The Best Game in the World is the One You Haven’t Played Yet
Oct 28th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

My friend Alex sent me an e-mail with this photo. His line was, 'Have you ever been walking down the street, and for a moment been confused into thinking 'Is it 1996?''Although I definitely had some stuff I have to do around the yard tomorrow, I did mostly take tomorrow off from work to play Fallout 3. I have talked about using a vacation day for a video game for years, but I am not sure if I had actually done so before? I have to get down to under two weeks by the end of the year, so knowing I have to burn some anyway… well, here we are.

Fallout 3 is installing as I write this. Actually, knowing a little something about how long it takes, I can write several thousand words and the fact that it is still installing shall still be true.

I have found, as I have become older, that I am willing to set a game down for anything. It’s like I am just looking for an excuse to do so. Don’t like the save system? Boom! Outta there. Don’t like the default control scheme? Good day! I said good day! It doesn’t work well with my trackball, because the game needs a scrollwheel? I don’t even have to say it. 

It’s sort of sad, because I stopped pirating games years ago, but my ability to instantly drop a game and never return didn’t change. This is all really starting to cost me a lot of money. I dropped the original Half-Life because it was TOO SCARY. This is really stupid of me. But I end up knowing fairly quickly if I am going to finish a game… BioShock and Freedom Force are probably the last two that I just “knew” I’d play until they were done. 

So I am a little worried about the money I just dropped on Fallout 3. I was under the impression that – at some point in the game – we’d all be able to pick what city we want to set a suitcase nuke off in. I have seen about seventeen seconds of promotional video for this game, and I guess I had created a weird fiction off it. It’s fine, it’s okay – nobody is saying “FUCK YOU BETHESDA” here or anything. I really do know nothing about how it plays, what the story is going to be like, whether it’s really destined to be the horror that the guys at No Mutants Allowed seem to think it’ll be… I know nothing. This is how I wanted it. (I knew literally nothing about BioShock before grabbing that last year, aside from the fact that I’d be shooting libertarians at some point.) 

I’m excited. Right now, as Fallout 3 completes its installation procedure (I have to admit, it was rather quick!) it’s the greatest game that has ever existed. I hope the reality just comes close!

Gravitron 2 is Every Game Rolled Into One
Oct 23rd, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey


Pinback: Robb? Gravitar, Robb? Fan?

ICJ: Yeah, I am a fan
ICJ: At first I wasn’t? But I am totally a fan now
ICJ: Half of the reason why is because of the technology involved

Pinback: Cuz Gravitron 2 is out, and it’s $5, and if you say you’re a Gravitar fan, I’ll fucking buy it, spend the rest of the fucking day playing it, and then fucking write a review of it.

ICJ: Wait – What? Gravitron? Or Gravitar?

Pinback: GRAVITRON 2 is a game released two weeks ago, which is a total retro throwback to Gravitar.
Pinback: But with modern-day sensibilities.
Pinback: It’s either this, or I buy chips at Full Tilt Poker.

ICJ: Here is the thing with Gravatar: that is a 10-minute game
ICJ: You have seen it all in ten minutes
ICJ: If they added stuff to this… Gravitron 2, then OK.

Pinback: Have you seen it all with GRAVITRON 2??
Pinback: Look, it’s five bucks. Either that, or I lose $100 on Full Tilt which I do not have to spare.

ICJ: Where is the web page for this?
ICJ: … I will be getting that tonight.

Pinback: SHIT YEAH
Pinback: Then I am getting it right now.

ICJ: 40 stages! There’s like 3 in real Gravitar?
Pinback: And dude
Pinback: It has a whole “blow the thing up then get 60 seconds to escape” thing, like Major Havoc.
Pinback: AND it’s got a “rescue the little guys” thing, like Choplifter.

ICJ: I must possess this game

Pinback: Fucking BOUGHT.
Pinback: Which is to say, I paid money.
Pinback: I don’t technically “have” the “full copy” yes.

ICJ: Yeah, these things take time… Still less of a pain in the ass than going to Gamestop.

Editor’s note: I purchased Gravitron 2 later that evening, and yes – it is amazing. It is amazing piece of work. Vector-style graphics done in raster will never, EVER cease to be amazing to me, and the fact that they took a nice retro game and expanded it perfectly means this thing is a steal for five bucks. Five bucks! It’s worth more than five bucks.

I think the only way this game could be better would be if you were able to rescue and redeem tokens at Full Tilt Poker, which would normally not even be on the table, but seeing how Gravitron 2 merges Choplifter, Thrust, Gravitar and Major Havoc into one delightful package, what’s one more game?

Lovely Vegas, Part Two
Oct 22nd, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Saturday started off with me trying to count the drinks I had the night before – I had an initial count that was low, and would actually remember them as the day went on, like they were lousy quarterbacks that skulked about the history of the New Orleans Saints. (“Oh, yes, someone poured a Miller Light for me! I never drink that! … Billy Joe Tolliver!”) Funnily enough, I think I hissed at the memory of some of the drinks more. There is the spirtual pain of seeing John Fourcade start the season under center, and then the very real pain of several drinks that were stronger than anyone currently on the Saints, except for Jeremy Shockey (I didn’t try any absinthe).

Here’s how bin Laden has ruined America: I assume I can’t bring anything on the plane with me that has to do with personal grooming – in fact, my hair gel was found by Homeland Security and discarded. On the other hand, some of the DHS agents this week look pretty hot, so nobody question my patriotism any time soon. I therefore didn’t try to bring any ibuprofen, because it was going to be in a container that was greater than three ounces. In retrospect, I should have just downed 40 of them before flying and try to cover myself for the whole weekend, but that’s another story. So yeah – I was unable to take some painkillers before going to bed, and had my first hangover since I was in my late 20s. I could have received some from the hotel front desk if it was “that” kind of a hotel, but, well… yeah. You might think that I needed a hangover like I needed a hole in my head, but as discussed yesterday with the strip being shut down directly outside, I could have had both.

(It all actually only went away when I had a vodka/cranberry thing late Saturday night, so trying the hair of the dog that bit me really did work. Amazing. What other wisdom is there in clichéd sayings?? Also, I know that Alt-130 is the messed-up “e” now, so expect that to be a recurring character, so to speak, in future blog entries.) 



The best idea I could personally come up with to cure a mild hangover is naturally getting onto a roller coaster, and luckily, New York New York provides for just that. Across the street was a mess of arcade games, and after lunch, I was able to play some Centipede with my buddy Fodge, and his wife. The Gameworks is on the card reader setup, so while he was trying to get it to go, he accidentally put nine credits into the Centipede. We also did some virtual bowling. I love that a $15,000 bowling lane with simulated results was developed. This should be the next market taken by the people who did Rock Band: after having delivered the experience of playing in a band at home, plastic bowling would also be great. The side benefit is that everyone’s french fries would be better, as nobody has ever had bad fries at a bowling alley.

By this time, Fodge had to get ready for the wedding. My friend Greg called while I was walking the two (I think?) (I actually just looked it up, it’s 1.9 miles) miles back to the hotel. Greg was a few drinks ahead of me, thanks to being in opposite time zones, but he demanded that I fly out to Atlanta during what would be this weekend. Greg, I will, shortly! I need to see Gerrit anyway and shoot a movie next year! Greg, I am asking you to act in a movie in front of all these people to embarrass you into accepting. 

I got back to the hotel and took another nap – apparently I have the stamina of an 80-year old, but I’m not going to lie here, lying about Vegas comes way afterwards. The wedding was going to be at seven, and I was determined to get a cab. 

I was also determined not to dress nicer than the groom. The wedding was at their hotel room (which was amazingly nice) and I was led to believe that Matt was going to be wearing shorts and a baseball cap – I grabbed my favorite pair of jeans and a button-down, black shirt. I was prepared for anything: being lied to about the expected dress, not being able to find a cab and having to huff it, finally giving into the endless stream of guys who give cards for callgirls, being thrown into a room with an angry pitboss on account for general smugness.

I arrived at the wedding just in the nick of time. It was great. Fodge did a wonderful job as the best man, and there was a lot of food and other pleasantries. Fodge, Luddy, Keith and I sat down to play some euchre afterwards, and it was just like old times, just like being a freshman in college. Euchre really never gets old. When I play cards, or eat, I don’t like to have anything in my pockets, so I put my phone and glasses on the table. 

My phone is a flip phone, and was free with a year’s extension through T-mobile. It is also purple, because I run This did not go over well! It really got out of hand within a couple minutes, and I was being aggressively mocked for owning a purple phone, all by people I did not really know! But it was very funny (and fun) and I think my argument was essentially that it would be gray to the colorblind. 

I don’t remember anything else that happened that night. 


The next day was spent at the sports book, where I put money on the New Orleans Saints. Guess how that went? Reggie Bush blew out his knee and the game was never in doubt after the first few drives. The Saints have disappointed me in every single way, in the last 30 years, but I had never actually lost money on them. They were getting three points, and lost 30-7. I would not have had it any other way, har har har. 

That’s essentially it, except for successfully avoiding the lizard men at Denver International Airport on the way back. I’d say, “I can’t wait to return to Las Vegas,” but it has a way of making me intend to be back, regardless of my intentions. Right on. 

Lovely Vegas
Oct 21st, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Lovely Vegas

“Vegas is the city of Las Vegas. No one is quite sure how the Soviet missiles managed to miss the city, but most folks figure it was because the “house” was betting against a missile landing — and no one wins against the house.”the Wasteland manual, 1986, Interplay

Ha ha, yeah. Goddamn, am I psyched for Fallout 3, you know? Fallout, the spiritual successor for Wasteland, was great, I did enjoy Fallout 2 and in between #2 and the upcoming third game, we all were entertained by the batshit-vomiting crazies that make up the Internet’s community of Fallout fans. Every last one of them is convinced that only they should make Fallout 3, none of them have so much as picked up any kind of SDK. I am intentionally trying to not learn anything about FO3, only that I think there’s a nuke in it, but I did read somewhere that it takes place not in the American southwest… but in Maryland or something? Ha, ha, what’s this now? A Fallout game is gonna finally have the graphics engine to do Vegas justice and they set it in near Baltimore, which could be successfully depicted on the original Gameboy? I could make a better game than these idiots at Bethesda! I am now going to delete my install directory for the Hugo programming language.

I was in Lovely Vegas over the weekend for a wedding. You may remember the character of Brian Pang from Necrotic Drift – the actor (Matt) was the dude getting married. Pang was originally a character in Chicks Dig Jerks, and I’d like to say he was “based” on my friend Matt, but even that isn’t being fair. I tried to make him an almost exact, written, duplicate-replica. He is a good guy that is oftentimes out of his goddamn mind.

Almost nobody gets married in the same city they live in – or, I should say, nobody gets married in the same city I live in. I’ve flown for almost every wedding I’ve ever been to. This was my first time traveling completely alone in over five years. I had never actually done the thing where you enter an airport… and there is nobody there to pick you up & you don’t have a rental. I was vaguely aware that there might be a good spot to catch a cab, so I got to do that for the first time. I took it over to the strip, where I was staying. Oh… yeah. That.

I was staying at the Casino Royale, because I guess I make bad decisions. 

Well, yes and no – I didn’t expect to do much in my room except sleep, so in theory, it shouldn’t have made much difference where I stayed, right? Well, yes and no – my friends were staying at the Luxor, Mandelay Bay and the Monte Carlo. Those are all somewhat close to each other, but since I didn’t exactly have a date and I wasn’t getting married, I didn’t see the big deal in trying to impress anyone with an expensive room. I wanted to look for something like the Wikipedia List of Cheap-Ass Hotel Rooms, but somehow, I don’t think Wikipedians get to Vegas much. (I was going to link to my favorite page on the Internet, which was the “List of Wikipedians with Asperger Syndrome,” but in heroic Wiki fashion, they seem to have deleted it.) 

Anyway, I got to the hotel room and unpacked… and none of my friends were in Vegas yet. I think for the first time, it really struck me that I was traveling… “alone.” I don’t know how to best describe it – for some reason, being in a hotel room with paper-thin walls, sort of waiting for my buddies to get into town was almost… crippling. I immediately dialed a few numbers to get some prostitutes over.

Kidding! Long-time readers of my website will have no difficulty in believing me when I instead state that I took a nap until my friend Luddy and his wife called. I can never sleep the night before I fly, so this was all right. Luddy, his wife and I made plans to have dinner at the ESPNZone. 

It had been about a day since I had any food at that point, and I ended up walking from the Casino Royale to ESPNZone – it took about 30 minutes with all the people around. This ended up being a somewhat common theme for me, although I did relent and take a cab home Saturday night, which was (spoiler) for the best. It’s great to walk the strip anyway, isn’t it?

After dinner, the three of us went over to the Pinball Hall of Fame. I was able to catch it for the first time last year, during the Classic Gaming Expo, and the place was packed. (The CGE was running a shuttle back and forth, and there was definitely an effort made to get CGE people over there.) There were only a handful of people at the HoF this time, and I was able to play The Pinball Circus, which was a prototype that I didn’t get a chance to see last year. Like an idiot, I confused “Cirqus Voltaire,” currently rated the #4 best pinball game of all-time at the Internet Pinball Machine Database, with “The Pinball Circus,” which is not. Whatever, fuck the list! TPC was amazing to play, and I was cognizant that I was playing — since it was a prototype — one of two such machines in the world.

And then, since I am not a Wikipedian with Asperger Syndrome, we all met up with the rest of our friends and had drinks for the rest of the night. 


I woke up Saturday to a mass of people jumping in and out of the Casino Royale. Well, actually, I woke up to housekeeping SCREAMING THEIR FUCKING HEADS OFF to get into my fucking room. I didn’t set the “do not disturb” mechanism correctly, so it’s my fault, but goddamn – if the door is locked, give up, housekeepers! It’s gonna be fine! Nobody shot themselves! Actually – well, back to the first bit of this paragraph:

People from the strip were entering the Casino Royale, I discerned, because the strip itself was taped off. What I heard, but was not able to confirm through Google News, was that someone got shot overnight. (So yeah, when people asked if the Casino Royale was at all like the movies, I was able to say sure: there was a similar number of gunshots, har har.) Maybe that’s just how rumors spread, I don’t know. 

All right, let’s hit up part two tomorrow. Either that, or maybe my brother will write something horrible about Barack Obama.

Oct 17th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I hate doing this, but I was swamped today – the only writing I did today is, man this is going to dork the place up something fierce – my take on why Wrath of Khan is more fondly remembered than Star Trek: Nemesis, even though there was plenty of cheese in Wrath of Khan. 

Enjoy! And let’s not ever discuss this one in person. 

Get Your Goddamn Multi-Q*bert On
Oct 15th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The Multi-Q*bert board is coming back! I just received an e-mail from Mike Doyle, and the thing is coming back into production, with the intent to get it to people by Thanksgiving. 

All right, just what is the Multi Q*bert board? It allows you to play the following games: 


Q*bert Qubes

Faster, Harder, More Challenging Q*bert



Mello Yello Q*bert 


And of course, the standard Q*bert board plays one of those games… Q*bert. I have no idea what Insector and Curveball are like – I could load them up in MAME, but it is sort of more fun to not know at this point, y’know? There is also going to be a bonus game in this iteration of the kit: 7-11 Q*bert. That would be 7-11 as in the convenience store 7-11. What does that have to do with Q*bert? I have no idea, but again, I can’t wait to see how it is different.

The instructions for the kit seem pretty straight-forward, just popping some ROM chips and a few RAM chips. If you’d like to get on the list for them, just write Mike Doyle — which is his site directory name, at aol dot com. You’ll get the kit and a shirt. 

For me, personally, the real prize is FHMC Q*bert – I run into the wall on regular Q*bert after 30,000 points, and being able to switch over to a new game in the same “style” would be fantastic. 

Some Troll Police
Oct 14th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

This is a few years old, but comes from me trying to learn how to make photographs look more comicy.

Concept by Jhoh “Creexul” Cable, words by Mischief Maker, I put the panels together. You can click on it to get the whole thing, uncompressed. 

Indie Games
Oct 13th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I am counting down my ten favorite indie games in this thread over at Caltrops. 

The Canonical List of Miserable Games
Oct 10th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I wrote a scene in Fallacy of Dawn where the player is expected to give horrible games to a clerk that is a bit of a gaming elitist. The clerk can’t BELIEVE you came to the counter with a few gems from the bargain bin, and… okay, it isn’t the best puzzle in the world. 

My brother gave me Battlecruiser: 3000 AD for Christmas one year. This is because he is the greatest brother, ever. (He also played Delarion Yar, the main character in Fallacy of Dawn, and doing that even though it greatly annoyed him also makes him the greatest brother, ever.) The idea of a bunch of people going to work and finshing up with something that is truly miserable does sort of fascinate me in a perverse way.

There really is a sort of “classic” list of the worst video games in the world. I’ll try to list them below. They are the ones that always seem to show up on lists like “The 20 Worst Games of All-Time” and such. Annnnnd, because I am an enormous dork, I can’t help but read every “Worst Games Ever” article ever made. It’s a curse.

The list: Pac-Man, E.T. and Custer’s Revenge for the Atari 2600. Superman for the Nintendo 64. Battlecruiser 3000AD, Extreme Paintbrawl, Daikatana* and Outpost for the PC. Rise of the Robots for the Amiga. Finishing up is Sewer Shark and Night Trap for the Sega CD.

I mean, that is a fairly standard list. Season to taste, certainly. You can’t go wrong with those. A list generated by a group of game journalists would probably include those games (although PC Gamer was good enough to give the completely unfinished Outpost a 93%). Sprinkle with something acerbic regarding the Virtual Boy and you have yourself an article. Gamasutra could turn the above list into 33 pages and then remove the “print” option so they can level up their Adsense account. 

… And personally, hey, I never questioned those choices. I certainly did not feel that E.T. and Pac-Man were terrible games when I was growing up, but that’s not been a fight I felt passionate about. They didn’t seem any worse than many other 2600 games, and I did not spend a terrible amount of time in arcades when I was like seven, so the “real” Pac-Man was not burned into my memory. And in all honesty, they are usually included because what they represent, which was the temporary death of the domestic gaming industry.

(I began a thread on my BBS about the worst games ever, and I was trying to limit it to games I actually played and personally detested. Pac-Man, E.T. and so forth weren’t going to be on it. The thread sort of stalled because I promised myself that I’d go back and re-play every single game… and honestly, it’s just been a little difficult finding the time to play in irony the last couple of months.) 

But here is the reason I am writing all of this. Tonight, I was sent a Youtube video that shows the final scene to Night Trap. I am actually angry about this – I am smiling in anger.



At the very end of the video, you imprison some… well, I don’t know what they are specifically, a vampire or shadowbitch or something. (The last girl on the screen before Dana Plato is one such monster.) And then Dana tells you what a great guy you are for solving the game and saving all the girls you could. Right on. 

She turns to leave, walks down the hall and says, “Nah, you wouldn’t.”

At this point in the video, it appears that the same trap was triggered for her, the protagonist, as was triggered for the vampire a moment earlier. And I just assumed that the ending of the game was like that. But my friend said, no, you can actually press the “trap” button there. You have to press it for that to happen.

That’s when everything I thought I knew turned false.

What? What the — what? That is unbelievable! That totally gives the player a chance to – in NIGHT TRAP OF ALL GAMES, it — all right, I am going to try to compose myself here. It’s amazing and unexpected.

OK, first off, letting a trap be invoked right there messes with the player/player character relationship. That is supposed to be one of the big “things” you can experiment with in text adventures, and here is a wholly miserable and unloved FMV game pulling it off. And it’s our thing! Not Full Motion Video’s thing! It’s IF’s thing! Secondly, it allows for a meaningful moral choice right at the end of the game. Yes, it is a binary decision, and those can be as lame as they were in BioShock, but in Night Trap, it’s fast, it’s quick – you’re deciding what to do in a split second and the real-time nature of Night Trap actually works in its favor, to its credit. (Believe me, when I woke up today, I didn’t think I’d end it complimenting frigging Night Trap.) 

Lastly,  even in a game with universally terrible acting like Night Trap, Dana Plato is good enough to act distressed for three seconds. Admittedly, the laughable CGI effect that follows ruins the moment, but for a few seconds there is an actual bit of negative feedback as the PC screams and pleads for her own life.

And this is supposed to be one of the worst games of all-time.

I played Night Trap once, briefly, when it was new, and yeah – it sucks. Totally and completely. The writing is terrible, the acting embarrassing, and the gameplay kind of stale. I’m not trying to argue otherwise. But I can safely say that this “twist,” or this last-second player decision saves it from the rep it got over the years. I used to believe that there was no point in continuing to play a horrible game after a couple hours, but for the first time, Night Trap has me thinking, maybe, otherwise. It’s a total revelation. And in my opinion, it should be more famous for that.


*I purchased Daikatana last year, from a vendor on eBay. I had to know if it was as terrible as everyone says. It’s not great, but again, it’s nowhere near one of the “worst games of all-time.” And getting mad at John Romero is like getting mad at Manny Ramirez for something. You know what you’re in for, and Ion Storm the company was probably as bad an idea as Manny being allowed to manage the Washington Nationalsin 2014. But no, Daikatana wasn’t that unpleasant. If I get on Youtube tonight and find that the ending of Daikatana has you making a choice about the fate of Hiro Miyamoto, I am going to hang myself.

My Favorite Song In The World (Of The Next 48-72 Hours)
Oct 9th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

If you’re at all like me, you listen to three or four songs in constant rotation. You’ll get sick of them after a month or so – maybe! – but also maybe not. When I wrote Revenger, I placed the following into the credits:

I wrote this game unable to get that freaking Meja song out of my head. I am not proud of that fact. “Sucked Out,” by Superdrag, “Alright Again” by Sadie Hawkings, “Changes” by 2PAC, that Rockwell (who doesn’t, by the way) song and “Sick of Myself” by Matthew Sweet rounded out the woefully short WinAmp playlist I heard like 40,000 times while writing this game.

And that is unfortunately all too true. The Meja one really hurts, sort of considering another revision of the game over that one. But yeah, I wrote Revenger in a single month, and there were literally just six songs in rotation for that month.

(That being said – 2PAC!!! I don’t think I have thought of Tupac Shakur for more than two or three minutes since I wrote that game. Nothing against him, he’s just not done faking his own death yet. We’ll have a lot to catch up with.)

Up until recently, as in, last night recently, my playlist was even shorter. There were three songs by the band Mae, and then “Jenny” by the Click Five. You know what, I apologize for telling you that, as that’s pretty goddamn soft-serve of me to relate that information. I really don’t want it destroying the rest of my position here – I hope we can all still be friends. But you like what you like, when it comes to music, right?

I was on the ifMud last night when Jason Scott mentioned the MC Frontalot song “Diseases of Yore.” I went to Frontalot’s website to listen to the song. It is at this point that I have to paragraph break, smile, and compose myself before licking the wick of how MC Frontalot distributes music in 2008.

If you’re in your mid-thirties, like me, and spend most of the day computer programming / shopping for Roombas, then you are totally happy to support the artists that bring you joy. You want to give them money. I mean, yeah, fuck Lars and everything, but otherwise you feel good about supporting the artist. Frontalot’s site lets you do this. You can download MP3s of his singles right from his site. He has a new album coming out and lets you preview the songs that are on it. And that is where I became officially introduced to “Diseases of Yore.”

It is a really catchy song. Extremely catchy. I mostly listen to pop punk and the reason I do it not because I live in my mother’s basement or anything (although, boy, getting introduced to vacuums that don’t pick up cat hair as part of home ownership was baffling) (thus the, you know, browsing of Roombas) but because it is a catchy genre. And “Diseases of Yore” is certainly that.

You get about a minute of the song on Front’s site, and it will definitely be stuck in your head, like it is mine. I eventually noticed that Jonathan Coulton also performs on this song and the two of them really make a great team.

After about twenty plays of the cut-short demo, I was determined to get the actual thing. And MC Frontalot makes that very easy, as well. You can pre-order a physical copy of his CD and get instant access to the album in MP3, AAC and FLAC format. So at work today, I did just that.

And I have not played a single song since.

(I chalk half of that up to the fact that Coulton and Frontalot use more chords in just the chorus of this song than the entirety of pop punk, but that’s this whole other thing.)

Kudos, you talented fuckers – this is the best song in the world right now.

(Link to Diseases of Yore, and the other tracks on MC Frontalot’s new album, Final Boss.) 

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