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Malik (12/5/05)  

Well, if you're keeping score, it's now law-makers 0, video game industry...a lot. So, the Illinois law that prohibits sales of video games to minors has been overturned before it was ever set to take effect. In a nutshell, the law was worded inappropriately since it allowed a game to be graded on a single scene. 

I think this, for those who are afraid of finding games banned to minors, is good and obvious news. A single form of media cannot be censored or controlled in a method like this without having it apply to all media...and then, while most law makers don't want to see video games as common media despite how they are, it's simply a matter of first amendment rights being overturned. In other words, free speech applies to all popular media, and not just the ones (not video games) that the government chooses at a whim. Hell, in 50 years, there will probably be some new form of media that goes beyond what we have now (maybe it'll be a realistic virtual reality, Star Trek style holodecks, or whatever other form of entertainment that we can't even picture now) that will become the new whipping boy while video games are considered common and good by government. It all goes in cycles, and despite how some people refuse to see it, history is repeating itself. Some people called the radio a tool of the devil when it first came to the public, and the same can be said for TV. History will just keep repeating itself. 

However, in the end, a simple truth remains. While banning and censorship are never the answer (who's to say that a censors definition of quality matches anyone else's?), the truth does remain that parents should keep an eye on their children. While games will not cause violence or cannibalism, parents are still needed to make sure their kids, who happen to play games, are not little sociopaths in disguise. It honestly doesn't take much for a parent to take an interest in their child, and it doesn't take much to notice, if you speak with your child more than once a month, if your kid is growing up to be a little Charlie Manson. 

This weekend, to change the subject, I played through the Rise of the Empire campaign of Star Wars: Battlefront 2. I played a little of the first Battlefront and couldn't keep my interest high throughout the game. I was only able to play about 2 or so battles before I had to walk away. On the other hand, I wish there was more to Battlefront 2. This game is sweet. 

On top of the visuals being more refined (which means four player split-screen is now playable instead of being a confusing mess), the variety of stuff involved in a game is greatly increased. In particular, the space battles are quite interesting. In these levels, you start in a large vessel that has smaller fighters in it's launch bay. You will then jump in one (and there are many to chose from) and go about weakening the enemy forces. Once you've destroyed enough, you will usually have to raid the enemy's flagship, which turns the space combat into the standard ground combat. 

Also, since the campaign involves following the path of a squadron of Clone Troopers from around the end of Episode 2 up through the Battle of Hoth on Episode 5, there are definitely some fun nostalgia levels. In particular, you get to join Anakin in his raid of the Jedi Temple from Episode 3. There is nothing like playing a lowly Clone Trooper and having to figure out how to defeat groups of Jedi (with their blaster deflecting in full effect). 

I'm not sure on how the online is, since we only played to get through the co-op mode of the campaign, so I don't know how much replay value this game has. However, from the one night I played, I can definitely say this title is worth a rental (if not a full purchase, assuming the online is fun), assuming you have 2 or 3 people who want to play co-op. Hell, it's worth it just for the chance to play Boba Fett in an all out battle on Camino. 

Well, I don't have much else to chat about today. I've been playing more Dragon Quest 8, but it's not exactly exciting to discuss. Let's just leave it at the fact that it's the best RPG I've played all year (I know...that's not saying much) and definitely worth a purchase if you're into old-school RPGs (FFX fanboys need not apply). In fact, it's good enough to have kept me from my 360 for over a week now (I literally have not turned the thing on for even a minute in the last week thanks to the superior game; DQ8). 


Malik (12/6/05)  

When any new hardware (be it a game system, a PC component, or just part of a home theater system) is launched, you can be guaranteed of two things. If it's good, it will probably be hard to find or expensive (if not both), and secondly is that some of these released products will be defective. The 360 is suffering from some defective units. In fact, the number, after all the people who are overly vocal are considered WITH the non-vocal and happy customers, this number equals around 3-5% of the released consoles. 3-5%. Let's consider it this way; in the end, around 1 out of every 4 PS2s (that's 25%) were ultimately defective and suffered DREs. 

So, there's two natural options. The first one, if you have a bad 360, is to contact Microsoft (or "M$" as the kool kids say...yeah...that's clever) to get a free box overnighted to you that will allow you to send in your system free of charge and still get it back before the second shipment. The second option is to get carried away and sue Microsoft. This is not the good option. 

So, this man in Chicago has decided that, on his own, he will stand against the lawyers of the most powerful electronics/computer/technology company in the world. On top of that, he will go through a court battle that will last months (between now and when it's settled, months shall pass), instead of just getting a replacement from Microsoft that will take a matter of a week or so. The best part is what this man is asking for; unspecified damages (let's see how much we can milk Microsoft for...I won't even comment on this attitude...), legal fees, and replacements or a recall of the 360. As one of the happy 95-97%, let me just say that a recall is not needed. As for replacements...that's why you contact Microsoft, get you system sent to them, and then you'll get a replacement or repaired system far quicker. 

Let's face it; our society is way to happy to look for the big red "I Win" button. The easiest way to try to find it, and usually it's unsuccessful, is to first push the "I Sue" button. People, we need to learn that when a solution exists for a problem, no matter how much we may feel we have been slighted, we need to keep things in perspective. Most 360 owners are happy. In fact, more than most. 95% of them are happy. So, if you're not, you need to see that this isn't a personal attack by Microsoft. You just had the bad luck of a defective piece of electronics. Far more than 5% of computer parts are shipped defective (some motherboards consist of entire models that are defective after only a month of use) and you don't hear about massive lawsuits. The reason is two-fold. On one hand, computer geeks tends to be smart enough to just return and replace a bad component. On the other hand, most people who are hardcore enough (which, for the record, is just a little firmer than softcore) to install motherboards are strong enough, of character, to not just look into lawsuits to solve their problems. 

Anyway, in the end, if you want a console that is perfect, don't buy a launch console. At the very least, only buy launch Nintendo consoles (which still do GCN did...and then Nintendo treated me to a day of playing games at their repair place while the drive was swapped out free of charge). All consoles will have problems at launch, and all new electronics will always run the risk of failure. The only solution, then, I guess is to become Amish. I think that's about it. That, and don't call the f#@%ing lawyers every time you have a problem in your life. You took the top off your "hot coffee" and held it in your lap in a moving car? Your fault. Your child is a f#$^ing maniac who is out to maim and injure all those around him while he lights fires, and he happens to like GTA? You problem for not watching him to see the warning signs (like that large gun collection in his room and the rotting bunny corpse in his closet). You bought a new console and it's broken but Microsoft will send you a free shipping box overnight and replace it in about a week, but you feel that Microsoft personally attacked you? Your f@#%ing problem. Get the f@!# over it people. 

Also, Gamespot has another article...this one's interesting, and not just about people who have poor concepts of reality. In this case, at the Digital Interactive Entertainment Conference, some big names in the game world gave some interesting speeches. Most interesting was the fact that Shigeru Miyamoto is saying that the Revolution controller still has a few cards up it's proverbial sleeves. Sometime next year (can you say "E3"?), we will be shown some new feature(s). While I have many concerns about the spatial mouse concept (since I did IT work around them and saw how bad they can presentation or conference I ran ever used one and our department tossed them all after only a few months), I am interested in what else Nintendo could get to the gaming market. I especially think about this type of stuff since I know, no matter how much I may be weary of the future game library for the Revolution, that this console will be worth the price when it comes out for around half the price of the 360 (and about 1/3 of the PS3). 

Also, the other interesting words shared at this conference was from Toru Iwatani...that's the dude behind Pac-Man. He seems to be under the delusion that the future of games will ultimately be on the PC. It's an interesting idea, but it's not going to happen as long as there are so many compatibility issues and as long as it's just easier to buy and setup a console. Oh! Wait! I see...Iwatani says that all PCs will soon have a universal game chip that will make all video games compatible no matter what the hardware is on the rest of the PC. In fact, this solves all problems! Now we only need to get the chip made, make it affordable, make sure it never is upgraded (or the compatibility issues will return), it's only made by one company (compatibility issues come from competition), and that all PC game makers stop trying to push the envelope in terms of technology required game features! It's all so easy! It's all so...f@#$ing retarded. This will not happen, it cannot happen, and for it to happen would mean that all game developers and PC hardware manufacturers join into one giant company with no goals of making as much money as possible. It's nice when people have interesting dreams (and that's what Iwatani's thoughts were...dreams), but it's better when they are grounded in reality. 


Malik (12/7/05)  

And now I present, my end of the year rant on the ratings of video games...after today, I'll try to ignore this for the rest of the month...unless something new comes up. 

Last week, NIMF gave it's annual "report card" on the ESRB and the game industry. The ESRB fought back immediately, and it looks like time doesn't heal all wounds as the ESRB is once again raising a stink. Normally, this type of silly fight leaves me thinking of a schoolyard cold-war situation in which two of the geekier students just don't want to resort to violence, and thus they keep name calling back and forth. Well, for once I'm thinking a little more deeply into the subject. 

While the NIMF may have a supposedly good reason for their "report cards" by helping parents select the right games for kids, I have to say they have gone beyond overly critical. They have pulled out inaccurate "facts", attacked the ESRB for it's ratings, and have forgotten a simple truth that not all games are meant for all people. In fact, this last part goes more into how they act like video games should be held to a higher standard than the motion picture industry. Games are not only for kids, and thus there are many "mature" gamers and many M rated games. 

Most importantly, in most situations, the game ratings fit exactly what they are designed to do; they make it clear, on a game's package, what type of audience a game is suited for. On top of the big rating designation (like M, T, E, etc), there are the smaller words below said rating that elaborate what might have contributed to a rating ("animated violence", "drug use", etc). However, it's usually the groups like NIMF that can't seem to accept such a rating system and would rather have a special system (at least this is how it seems to me) of all games being rated E and all violent games being banned. The answer is that people outside the average geeks and the ESRB need to see that there are adults who like to play games, and therefore there are games aimed towards such an adult market. If a parent is going to buy one of these games for a child just because of the old stereotype of "all games are for children", then f#@% that parent and f#@% the damned groups who act in our "self-interests" who try to raise a stink over it. 

No matter how far things go, no ratings system will ever be perfect. However, the ESRB has done a damned good job at trying to keep things fair and balanced in their ratings. If GTA:SA (with "hot coffee") got through with a M rating, so f#@%ing what. The game was rated M and should've remained an M. It wasn't anything you can't see in an R rated movie...which is supposedly the equivalent of an M rated game. Hell, if you look at the sex-comedy and college-comedy movies of the 1980's (and there are plenty to chose from; Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Porky's, Revenge of the Nerds, etc.) and their R ratings, you would see some stuff that is far more prolific and nasty that revolves around nudity and sex. I even remember an episode of the Cosby Show in which the youngest child had a sleepover and her friends wanted to watch a copy of Porky's that was smuggled into the party...did people flip out for such a "bad" movie being referenced by children in such a family show? No. 

However, unlike with the movie industry, most parents/adults who don't game still assume that all games are for children. In fact, this is where everything turns sour for those of us who often find ourselves popping in a game with a rating more severe than E. Until some generalizations are removed, video games are forever going to be seen solely as toys for children. 

What can be done about this? Well, like with many things, the government needs to keep it's nose out of this shit. The government is here to ensure the proper functioning and survival of a society. They are not around to ensure that all households are ran perfectly in a Leave it to Beaver style. I mean we are talking about the people who claim "it takes a village to raise a child". Bullshit. It takes a village to survive and thrive so the parents/guardians of a child can ensure that basic needs are met and thus the child can be raised by the ones who have said duty; the parents. So, in other words, the government may help to decide what dangerous objects are restricted, but they should never have the authority to try to control entertainment. 

What else can be done? Well, if you're a parent, try to take an interest in your child. I played countless violent games in my childhood. However, I never killed or maimed a person while imitating video games. Why? Well, first off, I'm not a freakin' psycho. Secondly, I had parents who helped me learn right from wrong. A child cannot simply be left along for days on end and then be expected to grasp such subjective terms as morality and ethics just by self discovery. If a parent is too busy to really know what their child is into and what their child is behaving like, then at the very least, make a smart decision about video games and try to at least check the ratings. Little Billy may kick and scream when he doesn't get GTA:SA for his 12th birthday, but that doesn't mean you need to break down and buy it for him and then let him go about his business. No. If a child is kicking and screaming about getting an M rated game, then he probably needs two things; he needs some discipline (teach your kid that not everything can be solved with a tantrum, but rather that dialogue and conversations can be more effective) and obviously the second thing is a lack of M rated games. 

50 Cent may have said something pretty insane with his comments about how Bulletproof is an educational game. However, he did have the right idea that parents should play violent games WITH their kids. At least, if the parent is going to give the kid a violent game, then he/she should play with the kid. 

Last of all, the best thing that can be done for this situation is not an overhauling of the ratings system. In fact, it's to respect the system that's in place. If you constantly refuse to read ratings before buying a game for a child, but you would check the rating on a movie you'd show a child, then you're a hypocrite. If you have never tried a game, or have never given it a full chance, then don't immediately say the ratings system is bad just because it doesn't match your ideals. Understand that ratings are subjective on the rater. These people try their best and have only a limited time to understand the content in front of them and to rate it fairly for both gamers and non-gamers to see. They have no reason to try to screw over either the game industry or the parents. 

Anyway, that's my rant. I'm just sick of this shit. The government and fundamentalist groups need to realize that some things are actually not their responsibility to "solve". The parents need to watch their kids. Kids need to stop crying when they don't get a game that's not right for them. Most of all, the damned stereotype that all games are for children needs to go. That, and the groups who say things as stupid as how games are teaching kids the "joys" of cannabalism and sex need to see that half their claims are ignoring other media that these groups actually enjoy (like movies and TV) and that the other half of their claims are freakin' insane. 

Anyway, if the ratings system was so broken due to the ESRB favoring the game industry, don't you think that the AO rating wouldn't exist and that more blockbuster games (God of War, GTA, etc) would get T ratings? 

Anyway, I'll probably get in some flamewar now since I'm calling for parents to watch their children...I mean if someone who runs a coffee shop who asks for this gets so much shit, what hope is there for parents to do their duty? By the way, Dan McCauley, I salute you. 


Malik (12/8/05)  

So, with it's death a while back, the goods of Acclaim are now going on sale via an auction. Personally, just looking at the list of available games to own, I can't help but think how cool it would be to be able to walk into an old nickel arcade and be able to point to a cabinet and know that I own the rights to that game. Maybe it's just me being extra geeky, but I know I'm not alone in these nostalgic feelings for these titles. 

Hell, Bubble Bobble, The Simpsons games, and the Double Dragon games are all bid upon. This would be nothing short of an awesome gift for any geek who still needs a Christmas gift. I mean if a geek has "everything", I still bet that geek probably doesn't have the rights to Fur Fighters. 

I just wish the auction site had some more details listed, such as the lowest opening bid (most spoken-for games have a $5000 bid, and that's also the lowest seen, but is that the lowest allowed). I would love to own a certain game (I won't say which one, in case I learn there's no minimum bid), but it's so totally worthless for anything outside of nostalgia that I would only go into the double digits, or so. I know I wouldn't drop a quadruple digit sum on a WWF game from 12 years ago, and no publisher or individual would be that crazy either. However, it's crazy that some modern games are remaining unspoken for (like the recent Bard's Tale game). 

Anyway, it's another day of me not having much to talk about. I blame Dragon Quest 8 and it's ability to keep me away from anything else, especially the 360. I am now about 40 hours into the game, and it doesn't feel like I've played nearly that long. The game redefines addictive RPGs. I played through DW7 without any sizable (as in 48 hour or more) breaks, but I started to feel worn down about this far into it. Meanwhile, I've played DQ8 with no sizable breaks and no desire to take any breaks. If it wasn't for me having a day job (during which I write these posts while on break), I wouldn't even leave my home or write a post. It's that good. I guess I should say, "it's that good, if you're a fan of old-school RPGs". 

Since I'm about out of things to say, for today, I'll leave you with this on the Revolution. Interesting read from IGN, and it has some nice theories (remember, that's all they are until the Revolution is fully announced by Nintendo). At least the theory of the price is definitely music to the ears of the dude who spent about $700 on 360 related stuff. 


Malik (12/9/05)  

According to Steve Ballmer (Microsoft's big-wig of the biggest wig variety), in an interview with a Canadian newspaper, there's a reason behind the shortage of 360s; too few chips are manufactured in too slow of a time. In other words, it's the same reason why there are usually shortages of hardware in the electronics business. 

If this explanation doesn't fit with your mind set, don't worry, there are plenty of conspiracy theories to go around for you to pick from. 

The best one is that Microsoft is forcing a smaller supply to hike the demand for the 360. That one is freakin' brilliant. Especially since it's the holiday season and now is when Microsoft would get the best sales. So, to limit supply during a season that makes it's own demand is as intuitive as saying that Microsoft should have skipped on a worldwide launch so that people in the US could all be ensured a 360 first (because it's better to screw the rest of the world over than to let one of us Americans go without another trendy item). 

There's also the idea that they are hording them in an effort to sell them off on eBay for extra profit. Yeah...I don't think so. Personally, that wouldn't be a bad move, since Microsoft is losing a good deal of money on the system (over $100 per 360 made and sold), but it's bull shit. Microsoft has authorized channels to sell products and they have some deals with different retail outlets (like Best Buy who sponsored the 360 launch and Zero Hour event). All this would do is make a lot of angry customers (if it was discovered) and angry retailers. It would not serve anything more than making extra money in a slower way. 

There's the idea that Microsoft actually sent too many to Japan. This is thought of when people think that Microsoft is false in thinking Japan can jump on the Microsoft bandwagon. In reality, they sent a fair number of 360s to each region and the push in Japan is smart. If Microsoft doesn't get better sales in Japan with the 360 versus the XBox...well, when Japan is seen as the second largest geek culture, there's a reason that Microsoft will want to win then over; longevity and money. 

There's even ideas about how Microsoft is limited the launch of the 360 to make up for the lack of good launch titles. If this was true, then Sony would've done more to limit the PS2 at launch (with it's amazing...ummm...Fantavision?). There are plenty of games that have been selling for the 360. These may not be the best games to ever grace a console, but they do show far more value than the PS2 launch ever did. 

In reality, the idea that the system could be slowed down in initial shipments due to a lack of chips to run the system is intuitive, intelligent, and full of conspiracy theories (which, 99 times out of 100, are full of shit). My favorite part of this whole load of BS that keeps coming from the (mainly Sony) fanboys is that they use this as a reason to discredit Microsoft...because Sony never had a limited launch before (PS2 anyone?), and Sony and Nintendo never had a launch with limited titles available (so, what good games were on the good launch games for the GCN or PS2?)...? 

So, I guess what I'm saying is this; fanboys, shut the f#@% up already. If you don't have the system, you are not really missing out. It's not that the 360 is bad, but there is plenty of non-360 stuff to go around. Dragon Quest 8, RPGs for the PSP, CoD on other systems, Soul Caliber 3, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Civ 4, The Movies, Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World...the list goes on and on. If you have a 360, you can add CoD2 and Kameo. That's about it. PDZ is pretty half-assed, the sports games are usually poorly ported XBox versions, and NFS:MW is pretty sloppy. I won't even touch Tony Hawk on the 360...for the love of all that's good, no one should touch this one. If you do have a 360, you probably feel a lot like I do; glad to have it, but probably more glad to have your other consoles until the post-launch titles comes in. Launch games always tend to suck. It doesn't matter who makes them...just know that there will only be one or two good ones on a new system...ever.   Also, no launch will be flawless.  No launch will be good.  In fact, if you want a solid console, DON'T get a launch console...wait 6 months.

Anyway, speaking of how there are plenty of good things that are not on the 360 (not that Kameo isn't pretty damned sweet), I have some more DQ8 to play. I spent all of last night just playing to earn coins in the Casino (which consisted of me hitting up on the d-pad over and over while I watched recorded episodes of South Park, The Office, My Name is Earl, and Drawn Together and then checking back on the game between shows and coming out with big winnings on the slots). Tonight I aim to actually get something real accomplished and not just let the game run while I'm watching TV. 


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