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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