Three Months of GHG

You know, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times where GHG felt like work. And not the kind of work you love, but the kind of work you dread. It took starting this blog to fully understand the laments of content creators not being able to create good content whenever they want.

It’s not the subject matter, though; I can write about games all day, every day. However, there are just some mornings where the topics don’t come to me, and even those I have stockpiled as easy backups? I’ll look at them, feel completely uninspired, and think to myself, “I’d rather take a nap.”

So what do I do when that happens? As much as I’d like to say that I run around town all Rocky-like with “Gonna Fly Now” pumping myself up full of ideas — which is a fantastic way to get energized, by the way — instead, I play something new.

I have a general rule where I like to stick to just 2 or 3 games at a time — usually from different genres — but if they’re longer games, that can get repetitive, even if I’m still having fun. I find that firing up something fresh is usually more than enough to break me out of that funk, and today, I was definitely feeling it.

So after about an hour of sitting around knowing I wanted to talk about the blog itself, I gave myself a figurative slap in the face, shook my head vigorously, took a look at my Steam library, and installed whatever jumped out at me. This time, it happened to be Guacamelee: Gold Edition.


Within the first few seconds, it was already making me smile with its clean, unique visuals and smooth controls. What beautiful music and funny dialogue too! I love it when games hook you like that, and you know almost instantly that you’re playing a great one.

I can’t wait to dive deeper into it. It’s been getting a lot of renewed attention with the Super Turbo Championship Edition that recently came out (but not yet for PC), and it’s always referred to as one of the better “Metroidvania”-style games, so it should be good. And if I do end up liking this, it will open doors for me to go back and play more of the Metroid and Castlevania series, many of which I have never played or finished.


In other news, I’ve been keeping my YouTube channel updated regularly with some random video clips, and I’ll be trying something new over the next week to make it a little more interesting, so stay tuned for that.

Editing the videos themselves has been a great experience, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing ever since high school. Although I haven’t done it for several years now, this has been a nice way to get comfortable with it again.


I use CyberLink PowerDirector 12, which is far from pro, but it gets the job done. Microsoft used to have a good built-in movie maker in Windows, but they ditched it in favor of something that became far too simplistic and limited. There’s probably a way to get that old version back, but that’s OK; it was worth upgrading to this instead. It’s stable, the editing tools are easy, previews are quick, and there are a lot of different output options, which is nice.

But I digress. Today’s update was supposed to be about the blog, right?


Last month, I was at 36,937 words across 48 posts. Today, it’s increased by 18,898 words across 20 new posts, or about 945 words per update. Total content has increased by 34%, so I’m keeping a pretty good pace in terms of new stuff. I wrote 7 reviews, which is the most I’ve done in one month. Previously, the most I’d ever done was 4, during the first month of GHG’s existence.

Thanks again for continuing to come back and read this little blog of mine. Your readership is important to me, so I’ll do my best to keep it interesting!


Backlog Blitz: The games of March 2014

It’s been a rough week. Even though every fiber of my being wants to just rest and resume business as usual on Monday, I think it’s important to keep things going here at GHG. Taking a break can make it that much harder to get back into it, and I know me: I’ve tried and quit a lot of things, so I can’t let that happen again.

Anyway, March was a good month. With only 5 purchases and a decent completion tally of 7 games, I pushed my total upwards a bit. The format, like January and February, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

20140529_marchblitzGames purchased (-5, $67.50 spent):

  1. 20140529_pokemonxPokemon X (3DS, $20.00)
    Tough to resist a good 50% off sale, and so even though I have never really played or finished a single Pokemon title, starting with the latest one is probably an OK place to begin. My friends told me to get X instead of Y, so get X I did.
  2. The Humble Mobile Bundle 4 (Android, $3.00)
    Although I’m getting to the point where I have most of the games offered by current Humble Bundles, I’ll still pick them up. This bundle included BADLAND Premium, Breach & Clear, Catan, Color Sheep, Gunslugs, OLO, Riptide GP2, Vector, and Zombie Gunship.
  3. The Humble Weekly Sale: PopCap (PC, $6.00)
    I bought the vast majority of these in a PopCap bundle for my wife years ago, but decided to add some of them to my library as well. Pretty good selection: Peggle Deluxe, Bejeweled 3, Bookworm Deluxe, Escape Rosecliff Island, Feeding Frenzy 2 Deluxe, Plants vs. Zombies GOTY Edition, Peggle Nights, and Zuma’s Revenge.
  4. 20140529_psplusPlayStation Plus (12-month, PS3/Vita/PS4, $35.00)
    It took me a long time to finally sign up, but a 30% off sale made me pull the trigger. This is only my second month with the service, but the free games alone across all three of Sony’s platforms makes this one of the best deals in gaming. It’s no wonder Microsoft had to bring out Games With Gold, to which Sony has already countered by increasing the number of PS4 games per month to 2 instead of 1 starting in June. How long this kind of great value can be sustained in anyone’s guess, so you’ll never see me complain about it.
  5. Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight DLC (Vita, $3.50)
    As part of PlayStation Plus, I finished Thomas Was Alone (see below), and immediately had to purchase its follow-up DLC.

Games finished (+7, $44.50 value):

  1. SpellTower (Android, $1.00, 2 hrs.)
    This one’s a nice cross between Tetris and Bookworm. It’s a fun diversion that I still find myself playing while out and about, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or any instance where I need to kill a few minutes. While word games aren’t my favorite, it’s still very well-made with a number of different modes, multiplayer, intuitive touch control, style, and challenge. Overall: B
  2. Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, Free, 40 hrs.)20140529_gta5
    This is the first Grand Theft Auto game I’ve ever finished, and it’s easily one of the best games I’ve ever played. I was at first overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff you can do, but Rockstar has designed it in such a way that you almost always feel naturally led to the next activity. A wealth of variety, entertainment, and quality is in no short supply here, and each subsequent mission continued to blow me away. I have a feeling I’m going to be completely ruined on most other open-world titles from this point forward. Great characters, expertly designed missions, hilarious lowbrow gags, and the underlying technology driving everything in this game is impressive. It’s crazy to think that this is running on hardware that’s nearly 8 years old. Overall: A+
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, $7.50, 30 hrs.)
    I had previously tried to play this two times, but for different reasons that weren’t related to the game itself, I stopped playing. After enjoying the open world of GTA5 so much, I wanted to go back and play this one before tackling the bigger Arkham City. I loved everything about it, especially the hand-to-hand combat, which is just so fluid and intuitive. I’m no Batman expert, but outside of the comics, this series is the best treatment of the license I’ve ever experienced. The in-game dialogue scenes are comically amateurish, which is too bad since the rest of the game is so good, but they don’t detract from what is an otherwise perfectly crafted action game with tons of collectibles and things to do. Rocksteady’s treatment of The Joker and Scarecrow are particularly memorable, too. Overall: A+
  4. 20140529_brokenageBroken Age: Act 1 (PC, $25.00, 5 hrs.)
    I hopped aboard the Broken Age train really late because for some reason, my Kickstarter backing didn’t take initially. No matter, though — this is a charming adventure game that leaves the player with one heck of a cliffhanger ending. It’s almost unfair. I remember reading about how backers thought it was too short and easy, but since I’m not the biggest adventure game purist and I can’t stand obscure puzzles, I found it to be just right. Most of the puzzles are pretty simple, but they’re also intuitive, and they’re not all easy: there were a couple that almost pushed me to look at a FAQ. Yes, it’s a short game, but not if you take your time and enjoy everything the designers put into it. It’s at its best when you’re left to just experiment with item combos and usage to see what the characters will say. They all have great dialogue that must have been a lot of fun to write.  The soundtrack is terrific, the art and animation are well-crafted, and it’s just a cool throwback to the type PC adventure games so many of us played in the ’90s. Overall: A-
  5. 20140529_batman_acBatman: Arkham City (PC, $7.50, 60 hrs.)
    I loved Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City delivered on the promise of a bigger world to explore, more gadgets, and lots of things to do. It had a nice Legend of Zelda vibe to its world structure and game flow. Its depiction of the Penguin, Ra’s al Ghul, and Mr. Freeze were fantastic, and although the story takes a Batman-like nosedive into predictable cliches at the end, I enjoyed the game itself just as much as its predecessor. Side missions were fun, and some of the Riddler trophies were downright diabolical. I loved that they were turned into puzzles themselves, taking some good timing and ingenuity to collect. Traversal in Gotham City was painless, and I really liked all the refinements made since Asylum, particularly to the combat. Keeping Riddler informants alive adds a nice layer of strategy to the mob fights, and it’s addicting grabbing all the subsequent collectibles. Although the size and length of the game inherently makes the story feel less refined and focused as Asylum‘s, I still thought this was as good a game as the first. Overall: A+
  6. Thomas Was Alone (Vita, Free, 6 hrs.)
    What a surprise. Included for free as part of March’s PlayStation Plus offerings, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I thought it was just going to be your typical minimalist platformer with some indie quirkiness thrown in for good measure, but what I got was one of the most charming and memorable games I’ve played in a long time. While it’s not the most challenging platformer — this isn’t Super Meat Boy — it’s still fun and provides a lot of rewarding gameplay. I found myself compelled to complete it primarily for its wonderful story and characters. It’s pretty short, even after going through it twice to listen to the Developer Commentary, but it’s worth every minute. I think that anyone who has even a passing interest in game design should play this twice. Overall: A
  7. Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight DLC (Vita, $3.50, 1 hr.)
    The follow-up DLC for Thomas Was Alone adds some new characters, play control, and good narrative, but it is extremely short, and unfortunately (for now), doesn’t include Developer Commentary, which was one of my favorite features of the original game. It gave such valuable insight into Mike Bithell’s approach to both game and character design that it almost feels like the DLC is missing a limb. Still worth the cost of entry, despite its lack of length and features. Overall:

So that was March in a nutshell. It was thankfully a very light month in terms of how much I spent, and I was rewarded with some of the best games I’ve ever played. It will certainly be a tough month to beat!


Cancer sucks


Updates at GHG will be light this week since my father-in-law goes in for radical prostatectomy surgery tomorrow morning. This will change his life and the lives of those who are close to him in ways we don’t even know yet.

Although I am not ready to talk about it, one day soon I will. In the words of Wil Wheaton from one of my favorite films Stand By Me, my message to all cancers of the world: “Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood.”

20140527_va_parking5/28/14 Update: Well, after a long two days, we are back home.

My father-in-law had the surgery done yesterday at the Portland VA Medical Center. He went in for pre-op around 9:30 in the morning, and we didn’t see him until about 9 that night, so it was a long, long day.

The good news is that everything went really well, and that there was no indication that the cancer had spread anywhere else, which was a huge relief for all of us to hear! Almost miraculously, he was already up and walking around a bit today, had a good appetite, and his pain meds were kept to a minimum.

He was his usual joking self, although laughing would make his abdominal area hurt, so we tried — and our attempts were futile — to limit the funnies. We justified it by saying that laughing would strengthen his core and speed up his recovery, which of course, caused more laughing.

Anyway, with any luck, he’ll be coming home this Friday to continue the long road to 100% recovery. We are all very, very thankful for the doctors and staff at the VA. They were all caring, knowledgeable, and took great care of my father-in-law before, during, and after his surgery.

Despite the stress, lack of sleep, and emotion of the day, I did get some “gaming” in while we waited yesterday. Although I can’t claim to have completed the entire thing, this puzzle kept us busy into the evening hours:


It actually made me want to put more puzzles together, so I might have to buy a few in the near future. Videogame-themed ones, of course.

Thank you so much for the kind emails, messages, and calls we received over the past few days. In times like these, having so many caring and loving people around us has made all the difference in the world.


GHG’s 1-month anniversary

As with any new goal, hitting the 1-month mark is a good feeling. It makes getting to future milestones — 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, even 5 years — that much more achievable. When I set out to create this blog, I made a promise to myself that I would write for it every day, unless something absolutely prevented me from doing so. Even if nobody saw it, even if a post could be read out loud in one breath, at least I would know that I did what I set out to do.

Although I mentioned the other day that I was not a fan of statistics in college, I do like numbers and the stories they can tell. Via Word Stats, seeing the “14,139” total words written over the past month is cool. Several more months of this, and I’ll have enough words for a book or a few screenplays. Sometimes I think I should be putting my time into that sort of writing, but the way I see it, keeping at this blog could evolve into something bigger. Who knows? Whatever the future may hold, games are at the core of who I am and what I’ve done throughout most of my career, so it’s exciting to be putting my energy into something I love again.

The top 5 keywords for GHG are: game(s), like, time, overall, and great. It comes as no surprise that I use the words “game” and “games” too much in my posts, and I do struggle with that! It seems redundant since this is a gaming blog, but it tends to get typed a lot, so I’ll have to keep a closer eye there. Same goes for the others. I read everything out loud before publishing to help with clarity, flow, and readability, and some days are more successful than others. Coffee and sleep do make a big difference. Looking back on some of my posts makes me cringe, but I see those as valuable lessons on what to avoid for future updates.

In closing, thanks for visiting and reading GHG, as well as for the support you’ve shown on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. You can find and follow me on any of those by clicking on the icons in the upper-right corner of the site.

Here’s to month 2!


Weekends at Gray-Haired Gamer

When I started GHG a week ago, one of the promises I made to myself was that I would write something here at least once a day. I want to treat it as seriously as I would any job that I love. However, over the years, I have also come to appreciate the importance of a healthy work/life balance. Not just to prevent burnout, but to spend time with my wife, family, friends, and to enjoy the vast world outside of gaming.

That’s why weekend updates here will be rare, or they may be of a more random, off-topic nature. They might also be quick recaps and reflections on what I’ve written during the week.

As the saying goes from the incomparable Calvin and Hobbes, “It’s a magical world … let’s go exploring!”



I’m getting too old for this…

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

Shadow MitsuoSo I’ve been playing Persona 4 Portable (P4G) this week, and am in the Void Quest dungeon. Up to this point, the game hasn’t been all that difficult, and actually, most mob battles are too easy since you can gain advantage every time and Rise will tell you the weaknesses of most enemies. As a result, they rarely get a chance to take their turn.

But this guy, Shadow Mitsuo, is a different story. The difficulty spike almost seems like a mistake. I’ve now been wiped out by him 5 times using different party setups, and each of those battles has lasted approximately 30-60 minutes. Looking online yields a couple suggestions: Grind more or fuse the Black Frost Persona. Well, grinding’s out since it’s terrible here. Battles aren’t fast and painless like they are in Bravely Default or Dragon Quest. As for fusing Black Frost, I don’t have the money to buy back the 5 Personas required for this, so that brings me back to grinding, or getting lucky with Shuffle Time. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

I don’t mind difficult games, and in fact, some of the hardest games I’ve ever played rank among my favorites. I did everything in Super Meat Boy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Rayman Origins, Super Hexagon, and others. The thing is, a game needs to be fun. This? It makes me want to throw my Vita out the window.

p4g_difficultyAs the great Bill Cosby once said about getting older, “After a while, you learn what you want to burn your energy on.” That’s so true when it comes to games. If it ceases being fun, you either have to find a way to make it enjoyable again or move on. The thing is, I’m not ready to leave. I really like the game’s story, characters, world, and music, and want to see it through to its end.

Being close to 40 hours in, do I put in the work to get my party battle-ready, or just start over on Very Easy to focus on the more personal simulation aspects of the game?

A tough decision draws near. Command?


I turn 40 in May

Four decades. That’s a long time. That’s a lot of gaming, too.

When I was younger, I believed I’d lose interest in videogames eventually. I remember being told that they were just a fad, and that other hobbies and technologies would render them obsolete. What’s happened, however, is that my interest and love for them has grown, not waned.

What is it about them that makes them so appealing? Part of it is that they aren’t a passive form of entertainment, and require close attention and skill. The other part of it is the craft itself. As someone who is not by any stretch of the imagination a good artist, musician, programmer, or designer, playing the end result of a year or years worth of work is admirable, and when the game is great, what you get are lasting memories and a lifetime’s worth of discussion topics. Best Final Fantasy anyone?

Right now, I’m playing Batman: Arkham Origins on the PC. 15 hours in, 58% through Story, 24% overall.

It’s quite good so far, and I certainly think it’s better than a lot of reviews would have me believe. However, I do agree with most that it’s to WB Games Montreal’s detriment that they put this out in the wake of the previous two Arkham games from Rocksteady, which were both spectacular games. In any case, I was very happy to run into Barbara Gordon earlier in the game. Oracle is a fascinating character to me, and hope she returns in Arkham Knight.