Category Archives: media

Seung-Hui Cho: Games Not Motivation for Va. Tech

With the release of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine’s report detailing the findings of the Virginia Tech massacre review panel, the influences of violent video games were dismissed as a contributing factor in killer Seung-Hui Cho’s actions. Whilst this will offer little comfort to the victims’ families, it is a welcome development in the almost-daily conflict between the sensationalist media and common sense. Whilst I’m sure Jack Thompson and ‘not actually a medical professional’ Dr. Phil are sharpening their pitchforks and stocking up on paraffin, such instances of blame laid squarely at the feet of interactive entertainment beg the question – why is it so difficult for people to assign blame to the conscious decisions of the individual?

I’m sure many of us had wondered what, if any games had featured in Cho’s (now apparently) non-existent games collection, and how long it would take proponents of the ‘people don’t kill people, games do‘ argument to secure their parasitic mandibles onto the victims’ families’ suffering as a sickening means to further their own weak, tired agendas. Somehow, I can’t see even Jack Thompson managing to pin the blame on the hedgehog this time. I desperately want to believe that there’s another reason for games acting as a perpetual scapegoat other than the fact that people simply cannot accept that people like Cho are simply that fucked up that to assign blame on them personally would be just too hurtful; to acknowledge that society itself is fundamentally damaged enough to spur young men like Cho onto horrific acts of murder would be too difficult to accept, but that too is just too difficult. I’m acutely aware that to dare to imagine such a world is shameless utopianism, but to dismiss the killing of innocent young men and women as a result of playing video games does nothing more than cheapen the tragic loss of life, and the misery of the people left behind.

Perhaps the focus of the attention of ‘professionals’ like Jack Thompson is misguided; surely if anyone lies to blame, the gratuitous media coverage of massacres like Virginia Tech should also be held accountable. If Dr. Phil wants to publicly lambast video games for the moral turpitude they are on shows like Larry King, then surely he has to accept that news coverage of tragedies such as this are equally guilty for glamorizing killing. Pot, meet kettle.

I applaud Tim Kaine and the Virginia Tech review panel for conducting their investigation impartially, without bending to popular opinion or media ‘expertise’. We can but hope that this report will go at least some way towards restoring the sense of personal responsibility tragically lacking in today’s society.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

1 Comment

Filed under media, news

Write Objectively, Or Die Trying

One of the more interesting panel discussions at this year’s Games Convention Developers Conference focused on the press coverage of the Nintendo Wii, and the implications of this on the rest of the industry. Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht ventured forth the opinion that, should the Wii continue to grow in popularity to the point where it “takes over the world,”, magazines that specialize in perhaps overly-critical coverage of the console will cease to operate in the market. Certainly a valid point, given the openly-hostile and somewhat gratuitous negativity that plagued the console from it’s launch – however, does this mean that substandard games and blatant gimmickry should be overlooked for fear of reprisal from the rest of the ‘mainstream’ games journalism industry?

Case in point; Ubisoft’s Red Steel. I’m sure that many a gamer had visualized such a title long before it’s announcement – the combination of samurai sword-wielding action and first person shooter with the Wii’s innovative control system should have been a surefire success. However, as anyone that has actually played – nay, endured – the game will testify, it was anything but. Even Ubisoft’s attempts to rectify the less-than optimal control system of the game (where delay between player action and character response was significant enough to prove frustrating) failed to save the game from the beating that it inevitably suffered at the hands of the press. Truly a wasted opportunity, but the vast majority of the reporting on the game was largely accurate and, most importantly, fair.

Whilst negative gameplay experiences should and must be reported in the press, consider the alternative; the magazine in question (say, Arena, for the sake of example) delivers a well-crafted and compelling argument as to why Red Steel is such a disappointment, only to be branded as a whiny bunch of Wii-haters by everyone else so enamored by the Wii that ultimately their position is deemed unjustly harsh and is ultimately detrimental to the circulation figures of the magazine. Whilst truly poor games that fail to contribute anything positive to the console or it’s audience should be outed for the flagrant exploitation they are, we mustn’t ‘progress’ to the point that because of a console’s commercial success and consumer following, substandard products go unpunished in the press. Consumer loyalty and trust are critical in gaming journalism, and fans (read: consumers) should be given impartial, accurate reporting on the products in question, otherwise what’s the point?

Whilst all the examples and situations in this discussion are somewhat extreme, the point remains the same – where does the boundary between needless criticism and genuine difference of opinion lie? With the journalist in question. And, given that if a journalist knows little of what they write about, then surely this lack of due diligence and the poor penmanship that is so prevalent in much of today’s gaming ‘journalism’ will achieve the same result as the needless Wii-bashing mentioned by Eggebrecht in the panel discussion.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

Leave a comment

Filed under media

Out of Body Experiences with Professor Funk

My, what an interesting morning.  Having suffered through several days without a single article examining the relationship of violent video games to real-life violence, imagine my relief when I came across this article.  Like the dry, often sandy areas of extreme temperatures and sparse vegetation miss the water condensed from atmospheric vapor. 

The article focuses on 2K Boston’s current media darling Bioshock, particularly the ‘Little Sisters’ and the moral dilemma that confronts the player when deciding if they should live or die.  There’s nothing worse than a wasted opportunity, and I can’t help but lament the passing of the chance to entitle this article ‘Would You Kill Your Little Sisters?’ for maximum shock value.  Also, the irony of an article discussing video game violence flanked by an ad for another article focusing on the war in Iraq seems to have escaped the folks at the Ledger.

As difficult as it is to disagree with Professor Funk (who, presumably, graduated from the same university as equally-unlikely named peers like Professor X and Doctors Doom, Octopus and Strange),  the results of her ‘research’ are never explained, nor are her methods in obtaining said results – but unless you’re selling conditioner, why complicate things with science?  I’d be most interested in how she determined a ‘pro-violence’ attitude in a child of twelve or less – maybe she asked them if they would kill their little sisters.

Another noteworthy development is this research conducted by University College London and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology into the mechanics of out-of-body experiences, and the potential applications of their findings.  This technology, after some development, could have significant commercial potential for the video game (sorry, interactive entertainment) industry.  Oh yeah, and, like, medicine and shit.  How amusing to see a technology article in the ‘health’ section of the BBC’s website mention video gaming before the medical applications of the technology.

I guess surgeons needing a little extra training will have to make do with this until they can refine the technology – according to this article, apparently “All those years on the couch playing Nintendo and PlayStation appear to be paying off for surgeons,” – do med students even have time to play games?

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

1 Comment

Filed under media

Blizzard ‘Amassing Huge Fortune Destroying Millions of Children’

To succeed in business, you have to take risks.  However, submitting a business plan focused on the destruction of millions of children – specifically Chinese children – is probably a little too risque.  You’d be much better off attempting to persuade investors to finance an MMO, as according to this article in the Shanghai Daily, the results are pretty much the same – millions of children destroyed, obscene profits amassed and one step closer to that lovely little underground base you’ve had your eye on that’s only penetrable by British secret agents with a taste for martinis.

Of course, it’s not all Blizzard’s fault, but with over half the market share in the lucrative (yet evil) MMO business, you can’t expect me to not pick on them.  Despite China’s efforts to combat the insidious Blizzard threat, China is apparently still in the grip of an internet gaming addiction epidemic.

According to the ‘journalist’ that wrote the article, Wan Lixin, Chinese sociologist Tao Hongkai claims that 80% of MMO’s contain violent, pornographic or fraudulent elements.  Well, what do you expect?  If you removed all the (partial) nudity, weapons and gold-spammers from MMO’s, what would you be left with?  This.

He goes on to report that an estimated 20 million ‘lonely’ rural children are particularly at risk from the evils of online gaming addiction.  He neglects to mention that for many, working as a gold-farmer in games like World of Warcraft is considerably better-paid than working in China’s massive manufacturing industry, with far better working conditions. 

It seems that as well as playing games on the internet, entrepreneurialism is also strongly discouraged in China; “Thirty-four-year-old Chen Tianqiao, CEO of Shanda and one of the richest men in China, recently turned a 23-year-old Canadian Chinese into a billionaire with an acquisition deal.”  Presumably the body of the Canadian Chinese was found drained of blood, with two small puncture wounds in his neck.

It’s staggering to think that this is what is what the Chinese are spoon-fed as legitimate journalism, and to witness the degree of control the government still has over the press – and voice – of the country.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

3 Comments

Filed under media, online gaming

Red vs. Green

Microsoft want Halo 3’s initial launch-day revenues to exceed that of $155 million, thus besting the last instalment of the popular Spiderman franchise, which only mustered a measly $151 million.  Since the Master Chief is a better actor than Tobey Maguire and more attractive than Kirsten Dunst, I don’t think this is an overly-optimistic objective, and neither do the analysts

Since Microsoft don’t seem to concern themselves with minor details such as the fact that games cost significantly more than movie tickets, let’s ask a more pertinent question; is Halo 3 even deserving of the hype?  Microsoft’s marketing campaign could be likened to a full-scale military campaign, drafting in support from allied forces such as Burger King, Pepsi and Pontiac to name but a few, in an effort to smite us with Halo’s considerable promotional artillery; ‘Halo 3 Mountain Dew – now with 30% more market penetration!‘ 

However, whilst I have no doubt that Halo 3 will prove to be entertaining, I’m skeptical that it will be worthy of the degree of hype that has been heaped upon it.  Other titles, such as Bioshock, have received much attention in the media, although the huge majority of this seems well-deserved and, more importantly, has been generated by the gaming community as opposed to the might of Microsoft’s marketing dreadnought.  Bioshock not only offers something different in terms of visuals and the production design itself, but also in terms of gameplay elements and the extent to which these elements can be customized according to player preference and the situation the player finds themselves in.   At least from the pre-release marketing, Halo 3 doesn’t seem to advance the genre or the franchise much at all, instead favoring better graphics and a handful of new vehicles, environments and weapons to differentiate itself from it’s predecessors.  Is this enough to warrant the scale of the marketing assault?  Do gamers even want innovation in high-profile franchise sequels?

Whilst I’m most definitely in favor of games being taken more seriously as an entertainment medium, the games that garner such attention as this have to be deserving of the hype, and as of right now I remain unconvinced.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

Tagged as:



2 Comments

Filed under first person shooters, media, movies

Look, But Don’t Touch

As I’m sure you’ve heard (and possibly had the misfortune to have seen), Sky recently launched their new competitive gaming channel, XLeague.  For those of you anxious to re-live those precious moments spent waiting for your friend to perish so that you could have your go in the days before multiplayer became common, this news may have been met with patient yet-secretly malicious cheers of joy.  However, for everyone else that finds watching other people play games tedious, I’m left wondering what the point of this channel is. 

Rather than focus on true competitive gaming coverage, Sky have instead opted to cater for a larger demographic by allowing viewers to compete in tournaments arranged via the channel’s website, with a view to broadcasting the resulting games on the channel for the audience to endure.  Not only does this render the channel’s claims to offer coverage of ‘professional’ gaming redundant, but it also makes for even more boring television.  

To make matters worse, their choice of titles to cover is, at best, laughable.  Any serious pro-gamer wouldn’t bother with the likes of Quake 4 or Rainbow Six: Vegas, and Call of Duty 2 isn’t even in their tournament lineup, instead being relegated to the ‘league’ tables along with other pro-gamer ‘favorites’ like Fifa ’07 and Gears of WarCounter-Strike, CS: Source, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft’s arena battles, traditionally big with the professional gaming community at sites like Got Frag have been omitted entirely.  If you don’t own an Xbox but relish the thought of watching social pariahs chosen by a producer battle it out in Gears of War minus the juvenile, racist and homophobic commentary as ‘enjoyed’ by many XBL players, the time to rejoice is upon you.

It’s also a relief to see that Sky firmly believe that gaming television should remain in the same league as other ‘niche’ programming such as softcore pornography and paintball by having Emily Booth present their flagship show, The Match.  Still, with movies like this under her proverbial belt – and her considerable gaming knowledge, of course – I can see why she was the obvious choice to add a touch of glamour to the show.

It’s times like these that I’m profoundly grateful that I haven’t owned a television in almost two years. 

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

Tagged as:



  

Leave a comment

Filed under media, online gaming

This Frag Was Brought To You By…..

I’m desperately trying to seize upon (in the context of gaming, I hasten to add) a concept more despicable than in-game advertising.  I’ll admit – so far, I’m struggling.  The very notion of some sleazy, irresponsible advertising executive trying to conceive ways to get my games drunk on cheap, fortified wine only to impregnate them with their illegitimate ‘messages’ as a way to convince me to spend even more hard-earned cash on the wares they peddle sickens me.  Even the language they use to promote why in-game advertising is the must-have for any serious brand is detestable – seriously, ‘eyeball hours’?  It’s as if time functions differently for our ocular organs, perhaps explaining why they never grow.

However, one cannot argue with the figures – according to this article, in-game advertising is big business, and companies like this spend an awful lot of money in their nefarious attempts to convince other companies to spend even more money on ruining my gaming experience with their less-than subliminal advertising filth.  Perhaps what is equally troubling are the predictions of growth for the industry; “Growth in the consumer and video game industry is expected to continue. In the current calendar year, the number of games with in-game advertising will likely double. The report says approximately 200 titles with in-game advertising units will be released. Titles will be spread across all major video game consoles and the PC.”  I feel like I need to take a shower after reading these figures.

According to this article, a majority of gamers actually think that increased presence of advertisements in games does little to enhance the ‘realism’ of the title in question – yet this worrying trend of growth is expected to continue.  Whilst accurate data has been difficult to find, I’d be interested to hear more of how developers and even their evil advertising executive cohorts go about gathering opinion on their plans regarding in-game advertising, as in this article the focus seems to be on what the advertiser thinks, not the gamer – or consumer, to use their lingo.  If we are to ever infiltrate their fortress and destroy their evil brainwashing machinery, we must look, act and sound like them, no matter how long the bitter taste of their buzzwords may linger in our mouths.

You can turn your television off, you can filter your email and block your pop-ups, but ignoring in-game ads is a feat of Herculean proportions and looks set to become even harder, given their sinister plans.  What do you guys think – do in-game advertisements enhance a game’s realism?  Or are we merely being manipulated in not-so new and not-terribly inventive ways into spending even more money on crap we don’t need?

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe in a reader

1 Comment

Filed under media