt of running a game studio and managing a huge team of developers. Nowadays, I just want to make games by myself. I don’t want my message to be diluted. I just want to say something true.

I enjoy both writing and game development equally, but I wish the latter was more prestigious. However, the  two aforementioned problems will not be resolved in the next decade, so I have to accept the fact that video games will continue to be looked down upon. Fortunately, the words of Paul Graham eased my worries:

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself…

Similarly, if you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what’s admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.

One day, the ladies will appreciate my sick memory management skills.

Battle vs. Red in Pokemon Gold

Pokémon: The Tallest Mountain

When I was eight years old, I dropped my previous career aspiration of McDonald’s fry cook and set my sights on becoming a Pokémon master. Yet despite my passion for Pokémon, I was not very good at the games.

To be fair, the first generation of Pokémon was very tough. Professor Oak tempts you with a miniature dragon, then the first two gyms are rock- and water-types. Despite what the TV show claimed, Sabrina and her Psychic-type Pokémon have no weaknesses. I lost numerous times to my rival, Blue. After overcoming those obstacles, beating my first Pokémon game was a treasured childhood accomplishment.

Then the second generation came around, and this time I rolled through the game. None of the gyms posed any challenge. Unless you were an idiot and picked the grass-type starter, the first gym was a breeze. Psychic-types had a weakness. Silver, while a talented opponent, did not match up to Blue. I collected all sixteen badges with zero losses. Continue reading

LeBron James

LeBron: The Big One

I waste a lot of time on Reddit shoveling through tired memes and reposted questions. But occasionally I will stumble upon a worthwhile piece of content. This comment from /u/Arthur_Dayne made me reevaluate my opinion on LeBron James:

LeBron has never gotten the adulation from Miami that he has from Cleveland, and why would he? Sure, he delivered two titles, but in Miami, LeBron’s just a piece of a well-oiled championship machine. In Cleveland, he was a savior. He fell from heaven into our lap. The stars aligned for us to get the boy grown down the road in Akron. He was the messiah. We were all witnesses.

Let’s be honest – Michael Jordan has never inspired the fanaticism that LeBron James managed to inspire in Cleveland. Kids wanted to “be Like Mike”. Michael Jordan was an icon and a brand. LeBron James was a religion.

The big one kept eluding him. It was fine. We’d get it in the end. We only wanted one. That’s the funny thing – LeBron went to South Beach and it was clear that he’d wanted to win multiple championships — to be Like Mike. Cleveland had only wanted him to win one.

And then… The Decision…

It’s now been 50 years since Cleveland’s won a professional sports championship. 50 Years. It’s been four years since the Decision. I recognized then – and I recognize now – that the decision LeBron James made was a great decision for him personally and professionally: he won his championships, he upgraded his help, and he got to live in Miami which is a great city from everything I’ve heard.

But that’s what makes it hurt so bad: LeBron left not because he was afraid, not because he was weak, and not because he was unhappy.

He left because Miami was a better team, a better fit, and a better location than Cleveland.

All Cleveland had to offer was worship and unconditional love. And in the end, that wasn’t worth as much to him as we thought. That’s what hurt the most.

The Cavaliers may be struggling at the moment, but LeBron’s return to Cleveland still makes sense. He has a chance at being the greatest player of all time, but LeBron will never have the most championships. Bill Russell’s eleven is an untouchable number in the modern era. Even Michael Jordan’s six seems out of reach, although LeBron believed that feat was possible when he came to Miami.

The Heat then proceeded to have one of the greatest four year stretches in league history but still walked away with only two championships:

2010-2011: The Big Three take time to build chemistry but are eventually able to pull together and make the NBA Finals. However, Dirk Nowitzki has a dominating athletic performance, and his teammates step up at the right times, ensuring the Mavs win the series 4-2.

2011-2012: This was the Heat’s most successful season, but Miami still faced two elimination games in the Easter Conference Finals against the Celtics. And while they beat the Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, LeBron must have believed Oklahoma City was going to improve over the next few years, not knowing James Harden would be traded to the Rockets during the offseason.

2012-2013: The Heat were saved by Ray Allen’s Game 6 3-pointer against the Spurs. No championship team has ever come closer to losing their title.

2013-2014: In a rematch against the Spurs, this time Miami is destroyed. LeBron sees that the Heat are getting older, and the team will not improve.

Despite all of his talent and the spectacular team built around him, LeBron could have walked away from Miami with zero titles if events had occurred a little differently in 2012 and 2013. He is not getting another four rings.

But fortunately for LeBron, not all titles are equal. The Rockets’ two championships have asterisks next to them because they happened during Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Boston’s 2008 title, their first in over two decades, was more important than their 1963 one, which was Bill Russell and Red Auerbach’s sixth.

Right now there are two possible championships that would mean the most: 1) the New York Knicks winning their first title in over four decades and 2) the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first championship ever. /u/Arthur_Dayne is right. Cleveland only needs one title, and LeBron can bring that to his hometown.

Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, and Bill Russell are some of the greatest athletes ever, but is it just a coincidence that they worked with Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson, and Red Auerbach, some of the greatest coaches ever? Maybe those coaches are overrated. Maybe those players are overrated. Or maybe top players can create great situations around them, but the requirement to do so is to pick the team with the best opportunities and ignore your hometown ties.

LeBron did so in Miami but has now rejected that deal. Cleveland may have been a better opportunity than Miami at the time of his second decision, but the Cavs are hardly ideal. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have never taken their franchises to the playoffs. Cleveland has had little to no success with coaching or general managing.

But LeBron ignored the problems and risks because he knows that legacy is written in stories, not numbers. Wilt Chamberlain has The Hundred Point Game. Jordan has The Shot and The Flu Game. LeBron has The Decision and hopefully one day The Redemption.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

A Wild Sheep Chase: A Celebration of Mediocrity

I ruined my life. In high school, I was a straight A student who graduated sixth in my class of 800. I was easily accepted to the University of Texas as an honors biomedical engineering student with a full scholarship. My first semester GPA was a 4.0.

Then everything went to hell. I failed classes and lost my scholarship. Engineering turned into philosophy, bringing constant questions of, “Philosophy? What on earth are you going to do with that?” In May 2013, I dropped out and have been toiling away at the same grocery store I worked at in high school.

Family, friends, and teachers always told me I had a bright future. Last week, I had to clean human excrement off the floor. People were wrong about me. Continue reading

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: The Writer I Want to Be

Growing up, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed that legions of fans would wait in line for my illegible signature. My correspondence would be addressed from “#1 New York Times best-selling author Sir Matthew Wrench, (honorary) Ph.D.” After selling the TV rights to my trilogy of fantasy novels, I would retire at age 30 to a castle in Scotland with my supermodel wife.

There was only one setback; I cannot write fiction. Here is a typical passage from my literary efforts:

“David Sinestro was a bad man. Real bad. To him, the world was not black or white; it was black or dark, dark gray. He walked into the bar, twirled his mustache, and exclaimed to the protagonist, ‘Good morning. My name is David Sinestro.’” Continue reading

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Whatever Happened to the Games We Loved?

I have murdered countless innocents, even children. Armies have bowed before me. I have sown genocide across worlds. Worst of all, my atrocities entertained me. Growing up, I would play video games for hours at a time, living out my crazy power fantasies.

But as the years have gone by, video games no longer enrapture me. Super Smash Bros. is the clearest example of this. Recently, I picked up a copy for the 3DS. The game feels like Melee, one of my favorite games of all time.

But it is not Melee, and nothing ever will be. On Christmas Day 2001, I opened up a brand new GameCube and a copy of that game. I would play it with friends every afternoon during sixth grade. We heard unbelievable rumors around the school about unlockable characters like Mewtwo and Ganondorf. Each of us would brag about how we were the best, and the only way to settle the debate was by throwing down on Final Destination with no items. Continue reading

Prime rib from Kreuz Market

Smoky Ghosts

Leaving Austin along 183-S, there is a Dos Equis billboard that says, “His brisket coined the term ‘holy smoke’.” This sign is bullshit. The Most Interesting Man in the World is too busy making love to beautiful women to smoke meat, but it shows that even Dos Equis’ advertising agency knows there is only one reason to be on this road: You are going to Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas.

And by having the best barbecue in Texas, Lockhart is the barbecue capital of the world. Residents of Memphis, Kansas City, and the Carolinas may disagree; they would be wrong. Anybody can make good pulled pork. Brisket takes real skill, and in Lockhart, cattle is king.

Lockhart is home to four world-class barbecue joints: Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Smitty’s, and my personal favorite, Kreuz (pronounced “krites”). Kreuz Market has been around since 1900 but has been at its current location, a huge red brick building just off the main road, since 1999. If you get there early enough in the morning, the quietness and wide open spaces make it seem like the interior of a temple. To meat lovers, it is one. Continue reading

Austin, TX skyline

Two Days in Austin, TX

We listen to Lights’ Little Machines on the way to Austin. My sister wants to check out the University of Texas to help make her college decision. This will be my first time back at UT since I dropped out in May 2013. Lights sings, “It’s been a hard year with nothing to show.” That Canadian goddess gets me.

***

We walk down the Drag as the sun rises. Several buildings have changed. Ming’s Cafe has turned into a sandwich shop. I always thought there would be more time to have Ming’s General Tso’s chicken.

Were college girls always this young? They look like high schoolers with North Face jackets. Every time one of them looks at me, I assume she is thinking, “Look at the old geezer.” I preferred it when girls ignored me. Continue reading

Tottenham Hotspur crest

Why Spurs?

I am very argumentative. Rarely do I have opinions of my own; instead, I prefer to play devil’s advocate in order to sow discord and chaos. A typical conversation with me goes like this:

Her: Do you want Chipotle or Freebirds for lunch?

Me: I don’t care. You decide.

Her: I’m thinking Freebirds because—

Me: Freebirds is good if you enjoy animal cruelty.

I am a hit at parties.

This character flaw/superpower of combativeness played a critical role when choosing a soccer team to support. After the 2010 World Cup, I had caught soccer fever and wanted to start following the sport. While the Houston Dynamo are my local team, I wanted to watch soccer at its highest level, so my eyes turned to the English Premier League. Continue reading