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

 

RIP Robin Williams

As I have said far too many times before on this blog, there is no news like bad news. I’m getting to this a bit late, but in case you haven’t heard, the bad news is the death of one of entertainment’s greatest artists, Robin Williams.

Photo comes from forexlive.com

The news of William’s death dropped like a hammer on Monday, and its stung ever since. Williams, who was born in Chicago, was found dead in his home in Tiburon, California. He was 63.

A tour-de-force of energy, Williams was a star of stage, television and screen. He could make you laugh, cry, and laugh some more. A brilliant stand-up comedian, Williams went on several tours in the 1970s and won a Grammy for a recording of his work. His fame further blossomed in television when he portrayed the alien Mork in the 1978 television show Mork and Mindy. Williams would find even more success on the silver screen, going on to star in a number of movies over the years, among them Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Hook, Good Will Hunting (for which he won an Academy Award) and the Night at the Museum films

Williams was one of my favorite entertainers. He was just so much fun to watch, and brought so much energy into his roles. Even in his interviews he was a riot; the jokes would just pour out of him. He was just incredibly gifted at making people smile.

Despite all of the sad news regarding Williams, we gamers do have something cheerful about him to look forward to. An avid gamer himself, Williams played a number of titles, including The Legend of Zelda (more on that later). To honor Williams’ presence in the gaming community, World of Warcraft member Jacob Holgate started a petition on Change.org to ask WoW creator Blizzard to create an NPC (non-player character) in honor of the late artist. Holgate and the petitioners requested that this NPC tell some of Williams jokes at World’s End Tavern, a locale in the game

The petition was a huge success, garnering over 11,000 signatures in 24 hours. It attracted the attention of Chadd Nervig, a game designer at Blizzard, who tweeted that the company will be “taking care of it.”

As mentioned earlier, Williams was a fan of the The Legend of Zelda, and even named his oldest daughter, Zelda Rae Williams, after the game’s title character. Not only that, he made some commercials for a few Legend of Zelda games:

Ocarina of Time 3D (Uploaded by EliteGamer)

Four Swords (Uploaded by MellyBeanGamer)

And Skyward Sword (Uploaded by ZeldaSkywardSword)

We’ll miss you, Robin; you were one of the best. Until next time, folks.

Nanu Nanu

 

 

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.

Month of the Bat

bat75

It’s been a little while since I last posted, but I’m really excited for next month. This April marks the 75th anniversary of one of comics’ greatest heroes: Batman! In celebration, DC Comics recently announced that it will be celebrating the Caped Crusader throughout all of April with a series of special features that will be posted on its website. The fun just isn’t limited to April, however. DC also announced that it is partnering with Warner Bros. to celebrate the Dark Knight for the entire year! It’s everything a Bat-Fan like myself could want, and a fitting tribute to the character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

Besides Marvel’s Spider-Man, Batman is my favorite superhero of all time. I’ve read the comics, seen the movies, had the action figures, and of course, played the video games. Yes, Mom and Grandma were good to me.

Throughout April, I’ll be doing some posts on Gotham’s finest hero, and I’m sure it’ll be a great trip down memory lane. If you’re a Batman fan, definitely check out Batman’s official DC webpage for more details. I’ll be back shortly, of course. Same Chomp time (late)! Same Chomp channel!

Peace & Pixels

Picture comes from dccomics.com.

 

Big Money on The ‘Bay

Remember in the early 1990s when some of us collected video games hoping that they would be profitable one day? Back then, it was understandable if skeptics wrote off such a possibility; there weren’t many well known instances of video games selling at auction for high prices. Of course, the medium itself was just a few years removed from the North American video game crash of 1983.

My how times have changed.

Reading Gamespot earlier today, I saw this article about a recent eBay listing of video game items by a user named “videogames.museum”, who is from Milan.  It’s a massive collection–over 6800 video games (throughout PAL, NTSC, and NTSC-J formats), 330 systems, and hundreds of controllers and accessories– that reportedly took the seller over thirty years to amass. There’s a lot of cool rare items included, like a pair of Famicom edition Game Boy Advance SPs, the Hitachi Gamenavi Saturn, and both red and blue Biohazard (aka Resident Evil) Dreamcast systems. The starting bid for all this treasure? A cool $550,000.

Now, a starting bid like that may make some of you all judo flip. If you really want to get dizzy, know that if this auction were to end at the starting bid, it might be somewhat of a bargain (yes I used that word). Last year, a French eBay user sold a video game collection for  just shy of a million euros, which is slightly over $1.35 million. Appropriately, the collection’s location was listed as “Gaming Heaven”.

It’s still surreal to read articles about some of these game sales. It seems like only yesterday that I was waiting for the new Funcoland price listing to arrive, or shopping for Nintendo cartridges at Montgomery Ward’s Electric Ave. Now we live in a world where brand new black box Nintendo games sell for no less than three figures on the ‘Bay, and it’s not unusual to see some new titles or rare video game merchandise sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Just last month, a collection of the entire Super Nintendo game library sold on eBay for $22,000. Last August, a prototype of the original Legend of Zelda sold on eBay for $55,000, making it the highest selling single NES game.

I’m reminded of those adults from my childhood who thought video games were a waste a money of money and had no chance of being profitable. Good call, guys!

Peace & Pixels

Update: Apparently the Super Nintendo library mentioned in this article did not sell; it has been re-listed on eBay.