I have heard a slew of stigmas and slander about people that play table top games such as Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons in my years.
"...people who play that crap are social inepts..." , "...only geeks play that junk..." etc...
I am here to tell those people, shut your mouth. I spent MANY years, over 23 to be truthful, in the U.S. Military, Emergency Medicine, Law Enforcement and Fire Service. Guess how we passed the time when things were slow and there was nobody to fight, save, arrest or rescue?
We played Magic. We played D&D. We played a myriad of games that, yes were fun; but also kept our minds fresh and strong. Not all of us, but a fair portion. From Infantrymen to Machine Gunners. Combat Corpsman to Mortar-men, we all found ways to keep our minds occupied in our down time. Table Top gaming provided this distraction from the reality, that we have to do what most people can't/won't.
Logistics, Tactics, Psychology, Reading Human Behavior; all these things come into play when you're at the table with another opponent who you have to 'battle'. So when my Brothers at Nether Void Games said they were holding a Magic the Gathering tournament, I just HAD to go.
I have never competed in a tournament before, so I was a little anxious I must say. A 'Pauper' tournament (a.k.a. poor mans deck) , all card decks in play, MUST be made with all "Common" cards. No rare, Uncommon, or Mythic cards are allowed. For those who have no clue what I am talking about; in MTG, some cards are stronger/more rare than others. In this type of tournament, you can't use them. A true challenge.
From a 6 and a 1/2 year old to full grown adults, we battled until a victor emerged. A boy named Jason, and my own 6 1/2 year old Tristan attended. In this game, age, race, gender, social up bringing; none of it matters. We are all equal on the battlefield. Metaphorically speaking. I personally played several hands against the 6 1/2 year old Jason, who I must say...is a force to be reckoned with. The kid has NO poker 'tells'. Honestly. His face, was like watching paint dry, he was that focused. A little scary, if I am to be truthful. I won my hands against him, but I have to tell you; this kid held his own against me. Tit for tat, he was in it to win.
R.J. (the store manager) and Adam (not Andy, as I once called him in a previous article. Sorry Dude.) Had their hands full and I must say, they performed beautifully! Registering new competitors to the Wizards Of The Coast, and running the competition. They were exemplary!
One thing is for certain. Veterans, to store clerks. Firefighters to college students, there were many different people from many different walks of life in attendance. Smiles, small talk and new friendships all seemed to be produced in the inaugural sanctioned tournament held at Nether Void Games.
Maybe, just maybe;... if the entire World would just embrace their "Inner Geek" a little more, it could be just as AMAZING as Nether Void Games and all those who competed today. Today, we all went from "Paupers, to Kings." #ProfessionalGeek
So we finally have a date!!!!! It's not just the vague "August 2016" that we have all been waiting every single day for. Talk about leaving details to the ambiguous. Sheesh!
Before I tell you, here is the trailer from Bethesda in case you haven't seen it.
August 30th, 2016! This is the official word from Bethesda, naturally it is on a Tuesday. What's up with Game releases and Tuesdays I wonder? Any how, Bethesda has set the date. The 30th of August. August 30th. The day between the 29th and 31st of August. The 30th. Of this month. Of this year. Less than two weeks. Did I mention the Nuka World DLC will be out on the 30th of this month?
The anticipation MAY have driven me insane. Just saying. So, moving on. Here below is a GREAT analysis of the trailer and what we will and might see in the latest DLC for one of the greatest video games in history. (Personal opinion.)
We all have our heroes. Professional sports athletes. Movie stars. TV show stars.
When I was younger, I was in a rough spot in my life. Who am I kidding? I was bullied, abused and poor. Going to the food bank just to hopefully make it early enough that we could get food. Enough to feed the 7 of us. Ducking the gang of bullies waiting to beat me up on the way home. I wore my brothers hand me downs and was relentlessly tormented by the kids at school because I didn't have the latest fashions.
Burdens of growing up in a community of rich folk and going to a wealthy school district when your family is poor and lives in the same zip code. It was rough. I was constantly trying to find guidance and solace any way I could. No friends to speak of, because who wanted to hang out with the poor kid that smelled weird because his family didn't have a working washer and dryer?
My heroes, the only ones I could find were in comic books, movies, TV shows and cartoons. Daredevil and Captain America. G.I. Joe and the Autobots. Knight Rider, McGyver and the A-Team. Those were my friends. Those were my role models.
Years later, I overcame it all. A Paramedic, A Navy Hospital Corpsman, A Firefighter, A Police Officer, A Husband, A Father, A Friend, A Brother. I became, my own hero. Putting others before myself. Helping those that felt like I did. Being there for those, who had nobody. Like I was once. In the position of desperation, feeling like there is no help in sight.
Now, I am a successful Author and Businessman; I am in the position to meet my heroes that helped me get through it all. Heroes like Kristy Swanson and Michael Rooker.
In 1992, I was in 8th grade. It was one of the worst years in my life. My alcoholic relative was beating the hell out of my sisters and I, My 2nd brother was off for the Army ending Desert Storm/Shield with his unit. Mom and Dad cared more about Church and bible study than fixing the family. It was a hell of a time. I managed to sneak out one weekend. Instead of delivering my newspapers, I took my tip money and walked five miles across the bridge and down the highway to the movie theater to see a movie.
I had seen the previews on TV and it had caught my attention. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was filled with nothing but awe. Here was this girl. Lost, trapped in a world of popularity and ignorance. Maybe feeling somewhat oblivious to the plights around her, and BOOM! She finds out that she has a super power. She is there to rid the world of evil. For her, it was popularity and vanity, only to find out she can save the world. She went from stereo typical cheerleader to a hero.
I related on some strange facet. I was poor, abused, ignored and bullied; but what if? She went from "Top of the food chain" to hero. A Strong, independent female Alpha that wouldn't let evil win. What if I could go from a poor, abused, bullied weakling to the same? Later that year I became a First Responder and a member of Search and Rescue team. Leading to Emergency Medicine, the Military, Fire Department and more.
I have always held a place in my heart for Kristy Swanson. Not in a creepy way. She was so strong in that role, that it inspired me for years to come. She still does. I had the fortune to meet her recently at Steel City Comic-Con. I was in attendance selling my latest Fiction Novels and signing autographs as she was there doing photo-ops and signing autographs as well. I approached her and got an autograph and picture taken with her. I was completely star struck, but I think that I hid it well.
The next day at the hotel bar, I am outside getting some air with some friends, and she walks out of the door. Standing no more than a foot away from me. She joins in on the conversation, and I am still flabbergasted that the woman that pretty much kept me going all these years is standing next to me. Somehow, the conversation turned to Military Veterans. A dear friend, "Skippy", mentions that he, another and I are all Veterans.
She hugged every single one of us and thanked us for our sacrifice. She went on to tell us how much she appreciates and is grateful for us; and of how her and Actor Gary Sinese do charity work for the Men and Women over seas in Afghanistan.
On screen and off screen, this woman is still my hero. Compassionate and kind. I now know for a certain, that I was right to hold her in such high regard.
Then, there is Michael Rooker. A class act ALL TO HIMSELF. In a good way. ;)
Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead, Jumper, Stargate SG-1, The Dark Half...
This man has been in so many movies that I have seen that I can't keep count. I first saw him in "Days of Thunder" with Tom Cruise. To be honest, I REALLY loved his character more than I did Tom's. Sorry Tom. Not everything can be Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow or Jack Reacher. Which, side note; "Top Gun 2" Really?
Michael Rooker has the ability to take any role he plays, and make it HIS! Good guys, Bad guys; Michael can portray it to perfection! It feels like Michael can take any character he plays and get into their head and know what they would be like. Feel how they would react. Whether it's "Mr. Svenning" in "Mallrats" or "Merle Dixon" in "The Walking Dead". Michael brings the character to life.
Michael and I both belong to a fraternal organization called Z.E.R.T., The Zombie Eradication Response Team. Over 20K strong worldwide and growing. It is a group of people that bond together over training, survival techniques and emergency preparedness. So when I found out he was attending Steel City Comic-con, I just HAD to meet him. I got my autograph, and had my membership card in hand. "I hear that we're both Brothers..." I say to him playfully. He sees the card and laughs. "I know. We're EVERYWHERE." I respond. He shakes my hand like a man and embraces me under his arm to take a picture.
On the last day of the convention, my son was with me at my booth. Michael is in the aisle behind us and my son spots him. "Yondu!" He shouts at Michael! I can't be certain of what happened next, because my view was obstructed, but it looked like a cool, "Hey Lil' Man" finger point! And my 6 year old was head over heals. "Daddy! Yondu! Yondu said hi to me!" The grin on my boys face couldn't have been any bigger.
The world needs heroes. Whether they're actors and actresses. Sports figures or celebrities. And of course the women and men in uniform on the streets and in the service. Our heroes, protect us. Give us inspiration. Set examples of how AWESOME humanity can be. If it's either on the silver screen or on the streets; heroes can change the world.
A while back I was at Steel City Comic-con in Monroeville, Pennsylvania; when I saw two Cobra Viper Cosplayers walking down the aisle.
If you are unfamiliar with what a "Cobra Viper" is, it is my distinct pleasure to educate you. Cobra Vipers are the foot soldiers for Cobra, from Habro's toy line/comic books (originally by Marvel) and tv cartoon "G.I. Joe". Side note, G.I. Joe (the comic book) was one of the first comic books to have it's own TV commercial.
(Pictured above are professional Cosplayers- Joe Colton and Maggies Madness, go give them a LIKE on FB)
I have been a die hard GI Joe fan since I was a child. A love that has followed me into adulthood. So the Cosplayers and I begin to talk, and I quickly ask about their movie quality helmets. The tell me about this Prop studio called Pit Viper Studios.
I quickly found the Prop makers on Facebook and even ended up joining their closed chat group. Lenvil King the owner of Pit Viper Studios and I soon became fast friends. A veteran of the Merchant Marines, Len has forgotten more about prop manufacturing than I will ever learn.
From Ant Man to the Flash, Berserker Dwarves, to GI Joe and Cobra; The versatility of Pit Viper Studios knows no bounds!
Red Hood has to be one of my favorite pieces made by the master manufacturers. I have come to know many knew friends and grown my knowledge of Cosplay all thanks to Pit Viper Studios. I even have my own 1986 Cobra Viper helmet coming to me from Lenvil.
Salt of the Earth, the crew from Pit Viper Studios is the best in the business. Take the time to give them a LIKE on Facebook and check out their catalog. There is something for everyone on their, and the quality is beyond compare.
According to Gamespot.com the eagerly anticipated "Nuka World" download for Bethesda's "Fallout 4" is to be the biggest DLC ever put out by the game developers.
"It's reportedly bigger than Fallout 4's Far Harbor expansion, which included the largest landmass Bethesda had ever made for an expansion pack.
According to GamingBolt, the Steam Database entry for Nuka-World reveals that the content will be around 3.66 GB. By comparison, the Far Harbor expansion was around 2.7 GB."
Nuka-World, which is set in a post-apocalyptic amusement park, adds new quests, weapons, and more. Here is the official description:
"Take a trip to Nuka-World, a vast amusement park now a lawless city of Raiders. Explore an all-new region with an open wasteland and park zones like Safari Adventure, Dry Rock Gulch, Kiddie Kingdom, and the Galactic Zone. Nuka-World features new quests, Raiders, weapons, creatures, and more. Enjoy the ride!" (Read More)
The release date announced from Bethesda only states that the new DLC will be released in "August 2016". That's all they say. Now, I'm a patient man; but WHAT THE HECK TYPE OF RELEASE DATE IS THAT? REALLY? That's all we get?
AUGUST 2016? Oh vague gaming Gods of absurdity! How you toy with us so!
So, we wait...
Well, the trailer looks spectacular and I can't wait to dominate all in Nuka World!
I am a huge advocate for Cos-Play. Always have been, ever since I was a child going to my first Star Trek convention with my mother.
I remember seeing all the Klingons, and Starfleet uniforms and aliens... It was like a fantasy world. All these characters that I watched for so long on T.V. and in the movies; here they were. Made flesh! Then, later on in life I attended Pittsburgh Comic-con.
Spider-Man, Captain America, Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, G.I. Joe, Battlestar Gallactica, and so much more! I was in heaven! Posing for pictures, shaking hands and greeting people. The Cos-Players were few back then, but spectacular.
Now a'days, Cos-Play is a life style. One that takes time, patience, dedication, and passion. I myself Cos-Play as characters I love. "Jayne Cobb" from "Firefly", a "Cobra Viper" from "G.I. Joe" and more. Now, as a Father, I get to see my son have the same reactions as a child that I once had when you attend a convention and get to see your favorite heroes and villains made real.
Super Mario in Steam Punk representation, the Punisher, Ghost Rider, the Joker, my sons eyes light up like it's Christmas morning. Attending Steel City Comic-Con, my son is in paradise. Politely asking to have his picture taken with all of the Cos-Players he could find that are the Avatars of his heroes; "Spider-Man! Spider-Man! May I please have my picture taken with you?" his voice is filled with so much excitement that he is near spontaneous combustion.
At Steel City Comic-con, all of the cos-players are top notch and filled to the brim with class. Sadly, I have attended other conventions where I have seen not so nice Cos-Players. Kurt, and rude. Crass and ignorant, these people are forgetting a simple common sense lesson. When you decide to dress as your favorite, character from fiction, a video game, a comic book... you're dressing as everyone else's favorite as well. Especially a young child's.
A hero, a villain, a phenomenal costume job... If your demeanor and attitude emanates in the negative, and a young child picks up on this? If you are rude towards someone that has a love of that character...?
That is all that child is going to remember. "...Spider-Man was mean to me..."
Congratulations, you just killed Spider-Man for that kid. That child will more than likely begin to dislike that character from then on.
Nothing like this happened to my son at Steel City Comic-Con this weekend. It just got me thinking as a Dad and a Cos-Player. When I portray a character, I always adopt the persona and embrace it. I act that character out and embrace the fans that ask for pictures and/or shout out their verbal praise. In my head I am saying, "they're fans of this? Heck yea! I'm a fan too!" It makes me happy to know that someone else loves something that I do so much.
Whether you Cos-Play for the fun, the challenge, or even the prize money; I have to give courteous warning. You're not just Cos-Playing for you. You're Cos-Playing for all of the fans. I have seen Cos-Play performers that are mean. Their costumes maybe top notch, but their attitudes weren't. "With Great Cos-Play, Comes Great Responsibility."
Ghouls, Goblins and Demon Slayers beware. There is a new keep in the land where magic, adventure and tales beyond compare, lie in wait.
Nestled in the wood line, along a babbling brook in fair Munhall, Pennsylvania, stands an establishment unlike many others. Where the adventurous and intrepid can embark upon grand adventures. Where the meek may become mighty. Where the fair may become heroic. Where legends are born and destroyed all in the same day.
CHECK THEM OUT ON FACEBOOK AND GIVE THEM A LIKE!
I simply speak, of the Nether Void Games. Where table top card players and role game players flock in droves. The new and daunting establishment, is owned by one Chuck Lang and run by one R.J. Serafini. Two brave lads I have seldom had the likes to meet before.
To be honest, It is REALLY hard to write like I am talking in a renaissance accent. Maybe I should have hired John Cleese? Anyway.
This store is AMAZING! Check out these pics!
CHECK THEM OUT ON FACEBOOK AND GIVE THEM A LIKE!
From Magic the Gathering, to vintage video games, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, D&D, Warhammer and much, much more. I am like a kid in a candy shop! I almost got whiplash from all the head turning I was doing. The warm environment with a touch of Industrial Awesome, lets you know that you are welcome and that this place, this experience, is THE PLACE TO BE.
Having to darn near re-build the place from the ground up, Chuck and his crew have worked tirelessly to make Nether Void a virtual fantasy made flesh.
Some of the biggest challenges the crew at Nether Void face are things like expansion and construction. With plans to expand adding a deck and possibly a coffee shop/bistro; I know where I am going to be spending most of my free time.
CHECK THEM OUT ON FACEBOOK AND GIVE THEM A LIKE!
The warm and knowledgeable charisma of the staff is something I have seldom seen in a Gaming Store. Most of the time I am treated like a plebeian because I am , "not well versed" in all facets of gaming at other stores. Not at Nether Void Games. ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.
Many tournaments and game gatherings I have attended, there is usually a "Male bravado" that is very prominent. Like myself, Nether Void Games frowns on this. It is no secret that there is an ever growing following of females in the gaming community. Unlike most gamer's and gaming facilities ; NVG is very inclusive and encouraging to all gamer's regardless to who they are. It is truly refreshing to be among like minded gamer's.
As I stood there chatting with Chuck, R.J. and Adam ( the stores resident gaming judge/officiant) I couldn't help like feeling that I was among family. One thing is for certain, I have found my permanent Gaming Store.
CHECK THEM OUT ON FACEBOOK AND GIVE THEM A LIKE!
Gamestop's release of it's game "Song Of The Deep" is a welcome surprise!
Not saying I didn't know about the release, I am saying it's THAT DAMN GOOD!!! Something the gaming industry has been missing for a long time, is a puzzle adventure game of this magnitude. The graphics are phenomenal, the soundtrack is elegant and brilliantly composed and the story line is sheer poetry.
"Song of the Deep" is the "Echo the Dolphin" of the 21st century. Period.
Everybody and their mother has their first person shooters, action rpg's, mmorpg's, and the like. However I truly feel that it is high time a game such as S.O.T.D. came into fruition.
***SPOILER ALERT***- If you don't want to have the game ruined for you, stop reading now and go buy the thing. It retails for $14.99 BRAND NEW! Yes, you read that correctly. Gamestop being the company that put this out along with Insomniac games and CI Games and Gametrust; they don't have to charge us, the consumers an arm and a leg. And our 1st born child. And a kidney....
But I digress, You start out with the narrative told much like a children's book, with exquisite art that looks like a water color painting. Your character, Marin; is the daughter of a fisherman who told her fabulous stories her whole childhood. Stories about sea monsters, underwater cities of gold and lost civilizations.
One day he doesn't come home from fishing and Marin sets off on her quest to find her father. By building a mini-submarine. You begin your hunt for Dad in the "Glow Kelp Forest"
You start off with just your submarine, but through exploration and adventure you gradually get upgrades such as a magnetic claw, torpedoes, engine boosters, search lights and much much more.
This game challenges cognitive reasoning on an epic scale. You have to think outside the box on this one kiddies. Even on the easiest game difficulty, S.O.T.D. poses a challenge. Even to a gamer like me with 35+ years of gaming experience.
With more games to be released from Gamestop, I can't wait to see what they come out with next. In the mean time, GO BUY SONG OF THE DEEP!!! IT's AMAZING and it's only $14.99!
Great job to all those who worked on this project.
We give Song Of The Deep:
From quiet parks to bustling city streets, Pokemon Go is sweeping the globe by storm.
With the ability to get lazy people off their butts and actually exercising, a vast chunk of society are reporting an increase in their vitamin D levels just from sheer exposure to the sun.
With all kidding aside, I have heard various stories about how people are actually starting to socialize, make friends even loose weight. I personally put the free application on my smart phone, initially at the request of my 6 year old son. We were both instantly hooked.
We are outside everyday now, going for walks. Catching Pokemon. Talking about any and everything. It is quality time that I truly enjoy. Heck, I have even lost about 5 pounds since we started playing the game. We just caught this Dragonite the other day right on our own street.
There are those though, that get so engrossed in the game that there have been injuries and even terrible accidents. Right here in our county, a girl was hit by a car crossing the street to catch a Pokemon. Last week, a guy wrecked into a Baltimore police cruiser because he was playing while driving.
I even heard about some guy walking off the edge of a cliff because he wasn't paying attention. As "horrible" as these incidents are, I find it hard not to think that this is Darwinism at it's finest. Thinning of the heard and all that. I don't say this to be cruel, I just think there are some REALLY stupid people on this planet.
Pokemon Go has become such a world changing bit of technology, that the conspiracy theorists and tin foil hat wearers are out in full force. "Big Brother is using Pokemon Go to get you to spy on your neighbors..." etc.
I enjoy a good conspiracy theory. I really do. Probably why I am a fiction writer specializing in dystopia and end of the world genres.
Think what you like, Play it or don't. I really enjoy playing this game with my son, and I know my wife is in full support of us going outside and bonding together as Father and Son. Plus, I really enjoy finding the Pokemon in odd places. Here are a few examples below. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a Geodude outside that I have to catch. Happy Hunting.
Located on Reynolds street in a quiet little section of Pittsburgh is an amazing little restaurant named, Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant and Wine bar.
The friendly persona of the eatery, is only equaled by the pleasantness of the staff. If you have never been to this section of Pittsburgh, Point Breeze is a well kept secret. Everyone is friendly, and the little block long shopping section of business are cute and bursting with charm.
My wife works close by, and every time I pass this place, the aromas emanating from it make my mouth water. So today, I decided to take my wife and son inside for dinner. The decor is warm and trendy. The wooden bar with brass rail is very pleasing to the eye. The well lit spirits behind the bar are tempting to the palate, and if I wasn't driving I would have most definitely sampled some of their diverse wine selection.
Our server, Mary greeted us and sat us at the beautiful stone top tables. Adorned with multi colored frescoes, the tables add a whole other level to the ambiance that fills Pino's. From hand made pasta dishes to fresh to table appetizers, this place has something for everyone.
My son, who is 6, spots the spaghetti and meatballs right off the bat. Our server, Mary was kind enough to explain that the portion would be massive. "I can eat it Daddy!" he says with the type of confidence only a six year old can muster. My bride orders the fried calamari, and my eye is drawn to the tempting whispers of the Margherita pizza.
The hand made pasta with "all beef" meatballs is only what I can imagine eating if I had grown up in an Italian household eating recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. The tomato sauce is well seasoned and not acidic. The pasta is cooked to perfection, and has explosions of texture that can only come from freshly made pasta. The meatballs are evenly cooked with an abundance of flavor that only enhances the already delightful dish. My son ate the entire dish by the way. I was lucky to even get a bite in.
When it comes to seafood, I'm a bit of a snob. Having served in the U.S. Navy, I was spoiled to being stationed on bases that were on the ocean, so we had access to "Fresh" seafood, that was caught THAT DAY. The more "inland" you go into the country, the more frozen things like seafood becomes.
Not at Pino's. The fresh calamari is out of this world! Battered in a secret recipe, that according to staff took many tries to achieve until the chef reached perfection; is fried in peanut oil and served with lemon and a tomato dipping sauce that is hands down, damn near heaven sent.
The crunch, the floral accent of basil, the brightness of the San Marzano sauce and the creamy delight of the fresh mozzarella all come together into the perfection that is this Margherita pizza. Perfect for sharing or even indulging ones self, this pizza is a must try!
I can only imagine how everything would have been elevated by one of the wines that are available at Pino's. I can honestly say that, although not a place I could afford on a regular basis; Pino's is a definite destination that should be on all Pittsburgh "Foodies" lists of places to eat.
I give Pino's of Point Breeze 4.5 Stars.
CEO Spike Bowan is the Pittsburgh based Actor/Director/ Author/ Creator of the Alternate History Genre/Fiction saga "War in the Backyard".
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