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m0zart Blog

I'm back!

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My pilgrimage year is essentially over. I just recently returned from Jerusalem for the Fall Moedim. It is good to be back at GS!

And now I get to find out about the mass of changes that occured here during my absence!

Fair thee well!

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As mentioned in my last blog, the time has come to leave. I did intend for it to be right after that blog, but then I was asked to be the subject of the hotseat thread in OT, and I figured that would be a good way to end my time here and take my temporary leave.

Anyone who wants to contact me can do so at TriforceOfOwnage at gmail.com.

To Everything there is a Season...

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Yesterday (or Today, depending on your timezone)marked the eight year anniversary of this account on Gamespot, as I registered on October 22, 2003. I spent four years of that time as a standard user account and four years as a moderator.

And now I think it's time for me to take a REALLY long break from the site. My reasons are personal, and I'd like to go into them now.

For many years I have heavily flirted with atheism, and eventually settled for agnosticism instead. But that time came to an end for me sometime around the beginning of this year. It was a bit of irony frankly. When I left "faith" many years ago, I did so because something happened that shook that faith and made me unable to continue in it. Early this year, I actually had something happen that did the opposite -- it shook my conviction that I didn't really believe, and didn't need "faith" to continue my life. Since that time I've been investigating and seeking again to know what I am being led to, as I really have felt led to something.

As a result of this, I returned to being a Torah observant follower of Yahushua HaMashiac. I don't know how much of a surprise that is for some of you. I've made no real secret of it, though I haven't really been broadcasting it loudly either. In any case, part of being Torah observant includes the observance of all of the Moedim, which are essentially the Appointed Times which Yah commanded in the Torah to be observed from year to year.

These include three very important pilgrimage festivals which were commanded in the Torah to be observed in "The place where YHWH chooses for his name to abide" and are called "hag". The first of these is "Hag HaMatzoh" in the Spring (Festival of Unleavened Bread), the second "Hag HaBikkurim" in the Summer (Festival of Firstfruits), and the third "Hag HaSukkoth" in the Fall (Festival of Tabernacles). The place where this is to be observed had changed a lot during the first part of Yisrael's history, especially in the days of Yahushua ben Nun and the Shofetim (Judges), it was mainly in the North, specifically in the area around Mount Gerizim. However, when Dawid became Sovereign of Yisrael, he moved this with Yah's guidance to Yerushalayim. There is never any other statement in scripture that the place has moved anywhere else since that time, even after the Heykal was destroyed (Temple).

Granted, many of the Torah requirements for these Festivals cannot be observed without the Heykal, but I still feel compelled to observe the Festivals in the land of Yah, specifically in the place of His name. Hence, I have essentially decided that next year will be a pilgrimage year for me, and I will be going to Yerushalayim to observe them. That's three trips, which is going to be quite expensive and taxing, but even more so, it will require a lot of preparation on my part.

So I really feel I need to change my priorities. I am usually very disorganized, with all aspects of my life merged together where I cannot tell one from the other. Being a workaholic never really bothered me, because I was always doing everything else I enjoy nearly at the same time. But I need to change that for this year because the undertaking is a bit too intense for me to juggle things in this erratic fashion. I also need a lot of time to adjust my attitude and seek out Yah's guidance and acceptance. This isn't something I can do casually.

I certainly will return as a moderator at some time in the future, but I think for now I need to cut myself off from the site completely. In all honesty, I am not even sure I can do that to the extent I am stating here --this site is a bit of an addiction to me. I intend to try though. Either way, at least the time being, any returns to this place should be as a user and not with the responsibiliities of a moderator.

The End of the World is Big Business

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I remember driving from Virginia to Texas many months ago and seeing this billboard ad proclaiming May 21, 2011 to be the date of the rapture. I remember being startled by it and missing some of the details, then thinking I would never see or hear of this again. But I did. I can't remember how many I saw on the way. It might seem like something that you could quickly dismiss and pay no attention to, but I was interested.

No, I wasn't in the least convinced that any date proclaimed on a billboard would be authentic, but it was the first time in years I had seen someone take the Burma-Shave approach to advertising an apocalypse. It struck me that there must be a lot of money behind this operation, and where there's a lot of money, there's likely a lot of people making big sacrifices for something they think is very important. And with that comes the possibility for some disappointments, both quantitative and qualitative.

It seems a bit odd to me that someone can search almost the entirety of the Tanakh and the Ketuvim Netzarim for any available numbers that he can plug into his own self-styIed equations and somehow miss one of the most telling parts of the Torah itself, namely Devarim (aka Deuteronomy) 18:21-22:

וְכִי תֹאמַר, בִּלְבָבֶךָ: אֵיכָה נֵדַע אֶת-הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-דִבְּרוֹ יְהוָה.

אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה, וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבֹא--הוּא הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-דִבְּרוֹ יְהוָה: בְּזָדוֹן דִּבְּרוֹ הַנָּבִיא, לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ.

Translated in the Contemporary English Version (with replacement of LORD for the Hebrew name of Elohim):

You may be asking yourselves, 'How can we tell if a prophet's message really comes from יְהוָה ?' You will know, because if יְהוָה says something will happen, it will happen. And if it doesn't, you will know that the prophet was falsely claiming to speak for יְהוָה. Don't be afraid of any prophet whose message doesn't come from יְהוָה.

I don't know if that proves that math-brained people are terrible at literature, or if even the most sincere people are apt to ignore the obvious for the sake of the obscure. Either way, this startling statement of the obvious was clearly missed in this prophetic numbers game that Camping and his followers were playing. It doesn't matter if you believe in the Torah or specifically the Sefer Devarim, because Harold Camping does, or at least claims to, and so any point made would be extremely apt to him and his followers. He's now relegated (again) to the status of someone who speaks presumptuously for the Elohim that he claims to serve, namely יְהוָה , and by that Elohim's own words, he cannot be relied on to speak for him. That's not a condemnation from me at all -- it's something that comes out of the testimony that he subscribes to, available to anyone with an internet connection and free access to Google.

Mr. Camping may have been sincere in his rather odd calculations from Sefer Daniyel among other portions of the scriptures, ... or maybe not. That would make a difference to me personally, but my judgement of his intentions isn't at issue here. Good thing too, since I have literally no idea about his sincerity and would therefore be unqualified to render a judgement. The reality is that either way, he is by proclamation of his own faith not speaking for יְהוָה .

This is the age of reality television, and I guess I should be laughing at the spectacle. I was doing that earlier, before the set time approached, but now that all of that fun is gone, I'm not finding the situation of those people who staked so much on what turned out to be so very little to be all that funny. There are pieces to pick up, I hope Mr. Camping doesn't forget the most important of those pieces. There were plenty of sincere followers who are now out quite a bit of money, time, and self-esteem. The honorable thing to do is return what is left of the money and just admit that he has received no revelations about the precise time of the end, that he was speaking presumptuously, and that it is an error he will not repeat. I don't expect this to happen. After all, this isn't the first time he made such a failed prediciton. But it would be the honest and honorable thing to do.

I just hope Mr. Camping can see that his talent to persuade needs to be reigned in by some common sense, and that if he truly does believe that יְהוָה will come someday as a righteous judge, that a minister who allows himself to profit from a false prophecy is probably going to be of particular interest in said judgement. One certainly doesn't have to be a prophet to see that.

Mi casa es su vista!

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I have this phobia of buying houses. I grew up in a very low income family, and we struggled to make it from day to day. My parents still made attempts to buy houses, but they were met with foreclosure not long thereafter. As a result, I've developed a prohibitive fear of the long-term financial commitment of buying a house. Over the last decade, I've entered into a few deals to buy a house and then refused to see it through out of fear, pissing off the sellers of course and ending in the loss of earnest money.

I don't know what made this time different. I guess I'm finally getting over my phobia. Or maybe it's just that the housing market is down so far that there are deals aplenty, and the interest rates are so low that I just couldn't justify letting my fear take over in this case. Whatever the reason, I've purchased a new home.

It has four bedrooms and a game room, 2 and a half baths, one with a whirlpool/hot tub style bath, a two car garage,and a practically new enjoined hot tub and swimming pool in the back. It also has a built in natural gas powered generator. But my favorite feature of the house is that it has two offices. I've always wanted two offices in my home. Don't ask me why -- it must be a function of my nerd genes. I gotthe house for more than 80 grand off of the appraised value, and with a mortgage that has an interest rate that is lower than I've heard of in my lifetime.

Here are a few pics. I'd like to show more, but I think front and back are probably enough.

A Dissent to Alito's Dissent

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I had intended to blog about the Supreme Court decision in favor of Westboro Baptist Church's First Amendment rights a day or two ago when the news was fresh. I usually prefer to blog rather than post in forums, where I can post my opinions as the leading point without much opposition. It isn't that I don't like a good argument, it is rather that I just don't have much time to keep one up these days. When I do decide to participate, before I know it I've burned a few hours that weren't mine to burn. I did have the naive belief that I could post a few thoughts in reply to another user in the OT thread dedicated to this subjet and just exit stage left back to my real life responsibilities, but alas I was cornered (in a nice way) by a particular user in the OT discussion about this after doing just that. After he sent me a friendly reminder by PM that I had not replied to him yet, I went ahead and posted a more thorough reply, taking the opportunity to write what I wanted to write on this subject over there. Now however I find myself wishing I had just put my thoughts together in a blog, as I originally intended. So that is basically where this entry comes from -- a merging and rewording of a few of my replies in the OT thread related to this case, including my agreement with the eight Justices who I feel did their job in this case and more importantly my dissent against the one I feel dropped the ball. Maybe it isn't fair to post the same content in two different places, but if it makes you feel any better, my merge includes some rewrites and rewordings as well. So here goes:

There are two ways to analyze Justice Alito's dissent. If I were to analyze it on a personal level, I would probably find myself siding with Alito nearly 100%, in the same way that I would find myself siding with emotional reactions against the KKK or the Nazis. If I kept this at a personal level, then I would have to admit that I find WBC so detestable that I would revel in their million dollar loss in court, the very case that spawned this SCOTUS review. In fact, in just about every hypostasis I've ever served in, they manage to tag that sense of hate I have at hate in general, a form of hate I afford myself without feeling that I have submitted in the least to a contradiction on emotional grounds. They disgust me as a libertarian. They disgust me as a supporter of gay rights. They disgust me as a religious person in general, and they would have disgusted me years ago as a religious conservative. No matter how far left or far right my personal opinions go, they manage to tap into opposition. So I am with Alito one one basic thing, the human side of his argument. I fully understand why he was thoroughly disgusted, and even agree. As a human being, he has appealed to me on an emotional level.

But let's face it -- we aren't asked to analyze this on a personal level, but a legal one. I am not a lawyer, but I do like to play one from time to time on Gamespot, and I can honestly state that I don't know how even one Justice on SCOTUS, a body that exists at least partially to enforce Constitutional limits placed on Government power, no matter what the compelling argument is for the exercise of that power, could side against the First Amendment in this case. Alito's dissent indeed speaks to me on an emotional and humanitarian level, but Justices aren't here to show us how dismayed they are, or speak to our sensibiltiies or our outrage when nobody else is available to do it. That is often the case with politicians who are even elected to do this in many cases, but Justices are not elected leaders and at least in theory are supposed to avoid trying to be spokesmen for their own political biases. They are supposed to judge the intent behind the law and its Constitutionality, not *their* hoped for intent of the law or based on things they wish the Constitution would say. That was the job they signed up for.

I say that in this precise way because for the longest time I haven't been all that impressed with the Court's decisions. Oh, I feel that they made the correct one from time to time, but those rare decisions have almost always been 5 to 4 or 6 to 3 results, which leads me to see SCOTUS as just another political animal in the political Circus. In most cases, and maybe this just makes me part of that political Circus, I see some of the decisions as so clearly laid out in the Constitution and the intent of the Founders, that any disagreement at all among a mere nine Justices picked to be "set apart" from the political process seems unthinkable to me. Yet it has happened time and time again, and it leads me to believe that the Court as a whole is many times just inserting what it hopes the Constitution is saying and applying that without regard to the document they swore to defend.

So applying that to this case, I think if there was anything that surprised me, it was that the Court almost unanimously found the right decision in this case. This group, WBC, has managed to piss off both right- and left-wing groups, and just about everyone in between. When an activist group like WBC is hated by right-wing theocrats like Jerry Falwell as much as he is hated by left-wing materialistic Communists, you know that any political deck is going to be stacked against them no matter where they go or what they do. Hence, if any case that recently came before the Court was the ultimate litmustest for the Court's dedication to its actual job and not just the whims of its Justices, it was this one. Frankly I was expecting that the entire Court would be too emotionally overwhelmed to really be able to consider this, issuing at best a divided decision and at worst a majority against the First Amendment. Thank goodness I was wrong. Yes I would have preferred unanimity, but only one dissenting Justice is better than most of the alternatives.

If Alito had gotten his way in this case, I feel he would have not only been legislating from the bench, but amending the Constitution from it. This is something that I accuse Justices of from time to time, and sometimes it might be a bit unfair of me, but I feel in this case it is fully justified. While Alito has shown me his human side in this, hehas also shown me that he will not be able to prevent his emotions from getting in the way in cases like this in the future. The exact same reasoning concerning the essential limits placed on Government's curtailing of political speech was applied by the Court only a short time ago when they overturned McCain-Feingold, and that was a ruling that Alito was not in Dissent with. Yes the circumstances were different, but his surety in throwing out campaign finance regulations due to the primacy of the First Amendment stood out enough to make this particular emotional response of his seem a bit ... weak, if not hypocritical.

I won't just say that Alito needs to move past his own prejudices and recognize that neither he nor the Federal Government were empowered to curtail this form of political speech, regardless of how strongly his human emotions pull at his heart strings, but that he simply MUST do that if he is to do anything like the job that he willingly accepted several years ago. Alito's rulings on First Amendment speech protections has so far been quick to exclude the fringes (such as his recent dissent on the overturning of laws prohibiting the display of animal cruelty videos), something that I think it is blatantly obvious that the First Amendment was in fact intended to protect.

I am sure Alito's concern here was to make things a bit more fair for the family that had to abide this. On the surface it sounds like a good intention, even a great one, but it's outside of the scope of his job for the most basic and important of reasons. Governments can try to make things fair, but only within the span of powers they are actually given. Trying to make things "fair" in this case would have been going farther than the authority granted to our Government to begin with. Of course, sometimes Governments take more authority than they were given, and we call those situations by the derogatory names that suit them. I hope we're all willing to do that when it is done by a Court, or even a single Justice,and not just when it is done by an elected leader or military figure.

I think a quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's dissent in ABRAMS v. U.S., fits this situation perfectly, especially given the nature of the case it occured in, which was an example of a ruling that really did do damage to the First Amendment, damage that persists in some form to this very day:

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.Oliver Wendell Holmes

Now this is a dissent I can agree with on both a human AND a legal level. I guess if there's anything that First Amendment proponents today can be thankful for that our counterparts from 100 years ago could not have been, it's that the lone dissent in this recent case was on the wrong side of the argument rather than the majority.

Honor Thy Father -- A Tribute to Ralph Baer

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It can be difficult for many of today's expanding market of gamers to realize just how far we've come. It can also be difficult to know just who the great visionaries were who started the domino effect which led to what we know today as "video gaming".

For many gamers, one name that has stayed in the forefront as belonging to an innovator is that of the founder of Atari, the individual usually credited with first bringing home video games to the masses in the form of a timeless little c1assic called "Pong". That name is Nolan Bushnell.

Bushnell definitely deserves a lot of credit - not for "Pong" per se, but for his ability to market home video games to the masses in a way that actually proliferated it into a viable market of its own - one that couldn't be killed, even with a rather large recession in the industry less than a decade after his initial "Pong" consoles hit the market. He contributed not only some of the more polished versions of the "Pong" game, but also a grand console that blew the market wide-open, a console we knew then as the Atari Video Computer System, but which is remembered now more as the Atari 2600. But for all the credit Bushnell deserves, inventing the first home video game console and the titular masterpiece "Pong" aren't really among them.

In fact, an individual named Ralph Baer first came up with the idea of using the then relatively new device called the "Television Set" for something other than just receiving broadcasts all the way back in 1951. Those ideas eventually blossomed into a proposal in 1955 pitched to the company he then worked for, a manufacturer of television sets called Loral. His proposal, simple but radical for the time, was to include an interactive game built into the television as a way of differentiating the Loral sets from those of their enormous competition.

The management of Loral didn't really grasp the potential of it, gave it a firm rejection, and the idea clearly proposed before its time went into stasis. A long hybernation ensued, but the core never died in Baer's mind. Eventually in the process of dealing with his engineering duties, his ideas and thoughts resurfaced and motivated him to write a proposal on what he called "Television Games" in 1966. He began developing the idea and testing out models, which eventually led to a functioning unit he called the "Brown Box". The idea was pitched and the model demonstrated to several outlets, including cable companies, but it was not taking root in the minds of executives, who likely saw it as a bit far-fetched, and more costly to produce than could be recovered in the proceeds of the service.

It was then that Baer and his colleagues decided to try television companies again. They approached many companies with some interest but limited success. That is until 1971, when Magnavox, an established television producer, took interest. Seeking to set itself apart from the increasing competition it was facing at the time, Magnavox chose to license the "Brown Box" and hired Baer to remodel it against their own specifications. Among the many games that Baer had developed for Magnavox's effort were a simple game modeled after "Table Tennis". Most of us will recognize that game today as a more primitive version of what we know as "Pong".

Thus the first home video game console, and the first real attempt at marketing video games to the masses, was born in 1972 in the form of the Magnavox Odyssey. It was while attending a demonstration of this console that Nolan Bushnell was inspired to design the popular home Pong consoles and ultimately lead his company to develop the mega-popular Atari 2600. And not only did it stimulate the new minds of the burgeoning video game console industry in the West, but also in venerable Japan. In fact, the gaming giant we all know as Nintendo got its start in the important role of home video game console provider by obtaining the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan in 1975, selling it under the Nintendo name. One can easily see that Ralph's magnum opus not only planted the seed for what eventually became the Atari 2600, but for what eventually became the Nintendo Entertainment System as well.

I won't speak much here on what made the Odyssey so special. You can read about that in my review. What I will say is that despite the fact that it was extremely simple, many concepts we see today are still in use from its meager beginnings, including the light gun and accompanying games that were sold which have been a mainstay to the industry as a whole. This console holds a special place in my heart because it was my first video game experience, and my first home console. I've been a console gamer ever since, and I owe it to Baer's vision. Ideas he hammered out well before I was born are still playing a part in my life thirty-four years later. It may seem primitive today, but as someone who saw it at the time, it generated a lot of enthusiasm from everyone in our household, from my grandparents to my parents and all the way down to me. It was a favorite for many years among my family even after the now-famous "Pong" consoles were released in collaboration between Atari and Sears. It remained active all the way up until the Atari VCS (2600) took hold on the market and happily invaded my home.

The story of Ralph Baer is not just one of technical achievement, but of survival and triumph. As a Jew caught up in the furor of the Nazi Regime's takeover of his homeland, he and his family escaped to the United Statues only a few years before the infamous Kristallnacht. He kept his ideas alive, even without realizing just how popular they would become. Once implemented, his notion of "television games" became one of the most explosive industries in the country in less than a decade, and for all the worry that it was a dying fad at the end of that run, it still lives on today in ways he probably couldn't have fathomed. It's the reason why we're here on a gaming forum in the first place, reading this. He's more than just a gaming personality to me and I am sure many others -- he's a personal hero.

For many years his contributions have been shadowed out in many cases, to the point that many gamers simply don't know who he is. Bushnell's place as a legitimate industry star has in some cases unfairly outshined Baer's more foundational contributions. But lately, the tide has been turning. In the last few years, Baer has received a few awards honoring his place in the history of this industry. In 2005, he received a "Legend Award" at G4's G-Phoria video game awards, and in 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bush for his pioneering work in the video game industry. Just a few days ago on January 12, 2008, Baer received the 2008 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award, and on February 20 of this year, he will be awarded the "Pioneer Award" at the GMP 2008 Developer's Choice Awards.

It's nice to see the tide is turning. Congratulations Ralph! You deserve it!

P.S. I am not the only Gamespotter who has written on this industry hero's legacy. Shame-usBlackley wrote about Ralph's contributions in even more detail a few years ago in his blog entry entitled Forgetting the Face of Your Father. It's an interesting read, and for anyone interested in hearing more about this industry veteran, it's well worth checking out.

Plausible Deniability

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I was at the Kane and Lynch website established by Eidos advertising and marketing departments several days ago, and noticed from their blurbs that both Game Informer and Gamespy had given this game perfect scores as well as at least one truly glowing comment. I also seemed to notice the same thing being said on advertisements for the game on another site which I visit regularly. Now, I simply had no reason to investigate this or question it. Gametrailers, after all, gave the game a reasonably high score though obviously no where near perfect, and not being a regular visitor of Gamespy as well as discontinuing my reading of Game Informer more than two years ago, I just assumed that the ad was reporting accurately.

Then MrCHUP0N pointed me to this article. If you don't want to read it, I'll summarize it for you. Basically, neither Game Informer nor Gamespy gave such scores to Kane and Lynch, and the comments in question were not from reviews but from previews from E3 -- made many many months ago and under a different context.

It's hard not to take information that is so seemingly false personally, especially when you are the one who has been caught by it unawares. Beyond just taking it personally, it is also bewildering that a company with such a strong record would run such ads at such a sensitive time. There's a lot of controversy regarding both that game and at least one review in particular that we at Gamespot are all very familiar with right now, so this just seems to add to the controversy. So what should we make of all of this. There has to be a bigger picture here. So I talked about this on a few other boards, and something very interesting came up on one of them in particular which I hadn't considered. Armed with this newpossibility generated by those discussions, I went back and took a better look at some of these ads to verify it. It was then that the sad truth of it all hit me.

It's a marketing ploy.

That might actually seem like the understatement of the year, since any dishonest reporting of information in an advertisement is a marketing ploy, but this one is particularly pernicious. I actually think what they've done is a little bit of advertising/marketing visual trickery. They aren't using the horizontal star bars as scores per se. They're using them as separators. In other words, the five star bars are being used to separate each "positive" comment.

It's a common thing in advertising to design an ad in such a way thatit is technically true and yet still misleading. By using the horizontal five-star bars as separators, they know that many readers will read that as a score, and yet they can plausibly deny that this was their intention. At the same time, they aren't calling any of their quotes review quotes, so putting in preview quotes can also be plausibly denied as intentionally misleading as well. Of course, they know all too well that using the star bars as separators only reinforces the illusion that they are quoting reviews.

It's a flimsy subterfuge. Anyone who is savvy can easily see their strategy here -- especially when it would have been easy to use more suitable separating bars. To use a four or five star bar as a separator when four and five star rating systems are so common from review sources of any type, not just gaming review sources, just piles intention to mislead on top of intention to mislead, all in the convenient name of visual utility. Unfortunately, and here's the kicker, this is a COMMON PRACTICE among advertisers for movies, games, et. al. Eidos' marketing and advertising departments aren't the first to do this sort of thing and won't be the last.

A lot of my friends both on and off of Gamespot know me as a headstrong Capitalist who unashamedly defends his individualist money-making ideology to its greedy end. That is absolutely true of me. I am guilty as charged! As a result, some of the ones who know me more passively expect me to defend practices like the one we are discussing here as just the acceptable status-quo of doing business. Nothing could be further from the truth, but in order to explain the seeming disparity, I am going to have to wax exceedingly philosophical for a moment.

First it should be obvious that just because it is common to do things like this doesn't mean that it is RIGHT to do things like this. But there's really more to it than that. Here's the problem I have with this sort of thing from the perspective of a staunch Capitalist -- Capitalism isn't just an economic system to me. It is rather metaphysically tied to the issue of self-ownership and freedom. Capitalism is in fact derivitive of those greater principles. It is dictated to by them. It is the only system that allows the individual to create and enjoy the product of his mind, whatever form that may come in, including profits and property which he earns. A man who cannot do that isn't a free man. To take this a little further, in order for self-ownership and individual sovereignty to be regarded in the world, two things must be completely banished from human relationships. Those two things are the initiation of force and the initiation of fraud, including all threats thereof.

Initiatory force and fraud (as opposed to the sadly necessary defensive force and even defensive fraud) are both blatant attempts to circumvent the individual's ability to apply the thoughts and conclusions of his rational mind to his daily life. Force seems more obvious as it is a direct circumvention of the individual's control of his own person and property through overwhelming compulsion, but since it isn't the culprit in this case of mal-advertisements, I don't need to discuss it further here. Instead, I'll discuss the much more subtle fraudulent means by which human beings are denied their right to self-determination. Initiatory fraud is basically an attempt to pollute the filters of your rational faculty with faulty information in order to influence the direction of your decision-making to ends it would not be guided to without such faulty information. It is much more common than acts of violence, but can have consequences which are just as dangerous.

And in my epistemological view, initiatory fraud is just as separated, even opposed, to the metaphysical properties of Capitalism as is any form of forceful compulsion.

I have no real tolerance for the typical argument that this is just "business as usual". As I rationally define "business" as the honest exchange of value for value, it is pretty obviously not business in the first place. It isn't the selling of a product or service through the passing of clean information, but an attempt to mislead to gain more sales from honest men than they would have made otherwise without passing polluted "facts". This isn't persuasion at the expense of the truth, as true persuasion carries truth as a natural co-requisite. It is a clever deception.

No, Eidos isn't the only company to blame for this type of thing. And like every other company that has pulled this advertising ploy, they would have likely gotten away with it unscathed with a few more sales to celebrate had it not been for all the attention they've gotten recently. But I can hardly complain that the present situation has helped expose these dirty practices for what they are, and as Eidos is one of the culprits, it's not really all that unfair to single them out in this case as long as the proper context isn't forgotten.

There isn't much I can do here but just point these things out. My advice? Learn from this experience. "Force" these guys by your own intelligence and through your own sheer will to keep the information they distribute for the purposes of selling their wares clean. Show them that you give meaning to the old adage "Buyer Beware!" Deny them their plausible deniability.

NOTE: It looks like the Destructoid article I pointed you to at the beginning of this now includes an edit which indeed suggests exactly what I have in terms of the use of the marketing ploy by Eidos in these ads.

NOTE 2: Looks like Gamespy insisted that Eidos change their listings. And apparently they have.

My thoughts on Jeff Gerstmann

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I've been struggling to close all of these constant threads and then take on the menial task of writing one last post in each one telling every upset user to go to the Off-Topic forum where his comments will be more appreciated. Doing this has allowed me to keep busy while I think about this situation, which in turn has kept me fromdoing something stupid in the heat of fury. So I am calmed now and amthinking more clearly, and I think it's safe for me to post some thoughts on this situation with Jeff Gerstmann.

I'm not going to pretend I was a big fan of Jeff's. I really wasn't. I think he might have been one of my least favorite reviewers here. He's one of the smartest guys here and has a tremendous presence, and I find him to be extremely entertaining to watch and read, I just never really found myself completely able to rely on his opinions ultimately mirroring my own once I actually played any given game he reviewed. Some will probably realize that the Twilight Princess reviews have something to do with that opinion, but in reality they only added to a growing pile of disappointment with his reviews over time. For me, the first review that really began my saga of not being able to identify with Jeff's opinions was another Zelda game, namely "Majora's Mask". But it wasn't just Zelda. There was just something about his opinions that left me unable to rely on any recommendations to buy or to pass. Invariably, when Jeff was the reviewer, it was a flag to me that I would need to try the game myself regardless and see what I thought about it, instead of using his review in the way it was intended.

I am saying all of this at such a sensitive time because I feel like I have to get that out of the way before I go ahead and say what I am about to say. The bottom-line for me with Jeff Gerstmann is that whatever I felt about his reviews or his opinions, I always knew he was being honest. He never sold out -- not to me -- not to others -- he wrote it like he saw it, and that's that. In other words, he was CREDIBLE.

It's apparently confirmed that he's gone. I am just not sure why he's gone. I can say though, without reservation, that if what is being reported is really how this went down, then it just throws that hard earned credibility out the window. I can't say that kind of thing lightly. I firmly believe that this valuable asset is what kept people coming back and made the site what it is today, and Jeff was one of the largest contributors to that asset. In the reviewing game, credibility is both the all-powerful Queen you use to your offensive advantage and the King that you defend above all else. It is NEVER the pawn. Gamespot has been my favorite source for objective reviews for many years, and I'd hate to see them checkmated due to a questionable decision for short-term cash at the expense of long-term credibiility.

If any of this is true, then Gamespot and CNET can only really call their future editorials on the evaluation of games the title of "reviews" in name only. Reviews are by definition objective evaluations, not intended to be colored by other alliances, whether they be emotional or economic. And if they aren't really "reviews", then they won't be on my plate. Again predicating this on the validity of these rumors, I firmly believe that it was unfair to task Jeff with writing a review for K&L, and then expect him to write an Eidos company-line instead.

I guess what I am saying is that I am with you on this one Jeff. That probably sounds meaningless coming from someone who just said he didn't value you as a reviewer, but I think if this has taught me anything, it's that I should have valued you more than I did.

My Thoughts on the 'Aurora' Preview for Metroid Prime 3

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I realize that the primary focus of the majority of the rather large base of Samus fans anxiously waiting on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's imminent release is naturally concentrated almost entirely on the gameplay the title promises. This is to be expected. After all, it is an extremely important entry in the series as far as gameplay is concerned. This is true not only because it expands significantly on core gameplay that is now commonly known by Metroid Prime players, but also because it is the first game to showcase the abilities of the Wiimote for potential influence in games similar to this, such as FPS or other FPA. As both a full entry in one of the greatest gaming series of all time and simultaneously a powerful proof of concept for the Wii's suitability in games approximating this genre, it has a lot on its shoulders.

But while I am completely sympathetic with those who feel that gameplay is the most important element with a lot riding on it, my mind is also firmly on the story, something usually overlooked by Metroid fans as peripheral to this series. And as someone who obsesses over this to a fault, I haven't been able to hold back the concern that Metroid Prime is going to continue to be oddly placed as a subseries. And by "oddly", I mean chronologized in ways that don't really destroy anything, but don't really add anything significant either. I love this series, and I want it to do well, so I feel like I have a stake in this, albeit primarily an emotional one.

I saw for the first time yesterday the "Aurora" preview on the Metroid Prime 3 Preview channel on my Wii, and I have to say it really blew my mind. I had to watch it several times to get the significance of what was being said. For those of you who haven't seen it yet and need context, I have posted it to Gamespot here. Take a look before reading if you haven't seen this short sequence already. Also please be advised that this editorial WILL contain SPOILERS for the series, and possible spoilers in describing my own thoughts on what Aurora means not only to Metroid Prime 3, but to the series as a whole.

With that out of the way, I can begin.

Being a long-time Metroid fan, I was left amazed and frankly, a little relieved by this preview video, which was as astounding to me as it was short. I know that many people will argue this point with me -- that Metroid is not about story but gameplay, and really I do agree to a large extent, but Metroid has still ALWAYS had a reasonable backstory to provide detail for what was going on through each iteration of the traditional 2D game series. The plight of the baby Metroid that mistook Samus for its mother was one that left me teary eyed at the end of Super Metroid -- having been there when he was discovered and bonded with the suit-clad beauty of a bounty hunter, it choked me up to watch him give up his life in order to save what he perceived to be his mother. Heck, I guess I am an overly sensitive guy, as I still get all teary-eyed thinking about it now. In any case, all but the first of the original 2D Metroid games involves the baby Metroid in some way, even Metroid Fusion, where he indirectly saves Samus' life for a second time and even has his DNA merged with Samus', the significance of which was not lost on me.

When the first Metroid Prime game was announced and went through the punches, I was FAR too concerned about the gameplay mechanics in a 3D world to worry about something as seemingly trivial as the backstory or the chronology at the time. I was much more worried about the game being touted as an FPS. I realize the FPS genre is a popular one, and for the need to make a spash after so many years absent from the gaming scene, Metroid in 3D almost had to do something to gain ground. But that didn't mean that I would necessarily like it. I am not a fan of FPS. It's just not a genre that works for me, and I was fully prepared to just write off the 3D series as something that violated my almost religious observance of the series.

So when Metroid Prime was finally released, I reluctantly decided to give it a chance. Much to my surprise, and great joy frankly, it wasn't like an FPS at all. Other than being told from the first-person perspective and having some shooting involved, it eschewed almost every FPS convention made to that point, and dared to be at its heart a Metroid game first, and everything else only a distant second. For that I was thankful -- I could love the series in 2D and 3D, and not have to do any kind of selective filtering of white noise entries from the overall picture in my mind, as I usually have to do in expanded universe sets (such as Star Wars).

Having gotten that worry about the first Metroid Prime out of the way, it suddenly occured to me one day that the series does NOT actually take place after Metroid Fusion, but in between the original Metroid and Metroid 2. I had always known this really, but as I said, my concerns were on other things, and it took time for me to realize I might have some objections to this chronology. And while the Metroid Prime story itself was truly touching, particularly in the previously unclear part of her role in the history (and prophecy) of the Chozo, it still wasn't clear how the main storyline fit into it all.

My objections only grew as the chronology grew -- with a full sequel and a handheld iteration, it suddenly seemed to me that a LOT more had happened in between the original Metroid and the rest of the 2D series than I had ever anticipated, and it wasn't really making that much sense to me. The Metroid Prime series in a way had to happen before Metroid 2, simply because Samus had destroyed all of the Metroidsafter that point, but still it seemed to me that there had to be SOMETHING linking these things together, and that this something had to make sense. And while I didn't anticipate Metroid Prime 3: Corruption giving those details needed for that something -- that "Aurora" preview has given me hope that the Metroid Prime subseries will indeed fit into the main series in ways I couldn't have hoped for previously. I think this is definitely opening up some possibilities here to the storyline. In fact, things are starting to come together for me in a way that I hadn't anticipated. This is all opinion of course, but I think it's plausible.

So let me go through my list of presumptions and state where I think things might go:

(1) It's obvious that the original Mother Brain in Metroid was an Aurora dedicated by the Space Pirates to be their director/leader. This is evidenced by the preview's statement that the Auroras were made twenty years prior, making it impossible for Mother Brain to have been the first or unique in any way, or if not impossible, at least not very likely. We know that the original Mother Brain in Metroid was basically JUST a biological computer. She had a defense mechanism in her tunnel (the part of the Aurora video that looked like Tourian from the original Metroid, where Mother Brain rested), but she didn't fight back herself. She used her defense mechanisms instead. (Of course, this was heavily retconned in Metroid Zero Mission, in which Mother Brain did fight back, but that's another story).

(2) The Mother Brain in Super Metroid not only had her defense systems in place, but after being defeated in that manner, she mutated into another form with a body, a face, eyes, etc. How did an Aurora do that? It doesn't seem to be a function of an average computer. The Mother Brain in Super Metroid behaves differently than her predescessor in ways that are unmistakeable, not the least of which is her ability to mutate into a Japanese mega-monster and defend herself by means other than her surrounding automated defense system.

(3) As stated previously, the Metroid Prime is a subseries takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid 2: Return of Samus. (At least, I hope we all know that at this point as it has been broadcast like crazy since the original release of Metroid Prime).

(4) The Metroid Prime subseries deals with the Metroid Prime in every instance except for the ubiquitous Metroid Prime Hunters. The Metroid Prime is at first a Metroid which was mutated by the dangerous Phazon substance and as a result BECAME the source of Phazon. After her defeat in Metroid Prime, she mutates into Dark Samus, and returns to fight Samus in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. She is now returning in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with the express purpose of corrupting all of the worlds with Phazon, which again, she is the source of.

(5) The initial premise of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is that the Auroras have been infected with a virus that causes them to malfunction, while simultaneously, Dark Samus is corrupting the worlds with Phazon. This is a double threat that Samus and the other bounty hunters have to face and eradicate. But it could also be that the virus isn't a virus at all -- perhaps what is corrupting the Auroras only *seems* to be a virus on the surface, but turns out to be the effect of Phazon contamination?

Given these assumptions and possibilities, my theory is that the Mother Brain in Super Metroid is a new Aurora, not the one which was destroyed in the original Metroid (and Metroid Zero Mission). And this new Mother Brain gets corrupted by the Phazon contamination leaked by Dark Samus, becoming the new Mother Brain that could mutate and make such a tough battle in Super Metroid.

There are several ways this could happen. One is that the virus that they are trying to combat in the Auroras is actually a mutation brought on by Phazon, which requires that that one Aurora be captured by the Space Pirates and thus not cleansed by Samus, to then be used by the Space Pirates in its mutated form. Another possibility is that the Aurora itself merges with Dark Samus (again, Dark Samus is the same being as the Metroid Prime was, only mutated), meaning that the new Aurora/Mother Brain actually is partly controlled by the Metroid Prime/Dark Samus, and sees gain in an alliance with the Space Pirates. But a third possibility also exists, and it's not only the most daring one storywise, but also the most likely given the history of the Metroid Prime in the subseries so far. That possibility is that the Metroid Prime mutates INTO an Aurora, and takes on the role of Mother Brain, in much the same way that it mutated into Dark Samus after coming into contact with and being defeated by Samus Aran. This last possibility, put more clearly, means that Super Metroid's Mother Brain may actually be another iteration of the Metroid Prime/Dark Samus/et. al.

It's just a theory, but it seems plausible at this point. I don't want to overanalyze this before I actually get the game and can start playing it, but I have to admit that the possibilities are drawing me in and tempting me to do just that.

And that's something I've missed from the Metroid series for a while -- consistency. I suddenly realize that the last five years may have been a build up to something more consistent than I realized -- and it all started with this little trailer that runs at less than two minutes. Even if I am completely wrong, I have some hope now that things will resolve in such a way that will make the Metroid Prime subseries more than just a last-minute addition and mythos revisionism; the subseries is finally starting to show some value in being not just a great self-contained subseries, but an excellent bridge between the original Metroid and the rest of the games in the original 2D series.

And of course, we can only hope that the gameplay will be great too. :D

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