Thursday, June 23, 2022

NNR Blog - St. John: Introduction to Nerd Noise Radio - 2022

For those who have never checked out Nerd Noise Radio, or who might've listened years ago and then never kept up; we are less of a "program" and more of a "network of programs", with two separate podcasts (of vastly differing formats and feels), and several supplemental or side offerings as well. It can all be a little confusing and maybe even overwhelming if you try to tune in without being aware of what everything means. And since NNR is participating in the massive (and glorious) Masters of VGM project [https://mastersofvgm.com/] that the greater VGM podcast scene collaborated on this June, it stands to reason that there will be a number of new faces at least dropping in long enough to check out our MoVGM contribution. So, I figured that a blog post laying everything out may be in order.


I'll do this in "short version / long version" format so that the reader can decide whether they just want a handful of pithy fortune cookie-sized bullet points, or whether they want "story time". The short version will be just an extension of our pinned tweet. The long version.....is why I'm making a blog post out of this! :-D


Choose your own adventure! :-)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


SHORT VERSION:


------------------Nerd Noise Radio Programs:


------On the podcast feed:


"Channel 1": Mixtape-style (or radio-music-program-style) adventures in sound. Minimal talking, maximal music. Since 2017! 10/yr.


"Channel 2": Two mics, fourteen tracks, VGM and talk! Since 2020! 6/yr. [NOTE: Our "MoVGM" episode will be a Ch 2!]


"Channel F": Bonuses & Betas! X/yr.


------Not on the podcast feed:


"Archive-Exclusive SUPER BONUSES": Stuff that's "too Channel F for Channel F". Regular content also sometimes covert-releases early on Archive as well.


"The Blog": Repeater of the podcast feed (sometimes with additional show notes in a more blog-like format), as well as occasional "actual blog posts" covering various VG, VGM, or show-related topics.


"YouTube": Channel still exists, but has been dormant since 2019. Plans exist to revive it in 2023, however, recent crackdowns by Nintendo and Square do cast a little doubt on that. Old content is still out there, though, of course.


Social Media: Twitter, Facebook Page, two Facebook Groups ("Easy Mode" and "Expert Mode"). Adding a Discord is possible in the future. Maybe in 2023.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


LONG VERSION:


Channel 1 and 2: For two shows with a common host, a common central subject and a common set of production tools, hardware, and techniques, I wanted Channel 1 and Channel 2 to sound and feel and flow as UNLIKE each other as humanly possible! And I pride myself in feeling like we have accomplished this! The two shows are absolutely NOTHING alike! Meaning, if you've heard one and didn't like it, maybe don't discount the other, because it's very much deliberately a COMPLETELY different vibe and experience!


Ch 1 (subtitle "Noise from the Hearts of Nerds" and with episode numbering scheme C1EX) has been running uninterrupted since January 2017 with an average of 10 new episodes a year. It is a glorified mixtape, roughly approximating the style of radio music programs like NPR's Hearts of Space (which I had the TREMENDOUS honor of getting to guest curate one time back in 2019): a short semi-standard intro, and a housekeeping outro, both near totally scripted and delivered in a vaguely Stephen Hill-esque (Hearts of Space) "radio affect", bookending a giant block of uninterrupted music, designed to take you on a winding, twisting journey through sound. I literally put more time and thought and energy into track order than I do even into track selection. When I do my job right, the sensation will be, you'll listen, and not even realizing we're moving, but when you get to the end, you'll be like "how the eff did we get from point A to B to C to X", since often times these music blocks are made of elements that you would not think would work well together. Typical music blocks run 1-1.5 hours, though they can go over 2hrs every once in a while. No set number of tracks, though give or take a few of 30 is the most common.


Ch 2 (subtitle "Nerd Noise Game Club" and with episode numbering scheme C2EX) is much newer, beginning in September 2020, and up until the end of 2021 was only quarterly (now it's six times a year). It is a more conventional non-mixtape-style "conversational share-a-thon" type program in the vague style of countless shows from Legacy Music Hour to Rhythm and Pixels to Pixelated Audio to Super Marcato Bros and so on. Contrary to Ch 1, it is almost completely unscripted, and I almost exclusively use my real-life "regular speaking voice". It is co-hosted by Hugues (pron. "Hugh") Johnson of "Retro Game Club", and an alumnus of the now defunct, but seminal, nearly decade-running video game talk pod "The Retro League" - a man I’ve been a fan of since 2011, who I got to meet in person in 2014, and who I never would’ve EVER dreamed I’d be able to snag as a co-host for my show! The name "Nerd Noise Game Club", of course, is a portmanteau of Nerd Noise Radio and Retro Game Club. On Ch 2, Hugues and I will take turns sharing tracks and talking about them and [mostly] relevant topics.  On even numbered episodes, Hugues gets final say on the episode's theme and title and also goes first with the episode's opening track (I get the closer), where it's the opposite on odd-numbered episodes. Colloquially, we refer to even numbered episodes as "Hugues episodes" and odd numbered episodes as "St. John episodes" even though we both get the same number of tracks (7 apiece for 14 total), and both participate in the conversation all the way through. Episode theme and title decisions are also -USUALLY- a collaborative effort between the two of us with the one or the other just getting to make the final decision in case there isn't unanimity - which you will hear (or have already heard) in action in C2E8 (MoVGM).


So, Ch 1 is a very planned, very controlled, very "clean room" environment, like a professional radio program would be, and goes for that vibe, whereas Ch 2 is much more lively and off the cuff, and unpredictable, like a conversation between friends, and goes for that vibe instead. Ch 2 is also deep where Ch 1 is shallow, and shallow where Ch 1 is deep. On Ch 2, you get to learn about the music, the composers, the games, and get to know your hosts. Ch 1 is much more standoffish, and contains little to none of that unless it's brought up briefly by way of episode introduction / post mortem. On the other hand, Ch 2 has sooooo much less music, and much less robust music collections. And, even though Hugues and I do meet ahead of time to sort tracks into optimal run order, that run order is less solid and flowy with that few tracks featured, and what flow we do achieve is interrupted by all the talking anyway. 


So, in the final analysis, Ch 2 is meant to be the "yang" to Ch 1's "yin" - and vice versa. And with the two being so very, VERY different from each other, the hope is that they will collectively "cast a much wider net" together than either one could possibly achieve alone. Maybe someone won't like Ch 1, but will like Ch 2, or vice versa. Ch 2 is hard to listen to as "just background noise", and demands a more active ear, where Ch 1 can be happily listened to either way (enough little hidden nuggets to reward active listening, but unobtrusive enough to make excellent BGM while you're concentrating on other things!) My hope, of course, is that people will like both, and listen to both, and get completely different, but equally powerful itches scratched by both. Each are a labor of love for me, and the outpouring of my creative energies.


The most recent Channel 1:


Spotify Users:


https://open.spotify.com/episode/2mHQeznaqgqebtJnVprdz6?si=86c1c0ddb6194c61


Non-Spotify Users: 


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/noise-from-the-hearts-of-nerds-nerd-noise/id1191401173?i=1000560743657


My very first Channel 1 (January 2017 - please forgive the TERRIBLE production quality):


Spotify Users: 


https://open.spotify.com/episode/5Enh1XU2Bh6tTUpOEuRe0c?si=7f25e70a9e7c4803


Non-Spotify Users: 


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nnr-reruns-c1e1-press-start-orig-released-01-05-2017/id1191401173?i=1000379541238


The most recent Channel 2 (prior to C2E8 - or, prior to our MoVGM episode):


Spotify Users:


https://open.spotify.com/episode/3m7eT455ixzkYBgCDWfFiL?si=ea947ded6aa44a52


Non-Spotify Users:


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-game-club-c2e7-all-night-super-kawaii-dance-party/id1191401173?i=1000558968804


Our first Channel 2 (Sept 2020):


Spotify Users: 


https://open.spotify.com/episode/0IkVASZUv3HWqeq1kNwC4a?si=8c5d755451be4e5b


Non-Spotify Users: 


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-radio-channel-2-episode-1-c2e1-songs-of/id1191401173?i=1000491590205


Now, let's talk about "Channel F" and "Archive SUPER BONUSES": I don't consider either one to be "their own shows" like I do Ch 1 and Ch 2. Instead, each are free-form outlets for bonuses and betas and extras; things that don't fit the mold of either one, or at least not the constraints of a numbered episode. Neither release on any set schedule, and there can be many or few (or NONE at all) in a given year. Ch F "F-isodes" (whenever they do appear) will just appear on the podcast feed right alongside the two main shows. 


But there are also things that I want to make and release and share with the world that I don't want to clog the feed with, and worry would turn feed followers off. So, I put them on Archive.org as an Archive-Exclusive thing instead, and call them "SUPER BONUSES". Most of these are remixes of existing episodes and/or outtakes from existing projects - such as music-only SUPER BONUSES of each Ch 2 episode we release (so, like a miniature Ch 1 only with no intro or outro: a "headless Ch 1 mini", if you like - a "pure mixtape"!). Or, like, say I limit myself to 50 tracks for a retrospective, but had to cull that 50 from a pool of 200. And say I'd still like to share the lost 150. Well, the 50 will hit the podcast feed, and the remainders might end up hitting Archive. 


A case-in-point of this ides in action: when I did the 50 track "Backtracks" episode of Ch 1 for April Fool's 2020 (a collection of VGM played in reverse), it came from a pool of over 300 candidate tracks, and that entire 300+, albeit over multiple installments eventually made it onto Archive. So, that's the idea of SUPER BONUSES - a bonus too "bonus-y" even for Ch F! A sort of "super Ch F", if you'd like. And since they're almost never announced anywhere, they're the sort of thing that listeners would just have to scout out on Archive on their own to discover. As such, even though it's an open website with no login or pay walls, it still creates this sort of quasi, I guess sort of pseudo "insider's exclusive club" effect, to go scouting out and listening to the SUPER BONUSES since they will never hit the podcast feed, and since so few people will actually ever hear them (the Archive click numbers are dramatically lower than the podcast feed numbers). 


It's ironic: SUPER BONUSES actually tend to be more frequent and abundant than F-isodes, and yet they're so much less heard and discovered and explored. And so, I would encourage you to go do so. It's "a whole other side of Nerd Noise Radio than what you'll find on the podcast feed - and one that's  always hiding in plain sight". On top of that, there is yet another bonus / function / feature / perk to following NNR on Archive: a lot of times, I work on episodes way ahead of time, and schedule them way ahead of time to release at the planned time….and then release them way early over on Archive as soon as they’re done. So, you also end up oft-times getting early access to podcast feed episodes over there.


One of my favorite F-isodes (a one-off that would eventually retroactively become an unofficial “beta” or “pilot” for Channel 2):


Spotify Users: 


https://open.spotify.com/episode/6lMbpNiWswh8SXZ88IyVM2?si=347146e8bfcf48ea\


Non-Spotify Users: 


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/channel-f-nerd-noise-game-club/id1191401173?i=1000460021607


One of the SUPER BONUSES from the greater “Backtracks Project”:


https://archive.org/details/backtracks-unbacked-complete


We also fill in the blanks between episodes with “Nerd Noise Radio - Reruns”, which can be a rerun of anything from Ch 1, Ch 2, or Ch F (no SUPER BONUSES for these). These reruns are almost always presented without any modification over the original. But one time, we ended up doing a gigantic tribute to a dear friend of mine who died decades too young. The original C1E10 (channel 1 episode 10) was created in his honor, but was far too diffuse, opaque a tribute, so I ended up turning the occasion of a C1E10 rerun into a gigantic, much clearer extended tribute to the man on what would’ve been his 40th birthday. It was over 2hrs long, only about 40 minutes of which was the original C1E10. And this extended “rerun in name only” tribute was called “Chandlerfest”. Here’s the link:


Spotify Users: 


https://open.spotify.com/episode/04EMpO0NKR6RCBvuHaxDMq?si=18ffe639dd0d43f2


Non-Spotify Users: 


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-radio-reruns-presents-chandlerfest/id1191401173?i=1000445765024


Lastly, let's look at the blog, YouTube, and social media:


If you’re reading this, you’re at least acquainted with the blog. Prior to the launch of the show, I used to periodically post actual blog posts on it - including an entire series on all the different Yamaha FM sound chips used in various video game sound systems, and an expose on YM2612 FM “fake square wave” vs SN76489 PSG “real square wave” on the Sega Genesis. After the launch of the show, the blog basically devolved into a simple repeater of the podcast feed. Recently, I’ve made some effort to at least occasionally revive actual blogs. In January, I wrote a super long blog on my enthusiasm and excitement for the then imminent Steam Deck (an enthusiasm that has since almost entirely been borne out in the reality of the Steam Deck as I’ve since experienced it as a now owner of one). I also very recently posted a blog listing my personal top 20 episodes of Ch 1 as we near episode 70 and 6yrs of the show - which I intend to edit up to top 25, and add links to each episode.


As for YouTube: while Nerd Noise Radio entered the podosphere with the launch of Ch 1 in Jan 2017, NNR itself had already existed at that point for four years to the month (and very nearly to the day), initially as a social media VGM aggregator service on Facebook, then Twitter, then Blogspot, and then shortly thereafter, I began uploading VGM to YouTube. When the podcast launched, I also started uploading video versions to YouTube. While I actively go out of my way to see my click counts as very little as possible, in late 2018-early mid 2019, there was one trend I was unable to avoid noticing - a migration away from YouTube over to the podcast feed (as evidenced by a precipitous plummet in YouTube clicks occurring simultaneously with a nearly identical surge in podcast feed clicks.) With the clicks on YouTube being so low, and with a then infant (now toddler) in the house, and with even such basic, rudimentary video productions still requiring an extra 3-5 hours of work with as distractible and inefficient as I am, I decided to suspend them indefinitely - though I decided to not actually shut down the channel as I had always hoped to reignite it someday. I now have a vision of how I would do that (which I guess I will still keep to myself for now), though with the draconian shifts in policy and policing by Nintendo and to a lesser extent, also by Square Enix, it does cast at least some uncertainty and doubt on whether my plans for a “glorious, triumphal return to YouTube” will ever actually happen. I guess we’ll find out together.


Finally: social media:  I do not [yet] have a Discord channel for NNR, or an Instagram account. Though at least the former is likely for some point in the future. Also, I do hope next year (for the 10yr anniversary of the existence of NNR as an entity) to revive the practice of daily track shares on at least Twitter, and maybe FB and Discord as well. As for Facebook, I have a Facebook page which is nearly entire dormant, as well as a pair of Facebook groups which are similarly sleepy right now: “Nerd Noise Radio - Easy Mode” - where the idea is to just share tracks and have general video game and nerd fun, as well as “Nerd Noise Radio - Expert Mode” - where we would hope to have in-depth conversations about video game hardware (particularly sound hardware), music theory, and composer info. Moving to Discord would probably make this easier, as I could just create sub-channels for each one (and beyond).


My recent blog about the Steam Deck:


https://nerdnoiseradio.blogspot.com/2022/02/nnr-blog-st-john-why-i-am-so-personally.html


My [to date] final upload to YouTube (my special announcement that the YouTube channel would be going dormant for the foreseeable future): 


https://youtu.be/FtXk9jDN5Rc


Anyway, that’s Nerd Noise Radio. I hope that makes more sense of all the various parts and pieces you see flying about as you pop in to check us out - potentially for the first time in a very long time - or ever! And hopefully this presentation will inspire interest in certain parts of what we offer. If you end up checking us out, especially if you plan on sticking around - drop us a line, let us know you’re there! You can find us on all the ways listed above, as well as by e-mail at nerd.noise.radio@gmail.com! We always welcome the engagement, conversation, and feedback!


Cheers!


-St. John (Nerd Noise Radio)


Thursday, June 9, 2022

NNR Blog - St. John: my top 20 episodes of Channel 1 (as we approach 70 episodes and 6yrs)

I'm nowhere near committal enough to be able to actually rank these, so I'll just present them chronologically. But as we approach 6yrs and 70 episodes of NNR Ch 1 (most of the rest of the year is already planned out), I think I have finally managed to successfully identify what I personally believe to be the top 20 episodes of Ch 1 over the course of its run to date.


They are (again, presented Chronologically, rather than ranked):


Season 1 (2017 - Episodes 1-20):


C1E2 - "Twisted Sine" (FM synth music focus)

C1E16 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 2" (Freeplay)


Season 2 (2018 - Ep 21-40):


C1E28 - "Sense of the Scene - vol. 1" (focus on stuff "just outside VGM")

C1E30 - "The Big Sound of the Little Guy" (indie game music focus)

C1E32 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 5" (Freeplay, but guest curated in collaboration with "St. Jodee" for her and St. John's 19th wedding anniversary - outro guest hosted by St. Jodee and a much younger St. Chloe!)

C1E35 - "The Floppy Show" (computer game music focus - the episode title also being a great double entendre which references a great piece of "Des Moinesicana"!)

C1E40 - "Listener Picks - vol 1" (a community curated Freeplay - and probably the most FUN I've ever had with an episode!)


Season 3 (2019 - Ep 41-50):


C1E41 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 7" (Freeplay)

C1E47a - "Turbotastic" (pt. 1 of 3 TG16/PCE music focus - co-hosted / co-curated by Bryce Dumond of the Turbotastic Podcast)

C1E47b - "The Little Engine that Could" (pt. 2 TG16 focus w/ Bryce)

C1E47c - "Tidal Wavetable" [aka "The Continuing Adventures of Buzz Light-year] (pt. 3 TG16 w/ Bryce)

C1E50a - "The Golden Episode pt. 1: Popular Picks" (story-heavy retrospective of the first 50)

C1E50b - "The Golden Episode pt. 2: Personal Picks" (the rest of the story on the first 50)


Season 4 (2020 / 2021 - Ep 51-60 - 5/yr):


C1E51 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 9" (Freeplay - also, my 40th birthday episode - intro and outro guest hosted by "St. Jodee", "St. Chloe", "St. Chuck", "St. Val", and "St. Jesse" - aka, St. John's wife, daughter, parents, and brother respectively. Also, the first appearance of then infant "St. Wyatt"!)

C1E52 - "Backtracks" (VGM played in reverse - ostensibly as an April Fool's gag - also what I personally consider to be my best episode EVER)

C1E56 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 10" (Freeplay)

C1E60 - "Listener Picks vol 2" (a very non-standard format Listener Freeplay - co-hosted by Trey Johnson of NintenDomain and W.A.R.T. Radio)


Season 5 (2022 - Ep 61-70) - CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS:


[CURRENT EPISODE] C1E64 - "ThreeFer Thursday" (a Freeplay, but in triplets)

[SPOILER - FUTURE] C1E68 - "They're Coming to Get You, Barbara" (spooky and dissonant Halloween themed Freeplay)

[SPOILER- FUTURE] C1E69: "Mishmash Monday - vol. 12" (Freeplay - also the long-lost "Original C1E41")


Honorable mentions that each ALMOST made my list:


4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 19, 22, 24, 27, 33, 43, 44, 46, 48, 54, 57, 58, 59, 61, 63, 67.


If you have only either just started listening or listened forever ago and stopped, and if you were interested in listening again (or for the first time) to Ch 1, these would be where to start! The production value and track sort quality are WAY better the more recent you get. But there is a freshness and energy and optimism that is stronger the earlier you go. 


I would say the "production quality 'epochs'" of Ch 1 (from worst to best) are 1-10, 11-20, 21-40, 41-58 (59 was guest produced, and 60 we had to rely on lower-quality "fallback audio"), 61-63, and then finally 64 and onward. From a production quality standpoint, 64 is the best thing I've ever done in any context ever.


As for the stuff outside of Ch 1: there haven't been enough Channel 2 episodes, or even Channel F "F-isodes" to make a similar list for them. But I will say my standout F-isodes have been "Chandlerfest" (my celebration of the life and music of my long-time friend, Chris Chandler, and a rerun of C1E10, which has been made in his honor), "Nerd Noise Game Club" (the one-off with Hugues that ended up retroactively becoming something of a "beta" or "pilot" for Channel 2), "Backtracks - the OTHER 50" (an additional 50 pieces of VGM played in reverse to supplement "Backtracks"), and "An Introduction to Channel F" (our first ever "F-isode, back before the term "F-isode" was even coined.) And as for Ch 2, I think C2E2: "Deck the Halls" had the best overall consistency in the music block, though a number of episodes had individual tracks that I liked even better than anything in C2E2. And as far as conversation quality and theme, I don't even know that ai could pick any winners. They've all been great, in my opinion. Maybe in several years when we plan to shut down NNR, I'll be able to do a similar list for Ch 2. We'll see!


So, that's that! Long-time (and especially all-time) listeners, what do you think of the list? Anything you would hope to have seen there that's not there? Anything that baffles or alarms you for being there? 


DISCUSS! :-)


Cheers!


-St. John

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Nerd Noise Game Club - C2E7: "All Night Super Kawaii Dance Party" (w/ extra notes!)

SPECIAL NOTE: A VERY special thank you to my favorite VGM Cover Band, "The OneUps" for turning me onto the idea of using "launch pages" to share episodes. That is, instead of a link to the episode on, say, Podbean (from whence it ultimately originates, and which I've been linking people to on all previous "episode repeater" blog posts), I can link to a page full of links to the episode on all outlets on which it appears, so that people can listen / view on their own preferred platforms, with just one link! This really ups my game, OneUps - and so, a HUMONGOUS THANK YOU!


So, it is with great pleasure that I say...


Episode can be found here: https://li.sten.to/c2e7



Today’s Broadcast is C2E7 for Theme Thursday, April 28th, 2022. Today’s focus will be a collection of cutesy, dancy, feel-good tracks, on a program Hugues named for us: “All Night Super Kawaii Dance Party”!


Track # / Track / Game / System / Composer (s) / Selected by


01) Lovely City - Lovely Planet - Multiplatform - Calem Bowen - St. John

Earcatcher - 00:00:00

Music - 00:00:09

Introduction - 00:02:57

Discussion - 00:06:16

Top of Show Business - 00:09:08

02) Kimi wa HoeHoe Musume (Ending / Staff Roll) - Idol Hakkenden - Famicom - Kiyohiro Sada, Tomoo Misato - Hugues

Music - 00:26:46

Discussion - 00:29:52

03) Evil Dante - Cratermaze - TG16 - Toshiaki Takimoto, Katsunori Takahashi, Takayuki Iwabuchi, Keita Hoshi - St. John

Music - 00:32:49

Discussion - 00:34:38

04) Tiese Shopping District Theme - Gurumin - Multiplatform - Falcom Sound Team JDK (prob. Hayato Sonoda) - Hugues

Music - 00:37:45

Discussion - 00:41:20

05) Stage 1-2 - Jumping Flash 2 - PS1 - Takeo Miratsu - St. John

Music - 00:47:07

Discussion - 00:50:31

06) After School - Persona 3 Portable - PSP - Shoji Meguro - Hugues

Music - 00:57:19

Discussion - 00:59:30

07) Nice Day - Spindizzy II - X68000 - Toshiya Yamanaka and/or Tetsuya Nakano - St. John

Music - 01:01:40

Discussion - 01:05:15

08) Dreams of Love and Literature - Doki Doki Literature Club - Multiplatform - Dan Salvato - Hugues

Music - 01:08:58

Discussion - 01:12:54

09) Crystal Breeze Springs - Lovely Planet Remix - PC - Satsuma Audio - St. John

Music - 01:16:31

Discussion - 01:18:45

10) Electoria - Sonic Crackers (unreleased) - Genesis - Junko Shiratsu, Masato Nakamura - Hugues

Music - 01:21:31

Discussion - 01:24:20

11) Stage 1 - Chip Chan Kick - PCFX - Hitoshi Sakimoto and/or Masaharu Iwata - St. John

Music - 01:27:20

Discussion - 01:30:17

12) Clothes Make The Man - Shakedown Hawaii - Multiplatform - Hugues

Music - 01:33:40

Discussion - 01:35:25

13) Message from Nightopia - Nights into Dreams - Multiplatform - Naofumi Hataya - St. John

Music - 01:38:41

Discussion - 01:41:50

End of Show Business - 01:45:38

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT (-IMPORTANT-) - 01:46:54

MOAR End of Show Business - 01:49:24

Our Other Shows - 01:50:10

Graduation II Discussion - 01:52:50

Sign-off - 01:53:55

14) Track 9 (ending probably) - Graduation II - PC Engine - Isao Mizoguchi (likely) - Hugues

Music - 01:54:20

Blooper Reel - 01:56:40


Total Episode Runtime: 02:04:35


Retro Game Club can be found here:


https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/retro-game-club/id1453018680


You can also follow Retro Game Club on Facebook and Instagram @retrogameclubpodcast and on Twitter @rgcpodcast.


Hugues’ blog (and his Sega Genesis demo) can be found here: 


https://huguesjohnson.com/


You can find Nerd Noise Radio on Facebook and on Twitter each @NerdNoiseRadio. There are also two Facebook Groups: Nerd Noise Radio “Easy Mode” where we just have general video game and nerd fun, or for the gearheads among you, Nerd Noise Radio “Expert Mode” where we deep dive sound hardware, composer info, and music theory. 


Nerd Noise Radio is also a member of the Retro Junkies community, which can be found at www.theretrojunkies.com. And we are a member of the VGM Podcast Fans community on Facebook. St. John is also the admin of the Podcasters of Des Moines Facebook group, which features a number of other podcasters and great programs from the greater Des Moines area.


Thanks for listening! Join us again in May (exact date TBD) for C1E64: “ThreeFer Thursday”, and wherever you are…..Fly the N!!

-------------------------------------------------

BLOGSPOT-EXCLUSIVE ADDITIONAL SPECIAL NOTE 1 of 2: Not only has my game been upped in terms of link sharing for this episode (thanks again, The OneUps!), but this episode is also the official debut of St. John's NEW MIC (on Nerd Noise Radio, anyway. The actual debut happened a little earlier,  while St. John was guesting on NintenDomain Podcast #315). 


While St. John believes that in the grand scheme, his new $100 RØDE Podmic dynamic mic is ultimately neither better nor worse than his old $100 AudioTechnica AT2020 condenser mic, he DOES believe that it is much better in the narrower context of what he's trying to do with Nerd Noise Radio in terms of trying to get that nice, tight, "rrrraadioooo" sound. In fact, he believes in retrospect that the reason he was always only able to get 95% of the way to the sound he was looking for and never cross that final 5%....is because he has been using the wrong mic type this entire time. St. John has spent the past 5yrs laboring under the false impression that condenser mics were what most radio shows, and radio show-style podcasts used, when in reality, it's actually dynamic mics, especially in the professional radio shows that he has been attempting to invoke and somewhat emulate this entire time. 


So, this episode debuts the new mic. But it also debuts St. John's new enhanced production techniques. Now, to be sure, it's not so much that these new techniques are amazing. In truth, they're still pretty basic and generalist / amateur. Instead, it's more that the production techniques previously were so rudimentary and limited, that even this step into production mediocrity still warrants "a giant leap forward". 


Where previously, all I did was volumes and fades (and in rare cases, a little noise reduction on the speaking voices), I am now doing a lot more. On voices, I am applying not only volume and noise reduction, but noise gate, compressor, limiter, EQ, deEss, click removal (in some cases: when the source audio is not high enough quality, click removal does more harm than good, and I leave it out), loudness normalization, and normalization. Then I export the voice in a format that applies further normalization and "non-clip" volume maximization. For the music, I still mostly manually volume set the various tracks, and of course, still manually do all the fades. But now I also export in a format that applies further normalization to result in a tighter sound with even more consistent volume levels across tracks. 


Also, in the past, getting volumes between St. John and Hugues, as well as the talking and the music has always been hit and miss, with the music too loud in C2E3, and the talking too loud in C2E5 / C2E6, and overall episode volume a little on the low side to prevent too much blowout (with a little bit of blowout happening anyway). Now, I make two takes on the voice, one with Hugues a little too loud, and one with St. John a little too loud, and balance them out together in post before exporting the final voice. And then, we do the same with the music, two versions: one with the voices a little too loud, and one with the music a little too loud, and precision balance them against each other that way. 


The final result, it seems, is better balance between hosts, better balance between tracks, better balance between hosts and tracks, tighter sounding music, and cleaner, tighter, richer, smoother, and more robust voices, and lastly, with a greater overall episode perceived loudness. Now, to the listener: when you listen to St. John, you'll be hearing BOTH the differences between mics, AND the differences between production techniques, and it'll be hard to tell where the one change ends and the other begins. However, listening to Hugues, any change you'll hear will be pure "production changes" since his mic, set up, and technique hasn't changed. If you listen to this episode against C2E6, and then listen to Hugues, that'll be pure post-production differences.


Lastly, a while back, as an Archive.org Archive-Exclusive "SUPER-BONUS", I uploaded a little production I did comparing the mics. I used a third (much, MUCH crappier little Jabra headset) mic to do the general narration so that the AT2020 and Podmic would stand out and not get lost in the sea of narration. Actually, this crappy little Jabra mic is the exact same mic I used to record the little "editor's notes" interruptions to today's episode about the Steam Deck. If you'd like to hear more about these mics, and hear a little bit of direct comparison in various environments / conditions, you can hear it....here: https://archive.org/details/super-bonus-new-mic-who-dis-session. Also, for your convenience, here's an Apple Podcasts link to C2E6, in case you wanted to do direct comparisons between our final Ch 2 production using the old mic / old methods, and our first production using the new mic / new methods: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-game-club-c2e6-fast-music-for-slow-times/id1191401173?i=1000549889563


---------------------------------------------------------------------


BLOGSPOT-EXCLUSIVE ADDITIONAL SPECIAL NOTE 2 of 2: Calling this one a "Blogspot-Exclusive" is a bit of a stretch, since it gets explicitly mentioned in the show, as well as my plans to mention it elsewhere in the future. But I guess for now, the text in this note, at least, -IS- a Blogspot-Exclusive: due to family situations, I'm trying to find ways to reduce time I spend working on the podcast, and invest more of that time into my family - WITHOUT cancelling the show, or breaking / amending its regular delivery cadence. So, that means, for me, finding ways to trim a little fat here and there, and avoid great big projects. As such, one way I've identified to do that is to [at least for this year] cancel the "Best of 2020/2021 - Listener Picks" episode. If there is a large amount of listener outcry over this, we'll look to bring it back in 2023 for "Best of 2022". And if there is no significant listener complaint, we may just never bring it back. The power is yours in this regard. You light us up, we'll bring it back. You don't light us up, we'll take that as a sign to just keep it gone. It does sound like Hugues will be making  a Best-of, though, so you'll still get two episodes. Anyway, all of this arises just because I'm trying to find a way to balance changing family situation needs and dynamics with a desire to keep the show going, and reliably delivering on the fundamentals, and cancelling the Best of Listener Picks seemed the most logical way to do that. We'll keep a listening ear out on listener feedback on the matter. So, if you want us to bring it back next year, that'll only happen if you tell us so and tell us outright. As I said earlier (and to quote Captain Planet): "the power is yours!"


Cheers!

Sunday, March 13, 2022

"Noise from the Hearts of Nerds" - “C1E63: Keeping up with TheOneUps – vol. 2”

 Episode can be found here: 


https://nerdnoiseradio.podbean.com/e/noise-from-the-hearts-of-nerds-c1e63-keeping-up-with-theoneups-%e2%80%93-vol-2 



Today’s broadcast is C1E63 for Scene Sunday, March 13th, 2022. Today’s episode will be a return focus to the works of my favorite VGM cover bands, TheOneUps, on a program we're calling "Keeping up with TheOneUps – vol. 2: 


Track Number / Track [Originally from Game / Originally from System / Original Composer] / From OneUps Album / Timestamp 


01) Intro – 00:00:00 

02) Intro [Metroid – NES – Hirokazu ("Hip") Tanaka] – Volume 2 – 00:03:15 

03) Silence (Silences is Golden, Snitches Get Stitches) [F-Zero – SNES – Yumiko Kanki] – Prt Seven – 00:05:43 

04) Intro (Space Warrior Sound Machine) [Super Metroid – SNES – Kenji Yamamoto] – Intergalactic Redux – 00:09:35 

05) City Lights [Axeley – SNES – Taro Kudo] – Volume 1 – 00:16:11 

06) Ghost Valley [Super Mario Kart – SNES – Soya Oka] – Super Mario Kart – 00:20:16 

07) Tristram und Isolde [Diablo – PC – Matt Uelemen] – Songs for the Recently Deceased – 00:23:28 

08) Dance-Off at Silent Hill [Silent Hill – PS1 – Akira Yamaoka] – Songs for the Recently Deceased – 00:27:30 

09) Main Theme (Birds, Stars, Pigs, and Quasars) [ Angry Birds – iOS / Android – Ari Pulkiknen] – Intergalactic Continuum – 00:31:35 

10) Into the Thick of It [Secret of Mana – SNES – Hiroaki Kikuta] – Volume 2 – 00:35:14 

11) Mii Channel [Mii Channel – Wii – Kazumi Totaka] – Volume 2 – 00:38:18 

12) Koopa Beach (Something About Koopa Beach) [Super Mario Kart – SNES – Soya Oka] – Super Mario Kart – 00:40:41 

13) Katamaritaino [Katamary Damacy – PS2 – Hideki Tobeta] – Volume 1 – 00:45:01 

14) ToeJam Jammin' [ToeJam & Earl – Genesis – Jon Baker] – Volume 1 – 00:49:46 

15) Mission 2 (Double D's) [Double Dragon – Arcade – Kazunaka Yamane] – Part Seven – 00:53:47 

16) Dungeon Medley [LoZ: Link to the Past – SNES – Kōji Kondō] – Volume 2 – 00:57:34 

17) Beginning (Curse of the Funk) [Castlevania III – NES – Yukie Morimoto] – Intergalactic Redux – 01:02:51 

18) Bedtime is Deadtime [Nightmare on Elm Street – NES – David Wise] – Songs for the Rcently Deceased – 01:07:47 

19) Death Mountain (Mountain Fort1:ress Delta VII) [LoZ: Link to the Past – SNES – Kōji Kondō] – Intergalactic Redux – 01:12:41 

20) Title Theme (Two Dragons, One Cup...of Funk) [Double Dragon – Arcade – Kazunaka Yamane] – Intergalactic Continuum – 01:18:28 

21) Overworld (I do it for the Fairies) [Legend of Zelda – NES – Kōji Kondō] – Intergalactic Continuum – 01:22:22 

22) Shadow Man [Mega Man III – NES – Yasuaki Fujita] – Volume 2 – 01:26:14 

23) Chrono Trigger [Chrono Trigger – SNES – Yasunori Mitsuda] – Volume 2 – 01:31:57 

24) Choco Island [Super Mario Kart – SNES – Soya Oka] – Super Mario Kart – 01:36:51 

25) Ice Cave Chant (Ice, Ice Cavey) [Donkey Kong Country – SNES – David Wise] – Part Seven – 01:39:48 

26: Outro – 01:43:51 


Music Block Runtime: 01:40:42, Total Episode Runtime: 01:54:59 


Our Intro and Outro Music is Funky Radio, from Jet Grind Radio on the Sega Dreamcast, composed by BB Rights. 


Final episode production produced using Ardour 6 / Audacity 2.42 in Ubuntu Studio [Linux] 21.10 02/05/2022. Music block originally produced 05/12/2019 using GarageBand in macOS 


Link to to the eligible tracklist for our upcoming Listener-selected "Best of 2020 / 2021" Episode. Notes at the top of the file explain everything! :-) 


https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NdwSzNDnoFoho7TzDHkA1Pkfe1O5WMgqEd4Bx2sSoG4/edit?usp=sharing 


The "Nerd Noise Radio" audio podcast feed can be found here: 


https://nerdnoiseradio.podbean.com/feed/ 


or here 


https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-radio/id1191401173?mt=2 


You can also find all of our audio episodes on Archive.org as well as the occasional additional release only available there, such as remixes of previous releases and other content. 


Our YouTube Channel, for the time being is in dormancy, but will be returning with content, hopefully, in 2022. Meanwhile, all the old stuff is still there, and can be found here:  


https://www.youtube.com/user/NerdNoiseRadio 


Nerd Noise Radio is also available on The Retro Junkies Network at www.theretrojunkies.com, and is a member of the VGM Podcast Fans community at  


https://www.facebook.com/groups/VGMPodcastFans/ 


Or, if you wish to connect with us directly, we have two groups of our own:  


Nerd Noise Radio - Easy Mode: https://www.facebook.com/groups/276843385859797/ for sharing tracks, video game news, or just general videogame fandom. 


Nerd Noise Radio - Expert Mode: https://www.facebook.com/groups/381475162016534/ for going deep into video game sound hardware, composer info, and/or music theory. 


You can also follow us on Twitter at @NerdNoiseRadio. And we are also now on Spotify, TuneIn, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and Vurbl. 


Thanks for listening. Join us again Friday, April, 1st 2022 for a very special FaceOff “F-isode” featuring friend of the show and previous collaborator, Electric Boogaloo! A smorgasbord of sounds and good and bad ideas, on Channel F. And wherever you are….fly the N! 


Cheers! 

Monday, February 21, 2022

"Noise from the Hearts of Nerds" - “C1E62: Mishmash Monday – vol. 11”

Episode can be found here: 

https://nerdnoiseradio.podbean.com/e/noise-from-the-hearts-of-nerds-c1e62-mishmash-monday-%e2%80%93-vol-11 



Today's broadcast is C1E62 for Mishmash Monday, February 21st, 2022. Today's episode will be "Mishmash Monday - vol. 11"


Track Number – Track – Game – System – Composer(s) - Timestamp 


01) Intro – 00:00:00 

02) Space Harrier Theme – N/A (JP Main BIOS) - Mastersystem – Hiroshi Miyauchi – 01:02:56 

03) Phantasy – Phantasy Star II – Genesis – Tokuhiko Uwabo – 00:06:05 

04) Title Theme – Strider Returns – Genesis – c: Mark Tait / a: Unknown – 00:08:41 

05) Mission 1 – Super Double Dragon – SNES – Kazunaka Yamane – 00:10:36 

06) Dam – GoldenEye 007 – N64 – Graeme Norgate and/or Grant Kirkhope – 00:12:18 

07) Title Theme – Rampage – Atari 7800 – c: Michael Bartlow / a: Bill Hawkins and/or Clay Turner – 00:14:54 

08) TMAXX – Bricklayer – PC – Peter Wagner – 00:15:14 

09) Way of the Exploding Back Left Tire – Horizon Chase Turbo – Multiplatform – Barry Leitch – 00:17:36 

10) The Shinobi – Revenge of Shinobi – Genesis – Yuzo Koshiro – 00:21:06 

11) Shadowplay (Cave) - 198X – Multiplatform – Yuzo Koshiro – 00:22:53 

12) Gairyu Isle (Ukyo Theme) - Samurai Showdown – Neo Geo AES / MVS – Yasuo Yamate, and/or Masahiko Hataya – 00:24:53 

13) Kabuki Master – The Simpson – Arcade – Norio Hanzawa – 00:28:04 

14) Kyoto Japan – Tekken – PS1 – c: Yoshie Takayanagi, Yoshie Arakawa, and/or Kazuhiro Nakamura / a: Shinji Hosoe – 00:29:21 

15) In-Game Theme – Adventures of Microman – PC – Brian L. Goble – 00:31:44 

16) Volver a Comenzar – Little Big Planet – PS3 / PSP - Café Tacuba – 00:34:29 

17) Blow Up – Elevator Action Returns – Saturn – Yasuhisa Watanabe – 00:42:08 

18) Star System Theme – Star Control II – 3DO - Burke Trieschmann, Dan Nicholson, Riku Nuottajärvi, Eric Berge, Erol Otus, Marc Brown, Aaron J. Grier, Kevin Palivec, and/or Tommy V. Dunbar – 00:44:49 

19) The Old Map – Golden Axe – Arcade - Tōru Nakabayashi – 00:47:42 

20) Oceansphere Surface – Xardion – SNES – Kohei Tanaka – 00:49:00 

21) The Vents – Ecco the Dolphin – Sega CD – Spencer Nilsen – 00:51:13 

22) Aquatic Ambience – Donkey Kong Country – SNES – David Wise and/or Evelyn Fisher – 00:56:45 

23) The Lunarians – Final Fantasy IV – SNES – Nobuo Uematsu – 00:59:56 

24) Goddess of Love – Immortals: Fenyx Rising – Multiplatform – Gareth Coker – 01:02:01 

25) The Thunder Plains – Final Fantasy X – PS2 – Nobuo Uematsu – 01:05:34 

26) Building Mode 5 – The Sims – PC – Jerry Martin and/or Marc Russo – 01:09:15 

27) Level 4 – Tetris – CD-i – Jim Andron – 01:15:37 

28) Magnet Man – Mega Man 3 – NES – Yasuaki Fujita – 01:19:55 

29) Level Theme – Rampage – Mastersystem – c: Michael Barlow / a: Unknown – 01:21:45 

30) Hi-Fi Performance – Tempo – 32X – Masayoshi Ishi – 01:24:07 

31) Bonus Stage – Rampage – NES – c: Michael Barlow / a: Shogo Sakai, and/or Takafumi Miura – 01:25:09 

32) Stage Theme 1 – Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle – NES – Hiroyuki Masuno – 01:26:17 

33) Config – Waverace 64 – N64 – Kazumi Totaka – 01:27:38 

34) Outro – 01:30:04 


Music Block Runtime: 01:27:18, Total Episode Runtime: 01:40:15 


Our Intro and Outro Music is Funky Radio, from Jet Grind Radio on the Sega Dreamcast, composed by BB Rights. 


Produced using Ardour 6 / Audacity 2.42 in Ubuntu Studio [Linux] 21.10 


Link to to the eligible tracklist for our upcoming Listener-selected "Best of 2020 / 2021" Episode. Notes at the top of the file explain everything! :-) 


https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NdwSzNDnoFoho7TzDHkA1Pkfe1O5WMgqEd4Bx2sSoG4/edit?usp=sharing 


The "Nerd Noise Radio" audio podcast feed can be found here: 


https://nerdnoiseradio.podbean.com/feed/ 


or here 


https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-noise-radio/id1191401173?mt=2 


You can also find all of our audio episodes on Archive.org as well as the occasional additional release only available there, such as remixes of previous releases and other content. 


Our YouTube Channel, for the time being is in dormancy, but will be returning with content, hopefully, in 2022. Meanwhile, all the old stuff is still there, and can be found here:  


https://www.youtube.com/user/NerdNoiseRadio 


Nerd Noise Radio is also available on The Retro Junkies Network at www.theretrojunkies.com, and is a member of the VGM Podcast Fans community at  


https://www.facebook.com/groups/VGMPodcastFans/ 


Or, if you wish to connect with us directly, we have two groups of our own:  


Nerd Noise Radio - Easy Mode: https://www.facebook.com/groups/276843385859797/ for sharing tracks, video game news, or just general videogame fandom. 


Nerd Noise Radio - Expert Mode: https://www.facebook.com/groups/381475162016534/ for going deep into video game sound hardware, composer info, and/or music theory. 


You can also follow us on Twitter at @NerdNoiseRadio. And we are also now on Spotify, TuneIn, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and Vurbl. 


Thanks for listening. Join us again Sunday, March 13th, 2022 for “Keeping Up with The OneUps – vol 2. Delicious VGM [covers], on Noise from the Hearts of Nerds. And wherever you are….fly the N! 


Cheers! 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

NNR BLOG: St. John - Why I am so personally excited about the upcoming Steam Deck (aka, our first "real" blog post since 2015!)

Intro: "The Preamble Ramble"


So, unless you've been living under a rock lately, you are already well aware that the Steam Deck is imminent! I have not had a chance to see one in person yet, let alone hold or play one. A lot of outlets in the tech space that I greatly respect / esteem / admire; from Digital Foundry (@digitalfoundry on Twitter) to Jason Evangelho's "Open for Everyone" (@killyourfm) has been abuzz with the thing, offering us early reviews and their proclamations on just what a terrible, wonderful, or in-between thing this device is and will be.


By and large, I've actually been avoiding the press these past few days or so, ever since this blog post (our first -REAL- blog post since 2015*) first entered development, as I did not want their analysis to color my own, or have my own become a simple derivative of their findings - or at least have it be by complete accident if so. So, those who have come here looking for a proper review of a system that I have had a chance to actually play, and can speak objectively about can go back to whatever else they were doing. This is not a review of a known entity. Instead, it is a declaration of WHY this thing has this [early] middle-aged mid-sized VGM podcaster, living in a mid-sized metro in the middle of the US Midwest so excited - although, the potential value to you, the reader, could simply be that I may light upon something that you hadn't considered, or that I may provide "connecting tissue between data points" that may change your view of the thing. So, if you're not already turned off....then read on, and I hope you will find it a worthwhile read, as even without having had a chance to experience the device, I can still speak of several things which excite me about it, and the multi-layered, multi-dimensional reason why I cannot recall the last time I've been so excited about a system release. 


As I write this, I can anticipate a handful of potential objections. Principally, "this thing is way too big to be called a "portable", and "why do I need / want this thing so long as I have a Nintendo Switch and a Gaming Laptop?". And I'll do my best to address those as I go - WITH THIS CAVEAT: that there really is no system that truly is "for everybody", and so, this thing really may not be for you. And if so, that's okay. I swear I am not some undercover Valve employee, and so, it's not like I'm getting or failing to get a commission based on whether or not I sell you on the thing. I think so long as we can all collectively agree to avoid the pitfall of "this is the only right answer, and everyone but idiots and perverts agree", then we really can't find ourselves going too far afield here. So, everything I say from here on out about the Steam Deck comes with the subtext "your mileage may vary", but also with the additional subtext "but this is gospel to me!" 


Lastly, I realize that while portions of the case I am about to attempt to put together may apply broadly to large audiences, parts of it will only apply to much smaller audiences, and smallest of all, the audience that, like me, finds EVERY part of this applicable / attractive to them. It is my hope that in the following, you will find at least SOMETHING of value, and if we walk away from this post with you more interested / excited by the Steam Deck than you were before reading, then I will be very happy to hear!


So, with all that said, let's get into it! [imitates "Nintendo Switch finger snap sound"]


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The Elephant in the Room


We've all seen the pictures of the Steam Deck sitting next to things, the Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo Switch with Hori Gamepads, the PS Vita....the Sega Game Gear, of all things. And the truth is all too painfully self-evident: this thing is HUGE! The elephant in the room, of course, is that this thing is an elephant in any room! In fact, I was thinking, once I get mine, of taking a picture of me holding it next to a city bus! This thing is unapologetically, unequivocally MASSIVE! Although, it is not necessarily "bulky". From the pictures that I've seen, looking at it from the back and top, the main body of the device is not meaningfully thicker than the body of a Nintendo Switch. So, not some great big block like the Game Gear. And the thickness of the controllers itself is vaguely reminiscent of a Hori controller set, or a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller split in half, only with more buttons, and a couple mini trackpads on each side. It is ultimately still a little bit bigger than the Switch / Hori setup. But no longer significantly so.


Even so, there's simply no way to spin this thing as anything but gigantic. Which has led some to attempt to argue that the Steam Deck, then, is not really even properly a "portable", as if there is some imaginary line in the sand, where it crosses some threshold into ineligibility. Ironically, the loudest voices in this camp, in my experience, have all come from the Nintendo Switch people. And the reason this is so juicily ironic to me is that five years ago, the same kind of arguments were being made against the Switch; that it's too big to be a portable, that its ridiculously sized. That it's not going to be any good because it's "too weak as a console, and too big as a handheld". And while "too weak to succeed" and "too big to succeed" have each since been proven to be demonstrably false, one thing that IS true about the Switch is that it completely shattered and detonated our concepts of what it means to be a portable, and forcibly expanded our sense of what qualifies, completely rewriting the paradigm.


And so, it's so strange to me that of all people, it'd be the Switch people who are the ones making the most critical noise about the size of the Steam Deck and its merits as a handheld device, using the exact same arguments against it that they found themselves having to play defense against half a decade earlier. It's almost like they have developed amnesia. For people like me who defended the Switch then, and the Steam Deck today, against the EXACT same line of argument, this all feels very familiar. And sure, the Steam Deck DOES take the excesses of the Switch and only further exaggerates them, but this is a difference of degree, not one of type or principle. So, this all feels to me like a person driving 35mph over the speed limit who is furious that the guy driving 45 over isn't getting pulled over for speeding. But, what can you do? Gatekeepers gonna gatekeep, I guess. Still, if there is exactly one people group that I am absolutely, completely entirely unwilling to even listen to criticize the size as an invalidation of the Steam Deck....it's the Switch people. Believe that if you want, but don't even bring me that.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The "Middle Proposition"


The other group that has been the most critical of the form factor of the Steam Deck is the Gaming Laptop people. As in, "why do I need to buy the Steam Deck when I can just schlep my laptop around with me, bring a controller or a better mouse (and maybe keyboard), and have both a bigger screen and a lot more power?" Interestingly, the Switch people who spent a lot of 2017 defending against this same argument from the laptop people about the Switch are now also marshaling it against the Steam Deck, as in "if I want to play portable, I'll play Switch. If I want to play PC gaming, I'll play my laptop.


The point is that both groups position Steam Deck as a sort of "middle proposition" between the portability of the Switch, and the power and screen size, and software library of a proper gaming laptop. And they're right. It is, in fact, a middle proposition between the two. But their assumption is that therefore, it is a "worst of both worlds" compromise (too big to be successful, too weak to be successful....sound familiar?) Or to borrow a metaphor from my religious past, a "Laodicea" (neither hot nor cold - lukewarm), without at least appearing to even consider the possibility that "middle proposition" here may not be "Laodicea" after all, bur could rather be a "Baby Bear's Bed / Porridge" between the "Papa Bear's Bed (too firm) / porridge (too hot)" of the clunky interface, and steep price of a gaming laptop, and the "Mama Bear's Bed (too soft) / porridge (too cold)" of the decade-and-a-half underpowered and console lockdown of Nintendo Switch. Or in other words, what if, just what if the Steam Deck might possibly be a "best of both worlds" compromise instead, as opposed to the worst?


An analogy from my personal life: as listeners of the show know well by now, I live in Des Moines; a mid-sized city / metropolitan area that is a mix of big and small. Some of that is a "mix and match", with a handful of big city elements not meaningfully different except for scale than the same elements in proper big cities, and with a handful of small town elements not meaningfully different except for scale than the same elements in proper small towns. And some of that is instead in the form of an "averaging" of big city and small town. Collectively, it is the "quantum paradox" of being ultimately NEITHER a big city NOR a small town, and yet, also kinda being BOTH a big city AND a small town - just the same that at age 42, I am NEITHER old NOR young, and yet, BOTH old AND young, and I am NEITHER rich NOR poor, and yet, BOTH rich AND poor. I do feel that over the course of the past 10, 15 years, it has changed from being the kind of mid-size that is more "gigantic small town" into the kind of mid-size that is more "tiny big city". But either way, it remains this mix of the two worlds. 


And for the wrong audience, the ones who either need "the full sizzle" of a truly big city, or "the full lull" of a truly small town, Des Moines is neither of those things, and is going to offer neither of these things, and for these people who need the one or the other, they will find it to be quite the "Laodicea", neither big enough / hot enough / hard enough to be a destination, nor small enough / cold enough / tranquil enough to be a getaway. And I would ask those people what they're even doing here, and say to them that they're bringing the party down, and that they should either get about the business of trying to make this a better place that they're happier to be in, or else just do us all the favor of finding somewhere else to live - just the same as I would say "oh well, off you go, then" to someone who says the Steam Deck is not for them once they know what it is and what it's all about, and the reasons why it may be a good thing for them. 


But to the right audience (myself included), Des Moines is ABSOLUTELY the "Baby Bear's Bed" between the "Papa Bear's Bed" of a truly big city, and the "Mama Bear's Bed" of a truly small town, bringing MUCH more of the best of both, than of the worst of either - which you could argue isn't the case of certain other mid-sized metros....like, perhaps a certain similarly sized one in the desert southwest, maybe. Des Moines is certainly imperfect on a great many fronts, granted, including a distressing lack of diversity in city leadership (and an outright scandal at the city council recently on that front that I am simply appalled by), and a potential weakness of mine who has seen the extremely rapid growth and transformation and ascendancy (in almost entirely "for the better" ways) of the fastest growing place in the Midwest and easily in the top 30 fastest growing places nationwide is that my clear view of just how far the city / metro HAS COME is that it can potentially partially obscure how far it has YET TO GO. But I cannot see Des Moines as anything but a compromise between extremes that brings much more of the best of each than the worst of either, and a compromise between extremes that is ultimately much happier than either one of the extremes themselves. ***


Perhaps that's what the Steam Deck will be for me. Because, I've gotta tell you, I have NEVER been a real fan of gaming on laptops. Now, in full disclosure, I do have Steam (and Wine and Proton etc) installed on my Dell Latitude 7480 (with Windows scrubbed and Ubuntu Studio [Linux] installed in its place) - which is anything but a gaming-class laptop anyway, and every so once in a GREAT while, I may spend a few minutes here and there playing something simple and low key on it. Like a quick round of Binding of Isaac, or the first few minutes of Doki Doki Literature Club, or maybe the first stage or two of Lovely Planet Remix, just to see if it works - it does, by the way. But for "real gameplay time", frankly, I kinda HATE the laptop format. In fact, it's all the same pro-Switch arguments that we Switch fans offered in response to the laptop people in 2017 who dismissed its portability and flexibility citing their laptops. Good luck lounging on the couch or in bed with one of those bad boys! Be prepared to lug around a mouse, or resign yourself to gaming on a trackpad (and maybe bring a keyboard, or joypad as well). Be prepared to have to navigate a bulky desktop OS environment every time just to even get to your games. I know, I know. Steam Deck will include a full desktop OS environment as well, but won't open to it by default, opening instead to a slimmed down Steam Client that is more akin to a console system menu than to a full fat PC desktop.


Gaming on a laptop is not a macrocosm of handheld gaming. Instead, it is a microcosm of desktop PC gaming, on a smaller screen and smaller inputs, probably hunched over the kitchen table, or at a table at a coffee shop, or hotel room, or some little cramped alcove somewhere. There is no such thing as "lounging with a gaming laptop". And yes, it may spec much closer to a desktop PC than the Steam Deck does....but you also have to pay desktop PC prices to have one. By contrast, the Steam Deck actually WILL be that "macrocosm of handheld gaming", only using PC games and reaping their freedom and flexibility instead. Plus, even the top tier Steam Deck model (and certainly the bottom tier model) are priced within the general "console" price range, and nowhere near Desktop Gaming PC prices. The Steam Deck is bigger than the Switch, of course, and therefore, even more unwieldy - and of course, we can bemoan that [to make up a term in lieu of knowing the real term] the "Steamcons" are non-detachable. But in terms of form factor, this remains, of course, MUCH more like a Switch than a laptop. Meaning that on the couch, in bed, on an airplane or bus or subway, or even just from "shotgun" in your family SUV, the Steam Deck will be dramatically closer to a Nintendo Switch experience than a laptop experience - only with a much more flexible software library, and somewhere between two to four times the hardware power. Not some sort of "perfect middle" whatsoever! Not even close!


But the big problem with everything that we've discussed so far is that the size and the power of the thing that has taken up nearly the entirety of our discourse so far are, like, the very bottom two concerns on my priority list. I will most certainly never say that they're completely unimportant to me; neither the pros nor the cons that come with them. And indeed, until I have  had a chance to actually hold one for myself, I can't even really say for sure just how perfect or imperfect of a "Baby Bear's Bed" it will even be for me. Still, to allow ourselves to fixate on the very peripheral matters of size and power really kinda misses the whole point of this thing for me. Allow me to shift the focus now to those other "much more important things":


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Much more important things #1: 

The advent of a viable alternative to "paying 'the Switch tax'"


I should maybe take a second to clarify that I'm not about to throw my Switch in the trash or anything over the Steam Deck. The Switch will always have value to me as a place to play Nintendo's amazing first and second party exclusives, plus its retro offerings on NSO and so on. Plus, you know, if I'm just going for a quick jaunt somewhere that doesn't justify taking the backpack with me, maybe I'd grab my Switch instead of the Steam Deck and "call shotgun". I'm absolutely, positively not about to tear up my Nintendo fan card over the Steam Deck. Instead, as a VGM podcaster, if I ever were going to tear up that fan card, it would be over things like Nintendo's draconian litigious practices more broadly, but as exemplified more specifically and more recently by a) their battery of takedown notices on YouTubers sharing Nintento VGM, which is a fantastic resource for all of us, as well as the looming specter of the remote chance that they could likewise come for us someday, and b) of Nintendo's active anti-preservation stances on previous generation digital games. If I ever did give "the big N the big F U", it'd be over these kind of things. The Steam Deck, if it was even a factor in that decision at all, it would only be the very peripheral, tangential consideration of "having another refuge to flee to in the absence of the other". But as I said, with Nintendo's amazing first and second party offerings and NSO retro collections, such a scenario is very unlikely, and all but certainly not imminent.


No, the big thing that the Steam Deck changes for me as far as Nintendo is concerned is simply making it A LOT harder for me to continue to justify "paying 'the Switch tax" for games that come a year or two late, cost 2-3x as much as other platforms, and perform worse - as well as my already having many of them in my Steam library already, meaning that they'd cost me absolutely nothing but time, data, and storage space to put on "the Deck" - and at higher graphics and quality settings than I'd get on the Switch. 


In the past I have only too happily eschewed the other platforms and all too readily paid "the Switch Tax" on multiple occasions simply because the freedoms and flexibility of the console / portable nature of the system, and my ability to play without being either "tethered to the couch" or "marooned to the small screen" that I would've otherwise faced on the dedicated consoles, dedicated handhelds, my mobile phone, or the desktop PC were things I valued more than immediacy, price, and performance / quality. But with the advent of the Steam Deck, I simply have another option now, as an alternative to paying "the Switch Tax" that does not involve having to lug a giant, overpriced gaming laptop around. In fact, the moment of this realization for me was on the drive into the office the morning after the latest Nintendo Direct. I had initially been supremely excited to hear the news that No Man's Sky was FINALLY coming to Switch, after a couple of years of my waiting and hoping and wishing that it would. And as I was thinking about that as much as "still paying attention to the road" would allow me, I suddenly thought: "but wait, the Steam Deck is just a couple weeks away now, and I already own it on Steam, and it'll look and play better on the new system." which was followed very quickly thereafter by "why do I want this game on Switch again?" And that moment resulted in a chain reaction of little thoughts that led me to conclude "there are going to be A LOT of games that I would've previously been VERY excited to see and have on Switch that Steam Deck is simply going to make me no longer care about in favor of playing it over there. More on this later, but for my particular use case in my particular patterns of system usages and gaming habits more broadly, this shift in thinking is simply tectonic.


Plus, we speak in terms of "The Switch Tax". Well, consider this: The Steam Deck will instead offer us what I propose we can possibly call "the Steam Bonus" in that anytime I buy a game for this portable, modestly powered PC, I will also get the game, for no additional cost, on my more powerful, but more tethered gaming PC back home, where other than for the absence of ray tracing and AMD FSR (AMD's equivalent to Nvidia's much more well-known DLSS), I will be able to play it at better quality and performance settings. In a sense, it's like getting a twofer. I suppose it'd be akin to buying a PS3 game, and getting the PS4 version bundled in for free. 


Now, my gaming PC is a bit out of date, with merely a GTX1070 GPU, a 7th gen Kaby Lake i5 7600K, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a 128GB Samsung EVO 960 (or maybe it's 970) M.2 boot SSD, and 6TB 7200RPM HDD for data and game storage. For gaming, this only puts its capabilities at roughly equivalent to the XBox One X, making it significantly less capable than my XBox Series X and Playstation 5 (despite costing more than the two of them combined). And of course, that's to say nothing of just how very short it comes of the greatest of today's current PCs. But that part I can potentially fix down the road, changing the previous metaphor from "getting a free PS4 version whenever I buy the PS3 version" to "getting a free PS5 version whenever I buy the PS3 version - making the prospect only even more tantalizing. And indeed, with having the Steam Deck as a driver, and a motivator, a catalyst, and a propellant for me to make those upgrades, it becomes a lot more likely to happen than in my current state where most of my gaming is Switch and XBSX anyway. 


Therefore, the heavy majority of the "No Man's Sky"s and "Portal 1 and 2"s of the world, etc, moving forward will quite likely no longer be eShop purchases, but Steam purchases. In fact, I've already seen this principle in action just earlier today, when I eschewed the Switch eShop version of the indie game "In Other Waters" in favor of the Steam version - in anticipation of playing it on "the Deck" instead. Now, of course, on a onesie twosie basis here and there, I am certain that I will still buy a few of these games on the Switch - ESPECIALLY if they are games that check ALL the following boxes: a) they are hugely significant, important games to me, b) they are modestly priced, c) they are platform-locked social games, and most of my friends are playing on the Switch, and perhaps most importantly, d) they support cloud save across platforms. But the point is, the customary practice of just "paying the Switch tax" as a nearly thoughtless "default presumption" is likely to end the very same day I pull "the Deck" from it's shipping box.


So, the Steam Deck being a lower-price-per-game / better-graphics-and/or-performance-per-game / less-of-a-wait-for-new-games-per-game / also-get-a-desktop-pc-version-for-no-extra-price / own-many-of-these-games-on-Steam-already alternative to and rescue from my having to pay "the Switch Tax" for "gaming on the go that can also be gaming on the couch and the big screen" is a MUCH more significant consideration for me than the size or power of the thing. And yet, even this is still not the top of my list for what makes this thing so special for me.


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Much more important things # 2: 

Its catalytic significance to the advancement and propulsion of the entire "Gaming on Linux" scene more broadly.


It's been no secret to anyone who either follows Nerd Noise Radio, or follows me personally (@jayseedoubleyou on Twitter - NNR is @nerdnoiseradio) that I am a regular and fairly passionate user of Linux, and as such, I am a huge believer in the works of things like the Steam Proton project, and the entire "Gaming on Linux" initiative more broadly - a scene which has been growing so fast that even in the relatively short time that it has been active, we're already up to something like 80-85% of Windows games playable on Linux. And as for performance differences between native Windows games in Windows and native Windows games in Linux via Proton, I have not done extensive testing, but can anecdotally tell you that, lets say, DOOM Eternal runs at the same 55-60fps range at 4K max everything [supported by pascal GPUs] in Linux as it did the last time I tried running it in Windows. In other words, no perceptible performance hit whatsoever, at least in that one game. So, not only is the work that the Proton team is doing incredible in terms of scale, it is also incredible in terms of quality! And both only stand to get even better and more prolific yet with Steam Deck as a catalyst and propellant. In fact, we already have the proof of this with the latest Proton 7.0 hitting the scene just in time for Steam Deck.


Now, I know that the Steam Deck can be flashed and have Windows installed instead of Steam OS. And yes, I know full well that that WILL happen, that some users will do just that. But let's be real here; not en masse. There is not going to be this mass exodus back to Windows on day 2. The overwhelming majority of people who buy a Steam Deck won't care enough about which OS is on a handheld to bother with the work involved in changing it, so long as they can play their games happily out of the box on day 1. The radical majority of these devices will continue to run Linux, and Proton. And as a result, just think of what a boon that is for Proton, and "gaming on Linux" more broadly....and hell, to some extent, at least, even just to Linux in general! Outside of Android phones, and maybe Chromebooks (and Android / Chrome are really only as "Linux" as a tomato is "fruit"), the Steam Deck will be the most popular, most common, and most "general audience-esteemed" Linux device on the market, based on early sales projections. And with a full-fledged, Arch-based, KDE-presenting desktop environment baked right into Steam OS 3, and no additional work required on the user's part to have it, whatever overlap there ends up being between Steam Deck purchasers and "the Linux Curious" will have their chance to get in and try things out right out of the box - with it standing to reason that at least some of them will ultimately end up making the jump like I have. 


And that is VASTLY more important to me than the size and power of the thing, and more important, even, than not being so much at the mercy of "the Switch Tax" anymore.


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Much more important things #3: 

On top of everything else, it is also a "roving" Linux desktop PC.


I had alluded to this already in just my very previous point, but I now want to make it an actual focal point: in addition to being a "PC handheld" out of the box, and, with a dock, console-style controller, a TV, and a couch a "PC Console", with that same dock, a pair of monitors, a KBM, and an office chair, it is also a "desktop PC". And this is not just semantics. The system, as I understand it, opens by default to a console-style streamlining of the Steam Client itself, to give a somewhat console-like user experience in handheld and "console" modes. But that client can be exited out of, taking you to a full-fat KDE desktop environment, underpinned by a full-fat Arch-based Linux OS. So, underneath that console-esque Steam Client, you have a 100% full-fledged Linux desktop PC. In other words, you even have the right user interface for the right kind of interaction method in all three cases. And with the pandemic having moved at least one person in so many households into "work from home" models, odds are that most people will already have those docks, monitors, interfaces, and accessories needed to use "the Deck" in this way on hand, without having to go out and spend extra money on them.


On both my laptop and my desktop, I am using Ubuntu Studio 21.10. So, an "official flavor" of Ubuntu, which in turn is based on Debian. I am not being critical in the least towards Ubuntu and Debian, there is a perfectly good reason why Ubuntu, or at least Ubuntu-based distros, such as "Linux Mint" are the starting point and launchpad for so many Linux users coming in - myself included. And Ubuntu Studio has been fantastic for me as a podcasting OS, a "general computing / internet derping" OS - and yes, even as a gaming OS, after a little legwork, like installing the proprietary Nvidia drivers, Wine, Proton, Vulkan, and a few other tweaks. Plus, with it using KDE starting with 20.10, I can customize the look and feel of the thing to the Nths, and have heavily favored "eye candy" decisions in that process thus far. But as of this writing, I am just a week or two away from my two-year anniversary as a "Linux Primary" user****, and Linux is so much bigger and broader and more diverse of a world than just the "life in the village" of Ubuntu and Debian. And at two years in, I am REALLY starting to feel that burn, that itch of "wanderlust" to go exploring other parts of that world. It's something that eventually happens to all Linux users, I think, and it's happening to me right now.


Well, as I had said above, the Steam OS 3 of the Steam Deck is based on Arch Linux, which is where a lot of the really big, exciting things are happening in Linux, where "all the cool kids are going", and as I understand things, is a pretty significantly different beast than Debian Linux. So it will give me that chance to experience, and learn, and play around with something new to me, in a way much more profound and self-incentivizing than on a virtual machine or separate partition, which have historically just languished in neglect in my care, and just taken up SSD space gainlessly, rotting away like a bezoar on my computer - OR without my having to "burn down the house" of abandoning Ubuntu Studio for it on my main computers (unless or until I'm ready to do so). But since it still uses KDE, I can stick with the beloved "old familiar" in this regard, and maybe customize its look and feel in Steam OS to be radically different than what I am using on my current machines (or make it look and feel exactly the same - because that's a choice I can make with KDE). Plus, with the purchase of a couple additional docks, I can make it into a roving living room / basement den / bedroom computer, which are things I have wanted for some time, but could just never justify buying the hardware for. Or, since my parents live in town and I visit once or twice a month, maybe even set up a dock over there and have a place to do my thing. Hell, if I so chose to, I could even record / produce / distribute an episode of the show entirely on the Deck. And just for the quirky, dorky cool factor of it all, I will probably do so at least once or twice.


And on top of all of this, on the "desktop gaming" front since AMD's "FSR" (the AMD equivalent to Nvidia's much more famous "DLSS", or Intel's upcoming "XeSS") is baked right into Steam OS, it gives us an analogue to the Switch's "better performance / quality while docked" thing, even on games that aren't even supposed to support FSR. What this means in practical terms is that you play the game handheld in 720p, with ray tracing and all the rest, slip it into a dock, and play it in 1080p, or maybe even higher, and still probably be able to keep the niceties like ray tracing enabled. Now, whether it would be able to be as seamless and automatic of a transition as the "slip it into the dock, and poof" way the Switch...well....switches, that is presently unknown to me, and I'd suspect, very unlikely unless you undertake a ton of configuration work up front that would be way above my pay grade as a Linux noob, and would definitely require a web tutorial just to fumble my way through. But the point is, even if a little more work is required, it is a key advantage of the Switch that the Steam Deck will retain, and will save us from the fate of having to play smudged, smeary 720p games on big 4K TVs, and 1080p, or 1440p (or even 4K) gaming monitors. In fact, since the Steam Deck supports ray tracing and FSR and such, certain games, like Cyberpunk 2077 would probably look BETTER on the Steam Deck when played over a TV or monitor than it'd look on my otherwise much more powerful gaming PC, which, only having a GTX1070, does not support ray tracing. It'd be higher resolution on my PC for sure, and maybe even higher frames. But it would look much more barren, with all that neon dystopia eye candy goodness simply missing. I'll eventually get a new "compromise-free" GPU, I'm sure. But until then, it'll be a bit of a "give and take" between the two.


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Switch for PC + Roving Linux PC + Arch Linux Playground + AMD FSR and Ray Tracing + Advancing the "gaming on Linux" Community + No more "Switch Tax" = Heart Emoji > Big and Underpowered.


So, in addition to being a larger, but more powerful Switch, that is smaller, much more nimble, and MUCH less expensive than a competent gaming laptop (which as I have said multiple times already, is not a form factor I like for gaming anyway), and in addition to being a desktop on top of all of that, with a much more elegant docking solution than laptops (which I also don't love to do for all the space waste and cumbersomeness of it all), and a chance for me to spread my wings into a much larger slice of the Linux world in a way that I will probably actually use, unlike VMs and partitions have been so far, plus avoid the "tether" of the basement studio for the big computer, or the "marooning" of the laptop by letting me computer in any room that has a TV or a monitor that I've deigned to purchase a dock for, it ALSO is a vehicle of TREMENDOUS promise for the advancement of Linux gaming (or even Linux itself) more broadly, and its chief gaming mechanism of Steam Proton. 


All of that makes the size and power of the thing seem pretty insignificant, does it not? Sure, it's huge, and sure, that in of itself is NOT a virtue. I think we can all admit that. But if the size of this thing is a "boulder in the road", then the offsetting virtues and promises and potential of this thing, as I have [hopefully] laid out pretty well by now in this blog post, for me and my use case, at least, is akin to finger-flicking that boulder out of the road, and sending it hurtling further than the curve of the earth and out of sight. That this thing is so much more powerful than the Switch is certainly a benefit. But with the Switch being, in essence, a theoretical "'PS3.5' in the day of the PS5", it had damned well better be a lot more powerful, right? "More powerful than Switch" is not exactly a high bar in 2022, is it? Instead, it's kinda the BAREST of all bare minimums. And indeed, we could've wished that it was even more powerful than the Switch than it is, given that it's going to need to be able to at least sorta handle the big, blockbuster PC titles not only of today, but of the next several years to come - one of the only real "concerns" I have for the thing: how future-proof it is or is not.


And again, for the gaming laptop faithfuls, who have undoubtedly been thinking this whole time "but I can do most of that on my laptop", and who are admittedly not wrong to think so, it may well be that our entire disagreement will come down to absolutely nothing more than whether or not the Steam Deck is a better form factor for what it's  trying to do than a Laptop. You would say that the laptop would be better and I would absolutely not be able to agree with you any less. But this is why I had opened with "nothing is for everyone", and we may have to simply agree to disagree. So long as we avoid "laptops are better, and everyone but idiots and perverts agree", or the converse with the Steam Deck, and so long as we can both say "you do you and let me do me", then I guess, whatever, we're both fine here.  As I also said, I'm not making any commission off of these, and the only incentive I would have to try to get people turned onto the Steam Deck is to make it more ubiquitous, which would in turn, do more to bolster the Steam Proton, gaming on Linux, and Linux Desktop adoption initiatives that I so cherish, as well as, I suppose, to make Nintendo have to reassess some of its business practices that have made them as hard to love of late as their games and cultural contributions make them hard to hate (in truth, like being in an abusive relationship, I feel both emotions towards them). But even if after reading this, I've left you as convinced as ever that the Steam Deck is NOT for you, I hopefully have also made a logical, reasonable, and compelling case of why Steam Deck is absolutely FOR ME! And for those who this has got thinking in different and more interested terms about the device....you're welcome, and I'll look forward to seeing you out there!


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Conclusion


When the Switch debuted, the thing that made it so amazing (and, no pun intended, "game changing") for me was that it FINALLY solved the problem of "the tether vs the marooning", and as such, it caused the Switch to pretty rapidly climb to a position of completely dominating my game play time. At one point, back when it was playing against the gaming PC, the PS4 Pro, a Google Pixel smartphone (either a 2 XL or a 4 XL - now a 6 Pro) the XBox One X, and a battery of retro and previous generation game systems, it commanded AT LEAST 95% of my total playtime, and maybe even so high as 99%. In fact, I liked to joke at the time that there was so much dust on my PS4 Pro and XB1X that I could write "Switch was here" in it with my finger. And it would not be until XBox Game Pass finally really entered my life when I got my XBox Series X this past year that anything was able to claw any consequential portion of that monopoly away. 


As of this writing, the Switch is still my #1 most played system, but in a dramatically less dominating, monopolizing way. I would say that now, the Switch enjoys somewhere between 60 and 65% of my total game time, 70% absolute tops. I have also recently reconnected with a handful of mobile games from years past that suddenly seem relevant again, such as Tiny Tower, and so mobile has made some really minor inroads into my playtime. And I've since also managed to get a Playstation 5. But the overwhelming majority of the time clawed back from the Switch has been invested in playing XBox Game Pass games, making the Series X my second most played system, non-trivially behind the Switch, but dramatically ahead of whichever of PS5, PC, and mobile would be 3rd. I am actually DEEPLY ashamed of just how neglected my PS5 is. 


As of this writing, my copy of Horizon Forbidden West is on the Fed Ex truck, out for delivery, and given how I will undoubtedly want to proof read, re-proof read, and re-re-proofread this thing before I submit it, it is very likely I will have had a chance to play and behold the game before anybody reads this. So hopefully that will be a well-needed jolt of life, and activity into the system for a while. I always kinda felt like the relationship between PS5 and XBSX for me in terms of play habits would be a big PS5 blockbuster would come along and I would have a brief spike of PS5 dominating XBSX, and then when that was not happening, the PS5 would be all but completely ignored while XBSX saw all the attention. Or, put in another way, PS5 would be "by appointment only" and XBSX would be "walk-ins welcome". Or yet another alternative way to say it: "PS5 as special occasion / event" and XBSX as "daily routine". In a strange way, this almost makes the PS5 more the "prestige gaming experience for me" than XB. But I don't think Phil Spencer will mind that when he sees that 80-90% of the time I'm playing one or the other, its on his playgound.


Still, my point is: the reason the Switch is tops for me, even above the amazing Nintendo first and second party titles and retro offerings through Nintendo Switch Online is simply because of the freedoms and flexibility of the hybrid nature of the system.  I have always admired the freedoms and flexibility and "sky's the limit" nature of PC gaming, but with are remote as my rig is in the basement, and with a toddler around, making my escape opportunities much fewer and shorter, and mostly needing to go to podcast work when I do get them, I've just gotten so little time to truly immerse in PC gaming that it simply hasn't really had the opportunity to "bite".


Well, so now the Steam Deck comes along, and has the potential to be "the Switch of PC gaming" for me, in a way even more profound and direct and intimate than it is inherently for the greater gaming audience at large, marrying at long last the freedom and flexibility of the Switch's form factor with the additional freedom and flexibility of the PC game medium to create a "double whammy" of even greater liberty and opportunity than either of the two platforms have [very asymmetrically] been able to deliver me all by themselves to date. 


We won't know, of course, just precisely what type or intensity of impact the Steam Deck will have on my gaming and computing life until I actually hold it in my hands, and get a little bit of time with it. To my great embarrassment, and shame, I must confess that I did not get my first Game Boy Advance until exactly 30 hours [HOURS!!!] before I got the Switch on 03/03/17 launch day. And for those first few days / first week or two, until I finished my first full playthroughs of Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission, I actually spent more time with my brand new [to me] GBA(sp) than my brand new [to everybody] Nintendo Switch. So, while "the switch to Switch" happened for me very, VERY quickly.....it wasn't quite IMMEDIATE. In fact, I remember the moment where it completely changed my life. It was about three weeks or so after I got it, and I was sitting on the couch playing Breath of the Wild, when my wife, Jodee, and my daughter, Chloe (Wyatt wasn't around yet) said they were going out for ice cream and asked if I wanted to come too. I initially waffled a bit, not sure whether I wanted to put down the game, when it hit me: "You doofus! You don't have to pick and choose anymore!" So I got up, grabbed the Switch out of the dock, called shotgun, and that was that. I was completely sold on the Switch from that moment on. 


So I might not know on day 1, or even week 5 just what kind of impact the Steam Deck will truly have on my gaming life. And it's at least remotely possible that it'll be like the PS5 for me, where I was super excited to have it, played the crap out of it for the first week or two, and then put it down and only very occasionally pick it back up now. That's not absolutely impossible, especially if I encounter a great big design flaw that I am not yet aware of. - BUUUUUT - given the "double whammy" of  the same flexibility and freedom the Switch offered me which changed my life, PLUS the freedom and flexibility that PC games offer me that I've always WANTED to have change my life, this thing truly creates the PERFECT conditions for the PERFECT environment for PC gaming to FINALLY "bite". And because of that, it could also very easily experience a Switch-like rapid rise to game time supremacy for me like the Switch did, and could cause the Switch to fall, probably never to as low a level as the PS5, but quite possibly below the Series X, into a potentially even distant 3rd. Especially if I all but quit using it for 3rd party games, and more or less only use it for Nintendo content, we could possibly end up with another "by appointment" system, like the PS5, only with the added benefits of still not being tethered to the couch, as well as the "random drop in" draw of the NSO offerings, and my humongous backlog of previously purchased 3rd party content.


Again, none of this can we be certain about until I have it, and it's up and running, and I've had a chance to really soak it all in. Perhaps it'll be worth looking back on this blog post at the 1yr, 3yr, and 5yr marks to see how near or far reality ends up coming to those projections. But either way, I do VERY MUCH see Steam Deck taking off for me and quite likely even becoming my "new main squeeze". And as I mentioned earlier in the article, encouraging signs of this probability already exist in my no longer being particularly interested in picking up No Man's Sky or the Portal series for Switch, and perhaps even more telling.....my deliberate decision earlier today to purchase "In Other Waters" for Steam rather than for Switch. I had wanted to "dip my toes into this one" [pun intended] for quite some time. And now I have.....only "in very different waters" [pun also intended]. I suspect this will be the first of many such decisions going forward. 


And hopefully all of this will also have the knock-on effect of causing my desktop PC gaming time on the "big rig" to go up somewhat as well, and provide me the incentive I need to FINALLY upgrade the 2017-spec "fan and water tube and light show" of a machine from something that more or less equals XB1X graphics / performance capabilities, to something that absolutely blows XBSX (let alone XB1X) out of the water! We shall see. Also, in addition to whatever much or little the Steam Deck manages to achieve in terms of game time inroads for me, it will also be seeing some level of additional use time hooked to computer monitors as an upstairs Linux desktop PC that I can use for "secondary podcast production work" like track list creation and show notes writing (blog post writing?) etc, and I can be free to do less of that work moving forward on this more cramped (but still reasonably enjoyable) laptop of mine from which I currently scribe this present missive.


Either way, all of this combined comes together to make this thing's cartoonish bigness (and slight horsepower sufficiency worries down the road) seem....well....quite small indeed. A boulder flicked out of the road with just a finger. A great and glorious "Baby Bear's Bed" of gaming, and a rescue from the "Laptop Laodicea"!....and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT!


Cheers, and thanks for reading! Comments welcomed!


-St. John, Nerd Noise Radio


p.s. we're not quite done yet! You likely noticed a handful of asterisk indications throughout the course of the article. What these indicated, as you'd likely expect, is that I had more to say on the matter, but didn't want to clog up the article with it. So, please check the comments section, as there will be a handful of "supplemental reading" comments which will contain these leftovers; including an alternate version of this blog, which originally was an aborted Facebook comment and preface.** Read to find out more! :-)