A long time gamer and fan of multiple genres, my interests lie with most everything the community has to share. Provided it doesn't involve furries.
Aside from being a father full time I somehow find room to keep current on fantasy/sci-fi authors releases as well as comics.
I am a sporadic D&D player (4th edition ignored) with a great love for tabletop and board games as well.
As of recently I'm also a regular part of the poD20 podcast along with a few other Dtoiders. You can check it out at poD20
Have a listen! Give feedback, troll, tell your friends.
On the next episode of poD20, our party...
...welcomes a new member, continues to pray for emails, discusses the civil rights allegories present in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, complains about Bobby Kotick...some more, expounds on both the greatest expo ever and a not so great convention.
poD20 is Tony Pisano, Adam McGrady, and Jonathan Joyce (Featuring Craig Kingsland)
I'm going to do you a favor and make my point up front. In which case, you have none to blame but yourself should you have taken time away from video games to read on. The question of evil in video games is of no consequence. It's the issue of choice we should consider. Or more importantly, who you're allowing to make them.
Not to get incredibly philosophical on you, but I'm fairly certain that the scholar R. Kelly composed a thesis and successful experiment that proved without a doubt that people are disgusting and terrible. When in a position where it seems our actions are of little consequence, or outside of scrutiny, we are far more inclined to behave in a manner that would be considered out of character. This is why in most countries I tend to avoid playing with my genitals on public transportation. We have culture, society, law, and religion, all to keep us from doing the terrible things that common sense would tell you is a really bad idea. But you know you want it. You love it.
Video games, they were everywhere. Mike Tyson was punching you into ass-pudding. Q-Bert was making you appreciate that testicles were not sentient. And you understood that you would rather eat your hands than take a job as a paper boy. Games were being developed for movies, to sell other products, to create new genres and change the way you looked at games in general. It wasn't long until someone realized that people enjoy the control, and adding an element of decision making could present people with an experience to match their interests. I can recall my first visit to the crossroads near the Iron Curtain, for it paved the way for all my gaming expectations from there on.
Nobody was looking. I pressed that button, and you know what ensued. Did it in any way make me morally reprehensible or affect my day-to-day actions? Not in the slightest. If anything I felt empathy for the girl that didn't quite understand when I told her she was my girlfriend at the time. Now the idea of an outlet where I could make the decisions with no real consequence had me in awe. And soon the door was open for games such as Grand Theft Auto; shooting cops to stay out of Butt Town, killing prostitutes to get your money back, and stealing things that will likely be covered by insurance anyway. All was well.
It wasn't long before a factor was introduced that would severely hamper the gaming experience. While some might refer to them as a form of evil, I prefer to address as them people. As networking technology has taken steps forward we're at a point where microphones and messaging are prevalent in our gaming. Where before we lived in our sphere and made the choices we wish, now we're confronted by the avatar of the thirteen year old boy from Wyoming that's screaming obscenities because the mother that routinely beats him isn't home. Where I was a god before, now I am one of many. The choices of others now directly impact me. What is worse is that I can hear this bastard and attach a personality to him. These characters are now personified fully, and now my reaction to them has become much more visceral. I am suddenly introduced to a new human element of gaming; nerd rage.
Gaming has become a largely social, while still anonymous, phenomenon where perfect strangers will vent their frustrations or share things that we probably didn't want to know. We understand that people will behave however they wish when consequence and scrutiny are removed from the picture. Now we are able to broadcast all these terrible things for the world to experience along with us. It's a veritable storm of racial slurs and foul behavior that will only grow stronger until we manage to offend the sensibilities of many people with a lot more power than us. See Australia for an example.
If you've made it this far then I'll reward you with a question of my own:
In Japan titles such as Battle Raper and Rapelay are released, while in the west there is a prevalent focus on gore and pushing our moral bounds. Do you see regions and developers moving closer together, or a sense of xenophobia pushing them apart as prejudice on gaming and community is built?
Today I will be using generalizations, making wild assumptions, and backing these with other baseless facts and opinions from sources that I may have imagined. If you've got your tin-foil hat close by, please feel free to follow along.
It's fair to assume that you or someone you know has recently been affected by the latest ban wave by Microsoft. I had heard earlier in the week that the number had reached 600,000 in the United States alone. Destructoid has been kind enough to inform us that we're looking at a solid one million count. For those not familiar with the ordeal I'll provide a little back story.
The firmware mod community likes to refer to a cat and mouse game between themselves and Microsoft. They develop a firmware fix to burn Xbox games, Microsoft changes their DVD drive or updates software, and the community answers by using the latest fix once again. In addition to updating software and hardware, Microsoft responds with bans, usually occuring in large waves. These bans only affect your console. They do not disable your Xbox Live account, or affect your hard drive directly. As of recently they disable your ability to write games to the HDD, retain achievements on profile migration, and the use of Windows Media Center. So the solution to a console ban has always been to get your hands on a new Xbox 360.
As we transition into a new age of console gaming there is a large market of PC gamers who are acclimated to simply not paying for content. When presented with a choice between the newest generation of consoles it's absolutely appealing to purchase an Xbox 360. The firmware flash uses a connection that most computers have and instructions are readily accessible if you wish to look for them, or have a friend familiar with the process. As an indication of how accessible the mod is, simply take a look at the number of bans.
Now, let's sit on the other side of the table and wear Microsoft's expensive shoes;
We know this market exists in which there are simply those who will not pay for our titles. There must be a way to make money here, right? Absolutely. The product is left with such large vulnerabilities that could potentially be addressed. But what would really be the point when we generate a questionable margin of sales from these individuals based on the ability to mod?
Microsoft has already made their money when that console was first purchased. The sale of titles is an incentive mostly for the developers. And the bottom line is that people who don't want to pay for games, won't pay for games if there's a way around it. When faced with piracy all Microsoft needs to do is ban your hardware. They assume that as a consumer your only other contribution is Xbox Live. So if they want to make more money, they push you into a position where you're going to want to invest in their product again and drive their sales.
Now if you're asking yourself, "why would any of those pirates be so foolish as to crawl back to Microsoft?" I would answer you with another question; "How much do video games cost these days?" Anyone caught in this position is going to consider how much money they are not spending on games. If they purchase a new console, five releases later they have recouped their investment and are right back to playing with friends. It can be a little difficult to escape from that logic trap.
Now we move on to the dirty bits;
Bans are withheld until they can drive sales. Most large ban waves have occurred around when holiday and fourth quarter sales are upon us. Your best titles are being released, prices are being marked down, and everyone is ready to spend. This is an excellent way to ensure you're inflating your numbers at just the right time. Because...
Console sales will get you exclusives. Developers understand that their games are being pirated. But that underlying concern is put to rest at the potential of reaching a larger market. When you can inflate your numbers through new console sales due to failed hardware or bans it makes you seem impressive. Especially when numbers are being thrown around claiming the console sits in the homes of 60% of families.
Not everyone is banned. In the past, bans have consisted of a portion of the actual modder community. You could always find proof that some genius who had been playing with non-stealth firmware a few weeks prior with an unreleased game was still enjoying his Xbox Live. Many would go through the rigors of testing their ripped games, updating the firmware, and staying offline only to be greeted by the hammer. This, coupled with the fact that bans would come in waves over a few weeks, always left a bit of confusion to the process while giving a false sense of security. What this tells the community is that it is still possible to cheat the system. If you get that new Xbox 360 you'll probably be fine until next year. The ban wave will end soon anyway.
MS detects the firmware. This time around everyone was assured that they would be fine so long as they played it safe. The firmware could not be detected, right? Wrong. A gentleman running a business in Mexico quickly proved that a console with the newest firmware mod, without playing any burned games, could be banned as well. Information collected showed no pattern at all aside from the fact that these bans affect all 360's with modified firmware. While some remained safe, it was clear this was going to be the largest ban to date. Given Microsoft's habit of intentionally withholding bans to create false hope, there's nothing to say they couldn't always detect the firmware mod. Following the discovery, panic and bestiality ensued. Was this the end for everyone that wished to play a modded console online?
No, the community perpetuates the cycle. As if on queue, the developer of the modded firmware steps forward. It appears everyone was right, most all consoles will be banned this time. But don't worry, there is hope. A new firmware is being developed that will not only evade Microsoft's detection, but is indistinguishable in all aspects from standard firmware. With a catch, of course. This firmware is only being developed for the new DVD drive Microsoft began putting out recently. As of August '09 the drive had been considered unmoddable. This of course means that if you want to replace that Xbox 360 there's little hope of finding a used one to work. You will be looking forward to making a new purchase and driving up sales for this quarter and holiday season.
Be on the look out for a huge spike in Microsoft sales over this week and the following. While it will certainly be attributed to the holiday season, know that a good portion of those one-million banned are giving their money right back to Microsoft.