Monthly Archives: August 2013

Is this the real life?

More Real-Life Violence Ascribed to Video Games

Headlines are trumpeting a tragic shooting that happened in Louisiana last Thursday, August 22. An 8-year-old boy shot his grandmother in the head with a .38 caliber handgun that belonged to her, while she was watching television.

A tragic story, for sure, where a lot of questions as to why it happened have to be answered. Where did he get the gun? Why was he unsupervised with it? Did he have even a modicum of gun safety knowledge?

The news media, of course, barely if at all touches on these questions. Instead, they stampede towards the easiest, most sensational assumption that video games are the culprit. Since the police have taken the trouble to mention in their statement that the young child was playing Grand Theft Auto IV “just before” the shooting, most of the headlines read something to the effect of “8-Year-Old kills caregiver after playing video game”. Causality is baked right into the headline.

Why not “Kid shoots grandmother after brushing teeth”? Can we instantly rule out aggressive teeth brushing as the main factor? How about “Child murders caregiver after hot cocoa”? Sugar has been linked to aggressive and uncontrolled behaviour in children for decades.

Even if you want to cloud the event with the idea that violent video games can contribute to real-life acts of violence, the question in this case must be asked: why was an 8-year-old playing a game labelled M for Mature? I only read one article that even mentions the fact that GTA IV is so rated, and surprisingly that source was the Fox News website.

Of course, in the end we all know why CNN and its ilk chooses to visibly and aggressively stir up controversy about video game violence over this deeply unfortunate occurrence. Because mentioning the rampant gun-culture in the U.S. is “un-American”. Because calling out bad parenting is “strident” and “lecturing”.

Because video games get clicks.

Not so humble

The Humble Bundle Is Now Populous

The Humble Bundle has always been a popular way for gamers to put money toward charities, and get a bunch of great games to boot. This year’s Bundle features EA games, and it is a terrific deal. Called the Humble Origin Bundle, you can pay what you like and get:

  • Dead Space
  • Dead Space 3
  • Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box
  • Crysis 2 Maximum Edition
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • Medal of Honor

If you pay over the average of $4.83, you also get:

  • C&C: Red Alert 3 – Uprising
  • Battlefield 3
  • The Sims 3 + Starter Pack

And to give retro gaming a little loving, in that last tier you also get Populous.  Designed by Peter Molyneux, Populous created the God Game genre and put Molyneux and his Bullfrog game development studio on the map.  Here’s a video of one of the first levels in this classic game:



The Humble Bundle is a terrific value for gamers, and a huge boon to the charities involved. As always, to find out more about the history of EA, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Gameplay from arcade version of Asteroids

This Asteroids Trailer Will Rock Your World

Back in the heady days of 2011 I posted about a movie version of the classic Atari coin-op Asteroids, being developed by Universal as a project for Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich.  I haven’t heard much about that project since, but I’m thinking it ought to be just scuttled right now, because THIS version looks way better:


As always, for more information on the history of Atari’s seminal arcade game Asteroids, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Conan gets a clue

Conan O’Brien Takes On Retro Games

These days, mountainous-haired carrot-top Conan O’Brien seems to be taking a lead from Jimmy Fallon, who replaced O’Brien on NBC’s Late Night back in 2009. Conan went on to host the vaunted late night talk show The Tonight Show, a run that only lasted months. Fallon himself has since been tasked to take over The Tonight Show when current host Jay Leno steps down, perhaps even permanently this time.

Anyway, this post isn’t meant to dwell on the revolving-door morass that is late night television in America.  It is meant to point out that O’Brien himself has started to mine video games for comedic value, much like Fallon has pretty much from day one.  Fallon played Wii games on his show when Nintendo’s revolutionary console came out, and has featured other popular games in front of the camera.

This focus on video game playing by late night hosts seems on the whole to be tapping the popularity of “Let’s Play” videos of game play that litter YouTube and twitch.tv these days. Germain to this site, O’Brien featured a “Throwback Edition” of his Clueless Gamer segment last week, playing games from the Atari 2600 library. Among the savaged product was the big kahuna of awful classic games, the impenetrable E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a game so dense and confusing, and with such high-hopes pinned upon it at release in 1982, that its abject failure was one of the reasons the entire video game industry cratered in 1983-84.

Gaze upon the spectacle of Conan O’Brien sampling the best (and worst) games from one of the most popular video game systems of all time:

Being a good Citizen

A Spiritual Successor to Wing Commander/Freelancer

Wing Commander and its many sequels deserve a place among the pantheon of the most influential games for the PC. Chris Roberts’ epic space-shooter ushered in the era of eyeball-popping graphics, married to an epic storyline that fully immersed players in an expansive universe. The first iteration of the classic series was released in 1990, and in 1993 the Privateer games were spun-off from the original as open-world (or galaxy) space simulation games set in the same universe but allowing players to forge their own path: soldier, merchant, mercenary or something in-between.

When EA shut the door on Roberts’ developer Origin, he went on to create Freelancer, a further treatise on the space shooter/exploration genre released by Microsoft Game Studios in 2003. The free-form space exploration and combat genre has since been sporadic in nature, perhaps most fully pursued by the X series, started by Egosoft in 1999.

Now, via Kickstarter crowdfunding as well as pledge packages via the RSI website, the spiritual successor to Freelancer is set to pick up the space exploration and combat mantle in a grand, AAA-title way.  Surpassing 15 million dollars in funding and counting, Star Citizen should push the genre further than any big-name publishing company would dare. Planned features include accurate physics modelling, dozens of ship designs to meet any play-style, vibrant system economies, all playable through either MMO style in a universe populated by other players, or in a campaign mode featuring drop-in/out co-op with friends.

However you choose to experience it, Star Citizen should prove to fill the vacuum of space simulation gameplay.  Roll-outs of various player experiences based on the actual graphical engine for the game will appear periodically over the next couple of years, and gamers can expect the finished game to jump into this star system in early 2015.