Monsters

Before Netflix and Xbox.

There was once a time when Monster Inc. ruled the TV. Not Xbox, not Netflix. Just Monster Inc. It played a lot that I could almost memorize the lines, I almost know most of the characters. Marcus would watch this Pixar film day in day out and his reactions remain the same as if it is his first time every time. And I would pretend the same thing. I would act scared when the robotic kid would shriek during the scare simulation scene. I seem to miss those days.

Marcus has since upped his entertainment. It’s now Xbox with Call of Duty series leading his choices–shooting game, I know. More so recently that we finally had success in redeeming the Xbox Live Gold prepaid subscription which by the way was purchased out of his coin bank. Yes, he had P2000 out of it. It was a matter of talking with Microsoft’s chat support agent who incidentally was Filipino. The solution was just to change the region on my account from Philippines to United States and voilà, no more error. Nada. Nil. Gone! Funny but Microsoft’s current online FAQs related to this error do not mention anything about this very simple solution. I wonder why.

The activation happened on a Labor Day. It was while I cherish my first ever legit Labor Day time off after a long time working in the BPO. This time there is no need to compete with anyone for vacation slots, no need to fake sickness or get creative with alibis. It’s one of my few new benefits. A day off away from monitoring calls all day is always a bliss. It was one day sans the monsters disguised as bad English, moody agents, rude customers, and anything in between. I felt bad that I ended the chat after realizing too late that I need to answer a survey for the very helpful Microsoft chat support agent. Thanks a lot anyway dude, you made our son very happy. Now we know what to do when we redeem another code when his subscription ends 12 months after. 
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Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Dark clouds ahead on a hot summer day.)

Xbox One Love and Hate

One of the free stuffs Marcus brought with him from our Christmas vacation is an Xbox One. It was something he has been asking for for since he heard about its existence even if he still has the older Xbox 360. When he showed me YouTube videos of what this Microsoft game console can do I too secretly wished that his dream to own one would come true or at least he gets to play with it someday even just temporarily. And it was granted. Less than 24 hours after we set foot in the US he played with the one installed in our bedroom and when I saw the graphics the stronger I fell in love with it. Unknown to us, there’s already one packed and waiting to be opened on Christmas day. It’s a pre-owned unit from his cousin’s boyfriend but it made his day like he won a lottery.

Similar to his routine in the Philippines, most days he would just play Xbox games but only this time the experience was way better. My in-law’s AV setup complemented the gaming console. Their big flat screen TV plus the hi-fi sound system provided Marcus his own mini arcade. It was all his for the entire three weeks stay. Although I knew that we’d have a simpler version when we return home, my expectations with the Xbox One alone remained high. It was one of the very few reasons that made me excited to go back home.

Setting up the Xbox One was among the top priority when we finally arrived in our humble red house. I tried to ignore the urge to catch some sleep, I set aside sorting the chocolates and other free stuffs and left wifey to get things in order. It was then when we discovered that our new game console has lots of downside. Getting it to work was a challenge.

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All in a day’s work.

Missing the original manual was a trivial issue as Microsoft’s website provides the needed details. Sadly, among these info reveal the cons of a seemingly flawless game console. First discovery is that  the Xbox One cannot be installed in a vertical orientation unlike the Xbox 360. Based on forum threads, the only way to make it work is to place it flat. It’s the only position in which it would read its game CDs.

Backwards compatibility is the next problem and maybe the one that I hate the most. The Xbox One does not play old games or at least in our case, almost all of the Xbox 360 games that Marcus loves to play. Xbox 360 Call of Duty, Minecraft, Lego games and Halo series cannot be used on the Xbox One. It was a big disappointment. Not to mention that I cannot sell the old console. My evil enterprising plan foiled.

Another issue that hounds us to this day is the Xbox One’s network dependency. We brought several Xbox One games–Fallout 4, Destiny, Forza 5, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassins Creed Black Flag, and Halo Master Chief collection–just to realize that each game would undergo an installation and/or update process each time before it can be played. Sometimes in a few minutes, sometimes it takes forever. Given our country’s poor internet service, this would require much patience, patience that Marcus and I normally lack. The workaround to this is to set the console’s network into offline mode.

Last but not the very least of the woes is its controllers. My in-law purchased two brand new Xbox One controllers as the pre-owned console did not include any and one of which we tested immediately after Amazon delivered it after a day it was ordered online. Since then Marcus started using his own controller to make sure it works while the other unit was kept in the box after a quick check for physical defects. Six thousand miles and a short Forza 5 game later, the other unit conked out. We now have a brand new Microsoft Xbox One paper weight. Online sources show that this problem affects others worldwide.

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Mods are easy on Xbox One. This is a Fallout 4 mod that Marcus installed himself.

All is not lost however. Again, graphics is the selling point of the Xbox One. Once the games start playing,  the characters and stuffs just appear life-like beating whatever the 360 has to offer. The quality of colors and textures are more vibrant and defined than the old games. Cars run faster and smoother. The bloodshed in the war games are gorier. Oops, one of my parenting lapses. But yes, the overall gaming pleasure compensates for this console’s limitations.

Maybe it is true after all that we cannot have everything. It may even be true that while the best things are free, it does not apply to the Xbox One. We love it but it could have been better if only our network runs like the one in the US and if we can claim warranty for the second controller unit without questions asked. Or maybe even better if we could return to the land of milk and honey for good which by the way is Marcus’ other wish that the three of us mutually share.

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Another Fallout 4 mod that allows Marcus to insert Darth Vader and change Dogmeat’s appearance.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Had Marcus take an afternoon stroll and it appears my left leg is healing.)

A Sandbox Game Sans the Sands

The things anyone can do with Minecraft is limitless. What I once perceived as one ordinary game eventually hits me as more challenging than any other games we have at home. It may sound like an exaggeration but it’s not. Our eight-year old son has Halo and Call of Duty (oopps, bad parent) wherein we are able to see his progress. He is also almost done with his Lego Marvel game but not Minecraft. That’s because Minecraft is categorized as a sandbox game which means that in its environment anything goes, sky’s the limit and its boxy white clouds. It is a game that right out of the package does not have any goal to complete before a player moves on to the next level.

Marcus gives the concept, I build the stuff. Here’s a rendition of the compound’s dog, Den Den.
Three heads are better than one. It took the three of us to build this house. Instructions on how to build this is available online.

To create something out of single block is the main objective the game. The output could be a simple boxy dog up to more complex designs that resemble famous landmarks and even vehicles. The game continues to evolve and gain popularity which is not surprising that Microsoft invested billions to take ownership of this game.  Minecraft is a virtual building block game that my generation once wished we would have. So props to Mojang for finally giving our kids the option to build stuffs without us parents emptying our wallet although in the process we need to expect them begging for new skins and texture packs. I have so far resisted most of it plus the fact that my credit card won’t allow me to purchase anything anymore.

We created this plane one year ago today.

Gamers who want more excitement have options other than Minecraft’s creative world. The game also has survival and adventure worlds, each of which has its own challenges. I honestly can’t distinguish between the two but the shrieks and yelling I have heard from our son Marcus tell me that he has switched to either of these options. This game has its hell and creepers so trust me, it could be scary. On days when Minecraft Xbox turns boring, he would play its PC version where he spends hours on different Minecraft servers interacting with players somewhere in the globe. More screaming happens here.

Parents and kids alike would find a wide range of Minecraft references and resources available online. On Youtube.com there are channels of popular users like DanTDM and EthanGamerTV (who recently turned 10) and PopularMMOs. Our son is a big fan of these Youtubers. He would love to see DanTDM and his pugs but he has set his eyes to meet PopularMMOs once we get in the US. There’s also Minecraft Forum that I have used to troubleshoot most Minecraft PC errors. Marcus started his own Youtube channel last month so you might as well check it—maybe after five years from now.

Books have also been published for Minecraft. Yes, books like those made of sheets of paper that you flip to transfer to the next pages. Books with hard covers that are meant to protect the paper pages. And we recently bought one for Marcus to encourage him to read more but last night I found out that he peeled off the spine of one of his books. Thankfully it is not the Hacks for Minecrafters book but I told him that he is banned to play his newly upgraded Minecraft Xbox for a day anyway. It slipped my mind though that he has Minecraft PC. Parenting is tough, isn’t it?

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (If we could only switch the weather like in Minecraft.)

Hello Halo

Two years ago a friend of wifey gave Marcus toys he brought from Canada. One of those is a box of buildings blocks which would have been perfect for him since he’s already into Lego–he got his first Duplo from my sis–but the age label on the box says 8+ so we decided to keep it.

Halo toys. Sometime around midnight, 8/16/14.

Yesterday, dropping by SM with the main intent to get a replacement for wifey’s laptop charger that our cat chewed, Marcus kept on asking me to buy him a toy. I gave a condition–as long as it is cheap but as expected, the ones he wants aren’t. He pointed at an Iron Man action figure, a battery-operated gun, and like a good hound dog, ended at the spots where there is a Halo 4 XBox game and other Halo merchandises. “Marcus, all those have four numbers after the P sign on the price tag. We can’t buy them now,” I tried my best to stress on ‘now.’ He surrendered and obediently followed back to the parking lot after I told him that I have something in store at home.

All the while since I wrapped the building blocks box in black plastic bag I was thinking that it’s a Transformers robot. When I opened the traveling bag where it was hidden it was then that I realized it’s a Mega Bloks Halo 96869 Covenant Brute Prowler set. You can just imagine his surprise–it was the perfect toy for his favorite game. Thanks to it, we killed more Covenant that night.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (It will take some convincing to get him to review for exam tomorrow.)