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Friday, February 17, 2006

Lost Forum Cracked

Clamatius noticed that, one of my favorite Lost haunts, is currently cracked with the message:

defaced by immortal
i also did the media site

and a redirect to Perfectly good crack and they didn't even bother to ask "Who is this?" in a stylized green font? Please.

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The Answer About Dick Cheney Duck Hunt

The answer to the Duck Hunt question would be ... less than a week.

Presenting: Cheney's Fury.

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David Horowitz is an Evil Spammer

I'm not sure when, but at some point I got on David Horowitz's email list. For those not familiar, David's main goal in life is to ask people for money so that he can fight an non-existent leftist radical conspiracy to brainwash college students. Or something. It's quite possible that he's insane.

Not really wanting to get email from insane people on a regular basis, I sent him an unsubscribe.

And another.

And another.

I'm on the seventh now. I'm only collecting them as evidence to show to whatever regulatory or legal body should be interested in the fact that this asshole is spamming hundreds of people for money. Anyone have suggestions for which body that might be?

Conversation About Rockstar And Scalping

Shortly after I posted the news that Rockstar sent a cease & desist to an online art site, I got an email from J. Tony, an San Francisco artist who has a blog himself. He had some points about my comments which were solid and merited a full response. I was originally going to paraphrase the correspondance, but it seems more fair to just reprint the emails in their entirety (minus some introduction about Blogger's accounts and such. One will also want to read my complaints about Gun's scalping knife before getting too far down the page.

Tony starts:

What's missing from your post is the fact that the game depicts the player (Dave Beck) as a man kicking a prone, probably dead woman. It isn't just that there is violence, but in this case unwarranted violence against women.

Tha fact that Dave Beck had the counter running was indeed a statement about that violence, examining the place of rewards in video games for violent acts in and of themselves.

You even made a statement about somenthing similar in your post on Scalping in Gun. Would it have been better if there had been a point to the scalping? If you'd gotten points or other rewards for each scalp?

I agree that Rockstar really didn't have a legal leg to stand on in sending the cease and desist letter. This is clearly 100% fair use. Unfortunately, the way the law works currently, actually getting far enough in the legal system to prove fair use can be very, very expensive. I wish Dave Beck had kept the installation up, but at least now I've heard about it (even if I didn't get an opportunity, tasteless as it would be, to see it myself).


I knew critiquing violence in video games would land me in trouble ... Seriously, it's a good point because it's perfectly true, so I responded with more clarification on my two, somewhat opposing, points:

I appreciate the apparent contradiction between my complaint against Gun and my digs against Dave Beck's art. To be honest, I didn't get a chance to see Beck's website nor have I played The Warriors, but it sounds quite a lot like Rockstar's GTA series when it comes to violence.

I do think the distinctions are important. In Rockstar's games, you are playing a thug and criminal. In Gun, you're a western hero. Gun's scalping knife is sold ingame as an upgrade (and not a cheap one), except that it doesn't actually upgrade anything in the game but the violence. To scalp someone in Gun, you have to take a bit of time and risk, but I doubt the same is true for kicking a downed victim.

In other words, for Gun the scalping is an aborted game mechanic which just makes the game unneccessarily gruesome. A gang member kicking a defenseless woman might be immoral and wrong, but it's also thematic.

Would scoring points for the scalps make Gun a better game? Possibly, possibly not. When you first get a chance to buy the knife ... the indians are still faceless savage enemies. So perhaps, if scalp bounties were a part of the game, it could actually have a moral impact on the play.

Would scoring for a defenseless woman in The Warriors make for a better game? I don't really see an argument there.

So if Dave Beck's desire is to illustrate unwarranted violence against women, I'm not sure elevating it to the level of a game mechanic and then boasting about the score is exactly the best method of doing it. Honestly, it feels less like an examination and more like attention whoring.

But that's just me. And like I admit, I haven't seen the art or played the game ... so I'm definately shooting in the dark here and might be completely off-base. For a counter example though, the art project which illustrated real world violent acts a pixel art was to me, a far more poignant and thoughtful look at the blurring between violence, media and games.

However, just because I didn't like the idea doesn't mean I don't support it's right to exist. Like yourself, this seems pretty clearly to be along the lines of fair use. Even it wasn't, if he had improperly used a logo or something ... a C&D seems overkill. But I don't think it's that Rockstar is "afraid portray the violence" in their games, I think they're just tired of unfair representation. Repeatedly showing a five second portion of a game is hardly a complete picture. When 60 Minutes covered Grand Theft Auto, every screenshot was headshot or kick to death. Headshot. Kick to death. Headshot. Kick to death.

Not the best journalism when you edit a game down to it's most violent 1%. And I guess I'd say possibly not the best art either.

Still, it was legal thuggery. It's not like this would have seriously hurt sales. It's not like people don't know these games aren't violent. I suppose they were just trying to manage PR, but if a company is going to make controversial games ... they should be willing to take the body blows and not bully out the little guy.

Thanks for reading,

Did I forget to warn you it got long winded? It did. But hey, we're talking aesthetics here. Now, I really like his response to this, because I think it sorta brings it on home to the real issue at hand ... which is violence and how it impacts us socially:

I really like what you said and think we are pretty much in agreement. The funny thing is that this subject (and the reason this response is so long) is that it all came to a head personally for me last night after I had written that note. I went home after work to find that my 10 year old had played a rather silly and gratuitous game from called "Tactical Assassin". It is a very simple flash game where you play a sniper/assassin with missions to kill various targets. There is no danger to your character, so it pretty much comes down to taking pot-shots at mostly unarmed individuals through a scope. The graphics are simple, but somehow the blood... the only color in an otherwise black and white game... is pretty effective.

Now, I'm sure there are many many many 10 year olds out there to whom this game would be nothing. They'd play it for a while and get bored, and forget about it. My son, however, is not one of these people. Violence of any kind, to humans, animals, or any "feeling" being in literature, film, or games is very upsetting to him. That said, he is also drawn to the "taboo" of playing a game like this, so yesterday, when he came across the game and played it, he was very, very disturbed and yet was also compelled to keep playing, and afterward was very upset. It took a long time to talk him down, to convince him he wasn't a bad person for playing (and even enjoying) a game with violence in it, and to convince him that we, his parents weren't mad at him, but had warned him off such games because we knew he wasn't ready to play them yet.

That all had me thinking a great deal about violence in games last night and this morning, and how it effects different parts of our culture, and made me appreciate the idea behind Dave Beck's piece.

I didn't mind the fact that he reported the score so much... didn't find it so much a boast as simply making sure the actual point of the piece is made even though it has been taken down... just the idea of points awarded for such behavior, and then knowing it was that many points, well... makes a point....

Of course, the only real way Dave Beck's piece's message gets across is if the points were only awarded while someone was actually watching the piece... it shows what length of time people are willing to watch that sort of violence, even taken totally out of the context of the game. If the points were just counted off as long as the site was up, the score is meaningless.

As for the violence being taken out of context of the game and focus on violent games being just on the most violent aspects without any other, more complete coverage, I agree wholeheartedly. I worked at Sega when Bill White appeared before the Senate

( )

to discuss the violence in Mortal Kombat and Night Trap... games that by today's standards are tepid in their representation of violence (actually, at the time I thought they were pretty tepid in both violence and game play... but I did have a thing for Dana Plato... maybe I shouldn't have admitted that). Lieberman and Kohl hammered on Sega and Nintendo for this violence. Night Trap was particularly problematic because the violence in it was way, way, way less than a typical 70's/80's slasher flick that could be shown on late night VHF TV. There wasn't a single thing in that game that couldn't be shown on network television and they made it out to be like an uncut version of Hostel.

For art, however, I feel that taking portions of a game somewhat out of context is OK. For me, art is often about moving things into a new context, showing things in a new light. I don't think Dave Beck was trying to call attention to Rock Star or The Warriors in particular, but to the socially acceptable violence in video game culture in general. I do agree that the pixilated real-life-violence images are some of the most stunning examples of art examining games to date, and are far more effective in their message, and I'd like to see even more work done like that (there's a hell of a lot more craft involved than in making a looping video).

So, basically what the bottom line of this note is that I've been thinking deeply about the issue, and that I think we're mostly in agreement, and I really appreciate your blog.

Cheers and thanks,

Cheers and thanks to you as well, Tony, all excellent points. Not sure there is much more to elucidate on the idea here, there's a couple perspectives which probably can co-habitate pretty well. Once again, head over to to see more of Tony ... and by that I can only refer to the posts where he is shirtless.

I'm actually a little surprised this never got around the gamesphere a little more, since most people love to kick Rockstar ... and this is a pretty obvious egregious act of lawyering (by the way, egregious is my new favorite word). Oh well, I'm in serious need of coffee.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lost: What's in a Hieroglyph?

Mmmmmm. Nice episode last night. I'm finally feeling the tension again, after these previous lulls (despite strange appearances).

Where to begin? Jury is obviously going to be out on Mr. Gale for quite some time. Thing is, it seems like Others are capable of fairly elaborate backstories. They're quite adept at fitting into their environment. And if some Others are previous castaways, then the backstories might even be true. So it's possibly for old Henry to be telling the truth and be an Other. I'm currently leaning to Sayid's and Danielle's instincts that this guy isn't what he seems. Plus, that look he gave Sayid when Jack intervened? That look said evil.

And the countdown? I don't think I could have asked for more than a big machine whirring startup and evil black and red hieroglyphics. Much of the lostosphere seems intent on translating the possible word they glyphs make up, but I'm guessing it's not a convenient five letter word. And if it is, I'm guessing it's something like "BOOM!".

Update: There is some strong evidence that the glyphs translate into "to die".

Thought I still hold to my theory that if the station's machine is truly dangerous, then Zeke's group would never let the castaways stay in control over it. Possible foils to that theory ... a) Zeke's group don't know about the countdown or it's effects or b) Zeke's group isn't nearly as powerful as Zeke indicated. That latter possibility was floated about some of the forums, that perhaps Zeke conned Jack, Locke and Sawyer into thinking that there was a person behind every torch that was lit ... but it could also have just been rigged.

Edit: I guess there is c) the station machine is deadly, but only to people in/around the hatch. So not a concern to Zeke.

Lots of interesting images/spoilers in next week's promo as well. A Dharma logo with a red caduceus (medical symbol with two snakes, one staff) in the middle. Hallways, bright lights. All from Claire's lost memories. My mumble to The Girl was that there's still an Emerald City to be found on Oz.

Update Update: ... what was with Brown's character being able to speak Iraqi all along? Why force Sayid to translate/torture? Because they knew all along torture was needed and didn't want to get their hands dirty?

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Stargate MMO Details

GateWorld has the dirt on what Cheyenne is planning for Stargate Worlds. Short version: guilds, squads, no-combat classes and play, and expect to see new aliens. They might have an 2007 E3 appearance.

Even more details are offered on their forums by a developer.

I haven't been shy in my doubts about this project, but I'll hereby move into optimistic mode and try and give them the benefit of the (albeit enormous) doubt.

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Doom Movie Producer: Gamers Should Back Off

If you have a free moment, you might go sharpen your knives now.

When Ted Price, president of "Ratchet and Clank" maker Insomniac Games asked di Bonaventura what the producer would have done differently with the underperforming "Doom" movie, the answer essentially boiled down to paying less attention to the game and its fans. "I'm going to get in trouble with a lot of people if I answer this question," he said. "I would stick with my instincts about what makes a great film. I would worry less about what the [game's] creators wanted and less about what the studio felt the gamers wanted." The movie should have been more of a sophisticated, character-focused sci-fi flick, he said.

But fans' demands that a movie stay as close to the game as possible compelled everyone involved to keep things too simplistic. "The core audience makes it so hard on filmmakers," he said. "Their absolutism can actually be very disruptive to what's going on in the filmmaking process." Fans should accept certain realities about storytelling and, he said pointedly, of business.

If fans don't back off, they might just scare the studios off. "It creates an atmosphere in the senior-executive ranks in the studio where it's just not worth it," he said. As he is the producer of upcoming "G.I. Joe" and "Transformers" movies and is in development with Nicolas Cage on a movie version of Namco's "Dead to Rights" game franchise, di Bonaventura will surely face these issues again.
-- Hollywood Heavyweights Tell Gamers To Lighten Up About Film Adaptations

Excuse me? Gamers are to blame that Doom wasn't a more sophisticated film? Because setting the film on Mars, like the game, that is a big barrier to character development? And teleportation experiments unleashing hell, like the game, that obviously is counter-productive to a backstory.

But the BFG! Well, that says depth.

Please. Doom got knocked because the writer was taking it needlessly away from the source. Source material which is quite simply put, not all that complicated. Gamers aren't going to care if you flush that out more and make believable. Nobody is going to go out to a forum and flame someone for giving the Doom Marine a personality. But why the hell bother with a game license if you aren't even going to bother using it for anything more than drawing in ... wait for it ... gamers.

In other words, don't bitch and complain that gamers are opinionated in keeping things true to the game when the main reason you bought that license was to get them into the theaters. You want our money, but not our opinion? Bite me. Don't tell me you licensed Doom because you thought it was a fascinating plot. You bought it because it's built-in brand recognition with a built-in audience.

As for making it "more of a sophisticated, character-focused sci-fi flick", I don't see anyone stopping that but the studio itself.

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VOA Funds China Firewall Circumventer

Bit off the game side of things, but I thought this story on NPR about circumventing China's Great Firewall was fairly interesting, especially the fact that the software mentioned is partially funded by Voice of America. It's kinda nice to know that while Congress wags their finger at Google, Cisco and Microsoft for helping suppress human rights, some tax dollars are doing something about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Worst Revolution Screens Ever

Seriously, you must be joking. It's in German, so maybe they are.

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Mumblevine Crop

So what all is getting passed around the gameblogosphere? Well, apparently Uwe Boll can take a hint. The gaming crowd has not only gotten under his skin enough that he is considering dropping game licenses from his future but he will also apparently stage his fragging at the hands of his critics in his upcoming Postal. Which pretty much puts Postal in the running for best Boll movie ever. I've seen House of the Dead. I've seen Alone in the Dark. Boll's real problem isn't gamers, it's that he can't direct movies.

Kotaku scooped the possibility of a Revolution foot peripheral, which I've seen a couple of other sites pick up as "Nintendo's next big surprise", possibly "revealed" at GDC. I gotta say, I kinda don't think so. A foot peripheral? So when I'm playing the Revolution, people are assuming Nintendo wants me to wave a wand with my hand while moving my feet in specific directions? Nintendo's theory is to make gaming more accessible and less geeky, peeps, not so geeky that you'll need to put black paint on the windows. My guess is some third party developer wanted free press and got Crecente's cell phone number from a seedy and dark location...

Finally, and I'm not going to acknowledge this bit with a link, some prostitutes have complained about Grand Theft Auto demeaning them. This now puts Jack Thompson in the same camp as whores, grandmas who buy their grandkids violent games and Hilary Clinton. Anyone who is seriously thinking about debating the finer points about whether a game could actually be responsible for making a hooker's job dangerous should really take a step away from the keyboard.

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Massive Pillow Fight

Roughly 1,000 people drawn by internet postings and word-of-mouth converged near San Francisco's Ferry Building on Tuesday night for a half-hour pillow fight.

The underground event erupted at 6 p.m. in the center of Justin Herman Plaza with a mass rush of shrieking, laughing combatants - many of whom arrived with pillows concealed in shopping bags, backpacks and the like.

Within minutes, pillows were arcing, feathers were flying, and by the time the Ferry Building's clock tower clanged the half-hour, the plaza and hundreds of people were covered in white down that gave the scene a wintry lustre.
-- Hundreds attend mass pillow fight

Best flash mob ever?

Rockstar Orders Online Art Taken Down

Art student Dave Beck had placed an online art installation at The piece was supposed to be an illustration of cultural violence and constituted solely of a looped clip from Rockstar's "The Warriors" of someone kicking a corpse. Every kick to the corpse added a point to a counter in the upper right hand corner.

Daily Page notes that Rockstar issued a cease & desist based on copyright violations and Beck took the site down, but not before proudly proclaiming on the site that his virtual foot had scored 286,987 ... which might actually go down in gaming history as the lamest boast of any score anywhere. Beck argues, and the Isthmus Daily Page soundly agrees, that "pointing out violence in their game is something they don't want out there."

Really? Personally, I'm all for defending art in it's various, even somewhat low, forms. This seems like a case where Rockstar won by threat and not necessarily merit. But let's be honest. Rockstar doesn't want people to know there is violence in the game? Does anyone not know there is violence in a game like The Warriors? Could anyone even try and hide it? More likely, Rockstar didn't want the perception that there is only violence in their games ... which is far more what it sounds like the website portrayed.

Beck believes he " just intended to make a statement about the situation our culture (I believe) happens to be in ... by making that statement, I was punished by higher powers." I'm not quite sure what statement of culture a high scoring virtual foot really makes, but I'm sure it could probably be made without someone else's assets. Sometimes it's just easier to get sued than to make a real statement, I guess.

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Fair Treatment of Game Music

As games develop recognizable, even popular theme music (think Halo for example), there is no reason that music can't be edited or repurposed into linear tracks and offered for download on iTunes, Napster, or any of the other pay-to-download services that are making strong headway as music's new electronic storefront. Square Enix has already pursued this opportunity, announcing in May 2005 that it would offer up to 16 tracks from Final Fantasy I through XI, Music from Dear Friends, and two Black Mages albums on a dedicated Final Fantasy iTunes page.

At 99 cents per download, and these selections not generally available on commercially distributed audio cd's, game music downloads could prove to be low risk strong earners for game publishers.
-- Fair Treatment of Music and Composers in the Games Industry - A Personal Perspective

Jim Charne is a game industry lawyer and former producer for Activision. He outlines how game music can be properly packaged, re-packaged and resold, as evident by the quote above. Following behind the PEER news (a group advocating fair work guidelines for programmers), it seems like this is the year that the game industry starts to evolve a little bit down the business lines.

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Nintendo DS gets Opera Browser

MAKE has the summary of Opera's press release announcing their product for the Nintendo DS. It will be sold on a cart and (obviously) have WiFi access to the Internet. It's not entirely clear how the DS's dual screens will be utilized, considering only one of those screens could really support hyperlinks (with a stylus at least) ... but I gotta say that Opera does very well on smaller devices. It's what I use constantly on my Zaurus and it works very well with plenty of options to handle the small, mobile, form factor.

Update: C|Net reports that Japanese DS users might get HDTV as well. Sweet.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NPR Interviews Marc Ecko

Robert Siegel, prior to getting a "tag name", sat down with Marc Ecko about graffiti and his upcoming game, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Sadly, I still don't know what Siegel's street name turned out to be.

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Blizzard Changes Policy

The uproar has prompted Blizzard to officially apologise to Ms Andrews. It said that her comments should not have produced a warning.

In an e-mail to Ms Andrews, Thor Biafore, senior manager of Blizzard's customer service, said: "Please accept our apologies for the way our staff characterized your conduct, and rest assured that your account will not be penalized in any way for this occurrence."

The 1,000 or so in-game administrators Blizzard uses to police Azeroth are also to get training to help them deal more sensitively with such issues.

Blizzard defended itself by saying that information about players' real lives can lead to harassment in the game and its warning was only intended to limit such harassment.

The game firm also said that it would create a separate chat channel in the game that guilds can use to advertise themselves and look for recruits.
-- Gay rights win in Warcraft world

Nuff said?

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Video Game Soldiers

Washington Post has "new" coverage of soldiers interacting with video games, and sadly they lead with:

One blistering afternoon in Iraq, while fighting insurgents in the northern town of Mosul, Sgt. Sinque Swales opened fire with his .50-cal. That was only the second time, he says, that he ever shot an enemy. A human enemy.

"It felt like I was in a big video game. It didn't even faze me, shooting back. It was just natural instinct. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! " remembers Swales, a fast-talking, deep-voiced, barrel-chested 29-year-old from Chesterfield, Va. He was a combat engineer in Iraq for nearly a year.

And I'm sure months of boot camp had nothing to do with that response. No, no. Must be SOCOM. Sigh. Because, most of the gamers I know think like this:

"You just try to block it out, see what you need to do, fire what you need to fire. Think to yourself, This is a game, just do it, just do it, " says Trevino, 20, the baby of the group, recalling his first shot at a human enemy.


"Of course, it's not a game. The feel of the actual weapon was more of an adrenaline rush than the feel of the controller," he continues. "But you're practically doing the same thing: trying to kill the other person. The goal is the same. That's the similarity. The goal is to survive."

Yes, actively convincing ourselves that reality is in fact ... not reality. Man, that brainwashing is getting lazier and lazier. And the only difference between firing a fully automatic assault rifle and using a dual shock controller is, well, adrenaline. Oh, but wait? What happens when all that breaks down?

However, he says, "What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn't think they had. When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn't prepared them for this."
-- Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War

No. Really. Imagine my shock. Really shooting somoeone is actually ... not a video game. Thanks for burying it on page three, Washington Post. Especially after two pages of comparing the two. Oh, but then at the end? Oh yeah, it compares the two again, proclaiming "When you're trying to get a steady shot, you hear the heart beating. That right there felt like the real thing."

Thanks again, Washington Post. This piece will give people plenty of fodder to actually believe that Grand Theft Auto trained their kids how to steal cars and shoot cops. Should set us back about a year or so.

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Konami Plans Hybrid Silent Hill UMD

Rather than offering a new game based on the popular horror franchise, which already has spawned four games, the "Silent Hill Experience" UMD will ship in conjunction with the theatrical release of Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Silent Hill" movie.

Oertel says the first product is aimed at those who have played the games as well as the new theatergoers who watch the film and might be looking for background on the game franchise.

"Experience" will include as one of its main features an interactive comic - which includes music and animated pictures - based on the new movie. It also features an interview with Christophe Gans, the movie's director, who will tie in the UMD content in with the film release. Fans also will get 20 tracks from the "Silent Hill" game franchise by Akira Yamaoka, augmented by an interview segment with the composer. Rounding out the materials are the "Dying Inside" comic series, a selection of cinematics from the four games and bonus Japanese materials aimed at gamers.
-- Konami hybrid UMDs create new PSP genre

Well, it's definately good to see someone using the UMD for something other than simple movie ports. Is this another example of Sony trying to bring to bear all the guns in their arsenal?

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Crawford Launches Storytron

...and speaks about self in the third person in the process. Interesting choice. (via nongames)

In related news, I had to rip out the first "chapter" of my interactive story because, well, because I misread where the main character geographically resides in the introduction. Whooops. So clearly, I've got no room to critique.

I do think it's interesting that it seems I've chosen a path utterly divergent, practically diametric, to the common rationale of interactive storytelling. Whereas the current grail seems to be creating textual virtual worlds, I've decided to try and build prose in the more traditional sense first, and then apply folds and avenues to the story based on user input. Less ludology than Zork, but more narrative. More fiction, less interactive ... I guess.

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How Long Until

Someone turns this into a Duck Hunt style flash game?

A week?

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BatJack Thompson Writes Bono

Sadly, it's not a love letter. It's a concerned note from a "fellow Christian":

Dear Bono:
I write you as a fellow brother in Jesus Christ, appreciative of your bold witness to the transforming truth of the Gospel, in both your words and your deeds. You daily "fight the good fight," serving Him as salt and as light in an unbelieving world. You inspire other Christians to confront the "culture of death" that surrounds us all, and I thank you. Because of what you do, it is easier for me to do what I have been called to do.

I write to encourage you, respectfully and in a spirit of brotherly love, not to purchase Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. . . .

Bono, whom are you going to believe as you make a decision whether to buy Take-Two? Are you going to believe the liars who got caught lying, or are you going to believe a fellow believer in Christ who has been targeted for actual harm by Take-Two and its dissembling Philadelphia lawyers at Blank Rome? . . .

I am trying to keep you, dear brother, from being run over by a careening bus. I do this to help you. A brother in Christ has now warned you. Now, do the right thing, in His powerful name I pray.

In Jesus Christ, Jack Thompson
-- Jack Thompson's Letter to U2's Bon (via dorky)

Hey Bono. If you do that google thing, you'll see Thompson is a liar as well. So do what you want.

Damn, nearly everything about BatJack is beginning to resemble a conversation with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

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Sorry, Microsoft, Not Buying It

Peter Moore talks about how important PC gaming is to Microsoft.

Once again, I call shenanigans. Making games exclusive to Vista isn't supporting PC gaming. Talking about how Vista will have "better installation" isn't supporting PC gaming. Forcing people to buy your new product in order to get your "support" only helps sell that new product and in the long run ... will hurt PC gaming.

Nice try though.

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Technical Problems

...beyond my control today. Blogger keeps throwing it's "I'm sorry we suck, we'll try to find an intelligent engineer to fix it. Again." message to me. Well, that's not what it says, but it should be.

Mazes and Monsters for Gaming?

Terra Nova fears it may have found the Reefer Madness of Gaming Culture, or "Mazes and Monsters" ... that Tom Hanks film about a paranoid schizophrenic gone LARPing. Or the other way around, I can never remember.

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Are We Getting Played?

One of the longest running debates amongs gamers is whether or not any review printed by a company which makes it's money off of gaming ad revenues can really be trusted. It's generally a mix of phobia and paranoia fueled by someone proclaiming that he doesn't care how many reviews liked Deus Ex 2/Doom 3/whatever ... they still think it's crap.

Well, now we know that maybe that person on the forums complaining about the review could well be a corporate plant. In other words, that thirteen year old girl who really raves about a certain company's products might not be the fanboy (fangirl) you thought she was. She's actually Gabe.

Then, while I'm just doing the morning crawl, I find this quote from an industry forum on interactive gaming, I find this quote (emphasis mine):

We created a national game event where kids could sign up online, participate in the game remotely through an online connection or actually go to a location that happens to be a DeVry campus. It was set up to be this big national contest. And it was amazing, the impression that that had on these kids. To this date, there's follow-up activity, and we've stimulated lead generation using this kind of gaming idea. We've used different messaging to varied mediums to try to get through to these people. It's the highest-responding, lowest-cost-per-lead marketing that we've done for them.
-- Interactive Technology Alters Rules of DM, Branding

Now, I can't find much information about DeVry's GameDay, presumable the contest in question. There was supposedly an "unrevealed game" that was going to be part of the contest, but I don't see any news about a game being unveiled at such an event. By all rules of semantics, this is definately a national contest. Of sorts. There were even prizes. It just seems a lot like a huge advergame.

Maybe I've been watching too much Hustle on A&E, but this is beginning to feel like the foxes are circling the henhouse. Gamers are becoming the mark as they spend money in larger and larger amounts. Since an increasing number of gamers are older with hefty disposable incomes, this is probably only the start. And since many of us are in a similar demographic which likely ignores web ads and fast forwards through television commercials, expect the marketers to figure out more methods of "reaching" their target.

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ARGs going antagonistic?

The new media darling genre, Alternate Reality Gaming, has always had one factor to set it apart from other forms of play: the community detective. Largely, groups of players team together and try theories and search for clues to solve puzzles over other players. ARGN asks whether this factor isn't starting to take a more antagonistic turn, as players team up with the gamemasters and gamemasters infiltrate the player groups:

So which is it? Is it a good practice and a natural evolution in the gaming realm? Is this a bad idea contrary to the ideals upon which Alternate Reality Games were founded? Let's talk, shall we?

In Project Ashcroft 3, a player was feeding the "Secret" information within the game to an in-game shady character. This prompted such a strong reaction within the rest of the players that most tended to "sanitize" previous posts by erasing them, to ensure further information was not leaked to a potential "bad guy".

While this is a more extreme example of the actions and reactions that are caused by such an adversarial role, there are many examples of "factionizing" within Alternate Reality Games in history:

Weephun, now a legend amongst those who played I Love Bees, made the infamous decision to assist "The Operator" in capturing "The Sleeping Princess", and in the process, earned the distinction of the title: "Rat Bastard".
-- Building Fences - An Editorial

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Text Messages popular for suicide, cause deaths

Creepy, huh? Apparently the new way to send your suicide note along is with text messaging, as people increasingly turn to cell phones to make their final note to the world. Even more creepy?

Irish Association of Suicidology secretary Dr John Connolly said research had shown that motor fatalities increased the week after a suicide story. He said the more publicity the suicides received, the more motor fatalities increased just afterwards. The increase was greatest in the areas where the suicide was most heavily publicised."
-- Text messaging becoming a common form of suicide note

Yikes. Maybe cell phones are creating manchurian middle aged businessmen!

Video Games Keep You Young

Well, this is a new one in the ongoing war between video games turn you into psychopaths versus video games will make you genius ... video games keep the brain fresh and youthful:

Before you assume gadgets and video games fry the minds of the future, consider this: Canadian researchers are finding evidence that the high-speed, multitasking of the young and wireless can help protect their brains from aging.
-- Better living through video games? (via Gambit's Blog)

Actually, this isn't as crazy to me as some other assertions I've heard. A professor in my old psych department did a lot of research about Alzheimer's versus stress and distractions. Still, I don't know how to take this litany of short term studies which constantly try and paint video game as either beneficial or harmful. And I have played lots and lots of games ... but my memory is horrible.

But maybe I just haven't played enough...

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