Media

Gamerz Tek 8-Bit Boy Review: Now You’re Playing With Portable Power!

Game Boy and all its incarnations and successors, from the Nintendo DS to even the Switch, are wonderful, but I’ve always wanted a portable NES. Yes, there are ways to emulate NES games on phones and handheld gaming devices (I’m currently using an R4i Gold card in a DSi LL), but I wanted a self-contained, dedicated piece of hardware that accepted the bulky cartridges and had only one purpose: to play 8-bit Nintendo games on the go.

The Dream
Over the years I’ve seen Chinese knockoffs, DIY mods, and a couple of commercial products that basically do the trick, but they’ve never looked that polished and/or they were extremely expensive. Last month I decided to look again–and at first I didn’t find much on offer. The only real commercial product at the moment was Retro-Bit’s RetroDuo Portable, which is a portable Super NES with an adapter for NES games. It works, but it looks a bit unwieldy with the adapter plus a cartridge, and it received some mixed reviews; I also tried one at MAGFest, and it felt somewhat light and cheap, though I couldn’t test out the controller buttons because it was being used to run an NES music cart. Nonetheless, just as I decided to bid on a cheap one on eBay–figuring why not?–I learned that there was a new contender on the horizon: the Gamerz Tek 8-Bit Boy XL. I ordered it immediately, despite its $99 price tag, and I didn’t even have to wait long for it to arrive (though apparently it had been delayed a bit from its original Fall 2017 release date).

I’ve posted a video review of my unboxing and first impressions, but since then I’ve been putting it through its paces and testing some more games on it. My opinion hasn’t changed much–I really like it, and with some caveats, it’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted and could ever want. If you’re looking for a portable NES, and you’re willing to deal with a few compromises, this could be the device for you too.

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Super MAGFest this weekend!

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I will be at Super MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) this weekend, Jan. 4-7, Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD, talking about two of my favorite things: writing and video games.

I will be participating in two panels:

The Retro Aesthetic and the Power of Abstraction
Friday Jan. 5, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
MAGES1 – Chesapeake G, H, I
Panelists: Vince Kuyatt, Luke Johnston, Oliver Surpless, E.C. Myers
Despite the gains in graphical capabilities, games continue to turn to the faux 8 and 16 bit aesthetics. Why is this, and how does this form impact our playing experience? Why is it that games like Five Nights at Freddy’s intentionally switch between 8-bit and 3D rendering for specific moments, and what effects does this create in the player? How would games like Lone Survivor, Undertale and Beat Cop function differently with a different aesthetic. What can we learn about using the retro aesthetic to create a powerful response in our players? Come listen to a panel discuss our favorite examples of retro game design, and why we continue to love this aesthetic.

Gaming Writers: Translating Gaming Culture Onto the Page
Sunday, Jan 7, 10-11 a.m.
FORGE – Baltimore 3, 4
Panelists: Meg Eden, TE Carter, Luke Johnston, Lynn Almengor, E.C. Myers
Writers will describe how games and gaming culture have inspired their original projects, how they break and subvert stereotypes about gaming culture, and why they turned to writing as a medium for translating their gaming experiences.

Let me know if you’ll be attending, and if you’d like to meet up, the best way to contact me is through Twitter. (I know, I can’t believe I wrote that either, but it’s true.)

buy 1985 today!

My new book, 1985: STORI3S FROM SØS, is out today! This slim edition collects three stories related to The Silence of Six series: “SOS”, which features Evan (R.I.P.); “DoubleThink”, which tells Penny’s story between The Silence of Six and Against All Silence; and 1985, a brand-new novella featuring Max’s parents as teenagers at Columbia University in New York City. You can buy it now only at Barnes & Noble. I’m immensely grateful that my publisher Adaptive allowed me to write these stories, and I’m very proud of them, so I hope you’ll check out the collection. If you enjoy them, or even if you didn’t, reviews are always appreciated.

To celebrate my book launch in true 1985 style, you’re invited to watch me play Gyromite for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), just like Brad and his friend Nick in 1985. Check out my YouTube Channel tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Eastern, where I’ll be playing the game (on an original console and tube TV!) and answering viewers’ questions live. Please consider subscribing for a reminder and if you like watching that sort of thing, because I play NES games just about every week.

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Reference list for SOS

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Homeland by Cory Doctorow

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

The PERSEF0NE series by Michelle Gagnon

This Machine Kills Secrets: How Wikileakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information by Andy Greenberg

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirpatrick

The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé

The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin D. Mitnick

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin D. Mitnick

The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers by Kevin D. Mitnick

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson

Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robinson

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter

 

The Fifth Estate (2013), directed by Brian Condon

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014), directed by Brian Knappenberger

Citizenfour (2014), directed by Laura Poitras

Hacker Wars (2014), directed by Vivien Lesnik Weisman

Deep Web (2015), directed by Alex Winter

Introducing ReMade!

I am really excited about my newest project: ReMade, a young adult science fiction serial premiering today at www.serialbox.com.

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I say “premiering” because Serial Box stories are modeled after television development practices, and the company considers itself to be the “HBO for readers.” Before I started writing short stories and novels, I wanted to write for TV and films, so this is kind of the best of both worlds. The writing team meets in person to discuss the entire series, plan the arc for the current season, and break and assign stories. We use TV terms like “pilot” — which you can download now for free! — and every 13,000-word story is called an episode, written to be consumed in about 40 minutes. (You can also listen to the audio version if you prefer.)

This has been an incredible collaborative experience where I feel like I’ve leveled up as a writer, because I’m learning from people at the top of their craft and pushing myself to write better so I don’t embarrass myself.

New episodes are available every Wednesday, beginning today, and you can purchase them individually for $1.99 or subscribe or buy a season pass (just like on iTunes!) to get them even cheaper. If you have an iPhone, you can read them in the Serial Box app, or transfer them to the eReader or platform of your choice because they’re DRM-free.

I’ve written three of the 15 episodes in the first season, and you can refer to the schedule below if you’d like to see when those will be available. But I hope you’ll check out the whole series, because in my humble opinion it’s excellent and we’ve all contributed to this story and these characters.

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Would you like to know more? Here’s the jaw-dropping trailer:

Here’s what one of my favorite authors said about the series:

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And here’s the episode listing at Goodreads!

where I will BEA this friday!

AASIf you’re at Book Expo America (BEA) in Chicago this week, come to my autographing on Friday to get a signed copy of my new book, Against All Silence, courtesy of my overlords, Adaptive Books!

Friday, May 13 — 2:30–3 p.m.
Table 4
Add it to your BEA calendar

You will be among the first people in the world to read this book, which will be published in August! Seriously, this is so brand new, I don’t even have copies of it yet! I really really really really hope you like it. I also hear there will be some special, limited-edition giveaways at this event, but I’m not sure if I should say more than that. ;)

If you aren’t at BEA or you miss me there, I will also be crashing the Mass Autographing Session at the SFWA Nebula Weekend at Palmer House on Friday the 13th, from 8 p.m. on. I’ll be happy to sign anything (anything!) if you corner me, but you’ll have to bring your own books!