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Sargus Blog

What was old is new again, but it still probably stinks

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When I got the exciting news about a year ago that I would have the opportunity to write some freelance reviews for GameSpot, one of the first things I did (after literally jumping for joy) was hide my old blog posts. I knew that clicking on my byline at the bottom of a review would bring users here, and I just wasn't ready for the embarrassmentthat would come with that.

See, I was most active on GameSpot (in terms of blogs and the forums) during high school. This means that a great deal of my blogs were imported, manually, from my Xanga page. There was much horror at some of these, not in terms of things like spelling and grammar, necessarily. Just stupid ideas and a stupid style of writing in which I probably thought I was much funnier and/or interesting than I actually was. I wanted people to come to my blog after reading my reviews and see how friggin' awesome I am, not what a dumb kid I used to be.

So at one point I actually started deleting old blogs, trying to hide my shame. I regret this now, as I might have lost some things that would be fun to go back and laugh at. My "farewell" posts to the likes of Jeff Gerstmann and Ryan "Ron Graphite" Davis are also gone, for some reason, which is a little funny considering they're back in the CBSi offices now.

I like a lot some of the old posts that are left, such as when I discovered the true identity of former GameSpot editor Brian Ekberg. There's also some value in my epic tale of waiting for the midnight launch of the Wii. It would be a shame to just ditch those because I don't like looking at my own work.

So my non-deleted blogs are back in the public's view. Enjoy, I guess? But you probably won't.

The real reason I'm here "again": GameSpot is still awesome. It's always been one of my favorite video game websites (it's where gamers go to know, you see), and it's the site that had the most impact on me thinking, "You know, maybe I should write about video games one day."

Now I do. And it's awesome (and a lot of work). GameSpot will always be special to me for that reason, so I can't tell you how happy I am to play even a small part in creating its content.

Sonic Boom

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So... Stuff is leaking out about Sonic Unleashed. The leaked images and rumored premise are just as iffy as ever these days (if not moreso), but the video? The video seems to show a "2.5D" experience with crisp, 3D visuals but oh-so-retro 2D Sonic gamplay that's just about the speed and going through crazy courses... And if that's what it is, than that's the best idea Sonic Team has had in the past decade... Shame the fans had it long before they did. Well, unless Sonic Rush on the DS counts.

I just have to keep muttering to myself, "Don't get excited about a Sonic game... Don't get excited about a Sonic game..." If anybody will find a way to let me down, it's Sonic Team. Last year's (or was it '06's?) "Sonic the Hedgehog" on the 360 and PS3 still has an awful taste in my mouth.

On the other hand, Sonic and the Secret Rings on the Wii was alright, and as crazy as it is, playing as Sonic in Super Smash Bros. Brawl really has me itching to see my old hero back on top of the world. Please, Sega... Do something right this time.

Alice

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While I knew that Sarah Michelle Gellar was supposed to play Alice in the adaptation of American McGee's "Alice" video game. What I somehow wasn't aware of was that she didn't just sign on to do a role, she and her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. are actually the ones who bought the movie rights. "I just thought [it] was the most weirdly beautiful game," Gellar said. "I finished it, which was a miracle. I had a lot of help. We got the rights to it, and Universal wound up getting really excited and put a lot of money into it, and then it's the usual story. There was a regime change." Shame. I haven't played Alice myself, but I understand it's great (or at least was for the time). I guess it's a super mature kind of retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with a crazy girl? Sounds like a golden movie opportunity to me! But the girl who was Buffy 'aint stopping there. "It's still my project, and I'm still working diligently. So to all those Alice fans, I'm not giving up. Because I believe there is such a beautiful, crazy, cool, twisted story to be told there." Beautiful AND diligent. You go girl. And if Freddie ever leaves you, my place is always open. Original Source: SCI FI Wire via Kotaku

Victory!

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Well, maybe people who are completely idiotic and dumb can actually be enlightened... I've seen it happen.

The crazy self-proclaimed psychologist Cooper Lawrence that went up against Jeff Keighley on Fox News about Mass Effect (calling it pornography and saying how horribly horrible it is) has actually LOOKED at the game since condemning it, and SUPRISE! She realized that she was being ignorant and stupid.

To quote an interview with the New York Times:
...Ms. Lawrence said that since the controversy over her remarks erupted she had watched someone play the game for about two and a half hours. "I recognize that I misspoke," she said. "I really regret saying that, and now that I've seen the game and seen the sex scenes it's kind of a joke.
"Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it's like pornography," she added. "But it's not like pornography. I've seen episodes of 'Lost' that are more sexually explicit."


The first step is admiting you have a problem. Thank you, Ms. Lawrence.

Fox News has not yet recanted what they themselves said on the show, and are basically ignoring requests from EA (who owns Bioware, developer of Mass Effect) to do so.

- From the New York Times via Kotaku

Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

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It's really too bad that I already finished by "Best of '07" awards, because THIS (introduced to me by my buddy the Duck) would probably have won Game of the Year, even though I haven't played it... and it came out here in '08.



The video trailer, if you can't see it above.

NOTE: Video has some strong language in the form of text dialogue.

Few people probably remember Barkley Shut Up and Jam!, and frankly, all I remember about it is that it existed. And has an awesome name/cover. But needless to say, it starred Charles Barkley, and was about basketball.

If the trailer for this... fan made sequel(?!?) didn't start with, "My Name is Charles Barkley", I actually might have taken it seriously until the first game footage showed up.

Anyways... You should definitely check it out if you're into post-apocolyptic RPGs in which basketball has been outlawed and you play as/meet up with former NBA stars. This is probably one of the best of those to come along in a long while.

If you can't slam with the best, then jam with the rest!

On "The Golden Compass"

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Thought about writing another "Jeff-centric" blog, but thought better of it. For the record, I retract what I say about the "Kane & Lynch" review apparently being the only reason for his termination (as it's supposedly not), but I stand by the other things I say. I'm still angry and frustrated about it, and I think rightfully so... But I'm sticking with GameSpot.com. I respect too many of the people here to just up and leave.

If you haven't already, I highly suggest listening to the latest HotSpot episode about the matter.

Anyways...

Today (December 7th) marks the theatrical release of "The Golden Compass", based on the first book (known in the UK and elsewhere as "The Northern Lights") of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past year or perhaps just got out of prison, you've no doubt heard about all of the controversy surrounding this release. Funny how when I was warning people about the books themselves, few (other than friends) listened. They were too busy burning Harry Potter books (which turned out to be quite the false alarm, if I do say so myself). Now that there's a movie coming out, a lot more people are jumping on this here bandwagon.

But now that it's happening, I really wish they weren't.

See, here's the thing: Controversy sells. Big time. What do you think is part of the reason Harry Potter reached the popularity it did? Controversy.

So all these chain e-mails, all these Facebook groups telling thousands of people "DON'T GO SEE THE GOLDEN COMPASS!!!1!", what are they doing? They're giving New Line and Philip Pullman free publicity, and they love it. It's great news for them.

Here's the rub.

Despite their spiritual content, the "His Dark Materials" books are a fantastic read. Philip Pullman is a masterful storyteller, and it's hard to put these novels down. The story is riveting, the characters are interesting, and everything comes together very nicely. It's a good tale.

Shame it's about killing God. Shame it's Pullman's weapon against C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, which he calls "Christian propoganda." Shame Pullman - raised as a Catholic - sees Christians as delusional, as there is no God. Shame this series is marketed towards kids.

But still... It's a good story.

So, MAOQ (Maybe Asked Once Questions) time... I've been asked, so I'll answer:

You're a big fan of fantasy. Have you read the HDM books?

Yes. Multiple times, actually. I have the audio book for "The Suble Knife" (Book II) on cassette, thanks to a clearance sale in which I stumbled upon it. Well done translation (all the dialouge is performed by actors, with Pullman himself reading the rest) of a very well crafted story.

Are the books really about killing God?

Yes. In them, the Magisterium (read: The Church) is the enemy, commiting many an atrocious act. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Christian religion doesn't always have the best history, but it's certainly not as bad as Pullman might have people think. And yes, the "heroes" of these books - namely, a liar and a murderer - kill God. Spoiler!

Do you think the movie will do well?

Yes. It seems from first impressions to be very well made, and as I've stated, it's based on a very interesting story. Considering this, plus the star-studded cast, plus the advertising/publicity/controversy, I'd say it will earn enough for its sequel(s).

Will you see the movie yourself?

Yes. Not on opening day and perhaps not even during the theatrical run, but yes, I fully intend to view the film. Even if I wasn't very interested in seeing how the adaptation went (and I am), "know thy enemy" is an extremely important rule.

Plus, I'm just a sucker for fantasy films.

Will any Christian author step up and try to fight Pullman?

I think the problem there is the term "Christian author". With the possible exception of Ted Dekker, there isn't really anyone today calling themselves a "Christian author" that has enough skill (which Dekker has), enough exposure (which Dekker is getting more of, but he's got a ways to go), and maybe even enough guts (which Dekker probably has) to do such a thing. Pullman is no fool. He's an extremely educated man and "taking him on" would be quite an extrodinary challenge. I think it will have to be someone like a modern C.S. Lewis, known by many for his fantasy (I.E. Narnia), but who also studies apologetics and is good at analogy and arguments for "Faith through reason". I'd think he (or she) would have to establish a name for himself before throwing down the gauntlet on Pullman... If that were to happen at all. It might be best for there to just be an absolutely fanastic fantasy series out there that teaches the right message instead of the wrong one.

It'll likely come from an author who is a Christian, not a "Christian author". At least in terms of fiction.

You write fantasy yourself. Have you thought of going up against Pullman? Do you think it might be something God has called you to do?

Yes, I've thought about it. I've always been open about that when the subject comes up. But am I the one to do it? Only God knows for sure. I'm willing... I think. But as I said, being that person - that "chosen" - would be quite far from an easy challenge. I would need an enormous amount of prayer in order to even stand straight.

That said, I do thank the people who have suggested this to me. I'm grateful for the confidence you seem to have, though I'm not sure most of you are really familiar with how smart this guy is. As I stand now, I'm probably not ready. Maybe (hopefully) in terms of my fiction writing, but not in terms of non-fiction debates over the matter of religion.

Back to the books themselves, would you recommend them to children?

No. Heck, it's hard at times to recommend them to adults (I usually only do such to strong Christians or those whom I know will think for themselves regardless of what a novel says), but there is a lot of content present in the novels that simply aren't suitable for children. Don't get me wrong, children can handle more than most adults give them credit for... But aside from the elements of religion (which matter a bit more to younger, impressionable minds), there's also the issue of homosexual rebel angels (this obviously depends on your view on that subject, but regardless I'm not sure it's suitable in a children's series) and the idea that sex is great, even among 13 year-olds.

Final thoughts?

A "boycott" is going to do little, I'm afraid. No, picketing and complaining is not the answer here. Rather, it's best to educate people about the truth of this series, the truth about religion, and the truth about God. Do that correctly, and it won't matter what people like Pullman try to tell them.

If you want to see the movie, go ahead. If you want to read the books, go ahead. Just remember that they're fiction, and the theology behind them is proven to be quite errant. They're a remarkably enjoyable tale, but nothing more. Don't be fooled. No alethiometer would tell you that these books speak an absolute truth, and your daemon - were our world to have them - would hopefully whisper the real truth in your ear.

Myth is a powerful tool... We need to remember to use it wisely. It's a double-edged sword - a subtle knife - that opens up gateways to many alternate universes... And Pullman has used it to open a world that's very inviting, but has very dark secrets. Approach it with caution, and I'm sure you'll be fine.

Additional Reading:
The Golden Compass -- A Briefing for Concerned Christians
FilmChat: Philip Pullman -- the extended e-mail interview
(Thanks Jade and Ransom)

A Day's Accomplishments

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Today, during my Logic class, without really trying, I finally found the final piece to my "Talebearer" puzzle. The final element that I knew was missing, but couldn't quite locate. It's an element that should hopefully make the Talebearer trilogy truely competitive in today's Fantasy market.

In constrast, my prodigal roommate, Matt, kicked a rock from the Philosophy building all the way back to our dorm.

So everybody's accomplishing great things today.

Five grand... FIVE GRAND!

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I haven't blogged in quite some time. Part of that is due to school starting, and thus me being a bit more busy. But does that mean I have no time for gaming? Of course not!

- I beat Bioshock, which was quite excellent. I'd highly recommend it to anyone - provided they're old enough, of course. It's certainly an M-rated game.

- I beat Prey, which was alright.

- Got Tony Hawk's Project 8 for $20, and I've had a lot of fun with it.

- My Saint's Row save files were corrupt. Such a buggy game. I'm actually kinda disappointed because I started enoying the game a bit more and wanted the rest of the achievement points.

- Got a couple of the Burger King games (Sneak King and Pocketbike Racer). They kinda suck, but hey... Points.

- Speaking of points, I achieved a milestone after beating Prey today. I passed the 5,000 points mark. Yeah, five grand.

FIVE GRAND!

- I'm still horribly addicted to Picross DS. I play it every day.

I may do a more "life centric" blog when I have time. No idea. In the meantime, enjoy yourselfs. There's that Halo thing coming out and all...

Saint's Line

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So we (my roommate and I) found a place with a lot of cheap movies, CDs, and video games today. A lot of lame stuff in there (about a million copies of the classic Shaq-Fu), but I picked up a few Xbox/360 games:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds
Prey
Saint's Row

Prey seems alright, though I'm probably not gonna play it much until I finish Bioshock (which still takes up all my time).

Buffy is a suprisingly good licensed game (like its predecesor), and I enjoy it as a Buffy fan.

Saint's Row, though? I dunno what I was thinking when I bought it. It's like everything I hate about Grand Theft Auto +1. It's not so much that I find the whole "open world car driving" thing kinda boring after awhile, but I really don't like a lot of the content in the game (far too much cursing, too much awful music, too much "ho" talk)... It's just not something I wanna play, nor be known for playing. On top of that, "gang" stories really bore me.

On the upside, it's really funny, but for the wrong reasons. My roommate and I laughed quite loudly at the opening sequence, which was like a combination of every horrible and exaggerated stereotype about "life in da hood". It's so over the top and "fake serious" that it's just laughable. And then the Arbiter shows up and is all like, "It's cool, we'll save your life, playa!"

It may be the first game in a very long time that I sell... I'll get some more achievement points out of it first, though.