Sneakin’ Around: The Newbie Experience

From the very first moment, the humans asked me to fight.  But I have put aside my weapons, and I turned my back on the abbey and walked away.  This was a very hard decision, because the entire starting area for humans is locked behind that first quest.  Most of the quests, if I recall correctly, involve fighting anyway.  As I left, I was given the quest that pointed me to Goldshire, but everything there is too high level, so I decided to spend some time in the inn to earn exp bonus, that way what little I do manage to find will be used to the fullest.

The inn in Goldshire is a wretched hive of scum and villainy… or rather a wretched hive of people who will ERP scum and villainy with you for the right price.  I was aware of ERP.  I knew it existed.  But on other servers you mainly find people hiding in the tram tunnels speaking sex to each other.  But Goldshire is filled with naked people, or people as naked as the game allows them to get.  Bare chested men and women in bikinis abound, and calls fill the air looking for people of all sorts.  What the hell is a “college RP group”?  Are they teaching people to RP or are they RPing that they are in college?

The following day I decided that perhaps only humans were so demanding of violence and I headed for dwarf town.  Also, some of the ERP chat was creeping me out.  From both the dwarves and gnomes, they expected the same violence.  But like the journey to Goldshire, they provided quests to get to Karanos.  The night elves would be a little more forgiving… or not.  The Draenei?  Ah, yes!  They wanted me to collecting things (that weren’t in the hands of others) and give out medicine.

At some point along the way, I also managed to get mining and herbalism, and sometimes I even earned experience from using them (I suspect there is some powerleveling code in there because at one point I got 50 exp from a plant, then later after I leveled in the same area I got 54 exp).  And once I attained level 5 and got sneak, I was able to even take on some more quests that had finally opened up.

So, it seems my early levels will be filled with travel, not exploration (because I know there is a level floor on those, I wouldn’t get any exp visiting higher level zones), but making a rotation of the starting areas, harvesting and questing.  I’ve made level 7 so far, as it’s actually getting easier.

I also learned I have to be very careful of quests.  Things that appear to be something I can solo sometimes result in the game giving me a “pet” who will kill things.  Sadly, Kaens now has a single kill on his stat sheet because of one of these.  We’ll have to see if I can keep it at one.

Movie Round-Up: April 23rd, 2010


What would Earth Day be without a documentary about the planet or animals or both?  These movies always look impressive, but not a single one has actually gotten me in the theater to see them.  I’m not exactly sure why.  I like nature.  It just seems odd to spend $10 to watch something I could see on TV.  Is this in 3D?  It probably should be in 3D.  That might get me there, but still unlikely.

The Back-up Plan:

I feel a little bad for Alex O’Loughlin.  He’s featured prominently on the poster, but he didn’t get above the title billing with J.Lo.  Sure, he’s not as big of a super-duper-mega-star, but still, he is the male lead in this romantic comedy.  Which I happened to see thanks to GoFoBo.  So this is a movie about a woman who has decided to go ahead and get pregnant using a sperm donor and within an hour of being inseminated meets the perfect guy.  First she doesn’t tell him, then she does, then they decide to give it a shot, then things don’t work out, then they do, and so on.  You don’t go to these sorts of films for shocking twists and turns, you go for the funny.  And surprisingly I found this movie to be pretty funny.  Also, the most graphic, wince inducing, yet hilarious birthing scene I’ve ever watched.  If the premise of this movie sounds good to you, then it’s probably worth your money to go see it.

The Losers:

It was a busy week, with The Back-up Plan, a movie that doesn’t drop until mid-May, and this one.  (Thanks again GoFoBo!)  Like last week’s Kick-Ass, this film is based on a comic book.  I’ve never read the comic, but I saw the movie and it feels like a comic.  The action is way over the top.  Despite the large amount of violence in the movie it keeps its PG-13 rating by keeping that violence as clean as possible.  That doesn’t really hurt the film, and in fact helps keep it lighter and fun.  All in all, I enjoyed this movie a lot and I’d say it’s worth seeing on the big screen.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The End of the World

That isn’t actually the title of the game, but if you read enough stories in the media surrounding the game’s release, you might think that it should be.

Myself, I’ve never played a GTA game.  No wait, that’s not entirely true.  I’m pretty sure that back in 1997 I pirated a copy of the original game off a BBS and played it for about an hour.  I was bored.  My brother also gave me his copy of GTA: Vice City for the PC, which I’ve been meaning to install and play for a couple years now, but haven’t.  All in all, I’m just not excited about the series.

I’m not worried about the violence or the sex… the reason I’m not excited is because I just don’t generally enjoy playing the “bad guy” in games, unless I know there is going to be redemption.  I play games to be the good guy, the hero, the one man who stands in the way of the complete annihilation of the human race, or something like that.  Being the villain just isn’t my bag, baby.

There is a video floating around, I’m not going to link to it, showing clips of a few of the sex encounters with hookers from GTA IV.  Its definitely something I wouldn’t want my children to see if I had kids, at least not until we’d had the “sex talk” and I was sure they understood the difference between games and reality.  Of course, the sex is actually the least of the reasons why I’d want to keep the game from my kid… the way your character treats the women actually sits above that, and then there is all the violence which is actually at the top of the list.  But then, the game is rated M, so my kids wouldn’t get to play it, unless I were sure they could handle it, which is something I would determine for my child on a child by child basis… that’s what I hear is called “parenting”.  I certainly wouldn’t need the media or the government to make that decision for me.

Wil Wheaton (yeah, the kid who was on Star Trek: The Next Generation) has posted was I think is an excellent summary of how I feel on the whole brouhaha over the game.  Thanks to Ryan at Nerfbat for the link.

Anyway… unless someone tells me that GTA IV allows you to play through the game without being a criminal, or that you can play such that your criminal actions are for the greater good, I’m going to continue my course of not playing the GTA games.  Do they make GTA style games for good guys?  That I might be interesting in playing…

Video Game Violence

The Senate is having a hearing on Video Game Violence, and here you can read the statements given in testamony.

The first statement is by Steve Strickland, a minister whose brother was one of three police officers killed by a teenage boy. The boy took one officer’s gun, shot him, then executed the other two officers. Of course, Jack Thompson, lawyer for the persecution of game designers, has convinced this man that this teenager would never have hurt anyone if it hadn’t been for playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I’ve got a brother who has played this game. He’s played it alot. The entire thing through, every mini-game, several times over. My brother has never shot anyone. Nor has he stolen cars, raped women, blown up buildings or anything else depicted in the game. In fact, I’d say the game has had no effect on my brother at all. He is the same easy going happy guy he has always been. Perhaps he’s just waiting for the right moment to explode.

The next statement comes from Elizabeth Carll, chair of a department of the AMA that believes that violence on TV makes people violent. So of course, they also believe that violent video games make people violent. The AMA has released this document as a call for what must be done to protect our kids. One of the bullet points of her statement I really enjoyed:

Encourage the entertainment industry to link violent behaviors with negative social consequences. Showing violence without realistic consequences teaches children that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Whereas, seeing pain and suffering as a consequence can inhibit aggressive behavior.

The emphasis is mine, because, well, perhaps kids shouldn’t watch the news or read history books either. Violence (war) has been an effective means of resolving conflict for a very long time.

Third we’ve got a statement from another psychologist, Dmitri Williams, who says the smartest thing so far: We don’t know. Internet media and gaming on the level we are talking about is a relatively new area. There are no 30 year studies because violent video games haven’t been mainstream for 30 years yet. As he points out, most of these studies are 10 minute and 30 minute studies, and legislators trying to pass game laws ignore the longer, more in-depth studies, like his own one month test because they show that nothing is conclusive. Also games of huge disparity are often tested together. One such study used sessions of playing Wolfenstein 3D with sessions of playing Myst. The problem is that its not just a case of one game being violent and the other is non-violent, but one game is a fast paced shooter while the other is a plodding puzzle solver.

Next, David Bickham comes in and basically says that the problem isn’t violent video games, but prolonged exposure to violence being rewarded. You know, I can’t say he’s wrong, but as I said a couple of paragraphs above, you can’t limit that to just video games and media. After watching our own government trounce people’s basic freedoms and fight a few wars, the idea that might makes right becomes pretty prevalent through just watching or reading the news. He also says that younger kids are more susceptable to this exposure and what amounts to a desensatization to violence, and again I can’t disagree. But I don’t think legislation is where this needs to be address unless we are going to legislate parents being better parents. Yep, 8 year olds playing Grand Theft Auto might end up with a warped sense of reality and violence, but what parent in their right mind allows their 8 year old to play GTA? And the funny thing is, even though he’s arguing for the wrong side, he agrees with me:

As caretakers of the next generation, we have a responsibility to provide children with a safe environment in which to grow, develop, and learn. As a society, we have decided that we should understand and control the quality and safety of the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat. Research has shown that the media children use have real effects on their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. In the Information Age, media must be understood as a powerful, nearly universal environmental health influence. We ensure the safety of what we feed children’s bodies, we owe it to their future and to the future of our society to ensure the safety of what we feed their minds.

The only difference is that he’s fighting for more laws, more organizations, more government, while I’d prefer parents just pay attention to their kids.

Then we come to Jeff Johnson of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Basically all I have to say about him is that he’s trying to force stores to be penalized for parents not being good parents. Who lets their kids rent or buy games on their own? If you, as a parent, don’t at least look into it before they do it, you are a bad parent. Get better, please.

Now we come to Paul Smith who says, with lots of legal references, that games fall under the same first ammendment protection as books, film and TV. Did you know its not illegal to sell a ticket to an R rated film to an 8 year old? The movie theater may refuse to do it, but there is no law. The MPAA ratings are a suggested guideline. The ESRB already has in place a much better rating system than the MPAA so that parents can make informed decisions about what to buy for their kids. In short: If you don’t want your kids playing violent games, then don’t let your kids play them.

The last statement, from Kevin Saunders, kind of bores the hell out of me. He’s just reviewing the reasons behind various court decisions, and in the end says that even though they keep losing the battles to restrict game, they will keep on fighting because the Supreme Court hasn’t told them “no” yet. One of the most important statements made is:

Judge Kennelly also expressed concern over the size of the community of those studying the issue and the relationships among the scientists. He noted that, of the seventeen research articles relied on by the Illinois General Assembly, fourteen were authored or co-authored by Professor Craig Anderson, one by a colleague of Professor Anderson, and two by a scientist who relied on Professor Anderson’s research in designing his own studies. This concern might be eased by recognizing that the articles all survived peer review, but the concern might simply transfer to the peer review process and the small community from which referees might be drawn. It should, however, be noted that Professors Anderson’s and Bushman’s meta-analysis of the research in the field included studies by a significant number of scientists unaffiliated with Professor Anderson. See Craig A. Anderson & Brad J. Bushman, Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Effect, Physiological Arousal and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic View of the Scientific Literature, 12 Psychol. Sci. 353 (2001): Craig A. Anderson, An Update on the Effects of Playing Violent Video Games, 27 J. Of Adolescence 113 (2004). While these concerns of the court do not even currently seem valid, the continuing development of this area of scholarship and the attention paid by an increased number of scientists should eventually overcome the perceived shortcoming.

While he takes the stance that the court shouldn’t be worried by the lack of variety in sources for study, its important that he mentions it because this is the real problem. Out of 17 studies used by the people trying to pass a game restricting law 14 of them were written by the same guy, and the other three were a friend of his and two people who used his research for the bulk of their work. I think the effect of games on kids should most definately be studied, but right now there just isn’t enough data from which to draw anything close to concrete that would justify the legislation of games exceeding that which already doesn’t exist for other forms of media.

Anyway, in case you haven’t guess yet, I’m against legislating access to video games. Frankly, our society fosters a lifestyle in which neither parent is encouraged to stay home with the children. Raising children is the single more important thing we as a people can do, and yet “homemaker” is a derrided job title. If the US government really want to have an impact on protecting children, institute a new tax write off: If one of your dependants is classified as a homemaker for your other dependants, you get an extra bonus deduction. Reward people for being better parents and they’ll desire to be better parents.

Sex and Violence on TV

I stumbled on this article over at CNN. Okay, I didn’t really stumble on it, I read the Entertainment section over there a couple times a day and the picture of Emily Deschanel drew me in. First off, she’s cute. Second, she plays the lead on the TV show “Bones” that I happen to enjoy a great deal.

Anyway, the article points out that during the last week in September, if you watched all the shows broadcast by the six major networks in primetime, you would have seen 63 dead bodies, which is an increase over the 27 dead bodies in the same week in 2004. Frankly… so what?

I really don’t know alot of true couch potatoes, people who will watch anything that’s on TV with no regard to its quality. Most people I know watch a handful of shows or more, but if a show is sub-par they’ll stop. They may give it a few extra weeks hoping it gets better, as I often do myself, but can only take being slapped in the face so long before they walk away. That said, if people watch a show, it must be what they want to see… as long as its not grossly inappropriate (showing snuff films and real rapes to five year olds) why should anyone care what people watch?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making “good, quality” television for the whole family, but I’m also very strongly for parental responsibility. Any kid who watches a TV show that his parents aren’t aware of or haven’t viewed themselves needs more parenting. If I had a kid, he probably wouldn’t be allowed to watch some of the shows I do, or at the least he’d have to watch them with me and I’d make sure we talked about any subjects that come up.

Here is a nice little quote from the article:

“Yet the PTC, which frequently files complaints with the Federal Communications Commission about network fare, admits that its focus has primarily been on sex, not gore. One reason is that there’s no government agency concerned with these issues, said Melissa Caldwell, the PTC’s research director.”

And it makes me ask, “Do we need a government agency concerned with these issues?” If there is something I don’t want to watch on TV, I won’t watch it. If there is something I don’t want my kid to watch on TV, I won’t let my kid watch it. The one thing I really don’t want is some tax funded agency that I pay for and have little to no control over deciding that I or my kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch a show. I think the government has gone about as far as it needs to in mandating that all TVs had to have V-chips in them to allow the blocking of TV broadcasts based on TV ratings. One the other side, I think the TV networks need to expand the ratings, make more levels and divide them up. Don’t just rate a show TV-MA because its violent or because it has other adult themes, rate the show TV-MA-Violence or TV-MA-AdultThemes, and then have the monitor software allow me to say, “You know, my kids can deal with all the sex on TV that can be thrown at them, but I don’t want them watching TV-14 or higher level violence.” or even “You know, guns and sex are okay, but no bad language in this house.” Basically, give me the tools to be as arbitrary as *I* want to be, but don’t try to force someone else’s arbitrary ideas on me.

TV to some extent, and movies to a large extent, need to take a look at the computer game industry ratings and head that direction, and all of them need to keep going, providing more tools for parents and other people. Then we just need to courts to come in and start legislating personal responsibility by throwing out any case where someone watched TV or a movie or played a game and accidentally saw something they didn’t want to see because they forgot to use the tools provided to them.

Yeah, it sounds nice… but I won’t be holding my breath…

Kill Bill, Volume I

When I saw Resevoir Dogs for the first time, I was stunned. The story, the style, the violence… all of it was just awe inspiring.

Pulp Fiction followed suit.

Jackie Brown… well, other than a few highly quotable lines from Samuel L. Jackson, it was a stinker.

Kill Bill is a true return to form for Tarentino, and a departure just the same. In what actually feels like a modern retelling of an old black and white kung fu/Kurosawa film, he blends the perfect mixture of style, story, and over the top violence to pull you in and leave you begging for more.

Thankfully, Volume II should be out in February.

I highly recommend this film. And if you like Tarentino, you’ll love this movie.