As I’ve mentioned before, I have a serious thing about giant robots. Not only are they just cooler than pretty much anything else I can think of, I’ve gone on record as saying that I’d be the first to enlist in a military that needed pilots for said robots, and considering that I’m otherwise a bleeding-heart liberal pacifist, this says a lot about just how god damned cool I think they are.
A lot of other people think the same way. Anyone who’s ever played Battletech or Mechwarrior is pretty much right there with me riding the crazy train, right alongside all the fans of all those giant mecha anime shows like Gundam, Macross, and the other innumerable takes on the genre. Of course, pursuing any sort of giant robot-related hobby soon grows incredibly expensive, unless you (ahem) “borrow” episodes of Gurren Lagann off the interwebs.
Of course, there are many of us who want to do more than simply watch giant robots beating the shit out of each other. We want to participate, too. What this meant back in the old days (the 1980s and early 1990s) is that you needed to play a tabletop wargame, complete with miniature mechs. These little pewter figurines typically came in packs of one or two, oftentimes disassembled and almost always unpainted; it’s not like today where you can buy booster packs of already assembled and pre-painted plastic miniatures – no, you had to sit there with your Testors paint set and your handful of 18 million little brushes and painstakingly drybrush each one, and mine almost always came out looking like utter shit. I’ve got big fat sausage fingers and trying to put pinstriping on a fucking Mad Cat was like handing an Etch-a-Sketch with a picture of the Mona Lisa to someone having an epileptic fit: the end product is going to look like shit, and there’s a good chance I’ve swallowed my tongue.
When I think about all the goddamn money I wasted during my teenage years and my early twenties on this crap (and all the brain damage I probably received as a result of paint fume inhalation in my parents’ basement), I die a little inside. I could have put that money towards saving for the future – or paying off my student loans or something – but instead I effectively dug a hole in my back yard, dumped hundreds of dollars in cash in, and lit the whole fucking pile on fire. I don’t think I have one Battletech mini left to even show for it; unfortunately I can’t say the same for all the Warhammer 40,000 and AD&D minis I’ve horribly painted.
However, there’s one stupid giant waste of money that I’m particularly proud of (and by “proud of,” I mean “mortified by”). In a moment well before “going full retard” entered the lexicon, I pulled the kind of dumb-ass move that still haunts my dreams today: I bought Steel Battalion at retail.
Let me stop and explain why this is so horrible to everyone who has no idea what the hell I’m on about. Steel Battalion was a giant robot game that came out in 2002 for the Xbox. Yes, that’s Xbox, not Xbox 360 – we’re talking what’s now outdated technology – and it wasn’t so much a game as it was a simulator. The thing cost somewhere around $200 and it came with a forty-button controller made up of three foot pedals, twin joysticks, and a panel of buttons that left no stone unturned: there was one that was labelled “Windshield Wiper.” I had to set up a card table and a folding chair in front of my parents’ television (again, in the basement) to actually play the goddamn thing, and the controller was so fucking huge and such a chore to set up and break down that it typically became too much of a pain in the ass to play anything besides that game. Finally I just dismantled the goddamn thing and put it away so I could actually cross the room without tripping over 20 pounds of metal and plastic, and it’s still in the downstairs closet in my parents’ place to this day, gathering dust; not exactly one of my best moments as a fiscally responsible young adult.
Now that I’m older, wiser, and much much poorer, I don’t go around buying stupid gimmicky bullshit like that any more, no matter how cool it looks. Yeah, giant robots are still the coolest thing ever, but I’ve managed to control myself and not go completely ape shit on any related merchandise. I’m sure watching Transformers 2 some years ago helped cool some of that giant robot desire deep in the cockles of my heart, especially since the pair of Ebonics-spouting blinged-out gold-toothed Autobots left enough of a bad taste in my mouth to want to hunt down Michael Bay and slap his shit with my 1st Generation Optimus Prime, complete with tractor trailer – and no jury in the world would have convicted me, either. That movie was a war crime.
It’s actually an incredibly good thing that I’m busy socking all my disposable income towards a wedding this November, considering what got disgorged from the dark recesses of the internet and beached itself on the shores of my periphery recently. Turns out that not only is there a new Mechwarrior video game about to see the light of day, which sends shivers of both hate and glee down my spine considering how much time and money I’ve wasted playing those stupid games on my computer over the years, there’s a new custom controller that’s going to be offered with it designed by Razer, a company notorious for making flashy, completely superfluous, overpriced, and over-designed pieces of awesome-looking garbage – basically the equivalent of The Homer.
This thing looks fucking awesome. It’s going to be absolutely worthless as far as gameplay, but my soul hungers for one like comic book fans hunger for a Blade/Twilight crossover arc that sees Wesley Snipes slicing Richard Pattinson up into itty bitty pieces. I mean, just look at this magnificent bastard and tell me you don’t want one:
Just look at that over-designed olive drab motherfucker. Sure it’s not as flashy as the Steel Battalion controller, but that’s an integrated screen in the center console there. An integrated screen. Hell, it could end up being a touchscreen once the thing goes into production – who needs 40 goddamn buttons when you’ve got everything you need right there?
I wonder if I can register at GameStop for the wedding.