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So much more than war...
By shandog137
Posted on 04/18/14
The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty  really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played it, I began to wonder if it did the war genre as...

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PSPass Go, spend £200+
Posted on Monday, October 5 2009 @ 11:37:53 Eastern

So, the PSP Go is out now and has been for a couple of days. I had a hands on go with Sony’s new iteration of the PSP a few weeks ago when Mr Sony popped into a shop I was working in at the time. I had already formed several of my own opinions based on what I had read in press releases and my understanding of the second hand market and concept of downloading and by getting a hands-on demonstration I could decide what I thought of the actual hardware.

 

The console itself is very impressive. It’s nice and tidy when folded down and the sliding mechanism is smooth. The location of the screen makes gaming feel natural and, although the physical size of the screen has been slightly decreased in accordance to the size of the machine, the resolution stays the same so the image is crisp. The interface is slightly modified from the PS3/PSP system so anyone who has used a Sony machine recently will be able to navigate easily. Now, the physical item is very slick; the whole thing feels polished and high quality but the rest of this article will be denouncing manufacturing choices and lambasting the lack of a UMD drive. Reasons will of course be provided.

 

First, backwards compatibility has been kept to a minimum. The most obvious aspect of this is the loss of one’s UMD collection but a less reported side is the need to buy a new memory card. Yes, the PSP Go has 16GB of built in storage which will last for a while but when a console’s only means of using data is saving it to a storage medium it should really have a cheap removable memory card too. The PSP used Memory Stick Pro Duos while the PSP Go has upgraded to the M2 Micro. While this is a better type of storage (it’s physically smaller while still holding large amounts of data) it does mean that anyone who bought an older PSP memory card will need to buy another memory card to fit their new PSP Go. Perhaps this is a small gripe but it does set a precedent.

 

The worst thing about the PSP Go is the lack of the UMD drive. At first glance this is an inconvenience but perhaps not a deal breaker but if you look deeper it’s actually a fundamental, and crucial, flaw in the PSP Go’s design. The lack of a UMD drive or other type of optical drive means that the only way to play games is to download them from the PSN. Obviously this means Sony is in sole control of how much games are priced and this can only be a bad thing. Competition in the retail sector keeps prices competitive; certain businesses price match their rivals, others price low in the first place, those that don’t simply sell less games. There is no competition here meaning Sony is free to use prices gamers have already accepted at street level leaving us with downloads costing £30-40. For any Americans who may be reading this that’s about the average price of a new, boxed game here in the UK: PSP games are generally priced at £30 brand new.

 

So what’s the problem? You’re getting a spiffy piece of hardware and the opportunity to buy new games at standard new prices so that’s a pretty good deal, yeah? Unfortunately that viewpoint fails to take into account the lack of a second hand market. However much developers and publishers hate the second hand game market it’s here to stay and that’s because it allows the consumer to play great games at a cheaper price. There is a thing called the second price auction where the winner of an auction pays the second highest price bid instead of their own. This concept encourages people to only bid an amount they can afford (since bidding more would make it more likely they would win and perhaps have to pay more than they wished due to someone else’s overzealous efforts). Similarly, the presence of a second hand market encourages people to buy new games, safe in the knowledge that they can trade them back at a later date for partial recompense. This concept has been lost with the download-only PSP Go. There is no possible second hand market with downloads since a pre-owned copy of a game is marked down in price because of wear and tear caused through general usage, digital 1s and 0s cannot experience this degradation and so a second hand market is rendered moot. Therefore PSP Go owners have no way of making some of their money back, no way of returning games they are unhappy with and no way of buying cheaper pre-owned games. Such a tactic may allow Sony to reap enormous sums of money if users were forced into buying the PSP Go but let’s face it, they’ll either buy a pre-owned PSP 3000 or ignore Sony completely and go to the DS.

 

Another issue with downloadable games is the lack of a physical case, disc and manual. Part of the reason behind the cost of games is the cost of production. Those cases, discs and books don’t cost much to produce but the need to pay for the manpower, petrol and means of transport to actually move hundreds of boxes of the things from country to country to city to city adds up and adds to the overall cost. Downloads have none of these extra overheads: the cost of creating the game and the bandwidth used to host are the only things developers and publishers are required to pay for so shouldn’t downloads be marked down in price to account for both the lack of physical material and lack of effort required to distribute the game? Sadly this is not how things work as you have seen from the pricing I have already mentioned. Sony is still expecting the PSP Go user to pay full price for a product he will never hold in his hands. That’s fine with small arcade style games but that **** don’t fly with full, retail games like Gran Turismo and WipeOut. The lack of a physical product may not be a big deal to some people out there but it is to many. I, for one, like to view my collection on a shelf rather than cycling through a list. My DVD collection spans four shelves and is creeping on to a fifth but I don’t rip the entire lot to a terabyte hard drive even though it is within my capability to do so. I don’t shirk this activity because of how dull it may become by the 50th DVD; in fact, I am of the odd persuasion that sees this sort of thing as cathartic. No, I don’t do it because I like having my collection there to touch and while downloads are a nice thing to have, they really should be one option, not the only option.

 

The emphasis on downloads for the PSP Go makes the 802.11b wireless adaptor a curious choice. This outdated technology reportedly makes connections shaky and easily dropped. This would simply be an irritation if it weren’t for Sony’s decision to not save download progress. Imagine how pissed you would be if you had spent the best part of an hour downloading a gigabyte game only to have the connection fail and progress wiped.

 

Of course in the current economic climate the whole thing comes down to price versus usability. As I’ve already described the PSP Go is not the most flexible PSP on the market. It removes control from the consumer who can usually shop at different shops, new and pre-owned markets and online for the best deal for their games. It removes the physical aspect of game buying and replaces it with cold, hard data. It inexplicably uses old wireless technology. For all this you are being charged £225, this is only £25 less than the 120GB PS3 Slim and only £50 less than the 250GB PS3 Slim. Why would someone buy a PSP Go to slowly download expensive games for £25 less than a Blu-Ray player when they could buy a PSP 3000 for around £150 (or even better just buy the cheap Blu-Ray player)? The PSP Go is a toe in the download waters but it seems to have tripped and fallen. It’s really only an option for the wealthy show-offs and even then it’s a bad one.



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TV shows described in 200 words or less
Posted on Sunday, May 3 2009 @ 14:26:26 Eastern

Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives follows the lives of two babes, two wives and one conniving b**** after the suicide of their friend. The first season follows their stories as they come to terms with said friend's death and try to force through the mystery surrounding it. Mary (that's the dead friend's name by the way) spends her time in the afterlife watching the trials and tribulations of her still living neighbours and re-iterating them for the benefit of the viewer. In fact, despite being dead, she's narrated every single episode in this five season long television show, apart from two. Considering that the reason for her narration was to remind you about the main drive in the first season (to comprehend her suicide) and that quest was completed by the end of the first season, it's damn impressive she's still incessantly commenting on events you've just witnessed for yourself. The best thing about Desperate Housewives is Eva Longoria because she is the best thing about everything, even stuff she has nothing to do with.

Sex and the City

Sex and the City is about the unrealistic lifestyles of one mutton dressed as lamb, one ginge, one diamond (you know, in the rough), and one horse. The horse has managed to get a job for a newspaper or magazine or something and cranks out a half arsed article based on whatever happens to be going on in her uneventful life every month or so. I guess the hooves slow down the typing progress or something. Mutton spends half her time naked and she's not bad for an older girl but she is quite reprehensible. If you're in a place where you need to hate women just listen to her b**** for five minutes. The diamond reminds you of why women are awesome so ignore her if you're the aforementioned bitter lemon and the ginge... erm, I don't know actually. She must do something but she's not really significant enough to sacrifice brain space to. Oh, I think she fancies the diamond.

Lost

Plane crashes, Jack = hero, Kate = babe, Sawyer = arsehole, polar bears, black smoke monster thingy, time travel, hatches, numbers, pregnant death, Dharma Initiative, confusion. That's a small snippet of the stuff I picked up from the wonderfully helpful Nicki and none of it makes a lick of sense. Lost begins with a group of people who are seemingly strangers crashing on an island. All is about as well as can be with a group of handsome and beautiful people (and one fat guy) stranded on an island until they find and kill a polar bear... wait what? Then things get weird(er). Numbers are involved a lot and there's a bit of time travel. Also, pregnant women die but only if they get pregnant on the island and stay on the island because there's a Korean chick who cheats death by escaping. Add in the usual love triangles, betrayal and trickery and you get quite a standard show. Oh and the science experiments, can't forget them... makes perfect sense.

The Ghost Whisperer

The Ghost Whisperer follows Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts, and therefore Jennifer Love Hewitt herself, who spends her time communicating with ghosts whom only she can see thanks to her inherited ability to view the non-existent.* Each show features a different tortured spirit and the same boob fixated camera man (I'm not complaining, like) and it falls to Jenny to satisfy the spirit to allow them to move on to wherever the hell happy ghosts go. This noble cause is less selfless when you consider that Boobs... I mean Jennifer, is harassed by meandering spirits and needs to get rid of them to have a moment's peace.

* Views held within are those of only the writer and do not reflect any opinion that may or may not be held by any other human and/or animal on the planet. No view, perspective, bias or opinion held or otherwise is intended to offend, upset or destabilise the beliefs of anyone.

Heroes

Save the cheerleader, save the world. Heroes is all about ordinary people discovering they can do extraordinary things. We have a guy who can fly but ignores it because he's running for election, a hotty with an unusually energetic split personality, a time travelling Japanese geek and of course the indestructible Hayden Panattiere around whom the first season centres. From the start you know something bad is going to happen but you don't know why. Is it the mysterious Sylar? Where does the man with the horn rimmed glasses come into it? (And also, what the hell is his name so we don't have to type that long winded description every time? I suppose we could call him Horny though). Mysteries and crappy yet stylised effects abound, the first season is something to enjoy. Shame the writer's strike ****ed up the second, even worse that UK TV sucks so much I haven't gotten round to watching the third season, got to try and fix that some time soon.

24

24 follows the daily life of Jack Bauer. Far from the boring affair you'd expect from shadowing a person for a day (like every season of Big Brother ever) it mainly focuses on explosions, bullets and traitorous politicians. The first two generally arise thanks to the plots of terrorists which are generally hatched thanks to the last one. Jack spends his time torturing officials for information, giving his word to all and sundry and, in one season, jacking up with heroin. Often, the season starts with a very simple (but big) problem and about half way through it is discovered that something far bigger and more sinister has been at work all the time. Most of the women are beautiful in the way that makes you wonder why you don't live near more of them (just look at Elisha Cuthbert and Reiko Aylesworth) and it's surprising just how many people Jack has pissed off during his career. Maybe he broke his word? Anyway, watch it just to see how long he can go without taking a leak, I don't even think they have toilets in the 24 universe.

Friends

Friends stars six... friends. We have the funny one, the sexy one, the neurotic one (who also happens to be pretty fit), the weird one, the slutty one and the clever one. I won't bother naming names because let's face it, you know them. The clever one fancies the sexy one and the funny one eventually marries the neurotic one. The slutty one never settles down but I think he's happy with the stream of beautiful women he beds. The weird one finds her slightly more normal half who could have been in the original six to be honest, he's pretty funny. Every episode follows a standalone story but the overall plot progresses with each episode. Will the clever one and sexy one get it on? Ooh, yeah, no... were they on a break? The neurotic one spends almost every episode freaking out over something and the funny one spends much of his time calming her down and cracking stupid jokes. Give him a break though, his dad's a cross dresser. All in all pretty damn new and groundbreaking.

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Scapegoating - are we doing ourselves any favours?
Posted on Thursday, March 12 2009 @ 09:49:28 Eastern

Any gamer should be aware of their favourite media being used as a scapegoat for... everything. We have been at the sharp end for every school shooting ever featured on the nightly news, for the perceived increase in knife crime, for the cockiness of teenagers today and now, for childhood obesity. This advert is one I saw in the local Metro, free to pick up from any form of public transport here in England, but I forgot about it until I read the GR manifesto.

There are various situations certain individuals would love to explain away with the evils of video games rather than accept life is more complicated than that. Wouldn’t it be so easy to just say that troubled young boy shot up the school because Grand Theft Auto told him to? Knife crime would be simple to explain away if only Kratos with his cool ass weapons and stabby ways were somehow solely implicated and the sexual corruption of youth would be a little more palatable if Jack Thompson was right in bashing the Hot Coffee mod so vehemently. Of course, real life is more complex and, while not many people (if any) are claiming video games are totally blameless, there are far more factors involved and games could hardly to be separated out for culpability.

There are many arguments against the likes of Jack Thompson; video games are but one element in a rich tapestry of modern culture, the average human does not resort to murder after playing The Getaway, games are certified against minors playing them, and so on and so forth. I particularly like the age certification argument. GTA is an 18, Killzone 2 is an 18, Fallout 3, Gears of War and Dead Space are all 18, hell, even Fable 2 is the proud owner of a 15 certificate, presumably for the sex ‘scenes’. Think of that kid who shot up the school, which one? It doesn’t matter. Chances are they were playing a game not designed with them in mind, couple this with the fact that some people are just plain unstable and we have a recipe for disaster which would result in the same foul cake if we replaced ‘violent video game’ with ‘violent movie’, ‘violent music’ or even ‘violent book’. More to the point though, why are kids able to play these games that are meant to be restricted against them? I remember advising my hairdresser not long ago to secure her child's Xbox 360 against games of a certain certificate, an ability she had no idea existed and this lack of understanding is one element I believe needs to be addressed.

Of course such sane arguments are not enough for the insanity of the more vocal of critics and we need to deal with studies like this, and please be aware that I’m using the descriptor ‘study’ loosely. It is a weight games seem to need to bear at the moment that they will be considered the source of most problems. But do games really deserve to be overlooked? Is the industry helping itself in all cases? Do not get me wrong, I have been playing games since my early memories, I recall going shopping with my dad for 50p C64 games and waiting for as many minutes while the tape slowly turned and loaded the simple affairs into the computer’s memory before I could play them. I remember getting my SNES and loving every second of Super Mario Bros. 3. I have lived through the PS1 and PS2 days and love the moments gaming has given me. But are we helping our case that games are, overall, harmless?

One game triggered this thought. RapeLay, even the name conjures up a desire to stay the hell away. In this... game you play the role of the rapist, premeditating and executing. I feel no desire to become more intimate with the details of this particular example of depravity but I do wonder about the rest of the industry. It’s obvious that RapeLay and so called eroge push the boundaries of what is acceptable as an interactive work of fiction and does nothing to help the public image of the gaming industry as perceived by the uninitiated. However, this shadowy genre is not the only thing potentially harming the image. There are countless games that allow the player to storm their way through countless enemies and, in the days of HD entertainment, many of these games depict antagonist deaths in a very graphic manner. The amount of (relatively high profile) games that allow the player to engage in consensual sex could probably be counted on the hands and feet of a person. Admittedly this fault doesn’t just lie at the industry’s hands but it is the industry bowing to pressure from the lobbyists to not include what is arguably the most natural part of life in their games. Only in today’s media is it more acceptable to perforate a person with bullets than it is to gently caress them into the night.

I have nothing against the violence in the media. But despite Grand Theft Auto earning every bit of its 18 certificate so many kids know about it, want to play it and, worse, have easy access to it. This state is doing no favours to the gaming industry and makes it that much more simple for tragedies like this to be blamed on the video games the kid was playing. Those of us privy to gaming culture can clearly see there are millions of people playing violent games who do not shoot up a school but there are plenty of naive rule makers who seem to feel a generation’s source of entertainment should be extinguished because of the instability of the minority. Instability, I add, which would present itself regardless of gaming.

There exists beautiful aspects of gaming which serve to not only add to our entertainment but also demonstrate we are not a group of simpletons suffering from bloodlust. While they have little effect on the blinkered views of Jack Thompson and Fox they do serve as a wonderful reminder that gaming is capable of encapsulating enigmatic, charming scenes. Games of this ilk include Flower, fl0w and Braid. There is no combat in these games yet they all fill the player with joy with their gameplay. Of course not all games can be fluffy, colourful and nice, but that doesn’t mean they have to possess senseless brutality. BioShock, which is filled with violence, possesses more than vicious scenes and fleshes out the violence with a reason for its existence.

Gaming as a whole is fine - containing a mix of violence and non-violence - its rating systems are, on the face of it, adequate but non-gaming adults need to be instilled with a greater understanding of the reasons behind the ratings. Non-violent games show the medium is more than a way of picking up a gun without actually firing one but until the world’s news vendors acknowledge their existence those without their ears to the ground will remain unaware (and possibly uninterested) that their favourite scapegoat isn’t all that bad. Unfortunately I can’t see Fox or CNN covering a story on the elegance of controlling the wind in Flower when given the choice between that and another school shooting committed by a lonely gamer and games such as RapeLay do nothing to help the image of gamers as a whole, let alone the underground subcultures whose desires cause the games to be made in the first place. Who cares about those freaks though?



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YouTube Translated
Posted on Thursday, February 5 2009 @ 05:31:24 Eastern

YouTube is a bastion of violent retardation. While I’m sure there are well educated people who choose to visit the internet’s video central walking through the YouTube portal is kind of like experiencing a temporary l...   read more...

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What not to do during a zombie apocalypse
Posted on Tuesday, December 30 2008 @ 08:31:09 Eastern

We’ve all planned what we would do during a zombie apocalypse. If you’re anything like my mates when drunk you’ve decided on several contingencies to ensure you will know what to do at the vari...   read more...

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The future of game media
Posted on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 17:33:04 Eastern

Gaming's come a long way in every way imaginable, but I'm here to talk about one in particular: capacity. Back in the days of the C64 (that's Commodore 64 bits) for you whipper snappers) entire games were held on cassette tapes. NES cartridges varied...   read more...

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69 reasons why it's good to be a lesbian
Posted on Thursday, August 7 2008 @ 07:14:24 Eastern

I'm bored, I have a little green and blue button in my browser window with SU written across it. For those of you in the know you'll understand I'm talking about the magical internet site called StumbleUpon. This website gathers information on you (t...   read more...

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Why so serious? An open letter to the Bat
Posted on Saturday, August 2 2008 @ 10:10:19 Eastern

(spoilers)

                                      ...   read more...

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Film/TV characters who suck at their job
Posted on Sunday, July 20 2008 @ 13:43:24 Eastern

Philip J. Fry from Futurama

This is obvious, I mean, Fry's (for that is what everyone calls him aside from 'idiot' and 'meat bag') whole... thing is that he sucks at his job. He is a lousy delivery boy when he worked at Panucci's Pizza. He...   read more...

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Independence
Posted on Sunday, July 20 2008 @ 12:57:16 Eastern

So I've finished university. I've told certain GRians (for that is what you are known as once you taint this place with your essence... or it taints you) this fact already, in fact I've told one or two multiple times because this event has been stagg...   read more...

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