Before proceeding with today’s column, I have some sad news: Dick Stodghill, one of our most consistent correspondents and one of the best mystery short story writers in the business, has passed away. The Gentle Reader may be interested in reading an account here.
We love and salute you, Dick.
Moving on, as I know Dick would want us to do, I give you the following:
Surprise, surprise, surprise! Former CB stalwart Angela Zeman returns for ONE APPEARANCE ONLY!—at least so far—to reflect on the state of civilization. (Sort of.)
We are always delighted to have Angela reflect on anything, so I call upon all of you to tell her how much you’ve missed her.
LIFE IN THE CLOUDS
by Angela Zeman
Do you tweet? After checking it out, I found no personal benefit, so I’ve decided not to. However, I’m crazy about YouTube, especially Jeff Dunham clips. Did you watch William Shatner read the speech made by Sarah Palin when she quit Alaska’s governorship? O!M!G! (and I emoticon this from the heart.)
The internet seems be blooming like radiation, threatening ye olde business models and even, sadly, copyrights. Still, other concepts alarmed the horses before becoming indispensable—aeroplanes, germs, microwave ovens—okay, Betamax and spam were mistakes. Regardless, I’m drawn to watch.
My grandson, a priceless resource of technology info because his parents indulge him, launched me into video games. He’s adept and knowledgeable, and was preschool at the time. If you think that’s impressive, consider his little sister who’s outraged that he won’t let her use his Nano to play her favorite Disney tunes. She’s campaigning to get her own Nano. She’s two.
After mastering the art of creating my personal Wii icon, I got restless and began cruising the game sections of comic stores (I love comics, so I knew where to go. My grandchildren and I are like this!) I found dauntingly complex games which inhabited a closed world with private vocabularies and customs. Obviously I needed advice from real “gamers.” Gamers employed by comic stores tend to work in the sections they like best, so they’re easy to find. One immediate impression that has so far not been disproved, is that many gamers are socially inept. (Reminding me of the social skills of passionate specialists—of every age—in many other fields.) The first few I talked to, in response to requests for general information, muttered or stood silently staring at the floor. Waiting for the old lady to get lost.
So I changed tactics. I walked the walk: studied Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and learned of the existence of role-playing games. Those you don’t win. Those are your alter-ego in action, existing in a parallel world that’s self-selected and customized. (I wonder how many rp gamers go on to become creative writers?) I memorized keyboard shortcuts. Played Mass Effect.
Egh. Conclusion: to do these games with any kind of satisfying progress (you never win) huge blocks of time must be committed. Time for which I have other plans, speaking for myself.
Still, I returned to the stores, this time (superficially) educated. I abandoned generalities and asked narrow questions, using “gamer” terminology about specific games. The kids lit up like light bulbs used to, before they became energy-savers.
They spoke passionately, eager to share experience. They forgot my gender and age. (Most were boys. There are girls, but not many.) I was sincere, which helped. I genuinely wanted to hear what they thought about the different types and styles of games and wanted to understand the gaming world and why they loved it.
And then I checked out one of my favorite magazines: “Wired.” The April issue of this year (2009), page 48. An article of just a few paragraphs, with illustrations, by Chris Kohler. A game review.
The game he reviews is called MADWORLD, and it’s made for Wii—location of the uber-wholesome games, “Wii-Fit” and “Wii-Sports”—because … says Kohler … the game’s authors (four Japanese developers) desired to make good use of Wii’s innovative motion controls to add realism to the ultraviolence.
Chris Kohler calls it “gore-iffic.” To quote: “Players are contestants on a futuristic game show in which they rack up points by maiming, decapitating, and bisecting other contestants. Flicking the Wiimote lets you throw devastating punches, swing a chain saw, or perforate a rival on a spiked wall.” Three stills taken from the game prove the accuracy of his descriptive, “goriffic.” He also uses the words, “sickening” and “juicy demise.” Another quote: “MADWORLD has lots of objects lying around to amp up your killing spree.” So basically, it’s a simple killing game. Like, you know, practice. Holy Batman.
Kohler seemed horrified, which I found reassuring. Easy to see why many nerves are shredded over technology’s latest news. Still, remember the kinetiscope? My first advice would be to make friends with some very young people.