Monday, June 30, 2008

Rock Band 2, GH: Aerosmith, and MORE!

This week's entry is a big extended edition, packed with features! And it's a day early, I know, but I couldn't wait when I heard the news today about Rock Band 2!

So this past Sunday, Guitar Hero Aerosmith came out, and we picked up the deluxe edition (because I needed an Aerosmith Guitar, you understand…neeeeeeded it). Before playing, I reviewed the “tour book” that comes with this edition, and it was pretty cool, definitely got me hyped to start playing, though in two places, I spotted the ominous phrase, “Joe Perry Guitar Battle” - I do not like the guitar battles, I really don't.

There are only like 40 Aerosmith songs total, I think, and the ones that were available on earlier editions of Guitar Hero aren’t all available here. Which is silly to me, they should all be available as free downloads – it’s an Aerosmith version of GH, isn’t it? They should suspect people who buy it are looking to play Aerosmith songs. And given the low-ish song count, there better be a ton of downloads in the plans for this – and I’m sure there are…cha-ching

I’ve only gotten to the second venue now, but so far the “intersecting bands” songs that are included and are not Aerosmith are still very enjoyable. I especially loved playing Dream Police by Cheap Trick, and scored my first perfect GH play-through on The Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night. Here’s the full GH: Aerosmith set list if you want to see it.

I’m starting to realize that while I LOVE Aerosmith, I’m just not that crazy about Guitar Hero (plus I’ll never forgive them for what they did to Rock of Ages). I think it’s because I didn’t really start playing till Rock Band came out. I strongly prefer the character creation options of RB, and the wardrobes are a TON better too. I’m also just used to the user interface and graphical style of RB. I have to say that while Steven Tyler’s likeness MOVES very much like him, I was a little disappointed that the face didn’t look more like him. In the end, I’m playing songs from one of my favorite bands, so I’m happy regardless, and am dying to get to the Run DMC version of Walk This Way. I’m not complaining, really, just saying that in my perfect world, this would have been under Rock Band.

Now keep in mind, I haven’t played it enough just yet for a fully fair review, because while we were playing, a storm hit and the house was suddenly struck by lightning! Our consoles are fine, but the stove, garage door, dryer, toaster, and possibly coffee maker are all fried. We thought it best to turn off the games for a while, plus the fire department made us evacuate so they could investigate that nasty electrical burning smell in the kitchen, and shut off the gas main, since the stove had decided to turn on the broiler before the controls died. I’ll share more thoughts on GH: Aerosmith when the heavens quiet down a bit.

ZOMG! Rock Band 2 has just been announced!
There’s a sweet 4-page interview on IGN with Dan Teasdale. Xbox ETA September. And holy #@%& he mentioned Crowded House! OMG! I thought I was the only one! In the words of Butthead, “We’re there, dude.” But please, no more Rush covers. I hate to see my poor husband, whose favorite band that is, suffer so. Please give him the real thing.

UPDATE (7/2) - 9 Rock Band 2 songs were inadvertently displayed during the most recent airing of G4's X-Play. Nice one, Sessler! Here they are:
  • Dream Theater or Finger Eleven - "Panic Attack"
  • System of a Down - "Chop Suey"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Give It Away"
  • Foo Fighters - "Everlong"
  • Kim Wilde - "Kids in America"
  • Motörhead - "Ace of Spades"
  • Cheap Trick - "Hello There"
  • Journey - "Any Way You Want It"
  • The Who - "Pinball Wizard"

Of those, I am probably most interested in Ace of Spades (because it cracks me up) and Hello There, though I'm sure Pinball Wizard is going to be well-received.

OMFG! Diablo 3 VIDEO!!
Ack, stop, no, my heart can't take this all at once!

Gamestop first look at Diablo 3.

I haven't watched the entire 19 minutes of footage, and what I have seen looked great, but apparently D3 fans are riled up about the art style, which they feel is too World of Warcraft. Look into it, and if you agree, you may want to sign the petition voicing your opinion.

Holy Cannolli! A New Battlestar Movie?!?
That guy just posted that a new Battlestar Movie's been greenlighted!

Spore Creature Creator #1 PC Title, #6 across all platforms, week ending June 21.

In other news, I've created a monster this past week, and by that I don't mean one of the critters in Spore Creature Creator; I mean my 2 year old daughter who now is utterly monopolizing my Creature Creator day and night! :)

“Research has found that little monkeys, like little humans, like to make things...”

I thought my daughter would get a kick out of the Spore creatures, so I had her pick out the various body parts for a new creature. As I mentioned in my last entry, she loved watching the new monster dance around with its 3 little minions.

The next day, she woke up and said, “Mommy, I want to make a creature with you!” which I thought was utterly sweet, so we went ahead and created another one. And that was the beginning of the end. Each session since then has required less and less help, and last night…last night I came over to see her test driving a more or less properly armed and legged quadruped. Creature Creator is THAT intuitive – so easy a 2 year-old can do it! I thought I was obsessed with Spore, but now I’m left to surf Youtube for tips and tutorials, because it’s no longer MY game. That little toddler stole my Creature Creator!

Bits and Pieces – some essentials from my personal web arsenal

Jib-Jab Sendables – Starring You!
Unnecessary Force is by far the best offering here.

Prank Dialer
Rick Roll your friends…over and over!

I Can Has Cheez Burger – LOL Builder
Why not cross that invisible line and start making your OWN lolcats? Or lolfriendsandfamily? It’s fun!

PS -
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Joss Whedon’s latest, looks to be a 3-part online mini-musical thing, available for a very limited time, beginning July 15, 17, and 19. Tell all your friends!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spore Creature Creator

It's Aliiiiiiiiiiive!

On the night of June 17, in an ancient time-worn grotto, a group of hooded figures danced at a great bonfire. The Cyclopean ruins of some unnamed and ancient city kept the gathering secret in a concealing embrace. Round and round they danced, celebrating the approaching fruition of something cosmic, and diabolical. Far greater than the horror of this scene was the revelation that these persons were none other than Will Wright and the EA/Maxis team responsible for the impending new evolution simulator game, Spore.

It's been established that these guys know how to print money. They did it with the Sims series, and for whatever reason, the Federal Reserve never pursued the matter. Now I'm convinced they're about to do it again, starting with a devastatingly clever teaser program the likes of which I've never seen. It's sort of a pre-order program, except they have a regular pre-order program too.

Spore itself is not out until September, but EA/Maxis recognized the fact that players were going to relish agonizing over every tiny little detail of their creatures, and would spend literally hours playing with the character generation portion of the game. Why not let them get a jump-start? And so they released the creature creation portion of the game on June 17, as a free trial download, and as a $10 deluxe version.

Unlike regular pre-order programs which yield some trivial tchotchke in exchange for a downpayment and committment to buy the product (this helps marketing project retail sales figures, and is typically not a profitable exercise), Creature Creator is the actual character creation portion of the game. Not only that, you can download both the free trial and the full version, something most pre-order programs shy away from to avoid annoying their retail distributors.

Now, does the $10 you slap down for the full version go towards your $50 purchase of the game? NO, no it doesn't. And will we pay it anyway? If the fact that the initial wave of traffic crashed the EA store when the pay option went live is any indication, the answer is yes. There they go printing money again.

So they must be pretty confident in their Creature Creator, right? I'll be the judge of that, thank you, and it'll take more than just some eye candy and cute little animals to impress THIS jaded gamer. First of all...can I have that galaxy intro screen as a screensaver, pretty please? /drool

Creating a creature is incredibly easy, and it's not at all necessary to have something in mind ahead of time - just jump into the sandbox! My 2 year-old had NO trouble understanding that the creature we were making was composed of the body parts she pointed out, and had a blast putting together the beast in the video below. Once you've built your critter (which is virtually guaranteed to look cool), you can choose from a wide range of colors and body patterning, then take it for a test drive.

In the test drive phase, you can put your creature through various animation paces with the click of a button. Make it dance, flex, and confront it with up to 3 "mini-me" hatchlings. Adorable. Want a screenshot? Click a button. Want to film your creature? Click a button. Add your video to Youtube? Click a button. Send a postcard to a friend? Create an animated gif avatar? Everything is SO easy to do, and as the insert puts it, "This is just the beginning of your Spore adventure."

This game is going to take full advantage of the online social space. There's already a Facebook app going live in a few days, a Youtube creature dance-off contest, and talk of all sorts of blog embeds and online functionality, not to mention the automatic "MySpore" page that comes with your account, and the collective community Sporepedia your creatures will be added to (over 900,000 added already). Oh, and did I mention customizing coffee cups, t-shirts, and postage stamps with your favorite creation? Yeah.

I thought I'd escaped the ultimate timesink when I broke free of MMO addiction. This has the potential to be much, much worse, and the real game isn't even out yet. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

PS - 6/27/08
Oh, I am SO upgrading my pre-order to Spore Galactic Edition! For $80 - the new price point of deluxe editions it seems, shared by Guitar Hero Aerosmith - you get the game, a special handbook, a 'Making of Spore' DVD video, the 'How to Build a Better Being' DVD video by National Geographic, and a couple other nice though less exciting items in the form of an art book and a fold-out poster. Definitely worth the extra cash from what I've seen so far.

Yes, Will Wright, so far you're doing a great job wining and dining me after the rough breakup I had with Peter Molyneux. Peter, I will ALWAYS love you for The Movies, and for the opening sequence to Dungeon Keeper 1, but Black and White 2, and Fable, just didn't have the magic. I hope we can stay friends, maybe with B.C. for the XBox...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Instincts Like a Cave-man

Don't you love when you discover one of those musical groups where you can rely on liking everything they do? I'm talking the kind where you don't need a "best of" cd (though you buy it anyway), because every cd is good. For me, that list includes Crowded House and Aerosmith, but by far at the top is the Stereo MCs.

I'm giddy with glee right now, because Christmas is here, and by that I mean the Stereo MCs just released a new album and it's in my greedy little hands! The first time I heard more than the mainstream "Connected" on the radio here in the US was by sheer luck. At the time I was working with a crop of Irish summer work visa students at a retail clothing boutique in Faneuil Hall in Boston (those were some great times, but don't ask about the keg party I hosted, because...well, I don't remember much). One of them had a tape of the full album, and lent it to me. I fell for the sound instantly, but couldn't find anything else at the record stores, and it wasn't until internet transactions became more of a staple that I had access to their full catalog. Go go global marketplace!

According to wikipedia, Stereo MCs is considered "Electronica," "Acid Jazz," "Trip Hop," and "House." I don't know really WHAT I'd call them, I just know it seems to be really hard to find anything else like them (suggestions welcome!) They have sort of a 70's feel to their tracks, and the lyrics are clever and fun (like the title line of this entry). I love the lead singer Rob Birch, because while he has a killer voice and accent, he's not a well-preened mainstream sort of lead singer like you often see. Plus, from what I've seen, he's about as skilled a dancer as I am. :)

So literally minutes before I had to leave for the airport on a business trip, the Double Bubble album arrived in my mailbox! And it turned out to be a 2-CD set! I listened to the main CD in my car on the way to the airport, and I've got the "Bonus Bubble" purring along on my laptop as I write this. So far, Hot Blood is looking like one of my favorites on the bonus CD, and Black Gold has been running through my head since I left the parking garage (you can hear that one on the official Stereo MCs myspace page.

UPDATE: Track number 5, Gringo (Ragged and Ruthless). LOVE IT!

In 33-45-78, Rob B claims he's got instincts like a cave-man. Apparently, cave-men had GREAT instincts.

PS - Have you heard of Pandora? It's awesome. Go there and plug in Stereo MCs. And for something hip and retro, check out the mix player at the bottom of the Skratch N Sniff homepage. I recommend #6, Wherever I May Whoomp.

UPDATE: 7/11/08. I think I can at this point safely give Double Bubble three thumbs up - this is classic Stereo MCs, inspirational and clever lyrics ("soul-searching...'been deleted") with a beat you can bop to as you drive. I'm basing that on the fact that a month later I'm still listening to it every day on my commute, and frequently hit the "repeat" button. If you are a Stereo MCs fan, get this one. My favorite songs are Get On It, Gringo, Pictures, Black Gold, Revolution, and Karaoke...and Hot Blood and Soul Girl off the bonus CD.

I'm thrilled that Rob B. and the gang are still cranking out songs of this style and quality. Keep it up, guys, don't ever stop!

UPDATE: July 24. I noticed a number of you arriving on this blog entry through searches for Stereo MCs lyrics. You should keep an eye on their official page at, Rob said he would get to that as soon as he has a chance. Thank you, Rob, you da MAN!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Photosensitive Seizure Warnings

This one’s not necessarily about something “cool,” but my mention of Aladdin’s Castle (a chain of video game arcades from my youth), brought to mind the time I witnessed a photosensitive seizure first-hand, and I thought you might find that story interesting.

First, what IS a photosensitive seizure? A good summary appears on the Microsoft game studios website ( Basically, flashing light patterns, like for example, a strobe, can sort of derail your brain, and cause a seizure in people who have no history of such experiences. The thing about the seizure warning, it’s mostly a CYA for the game developer, because as I’m about to relate, with or without that warning, we never would have had an inkling of what was going to happen.

So this incident was back in the day, must have been 1988 or 89, before such warnings were included as frequently on video games. My brother and I had rallied a group of friends for a birthday party at the local Aladdin’s Castle video arcade. I don’t think it was actually anybody’s birthday, we tended to just take advantage of the fact that the birthday package, for about $10 a head, gave your group free run of the place after-hours. It was fantastic!

Things went fine for the first hour or so. I can’t remember what I was playing (it would have either been Timber or New Zealand Story, aka Kiwi Kraze) when one of my friends came running up to me saying something was wrong with my brother. I'm almost positive he was playing a game called Alien Syndrome when it happened. I ran over, and saw him on the floor, convulsing. I yelled at the attendant to call an ambulance, and then just kneeled down next to him in a panic, having no idea what was wrong, or why he was on the floor convulsing. His lips turned blue, I remember that distinctly, and even now I’m getting a cold feeling in my stomach thinking back to it.

One of my friends started doing CPR, and though later in the ambulance, I heard one of the emergency crew tell the other that that had been the wrong thing to do because his heart was fine, I will never forget how that guy stepped up and DID something, when I was just frozen. His name was Stephen, and that may have been one of the last times I saw him, because we moved to the east coast shortly thereafter.

I also remember in the ambulance ride to the hospital, the medics asking my brother simple questions like how old he was and so forth, and wanting to answer for him, because he was still pretty out of it, and slow to answer. My mother met us at the hospital, she’d been off getting us something for dinner, and this was before cell phones, so she didn’t know until she got back to the arcade what had happened.

My brother was fine. Such an incident had never happened prior to that, and has never happened since. There is absolutely no history in our family of epilepsy or seizures. When I would tell people what happened, they would assume it had happened to him before, but it was totally random. They say that playing games with strobes in a dark environment can trigger it, and back then, arcades were dark, beautifully cave-ish environments, not like the ones at the mall today.

Years later, when the MMO I was playing added a photosensitive seizure warning to the documentation (Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty – mainly for simulated environmental lightning effects), a friend pointed it out to me and thought it was amusing. People just don’t envision something like that happening, but it does, and I will never forget how scary it was as a kid, who had no experience with that, and no idea what to do. Anyway, just thought I'd share since it's a very rare thing to have seen.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hello nostalgia, my old friend

I swear, you open the door to nostalgia, just a crack, and the next thing you know, it's on your couch eating cheetos and hogging the remote...

This morning, I made my usual visit to GraphJam, and caught the following:

song chart memes

I laughed, and then realized, gee, not everybody I know would think that's funny, because I know a lot of the young people, and the youths just don't listen to good music anymore. /shakes cane (OK, granted, I'm not old enough to remember that song's debut, but the problem here is that even I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka is rapidly approaching the realm of "old.")

Not a big deal. I've been nostalgic all week after that trip to the Funspot arcade, but in a good way, in a sort of warm and fuzzy way.

But just now, a distressing article caught my eye on digg. Video arcades' last gasp, about a video arcade called Gameland in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, that's closing this September, after 64 years of business. OMG. Now I'm feeling nostalgic in a panicked sort of "I want to cry" kind of way. To read something like this days after re-discovering my love for arcade gaming is actually quite upsetting.

It suddenly hit me that I am very, very lucky to live where I do, because I have access to another increasingly rare commodity; drive-in movies. The Milford Drive-in is where I recently both saw Indiana Jones over fries and cotton candy and witnessed a rainbow touching the ground for the first time in my life (true story, and if I could just get the picture off my cellphone...). recently posted an article wishing a happy 75th birthday to the 400 remaining drive-ins in the United States, and it occurred to me how sweetly symbolic it was to catch a rainbow's end in the field right next to the Milford Drive-in.

Drive-ins don't offer the cushy audio-video candy that IMAX and stadium theaters can deliver. The film can't start till the sun goes down. The picture is sometimes too dark, and you must periodically battle the fogging of your windshield, or the mosquitoes (your choice). But it's an experience, and the experience takes center stage, instead of the movies (and it still is a double-feature, if you can stay up that late). People show up an hour or more early, set up lawn chairs, and enjoy the carnival-style drive-in eats while their kids run around on the grass or swing at the little playground. It's great. Then the sun goes down and the vintage concessions stand ads start playing (you know, with the hotdog doing flips for its popcorn master), and THAT, my friends, is nostalgia of the warm and fuzzy type.

I wouldn't want to see every movie like that, every time. Nor would I want to abandon my XBOX or PC games. But it's worth going out of your way to remember our roots now and then. Sort of like camping. So support your local drive-ins and arcades, if you've got them. And if you don't, come on up to New Hampshire sometime - we've got camping, too. :) While it's inevitable that we will see the day when both classic gaming arcades and drive-ins disappear entirely, we've done a great job of dragging our heels on that thus far.

PS - Before I forget, I read on the Twin Galaxies website that there's going to be a Billy Mitchell TOPPS bubblegum card. Personally, I'm hoping for a Pac-man rub-off game on the other side...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Funspot Tournament, Part 2

OK, so where was I? Oh right, at the 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament, talking to Billy Mitchell via Walter Day's phone. Whaaaaaaat?!

He was definitely in fine Billy Mitchell form from the get-go. I asked how it was going, and he straight away let me know that it was going really, really, really great, pretty much as good as I could possibly conceive, if I hadn’t heard (and yes, I had heard rumors to that effect). He’d seen my casting call, and wanted me to know, in no uncertain terms that his wife should not be played by a bimbo. She’s actually got multiple degrees including a teaching degree I believe, and all in all sounds like quite an achiever. I let Billy know, in no uncertain terms, that I view Jennifer Tilly as a great actress (Bride of Chucky), a dangerous Texas Hold'um player, and definitely not a bimbo! (If there’s any bimbo in my casting selection, it's Colin Farrell.)

We also found some common ground regarding the difficulty of attending events like this with kids. I know some of you will instantly cry "BS!" but after experiencing the rigors of just being spectators with two very well-behaved children in tow, I can only imagine trying to actually focus and play for scores (and kudos to Steve Wiebe for pulling that off!). Just because I can relate though, doesn’t mean I couldn’t come up with 15 reasons why he SHOULD HAVE come!

While I adore the film, and love rooting for Steve Wiebe, I guess I'm just too laid-back to consider anybody an actual villain (if I thought Steve was actually losing sleep over any of this, I might feel differently). Or maybe he's just the villain I love to hate. Either way, I get a kick out of Mitchell's persona, which may be leaning ever-so-slightly towards arrogant, but is undeniably entertaining. Of course, I haven’t yet been subject to the wrath of Billy Mitchell, and I liked Darth Vadar too. Until he turned out to be Hayden Christensen. Ugh. If Billy turned out to be Hayden Christensen, I’d have hung up immediately.

I think he takes all this nemesis stuff in stride, and honestly, I think he totally does it on purpose (draws controversy, that is…kind of like the Kirk/Picard issue). He told me that when he was discussing the movie with somebody, who started to kind of trash-talk him, he said that it was obvious that if the guy felt that strongly, the movie must have been well done to evoke an emotion of that nature. Which it wouldn't have done if it were about two nice guys. That’s what I’m talking about, and I appreciate a story that can provide that. It’s possible I’m evil too, though. I did display some elements of griefer back in my WoW PvP days.

So during this conversation, the hot sauce topic came up, because apparently closer to the beginning of the tournament (Thursday and Friday) there had been commemorative bottles of Ricky’s to be had, and alas, being a late arrival on Sunday, I’d missed out on that. Billy was nice enough to offer to send me some in the future. Now, what he doesn't know yet is that actually, I'm a buffalo wings FIEND, and have yet to encounter a boneless buffalo wing hotter than I can handle (the suicide hot ones at John Harvard's are pretty good, but the habanero ones that Chilis has right now…come ON guys, don’t throw a word like habanero around unless you mean it). I'm looking forward to seeing where this Ricky's rates, in scoville-ville. Bring it on!

Eventually I realize that I've been talking to Billy for probably longer than I ought to be, given that I'm monopolizing Walter's phone (he's a busy guy - there's a tournament going on and all) and so I say goodbye for now, hand it back with a grin and a big thank you, and head back in. My son's a little out of sorts by this time…ok, a LOT out of sorts, audibly so, and my husband looks half relieved/half annoyed to see me. "What kept you?!?!" he says.

"Well, I was on the phone with Billy Mitchell."

"Oh. Well…alright then." Aside from “I tripped in the parking lot and broke my leg,” I think that was one of the few responses I could have given just then that would have made things OK.

About this time I took a breather, played some Dig Dug (nothing fancy, just to the 9th board or so), and realized, “Oh cripes, I’ve been carrying around the cover insert for The King of Kong all day to get it signed, and I totally forgot about it!” Luckily, I ran into Joel again after this revelation, and he did the autograph thing. Then we wandered over to THE Kong machine, which was right next to one of my childhood favorites, Timber (hey, I grew up in Montana, what can I say?). Chris kicked off a game of Dr. Mario that lasted a looooong time, as in we took the kids downstairs after a while, let them play whack-a-mole and some other games, went back up to check…nope, still playing…went back down, got a drink…maybe you should try his cell?...nope, he’s not picking up – I don’t know what his score was, but he’s always been really good at that one, he probably gets to the Dr. Mario kill-screen multiple times on the same quarter.

Walter Day checks out a possible world record in progress

I caught up with Walter again later in the afternoon, and he introduced a couple world record holders for various games – I mean, you couldn’t swing a dead cat in there without hitting a world record holder. We got to hang out with the record holder for Elevator Action and hear Walter talk a bit about transcendental meditation. This is a very interesting topic, and I don’t fancy I would do it justice trying to paraphrase what he said, but I do plan to check it out. As we joked at the time, anybody with kids could use some re-centering and stress relief.

There was a lot more I intended to ask, but before I knew it, he was being pulled away on another mission of great urgency, to help organize all the big names in the building for a group photo finale out front. He said if I was able to stick around for a while longer, I’d be able to get some great shots! (Sadly, the kids had other plans for us.) Before he raced off, I did pull a final fanboi maneuver, asking if he could autograph my cover insert. Which he did, because he really is a nice sort.

I hope to talk to Walter and others I met there at greater length in the coming days. I don’t think he’d argue (and has in fact stated) that there have been mistakes made through the course of Twin Galaxies’ existence, mistakes that have been dragged into the limelight and turned around to bite their masters. But if somebody hadn’t started keeping track of video game scores back then (and boy must it feel like it’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes!), there might never have been a 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this, because my favorite movie of the year would never have happened.

And thus our day was at an end, and it was time to go. As we drove by, I could see several arcade machines outside, and a crowd starting to gather. We were almost able to stay long enough to catch the group photo, but those meddling kids just weren’t going to let it happen. So instead we drove away with an awakened sense of nostalgia, a little regret at missing so much of the tournament, and I with a renewed sense of determination to acquire a Ms. Pac-Man tabletop and Theater of Magic pinball machine for our basement.


Billy? Steve? I hereby put you both on notice; your days are numbered:

Derek vs. Maddy: 2018

PS - July 4, 2008 - You can read about the 48 new world records achieved at Funspot X at the Twin Galaxies website. There was a Donkey Kong kill-screen, among other things!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Funspot Tournament, Part 1

Act 1: They Meet

So this past weekend was the 10th annual International Classic Videogame & Pinball Tournament at Funspot. Guinness was on tap (heee) to document any official records, and I was bound and determined to be there, too! The caveat was that if it was to happen, our two toddlers were going to have to come along for the ride. So on Sunday, around 10 AM, we loaded them into the car, picked up our good friend Chris, and headed north.

The Funspot Angle

When we first got there, it was a little overwhelming. This is it? We're really here, at the Funspot? The place is HUGE, much bigger than it looks from the outside. We started in the lower level, which contained a bowling alley and tavern on one side, and a kiddie area with little bumper cars and kid-style rides and games on the other. My daughter had a BLAST on all that stuff, and it was nice to know that there was something there for her too.

And then we went upstairs. Oh MAN, it was unbelievable! There was a whole row of pac-man series games, and almost every arcade game I loved as a teenager. I mean Crossbow, they had it, and Timber, Moon Patrol, Spy Hunter, Qix…I would go so far as to say they had a plethora of games. There were these weird surreal moments, like when I was walking past Wonderboy and heard the sounds coming out of that game, it was a complete auditory trigger, like suddenly being 18 again, just for a flicker. Almost like the Butterfly Effect movie. It's hard to describe, but it literally brings you back.

Memorabilia case at Funspot

I really wish I'd had more time to play the games (and the presence of mind to take more pictures!), but I did get to visit some of my old favorites - Crossbow, Dig Dug, Gauntlet, and Timber.

I'm just so thrilled to know that there are still places like this around, and thanks to everyone at The American Classic Arcade Museum there who makes this bastion of classic arcadia possible. I’m told they had even more machines there this year than the year before, so it seems they're still adding games. Please, Funspot, can you get Kiwi Kraze (The New Zealand Story) for when we go next year? I never did get much farther than the whale boss at the end of the first stage, and I'd love to try again!

The King of Kong Angle

I’d just like the record to reflect, I am NOT a King of Kong groupie! Err…well, maybe I am. I admit, that’s what drew us to Funspot in the first place, and I was very much hoping to see some of the faces from the movie. I didn't see anyone I recognized for quite a while, though I was pretty sure I'd seen Brian Kuh walk by (he’s local, so I fully expected to see him there), and that guy there eating pizza in the cafĂ© looked a lot like Todd Rogers. It wasn't until after lunch, though, that Chris said, "Hey, I think I just saw the Xybots guy!" I said, "Where??" and naturally, the reply was, "Playing Xybots around the corner." Duh.

We stealthed on over, and sure enough it was true. I didn't really know what to do (I often wuss out on this stuff in person), so my husband basically just walked up and said, "Hey, aren't you the Xybots guy?" Thanks, honey! He was indeed Joel Hedge, the Xybots guy.

Joel Hedge explains the finer points of Xybots

He was really nice, and talked with us for quite some time about Xybots, Funspot, and so forth. The subject of "the wall" came up, and I hadn't seen it yet, so he took us over to see it. "The wall", really is more "the hall" as it is quite expansive, incorporating both sides of the upper entryway (there is actually a third section I didn’t capture). And a very large portion of it belongs to Brian Kuh.

The Funspot Wall of Fame

The Funspot Wall of Fame continued

You know when you have a really, really favorite pair of pants, or maybe a shirt? I'm talking an article of clothing that is just so "you" that it feels like it was made for you, you regard it as almost on par with your actual friends, and you just want to wear it all the time? I mean, like, you'd wear it every day if you could get away with it? Brian, you totally get where I’m coming from! (j/k...Brian actually achieved all those records on the same day!)

So towards the end of my conversation with Joel, we noticed Walter Day walk by. I'd corresponded with him a bit before the tournament, and had been looking forward to meeting him. So I made a mental note of where he'd gone, and shortly thereafter, Joel headed off for some more gaming, so I went to try and track down Walter. Now I had the perfect greeting line all prepared, I was going to walk right up to Walter and slyly say, “So, I hear you’re good at centipede…” Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I caught him on his way in the other direction with two official-looking people (tournament registrants, I believe), and only managed to choke out a "Hi, Walter?"…which was enough to make him pause, at least, and I introduced myself. I was psyched that he did know who I was, but asked if he was busy. He said yes, at that moment, but that he'd try to catch me later.

Right after that, I saw this Brian Kuh fellow in the hallway, and, buoyed by my recent success, decided to go ahead and speak up. He was indeed Brian Kuh, and though he refused to reveal the secrets of retiring at 30, he was amiable enough (I think he's used to being recognized), and said he'd check out my remake casting choices (really, I've got to find Steve Buscemi an understudy, because Brian's WAY young for Steve to pull it off I'm afraid). I asked how the tournament was going, and he said that unfortunately he’d lost a high score (and now I can’t remember on what, curse my swiss cheese memory!) but overall it was going well. We didn’t talk for too long, and I figured it was about time to check on the family, who I’d sort of left to fend for themselves.

Brian Kuh and I think Todd Rogers

What happened next was utterly serendipitous. Colin was starting to voice his displeasure again (i.e., prepping a tantrum), and I said, hey, let me go grab him a bottle out of the car. As I walked out the entrance, I passed Walter, on the phone. He paused and said he'd be free in just a minute, and I said, great! I went to the car, got the bottle, and as I was coming back, Walter gave me the universal sign language signal for "hold on a second" (you know, the pointy finger in the air). He says to the caller on the other line, "Billy…" and my internal monologue went, no way…are you kidding me? as I realized what was unfolding. "Billy, I'm about to do an interview with someone here, but I thought she might like to say hello."

Next thing I know, I'm on the phone with Billy Mitchell.

TO BE CONTINUED... (tomorrow!)

PS - OMG, Robert Mruczek posted the following sequel teaser on the official boards...had to share: