This Gaming Life: MK vs. CA Legislature

There are a lot of things to talk about when it comes to life and gaming.  I’m by no means short on ideas.  However, there is something very much at the forefront of my mind.  Something that I’m frankly tired of thinking about.  Currently, the State of California is fighting the Entertainment Merchants Association and Entertainment Software Association over the regulation of violent video games to the sale of minors.  In the Supreme Court.  Over the course of five years worth in court, it is now sitting at the highest court in the country.  I cannot even begin to describe how irritating that this is still an issue.

I remember writing a letter to Clinton when he was president.  I was just a kid, but he had made some anti-video game remarks on account of the violence represented in Mortal Kombat.  Even at the ripe age of 8, I was ablaze with fury that someone was actively seeking to ban or limit the scope of my favorite pastime.  I think that I cited Mario smashing goombas as an inherent form of violence in the venerable franchise.  My words weren’t quiet so sophisticated, but the basic ideas were there.  Clearly, as an adult I can distinguish the difference between tiers of violence.  However, even as a child, I never lost sight of the fact that a game is a game.  It annoyed me to no end listening to the half baked ideas of Joe Lieberman and company made about games as I got older.  I feel a consistent theme of the portrayal of games in the media is how grossly misrepresented they are.

It hearkens me back to things like the Mass Effect sex scene hooplah generated by the amazingly accurate Fox News. It never ceases to amaze me how people are completely fine on weighing in on an issue they know little or nothing about it. Personally, when people start talking about cars (a subject that I know practically nothing about), I usually just smile and nod. In discussing politics, if I am ignorant of the issue, I am not ashamed to say as much or reserve my opinion until it seems pertinent. I exercise a level of restraint. I am also not a member of the mass media. Essentially, we have those who don’t know details perpetuating that cycle of misinformation.  My favorite (which was taken down from its original site and I was unable to find in its entirety) was called “The Sex-Box Race for President”. It’s an uroboros of idiocy.

These things jumped to mind quite frequently while I was reading the highlights of today’s case over on Kotaku. Though I think that the justices are doing an awesome job at getting to the heart of the matter, it strikes me as scary that the parties involved aren’t even informed or educated on the material they are discussing. When CA’s attorney starts to talk about the level of torturous violence and sexual assault found in the games he seeks to prohibit, I get confused. Which games are these? I’ve played a lot of games in my time and never once I have ever digitally sodomized anyone. Teabagging in Halo doesn’t count.

The games they are citing or mentioning also give me a headache. If we are talking about the sale of mature games to minors, let’s try talking about something that these kids might actually want to play. Kids these days are not begging mom and dad to play Postal 2, old MK, or the original Doom. That’s not to say that I’m completely opposed to the regulation of mature content to minors. It is not the government’s job to parent. Parents should have an active role in the games their children are playing. Lil’ Johnny wants to play Call of Duty: Franchise Machine. Tough. Parents have the spending power and control over mobility for the most part. In most cases, they are there to do the driving and buying themselves.  Legislation is a poor substitute for a parent giving a damn about what their child gets exposed to.

Thankfully, it seems that the court is siding against the law. The tone and paces they are putting CA’s arguments through are a relief. The power of precedent is frightens me a bit though. I’ll feel a lot better in June when they reach a decision.

I guess this week is more of rant. Not exactly what I originally had in mind.  Now that that is out of my system…

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Currently playing:  Darksiders, Cloudy with a Chance…, Triggerheart Exellica

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This Gaming Life: Confessions of an Achievement Whore

My name is Ryan and I am an achievement whore.  Hi, Ryan! I have willingly offered up my soul to the gods of gaming in trade for gamerscore.  It’s pitiful.  I can say truthfully that in the last year alone I have knowingly played more bad games than good ones.  Have I gone crazy?  So many AAA titles and thinly veiled God of War knockoffs to choose from, I am playing Ben 10:  Vilgax Attacks.  There is a plethora of good games available, so why is it that I have regulated myself into a gaming routine that involves slogging through the likes of licensed trash by THQ (Disney’s Cars I’m looking at you)?  It has a been a journey coming to this point in my life long pursuit of gaming excellence, but the answer is a simple one.

The need for recognition.  Growing up as a gamer, I’m sure that some can remember telling tall tales of gaming exploits that their peers weren’t privy to witness.  The number of hits in an absurd combo in Killer Instinct.  Beating Sonic the Hedgehog with all chaos emeralds in tow.  Maxing out your characters in a Final Fantasy title.  Beating a game without dying.  The ways to share these exploits were fairly limited in scope and in some cases, being able to efficiently prove your prowess even more elusive.  The advent of online console gaming has changed that quite a bit.  By implementing achievements (trophies, etc.), these systems give us an opportunity to do just that.

I balked at the idea of achievements when I first heard about it.  The idea of playing for any other reason aside from the joy of playing itself seemed silly to me.  I should change my gamertag to “hypocrite”.  Two games paved the way for my achievement addiction.  The first, Assassin’s Creed.  It was a day one purchase for me.   I was a big believer in the Playstation 3 right out of the gate and so that was the platform I played it on.  It was played and summarily beat.  I really enjoyed it to say the least.  There was something that nagged at me though.  I collected every flag in the game.  No small task, as those who have played it are surely aware.  I got nothing.  No bonus.  No extras.  Nothing.  That bugged me.  Months later, Devil May Cry 4 hit the shelves.  I show up to claim my game and Gamestop has miscalculated their inventory and sold my copy of the game.  However, they did have a spare copy for the 360.  As I was playing, I really enjoyed unlocking achievements for playing like a bad ass.  The switch was thrown and my needs for completion and competition set in and haven’t fully let up since.

So gamers like to prove themselves.  Most people will buy that for a dollar.  How does that justify the fact that I played Avatar:  The Last Airbender:  The Burning Earth, a game so generous with its achievements it practically gives them to you for breathing?  Well, if you are LIVE-stalking the gamercards of your friends and feeling competitive, you might notice that one of them has played that game.  It hardly seems fair that you are pushing towards completion on the 100+ hour trek of Lost Odyssey and he’s nudging you out of the running by playing shovelware, does it?  So you give it a try.  You discover that patiently wading through a couple hours worth of crap gameplay awards you with a nice sexy 1000 points and another notch in your games completed belt.  Feels good.  Feels real good.  So you try another and another.  You leave your friends in the dust.  You’re playing TMNT, Cloudy with a Chance at Meatballs, and Hannah Montana the Movie.  100k starts to sound like a goal  you can hit.  Maybe sports games aren’t all that bad.  One day you realize that you have a Madden disc in hand and it is about to soil your Xbox.  An epiphany occurs.  What are you doing?  You hate sports games.  You loathe Madden and everything it represents.  It takes being a stone’s throw away from joining the ranks of gaming bros to make you realize that you aren’t even playing games to have fun anymore.  You’ve lost the joy of the game.

That wasn’t my tale.  My story isn’t that different though.  In my self imposed task to prove my gaming prowess, I have lost my gaming spirit.  Games have seen me through many of the best and worst times in my life.  Playing with friends.  Playing to have fun.  Playing to challenge yourself.  I have definitely been reduced to playing for a score (which in itself is just a visual representation of arbitrary tasks and a point of discussion for another time).  I’m seeking to reclaim my gaming life.  I still plan on playing some garbage.  I can’t quit cold turkey, but I want to get back to that love of games I used to have.  When gaming meant something to me.  The fun of a good combat system enticed me to explore its depths.  The savory ambrosia of a good story kept me playing long after I should have stopped, just to see what happens next.  Picking up a game again, even though you’ve played it into the ground, just have another good round with your friends.  I think I can get back there.  Part of this conundrum is me.  The other, the games of today.

Tuesdays will provide a look into my gaming chronicles.  My successes.  My failures.  The tricks that I turn to boost that score of mine.  Hopefully I’ll be able to entertain with my anecdotes on gaming, my life, and how it all comes together.  In the meantime…  Them games ain’t gonna play themselves.