Archive for May, 2009

Beware the Bear!

May 26th, 2009 1 comment

For all my Feral brothers and sisters, our time is at hand! We can rejoice, finally, after so long and take back our birthright!

Yay new models.

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An Open Letter To Senator Leland Yee

May 22nd, 2009 3 comments


Sir, I am disappointed. I am apparently not important enough to warrant consideration.

I have come to this conclusion based on two facts. First, your contact page, which conspicuously does not include your e-mail addresses, states that for comments to be considered, I must be your constituent. I understand that you must get a great deal of e-mail Senator, but you do sit in the Assembly of what I believe to be the greatest state in the Union, and are therefore my representative. Not my direct representative, I will grant, but the bills you propose and vote on have a direct impact in my life and on my state of living, and so it seems prudent to talk to you about such matters.

This brings me to my second point sir, and that is that the bill you are proposing bringing before the California Supreme Court is an attack on my state of living, and a waste of the precious time of that court. This bill, AB 1179, was passed in 2005. It was going to come into in effect the next year, but was stopped by a judicial injunction, and ruled unconstitutional. At that time, you released a statement saying…

“I am shocked that the Court struck down this common-sense law. AB 1179 worked to empower parents by giving them the ultimate decision over whether or not their children should be playing in a world of violence and murder.”

That might have been the case four years ago sir, but as numerous other cases have pointed out, that ruling has withstood the test. Utah passed a bill that its Governor vetoed, considering it unconstitutional. Governor Huntsman was unwilling to subject his constituents to the sort of scrutiny that would only come up with the same conclusion and waste Utah’s resources. A bill (H.R. 5509) proposed in the 109th and 110th Congresses was not passed, and several other states have passed laws that have been deemed unconstitutional.

Your shock, Assemblyman, is unwarranted.

Regardless of what your are attempting to do sir, what you are doing is hurting people.

Your efforts to get this bill before the Supreme Court of California, examples of which have been struck down in 7 states, will cost us money we do not have and time we cannot waste. Our state has already paid the video game industry a quarter of a million dollars in their legal expenses, not because their lobbies convinced us to, but because they were awarded them by our own judicial branch. Your insistence that parents cannot judge for themselves what is and is not appropriate for their own children is insulting at best, sir, and you feel the need to tell them through legislation. Most importantly to my own heart, you are attempting to tell the video game community what is appropriate, morally and ethically, which is in itself immoral and unethical.

Let us consider the bill, Assemblyman Yee. You may be familiar with it in its entirety, but its text can be found here.

In particular sir, I would like to consider your following positions, with the attempt of including as much context as possible:

1746. For purposes of this title, the following definitions shall apply:
(d) (1) “Violent video game” means a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted in the game in a manner that does either of the following:
(B) Enables the player to virtually inflict serious injury upon images of human beings or characters with substantially human characteristics in a manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.
(B) “Depraved” means that the player relishes the virtual killing or shows indifference to the suffering of the victim, as evidenced by torture or serious physical abuse of the victim.
(C) “Heinous” means shockingly atrocious. For the killing depicted in a video game to be heinous, it must involve additional acts of torture or serious physical abuse of the victim as set apart from other killings.
(E) “Torture” includes mental as well as physical abuse of the victim. In either case, the virtual victim must be conscious of the abuse at the time it is inflicted; and the player must specifically intend to virtually inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering upon the victim, apart from killing the victim.

You are, by education, a clinical psychologist. A scientist. How can you bandy about terms like “relish” and “shockingly atrocious”? These are loaded terms sir, not medically or scientifically quantifiable, but judgments and opinions. How can you define torture on objects sir? A simulated person is not a person, but a simulation. They are a program, a subroutine, that cannot feel or experience. They are not conscious to be aware the pain you describe. Perhaps one day, our technology will allow us to redefine this, but considering that all of these characters are programmed to respond in this way, there is nothing inflicted upon them. They are responding within the narrow guidelines that they were made to. They cannot do anything else.

Sir, you are trying to legislate something that is already in effect. The ESRB has been publishing their ratings for 15 years. Since 1994, they have reviewed games and critiqued them, not as art or by any inherent worth, but on a clearly presented format which lets people interested in the game know what they might be in for. This lets parents make informed decisions, choosing for themselves whats right for their children. It would be much more valuable to this state, both in terms of promoting social values and practicing sound economic policy in a time of financial crisis, to suggest that parents become more involved in the lives of those they love than to bring before the highest court in California what amounts to a waste.

Please sir, encourage all Californians to read and think, to understand what video games are and are not, but do not attempt to hold your morals above us and waste what little we can muster. The state’s budget is and has been in severe disarray for years, and your proposal would only do more harm than good, an aim I think that you are trying to avoid. I understand you wish to help families, and protect children, but this is not the way to do it, Senator Yee.

Thank you for your time, sir.

Patrick Colford

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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

May 14th, 2009 6 comments

D&D 4th Edition is not WoW in tabletop form, and you’re avoiding it for the wrong reasons.

I think the comparison stems primarily from the “role” aspect that is now a core part of D&D characters, and it’s kind of a bad thing to make a sticking point out of. If you’re going to compare two things, you should compare all of their aspects, and in this case, 4th ed is hardly like WoW at all.

Let’s start with the hardware issue, because it’s fairly obvious. WoW requires a computer with a high-speed internet connection. D&D requires three books, a handful of dice, and paper. This means that D&D tends to be more portable than Blizzard’s little gold mine, and this difference is a fairly simple one, yet very important to establish. Where I can typically only play WoW at home, I can go over to other friends houses and play D&D with them there, or even take it to Cons and libraries, for a totally different experience. On the other hand, it can be quite a hassle to get my laptop set up at some other place, the internet connection of which I’m not in control of at all. I also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line machine to run D&D, nor do I pay a monthly subscription fee for it (though I could.)

On the other hand, the hardware enables another major difference between D&D and WoW: MMORPG means of course that you are online with thousands of other players. Instead of my core group of friends, I interact with hundreds of people in a week, in a myriad of ways. I buy their auctions, debate with them in trade channel, or PuG Naxxramas. While doing that, I’m listening to my favorite tracks on iTunes, following an e-mail conversation going on between a few colleagues, and surfing the web for pr0… I mean helpful tips about how to help people. (C’mon, it’s what the internet’s for.) This creates, by necessity, a different group dynamic. I know the people I play D&D with, and have for years, but in WoW, I might group with someone who I’ll only know for those few minutes when we’re killing some trash together. This creates a server based community, where some figures are heralded, and others reviled. An Alliance Night Elf Rogue on my own server of Quel’Dorei who goes by the name Hood is a particularly good example. The Horde side of the server actively goes insane when he’s mentioned, whereas I’m told he’s actually a fairly cool guy to the Alliance. The culture that surrounds an MMO is impossible to recreate on D&D’s scale, and vice versa. I can play WoW with my best friends, but it’s a very different experience to enjoy D&D with them.

Then there’s the story aspect of WoW. Even though WoW presents itself as a roleplaying game, it’s not. Yes, they have RP servers, and yes, you are expected to develop a character, and yes, if you break character, it’s technically against the Realm’s ToS, and you could be penalized for it, but it’s not a roleplaying game. In a roleplaying game, you can interact with the story and you have a direct impact on it. Indeed, a story may have been created just for your tabletop group, as I’m doing currently with a 4th ed. game I’m running. However rich and deep the lore of WoW is (and it is, trust me), it’s not something you can direclty interact or effect. If a group of Horde rushes up to Darnassus in search of glory, and kills Tyrande, she’ll respawn in 3-5 hours. She’s not going to be permanently affected, and you don’t have the story to tell of how you killed one of the most powerful characters in WoW’s cannon. Well, you do, but when she respawns, what do you tell your guild? How do you justify doing something that can’t actually be done? When you clear out a raid instance, but still need to go in there for the gear, how do you rationalize the fact that all the monsters are back after just over a week? Whereas in D&D, if your group manages to kill the leader of a small community, if the DM pays attention to it, that could be a pretty big change. Even bigger if it’s a not-so-small community. D&D’s world has more flexibility, and is more responsive to change than WoW can ever be, and that’s fine, because it’s a different game.

Don’t get me wrong. I love WoW. Big fan. I love the friends I’ve made with it, and the things I’ve done with it. This blog concerns itself with gaming, and was supposed to be about WoW in particular. It’s kind of drifted from that, but I digress. What’s important is that I’m a big fan of D&D fourth ed. too. I think a lot of people are missing out because they have preconceived notions of what 4th edition is and is not. My best friend doesn’t think it’s WoW per se, but he doesn’t accept it as D&D proper, because it doesn’t have some setting material from older editions. A good friend of mine is upset for the reasons that it feels too much like a MMORPG.

But it’s not. It’s not D&D 3rd edition, or second, or oWoD, or 7th Sea, or any other game.

It’s D&D 4th ed, and it’s a lot of fun. So find a group, and play.

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May 6th, 2009 4 comments

I have a pretty upbeat view of people. I think that generally, everyone wants what’s best for as many possible individuals as they can make it, though they will prioritize people differently. For example, some people will put other people before themselves, and some will put their own goals and feelings above those not their own. That being said, some people believe, quite erroneously, that their views should not only be held in higher esteem than the views of other people, but that their views are so much more important that they are either the only views that exist, or other points of opinion can be trampled over without consideration. The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

Which brings me to Jack Thompson. I believe at his core, Jack is not waging a crusade against video games for the wrong reasons. I think he genuinely feels that he has to protect his family, and other families, from what he perceives as a societal ill, and any person who wants to make their community better should be lauded for it. However, Jack isn’t actually doing that, and I’m not sure that he knows it.

We put a lot of time, effort, and money into our hobby, as I elaborated in my first post. Sometimes, that persistence is rewarded and sometimes it’s laughed at, but it is always noticed. Persistence often is. However, when people realize that an endeavor has failed, they generally either try something new or give up. Jack isn’t doing this either.

What Jack is doing can be summed up by the quote popularly attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” He has brought suit after suit, case after case, against the video game industry with no results for his clients. His efforts are well documented, and not only in the scope of gaming blogs and websites devoted to our culture, but in radio shows and newspapers across the country. Jack has not stopped his crusade, but merely changed the theatre of war. When he was permanently disbarred for inappropriate conduct, he did what most lawyers eventually do, and moved to politics.

He has attempted, first in Utah and now in Louisiana, to author legislation that would make the sale of games rated M or higher illegal to minors, and carry a fine. The problem with this particular approach is that many studies and legal briefs have considered such a fine illegal under the First Amendment, and they take the stance that games are protected by free speech much in the same way that movies and television shows are, a stance with Thompson ignores. He has continually and repeatedly suggested that video games serve but one purpose; not to entertain, not to delight, not to challenge, but to train us as killers and psychopaths, to make us into immoral monsters who think of nothing but rape and murder.

Forgive me Jack, but I’ve never beaten up a prostitute after I’ve had sex with her so I could get my money back. I’ve never dreamed of becoming a plumber, or going on a shooting rampage because I thought it would be fun. I’ve never stolen a car, nor a tank, nor have I ever systematically and methodically tried to wipe joy out people’s lives.

So I guess that’s one up you have on me. Good for you.

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