Monday, April 30, 2012

Walden This!


You know all of that talk about how there will never be a Citizen Kane of video games. Well apparently there will be a Walden, a real Walden, of games.
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden will be turned into an interactive game. Speared by a group from USC and recently being granted a $40 grand bump from the National Endowment of the Arts, they’re being dead serious about this.

The game is meant to be a primer, a helping hand for the book not a substitute for the book itself. Think of it as an introduction to Walden, because there’s only so much a person can enjoy playing a game about being a 19th century philosopher, in the woods, by yourself, where nothing happens except philosophizing. Yep. That’s Walden for you.

There is no set release date. No price. It may be a free product for schools. It’s a project…I’m not sure how much more there is to it. I’m not expecting gamers or students to line up to play a game based on the description of the forest in Walden. I think it’s an attempt by the academic community to try and get kids interested in reading some of the esteemed novels of Western literature though a medium the majority are familiar with; video games. Their heart is in the right place, but the concept is lacking. I don’t know how walking around in a forest, doing nothing, will convince me to read Walden.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You Can Never Go Left!

If you don't understand why this is cool, then you should turn in your gamer card today:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Games Will Save Us!



Today is one of those days where my brain is just not here. So I’m going to link you to a list on the 7 reasons why Video Games will Save the World!

Bold statement.

All but one of those, games helping cure AIDS, are not really world saving material. If we can solve the world hunger, eliminate crime, and make money no longer a concern in order to live a decent life, then games will be a life altering resource to look into. But it’s a good list, none-the-less.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

End of TechTv. For Reals This Time!


Not that I watch G4 at all, except for E3 coverage that I can’t find on the interwebs (though even that is starting to expand at such a rate that G4 coverage seems rather pointless), long-time tv personality Adam Sessler is out. Which is kind of sad. Of all of the “talent” in front the camera, he was one that I enjoyed watching. Mostly because he gave gamers some credibility to discuss our hobby in an intellectual manner.

His last episode of X-Play was aired yesterday. It seems like the parting was mutual and/or respected. He’s been with G4 back when it was TechTV( ah the good ol’ days!) since 1998. He’s currently working on a movie project called noobz as well as potential production deals and other gaming stuff. While no longer with G4, he’s not going to remove himself completely from the geek pool. He is one of us after all.

Adam S. While I gave up on G4 a long, long time ago, you were my one ray of hope through every E3 event. And for that, you will be missed.

I will never forget your eloquence in defending video games against then attorney (I’m not sure if he legally is still one?) Jack Thompson on Attack of the Show...before that went stupid too. You do us gamers proud sir. Go take that well-earned nap.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Video Games And Movies. The Dicussion Continues!


Ah gamasutra. You make me happy to be a gamer with your weekly video game criticism roundup. Making us look smart and all by picking out the gems that get lost in the interwebs.

It allowed me to reflect on a favorite subject of mine: video games will never be movies.

Bold, I know. Especially coming from someone who has done the film school thing, has 2 degrees, and made a couple of movies. And the business has been eating up on licensing one after another, hoping to spark the next big game movie craze.

We really haven’t had a “blockbuster” video game movie. Before you ask about Resident Evil, the next installment might be that hit. When it was initially released, it didn’t fare so well in U.S. theaters, but made a killing on DVD and did quite well overseas. That’s one of the reasons why they keep going. With each installment, the ticket sales have gone up, to the point that the last film (what was it, 4, 5? I can’t keep track of them) proved that the virus zombie genre had potential in the heart of Hollywood. The next one has the potential to be that breaker to get video game movies back.

The Super Hero buzz is going to die out soon. I know the pop and glitter that is The Avengers is right around the corner. I’m guilty of wanting to see it too. And I don’t know how well this foray into the “board game movies” such as Battleship will fair. I know it sounds like a joke, but Monopoly and Candy Land have been optioned. Like it or not, it’s going to happen. Remember Clue? Yeah. That does exist and can not be unseen. Like Doom. Though much love for Tim for being the crazy awesome man that he is.

Video game rights are being bought up left and right to capitalize on the medium. They make more than movies, so clearly it has to be a good resource for ideas. Don’t let the past discourage you with Mario Bros. and Tomb Raider. There’s potential there and movies want you to buy into it.

Pass.

While I’m ready for the super hero biz to slow down, video games are not an amicable replacement. Why? Games are not designed to be movies, even Metal Gear Solid 4 with its days of cut scenes. Just as movies are not designed to be games. Try thinking of one video game that is directly based from a movie that has done well. Go ahead. The Star Wars spin offs such as X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and KoTR don’t count. Those are not direct from the movie story-line based video games.

Honestly, I have a difficult time thinking of one that was considered a success. And what movie these days doesn’t have a video game, aside from recent Oscar winning dramas such as The Iron Lady. Though imagine that being a game; a Margret Thatcher in the body of Meryl Strepe running around, possibly whacking people in the head with a large book of British law. Could be amusing for half a second.

It’s difficult to translate a 2 hour movie into a 20 hour game. The same conundrum that book movies have to deal with. How do you take a book that is 800 pages long and turn it into a 120 minutes of movie watching goodness? Sure you have your stand-outs like Lord of the Rings and Twilight, but think about all of the stuff that was not in those movies. I know LoTR movies are long. Really, really long. But they don’t tell the whole story. A lot of pieces were left out. If you really wanted a word-for-word retelling of LoTR, expect each movie to take upwards to 50 hours. That will never happen.

The same principle applies to video games. How do you take something with up-wards to 50 hours of content and squash it into a movie timeframe? (More like 3 hours when you think of Call of Duty, so actually that could work, couldn’t it? I mean, it’s just shooting at the bad guys in different locations. War movie without a whole lot of drama or crying. Just run and gun. Who wouldn’t want to watch 3 hours of that?)

Kidding aside, you are guaranteed to remove the bulk of the content in order to fit the time. No one wants to see Tomb Raider split into 4 movies just to go through the first PlayStation game. A lot of the stuff that goes on is kind of boring if you’re just watching the movie and not a part of the experience. (This is my next point.) And no one wants to watch Angelina Jolie raiding tombs for 4 movies on one plot line.

But condensing a video game isn’t the big issue. It’s removing the gamer from their element and sticking their gaming content into the movie. If it’s not glaringly obvious, when you take the game out of the console, you remove the interactivity. Part of why video games do as well as they do is that it allows the user to become involved with the product. They control the character, his or her actions, and how the world evolves around them. You can’t do that in a movie with its linear progression to an inevitable conclusion. You can’t control what the main character does. If Super Pip should run to save the people in the burning building or go to the gas station and load up on burritos, the user is removed from the equation. That lack of interactivity is why movies based on video games have not worked. That joy of playing the video game is no longer there. Now you have to sit and watch the story for 2 hours, that may not have won you into playing the game in the first place. I know in my case, I didn’t pick up Infamous or GTA because of the story, but rather the unique aspects of game play that they offered. In the end I do like the stories, but that isn’t what got me to play those particular products.

Movies are programmed differently from games. They are meant to provide you with a story, a beginning, climax, and ending. A nice, neat little package (conceptually, not literally since not all movies are like this) for people to be entertained. A game doesn’t have to do this. I’m sure a number of you sate off into space for hours playing Farmville. There is no real “end” to that game. You choose when you want to end by not playing. You have the option to stop playing the game and not finish the story. Or you have an open world game like Grand Theft Auto where you can keep playing after the primary story line is finished. You can’t do that with a film.

Maybe in the fan fiction universe, but that’s a different realm entirely. This is specifically focusing on the film element.

This whole mess that I’ve typed up isn’t to say that there won’t be good or decent or fantastic movies based on video games, and vice versa. Rather, you can’t take a video game and expect it to be just like a movie. The same principles don’t apply. I wrote up a posting a few months ago disputing some common tropes used in movies that someone was attempting to apply to video games.
Doesn’t work. Video games are not movies. Movies are not video games. They both need to be approached through different sets of criteria in order to properly critique them. It would be the same as putting the Mona Lisa next to Tupac and say “compare the two.” A crude example, but that’s basically what you’re asking movies and video games to do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yelling At Devs Isn't "That" Important


In a sick, twisted sense, I’m kind of glad to see that other people have received death threats. You get them a lot working for customer service. You get them even less when you start reporting every single one of them to the police and word gets out online not to talk to so-and-so at GameStop. They’ll report your ass. :)

I’m not saying that they’re deserved, rather I’m glad that I’m not alone.

Your first time getting one of these, it freaks you out. “It’s just a game people. My god! There’s no reason to get twisted into different directions just because you couldn’t beat Lego Star Wars.”

Yeah. That has happened. People have swore and threatened employees for not being able to finish a Lego game. Everyone thinks I kid when I talk about the horrors of my old job. I wasn’t kidding. And the 50+ people that have walked through that room since then aren’t kidding either.

So I can understand where the CoD devs are coming from. It’s not fun being on that end of the death threat line. 99% of them are simply angry fans who don’t know how to convey their frustration. Instead they spatter off a few swear words and say they’ll kill you in a creative fashion. And then you get that 1% that says they’ll really do it. Then you have to get the police involved, because if you’re going to say “I’m really going to do it” then yeah. We have to be concerned for our safety. I’m surprised the voices in the Kotaku article didn’t turn in more of those e-mails and letters to local police. Some of those things would be very much worthy of an investigation.

Well here’s where we go from here. If you’re going to make empty threats to a gaming company, say, I don’t know the guys that won’t make another Mega Man game, rethink your words. You’ll get through a lot faster, and a lot higher, if you take the time to vocalize your position without swearing or wanting to kill someone’s mama. Start off with “f this, f you, f your ahole” it immediately gets sent to the delete bin. You all might be surprised at how much customer service will respond to you if you’re calm and coherent on the phone or in an e-mail. You’re more likely to be heard.

I seriously need to consider writing a book about this shit. lol I have well over a decade of customer service in my system. I have seen the highs, the lows, and all the crap in-between. Amazon customers…fire up those Kindles!

Monday, April 23, 2012

TV Game - A New Twist!


Syfy and Trion Worlds (Rift) are working together to pitch to advertisers a new joint venture for television and gaming. Defiance, set 30 some-odd years in the future in San Francisco, will be played out both on television and in an MMO setting. Events that happen on the show, will provide aftermath in the game, and vice-versa. Players can potentially influence the future of the show by playing the game.

The show is set to release in April of 2013, and they are looking for some product branding. Not something you typically see so far in advance, but when working on this type of project, you kind of need to.

Syfy is pushing past linear TV and showing there's a bigger environment for advertisers outside the one screen," ~Ellen Ferrari, managing director at Mindshare Ad Agency.

So basically it’s a good excuse to get advertisers in on multiple platforms and not pay as much in the process. Though I think the Burger King example is not the best. There are no Burger Kings in San Fran. At least none that I remember. >.>

I’m not concerned about the advertising. What I do like is that someone is finally taking that step of immersion to make games and television one. Imagine being able to actually transform the stories in the show as it happens. Of course major plot points are already pre-determined as well as some events, but the viewer/user has the ability to influence the future. The information on how the game will pan out is very limited at this time, other then it’ll be an MMO setting and parallel with the television show on Syfy. But the possibilities!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Parents Don't Understand

A mother in California is suing Facebook for allowing her teenage son to buy their online currency for their games without her consent. She's looking to seek up to $5 million to be refunded back to her and other parents.

This sounds scary and what not, but the mom is not looking at the issues fully.

1.) Your Son Stole Your Credit Card.

I would be greatly concerned about this and look into punishing your son. Not blaming Facebook for being a crappy parent. Or if you willingly gave him your card, he still stole your money by buying more then the allotted amount you set for him.

2.) Facebook, just like multiple retailers that sell video games, R rated movies, "adult content" music, and the like, has a notification that you must by 17 or older and the holder of said credit card before making a purchase. If you "agree" then it absolves Facebook of any wrong-doing.

GameStop has this, and man they get away with it. It's not their fault that your kid took your credit card, went online, hit the "agree" button and consenting that he is a legal adult to buy an M rated title. If anything, that kid can be counter-sued. He lied to facebook by claiming that he was an adult. Fine print people. It's there for a reason and can save a company's ass.

3.) Did the mom talk to Facebook about a refund?

The article nor the court documents don't really say. I'm sure if she explained it to them and said "hey, my kid stole my card and made an unauthorized purchase," they would work with her to get a refund on the game credits that haven't been spent. Not all businesses are dicks. Only some of them, most of the time.


Said mother is stating Facebook's system is not enough to weed out the kids that are using stolen credit cards. If this does get looked at in court and rules in her favor, expect all of your gaming purchasing websites to be changing. Imagine sitting through 20 pages of BS from Steam or Amazon just to buy an M rated game? You'll probably end up getting a call from the retailer as well to verify your identity. What fun. -_-

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Game Didn't Make Him Do It

I was hoping to avoid this, but when a mass murder drops the “video game” bomb, it’s difficult to ignore.


Anders Breivik, the person who planned and carried out that mass shooting spree last July in Oslo, Norway, came out to say that he played World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Specifically the later to work out tactical maneuvers to dodge the cops after it was all said and done.

And while he honestly contemplated using video games as a scapegoat, he turned around and decided to be truthful. How thoughtful for someone who killed 77 people. The games didn’t make him do it. He had long planned out and wanted to go on this spree for a while. Video games didn’t have a part in the “why did he do this.”

So thank you Reuters for FINALLY publishing an article that exposes this issue.

We are a society that wants answers, and we want them now. If someone does something bad, we want to know “why”. And the easy response is to blame a mental condition spurred by violent video games. Before that it was music. And before that it was television. And movies. And theater. And books. And art! It’s a continuous cycle of “what’s popular now in entertainment” that takes the blame. Poor art. What did it ever do?

So many people play video games that it is difficult to see the correlation. It’s like saying “everyone that has murdered a person, wore shoes. Therefore, everyone that wears shoes is a murderer.” Of course not. But that’s the type of reasoning that has been applied for centuries with entertainment mediums.

Are there the odd ducks in the universe with real mental issues that would cause concern? Sure. And there have been people influenced to do things because they didn’t have the mental capacity to understand otherwise. But that doesn’t mean ALL video games and ALL people are bad. Think of the whole before you think about pointing fingers. The easiest answer is more than likely not the right one. It’ll probably be years before we figure out why Breivik did what he did. All of the answers to any question take time to research.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Internet People! You Donated A Lot Last Month

To kickstarter video game projects of course! 9 million, 330 thousand and some change in U.S. dollars. Quite a nice chunk of change. If you include current fundraising efforts, that extends to $10 million dollars.

To note, with Kickstarter's rules, those are donations that are going to the gaming companies. I.E. they reached their fundraising goal and are able to move forward in their projects. That's dozens of potential independent publishers. Good for us!

Now what happens to the money after all of this...well that's up for debate. Kickstarter does take out a percentage to keep their website up. They don't check on the person/group/companies after that. It really is a blind faith system where you hope that the goodness in people does take over. And for the most part it does. I'm sure there's a story here and there about a kickstarter scam, but they seem to do a pretty good job of weeding those individuals out.

You also have to keep in mind the sometimes unavaoidable, unexpected expendatures. Computer crashes. Server meltdowns. Bills. Loans payments. Marketing. Things come up that you didn't think would happen and they have to be paid for. So a number of those games may not see the final stages of release, but who knows! Way to donate internet. Now, feel free to help pay off my student loans so I can continue bringing you more awesome blog postings. :D

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cakes Mama. Cakes!

What? It's my birthday today. I'm allowed to have a break every now and then. Espicially with the impending doom that is work.

But if you're expecting something from me, here you go via Gamasutra. It'll make you think. And look! It's full of links! Lots and lots of links!

They're actually pretty interesting reads from an intelectual standpoint. If you need me to pin-point one, I'd go with Cooking Mama as performance art. Kind of cool to think about it from a diferent perspective. Your movements with the DS system as you "cook" are very rythemic and require the user to exercise hand-eye coordination in a different way-creating a piece of "art" in food while dancing about the screen.

There you go. Enjoy. I did my work today for the blog.

Now, where's my gaming cake? :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Want To Read About GTA?


That seems silly when you can just play the game. >.> See what I did there?

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto was recently published, written by David Kushner. It’s him trying to be unbiased and provide a “historical” view of what happened in the 00’s with gaming and how GTA is in the center of it all.

He has written one book previously, Masters of Doom, to focus on the first big jump of gaming in the 90’s and wanted to continue on that bridge of how the 00’s panned out.

I call it the GTA decade.

His language is pretty broad so even those who know nothing about GTA and the Hot Coffee mod will be able to get into the book and understand. His main points boil down to one fact on why GTA managed to stay on top: it’s a good game. For all of the publicity, the Jack Thompsons, the bad-boy image of RockStar, none of that matters if the franchise was crap. The games have been selling, and still sell, because they are quality products.

I remember Hot Coffee. I even made a t-shirt about it. We were finally getting adults to talk about video games in a serious manner. I’m not talking about the news stories. Those all focused on the wrong aspects. I’m talking about the internet forums where we were openly discussing about video games in a theoretical and spatial manner that allowed us to grow. It’s ok for an adult to play a video game, and we entered into this new era of gaming with that mindset.

Monday, April 16, 2012

EA Is Still A Dick

So after a year of complaining and consumers fighting against them, EA has FINALLY done something about their suspend/banning system. The long and short of it, if you were suspended or banned online through multiplayer activities, you were basically locked out of the game for good, including single player mode. Regardless of what you did online or on the forums, it’s not reason to be permanently locked out of a game that you paid for. Banned online? Ok. Banned from playing the game on your personal computer and no one else? Lame.
So! The change is that if you’re banned online from in-game multiplayer, you can still play your games offline without interruption. However the prema-suspension/ban on forums is still there so you’re screwed if you mess upon the forums. And as others have proven in the past, even quoting someone from another post can get you banned, though you had nothing to do with the original post and the original postee is still able to carry on with their business.

And people wonder why we name EA the worse company of the year.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

See The Louvre In 3D While Being IN The Louvre

Weird title, but let me explain.

As part f the 3DS juggernaut tour to get people to convert, Nintendo is working with the famed Louvre art building in France by replacing all of their tape recorders with 3DS systems for people to use while taking the tour.

It's not bad in theory.

But not so great in practice.

The program they came up with works for an audio tour. But visually...it seems a little stupid. Head to 49 seconds into the video. The woman selects the option to see the Venus de Milo in 3D and she's standing right in front of the statue, fully capable of walking around the entire thing. And a few seconds later, SHE DOES.

Now there are some nifty little things with the program/game that allow the users to see the history and pick up random facts that you'll get from an encyclopedia, but on the whole, it's kind of a fail. Unless you are incredibly lazy, there's no reason for you to use the 3D option when you're right there, in the Louvre, looking at the Venus.

Poor planning on Nintendo's part. What they should have done is given a potential history on how the statues were carved and created a 3D characterization of the process. Or watch daVinci paint the Mona Lisa. That would have been great use of the technology.

I'm for the needed upgraded to the audio tours that museums offer, but this isn't really working for me.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Game Sales Dropped 25% in March

Owie.

Not even a Mario Party could save March.

Though when you think about it, there really wasn't anything Earth shattering that released last month. There was Mass Effect 3 and another Fifa early on in the month, but overall, it was pretty quiet. As a whole, the industry has been relying way too much on "big games" to be the selling points. If you're not Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, most people don't care to promote your games. You get by with the few sales that you do, and call it a day.

That's probably not how we should be approaching the market. Big sellers are nice, but they're also the problem with the industry and why we're having a hard time releasing new creative products. If the companies can take the time to re-invest in their smaller products, market them accordingly, we could have some really cool stuff to look forward to in the future.

Creativity away!!!!

It also helps to keep in mind that this is a comparison to last March. Which had Rift, Pokemon Black & White, Dragon Age 2, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and Dissidia Duodecim. 2010 it was Final Fantasy 13 and Mass Effect 2. So on the whole, March 2012 was going to be screwed no matter what.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Woman Don't Like To Play With Geek Men

First, read through the article.


I couldn’t find a single problem with it, because it is so sadly true.

And it’s funny how the majority of the cosplay community is female. When photographing or filming at conventions, I try my best to get a good mix, but 9/10 I’m going to get a woman in a costume.

Why is that?

In a geekdom that is dominated by men, why do women outnumber them in cosplay? Are we expected to play dress up because that is what our male counterparts determine we must do? They’re not even counterparts at that rate if they are attempting to conform us to their standards of what a woman in the geek universe should be. Is it because “dressing up” is considered a female only activity? A child-like instinct that men shouldn’t participate in? I remember little boys playing cowboys and Indians, and they took part in putting on the costumes just as little girls wanting to be princesses and have tea parties. What’s the difference?

It’s interesting how we have come so far in society and yet gender still defines the type of person that we are expected to be. Because I’m female, I can’t be a geek. And if I am a geek, I need to know every little detail about everything geek-like. Such as where the bathroom is on the Enterprise, what is the call number for this ship, and who sang this song on this episode of Dr Who for 2 seconds. The things that most normal male geeks are not expected to know, because they are accepted for who they are right up front. As a woman, we have to prove ourselves.

Fairness away!

In an odd sense, cosplay could be viewed as a way of trying to gain “acceptance” into the community. It’s our way of showing men “hey, I like this game/movie/anime/manga too. We can talk about it.” But even that gets dumped to the wayside most of the time in lieu of “who’s hot and who’s not.” I find myself going more and more towards female cosplayers for friendship BECAUSE men are not willing to give me a chance. If I’m not hot/sexy or can’t prove that I know absolutely everything about a specific geek topic, I’m not worth their time and instead we get the creepers.

I’m not saying that this is all men. I know a number of male cosplayers that are pretty normal, and I have a lot of guy friends that accept me at face value. Some of them are geeks and could care less if I know where the bathroom is on the Enterprise (which I do know btw), but they enjoy my company and like me for being me. Holy crap! What a concept!

And even in the subsets of the cosplay culture where you have the super geeks, a number of men are pretty normal. The FF guys for example are pretty cool. They think it’s nifty if you know your sh*t about pre FF7 stuff, but you’re not going to get ragged on if you don’t.

But for a number of men, you really do creep out the women that want to be accepted by the community. And when we’re not accepted, we group up with other girls. Not sexually mind you. So for all of you boys/men out there looking for a nice geek girl, stop scaring us off!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Notch In The Belt

Baron and Budd reached a settlement with GameStop Corp. regarding the sale of used games that advertise downloadable content on the box.


Basically the issue is this: Baron and Budd is claiming false advertising because GameStop is selling used games with boxes that claim that online content and downloadable features are included. Which their not, because it’s a used game and the original owner owns the rights to said game. That’s why it’s used. You’re paying for second hand.

But with EA becoming more hands-on with used game sales and DRM, consumers typically pay up to $15 for the extra content that came with the original game, but not the used one. Under the settlement, for the next two years California GameStop stores must post signs over the used game section as well as online that additional purchases may be required to access downloadable content.

Also, a list of games has been posted that would affect California consumers: http://www.facebook.com/gamestop.settlement To which you are entitled to some form of credit, basically a check and a coupon for future GameStop purchases. Because let’s face it. They are going to try and keep the money in the family. Customers really don’t get squat. Note: This only applies to those customers in California. If you’re not there, then you’re sol. But Baron and Budd are looking to expand this to the other states, so feel free to complain on their facebook page.

It’s not going to stop GameStop from used game sales. But it does show how much publishers are pushing back against used sales.

Monday, April 09, 2012

From the 501st to the 503rd

The Sims are not real people.
You can set them on fire with no consequences.
You can't do that IRL.
It’s obvious that EA and I don’t get along. I’m all for boycotting the company, but my reason is because they are a heartless corporation with little concern for their customers as they have lost their core values years ago. To boycott the company because they allow for same sex couples in a game is ridiculous. 
But apparently that’s what people are trying to do. SWTOR came under fire well into the beta days over a year ago for not featuring same sex couples. I remember the BioWare devs stating that it wasn’t their decision. It came from the higher ups at LucasFilm. For some reason people expect BioWare to always have gay relationships in their games, regardless of its use to the story. Even better is that BW doesn’t have a stance on the position. They don’t HAVE to do anything. They actually care about the story not about who you can hook up with. Who knew.
Well in an upcoming patch, you can do that. The same sex relationship that is. Because we all know if you’re a female IA agent, your choices in male companions are limited and creepy. We all want Kaliyo and you know it. But no! Think of the children! It’ll hurt them! How? This is a T rated game mind you. Your kids shouldn’t be playing this. And if your teenagers are, it might be a good idea to have that talk about the birds, the bees, and the walrus. Healthy discussions are good people. Not gay bashing.
Brit actor Stephen Fry is taking a stand on the issue via Twitter. You can hashtag @Yoda or @ea to show your support. I probably won’t because it is EA, the most evil corporation in the U.S., and soon to be the world. (Just to make it clear, I hate EA for reasons OTHER than their use of same sex relationships in games. Love is love. If you love someone of the same sex, cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. I’m not going to judge you for your lifestyle. You’re you. Do what makes you feel happy. A game offering same sex relationships doesn’t bother me in the least bit nor does it influence my purchasing power. The development of the game and story do.) But to boycott them because 2 completely fictional, not real, totally digital same sex characters have a relationship? Stupid.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

WTF Blogger.

Weird ass new format for Blogger.

Anyway. I'm tired. Back from a convention. Not Pax East, but just as cool. If you want news, go to Kotaku and search Pax East. See you tomorrow with something more substantial.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The 501st

I have survived 500 blog postings. And what do I wake up to find? Consumerist.com’s 7th annual “Worse Company in America”. Guess who got top billing this year? EA.

A glorious day this is.

The voting is set up much like March Madness with brackets with 32 top companies and over 260k votes. It bested, or worsted, companies such as AT&T and Bank of America, whom “won” last year.

The reason? Well isn’t it obvious. It’s EA. The scourge of the gaming industry. They have a very elitist attitude when it comes to their products and customer service. Or rather lack of service. It was the company that introduced stricter DRM rules to their products (I can only install The Sims-3 times before I have to spend an hour on the phone begging and pleading with you all in case my computer crashes? No thanks.) I’ve had my own bought with them a few years back that took well over 5 months to resolve, and it’s still an ongoing issue that prevents me from playing a product I paid for.

Other gamers have been banned from the EA forums for ridiculous reasons and in turn have been banned from online gaming and the EA Origin service, essentially being ripped off of the hundreds of dollars and hours spent. EA is still showing no positive response for this.

What really tips it into ahole land is that EA tries too hard to be cool. Remember that episode of South Park with the crack baby sports and EA wanted to buy the rights to make the game? They tried to quip on that at E3 last year. It wasn’t funny. In fact, it was pretty sad. EA keeps trying to “relate” to their target consumers with advertising, merchandising, and celebrity tie-in’s. Anyone remember Jonah Hill for CoD? Yeah. That was pretty sad. Sorry Jonah. We know it wasn’t your fault.

EA really is the company stuck up in it’s own ass. Even their “acceptance” speech via Kotaku was douchy.

“We're sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren't nominated this year. We're going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.”

Yeah. Only a company at the top of the list would be that arrogant.

So thanks to The Consumerist for making my 501st post a good one.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hey. Fox News. I found a story for you.

This is what happens when you let people talk on the internet without doing any research or news reporting:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/03/children-addicted-violent-games-warn-teachers?newsfeed=true

$5.00 says that will be a story on Fox News within the week.

Teachers are warning against children playing video games because they re-enact the scenes on the playground, such as violent car crashes. They claim children are acting out more in classes, come in tired to school, and are potentially developing seizures because of video game use.

I’m not buying that last point either.

But the icing to the cake is that there is 0 evidence being provided to back up these claims. Just “accounts” on what teachers are “perceiving” is happening. They’re not taking that extra step to find out what’s going on. Maybe those children are tired because they’ve been up all night going reading a book for class. They could be “acting out” from frustration in school, bullying, or other issues that may be occurring at home. They could be playing cops and robbers because…that’s what kids do! It was fine for you 30, 40, 50+ years ago. It’s still fine now!

As I said, Fox News is going to eat this story up.

There’s really 0 facts being applied to this story. The only tiny sliver of hope is a teacher, Robin Bevan, said there was no attempt to verify the claims being made, thus no facts to prove that these claims are real and research needs to be done. So yea. A teacher that gets it!

Anyone else getting annoyed by society lately and their rampant abuse of gamers?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Star Wars Nerds, Listen Up!

Ok. I have nothing to say other then I completely agree with this Stephen Totilo, which is a rare thing.


Star Wars old schoolers, you really are making it worse.

I’m probably one of the few original fans that advocates Episodes 1-3. They’re not that bad! Seriously! You have to keep in mind that Star Wars was built on the foundation that it should entertain all ages. There are adult things and kid things in all of the movies. Yes C3PO was ALWAYS that cheesy with his one liners. Look at RotJ. You can’t tell me he wasn’t cheestastic back then. And it was great! That’s why we love him. Or tolerate him depending upon your point of view.

I’ve talked to fans that have been adamant about not playing TOR because it doesn’t represent the “true Star Wars universe.” Really? Ok. You’re missing out on a fun time. But hey. That’s your call. My dad is an old school Star Wars guy. He plays it and he’s having a blast as a Bounty Hunter. (I’m still giddy that he picked the Empire.)

What’s available today in merchandising is an update on what use to be. Bed sheets are now Tauntaun sleeping bags. Action figures (still around, I know) are now coffee mugs. The plastic lightsabers are now more expensive plastic lightsabers. There were bad products back then just as there are now. No need to flip out.

So thanks Stephen. They needed a talking to.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Brains and Video Games

Catchy. I know. I have my moments.

I know that I’ve brought up the subject of expanding our horizons with different types of games to enter into our repertoire, such as the Imagine series, and how to review such products. And I’ve blogged about thinking games before. But I’ve never really provided my own opinion.

Educational games are a fuzzy realm. I grew up in a time of Mavis Beacon and Oregon Trail. Those were our “educational” games. They made you think, and type, and read, and learn about dysentery. Whatever it was, you didn’t want it.

But now that realm is at least 100 times bigger. LeapFrog and their massive collection of products takes the cake. Any children’s store or “learning” store will probably have at least a quarter of their store dedicated to LeapFog. And that’s not a bad thing. They’ve been shown to help with a majority of children to make learning more fun. Because some things in education can be pretty boring. Algebra for example. If you can make that enjoyable to me then you’re doing something right.

When your child graduates from LeapFrog, the Nintendo DS has a slew of content for kids hitting that middle school age. Not the Imagine series. Please don’t pick up the Imagine series.

By the time they hit high school, Brain Age and the My Language Coach games are right there waiting for them. Nintendo has been doing quite well in bringing education and fun together in unique perspectives. My Language Coach is more of a straight-up, obviously educational game. And it’s one I approve of. Word to the wise: if you get the Japanese language one, skip the writing sections. The writing is horrible and will teach you the improper method; to which you’ll probably get smacked in the hands by your Japanese professor. The rest of it, spot on accurate. Brain Age is still obviously teaching you things, but the patterns and style of the game keeps it on a subversive level.

I would argue that other games such as Elite Beat Agents and the Ace Attorney franchise are teaching you in different areas that people would not expect. EBA for hand-eye coordination for sports, or rhythm and sound theory for music class. Ace Attorney for general problem solving skills, creative thinking, and reading comprehension.

This isn’t meant to sound like an “I love the DS!” post. It just happens to be that Nintendo has hit its audience when it comes to educational games. There are some on the Xbrick 360, PS3, and PSP, but the interactivity the DS offers, on the go no less, outweighs what the other systems have to offer.

I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about the LeapFrog games. I’m sure if someone saw me in the store playing with them, and I didn’t have a child, they would be concerned. But I understand their appeal.

I feel that the issue with educational games comes with two problems: how to keep learning fun, and how to keep the material supplemental instead of a replacement for a real-world education.

Fun and learning has been a centuries long issue. There is no one right way. There is no one correct path. Everyone learns differently. That’s the key aspect. What may work for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for another.

For example: I am not a test person. I hate tests. Unless it’s an essay test. I kick ass at those. But tests and I just do not get along. I know the content. I know the answers, but I can easily argue why another answer could work equally as well, if not better, than the choices you have presented me. I learn by listening, taking notes, and gradually entering the information into my head throughout the process.

I know friends who are test takers. They will cram the night before and can remember everything from that point on (not just for the test, but for all of time afterwards). Those 6 weeks in class are a waste to them. They take the notes and stuff it into their brain the night before.

Some people are visual learners. Some are verbal. Some want the one on one of a teacher. Some rather have the auditorium style.

It’s impossible to make education fun to everyone using one method.

I think this is where the LeapFrog games fail. They hit the majority of their target market. But those outliers that they are trying to woo their parents into buying are just not interested. The focus with LeapFrog is providing entertainment based on what’s currently popular with kids and turning them into a learning environment. Such as Disney Princesses, Dora the Explorer, and Spongebob. Also notice that a lot of those products are aimed towards girls. Interesting, isn’t it? It’s not that boys don’t want to learn, but there’s a dichotomy that would indicate that is the case.

And I think this is where Nintendo DS games are winning. They provide a wide arrange of variety. The downside being that most of those products are made without the intent to educate, such as EBA. It was a game solely focused on fun. The fact that it can potentially enhance hand-eye coordination and open up the world of music theory to kids is/was unintended.

What I’m trying to get at is that educational games are not something that should be looked down on. I’m sure many of us have played such games without realizing it. But that is also no “magical learning game.” There isn’t a product that can appease every person in the world with the intent to teach and have fun. Mostly, it’s time for us to look outside the label. There are hundreds of games that can provide an educational experience that aren’t considered. How about Gears of War and Call of Duty? Teamwork is a valuable real-world leaning simulation that you can’t get anywhere else. Ignore the swearing and smack talk; those games provide team training that is difficult to find outside of the sports arena.

What else can we explore for education in gaming? I’d like to think that there are parents out there looking to games as a secondary material for education, outside of LeapFrog and Brain Age. Let the kids have Dragon Quest and learn about inventory management, the economy, and why blue slimes wear crowns.

Mostly it’s about exploring outside of the options being presented to you. Don’t take a game at face value and be willing to experiment with new content. You might be surprised at what you and your child learn.