Category: opinion

Could Copy protection on VIdeogames Go the Sony Route???

With all of the media press about Sony CD’s installing rootkits on computers, I began to think, what else is being installed when we put disks in our computers? There are always those stupid Interactual players that want to install on dvds. There are reports that those detect things like Alcohol 120%. Already notorious for refusing to run when certain programs are installed are some videogames which use copy protection schemes.
When we put a cd or dvd in our computers, we can always hold shift or click no to prevent stupid software from being installed on our computers. However, what are we supposed to do if videogame manufacturers start using root kits? We have to install the videogames, so there isn’t any way to know what else they are installing at the same time. There is no reason to beleive that sometime soon, if it hasn’t already happened, that some videogame installer will, in fact, install a root kit on our computers. After all, Sony makes computer games too…

ALso of note, not content to threaten the Florida State Bar Association, or the judge who took him off the Strickland vs Sony case, now Thompson has taken to threatening Amazon.com. He has even gone so far as to post his own review/rebuttal on Amazon.com.

For me, the most disturbing part of Thompson’s rebuttal is something that he does quite frequently: mixing his faith with his opinions. He consistently expresses the belief that if you disagree with him and do not think that videogames are violent, then not only are you not a Christian, but you are actively anti-Christian. In his world-view, it seems that the only reason you dislike him is because he is a Christian and if you disagree with him you are anti-Christian. This kind of “you are either with us or against us” mentality is more dangerous than his beliefs on videogames.

Can you define cinematic???

One of my least favorite words is “cinematic” because it seems to mean practically anything — especially when it comes to videogames. How often have we heard something in a videogame called, “cinematic?” The problem, however, is that it is an undefined term! What does cinematic mean???

Sure, cinematic, at it’s simplest level means something “like or of cinema” or “having the qualities of cinema.” But no one ever talks about the unique qualities of cinema when they use the term when talking about other mediums. It seems to me that when many people use the term, they aren’t even talking about the unique qualities of cinema, but qualities of cinema that may be evident in other mediums.

So my question is, does anyone actually define what they mean by “cinematic?” While some of the medium specificity stuff from early film theory is useful, I’ve not been able to track down anyone who actually defines cinematic. Surely someone out there has bothered to define it, haven’t they? If anyone knows of a definition of cinematic, please leave a comment!

Back in the USA

Well, here I am, finally back home from DiGRA2005. I hate travelling ever so much. As someone who is 6ft 4, 225lbs, I am not made to ride in teh back of a crowded plane! Thankfully it was only two timezones away. Those brave souls from other continents have my sympathy.

The conference was grand. I’ll post more of my thoughts on specific things in the days to come as I recover from the travel. For someone who grew up in a small town in Indiana, Vancouver was quite an experience. Because I am cheap, I went to Orbitz and booked the cheapest relatively close to the conference hotel I could find and, unfortunately, I booked a hotel in the ghetto and the hotel room was the smallest EVAR. The taxi driver who took me from the airport even told me not to go out after dark. It was really weird that even though my hotel was on the hotel was on the same street as the conference hotel and only 15 blocks away, about 10 of those blocks were full of boarded up buildings, hoemless and crackheads. Then suddenly, after those ten blocks, it was full of skyscrapers, suits and tourists. Citys are odd places. However, I didn’t have any problems — although I find the suits more repugnant than the homeless…

The best part of the confernce for me was to finally be able to put some faces with names of my fellow bloggers. I had a good time talking with Lars Konzack, and Cyberzel among lots and lots of other people — including someone from Indiana University I had never heard from before!!!

To finish this post up, here is a round-up (in no particular order) of bloggers who beat me to the punch and already posted about DiGRA (some folks more than once!):

Greg Costikyan
Robin Hunicke
William Huber
Cindy Poremba
Andrew Stern
Greg Lastowka
Lars Konzack
Cyberzel
Jason Rhody
Jonas Heide Smith
Jesper Juul .

And there are lots of pictures as well (including some of me looking really enthusiastic!):
Flickr pics
Grand Text Auto and
shinyspinning

360 degrees of… nothing?

So the biggest gaming news of the week was the big MTV Xbox 360 unveiling. LIke most people, I found it to be totally vapid and lame. (If you didn’t catch it, there are torrents out there) For those looking for more substance, there is the ourcolony video as well as tons of other previews.

This makes me wonder why Microsoft (oops, I’m sorry, I mean Micro$oft!) is doing it this way. What seems to be going on is a dual pronged launch. The MTV for the mainstream people and the online stuff for the hardcore. However, I can’t imagine that the MTV special got anyone excited. It was the exact same thing as the SpikeTV Videogame Awards — a great example of people who don’t play videogames trying ever so hard to make videogames cool. The similarities were striking. The same big warehouse that was dimly lit with laser beams flashing, the same lack of actual videogame content, and many of the same b-grade celebrities. Wow, Elijah Wood plays videogames! (While I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, is there anyone that would describe Elijiah Wood as cool??) This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since MTV and SpikeTV are both owned by Viacom.

While this might make the case against media consolidation as well as the case that corporations are full of incompetent people, it also brings us back to Microsoft. If there is any company that is less cool or less sexy than Microsoft, I can’t imagine what it is. However, even Microsoft must have realized that this MTV thing wasn’t going to satisfy gamers, so they hedged their bets with Our Colony. But if you go to google news and search for Xbox, you’ll get lots of hits, but not much coverage from mainstream media. Perhaps the real coverage will come next week with E3, but right now, it doesn’t seem like the mainstream media cares. Is Microsoft just throwing money out the window with this then? Sure, they can afford to, but is any of this working? Gamers online are excited about it, but does anyone else care?

I’ve got no thesis statement. I’ve got not real point here, but the vapid wasteland of the MTV spot combined with the more substantial our colony video as well as the near-astroturfing of the gaming sites makes for interesting advertising. Is it significant the an online video that is only a few minutes long seems to be much better received and much more news worthy than a 30 minute program on MTV? Who knows. But it sure is interesting to kick back and see the hype unfold. The real test will be on the day the Xbox 360 goes on sale.

Sick! Sick! Sick!

I’m at that stage where I can feel the flu coming on and I’m dreading it. I just have to stay healthy until Tuesday and then my papers will be written. Just ’till Tuesday.
On another note, over at Gamasutra, there is a new article entitled, “The Psychology Behind Games” that uses Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s notion of flow. I wish I’d thought of that.
Of course I’m just kidding. I did write (link to rtf file) about it and it was a chapter in my Master’s thesis. While it seems obvious that it should be applied to developement of games rather than just analysis, I chose not to do so since that wasn’t my interest. It is interesting to see someone take that viewpoint on it. It certainly never hurts to have someone else write about Flow. Maybe sometime the idea will catch on.

A “Far Cry” from how it used to be…

A long time ago I wrote:

Dear Game Developers,
Stop pissing me off. Let me use both of my cd drives when I install your games.
Thank You.

Well, yesterday I saw Far Cry on sale for $19.99 and so I bought it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the DVD version, but the 5 CD version. I got home and began to install it. I put disk one in my main cd drive (which is of course a dvd drive…) and put disk 2 in my other cd drive (which, of course, is also a dvd drive… see a pattern here?). I had anticipated on trying to switch the drive letter when it asked for disk 2. However, imagine my surprise when it asked for disk 3! It automatically knew that I had disk 2 in the other drive and didn’t even ask me for it. Sweet! I applaud Crytek or ubisoft or whoever it was that made the installer smart enough to know I have two disk drives!

However, as far as the game itself goes… All of you people that gave it 90% and higher. Where can I get some of that crack you’re smoking? I mean, I’m only an hour into it or so, but the game seems really blaa and unremarkable. Sure it is all outside, but that’s more or less the only remarkable feature I’ve seen so far. Of course I have barely gotten into it, so I won’t judge it too harshly, yet. It might get more awesomness-ativity later on.

In other news, I’m heading up to Chicago Monday to take in the Game On exhibit. I’ve been waiting for this to get stateside since I got the book and wrote a review of it (thank goodness for Archive.org! even though Joystick101 is back online, the archives seem to be missing and I can’t find my original copy of the review). I’ll be sure to give my rundown of the exhibit when I get back in town. Check out some other people’s comments over at slashdot.

Different (Red) Factions, Different Experiences

In my continuing marathon of gaming before classes start again, I’ve completed Deus Ex 2 and have finished playing Red Faction 2. Notice I didn’t say I completed it. I couldn’t force myself to make it through the final boss battle but other than that, both games were fun in their own way. I must admit that after playing Doom 3, Half-Life 2 and Deus Ex 2, to start up Red Faction 2 was quite a shock. I have written before that the graphics of the new games were pretty naturalized for me and I didn’t really notice them. However, when I saw Red Faction 2’s two year old graphics, I suddenly did appreciate the prettiness of the other games, especially when I jumped into Counter-Strike:Source or HL2 Deathmatch.

Because I went from Deus Ex 2 to Red Faction 2, in addition to comparing their graphics, I also couldn’t help myself from comparing other aspects. The first thing I noticed was that both games betray their console heritage. I played both of them on my l33t computer, rather than the x-box and while both played find with keyboard and mouse, there were obvious consessions made for the consoles. The most talked about console feature in Deus Ex 2 was the small levels and the frequent loading. Interestingly, Red Faction 2 had small levels too, but they weren’t nearly as frustrating as Deus Ex 2’s — and in fact, because Red Faction 2 doesn’t feature any in game saves — another console carry over — the short levels were actually welcome. That I found myself hoping to end the level in Red Faction 2, and thus automatically save my progress, and yet dreading loading a level in Deus Ex 2 was interesting. Constant backtracking was the reason why the small levels in Deus Ex stuck out so much. I especially dreaded settings like Cairo where you had to backtrack through one level just to get to the other level you wanted to go to. I found myself longing for the little lightening bolt thingys that Riven had where you could just zip past things and skip the stuff in between. Red Faction 2, on the other hand, is purely linear with no backtracking through levels.

So we have one game that features non-linear gameplay, which is supposed to be the hottness, and one that features linear gameplay, which is supposed to be lame and broke-down, and yet the linear gameplay is less frustrating. Now I’m not saying red Faction 2 is better than Deus Ex 2 because I don’t think that is the case at all. I’m saying that gameplay is meaningless if the technology behind it isn’t up to par. Deus Ex 2 looked pretty and had progressive gameplay, but the technology of the levels hindered the gameplay and made it frustrating. Red Faction 2, on the other hand, managed to somehow turn 3 liabilities – short levels, linear gameplay, and no in-game saves, which are both technological limits and non-progressive gameplay, and make it work.

Red Faction 2 had a lot of other problems, losing the Mars setting, continued underuse of their Geo-Mod technology, stupid cut scenes, and lame characters just to name a few, but they managed to make an OK game. Playing these two games back to back made me stop and rethink the relationship between gameplay and technology and how gameplay needs to work with the limits of the game engines to hide the limitations of the engine. For the most part Red Faction 2 managed to hide the limitations of their engine, while Deus Ex 2’s gameplay unfortunately highlighted the limitations of its engine.

Civilization and Colonialism and Empire

I just turned in my paper about Colonialism and Empire in the Civilization series. I’m certainly not the first to write about it. However, it did take me a while to hunt down those who have. So in the interests of making it easier for people to find sources about colonialism and empire in Sid Meier’s Civilization series, here is my Works Cited:

WORKS CITED

Avalon Hill.  “Civilisation.”  1981.
Bako Bitz.  “The Culture of Civilization III.”  Jan. 15, 2002.  Joystick101.org.  Dec. 7, 2004 <http://web.archive.org/web/20040324004449/http://www.joystick101.org/story/2002/1/12/222013/422>.

“Civilization (board game).”  Wikipedia.  Dec. 7, 2004 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_board_game>.
“The Civilization Legacy.”  The Official Civilization III Web Site.  Dec. 7, 2004 <http://www.civ3.com/legacy.cfm>.
Chick, Tom. “The Teaching Game:  All I Really Need to Know I
Learned in Civilization.”  Jan 2002. CGOnline.com.   <http://web.archive.org/web/20020124200343/http://www.cgonline.com/features/020118-c2-f1.html>.

Civ3.com. The Official Civilization III Web Site.  Dec. 7, 2004 <http://civ3.com/>.
Civilization 3 Complete. Atari, 2004.  
Douglas, Christopher.  “‘You Have Unleashed a Horde of
Barbarians!’: Fighting Indians, Playing Games, Forming Disciplines.”
 Post Modern Culture 13.1 (Sep, 2002).  Dec. 7 2004.
 <http://alpha.furman.edu/~cdouglas/barbarian.htm>.
Friedman, Ted.  “Civilization and Its Discontents: Simulation,
Subjectivity, and Space.” Nov. 22, 1997.  Personal Site.

 Dec. 7, 2004 <http://www.duke.edu/~tlove/civ.htm>.
Guha, Ranajit. Introduction.  A Subaltern Studies Reader,
1986-1995. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
 ix-xxii.
Lammes, Sybille. “On the Border: Pleasures of Exploration and Colonial
Mastery in Civilization III Play the World.” Level Up: Digital Games
Research Conference.   Eds. Copier, Marinka and Joost Raessens.
 Utrecht: Utrecht University, 2003, 120-29
Mehta, Uday Singh.  Liberalism and Empire: A Study in
Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought.  Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1999.

Memmi, Albert.  The Colonizer and the Colonized.  London, Beacon, 1965 (1957).
Meyers, David.  “Bombs, Barbarians, And Backstories:
Meaning-Making Within Sid Meier’s Civilization.”  Forthcoming in
Ludologica: Videogames D’autore: Civilization And Its Discontents.
Vitual History. Real Fantasies. Ed. Matteo Bittanti.  Milan,
Italy: Edizioni Unicopli.  <http://www.loyno.edu/%7Edmyers/F99%20classes/Myers_BombsBarbarians_DRAFT.rtf>.
Moumouni.  “Pretty Historically Correct.” Jan. 20, 2002.  Joystick101.org.  Dec. 7, 2004.  <http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:mSg0dZG2sg8J:www.joystick101.org/comments/2002/1/12/222013/422/13++site:www.joystick101.org++%22culture+of+CIVILIZATION+III&hl=en>.

Poblocki, Kacper.  “Becoming-State. The Bio-Cultural Imperialism
of Sid Meier’s Civilization.”  Focaal — European Journal of
Anthropology 39 (2002): 163-177.  <http://www.focaal.box.nl/previous/Forum%20focaal39.pdf >.
Sartre, Jean-Paul.  “Introduction.”  The Colonizer and the
Colonized.  By Memmi, Albert.  London, Beacon, 1965 (1957).
Squire, Kurt.  Replaying History: Learning World History Through
Playing Civilization III.  Diss. Indiana University, 2004.

Stephenson, William. The Microserfs are Revolting: Sid Meier’s Civilization II. Bad Subjects 45 (Oct 1999). Dec, 7 2004 <http://bad.eserver.org/issues/1999/45/stephenson.html >.
“Wargaming.”  Wikipedia.  Dec. 7, 2004 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wargaming>.

My (Half-Life) 2 Cents Worth

While I didn’t stay up late for the unocking of Half-Life 2, I did get up a bit early to play and in teh hour and a half I’ve played, I give it thumbs up. I like the consistency of the sounds for things and I find the game to be a much more tense experience than the first one so far. Graphics are pretty but, like Doom 3, I find myself numb to them after a while and just sort of expect things to look that well. OK, back to playing… You know it really is inconsiderate of Valve to release this game right when I am supposed to be writing papers and grading!!!

You Don’t Know Jack… Thompson

There are two old sayings, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt” and “Brevity is the soul of wit.” However, when it comes to certain people, these sayings are fairly contradictory.

Our favorite anti-videogame lawyer, Jack Thompson has been answering some questions and the answers aren’t quite what some were expecting.

Over at Kotaku, when they aren’t busy making witty comments about my purchasing habits, have been having an email conversation with Jack Thompson who has provided some very short, but very telling answers to their questions.

Over at slashdot, the story was posted and some people don’t seem to want to believe it is legit. I feel fairly certain that this is indeed consistent with the Jack we all know and love. I made the following post:

People are saying that this is fake. But based on other email
comments I have seen from Jack Thompson, this is totally keeping in
line with his responses.

In a thread on a videogame forum
there are people who claim that they have
emailed Thompson and got such pithy responses as: “the rubbish is up
your cranium, take it out,” “you’re biased against lawyers. grow a
brain,” “No, actually it’s all about ignorant gamers,” “You don’t know
my motives, so don’t try guessing,” and “children are allowed to buy
them. do your research, junior.”

In another email exchange I’ve found, he basically says, that he would rather sue videogame companies than have laws passed.

Finally, Thompson is also famous for being the lawyer behind
the Two Live Crew obsenity trials, , and most bizarrely, claiming that Janet Reno was unfit for office in Florida
because she was gay and people would blackmail her because
of it (except by making a public deal of it, wouldn’t that make it
impossible to blackmail her). As well as harrassing a local DJ Neil Rogers who had to get a restraining order taken out against against him.

In short, Jack Thompson is certainly 100% capable of the odd
responses stated in the article. There is actually lots more odd things
that this lawyer has done. Do a search for “jack Thompson” and
videogames and tons of stuff will come up about him.

I find the fact that some are hesitant to believe that a lawyer would respond in or act in such a manner to be very interesting. It is because of this that I have decided that Jack Thompson and his anti-videogame violence efforts are in fact NOT real. He is, as U2 said, even better than the real thing. And what better type of layer to have crusading against a virtual entertainment than one that is hyperreal, or simulacra.

He is against a medium that some could argue is composed of simulacra (simulacri?), says things that we don’t believe are true and people don’t believe that he actually said the things people attribute to him.

Jack Thomson: Postmodern Attorney. You don’t have to believe in him because he doesn’t believe in you.