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Following (3) also what makes them impervious to debate: blindness. While it was fun to watch this blowhard's peers slam this for lashing out at my Breath of Fire II review for no reason, it's sad to know that their words - and my overextended words, in turn - will be falling on deaf, solipsistic ears.

Cry the others:

"Dude, you're overreacting."

"The game isn't perfect."

"This is just one guy's opinion."

Cries he, in response:

"Anyone who playeded its is obvoiosly disagree know ur rwrong and disagree withy you and ignore you!"

Way to read the thread. Ah, the internet. I'm not sure why I spent so much time responding - maybe I'm just a complete asshole and had a lot of fun making the holes in his argument that much larger. Perhaps I need to stop that.


It should be no surprise that an outlet like Fox News would devise a clever setup in the name of making videogames look bad. The side effect is that it makes everyone involved, except for the videogame expert (that is, should s/he come out swinging and do us proud), look like ignorant blowhards. The most recent egregious example of this comes to us, courtesy of a GameTrailers user who posted this "interview" between Fox News correspondent Martha MacCallum, author and so-called "psychology specialist" Cooper Lawrence, and our familiar friend Geoff Keighley. Following the disastrous segment, a panel of - well, what exactly, I don't know - sit with MacCallum to discuss what they've just seen and to add to the satchel of ignorance currently being filled up with the segment's nonsense. (I could use a much more descriptive word than "nonsense," but I figured that I'd try to keep the level of fecality in this post to a minimum; there's already enough coming out of Fox as it is.)

The title of the segment in and of itself is insulting enough:

"Se"Xbox? New Video Game Shows Full Digital Nudity and Sex

Not having played Mass Effect myself, perhaps it's a bit hypocritical that I begin to pan this segment for its sheer ignorance and moronitude. But, I'd like to believe that, as a die-hard videogame consumer and one who pays as close attention to gaming news and details as possible without getting to play specific games (read: previews, reviews, peer impressions and critiques), "full digital nudity and sex" is a gross misrepresentation of the content in Mass Effect as constructed in the headline. If I'm told that there is full nudity and sex in any media, I'm going to assume that it's something on the level of Basic Instinct. Or hell, even The Terminator. As far as I've seen, and as far as it's been described to me by those who - you know - pay attention to their games, the sex and nudity in Mass Effect is on the level of Titanic...

...which was rated PG-13.

Oh, look at that. Apparently, your 13 year old is allowed to see Kate Winslet's nipples, yet there is an outrage over seeing sideboob and a derierre-crack and similar animation (hand slapping the headboard in the game versus Kate's hand slapping the car window on the backseat). As an aside, Fox's outrage over buttcracks is particularly ironic since you see plenty of them behind the newsdesk on a daily basis - non-Keighley company included. But I digress - let's take a look at what's actually said in the shamterview.

"Imagine!" exclaimed MacCallum to introduce the segment. "...the ability for the players to engage in graphic sex and the person who's playing the game gets to decide exactly what's going to happen between the two people, if you know what I mean... Basically, Pandora's Box is open... I mean kids have access to these things... How damaging is it really?"

PAUSE. So, we've got our first full fallacy. In Mass Effect, you cannot decide exactly what happens between the lovers, if you know what I mean. This much I know. Without getting too detailed, you surely can't determine what... "actions" you want to take in the bed. It's simply a non-interactive cutscene that implies intimate bonding, again, on the level of Titanic. Now, true, kids do have access to Mass Effect, since there are some retailers who do a piss-poor job of abiding by the ESRB ratings - but there is still a way for parents to circumvent this. More on that later. Let's continue.

"We know that all the research shows that violence has a desensitizing effect. Well, sexuality does too," said Lawrence.

PAUSE again. I won't argue this. Hell, I'll go out on a limb and say that I'm certainly less squeamish when it comes to gore, thanks to having grown up on movies like RoboCop. I'm also not shocked when I see women on the street dressed in a - shall we say - unabashed way, or when I see sexual encounters in your average PG-13 or R-rated movie. I've grown accustomed to this. That's not to say I believe that engaging in violence and having rampant sex are necessarily portrayed as the correct way to handle situations.

That's not my beef, though. Lawrence says, "Here's how they're seeing women. They're seeing them as these objects of desire, as these hot bodies. They don't show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality. And it's a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with." Keighley, of course, handles this quite nicely in the video. Pointing out that you can in fact play as both a man and a woman in the game, he goes on and attempts to describe the complexity of the choice ("Cooper, it's not a simple choice. You don't turn on the game and it says, 'would you like to have sex or not?'" he says). My other beef, though is the double-standard we keep placing on games because people incorrectly continue to perceive them as toys. I've stated this much before; and in this case, if Mass Effect is a product that so terribly demeans women, then I challenge Fox to cancel Battle of the Bods.

This is perhaps the most questionable bit from Lawrence, solely because I haven't heard about this, nor do I trust it: "...research says there's a new study out of the University of Maryland right now that says that boys that play video games cannot tell the difference between what they're seeing in the video game and the real world..."

There's nothing I can say from a research perspective to discount this. I haven't done or seen this research. Anecdotally, I can tell you that neither me nor my gaming compatriots have ever suffered from this delusion. I can also say that yes, there are those who are deluded enough to believe that life is a game, and games are life. These are the same young men who live The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Star Trek. These are the same young men who would find something else removed from reality to latch onto. Novels. Comic books. Music. Chris Rock said it best: "Everybody is wanting to know what music were the kids listening to, or what movies were they watching. Who gives a fuck what they was watching! Whatever happened to crazy? What, you can't be crazy no more??"

Unfortunately, the interview portion of the segment was way too short for Keighley to get any last factual words in. It cuts to a panel of four more blowhards who mostly don't know what they're talking about, but MacCallum kicks it off with perhaps the most salient point that could be made: "You know when you buy video games... you have to pick up the box and look at the back for the rating and you have to be involved in what your kids are looking at..."

Precisely. It should have simply ended there - because I completely agree with this. But then, we've got our first candidate for forehead-slap of the year:

"Who can argue," stutters one of the panelists, "that Luke Skywalker meets Debbie Does Dallas is a good thing? It's not."

PAUSE!!! Ok, no, it's not a good thing. But then, "Luke and Debbie" isn't what Mass Effect is. Keighley already explained it better than it needed to be explained, and the screenshot that represented the worst of what you see in the game can't possibly be a tenth as explicit as Debbie Does Dallas. I believe if you look up "sensationalist" in the dictionary, a picture of this guy would be staring at you. Another female panelist ponders why "it didn't get an Adults Only rating." This, again, goes back to the double standard that we place on games as "toys". The reality is that they're simply not anymore. Just as comics range from Peanuts to The Watchmen, games cover the scale from Super Princess Peach to Manhunt. Deal with it.

More idiocy follows when a female panelist acts shocked and chagrined at the prospect of the game entering the home. "Once it's in the house, it's in the house." She claims that even though stores can prevent children from purchasing M-rated games, if daddy dearest purchases Mass Effect, Little Johnson can sneak in and play it when he's alone in the house - without any means of prevention. I think Microsoft's statement - typed out word-for-word in the opening - was completely lost on this lady. There's a little thing called Parental Controls that will completely block games of a certain ESRB rating when you or your hubby aren't in the house. Or didn't you get the memo?

Thankfully, the second male panelist reiterates MacCallum's opening point with a slight notion of reason, stating that keeping watch over videogame content is the job of parents, not the government. The trailing words are saddening, though, as MacCallum quips about how "hard" it's becoming to parent children. Here's a little bit of perspective: penguins parenting their chicks in the Antarctic have it rougher than we do. And for all of the horrified reaction from Cooper Lawrence about how Mass Effect portrays women as sexual objects, have a look at the cover of her book titled The Cult of Perfection. What a "hip" way to sell a book. (And don't try the "she's trying to be ironic" bit on me - ironic or not, it's still on the cover.)

Postscript: If you want to see some more "research" pwnage, check out this IGN user's blog. At some point in the video, Lawrence claims that it isn't older teens and adults who are playing games, but kids. Obviously, we know how wrong she is; this guy just makes sure people can visualize it.

...who woulda thought that this would be the better game out of the 2-for-1 Manhunt 2 / NYT Crosswords order that I got off of Amazon?

2:40 PM on 12.21.2007

location: Herald Square, 33rd Street, New York City

1: "I have this." *points to Forza Motorsport 2* "Ain't that good."

2: "Oh yea? What's wrong with it?"

1: "So like. Let's say you goin' 80, right. You come to a turn, if you want to turn, you gotta go to 15. Or you'll spin like, wreeerreerrr!!"

2: "What. That's wack."

-_- sigh...

10:18 AM on 12.19.2007

I am a lazy bastage. There was one point in early 2007 where I was good at Guitar Hero. Not great - just good. I could beat Expert just fine, and that's about it.

Then my buddy Slunks ran an impromptu Guitar Hero II tournament. I came in second, only to get slaughtered by another buddy of mine, ShenlongBo. This tourney was the first time I had ever full-combo'd a song (i.e. hit 100% notes without over-strumming) - the victim being John the Fisherman.

Then my buddy Zaps started a Guitar Hero *league* (yeah, on Scorehero he holds the #1 score in Less Talk More Rokk for the PS2 version of GH2), and in the Expert bracket only the kick-assinest players competed. I was consistently in the middle or bottom of the pack. People were talking about full-comboing all sorts of crazy songs, "squeezing", and other such ridiculous pro nonsense. This league probably the one reason why I developed the tenacity to finally beat Jordan on Expert, and later five-star it. Not a huge feat for Guitar Hero pros, but it was ginormous for my loser self.

Thing is, the Guitar Hero league was held as a Gamespot Union. Lotta guys left Gamespot over the Gerstmann dealie, and with league "support" being built into and most of the interest flowing to Rock Band anyway, there's little talk of a new season of the League for Guitar Hero III. Without direct and organized competition, and no - simple leader boards aren't enough, I haven't felt the urge to study star paths or how to FC any songs - even simple ones. (I 100%'ed When You Were Young, which is really easy, but I didn't care to FC it nor do I have the motivation to anymore.) As a result, I'm just not as good as I once was, and Guitar Hero for me got really, really fun when I was insanely good (relative to my real life friends of course - so maybe "insanely decent" is a better term).

I could join another league or look for tournaments, but honestly, the lack of competition also leaves me with a lack of pressure, and in turn a lack of unnecessary stress. So... it ain't yer fault, Guitar Hero. I'm just heading down a spiral of indifference, and I don't ever think I'll care if I never beat Through The Fire And Flames. I guess maybe now it's time to start catching up on my goddamn backlog, which is 32148967932842934879 games long. (Final Fantasy X, is that you calling my name?)

Postscript: I just remembered that some of the smarter, extra-special folks out there will likely point out - potentially with, heaven forbid, a smattering of cynicism or sarcasm - the astonishing fact that playing rhythm games doesn't, in any way, make you musicians (even when the people who play these games never once claimed that they were musicians because of it. ZOMG - you learn something valuable every day!) But in case anyone was wondering, Guitar Hero and Rock Band do not make me a musician. The fact that I practiced and played the cello for 16 years, though, does.

Post-postcript: The King has impeccable timing.

4:23 PM on 12.11.2007

If ever I could define a videogame with a sad puppy face, I'd do it for Golden Axe III. I don't know how many of you actually had a subscription to the Sega Channel download service. I know I didn't, and I was completely unaware that a third Golden Axe even came out until after Sega Channel died. Lo and behold, it pops up on Virtual Console, and I figure - hey - I can review this. Golden Axe ain't that great, but it's mindless fun. Right?


Apparently, Frank (Provo) didn't like Golden Axe II (if you are still boycotting CNET sites, don't click that). It had no charm. No personality. It was exactly the same otherwise, but since charm, personality, nostalgia - whatever you want to call it - usually serves to cover up aging gameplay, Frank deemed Golden Axe II mediocre (FIVE POINT OH).

Golden Axe III is ... well. If you play it, you'll find that they threw all kinds of new moves and tricks into the gameplay. So it's gotta at least be better than Golden Axe II, right? Well, what the hell good do new moves and stuff do if you shove it into completely stiff controls? I don't know how many of you remember how smooth the original Golden Axe felt, but as far as I recall, it was pretty smooth. Your guys moved at a brisk rate, the animation was solid enough for you to know that you swung that fat axe and hit someone in the gut. It was a little floaty, sure, but it worked for the time and it's still "okay" today, I guess. Golden Axe III took away all of that crap and replaced it with herky-jerky animation that looks like it all was pasted together by a seven year-old. The combat has been completely changed from a smooth, if overly simple, slicing and dicing affair to some chunky "Oh look, watch this same stiff-looking combo over and over again!" mess.

And you know how easy it is to throw someone in other games? In Double Dragon, all you need to do is to make them double over and you can grab them. It's clear to see. In Final Fight, just walk up to them. In Golden Axe it was just a canned animation, but here - even though it lets you determine when to throw an enemy - it might as well be canned too. That stuff happens so uber-randomly that you don't ever know if you're doing it correctly.

Oh, and remember how awesome it was to realize you were battling on the back of a ginormous hawk flying through the air? Remember how creepy it was to realize that skeletons were erupting from said back? What about the humongoid knights and dudes with the big stone hammers that stood there with their arms crossed and laughed at you? And - oh - Death Adder was actually a bunch of nasty, slimy snakes that slithered into a suit of armor?

Remember that??? Huh?? Huh?

...and then what do we get in Golden Axe III? Oh. We fight atop a giant (enemy) crab that's colored with some weird gray green goopy color. I know it's a crab because I can see the pincers in the background, but it took me a long while to realize it. In contrast, in the first Golden Axe, you saw the turtle's head and its eyes poking around. Same for the hawk. The realization hit you like a ton of bricklayers each carrying a bag of bricks. Holy crap - look at its eyes. This time? Oh. Pincers. And they aren't even pincing at anything. It's dead. The entire game just feels so lifeless from the backgrounds. The enemy bosses? There's none of that hubris, that menacing laughter. Even though it was a simple two-frame animation in Golden Axe, it conveyed such arrogance. Here, what do you get?

How about, "Ha, ha, ha, you are very good, but you will have to do better than that the next time we will fight against each other."

Or maybe, "Oh, very good old chap, if I do say so myself! But you shan't advance any further the next time our illustrious paths should cross, you see?"

Or better yet: "You have got a lot to learn before you beat me, try again kiddo."

Golden Axe lost its charm with Golden Axe II. Now, it's lost its soul. Pour out a little liquor for our fallen homey.