Exit Consoleation; Enter Retro Unscripted

January 12, 2014 Leave a comment

When I mentioned that I was retiring from writing last year, someone who I admire very much told me that I probably wasn’t leaving for good. I admit that, when I made the decision to step away, I was in a position of frustration and was generally unmotivated. There really wasn’t a future for me in writing as I had known it; I wasn’t buying any of the new consoles, I was unhappy with modern gaming on the whole, and the sales analysis path had really reached its end. I just didn’t see a future.

I knew that I really didn’t want to drop everything and go back to just playing games and watching from the sidelines. My retro library has been growing and decades of video game experiences and memories that I wanted to share still remained. I wasn’t sure how to transition or what my next step would be, if I chose to take one. I had made a few videos that I’d shared on YouTube last year and, while they were fairly well-received, I thought that my lack of editing skills, proper lighting, and a decent microphone meant that videos and I weren’t destined to be friends.

But I thought some more over the holiday period. Friends and colleagues on Retroware and in social media had been supportive of my efforts, despite the lack of polish. Maybe I didn’t have to be the next Gaming Historian, NES Punk, or Backlog to make videos… as long as I was having fun doing them. After all, the Internet is a big place and offers a great platform for sharing content. Questions remained about what my approach would be. What was my angle? What would it be about my content that might convince a few people to watch my videos or read my words?

Then, about a week ago, it came to me. It was a silly approach, but an honest one.

See, when I shoot my videos, I work without a script. I don’t draw up any outlines. I gather a few things to show on camera (if applicable), turn the webcam on, and go… all unscripted. Retro Unscripted was born, quite literally, with this video that I shot:

From there, a few people seemed to like the approach. I got some constructive criticism (mainly that I needed to address low volume in the video) and decided to go all in with the Retro Unscripted project. I created an e-mail account for it. I opened a Twitter account for it. I opened a Facebook page. I created a YouTube channel. I created a Tumblr for it. I basically went all-in on the project; I finally realized what I wanted to do, and this project allows me to do it at will.

So… what does this mean going forward?

Well, for starters, this blog is going silent. Retail Reviews, videos, and other gaming-related content will be going to the Retro Unscripted project. I’m stopping short of closing this blog down, primarily because it’s an archive of my last 5+ years and there’s still some work here that I don’t wish to lose. So, if you wish to keep up with the content I’m creating– and I’m really hoping that you will– it’s going to be via the Retro Unscripted sites.

As for my social media footprint– Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Raptr, and so on– most of my updates will be via the Retro Unscripted ID. I’ll still be using my personal Twitter account with some regularity, but my retrogaming-related tweets and images will be posted on the @RetroUnscripted account… which I hope that you’ll consider following. My @PeteSkerritt account will be more personal, talking about modern gaming, school, and other life stuff. The Facebook page is a mirror of the Twitter account, as well as my Instagram images and other stuff. If enough people like the page, I may do more things with it. I did create new PSN and XBL IDs under RetroUnscripted, as well; so if you want to add them to your Friends lists and compare scores in pinball and other games, I’d be happy to have you. If you want to drop me line at retrounscripted@gmail.com, you can do that too.

As for my writing, at least for now, it’s going to be on the Retro Unscripted Tumblr site that I’ve created. The Tumblr site will be centralized place to find all things relating to the project. My videos will be embedded there, my written stuff will appear there, a few of my Instagram images will be there, and more. After some time, I may switch to WordPress or another blogging platform at some point, but for now, I find Tumblr to be the best solution.

Most importantly, the Retro Unscripted YouTube channel is up and running. The first two episodes are live, and I’m aiming for weekly updates at least moving forward. Some weeks will have one video, others may have two or three, and still others may be silent depending on my workload with school and free time availability. While I am going all-in on this project, it’s still very much a labor of love. I am not monetizing the videos; it’s something that’s fun for me to do and, unless a site like Retroware wanted to pick up the videos and make it a series, I won’t pressure myself or feel that I have to create content. (Of course, if Retroware did come calling, that’s pressure I’d be happy to take on.)

This is the part where I’m humbly asking for your support. In starting this new project, I’m hoping that you’ll consider following any or all of these sites so that I can gain a bit of traction. As much as I really enjoy shooting videos, writing, and being active in social media circles… it’s a bigger payoff when I know that people like you are choosing to take time to read or watch the content that I create. Follows, likes, and subscriptions add up and usually attract more people to check out my work. I’ve been blown away by being able to earn nearly 3,900 followers on my Twitter account. For someone like me who’s never really been attached to anything popular or huge in the last 5+ years, it means a lot that I was able to build and earn that audience. I’m hoping that, over time, I can do that again for this project. Knowing that people read or watch my work is, for me, a huge motivator… whether it’s 40 people or 4,000 people. So please, consider visiting the Retro Unscripted links I’ve highlighted in this post and follow/like/subscribe at will. In return, know that you’ll have my gratitude– it’s not much, but it’s sincere.

Consoleation has been a big part of my life for the last 5 years. In deciding to move on, I do so with the confidence that my new project is worth giving that up for. Whether you decide to follow me along to Retro Unscripted or not, know that it’s always meant a lot to me that you’ve taken the time to read my work here or anywhere else I’ve been. That’s what has driven me over all this time, and I will always be grateful for that. I’m more excited for this new project than ever. It’s a fresh start and just doing it is a giant step that makes everything else that happens from here a big bonus.

Thanks, everyone, for everything.

Shooting Straight: Looking Back, Looking Forward

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Another year has come and gone, and it’s been quite the rollercoaster on many fronts for me. I went from being a 4.0 GPA student to missing my fall semester because of financial aid difficulties. I went from having aspirations of doing something more with my analysis work to retiring from the gaming press and becoming a spectator. I’ve had a couple of serious health scares this past year, but I’m going to see 2014. I have seen the dawn of the first generation of video game consoles that I will voluntarily be skipping, but I also managed to add a SEGA CD to my retro library this past year and am gradually working the number of games to near 1,000.

On the school front, it still looks like I’m going to be heading back to classes in late January and will hopefully be getting back into my academic groove. I’m very grateful that the financial aid situation seems to be resolved and am eager to get back on track towards my degree. I have a good system for school; three classes per semester is a slower pace but removes pressure and allows me work for results without overdoing it. I considered taking four classes this term, but decided against it since my first two semesters with three classes generated perfect results. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

On the retirement front, I’ve been humbled by the kind words of many colleagues and friends. The decision to leave writing behind is not one that I regret; I accomplished many of the goals I set out to accomplish and established myself as a recognizable part of the community. It’s another scenario where I took pressure off of myself by making a major decision. Meeting deadlines and scrounging around for sales data that really couldn’t be sourced or legitimized took its toll on me over the years, and by walking away, I’ve been able to get back in touch with just playing games and chatting casually and socially about them. There’s something liberating about transitioning back to being a player and observer; there’s no longer that feeling of “have to”. I don’t have to play, have to write, have to research. I can just do things. If I want to sit and play Irritating Stick for an hour, I can– without guilt or regret. Perhaps, one day, I’ll want to start writing and worrying about deadlines and pressure again… but, for now, I’m content to recline in my bed here at the Home for Retired Gaming Press and just enjoy my time.

On the health front, I’m really hoping that 2014 is a better year. Passing kidney stones last January was no joke, and I had to deal with a strange mystery illness that really knocked me on my tail during Thanksgiving week. Make no mistake about it; health problems suck more as you get older. Your body doesn’t rebound as quickly from illness and there are certain formerly for granted functions of life that require a bit more effort. 2013 was a reminder that, while my mind is still very much in its 20s, my body isn’t quite what it was. I’m happy with each day that I get to live, and I try to take advantage of as many as I can.

The generational transition away from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is starting to hit home. The new consoles are the main topics of conversation while the old consoles are on their way out. It’s becoming apparent that my time of relevance in terms of modern gaming is almost up, and I admit that it’s bittersweet. I never once thought that the time would come when I’d be deciding not to buy the next new consoles… and yet, here we are. I get asked for buying advice quite a bit, given my knowledge base, and it shocks some people that I’m not upgrading. Some think that I’m being ridiculous by holding out and not accepting the new trends in modern gaming. “It’s not that bad,” I hear, with support for digital over physical and that things like DLC, Day One patches, and paying for online play are the new normal. I just don’t want any part of this new normal, especially at $400-$500. I think about all of the older games that I could get to expand my retro library with that kind of cash, and then I think about how buying this new hardware would basically be an indirect vote of support for all of these trends that I strongly dislike. My choice is easy, even if I know that I’ll be missing out on some pretty major things.

2014 will be a year of transition for me. I’ll be transitioning back to academics. I’ll be continuing to transition away from modern gaming and focusing more of my gaming time and social interaction on older games and systems. I may even have a hand in a few collaborative projects and be looking to transition my experience from writing into other gaming-related avenues. My goals for 2014 include continuing to expand my retro library, to build and maintain an updated inventory of my retro library, and to continue to build my social media and community presence– especially relating to the retro community. That community has been so receptive to me over the past couple of years, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I wish all of you the happiest of holiday seasons. I thank all of you who have read this blog over the past year for your time and support, despite the infrequent updates and occasionally charged subject matter and attitudes. For the times that I do feel the urge to put fingers to keyboard and share thoughts about games or anything else, Consoleation will continue to exist. I hope that, when those urges do strike, that some of you will come and visit to see them.

All good things…

November 15, 2013 1 comment

After more than 12 years of writing about console video games– ranging from game reviews to sales analysis– I am officially “retiring”. I use quotation marks because I can’t really retire from something that I didn’t really do for a living… but it’s been more than 25% of my life, and the time has come to hang up my keyboard and step away… for good, this time.

The timing makes sense. We’re on the cusp of a new console generation, one that I will not be participating in anytime soon– if at all. Pretty soon, I won’t have the first-hand experience or expertise to be a valid contributor. There also isn’t much of a place for a writer like me who uses tons of words and doesn’t use much video or imagery to support it. I know that my work has continued to be an intimidating wall of words, a fossil in the multimedia era. I don’t have the capital, environment, or know-how to jump into this new age of video game discussion.

I’ve known this was coming for some time, and after the hit to my confidence in Los Angeles this year, I think I was just thinking about the best time to walk away. My writing output has diminished since then, and I’ve had an increasingly more difficult time since then getting motivated to write about anything, anywhere. Once the drive is gone, it’s gone.

I’m extremely appreciative to Nate over at Popzara for giving me one last chance, pulling me off of the scrap heap and believing in me enough to fund two trips to E3 to try and get me contacts and maybe even an opportunity. I feel a bit as though I’ve let him down by choosing to retire instead of continuing to plug away, but without his faith and generosity… I wouldn’t have been able to figure out exactly where my path was going. I might still be chasing a dream that was, honestly, never going to materialize. Now, at least, I can focus my spare time on other things. I’ll play more games, without pressure or regret for not having written enough. Nate and Chris have been excellent people to work for, and I leave with no regrets and nothing but respect and admiration for what they’ve done and continue to do there.

I’m also grateful to the pro analysts who have been so down-to-earth with me during my ride as the Armchair Analyst. Jesse Divnich was an inspiration from the first time he commented on a blog piece I wrote, and then proceeded to answer my questions about the field while taking me very seriously and giving me respect that I’m not sure I earned. The fact that Michael Pachter even knows who I am will be something that will always make me proud, even if scores of people in the gaming community give him grief. I got into writing about sales and analysis because these two men took time out of their days to speak with the gaming press and I thought I could learn enough to at least have relevant conversations with them… and I did just that.

Thanks to the pro writers out there who also took me seriously and supported me on my journey with their words and encouragement. Dan Amrich, Andy Eddy, Andrew Reiner, Philip Kollar, Mitch Dyer, and others have been inspirations over the years, and then there are so many up-and-coming writers who have had conversations with me and even took time to seek advice from me on occasion. I can’t name them all, but you all know who you are… and I’m pulling for each and every one of you to continue to be successful on your own quests.

Finally, thanks to all of you who took even a minute of free time to read words that I’ve typed over these last 12+ years. That’s one of the driving factors that got me to write… knowing that someone out there might actually read my work. I never got published in a magazine, but I’m always humbled by how many people have actually read something that I’ve written. It’s more than I could have possibly imagined when I first started dabbling in review writing back in 1999 before landing my first “gig” in 2001. As my writing time ends, I can look back and know that a good number of people viewed my work– and that’s all I really can ask for.

So… what happens now? Well, I’m still on Twitter fairly often. I haven’t given up on the idea of maybe pursuing some community management opportunities. I still enjoy helping to promote others in the social mediasphere and, if a fun opportunity arose, I’d definitely consider it. I’m also playing a lot of video games now. I have a streak of 16 straight days of earning at least one Xbox 360 Achievement, which is the longest I’ve had in awhile. I’m not sure how often I’ll be updating this blog, but it’s best to keep it open so that I have an outlet to write on if the urge strikes me.

Anyway… thanks to all of you. It’s been an incredible ride, full of ups and downs. I learned a lot about myself along the way, and I improved a ton from my scattered beginnings as a writer. I had a lot of help, a lot of encouragement, and fulfilled a lifelong dream by attending E3… not once, but three times. I have no regrets… only gratitude.

Categories: Uncategorized

Generation Worst Part I: The War on Used Games

November 3, 2013 1 comment

This multi-part series will break down each of several factors that combined to make the seventh generation of video game consoles my least favorite, and why it chased me away from the next generation. This is my own perspective and opinion, and is not intended to sway others.

 

Throughout my years of buying video games with my own money, which started in 1991, I’ve always had a balance of buying new and used merchandise. I’ve also subsidized my spending with game and system trade-ins. Within the last 7 months alone, I’ve purchased the limited edition of Bioshock Infinite (and the limited edition strategy guide), NHL 14, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix, Diablo III, a new Dual Shock 3 controller, and several funds cards for the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and the PlayStation Store, completely with trade-in credit. Before and even during my job at the bowling alley, money was not a plentiful resource… so I made tough decisions about what to part with in my game library in order to pare down or afford the price of new games that I wanted.

A funny thing has happened to the video games economy over the last 3+ years, starting with EA’s Online Pass program being introduced in 2010. In the War on Used Games, that was the shot heard ’round the gaming world. We had begun to transition from used games just being a part of how things were to used games being a menace to publishers and developers that needed to be dealt with. Used games were cited as eating into the bottom line for the industry, causing sales of new games to decline. The Online Pass program would finally add a cut for EA, compensating them somewhat for the resale of a used game and the resources required for online play for a person who didn’t contribute to EA’s revenue stream.

From then on, we have heard prominent industry players decrying the sale of used games. Some have even compared used game buyers to pirates, though the former is still legal (for now). We also hear the same cries of denouncement from within the gaming community:

  • “Games are expensive. People should know that going in.”
  • “If you can’t afford to buy new games, you’re not entitled to play these games on or shortly after launch.”
  • “Buying used games means you’re not a real gamer and that you’re too cheap to support your hobby.”
  • “When you buy used games, you contribute to the decline of the industry since publishers and developers don’t profit.”

Let’s hypothesize, for a moment, that used games had simply ceased to exist as of January 1st of this year. Games could only be purchased new and could not be resold or traded. That would have been about $400 less that I would have contributed to the new video game economy this year. $400 is insignificant to some, but if you multiply that by just 5,000 others? That’s $2 million less per year in new sales revenue for GameStop and other retailers that accept trade-ins and allow you to use trade-in credit for new items. When less is spent in stores, the affected stores buy less product from publishers, hardware companies, and accessory companies. Then the pain is felt by everyone.

Is that really what people want? Do they want consumers to spend less? Are they going by an assumption that consumers will buy everything new at the same clip they’ve been spending of late? Do they really want to test that theory?

The second-class treatment of buyers of preowned video games over the last three years is one of the major factors in my decision to not buy new video game consoles for this new console generation. For nearly 20 years prior to 2010, it never mattered if I bought used or new. I didn’t read insulting quotes from publisher execs and staff pertaining to used games. While buying used might have resulted in a worn disc, missing instructions, or a missing case, the game still worked exactly as it did had I bought it new– or even when I had bought it new before, and decided to trade it in towards another game. Telling friends and fellow members of the community that I bought a game used and saved a few bucks used to lead to conversations about what I thought of the game or asking how cheaply I got it instead of being chastised as used game buyers are now by some in the community.

My new PlayStation in 1995 was partially subsidized by trade-ins. My new Dreamcast in 1999 and a couple of new PlayStation 2 units that I’ve purchased were also partially subsidized by trade-ins. I became a Dead Space fan after buying the first game on the PlayStation 3 used in 2009, leading to new purchases of Dead Space 2 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as well as a digital version of the original for the 360. The same kind of thing happened after I bought F.E.A.R. used for the 360; I bought F.E.A.R. 2 new later on. The Yakuza series is another example as I bought the first game used for PS2 and bought the three PS3 games all brand new.

That’s the used game economy at work, in practice. Used games do lead to more money being spent on new items in many cases, even if it’s not that way 100% of the time. And yet… this is constantly ignored. History is ignored, and we choose to forget about how it had always been a level playing field before internet connectivity gave publishers new-found power to lock content behind a paywall unless you have a code… and unless you have a high-speed connection. Trade-ins and buying used were rarely stigmatized before this past console generation. Now it’s fairly commonplace.

It’s great that publishers are backtracking on the Online Pass model now, but the damage has been done for me. I don’t trust publishers any longer. What else might be in store for the second-class people who buy used games? I sure as hell am not spending half a grand to find out. Add in the rest of the complaints that I had about the previous console generation that, in my eyes, made it the worst one I’ve ever experienced… and that made the decision not to upgrade at all pretty easy.

What other complaints? That’s what the rest of the Generation Worst series will cover. Part two will come soon.

Pete’s Perspective #2: Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s Perspective touches on Super Castlevania IV for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Super Castlevania IV was my first exposure to the Castlevania series. I’d heard about the NES games, but had not played them… so everything was new for me. What an introduction this turned out to be; everything from the visuals and sound to the tightly-responsive play controls was better than I could have possibly imagined. Sure, I’d seen still images in video game magazines at the time, but actually playing, seeing, and hearing it was far better. The stages were varied. The graphical tricks made me say “Wow!”. The music was great enough that I taped it and played it in my car. The bosses were epic. In short, Super Castlevania IV was– and still is– super.

For me, this game stands the test of time because it’s a game I replay to completion at least once a year. I don’t do that for many other games; Super Spike V’Ball, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Bioshock are in my elite group of annually replayable games. Super Castlevania IV is a decent challenge and yet can be completed in one sitting. The game’s difficulty is fair and rewards pattern identification and patience during difficult platforming areas. The visuals have aged well, and the soundtrack remains one of the best around. Most importantly, the game is still as much fun to play today as it was nearly 22 years ago.

There is one Castlevania game that I hold in even higher regard. I’ll talk about it next week. Until then, thanks for reading and watching.

VLOG: Pete’s Perspective Begins; Armchair Analysis Ends

October 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Thanks to all of you who watched the pilot episode of Pete’s Perspective, which I put up earlier this week. It’s an idea that I’ve wanted to act on for some time, but I never quite managed to execute for a variety of reasons. Thanks to some motivation from Half-Bit from Retrospective Perspective and from The Gaming Historian– two video content producers who I greatly admire– I put the excuses behind me and just set to work.

As I mentioned in the video, my plan is to make Pete’s Perspective a recurring series of videos. My goal is to shoot and upload one per week, though it may be more realistic to do it bi-weekly. I want to share memories and my personal perspective on video games and systems, looking back to when they first came out and how I related to them. It is going to be a fun project for me to do, and I’m going to do it on my own terms. I don’t plan on monetizing the videos or earning hundreds of subscribers; instead, I want to use these videos as another vehicle to share my knowledge and experience with the community at large. I will continue to do some writing, too… and who knows what else.

It’s also worth noting that, yes, I’m officially retiring as the Armchair Analyst after a five-year run– including the last 17 months with Popzara in that role– in January. Indeed, it’s been a fantastic ride. I learned a lot, met a lot of smart and dynamic people, and attended E3 for the last three years… largely because of the Armchair Analyst role. When I started tinkering with sales analysis and writing about NPD data back in 2008, I never thought that I’d get to meet professionals and share my thoughts with them. I never dreamed that I could make a consistent role for myself outside of writing game reviews, which I’d been doing for the most part since 2001. I learned a great deal about sales analysis, about how NPD operates, and about the business side of the industry that I’ve loved so much for so many years.

At this point, though, with sales data being more limited to the public and with unaccounted-for digital sales playing more of a role in the overall sales picture, I feel that it’s time to put the crystal ball into storage and let the professionals take over. Granted, this decision was made easier after E3 this year and finding out that I’m not qualified to really make this into a career, but it wasn’t the only factor in the decision. It’s something that I’ve thought about stepping away from for some time now, and it makes sense to do so. This isn’t to say that I won’t tweet about sales or that I won’t participate in NeoGAF analysis threads from time to time. I just won’t be doing so consistently.

That being said, thanks to all of you for your support in the past, the present, and the future. Even if only one person has read my work or watched videos that I’ve posted, it’s still rewarding to me that one person has been or is willing to take the time to do so. That really is, as it’s always been for me, the ultimate payoff.

Pete’s Perspective: SEGA CD

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

I took a few minutes to sit in front of the camera and talk about the SEGA CD, which I recently added to my retro library, thanks to my buddy Sam. After shooting the video, I decided to resurrect the Pete’s Perspective series title… which is something that I used for various article series back when I was chasing my gaming press dream. There’s something that Half-Bit (Retrospective Perspective video series creator, writer, and talent) said about his more recent videos that made me consider the title. It’s about perspective– how we saw these games and consoles back when we played them originally– that he takes into account when putting together his work, and it’s a vision that I share. My views are driven by the original memories that I have instead of more modern comparisons or review criteria.

Hence… a new series is born. I give to you the first video in the series… Pete’s Perspective: SEGA CD. I hope you like it… and please, feel free to shoot me feedback if you wish. That includes games and systems that you might want to hear my thoughts on in front of the camera.

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