Trash

The Paramount movie company is scrambling because of dismal movie turnouts and expectations for Dark Shadows, the aborted GI Joe and the mega-flop John Carter. It looks like this might finally be the gut check to the industry us lapse movie-goers have been waiting for.

Last month Paramount postponed the sequel to G.I. Joe until March 2013 to add 3-D – a cynical ploy studio execs described as “we’ve seen how it can better box office internationally.” [sic]

An understood theme of the summer movie season is the big budget blow’em’up movie. However, it looks like this lazy diversion might finally be losing its intended effect.

I’m sure this shake-up is transient and everyone is just waiting for the next Hangover movie or the next Marvel comics thing or Batman flick. Basically, if people are going to spend their increasingly ridiculous ticket fare on a boom-boom movie, it’s going to be a reliably familiar explosion fest. The gaming industry has been dealing with this for the last few years. Gamers now seldom see new titles from major studios. It’s just the next iteration of Star Wars, Modern Warfare, Halo, Bioshock, Metal Gear, Zelda, Mario, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Lego Presents (blah’blah), et cetera.

Video game studios figured out a long time ago that sucking consumers in to a new franchise or concept is increasingly risky unless your studio produces gold no matter what – think: Blizzard and their upcomming new IPO.

The failure of John Carter* or Dark Shadows and the murder of the GI Joe sequel means a new wind for the movie industry. But it also means churning out more sequels to reliably successful franchises and only adapting familiar intellectual property for the screen – who the hell even knows Dark Shadows was a TV show way back when? Finally, this wine-drunk Caligulan decision-making  has started to bite the studios in the ass. I just doubt it will result in better, different or more interesting movies for us, the consumers.

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*A film title bereft of absolutely any meaning because Disney chopped off the two words from the Edgar Rice Burroughs book the film is adapted from. Two words that would have, probably, completely changed the financial stakes of the, now, $200 million flop.

A Compelling Thriller, with Zombies. Who Knew?

Last weekend my brother sat me down and gave me the Walking Dead episode one to play. He watched while I played and took different moral routes than him (making it a nearly completely different game he said). Its a stunningly good game and I’m compelled to buy it and replay it on my own computer, so that I can lock into the episodic franchise.

That’s why zombie fiction is so interesting in film, novels, and comics, but can be so bland in video games. Most games with zombies turn into blood-drenched escapism where your only job is to kill as many as the undead as possible, but the real drama of the situation happens between people as they’re forced to fight for their lives against both the zombie threat and each other.

The above is from the Penny Arcade Report review, and it kind of is better than the television series which when you start thinking about it, is a cheap TV drama like any other, which when you think about is what Game of Thrones is, but look, stop me from criticizing my two guilty pleasures.

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If Mass Effect 3’s Ending Changes, We Can’t Call it Art

Mass Effect 3 is one of those games that bends the laws of time. The only other consistently relevant example is the Civilization franchise. Where players succumb to the gentle flow of ‘one more turn… one more turn… one more turn…” until its 4 a.m. Not many games do that to me anymore.

What’s that Hackett? I just saved (Spoiler) and now Cerberus is attacking (Spoiler)? I’m on it. Voosh, I’m off, glancing over my real life shoulder and noticing the clock ticking into the less forgiving p.m. hours of the weekday work night. Do not underestimate how rarely a game comes along with that type of raw power.

It’s also effortlessly intelligent with how it deals with a science fiction universe. Even experienced sci-fi novelists get buggered by unbelievability when they deal with real science like space-time physics, binary star systems, terraforming, alien species, invasive foreign bacteria, artificial intelligence. Mass Effect 3 handles each topic it approaches with a maturity and self-confidence that shows itself as clearly a sci-fi story for adults.

Pivot to the ending. A lot of people don’t like it. That’s not what I’m here for. My problem with these complaints is they deny agency. You can’t strip an author or an artist from their license to create what they want. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, that just means it isn’t for you. A lot of people didn’t like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or the Star Wars prequels. This is a bad example only because many people famously did the exact same thing they’re doing here. They had and have childishly petitioned George Lucas to fix it, fix it, fix it. We may all agree about Lucas’ horrible late-career film choices, but he is absolutely correct when he responds: tough shit, it’s my movie, I’ll do what I want with it.

ABC News embedded this video about the ending controversy. Besides obvious glitches in the game programming (such as dead characters somehow finding themselves quite alive in the closing cut scene) this list of 10 faults is a very weak argument. At this juncture though, we depart, dear reader. You’ll either watch this and foam at the mouth and demand changes or you’ll shrug at the entitled voices that clearly don’t want this game to be art. They want it to be a pizza they paid for and goddamnit the pizza was cold when it got here and you better fix it.

Valve’s Co-Founder on Gaming Industry

Gabe Newell on the upcoming generation of consoles and whether or not consoles can stay relevant:

I would push them very hard to stop thinking of themselves as being a platform for everything that already exists and start betting on the inventiveness and the benefits that you would get by embracing a more open approach to the internet and game delivery and game business models and things like that.

I think that you either embrace the new approaches or you go away. I mean Sega and Atari and lots of other, you know, Vectrex, Commodore, you either figure out how to move forward or you get left behind and I don’t think it’s any different. As soon as Valve stops doing interesting, innovative work we’re gonna be left behind and we’ve all been around long enough in the game industry to know that and you have to be pretty myopic not to realize that just because something used to work a certain way there’s absolutely no reason for them to expect that that’s going to be the tickets to being successful in subsequent iterations.

From an extended interview on Penny Arcade.

Love for the Old Republic

Reminder: Today Update 1.1 drops – so log in and have some fun why don’t you?

Star Wars is the first game to make other people play the way I always try to; when I was getting set up for my first instance, I dropped a little RP while we were waiting for the shuttle and to my utter surprise Gabriel actually took the bait.  We ran the whole instance that way, and we were able to do it because the game’s dialogue trees have made him think, and occasionally think hard, about who his character might be.

Gabriel told me a story about he and Kara that gets right to it, I think.

Note: the link leads to the comic below.

The love from Penny Arcade continues:

I’m in love with Star Wars the Old Republic. I love the class quests and the flashpoints and the companions and the crafting and the space missions and all that shit! I could go on and on about how great I think the game is but that’s no fun. Here are the things I hate:

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Oh shit, yea I did just tug you like that.

Bullshit Mysticism Often Searched For

Hah, look how quirky I am. According to Merriam-Webster, who tracks these kinds of things, searched for Qi spiked in late December 2011 because, presumably, people are playing Words with Friends and similiar type games and need to unload those troublesome Q’s.

Qi, a variant of chi, is “vital energy that is held to animate the body internally and is of central importance in some Eastern systems of medical treatment (as acupuncture) and of exercise or self-defense (as tai chi).”

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Mega-Sigh – The Punishment of Diablo

Diablo III Auction House to Use Paypal

On the up side, it looks like it may cost actual real money just to list items on the auction house. No telling what this could yield. Either 1) a cost of entry into the hard currency trade that’s simply too high for most players, causing the in-game AH to be extremely skewed toward basement-dwellers. Or 2) a very sluggish market overall for all players because of a flat tariff, meaning most players will have only a few items purchased with hard currency and even fewer will have the equivalent of an eBay’d char.

Do Want!

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The SCOTUS Game Decision: Right and Wrong

I posted this last week on the Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not to expand obscenity laws to include regulatory control of video game access to minors.

Insanely, Jon Stewart was 100% wrong, 180 degrees off the mark and – no duh – its cause he’s a dad. Stewart played the soccer mom liberal to Adam Sessler’s much more intelligent and beautifully argued Soapbox on the issue.

Let’s compare:

Adam Sessler: Why the Supreme Court’s Ruling Matters

Jon Stewart: Moral Kombat 

Hopefully Stewart was just being cute and didn’t really come down against first amendment rights and long upheld obscenity laws. It seems Stewart completely misunderstood the issue since he thinks state’s and stores can’t decide who gets to purchase M-rated games. I know Stewart doesn’t present every issue seriously, and he surely doesn’t maintain intellectual purity on topics between shows. He’s a comedian, I get it. But still. Let’s compare the two why not perhaps just maybe and learn something.

Indeed, Steam. Indeed

Quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen after a computer boot up.

I am fucking elated right now. Look at the full brief (does that count as an oxymoron?) from the Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas’ dissent begins about halfway down if you want to read bad thinking.

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