Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lost Photos of World War III

So, I was rummaging in the basement of my apartment building the other day, looking for some stuff I dumped down there when I first moved in, when I came across this old, dusty shoebox.  I didn't know what was in it, but I could see that on the outside someone wrote the words "Norway '85" on it's top with a pencil.  Out of respect for the privacy of whomever owned this box I should have really put it back where I found it...but I just couldn't resist taking a peak.   I've read a lot about the '80s over the years: that iconic decade of music, movies and, sadly, the 20th Century's last great war, what was logically called World War III.  Heck, it was the decade I chose to do my freshman history thesis on!  So I had to take a peak.

Inside I found a bunch of old analog pictures of some battle in Norway involving the Danes and some Warsaw Pact troops.  From what I could gather the pictures were taken by a pool reporter sent to the front.  Sadly, I couldn't find his name anywhere, but I know he was a reporter because of the comments he wrote on the back of each photo.  Take, for example, the photo at the top of this blog.  On the back, this unknown Walt Whitman wrote: "Damn Dane tanks!  No match against the T-72 at range!  The darn things brew up far too easily.  This won't play well in Copenhagen!"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gamer's Movie Review: I Declare War

Another review on ol' Burke's Joystick?  Yup!  I haven't had a lot of time to blog, so I am catching up on some stuff that was on the backburner for the last two months.  Also, I just seem to be stumbling across some fresh entertainment lately that is worth spreading the word about.

I Declare War, a recent independent film from Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, is definitely a movie that deserves wider attention, especially from gamers.  In many ways this movie is a love letter to gamers everywhere who grew up playing "War" or "Soldier" with their buddies after school. 

In fact, that is precisely what this movie is about: a fierce game of make believe War between two very competitive kids: P. K Sullivan, the undefeated master of the game (expertly played by Gage Munroe), and Quinn Wilson (an uneven performance by Aidan Gouveia), P.K.'s most capable opponent yet.  Well, Quinn would have been P.K.'s most feared opponent if not for a coup de etat that removes him from power.  This coup, led by the emotionally unstable Jamie Skinner (a fantastic performance by Michael Friend), doesn't just displace Quinn as the OpFor leader, but also changes this particular session of War from mere innocent competition to something much darker and emotionally charged.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gamer's Book Review: Hard Target (The Zone)

Once upon a time my gaming used to drive my reading.  That is, whenever I would come across a really good game - you know, one that really fired off those neurons - I would inevitably find myself running to the local library (for you Millennials, that was the Amazon.com of the pre-internet age ) or the bookstore to find a book that matched the subject matter of the game I was currently enjoying.  Heck, if you take a look at my bookshelves you can almost track what I was playing back then!   Such a gaming-reading connection seemed to happen a lot back in the good ol' days of gaming.  Sadly, not so much today.

However, you might have noticed that as of late I have been playing a lot of Wargame: AirLand Battle and, now, Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm (you haven't seen anything on that...yet!).  Clearly, I am enjoying gaming's rediscovery of the epic standoff that was the Cold War.  No surprise: the very first serious wargame I ever played was a SSI title called Reforger '88, a game that explored the opening act of World War III in Europe.  In fact, it was that game, along with other gems like NATO Commander and Theater: Europe, that awakened me to the larger world of international politics, something that would lead to my two degrees in political science.  So, yeah, I will always be fond of this period, particularly the end of the Cold War circa 1975-1988. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Delaying the Devil Dogs: A Wargame: AirLand Battle War Story

Well, this continues to be embarrassing.  After just swearing off video games, I am suffering from quite the addiction to Eugen System's Wargame: AirLand Battle.  I really have to say how impressed I am with the amount of polish that Eugen has applied to the game over the last few months.  And they are clearly not stopping, what with the news that another patch and the "Magna Carta" DLC (free!) were released today!  I might have my gripes with a big portion of the industry, but I think Eugen is one of the good guys of 2013.

Anyway, to celebrate my new addiction, I'd thought I do another AAR, this time with me playing as the East Germans against the AI-controlled United States Marine Corps!  Can I stop the famed Devil Dogs?  Check and see.  And to just switch things up a bit for this AAR, I will be using touched-up screenshots for a more realistic effect.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Oh Canada: the Assault on Delta 3

It looked like such a nice place to work.  I mean, the map merely referred to it as 'Delta 3', but it must really have had a much nicer name that that, something like "Happy Cow Milkery"...or something:

Sure, it was only two agro centers - Agro South and Agro North, as I referred to them - but what nice places they were.  I imagined myself as someone who had to work there, imagined driving through the pastoral fields, admiring the bucolic scenery the entire way, and pulling into my parking spot with a smile on my face because I was just thrilled with working in such a beautiful settng.  What could ever go wrong in paradise?


War.  War never chan...er, I mean: WAR!  War came to paradise!   Right out of the blue.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

You Made Me Do This!

...And by "this" I mean a return to tabletop gaming.  Oh, and by "you" I mean you lousy game developers.  Okay, that might be a bit harsh, but I am angry.  Very angry.  You have killed PC gaming for me.

Kaput.  Finished. Done.  I just can't take anymore of the slop being shoveled my way.  And I certainly tried to put up with it for as long as possible.  I mean, just take a look at this blog, one of my many, many blogs, where I desperately tried to put lipstick on a pig.  But in the final analysis it has proven to be all for naught.  PC gaming, video gaming - whatever you want to call it, - is now dead to me.  For the time being, anyway.

I think this realization really hit home with the spectacular launch fiasco that was X: Rebirth.  I mean, here we had a dedicated PC game developer, one beloved by fans around the world, that released what could be described as an awful and incomplete console port.  This fiasco was made all the more horrendous by the fact that the devs, Egosoft, have been proudly beating their chest that this game has been in development for over seven years.  SEVEN YEARS.  And what do we get?  A console game in a late alpha stage.  At best.  (Good summation here)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gamer's Movie Review: Pacific Rim

[Sorry that I haven't written in a long while: you can blame the pitiful state of gaming for that.  But I will have additional thoughts on that in a follow-up blog entry.  In the meantime, enjoy this quick rental review of Pacific Rim!]

It was love at first sight.  This is the best summation of my reaction to finally getting a chance to see Guillermo del Toro's new sci-fi tent pole production, Pacific Rim.  Pure, unadulterated love.

You see, for me cinematic science fiction has definitely been heading in the wrong direction these last few decades.  As someone who grew up reading (and loving!) the great science fiction masters of yesteryear - authors such as Asimov, Bradbury, Hubbard, Saberhagan, and so many more - I have developed a distinctive taste for science fiction that doesn't just ask the great science fiction motivator question of "what if...?", but also provides a smart yet thrillingly imaginative answer to that question.  I admit that is a tall order to fill, yet somehow the old masters managed to fulfill that order time and again.   Strangely, Hollywood, despite its billions of dollars and army of scriptwriters, has been largely unable to do so.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Video Games: The Perfect Metaphor for a Government Shutdown

Can you smell the liberty in the air?  Isn't it wonderful!  The 18 trillion dollar, liberty destroying behemoth that is the American federal government is shut down (really, slowed down), and liberty is prospering!  Woohoo!

One of the things I have found fascinating about this most recent shut/slowdown is how the internet has basically been having a ball with it.  As that anti-Big Government "Grumpy Cat" meme (above) demonstrates, contrary to all the inside the beltway doom & gloomers, most Americans are finding this political deadlock to be less of an opportunity for fear and more of an opportunity for humor.  Good for them!  Just like the dreaded "sequestration cuts" proved to be much ado about nothing, so has this "shutdown" proved to be a lot of fear-mongering nonsense.  American's are learning that the chattering classes inside DC live in a very different world from most Americans.  While we fear not being able to put food on the table due to our five year recession, they fear not being able to spend trillions of dollars on shrimp treadmills.  This, I believe, will be the most permanent fallout from the shutdown: Americans will remember how statist politicians deliberately scared and harassed their own constituents so that they could continue their big government ways.  In other words, they will now realize that federal government has become a menace to their own liberty and well-being. And once they realize that...can you say Rand Paul or Ted Cruz in 2016?

Another thing I have found to be fascinating about this shutdown is how video game artwork and memes have become interjected into the debate.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dub's Diatribe: Misogyny Bad, Violence OK.

Nothing from me today, but here is an excellent post from a former GameSquad alumnus who has just effectively and succinctly called out politically correct game reviewers for their cognitive dissonance.  Check it out!

Dub's Diatribe: Misogyny Bad, Violence OK.: I must admit that I am probably bothered by Gamespot's recent review of Grand Theft Auto V and the subsenquent response to the review ...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Etmirku! Give Me Back My Space Legions!

Seeing how I had planned on playing countless hours of Creative Assembly's Total War: Rome 2 by now, I knew that any blog posting I managed to squeeze in would probably begin with Emperor Augustus' anguished cry at the loss of his legions in the Teutoburg Forest (actual quote: "Quintili Vare! Legiones redde!" Transaltion: "Quintilius Varus! Give me back my legions!").  Of course, I am not playing Rome 2 because it arrived in CA's habitually buggy and incomplete state (yet further reinforcing my belief that game design has now become so complex that gamers will need to "lay down" their games for a period of time so that they can fully mature, just like wine).  So I needed to find another reason to use the quote (skip it?  Never!).  With that in mind, blogging about Arcen Games' masterful AI War: Fleet Command seemed to fit the bill nicely since it did, in fact, get me to exclaim something similar!

Briefly, AI War is a wonderfully genre-bending game (my review of the base game here) where the elements of traditional 4X Strategy are combined with such disparate elements as Tower Defense, Real Time Strategy, and even a touch of Role Playing (if one includes the Ancient Shadows expansion).   Take this thoroughly original - and daring! - mix, and add in perhaps the best AI opponent this side of the world of Chess, and you have what I believe will go down as one of the all time classic space strategy games of all time (it has already grossed over $1 million dollars).

Now, why the anguish....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Syria on my Mind: The Subjugation of Pomerania

One of the things I have tried to show via this blog is how modern video games, like a good book or a good movie, can shed light on geopolitical events.  This is not that startling: military and political scientists have been using "games theory" for a very long time to simulate the world of real politik.   Games are very good at this because they can smartly abstract the salient military and political principles that are operative in our world, thereby making them easier to digest.  So, for example, in my last post I showed how DICE's first person shooter Battlefield 3 captures an essentially correct vision of high intensity warfare in the Persian Gulf, making it a game I believe every politician should play at least once before glibly voting for another Gulf war (especially in light of the fact that a mere 21.8% of congress have actual military experience).  In the specifics it might not come close to real combat, but it does capture the fundamentals of it, and that can be as effective a teaching tool as any multimillion dollar military simulator, something most people will never have access to in their life.

People who don't game and/or are ignorant of games theory would probably be surprised at how often, and how well, most modern video games succeed as teachers.  Heck, sometimes I am surprised at the lessons unexpectedly imparted to me by video games.  Take, for example, what happened to me last night in a session of Paradox's superlative Crusader Kings 2 (you might want to hit play on this vid before you start reading)....

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Battlefield Three: Obama, McCain and Graham

Did you hear?!?  American troops have engaged Russian forces in combat in Syria!  It's true!  Here's the footage:

Darn intro text got cut off!  I am still not good at video editing!

Okay, okay, that wasn't actual combat footage, but footage from one of my recent sessions in DICE's Battlefield 3, a first person shooter that revolves around American and Russian troops fighting it out in the Middle East.   So that wasn't real...but I find it a strangely compelling vision of just what a larger international conflict might look like in Syria.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Despotic Branch

There was a story a few days ago concerning the Supreme Court video game related case, Brown et alia. v. Entertainment Association of America.  It seems that Justice Kagan had some...er, illuminating remarks concerning how they went about formulating their decision on whether or not video games enjoy First Amendment protection.  Justice Kagan said:
...the justices often turn to their clerks, who are much younger, to help them understand new technologies.

But they also try to learn on their own. In one case, involving violent video games the first year she was on the court, justices who had never played the games before dove in and gave them a try, Kagan said.

“It was kind of hilarious,” she said.

She didn’t say which games they played.

I found it interesting how the general consensus amongst the gaming press was basically "ain't it cool!" and "I wonder which games they played?"  The only appropriate response was outrage, of course....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Intermission: A Review of Girls und Panzer

This is going to be a first for me: I am actually going to review some anime!  I never really thought this day would come as I am not "otaku" for anime (the Japanese equivalent of being "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs").  Truth is, prior to this show, I've only ever watched TWO complete anime shows in my life, the first being the superlative Cowboy Bebop (in my opinion, one of the finest pieces of science fiction to ever grace the small screen - when will we get that live action version?!?), and the sadly mediocre Claymore (it started off great with a dark and gritty tale about monster slayers, but then lost its way and became a mindless monster mash).  And that is it.  Truth is, I find most anime to be little better than the after-school cartoons I watched growing up as a kid...an experience I have no desire to repeat at my age.  So this is why I am amazed to hear myself utter the following words (and by "utter" I mean "type"):

Girls und Panzer might be the finest television show I have seen in a very long time!

There.  I said it.  My feelings are now out in the open.

But I am getting ahead of myself here.  Let's start at the beginning:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Tank Chooses You

In the much revered martial art of "Tankery", they say that "you don't choose the tank, the tank chooses you."  I have found this to be true...well, at least it is with Wargaming.net's World of Tanks. Going into World of Tanks with its over 200 armored vehicles is a lot like stepping into a Walmart:  I mean, where do you turn first?  There is so much to choose from that picking just one from the massive pile of tanks often comes down to an arbitrary criterion.  For me and WoT, that criterion was simple patriotism:  if I was going to have a favorite tank, it was darn well going to be an American tank!  With that in mind, I decided to go with the WWII light tank classic, the M3 Stuart:

Some background:  built by Cadillac, a total of 13,859 vehicles were manufactured from 1941 through September 1943.  Initially, it was armed with a 37mm M5 gun, and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns, but later the main gun was upgraded to a slightly longer M6 barrel, and some of the machine guns were removed.  It is a true American classic, and one of the backbones of American WWII war effort.

Unfortunately, it would prove nothing but a headache for me in World of Tanks!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slapping Hillary: The Game

As a dedicated gamer, you probably hate it when cheap Flash games make the headlines.  I know I do.  Don't journalists realize that Flash games are the gaming equivalent of restroom graffiti?  Regardless, I figured I might as well cover this bit of news since it is in the purview of my blog.

It seems the militant feminist Left have their panties in a bunch (but no word from Rock, Paper, Gloria Steinem yet) because an anti-Hillary Clinton for President PAC has taken a page from the Left's playbook and used it against them.  You see, back in 2008 a Left-wing hate site launched a Flash game called Slap Sarah Palin where you do just that: slap around the the former VP candidate, complete with an anguished scream, for giggles.  Aren't Leftists so high brow in their humor?  As if that wasn't enough, this site even includes a bonus for players who quickly tire of their juvenile humor:  at the bottom of the website you can take a gander at a X-rated picture that shows a photoshopped John McCain and Sarah Palin having graphic sex (this is why I haven't linked to the site - but it is still online if you want to double check what I am writing here.  Just Google it).  Clearly, this site is all about classy, pro-women stuff!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Get Your Snoopy On

It is one of those things where one game leads to another, which leads to another....  In this case the instigator was Red Orchestra 2.  As I detailed here, I've been having a blast with the Rising Storm expansion.  Well, after playing on a bunch of servers that also hosted the core Ost Front content, I started to notice that maps which favored armored warfare were coming up quite infrequently in the rotation.  Truth be told this is no big loss as I hate how RO2 restricts armored vehicles to players who choose the role of crewman/tank commander.  As someone who prefers to play infantry, I rarely get a chance to hop in a tank because of this restriction - how I wish Tripwire would ditch this limited class thing and embrace the more open system used by Dice's Battlefield 3!  Regardless, even though I do prefer gritty infantry combat, I did become wistful for the chance to slug it out in some armor.

So I started looking for a replacement and remembered Wargaming.net's World of Tanks.  Now, I was never much of a fan of this game because of the arbitrary setting - I mean, why is everyone driving around in tanks from the mid 20th Century?  Is this WWII?  Well, clearly not what with Soviet T-34s fighting alongside German Panthers!  Is it some sort of Girls und Panzer setup?  Possibly, but the game won't confirm it, even if this fan-made vid does....

 Seriously, what is it with Japanese men and their need to put school girls in bizarre situations?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The 64-Square RPG

[The following is from a blog entry I did for my Chess.com blog.  Seeing how it is about a year old, I am surprised that my feelings on the current (dismal) state of CRPGs has not changed (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I think Crusader Kings II is the only true CRPG out there at the moment!)  I am posting it here because the criticisms contained in this post are as valid as ever.]

I realized something interesting recently: even though I have played my fair share of computer role playing games, I rarely blog about them. Oh sure, occasionally I will have a post about how RPG X has really impressed me with some facet of its gameplay, but rarely do I find myself drawn into an ongoing narrative as I have been wont to do with other genres. This is strange when you stop and think about it. I mean, RPGs by definition are designed to weave an engaging story that should be readily tailored into not just a single blog posting, but multiple posts. Yet, despite playing a series of expensively produced, high profile RPGs over the years, none have had sufficient merit for me to make more than one or two drive-by postings. What is going on here?

I think there are a few things that I find wanting in most contemporary RPGs:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Saving Private Watanabe

This is going to be one of those oh-so-rare posts about a World War II game.  Why so rare?  Because World War II bores the heck out of me! You just can't get away from it:  World War II movies, TV shows, books, magazines...the world remains awash in this epic conflict!  I guess that is to be expected seeing how it was a world war that affected millions of souls around the globe, and defined much of the 20th Century's political history. Regardless, the dosage makes the poison, and I have to conclude that the non-stop saturation of all things World War II has fatally poisoned my interest over the years.

Gaming, of course, has over-indulged with WWII like every other medium, so I haven't even been able to find refuge here.  To make matters worse, unlike, say, television or cinema that has attempted to portray this world war in different ways over the years, gaming has largely been stuck in neutral with various games constantly revisiting the same territory over and over again - D-Day, the Ost Front, Market Garden, etc. -  without ever bringing something truly new to the table.  If you ever want to experience gaming deja vu, just pick up the latest WWII title and I guarantee you'll be saying "didn't I play this back in 1999?" before you know it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Saints Row 4: That's Definitely Not Obama in the White House

Something unexpected happened the other day:  I was watching the following stage demo for the yet to be released Saints Row 4 when a tear came unbidden to my eye.  Why?  Because it reminded me of when this great nation actually had a manly president.  Check it out:

"You think you could *$@! with my country?!?  This one is for Uncle Sam!"   Now that is a take charge and take names president!  Unfortunately, we are currently saddled with this guy instead:

Barak Barry Hussein Soetoro Soebarkah Obama...if that is your real name

Thanks a lot, effeminate America.

Could you imagine what would happen if aliens attacked during Obama's presidency?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Obama Effect

It's all going down the drain.

That's the best way I can describe what is happening to my beloved hobby of gaming.  Right down the drain. I guess it is is apropos seeing that the same thing is happening to this great nation of ours.  Republican, Democrat, console dev, or PC dev...it doesn't matter.  It seems everyone is content to watch the train wreck happen rather than do something about it.

Hence, the reason why I haven't written in a long while.  It's not that I didn't want to write, it is just that there has been absolutely nothing to write about.  Even my leftist opponents in the gaming press have run out of things to talk about - don't blame 'em, after all how can to inject militant feminism into a platformer???

Gaming, it would seem, is dying.

Now, why would I say that?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day Gaming

Well, Memorial Day is almost here, but you wouldn't know it around these parts seeing how unseasonably cool it is!  So much for global warmi...er, "climate change". With that in mind, I guess it isn't out of the equation that I am going to be spending less time grilling and more time gaming.  But what type of gaming is suitable for a national holiday?

Memorial Day is all about remembering the valorous fallen who have given "the last full measure of devotion" while defending this nation throughout its glorious history.  Well, that is what most of us understand Memorial Day to be about, but apparently not President Obama who seems to think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a documentary....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Art of War: Paint.Net as a Game

I've always said that for me gaming isn't about the games, it is about the community that springs up around the games.  That is, as someone who has experienced the pre-internet gaming era, what most excites me about modern gaming is how I am no longer an island in isolation.  With just a few clicks of a mouse, I can be part of a massive international gaming community.   And I don't just mean multiplayer either, but about the whole panoply of the gaming experience: videos, fan fic, screenshots and memes.  It's all so much fun, and serves to fuel my appetite for gaming all the more!

One thing that has always impressed me in the world of gaming are those talented individuals who can take a rather ordinary screenshot and turn it into a work of art.  Well, I recently - accidentally - plunged into this interesting realm.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

EA Wants Your Guns

If you wear glasses, you are well aware that there is no worse feeling in the world than when your glasses break.  Unfortunately that is what happened to me two weeks ago.  They just snapped in half for no apparent reason.   The eyeglass shop I go to was kind enough to give me a lender set while mine were in the repair shop, but as anyone who wears glasses also knows, even a near identical set of frames adds enough variation to your prescription that it still takes a bit of time before your eyes adjust.  Hence the reason why I haven't been writing much.

But now I am good to go.  Phew!

Fortunately, it doesn't appear that I have missed much in terms of gaming news, especially political gaming news.  I guess this is a sign that gaming is definitely cooling off for longer and longer periods of time in the wake of the pre-Christmas rush.  Makes you wonder about the long term health of the hobby....

One story that did recently catch my eye is this report about Electronic Arts' - winner of The Consumerist's "Worst Company In America" award for two years in a row - recent decision to stop licensing real world firearms for their games....

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rental Review: Red Dumb...er, Dawn (2012)

First, let me extend a heartfelt apology to Kaos Studios for ever mentioning their first person shooter in connection with this dreadful movie.  Sure, both shared the same idiotic premise of a North Korean invasion of America, but I am sure Homefront provided far more entertainment value than this dog of a movie.   

Having said that, I will now briefly review Red Dawn (2012).  You know what was the best part of this movie?  That screenshot above.  Everything else was rubbish.  Yeah, seriously.

Now, I want to be clear about something.  As you probably know from reading my previous post, I am a HUGE fan of the original movie.  Therefore, I guess it could be expected that I would find fault with any film that tried to "remake" John Milius' classic.  I understand that.  However, let me assure you that I went into this film prepared to forgive a lot because I am one who believes that more of a good thing is no sin.  So, when I loaded the DVD into the player, I sat down with eager anticipation....

...And after the first 15 minutes, one word came to mind:  "Bastards".  Those lousy and lazy Hollywood bastards.

What director Dan Bradley, and writers Jeremy Passmore and Carl Ellsworth, did to the memory of the classic film is simply criminal, something on the order of the USSR's 1956 invasion of Hungary. In fact, it is worse than criminal, it is downright incompetent.  Where to start....

Monday, April 15, 2013

For Shame!

"Are these things real?...Did I see those brave and noble countrymen of mine laid low in death and weltering in their blood?  Did I see our country laid waste and in ruins?  Did I see soldiers marching, the earth trembling and jarring beneath their measured tread?  Did I see the ruins of smouldering cities and deserted homes?...Surely they are but the vagaries of mine own imagination."
  - CSA Pvt. Sam Watkins, 1st Tenn. Infantry

For shame, game devs!  For shame!  Do you not know that America is currently in the mid-point of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration (i.e., 150th Anniversary)?  Where are all the new ACW games?!?

It really grieves my heart to see how "America's Iliad" has been overlooked by gamers over the last decade.  I mean, we have so many World War II games being published on a regular basis that one can hardly throw a stone without striking a fascist stahlhelm.  Yet America's greatest struggle, one that consumed over 600,000 lives (World War II "only" consumed 405,000), is largely ignored.

This is so inexplicable to me.  While World War II is done and settled, the issues of the America Civil War are still with us today:  issues of race, federalism, states' rights, the extent of the 9th and 10th Amendments, and more.  To explore the ACW is to explore the political present.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Planned Parenthood Hates Babies: The Game

Interesting article today over at PC Gamer.  It seems that a collaboration between Digital Media at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz, along with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, has produced the "Game-O-Matic".  What is it, you ask?  Well, according to its official description, it is:
...a tool for creating short, simple games.

Instead of designing how characters and objects behave and then spending hours coding it, Game-O-Matic lets you think about what you want a game to be about. All you have to do is create a diagram of relationships and choose which of the games it makes for you that you like best!
As a practical matter, the program operates by taking user submitted nouns and verbs, and applying them to a selection of premade gameplay templates to create a simple game.  The result?  Crap.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Long March

I know we all like to idolize teachers, but in my experience the truly good teachers were few and far between in the government-run school system. In fact, out of my 12 year experience, I can only claim to actually having four good teachers (the rest were little different than the surly bureaucrats you meet at the DMV). Not surprisingly, two of the four had doctorates, with a third working on his doctorate at the time I was in his class. The fourth...well, I don't know much about him because he was my sixth grade(?) music teacher and I didn't take note of such things. Nonetheless, this man makes my list because he, too, managed to impart some wisdom that has stayed with me throughout the years.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Real Bigotry in Gaming

Lately, I've been seeing a bunch of articles complaining about bigotry in gaming.  Articles about racism, gender discrimination and even about homophobia (literally: 'fear of man' - see how incoherent these modernist labels can be?) in games.  Now, for the most part, these complaints all came from the usual suspects: individuals who often come from the left wing of the political spectrum and are obsessed with a vision of a Utopia where radical egalitarianism reigns supreme.  When Mark Levin summarized the Big Government Statist in Ameritopia, I think he also hit upon the essential characteristics of  this personality type - a not surprising coincidence since most radical egalitarians are usually Statists, too:

"It is observed that the Statist is dissatisfied with the condition of his own existence....He is angry, resentful, petulant, and jealous....The Statist searches for significance and even glory in a utopian fiction of his minds making, the earthly attainment of which, he believes, is frustrated by those who do not share it."

Thus, the mindset of the professional victim, and his resultant crusade against perceived worldly injustice that seemingly hides under every rock and mattress in the land.

While I agree there is bigotry to be found in gaming, it isn't with these favorite discriminatory hobbyhorses of the left.  Rather, I think there are two actual bigotries that need to be confronted by gamers: anti-religiosity (often anti-Catholicism to be specific) and age discrimination.  I won't deal with the former today....

Monday, March 18, 2013

It All Goes to Hell When Hillary Shows Up

[Warning: Some minor spoilers follow]

I should have known that when Hillary Clinton showed up in Black Ops 2, the game's interesting campaign was going to go straight to hell.  Oh, she didn't star as herself - which is strange considering how this game did not shy from including other real people in its cast - but as "President Bosworth".  Nevertheless, as with Oliver North, the similarity of appearance was unmistakable.   Sure, she wasn't running around hiding the Rose Law Firm records, nor did she scream "what difference at this point does it make!" when the bodies started piling up due to the global terrorism unleashed by Raul Menendez, but the bug eyes sort of gave the game away (as well as her apparent affinity for the ChiComs...I, for one, found it strange that "President Bosworth's" first call after the attacks went to the Chinese premier.  Hmm.  Old habits die hard, I suppose). 

Be that as it may, it was shortly after "President Bosworth" appeared that Black Ops 2 story ran into trouble (hmm, sort of like how the State Department ran into trouble when she became SecState), and by "trouble" I mean it basically ended within half an hour!  

By now, we've all seen clips of the fantastic drone attack on Los Angeles that occurs in Black Ops 2....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quick Review: Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40K Movie

It's not easy being a gamer.   Here we are, participating in one of the most lucrative entertainment genres known to man, yet our beloved hobby is still largely ignored - or even ridiculed - by the majority of the Old Media, particularly television and Hollywood.  Simply, good game movies/shows are incredibly scarce despite the fact that many gaming franchises come with a millions strong fanbase that stretches across national boundaries.  Case in point: Warhammer 40K.

 If you don't know, Warhammer 40K is a science fiction universe set in the far distant future, specifically, the 41st Millennium.  Unlike the sunshine and lollipops sci-fi futures of Star Trek and Star Wars,  Warhammer 40K's future is unremittingly grim, as attested by this standard preamble to every 40K book (and there are many of those, including some New Zork Times bestsellers...praise the Emperor!):

"It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the vast Imperium of Man for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day so that he may never truly die. Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor's will. Vast armies give battle in His name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst his soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defence forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat to humanity from aliens, heretics, mutants -- and far, far worse. To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."

If you are like me, you probably experienced a chill up your spine when reading that.  This is precisely why fans of 40K have been clamoring for years for a big budget film treatment. 

Unfortunately, I cannot now tell you that Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40K Movie is that treatment.  However, I can tell you that this is a solid first step for the Emperor....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ubisoft Hates Pro-Lifers

Ubisoft seems to be one of those game companies with a passion for self-destruction.  I mean, when one looks back at their record, how could anyone feel differently?  Not only did they come up with one of the most hated, most draconian, and ultimately, most failed DRM schemes imaginable, but they also have a way of rubbing people the wrong way with inappropriate political comments.  For example, recall the forthcoming title Rainbow Six: Patriots, a game that turns a Tea Party-like political movement (the "True Patriots") into domestic terrorists, including giving players the chance to play a hostage with an attached suicide vest.  Yeah.  Can you say tasteless?  Sigh.  I guess I could say something here like 'what do you expect from a French company?', but do I really need to at this point?

Well, today Ubisoft decided to dig itself a little deeper into its favorite politically inappropriate hole with two bizarre items.  First up: did you know that George Washington was a tyrant?  Well, according to the first bit of DLC for Ubisoft Montreal's popular Assassin's Creed 3 title, he might well have been....

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's not a Snowstorm, it's a Gamestorm!

As you probably heard, a rather big snowstorm - blizzard even! - is going to hit a large portion of the Tri-State area and New England.  Details:

Blizzard Warning
1054 PM EST THU FEB 7 2013












Now, I am one of those oddballs who actually enjoys storms.  Yeah, they are dangerous, and very inconvenient, but I confess to finding a bit of excitement in them.  I particularly like blizzards.  Why?  Because...

They make for great gaming weather!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gamer's Book Review: Standing Alone

I don't know about you, but I find that my gaming almost always drives my reading.  That is, when a game ignites a spark of enthusiasm for a particular topic, I almost always find myself reading a book that is related to the game's subject matter in some fashion, be it fiction or non-fiction.   This is a powerful symbiosis, so powerful in fact that I notice that when my gaming roster becomes bare, my reading drops off precipitously as well.  Likewise, when I am powerfully invested in my latest pixelated love affair, my reading skyrockets in sympathy to my gaming. I guess this shouldn't be a surprise to me as it was gaming that made me into a book lover from the get-go.  That's right: despite all the yahoos out there projecting all their worst fears onto video games, the truth is that video games can powerfully stir the imagination in the same fashion as a book...which is why a lot of gamers are naturally drawn to reading.  Heck, but for my unexpected love affair with an old SSI 8-bit wargame called Reforger '88, I never would have taken an interest in military history.  Later on, Chris Crawford's 16-bit classic Balance of Power caused me to develop a burning interest in geopolitics.  It is no small thing to say that those two games directly led to me eventually pursuing two degrees in political science.  In short, gaming introduced me to history and politics, and caused me to become a voracious reader of both topics...all at the age of 13.  Those evil video games....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Far Cry 3: Come for the Beaches, Stay for the Monkey Business

[This was an unexpected trip.  After reading some rave reviews about Ubisoft Montreal's Far Cry 3, and getting some enthusiastic recommendations from fellow gamers, I decided to give the game a try - I mean,  what else is there to play as we suffer through yet another post-Christmas lull?  Sheesh!  Anyway, I went into this game with low expectations because 1) the previous entries to the franchise never interested me in the least, and 2) the description for Far Cry 3 didn't interest me in the least.   I prefer fantastic settings as a gamer, be it alien planets like Borderland's Pandora, or a realm of medieval fantasy as in Skyrim, so the idea of traipsing around a contemporary tropical island as a 20-something spoilt brat, one who runs afoul of white slavers no less, isn't exactly on my top 10 list for game settings. 

But perhaps that is where the magic came in....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Borderlands: The Other Stalker

[Sorry for disappearing again.  Christmas, New Years, a PC crash, a PC upgrade, and some good ol' fashioned sickness all conspired to cause a pause in this blog.  Well, that stuff, and the post-Christmas gaming drought which seems to be a common occurrence for the past few years - I mean, how do you write about gaming when there are no worthwhile games out there?  Anyway, here's to 2013 being an active year for this blog and for PC gaming!  

Seeing how Borderlands 2 is now out, I decided to revisit the original and finally complete the campaign before moving on to the sequel.  Here are my thoughts after doing so.]

Wow, a rarity to report: I actually finished another SP campaign, this time from the original Borderlands!  As I mentioned elsewhere, I rarely finish game campaigns because I just hardly ever find the stories to be all that interesting. Generally, I just indulge myself with the game until I get bored with it. Then I either delete it from my HDD or just move on to the inevitable sequel, knowing full well that I probably didn't miss much story-wise, and the follow-on title is going to fill me in on the details anyway.

But I just couldn't do that with Borderlands. Even though the sequel - and two DLCS! - is already out there for the taking, I just could not leave this campaign unfinished. I just found the whole experience too engrossing. But why? As I powered my way through a second fresh start, I realized just why I so enjoy this game: you see, Borderlands is the other Stalker.