Monday, February 25, 2008

The Waiting is the Hardest Part...

The week before last, I had a job interview for a technical writing position. The interview went swimmingly, and they called me in a few days later for a second interview, which also went quite well. I felt really comfortable with the people I met at the company, and although I've never had a burning passion to do technical writing or anything, it sure sounded like a nice change of pace after all the customer service work I've done for the past few years.

Over the course of last week, the job was just about all I could think about. (Well, that and how tired I am of being a boy, but that's such a constant that it hardly even seems worth mentioning.) I tried not to obsess about it, but in my mind I kept envisioning being offered the job, and not being offered the job. I think my brain deliberately tries to imagine possible disappointing outcomes for all sorts of situations as a defense mechanism, so that I'm more prepared for those outcomes if they come to pass, but I don't think this actually works, and I try not to do it. It's hard to stop, though. My brain has a mind of its own.

At the second interview, they'd told me that I'd find out on the following Friday if I got the job or not. This made for a very long week. I distracted myself some with reading, and watching a bit of The Wire, and playing some Burnout Paradise, but still, long week.

True to their word, on Friday, I got the call. "This was a really hard decision, you were a really strong candidate, but..." Indeed, despite my brain's attempts to prepare me for this possibility, I was pretty crushed.

But at the same time, at least the wait was over. And since then, I've found myself pouring my energy back into the job search with gusto. Many a resume and cover letter have been emailed. Of course, this is good, as I really need a job now. Things are starting to get a bit scary. I'm still hoping to find something that seems like an exciting opportunity, a nice change of pace, and some of the jobs I've applied for this weekend have fit that bill, but certainly not all of them. If need be, I can always take something along the lines of what I've been doing for the past few years and keep looking. Right now, I'm mostly just hoping to get something fast.

In other news, I wrote up a review of the NES game Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, which hit the Wii's Virtual Console service last week. (Yes, my Virtual Console games are working again. Turns out the problem with my Wii was that I am an idiot.) I actually posted the review as a reader review at GameSpot. You can find it here. Here's the short version: Only five continues?! Are you fucking kidding me?! I plan to still write reviews of games from time to time, but I don't really know what to do with them. I may post them at GS and link to them in a blog post, as I'm doing here, but if you have any thoughts on what I should do with them, lemme know!

Finally, some good friends took me out on Saturday to see U23D. I'm a pretty big U2 fan, and although I don't think it's one of their best filmed performances--not like the ZOO TV concert from Sydney or the Elevation DVD from Boston--and although the novelty of having Bono get all up in my grill through the magic of 3D didn't really add much to the overall experience--I still really enjoyed seeing a U2 concert on the big screen. I sort of needed the soaring anthemic reassurance and passionate sense of determination only U2 can provide after Friday's disappointment.

I, I will begin again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I Left My Heart in...the Curious Village?!

Happy belated Valentine's Day, y'all!

I got my 360 back on Thursday, and I would have expected myself to immediately hook it back up and finally hit the streets of Paradise City. But another game that arrived from GameFly on Wednesday had already sunk its hooks into me and wouldn't let me go: Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Oh, what a delightful, charming, maddening little game.

At its core, this Nintendo DS game is just a series of brainteasers, but while I do have a fondness for logic puzzles, I doubt a DS cart that consisted of nothing more than a collection of them would really do it for me. What really makes this game special is the story, characters, and art style. Prof. Layton and his young self-proclaimed apprentice Luke journey to the village of St. Mystere to track down the Golden Apple, which is the key to the will of the late Baron Reinhold. Prof. Layton is summoned due to his renown as a puzzle expert, and the people of St. Mystere certainly put him to the test. Everyone you encounter has a brainteaser for you.

This Penny Arcade strip pretty much hits the nail on the head, but to the game's credit you don't actually have to solve every puzzle you come across. You do need to solve a majority of them to proceed through the story, but if certain puzzles just aren't to your liking, you're welcome to take a pass on them, and you can go back to them at any time. (There are a few exceptions to this rule, and I admit that one mandatory puzzle near the end, a sliding block puzzle, drove me so mad that I broke down and looked up the answer online.)

I find the game's visual style a bit reminiscent of The Triplets of Belleville, and peppered throughout the game are a number of really high-quality animated scenes. The game just feels really elegant, and I encourage everyone who enjoys logic puzzles to give it a look. I'm already looking forward to the game's promised sequel.

Anyway, having successfully solved the mystery of St. Mystere, I have now in earnest moved on to Burnout Paradise. Spectacular. The game is full of amazing moments, and the ridiculously fast racing that Burnout is known for feels better than ever. One of my problems with the last game was that traffic checking made it feel as if most cars on the road were made out of tinfoil. That's been totally rectified here, and everything seems to have just the right amount of weight to it. It's also one of the most visually beautiful games I've ever played, and it looks gorgeous even on my SDTV. It does make me wish I was playing in high-def, though. At these speeds, deadly cement outcroppings and other obstacles don't come into focus soon enough for me to react.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If It's Not One Thing...

Microsoft reports that my 360--or a 360, anyway--is en route back to me and scheduled for delivery on Friday. I'm looking forward to finally getting in some time with Burnout Paradise. A bunch of people I know are still playing online pretty regularly so it seems I haven't totally missed the boat on that one.

But that's still a few days off, and I was hoping to spend some of that time with Lords of Thunder, truly one of the rockin'est shooters of all time. This TurboGrafx 16 classic, with some of the most smoldering guitar licks ever heard in a video game, hit the Wii's Virtual Console on Monday, and the game is a blast. The whole thing is like the notebook doodles of a big-haired 14-year-old ACDC fan circa 1988 brought to life, with an awesomely cheesy soundtrack to match.

Unfortunately, my Wii has started doing something very unusual. All of my Virtual Console games, including Lords of Thunder, have suddenly started behaving as if I am constantly holding down the 1 button on my Wii remote. At first I thought the problem was with the remote itself, but it's not. I've tested it with a number of Wii disc games--No More Heroes, Super Paper Mario, and so on--and they all respond perfectly each time I hit the 1 button. Yet every last Virtual Console game on my system seems to think the 1 button is in a permanent state of pressnitude, and this makes playing the games pretty much impossible.

I emailed Nintendo about this using the link on their tech support web page. After submitting my email, I got this statement:

"Due to the unprecedented popularity of the Wii, we're currently experiencing extremely high email volumes and it may take several days before we are able to respond."

Just a thought--maybe y'all could take some of the truckloads of money that are coming in every day due to the unprecedented popularity of the Wii and use it to hire a few new reps so that your customers who are contributing to said unprecedented popularity don't have to wait several days for a response.

Oh well. I guess for the time being I'll have to continue spending my free time the same way I have been for the past few weeks: watching way too much Law & Order: Criminal Intent on my computer via Netflix. The funny thing is that I don't even think it's a particularly outstanding show, not like The Shield or Six Feet Under, and I wouldn't even bother putting it on my Netflix queue and watching the DVDs. (I certainly wouldn't bother watching it as it airs. Watching TV on TV is for suckers.) But there's just something compulsively watchable about Vincent D'Onofrio as Det. Robert Goren, and Netflix has just made it so damn easy with this Watch Instantly feature, that I find myself sometimes watching two or three 43-minute episodes a day.

By the way, I have an interview tomorrow morning for a technical writer position. I'm hoping it goes well, as I'd really like to get out of the whole customer service racket, and I'm confident about my ability to do this job and do it well. But I hate job interviews, and thinking about it is already giving me the jitters. Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Contrary to what they said, Nintendo responded to my email in a matter of hours, not days. However, the response is basically a non-response, saying that they can't help me by email and that I should call them. So I'll call them tomorrow.

Also, I've determined that the issue isn't with the remote at all. I disconnected the remote altogether in the middle of a Virtual Console game and the game continued to behave as if the 1 button was being held down. Something's gone screwy in the part of my Wii's brain that handled VC games, it seems.

UPDATE TWO: I just called Nintendo. The rep I spoke to obviously had never heard of this issue before and had no idea what might be causing it. She quickly scheduled a callback, presumably with someone who might actually be able to help me, and I should be hearing from them in 24-72 hours. Terrific.