February 26, 2009

Video Games and Kids: a brief discussion

Recently Utah has been on the verge of passing a law that would extend their Truth in Advertising law, which would punish retailers that would sell M rated or higher games to minors if they advertised that they would not.  You can read more about it on GamePolitics.com, and get some specifics on the trial here.  It helps to note that the infamous Jack Thompson aided the drafting of this addition to the law.  If you don't know about Jack Thompson, just know when it comes to video games, he's a dick.  For an example, see him threaten a lawsuit Game Politics on a simple misunderstanding that occurred when they interviewed Mike Morely (R).

I have two problems with Thompson and many of the other people who support bills like this.  First of all, many of these people simply do not have their facts straight.  You'd think that Grand Theft Auto was a hentai game full of murder if you believed what they said.  They can't even get that Grand Theft Auto doesn't have levels, just missions.  Ugh.  And they are not quick to apologize for their constant misinformation either.

Second, they expect everyone except the parents of a child to parent the child.  It's ridiculous.  I used to work at Gamestop, and I remember parents asking me about games for their kids.  I would always advise them if there was content in the game that could be considered inappropriate.  In fact most of the time they asked without me prompting.  That's good parenting, and any parent should ask about any game or toy that they honestly don't understand before giving  it to their children.  It's not a store's job, or the government's for that matter, to tell kid what they can and can't do.  It's a parent's job.  

Funny coincidence, the conservatives in American politics want to regulate video games and movies to the umpteenth degree, but when it comes to a financial crisis they want the government to touch nothing while corrupt corporations and banks can run away with money they weaseled out of customers and every taxpayer in the U.S.A.  Seems a little inconsistent, eh?

Finally, The Onion has a great video that shows the benefits of letting kids play video games, specifically concerning skill sets that they may find necessary in the future.

February 23, 2009

Capek is why Data exists

We all know Roddenberry isn't the inventor of robots, nor Asimov.  But who is you may ask?  My friend the other night informed me that we should all be thanking Karel Capek for robots, or at least for the term.  

Capek was writing science fiction before it was an official genre, including themes like alien slavery, mass production, and atomic weapons.  He dealt with a lot of social ideas, which was probably partly due to the fact he was living in Austria-Hungry/Czechoslovakia in the early 20th century.  He also gets extra points for writing anti-nazi plays before it was cool.

So how did he invent the word robot?  Well Capek was writing this play about mechanical men that were built for service
 reasons initially, but before the play even gets to the final act they end up killing all the humans and taking over the world.  The question was what to call these things?  Capek credits his brother for thinking of the word robot, which is derived from the word robota in Czech, Slovak and Polish.  Robota literally means "serf labor".  

So how does this play, titled Rossum's Universal Robots or R.U.R., end?  I'm not giving away the ending here, you greedy readers!  You'll just have to read the play yourself.

Or look it up on wikipedia.

February 20, 2009

How to make Eye of Argon readable

If you ever want to read a horrible story in a hilarious fashion, I suggest you do the Eye of Argon game, which happens at least once a year at my school.

Step One
Print out all of this horrible story by Jim Theis.

Step Two
Get a group of friends/people you can tolerate for a couple of hours.  

Step Three
Take the story and print out two copies.  

Step Four
Sit in a circle and have one person reading the story, while the person to the left of them checking their reading with the second copy of the story.  If the reader
*Pronounces a word or sentence differently than it appears on the page (aka misspelled words are sounded the way they look)
*Get through a page of text "perfectly" (called a newscaster)
He pass on the story to the right, and the checker passes her story to the right too.  

Step Five
Continue like this until the story has ended and you have laughed so much your belly hurts.

Make it a drinking game!

February 18, 2009

My opinion on The Watchmen condoms.

February 16, 2009

My First Impressions of Dollhouse

I don't think I've mentioned to you all that I do like Joss Whedon's stuff.  Not entirely, I never was a Buffy fan.  But I do like his work enough to feel that nerd obligation to watch Dollhouse.  I caught it on hulu.com because it's easier to finish my work on my own time and then watch the show.

What did I think of it? Not a strong enough start for this show.  It was a good episode, but there was nothing to hook me in permanently.  Especially the first 15 minutes.  I understand the exposition that was necessary, but I really think the writers could've done better than a "best date weekend ever" scenario.  I just didn't care.  The main plot line we finally got into after the first commercial break was good, but I had to warm up to it since I was meeting a ton of characters in succession without any breaks.  

Now the drama major in me comes out to say that the acting isn't impressing me either.  Eliza Dushku isn't a bad actress, and there isn't any reason why she shouldn't be on the show.  But I think her versatility with the multiple people she will have to play will take time.  Lots of time.  Should we fault her for that?  No, fault casting really.  Everyone else seems to be cast well, and I do believe all the other characters.  I just think that considering the personality changes Echo  went through, her facial expressions could've been more varied.  Or maybe it's just her face.  I'll debate this with myself later.

As I said before I didn't get a lot of time to get into the characters.  For me personally, this is why I watch television shows: the characters.  I want to get to know them and think about how I can relate to them.  It's hard to do that on a show where the main character loads in a different personality each week.  I didn't get into Whedon until Firefly and when I saw the first episode of that I saw why people got sucked into his stuff.  It's a lot of great "what if" ideas along with a bunch of characters that you really want to becomes friends with.  Or smash in with a sledgehammer, depending on who you're talking about.  I'm not getting that same vibe with Dollhouse.  I'm not that interested in the characters around Echo because I only know them as two-dimensional plot-pushers right now.  The episode didn't let me see much of anyone else other than Echo, and that chick doesn't even know who she is half the time.  How am I supposed to relate to that?

I'm not ruling out Dollhouse completely.  I will probably watch the next episode to see if I care enough about the show to keep up with it.  But right now, I don't think I do.

February 14, 2009

Museums: Great for Dates

Happy Valentine's Day readers!

I just want to quickly vouch for museums being a great date space.  Now I'm not talking about tiny museums that are run by a small staff, but big ones with multiple exhibits and hallways full of displays.  As a kid in Chicago, I was raised on going to either the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, the Alder Planetarium, or the always free Lincoln Park Zoo.  It turns out that these places are great as adults to go on dates.  Unlike a movie, you can talk while you're enjoying the experience.  Unlike a park, you have a lot of instant conversation starters around you, and more to talk about when you get to dinner.  And who wouldn't want to share their first kiss in front of a T-Rex?

That's mother-fuckin' romantic, I tell ya.

Imagine holding hands excitedly at the IMAX feature about space collisions.  Isn't that awesome? Or doing the silly interactive stuff for the kids together.  Looking at all the little baby chicks as you see how life works, and wanting to squeeze the little yellow puff balls.  Watching the hourly dolphin show on the uncomfortable bench and your guy finally puts his arm around you while they demonstrate how high those bottle-noses jump.  Now the Chicago museums were my examples, but there are tons of great places to go all over the country, especially if you're fortunate enough to live near a big city.  Museums are just waiting to be your next date destination.

Now if you're super nerd like me, you need something with more pizzazz since you go to museums all the time.  The Detroit Science Center is opening Star Trek: The Exhibition today.  It's full of replicas and props and tons of other really neat stuff.  If you look at the picture you can even see they got their whole staff into it too!  And if you're looking for something even more romantic, it turns out the Science Center will also rent out the space for marriages.  That's right, propose while you're with the away team, get married on the bridge.  It's a trekkie girl's dream come true!

February 13, 2009

RE5 Trailer Gives Me (some) Hope

I watched the new RE5 trailer on Game Trailers.  It definitely looks like the game has a good plot and good villains.  Just a couple things I would like to note that still kind of tick me off.

In the same vain of why do all the good guys have to be white, why do all the leading bad guys have to be white too?  Can't black people be arch-villains?  I'm not going to get too hung up on that because it seems a lot of the nemeses are people from previous games (don't know the series well so I can only speculate) and those had a lot of white characters.  Also, as much as it is racist to say that Africans are taken advantage of for the benefit of some white guy, elitists dicks do that all the time, no matter any color.  Maybe we can pin all the racism on this one douche of a baddie exploiting Africa like so many Europeans and Americans have done before.

However this is a trailer in the right direction for Capcom.  Its a lot more obvious that there's a zombie process going on, with the visible red eyes changing.  I can imagine it's hard making people who are dark look undead, so you have to go with whatever is available and realistic enough.  Does this mean I'm not offended by the images described in my last blog post about this stuff?  No.  It just means I can see that Capcom is just ignorant, and the racism isn't intentional.  Or at least it seems that way.  Capcom should probably learn from this and be a bit more sensitive if they don't want to make such a faux pas again.  Although, for all I know they did it just to get attention to the game.  Marketing executives sometimes have horrible ideas.

One last thing to worry about: cutscenes seem to be all over the place.  I did see some game play, and I hope that's the majority of the game.  But the majority of that trailer was cutscenes of the story.  It just makes me wary where we are going to have an MGS4 situation where you play Snake for 5 minutes tops and then CUT SCENE.  You play for another 5 minutes and then a LONGER CUTSCENE.  You sneesze, CUTSCENE FOR DAYS!  Don't believe me, watch it here.  I just don't want Resident Evil, which is a good franchise on it's own, to fall into that trap.

2/15/09: EDIT

If some of you feel that I'm not expressing my ideas eloquently enough (haven't gotten complaints, but still) I found an interview here that I think explains my concerns well.  Read it if you don't understand how this game is offensive to some and would like to know why.  

February 12, 2009

A Guide to Geeks: Is that necessary?

I was going to try to spiff up a list of Valentine's gifts for your significant nerdy other, so I went to the fabulous thinkgeek.com to look for some ideas.  As I have mentioned before, it is a great site.  

I go to the suggested Valentine's Day gifts page, and I found this book.

First thought, to be honest: "Cute!"
Second thought: "Wait a sec, really?  A guide to dating a geek?  Like it's that hard?"

It is a humorous idea, that is if you're that kind of girlfriend who feels her significant other's hobbies are just too odd to even get into.  A chick like me, however, is kinda... well, dare I say offended that someone feels this is necessary?

I've been on an "offended" kick to be honest, especially since game politics can't seem to stop talking about Resident Evil 5's racist images.  Maybe I'm just in that mind set.  But there are a few things I would like to gripe about, if you care to read on.

Number One: Why are geeks so different than any other guy?
This is something that I dont' get.  From what I found, every guy that I know has some hobby that they LOVE to invest a ton of time in.  Whether it's football, music, video games, or any other hobby, guys tend to choose a thing or two that they like and then stick with it.  Geek hobbies are not any different, just possibly a bit more foreign to some people.  Which leads to the next question...

Number Two: Why don't you just ask your boyfriend about his interests?
Seriously, communication people!  Essential for any good relationship.  Maybe instead of investigating about your boyfriend's hobby behind his back, why not ask him?  Since it's his hobby, he'd probably love to talk to you about it until your ears fall off.  Maybe you could even, I don't know, try out a game or watch a movie and see if you may like it too.  You may have some hidden nerd potential.  And if you feel like you can't have a conversation about your boyfriend's interests, dump him and get another one.

Number Three: Are geeks such a burden?
Okay, this may be the joking part of the game, but sometimes I get the feeling that the "general populous" (aka people who say they are normal but are actually dirty freaks on the inside) finds there is something defective in geeky hobbies.  I can't say I'm into anime without people asking if I live in my parents basement.  And if I mention my boyfriend is off playing Guild Wars, a lot of other women look at me sympathetically, as if he's cheating on me.  Uh, no.  It's just like if you're married to someone into football and you're not.  You just hang out with your friends on game day while he stays home rooting for his home team.
To be honest, in my relationship I'm the football enthused one when I have the time, The Boyfriend is not a sports person as all.  I find that funny.

Number Four: Why so gender specific?
This is the question where you can tell I am a liberal arts student.  Why is it that it's the girl that needs to learn on how to "cope" with her new geek boyfriend?  What if a guy was dating a geek girl and had no idea why she was totally into the X-Men?  What if it was a gay or lesbian couple?  Would it change much?  For the information in this book, probably not.  Or lack of useful information it seems.

Look, if you suck at relationships, no book about geeks is going to help you understand your significant other regardless of whether or not they've reached level 80 on WoW.  Being a good partner will help with any hobby gaps.  As long as there isn't a big difference in values (for example, "You can't have a fiction girlfriend in Vampire!  I'm jealous."  "But it's just a game!"), then any relationship can get over a couple different preferences in extracurricular activities.

February 10, 2009

Geek Couples: Why is it that the girl converts?

This post is going to be a little bit different than some of my others, because it's solely based on my observations.  No links to articles or anything like that.  I know, you like it when I do something that's based on source material, but give this a try guys!

Since Valentines' day is near, let's talk about geeky couples.  Who's the Zoe to your Wash, the Zelda to your Link, the Cleric to your Fighter, the Mario to your Peach?

I find that relationship to be a weird one myself, but anyway you get the point.  Some of you out there are lucky like me and have a nerdy person to love.  Some of you are hunting down someone, and some of you are happy to fool around with any attractive female in the cosmos like our beloved Captain Kirk.  Whatever your position may be in life, we all know there are nerd couples out there, but there's an interesting pattern that I have noticed.

I recently started thinking about it with one of my housemates here at school.  She has a boyfriend who's a big nerd.  He taught my housemate how to play Magic the Gathering, which, for those of you who don't know, a game that is made of crack.  At least for a lot of my guy friends, collecting cards is a life passion.  I've had a couple exes who were into it, and tried to get me into it.  My housemate was never really into it before but now she's playing it with him a lot.  And then I started thinking about other nerd couples I know, and the pattern started to arise...

Why is it that it's the guy introducing the girl into something geeky 9 times out of 10?

Boyfriends are more likely to be the primary nerd in the relationship, passing on the info to the girlfriend who, either having the info thrust upon them or actually interested in the subject at hand, will try their best to pick up why the nerd hobby is so important.  Rarely do you get instances where the girl is showing the guy something nerdy.  And even if they are into something nerdy, it's usually because of another male influence.  I have friend who introduced her boyfriend to Star Wars, but she got into it because of her previous boyfriend.  I have friends who got into stuff because of their brothers or fathers.  Rarely do I hear someone, ANYONE say "my girlfriend/mom/sister/gal pal got me into [insert nerd hobby here]"

Now I know there are girls who got into stuff without a male influence.  My mom is the reason I'm so nerdy, and a good friend of mine from high school introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons (although, going back to my point, her dad was into it and introduced her to it).  My friend who does the Uncharted 2 blog got into a lot of this nerd stuff herself, especially her love of comic books.  But I find that this is not the norm.  Even I didn't get into Starcraft until the Boyfriend essentially thrusted it upon me.  Oh wait, I mean the game, he thrusted the game... oh goddamn it.

Why is it that girls are usually "pulled" into the fandoms?  Why aren't they attracted to it themselves?  That I have no theory on.  I just find it interesting that this is the current pattern.  over time I think it will become more even.

There are a couple exceptions to the rule: literature, web comics and anime/manga.  Those are some things that girls easily dig into on their own without a male influence.  Especially anime, with their cat girls.  Ugh.  

I want to know what you guys think.  Are my observations correct, or am I totally out of the loop on this one?

February 8, 2009

Thank You Commentors

I just wanted to say a thank you for people who commented on the last entry regarding the whole racism in Resident Evil 5 debacle.  It was nice to know that despite all the places on the internet where trolling and writing in caps rule, there can be some mature discussion about a heated issue.

Many friends can tell you I'm very sensitive about issues of race when they come up, which I think stems from the issue being a big part of my life since elementary school.  But I love having a discussion about it from time to time.  I think we have to keep conversations about sensitive issues going because that's the only way everyone on every side can begin to understand each other.  

I hope that as my blog continues, we can still keep these conversations going, and maybe even learn something from each other.

Alright, didn't mean to get all after school special on you, readers.  Just stay cool.

February 6, 2009

Why Resident Evil 5 Still Offends Me

Do any of you remember this unfortunate video that came out for E3 2007?  If not, take a look at it here: 

Okay, now if you're looking at this for the first time, did you see anything that might be considered offensive? Anything at all?  How about the part where the Caucasian hero is basically mowing down a bunch of animalistic Africans that have only their fists and primitive weapons to fight back?  And how in the whole trailer you can't tell that these savage acting Africans are supposed to be zombies unless you know the series?

Those of you who have seen this video before know what I'm getting at.  The racist undertones are undeniable, even if they do not offend you.  I'm not asking you to be offended.  However, I have no problem admitting that I was when I first saw that video.  Of course, I knew that the Africans are zombies so I didn't go writing to Capcom about how they were release a genocide simulator.  However, if someone didn't know what the Resident Evil franchise is all about, you couldn't tell that there were zombies in that entire thing.  Bad marketing indeed.  

I don't think there is an excuse for Capcom to put out something like that.  I understand that the company is based in Japan, however they should have been able to look at their American branch and ask "Since your culture is racially sensitive, is there anything here we should be careful about when it comes to this trailer?"  And in reply, the American branch should have replied "You have to be careful about how you represent blacks in marketing.  Make sure the audience knows that they are zombies, not rabid Africans just starting a riot for no clear reason."  Of course, one part of this easy plan fell through and we got an offensive trailer for people to rage on about through the internet.

Now I would've thought that Capcom would've learned their lesson and tried to make things a bit more appealing to a sensitive American audience. More sensitive to gamers like me who are already reminded every day about how race affects them.  I was hopeful when I saw some game footage with a more diversified color scheme of enemies.  At least Capcom was trying to do something to combat the earlier images of white guy fighting through seass of rabid Africans.

But then I hear of a sneak peek play of the first three chapters that was reviewed by Eurogamer.  Apparently the game is good, but the racism is still there.  And we're not talking undertones.  You can read here on the last page of the article about a few images that harken back to the good old days of bigotry, including a blonde white woman being dragged away by a bunch of black men.  Yes, that image is there.  Why didn't anyone stop to think about how this might look to the target audience, I don't know.

Capcom, I'm disappointed in you.

The United States of America has an unfortunate history riddled with the violation of human rights and the refusal of dignity merely because someone is physically different than the majority.  As a member of one of the many minorities in this country (a country I do love very much), I'm reminded every day about how white is the norm while everything non-white is abnormal or unusual or "exotic" if you want to be somewhat politically correct.  I'm also reminded every day about how easy it is for those people who are "normal".  It sucks to have to think about it every day.  Do you think I want to encounter that in a game that doesn't seem to be approaching the debate with any kind of intelligence?

There are many things that offend me from these first looks, but lets talk about the one counter-point that Capcom could've utilized carefully.  I'm talking about Sheva, the African who is supposed to help Chris Redfield throughout his mission.  Yes, an African who is very light skinned with straight hair and speaks with a British accent.  Is this the message we want to send, that the only black people that are useful are the ones that approach an anglo look and speech pattern?  I'm not deny she's black.  I'm just saying that the only good African is the most caucasian looking and english speaking African.  That's not sending a good message to the rest of us black women, especially those who are more the coloring of the African zombies that Sheva helps Chris shoot down.

I was hoping that Capcom would have analyzed the situation and dealt with the previous concerns professionally.  But they haven't.  The Africans still are adhering to outdated stereotypes, the main hero is an educate white guy who's must kill the "savages" around him, and the "one good" African is the only African I've seen so far that has a british accent and could potentially pass for white on the street.  Way to take back African Americans five to ten years back.  Dammit.

I hope that when the game is finally released, there is actually a reason for all of this prejudiced imagery, and that I was wrong the entire time posting this.  Wrong in the sense that Capcom actually thought things through instead of not thinking at all.

February 4, 2009

Apparently my friends blog too.

Hello all.

I figure I would alert you all to a couple of blogs that my friends do that are rather entertaining.

First there is my friend who is a serious fangirl of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and has been keeping up with the sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.  She decided to do a blog about updates and such.  I can't blame here, I can barely resist the action along with the half tucked pants.

The Boyfriend has a blog that is starting to finally pick up some speed.  It's mostly gamer nostalgia right now, but topics will vary over time.

Finally, if you like reading articles written by easily angered gentlemen, go here.

I hope to have an actual post up soon, but right now that pesky thing called school is getting in the way.  If only I didn't care and could easily flunk out to make this the nerdiest blog to ever nerd blog.  But alas, I want good grades.

February 1, 2009

An Update on Bob: Huge Ego, Little Logic

Remember Bob?  That guy who was trying to get published by protesting to Nintendo instead of building up his business?  Well I figured I would take a gander at his site and see what happened since I last posted about him.

I get the sense that he's at it again, protesting Nintendo for not glorifying his crappy game. His crappy website doesn't quite make what he's doing clear, considering it's got all this stuff about aliens attacking him and such.  That's right, on the website for his one-man business, he's got a story going on about how aliens attacked him and his attempt to contact them.  Excuse me?

On top of that, this site isn't user friendly.  If you're going to have a website advertising your product, learn some HTML and put information on separate pages.  I'm tired of having to scroll down to berate this guy.

Oh, there's more.  I wish not, but there is.  Bob went to the Nintendo World Store in NYC and proceeded to advertise his unofficial game by handing out cards, dropping them all over the floor, putting up posters on the walls inside and out, and putting empty game cases for his game up on the shelves.  After all that he bought a DS and then played his game on it in the store.  It's all on video here.  I would've embedded it but I decided not to put that kind of disgusting business conduct up on my blog.  I just need to cite my references like a good college student.

Bob keeps on trying to make a point, and I don't think he's sending out the message he thinks he is in his spiked hair, big boots and huge ego.  Bob thinks he's showing the world he's not letting Nintendo stomp on his dream.  What he's actually showing the world is that he's a tool.  A illogical, unsympathetic tool.  I mean, a lot of young guys go through a stage like that.  It's fine.  But don't inflict on a poor guy who's doing a retail stint at a high profile store in the middle of Manhattan thinking he's going to lose his job if you don't get the hell out of his store.  You're not pissing off Miyamoto or Reggie at that point.  You're pissing off the dude who has serious bills to pay and doesn't want to lose his job because some jerk and his groupies decided to raise some hell.  Having worked retail before, I feel a lot more for that manager who called the cops than spoiled Bob.

Bob acts like Nintendo set the rules here and if he breaks them he's going to be the shit.  Well, the rules of business have been established for a long time, longer than Nintendo, and I don't think anyone can consistently break them and be successful.  That is why Bob is not getting Nintendo to publish his game.

It looks like the game will come out on platforms like the iPhone, which is great because I think it is better for that format than the DS in the first place considering what little Bob is doing for the game's control scheme to make it interesting.  When it comes out, I want to hear what people think of it.  I really do.

Once again, good luck Bob.  Just stop being such a dick about the whole thing.