Geh...what to write? I guess first and foremost, I'm a shooter fanboy. Surprise, surprise, eh? I also hold a special place in my heart for any type of RPG and RTS games, although the current lack of finances makes gaming in general more of a burden than a hobby.
At any rate, I have an specially vested interest in computer programming, and (drumroll, please...) am hoping to land a job in a game development studio somewhere in the not-too-distant future. For the meantime, I'm stuck in the frigid northern area of the U.S., plinking away at my Computer Programming degree. Woop-tee-doo.
I'm 99.999999% sure that I'm not the only person who is really fucking sick of seeing the newest franchise titles that production studios crap out every year. The next time I see a release of Madden 200X, I'm going to kick the first kitten that I see.
In my opinion, there is no excuse for studios to re-release what is essentially the same game every year (EA, I'm pointing the gun at you right now). This is especially true with the advent of Downloadable Content, where you can get the roster update every year, rather than dropping $50 on a new copy of the same crap.
It would be different if each subsequent release of a franchise title brought something actually new to the table. Halo 2 had swords, dual-wielding, and a plethora of other features. World of Warcraft pretty much validated the existence of MMORPGs. Hell, even though Square-Enix is guilty of this sin, they at least revamped the battle system with FFX and FFXII.
What do you get with the new Tony Hawk games? New levels, a few more things to run around and collect.
Madden/any other sports game? New rosters, and they change the button sequences around. Yeah, you'll get your "Team Management" bullshit, but I'm not playing to count coins, I'm here to play a damn football game.
What I'm talking about is real innovation. Titles that are born in the the heads of the design teams in studios everywhere, and not in the board room budget meetings. Titles that take everything you know about gaming and blow it all to hell. Sure, you need to go back and add major upgrades to the system, or improve the way the controls flow. Releasing new titles in those cases is perfectly acceptable. But expecting people to drop money for "NOW YOU PRESS RB TO PASS LOLZ" is the absolute, most pure form of industry bullshit.
Give me Madden, and give me $10 yearly updates. Don't give me $55 Madden 2006 and $55 Madden 2007. I will hate you forever.
The biggest problem I have with the recent string of anti-game legislation (See here for oodles of examples) is not the fact that they are being proposed and stricken down on grounds of the First Amendment, nor is it the fact that the people that are drafting this legislation know next to nothing about video games and the gaming sub-culture.
It's the fact that I agree with the message, but disagree with the method.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume (for argument's sake, mind you) that the gaming community present throughout the world agrees with the concept of protecting minors from scenes of graphic violence, sexual connotations, and all the other presumed "evils" in the world. Okay, fine...that's the underlying message of all this legislation being tossed about.
But the problem comes into play when they use (at best) weak evidence, and blatant lies at worst. Nobody is going to argue the point of children being very influenced by the world around them in terms of their development. The research itself shows that kids will duplicate what they see in their environments. If you ever played with a toy gun after watching some kind of western as a kid, you know exactly what's going on.
However, I draw the line when people claim that the kids are acting out simply because what they see in the media (and note how I say "media", and not simply "video games") is what they accept as reality. Consider the following:
Two children, raised in the same town, who have the same friends and same interests, go to the same school, and have the same educational potential. Everything about these two kids is the same, with the exception of their parents.
Child A (we'll call him "Timmy") has parents that, for lack of a more eloquent way to put it, are in touch with reality. They've made sure that Timmy knows what he sees on TV, in movies, and in video games is not what the real world is like. They've even gone as far as to show him the consequences of some of the things in the media, and how he needs to know the difference between the fantasy world and the real world. Timmy was taught how to use guns at a very young age, so he knows what a gun is for and how important it is to respect firearms. He knows that when someone dies, they aren't coming back, and so on. The kid has his shit together.
Child B (a.k.a. "Steve") was never taught such important lessons. His parents put him down in front of a TV so they could go out with friends. Steve simply has to ask for what he wants, and he gets it. His parents shelter him from the reality of the world around him, so his perception of life is skewed.
Now, both Steve and Timmy receive a 360 with Gears of War for Christmas. Both play the game to death, mastering every nuance. Both get together and talk about their accomplishments almost every night. They even played through the co-op campaign together.
One day, the unthinkable happens. Steve gets a hold of one of the guns that Timmy's parents own, and shoots Timmy, killing him instantly.
So...how did this happen?
The way our society currently thinks, all fingers instantly point to "Steve is only X years old, and plays video games, so he must have done it because he played this violent game!"
And he did. Is the problem becoming clear yet?
The politicians, and the Jack Thompsons of the world would have you believe that Steve did what he did simply because he played a violent video game and it twisted his mind, turning him into a diabolical killing machine. But in all honesty, I'd be willing to bet my pitiful life savings on the fact that Steve has no idea what he did wrong.
Being an educated person, allow me to introduce a concept known as "Root Cause Analysis." What this involves is taking a problem and following the cause-and-effect chain down to the origin of a problem, where there is no question or doubt as to why something happened (or happens) the way it did (does).
Allow me to demonstrate...
1) Steve killed Timmy, because he was recreating what he saw in Gears of War (shooting things with guns to kill them.)
2) Steve didn't realize that Timmy wouldn't get back up again, because he didn't know that death is final.
3) Steve didn't know that death is final, because his parents didn't teach him that real life doesn't work the same way as a video game.
Notice how the cause has shifted from the "impulse" answer (violent games) to the "educated" answer (bad parenting)? If the powers that be focused more on finding the real cause of this social problem.
I agree that games with mature themes shouldn't be sold to minors.
I would love to see laws passed that established penalties for doing so.
But first, I want to see parents being held accountable for raising their kids and teaching them the differences between fantasy and reality.
Then, maybe we wouldn't need those laws after all...