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draqq_zyxx The meaning of life is to be aware.
The breath of life is to remember.

Title: Too Good For My Good?
Posted: January 09, 2007 (01:31 AM)
After scouring many game stores in Florida during last week's visit to my mother's house, I found a copy of Sega Genesis Collection. Now that I'm back in the dorm, I popped it in to explore the buttery depths of Sega classics. One of those classics was Columns, a puzzle game that involved getting three gems in a row - not unlike a few of the puzzle games we have even today.

Unfortunately, I reached Level 100 on my first try. I know I should be patting myself on the back and frolicking over to my local Japanese store to get a well-deserved can of coconut juice, but I was irate. Maybe it's because the game was too easy or that I was too good for my own good. But it's most likely because I wanted to stop at Level 34, when the gems were falling out of the sky like anvils, but since it was my first try, I wanted to see how far I could get without dying. This equated to about two and a half hours worth of time.

I'm not sure how I feel at this point. I'm glad, mad, grateful, and spiteful. So I guess I'm feeling empty.

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Title: Red, After New Year's
Posted: January 02, 2007 (12:40 PM)
Red, After New Year's

for every resolution
I shall hang myself with love,
with self-invested concubines,
burning just for me.
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Title: Editorial: ComiCare For The Nintendo DS
Posted: December 30, 2006 (08:18 PM)


Nearly every Nintendo DS game comes packaged with a Health and Safety Precautions Booklet, a multi-folded sheet of glossy paper detailing instructions on how to maintain your DS and protect yourself from seizures, eyestrain, and repetitive motion injuries. Yet hardly anyone reads it. And who would? Why read a monotonous list of warnings that exist primarily to prevent you from winning a lawsuit against Nintendo? Besides, there is a much more colorful and informative game manual on the side as well as a game cartridge ready to be snapped out of its plastic cage and into your hungry DS game slot.

But let us put our appetites aside and unfurl what this cautionary guide has to say… in at least one of three provided languages.

WARNING - Seizures

- Some people (about 1 in 4000) may have seizures or blackouts triggered by light flashes or patterns, such as while watching TV or playing video games, even if they have never had a seizure before.

As a Joystiq article notes, "That might not sound like much, but multiplied over tens of millions of video game players it adds up to thousands of people who are potentially susceptible." Given that 300,000,000 people live in the United States, this means 75,000 Americans experience such seizures. However, these photosensitive people almost certainly avoid video games in the first place, assuming that they have had seizures from watching television before ever playing a video game.

- Parents should watch when their children play video games.

Touché, Mr. Thompson.

- Stop playing and consult a doctor if you or your child has any of the following symptoms: Loss of awareness, disorientation, altered vision…

Game developers should be troubled to know that horrible camera controls are as dangerous as complete immersion and virtual reality. Bad, bad, bad developers.

- …eye or muscle twitching, convulsions…

Yes, any of these will cause me to stop playing. No consciousness required. As for consulting a doctor, I refuse. I refuse to admit I have a problem. Shut up.

- …involuntary movements.

Translation: Let your angry friend win.

- To reduce the likelihood of a seizure when playing video games:
1. Sit or stand as far from the screen as possible.
2. Play video games on the smallest available television screen.

5. Take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour.

Excuse me, sir, but I presume video games are meant to be seen…. and played.

WARNING - Battery Leakage

- If liquid leaking from a battery pack comes into contact with your eyes, immediately flush thoroughly with water and see a doctor.

Again, I refuse to see a doctor, even if it just so happens that the DS battery is leaking, and I just so happen to inspect it from underneath my face, and the battery just happens to spew enough fluid to form a droplet, and the droplet just happens to descend directly into my eye. In reality. No, not even then.

- Do not dispose of battery pack in a fire.

Trust me. Nothing happens. Fires are not that pretty. Stop fantasizing.

WARNING - Radio Frequency Interference

- Do not operate the Nintendo DS within 9 inches of a pacemaker while using the wireless feature.

This just in. Four seniors passed away last night at Lakeside Nursing Home. Officials say that the culprit is a serial killer named Pictochat, quote "This is not a game."

WARNING - Hardware Precautions / Maintenance

- Do not store the Nintendo DS in a humid place, on the floor or in any location where it may contact moisture, dirt, dust, lint, or other foreign material.

Living in a bubble isn't that bad.

- Hold plugs straight when inserting them into a socket.

… … … … …

- The LCD screens may be damaged by sharp objects or pressure.

So that's why knives can slit my wrists.

- To avoid dirt or dust from getting into the Nintendo DS, always leave a Game Card and Game Boy Advance Game Pak loaded (with the power off), when not in use.

Well, now you have a reason for all those times you had the wrong CD in one jewel case, and the right CD in another case, and the right CD for that case was in another case, and…

WARNING - Repetitive Motion Injuries and Eyestrain

- When using the stylus, you do not need to grip it tightly or press it hard against the screen. Doing so may cause fatigue or discomfort.

I'm sorry, but the vulgarity is too strong.

But in all seriousness, I hope you are able to take home some important information on how to protect yourself and your loved ones. Please tell your friends and family about the safety measures you have learned here today.


[And a waste of observational humor.]

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Title: Beyond An 'A'... and a few wrist injuries
Posted: December 29, 2006 (11:53 PM)
I didn't think this was possible, but I now have shiny 'S's on every song on every difficulty in Elite Beat Agents. I think I'm going to let my hand rest from the carpel-tunnel gyrations. The only last goal I have is to earn 100,000,000 points and quite close, but trying to improve on an 'S' might be um... too... um... elite for me.
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Title: Is Any Gaming Publication Good?
Posted: December 27, 2006 (02:52 PM)
So since I've lost respect for Game Informer, as so many have, what publications are actually good (aside from HG and HGM - unless some hate that one as well...). Or if you feel like ranting (I welcome it), what publications should people avoid at all costs of humanity (which may not be a lot, but still).
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Title: Pissed At A Review
Posted: December 16, 2006 (06:40 PM)
Game Informer pissed me off today. It wasn't just because they gave Elite Beat Agents a 6.75 (I'm all for personal opinion within bounds after all). No, it's because the reasons the reviewer (of which will not be named) states are not justified. He acknowledges the quirkiness of the title, but then criticizes the game as such: "the circles can become hard to follow as the difficulty begans to ramp up and more and more of them pop onscreen." Since when is making things harder on a harder difficulty setting an issue?

But this isn't the best part. In the next sentence he writes: "The bigger issue here, however, is that something always felt a little off when using the touch screen. I just don't think this kind of touch interface is well suited to the rhythm game genre. After awhile I actually did start to enjoy myself a little, but Nintendo was never able to convince me that the game works well." Apart from the overly personal bias, if this is true, then what kind of DS interface would work for a rhythm game? Tapping the stylus on a screen is like playing a drum. What could be more appropriate?

He essentially says that only a button-press rhythm game is the only kind of game that would work on the DS: "The touch interface takes some getting used to and never actually feels as intuitive as other button press rhythm games." You know, there are instruments aside from the piano. In addition, I have let several friends who don't even play video games try this out because they were curious, and they sure didn't have any problems figuring it out.

But what really gets me is the lack of support. He never gives a solid reason as to why using the stylus to tap, drag, or spin a musical note is inferior in this game. Perhaps the word limit somehow prevented him from actually giving anything more than opinion. Unfortunately, he should know better than to bash an interface for being itself.
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Title: Gagaku and Japanese Indigenous Instruments in Game Design
Posted: December 12, 2006 (07:51 AM)
So what has been going on with me lately? Academic projects and whatnot. Here I present a respectable (read: unnecessarily long) paper for Japanese court music class. However, perhaps it will open your eyes to a untapped world of music that has worked in game design but only for a spare few games, which just happen to be masterpieces.

Gagaku and Japanese Indigenous Instruments in Game Design

Gagaku instruments and Japanese indigenous instruments are not often used in mass mediums and even less so in video games. Their rare presence in a soundtrack is usually confined to simply identifying the work it is in to be set either in Japan's medieval history or ancient Japanese folklore. However, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Okami are not only examples of video games that are heralded as seminal works, but also clear examples of the effective use of gagaku instruments and their history in an interactive craft. Through the synergy of gameplay and music, they suggest that relatively unknown instruments can do more than just line the scene.

Due to the foreign nature of gagaku instruments to audiences outside of Japan, it is understandable that game developers, let alone most art mediums on the international market, do not want to include them. Sufficient knowledge of these court instruments is not common even on the local streets of Japan. Furthering the hesitation of game developers is the assumption that these instruments are so unusual in melodic form that they will distract from the game's artistic vision.

Alluding to a Japanese myth about a son who leaves his father with a sword, a bow, and a mystical instrument, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time surrounds a story about a boy named Link who must leave his village in the forest and fight the impending darkness in the land of Hyrule with a sword, a shield, and a fairy ocarina. The kingdom of Hyrule, inspired by the medieval ages of Western Europe, is a world filled with knights, castles, and open plains, so an ocarina is dangerously idiosyncratic. Relics of Japanese court music before the 7th century reveal that the ken, a clay flute or ocarina with several small holes, was practiced.

However, pairing the mysterious qualities of the myth and the relic's history, the ocarina in The Ocarina of Time has incredible powers that manage to fit inside the Westernized game environment. Link can learn supernatural melodies such as The Song of Storms, which can cause a thunderstorm to appear; Zelda's Lullaby, which can prove his connection to the royal family, thereby removing magical seals with the royal crest; and the Sun's Song, which can control the rising and setting of the sun.

Further into the game, Link finds Zelda escaping on horseback from the clutches of the evil wizard Ganondorf and sees her throwing the sacred royal treasure into the nearby riverbed. Jumping into the river, he discovers that the treasure is the Ocarina of Time, implying that an ancient gagaku instrument is considered royalty. More than this, the Ocarina of Time can move the flow of time back and forth, allowing Link to switch between being a child and an adult. But beyond these gameplay mechanics, much attention was given to the ocarina despite it being in game form. The ocarina has the same shape and same amount of holes as the ken artifact, and though players can play everyone note on the chromatic scale, each mystical melody are made of notes on the pentatonic scale, common to Oriental pieces. With attention to detail and seamlessness between foreign music and innovative interactivity, the Ocarina of Time shows that even an unfamiliar gagaku instrument can be put on center stage.

Whereas the use of a Japanese indigenous instrument in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time would be considered an additional element that is central to the player's progression through the game, Okami (pronounced in Japanese as Ôkami) does not give gagaku instruments any main role, but treats them more seriously and with more subtlety as soundtrack music. On first impressions, an American observer would be surprised to find Okami on store shelves, mainly due to its subject matter. Furthermore, though American game critics expound on its exquisite scroll-painted graphics that envelop its ancient Japanese setting with strong watercolors and fluid brushstrokes, in addition to the its simplistic yet refined gameplay, they are unable to comment much on the game's storyline and music, which are both deeply rooted in Japanese mythology and culture.

Released in October 2007, Okami is a story about the wolf reincarnation of the Shinto god Amaterasu, and is a vivid re-interpretation of the famous legend between Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, and her husband-brother Susanoo, The Storm God. The original myth details that one night, the Sun Goddess was so offended by the conduct of her uncouth husband-brother, who had destroyed her rice fields and even defecated in her palance, that she retreated into a cave, blocked its entrance by a boulder, and refused to reappear. As the whole world was plunged into darkness with the sun's disappearance, the other deities, particularly the goddess of entertainment Ame no uzume no mikoto, devised a lewd dance to lure her back out. With the divine music piquing the goddess's interest, she peeked out from her cave, but once she did, the god of power Tajikarao no mikoto, lifted the boulder with his powerful muscles and brought back the sun's light to the world.

Many Japanese court musicians pinpoint this Shinto myth as the origins of Japanese musical culture; however, only bits and pieces of this myth have been faithfully resurrected in Okami. Instead, the game rightfully focuses on deconstructing the original story and reassembling it into a plot that would appeal to both Japanese and American audiences without subjecting them to a myth that is heavily steeped in religious belief. Still, Okami utilizes numerous events, both historical and ritual, that are important to gagaku culture, and while the intersection between gagaku practice and commercial game is not directly presented, the connections are still present.

Extending the original myth, Japanese emperors claimed that they had the divine birth-right to ascend the throne, as the direct descendent of the Sun Goddess. The Shinto legend goes that Ninigi, a grandson of the Sun Goddess, settled in northern Kyûshû, bringing with him the three sacred imperial regalia: a mirror, a sword, and a jewel magatama. These three items were then passed down to Ninigi's grandson, who in turn fought his way successfully to Yamato, where as Emperor Jimmu, he founded the imperial line.

The current royal ceremony of accession of a new Japanese emperor involves the ritual inheritance of the three sacred items, and Okami does not fail to give these three items importance in its gameplay, perhaps unknowingly adding a touch of modernity in their inclusion. Looking at the big picture, this game brings all forms of Japanese culture together and elevates them as a new artform.

As most action-adventure titles, Okami is a rather long adventure that takes about 70 hours to complete, and so it is unlikely that any player would sit in one position and play this game for hours on end, or keep the game on as they slept. Save points, which are specific places in the game world that allow the player to save their progress, are commonly used to allow the game to be finished in multiple sittings. Where many games simply manifest save points as some random object like a save stone or crystal, Okami replaces the save points with a mirror, which is also a symbol of the sun. Additionally, if Okami Amaterasu touches one of these mirror, its power which reflects the rays of the sun or moon restores the wolf's health and magical powers.

As for the sword and the jewel, their presence has equal significance as allusions to Japanese myth. In Shinto belief, Susanoo discovered the sacred "herb-quelling great sword" in the body of a giant eight-headed serpent. This fearsome serpent, which the game names Orochi, is the main reason why Amaterasu has been brought back into the world. The game retells its own legend, in which the people revered Okami, a god who would fly through the fields like the wind and watch over the life that filled the verdant lands. One fateful night, however, Orochi, who had been sealed away since time long past, was resurrected and swallowed the world of the plants, animals and people until he engulfed even the sun itself in darkness. In Okami's quest to restore light in the world, she encounters a lazy warrior also by the name of Susano, except with the last syllable removed, who claims to be Japan's greatest warrior despite his lamentable work ethic. Fortunately with her help, Susano is able to wield the sacred sword of his descendants and slay Orochi in his lair. In addition, the strongest weapon that Okami can hold is a magical glaive or a large, wide sword that can be slung from her back.

After the eight-headed serpent is slain, Okami travels the countryside to the imperial city of Sei-an. Here, the last sacred item, the jewel, refers to Queen Himiko's crystal ball. Finding the way into her palace and into her chamber-room reveals that Queen Himiko is hidden from her people, even from her castle guards and attendants; this isolation indicative of her time period is recreated surprisingly well. The crystal ball allows her to see into the near future, which gives you information about evil's whereabouts.

These numerous references to Japanese myths lack specific reference to musical instruments, but they create an atmosphere in which these instruments can come to life, beyond just the story. Okami is also a symbol of the religious synergy between Buddhism and Shintoism. Specifically, the wolf's spirit is that of Raigo, or the Buddha's coming. Wherever Okami walks, the grass and flowers beneath her feet begin to grow and a beautiful fragrance leaves behind her in a trail of sparkling dust as she runs across the field. In fact, much of the player's goal is to purify the land from the cursed darkness that Orochi leaves in its wake. Traveling across Nippon, Okami frequently finds cursed zones where trees have been blackened, soil has been spoiled, and rivers have been polluted. By restoring Guardian Saplings, or large Sakura Trees spread throughout the land, Okami can revive the defiled earth and create the beautiful world of Amitabha Buddha, under the Pure Land belief. Every time Okami visits a cursed zone, melodies in minor keys that exude sadness and threat play to reflect the blackened landscape. But once her divine powers renew a Guardian Sapling, a cut-scene appears showing the land being restored in waves of color and a radiant melody played in a major key exemplifies the glory of her divine intervention by ending with an arpeggio from a koto.

The inclusion of gagaku instruments, however, is more than what this relatively minor example shows. Along her adventure through the forest, Okami encounters a prophet named Waka, which might refer to the literary waka, a poem written by the streamside. As a member of what the game calls the Moon Tribe, an ancient group of people whose charge is to guide the gods back to the celestial plane, Waka does not appear in physical form first, but alerts to his presence through the melody of a tranverse flute. Whether this flute is a ryuteki, komabue, or kagura-bue is difficult to discern; however, it is clear that the game is enforcing the symbolic reference of the flute to a prophet, which is a symbolic reference that comes from the beginnings of Japanese court music. Players hear a flute playing "Enter Waka" at certain stages in the adventure and are thereby alerted that Waka is about to appear with a mysterious augury of the future. At times, the sword-wielding prophet also bids you to fight against him, and during these trials, Waka's ryuteki theme is combined with a spirited drum beat and fast koto and shimasen melodies to form the piece "Playing with Waka" to indicate the intensity of the battle.

Environmentally, gagaku instruments can also indicate the social class of a particular quarter, as is with the separation of Sei-an City into the two areas: the aristocratic quarter and the common's quarter. Okami first enters the fictional capital city through the common's quarter, a squared town full of hustle and bustle with merchants, restaurants, parks, and trade shops. Percussion instruments, a low cello line, and a ryuteki melody line main comprise the theme for this area. By contrast, once Okami crosses the bridge over the lake and enters the aristocratic quarter, the background theme opens with the shô, and similar to the commonly practiced "Netori," the hichiriki and koto follow in suit. Entering Queen Himiko's palace also changes the music to a theme that extensively uses the shô and hichiriki. By carefully choosing the selection of instruments, the game's soundtrack implies that the aristocrats and the empress have private gagaku performances. In fact, Okami will find kotos organized across the floors of the aristocrats' home. This reflects the elitist air of the aristocratic quarter, considering the symbolic reference of strings being revered as instruments that are more closely associated to the gods than woodwinds and percussion instruments.

It is minute splashes of musical interest like this that help polish the game's aesthetics. Several imps, small monkey-like enemies that litter the battlefield, unexpectedly carry instruments. Green imps prance around with ryutekis; red imps use biwas to shield themselves from your attacks; yellow imps carry a large Japanese hand drum to create waves of earth; and black imps tap their hands on san no tsuzumis to manipulate burning skulls that skim around the air. Moreover, when Okami runs around the house of the fortune-teller Madame Fawn, an almost forgotten gagaku instruments can be discovered: a hôkyô. The synthesized melody for this metallophone, which sounds akin to several gamelan gongs, is played when you are in her house, giving an eerie yet numinous sentiment to the environment. Spreading the fictional land of Nippon with cascades of gagaku instruments adds a cultural mystique that is undeniably unique.

Gagaku and Japanese indigenous instruments bring an exoticism and an air of sophistication that no mainstream musical medium can offer. Whether they are given the role of background music as in Okami or a key mechanic as in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, clean execution can ensure that they will blend into the game world without a glitch. Assuredly, gagaku instruments probably don't belong in a futuristic adventure or a game of which the inclusion of such instruments would cause more incompatibilities in concept than potential artistic value. However, these two video games which included these Japanese instruments have succeeded internationally both in sales and in critics' opinion. Any hesitation that gagaku instruments are too foreign should be met with action.

Gagaku artists should look to video gaming as an easy way for foreigners to experience Japanese melodies. In the same vein as Konoe Naomaru, who succeeded in translating gagaku melodies into Western tastes, video games can serve as an ambassador of culture that, as shown by Okami, does not need to be watered down or removed from its contexts for players to appreciate. Though the subtleties of gagaku instruments will probably not be perceived by the general audience, its sounds can at least be appreciated by the international public and be preserved in an emergent artform that is already immersed in Japanese culture. Gagaku music can create a powerful experience in video games and that should not be left on the table.
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Title: I'm A Lovin' Machine
Posted: November 26, 2006 (10:29 PM)
That's right. After a long and hard effort...

I have achieved the highest rank on Elite Beat Agents.

Umm.... no, I did not mean that... you dirty, dirty peoples... you read too much into my deceptive words...

I must say that I spent two nights which I should have been doing a take-home final for a class that I might be getting a 'C' in - playing this game instead. I actually haven't reviewed a game in who knows how long (I think at least a month) but I think I just found the one... if I can find the time.

Between the next two weeks of hell - aka finals and final projects - I hope that I can at least have a moment to breathe.

Anyway, back to Elite Beat Agents. m0zart was right. 'Tis amazing-ness. The only thing I can really fault it for is making a beat chart for "I Was Born to Love You," and in that vein, making things almost intentionally American. Whatever Japanese quirkiness the original version had been thrown into the fire. And I don't feel any warmer.

Still, my hand is now cramped thanks to this game and, okay, I admit it, me. Nonetheless, I blame the stylus. The stylus, you hear!

My favorite song has to be "September." Maybe it's because I have a groovy soul. You know, like a ninja.

Ninjas have groove.
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Title: The History Boys (Movie Review)
Posted: November 18, 2006 (12:01 PM)
Intellectual nuance has its limits. Though Alan Bennett's play "The History Boys" garnered rave reviews and swept both Broadway and the Tony Awards, some of its winning charm and British wit are lost in its silver screen adaptation, directed by previous Bennett collaborator, Nicholas Hytner. For the first third of this very English, theatrical film, the dialogue overflows with British jargon, screenplays acted in French without English subtitles, and enough literary references to make its audience regret ever wanting to go back to school.

But this is what you expect from a movie about a class of eight Oxford and Cambridge candidates at a grammar school - the British equivalent to an American high school - in Yorkshire in 1983. Observing their achievements in A-level courses and fancying Cutler's Grammar School climb to the top of institutional prestige, the headmaster (Clive Merrison) pushes them to return for a term's coaching ahead of the Oxbridge entrance exams. A trio of teachers is entrusted with preparing this gaggle of teenage boys for the arduous tests - the firm history professor, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour), the flamboyantly chubby "general studies" teacher, Hector (Richard Griffiths), and the young, newly-hired history grad, Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore).

Whereas Mrs. Lintott prefers a straightforward examination to historical study, Irwin has no qualms manipulating the truth to prove a point, preaching a "journalistic" approach to answering academic questions with off-shooting arguments and ample quotations. Hector basks in the wonderment of language and poetry, inspiring them to love knowledge for its own sake. Unfortunately, in contrast to his idealistically pure viewpoint, the motorcycle-riding Hector also has a propensity to fiddle with the boy who begrudgingly hitches a ride with him.

Both to its strength and its detriment, The History Boys remains rigidly faithful to its play counterpart. The entire original cast from the stage version return for the film, and though some of the boys, particularly the black student Crowther (Samuel Anderson) and the Muslim student Akthar (Sacha Dhawan), are as thinly sketched as in the play, the central characters deliver their well-rehearsed lines with star quality. Dominic Cooper turns the stereotypical cool kid, Dakin, into a likable yet arrogant character. Equally charismatic is Samuel Barnett, who vividly shows Posner's painful love with Dakin through a scene in which he sings to him in perfectly pitched words: "bewitched, bothered, and bewildered."

Bennett's slightly revised screenplay still poignantly depicts the shifting relationships between the boys and their teachers, but more than a several line changes are needed to accommodate the change in medium. Dialogue better suited for the stage is sometimes either over-acted or unrealistic in an atmosphere where high school students just don't break out in cabaret vocals. The ending also feels forced and emotionally manipulative, finishing with a climax that is far too abrupt on screen. However, after the academic foliage tapers off midway through the film, the actors' performances and the screenplay finally make the grade, getting to the heart of learning without spewing pretentiousness.
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Title: Petafilia Cell-uloid
Posted: November 15, 2006 (03:58 AM)
"I thought you were dead... no... you are."
"He he."
"Am I dreaming you here?"
"That... you took that from me... don't you want some ice cream?"
"What are you doing? Don't touch me with those bloody hands!"
"But they're yours, honey. Don't you like strawberry? I have some here."
"Take it! They're yours!"
"Don't you like dolls? Here, have two."
"Shut up!"
"And my, 'What a lovely tea set!'"
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"
"Ms. Twinkle says 'Hug me. Pet me.... Have some cake.'"
"I swear. I'll kill you again!"
"No, you don't want any?... Oh, hi, big brother."
"You don't have anymore lollipops."
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Title: All The King's Mouth
Posted: November 06, 2006 (09:51 AM)
The wound is clear
as smooth as thirst,
smearing ooze on toast.
Crunch, crunch.
The cranberry jam
bleeding down his
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Title: We're Still Here, Naysayers!
Posted: October 24, 2006 (08:28 AM)
Hilary and Jack. Need I go any further?

Even with all the hooplah over the homosexual angst in Bully and the "Caution: Hot Coffee" warning labels in GTA, we're still here. The American people is still sane. The world is still turning and we are still here to see it turn.

To take a page out of "Bowling of Columbine", would I be justified in saying that this is just another plug to infect us with fear? I try to watch the news, but everyday, someone is groping small children, being gang-raped, or murdering people because they love the name of the Wii (allegedly). To be frank, I'm more afraid of Mr.-and-Mrs.-Video-Games-Are-The-Base-Of-Sin-And-Depravity than I am of people slaughtering someone I know because of Doom or because they still can't beat the first level of Dante's Awakening.

Thompson's scurrilous remarks remind me of a child that won't stop whining until he gets what he wants. Maybe it's attention-seeking. Maybe it's because obsession is his tragic flaw. But that would make him a hero, something more than what he really is: a senile lawyer that just can't get a cookie. You know that gargantuan baby in Spirited Away? I fail to see a difference.

The point is that despite all the diatribes and overweening "acts of justice", the game industry isn't going to go away. We will probably take something away from the criticisms and passively mature, as humans do. We don't need anyone to say that video games are primarily violent out of pandering to the masses, but we're not stupid. As much as people say that the American public is dumbing down, we still have the ability to tell the difference between entertainment and real-life consequences. Sure, there will always be some that break through the cracks, but no system - no government - is perfect, either.

So don't turn to video games as a scapegoat for society's problems or for petty votes, politicians. Unless, of course, that is what you do.
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Title: Interview: The J-Word, For Venter
Posted: October 14, 2006 (08:04 PM)
'Video game journalism' is a questionable phrase at best and a lambasted term at worst. Criticisms that this novel brand of writing lacks the investigative story-chasing of hard journalism have come from both inside and outside the gaming circle. The majority of gaming media, print or online, anchor on consumer-oriented reviews and immediate coverage on press releases from game publishers and developers. Even Jason Venter, 27 - a freelance reviewer for Hardcore Gamer Magazine and the founder of the independent website, honestgamers.com - did not sit entirely well with the term.

"I think it's as good a term as any, though I know some people who laugh when they hear it," he alleged. "Game journalism doesn't have the same credibility you'd expect from a plain, old-fashioned journalist. I'm writing about games, not covering wars or social issues."

As most entertainment journalists, Venter weaved into the field almost by accident, and what was just a passing hobby became an eight-year career as a video game journalist.

"When I was young, I think the first thing I wanted to be was Santa Claus, according to my parents," he remembered. "I grew out of that and graduated with the desire to be an artist." But throughout his life, video games were always a passionate side interest. "The first games I played were on the Apple IIe computer at school. My cousin told me about Super Mario Bros. and the NES. Owning [a NES] became my obsession before I'd played one."

"I don't think there was a single [key] moment, but I know it involved Nintendo Power," Venter said, recalling how he became a writer for video games. "I'd come home from school every day, hoping the latest issue had arrived. I had a link to the world that entertained me. As I grew older and thought seriously about careers, I knew I wanted to be a part of that link for future gamers."

The gaming industry, which grosses more than twice the film industry, has a powerful influence on the public. Greg Kasavin, editor-in-chief for GameSpot, one of the leading gaming news websites, believes that since new releases of video games cost $50, gaming criticism has more impact than film and television criticism. On that note, Venter not only agreed that "video game criticism" was a more suitable expression, but that it also has more than a causal impression on its audience.

"I feel like I have more in common with Roger Ebert than I do with some guy writing for The New York Times," he affirmed. "[But] I think someone's more willing to take a risk with a $20 movie. The reasons are obvious. Gaming criticism is important because of that. Short of a rental, a review is the best way to know if the game is worth your money."

However, the ethical practices and impartiality of video game criticism have been reasonably called into question. Game publishers and developers frequently invite game critics to their studio for private showings and parties, and advertise their games on the websites of their guests. "A reviewer should remember that he's not reviewing the company as a whole when he talks about a game," Venter stated, emphasizing that the potential of stepping over the line of objectivity exists.

"Some people who are starting up sites make the mistake of believing that if they don't praise every game they get, the gravy train will stop," he declared. "In my experience, that's just ignorant. If you review a game accurately and support your opinions, you'll do just fine. Being the first to review a game isn't as important as being the first to review it correctly."

Integrity, especially on the Internet, is essential to the future of video game journalism, a medium in which websites allow for downloadable material, live feed, and easier access than print media. Venter clarified, "How many people have you talked to who don't subscribe to game magazines because they can get their news and previews faster online? Print magazines have their place, though, and I'm glad to contribute to one. Personally, I'd hate to see either format disappear."

Even after eight years of writing within the volatile environment of video game journalism - questionable term or not - and needing to hold a 9-to-5 job as service writer to compensate for his relatively low salary, Venter remains steadfast.

"If I'm lucky, I'll be in about the same place five years from now, only not checking sick computers into a computer service center. Writing about games is every bit as much fun as you think it is. People that say otherwise are fibbing."
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Title: Now That's An Easter Egg!
Posted: October 10, 2006 (11:32 PM)
"The allied Jeep-like truck in Company of Heroes has 3A5UX5 written on it. In the internet slang known as "leet", this spells out EA SUXS.

Why the jab at EA? Because the Jeep Willys used in WWII are still trademarked by Jeep, and EA signed an exclusive deal with Jeep for use of the Willys for their game, Medal of Honor: Airborne. So Company of Heroes is forced to use a generically branded troop transport. Take that, history!"

- GameRevolution.com Newsletter
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Title: Everyone Is Getting Married
Posted: October 03, 2006 (10:36 PM)
I just got back (well, 36 hours ago) from my cousin's wedding in Toronto. I hadn't seen Debbie in a while, so I was surprised to find her already betrothed. And five months back, another one of my cousins - Anthony - got married as well, and guess what, his wife is four and a half months pregnant. I guess they didn't waste any time hitting the sack.

It just makes me want to get married myself. Alas, gay relationships aren't honored with the same reverance as straight relationships. Unless I go to Massachusetts.

Or Sweden.
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