"Take us out of the world, Wash. Got us some crime to be done."
-- Malcolm Reynolds

Take me where I cannot stand

Our favourite Joss Whedon sci-fi has been licensed for a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Apparently, by 2008 we’ll be able to login and play around in the ‘verse.

(BTW, I found this very cool wiki site!)

So far, I’ve been able to resist getting into any of the MMOs (even Star Wars Galaxies), mainly because I am truly afraid of what it would do to my life. However, a Firefly-based game might just be enough to break me–after all, Joss Whedon is my master now:-)

2

Will Wright on the Colbert Report

Will Wright (without whom the world would never have known the joys of video games such as SimCity, SimCity 2000, the Sims, The Sims Online, The Sims 2, or The Urbz: Sims in the City to name just a few) was just interviewed on the Colbert Report (ri-pohrt) the other night and I thought it was too good not to share. Watch the video here.

I should add this comes on the tail of my spending Saturday night with my fourteen year old cousin playing The Sims 2: Pets (which I gave to her…). I also have to confess that I almost had a mini nerdrection* when Will had to explain simlish to Stephen.

*It’s not dirty like it sounds, just watch the video.

2

No touchy!

The creator of the Dead Or Alive series of games (“She kicks high…”) has been slapped with a sexual harassment suit. As unfortunately stereotypical as it is, I can’t say I’m surprised at this from the man who pioneered independent bounce physics between left and right breasts in 3D gaming…

People of the world! Not all gamers are misogynistic pigs! Some of us are just ordinary, everyday pigs… :-)

2

Information nation of hysteria

OK, so I haven’t been posting for a while…there’s been too much going on in my actual life to pay much attention to my virtual one. Most of my time has been spent on the yard (for which I’ll be posting new pictures soon to the landscaping log) and in my garage, and occasionally at work.

However, I thought I’d hop on to say that today’s PvP pretty much summarizes my view of the whole Hot Coffee crap that’s been so visible in the vidya-gaming news lately. I’ve never understood why the Yanks are so dead-set on treating sex as an obscenity, while gory violence is perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s also the issue of the ESRB rating on GTA: San Andreas being changed from Mature to Adults Only. Here are the official definitions of the two:

  • Mature: Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
  • Adults Only: Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

So, essentially the difference between the two is one year of age, nudity, and the length of time that the objectionable material is available in the game. I don’t know where to even start with this…first off, GTA games (at least since GTA III) have absolutely qualified for the Adults Only rating, just on the violence aspect alone. However, the two ratings are so close in actual meaning that I don’t understand why so many people are in outcry over the fact that GTA wasn’t rated as AO to begin with. In fact, most people seem satisfied now that the rating has been changed.

Right, right, I forgot…people are idiots. :-)

9

Represent the seven games in a government for hire

Apparently, 60 Minutes did a piece on videogame violence last night. This is one of those issues that gets lots of attention every year or two, usually triggered by some event, like the Columbine massacre. This time it’s the murder of three police officers in Fayette, and the resulting lawsuit against the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series of games.

I wouldn’t exactly call the report “balanced”; it presents a very anti-videogame position. I didn’t actually watch the televised report, but nowhere in the web article do they even mention the ESRB. This is a rating system for videogames, much like the MPAA ratings for movies. The Grand Theft Auto series have all been rated M (for Mature), and are not supposed to be sold to anyone under 17 — while the perpetrator of the murders in question is now 18, there is specific mention of his having played at least two versions of GTA, which means he was playing them when he was 16 (and probably before that).

Let’s draw an analogy — if some kid constantly watches hardcore porn starting when he’s 14 or 15, and then rapes someone at 18, would we be all that surprised? There’s a reason why we regulate what is available to minors — as the 60 Minutes article states, their brains are not yet fully developed, and they’re not always completely capable of differentiating fantasy from reality.

CBS News interviewed Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del fame, and he seems to be placing the responsibility firmly on parents, and I mostly agree with him. I think video game retailers need to be a little more stringent about to whom they’re selling M- and A-rated games. However, the ultimate responsibility does lie with the parents — I’ve been at an EB where a husband and wife were debating buying GTA: Vice City for their obviously-underage kid. The wife clearly didn’t know anything about the game, and the husband clearly did. The clerk was advising the pair on the extreme violence, but in the end, they still bought it — I suspect Dad wanted to play it himself (based on the gleam in his eye).

I assume this lawsuit will go nowhere, as most First Amendment questions typically do in the US. The wording of several proposed laws are truly frightening, and would severely limit the content of future games. This could also be used as precedent for expanding this kind of censorship into other media.

As an (arguably) well-balanced adult who enjoys the escapism of video games (violent or otherwise), I very much hope that cooler heads prevail.

4

Find him an octoped ingenue

So I won’t be skiing today…

I woke up this morning with more pain than I was expecting, so I’m sitting at the Queensway Carleton Hospital right now, checking to see if my ankle is actually broken. Apparently there’s something called “snowboarder’s ankle”, which is a fracture that presents like a severe sprain.

Spider-Man 2: The GameWhile I’m sitting here waiting (things are going reasonably quickly–I’ve been here 2 1/2 hours and I’ve already had the X-rays done), I thought I’d do some comments on Spider-Man 2: The Game, like I had promised.

(Sidebar: I love my handheld!)

If anyone’s played any of the previous Spider-Man games, you’ll know why I picked this one up–they’ve all been highly enjoyable and really capture the ‘fun’ of the character. Activision has decided to ratchet up the realism in this version, in every aspect.

Hope you're not scared of heights...The first new element of the game that you experience is the one that will probably stay with you right until the end. Unlike previous incarnations, this game puts Spidey into a complete 3D rendering of New York that you’re free to swing around as much as you’d like. This is a touch of GTA that I was glad to see added. You can explore the city from street level right to the top of the Empire State building.

Sure beats the bus!The other major change is the wall-crawler’s web swinging dynamics. While you can choose to use the older-style one-button web swinging, the newer, more complex variety is both more fun (once you’ve got the hang of it) and more powerful. You now have complete control over what Spidey swings from, what he does mid-swing, and when he releases the line. While this means that you can’t web swing without something to latch onto, it also means that you can swing from anything–a tree, streetlight, or bridge are all fair game. Plus, with practice, you can swing around corners, control your altitude, or cover whole city blocks in one swing.

The game is broken up into chapters, each with its own objectives. Typically, the objectives will include obtaining a certain number of “hero points” and then showing up at a specified location to trigger the chapter’s primary mission.

The hero point system allows you to upgrade your skills, speed, and acrobatic abilities in exchange for points awarded after completing various heroics. While on patrol (i.e. swinging around randomly), you’ll see crimes being committed that you can stop, as well as citizens calling for you to give you little mini-missions. All of these will get you hero points, but a failed mini-mission will result in losing some of your points.

To be honest, the patrol is really what makes this game great. The mini-missions are fun (although a few more types of missions wouldn’t hurt), and just swinging around and practising your acrobatics is strangely therapeutic. The bigger “boss” missions tend to be about executing combat or jump maneuvers with some precision, and repeating it until you get it right. If I wanted to play a repetitive jumping game, I would’ve bought a Nintendo instead of my PS2.

Story-wise, the game loosely follows the plot of the movie, but many of the details are changed for simplicity. The one big change is that the Black Cat makes a welcome (and busty) appearance. If you’ve gone through the extras on the Spiderman 2 DVD, you’ll know that Cat was being seriously considered for inclusion in the movie, but they dropped her for fear of not being able to do her justice while dealing with everything else in the story. So it’s nice to see that she made it into the game (at least for the comics fans).

Overall, this is a very fun game that could have been unbelievably great with a little more attention to the missions themselves. Still, I don’t think there’s any danger of there not being another sequel. :-)

Oh, and I’m done at the hospital–no broken bones, just the bad sprain. It’s a weird day when a bad sprain is good news…

1