Tuesday, January 13, 2009

d2 : Medgames 2009

[Continued from d0, d1]
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday was to be our only full day in Montreal for Medgames, and I was sharing a hotel room with Kushima, Kon, and Stewie. For the uninitiated, Medgames is an annual sporting event pitting medical students from across Canada against each other in games of athleticism for school honour. In practice, however, it's largely an excuse for students from more than a dozen schools to party it up in Montreal and get severely smashed.

Besides Kon, who had played badminton, none of us had the opportunity to compete on Friday. For Saturday, Kushima was set to play ping pong, and a group of my friends had entered the dance competition in the Group of 6+ category. As for myself, I didn't feel particularly qualified to represent my school in any real sports (there were a limited number of spots afforded to us for each), but I was more than happy to pick up and play one of the "parasports" - the not-quite-real-sports category. I did take issue with the label though, since it made me feel like I was competing in events for notably disabled persons (like the Paralympics).

This weekend, I had set my stony gaze upon DDR and Rock Band. DDR was a particular favourite of mine, and I was so enthused by it that my friend and I had started an honest to goodness DDR Club back in undergrad. I'm not particularly amazing at the game... in fact, I was probably one of the weakest players in the club, but I was counting on most of my peers not having much practice. I was a little bit more leery about Rock Band. The sheer popularity of the game within a broad audience and the fact that it has been out for more than a year predicted that there would be many strong players. I, on the other hand, had my first go at Rock Band less than a month ago and had been playing it for only a couple of weeks.

DDR and Rock Band were supposed to be running between 9 AM and 4 PM, with registration on site. Stewie and I had planned to get up around 8 AM in order to get ready and travel to CEPSUM, where breakfast was running between 8 and 10:30. However, Kushima, Kon, and myself were in for a rude awakening as Stewie's cell phone alarm went off at 6:45 AM. Since we had gone to sleep around 4 AM the night before, we were not all that pleased. After making a bit of commotion, our eyes still glued shut, the alarm turned off and we went back to sleep... only to be unpleasantly awakened again several minutes later. Cursing at the air loudly but still unwilling to get up, we warned Stewie to turn off his alarm properly this time. When the alarm went off a third time, I groggily dragged myself out of bed, intent on finding the phone, drowning it in the nearest toilet, and recovering the rest of my sleep. As my murderous hands approached Stewie's duffel bag, he finally reached over and turned his phone off. I later discovered that he had slept through the first two incidents in their entirety and the phone itself has an auto-snooze of sorts.

The damage was done, however - we were dead tired. I had set a proper alarm for 8 AM, but when it actually went off, I hastily jammed what I thought to be the snooze button. Unfortunately, the alarm clock offered at our hotel was not standard issue, and the "off" button was conspicuously located on the top surface where the "snooze" button typically is. As a result we slept through until 10 AM. Waking up in a frenzy of panic, afraid to miss the only event that I was actually interested in participating in, I quickly roused the crew and we were out the door in 15 minutes.

As it turned out, when we arrived at 10:30 AM, DDR and Rock Band were still being set up. I guess they were running a bit late, just like us. We took the opportunity to catch our brown bag breakfast - which included a Clementine, a chocolate croissant, a juice box, and a tough, inedible bagel. After that we headed back to the DDR/Rock Band room.

The competition was set to work like this: Until 4 PM was freeplay. For DDR, a score should be recorded during this period of time. The top ten DDR scorers would then be set up tournament style at 4 PM. For Rock Band, competition would begin at 5 PM.

The setup, however, was utterly bollocks. Firstly, DDR and Rock Band were in the same place, which meant sound from one was competing with the other. In this regard, DDR totally got the shaft, since there were no speakers, only a dinky little ghettoblaster to which the projector was plugged in. The music was barely audible among the rancor of the room.

Furthermore, the DDR was not authentic. The game was running off of a PlayStation 2 alright, but it was playing some kind of cheap fanmade knockoff. The mats were scraggly soft mats, which slid to and fro - in fact, one mat was a half-decent Konami mat, but the other was a virtually unplayable Asian counterfeit. The idea of competing under these conditions boggled my mind. Apparently, last year when Medgames was held at Sherbrooke, DDR had a room to itself with proper speakers and metal mats. I'd have settled for the Ignition-style mats we used for DDR Club at Queen's. Chris, a second-year student who won the competition last year (and based on his performance during freeplay, was significantly better than any of the competitors this year) opted not to participate in the competition at all because he was so turned off by the setup.

The scoring system didn't seem quite right either, since people competing on Beginner could easily log scores of 500,000 while almost failing the song. Meanwhile, experienced players on Heavy had trouble breaking 900,000. Usually, higher difficulty is associated with higher possible scores because of the increased number of notes. This did not seem to be the case with whatever DDR-knockoff we were dealing with. For my part, I was trapped in the 600,000 scoring zone - above the 2 to 300,000 that inexperienced players were landing in, but a far cry from the 800,000 that the better players were doling out. I felt like beating the song on Heavy should compensate in terms of score... but eventually I brought the difficulty down to Standard to up my score before the competition began.

We left the DDR room to eat lunch, and on the way stopped to watch Kushima playing ping pong a bit. Kushima went on to take 1st place in men's table tennis, although he wasn't quite satisfied with the victory. He had actually been eliminated in his first round, however his opponent did not return for his second game. For this reason, Kushima was thrust back in to the competition and beat the next two opponents to secure Gold. His original opponent then returned and played Kushima just for fun, to whom Kushima lost again. It probably didn't help that we were all watching intently for the last game. Still, we assured Kushima that he fully deserved his reward for beating the other two opponents. Had the first-round elimination been kept, he would have received no ranking at all - which is hardly fair realizing now that Kushima was at least the second-best there.

Lunch was more of the same: A brown bag containing vegetables, couscous, a sandwich, a juice box, and a very cold banana. It hardly felt like we were in Montreal at all save for all the French language flying around.

After lunch, we stopped by to watch Toronto compete in the dance competition. Our friends had put together a meticulously choreographed Indian-style dance. It was a lot of fun to watch, and they went on to win first place in their category (Group with 6+ members), later performing at the closing ceremonies. After they were done, the dance competition took a break because Trois-Rivières did not show up, and none of the other teams were ready to go yet.

I quickly got bored of waiting and took this opportunity to return to the DDR scene. Eventually, the day wound down and the competition began. Sadly, I was eliminated in the first round by a fellow from Western. Stewie went on to win third place, although when I looked at the final tabulated scores, it seems like they misreported it and didn't give Toronto the appropriate points. It was really sad for me, because it really didn't seem like the top scorers were very much better at the game than I was. The failure was certainly contributed to by my difficulty keeping track of the button locations on the soft pad, the disallowing of changing the scroll speed during the competition (I usually play on 1.5X), the low volume of the music, and performance anxiety. Still, I suppose I lost fair and square... it's just kind of discouraging.

Stewie actually ditched our Rock Band because he was still participating in the DDR competition, leaving us with another beginner from our school to play our drums. He was used to playing the game on Easy, but the competition required we play on at least Medium. Furthermore, the song was selected by random, and ours was rather difficult. We flunked out about 17% through the song, which was a huge downer.

So, in the end, I failed out at the very beginning of the two events that I actually put my mind to competing in. I hate losing, and it's even more disheartening to know I was at the bottom of the pack. But Kon managed to win 1st place in men's doubles badminton!

After we finished competing, it was time for dinner. Rather than the typical brown paper bag, we were shuttled to UdeM's cafeteria where we were treated to a cafeteria-quality hot meal. Then we had to take the shuttle back to CEPSUM and catch a different shuttle back to the hotel.

At the hotel, Stewie, Maximus, and I hung out for a few hours just chatting it up. All of us were really tired, and felt pretty ready to crash (despite the fact that it was only 6:30). Still, we had some pretty inspired conversation and a really good time. At some point, I compared Max to the character Joey from the popular television series Friends. Joey, I argued, was the biggest physically, the most alpha, a smooth player, and a really easygoing guy.

"Okay," Max replied, "then what character would you be?"

I thought about it for a minute. "Probably Ross," I replied. "You know... kind of sappy, meek, little bit nerdy... tries too hard."

Stewie nodded in approval, but then interjected, "I don't know... I'm not sure that we can characterize each other using Friends characters."

"Well it's not a perfect match, but you can characterize anyone using Friends characters."

"Oh yeah? Then who would I be?" asked Stewie.

We pondered that for a few seconds, but it hit both Stewie and I at the same time: "Phoebe."

Above: Nickels Restaurant. When I saw it, I immediately thought back to Johnny Rockets on Thursday. But when I finally uploaded my photos after the weekend was over, I realized that Johnny Rockets was much nicer, and Stewie tells me it has retro dancers too.

At about 9:30, the rest of the gang came storming back and interrupted our comfortable bonding session. There was a pub crawl going on in the evening, but I didn't really feel like participating in that (and neither did many other people). Instead we ducked out of the hotel into the frigid Montreal night to try and find somewhere nice to eat on Rue Sainte-Catherine near the hotel.

When we first passed a diner-looking experience called Nickels Restaurant, Kushima was deathly opposed to eating there. Apparently, he had already been there during an exploratory expedition a few friends had taken while I was doing DDR, and he had eaten a poutine plus classic smoked meat sandwich. As we continued walking, we tried to get into the famous Reuben's Deli, only to find that it was closed for the night. The group then agreed that it was too cold and turned back towards Nickels Restaurant - Kushima and the others changing their tune to agree that it was, in fact, not that bad. In fact, after that point, even when we expressed interest in other restaurants, Kushima continued to push us towards Nickels.

Nickels was, in fact, not bad. I had a poutine and a smoked meat pasta. Zo, our resident Montrealer (but who was absent for Medgames), assures us that Nickels is about the worst restaurant in Montreal. I'm sure Yubin's sister would object though, since she was quite smitten with our Quebecois waiter.

After our stomachs were satisfied, we returned to the hotel for more large group bonding through a game of Truth or Truth (like Truth or Dare, except, minus the dare). Needless to say, many unknown and interesting facts came out of the game, which I'm not at liberty to reveal. "What was said in Montreal stays in Montreal." We tied up the evening around 4 or 5 AM.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

This looks so fun! We should totally all go again next year. Come on! It would be better next year. We can go to Reuben's maybe.

Fingers crossed that next year it would be in Mtl. It looked like crazy fun. I totally missed out. Damn the cold!


Anonymous said...

wow Stewie = Phoebe... no way.. they're like totally diff types of pp