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The Evolution of a Gamer: Part 3 – The Gamer Evolves

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This is the third part of a four-part series that will look at how I became the nutball, Sony fanboy, obsessive gamer I am. As you read this, if you have similar thoughts or your own stories please add them to the comments. If you are so inclined you can read part 1 and part 2 of the series to see what led me to this stage of my evolution as a gamer.

The PlayStation 2 was a huge gaming obsession for me, but gaming became difficult in 2001 when I had my first child. It's funny, at the time I was 27, a professional in my career, but loved video games as a release and still roleplayed with friends once a week. I felt completely unprepared to add this child to my life, since in many ways I still felt like a kid myself.

click to view larger imageThe first year we had our son gaming didn't change much; I was still able to play quite a bit. My best friend used to come over every Saturday and we would play through Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance in co-op until we finished it three times (hey, we had to unlock Drizzt Do'Urden).

It wasn't until year two of his life, when he wasn't content to just sit in a chair (facing away from the TV) and watch daddy as he plays games that my gaming time decreased. Hey, don't get it in your head that I sat in front of my TV ignoring my son and played games for six hours a day after work. I probably averaged one to two hours a night and four to five hours each day on the weekend (nap times and after he was asleep).

click to view larger imageThis amount was slightly less than before I had children, but better then I could have hoped. By year two I was lucky to play for an hour every few days and one to two hours on the weekend. When he was three things got a little better and I finally snagged an Xbox, specifically just to play Knights of the Old Republic and the forthcoming Jade Empire (love that Bioware).

I swiftly had my Xbox modded so I could play DivX movies on the console (DivX DVD players weren't everywhere yet) and quickly built up a big catalog of Xbox games. As much as I am a Sony fanboy it was becoming obvious that cross-platform games looked better on the Xbox and most games had surround sound enabled in them.

This was a tough gaming time for me (in a good way). I had very little time and way too many games; I was also turning my back on a beloved gaming platform – the PC (more on the PC in the final part if this series). Regardless, I pushed on and played/finished many, many games for both consoles. The PS2 was my main gaming system as it had the lion’s share of my favorite genre, Japanese style RPGs.

I got a PSP from my wife during this period and while there was not a huge supply of games, I picked up some of the best on the platform. Before long I was enjoying Lumines, Wipeout Pure, and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, and Metal Gear Ac!d among many others. The PSP was great for someone with small kids; while my son was watching Barney or the Wiggles on TV I was able to sit on the couch and play some PSP in relative peace (and not hear Barney and friends sing).

click to view larger imageAbout three and a half years ago I started to get really excited about the PlayStation 3 and next generation gaming. I had a huge problem to face though; My old faithful TV set, a 27-inch Sanyo CRT, really would not cut it anymore. I had never experienced surround sound at home (relied on the 'stereo speakers' on the TV), had no idea what high definition video looked like, and had no clue what to get. I researched and researched, and finally settled on a plan:

  • For speakers I would start by buying a home theater in a box, specifically the Sony Dream System. This would give me starter speakers and surround sound until I could afford a proper receiver.
  • For the receiver I chose Sony again. I know I sound like the fanboy of the month, but the Sony STRDG800 was one of the highest rated mid-range receivers. It had a lot of inputs ranging from composite up to HDMI and a great feature-set. I needed this overkill of inputs as I had a PS2, Xbox, DVD player and digital TV receiver to connect (as well as the PS3 in the future).
  • For the television, at the time (it was over three years ago, remember?) it was a tossup between the Panasonic TH-42PD50U and the Hitachi 42HDS69.

These choices were based on my very limited knowledge of audio visual technology; what I did know was that anything would be a quantum leap over my old CRT television.

The plan seemed solid, but much changed with a little knowledge. A friend of mine who knew more about speakers and receivers cautioned me to look at the OHM rating on the speakers/receivers I was investigating. If I bought the home theater in a box and its OHM rating was off from the receiver, the receiver could get blitzed by the inexpensive speakers. Sure enough the Dream System ran at 3 OHM and the receiver at 8 OHM, so in going with my original plan (which by the way was designed to give me high definition audio first) the speakers from the Dream System would have tanked my new receiver.

Re-evaluating, I determined that the Sony receiver was still a great choice but the speakers needed to be reconsidered. I ended up buying Polk Audio RM 6005 speakers on eBay. They are great little speakers. Just getting the receiver and speakers was expensive enough, but I had to get three optical audio cables (PS2, Xbox and Digital Cable), one digital coaxial cable (DVD Player) and an audio HD adapter for my Xbox. Monoprice became my best friend very quickly and within no time at all my cables arrived.

click to view larger imageAfter all physical setup was in place I ran the snazzy auto calibration tool my receiver featured and BAM! I had surround 5.0 audio (but no subwoofer yet). It was amazing; movies sounded great, and the Xbox and some PS2 games took advantage of it. I was in love with this immersive new experience.

About nine months went by and I was steadily paying off debts to afford the TV and a wonderful thing happened. The new generation Sharp Aquos, specifically the Sharp LC-37D62U, was launched and priced to kill! This was one of the better LCD 1080p sets on the market. It has a killer image, amazing options and black levels, and is drool worthy.

The boss (my wife) approved of the purchase and it became mine. Of course, as was the case with the receiver, the TV wasn't the end; I had to get a high definition cable terminal, an HDMI to DVI cable (for the HD cable), an Xbox HD adapter (with component), a PS2 HD adapter (with component), and four component cables (DVD player, Xbox, PS2, component out).

It was worth every hard-earned penny. I was playing PS2 and Xbox games that were available in 480p and 720p, and watching movies in 480p and HD cable in 720p. I was happy. But as you can probably tell I never stop.

click to view larger imageThe next step after a few months of saving (and a few birthday gift cards) was to buy a PlayStation 3. I of course had to get two HDMI cables (PS3, HDMI out), a Blu-ray movie (Superman Returns) and a game (Resistance: Fall of Man). I was lucky enough to buy the last run of the original 60GB PS3 model with full backwards compatibility using hardware. Part of the money I used to buy the PS3 came from selling my PS2 and a bundle of games.

I was giddy at the thought of high definition gaming, but like all early PS3 owners I realized there were little to no quality PS3 titles. So for the first few months I was playing some Resistance and Warhawk, but most of my gaming involved Rogue Galaxy and Final Fantasy XII — upconverted to 1080p, of course.

Fortunately that didn’t last very long; shortly I was playing Heavenly Sword, Asassin’s Creed, and Folklore. During this time I was constantly eyeing the Xbox 360. While I am a true Sony fanboy there was no denying the amazing games that were appearing on the Xbox 360. Gears of War, Halo 3, and Lost Odyssey interested me, but Bioshock and Mass Effect made me NEED to have an X360 .

click to view larger imageI was lucky (again). I won a $200 Best Buy card at my 2007 Christmas party and had a good friend who had just upgraded to an X360 Elite. He offered to trade me his X360 and its wireless adapter in exchange for the gift card. I jumped on it, and as luck would have it (in my opinion) the X360 had a red ring of death a few months later. Being in Canada, I sent my X360 in and in less then a week later I received a brand new replacement. This one is still purring along and handling all my gaming needs just fine.

Time passes and my consoles equally see a lot of me. My X360 replaced the PS3 for a while as I completed Mass Effect (almost twice) and played through the amazing Bioshock. There have been many other games such as Culdecept Saga, GRAW 2, The Orange Box, Conan (I know, I know), Tales of Vesperia, Fable 2 and others. Currently Fallout 3 is in permanent residence in my X360 tray.

The PS3 has its turn as well. I have greatly enjoyed Uncharted (three times), Ratchet and Clank, Lego Indiana Jones, Soul Caliber IV, LittleBigPlanet, Burnout Paradise, and especially Metal Gear Solid 4 among others. The PSN games are, IMHO, superior to most XBLA games (except for REZ HD and Braid), with Wipeout HD, Super Stardust and PixelJunk Eden consuming a great deal of my time.

click to view larger imageNever content with already having more games then I have time to play I recently scored a killer deal on eBay for a nearly new Nintendo DS and various games. I have now (many years late to the party) discovered this amazing handheld. I am currently hip deep in The World Ends with You, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Chrono Trigger. The DS is an amazing handheld and has all the things the PSP is missing…great games. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very much a Sony fanboy, I am just willing to enjoy games on any system they appear best on.

So here I am at 34, a professional Sales Engineer in the telecom industry, a father of two beautiful boys, and a devoted husband. Though my life has seen many changes since I started playing video games at the tender age of six I am still a hardcore gamer and I would not have it any other way.

To be Concluded in Part 4 – The PC Epilogue

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.