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Atomic_Mutant Blog

Left Behind, but casting its shadow still.

I would be lying if I was in the least bit encouraged by the religious themed extravaganza in Left Behind: Eternal Forces. The pretext for a game is based on a million plus selling best seller series of book, obviously playing on the meek faithfuls' staunch exercise in faith based capitalism (take that Disney!) never quite seen myself but matched squarely with product loyalty worn by NASCAR fans. Of course, the execution of the game was quite apropos for a first time developer with probably little experience and marketing intuition; the only thing remarkable in the end being its rather flimsy and gaudy packaging at least 1.5 times larger in volume than standard sized PC game boxes, standing out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons. As for the rest...the less said about the game, the better.

It is unfortunate, since I share the general enthusiasm and conviction that probably had at least some sway over the development of the game. Surprise! The good news must be preached via tireless evangelizing efforts, and this is the great comission that Jesus Christ and God Himself has entrusted on us. Wherever our talents may lie, we would only be wallowing in self-doubt and complacency if not using these to proper effect, and that certainly does not exclude games as a means of communication. Just any activity or process that a person can take to the pinnacle of form, without constant practice and template for new experiences, the discipline and vigilence required of our faith will be atrophied, making ourselves that much more vulnerable to temptations and sin.

That is perhaps why the resoundingly negative critical hounding of Left Behind was in a way a blessing in disguise. It provided the developer the experience of managing a huge and coordinated project as crafting a game that catered to a generally limited audience while nevertheless flaunting pretty heavy handed religious themes. While being roundly panned for atrocious gameplay, it nevertheless garnered the press coverage that other games of similar ilk would ever dream of. More astonishingly and fortuitously, the game was more or less spared for its overt presentation and incorporation of religious agenda, which thoroughly tested the barometer for tolerance of such themes in the medium...and passed with flying colors even with an air of legitimacy, not to such extent seen since the Bible Adventures on NES. It seems that gamers do not get concerned about other aspects of their experience as much as gameplay in the end..

That substantial gain in exposure probably reached its zenith by the time that the developer licensed Big Huge Engine, perhaps for more serious stab at exploiting this gaming potential better than their seminal effort. I hope them all the best.

If it were up to me, the Left Behind property should be more rounded with subtle sensibilities while still be truthful to its source or whatever its message is. The game as an interactive media should not necessarily aim to rely on the core target demographics where the thematic resources drawn from the issue of religions are so widespread and pervasive in its potential and effective reach. The elements such as scenarios, overarching plot and characters should all be conceived not with the Christian conceit of limiting itself to archetypes and professing self-fulfilling religious discipline in the process of its creation, but with the Christian value of embracing and respecting gamers equally to be drawn to the core message and get them piqued to what we have to say.

For example, it would be a worthwhile yet perilous trip into the abyss of total destruction and portrayal of abject violence with impunity that the audience may be directed to psychological solace in the context of framework that the message has been implemented, that only Christianity will offer the worthwhile recourse and outlet from the utter desensitizing and disturbing effects of violence.

The most dangerous and insidious betrayal of our role as stewards of faith is to discredit the far reaching effects of violence and other confluence of worldly vices, observed in ambiguously sanitized and effortless violence that detracts and detaches the audience from the full impact and consequences of violence all the while acclimating them and increasing their threshold of perceiving violence by piecemeal depictions. With today's technology, it is fully possible to leave an impression many times visceral and powerful for the purpose of substituing the basis of reality that is so attuned to our collective perspective and that which pervade a myriad of the aspects of our lives.

What I am proposing is to deliver the message and spread the good news not directly by the way I profess our faith, but by the way of staring squarely into the abyss, along with gamers, of all things ungodly and chaotic, of which I can very well discern foregoing any relativitism. I would design the contrast that is only possible with the intervention of understanding and requiring faith in their faculty to change and turning to God. Gamers would more appreciate our respect for them to determine their own version of apprehension and respond more favorably to our appeal derived from the common thread of challenging them about the question of faith. This is akin to immunizing the vulernable with an invective of hatred and fear, in a way that they will not be accustomed to but instead ultimately yearn for an alternative and the way of spiritual faith as dictated by the game design at my discretion.

Violence has never been epitome of human expression... anonymous

Study: Violent video game effects linger in brain

CHICAGO, Illinois
(Reuters) -- Teens who play violent video games show increased activity in areas of the brain linked to emotional arousal and decreased responses in regions that govern self-control, a study released on Tuesday found. The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record tiny metabolic changes in brain activity in 44 adolescents who were asked to perform a series of tasks after playing either a violent or nonviolent video game for 30 minutes. The children, with no history of behavior problems, ranged in age from 13 to 17. Half played a T-rated first-person shooter game called "Medal of Honor: Frontline," involving military combat, while the other group played a nonviolent game called "Need for Speed: Underground." Those who played the violent video game showed more activation in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional arousal, and less activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain associated with control, focus and concentration than the teens who played the nonviolent game. "Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a nonviolent, but exciting, game," said Dr. Vincent Mathews, a professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and the study's author. After playing the games, the children completed tasks requiring concentration and processing of emotional stimuli while their brain activity was scanned. Alterations in brain function reflecting changes in blood flow appeared as brightly colored areas on the magnetic resonance images. "What we showed is there is an increase in emotional arousal. The fight or flight response is activated after playing a violent video game," Mathews said. The findings were presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The $13 billion U.S. video game industry, with revenue rivaling Hollywood box office sales, is at the center of a cultural battle over violent content. Lawmakers' various attempts to ban the sale of violent video games to children have been blocked by courts in Louisiana, Illinois, California. Michigan and Minnesota. Video games with a T-rating (for Teen) are considered suitable for ages 13 and older. They may contain violent content, strong language or suggestive themes. Numerous behavioral and cognitive studies have linked exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior. Now, researchers are using advanced imaging technology to scan the brain for clues to whether violent video games cause increases in aggression. Mathews said he hopes to conduct additional studies on the long-term effects on brain function of exposure to violent video games.

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Just a short comment: this finding is nothing short of circumstantial that in no way proves nor disproves that violent content within interactive media leads to violent behavior. Nonetheless, it raises the possibility of debunking the recourse that many gamers turn to testifying for their mental maturity and fortitude. If a game as far removed from reality as such featuring amiable Italian caricature of a character can make millions of people suspend at least a bit of their grounded reality held captive by the addictive gameplay alone, who is to be so certain that most violent games of our generation would not able to penetrate their psyche and command their reactions and substitue for at least fleeting a moment our version of reality? Are you inclined to separate reality from fantasy then? Is it truly enjoyable or amenable to our sense of enjoyment to adhere to reality while in the thick of things? And exactly how much convincing did it take to persuade many decently informed and intelligent people of the enterprise that is embroiled in Iraq with its video game like thin premise and the kind of mendacious spin that would take any PR monkey at EA for a ride?

Digital Bath

I had this percolating idea slowly taking hold of my brain recently, and was rather intrigued by the prospect of it possibly be applied to games. Perhaps this latest transient set of musings that I had as to allay my disappointment in Oblivion and pin quite defatigable and misplaced hopes now on NWN2, but I think the crux of this persistent thought that gripped my often ADHD addled mind could come from this overwhelming sense of aimlessness and hopelessness.

This quite unoriginal idea for this new game is to put a player cast as a detached and aloof observer. You basically play a role, as in a role playing game. At first, you do not control anything in the world, the gameplay consists of just 'observing' the life that transpires around you. You are just an average Joe, nor christened by any focus of narrative attention. You just react to what this fabricated world throws at you. But you harbour a cherished dream shaped by this imagination of powerful nature over the years consistently hinting glimpses of it through your fantastical, gripping visions. In the 'real' world meanwhile, a girl goes missing apparently for no reason, followed by this character suddenly appearing in your dreams all plaintive and distraught, pleading for something. Is the imagined world that you thought crafted by your innermost and private thoughts in fact be shared with someone? Can it become too powerful to actually materilize across the blurred boundary between assumed reality and pure delusion? Is what we perceive as reality impinged by our own prejudice and state of mind based on a set of desires and emnity? Based on your prior and still proceeding observations and actions committed accordingly, the world in which you now inhabit will undergo transitions, you being transported to the realm where the traditional trappings of conventional RPGs makes 'sense'. You are now the hero, but you are also the villain, with this girl representing the objective reference point upon all the figments of your imagination swirls around. Immerse youself in endless possibilties, forget the drudgery of this often cruel world...

I think this is just a shameless derivation of what Dreamfall is supposed to be about, although I have never read up on the game nor the previous game of which it is a sequel. It is an eagerly awaited adventure game from the creative minds behind 'the Longest Journey', but adventure games...bah.

I consider myself as having born about two centuries too early. I would have been plugged into a wholly encompassing virtual simulator if God had been more than merciful toward my plight, never to return to deal with this physical warped sense of my being right now. The irony of it being that even with the assisted banality of digital crackdom, I will still be unable to associate with anyone past superficial admission that I am...among unfeeling avatars of callous cardboard cutouts of people. What you see is what you get from me, the Internet does not skew my nature in any bit, in fact it more than hones my personality to be what it originally and irrevocably is mine. My real world personna is more or less rings more hollow than what I manage to project, however minimal, under the anonymity of this online sad, but too bad.

Electronic Farce

Is it only me, or are gamers slowly but surely sensing a foreboding sense of gloom and apathy in the future of the gaming industry? Has the industry reached a point where the critical mass of mediocre games has expanded beyond the point of no return but to suffer a precipitous fall? Is it just my jaded self after a decade of playing games, ready to abandon this time consuming hobby after realising, not soon enough, that gaming will really lead me to nowhere, that it has contributed to who I am, none of it positive or enlightening? What happened to the inspiration that the early year of gaming has invoked in me, from the likes of Command and Conquer, NBA Live 2000, Half-Life, Planescape: Torment? Why do I feel as if that I have experienced all that is to be offered in games, that there is really nothing more from the industry worthy of interest?

Really, I've been rendered a fool for thinking or even trying to place the medium of gaming higher than what it essentially purports to accomplish; dallying away just for the sake of dispelling that pang of sense deprivation. On a larger, macroscopic perspective, one can say that our lives, indeed, shed of all its little intricacies and uncolored by pretensions, are nothing more than a mere, vapid, foothold in the vast passage of time, a mosquito prick in a lifetime's many summers. Maybe gaming itself has been a futile escape from the doldrums that present so insidiously into our indolent attempts to project what little of what is left of our existence into 1s and 0s. Maybe all this time the fun was like a calorie-free diversion that we're grown to be allergic to. Except that now, gaming is more of a coerced form of masticating corporate crap, driven only by money and erring on the side of the good hide of investors, where creativity lies dormant and sequels run rampant. If you are to give me a mind-altering drug, make it strong as to make me derilious in induced awed stupor, not middling piss diluted gruel that only mildly depresses me.

The gaming lost its appeal for me a while ago, and its continued sprial is a microcosm of the mundane demographics we are pigeonholed into, of putting focus group mentality anema into our mouths, and the ages old relevant sage warning against flash over substance. Take XBox 360, the co-opting of Microsoft's vision of the PC style excesses into console style access. Its launch has been one widespread recall short of drastic failure in my opinion, with mediocre crap strewn from uncle Bill's bottomless bag of filth. Not only would you be subsidizing the cost of gaming developed for HDTV if not equipped with such display, but most of the 'upgrades' have been on the graphical front. EA, the king of sequel sleaze, like that school kid who starts Pog trend, has been on top of its game, releasing buggy sequels after sequels, kind of like a pimp who sends out his AIDS ridden hos to the impoverished clientele. Perfect Dark Zero, the only game to earn top honours by Gamespot, which is quite embarrassing in light of how the review sites are alleged to be sensational journalism at its most salacious hipness, is nothing more than a Deus Ex re-imagined with revamped graphics before being castrated whose heroine cannot even jump, laden with godawful and lame dialogues and fugly aliased characters. To exacerbate that forlorn feeling when one realises there is nothing much to the XBox 360 other than being a heated footrest, Gamespot goes to review the little snippets of 'classic' downloadable gaming doling out ratings as if they are to be legitimate games. Gamespot, staying true to its roots servicing the readers with responsible journalism, 80's style!

And why are they so excited about 'Black'? Wow, the guns fill two thirds of the screen, and they sound so loud and authentic. Oh my Gawd, ZOMFG, did you just freaking see that? I cannot believe that I like blew up that building! Haven't we all estimated this would have been the natural course of evolution for the most of games? More vivid and loud explosions, masquerading as pseudo-photo-realism, as if it is supposed to be the next holy grail of bleeding tech gaming? What about its gameplay? Do we really need to expand the number of ways that we can wipe the floor clean with bunch of muddled pixels? If gameplay itself nowadays cannot possibly present a worthwhile or noble engaging experience, does the gunfire have to be that much louder, violence that much more visceral, language that much more profane, game duration that much shorter, and the cost of production that much high?

There is an article about the gaming industry deep to its neck in mire that it is ripe for a purge. That's right, the gaming is as stale and mundane as it can get. The initial impressive efforts headed by Looking Glass Studios, Black Isle, and other upstart companies (even EA!) with a creative vision and gameplay ambition have been reduced to mere footholds in vague nostalgia, and the gaming is dying with it, one rough gems after gems. The corporate hold on this medium does not even give an inkling of chance for something even remotely unique or different. The depth of involvement that one previously enjoyed in gaming has been drained into a deluge of clearcut farm of mass produced and vain titles that are sprung like traps and swindle us of our money. This crippling and bloating enterprise can only be stymied by responding in kind, by obstructing its headway into our wallets, the most desired object giving meaning to its existence. The only way gaming can forge a productive path is for the both parties involved, in its creation and exercise of the gaming medium, to set upon on a single goal of providing a definite meaning to what gaming is. Is it only a means to facilitate the flow of billions of dollars? Or is it to provide the fantastic amalgam of creativity and inspiration to a new, interactive level? Or is it something in between? Otherwise, the gap between them will widen and there is nothing more to expect but to stagnate and become irrelevant.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson is in a hurry. He is a walking exemplification of an outsider trying to make a difference. His continuous efforts, whence the visceral and violent gaming became a standard vernacular in the gaming industry, had set upon ratifying motions of law in states like Illinois and California; his efforts are to make those in charge answer for their irresponsible distribution of violent games to minors. It is not that the respective legislations outlining the restriction of sales are perfect solutions, and that it would only serve to highlight so and so's careers in the bureaucracy. I cannot help but think these are steps in the right direction.

The gaming industry is developing itself to be acclimitized in people's collective mindset, and aspire to be one unequivocally distinct part of our culture. And in a way, it has succeeded to become a very important part of how we define our entertainment. With all the rich tapestry of this medium blooming with unprecedented rate, there also comes a very troubling and foreboding trend of how the interactive media differentiates from its counterparts in other mediums. The violent images and suggestive themes increasingly popular with developers have been ingranined into the enterprise that has become very aggressive in marketing them irrespective of the age groups that may be vulnerable to the contents within. It is surprisingly similar to how tobacco cartels advertise and promote their products. Because of the longstanding but erroneous view of the association made with games being something exclusive to children, these increasing sales of violent games to minors were justified due to apparent extraneous category and typecasting to which this particular media has been restricted and therefore escaping scrutiny. 

Perhaps, game industry was initially slighted by the eyes of haughty and conceited individuals at the helm of other media outlets and not considered promptly to analyze its potential effects, some of which may as well have postulated different types of psychological infleunce that it can potentially wield. Now the studies in Harvard, Indiana State University and other reputable institutions corroborate the fact that video games can infleunce impressionable children adversely, even to the point that they display some form of violent behaviour more readily after exposure to violent games.

Furthermore, the ratings board that has been regulating the contents of games have not mandated their ratings system to be addressed with any kind of active enforcement. It seems to have been a mere guidance or recommendation, and do not hold sway with other forms of game distribution, such as those made on the Internet. Who regulates the regulators and make the system ultimately responsible? At least in this sense Jack Thompson has made a difference. He made the industry buckle with self examinations of its business practices and with the help of likeminded and concerned individuals who heed his warnings, have established a safety net of sorts that would hamper dire consequences were the gaming industry still given control of considerable and unchecked clout in managing the exploitation and loopholes of the ratings system.

Jack Thompson's approach of taking headlong the forces reckoned with the who's who of the lobbyists in the capitol has garnered some national coverage. He is now an embattled lonely voice shunned by many but still holding the kernel of truth. The way he goes about expressing his opinions may appear to be acerbic and without decorum, such as the offer of 10,000 dollar donation he has made for anyone to make a game with contents that I will not mention here for suspicions of fallacy. However, I do not understand why the gamers are so desperate to get him. It is a meaningless exercise in vanity. It only makes him emboldened in his will, and has a danger of making him label gamers in general as mindless louts with zero capacity to understand the issues at hand. Do the game companies pay you to defend them and their games? Do sites like Penny Arcade encourage or foster some kind of 'brotherhood' or sense of belonging in attempting to harrass an individual? These deviants of fanboys, just for the sake of identifying themselves with hordes of other sheeps unable to think for themselves, are indirectly propagating the misconception of gamers as insufferable lame beings whose only volition in life is to protect what they hold dear, which in fact is nothing but stoking their own sense of wounded ego.

I must say I feel sorry for Mr. Thompson. Although I do not agree with all of his points he made on the game industry, and is worried that his stance toward the restriction of games may have acquired an unreasonable pretext for loathing almost everything related to games, I consider him as an astute individual with some guts. What Jack Thompson may accomplish in the end is creation of games that do not depend on senseless violent imageries for their selling points, but originality. It may foster a more stringent gaming regulation board that effectively bar children from harmful materials (and educate parents along the way). It may ironically be a boon for a new paradigm of game design and encourage people to think outside the convention. Jack Thompson does not hate all games. He only hates the ones specifically portraying the act of violence as meaningful and constructive gameplay. For once, his cause seems appropriate and could not be more relevant.

Why I will NEVER want to play as Germans in WWII games.

Infinity Ward's upcoming sequel or retread of their successful WWII action game Call of Duty 2 has garnered some controversy during the initial phase of its publicity efforts leading up to its release in the fall. Although unbeknownst to me, (which is quite the norm since I tend to only rely on a few sources for gaming industry news) Infinity Ward has been contemplating whether to include a German perspective on the war or not in the game with their newly designed non-linear game progression model. It was to lend the digital avatar of a disillusioned German soldier to the unsuspecting player who has to guide his perceived conscience all the way through the Eastern front at the steppes of Stalingrad. Then, in a change of heart in what can be described in full apologist dramatic flair, the German soldier would be to cast off his Germanic obsequiousness and rebel against that hopeless "ubermensch" psychopath Hitler and derail his attempts of Gotterdamarung that he has so eloquently and benevolently reserved for the German people.

Thankfully, probably aware that the sensible and frugal German censors will put a smackdown on the probability of the game's release in that nation and also afraid of the negative "needless" reception that it will receive from any reasonable folk and adoration of a few diehard racist knuckleheads, the mind of logic and reason has prevailed. So no more German campaign for Call of Duty 2, which means that Activision can now safely vie for the release date this year and without any probable hits to its stock value from enraged Jewish investors.

But let me explain my opinion on this matter. This "change of heart" that marks the crucial point in this campaign from German perspective, in my opinion, is vapid and inane. This "change of heart" only would have come after killing probably hundreds of allied soldiers in the ever increasing string of breakthroughs in Nazi Germany triumphs. In strictly implied sense to those who know paid the most scant attention in history classes, after you essentially have become a part of the success in the Nazi scheme to exterminate Jews and enslave the native population. Being even indirectly related in that sickening enterprise, even in this often puerile game medium, is simply unacceptable to me. I am basically saying that these game developers are not good writers per se and these subtle nuances and other important aspects in the portrayal of the enemy will very likely be thrown out the window in their infernal peddling of WWII era violence and suffering.

I think including any this so called "German perspective" will be an infinite insult to those veterans who served courageously under duress to rid the world of the scourge of Nazi Germany. I tend to feel that the WWII based games do not portray the kind of agonizing assault that preyed both on mind and body, and therefore minimize the impact of the horrendous nature of war to simple finger twitch mode with no compounding story. German people in general have already expressed deep regret over their part of the war in its entirety (unlike some of other its axis cronies), and their admittance of there simply being no excuse of possible disillusionment and coercion displays their willingness to move forward to become a normal part of the civilized world. Their goodwill may be sorely misled by this possibly irresponsible inclusion of professed humanizing German disillusionment with no expression of guilt over the wanton death of thousands of innocents.

I am not saying that the above kind of sentiment has not been dealt with in other mediums such as movies. The most notable examples are 'Das Boot', 'Stalingrad', and more recent and sometimes troubling 'Untergang'. However, in games involving actions of extreme violence including, with indiscretion, maiming and killing, the impact of carrying out aggression and ultimately being part of it is multiplied manifold. And in games at least, you cannot yet convey the totality of tragedy transpiring from any war that the movie medium can effectively allude in its uses of settings and dialogue to weave subtext and lay foundation of remorse with various complementing parts. In games, at least in Call of Duty and those of similar nature, all you do is kill and destroy. There are no specific points in the game that allow you to surmise the kind of consequences your actions have wrought, only beset with more linear ride through mindless shooting gallery. At least watching movies allow you to be detached from what transpires on the screen and open it up for personal analysis and finally, a personal opinion as in the way of reaction. You may become attached to some characters, but their actions are bared in front of you in full display for you to either condemn or at least be ambivalent about. In games, you press the trigger, you throw the grenade, you stick that knife, you prime the bomb, etc. There are no separation between the actions of a Nazi soldier and you. It is a horrifying suggestion, to say the least.

There is little redemption reserved for those who have claimed such a horrific infamy and aligned with the darkest nature of mankind. The only redemption allowed to the Nazis should be a swift bullet to the head, and change of heart would only prolong their ultimate and pathetic guilt-ridden end. This kind of irresponsible and quite absurdist plot device would very well be considered revisionist, distortion of history in the interest of the 'game innovation' and 'notoriety'. The things for which it will be unfortunate for such absolute lessons of the history of mankind to be compromised.

I fully understand some German people in that era were essentially good. I am only against playing a role of German soldier whose part in the war basically and undeniably lead to the World War II. And Call of Duty 2 would have been there to chronicle every part of this constricting and savage advancement of the Wermarcht, before distorting what essentially is an emblem of success of the Nazification of Europe (with your leet skills, no less) into a pathetic excuse of an apologist and cowardly view of justifying the death of millions to the flawed relapse of logic and disillusion and coming to roost with righteous conclusion of offing the disgusting figurehead. Sorry, but the Nazi itself was an inferior state of being that cutting its head off would not result in its complete banishment as the rest of the body will continue to flail about, spreading lethal and contagious abscess of human degeneracy and filth with abandon. One of which could have well been Call of Duty 2.

Bioware: Exploiting Asian Stereotypes?

The more I see of Jade Empire, the more am I anxious whether this Asian themed RPG would basically tread too close to that exploitation level ushering in any type of stereotypes for any exposure that the game should garner. Of course, my petty contentions should only remain in the nether regions of my wildest imaginations and be quickly shot down by more rational arguments to the contrary. But, in a sense that betrays my own smug comfort or indifference, Bioware seems mighty set in taking up the kind of ingrained image of gravity abusing and martial prone Asians and turn them into a very marketable and commercial product. Which could really be set into slippery slope if even slightest amount of indiscretion seeps through characterization, or many other points of potential contention.

I've heard from one of many interviews that the developers have taken a careful notice of Asian lores and myths to incorporate them as thematic embellishments in the game's settings. I would've hoped that they really didn't, since the so-called researched mythical components would be rather foreign to the lot of us as they are, which would necessitate possible reworking and retuning of those components to be comprehensible and harmless, and serve only as window dressing. To certain extent, that is going to be a disservice to specific cultures to which any kind of inferences are devised. And these elements could have been drawn from not only a single source, but from a diverse set of resources (such as different era of Chinese myth interpretations) , spanning different cultures and ancient societies that really do not share distinct common features, however similar they seem from the outset. Which could just as well be bastardization and nothing more.

And excuse me? A flying ship with a jet like engine? Maybe Chinese indeed envisioned such a contraption, given their discovery of firepowder.

And the voicework, just from what I've heard from the available videoclips, really go somewhat overboard with what could be described as American voice actors and actresses doing their best impressions of fake Asian dialect. It is a throwback to old lip synch pathwork jobs like those of which seen in old Hong Kong martial arts flicks.

And of course, this game being passed as RPG that emphasizes the action aspect of the gameplay, it will be treated with scant opportunities to multiple ways of resolving quests using any other attribute other than which involves violence and conflict. It is also befitting to say that any old wise geezers dispensing wisdom and knowledge could very well talk in disjointed and roundabout forms and appropriate butchered Asian accent. It could just cement that aspect of the so called mythology or the whole groundwork of its claim based on this body of inspiration as nothing more than a pretext for some good old ethnic romp. Pick and choose only what you like as long as it achieves the aim, that has been the paramount of multiculturalism that only amounts as curious novelty for many people, and in the case of Jade Empire, nothing more than aesthetics and warped sense of exotica.

In the end, it could all be innocuous and harmless. This may not be an indicator of a bigger problem that underlies the integration and the multicultural socieites that still harbor deep seated isolationism and unflinching differences. It all boils down to how Bioware would treat the subjects in this game, and how the all Asian looking cast would not simply falter in transition from surface aesthetics to what matters in the core of characterization and association with the themes. I have my doubts, though; Yoshimo in Baldur's Gate II was a traitor, the monk character in NWN was pathologically evil, and so on. They are all facetious and irreverent observations, though, I am not so sure why I am in this foul mood today. But it is unnerving and perhaps disconcerting to see these Asian stereotypes coming out of the woodwork now to grace the digital entertainment industry. It is in vogue, actually, what with Rainbow Six and the Mercenaries all picking on North Korea.

Good Bye Troika!

Good Bye Troika!

Arcanum was your crowning jewel,
ToEE pulled piqued interest to no end,
Bloodlines lured to the very bitter end.

Why am I waxing over a game developer,
Who had nothing going for them in particular,
Except for the claim to their past in Fallout?

Why, Fallout was reason enough to be psyched,
The pedigree so aptly put as Troika,
Of developers with dream to realize,

The ultimate experession of unique role,
The role to assume false god in Tarant,
To live out dusty fairytale in digital splendor,
To scour depth of night with bloodthirst.

You've set afoot on a perilous journey,
To atone for lack of polish, crippling bugs,
To the nebulous land of the Black Isle.

What else can satiate the gaping void,
In the world of roleplaying as I know it?
The good doctors with their prescriptions?
Their eager apprentice with big ambitions?
Or the savvy scribes of Elder Scrolls?

Your passing makes a milestone of sorts,
As demise of roleplaying of yore is on hand,
Better commit it to fond fond memory,
tinged with regret and sadness,
tinted with fun and awe.

So thank you for your time Troika,
Your sojourn with us has been fruitful,
Continue dispensing your wisdom,
Wherever futures of roleplaying may lie.

Rest in Peace.

Something Relevant 2 - Plea for My Fellow Americans

My dear fellow Americans,

Well what do you know, finally the day of making up your mind among the two political plans, two different characters who profess their personal commitments to the prosperity and the peace of your great nation, is upon you. I would really strongly urge you to go out and vote, make your voice heard. I am not trying to influence or persuade you in any way in the last minute to choose one particular candidate, nor am I insinuating in any way which candidate I actually prefer. I have absolutely no right to meaningfully exercise those priveleges as a citizen of a foreign nation, although I might've been as vested in this election as many of you probably have been leading up to this very fateful day. I envy you who would be at the crossroads of deciding upon a future that may, right now, not reveal too much of a different forecast aside from what you've been familiar with in your lives and what you can glean from the status quo normalcy. However, as part of the greatest free nation in the world, I would be forever grateful if you demonstrate that terrific and wonderous democratic power by voting and incurring a change for the nation that is righteous and heralded around the world. I greatly admire your nation and cannot possibly hope for anything better for it to usurp its position as the bastion of all things good and where dreams can indeed come true.

My intensely idealistic vision of your nation is certainly not set in the grounds of reality. But I cannot help but feel that expectant feeling of something potentially great and historical occuring spontaneously, triggering a certain bounce in the first steps of a certain journey where everything that your nation stands for me would be magically restored, everyone in the world looking at the nation not with derision but with awed admiration, American flag not being burnt elsewhere in the blind hatred but looked up to, all of its signifance and history fully emblazoned. Whether it is another four years for the incumbent or a change in the administration, I hope that your nation and the values it stands for become more relevant and resonant.

That is why that I am overtaken with anxiety and sadness, to see the US being involved in such bitterness and vitriol that persuaded me to make this plea: please, do not get embroiled in the heat of the drama that will whip up the nation in a certain frenzy after the silence of terrible calmness of anxiety is broken. Please be united, be strong and ready to take on the future with a certain air. You are leading the free world, and your countenance and disposition toward this great change and outlook toward the future matter greatly to all of us and our own perspective. Stand up and take charge alongside the president, and complete the journey that has been frought with hardships and setbacks with grace and compassion. Do not let the cynics, at least for this one day, dissuade you from participating in the movement while painting a grim and unsightly picture of America; it all depends on how you perceive your nation as, whether it be still standing firm upon the sacred pillars and sacrifices of equality and democracy or barely standing on rickety legs burdened by dark truths, greed, and corruption. Surely, if you envision your nation of having a great potential for the future, and nowhere else is it more evident, please be sure to make your decision in the spirit of unifying the country, not for fostering divisive interests.

Somehow you may feel disenfranchised by the unsure future with no specifically defined plans put forth by both candidates, discombobulated by the negativity that has been raging in the air for weeks, and dismayed by the fact that the course of your nation would not in fact change that much regardless of who you vote. I share that feeling of unaffected inevitability of something uncertain, and it is alright if you choose to forego the right to vote. However I am imploring to you, and I hope for your receptive response, to encourage and realize a firm resolve in trying to affect your nation into the right direction, as the fate of the world hinges on your decision. More than ever, even more than what US foreign policy could ever hope to achieve, this vote will be heard around the world. This exercise of domestic responsibility actually will be the focal point of the world that is collectively holding its breath. Such is your influence in the rest of the world, and such power that your vote contains.

Your friend,

Something Relevant 1

I found out that one of the games that I am anticipating for, Vampire Masquerade: Bloodlines, is slated to ship around November 26. It seems as if that the game based on the Valve's Source Engine cannot be released until the retail version of Half-Life 2 candidate has been shipped out, a result of some sort of licensing engine agreement term, the kind of which I've never heard until now. The multiplayer has been scrapped from the game, but Troika really didn't have any reason to be confident about multiplayer in their past attempts at implementing it, the most notable of which was Arcanum.

It seems though that Troika's next project based on a post-apocalyptic setting is getting more press and generating more interest from its fanbase than the aforementioned game to say the least. It appears that after having failed to secure the Fallout license by bidding for it from Interplay, Troika just decided to go ahead to create their own intellectual property and position it as the genuine spiritual successor to the Fallout series. As you may already know, the Fallout single player license is being held by Bethesda, which I hear forked over around one million dollars for such highly touted property (extending Interplay's relevance in the game industry for some time in the process). However, a lot of Fallout fans doubt whether Bethesda, with their own unique way of devising the mechanics of RPGs, would not necessarily capture the quintessential feel of the predecessors; it is no wonder the development of the game of similar ilk at Troika overseen by some of the original Fallout creators has piqued more than a little interest.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with Bethesda going about in their way to create their unique interpretation of the Fallout license. However, I do doubt that their cross-platform strategy in the releases would guarantee the outright preservation of the Fallout conventions that many fans, including me, hold dear. Some of the mainstays of the franchise that defined its gameplay, such as turn based combat, would never translate well to the more action oriented nature favoured by the console platforms. Also, there is a question as to whether this new Fallout game will be based on the next generation of consoles thereby affecting the PC version in development as Bethesda adapt to those new programming platforms and conceive something that may work seamlessly on both platforms. Therefore, even though the Fallout moniker invokes the return of the beloved series of RPG, those expecting the same kind of gameplay elements, even considering the inevitable question of whether they are evolved somehow due to technological leaps during its hiatus or not, would be unequivocally disappointed or confused.

But I believe that Bethesda will rarely disappoint where the actual game is concerned; their superb work on Morrowind has shown definitively that cross platform RPGs that feature good depth of strategy and bewildering sense of freedom can be both commercially and critically viable. I guess that is how they were able to afford the Fallout license in the first place and furthermore even expected the lukewarm reception before the initial phase of the game development has even begun. I believe that the developer would do a superb job deserving of the pedigree of the Fallout license; and in a way it could benefit from such a low discreet kind of negative exposure, since it may convince the fans to be a bit more realistic on their expectations (or due to lack thereof) and not contribute to the feeding frenzy of unnecessary hype. I would bet many would be pleasantly surprised come a time when the details on the game are unveiled to the public.

By the way, have you seen the new screenshots trickling out of the next Elder Scrolls (Oblivion) game development? The game looks absolutely stunning and offers tantalizing evidence of actually being able to mount . I was impressed by the tremendous detail put into the foliage that were on a level similar to the that only gawked at in benchmark programs, it would sure not disappoint many in that important aspect of the game to say the least.

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