Caution on Craigslist

As a child, my mother and grandmother warned me about the dangers of deals that looked too good to be true. Initially, the inexperience of youth prevented from understanding their wise words, but as I aged, that advice never left me.

During my junior year of high school, I began building a computer as a replacement for the Acer desktop (our family’s first personal computer) my mother purchased several years earlier. As I neared the end of my PC building project, I searched for the final remaining piece of the electronic puzzle: a video card. I desired a 3dfx video graphic card for years, but ironically, 3dfx went out of business the same year of my computer build, making it difficult to find one of its cards in brick-and-mortar stores.

With few affordable options left in the brick-and-mortar retail market, I tried something new: eBay. Mind you, this was back in the early days of the eBay and eCommerce in general, so there were plenty of folks green like me. The words of mom and grandmother echoed in my head as I searched the website for deals, and sure enough, I caught wind of a scam. Someone who seemingly sold 3dfx cards for a dollar was only selling information on how to buy said cards. Thankfully, I avoided that seller’s nonsense and eventually found a good deal on a Voodoo card. However,that experience soured me on eBay, and it took almost a decade before I purchased something again on the site.

Since returning to eBay, most of my transactions go smoothly but problems do occasionally occur, mostly the result of poor descriptions or bad packaging. Fortunately, eBay does feature policies that make it easier for refunds in such cases. Sometimes these policies do get abused by unscrupulous people, but I’m glad eBay keeps these policies in place. Last year, however, I broadened my eCommerce horizon by searching Craigslist for some potential deals. Outside of one decent yard sale, the pickings often remain slim by my (cheap) standards, but one type of ad constantly caught my eye:

Beware.

Rarely do I browse Craigslist without seeing these types of ads. All of them promise video game products for incredibly cheap prices, and many of them say the seller is located in downtown Chicago. Initially, I almost fell victim to these ads, but on the advice of my parents (yes, I still consult them) I backed off and am glad I did. After doing some research, I found a 2016 Reddit post on the matter, in which user “illegalsandwiches” discovered how these ad scams work by using a decoy email address when contacting the poster of one these listings. What follows is illegalsandwiches’ account of the experience:

Ignore the “cash only” portion of the sale, the verbage is usually taken from another ad (as well as the picture). When you reply to the email address, they will tell you that they are too far away from you and they can ship the item next day if you Paypal them. You pay them, and just never get the item. I had replied to one a long time ago that said that they only take MoneyPak cards for payment. One of them replied with some type of form that I needed to fill out with my name, age, birthday, SSN, “as he was selling this for his business” and needed this information for his records.

Sound shady enough? Upon reading Craigslist’s tips on avoiding scams, the first thing appears on the list in bold letters is “Deal locally, face-to-face.” Immediately following that tip (also in bold type) is “Don’t extend payment to anyone you haven’t met in person.” Obviously, the requests of both posters violate Craigslist tips, so common sense is key here. No matter how good a deal looks, if it seemingly asks too much of you, pass.

Upon seeing these ads, do yourself and others a favor by flagging these listings and admonishing anyone you know who comes across them. Hopefully, we can dissuade people from posting these dubious listings and avoid future scams. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

New Mortal Kombat

Boy, am I late. Just before the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) kicks off next week, Warner Bros. Interactive and Netherealm Studios have dropped some big news: the announcement of a new Mortal Kombat game! Currently titled Mortal Kombat X (I believe X is the Roman numeral, since the 2011 game was MK 9), a trailer of the game just hit YouTube yesterday. Featuring a new track by rap artist Wiz Khalifa, the trailer shows series mainstays Sub-Zero and Scorpion brawling in a forest.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, you can watch it here, thanks to Mortal Kombat‘s official YouTube channel. Be warned, the trailer is violent, but it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without the gore.

One thing of note in the trailer (which has undoubtedly been discussed ad nauseam by now) is when Sub-Zero freezes and tree branch and then uses it as a weapon against Scorpion. Environmental interactivity has been in MK games since the early days, but it mostly involves fighters beating their opponents by knocking them into some contraption (acid bath anyone?) found within a stage. Using a branch is different though; I’ve never seen an MK with that type of interactivity. It was a nice effect and rather dynamic. Hopefully there will be more of it in the final version of the game, which is due out next year.

With E3 just a week away, I’d betting the game’s creators will have more to say about it then. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: I’ve been off the grid for a minute but I did want to make a long needed correction. The in the new MK title is the letter, not the Roman numeral.

You in Control, Aiden?

The new trailer for the upcoming title Watch Dogs is on the web, and it’s great. If you haven’t seen it, here it is below.

I’m really excited about this game. There’s so much potential in being a character that has such powerful surveillance technology available to him. It has already been established that players can spy on other characters by accessing their personal information, which can range from their age to how much debt they may owe.

This article from Gamespot includes thoughts from Ubisoft Montreal’s creative director Jonathan Morin. It gives some insight into what the development team is trying to do (and what they’re trying not to do) with the game’s story and gameplay. Morin seems to want this title to be as open-ended as the team can make it, leaving much in the hands and minds of the player.

Between now and when the game is released in November, I might have to get a current gen system for this one. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Tuesday Treasures: A Look at Michael Jordan in Video Games

Michael Jordan turned 50 years old on Sunday, and it seems like only yesterday that the Bulls were holding championship parties at Grant Park and giving those now classic public service announcements encouraging Bulls fans not to riot. Ahh the glory days.

In the years during and after his playing time, “Air” Jordan has appeared in several video games. Older gamers most likely will remember Jordan’s absence from many basketball video games (such as the NBA Live series) throughout the 1990s, a result of his decision to opt out of the NBA Player’s Association’s (NBAPA) shared licensing agreement. That meant video game companies had to negotiate with Jordan separately in order to get his rights, and  the price for Jordan was usually too high to put him in some games (particularly ones that had both the NBA and NBPA licenses). The following is a look at some of the video games Mr. 23 has been featured in, starting with a classic rivalry from the late 1980s.

Jordan vs. Bird: One on One

C64=Before N64

Years before “The Showdown” Super Bowl commercial aired, there was the Electronic Arts (EA) title Jordan vs. Bird: One on One. Released in 1988, the JvB only featured the two titular athletes for play against each other in a game of one-on-one. The game debuted on the Commodore 64, PC (MS-DOS) and Nintendo Entertainment System, with later appearances on the Game Boy and Sega Genesis (as Jordan vs. Bird: Super One on One). It was even a Tiger electronic handheld.

In addition to the half court one-on-one mode, JvB features two more modes: Michael Jordan’s Dunk Contest and Larry Bird’s 3-Point Shoot Out. The Dunk Contest mode is noteworthy because it features a number of different dunks that required precise timing and button presses. This was the type of mechanic that would eventually become standard in future basketball games like the NBA Street series to give players more control over their dunks.

The NBA Playoffs Games

Is that Will Perdue?

Before EA created the NBA Live series (which Jordan wouldn’t officially appear in until NBA Live 2000) , there was the NBA Playoffs series, which recreated some of the playoff series of the time. The first game in the series was 1989’s Lakers vs. Celtics, and the others were Bulls vs. Lakers (1991) and Bulls vs. Blazers (1992). Unlike most current basketball games, the NBA Playoffs games focused strictly on the post-season experience; only teams in the playoffs for the specified season were included in them.

The NBA Playoffs games were known for their advanced graphics and sound, which allowed for such things big, detailed character sprites (which included player idiosyncrasies such as Horace Grant’s goggles) better quality in-game music compared to other basket titles, and later crowd cheers.

Jordan appeared in a spin off of sorts (at least in terms of game engines) in EA’s Team USA Basketball, which starred the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball squad affectionately known as the “Dream Team”. Team USA Basketball was covered earlier here on the Chomp in the Olympic Summer Games special.

NBA All-Star Challenge

Colorful.

First released in 1992, NBA All-Star Challenge was developed by Beam Software and published by LJN (and Acclaim Japan in Japan), for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy. This title featured Jordan as one of several All-Stars (one from each team in the league) who compete against each other in a series of one-on-one challenges, such as H-O-R-S-E, a free throw challenge, and a tournament mode where the superstars compete against each other for basketball supremacy! Hmm, that was perhaps a little over dramatic.

Michael Jordan In Flight

Developed and published by EA exclusively for MS-DOS, 1993’s Michael Jordan in Flight is one of the first 3-d sports games ever. In Flight features Jordan as the only NBA player; the game does not have any other NBA players or teams.

The game features three-on-three matches on a court that seems to be held in some empty arena in Chicago. The camera is positioned behind the player character’s back and rotates as the character moves. Some film footage of Jordan is available, and he does provide some audio clips as well. Here’s some footage of the game to get a sense of what’s like. It’s always a little creepy to hear the crowd but never actually see them.

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City

Of all the titles covered today, this one is perhaps the black sheep. Developed and published by EA exclusively for the Super Nintendo, 1994’s Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City is actually a side-scrolling action title, not an actual sports game. As Jordan, players are tasked with rescuing Jordan’s teammates (who were set to participate in a charity All-Star game) from the clutches of Dr. Max Cranium (no relation to Max Headroom).

Jordan fights against Dr. Cranium and his cronies by using powered basketballs that give him the ability to wield fire or create earthquakes. This game wasn’t much of a hit, and I don’t remember seeing it much as a kid. It did, however, have a cool basketball card.

Space Jam

Mike from deep… deep space that is.

Developed by Sculptured Software and published by Acclaim, 1996’s Space Jam is based off the blockbuster movie of the same name. Jordan and a rag tag team of Looney Tunes characters (known as the Tune Squad) as they attempt to beat the Monstars, an alien team of bruisers who stole their basketball abilities from NBA players.  Released for DOS, Playstation, and Sega Saturn, players can chose either the Monstars or Jordan and the Tune Squad for either a two-on-two or 3-on-3 game of basketball. There were minigames (such as a space race and finding the pieces of Jordan’s uniform) as well as multiplayer play.

The main draw of this game was being able to play as Michael Jordan alongside characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, which sounds fun itself. Apparently it was difficult to keep record of any real progress in the console versions of the game because it lacked support for memory cards.

NBA Street Vol. 2

EA’s NBA Street series began in 2001, with the release of NBA Street, a game that combined the superstar talent of the NBA with the trick-style wizardry of street basketball. By using a series of various button presses and directional movements, players can perform a variety of different moves, including head fakes, crossovers, and signature moves like Shaquille O’Neal’s spin move or Julius Erving’s dunk. Jordan appeared in the first two NBA Street titles, but it was his appearance in the second game of the series, NBA Street: Vol. 2, that was one for the ages.

Released in 2003 for the Gamecube, Xbox, and Playstation 2, NBA Street Vol.2 features three different incarnations of Michael Jordan: two from the Bulls (1985 and 1996 seasons) and his final season with the Washington Wizards. All three versions of Jordan could be placed on a single team, which was as fun as long you weren’t the one guarding it.

NBA 2k11

Sometimes a shrug says what words can only hope to.

Of all the games covered, this one is least retro, having been released in 2010. Developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports, NBA 2K11 was released on all major video game home and portable consoles of the time, including older systems such as the Playstation 2. A basketball simulator, 2K11 contains all of the NBA teams and players of the time, as wells as some classic teams like the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boy” squad. But the highlight of the game was the career of its cover athlete: Michael Jordan.

NBA 2K11 features two modes based on Jordan’s career: “Jordan Challenges” and “MJ: Creating a Legend”. The Jordan Challenges recreate ten hallmark moments from Jordan’s career–from his 69 point game to  “Flu game” against the Utah Jazz– tasking the player to put up the same stats Jordan did in those games. In “MJ: Creating a Legend”, the player guides Jordan throughout his career (from rookie to retiree) on any team of his or her choice.

In addition to those two modes, players are able to collect Air Jordan sneakers with the “My Jordans” feature. Jordans can be earned after achieving certain accomplishments, and each pair have their own special attributes.

Thanks for the memories, MJ! Until next time.

Peace & Pixels