Ready Player One

My first experience with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was as an audiobook narrated by nerd megastar Wil Wheaton. The novel was recommended to me by a nerd friend of mine and after months of putting it off, I purchased the audiobook and spent a few days getting through it.  My thought at the time was that it was a decent story but wasn’t anything special.  When Ready Player One was announced as a movie, I was intrigued but skeptical that the weak story would make for a bad movie. As it turns out, my enjoyment with the movie had more to do with what drew me to the novel in the first place: familiar references and video games.

Like the novel it’s based on, Ready Player One is full of references to pop culture of years past. All of these references make up the world of the OASIS, a Virtual Reality MMORPG created by game designer James Halliday which is primarily used as an escape from the dystopia that is the year 2044. The movie starts with Van Halen’s Jump, setting the tone for what you can expect going forward. The movie takes advantage of the visual medium of motion picture and replaces dungeon crawling, e-mail and text messaging, and video game expertise with action sequences and more action sequences. This leads to some plot changes, which may be jarring if you read the novel first but are acceptable changes for the jump to the big screen.

What’s lost in translation, however, is one of the things that the novel does right: character development. Novel-Parzival starts as a portly high school student, but ends up a more mature, physically fit character that’s still a Gary Sue but at least learned a bit along the way. Movie-Parzival isn’t a student, isn’t fat and doesn’t learn the same lessons he did in the novel thanks to the omission of some key story points. Part of Parzival’s character development is linked to the love interest, Art3mis, and her character’s development is just as diminished; In the movie, she goes from “don’t tell me who you are” to “hi I’m Art3mis IRL” within minutes. While I get that the story has to move quickly in a movie setting, the shift between “don’t trust anyone” to “I trust you with my identity even though I didn’t want to know yours” is still a bit jarring. Meanwhile, the other members of the main cast aren’t properly developed as they were in the novel. For instance, Aech was Parzival’s best friend from high school whose knowledge in the culture surrounding Halliday matched Parzival’s. Aech’s private chat room was the cornerstone of a lot of plot events in the novel and really set up and illustrated Aech and Parzival’s friendship, but for the chat room to instead appear as a… mechanic’s garage in the movie (because Aech is a mechanic in this OASIS, apparently) is a change that takes away from the bond that Aech and Parzival have. Daito and Shoto (… *cough*, I mean, Sho) also have scaled-back roles in the movie. One of these characters is straight-up killed in the novel, and while I can see the need for a streamlined plot in the movie, it seems the characters’ development was slaughtered in place of an actual character.

The changes in the hunt for Halliday’s Easter Egg in the movie make sense in a movie setting. First, the number of things the players had to do were cut dramatically, likely for running time reasons but probably for licensing reasons as well (because getting the rights to Dungeon and Dragons and the movie WarGames for minor plot points seems like a waste of resources). In the novel, the players were forced to “do a thing to find a key to get a clue to a gate then do a thing to unlock the gate and get a clue to the next key” repeated twice, while the movie cuts this down to “do a thing to find a key and a clue to the next key” repeated twice. The new challenges for the keys fit the flavor of the original novel, so while it’s different, it’s still in the spirit of what James Halliday would have done to make players jump through the hoops he intended. The challenges themselves are visually appealing and center around action instead of arcade gameplay. It’s clear that the movie wanted to stay away from anything that could be considered “boring”, which is good and bad. Usually, “not boring” is good, but it ends up being bad towards the end of the movie where a lot of the conflict in the climax felt like manufactured drama instead of being naturally dramatic.

Overall, the movie is a decent. It’s neither groundbreaking nor innovative, there’s no earth-shattering revelations, no playing with tropes, and the story is relatively safe. While the acting certainly isn’t bad, the actors are dealing with characters that aren’t properly developed, so there’s only so much they can do with that. Visually, the OASIS is stunning and full of so much detail, viewers may find themselves watching the movie again trying to find references they missed the first time. They might try to find their own Easter Eggs in Ready Player One. (The animation studio RoosterTeeth allowed Ruby Rose from RWBY and her signature weapon to be used in the Ready Player One, so I was on the lookout for both but couldn’t find either one.)

If you like anything geek-related from the 80’s and beyond, and you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie, Ready Player One is a decent choice.


Just Introvert Things

Hello Again

Hello!  New here?  You probably are, since I’ve somewhat neglected this place for a while.

Let me tell you the story of “Here it is…

This started as a personal blog when I was in college.  Back in those bygone days of the early 2000’s, there was no Facebook or Twitter.  If you wanted your own personal space on the internet to call your own, you needed a blog of some kind.  Bloggers tended to be on dedicated sites for blogs like the appropriately named blogger or the oddly named Xanga.  Some would use free web hosting like Angelfire or Geocities.  Here it is… started as none of these, as I was able to use my university’s web space as my web host.  Looking back, I probably violated a few TOS’s or made someone in IT angry for using the technology in a way they didn’t intend.

Here it is… existed as a blogspot and would get regular updates as I saw fit.  I would write about the very important concerns of a 20-something suburban college student, like… student government affairs… what was being served in the dining halls… my feelings on classes, tests, and professors on campus… and how I’m bad at talking to girls…

Yes. This is what you came here for. Dogs shitting.

A graphical representation of me producing a blog, circa 2001-2005

So yeah, there was literally no reason anyone outside of my social circle would find what I was writing and publishing worth reading and wasting time for.  Hell, I’m not even sure my social circle found my ramblings entertaining.  BUT ALL OF THAT CHANGED ONCE I GRADUATED.  THEN I BECAME A REALLY INTERESTING AND FUNNY PERSON, WITH REAL AND INTERESTING OPINIONS ON THINGS THAT MATTER, I TELL YOU WHAT

… ok, maybe not.

I joined in the fall of 2004.  The functionality of the site was very limited at the time: the only updates you could make were to your profile attributes, your picture, your relationship status and what you were looking for, which included the options “dating”, “random play” and “whatever I can get”.  (Just in case you didn’t know thefacebook was for college kids looking to bang anything in sight, this was your confirmation.)  With status updates being a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye (or in Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone‘s eyes), real-time “status updates” were left to where they started: AOL Instant Messenger’s away messages.

But once Twitter and Facebook figured out how to make AIM obsolete… AIM became obsolete, and so did my blog, since every shit post that I’d want to give to the world could go on facebook and reach more people than my personal blog ever could.

For a while, Facebook allowed for an external site to import blog entries via RSS and have them turned into “Notes”, which is Facebook’s equivalent of a blog.  But once that functionality ceased, so did any reason to keep Here it is… maintained in any way.

So why am I back here?  Why am I prattling on about how this place is dead and why it sucked and became obsolete?  Because, as you’ve probably surmised, Here it is… is no longer obsolete; no longer dead, and no longer sucks (he says with a completely straight face).

In the years between Facebook and Twitter taking over social media, I’ve changed a fair bit from the boring-ass 20-year-old who posted well-meaning garbage and expected a positive response.  I’m now a 30-something who occasionally posts memes on his Facebook, but I also became a freelance writer and, as it turns out, became better at writing.  Who knew?!

To that end, I’ve restarted this blog.  It will fill a void that Facebook and Twitter are currently not satisfying for me: long-form posts.  While Facebook does use Notes, its not terribly popular except for chain-letter-like lists.  Putting my long posts here gives me more control over the presentation and the administration, which is important to me going forward.

My goal is to put a post up once a week.  The topics will vary wildly.  As my online handle implies, I love games of all kinds, so you can expect most of the content to be about games; video games, card games, board games, table top, role playing games, and so on.  You could also expect random musing about life, observations on things and stuff, and sometimes you’ll get a picture of a dog shitting, of which I’ve filled my quota this week.

My name is Joe.  Welcome to Here it is…

1994 Blockbuster Video World Game Championship: The End

This weekend was the “big thing” in my life up to this point. This would be a defining moment in my life. (P.S. in case you don’t notice, I jump between present, past and future tense in this write-up. I’m not submitting this for a writing award, so just bear with it.)

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1994 Blockbuster Video World Game Championship: The Middle

Continuing the story of Joe and his video game tournament journey…

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1994 Blockbuster Video World Game Championship: The Intro

If you tried searching for “1994 Blockbuster Video World Game Championship” on the internet’s most popular search engines, chances are you’ll come up dry. There’s not a lot of information out there on the event, which is a shame for me since it was a big moment in my life way back in the day.

By complete happenstance, while searching for my stored-away college diploma and transcripts, I found 2 folders, contents completely intact, of information about the finals of the competition, which were held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Seeing no other information out there on the subject, it is my self-appointed duty to present this info to the masses, right here, on! *cheap pop*

I’ll start off with what I know about the beginning of the tournament (unfortunately, I have no physical evidence to back up my claims of anything before the finals, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.) The tournament started at the local level. Competitors entered the tournament at their local Blockbuster Video store and chose to compete on one of two systems: Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. My choice was the Genesis, so most info I can remember is about that format. For each system, each store would have players compete in 3 games on their system. Each game had its own scoring rubric which was based on the in-game score plus bonuses. Players would have to arrive at the store at specified times to play one of their games. The 3 game scores are combined to determine a store champion who would advance to regionals.

The games for the Genesis were NBA Jam, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Virtua Racer. NBA Jam had players play against the computer for 2 quarters. To get the player’s tournament score, the player’s in-game score was multiplied by some amount (1000, I believe) and a bonus was given if the player outscored the computer (guessing 5000). I don’t exactly remember Sonic 3’s scoring rubric; it may have been in-game score with no additional adjustments. I don’t remember Virtua Racer’s scoring at all. The first round was NBA Jam, where I scored 32 points in my allotted time. I was in 8th place after round 1. Round 2 was Sonic 3, where I was the only person in my store who knew how to get a Perfect in the Special Stage (and for those that remember, Perfects get you 50,000 points). After the second round, I had a commanding lead that I didn’t relinquish. Joe is the store champion! (I still have the shirt to prove it.)

Before the next entry: Pictures of the shirt will be edited into this post.
Next entry: The Regional Tournament and the Finals!
The entry after that: PDF scans of all the paper documents I have (to give the whole story some credibility. Credibility is a nice thing to have, after all.)