Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Harpooned score: $8805

My high score on Harpooned is $8805, and somehow all the whales went extinct at the end. Weird. But hey, if whales aren't killed in some number they'll eat all of Japan's fish, right? Or something.

Cynical Video Gaming: Harpooned!

My post a few days back on the market for cynical video gaming reminded me of a recent Steve Jackson post on his company's Daily Illuminator. Following his "literature search" for evidence of the "scientific research" that the Japanese claim to be conducting in order to justify the continuation of their whaling industry, Jackson was pointed to Harpooned, a video game satirizing the Japanese scientific agenda by putting the player in control of a "research vessel" mounted with an explosive-tipped harpoon gun. Sample of gameplay below:

It's a gory and blunt statement, and I suppose it may provide a sort of rude education to a few people not already informed about Japanese whaling. That said, given games like Army of Two, I wonder what the ratio will be between those "enlightened" by the game's grisly subject matter and those getting a momentary cubicle rush out of turning whales into chum slick during their lunch break.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Democratic Primary Battle of PA '08: Registration Deadline

For anyone in PA interested in voting in the Democratic primary, this is your last day to register.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Listening

Check out Benjamin Walker's Resurrection Rashomon. Not just the smartest and funniest extrapolations of the Easter story in audio format, I'd argue it stands as an exemplary form of speculative fiction regardless of medium. From Walker's description, posted March 25, 2007:

This week on the radio program: Resurrection Rashomon. This is something I made a few years ago, for YRNL. It's uh.. well... as the Chinese authorities would say "sensitive material" - so beware ye of sensitive mettles. It is the story of the Resurrection told Rashomon style. Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathaea, Mother Mary, the disciples Thomas and Peter and a Roman Centurion, all tell conflicting stories about what exactly is the meaning of the empty tomb. Where does all this Sacrilegious blasphemy come from? well, your host had quite the religious upbringing, and this show is what the therapists call "working it out."
The Cheesesteak came across this in '06, and it's become a part of your cruciform impaling sandwich's Easter ritual ever since.

If Resurrection Rashomon isn't significantly blasphemous to you, let us remind you of Bostodelphia's parting shot when we called Scifi.com to task over its obsequious deference to judeo-christian theism. Scroll down to the end for the music.

Boston vs. Philadelphia 2008 Round 5: On Easter Sunday...

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Easter '08 brings to the Philadelphia basket and its basket-cases the third annual Philly Zombie Crawl! In honor of civilization's ur-zombie, Jesus Christ, Philadelphians made up and attired in Sunday best Zombie couture converge upon Tattooed Mom before stalking South Street in a shambling bacchanalian celebration of the (and their) resurrection.

What's Boston got on this? Sad to say the city founded by Puritans has no shamble, just a pedestrian observation of Christendom's highest holiday. Zzzzzzz without suffixed "ombies" bores me to the grave. Philly takes the Thriller crown on this one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Army of Two and the Question of Moral Evaluation in Video Game Criticism

Gamers among the Bostodelphia readership are probably aware by now of Electronic Arts' Army of Two, released a couple of weeks back:

Your friendly deadly sandwich learned about it via banner ads placed on SciFi.com. While I'm not much of a gamer, I do like following thematic and mechanical trends in games. Army of Two's promotional material had my interest piqued enough to read SciFi's review of the game this week.

First off, yes, we've been critical, maybe a bit overly harsh on SciFi in the past. That said, I've never doubted SciFi's basic integrity as a source for genre news and criticism; and it's good to see Eric T. Baker's B- review of Army of Two as further evidence of SciFi as a resource not beholden to its sponsors.

What interests me in Baker's review is not so much his evaluation of the mechanical play of the game. He's thorough on that front. I've never played Ao2, just seen the commercials; but having read Baker I now got a "feel" for it. What's interesting about his review is a premise guiding him about what might be called the "role playing aesthetic" or "ethic" of the game:

Despite the many attempts to differentiate them through gameplay and graphics, first-person shooters always have been and always will be about who the player's character is and about who it is shooting. So right up front, Ao2 has a problem. Because however much fun it is to use one character to boost another character up onto a balcony, it is hard to get behind the idea that it is better to kill al-Qaeda terrorists for cash than it is to do it as a sworn soldier of the U.S. military. Somehow the mix of a real-world enemy, a real-world war and two unkillable mercs in hockey masks just isn't as compelling as, for example, Call of Duty 4. The two games have similar plots, but CoD4 has the player killing for something besides the money to buy gold plating for his guns.
Baker likes to engage in first-person shooting play under the pretext that said shooting is being done for "noble ends." U.S. soldiers fighting for American geo-politcal hegemony freedom, Jedi fighting the Dark Side, etc. Nothing wrong with that premise in game preference. However as a general criteria in evaluating a video game, I don't think the notion of a morally righteous protagonist is by any means universal to the first-person shooter genre. In fact, I'd argue it tends to be more often the opposite.

Sure, sequels to Doom had something of a "save the world" theme to them, but they grew out of game whose theme was more desperate survival in a very hostile environment (and yes, that game was derived from a game that was premised on escaping a Nazi stronghold). But exactly where was Duke Nukem's moral rectitude? Those examples and the tendency for players to want to explore "Dark Side" powers and Sith lightsabers in Star Wars games are admittedly flung too far into the an imagined future or a mythic long time ago in a galaxy far away to foster much moral reflection in terms of contemporary reality. Still, is being on the side of right the motivation for players engaging in practically anything published by Rock Star Games? To move from the incredibly popular and lucrative Grand Theft Auto streets to the military context where Baker's more comfortable running and gunning with the sanction of the U.S. flag, games where characters with military backgrounds are involved in conflicts projected from the real world isn't new to video games. In fact, Baker's claim called to mind one of my favorite game commercial campaigns as a counter example:

Army of Two may well be a very mundane game with an interesting collaborative mechanic that doesn't quite overcome the game's genericness. However, Baker's claim that there's something objectionable in the moral nature of the characters players assume in game doesn't seem to speak to the broader culture of first-person shooter players. I'd go so far as to argue that players are drawn to games like Ao2 precisely for the opportunity to dwell in their own cynicism. There's certainly a market, and I'd have to explore this further but I think it may be a good thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jimmy Tango's Fat Busters

Saw Scanners last night.

Reminded me of one of my favorite SNL sketches:

Obama in Philly

Well, this event is invite and media only apparently; but as I write this minutes before Obama's delivery, the Drudge Report is already posting what they claim to be the speech's text.

Update: Philebrity's live-blogging it, seems to be unimpressed. The cheesesteak is not as disappointed, but lukewarm to it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bring back the El Camino!!

Pontiac is having a "name their truck for the US" contest. Jalopnik is shooting for "El Camino" of course - what else could it be named??

Since Cheesesteak is AWOL, I bring you...VLAD'S DAILY GLOAT

Vlad's Daily Gloat is a Russian blog. Worth a read if you're in the mood for some virulently anti-American ranting. Or maybe worth printing out if you're short on TP.

Monday, March 10, 2008

One more on HRC

I couldn't resist some comics...this whole "Obama for VP" absurdity from the Clinton campaign has me royally peeved.

Hillary at 3AM

A remix of the now infamous(ly stupid) ad:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The next 30 years are going to SUCK

The Boston Globe recently ran a list of the 30 fastest growing jobs in the US. Their source was the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook and Career Guide to Industries.

Here's the list:
  1. physician's assistants
  2. physical therapists
  3. manicurists and pedicurists
  4. environmental science and protection technicians
  5. Gaming and sports book writers and runners
  6. software engineers
  7. database administrators
  8. computer system analysts
  9. dental assistants
  10. marriage and family therapists
  11. mental health and substance abuse social workers
  12. mental health counselors
  13. dental hygienists
  14. forensic science technicians
  15. pharmacy technicians
  16. physical therapist assistants
  17. gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators
  18. social and human service assistants
  19. financial analysts
  20. skin care specialists
  21. substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
  22. veterinarians
  23. medical assistants
  24. theatrical and performance makeup artists
  25. personal financial advisers
  26. veterinary technologists and technicians
  27. computer applications software engineers
  28. home health aides
  29. personal and home care aides
  30. network systems and data communications analysts
This is depressing. Apparently over the next 30 years we're going to be waiting on the damn Baby Boomers in their dotage (having fucked up the whole country on their watch, now they want us to take care of their aches and pains in retirement too, while paying us shit). To distract ourselves from our economic pain and dead-end jobs, we'll be dousing ourselves with drugs and begging therapists to put us back together, murdering each other in droves (hence the forensics), gambling heavily, and owning a lot of pets . Meanwhile, a few computer types will get some careers outsourced from India once their standard of living and payscale exceeds ours. At least with all the makeup artists, pedicurists, and manicurists we'll look fabulous while the nation circles the drain.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Why are the Finns so smart?

The following is an exchange between Cheesesteak and myself regarding a fascinating article from the Wall St. Journal regarding the Finnish educational system:

CtI: On the other hand, whenever I hear about these Scandinavian utopias I always recall a counterpoint the New York Times wrote a year or so back, pointing out the signs of pending outright collapse for these social welfare systems.

A greater proportion of Scandinavians, you see, brown bag their lunches as opposed to power lunching in a restaurant to such a horrible degree that many restaurants in the Scandinavian peninsula or whatever you call that geographic formation ARE NOT OPEN FOR LUNCH.

Seriously, the Times was covering this like it was the harbinger to a cascade of failed states.

CP: There's a common meme in the US media (and no doubt economic/biz circles) that the Scandinavian social democratic system is perpetually on the verge on collapse due to their high taxes, high degree of regulation, and generous welfare benefits, as opposed to the US system in which we tax the middle class the heaviest (and the most wealthy hardly at all), allow industries to write their own regulations (until some major disaster, and then the new regs last til the next Republican administration), and generally fuck the poor.

The Scandinavians then have the poor grace to whip us in educational quality, standard of living, social mobility, entrepeneurship, lifespan, and even happiness (Iceland scores highest in the world on happiness surveys).

There is of course the factor that they have homogeneous societies in hostile climates, leading to a sort of "cooperate or die" attitude, which is an accident of geography and history, but it makes one wonder...

CtI: Are you saying Global warming is some vast socialist conspiracy to create a hostile climate throughout the whole planet, thereby forcing everyone to "cooperate or die"? I knew Gore and the Swedes were cooking up something more than a tease at a Presidential run. "Bork, bork, bork" is the new shibboleth. Whose side are you on?

The Finns are in, because it's all going to be done with cell phones....

CP: Cell phones will give you ear cancer, unless they are steam-powered. You heard it here first.

Cheesesteak in New Orleans

Maybe the Cod got packed in ice or something. As for me, since Friday, the Cheesesteak's been operating under Po'Boy colors in the Crescent City. Week-end's been roullezing avec trop plus de bon temps to regularly update. For example, meant to update this over an hour ago, but my fingers were too caked with beignette sugar to use my keyboard. Will try to report in later today with reports from what's looking like a seriously epic po'boy trek this afternoon, and maybe my self-guided cocktail tour of the French Quarter.