26 March 2010

Mafia II - Xbox 360

I hadn't been on a train since I took one home to Baltimore to see my grandmother before she died. I was living in Rhode Island, working my first real newspaper job at the age of 22. I called her one morning to chat and she didn't sound right. She was laying on the couch in her "parlor," as she might call it. It was just a tiny living room in her East Baltimore rowhome where she taught me how to play poker, drink coffee and eat eggs with ketchup. As a child on Saturday nights when I would stay with her we'd watch Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. My fond memories of that parlor were replaced by one somber afternoon not long after the train arrived home. She was dead by the time the train arrived. My brother Danny met me at the station, his eyes red and wet. The wake was held in her parlor a few days later.
All of this came rushing back to me this morning as I took the train from Providence to Boston to attend the PAX East gaming conference. I'd like to think she'd be proud of me. At the age of 37 I'm trying to carve out another chapter in my career as a journalist by writing about the gaming world. She bought me more Atari 2600 games than I can count, so this one's for her.
Her memory was still with me when I walked into the 2K booth to check out Mafia II. It has all the markings of a great game: Excellent voice acting, beautiful graphics and a storyline about post World War II America than she lived through and I've only seen in movies. I played the demo and then chatted with the PR folks when I was done. They carefully took down my opinions of the game. They peppered me with questions and seemed to want to know exactly what I did and did not like about the game they've been working on for seven years.
As I told them I thought of her.
Anyone can write a gaming blog and lots of people are in the gaming press. We all have our reasons for doing this. Outside of my fascination with this new medium and the worlds it creates, this blog has been a daily exercise in self discovery for me and the other authors here to try and find the links between games and the memories they create for us. More and more as I walked around the convention today and thought about riding that train and playing that demo, I thought of my grandmother.
We called her Bushie (Boo-she). My mother has taken that title now that I have children of my own. Every day she does or says something to let us know she loves those little kids, just like her mother did for me.
It would be a stretch to say that I wouldn't be a gamer if not for the generosity of my grandmother and her willingness to drop $30 on games for me way back when.
But it's true to say my fondness for them would not be as sweet without her.
By Victor Paul Alvarez