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honestgamer It's not all an elaborate ruse, some misguided attempt to establish for myself an online persona of dubious quality. I really am dull. If you don't find that unbearable, though, this is my blog that examines just how truly boring I can be.

Title: A mostly typical Monday in my HonestGamers life
Posted: May 18, 2009 (03:38 PM)
Today is a Monday, which means the start of the 'real' week for me. I work on the site week-round, month-round and year-round, but Saturday and Sunday are slower days where most of my work is either coding projects or straight-up gaming (with dead space filled by AIM conversations with contributors and staff).

Monday, of course, represents the next flood of press e-mails. I'm subscribed to a lot of mailing lists from various game publishers and their PR firms, so I can count on something like 15 or 20 e-mails coming through from them on even a slow day (let alone Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are the busiest days of the week in PR land).

My day begins when I get up--usually around 11AM, give or take an hour--and log on to sort through any messages that came through as I slept. This usually means deleting 20 or 30 spam e-mails on a first brush, catching a few more on a second brush and then going through yet again to weed out the PR e-mails that just don't interest me enough to bother with. These will usually be announcements of slight tweaks to games no one gives a crap about--games that have been announced but may never even release--and so forth. Then I'm left with assets announcements and bona fide press releases. I'll next go through the latter, posting them as I go and adding game profiles if necessary. Finally, I'll look at assets and see if there's anything that I feel is worth posting... if I still have time.

Recently, I've begun posting URLs over on the honestgamers Twitter account (honestgamers), which takes a little bit of extra time but is showing some definite promise. We already have a few new subscribers, a trend that (if it continues) could definitely increase the site's exposure and do a lot to grow our audience. It's an extra hassle that I didn't really need, but probably worth it in the long run.

With the PR part of my day mostly out of the way--though e-mails will continue to trickle into my inbox well into the evening--that leaves me free to take care of other duties. If I have games to mail, that's when I'll usually head to the post office. Today I mailed out four games, including the new Riddick game for Xbox 360 and Sacred 2 for the PS3. I also bought some padded mailers, since my supply was basically down to nothing. This all cost me around $40, which was financed by a check that came through today from one of our advertisers.

Now that I have all of that out of the way, I have a few hours to do whatever I want before going to work at my 'day job,' which actually keeps me occupied in the evenings during this week. Next week, it'll keep me through the early afternoon and well into the evening, which will mean less time to update press releases and such but more money when my paycheck arrives.

I'll probably spend the next few hours playing Zen Pinball, which I hope to review soon for the PlayStation network (gaining me another letter in the alphabet marathon in the process). Then this evening after work, we'll see how tired I am. If I'm not too tired, I'll play some more Dokapon Journey. I've played that a fair bit, too, so it's another game that I'll be reviwing soon. Once those two are out of the way, then hopefully I can work on a preview for Crimson Gem Saga on the PSP and then dig into Punch-Out!! for Wii, which is supposed to arrive soon. I'm definitely looking forward to that one! Then I have other projects before returning to another run of reviews and more PR work.

So yeah, today was a fairly typical Monday for me and now you know how my Mondays usually go (not much different from my Tuesdays through Thursdays, actually). Wasn't that fascinating?
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Title: The news stories RSS feed is fixed
Posted: May 17, 2009 (02:38 AM)
I hadn't checked it until just recently, so I didn't realize for a long time that the site's News Stories RSS feed has been broken. However, that lack of awareness on my part recently changed, since I'm looking into all possible ways to give exposure to our content, so I decided today that it was time to fix things.

The problem was actually easy to rectify... once I figured out what it was. It's that last part that gave me trouble. Basically, a lot of press releases include some unusual symbols, like the trademark symbol. These don't show properly in UTF-encoded XML, which spits out an error message when a feed is parsed and prevents it from updating with a lot of providers (including, for once, the usually not-so-picky Internet Explorer 7 and presumably 8).

Anyway, I figured out the problem by checking the validity of my feed through the W3 validation tool, which gave me more information about what might need some fixing. Then I was able to make a few tweaks--mostly string replacements to turn those awkward characters to code--and now the feed is again displaying as it should. I inserted replacements for more than just the ones that were hanging up the system at present, just to be on the safe side, but more may still prove necessary. If it does, at least now I'll have an idea of how to fix it quickly.

Anyway, in case you hadn't figured it out, efforts to optimize the 'boring' parts of the site continue unabated and I'm confident that we'll see small results in the weeks and months ahead. Maybe even big ones, if we're lucky, but so far luck hasn't been on our side when it comes to exposure. With all of the great content we have, you'd think we'd be much more popular by now... which is why I'm spending so much time tweaking the boring stuff. Now we can all just collectively cross our fingers and hope for the best!

P.S. - I also posted this week's RotW topic, which is kind of important, so check that out if you haven't already (over on the forums).
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Title: Another one of those posts...
Posted: May 16, 2009 (04:32 PM)
I figure it's been at least a few weeks since the last "HonestGamers depends on you to spread the word!" post, so I might as well post another one.

Over the last few days, I've been making extensive efforts to hone the HonestGamers site into a self-promoting machine. The site has its own Twitter profile, where I post links to our newest content as it becomes available. I've made a bunch of small tweaks to the source code and the way URLs are handled on the site, as well. All of that should help the site to gain more attention on search engines, going forward, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

I will be continuing to work on such things in the days, weeks, months and likely years ahead. I've posted before about my plans to spend a lot more time doing the work that happens behind the scenes of any successful site and I'm putting my actions where my mouth is all the time.

So in the weeks ahead, I hope that you all will continue to enjoy the quality content that we're working hard to produce, and I hope that you yourselves will continue to produce additional high-quality content. You have my promise that I'll continue doing what I can to promote the core content that keeps people coming to the site--reviews, news, guides and cheats--and that I'll do what I can to see that your efforts are rewarded.

In return, I hope that you'll do what users do on a lot of good sites: tell your friends about the something special that we have going here. Update your signature so that when you post on other forums, there's a reference to HonestGamers. Add links to our site on your personal off-site blogs. Link to our content on other forums when it's relevant to the discussion at hand. When games enter the conversation, there's rarely a time where HonestGamers doesn't have something to offer, so keep the site in mind and hopefully that will lead others to do the same.

Thanks for all of your continued support as we try to build up the HonestGamers community and help it to thrive throughout the remainder of 2009 and beyond!
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Title: Growing Up Nintendo #01: The Nintendo Kid
Posted: May 03, 2009 (05:11 AM)
Not long ago, randxian posted in the greeting topic on the forums that he found the site by way of a series of editorials I once posted on the site during its infancy. I think it was from a few months or even years before this site became widely used by the GameFAQs crew!

Anyway, those editorials are still hanging around even though the standard 'editorials' feature fell by the wayside. Now that I've added the feature back to the site, I thought it might be fun to look back on some of the old content I wrote. I actually drafted 8 of these things before moving onto other things.

Below is the original editorial in all of its glory, complete with stupid typos and bland writing and everything! I may touch it up someday and re-submit it, but for now the blog should do just fine. If you want to hear the story of how I discovered Nintendo and got sucked into the world of video games, there's no better starting point!




First of all, I suppose I should start by saying that this is part of a planned series of editorials. For some time now, I've had this odd urge to drop into a pool of nostalgia and to not leave it for a long time. This series is a natural result of that. It's a blow-by-blow reminisce, if you will, a recollection of what it was like growing up with Nintendo, from the early days of the NES onward to the present. I don't know if the series will ever come to an end. If it doesn't, that's fine. If it does, that's fine, too. But before you read, be aware that I'm likely to make no sense at times. In the same token, I'm likely to give you a good description of what life was like for the Nintendo gamer, back in the day. Maybe you experienced something different. You probably did. Or maybe you didn't even know about Nintendo back then. The ultimate goal is that with each installment of this series of editorials, you will come away with something you didn't have when you began reading. Maybe you'll be tempted to pull out the old system, dust it off, and relive the good old days. If anything I write in this series accomplishes that, well, I've done something good.

With that said, I should begin.

In the summer of my 2nd grade year, I moved from near the city of Salem, Oregon to a backwoods sort of town called Ashwood. It's only claims to fame were that it was an old-western style mining town, and that it was located near Antelope, a town made notorious by the occupation there of one of the most famous cults in United States history. So in my childhood, I grew up giving directions to the abandoned cult compound. Great way to be raised.

It goes without saying that I didn't have much exposure to the outside world. Trips to the 'real' town of Madras were infrequent, about once a week for church and seldom for anything else. So it's a wonder I even heard of Nintendo in the first place. It just happened that my cousin visited from locations unknown and told me that the Apple IIe games I enjoyed at school were nothing (by then I had started third grade), that there was more.

''More?'' I asked, amazed. ''Is it better than Mario Bros.?''

You have to understand that in the old days, a lot of arcade titles made it to the Apple IIe computer in improved form. One such title was Mario Bros., which Atari took most of the credit for. It was an odd mixture of what we now know as the old Mario Bros. arcade game and Ice Climbers, and it presented me with endles hours of fun.

''More fun than Mario Bros.?'' my cousin asked. ''Yes. In fact, there's SUPER Mario Bros.''

I was dazzled, and I listened as he described the game to me. Instantly, I knew I had to play it. When he left, then, my cousin had planted a seed that would continue growing, that would grow into what it has today: a solid addiction to gaming, this website, and much more.

Of course, how was I to play Nintendo? My parents weren't precisely rich. I couldn't get much of anything, really. Christmas was still months away. Well, two months is a long time for a 3rd grader to wait. I was undeterred. I went to school that next Monday armed with the knowledge that I must experience this wonder. As it happened, there was another local torch for Nintendo. A boy there happened to have a NES. He was a neighbor. I'm not sure why it never came up before, but now I learned he had one as I preached that Nintendo would rule the world. Or something like that.

Christmas came closer and closer. Ashwood had this tradition, I soon was reminded (I had lived there briefly before, long enough to go to Kindergarten) involving Christmas plays. Well, we had a very progressive teacher who must have sat through one too many boring plays. He decided to focus on music almost exclusively. We acted out music videos for rock 'n roll Christmas songs. And we did a skit or two, and we were each taped saying what we wanted for Christmas. My parents still have a video somewhere of me saying I wanted a Nintendo for Christmas. From that point onward in the community, I was known as 'the Nintendo kid.' I'm convinced some people didn't even remember my name, but knew I liked Nintendo. All of this before I had even played the darn thing!

Christmas came. Christmas went. I still had no Nintendo. I guess even back then, consoles became scarce around the time Christmas trees began sprouting in living rooms across America. I was so disappointed. I must have looked the most depressed child in the world for weeks on end. The teacher even announced a party, and the kid with the NES would bring his so I could play it. And more time passed.

Then, one night, the unexpected happened. I was riding home with my dad at the time, in his semi. See, his job for a good portion of my childhood was as a truck driver. He halled logs to portions of Oregon, and my sister and I didn't see a whole lot of him. Well, he was home this evening, and I rode with him in the truck while my mom rode with my siter either behind us or just in front of us. So there I was, a little third grader, dreaming of Nintendo as usual while we came over the top of this massive grade that drops for about two or three miles into the 'valley' where Ashwood is located. It was winter, so of course it was dark already. Felt pretty close to my bedtime, but it wasn't. Not really.

''So, you're pretty interested in this Nintendo thing?'' my dad asked from his seat.

I was looking out the window, dreaming of that very thing. I was a very singularly-minded child. The collection of G.I. Joe dolls waiting at home was proof of that. But when he mentioned Nintendo, it snapped me instantly out of my reverie. I spun around in my seat, ready to spread the Nintendo goodness on my father's uncharacteristically open ears.

''What makes it so great?'' he asked with a sly smile I didn't notice.

''It's--it's everything.'' I spoke in a lot of absolutes, back then. But to me, Nintendo really was everything. I certainly had enough dreams of owning one, even if I didn't know what it looked like. So I can't really say what stupid trivia I babbled off, but I know I was very excited about it.

''Well, I'm not going to buy one,'' Dad said finally.

I was crushed. I can still remember it, the ache that developed instantly in my throat. I fell instantly quiet and stared straight ahead in my seat, trying not to cry. This was it. The absolute. I would not be getting a Nintendo. I might as well crawl into a cave and die.

Then we got home and my dad pulled out the package.

Suddenly I had a reason to live again. Premature thoughts of suicide or whatever else vanished, and I was alive. My mom and sister joined us from the car, my sister really not all that interested in this thing except that she saw it had me excited. We went inside to the kitchen table and my parents set about opening the packaging.

I still have the packaging. They do, rather, at their house. It shows this family playing the Nintendo together, enraptured by Mario jumping over that first pit in Super Mario Bros. while Goombas approach. Quite the picture. We looked a little bit like that, my family, hovering over the box.

''How's it work?'' my mom asked. She's not technically savvy, and my father is only a few steps ahead of her.

''Well, we'll figure it out.'' My dad was trying to figure it out as he spoke, and we moved to the kitchen.

''You're going to love the Mario game,'' I promised my mother. ''You'll just love it.''

I meant it, too, though I'm not sure how. I didn't know much about it at all, really. It was just some vague, unrealized concept for me. Somewhere in the background was my sister, trying to get a peak at this weird object. We set it up on a TV tray in front of the television. What felt like hours later was probably only a half-hour or so. The television came to life. The red button glowed on the machine. And a black screen appeared, with the two games on the cartridge sliding into focus. Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. We had the light zapper handy, of course, but only the plumber would do for now.

And so it was that we as a family discovered Nintendo. We stayed up for a long time, then. My whole family played, seated around the living room, me on a white rocker that was so-worn it belonged in a trash heap, my parents on the couch, and my sister on the love seat. It really was a tiny living room, but suddenly it could have been the most magical place in the world, tattered puke-green carpet and all.

''Look at Jason,'' my dad would say as we played.

And I must have been quite the sight. I'm not sure I'd ever in my life been more excited about something. I was living my dream. I was playing horribly, laughing when my dad ran into the first mushroom, jerking my leg when I pressed the 'a' button with hopes that Mario would jump. Took me a while to overcome the leg-jerking thing, but I blame my age.

Eventually, it was time to go to bed, though my mind didn't want to let me. So off I went, my mind racing. This was the best night of my life, I was sure of it. And to this day, few others have come close. There were many nights back then when we would gather around the television as a family, enjoying those games. It was rare for us. And it doesn't happen now, hasn't happened for years. But I can still look back at when the Nintendo bonded our family together. There are many good memories, and also memories of waking up late at night and seeing that my parents were still playing after sending us to bed early.

For me, that night was the start of a million things. When I look back on it now, I'm not sure there have been more than two or three other nights in my life that matched it. And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Nintendo was, is, and always will be a magical thing for me. As it should be.
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Title: A busy day indeed...
Posted: May 02, 2009 (02:54 AM)
Well, today was the last of four days of work in a row. I'm generally only supposed to get 20 hours of work per week, leaving me free to do freelance work on the side (and work on the site), but this week I got 32 and so the last 4 days have been spent with little bits of busy work outside of my day job.

Today was hectic like you wouldn't believe, with all sorts of mundane things I won't relate here and a few very stressful moments. I finally got off work a few hours ago and since then I've spent the time updating the site with news stories and content--a big task tonight--going through e-mail and assorted other things.

Now I can get back to the game I'm playing for a little while before going to sleep. I'm really almost done with it--truly, I am!--and then it'll be back to Dragon Quest V, possibly for the rest of the weekend or alternating with Dokapon Journey that I am exceited to play. There were some other games that have come in, but those will be going out to freelancers because I like to share.

Plus I'm too busy to tackle every project that comes to me. Clearly.
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Title: How I spent today...
Posted: April 27, 2009 (11:58 PM)
Today was a typically busy day off from work for me, the last of three consecutive days of freedom. How did I spend it? In the usual way, of course: working on the site!

Well, and working on content for the site. Today I wrote a review for I'm Gonna Serve You -Voice Plus!- (PC), but first I had to finish up playing through the last few scenarios, which took some time. Read my review to see what I thought in the end.

I also posted several news articles. Typically, I'll post press releases and assets which takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes per story, but I also "wrote" a few reports based on information PR people provided, which took a little bit longer to get things just right. It wasn't a particularly fascinating news day, but still there were some interesting releases and announcements (mostly in the downloads sector).

I also went through and added quite a few game listings, both for those articles and because some had been piling up in the "Game Requests" thread. That thread typically should be checked a few times a week by one staff member or another, but it looks like that hadn't really happened for a bit. So we're caught up now and I do apologize.

I still have quite a few games that I'll be playing through and reviewing in the weeks ahead, ensuring a steady stream of reviews from me and not necessarily a lot of time spent on administrative stuff, but I am continuing work toward being able to take care of more of that stuff in a more timely fashion as I scale back my own personal reviewing efforts. That should be happening soon.

Anyway, now you're updated. Next, I will be getting back to a PC game that I'm playing through. I am nearly to a point where I can review it, then it'll be back to Dragon Quest V on the DS. Most of my coming reviews--perhaps even all of them--will be for that system, so watch for the site's DS coverage to receive a serious bump in the weeks ahead.

What did you do with your day?
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Title: I figure it can't hurt...
Posted: April 24, 2009 (02:11 AM)
So, there's an independent film called "The Hunt for Gollum" that is (obviously, I would hope) based on the characters in Tolkien's masterful trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings."

An independent filmmaker felt inspired by Tolkien's notes to produce a screenplay--which has since become a 40-some-minute film--about Aragorn's search for Gollum to find what he knows. The project is in no way endorsed by Tolkien's estate, or by Peter Jackson or any other number of people who have made money from the license over the years. However, it seems pretty cool.

Perhaps the best part is that the whole deal will be available for viewing online, at no cost whatsoever to people like you. The trailer is available here:

http://www.dailymotion.com:80/HuntforGollum

If you're into "The Lord of the Rings," like me, then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the potential quality of the project. The trailer certainly doesn't look like the film was put together on a shoestring budget. It looks avery fine indeed, a testament to the many people who took it upon themselves to treat this project seriously.

"The Lord of the Rings" has a lot of fans, I guess is what I'm saying, but most of their efforts would resemble cosplay and this film more closely resembles the work of a certain Mr. Jackson. Perhaps enough that it'll land them in hot water, since the actors clearly were chosen as much for their resemblence to the actors from the film trilogy as they were for their resemblence to Tolkien's descriptions.

In any event, I decree the trailer linked above to be "worth watching" and I'll probably get around to watching the full thing, too. Since, you know, it's free and all...
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Title: Change to how the site verifies age
Posted: April 20, 2009 (04:14 PM)
There's been a slight change to the way that the site verifies age, in order to more closely comply with standard 'age gate' requirements that the ESRB and various other companies--mostly because of the ESRB--require.

Now when a new user signs up, he will be asked to specify his date of birth. Registration will not be able to proceed until this has happened. When the date of birth is specified, it is stored in the account for that person.

From there, if the person wants to view sexual content (screenshots for hentai profiles) or videos that have been marked as for mature audience (trailers and other such things for M-rated games), they'll have to adjust that setting in their blog before the content will display. They will not have the option to allow such content if the birth date they supplies indicates that they are not yet 18.

I don't know how many of you--if any--will find that even remotely interesting, but I thought I'd share it with you just in case. Stuff like that is only one of the many things I have to consider as I develop the site, and hopefully it's a transparent process despite its necessity.
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Title: Games to review and my plans for after...
Posted: April 19, 2009 (03:54 PM)
I have around 5 or 6 games that I'm planning on reviewing in the near future, which is down from 8 or so that the number was at a few days back. I'm making--and plan to continue making--good progress.

What comes after that, though? Well, the site should continue to provide you with a nice selection of staff reviews, but the number that come from me personally might not be as high. That's because I'm trying to work myself into a position where I can increase the site's output by helping other people develop their craft and become dependable, skilled freelancers. The site is eventually going to fold if we try to rely on just a few writers--like the current handful of staff members--so I'm trying to think in the long term and to avoid letting any more of us get completely burnt out.

That doesn't mean that I'm announcing any sort of melodramatic retirement, by the way. I do plan to continue reviewing, at least until I hit the 500 reviews mark and probably for a long time after that (though who knows?). I'll just be sending more games out to other people, something I've already been doing for a few months, and I'll probably be reviewing more games from my personal collection that I just never had time to get around to playing.

I also plan to do more work on other content, both behind the scenes (database work) and with stuff like videos, screenshot submissions and maybe cheats. This is stuff that needs to get done but hasn't been at the level that I would like. I hope that some of you will see fit to continue contributing screenshots of your own along the way.

I also will be making more efforts to spread the word about the site and to personally recruit more talent when I see opportunities to do so. Again, this is something that I hope some of you will choose to do along with me.

HonestGamers is an exciting online destination, I feel. A lot of that is on a personal level, because obviously I created the site and I love to see it succeeding, but I'm encouraged when I hear the same from the rest of you and I know that even without the rose-colored glasses, there's a lot of great stuff that the site does. Thanks for any support you can manage, and for your contributions throughout the years. I hope you'll all be around for years to come and that the site will continue to evolve.
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Title: Spam in my HG Mail? WTF?! Oh, and a video!
Posted: April 12, 2009 (01:23 PM)
Today, I woke up and checked my HG Mail because there were four messages waiting. Four whole messages! I haven't had that many in... ever! Turns out three of them were spam--from different individuals, including a known user account--so I'm not sure what to think. Someone had to physically target me with spam by HG Mail, which seems like it would take a lot more effort than it's really worth.

In other news, here's a video:



I try to share videos every now and then because what is life without videos? The above one is pretty sweet. :-)
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