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Why I’m Not Jumping on the Next-Gen Bandwagon Just Yet

This is an exciting time to be a gamer. With Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all battling for dominance in the crowded console market, and PC gaming being more popular than ever, we have the biggest wealth of options available to us. As of this writing in November 2013, both Sony and Microsoft are launching their respective next-gen consoles and there is a palpable feeling of excitement and wonder that only an emerging technology can bring. In the months leading up to this point, the discussion has been centered around which console people will be choosing. Some are opting to go for broke and get both, while the majority have a more difficult choice to make: Xbox One or PS4? The cards have been laid on the table, we know what games to expect and the choice is now ours to make. However, there is an emerging army of people opting not to drink the next-gen Kool-Aid quite yet, instead choosing to hold off and see how the technology develops. I count myself among these people.
But dude, why deprive yourself? The new consoles look amazing and it’s only going to get better. Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t outline my reasons.
Reason One: Improvement is Measured Over Time
The console launch is really the “testing the waters” phase in which the shortcomings of the system become known. While the hardware issues that surrounded the launch of the Xbox 360 is something we’d like to forget, it outlines the risk that comes with being an early adopter. The Playstation 3, while more reliable in terms of hardware, suffered from a dearth of worthwhile games in its first two years on the market. I fully expect the Xbox One and PS4 to have similar growing pains, which is why I’m perfectly content to wait. This also makes sense from a value perspective, since subsequent models tend to have more reliable hardware, bigger drives, more features and a lower price. 
Reason Two: Unanswered Questions
When I buy a new video games console, or any new piece of technology for that matter, I make it a point to do my homework and ensure I am making the best decision for me. With both the Xbox One and PS4, there are still lingering questions that give me pause. The biggest is the focus on large game installs and downloads, which are definitely not trivial. Most of the disc-based games require massive installs on your hard drive, some tipping the scales at 40 GB. Given that the native hard drive on both consoles is only 500 GB, how will space issues be addressed in the long term? I’m willing to bet that subsequent models will have bigger drives, so that’s incentive enough to wait. The other question is how the non-gaming features will benefit me. There is nothing on either console, that really seems practical or useful. 
Reason Three: It’s All About The Games
The new generation of hardware is impressive, but it’s all for nothing if there are no games I want to play. While both Microsoft and Sony have some interesting launch titles, there is nothing exciting enough for me to justify spending $400+ for a new console. As expected, it’s the usual parade of first-person shooters and racing games, with the real “must have” titles being completely MIA at launch. Added to which, many of the games are available on hardware that I already own. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are also perfectly playable on my Xbox 360, and from what I’ve seen, the improvements on the next-gen iterations are not all that impressive. Which brings me to my next point…
Reason Four: The “Big Leaps” Haven’t Happened Yet
As someone who has been a gamer for 30 years, I’ve experienced the excitement of true next-gen upgrades several times over. The jump from the Atari 2600 to the NES was massive, as was the leap from the NES to the SNES, and so on. With the current generation of consoles, we’ve quickly approached a glass ceiling for graphical fidelity that, to be honest, the next-gen consoles have only made mild improvements on. Better lighting, particle effects and draw distances in the games are nice, but it’s not leaps and bounds over what we’ve seen already. Having said that, I am confident that these jaw-dropping improvements will come later on in the console’s lifespan. The launch games rarely tap into the full potential of the hardware, so the games we think are so impressive now will likely seem primitive in the coming years. 
Reason Five: My Current Backlog is Massive
I’m sure this is something that most of us can relate to, but this past console generation has left with a mile-long backlog of quality games that I simply never got around to playing. This includes games on my handheld consoles and my PC, which I’ve amassed quite the library of games on due to the criminally generous Steam sales. Between all of these platforms, my gaming needs are more than covered, so why rush into the next-gen when I have a world of gaming awesomeness already at home?
Reason Six: Money Considerations
This is by far the most pragmatic reason. Simply put, money is not in unlimited supply and dropping over $500 on a new console is not a decision I can take lightly. I have to be selective about where my money goes, so a console would have to cover all bases before I consider buying it. It would need to have a solid library of games that I want to play, the hardware issues that came up at launch would need to be addressed and there would have to be some added value to make it worthwhile. 
To be clear, the above points are simply a summary of my reasons for not buying either next-gen console. To those you are purchasing them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them and that they give you the gaming experience that you are hoping for. For those who are holding off, that’s okay too. There is an emerging trend in gaming culture for people to bash a console because it’s not their choice, or because they can’t afford it and are bitter. Neither is the case here. Whether or not you buy into a console has zero reflection on your credibility as a gamer, since gaming should always be about playing the games you want and having fun doing it. This holds true if you’re playing the brand new PS4 or dusting off that old Atari in your basement. 
Whatever your choice, as a fellow gamer, who have my respect. Game on! 

Random Facts - Part 5

Another lesson from Ben’s College of Useless Knowledge…

1. My worst habit is biting my fingernails. I have been doing this since I was a kid and you would think that countless painful hangnails would deter me, but alas they have not. This bad habit comes second to cracking my neck and my back, though I sometimes do this on purpose just to irk people.

2. I was originally a Mac user.In the days of yore, before the corporate world ganged up on me and forced Windows upon my shores, I only used Macintosh computers and I absolutely loved them. In recent month, I’ve felt the itch to go back to Apple and I plan to do so by getting an iMac. It feels like reconnecting with an old friend :)

3. My biggest character flaw is lack of patience. This applies to several situations, but I am generally a very impatient person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. This is not a case of me thinking I’m better than everyone else, but I am kind of stuck in my ways and when other people slow me down or are not on the same page as I am, it tends to frustrate me more than it should. I’m working on that.

4. I got my “wild ways” out of my system years ago.Like a lot of people, I went through a rebellious phase where I experimented with partying, excessive drinking, and why deny it, some narcotics. It seemed cool at the time but the appeal quickly wore off and I found myself enjoying it less and less. Experience and maturity makes these activities seem incredibly uncool and rather stupid to me now. One of the benefits of getting older, I guess.

5. Most of my friends are older than me. I have always gravitated towards an older crowd, mainly because I have always found more in common with them. Some are within a few years of myself, but others are 6 to 10 years older. It’s funny, but the age difference becomes very insignificant as you get older and I don’t even think about it anymore. Case in point, one of my best friends is 39 years old and it feels like there is very little difference between us. Age is really just a number.

Random Facts - Part 4

The saga continues…

1. My favorite season is fall. This may seem strange since Canadians have such brutal winters and we relish our summers, but I prefer fall over any other season. Mainly because it’s the perfect combination of cool temperatures without the frigid cold that follows. Plus, I love Halloween and the fall always gets me into the horror movie-watching mood.

2. One of my biggest pet peeves is constant complaining. Everyone needs to vent once in a while and we all have problems and annoyances that compel is to complain, but when everything is a constant stream of complaints and negativity, I quickly distance myself. I have a job, my health, a roof over my head and good people in my life. My daily complaints are trivial by comparison.

3. In terms of religion, I consider myself an agnostic. Religion has never been part of my life and I never subscribed to a specific set of beliefs, however this doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist or someone who frowns on such practices. I am open to the idea that there is a power greater than myself, but I am unsure of where my beliefs lie or what role (if any) this would play in how I live my life.

4. I own only 4 pairs of shoes. For a guy, this is probably to be expected, but I have never been much of a shoe shopper. I own a pair of sneakers, two pairs of dress shoes and a pair of winter boots. That’s it. I never understood the need for people to constantly buy shoes, but then again, this is coming from the guy who has no qualms about owning 5,000 CDs. That that with a grain of salt.

5. My least favorite food is olives. Most of the people in my life love olives and eat them constantly, but I never could stand them. Even on things where I wouldn’t taste them, such as pizza or in a sub, I can’t stand the briny taste. If I had to pick a second food I dislike almost as strongly, it would be mushrooms. Can’t stand them.

Random Facts - Part 3

Some more fun facts about myself that you may find amusing.

1. My main addiction is coffee. This is definitely not a good thing, but I cannot start my day without at least a large coffee from Tim Hortons, and then another one later in the day to keep the momentum going. Lack of coffee results scattered thoughts, an inability to focus and a desire to to surf 4chan.

2. I am something of a Twitter junkie. Given that you’re probably reading this as a result of it being tweeted, this should come as no surprise. I used to mock Twitter as being pointless and I never pictured myself having a use for it, but times have changed and I find myself on it significantly more than Facebook. It’s fun, uncomplicated and I’ve met so many great people on it.

3. I have a speech impediment. It was more noticable when I was younger, but I used to have a problem with speaking extremely fast and stumbling over words, often to the point where people couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I had to work hard and force myself to slow down, and thankfully this has improved over time. It comes out every once in a while, but it’s rarely a problem.

4. I cannot stand synthetic grape flavor. This goes for grape juice, grape candies, grape soda and especially grape-flavored alcoholic beverages (“coolers”). There is something about the taste and smell of fake grape that is downright nauseating to me. My theory is that I was sick a lot as a child and I used to have to take this nasty grape-flavored medicine, therefore my mind associates it with illness. I don’t know for sure, but I can’t even go near it these days.

5. I’m a bit of a wine buff. A few years back, I took a wine appreciation course and I was fascinated by the history, variety and complexity of wine, both in how it’s made and the intricacies of the flavors. I studied it extensively and learned a lot about tasting and appreciating wine, and it’s something I enjoy immensely (and in moderation).

Random Facts - Part 2 - The Gamer Edition

Of the many passions and hobbies I have in life, video games has remained a constant for the vast majority of my years. Here are some random facts about the gamer geek that lies within.

1. My first console was the Colecovision. Purchased for my older brother in 1982, my earliest memories of gaming involve that system. The games that first got me hooked were Donkey Kong Jr and Zaxxon, two games that I still count among my favorites.

2. The system that I own the most games for currently is the Xbox 360. I own exectly 152 games, most of which I purchased used.

3. My favorite game of all time, regardless of console generation, is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse for the NES. This might seem like an odd choice, but this was the first story-driven game that I got hooked on and actually beat. It’s the one game I can go back to constantly and never get bored.

4. My favorite console of all time is the Super Nintendo. The sheer library of great games, especially some of the classic 16-bit RPGs, makes this stand out more than any other system I have owned. I foolishly sold mine a while back, but a friend is hooking me up with one shortly and I’ll be back into the retro gaming full force :)

5. I am an Achievement/Trophy hunter. I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy getting achievements and trophies in my games and I will often go out of my way to get them, provided that the requirements aren’t ridiculously time consuming. I find that these get me more involved in the game and add replay value to a game I would otherwise shelve and never go back to.

6. I have not played a fighting game in years. I know many people are big into Street Fighter and BlazeBlue, but I literally have not touched a fighting game since Killer Instinct in the 1990’s. I was big into Mortal Kombat before part 3, but outside of that, fighters have never been my cup of tea.

7. My favorite gamer snack: Reeces Pieces and Perrier Water. When I talk to other gamers who say they love to ear Doritos, Cheesies or any other variety of messy food, I cringe. The thought of gunking up my controller is more than I can stand.

8. My favorite game soundtrack is Final Fantasy VI. Square RPGs really had some of the best music found in video games and I think the tunes hold up well today. Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VII also had killer soundtracks that really complemented the story and added emotional layers. Love it.

9. I have never beaten a Mega Man game. This is another “gamer shame” confession that I must make. As much as I appreciate the Mega Man universe and how the games are designed, they are just way too difficult and I always find myself giving up at some point. Apparently Mega Man 2 is the best of the series, so my goal is to eventually go back and beat that one.

10. I never play games on “hard” difficulties. I know many people who feel that beating a game on the hardest difficulty is instand bragging rights, and it’s commendable, however I cannot relate. I like to sit back and enjoy my games, and playing something on “Insane” or whatever the top difficulty happens to be absolutely kills that. I play games to have fun and relax, not to experience hair-pulling frustration.

Random Facts - Part 1

Just for fun, here are some random factoids about me. Some you’ll find interesting, some you’ll be indifferent to and others you might find amusing. That’s my hope, anyway :)

1. I have a phobia of revolving doors. This stems from when I was a kid and I got my leg caught in one and the fire department had to come and get me out. To this day, I still get a bit anxious whenever I step into a revolving door.

2. I collect shot glasses and keychains. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I always make it a point to purchase a shot glassand a keychain as a keepsake. Completely random and I never actually use them, but I love having them as mementos.

3. I was born blind in my left eye. I had an operation to correct it when I was two years old, however this left me with a lazy eye for life. This is why any picture you see of me will have me looking at an angle so it’s not as obvious. I’m not cross-eyed in everyday life, but for some reason picture flashes always cause the eye to turn in.

4. I’m big into 80’s and 90’s cartoons.I have great memories of all the shows I used to watch as a kid and I’ve been hunting them down on DVD for the past couple of years. I have the usual shows like G.I. Joe and Transformers, but I’m also getting Thundercats, Darkwing Duck, Animaniacs, He-Man, and many more. I could easily kill a weekend watching these back-to-back.

5. I keep every concert ticket stub.I have most of my theatre, musical and rock concert stubs dating back to 1994. Many of them have since faced to complete or partial illegibility, but I keep them for sentimental reasons and to help me remember what I’ve actually seen over the years. Good memories.

If there was every a band that made me firmly believe that I was born in the wrong decade, Pink Floyd is that band. They reached their creative peak in the 1970’s but still maintained a solid career up until they disbanded in the 1990’s. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of guitar-based rock probably has (or has had) a Floyd album in their collection at some point, but if you haven’t yet, get on it! Their progressive rock sound might turn off a few, but more patient listeners will find much to like in this band. This video is of their landmark 1994 performance of Comfortably Numb, with one of the must awe-inspiring and uplifting guitar solos ever to grace a rock song. Enjoy :)

Thoughts on alcohol abuse…

Warning: My Tumblr page will be dedicated to more serious (ie. non-gaming) thoughts where I probably be less likely to hold back strong opinions.

A few weeks ago, I had the displeasure of witnessing a violent confrontation between a group of young, very drunk men in downtown Toronto. Without going into graphic detail, one of the guys received a curb-stomp and had to be taken away by ambulance and the others had to be wrestled to the ground by the police. Rewind about 20 minutes to the nearby LCBO (our local liquor store chain in Ontario) where I was in there purchasing a bottle of wine. One of the guys, the curb-stomp recipient, was in the store and being told to leave by both the employees and store security. He was visibly very drunk and acting very belligerent, even going so far as to threaten to come back and beat everyone up. As scary as this sounds, it was difficult to take him seriously since his words were mumbled and slurred. Thankfully, he left without further incident. After I stepped outside the store and into the subway, the fight was on and he was getting pummeled. I later heard from other witnesses that he approached a group of black youths and challenged them to fight, calling them the N-word and throwing the first punch. It didn’t end well for him.

Now I am not a judgmental person by nature and I certainly have no problem with people who drink in moderation. After all, I’m a social drinker and I have my share of crazy stories about drunken shenanigans, mostly from when I was younger, but I have a serious problem with being around people who are intoxicated to that level. The worst you’ll get from me is that I’ll be cheery and chatty, but I’ll still have my bearings - I don’t get “falling over drunk” and certainly never to the point where I would get overly affectionate (annoying) or violent (dangerous). Frankly, I would be embarrassed as hell if I ever got to that point. What I saw from that guy who had a nice helping of curb absolutely disgusted me. Not only is drunkenness to that extreme immensely unpleasant to be around behaving violently towards others and making others uncomfortable is even less forgivable. If I ever behaved like that, I would probably beat myself up worse than any to

What’s my point here? Nothing except that people really need to re-evaluate their priorities in life if they’re getting drunk and acting like that on a regular basis. I have a serious problem with violent, mean, sloppy or overly-touchy drunks and it boils my blood when I see someone acting like a total ass in that condition. Needless to say, while I don’t condone violence, I did not feel sorry for him because he got what he deserved. If you go looking for trouble, you sometimes find it and often in greater quantities than you expected. If there is any lesson to take from people like that, avoid the same pitfalls. Know your limits, stick within them, and recognize the danger signs of a problem. I’ve seen alcoholism destroy lives, damage people’s health and even get people seriously hurt. If anything, people like that are a prime example of how NOT to live your life. Take what you will from that.

As an introduction…

Since you are visiting my brand new tumblr page for the first time, I think introductions are in order. My name is Ben, but you can call me Benny, Benito, Benji or any variation you see fit. I live, work and thrive in Toronto, Canada and my main interests are, as you will soon find out, media-centered. I love music, movies, video games, and writing about all of the above. I am active in several forums and social media outlets (Facebook and Twitter mainly) and am always up for meeting like-minded people who can appreciate the nerdy side of things.

As an ice-breaker, how about I post some random facts about myself. These are some of the building blocks that make up the complex fabric that is my life. Enjoy :)

1. I am left handed.

2. I shave my head due to my hair rapidly thinning since I turn 25. Some friends have likened me to Bruce Willis (flattering) and a soccer hooligan (more accurate).

3. I own an unusually large number of black shirts.

4. I have seen over 100 concerts in my life.

5. I currently own over 4,000 CDs from a variety of different genres. What can I say, I love my music.

6. I would sooner leave my house without pants than without my iPod.

7. I am allergic to avocado.

8. One of my big passions is video games. I have been a gamer since the early 80’s and it’s still one of my favorite hobbies. That’s mainly what I write about online.

9. I consume more coffee than a human probably should. Two milks, no sugar please.

10. Despite being a die-hard music fan, I cannot proficiently play a single instrument.

11. My biggest phobia is wasps and hornets.

12. My favorite movie is “12 Angry Men” (1957)

13. My favorite band of all time is Pink Floyd, but my favorite album of all time is “London Calling” by The Clash. Both bands are amazing.

14. My worst habit is biting my nails. The resulting hangnails are a real bitch.

15. My favorite food is sushi, and I enjoy it on a very regular basis. Spicy salmon rolls, shrimp tempura rolls and salmon sashimi are my favorites.

16. I have a tendency to turn innocent statements into dirty puns and double entendres. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows this to be true.

17. My friends mean the world to me and I am protective of them.

18. My course of study in college was film, and I’ve only recently gone back to pursue a business degree.

19. I have a sweet tooth and anything is fair game - cookies, muffins, cake, etc. I prefer sweet to salty snacks any day.

20. My biggest pet peeves - people who talk over me, people who are needlessly rude to others, people who make me repeat myself and slow walkers.

21. My not-so-guilty pleasure is horror movies - the bloodier, the better.

22. I used to be a heavy smoker but have since given it up. Best decision I ever made.

23. My favorite non-alcoholic drink is Coke Zero, my favorite alcoholic beverage is Steam Whistle beer.

24. I have been at my current job for almost 8 years.

25. I am very much a conservationist and would likely talk your head off if you met me in real life ;)

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