A little over a week ago, news came out that China is lifting their 13-year ban on console gaming. In a nutshell, a "Free Trade Zone" has been created with the sole purpose to create jobs, maybe stir some economic reforms, as well as luring in foreign investors and business.
Who's got a killer smile and loves foreign investors? THIS GUY!
Here's a snippet of the policy as it pertains to gaming regarding the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ).
7) Video game consoles, entertainment systems sales and services (National Economic Industry Classification: F Wholesale and Retail — 5179 Other machinery and electronic product whole sale).
Opening Steps: Video game and entertainment equipment manufacture and retail are now permitted, pending cultural department inspection and approval of video game and entertainment devices that can be sold to the domestic market.
I added the emphasis to the last sentence as I feel that is a major stipulation to the entire FTZ. Even though companies will now be free to sell consoles and games in the country, they will still have to pass through the Chinese government for a cultural inspection. I think we can all agree that this is a MAJOR stipulation in a country like China, known for draconian censorship practices.
However, this may be a hoop that console makers are willing to jump through. Light the hoop on fire even and put it over a pool of man-eating sharks while you're at it, as we're talking about billions of dollars and millions of potential consumers. It may very well be worth it, if you're Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo. For gamers however, this may eventually become a raw deal. Eventually, even the console makers may find that they have opened Pandora's Box. All I can say is be careful what you wish for console makers, the grass is not always greener on the other side. (BONUS POINTS FOR THREE CLICHES IN A ROW +3)!!!
Videogames are not the only medium that has made a big push to get distribution in the east and in particular, China. The movie industry spent years trying to get access to the immense potential of Chinese audience. The fruits of their labor have been paying off lately as International box office receipts have been growing steadily over the years, being led by a Chinese market looking for western themed movies that is enjoying growth of around 30 percent per year. We're not talking chump change here.
There has been an interesting side affect to breaking into the Chinese market, and that is poorer results at home for movies. Even though tickets sales are doing extremely well in China, they have been dropping domestically. The Chinese sales more than make up the difference, but one only needs to look at how poorly reviewed and received the summer "Blockbuster" movie season has been this year for proof that Hollywood is under performing at home.
6-time Oscar winning Irish film director Jim Sheridan, known for his films such as My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father was pretty frank about this topic at a press conference at the Busan International Film Festival. Sheridan states that "...Hollywood is making movies for China and India and Brazil and Russia. So they don't want dialogue movies. They don't want dramas. They've migrated the drama to TV." You can read more about it here.
So movies are "being watered" down, if you will, for an international audience. Hollywood is going for a one-size-fits-all approach. Sheridan goes on to say "...the only movies that are working are the high-rise movies. Huge investments with no dialogue, no drama."
International film director and leather jacket model Jim Sheridan
It's perfectly logical to believe that if console gaming breaks into China, there is no reason not to believe that gaming will see the same type of decline in quality in terms of story. We're already seeing it now with games and series like Call of Duty and Battlefield, where the story is pretty much nonexistent and laughable, in place only as a primer for online multiplayer.
There's also parallels between the shift from the cinema to TV for dramas and gaming's Indie and DLC scene. Look at successful television dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Dexter, Homeland, Downton Abbey etc... these may have made fine movies. Instead, they have become highly successful TV dramas. In today's market, I reckon if these were made into movies, they would not not be as successful as television dramas.
Games like Journey, Limbo, FEZ, Sam & Max, Unfinished Swan, The Walking Dead, I can go on and on. These are games that if they had a full retail release, would most likely have done poorly. Yet, as downloadable games on either PSN or XBL, these games are successful.
In the end, there really is nothing to stop the industry from breaking into the Chinese market and truly going global to all "emerging" markets. They have been trying to do it for years, by circumventing the system and partnering up media companies in order to bypass the the console ban (See Nintendo iQue). Now, they have been given clear access with the FTZ.
Console? What console? Hey, what's that over there? RUN!
Videogames are big business and the goal for any business is to grow and expand your audience. All I'll say is as the industry becomes more global, the story lines and genres will need to become more universal and fans should be prepared for this inevitability of more big budget blockbuster games on disk (for now) and more niche titles on DLC. As it is, we're pretty much already on that trajectory, I expect it to become even more pronounced.
Love to hear what the community thinks of this. Let me know in the comments.
What pray tell is a "Lax Bro"? I realize that some may not be familiar with this special breed, as they're originally from they North East, but they are expanding to other areas of the country. Thanks to the internets, I was able to find this handy dandy definition from our friends at Urbandictionary.com.
Lax Bro - Any male individual who plays (or associates with those who play) lacrosse. They wear hats (fitted, trucker, college lax hats), bright colors, and have long hair. Their vocabulary consists of, but is not limited to: word, bro, gnarly, stoked, flow, etc.
Of course, there is the Lax Bro's closely related cousin.
Dude Bro - White suburban males, usually 16-25 years of age, hailing from anywhere, USA. Characterized by their love of College football, pickup trucks/SUVs, beer, cut off khaki cargo shorts, light pink polo brand shirts (with collar "popped"), Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister gear, and trucker hats. Favorite bands include, but are not limited to, O.A.R., Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Avenged Sevenfold, The Fray, and often crappy radio rap (i.e. Nelly, Dem Franchize Boyz, D4L, etc.). Dude bro's are incredibly insecure in their manhood, which makes them: insanely jealous of their girl friends, overly macho, and laughably homophobic. currently, there is no cure for being a dude bro.
Awwww, Lax Bro sad face :-(
White sub-urban kid: CHECK
Long hair: CHECK
Pick-up truck: CHECK
Overly macho: CHECK
Bright color clothes: CHECK
Popped collar: Undetermined
That handsome fella above, a fine example of Lax Bro-ness is Zachary Burgess, freshman lacrosse player at Auburn University. He was in Baton Rouge, LA on September 21 to catch a football game. He never did make it to the game however, since on early Saturday morning, after a few zesty beverages 'm sure, decided to steal a truck, kidnapping the woman inside, and proceeded to hit several parked cars.
So what does this have to do with gaming you ask? Well, after being arrested by police, during questioning Zachy boy told an officer that he “wanted to see what it was really like to play the video game Grand Theft Auto.” Apparently, he was surprised the cops didn't just shoot him multiple times on the spot only to take him to a hospital where he'll be magically healed in 24-hours, but all his money will be taken away.
The surgeons at All Saint's General are miracle workers.
Mr. "Bro-gess" (see what I did there!) was arrested and charged with Theft of a Motor Vehicle (or Grand Theft Auto, HAH!), Hit-and-Run (9 counts), and Simple Kidnapping. His bond was set at $80,000. He was released on Sunday, Sept. 22 after posting bond (THANKS DADDY!). If you're interested in learning more, you can do so here and here.
Not sure what Broseph up there was thinking when he told the cops that he was emulating GTA. Perhaps he was thinking that they'd let him go. Obviously, it was not his fault, but the GAME'S fault for making him do this. Let him go and arrest the game makers by golly! BREAK OUT THE PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES!
DEATH TO ROCKSTAR GAMES!
Fortunately, this story did not get a lot a traction with the folks in the "established" media outlets. We all know how they love a sensational story against videogames, especially GTA. Maybe the folks in the mainstream media aren't as clueless when it comes to videogames as we thought. Well, let's not go that far.
The "Great" War was neither a "War" nor was it "Great". Discuss Amongst yourselves.
You're not funny anymore Mike Myers.
Actually, it was a horrific war paid for by the lives of countless men and women that set in motion many things that formed the way our world is today. It doesn't get nearly the amount of attention it deserves in the history books here in the US. I can't speak for my friends in Europe, UK and around the world, but in my humble opinion, the Great War is becoming a forgotten war.
Here in the US, WWII is, frankly, a BIG DEAL. The history books give it a certain narrative. There's the bad guys (Boo Germany, Japan, Italy) and there's the good guys (YAY US and UK). We don't like talking about the Soviets too much because that muddies up the waters and hurts our brains. There's good times, bad times, and ultimately, victory. It's a good story. Makes for good TV, cinema, and videogames. Now, I'm not being anti-US. I'm proud to be American, but I do feel that we're forgetting a vital part of our history.
World War I? Now that's complicated. It was a tangle of geo-political tension, tied with a certain amount of nationalism that formed into a powder keg, exploding into a quagmire. It was a war where antiquated tactics met mechanical weaponry. It was a war of inches, fought in the trenches. It wasn't sexy. It was miserable.
There are no more living veterans of this war. The last was Florence Green, a member of the Women's Royal Air Force. She passed on February 4, 2012. She was 110 years-old. It's now up to the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to pass down the history to future generations. Sorry to say, but we're not doing a very good job.
WWI veteran Florence Green.
That is why hearing about Ubisoft's Valiant Hearts: The Great War was such a pleasant surprise. I enjoy reading up on history and always felt that WWI was slowly being forgotten. Seeing a company take a medium as thoroughly modern as videogames to tell a story that takes place during such a pivotal time in human history brings a smile to my face.
I truly hope that Valiant Hearts is a success. I hope that Ubisoft treats the subject with the honor and respect it deserves. From the video below, it seems that they are.
In age when videogames are under attack for being overly violent, here's a title that can bring some visibility to a time and topic that is slowly being forgotten by today's generation. It won't get nearly as much, if any mention on the big news networks and it won't sell millions of copies like AAA title, but hopefully a few people will learn something along the way, and maybe go out and try to learn more.
Another unfortunate tragedy has occurred and the traditional media reacts predictably, with a knee-jerk reaction blaming videogames. This is no laughing matter, but how the media is handling the coverage of this situation is quite frankly a joke.
On Monday, September 16 Navy reservist Aaron Alexis, opened fire in a Navy shipyard in Washington DC, killing 12 people before being shot and killed by police. Another senseless tragedy from a troubled individual it appears. Alexis was no stranger to trouble and was already dealing with a lot of issues prior to the shooting.
The gunman was known to carry a .45 caliber everywhere he went, tucked into his waist band without a holster, a stupid and dangerous proposition if I ever heard one. He apparently did this because he feared that people were out to steal his things. He was obviously suffering from paranoia. Warning bells should already be going off in everyone's heads.
Friends and family also claim that he was feeling racially discriminated against and was disgruntled for being underpaid working overseas as a contractor. His father also believes that he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and had anger management issues stemming from working nearby to the World Trade Center in New York during the 9/11 terror attacks. Warning bell number two and three.
In what was a harbinger to come, Alexis was arrested in 2010 after his firearm discharged inside the home he was staying, going through the ceiling. Warning bell number four.
All it took was one throw away line from a neighbor and friend that Alexis was "obsessed" with first person shooters and that is what the media runs with. The Telegraph even states the "darker side to Alexis's character saw him playing violent "zombie" video games in his room, sometimes from 12.30pm until 4.30am." Did they straight up just make that up?
Officials have reported that Alexis had a long history of mental issues, such as paranoia, which we already determined, a sleep disorder, as well as hearing voices, and that he had been treated regularly since August at a VA Hospital for his mental problems. Game Politics has a great report that can be viewed here.
All the while, the US Navy never declared him unfit to serve even after being cited 8 times for misconduct. In the end, the Navy gave him an Honorable Discharge, which boggles the mind. This information is ripe for the picking on various news sites. The same sites that are slamming videogames are reporting that there clearly is a deeper issue here than the gunman was just obsessed with Call of Duty and/or "violent zombie video games". Here's a just a couple:
The sloppiness of the reporting would be laughable if the story itself behind this shooting wasn't so senseless and tragic. Once again, the media looks for what is the most sensational headline, the good old "Games are out to get us" that generate so many page views and gets the masses all riled up even if it may be irreverent or just a small part of the larger story.
Even if you're not a videogame fan, you can see all the contradictions in their reporting. And who's to stop them? Even though the gaming industry rakes in billions of revenue a year, it does such a piss poor job of protecting its interests compared to other groups. Hopefully that will change however.
I was going to write a separate blog on how Activision recently hired big time lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (Apparently they just used www.random-law-firm-name-generator.com) to represent them in Washington when West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller's Violent Videogames Bill goes up for vote in the Senate. You can read more about that here and here. I then realized that the post would be horrible and boring, but it has become all the more topical now given the current situation.
It looks like Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld are going to be working overtime on this. Good thing Activision has deep pockets, because Rockefeller is going to have some more fuel to attack the industry, no matter how misguided it may be.
I've been a roll lately, writing about how the media is very quick to blame violence on gaming, this is an on-going theme that I'm sure all of us are familiar with. Recently in Louisiana, police investigators were quick to point out that an 8-year-old boy was playing Grand Theft Auto IV before finding a .38 caliber handgun in his home and shooting his 87-year-old grandmother. You can read about that here and here.
After a fair amount of investigating, police have concluded that the shooting was just a horrible accident and had nothing to do with the boy playing GTA IV. Of course there was no major retraction or 'mea culpa' from the sites that initially reported the story, like the Huffington Post, who tried to sensationalize the story and then just moved onto the next non-story du jour. There is one thing that made me proud to be a gamer and member in this community however, and that was the smart and professional comments I received from my two blog posts on this story. One recurring comment was, "What was an 8-year-old doing with a copy of GTAIV anyway?"
So why am I beating this dead horse into an even more .... deader horse? (I'm bad with old-timey sayings sometimes). Well, yesterday I was at my local Gamestop, trading in my Xbox 360 for store credit. As I was standing there, holding my squirming daughter while waiting in line, which was not at all long, but was taking forever because the Gamestop employee at the counter was bullshitting and up-selling the person in front of me, I had the displeasure of witnessing the interaction that was occurring in the line next to mine.
In that line was a boy, maybe around 8-years-old and his mother, waiting to trade in some games of their own and pick up some used titles. Couple of things that struck me was that the boy seemed like a good kid. He was waving and smiling at my daughter, making her laugh, which was cute. His mother however, was talking on her cell phone, loudly, obnoxiously and obliviously, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.
As the boy was trading in his games, he asked for a used copy of Dead Island, an M-rated title. The Gamestop employee did the right thing, pointing out that this was an M-rated game, trying to get the boy's mother to acknowledge him. Her response pissed me off. She just sighed, gave him a sarcastic grin and waved him off. Apparently, she couldn't be bothered while she was having an all important conversation on her phone.
This may seem fairly innocuous. The boy looked normal and mature enough to handle an M-rated game. Yet, his mother's disinterest in the entire transaction was disturbing. If I could read minds, I would say that her reaction was akin to "it's just a stupid videogame, how mature can it be?"
Meanwhile, we have politicians pushing for greater controls and censorship against videogames. We have politicians who have pushed and succeeded in getting retailers to check for ID when selling M-rated games, but this doesn't amount to a hill of beans if adults and parents are not educated into what those rating even mean.
This will become a problem that eventually goes away. Gaming is becoming more ingrained into society. I'm aware of the differences between M-rated and E-rated games and will be a lot more hands on when my daughter is old enough to play videogames. I'm also very conscience of what games I buy for my nephew, who is budding gamer himself, like his uncle. There is however are large group group of adults out there who simply don't know, or maybe, don't care.
I'll simply end with this, if the media wants to perform a public service, how about some more articles on the rating system and how some games are not appropriate for kids. Go ahead and educate some of these people out there. Oh, that's right, those stories are boring and not in any way sensational.
Earlier in the week I wrote about a shooting in Louisiana where an 8-year-old boy shot his 87-year-old grandmother while she was watching television, killing her. You can read my initial post here. The police and media immediately had a freak out, latching on to the most sensational aspect of the story. Allegedly, the boy, was playing Grand Theft Auto IV.
Well, turns out that perhaps the media jumped to conclusions a bit. Who would have thought? Police initially called the shooting a homicide. It turns out that it was just a horribly tragic accident as reported by the Huffington Post and Game Politics.
According to District Attorney Samuel D'Aquilla, "It's not a crime if he's under 10 years old. We're still trying to figure out how to help this juvenile and his parents... It was determined that he did the shooting and it was an accident. He thought it was a toy gun, a play gun."
That "toy" gun was actually a .38 caliber handgun. Obviously, it was loaded and easily accessible to the boy and that is the true tragedy to this whole mess friends. Yes, he should not have had access to M-rated GTAIV either, but it's apparent from the situation, that this boy was not in the best environment. He was currently living in a small trailer with his grandmother, and custody of the boy has passed back and forth between his parents and grandmother. It's fair to say that this child has had a tough going so far.
The child is now back with his parents. Reports from police say that the relationship the boy had was his grandmother was "normal and loving", which makes this incident even more tragic.
Don't expect a mea culpa from the "established" media on this though. The Huffington Post article was still full of snark and took some shots at gaming, even when it's apparent that gaming was just an unrelated aspect in this tragedy.
Would love to hear more from the community on this. What are some of your thoughts? Why do you feel the fact that there was an easily accessible .38 or that the boy has not been in the best environment are being glossed over?