All posts for the month March, 2006

Well, this is my last nite in the safe clutches in white america. Tomorrow we fly to Taiwan laden with expensive gifts to court Xstine's parents and talk about the scary M-word. I haven't been back to Taiwan in a long time, and it has always been my impression about Taiwan and Mainland that in some ways I loved it more than the people there did, and that lessened my love for them. I guess that only makes sense in my mind. Truthfully, I've slowly lost much of the infatuation I had with the history, land, language, culture, and traditions there, finding such irrational appreciation unreciprocated by the "real" Chinese. Instead, they love fast food and pop stars today. I hate both.

For the long plane trip there, however, the M-word will be Metroid Prime Hunters, which I picked up yesterday and had a blast with. Until my hand cramped from using the stylus to aim. And until some guy online owned me 7-0. Otherwise, the combat is intense, fast, and the characters are very interesting to use. Best of all, wi-fi runs like a greased pig. The only hiccups are the short solo missions, and the annoying friend-code player matching if you want to play anything besides vanilla deathmatch.

But the real reason I'm looking forward to this trip will be being able to travel around Taiwan with Xstine's expertise. I never got the feeling I saw much of the real Taiwan outside the tourist traps. We even got a new Cybershot T7 to document the trip, so pictures to follow!

Name: 1+1>2
FCode: 4080-8945-5244

When you compare this brilliant Tetris DS ad to the latest PSP marketing campaign BOMBS, and lemme see, I'm thinking of the grafitti, the lewd billboards, and the ad in the train station daring people to take a suicidal leap, you've got to wonder if Hollywood's disillusionment with the UMD is driving Sony eggheads to the brink of madness, desperately clawing for a memetic comeback that resonates with their own self-imagined aura of the ultra-hip. I'm not fuckin' biting.

I tell ya what I AM biting tho, and it's a wonderful mix of ante-whitetrashery and geek-to-righthand-congressionals. And it looks a little somethin' like this:

Was incredibly sick yesterday, no thanks to Xstine's skillful micromanagement of multiple viruses for the past two weeks. I finally succumbed the other night, but thanks to my secret recipe of pickles, zinc, OJ, and sleep, I was atleast well enough to drive to work today, albeit dizzily.

In the few conscious moments I had, I managed to add a Godfather town tune in my Animal Crossing: Wild World, and surf the web some. Lately, and it must be cause of a mass hysteric premonition of April Fools or something, but I've seen some seriously funny stuff in game news.

Take this post-mortem on one of my favorite game spoofs, Accordion Hero. I was going to post about this before the whole coughing-up-a-lung incident, but then went ahead and 1-upped their Guitar Hero spoof with this harlarious what-went-right and what-went-wrong. Crazy Germans. We hit up a local Hofbrau last week, and nothing like a massive turkey leg with mashed potatoes and au jus soaked stuffing to engender the forgiveness that our incessant Nazi-filled FPSs have not shown.

Also funny was a Gamasutra article by an anonymous customer service rep, which I can't summarize better than this choice quote:

"You already know shit rolls downhill. In casual games, customer support is at the bottom of that hill. Actually, it’s in a valley, nestled between the company and the consumer. When anyone on either side makes a mistake, it rolls down the hill, and the support team deals with it. When marketing forgets to note an expiration date, it’s your problem. When a customer accidentally orders a game six times, it’s your problem. When QA misses a level design error that makes it impossible to beat the game, it’s your problem. When a functionally illiterate seventy-eight year old doesn’t understand the difference between the right and left mouse buttons, it’s your problem."

Finally, my crafty Texans hooked up this Roomba to run off laptop directions, dressed up it as good ol' Frogger, and tried to get it to cross a busy street. The result, after annihilation by an SUV, was the Fucked-up Frog of Calaveras County. Requiescat in pace, heed not my phlegm-plagued belly-laughs. Sproing!

That is what I think has fascinated the West so much with Pac-man. It is the purest metaphor for conflict, duality, and preseverance-'til-victory that one can interact with. It is Homer's Odyssey told in the lifespan of a quarter. To that end, I think on an artistic level, this remake of Pac-man into a manifestation of Mondrian's jazz obsession fails to "get" Pac-man on the level that this hilarious clip of idiots running through libraries does.

Now just imagine if you could play Pac-man using the new Tom Tom feature where you can follow your buddies around!

As a stalwart skeptic of over-politicization, I feel it's my duty to point out the ridiculousness of the Dubai World ports deal. If you expect me to condemn it, then you probably should to skip this.

A less incendiary paraphasing would be that it's my duty to point out the ridiculousness of the Dubai World ports deal situtation, and public/congressional reaction. My suspicions woke when, admist the extreme denounciation of the Patriot Act, which in itself was partially unwarranted given the recent Guantanamo Bay documents release was (even by their admission) not quite the smoking gun liberals were begging for, folks took a nonsensically extreme counterposition. Their credo? Dubai World, owning one of the some ten ports of one of our trade portals, would be opening the floodgates to terrorism.

Who's perpetuating fear now? I have no idea why this unfounded idea flies so well in the face of the truth for the public. How does this negate the fact that port security has nothing to do with the port owner, and is entirely a government province? How does this negate the fact that port security is/has/will be run by Americans, who if anything will only increase vigilance after this issue? Or the fact that port security is multi-layered and technologically advanced enough to put the airlines transit system infrastructure others to shame?

No, actually I do have an idea how this moronism got this far. When protectionist assholes reap in fat "perks" from domestic corporations unwilling to cede control to foreign entities, you could say they get a nicely scratched back. Under the scandal of the current administration lies a far more insiduous scandal of corruption and bipartisan commoditization of the "politician" unit. Senators and reps are bartered like chips, trained like dogs, tricked and treated like children in costumes hiding the actual party affiliation of Self-Indulgent Greed from the masses. Abramoff got caught, but rest assured his demonization is an attempt to draw attention from the nexts-in-line. Keep the public feeling like something is being done, while K-street continues to reassess new strategies for staying in secret pockets.

And it continues to work so very very well.

Rarely do games and art collide in interesting ways. Yet somehow, South African artist Handré has given us a vertiable car crash of early video game cover art and the fine-tuned fangs of modernist insensitivity, and the result is a morbid disaster so appealing to the post-modernist gaming socialite we can't help but enjoy the sensibility shock.

Beauty in ugliness, I think, requires a delicate balance of asymmetry, both physical and moral. At a certain point, it becomes ambiguity. With cultivation, ambiguity becomes the mysterious, and the mysterious is one of the tenets of beauty because its quality of rarity, its measure of unquantifiability, is, frankly, addicting.

Aren't games a natural medium for that? Look at Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Everquest 2. "Abhorrent" comes to mind. Just as how Final Fantasy: Advent Children is simply CGI masturbation, these games seem to take all the extremes of the "cool" construct and prostitute it under the guise of technology.

Ah, Tilda Swinton, the androgenous beauty who is, among few, criminally ethereal. More endearingly, these were her comments at the promotional party for the Narnia game shown above (qyoted from Kotaku):

Unable to figure the game out, she gave the controller to the staff and watched them play. She asked the staff what makes a bad game, to which they replied, “A work of the developer’s egotism.” Swinton replied, “It’s the same as in the movies.”

In juxtaposition, it sure makes this comic mocking Spore smart just a bit.

In other Hollywood related news, I'm ecstatic that Crash took best film, and Brokeback Mountain did not sweep the Oscars. After all, the gay controversy is already… so yesterday, so blasé ad passé. While I haven't seen it yet, I'm sure it's about as poignant as a re-enactment in 30 seconds by bunnies. Brilliant.

By now, you may have seen this video demonstrating the new Will Wright One-week Wonder, Spore.

There is no doubt that this game is absolutely incredible. Procedurally generated life? Culture? What astounds me about this game is that he really broken down things into a hierarchy of agent and society. First we create organism by giving them weapons and parts. Then we create cities, who are really organisms whose weapons and parts are formed by the creatures we created. Then these cities become the world organism, who extend not an arm but a UFO into the rest of space. The analogy continues. It redefines how we understand "organism." This reaches back into the Latin and Greek root "organos" meaning a tool or instrument. We get to play with a system that uses sub-systems as instruments to an end.

So why do I hate Will Wright? Well, let me stir some vanity and quote a post I made in another forum:

"My theory is that Will Wright, fancying himself a creator of sandboxes that empower people to 'create their own narrative' has forgotten one important thing. Most people suck at creating their own narrative. This is why we hire writers, directors, game designers, and musicians. Extreme ludology can never wholly displace the nuances of expert narration."

That about sums it up. I don't hate him. But I made myself ask why I don't like his games, and that's the answer I got. I'm not interested in what narratives I can come up with within his system, I'm interested in narratives that don't yet have a system to be told with. I love limitations, just not self-serving ones. I prefer sonnets over prose. But looking at Spore, I can already see all the "gameplay" that can possibly happen, and there is no suspense that comes from being at the whim of, say, a great writer.

But that's my fault for watching the video I guess. If you plan to play Spore, rewind time and don't watch the video. If you rather glean some inspiration and move on with a realer life, stay on the coattails of the future with me.