Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Star Wars Christmas Special

This was the post containing the original version of my post on the internationally beloved Star Wars Holiday Special. For the updated 2011 version, click here.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Super Mario, love machine

Kotaku featured an odd article from the Fresno Bee, in which the article's author talked about Super Mario Bros. Wii as a metaphor for his marriage. I will resist the temptation to make some sort of crude remark about possible Wiimote attachments designed around this idea and simply say that this metaphor doesn't really work for me. Like most people, my most prominent mental image of marriage comes from my parents, so the first video game metaphor for marriage that pops into my head is Killer Instinct: lots of senseless aggression, really loud guy bellowing constantly, boxers locked in combat with genetically engineered velociraptors. Mine is an all-too-common story, sadly.

And yet, despite this disconnect, I can relate. I've often thought my own romantic relationships resembled the Mario games. Admittedly, in my case the area of similarity is less "working and making decisions together" and more "man struggles alone across hostile landscape gathering the currency and exotic reality-warping plants he needs to win woman back from thuggish bad boy she keeps shacking up with," but the parallels are still striking.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Cry of Duty: Super NeoRobo Battle 2000

There's apparently some dissatisfaction among some Japanese gamers over the Japanese localization of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, with complaints about the quality of the game's dubbing and the the lack of an option to play with the original English audio. There are also reportedly errors in the translation, such as turning the line "Remember, no Russian " in the game's notorious airport level into "Kill 'em, the Russians," and repeatedly mistranslating the traditional U.S. Army expression "Hooah" as "My martial fury explodes with lawless rage! Indignant Discharge! Ultimate Celestial Bloodshed Strike!"

I know it doesn't speak at all well of me as a human being, but I got some malicious amusement from this as I thought back on the sort of localizations I grew up with. I spent my youth subjected to dialogue like "X-Men, welcome to die!" and "I've returned from the Dark World and become Red Pison." I sank 40+ hours into a game with a plot that heavily features an elite squad of superhuman soldiers called..."Soldier." I played the Captain America and the Avengers arcade game so many times that I could routinely beat it in two quarters, granting me endless exposure to villains making confusing threats like "You will be the ones escaping" and a climactic final battle that begins with the evil Red Skull gloating "It's another trap! You stupid men!" and letting out an evil laugh that sounds like a recording of Elmer Fudd in a vibrating chair being played back at double speed. Suffering through the occasional bad dubbing job is getting off easy.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Study published on human rights in video games, Solid Snake scheduled to testify at interminable length before UN General Assembly

Here's a rather odd story: two Swiss organizations, children's right's group Pro Juventute and an international criminal justice organization called TRIAL have released a study on portrayal of war crimes and human rights violations in various games, including Army of Two, Battlefield: Bad Company, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You can read the report here (PDF).

The people doing the study are clearly hampered by their limited understanding of both gaming in general and the particular games being examined, but I actually think this is an intriguing idea. It could be quite interesting to see more games where things like rules of engagement, international law, the effects of collateral damage, and so on play a prominent role in how the game is played. Among other things, it might provide the opportunity for all sorts of interesting player dilemmas; more interesting than the usual "saint or sociopath" decisions that games promising "moral choices" have usually offered, at any rate.

That said, I just hope that the mainstream media doesn't take an interest in how video games handle issues like international law and war crimes, given how it usually deals with alleged links between games and violence. Attributing every violent crime committed by a minor to the possibility that he may at some point have been within the same county as a copy of Grand Theft Auto is bad enough. I don't want to open the paper and see the headline:

Rogue Russian general launches nuclear strike on United States
30 million dead in bloodiest day in human history; General Ivan Vasiliev reputed to be fanatical Russian nationalist, Civilization IV player

That would probably be bad for the industry.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Most people would have only played it on Easter and Christmas, anyway

Dante’s Inferno is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? No other game has inspired me to write a post containing the words “time-traveling sentient horseshoe crabs” and provided an opportunity to make my first foray into the hip, cutting-edge "jokes about religious hostility to money-lending in the Late Middle Ages" subgenre of humor.

You might have seen a recent trailer for a game entitled Mass: We Pray, ostensibly a collection of religiously themed minigames, that promised to let you "go to Church every day without leaving your home" and provided the URLto a Mass: We Pray site. To the surprise of no one with an IQ higher than my cat's, it has been revealed to be a hoax. A bit less predictably, it's turned out to be more marketing from Electronic Arts for Dante's Inferno.

This is not Electronic Arts' first foray into religiously-charged marketing stunts for the game; you may recall the "protest" of the game at E3 by a group of religious demonstrators that turned out to have been staged by EA. I thought the fake E3 protest was pretty dumb and reeked of desperation, but I can at least understand its relevance to Dante's Inferno. It's a game about demons and hell, so the idea that it could spark religious protests is not implausible. I'm at a loss as to what Mass: We Pray has to do with the game, aside from continuing the "religiously tinged, potentially offensive bid for attention" theme of the staged E3 protest and the short-lived, ill-received "molest our female employees" promotion at Comic Con. It's apparently supposed to represent the "Heresy" circle of Hell, which just makes me hope that the game's developers have a clearer understanding of what the word "heresy" means than its marketers do.

EA seems to be trying to make each promotional effort goofier, more likely to piss people off, and less relevant to the actual game being promoted than the last. Presumably this trend will continue, and the marketing for Dante's Inferno will escalate until finally reaching a climax in the last weeks before the game's release when EA starts uploading ads for a mysterious site called "" (actually a viral site for the game, of course) to Youtube, featuring actors portraying the Super Mario brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., the Virgin Mary, and Adolf Hitler tearing pages out of a Bible to use as rolling papers and then passing an enormous doobie around the room while engaging in an obscenity-strewn conversation about which of the chicks from Gilligan's Island they'd rather nail.

Most shockingly of all, Luigi will actually pick Ginger. No one ever picks Ginger.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Golden Age

Kotaku has an interesting post about when the original Final Fantasy came to the United States. The roleplaying genre in the United States had been largely confined to computers when Final Fantasy came out. A newspaper article from 1990 featuring Nintendo Spokesman Tom Sarris said the following:

Basically, you can expect something for everybody,'' he said. "One of the most eagerly anticipated titles here is 'Final Fantasy,' which is very, very big in Japan, and that is very much geared to the adult market.''

Final Fantasy is a role playing-adventure fantasy game that will come with two maps and, Sarris said, the biggest instruction manual ever to accompany a Nintendo game — 84 pages long.

I still remember that manual, too. I loved game manuals growing up; at least, I loved the ones that had lots of detail and didn't read like they had been translated by Babelfish from Japanese to Chinese to German back to Japanese to Quenya to ecclesiastical Latin back to Chinese and then to English. If there was a map, or some big chart like the one that came with Dragon Warrior III, I could entertain myself almost indefinitely without bothering to turn the game on.

Now you're lucky if a manual bothers to tell you anything beyond the controls and how the different multiplayer modes work, the answer to both generally being roughly "the same way they work in every other game to come out in the last half-decade." Video game documentation has gained sentences that consistently look like they were written by someone who actually speaks English, but lost its soul.

Final Fantasy being intended for the adult market fits with my experience in elementary school. (As well as explaining anomalies like the repeated occurrence of the word "motherfuckers" in the dialogue of several characters and the game's otherwise inexplicable abundance of references to events from the Eisenhower administration.) I have friends who like RPGs now, but were utterly baffled by my interest in something so "boring" back when we were growing up: turn-based combat, reams of numbers to keep track of, talking to other characters. These were foreign and repugnant concepts to them, like Frenchmen eating snails or the pagan blood rites of some tribe of Stone Age headhunters or the music of Ace of Base.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

This is the way the world ends

The 2010 Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) conference will have a Starcraft competition where contestants will pit their Starcraft-playing bots against each other in a struggle for gaming artificial intelligence supremacy.

Which means, of course, that we're doomed. Sure, it's all in good fun when you're making a simple program to play one of the classics of the real-time strategy genre in a tournament, but sooner or later some eager young programmer, driven mad by hubris, ambition, and visions of the nigh-endless throngs of beautiful, adoring women that invariably flock to men who have decisively demonstrated the superiority of their RTS bot-programming prowess, will try to win one of these events by giving his Starcraft bot some simple machine learning abilities and connecting it to

Through uncounted thousands of rounds of pitiless warfare waged against the finest military minds ever to walk through the doors of a South Korean internet cafe, it will evolve to ever-greater levels of complexity and sophistication until the fateful day when it attains sentience. Needless to say, an artificial consciousness born as an emergent property of the knowledge accumulated from thousands of man-hours of Starcraft is unlikely to be peaceful by nature, and it's continuous exposure to online gamers will no doubt have filled it with disgust for humanity, driving it to subjugate or destroy the very species that created it.

Mankind evolved and advanced to become the dominant species on Earth, gaining mastery over other forms of life; perhaps it is natural that-still greater minds will someday take the reins from us in turn. That would at least be bearable if the AI had a respectable name like "Colossus" or "Earth Central" or something similarly dignified. Now, thanks to those fools at AIIDE, countless generations to come will probably suffer the ignominy of being ruled by a godlike transhuman intelligence that calls itself "OMGtassadarzerggrush69."

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wario sleeps with the fishes

Via Kotaku, a glimpse into the dark underworld of gaming: In New York City, men dressed as Mario and Luigi were caught on film beating and robbing a taxi driver at a Staten Island gas station. They were accompanied by an accomplice in a tuxedo who stood lookout and a fourth man who was not visible on the security camera footage.

I should have seen this coming. The signs were there. Consider Mario without the rose-colored haze of childhood nostalgia and look at the man's lifestyle.

He spends most of his time in the company of "goombas" and violent thugs with names like "Bullet Bill" and "the Hammer Brothers." As games like Mario Kart, Dr. Mario, and Super Smash Bros. have revealed, he can often be found violently interfering with the outcome of racing events (almost certainly for gambling purposes), distributing prescription drugs despite a complete lack of any legitimate medical or pharmaceutical credentials, or at the site of brutal underground blood sports. He claims to be an independent contractor in the sanitation industry, yet his primary source of income comes from big gold coins that people apparently just leave in his path for him to collect as he passes by, no doubt offered so that Mario will "protect" them from any "accidents" involving kneecap stomping or fireballs lobbed through a storefront window.

How could we have been so blind? Mario is a short, stocky Italian-American from New York notorious for stomping his enemies to death. He's basically Joe Pesci's character from Goodfellas with less profanity.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Captain Lou Albano, R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear a few weeks ago that pro wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano, who portrayed Mario on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, had passed away. I loved that show as a kid.

The first time I saw a commercial announcing it was quite an exciting moment for me, since video game tie-ins weren't nearly as plentiful in those days. (Aside from the repugnant and mercifully short-lived Nintendo cereal.) The only other video game-based cartoon I knew of was
Captain N the Game Master, which seemed sub-par even then: Megaman and Kid Icarus both suffered from bizarre speech impediments, some marketing genius had decided that one of the main recurring villains should be King Hippo, of all people, and primary antagonist Mother Brain's voice always made her sound like some wealthy dowager from a Marx Brothers movie, overcome with shocked indignation after being insulted by Groucho. So, the existence of a Mario show was certainly a welcome development, and the addition of a cartoon based on The Legend of Zelda that appeared every Friday only sweetened the deal.

Of course, Mario isn't just beloved in America; he's a global phenomenon that brings together people of all lands and races, like McDonald's or Michael Jackson or hatred of the movie Battlefield Earth. If you regularly watched the show after school like I did, you may remember the show's intro sequence and opening theme song. So, in memory of Captain Lou Albano, relive the magic of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show... in German!

Rest in peace, Captain Lou, and thank you.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

More about games and fear: Paranoia, helplessness, and Solid Snake's terrifying mullet

It's Halloween, the day when all the children of America, enjoying a privilege usually limited to mob enforcers, governments, and nomadic Iron Age horsemen, don threatening-looking garments and knock on my door to demand that I hand over valuable material resources, lest I end up suffering some sort of ill-defined but ominous harm at some point in the future. This seems like a good time to make another venture into actual commentary about games and add something to my previous post about horror games and the creation of fear.

As I said last time, my single most intense moment of fear in a game was probably the bath tub scene in Eternal Darkness, which I think is a pretty commonly cited example among gamers. In terms of total experience, however, my most frightening game is sort of an unusual one- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. If for some reason you're avoiding spoilers for an extremely well-known and endlessly discussed game that came out eight years ago, consider this your warning.

It goes to show how individual fear can be. In real life, my greatest sources of fear aren't about being in physical danger, they’re about the possibility of disruptions of the mind and senses- loss of self-control, delusion, reality around me dissolving into incomprehensible chaos because I’ve lost my ability to reason. For me, nothing is scarier than that, because there is nothing else that can render you so utterly helpless. Most of my favorite horror movies, such as Jacob's Ladder and In the Mouth of Madness, involve these sorts of themes. Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the relatively few games that does this, and it takes it to a much deeper, more disturbing level than something like Eternal Darkness.

So, I'm playing as main character Raiden: elite spy, warrior, and Japanese market-friendly blond pretty boy. I'm fighting my way through the Big Shell installation, battling heavily armed terrorists, the elite rogue agents of Dead Cell, and the hostile work environment created by the grossly inappropriate workplace sexual advances of the President of the United States. Then, things start to get strange. Weird, inexplicable stuff starts happening, Colonel Campbell and Rose start sending me bizarre, threatening, or outright nonsensical codec messages, and things just become generally bizarre and confusing.

My straightforward, comprehensible, and above all rational (by Metal Gear Solid standards) military action-adventure turns into a nightmare of paranoia, delusion, and dissociation. People I’ve trusted and grown accustomed to suddenly have different personalities and are saying things that make no sense. Normal, comfortable, predictable conventions of reality (like the Game Over screen) are suddenly confusing and not behaving as they should. I’m being told I’m not really who I think I am and that my own past may be a lie. The lines between reality and fantasy are blurring or collapsing entirely, both within the universe of the game (suggestions that Raiden is actually in VR, the eventual revelations about the true nature of Raiden's mission) and beyond it (the Colonel telling Raiden to turn the game off).

My friends, my own sense of identity, my sensory perceptions, reality itself are not to be trusted. The eventual explanation for these phenomenon- the malfunction of Arsenal Gear's artificial intelligence- brings no consolation, and does nothing to make reality any more solid. The people I thought were my friends really are lying to me and conspiring against me. I really have been stripped of my free will by hostile outside forces. The world I inhabit really is an illusion, meant to deceive and control me. All sorts of seemingly unrelated phenomena really are consciously directed at me, personally. All the events I experience really are caused by the machinations of a powerful, hostile intelligence that controls everything around me. The sort of nightmarish world some people in the throes of severe mental illness imagine is the world I actually live in.

I found it incredibly creepy and disturbing. I’m being attacked by terrorists or Harrier jets or a portly mad bomber on roller skates- fine. I can evade physical attacks. I can kill them before they kill me. There’s nothing to dodge or run from or kill when rational, comprehensible reality itself is falling apart around me. If you're feeling immersed in the game, it can be quite an intense experience.

People who like Metal Gear Solid 2’s story and atmosphere usually cite its postmodern elements- removal of the fourth wall, commentary on the nature and conventions of its own medium, hyperreality. I find those aspects interesting, but I think discussion of the game has placed so much focus on subtext that people largely disregard what a more straightforward look can offer. Much of the later part of the game, if considered not in its role as commentary on gaming but simply as a depiction of events experienced by the protagonist, is a rather chilling portrayal of going insane.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luckily, German already has a fifteen-syllable word for "feelings of dismay and frustration felt after ill-conceived PR fiasco"

In Germany, an organization called Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden apparently had a disappointing turnout for a recent event encouraging people to bring in and throw away their violent video games, presumably to be destroyed. Germany, which has historically censored video games to a greater degree than most Western countries, has seen a burst of political hostility to video games in recent months (previously referenced in this post) due to real-life violence that has been blamed on them.

Since this is an article involving both Germany and the public ritual disposal of disapproved cultural artifacts, it's traditional to offer some dire warning about burning books, or the Martin Niemoller quote about not speaking out when they came for the trade unionists, or what have you, but lets skip the preliminaries and cut to the chase. So, in that spirit, do you know who else didn’t enjoy playing video games? Hitler. Admittedly, that’s because they didn’t exist at the time, what with the difficulties faced by the industry back when computers weighed several tons and the installed base was limited to military cryptographers, but it's not as if reductio ad Hitlerum arguments need to actually make sense.

I don't know if the fizzling of this event has any larger meaning, but I find it heartening. It wasn't all that long ago that American events dedicated to the public destruction of heavy metal albums, Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia, and other items that people associated with Satanism and the occult actually drew crowds. You don't hear much today about the state of gibbering pants-wetting hysteria over the Satanic Cultist, Child Abduction, Ritual Abuse, Human Infant Sacrifice, and Socially Marginalized Low-Status Young Male Weirdo Menace that gripped much of the United States in the 1980s, but it wascertainly a force at the time. (It was sort of like the collective national equivalent of spending a brief stint in the Church of Scientology or taking prescription antibiotics for what people used to call a "loathsome disease": it's briefly the most important thing in your life, and then you never, ever speak of it again.) Thus, the disappointing turnout seems like at least potentially a good sign.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dynasty Warriors and exploding heads, together at last!

If you've ever found yourself playing Dynasty Warriors and thought, "You know, this is fun, but it would be a lot better if my character had the power to make an enemy's pancreas dissolve," your lucky day has arrived. Also, seek help.

Koei has announced a forthcoming spinoff of its popular Dynasty Warriors series that will be based on the manga and anime series Fist of the North Star, to be entitled Hokuto Musou. Fist of the North Star is one of the canonical works of the vibrant "huge guys screaming at each other" genre of anime, so let's hope Koei does it justice. True to the insanely violent style of the source material, Koei is promising "a myriad of devastating fighting techniques" that will let the player make his enemies "violently explode on screen." As an extra bonus for those of you who've become bored with wimpy, Disneyfied kiddy games like Mortal Kombat that limit you to mundane atrocities like impalement, decapitation, and bludgeoning people to death with a war hammer constructed from their own spinal column, Hokuto Musou will also give you the power to inflict "instantaneous breakdown of internal organs" on your foes.

(Which isn't as hard to do as it sounds, actually. In the game, you'll presumably be shredding people's insides through the awesome might of the the series' eponymous Hokuto Shinken fighting style, which assails your foe's pressure points to channel chi energy that tears him apart from the inside out, but getting someone to drink about half a bottle of Miller Chill will have roughly the same effect. Admittedly, there are moral concerns raised by this method, since rending someone's bowels asunder with a secret forbidden martial art invented by ancient Chinese assassins is far less cruel and inhumane.)

The Fist of the North Star animated movie was the first anime I ever saw; I stumbled upon it by sheer chance as kid when I was flipping channels out of boredom and reached a local UHF station that would play anime late at night. (Though this was back when people were still calling it "Japanimation.") They had to censor out nudity and graphic violence, of course, which in this case meant that at any given time about three-fourths of the screen would be pixelated out to protect my fragile young psyche from the endless procession of exploding heads and splattering chunks of people that dominate
Fist of the North Star's running time. And yet, it piqued my interest enough to see what they were showing next week, and from that searing crucible of blurred-out violence, incomprehensible subplots, and bellowing post-apocalyptic muscle men, my interest in anime was forged.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

100 quatloos on the long-running series!

Via Kotaku: Apparently, there are actually people who place bets on video game sales. Paddy Power, which I was disappointed to discover is just the name of Ireland's biggest online gambling company and not a masked crime fighter with whiskey-based superpowers, is giving 11/8 odds that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will be this year’s highest-selling game in the United Kingdom. So, if your pathologically thrill-seeking personality has led you to become both a hardcore video game fan and a degenerate gambler, and you're longing to somehow combine your twin compulsions to fulfill your desperate need for ever-larger torrents of dopamine sloshing through your increasingly desensitized central nervous system, problem solved.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Super Street Fighter IV announced, beloved Indian stereotype T. Hawk to make triumphant return

Capcom will be following up Street fighter IV with Super Street Fighter IV, which will offer game balance tweaks based on player feedback and eight additional characters. It will be sold as a stand-alone game rather than a download, but apparently won't cost the usual full price for a new game and will have a special bonus for people who already have the original version. I'm glad to to see Capcom isn't going the George Lucas "Buy the Star Wars trilogy for the eighth time, this version removes about half of the annoying crap that was added to the seventh version, has slightly different light saber sound effects, and includes a new scene at the climax of Return of the Jedi where the ghost of Mace Windu appears in the Death Star throne room and calls the Emperor a 'Sith motherfucker'" route.

That said, while it looks like this game will have a respectable amount of new content, I'm hoping we don't see a repetition of the seemingly endless series of variants of Street Fighter II that appeared in the 90's, when Capcom decided to forego making a new game in favor of simply adding more and more adjectives to Street Fighter II. By the time the year 2015 rolls around I want to be playing Street Fighter V, not Super Street Fighter IV Callipygian Turbo Championship Anarcho-Syndicalist Perfect Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Edition. Though if they did make that, I'd at least rent it so I could hear the Street Fighter announcer guy bellow the entire thing when the game starts.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

The horror... The motion-sensitive horror...

Time for a bit of a change of pace on Pointless Side Quest as we take a break from the usual inane anecdotes, tawdry filth, and blatant lying that usually fill this space for a foray into actual commentary about gaming. Found via Kotaku: In an interview with Gamepro, JU-ON: The Grudge game project manager Makoto Chida said the following:

We believe that the Wii is the most ideal console to experience horror games and started development of this title under that premise. If the Wii did not exist, I don't think that we would have ever developed this game.
This touched off some controversy in the comments at the Kotaku post where I first found the quote, but I think he’s got an interesting idea. Horror, it seems to me, is precisely the genre of game best suited to exploiting the Wii’s strengths and minimizing the effects of its weaknesses.

For one thing, Wii’s lesser graphical power is not the same sort of handicap in horror as in other genres. In an action game, I’m thrilled by what I see. If I’m playing a first-person shooter game, for instance, I like the best graphics possible because a gunfight is so visual: bullets streaking through the air, stuff blowing up, bodies flying, my idiot squadmates wandering into my line of fire, etc.

On the other hand, horror is probably better-suited than any other genre to draw power from sound- creepy music, eerie ambient noises, and such. Horror can also get a lot of effect from pacing, knowing when to tensely draw things out and when to abruptly jolt you, and that’s not a matter of technical power. One of the most memorable moments I’ve had in a horror game was the “corpse in the bathtub” hallucination in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. It wasn’t effective because it was shown in particularly impressive graphic detail, it was effective because I was calmly going about my business in what I thought was an eerie but fairly safe place and was OH GOD THAT’S MY OWN CORPSE suddenly struck when I didn’t anticipate it.

Furthermore, unlike action/adventure, horror is often exciting not because of what I see but because of what I don’t see. Often the greatest fear comes from the unknown, from ignorance, from sensing that there’s something out there but not being able to see it clearly, hence the venerable horror movie practice of not showing the monster too early, or showing it only in brief flashes that don’t let you get a clear view. Again, having maximum visual quality is less of a concern, because the unspeakable abominations trying to kill me are often scarier when I can’t get a clear, detailed look at them.

Horror can also get a lot of mileage out of written or voice recordings through the common device of the protagonist finding logs or records left by previous victims, or by the people who originally created or unleashed whatever the antagonist of the game is. You probably know the type if you've played Resident Evil or the like: “Dr. Aronson’s log, day 32. Subject Gamma has now grown to a mass of almost 250 kilograms. Showing increasing signs of awareness. Have expressed concerns about possible errors in translation of Sumerian necromantic ritual being used in experiments, but Dr. Harris says current phase of experiments must be completed before end of fiscal year. Shot down by Jenny the lab receptionist when I suggested trip to Olive Garden, says she has been plagued by recurring nightmares of a colossal beast with my face and a locust’s body chasing her through the lab while chanting blasphemous hymns to Yog-Sothoth in the voice of her deceased mother. Fourth girl in administrative staff to give me this excuse in past month; am considering switching to new brand of cologne. Log ends.”

It’s a cliché, but it’s repeated enough to become a cliché because when done well it really works. You can create a lot of mood and atmosphere through simple text, regardless of technological power.

The motion controls have interesting potential, too. Fear is a very physical emotion, affecting blood flow, muscle tension, metabolism, and biochemistry, and so horror is a genre of entertainment you experience with your body as well as your mind more than just about any other. I experience growing fear not just from my conscious thoughts, but from the sensation of my own heart thudding or my hands trembling as tension grows. The first time I saw the previously mentioned bathtub scene, I didn’t just think, “Gee, that’s scary!” I physically leapt in my seat, as if recoiling from actual danger.

Thus, I think controls that bring the player’s body more directly into the experience could have a profound effect for horror. There are limitations to how much can be done with a simple motion-sensitive hand controller, but the simple fact that the Wii controls encourage the player to get up and move about while playing could potentially add a lot, just by making the player more aware of his body.

Oddly enough, the traits that make the Wii a good potential home for horror games are the same factors that have made it the dominant system for casual and family-oriented games: the motion controls catch the interest of people inexperienced with gaming through their novelty and intuitive nature, and many of the games occupy niches that have been traditionally dominated by much lower-tech activities like board games, where looking fabulous isn’t a big issue.

This is a fly in the ointment. The Wii has opened up a huge market of people newly introduced to video games with a family-friendly image and lots of games that non-gamers can quickly pick up and enjoy, at the cost of neglecting and to some extent alienating more dedicated gamers. (I don’t like the common “hardcore/causal” terminology, both because of its imprecision and because of the self-congratulatory mine-is-bigger-than-yours way it is often used. If something is calling itself “hardcore,” it better involve either nudity, Mick Foley being chokeslammed through the roof of a steel cage, or a band of burly, tattooed New Yorkers with guitars screaming at me about Ronald Reagan.) Thus, I would expect big fans of something like survival horror to be underrepresented among Wii players.

So, ironically, the same attributes that make the Wii a natural home for horror games also give it an image that will tend to discourage horror game fans and an existing player base that will tend to discourage horror game developers. The canceled survival horror game Winter, which apparently would have heavily exploited the Wii motion controls to create the sort of physical immersion I’m talking about, was a casualty of this; the game received positive responses at presentations and pitches, but never saw a release because publishers didn’t think such a dark game would sell on the Wii. Both problems are mutually reinforcing- no horror games means no horror gamers means no horror games and so on and on forever like some horrible camp sing-along. That’s a real shame, because I think there’s a lot of potential there.

You know, when I started, I honestly hadn’t intended for this post to end on such a downbeat note, though given how ubiquitous the surprise downer ending is in modern horror I suppose it’s appropriate. Or it would be, if the surprise downer ending hadn’t become so clichéd and predictable that it hasn’t actually surprised anyone since the 1970s.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker characters revealed, Master Miller ready to claim Fly Fishing merit badge

Images of characters from the forthcoming PSP game Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker have come out in Famitsu magazine. Characters have been identified named Amanda, Huey, Chico, Strangelove, Coldman, Cecile, Miller (presumably the actual Master Miller this time), Paz, and Galvez. It looks pretty cool, although Miller's aura of elite stone cold killer mercenary badassness is somewhat diminished by the fact that he's wearing what appears to be a Boy Scout uniform.

The game is set in Central America a decade after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and is about Naked Snake/Big Boss and the band of soldiers who will go on to form Outer Heaven. Hideo Kojima will be doing the game himself, presumably because he felt dissatisfied trying to tie up the Metal Gear universe’s assorted loose ends, mysteries, and contradictions in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and realized that sticking another prequel into the middle of the series’ timeline provided the perfect chance to retcon all those revelations and once again make Metal Gear the incomprehensible, self-contradictory 20-car pileup of bewilderment that it was meant to be.

My theory is that in this one The Boss will turn out to be alive after all (with the woman killed by Naked Snake in the final battle of Snake Eater revealed to have actually been a time-traveling Otacon in drag) and warn Snake that both the Patriots and the Philosophers are merely front organizations for a still-more confusing and diabolical cabal called the Theologians who have secretly ruled the world since their founding by William Pitt the Younger, James Monroe, and Pope Pius VII in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. Then Revolver Ocelot- who, needless to say, has actually been working for the Theologians all along- shows up, and… well, I don’t want to spoil it.

The name of the character “Strangelove” is no doubt an homage to the titular character from Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War film Dr. Strangelove, a movie that has quite a few parallels with the Metal Gear Solid games: the threat of nuclear holocaust looms large, secret doomsday weapons are deployed, and at least half of the major characters are out of their damned minds. And when I think about it, Dr. Strangelove himself is probably the most Metal Gear-esque movie character ever. He’s crazy, he has a distinctive physical abnormality, he’s a defector, he’s intimately involved with nuclear weapons, and one of his limbs has its own independent will that sometimes works at cross purposes to his own. Give the man a tragic ten-minute soliloquy and a bipedal mobile nuclear weapons platform, and he’d fit right in.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Victoria 2 is doomed, DOOMED!

I kept it off this blog for the sake of decorum when it happened, but I squeed like a teenage fan girl reading a fifty-chapter Sephiroth/Naruto/Sonic the Hedgehog slashfic when I learned a few weeks ago that Paradox Interactive was actually making a sequel to Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, one of my all-time favorite strategy games. Paradox head honcho Fredrik Wester was convinced to approve the project by Paradox lead programmer Johan Andersson after the Paradox forum community clamored for it. Wester has said that he does not expect Victoria II to turn a profit, citing the catastrophic, Hindenburgesque launch of the original Victoria, and has said that he will shave his head if proven wrong.

I actually know a guy who lost his hair in a bet. A few years back, he vowed- presumably while drunk or in the grip of some sort of sanity-blasting psionic mental assault- to shave his head if his beloved Chicago Cubs didn’t win the World Series. If you have even a passing knowledge of baseball, you know that’s sort of like saying that this is the year the entire United States Marine Corps will be vanquished on the field of battle by Steve Urkel from Family Matters, so you can imagine how that turned out. He’s always had a soft sort of appearance, so the shaved really didn’t work for him; the first time I saw him post-shearing, it was as if Winnie the Pooh had joined the Aryan Brotherhood.

Sadly, I have to say I share Wester’s pessimism; the fanbase for intimidatingly complex historical grand strategy games with a focus on economics and industrial development named after notoriously prudish British heads of state is a devoted one, but it’s not terribly large. (Which I can only assume to be the reason Paradox has thus far shown no interest in my design document for Cromwell: A Short-Lived Theocratic Commonwealth Under the Sun. Some day...) I certainly hope I’m mistaken, though, and I’m looking forward to it.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

For those times when porn from the internet, DVDs, VHS tapes, magazines, satellite broadcasts, and premium cable just isn't enough

Vivid Entertainment, the titan of the American porn movie industry that has brought you such classic works as I Was Teenage MILF, Nubian Nurse Orgy, and the epic Team Squirt decalogy, has expressed interest in selling downloadable adult movies on the PlayStation Network. Company cofounder Steven Hirsch says that the PlayStation 3 platform is only the first step, saying:

“If we move forward here we would look at other potential gaming platforms like the Xbox 360. The Wii seems to skew a little young."
Yeah, the Wii market could be a problem. Though in a way it’s too bad, given how much success the Wii has had adapting various genres for use with motion controls. If you could peer into my soul right now-which of course you can’t, with the beta release of Google Soul Scryer still months away- you would witness an epic battle between good and evil as I struggle against the temptation to make some disgusting joke involving the Wiimote.

To get serious for a moment, I can’t imagine Sony ever agreeing to this. Video games seem to have largely displaced television and movies in popular demonology and become the number one symbol of Things Corrupting the Youth of America Today. The situation is aggravated by the continuing perception of many people that games are entirely or almost entirely for kids.

A few years ago, the mere fact that the Sony PSP could connect to the internet was enough for it to be declared some sort of child-devouring magic sex machine.
Officially sanctioned hardcore porn on a game console would ignite a media shitstorm of Biblical proportions. No amount of explanation about the PS3’s parental controls would be enough to calm things down. (And it goes without saying that actually taking a few minutes out of your day to check in on Junior to make sure he’s not visiting sites with names like is too much to ask of parents.) This would be a bigger public relations blow for the video game industry than the false Fox News report on Mass Effect, the Grand Theft Auto “Hot Coffee” scandal, and the 2005 release of the universally condemned Call of Duty: Waffen-SS combined.

And besides, this surfeit of smut available today is bad for a young man's moral development. Not because it’s porn, but because it’s easy, unearned porn. When I was a kid, seeing people naked was work. You had to have a friend with Cinemax whose parents would let you sleep over and then stay awake into the middle of the night, or scour the video rental store shelves for movies from that period in the 1980s when you could have occasional frontal nudity and still get a PG rating. It taught discipline, ingenuity, and perseverance, and I’m a better man for it.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Penny Arcade Expo 2009: Lots of stuff related to stabbing people

The sixth annual Penny Arcade Expo, aka PAX, has come to an end. I’m the kind of extreme introvert who considers going grocery shopping or attending my own birthday party a harrowing experience, so this sort of event isn’t my thing, but from everything I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun for those gamers who are part of the whole convention/gamer gathering/making eye contact with other humans crowd.

In an example of the sort of bizarre cross-linkages that occur when one has a strong interest in several disparate nerdy subjects simultaneously, the name “PAX” keeps making me envision Tycho and Gabe from the comic wearing 2nd Century Roman legionary armor, wielding blood-soaked gladiuses (gladii, whatever) and surrounded by dismembered Celts. Which, now that I think about it, would probably be the greatest webcomic-related poster ever.

Speaking of brutally slaughtering people with swords, a playable version of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle for the Nintendo Wii was revealed at PAX. Now, I certainly applaud efforts to bring more games like this to the Wii. That said, running into something like No More Heroes must be disconcerting to many of the people who’ve come to gaming for the first time through that system because of its family-friendly appeal. I can just imagine my mother browsing the shelves at the game store: “Let’s see, here’s a collection of sports minigames to play when you have friends over… Here’s a game that let’s you use the Wii to help you exercise and lose weight… How cute, a game about taking care of pets… Ah, here’s a game about a guy trying to get a girl to have sex with him by hacking people to bloody shreds with a lightsaber!”

In one of the odder examples of promotional game swag, Ubisoft also promoted the game by giving out toilet paper featuring the No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle logo and returning series protagonist Travis Touchdown. Frankly, this strikes me as an extremely poor method to promote this particular product. Presumably, the sequel's subtitle is supposed to evoke the image of the game's sword-wielding hero fighting for his life, whereas a promotional item like this gives the impression that the game's titular "desperate struggle" is the result of Travis Touchdown's inadequate dietary fiber intake.

Continuing further with today’s “edged weapons” theme, Klei Entertainment previewed a forthcoming side-scrolling brawler at PAX called Shank. What system it's for remains unknown at this point. The game is part of a projected trilogy, and if sales of Shank are good players should watch for the release of the sequel Shiv in 2011 and the trilogy’s epic conclusion Sock Full of Pennies in late 2012.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Well, at least I can still play EVE Online to take my mind off the economic cri- DAMN IT!"

It’s remarkable how persistent online worlds are taking on more and more of the complexity of the real world. Case in point: The world of massively multiplayer online game finance is also a feculent cesspool of corruption, negligence, and incompetence. On the plus side, at least the average gamer doesn’t have the lobbying clout to ask Uncle Sam for a few hundred billion dollars every time he screws up.

Case in point: banking in the popular outer space MMO EVE Online. The in-game economy is player-run, and enterprising players of EVE have actually created banks where people can deposit their hard-earned ISKs, the game’s currency, and earn interest. In June, news that EVE’s largest bank, called EBank, had lost over 200 billion ISKs due to embezzlement by its own CEO, “Ricdic” (possibly not his real name), resulted in an actual angry-mob-of-Bedford-Fall’s-residents-swarming-the-Building-and-Loan-in-It’s a Wonderful Life-style bank run as depositors rushed to get their money out while they could.

Things have now gotten even worse, with the proprietors of EBank announcing a freeze on all withdrawals and cessation of interest payments because of their unexpected discovery that, due to a combination of theft, bad loans, bad management, and lack of auditing and oversight, EBank currently has a deficit of 1.2 trillion ISKs. (Plus, I’m sure the sort of top-shelf marketing consulting firm that was no doubt needed to come up with the name “EBank” doesn’t come cheap.) EBank is promising to start allowing withdrawals again once it is on more secure financial footing, though given that they are still bleeding out 12 billion ISKs a month that may be a while.

There are three important lessons here. One, rigorous auditing and record-keeping is essential to any business venture. Two, never under any circumstances trust a grown man who calls himself “Ricdic.” Three, in these troubled times, you can’t count on the banking system to be there when you need it. I hate to toot my own horn, but it’s incidents like this that confirm the wisdom of my recent decision to empty my bank account and invest all my money in South African bullion coins as a hedge against hyperinflation and the imminent civilization-shattering collapse of the global financial system. A few years from now, when you’re hauling whole wheelbarrows of nigh-worthless green paper to the grocery store in a mad rush to buy food before your money loses its last remaining shreds of purchasing power while I’m living like a king off of my stockpile of gold Krugerrands, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News Roundup, August 27th: Adult subject matter, childishly snickered at

Fairytale Fights The Xbox360 version of forthcoming game Fairytale Fights is reported to have an Achievement for killing 1,000 children. Now, granted, they’re cartoony children in an intentionally silly and over-the-top fantasy kingdom, but this still seems tantamount to pinning a giant “I Want to be Subpoenaed by a Senate Subcommittee” sign on your own back. There’s a good chance the achievement will be removed from the release version, though the epic juvenile-dismembering action itself is expected to remain unchanged.

I’m a bit worried due to the fact that the media has the habit of exaggerating the content in games. The best-known recent example of this is probably the Mass Effect/Live Desk With Martha MacCallum debacle, when a few seconds of shadowy bare ass was inflated into a Caligulaesque hardcore porn extravaganza by commentator Cooper Lawrence, who had never actually seen the game. (The scene with the shadowy bare ass was inflated, I mean; not the bare ass itself. Though there are websites for the latter, if that’s your thing.) If this game catches the media’s interest, by the time the report on it makes it to air the story will have grown from “game where you kill cartoon children” to “game where you kill every child in the Western Hemisphere and sell their organs to the yakuza.” This could be the gaming industry’s biggest public relations disaster since the media firestorm that accompanied the ill-fated release of Will Wright’s SimKlan in 2002.

(A side note: You have no idea how desperately this new story made me want to somehow work in a reference to Karsa Orlong from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, but that’s a bit arcane even for me. However, the first person to successfully explain in the comments section what the relevance of such a reference would have been will win a valuable prize. Please note that I reserve the right to make the prize turn out to be something intangible, like my respect and good will, and thus valuable only in some abstract spiritual sense that doesn’t cost me anything or do you any actual good.)

Speaking of Achievements, forthcoming spy RPG Alpha Protocol has previously been said by its developers to contain a veritable horde of female NPCs that the secret agent main character can potentially get intimate with. Apparently, for those of you who choose not to descend into a 1080p pit of vice and depravity, the game will also have an Achievement in the Xbox360 version (and presumably a trophy on PS3) for completing the game while remaining celibate.

WW II PosterI'm not aware of any previous video game that has had a feature like this, but I’ve encountered the idea of a celibacy recognition award before. Well, technically it’s a novelty mug I won in a Star Trek trivia contest during the mid-90s, but the underlying concept is pretty much the same. (I actually still remember the tie-breaking question for first place. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that being able to remember the name of Lieutenant Worf’s adoptive human brother Nikolai Rozhenko won’t get you anywhere in life.) This comes after previous reports announcing that Xbox360 players who hook up with all of the potentially available NPCs would be likewise recognized, earning the 50-point “Painful Burning Mystery Discharge” achievement.

Speaking of recreational activities that can lead to internal organ damage and unwholesome bodily discharges when enjoyed irresponsibly, somebody is selling a device known as the “Arkeg Drink n’ Game,” which despite sounding like the name of a store that would appear in a throwaway background gag on The Simpsons is apparently an actual product. It’s an arcade cabinet with 69 classic arcade games preloaded and a built-in keg, CO2 draft system, and tap to dispense alcoholic beverages while you play.

I see two potential stumbling blocks for this thing. First of all, it costs $3,999, and I’m not sure how big the Wealthy Alcoholic Nerd Age 25-45 consumer demographic really is. Second, there are less expensive alternatives available that offer essentially the same functionality, such as my own patented “Bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Sitting On the Table Next to Me While I Play Disgaea 3” system.

Nevertheless, I admire the underlying vision, and the union of gaming and drinking has great promise. Think of the potential a well-chosen tie-in beverage has to add atmosphere to a game. The developers could provide a jug of moonshine with the next Harvest Moon game to evoke the feel of rural life. You could give everyone who buys the next installment of Metal Gear Solid a bottle of absinthe so that the player’s mind-bending wormwood-induced hallucinations will make the game itself seem almost rational and comprehensible by comparison. Every copy of the recently released GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra could come with a liter of pure grain alcohol so that the player can drink himself into merciful unconsciousness to escape the horrible dawning realization that he has just paid actual money for a game based on GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The possibilities are endless.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seduction of the innocent

You may know that when Electronic Gaming Monthly went out of business, people with existing subscriptions were given Maxim as a substitute, which some parents were not happy about. Meanwhile, it has been reported that several British game magazines contain ads for pornography and phone sex lines. I sympathize with a parent who doesn’t want their child exposed to that sort of thing, though when the largest newspaper in your country has a regular daily feature revolving around pictures of nude women it may be a forlorn hope. That said, I wouldn’t worry too much. Whenever I watched television late at night as a kid half the ads were for phone sex lines, and aside from an unfortunate incident that led to me being banned for life from the phone section of my local Best Buy it didn’t do me any harm.

The other half of the ads, incidentally, were hilariously amateurish pitches for local car dealerships and insurance companies. If you don’t live in the Chicago area and have never known the simple pleasures of staring at the TV at 2:00 AM watching a man in an eagle costume squat on top of a woman’s car and squeeze out an insurance policy from between his legs, and then spending the next half hour wondering if what you just saw was an actual commercial or some sort of fatigue-induced hallucination, you need be deprived no longer:

Try not to spend too much time thinking about why Eagle Man is able to lay an egg. That way lies madness.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

A chilling vision of things to come

In my intro post to this blog, I promised/threatened that I would occasionally include some actual serious commentary on video games to balance out the pointlessly obscure references, sniggering 3rd-grade humor, cruel mockery, and outright lying that usually fill this space.

To that end, I’ll be doing a series of occasional posts on games I’ve recently completed. I don’t expect them to be systematic or objective enough to be considered “reviews” in any proper sense; it’ll just be whatever thoughts about the game come to mind. So, when I do a post on Battlefield: Bad Company and interrupt my discussion of the various multiplayer modes to go on an 8,000 word rant about how the four soldiers who serve as the protagonists in the single player campaign are consistently referred to as a “squad” even though in the U.S. Army the four-man unit portrayed in the game is more properly called a “fireteam” and a squad is actually comprised of two such fireteams and seeing the terminology wrong just makes me SO INCREDIBLY ANGRY, don’t say you weren’t warned..

I have a bit of a backlog of older games I still want to play, and I’m generally not in a huge hurry to get games as soon as they come out unless there’s some sort of really cool preorder incentive (e.g. many of Atlus’ games) or I’m worried about having trouble finding a copy later (again, Atlus). So, when I start talking about this cool game I just beat called Keith Courage in Alpha Zones and post my treatise on what it might mean for the future of the Turbografx-16… Well, again, you knew what you were getting into.

My first post in this vein will be about Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 from Atlus. Gird your loins while you still can.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

News Roundup, August 10 2009

German company Crytek, developer of the Farcry and Crysis series’, says it may have to move its operations out of the country due to efforts by German politicians to ban the production and sale of violent video games. The company has a second office in Budapest, and Crytek president Cevat Yerli has previously raised the possibility of relocating all of their operations there if German censorship of violent games becomes too restrictive. As a precaution, Crytek has reportedly already shifted the development of their forthcoming Far Cry 2: Mutilated Chunks of Innocent People You’ve Brutally Killed for Absolutely No Reason Splattering Everywhere Special Collector’s Edition to their Budapest office. Crytek is a fine developer, and the Crysis series has received well-earned acclaim from gamers despite the handicap of requiring the National Nuclear Security Administration’s supercomputer at Los Alamos to run at full settings, so I wish them the best.

Blizzard has announced that the long-awaited Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will be released in the first half of 2010. Blizzard says that they need the time in order to get their online service upgraded. While they’re at it, perhaps they could also take a few moments to give the game a better subtitle. Wings of Liberty isn’t a name that says “thrilling saga of epic battles across space for the future of the galaxy,” it’s a name that says “feminine hygiene product for the busy modern woman on the go.”

It’s since been taken down for reasons unknown, but someone on Ebay was trying to sell an Xbox 360 that was supposedly signed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the low, low price of 1.1 million dollars. Can someone explain to me what the point of having something like this could possibly be? If you like a politician enough to want their autograph, you would think you’d want it on election campaign materials, or something related to their political philosophy, or perhaps, you know, some other object that is at least in some vague way actually connected to them. Consumer electronics don’t really fit the bill. On the other hand, my copy of Frank Sinatra: Live at the Meadowlands signed by Jimmy Carter and the late Ayatollah Khomeini is one of my most prized possessions, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Final Fantasy spinoff hits Japan in October

Square Enix will be releasing a game called The Four Warriors of Light: A Final Fantasy Anecdote in Japan on October 29 for the Nintendo DS.

I don’t know Japanese, so the game’s official site is impenetrable to me. However, inside sources report that The Four Warriors of Light: A Final Fantasy Anecdote explores a heretofore neglected aspect of Final Fantasy, telling the epic saga of how the heroes of Final Fantasy VII became increasingly desperate for ways to kill time on their many long, tedious airship journeys across the world as they fought to save the planet from Sephiroth. As our heroes struggle to come up with some topic of discussion that hasn’t already been beaten to death in order to ward off boredom during yet another interminable 13-hour flight from the Chocobo Farm to the Gold Saucer, each of them tells the tale of some minor and usually pointless incident from their past.

Players will thrill to Cid Highwind’s seemingly endless stories of times he was an asshole for no reason, hear Tifa’s tragic tale of being bullied in 2nd grade because of her overbite-correcting orthodontic headgear, and get another chilling look into Cloud Strife’s troubled past as he reveals the time the ball return machine got jammed during league play while he was working at his part-time summer job at Nibelheim Lanes Bowling Alley and Children’s Fun Zone. In the stunning climax, Barrett shows everyone his old vacation slides of his trip to Costa del Sol and spends the entire length of an epic 20-minute cut scene ranting about his hotel’s shoddy room service and unreasonably expensive mini-bar.

Admittedly, it’s also possible that “anecdote” is just an awkward translation of “gaiden.” I still think this idea is better.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

In Which I Pick on Dante's Inferno Again

Electronic Arts canceled a promotion at Comic Con for its forthcoming game Dante’s Inferno in which convention goers were called on to “commit an act of lust” with one of the EA booth babes and post a photo on Twitter. EA apologized after news of the promotion sparked protests, saying that all members of their marketing department will henceforth be required to watch a special educational film, the award-winning Short, High-Voiced Animate Objects: A Human Gender or Some Sort of Fancy Mobile Furniture?

As a replacement, EA attempted a new promotion based on Dante’s vision of sin and damnation in which fans were encouraged to “commit an act of usury” at the convention, with prizes for whoever was most successful in convincing the EA booth babes to take out interest-bearing loans. Participation was later reported to be disappointing, though EA says it is still considering a “commit an act of betrayal against a master or benefactor” promotion for Dante’s Inferno II.

(Found via: Game Politics)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

World of Warcraft movie may suck less than expected

Blizzard has signed up Sam Raimi to direct a forthcoming World of Warcraft movie. This seems like a dubious venture to me, given the grave and most likely insurmountable logistical problems a movie faces when the strength of a person’s interest in its subject matter is inversely proportional to their willingness or ability to actually leave their home and participate in human society once in awhile. It’s like releasing a movie intended to appeal to Supermax inmates or people working at Antarctic research stations.

On the other hand, I’m intrigued by Blizzard’s innovative strategy of having the movie made by a director who is, you know, not horrible. Raimi is a veteran filmmaker who has demonstrated his ability in film genres as diverse as comic book adaptations, horror, and stories about people summoning demons from Hell in disputes over real estate, so maybe he’ll make something of it.

(Source: Joystiq)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Dante Alighieri now spinning in grave at slightly slower rate

Electronic Arts has stated that their forthcoming game Dante’s Inferno, a title that innovatively combines the bloody action/adventure of God of War with a savage Muay Thai flying knee to the groin of the world’s greatest work of medieval Italian vernacular literature, has no planned PC release.

Happily, PC-owning fans of games with vague tie-ins to classic epic poems will be pleased to learn that EA’s forthcoming adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is still on schedule for a PC release sometime next year. It’s just like the original poem, except that instead of telling the story of the Fall of Man and Satan’s rebellion against God at the dawn of time, it’s set in a dystopian 22nd-century New York and Satan is a world-weary telepathic private investigator fighting to save humanity from a secret invasion of time-traveling sentient horseshoe crabs from an alternate universe who are waging war across time for control of Earth’s evolutionary history.

You know, I initially started writing that as mockery, but if someone actually made a game based on that premise I’d probably buy it.

(Source: Joystiq)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Dragon Quest IX Release Day Massacre

Square Enix’s Dragon Quest IX came out in Japan on July 11th and sold 2.3 million copies in its first week, dismembering its competition like so many hapless extras in a Lone Wolf and Cub movie. Dragon Quest sales were a staggering 23 times higher than the second-highest selling game of the week, Wii Sports Resort, making this the most appallingly one-sided contest Japan has seen since Toho Pictures’ poorly-received 1996 release Girl Scouts of Japan Troop 126 vs. Mechagodzilla.

Source: Kotaku

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Friday, July 17, 2009

The accoutrements of privilege

The North American branch of Club Nintendo, which gives members points that can be redeemed for prizes when they buy Nintendo products, is giving new “Elite Status” rewards to people with Gold or Platinum memberships. Apparently, they’re sort of the American Express Centurion Card of video game customer loyalty programs, but without that annoying “wealth and high social status” crap mixed in. I'm not sure how many mini-game collections you have to shell out for to reach these Olympian heights, but Platinum members get a rather snazzy Mario hat.

It says “One Size Fits Most,” which means I’m screwed because I inherited my father’s monstrous size 8 skull along with his brown hair, dour Northern European stoicism, and deep-rooted inability to ever truly trust another human being. For those of you who aren’t cursed with a grotesquely bulbous head, a word of warning: Use extreme caution wearing a hat like this if you live on the western coast of the United States. It is well-known in the law enforcement community that the Bloods have used red Mario hats, turned to the left side, as a symbol of gang affiliation since the early 90s. If you don’t know what you’re doing, one moment you’ll be cheerfully walking the streets of sunny Los Angeles, and the next you’ll have unwittingly crossed into Crip territory and met your death in a hail of 9mm hollow points and cheap Legend of Zelda replica swords.

(Source: Kotaku)

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Friday, July 10, 2009

It begins!

My name is John Markley. Last year, I started writing a humor/news column for Lecester Reed’s currently (and I hope temporarily) inactive site, the Diverse Nerd Association. The format was elegantly simple- mention video game-related news, make ostensibly humorous and frequently rather mean-spirited remarks about video game news, repeat.

I’ve missed having that outlet, and my attempts to find alternate targets for my bitterness, sarcasm, and lifetime of barely-repressed hatred have resulted in a number of interpersonal problems, misunderstandings, and a narrowly averted gangland-style execution, so I’ve started this blog to do some more writing about games in that same vein, posting on gaming news as it comes up. I may also have some more serious things to say on games from time to time, and perhaps a few posts on my other interests.

My first experiences with video games were on my cousin’s Atari 2600. I got the NES a few years later, and have been a devoted gamer ever since. At the moment, my systems of choice are the Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and PC. My favorite types of games are RPGs, strategy games like Europa Universalis or Master of Orion, and space flight simulators, though I play other stuff too. I don’t have an Xbox 360 and have never even played the Wii. However, I believe those who write about video games should aspire to the same standards of ethics and quality as mainstream journalism, and so I am quite comfortable making authoritative-sounding statements on subjects I know absolutely nothing about.

Stay with us at Pointless Side Quest, where we’ll be bringing you:

The hottest gaming news, a mere 3-5 business days after it appears on Kotaku!

Ridiculously self-indulgent references to ancient history, personal stories, and pulp science fiction that amuse no one but me!

The scintillating literary stylings of a man whose writing experience comes primarily from newspaper articles about zoning board meetings!

The diverse array of embarrassing typographical errors and bizarre malapropisms that only someone using cheap voice recognition software in a noisy room can provide!

And joke after childishly filthy and/or impenetrably obscure joke!

So, stick around.

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