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Archive for April, 2011

Vintage Videos & Games

Greetings folks, and welcome to what may very well be the final post of Mountaineer Life. We are going to look at Vintage Videos & Games, a Morgantown game store located right on High Street. Its storefront includes a lovely display case full of gaming artifacts.

Don't see this lineup very often

The display is certainly intriguing, a definite plus to having a store in this location.

Shall we see what's inside?

The first thing that hit me when I entered Vintage Videos & Games was the sheer abundance of inventory.

Newer goods

Vintage Video & Games doesn't skimp on the video, as evidenced by this small slice of its DVD/HDDVD/Blu Ray collection

The second thing that hit me was the variety of the store’s inventory. The store’s inventory spans a huge amount of gaming history, from Atari to current gen and everything in between. Particularly notable is the NES game library, which attracts many collectors to the business. Sega Genesis games are also abundant.

Sega Genesis cartridges waiting for a home, with NES cartridges flanking on the right

Vintages Videos & Games also does a lively trade in classic consoles, with many such specimens on display in the shop.

Check the Jaguar box up there. Don't see one of those every day

Some classic consoles waiting in the wings

They even have a…

So cool

So clearly the place lives up to its name. But how did it come to be? I spoke with the place’s founder/owner Kevin Riggleman, who gave me the bildungsroman of Vintage Videos & Games.

The store opened in 1996, but in a form different than its current one. Initially, the place served as a cross between a video game flea market and a bazaar for other enterprising folk. The place was populated by private owners with their own individual tables and stock. As time wore on, however, this approach faded into the annals of history, leaving the more traditionally structured Vintage Videos & Games as we know it today.

Kevin explained the store’s situation at the outset of our tale. “We might have had 100 games when we first started,” he said. “We had one 8×3 card table with all of our stock on it.” Looking around at the establishment’s overflowing shelves, this statement seemed far-fetched, but Kevin simply shrugged. “Every month it [our stock] got a little bigger.”

Kevin (in the red)and Drew (in the olive drab jacket) talk shop behind the sales counter

Drew Moyer, an employee at Vintage Videos & Games, discussed the biggest problem facing the store. “Piracy is really bad for us,” he stated. Both Kevin and Drew bemoaned the burgeoning problem of entertainment piracy. Given that about half of their business is in movies, the combination of Netflix and movie piracy is cutting into the store’s bottom line.

Drew mans the register

I asked Drew and Kevin about their level of involvement in the Morgantown gaming community. Kevin has been by Four Horsemen Comics and Gaming a few times, having played D&D since way back. Drew, a huge City of Heroes fan, doesn’t really see a need to venture down to Save Point in light of the fact that his own PC setup is top notch. Still, the two were aware of the businesses I’ve been covering. They were particularly generous in their praise of Sarah and Owen down at Save Point, and glad to hear (from me) that Save Point was going strong.

One last interesting aside: Ryan, one of the brothers who founded The Game Exchange, worked at Vintage Videos & Games for four years before he began his current job over there. Small world, eh?

So that about wraps ‘er up. If nobody else posts after me, let it be known that it has been a pleasure writing about gaming in Morgantown for the past month or two. I hope you folks have learned as much as I have about this truly wonderful hobby and the community which sustains it. From all of us here at Mountaineer Life, thanks for reading. And if you still want to hear what I have to say about gaming, head over to Mountaineergamer.com and check it out, or follow me on Twitter @Capnwinters

-Kirk Auvil

My gaming blog: MountaineerGamer.com
My Twitter (also featuring gaming, as well as other topical/humorous stuff): @Capnwinters

Vintage Videos & Games Facebook page

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-Picture from Amizade website

Can you imagine tutoring children in Mexico or Navajo Nation? Would you like to take care of orphans in Bolivia? How would you feel about assisting on a clean water project in the Amazon? Amizade, pronounced ah-mee-zha-jee, will more than likely have the perfect program for you if you are interested in participating in this type of volunteer work. All you have to do is go to room 343 in Stansbury Hall and talk to Trey Goff.

Amizade is a worldwide service and learning, non-profit organization dedicated to human equality, community development, and building friendships through intercultural immersion. Amizade serves 9 countries on 4 different continents. Participants are also educated in the culture, concerns and assets of the site.

Amizade volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Anyone can volunteer between the ages of 12-100. There are even programs that be accommodated for younger children. Volunteers can be students, faculty, adventurers, philanthropists, and leaders. Different programs include the service learning trips, which could be a semester long or just a few weeks. In these trips, the participant could earn credit by taking courses, and even learn a foreign language.

Other programs include open groups with no coursework, and private groups, which could be churches or families.

90% of Amizade volunteers reported to have a great experience abroad. Many said they changed their life goals after their experience, or that their life’s work had been vindicated.

Amizade is a Portuguese word for friendship. The organization is dedicated to connecting with families and building lasting friendships.

“We are in it for the long-term,” said Goff.

Picture from Amizade webiste

A prior trip to Ghana was designed for community development in one of the villages. Goff said that when the group first arrived at the site, the village was very remote. Today the village has wifi and cell phones.

“We got experience from ground zero to what they are today,” said Goff.

I participated in the Amizade Water Walk event a couple of weeks ago. 200 people participated, and $5000 was sent to Tanzania for clean water initiatives. In the past, Amizade has succeeded in bringing clean water to 350 school children at their site in Tanzania, and have promoted water harvesting rain water.

Buckets used for the water walk

I am seriously considering going on one of these trips…but not for awhile. Maybe I can talk my parents into a graduation gift for next year. Doing something like this would be so mind-opening. I really think that a lot of people don’t realize what the rest of the world is like outside of our country. Pretty strong words, I know…but seriously. Goff said that a lot of the volunteers come back to the states and talk about how all too easy life is in the U.S.

If anyone else is interested, there is always a trip going on. You could go for a semester, a summer, spring break, winter break, or just a few weeks at the beginning of summer. Amizade has sites in Tanzania, Bolivia, Jamaica, and Ghana. There is something different going on at each site as well so the type of volunteer work varies.

Call 304.293.6849 if you have any other questions, or visit the website!

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This is a wordle I made out of all of my blog posts in MountaineerLife.

This is basically my blog in a nutshell!

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A Meeting of the Minds

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in the trenches of Morgantown’s gaming scene. We’ve looked at tabletop gaming, a Smash Bros. tournament, and the businesses which sustain these things. West Virginia University, however, has not been featured. Well that’s about to change, as I recently attended a meeting of gamers in WVU’s Colson Hall. I went into the meeting with but a faint idea of what to expect. The email I received stated that “This event is part of a cross-university, interdisciplinary series of brainstorming sessions establishing the future scope of computer games and virtual technologies at WVU.”

The meeting began within these hallowed halls

The meeting’s stated purpose, as presented in the email, was this: “Let’s get together, talk about computer gaming and virtual technologies, and plan the future.” The meeting pretty much followed that format, steered almost entirely by audience participation rather than a set agenda.

Our initial instructions

We chatted a bit beforehand, getting to know one another and talking about the games we enjoy.

Professor Ballentine chats with the crowd before the meeting

The first question dealt with the games we currently play. As would be expected, there was a large range of interests in the room. Board games, RPGs, FPSs and RTSs and Indie games were all mentioned. The professors in attendance weren’t slouches either; they were very vocal about the games they play. There was a grad student there who was doing a thesis on the depiction of Russians in the CoD: Modern Warfare games.

This led to a discussion about why we enjoy the games we do. One fellow opined that games “…allow you to do what you want to do that you can’t do in real life… They remove the negative aspects of doing things you can’t do in real life. Good games take out the negative and boring aspects, while leaving you with the fun stuff.” This led to a hearty discussion of when the level of realism in a game can be taken too far, making the game boring.

Gamers of all ages were in attendance

After this preliminary discussion of what we like and why, we got to the real meat of the matter. We were gathered there to discuss what we saw as gaming’s place in the WVU curriculum. What sort of classes would we like to see? Do we feel there’s a place for gaming in the college? How could we integrate gaming into existing structures? These questions stimulated a lot of discussion.

One proposal was that there should be a class offered to students in each of the disciplines involved in game design. For instance, an English student, a Computer Science student and a Music major could take cooperative game design courses within their majors. Then these classes would assign their members into groups. Each group would work on a game over the course of a semester, presenting the finished game at the semester’s end.

It’s an unrefined idea, but I found it very refreshing to be in a room of people who liked the suggestion rather than rejecting it out of hand. Further suggestions included a class on the philosophy of game design as well as a class probing the future of game development. Both received serious consideration, and were discussed at length. I was amazed; here we were, in a room full of gaming professors, and they were pushing for gaming to be included in WVU’s curriculum in some way or another.

We also talked about video games as a medium, and whether they should be considered art. I made a lengthy speech on the matter, bemoaning their current lack of respect as a storytelling medium. Others agreed, and we talked about games which we think are art. I mentioned Braid; an art student in attendance put forth Psychonauts.


Art ^


Art ^

We talked for over an hour and a half, but eventually it was time to part ways. In closing, we were informed that Professor Ballentine will be teaching a course about video game narratives this Fall, and that it’s going to test the waters for more gaming courses in the future. I left happy, delighted to have taken part in such a discussion. And for any WVU students interested in taking the course, here’s the breakdown:

ENGL 306 Topics in Humanities Computing 87585 LEC 001 TR 3 1600-1715 3/22 G06 CLN-D CWA Ballentine, B. 22-AUG-2011 17-DEC-2011 16 RL

Thus I look forward to the next meeting up in the ivory tower that is WVU. If student input can do anything to bring gaming to the WVU curriculum, I feel honor bound to make that happen.

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The answer is your pet. Neuticles have been around for nearly 16 years. And since the first surgery was performed on a 9-month-old Rottweiler named Max in 1995, more than a quarter of a million cats, dogs, and horses (yes horses) have been “Neuticled” in the U.S. and 49 other countries. What exactly are Neuticles you ask? Well, they’re essentially fake testicles for male animals that have been neutered, so they still look like they have their ‘manliness’.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Gregg Miller and Buck the Bloodhound

The idea for Neuticles was the brainchild of Gregg Miller from Oak Grove, Missouri in 1993. When the time came to neuter his Bloodhound named Buck, Miller was distraught over the fact that his beloved pet was, more or less, being castrated. That concern suffered by Miller over Buck the Bloodhound would soon change veterinary history forever. And nearly 3 years and one-half million dollars later, the first commercially “Neuticled” canine surgery was performed on Max the Rottwriler.

The cheaper polypropylene models sell for $25 to $32 at set; while the newer, solid silicone alternative, called “Neuticle Naturals”, sell for $80 to $129 a set. The procedure takes about 2 to 3 minutes, and so far, no medical complications have been reported. There’s even an entire website devoted to the things: www.neuticles.com.

A pair of Neuticles

I couldn’t find any veterinary clinics around Morgantown that offered cosmetic surgery, which didn’t surprise me, it seems that vets who offer cosmetic surgeries tend to be in bigger cities where the demand is higher. Most of the receptionists didn’t even know what the things were; and when I tried to explain the concept to them, they just looked at me like I was some crazy lady trying to get fake balls for her dog. Great.

So what exactly is the point of shelling out $130 for a set of fake testicles for your pet?

The answer is there is no point. Neuticles aren’t for the animal; they’re for the owner. Dogs could care less about what they look like; animals aren’t vein. They are more for owners who are having a problem with the idea of their pet being castrated; thus the reason why the things were invented in the first place.

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-WAR’s facebook page
 

So far, I have discussed attending events, local organizations, and short-term/long-term means of a way to do volunteer work.  This week’s post is about joining a club on campus.  This should hopefully be a more convenient way for busy students to offer their time to the community because, well, we spend most of time on campus anyway right? Right.

 

WVU’s Women Against Rape (WAR) is what I want to talk about today.  I felt it to be appropriate to choose this particular group because April happens to be sexual assault awareness month.  WAR is one of the newer organizations on campus that only began a year ago.  The group’s mission is to promote fighting back.  They concentrate on ways to teach women how they can protect themselves.  They also strive to teach women how they can take steps to preven

 

t such attacks from happening in the first place. 

WAR hosts “Drop a Cop” events at least once a month on campus.  The university campus police come to the Lair to teach women how to take down an attacker.  Participants get a chance to “take down” a cop at first hand. 

Today, Wednesday 20th, WAR is hosting the event “What would you do? Sexual Assault Panel.”  Numerous speakers will join together in room 109 of Woodburn hall to discuss preventing and coping with assault.  The event will begin at 7p.m.

Thursday, from 12-3 there will be a mace demonstration in front of the lair.  Women will be taught how to properly use mace as a self defense- yes they will actually get to spray it!

 

WAR also does some pretty neat things like passing out these little nifty tests to check if your drink has been spiked.  That should be must-have for the clutch ladies. 

“It’s a thin, square-shaped piece of paper.  You dip the corner of it in your drink,” said Tasha Tully, member of WAR.

The club will have a stand set up in front of the lair to pass these out on Thursday, April 28th.

Sexual Assault Bracelet

If WAR seems like a group you might want to invest your time in, meetings are held on Thursday’s at 7:30 in the lounge at the Lair.  You can also follow the group on Twitter @WVUWAR or facebook.

“People are graduating, we need to get more people involved, or WAR could be nonexistent,” said Tully. 

Since WAR is fairly new, many of the originals are now graduating.  Tully said this was the only group she could find on campus that supports women fighting against sexual assault.  Honestly, there probably should be more, but as it stands, I’d really hate to see the only one go.

For more information you could email the group at wvuwar@gmail.com, or check out their blog.

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I’ve been looking forward to this story more then any other. It’s ironic, of course, that I am running late on posting it to Mountaineer Life. Please forgive me. Yesterday, at U92, we had our annual reunion sports talk show, bringing back hosts from the last several years and having them on for what turned out to be a three hour session of wild sports talk and old memories.

That being said, I still have to talk about racquetball. So first and foremost let’s talk about the sport. Four walls, two people, two rackets, and one ball. One high octane ball that takes odd bounces and comes off the racket in strange ways. One tiny ball that if you get hit point blank with it (and I have been) will definitely leave a mark. But the sport is pure adrenaline when you get a good volley going. The ball bounces all over the place, making this possibly the most instinctual game you can play.

Lets talk about the rules. You serve to an opponent from the middle of the court. There is a line that you must get the ball past on the serve or it’s a fault. However, you can’t serve and hit the back wall without the ball landing first. So once you serve it in play the volley begins, and whoever wins the volley wins the serve. If the person serving wins the volley, they get a point. If the returner wins, they get to serve. The first to 15 wins. You can pretty much hit the ball off of any wall, but the only stipulation is that the ball absolutely can’t hit the ground twice–like in tennis.

So over at the Rec. Center there are three racquetball courts available all day every day of the week from early in the morning until ten o’clock when they close. During the week, the sport is extremely popular. You’re often hard-pressed to find an open court (though weekends are a little easier).

You can rent gear for the sport downstairs at the gear rental if you don’t have your own. Junior Ryan Ross often participates in these benefits.

“Just swipe my card and go downstairs and get some gear. Obviously you have to call ahead of time to get a court, but it’s really good that they provide equipment.”

Ross just recently started playing. He’s actually a pretty decent player. I challenged him to a game, and I’ve been playing for a few years. His technique was off, but his natural athleticism and great wingspan allowed him to get to nearly every ball unless I hit it perfectly low and into the corner. He clearly had some potential.

“It’s so much fun. It’s just you, your opponent, and your instincts.”

Courtesy: Prime Time Athletic Club

But it isn’t all fun and games. Quite a few players at the Rec. Center don’t wear protective eye gear when they play, and in closed quarters this can be a dangerous sport. Said sophomore John Scherch, “It’s ridiculous that anyone would play without protective goggles. I don’t play anybody unless they’re wearing goggles.”

But a recent addition to the racquetball scene is someone you may remember from a previous story: Jared Ramos. The hard-working Ramos is still looking for ways to keep college food weight off. He has turned to racquetball, but he doesn’t wear the eye glasses.

“It restricts my movement sometimes and sometimes can make it difficult to follow the ball totally. I’m new at this game and I won’t get better if I can’t hit the damn ball.”

I’ll leave it up for you to decide–whether you’ve played racquetball or not. The courts are high, but enclosed. Does this look like some place you’d like to be near a person swinging a racket or a small aerodynamic ball coming straight to you?

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