Thursday, January 31, 2013

EA Speaking Out Against Critics Of Violent Games

Shit. EA. Don’t. Just. Step away from the discussion. Please. You’re just going to make things worse. A lot of people don’t like you. Or at least, I don’t like you and I know you’re capable of “foot in mouth syndrome.” Let the rest of us handle it, ok?

John Riccitello, EA’s chief exec and chair of the ESRB US division spoke during a conference call with investors last week, that instead of talking numbers, it went into video game violence. Now John is a firm believer that there isn’t enough evidence to link violent games with aggressive and violent behavior in the real world. That’s good John. We appreciate that as the chief exec of the largest game developer in the Western world. And that there seems to be a “perception issue” with the blame game we’re currently enveloped in. And yes, the industry does need to step up and show that the image the media portrays them is incorrect.

Ok John. You’re focusing for once. What’s going on?

Oh. That backlash from game developers having ties to gun makers is still stirring things up?  I guess that would make sense on why you’re trying so hard. Well, do that more often if you could please. Gamers and other developers would appreciate it. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Junction Point Next On The Chopping Block

Disney is closing down Junction Point and releasing just over 50 game developers, including Warren Spector (a self-proclaimed Disney die-hard fan, who was also a VP with Disney). No official statements have been released by Spector or Disney, but it may have to do with lackluster sales of Junction Point’s games Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two.

The first game was an E3 show floor stopper. While sales internationally didn’t hold up, in the states the game did reasonably and a lot of people appreciated the creative drive Spector had. Mickey 2 sales and reception haven’t been as strong. Game rankings barely reached 60% and sales have not stood up, ¼ less in sales compared to the previous title. 

That’s enough for anyone to close down a studio, unfortunately. We live in a business world where money is the maker or breaker. If you can’t make money back for your work, then why should you stay up? Even with the creative strengths of the team, it’s a business. I’m more surprised that Disney booted Spector entirely. They could have easily moved him to another branch of the company and still maintain his influence.

But it is what it is. It was short lived Junction Point and hopefully you all are able to find jobs soon. Warren Spector probably doesn't need to worry. Someone else will scoop him up in no time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#Objectify, #1ReasonWhy, #SexismBothGenders

Last week Leigh Alexander, blogger for Sexy Videogameland, Gamasutra editor, and occasional Kotaku contributor, wanted to try a social experiment to help open up discussion regarding sexism in the video game industry. #Objectify: A day where men would be the ones pointed out and, for lack of a better word, objectified. A number of people understood the intent of the day, original slated as February 1st. After the overwhelming response, Leigh decided to call it off

My goal was that humor and empathy could help people open constructive dialog about sexism. And for a while it seemed like it could work! But there were also a lot of problems with my approach that came to light thanks to the feedback of some trusted friends and colleagues, and I take their concerns extremely seriously.

#Objectify is not about celebrating objectification or about making people feel uncomfortable, but I'm increasingly worried that point will be lost and that harm can be done.

I don’t blame her for wanting to call off the event. The message could very quickly be lost amongst the naysayers and people intentionally trying to verbally and/or physically harm others because “oh, well they made a day of it today, so it’s fine!” The idea was to use humor and empathy to get a dialogue going. Not just for video games but for the entire tech industry. Women are seriously lacking presence in these businesses and become targeted, directly or indirectly, by their male counterparts. Sexism is a big reason why (not the only reason, but a huge part of it. Sorry EA. Your argument is invalid.) 

And Twitter blew it up. Too many people are now coming after Leigh without reading the intent behind the #Objectify day.

Honestly? I think the concept could have been fleshed out a little better. While I understand the humor/empathy mode of reasoning, by objectifying men we are bringing ourselves down to their level; we are no better than the men that harass us. Important to note: I know that NOT ALL MEN are like this. Unfortunately it’s a majority, not a minority, and it’s pervasive in our society. This isn’t just a tech business issue. It’s an issue everywhere. Women are verbally, physically, mentally objectified on a daily basis. And you know what? So are men.

Just this morning on Good Morning America they were discussing with the actor of the new Diet Coke commercials. Why? Well he’s apparently a handsome man who works out, and Coke is trying to reminiscent on a similar commercial of the same premise from 20 years ago. Apparently this is fine because it’s women objectifying a man. Just a week ago everyone was up in arms about a super bowl ad from Mercedes Benz with a female model that is nearly naked, but still within the standards and practices of what’s appropriate on U.S. television. 

Double standard! It’s ok to objectify a man because they might like it, but it’s not cool to do it to a woman.

Visually demeaning a person regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation…all people is an issue. No one gender should get a pass while the other gets vilified. And vice versa! We can start this discussion on women in the technology industry by coming to terms that it happens on both sides of the gender pool. Women and men are objectified, directly and indirectly. Women more than men, but it does happen to both. That’s where we should begin and we can encourage thoughtful discussion from there.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I’m Sorry SimCity, But I Can’t

I want to like this. But I'm a solo gamer in my city.
It’s a beautiful game and something the developers should be proud of. Reading through the hands-on experience from reviewers and reporters, it seems like a lot of upgrades to a great franchise. Even the idea of a multi-player city, where multiple people can converge to create a conglomerate super-city, or royally f- it up, it’s too good to pass up.

But I have to. I’m sorry SimCity. I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. But always online? No thanks. While I think it’s great that SimCity is getting the online and multi-player feature, I still view it and would want to play it as a solo experience. I don’t want people to randomly jump into my city and either “break” or “fix” it. I don’t want my work to always be published to the greater world if it’s not ready to be seen (or ever seen in some cases).

Not to mention, the headaches. Diablo 3 anyone? Kotaku got to experience this with Adam Sessler. Even with just a handful of people, the server kept crashing and needed to be reset several times. Oh and no saved games. So it’s a lot like an MMO where you don’t have a physical “saved game file” on your computer. If you mess up your city you can’t go back to your last save. It’s set in stone. Some may see that as progressive. You can’t ever un-do your actions, just like in reality. It’s also a game. I want to make my city this way and if I mess up the tax rate, I want to be able to go back to my saved file, restart, and set it right.

EA says it’s to help prevent hackers, mods, and boost DRM. But always online serves no purpose to the customers other than to annoy them. Someone will always see my city and I’m not comfortable with that. Does it mean I’m doing something illegal? Of course not. But I’m playing this game my way. I don’t want someone to come in and tell me that I’m “doing it wrong” and attempt to change things. It’s My Game.

I wish they would allow for an opt-out for online mode. I want a SimCity that I can play on my desktop at my home without interference from the outside world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Even with my ban on all things EA, I want to love SimCity. But alas, I will pass. Maybe one day they will see the folly of their error. A lot of us just want to play in our cities by ourselves.

China’s Weird Console Ban May Be Lifted

It started way back in 2000 as a means of preventing corruption of their children. You know that whole China dominance on every part of their country and society. Whatever your views may be, it’s pretty extreme. A little ironic that the country makes most, if not all, of the gaming consoles is also the one to ban them from being sold.

Since then, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have been looking for loopholes. Using cell phones and online gaming as a way to get into the Chinese network. And it may have worked. Just recently the government gave an approval to the PS3, meaning it didn’t have any of that weird ass Big Brother tracking technology that it doesn’t want among their citizens. Unless the government intentionally puts it in there, but that’s a different matter. 

China is a big market. Huge. Ignoring the black market sales of video games and consoles, if any of the big 3 can nab even just 1% of the market that’s still 1,344,000 in sales of systems. Yeah. Woah. Money problems? We don’t have them anymore!

This isn’t official and hasn’t been confirmed; the story was released to China Daily and says the policy is being reviewed. It also requires going through 7 ministries for the rule to be removed. But! A possibility to revive the market.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Logitech Discontinuing Console Accessories

After a disappointing quarter and seeing the market change for gaming peripherals, Logitech has decided to stop producing accessories for game consoles. CEO Bracken P. Darrell announced that the company is shifting directions and they have “identified a number of product categories that no longer fit” with where they’re going. The includes remote controls, video security, and speaker docks to name a few.

Darrell mentions the PC market as well and it sounds like some of those accessories might be removed too. Nothing confirmed but crap. There goes my plan to buy a new headset. Other brand names over the years have emerged when Logitech was the only name in town. Giotek, Razer, Steel Series, and Turtle Beach among the dozens of others. And with gaming accessories for consoles, most of us tend to stick to the ones provided by the console makers directly: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Not to mention a number of those Logitech accessories typically were only good for 1 or 2 games and not to the wide spectrum.

So if you have one of these products, I’m 99.99% certain that you won’t get a refund, but I’m sure they can still be serviced and provide tech support.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chris Hardwick on DICE, Games, and Nerds

I like Chris. He’s not only a smart man that took his passion and made it into a career, he’s genuinely a nice guy and gets really excited when he interviews people we geeks would die to meet. I met him at WonderCon 2 years ago, just before a Doctor Who panel. He has a natural charm about him that is difficult to resist.

With his booming Nerdist podcast, website, YouTube empire and his G4 credentials, he would make a great fit for the DICE awards, taking the place of Jay Mohr. Jay also has gamer cred, and typically hosts events at Blizzcon.

DICE is a gathering of 3 award groups: Game Developers Choice Awards, IGF Awards, and Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. It’s considered the “pure one” in the spectrum of the video game awards. Where Spike TV’s is the “unholy demon spawn” that focuses on glitz and celebrities. DICE won’t be aired this year with the cuts to G4, but you can find it streamed online live through MachinmaLive at 10pm ET on February 7.

So! A perfect time to interview Chris and see what’s up. To start off, if you don’t know anything about Chris he’s not like Jay Mohr at Blizzcon. He’s not about “roasting” the crowd but poking fun lightly at himself and nerd culture. If you Google his Comedy Central special from 2012, that’s what you’re going to get. What I found interesting about his interview is his perception on why we can’t have a cohesive and worth-while gaming awards show like The Oscars.

“I think what's difficult is that the audience of video games is so splintered, because people are so, so, so passionate about their video games; way more passionate than folks are about television or film,”

That never occurred to me, but he has a point. As a film nerd, we don’t typically get so involved in a discussion that it turns into a message board flame war, but you do with video games. The film community is very accepting of each other, no matter the differences, and feels an obligation to come together. Gamers…we’re all dicks. Sorry. We are. I’m a dick. You’re a dick. Everyone’s a dick. We all get so wound up in our games that we can’t see past them and accept others. “You play Borderlands? That game sucks. Go play a real FPS.” And then nerd rage commences.

Read the interview, it’s worth the time. Chris Hardwick, I’m totally ok with naming you the Nerd Prince, or Princess. Feel free to pick your poison. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

THQ May Have the Right To Auction Stick of Truth

THQ began auctioning off its licenses yesterday as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. And apparently South Park: The Stick of Truth is an exclusive license to THQ, meaning that it can be sold even though Obsidian Entertainment is the one developing the product. South Park Studios doesn’t want that to happen, clearly. Why? It messes with the money and could potentially corrupt the brand if things are changed.

SPS wants to approve of the sale of the license before it is transferred to the buyer. They have also filed documents to get at least $2.275 million in default payments to THQ back. This will probably play out in court and get really ugly. While SPS owns the right to the names and characters, their exclusivity to the game with THQ makes it open for sale for the game.

Developers such as EA, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. are looking to snatch it up. The auction will be finalized in bankruptcy court today and someone is going to get a highly-anticipated game out of the deal. And we’ll all still want it, regardless of who it goes to.

Update 3:20pm: Ubisoft has claimed Stick of Truth and THQ Montreal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EA, We Called Your Bull. But Thanks For Opening Up Discussion

I’m glad that I’m not the only one that jumped in on thistopic about EA’s Executive VP dismissing sexism as a reason why women are not in the gaming industry. It’s flaring up a massive amount of discussion, which is great! That’s what we need: logical, reasonable, non-flaming, dialogue.

The problem that I have with the article, as I mentioned before, is that Toledano doesn’t bring up new points in the discussion nor provide solutions. She comes out to say “sexism is a cop-out” which yes, sometimes that is the case where people are quick to assume sexism when it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Toledano tiptoed around it, but it does happen. Followed by: EA employees more women than anyone else in the industry. Women! We got them!

We need to look at the core of the issue of why women feel intimidated from entering the industry. Sexism is there, yes. But so are misogynistic attitudes, fear of failure, downplaying accomplishments, scare-tactics, and mind games. It’s no surprise that video game developers tend to be male dominated. From a young age, girls are told by teachers that we can’t do math and science. We’re not expected to like video games or want to be a movie director. We are told that we are not going to do well at math and if we want to go into the medical industry? Be a nurse. That’s an appropriate title for a woman. Why? These are the questions and problems we need to look into that can explain the low number of women in the business. It can be applied to minorities as well. How many non-white and non-Asians do you see working gaming companies? Take a minute. I can wait. Good luck working out the numbers.

I fully admit that I suck at complex math, but I know that a lot of it is because I was always told by teachers and one asshole of a vice principle in middle school that I would never understand it. That really messes with your head as a child. When you’re told to always listen and obey adults, if one of them tells you that you can’t do something, you’re going to have it trained into your brain that you can’t do it. It’s a powerful hold that sticks with you throughout your life. At 28 I still have difficultly overcoming it. All of those teachers and adults that told me that I would never be able to understand higher math concepts, it pounds at my brain. And of course I hate it, but you know what? There are millions of girls going through the exact same thing every day. It has been ingrained into all of us for centuries that boys are good at math and science, girls at literature and art. Don’t mix and match or you’ll cause trouble. Having said that, sexism lives on both sides of the fence. Boys and men are deterred from being an elementary school teacher, childcare, or things considered “feminine.”

These are the type of discussions that we need to be having. Let’s look at the cause of why sexism is an issue in the gaming industry and not dismiss it as a “cop-out.” There are real concerns here not just for gamers, but all businesses. Jobs shouldn’t be labeled as male or female.

Oh and EA is trying to act like they are gods again. You know. It’s EA being EA.

We Are Gamer Haters

Tim. We don’t see eye to eye very often and while I don’t fit into any one category on your list, I approve of your post. We video gamers are an interesting sort. There isn’t any one term, or phrase, or paragraph that describes us. We are all very different people with different gaming habits.

Gamers are similar to film aficionados from casual to the hardcore. There are multiple levels or layers that make up our core. And we’re all haters. Come on. It’s the internet and media. We’re going to hate something no matter how hard you try not to. With that, Tim really hit the target with his pyramid of gaming haters. And respect for adding in The Bubble, the area of gaming haters where they flat out don’t like games either because they have never played one, or have played one just long enough to know they dislike it.

The pyramid of hate works something like this: There are 8 main categories, followed by a series of sub-categories. The Bubble being the exception since, well if you’re a hater of gamers you’re a hater. There is just no way to skirt that issue.

My category is Hardcore, which at first I wrinkled my nose (see there I go hating), but reflecting on Tim’s logic, it makes sense. Let’s look at The Pundit, the ones that blog about video games and feel that they can be a higher art form, or at least pushed into mainstream media and taken seriously.

“You roll your eyes at the mention of Yet Another Call Of Duty.”

 F. Yep. That’s me. But the description makes me sound like a prick. In fact, I fit in so well with all 3 categories of Hardcore. The Collectors are game librarians. They hold onto the past and have Dreamcast fangasims. NiGHTS bitches. That’s all I’m saying. And The Jazzmasters otherwise dubbed the self-loathing gamer. The few games you love are the ones you hold dear to your heart, which will typically be older games. The new stuff just doesn’t interest you.

You probably also love films and books, and you feel sometimes like this makes you better than any other sort of game-person. Really, it doesn't.”

Ok. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else just because I have 2 film degrees, working on my PhD and I really love to read. But that did make me feel like a pretentious dick. So, I’m a self-absorbed, old-school, holier than thou, Mass Effect 2 bad guy type of gamer hater. Thanks Tim. Nail on the head! And that wasn’t sarcasm. There is a bit of truth in that statement.

And a special mention to the Kingdom Hearts Fans as the Outcasts. Ouch. But you know it makes sense. I have to use my cosplay experience to tie this together. Kingdom Hearts cosplayers tend to come out in force. But you know what their problem is? They can never organize and are too afraid to come out and admit that they love it. So instead of pulling together gatherings and having fun-times, they roam about in their Organization XIII coats hoping to run into another character from the series. They talk about how cool it is, but they don’t have the gusto to actually follow-through with their fandom like a Final Fantasy gamer. Having said that, I get the strange feeling Final Fantasy is going to end up in the outcast category in the future. Damn.

It’s important to note that we’re all gamers and we’re all haters. 100% peace and serenity will never happen. But we need to come to a mutual respect for one another in order for the community to grow. We may not agree with each other’s habits; as a hardcore person I might not understand why we need a Call of Duty every damn year, but I’m going to still respect you for being the gamer that you are.

Gamers, we don’t want to end up like the stuck up film elitists. Some of those men and women are real assholes. I know. I’ve been working with them for well over a decade and I still subject myself to their torture. “The Avengers? An insult to modern impressionism of the elitist to pander to the common-folk for ill begotten gains.” You see why I tend to stick with gamers? We’re typically not that douchy.

Thanks Tim for giving me something to think about. I’m hardcore. Yea!

BTW, Atari US filed for bankruptcy yesterday to try and break away from their French affiliate that has been sucking money away from their glory holes. How about that for a Pundit response with satirical and sarcastic humor?

Monday, January 21, 2013

EA Has “Binders Full Of Women”

I don’t care too much about politics, but by God that “binders full of women” remark is just brilliant. It works on so many levels! Completely demeaning and misogynistic, of course, but freekin’ genius when titling a story, or using it as a tag line for sillyness. Thanks Mitt Romney!  

Gabrielle Toledano, EA’s Executive VP and Chief Talent officer (and that’s a bs title of a great extent), has gone on the record to say that sexism in the video game industry is a “cop-out.” We’re taking it to an extreme. Yes it exists, but it also exists in a lot of other businesses, not just game development. She recently wrote an article for Forbes about how sexism in the industry isn’t the issue, but other factors are keeping women out. In fact, they want more women in the industry in order to produce more diverse content.

And then she wrote this:

“I’m proud to say that at EA, we have over twice the industry average of women in our workforce.”

Binders full of women! We have so many at EA! *falls over laughing* They are actively seeking women and creating files that contain said women's resumes and work experiences. Pretty close to a binder.

They want to hire more women, but so few are going into the industry that it’s counterproductive to their intent. However at no point does Tolendano go into what the problems are. There’s sexism, sure, but it’s not the cause of why women are staying away from video games. So, what is it madam Exec VP? Because you didn’t really get to that point.

The Forbes piece goes on into how she’s worked in the industry for such-and-such time, has been an engineer, and so on and so forth. Great. Doesn’t explain why you feel women are avoiding video games like the plague? She lists 3 secrets in the industry: women play video games, the industry wants more women, and there aren’t enough women to fulfill those jobs. Not really secrets. We’ve known for years that a lot of women play games, it’s a male dominated field, and there aren’t many women. So…yeah.

EA has binders full of women!

That is the only thing that I took away from the articles. Thanks EA! Once again proving your worthlessness on the mindset of modern society.

Here’s the problem with trying to “seek out women.” It’s the same concern that came up during the U.S. Presidential election in 2012. We shouldn’t be forcing ourselves to TRY and find women and minorities. It’s callus and makes us look weak. The focus should be on hiring the best people in their field. If they happen to be white men, then that’s how it is. And it is how it is. A lot of the talent in the video game industry are white males because of their educational backgrounds. It’s a field dominated by men, so you’re going to get more men. Is it right or fair? No. But by forcing yourself to try and find people other than the best of the best, you’re going to end up with those who don’t know jack. There are a few women that work in the industry, yes. Some of them are getting jobs solely because they are women. Their backgrounds might not mesh with the jobs, and you get a sub-par product in return.

Unfortunately for Toledano sexism is why a lot of women don’t pursue careers in technology, media, or entertainment fields unless they want to be an actress or a make-up artist. They are male dominated areas and women are typically shunned from joining their ranks. My first year of college, undergraduate work, I was focusing on duel degrees, computer science and film studies. I stopped after the first year because I was getting so much pressure from being in computer science. The only female in a class of 40+ men? Ostracized, isolated, and intimidated from day one. 10 years later (holy crap it’s been that long?) and it hasn’t changed. It’s a men’s only club. How is that NOT sexism Toledano when women are constantly harassed in such an environment?

So these supposedly not “make EA look like a caring company” articles really don’t address the problems or help create solutions. They’re just fluff.

I stand by my original statement: Binders full of women. EA has them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Insane Disney “Video Game”

Infinity is staging itself to be the mecha of Disney games, taking in the open sand-box world like Minecraft and mixing it with figurine collecting via Skylanders, Warcraft, or POG’s. Anyone remember POG’s? Good times.

The goal of Infinity is to create a better game with each title, and with 10-20 already in the works, it’s an ambitious goal. From a company’s stand-point, even with the purchase of several smaller game studios, quality has been inconstant. Too many people with too many ideas that go against the Disney brand. In turn, you get a crappy product. I’d like to say take a look at the video games adapted from movies, but let’s face it. No matter which company you go with, pretty much every video game based from a movie will suck. But the idea is that Disney will have better control over their product, and the games can seamlessly transition into their theme parks.

Disney has already announced that they are dumping over $1 billion USD into RFID chips to use around their theme parks. Embed them into the figurines and well, there you go. Real life Pokémon, kids trading their figurines in the parks, taking them home, and then playing with the character in an online world. It’s genius marketing and will keep them coming back. There are an infinite number of possibilities for Disney, but their first step is control and taking their brand name back from game developers.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Video Games May Be Labeled, Taxed, and Coralled Like Cigarettes

Oh hell. A House Representative from Utah is proposing abill that would prevent the sale and rental of adult video games to children. Didn’t we try this already in California and didn’t the Supreme Court rule against the state for infringement on First Amendment rights, amongst other issues. I’m still waiting on someone, anyone, to tell me how they plan to police such actions. It would put most retailers, or those with online outlets, out of business. You can’t sell cigarettes online, so you can’t sell video games online either if kids can get them.

Some state reps are considering putting more warning labels on video games, in a same fashion like cigarettes. Others are proposing a 1% tax on all video games. Again, like cigarettes.

While the White House is looking to fund research with the CDC regarding violence in the media and children, they have been up front that there are no direct links at this time and taxing and labeling them isn’t going to resolve the issues. In fact, it’s probably going to cause more problems when you think about it. How many jobs are going to be lost with these labels?

And the current ratings system is perfectly fine. Parents need to be parents and stop caving in to their kids demands. Not that violence in games is that big of a deal. Seriously. I’m proof that it’s totally ok to play violent video games and come out a successful human being. Retailers of video games are some of the best at “policing” sales of the products. GameStop has a 0 tolerance policy towards it. You sell to anything M or above to someone under 17, you’re fired. BustBuy, Walmart, Target, a lot of locations follow this same procedure. I still get carded anytime I purchase an M rated product at a store. And I’m ok with this! Compared to cd’s and movies, video games are probably the most controlled when it comes to sales with retailers. How are kids getting the violent games? Talk to mom, dad, and relatives.

But really, do I need to say anything other than the Supreme Court has said “no connection” between violent games and violence in children? The Supreme Court. Of the U.S. Argument done. Toss out your silly bills and laws. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a Republican’s worse nightmare.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mental Illness - Gamer - Not Going To Shoot

Apologies for the lack of postings this week. I've been sick and between that and my house being torn apart for the foundation to be fixed, it's been one horrible, horrible, long ass week that I wish were over. Like now.

So I bring your attention to another point of view in the "violent video game" debate. This one from a man with a mental illness. And guess what? He doesn't want to run around and kill people in the real world after he plays a violent video game. Holy crap! Who knew?!

It's important that in our continuing discussion about gun control and what not, that mental illness and other factors are taken into consideration. However, just because you have a mental illness, disorder, or disability, does not mean you are always going to become violent after playing a game. The two do not instinctively go hand in hand, and I'm glad that someone wrote a piece about this subject. I hope more people follow his example. This isn't about placing the blame elsewhere, but that putting the full blame on video games is counter-productive to real issues. That's all.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 Review - Porn n'Chicken

To the point!
Instead of doing one of those “here’s what to expect in 2013” pieces that everyone loves to do, I decided to revisit my stats from the past year. Blogger has gone through some substantial upgrades allowing their users to be more in-tune with their readers needs.

Apparently my readers are interested in porn and video games. Do we need anything more than that in this world to be happy? Nope! Those were the top two searches within my blog and outside of my blog. Sorry guys. I can only really provide ½ of that content. But yes, “game porn” and “porno game” were the top searches. I can only remember one entry where I used “porn” as a search term, and that would have been during my very first month of posting; the game was Rapelay that CNN was boasting about it harming children, and all of the usual boring mess. I remember that article because one of their interviewees came out and said “Look, this game hasn’t been out in the public for years, and you all just made a big deal about it. Now kids are going to look it up, so really it’s your fault CNN.” Made me laugh.

Oh wait. I found another. The Misti Dawn story from Kotaku. That was a waste of space for Kotaku and me. Though I did find an appropriate image for the post, so I guess that makes up for it. 

Referring URLS and Sits are mostly Google. But then I saw this “” and “” What the crap? They’re pretty high up there but they are domain services that rank your site. I guess if you’re a Zombie or a Vampire ranking you’re dead. >.>

Audience views always interests me. I’m surprised by who is coming to check out my blog. The U.S. takes the field followed by the U.K. But you know who’s in third? Russia. Of all of the places, I would have never guessed Russia. Maybe South Korea or Canada, probably Brazil, but Russia? Wow. That is surprising. Why? Because I didn’t think my blog would appeal to Russians. After that it’s Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines.

Now onto blog views. There are two ways to look at these stats: basic page views and individual post views. The page views will, of course, vastly outnumber the blog views. Most of you come here on a daily or weekly basis and look through what I have on the front page. I’ve always wanted my blog to be easily accessible; nothing fancy that requires a ton of clicking to get to one post. If you can’t find it, there’s a search bar. Done.

But of course, that doesn’t tell me what stories people are interested in. I have to use the post views. Something about these posts compelled you people enough to click on them.  I’ll list the top 5:

I’m sensing a theme in all of this.  As for my Let’s Play Series and Mass Effect follow-up posts have generated over 5,000 unique page hits. That’s, wow. You people and your Mass Effect. You’re ok with me constantly talking about it? Because I don’t mind discussing my unnatural love for Tali. It’s totally cool with me.

Thanks everyone for your continued support. I’ll keep blogging away about this hobby I love. But now I know, you all clearly want porn, video games, Star Wars, and Disney. That sounds like a wonderfully bad movie.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Violent Video Games Saved Me

I have been a lifelong gamer. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t one. Even back to my earliest memories as a child, probably around 3 or 4 years old, there was the Atari, playing Pong with my dad, and that horrible Sesame Street spelling game with my brother. The characters were blobs, but there were really only 3 characters you needed to know. Green blob was Oscar the Grouch, yellow blob was Big Bird, and blue blob was Cookie Monster.

So much of my life is about video games that there has not been a time in my life where they weren’t involved in it. Which probably sounds like I have a problem, but I hold down a good job; I go out with friends, I have a boyfriend, and I enjoy life outside of games. I’m abnormally normal. No police tickets on my record, and I live it up like its 1999 geeking out at conventions in my costumes. Abnormally normal.

Video games have also been my salvation. When I made the transition from private to public school, it was incredibly jarring. I remember being such a happy kid, open, friendly, accepting, and then public school hit and I crawled into a shell that took me over a decade to get out of. To this day I have difficulty thinking back without getting depressed. It wasn’t a cultural shock. I came from a Montessori school system. For those who don’t know, it’s basically a student teaching system where the older kids help out the younger ones. The schools focus on respect, trust, and understanding of everyone while promoting individuality. You were never restrained from following what you cared about in the classroom (I was really into technology so I was allowed to go down that path, pick up library books, and learn how computers work), but you also had to respect everyone around you. It made me a better person because of it. And then public school smacks you in the face. Conformity, restrictions, image: those were the rules to live by.

I hated every moment of it. It got a little better in high school, thank goodness for advanced classes and college career programs that helped keep me focused on work and not on the insanity around me. But that first year of public school was the absolute worse. It was my 8th grade year at middle school. I can remember going from this outgoing, happy girl to complete isolation. I was the target by kids and other teachers because I wasn’t like them. Yeah. Teachers bullied me. That’s how f-ed up it all was.

I’m not going to get into the details, because what I want to get at is how video games saved me from the world, from myself. My physician at the time knew I was having issues with school. Still a straight A student, but I was unhappy and stressed out beyond belief. She asked me what I liked to do for fun, and I said the typical things you might hear from kids; watching movies, playing video games, reading. Ok maybe not so much the reading, but Harry Potter did wonders for kids in the past decade (after my time; I was more of a Hobbit, Hemmingway person). She told me that she wanted me to start playing more video games. Not something you would expect from a doctor, but that’s what she said. Whenever you feel really stressed out or unhappy at school, as soon as you get home, play a game for at least 30 minutes. Release your feelings that way, and you’ll feel better. She promised I would. At this point I remember piping up and saying that I tend to play a mixture of games, Grand Theft Auto on the PC (1 and 2, old school days) was the flavor of the month and last I heard adults didn’t want kids to play stuff like this. Mortal Kombat and Doom days around this time. But she seemed ok with it because I was fully aware that it was a game, not reality.

I’m still working on her to give me a signed note so I can frame it “You have permission to play Grand Theft Auto to help with your stress. Signed-Your Doc.”

And with that I was given medical permission to play video games. My parents supported it. My doctor supported it. I’m gaming. And it really did help. While my time in school didn’t really improve at all during the rest of the year, my sanity levels did. I felt less anxiety, less stress, less fear, even less sorrow when I could let out all of my feelings. My other hobbies, acting, reading, movies, dancing, they were never the right fit for me when it came to releasing emotions. Aggressive ballet? Not for me, sorry. But video games allowed me to be free without inflicting harm to myself or another creature. It’s all digital bits and bytes.

By the logic of all of those who are standing up against violent video games, I should be a complete psychopath. I’ve been playing violent games, watching violent movies and television, reading Huck Finn back when the N-word was still in the book, since I was 3 (and probably before that). If you were to meet me today, I’m pretty close to being back to the little girl that was outgoing, kind, thoughtful, and helpful to everyone around her. The only thing I’ve ever “killed” was an ant, not because I wanted to or felt a desire to do so, but out of necessity. I didn’t want the hive to move into my home. That’s about the extent of my nature.

So, I have a personal stake in this discussion. Video games gave me my life back. I probably would have developed some severe mental issues if I didn’t have them around to regain my sanity. It may seem contrived, but it’s the truth. I have video games to thank for allowing me to find myself when I was lost by giving me an outlet for my depression and anxiety. I could have very easily been a “troubled kid,” if that’s what you want to term it, but being able to spend even 30 minutes a day to play a game and relax saved me.

This may not be the route for everyone. If you do feel depressed, uncertain, anxious and/or nervous constantly, you should talk to a licensed doctor. I know some people like to paint, surf, or make jewelry as a means of releasing stress. Everyone works differently. But when I hear the cry of “violent video games are bad” I take offense to it. They saved me and I appreciate the art form that they are, even the gaudy ones. So come at me. I’m living proof that violent video games do not turn people into crazy killers. There are more factors to consider then blaming entertainment and media. Way more.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

SOS Game Burn Canned

Well that video game burning plan has been cancelled, thank goodness. The SouthingtonSOS released a statement that they achieved their goal by getting families to talk about violent video games, so they don’t need to continue with their plan. Oh and they couldn’t really work out the logistics of the $25 voucher deal.

aka, they weren’t anticipating this much response (really guys? Do you not have the internet in your town?) and realized really fast that they were going to lose a butt-ton of money. $25 per game? Go to a GameStop, grab up all of the used games, and make out like a bandit.

But in this insanity, we are seeing more discussion about video games on a scholastic level that haven’t turned into bickering back and forth. Even San Fran is getting back on my good side; thanks guys. I’m really surprised at The New Republic in their piece because we typically don’t agree on things. Except this time they brought to the table playacting. Just Google “Children Lean Through Playing” and you’ll come across thousands of articles about this subject. For so many of us we learn about the world around us through playing. We work out our thoughts, feelings, life, death, love, friendship, war, by playacting. It’s more then what any school, any news report, or any parent can teach us. Video games are another extension of playacting. By taking them away children will be left with nothing. No seriously. Do you know how many schools have banned using sticks or making a fake gun using their hand? 0 tolerance policy. It’s stupid. Sorry, there no eloquence there. Stupid is the only word to really describe it. But back to the point, by taking away video games, children will no longer have an outlet to be able to understand the world around them, thus doing more damage and voiding the reason for getting rid of them in the first place.

I’m glad there is discussion such as this going on. Let’s keep it active. I’ll throw in a personal story soon enough.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Steam Box! Please Keep The Name

Gabe Newell wants to build a home gaming and entertainment hub with Valve, appropriately dubbed “Steam Box (currently the hardware is codenamed Piston, Bigfoot for the "Steam Box" and Littlefoot for the mobile platform).” I hope they keep that name because that would be awesome to hear at the store.

“I want to get that Box thing with gas?”

“You mean the Steam Box?”

Newell interviewed with The Verge earlier this week at CES about his idea. It wouldn’t be just a gaming system, but like the PS3, 360, and Wii, a console that allows for streaming of movies, television, and music. But one step further than that, Valve wants the system to be able to be used on multiple televisions at the same time, to allow for seamless integration and transition of content. The idea is not to have you put a box in every room, but allow for one box to control all of the content and let multiple people play, watch, and listen different things at the same time.

Lofty goal to achieve. Imagine one gaming system, and yet people can play different stuff at the same time on different televisions? Bold.

But sticking true to Valve’s platform, it isn’t just about the games, but creating a place for developers to converge and drive new content. From the way the interview reads, it may come out as a Linux based system (oh god it’s The Jungle again!) but! it will NOT be locked. So you can install a Windows or an Android based platform and work from there.

As a whole, it sounds like a wonderful idea. It may take a few years to really be fully developed and focused, but wow. I will totally buy a Steam Box. And Valve + Gabe are one of the few companies out there that tend to deliver on their promises. It sounds like a system worth the wait for those who want to create their own games, develop mods, and want an open community of gaming artists for a new experience. The movie streaming is just kind of a nice, and expected, touch.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Gaming Break – Back to World of Warcraft

Maybe it was the lure of Pandas and Pokémon, but I’m back on WoW. And really, the game hasn’t changed. Except for the pandas. And the Pokémon.

“It’s not Pokémon!”

“Yes it is.”

“No, no. You are able to battle your pets all across Azeroth, and pick up rare animals, trade them with friends. See if you can collect them all!”

“…it’s Pokémon for WoW.”

My original assessment of WoW many, many, MANY years ago hasn’t changed. It’s an easy game to jump in and out of as needed. You don’t have to babysit things. You don’t even have to care about the story, which still really isn’t there. There’s a good and bad side, depending on your point of view. You fight against each other on occasion and, yep. That’s all I have.

I believe I stumbled back into WoW because of its simplistic nature. With FFXI, it required my attention constantly. Being a Red Mage is hard work.

Wait. Rephrasing that. Being a “decent” Red Mage is hard work. Being a good Red Mage requires dedication, stamina, and willpower. Not to mention a ridiculous amount of multi-tasking skill. Even crafting requires your attention. You have to create pieces one at a time. Unlike WoW where I can smelt 400 Thorium Ore’s in one sitting while I go off to my sewing machine and whip up a belt.

WoW is the lazy-man’s game. Easy for kids. Really easy for busy adults. The graphics could use an upgrade and maybe a couple of less kitschy features, but 10 million users can’t be wrong. People still play. Blizzard is still providing them with entertainment. And I’m just as easily amused. Now if you excuse me, my pumpkin-headed pet needs to go kill this bird. Go Pikmin, go!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Used Video Games: Not The Enemy

After posting about the DRM patent Sony filed late last year, I’ve been thinking about the used game “business.” I know a number of developers are in the mindset that used games hurt the bottom line, which over time affects new titles, new releases, and leads to the industry cutting back on jobs.

My personal view on used games is mixed. I can understand why the average consumer would be interested in a used product. It’s the same game, maybe without the original case or manual, at $5-10 less than the retail price. $5 is lunch (well its lunch for a week if you know how to stretch your budget and cook). So why not get the cheaper one if the game is going to be the same? For me, I believe in supporting the developers, purchasing the product at their price, and keeping the cycle. I also like to collect games, so new is better. An old, used, open game is worth nothing when compared to one that has never been removed from its box (NRFB!).

But I’m also a realist. I did not purchase any games last year at their release price. $59.99 is still a lot of money for the amount of content I’m getting from games ($59.99 for 10 hours of gameplay? Not worth it.) In fact the last time I did that was for Final Fantasy XIII-2, and even that was on sale at Amazon for its release. So…crap that doesn’t count. Before that we have, um, hmm, let me think.

Little Big Planet 2, January 2011. The special edition version at full retail price. It’s been 2 years since I last paid full price for a new game.

Unfortunately I don’t see the value in purchasing a product at release when I know it’s not worth the price. I’m the type of gamer that expects a ridiculous amount of game time or a high replay value that will allow me to go through that 10 hour game over and over again. When I go through a game once and I’m done in 8 hours, I wonder why I bothered to waste my money. I should have waited a few months, it would have dropped down, and then it would have been ok.

Sure it’s $20 less then what the company would have made, but it also wasn’t worth that extra $20 in the first place. The industry is still too high and mighty on itself when the products are not living up to the expectations. When I spend $59.99 on a game, I want the hours and/or content of the game to reflect the price. I can understand why people choose the Used version instead.

And for many of us, a Used game is what got us into a franchise in the first place. You can correlate this with music and movies as well. How did you first hear about a new band? Probably from a friend who let you borrow a cd. If you like it enough, you’ll probably buy a copy of the cd for yourself or download it from iTunes. Or you might get tickets to a concert, buy some of the swag (t-shirts, mugs, dolls, etc.) and who knows what else. The concept of borrowing or purchasing at a lower price isn’t new and could be viewed as a means of helping spur growth in other aspects. It’s all still going to the band (and in fact in many ways the concert and swag is even better-the record company doesn’t take as big of a cut as they do on cd sales).

Used video games can be viewed the same way. If a person likes the game enough, they may buy their own copy, or they may be more inclined to purchase the sequel when it releases. Or even other games from the same company. Maybe even the swag they produce (and there is a lot of video game crap out there). It’s still paying the employees’ salary, but maybe not in the expected method. Products are still being produced, in spite of the Used market that developers seem to be afraid of.

In order to move forward, the gaming industry really needs to start changing to adapt to reality. The same model has been in place for decades. Free iPhone and Android games, flash games online, all of these are open to the public and getting more hits than a typical console title at retail price. And you know what? Those companies are still making money. How many free versions of Angry Birds can exist? And yet people are still buying the paid versions of the games, as well as the board game, the plushies, the shirts, and everything else in-between. The problem, as I see it, is that the industry is so stuck in its ways. It won’t accept the fact that Used games exist. Instead of shunning them, they need to be embraced. These pointless DRM rules, and forcing people to buy online passes does nothing more than piss off the end user. What is going to possess them to continue purchasing your products if you keep screwing around?

A symbiotic relationship can exist with new and used video games. They shouldn’t be fighting each other for a piece of the market. I’d actually love to see more buy-back programs being utilized by developers. Rockstar will take back your GTAIV for $10, clean it up, and resell it through their website at a lower price than the original game. Or take an EA game with one of their stupid online passes. Instead of selling the game to GameStop or Amazon, take it to EA and they can re-sell it with a new online pass.

Done. That’s the system. Do that. That’ll appease the masses.

But it’s not just re-selling that’s the issue. Pricing of new games all need to be relaxed. It’s still too much to expect someone to pay $59.99 for a video game they may get a few hours of enjoyment out of. The same reason why movie theater attendance is stagnate in part due to the ridiculous prices. Who wants to spend $12.50 on one ticket, followed by $20 for one person to get popcorn and a drink? For a 2 hour movie that may or may not be ok, not to mention the rampant abuse of talkers, texters, and a ludicrous amount of commercials. My god! The last movie I went to, we arrived 30 minutes after the show-time was about to start, and we still made it before the movie began! I’m spending money to watch advertisements, Yea!

Again it’s another reality check that game companies need to make. Their products are not worth their prices. We really have to bring them down to a level of feasible means. $39.99 for a new video game? Much better. Hell even $49.99 would be realistic for the sequel-mania people are obsessed with. But $59? No wonder people are more inclined to get the used game. “Same game, for $15 less? Sold.”

It also doesn’t help that Nintendo seems to be the only company that is consistent with their prices. It takes a while, a long while, before we see price drops on a Nintendo game. But in general they are priced for mass consumption. $29.99-$34.99 for a DS game. $34.99-49.99 for a Wii game. It’s pretty reasonable versus the $59-79 prices that PC, Sony, and Microsoft releases. And they still turn a profit. Well most of the time.

Used games shouldn’t be the bane of the game developer. Maybe getting some new blood into the industry will help wake them up.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Fahrenheit 451 – The Scary Future That Seems Like It’ll Happen

This is how freedom dies. Not with a whimper but thunderous applause.

Not unlike book burnings (interesting fact, they’ve been going on since 600 BC), video games are unfortunately getting their turn. 

January 12th, a group called SouthingtonSOS, headed by John Myers who also chairs the Southington YMCA, will have a massive burning of video games, cd’s, and dvd’s."Violent" video games, cd's, and dvd's to be exact. What constitutes as violent is very much open to debate, but that's not the point of this post.

The group’s action is not intended to be construed as statement declaring violent video games where the cause of the shocking violence in Newtown on December 14th.”

Well then, what is it? When you want to cause aggressive behavior towards someone or something you are trying to send a message. And the follow-up paragraph stating that there is ample evidence that violent video games produce more aggressive children is ridiculous when you don’t provide any examples or links to said studies. Even the Supreme Court stated in their ruling of the California law, which would fine retailers for selling M rated games to those under 17, that there has been no significant evidence or research to show that video games lead to sustained aggressive behavior. More studies are coming out showing the opposite of what is being stated all across the media. And reading stories like this one where other members of the media are trying to force blame onto games, it gives me pause. 

What the hell is happening to our country? We’re all so focused on finding an answer NOW versus actual research that it’s dumbing down our society. Artistic values, freedom of speech and expression, civil liberties, everything is being torn apart.

On the other hand, I’m incredibly conflicted. Even though I’ll come off as a bitch and a douche for saying I’m 100% against this video game burning event they are having in Connecticut, they’re also practicing their freedom of speech. They have every right to say what they want, even if it conflicts with my personal feelings. Just as the jackasses of the Westboro Baptist “Church” are allowed to picket at military funerals, they have that right. I don’t agree with it. In fact I have a number of choice words for them. And God help them if they dare do that at my father’s funeral. (I’ve given my brother and the boyfriend full authority to kick their asses. I’ll cover the bail money.) But they have the freedom to do so in this country.

Freedom of speech is a two way street. I’m glad that I live in a place where that’s a possibility. Ship my ass over to the Middle East and I’d probably want to kill myself because of the restrictions. And then I read pieces like this in the San Francisco Chronicle that want to re-interpret and limit the First Amendment. Trying to make us into one of those countries that oppress their people. “sighs” Yeah, I know. The San Fran Chronicle, of all of the newspapers in the country in all of the cities in California no less, is the one that comes out with a piece about how we need to restrict First Amendment rights in order to protect children from violence in the media. And then I get all riled up again and jump on the “don’t burn video games and books” train.

It’s time for all of us to grow up. These senseless book/game/movie burnings, name calling, picketing, and finger pointing is no different than a school-yard fight. We keep beating each other up today, the fight is broken up by a teacher, and the same thing happens again tomorrow. What’s the point in it? No one is going to win. We need to start acting like adults by calmly, and most importantly rationally, discuss the issues and come to a consensus on how to resolve things. Maybe then we can finally get the real problems handled: like why a first world country like ours still has high rates of poverty, homelessness, and hunger. Or how about the rise in mental health issues that no one seems concerned about treating. There are real world problems out there. Burning video games shouldn’t be our focus on how to handle anger.

Yes, I’m still against the actions of the SOS group. And yes I support the group for their right to be able to host the event. And yes if I had the ability to take the day off from work I would set up an anti-burning video game event on the 12th. And yes, I’m fully aware I would be called a heartless bitch that doesn’t care about the children that were killed. Freedom of speech works both ways. I have the right to say it, just as you have the right to choose not to listen or to agree/disagree with it. I hope I’m not the only one that feels they should say something against the game burning demonstration.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Used Games Tech Patent

It’s important to note that like the movie industry, a lot of patents are made that never see the light of day. So don’t take this too seriously until Sony drops big hint.

Sony filed a patent in September of 2012 that could be applied to their new Playstation system. Basically it’s a tag system for each game disc that would link that game to the console and your Playstation ID, effectively preventing said game from being re-sold.

For those who don’t know, a number of developers dislike the used-game system. Why? They don’t make a single cent. Once the original product is out of their hands, that’s it. It’s the same for anything sold at a garage sale (books, movies, board games, clothing, etc.) To counteract it, a number of companies began using DRM technology (EA is notorious for their 3 installs or your out policy), as well as online passes (where you can only use it once on your account. If you want another you have to buy it with a price range of anywhere from $5-20, thus locking you out of multiplayer content).

Again, this isn’t confirmed tech of the new Playstation, but it is something to be aware of. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing these in Nintendo system soon. Come on…you know Nintendo would be the first.