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Throwback Thursday: Shock!

When we talk about our favorite videogame experiences, we often fall back to techniques used by our ancestors when they talked about their favorite things. They would talk excitedly. Gesticulate. Embellish a little. Ramp up the drama. Save the punchline for last. They would become storytellers, and today, so do we.

Media -- and certainly videogames -- is all about storytelling. Implicit or implied, literal or metaphoric, there’s always a journey and an experience to be had -- a beginning and an end.

Or, in the case of some unfortunate franchises, a beginning and a slow spiral to a sad and largely unseen death.

Game developers have certainly gotten better at telling stories, at the very least. Bioshock Infinite released earlier this year in an explosion of outrageously positive reviews that showered praise upon, among other things, its deep and intelligent story.

We’re not going to debate the validity of those claims today -- I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite! What I want to discuss, however, is the way Infinite told multiple layers of that story, and how it hearkens back to a game that pioneered several storytelling techniques in videogames.

I’ll start you off with four words. “Look. At. You. Hacker.”

I see you!

System Shock starred you as the hacker -- a pathetic creature of meat and bone struggling to survive and escape a space station taken over by a rogue AI. The game was released by Looking Glass Studios in 1994, during the dawn of what was arguably the golden age for computer games. System Shock was the next step up in refinement and design after the two Ultima Underworld games, which were smoothly animated first person RPGs that featured dialogue systems and inventories and spellcasting back when Wolfenstein 3D was starting to get big among shooter fans.

System Shock had no dialogue system to speak of, though; the story behind this is that the team wanted to have believable characters populating Citadel Station, but that the technology they had to work with at the time was insufficient to portray living, breathing people on a space station. Not wanting to break the atmosphere, the developers came up with a simple and brilliant solution: kill everyone on board.

In a video game, corpses are way more convincing than characters who are supposed to be alive.

This decision led to the development of the logs: instead of going down to Engineering and talking up the chief engineer to figure out how to restore some of the station’s systems, the player was now required to go down to Engineering and investigate the work logs left behind by the chief engineer. Y’know, because he’s dead and hopefully he was dutiful enough to record his thoughts on his daily work log. Or at least in his private nighttime audio diary. The logs held the clues that allowed the player to progress in the game.

I always thought it was weird that my data reader looked like a gun, though.

The logs also allowed the writers to tell several other stories that ran parallel to the game. Each level was populated by the logs of several characters who would most likely be there -- the doctors’ logs were on medical, the people in charge of cargo had logs on the flight deck, and so on. If you looked hard enough and you’re able to gather enough logs, you can piece together the story of how things unfolded right before you arrived. Usually it’s not required to progress through the game, but these logs serve the same purpose as dialogue did in older computer RPGs: they populated the game world with a myriad of interesting characters who provided flavor and set the scene.

In a nice touch, the logs also continue to play even after the inventory has been closed, which means the player can continue to explore the station while listening to the final thoughts of its former occupants. This sometimes makes for some creepy moments when you run into a fight while listening to a character’s dying words.

Communication with living characters was also one-sided, which maintained the coherency of the design.

It may seem commonplace now, but this was clever and quite mind-blowing back in the day. Other games followed suit: the log technique persists in other horror sci-fi games like Doom 3 and Dead Space, and of course, it lived on in Bioshock, the spiritual successor of the System Shock series.

System Shock 2 took the ideas of the original and made them even better. Scenes from the past actually played out before the player’s eyes as ghostly apparitions, which were explained in-game as psychic residue being picked up by the player character’s military grade cyber rig. This became yet another storytelling tool as you witnessed the crew’s descent into infighting and madness. Again, the ghost technique lived on in Bioshock, although “memories passed on through genetic sampling” was not so satisfying an explanation, reeking just a teeny bit of Assassin's Creed's Animus.

He's not smelling the gun. Ghosts are just transparent and confusing.

Disappointingly, these clever methods of telling stories are diminishing as technology catches up to the visions of game developers. There are still some intriguing parallel plots to be picked up on in Bioshock Infinite, but most of the plot and flavor is now delivered directly on-screen as cutscenes and in-game spectacle. It’s like the difference between reading about something and getting the same information injected directly into your eyeball with a syringe. Games like Tomb Raider and The Last of Us tell bits and snippets of smaller stories in the logs and notes that you come across, but you’re never left wondering about anything that happened that directly relates to you as the main character. There’s a sense of mystery and active thinking and piecing together that has been lost, and I miss it.

More than any other game before it, System Shock let me experience a well-written story at my own pace, and let me put things together and fill in the gaps with my own reasoning and imagination. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong genres in games today, but I hope this kind of storytelling challenge will still live on somewhere.

System Shock 2 is available on GOG: http://www.gog.com/gamecard/system_shock_2 System Shock is not, but read here to get a copy up and running: http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=211.0

Anything to add or comment? Send us a message!

Throwback Thursday: The Gameboy

MJ2Za9Vhm3ef6rwwGrhEG9Qb_500 I've always had a love affair with handhelds. I would like to think it’s the allure of bringing your gaming anytime and anywhere. I'm sure we've all had moments of sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting  to be called. Or times when you're in a long plane ride and the in-flight movie sucks, but you really need to pass the time. Your only salvation from stepping into madness was powering on that handheld device of yours and losing yourself in the game until the flight attendant announces that the plane is on its final approach and all electronic devices must be turned off.

I was a very fortunate boy to be able to travel around the globe at such a young age. When my mom told me that we were going for a tour of Europe during one of our summer breaks, I was pretty excited and also terrified that I might be bored out of my mind on that 14 hour plane ride. At that time I already had a Gameboy, but my game collection was limited to Tetris and Super Mario Land, both games that required patience and resilience, which at 10 years old, I really did not have. Thankfully, my cousin, who was generous enough to lend me his Gameboy Carry-All set and a number of games, came to my rescue. I will be forever grateful for his goodwill and generosity.

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The Gameboy Portable Carry-All, to my young eyes, was like the Lost Ark (except it didn’t melt your face when you opened it). It could hold and carry a very important accessory called the Lightboy. It magnified and lit up your screen for low-light situations, such as an airplane cabin. And of course, most important of all the Carry-All could hold a couple of games and keep your Gameboy locked and secured when you’re travelling about. It was the perfect traveling kit for any would-be globe trotting gamer and I was grateful to have it with me.

travel_board

When we traveled abroad, we had to go through with countless plane rides and layovers, riding in train cars and waiting on train platforms and of course long car rides. My Gameboy kit kept me company in the dullest of times and I would shift from winning races and drifting around the track in Super R.C. Pro-Am or going on an adventure and hopping in and out of my vehicle in Blaster Master. I vaguely remember the sights (forgive me I was 10), and in addition to those sights I can remember such as the Louvre and actually seeing the Mona Lisa, or how afraid I was in the catacombs of Rome, I will always cherish seeing all these historical sights. But forever will I associate with my first time to Europe was my Gameboy and that magical grey colored plastic box that it came with and how it always kept me company.

Throwback Thursday: The Arcade Monster

Last week, James regaled us with a wistful tale about his childhood visits to the arcade -- the colorful cabinets, the dazzling variety of peripherals, and just that feeling you get when you’re slogging your way to your favorite game with your pocket weighed down and jangling with tokens. With enough tokens, everything was all right with the world.

Just thinking about it strikes such a chord in me that I kind of want to talk about my own arcade experience. Yeah. I think that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Down by the highway from my house -- about ten to fifteen minutes’ walk -- is a dingy building whose entire ground floor is occupied by a warehouse store for new and second-hand imported clothes -- ukay ukay, as we call them in the Philippines. Outdoor stairs lead up to a collection of small businesses -- a bunch of hardware and textile stores, a video rental place, and a satellite office for a travel agency. The place has always been dusty and noisy and just a little bit seedy, but one thing has changed: one of those hardware stores used to be an arcade almost twenty years ago.

Swords and sorcery! King of Dragons was a high point of my arcade history.

It was a proper arcade, too -- no silly and gimmicky novelty games to be found. It had all the good stuff of the time: Capcom beat-’em-ups like King of Dragons and Knights of the Round, vertical scrolling shooters, a generous number of shooty-shooty games like Aliens and that 2D one with the scary monsters on a rooftop, and unit upon unit of the legendary Street Fighter II. I used to bound up the narrow metal steps, waiting for the official chorus of any good arcade to hit my ears: five or more instances of a scratchy voice yelling “Hadoken!” over and over to the tune of screeching elephants. You know what I’m talking about. That was the good stuff.

The place was dark -- you wouldn’t be able to make out anyone’s face unless he was really leaning over an arcade screen. Homeless kids loitered around the area, both outside and inside. There was no smoking, but a haze and a funny smell seemed to perpetually hang in the air. A loud but tinny radio blasted out the latest pop hits from a pair of busted speakers mounted high in the corners, drowning out what little sound had escaped the thick blanket of all the video game noise. I would slide my money over a cheap painted wooden counter to the attendant, and she’d count out my tokens out of a little drawer where all the shiny coins would be lined up in neat little rows. 5 pesos (0.10 USD today or thereabouts) per token -- I think that was the going rate back then. I’d make my way to a vacant game, and if it was a sit-down cabinet, I’d reach out for the seat with the least number of holes in it.

I remember one thing quite clearly: the kids on the Street Fighter II machines were vicious.

I know how you feel, guys. I know how you feel.

I was part of the generation that elevated Street Fighter II into gaming legend, but when it was brand new, I was still too young to master it, let alone play it properly. The extent of my knowledge was a tip or a move here and there from the five minutes that I was able to rip the Street Fighter II Strategy Guide from a classmate’s hands in school before he took it back angrily. Besides, it was all the cool kids would talk about all day. I knew how charge moves worked in principle. I knew how to throw a Sonic Boom.

One day, I bravely stepped up to a surprisingly unattended Street Fighter cabinet and plunked in my tokens. Guile was cool and he had a mohawk and there was a jet in the background of his stage, so I picked him. Out of nowhere, a larger kid materialized and fed the machine, too. His fingers tapped at the cabinet anxiously. He gave no indication that he had noticed I was standing there, mouth agape, hands clammy, and terrified to death.

He chose Blanka, who was second only to Zangief in the schoolyard list of characters we never wanted to play. Blanka was ugly. Everyone wanted to be Guile and Ken. Who picks Blanka?

U-S-A! U-S-A!

I had no idea at the time that my palms were sweating profusely. The announcer called Round 1, and I successfully let loose with a Sonic Boom that was cleverly charged during the round call! That should surprise my unwanted guest! Special delivery! I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Then the guy destroyed me with spins that went all over the place and attacks that interrupted my own at every opportunity like he could read my mind. To make things worse, he gave me round two, idly standing there and checking his fingernails while I beat up on Blanka with the sad resignation of a man on death row. Or an intelligent fat dude trying a fad diet.

I desperately tried to rally in the third round, but the big kid decimated my Guile with seemingly no effort. I stepped away from the machine, my hands still curled into little claws from when they gripped the controls. I walked away in a daze, and I kept walking until I was out on the street and on the way home.

Here is the architect of all my misery.

Losing felt bad. Humiliation felt even worse. No one I knew was there to witness my graceless defeat, but I felt terrible and empty all the same. The big kid had swooped in and killed my fun like a big bully -- like a monster in his habitat, just waiting to be defeated.

Some people would have taken that as a challenge, but maybe it was too early for me. I was a veteran of Donkey Kong 3 and Super Mario -- a kid whose games existed solely to elevate me to hero status. No hero gets beat up and given the second round only to get beat up again in the end.

This story does not end with a mighty battle between the underdog boy (who had been secretly practicing the game throughout a rad New Wave montage) and the bigger punk who thought he was hot shit. I really did walk away. What’s more, I didn’t touch another fighting game machine in public again until I was well into high school, and even then, only very hesitantly. I came back to that arcade a few more times with my friends to play King of Dragons or the Simpsons arcade game, but I never did muster up enough courage to walk back up to one of those Street Fighter II machines for fear of getting sniped once again.

Arooooo!

My dad got me a Super NES version of Street Fighter II during those dark years, and I regained my confidence even as I reveled in destroying my older cousins who couldn’t do a fireball motion to save their skin. I defeated them with Guile, and Ryu, and E. Honda, and even with Blanka. I threw a round or two to keep them interested, feigning defeat with all the smug sincerity of a dope pusher, but I was the hero. I came out on top in the end, and there was nothing the household could do about it.

And that was when I knew that I myself had turned into the monster of my own little world.

Throwback Thursday: A wild ride with video game music!

You can hum the Super Mario theme, right? In fact, if you were born at any point from the late 70s to the early 90s, you’re probably already hearing it in your head right now. Our heads are filled with all sorts of tunes -- songs we heard over and over in our childhood, songs our moms and dads used to listen to, songs we used to play at full volume when we were in high school (to the dismay of our families and neighbors), and of course, songs that accompanied our forays into the Mushroom Kingdom. Or Gotham. Or Citadel Station. Or a grand city far away, long forgotten and lost to the elements. Or that store on Bourbon Street -- the one that sells rare books.

Surely you’ve heard this one. Or this one. And I hear this one goes with everything. Good themes are extensions of the characters and the stories themselves. TV knows this (or used to know this, at least). Movies are even better in this regard. However, games have been doing this since the inception of the medium, and it’s been quite a feat considering the hardware that the game composers of yore had to struggle with.

Please note that I’m not an expert of any sort in music and I’m not looking to share any great technical insights about music today -- although I did compile a small list of related reads and stuck them at the end of this article. What I’m here for today, though, is just to take you on a brief and wonderful ride through some of the tunes I remember and love from my youth.

This amazing journey starts now!

Hold on. Here we go!

Mega Man - Elec Man - This is the first ever level of Mega Man that I played. My first memory of the game is of me struggling to get to the top of the first screen to the tune of something that sounded like a low-fi demake of a Journey song.

The Legend of Kage - The official theme song of running through a rainy forest and leaping from tree to tree while pelting evil ninja with throwing stars.

Defender of the Crown - Here’s something that, in spite of being just a bunch of notes mushed together, still succeeded in conveying setting and mood. A perennial PC favorite that I would judge other great PC games by.

Maniac Mansion - Booboop boop boop booboop be doop doop.

DuckTales - The Moon - Just classic.

Bionic Commando - Mission 1 - This music contributed much to the feeling that you were really hitting the ground running. It’s quite possibly the most badass way to parachute into a Neo Nazi-infested base with no reinforcements incoming.

Some years later, my Famicom died and I started getting into 16-bit and the PC.

Lagoon - Lagoon Castle - Everyone today says this is a crappy game, but it was my first action-RPG on the SNES and I played it to death. Plus the music is still pretty good.

Quest for Glory - I also properly discovered PC gaming during this time. This track has basically grafted itself into my DNA at this point.

Streets of Rage 2 - Come on. This was just so good.

The Hand of Fate - Darkmoor Swamp - This game made me hang around the swamp for longer than I had to just to listen to this toe-tapping number by the composer of Red Alert’s Hell March, Frank Klepacki.

Gabriel Knight - This track by Robert Holmes that opened this occult murder mystery was very much like the store in which the opening scene took place -- moody and soulful, melancholy yet cozy.

And then I really got into PC gaming.

Strike Commander - Takeoff - Awesome and dramatic air combat in an 80s way.

Day of the Tentacle - Intro - This game had me repeating the opening sequence over and over just to listen to this music!

Doom - E1M3 - Just the perfect blend of kickassery and dread that said, “There’s no way out of this mess, but I’m gonna look real good while I die trying.”

Diablo - Cathedral - Composer Matt Uelmen’s proof that atmospheric music doesn’t have to sacrifice melody for presence. The motif in this song evolved into a series staple that was often repeated in the sequels, but never truly matched.

Evil Genius - Bouncy, classy, and deliciously evil.

Hitman: Contracts - I could hardly believe this was by Jesper Kyd, the same composer who created the sweeping orchestral soundtrack of Hitman 2. This one hit the game’s themes spot on: dark, calculating, and deeply personal.

Call of Duty - Red Square - You laugh. You scoff. Call of Duty? Surely not! But think back to the Russian charge at Red Square in the very first game. There was indeed a time when Call of Duty almost moved me to tears.

Although all that PC gaming that didn’t mean I totally stopped playing console stuff.

Symphony of the Night - Olrox’s Quarters - This menacing waltz is what you bring out when someone requests “haunting, beautiful, and disturbing”. I may be in the minority, but I still say Castlevania could have used less heavy metal and more of this kind of music.

Ace Combat 04 - Shattered Skies - “Mobius One, Fox Two!” *Missile wooshing sounds*

Metal Gear Solid 2 - Main Theme - This one is just incredible.

Shadow of the Colossus - Sign of the Colossus - And this one reminds me of the weird old movies they used on show on tv during weekday afternoons -- the bad, unrecognizable ones with the undeniable 70s vibe.

Persona 3 - Changing Seasons - And I just had to stick this here to top it all off with a some catchy Jpop.

If you’re in the mood for some further reading about video game music, here are some links on the subject that you might like.

Related articles

That’s all for now. I’ve lost enough time just sitting here listening to old video game music! I hope you enjoyed taking this short trip with me. If you have any favorite video game tracks that I haven’t mentioned here -- and I'm sure you do -- let us know and share your happy memories with us!

Throwback Thursday: That Saturday morning feel

playing video games with friends Saturday mornings meant a lot to me back in the day. It meant that I was free to play video games all day long, because I was absolutely prohibited by my parents to play on weekdays. I would wake up earlier than I would have on a weekday, because I didn't want to waste my golden gaming time. I'd hurriedly go to the room where my console and PC were kept and excitedly flip the switches, crank the knobs to introduce life to my electronic friends. I would think for a moment and browse through my collection of games and once I picked out that cartridge or diskette, I would lose myself just playing. Next thing I knew, it was time for lunch and I had to go down -- grumpily I might say -- to hurriedly finish my food and continue my pixelated adventure. And then it would be time for dinner and soon after, for bed.

This steady cycle lost itself significantly when I was in high school where bedtime didn't really mean 9pm, but only because that quest or mission could now easily finish at around 2 or 3am. That youthful stamina! How I miss it! Nowadays, I could only take a maximum of 2 hours per gaming session. More than that and I would start to get cranky or my wife will start giving me the evil eye and nag me that I’m spending too much time in front of the computer again.

final-fantasy-viii-battle-theme

Saturday mornings meant the start of gaming freedom. Nobody can tell you what you can or can't do. You can go wild and play that game of Elevator Action for the umpteenth time and no one is going to judge you since it is, well, a Saturday morning.

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Now being 30 something years old, I still go into my Saturday mornings bright eyed and excited -- excited to spend more time with my wife to go that movie date that we planned a few days before and to enjoy her company. And if she is the mood, we'd build our cities together in SimCity or level up our characters in Torchlight 2. God I still love my Saturday mornings!

Retro Let's Play Video Special!

Hello, friends! I come bearing gifts of nostalgia and simpler times! I had been watching these videos last weekend and I thought they might stir something in you as well -- something that has lain dormant for the past 15 to 20 years! Join me in this wild and totally theme-free ride!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game!

I've been watching the original 1987 cartoon recently because I'M AN ADULT AND NO ONE CAN JUDGE ME. I like how each turtle has his own special pose at the end of this level when Shredder kidnaps April and crashes through the window -- only the players present will be shown. Cowabunga and all that!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9nJ-9kZhJQ

D&D Chronicles of Mystara: The Dwarf!

I never played this in arcades, but I played the shit out of these games on emulators back in the day! These beat-em-ups are beautiful, action-packed, and astonishingly deep. It's coming out on all the major platforms including Steam, so you have no excuse to not be interested!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tntf6mGryg

Legendary Wings!

Now here's a disturbing entry you may or may not have played. You play a winged warrior flying over what seems to be post-apocalyptic future-tech ancient Greece, if that makes any sense. Keep your eyes peeled for the terrifying giant face and what it hides within its maw!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzQE9YYBZbU

Harvester!

And since we're on the topic of disturbing, here's Harvester. This is one of the great horror games of the 90s CD-ROM era, which you'll know isn't saying much if you grew up during the 90s CD-ROM era. Lose yourself in this bizarre, nightmarish, and utterly campy depiction of 1950s Americana!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q29DkqdGaw

Check back later this week as we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Happy viewing!

Throwback Thursday: Mega Man is a robot

It was a warm Sunday afternoon when my six-year-old nephew walked -- ran, tumbled, materialized, crash-landed -- into the family room, shattering my tranquil state of mind as I busily shot bad guys from rooftops, balconies, and bridges while piloting a jetski through a flooded section of an abandoned Spanish colony.

The boy was very much in awe of what was happening on-screen.

“What’s that you’re playing, Uncle Jed?”

“Uncharted.”

He repeated the unfamiliar name. Uncharted. He pointed to the TV. “What’s his name?”

“Nathan Drake.”

He probably thought that was a mouthful, because he fell silent and just watched. I continued my journey through the flooded city, blasting enemies out of their perches with a grenade launcher. I was also terribly concerned that the boy was picking up some unhealthy ideas from all the violence going on.

Then again, his grandmother brought him up on a healthy diet of Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and he was certainly no stranger to Hollywood violence.

Finally, I reached a spot where the heroes could disembark and continue their murder spree on dry land. The boy leaned forward, guarded but eager.

“Can I try?”

Hm. This was certainly a situation I had never found myself in at his age. I had always been the expert on video games, even as a pre-schooler. The very idea of a grown-up teaching a kid how to play a video game was alien to me, and yet here I was, about to do that very thing as I handed over the controller, all the while thinking about what a bad parent I might make.

“Hold this to aim. Press this to fire. You can take cover behind a wall by pressing this. You run with this, but if you want to walk you have to push it just a little bit. You pick things up with this. You can change your weapon by pressing this or this. And use the right stick to look around.”

He struggled for a bit with the complex instructions -- a boy of the touchscreen era trying to come to terms with yesterday’s technology. Soon, though, he was scoring headshots and timing reloads with frightful competency. I was starting to feel that he’s had enough.

“I have another game you can try,” I cut in.

“What’s that?”

“You play a blue robot. It’s called Mega Man.”

His eyes lit up. “A robot?” He was already handing over the controller to me, oblivious of highly important things like saving progress, checkpoints, and achievements.

I quit Uncharted and fired up Mega Man 9. “This is what games used to look like when I was a kid,” I told him almost wistfully.

He nodded but kept watching. He offered no comments about how ugly everything was. We sat through the cheesy intro and I started the game. We were greeted by the traditional stage select screen.

“Which robot do you want to fight?” I asked.

“That blue one!” he immediately said while pointing.

“You, uh, you can’t do that. That’s you.”

“Oh... okay, that one.”

I began to teach him the ropes. “Use this to move. This makes you jump. This makes you shoot.” And that was everything he needed to know. I was actually pleased at how elegant that all was.

So the boy embarked on his great journey... and fell into a bottomless pit right on the first screen of the level.

“Yeah, that’s a hard jump,” I commented.

The boy embarked on his great journey once again and made the leap across the bottomless pit. Seconds later, he was cowering under a ledge with two bars of life left, too afraid to jump up to face the enemy robot up there, and wondering where else he can go.

“That’s tough,” I said. “You should have known where those enemies would be so you wouldn’t take so much damage.”

He grunted in response. A moment later, he exploded in a starburst of blinking white circles. The third time he attempted it, he made it to the ladder on the very top of the screen.

“Yes!” we yelled.

He died on the next screen. Maybe some kind of robotic egg dropped on him. I don’t quite remember. What’s certain was that we were soon staring at the game over screen.

“That takes you back to the level you were playing,” I explained while pointing at the menu choices. “That lets you choose a new robot to fight.”

He chose a new robot and began exploring a new level. Minutes later, we were greeted by the game over screen once again. The cycle repeated, and I must have dozed off because the next thing I remember was my nephew shaking me awake, handing me the controller and telling me he had to go.

“Thanks,” he hurriedly added, sprinting off while humming -- was it some 8-bit tune he heard just minutes ago?

I shrugged and went back to slaughtering pirates in Uncharted.

The following week, the boy reappeared in the family room, ready for another exciting afternoon of gaming. I was much farther in Uncharted now, and I caught him up on the story as I traversed a slew of impossible jumps and crumbling ledges. Soon, another firefight exploded onto the screen.

Convinced that I really was destined to be a rotten parent, I turned to him with an offering of unbridled and uncensored movie-grade violence. “You want to play this fight?”

He shook his head. “I want to play the game with the blue robot.”

“But that looks like an old game.”

“It’s nice.”

Fine, then. I fired up Mega Man 9 and handed him the controller. “Why do you like this better? Isn’t Uncharted just like the Indiana Jones movies your lola likes so much?”

“Mega Man is a robot.”

As if that was explanation enough. I settled in on the couch, resting my eyes while I lazily answered the series of rapid-fire questions he was starting to ask. “Why does he look like a human? Why is there a gun on his arm? Why does he make that face when he jumps?”

Questions we’ve always wanted to know in our own youth. I think the boy is going to turn out just fine.

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