I’m Just a Ramblin’ Man

Bear with me. I’m gonna try an experiment.

I like to blog when I have something to say, but as you can probably tell by looking at this blog site, I don’t do it anywhere as often as I’d like. Part of that is a lack of motivation. Part of it is me having an opinion and having it cool off before I get a chance to get it from my head to my fingers to the computer. Whatever the reason, it’s something I keep telling myself that I wanna change and find a way to write more often, so this is my latest attempt.

My plan is to put something down every couple hours or so. Whatever’s on my mind, I’ll put it on the page. I’ll do this all weekend and see what I end up with and maybe it’ll lead to more. Maybe I’ll find a topic that I’ll go deeper into in the future. Regardless, I just wanna write SOMETHING. It’ll be like having a journal, only LIVE!

Okay, so let’s get started…


July 7th, Saturday. 3:00pm – I started watching an old NXT TakeOver event (woohoo, wrestling!) and I still can’t believe how much better their product is than the WWE, despite the fact that they’re under the company umbrella. I don’t know if it’s a roster size issue or if it’s the lesser amount of creative micro-managing – which I think is a HUGE problem in WWE, personally – but I have yet to be unsatisfied with NXT since I began watching in early 2015.

I tweeted about watching a match that I love (Bayley vs Sasha Banks: 8/22/2015) and some dickdrip fired back at me with your typical “Wrestling is fake drama garbage, MMA is better” bullshit and I just replied “Neat.” I’m not gonna waste energy defending what I like to someone who’s just looking to push people’s buttons. I looked at his account and it’s typical antagonistic bullshit, which made me laugh cuz his profile is all “I’m an ally to all the marginalized people, but I’m also an asshole LOL.”

In other words, he’s just an asshole.

When I was younger, I wouldn’t have thought much about it cuz I knew people like that. But I’m 40 now, and all of that swagger bullshit is just silly, to me. People tend to say shit like that to give themselves an out whenever something they do negatively affects someone, like they can just say “I told you, I’m an ass” and it magically excuses them from responsibility.

Fuck that noise.

As I’ve grown a bit more, I’ve realized that if you say you’re an asshole, I will take you for your word. Plus, with all that bravado, you’d think the guy was some kind of pro wrestling heel (aka Bad Guy). Either way, his ass got blocked.

NOTE: This happened on a Saturday before a UFC event where, at the very end, there was a totally bullshit call-out from the new champion to Brock Lesnar (a wrestler?!) for his next fight and it was everything that guy told me UFC didn’t have. What an idiot.


July 8th, Sunday. 3:30pm – Well, that was a long couple of hours since the last one, yeah? I suppose sleeping damn near 11 hours didn’t help.

After yesterday’s post, I sat down to finish up the last bits of Nier: Automata that I had left. I was only 6 trophies away from the platinum and still needed what I would call the final two endings, [Y] and [E]. Getting [Y] proved to take the longest because one of its conditions is to find every weapon and upgrade them all to their max level. I could get the weapons easily enough (with help from a handy FAQ), but getting the upgrade materials took a bit longer than expected. In the end, I came out victorious and fought the secret boss and got the ending.

Emil’s face scares me.


Then it was on to Ending [E]. I had already heard on various Game of the Year podcasts from 2017 that this ending ends up with all of your saves being erased, but that’s also why I made sure to get everything else done before going through with it. Then my brain kicked into gear and I thought “I would hate to lose everything. What if I just upload my data to a USB stick before it all goes down?”

So, I did just that.

I played through the ending and I loved what it had to say. The entire game is quite good, and it does a great job dealing with the subject of existentialism and what it means to be “alive.” But knowing that I had an out really took a lot of the power out of that final deletion (What up, Matt Hardy!) and I kind of regretted doing it. But in the end, it still was great to experience. Maybe, on some level, you can say that I preserved my “soul” so that I wouldn’t lose my true self and my memories. By doing so, I realize that I have truly payed into the meta-layers of Nier’s fiction, and that’s actually really frickin’ cool.

The other huge highlight of that game is its soundtrack. It’s not super huge, but every song fits the exact mood they need to and a handful of them will take space in your brain for quite some time. It also does a cool trick where the intensity of the moment will be reflected in the music, kind of like how Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack worked. My favorites include:

-City Ruins

-Amusement Park

-And finally, the Emil Shop Theme, which will stick in your head till the day you die.

All told, Nier: Automata has a great story, great music, and fun gameplay. Play it if you ever have the chance.


I think I’m gonna cut this blog off here and let it live, as is. The last thing I want is to make any of this seem super long and boring. Hopefully, these little updates will inspire me to write more, and get me to dive deeper into some of my thoughts on things. Maybe I’ll get to some game reviews, album breakdowns, wrestling recaps, etc. Hell, I might even finally try to get healthy again and use this space to hold myself accountable.

Whatever the case, I plan on being here more often, so I hope that those of you who are reading this will stick around for a bit. And remember, as we say at the end of every BlankShowCast

Keep it chill, Snowflakes.


NOTE: I use the term “snowflake” satirically. It is commonly used as a weapon to mock others for their alleged fragility, but always by the ABSOLUTE MOST FRAGILE of people. Regardless, we all have our quirks, so we’re all “snowflakes” to some degree. All we need to do is find our chill, as it were.


My 2017 NXT Match of the Year Final Rankings

When NXT released their nominees for their annual awards for 2017, I wanted to seriously consider my votes, and that meant having to go back and re-watch every match on their list for Match of the Year. I knew there were a few that I wanted included and many of them are. A few of them aren’t, as well, but that’s okay. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose. It’s still a highly impressive list with a ton of top quality matches that every wrestling fan should see, and if you’re not a fan, a few of these might convince you to start watching. It’s good stuff.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll cut this intro short because some of my summaries are going to run a bit long, especially in the first half of the list. So without further adieu, let’s talk about the nominees for NXT’s Match of the Year in 2017.


Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III – August 19th, 2017

Stylish Grapple Boys

There wasn’t much story leading into this opening match from this event, and I was a bit skeptical of Almas at this point. He didn’t seem to be living up to his hype, but NXT introduced Zelina Vega as his “business manager” and it appeared to be working, so if Almas was going to step up, this was his chance.

Early on, Gargano shows his stuff with some great mat wrestling and Almas stays with him. The thing with Gargano is that he never has a bad match, and you can see how good he really is in this one. The momentum shifts between the two are executed really well and felt natural. The crowd was clearly on Gargano’s side but you can sense that they respected Almas more as the match went on. Playing off the recent DIY story was a plus for the finish, which featured Almas’ new finishing move.

Looking back, this match was a great start to an angle that is about to culminate at TakeOver: Philadelphia TONIGHT (1/27/2018) as Gargano takes on Almas for the NXT Title.

Best Moment: After two failed attempts at his old finishing move, Almas gets caught in the “Garga-No Escape” for an extended time, but powers out and hits the turnbuckle knees for a very tense near-fall that lit up the crowd.

Ember Moon vs. Asuka (C) for the NXT Women’s Championship
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III – August 19th, 2017

Asuka had been champion for a LONG time at this point, and was undefeated leading into this match. During that time, Ember Moon had been built up nicely and seemed to be Asuka’s biggest threat. Coming off of a mild shoulder injury, Moon was even more determined to win, but that didn’t seem to throw off Asuka one bit. The build-up was big with this being one of the more important Women’s Title defenses in a long time, and the WWE made a point to have Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch show up at ringside for this one.

Moon comes to the ring looking to fight, and Asuka puts on the best cocky swagger as only she can. Moon fires a kick to begin the match, looking to surprise Asuka early on. Some hard bumps taken by both women outside the ring, which is a testament to their toughness and ability. Asuka turned on the “dangerous” in a big way and worked on Moon’s bad shoulder for much of the bout, even mocking Becky Lynch in the process by stealing her “Dis-Arm-Her” submission move and flashing a defiant smile in her direction. Some of Moon’s comebacks felt a bit contrived and sloppy, but she still gave a great performance, especially as the two combatants transitioned into the power moves.

A very strong match to boost the always strong Women’s division in NXT. In the end, nobody, not even Ember Moon, was ready for Asuka.

Best Moments: Auska kicking out of the Eclipse, and the finish of Asuka reversing a pin attempt directly into an Asuka Lock.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (C) for the NXT Championship
NXT TakeOver: WarGames – November 18, 2017

After reaching the goal of his comeback to the WWE, McIntyre didn’t really have a worthy contender after beating Bobby Roode for the NXT Title, and after giving a shot to Roderick Strong, it was unclear who would be next in line. Enter El Idolo.

Zelina Vega and Almas were finally looking like superstars, and Almas played his angle perfectly, leaving McIntyre lying on more than one occasion leading into the event. Drew seemed poised to be a fan-favorite and hold the title for an extended time, so I wasn’t sure how much I was invested into this one. That said, I was impressed with how it turned out.

Kind of a slow start to this one as it seemed to take a while for both grapplers to feel each other out but they quickly get into a fine rhythm. Vega unsuccessfully tries to make herself a factor early, but is triumphant later in the match. You could see Drew start to favor his arm a bit after a few attacks to it but it didn’t appear to hamper him. The longer the match runs, the more Almas gains momentum, and you can really see how much better and confident he’s become of late.

The finish to this one feels hella awkward, though. Not sure if the move came off smoothly but it didn’t look right. I also didn’t expect Almas to take the title. As I watch, I can’t help but speculate that it might’ve been changed mid-match. Still, a better battle than I expected, and I really like seeing Almas get rewarded for his improvement throughout 2017.

Best Moment: The finishing sequence to this one is fantastic, but instead of the best moment, I want to point out the interesting nature of McIntyre’s response to his loss. Doctors come in to check out his arm but he waves them off in obvious frustration.

I repeat… not in pain, but in frustration.

They did say McIntyre was legitimately hurt and I don’t doubt that given his initial body language after the pin, but he looks defiant in a different way than just to indicate an injury. I truly think the result was changed during the course of the contest. Hopefully this isn’t a hamper on McIntyre’s comeback.

DIY vs. The Revival vs. Authors of Pain (C) for the NXT Tag Team Championship
NXT TakeOver: Orlando – April 1, 2017

Triple “Thrat”

You’ve got the power of the Authors of Pain, the quickness of DIY, and the unmatched intelligence of The Revival, so know that this had no chance of being a bad match. DIY and The Revival have a long history of setting buildings on fire via their rivalry, and this one is no exception.

Oddly enough, the old enemies form a quick alliance to start this war, given that AoP have a huge power advantage. Since this was an elimination match, getting the big boys out would leave the other two teams remaining with no outside threat. Of course, once the chance showed itself, The Revival attempts to backstab their short-term friends and DIY repays the favor to them.

There’s a fast pace to this match, but that’s just how triple tag matches seem to go. AoP displays their power to the limit at every opportunity. Later, Ciampa builds great momentum off a hot tag that blows up the crowd. A forgotten table brought out by DIY is used later on in classic “make ’em wait” fashion. As the goal to get AoP out first hovers over the match, the smaller teams join up for a great double submission spot, but are unsuccessful.

As expected, the crowd was invested from the gun for this one. Rightfully so, since these teams could do no wrong. It’s hard to top anything involving DIY and/or The Revival, so we’ll see if any of the other matches on this list will be able to.

Best moment: Gargano and Dawson performing DIY’s knee/kick-to-the-head combo, followed up by Ciampa and Wilder doing The Revival’s “Shatter Machine.” It gives me legit goosebumps every time I see it.

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate (C) for the WWE United Kingdom Championship
NXT TakeOver: Chicago – May 20, 2017

This match goes back to the WWE UK Tournament, where Bate beat Dunne in the finals to become the first-ever UK champion.

While most matches start with some mat wrestling and basic spot work, the British take it to a whole other level. I haven’t seen this kind of technicality since I watched Dean Malenko dismantle fools in the late ’90s. The exchanges that these two have early could rival with some of the best in the business.

Dunne lives up to his moniker of “Bruiserweight,” delivering moves with impact throughout the match. Bate is easily the more fresh-faced of the pair at a very young 20-years-old, but his ringwork is remarkable. The British Strong Style is in full-effect here, and everything looks as painful as advertised.

Once this match goes into high gear, it never lets up. Bate shows his strength with a couple throws that use very little body momentum, while Dunne later reverses a splash that cleverly gets Bate into a submission hold. Even a rare Airplane Spin gets utilized, and eventually the two just have a Pub Fight in the middle of the ring. Strike after strike connects from both combatants until Bate is thrown into the ropes but comes back with a powerful clothesline.

It’s so good, even the rowdy Chicago crowd couldn’t help but show their love.

Best Moment: That fistfight.

WarGames – Sanity vs. Authors of Pain + Roderick Strong vs. The Undisputed Era
NXT TakeOver: WarGames – November 18, 2017

Three teams of three. Two Rings. One steel cage.

Sit back and enjoy. This one is gonna hurt.

Originally created by the late Dusty Rhodes, this match is as brutal and as intense as its name foretells. Traditionally, two teams of four or five grapplers would choose one from each side to begin the match. After a couple short minutes, another member from one of the teams would be allowed in the rings. Minutes later, another from the other respective team would enter. This would alternate back and forth until both full teams were in the rings, and it was at this point when the real match began.

From creation in the ’80s and until its then-final use in ’97, the match would only end if a member from one of the teams expressly conceded victory. Upon this revamp, however, it was changed to include pinfalls or submissions into the mix, while also adding the stipulation that if a wrestler escaped the cage, his entire team would be forfeit from winning the match.

Got all that? No? That’s fine. Just understand that people got their bodies beat to hell in this one, and after 20 years, I was excited as all hell to see it return.

I wasn’t sure how this match would play out, honestly. The Undisputed Era was made up of three hot signees that I had no deep knowledge of, and I was curious how they’d hang in a rough match with Sanity and the Authors of Pain/Roddy Strong. Also, I missed the ceiling on the cage.

But I digress. Let’s get to the match, itself.

At the start, things are even between the three starting team members, much like the beginning of a standard Triple Threat match. I was pleased to see the Authors of Pain display their impressive power with authority. At one point, they throw every opponent from one ring to the other, then follow it up by tossing their temporary teammate Strong into the pile. AoP keeps everyone at bay for the duration of their entry period until Sanity is released from their pen. That’s when all hell finally breaks loose.

The match officially begins now. All nine competitors are in the rings. Alexander Wolfe brandishes a nightstick and starts taking out man after man, and then Killian Dane raises the bar, throwing in chairs, trash cans, chains, and Kendo sticks. The crowd lights up. They demand brutality. They demand destruction. They demand tables.

They get tables.

All that follows is carnage. Weapons are used with abandon. Bodies are thrown around like beach balls. It’s just 25 minutes of mayhem and it’s beautiful. It’s truly a match worthy of the War Games legacy that you absolutely have to watch for yourself.

Best Moment:

Nikki Cross vs. Asuka (C) – Last Woman Standing Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
NXT TV – June 28, 2017

With the Women’s Revolution™ in full-effect up in the main WWE roster, one mustn’t forget that it all started over in NXT years ago. They had the first special event with a Women’s Main Event in the company, which was also the first 30-minute Ironwoman Match in NXT. These ladies kill it night after night, and this title match was no exception.

Nikki Cross plays her (in)Sanity character to perfection, but Asuka remained undefeated in NXT at the time of this contest and showed no signs of slowing down. To make things more exciting, this was the first Last Woman Standing match in NXT history, so the stakes were raised quite significantly.

A thing I always forget is how hard Asuka hits her opponents. I am only reminded when I hear the impact of her strikes. Kudos to Cross, though. She takes them like a champ. There are a couple of spots involving piles of steel chairs that look real painful. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t wanna get back to my feet after either of them. Of course, since we’re in a no disqualification situation, the match naturally ends up outside the ring and all over the arena, building to a climactic end involving hardware and furniture items.

Also, on an unrelated note, this was ring announcer Mauro Ranallo’s return to WWE after being away for some time, so it was cool to have him back. He does good work.

Best Moment: Ladder. Table. Suplex.

DIY vs. Authors of Pain (C) – Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Titles
NXT TakeOver: Chicago – May 20, 2017

At the beginning of this ever-expanding blog, I talked about how good Johnny Gargano is. Unsurprisingly, this match is his third on this list of twelve. It’s also the Authors of Pain’s third mention, which shows how strong of a year they had in the tag division.

The ladders come into play early in this one, and in some very painful ways. In fact, Ciampa lands awkwardly from a fall about seven minutes into the match and tweaks his right knee, which was later announced as a torn ACL. Still, as wrestlers do, he stayed in the match and gave it another 20 minutes or so to finish telling the story.

Speaking of storytelling, these teams do a great job of that in this bout with plenty of recoveries, momentum swings, and inventive ladder use. Even AoP’s manager, the great Paul Ellering, does his part. The angle going into this was that it might be DIY’s last shot at getting the titles back, and they gave an effort worthy of that urgency. I won’t spoil the result of the match, but I will say that this tale goes beyond the bell.

Best Moments: A DIY double-splash off a ladder onto AoP, who were lying on ladders themselves, and that sweet, sweet aftermath of the match.

Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Roode (C) for the NXT Championship
NXT TV – July 5, 2017

Roode was the NXT champion for the better part of 2017 and a great one to boot. Conversely, Strong had always seemed on the precipice of contention, but failed to make good on multiple attempts. Eventually, he got his chance at a title shot.

This match has some really good work. Strong shows off his trademark quickness and delivers a number of punishing backbreaker maneuvers, as he does. Roode is a long-time veteran in the wrestling business, and it shows in his style of pacing and move selection. Not only that, but Roode plays his heel persona quite gloriously (heh heh), performing methodical moves to his opponent and gloating in the faces of Strong’s mother and fianceé who were sitting at ringside. We even got a false finish that is called back due to a rules technicality, which never fails to get a crowd riled up.

While a lot less spot-heavy than others on this list, both guys put in solid and consistent work worthy of championship caliber and made each other look great throughout the battle. Matches are supposed to tell a story, and this one does a simple and effective job of doing so.

Best Moment: The finish.

16-Woman Battle Royal
NXT TV – October 25, 2017

Nikki Cross hates photo day so she ditched school.

Since the title was vacated after Asuka was promoted to the WWE, NXT decided to hold qualifiers for spots in a Fatal 4-Way match at TakeOver: War Games. After three spots were filled, the final spot was to be determined in this battle royal a mere 3 days before the event.

This type of match is tough to rank. Unlike a Royal Rumble where contestants slowly enter the ring in timed increments, this one starts with everyone in the ring and is basically a mess for the first 7 minutes or so. Once a few people are cleaned out, that’s when things develop a bit more clearly.

Nikki Cross was likely a strong favorite to win, and she’s able to eliminate quite a number of women in varying fashion. Bianca Belair takes advantage of her chance and displays some great strength, as well. Overall, it’s nowhere near the best match of the year, in my opinion, but it entertained me quite a bit more than I’d expected.

Best Moment: Billie Kay is saved by a hair, then suffers the consequences of her actions.

Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
NXT TakeOver: Wargames – November 18, 2017

One thing I love about NXT over the WWE main product is that their rivalries feel much more organic than their big sibling’s efforts. It never feels like anything is just thrown at the wall in the hope that it sticks, but rather, feuds feel like they’re born from actual circumstances that matter.

Now, I don’t remember when this feud began, but they took at least 6 weeks building momentum for Dream vs. Black. It was a great journey that gave actual stakes and anticipation to the match.

Now, I just want to take a moment to show my undying love for Velveteen Dream’s character. It’s like a pseudo-Prince thing that’s so fun to watch. I mean, he’s got three-eyed shades, for fuck’s sake. If that doesn’t garner a response, then you’re likely dead inside. It’s impressive to see Dream at this high of a performance level given that he’s only been wrestling for three years.

But don’t get me wrong. Black is great in his own right, and these two put on a match so good, I might be inclined to call it the best of this particular TakeOver event, and that’s saying quite a lot. Everything from the feud that led to here is addressed in this match, even down to the two of them throwing their patented taunts at each other. The ringwork is great, the momentum shifts pull you in, and the crowd is invested on another level.

Don’t miss this one. You’ll be happy you didn’t.

Best Moment: The exchanging of the taunts. Also, Velveteen Dream’s tights.

Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano
NXT TV – December 6, 2017

Hey look… another match featuring good ol’ Johnny wrestling.

I told you, the man never has a bad match. The funny thing is, he never should’ve been in this one. Velveteen Dream was originally expected to face Ohno in this one but he was left on the sidelines after suffering a minor injury in his big match against Aleister Black. At least, that’s what we were told. This is wrestling, after all.

Here’s another match with two very consistent performers that both have solid technique and a good command of the crowd. Adding to that, this match was for a spot in a Fatal 4-Way for the Number One Contendership for the NXT World Title, so both men had a reason to give their all. Ohno is known for his hard striking ability and BOY HOWDY, do we get to see it on display, here. Gargano takes advantage of his quickness and size disadvantage to great extent. Not a lot of surprises in this battle, but that’s totally okay. As with some of the later matches on this list, it’s not a bad thing to just have a strong match.

Best Moment: In the middle of the match, Ohno delivers a series of strikes to Gargano that look vicious as fuck. I winced at every one of them.


Alright, we’ve made it through all twelve nominees, but what’s the best of the best? Who takes the crown for the entirety of the year in NXT? I’ll admit, I thought this list was very front-loaded, with 6 strong contenders right off the bat. As I made my way thru the list in my rewatches, I felt a lot of the later ones just didn’t hold my attention as much. I also realized that it was no coincidence that Johnny Gargano was in a full third of the list. He really is that good and every time he’s scheduled to go, I get legitimately excited. The Tag Team division is also really, really good and it wouldn’t be wrong to go with one of their many fantastic fights.

It was a strong year with so many strong matches, but there can only be one Top Match of 2017. The following is my final rankings, from “Least Best” to “Most Bestest.”

12 – Roderick Strong vs. Bobby Roode
11 – 16-Woman Battle Royal
10 – Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano
9 – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre
8 – Nikki Cross vs. Asuka
7 – WarGames: Sanity vs. Authors of Pain + Roderick Strong vs. The Undisputed Era
6 – Ember Moon vs. Asuka
5 – DIY vs. Authors of Pain
4 – Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
3 – Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
2 – DIY vs. The Revival vs. Authors of Pain

And finally, YOUR NXT Best Match of 2017 is…

Aleister Black Vs. Velveteen Dream

This match is an instant classic, and one I plan to go back to regularly. Granted, I totally love everything about Velveteen Dream, but Aleister Black is growing on me. I can’t help but cheer for every minute, every knee-to-the face, every taunt that the competitors give. Their match psychology just sucks you right in and never lets go, and hearing the crowd go nuts for both competitors makes it all the more enjoyable.

I haven’t even addressed their ringwork, yet, which is next-level in this bout. Black’s strikes are vicious, and Dream makes them look even more destructive with some expert selling. of course, when Dream goes on offense, it looks brutal but in an oddly graceful way. His movements really play into his persona, and that’s a thing a lot of young wrestlers don’t get a feel for so early in their careers. At one point, Dream lays Black over his bent leg and transitions it into a high-impact DDT that looks damn near crippling.

It truly is the best example that NXT has to show off why the promotion is something special. WWE stars can attest that their time is NXT is sacred, and while the likes of Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, and Kevin Owens are no longer there, superstars like Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream are right there to continue building NXT’s legacy with remarkable matches like this one.

Say my name.


And with that, I bid thee farewell. Stop reading my dumb words and go watch all of these matches. Pay the $9.99 (per month) and treat yo self. Or just piggyback on someone else’s WWE Network subscription. Either way, make it happen.

And that’s the bottom line, cuz… well, cuz it’s the last one I wrote.

Boots’ Top Ten Video Games of All-Time #4: Rock Band 2/3

The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.

Allow me to start from the beginning.

Growing up, I had two main passions in life: video games and music. Both of these creative art forms were simultaneously infused into my environment at a very young age and to this day, they both occupy a permanent space in my life. I love them both almost equally, but if I am being totally honest, music will always remain the champion.

As a child, I had access to a keyboard that my uncle owned. He was in a band and would often practice his synth work as well as fiddling on a guitar or bass from time to time. This led to me being inspired to learn basic melodies on his keyboard in my youth, and I would eventually self-teach myself guitar as I went through middle school.

Naturally, I had fantasies of performing onstage in bands or with my idols. I often wondered if I would have what it takes to succeed at the craft of rocking a live audience. Granted, I never really pushed for an opportunity at it, but it was fun to speculate.

Fast-forward to 2005. Harmonix borrows the formula from Konami’s Guitar Freaks and puts it onto the console market with Guitar Hero. After two successful titles, the studio abandons the franchise and returns to the scene with a full-band version entitled Rock Band. This new iteration had a few different features, but the core gameplay of jamming along to favorite popular songs remained intact.

I was never what one would call a songwriter, so my extent of musical talent was strictly in the avenue of “covering” my favorite bands’ work. What Rock Band did was not only give me an extended selection to do this with, but it also provided me with an ever-growing list of new tracks to choose from. The weekly DLC packs were hit-and-miss, but more often than not, I was happy with what was coming out and I know I spent a good chunk of change purchasing extra songs.

(That’s myself on the ol’ six str… uh, strum bar.)

While the original Rock Band was great, it really found its stride in its sequels. Gameplay didn’t change much from the core mechanics, but RB3 added the keyboard as an instrument and also implemented a Pro Mode which, if you had a special peripheral, would essentially require you to learn how to truly perform the song on a real instrument. I never made the jump into that stuff, but it was a nice touch for those interested.

But what I was interested in was just “playing” the songs and feeling good about it. Some people made the argument that the game should only inspire people to learn a real instrument, but my motivation in playing Rock Band solely centered on having fun. Was it an exact facsimile of guitar? Gosh, no. But what it did do was give me a good time along with the occasional challenge and the satisfaction of rocking out with my favorite songs and bands.

Could I ever hope to accurately play Dream Theater’s Constant Motion and be as good of a player as John Petrucci?

Fuck. No.

Jesus fuck, that fuckin’ guy.

As low-skilled as I was on real guitar, it never stopped me from playing those types of songs on the game, and I had a blast doing so whenever I did. It fulfilled my rock dreams, and that was all I had ever wanted from it. Of course, not every song was as difficult and some were maybe a tad boring, but I enjoyed the experience, regardless. It was even more fun when the developers would release an unexpected novelty song as DLC. A few of my favorites were the Eric Cartman (South Park) version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” Parry Gripp’s “Girl At the Videogame Store,” and the Hockey Night in Canada Theme song.

Perhaps one of Rock Band’s greatest achievements was its propensity to introduce new music to all that played the game. There were so many songs/bands that I would’ve written off if I came across them in the real world, but playing them in Rock Band helped me respect the tracks in a more organic way. My first exposure to The Strokes left me thinking that they were likely something I wouldn’t be into, but I’ll be good-goddamned if “Reptilia” isn’t a killer tune.

I could go on forever about how hooked I got on these games. Rock Band got me so good that when RB2 came out, I played it for a minimum hour every day for what I swear had to be 2+ years. I probably hit well over 1,000 hours of total playtime, and I don’t regret a single second of it.

Of course, all of this doesn’t even include the local multiplayer modes that spawned a sizable movement in bars and homes alike. In fact, to this very day, Rock Band parties are still held at various gaming conventions around the world.

In the pantheon of music/rhythm games, this franchise is the masterpiece, in my opinion. Great gameplay and excellent music collided to make a compelling experience that most games have yet to accomplish, and I will always consider it as one of the best in all of video games.

And all it had to do was play into my two greatest loves.

…and speaking of novelty songs, let’s get Metal Gear Solid 3’s “Snake Eater” in the game. It deserves to be there.

The Top Ten Games of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/Wii Console Generation

WARNING: Game spoilers lie within. BEWARE.

When I first decided to do a blog about the last generation of console games, I wasn’t sure whether to go with my favorite games or favorite moments. There’s a lot of games from this wave of consoles that I’ve yet to play, but then again, who played everything?

No, you didn’t. Don’t lie.

Looking at my list, I was surprised to see how limited it seemed. With my Xbox Gamerscore just over 84,000, I felt like the list would’ve been a bit more extensive. Turns out I just had a lot of time to farm in fewer games, I guess. All that unemployment during this console gen really “helped out.” While I still have so much to get to, I’m going to list my Top 10 favorites of the PS3/360 years that I’ve played through to date.

Sorry, Wii. I never got around to owning you.

This list is not based on any technical prowess of the games, but rather, my immersion and fun level with said games. That’s why there are no fighters on it. I don’t enjoy fighters. I also didn’t play any. Go figure. Anyway, let’s get this shit started…

10: Braid


This specific puzzle was super frustrating.

Prior to playing this instant classic, most downloadable titles seemed to be arcade-style games designed for bite-sized consumption. 2008’s Xbox “Summer of Arcade” changed all of that. Designer/programmer Jonathan Blow’s debut title took conventional side-scrolling mechanics and turned it on its edge, infusing a time-manipulating element that added a whole new layer to its gameplay. The plot was a bit vague, but the reveals were rewarding in their own way, with a special twist coming in the final stage that had me reeling.

Braid set a new bar for the “downloadable” scene and changed the landscape of gaming forever as it headed into the digital age, leading the way for independent games to grow and thrive.

9: Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja

Go ninja, go ninja, go!

As you can tell by the header of this blog, I am a huge fan of this game. I kept hearing how exceptional its mechanics were and once I finally got my hands on it, I agreed with every praise the game had received. Sometimes a game can make the player ask “What do I do now,” but not this one. Its design choices were perfect, giving just the right amount of information to teach you everything you needed to know about its stealth and combat systems. Playing this game felt natural, and there were very few moments where I struggled to pull off whatever strategies I attempted. Personally, loving this game led me to having a chance to interview its lead designer Nels Anderson on my podcast early last year, which will always be a highlight for me. But seriously, play this game if you haven’t yet. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

8: Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey

Fun Fact: The woman in the middle is the grandmother of the little girl.

My first foray into RPGs on this gen came in the form of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It did not go well, at the time. I was very lost and unsure of how to approach that sprawling world with endless possibilities. Lost Odyssey, however, felt more like the JRPGs of old that I had grown up playing. It made perfect sense, given that it was the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, formerly of Squaresoft and the original creator of the Final Fantasy franchise. Though a challenging game early on, it played like those games I was so familiar with from my teen years.

As comfortable as it felt to play, it was certain aspects about the story that hooked me. Protagonist Kaim struggled to remember aspects of his life (Amnesia!) but would be reminded of them every so often via events happening around him, leading the player into short narrative on-screen novelas that you had to read to understand. It gave the memories a sense of importance and emotion that I hadn’t felt from a game in a long time and it made Kaim much more relateable. Full of interesting characters and environments, Lost Odyssey is a game that any RPG fan should be required to give some time to.

7: Dead Space

Dead Space

Do you hear that?

Survival horror has had its ups and downs over its lifespan, but Dead Space nailed what it should be quite expertly. Sure, it had its share of jump scares, but that’s an inevitable event when it comes to scary stories in media. What Visceral Games created was not only a freaky and claustrophobic setting with horrible abominations coming for you, but perhaps a Master Class in sound design. Clanking heard in the distance and the increasing amount of creepy whispers throughout the game do more to raise your pulse while aboard the USG Ishimura than any of the twisted necromorphs you face. I highly recommend playing this with one headphones. Throw in an interesting dismemberment mechanic along with creepy plot easter eggs and you get a near-perfect representation of how horror should always be done in video games.

6: Portal 2

Portal 2

“Oh, it’s you.”

Innovation fell to the wayside for a while during the last gen. Enter Portal, a bite-sized pack-in on The Orange Box. Valve’s experimental puzzler set the industry ablaze with its inventive mechanics and super vague but captivating story. Four years later, Portal 2 came out to even further acclaim. The story of Chell again attempting to escape the labyrinthine confines of Aperture Science was more fleshed out this time around and introduced us to everyone’s favorite personality orb, Wheatley.

Portal 2

The gang’s all here.

Personally, this game was hugely important as the multiplayer campaign became the unofficial initiation ground for the BlankShowCast co-hosts. The show was born when Tim and I were playing through the levels, and later Isabel would also join me for a run. It’s always a fun one to go back to after a while to flex the brain around. Also, Potato GLaDOS.

5: Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption

You missed.

Whenever I think of this game, I briefly remember Grand Theft Auto IV and how unsatisfying it was. With the buzz that Red Dead Redemption was getting, my hopes were that Rockstar would redeem themselves in a genre that they had pioneered. I was happy to not be wrong.

The “old West” setting was perfect for a sandbox game. I kept marveling at how beautiful the environment was. I also loved the way the music elements would swell in and out depending on the action level.

When I started the game, I unfortunately had the BIG late-game moment spoiled for me. I was initially angry, but the more I played the game, the more I was anticipating that moment. It gave me a level of tension that I don’t think would’ve been present had I not been spoiled about it. Because of this, the time just before it happened had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what events were going to transpire. It was a better game for it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

4: Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row: The Third

We’re taking over this town.

Speaking of the GTA franchise, there was a long time between the PS2’s San Andreas and GTA IV, during which the Saints Row franchise came to fruition. The first was fairly similar in style, but incorporated a better shooting mechanic and its sense of humor was slightly more absurd. SR2 brought in a better story and the writing went even deeper into silliness. By genius or by accident, someone at series developer Volition went completely nuts and created the wackiest, goofiest, over-the-top open-world game ever created. And it was glorious.

The opening mission has you AIRLIFTING A BANK VAULT from its home inside a tower. Later, you fall through the air after forcing a plane out of the sky from within, dodging debris as you careen toward the Earth. The government sends a military airship to stop you and your crew. A psychopathic wrestler causes major grief for the Saints. Oh, and you play as a toilet for a short time.

Saints Row: The Third

Here’s your damn Superman Punch, Roman Reigns.

SR3 is nothing but total joy and fun wrapped in a crazy box filled with insanity. Everyone should play it. Go do that.

3: The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Survival isn’t pretty.

Naughty Dog’s look at a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t seem like much on paper, but is perfect in its execution. The story of Joel escorting Ellie across the country is expertly crafted, and I can’t give enough praise to Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson for their masterful performances. Helping them survive in a world full of infected people is constantly tense and you can’t help but care about their fate. The game also does a marvelous job of pacing. One moment, you’re put in a high-risk situation among waves of aggressive enemies, while the next moment has its characters reflecting on where they’ve come from and why they’re continuing on. It’s a very emotionally heavy journey, but TLoU handles it so well. In fact, the character of Ellie quickly became my favorite in all of games. A revelation that only became more cemented in me after playing the Left Behind DLC.

I can’t stress enough how wonderful this game is. It’s a true must-play for everyone.

2: Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

Don’t fear the Reaper.

The Mass Effect franchise might be the most highly acclaimed of this console generation. BioWare managed to build themselves up into a powerhouse developer with this and the Dragon Age series, but it was the journey of Commander Sheppard that ruled narrative-driven gaming.

All three ME titles had their strong points. However, it seemed that the consensus among most is that Mass Effect 2 is, by and large, the best among them. The game introduced a large number of shipmates to the universe, and gave you a chance to get to know each and every one. Players formed bonds with these characters. Some so close that genuine emotions were felt as they learned more about them. Their backstories shaped their world and our allegiances within it. Throw in the fact that many – or ALL of them – could be killed off during the final mission and you had an experience like no other. Getting through with everyone surviving became the goal for many, and it only served to strengthen our ties to each character.

Except for Jacob. He’s a bit of a dolt. And his teeth are way too large. But the priiiiiiizzzzzzzzzzeee……

1: Rock Band 3

Rock Band 3

Hey now… you’re a rockstar!

Gaming is something I’ve had through my entire life. I can’t remember a time without it. Music was always the other constant. A childhood pizza place that my family would often visit had both a jukebox and an arcade game, and I would struggle with the choice of which to partake. I later taught myself guitar, and when Harmonix created Guitar Hero, it was a perfect marriage of my two hobby loves.

Fast-forward to the Rock Band series, and while I never had many chances to do any full-band play, I was intrigued by the prospect of trying other instruments. Of course, I always fell back to guitar/bass and I loved every minute of it.
Rock Band 3 is the final installment – at least, for now – and it perfected the genre. In its heyday, new DLC songs were being released weekly, and it had something for everyone. I managed to find almost all of my favorite bands at some point on there. Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Rush, System of a Down, Metallica, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest… I lived out so many rock fantasies with this game. In fact, I was so fond of this series that I had a 14-month period where I played an hour or more every day.

Sadly, the rhythm game bubble broke a long time ago, and Harmonix has ceased production of new content for the game, but that didn’t make me love it any less. While I would LOVE to see a Babymetal track pack, I am perfectly content with what I’ve purchased and what remains on the Rock Band Store. I will never not love this game.

Guitar Hero III Controller


…and there you have it, my Top 10 games of the 360/PS3 generation. I realize that I probably left off some that others would include, but again, I didn’t play everything. And that’s perfectly okay. I’m working through my backlog and loving every second of it. I just love games. All of them.

Except Final Fantasy XIII. What a steaming pile of shit. The literal worst.

So what made YOUR lists? What games did I not mention that you loved? It wasn’t Final Fantasy XIII, was it? If not, tell me what your faves of the gen were. Leave a comment here and tell me your choices, or you can hit up the show on Twitter (@BlankShowCast) and tell us what your Top 10 are. I’d love to see what you all pick!

I Need To Blog More (with Guitars)

I’m hoping to get back into this blog. It’s been way too long and I have a desire to do it, so I may as well start back up again.

Not much to report in text form at this time. I still podcast weekly and the job hunt never ends, but that’s not what this is for.

This post is all about the metal.

I play guitar a little bit, and I sometimes record it. Recently, I began layering my playing over the actual songs to see how accurate I am. It’s not always perfect, but I’m feeling pretty good with what I’ve done lately. Especially considering that I don’t play a whole lot, these days.

Anyway, I have three tracks done and figured I’d share them with you all here. Enjoy, and comment. Tell me how bad I am! 😀

Metallica – Holier Than Thou

Megadeth – High Speed Dirt

Metallica – All Nightmare Long

My current weapon of choice.



‘Tis the Season…

The past few Christmases, I’ve had no income. I was laid off from a job and was barely affording food and such. It always devastated me because I like to give during the holidays. I’m a bit of a giver by nature, and it just always felt good to make someone else’s Christmas a little brighter in whatever way I could.

Lacking that ability is draining for me. There are people that I wanted to give a gift to so badly, but I just couldn’t and it would tear me apart. Those same people would buy me things and I’d be very appreciative. It brightened my spirits just a little bit. Enough to not feel like a total loser. but then I’d remember that I couldn’t return the favor and I’d fall into that mental pit again. It has been the case far too often for the past 6 years.

This year, I have been working, but the job doesn’t feel as secure as I’d like. That aside, I have money and I’m giving. I promised myself that I would if I had the ability to – which I do – so I am. It make me wince a little when I see the bank balance drop into the depths of Hell, but when I hear the appreciative words of my friends, it makes it all money well spent.

Even that has its ups and downs, though. There are some people that I feel a need to buy for out of obligation, and that kinda annoys me. But I try not to let it get me too upset. Things could be a whole lot worse.

This year, I’ve done some great shopping. I decided to buy some special friends a few gifts that I know they’ll love, and I’m quite proud of my ability to find thoughtful items on one day’s efforts. The rest of my buying as of this writing is basically gift cards, so I’m all set. The whole process of giving has made me feel less shitty.

But I also feel a bit empty. Giving to wonderful friends is great, but I feel like it would all be that much better if I had someone special in my life to share the festivities with. A lot of single people get all pissy and crybaby when Valentine’s Day rolls around, but for me, it’s Christmas that makes being alone harder to deal with.

Of my group of friends locally, I’m one of the rare single people, and it can be difficult hanging around a bunch of couples and realizing that they get to go home and have that person alongside them to talk with and just wind down from gatherings or share moments or whatever the case may be. On my end of things, I return to my bootcave and fire up youtube or the Xbox/PS3 or get wrapped up in Twitter. There’s no snuggling on the couch while watching TV or cuddling in bed at the end of the night… just myself and my mind left to ponder how things are.

As trying as that can get, I still have to say that I enjoy the holiday season whenever it rolls around. It’s a mostly good time, and I have nothing against the traditions of Christmas. I also know that there are people out there who just complain about it to no end, and I wonder if they know what it’s like to feel genuinely happy. Is Christmas perfect? No, but that’s not because the holiday is flawed. It’s because people can make it shitty for others. Because people are – on the grand scheme of things – idiots. Whether it’s competing with others or themselves about the gifts they give, or giving grief to other parents about how they handle what Christmas is for their kids, or even just downright being a Grumpy McGrumperton in general, the masses just know how to fuck it up for a lot of people. The trick is to just appreciate the things you can do to bring a little joy to the world. Should that be done on every day BESIDES Christmas or other holidays? Of course it should, but that doesn’t mean that celebrating on a certain date cheapens anything. The gestures should remain heartfelt and be received as such. If you can manage to let yourself be uplifted by the Christmas cheer, you should be fine. And if you absolutely just can’t stand the holidays, then that’s okay… but don’t be that assdrip that has to go around shitting all over it in the hopes of killing other people’s fun. That’s just plain selfish.

Anyway, I’m done ranting/whining. I’m just happy that I was able to celebrate this time and not hate myself. Whatever the near future holds, at least I can look back at Christmas 2013 and know that I put smiles on faces. It’s a good thing.

May your holidays be joyous and heartwarming and full of tasty burritos. Merry Christmas to all of you.

Boots’ Top 10 Video Games of All-Time #5: Resident Evil 2

The following is a part of my list of my Top 10 All-Time Favorite Games. There may be spoilers ahead, so read with caution. Please make note that I rated these games not out of quality relative to other titles but in the order of how much fun I had with each of them and how important they are to my personal gaming history.

Being a Nintendo child, I had reservations when the original PlayStation was released. It wasn’t until the summer of 1995 – seven months after its release – when I finally rented the console and two games from my local Blockbuster (!) and fired up Descent. It was a decent game, but I hadn’t quite adjusted to full 3D yet and it was a bit too much for me at that time. I decided to switch games so I popped in Resident Evil. Without going to deep into detail, let’s just say that I was instantly sold on the console from that point on.

Fast-forward to early 1998. Resident Evil had been largely critically lauded and the inevitable sequel was finally released. While I’m not sure how soon I was able to play it, I am certain that once I did, it was everything I could’ve hoped for and then some. The graphics were much improved over the original and the setting of the city and Police Station were magnificent. Along the way through the game, new characters were met and the corruption of the Umbrella Corporation was revealed to be far worse than imagined.


Nothing a little grenade launcher can’t fix.

I vividly recall my first encounter with a Licker. I tried my best to take it out, but the pistol was mostly useless. It brought me back to my memories of the original game’s Hunters and how quickly they’d jump around, dodging my attacks. My fear and frustration levels toward the sequel were vastly elevated at this point.

Later, I was separated from a little girl I was trying to help named Sherry (not to be confused with my Minimum Requirements co-host). I was given control of her so that she could find a key that I needed to advance, so I sent her into the sewage plant. Little did I realize that there’d be THREE ZOMBIFIED DOGS waiting to eat her face. Of course, playing as an 8-year old girl, there was no way to attack the pups and I was forced to book it past them a few times while searching. Again, a very tense moment, with many more to come in my future.


I don’t think he has any candy, little girl.

Resident Evil 2 was far more forgiving with the ammo drops for newcomers, but I also was aware of how the franchise’s mechanics worked so I wasn’t wasting too much ammo this time around. I made my way through the different puzzles, occasionally crossing paths with Leon and we’d exchange info about what we found in the station. In the end, I neutralized William Birkin and escaped the city with Leon and Sherry… but I wasn’t finished.

In a truly innovative move, RE2 allowed players to go back and play through the game as the other character from their perspective. Using the save data from my run with Claire, I was now in control of Leon’s side of the story. New scenarios popped up as well as different characters and a returning old friend from the last game. Even the ending was extended past the point where Claire’s had cut off, giving me what I still feel is one of the greatest credits music in all of gaming.

Needless to say, I was in love with this game. The original pretty much wrote the book on video games being a cinematic experience and the sequel held true to form. After finishing my Claire/Leon run I quickly restarted and did a Leon/Claire playthrough. It wasn’t much different, but I still enjoyed it. Of course, I later discovered that getting a good rank on your finished game stats would open up a couple secret scenarios, so I began playing over and over to improve upon my final score.

It got to the point where I was able to beat both characters’ quests in under 3 hours each, and with minimal damage (using First Aid Sprays hurt the ranking). I had memorized where to go to get items in order of need along with knowing when I’d need to visit each Item Storage box for maximum efficiency. Those S-Ranks were eventually mine and I played through a scenario as Hunk, an Umbrella-hired mercenary tasked with retrieving a sample of the G-virus for the evil company. Later, I was also able to play as a lump of tofu armed only with a knife. No, I’m not even joking.


Not a healthy alternative to brains.

There is just something about this game that holds my attention super tightly that I often think to play it again on occasion. I’ll remember a quote from the script or a certain point of the game and think of how much I loved my time in Raccoon City proper. It was nice to see such a great improvement over the game that first drew me to the original PlayStation and I will never not sing its praises. I could literally play that game everyday and continue to love it so. It is never not fun, and that’s why it is at Number Five on my Top Ten.

PS – This game introduced the character of Ada Wong to my world, which became a whole different tangent in my life. A story for another time, perhaps.

PPS – Tyrants are still fucking scary.