Thursday, August 9, 2012

Decision to allow R18+ games immediately reduces Australia to hellish post-apocalyptic wasteland

The following article originally appeared at Robot Geek and is completely fictional, although if you actually need to be told that I doubt this disclaimer will do much good.

Australia’s notoriously strict censorship of videogames has received shocking vindication in the aftermath of the Australian’s government’s recent decision to allow the release of R18+ games in the country, a decision immediately followed by an eruption of videogame-related violence and social decay that reduced the country to a nightmarish post-apocalyptic wasteland less than a week later.

By law, every game released in Australia required a classification from the Australian Classification Board, a government body that regulated media content. Previously, the board refused to give any classification to games with content that would result in an R18+ (Restricted to 18 and over) rating, preventing an official release. A bill creating an R18+ classification for videogames was finally passed by the Parliament of Australia on July 18th.

What happened in the immediate aftermath remains unclear, due to the rapid collapse of Australia’s communication infrastructure and the country’s subsequent reversion to a preliterate culture dominated by savage nomadic warlords, heavily armed bands of murderous neo-barbarians, and the insane god-kings of despotic Bronze Age city-states, all struggling for survival in the crumbling ruins of a once-advanced civilization. However, according to the still-fragmentary reports that have trickled out of the country, several major cities were already in flames by early July 19th as hordes of videogame-maddened Australians took to the streets in what one surviving observer called “an orgiastic spasm of unimaginably savage Dark Sector-inspired violence.” The chaos escalated into a cataclysm that laid waste to huge swaths of the Australian countryside, destroyed most major cities, and caused the utter dissolution of Australian society, reducing a prosperous nation of 22 million people into what an official United Nations report describes as “a desolate hellscape where only the strong survive.”

June 21th: With the Australian military thrown into disarray by the collapse of the central government and local law enforcement incapacitated by an imported copy of Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Perth is turned into a burning ruin as long-standing rivalries between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners escalate into open warfare.

How the R18+ rating had such rapid effects remains a mystery, since the bill would not have actually gone into effect until 2013. Several possible explanations have been offered, including a sudden, uncontrolled release of years of frustrated, pent-up hunger for gaming violence caused by gamer excitement in the aftermath of the bill’s passage, the hypothesis of some physicists that the social and moral degeneration that Australia would have suffered in the years following the decision eventually increased to such overwhelming levels that its collapsed mass tore a hole through space-time into the past, and anti-videogame activist Jack Thompson’s controversial “portal to Hell” theory.

Australia’s future is uncertain. Reversing the decision allowing R18+ games is impossible, since both Parliament and the Australian Classification Board ceased to exist with the dissolution of the Commonwealth of Australia as a sovereign state after the fall of the capital city Canberra to the bloodthirsty armies of Lord Colossus the Despoiler- formerly Duane Harris, assistant manager of a recently closed GAME Australia location in the Canberra suburbs- on June 20th.

The entire country is now under a strict blockade maintained by an enormous international naval task force, rumored to include the entire US Third Fleet. In a recent press conference, US President Barack Obama insisted that the ships are there solely to render aid to an American ally and “have absolutely nothing to do with any rumors involving supposed expansionist warlords, a ferocious race of rapidly breeding radioactive mutant kangaroo-men who have already made beachheads in New Zealand and Indonesia, or alleged battles in the Tasman Sea that are classified and didn’t happen anyway where one or more American nuclear aircraft carriers was destroyed by an orbital ion cannon that doesn’t exist because the army of vaguely Abrahamic techno-religious fanatics that controls it doesn’t exist either. So just drop it already.”

Critics of violent or sexual content in videogames have now gained considerable credibility. The most prominent is former New South Wales Attorney-General Greg Smith, who had been one of the principal opponents of allowing the release of R18+ games in Australia and managed to escape the country via Sydney Airport just hours before the city fell to a cannibalistic horde of New South Welshmen dressed in cloaks of flayed human skin and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings promotional T-shirts.

June 27th: In Adelaide, the new Parliament of the State of Victoria gathers for its first legislative session since its “reorganization” on June 24th. Issues facing the new Parliament include the poor condition of the State’s road system, public health problems related to widespread cannibalism, and the ongoing controversy over whether the remains of the previous Parliament should be displayed on pikes as a warning to outsiders or simply devoured.

Now widely hailed as a visionary, Smith has been proposed as a possible prime minister for an interim government-in-exile. He is reportedly holding meetings with the government of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the alpha males of the packs of feral humanoids who dominate northern Queensland about a possible joint military expedition to retake the country.

In a speech shortly after his escape, Smith said, “At last, do you understand? People claim that censorship of games is unjustifiable and old-fashioned. Tell that to a mother who’s lost her child because his friends started fooling around with real guns after playing Grand Theft Auto. Tell that to the hundred-kilometer wall of human torsos that’s encircled Brisbane since the city was conquered by an army of loincloth-clad barbarians and renamed ‘South Goroshire.’ Tell that to someone whose entire hometown was massacred by thousands of pale, bloodthirsty maniacs who were out ‘grinding’ for human heads to build a five-story pyramid of skulls on the Melbourne Cricket Ground honoring their dark god Namira, Daedric Prince of insects and ancient darkness. They understand the importance of this issue, I assure you.”

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Baleful Glare at E3 2012, Part 3: Star Wars 1313

Star Wars 1313 is a third-person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. You play as a bounty hunter hunting dangerous fugitives from justice in the criminal underworld of Coruscant's Level 1313, far below the surface of the city-world. (So probably no cameos from that four-armed guy who ran the 50s diner from Attack of the Clones, sadly.) I've commented at some length on Star Wars previously on this blog, which you can read here.

This seems promising. I applaud the idea of a Star Wars game that isn't about Jedi and/or an appendix to the plots of the six movies, having grown somewhat weary of both, and I like the bounty hunter premise.

I just hope the protagonist is cool. The last time somebody was hyping up a Star Wars videogame starring a new character having adventures involving the criminal underworld of the Star Wars universe, we got Dash Rendar.

Dash Rendar, in case you're not familiar with him, was the protagonist of the Nintendo 64 (and PC, but no one remembers that) game Shadows of the Empire, part of a larger multimedia spinoff project set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Shadows of the Empire wasn't just a few new tie-in products, it was supposed to be an Event- practically a new addition to the original trilogy with everything but an actual theatrical film. A novel from Bantam books, a videogame, a series of comic books published by Dark Horse, trading cards, action figures, toy ships, Micro Machines. and- perhaps the loftiest laurel that can be placed upon a franchise's triumphant brow- a comic strip in Nintendo Power.

Truly, a fitting successor to Han Solo.
The problem was that it could not include Han Solo, since he spent the entire time frame of the new storyline flash-frozen in Boba Fett's trunk. But without Han Solo alongside the other heroes of Star Wars, you've got no cool, cocky, somewhat mercenary but basically good-hearted women-want-him-men-want-to be-him rogue. All you have left are the Jedi, the aristocratic female love interest, the droids, and the inarticulate alien sidekick, and if you've seen ever the prequel trilogy you know how that turns out.

The solution, of course, was to bring in a substitute Han Solo. Consequently, Dash Rendar was born, created according to a simple formula. First, take Han Solo and file the serial numbers off. Then continue filing until all interesting or memorable character traits have been filed off as well. Then fill the resulting void with nothing and come up with a reason for said void to be present at the Battle of Hoth so the “tripping Imperial walkers with harpoon cables” sequence can be crammed into yet another videogame as part of LucasArts' ongoing efforts to dethrone Normandy as the most reenacted battle in videogame history.

The Shadows of the Empire videogame is pretty well-regarded today; indeed, it's by far the most commonly and most fondly remembered part of the Shadows of the Empire project as a whole. It owes none of that success to Mr. Rendar.

Where was I? Right, that Star Wars game at E3.

LucasArts promises “a bold new take on the Star Wars galaxy, intended for mature audiences.” I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, while I have no problem with dark settings or stories, or with the sort of content people usually mean by “mature,” that sort of thing can go awry when you take an existing franchise where that sort of thing generally isn't the norm and start trying to add it. On the other hand, something in the Star Wars universe “intended for mature audiences” could be interesting if it's done well and doesn't just mean that there's lots of blood spraying around when you shoot guys and a cutscene where the hero calls some Hutt crime boss a “motherfucker.”
Anger, aggression, the dark side are- ah, the hell with it.
(Though now I kind of want somebody to make a Star Wars/Dead to Rights: Retribution crossover where Jack Slate teams up with Han and Luke to go on a bloody, profanity-strewn rampage through the criminal gangs of the Star Wars universe, just so that I can hear Luke Skywalker roar “SHUT YOUR FUCKING HOLE!” at some poor goon in the Mos Eisley cantina as the prelude to some horrendously brutal lightsaber kill. Just once before I die, that's all I ask.)

In any case, I'm curious to see how this turns out.

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