Gamer’s Hangover News Report 12.01.03

Quasi-random thoughts:

First off, a happy birthday to my pal Llonda. Congratulations on reaching the age you will, no doubtedly, be at for the next 10-15 years. Reference: “Einstein’s Theory of Birthdays.”

I don’t care how bad of a day you’ve had; you can make it just a little bit better by listening to “Kielbasa” by Tenacious D.

*Sigh* Still not done with the report yet. It HAS reached the “Five Minute Coma” stage, though. That’s the stage where, if I suddenly fell into a coma and came out of it five minutes before it was due, I could submit a workable, if flawed, report. The week will be fill-in-the-blanks and polish. Friday at 3:30 I present. My advisor hasn’t been nervous at all, so I like my chances.

Took a break from my self-imposed sequestering from my consoles. I only have five words to say to that:

HENSHIN A GO-GO BABY!! (“go-go IS two words, right?)

Ho. Lee. I’ve only gotten to the second scene and I still love it. Life IS viewtiful.

Anyway, I’m back on and I now know what I’m missing, so that report is DONE tonight. Viewtiful Joe is due back to Hollywood Video by Wednesday (for some reason, the Buster hasn’t gotten it, OR any ESPN sports games other than football. Fortunately for me and Roni they had a spare copy of Double Dash this weekend. Dig the Bomb Battles. “Mario Kart meets shock and awe,'” as Cris put it.) and I’m not getting another late fee ever “¦ I’m sorry. I can’t even finish that statement.

Chiefs cruise through another one. 11-1. A win or a tie at Denver next week clinches the AFC West. I have a feeling that game may provide some insight to how the playoffs will go, and I’m not entirely eager to see how that will be.

Okay, so I was wrong about the Shockers’ schedule last week. They did have another game before Saturday, and it was the title game for the Paradise Jam which they dropped 84-81 (I think) to Boston College. They rebounded (no pun intended) nicely and spanked Northern Arizona School For The Blind And Partially Incontinent Saturday night. Some might have even called the game a s***storm, but I’m not one of them.

And, in case you missed it, Duke sucks.

NEWS

THERE IS NO PEUGEOT!!
credit: the fabulous chaps at Spong.com
So how does a French automaker come up with something to re-endear (or more likely to finally endear) themselves to the American buying public? How about copying a vehicle from one of the most popular action games of recent memory? No, I don’t mean the Dodo, either (although that would be horribly appropo.)

Check this out. The guys at Spong are pretty sure they’ve seen this before “¦ as the Warthog, the primary combat vehicle in the game Halo. In fact, check the user comments at the bottom of the page. They, and I, are not alone on this.

Of course, if it’s true, it may be the smartest marketing decision Peugeot has ever made. Stay tuned

Ripping Off Yu-Gi-Oh”¦Which Ripped Off Pokemon “¦ Which Ripped Off Magic “¦
credit: Gamedaily.com
Be aware, parents. NEC Interchannel Ltd has shipped their new game Culdcept. I can’t even begin to do this description justice. Here you go:

The strategy game revolves around an in-game deck of 480 cards, from which each player (up to four) gets to customize a deck of 50. Players attempt to claim land by placing creatures from their deck on the territory, who will ensure that opposing players will pay a toll when landing there, or a battle will ensure. 42 maps are included and NEC claims playability approaches 100 hours.

Uh huh. Trust me, parents. It’s NOT Yu-Gi-Oh. It’s NOT Pokemon. It may look like them and smell like them, but it’s not them, and your kids will not appreciate this game come Christmas morning if they asked for Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. Just a public service announcement from yours truly.

They’d like this game to sell for $39.99. I’d like to get paid $1,000 per column, too; but that ain’t happening either.

Harpoon IV Gets Deep-Sixed
credit: Gamedaily.com
Ubisoft Scuttles Harpoon IV

Nice, but I like mine better, for no other reason than for the obscure G.I. Joe reference.

It’s nice to know Ubisoft has some pride. They’ve ceased production of their (not) upcoming naval battle simulation Harpoon IV, citing “quality issues.”

Marketing VP Tony Kee: “Ubisoft is committed to making the best military simulation games possible, and unfortunately, the Harpoon IV project wasn’t meeting this goal. In our judgment, the product quality could never reach a level that meets or exceeds consumer expectations.”

They’re still considering farming the corpus out to a third-party developer. Be on the lookout for zombified crappy naval battle sims come mid-March.

Nyah, Nyah, Nyah! So THERE, Nin-TURD-Do!
In the video game industries best and most recent example of playground politics, Sony has announced that, due to it’s price cut of the increasingly-venerable PS2 is Japan, it’s sales have increased 193% in the last two weeks.

They’re also planning to launch the PS2 in China this month, to compete with Nintendo’s quasi-new console that it launched there last month. And your momma is ugly.

Nintendo has not responded but it is expected a statement will be issued today proclaiming Sony to, “have cooties,” and to reaffirm the claim that Nintendo “has shots.”

MY OPPORTUNITY TO BITCH

The Christmas shopping season is here! Time for parents to PANIC! Wail! Gnash teeth! Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of over-responsible parenting! Game producers are out to corrupt your children! To sell them EVIL games! Games with VIOLENCE! Games with SEX! Games with badly digitized boobies that can’t hold a candle to what an eighth grader can get on his own on a computer at the library!

Part of me despises these types of parents, because they’re obviously overreacting to something they don’t understand and don’t want to educate themselves on. They’d rather just follow this month’s directive from Sheep Mother magazine and buy facile, innocuous, CRAPPY videogames for their kids, forgetting that their uncles will be giving them the cash that they’ll all use to buy Manhunt at the after-Christmas sales anyway. But the greater part of me loves these parents; partly because they’re showing at least a tertiary attempt to monitor their children’s activities, and partly because they’re entertaining as hell and I can feel superior to them. (Parents, just wait a few years for my son to reach prime gaming age. I’m setting the over/under for my switching sides at 5 years from now. Place your bets.)

We’ve gone over the ESRB issue ad nauseum here at 411Games, but I’m determined to push this point until people understand it: All video games in the U.S. are subject to a RATING SYSTEM. A system which sums up any and all objectionable content in the games and allows parents an easy way to monitor what their children are playing. It may be a bit general, but I’ve never heard of an instance where a game was rated too low for it’s content. Usually it’s the other way around. I’ve seen quite a few “M” games that I felt could have been safely rated as “T.”

In fact, as a public service, I’m going to provide what the ESRB “Entertainment Software Ratings Board” for the uninitiated) ratings are and my take on what they mean to the responsible (not over-responsible) parent:

eC — Early Childhood. As innocuous as a game could possibly get. Probably involves reading and/or counting. Certainly will NOT cause your toddler to become a serial killer. Example: Winnie the Pooh’s ABC’s

E — Everyone. Safe. No objectionable content. Comic violence and mischief at most. Will not cause your toddler to become a serial killer. Example: Sonic Heroes, most of EA Sports’ lineup

T — Teen. Some violence and possible rough language, and by “rough” I mean phrases that pale in comparison to what you can hear on Nickelodeon during certain shows. STILL will not cause your toddler to become a serial killer. Suggestive themes? Usually not suggestive enough by the opinion of most teens. Examples: Any pro wrestling game ever made (“Backyard Wrestling” is NOT pro wrestling, nor is it a game worth mentioning ever again.)

M — Mature. Violence, disturbing themes, sexual content, the gloves are off. Language could very well be blue, and digitalized genitalia are technically possible, but not very likely. Trust me, if it happens, the grapevine will carry all of the gory details. Mostly used by game developers to cover their asses for the odd f-bomb in the text or blood use in a “true crime” genre game. By the laws of probability, they STILL will not cause your toddler to become a serial killer, though playing it before family get-togethers may lead to some interesting encounters between young Billy’s new vocabulary and Grandma’s ears. Holiday entertainment at it’s finest. Examples: Grand Theft Auto 3, BMX XXX, Manhunt, Unreal Tournament, SOCOM 2, Castlevania:LOI, True Crime, Anything with Tom Clancy in the name, Outlaw Volleyball, Silent Hill 3, Evil Dead:FFOB, Anything with Mortal Kombat in the name, Halo, Casino Master 4.0, Red Faction, and anything with Monty Python in the name.

A — Adults Only. I went through the entire ESRB game list and found twelve instances where this rating was used, and a majority of those were from two publishers: Peach Princess and MacDaddy Entertainment. Judging by the names, I don’t think their games were given this rating for “Blood and Gore,” if you get my drift.

Also, for those parents who want to know exactly what sort of objectionable material is in the game, ESRB has a list of standard “content descriptors” that it prints along with the rating. As a public service (again) I am providing this list to you here.

Alcohol Reference — the odd beer bottle in the background
Animated Blood — I’d hate to think they’d somehow use REAL blood.
Blood — 9 out of 10 Vampires can’t be wrong.
Blood and Gore — I much prefer the term “entrails.” It’s much more festive.
Cartoon Violence — ACME, for eighty years the leaders in “¦
Comic Mischief — I prefer the term, “creative mayhem.”
Crude Humor — I believe “South Park” may be the only game to carry this descriptor.
Drug Reference — “You wan’ some SPANK?”
“Edutainment” — I’m not kidding. This is THEIR word. See the aforementioned eC rating.
Fantasy Violence — Roll a saving throw versus Overprotective Parents, with a —2 modifier.
Gambling — Look, if they learn to do it right, they’re less likely to do it. Trust me.
Informational — Coming soon: Roget’s Thesaurus for PS2 and PC.
Intense Violence — Henry Rollins?
Mature Humor — Likely neither.
Mature Sexual Themes — Ditto.
Mild Language — And what does this warn? Use of adverbs?
Mild Lyrics — They should put this warning on all boy band albums. (My make-up call to Hank for the “Intense Violence” joke.)
Mild Violence — Old School: “I’ll give you such a PINCH!” New school: “Welcome to WWE RAW.”
Nudity — Not likely.
Partial Nudity — More likely, not as nude.
Sexual Violence — I don’t know if this tag has EVER been used. I certainly hope it hasn’t.
Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed — For little kids’ games. There’s too many jokes that can be made here.
Strong Language — Probably the real reason Mom won’t buy you the game.
Strong Lyrics — For that Eminem add-on to DDR.
Strong Sexual Content — Again, not likely.
Suggestive Themes – Again, more likely, and less exciting.
Tobacco Reference — The odd pack in the background art.
Use of Drugs — Necessary to complete Myst.
Use of Alcohol — Necessary to tolerate the Nintendo button layout.
Use of Tobacco — Probably necessary after playing any of the 12 “Adult” rated games.
Violence — Redundant? I suppose “Medium Violence” would just sound silly.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the glaringly obvious fact that the TWELVE games that had “Adult Only” ratings had so because of explicit sexual content, and the majority of the other 26 PAGES of games that had “Mature” ratings had so for primarily two reasons: “Violence” and “Blood and Gore.” I’m not saying that violent games need to be rated higher (so those of you that bet the Under a few paragraphs ago can just sit down); I just find it funny that most, if not all, games that are rated “Adults Only” would never be played by a self-respecting adult in the first place.

Like it or not, folks, ratings systems give publishers the green light to do whatever they want, because the burden of censorship is squarely on YOU, which is where it SHOULD be. When my son is old enough will I let him buy something like Grand Theft Auto 3? Maybe, but only after he’s made his case to me about why he should have it. If he can convince me that he knows the difference between acceptable behavior and whatever video game world he’s looking to play in, then I’ll have no problems with him playing in it. Now, if he sneaks a game in, it’s gone, and I don’t care if it’s Manhunt or Kirby’s Air Race. If he’s not confident enough to bring it to me straight, he obviously thinks that I’ll find it objectionable. And if I find it objectionable, you can bet your ass that Veronica will find it objectionable. (If I work at it for a couple more weeks, she might just let me rent True Crime.)

I can’t hold a game manufacturer in contempt for the games they put out just like I can’t hold them responsible for my son’s behavior. They have their niche games that, no matter how violent or sexually charged, probably have a following of well-adjusted people that enjoy them. It’s going to be my job to monitor what he plays, as well as what he watches and listens to. “Oh, but you can’t control what they do when they get to be teenagers,” I keep hearing. True, but you can sure as hell observe what they’re doing and talk to them about it; and by “talking” I don’t mean “chastise them and tell them what YOU think they should do,” I mean discuss what they’re watching and why they like it and make sure that their view of the real world doesn’t get skewed by all of it.

Are violent games causing kids to shoot up schools? The only thing I can see them doing is providing final inspiration for some long standing problems. No kid plays Unreal and thinks “Wow. Shooting up the school would be FUN,” without having some deep-rooted problems with that school in the first place, you dig? I had problems like that at my high school, and my parents pretty much let me do what I wanted in terms of media (save for porn and the periodic ham-handed attempts at blind censorship that were struck down quickly in overwhelming waves of debate and a resulting clear-headedness) and I didn’t ever consider shooting up that place to be a viable solution. Maybe I was just bright enough to see past the first few moves and get to the logical conclusions of either spending the rest of my life in jail or ending my own life.

“But they’re MARKETING Mature games to kids!” Okay, you may have a complaint there, but you can’t legislate that away, as much as you’d like to. As long as the advertiser pays the bills and doesn’t cost anybody ratings, they’re going to get their advertising time. (Personally, I don’t think there should be ANY restrictions to speech. I think cigarette companies should still be able to buy TV commercials. I don’t even believe in sedition. All such laws do is let people keep being oblivious of their surroundings. That’s just my opinion.) The obvious answer, parents, is to organize boycotts of the stations that you feel run inappropriate ads. I have no problem with that. It’s called voting with your pocketbook and it’s the surest way to get your voice heard in a capitalist economy.

Or, if you can’t affect change that way, how about just paying attention to what your child is doing? Look, they’re going to test their boundaries. That’s what healthy human children do. As long as you’re there to gently push back and give them reasons why certain things are bad, they’ll be okay. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it in the long run. At least my parents thought so.

PIMP-LICIOUS

Pimp Coat: Bryan Berg, for working above and beyond the call of Turkey.

Pimp Stick: A-Will, for being A-Will.

Pimp Boots: Lee Dawg, as sympathy for getting placed in the “News” box instead of the “News Reports” box.

This week’s Ho Train
Freddie owns up and takes Final Fantasy VII like the man he is.

Misha’s going to get a make-up Pimp award soon, because us Buffy-philes have to stick together.

LiquidCross with Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Mega Man But Couldn’t Find The Hentai For It. (Note: I just like that word. I know what it means. I’m using it in it’s American Anime fan usage. It’s just a nice way to say Porn without saying Porn. Also since a lot of games come out of Japan, it’s a bit more culturally appropo than just “Porn.” All right, I’m rambling.)

Next week, one way or another I’ll be done with graduate school. Everybody have a beer for me around 3:30 CST on Friday, will ya?

Study for finals, then get some sleep.

-Cory