Gamer’s Hangover News Report 07.14.03

Hello all. I’m afraid bits of this are going to be a little short this week as I am 1: Just returning from my vacation to Kansas City, 2: Preparing to return to work tomorrow, and 3: Celebrating my birthday today. Worry not, gentle reader, there will still be news, there will still be bitching, and there will still be the details I promised last report. So let’s get started.

The NEWS

Hey, I know someone else covered this already on 411, but I just couldn’t resist. From Reuters:

U.S. Court Blocks Washington Video Game Sales Law
Thu July 10, 2003 07:41 PM ET
SEATTLE (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday issued an order postponing enforcement of a Washington state law designed to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors.
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law, which was set to take effect from July 27 and would have imposed a $500 fine on anyone who sold a video game depicting violence against “law enforcement officers” to minors under age 17.

“Plaintiffs have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of House Bill 1009 and the balance of hardships tips in their favor,” Lasnik wrote in his order from the court in Seattle.

In a statement, Doug Lowenstein, president of plaintiff the Interactive Digital Software Association, praised the judge’s finding that games are a form of protected speech like music and movies.

“In so doing, the Court made clear the very high burden that governments face when they try to regulate such protected speech,” Lowenstein said.

Washington state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, the Democrat who wrote the law, had said recently that any injunction would only be preliminary and that she expected the case to go to trial.

“It has very little bearing on the final outcome of the case,” Dickerson said.

A federal appellate court in St. Louis recently struck down a St. Louis County law that would have fined retailers who sold or rented violent video games to minors. In that case, in which the IDSA was also a plaintiff, the court held that games were protected speech under the Constitution.

The Washington law was criticized from the start by game industry groups who said it was too vague and unconstitutionally restricted the free expression of game publishers.

A bill is also pending in the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it a federal crime to sell or rent violent games to minors. Industry executives have said they thought the bill had no chance of passing. (Additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Los Angeles)

Haaaaa-le-lu-jah! Haaaaa-le-lu-jah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! HA-LAY-AYYYYY-LOO-YAAAAAAA!!

Of course, I’m the person who believes that sedition laws are unconstitutional, too. It’s refreshing to see a court look at the Constitution for a change.

Look folks, we gave you the rating system so that you PARENTS out there would have some sort of unambiguous indicator or what sort of material was present in your children’s games. A rating system puts all of the information on the table (or the front of the box, as it were). That means the mantle of responsibility in editing what your kid can and cannot play falls on YOUR shoulders. Not the governments, not the game manufacturers, YOURS. In fact, by instituting a rating system, you have effectively given the game industry carte blanche to put whatever material they want into their games. The rating system is supposed to insure that you, that would be the PARENTS, will know what your kids are playing and will be able to react accordingly.

I’m listening to Body Count right now, just because I feel like it.

The point is, I guess, bad parents need to be made to live with the consequences of being bad parents. Kids have been trying to sneak things behind their parents’ backs for millennia now. Don’t tell me that the advent of video games has made it impossible to keep a handle on your child. I know better.

Bad parents, stuff it. You suck. Either get better, or live in your shame, but don’t blame it on the game industry, the porn industry, cigarettes, booze, or anything else. It’s YOUR job to watch your kids, not theirs.

Ahem.

From the pre-chewed goodness of CNN.com:

MANILA, Philippines — At least one person has been killed and several injured in a bomb blast at a crowded market in the southern Philippines.

Police said the crude, home-made device exploded in the public market in Koronadal city on Mindanao island about mid-afternoon Thursday.

Initial reports say at least one person was killed, but different arms of law enforcement agencies are reporting several more people deaths.

About 25 people have been taken to hospital with injuries from the explosion.

The blast took place a day ahead of a city festival in Koronadal and officials say many of those in the busy marketplace were children.

The bomb was left at a video game stall in the center of the market, the Associated Press quotes officials as saying.

Koronadal was hit by a bomb attack in May this year that killed 10 and left many others injured.

The attack was blamed on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front — a separatist group fighting for a Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest blast.

Words cannot express how incredibly pissed off I am about this. I hate religious extremists of all types (this stems from an incident in high school involving a non-denominational-but-mostly-Baptist youth group, an all-night skating party, and some elementary brainwashing techniques. Someday I’ll tell you the whole story), and all terrorist attacks are an offense to God in my eyes. But this irks me just a little bit more, because somebody thought, “Hmm. What would be the best place to plant a bomb to put the fear of God into the infidels? Ah yes! A VIDEO-GAME STALL.”

Excuse me while I look forward to these jerkoffs getting a dose of “Nintendo-like accuracy.”

From the EA press releases page, another bit of known news that I just can’t resist:

EA Announces NFL STREET — Latest Title from EA SPORTS BIG Brand

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–July 9, 2003–Electronic Arts (Nasdaq:ERTS) announced today that the makers of Madden NFL Football are developing NFL STREET, a street style football videogame scheduled for release in early 2004 under the EA SPORTS BIG(TM) brand. The title is under development by Electronic Arts Tiburon for the PlayStation(R) 2 computer entertainment system, the Nintendo GameCube(TM), and the Xbox(TM) video game system from Microsoft.

NFL STREET features fast-paced 7-on-7 arcade gameplay, challenging NFL players to show their skills on both sides of the ball. The game showcases style with big jukes, behind-the-back passes, and a wealth of showboat moves that take football out of the stadium and into the streets. The action is non-stop with no penalties and no punting, kicking, or field goals. Players can pull off numerous trick plays and special moves because it’s not just about putting points on the board, it’s about showcasing your unique style — NFL STREET is all about style over strategy.

“The NFL STREET franchise represents the game we all played as kids taken to the next level,” said All-Pro Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. “We all want to play on both offense and defense in a wide-open, no holds barred game. NFL STREET is football the way players want to play — it’s our game.”

Gamers can create a powerhouse team by filling each position with the biggest stars and best players from the NFL, selecting from over 300 players from all 32 NFL teams including legends like Barry Sanders. All of the NFL players featured in the game were made available from a license with PLAYERS INC, the marketing and licensing subsidiary of the NFL Players Association. There are no helmets so players will be able to see the personalities of their favorite NFL players, and players are completely customizable from their clothing down to their hairstyles, tattoos, and more.

I just bought NBA Street 2 for the Xbox. Read my PS2 review here. Barry Sanders is from Wichita. Did I mention that I just bought NBA Street 2 for my Xbox?

In my review, I make lots of connections between NBA Jam (which I found out afterwards STILL isn’t dead; a new version will be out this fall), which I loved. Well, I wasn’t the biggest fan of NFL Blitz. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t draw me in either. I’m really curious as to how EA Big is going to pull this off with football. Hopefully they’ll do the NBA Street 2 thing and have all sorts of old-school superstars to unlock: Mike Singletary, Jim Brown, maybe even Hall-of-Fame-Quarterback-Len-Dawson.

And for the sake of the Techmo Super Bowl fans, you GOTTA put Christian Okoye in there somewhere!

Because it’s a slow news day, another from the EA press releases:

EA TO RELEASE NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND THIS FALL

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., July 9, 2003 — Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) will release Need for Speed┞¢ Underground, the next chapter in its landmark Need for Speed┞¢ franchise, this fall under the EA GAMES┞¢ brand. Originally slated for release in early 2004, Need for Speed Underground thrusts gamers into the adrenaline-filled world of urban street racing, challenging gamers to win cash, cars and respect as they put their driving skills to the test in their own fully-customizable urban exotic supercar.

Featuring a thrilling sense of speed created by a team led by an OSCAR®-nominated special effects expert, Need for Speed Underground delivers an authentic look at the gritty world of underground street racing. The game offers 20 of the most sought-after tuner cars from manufacturers including Mitsubishi Motors, Subaru®, and Toyota┞¢. Gamers will be able to upgrade nearly every aspect of their car’s appearance and performance with hundreds of after-market parts from more than 50 real-world manufacturers, including HKS®, Sparco®, NOS ®, and more.

Need for Speed Underground is slated to ship for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, Xbox┞¢ videogame console from Microsoft, Nintendo GameCube┞¢, Game Boy® Advance, and PC CD-ROM. The game is being developed by EA Black Box.

Need for Speed Underground will also feature online play on the PlayStation 2 console and PC CD-ROM.

“Authentic” look at underground street racing? C’mon. They just rented “The Fast and the Furious” and watched it a few times. Don’t be fooled. Still, I’m looking forward to it just so I can race my brand-new automobile infatuation, the Subaru. (Mmmmm. All-Wheel-Drive.)

That is, of course, unless you need a frickin’ STEERING WHEEL to play the game, like EA racing games SEEM to need. (See forthcoming review of EA’s “F1 Career Challenge” for more details).

Non-Game NEWS

From CNN.com.

Lawmakers: Report to show al Qaeda-Saudi ties
Levin: Administration stalling calls to declassify it
Sunday, July 13, 2003 Posted: 5:01 PM EDT (2101 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A congressional report will soon reveal close ties between residents of Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, two senior lawmakers said Sunday.

“It would be embarrassing, I think, to a lot of people there,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.”

The classified report is the result of an investigation into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The report, or portions of it, is expected to be declassified soon.

“There are a lot of high people in Saudi Arabia, over the years, that have aided and abetted Osama bin Laden and his group. And they’ve done it through charities, they’ve done it directly and everything else,” Shelby said. “What we’ve got to do is find the truth.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly praised Saudi Arabia for cracking down on terrorists and those who’ve supported terrorist groups financially.

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said the Bush administration was stalling calls to declassify the report, which he said “should have happened, actually, months ago.

“There was clearly Saudi money supporting Osama bin Laden and the terrorist group that he led,” said Levin, an Intelligence Committee member. “And I think we’ve got to face up to that fact, the Saudis should face up to that fact and end it.”

Saudi Arabia has publicly taken a stance against attacks on civilians, and in recent months has stepped up efforts to crack down on al Qaeda cells within the country as well as support for terrorist groups — particularly after a string of suicide bombings in Riyadh in May that U.S. and Saudi officials believe was the work of bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization.

Some lawmakers believe the United States has not adequately taken the Saudi royal family to task for having allowed support for terrorist groups and for establishing a climate in which hatred was taught in schools and mosques.

Of the 19 hijackers who participated in the September 11 attacks, 15 were from Saudi Arabia.

Shelby said the United States should remain focused on undermining terrorist groups at their source.

“The mother milk — what sustains terrorists — is money,” he said.

Bin Laden ‘not within Afghanistan’

Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah said on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” that bin Laden has left the rugged border region of Afghanistan and is likely in a Pakistani city.

“He is not within Afghanistan,” said Abdullah, who uses only one name. “One cannot say categorically, but it’s likely he’s in Pakistan.”

U.S. troops are hunting for bin Laden and fighting remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In addition, the United States has offered a $25 million reward for information leading to bin Laden’s arrest.

The Taliban — the religious militia that had ruled much of Afghanistan since the mid-1990s — had sheltered bin Laden and his al Qaeda network. A coalition of U.S. and allied forces drove the group from power in November 2001.

Bin Laden “has no basis of support in Afghanistan whatsoever,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah said he believes the terrorist leaders have fled the largely lawless, tribal-controlled border region.

“Most of the al Qaeda members who have been arrested by the Pakistani security apparatus have been arrested from the big cities, not from the tribal areas,” he said.

A link between Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda? Okay class, all together now:

NO F***IN’ SH!T!!

Actually, I’m interested in reading this report, just to see how incredibly deep the support for Al Qaeda has been inside Saudi. Of course, we wouldn’t invade Saudi Arabia in retaliation. We don’t have to. All we’d have to do now is just turn on the pumps inside Iraq and let it flow. And, although I’m kinda ashamed to admit it, there’s a part of me that would just love to flip a collective middle finger to Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC in just such a manner.

Not-So-Damn-Serious Non-Game NEWS

Chiefs keeping an eye on Holmes’ recovery
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

For the first time this offseason, Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson has indicated the team will consider enhancing the contract of star Priest Holmes, upgrading a five-year contract signed in 2001 when the tailback was acquired as an unrestricted free agent.

But in an interview with The Kansas City Star, Peterson offered two conditions: Holmes, who is still recovering from hip surgery, must demonstrate he is fully recovered. And any reworked deal will be an extension to Holmes’ current contract, which still has three years remaining, as opposed to a totally new contract.

“Based on how he’s doing, how he’s feeling and how we feel about where he is (in terms of rehabilitation), I certainly will consider a contract extension,” Peterson told the paper. “Not a new contract, a contract extension.”

Peterson’s two caveats seem to be in concert with what sources close to Holmes have told ESPN.com about offseason contract discussions.

While a shroud of secrecy has clouded Holmes’ recovery, and there have been divergent reports about his state of readiness for training camp, Chiefs officials and some Holmes confidants have maintained his rehabilitation is on pace. Most of the reports about a hip injury that sidelined Holmes for the final two games of the season have been speculation, second-hand information from teammates, or a combination of both.

In statements last week, though, Holmes assessed his rehabilitation as all but compete. Peterson said that he saw the Chiefs’ star tailback running the steps on his own last week at Arrowhead Stadium and noted “he was really hitting it hard.”

Team officials and coaches are likely to closely monitor Holmes in training camp and, Peterson acknowledged, limit his playing time early in preseason.

Holding back the hard-working Holmes, who in two seasons with the Chiefs has gone from a backup to one of the NFL’s premier tailbacks, could be difficult. The former Baltimore Ravens undrafted free agent has always been a diligent worker, both during the season and also in the spring, and he might have actually pushed himself too hard at the outset of his rehabilitation process.

But fashioning a contract extension, one that addresses the needs of both sides but also rewards Holmes with compensation commensurate to that of other leading backs, might prove even more difficult. Holmes has three seasons remaining on his contract, and is due compensation of $2.25 million (2003), $2.5 million (2004) and $2.75 million (2005).

Holmes will be 32 years old when his current contract expires in the spring of 2006. Any revision would mean the Chiefs will be essentially adding more seasons for a player who would turn 33 in October of ’06, which would be the first “extension” year. An extension would provide Holmes more money now, because of the signing bonus, but could also have a negative impact on the Chiefs’ future salary caps.

The production level of NFL tailbacks typically wanes when they reach the long side of 30 and not many have ever posted big numbers in their mid-30s.

The positive news, in addition to optimistic reports about Holmes’ recovery, is that the two sides have some time to make contract adjustments. Todd France, who represents Holmes, said last week that his client will “absolutely” report to camp on time, no matter the status of negotiations at the time.

Holmes, on the other hand, hinted strongly that he will sit out the regular-season opener if a reworked contract isn’t completed. To this juncture at least, whatever negotiations have taken place have been conducted in private, with no media leaks. And there has been no public rancor, either, which is always a positive.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

I just put this in here to show you that it is, in fact, possible for an NFL salary dispute to be conducted in a civil manner. That and I’m jonesin’ HARD for the NFL right now, and I’ll take any excuse to talk about it right now.

PLUGS, PIMPS, and THANKS

And the streak continues. More hot buttered reader mail:

Hiya,

Great column. Thank you for writing it. It’s so nice to read a light column without someone always bitching about the state of things (yes I read a lot of wrestling columns, but only those on 411). Anyhow you are damn right on that Mars thing. What the hell?! “Closer to the sun?” What! These people need to be beat with an intelligent stick, and then be sodomized by said stick. It’s a simple order of the planets, it’s not that hard to know. There’s only nine of them for Chrissake (although aren’t they arguing about Vulcan?) that are generally accepted as planets.

Anyway I love your column. It’s grammatically correct and when you talk about your personal life, it’s not depressing. Tell more about it, it’s fun to know. At least I enjoy it anyway. It’s wonderful to hear about someone’s life that isn’t depressing. Isn’t it strange how a good chunk of the gaming reporters are married while the wrestling guys seem single (except for Flea and maybe a few others).

Anyhow just wanted to say good job and keep on doing your best to educate the readers on the going-ons outside of videogames.

Thank you again,
George

P.S. What are the four sports you would prefer watching and why?

P.P.S. And 1%? Hell I’d work for .1% of that salary cap. and that’s below the minimum wage I believe.

Once again, my readers demonstrate that they are the kindest, most well-spoken fans on the Net, the part about sodomizing the CNN guy notwithstanding. Thank you, George, for liking my personal style of writing. The restraining order should be at your door this evening.

P.S. I’m kidding. Thanks. A lot.

I think they’re saying that Vulcan is technically a MINOR planet. Of course, they’re basically considering everything in the solar system in a stable orbit and bigger than a breadbox to be a minor planet anyway, so who cares. I can’t be bothered to check facts. Especially not today. I’m still recovering from three games of shot-glass chess last night. I won all three.

Okay, the four sports I would watch rather than baseball are, in order of preference:

1. (American) Football. I’ll admit it. I’m waiting with baited breath for Chiefs training camp to start. I need to get my fantasy league players together for the annual preseason meeting. I need to get a Tony Gonzales jersey to match my (8 month-old) son’s.

My preference is for pro before college, just because pro games are usually more balanced affairs, even if you’re watching the Cardinals. College games are far more likely to be unabashed blowouts, especially when the BCS is involved

Football is the ideal TV sport. Plenty of play stoppages for commercials; short bursts of unbridled excitement; and, given the time of year, it’s probably a lot nicer in your living room than it is in the stadium.

2. Basketball. I’ll usually take college before pro, because even the worst college basketball team will, not may, but WILL have that one night where they can do no wrong. I cite as evidence two of the most exciting NCAA tournament games I have ever seen: Princeton over (defending champs) UCLA, First Round 1997; and Georgetown over Princeton by 1 STINKIN’ POINT, First Round 1989.

Basketball is great on TV, but is better live, but that’s okay because basketball teams SELL OUT their stadiums, unlike some sports.

3. Hockey. I actually played club hockey for Wichita State University when I was an undergrad. I played defenseman, and I was terrible. Still, I scored a goal once against the University of Kansas team, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my days.

Hockey combines the best parts of skill and power. The stick work is all finesse, the skating is sublime, but at the same time the checks are merciless, and the villains have no equal in the sporting world. Seriously, if there was going to be a fight, an all-out brawl between Bill Romanowski and Marty McSorely, I would put MONEY on McSorely. No contest.

Hockey is good on TV or live. Live hockey gets the edge for the brawl factor. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen two goaltenders go at it at center ice with your own two eyeballs. Priceless.

4. Soccer (a.k.a. “Football”). I got entirely roped in with the last World Cup. I didn’t just watch U.S. games, I watched every game that I could. I watched Mexico. I watched Costa Rica. I rooted for CONCACAF. I got into it. Why? Well, it becomes less mind-numbingly boring the more you know about it. And once you figure out who the big fakers are (e.g.: Brazil, Italy), it becomes a game to guess which was a real foul and which was the international football equivalent of Michael Irvin running a receiving route with a competent cornerback

Seriously, Italian players apparently cannot walk once they get inside the penalty area on a soccer field. They cross the line and fall down for no reason whatsoever. What’s even better are the REAL fouls that go on out there. You never knew 5 foot 6, 135 pound guys could be so blatantly MEAN to each other. Some bits made the worst Flyers-Rangers games look like Wimbledon.

Now, I can’t get into league soccer, except for the occasional MLS box score. I’m an international soccer person all the way. I’m currently getting ready to see the U.S. steamroll over the rest of CONCACAF again in the Gold Cup tournament. The only English Premiership teams I care about are the ones with prominent American players, and even then, I follow them peripherally at best.

Soccer almost needs to be watched on TV, and I’ll tell you why. If you’re like me, right when you decide you can’t wait to go to the john any longer is when the big scoring play takes place. Well, if you’re watching it live, you’re hosed. You’ll never see what happened. If you’re watching it on TV, at least you’ll get about ten replays of it during the rest of the game and another couple on SportsCenter afterward.

Now some pimps, in the same quasi-chronological order I put them in last week.

Pankonin is about to go on vacation himself, and he’s putting stories up about new bikini lines. Coincidence?

Bebito is a great sport, a class act, your rumor source, and he loves Sonic the Hedgehog. We should applaud his openness in his alternative lifestyle. (Did I mention he’s a great sport?)

Baxley wants RPGs. Send him your spares. Especially dog-eared 1st editions of D&D, or maybe just your old characters. He loves that.

Berg beat me to the punch on the NFL Street news. He’s also muttering something about “PS3.” Right. Like THAT will ever happen.

Watson is on an absolute tear right now. I’d better get those reviews out. He’s making me look bad.

Lucard needs to put down the Lovecraft and join the rest of us in the real world for a little while. Also, I’m insulted and a bit hurt that I wasn’t included in his 411-Kliq comparison. You know, me and X-Pac have the same birthday (as well as Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford, so there).

Alex Williams is a Cheat and he’s proud of it. Like I always say, if you can’t win, cheat. Also, if you just don’t want to put any effort in, cheat then too. Likewise if you’ve had a hard day and just need a big ego trip; it’s okay to cheat then too, as long as you don’t cheat anybody else. Especially online. Like the bastard that kept flameing me when I was trying to play Diablo . . . . too much, eh?

So we went to Kansas City and spent a few days on the Country Club Plaza. I have to admit, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Most of the stores were of the lame clothing variety, and the day spa (ahem . . . for . . . . uh . . . my WIFE . . . . yeah. . . . .) was completely overpriced. Still, the food was good, and we did discover a couple of killer specialty shops.

Dog lovers, check out the Three Dog Bakery. We got two Big, Mean Kitty Cookies for my dog, Sadie.

Cheese lovers, do yourself a favor and stop in at The Better Cheddar. We got some Spanish Drunken Goat Cheese. It’s much better than it sounds.

And of course, if you have a special woman, and you want to make her feel like no one has ever made her feel before, take her to The Cheesecake Factory. Or, you can have cheesecakes FED-EX’d to you. No kidding. I recommend the Key Lime Cheesecake. You may want to take out a second mortgage beforehand, though.

Until next week, get some sleep.

Cory