Building Camaraderie, One Defib at a Time.

In your headphones, you hear the screams of your fallen comrade,”Ahhh sh*t! Bring me back, bring me back!” after being sniped out from across the map. You pick out his position on your HUD [Heads Up Display], assess the situation and then decide to make a mad dash to his body with defibrillator in hand. Shots wizzing by your head and bullets puffing up clouds of dirt at your feet, you make it to your squad mate, hit him with the defib [defibrillator] and together, scurry for cover. A milisecond later, he would of been in The Elysian Fields and you might of gone with him.

The "defib".

The  Assault Class in Battlefield 3 is the perfect class for those who want to be the hero of Greek mythology. With the ability to bring back teammates from the dead, with an unlockable defibrillator, the Assault Class plays the role of savior in a four man squad. He can lead the charge into an enemy occupied room. He can drop medkits to heal squad members and teammates. He can provide cover fire as the rest of your squad sprints across the street and, if you don’t make it to the other side, he can clean up the mess and bring you back to life.

The more I’ve played Battlefield 3 the more I have come to appreciate the Battlefield medic in its form of the Assault Class. You may not reap all the kills of the Support Class or the vehicle destroyed points of the Engineer but the payoff gained from saving your friend, even in a digital sense, brings about a reward greater than points. It doesn’t hurt that a revive is worth 100 points, the same amount of points rewarded for a kill, and a squad revive is worth 110. What keeps me coming back for more is the thanks I get from a friend and the extra tic (life) applied to our total number left.

A chat connected squad, with all four members playing a unique class, already has an advantage over the competition. Communicating enemy movement and spotting threats, via game mechanics and chat, provides your squad a better field of vision of the ongoing battle. Throw in a player with a thirst for lifesaving heroics and you capture Ace Squad (awarded to the best squad in the match based off accumulated points) on a regular basis.

As a match heads towards an end and the tic count for both sides are dwindling to single digits, an active Assault Class player becomes madly important. With an enemy T90 closing in on our position, like a wild boar running through the bushes, and teammates dying all around you from tank fire – bringing people back from the dead is a feat on measure with the Greek Gods. With one tic left for both teams and three of your squad mates dead on the ground you know what must be done. You are Aphrodite and your friends on the ground around you are your Adonises.

Bringing back the first will be relatively easy, thanks to the boulder his body ended up behind. Bringing back the Engineer, with his all important RPG, and the Support soldier (with the ammo for the RGP) lined up next to him, will require some luck. Thankfully the tank, disabled and housing the enemies last remaining tic, has his cannon pointed at the boulder, trying to keep my head down. He doesn’t know that I am not just any Assault troop but Achilles himself.

The bodies are in a row so it will be a straight sprint and the timing of the defib, as I run across their bodies, will make or break this feat. The tank fires at the boulder again and I am off. I come across the body of the sniper and my friend, zap, he is back. I am out from behind the boulder and I can hear the reload mechanism of the tank working to place another shell for fire. I cross the body of the Engineer, my friend, zap! He starts to stand. Just as I get done bringing back the “Engi” I am on top of the Support trooper, zap! I keep running however, drawing the anger of the driver and the shell of the tank. As the shrapnel cuts through the tendons of my ankle and the heart in my torso, I hear a rocket hitting home, followed by the thanks of my friends.

My "Band of Brothers".

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60 Minutes and Skyrim

I’m in the process of making 7,722 Septim (Skyrim’s form of currency) from one outing to a bandit and Corundum ore filled mine. After sneaking around and providing the hard working miners and their task master bandit bosses with arrow enemas, I returned to the trading hub of the area, Whiterun, to fence my goods. As the coin kept adding up from the sell of my goods, 60 Minutes tells a story of harsh reality in the background.

The story focuses on the Cleveland area housing market tragedy that is still playing out but a quick glance lets you know it could be Anytown, USA.

“I serve about 50 eviction notices a month.” says a sheriff from one Cleveland suburb.

“This is no future. More of the same, more of the same.” states former County Treasurer Jim Rokakis to the 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley in regards to the housing problems facing Cleveland (this part of the interview can be seen here). Standing in front of a metal stripped abandon home, one of the many left behind because the balance owed on the mortgage now far surpasses the worth of the home, the interview hits home.

I get sucked in and then return to the task of selling off my well earned shinies. As I wrap up my cash cow of an adventure I start walking Randy Stardust to his home in Skyrim. Yes, I am a home owner, clear and free. For 5,000 Septim and the dispatching of a dragon (sure it helped make that house a bit more affordable) I was allowed and able to purchase a home in Skyrim’s boom town, Whiterun. I also took over an abandon home in Markath, hopefully not because someone was under on their mortgage and left. I also plan on purchasing at least three more homes in Skyrim’s major cities, all clear and free. I don’t plan on purchasing a home in reality in the foreseeable future. Not for another five years, ten years, and on… Wonder why someone can take so much enjoyment from playing in a virtual world?

Whiterun's Breezehome, my virtual starter home.

The entrance to "my" abandon home I acquired in Markath.

Back on the television, a reporter sets at a table with a group of people who are barely hanging on to their homes, some just waiting on an eviction notice. I step away from the world of Skyrim. I listen to their stories; teachers who recently lost their jobs, sickness coupled with job loss and housing developments that went bust and put the worth of their homes on a continuous downward spiral.

I set there for a bit. I stare at Randy Stardust on my screen as he gets ready to just hit Enter, so he can sleep. I think ahead to when I will be doing the same in a couple of hours, with dread. I think about the job market, my unemployment and my financial independence, all while trying to sleep. I think about my apartment and the coming resigning of my lease. Taxes. The silly idea of one day owning a home. I wish I could just fucking hit Enter and sleep. I wished I owned a home, had a job that could bring in the Septims like Randy Stardust and go to sleep with no multiple hours of tossing and turning. I am envious of my avatar!

I look back at the TV as a women sheds tears at the thought of losing her home. She expresses her concerns about working her entire life so she could own her home and use it to help in her retirement years. She speaks to the reporter with fear and uncertainty. I instantly relate, a couple of tears roll down my face. I look back at Randy standing in front of me as “Well Rested” flashes in the upper left hand corner of the screen. I laugh. “You shit head.” I mutter laughingly at Randy’s Elven face.

I bring up his quests yet to be completed and then think of my own, find a career developing job. I reflect on my phone interview and the follow up in-person interview from that Friday. I smile again at Randy, “You glorious adventuring bastard.” I send him on his way to complete another quest with hopeful rewards. I think about my own quest with the same optimism.

My Slide to Neverland. My Introduction to Video Games.

Coming down from my ShowBiz high. (LR) Courtney(old stepsister), Me, Evelyn (Mom) and Robin (Sister).

The show part of ShowBiz Pizza Place was a group of animatronic performers, known as The Rock-afire Explosion. What made up the biz of ShowBiz was what seemed like acres, from a 5 year old child’s perspective, of arcade cabinets and ticket spitting games. It was within this church, dedicated to the worship of pizza and video games, that I was indoctrined with a belief in gaming. With unique marketing tactics targeted at children and parents’ wallets, Showbiz was my Neverland.

In the mid 80s, school days for me were a difficult time, consisting of frustration and confusion, due to my parents’ recent divorce and my mother’s new marriage. I had a lot on my mind but not the capacity, at the time, to sort it all out. School structure was brand new to me and my prior preschool experiences were, let’s say, urine soaked. What brought me out of the fuzz and opened my eyes to learning was a mix of organized sports (soccer) and motivation for good grades. ShowBiz was a beacon of bliss in my mind and when they started rewarding good grades with tokens for games, I settled in and learned.

A scabby faced, 6 year old Tony, waiting patiently to go back to playing arcade games. (LR) Me, Robin, Holley (old cousin in-law) and Courtney (TimePilot behind me).

Living in the same state that ShowBiz was founded didn’t hurt the amount of marketing exposure my folks and I received. “ShowBiz Pizza, where a kid could be a kid!” was a simple but true slogan when paired with self-serve fountain drinks, pizza and arcade cabinets flashing colors that would create pure childhood ecstasy – it was like a rave for young adults. With an improvement in my grades came an increase in tokens, which transferred over to even more trips to ShowBiz. Birthday parties for me, or anyone in my immediate family, were to be held in the palace of pizza. The amount of excuses to go to ShowBiz pizza started to pile up like the tokens in my pocket. ShowBiz had figured out the formula for getting kids in the building but sadly, hadn’t figured how to capitalize on it.

Sister's birthday party.

A very friendly birthday hug for my sister from Chuck E. Cheese.

The Rock-afire Explosion, a band made up of animatronic gorillas, bears and mice, were ahead of its time from a technology and presentation standpoint. For a kid, seeing your first Rock-afire Explosion show was similar to a first encounter with an alien. They were frightening yet fascinating, a curiosity. They were also very expensive to create and operate, which eventually lead to the downfall of ShowBiz in its original state. As awe inducing as the Rock-afire were, my little legs, fueled with an endless supply of caffeine and sugar, always took me away from the stage and straight to the arcade cabinets.

Billy Bob (background), of the Rock-afire Explosion band, with birthday party attendees.

The lights and sounds I saw on the screens of these armoire sized gaming hangars fascinated me more than anything in the building, or in any other building. The Rock-afire Explosion were technically ahead of their time, but it was the rows of arcade games that had a future. I grew older; ShowBiz and variations of it were no longer my Neverland, but the games that grew out of arcades still allowed me to believe in fairies.

Sliding into Neverland.

Interested in more about ShowBiz and its history? Check out the documentary (now streaming on Netflix) entitled The Rock-afire Explosion and the fan site www.showbizpizza.com.