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

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of women and their accomplishments across the globe. I was going to write an article about exemplary female characters in video games in observance of the occasion, but ultimately decided against it (for now). Instead, I’ll discuss the two most important women of my real life: my mother and grandmother.

Although I don’t have one of my own, I imagine raising a child is an exercise in expenditure. Not only is it taxing monetarily, the mental cost of making sure a child has just the basic needs can be a giant task in itself. As a youth, I often didn’t appreciate the price things, and when I look back I realize how blessed I was to have two people who were willing to buy me the things that I desired, even when money wasn’t ready available. No matter how hard times became, I never wanted for anything. A picture of me next to the word “privilege” in a dictionary honestly describes my good fortune.

My video game fandom began in my youth, most likely after I played the original Nintendo Entertainment System at a cousins’ place. I instantly fell in love, and all I wanted for Christmas that year was the gift of Mario. My mother and grandmother knew this, and with some help from family and friends, that wish came true.

Over the years, I received more video games as gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, even one Children’s Day on which I received a Game Boy. Video games are expensive; even when you factor in “Greatest Hits” discounts for later releases of games, buying these things are often not cheap. The one thing I regret now in my later years is the amount of trading I did with the games they bought me. I gave up so much of those gifts, all because I refused to realize the value of them as gifts.

I get it now though. Throughout my life, my mom and grandmother always supported me. If I needed anything, be it a hug, an extra dollar, or a much needed reality check, I could count on them. No debt I could ever amass would be greater than the good will I owe them for everything they have done for me. You think I’m a bit spoiled? I won’t disagree with that idea. In their opinion, my mom and grandmother will usually say, “I’m well loved.” Queens, they are.

Superheroes are perhaps at their most popular in mainstream media now. You can scarcely look on television or the internet without seeing something related to comic book hero. Fortunately for me, the superheroines in my life aren’t fictional. Thank you mom and grandmother, for always being there to save the day.

Until next time. I hope you had a happy one.

Peace & Pixels

…and I’m Back

It’s been a long time since I last said it’s been a long time.

However, I am back for the moment and will hopefully be better than ever. A lot has happened in the last year, and in the last few weeks especially. Times have been difficult for my family and myself, but we’re still doing our best to hang on. For all who do or will read this blog, I wish happy trails for you. Things are really crazy right now, and it’s understandable if it’s difficult for some to hold up.

OK, that intro was a bit drab, so let’s get positive! I recently joined a podcast, Pixel8Bit, created by some friends of mine, The Maestro and DJ Nox. You may have seen Maestro on his blog, Blister Gaming, and may have seen Nox on Twitch or on Youtube. We currently finished our third episode, which can be found on Nox’s Twitch page. It’s been fun thus far, even though I have been drifting away from gaming in the past year. For reference, I’m ToastManX on the podcast, and Twitch in general. If you have ever played the Twitch game Marble Racing (which isn’t currently running, sadly) you may have seen me.

That’s all for now. Hopefully you’ll visit my friends’ pages if you haven’t already, and will give the podcast a listen. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

 

Been a Long Time…

My goodness, it’s been a while. The last time I posted on here was back in September of last year, when I covered the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. This year, I’m going to make an attempt to blog more, either about video games or photography (perhaps both, which would be best).

I’ll see you all out there on the blogosphere soon. Hopefully, very soon. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

See Ya, HoH

As the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Here on the Chomp of course, we realize this well after said thing has ended.

Normally around this time, I was watching “House of Horrors,” a weekly internet program broadcast by GameSpot on Twitch.tv. The show, made by GameSpot’s Australian branch, featured hosts Jessica McDonell and Zorine Te as they played through various horror games, ranging from classics such as Resident Evil 2 to more obscure titles such as The Cat Lady. For the past year and a half (even while football was on) HoH held my attention.

Unfortunately, HoH was canceled last week, and all of GameSpot’s live shows save for “The Lobby,” “Now Playing,” and the new “On The Front Line” are gone too. This is the result of a major restructuring that GameSpot’s parent company CBS is doing which has also caused it to cut several jobs. Hopefully all those who are out of work will find something soon if they haven’t yet.

Sometimes goofy and always entertaining, House of Horrors was one of the best internet shows I’ve seen. Not only did viewers get to see a wide variety of video games, they were also treated to the humor of highly likable hosts McDonell and Te. McDonell was prone to excited outbursts and copious swearing while Te was more reserved and straight-faced. It was an excellent pairing of personalities that made for a number of hilarious moments.

One of my favorite moments from the show was when the duo recorded Te playing the remake of the original Resident Evil, which is set in a mansion. Te was being chased by a zombie on one of the mansion’s upper floors, when a viewer told her she could drop down from the balcony to the floor below. It seemed to be sage advice, since players are able to this in Resident Evil 4 (although not some of the earlier titles).

Te followed the viewer’s advice, but when she went to the edge of the balcony, she found she couldn’t leap down. Of course, the zombie gained on her, causing McDonell much distress. She told the viewers not to take advantage of Te’s kindness, whereas Te herself said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Occasionally McDonell and Te were joined on the show by some of their GameSpot colleagues. Ed Tran and Dan Hines from GameSpot Australia were on a few shows, and they always provided their own type of humor. Ed was somewhat similar to McDonell, providing sudden (and sometimes profane) outbursts when things got hairy while Dan was usually as deadpan as a Norm McDonald joke. Seb Ford, funnyman from GameSpot’s UK office, stopped in once to play with his mate McDonell.

If you ever want to see what the show was like, GameSpot still has some episodes of the show archived on its Twitch channel. Also, do check out Te’s personal blog, Forevergamie, which is here on WordPress.

That does it for this segment. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: Apparently GameSpot has a new live show called “On the Front Line,” which I didn’t know about when this article was first published. That show’s been added in now.

The Sega Genesis Turns 25

Oh we’ve got a good one for you, folks. So good that no excuse about how the Chomp’s been (or hasn’t been) over the summer can keep this post from getting uploaded before midnight. Twenty-five years ago to the day, the Sega Genesis debuted in the North American market!

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The first North American Genesis design.  Photo comes from wikipedia.com

Boy, do I feel old.

Technically, this post can be considered as being almost a year late, since the Mega Drive, the first incarnation of what would be the Genesis, was first released in Japan on October 29, 1988. Since I didn’t do a post on the Mega Drive, I’ve decided to celebrate the Genesis’ 25th on the day it debuted in the North American market. Without further ado, let’s get into some history.

For much of the 1980s, Nintendo’s Famicom (released as the Nintendo Entertainment System here in North America) dominated the home video game console market in Japan and the world since its debut in 1983. Sega had previously entered the home video game market in 1983 as well with the release of the SG-1000 and the Sega Mark III (known as the Sega Master System abroad) two years later. Even with the Master System’s success in Europe, neither console was able to put much of a dent into Nintendo’s total worldwide sales.

Despite the mostly lukewarm returns from its previous two efforts, Sega decided to jump back into the home console market. The company had a battle ahead of it, as Nintendo’s dominance had only strengthened. In 1987, NEC released the powerful 16-bit PC Engine (known internationally as the TurboGrafx-16)  gaming system in Japan to much acclaim. To keep pace, Sega decided that its next effort should have more horsepower, and Masami Ishikawa (who had previously worked on the SG-1000 and Master System)  was selected to lead a research and development team to create the company’s next project, a 16-bit console of its own.

Dubbed the “Mega Drive”, Sega’s new console was to be powered by the Motorola 68000 processor, and used a motherboard similar to the ones used in the company’s arcade machines. A top-loading cartridge based system, the Mega Drive was built for performance, and was capable of running home versions of Sega’s arcade offerings at the time.

Upon its release in 1988, the Mega Drive failed to get much of a foothold in the Japanese home console market, coming in third behind the PC Engine and the still top-selling Famicom. In January of the following year, Sega announced that it would be releasing the Mega Drive in North America.

In the North American market, Sega got aggressive. It upped the fire with its advertising campaign, and came out with guns blazing from the jump. Due to a trademark dispute with the American company Mega Drive Systems, Inc., Sega renamed its console the “Genesis.”  The company boldly got after its rival Nintendo, leading to the now classic (and infamous) “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” ad campaign (video uploaded by SegaCDUniverse).

From the time the Genesis hit the North American market in 1989, its rivalry with Nintendo sizzled. Nintendo increase the heat itself with the release of the Super Famicom (AKA Super Nintendo) in Japan the next year and in North America and the UK in 1991 and 1992 respectively. For much of the early to mid 1990s, Sega versus Nintendo was the talk of the video game world.

Around the mid-1990s, Sega began to focus its efforts on its upcoming 32-bit console, the Saturn. Sega sold the Gensis until 1997, when it turned over the licensing of the console to Majesco. In 1999, Majesco ended discontinued sales of its Genesis units. While on the market, the Genesis was estimated to have sold around 40 million units worldwide, making it Sega’s top-selling console.

I remember the first time I played the Genesis was at a shopping mall (remember those?) back in the early 1990s. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was loaded up in the console, and every kid within earshot of it was captivated by the system.

When it was my turn to play, I was immediately floored. After playing the NES for a few years, the leap from its 8-bit gameplay to the 16-bit experience the Genesis offered was huge. The gameplay, graphics, sound and music (especially the music) were all mind-blowing at the time. I nearly got motion sickness playing as Sonic because he was so friggin’ quick. He moved across the screen in a fashion different from any other character seen before, and it was amazing.

The Genesis was my second video game console, the first being the NES. I received it as a gift on Christmas in 1994, and I still have it, box and all, to this day. My console is the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 bundle, which consists of that game, a controller, and the Model 2 version of the Genesis system.

Thanks, mom.

Thanks, mom. Photo comes from Amazon.com

A few years later I received a 32X, one of two add-ons for the system (the first being the Sega CD) for my birthday, and I honestly enjoyed it. I had a few games for it, namely Virtua FighterVirtua RacingT-Mek and Star Wars Arcade (which according to YouTube, is not impossible to beat). Video game history may not be entirely kind to the 32X, but it was given with love and I still love it.

It was cool to me. Photo comes come from Segaretro.org.

Some of my best memories of gaming as a kid come from playing Genesis games. It was the console that allowed me to play the first copy of a Street Fighter game I ever owned, in this case Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition. For that alone, it’s special. Hard to believe that Sega’s out of the console business, its last one being the Dreamcast which deubted in 1999.

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Guile (L) brought the sonic but M. Bison (R) brought the boom. Pic comes from Giant Bomb.

That about does it for this segment. For more on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, do check out the redoubtable Jeremy Parish’s article on the system from last year, and SegaRetro.org for general Sega info. Happy 25th Genesis! Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

 

 

Tuesday Treasures: Leon Scott Kennedy

After years of squandering, I recently finished Resident Evil 4 for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve actually owned the game for a few years but didn’t bother finishing it because I didn’t like it initially.  However, I decided to beat it mainly because I had never finished a Resident Evil game before and partly because I’m a fan of its protagonist, Leon Scott Kennedy, whose name bears a strong resemblance to film actor Leon Isaac Kennedy (a favorite of mine as a kid), who is apparently a minister now.

Upon doing a little research while finishing RE4, I noticed that Resident Evil 2, the game in which Leon S. Kennedy debuted, turned fifteen in January. Since I normally try to stay on top of these things on the Chomp, today I’ve decided to celebrate RE2‘s birthday by taking a look at Kennedy’s appearances in video games over the years.

But before we delve into the history of Leon, here’s a little Resident Evil 101 for the unfamiliar. Created by video game designer/producer Shinji Mikami and published by Capcom, Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan) is a survival horror series that made its debut on the Playstation in 1996. The story centers on a viral outbreak which first starts in the fictional U.S. residence of Raccoon City, turning its population into zombies. The source of the outbreak is the T-virus, which was created by the mega corporation Umbrella. For a while, Umbrella (and its former acolyte, Albert Wesker) were the primary antagonists of the franchise, attempting to control the world while being opposed by series heroes such as Jill Valentine, siblings Chris and Claire Redfield, and of course, Leon S. Kennedy.

Created by the trinity of video game designer Hideki Kamiya, the late Resident Evil 2 writer Noboru Sugimura, and designer Isao Ohishi (who apparently based Kennedy off of his bloodhound), Leon S. Kennedy was designed in contrast to the aforementioned Chris Redfield, the battle-tested soldier from the first Resident Evil game. This was done because the Resident Evil creators decided that RE2 should have a protagonist who was inexperienced with harrowing situations. Thus, Kennedy was introduced as a rookie cop who’s first first day on the beat happened just as the viral infection within Raccoon City was reaching critical levels. How’s that for first day jitters?

Kennedy’s garb in RE2 is a SWAT-style outfit, consisting of a blue bodysuit with large black (or dark navy depending on the render) elbow pads and armor plating on the shoulders, the side of the arms, and the chest. On the chest plating and on the back of the bodysuit are the letters “R.P.D.” (for Raccoon City Police Department).

 

Kennedy has two other unlockable costumes in RE2, which can be obtained by using the Special Key to open the locker in the Dark Room at R.P.D. headquarters. The first costume consists of a baseball hat, purple tank top, dark green pants and black boots.

The second costume is a casual look with a leather jacket, blue jeans and brown shoes.

In the Nintendo 64 port of RE2, there are two exclusive alternate costumes just for this version of the game. First, is the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) costume, which is based off the uniform worn by the team that investigated the viral outbreak in the first Resident Evil game.

Second is the “casual” outfit, which consists sunglasses, a white shirt, a black vest, black pants and black shoes. A very 1990s look indeed.

Interesting of note, the marketing campaign for Resident Evil 2 included commercials directed by horror film legend George Romero, whose seminal film Night of the Living Dead has helped to keep zombies firmly entrenched in modern horror fiction and popular culture. The commercials starred the late Brad Renfro as Kennedy, and Adrienne Frants as Claire Redfield.

 

Kennedy’s cop look was carried over in the 2001 Game Boy Color exclusive Resident Evil Gaiden, a spin off of the main series. In this title, Kennedy’s R.P.D uniform sports the same classic colors, but the styling is a little different. The black armor is held together by white bands and the R.P.D. letters are much smaller.

 

Leon would make his return to consoles as a protagonist in Resident Evil 4. No longer a greenhorn cop just trying to survive, Kennedy now is a sharp-tongued, acrobatic one man army with impeccable combat skills. His look had changed as well; the SWAT-style police garb gave way to a bomber jacket and a streamlined combat outfit including cargo pants, boots, and fingerless gloves. A knife sheath (not seen in the picture below) is attached to the left front shoulder area of Kennedy’s shirt.

 

Still, traces of Kennedy’s rookie past can be found in Resident Evil 4. After beating the game once, an updated version of Kennedy’s R.P.D. uniform can be selected as an alternate costume. In contrast to his original police uniform, this version of Kennedy’s uniform is darker in tone and features the knife sheath carried over from his default outfit.

 

The third outfit available to Leon is the “Gangster,” which is unlocked after completing the mini-game “Assignment Ada”. This outfit consists of a black suit, black fedora, and black and white shoes.

 

Kennedy appears in 2009’s Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, which tells some of the story in between Resident Evil 2 and 4. Kennedy’s R.P.D. uniform again makes another appearance, and is similar in style to the version of the uniform that appears in Resident Evil 4.

Pictured below are the other costumes from Darkside Chronicles. From top to bottom they are: “Agent,” (basically his RE4 costume) “Detective,” and “Casual.”

Kennedy’s sports his R.P.D. uniform again in last year’s Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. This version of the R.P.D. uniform is nearly identical in color to the original, although its styling is similar to the uniform in RE4.

Also released last year was Resident Evil 6, the latest chapter in the series’ main storyline. In this title, Kennedy has a few different outfits. The first is a casual outfit with light grey slacks, a black shirt, black leather jacket with two white stripes on either arm and black shoes.

 

The second costume (used in the game’s China mission) is a blue shirt with a leather zip-up tactical vest, dark slacks and black shoes.

 

In the mini-game “The Mercenaries,” Leon can sport two pirate outfits. A red one:

 

And a blue one:

 Finally, there’s Leon’s 32-bit costume, which is basically his R.P.D. uniform rendered in an old school polygonal look.

That does it for this edition of Tuesday Treasures. For more information on the Resident Evil series, do visit the Resident Evil Wikia, which most of the information for this article (including many of the images) comes from. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels