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Made Of Myth

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Tetris by Marc da Cunha Lopes

When Alexei Pajitnov first ordered a load of bricks from Karpov Abramtsevo's workshop, workers there were wondering who could be interested in all those right-angled blocks. No one in 1985 could have imagined those concrete Tetriminos would become world famous and constitute Russia's deadliest weapon against Reagan's America.

A series of images by Marc da Cunha, for AMUSEMENT, depicting the industrial underpinnings of some of our most treasured videogames; revealing the toil, sweat, and craftsmanship that goes into their construction. We may call these games but, as you can see, they are indeed serious business.

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Always Bet On Duke

To be sure, Duke Nukem Forever has been in the news more lately than it has been in many, many years. With the shuttering -- or not, depending on who is doing the talking -- of 3D Realms there has been a flood of art and game-play footage release as well as a nifty lawsuit.

Certainly there are those that doubt the sway that 3D Realms's long suffering game holds over the masses, our fearless Editor-in-Chief being one of them, but for those naysayers I offer up this. If this does not prove the power of Duke Nukem Forever, I'm not sure what else will. Birthed from the fetid mind of a true acolyte, this is a glimpse into the abyss; the churning mass of insanity that festers in the depths of the pit. Whether it is a warning or prophecy I am unable to say but I would advise against repeat viewings lest your will be crushed, your irises split in twain, your mind be taken as well; the only sound reaching your ears as you unleash a soundless scream being these terrible words:

"Duke Nukem Forever is coming. Mortal men may not craft him, gods might not live long enough to play him, the very universe itself may fold under his might, but he will come and there will not be a toilet big enough to park his bricks in."

[cxiam veti sur duke]

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PS3 Ad: A Special Kind Of Dexterity

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Below the jump, in all its uncensored glory, is a new ad for Sony's Playstation 3. It's below the jump because it is most assuredly NSFW. Looking at this ad I can't help but wonder about just what exactly it is they are trying to imply. Is it alluding to a rare talent that only the discerning PS3 owner possesses? Is it encouraging a new kind of play or is it a call for genetically modified, but sterile gaming supermen? I have no idea but I can tell you that I am afraid.

continue reading "PS3 Ad: A Special Kind Of Dexterity"

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Golgo 13 Coffee

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Nescafé will be releasing a number of limited edition coffee cans featuring illustrations from the best-selling franchise because one can't be expected to assassinate well unless one is properly caffeinated.

[link via Japan Probe]

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Frank Miller: Sucking Other People's Legacies Dry

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Perhaps there are others amongst you, dear readers, who felt the familiar, icy grip of The Fear when, upon watching Sin City you saw Frank Miller's name listed as a "director". Perhaps, like me, you may have shuddered at the thought of the horror that would be wrought by giving this man such a lofty title and, perhaps, you too felt ill when it was announced that he would be "directing" the film adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit.

It is unsurprising that Miller would choose The Spirit for his first solo project; after all he has a history of gallantly and self- righteously attaching himself to comics's old guard, like a vampire, riding their accomplishments and championing their causes as if they were his own and I'm sure it's been difficult now that Jack Kirby is gone.

The Spirit, then, is a gift from the gods. Here is an opportunity to take the work of one of the medium's greatest contributors and, due to the average movie-goers ignorance, shamelessly co-opt it. Congratulations Mr. Miller, they may never name an award after you, laud you for expanding the breath of what comics could accomplish, or stand in awe of your storytelling abilities, but fuck 'em right? Judging from these posters it is better to have made Sin Spirit instead. That's a legacy you can be proud of.

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Kings of Power 4 Billion %

Kings of Power 4 Billion % is hard to explain. Imagine if you took every 16-bit shmup you've ever seen, multiply the insanity by a thousand and then set it to an amazing soundtrack and you just about have it. However, no pedestrian explanation can capture the pure awesomeness of Paul Robertson's animated achievement, it's something that must be seen. You can download the video from a number of sources found here.

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Etch-A-Sketch Clock

Artist Angela Yuan has built this Etch-A-Sketch clock that erases and redraws the time every minute, allowing you to both see what time it is and be reminded at how inept you were at actually using an Etch-A-Sketch.

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Patrick Stewart on Extras: "I've Seen It All."

Few people may have associated Patrick Stewart with anything other than Star Trek: The Next Generation and his various stage roles previous to his recurring role on American Dad but the man who once claimed in an interview to be a huge fan of Beavis and Butthead is an equally impressive comedic actor as well. Here he guest stars in an episode of Ricky Gervais's Extras describing a film treatment he's done in which he controls the world with his mind and women's clothes magically fall off.

[Via Cynical-C]

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There Will Be Bricks

Internet meme collides with LEGO.

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Omega: The Unknown

OMEG001_dc.jpgI've been a Jonathan Lethem fan since I read his first book, Gun, With Occasional Music, a futuristic detective story as written by the love-child of Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick. Lethem wrote a few more science fiction novels before writing Motherless Brooklyn, whose main character is man with Tourette's Syndrome. It is an unbelievably fantastic novel and, if you haven't read it, you should do so immediately. His latest offerings, however, have not lived up to the promise of his earlier work and it seems, at least to me, that he has discovered there's more money in writing about music lovers who may or may not love each other than post apocalyptic fiction.

That said, he has not completely left his love of sci-fi behind. As well as recently editing a collection of the works of the aforementioned Philip K. Dick, he is also writing a ten issue series of Omega: The Unknown for Marvel with art by Farel Dalrymple. The character was created by Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes and ran for ten issues in the late 70s. The story is interesting because of its focus, not so much on the titular Omega, but on his child companion James-Michael Starling who are connected in mysterious ways. The first issue of Lethem's run is available, for free, online and is worth checking out.

[Via SF Signal]

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The Source Fource

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Meet Office Master and Windows Vista Sensei. They are members of "The Source Fource" a group of super heroes that represent different software applications offered by Microsoft, including such luminaries as ISV Super Gal, a young lady who's family made their money in beef and who left in disgrace after a particularly embarrassing cafeteria faux pas and the cleverly named Virtual Labs Guy, a gentleman who seems to have tried to sodomize a piece of heavy machinery at some point in his life and is now a paraplegic with a set of wheels cruelly fused to the bottom of his torso.

There are seven of these characters, making the misspelling of "force" appear merely perfunctory for, as we all know, nothing says "hip" and "cool" like puns. What's more, there are figurines of all them which can only be received by signing up for MSDN® Webcasts and Virtual Labs and attending events on these services. A few seem to have been given away and are now lost to you forever, but do not despair there are more on the way.

[Link via Super Punch]

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Game Slave

9f38_3.JPGI took a brief hiatus from games just after the SNES. My brother and I scrimped and saved our allowances for almost a year, making it one of our most treasured possessions. However, by the end of my high school days money was best spent on other things like petrol and insurance for my horseless carriage, saving for even more schooling, and a bevy of substances of varying degrees of legality. All these expenses added up and the job I had didn't pay enough for me to engage in the pursuit of videogames so I took a sabbatical, which is to say that I spent all my time hanging out with people who could afford such electronic frivolities. Regardless, I feel like I skipped a generation.

Fast forward a few years and, with a bit more money in my pocket and Sega stumbling, dazed and confused, towards a horrible death, I purchase a Dreamcast at a significant discount. It is still one of the best purchases I ever made, and I fully understand the sentimental feelings that people display for Sega's swan song. It is with awe, then, that I perused this auction. What kind of person collects 606 Dreamcast games, their glimmering, virgin surfaces protected and encased inside untouched pockets of cellophane? How much time, energy, and currency had it required to amass this collection? How much money can one get for one's kidney? Is human trafficking that difficult?

All these questions ran through my mind but alas they must remain unanswered for the auction has ended, seemingly with no bids. Why? Perhaps the seller, tortured by the thought of being parted from their precious beauties, withdrew them. Maybe they never had any intention of selling them, merely using eBay as a tool to show off their treasures and instill as much vociferous geek envy in as many people as possible. More than likely, though, they received a private email offering a substantial sum to end the auction early, most likely with one or two Slavic girls thrown in to sweeten the deal.

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American McGee's Grimm

I'm one of the people with an unabashed love for American McGee's Alice. While I thought the controls could be frustrating the art direction was enchanting and, considering my already unhealthy obsession with Reverend Dodgson's work, the story utterly engrossing. Since then Mr. McGee has had a less than stellar track record -see Scrapland and Bad Day L.A.- leading one to believe that, perhaps, his presentation of anything is not the key to a title's success. His newest offering -in conjunction with GameTap- entitled American McGee's Grimm, seems almost entirely self-referential. It strikes me as a game not so much about twisted fairytales but about being American McGee, as if you're being invited to do the man's job for him. Watch the trailer and imagine a slightly reworked version of Jon Stewart's scene in Half Baked: "Have you ever read Cinderella? Have you ever read Cinderella, on American McGee?"

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Seductive To The Innocent

esrb_m.pngThe games industry moves at a breakneck pace so when a story hits, one must be quick to jump on its rapidly cooling corpse and hump away, before the journos pick its bones clean. These past few weeks have seen a fair amount of incorrect information disseminated by the so-called mainstream media concerning the content of Mass Effect starting with a small time journalist and continuing into the hallowed halls of that bastion of calm, serene, credibility that is Fox News.

To hear it told, as you have no doubt heard it told countless times by now becoming, quite swiftly, an epic tale of good vanquishing evil; an army of valiant defenders riding to meet the insidious claims of full frontal nudity and rampant, unprotected space bestiality. Needless to say that the story drew a fair amount of slathering outrage from the gaming community who have chosen, as Qais pointed out, to focus their attentions on the uninformed Cooper Lawrence, raining down upon her book a deluge of one star reviews complete with snarky comments on Amazon. Mrs. Lawrence has since rescinded the statements she made on the show in an article from the New York Times but her credibility with gamers, no doubt a significant chunk of her intended audience, has been irreparably damaged. At this time Fox News itself, unsurprisingly, has not issued any kind of correction choosing instead to invite representatives from EA to appear on the cable news channel to attempt to set the record straight.

By now the willingness of mainstream media outlets to stir up a firestorm of controversy with uninformed and spurious claims about videogames is old hat. The response from gamers, as well, has changed little, even as the games themselves evolve. Indeed, the gaming community’s reaction is indicative of many forms of entertainment as they struggle for the illusive label of relevance. That is to say that gaming, in general, has responded to such claims by almost instantaneously and unequivocally pointing the finger at someone else. It is a reaction that underscores quite well the form’s relative youth. The issue here is that, contrary to what gamers may think, the fault lies, not with mass media, but with gaming.

Games are mostly portrayed as having their closest analog in film but, in my mind, comic books are a much better comparison in their struggle to be taken seriously. Already this may seem like a derogatory claim using, as it does, the suspicious and condescending qualifier of “serious” and far be it from me to seemingly side with the likes of Roger Ebert, another of games’s newly minted demons, but, in effect, games have given no reason for themselves to be taken as anything other than a vapid, childish distraction.

Comics found themselves in an equally dire situation in 1954 with the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. The main detractor of comic books at the time was psychiatrist Fredric Wertham who had written extensively on the subject as he saw it in his book, Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham’s contention is nearly a mirror image of the argument currently facing games: they desensitize children to violence, obscure their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and, of course, twist and subvert their delicate young minds into the scarred, lascivious brains of perverts and rapists.

The outcome of all of this outraged, verbal gesticulation was the formation of the Comics Code Authority, an advisory board that passed judgment on the content of comics and makes the ESRB look like an orgy of hedonistic omnisexuals. The Code sanitized comics into shallow, whitewashed morality tales and effectively halted the medium’s growth for decades. Graphic violence, drug use, adult language, nudity and references to sex of any kind were strictly verboten and the major players in the industry, DC and Marvel, were forced to accept either the new CCA or closure. Needless to say they chose profits, and while there were examples to be found of the Big Two bucking the trend and printing a handful of issues without the CCA’s seal of approval, the renaissance of comic books would not begin until decades later, truly coming to fruition in 1992, when Art Spiegelman’s Maus won the Pulitzer Prize.

The parallels here are significant. Like comics, games’s attempts to legitimize the medium have mostly revolved around the idea that if content is suited for a mature audience; it therefore must contain adult themes. Comics underwent the same growing pains in the 1980s. The argument that “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore.” was not so much led by the likes of V For Vendetta and its complex and intricately structured take on government oppression and the role of the individual, but by the likes of Dark Knight Returns whose dark cynicism and morose atmosphere was considered an intellectualizing of one of DC’s major franchises. It was into this vacuum that Maus reached national attention, and it was by dint of its distance from the tropes of sex and violence that it did so.

The importance of Maus, for better or for worse, isn’t necessarily what it accomplished but what it was perceived to have accomplished and it did so by using the medium of sequential art as the means to an end and not an end in and of itself. That is to say that the public, having read Maus, did not read it so much as a comic but as a novel that happened to tell its story with the aide of pictures. His father’s tale of Holocaust survival could easily have been told in the form of a novel, but by using art to differentiate nationalities and peoples in the story Spiegelman uses comics as a tool to augment his story and, in doing so, inextricably links the telling of an emotionally complex narrative with comic books. It can be argued that Maus had the advantage of revolving around one of the darkest events in modern human history, but Vladek Spiegelman’s tale has no meaning were it not for the complex relationship he shares with his son so late in his life. It is this interaction that lends the events of the past such a personal and enduring resonance.

It is this that convinced literary critics, and the media at large, that sequential art was “valid”, that it could raise itself above its original, seemingly childish intent and, as such, it appeared to be a book that a child would not necessarily choose to read. Here then was a comic book written for adults. It held no allure for anyone who was not emotionally and intellectually mature enough to understand its subject matter, nor did it attempt to explain itself.

This is the facet of the argument that the gaming community has yet to grasp. Educating people on the intricacies of games will do nothing to dispel the rhetoric currently facing them. The dominant view is that games are marketed to children because, in a sense, they are and there are no examples to the contrary. The problem, then, is not that the industry is producing games aimed at adults but marketed towards children; the problem is that the industry has yet to make a game that children do not want to play.

Next Week: Part 2 “Hey Kids, Who Wants To Play The Unbearable Lightness of Being?”

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