Category Archives: Video Episodes

Episode 26: Had To Be There

Post-production notes:

This episode came about largely because of a reaction that I had to a video on Retroware posted by Shane (Rerez). Shane didn’t like Tomcat Alley (SEGA CD) very much, and I countered that it was because it’s a “had to be there” kind of game. It’s a game that doesn’t necessarily hold up well against today’s gaming standards, but it was impressive for its time.

In this video, I touch on Tomcat Alley, as well as other games that fit this description. Reviewing games of yesteryear without having seen or experienced them when they were new sometimes leads to an unsatisfactory outcome. Of course I’ll admit that Tomcat Alley is a flawed experience. Some of the gameplay elements are kind of abstract (unless players read the manual), and there’s not a whole lot of interaction– which is definitely an issue for today’s video game players, who expect a lot more than what’s seen here. At the same time, though, the full-motion video was still pretty new to video game console owners… and Tomcat Alley was a lot closer to Top Gun than any other flight game we’d experienced up to that point in time. We felt like we were really in the cockpit– and, honestly, we kind of were.

Shane does some great work, by the way. You can check him out on Retroware or on his YouTube channel.

As always, thanks so much for watching!

Episode 25: Saluting Sandy

Post-production notes:

This was my birthday video, and I decided to dedicate it to my mom. After all, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.

I talk a bit here about the change between my youth and my adult life, and how my mom’s stance on and support of my video game hobby evolved. For my mom to buy gaming-related gifts for special occasions now, it’s a big turnaround from having her basically keep her distance from them. I completely understand the reasons why she felt the way she did; money used to be a problem, then it was an issue of balancing social life and real-world responsibilities with gaming, and then there was an acceptance that came with my 40th birthday and my desire to build a library of older games and systems.

She understands my motivations now, and I’m a bit wiser now than I was in my younger years. These older games represent events in my life, signposts of years gone by. She not only understands, but she supports what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That’s perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I could ask for.

As always, thanks so much for watching.

Episode 24: Beginning of the End (2001-present)

Post-production notes:

This is the last in my Birthday Month miniseries of episodes that basically chronicled my life, as it pertained to video games. These recollections and what was basically 40 years of life condensed into a couple of hours were important for me to film. It’s a video legacy of my life. As I age and my memory gradually erodes, it’s going to be nice to replay these videos and just remember. They’ll provide me with moments of clarity as they evoke other memories within me.

I realize that, especially without scripts, sometimes these video tend to run on and on… but I’ve been very fortunate and grateful that many viewers gave them a chance and reacted so positively to them.

So… what does “Beginning of the End” mean? Well, it’s a nod to my decision to part ways with modern console gaming after all these years, and the video highlights some of the things that led to this decision. Admittedly, it’s a bit odd when I respond to the “PS4 or Xbox One?” question with “Neither”, but it’s the truth. Older games and systems are where my happy place is. I haven’t felt this good about gaming in a long time. The beginning of a new generation allowed me the chance to break away cleanly, without spending any money on hardware or games and then regretting it later because the things I disliked so much for the generation prior continue to repeat themselves. I’m having a lot more fun now, buying games is a lot cheaper now, and the cynicism that I developed over the last five years is starting to melt away.

Of course, this isn’t the End. It’s a rebirth of sorts. I’ve found a new community, a new comfort zone, and new opportunities. I’m not done with console gaming–  not by a long shot.

As always, thanks for watching!

Episode 23: URNOT(red)E (1995-2001)

Post-production notes:

As I continue to catch up on posting April’s videos here on the blog, the post-production notes will continue to be brief.

There’s no question that the PlayStation was a big deal to me. From the first time I tried Ridge Racer, I knew that I had to have one– and I continue to enjoy PlayStation games to this day. In fact, I spent a good part of a recent afternoon playing games like NHL Championship 2000 and Big Ol’ Bass 2. Sure, the graphics may not have aged very well in many cases (as compared to what we see today), but that doesn’t mean that the games are any less enjoyable to me.

I could have covered so much more in this video, like the epic year of 1997 that delivered games like Ace Combat 2, Final Fantasy VII, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, PaRappa the Rapper, and more. I could’ve mentioned how the PlayStation introduced me to Tekken, or how I got my space combat game fix with Wing Commander III & IV, the Colony Wars series, and more. I spent a lot of time on the PlayStation, and it even competed for playing time against my Dreamcast in 2000-01.

I’ll probably revisit the PlayStation in a later episode– especially if I get my hands on an actual PlayStation console again (versus playing the games on my PS2, like I do now).

As always, thanks so much for watching.

Episode 22: My Console Journey Begins (1990-95)

Post-production notes:

I’m a bit late in getting the videos posted here on the blog. College classes were a bit crazy in April, so my time was pretty limited and I devoted it to getting the videos up on YouTube. More detailed post-production notes will resume with Episode 27.

If you had missed out on this episode, though, it’s a very brief walkthrough of my 8-bit and 16-bit era experiences as they happened in my life. Both eras were kind of compressed together– I got a late start on the NES era (Christmas 1990) and wound up getting a Super NES nine months later. I think that abbreviated experience with the NES was a reason I keep finding reasons to go back to it; there are so many games that I missed out on playing back then, and I’m happy that I can catch up a bit now.

As always, thanks for watching!

Episode 21: Childhood (1972-1990)

Post-production notes:

Yup. 18 years in a little over 10 minutes.

Admittedly, some things were probably a bit more vague than I wanted them to be, but I really wanted to do my personal BC– Before my own Console– stuff in one video. I don’t have access to an Atari 2600, VIC-20, or Commodore 64, so it also made sense from a presentation standpoint to combine those experiences into one video… setting the stage for the 20+ years and multiple console generations to come.

Some other specific memories from this period:

Hanging around arcades as much as I did gave me safe places to hang out. I didn’t get into trouble as a kid; I guess I was a panhandler of sorts, looking for loose change and hoping to stumble upon extra credits or free games, but that was all I could do as a poor kid. Arcade regulars knew me, looked out for me, and protected me. I also learned a lot of things in arcades… game strategies, etiquette, even a bit of social interaction skill. Asking someone twice your age if you can join his/her game or play against them wasn’t an easy thing for me. In fact, it scared the heck out of me… but I learned how to do it, and it helped me with social awkwardness so I could make talk to people I didn’t know as I aged.

Here’s a fun story: I shut down a bully, thanks to an arcade game. This kid used to pick on me incessantly at recess in 7th grade, because I was a poor kid in a private school. After enough teasing, I’d had enough. I knew that I couldn’t fight this kid, but I had an idea of how to match up with him on an even playing field: I challenged him to an arcade game battle. Classmates showed up that Friday night, and I was there, waiting by The Empire Strikes Back machine… but the bully never showed. The following Monday, the bully got teased by other classmates. “You chickened out?” The kid stopped picking on me after that; we never became friends or anything, but the rest of my time at that school was a bit more tolerable with his teasing subsided.

I talked a bit in the video about being a “bad winner” when it came to playing games versus my brother. I never let up off of the accelerator when I played against him, and it’s understandable that he got upset sometimes. Hardball!, International Hockey, Indoor Sports, and more games were cycled in and out of my 1541 disc drive… and I won every game, every time. I used to gloat a lot, but as we both got older, we learned mutual respect for each other. He enjoyed spending time with me, playing games… and I’m sorry that I took that time for granted. I miss those days, and it’s not because I always won. It’s because that time eventually ended, and we went in our separate directions. I miss having that young 12-13 year-old kid looking up to me, wanting to hang out with me, and making me feel really good about myself when not a lot of other things did.

Episode 22 will go up next week (April 8th or 9th) and cover 1990-1995, which will touch on my experiences with the NES, SNES, Genesis, and more. It’s the period of time when I got my first real job, had my first serious relationship, lived on my own for the first time, and bought my first console(s) with my own money. Episode 23 will come the following week (April 15th or 16th) and span 1995-2001. That was the PlayStation Era for me, along with gaming on the N64, the rise and fall of the Dreamcast, and personal loss and gain. Finally, Episode 24 will come on my birthday, April 22, and wrap up the series by covering 2001 through the present day. Expect to hear about the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, and how the PS3/360 generation adversely affected my gaming life.

As always, thanks to all of you for watching this video, along with any others that you’ve taken the time to see.

Episode 20: Big Money, Big Prizes

Post-production notes:

I can totally understand why video games that emulate game shows might not be for everyone. There are no real prizes to be won. There isn’t a good way to recreate the sense of pressure that real-life contestants feel, unless the video game contestant is willing to play that role. The questions repeat after a time. The presentation– which has improved over time, with better technology in place– is still not quite close enough to the real thing to suspend disbelief.

That said, I’m totally a sucker for these games. I admit it. I play to win, and when I don’t crush my opponents and win big prizes or sums of virtual cash, I sometimes take it a bit personally. I chide myself for giving wrong answers sometimes, or perhaps roll my eyes pretty hard. It’s weird, because there’s nothing really at stake… except for pride and maybe a spot on the leaderboard. Still, these games represent situations that are as close to being a contestant on that game show as I’ll likely ever get. I live in that moment and suspend that disbelief as I go for that new virtual car or that virtual trip to Florida.

I used to watch so many game shows as a kid. Card Sharks, The Joker’s Wild, Chain Reaction, Press Your Luck, Scrabble, Password, The $25,000 (or $100,000) Pyramid, The Price is Right, Name That Tune, Match Game, Hollywood Squares, $ale of the Century… and the list could go on and on. I used to love the Game Show Network when it was pure game show history– as opposed to the somewhat odd original programming that we see today. I readily admit that I miss the old days, but I’m old, so that’s to be expected, right?

Technical notes:

Your eyes don’t deceive you. It’s darker in this video… and the microphone hum is back. I record in my room, and it’s undergoing lots of changes at that moment. I do have new lamps, which will hopefully be loaded with new bulbs (had to order them) and ready to go for Episode 21 next week. I had been resting the USB microphone on a stack of storage bins, away from the laptop to avoid the hum of the fan… but those bins are gone now, so I’m forced to use a temporary resting place (on my small bin for extra manuals) that I have to place right next to the laptop. When the weather warms up, I’m hoping to find a cheap microphone stand at a local tag sale. It still won’t sound as professional as so many other quality YouTube talents do, but it will be more consistent with sound quality and allow me to focus more on body placement and movement so as not to knock the microphone off of its perch with one false move.

You’ve all been really understanding to this point, and I really do appreciate that. It’s probably never going to sound or look perfect, but since I’m not monetizing the videos, I’m content to do the best with the equipment that I have… and I think a lot of you are okay with that. Thank you so much.

That’s it for this episode. I hope you’ll check in on the YouTube channel next week for Episode 21. April is all about counting down to my 42nd birthday, so there’s going to be a lot of sharing of memories and experiences for the next four episodes. The fourth episode, which will be shot on the big day (April 22nd) will be a special one.

As always, thank you for watching the video and reading my thoughts here.

Episode 19: Pete and the Silver Ball

Post-production notes:

I’ve gone in-depth on pinball games in the past, so I decided to shoot more of an overview here– for now. In the future, as I start to roll out my brief review videos, I’ll come back to the pinball theme as I have many of these games in my library.

I did want to touch on pinball games because I’m so interested in them and I really enjoy playing them. You can probably tell by the fact that I have three copies of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection in my library… one for PS2, one for PS3, and one for the Xbox 360. I’ve got several pinball games for the NES, Genesis, and PlayStation, as well. They’re games that I have always had an affinity towards and they’re games that I’m generally pretty good at. I’m not as good as some other players out there (especially in Zen Pinball / Pinball FX2 land), but I can hold my own.

I’m hoping to get some time on a few pinball tables when I head to FunSpot and the Classic Arcade Museum for the Classic Video Game Tournament in a couple of months; while video game simulations are great, nothing beats real flippers and ball physics.

Not long after my experience with Gorgar, my uncle bought a Hokus Pokus (Bally, 1976) pinball machine and I used to play it every chance I got. Playing a pinball machine without the need for quarters was a big deal for a young kid, and I got pretty good at it before long. In fact, I scared my cousins the first time I rolled over the score from 99,990 points to 00,000 and the Over The Top buzzer sounded, back in 1981. (Yes, I did this at 9 years of age, thanks to standing on a milk crate so I could look down on the glass.) I guess I should’ve known I’d be okay at pinball from that point on.

I’m grateful to Zen Studios and to FarSight Studios for keeping pinball relevant, as both companies have been doing. Zen Studios has been doing a fantastic job with its original tables, while FarSight continues to deliver popular tables from years gone by that I used to dump plenty of quarters into. I can’t recommend either/or… I recommend work from both teams for players to get the best pinball experience. They’re both fantastic, and, in my opinion, they both deserve our support.

As always, thanks for watching the video and reading these few words.

Episode 18: Baseball Fever Mega-sode

Post-production notes:

Clocking in at more than 40 minutes of running time, I’m glad I decided to break up this episode into three parts. It made sense to do at least two parts, given how many games that I would be touching on… but I didn’t realize until I pulled my games for all three consoles that I had so much to cover. I think separating the titles by console made sense, and I hope you agree.

There’s something about NES baseball games that keeps me coming back, regardless of the lack of “real” players or even battery-backed stats or season tracking. I believe that the accessibility– or ease of play– of these games is a key factor. Whereas many baseball games today are more for the purist and have a strong simulation aspect to them, NES baseball games by and large were easy to get into playing and didn’t require understanding a ton of rules and situations. Throw the ball, hit the ball, field the ball, run the bases… these are the main objectives in baseball and NES games generally execute these well. Sure, I think that Bases Loaded and Base Wars have their troubles in certain areas… but other games like RBI Baseball, Bad News Baseball, and Baseball Simulator 1.000 excel in this regard.

16-bit baseball games also fared well in terms of baseball basics, and we got to see more and more licensing take place to insert at least some realism. World Series Baseball had a full license for teams and players. The Ken Griffey games had team licensing, with rather silly player names. Tecmo Super Baseball had teams represented by city, but the players were real. It can be argued that the 16-bit era was the best of both worlds… licensing made the games a bit more “real”, but the games were still ultimately easy to grasp. While I personally tend to gravitate more towards 8-bit games, I still do appreciate the advances that we saw in the successive generation.

My “real world” baseball experience consisted of a half-season of Little League Baseball, when I was entering 4th grade in the summer of 1980. I was terrible. My swing was awful, I couldn’t catch… and my “career” was cut short by a fastball to the noggin. Getting hit immediately killed any interest I had in playing the game and I never went back to practice after that incident; my mom returned my uniform to the coach and said something to the effect of, “He’s had enough.” I went on to play some Wiffle Ball (also pretty terribly) during summers in the late 1980s. Getting hit with those stung a lot less, but my hitting still stunk. I did start to understand the game a bit more by then, and learned to paint the corners of the plate while pitching… which I carried to playing baseball video games later on. I’m a decent video game pitcher… but I still can’t hit. Even virtually.

I hope that you enjoy this mega-sode. This will be the only episode this week, but you can expect at least one Pete Plays video by week’s end. In addition, keep checking back here for my Top 10 Baseball Video Games piece. I’ve always thought about doing this list, and now seems like a good time to do so. The schedule of two episodes per week will resume next week.

Thanks again for watching and for subscribing to the YouTube channel. Seeing the subscriber number topping 100 is humbling and motivating at the same time. I think it means that I’m doing something worthwhile… which is a bonus considering how much fun I’m having while doing it. I can’t ask for a better experience, honestly.

Episode 16: Back to Funspot

Post-production notes:

Needless to say here, I’m more than a little excited to be returning to Funspot and the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM) in May. It’s been 12 years, and I know that a lot of changes and improvements have taken place since my last appearance there. There are more games to play and the International Classic Video Game Tournament has evolved a bit with each passing year.

I will say that being in the presence of many record holders and legendary video game players is a simultaneously amazing and intimidating experience. On one hand, I’m sharing a room with some of the most amazing and talented players in the world. On the other hand, I know in the back of my mind that my skill level likely comes nowhere near theirs… so I do my best not to embarrass myself and put up respectable scores among my peers. This, of course, is if you’re competitive.

The other draw to traveling to New Hampshire and taking part in this event is to rediscover so many classic coin-ops that four days might not give you enough time to cover them all. If you take a look at the list of games in ACAM‘s arsenal, it’s mind-blowing. When I last attended in 2002, there were games that I never got around to playing because I simply ran out of time… even through four days. That’s arguably what guarantees return trips, though. “Next time I’m here, I’ll play those.” Yeah, that was me, 12 years ago.

I’m really hoping that I’ll meet a few of you up there this year. It’s a fantastic event and, if you’re not conflicted with E3 planning, it’s well worth the price of lodging and admission.

After my birthday in late April, I’ll be putting together regular Countdown to Funspot content that will share my preparation, my practice strategies, and more experiences from past competitions.  Those will run for the 5 weeks between my birthday and the event itself.

As always, thanks for watching. Episode 17 comes tomorrow (March 6th).

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