The Daily Pulse 09.20.04

Welcome back to another week here at Insidepulse.com! Of course there’s no better way to start it than with the Showstoppa himself, so let’s get into it.

Okay. Today I want to talk about the following article that was on CNN.com

Romancing the Phone
HONG KONG, China (CNN) — For men seeking true romance there is now a new mating game with an unusual twist — it is virtual and mobile.

A fantasy world in which lovesick men can wine and dine a virtual girlfriend on their 3G phones is about to be rolled out in Asia and Europe.
You will soon be able to download an artificial girlfriend, then track her movements via images on a 3G mobile handset. All the likely suitor needs to do is push the right buttons — literally.
Aimed at males between the ages of 15 and 35, the virtual girlfriend uses up a lot of bandwidth — shopping, dining, going to bars and the gym.
Men who wish to take the relationship further have to shower the virtual girlfriend with gifts, paying with real money.
If an anniversary is forgotten, the player quickly discovers that their new “partner” is giving them the cold shoulder.
Artificial Life, the Nasdaq-listed and Hong Kong-based software company, which created the new virtual girlfriend, has designed her with artificial intelligence. It expects thousands of men to sign up to the service in the coming months.
“You can send her messages, ask what she is doing, even flirt with her,” Eberhard Schoneburg, CEO of Artificial Life told CNN.
“She will have certain secrets and behaviors that you will not realize in the beginning,” says Schoneburg. “She will talk about sex — but you will not get any sex there.”
Opportunities for advertising are plentiful in this new interactive experience. The new “partner” may express a liking for a certain fashion brand or suggest a date in a particular coffee house.
“Once you get into a virtual relationship, there is a danger of not being able to relate to real people,” said one man on the streets of Hong Kong when asked by CNN about the concept.
Some women, meanwhile, are celebrating the end of conventional romance.
“It is safer (for men) to have (a virtual) girlfriend (rather) than a real girlfriend because you cannot trust men,” said one woman.
These interactive, virtual agents are also known as bots. Technology and marketing firms are now using them to engage and interact with customers. They encompass functions such as purchasing, customer complaints or delivering product information.
However, this latest development has some people worried about the psychological implications.
“It would be dangerous if people got excited by these electronic experiences and tried to transplant them into real life,” Dominic Lee, professor of psychiatry at Chinese University, told the South China Morning Post newspaper.
“In vulnerable personalities who cannot develop a relationship with a woman, that could develop into something voyeuristic, or even dangerous.”

Am I the only one that finds this completely insane? People paying REAL money for a VIRTUAL girlfriend? That’s not right. That’s not right at all.

Now I find the dating sim video games fun. Sakura Taisen is one, and it’s one of the games I am scary fanatical for. I also love Thousand Arms and Bloody Bride and all sorts of games in the line. But see, here’s the catch: IT IS JUST A BLOODY GAME!

Thousands of men signing up for this? To pay money to a digitized girl who they will never get nookie from, and that can never really care for them? That’s screwed up.

I think what bothers me most is how this is going to be used for product placement. It’s not a game when these sad little emo nerds are developing a crush on something that doesn’t actually exist and takes his cell phone to Taco Bell for a beef and cheese burrito because his “girlfriend” was programmed to respond that way thanks to a healthy contribution from Border Foods Inc. Disgusting.

How can anyone even remotely think this is a good idea? I mean, not only did we just have the naked video game characters in Playboy, but now this is upon us. I am so sick of the fact that developers help perpetuate the stereotype that people that play video games are fat, balding, social rejects lacking in any communication skills whatsoever, along with developing a strange funk from living in their parent’s basements and lacking the ability to engage in proper oral Hygiene. And as much as I want this opinion of gamers is wrong, god help me, they keep proving it right by buying crap and engaging in these acts of stupidity over and over again. “Oh look! Tomb Raider 9! So bad the back of the box says to not even plug in the joystick. But Lara’s got pierced nipples now and you can see the rings pressing up against her top! Let’s buy it! And you know UK magazines will get it an 8-9.0 because she’s a British character and there’s no such thing as professional integrity in journalism anymore! WHOOO! WHOOO! WHOOOOOOOO!”

Look, I understand sex sells. But romance shouldn’t. Part of society is learning how to communicate with people. And flirting and courting is part of that. I realize that the majority of gamers are not what fit the Hollywood Archetype of attractiveness, but that’s no reason someone should spank their monkey to Bloodrayne of Aeris/Yuffie fan fic slash instead of footage of real people or actually asking a human being on a date. I will never understand this growing obsession with people finding electronically generated images of people who are not real sexually attractive. Personally, I put this kind of weirdness up there with furries and their god awful yiffing, or people into beastiality.

Okay, people who whack it to PS2 footage aren’t that bad, but it’s still pretty sad when you find a video game character more attractive, both mentally and sexually, than a real live human being who you could try hitting on for real!
I always get weirded out when the lines between fantasy and reality blur. It’s not like I play Hey You, Pikachu! every day or think that my beloved electric lagomorph is a real animal. It’s not. I guess I can’t understand how a person gets that pathetic, that he decided to have a virtual relationship with a humanoid Tamagotchi.

Seriously, if you want a girlfriend, go to a bar, or try a personals ad or something. Just not a 21st Century Pinocchio

MUSIC
Just a cheap plug for an event here in Minneapolis next week. Enjoy a press release!

GIRLfEST 2004

GIRLfEST ’04– a celebration of female-fronted acts
and DJ’s– has just been confirmed for Wednesday,
September 29th in the FIRST AVENUE main room. The
night will kick off with an outrageous
Retro/Futuristic FASHION SHOW (featuring LULA
VINTAGE, CLICHE as well as design dynamic duo STARFIVE
SPACEBUG) hosted by Nadine Light (former Radio K).

The evening will then be taken over by Potsey
(KQRS/Homegrown Show), who will usher in live sets
from electronic darlings THOSQUANTA (TC Electropunk
Vol.1 ) as well as LITTLE TIN BOX (Latex Records).
Party-time shows from TELEPHONE! (TC Electropunk Vol.
1) and sonic soul mates EAR CANDY will follow, adding
an Electroclash element. Hip Hop and spoken word will
collide with an appearance from Rhyme Sayers/Brother
Ali collaborator DESDAMONA. Violin-brandishing
chanteuse JESSY GREENE (accompanied by deVon Grey on
keys, bassist Sean Mcpherson as well as drummer Peter
Leggett) will co-headline with the cheeky punk-rock
humor of PUNKY BRUISER, who are reuniting especially
for GIRLfEST ’04. Between acts, girl DJ’s will keep
the crowd moving by manning their decks. This years DJ
line up features the fresh electronic flavor of
STARFIVE (element27), First Avenue resident MISS PARIS
and internationally acclaimed beat mistress DJ COPPER
TOP (A Different Drum Records).

GIRLfEST ’04 will also tip it’s collective hat to a
good cause: all of the performers have agreed to
donate 10% of door takings to a girl-oriented charity.
After the last set of the evening (PUNKY BRUISER), the
audience will be briefed about three different
charities and asked to vote. The GIRLfEST ’04
charities are:

1) The HARRIET TUBMAN SHELTER FOR BATTERED WOMEN
612.827.6105
2) The SUSAN G. KOMEN BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION
http://www.komen.org/
3) LIFE HAVEN (Home for Homeless/Young Mothers)
http://www.lifehaven.org/

Should be good. You’ve seen me pimp THOSQUANTA before, so I’d like to suggest if you’re in the Twin Cities next week to come on down. And it benefits some pretty good charities. How can you say no?

COMICS
My second guest stint over at 144Anima.com is up. You can take a look at the conclusion to the adventures of Giant Vampire Hitler! Thanks to Daron, Matt, and Sean for letting me try my hand at comedy and fiction at the same time. Bit of a leap for Mr. non fiction, no?

FOOD
This week’s recipe is a little Mediterranean dish I planned to make this Saturday at a friend’s party. Alas, I didn’t go due to having had a very long week as it was. But in apology, I decided I should at least put out the planned meal for all of you to enjoy!

Ingredients

2 large ripe tomatoes
1 green bell Pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for sprinkling
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1/2 cup long grain wild rice, cooked and drained
1/2 ounce parsley
2 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons ground almonds
salt and ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds using a teaspoon. Leave the tomatoes to drain on a paper towel, making sure the cut side is down. Chop the seeds and pulp up and put it aside for now.

2. Cut the peppers in half, leaving the cores intact. Scoop out the seeds. Now brush the peppers with one of the tablespoons of olive oil and bake on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then place the peppers and tomatoes in a shallow ovenproof dish and season with salt and pepper.

3. Saute the onions in the remaining oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and almonds and then saute for another minute.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rice, the copped up tomatoes from earlier, the mint, the parsley, and the golden raisins. Season well with salt and pepper and then spoon the mixture into the hollowed out peppers and tomatoes.

5. Place the stuffed peppers and tomatoes onto a baking dish. Pour 2/3rd’s cup of boiling water around the tomatoes and peppers and bake for 20 minutes. Pull them out, scatter the remaining almonds and sprinkle them with a little extra olive oil. Return to the oven and bake again for 20 minutes, or entire the entree is golden brown.
There’s also a couple variations you can do with this recipe. The first would be to use eggplant and zucchini as the veggies being stuffed. Now I loathe the tastes of all gourds, so this is right out for me, but I know a lot of people do enjoy them. There’s no difference to the recipe, except you’ll be using the gourd insides instead of the pepper and tomato guts for the recipe. And again, as I dislike the taste of gourds, Alex wouldn’t use this variation himself. Icky.

MAILBAG
I know, you all miss Retrograding. Well it’s gone. It’s called burnout. And after this month I’m going to be stopping all of my games stuff except for special appearances. I’m going to have done NINE reviews this month and a dozen by the time I’m done. When I’m doing more reviews than the rest of the team combined in a month, it tells me I’m over-working myself. Plus, to be quite honest, I’m rather sick of video game commentary, as I can’t say much more than what I’ve already tried to drive into your craniums. Don’t worry, your beloved sub-cultural icon will be sticking around. I’m just taking a sabbatical from anything and everything video game related. However October is cheesily appropriate for what I will be doing.

Anyway, let’s crank out some of my mail for you to enjoy.

This first letter is in reference to my Doom 3 review which appeared to piss off a lot of people. Not because of the score of 6.0, but because of the final paragraph in the review.

Doom 3 reminds me a lot of the type of women I tend to date. Insanely hot. So beautiful you’re amazed it’s real. People that see them for the first time wish they had something even a fraction as beautiful. But woe to thee, for underneath the attractive frame lies madness. Crazy gibbering Lovecraftian madness which makes you wonder how something so pretty can be so up-f*cked where it truly counts. After you really truly get to know it, you realize they may still be nice to look at, but the inner works are nowhere near anything you want to associate with on a permanent basis. Bottom Line: Treat Doom 3 like you would one of these women. You f*ck it hard and fast and then you dump it immediately afterwards as the fun will run out very, very quickly. But at least then you have the photos or movies to prove that hottie was yours in order to make everyone else jealous. It’s good for a one time use, and then off to the rubbish bin.

Of course most of you know I had my tongue planted firmly in my cheek there, but some people just didn’t get the joke…

I just read your Doom3 review. It’s quite clear to me you are not in videogaming at all. Probably you are writing on this web site because you are just someone’s relative or friend.

Your review is abysmal. But what’s really amazing is your rude, offensive and brainless male chauvinism: it’s almost unbelievable that there is someone that pay you a salary to write this kind of shit.

I really think you never got any date, just figure a date with “insanely hot babes” to “f*ck hard and throw away. You should stop to lie to yourself and to your readers: if you spend your “social life” masturbating, well, just admit it, because it’s quite clear anyway. Leave a lone masturbation and concentrate in trying to be a journalist in a less pathetic way. Shouldn’t be that difficult.

My best
Andrea Maselli
Italy

Now I could tease about the broken English, but hey, this is not his first language, and how well do any of US speak Italian? I loved this letter just for the pure anger at it. But Sarcasm never really translates well into another tongue, does it?

Amusing though, isn’t it?
But in this same vein, Courtney, a person who wrote me a few times over at 411mania, responded with her own comments. I wish I had replied earlier, but her email came out formatted all weird and it took me forever to decipher what was written.

Maybe you’ve seen this already, but during the development of Doom 3, John Carmack (one of Id’s big programmers) was quoted as saying, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie; it’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”

It certainly goes along with your assessment of the FPS genre’s (and Doom 3 specifically) approach to plot. But isn’t that true of almost every genre? I don’t remember starting debates the next day at school or work over the amazing plot twists of Castlevania, Gradius or Pac-Man. Even in modern games, stories are mostly formalities tacked on to appease the expectations of players (usually with cut-scenes for showing off the graphic capabilities of the product) and give them an excuse for all the killing. It’s rarely more than a wordy version of “you good, they bad…smash” or its cousin “you might be good, but aren’t sure because you have no memory of yourself, but they hurting ones you currently with, so smash.” I’m generalizing of course :)

It’s sad to read all these reviews of Doom 3 (including the high score ones) and get the impression that it’s basically a graphics demonstration. The original Doom was pretty damn fun for pure destructive thrill. Doom 2 was decent but mostly a rehash with bigger but less interesting levels and an ever growing case of “fetch the key and backtrack” syndrome. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a decided lack of vision on the parts of gamers and especially gaming journalists when it comes to graphics. Really, gaming consoles have always been marketed largely on their graphic prowess. I was sold on the original NES because I saw! Super Mario Brothers on it and marveled at how much it looked like arcade games (as opposed to the limbless blocks of the 2600). The Genesis sold me and the friends who later saw it on it graphical superiority to the NES. And the early advertising by SEGA at the time marketed the system on that power. It was a major bonus that the game libraries on both systems were so strong.

But then something better looking always comes along, and now we’ve got 3-D games. And with it comes an influx of far more casual gamers who’ve been towed in by these “realistic” graphics. And now there’s a much greater focus on graphics (as many others have already attested). But you know, does anyone ever stop to think how well these games age or how much it’s current look will be able to sell it six months from now? I’ve read a lot of reviews over the past few years on sites like Gamespot and viewed the writers dedicate a few paragraphs to the “shadow and lighting effects” and other various technical details. Interesting stuff, but what if I don’t hear about a game until two years from now and need some opinions of it? After six months, those details have little more than historical significance as a look into the progression of gaming.

And some of these games that have brought people into this realm of entertainment have not aged well at all. I’m going to go against your opinion (and most of Inside Pulse) in saying that I liked FF 7. But has anyone actually looked at that game lately? Show me a screenshot of Lunar, and I’ll think “that looks cute.” Show me one of FF 7, and I’ll think of walking legos on an acid trip. Resident Evil 2 looked amazing when it was released; now it just looks kind of blurry. Legend of Zelda: OOT got a lot of praise in many areas when it came out. I played it for the first time after finishing Metroid Prime and thought it looked like a world of painted paper-mache. But it was fun to play, and that made it worth my time. Judging games on a side that will fade out in the near future pushes gaming more towards a “today’s fad” mentality that already dominates so many other modern markets.

Maybe I’m being unfair; 2-D sprite graphics have had a long time to be molded from simple shapes into a colorful art design, and some of those SNES and Genesis games that still look good had years of design history behind them. 3-D polygonal graphics may hit that point too, but it’s probably still a ways off. Five years later, if I see Doom 3 in one of those PC value packs that includes four or five games for $20, I may look at the list of titles and think, “hmm, I wonder if that would be a good way to kill a few afternoons? I’ll go look up some reviews when I go home.” A bunch of mid 8’s scores would be awfully misleading.

-Courtney

And you know what? She’s absolutely right. I love the occasional letters I get from her, because she totally disproves the “Girls don’t game except for Barbie and Mary-Kate and Ashley” games, but she also is a lot more articulate and intelligent than a majority of the guy gamers who write to me.

The big problem is that games, and worse, game reviewers are focusing too much on graphics in regards to assigning a score to a game. The graphics start to become dated the second a game comes out. And by the time the next console comes out, the “OMGWTFLOL!!!11!!1! BEST GRAPHICS EVER” are now average at best for what is possible. And thus a lot of reviews become outdated and worthless as well. Like Courtney said, Gamespot reviews spend too much time discussion things like light and shadow and not enough time on how much fun the game is or what the controls are like.

That’s why the IP review system is so popular with our readers. Yes we cover graphics, but we only treat it as one-tenth of the package. There’s so much more to a game that whether it is pretty or not. I can think of so many games that are considered garish by today’s standards, but are still more fun that 90% of the games out there for the Cube, Box, or PS2.

I do have to disagree with her on the importance of plot. I remember as a little kid loving the story behind the original Final Fantasy, or Dragon Warrior, and Simon’s Quest. I remember vividly talking plot bits with my fellow elementary school kids. Heck, even great beat ’em ups like TMNT: The Arcade Game and River City Ransom had plots.

Of course, Courtney and I have decidedly different tastes in gaming. She has a pretty strong rep in the PC gaming community in regards to Diablo 2. If you enjoy that game, go check out Nezeramontias, which is a mod she made, and is staggeringly popular with fans of that series. And she likes FF7, which yes, does make me want to shake her, hug her and promise her we’ll undo the brainwashing.

Bottom Line: If a review rips apart a game apart except for the graphics and it has a high Overall score, be wary of the reviewer and the site in general. You might as well stick with us due to have anal-retentive our reviews are.

People Worth Reading This Week
Over in Games you can see my reviews on the new POKEMON game, the new SILENT HILL game and the new Guardian Heroes game. Damn is that a lot of sequels!

Alex Williams talks Pokemon.

Bebito Jackson bring us videos of upcoming games.

Another Comic Roundtable

Iain Burnside interviews Sean McKeever.

Look at Eric S, PK, and Hollyric all talk about Gangrel being back! And it is about f*cking time. Gangrel = awesome enterance and awesome DDT. And awesome sized gut.

I want a Million Dollar Belt. Dibiase ruled when I was a kid.

It’s weird reading a Fernandez column where there is no jukebox.

Johnny Ramone’s death meant the finally played a Ramones song at Ground Zero this weekend.

That’s it for this week.