Friday, February 27, 2009

News: Sony Releases New Piece of Sh**

While it is true that I am not a member of the "media" anymore, I do believe, as a humble blogger, that it is still my "duty," as it were, to keep readers apprised of certain news items and developments as pertains to the realm of "entertainment"--especially that of the "electronic" variety.

It is for that reason that I alert you to the following item, which will be of interest to any and all of those with the technolust to have each and every new gadget that arrives on the market. And because this new device is from Sony, arguably one of the biggest companies on this or any other planet, its of even greater interest.

Gentlepeople, get your pocketbooks ready! (Oh, and this is decidedly NSFW. Be warned! :))

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Well, I'm a bit rusty...

...but I was given the opportunity to indulge again in a little bit of that "games journalism" jazz with this piece right here for

This is part of a continuing series in which they are asking various game industry people "How They Play Games." I thought of approaching this piece many different ways, including a more serious essay on how my gaming meshes, and doesn't, as an adult, husband, and father....but then, well, I just decided to rant instead. Yay!

Hope ya like it--and go easy. Remember, I'm not a professional writer anymore. (the proof: I didn't get paid to do it!)

My new album cover.


While I am not much of a fan of the FaceBook memes--being an old, angry, curmudgeonly sort of guy--I did enjoy this one, forwarded to me by my pal Xian.

1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit "random"
or click
The first random Wikipedia article that comes up is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
or click
The last four or five words of the very LAST quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on "explore the last seven days"
or click
The third picture in the top row, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use PhotoShop or whatever to put it all together.

5 - Post it to FB with this text in the "caption" or "comment" and TAG the friends you want to join in.

The result of my efforts is posted above!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And I thought MY dog was dumb!

Poor thing.

(And one day soon I will write the blog post about my dog being afraid of her own food bowl...)

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Please please please re-invest in a copy editor.

That way I don't have to be embarrassed by my alma mater for such embarrassments as this.

"Bruce Kelley??"

Good god.

UPDATE: The error has now been fixed. Internet ridicule FTW.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The world in my ears

One of the great things about getting older--other, than, ya know, being closer to death--is that you stop worrying about being "cool." "Cool" is a young person's game. It's the ultimate irony, really, because, once you get into the older person's club, you start learning a different truth: The only thing less cool than an adult trying to be cool is a young person --who, by definition, hasn't lived as long as the rest of us-- trying to tell you what's cool. (It's okay, though. Part of being a kid and then a teen and then young adult is redefining the world for yourself.) The secret truth is that not only are we cooler than you, but we actually don't even give a shit, which of course just makes us that much more cool. Truthfully, we just have more important stuff to worry about now. Like family, and bills, and, err, doing Heroic instances at Level 80. You know: grownup stuff.

I kind of never know what to say when someone in their teens or 20s is "amazed" that I listen to "cool" music. My inner response is something like, "Actually, I'm more amazed that you do." Because, at least in my own personal experience, I've discovered that my musical listening palette has only grown and broadened over the years, precisely because I got old enough to stop giving a shit what it said about me that I was listening to any particular piece of music. Also, some of the music you're amazed that I'm listening to was actually recorded by folks either my age or way older. Like Nirvana. "Wow, Jeff, you know who they are?" Well, yeah, dumbfuck. That's my peer group, not yours.

But, again, that's fine. You young people are stupid. We knew this already. No need to belabor the point. The point of THIS post is really to acknowledge how fun it has been for me, of late, to get over my own youthful stupidity about music, and embrace (or re-embrace) music that in my earlier life I rejected for reasons that mystify me now. Because, now that I listen, I can only conclude that the problem wasn't the music--it was me.

The thing is, I've always been a voracious listener and consumer of music. Some people are just like that. I'm one of them. I love music and admire and envy musicians. And, yeah, sure, I've played different instruments over the years--most notably trumpet for 10 and electric bass for about 4)--but the sad truth, which I'm okay with, is that I'm not a musician. I can be told what to play, and play it decently enough, sometimes, to not scare animals away, but I'm just a hack, without the necessary wiring to think and create and express myself on my own. (Which is why the bass was so perfect for me for awhile. Because as long as I could keep a beat and stay rhythmically in sync with the drummer, I could pretty much just hammer on the tonics and the 5ths all day and be unobtrusively serviceable. Not that I'm dissing real bass players. I still worship at the church of Mike Watt, Les Claypool, Paul McCartney, John Entwhistle, and the rest.)

"Let's one up from E should be...F?"

So, yeah. Not a musician. Just a lover of music. My ears have always been open to new sounds, but, in earlier years, I let that dumb game of trying to be "cool" distort my perception, or deny my own feelings. That is: While my ears knew deep down from the first listen that, say, Electric Light Orchestra's Mr. Blue Sky was some kind of scrumptious pop masterpiece, my self-identification forced me to deny it, to scoff at it. I blame punk for a lot of this. I was 16 years old when punk and new wave broke out in force in 1977, and as a dorky teen with self-image and confidence problems, I was ready for this music. I was ready to embrace something that didn't appeal to the jocks and "normal" people. I wanted to define myself as "different", as cool in my own way, and here was an entire new musical genre dedicated to this very proposition, being made by people who looked just like me. The first time I ever saw Elvis Costello in my life was when he made his infamous first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1977--infamous because after playing a few bars of what he was "supposed" to play, "Less Than Zero"--he spontaneously shut the band down and had them launch, instead, into "Radio Radio," a ferocious jab at the American broadcast industry that pissed off the SNL producers so badly that he was banned from the show for 12 years:

It turns out that that SNL appearance was a defining moment in my life. Skinny, awkward, bespectacled, Elvis Costello became a rock hero for, to use a dreaded cliche, "the rest of us." He wasn't a blond Viking god like Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey. He didn't sing about his conquests with girls because it looked like he probably hadn't been on one date yet. In fact, I could relate to this! So the very next morning, I rode my bike over to Music Plus on Van Nuys Blvd, and plopped down $3.99 for my copy of Elvis' just released debut album, My Aim is True--and the rest, to use another cliche, is history. (BTW, just last year I had one of the greatest musical experiences of my life: Going with my pal Dan to see Elvis at a small club, reunited with the band he made this record with, playing the entire My Aim Is True record, in sequence.)

ANYWAY: My musical course was now set. Punk and "new wave" were in; everything else was now discredited, irrelevant, embarrassing. My new musical heroes were David Byrne, Andy Partridge, Exene, D. Boon, Steve Wynn--anyone embracing the new aesthetic and rejecting the shit 70s. And, ya know, we weren't entirely wrong. Most of that music holds up mightily today, and I still love it, and I still totally feel like this kind of "counter-revolution" in RAWK was necessary at the time. The problem was--at least in my case--I took it too far. Because what I didn't understand at the time--because I was a teen still struggling to understand what "cool" was--is that good music is just good music, and what's "good" is whatever your ears approve of. That "cool" isn't owned by one genre. Obvious, yeah? But try telling that to an insecure teen with identity issues.

So what I did was this: I purged my record collection. I sold, for way too cheap, any vinyl records that didn't fit into my new identity: Led Zeppelin, Earth Wind and Fire, Aerosmith, ELO, Elton John, Queen, and on and on. And it's such a freakin' shame, because, come on! Led Zeppelin! Earth Wind and Fire! Aerosmith! ELO! Elton motherfrakkin' John! This stuff was GOLD. Cheesy at times, overwrought at times, full of itself at times--oh yes. But such wondrous ear candy. Such beautiful nonsense. And if I can't go back and actually reclaim that original Physical Graffiti gatefold record without paying a fortune now, I can at least appreciate it anew for the massive slab of monstrous awesomeness that it is, with no apologies.
I can proudly blast Tiny Dancer, comfortable in the knowledge that, yes, Elton John, no matter how "uncool" he seemed to me back when I worried about such things, wrote some lovely little pop masterpieces, and that that's okay.

All of which may be no news to you. You may, in fact, not have any such blinders or biases of your own. If so, I salute you. It's actually one thing I do admire about you younger peoples: you seem much more open-minded, in general, about music than we ever did. I look at my 15-year-old daughter's ipod and I see, among many others, Abba, AC/DC, Band of Horses, Belle and Sebastian, Grant-Lee Phillips, Damian Marley, MIA, PJ Harvey, Santogold, Talking Heads--that's good stuff!

I think the point of this long ramble is simply to say: Keep your ears open. Because you never know where that next great sound is going to come from. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to like what you like. It's just stupid. And life is too short. And the next time you feel like belting out "Dancing Queen" in public? Do it. If anyone gives you grief, go ahead and punch them in the face. And tell them that Jeff Green says hello.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Game Design is Hard, Part II

If you are wondering about the slowdown in posting on this site of late, I refer you to the title of this new blog post. It would appear that I am coming home so mentally fatigued at this point, that I don't have much left in me except the desire and ability to zombie out in front of the television screen or World of WarCraft.

I'm not complaining, though: At this point, all of us who have jobs, let's be thankful that we have them. And, hey, I love my job. It's ridiculously fun and rewarding, and a privilege, really, to be paid to do this for a living. In my younger days I had some of the same crappy jobs as everyone else: I washed dishes at a Japanese restaurant; I was a delivery boy in Los Angeles; I served burgers at a craphole in Berkeley where the most common customers were insane homeless people, stoned students, and, on one memorable Saturday afternoon, a 300 pound naked guy who walked in, sat down, and poured a big tabletop container of sugar into his mouth until the police came in and carted him away. I've also had dreary white collar jobs, where I sat in my cubicle all day in a frozen state of boredom and misery, fantasizing about stabbing my incompetent bosses and running off to Hawaii to sell pineapples on the beach. So, yeah. I consider myself awfully lucky now.

Still: refer to the title above. As I get deeper into the collaborative process here, it becomes clearer and clearer to me just how complicated the business of making a game is, and the near miracle it is to get all the people involved aligned and understanding of what it is you're trying to do, to get the money and time you need, to stay true to your vision while making all the inevitable and heartbreaking compromises. And I say all this while still only being one foot--at most--down from the tip of the iceberg. I know I haven't seen anything yet, really.

It was inevitable, of course, but I find it kind of funny that a lot of people ask me now if, knowing what I know now, would I go back and change the way I reviewed games? Would I go easier, knowing how difficult it is? The answer to that is a resounding no. I would not. I do understand more deeply why a lot of developers can't stand the press, or have no respect for them. Frankly, the majority of the gaming press doesn't deserve much respect---though I said that throughout my career in the press, so that's nothing new and no change of heart on my part. The lack of common journalistic standards and practices, the often weaselly ethics, and, heck, the sheer inability to form grammatically correct and cogent and interesting sentences all speaks to a subset of the media that is really nothing more than amateur fanzines with a budget. Still, not ALL the gaming press is like that--and certainly every site linked to on this blog to the right falls into a different category entirely. These are smart, literate, educated people writing with intelligence and insight and humor and perspective about a hobby that many of us love. That takes skill, too--just like game development.

So even though I have a much deeper understanding--though I still have a long way to go---of what goes into making a game, how compromises arise, how elements you would think would be "no brainers" to have in a game suddenly become impossible to do for reasons outside your control, I still would not go back and change the way I did my old job. Why? Because this shit doesn't matter. Not to the consumer, not to the folks spending their money hoping you are going to entertain them. This is our problem, not theirs. Consumers don't need to know or care how much of your heart was invested in the game, how many dinners you missed at home because you were working late, how, well, you *really* would have had this cool multiplayer component but there wasn't enough time. As Tony Soprano's mom would say: Poor you. It's neither the critic's job nor the consumer's concern to take into account how sincere you were in your efforts. No matter how great a person you may be, how hard you worked, how much your team *tried* to get things right, the only thing that matters in the end is what's in that box (or digital download!). The game disc doesn't come with a written explanation of what you tried to do, or a list of reasons why, okay, yeah, maybe the marketing and PR from the past year, and on the game box itself, doesn't quite match what's in the game. If you failed to deliver, if you blew it, if you didn't meet expectations---that's not the press's fault, or the consumers.

Oh yes, like I said, plenty of critics are morons, and might be reviewing your game for all the wrong reasons, or with terrible attitudes, or with unfair expectations. Nothing you can do about that, really. What you can, do, though, is be honest with yourself while you're making the game, to realize that those decisions you're making have consequences, and to separate out the more valid and intelligent criticism from the nonsense and noise. Being blind or hostile to criticism, to dismiss it all as "they don't get what we do" does you no favors in the long run.

All of this said, I am stating here, though, that if MY game doesn't get the 10 out of 10 it so richly deserves--especially given everything we have to deal with!--then I will personally hunt and kill every no-nothing, lazy, incompetent "critic" out there. Why don't you guys try making a game yourselves!


(err, sorry, this post was originally supposed to be about Lost and BSG and Depeche Mode and The Verve and almost hitting Level 80 in WoW. LOL.)