Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gamer's Thumb

The mark of any true console gamer is the prized merit badge known as Gamer's Thumb. Gamer's Thumb is the callusing of the thumb, usually the left thumb but can develop on both depending. Most gamers who possess it will tell you that it takes years of hard gaming to achieve, but I'm going to let you in on a secret! It doesn't!

Thats right, with only a few days of moderate gaming you too could earn yourself a higher rank among the geek elite. Heres the secret:

1) Start by selecting a 2D fighter like Street Fighter 2 _____(insert random sub-title), Capcom Vs _____(insert random sub-title) or any other amazing arcade-ish fighting game that requires massive amounts of quarter/half circle forward/back rotations on the Dpad to perform the characters special moves.

2) Next, play said game until your thumb begins to hurt from it. This should only take about 2 or 3 hours. This amount of time will seem to fly by if your playing with a bunch of friends. The trick is to keep playing through the pain for a wile longer to make sure you get the desired effect.

3) The next day you should notice that you have discomfort in your thumb when you touch surfaces, this is good. If you have a visible blister you can skip to step four. If you do not, you must play again today for approximately one hour more. You need not play with others as the pain in your thumb would put you at a disadvantage. I would recommend using this time to practice the special moves of some of the characters in your chosen game to raise your gamer stats next time you play with your friends.

4) You should now have a very obvious blister on your thumb. This is good, your almost there. Today, simply do nothing. Let your blister heal a bit.

5) After letting your thumb rest for a day or two(no more) the blister should be a patch of loose skin on your thumb. Peel this skin off. This sounds gross, but should not hurt. Now begin gaming again. I again recommend practicing at this point. Your thumb should feel odd but not hurt. As the skin grows back, which should only take a few days, the callus should replace the soft skin.


An alternate method would be to play one day for several hours, rest the next day and then repeat the cycle. This could take longer but may work more quickly depending on your amount of play and skin type.

Fighters have always been one of my all time favorite types of games. I spent many years of my life huddled around crowded machines in dark, loud, strange smelling arcades and it really did influence the kinds of games that really hit home for me. I was inspired to write this little tutorial the other day when I hung out with some old friends of mine and we rocked out to some old-school 2D fighters. The next day I dug out some of my old favs and played them too. The tell tale discomfort in my thumbs reminded me of how quickly my old Gamer's Thumb could come back when I used to go a while without playing fighters. It really isn't as hard to achieve as some people would have you believe.

So go get your merit badge and enjoy some serious gaming along the way!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How the Mac Mini changed my world

Anyone who has read through my posts will know that I am a Mac user. I am proud to be one too. But, it wasn't always this way...

Long ago, I was a PC fanboy. I would never say that I was a super tech geek, but I built my own computers and had built some for other people as well. The main reason I had gotten into building PCs was money. Not to make it, but to save it. I bought my first computer in 97. I had used computers for years before that point, but for me, a computer was simply out of my reach. My family was far from rich and computers are not cheap. Well, at least they weren't then. I bought it off my Aunt who was going to upgrade to a new one. I wont get into how magnificent its antiquated specs were but it was my first computer, and I loved it. It had Windows 95 Plus.

It died on me in the winter of 2001. I was heart broken. I was in college, living on my own and survived on english muffins, Archway cookies (they were dirt cheap) and free dial-up via K-mart's Bluelight service which required you watched commercials while waiting to connect to the servers and sported a massive advertisement bar at the bottom of the screen. My computer was my world. It was at this time a friend of mine told me that I could save a lot of money if I built a new computer myself. He said that since I had a monitor already it would be really cheap. The next weekend he took me to a computer fair and I bought the parts he said I would need. It all came to about $300. It was about a third of what I thought it would cost me. He then made me put it together myself as he supervised. It was so easy, I was astounded that I had never done it before.

The rest is history I guess. I went on, building machines, upgrading older ones. My roommate and I networked our apartment and had multiple machines of our own as well as a "Guest" computer we would let visitors play with so they couldn't mess up our babies. We threw LAN parties and badmouthed the guy who brought his Mac and couldn't join our games because of protocol differences.

Mac was a dirty word. We laughed at Mac people. We babbled to each other in techno-jargon and swapped crash horror stories and figured out fixes for obscure problems that would come up. We would laugh as we all sat around and shared old war stories of blue screens of death, reformats, and fried boards. We would debate which drivers would work best, first party or third party.

Several years later I was married and had kids. I had the house networked and had built a computer for my wife to use. She had never had one of her own before. I also had a closet full of old computer parts and a few old machines that needed one thing or another to make them whole. It was around this time it all fell apart. My wife's computer wouldn't start up one day. I thought it might be the power supply. The only one that would fit in her machine was in mine so I took it out and popped it in. Still nothing. Swapped it back and it caught on fire. Put hers in mine and nothing happened. Dug through my old stuff to get SOMETHING to use as a computer... didn't have the right stuff to build a full machine. Bought a new power supply, but my board had been fried when the old one caught on fire. My wife's still had the old issue that never got fixed and I didn't have the money to start replacing parts hoping to figure out the one that went bad.

I sank into a deep depression. We didn't have cable, our rabbit ears didn't pick anything up and now I had no computer nor would I have the money to build one until we got our taxes back... 8 months later. I took to reading a lot. Something I never really did much of before that point. To be honest, this period without constant connection to the world was rather enlightening.

It was during this time that apple unveiled the Mac Mini. For the first time, Apple had released a computer that wasn't over a grand. It also had reasonable specs for the time. More time passed. I began to think "Maybe I should give Mac a shot?" More time passed. Apple announced the new Intel Mac Mini... and Boot Camp. It was then that my mind was made up. When I got my taxes back that year I bought a Mac Mini with upgraded RAM and my wife got a laptop.

I never did put Windows on my Mac. Its been years now since then. My wife has gone through a few laptops and is now looking to buy yet another because her current one is starting to fail. My mac hasn't had any issues. The only time I had a problem was when I attempted to boot a Live CD distro of Linux and changed my boot order not realizing that it was a bad idea and that Macs come with a built in boot selector. All I've done is painlessly upgrade the OS. I think part of the reason I never loaded Windows was because I was having fun figuring out the Mac OS and once I had done so, I liked it better. I am bothered by all the Windows only games, but all my favorite PC games are by Blizzard who makes their games dual compatible with Macs as well. So I still get to play my favorite titles anyway.

So here I am. A Mac user who used to be a PC fanboy. And I'll never go back.