Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Bod Mod Squad
In this week’s Inventory, we compiled a list of not-so-”handy” body modifications. As usual, the list grew in the comments as more examples filtered in. Kilzor suggested a fingerless instance from Assassin’s Creed:
Can we count the cutting off of the middle finger in Assassin’s Creed to accommodate the hidden blade as an inconvenient body modification? Imagine all those times some jerk could be riding the bumper of your horse and cart and you would want to express your outrage with a hand gesture but couldn’t? Totally inconvenient.
Elsewhere, there was some confusion over the hero of the 2009 Bionic Commando reboot—specifically, the fact that he apparently has a robo-arm who is also his wife. Improbable as it may sound, Pgoodso confirmed it and explained the convoluted story behind it:
Basically, the game’s antagonist reveals in the final minutes of the game that the protagonist’s wife, who has been missing, was actually killed, had her brain harvested, then inserted into his bionic arm during its initial construction, because bionic arms have to love the the people they’re attached to to work.
No, this is not a joke by me, or by the game designers. Not meant to be one, anyway.
Cause And Effect
Steve Heisler noted in his weekly release roundup that by some stroke of fate, every game had to do with the killing of people, or fish, or fish-people. Of particular note was Omerta: City Of Gangsters, a bootlegging fantasy with some of the worst artwork in recent history. Spacemonkey Mafia broke down the fiasco:
That promotional image for Omerta is a Photoshop nightmare. I know this isn’t a AAA release, but I’d figure somewhere along the design approval process, someone would point out it’s a touch strange to have clouds floating behind the moon.
Unless the game is an alternate take on Majora’s Mask or the video game adaption of Un Chien Andalou, in which case I rescind my criticism.
In an off-topic thread, HobbesMkii posted a letter from a game-industry lobbyist calling on supporters to help discredit the link between video game violence and real-world violence. The conversation wandered from there, and Valondar offered thoughts on how readily available firearms pose a bigger cultural threat:
Speaking as a non-American, I don’t think games are anywhere near as culpable as assault weapons. The hyper violent Grand Theft Auto series originated in the United Kingdom, which, while it has violent crimes, does not have comparable kinds and rates of violent crimes.
Now as a kid, I played a lot of Doom. A lot of kids here in Ireland did. Just like the Columbine killers. But unlike the killers in Columbine, I didn’t have easy access to the obscene amounts of weapons they had at their disposal.
Interestingly, probably one the biggest differences between European and American games in terms of content is you’re slightly more likely to get explicitly sexual material here; Witcher had to tone that stuff down for its U.S. release. To suggest the solution is just less bloodshed and more nudity would be silly, surely.
Taking a different approach to the letter, Girard questioned the military’s use of violent video games in their official training exercises:
It seems like there’s an interesting conversation to be had about the relationship between sanctioned and unsanctioned violence within America’s “culture of violence” and how various media, including games, contribute to that.
Histrionic culture warriors point to games as a cause of violent crime (unsanctioned violence), and defenders (rightly) point out that violent crime has decreased over the lifespan of the artform. However, has anyone done an analysis on the statistics surrounding American military involvement around the world (sanctioned violence) over the same time frame? We know that various school shooters probably weren’t driven to kill by digital “murder simulators,” but we also know that American soldiers are trained to kill with very carefully designed digital murder simulators, that games are used as a legal minor-recruitment tool by the military, and that soldiers have described both mechanized and drone-based warfare as being “like a video game.”
It would also be interesting to see if the increased production of violent games corresponded not just with actual military intervention, but with social perception of that intervention. Are civilian citizens in the Call of Duty age any more likely to be jingoistic? (Not that the causality would necessarily go one way or the other with that stuff.)
Just because games don’t contribute to a culture of criminal violence doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t contributing (with the rest of the media) to a culture of violence. Admittedly, I haven’t looked at the numbers.* But what surprises me a bit is that, to my knowledge, no one has.
*More explicitly admittedly: I’m totally talking out of my ass.
What A Blast
Ryan Smith delved into the origins of the Call Of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer stage “Nuketown” in an On The Level column. While he knew that the game’s nuclear test site town was based on a scene from the most recent Indiana Jones movie, Ryan was surprised to find out that such faux suburban sprawls actually existed and were put to use in the ’50s. Caspiancomic, fresh off some idle Wikipedia browsing, brought up the Czar bomb, a Russian nuclear weapon with a blast strength of 57 megatons. Asinus gave some additional info on this fearsome beast:
My “favorite” things about the Czar bomb: it blew out windows in Finland, over 600 miles away, and the shock wave circled the Earth three times, if I recall correctly. This stuff is so horrible and awe-inspiring (though in a bad way). A good book that I wish I’d bought when I saw it on sale is A Hundred Suns. It has high-speed images of detonations and some that are in that strange phase when they just look like a blob.
Some of the stories in it are pretty terrifying, too. One U.S. test was supposed to be (and I’m trying to remember the numbers correctly) seven megatons, but the chain reaction just kind of kept going, and the yield at the test ended up at 15 megatons. Yeah, it’s not the Czar bomb, but that had to be really, really pants-shittingly unexpected. I mean, there had to be a split second where at least a few of the scientists there who understood what was happening thought they just might be killing themselves and everyone else, for that matter.
And Caspiancomic expanded on the story, linking to a crazy story of a fishing boat affected by the blast.
Arrrgggh, yeah, Castle Bravo, the biggest explosion ever managed by the Americans. Yield was supposed to be five to seven megatons, but someone forgot to carry the two, and it ended up being two to three times as powerful as it was supposed to be. Poisoned a bunch of the locals who were supposed to be outside the danger zone, and also nailed something like 100 fishing boats who were just minding their own business. The story of Lucky Dragon No.5, the Japanese fishing boat with the worst luck in history, is actually relatively famous. The entire crew, and their entire haul of fish, were badly poisoned by the fallout.
Steve Heisler was taken with Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, a whimsical RPG with whimsical artwork by the whimsical Studio Ghibli—the folks responsible for My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, among other well-regarded animated films. In response to Steve’s stated preference of the Japanese voice work in Ni No Kuni—players can choose to hear English actors or the original Japanese with subtitles—a discussion brewed over the need for “literal” translations, as articulated by Chum Joely:
It would really be asking a lot to want “literal” translations from Japanese to English anyway (depending on how literally you mean “literal”). The languages and cultures are so different that, unless you already know the whole culture very well, anything approaching a word-for-word translation would be incomprehensible, or just bizarre. For example, I think Japanese speakers address each other by name or by honorific title (“big brother,” etc.) way more often than English speakers would do in a similar context, so you can’t translate that literally.
Heart Of The Cards
Revisiting a high school obsession, Steve Heisler recently busted out his collection of Magic: The Gathering cards, in hopes of cashing in on his cardboard investment. Many of you had Magic reminiscences of your own to share, with a lot of fun stories in the comment threads. Vinnybushes, for example, mopped the floor against hapless young campers:
I started playing when Magic first came out, and I would occasionally pick it up again at summer camp throughout my childhood. When things really went through the looking glass was when I worked at the same camp in my late teens, and I started playing again with the campers I helped take care of. It’s both amazing and exceedingly strange to tell a 9- or 10-year-old kid that “I beat you with cards that were made before you were born!” Play a card like “Wrath Of God,” and a kid who didn’t even know it existed will unfailingly lose his shit. I picked it up again in my mid-20s, but consistently losing to my adult friends wasn’t nearly as fun. It really speaks to the staying power of the game that it now spans generations. It makes me feel like an old fart too.
And making perhaps the most important comment of 2013 to date, Steve himself dropped in with an intriguing addendum to his tale:
LIFE UPDATE: I just sold my squirrel token to John Teti’s mom. This is a real story.
Craigslist, eat your heart out. The Gameological classified ads get results. As always, thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.