Category Archives: games

Oh Korean Internets!

Assiniboine

As much as I love that Korea has the fastest and most ubiquitous Internet access in the world, it is ironic how so much of Korea is doing the Internet wrong. Let me illustrate that with my past experience with ordering stuff through Amazon to be sent to the country.

First off, for some odd regulation, Amazon cannot send anything to Korea that are not books, DVDs, or CDs. Already, that sours the experience. Then a few years back, it became a new regulation for people to have a Uni-Pass ID to be able to order anything from Amazon. So I went and tried to get a Uni-Pass ID.

First off, in order to get a Uni-Pass ID or certificate, I have to register as a receiver of goods through customs. Now, one would assume that this would be foreigner-friendly and would have English on the custom’s Website. It doesn’t. Everything is in Korean. Not only that, I have to download and install a security software in order to go forward.

Registering my name, address and postal code proved to be a minor challenge. Seoul has recently changed its postal code system as well as its address system. This is something that mystifies even the Korean population as many don’t even know their own address under the current system.

I manage to successfully register at customs, but NO, I still don’t have my Uni-Pass ID. That’s another application I have to go through. One would assume that the only reason a person would register at customs was to get the ID, but I guess that would be too simple and obvious. In any case, I had to download another security program in order apply for my ID. Like the first program, this one didn’t have English, but worse, the Korean text on the menus won’t even show up properly on a machine running English Windows. I had to get help from a coworker who’s familiar with it.

Everything went well, including authenticating my phone and my carrier information, until BAM! It won’t let me get any further. I repeated the process a couple more times and still it won’t let me go further. And then I realized I was using Google Chrome. Korea is still very much wedded to Internet Explorer in 2017, including Active-X, so I had to repeat the process using Internet Explorer and then it finally worked. I got my ID.

Went to Amazon, ordered my books, and hopefully it will arrive soon. Hopefully! Some foreigners report that despite going through the whole process, their packages end up getting stuck at the postal office. When they call and inquire about it, the postal service workers ask them for their alien card number, something which all foreigners have here. Now, if that’s all that they needed, why make people go through the whole Uni-Pass process?! It’s just another system of which they can track my activities which the government already does with my passport and alien card number. What’s the point of all of this?!

The Korean Internet experience is great if you’re not doing any transactions with Korean sites or institutions. If you are, get ready to install a bunch of software you don’t need, do your business using Internet Explorer, and have an hour or two handy. It’s the most ironic situation for a country that’s so hip to the whole Internet.

Oh and if you ever want pornography, use a VPN to access sites. The Korean government has hired Christian watchdog groups to police Internet content, making many sites inaccessible without a VPN. Ironically, this means only members of these Christian watchdog groups ever get to enjoy pornography freely (and an unhealthy amount of it, if that’s what they’ve been tasked to devote their time on).

Update: If you want to modify or distribute modified games, you could face fines of up to $50,000 in South Korea. I guess this is to cut down on massive cheating on online games, which I would argue there are worse problems out there that needs legislators’ attention. If anything, I think this is just to protect the integrity of e-sports and companies profiting off of e-sports, because really, how is anyone supposed to police this? And what kind of legislator sits there and wonders about modifying games? That’s a big leap from stodgy legislators raging over violence in video games.

If I happen to modify an old copy of Super Mario, will that get me fined and how are they supposed to catch me? And what about say those Jamma carts with pre-loaded games? A lot of those have, by definition, unlicensed modified games. Are those technically illegal now? And what about trainer programs that aren’t really designed for online use? Again, pretty dumb Internet in South Korea.

 

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Save Me, Virtual Reality!

Rat.jpg

It’s official. I’m into virtual reality. I decided to splurge a couple of days ago and invested on a PSVR. With stocks limited, they’re still a bit hard to find here in Seoul, with many people re-selling them at ridiculously over-inflated prices (over $1000 from some sellers!). Thankfully, I managed to get lucky and snag one at a reasonable price.

The Oculus Rift is available in department stores, but I’m not really that excited over its design as well as the fact that the experience it offers seems to be more of an isolated one. I think the HTC Vive suffers from the same thing. Also, both units require quite a large amount of space dedicated for your virtual reality experience, space that’s hard to come by in Seoul. That and I haven’t even seen the HTC Vive at all in the country.

The best aspect of the PSVR is that it outputs both on the headpiece as well as the television. This way, my wife and I can share the experience. We play a lot of video games together and this just adds a new way for us to experience media either as games or as visual experiences. The resolution is not that great, but the immersion is pretty decent. Once you’re in it, your brain is actually tricked into feeling artificial motion and space. Higher definition would be great, but so far, I don’t think it’s necessary. I guess it’s just a matter for developers to actually make good use of the little processing power they have for the machine instead of relying purely on visual horsepower.

So far, I’ve been enjoying horror games and other scary experiences the most. It is amazing the dark places the mind will go to when playing scary media on virtual reality when you’re alone in the house. My wife has been enjoying the more lighthearted games on virtual reality. Things like Job Simulator or Hatsune Miku. I would compare the novelty of virtual reality to the novelty of motion controllers when they were first popularized a few years ago. It’s quite exciting and I’m hungry for new virtual reality experiences.

The only drawback so far is that I can’t just sit with a virtual reality headset for hours on end. It can get pretty nauseating, so I have to take a break after an hour or so. It’s not like regular video games or movies where you can just park yourself in front of the television for hours. Maybe my body will start coping better the more I use it. Lots of people are complaining that many of the titles developed for virtual reality are short experiences. For now, I’m fine with that.

In any case, here’s hoping that companies continue to develop for the platform. I really don’t want it go out the way motion controls have basically faded out. Keep making things for me to see in virtual reality and escape my real-life problems. PSVR has been my most exciting purchase of the year so far. Who knows, maybe once I upgrade my PC, I’ll invest on beefier headsets. The movie experiences I’ve seen so far have been promising. The games I tried have been very immersive. I haven’t checked out VR pornography though. I’m kinda squeamish about that. I have a feeling that would somehow cross over to an almost medical territory.

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Catching Up on All Things Old

pigman

So I’m just discovering the beauty of Twitter. Well, I had an old Twitter account which I used to follow people before but I’ve been very active with tweeting. But recently, I find myself tweeting thoughts and replies more often. It’s a great way to just put a thought out there. And it’s a bit of a payoff to see someone share the sentiment. I’m not gonna go crazy about it and start tweeting all of the time, but it’s good to put in my two cents with popular issues now and then, especially since I’m a bit of a news junkie.  (same thing goes for  Instagram)

My wife and I are enjoying Minecraft just now. She’s more into it than me, but I can definitely say that I now understand the appeal. When I first tried it out over a year ago, I didn’t really care much for the interface nor for the unappealing tutorial, but we picked it up at a discount and I’m now seeing why people have gone nuts over it. I’m actively trying not to spend too much time with it since it can suck up hours of your day easily. (Same thing goes for Clash of Clans and Nintendo 3DS)

My Christmas was spent playing mahjong, a game I haven’t played since my teen years. My grandmother taught us how to play mahjong when she stayed at our place back when I was in elementary school. She was bored and needed someone to play it with. Later on, my sisters and I would play it with our nanny, with real money. I taught my wife and her friend how to play. I’m rekindling my old love for the game. It’s good to have an indoor activity where we don’t have to stare at the television, even if it involves a bit of gambling. (Same thing goes for Monopoly)

I started reading more magazines, well, their pdf versions. There’s just something about reading a magazine that has all of the information right there instead of news websites where it’s one click bait article after another (no more loading!). With magazines, it takes a fair bit of dedication to devote space to an article, as opposed to some websites and aggregators that print out badly-edited articles about things that just happened to be popular that day regardless of how inconsequential they are.

I realize this has been a fairly innocuous first entry for 2016, but there’s been a lot of bad news in the headlines as well as with people around. Better to sit back, enjoy the mundane, and count our blessings. God knows, we have the rest of the day to be paranoid about our existence.

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Random Rant

I woke up early Saturday morning with an urge to get crafty. I keep seeing these cardboard mounted deer heads in restaurants and stores. They sell pre-cut cardboard deer heads in stores and online anywhere from $20-$60. I decided to make one myself and save some money. I created a fake deer head out of plastic before. It’s mounted right above my living television. So I knew I can make an animal head in a weekend morning. This way, I don’t feel like I wasted my weekend just lounging around, watching movies, and playing video games.

deer heads

Boom. Made three. It took longer than I expected to cut them all out. I didn’t want to make huge mounted heads, so instead of cardboard I just had them printed on really thick watercolor paper.

colored deer heads

Painted them with acrylic to add some strength. It’s not much, but it should keep them from drooping. Today, I’m gonna get cheap frames to mount them on. Not bad for a Saturday morning project.

Speaking of movies, I decided to watch Full Metal Jacket again. I realize that the documentary Room 237 is all simply about theories regarding Stanley Kubrick’s motivations for The Shining, but theory or not, his imagery is truly rife for deeper interpretation. He really does seem like a “bored genius” who is a few steps ahead- and in in those few steps, manages to put so much meaning into his film, leaving viewers to sift through clues and red herrings. Of course, the message in Full Metal Jacket is quite clear, but it doesn’t make him any less of a genius.

I also watched Welcome to the Rileys which feature James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart. I miss James Gandolfini. There’s something incredibly human to the characters he plays. Kristen Stewart is not bad as well. I keep seeing her in many independent films these days. I guess she’s trying to wash away Twilight with a bit of indie cred.

Canada has a few teams at the NHL playoffs this year. The Winnipeg Jets barely got in, but I’m glad they’re in nonetheless.

Been playing a lot of Bloodborne lately. Just like the other Souls game, it is punishing but is quite addictive. Hidetaka Miyazaki is a genius. I’m a grown man and should really stop playing video games, but games like Bloodborne will keep me distracting myself in front of the TV until I’m old and gray.

Here’s an advice to married men out there. If you’re wife clearly doesn’t appreciate your sense of humor, STOP TRYING. Stop making commentaries and observations. Stop trying to make her laugh or smile. Who are you trying to impress anyway? It’s not gonna get you laid more. You’re making jokes and commentaries for your own benefit and not for her. She doesn’t want to hear from you. She wants her humor from the strangers on television. Just stick with banal observations. “The sky is cloudy today. I should bring an umbrella.” Stick with that. Save your wit and humor for your friends. That way, no one gets annoyed or offended.

Update: Framed and done.

framed_deer_heads

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Oh Look! Giants!

Colossus

Remember Shadow of the Colossus? What a great video game! It seemed to be a bit of a bore at first, but I managed to finish it twice; once when it first came out, and more recently when it was redone HD. It’s one of the few games worth revisiting after HD touch-ups. I love playing games that make me feel small, either it be in size or difficulty. For a moment, it makes me feel like I’m doing something bigger than wasting a couple of hours staring at my television.

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Brick Games

Winnipeg_skyline

Did a bit of exploring over the weekend. I went out to the Russian district, pet market, and flea market district. It was an interesting afternoon of sampling Russian fare, getting depressed at the sight of animals sold by the bulk, and getting lost in nostalgia at the site of people’s wares (and also wondering “who the heck buys these things?”). One thing in particular brought back memories of 1992.

Brick Game

Brick game, a Gameboy rip-off that played Tertris and other versions of the puzzle game, as well as the earliest version of the “snake” mobile game. I remember borrowing these from my friends because my parents thought it was a waste of time and would hurt our studies, so they never bought us one. I played enough Nintendo at home as it is; I didn’t need a video game to carry around. This was what everyone played if their parents didn’t want to spend $200 to get them a proper Gameboy. It was also the cheap game that crossed boundaries the same way the Nintendo Wii did. I remember my grandmother had one of these and was obsessed with matching falling bricks.

Luckily, my uncle gave us Gameboy as the Tetris-craze died down, just in time for Mario, etc. Pokémon became popular around 1994, but by that time, I was too old for the cutesy game.

Growing up, we didn’t have too many video games. We either borrowed games from friends or just lived without it. There was always an arcade nearby, but I didn’t waste money in them. I could already hear my mother tell me how foolish it would be to waste money on a game that I’m not even good at. My parent’s bought us the first NES. They didn’t get us the SNES. I had to scrimp and save before I could buy a Sega Genesis. They got us the first Playstation, and we had a PC that was capable of playing popular games at the time, but everything else I remember I had to get myself. I bought a Dreamcast from a pawn shop, traded in games, skipped on some that I simply couldn’t afford, etc.

I guess it’s this love of games and the early experience of having-but-not-really-having, that makes it interesting to me now even as a grown man. That, plus it offers a more immersive experience that just simply watching the television. I count myself lucky that I managed to find a wonderful wife who shares the same love for video games as well. She also shares the same experience of growing up and not owning one of these brick games.

It took me a couple of minutes before I could walk away and not make a very foolish purchase.

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