Book Review – Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton

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I picked up Just A Geek based on the recommendation of various people, and I can say I do not regret doing so.

Just A Geek is the memoirs of Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand by me (and Big Bang Theory) fame. It is an honest and brutal look at his rapid rise to fame as a young teen and his subsequent and dramatic fall thereafter. He goes into a great deal of detail describing his love\hate relationship with Wesley Crusher, the character he portrayed on Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as the doubts and self loathing he experienced as a result of him deciding to leave Star Trek.

In the book he writes of his time as a struggling actor who could hardly find work, to him discovering comedy and being part of a successful sketch comedy group and later starting his blog, WilWheaton.net. Starting his blog resulted in him learning HTML and teaching himself Linux and also helped him rediscover his love for writing. The rediscovery of this love helped Wil redefine himself as an author, helping him find balance and success in his life.

Just A Geek is a really enjoyable journey, starting with a young boy on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation, more interested in Dungeons & Dragons than Star Trek, to a normal guy dealing with the complexities of everyday life, like paying bills and working on the relationship with his wife and step-sons.

Just A Geek is an inspiring and feel good book that I would really recommend. It shows how life hardly works out how we plan, but even so great things can come from the most unexpected places.

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Book Review – Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton

Interview with Largest Retro Video Game Seller in South Africa

In recent years, interest in retro video games has increased significantly. This has created a new marketplace consisting of buyers and sellers who exclusively focus on video games that, until recently, have been considered obsolete. I recently conducted an interview with Kristy Anderson who started a company a few years ago that focuses on selling retro video games and has subsequently grown to be the largest seller of retro video games in South Africa.

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How did you get into the business of selling retro games? 

Well, it’s a bit of a long story! I was big into pc gaming as a child, but the only retro console that I can vaguely remember playing was a golden china type with Mario bros and Circus on it. So I didn’t really have any retro consoles that were familiar to me, unlike many other South African children from the 80s and 90s. I also went to boarding school in my high school years and as a result, I stopped gaming for a very long time. It was only in 2008 when my husband and I went to Australia and stayed with a friend, that I discovered console gaming again. This friend had a Wii console and I was fascinated with the technology and played Wii sports for ages, getting really into my tennis game and nearly taking out the light fitting at the same time. We enjoyed the console so much that we decided to invest in one ourselves. Suddenly my love for gaming was re-ignited and I found myself taking a greater interest in all things gaming. The pivotal point was when I was looking for some hard to find Wii titles and the only place I could find them was online in East London. The only catch was that I had to buy the Wii console and all the games as one bundle and obviously, I had to find a way to get it to Durban. Taking a big leap of faith, I paid this random dude via EFT and then organized for a courier to collect. I then sold off the rest of the items and kept some of the games for myself. I ended up making a bit of money on the stuff I sold and a fledgling idea seemed to take hold. I found myself searching online for other gaming bundles and then began buying some of them. Soon I was hooked and spent all my free time bargain hunting and discovering more about the gaming world. I slowly diversified into Xbox 360 (had a learning curve with an ROD console along the way) and then started buying other consoles like PS2 and PS3. In early 2009 it started to become a regular thing and I was trying to juggle this sideline business with my full-time job working at a local vet. This became more and more difficult to do and I started to get very stressed out, as there was simply not enough time in the day to commit to both jobs. So I had to make a difficult decision – was this fledgling business viable enough to leave my full-time employment? It was a hard choice to make but I convinced my boss to let me work half-day for a few months so I could train my replacement and then in early 2010, I left the vet and committed to my business full-time. Around that time I also discovered a box with my husband’s old PS1 console in it and a ton of PS1 games. I sold these off for him and discovered they were quite popular. My sister also unearthed her old Dreamcast console (she used to work for Dreamcast in the UK) and I bought that off her too. It turned out that she had some limited release white label games (only given to staff and advertisers), which were very rare on eBay, and this prompted me to start selling internationally as well. Since then, my business has been growing considerably every year (especially the retro section) and we are always diversifying into new areas. Several years ago we started importing retro items from the UK due to the high demand for them and now we get regular shipments in. There has been a lot to learn, as we stock a lot of diverse gaming products, but it has definitely been worth it! I get to work from home doing something I’m passionate about and really enjoy, and I have the most amazing customers too 🙂

Have you seen an increase in interest in Retro gaming as of late?

Yes definitely. It used to be a slow progression over the last few years, where I would occasionally get customers enquiring about certain retro consoles and wanting advice on them. Suddenly though, last year, retro seemed to become the “in” thing. LPs were being released again and certain retro items seemed to be making a comeback. This has taken off to such an extent in the last 6 months or so, that demand is starting to outstrip supply. Prices have skyrocketed and it is becoming harder to find items at reasonable prices. We are constantly searching for new suppliers in order to try and keep up with the demand.

What are the most popular systems people are collecting for?

Considering that retro has become so popular of late, I have noticed a large increase in purchases of specific retro consoles. These are mainly consoles that were predominant in South Africa in the 80s and 90s, namely PS1 and 8 bit consoles like the Golden China or Nintendo Famicom. There is a huge nostalgic element associated with these consoles and as a result, I seem to get many requests for them. Also popular is anything retro Nintendo, especially all types of Game Boy consoles.

Where do you get your stock? From local sources or more imported items?

I get my stock from all over – both locally and internationally. That’s the reason I’m called “The Source” as I spend a lot of time trying to source rare items, good deals and new suppliers for my stock. A lot of my customers also like to do “trade-ins” on their old consoles/games and duplicate items.  I have managed to locate some suppliers in other countries like Japan and I just received my first Japanese shipment last week. This will become a regular thing along with my UK imports. However, imported items are constantly being affected by the exchange rate, which seems to be doing worse every year.

Do you collect retro video games?

I have never been much of a collector as I’m a very practical person and don’t like having too much stuff around me that I don’t use. I do have a few first edition books that are especially important to me (one is signed by the author), but I’m not sure if you could call it a collection. In saying that, I do enjoy the process of finding new and exciting items and having them on display to show others. In that respect, my stock serves as a collection in itself, as I can fulfill my need to discover new and unknown elements of the gaming world and teach others about them, and yet they don’t go unused and will eventually land up in a good home. I am actually strangely protective over my retro items. I feel like finding them and making sure they go to someone who appreciates them is sort of like preserving history. I once had a photographer who wanted to buy a Gameboy console for a shoot and I didn’t want to sell it to him as I was concerned it wouldn’t be used and loved (weird, I know). Anyway, after being in this industry for over 7 years and seeing the passion that my collectors have for gaming, I fear it has rubbed off on me a bit. I have recently acquired a few collectible items like the Fallout 4 pipboy, vault boy bobble head and fallout fridge and I also have a fairly large selection of “special” mugs which include Mario, batman, superman and other geeky and gaming themes. I use a different one of these mugs every day so they do serve a practical purpose as well. I also own a Halo 4 edition Xbox 360 console and a Forza 6 edition Xbox one console which I use on a regular basis.

Do you play video games?

Of course I do 🙂 It would be a travesty to be in this industry and not enjoy video games or play them. Obviously we have to test a lot of our games to make sure they are working, so I do play a large selection of games for work, but I also like to play my own games on the weekends and evenings. I am currently playing Fallout 4 (I believe I’m on level 38 at the moment) and its been very absorbing. I have found myself playing quite late into the evenings sometimes as I “just want to finish this one quest” which turns into another hour of gameplay before you know it. You may have gathered from my previous comments that the Fallout series is a favorite of mine. I love the concept and enjoy exploring and interacting with this post-apocalyptic world.

What is your favorite video game of all time?

That is a tough one. I don’t know if many people have an outright favorite. I will break it into different years of my life:
Childhood: Kings Quest series and most specifically Kings Quest 6. Also played a lot of Mario bros, and enjoyed Resident evil 2 and the crash bandicoot series on PS1.
2008: The Legend of Zelda Twilight princess and resident evil 4
2009 to 2010: Fallout 3 and Red dead redemption
2010 to 2011: Fallout new Vegas
2011 to 2012: The Witcher 2 and Skyrim
2013 to 2014: Tomb Raider (2013) and The last of us
2015: The Witcher 3
2016: Fallout 4
I’m sure I’m probably forgetting some but these are the ones that stand out most in my mind.

Have you ever considered opening a brick and mortar shop? 

Yes, briefly. Truth be known, I enjoy having an online store. Some of my best and favorite customers live in other provinces and I also enjoy being able to work from home. If I had a physical store I wouldn’t be able to have the luxury of rolling out of bed and being at work 5 minutes later, being able to sit outside in my garden on a rare lunch break, having a swim in my pool when it gets hot or having a cat sitting on my lap or watching them hide and play in my empty boxes. Most importantly, I don’t know if I would have developed the friendships that I have with some of my customers in other provinces. Brick and mortar stores limit your customers to one area whereas online stores allow you to sell to anywhere in the world (I do sell internationally as well). Most importantly, you are constantly being introduced to new and different people and relating to them on an intellectual level without knowing what they look like or what their background is. We are all equals online and are judged by our opinions, how we act and what we say, as opposed to what we look like. Many people think it’s strange and dangerous to deal with so many people you don’t really know, but I like the possibilities it creates. I also love the way that gaming transcends all barriers and brings different people together.

Are you planning on having a stand at any of the local expos? (Like Rage or GeekFest?)

I have strongly considered this and I’m sure it will happen in the near future. There are a lot of weekend markets in my area and I have thought about having a stand at one of them occasionally. Rage is also a massive platform to market a business and I definitely aim to be there one day soon. The practicalities are preventing me at the moment, as obviously I can’t bring all my stock with me so would have to limit the stock I transport. Not to mention the costs involved with travelling to Joburg for Rage and accommodation while we are there. Also, a lot of our items are pre-owned and I usually like to polish discs and test games before sending them, to ensure they are working properly. So I have to figure out a way around this and also overcome my crowd phobia when it comes to Rage. I did visit it a few years ago, but the amount of people there was very intimidating for me. I am actually quite a shy person when it comes down to it but have become a lot more confident since starting my own business.

How would you describe www.thegamingsource.co.za

An eCommerce business that supplies a large selection of pre-owned games and consoles for all platforms at reasonable prices. We are also one of the biggest retro gaming suppliers in South Africa and are able to source and/or import almost any gaming item required.

If anyone is interested in buying anything related to retro gaming, you can visit The Source website at www.thegamingsource.co.za or contact Kristy directly at thesource100@gmail.com.

Interview with Largest Retro Video Game Seller in South Africa

Metal Earth – R2D2

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Metal Earth is a range of laser cut 3D models. They have the rights to various licensed models from series such as Star Wars and Halo. I picked up the R2D2 model and decided to give it a try.  

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So it took me a very long time to assemble the model, and it was not easy. The model has various tiny pieces (I spent a lot of time crawling around the floor looking for dropped pieces no bigger than a large grain of sand) and I found normal needle nose pliers too big for most of the assembly.

Assembly of the model was extremely frustrating and I believe for anyone with large hands building these models would be nearly impossible.

The model came out looking ok, but not close to the one on the packaging and I can only assume they got a neurosurgeon with the hand size of a small child to assemble the one displayed. 

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These models are a novel idea, and I believe that if you build numerous models and invest in specialised tools, eventually you can become better at building them. But even considering this, I cannot recommend these models to anyone except the most dedicated and experienced model builders. They are simply too frustrating and finicky to assemble. Simply put, it wasn’t fun.

Metal Earth – R2D2

IoT

I am starting an IoT project and wanted to share a little bit.  IoT or the Internet of Things is defined on Wikipedia as “the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity—that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit;”.  

To learn more I would recommend the book The Internet of Things Do-It-Yourself at Home Projects for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone Black by Donald Norris. It provides an in-depth technical overview of concepts as well as some projects that can be built. The projects in the book are not particularly exciting but they do a good job at illustrating concepts and methods utilised.

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So I am going to be using a Raspberry Pi2 running Windows 10 IoT core, which will be communicating with some Arduino boards.

I am also looking at integrating with Azure Machine Learning to do some interesting things. 

I have not decided on many elements of the final project, but it will involve a robot.

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On a side note, do not try to deploy Windows 10 IoT Core on a SD card using a Mac, it is a huge pain. My main computer I use at home (and for most of my development, blogging, video editing, etc.) is a MacBook Pro and in the end I gave up trying to get the deploy working and used my windows laptop which worked almost instantaneously.

Once I have decided exactly what I want to achieve and made some progress I will post more on this topic.

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My Favourite Video Game Systems of all time…for now

It has been a while since my last post, and for that I apologize but I have gone through a really crazy time the last month and among other things started a new job at Microsoft.

I think that todays’ post might be a bit controversial, however remember that this is my opinion only and it will most definitely differ for everyone. Additionally I found that I kept changing my mind and if I had to redo this list in a year it might differ.

Also keep in mind that consoles like the Atari 2600/5200 etc. were before my time and thus I have no memories relating to them and thus no emotional connection to them, thus why they do not appear on my list.

I will be doing a few posts on some of the systems below in the future, covering what made them great, what failings they had and any other interesting information I come across.

My Favourite Video Game Systems of all time:

  1. Gameboy
  2. PS4 & XBOX One
  3. 3DS & DS
  4. SNES
  5. Dreamcast
  6. Master System
  7. NES
  8. PS2
  9. N64
  10. WiiU
  11. XBOX360 & PS3
  12. PSP
  13. Genesis\Mega Drive
  14. GameCube
  15. PlayStation
  16. Gameboy Advanced
  17. PS VITA
  18. Sega Saturn
  19. Gameboy Color
  20. Wii

So is this very different from your list? If so share your list in the comments below.

My Favourite Video Game Systems of all time…for now

Why Collect Retro Video Games?

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I often get asked why I collect Retro Video games. Some people I have met find it bizarre that anyone would want “old” video games as they think anything other than the latest and greatest systems are simply junk that should be thrown away.

The reasons why people collect anything differs greatly, however I think it is safe to assume that anyone who collects something has some form of personal connection to the items being collected. For me personally video games are something I grew up with and I believe a large part of the reason I collect is an element of nostalgia. Many items in my collection reminds me of fond memories when I was a child; I believe this is a reason why many people collect a variety of things, the items act as a keep sake of a time period in someone’s’ past that they have a favourable connection with.

I also believe there is an element of unfulfilled childhood wish fulfilment when it comes to collecting; getting things you wanted as a child but could never have. This is a common reason for collecting video games that I have heard from many collectors.

On top of all these reasons I also collect video games because I love them. I enjoy playing them and I also play and collect current gen video games, not just retro. In my opinion video games are a form of art, how can anything created with such passion and talent not be. Only in very recent times have video games started to receive some of the recognition associated with being an art form, but this has come too late for enormous amounts of items that have been branded as trash and ended up in landfills. That is why many collectors of video games see themselves as curators; saving something they love from ending up in a dump and being lost forever.

I take a great deal of pleasure in owning and adding to my collection, and also to play and experience the games therein, be that a latest release or a game that is 25 years old in the same way that someone may listen to modern and classical music and appreciating both for what they are.

So why do I collect video games? And why do some people collect toys or records or comic books or anything really? Because of a love for something, be that video games or toys or comics books or something completely different.

Competition!

So I have another PS3 download code to give away! This time it is Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. So get your comments in before 31 October 2015 to stand a chance to win!

Why Collect Retro Video Games?

Book Review – The Legend of Zelda Hyrule Historia

The Legend of Zelda Hyrule Historia is a very high quality collectors’ book published by Dark Horse in collaboration with Nintendo. 

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The book itself is absolutely beautiful, it is clear that a great deal of effort and care was taken in the creation of the book. The book is bound in a dark green hard cover and even looks like something straight out of one of the Legend of Zelda games. Regarding content, the book is a hybrid between an art book and an information guide and contains a vast amount of amazing artwork as well as detail on every single character (including all the enemies), item and weapon from the Legend of Zelda Games. 

One of the treasures contained in this book is an official timeline of the Legend of Zelda games, showing how the games are linked together. Prior to this book Nintendo has never officially explained how the games are linked and for a lot of Zelda fans this was a very big frustration. 

The Legend of Zelda Hyrule Historia is an example of a game tie-in book done right and will form an amazing addition to any Legend of Zelda collection. I cannot stress enough how beautiful this book is and would highly recommend it to any fan of the Legend of Zelda. 

Book Review – The Legend of Zelda Hyrule Historia