February 1, 2010 scottcjones 4Comments

A friend recently described a mutual friend as “being good” at videogames. Here are his exact words: “[Person X] is really awesome at videogames,” he said.

I’ve heard people use this expression before. “So-and-so is awesome at games,” etc. For some reason this expression never fails to give me a case of third-degree red ass.
Blame it on my competitive nature. I grew up with a brother who was a year younger than me. We were peers, always working to out-do–and undo–the other throughout our childhoods.
Whenever I hear that so-and-so is good at videogames, I always want to 1. disprove this notion immediately, preferably by destroying and/or humiliating whoever this so-called good-at-videogames so-and-so is in some game-centric showdown, and 2. have myself immediately declared “good,” “great,” or perhaps even “awesome” at videogames via an impromptu ceremony that would involve a dais and a large trophy of some kind.
But the truth is this: I’m not good, great, or awesome at videogames.
What I am is persistent.
Even as a child, I was always the one who would stay up late at night, the sound turned so low on the television that it was inaudible (our house was very small), desperately trying over and over again to make it into the second round with Mike Tyson (Punch-Out!!), or to get the golden armor and the moon shield (Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts).
One of the core reasons that I fell in love with the medium to begin with is the democratic notion that anybody can eventually beat any game–yes, even Demon’s Souls–as long as they are willing to roll up their sleeves and put in the time.
I wrote a story a few years back about the burgeoning industry of Halo coaching. In the name of research, I hired a coach for a series of lessons. He and I met online. “OK, show me what you got,” he said.
I crouched behind a rock. I waited.
Suddenly, my shield was depleted. Health was waning. I spun in a circle firing into the sky.
I was dead.
I never saw him, never knew what hit me.
This was the way things continued during our “show me what you got” session: crouch, shields depleted, spin, fire at sky, panic, dead, re-spawn.
The coach was a competitive Halo player. He was, according to his biography, among the best Halo players in the world. He taught me a few things, showed me how to access areas of maps that most players assume aren’t accessible; taught me techniques for depleting someone’s shield instantly through various combinations of melee attacks and gun fire.
I improved. I got better. I learned to hold my own.
Once the lessons and the story were behind me, I had tangible proof that there were ways to be “good” at Halo.
If I was willing to put in the time, if I was willing to learn the nuances of the maps, I could most likely turn myself into a respectable Halo player. (My coach, someone who you would most definitely describe as “being good at videogames,” told me that he typically practices between four and six hours a day. Now, that’s what I call persistent.)
I realize there are exceptions out there. Exhibit A: Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel.
Exhibit B: I have a friend who told me a story about a colleague who picked up Guitar Hero for the first time in his life at an office party and ripped through the entire game on Expert and didn’t miss a note. Unfortunately, this guy also suffered from Asperger’s Disorder.
What I’m trying to say is this: If you have a friend who is “good” at Modern Warfare 2 or Rock Band, or who can do a speed run through Super Mario 64, most of the time–hell, almost all of the time–it’s because he or she put in the hours. Nothing more, nothing less.
January 27, 2010 scottcjones 10Comments


Started playing Dante’s Inferno this week. The game, despite high production values and highbrow source material, isn’t all that surprising or exciting. (More on the game itself when the review airs in a couple weeks.)
A few things that occurred to me while playing:
1. Will future lazy college students play this game instead of reading the Cliffs Notes of The Divine Comedy?
2. Will you be interested in purchasing the Poet Costume when the DLC becomes available in February? No? Then how about you, sir? No again?

3. I understand that games, like this one, are expensive to make, and that DLC can extend the life of a game. But if publishers are selling Poet Costumes, and–glancing further down the list–“New In-Game Abilities” (could they be more vague?), maybe game makers are pushing too hard to create things that no one wants, or needs.

The last time I bought DLC was for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
I played through the extra levels, but I barely remember what I did in them, or who I did it to. The levels had none of the narrative gravity of the original game. They were well made, but were also forgettable, barely qualifying as diversions. They were a few hours of white noise that did nothing to enhance–or detract–from the original experience.
When I want more The Force Unleashed, it’s the main game I think about and crave, and not the DLC.
I realize that consuming DLC is a completely voluntary enterprise. But how much of it is necessary? How much of it needs to be in the world?
Have you tried watching Deleted Scenes segments from DVDs? The reason those scenes were cut from the final product are usually painfully obvious.
Or imagine if Coppola suddenly decided to add 20 minutes of footage to The Godfather II. We’d be curious about it, and we’d all want to see it, but would it enhance the original in any tangible way?
Ditto for most DLC. It’s cool in theory, but if the DLC was truly an integral part of the main game, it would have been part of the main game.
You know who I feel bad for? I feel bad for the guy who has to show up at Visceral Games on Wednesday morning, February 10th, still hungover from the Dante’s Inferno launch the night before.
The poor guy has to munch some Advil, then get back to work on that “Poet Costume” the world doesn’t want, or need.
January 27, 2010 scottcjones 1Comment


When the Reviews on the Run crew came to pick me up for our shoot yesterday afternoon, I opened the door to the ROTR mobile and was greeted by the sounds of laughter.
What’s so funny? I wondered.
Vic, who was sitting up front, said, “You are not going to believe this, but we are dressed exactly alike.”
Now, Victor has accused me of dressing like him before. And I have accused him of dressing like me. We’ve never determined exactly who the guilty party is here.
I assumed he was making a bigger deal out of it than was necessary…until we parked and exited the car and I got a look at what he was wearing.
Same zip-neck sweater. Same jacket. Similar shoulder bag. And, once he’d donned his eyeglasses, which he wears to play games and/or see Avatar again, he was right:
People were seeing double in downtown Vancouver yesterday.

June 29, 2009 scottcjones 3Comments

>Man, I don’t know about you but I’m so fucking weary of Firefox users proselytizing all the time about Firefox. I’m weary of the slack-jawed, eyeballs-rolling-into-the-backs-of-their-heads reactions I get whenever a Firefoxer notices that I’m using Safari. They act as if they’ve just learned that I have a metal plate installed in my head. 

Then they proceed to tell me all about the marvel that is Firefox in the same manner that one might inform me that I have a second arm and HOW COULD I NOT BE USING MY SECOND ARM???!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKK!

Did it ever occur to you that I might not use Firefox because of the way you goddamn people are always trying to bully me into using it? Did it? Of course it didn’t. Because you’re too busy smelling your own farts. I don’t care how awesome something is. It’s a browser. The one I’m using now browses just fine. And it doesn’t come with bullies.
Ralph Farts
April 11, 2007 scottcjones

Flew down to Florida last Friday. My mother picked me up at the Sarasota airport.

It was late in the day, nearly dinner time. “What are we having tonight?” I asked.

“L.O.’s,” my mother said, pulling away from the curb.



My mother’s car had been broken into the two nights before. As we drove down I-4, she launched into an agonizingly detailed rendition of the event.

“I thought you lived in a nice neighborhood?” I asked.

“We do live in a nice neighborhood,” she said. “That’s what the sherriff told us. ‘Criminals don’t rob the bad neighborhoods.’ What’s to rob there?”

My mother works for a visiting nurse service. The thief had stolen a bag out of the backseat of her car. The bag contained hypodermics, a stethoscope, thermometers, things like that.

“I blame your father,” mom said.

I asked her why.

“His routine is, just before dark, he goes outside and puts up the windows in the vehicles then locks them. But that night, he forgot. He was watching something on TV, and he forgot. When we lived on Powell Road, we never locked our doors at night, on the house or the cars. Most of the time we left the car keys right in the ignition. It’s different down here. Bad things happen all the time.”

The three of us ate dinner. We sat in front of the TV, hunched over the coffee table. Then my parents squinted at the TV Guide channel for about 20 minutes and complained that there’s never anything on. “It’s all repeats now,” my mother explained.

“What about Hildalgo?” my father asked. Hildago. 2004. Viggo Mortensen plays a Pony Express courier who travels to Arabia to participate in some kind of marathon desert horse race.

“Fine,” I said. I’d suffered through far worse during my visits. Far, far worse.

We watched Hildago. It wasn’t bad. My dad and I drank beer. When the credits rolled my dad moved the coffee table out of the living room and began to inflate the air bed.

“How firm do you want it?” he asked over the din of the air compressor.

“Pretty firm,” I said.

My parents took turns brushing their teeth. Then they went into their room, shut out the light, and the two of them began snoring almost immediately.

My mother has a wall clock in the living room that plays a variety of instrumental themes on the hour. Somewhere Over The Rainbow began to play. Eleven o’clock.

I got up and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. I checked the sliding glass door, making sure it was locked. I peered through the glass. I could see my mother’s car in the April moonlight. I pictured a man. A stranger. Someone bold enough, or crazy enough, or unbalanced enough to walk onto my parents’ property and open the door to their car.

That mysterious person, were I there a few nights earlier, would have been only 15 or 20 feet away from where I was standing.

My dad talks tough. He acts like nothing could scare him. He eats his hot mustard, brags about his masculinity. But I think this theft scared him. He tried to lay on some of his tough talk over dinner. It wasn’t very convincing.

I’m still peering through the glass. There’s nothing outside, no movement. It’s a still night. No wind.

But I feel the weight on my shoulders. I feel the air going out of my chest. This is exactly what I do not want to see when I visit mom and dad: their frailties, their insecurities, the ways in which the world threatens them. I listen to them snore in the next room. I look through the glass at the night.

I’m pissed. I’m angry. “Come back, you motherless cocksucker, whoever you are,” I whisper. My words are fogging the glass. “Just try to come back here, and I’ll break your goddamn pencil neck, you fuck.”

September 11, 2005 scottcjones

Drank away Labor Day weekend. Phone rang a few times, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I sat in the dark, blinds drawn, drinking.

Sunday afternoon, I decided to treat myself. I phoned the Thai place on 79th Street for a pick-up order. As soon as the woman heard my voice, she said, “Let me guesss–you want coconut soup?”

It was exactly what I wanted. “How did you know?” I said, already knowing the answer.

“Because you order it all the time,” she said. “Every weekend, coconut soup, coconut soup, coconut soup.”

I felt embarrassed. Ashamed of my own predictability. “It’s good,” I said defensively. “I really like it.”

“Sure, sure,” the woman said, sounding distracted.

“Maybe next time, I’ll try something different. I promised. OK?”

“OK, fine. See you in 10 minutes.” She hung up the phone.

I put on some pants and walked over to the Thai place, feeling angry, wanting the soup, but not wanting to confront this woman, not wanting to walk into the restaurant. (They won’t deliver unless you order more than $12 worth of food; coconut soup, with a side of rice, is $9.) I braced myself, then walked through the door.

The restaurant was busy. Every table was full. The cute Thai girl was working, the one who always wears a tight pink T-shirt that says, FARMERS DO IT IN THE DIRT. I usually don’t stare at women’s boobs, but for some reason this girl has such a high, firm pair that I can never seem to help myself.

I handed her the money. She handed me the soup. The whole transaction happened silently.

I went home and ate my soup and watched the Mets lose on TV. For some reason, the soup didn’t taste as good as it usually does. It was kind of flat. Watered down. Something was missing. An ingredient that I couldn’t put my finger on…

My doorbell rang. It was my neighbors next door. I’d been getting their mail all week while they were away on vacation. The word is out that I’m here all the time, that I rarely go away, so I’ve become the official mail-retriever for anyone who leaves for a few days. “Here’s a token of our appreciation,” she said, handing me a big shopping bag that said DUTY FREE on the side.

“You really didn’t have to do this,” I said. Really meaning it. In fact, I would have preferred that they didn’t get me anything.

Once they were gone, I peered into the bag. A big yellow X-large T-shirt with an embroidered sun in the center of the chest above the words CABO SAN LUCAS.

There was also a small bottle of tequila.

Once I settled back onto the couch, I noticed that the cat was missing. Lately, her hiding skills have improved remarkably. Sometimes, it’s as if she has the ability to turn herself invisible.

After a few minutes of searching, I realized that this was one of those times where she’d invisibled herself. I looked everywhere for her. Behind the fridge. Underneath the nightstand. Everywhere. Everywhere I could think of.

No cat. Nothing.

My search became desperate. I worried that maybe she’d scampered out the door when I was getting the DUTY FREE bag from my neighbor.

I had tears in my eyes. I put my slippers on and ran up and down the stairs, calling her name.
I could hear TVs playing inside apartments. Low conversations. A telephone ringing in the distance. The hallways were empty. The stairwell was empty.

No cat.

I tore my apartment to pieces, looking everywhere for her, tears running down my face. If I’d lost her, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

Exhausted from my search, with everything in my apartment upside down and inside out, I realized there was one place I hadn’t looked. I pulled the cushions off the couch. And there, holed up inside the corner of the folded sofa bed, was the kitten.

I have no idea how she got in there. I pulled her out and held her to my chest. I buried my nose into her neck, inhaling her kitten smell. I love how she smells. I kissed the top of her head. I rubbed her belly. She let out a meow of protest, but let me kiss her a few more times anyway.

I noticed that the sun was going down. I opened a fresh beer. I put the cushions back on my couch. I searched for something to watch on TV.

What a shit-ass Labor Day.

August 28, 2005 scottcjones

Was taking my bike out through the basement exit yesterday–per co-op rules, anything you can’t carry has to go in or out through the basement–when I saw a man letting his dog shit on the tiny wedge of grass in front of the building.

I rode by the man, on my out to the park. Then decided, Fuck this. I stopped. Turned back.

“Excuse me,” I say, trying to be polite. “Did your dog just take a shit back there?”

This is one of those third-person, disembodied moments, when I can’t really believe I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s like I’m seeing myself do this, and I’m rooting for myself, hoping it all turns out OK for me.

Guy stops. Looks at me. Sunglasses. Vintage T-shirt. Unshaven. Jack Russell terrier. Douche all the way. “Did she shit?” he asks.

Did she shit? I saw her shitting from 20 yards away while riding a bike. Give me a break.
“I think she did,” I say. I motion towards the turds in the grass.

He stops. Sighs. Turns. Looks at me.

I say, “I live here. In this building.” To explain why I’m complaining about turds on the lawn. I motion towards the building.

He looks at the building. He looks at the turds. I wheel my bike around, and I’m about to ride off, when he says, “Hey, you’re riding your bike on the sidewalk. That’s against the law.”

“What?” I say.

“Yeah. You’re breaking the law right now. And when you rode past me, while breaking the law, you almost HIT ME. You almost RAN ME DOWN.”

At this point, I’m facing the other way. Towards the park. He’s backtracking, moving towards the turds, his dog in tow. “Hit you?” I say, looking over my shoulder. “I didn’t even come close.”

I step on one of the pedals. I’m about to wheel off.

“What did you say?” he says.

Now I am wheeling off. “I said I wasn’t even CLOSE.”

He mutters something, but by this time, I’m already on 35th Ave., riding into the wind, towards Flushing Meadow. I’m pumping hard, full of adrenaline. I’m pissed. Really pissed. I ride, faster and faster, thinking of all the things I could have said, but didn’t.

-If you don’t want to clean up your dog’s turds, you shouldn’t own a dog.
-Give me your address. That way I can stop by your building later and take a shit on your lawn.
-Hit you? If I hit, belived me, you’d know it.
-Now clean up your dog’s shit, and get the fuck out of my neighborhood.
-And don’t let me ever see you on my block again.

I burned off all my adrenaline at the park. Most of it. 90-percent of it. When I rode back to the neighborhood, I checked the lawn for the turds. Sure enough, they were still there. I was winded, sweating, too tired to get pissed off all over again.

Since this happened, whenever I go down to the street, I’m thinking about this guy. This douche. Always thinking about him and his fucking Jack Russell. I walk around feeling a mix of bravado and cowering fear. I hate that I’m thinking about him. Hate how this whole thing has tainted my formerly friendly, peaceful neighborhood in a weird way. I’m always half hoping I run into this guy again. And always half hoping I don’t.

July 28, 2005 scottcjones

Was sitting at my desk having a cup of coffee yesterday morning when the kitten, as is her habit these days, leapt onto the desk and began her search for pens, paperclips, rubberbands, batteries, etc. Basically anything she can knock to the floor and bat around for 10 to 15 minutes.

As she surveyed the desk, she spun around, turning her backside towards me. Her tail happened to be hoisted high, giving me a bird’s-eye view of her butthole. And there, pinned in the halo of fur surrounding her butthole, was a dark pebble of poop.

With all the time she spends grooming herself, and, in particular, grooming her crotch, I figured I’d leave the pebble there and let her take care of it. It was only a matter of time before she found it. So, I went about my morning, sending various emails, etc. An hour went by, and the pebble was still there. Two hours…and the pebble was still there.

Finally, by noon, I figured I had no choice but to help her out a little.

“Hold still,” I said, gently lifting her tail. With nervous fingers, I plucked the pebble of poop off of her. Once the extraction was complete, the kitten let out a polite meow, which I interpreted as, *Thank you.*

If this isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.