Kotaku has reported that the Trump administration held a conference at the White House of industry executives and various “Think of the Children” groups like the US PTA about violence in video games in the wake of the most recent school shooting. Now, for the past 8 or so years, this had been a settled issue, since the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. EMA ruled that video games were an artistic medium and thus could be art, and in turn the 1st Amendment applied to them. Continue reading → Editorial: Thoughts on Trump’s Video Game Violence Conference
This past week had the 2017 DICE Awards. I have a few thoughts on the awards. Continue reading → Belated Thoughts on the 2017 DICE Awards
What bugs me about people who rip into the stories of games which try to tell good, interesting stories but fail (at least in the eyes of the people doing the ripping), like, for example, Bioshock Infinite, is that the language used to mock the games often comes in the form of saying “Games can’t tell good stories, why should you try?”
Not that they’re saying games can’t be art – they know that games can be art, and often the people saying these things want more games to be art. However, dismissing the narrative of the Bioshock games as being too simplistic or too trite or playing with the players heartstrings too much is a bit like making fun of little league baseball players because they’re not hitting home runs like the pros. They may get there someday, they may not – but what good can mocking them for trying do?
If you really, really want better video game stories, then signal out the people who do what you want to see for praise, and if someone does something wrong, don’t just mock their decisions, talk about why it didn’t work for you.
I can’t code well enough to work on a AAA, but I can tell when a story works, and when it doesn’t and if it doesn’t work I can tell why. Hell, depending on why the story doesn’t work, I can tell you what it would take to fix it.
Shifting the topic somewhat – games like EVE Online and DayZ aren’t “fixing” game stories, or “telling” better game stories. People are using those games to tell interesting stories, sure, but describing them as the future of game storytelling (as I got the impression Patrick Klepek was kind of alluding to in his discussion of the Irrational Games closure with Alex Navarro), is at best erroneous. EVE Online and DayZ aren’t telling game stories to or with players – they’re giving them handycams and a box of props. At best the cameras will get used to make some interesting stories, sure. However, the difference is that EVE Online and DayZ have the added “feature” of facilitating a kind of electronic “happy slapping” that games like Dragon Age, Bioshock, Final Fantasy, The Elder Scrolls or other more single player, narrative driven games can’t really do.
There’s certainly a place for Minecraft and DayZ, and I don’t begrudge the people who enjoy those games the fact that they like them. However, I really don’t want the future of video games to be more games like that.
One last thing – if Ken Levine’s plan is to make games like The Way Z with his smaller, leaner team, I find the fact that Shawn Elliot lost his job at Irrational Games because of this slightly ironic – at least to me. You see, back when Shawn was on the Games for Windows podcast, he liked to talk about how he enjoyed griefing people in video games. In particular, one incident that has permanently stuck out in my mind is one where he, and another host of the podcast discovered a Grand Theft Auto IV Multiplayer Role-Playing server.
Shawn and his friend found this example of emergent gameplay in a sandbox environment utterly hilarious, and decided to stomp all over everyone’s sandbox. They logged in, and went on a rampage until they were kicked. Then they posted on twitter about this, and got a whole bunch more people to go into the server and continue rampaging until, ultimately, the server was shut down. Mr. Elliot considered this a wonderful success. That even probably happened about 5-6 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and it’s forever colored my impression of Mr. Elliot. And thus, while I feel bad for the other 184 other employees of Irrational Games who have lost their jobs because of the new creative direction that Ken Levine has decided to go in, I don’t feel bad for Shawn Elliot.
With Shawn Elliot, at least, the bully has gotten his just desserts.
This week, I’m going a little more topical with my videos and discussing a current event – Harlan Ellison‘s attempt to stop the release of the film In Time.
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLTvCUA width=”1280″ height=”750″]
- Sci-Fi Author Harlan Ellison Claims ‘In Time’ is Ripping Him Off, Sues to Stop The Film’s Release (moviefone.com)
- Film: Newswire: Harlan Ellison suing makers of In Time, as any Harlan Ellison would (avclub.com)
- Harlan Ellison Suing New Regency, Claims ‘In Time’ Rips Off His Short Story (slashfilm.com)
- On the Books Sept. 16: Harlan Ellison sues to stop ‘In Time’ starring Justin Timberlake, scratch-and-sniff NYC guide forthcoming (shelf-life.ew.com)
- I Blame Harlan Ellison (alldaycomics.com)
- Harlan Ellison sues yet another science fiction movie for copyright infringement [Movies] (io9.com)
Now that we’ve gotten a verdict in the Supreme Court case of Brown (nee Schwarzenegger) vs. EMA, I’m going to give my thoughts on this very happy occasion, and a response to comments made by Senator Leland Yee.
Normally, I don’t do much in terms of blog posting on my weekends, instead preferring to take the time to kick back, relax, and get some serious gaming done (as opposed to gaming for work). However, I came across this little update on Retromags.com. It’s an interview with Ralph Baer, who worked on the development of the Magnavox Odyssey and Simon. You can find the article here, and I encourage all of you to give it a read and enjoy it.
One of the news stories I’ve been following recently is The Handly Case, which is an obcenity case in Iowa – the state which was sufficently progressive enough to legalize gay marrage (an act I support), involving Christopher Handley for posessing recieving child porn – in the form of a Hentai (porn) Manga (or Japanese comic book) containing sex involving people who are underage.
I’m not going to defend Lolicon here. For starters, Lolicon isn’t my thing – and in any case, if the material was prosecuted as being obcene for an entirely different reason (bondage material) that still wasn’t my thing, it’d be hard to defend it – because it’s hard to defend a kink that’s not yours, especially to a someone who doesn’t have that kink (and besides, if they already have that kink, you don’t need to defend it to them). I’m going to refrain at this time from going into my kinks anyway because they’re irrelevant (and if you really care what they are, you can post a comment and ask – this doesn’t mean that I’ll answer, but I’m not getting into them in this blog post).
I’m also not going to get into the free speech reasons why this case is bad, because, frankly, Neil Gaiman did it better than I possibly good. I strongly encourage you to Neil’s post, because it’s excellently well written, and explains why you can’t slack off in the defense of free speech – because unfortunately, if you let icky speech be outright banned in a particular medium (video games, comics, film, etc.) it becomes easier to ban speech you support. This doesn’t mean you can’t marginalize certain types of icky speech (hate speech, NAMBLA), but banning icky speech outright bad (note: I’m not defending actual photographed and filmed child porn as icky speech – a crime must be committed in its creation, thus making it by its nature illegal – though I find the prosecution over sexting absurd, but I’m digressing – just read Gaiman’s essay.) Continue reading → The Handly Case – This Is How Liberty Dies (or is at least Badly Wounded)
So, I previouly wrote a letter to the Spokesman, arguing against those who would reject skateboarders out of hand, and argued in favor of a new skate park. Aparrently I was not the only one who felt this way, as last week Monday some of Wilsonville’s skateboarders and their families came to the city council meeting to argue in favor of a skate park. I can’t give any specific information on what was covered, as video of City Council meetings are only available through their cable access channel, which, as is the nature of the beast, you can only have access to if you have a cable subscription, and the Work Session isn’t covered. Consequently, if you don’t have a cable subscription (or instead have Satellite or FIOS TV), then you can’t watch the meeting if you weren’t able to attend. No, there isn’t any streaming video available.
Isn’t transparency in government great?
Fortunately, the Wilsonville Spokesman did an article about the meeting, so I was able to find out some of what was discussed, and the discussion at the council meeting lead to a seperate meeting with council members Stephen Hurst and Michelle Ripple, as well as representatives of the parks department to discuss what actions skateboarders and their families (and me) can do to get a skate park together. I managed to get enough notice on this one (8 hours notice – from the article in the Spokesman) to attend this one.
I don’t think about High School often. High School wasn’t what I would describe as “fun”. Now, I wasn’t a major social outcast or anything like that. I wasn’t emo, or punk, or goth. I was just your basic geek, but school was made stressful by the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and was one of the first people in the school district to be diagnosed with it when I was in Elementary school – and the lions share of High School was spent fighting the school district to give me the support I needed. This was stressful.
However, there were high points. They were, in order of when they happened. Hanging out with my friends in the school’s stairwell (and playing Quake II with them in the computer lab – I got into MUDs, First Person Shooters, and playing games online against people this way), the group of people in my class I circled through my classes with, and the high school Anime Club.
Right now, I’m going to talk about that second group, and one member in particular. Of that group, the ones I remember most were Beau Jacobsen, Sandy Kalik, Kate Boeher, Hap Purden, Mickey Clark, Ian Mclennan, Travis Galbreath, Gary Marcoux, Davey Farley, AJ Bartholemew, and I’m definitely forgetting some others whose names I haven’t already misspelled (and if you’re reading this, I apologize for omissions and misspellings.)
I found out today, that Beau is no longer with us. I don’t know precisely how he died, but I know he drowned, and apparently was diving. Beau and I didn’t hang out particularly outside of school. He was involved in sports, and I definitely was not. However, he made every single class I shared with him better by his presense. He was a very smart man. Say what you will about him, he was not a dumb jock. I always felt that he was interested, involved, and, and in my opinion this is the sign of a great person – when he didn’t know something, he’d ask for help, rather then trudging on regardless. I don’t do that sometimes, many times – and I consider myself a supergenius (and overestimate my intelligence).
Plus, he was interested in other people, and cared about what they were into. Hell, being that I serialized my blog through my Facebook account, and he and I were friends on facebook, he might have read every post on this blog as it came up, from the lame to the awesome. Beau was the kind of guy where if you’d tell him something you’d done that you thought was cool, even if, as soon as you said it it sounded horrendiously lame coming out of your mouth (short of “Let me tell you about my character” level lame), while he might not be interested enough want to listen at length (though me being socially inept in high school would do it anyway), he would at least say “That’s cool” and mean it. Because of Beau, I was actually looking forward to my High School Reunion, whenever that would be, because Beau is probably the non-geek (or one of the few non-geeks in the place) that I could say, when you get asked the question of “What have you been up to since graduation,” and you have to give your high-point of the last few years, I could say “I review anime and movies for a web page with decent readership,” and he’d say “That’s cool” and might even be legitimately impressed until I mentioned that I don’t get paid – which is okay because everyone does that.
Beau, this world is at least a few shades darker without you in it. But, on the bright side, the other world is at least a couple shades brighter.
Unfortunately, being unemployed, I can’t exactly take my own advice on this, but Beau loved the outdoors and the ocean – and I can’t think of a better tribute than a donation to one of the following groups
- College of Oceanographic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, to help fund Oceanographic research in the Pacific Northwest.
- The University of Puget Sound, where Beau was attending.
- The Ocean Conservancy, a less regionally focused charity, which works for preservation of the world’s oceans.
- Being that Beau helped to fight forest and brush fires in Washington during last summer, a more land-based way to donate money in his name would be to your local National Park.
Sorry for taking a turn for the serious and sedate here. I’ll try to bring the funny later. But to be honest, even though I haven’t seen Beau for quite some time (face to face), while I’ve been writing all this, by which I mean the blog, from a geeky perspective, I brought my funny, my witty, my snarky, and occasionally my profane not necessarily (the skateboarding article aside) from my aspirations of Hunter S. Thompson/Spider Jerusalem-dom, but from wanting to write something that would entertain my more geeky friends from College and my less geeky friends from High School who might be reading this through my Facebook. OtakuGeneration, Alex Navarro, and Hunter S. Thompson inspired me to start writing, Beau, Hap, Ian, Mickey, Gary, and all of them were, and for those still with us – (which IIRC is most of them) are, the that which keeps me writing (as well as all of you who are putting in comments which don’t contain the names of perscription medications).
Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough for tonight, and this is without an appointment with Dr. Funk (who actually I’ve never been to see). I’m going to miss you Beau, but to paraphrase one of my favorite movies – you’re really not dead, as long as we remember you.
Just another little update… in my home town of Wilsonville, last week, there was a trio of letters written to our local paper fighting the construction of a new skate park in Wilsonville. The arguments were rather old, worn out, and some of them had holes in them:
- “Skateboarding is a fad” – It’s about 40 years old
- “Our existing park is just fine” – It’s two quarter-pipes with a single rail and contains copious amounts of wood, which needs to be replaced every few years
- “Skate parks attract gang members, drug dealers, and other riff-raff” – Our current skate park is in a somewhat secluded portion of Memorial Park at the bottom of a hill, so it doesn’t get patrolled by police very often, so drug dealers and gang members would feel more safe there. The new site is by city hall and the police station, which would make it very visible to police and the general public. Unless, by riff-raff, I mean teenagers, in which case I can’t help you.
- “A swimming pool would be a better investment.” – Well, we’ve got the Living Enrichment Center – no, they closed because the head of the center was embezzling money and defrauding her congregation. There’s Bally’s – you need a membership and I think it’s an outdoor pool anyway. Well, crap, you got me there.
So, with these arguements in mind, I wrote an letter for the Wilsonville Spokesman, and my mother, who was similarly annoyed by the letters in the Oregonian, wrote one of her own as well. Mom’s didn’t get published. Mine did.
Now, my letter won’t be visible next week Wednesday on the site, because they’ll have that week’s letters, so I’m putting the full text below the cut.
As you probably already figured out from my last blog post, I’ve been thinking about the end of 1up and EGM as we know it. With most of the GameVideos staff getting the chop, I’ve started to think about the role of video in Video Games Journalism and how to handle it.
Video Games are a visual medium. Duh. Consequently, when you’re talking about video games, it really helps to see the game. Before high-speed Internet, the standard way of going about this was through putting screen shots on your web pages, or in the magazine articles about the game. Later, as Video Games became moderately mainstream, and we got Video Game related TV shows, like Gamespot TV (later Extended Play) and Electric Playground, we finally got to see the video games in motion before we bought them – and consequently we could get a good look at how good or bad the graphics were, and how good or bad the controls were. As an example, from seeing gameplay footage of Enter The Matrix on Extended Play before the game was released, I was somewhat able to tell, in advance, that the graphics weren’t very good, and that the control wasn’t very good. Surprise, surprise, when the reviews came out, the game was panned for, among other things, poor graphics and poor controls.
As broadband proliferated, using video to talk about games became more feasible, and higher quality video files became more feasible as well. This lead to the Video Review, where the reviewer got to stand in front of a camera, with footage of the game edited into the review (and possibly also playing behind him) and talk about the game. This turned game reviewers into recognizable personalities, the same way that television made Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert recognizable to people outside of Chicago.
Once you’ve got personalities, you’ve now got a way to support a TV show, first with just streaming programming on the web pages for sites like Gamespot.com, and later to (once Podcasts started catching on) video podcasts, from On The Spot on Gamespot.com, to the 1Up Show on 1up.com.
This brings us to now. Gamespot has On The Spot. They still have video reviews, but their reviewers don’t appear in the actual reviews (possibly as a way to, well, make it easier to get rid of reviewers if they need to – or if publishers want them too). GameTrailers makes it’s living out of video, but with the exception of Geoff Keigley (sp), Amanda McKay, and David Kayser, they don’t have any first party personalities. There are 3rd party personalities, like those through ScrewAttack (Stuttering Craig and the Angry Video Game Nerd), but that’s about it. The fate of video on the 1up network is in doubt. Giant Bomb is, really, the last bastion of the classic Gamespot video review, with the reviewer on camera.
So, what I want to know is this – how is the video in video games journalism going to pan out in the future. Will video reviews go through a voice-over person or through similar steps to make the people reviewing the games more faceless, or will the concept of the visible video game journalist move to smaller sites, as major sites like 1up and Gamespot.com become homes for the faceless, voiceless, disposable reviewer?
I’m putting an open call for comment by people in the games press, particularly those who used to work for 1up.com. Am I going in the right direction? Am I totally off base? Or is it a mixture of both?
For those of you who don’t read Kotaku, here’s the link to the article. In short, Hearst Publications Group, which owns UGO, has bought the 1up Network from Ziff Davis. They then canceled EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly, their only and flagship gaming magazine) canceled just about all of their podcasts, and then fired most of the staff, including James Mielke (I can’t believe I spelled that right), Shane Bettenhausen, Skip Pfister, Ryan O’Donnell, among 30 other staffers and the GameVideos team, in a purge that I might call, and will call, Stalin-esque.
Aside from the tragedy of Vampire William Randolph Hearst draining the life blood out of the 1up network, leaving only a lifeless husk, hopefully there will be a lesson to be learned from this, but a costly one. You see, people in the business of reviewing film and reviewing video games like to talk about how different reviewing games and reviewing movies are, but they actually have a great deal in common, in certain respects.
One of my favorite kind of books to read are on the history of computing (and science in general), in particular ones which tell the story about not only the technology that’s developed, but the people who developed it, and how their personalities interacted. That’s why while the PBS documentaries “The Machine That Changed The World” and “The Shape of the World” are interesting, I like “Connections”, “Revolution OS”, and “Triumph of the Nerds” more, because in addition to playing off the technological aspects, the personal aspects come up as well, how personalities interact, how they play off each other, and how the meeting of two people can have as much impact on the invention of a piece of technology as a the invention of a previous piece of technology was.
I mention all that because I got tipped off to this article at Wired Magazine. Basically, it’s almost the cybercrime equivalent of GoodFellas. The difference being, Henry Hill realized that being the mob was more hazardous than it’s worth, particularly since there were no possiblities for advancement for him – being Irish on his dad’s side instead of Italian – so he told the law what he knew. On the other hand, this story is, a bit, the polar opposite – the guy the story’s about, Max Butler, basically becomes the man you have to go through (through his site) in order to buy-and-sell stolen card numbers, as well as the equipment needed to take advantage of those numbers – which I’d certainly count as advancement. Not to mention, unlike Hill, Butler didn’t talk to the Feds, tell them everything they needed to know and go in the Witness Protection Program – he was caught and sent to prison for life – the first Cracker (I’m not going to use the word Hacker for a crook like thim) to get that punishment.
Okay, yeah, so he can get 30 years instead of life if he takes a plea bargain, but anyway, the story is fantastic. It plays out like a crime novel (in this case a true crime novel). I doubt it would work for a movie, maybe a documentary – it would be extremely difficult to dramatize the hacking process – and a lot of the interactions here are between people who have never met each other face to face, only online. Still, it’s an amazing read.
If you read Slashdot.org, you may have caught this news story. In short, Nielsen Media Research sent a DMCA takedown order to Wikipedia, asking them to takedown a series of catagory boxes and templates for organizing radio and TV stations by city, stating that it infringed on their copyright on the practice of organizing television and radio stations by market. Consequently, the Wikipedia foundation was forced to delete all the relevant templates, leaving the userbase scrambling to find a way to organize media articles without getting sued.
To be frank, the actions of Neilsen Media Research are a crock of bullshit. The copyright in question is no better, and in fact is almost worse then some of the bogus submarine patents that you read about weekly, and the copyright in question essentially gives the Nielsen essentially a monopoly on the classification and organization of broadcast stations by geography.
Just doing a quick post to direct you all to a review I have up on Bureau42.com for Full Metal Panic. The review can be found here. I’m going to be having 2 more reviews going up for Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, and Full Metal Panic: the Second Raid. Hopefully, I’ll be able to turn this into a steady gig for them.
What does this mean for the blog? Well, I fully intend to keep updating the blog – Bureau42 is dedicated to science fiction and fantasy material, which means that a lot of the material I’ve been putting up right now (like wrestling recaps) would not fit there. Likewise, if I review any material that they’ve already reviewed, I’ll post those reviews here instead.
That said, Bureau42.com is a good site, and definitely worth your following, and I look forward to seeing comments from you there as well.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the Video Games Industry has found itself facing a lot of political pressure from Washington DC, as well as the politicians of various state legislatures. The Hot Coffee controversy started a wave of game legislation against the game industry, with many states passing legislature to impede the sale of video games that contained violent content (the levels of violence being legislated against varied from state-to-state).
Rising up against this sea of foes, was the Entertainment Software Association, then lead by Doug Lowenstein. Thanks to the dues paid by member corporations, the ESA was able to file suit in multiple state courts to block the aforementioned laws, and in many cases get them declared unconstitutional. Further, as an outgrowth of the ESA’s sibling organization, the Entertainment Merchant’s Association (or EMA came the Entertainment Consumer’s organization, or ECA, lead by Hal Halpin, which sought to bring a voice for those who play video games and other electronic media, so that someone is fighting for them. Among one of the ECA’s first actions was to join with GamePolitics.com, a blog that tracked attacks against gaming in the public sector, from politicians, and from the news media.
The reason I’m bring up this melodramatic alphabet soup is that there is dissension in the ranks – specifically between the ECA, and the ESA – and the ECA didn’t start it.
According to a news article at 1up.com, Tomonobu Itagaki is resigning from Tecmo and filing suit with his old company after the president of the company allegedly said he would not pay Itagaki a promised completion bonus for the game.
As someone who is a fan of the Dead or Alive games, as well as the Ninja Gaiden games, regret this turn of events a great deal. I hope that Itagaki’s lawsuit will result favorably for him. He is a talented game designer, and look forward to playing his future games. Also, I hope we don’t get a boycott in this case, at least not unless the lawsuit doesn’t go Itagaki’s way. If Itagaki wins, he’ll likely get paid his promised bonuses, as well as any promised royalties, and those will be decreased if there is a boycott. However, Itagaki loses, then would be the perfect time for gamers to vote with their wallets and take their money somewhere else.
Alternatively, rather then refusing to buy Tecmo games, this would be the perfect time, to show Tecmo just how much we enjoy Itagaki’s work. Rather then refusing to buy Tecmo games, instead, we only buy Itagaki’s games. All of them. And only the Tecmo games made by Itagaki. Have Itagaki make oodles of money for Tecmo showing two things.
- Itagaki is an asset that can make a lot of money for Tecmo, and thus they want him to work for them, and so they should reconcile.
- Itagaki is an asset that can make a lot of money for other companies, and so now that he’s on the market, they’ll want to hire him, so he gets a new job sooner.
Just my two bits.