Hawkes Editorial: The Arrival of Objectivity

In: Uncategorized by David LaMont

25 Nov 2008

Thanks to the generosity of listener ErwinEnFire, I have received a 40GB PlayStation 3 as of few weeks ago.

Honestly, it’s one of those strange moments in my life. I appreciate the gift, but it’s just not something I’m used to. The fact that someone wants to offer me their old PS3 is just so left field that at first I thought I had entered the twilight zone. I half expected the corpse of Rod Serling to intone, “Submitted for your opinion, David LaMont, alias Cooper Hawkes. Father, husband, computer geek, gamer. He has traveled the boundaries of the internet seeking a level of fame the size of Tay Zonday and Tron Guy, but instead he StumbledUpon the darker recesses of the world wide web and crossed over… into the Twilight Zone.”

The music rises, then Rod rips my throat out. ‘Cause he’s dead.

We’re talking Zombie Rod, folks.

What follows are my collective thoughts on a day-to-day basis, beginning with Erwin’s e-mail about shipping and tracking number, culminating in the opening and setup of the new PS3.I’ll do my best to minimize the use of “excited” as my singular adjective. So sit back, grab a beer or a shot or both, and enjoy the narcissism.

Day 1 (Monday, November 3): The Shipping News

The e-mail arrived at 2:23 p.m. In it, Erwin told me that plans had changed; he had purchased an 80GB PS3 on Saturday but had to return it because it didn’t play DVDs. Throughout the e-mail/phone exchange I made it clear that I didn’t want the PS3 shipped until Erwin had his new one. But he has altered that plan, sending it this afternoon.

FedEx’s website shows a potential delivery date of November 7 — this Friday.

I managed to playfully insult Erwin by calling him a son of a bitch for changing the plan, but I quickly thanked him for what must be the umpteenth time. Then, as I reread and respond to his e-mail, something sticks out to me: “Someone needs to sign for it and I checked residential address.”

Uh oh. I live in an apartment complex. The deal is supposed to be that if a resident isn’t home, the main office has the ability to sign for your packages and hold them for you there. But by checking this box, it’s possible that the main office will not be authorized to sign for the package and FedEx will take it back and try to deliver it again — on the following Monday.

I am a pretty patient man, normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that my son has recently discovered and fallen in love with Speed Racer (the new movie, not the old cartoon) and since his birthday was coming up and I knew that Erwin was four-day shipping it today, I told Liam’s grandfather to pickup a copy of Speed Racer… on BluRay.

Excitement turns to nervousness. Liam not being able to watch the movie would be very very bad. I make a mental note to contact FedEx and give them permission to deliver to the main office. I hope it’s something they can do over the phone, but we’ll see.

It’s currently 10:35 p.m., and FedEx’s tracking page shows my new toy sitting in a truck on its way to a sorting facility. The reality of this still hasn’t hit me yet; a part of me thinks that this is a trap, that there’ll be snakes in the PS3 box or a scorpion or something. That it’s all part of a complicated scheme just to mess with my mind/heart/soul. I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but it just won’t seem real to me until the controller is in my hand and the system is powered up.

I go to bed with a cautiously optimistic feeling, and unlike the rest of the United States of America, my feeling has nothing to do with the election.

Day 2 (Tuesday, November 4): 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10… RED LIGHT!

Today is Election Day, and I really could care less. What’s the point? I have no faith in political systems or parties or that one man or woman can make a difference. You would think my years of video games with their “lone hero being the savior of (insert group here)” mechanic that I would welcome an idea like that. The difference is, I understand that the world of video games is (Gasp!) FANTASY!

Anyway.

As of 10:50 p.m. we have a new president. Whoop-dee-do. My PS3 is sitting in a truck and the tracking info hasn’t been updated since 6:37 this morning!! That’s 12 hours of nothing, zilch, nada. To paraphrase 360Voice.com: “Seven SPE’s, one cell processor, 256MB of video memory, and here I sit inert.”

Poor thing, probably just needs a hug, and some electricity, and perhaps a BluRay copy of Casino Royale.

Somehow an image pops into my head: The song “Love Is a Many Splendor Thing” plays as I run across a beach holding onto a DualShock 3 controller attached via USB wire to my PS3. We laugh happily, though I can’t see the PS3’s mouth, and frankly hate to think what it uses for one. We collapse in the sand, lean into each other…

And I realize that I’m certifiably insane.

It’s black plastic, with silicon and more plastic on the inside. It is not the savior of all, nor is it the thing that’s going to help me to smile when things are bad. Okay, maybe that last part is true, but still, it’s just a machine. It doesn’t care about me, can never return any type of emotional response. Yet here I am, wondering if it’s okay, if the driver of that truck is being careful when they get to bumps. I’m worried that something will jar loose and make my PS3 nothing more than plastic and silicon.

And maybe that’s really why I feel this way, because in the end, it’s not just plastic and silicon. It’s more than the sum of its parts. It is the culmination of many men and women’s work to try and bring a little happiness to a gamer’s life (and line their pockets. I’m not stupid!).

It’s occurred to me that the last time I owned multiple consoles was when the gaming industry was in its infancy — back in the early 80s. Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, Vectrex, Microvision, NES, TurboGrafix 16, Sega Genesis. I grabbed onto them like I was missing something. Perhaps this is just a flashback to that time when I was a few pounds more carefree and a ton more careless. Is this just Hawkes trying to recapture something as he pushes 40? Or is it just genuine excitement that after three years of Xbox 360 something different is coming?

I’ll let you know when it arrives.

Day 3 (Wednesday, November 5 ): The No-Update Update.

FedEx says:

Nov 4, 2008, 6:37 a.m., Departed FedEx location Hutchins, TX.

It has been that way for more than 24 hours.

I know what it means: It’s on a long car ride to wherever its switching location is, hopefully someplace in Massachusetts, but most likely New York first, then up to Massachusetts. The delivery date still shows as November 6, which would be an amazing miracle of good driving on the part of the shipping driver.

I start to wonder about the transport bringing it from Texas to wherever it’s heading to. Is it a big rig? A smaller more traditional FedEx truck? Is the cab open to the back of the truck, and is the man driving listening to the election results with either happiness or disdain? Is he drinking?… Gasp! Is he smoking around my PS3?!?!?

Welcome to the curse of a writer. A writer will look at any situation and try to discern the direction it’s going. Doing this, you wind up looking at it from angles you shudder to think about. I’m pretty sure that I dreamed the driver had pulled over and was sodomizing my PS3. Insert creepy banjo music here.

Is the driver being careful with bumps? Did he jar the blue diode that enables the BluRay player? Is the SixAxis controller shaking so much that it will no longer react to movements? It’s a pathetic level of imagination over something so simple, but this is the mind of Hawkes. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s not boring.

My wife asked me if it would be okay for her to go hang out with a girlfriend tomorrow night. I agreed, not even realizing at the time of agreement that by doing this that I’ve given myself the chance to play with the PS3 should it arrive. The precious… preciousssss PSSSS3…

Okay, it’s not quite as scary as Golum, but damn if I don’t sound obsessed over something I don’t even know I’m going to like. I start planning what I’m going to do. Link up my pre-made “CooperHawkes” PSN ID, making sure all updates are in. Change the screen to something I enjoy, connect to my wireless network and test out PlayOn to see if it works, connect up my borrowed PSP to the PS3 and check out the cross functionality between the two. And oh yeah, maybe I’ll even play a game of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, but that may be pushing it.

As I head off to bed, I hope the truck doesn’t run into issues, that it arrives at wherever it’s supposed to safely, and that the driver isn’t a techno-rapist.

Day 4 (November 6th, 2008): Enable Refresh. Set Time: 10 Seconds.

Waking up this morning, I did my usual routine. I showered, got dressed, (can’t tell you how many times I accidentally reversed that), grabbed my lunch and headed to the office. Life as a database/systems administrator goes something like this: First, see if there’s a fire, then look for smoke. If after all that things look to be good, I can relax for a bit and hope I didn’t miss anything. Sometimes I have assignments, build new servers or databases, but there are also times where there’s really nothing to do.

Today was a day like that, and it made the day harder because after checking out all the servers under my control, I hit up FedEx and nearly spit my coffee out when I read:

Nov 5, 2008: 11:53 PM Arrived at FedEx Location Willington, CT

Nov 6, 2008: 3:57 AM Departed FedEx Location Willington, CT

Nov 6, 2008: 6:06 AM At local FedEx Facility North Billerica, MA

Nov 6, 2008: 7:43 AM On FedEx vehicle for delivery North Billerica, MA

Bless that hard working trucker who drove from Texas to Connecticut. Bless the secondary driver who took my PS3 from Connecticut to Massachusetts. And bless the current driver, who may not even know it but he’s about to deliver a podcast-altering product to my door.

I was giddy and announced it to people who follow me on Twitter. Immediately I got PSN ID requests that had to be fulfilled. I remembered to put ErwinAnFire’s phone number on my cell phone so I can call him just after its set up, like I promised.

And of course, I had to actually earn my paycheck , so I closed the FedEx page and started working on the EMC SAN…

And then reopened FireFox and set the FedEx page for auto-refresh for every 10 seconds.

This was starting to get a little silly. I was anxious and excited, but I was also nervous. Would the FedEx man allow my apartment office to sign for the package? Would I really be getting it today? Would the copy of Resistance that MajMalfunction sent me just sit next to my HDTV taunting me like the high-school bully who stole my Vectrex?

That last sentence will get a longer editorial another day.

The morning had become a strange routine. Do something work related, stop, check the page, sigh, back to work. Rinse and repeat. When the EMC service tech came to train me on installing our new 7-terabyte enclosure, I wind up signing into a server in the production server room and refreshing the FedEx page manually while waiting for firmware updates to load.

I’ve crossed over from “potentially pathetic” to “100 percent pure pathetic” in the matter of one CTRL-R. (No FireFox allowed on the servers.)

The service tech was amused and excited for me as well when I explained what I was waiting for. In the end we couldn’t complete the task. Back at my desk, I wrote up my report and sent it to my boss, then checked the FireFox auto-refresh page:

Nov 6, 2008, 11:49 a.m.: Delivered

No coffee to nearly spit out this time, instead I swallowed my saliva. It was here, about eight miles away, give or take. It was in the office at my apartment, and I was three hours away from having it in my hands.

Excuses came to mind, but my excitement over it meant that every excuse would be met with skepticism. I had told everyone who was willing to listen that it was coming. While I worked I thought of different ways I could possibly go, get it, and have it set up, but nothing worked. Nothing would ever work.

I knew that the last three hours would take forever, and they certainly did. I decided I would leave a half hour early, at 2 p.m. — the best I could do under the circumstances. Before I could even get acknowledgment for the goodbye I threw to my boss, I was already peeling out of the parking lot, racing towards home.

Sounds wonderfully dramatic, huh? Truth is I walked slowly to my car, a slight skip in my step, carefully pulled out, and drove at a reasonable speed the entire way home.

Sounds wonderfully boring, huh? Well the REAL truth is somewhere in the middle, but I’m not exactly sure because the ride home was a blur. In New England, there’s no such thing as one way there. You have a vast number of different routes available, and it’s become the pride of every New Englander to find the quickest and shortest way to your destination. I’ve been playing this game myself, and I can see the appeal. Because of it I have about five different ways to get from office to home. So when I tell you that if someone put a gun to my head and demanded to know which way I took home, believe me when I say I would be a dead man, because I cannot remember anything of the ride home.

Up to the main office, parked the car, walked in the door and said: “I’mMisterLaMontfromapartmentXXXXX. YouhaveapackagefromFedExforme?”

Read it faster.

No, faster than that.

Look, I had to ask her three times before I finally slowed down enough for her to understand, okay?

She walked into the “magic place” and pulled out a printer box. Wait, what? A printer box?!?!?!

Suddenly thoughts of an elaborate jack-in-the-box with a clown holding a sign reading, “Yew g0t pwned,” seem more real than ever.

I signed for the box and brought it to my car. I shook the box — pretty damn quiet for an expensive piece of equipment. Perhaps he just packed it well.

Back home, I walked in to find my son splayed out trying to watch a movie. He wasn’t feeling well and was trying to relax. His sitter, who is also my wife’s cousin, was giving me an update when she finally said, “What happened to your old printer?”

“Nothing, this is supposed to be a PS3.”

“Doesn’t look like a PS3.”

I explained the story to her and she looked skeptical. “Are you sure it’s in there?” she asked.

“I think so, he didn’t strike me as a bullshit artist, I’m going to open it. Hopefully it’s not a box of snakes.”

Instinctively she stepped back. Like Indiana Jones my sons afternoon caregiver is not exactly a friend of snakes. But with the tape cut and the box opened, I saw why I couldn’t feel anything moving. Erwin had wrapped it quite tightly in bubble tape. I’m pretty sure that it was the most protected thing on that truck from Texas to Connecticut. Head to toe, back to front, in bubble tape. I could have tossed it from a high-rise window and it probably would have survived. I did not test that theory of course.

With it came a recharge cord (that’s a Sony name for “USB cable”), a copy of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (since Erwin was getting a new copy), and a power cable. But no SD video/audio output cable. Remembering back to the conversations, I realize I had told him I was hooking it up via HDMI to my big screen before I had cleared it with the Missus. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t include the SD cables as part of the deal. Oh well, it just gave me an excuse to keep the thing next to my 1080p LCD.

Damn shame — he said, with a smile on his face.

It was about as big as I thought, but much lighter than I imagined. Very sleek and quite clean. The controller is just too damn light (SixAxis as opposed to a DualShock 3), but I think I’ll get used to it. As the time for a movie change was happening, I setup the PS3 and powered it up just to make sure it worked. The orchestra warmed up, and on the screen was Sackboy and the XMB.

Cooper Hawkes owns a PS3. Cell processor, 256MB of video RAM, 40GB hard drive, WiFi, BluRay player, gaming goliath — sitting in my living room, and of all the amazing things I wanted to do with this wonderful piece of technology, it’s first official Hawkes use was… to play the DVD version of Pete’s Dragon for my son.

What, like you expected me to scare the shit out of my son with a battle against the chimera?

The up-scaling is very nice, and using the SixAxis as the “remote” is cute and fun, but my son got a big kick out of changing the DVD when he decided he wanted to watch Frosty the Snowman.

During the movies I called Erwin, both to thank him and to let him know that it had arrived without fail. He was so damned cordial that I felt for a second like I conned him out of his PS3. It wasn’t the case. This was his offer from the get-go, but damn if I didn’t feel like a heel. I wished him well, and he promised to send me a memory stick since he had neglected to take his saved games before sending the system. Oops.

So the movies end, and it’s time to do the normal routine. Eat, bathe, stories, sleep for the little guy. I was patient, I was careful that everything he needed was taken care of. Let’s face it, I was building up positive karma points.

Shortly after he went to sleep, I cleaned up around the house, made Liam’s lunch for school, did the dishes, and put everything away. My wife had gone out with a girlfriend, so I had the house to myself.

I booted my PC for Media Mall’s PlayOn testing and re-setup the PS3. And the first thing I did was connect WiFi network. I then changed the theme to default and got the 2.52 firmware update. After installation, I created my user name and linked it to my PSN ID (which, for those wondering, is CooperHawkes).

I started playing around with various elements. The PlayOn piece worked very nicely, and I was pleasantly shocked when I saw that you could copy stuff to your hard drive for playback later using PlayOn — very nice! It doesn’t work well with Hulu and its commercials, but for YouTube and others, it may be neat.

I’ll play with that later, time to add some friends.

I added Erwin (of course) MajMalfunction and HeartbreakRidge. I stopped there because the input is pretty damn clunky. I mean, if you have a keyboard it’s good, but Sony mirrored a QWERTY keyboard layout for controller input. In other words, it’s like trying to type using the controller to point at the letters and numbers. I’m sure it’s not a big deal if you’re used to it, but I’m used to Xbox’s alphabetical-order way of doing it. It kind of made the process harder for me.

I wanted to go to the Playstation website and try adding, but that wasn’t an available feature. The online function, while capable, is limited as compared to Xbox, I’ll say that much. There are ways to do things on PSN that Xbox just does easier. Then again, PSN offers a level of flexibility that’s not even close to Xbox. For example, I had a user ID for Playstation Underground since 2003. This was linked to my forum name of CooperHawkes. When I knew that eventually I would get a PS3, I created a completely different PSU ID and a PSN ID for CooperHawkes. This meant THREE separate accounts, one for PSN, two for PSU.

It was a bit of a hack job to figure it out, but eventually I got my 2003 ID and PSN ID and password to be exactly the same and linked. This included having to change the e-mail address several times and unlink and relink the PSN ID.

And right at that moment, it suddenly occurred to me that it wasn’t a PS3 that had arrived at my house, but objectivity — something I’ve been missing on the podcast since day one. It was actually quite a cathartic experience. No longer would I be looked at as a raving Xbox 360 fanboy because it’s all I could talk about. I now could compare and contrast between the two, and if someone were to ask for full details, I could do it.

It felt good, actually, to know that I’ve taken another step towards full gaming knowledge. I suppose that, to complete this knowledge, I’ll have to get a Wii.

But nah, I’ll let Edie keep that one.

With the system finally tweaked and with my ID in place, I thought of other things I wanted to do. Try Remote Play. Try watching trailers. Instead, I pulled out Resistance, and popped it in. Then I popped in Uncharted. You’ll have to listen to the podcast for full details on both of those games, but for what it’s worth, I was enjoying myself immensely and even wound up with some trophies. In short, both games get thumbs up and will be played again.

It was 10:30 p.m. when I reminded myself that I have to be up at 5 a.m. the next day, so away went the SixAxis controller and down went the PS3 (which was background downloading demos for WarHawk and Motorstorm). I spoke with my wife for a while, and fell asleep — peaceful, calm, and the last thought in my head before I embraced the sandman was, “What game next?”

Friday, November 7, 2008: The day after.

Today I put last night’s revelations into perspective. As much as I am closer to impartial, I am now in a dilemma. How do I decide which version to get of a particular game? InfectedPB503 of XBLRadio actually pointed that out to me, and at the time I thought it was a simple matter of multiplayer games for Xbox and single-player titles for PS3.

Yet there were other subtle differences: The controller, the setup, changing discs as may be necessary, installations on PS3. Perhaps it’s better to just stick with exclusives for PS3 and game simply on my Xbox, but that wouldn’t be fair, either.

But I relish having to make these decisions, and I also have my brother-in-law to help out since he too has a PS3 and will most likely fill in the gaps.

Tonight, I’ll try out the demos, and get back to Uncharted. Erwin was also kind enough to allow me to share some games he downloaded: Wipeout, Nova Strike, Bionic Commando, Penny Arcade. Maybe I’ll give them a go. But I feel closer to complete now, like I’ve gone from 35 percent gamer to 70 percent gamer, and it’s the best feeling for a gamer to have.

Thank you Erwin. Thank you for your generosity, for your compassion, and for your amazing and wonderful gift. You have a good spot reserved for you in the next life.

And me? Well, my gaming nights just got very interesting, and a lot more objective.

Thanks for reading!Hawkes

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7 Responses to Hawkes Editorial: The Arrival of Objectivity

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Platform Nation » Blog Archive » Hawkes Editorial: The Arrival of Objectivity

November 25th, 2008 at 4:13 am

[...] as my singular adjective.So sit back, grab a beer or a shot or both, and enjoy the narcissism. (more…) Like what you see? Help PN by promoting us with the links [...]

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Cat

November 25th, 2008 at 4:49 am

Great read, dude!

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ErwinAnFire

November 25th, 2008 at 5:01 am

Good writing Hawkes, Truly the stars and planets aligned in such a way that your ps3 made it quickly and safe.

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HeartbreakRidge

November 25th, 2008 at 6:13 am

Leave it to Hawkes to make a FedEx delivery a thrilling page turner! :)

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TedvarT

November 25th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Another great editorial Hawkes :D

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Slymanx

November 25th, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Wow, Hawkes, have you ever thought about getting into professional journalism? Or even freelancing for gaming mags or websites. The way your paragraphs flow into each other is a gift. You’ve got amazing talent Hawkes. Good to hear about the PS3 though, I NEED MGS4, so hopefully Santa will be nice this Christmas and get me one.

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CooperHawkes

November 26th, 2008 at 4:12 am

Thank you all for the great comments, an extra special thanks to Erwin for obvious reasons, and to Slymanx who made my day with his “professional journalism” comment. :)

The short answer is yes I thought about it, but at the time I was in high school video games was still niche, I didn’t think there COULD be a career in Video Game Journalism, and regular journalism? Well.. let’s just say I didn’t want to chase corpses for a living. Thankfully I have a place where I can exercise my writing muscle.

Thanks to everyone!

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