Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Announcing the Video Game Book Club!

I got myself nominated for a video game award a week or so back, and found myself in really wonderful company. There's now a list on the internet that lists me and Neal Stephenson using the same <ul> bullets. Maybe in tens years' time I'll consider myself worthy of licking his <superscript>, but right now that list is clearly the work of idiots philistines those I am willing to agree to disagree about. (Edited because I shouldn't call people who might give me an award idiots or philistines.)

I heard that 2011 was a surprisingly good year for video game books. Just look at the nominees: Neal Stephenson, Jane McGonigal, Ernest Cline, Harold Goldberg. I've read and enjoyed all of the books nominated, and they're all great at what it is they do, which are five different things. (Teensy peek into my awards-head brain; if the award goes for best overall writing ability, Stephenson in a walk. for best world-changing ideas, McGonigal. best overall look at games, Goldberg. Most fun you'll have with paper with words on it: Ernest Cline. Best book with Super Mario on the cover: no award given in 2011.)

I have read far and wide for the video game canon. I have read all four massive books in Tad Williams' Otherland series. I've read Ender's Game. I've read just about every nonfiction book about gaming history. I've read strategy guides for games from 1982. But I haven't read everything. And I want to.

That's the purpose of the Video Game Book Club. Each month, I'll tackle another book on my own personal not-yet-read list. You do it, too, and we'll have a chat about the book. Maybe special guests will show up. Maybe I'll pretend that special guests show up. Maybe I'll just

So what's January's book? Let's do Geeks by Jon Katz. What I know about it: About two geeks who play video games. That's half of me!

February's book, by the way, is Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby. 

What'll we do in March? I don't know! I want to hear from you about that. What have you been dying to read? maybe you know of a YA book about games I haven't heard of that you can recommend. Hell, maybe we'll actually play a video game instead of read a book. "I was never really got the sense that the pigs were deserving of my anger. To me, I couldn't engage."

I'm at jeffryan1@gmail.com: let me know what you want to read in 2012!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

12/24-12/31: An omnibus of Mario

First off, I'm drawing a blank for a funny way of combining Mario and Omnibus for a portmanteau that makes sense. Mariomnibus? Maybe.

Second, here's what I missed during my slothful days off:

12/24: Nintendo had a contest not unlike the famous-in-comic-book-fan-circles 24-Hour Comic Book Challenge: a 24-hour movie contest, starring Nintendo characters. it's kind of amazing how much you can do in a day*.

*Don't assume these guys were basically chewing coffee beans by the end of the 24 hours just to keep going. Making things gives you an energy that's better than caffeine.

12/25: Thought briefly of posting a Super Mario death metal cover, but let's stay with the spirit: Here's a Mario gingerbread house. While you're mentally eating it, try to imagine how many Mario games Santa has delivered over the last 25 years.

12/26: End-of-year list time: Mario's making a lot of people's lists: Gamasutra, IGN, more Gamasutra, Escapist, Pocket Gamer,

12/27: Exchanging something from Christmas that you didn't want or need? Pick up one of these with your in-store credits: Mario-riding-Yoshi plush, Mario bamboo magnets, a LOTR/SMB mash-up t-shirt, or an actual Bob-omb from the dreadful Super Mario Bros. movie.

12/28: The rumors of the 3DS's death have been greatly exaggerated. Or, to put it another way: console launch with Mario game: yah! Console launch without Mario game: boo! I'm very curious if Nintendo will have  mario ready for the Wii U. I'm guessing...no.

My suspicion is that there's some printed-on-flash-paper-so-it-can-easily-burn document showing that a hardcore minority will buy ANY Nintendo console, and Nintendo releases Mario-less consoles and gets the early adopters, and then when the momentum is waning they call up the plumber and he "saves the day." But it's no different than Syndrome saving the Incredibles city from a giant robot: it's all a show. Or maybe Nintendo is so wonderfully stymied by the Wii success that they thought that anything they touches would magically turn to gold. (In movies I think this is called the Vin Diesel Circa 2002 Syndrome, and it has fallen some greats.)

12/29: For the second year in a row, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the year's most pirated Wii game. Congratulations?

12/30: When I would do interviews for the book, people would ask me what sort of challenges the Xbox 360 and the PS3 offered to Nintendo. And I'd always have to say that it was Apple who was Nintendo's biggest competitor. Just as Apple's quietly saved the music industry by destroying the very concept of a physical music store, they've changed the downloadable game in ways that it may take a generation to change. One could hardly say that Nintendo's copying Sony's or Microsoft's online game policy -- quick, try to have an online Smash Bros. game! -- but it has taken several pages from Apple's notebook. it's WiiWare shop is very similar to the App Store, except with higher prices, a confusing play-money system, and a teensy selection. Granted, that teensy selection contains most all of the games you'd want to play, but still.

Nintendo looks to keep stealing the iPlaybook.

12/31: The mod community had for what seems like years been teased and tempted by the prospect of a Super Mario 64 mod. It would be almost as big as the original game, one of Mario's all-time classics. And now you can see for yourself: go download it. You know, if you fall on the "meh" side the equation of how much this is copyright infringement and how much a new game using existing skins paying tribute to Nintendo's IP.

1/3: The year is dead! Long live the year!

I so, so wanted to finish strong. I wanted to have tons and tons of Mario-related things to post. But my day job, family obligations (like doing things with them), 8 hours a day cruelly, cruelly stolen from my hands by that despot Dream, and if I'm being totally honest a game called Words With Friends that might as well be sold cooked into rocks and smoked with a pipe -- all of that commingled and conspired to make me miss posts for about two weeks straight.

My experiment with the blog was to see if there was enough Super Mario news to have something different to talk about every day. I think I succeeded with statistically significant proof that there is. So in case that ever comes up in conversation, you know.

What other game characters could? Still unsure about Sonic the Hedgehog, but I bet Angry Birds could sustain a daily blog. Lara Croft, no. Solid Snake, no. Modern Warfare/Call of Duty franchises: no. Despite their huge popularity, people stop commenting on them a few months after they come out. Same with Madden. Pac-Man maybe, but there almost all the talk is nostalgia-based. Of the recent (with 10 years) games, Portal might come closest. Anyone looking to start one of their own blogs -- "My resolution is to blog more about video games" -- that's my advice.

I'm not going to stop this blog, but I will slow it down. maybe once every week or so I'll throw something up here. Most of what I'd otherwise be writing about I'll post on Twitter: if you want a daily source for Mario news, @dailymario will continue to not be inaccurately named.

And I'll have one last (backdated) 2011 post, listing all the stuff I WOULD HAVE written about if I had the chance/if my brother hadn't dropped QUOITS on me, necessitating me to hit him with CWM.

I've had a blast rummaging through the world's collective cerebellums, uncovering and discovering Mario memes, Mario songs, Mario movies, Mario games, Mario artwork, Mario cakes, and (only in Belgium) Mario stamps. Hope you had fun, too.