And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:

Crystal Dynamics’ global brand director Karl Stewart, for telling CVG in all earnestness:

“I think the model as we see it right now is a frail one. Having the used market is not beneficial to any of us.”

Which is a completely true and honest statement, for values of the word “us” that do not include the subset “customers”. Try to keep that in mind the next time you decide to sling flame online in the name of your favorite major game corporation.

This Project $10 thing from EA is starting to get a bit out of hand. I didn’t particularly care when it was just extra stuff like costumes and weapons that aren’t part of the core experience of a game; in fact, I thought it was a clever way to incentivize buying a new title. The new deal, where sports games will cost an extra $10 to play online if bought used, flips that all upside down. It’s taken what originally sounded like a reasonable proposal – here’s a nice present if you do things the way that’s good for us – and turns it into a muscle play. I can’t imagine nearly as many people are going to stick up for the “buy it new or it’s broken and you’ll pay to fix it” model as were willing to speak out in favor of new-game bonuses. We’re not far now from simply having console games that require a 1-time activation code – free with a new copy, $60 otherwise – to work at all. we’ve already taken the leap that gets us about halfway there.

Continue reading And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:

In Which Rob Makes a Stupid Assumption, Surprising Nobody

Surely I can’t have been the only who, hearing that a downloadable survival horror game called Hydrophobia has been announced for later in the year, immediately assumed that it was a gritty reboot of Paperboy that followed the harrowing tale of a young cyclist bitten by an improperly restrained Rottweiler and his subsequent descent into rabies-induced madness? I mean, that’s the first thing that springs to mind, right?

After all, as we all know, the fear of water is called aquaphobia, so if the game was about scary things happening in water, they’d have called it that.

Sweet Jesus, don't let them get me.


Assassin’s Creed by Harlequin!

I am right in the meat of Assassin’s Creed II right now and loving it.  I adored the original and this has improved on the experience. It’s just super fun and I can’t wait for each new environment to play around in.

Ubisoft publishing Assassin’s Creed II Novel

I confess that I was, for an instant, totally into this.

More Ezio, more Assassin’s Creed, it’s a good thing, right? More explanation of his life, more revealed about Altair perhaps. More juicy, juicy plot! Romance, action, assassinations!


I like running randomly over roofs, stealing every treasure I can find, making my horse gallop a lot and generally fucking around. I like jumping off of roofs without the leap of faith and seeing how far I can fall without dying. They will leave that out. Where in the novel will Ezio use all of his attacks and movements in the Animus loading screen to make a funky disco dance? Where!?

I don’t want to read their interpretation of how I should be playing the game and the adaptation of my playing style would be boring reading.  Why don’t they just use the money they are spending on this to make more DLC?

[h/t to Destructiod]

Michael Moore Should Stick to Documentaries

Via Primer, came across Slashfilm’s compilation of reactions to Avatar from various nerd-film leading lights. Many are pleasantly gushy, though I’d frankly be more interested to read them when

A) The 3-D IMAX dopamine rush has worn off of these poor fellows and a few months’ time has restored some perspective and

B) The Oscar-quote/poster-quote/get-on-the-internet-hype-train vibe has worn off a bit.

Still, these are professional nerds who make nerdy movies for the entertainment of nerds, and perhaps their initial reaction is valuable if only to make an estimate of the immediate sensation the film might grant another nerd (i.e. me) should he choose to see it. That is to say, if all these guys are excited, maybe that’s a good sign.

But then, halfway through the list, Michael Moore (who apparently counts as nerdy based on his girth and glasses) lets loose this glistening nugget of a tweet:

“Go see Avatar – a brilliant movie 4 our times. Don’t worry if theater doesn’t have 3D – the 2D is awesome & it’s all about the story anyway!”

It kind of speaks for itself, but if you need it spelled out: the plot in Avatar is not what it’s all about. I already know the plot – without having seen the film – because it was delivered in its entirety in every trailer for the film. The plot is a contrivance that allows for the effects to be delivered. The plot is a cellophane-thin culture on which the visual trickery is grown. The plot is a familiar, slender bouquet of tropes on which you may comfortably hang your sense of understanding in order to anchor it in the face of a punishing visual assault.

I am not being mean or judgmental when I say these things; I don’t even mean it as a criticism, really. It’s just that kind of movie. Hell, it’s being marketed as that kind of movie. But if Michael Moore thinks that a $300 million 3-D sci-fi remake of Dances With Wolves is a movie for our times thanks to its story, he is off his ass.


Abu Gaga

Did anyone else come across the video for Bianca* Knowles’ “Video Phone” (song far inferior to decade-old precursor “Picture Phone” by the Sub Debs; so ya know) and choke on their Pepsi when the writhing Abu Ghraib prisoners appear, grinding their bodies against the curvaceous young singer’s supple form like so many Boschian incubi? I know that what’s really going on with the blue-hooded, dark-skinned men is that they were supposed to have their heads blue-screened out and replaced with cameras (as seen elsewhere in the video), but apparently they ran out of time, forgot to do this bit, or couldn’t figure out a good way to transition from the naked skin of the dancers to the CG camera. Hell, for all I know the director saw the effect and liked it. But there’s no way anymore to see an image like that and not flash, for a moment, to the guy standing on the box with the wires on his hands.

Combine that with the constant imagery of guns in the video and the presence of Lady Gaga who, like Saddam Hussein, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Kurds, and you can’t help but see the whole piece as a teasing commentary on the repressed sexual desire that America sublimates into violence in general and news coverage of the Middle East wars in particular.

No idea what’s up with the weird homage to Tarantino at the start, tho.

Here is the video, embedded in much the same way that Geraldo Rivera was during the invasion of Iraq. Concidence? I think not:


* I know what her name is. “Beyonce” looks to me like a phonetic spelling of how someone might pronounce “Bianca” if they had no idea how it’s actually meant to be said. Ha ha.

Useless Headline or Most Useless Headline?

“Mom calls cops to thwart video-game-playing son” from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Seriously?? The headline makes it sound like they had to save her from some psychotic high functioning 25 year old who was having a psychotic break. The truth of the matter: She called the cops because her 14 year old son wouldn’t stop playing video games.

Let’s reframe the proposition shall we?

“Public safety funds wasted by woman who insists on letting electronic devices and law enforcement do her parenting for her.”

or perhaps

“Woman who lack even a modicum of parenting skills falls back on public servants when an ill fated first attempt at discipline fails.”

I mean FFS. Your 14 year old won’t stop playing games, what do you do? First you ask them to stop. Then you tell them to stop. Then you unplug the console and carry it into your bedroom and put it under your pillow. You also take the TV remote with you, as most TVs these days require one to function at all. On Monday you sell the console and get you and your kid into joint counseling/parenting sessions. Because if your kid is up at 2:30 AM playing GTA, he’s not the onlyone with the problem.


In A Shocking Turn, Sony Attempts to Solve a Problem Via Overpriced Hardware


In what Rachel Maddow might label a “holy mackerel” story, news broke a wee way back about Sony finally launching a new PlayStation console in Brazil. Well, new to Brazil, anyway. At launch the console will cost $445 and have “over 14” (i.e. 15) games available to play.

Oh, did I mention? This isn’t the launch of the PS3; this is the PS2 launch in Brazil. Remember when you got your PS2? I got mine with a college financial aid check, back before anyone in the US had ever heard of Al Qaeda.

It’s weird that Sony would be trying to do this now. Legitimate game sales in Brazil tanked back in the 90s when massive sales taxes were laid on game sales. Game companies fled the market, pirates swept in to fill the void, and now over a decade has passed without any serious non-pirate presence in the Brazilian games stores. I honestly don’t get why Sony thinks that this is going to work out well for them with how far things have slid. It’s not like things have turned around lately in some way that makes a console launch auspicious.

I suppose the question is: if Brazil has gone as long as it appears to without a culture of buying games legitimately, how do you change the paradigm there, given that an entire generation grew up with no non-pirate means of playing current-gen games. The Escapist pointed out in March that you can get games for $5-10 at pirate mini malls, and nobody has ever played a PS2, PS3, Xbox, or 360 game in Brazil that wasn’t pirated. What’s worse, Brazil still has a brutal tax on games that’s close to 100% (which probably accounts for at least some of that PS2 launch price). Good luck keeping your game costs competitive with pirate copies while that’s in effect.

I’m sure that game and console makers would like to break the grip of the pirate market in South America, but I’d be really surprised if they manage to do it anytime soon. In our current gen here in the US, they are using a carrot and stick approach. You start by removing value from pirated games: you create DLC that they can’t access, or you make it hard to use them, for instance by requiring games to log in to a server every time they are played a la Steam/EA Online/MMOs. Second, you add perceived value to legitimate copies by lowering their prices competitively (way more common with PC than console games, but I’d be really interested to see a chart that relates Pirate Bay game crack seeder numbers with price levels for individual games over time) or by adding free content that only works once with a legitimate copy (DragonAge and probably many more to come). The download/online based solutions aren’t really viable in South America right now: Brazil is near the head of the pack in regional internet usage, but only 5% of Brazilian households have a broadband connection. For comparison, the US has around 60% broadband penetration, and that puts us behind 19 other countries. ElectroMegaVideoGameopolis (aka South Korea) boasts a broadband connection in 95% of all households; the rest presumably are presently on fire and cannot connect to the internet for the moment. My point being, there is a way to go before Brazil, and the developing world in general, will have the infrastructure to support the copy protection strategies that have been finding success in the US in the wake of wider broadband support.

And as for competing on value, well… How do you compete with a $5 bootleg copy of FIFA 2010? Especially when tariffs mean you can only charge $2.50 retail for your version, and you can’t even offer any free DLC because hardly anyone has a fast internet connection. Oh, and you haven’t released an internet-friendly console yet. Oh, and your customers have been buying games from the pirate mall down the street for the last 15 years because the sales tax on your product drove you out of the country back when Clinton was president.

I’m not saying Sony shouldn’t try here. Maybe they have some strategy that will help; maybe all this time and effort have been used to develop a more pirate-resistant PS2. Even so, they’ve set themselves a tough row to hoe here. If I were them and wanted to break into markets in developing countries, I would work on lobbying governments and telcos in those markets to encourage the spread of broadband and drop taxes back to the other side of the Laffer curve.

Death at a Funeral: The Bionic Movie

Frank Oz’ Death at a Funeral (a movie I only recall because of Naked Wash) is being remade by Neil Labute, a mere 2 years after its release. As unneccessary as most American remakes are, this one seems even worse. I get that there’s a language barrier that lots of US moviegoers just aren’t willing to hop over; subtitles are surely repellant to folks who head to the movies specifically because reading doesn’t entertain them. I get that there are occasionally cultural differences portrayed in films that can be confusing or even scary to people who are uncurious about the rest of the world or uninterested in seeing characters who aren’t exactly like themselves.

But for fuck’s sake, this is a remake of a movie that was filmed in English just two years ago. There are no subtitles to hold people back. I guess you could argue on the “cultural differences” front that the original was a bit British, but the best thing about British farces is the contrast between old-timey propriety and ludicrously inappropriate behavior. How can that dynamic possibly be improved by the addition of Martin Lawrence cringing “Ohhhhh Daddy!”?

Aboslutely the only interesting thing I can imagine coming out of attempting to remake this British black comedy as an African American slapstick farce is the possibility of exploring the Black community’s attitudes toward homosexuality and race mixing. And I’m not talking about some bullshit feel-good thing where everyone just suddenly decides hey it’s not such a big deal if Dad was gay and had a white lover. With the amount of homophobia pervading Black pop culture, trying to just breeze through the gay dad angle without a really violent confrontation would take this film beyond “unrealistic” to a realm more like “a dimension of existence so utterly foreign that you kinda can’t conceive of it anymore”; it’ll be like the moviegoing equivalent of what happens to Dave Bowman at the end of 2001.

Hit the jump to watch both trailers and compare for yourself.

Continue reading Death at a Funeral: The Bionic Movie

We’re In Yr Society, Alterin Yr Culture [Updated]

One of the trends I’ve found most interesting in the last few years has been the proliferation of what can only be called nerd weddings. There have always been those dorks who got all gussied up in their RenFaiyre finest and Spock ears to go get hitched Tolkien-style in the woods (or at GenCon), but dork nuptials have hit the mainstream in an undeniable fashion complete with giant white dresses, buzzing swarms of photographers and caterers, fancy locations, and federal bailout levels of expense . Nowhere is this more apparent than in the burgeoning demand for shatteringly geeky wedding cakes, “no really, made by a real baker with real fondant and everything” ziggurats of matrimonial pastry. Without further ado, three awesome, highly nerdy wedding cakes:

Continue reading We’re In Yr Society, Alterin Yr Culture [Updated]