Games From Each Generation that Defined Me as a Gamer Today (8-bit to 64-bit)

As the new consoles descend upon us next month, I find myself looking back more often than forward to the coming generation. Maybe it’s some dorky version of a mid-life crisis? With new hardware, games, online features, and controllers; it can be tough to let go of all those fond memories. When you think about it, gamers spend YEARS, several at that, interfacing with a specific controller for a specific system. This nerd-intimacy shouldn’t be underestimated. With that, here are a couple of games from the bygone years that shaped my taste in gaming today.

NES

3. Super Mario 3
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(Not explanation needed)

2. Contracontra_ok

This was perhaps one of the fewest titles ever that sold me on box art alone. Regardless of box art, I was glad it turned out to be a great game too. Contra really made me feel like an unstoppable commando. Throw in a millions explosions and swarms of aliens and you’ve got yourself an 8-bit action masterpiece. Many people have discussions about their favorite weapon, but for me it was the Spread gun or nothing. Screw that crappy Laser or the Corkscrew gun. I want either the Spread gun or the default white pellets. It’s the only way you can survive the game without using the Konami code.

1. Battletoads and Double Dragon

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In the early 90s, Battletoads Double Dragon was the ultimate crossover at the time. There are crossovers left and right now, but BTDD was the biggest piece of fan service for any side-scrolling beat-em up aficionado. There was no other. It did come out on the SNES and Genesis; but as a kid with only a NES at the time, the 8-bit graphics still held up very well. It had everything! Intergalactic fist-morphing toads, weapon elements from the Double Dragon series, the cycle sequences from Battletoads, side-scrolling shooting, on top of fighting your way to every boss from BOTH series!

SNES

3. Street Fighter II: Turbo

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My love of fighting games all started here. The SNES controller was perfect to the arcade configuration. Even to this day, whenever I play a Street Fighter game I maintain the buttons the same way I do on the SNES – Light and Medium on the face and Heavy on the shoulders. SF2T was the perfect arcade port for the perfect 2D fighting controller. This was my personal golden era of Street fighter.

2. Super Metroid
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Every room is a piece of exploration, every discovery a puzzle, every puzzle an action sequence. The precursor to the term “Metroidvania”, Super Metroid is one of the best 2D action platformers ever created. The world of Zebes was brought to life in colorful 16-bit glory. The sense of discovery I felt in my initial playthrough of Super Metroid has remained unmatched to this day. Nintendo constantly gave players a carrot at the end of the stick. The “level” design told the story through pure gameplay, new powerups, and a new suit kept me chipping away at my save file.

1. Final Fantasy VI
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I’m going to leave this here:

Genesis

3. Golden Axe
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Golden Axe was one of the first Genesis games I lost sleep over. Simultaneously, my grades in elementary school started taking a hit. It added a few new elements to the beat-em up genre, a spell system, mounted creatures with special attacks, and 3 characters that played somewhat differently. It used all of the Genesis’ 3 glorious buttons; attack, jump, and spell. That extra button really mixed things up.

2. Vectorman
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Vectorman was Sega’s answer to Mega Man. The spherical protagonist was one of the more graphically intense player models of the era. Every time something blew up the screen would shake absurdly. Boss fights sold games during the 16-bit era and Vectorman was no exception.  It had you shooting down fighter jets in the first level. It was totally rad. Yep, rad

1. Sonic & Knuckles
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Sonic and Knuckles was a game and concept all in one. You could play Sonic and Knuckles standalone, which was a great game in it’s own right. OR, you could connect previous Sonic titles onto the cartridge and play as the new title protagonist. It was an expansion and DLC on consoles years before it was taken to the degree it is at now. Not only that, but it was the best damn Sonic title yet.

Sega Saturn

3. Virtua Fightervirtua-fighter1

3D fighting games carried some form of mystique in the mid-90’s. We all knew where 3D was headed. To see 2 giant polygonal martial artists fighting on screen was nearly sensory overload. I didn’t understand the (now) common understanding of side-stepping – the idea of background AND foreground combat. As a hardcore Street Fighter fan, I had to admit I was a little jealous. Can’t beat em? Join em. I got a Saturn.

2. Panzer Dragoon Saga
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Addictive on-rails shooting, cinematic story-telling, RPG elements. You’re crazy Sega! They gave me what I didn’t know I wanted. I’ve never owned it, but I rented the hell out of this title from the local Blockbuster constantly. Currently, going for over $500 on ebay, it is clear that there is a passionate fan base surrounding the Panzer series. Panzer Dragoon Orta released on the original Xbox and Crimson Dragon is set to release on the Xbox One as a “spiritual successor”. They already have my money.

1. Virtua Cop421020-virtua_cop_cover

Virtua Cop cultivated my unhealthy obsession with light gun games. Yes, it was highly scripted. Yes, the visuals were kinda bland; even for it’s time. But if you had a light gun for your Saturn it was because of Virtua Cop. I use to go into 2 player mode holding both light guns like a proper badass.

Playstation

3. Resident Evil 2
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Zombies, zombies, zombies. I thought Resident Evil 2 was the pinnacle of the franchise. The memorable beginning set the tone for the rest of the game. It had a pitch-perfect sense of action and suspense. While ammo and supplies were scarce, it was never debilitating. It gave you head space to take down the undead hordes and it felt like the developers were taking care of you. RE1 was revolutionary and genre-defining, RE2 fine-tuned it’s previous masterpiece with better pacing and thrills. Plus, Claire and Leon were much more likeable than Jill and Chris.

2. Metal Gear Solid
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I remember the Volume 8 demo disc that came with my PS1. It had a little title called Metal Gear Solid on it. I recall trying it out and got something I wasn’t expecting. The initial sneaking point had credits popping up on screen as I continued my gameplay. This gave the game a more movie-like feel. At the time, it was strange having movie elements mix in with gameplay, but I was hooked ever since. As Liquid’s Hind took off and my Dualshock came to life, I knew I had to have it. Three console generations later I’m still awaiting the next title in the ongoing series.

1. Final Fantasy VII
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Everyone should play this game. 3 Discs to rule them all. I’ll leave it at that because this horse has been beaten to death.

N64

3. Star Fox 64
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I don’t normally like flight games and the original Star Fox didn’t strike my fancy (Mode 7 and all). But Star Fox 64’s included Rumble Pack really immersed me in the flight combat. Some levels were linear, but there were levels that opened up the battlefield to player freedom. The “All-Range” mode allowed players to navigate a 3D battlefield to take down other ace pilots. There was even a ballin’ cockpit view for the purists, one that I used in conjunction with the Rumble Pack to put myself in the pilot’s seat. I still take this title for a spin via the Virtual Console.

2. Super Smash Bros.
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It was the reason you bought more controllers than you normally would. It was the reason you walked around the neighborhood with N64 controllers hanging from your neck. You wanted to get together with 3 other friends and smash them into oblivion. At first, everyone was a little reluctant when it was known that Nintendo was making a fighting game. It didn’t take much convincing before everyone was on board with Nintendo’s grand gesture of fan service. The series has evolved since into a formidable competitive fighting space. I’m already looking forward to the next addition of Smash on the Wii U.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
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No other game on the N64 was held in higher regard. Zelda not only survived the jump from 2D to 3D, but helped define 3D action (dare I say RPGs?) as well. Z-targeting removed any clumsy sword wielding and surprisingly the “auto-jump” feature lessened a lot of frustration. The scope of the story spanned years that led to ongoing discussions concerning the Zelda series’ timeline. No other game on the N64 has created more of a conversation. Gold cartridge. Gold cartridge. Gold cartridge!

Playstation Vita Gets Some Love at TGS 2013

Shortly after Sony announced a price drop for the PS Vita, they managed to cook up some more exciting news at TGS for Playstation’s smallest sibling. The Vita will be getting (wait for it…) a slimmer model.

Sony stated that the newer model is roughly 20% thinner and 15% lighter. It has also switched out the OLED screen for an LCD one. This was done to reduce cost, but some techno purists may raise an eyebrow to this addition by subtraction. It also packs an extra hour of battery life – I’ll take it.

Interestingly enough the new Vita will have built-in 1 gig storage capacity. This will let users hit the ground running when it comes to save data, but hardly enough space for any significant full game downloads.

It is currently set for an October 10th release date in Japan, no word yet on if the revision will be making it’s way to the US or UK. All of this is made complete with five snazzy new colors.

PS Vita Slim


There also isn’t any shortage of accessories to compliment the new hardware. Sony will also be dishing out a new 64 gig memory stick for the Vita costing around 9,980 yen ($100 USD). Also Japan-only for now. But man… Sony doesn’t stop there.


Playstation Vita TV is a device about the size of most smartphones that allows connectivity between the Vita handheld and your television. Users will be able to play their Vita games on their high-def televisions with it’s dedicated PS Vita game slot. Using either a Dualshock 3 to play original PSP and PS1 titles or play PS4 games with the Dualshock 4 via Remote Play (with upcoming firmware update), the Vita is looking to increase it’s presence in every hardcore Sony fanboy’s living space. PS Vita TV will be launching on November 14th in Japan for 9,480 yen ($95 USD), no exact release date or pricing info for the US or UK… yet.

PS Vita TV

The naughty bits. HDMI is so hot

The naughty bits. HDMI is so hot

Looks like Sony is really throwing their weight behind the Vita, which is great news for owners. With Sony releasing the PS4 on November 15th, these additions to the PS Vita suite will be strengthening Sony’s gaming ecosystem. Lets cross our fingers for a western release!

Elysium Review: Alle-GORY

Anyone can immediately pick up on Elysium’s plot just by watching any of it’s trailers. The concept has been done to death in dozens of other movies and games. In Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, a space station/space habitat/space colony (the movie’s namesake),  hangs just beyond the Earth’s orbit and is occupied by the rich and privileged. Of course this lavish extraterrestrial body of paradise is juxtaposed by a filthy over-populated future Earth where we find our hero Max (Matt Damon) who desires to one day be a resident of Elysium.

At first glance the plot is fairly two-dimensional, which it is, but Neill Blomkamp draws us into a finely crafted world that is borderline prophetic. He once again uses fantastic hyper-real CGI to compliment, not overwhelm the human cast. Much like Blomkamp’s District 9 in 2009, he uses current hot-button issues as a delivery mechanism for his story. Themes of overcrowding, scarcity, and immigration are dripping from the film’s pores. At times the gravitas is effective and at other moments it comes across as preachy and heavy-handed. With District 9, Blomkamp managed to hide a really good action movie under it’s lessons of xenophobia and apartheid. With Elysium, he seems to have swung all they way in one direction. The non-action direction. This is where Elysium stumbles a bit, but it is not without any redeeming moments.

Matt Damon

I’ve got to say, that it was great seeing Matt Damon in a sci-fi movie. The departure from his usual assortment of drama and Jason Bourne antics was quite refreshing. Damon’s character Max is kind-hearted, but he doesn’t have the cleanest record. You’ll come to know that he hangs around some sketchy characters and use to steal cars to make ends meet. In an attempt to distance himself from his previous life of crime, Max grinds away in a factory working on an android assembly line. Damon’s character finds himself in a near-fatal workplace accident that kind of comes across like comic book origin story. Max’s motivation to get to Elysium is accelerated when he is given an exoskeleton to cope with his failing health. This forces Max to reconnect with his shady on-world cohorts in order to find the treatment he needs to live. The kind of treatments only found on Elysium.

The citizens of Elysium have their own President, but for whatever reason, Delacourt (Jodie Foster) runs the show. This made absolutely no sense to me during the course of the movie. Elysium’s President shows up from time to time and tells Foster’s character that she has over-stepped her bounds. However, Delacourt continues not to care and keeps calling the shots regardless of the “President’s” orders. While Jodie Foster does manage to have screen presence, her French (I think it was French?) accent comes off as laughable and uncoached. Despite the horrible accent, Delacourt’s objective is clear: police, capture, and kill all that threaten Elysium’s way of life.

Jodie Foster

Delacourt exhibits a powerful and cunning woman. Which is why the writing falls apart a bit when the movie introduces another antagonist, Kruger. Kruger is played by Sharlto Copley whom you may recognize as main character Wikus from Blomkamp’s previous outing District 9. Copley’s performance flys into the stratosphere with his role as the mercenary Kruger. Kruger is a sadistic yet highly capable gun for hire that Delacourt employs to stop “illegals” shuttling from Earth and ultimately; Max’s journey to Elysium. He is a menacing individual without any sense of restraint. Which is a wonder as to why Delacourt, of all people, hire such an unchained madman. All these calculated efforts to preserve Elysium from the poverty-stricken Earth below, but she hires such a wildcard to do her bidding?

Kruger is the largest contributor to Elysium’s spectacle. He’s armed to the teeth, has no sense of over-kill, and is just utterly psychotic. Elysium’s action really starts to take off when Kruger and his squad of equally fucked up mercs eventually join the movie. Everything you’ve come to love in a Neil Blomkamp film is on full display in this aspect. The slow-mo is dramatic but not over-done. His CGI team once again blurs the line between human characters and special effects. The gore… oh… the gore. Buckets of blood is spilled without the usual “cut away”. It’s an R-rated film, so it thankfully revels in R-rated violence. No on-screen deaths were ever “simple”. Everybody that did die, died in the most horrible way possible. There were a few deaths in the film where the crowd audibly unified in an “O-faced” reaction. The last half hour of Elysium is largely action with one jarring character-developing pause, but thankfully Copley’s explosive performance kept you at the edge of your seat when the script didn’t.

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I came away from Elysium expecting a little more. By no means is it a bad movie, Neil Blomkamp has once again immersed me in another world and got me to buy into a reality that was not my own. However, the incredible leaps in logic from the main and supporting characters are hard to ignore, like Delacourt’s decision to hire Kruger, a five-man team that assaults Elysium in the film’s climax (one being an eight-year old girl), and the all too convenient ending (which I won’t spoil). Initially, it seemed as though Elysium would try to fully explore the premise it stood on. As it continually capitalized on it’s messages it felt as if the film was ushering me on to something bigger. However, as the movie continued through to the end, it’s scope actually narrowed. It was hard to put my finger on what Blomkamp wanted to accomplish with Elysium. Was it an action movie with a smart story? Or was it a shallow seen-it-before story with smart action? Tough to say.

Elysium

Overall, I was glad I saw Elysium. Neil Blomkamp is a great director and I’d like to see him get more exposure. I feel as though he is the “second coming” for sci-fi cinema and can be rated up there with Aliens/Terminator-era James Cameron. I was still entertained by Elysium, but I won’t be rushing out to buy it on Blu-ray when it hits store shelves. If you’re a die-hard Blomkamp fan, definitely check it out you’ll be glad you did. Although, if you’re a science fiction buff looking for a sci-fi experience that’s a little more cerebral; you won’t find it here.

At Best: B-
At Worst: C+

+ Great performances by Damon and Copley.
+ Reality-bending CGI
+ Gory, relentless R-rated action

– Jodie Foster’s character made no sense…
– Story started out promising, ended on a stale note

Supporting characters kind of came and went
Could’ve used more William Fichtner

? What is that accent!? She speaks French, but that’s not a French accent…

Microsoft’s Backpedaling & Consumer Confidence

I was there on launch day for the original Xbox. I couldn’t even think straight in middle-school social studies and faked an illness to go home early for the day. To finally, FINALLY play Halo: Combat Evolved and really see what the unrelenting juggernaut of hype was all about.

Flash forward to my first year in college, I skipped my first week of class to get my hands on a white tower of entertainment called the Xbox 360. The 360 was my gateway drug to buying a high definition television and a sound system. I told myself I would never drop money on an Xbox Live membership, but with friends going to different schools it was my only means of staying connected through doing what we love: pwning fools. The online infrastructure was something never seen before on a gaming console. Xbox Live quickly established the gold standard in which other online console services were reaching for.

Now in the tail end of 2013…. what the fuck are you doing Microsoft?!

I feel as if a stranger is offering me candy...

I feel as if a stranger is offering me candy…

E3 2013 was like a fever dream. When Microsoft started their press briefing, things seemed pretty by the numbers as they showed off impressive demos of Ryse and Titanfall. Despite the crowd salivating over Microsoft’s promises, there was still a large elephant in the room. The details confusion of the Xbox One’s DRM policy still lingered. By the end of it, it was apparent that they were sticking to their guns to the dismay of many gamers. Perhaps this is the direction the industry is headed?

Leading Video Game Companies Hold News Conferences To Open E3

C’mon… you know you’re gonna buy it…

Sony removed all the white noise and said, “No DRM. Games can be borrowed and traded at will. PS4 is $400.” A WMD was unleashed that Microsoft’s PR failed to withstand.

All of a sudden the ball was back in Microsoft’s court just as quickly as it had left it.

A couple of weeks later Microsoft released a statement that they are returning to the old ways of game sharing. No DRM. Microsoft got caught biting their tongue and the bloodletting was profuse. Yes, this reversal of policy benefits the consumer. Yes, they addressed the concerns of their audience. But at what cost? In that moment many people had already hailed Sony as their new saviors. It was already too late, many would-be Xbox One owners have evangelized to Sony’s camp.

Since then the smoke has cleared a bit. However, Microsoft has just recently retreaded broken ground. They’ve announced that the included Kinect camera is no longer mandatory and does NOT need to be plugged into the Xbox One. Any initial relief is replaced with frustration and some amount of betrayal.

So… why am I paying $500 for a system that is bundled with something that I will never use? If I don’t have to use it, then there won’t be room made for it on my entertainment center. One already cluttered with an Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U. Microsoft is essentially telling me to open up the Day One Edition, set up my Xbox One and leave the Kinect sensor in the box. Unless they decide to develop a SKU that contains just the console unit minus the Kinect for $400 to match speed with Sony. This is the ideal scenario although it is very unlikely this close to launch, but this may be Microsoft’s only safe out after dragging us through the mud. A possible last-minute change that gamers can get behind (as long as it doesn’t compromise the intended launch day, whatever that may be at this point).

Microsoft’s handling of Xbox One’s reveal and the details that followed are a total mess. Their PR campaign after the backlash at E3 never gave up any straight answers. Telling their loyal fans (like moi) that the Kinect isn’t mandatory, but force it down our necks is a slap in the face.

I still plan on picking up my Xbox One at launch and do intend to enjoy it. It’s not only been a rough ride for Microsoft but the eager fans holding on to their hard-earned cash. Whether or not there is internal communication issues at Redmond is impossible to determine. However, Microsoft still needs to unfuck themselves in order to instill any extent of confidence into the Xbox brand. This is especially critical when we’re within spitting distance of the Xbox One’s launch. I want them to make me feel the same way about the Xbox One as they did with their first two consoles.

Microsoft needs to tell a better story. Now.

5 Reasons Why I Game

I started this blog to share my love of gaming and well… pretty much anything I find really cool as a geek. To put it simply, I want people to see what I see. Whenever I mention that I play videogames to friends, acquaintances, or coworkers I almost have to do it with a certain degree of restraint. I feel as though they thumb their nose at it (sometimes) and think, “What a nerd, he doesn’t know how to spend his time.” These assumptions may be commonly coupled with stereotypes of a fat middle-aged man wearing a pocket protector munching on Cheetos in front of a dimly-lit computer monitor. I can’t blame them for thinking that because honestly; they’re not wrong. There is that, but largely this stereotype is misguided.

I game for many reasons, the same reasons many people read romance novels to escape momentarily or buy every album their favorite pop-star releases.

#5 – Leisure
Plain and simple. After a long day at the office (some longer than others), I don’t want to do shit. It’s perfectly human to feel this way. After life’s responsibilities take ahold of us we want to kick back and be ourselves. We just want to relax and blow off some steam. You might get on Facebook or do some crossword puzzles, but I’ll want to duke it out for a few rounds in Street Fighter online.

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#4 – Coping

Life is rough. Nobody is foolish enough to ignore that. Anyone with a soul can attest that it’s not always sunshine and lollipops. People have built-in defense mechanisms to deal with burdens big and small. Some people whine and mope, others rummage their freezer for a tub of ice cream, and some cry. I’m not saying I’m not vulnerable to these methods (ice cream is still fuckin delicious), I’m saying – nay, admitting that gaming has gotten me through some personal tribulations. It is a powerful medium that moves us much in the same way movies do. Sometimes, it can be more powerful due to the level of interaction alone. Recently games have elevated themselves in such a way that it’s story telling can establish a strong connection to it’s players.

Games like Bastion and Heavy Rain have helped me cope with the lost of loved ones. They make me understand that I am not alone in my plight and they affirm our need to be saddened. Not every game is about saving the princess and getting a happy fairy tale ending, some are about coming to terms with the consequences and continuing – for better or for worse.

WelcomeNormanScreenshot

Norman Jayden. Successful FBI agent. Cunning pianist. Drug-addict.

#3 – The Escape

At work a group of women that I work with are always talking about “50 Shades of Grey”. I’m sure you all understand the premise behind the book so I won’t go into detail. It’s not a book I can get into (although I’ve been told to read it on numerous occasions) but I think that it’s still really cool that people set aside time in their day to read it. My one coworker has read the series religiously. Her food went cold during our lunch break, but it did not matter to her one bit since she didn’t mind being somewhere else. I get absolutely the same thing out of gaming (aside from the young millionaire masochist).

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You may simply see this as a video game. I’m… somewhere else… not here.

Ringing phones, traffic jams, lines at the grocery store, even people in general – take me away from it all! Sometimes we need that space so our happiness can thrive, even if only for a bit longer. To be transported somewhere else is undeniably magical.

#2 It’s Cool… Pretty Fuckin Awesome

As much as we try to describe/explain how “cool” something is we inevitably run into some measure of difficulty in quantifying it. I theorize that we often times call something “cool” because we haven’t seen it before. It’s the kind of unfamiliarity we can get behind. Like everyone’s initial reaction when Apple first released the iPhone. No one really had an idea of what it could do, but the novelties of a touchscreen, while a commonplace now, made our heads explode. No one didn’t know what it was truly capable of, but boy… everyone sure did want one.

Take my money!

Take my money!

#1 – It’s Fun! (I mean duh right?)

Everyone is a gamer whether they know it or not. While some of us are more hardcore; sitting in line amid the cold clutches of a midnight launch waiting for the next big thing, others play Words With Friends, Farmville, and/or Candy Crush. No matter how “passionate” the gaming community can be at times (especially during the start of a new generation), it’s always a genuine pleasure to see people who don’t normally play video games get something out if it. While I can unleash killer combos in Marvel vs Capcom 2 and tear down entire mountains to fuel my enterprising/imperialistic instincts in MineCraft, it is an absolute joy to have my mother kick my ass in Bejeweled. This isn’t an isolated incident either, it is happening all the time on Facebook. People who don’t normally pick up a controller are killing it in games like Peggle or Plants vs Zombies. It’s not an argument about who is the “better” gamer. The conversation is about whether or not they are having fun. Are they moved by it? Are they entertained?

They may not realize it, but they may already be a gamer; a good one at that. If anything, this betters the industry. One day, gaming will be like reading a book or listening to your favorite singer’s latest hit. It may lead these “casual” gamers down a rabbit hole into a bigger revelatory discovery of what gaming is all about. That in itself is fun to watch.

Game on friends.