Vegas Stakes

The Maitre d’ looked at my worn trousers and ruffled blazer. Then he asked for my name. I told him it was Mr. Elefant. It made me sound big and imposing, two things I am most certainly not. I spelled it ‘Elefant’ — no ph — for two reasons: it looked more like a last name to me and I didn’t have enough room for the more traditional spelling. It was a fake name, of course. But this was Vegas; everyone had a fake name.

Some room I had. No television, no chairs — just a bed and a phone. Presumably, the drabness of the hotel room was intended to drive guests out and into the casino area. Never one to argue with well-devised population management techniques, I picked up the phone. “Craig,” I said to Craig, who was my friend. “Craig,” I said, “Let’s get sloshed and throw money at the mere concept of hope.” He said alright, and we began a mistical journey of sorts.

I called Craig because he looked like the best candidate for the position of My Wingman. He was blond, bright, and had a full-toothed smile that sent shivers down my heterosexual spine. Also, he was rich. In my years of gambling, I have learned this simple rule: money attracts money. So having a certified moneybags around was sure to be an asset. Down we went.

I told him to keep his fat mouth shut and help me take these shallow shells of human beings for all they were worth. He said that he wasn’t a betting man, but if he was, he would bet on my enthusiasm and talent any day. I gave him a high-five and we slipped into two chairs at the nearest blackjack table.

The dealer was probably of the weapons variety by the look of his scarred visage. “Oh boy,” I said to him, and I slapped down a 20-piece thing. It was a good day to die.

Suddenly, I realized something. Everyone in the place was looking at me. Fuck. They know I’m a genius at gambling, I thought. But they didn’t do anything, so I continued to play.

Should have gone for the insurance, whatever that means.

But it wasn’t going so hot. I kept dropping down 20-piece things and then the dealer would give me bad cards and then I would lose the money and then I would have to put down another 20-piece thing and then I would also lose that and then I would put down another 20-piece thing and then I would also lose that but I didn’t stop putting down 20-piece things and losing money because I knew that I was good at gambling and my luck would soon turn around.

I looked around again. Still staring. I was still the centre of attention.

But wait. I waved my hand in front of my face. I had no depth perception. What the hell? I checked my eyes. I had two, but I couldn’t see out of one. Why hadn’t I realized this? Then I looked back at the table; jagged edges.

“Shit, everything aliasing!” I shouted. No one reacted. They just looked at me.

The  I realized I didn’t know how I got here. I realized I didn’t even know my real name.

What is this?

“It’s a videogame.” Craig was staring at me from the seat beside me.


“It’s a videogame.” Craig said again, in the exact same tone, with the exact same spacing between words.

Movement. A group of large men were approaching our table.

“Run.” Craig said, his toothy smile never wavering.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters

When I was a boy, my father would accompany me on long walks through the marshlands surrounding the city.

“Boy,” he would gesture, “a great man belongs to the world, but also moves through it, like a ghost through a velvet curtain.” And then he would pick up a small turtle to emphasize his point.

“You see,” He would mutter, like a man who, after drinking himself to sleep, leans over to his mistress for one last kiss goodnight, “a turtle, when removed from his natural environment, struggles a bunch. He fears me, and wishes I were dead. But we shan’t hurt him.”

“We shant?” A Wide-eyed six year old, my only thought of the welfare of the turtle.

“We shant”

And he would move the turtle to a choice location — usually near some female turtle with whom he could start a family — and then mosey out of the town like the last cowboy to grace these parts.

But that turtle, ungrateful sod that he is, feels he is entitled to some other swatch of land, some other mate for to bang. And he says, “Mrraaaaahhhhhhhh!” And he scuttles off to another pasture, fully unaware that it was human judgment that brought him thus far, and, as he circumvents it, he as good as flips God a mighty bird meanwhilst shunning all things sacred.

So, turtles can be little shits. Teenage? More so.

I see you have two tyrannosaurs chained to your amps. You, sir, know the meaning of rock.

This game’s easy enough to describe. The Teenage Turtles we all know and love fight each other, their friends, their enemies, and even a few surprises along the way. Pretty basic stuff, really. You kick, you punch. If you’re like me, you jump up and kick down. I have before described this tactic as being the only one necessary to win any fighting game. But I fear that I soon will have to retire the marvel of ingenuity in favour of something more creative.

I was beaten, you see, by a flying squirrel. A flying squirrel? Beat a turtle? If I didn’t know better, I’d say this game was mammalian-biased!

But be it turtles or foxes, this game ain’t nothing too bad, in my books at least. Those of us who are looking for a deep fighter certainly won’t find it here. But for those who just want to watch muscular, humanoid turtles make humourless wretches out of one another, and perhaps play some small part in that display, go no further! This is likely as close are you will get to colliding with true happiness.

For, if there’s anything in this world that is true, it is happiness.

I, for one, never looked back.


Spider-man/Venom: Separation Anxiety

Spider-man, Spider-man, beats the shit out of people because he can!

“Eddie Brock? What are you doing here?” Peter Parker took a step backward and threw up his hands defensively as Brock—generally known by his villainous moniker, Venom—walked into Peter’s favourite stationary shop. “I think our alter egos need to have a word,” said Brock, jerking a strangely muscular thumb over his shoulder towards the exit. “Now.” Peter nodded, dropping a Dilbert calendar back onto its display table. “Let’s talk,” he said.

Moments later in the alleyway behind the store, Spider-man (who is actually Peter Parker!!!) and Venom faced each other over a small table they’d constructed out of garbage cans and webbing. “So it’s like this,” said Venom, his comically gigantic teeth spraying ichor everywhere. “I was kidnapped by some organization and they took a bunch of symbiotes off my body and now I’m thinking I should track those down and kill them since they’re probably dangerous.” “Oh,” said Spider-man. “Yeah, probably.”

As this accord was reached, there came a clatter from behind the new partners. A filthy old man approached them, his hands waving for their attention. “Spider-man!” he called. “Black Spider-man!” he called, less accurately. “I’m a homeless guy and I’m going to ATTACK YOU FOR NO REASON!”

And so the fight was on.

With the pretense of tracking down the various symbiote spawn removed from Venom by the MYSTERIOUS LIFE FOUNDATION, Spider-man and Venom team up to walk through alleyways beating up the homeless!



It’s a side-scrolling beat ’em up adventure that takes these mighty (anti-)heroes through level after level of indigent-punching excitement!

It’s the game that’s not afraid to show you the Spider-man who punches the crap out of women (there are lady bad guys)!

It’s part of a franchise!

Large number of exclamation points designed to evoke excitement when really they just conceal the reviewer’s complete lack of enthusiasm in reviewing this game!

It’s a decent side-scrolling beat ’em up, okay? That’s all I’ve got. Do you like Spider-man? Great. Here’s a game with Spider-man in it. Stop bugging your mom and me and be quiet for a while, okay?

“I think we’ve killed like, eighty homeless people,” said Venom, looking at his gore-drenched hands. “I don’t feel well.”

“No kidding,” said Spider-man. “I just beat the shit out of some strippers from the 90s.” He could feel the tears streaming down his cheeks beneath his iconic mask as he stood in the blood-soaked alleyway. “What have we become, Venom? What have we become?”

There came no answer, for they both knew the horrible truth: they were the real monsters.

Sonic Blast Man II

Alright listen you tweedy little fucks, put down your Capri Suns and trade in those glasses for goggles, because today we’re going to learn how to be super heroes. Okay, so we’re gonna do this the hard way. We’ve kidnapped all of your girlfriends. And also the president. So this one’s for all the marbles. Put on your boxing gloves and robot suits or whatever you use to protect your fragile goddamned limbs and lets get to it.

See those oil barrels over there? I want you to beat the shit out of them. We’re not moving one inch from this spot until you can punch an oil barrel clean in half with the fists that god and technology gave ya. What are you just standing for gawkin’ at me like jay birds? Get to it! Put your back into it, step into the punch. Lord Tunderin’ your parents sent me the weakest excuse for action squad rangers I ever laid eyes on. This is pathetic, you’re never gonna be bad enough dudes at this rate.

okay you rat turds, you're gonna watch me do it. Cause I got a megaton punch. Do you want a megaton punch? I thought so.

Alright we’re gonna take a break. You see that guy Sal? Sal’s your camp cook. Everybody haul off and clock him a good one and he’ll drop you a hamburger. Do I look like I’m kidding? Do you want to eat tonight Jeremy? THEN YOU WALK RIGHT UP AND YOU PUNCH SAL RIGHT IN HIS AMPLE GUT! That’s better.

Alright now it’s time for bed, remember that all your loved ones AND THE PRESIDENT are locked up in their own cabin tonight so you better sleep quick before the enemy changes up and relocate’s em. Bunk assignments go to the strongest, no holds barred, chow at 6. Some of you who couldn’t even knock over the barrel might want to get to sparrin’, it’s gonna be a lonnnng week.

Action Squad Rangers, MOVE OUT.

Sim Ant

Come comrades, we strike out for a new world!

Comrades, our colonies to the south have grown and prospered. Our aphids are fat, our mold colonies great, our enemies nonexistent. It is time, fellow workers, to bring our young to new and foreign lands, to liberate all those that labor under their bourgeois masters. I speak, of course, of Amerika!


Amerika, where decadence has left food enough to sustain a colony spanning the entire continent! Amerika, where the pig-dog is comfortable and complacent, unwary of the inexorable approach of the revolution. Rise, workers, make ready soldiers, prepare yourselves young queens and those guys with wings! For tomorrow we shall choke the verdant lawns of the bourgeoisie, claiming their wealth for our own. Their pet-slaves will be freed, and if they refuse, they will nourish a thousand larvae.

Their kool-aid shall give our soldiers the strength to defeat the traitorous red ants, those that would have achieved our end were it not for their weak wills and soft mandibles. The time is now, brothers and sisters, for now we strike without warning. For years the “local news affiliates” have warned the Capitalists of our coming. No more! Now they fear border threats of another kind, and a president who they fear shall destroy them from within. We strike now, before their beady eyes are turned back upon us.

Come, there is no time to waste. Who will lead us to a glorious new tomorrow? Who will bear a thousand workers that will dig the tunnels to house the revolution? Who will bear a thousand soldiers who shall defeat our enemies and expand our ideal? Who will bear the queens that bear the queens that will spread us from lawn to lawn, village to village, state to state, to our destiny?

Yellow ant?

Yeah, you’ll do.

For the Motherland!

Nigel Mansell Racing

Racing games are hard to really judge objectively when they’re old, because I find it almost impossible not to hold thme up to the standards of the games that came after them. Had I played this game when it was new, I wouldn’t have had these games in my memory:

Gran Turismo, PS1.
Diddy Kong Racing, N64.
F-Zero GX, Gamecube.
Forza Motorsport 2, Xbox 360.
OutRun 2006: Coast2Coast, PC.

The last one I only played this month. It became my favourite racing game of all time. Playing Nigel Mansell Racing is, unsurprisingly, inferior. Although, to its credit, it has some of the things I love: blue skies, absurd locations, fast speeds and easy turning. Still, I cannot enjoy it. It, unlike OutRun, hasn’t been injected with overdose levels of fun in every single scab-nuggeted vein. It makes me drive those creepy, insectile F1 cars instead of bright red, delicious Ferraris. As such, I took a screenshot, finished up, and played OutRun more. I think I am going to play it again now. My imaginary girlfriend wants me to count the green cars.

NCAA Final Four Basketball

I am all things, now and for never

Why I Love Basketball, a third-year English essay by PG #44 at Minnesota

A rubber band goes around the arm; Vitamin B12 enters the syringe, tapped and squeezed, ejaculating a small amount of precious vitamin into the sky; metal enters vein, and a bandage protects the newly-made wound. There are 3,395 dimples on a basketball; each, pierced with a separate syringe, creates the sound of a single harp string being plucked. Vitamin B need not be inserted into the basketball to achieve this effect, but if it is the sound is fuller, and swells of cellos can be heard in the back of diameter. Once 3,395 syringes are pressed into the rubbery flesh of the basketball, one per dimple, the orb balloons (if you’ll pardon the expression) to a rather unwieldy 22 inches in diameter and takes on the appearance of a Koosh brand Koosh Ball.

Vitamin B12 has its advantages to the college-level basketball specialist (herein “baller”). Without, one’s memory might prove faulty. Lethargy may set in. With these, a greater threat can emerge: depression. While most college-level academic specialists (herein “bookers”) will experience depression at some point over the course of their academic careers, and emerge from the entire four-year ordeal with nothing more than a diploma, a quarterlife crisis and a homosexual experience that will never leave their memory, burned in for the rest of their existence, eating away at their confidence in their sexuality like a termite at the foundation of a once-strong summer cottage, a baller will experience much more damage from a B12 deficiency. The high level of granularity in the average game means that the random number generator that God runs for every sport in Heaven becomes less relevant. While in baseball, the difference between 1 and 0 home runs might be a twitch in the elbow of a pitcher, or a batter, the difference between a similarly good number of assists (for example, 12) or points (for example, 25) and 0 is entirely reliant on the coaching and the player’s abilities. Depression can turn 25 points to 20; fatigue, from 20 to 15; memory loss, from 15 to a number the player cannot even remember.

With Vitamin B12, I experience the game the way the game was meant to be experienced. The ball may be 9″ in diameter, but at times seems 22″ in diameter. Similarly, the net will expand and contract, as if an invisible lung inside of it pushes at the metal and bends it like the cartilage of the breastbone. With B12, I can ensure that I react to this tidal expansion of the hoop, and place the ball within it when the ball is smallest and the net is largest. Due to this process, I currently have the highest field percentage among all NCAA Big Ten point guards.

I love basketball because I am a baller; I am a baller because I am a basketball. Inside of me is every sound of every stringed instrument, from the ephemeral, wavering dirge of a fiddle in fog to the sharp, perforating shrieks of a harpsichord in heat. The basketball court, a field I see every game pregnant with ripened grain, becomes threshed by my scythe. I do not sow basketball; I do, however, reap. The University of Minnesota newspaper said that I have “single-handedly murdered” the competition (Michigan State University) on the court; I believe I have done no such thing. However, they came to a farm with nothing but hammers, and I have come with my fingers, toes, penis, and each hair on my head replaced with tiny sickles. I firmly believe that this is how MSU’s power forward received a 4″ gash across his temple in the third quarter. I made no attempt to harm him; he merely came into the range of my flailing blades and paid the price. If I could, I would have healed his wounds on the spot, but it may have been seen as unsporting to do so.

I am not a booker and have never pretended to be as such. I am, however, also not a killer, which I believe I may still say as there have been no literal accusations of murder in the court case (this a different type of court, not one grain-filled and bountiful, but frozen and tundrous and tasting vaguely, at the back of the nose, where the mouth meets the sinuses, of sulfur. I am a baller. I am a baller because I love basketball and I love basketball because I am basketball, and I am basketball because I am more than man, but spirit. I am therefore I am basketball. I am all Jesuses and Moseses and Allahs. Basketball is a spirit, and the spirit, of Heaven and all of its numbers. The future is Jesus; basketball is the Holy Spirit of the past. Twelve, thirteen, forty-four.

PG #44 was kicked out of school after writing this essay, not because of the blatant use of psychoactives, the assault court case related to his unsafe play, or his near inability to communicate without screaming that he is intangible nouns, but because the university’s zero tolerance policy on plagiarism nailed him for not properly citing his own school’s newspaper. No amount of on-campus protests could bring him back, and Minnesota fell to the bottom of the Big Ten conference. Three weeks later, PG #44 was found dead in his fraternity, with a needle sticking out of the crook of his elbow. An autopsy found no sign of illegal substances, or foul play. All that could be found was thirty times the recommended daily dose of Vitamin B12, and traces of nutmeg in his nasal passages and lungs. An aneurysm is noted to be the official cause of death. NCAA Final Four Basketball was made in his honour. The college basketball is included because PG #44 played; the graphics, which look like Out Of This World, are included to reference PG #44’s incredibly strange view on life.

Mega Man X 3

Whatchoo talkin' bout, Willis?
Who died and made you king?

Mega Man X 3 is like a whitewashed tomb: its pristine and beautiful exterior belies the putrid, rotting corpse within.  I don’t usually subscribe to the whole graphics versus gameplay diametric, but this time the relationship is definitely inverse.  In Capcom’s efforts to make a better looking, better sounding Mega Man, they actually forgot how to make a Mega Man game in the process.  Deliberately unforgiving level designs densely populated with death machines hell-bent on your destruction give way to sparse, open, and redundant rooms, sometimes filled with nothing at all.  The former – characteristic of the NES originals – was frustrating yet strangely fulfilling, to the point where you may find yourself yelling to no one in particular, “I AM A HARDCORE GAMER!!” after some astounding feat or other.  The latter will have you scratching your head, wondering when the game will suddenly kick into gear and become a real Mega Man game.  This, of course, never happens.

Mom?  Dad?  Is this a joke?
Hello? Is anybody there?

I kid you not, some of these rooms exist for no reason whatsoever.  You run into the room, only to immediately run out of it again (you even unlock a door on both ends).  And yet, during both these events, the ‘camera’ slide-transitions as if to signify ‘this is the next area’.  That’s just stupid!  If I was the artist, I’d be pissed, not only for wasting a perfectly serviceable room, but also for wasting my valuable time.

X 3 is full of these unnecessary flourishes that force you to expect more than it can hope to deliver.  The polished visuals and cyperpunk settings scream ‘anime’, but its back foot remains firmly planted in the NES era.  The ‘story’, ‘acting’ and dialogue is especially cringeworthy, and while I’m sure it’s no worse than what you’d expect to find in Mega Mans (Men?) 1 through to 6, at least they were upfront about their intentions: to be games.  By bringing the presentation forward, Capcom have announced their anime aspirations.  By leaving the rest behind, the game appears naked and antiquated.  The playable ‘intro’ would have been nice if it wasn’t just a pre-game wank.  You’re Mega Man, you run in there, blow up a few things, only to get punked by a former ally within the first minute (“you’re far too trusting, Mega Man!”).

Excuse me, waiter! There's some Elizabethan acting in my Mega Man!

This is the game’s ‘Raiden’ moment, where Zero (a robot replete with ridiculous anime hair, originally groomed to be the star of the X series) must rescue Mega Man.  Except, instead of saying “I thought this was called Metal Gear Solid because it had Solid Snake in it”, you’ll be saying, “I thought this was a Mega Man game!”  Once you’ve rescued him, though, it’s back to business as usual, and Mega Man will be handling things from here, thank you very much.  This ‘intro’ seems to have served no other purpose than to show off a playable Zero character, only to neuter the titular character in the process.  For the rest of the game, Zero is relegated to piece work and similarly showy cameos.

The hair humanises him a bit more, get it?
Robot hair is all the rage in 21xx.

I tried oh so hard to love this game, but I couldn’t help but compare it to its uglier, more frustrating cousins – you know, games with some semblance of level design.  And then it dawned on me that level design, important though it is, is never graded by the mainstream gaming press alongside the bullet points of graphics/sound/gameplay/replay value.  Even though graphics should be servant to level design; good gameplay is a symptom of good level design; and replay value is a symptom of good gameplay. Followed closely by: how many poorly designed videogames got a pass on those four bullet points alone? Answered by: probably this one, for starters! And then I started thinking about games with good level design, and booted up a new game of Super Metroid.

Mario’s Time Machine


It’s a summer’s day, you’re playing hockey in the street with your pals, as all North American kids your age do, when you notice what appears to be a Super Nintendo cartridge lying on the ‘side-walk’.  You run over to it and read the label – sound it out – “Maaa-rii-O’sss…Taiii-mmm…Maa-sheeennn – Mario’s Time Machine! Cool!  A new Mario game!  And he can travel through time!”  You reach down to pick it up, but it’s pulling away from you, across the front lawn, up the driveway – it’s attached to a length of string!  You follow the cartridge-on-string up the driveway, and you notice the garage door rolling up ever so slowly.  It’s a surprise from Mom and Dad!, you think to yourself, squinting to see what might lie beyond the gaping maw.  As your young eyes adjust to the dark, you begin to make out shapes of a chair, a desk, an apple, a man with right arm outstretched.  Depth of field returns to you, and shapes give way to objects.  The apple, red and juicy, sits gleaming atop the desk beside pencils, books and sheets of paper; the chair tucked neatly underneath.


This familiar conglomerate of images evokes a feeling of immediate danger; you swirl them around in your head as if to taste them all.  DANGER.  Before you hear the next five words, you know you want to run, but you can’t.  Your joints are frozen; your legs like pylons sink into the concrete floor.  All you can do is look, listen, and taste.  The figure steps out from the shadows – it’s your father, and his right hand is holding a stick of chalk.  Your dread is confirmed by the final image – a blackboard mounted on the wall behind him – and those five, fateful words:


Your summer is ended.

Fade to black.

Magic Sword

Friendship: The Videogame
Friendship: The Videogame.

Magic Sword is a game about The Power of Friendship.  What appears on the outside to be an overly linear, side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slasher through a castle that sports faaaar too many treasure chests, keys, and doors (far more keys than there are doors, in fact) belies a rather profound co-operative single player experience.

Waiiiiittaminutesingle player co-op?!  How is that even possible?!”  I hear your brain explode.

I know, I know!  I was surprised too!  I’ll try a few different illustrations to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.

Okay, okay, I’ve got one:

Imagine you’re playing a NES game two-player with your Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.), except he actually works.

'Operating' being the operative word.  NOT!
'Operating' being the operative word. NOT!

Oh, you say you’re not one of the five richest Tsars in Europe, and you don’t actually own a R.O.B.?  Well, then this one’s for you:

Imagine you’re playing an escort mission, except the AI that follows you around isn’t completely useless, and *gasp* actually helps you.

I know!  It’s ridiculous and unheard of in videogames, and that’s what makes Magic Sword so amazing.  For once, the AI on your side isn’t as dumb as dogshit, walking off of cliffs, or any of that nonsense, and you don’t feel like ringing their neck.  More than that, you actually feel close to this virtual warrior with whom you share your travails.

I got your back, bro!
I got your back, bro!

My only real issue with the game is just how short-lived some of these friendships can be.  As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of treasure chests lying around the castle, which you smash open to collect a lot of keys (treasure chests containing keys – go figure), which you use to open – you guessed it – a lot of doors.  Well, behind a vast majority of these doors is a new traveling companion.  Unfortunately you can only travel with one companion at a time.  Oftentimes you’ll encounter three doors in a row, meaning you’ll travel barely one in-game metre with your new buddy before he disappears and is replaced by an even newer buddy.

Sorry White Wizard, you're ditched!  Dark Wizard is my new Best Friend now!
Sorry White Wizard, you're ditched! Dark Wizard is my new Best Friend now! Best Friends Forever!

Just where they disappear to, I’ll never know, but at least there’s 50 levels packed to the gills with keys and doors, so you’re sure to become acquainted with them again (*how* they get trapped behind other doors to be rescued yet again, is another mystery).  Just think of it as an episode of Friends, or something – sometimes Joey just hangs out with Chandler; sometimes Joey hooks up with Rachel; mainly Rachel hooks up with Ross (and then changes her mind); Ross is Monica’s brother; Monica is Chandler’s girlfriend; Phoebe plays “Smelly Cat” on her guitar far too often at the cafe downstairs where Rachel works YOU GET THE IDEA – they’re on rotation.  I suppose if you wanted to stick with say, the ninja for a bit longer, you could just *not open the doors* for a while, but when you’ve got this whole Spartacus-frees-the-slaves thing going on, you really don’t want to.  It’s satisfying.  You open the door, a friendly warrior appears, he or she says “thank you!”, throws you a special item to you, and agrees to fight alongside you.  So basically, you get to make nine new friends during the course of the game, and they’re all completely awesome.  Like this guy:

"You can always depend on the kindness of strangers/ To pluck up your spirits, and shield you from dangers/ Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret/ Yes, a stranger's just a friend you haven't met/ Youuu haaa-ven't met!"
"You can always depend on the kindness of strangers/ To pluck up your spirits, and shield you from dangers/ Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret/ Yes, a stranger's just a friend you haven't met/ Youuu haaa-ven't met!"

It doesn’t matter that the dungeons-and-dragons setting has been done to death; it doesn’t matter that your character is a blatant He-Man rip-off; it doesn’t matter that the game is altogether too easy; it doesn’t even matter that the title is grossly misleading (there is no singular ‘Magic Sword’ as such, rather multiple magic swords that you obtain during the course of the game, and your quest is to destroy the Black Orb, as wielded by the Dark Lord Drokmar…) – this game plays like a good friend.  And friends aren’t always perfect.