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Saturday, October 22, 2005


What an odd grasp of the English language BatJack must have.

When he tries to write satire, it comes out parody. When he issues a challenge, it's actually a joke. When he makes an offer, it's sometimes a lie. And when he tries to insult a group of people, it turns into a slogan.

Pixelantes. It's catchy. It's also funny that BatJack likes to scoff at the notion of gamer community. Yet, when he attacks one of our own the response is swift, the response is loud and the response is productive. Gamers have taken Jack's ridiculous attack and turned it into a charitable event. That's pixelantism, people.

Mine should arrive in the office in due time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Daily Show Got Doomed

I really felt for Stewart last night. Jon is so clearly a gamer, a real hardcore gamer. He's made references to beating hookers for money on the air. He's not kidding around.

So to watch him get very excited to hold the BFG prop and talk to The Rock about the movie version of the game was just kinda .... weird. For instance, Jon kept making references to Hell. For any Doom fan, this would be an obvious path. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't feature any demons or teleportation accidents .... just genetic freaks.

I was explaining this to The Girl, that essentially the entire plot of Doom can be phrased with just a handful of nouns. Mars. Teleportation. Hell. Escape. That's pretty much it. Now, the movie originally didn't even have Mars. So ... it was batting like 1 for 4. Now it's only at 50%. How hard can it be to copy a plot so simple? What possible reason for changing it would anyone have?

Stupid Hollywood. What's the inevitable result? That's right, apparently the movie sucks something hard. And that first person sequence IGN raved about? According to Steve Rhodes, "the painfully long and insufferable last act is like being stuck in a bad first-person shooter video game nightmare."

Jeepers. Do the world a favor. Go see Serenity this weekend instead.

More Indie Round-Up

The Game Tunnel has posted another round-up of reviewage for Indie titles. There's a long list of Silver Awards this time around.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Best White Noise Evah

I swear I saw this on BoingBoing at some point, but I stumbled onto The Quiet American today. Serious remixing and mastering of real world sounds into long, haunting and often beautiful audio tracks.

Hunting Jack Thompson

Be vewwwwy quiet. We're hunting nutcases.

Hunting, of course, in a figurative sense. It's definately time to alert media organizations that his appearance constitutes bad journalism and that gamers aren't afraid to voice that fact. So what is a JackHunter to do? Here is a couple thoughts.

#1 Don't Talk To Jack
Look, Jack's proven time and time again that polite conversations with gamers is merely a passing interest for him. Basically, the bigger the media outlet you are - the more polite he becomes. He is that kind of attention whore. So to email him directly is futile and only makes him feel special. It's pointless to discuss things with him.

Should he contact you, I'd just ignore him. If there's ever a cold day he emails this blog, I'll just send him an email explaining that I appreciate all comments but sadly my hobbies take too much time to respond to every comment. However, if he would like to meet up in Guild Wars sometime, that would be fine.

#2 Proof It
Media outlets have to read stuff all day long. So do them the courtesy of using good grammar, spelling, etc. This isn't some fansite message forum where emoticons outweigh punctuation.

#3 Keep It Calm
It's one thing to call a news organization on using bad judgement, it's another to call them names. Keep it civil, keep it mature. Long rants will likely not be taken seriously.

So then ... what should one tell a news outlet? Here's a few quick facts:

  • Jack makes several outrageous claims. This includes comparing people to Nazis, comparing Doug Lowenstein to Saddam Hussein and connecting Bill Gates to the Malvo killings. He has also shown a habit of paranoid behavior, stating that game consoles brain wash people and that Sony is training an army of child assassins. These statements have lead some to question his sanity.

  • Jack continues to make claims which have been proven false or at least disreputed. This includes connections between video games and the Columbine murders as well as between video games and the Devin Moore case ... both instances of theories thrown out of court. Jack's repeated public statements of this nature nearly earned him a gag order from the judge of the Devin Moore trial.

  • Jack often misquotes or makes misleading comments about actual facts and events. His abuse of scientific research has lead Dr. Walsh to request that Thompson stop referencing him publically, since his organization NIMF does not want to be connected with his claims. It also includes recent statements about Paramount's handling of the movie The Warriors. Anything statement Jack Thompson makes needs to be vetted thoroughly for voracity.

  • Jack recently offered $10,000 in charitable donations if someone made a game of his design. He later rescinded this offer. In his stead, the gamer comic Penny Arcade made the donation in his name. To thank them, Thompson called them "idiots" and threatened legal action. He even faked faxing a letter to the Seattle Police Department.

  • Thompson has had at least two complaints filed with the Florida Bar Association. His recent antics prompted an "emergency meeting" to determine whether there should be an investigation.

    Now ... where? That's the hunt. Obviously any show or web site that features or quotes Thompson should get a message. More pre-emptively, some have suggested emailing FactCheck.Org at Along that vein, one might try Media Matters at the contact page. Good ideas. However, both of these sites are fairly political in nature so they might not be interested in the video game slant. Does not hurt to try, though.

    Politicians love letters. Jack loves being seen with them. So I'd say they're in the same camp as news outlets since they're often the focus of news stories. So anyone seen with Jack should get a note. It would be best to focus on his insanity there. Remember, this isn't necessarily a pro/anti-gamer thing. This is about trying to get the debate back to honest levels.

    The worst thing about Jack is that his reputation doesn't proceed him. We should change that.

  • 360 Controller Works On PC

    J. Allard has confirmed that the 360 controller will also work on XP based machines, after a driver has been installed. Maybe Microsoft was more serious about merging their console and PC efforts for gaming ... more than just a licensing scheme that is. It would be interesting to be able to play 360 games on a desktop. Nobody is saying that yet, but it would definately be interesting. Microsoft could leverage their enormous Windows base and stop bleeding money out of the consoles. Course, PC's have all those wonderful setup and compatibility problems ... and then some, I hear tell, have DVD burners and are owned by evil pirates.

    So I'll stop thinking wishfully now.

    Serenity Word of Mouth

    As I type this, Serenity tops out the Technorati Popular Movies list. I'm only pointing this out that since the movie didn't make profit expectations, it's been said that the word of mouth campaign hasn't been terribly successful. I'd say this proves otherwise. The mumblevine worked, it just can only do so much so fast. Traditional marketing is where the effort went weak.

    Short Bits

    Just to prove I'm not as Thompson-fixated as the last few posts appear. It's just that the man's insanity has grown to levels where it has it's own gravity. He's like train wreck you simply must watch.

    But, I am up to other stuff.

    I tried the King Kong Demo last night on the CheapBox. It played at 800x600, but the framerate during Jack's first person portion was pretty choppy. Hard on the eyes choppy. I'm not sure why, there wasn't enough eye candy to justify it. I guess they should have licensed the Unreal engine like every other Joe on the block.

    I see what they're trying to do, integrating story and game elements. I think it's a step in the right direction. Sadly, I didn't think it was very fun. Running from a T-Rex seems interesting, but it mostly just came down running from one rock to the other. The Kong section, which is one part platform and one part mindless brawler, simpled bored me. Click click click click click click ..... and so on.

    I tried to download the Doom RPG for my phone but was denied. It apparently doesn't run on the Nokia 6230, though I have no idea why not.

    Finally, I put in a conversation routine into my AJAX powered text adventure engine last night. Very basic, but should be workable for at least this first game. I think I'm just down to a proper inventory handler. I mean, that's a bit reaching because the parser really sucks right now. For instance, you couldn't use "talk to Maid Hurley" or "speak with the Maid" or natural variants like that. If you don't say "talk maidhurley", you get a blank stare. However, it's flexibe enough that I can smooth out all various potential input once I have some real content down ... and it will be easier to predict those inputs with real content. My hope is to start actually writing the real story this weekend. I think it will be three acts covering about twenty years (not all twenty obviously), which one the player assumes a different character. It's also possible I won't get all of that done for Halloween though.

    Remembering Ortman

    Just to put things in reference, I've been around guys like Thompson since I've communicated with others via computer.

    Back in the old days before this Internet fad started, heck ... before QuantumLink which begat AOL, I was a constant fixture on Illinois Bulletin Board Systems. These old BBS setups were community forums, file swapping shares and multiplayer games all rolled into one. They were really pretty fun.

    Starfleet BBS was run by a guy named Terry Ortman. Terry also would frequent other boards in the area. Apparently a cliche shut-in Trekkie, Terry was a bit of ... crank. This guy could start a flamewar in an ice storm. And he often ended it in a similar way. By threatening to sue the pants off of anyone who disagreed. And that's how some people just roll. They can't really win by logic or facts, because they're never in their favor, so they rely instead on the empty threat of legal action. It's quite possibly the wussiest form of fronting known to humankind.

    The important thing to remember is - they're full of hot air. It's all a pack of lies. And there's no better illustration of this fact than the fact that Jack Thompson didn't even bother faxing his potentially fraudulent letter to the actual Seattle Police. Potentially fraudalent? What else would you call using your law degree to perpetuate a hoax? This whole bit about paying for a violent video game, withdrawing the charity money and now threatening Penny Arcade is nothing but a series of lies by Mr. Thompson. Just one big hoax.

    In response, the fans of Gabe and Tycho have alerted the Florida Bar Association of his activites, and potentially sparked an investigation. Jack losing his law degree over his childish actions is probably too much to hope for ... but more on this later today.

    Back to Terry Ortman. With the advent of the Internet, he went on to bigger and better things. He was nominated for the 2004 Usenet Kook of the Year award, presumably for his work trolling the Traci Lords groups. In reality, Ortman wasn't all that bad. Just a troll. Mostly harmless and sometimes entertaining.

    Thompson takes this kind of behavior to a whole new level. He's more insane. He effects a national debate. He lowers everyone whenever he talks. But he's cut from the same cloth. Harmless unless he is in front of a microphone. Anyone who makes a legal threat to everyone but the people responsible for enforcing it is nothing more than an empty threat.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Gabe, Make Up Your Mind

    First, you tell us to not ignore Thompson:

    Some people have suggested that it might be time to start ignoring the guy and honestly that’s what we had decided to do. However, that was before he tried to have us arrested. Jack is not scary, if you speak to him for even a couple minutes you realize that. What’s scary is that people in the mainstream media listen to him. I don’t think we can just ignore him anymore.
    -- Penny Arcade, 10-17-2005

    Now today,

    You can certainly mail the networks he appears on. You can even send letters to their advertisers. You can contact the senators he speaks with and demand they ignore him. If enough of us do that sort of thing and we do it long enough they will eventually get the message and drop him just like the National Institute on Media and the Family did. Would that be a good thing? I’m not sure.

    Jack is not special. He is not a unique snow flake as they say. He is just the latest vocal opponent of whatever is "corrupting" our youth at the moment. When my dad was growing up it was rock and roll devil music. Then it was comic books then movies and rap music. Today it’s videogames. If we were to succeed in getting Jack blacklisted from the major news outlets someone else would simply take his place. Imagine him as an actor playing a part in a play. The point is that Jack Thompson is not important. If he were to be fired a new actor would simply take up the role. The same lines would still be delivered in the same way and the same audience would pay to see it. We are actually fortunate that the current actor is so impotent in his role. Imagine what might happen if some charming, efficacious attorney took his place. The more I consider it the more I think we may be lucky to have Jack playing the part of the alarmist. The alternative might be someone who is actually capable.
    -- Penny Arcade 10-19-2005

    I gotta disagree. Heartedly.

    Look, there's only two explanations as to why media outlets would continue to book Thompson.

    Either A) They know he makes up stuff, exaggerates, has paranoid delusions about Nazis, holds a God complex, etc. And don't care.

    Or B) They think he's an expert on the subject.

    If A is true, we've got nothing to lose, because they don't care the guy is insane. They might, however, still care if people stop watching. If B is true, we only have everything to gain by making Jack's own track record as public as possible. Make Jack's reputation part of the reputation of the media who wants to air him, so that they'll know it's wrong.

    The problem is ... there are better spokesmen for the "anti-game" crowd out there. They make more sense and have better facts. However, they don't get the same kind of time on stage because they're too credible to say things like "cranial menus" or "Manchurian children" or "Columbine Times Ten". Media loves that sensationalism ... and it's only our apathy which will let it continue.

    Everyone in this debate, from the gamers to the researchers to the parents, have something to gain from removing Jack from his podium. We can all stop discussing insanity and start talking rationally. Thompson is the equivalent of the screaming child in the corner of a classroom, keeping the rest of the kids from having a normal schoolday. How many gamers have heard of Dr. Walsh or Dr. Anderson, compared to Jack?

    I don't believe there is a roster of Proto-BatJacks waiting to take his place. And even if they were, they would be just as inflated blowhards who exist only because the media breathes life in to them. They could be dealt with in precisely the same way.

    Tell Cooper No Thompson

    Jack Thompson appeared briefly on Anderson Cooper's 360 last night.

    I'm completely with Gabe on this one (scroll to bottom). I would love to ignore Thompson. I've tried. Problem is, the mainstream media continues to book him. Even as legitimate researchers kick this guy off the boat, the media continue to pony him out for fun quotes. As Gabe points out, Thompson can't even make a simple comment about Midway's Blitz and keep his facts straight. The NFL didn't want to license it because it was too violent? Right.

    No more. If Jack appears on TV, it's time to tell the people responsible for giving him a platform that isn't appropriate behavior for a civilized society. You give people like Jack mental help, not an audience.

    No more. If Jack appears on TV, tell them to stop. Tell them your opinion of Jack. Tell them it lowers your opinion of them. Tell them you won't watch anymore. If Jack is going to be on their show, then they lose viewers.

    This is a copy of my feedback to Anderson Cooper 360:

    I was very dismayed to see that Mr. Cooper featured Jack Thompson on his show, even briefly.

    Mr. Thompson has become well known for his capacity to exaggerate situations, restate disproven facts and make outrageous claims.

    This is a man who once said the President of the ESA was worse than Saddam Hussein. He has personally faulted Bill Gates for the Malvo killings. He has compared game consoles to brainwashing devices capable of making an army of "manchurian children".

    His use of hyperbole and outrageous claims have led others concerned about children and media to publically distance themselves from him, as they realize he only lowers the bar of debate past rational levels.

    For the record, the NFL did not refuse to license Blitz because of any of the content within the game. The NFL had already agreed to an exclusive license with Electronic Arts. Jack Thompson likes to make up these facts to support his arguments, because he has little else to argue with.

    By having him on your broadcast, you weaken your credibility as a legitimate source of news. You just posed someone with false information as an expert, putting to question the show's ability to judge valid facts from fiction. Hopefully better judgement will be shown in the future.

    Feel the same? Here is the form to let them know.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Maybe Doom Doesn't Suck?

    Yesterday, IGN's FilmForce posted a review of the Doom movie, set to be released this weekend. Not only does it get three stars, but it actually mentions the first person sequences, which have made me cringe in the trailers, in a positive way:

    The most divisive part of the film—meaning you'll love it or hate it—is likely to be the first-person shooter sequence that is near the end of the film. In it, Karl Urban's character The Reaper (yes, his last name is Grimm) grabs a gun and the position of the camera shifts to his view. Of course, this is a tribute to the revolution that the game caused: Doom was the game that popularized the perspective that has spawned a widely-copied genre of games. But how does it work in the film? It is easily the coolest and most invigorating sequence Doom has to offer. FPS fans will revel in the knowing nods to the genre. At various points, The Reaper shoots a beast at close range, uses an explosive canister to fry one of the monsters, shoots a weapon out of an enemy's hands, and gets knocked to the ground.

    Read the whole review. Maybe it's worth a try after all. Personally, I'm still bitter Serenity didn't hit $30 million, so I'll probably be avoiding the cinema for a while...

    Thompson Wrong About Paramount's Warriors

    Jack Thompson has been repeatedly bashing Rockstar's upcoming The Warriors, complaining that it's a violent game based on a violent movie. That much is probably true. However, he also goes on to state:

    When that movie was released, it spawned so much copycat gang violence that Paramount stopped advertising the film and notified all exhibitors that they were released from their contractual obligation to show it.
    -- Thompson Criticizes Warriors, Causes Charity Donation Ruckus

    That is false.

    Paramount did indeed stop advertising the film on February 16th, 1979 ... but it was in reaction to sporadic outbreaks of violence at the theatres it was being shown at, not because of any new copycat crimes or increase in gang violence overall.

    One week later, they restarted their advertising campaign and allowed exhibitors to be released from their contracts if they felt showing the film might cause any safety issues.

    Apparently few did, since the film went on to gross $12 million in two weeks.

    Source: 1979 Oscar Chronicle

    Original Mac Game Contest

    The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a great overview of Freeverse's Original Mac Game contest, AKA the OMG contest. Freeverse is offering to publish the winning game, which must be written in two months starting October 18th, AKA today. I was going to write this up yesterday, but it seems more suiting to following the Apple bit below.

    Full details on the contest can be found over at iDevGames.

    Apple Should Learn From Nintendo

    I rarely click on flash ads, but a couple days back I saw one for a liquid-cooled SLI PC and just had to see how much it cost. The baseline was $3500. I'm not sure that included the video cards.

    Now, truth be told, if you owned one of these beasts you'd be privy to some of the most advanced graphics for games on the planet seen in all their glory. Definately. Plus, you certainly couldn't blame someone else's frag on your processor or lack of RAM. And I'm sure you'd be the envy at LAN parties.

    But spending over three grand on a PC? For games? It just seems so archaic these days. PC hardware has gotten so powerful that it's almost impossible not to get a decent rig. It seems more impressive to try and create leaner, cheaper computers. Unless you're a serious first person shooter fan, these high-end rigs are simply overkill.

    Take a look at Nintendo. It's DS is holding up just fine over the PSP, even though it's not as technically powerful. They plan a similar model with the Revolution. By emphasizing casual gameplay and innovative designs, they cirumvent the whole "my framerate is better than yours".

    What does that have to do with Apple? I really think Apple is missing out on the declining PC market, which is largely seen as complicated and overpriced. Apple has definately become aware of this with introducing a proper low-end line. The Mini and G5 fit perfectly into computers as appliances and not as luxury items.

    Problem is, they're kinda boring. It ships with Nanosaur and Marble Blast, sure. You can play Halo on a Mini with all the details off ... OK. Nobody is going to rush out and buy a Mini for their kid based on that kind of library.

    Apple needs to shift it's gaming image. It's never going to get the Doom 3 crowd, especially when Doom 3 is a belated port with substandard performance. That crowd is already lining up for F.E.A.R. or Quake IV ... and they have medium to high end rigs already.

    Instead of Doom 3, Apple needs their own Nintendogs. Or Feel the Magic. Or maybe a game which leverages Apple hardware like the iSight or even the iPod. Something that doesn't care that the Mini is only loaded up with an ATI 9200 ... but also something that has mass appeal on its own.

    Now, a proper response to this would certainly be "so do it". Nobody is stopping small studios from trying to make such a game, it's true. However, the problem is that without backing from Apple, a small studio would be insane to release it as a Macintosh only game if they could easily do a Windows version.

    Right now, Apple is busy trying to define the concept of a digital lifestyle. It's probably noticed that it's chief competitors ... name Microsoft and Sony ... have taken the game console angle to spearhead their initiatives. Clearly Apple can't contend with that.

    But it doesn't mean it has to give up the fight on games completely.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Jack Thinks We're Dumb

    Batjack is not only egotisical and insane, but insulting. The full text of Jack's refusal to pay up (emphasis mine):

    "I'm not interested and won't be commenting on the mod. The satirical piece entitled 'A Modest Video Game Proposal' was intended to highlight the patent hypocrisy and recklessness exhibited by the video game industry's willingness to target cops, women, homosexuals, and other groups with some of their violent games. To be fair, though, you can't expect a bunch of gamers to understand the satire if they think that Jonathon Swift, the author of 'A Modest Proposal,' is the name of a new Nike running shoe...

    ...I will say this though, the 'video game community' (what's next, 'the necromancy community'?) surely seems exercised about someone who is a 'joke' and who is accomplishing nothing. You all seem rather bothered and worried about a nonentity. God is in this battle, and I am privileged to be a foot soldier. You all should be concerned, not about me, but about Him."
    -- Grand Theft Auto Mod Community Unveils Jack Thompson Parody

    Hey Jack. God called. He'd like you to stop breaking promises and then making references to any partnership you think you have with him. Apparently he doesn't think making jokes about charity is very funny either.

    By the way Jack, I've got a bachelor's in English. From a real school and everything. As I've pointed out below - your very public letter in no way fits the description of satire. You begin the letter with a very realistic and pointed description of yourself and your views and then offer a few points of debate. You then proceed to describe an extremely violent game, which my bachelor's in psych would suggest a high level of pent up rage against people you clearly see as epic opponents, and offer up a reward to any company who would dare make and distribute the game.

    I know you would like to think that just because the violence you depict is extreme and pointed at the game industry and it's advocates itself would comprise the definition of satire. It doesn't. Hyperbole is not a requirement of satire (in example, The Onion often uses extremely pedestrian situations told in a serious tone as satire). Juxtaposition of characters definately has the potential for comedy, but is actually very rare in satirical work. Instead, characters remain themselves and more often the situation is the absurd ... but the absurdity is never apparent by the voice or tone of the work.

    For instance:

    O.K. then works his way, methodically back to LA by car, but on his way makes a stop at the Philadelphia law firm of Blank, Stare and goes floor by floor to wipe out the lawyers who protect Take This in its wrongful death law suits. "So sue me" O.K. spits, with singer Jackson Brown's 1980's hit Lawyers in Love blaring

    Naming the main character "O.K." and the law firm "Blank, Stare" are obvious cues to the real opinion of the text here. This would be an example of a work of parody and not satire.

    Also, it's a run on sentence.

    And um, the law firm would be Blank & Stare not Blank, Stare.

    Not that I expect an insane religious zealot to understand any of that.


    Thompson Welches On Charity

    Apparently old BatJack wasn't being serious when he tried to emulate Swift's Modest Proposal. According to Joystiq, it was a satirical attempt to“highlight the patent hypocrisy and recklessness exhibited by the video game industry’s willingness to target cops, women, homosexuals, and other groups with some of their violent games.” Despite a group actually trying to create his game, he's refusing to pay up.

    Swift's Modest Proposal is one of the most brilliant examples of irony in the history of human language. It was so misunderstood by his peers that Swift almost lost his patronage over the deal. By suggesting that poor children would make better sausages than serfs, he highlighted the plight of the poor while also illustrating the problematic attitudes towards them.

    Swift was a genius.

    Jack Thompson, apparently, is just an asshole. Instead of doing anything like that, he mimics the very traits in people he claims to despise and then offers a bounty for charity which he had no intention whatsoever on paying out on. Satire is not trying to be a bigger hypocrite than what you're highlighting. That's being an asshole.

    It's a lot harder to write like Swift than just putting "Modest" and "Proposal" in the title, Jack. Next time, I'd like suggest simply not trying. You're embarrassing yourself.

    BONUS ROUND: Penny Arcade donated $10,000 to the ESA in Jack's name. It's great to see that the gamer community can actually increase the level of Jack's hypocrisy over time.

    Textual Beast

    About a week ago I started another project. It's not that I'm ditching Atlas, it's just that I had this thought for Halloween and so obviously it has a built in deadline. Right now I'm hoping to have this ready for Halloween and Atlas in a demo form for Christmas ... but I'll admit right now that the holidays are usually confounding for getting stuff done.

    New project is a text adventure, done in AJAX. We've been playing with some code at work and I needed something not-work to push the envelope on. Currently I've got the code for location, movement, basic inventory like pick up and drop, examine and some flexible usage working. I'll be working on characters and conversations next. I'm hoping to update several things about the genre. For instance, you won't have a large inventory. The management will be more akin to RPG style, and there will potentially also be combat rules as well. However, I'm hoping to make some allowances too, like adding a "run to" feature which will let people get quickly to locations they've been to and also more lenient rules about "misses" or incorrect input.

    The story itself is gothic in nature. Probably be somewhat violent/gory and not really intended for kids. However if it works and I have fun making it, the javascript engine behind it should be easily portable for other games.