Category Archives: Gaming

Brass knuckles

Since there’s no controversy about violent video games, and violence and video games, of course Electronic Arts figured it would be a great idea to send out brass knuckles with the promo material for Godfather II.

That’s like bungee-jumping using a length of iron chain, you know, to prove it’s safe – or some other staggering, self-harming non-sequitur.

As a promotional item, it would come from their marketing department, so we must assume that the marketing department hasn’t read a newspaper or watched any TV in, oh, the last ten years or so. Leastways, nothing about – you know – games.

Now EA is trying to take the things back. Turns out that possession of them is a crime in a lot of places in the USA. Sending them across state lines, too. Of course, if they’re trying to get people to send them back, are they not now inciting the recipients to break the law by sending the items across state lines a second time?

What the heck was anyone thinking?

How much do all those unconstitutional video game laws cost, anyway?

Around the USA, umpty states (it must be about a dozen now) have passed gaming bills that seek to impose fines for minors purchasing mature-rated video games and computer games. Every single one of these has been found to be unconstitutional, yet what is functionally the same bill keeps popping up in US state legislatures.

If you’re a US taxpayer, and your state hasn’t yet tried one of these – or is going around again, you may wish to speak with your congressman about this:

  • Each of these bills is expensive to pass. If they’re being really cheap and lazy and just copying a bill that was already struck down on constitutional grounds, that costs around US$50,000 from State taxes. If the bill isn’t passed, you’re looking at maybe half of that just for the attempt.
  • If they’re actually coming up with a modification or a new bill, you’re looking at about US$250,000 from State taxes.
  • When the bill is inevitably overturned for the simple reason that it violates the US Bill of Rights, it’ll cost State taxpayers another US$250,000 or so, if the State decides to appeal.

So, everyone involved in passing the bills knows the bills cannot stand. If they don’t, then you might want to find yourself another representative next time the elections roll around.

But if everyone knows – why spend all this money and fuss on them? Well, votes, really. This is all about public image. The whole thing is supposed to show that they care about your kids. If some of that money was going to potholes or schoolbooks or park maintenance, I might believe it, but no — it’s being burned, pretty much.

Be sure to tell your representative how you expect her to vote when it comes to your taxpayer money on the line here. A half a million or so buys a lot of schoolbooks, and fills a lot of potholes. You might think that the money was rather better spent than on vain posturing about video games.

As for any talk about red states or blue states or political affiliations… I don’t really care. And neither should you, if your representatives aren’t… you know… representing your state and community’s best interests — regardless of which party they are a member of — then they’re not really doing the job now, are they?

Fallout 3: Now 20USD more expensive on Steam

US$69.99. Golly. Thanks to regional pricing, it is US$20 more than you’d pay for the same files via Steam in the USA. If you’re in the USA, the same little clicky purchase button will only cost you US$49.99.

In fact — it is cheaper for me to go to the store (including the cost of gas), buy it off the shelf, and I can still afford to have a meal while I’m at the mall, with the difference.

Oh, and the unlock date. I get to play it a day earlier if I purchase from the store down theĀ  road. (Actually, if you’re in the USA the Steam edition unlocks several days earlier than it does here)

Someone actually sat down, and made the decision to price the same software and data-files 40% higher. That’s forty percent. Did I mention that it was forty percent more?

Now you could talk exchange rates because our local dollar is a bit soft versus the US dollar right now — but the thing is, we’re being charged in US dollars anyway, so this is 40% after the exchange rate is applied.

I don’t see how this is supposed to encourage me to buy the Steam version. Fix the pricing. Then we’ll talk.

Maybe publishers could even help make a chunk of the Steam catalogue available outside of North America. That would be nifty too.

But.. baby steps. Let us get that pricing silliness sorted out first.

Why can’t we ever go someplace nice?

Play It NowIt’s just stopped raining, but there’s still the occasional flash of lightning and rumbles of thunder. I’m trudging along what’s left of the road here. My radio is picking up a faint signal, thickly accented, but I can’t quite make it out over the wind.

Off to my right there’s gunfire. I glance in that direction, but it’s some distance away. The radio crackles with curses in Russian, and I hear more of it shouted on the wind. Nothing to do with me.

I trudge across the bridge. A pack of mutant dogs leap across the road on the far side a few metres in front of me, drawn to the men and gunfire. I’m not as interesting and they pass by without turning on me.

A battered old bus stop up ahead. Three men huddle around a makeshift fire under the shelter. One strums a tune on some ancient guitar. One stands as I approach. We look at each-other, and he sees that I am unarmed and shoulders his gun and crouches down with the others. I’m not any of their business either.

I listen for the crackles and clicks from my Geiger counter, and the blips from my anomaly detector, watching closely for the wavery refraction in the air that signals an anomaly. They’re all over (along with old patches of fallout), and what you can’t see can hurt you. There’s wind and dust and leaves blowing about and that doesn’t make it any easier.

There’s the shell of an old factory or mill or whatever the hell it is up ahead on my left. I pause and pull out my binoculars, and check the gaping windows and holes in the walls for signs of movement. Some bandit might have decided to stage an ambush, or some paranoid asshole might take a pot-shot at me for giggles.

There’s no sign of anything alive, though the air swirls in a couple places, kicking up loose crap. Dust-devils, maybe. More likely anomalies, but maybe just dust-devils.

I’m already carrying more than I care to, but who knows — there might be something useful stashed in a dark corner that hasn’t been looted yet, or someone else may have left a cache hidden. It’s worth checking before I try to bypass the military checkpoint up ahead. I have a long way to travel, and maybe I can find something I’m willing to trade with the boys at the bus stop for some food.

Up ahead, a blind mutated dog is dragging a corpse across the road towards the bushes. I pull out my pistol and fire a round in its general direction. The noise frightens it and it flees, rather than turning on me. It’s just like Christmas, and I hurry forward to see what useful items might be on the corpse.

It’s S.T.A.L.K.E.R – Shadow of Chernobyl. It’s a bit like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Oblivion with cancer. Haunted cancer.

It’s drab, dreary, uncertainly translated into English. It’s got a ton of flaws. It’s probably not your kind of game. It may not be mine either. Damn, though, it’s atmospheric, and partly based on a Russian book by the Strugatskys and film called Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

In “the zone” around Chernobyl where a second ‘event’ took place twenty years after the first, well, nothing’s very nice. There are mutants and there are opportunists and there are the military. About the best you can hope for is that the military leaves you alone, the mutants head in the other direction and that the opportunists don’t mistake you for an opportunity. Being left alone is right up there with eating regularly, or finding a cache of anti-radiation drugs, ammunition or medical supplies.

There’s a strong emphasis on combat. You’ll be packing ammunition everywhere, and using it. Don’t forget to pack lunch, either, and be prepared for your plans to be interrupted.

One thing for certain there’s always something going on somewhere nearby. The sounds of shouting and gunfire are even more common than the excited crackle from your Geiger counter.

Todd Holmdahl demonstrates a train-wreck.

So, you know, I read a bit. The web, blogs, news, that sort of thing. I don’t have a fifth gen gaming console, like the Wii, or Xbox-360, or PS3. Those things are way beyond my means, but you see a lot of news about them, bluster, sabre-rattling and failure rates.

It’s pretty much axiomatic that after the launch of a new gizmo you’ll get a lot of news pieces on the web about failures of this device or that. Too fragile, screen scratches too easily, unit sets fire to the cat, blows up grannies, and so on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s actually any problem.

Dean Takahashi has a Q&A posted with Xbox hardware guy Todd Holmdahl. Go read it.

Now, this is how you don’t deal with a unit-failure issue like this (real or imagined). Reading Holmdahl’s responses, the reasonable reader can reasonably infer that there’s a huge failure problem. Maybe there isn’t, but Holmdahl makes it seem like there is one. He’s practically screaming it in your face, so much so that it looks like a really, really big one.

How do you reasonably infer that? Imagine that you were in Holmdahl’s position, and there was no problem at all. How would you answer the questions, in that case?

Now compare them with Holmdahl’s answers – or perhaps I should say answer (singular) since he’s really holding the line on this. See the difference? That difference is a disaster. Either from an actual unit-failures perspective, or from a PR perspective.

Whether there’s a problem or not, he’s just made a whole lot of people certain there is.