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Gaming Grandma

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Timothy St. Hilaire
Grandson and Blogger
Monday, December 5, 2005; 12:00 PM

Barbara St. Hilaire is a 69-year-old grandmother with a passion for video games. She's so good at it that she was recently hired by MTV as a "senior" correspondent to review games for the network. Grandson Timothy chronicles her Xbox, Playstation2 and GameCube adventures in his blog, "Old Grandma Hardcore."

Read the story: Grandma Gets Her Game On (Post, Dec. 3)

Grandma and Timothy were online Monday, Dec. 5, at Noon ET to discuss the world of online gaming.

A transcript follows.

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Timothy St. Hilaire: Hello Everyone! Welcome to the Q&A with Barbara St. Hilaire, AKA Old Grandma Hardcore, AKA "Grandma." My name is Timothy, her grandson and author of the blog www.oldgrandmahardcore.com

Sitting at the computer here in sunny Cleveland are Grandma and myself, and we'll answer as many of your questions on the topic of gaming or Grandma's life as we can. "B" signifies Grandma, "T" signifies me; to avoid any confusion.

Thanks for coming!

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Riverside, Calif.: What games have given you the biggest surprises, specifically, which game did you think would be great and wasn't and which game did you have no expectations for and ended up loving it? Also, you state flatly that Final Fantasy VII is your favorite, why?

Game On!

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- That's a tough one, I'd have to say as far as dissappointment goes, the Devil May Cry sequals were just awful, but I really liked the first one! Now I was really pleasantly surprised by X-Men Legends II: The Rise of the Apocolypse. I thought I would HATE it. I haven't really followed the X-Men stories that well, so-

T- You did alright on the trivia part.

B- Well, that's because I saw the movies, I guess; but I never read the comic. The game actually plays more like Growlanser, so its RPG-ish. Final Fantasy VII is by far my favorite game. It's hard to really say which game would be in second place (Resident Evil 4, God of War, Fatal Frame II) but saying FFVII is my favorite is easy. I think it's because of the story and the characters on top of a really easy to learn battle system. Each of the characters has an interesting story, well except maybe Cat Sith, that wasn't that interesting) and the ...overall objective, I guess you can call it- is... well, the concept behind ultima and the lifeforce is absolutely beautiful.

T- A lot of folks said Final Fantasy VII had a Deus Ex Machina ending after Sephiroth, but it WORKED; it's practically one man's perspective on the Gaian faith.

B- It could be a religion- it was that beautiful.

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washingtonpost.com: Old Grandma Hardcore Blog

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Springfield, Va.: What a great story! It just goes to show that there is no "average gamer", and games are loved universally by men, women, young and old.

I do have a question about Barbara's skill and reflexes. What are her reaction times compared to her grandchildren? I read that due to the aging process, the synapses and brain connections that allow us to react to stimuli (like killing the zombie that leaps out of the shadows) begin to deteriorate early on, so even young children will tend to outperform, in terms of sheer reaction time, against teenagers and young adults.

If Barbara is as skilled as the younger generations, it would indicate that practice in games can help keep the reflexes sharp. Any evidence of this?

Thanks again for an awesome story that was much appreciated by this fellow girl gamer.

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- My reflexes have slowed a bit, but I don't think its because of aging as much as it is with carpal tunnel syndrome from working at Black and Decker as a machinist. I think your right, if anything, gaming has helped me a great deal with my relfexes, but at certain games, like FPS shooters, they usually best me, but in sports games like Outlaw Golf, and can destroy them on even a BAD day! Keeping gaming as a hobby is part of it, rather than rare plays- and that's not a plug for the industry, it could be the same game over and over for all I care, but what fun would that be!?

T- Grandma beats me at Halo

B- Yeah, like ONE time

T- That was the first time you played it though

B- Whatever

T- And FarCry Instincts

B- That was different!

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New Orleans, La. (now Chicago): This summer I went to Best Buy to purchase a PS2 for myself, (64 -- female). The clerk (20-ish male) was all but speechless and kept saying, "But you'll have children visiting sometimes, won't you?" "No, it's for me," I answered. He was very ill at ease. However, his next question, "But what games will you play?," is a legitimate concern. A significant market opportunity is being overlooked. I got fed up with his attitude and left a serious sale lost to the company.My question: "How can we get the game creators to include non-violent games for the intelligent, mature mind? Thank you.

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- I hate Best Buy. I had an experience just like that there, and also at Circuit City (even worse.) Older gamers have a stigma where sales clerks are used to dealing with younger folks and we cramp their style, we break their groove. After a store gets used to you, that usually goes away- although it comes back because most chain stores go through employees like water. To answer your second question, there are already LOTS of non-violent games out there to play that require a lot of thought and strategy if that's what you're into. (I like the violent games as well, myself.) There are games like the SIMS where you create and manage a person, even a family; there is Katamari Damacy, there are timed puzzle games, there was Indigo Prophecy that almost read like a book rather than play as a game (although- to warn you, I didn't like the ending much, but that's me.) While many RPG's are technically games that focus on battle and war, they are more strategy games than war games; so the violence is ...stylized, and not gory like you would find in Resident Evil. Don't give up on the console game developers; mature, intelligent minds inhabit the young as well as the old- so they go for that market more than you might think!

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Anonymous: Do you have friends your age who are fellow gamers? Isn't this a young "sport"?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- My friends don't really game, and I'll admit I used to think I was unique, but after the blog started I've met a LOT of folks my age who game just as much as I do! In the Business Week article "Attack of the Gaming Grannies" they mentioned an ESRB statistic of something like 19% of gamers are over the age of 50! Also realize, if a person in their 20's really enjoys gaming and keeps up with it as systems get better or upon the release of a fantastic game, it's not that unusual for them to mature into an elderly gamer.

T- Since games really premiered in the 70's, it makes sense that there are a lot of Hardcore Gaming Grandma's and Grandpa's out there. They just love to game!

B- It's only young if you pay attention to the marketing ...demographics- they TARGET young folks, but that doesn't mean only young folks BUY them. It all depends on how you look at getting older.

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Washington, D.C.: Other than sports games, what are some PS2 games that have a great deal of replay value?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- What do you mean other than sports games!? :) There are a TON of games for the PS2 with fantastic replay value! The one that comes to mind that was just released last November is Resident Evil 4; every time you go though that thing it changes a little bit, you accumulate different weapons, you explore different areas- it's wonderful! Or GOD OF WAR! Absolutely stunning game. Try upping the difficulty a bit each time through and still hold on to your sanity. The PS2 is such a great system BECAUSE it has a huge library of wonderful games. More than I could possibly list here!

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Arlington, Va.: Why do y'all have so many different game consoles, excluding the ones that are now obsolete?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Because there are good games on all the different systems. Resident Evil 4 is best played on a GameCube, in my opinion- but Darkwatch is better on the PS2. I loved Psychonauts for the XBox! Currently, those are the only systems I have in my room, the kids have their own systems. Part of it is, we're not rich people. If I get a new system as a gift, I can give the old one as a gift to one of the kids, they keep it and it all comes full circle. We're gaming packrats.

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washingtonpost.com: Attack of the Gaming Grannies (Business Week, Oct. 19)

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Princeton, N.J.: Hey Grandma & Tim! When can we expect more videos on the site? Game on!

Timothy St. Hilaire: T- Right now Grandma is playing Fatal Frame III: The Tormented for the Playstation 2. Last time I tried to film her playing Fatal Frame, it broke both my cameras. The game is haunted, and I'm not even superstitious :) But you guys all bought that camera for us, and I don't want to take the chance on this one. The next game Grandma plays, I promise, we will have new videos lined up and ready to go!

G- I hate seeing myself on camera.

T- Well, that's why you don't watch them! She'll also have reviews coming up on the next episode of The G-Hole at www.mtv.com/games

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Ellicott City, Md.: Do you think its worth it to get an Xbox 360 if you have an Xbox already. Are the graphics, etc., any better?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- How should I answer this?

T- I don't know! Be honest!

B- Alright. To answer your question, YES. The graphics and features on the XBox 360 are fantastic from what I've seen. I don't have one yet. It's going to take a LOT of saving before I can afford a 360. Now there are different ways to look at this- the Core system can't play your original XBox games without buying more stuff, but you already HAVE an Xbox, so that shouldn't be an issue- BUT the Premium package comes with badass wireless controllers and a few other nifty gadgets that make it worth the price. On the other hand, pay attention to side by side comparisons to games ported for both your XBox and the XBox 360, some are REALLY better on the 360, others are basically the same, but you would expect that for any launch, so its no biggie. After this takes off, it won't even be a question. I still play Playstation One games from time to time, so if Microsoft wants to keep the old XBox around, I'll still be playing it after I get a 360. Of course, by that time I'll probably be DEAD.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello. Not so much a question on games but was wondering if you could help me out ... I want to buy my boyfriend a new computer monitor for Christmas. He has been wanting a 'flat screen' type, and uses it for first-person shooter games such as 'Half Life' and 'Far Cry.' Any suggestions on what type of monitor to buy would be great, as I am completely lost! Also, what's the difference between a CRT and LCD monitor, and which is best? Thanks for taking my question.

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- I'll do my best, I'm not much of a computer person. I'm like Alan Grant. Tim, what was the Sony monitor you got your mom?

T- That was a CRT, but it was flat screen. The CRT displays are usually really large boxes, like a television; whereas the LCD flat displays are going to look thin. You will probably find a flat panel CRT cheaper than an LCD monitor; but the LCD's take up less space. As far as images being burned onto the screen after long hours of gameplay, I'm not really sure which monitor would be best- I'm sure someone can help us out on this one; we're concole gamers! We don't know!

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Anonymous: Gotta love Best Buy hoarding 360's for a sale flyer later this month instead of putting them on the shelves.

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Best Buy has had a horrible reputation over the XBox 360; and YES- it is deserved. You should hear some of the horror stories our readers send us. It's BAD.

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Boston, Mass.: I've found a number of older-than-average people playing mmorpg's like Guild Wars and World of Warcraft, games that focus around community and group strategy, rather than instant reaction times. Have you thought of expanding your gaming from the console to the computer?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- You know, I think I must be the exception. I want to TRY WoW, a lot of our readers also suggested I get into City of Heros or SW Galaxies- but playing online intimidates me. There was an article in The Escapist about a girl who, when she reveals she's "actually a girl," gets treated differently when playing, and she hates it. I just want to play, but I don't want to have to hide my identity. Also, when I touch the computer, it explodes. Tim tried to go camping and had me publish the blog for a week. I couldn't get the damn thing to submit! I knew what to do, it just wouldn't work for me. I don't know. We'll SEE! Right now, I'm sticking to my consoles.

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Fairfax, Va.: Does the PSP have wireless connectivity to the Internet? Can you surf the Web or only check e-mail? And do you think a newer version is on its way PSP2?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- The PSP is probably the only handheld system I'd be interested in, it has a large enough screen for me, the button layout is similar to the old PSOne controller, so ...no learning curve- and it isn't built like a Tonka toy. I'd have one right now if I could afford it! It DOES have wireless connectivity, but I think you need to install browsing software to get it to work like a PDA.

T- That's true, I read an article about PSP's web capabilities in Joystiq.com, I'm sure if you searched their archives, they would point you in the right direction. The PSP upgrades its firmware often enough I think they can delay the release of a newer piece of hardware for a while. The UMD idea is just taking off, so I don't think they want to jeaprodize it with planned obsolecense. I can't spell when I type quickly, by the by :)

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Canyon Country, Calif.: First off, you rock! What first caught your fancy and got you into gaming?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- I think it was Pong way back in the 70's. I would play the simple arcade games when they came out in movie theaters and at bowling alleys, then I bought an Atari and played more than my kids. I guess it was Nintendo, however, that made it more than just a casual sort of hobby. Nintendo brought Zelda- and then I knew gaming could be more like Chess and less like Ping Pong. I even went out and bought an Atari Flashback recently, one of those ...preloaded consoles with all the classics. But the damn thing broke on us!

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washingtonpost.com: MTV: The G Hole

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Falls Church, Va.: Congrats on your MTV gig! What type of work have you done for them so far?

Also, have you given thought to receiving endorsements?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Oh, they sent me a lot of games, and ...I play them... then I tell them what I think! That's about it, to be honest. I don't think I'll get an invitation to the VMA's if that's what your thinking! Endorsements?! Sure! Why not! Maybe then I'll get a XBox 360! The only thing I won't do is lie about a game. Nobody can pay me enough money to say a terrible game is fantastic.

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Chicago, Ill.: I need your help Grandma ...

I'm terrifed of RPG games. I've tried some of the more experimental type (Morrowind and the like) and hated that I could go anywhere, do anything, never accomplish anything. I think I'm scared of the sheer dedication to playing that one game. I love games like Splinter Cell, where there is strategy and people tell me I should give RPGs a shot, but I really don't want to get sucked in.

What's a game to get me started, or a type of game that's not RPG but still provides the replay value?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Well... Xenosaga is fairly linear, but you'd have to be an anime fan to enjoy it. You could try something like- no; alright, if you were into SplinterCell.... alright- X Men Legends II- it plays like an RPG but you need strategy. Final Fantasy VIII is fantastic, a little more violent than VII, and it's farily straight forward. Oh! Try Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic! It's short, so you don't need much dedication. And the replay value is EXCELLENT. Try going to the Dark Side on your second run through!

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College Park, Md.: What do you think of 50 Cent's video game?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Never played it. From the reviews its recieved it seems more like 50 Cent made a game for the very reason he titled his movie "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" I can't say I blame him, though. We all want more money, man. It just seems like a dumb game to me. If the commercials didn't emphasize how much music and music videos are embedded within the game and actually mentioned, I don't know- THE GAME, then maybe I would take it seriously. Grand Theft Auto went in the right direction with that genre, he should have taken some tips from them. Then again, I haven't played it so what do I know!

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Bethesda, Md.: Beverly, doesn't the graphic violence in a lot of these games bother you? It seems like it's only getting worse. Aside from the warnings, do you think anything should be done to regulate these video games?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Nope! It doesn't bother me at all. I know it's only animated violence, it's not real. It's also a good... you know, a way for me to take out my frustrations-

T- A Catharsis?

B- Yeah! As far as regulation goes, I think governments should absolutely leave video games alone. It's up to the parents to "regulate." Der Spiegel, a German magazine, mentioned a gentleman my age who couldn't even BUY God of War because it's not aloud to be sold in the country because it is a "killer game" as they call them there. THAT'S why regulation hurts the industry, and the consumers. If its made for adults, why can't HE buy it!? I fear the same thing may happen here.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hello! I'm thinking about getting an RPG for my husband for Christmas -- specifically, Dragon Quest VIII. Do you have any thoughts on the game, and if it would make a worthy gift?

We've been playing another RPG from Square Enix -- Romancing Saga -- and having some frustration with completing quests, so I'm wondering if Dragon Quest VIII will be more enjoyable. Thanks!

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Dragon Quest VIII is on my "To Buy" list. I played a Demo that my Grandson gave me, and it looks wonderful. Then again, I'm a HUGE Square Enix fan, but a few nasty marks on an otherwise great library (Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2) don't affect me much. Dragon Quest VIII would make a wonderful gift. And if he doesn't want it- GIVE IT TO ME!!

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Vienna, Va.: Here are some more quick facts about CRT displays.

CRT projectors can be large and heavy, from 75 pounds (34 kilograms) and up.

CRT projectors are strictly analog display systems.

CRT projectors require extensive setup by a qualified technician.

Timothy St. Hilaire: T- Thanks!! Projectors are one thing altogether, but I hope this answers the earlier question.

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Rockville, Md.: I have never had the time for the game machines, but have stayed with PC games. However, I have not yet loaded my Sims 2 or done much with Vietnam. Is there hope for PC gamers or shoud we switch to XBOX?

Timothy St. Hilaire: It's all a matter of taste. There is hope for PC gamers, I know a great many of them and they're excited about quite a few games coming out, but Consoles are my preference. Look at American McGee- Alice was a fascinating game, and now he's making Bad Day LA for the XBox! If its good enough for American McGee, it's good enough for me! Now that Sid Meier jumped ship, we have it all :) But then again, I didn't care for pirates much- only because I couldn't get the damn ship to go straight! Your PC will have much to look forward to, but avoiding the frustration of computer configuration on a console, the stability of an XBox- makes it so much easier for me.

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Anonymous: I hope Grandman don't get run over by a reindeer this Christmas.

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- We don't have Reindeer in Cleveland. Only the white-tail kind of deer.

I run over THEM.

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Alexandria, Va.: Have you had an opportunity to try "City of Villians?"

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- If I ever get into MMORGs, I'm deciding between City of Villians and City of Heros. I think "Villian" better describes my personality, so I'm waiting for our readers to let us know which is more fun!

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Baltimore, Md.: You sound very enthusiastic. What keeps you so young?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- Caffeine!! I don't know- I don't FEEL young, if that's what you're implying! I guess I'm just wrapped up in how strange all this attention can be- I mean- all I do is game! So do a lot of other people! I don't really understand why people think this is so special! If you game now and like it, you're going to be just like me one day!

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Virginia: This is fabulous! My husband and I are well into our 30's and love the games. I prefer the ones that have story backgrounds. I loved Psychonauts and I have all the Zeldas. Husband is a huge Morrowind fan. We were going to get the Xbox 360 for Christmas, but now that Elderscrolls isn't coming out until March, I don't know if it's worth it -- are there any launch games with the 360 that are worth it?

Timothy St. Hilaire: B- While I don't have one yet, a lot of our readers that do say that King Kong and Call of Duty 2 are worth more than they sell them for. Personally, I can't wait for Condemned. Kameo didn't get very good reviews, but from what I've played if you were ever into Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank you'd get into it. Elderscrolls looks WONDERFUL- I'm with you on that one!

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Timothy St. Hilaire: Thanks for all the questions everybody! If you still have things that must be answered, come to our blog for a special addition of Ask Grandma Hardcore tonight at 9:00pm EST.

Game on!

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