Tuesday, February 28, 2006

007 Video Games and Misogeny

Broken Angels will have to wait. This is just too hilarious.

Ask anyone in the middle/upper middle class income bracket between the ages of 18-30 and they'll tell you just how revolutionary 007:Goldeneye was. Kids failed out of schools from the elementary level on up to college. The combination of shooting people in a variety of environments with a plethora of weaponry was unstoppably fun. Arguably the best part was at the end of a match, when the game told you how many times you died, who killed you, who you killed, how many times, your weapon of choice, and two terms which defined your play style that round, such as "most professianal/ most deadly" or "where's the armor?/mostly harmless." God. Perfection, thy name is Goldeneye.

Fast forward to late 2005. The Video Game industry quickly realized the earning potential of everyone's favorite super spy and have been producing games starring James Bond ever since. I own one of the newer games. It's called Nightfire. And the whole game feels like a pancake which was flipped too early and is thus underdone. It looks good on the surface, but it's still gooey inside.

The problems start immeadiatly. Before you get to choose your characters, you have to choose a side. One side is three different Bonds and five different female characters. The other side is every single Bond bad guy ever. Or close enough. So if you want to form a team, one team must be Bond(tactical, tux or spacesuit. Only one Bond allowed, even though they look completely different) and/or a random female character. The other team can be any bad guy ever. But they can't fight each other. Which means if you and three friends want to fight some computer controlled opponents, either you have to play as chicks or fight chicks. Guess which happens more often?

So Nightfire sessions are peppered with "Bitches incoming!","Shoot that hoe!", and "that bitch just killed me!". Once the round ends, you find out how many times you died, how many times you killed and little else. That's right, eight years in video game progress have yielded a far less detailed product. Don't these developers realize how much people love statitics? Fantasy sports are a multi billion dollar a year industry, and that's nothing but pouring over stats all day long. And for the people that hate stats, you can just press 'start'.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Literary Fun Time 2

You should go re-read the last paragraph of LFT 1, cause, man, that is a great transition.

The rest of Richard Morgan books all take place 500 years ish in the future. The revolutionary technology is Digital Human Storage. Everyone gets a computer about the size of a cigarette butt implanted at the base of the skull, which records your thoughts, your experiences, memories, in short, your consciousness. Death isn't permanent, as long as your computer, or stack, is retrievable. All this means that bodies are seen more casually and called sleeves. Cloning, gene splicing, and cybernetics are all pretty common as well as AI, virtual reality and synthetic sleeves. The main character is named Takeshi Kovacs, and he is one bad mutha shutyomouf.. I'm just talkin bout Tak.

Resleeving is a somewhat traumatic. Imagine waking up in a tank of weird fluids in a body which was not your own, seeing a new face in the mirror, that sort of thing. What makes Kovacs special is his training as an Envoy, the baddest Special Forces military types in the known universe. At the start of the first book, Altered Carbon, Kovacs has left his military career behind him, and has turned to crime to pay the bills. Dead by the fifth page, he is resleeved by the sixth and tossed into the ill-fitting job as a P.I. One of the coolest things about AC is that it takes place right here in San Francisco, and a key location is just a few blocks from this very school.

The story is almost foolishly complicated, but it comes together nicely at the end. Morgan deals with a lot of the issues that would arise from ubiquitous DHS. Kovacs crosses paths with an assassin who is double sleeved (DH copied and put into a second sleeve). In the world of AC, crimes are punished by confiscation of your sleeve and having your DHC put into storage. When you come out, they give you whatever body they have lying around. The only sensation of passed time is when you come out of storage and whoever is there to meet you is older than the were when you went in. Or it might be so long that a cousin or grandkid comes out to meet you. Heavy stuff. Kovacs also meets a younger version of himself, and illegal copy sleeved into the best combat bioware available. That's a hell of a sequence.

If I lived in that world, I would have younger copies of myself lying around, just so I could get their opinion on stuff. I wonder what me at fifteen would say to me now? or me at ten? That would be nuts. I cant even fathom that conversation.

Unless something comes up, I'll probably talk(type,write) about the sequel to AC, called Broken Angels, which I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than AC.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

In case you were wondering...

This is John. I just realized my real name isn't anywhere on this.



Literary Fun Time

I spend at least an hour travelling to and from class every day. And since 95% of my fellow shuttle riders shut themselves out from the real world by listening to their ipods and staring blankly out the window the whole time, I read. I read at home anyway, but I do most of my reading on the bus. The last four books I've read have all been by Richard K. Morgan, who for some reason only publishes in trade paperback(at $14.95 a pop). So for all you keeping score at home, that's more than sixty bucks in the last few months on books. Yet I would glady plunk down another cool fifteen right now, if only I hadn't already bought and read all four books he's written.

I started with "Market Forces". I first heard about this book in Entertainment Weekly about a year ago, and the blurb they wrote really did it for me. It's a good thing too, because the cover has to be the ugliest piece of shit I've ever seen. All pink and yellow, and just... ughhh. And the back cover makes it seem trite and contrived. The book takes place fifty years in the future, and the big players on the world stage are financial houses which choose sides in small conflicts and revolutions based on the predicted dollar payoff(Hence Market and Forces. Clever, right?). There's one scene where two characters discuss regime change in a south American Country as a worst case scenario.

In this dystopic future, the gap between rich and poor has spread to an imense size, and gasoline is so expensive that only the wealthy executives can afford it. The dozen or so big corporations which deal in Conflict Investment compete for lucritive contracts by sending their executives out to battle on the now largely abandoned freeways in souped up armored death cars. The main character drives a custom Saab while the company he works for drive BMWs as the standard. I've had a lot of fun in the past few months trying to design these armored battlewagons. The internet has been of little help, since modern cars are armored to withstand bullets and bombs, not impact at high speeds. I've downloaded a bunch of pictures of NASCAR and F1 chassis's for inspitation, since those are desined to withstand impact. They also have no doors and only one occupant, so it's been slow going.

I went for a quick jog yesterday, and I feel like shit today. My legs and lower back are sore like I can't remember. I never felt this bad after a lacrosse game in high school, and I'm pretty sure an eighteen year old version of me could kick the 21 year old version's ass.

What a great segue into talking about Richard Morgan's other books. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Wow, two posts in and I'm already using this thing to bitch and moan. Oh well, here goes:

Someone want to tell me why this school cant do something about shuttle over-population? Sure, I've seen people not get on because the shuttle was full, but I've always seen it happen from the relative comfort of a bus seat. Yesterday was the first time since I started going here that I couldn't even sit on the floor('Cause I've done that). Their solution? "Take BART." Thanks for shit, that's no solution. Last semester i had a friday class in SF that I rode BART to every week. Cost me six bucks roundtrip, plus I had to skate a mile down 16th. I'd leave the house at 11:30 and show up a few scant minutes before my class at one. And this was with planning and preparation. The fact that I'd already skated the 3/4 of a mile between my house and the Oakland campus meant I'd have to tack on that distance as well. So I said "fuck it," went home, and hopped that I didn't miss too much in class. Yeah, I'm lazy, but I didn't feel like busting my ass to miss half of class and spend $3.50 I didn't have.

Big sporting news this weekend: With a UFC card and Superbowl XL on Saturday and Sunday respectively, much beer was consumed. Ever since I turned 21, Albertsons has become the go-to spot for booze(sorry Safeway). 24 cans of Pabst for less than $12? I'm not nearly strong enough to say no to that. Plus, it's way closer. I hope someday that UFC becomes comparitvly popular as the Superbowl, cuase I had way for fun watching men fight each other to near death. Plus, it had to be one of the bloodiest fight cards I ever saw. I mean BLOODY. like, blood everywhere in two different fights. But no fights called because of blood. The refs are getting lenient.

Can't say the same for the refs at the Superbowl. They were bought and paid for. Did everything in their power to keep the Seahawks from having a shot at the game. Completly bullshit holding and offensive pass interference calls. I'd be more pissed, but I could give half a shit about the Seahawks. It's not like it matters, anyway. We're a decade off from AI refs anyways. That will be tight. Unless someone hacks them. Then that would suck even harder than bad human refs. But way less than Skynet taking over the world. So maybe AI isn't the solution.