Category Archives: Games

the family that frags together . . .

It’s been painful, joyful,
scary, and wonderful that Ryan’s away at school, out of our house, and
in a place — physically and emotionally — where I can’t protect him.
I have to hope that I did my job as a parent, and when he makes
mistakes, they result in skinned knees and not broken bones. Some days are easier than others.

To say that it’s been a challenge to let go would be a massive
understatement, and I’m struggling with it even more than Anne is,
disproving once and for all the notion that biology is stronger than,
uh, not biology.

Though he’s really, really far away, and he’s got his new friends and
is taking his first uncertain steps into his adult life, it’s been
pretty easy to stay in close contact with him, thanks to instant
messaging, e-mail, and sending photos and text messages through our

I can add "playing Halo 3" to the list of ways we’ve been able to keep in touch with each other.

I was sitting in my new office (formerly known as Ryan’s bedroom)
finishing up some work last night, when Nolan called out from the living room,
"Hey Wil, Ryan wants to talk to you!"

I walked out, and saw that he wasn’t on the phone, but was playing a
private Halo 3 game with Ryan, who was connected from his friend’s dorm
at school. I grabbed the headset from Nolan, and talked with Ryan while
they played.

"So how is everything?" I said. It’s nobody’s business, but suffice to say he recently skinned his knees.

"Better," he said.

"I’m glad to hear it," I said.

"Oh shit!" He said, as Nolan beat him down.

I laughed. "I saw him sneaking up on you, but didn’t think it was fair to affect the outcome of the game."

"Oh," Ryan said, a smile in his voice, "I see how it is."

We talked for a few more minutes, our conversation regularly
interrupted when one of them scored a particularly awesome kill on the

"Well," Ryan finally said, "I hate to say it, but Nolan is clearly better at this than me."

I relayed this confession to Nolan.

"YES!" He said.

"Okay," I said to Ryan, "I have to go back to work, so I’ll talk to you
soon. I love you, and look out because Nolan is going to kill you . . .

Nolan’s rocket exploded at Ryan’s feet, launching him into a beautiful ragdoll tumble off the edge of the map.

"Dammit!" Ryan said. "Okay, I love you too and I’ll talk to you later."

I gave Nolan the headset, and headed back toward my office. I paused in
the doorway, and looked back. Though they were separated by a terrible
distance, I felt the pride a parent feels when he sees his kids drop
the sibling rivalry long enough to have fun together.

I may not have a jet pack, or a flying car, but I still think this future is pretty cool.

Geek in Review: Carded

I went to the mall this weekend to buy Dead Rising, to use in my next GiR, which will be the now-annual Creepy, Geeky Games feature, and ended up with fodder for this week’s column while I was there:

Geek in Review: Carded
My wife and I are both in our mid-thirties. We have two kids, one of
whom is in college, but we must look young, because we still get carded
in restaurants, bars, and even at the market. It happens so frequently,
we’ve made it into a contest, to see who can get carded most often, and
in the most unlikely circumstances.

This last weekend, I pulled ahead in our contest, when I was carded at the mall, while attempting to buy a video game.

“Wait.” I said to the cashier. “You’re carding me for a video game?”

“Yeah,” he said, “It’s an M-rated game. I have to.”

“I’m 35,” I said. “This is hilarious.”

“I’m sorry, but my manager is standing right there, so . . .” he said.

“Well, I don’t want to be a dick, and I don’t want to get you into any
trouble.” I said. I reached into my wallet and handed him my ID. “But
isn’t this sort of lame?”

The manager nodded. “It’s the stupidest thing in the world, and it’s all because of the Grand Theft Auto thing.”

I submitted my story to Propeller, if you think it’s worth a vote.

poker tournament just for bloggers

I don’t have as much time to play poker as I did in days gone by, but I still love a good game of cards, whether I’m sitting at a kitchen table with my friends, a casino with strangers, or at PokerStars.

A few years ago, PokerStars started this freeroll (that’s what you call a tournament where you don’t pay anything to enter, but there’s still a big pile of money to win) for bloggers, called the World Blogger Championship of Online Poker. I played in it when I was on Team PokerStars, and I’m pretty excited to play in it this year as one of the thousands of bloggers hoping to scoop up part of the prize pool.

Anyone with a blog can enter the tournament. All you have to do is sign up and paste some code into your blog that gives the following SEOtastic result:

Texas Holdem Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 5575088

And as long as we’re talking about poker, if I convinced PokerStars to
do a freeroll for people who signed up via my blog, would you all come out
and play in it?

a little PAX video: NES

I just came across some video of my PAX keynote:

This is me talking about the first time I played NES, with my brother, in a department store. It contains what is probably my favorite line of the entire keynote.

I watched a lot of video from PAX while I was supposed to be working on my GiR today (which actually makes sense, and fits this week’s column) and was viscerally reminded of how much fun I had there. If you can only attend one convention a year, make it PAX. Trust me.

West Coast – I’m on WPT tonight

just found out that I’m on the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel tonight. It’s the WPT Invitational from Commerce Casino, where I outlasted all the other celebrity players and finished 23rd to land $10,000 for City of Hope. I doubt I’ll get much screen time, but my friend Burns! just called Anne to tell her that he saw me.

So . . . now you know! If anyone gets an mpeg or something, let me know and I’ll link it up.

Update: WWdN:iX reader Andrew sent me the following captures:

XviD (9 MB)

mpeg2 (30MB)

It ‘s a great segment. I got a lot more camera time than I expected, and so did Darwin!  If anyone wants to seed .torrents, let me know and I’ll update again. Thanks, Andrew!

(image via Dr. Pauly)

Future Shock: W2 + E3 = ROCK

I wrote a column for The AV Club about my trip to E3, and it hit the web about an hour ago. It’s my first foray into my version of gonzo journalism, and I’m really happy with the way it came out.

Take the largest video arcade you remember from your childhood. Now quadruple its size, put it in the middle of Shibuya Crossing, dim the lights, and crank the volume to 11. Toss in a bunch of celebrities, charge $300 for a stale slice of pizza and a soda, crank the volume up to 11 one more time, and you’ve got E3: the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

E3 started during the halcyon ’90s, when ruled the world. Now every May, gaming giants like Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and Sega gather at the Los Angeles Convention Center to present their newest hardware and software releases to a very select audience: about 30 percent entertainment media, 5 percent distributors, and 65 percent people who have managed to scam press passes so they can spend a day playing video games and checking out booth babes (who this year are required to wear nothing more revealing than miniskirts—the trade-show equivalent of burkas).

[. . .]

Four televisions, eight guitars, and a small crowd stood beneath a mockup that looked remarkably like a concert stage. I could hear Kiss’ “Strutter” being played with varying degrees of proficiency as Gen-Xers rocked out in the highly anticipated co-op mode.

“Hey, isn’t that Guit—” Spencer asked.

“Muh… guh… huh…” I answered, walking on autopilot to the front of the booth.

“Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton,” I said, “and I love your game.” Probably not the most professional way to introduce myself, in retrospect. “I’m writing about Guitar Hero II for The A.V. Club.”

You can read the entire story at The AV Club, and while you’re there, you can check out my Games of our Lives column for this week: Congo Bongo.

I feel really good about this column, and I’m really happy that the type of writing I’ve perfected over the years on my blog earned a spot in an actual print publication.

Oh, and if you think it’s worthy: digg story. Thanks!

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too much is never enough

You know you’re playing too much Guitar Hero when you see the Arena Rock Essentials at the iTunes Music Store and think, "Dude, I totally need to buy that."

Afterthought: If you could pick three songs for Guitar Hero II, what would they be?

I’d pick:

  • Money by Pink Floyd
  • Miserlou by Dick Dale
  • One by Metallica

Ryan would pick:

  • Rude Mood by Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
  • Hot for Teacher by Van Halen

Nolan would pick:

  • I Need to do My Homework, So Don’t Bother Me by I Am Nolan’s Responsibility

Anne would pick:

  • How about you play less Guitar Hero? by Guitar Hero Widows, Inc.

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Primus Gives Master Track to Guitar Hero 2

y quest to play Guitar Hero 2 at E3 was a success! I played bass and I played lead in co-op mode on Van Halen’s "You Really Got Me" (at the Vans Warped Tour, because they’ve licensed some real locations this time around) hitting 97% and 98% respectively. "Strutter" by KISS seemed to be the most popular song for people to try out, with "War Pigs" by Sabbath coming in a close second. I could have easily spent the entire day there, rocking all eight songs they had available for demo play, but there was a growing line of other wanna-be rockers waiting, and I didn’t want to bogart the whole stage, man.

While I waited to play, I talked with some of the developers, who were all really, really cool guys, and told me something rather exciting about GH2:

Les Claypool gave RedOctane the master tracks for John The Fisherman, so when you play it in Guitar Hero 2, you’ll be playing along with Les, Larry "Ler" Lamond, and Tim "Herb" Alexander, just like you were with them in the studio recording Fizzle Fry.

read more | digg story

It was so nice to meet developers who aren’t completely in love with themselves and appreciate geeks like me who play their games, you know? Their entuhsiasm reminded me of the entuhsiasm I felt when I worked at NewTek during the launch of the Video Toaster 4000: we all knew we were working on something totally cool and unique, but we still got excited when someone who used it geeked out at us about it. I know there are pictures of me getting my rock on, so if I can track them down, I’ll post them here for maximum goat-throwing.

If you’re going to E3 and you want to play GH2, don’t bother fighting the crowds in the Sony booth (after you get past the 6 hour-long line of people waiting to play with the Wii). Go down to the Kentia Hall, and find the Red Octane booth. The lines are shorter, you can talk with the developers, and they’ve got GH2 posters and pins to give away. When you’re done rocking out, you can stay in Kentia hall and see an absolutely amazing history of video games exhibit, featuring playable Colecovision, Vectrex, Intellivision, Apple //e, Atari 2600 and other console systems, as well as look-but-don’t-touch collections of classic handhelds like the Tomytronic Pac-Man and Milton Bradley’s Macrovision. There are also about 20 arcade games down there, set for free play, including Tempest, Black Widow, Stargate, Tron, Gorf, and Crystal Castles.

UPDATE: There’s a picture of me in front of the Gorf, Donkey Kong, and Tempest machines from Ars here. For those of you scoring at home, of the machines in that picture, I played Gorf and Tempest, and I was incredibly sad that Gorf didn’t have any sound. It implied that I was a Spaaace Ca-det, though, which I answered by blasting the Flagship out of the sky. Who’s laughing now, Gorf?! Me! That’s who! Me, baby! ME!

In the picture, I’m wearing a shirt featuring the code from Konami, which I got from Think Geek. I realized as I was parking my car for E3 (I missed the train so I had to drive. Yay.) that I was kind of wearing the band’s T-shirt to its concert like a total dork. However, I got my rock on so hard on Guitar Hero 2, I’m really okay with that.

keep on jammin’ the rhino

Activision bought RedOctane, the company responsible for Guitar Hero. Hopefully, this means more money for development, and not a bunch of corporate idiots screwing up my favorite game of 2006. Whatever comes of the partnership, epic congratulations to everyone at RedOctane (edited to add: and Harmonix! How could I forget Harmonix? -2 for me) who worked so hard to make the greatest fucking game in the history of me rocking out in my living room. You guys rock at least 97% of Cowboys From Hell on Expert, and I hope to throw some goats your way on Wednesday (which officially begins here in Los Angeles in 40 minutes) at E3.

Ryan and I have been having some serious Guitar Hero jam sessions recently. Last night, I finally five-starred Killer Queen and Fat Lip, and Ryan five-starred Stellar and Unsung (on medium; the kid slows down so he can play with the old man, which the old man appreciates.)

After I’d pulled a 99% on Killer Queen, I unwound with some Godzilla. As the song started up, Ryan said, "Dude, I think I hear cowbell in this song!"

I laughed a little bit, but maintained my focus: Yellow, blue, red green, yellowblueyellllooooowwwwww red yellow greenred . . . ROCK!

Ryan hopped up off the couch, and ran into the kitchen. A few moments later, he appeared back in the living room, a saucepan in one hand, and a wooden spoon in the other.

"What are you doing?" I said. Yellow, blue, yellowwwwwwww redyellow greenyellow rest yellowblue yellooowwwwwwww Star Power!

He held the saucepan about chest high, and began to tap it with the wooden spoon. "This song needs more cowbell," he said, "and this the closest I could get."

I played about twelve more notes before I collapsed into song-ending giggles.

Rev. Horton Heat and Van Halen in Guitar Hero II!!

I’m kind of crazy in love with Guitar Hero. Does that make me weird?
I have a list of seven songs for Guitar Hero II, as well as some awesome rumors about the sequel, at the SGGeekwire, and I dugg a site that has tablatures for all the songs available in the current Guitar Hero.

The only reason I’m suffering through E3 this year is so I can play this game, and write about the quest. Somehow, I’m pretty confident it’s going to be worth it.

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