Happy 2008. My only resolution this year is to not make any notable life changes in the month of January so I don't look like the sort of person who makes new year's resolutions.
I'm feeling a lot better (not perfect, but better), and I'm back at work today. I'm kind of thinking that I wish I'd have taken Wednesday through Friday off this week; one day is not enough to recuperate from a vacation. But, I got most everything done I needed to get done before leaving, so at least there wasn't a bunch of work waiting for me when I got home. I mostly played around with the Xbox yesterday.
I decided to buy Burnout Revenge (Burnout 4) for $30 over Christmas instead of Burnout Paradise (Burnout 5) for $60 when it comes out in a few weeks. I figure that Paradise will probably be down to $30-40 by the time I'm interested in buying it (if that time even comes), so I'll have ended up getting two games for the price of one, and one of them is one I've played more than a demo of before, so I know it's good. It's a fun and violent driving game. I hesitate to call it a racing game, as the focus is less on racing and more on destruction of property.
I've also been playing through a lot of the free demos on Xbox Live Arcade when I've found the time, which has been enjoyable. I got Carcassonne ($10 must-buy) a few minutes after buying the console, and I also bought Band of Bugs ($10 for Xbox, or $15 for Windows, free demo available) right before leaving, which I finished yesterday, and it's a great time too. It's totally different from Burnout—it's a turn-based strategy and puzzle game. Sort of like the combat of classics like X-COM and Heroes of Might and Magic, but streamlined for the TV. I also picked up the Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 ($7 or so online, includes 1 month of Gold), which was originally called "Geometry Wars and Bejeweled and some other stuff you don't care about on one DVD," though Wik: Fable of Souls has been a fun little puzzle diversion too. I decided that I could use a change in theme after playing several shooters on the PC and having several more shooters on the PC in the game queue.
And now for a big topic change that I'm sure I'll wrap around and tie into this mishmash of a post eventually: my dad bought BioShock recently. His old Pentium 4 2.4 GHz with 512 MB of RAM and a GeForce FX 5200 wasn't really up to the task, so he bought another 2 GB of RAM and had me install it while I was there. After he installed the game, he was informed that he didn't meet the system requirements; it needs a much better video card than that. So he had me help him pick out a new card. Circuit City had a nice deal on a GeForce 7600 512MB card and their site said it was in stock in the Lincoln store. So, we went in, they didn't have it, we went home. Then he decided to buy it online anyway, selecting in-store pickup, and then went back to the store. They have this policy where if they don't have your order ready in 24 minutes, they give you $24. So, he got his $24, as they clearly didn't have it in stock within 24 minutes. Sometimes my dad impresses me with the lengths to which he'll go to make sure that he gets what he thinks is a fair deal with dealing with businesses.
Anyway, with the RAM and the video card, he'll be putting about $150 into the PC. It occurred to me upon returning here that maybe he should just have a console. I feel somewhat like a traitor for saying that, but I think that maybe it would work out better for him. The selection of titles available for consoles is so much broader now than it used to be, especially now that there are things that I'd consider "PC titles" coming out on consoles first, like Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect and Gears of War. Really the only genre that he likes that he'd be missing out on is adventure games (à la Sam and Max), which barely exist nowadays anyway. And, he's not "good" at controlling games with the mouse and keyboard, so moving to a controller probably wouldn't feel like a step back to him. He'd save a lot of effort, and versus occasionally upgrading his PC to play games, perhaps some money as well. Their PC is getting pretty ancient anyway, and he'll want to upgrade in a couple years, but maybe the next time he wants a better gaming experience, I'll finally suggest that he get a console instead, and not bother with gaming on the PC anymore.
Vista's Windows Experience Index is exactly what he needs to make PC gaming practical for him: simple numbers that tell him whether games are going to run well or not, and what needs upgrading. The trouble is, he doesn't have Vista, and games don't say what numbers they need on the box. I'm so used to it all that I had kind of forgotten how ridiculously complicated gaming on the PC is. I don't mind complicated... I like complicated. Normal people don't.
I don't really think PC gaming is dying. I think it's just as great as it always was. But maybe console gaming has gotten so much better over the past decade that I question whether gaming on the PC is "worth it" for normal people anymore.