God of War Comes Out Tomorrow, Which Means I’ll Be Making My Heavily Anticipated Debut in the World of Video Game Streaming

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Folks, I’m jacked up. Impossibly jacked up, honestly. God of War comes out tomorrow for PS4, and it’s getting rave reviews. I’m getting aroused just thinking about inserting that disc into my system.

The God of War series is one of my favorites ever. Along with playing a decent baseball game, they’re the main reason I stayed with Playstation. I’m a massive mythology guy. Huge. I took a course on ancient mythology in college and everything. I know more about Greek mythology than anyone who isn’t an accredited expert, and you can quote me on that. I think that, since I still have the emotional maturity of a small child, the limitless possibilities and fantastic worlds of ancient mythology appeal to me far more than boring old real life. And going around killing the who’s who of Greek mythology made 13-year-old me very happy. But this time it’s different. Kratos retired, got a new family, and moved to Scandinavia. Like all great action heroes, he just wants to be left alone, but someone kills his wife of something (again), so now he’s got to go kill everyone from Norse mythology, too. I must admit, I’m not the biggest expert on Norse mythology. I’ve done some Wikipedia research. I have an (unread) copy of The Saga of the Volsungs I bought for some unfinished project I was doing, but I know the gist of it. I’m not some plebeian, so I know Richard Wagner’s operatic adaptation. I’ve seen the Thor movies. I watched the first three seasons of Vikings. You know what? I’m willing to bet that actually makes me a practical expert. Norse mythology is a very niche topic. It’s my, like, tenth best subject and I know way more about it than you. You must be embarrassed.

Anyway, I’ve been kind of wondering if and when I wanted to start streaming games. I’m terrible at shooters, so watching me play Fortnite would have been a waste of everyone’s time. But God of War? That’s something I can show people what’s what in. That’s something I can impress people with my excellent play and witty commentary. And, since it’ll be the hot game in the streets, there’s a tiny chance someone other than (some of) my friends might watch. So, whenever I get the game (this will be my first delivery to the new place. So exciting!!!) and install it, I’ll start streaming. I was debating between Twitch and YouTube, and I decided on YouTube, because, if we’re being honest, no one’s going to watch the first few (hundred) times I stream, so might as well upload to a platform that lets you watch your old footage. I’ll post the link to the stream here when I start, and I’ll probably just post the completed stream when I’m done. I think the hardest part will be to not just play for a million hours at once since no one will want to watch that. My last few videos haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but until someone has the guts to tell me I need to stop making them, well, you’re stuck in the awkward position of ignoring them while also telling me you’re going to watch it later. Trust me, you’re going to want to watch me play video games. It’s going to be electric.

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Countdown to 2018

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Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. Welcome to the second annual Countdown of Countdowns, where we go through a bunch of random power rankings to celebrate the changing of the calendar. Makes sense, right? If you’re old enough to remember, last year there were sixteen countdowns to commemorate 2016. Well, stay with me here, this year there’s going to be seventeen as we say goodbye to 2017. Before we begin, it would feel disingenuous if I didn’t mention that, despite how great the Countdown of Countdowns and random New Year’s Eve concerts are, New Year’s Eve stinks and I’m glad I’ve reached the point in my life where there’s starting to be less pressure to go out someplace way too crowded, spend way too much money, and have no fun. Anyway, now that you know I’m a New Year’s Scrooge, let’s dive right in to the CoC.

Top Five Movies from 2017 Based on Brian’s Den Scoring

  1. John Wick 2– A true cinematic masterpiece
  2. Dunkirk– Best war drama since Fern Gully
  3. Fast 8– I still can’t get over the Rock pushing a moving torpedo with his non-dominant hand
  4. Logan– That Wolverine/Professor X sex scene was wild
  5. Captain Underpants– Only sophisticated senses of humor will understand

Top Five Movies I Didn’t See but Will Say I Saw Come Awards Season to Sound Smarter

  1. Call Me By Your Name– Classic “look up the plot on Wikipedia so I can always act like I know the plot” kind of movie
  2. Darkest Hour– I’m a big Gary Oldman guy so I’ll probably get to it eventually
  3. Lady Bird– Literally have no interest whatsoever
  4. Mudbound– Sitting here wondering if it’s problematic or not that I haven’t heard of this
  5. Phantom Thread– Heard Daniel Day-Lewis plays a spool of thread. Impressive

Top Five Video Games I Played in 2017

  1. Persona 5– Played through this game two times in a row so that tells you how cool I am
  2. Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon– Pokemon games are always top five. Sorry
  3. Nioh– Finally made me believe that, no matter where you are, a white guy can be the hero
  4. Horizon Zero Dawn– Bashes you over the head with its social message, but the gameplay and visuals are top notch
  5. Assassin’s Creed Origins– After playing this I was surprised to learn that Moses did, in fact, look just like Christian Bale

Top Five Songs of 2017

  1. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  2. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  3. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  4. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  5. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber

Top Five TV Shows I Watched in 2017

  1. Stranger Things– I’ve been #teamSteve since season 1
  2. Game of Thrones– Even a disappointing season is better than most things on TV
  3. Black Mirror– If you love introspection and hate technology, this is the show for you!
  4. Wallykazam!– Most complex depiction of a troll in recent memory
  5. Super Bowl 51- I didn’t really watch much TV this year so I’ll just throw this here

Top Five Athletes of 2017

  1. Tom Brady- Not much explanation necessary
  2. Kevin Durant- He’s got a whole army of fans on social media that will go to bat for him
  3. Pablo Sandoval- Was somehow the worst player in both leagues
  4. Quavo- The new Jim Thorpe?
  5. Maya Moore- She went to UConn, you know. As did I, if I haven’t mentioned

Top Five New Fast Food Items of 2017

  1. Taco Bell Potatorito
  2. Taco Bell Dollar Stacker
  3. Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips
  4. Taco Bell Naked Egg Taco
  5. Burger King Farmhouse King

Top Five New Year’s Eve Concerts

  1. Kid Rock- Spirit Center, Kansas City, MO
  2. Migos- Red Rocks, CO
  3. Diarrhea Planet- Rough Trade NYC, Brooklyn
  4. Sting- Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
  5. Celine Dion- Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas

Top Five Villains in Movie History

  1. Gothmog, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King– Best voice of all time
  2. Hopper, Bug’s Life– The Charles Manson of the bug world
  3. Palpatine, Star Wars– PPPPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ULTIMITED PPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWEEEERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!
  4. Darth Vader, Star Wars– The OG
  5. The Night Slasher, Cobra– The greatest acting performance in history

Top Five Things I Love When Other People Do

  1. Shovel snow
  2. Wash dishes
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Taxes
  5. Pick something to watch on any streaming service

Top Five Fast Casual Tex-Mex Chains

  1. Chipotle- Sorry I’m not mentally weak enough to let a little food poisoning scare me away
  2. Moe’s- Best chips going
  3. Pancheros- Most underrated by far
  4. Qdoba- Can’t believe they got rid of their old cactus logo
  5. Del Taco- It’s no Taco Bell

Top Five Colors

  1. Fuschia- Violet or lavender could also substitute
  2. Sky Blue- Compliments my eye color nicely
  3. Turqoise- Just feels like a tropical breeze
  4. Burgundy- Maybe the classiest color along with mahogany
  5. Magenta- Sorry if you don’t like feeling warm and fuzzy inside

Top Five Fictional Animals to Have as a Pet (Before you say anything, Pokemon are partners, not pets)

  1. Pegasus- Riding a horse typically looks cool, but then the horse unfurls its wings and takes flight? Yes, please
  2. Direwolf- Only if you lived in isolation. Which is my dream
  3. Owl- This means Harry Potter owl. I know owls exist in real life
  4. Dragon- From any story. Pick any dragon in recorded history and I’m down with having it as a pet
  5. Jackalope- A good conversation starter

Top Five Condiments

  1. Maple Syrup- I’d have to turn in my “Vermont native” card if I went with anything else. Yes, I have drank maple syrup, and yes, it was amazing
  2. Chick-fil-a Sauce- Arguably the greatest innovation in fast food history
  3. Mustard- All mustard, but specifically deli mustard and spicy brown
  4. Sweet chili sauce- Underrated and pairs with any meat
  5. Ketchup- Can’t ignore it altogether, but if ketchup is your favorite you have plebeian taste

Top Five Gemstones

  1. Garnet- My birthstone, so you know it’s the best
  2. Red Diamond- Most expensive gem in the world
  3. Emerald- I’m a sucker for green
  4. Alexandrite- Love stuff that changes color
  5. Opal- Just looks cool

Top Five Kinds of Bread

  1. Semolina- If cookies weren’t a thing I’d say the Italians had this whole cooking thing figured out
  2. Sourdough- Regular sourdough, not (I repeat: NOT) vaginal yeast sourdough
  3. Wheat- Lets me pretend I’m eating healthy
  4. Cinnamon Raisin- Using cinnamon raisin bread for french toast >>>
  5. White- Old reliable

Top Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

  1. Avengers– Gonna be the greatest movie since the last greatest movie ever
  2. Taco Bell’s newest specialties- Who knows what they’ll come up with next?
  3. Getting one step closer to the end of the world- About time the planet hit the reset button
  4. Kingdom Hearts 3– Just kidding. It’s never coming out
  5. Another year of The Brian’s Den- 2018 is gonna be BIG. I can feel it

The 3DS Pokemon Games Are So Easy They’re Hard

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So usually after I post a video game review, I just kind of leave it at that. I know no one else really cares as much as me and there’s not a huge demand for my in-depth thoughts on the complexities of Nioh’s combat system. But Pokemon is different, and, as I wrap up my Ultra Moon experience, I had to talk about one of the more unique challenges I’ve had in gaming recently: if you’re good at the game, the new Pokemon games are so easy it makes it harder.

First off, yes, I know these are supposed to be children’s games and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. Well if they weren’t meant to be taken so seriously, they wouldn’t have such an intricate metagame. But yeah, they’re kids’ games that adults like me still hold on to. Even still, the 3DS games are quite easy. And what I mean by easy is that there’s so many more ways to level Pokemon up faster than ever. You get EXP from catching Pokemon. EXP Share gives EXP to the whole party and you get it really early in the game. If you use Pokemon Refresh (or Pokemon Amie in X and Y), the more hearts your Pokemon has, the bigger boost in EXP you get. Then add in the fact that Super Training, a system of maxing out a Pokemon’s stats introduced in X and Y as a series of mini games, is now even easier (you don’t even have to do anything. You just put the desired Pokemon in the right section of the new Poke Pelago and wait until the training is done) (They totally stole the Poke Pelago idea from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth) (Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the most influential Japanese game of the last five years don’t @ me), and you’ve got an easy recipe for an overpowered team.

You probably think this is a lot of crying over nothing. “What’s so bad about having a powerful team? Just turn off EXP Share and don’t use the optional training aids.” I mean, yeah, I wound up turning EXP Share off for a while, but I’m like a dog with a treat on its nose. If you offer me a way to soup up my team, I’m going to take it without thinking twice. I can’t control myself. My brain won’t allow me to pass up any possible advantage. And literally the only reason any of this is a problem is that, for the first time, I actually felt the pressure of the level restrictions placed on you as you progress through the game. In the traditional 8 gym storyline of past games, every couple badges you earn unlocks the ability to control higher level Pokemon. In Sun and Moon and the sequels, there are only four such increases, and each one only bumps you up 15 levels, despite the fact that it’s easier to gain more than 15 levels than not as you progress through each island. For example, after you beat the third island you’re able to control Pokemon up to level 65. Well, in between beating the third island and beating the fourth, you have to do two separate events that are important to the story, one of which forces you to face about a million trainers. I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. Then on the fourth island, I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. When I beat the fourth island, three of my six Pokemon wound up being over level 65 and unusable. Yes, I easily could have remedied that by swapping them out for lower leveled Pokemon from the PC, thus adding more depth to my lineup, but who has time for that? Not me, apparently.

Listen, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty small complaint. The more I think about it, I actually don’t think it’s a complaint at all. I kind of enjoyed managing the levels of my Pokemon, because it was a different challenge and different experience than the typical Pokemon formula everyone is so accustomed to. Ultra Sun and Moon are still great. Sun and Moon are still great. I understand they were supposed to introduce a new generation of fans to the game, so more forgiving gameplay certainly makes sense. But maybe hold off on some of these advantages until the postgame next time? I don’t know. That’s why I don’t work at Game Freak, I guess.

What’s the Deal with Microtransactions?

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Much like every other time I write about video games, I feel like I should offer a disclaimer that I’m about to put on my gaming nerd hat, and if you don’t play video games or couldn’t care less, I won’t be too offended if you skip this one.

As someone who’s pretty plugged into the gaming world, the main talking point I’ve seen for the last couple months is the rise of microtransactions. In-game purchases that  expedite the improvement of a character, give the player a competitive advantage, or just give the player some cool new gear. In games with an emphasis on online play and competitive matches, it can seem almost necessary to buy all the perks you can lest you get left behind by all the other people who did. The complaints are pretty simple- if I already paid for the full game, why should I be forced to pay even more after? Why does every game need them? In the case of DLC expansion missions, why not just release the entire game at once? Personally, I had never really gotten overly worked up about it. I usually avoid shooters (I’m very bad at them), and I thought the biggest culprits for microtransactions were phone games and shooters, particularly ones like Overwatch, whose loot box system is pretty much just another form of gambling. Then NBA 2K18 came out, whipping up a storm of controversy with the pretty clear encouragement to spend a lot of actual money in the game. And, again, I wasn’t all that upset. NBA 2K has been an important thing in my life for about a decade now, and there’s been microtransactions for at least six years. I figured the people who were upset had just never really played before. Then once I started playing, I found the presence of microtransactions to be pretty overwhelming. Within an hour of playtime,  my MyPlayer was already way behind everyone else. Then I realized that part of the reason I was unfazed by the reports of microtransactions in one of my games was that I had grown accustomed to them without even realizing it. Madden and Fifa have made buying points a necessity for completing in their various Ultimate Team modes for years. Star Wars Battlefront was one of the most heinous examples of sapping consumers dry of all time, and it doesn’t look like Battlefront 2 will be any different. Pretty much every game I buy has a special edition for $20 more that comes with special perks that you just have to have if you want the full experience. Even Shadow of War has them, and once the cold arm of capitalism comes for Middle Earth, I’m invested. But beyond just being kind of annoyed, I can’t really get too mad about it. For one, they kind of prop up the gaming industry as a whole. When companies have more money, they can hire better people and make more, better games. That’s no the worst thing. Secondly, I’m kind of just really lazy and have no willpower, so I’m usually inclined to take the easy way out.

Final Fantasy XV is a prime example for me. There are still a lot of things I haven’t accomplished, including the hardest dungeon, the secret post-game dungeon, and the secret hard mode of every dungeon. That’s an awful lot left for a game I loved playing and invested a lot of time into. So why the cold feet? Because even after a meticulous play through of the main story and like 95% of the side quests I’m still extremely underleveled. And I realized I’m just too old to level grind. I just can’t do it anymore. Unless it’s a transcendent game I literally can’t stop playing (any PokemonWitcher 3Persona 5, the Arkham games, etc.), I can’t sit there and fight the same enemies for days on end. There’s just too many other things I could be doing. What’s the payoff? Sure there’s bragging rights. But these days, you can find any part of any game ever on YouTube. It’s already how I solve any puzzle that befuddles me, anyway (if I’m stuck on a puzzle for more than 45 minutes, I’m looking up the answer). At the moment where I knew I was probably out, if the game gave me the option of paying however much to get a bunch of high level weapons and training boosts and all that, I probably would have paid (actually, I think there was the option to purchase various exp boosters, so score one for me for resisting!). As a Millennial, I’m used to being cast as the pantomime villain for the various problems with today’s society (yes, a lot of people my age are terrible people. A lot of old people are terrible people, too), but one thing I won’t really fight is the idea that we all have tiny attention spans and need to be doing a million things at once. Now, I have no problem devoting a long time to doing, watching, or playing one thing, but it takes something special to keep me from using two or three screens at once. And the more repetitive and monotonous the thing is, the more my attention is wont to wane. So if a game tells me if you want this sweet looking outfit you can either pay $5 or play for hours and hours and hours, I’ll start off trying to earn it organically, but I usually have a good sense of whether a game is good enough to keep playing forever, and, if it isn’t, I’m going to start justifying spending the money real fast. It’s just a fact. I don’t like it and I wish there wasn’t the option to spend even more money than I already do on video games, but it’s a fact.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can get as upset as we want over microtransactions, but they’re not going anywhere. There’s just too much money involved, and, using myself as representation for the entirety of the gaming population, people are always going to wind up completing a microtransaction at least once. Maybe it’s only $1, but if a game sells 10 million copies and everyone spends $1 extra, now there’s $10 million more in profit than there would have been without the in game purchases. You can complain about it online to your heart’s content, but I highly doubt all these companies are suddenly going to develop a conscience overnight. The only thing that will stop microtransactions is a lack of profit, which won’t happen. Believe me, I’ve tried to hold off. I got one of the special editions of NBA 2K18 (Best Buy Gamers Club 20% off all games, boiiiiiiiii) and told myself that was enough. By my second week of play, I had no choice but to spend more money if I wanted to compete online, which is one of the reasons I get the games in the first place. It’s annoying and depressing and unfair, but it’s just the way games are these days. Every game will have their own marketplace soon if they don’t already. Every game will have some kind of loot system that you can pay to get around. Every game will EXCLUSIVE dlc that you can ONLY get by preordering the Gold Edition from Gamestop. It’s easy to say just don’t buy anything in-game, but it gets hard when the people you’re playing with or against are miles ahead of you because they took the shortcut. It’s pretty much become pay to win or don’t play at all. That’s a bummer for a lot of people, and the only real solution is for companies to eliminate microtransactions, and, barring some unexpected government interference, I doubt that’ll ever happen. So maybe go back and play some old games, maybe just wait until they release the edition that has the dlc built in (I got the Witcher 3 edition that included both major dlc expansions for $30, biggest steal of all time), maybe resist the transactions and embrace the grind again. Build up your character the old fashioned way and feel like you accomplished something. Fight the man with elbow grease, just like your grandpa did! And if you don’t feel like doing any of that, you’d better get ready to pony up.