Posts Tagged ‘ 360

A Time of Plague

I’ve been trying to get some work done around here, but I’ve been kind of distracted by the fact that MK has been stricken with some sort of “stagnation o’ th’ lungs”, as the butcher of All Creatures might say. I’m not exactly certain what’s wrong with her (medical science is still working on that) but she’s been kind of zonked out for the past four days.

That’s not ideal in a small apartment, where the living room shares space with the office. Besides which, I have a hard time motivating myself to do much cooking or cleaning when I’m the only one with an appetite or an interest in the apartment’s cleanliness. So I’ve mostly sat with MK here in the shadows, trying to get some research and writing done.

As it has in the past, Good Old Games has come to MK’s rescue. She bought an old childhood favorite, Creatures, and has been happily curled around her laptop for most of the last 72 hours. She’s less miserable when she’s playing it. It seems to be such a remarkable game that I have a hard time believing it exists: it’s a late 90′s genetic sandbox game, where you monitor a population of Gremlin-like creatures and try to make them robust and self-sustaining while addressing potential problems like disease or genetic defects. There’s no saves beyond a self-overwriting autosave. You screw up genetic line or an entire species, you can’t go back and undo it. You just have to fix it.

It’s something I’m going to have to take a look at, because it seems to be very similar to the game that people once believed Spore would be. MK spent several hours trying to perfect a cross of the game’s three species that would combine the best of each, but she eventually had to admit defeat as undesirable traits kept manifesting and the mature crosses showed no inclination to procreate.

Unfortunately, we also lost an old nemesis this week: MK’s HP laptop. In the three years we’ve owned it, I would estimate that it has been broken or RTMed for at least one year. Now, eight months after yet another round of repairs and six months out of warranty, it’s videocard is dead. We will probably not be repairing it, since I have every expectation that another part would fail within a few months.

Since we primarily used MK’s laptop for media,  it seems like it is time to get a TV. And if we’re getting a TV, we might as well get a console to play DVDs and stream media. So that’s exciting. Now I just need to pick one: PS3 or 360?

Well I'll Be Damned

My aunt Sal happened to be in town the other day and we had her over for a big breakfast and some catching up. While she has made more of an effort than my mother to keep up with the times (I cringed when she got a call on her cell and Lady Gaga began blasting from its tinny speakers), she is definitely not someone I would consider a member of our curious gaming tribe.

Over sausages and pancakes, however, she began talking about a racing game she’s been trying to get the hang of lately. She stumbled over the name at first (“Razer or Raza, maybe, I can’t remember”) and somewhat incredulously I asked, “Not Forza 3?”

“Yes, that’s it!” And she was off talking about how difficult the game is, and how her husband took her newly-acquired Porsche out for a spin around a track and totaled it against the outside wall of a corner. She’s a little annoyed at him, because she struggles with the game and her acquisition of a Porsche was no mean achievement. Now she had to scrape the money together to fix it after letting him have the controller for all of two minutes.

However, what really interested me was how she ended up with a 360 in the first place, because she was quick to explain she’s not much of a gamer and Forza 3 is about all she’s really interested in. She didn’t even know at first that the 360 was different from the Wii, and that Wii Fit was only available on a different system.

Netflix sold her a 360, essentially. She and her husband have used Netflix for years and they noticed on one of the mailers that they could stream it online. Sal gave it a try on her computer and loved the instant gratification, but couldn’t work out how to get the feed from her computer onto her TV. She did notice, however, that she could stream Netflix through her 360 and so she want to the store and grabbed one. Now she’s on Xbox Live, has an avatar, is toying with the idea of doing some competitive Forza racing, and uses the 360 almost as a replacement for cable TV.

I mention this only because it left me slightly astonished. I knew that Microsoft’s deal with Netflix was important, but I viewed it more as an extra selling point to gamers. I wasn’t sure that Microsoft would gain any traction in its efforts to sell the 360 as a set-top media center to non-gamers. However, my aunt Sal is totally in love with it.

It’s probably not news to a lot of people that the console manufacturers are making inroads with non-gamers, but it took me by surprise. I still viewed consoles as gaming platforms that could do a lot of other things. Those other things were extra features that would matter to someone who had already made the decision to buy a gaming machine. My aunt Sal, however, brought a current-gen console into her house because she loved the convenience of streaming movie rentals. Now that it’s there, she’s deciding to give games a try. I think that’s pretty cool.