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.

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Pete Plays: Ninja Crusaders (NES)

Post-production notes:

I decided to give Ninja Crusaders some playing time after recording the April Vlog, and thought that it was worth putting it on camera to share with everyone (since I haven’t done a Pete Plays video in a while).

Ninja Crusaders is very much a Ninja Gaiden clone, but there are distinct differences and omissions which make it unique. Note that I said “unique”– not “better”. There is some kind of story here, though it’s told via a wall of text and not through cinematic cutscenes, as seen in Ninja Gaiden. There are powerups to grab in this game, but they change weapons instead of granting support skills. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Ninja Crusaders is a one-hit death kind of game; this is a big change from Ninja Gaiden’s life bar system. It’s not just pits that can insta-kill you… it’s everything. Hit by a projectile? DEAD. Touch an enemy? DEAD. You have to be very precise and calculating with your movements here (kind of like a ninja, I guess), because it’s easy to make a mistake and one mistake means… well… DEAD.

The different weapons add variety, and some weapons work better on certain enemies than others. This adds a bit of strategy in deciding which powerups to collect. Collecting a powerup that’s the same as the one you have grants you an extra life, so players can capitalize on this to extend their game as long as they want… until the boss battles, anyway.

The graphics and music are okay. Not good, not bad. There’s a lot of repeating enemies, but the boss designs will catch your eye.

Ninja Crusaders is valued at around $13 on PriceCharting. After hitting a low of $7 a year ago, the game’s value rose over the next few months before plateauing at more than $14.50. It’s settled back a bit since. The game is fairly uncommon, according to various rarity lists.

Overall, Ninja Crusaders is an average game. The game does have some worth, however, and if you can find it for less than $10, it’s not a bad addition to your collection. Just mind the one-hit deaths and watch your step. Be a ninja.

April Vlog: Birthday Month!

Post-production notes:

So, yes. My birthday is a big deal– at least, to me it is. I’m making almost a whole month out of it, at least in terms of episode content.

I’ve seen, played, and experienced a lot in my nearly 42 years. 38 of those years have involved playing some kind of video game. I’ve written about this before, but video gives me a way to just rattle off memories… kind of like a gaming autobiography.

That’s what I’m going for this month. From my first experiences with PONG back in 1976 to my decision to drop modern console gaming and go retro in 2013, I’m going to touch on a lot over the next few episodes. There won’t be any reviews here– just citations of games and systems, along with events in my life that were happening at around the same time. Determining what each episode entails– and how to separate them– is a challenge, but I’m hopeful that you’ll enjoy the videos as they’re released.

If nothing else, this series will be there to remind me of what was… as I age and my memories dim… and, since I don’t have any children to pass these memories on to, sharing them with friends and viewers is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

As for the “big day”, I’m excited. Birthdays to me are times of rejuvenation and of joy. Making it through another year of life is an achievement… and, while my body is protesting Father Time, my mind refuses to follow suit. I still think and act like a 25 year-old, even if my reflexes aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. Some fear turning another year older; I welcome it. It gives me a chance to celebrate, which is something that I don’t take for granted. Life can’t be a party all the time– at least, not for most people– so when the opportunity presents itself, I try to take full advantage. Admittedly… I enjoy being in the spotlight, too. (I blame my karaoke days for this flaw.)

And, yes, the birthday list I made for Amazon is crazy. I do it for family and friends to look at, primarily because they don’t always know what games/systems I have or want… plus Amazon is fast-becoming the only place around these parts to carry a lot of retrogaming stuff that I haven’t already started to add to my collection from. It was doubly-important to use Amazon this year because of my PlayStation 2 issues. Between the drive starting to go and my controller doing whatever the heck it wants, it made sense to seek out a new PS2 unit if I could, instead of risking things and buying used. There’s some other stuff on the list, too. I’d probably go all N64 Kid if Space Megaforce (SNES) or Lords of Thunder (SEGA CD) showed up at my house. I almost did when my mom got Axelay (SNES) and Road Rash (SEGA CD) for me last Christmas… but it proved that creating and maintaining that list is a good idea.

Finally… thanks to all of you for watching my videos, and thanks to those who have subscribed to the YouTube channel. Seriously, I pegged the number of subscribers I’d wind up with to be a low number, so it’s a huge compliment to see 110+ people subscribed and interesting in my work. It really should be “work” in quotes, since it never feels like work to me. Heck, I’d shoot more videos if I didn’t think that viewers might eventually tire of seeing my mug on their monitors. Needless to say, Retro Unscripted is a project that I’m very proud of… and one that has a long future ahead of it. I hope that you’ll keep following along.

Stay tuned for Episode 21!

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.

Retro Unscripted Status Report: March 17, 2014

Hello, friends!

This month’s status report will be brief.

As of this post, the YouTube channel is at 102 subscribers and more than 1,350 video views since Episode 1 went live back on January 9th. There are 30 videos posted on the channel so far.

With the exception of the week where I was sick, I’ve been rolling out three videos per week. I thought that was a good number and my schedule was agreeable to it. After hearing some feedback from viewers and via e-mail, however, I’m understanding that it’s a bit too much for some to keep up with. A few felt overwhelmed, and I even lost a couple of subscribers because of it.

“Viewers can’t miss you if you’re not gone.”

I never looked at it this way, but once per week updates seem to be work better for many content producers than flooding their channels with a ton of content. So… I’m going to scale back to 1-2 videos per week, at least for a little while. At the very least, one new episode will be shot and posted each week. Some weeks may have a bonus video (Pete Plays, a video log, or something else), but this won’t always be the case. Having one episode per week also allows me to worry a bit less about going over a certain time frame (10 minutes is when I start to get concerned); instead, if I have one 20-minute piece each week, it doesn’t come off as overkill.

The “short review” video format that I’ve been tinkering with will be pushed back until June. By then, school will be done and I’ll be back from my trip to Funspot. That will give the new schedule format time to have an impact and I can look at it again, if need be.

I’m now a little over a month from my 42nd birthday, so I’ve been working on my birthday wish list for this year. Next month’s episodes will be of a personal nature as I share a lot of recollections and memories from years gone by, leading up to the big day on April 22nd… which will have its own special episode posted. I have a few interesting stories to tell… some may get you to laugh, others may get you to say “Wow!” or “Really?”, but I hope that you’ll like them in any event. I really enjoy using my birthday month to look back, before focusing on what’s ahead in the next month.

Finally, thanks to the Retroware crew who spent time this weekend sharing and entertaining in memory of Justin “Jew Wario” Carmical… and thanks to all of those who donated to the cause, which is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. At last check, more than $2,500 was raised… and that’s awesome. Seeing the community pull together for something like this is a reminder of how strong it really is. I’m grateful to be a part of it.

As always, thanks so much for watching my videos and reading my words. Look for Episode 19 (and it won’t be sports!) later this week.

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.

March 5th Video Log: Close to 100 Subscribers? Wow!

Post-production notes:

First off, thanks to all of you who have been subscribing to the YouTube channel and watching these videos. I know I say this an awful lot, but I’m really touched that people seem to like what I’m doing here– in spite of the rough format, lack of editing, and occasional sound problems. It’s a one-man operation: A laptop, a Guitar Hero USB microphone (with no stand), and me. I thought it might be crazy to try something like this and expect anyone other than myself (or maybe my family) to watch… but you seem to like it, and that’s a huge compliment to someone who has no video experience and just sits to talk about video games for 10-30 minutes at a time.

It’s an even bigger compliment when other content creators who you admire and are inspired by spread the word about your work. To know that these people watch is really neat; it’s akin to having members of the gaming press who originally inspired to me begin writing more than a decade ago read your words. That’s how you know that you’re successful, in my opinion… not necessarily just by subscriber numbers or view counters, but also by who watches or reads your work. So many of these people inspired me to stop making excuses or to stop spouting off “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” scenarios and just try to do my own thing… and now here I am.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to all of you for the inspiration, the motivation, and for making me feel like I’m really doing something special.

Technically speaking… I ran into microphone issues again here. It was another one of those “too close to the laptop” problems, though it didn’t happen with Episode 16. I’ll have to change places (again) for the next video. I apologize for the buzzing. And, no, there isn’t a bees’ nest in my room. Yet. (That comes with the spring, so May.)

I’m wondering if it’s a good idea to give out topic schedules in advance like this, rather than just running with it, shooting, and then sharing. I know I risk turning off some viewers if they don’t like the content I decide to cover before they even see my work, but I think that it’s also nice on occasion to have a clear content path– even though I’m not writing any scripts or dialog– so that I know going into shooting exactly what it is that I’m doing. Even without a script, there’s still some prep work… picking out the games to show or talk about, getting the GxTV set up, setting my recording angles, and more. Having some preliminary ideas at first makes the process a little less… “seat of my pants”. I’d love to hear what you think on this, if you want to chime in.

As always, thanks so much for watching. Episode 17 will be up tomorrow!

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).

Pete Plays: Top Gun

Post-production notes:

Technically speaking, I am aware that sound problems persist. I’m still struggling to find a good spot to rig the microphone, and where it was this time led to a little too much movement. You can certainly hear me fine, although the game sound is a little weak. I’m sorry about the rustling microphone, though; until I find a solution for Pete Plays videos, there may be a few issues like this while I try to find the right spot.

As far as the game goes? This was awesome. The video hasn’t received a lot of positive reaction, which is too bad considering how much fun I was having. It’s not every day that you do something that you hadn’t been able to do in 27 years leading up to that moment. Talking while playing helped to hide some of my nervousness… especially as I knew I was getting close to a personal best. Of course, a couple of silly mistakes led to getting shot down needlessly and likely cost me a chance to actually beat this game for the first time… but what I take away from this experience is that I really can beat Top Gun if I focus. Before this video was shot… I didn’t think I really could do it.

It’s pretty cool to know that I have my best-ever session of Top Gun on video, proving that I really did get close to emerging victorious. I do think that I play games better during Pete Plays sessions… maybe it’s because I don’t want to embarrass myself, but I believe that I fare better in the spotlight, under pressure. If it didn’t take so long, I’d consider doing a Pete Plays of Ninja Gaiden… but you don’t want to hear me swearing up and down. Do you?

Finally… thank you so much for helping my YouTube channel cross the 1,000 views plateau. The channel has lost a couple of subscribers lately, but is still within shouting distance of 100. To most, these are probably small numbers. YouTube scoffs at my stats. To me, though, it’s an enormous compliment. I’m very proud of this project and where it’s been in only two months. Considering that I’m not cross-publishing on Retroware or other retro hubs to help with promotion, and considering that this is a one-goof (as in me) operation, I’m floored by the response to my work. I’m just a guy having fun with sitting in front of his webcam and chatting for awhile, and it’s one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done.

As always, thanks so much for watching (and reading!).

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