Gametap

It's 8:30. I walk down the basement steps, avoiding the coats that stick out like pod-people, reaching out to suck me into the wall. The martini glass gimbals between my thumb and forefinger. I have, of course, made it so that it is only the miracle of surface tension keeps the gin inside the clear Y of the glass. I may only be having 'one martini' but I'll be damned if I'm going to let any air sit in the glass. I don't bother flipping the light on as I round the corner at the bottom of the stairs; I can see my way by the blue light of the screens. I like it dark. I like having nothing to distract me from the glare of the flat screens and the low hum of the machines.

Setting the glass down gently on the genuine fake-wood veneer of the Staples desk, I slip my aging butt into the Aeron mesh. I boot the desk: no one I need to see on AIM, email's just spam, server jobs are running, no phone messages, top-ten websites show nothing new.

I take a sip of martini -- medicinal, smelling vaguely of flowers, with the saltiness of the olives just seeping in. I am completely alone. My deadlines are far enough out that procrastination destroys industry before the two of them even bring the battle to my forebrain. I have 90 minutes.

Thank god for Gametap.

After the click, the familiar car-crash-cum-operatic-woosh sound builds in the background. Furtively, I scan my forgotten options like a leper running over my extremities looking for wounds: the stack of cases on the PS2; the white chicklet of the DS; the old favorites and new hotness littering my PCs desktop.

I have stared down the dreaded STACK.

I signed up for Gametap to play Sam & Max. I thought it was just a cute little download service. A bizarre mix of retro-games, just-off-Broadway hits and one proprietary title I happened to want to play. But after a few weeks, Gametap has changed how I think about a precious 90 minutes playing games.

The beginning of a Gametap session starts with Gametap TV. At first, I thought this would be annoying. But it turns out that when I'm sitting in the basement, having a little TV window pop up and start chatting at me isn't a bad thing. After all, how often to I turn the tube or the radio on in the AM when I'm up making coffee, just to have the illusion of companionship? Gametap TV is an oddly compelling collection, not of the obvious -- video game reviews -- but of well-selected like-minded diversion. Clips from good bands making bad puns about old video games. Compelling indy-animation you've never heard of. All those "extras" you never watched on your game CDs.

Gametap TV is symbolic of the entire Gametap ethos. You don't launch Gametap thinking "OK, I'm gonna work on level 32 until I clear it tonight." You launch Gametap for the same reason you channel surf. Because there's nothing on. Or because what is on is just not what you're in the mood for. Or you're just feeling too lazy to actually commit to watching something for an hour. Like everything else about Gametap, it's horribly marketed on its own merits, but in and of itself it's brilliant.

Click. I spend a few minutes watching a surreal interview with the Goo Goo Dolls front man and Space Ghost. Click. A few minutes with Gary Gygax. Click. Some coverage from Comicon I missed. But I'm not here to watch TV.

Click. I head over to the Game Vault. The ethereal lords of Gametap have put a few new picks for the season -- the Castlevania series, Silent Hill 2 -- appropriate choices. Click. I lose 20 minutes playing Castlevania III for no good reason. It turns out to be a great little game.

I finished Sam & Max a few days ago, so I delete that from my cache. I browse around for new stuff. Click. Myst 3? Huh. I played most of the way through Riven, like 124 years ago, but never picked up the rest. Click. And Elysium keeps ranting about how awesome these stupid train games are, so I might as well go through the tutorial for Railroad Tycoon III. Click. Ooooohhh, Time Pilot '84. I plug in the rumblepad. Click. Fifteen minutes later there's a little "bing" as Myst 3 finishes loading. Click. Half an hour goes by. My stomach gets a little queasy from all the head spinning. Click. I'll just chill out with Homeworld 2 and blow some stuff up.

Gametap has changed how I use a precious 90 minutes of gaming. The act of browsing in and of itself is a powerful, positive experience. I go to my local bookstore not just to buy books, but to drink black coffee and wander around the aisles, reading a page of that, a chapter of this. Gametap brings this experience to gaming, and it's uniquely suited for the ADD gamer with too much to do, and not enough time. Sure, I own a lot of Gametap's library already -- they sit out there on the shelves, their ROMs rest peacefully on servers 30 feet away in the furnace room. But I can't surf them.

Gametap doesn't have the latest and greatest. If you've religiously played every halfway decent game in the last 20 years, then it's going to be nothing but retro for you. I'm actually not a big retro guy. I don't think the past is this giant golden age in which everything was great. I enjoy the occasional excursion into pure nostalgia -- a Zork run or a game of Rampage -- but they aren't better games. What the service does have is a library of cool stuff (plus a huge edutainment library, for the parents out there). Games you might not otherwise play. Games that miss the endless rehash collection lists. PC games you always browsed over, but never wanted to drop 30 bucks on.

And the actual experience of trying a new game is brilliant. The interface is designed for browsing like a good TV interface. I can just sit back and use the arrow keys to noodle around, reading about different games, watching the occasional video or interview about them, and if something strikes my fancy, I just click a button and it starts downloading and installing. Console and arcade games install instantly. PC games may take a while, but it all happens in the background.

Better still, once you click, you get the whole experience. For a PC game, you can connect through LAN or 'net servers. For old multiplayer games, Gametap runs multiplayer lobbies that actually work.

It's a phenomenal tool, at a phenomenal price. For the cost of one console game you get a huge library. Do I wish the library was more up to date? Sure. But it will get there. The influx of cash they are inevitably getting from Sam & Max, and soon Uru Live, will give them bolts-in-the-quiver to get better titles, sooner.

I'm sold. If ever a service was designed for a Gamer with a Job. This is it.

Worms Armageddon anyone?

Comments

Sounds great. Someone give me heads up when it hits the UK

If you're so inclined to spend a few sessions on it, I'm really curious to find out about Uru Live...

Symbiotic wrote:

If you're so inclined to spend a few sessions on it, I'm really curious to find out about Uru Live...

It's not on Gametap yet, but I'm sure things will be said about it. I'm intrigued.

Good read, rabbit. Let me know when you want to play Worms.

Good article rabbit - I just H-A-T-E forking over money every month to play old games, although you do make a good point about convenience and browsing capability. I guess this service wasn't designed with tightwads like me in mind: even though I hear nothing but good things about W.O.W and the like (aside from the whole, you know, addiction thing) I just can't justify continually pouring money into a service that leaves me with nothing if I stop paying. I guess I'm just old fashioned (aka cheap) that way...

Sounds great! Then I went to check it and...

"Your browser version is out of date."

No it's not, you bastard! It's the latest Opera!

Sucks for me, I guess.

I thnk Gametap is perfect for guys who missed a lot of hit games and don't mind being a generation (or more) behind the current crop. In other words, it was made for me. There is so much content that I don't see how I could ever really run out. I'm up for the Worms game anytime.

nateaudio wrote:

Good article rabbit - I just H-A-T-E forking over money every month to play old games, although you do make a good point about convenience and browsing capability. I guess this service wasn't designed with tightwads like me in mind: even though I hear nothing but good things about W.O.W and the like (aside from the whole, you know, addiction thing) I just can't justify continually pouring money into a service that leaves me with nothing if I stop paying. I guess I'm just old fashioned (aka cheap) that way...

If it was over $5 a month, it'd be one thing, but I spend more than $5 a month just because I'm too lazy to drive to the pizza joint one block away. I'll gladly pay for that kind of convenience.

I'm with you Pyro. I bought it for Sam&Max (which was awesome) so all this other stuff was a surprise, and not something I expected to care about even if I'd known.

I will most assuredly be playing URU. I've been signed up for and rejected by the beta for months now (grin).

Between this and the great discussion of Gametap on the recent GWJ Conference Call I'm sold.

I hope someone at Gametap is sending GWJ staff a thank you for the compelling endorsements (not implying anyone is on the take or anything - just that you've made a great argument for why you feel the service is valuable).

Looking forward to Sam & Max.

One thing you can count on from us is that we work solely to bring truth and justice to the gamers of the world. Not saying we wouldn't mind a new car or a trip to Fiji though...

Today is the last day to actually get Gametap for '$5 a month' (really an upfront 1 year subscription for $60)

polypusher wrote:

Today is the last day to actually get Gametap for '$5 a month' (really an upfront 1 year subscription for $60)

I knew there was a catch! Actually I didn't, I'm just cheap.

I'm sorry. I got stuck on the golden concept of 90 minutes of time to yourself. Is that another one of those pervy habits that are all the rage these days like Sleep?

Other than that, I'm right there with you. Or I will be in a month or so. I'm staring down the barrel of about 80 hours of Squaresoft goodness.

momgamer wrote:

I'm sorry. I got stuck on the golden concept of 90 minutes of time to yourself. Is that another one of those pervy habits that are all the rage these days like Sleep?

Other than that, I'm right there with you. Or I will be in a month or so. I'm staring down the barrel of about 80 hours of Squaresoft goodness.

You too? After my inital "til sunup" run-through I look forward to a discussion thread tomorrow

polypusher wrote:

Today is the last day to actually get Gametap for '$5 a month' (really an upfront 1 year subscription for $60)

Weird... when I signed up a few days ago the site claimed that THAT was the last day for the reduced price. Or at least I could have sworn that that was the case.

I think they extended it at least once, but it has said Oct 31st for a week at least

Baggz wrote:

Sounds great. Someone give me heads up when it hits the UK :(

Ask and you shall receive:

http://eurogamer.metaboli.co.uk/

got this from eurogamer.net. I've never used it but I love to hear from someone who has.

Eoin wrote:
Baggz wrote:

Sounds great. Someone give me heads up when it hits the UK :(

Ask and you shall receive:

http://eurogamer.metaboli.co.uk/

got this from eurogamer.net. I've never used it but I love to hear from someone who has.

Cheers Eoin.

No Sam & Max, but for the full price of a game I can't see me losing on the 6 month deal. There's plenty of titles I wouldn't mind trying out/revisiting.

I'll have a look and get some feedback for you.

Long term it would depend how often they get new content. I could probably play all I want to off their list in 6 months, and if there's not enough new stuff after that I probably wouldn't renew.

Still, watch this space....

The only real downside to the whole deal with metaboli is the inability to play the games if you end the subscription with them. Then it's just so much dead space on the hard drive.

Then again I'd imagine it's relatively trivial to restart the subscription. And you too can imagine yourself as a modern day Dr. Frankenstein, the dessicated corpses of games long past shambling to life with a bolt of pure credit card...

However if one were the type of gamer to purchase a game every other month anyway, then over the long it definitely works out if the games can distract you from your shop purchases.

Eoin wrote:

However if one were the type of gamer to purchase a game every other month anyway, then over the long it definitely works out if the games can distract you from your shop purchases.

To be honest, I'm a lazy bugger deep down. The fact that I don't have to reach over to the shelf, let alone go to the store, is a big plus.

So, who actually has this? I bit and want some people I can vaguely say I know to compete with on the leaderboards.

Also, I noticed a nice feature that lets you create a secondary login so your kid or other family member can also play at the same time.

I signed up about a week ago (tmembrino on GameTap). I'm really impressed with it at this point. For the $60 for a year I'm satisfied. The amount of playtime my 2 kids have gotten out of it alone has justified it (lots of kids stuff on there). The subaccounts is a nice feature - lets me setup custom "My Favorites" for both kids which simplifies them finding games. Plus it allows a subaccount and the main account to be logged on at the same time which is handy.

I broke down and picked up a wired 360 controller to use with GameTap (couldn't wait until they release the wireless dongle next year). With the controller it's fantastic. I was in heaven last night when I found Cannon Fodder! Also started Sam and Max - fun stuff.

I have signed up and cancelled Gametap twice since its release. I reactivated with the release of Sam and Max and was amazed by how much better the service has gotten. I fully intend to keep it now and it seems to only be getting better.

Well after a week of free trial I just signed up for the buy one month get one free deal to try it out in more depth. I certainly wouldn't mind a few games of worms, I'm Breed19 if anyone wants to add me to their buddy list.

to the foreign gamers, all you need is a credit card, you can be a wee bit sneeky and give a fake yank address when registering, 90210 is a great zip code to use(there must be some seriously flawed statistics about beverly hills on the 'net, I know ive registered many accounts from there) only problem would be the inability to enter contests... *shrug*

One thing to be aware of is that they require you to call in via phone in order to cancel the service. I had been trying to do this for the past 3 days, but had not been able to get through. I guess their call center is jammed. Anyway I finally got through this morning and it turns out that they billed my credit card for the next month today. Needless to say I was annoyed. I will not consider reactivating until they allow you to cancel via their web site.