Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The History of Oil by Robert Newman

I think a better title would be The Cheap Energy Bubble, but Robert Newman does an excellent Standup Lecture/Comedy Routine about the history of oil and why we should care about it's history.

Some of what he talks about I knew and some of it I did not know, but it is clear to me now that those people who have been shouting about future energy production might be onto something and not as deranged as I first thought. Indeed energy is easy to produce, but as the shouting people keep pointing out cheap energy in large quantities isn't either cheap or easy to produce. So if you too as I did, don't think future energy production is an issue, then I suggest you give Robert's little show a viewing. Here Is A Direct Link to the video.

Mapping Game Categories With Analysis

A few US institutions have gotten together and done what all mental analysts have done before them, which is ask people to do a survey. But this time they are asking people to fill out a survey which will tell them what video games gamers think are similar to each other. And from this they will create a graph where similar games will be clustered together.

The results from this survey could open the door to new genre descriptors, instead of the ones we use today which are primarily named by what perspective players play the game from. The survey only takes ten minuets and can be found at Mapping The Mental Space Of Video Games or if you want to go direct to the survey click Here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Censorship In Film)

I just finished watching This Film Is Not Yet Rated which is a documentary on the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) who are the ones that award film ratings in The Unighted States of America. These ratings are designed to protect children from seeing things that might disturb them or things that might be socially unacceptable.

In the UK there is little controversy surrounding film or video game ratings, as 18 is given to a lot films and shops don't mind carrying them although they are fined if they sell a rated film like Terminator (15), American Pie (15) or Alien (18) to anybody who is underage. Occasionally a film is refused a rating which means it won't be sold anywhere and is effectiverly banned. See This List to see what has been banned in the UK. The list certainly isn't a list of unappreciated classics. However the list of banned films from Malaysia does include such classics as Blade, South Park Bigger Longer & Uncut, Brokeback Mountain and Sideways.

In the US there are no fines for shops who sell to underage children. So if a 12 year old kid wants to buy Terminator (R), American Pie (R) or Alien (R) they can do so as it is solely the responsibility of their parents or guardian to censor what they are allowed or not allowed to watch (I see this as an iresponsable pro-freedom stance). Which is why a lot of companied that produce films won't promote any film with the highest rating (NC-17) as they see themselves as having a moral responsibility to protect children. This results in shops like WalMart making it policy to refuse to sell any and all NC-17 rated films. Which to a film maker getting an NC-17 rating on their film is going to mean a lot less money for their hard work.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, takes the view that because of this situation where films won't be distributed unless they get a rating lower than an NC-17 means that Americans are all being classed as children to protect a portion of the population who are children, and this ammounts to indirect censorship. Which it clearly is censorship as films can be as bloody and as violent as they like as long as they don't show any female orgasms. As if female orgasms aren't normal or there is something more acceptable about cutting someone open then giving a woman head.

As a side note I think there is an issue with American war films where film makers will only get military support if they show a very favourable image of the US Army. So if you want to make a war film that shows US marines raping girls and killing friendlies you won't get any help from the army to make such a film. This means that there is a carrot being waved in the face of Hollywood for positive (propaganda) films. I don't think the US should offer thiskind help to filmmakers, which would result in less war films, but then the few war films that are be made would have a more balanced views on war instead of all being like TopGun.

Incidentally the rating for This Film Is Not Yet Rated was an NC-17, but this has since been suspended which to my mind is yet more censorship. The American people aren't all children, yet are only allowed to watch kiddie box films. Which is the same situation with video games as anything with an AO (adult only) rating receives the same treatment as an NC-17 film. This in turn creates taboo subjects in the medium.

A straight up solution to all this would be to fine shops for selling to children. I know this wouldn't be popular because shops like WalMart would all get together and start a campaign accusing the government of limiting the freedoms of the American people, but it would mean more freedom to the film makers and then ultimately more freedom to the American public. American adults could still show films where people get their genitals cut off to their children in the comfort of their own homes if they wanted to. Just that there would be a fine for shops to sell that kind of material directly to children. This wouldn't result in more violent films, but it would mean more graphic/real sexual content and less film re-editing.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated can currently be viewed from Google Video. Since the film is an hour and a half long I would suggest using this Direct Link to watch the film fullscreen instead of in the embedded video below or better still buy the film and support a filmmaker who was given an NC-17 rating.

Impeach Bush on September 15th

ImpeachBush.org is running a campaign this September to try and get President Bush and some of his cohorts in that white house impeached. And ImpeachBush.org has put-together this rather good video which explains quite well why they want him impeached.

I really don't like Bush, I think his historical legacy will be a negative one and this video makes me want to get-out a peace flag and go do some stomping, but he isn't my elected representative so I don't think it is my place to campaign, but I really do not like him at all.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Awesome Photographer Matt Stuart

I just finnished looking at some of Matt Stuart's work and I think he is the best street photographer I have ever seen. Here are links to a Gallery of his work and his Official Site.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tweaked Out Transformers Review (No Spoilers) (Not So Work Safe)

Boh3m3 is a very infectious YouTuber and has been very quiet as of late. He just posted a Transformers Review which is teh awesome. He sounds like he is on crack. I hate yardwork as much as the next guy, I know how he feels as there are a lot of games that make me feel the same way (Half Life 2, Kameo, Viva PiƱata, Halo), yet I liked Armageddon and I think I will like Transformers when it comes out at the end of the month. So if you want to see someone go insane with hate, watch his review, if you want to see some awesome video editing, watch his review, but don't take him seriously, you might get as angry as him if you do.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

E3 Roundup

The 1UP Show has a great E3 roundup going on with three great videos. I would comment on this year's event, but I essentially agree with what 1UP says.

Conferance Roundup

Talking About Games

On The Show Floor

Forza 2 Motorsport (Completed)

I have been meaning to talk about Forza 2 so here I go.
Forza 2 is a great driving game, the Hire Driver option where you tell the AI to race for you is great because the game takes so long to complete, especially on the endurance races which can each take an hour to complete. For me the breaking colour markers that are placed on the racing line is brilliant as with that on I can race an unfamiliar track and race like it isn't my first time.

Car customisation isn't as straightforward as it could be, but it allowed me to turn a Golf GTI into an environmentally friendly car, so it's still fun to play with. And the wider community has created come awesome designs.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

The auction system on Forza 2 seems broken as you can't place a maximum bid on anything and you can't view all the cars a seller is selling. My tip for collecting all the cars in the game is to leave the auction-house alone and change your region for a 50% discount on all the cars for that particular region.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Revolutionary Wiimote

I am currently on a day thing that anybody under the age of 25 that has been unemployed for so long gets automatically sent on so that is why I haven't updated much. It is a wast of time, but having the British tax-payer picking up the bill for me doing rock climbing isn't all bad. And that is also why I am just now watching the Nintendo E3 Press Conference. They keep using the word revolutionary in reference to the Wii which is bothering me and so I make this post.

To me the Wii is a gateway product that is ultra accessible and for the right game interface has a near to zero learning curve, which is what makes it a gateway product. You can read into that statement that the Wii has a natural interface, but that is only true if games allows for it. There is stuff that could be better with the Wii like online, but Wii is to Lego as Mindstorms is to XBox360/PS3.

To me revolutionary technologies have been things like, colour television, canned drinks and quarts watches. These are technologies that are developed into an existing market that completely change their respective industries. To a gaming example I think 3D graphics was revolutionary, but interface improvements are mostly only innovative. You could argue to me that the computer mouse was revolutionary as it made computers very accessible (accessible like the Wiimote), but I would simply say that the mouse is just an extension of the real revolution which was the GUI (graphical user interface) that allowed for the mouse to exist, without the GUI the mouse would make a very poor text input device and would not have revolutionised the computing industry. So I think the mouse itself was simply an innovative exstension of the GUI. As too I believe the Wiimote to be innovative, but not revolutionary.

P.S. I am probably only being so academically critical of the press event because I don't like Reggie's formal presentation style. And where as Nintendo says that they are doing great in online and there is no reason to criticise, when the Wii's successor comes out it will have had a radical online overhaul.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Peter Moore Says Three Year Warranty For All

If you have been reading the news you will have probably read that Microsoft is implementing a three year warranty (from date of purchase) for all XBox360 consoles.
But as a little surprise Major Nelson has sat down with Peter Moore and done A Short Nine Minuet Podcast (Direct Link) on the issue to get the word direct from the top.

Obviously this has been a big issue for Microsoft as any decision around extending the warranty is going to cost them a lot of money, but this is only for the Three Red Lights-O-Death so if your drive tray is broken, then this new warranty won't cover it. He also says that anybody who paid out of warranty before who would be covered now, will be sent a refund which is awesome. And then Larry asked him about the E3 Keynote, which apparently will be held outside this year. So good news all around.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

That Game Where Blocks Fall

There is an awesome article called Tetris the Grand Master which talks about the deviations that have been made in Tetris's design to make it a better game in it's numerous arcade versions.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Understanding And Changeing The Perception Of Video Games

I watched A Scanner Darkly earlier, a film based on a story about control and paranoia. In the special features section of the DVD, there is an extract from an interview with the writer and one of the things he said was rather enlightening to me:
The position which writers such as myself hold in Americaare... Those positions are very lowly... Science fiction is considered to be something for adolescents for, just high school kids and for disturbed people in general to read in America. - Philip K. Dick
Several things struck me about this statement. Firstly that it is true, more so then than it is now, but still true today. And that it also applies to video games. And that lead me down a though path about this.

Science Fiction is widely misunderstood. If you where to ask the average person if they liked Science Fiction they would say "certainly not" with the picture in their mind being one of a Star Trek convention. Not to speak ill of Star Trek conventions, but an in character Klingon Warrior can be seen as very silly to a layperson.
Ye if you asked the same person about the films that they like, you would find that several of the films they consider highly would indeed be Science Fiction films, probably Aliens and Termanator would be mentioned by them. And I think this same kind of denial is found more so for Video Games as our nature for curiosity automatically makes us all game players, video or otherwise.

Storytelling is important from an evolutionary perspective because it is the medium whereby experience is passed from one generation to another. Indeed if a tribe once existed that didn't tell stories, they would find their survival harder than a tribe where storytelling was a tradition. And it is for this reason that I believe we all have a genetic predisposition towards enjoying works of fiction and storytelling in general. I also believe that it is a genetic disposition that makes us enjoy playing games.

Ye the types of stories and games that are considered useful for survival is where Science Fiction and Video Games luck out. As even a trashy romance novel will seemingly communicate more important life skills than even the best Multi-Dimentional Time Travelling Serial Killing Ninja Science Fiction story would. And the game of Monopoly could be considered to teach far more useful life skills than any game of Quake would.

So here is where I get to my point. Games that seemingly teach useful life skills, day to day useful knowledge or have further reaching influences beyond the game world will always be considered a good game by your Mom and be the type of game she will play. So if we want Moms of the world to start playing Gran Theft Auto, then Gran Theft Auto needs to start incorporating learning into it's structure, maybe make negotiation, teamwork and paying taxes as part of the core mechanics. Until then Video Games are going to be considered a superfluous and silly wast of time by most people. Just like Science Fiction is as stated by Philip K. Dick.