The TED Talks

28 01 2008

Thanks to Rockwell for the heads-up on this. I haven’t actually gotten the chance to look at this very closely yet, but I plan to.

TED Talks is a yearly event that invites many of the world’s most renowned thinkers and doers to give an 18-minute lecture on something they feel is really important. And you get to watch for free. Pretty sweet deal.

Apologies for the lack in posting again. I’ve been busy in the last couple of days working on this mammoth of a post for my class blog that goes into further detail about my seminar topic which I presented to the class a week ago. It’s been a struggle because I wanted to use iMovie to spruce up the home-made media I planned to include, but in one way or another iLife’s been very elusive. I couldn’t use Kat’s copy because our computer models are different, and my own install DVDs with iLife 06 are damaged beyond use. This means I’ll most likely have to make a trip to Yorkdale Mall’s Apple Store sooner rather than later. Fortunately, replacements are apparently free.

Don’t know about you, but the news about ol’ Heath bummed me out. Beware evil sleeping pills. RIP.



19 01 2008

Just a note, the sidebar link to my class blog, “Dave Studies Media” is now functional. The opportunity to keep a blog for big marks is a welcome novelty, and I’m really enjoying the community-aspect of it. Remember, the class blog is not an exclusive club! Feel free to jump in on the discussion. I’m moderating comments on it so as to keep the quality up.

My dad bought this laptop recently. Another one to add to the growing trend of laptops and portability in general becoming more mainstream. I think we’ll see laptops become dominant, at least in the realm of computers for personal use, especially now that they’ve become so much more affordable. More discussion on this is going on over at my Apple Anorexia post.

This weekend is a pretty low key one for me. Preparing my seminar presentation for Monday is at the top of the priority list but pretty easy to do. The window in this room faces west and it’s that time of day when the sun streaks in here and lights up my white microwave like a magic cube that contains the secrets of the universe. You know…a la 80s sci-fi flick? Not referencing anything in particular, just blabbing. Incidentally, all my microwave actually contains is some dried up tomato sauce that spattered out when I didn’t bother putting a cover on the mini ravioli.

Stevenote in 60 Seconds

17 01 2008

From Monday’s Macworld ’08. Steve’s 90 minute keynote is presented here in 60 seconds, with all the important points covered. The new kid on the block, the MacBook Air, has got everyone talking. Here’s the synopsis:

-sexy minimalist design

-cannot get extra battery
-cannot replace/upgrade any hardware, (and what you start with isn’t all that great – 2gb RAM for example)
-no ethernet or optical drive (dongle and external USB drive sold seperately), and only 1 built-in USB port

Basically, I’d say it’s one of those things to get if you have money to burn and want to look hot, but getting a MBA as a primary laptop is probably not such a wise idea.

Speechless (Except Not)

15 01 2008

Attention, everyone! Journalism has hit a new low. Meet Kevin McCullough. This writeup, “The ‘Sex-Box’ Race for President” is probably the most reprehensible article I’ve ever read. We’re all used to journalists using creative rhetoric and omitting key details to be misleading. This, on the other hand, is downright slander based on a bunch of bold-faced lies.

You can read the article for yourself, and the (currently just shy of 700) comments responding to it are more than enough of a supply of counters to McCullough’s inane statements. The corresponding GP article also highlights the important parts.

That said, here’s the rundown: BioWare’s Mass Effect is a recent sci-fi adventure title for the Xbox 360.
There’s been a fair bit of hype about it, and it lived up to the hype when it was met with very favorable reviews. (Praise for the game emphasizes excellent story-telling, among other things.) Mass Effect‘s ESRB rating is M for Mature, meaning that retailers agree to refuse sale of the game to persons under seventeen. It’s about the same as a movie being rated R, although this particular example has nowhere near the mature content of a contemporary R-rated film. Note that games that are exceptionally violent/course/explicit are shunned by mainstream platforms and consumers.

Mass Effect contains a controversial “sex scene” between the player-controlled character and another character in the story. Which two characters are involved varies depending on what character the player chooses to control at the start of the game, and what choices they make up to this point. In the scene, two characters are seen kissing, and what follows is some very dark footage of the characters’ faces close together, a hand running down a back, and, oh yes, a glimpse of some buttocks for all of one second. Raunchy stuff. The sequence is less than a minute long, and the rest of the single-player content takes around 35 hours to complete.

Mr. McCullough’s article claims that Mass Effect targets teenage boys around the age of 15. He calls it a sex game, a porn game, wherein players customize and control a graphic sex sequence for nearly 3 minutes. He even goes so far as to say, referring to the 360’s internet connectivity,

“With it’s [sic] ‘over the net’ capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away.”

And there’s a lot more where that came from. Frankly, that statement alone is far more perverse than anything I’ve ever seen or heard of in a video game. McCullough goes on to challenge the American presidential candidates to address this pressing issue, and expresses the wish that constitution would bring down the hammer on seedy, unsavory firms like BioWare.


So what’s the big deal? I’ll tell you. As far as I can remember, I’ve never given a thorough explanation on this blog of my philosophy around video games as emerging media. And when I say “my philosophy”, I actually mean a widely shared opinion that is basically considered fact by people who study or think about media. This incident of slandering an awesome game is a great example of what gets under my skin.

The fact is, video/computer games are an artistic medium just like books, radio, TV, film, et al. They are the new kid on the block, so it’s easy to point our fingers at them and accuse them of being the root of all kinds of problems. TV, comic books, etc. endured the same criticisms in their infancy.

The biggest misconception that a lot of people are still operating under is that video games are for children. Video games, as a whole, are not for children. Pulled straight from the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) website, the average gamer is 33 years old. Think of it this way: some movies are for children, but most of them aren’t. Instead of assuming, “Oh, it’s just a video game,” when they buy video games for their kids despite being rated T or M, they need to realize that’s no different from letting your kid watch Restricted movies – because things get rated a certain way for a reason.

It’s upsetting to gaming enthusiasts, or media enthusiasts in general like myself, when the public, politicians, and other groups set unfair double standards for games versus other media, or otherwise target games for non-legitimate reasons. The attacks and restrictions not only impede the growth of the medium, but overstep the boundaries that protect civil liberties like freedom of expression. Additionally, it should go without saying that the medium does more good for people than stereotypes would have you believe. (Consider, for example, all the heart-warming stories that come out of a highly social game like WoW.)

That’s why Kevin McCullough’s article is infuriating to people. He slanders a perfectly legitimate and well-respected project, and then suggests the government step in and punish the artists. Why get angry if some idiot is flapping his mouth? Because a lot of people will listen to that idiot, not knowing any better themselves. McCullough’s failure as a journalist was completed when he tried to defend his statements, summed up well in this interview-style post from popular game news blog Kotaku. The defense includes resorting to ad hominem attacks, (many times), dismissing the effectiveness of ESRB ratings, and other tomfoolery.

That’s not to say all critics of games and gaming culture reason and argue like children. However, I think it’s reasonable to ask that people refrain from dressing up speculation as discovery. Do your research, please.

Oh, by the way, want to see what all the fuss was about? A 57-second video clip of that attention-mongering sex scene is right on YouTube. Here it is.
Warning: The following footage contains some heavy breathing and a bum. Feint of heart, weak of mind – avert your eyes!!


Top 10 Facts About the Gaming Industry (Things you probably don’t know)
The ESRB Rating Guide
What They Play A new site for parents that gives an informed, honest, and unbiased look at popular video games
The Daedalus Project An ongoing research project conducted by Stanford University’s Dr. Nick Yee into the various psychological aspects of MMORPGs.

Le Grand Content

9 01 2008

This is a very smart and well-put together video I ran across today. Credit for the concepts belongs to the brilliant Jessica Hagy of Indexed.

Radical Pedagogy: The Slump-Killer

8 01 2008

I went to three classes today. My profs all seemed to be taking the attitude that, “This is probably the most difficult/most work-intensive course you’ve ever done. We’re not kidding. This is serious business.”

Anyway, for my Media class I’ve been asked to keep an academic blog for the purpose of reflecting on course content, (readings and lectures alike). It’s no small potatoes-task, weighing in at 50% of my final mark. The idea is to have the class maintaining our own little blogosphere. Posts on the academic blogs are expected to be done in academic way, with formal citation and the like. It’s going to be a time-consuming project that I expect to take away from my posting here, but I’ll maintain both as much as I can afford to. In fact, I predict the posting I do over there will fuel my fire to update here more often than I have been lately.

Important note: I specifically asked my professor if it’d be alright to link to the class blog from here, with the idea to get more people in on the conversation. He said it would be great to get some voices from outside the ivory tower, and by all means everyone is welcome so long as I’m vigilant at moderating incoming comments. The content will probably be difficult to relate to for people unfamiliar with our course material, but I’ll do my best to make it accessible.

As of now there isn’t much there, but more is on the way. Here it is.

Panthera Pardus

5 01 2008

My situation right now reminds me of that old adage about a wooden ship in which you replace every part of it over time, until none of the original parts actually make up the ship. Is it still the same boat?

I’m typing on my MacBook – whether or not it’s my “new” MacBook is up to you I guess. This puppy’s sporting 2gb of RAM (667mhz) and a 160gb drive (5400 rpm). In English, that means I now have triple the temporary memory I had. That temporary memory is what allows the machine to handle more commands at once and “remember” more. Additionally my storage capacity has doubled.
But here’s the feature that didn’t occur to me: as you may have guessed from the title, my new hard drive has Leopard on it. This makes a lot of sense, since Apple’s new OS comes standard on their computers now, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that a new hard drive would come bearing it as well.
So yeah, it’s a pretty sweet deal, but I’ve got a lot of learning to do. For some odd reason I take pride in maximizing everything my computers offer – from using features that improve my own efficiency, to maintaining a healthy system. (Cough.) I haven’t read excessively about Leopard since I had no plans on ever getting it, so I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
An aside: in an ironic twist of fate, my old PC, which I’d been using exclusively in this computer’s absence, decided to do a faceplant last night itself. Interestingly, it happened as I was plugging in my iPod to charge it – poof, the computer shut down. Permanently. No, it’s not unplugged, and yes, my peripheral hardware works fine. The best news about it is that I don’t think my hard drive in that rig will be effected. After thinking about it and talking it over with a couple people, I think the most likely culprit is the PSU or the motherboard. In that case I’d scrap the old system, keeping the drive in a safe place and whatever else is useful, and eventually building myself a new rig from parts I’d probably pick up online. (So much cheaper than retail.)