I watched everything there was to watch from E3, beginning to end, and only got one lameass emblem. Blaaaa! :P
Sooo, ryuu ga gotoku 3 (known to you american people as yakuza 3) came out last month... And I can't play it because I'm not gonna be able to return home for like another 4 months. It's supposedly way better than gta4 (well, that's not that hard to do, really). This is frustrating, I haven't even played Afro Samurai yet. I gotta make more time for gaming in my schedule.
Yo, what's shakin? Did you know that World of Warcraft has over 10 million subscribers already? Now that's impressive. I was gonna give a nice and clever comparison to show how much 10 million is, but I couldn't think of anything. So let's just say 10 mil is a lot, ok? I've been wanting to write about this for a long while now, and thanks to a freaky coincidence an opportunity to do some research presented itself.
It just so happens that one of my co-workers has a son, who's addicted to WoW big time. A couple of days ago we were having lunch when he mentioned that he's never seen a game keeping a kid interested as long as WoW does. Because most games you just play, finish the story, play online a bit, and then they just collect dust on your shelf, right? I know many many things have been said about this phenomenon already, but maybe in this research I managed to come across something new... I had the chance to talk to the 17-year-old WoW player, let's call him Sunshine, and decided to base this editorial on that interview, and some online questioning done by mister Matt Wallah (check his website outoflives.com. That's right, I advertise during editorials now).
Obviously, the question "why is WoW so popular" has been asked and answered a thousand times, so I'll just say it short, for the record. According to the results of the questioning the most common reason for "why do you play WoW" is "because it's fun to interact with people online, it's a strange escape from the real world" (direct quote that pretty much sums up everything most people said). So yeah, that's pretty obvious, fun to interact with people from far away, kill monsters with real people, not CPU, but actual humans on the other end of the connection. Fun to go on quests with your buddies from school as well. It's all about multiplayer. That's why WoW is so remarkable - the game is so boring when you play it alone that it's almost unplayable. Believe me, I tried. (Actually I think the game is boring even when you play it with other people, but what the hell.) So the question has been answered, and people agree, WoW's fun to play because of interaction with other people online and it provides a nice escape from reality.
Ok, now the real question. What does the above mean, knowing the game creates addiction and that it sold over 10 million subscriptions? Here is where the interview with Sunshine comes in handy. Of course, he said that it's fun because it's an escape and so on. But that's not all he said. I had to push him a little, but finally he explained what is so great about the multiplayer experience. Basically, it's taking anonymous internet communication, like chat or message boards, to a higher level. Because now you don't focus on talking so much, but do things together. You do the talking afterwards. Or not, if you don't feel like it. (Kinda reminds you of some other activity, don't it.) So your interaction doesn't end on words or images, the game allows you to do stuff and achieve things thanks to the interaction itself. Now, if you liked doing quests with someone new you met, you can add them to your friends list and invite to a game later. Through this a connection, a sort of relationship is established. And this my friends is the very essence of why WoW and other MMORPGs are so popular and addictive. The relationships they create are the addictive chemical here. Here's some proof.
During my interview with Sunshine, first he told me about what's cool about the game and what's not. Pretty much the same stuff you'd hear from any WoW player, so I'll cut right down to the point. When Sunshine said that "this way of socializing is just better, you know, it's simpler" I knew I hit the jackpot. This was his reason for what's so great about this escape from reality. I'll tell you right now what he said. WoW creates an environment for socializing, just like the social network websites (Facebook, Myspace, Mixi, etc.) do. In this World of Warcraft you don't have a face, your face is a texture-covered shape with oddly sharp edges (yeah, poor graphics, man), you don't have an age, you can say you're 40 when actually you're 14. You don't have anything that you can be identified by, so you can play any role you want. You can be whoever you want to be. You can be a guy even if you're a girl, a tough guy quarterback **** even if you keep your lights on at night and drink coco yo mama made you. These are the magical words - you can be whoever you wanna be.
Now, after a short time of observation it becomes obvious that the actual gameplay is just a background for the socializing. Because yeah, you go to slay some ghosts or ghouls, retrieve a sacred volume, whatever. Doesn't matter. What matter is that you're doing it with your buddy. The buddy who doesn't really know anything real about you, but you're friendly, because you enjoyed the first couple of times you played with them. And it's cool, after a couple of gameplay session you get to know each other a little better, talk more and about more serious stuff whilst traveling to the quest marker. And you can act the way you want, there's nothing restraining you. There is no society to judge you, now bullies to beat the hell out of you, no parents, no teachers, nobody to tell you what's right or wrong. The beauty of an artificial world is this, the rules in this world have no value. You can say what you want and do what you want. You can have the face of a mutated pig in real life and chicks will still dig your action as long as you have a big bad magic sword. Ain't nobody seeing your face in the game. Tell 'em you look like *insert your current crush name here*.
Right, so the game is running in the background, and a young person feels safe enough, safe hidden behind the virtual representation of what they wish they were. Safe enough to share. Feelings, not files. You can think of WoW as a filesharing application, a hub, but not for files - for thoughts and feelings. And it's cool, because you whisper them to the person you're currently playing with, so nobody else will know your secrets. And Sunshine confirms this, he did talk about serious things, dreams, disappointments, fears, ambitions, cravings, etc with the people he was friends with in WoW. He did it many times.
You have the 10 million subscriptions sold and you have a generation of young people born in the 1990s. Put these two in the same jar, turn the stove on, don't forget to stir, have ice ready...
Yeah, isn't it scary how in the days when people don't take the time to talk to each other anymore a MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER game sells 10 million subscriptions? Because you already know what this means. You know how today's kids are. They're awkward and uncomfortable in the world, in society. So it was a sweet release for them, when things like Myspace or WoW kicked in. In the virtual world they don't have to feel awkward or inadequate, because they can be whoever they want. They're safe in the virtual reality, as opposed to the organic world their bodies have to live in. What this means is that today's youth are socially handicapped and have severe problems socializing with others. If it's easier for them to talk to somebody through a GAME than to talk to a person face to face, then their social skills are practically on level zero. It's sad and actually pathetic that these kids are so incapable of communication. Yeah, every generation had the problem of "nobody listens to us!". But the previous generations did something very different from what the current does.
The previous generation fought back. Be it through music, art, film, or any other form of expression, they fought back. They yelled and bled, but finally got their messages across, and got others to listen. It came at a price, always, but it worked. And what does this generation, this WoW generation do? They found a communications channel within the established system. This is the difference, the previous generations were active and had to create. This one is passive, all they gotta do is get the game client and pay the monthly subscription fee (the parents will pay for it, won't they?).
The bottom line is this, this WoW Generation is so socially retarded and awkward, that not only can't they communicate with others - they can't even communicate amongst themselves. They have to put on masks and pretend to be flawless people to establish any kind of connection with other human beings whatsoever. As for relationships with people, same thing. It's so much easier to do it all online, than in reality, right? So much easier. Well I'll just tell you this. The real world is not an easy place. These kids are just scared of the difficulty of the "real life mmo". And they're scared because they do not have the social skills which are vital to survival. Unfortunately, these skills cannot be exchanged for XP. Funny like that.
Why am I saying such bad things about this youth we have in the world today? Well, take a look at them and you'll know. Just take a look. If they look you in the eyes... run, they ain't human. Look at them. And look at yourself.
Right, time to play Guild Wars. PEACE.
Hello all. I wanted to write something funny, but I'm not in the mood for funny stuff. Some German nihilists threatened to cut of my Johnson. So no funny stuff today. Instead, let's try something serious. And shut the ... up Donnie, you're out of your element.
So, first I'd like you nice people to take a look at this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_banned_video_games and pay special attention to the reasons why most of these games were banned where they were banned. You will surely notice that the primary reason is that the games were too violent and included too much gore. And that my friends is hypocrisy. Why? Let's see now.
The games in most trouble were the ones labeled with "Banned because of high impact violence and cruelty." But what does this mean? Decapitations, execution **** guts flying all over the place, severed limbs, brain splatters, and so on, right? Yeah, fountains of blood. a bloodfest if you will. Just regular video game fun. Can't do it in real life (well, you can, but you'd end up in jail, that's why I don't do it. This is kinda off-topic, but the only thing preventing me from slaughtering people I don't like is the law. Aaand the creators of the law rest happily in their graves.). So, can't do it in real life - buy a video game! All jokes aside, what exactly is impact violence and cruelty? I suppose it's beating an AI controlled bunch of polygons to death, of impaling them on barbwire fences (like in Condemned 2), or, maybe strangling them with a plastic bag. Chainsaw heart surgery also included (chainsaw sold separately). The Mortal Kombats were banned in Germany. Well... draw your own conclusions.
Getting to the point, let me tell you why I think censoring violence and gore in video games is hypocrisy. The majority of the Western World* is of Christian faith. And what do the Christians believe in? That Jesus Christ the Lord died for their sins. We all know that, and, we also know how He died. The man was nailed to a wooden cross, stabbed with a spear in the lung (that's what I heard, correct me if I'm wrong), and before that he was whipped and bled for hours before his body gave up. Now, picture it. Picture a guy putting nails your hands and feet. Picture Jesus carrying the cross and being kicked, spat on, and whipped. If that's not cruelty, then I don't know what is. See what I'm getting at? They ban video games merely because there are decapitations in it. I mean come on, even a decapitation with a butter knife would be less brutal and gory than a crucifixion. And the hypocrisy is this: they ban the violent games, yet they teach their children the most violent story of all time. But Christianity is not the only "thing" that does this kind of mind-twist.
Remember when you were in school, having to sit through them boring history lessons? Dig this my friend: before you reach the age when you can buy a M-rated game, you've already heard and read about all the cruelty that is depicted in these games. You were taught about what the Romans did (crucifixions, animals versus humans in an arena, the destruction of Carthage, etc), you know about witch-hunts (burning innocent women alive... no, not cruel and not violent at all.), the crusades ("kill them! they worship the wrong god!"), the Holocaust, WW2, WW1, the list goes on and on and on and on. I'm not going to say anything about the bombing of Hiroshima, ain't worth the alpha-male flag fetishist's comments... Anyway, my point is, cruelty and violence is a part of history and human nature. So what's so bad about a game with some blood and violence, if the kids pray to an image of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross? It's a huge contradiction, censorship.
And please, the argument that "this is history and religion, which you only learn about, in video games you control what's happening" ain't gonna fly, because you know this is very thin argument. It's not an argument at all.
All I'm saying is that there is absolutely no justice, and above all, no reason and common sense in all this. What, you gonna ban a video game, but still gonna teach about gas chambers and doc Mengele? It's a world of double standards, man. And on top of that, it's lying to yourself. My culture is a culture where violence was everyday occurrence. Ha, more than that, not so long ago killing yourself by cutting your belly open was the most honorable and glorious thing you could do. Suicide was a virtue. But somehow, only one game was banned in Japan. GTA3. And not even banned, only restricted. I don't think I need to explain any more, you get the point. (yeah yeah yeah, I know it's a different world, a different culture, etc. So what?)
So why is this bothering me so much? Because it's just plain stupid that people teach their kids about history, which basically is just a couple of thousand years of cruelty and violence, but they won't let the kids play a video game because there's some blood in it. Well mom and dad, think for a second. Your kid already knows about things far more gory and violent then cutting somebody in half with a chainsaw.
*-please note that due to my origin I refer to Europe and America as "the West", I don't mean that in a bad way.
Side note: ain't it kinda funny how most games banned in Germany were banned because of "Nazi references"? What are these people trying to tell us, that there was no Third Reich? Or maybe no Holocaust? This is ridiculous. And I'm not even going to touch the reasons why China bans games. Absurd. And offensive to people with brains.
DISCLAIMER: If you feel offended by this blog... well... I don't care.
Next one is gonna be funny, I promise.
Man, talk about a tough break. Apparently Uwe Boll is going to make the movie hall of shame as worst director ever. Think about his kids, getting picked on at school, his wife attempting suicide, or at least contemplating it... It's sad. I think even the family dog feels the awesome weight Uwe's failures put on the shoulders of their household. You think that dog wants to get the ball or go for a walk? I think he's too depressed to do anything.
You know, if you asked me about game-based movies a couple of years ago, I'd say they suck. More than that, everyone I know would've probably said the same. The reason is simple. All we've seen were really bad movies made by Uwe. Yes, my mind changed after the Silent Hill and Hitman movies (well I liked them!), and The Forbidden Siren (movie based on Siren for PS2), but what if I never got to see these movies? I would die still thinking that all game-based movies suck. Let's break it down.
BloodRayne - a mediocre game, but the movie could've been sexy. I mean SMEXY, BABY! Look at the huge... potential this game had in the movies. Who cares about a decent story and good acting as longs as you have a killer goth chick running around slicing people up, right? Well somehow Uwe managed to destroy it. Two terrrible, terrible movies, and the actress... well, it's a matter of taste, but I guess we can say that if Uwe chose this girl out of all the women available in the world... He must be blind, deaf, and probably without the ability to feel textrure with his fingers.
Alone in the Dark - a great example of how to completely ruin a franchise. Alone in the Dark is a cult game, even if the last installment wasn't so good, still, this title has been around for years, and it has it's followers. And then they go see the movie, and they lose the will to live. It's really a shame. I think the dog went crazy after reading the reviews.
Other movies listed in the poll - I heard about House of the Dead. But a Far Cry movie? A Dungeon Siege movie? Where did these come from? And what's the Postal movie about, cutting people's head off with a shovel and peeing on the corpses? Come on. I think it's actually good for me I never heard about these movies. That's it, the family dog Jurgen is on prozac now, probably smoking fruitloops as well.
Seriously though... Uwe Boll aside, think about how much potential there is in games. As I said above, I think Hitman and Silent Hill were decent, entertaining movies. Max Payne also wasn't terrible. Marky Mark with guns, tough guy, angry cop, why not. But if you measure the proportions between good and bad game-based movies, you are crushed by a tide of terrible, unwatchable films. Think of the money spent. And it cannot be undone, because nobody's gonna remake the bad movies. Why would anybody care? The bottom line is that the people who make these movies seem to get way overexcited at the beginning, and the terrible movies are a result of them being so hyped out. Come to think about it, maybe some of these games just weren't good enough to make movies of? Have you seen the Dead or Alive adaptation? I mean... I know it's about the sideboob... but come on... don't do this to the gaming community. My point is, terrible movies can totally destroy the image good games have created for themselves. Think of the massacre, think of the horror if Uwe or some other GREAT DIRECTOR decided to make a Fallout movie. I liked these games, they were really great, I don't wanna see the good name of this franchise be thrown into a pool of shame, just because some idiot decided to make a movie. And somebody paid for it! Starting to wonder about the Gears of War movie. Please, all gods the good readers of Gamespot pray to, pleeeeeease don't let them ruin it.
Well this sure was fun, in a very sad way... I hope you enjoyed reading this piece and found it at least a little bit funny. I am off to rent some horrible movie. And maybe I should adopt Uwe's dog...
It's finally time to choose the best games of the year. It's always exciting for me. Not necesarily because I want my favorites to win, but because of the laughs I get when looking at what the "professionals" chose. I've been looking throug these award nominees and it all seems a like the people who chose these nominees were high on crack whilst choosing.
I mean, it's obvious that the staff have their favorites. It's proportional to the hype they created during On The Spot shows, wring previews, etc. Everybody was so excited about Little Big Planet, and there you go, it's been nominated in many categories. Same with the oh-so-overrated GTA4. Butchie as best new character? You gotta be kidding me. Sure, they can be fair when the category is Best Graphics, because that's not really something that can be subjective.
You look at the nominees and you can already tell which games will be the winners. Of course Little Big Planet will win in all it's categories, of course MGS4 will win the same way. What I'm trying to get across here is that the Game of the Year award doesn't really mean anything. A bunch of dudes went into a conference room, decided that these are the games THEY like best, so these will be the games of the year. What kind of bull is that? These are like what, 20 people deciding? What about the thousands of players who most likely will not agree with their choices? Editor's choice is a joke. This year we've seen like 3 or 4 game get a perfect score. The last game to get a perfect score before this year was Chrono Cross. And that was 8 years ago.
Isn't it kinda weird that for 8 years there hasn't been a game that the critics would give a perfect score and now all of a sudden they are so generous? I know many will agree that there is no way in hell GTA4 deserved a 10. Maybe I'm wrong, and there actually were no perfect games in the past 8 years. Or maybe the standards here wen't down the gutter. Gamespot's been lacking the quality it used to have for a while now. It's definitely not the same standards it used to be 2 years ago.
So what's the real point of this Game of the Year award? It's the emblem the publisher will put on the box. "X, awarded Game of the Year 2008 by Gamespot". That's it. Last year, when that Mario game won GotY, the explanation was, amongst others, "It's a Mario game, who doesn't like Mario". I don't. I mean, come on, what kind of a reason is that?? "It's a Mario game." SO WHAT? If the only real value the award carries is that sticker on the box, isn't it possible that the whole thing is just scam? Hey, wanna make some exta money? Give our game the award. This in turn means increased sales, increased profit and everybody's happy.
Except for us, the people who actually spend the money and play the games. Our votes should be the only ones that count in this competition. But we only get to pick the Reader's Choice award, which means virtually nothing. Yeah sure it's fun choosing that game which will get the award. But nobody pays attention, because apparently, we, the gamers and fans are not qualified to make such an important choice. Better leave it the 'pros'. Haha.
I swear on my mother's grave (she ain't dead yet, so what the hell...), if another Mario game wins any kinda award this year I'm gonna start my own site. GamesThatBlowButTheCriticsLoveThemAnywayCuzTheyreCritics.com.
EDIT: After all the voting is done and the winner is revealed, if the staff award for Game of the Year is the same as Reader's Choice, I'll admit I was completely wrong about the whole thing. But I'm willing to bet good money that the Reader's Choice award will go something completely different.
When The Force Unleashed came in the mail a couple of days ago, I was thrilled. I've been waiting for this game for so long... but that's not the point. Before TFU I was playing Ninja Gaiden 2 every day for about two months, so my fingers got used to the control schematics of this particular game. In fact, they got so used to it, that I had to spend the first couple of hours with TFU just remembering that the controls are not the same as in Ninja Gaiden. Then I thought of an idea; what if the developers made an agreement, that all games in a genre (for example all action games, all fighting games and so on) had the same controls?
Now, I do know there would be some difficulties. First, obviously the characters you control in each game have different abilities assigned to the buttons. But in action games, the pattern is pretty much similar. You have (in most cases) light attack, strong attack, jump, block, and projectile weapon. Wouldn't it be a good idea if all action games had the same controls? I mean, I could've done a whole lot better in the first levels of TFU if I had rembered that the X and Y button combos aren't like in Ninja Gaiden.
Same goes for fighting games, shooters, and all other genres. I would be much easier if you knew that A is always jump, or RT is always fire. In most cases the controls don't vary to a degree when you really have to focus on which button to press, but sometimes different controls make the transition from one game to another a lot more painful and frustrating than it should be. Maybe the example of TFU and NG2 is not the best, because actually with the exception of the Y button, the contols are similar. But there's a ton of games out there that do not follow the same schematics and it's a real pain to get rolling with them, after playing 100s of hours of some other game from the same genre.
So I say standardize, make Gears of War controls the standard pattern for all tactical shooters, make all action games use the same buttons for jump, attack, and everything else.
But this is just my opinion, I think it would be an improvement and would make new games instantly more enjoyable by shortening the learning curve. What do you guys think of this idea? Would you like to something like this happening?
There's been a lot of talk about this in the past couple of weeks, I just thought about sharing some of my views on the subject with you.
I think first of all we have to acknowledge that incorporating a message or social commentary into a video game is so much harder than in other media. It's easy in movies or books or tv shows, because in their case we're just passive viewers, and we can absorb the message right away. In video games, on the other hand, we are not passive, we control the game, we focus on the gameplay, so it's very hard to get that message across. I definitely agree with what was said on The HotSpot recently, that it would be very hard to find balance between gameplay and message, so that one would not steal attention from the other. I think the only way of achieving that balance is to make the message part of the story. And that, as we all know, is not an easy thing to do. But, some games manage to do that and right now I have two particular games in mind: GTA4 and The Witcher.
Grand Theft Auto was always there, making fun of establishment in a sarcastic way. The whole series had social commentary in it, but GTA4 brought it all to the next level. Let me say this right here and now, I don't want to offend anyone, I will just try to present my point of view through the lens of GTA4 (please keep in mind that I am, after all, a foreigner, ie not American). So basically what GTA4 does is hit you in the head with a baseball bat and say that The American Dream is just a big fat lie. We have the character of Niko Belic arriving in the US as an illegal immigrant. His cousin is loving the American way of life, even though he has to commit crime to survive. Those of you who played the game know the story. Niko is like the counterweight to his cousin, he's skeptical keeps his distance.
Now, the story of the game revolves around the idea that America is the promised land and that everyone gets to live The Dream. But they don't. That's the whole point, which is obvious. What they have to do, just to have a glimpse of The Dream is steal, kill people, hustle drugs. Is that what it's supposed to be? I don't think so. Basically it's all there right in the dialogue, Niko knows and starts realizing it more and more as you play, that The American Dream is a lie. And it brings him misery. It's no longer the promised land, it's land of broken promises. And that's what it turns out to be in real life to many people who decide to embark on the whole 'makin it in the US' thing. To foreigners America looks like paradise, because all they know about it comes from TV and movies. They don't know how it really is, to start from ground zero, having nothing. And I think that GTA4 makes a very good point both to Americans and foreigners. It tells the American player to stop and think a little, hey, maybe the suburban fantasy world is in fact rotten? And what does it say to the foreign gamer? It says, think again. GTA4 is a huge step forward, because the makers of this game were not afraid to point out almost every single flaw of the American society and incorporate that in the game, without drawing your attention from the gameplay itself. That's a huge achievement in my opinion. And I bet that it gets the message across better than any movie, because you play it, you're part of it, and if you really get into it, you can feel the emotions that are being communicated.
The Witcher* is another great example of how to get a serious message into a game without screwing up the gameplay or the story. The issue this game focuses on is racism and prejudice in general. In the game you are put in a situation that's been there for decades: humans feel superior to all the other races of the game's world; elves, dwarves, etc. You actually get to choose sides. You get the choice whether to be on the humans' side or the 'unhuman' side. This would be another step forward, because the choice you make alters the game experience. And it also is another level because in the witcher books (the game is based on The Witcher Saga, a series of novels and short stories, for those of you who don't know) you just read about what's happening, and in the game, you get to be part of it. Furthermore, it's not only like saying that you support this or that side's cause. It's pretty much straight in your face, even comes to ethnic cleansings, when the humans pick up arms and start killing unhumans, who, by the way, live in a ghetto in the city where most of the game takes place. Come to think about it, the choice is not an easy one to make, because your character is not entirely human (Geralt the Witcher is a genetically modified human, a freak of nature, if you will).
So these two examples are what I think great ways of communicating a serious message through a video game. You can just play for the gameplay, sure, but you can't totally ignore the message, because it's just so out there.
My opinion on all this is that I definitely support it, and I want to see more of it in the future. I think it's a great way of making the gaming community think about serious issues. But what do you guys think about it? Should we, as gamers, encourage the game makers to incorporate social commentary and messages in their products? Do you think that video games are the place for that kind of activity? The most basic question I can ask: do we want the games we play to be something more than just gameplay?
* - you can read more about the Witcher in one of my previous blogs, if you're interested.
I still remember the first time I played through FEAR. Early on in the game you're making your way through some corridors, the light is flickering, something is not right. All of a sudden everything explodes and bursts up in flames, time slows down and from the fire a little girl is walking towards you. You know you're going to die. So you start firing at her, round after round after round. But nothing happens. She gets too close so you run, you run into the fire. And everything goes white...
Don't you love these little masterpiece scenes in video games and movies? I sure do. But what is this obsession, it would seem, with the scary little girls in movies and games? We see them everywhere these days. I don't think gamers can imagine a good horror game without at least one encounter with these little ghastly girls. So what are they, really? I know every game has its own explanation and every movie gives you a little bit more info. But, it's never the whole story. So for those of you who are interested, here is a little bit of history and information on where they come from and what do they want from us.
The scary little girl concept has its roots in the Japanese belief in yuurei (幽霊 ). Basically they are the equivalent of regular ghosts known in the Western world. The word itself means "faint spirit". They are ghosts of people who have "unfinished business" in the world of the living, which renders them incapable of entering the underworld. In other worlds, yuurei are here because of strong emotions, like hate, or the lust for vengeance, and until they do what they have to do, they can't move forward to the afterlife. (Or in some cases they are just simply evil). These ghost are an integral part of Japanese folklore and the belief existed for centuries before somebody got the idea to make movies or games about them. They made numerous appearances in Japanese literature long before the first movie in which the concept was utilized. I believe the first time a yuurei made it to the theaters was in 1965, when a Japanese movie Kaidan (怪談 ) was released (the title means "ghost stories"). From that point forward the concept of yuurei became popular in Japanese entertainment, they appeared in mangas, animes, and more and more movies. Come to think about it, I cannot recall any Japanese horror movie which didn't have yuurei in it. Some people may argue that Kaidan wasn't the first yuurei movie, but I think it would be a mistake to say so, because that image pretty much established how the Japanese ghost should present itself in fiction.
The Western world had its first encounter with the Japanese ghost on a major scale in 2002, when "The Ring", an American remake of a Japanese movie, hit theaters worldwide. Soon after that almost every Asian horror flick got attention from the American movie industry and got a high-budget remake. We've seen two American "Rings", another two "Grudges", one "Shutter", and many more movies focused more or less on the subject. The reason why I think yuurei became so popular in American cinema is that they revolutionized the horror genre. They were a breeze of fresh air. I mean, how many zombie movies, or psycho serial killers can you withstand? It gets boring. Now, instead of the gore and violence of a typical American horror flick, the audience got horror with a whole new formula. The "fear" was built not on graphic violence and gore, but on increasing suspense and the blink-of-an-eye appearances by the ghosts. It was entertaining.
Now we finally get to video games. Most of the games were Japanese, like Sairen or Silent Hill, but, the before mentioned FEAR is a great example of how an American game can make the magic happen as well as the Japanese. But at some point I think the idea got worn out a bit, because now we see these little girls almost everywhere. They may not be yuurei, but that doesn't matter, because they look similar and are, to some extent scary. There are little girls in BioShock, in Condemned 2 (exploding baby dolls? c'mon...), in Silent Hill: The Room, and so on. There even was a yuurei moment in VtM: Bloodlines. And even if there's no ghosts involved, the creators of games use the same formula to build suspense. I think it's about time they came up with something new to scare us, zombies and ghosts just don't do it anymore. When you see the same thing for the 10th time it's just not scary anymore. That's why I'm looking forward to games like Dead Space. The On The Spot demo looked quite impressive, and it seems like it's gonna be a new kind of thrill.
The idea of writing about this has been lingering in my mind for quite a while and I finally decided that now is the time, this thought triggered by the recently published OrkHammer007's editorial.
In Europe we use the PEGI rating system for video games, which is quite similar to ESRB. The only visible differences are that the games are not rated using letters (M for Mature, T for Teen and so on), they're rated by age in numbers (12+, 18+, etc). Another thing is that the American rating system uses words to describe the contents of the game ("Mild Violence", "Blood and Gore", etc), the European on the other hand uses little icons. A fist icon for violence, a syringe for drug related content and so on. For more information you can look http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegi.
Now, as far as I know, after doing a little bit of research, in most countries the game store clerks are obliged by the law not to sell M (18+) rated games to minors. Pretty much like with the Parental Advisory stickers on CDs, it is forbidden to sell 18+ rated games to people who are underage. And from what I've seen around the world, this law works just fine. But not here. And by here I mean the country of Poland, in which I currently live.
In Poland there is no law which would require the clerk to pay any attention to the rating of a game. I noticed that for the first time, when Clive Barker's Jericho came out and I went to a game store to get a copy. The game was rated 18+ by PEGI, yet before me there was a line of kids who couldn't have been older than 13, all of them on the way to the counter, Jericho in hand. And then it struck me - the rating system doesn't work in this country AT ALL (even though it is said that the PEGI rating system IS legally enforceable here). And it's not only about video games, it's the same with movies, DVDs, CDs, almost everything except porn. From what I learned, it's entirely up to the clerk whether to sell an 18+ rated game to a minor or not. And most of them don't care, they just proceed from one customer to the next. The bottomline is that nobody here takes the rating systems seriously. The government pays no attention whatsoever, and neither do the parents. In the words of the late George Carlin, "it's like not mentioning the turd floating around in the punch bowl at a party".
I don't have the answer to the question why nobody cares about the rating system in this country. Maybe it's because the authorities don't see the fact that graphic violence can cause harm to a child's psyche. Maybe it's because it never came to their minds, because the video game market here is still small and insignificant. Or maybe nobody ever brought it to their attention. In terms of common sense I agree that banning GTA4 was an extreme, and that that one murder doesn't mean that thousands of gamers are going to go on killing sprees because they played a game. But on the other hand totally ignoring the rating system is against common sense as well.