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Showing content with the highest reputation since 11/22/2018 in Blog Entries

  1. 3 points
    Realizing I haven't posted a blog entry in well over a year is kind of becoming an annual event here in my Retromags world. I'm not as active as I should be, as I'd like to be, and much as I wish I could promise to change all of that, I don't make promises I can't be certain of keeping. One of the most recent things I blogged about was the question of what happens when one's desire to keep up with gaming flounders, and as it turns out, there's still no cut-and-dried answer to that. Playing video games used to be my go-to hobby, something I maintained with an excessive interest. I followed up on new systems, stalked new releases, anticipated new console systems, read magazines and books and really anything I could get my hands on that would tell me more about my favorite hobby. Now? Well, now I'm a woman in her early forties for whom gaming is still exciting, but only in the familiar sense. I am a "gamer" only insofar as I own video game systems and will occasionally turn one of them on to play for a bit. An hour or so of "Dragon's Crown" here, a two hour stint with "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance" there, and the occasional play-through of an RPG from the 16-bit era that brings back all the memories of what being a gamer in the 90's meant: lines at arcades for Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat machines, the console wars, EGM vs. GamePro vs. GameFan, and so forth. I'm more interested in what was than what is or what will be. In other words, I'm clinging to a past which recedes further away from me with each passing day, and in the worry that one day I will have only memories to occupy my thoughts, I'm struggling to pack my banks full of all the good ones. The best ones. The ones that made me who I am today. I'm also feeling the same way about a lot of other things in my life, especially music. Music hasn't always been enormously important in my life, but once I realized what it was, what it could do, and how much fun it was to make it, I've been obsessed with it. Not obsessed in the way that, say, a vinyl collector will obsess over finding a perfect-condition LP, but rather obsessed with it in the sense that I use it as a landmark, to recall feelings and put me back in the frame of mind I was in when something happened. "How does that relate to gaming, Areala?" I'm getting to that. Be patient. Welsh singer Donna Lewis released her first album, "Now In A Minute" in May of 1996. If those names don't mean anything to you, then maybe the title of her hit single will: "I Love You Always, Forever" was the most-played, most-requested song on pop radio stations the year of its release. If you lived ANYWHERE within earshot of the FM band, you heard this song. Maybe you hated it, maybe you loved it, maybe you were indifferent to it, but I fell into the second camp. Her voice mesmerized me with its breathy, ethereal qualities. To this day, it conjures up memories of the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, where I spent a lot of time back at home and travelling with my mom and my brother to visit relatives. He'd just graduated high school, after all, so everyone was eager to lavish attention on him before he moved off to college. One of the things I loved to do back in my high school and college days, as far as video games were concerned, was get online and play one of the text-based Multi-User Dungeons, or MUDs, that you could find all over the place before "Everquest" and later "World of Warcraft" pretty much wiped them out. MUDs were free, online, open-world games that used an Infocom-style parser to input commands. The difference between a MUD and a normal text adventure was that when you quit playing "Zork", everything about the world stopped because you were the only denizen. A MUD, on the other hand, was always on (except during server upgrades or maintenance periods), and open to multiple players at all hours of the day and night. I spent a considerable amount of time in college, and even afterwards, MUDding. Most MUDs didn't have sound, and the ones that did used it for very small things, like a quick MIDI tune when you accessed their login screen, or a few bloops and beeps when you gained a level or died. Therefore, while MUDding, I often would put in my headphones and listen to a CD. And that summer, it was Donna Lewis more than any other band which dominated my listening time when I got online to interact with my friends. While "I Love You Always, Forever" is a catchy pop tune, and is the obvious choice for a hit radio single, I've always felt there were much stronger songs on the album than that one. If I had to pick a favorite, it wouldn't be that one. I love every track on the album, but the one which always stood out to me, mainly because of my background as a gamer and love of fantasy role-playing, was "Agenais." Much of the meaning of Donna's music is left up to your own interpretation, but this is clearly based on an idea or a dream she once had, perhaps a story she read that fired up her imagination. It's the closest I think I've ever come to closing my eyes and believing, honestly BELIEVING in my heart, that I truly was somewhere else. "Agenais" was every special area of every MUD I ever played on, where other people just like me came to congregate, tell stories, and live separate virtual lives unencumbered by the weight of reality and released to realize our fantasies. It truly was, in Donna's words, a "beautiful, magical place". What always fascinated me about the story she relates within the lyrics, however, is how one arrives at Agenais. You don't go soaring up into the clouds, you don't climb a mountain, you don't jump on a rocket ship and blast off to a different planet or sail across the sea to a new continent, or walk into the trunk of an enchanted oak tree. You float. To reach Agenais, you float to a golden crystal palace, lit by blue flames, where dancers twirl, wearing long, silver veils and white lilies woven into their air. You reach Agenais by closing your eyes and floating down. Like you were in a dream. Lewis's song is fairly basic, but infused with so much imagination that I've been in love with it for twenty-plus years. MUDding, for me, was floating down to Agenais. What else could it be, with carefully-crafted underwater cities, treetop mansions, dragon lairs, and all manner of pixies, fairies, goblins, elves, dwarves, wizards, halflings, gnomes, warriors, clerics, angels, thieves, bards, and all the rest? Lewis's final, whispered refrain, the minor-key musical notes accompanying it, have always carried an air of finality for me. As we get older, the fantasies of our youth become harder and harder to hold on to. Other things in life take priority, and many of our hopes and aspirations are put on hold while other things happen. In "Agenais", however, I have a four-minute remembrance of good times past. I link it to friendships made across thousands of miles. I link it to sleepy car rides back to Indianapolis late in the evening. I link it to my virtual persona, who now slumbers away in the database of some disconnected server, a collection of bits and bytes which, like all of us, slowly decay as the years go by. All that is left of her now is my memory, and the memories of those who knew her. In a hundred years' time, it will matter to no one that once, "Areala" existed in a realm called "Land of the Lost Unicorn", in the guise of a pixie cleric who followed the tenets of Moradin's True Neutrality in an effort to bring balance to the land. The people she met, the friends she made, the adventures she had, the enemies she fought, the puzzles she solved, the gear she obtained, the lives she touched, will not matter. She, in a sense, has already gone "floating down to Agenais". It's a somber thought. But not a bad one. Because, though the life of "Areala, Priestess of Moradin, wife of Carla, antagonist of Cougar, friend of Aspenamy, compatriot of Quenthel, nemesis of Belial, and Mayor of Lost Unicorn Village" may one day be meaningless to everyone else, it will have had value to me. And one day, hopefully later rather than sooner, when I myself find myself floating down to Agenais, I will carry that memory and many others with me into that labyrinth of golden rose-red colours. I'll have Donna Lewis, and music, and video games, to thank for that. And people like you who visit Retromags and help keep the retro dream alive for the rest of us who all have our own private visions, our own personal Agenaises, our own unknowable memories of what gaming meant. Thanks for reading. I'm heading to bed. *huggles* Areala
  2. 2 points
    Hey there, Retromags. Long time no see. The reports of my death were spot on, as you well know. My life had indeed been taken, and the killer is you. It all began innocently enough. Almost exactly 4 years ago to the day, I uploaded a single cover. Almost an entire year passed before I uploaded a second. But then only 2 days later, I uploaded a third…a fourth...fifth……All told, 12 covers were uploaded that day. And then the day after that, an additional 25 covers were uploaded…and so it continued. Over 16,000 gallery uploads later, I was a broken shell of my former self. Uploading covers was a daily ritual and on occasion reached as many as 100 in a single day. Every morning, the first thing I did upon waking was roll over, turn on my phone, and check Retromags for any activity that had occurred since last I checked, which of course had been moments before I went to bed the night before. The first thing I did upon arriving home from work was log in to the site and upload a fresh batch of covers. Sometimes I would spend nearly every free hour of my weekends working on covers or editing magazine pages. As I said, my life had been taken from me. I succumb easily to addiction/obsession. Knowing this is the reason I’ve never experimented with any kinds of drugs or other physically addictive habits – because I know I’d get sucked in completely. To illustrate my point, I once made the mistake of installing a multiplayer game on my phone. It was a terrible game if viewed objectively, but I played as part of a team of other users, and the cooperative nature of the gameplay compelled me to play it at every opportunity so that I could rise to the top and become a leading member of the team…which was incredibly disruptive to my real life. You see, the game could be played solo at any time, but that was just basically training for the team battles, which occurred in 20 minute sessions every 4 hours, 24 hours a day. I soon found myself trying to make every battle, regardless of what else was going on at the time. I found myself playing while out with friends, while driving a car…hell, I even set alarms to make sure I didn’t miss the battles that occurred during my sleeping hours. It wasn’t healthy, and luckily I eventually forced myself to quit cold turkey. That was several years ago, and I haven’t installed any games on my phone since, nor will I ever again. Moderation isn’t something I’m good at you see. So when it came time to take a cold hard look at my relationship with Retromags, this is what I realized: I needed to quit. Completely. Fortunately, I had an extremely busy period coming up at work. I’ve been swamped with stuff to do on nights and weekends for the past month, so not visiting Retromags was more or less necessary for me to stay on top of things, anyway. So I seized the opportunity and quit visiting the site entirely. I still received emails of new posts in threads I had followed, so it was hard to resist logging in and joining the discussion, but I knew that if I did, I’d be unable to resist falling back into my old habits. The irony of it all is that during my abstinence from the site, I’ve come to realize that I honestly have no business hanging out at Retromags in the first place. Phillyman has recently scanned over 100 mags with at least 100 more on the way. I should be thrilled, and yet, looking at the list of those 200 mags, I realized I had no desire or intention of downloading a single one of them. My interest in gaming mags used to cover just about everything, but in recent years I’ve discovered that the only mags I have any desire to look at are computer gaming mags from around 1988-1998 or so. Newer (or older) computer gaming mags, or mags about video gaming just don’t interest me at all anymore. Furthermore, I began to feel that it was silly spending so much time working on a site about gaming mags when I never even played any games. In 2018, I played exactly ZERO games, on any platform. Not even so much as a round of Minesweeper. ZERO. Yet I spent an ungodly number of hours adding content to this site, whether covers, ads, or magazine scans. I fell extremely behind in my comics reading (a hobby I actually DO enjoy) because I was spending all of my free time here. I had to stop, so I did. I won’t say I’ll never be back. In fact, I definitely WILL be back. I’ve still got donated mags to scan, and I’ll get them done eventually. Whether I’ll edit them as well or just go the Phillyman route and upload them raw to be someone else’s problem, I haven’t decided. And I’d surely be lying to myself if I said I’ll never upload another cover or add another mag to the database. But I’m going to work hard to police myself and limit the time I spend on the site. In the past month, despite being incredibly busy with work, I’ve STILL found time to do all sorts of things I never had time to do back when I spent all my time here. Hell, I even played a few games I’d been meaning to play forever but never got around to (the MSX version of Metal Gear, for one.) So… TLDR: I’m still around and will still contribute, but I’m going to try as hard as I can to stay away as much as possible. Even as I acknowledge my lack of interest in its content, I still feel connected to this site. I still think of it fondly, but it’s harmful to me in ways that can’t be avoided through any other means than distance. Don’t take it personally. And if E-Day ever scans that Game Player’s PC Buyers Guide he bought on eBay, I’ll totally be back to download that sucker.
  3. 1 point
    There are two websites in the world providing original scans of Japanese gaming magazines. Retromags, which offers a small collection of Japanese mags scanned mostly by me. And RetroCDN, which hosts low-resolution scans provided by a native Japanese scanner. It's no mystery why these scans are coming from people living in Japan (well, the two of us, anyway.) We have the easiest, cheapest access to the mags. But what's interesting is that all of these scans are being hosted by websites based outside of Japan. For me, well sure - I'm an American, even if I've been an expat for 9 years. But the other scanner is Japanese. Why not host them at a Japanese site? Well, because there is no such site. There simply aren't any magazine preservation sites in Japan. The entire thing is seen as not only illegal, but unethical by the majority of Japanese (whereas I think it's safe to say that we here at RM may acknowledge the technical illegality of providing magazine scans, but have a far more lenient view on the ethical implications, so long as the mags being offered are old enough to meet our cut-off dates). I recently was reading a thread on 2ch, a textboard that is probably Japan's largest and most influential online community (which ironically and fittingly, was founded by a Japanese while attending university in America). In it, users were discussing websites that offered high resolution scans of gaming mags. All sites referenced were foreign, and none were offering complete scans of entire magazines, just select pages. Also, to be fair, these were relatively new mags being discussed, not old stuff like we offer here. The following is my translation of select comments. As you can see, there were a couple of people OK with the idea, but most seemed appalled. Btw, lest anyone think that the Japanese are as puritanically ethical regarding copyright as these posts might make it seem, I'd like to point out that in the years following the mass acceptance of CDR burners, countless shops in Japan opened up "CD rental" sections, allowing you to rent music CDs. And there, either right next to the CDs themselves, or else right by the check-out counter, spindles of blank CD-Rs were also being sold. But I'm sure the two had nothing to do with each other.