Category: opinion

First I defend GTA IV and now I Disagree with Those who “Defend” it… I’m complex…

So in my last post I criticized those who thought that Grand theft Auto 4 ads were so horrible they should be removed even though they didn’t have any problem with much more explicit ads for Sopranos.

Now I’m making a post criticizing those who criticized those who criticized GTA IV. Boingboing.net the self-proclaimed directory of wonderful things has posted a link and summary of the link titled, “Grand Theft Are You Fcking Kidding Me. The link is to someone named Susannah Breslin who criticizes Jack Thompson and the blog Feministing for criticizing GTA IV. Now I’m certainly not concerned about someone criticizing Jacko. And while I usually agree with Feministing I’m not so upset with someone criticizing them either.

What I’m upset about is the way in which Breslin attempts to refute Feministing. Feministing wrote, “It is no question that GTA is merely reflective of the bigger misogyny embedded in capitalist patriarchy, but the question is why is a game that depicts such violence towards women so popular?” How did Breslin respond? She wrote, “Jesus Christ, if this is what degrees in gender studies hath wrought, polysyllabic bloggers still carping about the patriarchy, please fucking stop handing them out.” Then she followed up with “Did we not hunt down all the feminists and shut them up already?” and argues that Feministing is wrong by asserting that men treat women like crap and like prostitutes (implying that all men do that and not just some) and writing that “men seek out prostitutes because prostitutes let men express themselves ruthlessly. With utter impunity. Because if you pay her, you don’t have to feel guilty” as if all of that proves Feministing wrong.

My reaction to this post is in no way a condemnation of GTA. I don’t have a current gen system so I can’t play GTA 4. I have played the previous GTA games and they are, like R rated films, meant for adults. The play mechanic of running over people, including prostitutes, is way over hyped by the sensationalistic media and that is not even to mention that ignorant people keep claiming that there is rape in Grand Theft Auto 3 when there is no such thing.

My reaction is a condemnation of summary dismissal of raising questions about what the depiction of women in the game means and the implication that not only is it an accurate depiction of the world but that all men are like that and that we should just shrug our shoulders in response and say “that’s just the way the world is.”

In all honestly, I’m not really concerned that someone posted some off-based defense of GTA IV. I’m saddened that Boingboing would link to this post, seemingly without irony. Really? This is what Boingboing things is a wonderful thing? I thought they were better than this.

Edit:
So apparently not only is Boingboing anti-feminist and anti-intellectual, they don’t like criticism either because one of my posts got censored. That’s two strikes…

Despite the best intentions gaming the library initiatives can have some odd results

Apparently today is “gaming in your library day.” While there is some controversy over having games at the library, I’m all for it. After all libraries have had movies and music for years so why not games?

While the university has had little extension library things in the dorms that rented out games and movies for years it is only in the last few months that they main library has begun to rent out games. They have a small collection of xbox, 360, PS2, PS3, Gamecube, and Wii games. Imagine my surprise though when I notice a floppy disk version of Dig Dug:
Dig Dug C64
Then I took a closer look at it and not only is it a floppy disk but it is for the Commodore 64!
Dig Dug C64

I can only imagine where they found that disk gathering dust back on some shelf somewhere.

If that weren’t interesting enough, I was in the library today and noticed two games had been added to the collection:
H.E.R.O. 2600
H.E.R.O. for the Atari 2600
Ghostbusters NES
and Ghostbusters for the NES.

I can only imagine how many other games they have floating around in the system somewhere. Of course it isn’t unusual that they would have some unusual items in a system as large as IU’s library but it does seem kind of unusual that they would put them out on the shelf. It makes me feel like hooking up my Atari and NES just so I can check out a couple of these!

When Did Videogame Ads Get Such Odd music?

Once upon a time you could count on videogame ads to either have agro angry rock in it or pretentious orchestral music. Not any more. They have weird music in them. The first one that I noticed was the Gears of War Trailer featuring Mad World.

Then Lost Odyssey had Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit

Now Grand Theft Auto 4 has Miles Davis’ Move

Maybe it is just me but it is just kind of odd to hear Miles Davis in commercials for a videogame.

Farewell to Break…

Appropriately as my spring break ends I finished Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It only took me something over a decade. Maybe one of these days I’ll finish Super Mario Brothers…

It was fun but like the Final Fantasy games I don’t really feel any need to go on to finish Ocarina of time. Maybe at some point I will but not now. Needs more guns.

Forget “Where’s the Stephen King of Gaming?” Where’s Stephen King’s games?

I was reading another one of these articles about the Shakespeare or gaming or the Stephen King of gaming and I began to think: Why aren’t there Stephen King videogames? Or at least games based on Stephen King books?

Clive Barker has lent his name to a couple of games, Undying and Jericho, but why hasn’t someone licensed Stephen King’s work? He has lent his name to at least one software title, Stephen King’s F13 (Gamespot has some images) but that was apparently some sort of screensaver-type thing and not an actual game.

Moreover, why isn’t there a John Grisham, Clive Cussler, or some other writers games? There have been games based on dead authors such as HP Lovecraft and Agatha Christie as well as literary characters such as Dracula and Sherlock Holmes (although those characters have been used by so many medium it is difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t appear in videogames). Of course there have been games based on movies based on books too such as Tolkien and JK Rowling but I’m not sure if those count.

Tom Clancy has made a lot of money from the Rainbow Six games an others. So why haven’t other authors tried to get in on the act? They can’t all be Luddites can they? I’m sure that someone has approached King about making a Shining or The Stand game but why didn’t they go through. Certainly the task of converting a novel to a game would be really tough but Is HP Lovecraft’s world can inspire a game couldn’t King’s? If Agatha Christie could inspire a game couldn’t Sue Grafton?

Where are the book-based games?

This is where I make the confession that removes any credibility I had left…

I don’t get Team Fortress 2. Maybe it is because I haven’t played enough of it but I don’t see what is so great about it. You run around you get killed you respawn. I spend a lot more time playing Zombie Master than I do TF2. Also, when is Monolith going to sue for stealing not only the style but also the music from No One Lives Forever? I realize they probably don’t have any basis for suing but, man, they should get a “special thanks to” credit or something.

I know, I know, I’ve lost all cred. How do you think I feel? You can just stop reading this crap. I have to live it!

Is there a place where in-game advertising could work?

Our department has just had the 3rd and final candidate for our digital media position come in. I’ve got no special insight as to who, if anyone, might get the job and I’m not going to share my opinions on the matter. However, one of the candidates discussed mods. Like a lot of FPS players I play my fair share of mods. From Counter-Strike to Zombie Master I’ve spend hours playing fan made games (Yes I was playing CS long before Valve bought them. I still miss the VIP and Jailbreak modes!).

I started thinking about the role of advertising in games. We all hate advertising. Why should we pay full price for a game only to have it plastered with ads? I also thought about some of the backlash to the news that Garry’s Mod would start charging $9.95 for updates.

I also thought about the fact that from a Marxist perspective the practice of having fans create mods for commercial games is kind of exploitative. The only reason why game makers encourage mods is so that it will get people to buy their game. So, like “crowd sourcing” and much of web 2.0, the corporations are getting rich off of the unpaid work of the fans. No wonder so many mods never come out.

So I began to wonder, is there a solution? Would people accept ad supported free mods? I think it is a pretty good solution. Players still get free games. Mod makers get a little money for their efforts and they get some monetary incentive to keep working on their mod which might lead to more mods actually coming out and more timely releases which would make the fans happier.

So would people accept ad supported mods? Is that a place where in-game ads might actually be accepted?

the incestuous nature of the gaming blogs revealed

I’ve written about Jack Thompson a time or two and whenever I see a Jacko story posted I’m eager to see the latest of his shenanigans. I’ve even got a special search category for Jack Thompson stories on my google news papge. So imagine my delight when I hit up news.google this morning and see several stories about Take-Two suing Jack Thompson.

Of those stories only one, kotaku, sources gamepolitics as the origin of the story. The date on that game politics story?
March 18, 2007
.

As far as I can tell someone at Kotaku screwed up and the other sites just ran with it and neither credited Kotaku nor Gamepolitics as the source of the story.

Before this i thought it was mainly just digg that attracted lame sites that lifted stories from websites, posted it on their own site without credit and tried to get pageviews but it looks like there are a lot of these crap sites out there.

Is this what the gaming and tech blog world has come to? Are these stories all just simulacra that have no real origin or that have no originality to them? Not only are these sites lame for picking up on a months old story but they are also a signifier of the absent referent that the internet is in danger of becoming. Linking was make for a reason, people. Is the thought of getting some ad revenue so great that you won’t take two seconds to read the entire story or at least link to the source of the article so that we can do your work for you and see if the article is valid or not. It is as if these blogs were some kind of game of telephone with one posting something then another reposting it with or without credit and then another
reposting that story. Each adds their own details and soon a story from March becomes front page news on their website. Is this the death of the author? Or is it possible that the Cult of the Amateur really does exist and Andrew Keen isn’t as wrong as everyone, myself included, seems to think he is? Noooooooo!!!!!!!!

Start of the new semester

Once again another semester has started. This will probably be my last semester here at IU Bloomington since I’ve applied for a teaching fellowship at one of the satellite IU campuses (I’ve tentatively accepted an offer from one but the paperwork hasn’t gone through I I’ll wait to mention which one lest I jinx it!)

Over the break I started playing a coupel games I thought I would mention. The first is probably not new to a lot of people: Peggle which is kind of a cross between Pachinko, The Price is Right’s Plinko, and bumper pool.
The next is probably less familiar but just as addictive to those of us that love FPS games and zombies: Zombie Master. There’s also Zombie Panic but I’ve not gotten around to playing that yet. ZM is kind of a combination between a FPS and an RTS with the zombie master playing from overhead god mode and using a control panel to spawn computer controlled zombies. I think I like it partially because of the zombies but also because the fact that they are zombies means that they are mostly slow which means that it isn’t really an advantage to use hacks or cheats and you don’t die right away from a headshot like you do in Counter-Strike. There also isn’t much trashtalking because you are all on one team and the zm will be someone different next round.

The final game I’m playing is probably the most obscure: You Are Empty. It is a Russian-made FPS that is set in the 50s-era Soviet Union (what is it with Eastern Europeans making FPSs lately?) It features mentally ill or handicapped people wearing head restraints and straitjackets running at you with sharp sticks, firefighters with flamethrowers, and ten feet tall killer chickens. To the best of my knowledge it is a 100% accurate depiction of life in Soviet Russia…

I have no idea what the name of it means but it is like 90% of the way to a decent game. It looks kind of like Half-Life 2 with the setting of a worn down deteriorating city but it lacks the Source engine’s physics or ability to pick as many things up. The main character is also the slowest character ever. He may be on crutches or in a wheelchair for all I can tell because when you are trying to run from a giant chicken you feel nothing but frustration. I wish they could give the company another 6 months to polish it (perhaps they need to Polish it to make it up to snuff?) or that someone would remake it for a better engine.

It wasn’t all great gaming over the semester break though as I did experience one gaming-related heartache. I tried to play Bioshock but my videocard is only a shader model 2.0b card and it requires a 3.0 card. There is a hack to make it work with my card but it says it could take up to 15 minutes to load a level. I think I’ll wait. Regardless, until I upgrade I’ll have to start reading minimum system requirements. Nooooo…!!!! The horror! The horror!

Is the emotional content of videogames underrated?

For several years there has been that lingering question, “when will videogames make us cry?” and while I think that is a totally loaded question second only to “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” the ability of videogames to create emotional reactions in the players is something that a lot of people are concerned about. However, I have been wondering later if videogames are already causing players to feel emotions. Besides feelings of pride, joy, and frustration which we feel while playing, there is also the emotional attachment that we feel long after we have finished playing the game.

I haven’t played a Thief game since the last one came out in 2004 but I still have a strong attachment to those games and the character of Garrett. People have tons of Mario merchandise. Lara Croft was a huge phenomenon. While playing GTA: San Andreas I was pissed when the game forced me to detour away from the relationship between the main character and his friends when you were forced to flee from the city. I wanted to interact with them more, not go off and learn to fly a plane or deal with the running of a casino.

Why else would the new game consoles have the ability to play old games? Why else would I still have my Atari? It is the emotional attachment to the games and the experiences we had playing them. While these aren’t the same kind of emotions that we experience when watching some movie about someone dying of cancer just when they find the love of their life but it sticks with you and you feel attached to the game and the characters.

Those are emotions of a different kind. Just because games aren’t very good at making us cry doesn’t mean that they can’t make us feel something.