November 2005

- I guess the main reason why I haven’t been trying too hard to keep up to date with gaming news is because, frankly, most of it is both depressing and infuriating. And much has to do with the Xbox 360 of course.

First off, its been a little over a week now and people are still going nuts, paying whatever to get their hands on one, which has directly led to the system selling for psychotic prices on eBay. I’m sure everyone has seen an auction or two of the system going for many times its retail price, often well into the thousands. Yeah, its capitalism, but its also absolutely disgusting. The bottom line is that its the holiday season, I really feel bad for the parents who are just trying to make their kids happy and have to deal with assholes who know they can gauge whatever.

I’ve heard more than a few stories of people who waiting in line for hours on end to walk away empty handed, and then later be offered a system by some shady character in the parking lot who somehow got his hands on ten or so systems and then offer it for a grand or so. And each time the storyteller says no to the offer, he also tells of the twenty of so folks that push him out of the way because they are more than eager to pay the price. Plus, many are wondering how the fuck one person managed to get his hands on 64 of them. Again, stuff like this just makes me really mad.

Then there’s the issue of Microsoft and their failure to deliver enough systems in the first place. I think its totally ridiculous that there are people out there who pre-orders their system many months in advance (I’m talking since June here) still didn’t get one. Then again, perhaps that’s an issue with retailers taking orders when they shouldn’t have, but the shitty business practices that EB and Gamestop transpire is for another time (though this thread from the GAF about how Gamestop is encouraging to commit fraud at Wallmart is pretty eye-opening). Though its not just the major game retailers, since everyone else is gouging the consumer with idiotic bundles, even JC Penny!

But this is all part of Microsoft’s plan of course, to generate buzz for their product, no matter how false or underhanded it might be. And its worked, perhaps not to the degree that MS wanted, but the saying that any press is good press is still pretty much true today. Though that’s another problem right then and there… the mainstream press is still ultimately extremely ignorant in terms of video games (well, they’re pretty much clueless with just about everything, but I’ll simply stay on topic here), its especially bad during the holiday season, since its when folks such as parents need the help most. Take for example a recent WNBC report that compares the DS and PSP which is so off-base and inaccurate that its not even funny.

Though the things is, the only person who would know this is a person that’s fluent with video games, so therefore someone who’s not would never know. Granted, people not know what the fuck they are talking about or not doing the proper research is common everywhere, but still… All this goes to show is that most people don’t know the facts and that they desperately need them. It was suggested this past weekend that I should go into business by offering help and information to those who need it. And considering that I noticed a Circuit City offering a “service” to those who purchase a PSP in which they would show people how to load mp3s and surf the web for $30 (?!?!?!), its not such a bad idea…

- Back to Microsoft, in addition to the asinine measures to stir over-demand for the system, as well as an apparent high failure rate (there’s always going to be duds with the first batch to roll off the assembly line, but its a tad bit ridiculous), then there’s the microtransaction bullshit. Check out what Rare is offer to those who already paid their $60 for Kameo, taken directly from their site:

As a little treat for Kameo’s forum followers, we thought you might like to take a sneak peek at something from the Winter Warrior Pack. While we’re keeping the Warriors themselves a secret for now, take a look at this:

Yes, that’s an in-game shot (apart from the large floating golden letters, at least). Of course, Pummel Weed, Chilla and co. can’t wait to get in on the festive spirit and they all receive a similarly wintery makeover too. As some newshounds have discovered, you’ll be able to purchase these new looks as and when you’d like from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

So as feared, we’re seeing yet another game (the first one being Ridge Racer 6) offer content that should be for free but instead is being presented for even more money ($2.50 to be exact). This is unadulterated bullshit, pure and simple. Having to pay for something that was already made ready to be included as an extra is just plain wrong. And thing is, if it catches on, we’re going to see more and more of it. But it WILL catch on, since people love buying all sorts of useless shit for way too much. The fact that the Xbox Live Marketplace uses points will helps folks forget that they are indeed wasting cash. Plus it gives out this false message that it might somehow encouraging game producers to continually support their product. But we all know that it just doesn’t work that way (at least PC gamers know it all too well). I’ve heard from more than one source that EA will leave out completed or near-completed out of their yearly updated titles once they believe there’s enough content to justify a sale, and to make it easier on themselves the following year. And considering that people still pay for each “update” (to the point that they are the biggest kid on the block), why should everyone else follow suit?

Hey, remember Christmas NiGHTS? And that was free goddamnit.

- Speaking of EA, here’s an article from MTV about the Xbxo 360′s $60 games. Check out this ridiculous quote…

“We believe that premium titles command premium pricing,” said EA spokesperson Tammy Schachter when asked why EA’s first-run 360 titles were selling for $10 more than the company’s first-run titles for Xbox, PS2 and GameCube. “These are deep, rich, complex games.”

I think Cliff Bleszinski (yes, that’s the guy who used to be known as “Cliffy B”, though he no longer comes off as the annoyingly loud, “Hey dude!” game designer type, and as of late speaks with weight and wisdom, thank goddness) put it best with..

“I’m a fairly successful video game designer who can afford a lot of $50 games… But there’s a psychological barrier that I have there with a game that stinks that I spent $50 on. [It] still stings.”

- Also from MTV comes this hilarious article non-video gaming girls dealing with their diehard gaming boyfriends My fave bit…

Senior Erin Moore says her boyfriend, Jari, binges on Xbox right across the hall from her apartment, where his gaming friends live. “He doesn’t come home until 4 in the morning because he’s been playing Xbox all night,” she said. Once, she got angry. “I went over and stole the game controllers and hid them around the house, and I hid them separately so if they found one they still couldn’t play.”

- So Hilary Clinton, along with Joe Liberman, will be introducing the “Family Entertainment Protection Act” which seeks to regulate video games on a federal level. Again, another law that seeks to help people but just ends up giving the government more power to bully people around, leading to homogenized content. Gamespot summed it up best with…

“That said, one aspect of the act will undoubtedly send shivers through the industry. Not only will Section III of the bill give the FTC the authority to investigate misleading ratings, it will actually require the body “to conduct an investigation to determine whether what happened with GTA: San Andreas is a pervasive problem.”

An even more ominous-sounding aspect of Section III is how it will empower the FTC to “take appropriate action if [Congress] determines that there is a pervasive problem” with the ESRB’s rating system. This means a new, federal game ratings which could replace the current system if sufficient fault was found by the FTC.”

- Guess what? Roger Ebert apparently hates video games. Straight from his Answer Man piece

Q. I was saddened to read that you consider video games an inherently inferior medium to film and literature, despite your admitted lack of familiarity with the great works of the medium. This strikes me as especially perplexing, given how receptive you have been in the past to other oft-maligned media such as comic books and animation. Was not film itself once a new field of art? Did it not also take decades for its academic respectability to be recognized?

There are already countless serious studies on game theory and criticism available, including Mark S. Meadows’ Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, Nick Montfort’s Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan’s First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, and Mark J.P. Wolf’s The Medium of the Video Game, to name a few.

I hold out hope that you will take the time to broaden your experience with games beyond the trashy, artless “adaptations” that pollute our movie theaters, and let you discover the true wonder of this emerging medium, just as you have so passionately helped me to appreciate the greatness of many wonderful films.

Andrew Davis, St. Cloud, Minn.

A. Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.

You know, I was actually seeing his point of view, at least up until that very last sentence, which drips with ignorance and narcism (as well as fear). I’ve never had a real problem with Ebert, but I’ve always found it curious that he has “fans”. The guy’s a film critic, and a very good one at (or so I’ve been told) but its not like what he writes is all that mind-blowing (at least what I’ve read). Not there’s anything wrong in liking what he writes, but to call one self a fan of his? Anyway, I don’t get his appeal, and this sure as hell doesn’t help things. Besides, I’m just convinced that he’s loved so much simply because he likes anime. Gee that’s nice. Whatever. People put too much value in the opinion of critics, which might be my problem here as well…

- Hey, for all you who missed out on Rez the first time around (and I know there’s plenty of you out there), rejoice! You can now buy a copy and at non-crazy-assed eBay prices at Games Quest Direct. I’ve never bought anything from them, but I’ve heard no complains about them.

- And those in the emulation scene might be interested in know that the cel-shaded Ocarina of Time texture pack is finally out (unless you didn’t know already)…

- Check out this trailer for Rule of Rose, a new survival horror game from Sony with a very Lolita-esque overtone.

- And here’s a trailer for the new Rumbles Roses game; its FUCKING HORRIBLE!!!

- Everyone knows I’m a sucker for video game-ish music videos, so check out Super Furry Animal’s latest, Lazer Beam.

To further show how out of the loop I am, I got that link via GameSetWatch, a new game oriented blog from my editor at Gamastura, Simon Carless, which I had no idea he was doing till it was mentioned at Insert Credit! And speaking of IC, I forgot to mention the fan-localized version of the Radiant Silvergun intro that was posted a few days back.

- Well when there’s life, there’s also death: Click-Stick, easily the place to go to if you’re a shooter aficionado is going offline permanently this Saturday, the 3rd. So I implore everyone to check it out one last time before its too late. And thanks for such an awesome resource Brian… I wish Brian luck on his future film endeavors (though from what I gather, he’s off to a great start).

- One last thing: this might be my last post for a while. I can’t talk about it, but as of today I’ve become much, much busier. I’ll pass along details when I can.

And since this might be my last words here for a while, I just wanted to say that I’m having a VERY good hair day!

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11/28/2005

10mas in NYC!!!

by Matthew Hawkins

So I’ve been feeling pretty good as of late. How come? Well, in addition to maintaining a strict regimen of video game playing, comic book reading, and DVD watching, all while trying to get actual work done (oddly enough, if I allocate time for goofing off, I end up getting things accomplished!), I’ve recently adopted “Potpourri Tuesdays” in which I do something different each week, so long as it involves me not being hunched over a computer (mostly just hanging with friends that I normally don’t see that much). And since I’m not online as much, I’m behind with the news, I’ve been pretty shitty about responding to emails, and I haven’t even touched this site, hence the lack of update for the past week…

Last Tuesday marked my first real attempt at “Game Night” to help supplement “Movie Night”. Basically, I just went over Mike Rovin’s place with Soul Calibur 3 and Tekken 5. Mike & I used to play versus in Bushido Blade and Tekken 3 for insane amounts of hours during college and its always fun to face off against each other since we’re so evenly matched. I also got the chance to see Smash Moron, a Flash Gordon spoof that Mike starred it; there’s 12 parts, each just a minute long, and its designed for purchasing and viewing for cell phones. Basically, Mike plays Smash, a well meaning but slightly dimwitted adventurer as he leads a rag-tag crew against an evil army of robots and cats. Everything was all shot in the director’s bedroom with every onscreen element created on a computer, and a bluescreen which I believe was simply a huge bed-sheet. I’ll be helping out on the next round of episodes by lending the services of the far more technically proficient SVA facilitates.

Wednesday night marked another Movie Night with Sullivan’s Travels, the Preston Sturges classic that’s been celebrated for its biting use of satire and irony, which was revolutionary at the time and which is still pretty effective today. Beforehand was the usual random collection of clips, but the one stand-out was from a 60′s sex-comedy called Candy which Jeff described best as “a slutty Alice in Wonderland.”

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and once again, I spent the holiday with Dave and his family (this year marks my 9th Thanksgiving with them). The highlight had to be, aside from the mountain of delicious food, was Dave realizing that I was dead serious when it came to my admiration for the Golden Girls DVD box arts.

On Friday I went to Target for their after Thanksgiving Day sale to scope out a $28 copy of God of War. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, they were sold out, but I did get season 1 set of Lost for the same price. Later in the evening MK came over and we watched the Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior which Rob lent me last weekend. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I LOVE professional wrestling, at least gawking at those who are so wrapped up in their craft, which is basically dressing up in leather and pretending to fight, to the point that they loose themselves in their character, like the WWF’s iconic Ultimate Warrior. And again, I miss the days when pro wrestling weren’t “real” people, with first and last names, and dealing with real issues… I liked it better when it was zombies, aliens, millionaires, hair dressers, escaped mental patients, voodoo priests and clowns all beating the shit out of each other for no good reason.

On Saturday MK & I went holiday shopping. We both got some really awesome finds at the Christmas village at Union Square; MK almost bought a neat looking skull necklace at a flea market but thought against it when she figured that it felt too much like the plot of a horror film. She’s cute like that. Plus I finally got the chance to go to Robot Village in the upper west side; they had a huge voice activated, and totally mobile, R2-D2 that I have to get my hands on. While MK was making her robot related purchase, I asked about the robot party that was advertised and was disappointed to hear that it was just some guy parents could hire for their kid’s birthday party that would teach everyone how to build robots… I was hoping it would be some guy dressed as a robot that you could throw shit at.

Also picked up Doom 3 at Circuit City for just $10(!) as well as Ratchet & Clank 2 & 3 (there was a get two Greatest Hits games for $30 deal going on), and some toys at the Giant Robot store. While at the Virgin Megastore, I ran into an old friend from college, one that’s actually a bona-fide rockstar. I feel weird mentioning him by name since I don’t want to be perceived as name dropping (though when I do, I try to keep it strictly in the realm of video games), but close friends will know who I’m talking about. Anyway, he’s in town for a bit doing some holiday shopping and it was nice seeing the guy again. About ten minutes afterwards I came across another familiar face, but this guy didn’t notice me and I’m super glad… I don’t even know his name, but everytime he sees me, the guy always hits me up for a job.

Once we got home, we made holiday cards while watching another shitty episode of the SNL (it was the only thing on TV at the time). Then I showed MK another favorite film of mine, Tron. Unlike the Blue Brothers and even Popeye, she just couldn’t get into it. At least she admitted that it looked cool. Then afterwards we watched a classic episode of SNL from the mid 80′s which NBC repeats 3 in the morning, and it still holds up today (especially when compared to the current show). I loved MK’s response to the old Dennis Miller Weekend Update: “Holy shit, that only took ten minutes instead of thirty!”

And yesterday while MK was at a drawing jam with the Robin and Liz Baille, the girl that dressed up Harley Quinn on her wedding day (the results of which can be seen here, here, and here), I spend the whole day trying to download anime and putting up Xmas lights in my bedroom.

The thing is, I LOVE Christmas, but that feeling has been slowly chipped away each and every year due to associated stresses and annoyances, especially due to my rather unique family situation. Well not this time… I will not be going home this Xmas, and instead will return to Washington in January; the difference in airline fare is just insane (its like $300), plus it should hopefully make an already uncomfortable time even less so without the holiday atmosphere intensifying things. Though I was hoping to see the few remaining friends I have back home this year since it does mark the 10 year anniversary of me leaving for a better life, but Christmas in NYC is too much to pass up (besides, I’m certain that Almost Live is completely off the air by now).
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As stated before, I’m totally out of the loop with gaming news, but I do find the time to surf Insert Credit (obviously) and came across news about a new giant robot game for the PS2 that looks sorta like R.A.D. (Robotic Alchemic Drive). It’s called Remote Control Dandy SF

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They’re at the Barnes & Noble near where I work! Its for the new season 3 DVD set. And I’m stuck here at work. :(

It was easily one of my top favorite shows growing up. I couldn’t have been the only 10 year old boy who enjoyed the exploits of four horny elderly women, right? RIGHT?

I’ve been meaning to pick up the DVDs for some time now… I also want to just say that the box art for them have been simply outstanding:

Though I’ll just have to add them to the list. I still haven’t gotten Volume 3 & 4 of SCTV, let alone any of the Adventures of Pete & Pete or Arrested Development sets (though Amazon is offering a killer deal on both Arrested Development seasons… I just hope the deal is still there when I get paid at the end of this month). Plus I just found out about this…

… which I’ll have to get ASAP. I was a major fan of the original cartoon (I even thought the half-hour length series where everyone talks was pretty good), so naturally, the new movie gives me a headache every time I see the trailer. Its not just because Charlize Theron doesn’t look just like Aeon… how can anyone expect to have the same body type as the cartoon character? If there was someone, it would be positively disgusting. And the hair, as cool as it was in the cartoon, would look fucking ridiculous in real life. Or maybe that’s because it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the film, which screams generic and mediocrity, which is my main beef.

Speaking of movies, some might recall one being made that’s based on Tecmo’s fighting game series Dead or Alive. Well the trailer has just been revealed, and for those who’ve missed it, you can view it here.

So yeah, it going to be retarded, but at this point, isn’t any film based on a video game? At least it doesn’t look that bad (that meaning Uwe Boll). Also, it based on a fighting game for fucks sake, one with a rather poor back story, at least compared to all the others out there (and trust me, I should know since I pay attention to shit like that).

I would love to see a movie based on King of Fighters. Now there’s a game with a rich back story that would support a compelling cinematic experience. I think.

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