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Friday, April 21, 2006

Tour Microsoft's Mac Lab

Amaze at the row of minis! Tremble at the sight of aging Perfomas! Gasp at the abuse of Apple Remote Desktop!
Take a tour of Microsoft's Mac test lab.

It's pretty neat to see that places like this exist. A co-worker and I were just talking that if were to go form a startup, it might be to simply do Quality Assurance work for other companies. While less sexy than development, companies always underfund their testing and always like to have outside parties report the bad news. Course, I can't imagine what a sweet test lab like that might cost...

Update: Funny, I just saw this on TUAW and they choose the same pic. Everyone loves a massive row of Mac Minis.

hehehe ... same with gizmodo

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Is That A Real Memory Stick In Your Pocket?

Or are you just faking? Newlaunches reports that there is a glut of fake memory sticks hitting the shores. Apparently the format lends itself well to counterfeiting and can extremely hard for even Sony reps to detect. Glad everything I use is good old fasioned industry standard.

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The Value Of A Two Dollar Download

Both Unfettered Blather and Dubious Quality take on Bethesda's current trend of charging for the download of relatively minute and meaningless Oblivion mods. I recommend heading over and reading both posts before going on.

The division between "mods", which would refer to small to medium sized tweaks in gameplay created by users ... which has given rise to such important concepts as Capture The Flag in FPS but also includes new skins or models, or "bonus material" ... which is usually content developed professionally by the original team and given to the community for free, or "MODS" ... the inane capitalization of which indicates that it's a game created using an existing engine by users but strives to be worthy of professional respect regardless and now we have this ... what should I call them? Bonus mods?

I'm just trying to put this in a historical point of view. If Id had offered a Doom Marine model for Quake, but charged a couple clams for the privilege of getting it ... would I have laughed? I mean, I've seen skins for Unreal Tournament 2004 done by actual professionals ... people who did outsource work for published titles ... and they were free. Free content, especially for PC gamers, has done nothing but increased in quality dramatically. So why would I pay a couple bucks for a horse?

The concept of charging a user base two dollars for a relatively meaningless download assumes there is a large bevy of users that find two dollars equally meaningless. It's possible that exists, but I'm from the arcade generation. Two dollars equals gameplay. Two dollars was a couple of hours of mindless entertainment at the mall. It was not a damn saddle.

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will all be toying with a downloadable microtransaction based marketplace. However, just because you can easily charge players low, low prices for any item in the catalog doesn't mean you should. Glutting the market with cheap downloads of low quality will create a backstop for the players to discover worthwhile ones. Once enough people are annoyed with your two dollar "nifty shield" or "shiny sword", nobody will be wanting to buy your "noble quest" for ten.

Mods, even highly successful ones like Counter-Strike, have always had one basic addition to the bottom line: a value add to lift up the entire franchise. It doesn't matter if it's a mod, bonus pack or a MOD. A little free milk can sometimes sell an entire cow.

If you can't give me the same amount of gameplay out of my two dollars that I got from my old arcade at the mall, don't even waste your time and money advertising it to me. I won't be buying.

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Google Calendar For Online Matches (?)

I'm playing around with Google Calendar to see if it's a reasonable way of using groupware to organize online matches. I'm very iffy about it right now. Google has really done an amazing job with the Web 2.0 style of UI, no doubt. The wildcard is using links so that people can easily view the calendar, add challenges and view times.

You can try subscribing to my game calendar, but you'll probably need a google calendar account in the process. Sadly it doesn't work in Mac Safari right now (which is always a bit of a bone of contention with me and google, and well a lot of the Web 2.0 crowd ... if you can't make it easily cross-browser/platform, you're heading backwards).

Anyway, I've got that calendar setup for anyone to edit. We'll see how it goes.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Free 360, If You Go To Singapore

Found kinda surreptitiously through from this blog post, is a challenge from Microsoft to find hidden 360s by identifying their location from a webcam feed. Kinda like how the America military determined Bin Laden was, in fact, out of his cave.

Since 360s are still cheaper than a flight to Singapore (barely), I'll probably just wait till Best Buy gets another in stock.

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Nothing Is Private, Nothing is Sacred

So I just got marketing call.

On my cell phone.

Now, I don't give my cell number out to most people, let alone business people because my life has been inundated with spam. My home line still gets plagued with marketing calls, despite Congress' best efforts. My GMail account gets spam in it's inbox, despite Google's vaunted bayesian filters. I actually use several accounts so that I can delete one when it gets too saturated.

My cell phone was the one piece of calm I had. When it rings, I almost always answer - because I'm sure it's someone who is actually looking for me as a person.

This week, I gave my cell phone number to a representative and a Baird & Warner realtor because I wanted to be able to keep in quick communication with them. Since the home line is basically an answering machine now, I thought that house hunted warranted something faster.

This week, I got my first telemarketing call on that cell number. Coincidence? I have to doubt. I will be calling them today and insisting they come clean on their privacy policies. Both companies may just lost a customer.

I really hope whatever kickback the get for giving up a client's information is worth what they'd lose over a commision or loan.

I have to doubt it.



Help Save Palladium Books

Kevin Siembieda:

At a time when Palladium Books’ future has never looked more promising, we have been dealt a crippling blow.

For legal reasons, I cannot go into details about exactly what happened. Suffice it to say that betrayal of trust, theft, and embezzlement has inflicted what we estimate to be $850,000 to 1.3 million dollars in damages to Palladium.

It is a blow from which Palladium cannot recover. At least, not without YOUR help.
-- Please Help Save Palladium from Going Under (digg it)

Palladium is an old school paper and pen publisher of such RPG greats as Robotech, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Rifts. Outside of TSR, I'd say only Steve Jackson's crew occupied as much of my time, and that's probably a pretty tight contest between all three. The Brother and I had a two man Robotech campaign which lasted quite a long time and we managed to get our tabletop crowd into Rifts for a short while as well. The games were technically and artistically well done.

They aren't looking for simple handouts. Instead, Kevin is asking people to consider the purchase of his limited edition Megaverse Heroes print, a "a special, pencil drawing with key characters from our entire game line to be made into a simple, black and white, toned piece of artwork, 11 x 14 inches, printed on a good quality paper." The cost is $50.

Palladium had just taken a step to CRPGs with an N-Gage Rifts title, which honestly looked promising were it not on a doomed platform. That alone is a reason I'd like to see them get a second chance.

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Katamari Creator Disses On Revolution

'I'm not really interested in it. I don't think a controller should have that much influence on the enjoyment of games.' He continued: 'I see what [Nintendo is] trying to do, but they're putting such emphasis on the controller; 'Woah, this controller lets you do this!' and I'm thinking - are you messing with us?'
-- Katamari Creator Critical of Revolution

I'm kinda sorry to see someone like Keita take such a stance, but it really explains why they thought Katamari might really well on the PSP. Me and My Katamari has been reviewed well, for sure, but I can't even imagine taking away the dual analog and maybe could see the DS's touchpad as a worthy alternative ... but not just the buttons. Rolling the katamari with my thumbs is what I love about the game, I find it extremely relaxing.

Course, I said a lot of mean things about the DS when it first came out myself, and I ended up playing Metroid Hunters for like three hours last night.

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Visual Studio Express

Microsoft is releasing their free Visual Studio Express suite on a permanent basis. No license, no restrictions. Many readers of Cathode Tan know I'm not the biggest Visual Studio fan in the world, but one of my biggest complaints is the cost. Not that I see workplaces kicking the professional version anytime soon, but this is great news for amatuer and hobbyists who don't want to spend and arm and leg for what is widely the de facto compiler for Windows.

I'm hoping that GarageGames has a project for Torque Game Builder to work under VSE C++. I'll do some investigation later today to find out. If so, TGB would be a fairly low cost method of deploying 2D games across multiple platforms.

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GTA Teaches 8 Year Old To Steal Van

Well, probaby not quite like that ... but we know how this kind of thing goes ... kid plays game, kid steals car, people blame game. Although to be quite honest, the original Modesto article doesn't really point any fingers but rather mentions GTA in a fittingly humorous tone.

Still ... an eight year old playing an M game? Chuckle, chuckle?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Finally getting this up:

Mario Kart
3 3 9 3 6 4
5 3 4 3 0 0

Metroid Hunters
1 0 3 1
4 7 2 4
8 7 7 9

Animal Crossing (Town: Samsara, Player: RegularX)
3 9 5 2
0 2 9 7
3 8 2 8

I've been considering setting a public Google Calendar for matches.

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Star Wars Game Hidden in Open Office

Via Lifehacker:

Create a new sheet in Open Calc (spreadsheet)
Enter this formula in a cell:
and press Enter
The cell will display “say what?”
Enter this formula:
A new window will open with a Star Wars game.
-- Easter Egg hunt 2006, Open Office Star Wars game

Like you needed another reason to ditch Microsoft Word.

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Torque Game Builder

In getting my attention back to some of my 2D projects, I went to go download the latest version of Torque 2D, only to find it out of beta and renamed "Torque Game Builder". I guess they thought the T2D label was too limiting or something. This is a good excuse to toss out my previous code for the 2D shooter and iTunes enabled arcade I was working on and start over again. It's become more likely that the Mac Mini might get a place next to the television soon, so I may work on a coop shooter before anything else. I'll let everyone know how the new release fairs, but I was generally happy with the beta so I'm expecting decently smooth sailing.

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Randolph Carter, Where Art Thou?

I haven't neglected working on the interactive fiction The Case Of Randolph Carter, it's just that some of the changes that came up with the grue demo caused some decent sized ripples. Namely not advancing the page upon a "missed" interaction (assuming it to be a wait). This throws off the original cadence which would even assume at times that the player would mostly be waiting and also decreases the overall number of actions a player might get per page (because now each one is a "hit"). So I've had to rework the code a little and rewrite a few of the pages. Most of that is behind me now, though, and I'm working more on tightening up the actual prose and game aspects again.

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Infinium Might Sell Something

Vaporware experts Infinium supposedly has plans to manufacture their Phantom Lapboard for a possible October release. The Lapboard is a "combination keyboard and mouse" which is supposed to be a comfy way of controlling your PC. However, since these are the guys behind the truly phantom Phantom ... I'm not holding my breath.

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Real Katamari To Roll Across San Francisco

And now it's time to put your katamari where your hands are, and join soundhive and i for Bay To Breakers, as we roll a FREAKING HUGE cardboard katamari that shall be carved out of refrigerator boxes, and decorated with elements of the city that we've rolled up along the way. You can come as yourself, or choose from a blithering variety of roll-tastic cousins and kings of cosmoses. It's crowded, it's nerdy, it's way to early in the morning. But by Jumboman, i've got to do something with all this extra carpetfoam that i've got in my garage.

I honestly don't know if it's for real or not, but I'll give them props for enthusiasm regardless.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sad Little Boot Camp Op/Ed

TUAW giggles and snorts at the FUD contained within this opinion piece at a college paper:

Macs operate at a lower CPU temperature than PCs. When a Mac starts to emulate a Windows platform completely, the computer must provide additional voltage to provide the computing power. The heat generated from over-clocking the hardware results in faster hardware degradation. If you get enough excess heat, you can start cooking your computer and maybe even dinner while you're at it.

Second, why did you get a Mac? Because you don't possess savvy computer skills or you don't play games. For the first point, installing Boot Camp and getting it to run successfully for all programs requires decent PC computer knowledge. Thus, those who are computer illiterate have had nothing solved. Those who are into the latter point continue on, but gamers should be aware that getting a Mac to run PC games will result in heartache - this I can guarantee. The graphics in many games these days require a level of customization on the computer that Macs cannot provide. Apple calls their lack of customization "computer stability."

Finally, my third point references to the industry. History has shown us that emulating your competition's software means you're losing. Back in the day, IBM made its computers emulate Microsoft Windows just like Apple. IBM's OS division went bankrupt in a few years. This was further facilitated by Microsoft's cutthroat tactics. They altered their own software so IBM couldn't emulate it anymore and it is only fitting that Microsoft will do so again.
-- Boot Camp crashes and burns

Whoa, buddy. The author of this piece, Venkat Pullela, is a senior philosophy major. He should stick to philosophy, because he's an idiot about computers.

#1 - Macs run using the same physics as everyone else, as dictated by the laws of reality. If they run cooler it's because they have better ventilation or tax the CPU less. MacBook Pros, for the record, have gotten a quick reputation for running rather hot. Nobody is going to ruin their stock computer simply by running different software.

#2 - I got a Mac because I was tired of Microsoft's nonsense and OS X finally delived a *nix based OS I could really enjoy. It's also the first OS I've used since my Amiga which allows you to throw whatever level of expertise you desire. You can just do nothing and run everything stock or you can get under the hood and customize the heck out of everything. Windows despises being left alone and hates you for fiddling with it, a fine "rock and hard place" OS if I've ever used one. I love the Mini, but I also have yet to tap into it's full potential as a computer.

And simply put, anyone telling me I got a Mac because I lack computer skills and hate gaming is an idiot.

#3 - Boot Camp, you moron, is not emulation. OS/2 (specifically Warp) tried to "run Windows better than Windows" ... and for the record ... it succeeded for a while. OS/2 had better memory management, better multi-tasking and a hella of a lot better UI. Microsoft, however, had far better marketing capacity and undercut's IBM's efforts. IBM's mistake wasn't emulation, it was ignoring the fact they had a great OS until it was too late.

However - all of that is moot because Boot Camp is not emulation. Boot Camp is merely solid partitioning, installation and bootstrap software. Not entirely unlike software that ships with lots of Windows boxes, just designed for two OS's.

You know, most philosophy majors I knew in college could at least tell an apple apart from an orange. My pledgefather was a philosophy/com sci double who later in life would write A.I. simulations for the military.

I'm hoping Venkat prepares himself for a solid career in the philosophy of "you want fries with that?"

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Blogging On Stage

For some, blogging is grassroots journalism. For others, it's merely a hobby and social outlet. For UCLA, it's fodder for theater:

That, in a nutshell, was the classroom assignment UCLA professor Mel Shapiro gave to students in his Advanced Graduate Acting course last fall. The fruits of those efforts have evolved into "The Bloggers Project," an experimental theater piece based on real weblogs that began taking final shape a few nights ago at the school's Freud Playhouse.

Cast members, inspecting scenic designer Francois-Pierre Couture's labyrinth-like set for the first time, amble through a gallery of historic mock-blog installations including a booth-like "cave" that will house actor Brian Allman as he blog-speaks from the vantage point of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Next to the glass-walled "prison" compound where actress Jamaica Perry would be faux-blogging as Black Power activist Angela Davis, circa 1971, the actors pause in front of a pedestal crowned with a bust of Marie Antoinette. Amy Rush, the actress who would soon be thrusting her own head into the display, pops her bubble gum and wonders out loud, "Are people going to be able to turn me on and off, or do I just keep talking?"

"They push the button and the light goes on, and then you just keep talking," Shapiro replies.

And the blather goes on.

In an adjoining chamber decorated with a semblance of the U.S. presidential seal, a quartet of TV sets awaited pre-taped opinion pieces by actor/pundits such as Matt Weedman, who compiled his comments from the liberal site. To ensure what Shapiro wryly calls "fair and balanced" coverage, Jason Greenfield's televised tape loop features hand puppets voicing Republican and Democratic perspectives on the Iraq War.
-- Live-action blogs

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Liquid Cool Your 360

Tired of your expensive 360 overheating? If you're willing to spend almost $300 more on the machine, try liquid cooling it.

Seems a bit extreme, considering you're getting the neighborhood of just buying a real computer, but it's probably worth the bragging rights.

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Nintendo Viral Ad?

If you go to or, you'll get a lozenge shaped countdown to something, which some think is a viral ad for a countdown to the Revolution at E3.

It says you'll need a sheet of paper, scissors and a black pen, so maybe we'll find out the Revolution is just papercraft after all.

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Revolution in October?

According to the UK's Official Nintendo Magazine it's set for October 27th. (via videogameblogger) (digg it)

Probably still to early to be sure of any date, of course. We're supposed to get more Revolution (or GO or ON or NO or whatever the latest hearsay name might be) goodness at E3, so hopefully we'll get some more confirmation on this one.

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Let These Format Wars Begin

ZDNet has a brief coverage of the high definition DVD format war which is about to make landfall:

This is a high-stakes game, and not just for the movie studios, electronics manufacturers or software companies with a piece of the $24 billion home video market. Consumers could lose big by betting on the wrong technology.
As the VHS-Betamax battle showed three decades ago, such confrontations are usually a winner-take-all affair. In that instance, VHS triumphed and studios quickly abandoned the Betamax format. Betamax owners were left with no films to watch and thousands of dollars invested in worthless video equipment.
At this early stage, some analysts believe that casual movie fans should wait for a winner to emerge. Technologies are always fraught with glitches and setbacks and typically are more expensive when they're launched than after they've been on the market for a while. At a time when a low-end DVD player costs $50, the price for an HD DVD machine starts at $500. A top-end Blu-ray player may run as much as $1,800.
-- HD DVD debut ups ante in high-stakes game

It's still anyone's game. Sony's ace is clearly the PS3 ... but they are a long way out from being able to play it. The libraries haven't hit any kind of mass to attract serious consumers yet ... three titles for HD-DVD and none of them exactly compelling. Since the studios are mixed, you'll have to factor in if anyone will get their "Matrix", that movie that just makes people want to see it in a better format.

Lots of factors. I'll be watching on my aging Toshiba Cinema Series DVD player and 36" RCA for some time, I think. They may be aging, but they both still run quite well and the price is right.

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Destroy All Humans 2 Announced

Sequel to the widely acclaimed hit, Destroy All Humans! 2 takes the irreverent Sci-Fi action gaming experience into the swinging sixties with all new game features, expanded open-world gameplay and co-op multiplayer. Assuming the role of the Furon Scout -- Crypto 137 -- players will embark on another mission to earth to take on the world of free love, the Cold War and other 60's era icons. In Destroy All Humans! 2 Players will have access to an upgraded arsenal of weapons and enhanced mental abilities while they battle a variety of new enemies from secret agents and giant creatures to Soviet Forces and ninja warriors.

"We are pulling out all the stops for the sequel, adding multiplayer co-op, five new open-worlds to explore and the same irreverent humor that was a hallmark of the first Destroy All Humans! game," said Pandemic President Josh Resnick. "With the new 60s era setting, we have plenty of new material to work with -- from Hippies and British spy movies to Japanese monster flicks."
--THQ Intercepts Intergalactic Transmission - Alien Race Returning to Destroy All Humans!

Really enjoyed the original, so I'm pretty jazzed about a follow up ... especially if they do some co-op worth it's salt. Mercernaries is still one of my favorite PS2 games, so I'm hoping Pandemic keeps their track record solid.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Go Wireless With Guitar Hero

I'm sure Guitar Hero is one of those games which I wait three years to play and then once I do, wonder how I lived without it. Or at least if the hype is even remotely true. Regardless, I doubt I'll have the soldering iron chutzpah to attempt making the guitar controller wireless (digg it). Once, back in the day, I made a joystick switch for my Amiga and nearly burned down my brother's room.

Remember kids - if you're going to play with really hot metal and electronics ... always do it in a sibling's room.

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Play Tetris With Your Web Cam

Envious of the EyeToy on the PS2? Try Physicam Tetrodance (digg it), which lets you play tetris by dancing around in front of your web cam. Just have a good excuse for when the significant other walks by...

I had wondered when someone would cook this up. It's a shame Apple doesn't ship a few games for the iSight. But then they'd have to acknowledge gamers on the Macintosh and the whole world would fall asunder.

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Da Vinci Code Quest On Google

Google and Sony are joining forces for a relatively unique web game:

he Da Vinci Code involves a thrilling murder investigation that unearths a secret that could change the course of history. The film opens on May 19th worldwide.

Beginning on April 17th you will embark on a quest that requires skill, intellect, and perseverance. For 24 days, you will encounter unique challenges. These daily puzzles will pull you deeper into the world of The Da Vinci Code. Answer all 24 puzzles correctly for a chance to compete for untold riches.
-- Google: Da Vinci Quest

I'm registering now. Update ... doesn't seem like much is going on at the moment. You apparently play via a Google Homepage widget, but right now it's just a link to the main adversite. Hopefully there will be more in the near future.

Update to the update ... I just got a "begin the quest" image in the widget, so I'll try it tonight when I have more time.

Update to the update to the update ... basically a series of increasingly difficult flash puzzles released over the next 24 days. More info at the google blog.

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First Church Of Pacman

Just to prove I haven't lost my sense of humor:

"And behold, a golden pixellated circle did appear upon the darkened screen; and unto the circle was given a mouth. And the circle did speak unto the world, saying "wakka wakka wakka" and partaking of dot and fruit until none remained."
-- First Church of Pacman (digg it)

Happy Belated Easter.

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Honey, We're Killing The Kids

I swear, I'm not in some kind of weird violent mood today.

However, that CNN article reminded me that TLC is airing Honey, We're Killing The Kids, which details how parental behaviors can lead to unhealthy living down the line. Parents, I don't normally want to, you know, get all up in your grill and stuff. However, as a gamer, I get a lot of gruff about how my hobbies will either a) harm your child or b) get your child to harm others. For a change, I'd hope parents would take some time away from watching American Idol to maybe realize that smoking hash and bringing home hookers* might not be the best thing for Johnny's well being.

* I don't actually think any parents out there reading are bringing home hookers

Man Kills Girl, Media Blames Kingdom of Loathing

Well, perhaps they don't blame Kingdom of Loathing for the vicious murder of 10 year old Jamie Bolin, but they apparently felt the need to make sure it was mentioned:

'Kingdom of Loathing'

On his blog, an online diary that he had kept since September 2002, Underwood described himself as "single, bored, and lonely, but other than that, pretty happy."

He mentions cannibalism, asking "If you were a cannibal, what would you wear to dinner?" and responding: "The skin of last night's main course."

In an entry dated February 4, 2006, Underwood wrote that he struggled with depression and social interaction.

"Pretty much the only time I believe in God is when I blame him for something," he said. "Or, when I'm really depressed, to cry and beg him to make me better, to make whatever is wrong in my brain go away, so that I can live like a normal person.

"That's all I want in life, is to be able to live like a normal person."

He wrote that he rarely left his apartment for long stretches, except to go to work and to buy food. "I just sit here at the computer every minute of the day, when I'm not at work. A week or so ago, I spent my day off sitting here at the computer, barely moving from the chair, for 14 hours."

He said one of his main interests was the online role-playing game "Kingdom of Loathing," in which stick figures battle one another.

In September 2004, he wrote that his depression deepened after several months without taking the medication Lexapro, an antidepressant also used in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

"For example, my fantasies are just getting weirder and weirder. Dangerously weird," he wrote. "If people knew the kinds of things I think about anymore, I'd probably be locked away. No probably about it, I know I would be."
-- Suspect blogged about cannibalism (digg it)

Emphasis not mine, CNN actually used the game's title as a subhead in the piece ... and then mentioned in only a single sentence. Seem odd? It should, because the mention doesn't make much sense let alone entitling the section of the story after it.

Kingdom of Loathing has nothing to do with this story except as a hobby for a psychopath. If he had said one of his main interests was "tennis", would CNN put that in bold? Guessing not. Video games, of course, are the evil bogeymen which will drive your kid into being an insane killer (and apparently a fat smoking one at that) ... but tennis is just a sport.

Whatever, CNN. Wonder if he watched 24 hour news? Because that can definately drive someone crazy.

Edit: Guess this AP wire and is picked by others, so it's not just CNN.

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