As a small business owner in a small town that focuses on a younger demographic, I've taken responsibility for educating myself on social media trends as a core of our marketing strategy. The field of social media is a moving target, with established platforms like Facebook and Twitter adding new features monthly, and new apps and technologies appearing every year.


An alphabet of new media


In our early days we relied heavily on Connorkaze, who did a tremendous amount of web/graphic development and helped establish the accounts on many of the social media channels we use today. These accounts didn't all take off immediately, and at some point I realized I needed to completely immerse myself in the technology in order to understand it and apply it to the business, so I've taken to a constant daily practice and a heavy diet of social media podcasts to help bring me along. This has been a year-long dive into a new age of media that still doesn't feel native to me, but which I'm growing more comfortable with every day.

One big change we decided was to empower the entire team here to utilize all our social media by making it a part of our daily expectations. We all share the common hobby of video games and our daily jobs at the shop, so our social media presence is really a combination of all four of our minds. This extends across everything we do, from blogging to tweeting to Facebook updates.

However a quick glance around at Rome, NY and I'm amazed at how many small businesses are ignoring these emerging marketing channels. This is a place to share your business story to a local audience directly with potential customers, and connect with a global community of like-minded individuals. Below are just a few examples of how we use these technologies at our shop.


Twitter

A great way to connect directly with anyone and jump in to participate in conversations. There are many people who prefer it as their primary communication device instead of traditional emails or direct messaging. Twitter does offer some targeted advertising, although I've found it doesn't target well locally, I'm hoping with updates this will improve.

The Twitter feed can be followed in real time or searched on hashtag, and lists can be used to break up your follows into different segments. At LAN Mob we have lists to track local CNY media, global video game press, and even a list of customers who have visited our shop.  You can find us @lanmobrome or visit twitter.com/lanmobrome


A great way to keep up on the issues important to our regulars

Instagram

We were a bit late to the party on this app but have found it a great way to visually convey events happening in and around the store. Similar to Twitter, hashtags can be used to target users searching for your content. We've been experimenting with tags like #RomeNY, #CNY, and #UpstateNY with varying success. You can follow us @lanmobrome or visit instagram.com/lanmobrome

Happenings in & around the shop.

Facebook

This was our first social media platform and one we continue to use on a daily basis.  Facebook has been terrific for conveying basic information about our store like hours, posting weekly events, gathering reviews, or finding new customers through our community pages. We have a growing presence including:

LAN Mob Page - 1394 follows

Putting a face to your business.

Twitch.tv

Twitch.tv allows for live streaming of gaming content. We stream once a week on Saturdays our Super Smash Brothers 4 for Wii-U tournaments, with live shoutcasting and a regular cast of characters. You may catch us at other odd times streaming live a number of games from League of Legends to Overwatch to Hearthstone. You can follow us at twitch.tv/lanmob

Tune in Saturdays at 2 pm

Other Social Media Channels

We're exploring in other avenues as well for expanding our reach both locally and worldwide.

Snapchat - I absolutely need to be spending more time here and am still a complete newbie to the technology, but you can follow us at @lanmobsc

Website - This will play an important role in our long-term plans, you can find us at www.lanmob.com

YouTube - You can find a great deal of SSB4 stream content highlights at our YouTube thanks to Spydude's hard work cutting highlights every week. Follow our YouTube here.

Blog - We've published three times a week for over a year now! blog.lanmobgaming.com

Reddit - We often post blog content here in order to share targeted topics with a larger community.

Google - Google allows you to manage your business hours, photos, and more through Google Business Manager. We've also spent some time cleaning up some of the outdated nearby business entries on Google Maps to more accurately reflect the state of the neighborhood.

Talk to Us

If you're reading this we hope you reach out and follow us on any of the channels above; we want to engage with you! If you're a local business and all of this seems like rocket science I can assure you it's not! Most of the apps are designed with User Experience in mind and are relatively easy to learn with a decent smart phone or tablet. You can find me at the shop most days and I'd be happy to talk social media or give you a quick tutorial on any of the above.
The team here has grown a backlog of games needing playing, and with the Nintendo Switch being right around the corner I'll be assuming blog responsibilities for the rest of the week.  Expect lots of ramblings and sharing of cookie recipes.


Midnight For Honor tournament finals - Mikey317 & Supermonkeyko

The Comings and Goings

We were blindsided last week with our busiest week ever, shattering multiple sales and attendance records including an insanely hype For Honor midnight lock-in tournament. The combination of school being out and warm weather had us scrambling to keep up with demand at the shop. We've met so many new faces recently, some of which have become regulars, but we're also saying goodbye to one of our most regular customers. Kindrid Skylar sets off for boot camp this week - an almost daily customer from the very early days of opening our doors. We're all really sad to see him go and will miss his positive approach to gaming and HYPE energy. This man is going to be very successful in life whatever he chooses to do.

Our First VIP Party

Thank you for everyone who attended the sold out VIP party! We had a blast gaming and featuring some of the best local pizzas in Rome. Make sure to keep those VIP streaks active to qualify for increasing discounts at the shop!

Nintendo Switch this Friday!

We'll have one in shop with release titles including Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bomberman, 1-2 Switch and more. We're expecting this will get a lot of use in the early days so availability may be limited.

WAN Tournaments Incoming

Our friends at ggCircuit are hosting worldwide "WAN" tournaments this March. These are not online tournaments in the traditional sense, but rather "wide area network" tournaments, meaning every team participating is seated at a LAN Center somewhere in the world.  We'll be participating in the Hearthstone 1v1 tournament March 18th, and League of Legends 5v5 on March 25th. Details will be out soon!

Playground Politics

I overheard two young kids earlier this week at the shop get into an argument over a zombies game that went something like this:

Boy 1: "Nope, I don't want to play anymore."
Boy 2: "Come ooooonnn."
Boy 1: "No! And also I don't want to be your friend anymore."
Boy 2: "Why not?"
Boy 1: "I don't like you anymore."

This is pretty heavy stuff for LAN Mob, and as tears began to be shed I was getting ready to break the two up, the second boy seemed to collect himself and his thoughts and replied:

Boy 2: "This is why you don't have any friends."

Kids can be savage. It was painful for me to hear, and painful no doubt for those kids to go through, but also a part of growing up and learning the world. I moved them to opposite consoles to give some separation, and they spent the next few minutes sticking their tongues out at one another until one of the boys ride arrived. The conversation feeds into another ongoing discussion we've been having among LAN Mob staff over where our responsibilities begin and end. While we don't intend to parent and mostly leave our customers to their own machinations, making sure everyone has a good time is important to us, as is seeing our customers grow and improve themselves. My hope is that we can remain a positive place for growth through gaming.

Local Food a Short Walk Away

I wanted to briefly mention some of the amazing food options just a short walk away in either direction from our shop.  Head north on James street and you'll find DeSalvos greens or Luigis pizza, pasta & pastries.  Head south and you'll find Maggies breakfast and subs, or Ballister's Bistro's sandwiches, ice cream and cafe.  You can dine in or take out - our customers are bringing this food with them to the shop all the time, and it always smells AMAZING.


Team LAN Mob

Speaking of amazing things - the team at LAN Mob does an outstanding job day in and day out of maintaining the shop and keeping things running smoothly.  There is a lot of behind the scenes maintenance work to keep the machine moving and they continue to show up every day and tackle tasks small and large.  I'm very happy to have Sage, Enrique and Rob as part of this company.

What Blogs to Expect this Week

Tuesday I'll be discussing the social media landscape for Rome, NY businesses.  Picture a tumbleweed rolling down a road.

Wednesday will feature a guest blog post from Dictator (his third!) regarding the upcoming release of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Thursday I'll have my full review of the NES classic system we've been hogging behind the front desk.

Friday we'll have our first impressions of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo's latest console release.
The original Psychonauts is easily one of my favorite video games of all time, thanks to the insanely unique humor and charm conjured up by the minds of Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine Studios. With Psychonauts 2 on the way (FINALLY), the team at Double Fine presented fans with a small appetizer to stimulate our hunger until the official sequel releases next year, in the form of a virtual reality adventure game. While Rhombus of Ruin may be very short, the opportunity to interact with some of my favorite characters of all time, while utilizing the PSVR perfectly, makes the bridge between games an authentic and memorable experience.

PSVR Exclusive

Rhombus of Ruin goes back to Tim Schafer's roots of point and click adventure titles, with an added unique spin of seeing through Razputin Aquato's eyes. Rhombus of Ruin takes place immediately after the original Psychonauts. Raz, his unconfirmed girlfriend (but they kissed once so probably official girlfriend) Lili Zannato, their fellow elite Psychonauts - Sasha Nein and Milla Vodello and even Coach Oleander leave Whispering Rock Summer Camp in search of Lili's father, and leader of the Psychonauts, Truman Zinnato. Through Raz's perspective players have access to an arsenal of psychic abilities including telekinesis, pyrokinesis, psi-blasts and the star of the show - clairvoyance. All of these psychic abilities are tied to face buttons on the Dualshock 4 controller, and players use the PSVR's head-tracking to aim. After messing around on the plane for a while, learning how each of these powers work, the plane crashes in the Double Fine version of the Bermuda Triangle - The Rhombus of Ruin. 

Reading crab sandwich magazine ads with telekinesis in Psychonauts VR. 2017 is something else.

Once in the Rhombus of Ruin your entire squad gets separated and it's up to Raz to rescue them all and get out of dodge. Without spoiling anything, Raz is "immobilized" and players have to utilize clairvoyance to jump around minds, changing your perspective to that of your unsuspecting victims. Using these points of view to your disposal in tandem with your other psychic powers, you must interact with your environment and solve puzzles to rescue your friends. Sometimes things are as simple as jumping to somebody's mind to steal a glance at a classified document or to lighting a candle with pyrokinesis, but almost all of these interactions feel great. "Psychic Poke" is not really used to solve any puzzles, but simply create dialogue from Raz's perspective on what you are psychically prodding, which is always a treat and sometimes helpful in your quest. These snippets of dialogue help make up one of Rhombus of Ruin's greatest strengths.

The atmosphere of Rhombus of Ruin is absolutely incredible. This is easily the best looking game I've ever played in PSVR, character models are perfect, environments are well rendered and beautiful and the music is spot on. Rhombus of Ruin is completely saturated in the same style that makes the original Psychonauts such a treasure. Interacting with these characters in VR manages to create a tone of humor that had me cracking up in my seat on multiple occasions. The atmosphere is easily what makes Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin worth playing, even to one who may not be familiar with the original game/cast.

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin's opening credit sequence, clearly a homage to early Bond films and a genuinely cool experience in VR.

                 
Rhombus of Ruin is not without a few shortcomings. The game is only about 2 hours, with very little replayability. Puzzles are relatively static with one single solution, so after solving them once the little challenge they presented is depleted. I feel like if Double Fine took a crack at a full length VR title it would knock the socks off everybody, but Rhombus of Ruin seems to end right as it hits its stride. I paid $16 for Rhombus of Ruin via preorder so I can't be too mad, but damn I'd like to spend more time with these guys.

Ultimately, Rhombus of Ruin was a pure treat as a fan of Psychonauts. It was a genuine pleasure to spend time with Raz and Lili and their budding youth romance, Sasha and Millo and their approaches to problem solving and Coach's...insanity. While I never felt challenged, poking and prodding the environment and hearing Raz's thoughts and bad puns brought a smile to my face. Even if you aren't familiar with Tim Schafer's masterpiece, Rhombus of Ruin represents a solid display of what the PSVR is capable of. The game can certainly be docked points for length and overall depth, but its climatic finale and atmosphere made for an excellent bridge between titles, and a small taste of the world has got me more excited than ever.


        
Picking up from last week, I made it to the Hano Grand Resort along Route 4. I'm suppose to meet up with the members of Aether Foundation that I rescued from Team Skull. Naturally, I explored the area as best as I could before I went to the waypoint. There is a beach on the eastern side of the resort with some trainers to battle, hidden items to find using Stoutland the Ride Pokemon and a "job" you can take once a day to earn 20k Pokebucks. One of the resort staff will offer you 20,000 Pokebucks if you throw back all the beached Pyukumuku. I'm caught in a weird spot where I'm grossed out by it but also think it's cute. Sadly, you don't need to fight these Pokemon to complete the job. Walk towards it and tap and you'll send them back home.

Honestly, I debated making this entry on how I spent the past week farming this job and doing nothing else while I played through my backlog. I spent a good amount of my Pokebucks on healing items while trying to train my Pokemon/raise their affection in the wild. For a few days I would boot up my 3DS to do the part time job and quit but then I started to fiddle with the Poke Pelago.
There are 5 islands, each housing a different activity that helps the trainer. Each island has a box to deposit Poke Beans into, which either speeds up whatever task you are working on or does something extra. You can upgrade the islands by using the Pokebeans you have saved up while also having a certain number of Pokemon in your Poke Box. I apologize for the vertical captures but it was for the sake of the narrative!


Isle Abeens

 The first island has you shake a beanstalk to get Poke Beans. If you deposit beans in this island's box, wild Pokemon have a chance to pop up. If a Pokemon does pop up, you can interact with it and it might join your party the following day. Wild Pokemon that wander onto your island will have a thought bubble over their head and if you check on them the following the day they will have a heart in  their thought bubble if they want to stay. I think if you don't check on them the following day the Wild Pokemon will automatically leave the next. The more this island is upgraded the more beans can be produced from shaking the beanstalk (mine is maxed leveled). Note: The time it takes an activity to complete is listed as [hours:minutes]. I made the mistake of thinking time was [minutes:seconds] and was incredibly disappointed.


Isle Aplenny

Although I do not utilize berries as much as I should (curse that RPG stigma of hoarding you items!), this is a nice island. You have access to a plot of land for growing berries and you can access on demand. Different berries have different growth times. I've seen growth times as 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours. By feeding your Pokemon Poke Beans, you can halve the growth time of berries for however long you like depending on how many and what kind of beans you feed them. Although mine is not upgraded, you increase the number of plots you can use by upgrading this island.


Isle Apun

You send your Pokemon on expeditions in search of treasure. At max upgrade, you have four "routes" for your Pokemon to explore. The different routes yield different items. Being low on Poke Bucks, I've been utilizing "Path for Rare-Treasure Hunting!",which you unlock at max island upgrade, for items to sell like nuggets and pearls. Feeding your Pokemon here halves the time it takes them to complete an expedition depending on how much they are fed. I think feeding them only affects the clear time, so don't worry about not feeding your Pokemon beans and getting less items as a result.


Isle Evelup

Possibly my favorite island,this island allows you to passively train your Pokemon's EV stats,which determine how well a given stat grows, depending on what "drink" you feed them before they stay on this island. There's also an EXP drink you can order that will passively level the Pokemon left on this island. Although this means the mini-games you played in the last gen to EV train are dead, I'll gladly take this as substitute. Your Pokemon gain the drink bonuses at the end of a play session, lasting 30 minutes. I believe you can set how many sessions you'd like your Pokemon to undergo and of course, feeding them berries halve the completion time depending on how much or what beans you feed your Pokemon. Leveling up this island increases the effectiveness of the play sessions and how many Pokemon the island can hold.


Isle Avue

Simply put, this is a hot spring for your Pokemon that raises their happiness. Happiness should not be underestimated, at high levels your Pokemon gain experience at an increased rate as well as gain a chance to dodge moves, heal status effects, land critical hits or even survival a fatal blow with 1 HP!  I'm not sure if this was a tip in game or one of the things I had spoiled for me but you can also leave eggs at the hot spring to have them hatch quicker. Careful not to leave Pokemon in for too long, they will get exhausted and start losing happiness! Poke Beans increase the rate of happiness gained and further speed up the egg hatching process. Leveling up the facility increases the number of Pokemon the island can hold.



Vacation's over, I suppose. After having my fill of Pyukumuku throwing and passively playing the Poke Pelago, I headed to the waypoint to meet with Faba and Hau followed shortly after. He decides to take Hau and myself to Aether Foundation's island compound, Aether Paradise. They built a man made island and act as a Pokemon sanctuary or something from what I've gathered. I met two more named characters while I was there,one of which is probably's Lillie's Mom going by her design. And that's where I left off! The last thing that happened was a wormhole popped up and a creepy jellyfish popped out. I don't mean to leave things on a cliffhanger but I lost my motivation to play it with my backlog staring at me. I'll probably have to fight that creepy thing, hopefully it won't kick my butt!



Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC
















I pulled my poleaxe out of the dead knight before me and looked at the bridge on the horizon. Amidst the fire and dust I see my foot soldiers being ripped apart by a samurai and a viking, while my own samurai desperately tries to hold them off. I run towards my ally as fast as I can, avoiding fire and catapult projectiles only to watch him get brutally executed by the time I approach. The two enemies swiftly turn their focus and chase me down; I quickly find myself outnumbered, with no allies anywhere nearby. I stood my ground, ready to put up the best fight I could. The viking player quickly shoved me into a wall, and I turtled up the best I could, blocking both opponents from all angles. Eventually, I wormed my way out of the corner and tossed the viking over my shoulder into the deep canyon below. I had a surge of confidence, squaring up against the enemy Orochi player 1 on 1 and I couldn't help but feel my heart beating faster. The orochi class has speed on his side, but my Lawbringer is tanky, with multiple unblockable attacks, and easily twice the size. I tried to toss the Orochi around and take him out with heavy blows, but his ability to parry and move around my guard proved to be a problem as he slowly widdled my health bar lower and lower until I realized...I'm probably going to die here. The orochi became relentless swinging at me from all angles to try to take out what little health I had left, while I frantically blocked the blows. The Orochi focused so hard on his perceived prey that he failed to keep an eye on his own stamina bar, which he had exhausted in his onslaught. I saw it as my chance to retaliate, tossing the depleted samurai to ground, slamming my poleaxe on him and ending the fight just like that. I was pumped after winning the tense battle and did a celebratory emote, which I immediately regretted as a peacekeeper ran up behind me and ended my dance with a dagger in the back. These are the situations you find yourself in very frequently when playing For Honor, and those tense moments of combat make Ubisoft's latest multiplayer game an incredibly unique and exceptional experience. However, some of Ubisoft's decisions undermine the marvelous framework set in place to foster a multiplayer experience like no other. 

For Honor's narrative is best described as a History Channel show that takes place in an alternate world where traditionally styled vikings, samurai and knights are locked in warfare in a different world, mostly due to resources. There is certainly a plot, touched on in the surprisingly fun campaign, but it is mostly in place as a relatively deeper way to explain why I get to combat medieval knights with Edo-era-esque Samurai, which is the centerpiece of this hack and slash/fighting game hybrid.


Lawbringer squaring off against a Valkyrie in the "Art of War" system.

For Honor's combat is elegant and realistic, creating a deceptively simple and flexible system for players to swing around historically accurate weaponry. Despite being easy to understand, this system is insanely deep with dozens of strategic possibilities per second, easily making it the absolute pinnacle of this type of combat to date. Ubisoft has appropriately dubbed For Honor's unique combat system, "The Art of War". The Art of War has players locking on to a single opponent, essentially entering a duel stance. While players can guard attacks from enemies they are not locked on to, the system is designed for players to deal with threats one at a time, and threats can be switched to quickly and easily. While locked on, players may enter 3 different stances with a flick of the right stick, opening up offensive options in that stance, or allowing players to block incoming blows coming from that angle. Warriors have access to multiple combos, parries, guard breaks, throws and even powerful unblockable attacks. When paired with a wide and varied roster with unique move sets wielding weapons like flails, katana, longswords and axes, it's hard not to feel invested in each and every second of combat.

As I mentioned above, there are a wide variety of characters to pick up and try to master. Almost no skill from one character carries over to the next, with each hero playing very differently and distinct. Players start with one character of each faction but can relatively quickly unlock them all, if they wish.















Players get a chance to try out most of these characters in a pretty short, but surprisingly satisfying campaign mode. The plot is a bit messy and presented poorly at times, but the combat remains a highlight, even in single player (or co-op!). Outside of the marvelous set pieces and voice acting, the real fun begins when you bring one of these warriors into the multiplayer battlefields. Players can chose from 5 gameplay modes including a unique 4v4 control point mode, riddled with AI fish food. There is a 2v2 deathmatch mode, as well as a 4v4 called Elimination/Skirmish. Lastly, and 2 of my favorites are Brawl and Duel, which are 2v2 and 1v1 modes respectively, relying on melee skill alone to become victorious. While all these game modes are excellent ways to test your prowess, Dominion is one of the easiest game modes to jump into. Things are much more fast paced, and sometimes end in you being double or triple teamed as your team tries to capture and control points. This can be a bit frustrating at times but all is fair in love and war. Each character is equipped with tiers of "feats" which become available by earning renown, obtained by killing AI grunts, capping points and dispatching other players. These feats include passives, combat abilities and even the ability to call in catapult fire but they all only add to the variety and intensity of combat, even when you get pegged by a random arrow.

To top it all of, players can customize their favorite heroes in a plethora of ways. Whether it be armor, weaponry or simply changing paint schemes and colors, you would be hard pressed to find two warriors of the same class that look the same. Some gear like weapons and pieces of armor also have statistics tied to them, on top of aesthetic. Weapons can add damage while sacrificing defense, increase your ability to parry and even raise your health. These benefits are disabled in the heavy skill based game modes like Brawl and Duel, but cause some interesting waves in games of Dominion. 

I don't have any gear to write home about, but I like my helmet!


Unfortunately there are some blaring dents in the armor I need to address. The first thing to discuss is Ubisoft's approach to microtransactions, because For Honor is absolutely littered with them. Almost all content is locked behind a varied price of in game currency labeled as "Steel", including heroes, outfits, emotes, executions and even all of your heroes feats VERY early. You can also use steel to unlock a variety of crates, which contain pieces of gear you can equip your heroes with. Steel can also be used to give your account "Champion" status which gives you the benefit of increased experience gain and exclusive gear. Players can bank a lot of steel thanks to the "Orders" you can fill in-game, which are essentially quests. Sometimes they are as simple as playing 3 games of one mode and usually net you 400 steel. It's important to note players can also buy steel with real currency in various amounts. Microtransactions make for an interesting topic of discussion and many people feel very strongly one way or another. I don't believe Ubi's model is completely unfair, since all of this content can be unlocked by simply playing...a lot, but it is something to be aware of before you jump in.

Despite the tense battles and epic environments, the most difficult battle presented in For Honor lies within its online infrastructure. There are an insane amount of networking issues currently plaguing Ubisoft's title, varying from party dismantling disconnects to simply not getting past character select before you get booted. My friends and I have spent upwards of half an hour just trying to get into a game only to get promptly kicked because the host leaves. This problem is mostly due to Ubisoft's decision to make their matchmaking utilize peer to peer connection as opposed to dedicated servers, and I cannot stress how much of a mistake I believe it is. I could not praise the gameplay anymore, but not being able to actually play it is a huge problem. Technically the problem exists because of the own player-base quitting games early, but it doesn't make it sting any less, especially when you're having a great game.

Ultimately For Honor has surpassed every expectation I had for it, besides poor matchmaking. Ubisoft has big plans for the unique multiplayer game including new heroes, stages and a constantly evolving experience, and I can only hope they focus on addressing the networking problems soon. We've had a few games right here in the shop where our consoles got to host and everyone seems to agree that For Honor perfectly scratches the itch for tense melee combat that games like Soul Calibur and Bushido Blade tried to. I can't help but believe that For Honor has the potential to become a mainstay right here at the shop; as legendary as the heroes you get to become.         

   

P.S.

If you're reading this the week of publication, we're actually throwing a midnight tournament at this weekend's lock-in! Come on down and prove yourself as the strongest warrior in 1on1 combat, check our event for more details! 
I think everyone has felt that bittersweet pang of gloom that hits after you finish a book/movie/show that you really really loved, even if the ending is everything you want it to be. I'm not sure if there is a clear-cut word in the English dictionary for how I felt when Breaking Bad was over, or after I finished Marcus Zusack's "I Am The Messenger", but a quote from author Paul Sweeney sums it up rather nicely - "You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel you have lost a friend." Of course, you can go back and reread your favorite books, rewatch your favorite movies and replay your favorite games as many times as you wish, and sometimes you appreciate them even more the second time around. (I didn't truly love the 1988 anime film Akira until the second or third time I saw it). However, the first playthroughs of your favorite games (before you even knew they would be a favorite!) are usually the best and most memorable thanks to your own learning experiences and ah-ha! moments, not to mention experiencing the plot for the first time. That being said, here is a list of my top games I wish I could experience again...for the first time!



Resident Evil 4


I have a lot to say about Resident Evil 4, in fact I touched on the game's ability to stand the test of time in a previous blog entry. Ironically enough, despite the game's natural ability to be played over and over with few diminishing returns, my first playthrough of Resident Evil 4 will always be my favorite. Things were much more tense when I had no idea how to handle them. Nowadays I can run through a playthrough of Resident Evil 4 pretty quickly because I've memorized everything, which takes a bit away from the whole "survivor horror" thing, but the action certainly hold true, if not better, after a few plays.




Until Dawn


Speaking of horror, Until Dawn really struck a chord with me on that front. Suppermassive Games managed to create a genuinely terrifying experience, utilizing a plethora of tactics the best horror films use to a tee. My first playthrough of Until Dawn was in my buddy's basement with a group of 8ish friends and we were all spooked to the point of somebody twitching so hard they hurt their neck. That being said, due to the extremely heavy narrative style of Until Dawn, even with multiple choices to steer the storyline in a different direction, Until Dawn loses a lot of charm after the first playthrough, once you know the plot twists.

Digimon World




Digimon World was one of the first games that completely engrossed me in another world. Digimon World places players in the "digital world" where they train, feed, and simply care for a variety of digital monsters in hopes of becoming strong enough to combat the evil that is destroying the digital world by recruiting other Digimon to File City. The plot is mediocre but to this day the gameplay is one of my favorite "monster breeding" games to date. Raising stats and hoping for good digivolutions while you recruit Digimon to your city that will benefit you with exciting and new gameplay mechanics is a formula that really creates a genuine sense of adventure. I played Digimon World so much that I became to memorize things as important as evolution paths and stat requirements all the way to things as small as where mushrooms grow. While I still love this game deeply, I wish I could experience the game fresh once again to recapture some of the raw feeling of discovery. Ironically enough, just a few weeks ago "Digimon World: Next Order" released and utilizes and improves many of the formulas used in the original game. Feelsgoodman.      





The Order 1886


Whenever I praise The Order 1886 I instinctively duck and find the nearest cover because I expect some sort of swift and aggressive rebuttal, usually by someone who didn't even play it. That being said, The Order 1886 gets pretty negative feedback for its approach to cinematic storytelling, the same way Until Dawn gets praised for it but that's okay, I'm not even mad (I'm actually very mad, MEDIA SHEEP). The Order 1886 certainly suffers from one major problem, which is replayability. The game's plot was master-crafted, but of course holds much more value the first time you play it, thanks to some excellent surprises and twists. Although I wish I could experience the plot again for the first time, much like a movie, but I have played the game multiple times since.  



The Witcher 3



The Witcher 3 was easily my favorite game of 2015, without a doubt. I could praise this game in almost every aspect, and ironically enough, I think The Witcher 3 loses almost no potency or playability in any multiple playthroughs, even at 100%. So why is it on this list? Simply because the game is so damn massive. It's on this list because I wish I had the time to even do another playthrough!




Metal Gear Solid



The original Metal Gear Solid is renowned for essentially being a work of art before a lot of people accepted video games as such. The game is pretty short, but the plot is pretty deep. Most importantly MGS has some insanely memorable bosses and set pieces. MGS managed to create "gameplay twists" with some unique mechanics and insane meta puzzles that I can't even describe without spoiling anything. The common theme of this list obviously being that after playing through the game some of these encounters and tests lose some potency. In fact, when you know what to do you can beat MGS1 in like 3 hours.    






Final Fantasy Tactics



I originally played Final Fantasy Tactics when I was 9 years old, and even though I got pretty into it, I was too young to deeply appreciate it. I revisited the game years later thanks to a friend and I LOVED it. I loved the gameplay, the class system and most importantly the plot. The storyline of FFT is unlike anything I've ever experienced up to that point and I remember talking to anybody who would listen to me, even explaining the plot to my elderly Father. It's been a while since a narrative stunned me like that.

Sleeping Dogs




Sleeping Dogs really stands out compared to other "GTA clones". The game's protagonist, Wei Shen, is a genuinely complicated and interesting character and watching his struggle and growth made the first playthrough of Sleeping Dogs extremely memorable.  


Bioshock


I basically can't say anything because spoilers. Would you kindly play the game?


Dark Souls



I feel like this game tops almost every list I put together and I assure you, it's barely even intentional. If somebody asked me what my favorite single player experience in gaming up to this point was, I'd have to say it was my first playthrough of Dark Souls. I have played the game countless times since, but the first was the most difficult, most rewarding and most memorable. It would be a gift from the gods to play through Dark Souls 1 again for the first time. Maybe I can give myself acute amnesia....hmmm...stay tuned.
Sometimes you get sucked into a game within a game. Very prominent in RPG and open world games, there are mini-games can take you away from your main quests/goals. For me there has certainly been instances where I have played the mini-game more than the actual game itself.



GWENT - The Witcher: Wild Hunt
I still haven't finished The Witcher, but I still will play Gwent for hours. About 90% of the time if I'm playing the game I'm playing some Gwent with some drunkard at a bar. It's also a mini game that has actually became a standalone game and a real card game as well! The Xbox One Collector's edition came with two Gwent decks and each expansion came with 2 decks as well! (Though the Blood & Wine expansion set had the same decks included with the exclusive Xbox One collector's edition.) Hopefully later on they decide to make more physical cards, it'll be like getting back into Magic: The Gathering again.



Tetra Master - Final Fantasy IX 
I prefer this over the Final Fantasy VIII card game Triple Triad. Unlike with Triple Triad, you can't turn your cards into items. It's played on a 4x4 grid with blank spaces where cards can obviously fill the voids. Each card has four stats; power, class, physical defense, and magic defense. The main goal is to challenge your opponents adjacent cards. Each card has different arrows on them which show where the card is able to attack. Have more cards on the board and you win! 



Blitzball - Final Fantasy X
You either love or hate Blitzball. Once I was able to get the hang of it I fell in love with it. I played it constantly, getting the best of the best and destroying every team. I sometimes wish they made it into a full game. I personally think that'd be neat but then again I can see a ton of people having an issue with that.  





Snake vs. Monkey - Metal Gear Solid 3
A game mode you unlock once you finish the main story, Snake vs. Monkey is a game mode where Snake is given the mission of capturing all the Ape Escape apes. You go through 5 different stages (7 if you have the substenence version of the game) and try to capture them all. While some give you trouble its a pretty easy mini-game, but a fun one!



Mercenaries - Resident Evil 4
I dumped so many hours just improving my score with every character. You unlock Mercenaries after beating the game. You're given five characters to choose from and you are put under a time limit to get the highest score possible. You can gather hourglasses that will extend time and there's also more ammo to find. The best way to get points is to try to gather as many enemies in an area as you can and try to get a combo to get a ton of those sweet points. 



Geometry Wars - Project Gotham Racing 2
A mini-game that actually became it's own series and became one of the top selling games on XBLA. Geometry Wars is an amazing mini-game and an ever better full game. It was originally playable on Project Gotham Racing 2 on Xbox 360. In order to play it you need to be in the garage and there you can access it! It has spawned 2 sequels as well. Each being better than the last.  




Gold Saucer - Final Fantasy 7
Maybe this doesn't count? There's not just one minigame available in the Gold Saucer; there's 10! From Snowboarding, Chocobo Racing, Boxing, Basketball, and obviously much more! It's heaven for minigames and while some of them nowadays are quite dated, they're still a lot of fun to play. They recently brought the Golden Saucer back in Final Fantasy XIV as well.




Break the Targets! - Super Smash Bros.
Not only was it a nice break in between classic mode it was overall a fantastic minigame that used each character's skills and provided a challenge.



Bowling - Grand Theft Auto IV
HEY NICO IT'S YOUR COUSIN ROMAN, WANNA GO BOWLING!?



Motor Kombat - Mortal Kombat Armageddon
A game focused on ripping each other apart takes a step back on the violence in this awesome Mario Kart clone. Each character has special abilities attached to their own kart; which makes each character a ton of fun to try out.

Growing up in an age where information is everywhere


One of the more annoying situations myself and others that work at LAN Mob have had to deal with are people - family, friends, acquaintances - who take an extremely negative view of working at a LAN Center as a career choice. We have plenty of friends and family that have been supportive, but I've also seen our work attacked and belittled, called childish, that we need to grow up, we need to go through college and get a degree and a "real" job and make a difference. They see little value in games or gaming: a time waste in their eyes.

I could say that these people are flat out wrong, but I think it's more accurate to describe them as misinformed. We at LAN Mob view the world of gaming in a completely different light. Our industry is a growing multi-billion dollar one, and it is awesome.

You'll find no other industry so celebrated that you can tune in to hundreds of events worldwide every weekend on Twitch.tv, from the smallest of tournaments to mega-events like EVO and PAX attended by tens of thousands and watched online by millions.

We can participate in a charity like Awesome Games Done Quick, which raised nearly 3 million dollars last month for cancer research.

We're exploring PSVR and HTC Vive and all of the applications that are springing up around VR, technology in its infancy that is going to change our lives in a decades time, and an area which will play a major part in our long-term business growth.

We live daily in the real community that has grown up around our shop; real life people from all different backgrounds who pass through our doors. We know them by name, share their successes, their defeats, both in gaming and in life.

We watch the continued explosion of eSports and contemplate our future of cultivating, promoting and empowering the best local gaming talent on a national level.

We're pretty grounded in who we are and what we're about, so I would like to address the other side of the argument - the idea that success can only be found in going to college for 4 years (or more), buying a degree with thousands of dollars and life hours, and going to work in a career for the remainder of your life. Specifically I would like to address the attitude that everyone who chooses not to follow this path is to be scorned into submission.

Sometimes this scorn comes out of love and protection - for example, a protective parent who only wants what's best for their child. At it's very worst this scorn can come across in a condescending manner, with an air of superiority from the position of presuming to know what's best for you and your life. I believe this is outdated thinking that has proven folly with the last 20 years of rapid technology growth. The days of working a 9-5 for a company for 40 years and retiring into a pension are gone. We've entered a new age that's at odds with our educational systems, and those able to step back and apply some free thought and critical thinking can see this truth.


All of human knowledge at our fingertips


With smartphones widespread, each and every one of us is carrying around a device that can provide us an accurate response to practically every question. This has caused a rift at colleges, which traditionally were an exercise in learning methods & best practices, but also in absorbing and retaining massive amounts of knowledge. A doctor studying medicine in the 90s was expected to - for 8 years - study and memorize as much medical knowledge as could be retained. Today there are IBM systems like Watson that are augmenting or even replacing doctors, and crowdsourcing solutions like Crowdmed.com where hundreds of doctors can review symptoms and provide collective insight.  The Internet has harnessed human knowledge to make each of us smarter and more productive across every industry. Still colleges are trying to stuff minds full of as much knowledge as possible, with standardized testing grading us on memorizing things we can *easily* just google search once out working our first real job.

We're stuck in a 1950s way of thinking about education. We should instead be teaching the things that really matter in today's economy - critical thinking, calculated risk taking, innovation, data-driven problem solving, and the ability to properly filter all the information we're being bombarded with every day.  If you ask any person studying a higher degree they will admit that much of the work they do is jumping through hoops or not really applicable to their long-term interests. With today's technology traditional 4-year degrees can easily be consolidated into 2 years time, or even split into two separate bachelors degrees in vastly different fields of study.

This would take massive institutional change to academia that has grown cash-drunk from years of easy money granted to fresh high school graduates, but if you look online you'll find sites sprouting up which are rebuilding academic structures from the ground up. They aren't accredited and won't earn you a B.S. or M.S. degree, but will prepare you for a career in a compressed time.


Where the rubber hits the road


Those that do take the journey through college and can find a job in their chosen career field are often met with a culture shock. Much of their learning goes relatively unused while their job focuses on a very narrow focus, and often new graduates find themselves ill-equipped for facing real world challenges. They were taught that things are to be done one way, but corporations and organizations are giant unwieldy monsters that don't necessarily behave the way academia teaches. This means new graduates have a lot of real world learning to overcome - not just in acclimating their knowledge to a business, but in properly communicating in a business environment, navigating ethical decisions, or providing proper customer service.

In this new economy, solid real world experience will always trump education. As a business owner, if I have to choose between someone with a 4-year degree and zero experience, and someone with a year of real work experience under their belt / no degree / excellent references, I'm going to go with the latter. Because the truth is - people wash out and don't always make it, either due to poor culture fit, lack of talent or a sudden realization that they're not really doing what they want to be doing. Picking up fresh college graduates can be hit or miss, and often involves a lot of learning on the job, which can be costly.

New high school graduates would be smart to temper their college education plans with real world work in fields they're interested in. Even if it means volunteering to work for free while attending college, that work put in is going to get them so much further towards not just building a resume worthy of employment, but also in getting an early jump on discovering what it is they love doing.

Skyrocketing Costs


The graph above shows non-housing debt levels over time, with college debt skyrocketing to the top. This is an economic bubble - similar to the housing bubble that popped in '07 - fueled by ease of access to college loans. Banks naturally don't hand out credit cards with $50,000 limits to fresh high school graduates because - with a few exceptions - 18 year-olds are basically just big children who have very little real life experience and no way to repay.

But this is exactly what's happening with federally backed college loans. We're giving a big blank check to each and every high school graduate to go pursue whatever spoon-fed knowledge they wish - and many 18 year olds have a hard enough time getting dressed in the morning, let alone comprehending what they want to do with the rest of their life.  Nor do they fully understand the levels of debt they're taking on until that first payment comes due six months after graduating. The college industry continues to grow bloated; every year tuition goes up, last year's edition of books are slightly altered with new case studies swapped in to force all the freshman to buy new books at $250/each. If students are lucky enough to graduate, they're stuck holding the bag for the rest of their adult lives.


The changing economy


The internet is revolutionizing every industry through crowdsourcing. If I need a personal loan I no longer need to go to a traditional bank, I can instead visit websites like Prosper or Lending Club, which break up my loan into hundreds of smaller chunks and sell these to individual investors all over the world, shipping funds to my bank account in a fraction of the time. Apps like AirBnB and Uber are putting pressure on the hospitality and transportation industries by turning tech-savvy people into owner/operators. Colleges continue to turn out graduates for traditional careers as the industries they're entering are changing right under their feet.

Doing what you love


The old saying goes "do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."  This disruptive, technically-equipped economy is making it possible to truly live that advice. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar emerging industry that touches on every field imaginable including writing, programming, psychology, art, music, physics, mathematics, acting and more. Roll the credits on any major game release and you'll see the breadth and depth needed to create just a single game. It's a blend of arts and sciences that you're hard pressed to find anywhere else, and we're discovering new applications for the technology every day. The industry sprouting up around gaming is supporting careers in event planning, social media, videography, audio recording, technical support, marketing, writing, logistics, and a hundred other applications.

So when people look at LAN Mob and shake their heads, they haven't even scratched the surface. They're just seeing a bunch of people playing video games and not much else. They don't see the potential for growth of gaming into so many verticals that are going to be life changing; avenues our business plans to explore as we continue to grow. The boots on the ground at LAN Mob know what's up, with our sleeves rolled up and elbow deep in it, and we don't know where we'll end up yet, but we know that we're doing what we love and are setting ourselves up for very successful lives in an amazing industry.


Words by Gandhi



Made it out of Diglett's Tunnel in one piece! It was not as large as I anticipated.  Maybe the first time I entered the tunnel it was some bad luck, because this time around I ran into a large amount of Digletts. No 20 minute SOS battles because of confuse ray for me! I ran into Team Skull towards the exit but ended up rolling through them. Just to be on the safe side, I spend some time exploring the cave before moving forward. Just like Ten Carat Hill on the first island, a pathway was blocked with a large boulder. Yet another place for me to revist when I get the Ride Pokemon equivalent of Strength!



After wandering around Route 9 and exploring Memorial Hill I made it to Konikoni City. The city had an Eastern Asian style to it which was nice considering Chinese/Lunar New Year had just passed during my playthrough. On the right side of the city there's a hair salon and clothing shop! I feel my style is getting stale but I'm spending all my money on supplies. I'll have to get serious about using the Poke Pelago to boost my funds until I find something similar to X/Y's restaurants. Ignoring how broke I am, I went to Olivia's shop to get the Grand Trial started... but she's not there. Her Probopass (evolved form of Nosepass?) left me a not telling me to travel through Memorial Hill to the Ruins of Life.



Before I headed back to Memorial Hill, I formed my party of anti-Rock Type Pokemon consisting of Grass,Ground and my water starter Pokemon. There were two instances were I regretted this, both while I was on the way to the Ruins of Life. The first came while I was searching for Pokemon in Memorial Hill. I tried (and failed) to capture a Phantump, a Ghost/Grass Pokemon that looks like a ghost with a stump on its head. I looked it up later on but at the time I thought Bug-Type moves were effective against Ghost-Type Pokemon. I was horribly wrong!! The only "off-type" moves I knew in my party were Normal-Type moves(which will not hit Ghost-Types) and Fairy-Type moves. It did not help the Phantumps knew Ingrain(a Grass-Type healing move) and Leech Seed. After struggling for 10-15 minutes against a Phantump that kept finding Pokemon to answer its SOS, I decided it'd be best to run away at every encounter with my current party. I'll be back once the trial is over to get my revenge!! Outside the entrance to the Ruins of Life is where I once again regretting my team composition thanks to Team Skull's Plumeria. Which is fair, I have been kicking the butts of all of Team Skull until now.


She swept my whole team with her Golbat! Nothing went my way during our first battle. If my Pokemon weren't knocked out with Air Cutter (Flying-Type move with a high chance to critically hit), I would attack myself in confusion thanks to Confuse Ray. Air Cutter alone was super effective against half of my party while two of my Pokemon could do no damage to Golbat because they knew primarily Ground-Type moves. Yep, I was so close to the Grand Trial only to be sent back to the PokeCenter. Whelp, see you next week!... is what I would have said if I didn't happen to train a Magnemite during my travels! She had a Salandit on reserves but my Ground-Type Pokemon made short work of it. Overcoming that ordeal, I made my way to Olivia's Trial and ran into Lillie on the way. She was nice enough to heal my Pokemon... after I used a good amount of potions of top off everyone's HP. I'm really bad at this. Despite having an overwhelming type advantage, Olivia put up quite the fight. I regret not being fast enough to take a picture of Olivia using a Z-Powered Rock move on my Petilil; Olivia's Pokemon summoned a giant boulder and threw it on top of my little Pokemon.


My next stop is to visit Hano Grand Resort. Between Memorial Hill and the Ruins of Life, I ran into members of the Aether Foundation trying to stop Team Skull from stealing a Slowpoke. As thanks for foiling Team Skull, one of the members invited me over as thanks. I hope it's as swanky as the Tide Song Hotel in Heahea City!
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