Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why wouldn't the ESRB act on Forza?

The Curmudgeon Gamer himself sent a note over pondering a very interesting question, "how is a paint job really any different from a mod for Oblivion that makes nudity visible?"

The paint job in question, in the image above, was available for Forza 2 for a while. It's from 360 Gamer and you can see the other side with some commentary on their site.

Three times the ESRB has recently changed a rating or packaging due to content which came up either at the end of their review or after the title shipped. Halo 2 for the PC shipped with a label warning of indecent textures which could be found via an editor. Oblivion was altered when a modder discovered the "bare" (from what I've read - that is more accurate than naked) textures could be made accessible. And most famously, the Hot Coffee mod for San Andreas unlocked a sex minigame that had been left out of the fina build.

So if someone has made racist textures available for Forza 2 - why shouldn't the ESRB step in and take action?

Patricia Vance recently said that the mission of the ESRB was "to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed computer and video game purchase decisions." Surely the knowledge that someone may find an object which essentially qualifies as a hate crime is something a consumer might want to have to make an informed decision? If the ESRB felt the need to slap a label on Halo 2 because of a booty shot, surely the N word would outpace that need?

I can think of two possible defenses for the ESRB. One is that a policing policy has been put in place and the company responsible is clearly making a good faith effort to keep this kind of material offline. Second is that these textures were not shipped nor created by the company, but rather by a user. These are in fact, it would seem, the very standards the ESRB tries to keep.

There is only one problem: it is a standard which is completely meaningless to the consumer and if anything ... counter-productive.

Your average parent could care less if an offensive image was downloaded or unlocked. Most, in fact, could probably barely describe the difference if asked. And it requires less technical savvy to simply download or find such an offense online than it is for many to juggle the more arcane methods of modified content. Plus the latter is an intentional edit - nobody stumbled onto Hot Coffee. Nobody button mashed accidentally and saw sexual content - they specifically downloaded the program to unlock it.

With Forza 2, my impression is that you could just find it in the auction house. The problem with the ESRB's stance on modified content is that is mostly of convenience to the ESRB ... not to the consumers they seek to inform.

Of course, many an experienced gamer will read up to this point and realize that if the ESRB were to treat the Forza content the same as the Oblivion content - then every virtually every game out there with any kind of modifiable access would require an AO rating. Certainly most any game on the PC ... and I imagine as user content becomes more and more of an aspect on consoles or at the very least relying on hard drives instead of static media - the majority of them as well.

Exactly. Which is why I said about two years ago that the ESRB was placing gaming on shaky ground.

If the ESRB is meant to inform consumers then the best course of action is not a reactive one to every kind of modifiable content. Including content which may be locked away on a disc. The focus for the ESRB should not be to distinguish what is downloadable or unlockable, but to help parents understand what all that means.

I'm not saying that games should not be flagged for this kind of content - but to rerate an entire game based on the fact that it could be modified is going to be an increasingly difficult stance to keep. Instead parents should be alerted that games might have online components, user generated content or even unlockable content.

In fact, this would be the precedent set with Halo 2, which included a label instead of altering the rating. The rating was still valid for the vast majority of gamers and the label gave parents the warning they needed.

The current line in the sand the ESRB holds simply holds no meaning to parents. And in a world of modifiable content and "Game 3.0" which promises more user generated content, it is simply going to have to change.

PSP's ISO Loader ... Bye Bye UMD?

This isn't the first time I've wondered if Sony would drop UMD as a requirement for playing games on the PSP, and with a firmware update that allows for loading ISO ... it just got a little closer.

While it might have looked great on paper, the UMD drive adds bulk, powers consumption and noise to the PSP while offering ... well, I guess if someone really wanted to watch Finding Nemo and didn't have a video iPod it offered something.

But I'd rather have a slimmer, quieter device that could download games off the net, myself.

Microsoft Pays For Red Ring Of Death

Microsoft said Thursday that it will take a charge of $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion for the quarter ending June 30 to cover enhanced warranty coverage on the Xbox.

The Xbox, one of Microsoft’s faster growing businesses, will now have a three-year warranty from time of purchase in addition to other policies. Xbox customers have been annoyed by a bevy of “three flashing red lights” error messages. In various reports, this error was known as the Red Ring of Death.
-- » Microsoft’s Xbox hardware failures prove costly

Ouch. A billion and some change? To put that into perspective, it's nearly the entire loss the games division had for 2006 alone. It's one-fifth of Gamestop's 2006 sales. It is a lot of money.

Course, it is also probably cheaper than the class action suit they'd be facing otherwise. I don't know if this would sway me closer to buying one. I'm not a fan of returning things, even for free.

Update ... interesting take on the potential hardware flaw:

Oh, those transistors again. Has nobody told Microsoft? Transistors don't fail. It's big hardware that fails. We'll have more next week - and in the next few days - but the fact is that the motherboard seems to warp when it gets warm.
-- Guardian Unlimited: Gamesblog

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Note From Management: Oh Look - Pretty Fireworks

OK, so that's Geometry Wars - which I'm quite glad for having via Steam on XP by the way and highly look forward to it landing on my DS in the near future.

Honestly, I've tried to post like three different things in the last couple days which have gone awry for one reason or another - mostly due to Blogger crashing Safari through some bizarre captcha related bug.

So let's just call it a holiday. See everyone later this week.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rorshach Has A Journal Online

Solace in Cinema points out that the Watchmen's Rorschach has a journal up, with the old highlighted encoded message trick:

As nerdy as it is, I love things like this, tiny little pieces of what’s to come. The site isn’t even providing any news to do with the film, but it’s enough to get the fanboys talking, and I guess that’s the beginning of what marketing people call ‘ground swell’

The current message when directly translated reads:


A partial quote from the book followed by what has been revealed to be google map co-ordinates:

from geekanerd:

these numbers are in fact co-ordinates that lead to a location on 7th Ave ad 40th street, NYC. Although I originally speculated they were pointing to Midtown Comics, Geekanerd’s super-secret contact at Midtown (who also happens to be a shadowy figure behind Pop Culture Shock) said that the co-ordinates are more likely referring to the location of The Gunga Diner, a restaurant Rorschach visits in Chapter 5, page 11. On that page, Rorschach’s narration reads: “On fortieth and seventh, saw Dreiberg and Juspeczyk leaving diner. They didn’t know me. An affair perhaps?”


TV Watch: What's With Bad Chicago Shows

We got stuck watching The Loop because it was nestled between The Simpsons and The 4400 (night of the "The's"). It's pretty bland - with every shot framed like an Olan Mills photo. Actors are always centered when they can be, evenly spaced if not.

This blandness hits stark contrast to the real Loop here in Chicago, which is usually a chaotic soup of people, street music and background noise. Like My Boys before it, The Loop asserts that all you need to prove you're in Chicago is a few stock exterior shots and fake backgrounds. This is even more egregious since the show is titled after the city's bustling core and make even less attempts to have any real connection to it.

I miss working near The Loop. It's practically a city within a city and is full of life and character. Perhaps if this show had some similarity to it, I'd want to watch it.

TV Watch: The 4400

USA's The 4400 has gotten pretty good this season, in case anyone had considered dipping their toes into it again or had forgotten the new season started up. I wasn't entirely onboard the promicin subplots of the previous season, but they are really using it to good effect here. Questions like who take a highly dangerous drug to gain superpowers and what kind of motive would they really puts a new angle on the "average person in a super world" concept. Definately recommend trying out an episode or two if you haven't. It's got a pretty long story arc at this point, but it's isn't quite as convulated as it might seem at first glance.

8 Things Meme

I swear this is just a bloated version of the five things meme Brinstar tossed out some time ago, but I suppose since Thomas beat me at Metroid Hunters as well, I should offer equal treatment. So:

Here are the rules: Eight random facts or interesting lies about yourself. Send me the link to your post when you’re done. Tag 8 more people. Drop a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been tagged. Don’t sit by your mailbox waiting for thank you notes from those you’ve tagged.

1 I was born on Opposite Day.
2 I've never broken a bone, had major surgery or had any kinds of organs removed. Tonsils and appendix still in check.
3 However, I have the sinus system of the damned. Tiny, tiny ear canals which can lead to seriously nasty things - like going temporarily deaf. An ENT doctor once asked me how many times my nose had broken.
4 I know kung fu.
5 I played guitar somewhat consistently until college - when I sold said guitar for bills and beer money.
6 I never wanted to be in a band or be on stage.
7 I have a deep fear of fire. Not real fire, mind you, but theoretical fire. A campfire? No problem. Thinking that I left the stove on when I left? Freaks me the hell out.
8 Also, bunnies.

If you're reading this - you're tagged. Unless you've done one already. Form a straight line and after eight people - it's optional.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

For Sunday: Darthmatic Chipmunk

Shortest "For Sunday" ever. Haven't done on in a while, not sure if anyone missed them. This one probably won't sell anyone - but if it makes you feel beeter, it's one of the better "Dramatic Chipmunks".

No? K. See ya Monday.