Friday, July 29, 2005

Doing my part

Today I overheard a coworker saying she bought her age-11 son an electric blue Nintendo DS for his birthday, and that he has many systems already. Being the community-minded citizen I am, I strolled over to her desk to strike up a conversation on the topic. After a few lead-in remarks, I asked if she was familiar with the ESRB rating system, and if she checked the ratings before buying games for her kid. She told me she usually made her judgement on the appropriateness of the title based on the picture on the box front.

Not ten minutes later she had full knowledge of the ESRB's rating system, provided by yours truly. My good deed for the day is done -- my coworker is protected; now armed with good information upon which to base purchasing decisions, as opposed to marketing information or her kid's opinion. The child is protected, and will not be exposed to any non-parent-approved content. And most importantly, the game company is protected. No Grand Theft Auto for that kid, and thus no litigation, keeping our game prices low. It is my sincere hope that she tells all her friends about the ESRB, spreading the good word that they don't have to guess anymore.

Videogame companies often cite the ESRB ratings when faced with accusations of creating mindless, violence-hungry zombies out of America's future generations, as well they should. The information is there for the asking, right on the front and back of every box. Clearly the overarching issues is that parents and loved ones just aren't aware.

I would urge all B A Starters to make an effort to distribute information about the ESRB to parents. It's a valuable tool in the effort to regulate America's childrens' exposure to inappropriate media, a great service to our society. Videogames have cost fifty bucks a pop for a long time now, and mainstream society's steady drive towards class action suits against game developers and distributors must be stopped if we want to keep it that way.

For the sake of our wallets, we must act. Talk to your friends to see what their awareness level is. Hold an ESRB awareness drive in your hometown. Get a float in a local parade. Hand out flyers in front of Target and Walmart (with permission, of course). I have set up a cafepress site, where you can purchase a "Save Our Games" bumper sticker -- show your support! It's up to us to make this work.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I mean, the title alone...

You may have heard a bit about the 'Hot Coffee' scandal surrounding Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Here's a quick summary -- there's a hidden mode in the game (which one must do some hacking to get to) in which your character has sex and the ESRB has pulled the game to replace it's Mature (17+) rating with an Adults Only rating. Stores are pulling it, and NY senator Hillary Clinton called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation.

I agree that if any medium has X-rated content, it should be for adults only. The fact that the mode is not accessible by people without proper tools makes this whole issue a little gray.

Here's an abbreviated list of things I have done in Grand Theft Auto 3 which are worse than having consensual sex:

  • Exceeded the speed limit.
  • Ran a stoplight.
  • Escaped from a prison transfer vehicle.
  • Driven a prostitute to a job.
  • Stolen a car.
  • Stolen a police car.
  • Jacked a car.
  • Jacked a police car.
  • Jacked an ambulance.
  • Jacked a firetruck.
  • Jacked an FBI vehicle.
  • Jacked a tank.
  • Jacked an ice cream truck.
  • Engaged in a street race.
  • Engaged in a high-speed chase.
  • Disposed of a vehicle used for a crime
  • Disposed of a vehicle with a dead body in it.
  • Located 100 stashes of drugs and exchanged them for weapons.
  • Assisted in a bank robbery.
  • Assisted in several murders.
  • Planned and executed several assassinations.
  • Solicited a prostitute, and killed her to get my money back.
  • Started a gang war in order to decrease property values.
  • Engaged in a drive-by shooting.
  • Engaged in a random drive-by shooting.
  • Killed police officers, FBI agents, and military personnel who were firing upon me.
  • Killed police officers who were not firing upon me.
  • Killed non-gang-affiliated civilians in order to attract the attention of law enforcement.
  • Killed the emergency personnel who arrived to care for these civilians.
  • Killed wantonly and without cause using a large variety of weapons, including but limited to my bare hands, a baseball bat, various guns, various incendiary devices, a flame-thrower, and a tank.
Apparently 17-year-olds hacking a program and simulating sex is more deserving of government attention than them simulating any of the acts on the above list.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

This one might drop

Picked up Tiger Woods 2004 this weekend, which has unsurprisingly dominated my life since. Gameplay is pretty much the same as the '03 version, but a big addition was made with character customization. There's the EA Sports Game Face, which ought to be called EA Sports Try To Make Something Look Like You, Get Frustrated And Give Up Face, and a veritable stripmall's-worth of clothes. Now, the clothes serve a purpose in making money via sponsorships, but we all know they're so you can play dress-up. This brings up the age-old issue of the digital avatar. When faced with the requirement to make a character for yourself, what do you do? Make him look like you? Similar to you but cooler? Something funny? Something completely different?

No matter what you do, it's going to be embarrassing, especially when your wife catches you shopping for digital golf duds. You know what she's thinking when that happens? "How is this more interesting than hanging out with me? You'd think he could find the time to... ooh! The salmon one with the stripes! Make me! Make me!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

He'll save every one of us.

I'm not sure which is scarier: this dude's extensive collection of links to flash games or how many of them I had seen before. This is my favorite so far.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Sing sing sing

In God of War, half the game is getting through a series of trials to prove yourself worthy of receiving the ultimate weapon. From time to time, as you do the impossible again and again, you come across recently deceased warriors who got to a specific point and didn't hit the right switch in time to avoid being skewered (or whatever). How do the gods react to this?

Zeus: Looks like we've got a contender! He made it past the minotaur, figured out the underwater puzzle, survived the spinny blade thing...

Athena: I hope this is the guy. I'm getting tired of putting that rock back on the shoulders of the Atlas statue and rebuilding the stained glass window for every schmuck that makes it past the "endless" desert.

Zeus: Oh, this is the winner. I mean, look at him! You'd think I was his father! As a matter of fact, does he look a little like a swan to you?

Athena: Damn it! He didn't catch that second rope! I told you they were too far apart!

Zeus: Only the one who proves himself worthy can wield...

Athena: Oh, come on! Did you see how fast he figured out the move-the-rocks puzzle? This was the guy, but no... the rope swing has to be at least the length of the mighty Zeus's pinky toe! Only those who can swing the length of the Sky Father's pinky toe deserve the blessing of the gods!

Zeus: Watch it, Athy...

Athena: Or you're going to do what? Chain me to a rock and have a gecko nibble my appendix out for eternity? Who's going to help you outwit that shrewish wife of yours while I'm being punished? Huh? Who? You going to have Hephaestos build a Robo-Zeus to sit in the throne while you're chasing the mortal skirts? Think you can distract Apollo from harassing nymphs long enough to help you? Huh? Do ya?

Zeus: I'll take your owl away.

Athena: Sure you will, tough guy. Sure you will. I'm going to go see if anyone sacrificed anything worth eating. Let me know if anyone passes your test -- I'll be holding my breath.

Saturday, July 2, 2005


When the rest of the world is fixated on actual major, important, and awesome events in real life, you can count on B A Start to bring you back down to fantasy.

Saw a few mentions in a magazine about Okami, an upcoming PS2 title. I'm a sucker for any videogame where the visual style is new, and with its whole looks-like-a-silkscreen-painting thing, this game certainly meets that criteria. No idea how running around as a wolf will work out, but I'll let you know.

Now, you could go to the usual suspects for screenshots, movies, et cetera, but why would you when you can go right to the developer's website? Sure it's in Japanese -- that just makes it cooler!

Friday, July 1, 2005


Not four hours after Sarah points out this story to me, I run across this one. There's only one logical explanation: The Playstation 2 attracts lightning bolts.