Author Archives: CommanderKeen

Gaming Cosplay

Are you a true gamer? Do you want to know what it is like? Let me give you an example of a day in the life. It is all about cosplay which is short for costume play. Never heard of it? It is a kind of performance art involving cosplayers who wear costumes, down to the smallest accessory. You pick your character and this new world becomes your hobby. It comes from Japan dating back to the 1990s and remains to this day in that this subculture is so much fun. Participants are growing.

If you like role-playing this is for you. You can be any character from anime, comic books and cartoons, not to mention video games and live-action movies and TV series. Anything goes. The only difference between cosplay and acting a part is that it does not take place in a theater. The costumes are the main part of the fun. I give a lot of attention to mine. I love it when I can show off my latest character at a fan convention. Meanwhile, we keep in touch as a group via social media. There are always activities scheduled.

When I prepare for an outing, I get out all the pieces that go with my costume. As mentioned, it is from popular media, most often science fiction. This means that it is extravagant and colorful. You can assemble your costume yourself or buy a kit. That is the easy route for beginners, but I chose to collect what I need over time. You do what it takes to get the look right. I also have a few prop “weapons” that go with my character and imbue it with reality. You need various raw materials including wigs, hair dye, assorted types of cloth and sewing notions, liquid latex, and body paint. I add costume jewelry and tons of makeup all the way down to having some Eyelashes to Die For. No, it is not like Halloween. This is an art form.

When I am finished dressing and have done the right makeup and have put on the wig or a headpiece, I am ready to go. I document today’s look for Instagram and Facebook. I get posts from fellow gamers with their new costumes on display. I can’t wait to get to my destination. There is no better social interaction for me. Sometimes I try to look appealing and attractive and other times I like to be fierce and scary. In this strange world, anything goes—the odder, the better. You “present” yourself to your gaming public in all your costumed glory. The epitome of a venue is Comic-con each year. I can’t always attend but I have once or twice. It is a veritable feast for the eyes and the mind. It is all about a fantasy life and tickling the imagination. I even went abroad for the London Super Comic Convention. You can hang with me if I ever see you anywhere.

Fish & Games

I find myself in the arcade quite often as you might have guessed. Arcade games can be about anything and everything, even fish. Competitive as I am, I want to excel when I indulge. Maybe a digital fish finder will do the job for the particular game I have in mind. The real ones work quite well for catching actual fish I am told. Why not go digital. Just what is this device anyway? I went online and saw a few of these odd high-tech gadgets that look like a cross between a smart phone (the screen part) and a mini TV. Wow, some are really expensive! Well over a thousand bucks. They talk about sonar imaging and chart plotting and scaling technology. I am impressed. Now how to use a computer fish finder is the pertinent question if there is such an animal.

This is maybe more a joke than reality, but I am amusing myself with the concept as I stand before one game that adds up points for various types of exotic fish caught. The rare ones, of course, earn the most. Surely I can develop an edge with a little help from my friend. Maybe it will activate a magical magnet that acts like a lure. I will set it on certain fish images and it won’t be cheating at all! Just a skill enhancer of sorts. When the desired one appears, zap. It is mine! The finder will always reveal what is under the digital water.

I am starting to enter that creative area where my mind wanders off into another realm. I am zoning out. I am imaging the perfect finder that I design myself. No more joke. I will make them for different arcade games and will even customize them for an ample price. I am not limited to fish. I see a lucrative new industry emerging with my name on it. It will revolutionize the whole field. You will need skill, and thus it will continue the fair functioning of traditional arcade games. Users will have to learn all the options and adjustments. They could be computerized finders or hand-held items. There could even be an app installed on a smart phone. I am not sure yet of the exact nature of this thing I have in mind. I need to consult with an electronics expert who will keep it a secret or become an ally. I will buy a cheap fish finder for now and study it to death. Its inner workings will become a template with a new purpose. I am getting quite agitated and excited. I hope you are still with me.

I suppose I will need seed money for capital before I begin. I plan to contact the Shark Tank show on TV. They will go for it and hopefully fund the whole process. It’s a money maker! That’s all they care about. For me, it is about pushing arcade games into the future and it is long overdue.

Dress Code Gamer – Tech & gamer fashion clothes


You can usually spot a gamer by the clothes that they wear, which is usually jeans and a t-shirt with their favorite game of choice on it, or a witty sci-fi reference of some sort. At least, that’s what the mainstream would have you think. We don’t all dress like that. In fact, a lot of gamers can have some pretty creative outfits to wear and we blend in just like everyone else.

Accessories have become a new way for gamers to express their love of the genre. Jewelry has become a popular way for gamers to express their fashion flair with Zelda Spiritual Stone rings, Steampunk cog necklaces and accessories, awesome Assassins Creed jackets…the list goes on.

There are some styles that can be a bit out there as well, such as dressing up like a superhero. I don’t mean wearing an Iron Man shirt and matching cap. You can now get T-shirts with capes attached for example.

Do gamers actually have a certain dress code though? It generally seems to be casual wear, the afore mentioned jeans and T-shirts with a hoodie thrown in. Clothing is usually black and shirts generally have what some would call geeky pop culture quotes. And don’t forget your slouch beanie!

I think a lot of it depends on what genre of games you like too. Some are influenced by a favorite character or game genre, like anime, and will dress accordingly. A lot of the styles worn now used to be considered geeky not too long ago. But geeky is the new black these days and I’m grateful for that because it means I don’t need to hide or buy a new wardrobe.

Gamer fashion has grown by leaps and bounds and has become part of the mainstream. We get to be as creative as we want these days and many of the fashions and accessories are really cool. I especially love the hoodies they are coming out with for WoW and Assassins Creed (which has that peaked hood).

What’s really interesting these days are the tech fashions coming out; glowing shirts with led lights, color changing clothes that are timed with the beat of the music you are listening to, and dresses that show your Tweets are just a few of the amazing things they are coming out with. I think where tech meats fashion, it’s all about functionality. Look at the new Google Glass for example. A wearable computer that can use voice commands to surf the web for you. Who knows how technology with infuse the gaming lifestyle with fashion in the future. I can guarantee it will be pretty interesting though.

There isn’t really a specific dress code for gamers to adapt to. Clothes are geared towards comfort and showcasing your favorite genre, game, or quotes. Add some of the fantastic accessories they have out there for gamers and you are set to go….gaming.

The Amazing Fireplace at the Arcade

A heritage building is very special to behold. It has historical value, appealing design features, and emotional associations having been around for so long. Most towns have one or two that are landmarks. In my area, there is one that is the location of one of my favorite game arcades. There are several, but this one has a special place in my heart. No other place is quite like it. It seems odd for a game venue, but in actuality is perfectly suited to the pursuit.

The façade is all brick with traditional classical accents like pediments and Greek columns. It is a feast for the eye. Here and there are flat pilasters with Corinthian capitals. It’s just the right amount of ornate detailing. The front door jambs are carved stone. It may be standard style as heritage goes, but it is unique in my neighborhood. These buildings are becoming rare as they are being replaced during gentrification of older urban areas. It is a shame and public outcry will have to save these lovely landmarks.

So, that being said, I love this arcade and go frequently. It has been restored inside for its new contemporary purpose. It was probably an office building of some type long ago, probably not a factory or warehouse. The walls are modern now and sleek. Lighting is designed for gamers like me. However, there is a surprise. A room off to one side of the main area has been left intact from the old days. It is a nice size and contains an amazing huge fireplace that had been modernised with a fireplace insert so that they could run it without interfering with the gaming machines. It is completely old world and the focal point for anyone who enters, intentionally or by accident. It could have been a library or meeting area. Now it houses special groups and parties upon request—not just for games. The fireplace adds so much warmth and atmosphere to a special occasion. It seems at odds with gaming, but really isn’t given the exterior style. Video games are now and the building is then; but it all works somehow.

What I like about the focal point fireplace is the placement in the room and the wonderful materials. It has a gorgeous carved wood mantle no doubt fashioned by a talented artisan with amazing skills. This kind of craftsmanship is rare these days. It is one of the Finest Fires I’ve ever seen! It has a rather simple brick construction with inlaid tile detailing—just beautiful to behold. Brass antique andirons grace one side. Granite completes the look in front of the hearth. I think most locals don’t realize the gem that exists at this particular arcade. With this blog, now you know!

In the winter, they light the fire using real logs—no gas. It is warm and cozy as a result, great on those rainy and/or cold days. I am thinking of renting the room for a birthday bash in the near future. I think my friends will be pleasantly surprised. It is a unique option and on the top of my to-do list. I am thinking about the guest list as I write.

The Trouble Faucet at the Local Arcade

When you are out for fun and social excitement at the local arcade, you don’t expect any surprises, like being completely showered with water (unless it’s pouring rain). It sounds harmless, but wait and see.

I have my favorite game place, my usual friends and sidekicks that go along (or not), and a regular routine when I get there. I go casual enough in simple clothes, hang out, play until I am thoroughly saturated, and go home. However, recently a few fellow gamers decided to go out after. This was pretty special as we don’t often indulge. Like I said, I have a routine.

I donned some better duds for the occasion. A great top over jeans is fancy in my book and I was proud of the look. So on it went and out I did go. The evening was uneventful at first. I know what to expect and get what I come for. You bump into people if it’s crowded, but no big deal. I was a little cautious about moving around and considered myself lucky by the end of the night that I had no spots or stains on the beloved blouse. I really made an effort to keep it pristine.

Yes, I had done a good job of dodging some rambunctious newbies. Some people get over excited and I get that. But I was wary nonetheless. So I decided to get ready to go, signaled my friends, and headed for the washroom to freshen up.

I waited my turn, went inside, turned on the light, and took a glance in the mirror. Everything looked fine. Then I looked down, saw dirty hands, and set out to do the washing task. It turns out their faucet in the bathroom was broken, so I had to go use their little staff kitchen area. For what was an otherwise very unassuming arcade, they had a really nice staff kitchen that was decked out with a really fancy faucet. I turned on the faucet gently, but whew! Water came spewing out in a gush. Panicking, I grabbed the knobs and twisted and turned them fiercely. After a short while, I did succeed and stepped back to take a breath. Inhale, exhale. I had survived the onslaught. Or so I thought. My top was soaked. The beautiful, delicate fabric was drenched. Didn’t respond well to the water. It wrinkles as it dried and left an obvious mark around the edges of the affected area. You can’t just hope for the best.

It was ruined. It had to go to the dry cleaners, and pronto if I wanted to ever wear it again. I was devastated. I love that blouse and wanted to look good—all night. I thought quietly for a moment, then grudgingly reached for my trusty backpack. I had an old tee inside that I keep for who knows why. It ain’t great but it would do. I put it on and thanked my lucky stars it was at least clean. I rolled up the top and stowed it away.

I ventured out to find my awaiting gang. They looked puzzled as I said, “don’t ask!” They did and I explained. “We love you whatever you are wearing,” they joined in together. “Let’s go.”

The Frogger High Score

In 1998, the Frogger episode aired on the popular Seinfeld hit series during the final season – here’s a brief highlight reel of the show. The shows seemed to be about nothing and yet everything was fair game. Any subject was good for a few laughs. In this memorable episode, the plot line featured George still with the historical high score on the old Frogger video machine at Mario’s (the local pizza parlor hangout soon to be closed). He has had over 860,000 points since High School. This was a big moment for him and he must do something to preserve the game for posterity when the old stomping ground becomes defunct. Maybe it is a symbol of some kind of past success amid present failure. Munching his last slice of pizza in Mario’s with the gang, he thinks about buying it and taking it home, but it can’t be unplugged or it will shut down. What to do? He has been preparing for this moment his entire life, he says.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Kramer to the rescue. He knows a man named “Slippery Pete” who can help coordinate the movement of the Frogger machine from its long-time home to its final resting place. He suggests stealing a battery. Shortly thereafter, George finds the man playing the game on battery power with only three minutes remaining – something that definitely wouldn’t have happened if they had decided to use a small generator like this rather than some kind of battery powered system. Tension. Suspense. The game’s memory must be remain intact or all is lost.

Another power source must be found. There it is across the street at the pharmacy, and the machine must be transported at all costs. Traffic is dense and the scene cleverly mimics the arcade game itself with the zany cartoon frogs battling vehicles in the road. The curb is a stumbling block for George, however, who insists on doing the job alone; and all seems futile. It turns out to be true when a Freightliner smashes the cabinet into bits and pieces as Jerry mutters, “game over.” Anguish. It is a comedy of errors and as funny as any vaudeville skit. Jason Alexander allegedly performed his own stunts and had to nimbly jump out of the way of the approaching truck and then the airborne wreckage. He said it was a close call. It all adds to the legend in retrospect.

The Frogger was an actual arcade game inaugurated in 1981 in which players directed the amphibians to safety and their eventual lily pad homes. It is still played today and now has nostalgia value. It is simple, like many of the games during the golden age. The frogs only had to navigate rivers, roads, and assorted hazards. A joystick manipulated the moves. Simple was also George’s solution. But alas, it didn’t work. Of note is the useful battery/generator that was supposed to keep the Frogger game alive. The moral is clear. Have one handy in case the power goes out during an earth-moving game. Carry it to an arcade, your friends’ homes, or any possible venue. You won’t lose your record wins like George. A sorry ending for a well-intentioned plan.

Toilet Art

There are vast places to play video games: at home, online, at an arcade in the mall or at a fair, where ever. Visiting the Santa Monica pier this summer brought me to an old-fashioned game venue that was “out of sight.” It was mind-blowing in décor, the variety of games, and the people! I mean the hair, the tattoos the clothes. Maybe I was there on some kind of cos play event day, I don’t know. It was pretty good people watching.

In any case, I joined in, wading through the crowd to get to my game of choice. I found myself in front of Dark Escape so I stayed, not wanted any further pushing and prodding to occur. I had downed a few drinks on the pier along with the local hotdog covered in deviled crab, and began a night of pure fun. I switched to a couple more games and the hours flew by.

Around 11:00 pm, duty called and I headed for the toilet at the back of the large building. I might have waited too long so I was impatient. Finally my turn came and I bolted in and locked the door. It was dark, only a single yellow gaping bulb to guide my way. I found another switch and with shock I saw the toilet light up—all neon and totally gaudy. The ceramic bowl itself had been painted in bright day-glo colors in full harmony with its surroundings. I stood wide-eyed. I thought I had seen it all before when it comes to arcades.

This bathroom was in a category all its own. I started to see that the walls were also painted in a similar theme with fantastic faces and creatures clawing at each other—at a very high level of drawing skill. I loved the toilet the best. Compared to the ones I’d seen before on Rate My Toilet, this was in a class of its own. The white paper looked purple in the artificial light. It was awesome. Was this a communal job, done by multiple participants over weeks, months, or years? What brainchild started it? There were no posted photos or signatures as you see in some public places for kids.

The painting was very good but clearly not done by one person, and they had all followed a theme. It is amazing that they would cooperate like that. People prefer to ruin others’ work if they can. They like to mar surfaces and cause visual havoc like errant taggers.

In essence, I loved it and stayed until I heard some angry raps at the door and a few shouts. Okay, okay, I said, and emerged, a smile on my face. I walked up and down the pier and tried every available restroom door. No more painted toilets, no personalized messages for those getting relief. Just plain ordinary somewhat disheveled rooms with stalls as plain as can be.

I wanted to go back but was late meeting a friend and had to rush off. Among my arcade experiences, this was indeed a time to remember – toilet art in its finest expression. Too good for Instagram, it’s only in my memories now.

Code in Cinema – Famous Hacker Movies


Hacker movies have been around since 1968 believe it or not. There is something about these types of movies that are alluring to us computer, technology and gamer geeks alike. More often than not these movies feature a teenager who is smarter than average, an underdog who gets their own back, or a group of geeks saving the day (Hooray for the underdogs!) While a good chunk of these movies are chock full of inconsistencies, they are still fun and exciting to watch. The average person watching these movies will probably not notice the difference between improperly used source codes and real ones, but I have seen programmers go mental over coding misuse.

Let’s have a look at some of the most famous hacker movies out there:

War Games – An oldie but a goodie, War Games shows us an intelligent teen who knows how to hack into his school’s computer, amongst other places. He gets in trouble when he tries to hack into a gaming company and inadvertently finds a way into NORAD’s computers and nearly starts WW3. Interesting fact: in 1984 there was a video game version of the movie created for Commodore 64, Atari, and ColecoVision consoles (double points to those who actually have played on these).

Hackers – This is one of my favorites. A story about a teen who gets arrested for hacking into the NY Stock Exchange and crashing it. He gets banned from using computers until he hits 18 but before that happens a plot is discovered by him and his friends regarding a computer virus that is about to be spread globally. What’s great about this one is that it came out at a time when the internet was not so well known by the majority of the public.

Tron Legacy – While the original Tron movie is a classic in its own right, the 2010 creation of Tron Legacy gave the old movie concept a bit of “umph”. We are brought back to the digital world that was created in the original movie which has grown in ways never thought of.

The Matrix – This movie went on to make two sequels but who didn’t fall in love with the idea of a simulated world in our heads and a band of rebels on the outside trying to put an end to those trying to control the population. The binary patterns and codes from the movie are still used today in art, games, and other memorabilia.

Johnny Mnemonic – Keanu Reeves in another computer hacker movie. He is known as a “data courier” in a world where data is stored inside of a person’s head. He ends up with a file that is too large to hold for long and must find a way to get it out before it kills him. This requires the help of a hacker to get into his head and stop the madness.

These are just a scant few of the movies that have come out about hackers over the past 40 plus years. Some of these movies have inspired games, books, and new programs to be created and, while not always 100% realistic about the craft of hacking, it has its own huge following of us hacker loving geeks.

A Lesson for Life

Trips to the arcade are frequent in my life. As a matter of fact they are legion. Ok. I am a game addict and proud of it. But you have to have a sense of humor about it or it becomes a dangerous obsession like anything else you crave all the time. Gaming is social when you are out; at home it is a pleasure. I like the whimsy of it, of course, and the clever and creative continual innovations that appear with regularity. I think, however, that the process of playing games is deeply rooted in my psyche and not just a particular group of them.

When all is said and done, the art of gaming is a gift. You have to use it or lose it. It’s your attitude going in and coming out (win or lose). It could be at the adolescent level or gambling for real money stakes. I love the unknown, the temptation of risk, and the joy of conquest.

There are other joys to behold. One is friendship. I have a story that revolves around this subject and a common backpack. Sounds mundane, but it isn’t. I loaned my brand new laptop backpack to a close friend who lost it within days. This can happen, but oddly enough I didn’t get a replacement. It was someone pricey and very little used, so I was peeved. In spite of my nature, I didn’t want to play games and told him outright about it. Not much of a reaction, however.

A few weeks later, nothing. The friendship was on shaky ground. If it weren’t for a gaming tournament, I probably wouldn’t have seen him at all (by my choice). It really wasn’t about the money but the thoughtlessness. Guys aren’t that sensitive, but this wasn’t an old pair of sneakers or a borrowed DVD. It was a nice out-of-the-package item I was really looking forward to using to tote my laptop in style and indulge in my favorite games at will. I did have an old one, worn and tired, that had felt the strain of my hobby (or avocation) for years.
Right before my birthday some months later, my friend invited me out for a drink. We used to do this every so often so I didn’t give it much thought. We tossed back a few beers, discussed a new interactive game, and in general were having a pretty good time. Around 11:00 pm, he pulled out a paper bag from beneath his chair and handed it to me with a grin. I opened it with enthusiasm but didn’t really know its contents until a brand spanking new backpack emerged from the tissue paper covering.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I had assumed that he had forgotten and that he was even darn rude. He explained that this special model was one that he’d backed on Kickstarter and had just arrived in time for my big day. I was nonplussed…and thrilled. I truly gained back my friend with a new standing in my estimation, a replacement top-of-the-line backpack, and a lesson for life.

Winning Prizes

At county fairs you can have a lot of fun throwing darts or hitting a hammer and dunking a poor sap sitting above a tub of water. At the circus, too, you can go for prizes like giant stuffed animals for tossing balls into tiny cups. You might like shooting galleries or other games of skill. The gifts are paltry but amusement is high.

I was at an arcade at a large regional expo one summer. It was upscale event and the crowd was decked out in finery. By that I mean expensive watches and pricey Italian leather shoes. That’s how you tell the in crowd from the riff raff. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to see a game of chance that had an array of prizes that included various kitchen top-tier appliances. I am not talking about a budget mixer or a no-frills toaster like you get at bank give-a-ways for opening a new account. I am referring to really high-end top-of-the-line stuff.

Some gorgeous machines were sitting in a row above the arcade game opening, one after another as if beckoning to me. They were daring me to try my hand at a fast round of pitch ball. You had to aim well to make the target, which was pretty small. It was a hole painted with concentric brightly-colored circles. You couldn’t miss seeing it, but not many were able to get the ball in, or even get close. I guess it was just an investment in appliance PR – a come-on for the game. They were all still there glistening in the sun hours later.

If you made two in a row you could choose the one you wanted. I had my eye on the Cuisinart. This is one of the best hand mixers on the market and included all the necessary gadgets and attachments. (You have to want one even if you rarely cook.) I watched visitor after visitor try their unsteady hands.

A young man was standing near me. I think he had been there a while. He saw me drooling over the assortment of fine culinary treasures. He smiled and slowly grasped an idle ball. With a flick of the wrist, he had done the impossible. He slowly reached for a second. Luck was on his side. A brand new Cuisinart was now in his capable hands bedecked with a giant blue ribbon—a symbol of his success.

More startled than before, I took it from his outstretched arms. Was this romance, or even love? Was this kindness in disguise? “Don’t worry,” he said. “I am in the service and can’t take it with me.” I nodded with understanding. “I am an ace sharpshooter and also play darts for fun. I probably do it at least once a day.”

I would never have prevailed, not even once, not to mention twice. He had read my thoughts and stares. I thanked him profusely and promised to email soon. I trotted off in a daze of happiness and surprise.