Weekly Little Big Planet: up up and away

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I haven’t really considered the toll all of this is taking on my little sackboy. He’s a social creature. Much more so than I am. Being locked inside my PS3 is tearing him up. I try to explain it to him, but it’s no use. Letting him run around in story levels isn’t helping either. He was raised in the community. He needs to explore those levels. They make him feel alive.

Wait. What’s that you say? The PlayStation Network is now up? Phew. What a relief! He’s going to be so happy! Okay fine. I forgive you Sony. I forgive you if you promise not to let it happen again.

Okay then…knuckle-crack…let’s do this.

After the jump, what being up looks like

Your password is no longer valid.

Huh. Well, I suppose that makes sense. The system was compromised and forcing me to reset my password is inarguably a wise thing. So what do I do? Oh, I have to reset my password using a PC. Um…ok. All I have to do is wait for an email to be sent to me with a link. Cool. In the meantime I’ll just play some of the main game I’ve been playing this week while installing, updating and noodling around with computer and console issues. Those pigs aren’t going to return the eggs without a fight.

My week was consumed with six major gaming-related activities.

1. Playing the Angry Birds online beta (in HD).
2. Installing Steam for the first time.
3. Starting the first game I’ve ever played on Steam at home. Great success!
4. Trying to install an old (shelved) Steam game for the first time. Failure.
5. Not being able to get on PSN, which is now up, don’t cha know.
6. Playing the Angry Birds online beta (in HD).

The best part of my week was number three. Easily. I can’t wait to tell you about this game. You probably already know about it, as it’s a couple of years old, but it’s new to me and…well…let’s just table that for now. I need to click over and check my email real quick.

I’m back. No email from Sony yet. Understandable. I mean it’s not like buying a movie ticket and getting immediate confirmation in your inbox. Or buying something from Amazon and getting zapped with an instant e-mail. Because those companies are on the Internet.

Anyway, I’ll be writing about that number three game later. Trust me, you don’t want to hear from me on that yet. It’s way too early. Oh, and you did read number two above correctly. This is the first time I’ve installed Steam on a computer. Ever.

Does anybody else remember a time when Steam was a distrusted thing? Or, at the very least, an unknown of which to be wary? Was that just me? Years of watching the six computers at our weekly LAN gathering become increasingly comfortable with Steam have eliminated this sense in me, but at first I recall looking at Steam with suspicion. To be honest, I didn’t get it, and resented it. Years ago a couple friends of mine gave me Half-Life 2 for my birthday, totally surprising me. It was a cool thing to do, but with a newborn in the house not really practical, especially considering I was going to have to install this thing called Steam that would manage my new game over the Internet for some reason. Why couldn’t I just install my new game and play it? Why did Valve have to throw this Steam nonsense into the mix? I realize now that working it out wouldn’t have been so hard, but I was managing a new child at the time. I was overwhelmed as it was. So, Half-Life 2 went onto the shelf. Where it stayed.

Hey! I just got the email! It only took an hour for Sony to get it to me. Sweet!

Let me see. I need to click this link to reset my password. Okey-dokey. This link will expire in 24 hours from the time that it was sent. Meh. 24 hours. Whatever. Let me just click over and…

The bottom portion is the Chrome translation of the Japanese text. I like that apology better.

Anyway, the first PC game I ever received as a gift was the original Half-Life. Actually, it might have been Riven. I don’t remember. For the sake of this column, let’s just say it was Half-Life. Regardless, the guy who bought me one made me buy the other. This was before I even knew what a LAN was, and this guy, my first Los Angeles friend, who did know what a LAN was and even attended a weekly LAN party was nudging me into gaming. I remember installing and loading Half-Life on my brand new Gateway for the first time, my buddy looking over my shoulder.

“I don’t remember all these load screens from playing at Tom’s house.”

“Well, maybe this computer isn’t as good.”

“You just got it.”

“I know. But what do I know?”

We played late into the night, until I started to feel woozy. Motion sickness. Didn’t matter. I’d taken my first step into a larger world. That night my friend taught me a couple of basic things about computer games. The one I remember most vividly being that if there’s a button or a lever in the game, you’re supposed to do something to it. You can’t just go about ignoring buttons and levers. It’s weird to recall a time when I didn’t understand something as basic as that. What can I say? This was my first time since the 2600. No joke.

Incidentally, rather than play out my day of clicking that link that Sony sent to me, I’m just going to reveal now that it never worked. In fact, as I write this, it’s been 23 hours since they sent me the link, and still the server is down for maintenance. Two things occur to me at this moment. One is my almost constant sense of amazement that a business the size of Sony has allowed itself to be crippled in this way. It really is stunning. I’m not going to hold forth on this too much. It’s not like it’s a tragedy or anything. But can you imagine your Internet provider going down for a month? How about your cable or satellite system. Just gone for a month. Bam. Just like that. It’s just weird. That’s all. First-world problems.

Oh, and the second thing that occurs to me at this moment is that Aron Ralston still had 104 hours to go at this point in his ordeal. So my 23 hardly seems worth complaining about.

Moving on. My first ever Steam install worked perfectly. My first ever game install through–from? over?–Steam also went off without a hitch. But I wasn’t ready to write about that game yet, so I looked to my shelf. There, unopened, sat Half-Life 2. Why not?

Why not. How to answer that. Hmm. I don’t really know. Because I have Windows 7 now? Is that a good answer to ‘why not’?

While it was amusing sitting here at my computer and loading disk after disk into the drive, I can’t say it was a pleasant experience, the constant side-challenge of smashing evil pigs notwithstanding. I’ve not been much of a proponent of digital distribution. I like owning the physical copies. I like holding a movie in its case and putting it in its alphabetical place in my collection. I like opening the box of a PC game. Recall that I was suspicious of Steam way back when. Maybe streaming movies on Netflix has lowered my guard, or the ease with which that first Steam game downloaded and played has changed my mind fully. But when HL2 refused to work–Steam shows it as an option in my library, but only offers me the chance to buy it, not to play it–after what seemed like hours of installing, I pretty much felt like if I never bought another PC game in a box that would be okay.

PSN Update: It’s officially been 24 hours now. Server’s still down, and they’re still sorry. Whatever. At least I’ve got two things going for me. A cool new game to explore, one that actually works. Thank you Steam. And Angry Birds just a browser click away. Thank you Rovio.

Actually, make that three. A shipment from Amazon just arrived with two new movies, and I’ve got a perfectly good blu-ray player in my office. So what if it won’t play games? For that, if nothing else, thank you Sony.

Lesson for this week: your brand new computer isn’t necessarily the answer. I just bought a really good new PC. One of the things I was excited about was finally cracking into my backlog of games, games my sad old PC could not handle. Why shouldn’t I be excited about this? They’re older games, and my new PC easily exceeds the system requirements listed on their boxes. Compatibility issues. Sigh.

Here endeth the lesson.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet

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