Check out Walter’s previous articles in this ongoing series Thursday mornings exploring video games, cultural villains, and American values at PJ Lifestyle. From May 2: “Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness” and last week: What Zombies Teach Us About Human Nature. And also see Walter’s A Reason For Faith series, reprinted last week here. In these four articles Walter begins to formalize his task of synthesizing the Judeo-Christian tradition with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Tea Party activism. - DMS
In one of the most vivid dreams I can recall, I witnessed the landing of a plainly alien spaceship. It came lucidly, dancing on the edge of wakefulness, informed by enough of my rousing consciousness that it felt particularly real. I remember the feeling that my feet were glued to the ground, that I couldn’t move if I wanted to, not on account of some external force, but due to an overwhelming sense of awe and anticipation. The one thought dominating my mind: everything is about to change.
Though it was only a dream, I retain the memory as vividly as though it were of an actual experience and believe I will respond similarly if ever confronted by a true interplanetary delegation. Something about that kind of moment, when the veil lifts upon an existential mystery, produces an irresistible thrill. Perhaps that tops the list of reasons why our popular culture remains ever fascinated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life.
Aliens have become such a prolific device in our entertainment that we sometimes take them for granted. Like a modern deus ex machina, aliens can be relied upon to suspend disbelief in an otherwise inconceivable scenario. (How does Superman fly? Simple, he’s an alien!) Extraterrestrials rank alongside Nazis, zombies, and generic terrorists as the most common villains found in video games. Unlike those others, however, aliens may also be allies. Nothing inherent to extraterrestrial life demands it be villainous. Beings from other worlds often act as mirrors for examining the human condition, when not merely lurking among shadow and neon strobe.
It’s probably no coincidence that the advent of ufology, which is an actual word in the dictionary meaning the study of unidentified flying objects, coincides with the initial proliferation of aviation and the early years of the space age. We began to look up into the sky right about the time we realized there was nothing left to find over the horizon. In times past, when the known world was still defined by the flickering edge of torchlight, we imagined unspeakable monsters much closer to home. Spirits, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, fairies, vampires, all were the alien invaders and abductors of their time. As we have come to dismiss them as infeasible and childish, our imagination turns to the stars, where the realm of possibility remains seemingly infinite.
Certainly, we can see how aliens have stepped in to fill the role of menacing ghoul. Ridley Scott’s original Alien was essentially a horror film, a science fiction creature feature. While the execution was masterful, the formula proved well-established and has been revisited ever since.
I’m pretty sure they’re already on the endangered species list, but this news won’t help replenish their numbers:
After mentioning on Twitter that the newly announced Star Wars games from DICE and Visceral will be running on DICE’s powerful Frostbite 3 engine, Andersson responded to a reader concern that this will mean the games will not be available for the Wii U.
“[Frostbite 3] has never been running on WiiU,” Andersson tweeted. “We did some tests with not too promising results with [Frostbite 2] & chose not to go down that path.”
This statement follows a Eurogamer interview from March’s Game Developers Conference in which DICE’s Patrick Bach admitted DICE “could probably make a Wii U game in theory” but said the company is not currently interested in devoting “development time” to the system. “To make the most out of the Wii U, that’s a different game because of the different peripherals. We want to utilize all the power of each console… It’s about ‘where do you put your focus?’ And the Wii U is not a part of our focus right now.”
So it’s not just a question of focus but a question of performance.
“Underpowered” was cute for the original Wii, which Nintendo was able to sell at a profit from the very first unit. But the company’s ambitions were much bigger for the Wii U — which doesn’t appear to be up to the task.
Before the Call of Duty franchise took on the subtitle Modern Warfare, it arguably reigned as the pinnacle of the World War II genre. While other first-person shooter games like those in the popular Tom Clancy series — including hit franchises like Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six – offered players the ability to engage in simulated modern warfare, for much of video game history the default setting for a run-and-gun, first-person shooter was World War II.
Many factors contributed to the period’s popularity as a setting for video-game violence. Chief among them march the jackbooted villains of the era, the Nazis. No one feels bad after shooting a Nazi. In fact, their evil proves so incontestable and absolute that killing them fulfills a profound sense of justice. No doubt that moral certitude contributed to their proliferation throughout gaming. Killing Nazis invites no controversy, leaving game developers with one less thing to worry about.
While the nature of Nazi evil may seem self-evident, the recent anniversary of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., provided an occasion to demonstrate that even former United States presidents can miss the mark. The local CBS affiliate reports:
Washington has many monuments and memorials that offer something special for visitors from around the world, “but the Holocaust memorial will be our conscience,” [President] Clinton said.
Since the museum opened 20 years ago, the world has made huge scientific discoveries, including the sequencing of the human genome, which proved humans are 99.5 percent genetically the same, Clinton said.
“Every non age-related difference … is contained in one half of 1 percent of our genetic makeup, but every one of us spends too much time on that half a percent,” Clinton said. “That makes us vulnerable to the fever, the sickness that the Nazis gave to the Germans. That sickness is very alive across the world today.”
The report does not include any specific examples of what Clinton diagnoses as the Nazi “sickness.” However, we may fairly assume he was referring to any intolerance of human diversity.
Gun control emerged as the primary political battlefront in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook murders. While the battle to retain our Second Amendment rights remains a superior consideration, statist nannies push on other fronts as well.
A former writer for the Huffington Post, Peter Brown Hoffmeister, claims to have broken ties with the publication after its refusal to publish a piece he submitted regarding the influence of violent video games on troubled teenage males. Self-publishing on his personal blog with the provocative title “On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This,” Hoffmeister reveals his own troubled past while building a case against certain games.
As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.
It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters. I don’t enjoy admitting that. But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers.
But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.
But Jeff Weise did. He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.
And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last week.
Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.” In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.
Hoffmeister ends his retrospective with a call for government action. He encourages readers to “support the bill introduced… by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, directing the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively.”
Spoiler Warning: Bioshock Infinite cannot be properly analyzed without revealing the details of its plot. If you plan to play it, or haven’t finished it, consider whether you wish to read further.
This may seem an odd way to start an analysis of a video game. But bear with me.
I was not always a Christian. There was a period of my life during which I searched for truth, trying to discern medicine from snake oil. One of the most compelling observations which led to the development of my Christian faith was the unique economy of sin presented in the Bible.
While many people believe that human beings are inherently good, an honest assessment of one’s own thoughts, along with cursory observation of even the youngest child, reveals that human beings are actually quite wicked. Not only are we bad, we like ourselves that way. Indeed, the notion that we are inherently good lowers the moral bar to the status quo, as if this life lived this way with all its horrors and violations were some kind of ideal.
Christianity stands unique among worldviews in not only acknowledging our congenital moral defect, but also in explaining how we contracted it while offering a cure. Other faiths tend to regard sin as some form of moral debit which can be offset by good deeds. Becoming a Christian requires acknowledging that the debt accrued through sin can never be paid by the sinner. Instead, the believer trusts in the atoning death of Christ, pointing to Him as the settler of accounts. Such faith proves difficult, both because we tend to deny our own wickedness and because we prefer to think we can overcome deficiencies on our own.
Surprisingly, this economy of sin proves quite relevant to an analysis of Irrational Games’ hot new shooter set in the skies above 1912 America, Bioshock Infinite. Redemption runs as a prominent theme throughout the experience, presented in various forms which tend to prove false. Protagonist Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton man and player avatar, seeks the seemingly simple redemption of a financial debt to a dangerous creditor. Antagonist Zachary Comstock, head prophet of a xenophobic cult, offers his followers redemption from “the Sodom below” within the floating city of Columbia. Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the leftist Vox Populi, offers her followers redemption from the tyranny of Comstock through militant revolution. Player companion and surprisingly able damsel Elizabeth begins as an innocent who comes to realize her own peculiar need for a second chance.
Political activists have a saying: when you’re explaining, you’re losing. The same could be said of business. When you have to explain to prospective customers why they need your latest innovation, when the product does not sell itself through mere presentation, you probably have a dud.
So may be the case with the latest iteration of home console hardware from Nintendo, the Wii U. iDigitalTimes reports:
Wii U sales are bad now, but it’s not the end of the world, according to Shigeru Miyamoto, who hopes that people will just give the Wii U some time to breathe before coming to a final conclusion about its worth. The console launched in November 2012, to huge initial sales and a quick decline, followed by slow and modest sales thereafter and predictions of doom and gloom from every quarter. Nintendo would leave the hardware business. It would go out of business altogether. It would go handheld only. Miyamoto thinks that’s all nonsense. We just need to give Wii U some time.
Miyamoto, a legend in the industry responsible for the creation of Nintendo’s hallmark Mario and Zelda franchises, goes on to explain how the Wii U represents an incredible innovation in gaming much like the handheld Nintendo DS did before it. Whether gamers at large come to realize they’ve been cheated all these years by the limitation of a single gaming screen, time will tell. Meanwhile, here are 6 horrible choices dragging down Nintendo.
New boss, same as the old boss. So gamers may come to regard Disney since its acquisition of the Lucasfilm family of companies, including video game developer LucasArts. Sitting on a rich catalog of intellectual properties including Star Wars and Indiana Jones, LucasArts should be at the forefront of the gaming community. At times, they have been. But recent years have left much to be desired.
The pairing of Disney’s acquisition with the looming transition to a new generation of gaming consoles presents an ideal opportunity to reinvigorate the brand. In a way, the lull in development from LucasArts in the past several years sets the stage for an all-the-more-impressive breakout. Here are 5 Star Wars games which need to get made already:
5) Remastered X-Wing Series
Steam led the way as a project pioneered by game developer Valve toward abandoning discs in favor of digital distribution. Now an established marketplace for titles from a variety of developers, Steam welcomes players with the latest new releases and a catalog of retro titles, many of which can no longer be played through conventional means.
As one example, Steam offers a large collection from LucasArts, including the Jedi Knight series, some classic Indiana Jones adventures, and the first and second Knights of the Old Republic role-playing epics. However, one franchise is conspicuously missing from the developer’s catalog, the X-Wing series of space combat simulators.
X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance were once sold as a collection on CD-ROM. Each entry offered a compelling combat experience more akin to a flight simulator than an arcade game. Players had full control over the minutia of their spacecraft, able to direct energy between shields, weapons, and engines, all while targeting enemy subsystems and approaching missions creatively. The series was enormously popular, inspiring a major expansion to the Star Wars Galaxies online experience which offered similar gameplay.
For each passing day that the X-Wing series remains unavailable on Steam, a LucasArts executive should be fired. Releasing these games as digital downloads is an absolute no-brainer. Practically effortless aside from some paper pushing among lawyers, the move would provide LucasArts (and parent company Disney) with profit-bearing revenue on day one. That said, the opportunity exists to remaster these classic titles with updated graphics and modern network capabilities. There’s an entire generation of gamers who have never had the pleasure of experiencing X-Wing. Updated versions of these bar-setting titles would fly off the virtual shelf.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
Bioshock Infinite releases next Tuesday, March 26. A highly anticipated prequel to one of the most widely acclaimed video games in history, the title stands poised to awe not only with inspiring visuals and thrilling gameplay, but with a controversial critique of American Exceptionalism.
Film critic Roger Ebert earned the ire of gamers a few years ago when he ruled declaratively that video games can never be art. Emerging from the resulting swarm of agitated youth, Ebert later relented slightly, if only to admit that he really ought to experience video games before banishing them from the realm of artistic consideration.
An intriguing debate regarding what makes a thing art is woven through both of Ebert’s pieces linked above. However, the argument may be moot. It seems fair to say that when a craft begins to express complex ideas regarding the human condition, when it begins to stimulate thought and debate on matters of genuine import in the real world, when it can affect how you think about issues and what you believe about your world, it achieves the status of art.
By that standard, the video game industry has produced a bounty of artistic titles amidst a sea of thoughtless cookie-cutter fare. Of course, this makes video games no different than any creative medium. There exist far more vulgar scratches on bathroom stalls than masterpieces hung in museums, far more trashy romance novels than genuine epics, and certainly more popcorn flicks and action movies than truly inspirational films.
Like any medium, games can evoke powerful emotions and make compelling philosophical statements. The element of interactivity can heighten such moments beyond the experience of a novel, painting, or film. No longer a mere observer, what happens in a game happens to you. The world of the game and the characters which inhabit it change, live, and die according to the choices you make.
The inherent power of the medium proves all the more reason to treat it seriously as an influential artistic form. Therefore, as Bioshock Infinite makes its case against the notion of American Exceptionalism, we do well to pay attention and respond.
Through the years Neverhood fans have asked for another game, and I’m partnering with my EWJ and Neverhood buddies Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield to make a full sized, PC and Mac point and click adventure game in clay and puppet animation. New characters, but in my usual style.
TenNapel’s “usual style” is mind blowing. The Neverhood debuted on the Dreamworks Interactive label in 1996. It was a point-and-click adventure built entirely in clay and animated via stopmotion. Here’s a taste, and keep in mind that he did this in 1996 on PCs that can’t even compete with today’s smart phones for processing power.
The bazillionth episode in the tomb-raiding life of Lara Croft hit Tuesday. Most of the previous episodes have not been good. Many came with flaws that rendered them nearly unplayable in spots. Unlike most of the previous, and especially the most recent, installments, reviews for the 2013 installment have not been mixed. Lara is scoring about a 9.25 across the board on video game-review sites. But is this hype fanboys falling in love with a game babe, or a reflection of a strong game that may just bring a storied but troubled franchise back from the dead?
I spent about an hour with the new Tomb Raider, so while I don’t yet have a comprehensive view of the game’s full story arc, I do have some strong first impressions.
Tomb Raider 2013 is an origins story, picking Lara up on an expedition to find a lost civilization off the coast of Japan. A nineteen year old on her first adventure, Lara isn’t yet the boss chick who greeted the gaming world in 1996. She’s young but determined, and convinced that if the expedition changes course, it will find the lost civilization they’re looking for. Changing course also risks entering the Dragon’s Triangle, an allegedly dangerous region of the Pacific similar to the Bermuda Triangle off Florida.
Things go about as you’d expect when a game amps up a threat — the expedition suffers a shipwreck and Lara finds herself stranded and alone. A knock on the head later, and she’s in a creepy, gory cave filled with bones and hanging corpses. It’s environments like this, and Lara’s tendency to lean on a couple of swears when she reacts to threats, that earn the game its M rating. No longer a cartoon, Tomb Raider is a cinematic beast.
The younger Lara is vulnerable. She picks up knocks and wounds. She scavenges and improves weapons as she goes. She gets hungry and has to hunt, which turns this Tomb Raider into more of an open world than any previous episode. She learns skills and, based on the dialogue, learns to overcome her fears. She thinks.
This Lara develops as the story goes, and is far more interesting and more realistically rendered than in any previous episode. She also eats meat, so she is more Duck Dynasty than Morrissey.
The story of Tomb Raider works extremely well, at least in the early going of the game that I’ve played.
Bryan Preston, in a recent post here at PJ Lifestyle, wrote:
Sony says that as things stand now, backward compatibility is not built into the PS4. Gamers will not be able to play legacy games on the new system, which may impact some of this year’s bigger releases like the Tomb Raider reboot. They say they’re working on it. They may be setting up to sell multiple forms of the PS4, some that will include backward compatibility for a price, and some that don’t. Backward compatibility can be gotten around via streaming games, but that requires hefty bandwidth that most American households still don’t have, or via downloads, which will take up valuable hard drive space and may create other issues. We’ll see. But the failure to provide backward compatibility from the get-go is an ominous sign that Sony may be looking to roll out their new box at one stated price, which is not the actual price gamers will end up paying if they want to keep playing their old Call of Duty titles on their shiny new systems.
I agree with him, but, sadly, backwards compatibility appears to be on the way out. According to Mark Deering of Gadget Insiders, the Microsoft 720 won’t be backwards compatible, either. It appears only Nintendo will allow its customers to play older games.
But it makes me wonder if Microsoft or Sony were ever interested in it at all.
Speaking from experience: Microsoft only offered some backwards compatibility with its 360. And those games they said that worked often didn’t. So I gave up playing them on my system.
On Wednesday Sony announced its next-gen gaming console, the PlayStation 4. Sony expects the new console to be available by the Christmas season of this year and is being coy about the price. When the PS3 arrived, it carried a hefty price tag of about $600, scaring some gamers off for a few months. Rumors are the new console will come in at around $450, but that’s just a rumor at this point. That’s one of the mysteries surrounding the new box. More about the other mystery later in the article.
The PS4 will not just be another console with beefier hardware. It will have that, with powerful new graphics processors capable of taking the visuals to another level of realism, while not presenting a quantum leap over the current hardware. But it will truly be a next-gen console in the sense that it comes with capabilities that up to now have mainly been available on game streaming sites like OnLive (which I reviewed, here). In fact, the PS4 may kill off the ailing OnLive service.
That’s because the PS4 is a social gaming console right out of the box. One of OnLive’s chief fun features is its ability to allow gamers to watch and interact with other gamers without being in the game themselves. Gamers can spectate in the Arena, picking up tips and tricks, jeering and cheering and generally checking out games before either buying them or downloading demos. The PS4 allows spectating and, with a push of a button on its new controller, sharing and uploading action clips. Some games currently allow this, but the new hardware makes sharing a universal feature. It also allows demos to be played the instant a gamer chooses them, putting it on par with one of the other great OnLive features. Along with that will come features that already exist, such as Amazon Video, Netflix and Hulu apps and Plex serving that turn the PS into a full home entertainment system. PS3 users can also already control their consoles when surfing YouTube via iPhones and iPods. Expect Sony to build on that capability as well.
The PS4 also builds on a feature currently found on the PS3 and the Wii U, remote play. Currently PS3 can be controlled via a handheld PSVita, while the Wii U can act as a server, with game play actually taking place on the screen in the controller. So it doesn’t really need a TV screen. The PS4 allows games hosted on its hardware to be played on the PSVita. So like the Wii U, the PS4 can free up your TV while still delivering the top level gaming experience.
The PS4 controller, the Dualshock 4, also builds on the current competition, adding Move capabilities, the aforementioned social gaming capabilities, and a new touchpad in the middle.
So, there’s the controller. But where’s the actual PS4? In its entire demo Wednesday, they never showed the PlayStation 4 itself. That has sparked a debate:
There are two rather polarized angles being tossed about this week as the Sony show (or no-show) of the PlayStation 4 was let loose. One side says it’s terrible that Sony made a 2+ hour presentation for the PlayStation 4 without actually showing the hardware, relying instead on the controller and a variety of promises from software developers to do all the talking. The other side says awesome! We know the PlayStation 4 is coming now, and we’ve got confirmation from some of the biggest-name developers that they’re on board, so we’re happy!
My own take is that Sony wants a second bite at the buzz apple, so they’re withholding images of the console for a later date, maybe E3 in June or SIGGRAPH in August. If they do that, they get to have another big moment, and may announce the price along with giving us a look at the beast. Sony usually goes the route of making their consoles dark and artistic (or odd, in the case of the PS3s that look like bbq grills). I would expect something smaller and sleeker than the PS3.
The bottom line is that we now have concrete specs on the next-gen system, a catalog of major titles that it will debut with including new material from heavyweights like Blizzard and its own in-house Killzone and InFAMOUS series, and solid information about the new things it will be able to do. And the things it won’t do, which brings me to the “bad” part of this article. Sony says that as things stand now, backward compatibility is not built into the PS4. Gamers will not be able to play legacy games on the new system, which may impact some of this year’s bigger releases like the Tomb Raider reboot. They say they’re working on it. They may be setting up to sell multiple forms of the PS4, some that will include backward compatibility for a price, and some that don’t. Backward compatibility can be gotten around via streaming games, but that requires hefty bandwidth that most American households still don’t have, or via downloads, which will take up valuable hard drive space and may create other issues. We’ll see. But the failure to provide backward compatibility from the get-go is an ominous sign that Sony may be looking to roll out their new box at one stated price, which is not the actual price gamers will end up paying if they want to keep playing their old Call of Duty titles on their shiny new systems.
The Dallas Sci-Fi Expo wrapped up on Sunday, February 10. We snapped photos of some of the best, most creative and most disturbing costumes of the show. Click on a thumbnail below to view photo galleries. They’re divided into Girls, Groups, and Guys.
You can see more costumes from the Dallas Sci-Fi Expo here.
We interviewed Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, here.
And ran into MickeyDeadMau5Trooper here.
This could be interesting and fantastic. It could also be horrible.
Yesterday, The Walt Disney Co. unveiled plans to make a number of spin-off movies set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — in addition to the post-Return of the Jedi trilogy that had already been announced.
Entertainment Weekly has learned details on two of the spin-off projects: A young Han Solo saga, focusing on the wisecracking smuggler’s origin story, and a bounty hunter adventure with Boba Fett at the center of a rogue’s gallery of galactic scum.
The Han Solo story would take place in the time period between Revenge of the Sith and the first Star Wars (now known as A New Hope), so although it’s possible Harrison Ford could appear as a framing device, the movie would require a new actor for the lead — one presumably much younger than even the 35-year-old Ford when he appeared in the 1977 original.
The Boba Fett film would take place either between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, or between Empire and Jedi, where the bounty hunter was last seen plunging unceremoniously into a sarlacc pit. Exactly who would play him isn’t much of a complication – in the original trilogy, he never took off his helmet. And in the prequels, we learned he was the son of the original stormtrooper clone, played by Temuera Morrison, who’s still the right age for the part if his services were required.
On the plus side, Han Solo and Boba Fett are two of the most interesting characters in the SW universe. Movies featuring their backstories have massive potential. On the double-plus side, George Lucas won’t be directing, so the actors may come off as living, breathing human beings. That’s something we haven’t seen in a Star Wars film in a long, long time.
The Star Wars empire is running on fumes. If Disney doesn’t get this right, the galaxy far, far away could collapse.
Disney could do this right, or they could Disney-fy it. Will we get the gritty Republic Commando treatment that both of these characters deserve, or will we get a more candy-coated take aimed at reviving the Star Wars video game and toy empire? A gritty treatment, especially of Boba Fett, could be amazing. I hope for that but dread and fear the Disneyification of the whole thing. Another way they could screw this up, in typical Star Wars fashion, would be to have some extremely unlikely connection between the two characters revealed in the movies. There’s no need for that. Darth Vader didn’t need to build C-3PO for the Star Wars saga to work. Han and Boba Fett don’t need to be schoolyard buddies or enemies, or fellow recruits at the imperial academy.
I’m trying not to write that I have a bad feeling about this, but honestly, I do.
Updated February 9: See Bryan’s photos from today at the Dallas Sci Fi Expo
The Super Nintendo and the country house — now, there’s a combination I don’t think anyone has ever imagined. According to Vanity Fair, Bill Kiley decided to bring Downton Abbey back to the 1990s and turn it into a game modeled after those of the now-defunct SNES.
Julie Miller writes:
Kiley began by simplifying the show’s theme song down to a video-game-befitting synthesizer remix. Over “a few really late nights,” the Downton buff culled images from video games including Clock Tower to mock up the resulting excerpt. By assuming the role of a new Downton footman, players are asked to complete several tasks from Lady Mary (spying on Mrs. Patmore to see if she is trying to poison Matthew), Anna (“If you can fluff five pillows in 20 seconds, I will let you read a letter from my jailed husband”), and Robert.
In dialogue that is spot-on for Super Nintendo (but might make Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes cringe), Lord Grantham asks, at one point, “Footman, I require assistance! I have misplaced 10 of my most cherished cigars . . . I have guests coming over for a fancy cigar party. Without them, I’ll be ruined . . . I need you to explore the estate and the surrounding grounds for my fancy cigars.”)
It seems like retro, eight-bit mock games are in right now. They’re all over the Internet. What’s interesting is this: they seem to be popping up — the same can be said of shows like Downton Abbey — as we continue to fly toward that elusive, seductive place called “progress.” I think this is a playful signal from the culture. It’s saying: Whoa. Uh, pump the breaks, please.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
So this is a real thing demoed this week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the giant annual event in Las Vegas company in their rights minds would ever send me to in person.
It’s called Oculus Rift, and it’s the video game console you strap on your face. With a big HDMI cable or something coming out of the top of it. It’s been a big success with Silicon Valley-type Kickstarter investors — but something tells me they’re a lot more likely to strap game consoles to their heads than most other people.
On the other hand, the opportunity to play your favorite first-person shooter or fantasy adventure game in a totally immersive environment…
…would you do it?
Can anyone tell me the difference between playing Angry Birds and getting hooked on methamphetamines? Okay, I guess with Angry Birds you don’t lose your teeth. And you don’t have to sell your body to keep up the supply. In fact, after the nice Angry Bird people sell you the app for around five bucks, they periodically stock it with new levels for free. Try to get your meth supplier to give you a deal like that!
But has anyone besides me ever tried to give this thing up? It’s virtually impossible. Fortunately, however, playing teaches you a ton of conservative virtues. That’s what I tell my wife anyway. Because she thinks I’m just, you know, goofing off.
But here’s a few of the things you can learn flipping birds at pigs:
1. It’s not nice to steal what other people produce. The pigs are the villains because they take the birds’ eggs. Could the symbolism be any clearer? Pigs = Government. Eggs = The Productions of the Productive. Ayn Rand couldn’t have said it better — except maybe in her brilliant scene where a boomerang myna bird flies backwards into a beach ball.
2. When in doubt, turn to the wisdom of those who’ve gone before. If you want to score three stars on every level and pick up the golden eggs, sooner or later, you’re going to have to consult YouTube. It’s what we Angry Birders have instead of the Federalist Papers.
Oh, Dikembe. You had me at “The Blurgpocalypse.”
Old Spice has created an ingenious ad — yes, an ad — that allows the player to control now-retired basketball player Dikembe Mutombo as he joins his friends Science the Bear and Random Turkey in a quest to stop the Mayan Calendar from reaching December 21. Along the way the player will encounter references to Gangam Style, Furbies, Twilight, and lots of munching on food. What makes this hilarious is the voice work by the real Mutombo. His gravely, dead-panned, accented delivery brings an extra bounce to what is already clever writing.
The link is here.
There are only two more weeks to play. Check it out. It’s worth your time — especially if you like basketball, fun pop culture references, and you appreciate old, eighties-style games.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Like many others, last Tuesday I picked up a copy of Halo 4 before going to oust our president. I immediately noticed that the game raises some interesting questions.
First: the meaning of greatness. Some context: The genetically-engineered super soldier and protagonist Master Chief is the last of his kind. And he, of course, saved the galaxy from the theocratic — shades of Al-Qaeda? — Covenant, a group of alien races that serve as the series’ primary villains.
A character in the game questions this. He certainly likes to kill, the character asks. Doesn’t that make him a sociopath?
The doctor who created him dismisses the claim. The Chief is a good man, she says. Look at his accomplishments.
Fans of the game will know that Master Chief stopped at nothing to defend humanity. He cares not for himself. He nearly died. And when we last saw him, he sat frozen in a ship, forever caught in the eternal drift of space.
Second: bioethics. As mentioned, characters begin to question the purpose of the SPARTAN program that created Master Chief. They’re right to do so: the leaders of the program stole children from their parents and replaced them with clones. They altered their DNA to make them perfect. And they fitted them with incredibly advanced armor. The kicker: all of the other SPARTAN soldiers died. Master Chief survived. Does human nature, then, even burst through the attempts of the technocrats and authoritarians who wish to play with it? These questions will likely be further explored as this new trilogy progresses.
We live in uncertain, turbulent times. Our president won re-election, and now he’ll attempt to complete the fundamental transformation of the United States, the dream of progressives since Woodrow Wilson.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Walt Disney Company announced today it has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm and is planning Star Wars Episode 7 for 2015! In a later conference call, Disney revealed that they are planning a new trilogy starting in 2015 with a new movie coming every other year. They were also asked about “Indiana Jones,” but said that they were going to concentrate on the “Star Wars” franchise for now. This is following such big purchases as Pixar and Marvel Entertainment.
At first blush this sounds like horrible news. Outrageous, even. But giving it a second thought, it’s probably the only thing that can possibly save Star Wars.
George Lucas has absolutely destroyed that franchise. He tinkers with the good ones and the prequels were disasters for the storyline. The only part of it that still holds any interest to me, a Star Wars fan since Han actually did shoot first, is in the games. The Force Unleashed was solid and probably more than half of the LucasArts games have been worth playing. The Battlefront games were pretty good. But the movies…eh. Out of the six, two and a half are still watchable. The prequels aren’t among those.
To kids, Star Wars is not cool. I don’t know if it was the prequels or the Clone Wars stuff, but kids now just don’t pay the whole thing any mind. I tried watching the Clone Wars series just to see if it was worth my time. It covers an interesting part of the story but the way it’s done is somewhere south of meh.
Can Disney make it any worse? Possibly, but not probably. They want to make money and they’re very good at not wrecking properties that they acquire. If you’re worried about Disney cartoonifiying Star Wars, well, Lucas already did that. He also made it political and ham-handed and kind of stupid. Lucas selling to them at least means that he’ll stop tinkering with everything that has managed to survive his butchery. It also means that we’ll actually get a new Star Wars movie directed by someone who knows how to direct real live people in a couple of years. Maybe Disney will hire Spielberg or Joss Whedon to direct one. Disney owns Marvel, Whedon did The Avengers. It could happen.
So after the initial feeling of outrage wore off,
If Disney fixes Star Wars, great. If not, well, I didn’t sink $4 billion into the swamps of Degobah.
Update: Heh, look who else is buying stuff. Obama is buying ads in Michigan for very different reasons than Disney bought Star Wars.
On the road to the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count, from Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Now as the former Massachusetts governor gears up for his first debate with President Obama, Slate V is rolling out Political Kombat ’12, which recounts the story of the campaign as a series of video game fights.
Those growing up in the ’90s remember Mortal Kombat — the game in which you would pummel people to the sound of an epic yet cheesy soundtrack. It was violent. It was bloody — but cartoonishly so. Thus, it’s not hard to see what Slate is upto here. They — as many have throughout this election cycle — are making a comment on the supposed brutality of the Republican primary.
Well, yeah — but, let’s be honest. Politics has always been like that. What we’re seeing now is nothing different from the past. In fact, as Reason points out in the video at the bottom of the page, attacks of history were sometimes worse than what we’re seeing today.
Which is why any student of history or politics should laugh at the language in the above quote: “Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count.” (Emphasis added.)
The establishment media — even when joking, as Slate is here — never stops decrying the supposed “lack of civility” present in today’s politics. Oh, those SuperPACs! They’re frightening! And those mean, vicious ads — how dare they!
Their whining reminds me of the controversy that arose when Mortal Kombat first arrived. Worried parents refused to buy it for their children. It led to careerist lawyers filing lawsuits against game companies. They feared the violence it depicted.
But the game was substantive. It had a story and memorable characters. Each of them had something to gain or nothing to lose. Some were good, others were evil, and they all fought for a reason. By today’s standards the graphics are primitive, but at the time they dazzled. Overall, it was a well-done game that still holds up today. And its impact cannot be denied.
We should be thankful that Slate is comparing the primary to Mortal Kombat. It shows that our politics is still at least somewhat robust.
If the media and the civility police had their way, then political life would be nothing more than Pong.
We’re not talking about football.
Ben Miller of Examiner.com reports that Ubisoft has created a “season pass” for players who are interested in downloadable content. It will be available at a discount. Buying packs separately, according to the piece, is more expensive.
Obviously, this will be good for antsy or frugal gamers.
Something else that’s interesting: one such story will be about “The Tyranny of King Washington.” As quoted in the piece:
As the revolution comes to a close, a new and most unexpected enemy emerges. Driven by the desire to secure the fate of the colonies, the greatest hero of the revolution, George Washington, succumbs to the temptation of infinite power. The new King is born and his reign leaves no one untouched. To return freedom to the land our new hero must dethrone a tyrant he once called friend. Today, Ubisoft announces the Assassin’s Creed III Season Pass offer, granting access to all five upcoming downloadable content packs to gamers owning the original game on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Microsoft’s Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system, and Windows PC.
Assassin’s Creed III downloadable content will feature “The Tyranny of King Washington,” an all-new single-player campaign told through three episodic content packs that lets gamers experience an alternate history of the events following the American Revolution.
Cool, cheap season pass: Check.
In-game lesson on the nature of limited government and ordered liberty: Check.
This is one game that you shouldn’t miss.
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