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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In Praise of Low-Stakes Video Games 

I've been playing a lot of Socom 3 lately. It's got some truly hideous politics -- one scene features a rabid Arab leader (we don't know exactly which country) executing a foreign emissary in front of a cheering throng of terrorist-looking people. Basically, the thing's a recruiting tool for American hegemony and the US Navy SEALS. (And since that's the case, it probably got funded by the US Navy, which means my tax dollars went to make it, so it should be free to all US taxpayers. But I digress.)

The thing I love about Socom 3 is that it's a low-stakes game. Online play (which is really the only reason to buy it) features a neverending series of short games. At the end of each, one side is declared the winner -- and that's as far as it goes. (If you play with the respawn option, which of course I do.)

In contrast, my last online vidgame fix -- Battlefield 2: Modern Combat -- sports a ranking system, whereby every game is factored into a constantly-updated score. You can never just relax and play the game -- you must constantly win points by capturing flags and eliminating the enemy. This is a problem in BF2MC, because sometimes things need to be done -- such as guarding a stronghold even though no one's around -- which will not earn you points. The player must constantly worry that his/her PPH (points per hour) isn't being maintained -- which can demote you in a hurry.

The low-stakes nature of Socom 3 means that the game can be purely recreational: there is no impossibly difficult boss to defeat, no supreme objective which must be completed. As a result, the game is much less stressful. (Sargeant at arms, please make that young lady in the silver bicycle helmet stop laughing. (It's true that a stream of foul language and frustration-indicating interjections still flows from my chair when I play.)) Star Wars Battlefront 2 was similarly low-stakes.

This phenomenon represents an important new page in the history of video games. The term "game over" no longer applies -- that's a pretty revolutionary turning point. It means that those of us who are terrible at these games (and while I am getting better, I'm still not a very good Navy SEAL yet) can measure ourselves against our last round, or set a self-applied goal (finish in the top 5) rather than trying to meet some objective criteria.

Along with the open-world model game (pioneered by Grand Theft Auto), this is the most important advance in video game theory to come along since Myst. I had no idea how much my gaming life would change the day I bought that PS2 online adapter.

Speaking of video games, in case you've never read (or heard) it, be sure to check out my classic post "Confessions of a Video Game Addict", complete with wicked old-school music and sfx!

In Other News

PW Botha gets the gas face. In this case, "gets the gas face" is code for "has died". If you have no idea what I'm talking about -- and I think that probably there's only one or two who will -- read these lyrics.

All of you -- but especially Jon Broad -- should check out Nietzsche Family Circus. A drawing from Bil Keane's comic is paired with a quote from Frieddy himself. Glorious stuff. This is why the internet exists.

And speaking of that sort of thing, thanks to Mimi Smartypants for linking us to Marmaduke Explained.

Guess what's the first result when you Google "belgian farting pig wiki"? That's right -- the 'Napse, baby! (What, did someone think there'd be a wiki about the Belgian farting pig?)

Have you played Line Rider? It's a fun gamelike thing where you draw a line and then a dude on a bike rides on that line. If you've tried to make a decent course on it, then you'll appreciate the incredible amount of work which must have gone into LineRider Jumps the Shark, which is just superb.

Speaking of video games -- check out Game Evolution, where a fan has posted screenshots from different games through their various generations. Nifty!

Spontaneous Wikipedia Existence Update

Some time ago, I reported that I had been listed on the WP page about Noam Chomsky Criticism, since I wrote all that stuff about how George Shadroui is a Dork. (Which he most certainly is.) Well, it's been deleted.

But despair not! I have been added to the nebulae-pedia once again, this time for my 3D Go Art. If you visit this page, you'll see all the pages which link to a tiny version of my gogame image, indicating that the page is a go stub. I exist!

Well, that's enough drivel to make up for two weeks of bloglessness. (I have other news about bloglessness, but I'm not allowed to blog about it. Ask me in person.)


Think you're good at geography? (I'm looking at you, Chagrin!) GeoSense is a superb online game. You get a city name. You click on the map where you think the city is. Then it shows you how wrong you are. Then you feel stupid. (Until it asks you for Kupang, Indonesia -- which is very close to East Timor, a nation you've worked in solidarity with for over a decade.) I was very surprised to see myself totally nail Seoul, South Korea.

Today I'm listening to: Loop Guru!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mercy, Merchandise, and Mitochondria 

Check it! (does AliG-style finger snapette thing) There's been such demand for official Deviant Synapse apparel gear that I had no choice other than to create a shop where you can buy all kinds of wicked merch with my official "Check the Napse" logo on it. (Well, two kinds: a shirt and a cap.) Makes a great gift!*

* Notice: Does not make a very good gift at all. Neither Deviant Synapse nor its primary shareholders shall be liable for any botched holidays or celebrations which result from erroneous gift-giving with these items.

Amazing Grace

Did you know the Amish community in Pennsylvania has been offering their solace to the family of the gunman who shot the girls in their school?
Last week, the Amish families affected by the tragedy expressed forgiveness for the gunman who killed himself after shooting the girls.

The mother and grandmother of Marian Fisher, one of the five students killed, welcomed Mrs. Roberts’ aunt into their home the day after the shootings...
The community has also established a fund for the guy's kids. This made me weep. I'm always blown away by people who have the strength to forgive rather than seek vengeance. If you want a true mind-blowing example, read Forgiving the Dead Man Walking by Debbie Morris. One of the most powerful books I've ever read.

Where Have You Been!?

I know, I know -- it's been a while since I rapped at ya. The truth is I've been really busy with school (I've proposed a new class idea; had to work on that lots this week), and BF2:MC is taking up the rest of my time. I got Socom III recently, but it's pretty weak. It's really hard to tell who the bad guys are (and I thought BF2:MC was tough!), and there's not a lot of satisfaction when you do well. I'll stick with Backstab and DeadlyPass.


I've been saving some stuff here lately.. Let's take a look.

Walden Bello has a good piece at The Nation about microcredit. As you may know, the Nobel Peace Prize for this year went to Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concept in Bangladesh. While it's a truly excellent program -- and Yunus deserves the Nobel Prize, without question -- we shouldn't think it's something more than it is.
microcredit is a great tool as a survival strategy, but it is not the key to development, which involves not only massive capital-intensive, state-directed investments to build industries but also an assault on the structures of inequality such as concentrated land ownership that systematically deprive the poor of resources to escape poverty. Microcredit schemes end up coexisting with these entrenched structures, serving as a safety net for people excluded and marginalized by them, but not transforming them. No, Paul Wolfowitz, microcredit is not the key to ending poverty among the 75 million people in Andhra Pradesh.
It's a step in the right direction -- but not the only one we need to take.

Check out the Little People art project. Cute!

You may have heard that Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Frank Lasee (who has a lovely drink named after him, available at fine Indian restaurants) has advocated that teachers be allowed to carry guns to deter violence in schools. Well, I'm not interested in having guns -- but I would like to have a set of nunchuks or a blowgun with tranquilizer darts. That would be sweet!*

* Notice: I don't actually have any desire to carry weapons in school -- this is satire. The idea of bringing more weapons into the schools is sheer lunacy. And no, the drink is not named for Mark Lasee.

We saw The Departed last night., Decent enough movie, but it wasn't as emotionally gripping as Donnie Brasco. And -- as always -- the love story was horrible.


Spend eight minutes exploring The Inner Life of a Cell. Many thanks to MonkeyFilter.

Today I'm listening to: DJ Liquid!