25 Ramblings of a Gamer

If you've been reading any of my posts prior to this one, you've probably figured out that video games have largely influenced my personality, artistic tastes, and quite simply, who I am as a person. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, though. In fact, as more time goes by, video games are finally beginning to receive the respect and recognition that they deserve as a legitimate form of art and entertainment, and it's about time. I think it's even fair to say that gaming has become a rather integral part of our modern society, one that more and more people are partaking in every day. However, I figured I'd get a little personal with this post and share with you 25 of my thoughts, memories, aspirations, etc.--all to do with video games.

1. The first video game that I ever played was Sonic the Hedgehog when I was four years old--the first game that ever remember playing is Bushido Blade on the original PlayStation, a couple years later. I remember being very impressed with the way that the bamboo trees on this one level would fall over if you cut through them, and that's about all.

2. My mom is a billion times better at games like Tetris and Pacman than I will ever be.

3. I've been coming up with rather elaborate video game ideas (characters, story lines, gameplay--the works) for years now and I can't wait to put them into action.

4. We've only ever owned PlayStation consoles in my house (and the occasional GameBoy). Nothing against others, mind you, it's just safe to say that I was raised a PlayStation gamer. Maybe when I start making some real cash and I'm itching to spend it, I'll buy a 360 or something.

5. When I was younger, I used to hate action figures because, in actuality, they're more like statues than "action" figures. Now, however, I have a small collection started and I'm eager to get my hands on Lightning from FFXIII.

6. I still (vaguely) remember the day that my dad brought home our first PlayStation and our first game to go with it (Bushido Blade). The PS came with a demo disc that had at least a dozen different game demos on it, including Crash Bandicoot 2.

7. I'm not a huge fan of classic Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Super Smash Bros., etc., but I've never gotten the chance to play too much of them, so maybe that's why.

8. I am way better at Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead/Left 4 Dead 2 than my boyfriend, but he kicks my ass at Starcraft II. I don't understand what it is, but I just can't seem to get any better at that game. Congratulations.

9. I used to love horror games like Resident Evil and Silent HIill, but I've never actually played more than a couple minutes of any of them. I used to just stay up late and watch my dad play, too freaked out to play them myself. Sometimes I'd pick up the controller and start to play, but as soon as I heard anything in the game, I'd pause it and leave the room.

10. I would love to wear expensive high-heels and be in charge of my own game company, some day. In fact, that's what I intend to do.

11. Back when I was still in grade school, my uncle installed some chip in our PlayStation and burnt us a bunch of games for it like Crash Bandicoot 2 and Final Fantasy IX.

12. Kingdom Hearts (the first one, in particular), while not necessarily my favorite game (it's up there), has influenced my creative style more than anything else I can think of. I think I played it at such an age that all of its thematic elements really left an impression on me.

13. My screen name/gamer tag is a sort of variation of the name "Toboe", who was a character on the anime Wolf's Rain. Back when I was twelve years old, I went to register for Gaia Online and every other name that I could possibly think of was taken, so I just messed with "Toboe" and came up with "Tobuoi". It stuck, obviously. Oh, and it's pronounced "T'OH-boo-oy", by the way.

14. Nothing would make me feel more successful than going on The Daily Show/Colbert Report and talking about video games (preferably mine). I absolutely love Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

15. Even though I love playing online with other people, my fondest gaming memories are made up of those nights that I spend playing video games in complete solitude while everyone else is asleep. Good times.

16. I honestly believe that the video game industry can be used to do some real good in this world, and I'd like to help make that happen.

17. Most of my favorite video games are those that give you the same feeling as reading a really good book...games like Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia, and so on.

18. Katamari Damacy (and its sequels) never gets old.

19. I would be totally depressed if I were dating someone who wasn't as much of a gamer as I am. Luckily, that's far from the case.

20. I have ridiculously tiny hands, and as such, my pinky cramps up when I try to use the XBox controller for too long. I can't, like, wrap my hands around it right.

21. After I move into my own place, I plan on subscribing to Game Informer, buying my own PS2 and PS3, setting up a GameFly account, and decking my living room out with cool video game artwork and whatnot. I'd also like to get involved with some sort of local gaming community.

22. I wish more girls would get involved in gamer culture. I'm lonely!

23. I have plenty of friends who have played more games than me and even know more about games, and yet, I'm practically the only one who plans on going into the industry. I just don't get some people.

24. If for whatever reason I couldn't have a career in the video game industry, I'd go into movie-making. From what I can tell, in a lot of ways, they're very similar processes.

25. For the vast majority of video games, I will almost always prefer a controller to a keyboard and mouse. Sorry, PC gamers. That's just the way of it for me.


Chicago Comic-Con 2010!

I spent the weekend at Chicago Comic-Con. While not nearly as popular or renown as San Diego's Comic-Con, Chicago's was certainly an event. There were easily thousands of people who attended over the course of the weekend (Thursday night through Sunday afternoon) and quite an impressive array of vendors, artists, and celebrities like Linda Hamilton, William Shatner, Adam West, and a handful of actors from TV shows like Buffy, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica. I went Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and I'm sure that there was plenty of stuff that I still didn't get to see. To be honest, the weekend was a bit overwhelming and exhausting, but I definitely had a good time, regardless. It was also my first con, so maybe it takes some practice to be able to enjoy the full experience.

Tickets were pretty reasonable; $25 a day or $50 for all four days. I obviously went with the 4-day pass, though we decided not to go Thursday night since we were a bit unprepared. There was also lots of reasonably priced stuff to buy there, too--comics, t-shirts, action figures, posters--the list goes on. The one thing that I do regret buying, however, is FOOD. Seriously, avoid buying convention food (and that of similar events) at all costs. We're talking $3.75 for a really
lame hot dog, $5.00 for a hardly filling piece of pizza, $5.50 for a sloppy Joe, $2.50 for a small pop, and so on. What crap is that?! Needless to say, we came prepared with our own food the next day.

As the con's name would imply, it was really a comic reader's dream. My knowledge of comics is, unfortunately, rather limited, so a lot of what the convention had to offer went right over my head. There were lots of other things going on that I could appreciate, though. Unsurprisingly, I saw dozens of cosplayers, including Domo, Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, Umbrella Corporation soldiers, and more. There were also several talks and panels going on. Celebs like James Marsters and Linda Hamilton gave speeches and I got to attend a panel featuring SFX360--a gaming community who talked about "Bringing Gamers Face to Face". They had some interesting things to say about starting a community, hosting/participating in game tournaments, etc. There were also lots of people at the con promoting their artwork, webcomics, etc. Definitely a good place to network.

If there was one thing that I went to Chicago Comic-Con for, it was to meet the five cast members of Battlestar Galactica who were there and to get Michael Trucco's (Samuel T. Anders) autograph. I was mostly successful. My friend and I actually struck up a somewhat substantial conversation with Aaron Douglas ("Chief" Galen Tyrol), who seemed like a pretty cool guy. We also got to talk briefly with Michael Hogan (Saul Tigh), who was way different than I thought he'd be...totally not like his character. He was kind of funny and wacky, in fact. It was weird. And then I said hi to Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh) who was, as I expected, very nice. Unfortunately, Rekha Sharma (Tory Foster) left the convention before I got to meet her. I did, however, get to meet Michael Trucco, who was the one that I wanted to see most of all. He is, without a doubt, every bit as studly in real life as he is in the show and even nicer than I expected. Granted, I only ever saw women lined up at his booth to meet him, so he was probably in hardcore woman-wooing mode, but still. I'm really glad I got to talk with him. Oh, and I got his autograph, of course. Cost me $25, but the whole experience was totally worth it. I wish I could've gotten a photo with him, but it would have cost me even more and I wasn't really prepared to throw down that kind of money. Next time, though! I did get a picture of Michael Hogan, but he was the only one, since I felt kind of like a creeper. Now, to meet Katee Sackhoff...

All in all, the con was a pretty fun experience. I wish I would've known a little more what I was doing, but there's a first for everything, I suppose. If you're in the Chicago-land area and you're into comics, I would definitely recommend it. I would advise against going on Saturday if at all possible, though, because it was pretty much a madhouse when I went. Friday and Sunday were much better. Even though we spent less time there on those days, I feel like we got to see more because we weren't trying to navigate through so many people.

I'm looking forward to going to more conventions in the future...perhaps ones that are for things that I'm a little more interested in. If nothing else, it's nice to get out of the house and go into the city for a couple of days.

Blog post on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (the movie) coming soon.


Where to buy electronics, gadgets, and the like?

ONLINE, of course! I don't care if you're looking to build yourself an entire computer from scratch or buy something as measly as a $2 desktop mic; sites like newegg and TigerDirect or even Amazon or eBay are your best friends, way more often than not.

For all things computer-related, newegg is my first stop. I was able to buy everything for the computer that my boyfriend built for me--from my motherboard to my power strip--for $595, tax and shipping included. I was also able to score a sweet little refubished 4 GB Sansa MP3 player for $30 that's lasted me a couple of years so far. Newegg also has things like free shipping and combo deals on any number of items if you've got the time to shop around a little, making it even more economical.

Aside from my computer and my MP3 player, one of my most prized possessions as an artist is my drawing tablet. I got my Bamboo Fun drawing tablet by Wacom on Amazon for a very good price (something like $70 if I remember correctly), especially considering it came with Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, Corel Painter Essentials 4.0, and Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0, any one of which is worth more than the total cost of the tablet and the software that came with it. I'm sure that if I bought this at a local store like, say, Best Buy, it would've easily been over $100.

The only drawback to shopping online for these sorts of things, however, is the wait time between when you place your order and when the product shows up at your house. If you're able to plan these things out in advance (which you should always do, anyway), though, it's definitely worth your while. If you absolutely must buy software or some sort of electronic at a store, Best Buy should be your last resort. Try places like Target first. The vast majority of the purchases I've ever made at Best Buy were later regretted. Don't do it...I mean it.


My 10 Favorite Final Fantasy (VII-XIII) Characters

Like so many other gamers out there, the Final Fantasy series holds a special place in my heart. My first Final Fantasy game was IX, which I beat around the time I was ten years old. I was totally mesmerized by it. Until then, no other video game I had played had captured my imagination the way that a book or a movie was capable of. Apart from the story, I found the battle system challenging, but once I was able to master it, no other game could fill me with greater satisfaction. The game's effect on me was almost drug-like. Since then, I have played Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, X-2, XII, XIII, and Tactics, though I am ashamed to admit that aside from IX, I have only beaten X and X-2--but not because I didn't want to. After I got to the 3rd disc of VII, my game file became "corrupted". Tens of hours into both Tactics and VIII, I got stuck at a boss...While playing XII (around 70 hours or so), our PS2 died, and a month or two ago, a storm completely fried our PlayStation 3 before I got the chance to beat XIII.

WTF, right? Mine is a cursed gamer's fate.

Regardless, there are many things about the Final Fantasy series that make it great, but not the least of which is the characters. Each game has a distinct cast of characters who move the game forward and whose personalities draw you in, so for this post, I have created a list of my top ten favorite characters from the series (of the games I've played, so far). I'd like to think that mine is a diverse list, consisting of badasses, comic reliefs, and old-fashioned heroes, among other character types. So here, I present to you my top 10 Final Fantasy characters...

#10: Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII was an excellent game and an undeniably groundbreaking one for the series. However, it is far from my favorite (I know, crazy, right?). Regardless, the character that stood out the most to me was Red XIII or "Nanaki". Along with his fiery, lion-like fighting abilities, Red XIII possesses a wisdom and intelligence that surpasses that of all the other main characters, contrary to what one might expect. Not to mention, his value of nature and devotion to the planet, which are reminiscent to the Native Americans', is a nice change of pace compared to the rest of the game's grungy/sci-fi cityscape atmosphere.

#9: Balthier from Final Fantasy XII
He's a suave, witty sky pirate--what more could a girl ask for? While the battle system and atmosphere of Final Fantasy XII were purely awe-inspiring, the story line and character development weren't quite as engaging or memorable as other Final Fantasies' and often left me wanting more. The game's humor and emotional intrigue rested almost exclusively on Balthier and his respective partner in crime, Fran, making him my favorite character in the game by far. If you level him up correctly, he's a very useful character in battle, and his amusing one-liners make you want him in your party as much as possible.

#8: Selphie from Final Fantasy VIII
Okay, so I definitely have a thing for the cute, clutzy, but immensely useful girls of the Final Fantasy series. I suppose they're the ones that I usually relate to more than the others, and for the most-part, they're just downright entertaining. Selphie, the nunchaku-wielding mercenary, is a perfect example of such a character. With her short, yellow dress and her goofy, flipped-out hair, she may appear cute and harmless, but she can be a very valuable asset on the battlefield. She also pilots the Ragnarok, the characters' main mode of transportation across the FFVIII world. All things considered, Selphie is a very charming and solid character of the Final Fantasy series.

#7: Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII

With what I believe to be the best voice acting in the series (which isn't saying a WHOLE lot, to be honest), I found Sazh immensely likable as soon as he came onto the screen. Acting as the comic relief of a game that carries the weight of a very serious storyline, Sazh still possesses a fascinating depth to him. Though he does his best to keep a clear, optimistic view of things, we find him caving in from time to time. And with a past like his, who wouldn't feel a little hopeless every once in a while? As a multi-purpose, pistol-toting Ravager, Sazh is a frequent member of my battle party. Also, have you seen that baby chocobo he stowes away in his afro?! It's adorable!

#6: Kuja from Final Fantasy IX
In general, I have a hard time fully appreciating Final Fantasy villains. Kuja, however, is nothing short of an evil bastard, and yet I couldn't help but feel sorry for him (yeah, that's a guy). I can't say that for any other FF baddie that I've gotten familiar with, so far. What I find so interesting about Kuja is that in the end, he doesn't have much of a motive driving him, just raw emotion. Fear, to be exact--the fear of death. Created to be an Angel of Death himself--and a prototype, at that--Kuja is robbed of any sort of real, meaningful life and falls to pieces at the discovery of his own immortality. It is this violent despair that is meant to incite a strong dislike for him, while at the same time, undeniable pity. Aside from all that, he's one BAMF to have to fight against, but damn, do you feel good once you beat him (for the last time)!

#5: Auron from Final Fantasy X
Unlike so many of the other acknowledged badasses of the Final Fantasy series, Auron stands out in that he doesn't carry all that moody baggage sort of crap. Yeah, he's had a tough past, but even in death, he's true to his cause in that awesome, no-nonsense sort of way. And yet, he's far from two-dimensional. Quite the contrary, I think. Rather than fighting and acting tough to cover up his emo tears, he is the way he is because he has a purpose, and I like that in my characters. As far as battles go, Auron is an incredibly awesome tank character, boasting the highest HP, defense, and attack stats. He's essential for nearly every boss battle throughout the game, and if you can find a way to buff his weaker attributes (through friend spheres, equipment, etc.), you'll find yourself with an extremely powerful character.

#4: Freya from Final Fantasy IX
Freya is a very unique Final Fantasy character in my eyes. She's tough in a practical, compassionate sort of way...but make no mistake, she's really tough. I can't tell you how many times most, if not all of my other characters on the field were KO'd and I very narrowly avoided defeat by using her "Jump" move. Aside from her powerful physical attacks with her Dragoon lance, Freya has a number of white magic abilities that come in plenty useful as well. As a female character, I found her strong personality--burdened by a tragic romance of the past--really refreshing alongside her serious attitude. Definitely an interesting touch to Final Fantasy IX's fantastical, old-school setting.

#3: Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII
As Final Fantasy's first official female lead character, Lightning does not disappoint. Nomura has been quoted a number of times saying that he wanted to essentially create a female version of Cloud when he came up with her, but quite frankly, I think she's less of a little bitch than Cloud. While she has plenty to be emotional about, Lightning is ultimately a soldier in the truest sense who takes matters into her own hands when the occasion calls for it. Though she tends to fight first and ask questions later, Lightning is far from heartless, but she doesn't let that get in the way of staying strong. A very fun character to play during battles, Lightning excels as a Commando and Ravager, dealing a mesmerizing combination of physical and magical damage with her gunblade (okay, it might sound stupid, but that thing is f*#&@ing sweet). She is also a decent Medic when things start to get ugly. Her remarkable physical prowess on the field is super fun to watch, if nothing else.

#2: Zidane from Final Fantasy IX
Okay, so you may have figured out by now that I really like Final Fantasy IX--especially the characters. Zidane is no exception. In fact, he's the prime example. A very close runner-up to my most favorite Final Fantasy character, I love everything about Zidane, from his personality to his fighting style. He's a charming and mischievous womanizer but that doesn't stop him from being a genuine hero with a heart of gold. As a thief, Zidane relies on his speed and daggers in battle, along with a number of valuable abilities such as Scan. Though his perseverance and courage are something to behold, even Zidane has his moments of self-doubt, but that makes him all the more captivating as a character in a game that achieves its greatness primarily through character development.

And, finally...

#1: Rikku from Final Fantasy X
What can I say? I absolutely love her and I knew that I did the very first moment that I realized she would be joining the battle team. An adorable and feisty blonde who has a way with machines, Rikku packs a powerful punch in the form of any number of explosives. A sort of jack-of-all-trades character in battle, it nearly breaks my heart to hear people say that they've played FFX but never used Rikku, so long as they didn't have to. In my experience, once you've acquired enough items for her to use, Rikku is just as valuable in battle as Auron--and that's pretty darn valuable. Her thief abilities allow her to steal items from enemies which she can then use later to deal damage, inflict status ailments upon enemies, restore HP/MP, or bestow buffs on her teammates. When her Overdrive gauge fills up, she can mix items together to create an even more powerful effect. Rikku treats her tragedies as learning experiences and tries to maintain a perky and sincere attitude throughout the game. She is incredibly determined and loyal to the rest of her party, and has nothing but good intentions. While she was herself enough in X-2, I felt that like a lot of other things in the game, she lost a considerable amount of her charm. The original Rikku will always be the one most dear to me.

Honorable mentions include: Irvine from Final Fantasy VIII, Fran and Basch from Final Fantasy XII, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, and Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX. I would love to hear who some of your favorite Final Fantasy characters are, so please feel free to comment below! Thanks for reading.

Images were found in several different places around the web and are (presumably) the property of Square Enix.