A to Z Challenge: (P)laystation

PlaystationYou definitely can’t talk about video games without mentioning the series of console that has served Sony so well: the Playstations.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc began researching into gaming platforms long before CD-Rom gaming as an affordable option was viable. They wanted to create a console that would change the industry forever, and it was with that goal in mind that the Playstation gaming console was released in North America in 1995. The release was an enormous success, with over 100,000 consoles sold in the first weekend alone. But Sony kept setting their sites higher, and in November of 2000 they released the Playstation 2. With greater power than the first console, and the ability to play CD’s and DVD’s as well, the Playstation 2 became the entertainment “hub” in millions of households. Even a decade after its first release, the Playstation 2 prevailed as one of the most popular game consoles of all time, and had sold more than 50 million units in North America alone.

Of course that’s not the end of the story. In March 2005 Sony released their first portable gaming console, the PSP, which did not enjoy a rousing success, but showed that Sony was willing to dabble into other gaming options. In November of 2006 they revolutionized gaming again with the Playstation 3, which incorporated state-of-the-art Blu-ray technology and was their first home console to be equipped with a pre-installed hard drive, rendering the “memory cards” of the past a distant memory. In more recent years Sony released their more robust handheld, the Playstation Vita, and most recently their most powerful console yet, the Playstation 4. They’ve also enjoyed great success with the online Playstation Network and Store, as well as their subscription service, Playstation Plus, which offers members special deals and free downloadable games for a yearly fee.

So what is my personal history with the Playstation line? Well, right off the bat, while I don’t have an original Playstation, I do own a Playstation One, which was the smaller, more affordable option that was made available after the initial launch – it’s basically the same machine more cheaply made.

Pictured: No less a huge part of my childhood than the one with $100 more plastic casing.
Pictured: No less a huge part of my childhood than the one with $100 more plastic casing attached.

I also avoided the PSP, as it seemed that not many people were terribly impressed with it at the time. I do, however, have the Playstations 2, 3, and 4, as well as Playstation Vita.

The Playstation 2 was a huge source of my and my husband’s entertainment for many years, especially during our college years when we couldn’t afford much. The Playstation 3 continued to carry that torch for several years afterward, and in fact we still have several games for the PS3 that we have yet to play because our Playstation library is so big. These days my husband has been focusing on the PS4 games he got for Christmas, while I’ve mostly been sticking with my PSVita for now. We’re both big fans of the Playstation Plus service, which provides us with enough free games every year to far surpass the cost of the subscription.

What kinds of games do we play on our Playstation consoles? Well, all kinds, but as of the writing of this post my husband is playing ‘Diablo 3’ while I’m into ‘The Wolf Among Us’.

What is your experience with the Playstation line? What isĀ  your favorite system? Favorite game? Please share!

Enjoying the A to Z Challenge? Why not check out these other participating blogs:

FictionZeal.com
Creative Outlet of StratPlayer
Scribblings
A Bench With a View
LuAnn @ Back Porchervations
Of Glass & Paper (WARNING: Adult Content!)
Nerd in the Brain
Suzanne’s Tribe
Michael Abayomi
uniquely maladjusted but fun

Gift Ideas You May Not Have Thought Of

Gift shopping can be hard, especially if you don’t have all that much in common with the person you’re buying for. So with that in mind, here’s some random gift ideas you may not have thought of.

Does your recipient like tea?

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Go to DavidsTea.com right now. There are dozens and dozens of loose-leaf teas to choose from, in all kinds of different categories, and there are always gift sets available as well. The pricing for the loose tea is based on weight, so the cost depends on what you choose, but considering how many cups you can get out of a bag, the price is actually quite reasonable. They also have a host of tea-related gift options, such as mugs, kettles, steeping nets, filters, tea additives (honey, sugar sticks, etc.), travel kits, and so on. It is literally your one-stop shop for tea, and as someone who has tried many of their teas, trust me when I say that they do their job well.

Does your recipient like nerdy stuff/collectibles?

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Consider purchasing them a few months worth of a nerd-and-geek subscription box service. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and you don’t even have to go to the store to buy it. For between $20 and $35 per month, your recipient gets a monthly box full of nerdy collectibles and fun stuff, and you can order it all online, from the comfort of your own bed. Personally, I suggest Loot Crate, both because I have found it to be the superior nerd box, and because you have the choice of paying monthly, or for three, six, or twelve-month chunks. But beware! Your credit card will be automatically charged when whatever time period you’ve chosen expires, so you have to make sure to cancel the subscription before that happens.

Does your recipient like beauty products?

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See above suggestion, but replace “Loot Crate” with “Ipsy“. For $10/month ($15 in Canada) your loved one can get a beautiful little make-up bag with 5-7 beauty products in it every month. I have personally found my Ipsy bags to have a value of about $35 in products, so for a total of $120 ($180 in Canda) your recipient gets a total of approximately $420 worth of products over the course of the year. Just remember, as with the Loot Crate suggestion, that Ipsy charges your credit card monthly, so you have to remember to cancel the service so that you don’t keep getting charged after your gift budget has run out.

Does your recipient like to read…like, a lot?

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If you have a loved one who rips through whole books faster than most people can read the summary on the back cover, you may want to look into getting them a Kindle Unlimited account. KU is basically Netflix for readers; for $9.99 per month your reader has access to a library of over 700,000 ebooks and audio books. And they don’t even need an actual Kindle to use the service. If your reader has a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, they can download the free Kindle app and instantly start enjoying the vast digital library that you’ve just purchased for them. And remember, this is another monthly payment gift, so work out with your recipient when you’re going to remove your card from the account so that they can keep their subscription going undisturbed.

Does your recipient like video games…but you know nothing about them?

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Clueless parents and grandparents, I’m talking to you. Here’s the first step: find out what game console your recipient has, and make absolutely certain you have it correct. This really isn’t so hard. Just ask, and write it down so that you don’t forget. Don’t give me any of that bull about how you’ll remember. Write it down. Right now. Now that you’ve done the hard part, go to your local Walmart, Target, or wherever you know that has those huge racks of gift cards, and pick out the one that matches your loved one’s console. If they have a Playstation 3, Playstation 4, or Playstation Vita, you want this one:

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If they have an XBox 360 or an XBox One, you want this one:

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And if they have a Nintendo Wii, Wii U, or a Nintendo 3DS you want this one:

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With this gift card your recipient can pay for the online account that is required for most consoles now, or they can buy digital downloads of games directly to their console. And all you had to figure out was the name of the console. You’re welcome.

So those are my suggestions for some gifts you may not have thought of. How about you? Any ideas for gifts that people may not have thought of? Please share!

A to Z Challenge Day 7: Gau (the Wild Orphan)

GGau

Video games have been an important part of my life, off and on, for the past two and a half decades or so. I had an original Atari, which I was absolutely obsessed with, and I’ve owned every generation of Nintendo console and hand-held aside from the Virtual Boy (because I honestly never knew it existed until years later), the 3DS (because my regular DS works just fine, thanks) and the Wii-U (because screw it, I’m not that big of a sucker). I’ve also, in partnership with my husband, had all four Playstations (plus the Vita), and the first two X-Boxes (the third will probably come along at some point), and we’ve got a Dreamcast squirreled away upstairs somewhere.

There have definitely been times in my life where video games became less important, but I’ve always loved them since I was barely old enough to be able to figure out how to play them, and to this day turn-based RPGs are my favorites. And of that classification, Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) definitely ranks at the very top of my all-time favorites list. I can not tell you the number of times I have played through this game. I love everything about it from the story, to the characters, to the battle system. To this day I get the random urge to pop in my Gameboy Advanced version and start a whole new game right from the beginning.

I love pretty much all of the characters in this game, but one character I always thought was under-appreciated was Gau. He’s the sweet little orphan boy who was raised by monsters and joins the party simply because they were nice enough to feed him. He’s never been a fan favorite amongst the FFIII characters, but I think that was mostly because of the effort required to make him a force to be reckoned with. You see, whereas the other characters learned their special attacks naturally, Gau had to be fighting in a particular area, and in order to get him to learn new attacks you had to let him leave the party and then keep fighting in random encounters until he showed up again. You might fight ten battles and have him come back and have learned one new attack, out of the 250 attacks that he could learn…and often the one he did learn would be total crap.

But, if you were willing to be a little patient, Gau could become a great addition to your party, one who could do an enormous number of special attacks. Plus, he was just fun to have around. Come on, FFIII fans…speak up! You know he was the cutest thing since kitty-shaped sliced bread!

Things I Know About Kids: Pay Attention to What They Like!

Let me start off this post by asking a question: how many of you can recall at least one birthday, Christmas, or other present-giving holiday where you were disappointed by a present? Maybe you got the cheap knock-off version of the thing you really wanted, or maybe you got something that was way outside your age range, or maybe you got something completely different from what you’d asked for because what you really wanted was deemed somehow inappropriate. Or maybe, just maybe, you got something completely random that you didn’t want, and all you could think was, “Geez, does anyone even pay attention to what I like?”

2nnneNow here’s the thing. I’m not suggesting that kids shouldn’t be grateful for the presents they get, because they should, and it really peeves me when kids are ungrateful little brats. I’m also not suggesting that parents should break the bank when it comes to presents…if you genuinely can’t afford it, then your kids are just going to have to deal (and again, be grateful).

But I am saying this: for the love of god…pay attention to what your kids like.

I bring this up because of my “jobs I’ve had” post a few days ago. Mentioning my previous positions at various department stores reminded me of something I dealt with a lot while working retail: clueless parents. I can’t count the number of times I got questions from parents who had only the basest inkling of a concept of what their child wanted as a present. For example, once I had a mother come into Zellers and ask me for help finding a game that her kid wanted. She said the game was called “Mario”. I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming as I asked her, “Which Mario?”

A SMALL clipping of the Wikipedia list of Mario games...notice the dates?
A SMALL clipping of the Wikipedia list of Mario games…notice the dates?

A brief discussion thereafter revealed that not only did the woman not know which one of the dozens of possible “Mario” games she was looking for, but she didn’t even know which video game console she was buying it for. She knew that her kid had a “Nintendo”, but not which version, and at the time N64 was still booming, while Gamecube was wracking up new sales. Each system had a plethora of “Mario” games, so I had absolutely no way of advising this woman as to what she should buy. In the end I practically begged her to go home and ask her kid about the game again.

Now seriously, folks…it’s one thing to get a little confused when you find out that there are multiple games with similar titles…but if you don’t even know which system you’re buying it for? Sorry, but you must have your head lodged firmly up your back-end. I know there are lots of parents out there who don’t know a damn thing about video games, but how can you honestly not even know which console(s) your kid owns? Is there really not enough space in your brain to commit the words “Gamecube” or “Playstation 3” or “Gameboy” or “XBox” to memory?

I don’t mean this post to torment parents who are a little out of touch with video games and toys and the newest gadgets. We can’t all know everything about everything. But this is your child (or children) that we’re talking about. Is it really so hard to pay a little bit of attention to what they enjoy? The toys they play with? The TV shows they watch? You have no idea how many times I watched parents struggle over a wall of action figures because they had no idea which superhero they were actually looking for, or how many times I’ve watched a parent pick up some random toy with a look of bewilderment on their face and ask me, “Do you think my kid will like this?”

You have no idea how many returns I’ve seen after a holiday, during which the parent grumbled that they’d, “Apparently got the wrong thing.”

Really, I swear, it’s not rocket science.

Yes, there are an outrageous number of options out there and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but you know what works? Ask your kid questions. If your kid is playing with a bunch of dolls, ask them what their names are and which ones they don’t have. BOOM, gift idea. Simple. Direct. Almost 100% success rate. Or you know what else works really well? When your kid asks for something specific, take ten seconds to really listen to what they said. The “Mario” game fiasco above could have been easily rectified if the mother had paid attention long enough to hear the full name of the game and, ideally, write it down so she wouldn’t forget. Bada bing, bada boom.

We can’t all be super-parents, and no parent has a 100% grasp on everything their kid is into…but that doesn’t give us an excuse to be ignorant. Your kids have as much right as anyone else in your life to have your attention long enough for you to be able to buy them nice presents without begging a bewildered sales clerk for help. It’s not difficult. It just takes a little bit of effort. Aren’t your kids worth a little bit of effort?

Shown: Something worth a bit of effort.
Shown: Something worth a little bit of effort.

Distractions are…um…hold that thought for just one second…

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated the dual joys of our 4th wedding anniversary, and the marriage of two friends of ours. We enjoyed a beautiful ceremony in the lovely community of Cheticamp, whilst also spending time with another married couple who we hadn’t seen in a long time, and marked the whole thing off by staying at a sweet little chalet along the coast. It was all quite lovely.

Because it was our anniversary, we were inevitably asked what we got each other, and my husband got to tell our companions that he bought me a Playstation Vita.

For our wedding anniversary.

Because I asked for it.

Hey, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while and haven’t yet figured out that I’m a total and utter dork…now you know.

Hubby bought me a Wi-Fi version Vita with a 32 GB memory card, connected it to his Playstation Network account, and downloaded a bunch of free games for me (Sony, don’t ever change your Playstation Plus system…you’re definitely doing it right), plus he picked up Rayman Origins at Walmart. Since last week I’ve been glued to this little handheld joy-box. The Vita definitely has it’s flaws, as any gaming system tends to, but I’m absolutely loving it.

And that’s a bad thing.

Okay, it’s a good thing because it was a present and I wanted it, so obviously one would hope that I enjoy playing with it. But it’s a bad thing because it is a positive time vampire. This morning I got up at about 8:30 am and started playing it. Other than to put it aside long enough to get breakfast for the baby, a coffee for the hubby, and to dance with the baby when she suddenly decided I had to dance with her, I didn’t put the Vita down until 1:00 pm. I got a dozen or so Rayman trophies, and that is all I accomplished all morning.

This is the face of my procrastination.

I didn’t write, I didn’t edit. I definitely didn’t exercise. I didn’t do any laundry or dishes, and I didn’t start tidying up the guest room (which I have to do because we have two days worth of guests coming next weekend). I didn’t even really get dressed. I put on a pair of jeans long enough to run out to the car for something, but I couldn’t be bothered to throw a bra on under my shirt, and I still haven’t as I’m typing this. The baby is still wearing her pajamas. I only just took something out of the deep freeze for supper, and I haven’t established what I’m going to do with it yet. The kitty litter is full and the cats’ streaming water dish has been broken for several days. There are a ton of leftovers in the fridge that have gone bad and I haven’t thrown them out. There are about ten boxes of old baby clothes in the hallway that I’ve been meaning to go through so I can send some stuff to consignment.

But instead of dealing with any of these things that need dealing with, I played my new Playstation Vita for four and a half hours straight. And if I’m totally honest? The only reason I actually stopped playing is because I realized that battery was dying. Yes, the only thing that dragged me away from my gaming is the fact that battery scientists (that’s a thing, right?) haven’t figured out how to make mobile batteries last longer yet.

Distractions are a terrible thing when you’re in a position that requires you to be self-motivated. Currently I am not employed; I’m working on my writing, but I’m not in a position where I am getting paid or compensated in any way. That means that every morning when I get up I have to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “Okay. You are going to get some damn work done today!” And then I have to try to follow through with it. I have to pick my own self up, with no hope of any kind of payment of any form, and I have to force myself to sit down and write. That in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that while I’m trying to force myself to write I also have to deal with a child who thinks I should wear little pink play glasses all day, and a household worth of chores and errands that never seem to slack off in any sense of the word.

Distractions are terrible and they must be eliminated. They must be stricken from the lifestyle. It is the only way. Only when distractions have been completely removed will one be able to go on with one’s day productively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, I’m way too distracted by my shiny new Vita to get on with eliminating my distractions right now, so if you don’t mind…

This is the face of my procrastination.
WHY DO YOU MOCK ME SO?!