Category: Uncategorized

Big Lots > Gamestop

I’m a lover of Big Lots which, despite its slogan, “Brand Name. Closeout Prices.” basically sells crap that other stores couldn’t sell. One of my most prized possessions is a can of Steven Segal Energy Drink that I got for 50¢.

I am moving so I need to make sure that all the lightbulbs in my old apartment work so that I don’t get charged for them. I figured that Big Lots would be a good place for cheap highly inefficient light bulbs. Well, I didn’t find light bulbs but I did find some sweet computer games. I got City of Villains for $4 and some random FPS game for $4 too. I also got the Species Trilogy for $7.

Gamestop and EB Games are dead to me. Big Lots is my videogame store now.

Florida’s long history of anti-videogame violence advocates

Today is when we are all supposed to learn the fate of Jack Thompson as Judge Tunis is expected to issue her recommendation on penalties for Thompson’s professional misconduct. It seems somehow appropriate then that today we look back at another Florida personality who was also supported legislation against selling violent videogames to minors.
From pages 16-18 of the May 1998 issue of Next Generation magazine comes the story “Outlawed in Orlando?”

Two politicians in Florida, Representative Barry Silver (Dem.) and Senator John Grant (Rep.), are promoting two bills that would “prohibit the public display of … videogames displaying graphic violence” throughout the state of Florida. Although the bills have a long way to go before becoming law, the IDSA (Interactive Digital Software Association), the videogame industry’s Washington D.C.-based watchdog organization, warns that Florida garners face a “very real threat” of widespread restrictions and maybe even a total ban. And if one state successfully adopts such a policy, others may follow.
The bills are primarily targeted at coin-op games featuring violent content “including, but not limited to: decapitation; dismemberment; repeated instances of blood-letting; or grotesque cruelty.” Grant and Silver want all coin-ops that feature such “graphic violence” removed from public areas, including theater lobbies and family arcades. “We’re taking this very seriously,” says Elliott Portnoy, counsel to the AAMA (American Amusement Machine Association), the coin-op industry’s trade organization. But what makes these bills threatening to all gamers are their vague and loose wording. Gail Markels, the IDSA’s general counsel, warns that, if passed, the law could be used to remove boxed games from store shelves, outlaw titles such as Mario and Crash Bandicoot, and even ban anyone under the age of 18 from entering an Electronics Boutique store. “We are always concerned when legislation is proposed,” warns Markels, “but these Florida bills are especially troubling because they are not limited by any strict definitions of what the proposed new law could do.”
The bills, tentatively labeled the Children’s Protection from Violence Act, take two virtually identical forms: Senate Draft SB696 and Florida House Bill HB3341. To take a step closer to becoming law, the bills next have to be approved by committee, and this is where videogame trade bodies such as the IDSA, the AAMA, and the AMOA (Amusement & Music Operators Association) are targeting
their defense.
“On a lobbying level, our response to the bill is essentially two-fold,” explains Markels. “First, we would educate the committee about the industry’s efforts to self regulate. The videogame industry already adheres to a voluntary system of ratings and has been applauded by politicians such as Senator Lieberman, who called the ESRB rating system the most comprehensive rating system in the entertainment media, and child advocacy experts such as Peggy Charren. As a result, we don’t believe that legislation is necessary because the industry has already stepped up to the plate. Second, prior attempts to restrict the availability of violent content to minors or adults have been

H 3341 Violent Video Game/Public Exhibition
H 3341 GENERAL BILL by Silver, (CO-SPONSORS) Bloom; Frankel; Betancourt; Fischer; Murman
Violent Video Game/Public Exhibition; provides definitions; prohibits public showing, display, or other exhibition of video games containing graphic violence in specified places; prohibits person who operates place of business where video games containing graphic violence are shown, displayed, or exhibited from knowingly permitting or allowing any person under 18 years of age to patronize, visit, or loiter in such place of business; provides penalties; provides applicability, etc.

stricken by the Supreme Court, which ruled that such efforts are unconstitutional.” Supporting Markels, claim is the 1989 Missouri case of the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association) versus Webster. In this instance the state of Missouri attempted to pass a law prohibiting minors from renting or buying videocassettes containing
violent content. The Federal Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, it was rejected, and the state of Missouri was ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees of $200,000. It’s worth noting that the content guidelines found on videocassette packaging — and even the ratings allocated to movies playing in theaters — are not backed up by any kind of law. Stores and movie theaters choose to enforce these voluntary guidelines, but they don,t have to. In fact, legislative attempts to require the enforcement of the MPAA rating system have been declared unconstitutional.
“The only type of content that can be subject to across-the- board restrictions is that which is deemed sexually obscene or harmful to minors in a sexual context,” Markels explains. The AAMA’s Portnoy concurs with Markels’ legal analysis and concludes that the game industry’s first line of defense has to include “convincing the decision makers in Florida that there,s no way this bill can pass constitutional muster.”
Bolstering this line of defense, John Fithian, legal counsel for the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), has pledged that his organization will help fight the bill with financial support, and Richard Holley, vice president of the AMOA, states, “We will offer every drop of support we have in .. doing whatever we have to do.” One of the first steps was commissioning 200 posters for Florida coin-op locations, aimed
at nurturing support and recognition for the parental guidance ratings that already accompany every title.
As Next Generation goes to press, the situation can be summarized as the game industry having effectively circled the wagons and established its defensive strategy. We’ll report developments as they happen — but for now, there seems little threat of any immediate action.
The proposition of the bill has been accompanied by the traditional huffing and puffing of politicians with honorable goals but a slender grip on the facts. Next Generation spoke to House Representative Barry Silver, co- proposer of the Florida bills, and the conversation went like this:
NG: Please can you explain the thinking behind your proposed Protection of Children from Violence bill?
Rep. Silver. Certainly. The bill is trying to allow our society to protect itself and its young people from the scourge of the rampant violence that permeates our society.
NG: A noble goal, I’m sure everyone would wish for less violence in our society. But how would your bill help achieve this?
Rep. Silver: The bill would prohibit the display of graphic video
violence in any public facility where children — people aged 17 or under — are allowed to congregate.
NG: OK, but how will this reduce the level of violence in society? [Pause]
Rep. Silver There’s a direct correlation between the viewing of violence and engagement in violence. This correlation is not 100%, in other words not everyone who views violence will act violently, but some will. Therefore, it is beyond dispute that because of the pervasiveness of violence in our media, it is transferring to our society, people are dying, and our communities are not as safe as they used to be.
NG: Do you have any proof of this? Rep. Silver What do you
mean, proof?
NG: Do you have any proof that people who are exposed to fictional violence in the media actually become more likely to commit acts of real violence in the real world? Rep. Silver There is plenty of proof. There is hard scientific evidence to support this. There are no researchers or experts who would dispute this.
NG: Um, I don’t think that this is actually the case. Can you cite any research or any experts who support your claim that your theory is, in fact, “hard scientific fact”?
Rep. Silver I don’t have anything in front of me or in my office. But I have professors and experts who will testify when the bill reaches the committee. You must have heard of all these studies that quite clearly show that when a group of children watch a violent movie, they behave in a more violent manner afterwards than a group of children who have watched a nonviolent movie.
NG: Um, no. I’ve heard of lots of studies that show that when watching violent movies children become excited and their adrenaline levels rise. This then, in the short term, leads them to become more physically active and “boisterous,” sure. But there’s a big difference between this and proof that they, in the long term, become more violent individuals. Besides, watching a football game or WWF has exactly the same effect.
Rep. Silver The real harm here isn’t that you get an adrenaline rush. The real harm is that gradually you get less and less of an adrenaline rush. Kids become desensitized. The real harm is that violence becomes more acceptable. The thrill that people might have one time experienced by watching violence becomes lessened with each exposure, and eventually, the only way to recapture this thrill is to engage in the real thing. And this means real violence in real life aimed against people or animals. NG: Again, do you have any proof? Rep. Silver Kids who play these games grow to feel that they are experts in this kind of violence. They then seek to test their skills in the real world. There’s lots of anecdotal evidence. Just recently there was the terrible case of a high-school kid who walked into a classroom with a gun and shot several of his classmates. Afterwards, he said that he had gotten the idea from a movie. There is too much of this kind of anecdotal evidence to ignore.
NG: That’s a terrible story. Professor Henry Jenkins of MIT believes that news footage or documentary footage of real-world violence is a lot more damaging to kids. And taking your argument to its logical extreme, can we take it that you would support banning the Bible or outlawing Disney movies? Both contain often extreme violence …

“Kids who play these games
grow to feel that they are experts in this kind of violence”
Barry Silver, House representative, Florida

Reps Silver: Merely because there may be many types of violence that might be dangerous to children doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t act in specific areas. But certainly, if it’s proven that exposure to nature documentaries and news footage is dangerous, then maybe we should be more cautious. But you must remember that news footage serves some public purpose, and videogames do not. Also, when a child watches news, he is just a passive observer. When he plays a videogame, he is a participant.
NG: Moving on, a couple of legal experts have told us that they believe your bill will prove to be unconstitutional. Something about the First Amendment …
Rep. Silver: No, this is not unconstitutional. I practice constitutional law, I am aware of the issues. I believe that the Constitution does not prevent society from protecting itself by taking reasonable measures against the scourge of violence.
NG: Have you sought the opinion of an attorney general to
confirm this?
Rep. Silver: No, I have not.
NG: Are you aware of the 1989 Missouri case of the VSDA versus Webster? The state was fined $200,000 after attempting to pass an unconstitutional law prohibiting the sale of violent videos
to minors.
Rep. Silver: Wow. That’s amazing. [Pause].
I don’t understand how that could have occurred. I don’t know Missouri law, but I do know this: In Florida and in every other state, it is constitutional and it is permissible for states to move against the exposure of sexual content to minors. I happen to believe that violence is equally, if not more damaging than sexually explicit material. Therefore, if it is permissible to act against one, surely it should be permissible to act against the other? If the studies indicate that children act out what they see in the media, which presents the greater danger to society? Children acting out acts of sexual explicity or extreme violence?
NG: It seems the focus of your bill is aimed at coin-op games in public
places. But the wording is a little ambiguous, and many people worry that the law could be extended to include home videogames for sale in stores. Is this your intention?
Rep. Silver. No, I hadn’t originally intended to do this. So no, I don’t think the law will stretch this far. If it’s just a box on a shelf, then I don’t see it being affected by this bill. But this is something for me to look into and something to consider.
NG: Have you anything else to add?
Rep. Silver: So far it seems that those who oppose this proposal are the people who believe that corporations have an absolute right to pervert and pollute the minds of young people for profit. I don’t happen to share this view.
Discussing this issue with such people as Mr. Silver is always disquieting because his intentions are, no doubt, honorable. Furthermore, most people in the videogame industry, Next Generation staff included, feel uncomfortable citing merely a “lack of hard evidence” as defense against accusations that violent videogames contribute to increasing violence in society. It’s a defensive stance, and it sounds worrying, similar to the, “There’s no unequivocal proof!” argument behind which the cigarette companies desperately hid for so many years. But whereas it’s long been obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that smoking cigarettes is bad for one’s health, the videogame/violence issue is a lot more complicated — and it’s up to magazines like Next Generation to make people aware of the broader questions:
Does violence in the media cause violence or merely reflect it?
Do human beings naturally have a certain amount of violence in their nature, violence that will always find an outlet no matter what society may do to suppress it?
Could videogames actually be a harmless, safe outlet for violent urges that otherwise may be directed at real people?
The fact of the matter is that no one knows for sure. Certainly, it’s obvious that the likes of House Representative Silver, while with noble intent, are simply offering knee-jerk reactions to a big, complicated problem they don’t fully understand. MIT Professor Henry Jenkins (interviewed
in NG 29) offers an alternative perspective. “The studies seem to suggest that children at an early age make meaningful distinctions between fiction and nonfiction,” he points out. “The violence that really disturbs them is the violence they can’t break down, the violence that they see as real. This means that the type of media violence that is worst for children is the nature documentaries in which predators eat their prey, or documentaries about [violent] historical events — and yet this is the stuff that teachers, educators, and media reformers think would be good TV for kids.”
“Besides, “Jenkins offers, “trying to stop children’s access to violent imagery in our culture is like trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a spoon. You just can’t do it. Violence is a part of who we are. Violence is so pervasive throughout childhood culture that it’s foolish to think you can stop it. If you are going to go down that path, then let’s get rid of all fairy stories, let’s get rid of Shakespeare. Why don’t we rewrite the Bible so Cain and Abel talk things out?”
He has a point, and it’s only reasonable to conclude that — ultimately — the jury’s still out on this one. And while we wait for concrete proof either way, shouldn’t individuals and parents have a right to choose for themselves? The videogame industry has already adopted a voluntary ratings system designed to give parents the opportunity to make informed choices. Congress is happy with it, child advocacy groups are happy with it, the industry itself is happy with it, and even good of Senator Lieberman’s happy with it — and we all know how hard he is to please.

“I happen to believe that violence is equally, if not more damaging than sexually explicit material”
Barry Silver, House representative, Florida
“Why don’t we rewrite the Bible so Cain and Abel work things out?”
Henry Jenkins, professor, MIT

Is “you need to play it on the original system” the new “you need to see it on the big screen?”

I saw a post over at Cyberzel’s Mind discussing, “Game Preservation and it got me thinking about the topic. With the popularity of the new console’s online stores and emulation of older consoles, is it ok to play emulators?

I’ve long played Nintendo games on my computer and I have played Super Mario Bros.3 and Legend of Zelda Link to the Past on my X-Box. I never really thought about emulation and I never had any qualms about emulation until recently. I’m going to be teaching a videogame course next semester and I found myself buying an Atari 2600 so that my students could play the games on the original system — particularly paddle games like Pong or Warlords.

Not only did I buy a 2600, I actually bought 2 since the first one I bought didn’t work (It did come with a bunch of games in the boxes though so that was pretty cool). So clearly I have some kind of thought process going on which says something akin to “these damn kids these day and their emulators! Why back in my day we had cartridges and our controllers only had one button and that’s the way we liked it!” On some level I’m saying, “It is ok for me to play old games on an emulator because I know what it was like to play them on the original machine. You need to learn what it is like to play the real thing!”

It is more nuanced than that though since if there was an easy way to use a 2600 controller on modern computers then I would do it(there was a 2600 to USB adapter but it doesn’t seem to be sold any more). So is the actual console irrelevant and the controller is actually the important part? Perhaps for me at least.

Of course that doesn’t explain why I don’t want to buy one of those Flashback units…

Ban These Evil (Video) Games (Ads)?

The UK’s Daily Mail once ran the front page headline, “Ban These Evil Games” but apparently the world of videogame culture is so vile and evil that we need to go beyond baning the games and taking up some sort of tobacco and alcohol style regulation of advertising and not even advertise games on public transportation. Or at least that is what some would have happen apparently.

With the imminent release of Grand Theft Auto 4, the advertising is in full swing including advertising on buses and bus stops. Now anyone on the inside of videogames and gaming culture would not be surprised that good old Jack Thompson doesn’t like the GTA4 ads but he isn’t alone. At least one local television station has complained about the ads and gotten them removed.

Of course the main rallying cry is “Think of the children!” and it isn’t just some reactionary “Vidja games am the eval!” moral panic, right? Because they would be upset no matter what violent (or uberviolent or ultraviolent or megaviolent or whatever word you want ot make up) and designed for adults form of entertainment was advertised on busses and other public places where children could see them, right? Right…

It is funny how all of these moral crusaders seemed to be looking the other way when The Sopranos was advertised on the side of a bus with a hand holding a handgun in place of the “r” in March. Or when The Sopranos was advertised by having a fake arm dangle out of the trunk of taxis implying that there was someone locked in the trunk. Or when The Sopranos rented out space in shoe store windows and placed “cement shoes” in the display window. Or when The Sopranos put stickers on taxis in Scotland that looked like bullet holes and blood.

But I’m sure that such oversites are just isolated incidents and these people really have the best interests of children in mind and not simply some moral panic, crusade, or ignorance of videogame culture or anything like that…

Computer Games Magazine to be Reborn???

It was a sad day in the gaming world when the news that Computer Games Magazine was shutting down. Well four months later there still hasn’t been any official word on the magazine and as a subscriber they still owe me some money (typically when a magazine is canceled they will just switch the remainder of your subscription to another magazine but even that hasn’t happened.). Curious as to what was going on I went over to their website. Seeing something on teh front page about a website redesign I went to their forums and found a thread with some good news:

The magazine was shut down in March and it took until the end of May to acquire it (and this site). We’re in the process of fixing a number of things simultaneously: Computer Games Magazine and sibling MMO Games Magazine (formerly MASSIVE magazine), plus, we’re re-launching both sites (sorry they’re a bit broken right now). Existing subscribers will absolutely be taken care of… All subscriptions will be honored when we re-launch (and we might even get you a subscription to another magazine in the meantime). Importantly, we are beginning the process of making all 197 back-issues of CGM available online in some form (a gigantic undertaking). We’re committed. We’re into it. We’re working like crazy. And, the same fine writers are still interested in continuing the excellence CGM readers have enjoyed for the past 20 years. Thanks for hanging in there.

I also noticed that the bottom of the webpage says that Computer Games is now owned by Polaris Media but it leads to a very spartan website which says little to nothing about who they are.

Regardless, it looks like there is hope that Computer Games Magazine will be coming back. That’s good news in my book. While websites have largely taken the place of videogame news I still have a fondness for magazines and Computer Games was, in my opinion, the best of the US-based magazines. They weren’t afraid to look beyond the new games and look at the culture of videogame players and videogaming’s role in society as well as how society viewed videogames — all things that other videogame magazines are sorely lacking. Here’s hoping that the reborn Computer Games will continue to look beyond exclusive previews and reviews.

I finally got around to playing Halo 2

I know, I’m only a little behind, but I finally got around to playing Halo 2. And I don’t mean the PC version. I mean the X-Box version. I saw it at the pawn shop (the best place to buy movies, in my opinion!) and bought it.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of the first Halo. I thought it was incredibly average and I really really hated the handling of the vehicles. So what do I think of Halo 2? It seems incredibly average and I really really hate the handling of the vehicles.

The mythology of the Halo universe is interesting enough. It is also interesting that they don’t really try to remind you of what is going on with the Flood and stuff. It has been three or four years since I’ve played the original Halo and I didn’t really remember what the Flood was about and stuff.

On the other hand, I am struck by how primitive the gameplay of Halo 2 is. There’s no physics. There’s no real interaction with the environment. I hadn’t noticed how common or expected those things had become in the FPS world until I played a game that didn’t have them. I’ve been playing some pretty obscure pc fps games lately like Chaser, Alpha Prime, and Red Ocean and they seemed more advanced than the evolved combat of Halo 2.

That doesn’t mean it is a bad game. However, what it does mean is that Halo 3 is going to have to be quite a bit different to be any good. It will have to include some of the features that have become commonplace since Half-Life 2 introduced us to the gravity gun. Whether or not Halo 3 actually includes things like the ability to pick up things and interact with the environment, it will be a success because of the number of people that will buy it as soon as it comes out. It doesn’t matter much to me personally though. I don’t have a 360. But it is only a matter of time before I see Halo 3 at the pawn shop. All games end up there eventually…

What I’m Buying…

In preparation to begin to prepare to get ready for my trip to Tokyo I asked a friend who has been to Japan for some books and he recommended these:

He didn’t recommend this next one but I heard about it and since I don’t know Japanese so I figured I would buy this too:

And finally, this is what I’m currently reading:


I’ve trimmed some of the dead blogs from the blogroll and updated some of the other broken links. If there are any other gaming blogs out there that I’m missing, let me know.

Personally, I’ve been accepted to the DiGRA Conference in Japan. That is pretty awesome. It will be the first time I’ve been to a non-English speaking country. …Of course that is if I can afford to go… So click on those ads over there! Jccalhoun needs the money!

Welcome to the new version

After many threats and/or promises I’ve tried to switch the main page to wordpress. It seems to work but I’ve had the old site pop up so this may not be seen by anyone!

If you do see it, let me know what you think. More important than the look should be the fact that the comments should be working. So leave a comment!

Pointless Wii box!

So I was at Target with a couple friends the other day looking for some costume stuff and I spot a Wii stand across the store. Hoping it was a gaming kiosk, i head over. Turns out it was just some Wii accessories. Most of it was generic stuff like skins for the controllers and stuff. One item they had, however, was just ponderous. They had a Wii “Metal Box with Magnets” (which you can see here.

As my friends and I were examining it, another guy came up an asked us what it was. “That’s just what we were trying to figure out.” And we never did… We never did…