that … kid sure plays a mean pinball

Indiana Jones pinball cabinet

Thanks again to another GAF thread, I have the bug to go play pinball. I can’t remember the first time I played pinball, but it was well after I’d already started playing video games. I probably didn’t get around to it until I was well into middle school at the earliest. It’s funny how I can remember the very first video game I played, but not my first pinball machine. It is entirely possible my first pinball game was the “3D Pinball” that came with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95. Yet I still have fond feelings for pinball, just as much as for video games. While I was trying to think back to my early pinball machines, I remember playing a Terminator 2: Judgment Day machine at a pizza joint back in my hometown. I know I also played the Indiana Jones game at a hot dog stand in the Chicago suburbs and I couldn’t get enough of the “See you later, Indiana Jones!” sample when you lost a ball. Then it was a Jurassic Park machine at GenCon back when it used to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After that I started playing way too many of them wherever I could find them.

Battletech Center membership cardThe game room in my dorm building in college rotated White Water and The Addams Family every quarter or so and I was frequently down there taking a break or taking out frustrations from studying when I wasn’t doing the same on the Virtua Fighter cabinet. This was the start of how I’d be sure to play most pinball games I came across if I could wherever I was, although I can’t say that I’ve specifically went out thinking, “I need to find a pinball machine and play it.” There used to be an arcade at Chicago’s North Pier building (near the super-touristy Navy Pier) that had an arcade that I went to because it was across hall from the Virtual World BattleTech Center there. Which, if I can digress for a second, I was totally obsessed with at that time too. I was an early member (first battle: 08/06/91) and still have my card to prove it. I only remember playing The Shadow table there, although they had at least five tables set up on one of the space the arcade had. Those times have been the only times I’ve played pinball in an arcade to date. Kind of sad almost.

Twlight Zone pinball cabinetOnce I was of age and had the motivation to go to bars, I would always take a couple plays at whatever machine they had, if they had one, and most of the bars I ended up going to had them. It was from going to bars that I got to play Twilight Zone at a bar in Saint Louis and Dr. Who at Club Foot, a bar by my apartment in Chicago. Both are among my favorites, although I haven’t had a chance to play Twilight Zone recently. Now when I think about it, I really haven’t played any other pinball machines since I started frequenting Club Foot, which I have now stopped frequenting since I moved away to Seattle and no longer live 3 blocks from there. Which is kind of sad but not really. But it doesn’t solve the fact I still really want to go play pinball and I am in an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar places. Of course I could start walking into bars to find one, but that’s obviously not the way to go about it.

A Google search makes it appear that the best place for me to do this is at Shorty’s here in Seattle. According to their site they have the following machines:
The Addams Family
Flash Gordon
Lord of the Rings
Medieval Madness
On Beam
Revenge from Mars
Scared Stiff
White Water

Lord of the Rings pinball cabinetTheir retro arcade cabinets aren’t too shabby either although I could just as easily play Joust or Robotron at home on XBLA, so I’d stick with Galaga or Donkey Kong. Once I get to go and grab one of their Vegi Dogs and hit a few pinball games, I’ll be sure to report back on how it felt to be go nudging the tables again. I can’t wait for the Lord of the Rings or some of the super retro tables. I’m also looking forward to Medieval Madness, a lot of people on GAF spoke highly of it and it’s even due to be re-released.

All images courtesy of contributors Allen Shope, Jean-Pierre RenaultĀ from the Internet Pinball Database

“I’ve retired more men than Social Security!”

Apollo Creed from Rocky

While I can’t make the same boast as Apollo Creed, I’ve downed my share of boxers since I’ve picked up Fight Night Round 3 a couple of weeks ago. My lifetime record isn’t helped by the fact that I haven’t played a boxing game since I got a demo version of 4-D Boxing on PC, which was my upgrade from Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! on the NES. Yes, it’s been that long.

I downloaded the demo of FNR3 from Marketplace purely based on videos and images posted on the Internet. I won my first fight against Roy Jones Jr. and I was starting to like getting back into the boxing genre. That was to be the only fight I won in the demo and I had to shelve it out of total frustration since I kept losing. That didn’t stop me from picking up the game though, I figured I would learn how to fight and get better with the full version of the game. A couple of test fights in, I figured out the controls so I could start winning. I think got it now — my career sits at 18-2-0 (18 KO) with only my impatience working against me on those 2 losses.

And, yes, I got sucked into a boxing game even though I’m not a fan of the sport at all. Enough that I found myself the other night looking up old fights and famous boxers. Although I knew he was one of the greatest, I never realized what a total machine George Foreman was! If only my thumbs were machines, I must be doing something wrong, but I can hardly last a round without having to take a break because my thumbs hurt from the dodging, blocking and punching. I’m definitely not stopping now though, FNR3 has my attention. I have to go back to improving my record now.

Planned purchases for the next 3 months

(Yes, I’m listing the backlog too…)

Xbox 360
Fight Night Round 3
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
… and XBLA games, depending on if anything comes out.

We <3 Katamari
Guitar Hero

DS Lite and
Me and My Katamari
Splinter Cell Essentials
Animal Crossing: Wild World
Tetris DS

Xbox Live privacy settings

I’ve recently been reading Elle’s blog, Circlets, since she was linked to by Major Nelson. She is a writer for the Xbox documentation team. A few days ago she wrote an entry about the privacy settings for Xbox Live that you can find on the Dashboard. It isn’t the first thing I would think to read about in a manual or search out for, but now that she posted it, I was interested in the details.

Besides the usual opt-in/opt-out marketing options, there were two things that caught my eye. The first was the “Played Games” option, which lets you show or hide your Played Games list from whoever is looking at your Gamercard. The other option is for “Member Content.” Elle comments that this option “doesn’t have a lot of use right now, but it will as people create content to share with other people. You can choose whether you want to see the content.” It will be interesting to see how that comes into play in the future.

I’m a VGA output convert

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through a thread on GAF where someone replaced gaming with their Xbox 360 from the normal TV with gaming on their PC monitor via the VGA cables. The thought the picture looked a lot better even though they had to go to a smaller screen.

Then a few posts down, some other people started talking about how they hooked up their Xbox 360 to the PC input on their TV. And a decent number of people thought the picture was significantly better, even the ones that had some complaints (e.g. too dark, washed out, bad contrast, etc.) thought that in general the picture looked much sharper and more detailed.

Now that got me thinking something I hadn’t even thought about before… I’ve already hooked up my laptop to my TV so I could watch TV shows I downloaded from iTunes, but I had never, ever considered to do the same with my Xbox 360. I always thought that component is the way to go for that. So the next day I went out to get myself a VGA cable to try this out.

After making sure I got the right resolution through the Dashboard menu, I was really impressed with the results. I guess I lucked out because my TV has its VGA settings calibrated fairly well, so the image looked visibly different to me — some of the text in the menus looked sharper, some of the textures looked more detailed, things like that. I suggest that if you can try the VGA cables with your display, definitely try it out because I was totally missing something good because I didn’t think about it.