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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