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‘A Good Video Game Sparks my Imagination in the Same Fashion as a Good Book.’

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Liberty Island

Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 27 so far. To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Also see Bellow’s cover story at National Review: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” 

Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

I always find it difficult to come up with a list of my favorite anything because I am very much a man of “feasts and seasons.” One day I will find myself raving about a certain book or movie, and the next day I am off in a completely different direction.  I don’t know what that precisely says about me, but there you go.  However, having said that, there are certain constants in my entertainment life.  For movies, I would have to say the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy is definitely near the topFrankly, this surprises me because I never was much of a fan of the fantasy genre (until I saw this movie franchise, anyway!), and I certainly wasn’t a “ringer”. However, after watching the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, I completely fell in love with Tolkien’s vision as had so many others before me.  It is just a wonderful tale about faith, friendship, and the importance of perseverance during difficult times. So that is definitely near that top.  Second, I guess would be the masterful war movie, Gettysburg.  In many ways, Gettysburg truly delivered on the idea that the American Civil War was “America’s Illiad.”  It is a suitably larger than life, sweeping, and almost mythical account of the most pivotal battle in that conflict, with the key historical figures wonderfully realized by their respective actors (most notably Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen).  It also helped that my family and I just happened to visit the actual battlefield a mere week or two after shooting for the film had wrapped up!

Lastly, I would have to say I always enjoy the dark science fiction of Ridley Scott, particularly his two masterpieces: Alien and Blade Runner. In this day and age of theaters being filled with farcical science fiction, both movies are reminders that the genre can provide a mature, sober experience as well.

As for books – wow, that would be a long list.  I don’t really stick with any one writer anymore; the world of e-publishing has so opened the literary world that there isn’t time to just stick with one author or series when so many others are out there deserving of equal attention (Liberty Island is proof of that!).  Having said that, I do have ever increasing respect for the great works of mankind, be it the Bible (I prefer the Douay-Rheims translation), or the great philosophical and theological works like Plato’s The Republic, or Augustine’s City of God (currently slugging my way through the latter!).  Of course, I am always on the hunt for some good science fiction.  I particularly like some of the sci-fi novelizations and anthologies that have grown up around popular games, such as the Warhammer 40K or Shadowrun universes.  Such settings can be really refreshing because of their “getting back to basics” style of just plain fun storytelling in refreshingly dark and gritty settings.

As for intellectual influences, well, certainly my parents.  Our many kitchen table discussions about the issues of the day was what really awakened an intellectual curiosity in me.  I was also fortunate to have some very good political science professors who emphasized the classics, such as the aforementioned titles, as well as Hume, Locke, Aquinas, et cetera, and always reminded me that there was “nothing new under the sun” when it came to politics, advice that has served me well over the years.  And, of course, talk radio has served as a type of continuing education.  In many ways Mark Levin sounds just like some of my professors – his Ameritopia might as well be a Poli Sci 101 textbook!

How do you describe yourself ideologically?

Lifelong conservative.  Even before I really knew what that meant I instinctively knew it was my political philosophy.  I am old enough to have experienced the transition from the Carter years to the Reagan years, and even as a young man I could see the profound difference in the governing philosophy, and the resultant outcomes, of the two men.  As soon as I heard Reagan describe himself as a conservative, I knew that I was that too – despite the scorn of my high school teachers.

Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?

Certainly William F. Buckley, especially via his National Review.  Remember that television ad he used to run where you could sample an issue for free, and if you didn’t like it you could “burn it” (that ad always made me laugh!)?  Well, my parents got me the free issue after I expressed interest in that funny commercial.  I opened it one day and started reading it, really just out of curiosity.  Well, it was one of those moments where the heavens opened and a choir of angels started singing.  I was just so instantly impressed with the quality of NR!  Not just because of how it was addressing a side of the news that I had never encountered before – that was my wake-up call concerning the bias of the media – but also because the quality of the writing was so superlative. It was that magazine that helped me understand that good writing was truly a form of art, and I have been attempting to measure up to that standard ever since…usually unsuccessfully.

In addition to Buckley, certainly the great talk radio commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Laura Ingraham have been a continual influence.

What are your writing goals?

To always be a contrarian writer.  I instinctively dislike trends or market-tested “group think”.  I want my writing to always be its own thing, if you will.  Those books, those articles that have always stuck in my mind are the ones that got me to see something in a very different light, or to experience something new, or to visit a familiar setting but in a completely different fashion.  I never want to write something that is “by the numbers,” or that could serve as the next script for a Michael Bay film, if you will pardon my sarcasm.  That will always be my personal goal as a writer.

Where can people find/follow you online?

My primary online presence in the somewhat irregularly kept blog I have on video game news and views called Burke’s Joystick.  Sadly, as of late there is a leftward push in the video game journalism world, so my blog tries to cover video games from a conservative angle, as well as serving as a way to expose new people to the hobby, especially those who wrongly dismiss video games as mere “kid stuff.”   You can visit it here:  http://burkesjoystick.blogspot.com/

What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

Well, I am pretty sedate by nature, and not much of a lover of the outside world, so you aren’t going to get me to confess to anything truly crazy like cliff diving, or some other extreme sport.  For me, a thrilling evening is a good book and a glass of fine port!  So, I guess my “craziest” hobby would be games, any and all types, but in particular video games because the computer does all the work!  As with my experience with National Review, the clouds also opened for me when I received one of the original Atari 2600s as a gift.  Even as a child I could see the possibility for this new medium of entertainment.  While it has had its ups and downs, the video game industry has been more than a little successful in delivering on that promise.  A good video game sparks my imagination in the same fashion as a good book.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that video games have delivered far more original and entertaining stories and settings than anything I have seen come out of Hollywood in a long time. Even more interestingly, I have seen more than a few video games expose some fantastic if obscure science fiction and fantasy books to a larger audience.

For example, the Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic was adapted into the popular Stalker series of video games, and Andrzej Sapkowski’s dark fantasy The Last Wish became the beloved Witcher video game franchise.  In many ways, the video game industry has been far more adventurous in finding fresh material for their medium than Hollywood or television has been, which is why I continue to find it such a rewarding hobby. And, of course, you have had the reverse where a popular game has spawned a popular book series of its own, such as the aforementioned Warhammer 40K – some of its novelizations have already graced the New York Times bestsellers list.  Gaming is long past the days of Pac-Man and Space Invaders! 

Read S.D. Tortorice’s essay, “That’s No Moon, That’s a Free Market” at Liberty Island. Here’s the start:

I am a gray pixel. That is, I am a middle aged video gamer who has been playing games for quite a few decades now, really, all the way back to the early days of the Atari 2600. And I have seen a lot of gaming trends over those years. A lot. But there is one aspect of the video game culture that has remained constant, a guiding “North Star” of the hobby if you will, that has always intrigued me. Simply, it would be the burning love exhibited by the gaming community for space games. And not just any type of space game–I am not talking Space Invaders here–but for games where the player is permitted to enjoy the limitless freedom that outer space provides, particularly economic freedom. Really, when it comes to video games, space simulations have proven to be the hobby’s monument to Milton Friedman.

Huh? What is that? You thought video games were decidedly anti-conservative, like the rest of the pop culture? Actually, no. As someone who has not only been a long-time gamer but has also done my fair share of gaming journalism, I can assure you that a lot of the themes in the world of gaming are actually conservative in temperament. So conservative, in fact, that as of late a number of progressive developers have been attempting to pull the industry leftward. For example, Red Redemption released Fate of the World in which the player is made global dictator and charged with “protecting the Earth’s resources and climate versus the needs of an ever-growing world population.” Molleindustria, a publisher that calls for the “radicalization of popular culture,” offers Phone Story, a mobile game that “attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform” by making the player “symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.” Video games have now entered the realm of political propaganda.

Despite such progressive forays into gaming, most video games remain rather conservative in their outlook. And none more so than open world, colloquially known as “sandbox” space games in which the player is challenged to make a living by trading and mission-running out on what Gene Roddenberry so appropriately termed “the final frontier”. This idea of a game built around the roguish space trader preceded even such iconic space smugglers as Star Wars‘ Han Solo or Firefly‘s Malcolm Reynolds. And David Kaufman coded Space Trader back in 1974. But it wouldn’t be until 1984 when David Braben releasedElite on the BBC Micro that the a space trading game genre would really hit the big time. That game is often considered to be the one of the greatest ever made. Its success was followed by other popular titles, such as Christopher Roberts’ Freelancer, a 2003 mega-hit in the world of would-be space entrepreneurs. The genre had definitely found an audience.

Regardless of the specific title, the theme always remained the same when it came to such economically oriented space sims. Rarely did the player need to acquire a spaceship just to pick up his government cheese at the nearest space welfare office. Rather, gameplay always revolved around the player setting out on a daring new life, free from the nanny state hassles of Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” manifesto, where the player could pursue fame and fortune as he saw fit. This theme continues to be a mainstay of the genre, as evidenced by the latter-day offspring of Braben’s and Roberts’ classic titles. For example, read this official description of EVE Online, one of the more popular contemporary “sandbox” space games:

“Economic power and industrial might are as crucial to the capsuleers of EVE as to any other society that has sought to impose its will on history. The space-industrial economy of New Eden is increasingly controlled by the capsuleers, who produce and use a large proportion of its vast output. Capsuleers mine asteroid belts and moons for vital resources. They exploit planets through their colonies and build starbases and outposts, in order to refine minerals and create exotic new materials. These pilots research their own creations and construct them in nanoforges controlled by sophisticated blueprints. The capsuleer market sees trillions of ISK in transactions every day, with goods ranging from ore to battleships changing hands in vast quanities. This economy is the engine that drives EVE’s never-ending cycle of creation and destruction.”

EVE Online, like many space games, is built upon the notion of a free market–albeit, a sometimes violent, brass knuckles-enforced free market–that serves as the driving engine of a future civilization. The community wouldn’t have had it any other way. Indeed, international gamers, which number somewhere well over 400,000, have so embraced this laissez-faire environment over the game’s eleven year existence that the developer, CCP, needed to hire Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, an economist, to help keep the game’s economy under control. Dr. Gudmundsson, a newcomer to the world of video gaming, was stunned by the game’s complex economic model. He would write:

“EVE Online is emerging to become a true economic system which is self-sufficient in providing the goods and services required for its own universe, which has several categories of pilots and thousands

of items. The fact that EVE Online is a single universe in which all pilots can trade and share items directly with each other makes it one of the most complex virtual economic systems today.”

This title is not just capitalistic in gameplay, either. More than a few players have declared (in the game’s active forum community) that, having been exposed to EVE Online‘s thrilling free market environment, they chose to pursue real world entrepreneurial undertakings, or even a degree in business as a result. The game is what once might have been referred to as free market “edu-tainment”.

Yet another space game that exemplifies this laissez-faire attitude is the forthcoming title, Elite: Dangerous, the official sequel to Braben’s Elite from 1984 (a BBC Micro is no longer required, fortunately). Here is its description:

“You can trade for profit between systems, ruthlessly pillage and pilfer at any given opportunity, take part in alliances to bring down planetary economies, tipping the balance of power, or simply explore the open world wonders of the galaxy, together or alone….Your first trade is much more than merely padding your bank account – it puts you in the driving seat of your own story. Your choices can make you wealthy, can make you powerful, and can make you knowledgeable, but can also make you the target of every Elite-wannabe from here to the edge of the galaxy.”

Again, is this not the essence of a free market economy in game form? Although Elite: Dangerous may never attain the lofty economic heights of Eve Online as the game is still under development (but eager space traders can buy into the beta program now), it is again heartening to see such free market principles at the core of the experience. Indeed, this game owes its very existence to capitalism, as Elite: Dangerous was the beneficiary of a crowd-sourced funding effort that reached the sizable sum of 1.7 million pounds (around $2.8 million dollars). That’s gamers using capitalism to finance a game about space capitalism. How appropriate.

 Read the rest at Liberty Island here.

image illustration via shutterstock / Mari Carmen G. Dugo

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Alpha Footage from the Upcoming Cities: Skylines

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Are Video Games Sexist?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

*****

cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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The Actual Top 10 Super Nintendo Games

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

10. Killer Instinct

What kind of game is it?

Killer Instinct is a 2D Fighting game with rendered 3D sprites with a heavy focus on combos.

What’s so great about it?

At the time Killer Instinct came out, there was nothing like it in most respects. It used pre-rendered graphics, instead of the photo-rendered graphics made popular by Mortal Kombat, giving it a unique look. Combos were a relatively new gameplay feature, but Killer Instinct put them to the forefront, making for fast-paced gameplay. Combined with a varied cast of interesting characters and a strong rock soundtrack, it’s a game that endures to this day– so much so that it was recently revived for the Xbox One consoles as Killer Instinct Classic in its original arcade form.

How can I play it?

Only with a copy of the original cartridge or emulation, but there’s always Killer Instinct Classic on Xbox One.

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The Actual Top 10 NES Games

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

There are bad games, alright games, good games, and great games. Great games are the ones where everything is firing on all cylinders — gameplay, story, music and graphics are all top notch. The following 10 are the best games the NES has to offer.

10. Rad Racer

What is it?

Rad Racer is an on-rails racing game where you dodge cars to reach the goal.

What’s so great about it?

This game has pretty much everything going for it, considering it was among the earlier waves of NES games released for the system. The graphics took advantage of a parallax scrolling technique which simulated a horizon as players drove through the various stages and their terrains. The in-game music, which was composed by Final Fantasy veteran Nobuo Uematsu, was catchy on its own, but there was the option for silence if someone wanted to use their own tunes while they played.

The gameplay is especially intense because the NPC cars seemed to appear out of nowhere, meaning that if you were going too fast you’d crash and waste precious time trying to roll back over. Too many mistakes like this and you won’t make it to the checkpoints in time, leading to a game over. Most of the fun comes from seeing just how far you can get.

How can I play it?

Unfortunately, Rad Racer can only be played legally with a physical copy of the game and an NES console.

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The 5 Most Underrated NES Games

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

Startropics

Millions of people around the world owe significant chunks of their childhood memories to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Countless hours of time were spent playing video games on the NES, and when asked most people would recall playing entries in classic franchises such as Mario, Mega Man, Castlevania, and the like. Among these long-running and beloved games are others that don’t get quite as much attention, and the following five are some that deserve it the most.

5. StarTropics

What kind of game is it?

StarTropics is an Action-Adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda. The story is about Mike, a young man who traveled to C-Island to visit his uncle and locally renowned scientist Dr. Steve Jones, AKA “Dr. J.” Upon arriving, Mike discovers that his uncle has gone missing, and sets forth on an adventure to find him across various islands with the help of Dr. J’s assistant Baboo and… a yo-yo?

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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5 Cool Tech Stories From This Week

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

1. J.K. Rowling almost broke the Internet. She published a Harry Potter short story and civilization nearly ended.

2. A Turkish student has come up with a 3D printed cast that supposedly heals bones as much as 80% faster than conventional casts.

It’s pretty cool-looking.

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The Classic Cartoon Reinvented as Video Game

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

It appears like I’m not the only one exploring the animated innovations of the 1930s for inspirations today. The Daily Dot featured this fascinating write-up of a new video game coming this year for X-Box:

The devil and hell setting reminds me of this early entry in the Silly Symphony series, “Hell’s Bells,” animated by Ub Iwerks:

I think where the deepest lasting imprint of the hellfire stuff remains in the Disney cultural consciousness is as the notorious ending of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at DisneyLand, a perpetual mystery to all children who pass through it:

At the end of the ride when you get to hell the room noticeably heats up. I bet it’s just a matter of time before home video games get to the point where they’re shifting the physical environments the players are in to match with the on-screen action…

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Geeks In Love: 8 Questions To Spark Passionate Debates About Video Games and Chick Flicks

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

videogamelove

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions To Figure Out What Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

1. What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

2. What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

3. Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?

4. Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

5. Which Video Games Should Be Respected As Art?

6. What Are the Best Romantic Comedies Of All Time?

7. What Is the Difference Between a ‘Chick Flick’ and A Romantic Comedy?

8. Who Are Your Favorite Fictional Married Couples?

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image illustration via shutterstock / jugulator

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Which Video Games Should Be Respected As Art?

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?,”  Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?,” Wednesday’s: “Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?”, Thursday’s: “Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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Jon Bishop: When We Start Playing Oscar-Winning Movies

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Next week’s subject for pop culture debates is still up for grabs. Please leave your suggestions in the comments for the next realm in pop culture we should discuss. 

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Do Some Violent Video Games Actually Inspire Real World Killing?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?,”  Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?,” Wednesday’s: “Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?”

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Are video games inherently different from books, films and TV when it comes to shaping behavior?

Fox News in 2013: “Training simulation:’ Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games“:

A decade after Evan Ramsey sneaked a 12-gauge shotgun into his Alaska high school, where he gunned down a fellow student and the principal and wounded two others, he described how playing video games had warped his sense of reality.

“I did not understand that if I…pull out a gun and shoot you, there’s a good chance you’re not getting back up,” Ramsey said in a 2007 interview from Spring Creek Correctional Center, in Seward, Alaska. “You shoot a guy in ‘Doom’ and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in ‘Doom’ eight or nine times before it dies.”

Since Ramsey’s 1997 rampage, several other mass killers, including Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, have been linked to violent video games. And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers.

Walter Hudson: This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Grand Theft Auto

Walter Hudson: 5 Ways Grand Theft Auto V Makes You Feel Like a Criminal

The Guardian in 2012: “Anders Breivik ‘trained’ for shooting attacks by playing Call of Duty“:

Anders Behring Breivik has described how he “trained” for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer using the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

The 33-year-old said he practised his shot using a “holographic aiming device” on the war simulation game, which he said is used by armies around the world for training.

“You develop target acquisition,” he said. He used a similar device during the shooting attacks that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Utøya on 22 July.

Describing the game, he said: “It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That’s why it’s used by many armies throughout the world. It’s very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems.”

He added: “If you are familiar with a holographic sight, it’s built up in such a way that you could have given it to your grandmother and she would have been a super marksman. It’s designed to be used by anyone. In reality it requires very little training to use it in an optimal way. But of course it does help if you’ve practised using a simulator.”

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Which Generation of Nintendo Game Consoles Gave You the Most Joy?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See Monday’s question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?” and Tuesday’s: “What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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What Are the Most Overrated Video Game Franchises?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. This week we’re talking about video games. See yesterday’s prompt question:  ”What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

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What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

If you were trapped on a desert island and could have only a handful of titles to keep you occupied, what would you choose?

Jeremac: Five Video Games You Loved as a Kid But Will Hate If You’re Dumb Enough to Play As an Adult

Dave Swindle: Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

Jon Bishop: Dr. Mario. Literally.

PJ Lifestyle Humor: Super Mario In Post-It Note Form Running Around the Room

This week’s pop culture debates look at the past, present and future of video games. What questions do you want to debate? Please send your suggestions.

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Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question: “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question: “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question: “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question: “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?“ the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Stephen Green: Nintendo Riding the Mario Kart to Extinction

Stephen Green: Study: Violent Video Games Are Good for You

Bryan Preston: Gamers, NSA Has Been Spying On You and Your Magical, Virtual Gun-Toting Friends

Walter Hudson: Game-Changer: The Next Generation of Gaming

Jon Bishop:When Will Video Game Consoles Take Up a Room in Your House?

This question is a good lead-in to next week’s pop culture debates about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Video Game culture. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

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Nintendo Riding the Mario Kart to Extinction

Friday, May 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

NINTENDO

Half a billion dollars for a company whose new console flopped, and whose handheld gaming business is being systematically dismantled by Android and iOS.

The Wii U (rhymes with “peew”) was such an obvious stinker I called it a “desperate Hail Mary pass” way back in October of 2011, months before it was even released.

Back in January Nintendo admitted it was looking into new business models. Now would be the time to act — but the company steadfastly refuses to port its beloved titles to other systems.

It’s time for new management at Nintendo.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Indiana Jones and the Landfill of Lost Cartridges

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ET-game-cartridges-landfill-500x250

A fabled tale from my childhood about the fate of thousands of unsold E.T. video game cartridges turns out to be true:

Back during the so-called video game crash of 1983, a struggling Atari was stuck with truckloads of the game and other unsold hardware. With little recourse and a crashing interest in video games in North America, the company decided to dump its excess merchandise into a landfill, according to reports at the time. The story was never confirmed, however, and it’s carried on as a legendary tale from a time when video games were near worthless. It reportedly cost Atari millions to get the rights to produce a video game tie-in to the incredibly successful Steven Spielberg film, but the resulting E.T. game was a massive flop and it’s considered one of the worst titles of all time.

My buddy Chris had a copy and I can confirm it was the Worst. Game. Ever.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Can Nintendo Survive?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Game-Over-super-mario-bros-5429546-1280-1024

Ouch:

Nintendo Co. (7974) President Satoru Iwata said the maker of video-game machines is considering a new business model after forecasting a surprise 25 billion-yen ($240 million) annual loss because of tepid demand for the Wii U.

“We are thinking about a new business structure,” Iwata said at a press conference yesterday in Osaka, Japan. “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”

Iwata has to stop thinking about a new business structure, and get moving on one before it’s too late.

Nintendo proved with the original Wii that it has the ability to conceive and execute on new ways of playing games, of interacting with beloved characters. The failed Wii-U (you can no longer claim it’s “merely struggling”) was the sad result of Nintendo pursuing a spaghetti-against-the-wall tactic against Sony and Microsoft’s technological advantages. And Wii, for all its strengths, never moved enough games off of store shelves to generate the cash Nintendo needed if it was to ever catch up in the specs race.

But Nintendo can (I think) still execute on software and they have a stable of franchises which is the envy of the gaming world. All they need to do is to produce engaging games for the platforms people actually still buy. Yes, I know the DS handheld is still doing OK, but handhelds will turn out to be another hardware race Nintendo will lose, this time to phones produced by Apple and Samsung.

Nintendo had an amazing heyday as a hardware developer, but that day is done.

And I hate to say I told you so, but I did — way back in October of 2011, before the Wii U had even been released.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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I Only See 3 Obstacles to Sony’s Plan to Revitalize their Waning Video Game Console

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PSNow

PlayStation Now looks very well thought out:

•Both rental and subscription plans will be available

•PS4, PS3, Vita, and 2014 Sony Bravia TVs will be supported initially, expanding to other platforms in the future

•PS3 games will be supported at launch, with nothing to announce regarding older, back catalog (that is, PS2, PS1) games yet

•Games will stream at 720p resolution

•Games can be saved in the cloud, letting you pick up your saved game on another device later

•Multiplayer is supported between players using PlayStation Now, as well as the ability to play against people who are playing using a disc

Easy to get to, available on any Sony platform, the ability to play across platforms — what’s not for a Sony devotee to love?

There’s been a lot of talk that the game console as we know it might be dying. Casual gamers are happy with iOS and Android, hardcore gamers build their own Windows (or even Steam) rigs, leaving a smaller and smaller fraction of the market to consoles like Xbox and PlayStation and Nintendo. (Nintendo might already be on the way out as a console maker. We’ll see.)

But even if the console age is waning, PlayStation Now might very well inject fresh life into it. I only see three real obstacles.

• The price. Unannounced.

• Broadband speed. 5mps “recommended,” but more is always better.

• Vita has yet to take off as a mobile gaming platform the way Android and iOS have.

Pricing is easy. If you don’t have enough buyers or renters, lower the price. There’s nothing really to be done by Sony about broadband speeds, but they can safely assume that eventually the situation will improve. And Vita… jeeze, just make it a cross-platform app already and let people rent and play games on the mobile device of their choice.

Sony’s problem is that sometimes they’re a hardware company like Samsung, making Android phones. Sometimes they’re a platform company like Apple, with PlayStation consoles. And now they’re kinda-sorta acting like a software company with PS Now.

Those are three different skill sets, and it’s difficult to master any one of them.

That aside, PS Now looks impressive on paper and I can’t wait to see it in action.
*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Hackers Take Down Major Gaming Servers As They Hunt Down Pro-Gamer

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
YouTube Preview Image

[LANGUAGE WARNING]

James Varga, a 25-year-old professional gamer who goes by the screenname of PhantomLOrd, had quite an interesting day on Monday. What started out as a normal day (normal for a pro-gamer) would take a sudden turn into a dramatic cat-and-mouse game with the Derp hacker group and end with police and pizza delivery men swarming his L.A. area home.

James “PhantomL0rd” Varga gets paid to play video games — and apparently he’s quite good at them, including League of Legends, one of the most popular games on the internet. He often plays on Twitch.tv, a streaming service that allows gamers to share their experience live with others. According to Varga, he was achieving an unusually high score in League of Legends (LoL) on Monday when the server went down. He switched to another game with the same result. And then another. Eventually he figured out that the Derp hacking group was following him from game to game and not only knocking him off the sites, but also shutting down the games for all other players worldwide.

David Birti, a computer science student a Cedarville University, explained what happened:

Derp is a hacking collective that started out taking down small private game servers, but has recently moved on to much bigger targets. Starting on Monday, they claim to have taken down League of Legends and EVE Online (the two most-played games in the world), along with EA.com, Club Penguin, KCNA (a North Korean news agency), World of Tanks, Guild Wars 2, a private high school’s website, Runescape, and a Westboro Baptist Church site; all of this was done “for the lulz” (just for fun).

They accomplished this using a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS), which can take down servers for short periods of time by flooding them with nonsense traffic. This is usually accomplished with a botnet, which is a group of normal computers that are under the attacker’s control (usually via a virus). Since there are so many computers contributing to the flood, blocking all of them is infeasible. The larger a target is, the larger a botnet needs to be to take it down. And judging from the high-profile targets they’ve taken out, their botnet is undoubtedly very large.

Throughout the DDOS attacks Varga made several attempts to contact Derp representatives through online chat rooms. At one point Varga said, “The whole server is depending on us winning this game.” Reddit documented the entire drama, including screenshots of the chats. At one point Varga’s personal information was posted on the gaming sites — called DOXing — and pizzas started to arrive at his house.

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Study: Violent Video Games Are Good for You

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

SHOOTEMUP

Really:

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

I haven’t played Halo in ages, but maybe it’s time to teach the seven-year-old of the awesomeness of the Master Chief.

******

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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21st Century Gnostics Keeping Us Safe, One Gnome at a Time

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

Yet another attempt by our 1930s-era cargo cult administration to go Barack to the Future, as spotted by Richard Epstein at the Hoover Institute:

This past week in Washington DC, the President made a speech about the state of the economy and about his determination to reform it. But much as things change, so they remain the same. A great deal of what he said there was reminiscent of a major address he gave two years ago on economic policy before a friendly audience in Osawatomie, Kansas. The President there talked with dizzying rapidity about the lost greatness of America’s past, and his plans to restore that greatness in the future. It’s worth revisiting some of the basic themes of his speech since they obviously continue to inform his policy decisions today.

As is common in speeches that romanticize history to advocate change, Obama’s address contained an unforgivable level of jingoistic nationalism: He claimed, “It was here in America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth…. Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies.”

No one, not even the United States, can be that good. In fact, our present national status will only become worse if we do not understand that the American position has eroded from its glory days, in part because of the very policies that the President champions as the solution to our issues. But where to begin? The President manages to pack so many economic and historical falsehoods into his speech that it is nearly impossible to take them all on at the same time.

“A rehash of failed progressive policies will not return the United States to greatness,” and while I was tempted to quote that last sentence and snark, “talk about breaking news from 2009,” the reason why the cycle won’t be broken anytime soon is that it’s not policy — it’s religion. Or as Derek Hunter writes at Townhall, “In Government We Trust” is most assuredly “The Progressive Religion:”

What has happened is Democrats’ previously uncheckable lies are now fully checkable. It’s real now. You can’t keep your doctor or insurance, no matter how much you like them. And this hurts in the wallet – a lot. Now that we know this does not qualify as a practical solution, certainly not to health care anyway, Democrats –with all the credibility of a used-Pinto salesman – now embrace “morality” as the reason to embrace Obamacare.

In a column reeking of desperation on par with a kid hoping for a unicorn under his Christmas tree, the Washington Post’s Ryan Cooper complied a list of reasons “Why millennials will come around on Obamacare.” Aside from a desperate lack of understanding of health policy and how people work, the second reason Cooper lists stands out. He writes, “Going without health insurance is morally wrong.”

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

This pathetic attempt to manipulate the unthinking into an overwhelming sense of guilt that forces them to capitulate may work on those with fewer IQ points than fingers, but it won’t work on those with a third-grade education.

Cooper explains, “The only way insurance can work for everyone is if everyone is in the system so risk can be pooled. This one doesn’t carry much weight yet, since the system isn’t even operating. But as time passes, this will become an important norm — and for young people, the norm has outsized importance (older people already have a reason to get coverage; they get sick more easily). Getting insurance will be part of living in a decent society where everyone chips in when they can afford it, and free-riding is frowned upon — and over time, young people will come to see this as part of being a responsible citizen.”

Those 108 words are an incredibly inefficient way of rephrasing “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Cooper’s appeal wouldn’t be noteworthy were it a lone cactus in the desert, but it’s not.

Also this week the buffoonish Ed Schultz, MSNBC’s angry Fred Flintstone clone, mused about how God would feel about Obamacare. “I’ll tell you what I think God thinks of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a big amen!”

Not to be outdone in the office pool of idiocy, Charlie Brown’s illegitimate child, Chris Matthews, had an offering on this theme. Matthews temporarily snapped out of his loving gaze while interviewing the president Thursday and put the cherry on top of one of this planet’s worst displays of sycophantism to utter what was supposed to be a question: “You know, Mr. President, your — your remarks the other day on economic justice to me, as a Roman Catholic, was so resonant with what the Holy Father, Francis, has been saying. Talk about that common Judeo-Christian or, even further, Muslim background to the belief we have a social responsibility, a moral responsibility to look out for people who haven’t made it in this country.”

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Gamers, NSA Has Been Spying On You and Your Magical, Virtual Gun-Toting Friends

Monday, December 9th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston
Griefer

The NSA: Gaming for America.

More Edward Snowden documents have come out, and as usual, they paint a picture of a government that is simply spying on everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Stories carried Monday by The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica said U.S. and U.K. spies have spent years trawling online games for terrorists or informants. The stories, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, offer an unusual take on America’s world-spanning surveillance campaign, suggesting that even the fantasy worlds popular with children, teens, and escapists of all ages aren’t beyond the attention of the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.

Virtual universes like “World of Warcraft” can be massively popular, drawing in millions of players who log months’ worth of real-world time competing with other players for online glory, virtual treasure, and magical loot. At its height, “World of Warcraft” boasted some 12 million paying subscribers, more than the population of Greece. Other virtual worlds, like Linden Labs’ “Second Life” or the various games hosted by Microsoft’s Xbox _ home to the popular science fiction-themed shoot-em-up “Halo” _ host millions more.

Spy agencies have long worried that such games serve as a good cover for terrorists or other evildoers who could use in-game messaging systems to swap information. In one of the documents cited Monday by media outlets, the NSA warned that the games could give intelligence targets a place to “hide in plain sight.”

So the suspiciously good 13-year-old who owns you at “League of Legends” isn’t the worst you have to worry about online? That sexy elven warrior you’ve been questing with isn’t just probably a guy. It may be a spy.

The companies involved swear that they had no knowledge that G-Men were all up in their online games. Microsoft says it’s going to see about locking the government out of X-Box Live.

I’m for NSA doing its thing when and where it’s warranted, but is there a single documented case of terrorists meeting up in “Second Life” to plot attacks? Or WoW or any other game space? And what kind of “virtual weapons training” can one really conduct in “Halo” or “Star Wars: The Old Republic?” One? Anywhere?

*****

Cross-posted from PJ Tatler

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