Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

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Used Video Games.


For my first decade as a video gamer, the only game we owned was the Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge that was bundled with the NES. When we had visitation with the NES, we would rent different cartridges from the local VHS rental store. I had to rent Final Fantasy II on 3 subsequent weekends (playing instead of sleeping, and hoping no other renters deleted my save) to beat it the first time.

These days, I buy both used and new video games, though the vast majority of my purchases are new. When I'm done with a game, I give it to a friend, or sell it to an individual or company. Thus, even though I'm done with it, the game continues to contribute to society rather than adding to my domestic clutter or decomposing in a landfill.

There is some question as to whether the next generation of game consoles will enable this behavior. The poor poor game makers say that the used market prevents them from selling games, and that without up-sell tactics like pre-planned (paid) DLC and code-locked content, they'll go out of business.

I say BS to all of this moral high ground foolishness. Game makers and publishers, it's your job to figure how to manufacture and market your game in a way that benefits your company. It's your job to make a game so good that gamers cannot wait to play it; to include compelling enough on-line or social content to drive early adoption. The opportunity for independent and low-cost distribution has never been higher.

Meeting New Friends.


Playing video games is fun, but there's a lot more fun to be had if you can find a way to play with other people. The husband frequently plays online with his Xbox 360 buddies, but I always had a hard time finding people to play Nintendo DS games with. Some Nintendo DS games tried very hard to connect players with each other - Dragon Quest IX, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and The World Ends with You all allowed you to trade in-game bonuses via Tag Mode - but I never found any other players using Tag Mode in the wild. (I did find a bounty of DQ IX players at PAX, an annual gaming convention.)

A few mobile games (Foursquare, Gowalla) have resolved this temporal communication problem by connecting game data to a location. If a player leaves an item or checks in at an office, restaurant or park, the next player will see that interaction whenever they interact with that location - minutes or even weeks later.

With the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has made it a lot easier for folks to meet up. Instead of having to trade data for one specific game, Nintendo 3DS games can opt into the Street Pass service, which will trade data for all games using Street Pass. So instead of only trading data when two players are using the exact same game at the same time, players now only need to both be using a Nintendo 3DS. With the 3DS, I manage to meet some new players every week or so - mostly just random folks walking around downtown Seattle.

To encourage Street Pass use, the Nintendo 3DS even included a pair of Street-Pass focused games with the system. With Find Mii, avatars of the real people that you meet will fight monsters to rescue your avatar, and with Puzzle Swap you can exchange puzzle pieces with folks that you meet. I love these little features which make me feel connected, even passively, with other people who are also playing Nintendo 3DS games. Every day when I come home, I check the 3DS to see if I've made any new Street Pass friends.

Favorite Final Fantasys.


I shall now list the primary Final Fantasy games that I've played, in order of how much I like them. Oh, and do I really have to say "spoiler alert" for a 10 year old video game? Fine. Spoiler alert!

  1. Final Fantasy VI (aka Final Fantasy III on SNES): I played this in it's original incarnation on the SNES. As a kid, my primary home never had a SNES. But we did have one during visitation weekends at our dad's. I would rent the cartridge over and over again, and hope that my save game hadn't been deleted.
  2. Final Fantasy X-2: I enjoyed this immensely. The job-based leveling system was rewarding and strategic, and I also enjoyed all of the flashy girly costume changes. The only problem I had was the foolishness of the plot; the adventure centered on searching for a lost boyfriend, who may have been just a dream. I suppose it's a tad more unique than searching for a Princess.
  3. Final Fantasy IX: This featured yet another implementation of the "job" system, which has always been my favorite kind of character building system. FF IX was also hilarious.
  4. Final Fantasy VIII: While VIII didn't have the most interesting system for leveling up, it's story was excellent. It was tremendously mature and compared to its predecessors, and had one incredibly poignant scene on a spaceship that made me cry just a little.
  5. Final Fantasy XII: This is pretty fun, but I haven't had time to finish it yet. I do like that the main character isn't not the central character to the story; the epic tale simply unfolds around him. I like the unique battle system, where I can just program the characters with actions to take under certain circumstances.
  6. Final Fantasy IV (aka Final Fantasy II on the SNES): To this day, I miss having 5 characters in my party at once. And remember when Kain left the party and took his equipment?!? What a jerk.
  7. Final Fantasy III: I played the recent version DS, and enjoyed the completely flexible characters and their jobs. The old school difficulty on this version kicked my butt without regular level-grinding. As is always the case with games requiring Wifi friends, I was disappointed that I didn't have any wifi friends so that I could earn the special wifi-only job.
  8. Final Fantasy I: This first Final Fantasy was charming and pleasant, but just not terribly deep. Also, these early FFs really could hand you your ass.
  9. Final Fantasy II: I played a pretty authentic port of this on the Final Fantasy Origins disc. One quirk was that instead of leveling up, your characters gained abilities based on what they did during battles. IE, if a character got hurt during the battle, they would earn a higher max HP value. I confess, I loved whomping my characters so that they would get stronger. I can't remember if I finished it; I should really pick it up again.
  10. Final Fantasy V: I played this in the PS1 remake Final Fantasy Collection. I never finished, because one of my characters is stuck doing something wacky (I think it's a bug, rather than a curse). I should look into that.
  11. Final Fantasy X: Rather like FF VII, FFX was epic and engrossing at its time, as it aged, I just don't remember it fondly.
  12. Final Fantasy VII: By the time I played this on the Playstation 2, I had already known that Aeris was going to die, and couldn't wait for her to get on with it. It was revolutionary for its time, but doesn't have any special nostalgia for me.

Back Off the Wagon.


I have started a new live of indentured servitude to an anthropomorphized raccoon. Santa Claus brought me Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Nintendo Wii. I did some fishing, paid off my first mortgage, and had my house re-modeled. Would any of you like to visit my town? Let me know - I've got peaches.

For the rest of you, perhaps this will be interesting: Big Fish Games is offering two free downloadable puzzle games for PC, and 50% off any other game. Go to and enter your email address.

DS Lite Randomly Powers Down.


Last month, the father in law told us that he'd been having some trouble with his Nintendo DS Lite. Yes, this the baby boomer for whom I insidiously instrumented a birthday gift of a Nintendo DS Lite, Clubhouse Games, and Brain Age. He loves it.

Anyhoo, the problem was the the DS would randomly shut down during play, sometimes only after a minute of play. The husband and I theorized that the root cause of the problem could be a bad cartridge, a bad connection socket in the DS, or a problem with the battery. We suggested changes to his DS - playing work flow that could resolve the trouble, or at least narrow down the cause.

It turned out to be battery trouble - dad-in-law tended to keep the DS fully charged, and even play at his desk with the power plugged in. Since giving the battery a more natural cycle of charge and discharge, he hasn't seen any troubles.

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